Wednesday 5 April 2023

How do you know that spring is here?


…because the Montreal Miniature Show has taken place!! 

Before we talk about that wonderful springtime event, I thought I would share the new look for my home-made tiered tray centrepiece.  With St. Patrick’s Day behind us, I removed everything from the trays and started going through my stash to find items that would give me a springtime boost regardless of how much snow is still on the ground.  Here is how the trays look now.  The view from the ‘back’ of the trays show the small faux white narcissus planted in a broken eggshell. 

From the front you can see the overall centrepiece as well as my attempt at creating a happy spring feel on the top of my buffet.  Of course, you also get good view of the cat tree in the corner.  Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do to make that look any more spring-like!

Taking one tier at a time, on the top layer I placed a tall candle in the back corner and leaned a gold picture frame against it.  I used a piece of a pretty floral napkin cut to size as a picture inside the frame.  I loved the colours and look of these gorgeous roses.  I nestled a large spotted ceramic egg in some greenery in front of the picture and set the small wooden crate I made last spring with the flowers, eggs, and the little bunny butt sticking out.  I love that little crate!

In the next level down, I placed a ball of fake greenery that provides a nice hit of bright yellow in the back corner. In the right corner is the most  adorable set of hand-made bunnies riding a rocking horse which they are leading by dangling  a cluster of carrots in front of it.  I am not sure who the craftsperson  is who created this wonderful little piece of miniature art but my DH, Bruce,  purchased it from the Freedom Miniatures booth at the Montreal show as an early birthday present for me.  He’s my favourite husband ever!!  I will show you more of these little bunnies a little later in this post. 

Next to the bunnies is a tray of incredible primroses made by my good friend, Marijke Hurkens of Pulchinella's Cellar.  The tray is sitting on an incredible bench hand made by Shelley Acker, owner of Freedom Miniatures in Kentville, Nova Scotia.  The bench is made with three different woods – cherry, walnut and oak or maple from the look of it – perfectly sanded and finished.  It is truly lovely.

In the front you can see one of my green turf bunnies and another large speckled egg as well as a beautifully-aged press-backed chair holding a pot of pansies and other mixed flowers.  This gorgeous little piece was made by Debbie Bettaglia-Fawcett and I was lucky enough to receive it as a “giftie” at Camp Mini Ha Ha a few years ago.

Moving to the bottom tier, in one back corner is a ball of a different kind of greenery and the little white narcissus you saw in the overall picture. In the other back corner is the little Irish cottage I had also used in my St. Patrick’s Day display.  You can also see the other turf bunny I have placed in the right front corner and just a glimpse of the back of the beautiful bench that takes up the other front corner.

And here is a better view of the bench with my last speckled egg in front.  The incredible spring flowers in trays that are sitting on the bench were made, of course, by my friend, Marijke.  Her skill in flower and plant making is phenomenal as these pieces show.  There is also a small resin bunny I picked up in Montreal from Grandpa’s Dollhouse.  The bench is made of walnut with a leather seat and was expertly crafted by Iris Sutherland – yet another “giftie” I picked up at one of our Camp Mini Ha Ha events.

Now for my purchases at this year’s Montreal Miniatures Show.

In this picture we see a filled punch bowl with glasses that I picked up at Fay-vourite Minis, and 2 mixing bowls I purchased at Pacific Wood Imports and Miniatures.  I bought the 2 breakfast plates from a vendor who did not put their receipt in the bag so I am unable to give you the gentlemen’s name who made them.  Similarly for the laser-cut Noels and the 3 glass jars – different vendor but I have nothing that can tell me, after the fact, who they were. 

Here you can see items I purchased at Grandpa’s Dollhouse: a kitchen bridge-type faucet in a brushed brown finish, 3 lady figurines that will look great on a mantel in one of my projects, the little resin bunny you saw on the bench on my tiered display, and 4 tiny little wooden houses which will be placed above the window in my Christmas advent room box.  I am hoping I will be able to find a way to put teeny little lights in them as well.

I bought a Christmas dessert table from One Lady’s Art, a first-time vendor at the Montreal show and I picked up an inexpensive basket and two adorable monkeys from Pacific Wood Imports and Miniatures. I have purchased one of these monkeys before because I find them far too cute to ignore!!  I will find a little table or mantel somewhere to put them on.

Now to my purchases from the wonderful Janice Crowley.  I bought a bumblebee teapot and a yellow butter dish which will be going in my honey store project, a gorgeous bunny teapot, creamer and sugar bowl on a leaf platter which is now sitting on the right-hand end of the bench in the bottom of my tiered spring display, a cottage tea pot which I purchased for my friend, Louise, and some blue and white pieces to add to others I have purchased in the past.  I see a display of fine china pieces somewhere in the future!

Behind these is a set of pink glass candle holders purchased from Fay-vourite Miniatures and 4 glass wine glasses from Pacific Wood Imports.

Last, but certainly not least, I give you a couple of closer pictures of the early birthday gift Bruce picked up for me from Freedom Miniatures.  The wheels are already turning and I think I know how I will make a special piece to properly display this piece.  Not only are these two adorable bunnies riding the rocking horse but the larger bunny has a little stuffed bunny under their arm to add to the charm.  I just adore this piece and hope you like it too – but you can’t have it!!!

So that is a look at my Montreal purchases.  In past years I have taken pictures of the display items made by the members of the Montreal club and posted them here on my blog but one of their members, Michele Castonguay, has been taking pictures and putting them online on the Club’s website during the Covid years and he will be doing the same with this year’s actual in-person event so be sure to be on the lookout for them at the official Miniature Enthusiasts of Montreal (MEM) official site.  Also – make sure you start planning to be at the show in person next year.  It’s a great little show with enough vendors to make it well worth the trip without becoming too overwhelming and tiring.  Plus, it is so great to met up with old friends and cultivate new ones.  Always a bonus!!!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse at my new spring table display and my Montreal show purchases.  Until next time – TTFN!!! - Marilyn

Tuesday 7 March 2023

Did you think I was gone forever??

 I know it may seem that way since it's now been just over 5 months since my last post but yes, I am still here!  I must admit that although I have done a little bit of mini-ing during those months, not much has been accomplished.  As spring is nearing though, I seem to have found my mojo again and plan on getting back in the mini saddle.  

I had planned on starting back up weeks ago but, unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to have had a visit from Covid.  It certainly came uninvited and then refused to leave!  I know that my age and the fact that I have asthma does put me in what they call a  "compromised" category, but I was still very surprised at just how bad it was - and that I am still recovering from the fallout.  For those of you who have not experienced it yet, I am here to tell you it is nothing to trifle with. Despite having had all 5 recommended vaccinations and starting on Paxlovid the day after I first tested positive,  things went downhill for me very quickly.  Part way through I did end up spending an afternoon at our local hospital's  emergency room as they got me stabilized with an IV for hydration and courses of IV antibiotics for my throat and cortisone to help my lung function.  I was then back home and continued the Paxlovid, cortisone and antibiotics until they were done but it continued to be a serious struggle.  I really do think that if it had not been for my vaccinations over the last year and the medications I received during the course of the infection, I do not think I would have made it - and I mean that quite seriously.  Please, please take the warnings seriously!!  Your life, or the life of someone you love, may depend on it.

Okay - with that lecture done, I move on to something I did do this week.  While sorting laundry downstairs on the weekend, my eye was caught by a small, framed, mixed-media picture leaning on  shelf in our family room.  It has a small ceramic black cat leaning over a glass of Guinness ale with a caption above that says "Guinness - Feline Good!"  It brought a smile to my face, followed quickly by the realization that it was now March and I hadn't decorated at all for St. Patrick's Day.  I quickly dragged out my outdoor St. Patrick's wreath and our Irish flag and Bruce hung them up outside our front door.

Back inside I starting looking for something I could use for the centre of my dining room table when my eyes fell onto a set of 4 nesting shadow boxes on my craft shelf.  I bought them years ago thinking I could make small mini vignettes in them and hang them on a wall.  However, by taking the three largest ones and two small wooden candlesticks I had also purchased a long time ago just "in case", and gluing them all together, I now had a three-tiered tray to work with. Then I went looking for things to place in them. Combining everything together and setting it on a lovely shamrock table runner my sister had made for me several years ago, this is what I ended up with:

All in all, I am happy with how it turned out just by using stuff I found in various places in my home. Now I'm thinking of how I will change it out for Easter!!

Although I am still recovering from the aftermath of my Covid infection, I am going to try to do some minis this week and will hopefully get back into a regular work routine moving forward.  Until the next time - Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!!  TTFN!!! - Marilyn

Saturday 1 October 2022

Just a quick catch up

 I haven't gotten a lot done in these last two weeks but thought I should drop in to let you all know where I'm at.  

First, when thinking about my birdcage room box - or my "forest retreat" as I prefer to call it, I always pictured it with a table off to one side with a mirror above it but wasn't sure what kind of mirror I wanted. So, I headed down to my craft room - yes, of course I dropped some bread crumbs so I could make my way back out again - and looked through my stash.  There I found a box of frames I had purchased from Michael's a few years ago.  They had a whole bin of these frame sets.  There are 4 frames in each little package - 2 small round ones, one small square one and one very decorative one.  They came in four different colours and the decorative frame was different in each of the four colours.  They were on sale for $1.25 a package.  I bought lots of packages!

So, I chose two different frames, followed the bread crumbs out of the room, and headed back upstairs to see which frame I liked better.  Whichever I choose will be painted anyway so the colour it is right now doesn't really matter.  First I tried this pretty green rectangular frame.

Although I really do like it, I took a look at my other choice.  It has an arched top to it and, of course, there are several arches in the bird cage itself so this seemed like a no-brainer for my mirror choice.

This will be painted before I cut the mirror out to insert.  

This choice made, I set it aside, installed my steps and started adding the "rocks" to the base of my little retreat.

From there, I turned my attention back to my fireplace and chimney.  I dirtied up the inside of the firebox and, after taking another look at the tiles I installed earlier, decided that the location of the mantel was going to be much too low.  So, I added four more rows of tile in a decorative pattern and installed the rocks over the whole thing.  Then I installed some logs and a set of flickering fireplace lights behind the logs.  Before putting it in place I used some hot glue to build up the area that will be the "flames".  In the next stage I will use some alcohol inks to colour the glue areas to look more like flame colour. Here is the fireplace with the expanded tile area and with the lights turned on.

In the upcoming two weeks I will be painting all of the rocks - first with an all-over coat of a light colour, then adding a few other colours to bring out the rock look.  Then I will attach it to the cage and add the mantle piece.  I hope I will also have time to make a light fixture I have in mind and perhaps a few of the smaller, decorative items before my final couple of weeks will be spent on the "pièce de la résistance" for which I am hoping I can do justice.

I know this is not a lot of progress but I am hopeful I can do better before my next post.  Wish me luck!  Have fun mini-ing!  TTFN!! - Marilyn

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Rockin' my first idea...

 In my last post I left off with pictures of the beginning of the floor for my bird cage project.  I continued laying the floor in the pattern I had decided on, then left it for a couple of days to make sure it was well dried.  Once I was sure it was ready, I sprayed a few coats of sealer on the bricks to make sure they wouldn’t ‘dissolve’ during the grouting process.  Then I used ordinary drywall spackle to grout, waited for just a few minutes then used barely damp paper towel to wipe off the excess spackle before it set on the bricks.  I put a piece of waxed paper on top and weighted the floor down with a set of heavy books overnight to make sure it didn’t warp while it dried.  The next morning, I used a brush and liquid polyurethane to put a final coat on and let that dry for the day, then weighted it down overnight again.

I’m happy with how it turned out. 

Now, after I re-introduced my birdcage project in my last post, I hinted in my response to Sherrill’s comment that I had a couple of surprise ideas for the project that I would be revealing after I figured out if they would work or not. To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t really sure what the surprises would be but knew I’d figure something out. 

The first one had to do with the arched opening at the back of the room.  I had a few of ideas but wasn’t sure which way I was going to go with it.  At first, I thought I could install an arched mirror to reflect a tabletop display in front of it.  Then I thought, instead of a mirror I should install an ornate piece of metalwork to fit the opening.  That one held some promise for a little bit then I thought about a nice stained-glass window.  Yes – that would be lovely!  And with that, I went to bed for the night.  Of course, as always happens, I kept thinking about it as I lay in bed and came up with a fourth and final option – my little hideaway absolutely had to have a fireplace!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!! 

The next day I started the build on the fireplace.  The first thing I did was to make a form for the actual firebox, leaving an open space at the bottom which will eventually hold the battery pack for the flickering fire.

Then I began to lay the bricks to line the inside of the firebox.     

With that done, I built the form for the chimney and attached it to the firebox.  I tried it in place against the birdcage and was satisfied with the proportions.

I then took some rough-looking fibre packing material I had kept from an old purchase of some electronic equipment (real life) and ripped it into many small pieces to be used to “rock” the chimney and fireplace as well as the raised wall and steps leading into my little sanctuary.  I started by installing bricks around the top edge of the chimney then gluing the “rocks” in place.  These will later be painted, sealed, grouted, and sealed again.  (Yes, I was watching the Blue Jays ball game as I did this!)

As I moved down the chimney and was getting closer to the actual firebox, it occurred to me that I should have thought about a nice, tiled fireplace surround, to break up the stone look.  What could I use for tile??  Well, I did what I usually do when faced with such a question – I slept on it.  Sure enough, after only a short time lying in bed awake, it came to me!  My DD (dear daughter) Shauna has a new favourite hobby called “diamond painting”.  If you are not familiar with it, diamond painting is a fairly new craft hobby that's a mix between paint by numbers and cross stitch. With diamond painting, you apply thousands of tiny resin "diamonds" to a coded adhesive canvas to create shimmering diamond art images.  My DD has lots and lots of these tiny little resin pieces in all sorts of colours.  They are basically available in the same colours as you could find in DMC floss so, the next morning, I called her and asked if I could “steal” some from her.  She brought her supply over and we picked out colours that would match well with the fabric I chose for the cushions for the chair and footstool.  I used colour number 3756 for the white, 3841 for the light blue and 930 for the dark blue.  The following pictures show the progression as I installed all these tiny “tiles”.  I think the size was perfect and I really like how it turned out.

Here is the fabric I used for the cushions. 

I’ve temporarily set the fireplace in its spot so you can see the chair and footstool against the tiled fireplace surround.  Not a bad match, I think. 

With that done, I turned my attention back to installing the rocks.  It is certainly a tedious job but, I think it will be well worth it in the end. (Fingers crossed!)  I can only go so far with the rocks on the chimney because I am waiting for the working fireplace lights I ordered recently.  When I have done as much as I can here, I will then start installing the rocks around the raised base of my birdcage room.  

So that's as much as I have to show you this week.  I will post again in two weeks time and will hopefully have made a lot more progress to report.  I hope you enjoy the pictures of what I have done so far.  Until the next time, enjoy the good weather we have left and keep on mini-ing! TTFN!!

 - Marilyn

Wednesday 31 August 2022

Everyone needs a 'hideaway'.

Last month, after finishing the horse stable book-nook for my sister-in-law, I turned my thoughts to my next project.   What should I work on?  Should it be one of my unfinished projects?  One of the hundreds of ideas I have floating around in this busy brain of mine?  Should I search for new inspiration?

In the end, I decided to get to work on a project that actually incorporates all three of these.  Some of you may remember that a few years ago, I had posted a picture of a small project that I found really inspired me.  I decided on a container for the project and took a few small steps to get started.  Since making that very basic start, I set it aside and moved on to other projects.  However, since it actually incorporates the concept of an unfinished project, one that I found when searching for inspiration, and one that incorporates new ideas I have had floating in my mind for the last few years, it’s perfect!

A quick review to remind you of the project from a few years ago begins with the picture which inspired me.  I know many of you have seen this lovely piece online and I am sure admire it as much as I do. It is so beautiful in its simplicity.  Louise did a search for me and, on Pinterest, believes she found the name of the miniaturist behind this wonderful little project: Natalia Volchkova.  If this is not the right person, please let me know as I am a firm believer if giving credit where credit is due! 

I know you’ve also seen the picture below before, when I first thought about doing a project inspired by the above picture.  This is an old, ratty, dirty bird cage I used to use years ago in my outdoor garden decorating.  It has sat in the garage for years, gathering dust and grime.  The wicker in the bottom edge of the cage and dried and broken and was also looking very sad.  So, I removed the wicker, took a metal brush to it to clean off the dirt and dust, and took another look at it from every angle.  Having removed the original arched door to the cage I then decided the opening would look better at the back of the project and Bruce removed several of the vertical bars from what had been the back of the cage, making it the new front with a nice wide opening.

 I removed the ugly clasps that held the top to the bottom of the cage and painted it a very pale blue.  I really love the softness of this colour.  It works perfectly for the scene I have in my head.

I decided I would raise the floor so I can hide a battery pack underneath and that I would have a brick floor inside and would fill in the space where the ugly wicker used to be with a stone look finish.  Here I have cut a piece of mat board to fit the inside and have started to dry fit the bricks.  Then I drew some straight lines across the floor to make sure I could stay in line as I went and I started to glue them down.  When all the bricks were laid they were sprayed with a sealer and left to dry before I applied grout to them.  I will show you the finished floor in my next post.

In the meantime, I had decided I would make a wicker chair and footstool for inside this little “hideaway”.  Well, I actually thought I would make a wicker chaise longue but Marijke, Louise, and even my DD, Shauna, said a chair and footstool would be better so I reluctantly gave in happily changed direction.  Here is how they look before I made the cushions for them.

So now I am off to grout the floor and begin the tedious job of making “stones” for the outside.  In the next post I hope to be much further along!  Until then, big hugs to all of you out there.  I so enjoy reading about the wonderful things you have been doing in your own blogs.  Minis go deo!! (Minis forever in Irish *smile*) TTFN!!! - Marilyn