Sunday, 10 September 2023

2023 Advent Box ...#3


Eeeek!  According to my 'friendly' countdown timer, which is becoming less and less friendly by the day, there's just over 7 weeks to go to complete my Advent Boxes.

Progress update you say?  

Wellllll.... so far I've completed 7 kits, and am well underway with another 3.   I'm also currently working on the designs of a further 5 kits and waiting for supplies for several more, so I think I'm more or less on schedule.

However, a problem has arisen which might put the kibosh on the whole enterprise.  Not to give anything away, but I had planned to include a 'structure' in this year's Advent Box, and spent ages over the summer sourcing exactly the right thing and placing an order.  Unfortunately it was out of stock, but I was assured that it would be available by the end of September.  Fast forward to now, and on Friday I requested an update on a potential delivery date to discover that it had been pushed back by well over a month, which would take me into November.  And even then the delivery couldn't be guaranteed before Christmas. 

Cue much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Should I press on with my current plan or completely reconsider that element?  It's really integral to the theme of the entire thing though, and I've already put together several elements of the kit to accompany it.

Could I design something similar and produce it myself?  Possibly... although I'm already going to be pushed for time and having to design and produce the structural element is a whole different proposition.  

However, I've spent the weekend trying to think of ways to achieve something similar, without having to spend a fortune on materials and I think I might have found a way to do it.  I'm going to have to massively simplify the construction but I think it just might work. 

Nothing is ever straightforward and I may have gone a step too far, but by the end of this week, I'm tentatively hopeful that I may have a working prototype.  

So, watch this space.....  😉 

Friday, 18 August 2023

2023 Advent Box ...#2

Today is all about lists.  I have so many lists I'm going to need another list to keep track of all the lists. I also to draft a realistic schedule to keep to.  I have a long, distinguished history of making a brilliant, early start on projects then resting on my laurels until a deadline approaches and panicking like crazy.

However, if there's one thing I learnt from doing this last year (and trust me, there's MANY) it's to keep track of stuff.  It was all a bit chaotic back then, and although I'm relatively good at multitasking I ended up spinning so many metaphorical plates that inevitably several of them ended up in pieces.

So... this time.  Lists.

  • Mailing list of people who want details.  If that's you, HELLO! *waving*
  • List of individual kit ideas (this is constantly changing at the moment)
  • List of components I already have, or can make myself
  • List of components I'll have to source or buy
  • List of packaging... bags and boxes 
That last list is a doozer.  Last year I miscalculated and ending up having to order additional paper bags several times.  And yes, it has to be paper bags in order to conceal the contents of each one so that there's a surprise every day.  I made all the number stickers last time and will do so again, not least because most sets of advent stickers are numbered 1-24 but as I include a special kit for Christmas Day itself, I need 1-25.

Also, this year, I'm going to need a bigger box! I managed to fit last year's 25 kits in a standard A5 mailing box, but I'll definitely have to find something bigger and deeper this time. 

Wednesday, 16 August 2023

2023 Advent Box...#1

Well..... that escalated quickly!  

I sent out an email on Monday afternoon, to gauge interest in the idea of a 2023 Advent Box, and within a few minutes my laptop was pinging fit to bust with messages coming in requesting to go on my list for further details.  

To say I'm flabbergasted is an understatement, and to be honest the response has been overwhelming.  So many lovely messages, some from people who have been customers since I first started my miniature doll business, over 35 years ago.  

I've decided to hit the ground running, and have therefore put a countdown timer on my computer desktop.  The boxes all need to be completed and ready to go on sale by 1 November to allow for delivery by 1 December, especially for international mailings so I need to run to a fairly strict timetable, given the breadth and scope of the boxes.  So here I am, on a hot August day, working towards an Advent box for December and yes, it does feel weird.

Last year's box was largely based on a Fairy Tale theme.  This year's will also have a theme, but as it's a closely guarded secret I can't divulge any details.  However, I can reveal that today I have completed packaging the first kit... EEEEK!!!

This is both A Good Thing, and A Bad Thing.  It's good because I've actually started, and as an ace procrastinator that's a major achievement.  It's bad because this will likely lull me into a false sense of security, thinking I have loads of time and how difficult can it be to get all the individual kits ready on time.  However, last year, it all went right to the line and afterwards I had to lie down in a darkened room for a fortnight.  That was a cautionary experience, and I'm determined to pace myself this time.  I have to admit that I'm having enormous fun planning and designing everything, and new ideas keep cropping up all the time, so I may be in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose, rather than worrying about not having enough.

I'll post regularly about progress over the coming months, and might even drop the odd teaser/hint/clue along the way, so if you've expressed an interest, please drop your email address in the 'Get New Posts By Email' box and hit the Subscribe button, (it's at the top of the column on the right hand side) so you don't miss anything. 

And in the meantime......

Thursday, 10 August 2023

The die is cast....

As you know, I've been musing on the idea of designing an Advent Box for this Christmas.  Since I posted about it last month, I've been vacillating all over the show.... 

Scene: Sandra's craft room.  She is surrounded by notebooks and scraps of paper, littered with jottings and is deep in thought at her laptop.  A small furry presence materialises on her lap, and settles down.

Me:*distractedly* Oh, hello SD.  I was hoping you'd appear.  I could do with a bit of advice.

SD:*pointedly* Wel yes.  Ai eckspeckt yue do. Whott is itt this tym?

Me:*carefully* Well..... I'm wondering whether or not to do another Advent Box type thing for this Christmas and I...

SD:*interrupting*  THISS KRISMUS???  Muurm, ar yue kompleetlie madd?  Thatts onlie aitey three dais!!!

Me:*defensively* Yes.  Yes, I know.  But....

SD:*emphatically*  Thatts undr twelv weaks.  Yule nevir doo itt!

Me:*deflatedly* I'm sure I could.  Just wondering if I should though..... *tailing off*

SD:*patiently* Aim lissening....

Me:*deliberately*  Ok.  So there are pros and cons.  On one hand, it's a LOT of work, but it's really fun to plan.  Also I'm sure I've slipped off people's radar, so there might not be any interest. However last year's box was a rip-roaring success and sold out in less than an hour.  I'm supposed to be retired but I do miss work and more than that, I miss coming up with an idea and figuring out how to make it work.

SD:*interestedly* Hmmm..... and du yue hav an ideer?

Me:*warily* Well yes... as a matter of fact I do have an idea.

SD:*probingly* And wil itt wurk?

Me:*hesitantly*  I think so.  I have a vision of how it will all look when it's finished and it's completely amazing.  It's a vignette.

SD*bamboozledly* A veengnett???  Whott on erth is thatt?

Me:*gingerly* It's sort of a small scene, made up of different components but complete in itself.   The Advent Box would contain all the kits necessary to make the finished vignette.

SD:*thoughfully*  Ai suppoas thatt wude wurk.  Kan yue tel me whott itt iss?

Me*confidentially* Well it's a secret... like last year's box contents, but I could whisper it to you...

*whisper whisper whisper*

SD:*astonishedly* WOW!  Thatt sownds amaizen!  Espeshullie the bitt with.... yue kno.

Me*happily* Thank you SD.  Yes I thought you'd like that bit. 

SD*gently* Itt duz sownd liek an owful lott of wurk tho.  Ar yue shure yue kan manij itt in the tyme?

Me:*warily*  I think so.  I've started making lists and planning stuff for it.  Just need to send out an email to gauge the level of interest.  There might be no replies though.

SD:*emphatically*  Onlie wun wai to fined owt.  Ai thinc yue shude go fore itt.

Me*appreciatively* Oh, thank you SD.  Ok then.... I will.  You are such wise little dog.

SD, smiling all over her furry little face, slowly fades away, and Sandra returns to her research and list-making....

To be continued.....

Sunday, 16 July 2023

The hoarder next door....

For the past few days, all of my makeover projects have been in abeyance as we have friends coming over for dinner and a sleepover therefore the state of the house has become an urgent priority.

The main issue is the dining room, which, as always, has performed the function of storage unit for the past few months, containing...

  • Spare stuff from when we sold our little caravan.
  • Spare stuff from when we bought the campervan.
  • Spare stuff from when I sold my workroom storage units.
  • All the stuff needed for the downstairs cloakroom makeover.
  • All the stuff we can't usually find a place for but which can't be got rid of.
  • Literally, the new kitchen sink which arrived in a massive, hulking, great box.

I don't know if you ever watch The Hoarder Next Door on TV.  Any time I've seen it I've smugly thought to myself that at least we don't have any rooms in the house which are THAT bad.   However, to my endless mortification, I have to admit, that recently, the dining room has reached those proportions.

I know I'm prone to exaggeration for comic effect but honestly, I couldn't even bear to look at it.  Admittedly I did go in there a few times (well, just inside the door) to assess the scale of the project, and moved a few things around in a desultory fashion.... a bit like stirring a very chunky soup.... but within a short time I simply lost the will to live and beat a hasty retreat, closing the door firmly behind me.

However, with guests coming, I had no choice.  If we were to dine in the actual dining room then I had to just knuckle down and get on with it. 

Scene:  Door of the dining room.  Sandra is preparing to attempt an assault on the South Col of the dining room, a risky and dangerous mission to reach the summit via the glacial tabletop and treacherous north face of the Box Mountain.  As she fastens her crampons, adjusts her goggles and tests her safety rope, as small furry presence materialises at her feet.

Me:*briskly* Oh, hello SD.  I was hoping you'd appear!

SD: *incredulously*  MUMMMM.... whot AR yue doen?!

Me:*limbering up* I have to tidy the dining room.  We've got friends coming to dinner.

SD:*disbelievingly* Kant yue eet owtside?  Ai meen.... just LUKE att it!

Me:*stretching hamstrings* 'Fraid not... weather forecast isn't good so we need the dining room.

SD: *splutteringly* Butt.... itts goen too taik yue aijes.  Posiblie munths.  Ther kude be ENITHING hiden in thair.

Me: *stretching triceps* Well, yes.  I expect there'll be spiders.  There are always spiders.  

SD: *forcefully* Spydurs ar the veri leest of itt.  Aim thinken tygrs!  Lyons! Woolvs!

Me: *hesitantly* Oh don't exaggerate SD. There's no way there could be anything like that in there.

SD:*raised eyebrow*

Me:*falteringly* That's just silly.  Isn't it?  I mean, there couldn't be anything really dangerous, could there?

SD:*placatingly* Probablie knott.  Orl aim sayen is a elifant kude hyde in thair and yude nevir kno.

Me:*appraisingly* Well.... yes, now that you mention it. There is an awful lot of stuff.  Perhaps I'm not adequately prepared for such an undertaking.  Maybe I'll have a think about it and make a start tomorrow.

SD:*encouragingly* Ecksillint eyedeer.  Ai thinc yue shude go and hav a larj geeantee and relacks.  

Me:*gratefully* What a good plan SD.  I honestly don't know what I'd do without your support and sage counsel.

SD smiles and gradually fades away....

Tuesday, 11 July 2023

Thinking aloud.....

I think I'm just starting to get the hang of this retirement thing, but I have to admit that I do miss the cut and thrust of 'internashunal bizness'.   However, I still have a small supply of little undressed dolls, and lots of lovely fabrics, ribbons and trimmings so I'm planning on making a few dressed dolls soon, just to keep my hand in.  I've been revisiting my 'doll ideas' boards on Pinterest and have started a new little notebook to jot down ideas.   La Mignonette has been seriously denuded of little dolls, as many of the ones I made specially for it have now been sold, so I need to replenish its stock over the coming months.

I'm also musing on offering some sort of Christmas kit this year.... not a full scale, all-singing, all-dancing 25 kit Advent Box like I did last year, from which I still haven't fully recovered... but perhaps a 12-day box of numbered kits, which will make up into a little miniature vignette.  I've already started garnering ideas, some of which are clearly unworkable, but the germ of a plan is beginning to form so I'll see how it goes.  I'd need to have a working prototype completed by the beginning of September if I'm to have time to work up a complete set of kits in time for the end of November.

If I do pull it off there will only be 10 kit boxes available as I can't face the many weeks of work involved in making more.  I may also produce one new festive-themed toy doll kit later in the year, as I'm having serious withdrawal symptoms from all things Mignonette.

So with just 24 weeks till Christmas (!?!?!) I'd better get my thinking cap on....

Tuesday, 4 July 2023

La Mignonette makeover.... Part 2

Long time readers of this nonsense blog will know that my usual modus operandii is most accurately illustrated by this....

Therefore nobody is more surprised than me that I'm positively galloping along with my La Mignonette makeover.

A few weeks ago I set up its new home in my new craft room.

As it's basically a corner shop, it's only fitting that it sits in a corner, so I used a Kallax double cube unit on its end, with a storage box in the base for bits and pieces related to the build.

With the empty shop in situ on the unit, I glued two walls in place to form the back of the top floor.  I had already wallpapered all the interior walls and painted the exterior walls.

Having painted and decorated the wall units, I installed light bulbs in the top of each section.  I had never tidied all the wires leading to the plug sockets on the back of the building, so I took several hours to cut them all to length and re-fit the plugs, so that there are now no trailing wires at the back.  As there are 15 individual light fittings over the three floors I had to install an additional socket strip, which, of course, meant having to have an extra transformer.

Here are the wall units in place on the new top floor.....  I'm going to have the fronts of each floor fully removeable, to give better access to the rooms, but I'm debating whether to add some additional structural support at the fronts in the shape of 2 columns, to help support the ceilings/roof.

I've decided that the the exterior of the top floor looks a bit bare and nondescript.  I'm going to make curtains for all three windows, nevertheless, the frontage is lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.  So I'm going to add open shutters to the two side windows, and an elaborate pediment to the large central window.

Still more finishing touches to complete, but overall I'm pleased with progress and can now turn my attention to the interiors.

To be continued....