The Evolution of the Dollhouse – Part One

I’m starting a small series about the dollhouse that will show the befores and afters of the exterior and interior. I think it will be fun for you (and me!) to see how far it has come since the day it came home to the cottage. Today? The exterior.

In 2009, I had a job that took me away from home to work in San Diego for six months. Now, I had been wanting a dollhouse for quite a while. I had been reading miniature blogs, gazing at dollhouses, looking at dollhouse kits, pricing kits (expensive!) and generally mooning about all things dollhouse. A good kit seemed to be an extravagance that we couldn’t afford at that time, so I started to look on eBay and Craig’s List. One day in June, I saw a house on Craig’s List that looked promising. The owner lived just a couple of towns away from our cottage. I emailed her, asked a lot of questions, and then pleaded with her to hang onto it until I could talk to Don. After a wee bit of cajoling, Don agreed to pick it up. It was $30. A steal! He brought it home and there it sat until I returned in July. The following photos were taken on my old camera and in some cases, you’ll see my old watermark. I’ve tweaked them a little, but bear with me.

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This is how it looked when it arrived. It was on a base that was funky, not level, and water damaged. It had a front porch step that didn’t seem to work, fake shutters, the upstairs windows had been put in incorrectly and were crooked, several of the shingles were damaged, and that tower was installed in the wrong place – it had been set back too far from the edge of the roof.

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It was completely unfinished on the inside and the floors on the first floor had water damage. It had also been put together incorrectly and there were gaps between some of the walls and for some reason, some of the siding was on display in what would become the Master Bedroom.

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I did a lot of research on the internet and asked a lot of questions of my miniature blogging friends. I learned that I could take those upstairs windows out more easily than I thought and that allowed me to reposition them. The ‘shutters’ (which were really pieces of wood with lines painted on them) were removed and new shutters were ordered. I replaced several shingles. Then I pried off the tower and moved it into the correct position. I also removed the funky base and step.

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Most likely, this dollhouse (which is, frankly, a inferior copy of one made by Real Good Toys and manufactured by another company) came with the outside walls pre-painted. But it had taken a beating and I didn’t like the colors, so I gave it a few coats of primer. I also primed the inside at the same time.

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It took several coats of paint to cover up the blue. I decided the roof should be gray but I wanted the gray to have a texture. I painted all the shingles in one shade of gray, then dry brushed another shade of gray onto the first layer.

The shutters arrived and I played with paint colors.

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I never liked the front door. It looked cheesy, was too narrow, and it wouldn’t close. I knew I was going to have to replace it.

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The shutters were painted and installed.

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I bought this door. And I looked at it for a long time. It was wider and taller than the door that came with the dollhouse, so I knew I was going to have to deal with a saw. Research told me that I needed to invest in a keyhole saw and I did. The day I decided to bite the bullet and remove and replace the old door was definitely nervous making. Would I screw it up? I marked the new opening with pencil and I sawed and sawed and sawed again until I finally got it right. And dang it, it fit!

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Ta da! I added a jewelry fitting for the door knob.

Which brings us to the porch. The porch was unpainted, had a very rough texture and some water damage. I decided that the best way to deal with that was to add some pattern. I’ve always loved painted floors, so I painted a diamond design in gray and white.

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And there you have it. All of this took place over the course of several months, as I painted and replaced and researched and, in some cases, dithered a bit.

Just like rehabbing a real house, but much less expensive!

I know many of you are thinking of getting your own dollhouse and I want to assure you that you can take something less than beautiful and fix it up so that it looks like new. And you don’t need to pay full price, unless you want to. I paid thirty dollars for the dollhouse. I mean, really, how could I go wrong? You can find all sorts of deals out there. Judy found a gorgeous dollhouse at a craft fair for an incredible price. Another of my readers recently found a beautiful dollhouse for next-to-nothing. Check out Craig’s List and eBay and your local paper. You’d be surprised what’s out there.

I’ve had the most wonderful time working on this dollhouse. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love it.

There’s more coming in this series. Next time, we’ll start on the inside.

Speaking of the dollhouse, yesterday I received a package from Karen. It was rather large and heavy and I had no idea what was in it. When I started pulling things out of the box, I was stunned. So was Don.

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This is only a small portion of the contents. Accessories, furniture, furniture kits – treasure after treasure!

Thank you, Karen, for this incredible surprise and for your generous spirit. Bless you.

I am reminded of just how amazing my readers are on a daily basis. What a gift you are!

Happy Wednesday.

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Saturday Fun: Record Store Day

On Saturday, my husband informed me that it was Record Store Day and to honor the day, he wanted to visit two of our local record shops. Count me in, I said.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about record stores. In fact, I’ve written two posts about records and record stores; Things I Miss: Record Stores, and Things I Miss: Record Albums. I lament the loss of large record stores with new albums appearing every day; thumbing through the albums, reading the liner notes, discovering new albums and artists. Some of my best memories involve record stores. I had a huge collection of albums, most of which are now warped and unplayable after being stored for many years. Big mistake. Breaks my heart.

Don and I have been slowly buying vintage vinyl records. And new vinyl is increasingly becoming popular again, which gives me hope. I think there is a real difference in the sound of a vinyl record and a CD or MP3. The vinyl sounds more live, more exciting - less perfect in the best possible way.

It’s nice to be able to download music, of course. I do it myself. But where are the liner notes? Where is the artwork on the album cover? Where are the lyrics?

It’s not the same.

Interesting information: Musician Jack White, who has a store/studio in Nashville, is a big proponent of vinyl. He has a Record Booth in his store where you can record your own record! Don wants to do that. So do I! His store and studio are very cool and are decorated in a wonderfully retro style. In honor of Record Store Day, he recorded the world’s fastest record - recorded, pressed and distributed in under four hours.

Here are some photos of our day.

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Don, outside our favorite local record shop.

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I look so much like my mother in this photo.

Thumbing through the albums. Ahhh, I’ve missed this! That’s the owner in the background. He’s smart and funny and knowledgeable. Plus, he has a Record Store Cat named Watson who was sleeping on top of the albums that were just to the right of the group in this picture. Watson is inscrutable and clearly the lord of the manor.

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I include this simply because I seem to be wearing two pair of glasses. Interesting trick.

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Don with a Loudon Wainwright album. He ended up buying it.

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Oh, Joni. I have this album somewhere. Hours and hours of memories.

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I posted this on Facebook because it made me laugh. A spoken word album of correct pronunciations. Since I have spent years teaching this very subject, I remarked that I could have saved myself all the hours put into creating lesson plans and played the gosh-darned record instead.

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Look what I found! A near mint condition soundtrack to my favorite movie. I have this album somewhere, but I know it isn’t in great shape. So I snapped this baby up and it is now living in Mockingbird Hill Cottage, along with an Earth, Wind and Fire album that I also purchased.

I dare you to stay in a bad mood when Earth, Wind and Fire is on the turntable.

Go ahead. Try it.

I dream of a big record store, full of thousands of albums, with music playing and all sorts of music to discover. But, in the meantime, I’m sure happy that these charming shops exist, with owners who love vinyl and want to share that love with everyone.

It’s Earth Day today. Let’s use this day (and every day) to urge our world leaders to finally do something about climate change before it is too late. Or we might just end up with an Earth that is uninhabitable.

And finally, I wrote about this yesterday but I’m not sure how many of you saw it, so I’m reposting:

On another note: Several of you who subscribe to this blog via email have mentioned that you have not been receiving recent posts. This is a Feedburner problem and it seems to be happening across the blogging world. The short answer: there’s nothing I can do about it but trust it will be sorted out eventually. Feedburner often has mysterious glitches. May I offer some easy, practical advice? Most readers subscribe to a blog via email because the blogger doesn’t post every day and they want to know when a new post is up. You know I post every day. Every Day. So, barring unforeseen circumstances, there will be a new post on this blog every morning. Why not simply bookmark the blog on your browser and click on it at some point during the day? Quite frankly, that’s how I read blogs. (The only blog I subscribe to is my own and that’s just to keep tabs on whether the email is working – and it has been working for me.) Bookmark it. You can rest assured that a new post will be up by 10 am every morning. Like clockwork.

Happy Tuesday.

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Book Review: My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag…and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr

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Today I am reviewing My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag…And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha by Jolie Kerr for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

About the book (from the publisher): Got a cleaning disaster on your hands? From the Deadspin and Jezebel author of the popular “Ask a Clean Person” column comes a hilarious and practical guide to cleaning all of life’s little, and sometimes rare, household emergencies. Just in time for Spring Cleaning, Jolie Kerr’s book tackles the most common (and uncommon) spills, odors, and – let’s face it – those oh-so-embarrassing stains you just can’t ask your parents about.

With her signature charm and humor, Jolie Kerr takes on everything from Cleaning 101 questions such as “How do I use a mop?” to the more obscure “How to I clean up this ginger beer that exploded all over my kitchen?” My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag is NOT your Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook!

My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag showcases Jolie’s infinite cleaning knowledge and terrific sense of humor, including remedies for heirloom wedding dress restoration, confetti stains on wood floors, dusty ceiling fans and endless laundry, as well as general tips for leading a tidier and happier existence.

Whether you’re moving into a college dorm, purchasing your first home, of finally getting around to cleaning your old one, no stain, spill or surprise windowsill mushroom growth is too odd or embarrassing for Jolie. This book is the perfect guide for college students or housewarming gift for someone new to living on their own.

My review: Hey, it’s obvious that this delightful book is geared to the younger generation. Jolie Kerr is hip and very funny. A few of the ‘situations’ that are covered are definitely more relevant to a younger reader – though I have to say they made me chuckle or, in some cases, ask “What the….??

But here’s the thing. Jolie Kerr knows what she’s talking about. And she covers a multitude of cleaning questions with humor and down-to-earth practicality. She gets right to the nitty-gritty, as it were. There is a lot of valuable information in these pages – and it’s not only valuable to a college student or someone just getting their first apartment. I learned a lot while reading this book and I’ve been cleaning for more years than I care to mention.

Some people like cleaning. I am not one of them. But I do it. I am the first to admit that I don’t always know the best method for treating a stain or for cleaning a ceiling fan (Kerr has an amazingly easy way to do that particular cleaning task) or for cleaning tile and grout (an endless task here at the cottage and one I often avoid because I hate it.) Kerr’s book provides clear and smart advice for all those situations and more.

Here is a section just made for me: Wedding Dress Restoration Projects: Before and After. Why, you ask? Because on our wedding day, my husband accidentally wiped his spare-rib-eating hands on his ‘napkin,’ which turned out to be my wedding dress. Maybe I should finally tackle that stain?

I love reading housekeeping books for several reasons; the advice is always helpful, I can pick it up and read a section or two at a time, and I learn a lot. But a cleaning book that tackles the subject with humor? Even better.

So, yes, this book is meant for twenty and thirty-somethings. But I (definitely not a member of either of those age groups) really liked it a lot. And I’ll use it. It would be a great gift for someone younger in your life. (And they will think you are oh-so-cool to have discovered it.) It would also be a great gift for you. You can skip over any subject matter that doesn’t pertain to your Older Adult life. Believe me, there is more than enough great advice here for anyone who has to clean their home or their clothes or their car. She covers it all.

About the Author: Jolie Kerr is the author of the popular column “Ask a Clean Person,” which is featured weekly on Deadspin and Jezebel. Her work has appeared in Fortune, BlackBook, the Urban Outfitters blog, Gothamist, The Hairpin and The Awl. She has been featured as a cleaning expert in the New York Observer, O Magazine, InStyle, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Health Magazine, and Parents Magazine. Jolie is a Boston native and graduate of Barnard College, now residing in a teeny, tiny, spotless apartment in New York City.

I am giving away one copy of this book to a lucky reader. Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll pick a winner on Thursday evening.

On another note: Several of you who subscribe to this blog via email have mentioned that you have not been receiving recent posts. This is a Feedburner problem and it seems to be happening across the blogging world. The short answer: there’s nothing I can do about it but trust it will be sorted out eventually. Feedburner often has mysterious glitches. May I offer some easy, practical advice? Most readers subscribe to a blog via email because the blogger doesn’t post every day and they want to know when a new post is up. You know I post every day. Every Day. So, barring unforeseen circumstances, there will be a new post on this blog every morning. Why not simply bookmark the blog on your browser and click on it at some point during the day? Quite frankly, that’s how I read blogs. (The only blog I subscribe to is my own and that’s just to keep tabs on whether the email is working – and it has been working for me.) Bookmark it. You can rest assured that a new post will be up by 10 am every morning. Like clockwork.

Happy Monday.

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The Scoutie Bunny

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Happy Easter!

As you can see, our little Easter Bunny has already paid us a visit. Reluctantly. Every year we drag out these bunny ears and make Scout model them.

She doesn’t like it. Not by a long shot.

This morning I raised the roman blinds in the kitchen and looked out the window to see a fox staring at me. He was just as surprised as I was. He trotted away from me for a few steps and then turned back and stared at me. My mouth was still open from the gasp I made when I first saw him. Then he trotted around the far side of the dog corral and into the woods.

Wow.

I’ve seen several foxes lately. Twice on this property, once on the road where we walk Scout and once more when one ran across the road in front of me while I was driving. We’ve lived here almost nine years and I think I saw a one or two foxes in all that time. Until now. I wonder if he’s living on our property?

I also saw two bunny rabbits this week. (He’d better stay away from our bunnies.)

Oh, make that three. See below.

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We’re having dinner at Noble and Tina’s this afternoon. It’s sunny and it’s getting warmer - hard to believe after our long winter – but it’s true.

Whatever you celebrate or don’t celebrate,

Happy Sunday.

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Life’s Too Short to Worry About This Stuff

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In the Life’s Too Short/I Can’t Waste Any Time Worrying About This Stuff Column:

Data Breaches: Every time I turn around lately, I’m on the receiving end of an email or letter informing me that a website or store or utility company I have done business with has been the victim of a ‘data breach.’ That between some date and another date, some nefarious group hacked into the site with the result being that some of my data, i.e., credit card info, name, birthdate, address, might be in the wrong hands.

When this sort of thing first started happening, I felt the usual panic, wondered what to do, wrung my hands, etc. But now? I just shrug my shoulders and shake my head and maybe change my password or maybe ignore the whole thing. If this sounds like an ostrich burying its head in the sand, you might be right. But the fact is, we all provide personal information online or at the cash register. We hope, of course, that that information is secure but there is always the risk that it might not be. In this age of digital everything, personal information is readily accessible – too accessible – but that’s the way of the world nowadays.

The people behind all of this are contemptible, of course. They do bad things that affect innocent people. I think it’s terrible. But, in the end, I can’t go into a panic every time I this happens, because it seems to happen more and more often. I can’t be worrying all the time about identity theft. There’s so much written about all of this – especially on the web – that one can quickly be overwhelmed by it all. I’m not going to be blissfully ignorant, but I refuse to let this crap rule my life.

So I shake my head, shrug my shoulders and move on.

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Rules on Blogging: Please stop. Please stop with the ’10 Things That Make a Good Blogger’ kind of posts. Or ‘What Every Blogger Needs to Know.’ Or, even more maddening, ‘How to Coordinate All Your Social Media or When to Schedule Your Pinterest Pins or your Facebook Posts or your Instagram posts” or “How to Use Social Media.” Always with the proviso that you must do these things if you want to be taken seriously. There’s just too much of this kind of ‘expert’ advice out there. And the result is that we lose that individual stamp that is so vital, the thing that makes one person’s blog different from every other blog out there.

I realize, of course, that for many bloggers, their blog is their business. I get it. And I respect that.

Regretfully, at least to me, blogging has changed. What started out as a creative way to share with each other and expand our world, to journal, to share photos, to create, to write – let’s stop for a moment and say that again – to write, has now morphed into an arena where everyone has to have a new project on the blog every day, then has to Tweet or Facebook or Pin and hype the heck out of it. And every stat has to be checked and rechecked and compared to every other blogger’s stats.

If there’s any way to squeeze every ounce of joy out of blogging, that kind of stuff is sure to do it.

The number of bloggers out there has multiplied and multiplied and multiplied some more since I started blogging six years ago. The arena has become much more competitive, with everyone vying for readers, for ad clicks, for a rung on the ladder of ‘blogging success.’ It’s exciting, for sure, this blogging world. And blogging can lead to recognition, to possibilities, to maybe even a book deal. All well and good. Though, as to book deals and blogger hype, I have to raise this question: When did everyone become an ‘Expert?’ The internet has suddenly given everyone a chance to claim the title of Expert. Really? I’m highly suspicious about that one.

Let me say here and now: I don’t claim to be an Expert on anything.

I don’t want to see blogging become the equivalent of a strip mall, where everything is the same and the content is so similar that one could be in any city or town with all of the shops so interchangeable that nothing is really new or fresh or original.

I have to stop myself because there’s SO much I could say about all of this and I will, someday.

Really, in the end, my point is this. I started blogging for the sheer pleasure of it. It brings me joy. Anything that takes that joy and boxes it up and surrounds it with a list of ‘rules’ and things I must do will be summarily tossed out the window.

Life is too short and joy is too hard to come by. It’s too precious to mess with.

Happy Saturday.

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Egg Cup Eggstravaganza 2014 – Part Four

Day four. The finale. For today’s post, I’ve gathered up the rest of my egg cups, those cups that are on display hither and yon in the cottage. All this posting about egg cups has me sort of obsessed by them again. Isn’t that the way it often happens? You get used to seeing something in your home, walk right by it (or them,) don’t even register that it’s there and then suddenly, you see it with fresh eyes and kaboom! It’s all you think of.

Okay, here we go: the finale!

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Starting from the left:

1. A beautiful egg cup in my favorite colors. It has no mark so I’m not sure who made it. It’s vintage, though. I got it a few years ago at my favorite shop in San Diego, Vignettes. It usually is on display in the china cabinet in the den, with a found bird nest sitting on top of it.

2. A chick coming out of an egg, with some pretty flowers painted on the base. Marked Japan. Another gift from my Mom. On display in the kitchen china cabinet.

3. This is an egg coddler, not an egg cup. This particular one, given to me by my mom, has a bird on one side and two birds on the other. Marked Royal Worcester Porcelain, England. On display in the kitchen china cabinet.

4. A sweet chick. I believe this one is newer and not vintage. Unmarked. Given to my by my mom. On display on top of my bookshelves in the bedroom.

5. Love, love this goose egg cup. I found it in a local shop. Marked ‘France.’ Also on display in the den china cabinet.

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These adorable egg cups (in what is called the ‘bucket’ style) were a gift to me last year from dear Judy. I love them. They are on display in the kitchen. And, by the way, what is the answer to that question? I’ll leave you to ponder it.

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And finally, my two newest acquisitions. I bought them just the other day.

1. A Delft egg cup in the shape of a chicken. (I’m not particularly crazy about Delft, but I’m trying to add different shapes to my collection and this one is charming. Signed ’1332 Kenith (or Renith) R.’ Probably newish.

2. A Flow Blue double egg cup. Vintage and unmarked.

Well, my friends, I hope you have enjoyed my annual tour of the egg cup collection. I try to do it a wee bit differently every year. I’m sure I’ll have even more to show you by this time next year.

By the way, most egg cups are very affordable and you can find many of them for a few dollars in antique shops and flea markets. I think the Flow Blue cup, for example, was about $4.00 and the Delft chicken was $5.00. Figural egg cups, especially the rarer ones, are pricier. Very, very old egg cups in ironstone or rare patterns command a higher price. But I often find that dealers are not very up on egg cups and the prices they might command, so you can usually get a great deal. In the beginning days of my obsession, which would have been around 2002, I haunted eBay and that is where I found many of my figurals. Etsy wasn’t in existence then, but now it is and you’ll find some wonderful examples there, as well. Of course, the best part of the hunt is discovering a gem tucked away on the shelves of a shop. I keep hoping to expand the figural part of my collection, but they are getting harder and harder to find. Certainly, the rarer ones – like the bunny painting the egg – are increasingly scarce. I don’t check eBay all that often, but I haven’t seen that particular egg cup in a long, long time. I’m so happy I started when I did because the figurals (my first egg cup love) were the ones that I found enchanting and whimsical and in 2002, there were still a lot to be found.

I’m fairly picky about what I collect, but I’m going to expand the collection into souvenir egg cups and double egg cups in various china patterns. I cannot pass up a pretty china pattern, as you know.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

A note to Debby Messner: I got your email yesterday but whenever I respond to that address it bounces back to me, so I wanted to let you know that I signed up for Club Little House swap. Thanks for telling me about it, my friend!

The winner of a copy of Casebook is SueZK! I’ve just sent you an email, Sue. Congratulations! (Winners are always chosen by the Random Number Generator.)

Happy Friday.

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Egg Cup Eggstravaganza 2014 – Part Three

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Today, we’re traveling downstairs to the den where we’ll find some more egg cups. They are very special and just might be my favorites. They are displayed on a charming shelf/whatnot that I found in a little antique store many years ago. Top Shelf: 1. This Humpty Dumpty is made by Mansell in Great Britain. I […]

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Egg Cup Eggstravaganza 2014 – Part Two

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Before we begin, may I just mention that we have a bit of snow on the ground this morning? No, you’re not seeing things. Snow. It will be gone in a few hours, but you can imagine my shock when I got up this morning. Will this friggin’ winter never end? Okay. Deep breath, Claudia. […]

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Egg Cup Eggstravaganza 2014 – Part One

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Yep. It’s egg cup time again. Easter time = egg cups, don’t you think? For those of you who are newish to this blog, I collect egg cups: big, small, figural, double, plain and fancy – mostly vintage. Today, we’re going to concentrate on the figural egg cups that live on this shelf in my […]

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Book Review: Casebook by Mona Simpson

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Today I am reviewing Casebook by Mona Simpson for TLC Book Tours. As always, I am provided with a copy of the book in return for my honest review. About the book (from the publisher): From the acclaimed and award-winning author: a beguiling new novel about an eavesdropping boy working to discover the obscure mysteries […]

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