Friday, 30 September 2016

We're hiring......!


Here at the international HQ of Tower House Dolls (Unlimited, Amalgamated, Consolidated) we've been conducting interviews for a new apprentice position in our operations department. 

We're looking for young, enthusiastic, free-thinkers, with energy and flair.

Small Dog declined to apply, citing the fact that she already held a 'manijmint possishun' and was of more use in the 'strategy and planning' department.  

I ventured to observe that if we had a 'snoozing and napping' department she'd be a definite boon, but it fell on deaf ears.

No matter.

We did have an application from an outstanding new talent though, and she agreed to undergo a gruelling series of selection tasks yesterday afternoon.

Thoughtfully responding to probing questions

Practical test involving natural history recognition
Subject areas covered included Geography, History, English literature, Natural History, Languages, Art & Design and Numeracy and we're pleased to report that she passed with flying colours.  

We look forward to welcoming our new staff member very soon! 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Saviour of the left(y).....

Today's Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 117th birthday of a man who transformed the life of left-handers everywhere.

Ladislao José Biro invented the eponymous writing instrument which has rightfully earned the undying gratitude of millions of sinister people.
As a lefty, I am used to coping with all the challenges that a predominantly right-handed world throws at me... from doors that open on the 'wrong' side, to mastering the use of scissors.  Things which the majority right-handed take for granted.

However, I know of no lefty who can write consistently well with a fountain pen which isn't expressly intended for our sinister ways.

At primary school, back in the early 1960s, I loathed and detested 'writing lessons' which were carried out with a proper old-fashioned fountain pen.  The teacher would write a series of sentences, or a poem, or piece of prose on the blackboard, which we had to laboriously transcribe into our special 'ink jotters' using joined up writing.  

The pens were italic, and ALL of them were right-handed.  No matter how I tried, or what contorted writing position I adopted, inevitably the points of the nib would cross and a huge inkblot would spread over the page, usually diluted with tears of frustration.

Eventually, my father, who was also left-handed, made representation to the school and in the fullness of time, a left-handed italic pen was provided, which transformed my writing. As an added bonus, I also got to keep it in my desk, so it wouldn't get mixed up with all the other fountain pens, which were collected in at the end of each writing lesson.  I used to lift the lid of my wooden desk just to gaze at it, nestled in its little box.

However, fountain pens, although elegant and covetable, are not entirely practical for common or garden everyday writing, so the invention of the Biro was ground breaking.
We take it completely for granted these days and it has spawned an entire panoply of pens which work on the same rollerball principle.

So, Ladislao José Biro, we salute you!  Your simple invention has definitely made the world a better place.

.... Although I do take issue with this vintage advertisement, which places women in a subservient business role, merely taking shorthand notes!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Keep calm and drink tea......

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the arrival, 358 years ago, of tea to Britain.

Click here

People are generally divided into two camps in terms of their morning tipple.  Are you a tea or a coffee person?

I'm definitely for tea.... first thing in the morning, elevenses, lunchtime, bedtime.... it's my go-to hot beverage.

Back in my student days, when I fancied myself as a bit of a sophisticate, I used to mix my own blend, which was 50% Lapsang Souchong, 50% Earl Grey, and very delicious it was too.

These days I mostly drink bog standard decaffeinated tea, although I do sometimes dally with Lady Grey, or Green Tea.

Sadly, tea seems to have fallen out of favour with Brits in recent years, as people have defected to overpriced High Street coffee chains in their droves.  I'm proud to say that I have never, ever bought a Starbucks, Costa or Cafe Nero skinnychocolattemachiato or any other of the zillion impossibly named coffee combinations.  

No.  I'm a tea girl.

So then there's the thorny problem of 'how do you take it?'  Do you put the tea or the milk in first?  Cup or mug?  Leaf or bag? Milk or lemon?

The expected response is always "as it comes" but that's a risky strategy.  You could end up either with a cup of coloured water, or a black, tarry liquid so strong you could stand a spoon up in it.

I'll hold my hands up as a fairly fussy tea drinker.  I like it medium strength and milky.

And while I'm on the subject, how does 'milky' ever translate to 'a dash'?  Nobody else ever gets it quite right... never quite enough milk.

As a child I used to have my tea with two sugars.  Now, if I ever accidentally end up with a visitor's sugared tea I almost yack.  

It's my favoured drink while I'm writing blog posts too.... as I type there is a large mug of tea just to my right elbow.

So, join with me in raising a mug..... to tea!

PS - I think I blogged a  wee while back about the prescience of the number 58 recently.  
I was born in 1958, turned 58 this year, it's three hundred and FIFTY EIGHT years since tea arrived here.

I'm taking it as a sign......

Thursday, 22 September 2016

It's official.....

The weather has been all to cock lately.  In the past few weeks we've had wall to wall sunshine and the highest September temperatures on record, for a record number of consecutive days.  We've also had biblical rain, apocalyptic thunderstorms, wind and hail.

Forget four seasons in a day.... we've had four seasons in an hour!

However, today is the autumn equinox, when the amount of day and night hours are equal and it's all downhill from here on in.

The nights have been perceivably  drawing in for several weeks... on dull days it's dark by 7.30 pm.  This is the cue to unearth my SAD lamp and set it up on my desk in the workroom.

It's also the time of year when miniaturists dust off their languishing projects, or start afresh on new ones.

Don't even talk to me about languishing projects.  My whole life has been full of them.  The workroom is full of them.  Despite this, I'm seriously considering turning my attention to starting yet another project.  Not to mention making a serious effort to complete several 'projects in progress'.

Just as soon as the CMW event is over....... 21 days and counting!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

A brief 'conversation' with Small Dog.....

Scene:  Bedroom this morning.  I emerge from the shower room to discover this.....

Me:  (encouragingly)  C'mon sleepyhead.  Upski pupski.
SD:  (opens one eye then promptly shuts it again)
Me: (arms folded) Get up lazybones.  Up and at 'em.....
SD: (no response)
Me: (hopefully) Squirrel!
SD: Zzzzzzzzzz
Me: *sigh*

Exit stage left, NOT pursued by a Small Dog

The End

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Little boxes.....

You know that thing, when you have SO MUCH TO DO that you just have to shut down and do something completely different to the thing you should be doing.

That's me that is.

After several weeks of working on preparations for the CMW event (just 5 weeks to go... YIKES!) I've rebelled and spent several hours today making an assortment of little shabby chic boxes.

I could justify it by claiming they're for a new kit (which they sort of are) but in reality they're going into La Mignonette.... Mademoiselle Emilie's upstairs workroom to be precise.

While I was carefully cutting, scoring and assembling, I had that song on an endless loop in my head.

You know the one.

Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same.
There's a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one
And they're all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

I expect you've got it now too.  Sorry.  I believe the technical term is 'earworm'

So, anyway, here they are in situ....

Although the new boxes are currently empty, I will be adding contents - fabrics, trimmings, patterns etc.

I'm thinking that the room is still too pristine and way too tidy.  My own workroom never looks like this so I do need more boxes... perhaps some open on the floor with the contents spilling over.  

And a pile of books.  

And some boxes of paperwork, customer orders, receipts, notebooks etc.

Mlle Emilie has just finished this little doll, which is now ready to go downstairs into the shop.

Spotting the opportunity for some strokings, Smallest Small Dog is demonstrating her belief that an empty lap must be in want of a small dog.

Meanwhile, SSD's great friend and sidekick Archimedes, is taking the opportunity to practice his tap dancing.

Playing working with La Mignonette has reminded me that it was intended to form the centrepiece of a long-running project which I started almost seven years ago.


Even by my standards of procrastination that one helluva long time. *sigh*

Perhaps I should brush it off and re-assess it.  Decide whether, as I'm doing with this blog, I should abandon it completely, or resuscitate and revive it.

Hmmmm....... *ponders*

Friday, 9 September 2016

Is it just me......?

The heat and humidity this week have been unbearable.  

We've had record-breaking September temperatures both day and night.  Even Small Dog has been wilting. I found her yesterday crammed into a small space under my desk in the office. Whether it's actually cooler under there or the heat has gone to her brain I have no idea.  I briefly considered joining her to test the hypothesis but she looked a bit bitey so I demurred.

I'm normally quite a chilly soul.  I tend to have cold hands and feet even in the height of summer but lately my body thermostat has gone mental.   I can be sitting quietly, minding my own business, when suddenly I'm overwhelmed by a tsunami of heat and sweat.

Yes sweat.

Forget the whole ladylike 'glowing' thing.  It's as if a sweat tap has been turned on and it literally rolls down my face seconds after the heat hits.  It's really quite an unbelievable physiological reaction.

Add to this going bright red and literally gasping for air and you can see that it doesn't present a pretty picture.

I really hoped  that I'd got away with a relatively quick and easy menopause but apparently not.  Approaching the age of 60 it's back with a vengeance.


I'm determined not to go down the HRT route so I've been frantically researching 'natural' remedies, of which Black Cohosh is the universal recommendation.

Now all I have to do is discover if it's available in industrial quantities...... *sigh*

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Story time.....

I may have omitted to mention that PP and I are now grandmothers… or to put it more accurately, we’re Nanny and Ra-Ra respectively.  She's a little poppet and last week we had her for two whole days while her mummy was working.

It’s a long time since either of us was last responsible for the care of a baby, in my case 30 years, and I have to admit we’re not really match fit.  It’s a full time job looking after a little ‘un and over the course of the two days we didn’t get much done, aside from feeding, nappy changing, feeding, nappy changing, undressing, bathing, feeding,  dressing  (repeat)

It’s also a long time since I experienced the delights of children’s television.  As a child of the late 50s I well remember Watch With Mother…. Bill and Ben, Andy Pandy, The Woodentops… then later Camberwick Green, Trumpton and Chigley.

When my own children were little they liked Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds, Wind in the Willows (the one with David Jason as the voice of Mr. Toad), Thundercats, and She-Ra/He-Man, amongst many others. 

Over the intervening years I supposed that children’s programming had moved on and wasn’t wrong.  They even have their own channels, of which Cbeebies was the only one I recognised.

At lunchtime we watched The Numtums…. little characters with numbers on their tummies who go around counting things.  Diggers, flowers, cats… very little goes uncounted and GiggleFidget was very impressed with my numerical dexterity.

Then Melody, a little girl with impaired vision who loves music.  Each day featured a different piece of popular classical music and Melody conjures up pictures of what the music makes her think of.

However the stand out favourite was Bing, which she absolutely loved.  I have to admit being a bit nonplussed by Bing.  On the surface he’s just an oversized animated rabbit who’s very clumsy and a bit socially inept.  However he seems to live with a carer called Flop, who is of indeterminate species.  Bing’s friends include a Panda with ADHD who takes off his trousers at the start of each episode then runs around in his underpants. 

I’m probably overthinking this but where are the parents?  Why do they have carers?  Why has the baby (Charlie) been left on his own in the house with a bunch of weird characters?  

Obviously none of these burning question bothered GiggleFidget, who was fascinated by the troubling scenarios unfolding on the screen.  I had to switch it off.

So then it was story time.  She does love stories.  Who knew a 4-month old would be SO into stories?

I have loads of children’s books and fairy tales, but as I’ve been working on Little Red Riding Hood toys lately I decided to go with that.  What follows is a rough transcript.

Cast of characters

Me – The storyteller
Small Dog – The Wolf
GiggleFidget – Herself

Me:  Right… let’s have a story then.
GF: Mmmmwahaharr
Me: Little Red Riding Hood… a story about a little girl who unwisely lets a wolf know where she’s going and why.
SD: (opening one eye)  Thatts wolfist.
Me: Excuse me…. Did you say something?
SD: (sitting up to expand upon her theme) Thatts a vyle kalumnie on wolfs.  Ai maiself am dessended from wolfs so ai kno whairof ai speek.
Me: Hm.  Well, anyway, once up on a time….
SD: Ar we doin akshuns?
Me: *sigh* Actions?
SD: Like a plai…. Yue and me.  Ai kan be the Wolf.
Me:  Are you sure?
SD: Absewlootlie!  Ai wos born to plai the Wolf.
Me: (doubtfully) He is a very wicked wolf.  In fact if you deconstruct the narrative he is a seductive yet predatory antagonist who preys on vulnerable women.
SD: (fluttering her eyelashes and winking with both eyes) Ai kann do seduktiv.
GF:  Aaaaaaahhhhhhh   giggle
Me: Yes. Well.  We’ll see.

 SD: (incredulously) Caik?  And WYNE?  Fore a sik grandmuthr?  She neads auntie biotix.  Knott wyne and caik.
Me: (patiently) It's a fairy story.  Personally I totally approve.  What an excellent mummy!
SD: Humph.  When is it mai turnn?

 SD: (seductively) Well helloo yung ladie.  Ar yue goen mai wai.  Wokk with me.
Me: Hmm...that's paraphrasing but we get the gist.
GF: Yaaaahhhhh
SD: When do ai get to gobbul hur orl up?  And the grandmuthr.  Althew she mite be a bitt tuff.
Me: *sigh*

SD: Wate a minitt.  WHOT IS IT WARING?  Pinck frillie nitekap.  With Lorra Ashlie spriggd kurtanes and yelloe bedspred?  No wai hoasay... ai am knott waren THAT!
Me: (exasperated) For goodness sake Small Dog... it's only a read through.  You don't have to get dressed up.  Don't be such a drama queen.
SD: (huffily) Dramar kween!.... *mumbl*muttr*grumbl*

SD: (excitedly) Oh, Oh, Oh... this is mai favoritt bit. Whott big things yue hav eckseterra.
GF: Ooooohhhh..... myahhhhh yeeeehah.

 Me: "You wicked creature!"  With one blow of his axe he killed the wolf and pulled him out of the bed....."
SD: (alarmed) Whooahh.... wateaminitt!  Whotts happnin?
Me: "Then Little Red Riding Hood's father cut open the wolf and out jumped Little Red Riding Hood.  He then helped the grandmother out.  She was still alive but very weak.
SD: (incredulous) STILL ALIVE!  Ai gobbuled her up.  WHOA!  Whott kind of storie is this fore children.  Itts unbeleevibl!
Me: (doggedly) "They put the grandmother into bed and gave her some cake and wine.  Soon she was sitting up and feeling much better.
SD: (incensed) Caik and wyne?  Mutsh bettr?  Whott abowt the poore wolf.  With its entrales spredd orl ovur the flore.  This is a stewpid storie and aim knott playen enimoar.
GF: Shhhhhssssskkksssss  *giggle*
Me: Right.... that's it.  Story time is over.  Let's have a walk up the garden.....
SD: (brightening) A wok?  Up the gardin?  Ai mite fined a skwirrl....!

The end.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Hello September...... it that time already?

It's all 'back to school', we're in the dog days of summer and the shops are already displaying Christmas merchandise.

Of course it's now officially meteorological autumn (September, October, November) and although this isn't my favourite time of year, I'm trying to embrace autumn as the penultimate season before spring.

I seem to have spent most of this year in a mental fug... an overhang from the debilitating illness following my hospital admission last October.  At times I've felt completely adrift and rudderless, at the mercurial whims of a perfect storm of anxiety and depression.

Just about everything has languished in the doldrums.... work, projects, this blog..... but I finally feel as though I'm on the mend and have rediscovered some of my old joie de vivre.
However, picking up the pieces again has highlighted just how far I've drifted... I'm shocked to discover that in the whole of this year so far I've written only 19 blog posts.


Compared to 2009, when I managed a frankly gob-smacking 284 posts, that's paltry.

This December my blog will be 10 years old, the same age as Small Dog.  It hardly seems possible that I've been doing this for almost ten whole years and have clocked up 1492 posts!

However, blogs are going to the wall in droves.  There are a handful of blogs which I make a point of seeking out and reading every week.  Of these, two have recently been mothballed and I feel a bit bereft.  

Of course, the original raison d'être for this blog was to document my projects, and provide an insight into what I do.  Inevitably, over time, it's become a bit of a confessional, as well as an opportunity for whimsical flights of fancy.  It's telling that this year, most of my posts have been purely functional, as my creative writing muse has taken a lengthy sabbatical.  I just haven't had the heart to write anything amusing.

I'm determined to make it to the 10th anniversary... I feel that I owe it to my blog, which has become a comfortable (if somewhat neglected) old friend.

As to what happens after that.... I haven't decided yet.