A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

The following is a randomly selected newspaper headline from many years ago:

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to leave a comment. I assure you I always read and appreciate everything you have to say. Unfortunately, thanks to Blogger being, well . . . Blogger, I can not respond to comments nor leave any on your blogs. They simply disappear into the ether. Occasionally I will remember to respond in the next blog post I put up, but usually these good intentions slip my mind. So if you want to ask a question or get a response to any comments you may have please leave an email address or other contact method in your comment and I will get back to you.

I have also added a separate page to the blog for the Tower of Magic with a brief summary of all the rooms of the ToM in the one spot. The link is just below this and above the main body of the blog, or you can just click here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome New Follower

Tudor Lady by Alennka
Tudor Lady, a photo by Alennka on Flickr.

Welcome to my newest follower, Mags Cassidy. Mags makes some pretty amazing miniatures from polymer clay and her lovely blog can be found here: http://mags-nificentminiatures.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Fireplaces

I've been looking for ideas for the castle fireplaces. Here's a list of addresses to some of the most interesting:










Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Aussie Dollshouse Store Link

Remember the photo of all the goodies I bought a couple of weeks ago at the miniature fair? Well, one of the vendors from the fair has found my blog and given me the link to her web site. Here it is:
The Little Dollhouse

It seems Blogger is somehow interfering with the link, so here is the address for the site: http://www.thelittledollhouse.com.au If you have trouble with the link, just copy and paste the address into your browser.

The site is still being set up and there is no actual web store active yet, but given their range at the fair, it will be a good site to keep an eye on. If you scroll down to the Fair post and look at the photo I bought the rug, barrels, firebaskets, maybe the weather vane and a few other bits pictured there and there was much more I could have bought were things like cash and storage space not limited.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week Eight - The Top Floor

The walls of the top floor room have been painted a colour called "Mysteria" which sounded like a good colour to paint a room where magic happens.

Castle Starcaster - Week Eight - Tiles

The major task of the week was adding the tiled floor in the entry hall and dining room on the ground floor. The tiles are made from air drying clay which was rolled out into a thin sheet a few millimetres thick and (very carefully) glued onto the existing floor/steps structure of the ground floor. Before the clay dried, I used a hexagonal shaped cutter (much like a cookie cutter only much smaller) to create the tiled effect. The cutter came from My Tiny World in the UK.

My original plan had been to paint the floor white with the occasional tile in black to add interest but as the clay dried, I looked at the white clay and thought "that doesn't look right" so instead of a white floor, I painted the whole lot black. . . . And I'm still not sure it looks right. The clay must not have been properly dry all the way through as new cracks have opened up around the tiles since I painted it, creating ugly white gaps. I'll leave it for a couple of days to ensure the clay is totally dry and not going to crack any more before I fill/paint these cracks and give the floor a coat of gloss to finish it provided I don't decide to paint it some other colour in the meantime.

Castle Starcaster - Week Eight - Kitchen

One small change was made in the kitchen this week with the oven doors being added. The doors are simply stiff cardboard cut to shape and carefully bent to create a curve to match the curve of the oven. Some jewellery findings act as fancy hinges and catches. After the assembly was painted black it was glued onto hinges attached to the inside of the oven.

It was too awkward to clamp the doors onto the hinges while the glue dried, so instead I used a pair of magnets, one inside on the back of the hinge and one one the outside to hold the doors in place. Unfortunately I removed the magnets from the right hand door too soon (before the glue set) which is why the door is currently hanging at an angle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Kitchen Photo

As I still have issues with adding photos to my blog, here is a shot of the kitchen via Flickr.

Castle Starcaster - Week Seven

Still no photos this week. I normally use Blogger in Draft mainly because the photo adding is much easier that way, but for some reason it's only letting me upload photos the normal blogger way rather than the draft way and then making them vanish. I can add pictures if I blog from Flickr, but only one per post. Blogger stores all the photos added to my blog in a Picasa Web Album. Those photo's i've uploaded are there, but there's no sign of them on the blog.

It's just as well I was having trouble adding photos last week because you really didn't want to see the fireplace I had made for the kitchen. It was ugly and awkward, so I started the week by pulling it apart and starting again. The re-vamped version has an oven in the left corner (still in need of doors), a central open fire and a hotplate on the right, all sitting on a raised hearth under an angled hood. The hanging bracket I picked up at the fair is installed on the edge of the hotplate box to overhang the fire. To the right of the oven/fireplace is a fake door made of balsa wood. The wood was cut to shape and then the frame and vertical boards were penciled on before a round ended stylus was used to press them into the wood. The door was then stained a nice wood tone while the frame part was painted to look like stone. The door still needs a handle and hinges, but already really adds to the look of the kitchen.

Next door to the kitchen in the entry and dining rooms I spent some time working on the upper walls. The walls of both rooms were painted gold and then covered with a crocheted fabric. The fabric was originally purple, but I recoloured it by simply painting it wtih acrylics, green for the dining room and red for the entry hall. The fabric was attached using wallpaper paste. The effect is perhaps more Morroccan Palatial than medieval type castle, but I like it. The lower section of the walls will be covered with wood panelling at some point after I add floor covering.

Although there is still a long way to go in most parts of the castle, there is one room in the castle that is almost finished. It's the little room that sits on top of the centre tower of the castle. As the only way to see into the room is from the arched doorway on the room's side at the back of the roof and as it would have been incredibly awkward to try and use clay and moulds on the walls inside, I covered the walls with a grey stone paper. The paper is absolutely inferior to the clay and pollyfilla stones used elsewhere in the castle but for a pokey little space no one is likely to pay much attention to, it's more than adequate. All this space needs is the trapdoor adding to fill the hole in the floor.

Finally for this week, I've stained the front doors and put all the windows in place. It's not finished yet as the door needs hinges and handles, the windows could use some more colourful leadlighting and there will be a few other additions like vines or decorative stonework of some sort, but at least you can get an idea of how it will look.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Doll, Bear & Miniature Fair 2011

The annual Doll, Bear and Miniature fair was held at the local casino over the weekend. For the six or seven years it has been running, the amount of miniatures seems to have decreased each year so it was a pleasant surprise to find lots of miniature stalls there this year. Due to fewer stalls in all, each stall had more space and thus a better range of goodies.

The single most expensive item I bought there was the chest of drawers at the back of the photo. I love the colour of the wood and the look of all the drawers, it'll be perfect for my plans for the Stratford Bakery (a witches' shop). The vendor said she got it in from the UK and judging from the little gazebo woodburned into the bottom it was made by town square miniatures.

On top of the drawers are somewicker baskets that would make great witches shopping baskets. There are also hat stands for the shop's millinery department and the round rug will probably end up on the shop's floor while the weather vane is for the roof. Hetty, the red haired doll will probably be the shops pretty young sales assistant while her friend George was bought simply because coloured dolls are hard to find - he will find a suitable home sometime.

For the castle I found a hanging bracket designed for hanging pot plants but quite suitable for hanging cooking pots over the kitchen fire. The pair of barrels are also intended for the kitchen. Everything else in the photo is just something that was too good to leave behind and sooner or later will find a home somewhere.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Better World Books

I've just done a little online shopping, not for miniatures this time but for second hand books. I am supposed to be saving money, but I'm not doing very well. I placed the order with Better World Books. Like most online stores, they sent out a confirmation email. Unlike most, theirs was written by someone with a good imagination and a sense of humour. Here is part of the email:

(Your book(s) asked to write you a personal note - it seemed unusual, but who are we to say no?)

Holy canasta! It's me... it's me! I can't believe it is actually me! You could have picked any of over 2 million books but you picked me! I've got to get packed! How is the weather where you live? Will I need a dust jacket? I can't believe I'm leaving Mishawaka, Indiana already - the friendly people, the Hummer plant, the Linebacker Lounge - so many memories. I don't have much time to say goodbye to everyone, but it's time to see the world!

I can't wait to meet you! You sound like such a well read person. Although, I have to say, it sure has taken you a while! I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but how would you like to spend five months sandwiched between Jane Eyre (drama queen) and Fundamentals of Thermodynamics (pyromaniac)? At least Jane was an upgrade from that stupid book on brewing beer. How many times did the ol' brewmaster have one too many and topple off our shelf at 2am?

I know the trip to meet you will be long and fraught with peril, but after the close calls I've had, I'm ready for anything (besides, some of my best friends are suspense novels). Just five months ago, I thought I was a goner. My owner was moving and couldn't take me with her. I was sure I was landfill bait until I ended up in a Better World Books book drive bin. Thanks to your socially conscious book shopping, I've found a new home. Even better, your book buying dollars are helping kids read from Brazil to Botswana.

As the books say, Better World Books not only have a vast range of second hand books, some of them hard to find, but their profits fund world literacy. They also offer free worldwide shipping. I reccomend you browse their considerable range next time you're short of something to read or if you're looking for an old, out of print book.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week Six

Okay . . . No photos this weeks as Blogger seems to be doing something odd with them at the moment - I upload them and then they vanish. While I work on getting them where they're meant to be, please visit my Flickr photostream to see this week's images. And the only way I've managed to break my posts up into paragraphs lately is by manually adding the html tags. Is it just me or is Blogger getting dodgy to use?

I started the week at a point where I wasn't sure what to tackle next. I still haven't decided how to finish the windows, so couldn't finish the outside front and didn't know where to start inside. So for a while I played about with the ceilings. I'd found a fabric with a geometric print I wanted to use in the Library so I cut a thin piece of card to the size of the ceiling, covered it with the fabric and then glued the upholstered card to the ceiling.

Downstairs in the Entry Hall and the dining room I had an embossed paper I had planned to use on the walls, but after I took it out the packet and carefully examined it I discovered the pattern wasn't printed/embossed straight on the pages and trying to make it all line up correctly would be nearly impossible. So I picked out the best pieces and used them on the ceilings of the two rooms instead. Most people don't really look up, so slightly crooked ceilings don't bother me as much as the walls would. I had to join two pages together then cut them to size for each ceiling and them carefully used some rub on paint to colour the paper and highlight the embossed design, green for the dining room and red for the hall.

On the top floor, I created another ceiling in much the same way as I did for the Library, but used black paper and a clear plastic embedded with glitter to cover the card. The bits of glitter look like stars and reflect the light to make the ceiling sparkle like it was lit by starlight.

Having fiddled about on ceilings I finally settle on starting to work in the kitchen. The left hand wall and ceiling of the kitchen were covered with a thin skim of pollyfilla to look like rough plaster and painted white. The back and right side wall and floor were given a thicker coat of pollyfilla. As this dried I used a toothpick to carve out lines to create a stone block look. Once dry this was painted with various shades of grey to (almost) match the stone outside the castle. As I raised the kichen up a couple of steps from the base level of the castle, I filled in the front of the raised floor by adding a strip of card covered in polyfilla and painted white to match the left wall. Into this I cut three arches, lined the arches with stone made from eggcartons and used black card to fill the hole from behind. A bamboo skewer painted metallic grey and cut into short lengths created bars. I call them the dungeon windows, although maybe they open onto a storage celler beneath the kitchen.

Next came the ovens which sit against the back wall. The unit is made from polystyrene which was then coated with (more) pollyfilla and painted with (more) white. A scrap of balsa wood forms the lintel over the open fireplace while beside that are two bake ovens one ontop of the other. I'm pretty sure this would be a pretty impractical arragnement in real life, but this is a fantasy castle so what the heck. Besides, I'm currently thinking that the whole unit is a mess, wrong and needs redoing from scratch, so I might try and fit a different design into the same space. Beside the oven in the corner are the hotplates, which still need a hood or chimney making to go over the top.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Welcome New Follower and Plans

The Waggon by Alennka
The Waggon a photo by Alennka on Flickr.

Wow! I'm now up to 84 Followers thanks to AscensiĆ³n. Her blog can be found here: http://ascension-misminiaturas.blogspot.com/ The most current post on her blog shows some fabulous witches vanity items (purfume bottles etc) and if you scroll further down you'll find some truely amazing cakes and teapots. Welcome to my blog AscensiĆ³n and thanks for following.

And speaking of Witchy items . . . .

I've decided that my Stratford Bakery kit will become a witch shop. Those of you who haunt the DHE forums will be familiar with Dolly Donut's (Sal's) "Salestras" shop. Those of you who aren't DHE forum regulars, you can see the shop here: http://www.dollshouseforum.com/forum/home-sweet-home-gallery/6954-salestras.html (photos of the finished item are on page 27) Now who could help but be inspired by that? Despite the fact I would love to make exact copies of everything Dolly Donut has done, I'm going to try very hard not to copy anything except the "feel" of the finished item. For one thing any copy I tried would just look second rate in comparision. That said, I may still need to ask permission to borrow some of her ideas depending on how the rest of the planning process goes.

I'm going to add an internal stair case to create a store over two levels. Downstairs wil be shelves and displays of potions, broomsticks and other various witchy necessities. In the room directly above a book section with a large fireplace and seating for customers to get comfortable while aquainting themselves with the stock. I expect there is also a regular meeting of a book group or some such up there after hours as well. The final room upstairs will either be a bed-sit for the owner to live in or maybe an office. By adding a solid back wall under the overhanging room and a fence down the side I hope to create a small garden area where some of the herbs used in potions sold in the store can be grown.

Next weekend is the annual Doll, Bear and Miniature fair at the local casino. I'm hoping to find some bits and pieces there to start the shop and don't want to make my plans too firm until I know what I might find. I would like to know what I'm going to do with the Retreat by then as well so I know what I need to keep an eye out for for it, but at the moment I'm still stuck on that one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Follower's Blog Links

A couple of weeks ago I welcomed new follower Sharon Larkin, but didn't know her blog.  Sharon has since let me know that her blog can be found here:  http://lavenderandpearls.blogspot.com/  while her dedicated miniature blog is here: http://hazeltonaminiaturetown.blogspot.com/ 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week Five

Welcome to the newest follower, Sussexpaula! There's no blog listed for Paula, but if you have one and would like the link posted here, just let me know Paula. Thanks for following. Over the past few posts have you received the impression that work on the outside of the castle has been driving me a little nuts? If not, perhaps this photo of what I've done to the inside will convince you. All those steps are a little crazy, right? Well, the Entry Hall has doors all over the place, kitchen door on the right, large open arch on the left, front door on the front (well, naturally) and a door to the rear as well. All that traffic from all directions meant it had to be a walk-through room rather than a proper room like a sitting room with lots of furniture, so to make it more interesting than just a big empty space I raised the floor heights of the two adjoining rooms and had fun creating curved steps with polystyrene foam. Eventually, the foam will be covered with clay tiles or maybe stone. Modeling the steps is a new friend of mine called Arthur. He's another Heidi Ott but with a different face to most. He's not as handsome as the others, but has more character. And by the way, the urm . . . toga he's wearing is just temporary, a scrap of fabric artfully tied about him. I'll get him some proper clothes . . . eventually, but at least for now he doesn't have to face the world in the raw. (Um, back on is a different story however.) Mostly this week was spent on painting the remaining bits for the outside; the windows and crenellations. The original plan was to paint these in a lighter shade than the main body of the castle, but a test of a lighter shade and a darker shade proved the the darker looked better with the stone of the walls. Each of the forty-two pieces of crenellation and window was given two coats of dark grey and then "washed" with watered down light grey which was mostly sponged off to give the grey a bit of variation and interest. Then at long last I got some much needed shelf and bench space back by attaching most of the crenellations to the top of the castle, along with the bay window and front door surround. The windows won't be glued in place until the inside of the fronts are finished and until I decide whether to go with the basic "glass" that comes with the kit for the window panes or with something more . . . unique. Even with the unglazed windows just sitting in place, the castle has suddenly started to look like I'm winning the battle to finish the outside. And to Cyndy, winner of my giveaway prize, you now have less than two weeks to go before I hold a new draw for the prize, so please get in contact with me soon!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Proper Week Four and other business

Yesterday's post was a bit of a waste of time, but the way the week was going I thought I'd better throw something up before it got to be next week. Um . . . but I just looked at the blog and discovered the post I did yesterday doesn't exist. Also all the breaks between paragraphs on this post seem to have vanished. It's just been one of those weeks where there's been lots to do and if anything could go wrong with it . . . well, I'm sure you're all familiar with the saying. I hope to have a little time now to do a proper post about the weeks' (lack) of progress. Firstly, a warm welcome to the newest follower of the blog, Caseymini of http://caseymini.blogspot.com/ Many of you are already followers of Casey's blog and are familiar with the antics of Tessie. Casey, with Tessie's help, is a dedicated daily blogger whose posts are always enjoyable to read. Work on the Castle in week four has been slow. It has consisted of more painting. Since week three, a wash of a mid-brown-grey has been appiled over all the walls and then largely sponged off again. This added to the variations in the stone colour but mostly covered the pale grout colour to give it a more timeworn, dirtied up up. This was followed by drybrushing a couple of different light greys over the stones which helped to highlight the uneven surface and surprisingly added to the timeworn look of the walls. As they are now, the walls are darker overall than I initially had in mind, but I think they are going to do as they are. Next up I need to paint the windows, crenellations and side towers. Question is how? What colour and effect. I did paint the side towers in the same colours as the main walls as I did the walls, but sponged instead of drybrushed the colours on the smooth surface. I doesn't really look right, especially when in position against the 'real' stone. And should the windows and crenellations be a lighter or a darker tone, smooth, sponged or something else. Part of the reason why not much has happened to the castle lately is that I'm at a point where I can't decide how to procceed for the best.
Which room will it all end up in?
Continuing the indesicion theme, I've changed my mind yet again on the internal layout. I've come to the conclusion that the various doorways in the librabry make the layout too awkward, so the library is moving accross one room to the room above the kitchen in the East Wing Extension (the right side of the castle). The room that was going to be above the kitchen (a second bedroom) can't go in the middle where the library was as that room has a doorway leading to another bedroom, a fake door at the back and stairs up to the next level. Not exactly the spot for a nice quiet bedroom is it? So what is the room in the heart of the castle going to be? At the moment I'm open to all sugestions. I also can't decide how to decorate the rooms I do know what to put in. Yes, this castle is going to drive me absolutely batty before I finish it.
To try and avoid a complete mental meltdown, I've been ignoring the castle and thinking about my other two kits, the Retreat and Stratford Bakery, instead. Somehow this hasn't helped. The Stratford Bakery has an obvious layout of ground floor shop, top floor living/kitchen room and bedroom. But what sort of shop? An apothecary? A cafe with outdoor dining under the overhaning room? Something fantasy like a wizard supply store, a dragon pet shop or a dress shop for fashionable sorceresses? A jewellery store? A post office? Perhaps if I buy another half dozen or so kits, I can do one of everything? The same can be said of the Retreat, too many ideas, but nothing quite right for the kit. I think it's time to find a brick wall and bang my head against it until all the ideas start falling out, stopping when there is only one idea for each kit left in there. One decision I have made. Cyndy won my giveaway at the start of February, but has yet to get in contact with me. I'll give her until the 20th March to do so. If I still haven't heard from her then, I'll hold the giveaway again with a draw in early April as the winner can receive their prize in time for Easter (hopefully). So hurry up and drop me a line Cyndy, you only have seventeen more days!