Sunday, December 31, 2017

Striding on to 2018

On the eve of a New Year, when we think about the path we will walk in 2018, we examine our hopes and dreams and yearn for good things.  I would like to share this tiny piece of my life with you, to remind you that dreams can come true. 
Plant your dream seeds and nurture them with patience.  Great things could happen.

As a child, I dreamed of living in a forest, with pools and waterlilies.  I had some kind of fairy thing going.  I inended to plant trees all over my garden when I grew up.

 I made this drawing when I was 10 years old.

 Water lily drawing.  Also age 10.  
Many years later, one of my first dates with Henning was a trip to the Witwatersrand Botanical Gardens.  On that day he surreptitiously harvested seeds from a number of trees, brought them home and planted them.  Today, those seeds are the trees in our little forest.

Our garden is lush and green after good rain this summer.  In time, it has become a place of trees and ponds.  Because water is scarce, we do not cultivate flower beds and lawns.  Every evening, I take a walk with the dogs.  Walk with us if you like, and I will show you my favourite spots.

We are setting out from the gate, walking down the driveway along the eastern border.  

Next to the Irish cottage is the pot lady.  The dogs think she's a water bowl.

The Irish cottage staircase. 

I hang old birdcages in the trees here.  Some have ceramic birds in them.  

In this corner, there is a bit of open ground, we call it 'the meadow'. 
On the far side of the meadow, you can see the barn, and the mud pond.  

Whenever we reach this point in our walk, the dogs play a game of tag, then head to the pond for a drink.  Henning is doing woodwork in front of the barn.
At the top of the secret staircase, is the koi pond.

Beautiful water lilies!

And there's the gazebo, a place to sit and look at the pond.

The trees we planted here are starting to make a green tunnel. I love this path. 

We are on our way back to the studio.  But there is more to see.  

First we pass Siegfried's aloe garden.

And the 'hut pond', which is overgrown and full of tadpoles.

The wisteria breakfast corner.  Always cool and quiet in there.

  The herb garden.  We should have figs to eat this season, if the birds and the monkeys leave a few.

The water tank next to my carport.  Colani often naps next to my car.

 Dino's favourite shade spot is the breakfast corner in front of the studio.

Clyde's hangout is the bushes next to the studio.

Attila crashes on the grass in front of the house, she's the only dog who sleeps there.

A fancy water bowl next to the house.

But they prefer to drink from the washing line pond.

 Black bamboo and moss next to the staircase going from the house to the studio.

 A peek at the pool, the fountain, and the studio.

This year flung a fair share of rotten tomatoes at me.  But there were also awesome times.  I would say it's a year in which progress was made and on the last day of 2017, I'm satisfied.
I continued my studies. I learned to set goals and follow the steps to achieve them.  As a result, good things happened in my business. 
I participated in an art therapy group, and spent a lot of time on self reflection.  I agonized an awful lot.  As a result, I've come to a place of acceptance, and I've laid some old issues to rest.  Honestly, after a year of this, I'm sick of feeling.  In 2018 I would like to get on and DO things.  
I regularly dragged a tutu over my middle-aged hips and went off to ballet dreaming that I'm a famous dancer.  I'm afraid that's a swan that has sailed, but the exercise is good for me.
What made 2017 memorable?  

War and peace with an awesome life partner.
Solitude and serenity at home. 
Fantastic, fantastic friends.
Growing my business.
Learning things.
Crafty projects.

Whatever your year's highlights were, may you have heaps more of it in 2018, and may all your dream seeds grow straight and true!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

David and Rebecca

David and Rebecca are having an excited chat about all the cousins that will be born soon.  This week, I dispatched a large box of kits for a workshop.

They did not travel with the box, but they supervised till the last minute, checking every little detail to ensure that the box would arrive safely at its destination.  

You can make David and Rebecca too, the pattern is available to download in my Etsy shop:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Wooden floor for the Del Prado House


It's starting to look like a house!

I've installed a wooden floor in the bedroom of the Del Prado house.  The kit came supplied with printed paper for the floors.  Not bad, but I wanted something more realistic.

Paper vs. hand made floor.

It started with a quest.  One day, long, long ago, an interior decorator gave me a load of discarded sample books.  Some I gave away, others I stored in my stash in the store room for 'some day'. I recalled there being a book or two of  wooden window blind samples and I thought there might be something that would make a floor for a dollhouse. 
Out came the ladder, and up went Megan to haul the boxes down.  Finding something in the store room is akin to slaying a dragon.  The space between shelves is so narrow one needs to go in sideways, and there are always a few dogs underfoot to make it more hazardous.  After numerous up and downs, lots of dust and sneezing, there was no sign of the books and I was about to give up.
Then my eye caught a box.  Dolls House, Raw Materials, Wood.  Meticulously labelled and I knew there were some Popsicle sticks in there.  Oh well, that would work too.
When I opened the box, I found the sample books, standing on end!

 Dino says "Duh, you could've just asked me.' 

I took them indoors, and dismantled the books.  Quite a job, they used some kind of glue protected by a wizard's spell. The loot was inspiring though.

Choices, choices. I can use these for many things!

I selected some straight narrow slats, and proceeded to snip the threads to free the floor planks.  Then I cut them into shorter lengths, and ended up with a pile of lovely straight, thin floor planks.  There were  not enough planks of one colour to make an entire floor, so I mixed some teak with mahogany.  Actually these 'planks' are made of stained bamboo, and I knew I would need to sand the floor, so I wasn't too worried about the colour.

Planks glued directly on to the dollhouse floor.

The end result was pretty, but quite uneven.

Pretty, but pretty uneven.

After the glue was completely dry, I used an electric sander to level out the uneven planks.  As I thought, most of the colour came off.

Whoa, that looks way too patchy! 

Some more rummaging in the store room, and I found Imbuia wood stain.  I would have preferred Oak, but I'm adhering to my plan of using what I've got.  

First layer of wood stain.

From previous experience, I know that one needs to be careful when using wood stain.  As a precaution against making the planks too dark, I decided to thin the stain with thinners.   Why do they put such nasty stuff in a bottle that can't pour without dripping?  Oh well, they said to make a test patch.  Mine is on the dining room table. 

Colour evened out.

After five layers, I was very happy with the colour.  My only complaint, it looked too new.  I recently read on Liberty Bibberty's blog how Mercedes rescued a floor that came out too dark, by painting over with grey acrylic paint.  I want warm tones for my dollhouse, so I selected French Vanilla acrylic paint instead.

Using acrylic paint to tone down the colour.

I diluted the paint with water, then used a rag to dab it on to the planks, and wiped away excess.  On the left you can see how this tones down the colour, giving the floor a more worn look.

Painted over with polyurethane sealer.

After the acrylic paint dried, the last thing that remained to be done, was to seal the floor with polyurethane.  Unfortunately, I only had gloss.  Shiny surfaces in a dollhouse can be disturbing, they create reflections, and will give the setting an unnatural look.  But once again, using what I've got, I let it dry, then wiped over with fine grit sand paper.  

Test fit in the dollhouse.

I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way this floor turned out.   It was also much easier to do than I thought. I chatted with Elga, and told her about my wooden floor.  She makes antique reproduction furniture for dollhouses, and is very knowledgeable about dollhouses, and the decorating and furnishing of homes during the ages.  My concern was that I would have to make all the wooden floors in the dollhouse the same, or risk ending up with a fruit salad of styles.  Elga says that the entrance hall of houses often had more ornate floors than the rest of the house, first impressions, ha ha.  So when I tackle the entrance hall floor, I might try one of the traditional parquet patterns, such as herringbone or Versailles parquet.  Nothing with mitred corners though.  Mitre is a swear word.

Meanwhile, I'm not making as much progress on the Del Prado house, or in real life, as I would like.  I did take some rather lovely pictures of the garden yesterday after the rain.  If time permits, I will share them later this week.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Website Updates

This week I added new fabrics to the website.  I always start out thinking I'm just quickly going to... do this or that.  The end result is a studio that looks like a tornado.  Before every piece of fabric finds its place in the web shop, it needs to be cut, brushed, photographed, measured, and held between my fingers while I try to write an enticing and accurate description.  Once the touchy feely work is done, it's writing the strings of code that make the picture appear in the right place, and the links take you places when you click on them.
Compared to my studio, the website looks so neat and tidy.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I love to shop on my own website!  I often think of the internet as a rabbit warren.  Alice in Cyberland style.  One tunnel will take you to another, and before you know it, you've been in there wandering around for hours.  Not that it's not fun.  If you feel like a little adventure this weekend, jump down the rabbit hole starting at the Creative Me website.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Sunday morning visitor

I opened the door this morning to find Clyde standing there with a very grassy, muddy ball in her mouth.  My dogs don't have a ball.  They destroy balls on sight.  Living in an area where dog poisonings by criminals are a daily occurrence, I immediately panic when I see a dog chewing on something I can't identify.
My shout of alarm elicited the right response.  She put it down gently and retreated a few steps.  Which is when I realized what it was.  A HEDGEHOG!!!
I know that Atelerix frontalis is supposed to live in this part of the country, but in fifteen years here, I've never seen one.  I suppose most people haven't, and don't really think about it, but it has long been my dream to come across one.
I scooped it up in my bare hands and carried it inside.  Maybe not the wisest move, it was a hefty ball of spines.  I put it down on a towel, and rolled it over to see whether it was alive, or injured.  It was breathing, and there were no puncture marks or blood.  So far so good.
I placed it under a towel in a plastic crate, with a dish of water, and left it to calm down.
After a while it unrolled itself and started sniffing around.  Then it emerged from under the towel, tried to climb the sides of the crate, lapped some water, and curled up again in a corner.  It seemed to be fine.
I invited the dogs to have a nap in the studio, locked them in, and set off with the crate to the composting corner.  It's far from the house, with lots of hiding places.  I know that hedgehogs eat bugs and snails.  To my mind, the composting area should be heaven for hedgehogs.
I put the towel down in the grass and waited.  After a minute, it uncurled itself and ran off.  The area that it disappeared into is wild, with lots of hiding places.  The orange plastic mesh over the opening in the wall was originally put up to keep the dogs in, but I havent' checked it in a long time.  Now it's back in place.
I brought the crate back to the house and put it down outside for cleaning.  When I let the dogs out, they inspected the crate from all sides. They're lying on the lawn guarding it now.  I've decided to leave it there as a decoy.  Great Danes are not known for intelligence.
Henning called the hedgehog a Hitchcock, ha ha. In German a hedgehog is an Igel.
Speculation: African hedgehogs are supposed to weigh around 350g.  This one weighed more than 1kg.  A pregnant female maybe?  It was very fat.  They have babies between October and March, and can have as many as a dozen at a time.
Downer facts:  It was bigger than I thought hedgehogs were, and the spines were sharp!  It pooed all over the crate, and it was stinky.  It had fleas.  Definitely not suitable as a pet.
Nevertheless, I was enchanted with it.  Meeting a real live hedgehog was a dream come true.  I'm regarding the encounter as an early birthday gift.

This sweet hedgie kit popped up in my FB newsfeed this morning.  Available at  Hedgehogs Everywhere today!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Del Prado House, bay windows

As a child, there were things that I dreamt of owning when I grew up. 
A bay window, a rocking chair, a conservatory, a very large dog, a mosquito net, wooden floors, a house with a gable, a chandelier. 
Although I have learned that material things have nothing to do with happiness, I do gain lots of joy from the wish list items I added to my real life.  Especially the bay window.  You will see photos of it in a post soon.   
The things that I don't have, I can give to the people living in my dollhouse!
The plywood box is the foundation for a conservatory add-on to the Del Prado house.  I'm keeping it for much later, many other things to do first.
From the box of salvaged pieces, I selected three bay windows to add to the sides of my house.   These windows were meant to be the type with a deep window ledge, suitable for displaying pot plants, I think.  I wanted them to reach all the way to the floor, to regain some of the floor space I lost when making the hallway wider, and because I think it makes a room more interesting when the floor is not a square.
I carefully cut out the window ledges, and used scrap plywood to build a box around each window that would reach to the floor of the dollhouse.  Note left over wallpaper from kitchen and hallway rear walls that I discarded.  Still not wasting anything, and not buying anything.  The smaller bay window will have a window seat, with a bookshelf underneath.
This is what they look like from the outside.
Next, I cut thin strips from a piece of pine veneer, and painted them white to make cottage pane windows.  The plastic window frames supplied in the kit of the Del Prado dollhouse has cottage panes, I want everything to fit together.
Two windows installed.  I really like them.
Of course, any of you who have an eye for architecture will see that I made some mistakes that would cause a real life house to fall over.  I really lack the ability to envision things in 3D.  If I had to build a house for myself to live in, without help, it would be a grass shelter!  Fortunately, in miniature anything is possible and I will tweak the top window a little.