Alice....it's nearly Christmas!
20 December 2012
Despite the heavy rain outside The Dolls' House magazine office this morning we're all feeling very festive. And in between talk about editorial matters, Norman, Karen and I have already discussed the appeal (or not) of sprouts, the best way to send a letter to Father Christmas, family get-togethers (the perils of getting to and from), how to make Rocky Road, and the effects of having a glass (or two) of wine before attempting any form of dance!
With our January issue out on sale with its Alice in Wonderland theme I was delighted to discover that Radio 4 will be broadcasting Alice Through the Looking Glass at 2.30pm this saturday afternoon (that's the 22nd December). I often think that I could manage perfectly well without the television but not the radio. This is just the sort of thing I will be tuning in to.
You may recall from my last blog how I've been helping out at Brighton's Royal Pavilion with their Christmas event. In between the children's visits to Father Christmas I sneaked a peek into The Red Drawing Room. This is where weddings are normally held, but it doubles as the receiving room at this time of year for the family group visits to Father Christmas. It is a beautiful room, its red wallpaper is already suited to the season but with a few garlands of greenery with stunning red berries, it turns into something quite magical.
The Christmas tree stands on top of the table with plenty of room for the presents beneath. With so many to hand out I do know that there is a clever strategy for identifying the right gift for the right child (it's all in the wrapping!). Just imagine though how many there are to wrap! And did I get to meet Father Christmas himself....oh yes!
Now, which is my present I wonder?
Goodbye Barbara Anne
18 December 2012
It's time to say a fond farewell to Barbara and Jennifer of Barbara Anne Miniatures. The pair, who turned their hobby into a business ten years ago, are now retiring. Their shop in Bolton had many loyal customers, but business has suffered due to competition from the internet, supermarkets and even charity shops.
Now Barbara and Jennifer plan to enjoy their retirement and family life. Barbara told me: "This has been a very happy and enjoyable ten years, which will be cherished memories for us both."
I wish them well.
It's a wrap!
18 December 2012
I finally got down to wrapping some Christmas presents last night, and as in previous years I had some colourful paper to hand. Now, this isn't your usual paper with Christmas motifs, but a nifty bit of re-cycling! Each month when it comes to designing up the front cover of The Dolls' House magazine, we have various options - different pictures, and different words. Norman designs up our favourites, and to see how they might work on the newsstand, we print them out, pin them up on the wall - and analyse them. Sometimes it can be a really difficult decision choosing the design that you will eventually see. I've been keeping the re-jects, and it's these sheets that I turn into wrapping paper.
Sellotaping the covers together always reminds me of the stories that we've covered over the previous months...and just how many good ones there have been! And the recipient of the present knows it's from me - no one else in the world wraps presents like this!
Out across the rooftops
17 December 2012
The weather on saturday was pretty grim to say the least wasn't it? Gloomy skies and rain were the order of the day here in Sussex. Despite the downpour the city was busy with shoppers braving the showers, clinging tight to bags and umbrellas. But I spent the day inside...and inside a palace!
For the last few years I've been helping out at Brighton Royal Pavilion's family Christmas event. Now that my children are grown up visits to Father Christmas are all in the past, so it's lovely to see that the magic still exists - and it always puts me in the festive mood.
Some children arrived clutching letters for Santa, others soggy teddy bears and blankets...with parents clutching them all! Father Christmas receives the children in groups, and their visit begins by meeting the Fairy Godmother in the entrance hall, who shows them a variety of objects, and she explains what they are...this year her treasures included an insect trapped in amber, a tiny pagoda (to tie in with the Pavilion's current exhibition), a fossil, and a tinkling bell. There are lots of bells in the Pavilion..you can see a couple on the fireplace mouldings behind the FG...and the first that the children might identify when asked by the FG if they can see any!
It's lovely to see the children so wrapped up in the moment, wide-eyed innocence soaking up her stories (plus the occasional bawling baby and toddler wanting the loo!). Then our perky little Elf comes to whisk the group off to see Father Christmas himself!
Now the Royal Pavilion is a spectacular building, but on saturday I was lucky to take in a view that the visitors don't get to see...it was out across the rooftops! Below is the view towards the north east. It's certainly made me think that my dolls' house chimneys are rather dull after seeing these fanciful ones.
Looking in the other direction, this is the view across the gardens towards the Dome complex (originally the Prince Regent's riding stables). There is a tunnel that links the two buildings - but its not open to the public.
If you don't know about the Royal Pavilion visit http://www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/RoyalPavilion And if you're thinking 'what an amazing place to make in miniature', Mulvany & Rogers have already done so!
Of course, I'm rather hoping to get to see Father Christmas myself....
Tree and Wreath
11 December 2012
Well the tree went up on Saturday, and was fully decorated by Saturday evening.
All the usual tree decorations collected over the last 30 years were there, some looking their age now.
On Sunday morning armed with secateurs, gardening gloves and a bag. I went in search of greenery for the wreath.
The churchyard and golf course (both of which are within a few minutes of the house) are a great source of material: ivy, holly (plus berries of course) and a sprig or two of conifer and the task was done.
Have you got your tree decorated yet? and do you have a miniature one in your dolls' house?
Baubles on the boughs
10 December 2012
Yet another busy weekend as I'm counting down the days until Christmas, and somehow I'm not getting as much done as I'd like. I have long lists, but the number of crossed-off items isn't increasing! One thing I did do was to get my sewing machine serviced, which was much overdue. I can at last complete a dress that I've been making...giving me a much needed creative fix.
My dolls' house is also waiting for a bit of Christmas attention, not that it's been neglected. I regularly dip into it for miniature props for our magazine photo shoots when a project needs something to help set it in context. I'm lucky that I have such a handy selection. Once again Captain Flint (my replica cat) has done sterling work for a forthcoming miniature scene. But you'll have to wait a while to see where he's posing this time!
I did take a break from home chores to go for a winter walk with my daughter, taking my Christmas baubles with me. Last year I created an album of festive photographs which I sent to my friends, where I photographed the baubles on my local beach. This year I decided that I wanted a woodland setting. It was very muddy underfoot, and very windy too! Some time was spend rescuing baubles from wherever the wind had flung them. But all in all it was good fun and aided by having a flask of tea and a bar of chocolate. Here's a few of the results.
A dolls’ house for Christmas?
4 December 2012
It was nice to get out of the office where I design The Dolls' House magazine. And visit one of our local National Trust properties, Bateman's.
It has been a cold and frosty start to December. So off we went to Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's house in East Sussex for an Edwardian Christmas (1-19 Dec).
Only the ground floor was open, but the entrance hall, sitting room and dining room were all decorated in a traditional Edwardian style with greenery from the garden and Christmas trees under which were handmade wrapping paper presents and old fashioned children's toys.
The old mill, which used to generate electricity in Kipling's day, was decked out as Santa's workshop complete with wooden toys being made. I spotted a very basic looking Dolls' house.
There were also traditional Mummer's plays being performed. I have to admire the actors as it was a pretty cold day and they were giving four performances that day.
Also open was the restaurant for a warming drink and something to eat and the shop selling all sorts of potential gifts.
All in all a nice way to start the festive season.
Find out more at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/batemans/things-to-see-and-do/events
Edible dolls' houses
4 December 2012
Christmas preparations are hotting up, and I'm not up to speed! Having been impressed with my eldest son's first - and very successful - attempt at making gingerbread men (a challenge from his girlfriend who bought the cutters and let him do the rest), contributor Ruth Flewelling Lesbirel has gone one better with her baking. Feast your eyes - though sadly not your taste buds - on this incredible gingerbread house.
Making a change from the standard Christmas cake, this edible dwelling would make a fantastic centrepiece for the dining table. And if you really can't bear to destroy it with teeth and tongue, making a miniature version is the only option!
You've got to hand it to her!
29 November 2012
If you were wondering whose hand is so glamorously featured on the front cover of our December issue, it's time for me to 'fess up'. Yep! That's my dainty little paw. Now, before you gasp in horror that we failed to employ a professional model… I'll have you know that I could have been a hand model!
Strangely my careers advisor at school pointed me in that very direction. For years now I've scoffed at her ill-judged advice. Not that my hands aren't quite delightful (well, judge for yourselves) but is that really the best she could come up with for a reasonably intelligent 14-year-old desperately seeking a career path?
But as I reconsider now, many years later, I realise that Miss Harris (God rest her soul) was a canny old bird. Mine was the first school year to be offered the chance to go out into the big wide world for work experience. The problem was that we had to suggest to Miss Harris where we'd like to go. Terrified of committing myself to a career at such a tender age, I sat like the sulky teenager I probably was, and said "dunno" a lot.
Miss Harris's suggestion that I consider hand modeling was a rather clever ploy. A case of "you've got a nice face for radio", or rather, don't waste time thinking you're going to be famous/glamorous/marry a pop star.
So indignant was I at this ludicrous advice to put my hands under the lens, that I made a snap decision to grace the offices of our local newspaper with my presence for the week. There I sought to impress, was invited back regularly during my sixth form studies, and eventually employed as a trainee reporter.
I hope that in this issue of The Dolls' House magazine, I have done Miss Harris proud!
Diary date mix up
28 November 2012
I love dolls' house fairs - such a great opportunity to see and buy all those wonderful miniatures. The Dolls' House magazine includes a regular list of forthcoming dolls' house fairs which we aim to keep an accurate as possible.
But MM Fairs have just called to say that due to an admin error on their part miniaturists should note that they are not holding a dolls' house fair on 2 December in Sutton Coldfield as listed in our December issue.
But do join them at their next fair on January 5th at The Benn Hall, Newbold Road, RUGBY, Warkwickshire CV21 2LN What a great start to the New Year that will be!