Wednesday, 29 August 2012

It's raining cats and Small Dogs.......

Our caravan trip thus far has not been uneventful.

First off, we arrived at our first port of call to find that two of our long-time camping friends were waiting there to surprise us.  They'd only a few days before picked up a motorhome, then secretly arranged to join the Caravan Club rally on the pretext that we weren't allowed to know they were coming.

On arrival at the rally field, we thought it was a bit odd that the rally officer raced off out of sight while his wife kept us chatting (he'd gone to tell our friends that we'd arrived and to get in their van and keep out of sight).  

He then guided us to our spot beside a large motorhome with a swingball set up outside.  I sighed and remarked sotto voce to PP that we'd drawn the short straw and had a (probably noisy) family with children pitched next to us.

Undaunted, we set about unhitching the car from the caravan, when the motorhome door opened and someone said "I don't suppose you'd like one of these would you"? while offering us each a cold beer.

My first thought was that the lady in question looked a dead ringer for one of our camping friends.

I'm not always very quick on the uptake so it took several seconds for my brain to process what my eyes were seeing, and several more seconds before my happy squeals subsided sufficiently to make coherent speech possible.

After an excited reunion between the four of us and all the dogs, PP and set about putting up our awning, a task which we've whittled down to 20 minutes with no 'domestics'.  At that point I took my backpack out of the car and rooted around to locate my phone.

After emptying the (not inconsiderable) contents of my backpack I came to the conclusion that no matter how many times I picked through the assorted old Tesco receipts, Small Dog's poo bags (empty), pens, bunches of keys and miscellaneous detritus..... my shiny new smart phone definitely wasn't there.

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth as I contemplated a whole 17 days without internet access, FB, messaging, texts etc.  Thankfully PP isn't named Perfectionist Partner for nothing, and in no time at all came up with a damn fine plan to reunite me with my phone, involving a phone relay across East Sussex, starting with our house sitters who were able to locate it, then pass it on to other camping friends who will be joining us tomorrow and will be able to hand it over then.

In the intervening period I've gone cold turkey and am just about out the other side.  The first three days we had no electric hook up therefore couldn't use laptops to get online.  Our latest site does have WiFi but it's been intermittent so only today have I been able to get online for long enough to write a blog post.

However, tomorrow, due to kind friends, I will have my smart phone back and although it will be pronounced dead on arrival and need to be resurrected, I'll once again have the world at my fingertips.

Not before time.

For Small Dog aficionados, you'll be gratified to know that she has gone feral.  This always happens when we're camping for longer than 3 days and we suspect it's because she's so meticulous about her pitch perimeter guarding duties.  She spent ages yesterday keeping a close eye on a pigeon which threatened to stray unwittingly within her range.  She will brook no intrusion on her territory by any creature, no matter how small and inoffensive.  On a slow day she'll even harass passing insects.

The weather thus far has been fairly good.  Lots of sunshine, the odd shower but overall not too bad.  Until this afternoon.  We're all snuggled cosily in the caravan listening to the rain pattering on the roof.  Small Dog is lying flat out on a cushion in the front window, to all intents and purposes fast asleep but the position of her ears lends me to believe that she is merely feigning sleep and will immediately snap to attention if another dog passes by.

The timing of today's rain is unfortunate, as we'd been planning to take down the awning later in advance of moving to our next site tomorrow.  As it is, we'll probably have to take it down sopping wet and stow it in the shower cubicle in the morning, as we'll be putting it straight back up again when we get to our next destination. 

The odyssey continues......


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Are we there yet......?

Our packing frenzy has gone into overdrive today as we're determined to get the caravan packed tonight so that all we need to do tomorrow morning is hitch up and leave.

We don't do 'camping lite'

Oh no by no nonny no.

We take everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink in our little home on wheels.  Mind you, I don't think we absolutely need to take a gas BBQ, charcoal BBQ AND an electric teppanyaki grill, given the the caravan is already fully equipped with oven, grill and hob.  But as there is a slight possibility that it might not rain at some point, we like to be able to cook al fresco.

The fridge is packed to capacity, having chilled it down overnight.  We might just be able to squeeze in a waffer-thin mint but I doubt it.

Our extensive cocktail and drinks cabinet is fully stocked and ready to go.

The neatly ironed piles of clothing for every eventuality (smart, party, casual, smart/casual, hot, cold, wet, windy etc) have been carefully stowed.

It only remains to go through the several pages of lists to check that we haven't forgotten anything vital. 

Unbeknown to Small Dog, she is scheduled to have a bath later, which will not fill her with good cheer.  She keeps dragging her blankys out of her basket into the hall, presumably to remind us to take them with us.  Similarly one of her squeaky toys has been strategically placed at the top of the stairs so we must remember that too.

Now all we need is for the weather forecast to miraculously change from typical Bank Holiday Weekend weather to scorchio and I'll be happy.

I'm not holding my breath though......

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

No-egg omelette.....?

My grannie was a great one for 'sayings'.

No matter what the event, trial or tribulation, she would nod her head sagely and trot out one of her sayings.  Mostly they were completely apt, and always they were indisputable.

If she could see the state of our house today, I've no doubt she'd have a plethora of pithy sayings, completely appropriate for the occasion.

I expect that 'guddle'  (Noun--  Scottish slang for "a mess")  would probably feature prominently.

As would 'clarty' (  Adj-- meaning dirty,unkempt as in-- He could dae wae a guid wash, that clarty auld bastart.  Often used in conjuction with guddle, as in-- "See hur... hur hoose is a right clarty guddle so it is.  Pure mingin'")  

However, I am sure that she would happily concur that camping gear is rarely pristine.  Then add something about not being able to make an omelette without breaking eggs.

No matter .... all of the camping gear is gradually finding its way out into the caravan or the car and I'm trying to clean the house as it emerges from beneath the mounds of essential stuff.

PP has been working on a volume of instructions for our house sitters, with information on every piece of equipment in the house and garden, of which they might have a need.  It runs to several pages of closely printed type so I hope they like a good, long read.  They might even get to the end by the time we get back home.

Small Dog is reaching stratospheric heights of excitement.  If she's not careful I think she might explode.   I've sorted out her cupboard in the caravan and she has personally checked to see that I've packed the red leather collar with her name in 'diamontay' and her little bandanas.  Not to mention an array of tasty treats.

Meanwhile I'm almost at the end of the mountain of ironing and have finished cleaning the van.....

I am SOOOOOO going to need a holiday at the end of all this!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Camping countdown......


Really busy past few days but have finally finished packaging the last of the orders from the Online Show, which once again was a great success.

So now I can start to get into the holiday spirit, with only three more sleeps till we begin our caravan odyssey. 

Predictably, Small Dog has got wind of our impending travels and is determined to stay at the heart of preparations.  This involves getting in my way and generally taking a very close interest in everything I'm doing.  Yesterday she decided that the pile of neatly ironed clothes on the bed would be the perfect spot for a nap until she was summarily evicted.  Similarly, every time I go out to the caravan she's right there at my heels, leaping inside and taking up residence on the seats at the front from where she can oversee proceedings.

There are piles of camping stuff throughout the house, all of which have to be carefully packed in the caravan and we're working our way through copious lists of 'stuff to do', which also include making sure that the house is left clean and tidy for our house sitters.  This currently seems like a tall order, given that the whole house looks as through it's been ransacked.

So I'd better go and get on.......

This is on Small Dog's wish list.....

Friday, 17 August 2012

Mini Miniature Show......

After last week's debacle, I've checked and double checked that the online show is actually on this weekend.

Indeed it is, and it's now open to the public!

You can find our page HERE.

Or go to.... and find me under 'Dealers by Name M-Z' - Tower House Dolls ~ Diminutive Dolls & Tiny Toys, or 'Dealers by Scale - 1" and 1/2"

As an added bonus, for the duration of the show (Friday-Monday) we're offering a discount voucher.

In addition to the items on this page, as an added bonus, for the duration of the fair (August 17th - August 20th) we would like to offer a discount voucher which is redeemable against purchases from our website .

Tower House Dolls website ~

To use your voucher, simply place an order on our website to the value of £20 or more and receive a 10% discount by using the following code: 


This code (case sensitive, no spaces!) must be entered in the discount voucher box during checkout and the discount will then be automatically applied to your order. If you also wish to include any items from the online show page, (which have already been discounted), I will deduct the postage and amend your PayPal invoice so that you only pay one lot of shipping.

I'll be online off and on throughout the duration of the show to deal with enquiries and orders but bear in mind the time difference if you're not in the UK! 

Incidentally, there is still time to book a workshop kit as I will be scheduling the online sessions for a later date, to be held in my virtual classroom, which has full video and audio links.  Details of workshops can be found HERE.

Any questions, please contact me and I'll do my best to help. 

Have fun browsing the show tables..... I'm just off now to have a look myself.

Small Dog..... media superstar!

Small Dog has never been known to hide her light under a bushel and enthusiastically embraces every opportunity to promote herself on the world stage.

So it came as no surprise when the September issue of Practical Caravan landed on our doormat this morning, to find the following on page 12......

There will be no living with her now.......

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Computer says no......

If today is anything near as productive as yesterday I'll be a happy bunny.  Not only did I manage to complete some new toy doll's dolls yesterday, I also fixed a problem with my laptop which had been getting steadily worse for ages.

The fan was running at full tilt continuously and the whole machine was getting so hot that at times I had to switch it off and let it cool down, afeared that it would spontaneously combust.

A bit of assiduous 'Googling' presented a solution which was easy to try and sounded eminently plausible.  

So I decided to operate..... laying the laptop on it's back and taking off the back to have a good look at its innards.  Sure enough, the fan was clogged up with all sorts of icky debris.... dust, skin cells and bits of ooss  (That's Ooss - pronounced, ermm oooosss...meaning any sort of fluff or lint).

Identifying it was one thing, getting it out was quite another.  Firstly I tackled it with the brush attachment on the Dyson.  This did indeed get out most of the loose ooss, but left a trail of more deeply entrenched muck.  Using tweezers I then began pulling out chunks of dusty ooss..... so much of it that I was genuinely amazed.

After about 30 minutes I decided that I'd got as much as there was to get, gave it a final shoosh with the Dyson and screwed on the back of the laptop. 

With a certain amount of trepidation I rebooted it......


It's so very, very quiet.  The fan no longer runs continuously and the machine stays so much cooler.

Such a relatively quick and easy fix to what I feared might be an intractable problem, possibly leading to the laptop's demise

So, today, more of the same workwise.  It's grey and miserable outside again, with the promise of rain around lunchtime so I'm intending to hole up in the workroom with Radio 4 and get on with it.

Happy days.......



Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Tupperware Tuesday......

Another grey day

When the skies stay resolutely cloudy it's like living inside Tupperware.  Which is fine if you're a tomato but not so great if you're craving sunlight.  Lots of research into MS in recent years has pointed to a lack of Vitamin D as being a contributing factor, which may account for the relatively higher levels of people who develop MS in northern latitudes where sunshine is often in short supply.

No matter.

Today I'm determined to get into the workroom and actually do something creative for a change.

Fingers crossed......

Monday, 13 August 2012

Porcelain pelmanism.....

The promised rain has duly arrived and I was right about this being a dithery day.

In order to avoid having to decide what to do in the workroom I've been engaged in some useful displacement activity, cleaning the kitchen and doing some more clearing out upstairs.

However since even I couldn't realistically spin that out all day I was eventually forced to do something useful work-wise.  I probably should have been casting, or working on the list of new kits in preparation, but I just couldn't summon up the enthusiasm for either of those equally worthy tasks.  So instead I tackled all the boxes of porcelain bodies and limbs with a view to either matching up complete dolls and toys, or ditching the odd parts.

Boxes of oddments are the bane of dollmaker's lives.  Well..... mine anyway.  The little doll's dolls I make are so small that often the stringing holes aren't quite big enough, either in the bodies or the limbs, or one of a pair of arms or legs gets broken and I'm left with odd limbs.

I know that I should throw all of these out straight away, but given that it may have taken several week's work to get them into their bisque-fired state, I am perhaps understandably reluctant to chuck them out.  I reason, (quite reasonably) that if the law of averages works properly, eventually I WILL end up with matched pairs.  In theory that's fine.  In practice I invariably end up with several dozen left legs, or right hands for each of the dolls I make.

So, today I pledged to be completely ruthless and after sorting through almost a dozen boxes of spare parts and bodies, I've cleared out ALL of the odd/mismatched limbs for an assortment of little toy dolls, and various tiny toy animals. 

This should be a monthly task, which would then take only an hour, as opposed to the many hours it's taken today.

Let this be a lesson to me..........

Time out.......

Having inadvertently gained a whole week, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to do with it.  

Thankfully, the weekend turned out better than I'd hoped, with an impromptu BBQ invitation on Saturday, then a similarly impromptu day out yesterday, at Eastbourne Airborne.  It was a lovely day, and we sat with friends on one of the terraces looking out to sea, enjoying bravura displays of airmanship.

We also watched the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games last night..... wonderful to celebrate the achievements of so many of our Team GB athletes in disciplines across the board.

It's a bit murky and dampish today though, and we're due rain from lunchtime onwards.  I can't decide what to do....should I do some casting, or work on some new kits?

I think it's going to be a dithery day......

Friday, 10 August 2012

Spot the deliberate mistake......

I feel as though I've inadvertently strayed into the Twilight Zone.  The one where time plays endlessly on a loop.

All this week I've been labouring under the misapprehension that the Online Show was taking place this weekend. 

I was absolutely, categorically, positively, unquestionably certain that today was 17th August and have planned my work schedule this week accordingly.

Only one kind soul has been considerate enough to point out that I'm a week ahead of myself (thank you Julie).  Perhaps others have noticed my mistake but were of the opinion that I'm either obviously daft as a brush or living in a parallel universe where today IS 17th August.

I'm genuinely dismayed and not a little perturbed.

I've mistook the odd date before, or had to really think what day it was, but I've never got a whole WEEK out of kilter.

Perhaps that's what I get for having 5 consecutive AFDs

I'm going to have a lie down in a darkened room.......

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Retail therapy........

I bought a tankini today.

It seemed like a good idea at the time but now I'm home I'm having second thoughts.

Shopping for swimwear is almost as bad as shopping for lingerie, especially as swimwear now comes with a 'shapewear' element too.  I did briefly consider going for some interestingly-named 'Magic Swimwear' which seemed to be constructed mainly from elastane girders. 

PP and I had a sceptical conversation with another 'mature' lady who was also contemplating the 'Magic Swimwear' and we all three tried to divine what happened to the wobbly bits which were magically concealed.  I was of the strong opinion that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so if excess flab is compressed at the front, it most likely squeezes out surreptitiously at the back.

In any case my options on the 'Magic Swimwear' front were severely limited, as it all seemed to be in sizes 6-10.  Personally, if I were a size 6-10 I don't think elastane reinforced anything would be high on my list of priorities, but what do I know.

Apparently even stick insects have wobbly bits which need to be forcibly contained.

I already have a very modest one-piece swimsuit in black, which is reasonably flattering, especially if I'm in the dark with the lights out.  However, having lost some weight this year I'm inclined to throw caution to the winds and live a little with my choice of swimwear for our forthcoming holiday especially as the site we're going to features a pool, hot tub and sauna!  Not bad for a small, 5 pitch, adult only caravan site.
Which is how I came to choose a bright, fluorescent pink tankini which I intend to accessorise with a sarong as my derriere and thighs still leave rather a lot to be desired.

I now have two weeks in which to make my beleaguered body fit to be seen.  This will involve extensive deforestation, exfoliation, cellulite-buffing and generally attempting to shore everything up as best I can.

Small Dog, on the other hand, needs no cosmetic intervention and has absolutely no qualms whatsoever about sporting the tiniest of string bikinis......

My mood in a picture.......

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Shoulder to the wheel, nose to the grindstone......

I've remained completely focussed today and have managed to clear a massive backlog of paperwork, as well as getting my virtual table almost ready for the Mini Miniature Show.  I even completed an hour's clearing out in The Room of Doom, or the small spare bedroom as it is also known, which has been acting as a respository for loads of extraneous 'stuff' for longer than I care to remember.

Not bad for a wet Wednesday.

Vern and Malcolm did their best to distract me, at one point competing in a rodeo competition on Small Dog's squeaky pup in her basket....

Needless to say, Small Dog was not amused and has since retired upstairs to bed in disgust.

Last time I saw them they were doing a grotesque parody of the Goat Dance on the bookshelf next to my desk and as a result of their exertions are now having a lie down to recuperate. 

Clearly, displacement demons aren't what they used to be.......

Wet Wednesday Blues.......

It would appear that our short-lived 'summer' has run out of steam as today feels thoroughly autumnal.

A steady, light, mizzly, drizzly rain has been falling steadily all morning, and there's a damp, dreich mist in the air.

Of course this matters not a jot as I have a To Do list as long as my arm to tackle today, almost all of it computer based, so I have a feeling I'm going to be prey to the displacement goblins, several of which are gathered around my laptop already, waiting to pounce if my attention to the task in hand wavers even slightly.

See what I mean...... 

You might remember this disreputable duo from an earlier post

They occasionally answer to the names of Vern and Malcolm, but usually an "OI.... YOU!" will suffice to gain their attention.

They have an unerring ability to sense when my focus might wander, and they're suddenly right THERE in a puff of demonic red smoke.

Here's Vern successfully attempting to distract my attention, declaiming his 'hilarious' rendition of Hamlet's soliloquy.... "To wee, or not to wee", which as he was sitting on the edge of my tea mug at the time was both extremely distracting and worrying.

I have the feeling it's going to be another l-o-n-g day.....


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Parting is such sweet sorrow.....

This afternoon, Henny and Willem came to collect my toy shop, all the way from Amsterdam!

Not only that, after they'd carefully packed the shop and all the extras in their van, they turned round and headed straight back again, stopping only for a cup of tea and a biscuit to fortify them.  That's a round trip of over 600 miles including a 90 minute ferry trip both ways..... intrepid or what?

And here's me thinking it's a long way to the Post Office.

There's now a big empty space in the workroom, which won't remain empty for long as I need to crack on with La Mignonette, which has been woefully neglected of late.  

So much to do, so little time.....

Monday, 6 August 2012

A Mini Miniature Show......

Next weekend (17-20 August) sees the 4th Mini Miniature Show throw open its virtual doors to allow collectors to browse the creations of over 80 international miniature artisans.

I'll be putting the finishing touches to my own virtual table this week and can promise some very Special Offers so I do hope you'll find the time to drop by for a visit.

I'm also offering two workshop sessions, details of which can be found HERE.  I still have a few places left on each session and will be scheduling the online class at a time convenient to all the students, so it's not too late to order a workshop pack.

The show will go live on Friday and remain open over the weekend, closing early Tuesday morning.  I'll be online off and on throughout the show, although please bear in mind that I'm in the UK (GMT) so there may be a time delay in responding to enquiries and orders.

I look forward to 'meeting' many of you over the course of the weekend......


Now here's something you don't see every day.

Or every week.

Or even every month.

My work desk earlier today.....truly amazing I think you'll agree.  In fact it is such a rare sight that I had to gaze at it in wonder for several minutes, almost blinded by the stark whiteness of the surface.

Usually every square inch is covered, either by boxes of tiny doll parts, or festoons of brightly coloured silk ribbons, or pieces of fabric, or bits of pullalong toys, or half-finished toy theatres.....sometimes even all at once.

I usually just keep going until there isn't a waffer-thin slice of space left, then I'm forced to undertake a massive tidying exercise.  Today however, although it was fairly full, I still could have managed to fit several more 'projects in progress' on it if I'd really put my mind to it.

However I needed to clear it completely in order to put my toy shop on it, as tomorrow a lovely couple are making the journey all the way from Amsterdam to pick it up and I want to display it to its best advantage.

Hence the clean, clear, virgin desktop.  I'm almost tempted to take bets on how long it will take for me to clutter it up again.......

EDIT - for those who've requested photos of the toy shop, HERE'S A LINK to the pdf of the article which appeared in Doll's House Magazine.  Enjoy......  

More caravan capers........

One of the many joys of owning a little caravan, is the possibility of taking off for a few days at very short notice.  

Which is what we just did over the weekend.

As members of the Caravan Club, we tend to use CC sites, which although much, much cheaper than any other form of short break holiday (Hotel, B&B, Holiday Cottage etc) can sometimes cost up to £25 per night.  Not bad when you consider that's for a pitch for car, caravan, 2 adults and 1 Small Dog, including electric hookup.  

Incidentally, the electric hookup is for the caravan, NOT Small Dog

CC sites are always immaculately maintained, shower blocks are state of the art, pitch sizes are very generous and the rules insist that children and dogs are kept under strict control at all times which is a Very Good Thing.

Smaller CC sites, (CLs, or Certified Locations) which are licenced to take up to 5 vans, are commensurately cheaper. They can be based in large gardens, orchards, farmer's fields, woods etc and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes.  Most have no facilities aside from fresh water and waste disposal points, although an increasing number have electric hookup.  Prices per night range from approximately £5-£15.  Over the years we've been camping we've stayed on some stunning CLs, some by the side of lakes, others with fantastic views and even one where we could sit and watch vintage steam trains chug past

However topping all of those for value for money are CC rallies, which are organised by individual CC centres.  We belong to East Sussex Centre and at the weekend we attended only our second rally, the first being held over the Jubilee Weekend back in June.

Rallies are held in rally fields, usually attached to farms or CL sites.  They have basic facilities (water and waste disposal) but no electric hookup.  Most have a theme, and activities are organised around the theme.   There is no obligation to participate in any of the activities, although they're mostly good fun, such as the dog show at the Jubilee Rally where Small Dog proudly came away with a rosette.  Costs of rallies vary, depending on the number of activities, entertainment, meals provided etc but are usually around £10 per night, which considering what you get is extremely good value.

As new ralliers we have been warmly welcomed and any initial reservations we had have evaporated.  Our main reservation was the fact that we wouldn't have electric hook up and so would be dependent on the leisure battery in the caravan for all our 12v electricity needs. This means that we can't use normal 240v electrical equipment. It also means that our fridge and hot water heaters have to be used on gas. However, our fears have proved unfounded as the fridge chilled down beautifully and even produced ice in the freezer, and the water heater quickly and efficiently produced piping hot water for showering and washing up.

Even Small Dog has given the rallying experience a firm paw's up, especially as she got to meet two other Yorkies on site over the weekend.  

Looking forward to the next one already.......


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Small Dog has a makeover..........

Small Dog has been looking increasingly scruffy of late so yesterday PP decided to give her a makeover, which consisted of a haircut followed by a bath, both of which she hates.

However, I think you'll agree it was worth all the sturm and drang......



We keep seeing random tufts of hair which escaped the shearing process so PP has been carrying a pair of scissors around with her in order to snip stray hairs as they become apparent.  Small Dog is most certainly NOT amused.....
However at least now she can see where she's going and the cut has knocked years off her.  She looks just like a puppy again!


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August Kit of the Month......

Bang on time (again!) we're delighted to enveil our latest Kit of the Month........

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Available in a limited quantity on our website now.......