Monday, November 29, 2010

O Tannenbaum

First Snowfall

Just a dusting of snow, nothing significant, but just enough to blow around and coat the surfaces in white, and make the fetching home the Christmas trees ever so picturesque! I will confess that in my childhood and well into my twenties, our family NEVER put the Christmas tree up until Christmas Eve. Santa decorated it and the first viewing was upon waking on Christmas morning. Then one year my brother and I went out on Christmas Eve to look for a tree and there were none left! All the vendors were done selling them! We finally found one out behind a convenience store, waiting for the re-cyclers to cart it away. We took it home and ever since then I have put my tree up well in advance of Christmas Eve! And I will confess that in those long ago years we used to point in shock at those who put up their trees right after Thanksgiving. It was way too soon! But I have been converted. At some point I realized that I was only torturing myself by NOT putting my tree up at the earliest possible moment! Because I ADORE Christmas trees! I think it is the lights. I just HAVE to have those beautiful lights at this darkest time of year. So now I rush out and get my trees at the weekend following Thanksgiving.
Trees, PLURAL, you ask? Here again I will confess that I got spoiled in my old house where I had room for more than one Christmas tree, and I was growing them in my back meadow, so OF COURSE I had more than one tree! And since I moved to my small house, I have NOT been able to give up the second tree! One has white lights, and the other has colored ones! It takes me ages to actually decorate them, but the LIGHTS go on right away! Here you can see the white tree in my little upstairs studio.
And here is the tree with colored lights in my downstairs dining room turned studio.
(Yes, these are the 1:1 scale trees!)
Obviously, since this is a blog about my dollhouses, you are waiting to see the dollhouse trees? Well, first I must confess that I had bought a mini tree MANY MANY years ago and hid it in the Someday Cupboard House. I even decorated it with pieces of jewelry and beads and tiny birds and cut out paper card ornaments. It is Charlotte's tree, technically, but her house is currently not habitable, so she and the children have gone south for the winter. It seems a shame to not use the tree anyway, so I pulled it out and tried it in the Lovely Old Dollhouse, but it is too TALL! Ken is looking it over. It has no working lights, but Ken is not too concerned.

He likes the rustic decorations. Perhaps it would be perfect in the Castle? We know that in Medieval times there would NOT have been a tree.... other than the Yule Log they burned in the Great Hearth!

But Ken is thinking of holding a Holiday Party there...... the Halloween Party was such fun!

And the tree would make great decoration.... no matter what era we are in!

Meanwhile, SOMEBODY went shopping at Home Depot and spotted these little LIGHTED trees with battery packs... and couldn't resist! They are PERFECT for the Folly.... and they even have a dusting of snow on them! Arthur thinks The Folly is too small to have a tree inside the livingroom, so this is perfect for him.

No fuss, no mess. Just throw the switch and instant seasonal decor!

I think they are so cute, I might have to get another set for the other side of the porch!
And then, of course, there was a larger version of LIGHTED tree at the Home Depot that just HAD to come home with the two smaller trees! This one has no snow and is decorated for indoors. The package said nine inches tall. The Lovely Old Dollhouse has nine inch tall ceilings..... so it should JUST fit ...... except it is an Old House, the ceilings have sagged a bit.... so the only space high enough is the hallway by the stairs.

But Pollyanna thinks it looks just lovely there!

If you don't mind the star touching the ceiling!

And it IS such a big old house, there is plenty of room for more than ONE tree!

So Pollyanna pulled out the little tree that was used last year, but without lights on it.
THIS year she has a string of tiny lights to decorate it with!
It took a couple of tries to make all the plugs work, but when those tiny colored lights actually went on it changed everything!

It's just SO magical!

She had to show Annabelle and Sally May and Chip.

I don't care how imperfect the tree is, when the lights go on, it is just PERFECT!

And whether there is snow flying or not, I like to put my trees up as early as possible!
The snow can come when it will....but at this darkest time of the year, the lights, oh the lights are so essential!

The decorating can wait.... for now the lights are enough!

First Snowfall

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Day As many of you are aware, Americans are celebrating their traditional Thanksgiving Day this fourth Thursday of November. It is a time for gathering with friends and family and quite frankly, making pigs of ourselves! We eat and eat and eat some more! And take a break and eat some more! The focus is on food and plenty of it! And so we give thanks for the bounty as people have for ages and ages, by gathering together to FEAST! The menu, while it varies somewhat from one end of the country to the other, has a great deal of consistency. The central feature being the Turkey, a bird native to North America, and a great blesing to the earliest colonists from Europe as it was large and somewhat easy to hunt. Second to the Turkey is the potatoes, also native to the Americas and equally appreciated by the modern world. (Can YOU imagine the world without the potato?) Third in universality would be the Pumpkin pie, and if I am not mistaken, the pumpkin is also an American native vegetable. And the Cranberry is native too, and is made into a lovely jelly sauce for the meat. Corn, yet another native to America, plays its part in many menus, sometimes as the bread for stuffing the Turkey, sometimes served on the ear dripping with butter. It seems as though the greater part of the traditional menu consists of foods that are native to the Americas, which makes sense after all, as the Holiday is considered to be a remembrance of the first feasts of thanksgiving held by the early colonists who survived their first year on these shores.
And because this is a blog about miniature dollhouses, it would stand to reason that I would want to show my miniature friends celebrating this Holiday along with us big people. Yet, when I took inventory of my supplies and ingredients for such a post, I became aware that my dollhouses still had almost NO FOOD AT ALL in their pantries and larders and buttries! THIS was something I was going to have to remedy right away. So I pulled out my sculpey and paints and went to work. You are going to have to be easy on me, dear readers, because I have not made any mini food since I made some salt dough pieces way back in my teen years!

Here below you can see the beginnings of the sculpey food I have made.
I even had to make some dishes as I had no serving pieces!
Most of the foods for the traditional Thanksgiving Feast were native to the American Continent, which means they were unknown to the Medieval Europeans. In the Middle Ages, Europeans had no potatoes, no corn, (maize, not wheat) no pumpkins or squash, no turkeys. If I wanted my Castle dolls to celebrate a "thanksgiving" feast, I had to think about what foods they WOULD have had! Fortunately, I have a wonderful book all about medieval foods and recipes, and it reminded me that just because WE can't imagine a world without potatoes or corn, they had plenty of variety and delicious foods to feast on! Nonetheless, being a beginner with sculpey food, I stuck to the simple very basic foods. The Medieval people ate a great deal of bread and cheese and meat. They had cabbage and onions and turnips and beans, beets, carrotts, lettuce and kale and many other greens. They had apples and pears and berries, grapes, figs, nuts and spices, to name just a few! Plenty of food for a feast!
So I started with a roast goose on a spit (my fire is not quite set up to show it BEING roasted, so I show it finished.) Fresh baked bread and a wheel of hard cheese were easy enough to make. The onions and cabbage were a little harder to make look realistic, so I have put them in the back of the picture!

Belle is getting ready to serve the meal.....

A slightly closer shot..... Old Meg is hungry!

Henry has been out hunting and brought home a pair of pheasants....... it is his contribution to the meal.... but Belle will serve them another day since the goose is cooked already!

Meanwhile, in the Modern doll world, Pollyanna has been out hunting too, and she came home with a basket full of vegetables from the market!
(These were not made by me - they are plastic and none of them were Medieval foods!)

Pollyanna also had to run to the nearest Flea Market to pick up some dishes to use because she really has no china to serve a feast!

(All but the platter at the back are my sculpey creations... please don't laugh! Or rather, go ahead and laugh loud and long! They are very rough, novice examples, and I would never have tried to do "china" except in these dire circumstances!)

Now that Pollyanna has her dishes all chosen, she can get to work on the preparations for the meal! Starting with peeling and chopping all those potatoes and squash.... maybe I shouldn't have made quite so many!

Oh, and I had to dig out the pots and pans for cooking all this food!

Helen is here to help! She is an old pro at the Thanksgiving meal and will make sure Pollyanna does it all just right!

Here is a sneak preview of the pies for dessert! One Pumpkin and one Apple.
Sally May and Skip brought them, so Pollyanna didn't have to bake them herself.

And after HOURS and HOURS of cooking, the food is all ready and laid out on the table for serving.

There is an ENORMOUS roasted Turkey..... I have to get my "scale" adjusted a little bit!

The white things that look like carved icebergs is supposed to be the mashed potatoes...... and the bright orange ones are the butternut squash.......
There is a gravy boat with gravy and a dish with cranberry jelly......
And a dish with green peas dripping in butter....

Someone needs to start carving the Turkey... and call everbody in to dinner!

Here's to Family and Friends and loved ones Far and Near!
(Oh dear, I seem to have forgotten the drinks!
Pretend they are lifting their glasses of wine in toast!)

And I will lift my glass and Give Thanks for all my Family;
far flung though they be, they are close in my heart!

To my Uncle and Aunt and Cousins in the Northwest!
To my Father and Brothers and Nephews in the Southwest!
To my Sister and Niece in the South!
To my Mother and Niece and Great Niece in the East!
To my Cousins and Uncle in the Hills of New England!
And to my Sons, One in the Far North, one at home!
May Bounty and Good Fortune be ours!

And to all my new Blog Friends I raise my glass in toast!
Far flung though you be, in distant corners of the Globe, perhaps never to meet face to face, yet you are become important to me!
Your generosity and creativity inspire me!

I am blessed by your acquaintance!
Thank you for being part of this blog journey!

So please join in the FEAST! Dig in! And remember to save room for some pie!

Giving Thanks

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Hall

A Little Progress You have already seen the Great Hall of my Castle Dollhouse in various stages of its building. So it will come as no surprise to you that I long ago abandonned the idea of Completing each room on a level of the Castle before moving up to the next level, or even Over to the next room! Whether it is impatience or lack of clear vision, it seems I can't resist starting to work on the "next" room before I complete the first one! I will blame it on my eagerness to get to the more interesting rooms! And chief among those is the Great Hall of the Castle.

In the earliest times, the Great Hall of a Castle was THE room where everybody lived. In the days before chimneys were invented, the fire was in the center of the hall and the smoke rose up to the roof and escaped through slits in the walls. This was where the cooking was done. This was where you slept if you wanted any warmth. This was the central room in the life of the community. My dictionary tells me the word hall is derived from the Middle English word "heall" and thence the Old English word "helan" meaning to cover, or hide. In its simplest form it means a covered, hiding place. The multi-functionality of the room was the same whether it was in a Castle or a Hovel, the chief difference being one of scale. The more wealthy and powerful you were, the larger the Hall you could build. So it was that Castles were built with what we now think of as ENORMOUS Halls!

It was only with the invention of the chimney, allowing for the placement of the hearth along a wall instead of in the center of the room, that the function of the Hall began to change. The room became less smoky, and fires could be built on many levels of the castle. Gradually, separate private rooms were built for the Lords and Ladies, warmed with separate fireplaces, and kitchens were built on separate levels from the Hall, eventually accentuating the division of the classes.

But these changes did not happen all at once. And I still have not decided exactly "when" my Castle dollhouse is set. But it is certainly AFTER the invention of the chimney! "Modern" fireplaces have been built. The kitchen is in a separate room. And the Lord and Lady will have separate chambers! Below you can see the basic structure of the Great Hall with most of the details added, although most of the painting has not yet been done. There is a grand fireplace along the wall and minstrel gallery accessible from the Lord's Rooms along one end. The ceiling will eventually be vaulted and painted, but for now I have only added the main arched ribs. I got very fiddly with the "stone" around all the doors and windows, cutting carefully pieced bits of that wood my brother gave me all those years ago! I hope they will look like stone when I've painted them! But more on that later!

As I was thinking about the Great Hall and what it originally had meant in terms of lifestyle, I was struck by the very different usage we give the term now! The Hall has become a place we pass through on our way to somewhere else. It is the conduit, not the destination! It is often tiny, cramped or even completely lacking! And even when it IS grand and spacious, it is used to impress, but not as a living space. The original usage lingers only partly in the common naming of Concert Halls or Meeting Halls.

But linger it does. All my houses have Halls, no matter how tiny and cramped! Even the Folly has a space which I have decided must be called a Hall! And for those of you who don't remember seeing the photo of the hallway I painted with murals in my former 1:1 scale home, I have included a photo of it here so you will see how it inspired the decoration of the "Hall" in the Folly!

This is the original.

Here you can see the Folly.

And I will admit I did NOT even think about trying to paint that wall mural for real in the Folly stairway! The house had already been assembled and it was hard enough to get the scraps of wallpaper put in place behind that stairway! You will probably recognize the remnants of the Hunting wallpaper from the Lovely Old Dollhouse!

This is another view showing how adding wall paper to it sets apart the passage to the stairs at the far end of the kitchen.

And a closer view.

Even though the pattern doesn't match up well at all, I think it adds a certain rural charm to this corner of the Folly

And of course, the Front Hall in the Lovely Old Dollhouse must not be ignored! In our local custom, these halls are seldom used except as access to the rooms. Most people in New England use their back doors as the way to enter the house, and the Front door is reserved for strangers and occasional ceremonial use.

We pass through on our way up the stairs.

Not even the Hall clock is needed anymore, as timepieces are added to everything!
For most of the time I have had this dollhouse, I have lamented the lack of a dining room and the presence of a spacious Hall instead! I have pondered how I might be able to convert it to a dining room.... but I have always given up on that idea. The Hall IS the Hall! It is beautiful. It is serene. It is part of what makes this house so Old Fashioned. I have come to LOVE it.

And perhaps a part of the reason I am so attracted to the Great Hall in the Castle is that long ago feeling of community gathering in one place for shelter and nourishment and shared living. As impracticable as we find it in our modern world, the lure of that greater family feeling is still strong. Hence the resurgence of the "great room" in modern decorating. We crave that feeling of connection.

So I have been building my own Great Hall!

Before I painted it, it looked like this. I decided that I would not be happy with just a faux-stone painted wall treatment. I wanted texture as well in the Great Hall. So I gathered my courage and tried the "polyfilla" that Nina (of the Medieval Tudor Dollhouse Project) recommended, that worked so well on the floors of the kitchen and stables. (In my country the closest thing is "Bondo".) It takes courage because it dries very quickly and is a pain to mix up and Stinks while it is curing! I had to do it in small batches and work fast! And I had to get it done before the cold weather came and prevented me from opening all my windows and doors to air out! And while I was in the middle of this project, I got phone calls from at least two of my family members and had to put them off! (Sorry!) At first I was NOT at all satisfied with the results of my frenzied Bondo job! But I have gradually come to think it is good enough. The stones are not supposed to all be the same size and exactly even! The rougher parts give it authenticity! (Or so I tell myself!) and once the paint was applied, it began to look more convincing.

Here you can see the first coats of paint have been applied.

And another view with the previously painted fireplace in position.

I will have to make the fireplace a bit rougher to match the walls!

This gives you a better feeling of the scale of the room, looking up to the Minstrels Gallery.

I like the texture, but I still need to add a couple of layers of paint. The colors are too consistent and need to be varied more. And the grouting needs to be emphasized.

But it is definitely starting to feel like the huge old stone Hall I have been imagining.

But it remains to be seen whether it is the central living space of the Castle......

Or just somewhere you pass through on your way to somewhere else.......

The Hall

Saturday, November 6, 2010

To Build Or To Blog....

Pollyanna Goes Shopping!
And Happy Birthday Darlings!
Dear Readers, one and all!

As I was rushing around my 1:1 scale house this morning, bemoaning the fact that it was truly FILTHY, and I was going to have to cave in and do some REAL cleaning, I was also fretting about the fact that I didn't really have anything ready to "blog" about in the mini-world! HOW did that happen? And WHAT was I going to do about it? As I said to my son, I couldn't simply leave the Halloween Post up any longer..... it was really getting stale! He very kindly suggested that I could show the dolls cleaning up after the Halloween Party in the Castle! I thought that was a delightful idea! So, here you can see that Ken has hunted around in the Castle and found an old broom to sweep out the Great Hall! It was SUCH a fun party! But we do need to clean the Hall and get it ready for the next part of building.......

And it's NOT that I have done no building recently.... it is just that the building I have done is all small bits of this and tiny bits of that with nothing finished and ready to share. You must remember that when I began this blog last April, I had been working on the various dollhouses for months already.... and had been collecting pieces for years before that. So it seemed as though I would NEVER catch up in the blogging! And I have to admit that the great pleasure of sharing all of this with you HAS eaten into the time I have to devote to my building. And, as I am sure you are all aware, one can use HOURS of time happily visiting each other's blogs, being enriched by another's vision and coming away with new inspirations and answers to questions! Rest assured, I am NOT giving up on blogging!

But I am keenly aware that if I am to have anything to blog about, I have to keep up with the building. And I am also aware that I am naturally slower at making decisions and completing projects than would be needed in order to provide subjects for frequent blogs. I really don't like to rush to get something done just so that it IS done! I want to take my time and savor the process. So I hope you will be patient with me as I enter this new stage in my blogging! I am just more aware of the dilemma on a daily basis.... should I build... or should I blog.....?

And when in DOUBT there is always the last recourse of the desperate... GO SHOPPING! Which is what Pollyanna did recently! She simply fell in LOVE with these chairs!

Now I will have to confess that they are Christmas tree ornaments! I found them in a home decor catalog (Ballard Designs) and they come in sets of three and they are perfect dollhouse scale! I could NOT resist and bought two sets! They are perfect for outdoor garden seating....... even though none of my houses HAVE an outdoor garden area at all! Perhaps I am going to have to add a mini garden....

Pollyanna has brought two over to Arthur's home.

And she has put two out in the yard in front of The Lovely Old Dollhouse........

She set them under a small tree near the door......

Every house should have somewhere to sit outdoors she thinks!

And she also bought a small Japaneese stone lantern to put by the doorstep!

She might use it here......

Or she might set it under the tree near the new chairs.......

This could be the beginning of a Japaneese garden........!

Meanwhile, now that everyone has recovered from the Halloween Festivities, there are Birthday Parties to Celebrate! Sally May's and Chip's daughter Annabelle is turning three! She is having birthday cake at the Lovely Old Dollhouse with her parents, Pollyanna, and Great Grandma Helen and Great Grandpa Charles!

Helen is fixing the Tea, while Pollyanna is cutting the cake!

Annabelle is so excited she is standing in her chair!

Happy Birthday Annabelle!

(And a special Happy Birthday to my niece Hali and my son Jake!)

Don't forget to have a piece of this DIVINE cake!
(Made for me many years ago by my sister and my nieces!)

(And a Special Happy Birthday to my sister who's birthday was last week!
And to my Great niece who's birthday is in two weeks!)

Arthur has decided to take a quiet moment in the new garden chairs!

The perfect place to sit and look at the stars above........
And to contemplate the complicated questions of the Universe.....

To Build Or To Blog - That Is The Question