Monday, 31 March 2014

Out like a lamb......


Last day of March today and we're already a quarter of the way through the year.  With the clocks advanced an hour at the weekend it's now possible to truly believe that spring is sprung as it's light-ish till almost 8pm.

Everything is really greening up..... trees and hedgerows are in bud and the birds in the garden are busy collecting nesting materials.

In other news.......

*drum roll*

Tah Dah!!!!!

Yes, Small Dog has achieved her life's ambition...... being awarded Employee of the Month.

As you can see, she couldn't be bothered to actually get out of bed to receive it but the proud head tilt is unmistakable.

Perhaps I should get out more......

In other, other news, my new(ish) laptop has developed a problem.  It won't work at all from the battery, and this morning, even when plugged in, the battery isn't charging.  It's only 5 months old so still under warranty.  However I've just spent a frustrating few hours trapped in the endless, labyrinthine loop of misery and desolation that is Toshiba customer support.

I have no idea whether my request for help has gone to the correct department, in the correct format.  For all I know it might be languishing in an automated inbox in Azerbaijan.  I only hope that it can be sorted quick smart as the whole point of a laptop is that it can be used 'off grid'.

In other, other, other news tomorrow is APRIL during which both Small Dog and I have birthdays.  So in the maelstrom of wedding preparations we're planning a few days away in the caravan, far from the madding crowd, hopefully enjoying a short spring break.

Can't wait.....!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Shop till you drop.....

If I ever have my DNA sequenced, I'm fairly confident that the code will reveal that I am completely missing the clothes shopping gene.  I probably have several additional genes for shopping for stuff like books, soft furnishings, craft supplies etc to make up for the loss of the shopping one but that's not the point.

We have an important family wedding to attend in early May so we've been desperately looking for suitable outfits to wear.  The search started a few months ago, and initially we were fairly sanguine about finding exactly what we wanted.


Pish and tush!

I don't know WHAT we were thinking!  So now, with exactly 5 weeks to go, we're in full headless chicken mode.

Yesterday we had to take the car all the way to Seaford to a main dealer to have the work done, so we shoehorned ourselves in the teeny tiny courtesy car and set off along the coast to Brighton to shop for wedding outfits.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brighton it's chock full of impossibly young, impossibly thin, impossibly shiny people.  I don't think I've ever been THAT young.  Or thin.  And I've most definitely NEVER been that shiny.

It's also chock full of clothes shops which cater for the impossibly young, thin and shiny.
Back in the day they used to be called boutiques but I expect now they're called emporiums or something equally arcane.

They are staffed with clones, all of whom are stick thin, immaculately groomed, coiffed and made up, and that's just the men.  They are all adept at assessing your size, social standing and spending power with one withering top-to-toe sweep of their limpid eyes, and they're all graduates of the Academy of Patronising.

Mostly, they just ignored us, as we browsed the rails, silently horrified at the outrageous price tickets.  I had thought I'd dressed reasonably for the occasion but obviously not.... my jeans and fully colour coordinated top, shoes and jacket just didn't pass muster.

The sizing structure in these shops was also impossible to understand.  As near as I could make out, XL equates to a size 14.  In one place, when I asked if a jacket came in a size 16 the assistant had a fit of the vapours, reeling back against the counter and breathlessly informing me that 'they didn't stock sizes THAT BIG!

I gained the distinct impression that in her world, anyone over size 12 should be wearing a muumuu.


We eventually gave up on the boutiques in The Laines and headed for some more mainstream 'High Street' stores in the hope of tracking down the perfect wedding outfits.
Weddings these days are a complete minefield.  In theory, anything goes (unless you're going to a cathedral wedding of course) and hats are no longer de rigeur.

Back in the day, over 30 years ago, for my wedding, my grannie bought herself a rather fetching pale blue jacket and skirt suit, and in a fit of frippery, decided to team it up with a hat.  It was an astonishing hat, also in pale blue, with gazillions of feathers and a face veil.  I had some qualms about the face veil, as she was a smoker and I had visions of her setting fire to it and going up in flames.

However I needn't have worried.  

Her cat, Daisy, had shown considerable interest in the hat when grannie had tried it on, so she carefully wrapped it (the hat, not the cat) in tissue paper, tucked it in its bespoke hat box and stored it on top of her wardrobe.

A few weeks before the wedding I had a slightly panicky phone call from her......  Daisy had managed to get on top of the wardrobe by way of the tall chest of drawers and had knocked the hatbox off the top, spilling the hat onto the floor and subsequently killing it.

My grannie described a scene of carnage, with a drift of pale blue feathers encircling The Triumphant Hat Murderer, and the remains of one very sorry looking hat.  She had a go at repairing it with a tube of UHU, but she was no Philip Treacy and the hat was a shadow of its former self.  She had to cut away most of the face veil, which was in tatters (neatly removing my cigarette-related combustion fears) and the few remaining feathers barely covered the hat.  

Unfazed, she did wear it to my wedding, and if you didn't scrutinise it very closely it looked not too bad.

But I digress.

Neither of us, under ANY circumstances will be wearing hats.

However, desperate times demand desperate measures, and in one store I spotted a lovely, unstructured crepe jacket, which flowed beautifully on the dummy, and in the daylight at the front of the store it looked a lovely, springlike bright yellow.  Even better, they had it in my size so I grabbed it and set off to the changing rooms.

Fortunately, these days, communal changing rooms are a thing of the past.  Even as a 20-something I remember cringing in the corner, trying to conceal unfortunate underwear choices.... that extremely comfortable and well fitting, but no longer white bra, or those extremely comfortable but completely unflattering big knickers.... among a horde of lithe, toned, tanned contemporaries.

No.  The agony of the communal changing room has been replaced by the forensic revelations of the 360 degree mirror individual changing room, only just big enough to stand up straight in.
The back views afforded by the wraparound mirrors are disconcerting to say the least.  I spent the first few minutes whirling round, convinced the curtain was open and I could see another vertically challenged woman of a certain age, also trying on the yellow jacket. Although her hair was much greyer at the back than mine.
However, they unequivocally answer the perennial question which has plagued womankind since time immemorial......

"Does my bum look big in this?"

And the answer is generally a resounding YES!

While this came as no surprise, I was amazed to discover I have a humph!  
Not in an "Ethmerelda.... the bellth, the bellth...." way, but definitely a humph nonetheless.
I believe in medical parlance it's called a Dowager's Hump(h).  And I have one. 


Naturally, this made me feel a bit crestfallen.  The jacket did nothing to disguise it.....if anything it accentuated it.  Also, in the artificial light of the changing room, the lovely sunny daffodil yellow didn't look so sunny.   If you were feeling charitable you might have called it Chartreuse.  If you weren't it was more an amalgam of snot green, bile yellow and pus.

However, to get the full effect, (and here is where the legacy of the communal changing room rears its ugly head) you have to step outside your tiny curtained individual changing area and enter the large central area lined with floor to ceiling mirrors.

So I stood there, dejectedly, sleeve cuffs grazing my knees, with my humph highlighted, looking for all the world like Orville the Duck.  All I was missing was the huge nappy and giant safety pin.

Thankfully, PP now has TWO lovely outfits from which to choose.  She still needs the shoes, accessories, underwear etc but at least she's more than halfway to being prepared.

As for me, the search continues.  I'm not asking for much, just an outfit which doesn't make me look:

a) Mumsy
c) Fat
d) Mutton dressed as lamb foetus
e) Flightless, incontinent duck

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Infernal combustion engine......

Our car is in ICU.

It was admitted this morning to have its cam belt replaced, which meant taking the entire engine out, in an operation not unlike open heart surgery.  However during the operation it transpired that it also needed the car equivalent of a replacement hip.

The cam belt was due to cost HOW MUCH?!!! 

The cost of the additional work bypasses HOW MUCH and goes straight to WTF?

It's had to be admitted overnight so they've given us a courtesy car as a courtesy.  

Well, I say it's a car.... a roller skate with seats would be a more accurate description.  Being used to driving a rather solid towcar, it feels very, very small.

We'll hopefully be able to pick the patient up tomorrow, unless they find it's suffering from some other malady.

What could possibly go wrong......?  Upset Face

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mini Miniature Show now open.....!

The bi-annual Mini Miniature Show is now open for business. 

There are over 80 international artisans exhibiting this time, some of whom don't ever attend any other shows so it's a great opportunity to discover new miniature talent, as well as re-visiting old favourites.....
 *hint hint* Giving Thumbs Up Winking

Our dealer page can be found HERE and for the duration of the show we're also offering a special discount on website orders.  To take advantage of this offer, 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 show page I will deduct the postage and amend your PayPal invoice so that you only pay one lot of shipping. 

Small Dog, in her never-ending bid for Employee of the Month award, has been galvanised into action, and in her role as 'Hed of Markitten' has undertaken to organise some Facebook-based events during the show, so do feel free to head over to our FB page to see what she's come up with.

Small Dog confers with Smallest Small Dog 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A random blog post......

I do like blogs.

Facebook is ok(ish) but I much prefer the range and scope of a well-written blog post on just about any subject under the sun.

I have around a dozen favourite blogs that I diligently seek out each week to see if they've been updated, and I tend to feel a bit miffed if they've not.  This is, of course extremely unfair of me, as I well know that life, the universe and everything gets in the way of even the most diligent blogger.   Plus I'm in no position to upbraid anyone about irregular blogging.

So. Anyway.

One of my favourites is called The Bloggess, and THIS is why I enjoy her blog so much.  You just can't beat a bit of mummified taxidermy to take your mind off the mundanity of life......

If you find yourself intrigued by the intricacies of weird taxidermy, I strongly suggest you do a search on The Bloggess site.... maybe start off with Juanita Weasel and see where you end up.  If you're anything like me, before you know it you'll be trawling Ebay for something similar to brighten your day.....

Friday, 14 March 2014

The open road beckons...........

Regular readers of this blog will know that we three are keen caravanners, Small Dog especially.  She's been camping since she was a tiny puppy almost 8 years ago, and is now a seasoned camping dog.

It came as a shock to realise that we haven't taken our little caravan out since last August, almost 7 months ago, due to a combination of factors including family commitments, ongoing house works and latterly, the dreadful storms which raged from late autumn through till only last month.  Normally we're all year caravanners, even spending Hogmanays away with camping friends.  We're determined to make up for the hiatus though, and are planning to get away for a few days at least once a month throughout this year.

However, after such a long lay-up, there were a zillion things to do and check on the van, before we can hitch up and head off.  She had to be de-winterised, all the water systems sterilised and flushed through, thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, mover checked, tyres and brake checked..... the list this week has felt endless.

As usual, Small Dog performed immaculately in her role as supervisor.  As soon as she hears one of us opening the little drawer which holds the caravan keys she's right there, ears perked, head tilted, tail wagging, waiting for an opportunity to slip out through the front door, across the drive and up into the caravan, where she makes herself comfy on the front seat to watch us methodically work our way through the long list of stuff to do.

She has her own top cupboard, which houses her towel, coat, jumper, brush, shampoo, poo bags (empty), hot water bottle, spare blanket, medication, doggy first aid kit and several squeaky toys.  She particularly likes to supervise us checking her cupboard, especially the squeaky toys which invariably have to be confiscated after she's rigourously tested them for 20 minutes or so.

However, no matter how careful our checks, there will inevitably be something which won't go right, either when we're hitching up to the car, or when we arrive on site.  Usually there's a problem with the caravan lights (brakes and indicators) which should operate in tandem with the car.  We got so fed up with this happening that last year we changed the plug which connects the caravan to the car, so hopefully it will be fine.

We will of course be very rusty at hitching up and it will take 10 times longer than it should.  We each have our own tasks.... I isolate the battery and engage the mover, PP winds up the legs.  I stow the boards, PP sets the jockey wheel in the correct position.  I monitor the back of the van while PP uses the mover to manoeuvre it away from the fence, negotiating an unhelpfully placed street light and moves it into place behind the car.

Then it's the tricky bit.  We have to precisely position the car and caravan so that the caravan hitch is directly above the tow ball at the back of the car.  The tow ball is the size of a ping pong ball.   If we're lucky, when we wind down the jockey wheel, there will be a satisfying clunk as the two engage and a little red button pops up to confirm that docking is complete.  If we're not lucky (and we're often not) the caravan hitch will miss the ball and continue pushing down the back of the car, so we have to wind up the wheel and reposition the car.

This is both frustrating and annoying.  If we have an audience it's also embarrassing.  We often watch other couples trying to hitch up on campsites and can gauge how well it's going by their fixed rictus grins and clenched teeth during hissed conversations usually accompanied by a lot of stamping around, hands on hips and exasperated pointing.

The one who's doing the manoeuvring always reckons that the one who's doing the directing is making a right hash of it.

And vice versa.

When, eventually, through a combination of brute strength and ignorance, the caravan is properly hitched to the car, there are then another series of checks to make sure everything is safe before being able to drive off.  The caravan indicator brake lights must be checked, all the connections double checked, stabiliser engaged, mover off, handbrake off etc etc.

There's a lot to remember and it's so easy to forget.

Throughout this pantomime, Small Dog watches proceedings from the comfort of her blanky on the front seat of the car.  When we finally both get into the car, she generally gives us a long suffering sort of look, mixed with a hint of derision and a bit of "I told you so" thrown in for good measure.

Despite all of this, we are all looking forward to our first trip of 2014....let's hope it's the first of many.

This is on Small Dog's wish list!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

With the benefit of hindsight in advance.....

In about a month's time, when I'm moaning and whingeing fit to bust, please feel free to direct me straight back to this post. 

I almost certainly won't thank you for it but it will be only what I should deserve.

Think back to last summer when we were embroiled in DIY/makeover hell.  House improvements, redecorating, completely gutting and renovating the workroom, opening up the fireplace in the sitting room to install a woodburning stove etc......

Remember how I said I was never, EVER going to wield a paintbrush in anger again?

Well hush my mouth......  

We've decided to redecorate the bedroom.  It was last painted about 10 years ago, in what, at the time, was a rather fashionable shade of aqua/pale turquoise.  Actually, three of the walls are in that shade and the fourth is a deep, dramatic jade, but because it's almost completely hidden by a large triple wardrobe you don't notice it.

It's not a large room, and it doesn't get much in the way of sunshine.  Because of the colour of the  walls we've been stuck with bedding, curtains, soft furnishings in various shades of cream and aqua and despite the fact it's taken 10 years to pall, we're thoroughly sick of it.


Cue a bit of redecoration.  Slap on a few coats of antique white matt paint (did I mention we made the monumental mistake of doing the original paint in a satin finish, which shows up every brushstroke and imperfection?  No.  Well we did.) New curtains, new bedding, new soft furnishings.  

Bish bosh job done.


I've been thinking.  We don't use the smallest bedroom next door at all, except for storage.  It would make perfect sense to use it as a dressing room.  If we moved the triple wardrobe in there it would give much more space in the bedroom.

Excellent idea.  Brilliant  even.


We both built the triple wardrobe from flat pack.  It took us a whole day and nearly killed us.
The huge frame had to be assembled on the floor, on its front.  As it almost filled the alcove we had no room to manoevre around it so we made a reasonable impression of mountain goats, skipping and leaping around and over it while the assembly was completed.  Bear in mind this was 10 years ago when we were both immeasurably fitter and more mobile.

When the frame was done, we then had to get it upright, in the alcove, against the wall.  At that point in the helpful 84-page instruction booklet, there was a diagram of two men, effortlessly lifting and gliding the frame into position, smiling smugly at each other.


What followed is seared into my memory and will stay with me till I breathe my last.

We had a brief debate about whether we thought we would be able to lift it.  I thought not, but PP was feisty in those days and her unbridled enthusiasm for the lift reassured me.  We each crouched down on one corner (which would eventually be the top corners) and braced ourselves.  On the count of THREE we strained and heaved and managed get it up to knee height, bearing in mind we were crouching down.  

At this point we were committed.  We had to perform the rest of the lift in one smooth, easy action, or abandon it entirely.  I remember the mournful glance we threw each other, as the realisation dawned that if it went wrong, there was a very real possibility that we'd be crushed under it if it came crashing down.

The next few minutes are a bit of a blur, but there was a lot of shouting and swearing as we struggled to push the frame up into a vertical position.  It was a close run thing.  With the last few ounces of our strength, and with our lives flashing before our bulging eyes, we got it past the tipping point and it rocked backwards.

Our jubilation was short-lived though, as we realised that although it was upright, it was over a foot out from the wall, so we had to shuffle it backwards with just a few inches to spare on each side, grazing knuckles and elbows in the process.

Afterwards we lay on the floor, puffing and panting, bloodied but unbowed..... before tackling the process of making drawers and hanging three sets of doors which were so difficult to align that we were yea close to throwing them out the window.


The prospect of moving the behemoth is not to be taken lightly.  We can empty it, take out the drawers and remove the three sets of doors (which have never closed properly anyway) but we're still faced with the task of moving a massive wardrobe round a tight corner to get it out of the bedroom door, then doing a three point turn, reversing it along the landing corridor before moving it into the small bedroom and somehow manoevring it back against the wall.  

There's no way we can do it on our own.  We couldn't even have done it 10 years ago.  To be honest, even with help I'm not sure it's possible, given the relative angles of doorways etc, and it could end up like that song by Bernard Cribbins where the piano gets stuck and after almost demolishing the house they give up and they give up and have to leave it there forever


Best laid plans and all that.....

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Mini Miniature Show Workshop......

We will again be 'exhibiting' at the Mini Miniature Show, which will run from March 20-23.

This is an innovative online show, now in its 4th year, which has the following advantages:

  • No travelling, hotel bills or queueing
  • Free to visitors
  • Open 24 hours a day for the 4 days of the show
  • Rare opportunity to see the work of dozens of international artisans, working in a variety of different scales
  • A selection of workshops and roundtables.
  • You can attend in your pyjamas and browse dealer's tables while having tea and cake.
Our workshop offering this time, features our latest deluxe toy doll's doll, dressed in a tailored jacket and skirt, available in a choice of colours....


The kit contains everything you need (except needle, thread and glue) to complete one of these dainty little porcelain dolls, which measure a diminutive 1  3/4" high.  The doll is china-painted and has jointed arms and legs.

Designed as toys for 1/12th scale children, they can equally well be used as 1/24th children in their own right.

Included with each kit is a comprehensively illustrated, step-by-step booklet, and during the weekend of the show students will be invited to join me in my interactive online classroom, which has live video and audio links.  During this live tutorial session I will demonstrate aspects of the costume/wigging and take any questions you might have.  

Bookings are now open and the class is limited to 10 students with colour choices available on a first come first served basis.  Further information is available on the Mini Miniature Show workshop page HERE

If you need any further information, please contact me directly and I'll do my best to help.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Plotting and pottering......

This weekend is my first Saturday and Sunday off since the beginning of January.  I've been looking forward to it for weeks but now it's here I'm not quite sure what to do with it.

We took advantage of the unseasonably sunny weather this afternoon to have a leisurely stroll along the seafront with Small Dog out in front, implementing her rigourous 'Stop and Sniff' policy at every post and bollard along the promenade.

While PP indulged in a spot of beachcombing, Small Dog and I sat in one of the seafront shelters, enjoying the view and and the warm sun.

We're back home now though and already I'm suffering from Stuff To Do withdrawal symptoms.  I'm almost tempted to spend some time pottering about in the workroom which is still far from tidy.  Alternatively, and this is currently my preferred option, we could light the fire and settle down in front of the TV while I do some strategic planning in one of my lovely new project notebooks.

With coloured pens and sticky marker labels and everything.

A bit of stationery based displacement activity never goes amiss.

Tomorrow I'm planning to spend some time playing with working on my little doll shop.  I've amassed quite a collection of bits and pieces which I've been making over recent months and it would be lovely to work out where they're going and put them in situ. 

Speaking of which, I was doing some faffing around on the internet doll shop-related research earlier, and re-discovered this short animated film about a rather sinister doll shop.


*Note to self* - do NOT add any remotely weird or unsettling elements to La Mignonette,  Except, perhaps, for Smallest Small Dog and Archimedes........