Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lily Deconstructed ~ Yikes!

Just a short blog today. 

Taking the dry~fitted Lily back down was a nightmare! It goes beyond having tabs and slots; it has really long slots as well as the small ones which keep the house nice and stable. This will be a terrific feature when it is built, but it did not want to be deconstructed at all. I was afraid it would break while I was taking it back down. Abby and Hannah ~ I recommend at least two people working together to take Lily back down after the dry~fit, one to hold the unsupported walls up, and one to detach the adjoining wall. This is not a house I will spend time and energy dry~fitting as I go. I'll just use my notes from the first dry~fit.

I took a break from building today; there was too much to do with my real-life house and yard. I did start a new little punch needle project though. Maybe it will be far enough along to post a pic tomorrow.

The baby mockingbirds fledged a few days ago. This is the last photo of the last baby in the nest. 

Now they fly gleefully from tree to tree. They really seem delighted having discovered their wings.

~ Chris

Friday, June 28, 2013

Construction Begins ....

....With the stairs.

The second floor staircase is almost done! 

I added a little trim to the exposed side of the staircase. The cherry stain is looking like a good choice for this house.

All that is left to do for the second floor staircase is a light sanding and another coat of satin urethane.

This kit has the cool feature of a built-in bookcase on the rear side of the second story stairs.

I am playing with the idea of adding an under-stair closet to the 1st floor staircase. 

The door looks better with a little woodgraining.  I may consider making it out of better wood if I decide to incorporate the closet.

It needs a little hardware. :-)

Tomorrow, I'll fit the staircases back into the house to make certain everything is fitting right, then the house comes down so I can prep the wood. 

Time to figure out wallpapers!

~ Chris

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sanding and staining and glueing ~ oh my!

Staining and sanding ~ a slow process. I don't think it helped that the humidity level today was 100%.  Even though it's humid, I am appreciating doing this in the summer when I can comfortably be outside for the smelly part of the build.

The staircases, treads, risers, and bookcase all got sanded and stained.

The bookcase was very first part of the Lily to get glued ~ WOOT!
There was exactly the right amount of little clamps to hold it together.

It feels great to have actually glued something. Tomorrow I should be able to get both stairways constructed.

Then I think it's time to deconstruct the dry fitted pieces and start priming.

~ Chris

Sunday, June 23, 2013


After spending a couple of days looking at my stain samples in the dollhouse, I decided to go with a cherry stain. It should provide a nice warm glow without being too dark. Because it was so hot today,  I waited until early evening to work on staining the stairs and trim work so I could work outside. After the little table, chair, and pieces to stain were all set up, wouldn't you know it ~ dark clouds blew in and thunder started rumbling. I finished what I could and brought it all back inside.  Ironically, the storm seems to have blown right over.  We need the rain. Darn!

I think the cherry will look  very nice in there.

After trying out the punch needle embroidery yesterday, it seemed like a good idea to try something a bit more ambitious. This will be an oval rug; more room-size. 

This is the back of it with the transfer and stitches showing so you can see where it's ultimately going.

And this is the front side as far as it's gotten.

It really is fun to do!

A sweet woman in town was cleaning out some of her dollhouse things and offered them up free to anyone in town who wanted them. I got a little booklet about making wicker furniture. I don't know if or when I'll get around to that, but I do remember enjoying weaving baskets in Girl Scouts.  Right now I need to keep focusing on organizing my real life house, as well as sanding and prepping the wood for the Lily.

~ Chris

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

While my hand was totally out of commission, I read about Russian punch needle embroidery. 

In the 17th century, the Russian Orthodox Church went through a period of change under the reign of Peter the Great. There were a lot of reforms and people (the ‘Old Believers’)who opposed modernization split from the church. They were persecuted by the reformers, then by the Tzars. To escape persecution, they moved to remote areas of Russia, and around the world. Some immigrated to America.

Punch needle embroidery is an art form that was perpetuated by their reclusive culture. The 'Old Believers' have made embroidered embellishments, mostly for their clothing for centuries, passing the art down over generations.

I thought that punch needle embroidery might be a good one handed project. So I bought a punch needle, a locking hoop, and replenished some of my embroidery floss colors. Then, since I really had no idea what I was supposed to do with it, I got a book about punch needle embroidery, with a few patterns included.

As it turned out, trying this with my left hand just didn't work out. You really need two good hands, one to hold the hoop and one to punch the floss through. So, I had to wait until I had the use of my right hand back, then got busy with other projects. Today though, I felt under the weather so it seemed like a perfect day to try it out.

It took a bit of getting used to, but before long, I got the hang of it. I liked the crow pattern so I decided to try that for my first project/ My crow's tail got way out of hand; so far out of hand that it started to look like a mutant crow-dog. So I had to modify it, which was a good thing because I discovered how easy it is to pick out the mistakes, and punch right over them.

Susan Bates locking embroidery hoop, punch needle, and threader. 

You do your embroidery on the back, and the design appears of the front.

It was a good sewing project for not stressing my recovering hand. I wonder if TSA lets you bring this kind of project on an airplane; I'll have to do a little research. I'm thinking it would be diverting on my trip west this summer. 

This picture scale on this one is a little large, but for now, it has a home as a welcome mat for the Fairy House.  

Russian punch needle embroidery was the perfect thing to learn on a hot, humid, low energy day.

~ Chris

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Stain Strain

From Chris:

I didn't get too much done on the building front today; it was clean and organize day instead. I did do a little research about Victorian wood trim. The information I go was all over the place. I know a lot of it was very dark and one resource said that often it was pine with a walnut stain and artificial woodgraining. I picked up a little can of walnut stain to try, decided it was too dark, and tried a couple of other stains I have around the house. Here they are laid out on my 'maple' kitchen table:

From left to right; walnut, Early American, mahogany. At first I found myself preferring the mahogany.

Then I placed the staircase and samples on some wallpaper. It wasn't the best way to tell, because I am not at all certain these particular papers will go in the house.

In the end, I think I actually like the walnut best after all; it gives a nice contrast.  Perhaps a softer, warmer brown? Pecan?

There's still time to figure it out. Selecting colors always seems harder than it should. Why is that? Yeesh!

On the real-life mini front, the baby mockingbirds are starting to feather out nicely. They hardly fit in their nest any more!

I hope no one falls out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Dry Fit Fits

Chris's Post
Finally! I had enough pieces popped out and labeled, enough time, and enough hand comfort and mobility to do a preliminary dry fit. For the most part, it went smoothly and made sense. That is ~ until it came to the front wall. 

This is the Lily lying on her side. See the long slit in the board on the right, above the two swatches of blue tape? The front wall was supposed to slip in there. The thing is, it is a very tight fit and wrangling with it was just threatening to break off a part of the porch or front wall.

This is the front wall piece that is supposed to slide in. The slit under the double door is supposed to go into the slit in the floor and the piece is supposed to slide in place. 

Only sliding was NOT a happening thing.  Argh! 

I ended up filing the tabs on both the floor and the front wall down a bit to accommodate the tightness.

I didn't want to make too much of a change because in the end, I do want everything to fit together tightly.

Once the two pieces finally fit together, I needed to pound some of the tabs in to hold the front wall to the second and third floors, and supporting walls. So far, this has been the most challenging part of the build.

                              There it is ~ in place!  

The fin coming up the middle of the roof is where the mansard roof will attach. That will be tomorrow's venture.

This is a very spacious dollhouse compared to the Aster and the Orchid.  There is access from the back of the house seen here, and also access from the side.

The is the side access, next to the bay wall.  My Aster Fairy House is photo~bombing. :-)

This was a gratifying day. Now I can picture where this is going, and get some ideas about what I want to do with the interior. Time to let her talk to me before I start working on the stairways and trim.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Woohoo! And Getting Started..

Chris Posting:

The day I have been waiting for has finally arrived. My right hand has been let out of solitary confinement and is out in the world again. It's a little stiff from restraint, and still a little swollen, but it's great to have two hands to work with again.

So, now it is finally time to really get started on The Lily. I have promised myself to limit the amount of time I spend on it at any one time and, for a while, on any one day. My tendency is to hyper-focus on what I'm working on and tune out little messages ~ like pain. Since I'm still healing, the plan is to build up to full use of my hand slowly.

I was hoping to get to the dry fit stage of building today, but oh my! There are so many sheets and so many pieces. I deluded myself into thinking I could start the dry fit if I only popped out the larger pieces and the slots. But there are so many of them.

This is my favorite part of the instructions:

LOL! It is hard to look at all of the pieces and not run screaming from the room. Okay, step by step....

I had started labeling and organizing pieces a couple of weeks ago,  so not all of this is from today's work. Today, I went through the sheets that had the walls, partitions, and floors needed before beginning to dry fit the shell. Some of the little slots and window pieces are in there pretty good, so I decided to wait until tomorrow to tackle extracting them. 

  Here is today's progress. It doesn't look like much yet but bit by bit, it will come together.

I found these tiny skeins of yard at JoAnne Fabrics a couple of days ago.

They may be the wrong scale for knitting for a dollhouse; the jury is out on that count. They definitely rate high on the sweetness scale. Any knitting projects are a long way off; more healing to do and a lot of other projects lined up. I love to knit during the school year. I get quite a few students started on knitting when I do.

It felt wonderful to make some noticeable progress on The Lily today. I had thought I would launch into that weeks ago!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Baking Potatoes and Carrots ~ Angie Style

Chris Again:

My real life oven broke last night in the middle of making dinner, which also meant no playing with my mini-food. When I whined (just a little) about it on the Greenleaf Dollhouse Forum, my friend Holly told me I should have a dedicated oven for my polymer food anyway. Holly is always full of sage advice and I generally take her recommendations to heart. After reading mixed reviews about the Amaco oven and armed with a 40% off coupon, I bought myself a little Amaco clay oven which I set up in the back room off the garage where fumes would not bother either my parrotlet or the nesting wren family in the garage.

For what I am doing with it, it seems to be working perfectly well.
Here are my little carrots getting popped into the oven, then cooking away.

Just as the reviews said, the first firing was pretty stinky so I was glad I set it up far away from where anyone could breathe the fumes.

So, having a little oven meant that I could finally try out some of Angie Scarr's recipes from her Market Stall book that I posted about yesterday. I decided that potatoes looks fun and not-too-challenging for my first attempt from her book. They came out great. Thank you, Angie Scarr!

But, oh no ~ they spilled all over!

After a little work, they were cleaned up and ready to take to the Farmer's Market.

Some of the potatoes were left home for dinner, along with carrots and green beans. 

What a yummy supper!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two New Books

Posted by Chris

Look what just came in the mail! Now I can really have Fun-With-Food! 

Perhaps I'll have some new food to post tomorrow. I can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Making Dishes

Posted by Chris

I decided to try my hand at making some little plates this afternoon. I knew they would look, well... rustic, since I have to do it all left handed.  My mother had earthenware Stangl dishes when we were growing up. This was one of the Stangl patterns we had.

I don't know if it is just because I grew up with them, but I still love them and have some of the original plates from childhood.  This is the tiger lily pattern and one of my favorites.

When I made little plates today, I wanted to approximate the Stangl patterns, knowing full well that I would not do them real justice, at least until I get the use of my right hand back. They don't, but they still came out kind of sweet.

I used a cake decorating nozzle to cut them out, painted them with acrylic paint, painted the backs of them a terra cotta color, and gave them a light coat of varnish.

They make a nice setting with the bread, butter, cheese, and cherries I made a couple of days ago.

Countdown: 5 more days until (hopefully) I get the use of my right hand back! 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Baby Birds!

Chris here:

The only mini work I got done today was to go to Michael's with my 50% off coupon.  I used my coupon on a clay extruder. I have been having great fun with my polymer clay and am looking forward to expanding my clay building skills.

 I also picked up a box of soft pastels. One of the 2nd hand dollhouse building books I purchased from Amazon has directions for using scraped pastels for coloring polymer food. It's a no lose proposition. If I don't like using them for that, I can use them for landscape drawings.

A few weeks ago, I found these clamps in the $1.00 bin at Target:

I bought 2 sets for me and two sets to send to Hannah. I don't know yet how well they work, but for $1.00 per set, they looked like they were worth trying out. They look like they could come in really handy for working on building dollhouses and furniture.

Meanwhile, the real-life minis at my house are the baby mocking birds. Ma and Pa Mockingbird have made their nest over the table umbrella that was up against the house all winter.

So much for using the umbrella for a while! Both parents are very attentive and are so much fun to watch as they take turns taking care of the babies.  I did not want to disturb the parents or the babies, but I did pull over a chair to make myself tall enough to raise my camera into a position where I could take pictures of what was in the nest. I couldn't see into it myself, so I had to wait to load the photos to my computer to see them.

 It looks like there are four of them. I'm looking forward to seeing them as they feather out and fledge.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Bread and Cheese ~ A Mini Tutorial

Chris here:

Today was bread baking and cheese making day. 

Using transparent/white and caramel colored Sculpey, I made a blob of the transparent/white and a thinner blob of caramel, which I layered on top. Then I stretched and stretched it until it took on a long, tubular shape. Using my straight razor, I cut off lengths for my French bread, and pinched off the ends. Using my straight razor, I gently scored the tops a few times.

I used the same roll for my challah, only I rolled it very thin.

 I made three long lengths of the thin strands. Then braided it.

After braiding, I cut it into challah lengths, pinched the ends, and added chia seeds to the top. The chia seeds are a little out of scale, I'm going to have to find something smaller.

After baking at 275 degrees for 15 minutes and giving it time to cool, I finished it off with a thin coat of satin varnish.

I also used the thinner piece of 'bread dough' to make dinner rolls. I cut small pieces off the roll of dough, and gently scored them down the middle.

What is the point of a feast of fresh baked bread without some good cheese? Let's start with Edam.  I added some pale yellow to the transparent/white. It was much too bright, but perfect for butter. I make a few sticks of butter and some pats of butter for the sliced bread before adding a little caramel color to mellow it out.

I rolled and stretched the translucent/white/yellow/caramel mix, then rolled out a thin layer of red.

I carefully wrapped the cheese in the 'wax', then cut it off into small segments. The next step was to make sure the wax covere the cheese on the cut off sides before rolling each piece into a ball and flattening it slightly to make it 'Edam' shaped. After baking, I gave the wax a light coat of satin varnish.

I made the brie in a similar manner, except I made an off-white rind, and pressed it into sandpaper for texture.

After baking, I added a little bit of satin varnish to the cheese, and not the rind, to give the cheese a glossy, melty texture.

Time to feast!

Mahja is off to the open market to sell the rest of the bread.

I know she'll sell it all very quickly.