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December 21, 2014

 December was always my favorite mail sorting time of year at work, because of all the beautiful and unique cards that came in, often from all over the world.

Several stood out to me in particular for their reusable qualities.  The best was a card that had live seeds embedded in the paper, and the recipient could tear it up, plant it, and enjoy their card in the form of flowers come Spring.  There were also several cards that doubled as ornaments, and I loved that.  So much so that I was determined to make my own.  I finally got around to it this year.  I started in August, because I had absolutely no idea what to make, or really how to make it, until I could see the available materials.

Eventually I found these chipboard shaped ornaments in the holiday craft section at Michaels, way back with the minis.

I had some lovely heavy Christmas scrapbook paper in my stash already, because I've been planning this for ages.  Then it was a matter of tracing the shapes onto the back of the paper and cutting them out.  I was able to get two shapes out of one card for a classic ball shape.  

Then I cut out two sizes of long ovals using a template.  I even found some stamps that were appropriate for the 'inside' of a holiday card, and stamped that on the back.  I used a shiny gold paper I found at Michael's to cut out the hangers on top of the cards. 

Pile o' card ornaments
 It was fun, but a lot of work.  I'm thinking a die cut machine is in order for future projects.  Fortunately it was busy work so I could just settle down in front of the TV and do a few at a time.  I punched a hole in the top and threaded some thin gold cord through to act as hangers.  The ornaments were small enough to fit in the smaller envelopes and very easy to mail.  I'm hoping my recipients think these are pretty enough to hang on their tree next year!

I just realized I forgot to make one for MY tree.  I guess I should go get on that!

November 20, 2014

The microwave isn't done yet.  Still need to smooth out the handle, attach the front, attach the control panel, and make a vent for underneath, and decide if I want a turntable inside, and what to make it out of, if I do.    

I had issues finding a good image for the button panel until I thought to look at microwave manuals rather than actual photos of microwaves.  There was a possibility that there would be a simple line drawing inside for reference, and I feel quite lucky in finding this particular one!  It printed out quite clearly on photo paper.

I came to a screeching halt on the rest of the kitchen.  I accidentally gouged the oven back while trying to sand it smoother (my own fault for using cheap balsa), and while digging through my lighting stash, realized with horror that I DID NOT HAVE LIGHTS for the kitchen.  I kind of do, but one got relegated to another room, and I just wasn't happy with them in the first place to buy more. 

Plus, with the modern kitchen look, I realized that it would be weird to have anything but pot lights/recessed lights in there.  Problem is, the ceiling isn't thick enough to install the cannister lights available in miniature, and because of the new cabinets, I really can't lower the ceiling enough to put them in.  
I had to think for a few days about how to do it, and finally, hopefully, found a solution at Evan Designs, which I should be able to hook up to the 12 volt wiring system currently in place.  If not, there's plenty of places to hide batteries in the kitchen.  They had a nice little set of four lights wired together to one resister.  I could make a narrow dropped ceiling and run the little lights freely around the kitchen.  I wish they came in a set of six, but then I realized I could use the extra two as under cabinet lighting.  I plan to cut holes in the ceiling and cover with vellum or something similar for the recessed lights.  I will post updates on this as they happen.  Which reminds me, I still need to hook up the hall lights to the system!

November 10, 2014

Surprisingly, I found what I needed for the cabinet doors at Michael's.

Check out these fancy head pins!  They were a little over 3mm wide at the tip.  And really hard to photograph.  

And also awkwardly shaped.  Some were round, some were oval.  Not sure what's going on here, but I think they look just like custom pulls.  I am still debating whether or not to try and make them darker or bronzier. I am thinking of leaving them as they are, mainly because I'm going to have to make the kitchen faucet out of FIMO and I'm pretty sure I have a steel colored metallic clay, but not bronze.  

The varnish is dry, the holes are drilled and I was too excited to glue the pulls in place, so I will do that tomorrow, along with further work on the microwave and maybe the fridge. But here, have a few preview pictures!

I was liking the look until I realized I had achieved 'golden oak.'  I hate golden oak.  Now I'm annoyed, but they look so realistic anyway I'll probably keep it.  Typical modern builders grade cabinets, right?  I am still divided about adding pulls to the faux drawer right below the sink.  I can always add them later.  

Now if you have been following along and thinking, 'wow, those top doors are pretty high,'  I thought of it too, and found a solution for that!  A mini step-ladder!  It actually folds up, too.  

November 9, 2014

They might not be as badly designed as ovens, but miniature microwaves available for sale were pretty sad.  I found one that might possibly have worked, and it was black and had a cord, which can be an exciting detail, but not for a hanging microwave.

This was pretty easy, since I didn't attempt to make it open.  Firstly an online image search for 'range microwave' until I found a design I liked and felt I could imitate.  I made a box of out illustration board, with an interior wall just inside the microwave door.  (I'm thinking about sticking in a 'glass' turning tray inside.)  The entire front s one piece with a window cut out and lines created with embossing tools.  I carved a handle out of balsa, although I could have gotten away with just the inline push button on the bottom right, but after carving the two handles for the oven I was feeling pretty confident about it.  I used posterboard to add some 3D detailing to the front.

I'm enjoying the detailing, but it gets complicated.  The top bit of the microwave gets venting, which I need to figure out how to do, and also buttons and the display on the right side, which obviously I haven't even attempted on the oven!  Plus I'm aware that there's more venting or SOMETHING on the bottom, for which I need a fine mesh.

But just looking at this unfinished picture pleases me.  I have a realistic looking microwave!  The original one was a plastic kit that was so old it came with a wood paneling sticker for around the sides.  I peeled it off finally, but it didn't help.

I have the feeling the kitchen's going to be my favorite room.
November 8, 2014

After painting the doors, I decided to try a little antiquing.  Wipe on, wipe off FAST, and hope you got all the crevices highlighted. Messy, very messy.

It turned out a bit darker than I would like, and I once again made the mistake of thinking, 'oh, it looks good, but this little spot right here could be better, I should . . ." NO.  I should not.  Let it be.  Don't overwork it.  Too late for some pieces, but that's the nice thing about antiquing.  You can forgive a lot.

Right now I'm waiting for the glaze to dry, and then I get to add a gloss sealant.  Then I glue the doors in place.  In the meantime I should start building that microwave and making a decision about the drawer pulls.  

November 7, 2014

Slowly getting my doors and cabinets painted.  I'll do several thin coats and some careful sanding, and probably a little decorative antiquing before applying a sealant.

While waiting for the paint to dry I tested door pulls.  I just want something simple, so went with things I had around the house.  A ball head pin, a sewing pin, and a map pin.  Ball pin (about 2mm) was too small, but the map pin (4mm) was too big.  I also feel like the sewing pin is a little too small, too, so I need to find something round and holeless about 3mm in size.  I think I'll need about 2 dozen.  That's a lot of hardware!  I'm kind of glad I don't need hinges, too!

(Don't worry, I have a piece of wax paper over my cutting mat!)
November 6, 2014

Short post, just to show you I'm still keeping things simple and still working.

I've made doors and drawers for the lower cabinets and replaced the fronts on the larger cabinet, as well as added wood to the recessed area underneath.  What are those, kick plates?   

Unfortunately I just noticed a tiny dent in the countertop.  That's what I get for choosing a wood based on its fine grain rather than its hardness.  I don't think I can undivot it, and I don't want to take it apart again, so maybe I can just distract from it.

Tomorrow I will paint!
November 5, 2014

Little steps, specific goals.  I'm going to try to stop thinking of it as 'finish the kitchen' and start thinking 'tomorrow, I will add molding to the doors.'  Which is actually what I did today. And then I STOPPED.  Tomorrow, I will make doors and drawers for the bottom cabinets.  I want to paint them a cream color, but I can't seem to find the right color. so possibly the day after, I will mix and play with paint until I get it right.  The doors in the photos are still not attached to the base, because I have to paint.  Hopefully I can get them straighter.  Eventually I need to decide on handles.  My townhouse kitchen cabinets didn't have any, so not having them is an option.  

I'm rather pleased with how the molding turned out.  I cut out 3/16" and 1/8" strips of poster board (the cheap kind with both sides paper, no shiny side) and glued them together, narrower strip centered on the wider (more or less.)  I had to fight to make them even and my 45 degree angles are pretty bad, even with the mitre chopper I was using, but paint should hide the worst of it.  

I realize I've mentioned my first dollhouse, but never really written about it on my blog.  Allow me to give you a tour, because I'm procrastinating from the Willowcrest already.  I apologize for the bad photos, because I had to dig through very old hard copies taken with a cheap film camera a very long time ago.

Firstly, this is my great-grandfather, Jacob Knupp.  I wrote a little about him here.  Carpenter, contractor, fantastic workshop, enjoyed making miniatures, some of which his daughter sold at craft fairs.  And he made dollhouses for me and my sister.  He also made full scale furniture.  I have a curio table of his sitting in my living room!

I don't think I have any pictures of my sister's dollhouse, but hers was bookshelf shaped, at least four stories tall, and white.  Big rooms. The front door had a lock, basically a hook on a swivel that swung around and connected on a brad.  It had come furnished with furniture made by Mom and various relatives.  When we played in it I got relegated to the upper floors, she got to sit on the floor to reach her designated stories.

Then, maybe when I was about six, Gran drove out to our new house one day in his big blue truck, with a less tall but much wider dollhouse.  I can remember seeing it in the back of the truck when he arrived.  It was . . . different.   He had gotten creative.


This is a front AND back opening double sided dollhouse, allowing access to the two-deep rooms inside.  It had a real floor plan.  I've only ever seen one other like it, possibly in a book or museum that called it a turn-about house.  

I loved it.  We could both sit and play in the house together, she usually got the front with the stairs, but I got the back with the kitchen and the kitchen pantry shelves.  No furniture, though, so I made do with whatever was the right shape, and slowly collected and scored over the years with presents.  When I was about 12 or 13, I made my first dollhouse family.  Previously it had been inhabited by bears.  It sits on its own custom made table legs and rotates all the way around on a lazy susan.

Front.  I had a carpet runner on the stairs at one point.
Back. A very old view, but not the oldest!  I originally had yellow floral
 contact paper covering the kitchen walls.
Emptied out and planning a renovation.  There is only one interior door,
opening from the front hall to the blue dining room.

Empty view of the back.  I think the tiny room in the upstairs middle was supposed
to be a bathroom, but it barely held the tub.  I was also fascinated with wall murals.

The attic floor is removable, allowing access and a good view of the floor plan upstairs.

Apparently the kitchen shelves went through a lot of changes!

Gran made the bed, my grandmother made the mattress and pillow.   I made the quilt!

Would you believe that floor is paper?

Originally this was all shelving, but I got creative one day
and made it look like a hutch.

The poor thing is showings its age and abuse after 30 years.  I wanted so badly to make it more to scale and electrify it, but since it was built by a man used to building full size houses, it's very difficult to tear out the thick molding without causing some damage.  I'm also finding it hard to figure out wiring, since the house turns around.  Perhaps in a few more years the battery operated lights will be good enough that I can add them without including wiring.

For right now I think my best bet for fixing it up is to repair as much of the damage as I can, give it a good coat of paint and/or wallpaper, and decorate it with nice furniture that's still good for playtime.  My Willowcrest is definitely for adults only!  There are some gouges in the walls and the front walls/doors need to be reattached.  I'm setting the time period at early 20th century,1909-1916.
November 4, 2014

I've been ignoring the Willowcrest all summer and most of the Fall, and kind of dreading all the work I still need to do.  It's time to get back to it.  So today, I finally sat down and started work on the kitchen cabinets.

I took a piece of posterboard, held it up against the wall, and drew cabinet outlines of what I thought would work best on the wall with the lower cabinets and appliances. Then I took the final shape and cut out two pieces, plus one inch wide strips for the sides.  I decided that these would be faux cabinets, so the doors won't open.  I don't really want people reaching in and pulling on things, and I have enough organizational dilemmas in my life without trying to figure out which cabinet would hold the weird shaped bowls the best in one inch scale!   Right now they're not even glued on, just up there with a little Dollhouse wax to see if I like it when in place.  I think it'll do, so tomorrow I will start making trim for the doors, plus drawer fronts for the bottom cabinets.  Little steps!

Speaking of the bottom cabinets, I am not happy with them.  I used matte board to do the fronts, and it just doesn't look right or take paint right.  I'm going to have to redo them.

I also plan to make a new refrigerator (unopenable) and a mounted microwave.  (The one currently holding up the upper cabinets is just not big enough for the space above the oven.)  I also need to figure out the faucet for the sink.  I bought a set, but they were ridiculously small.
October 13, 2014

I acquired a recipe a while back that was allegedly the salsa from The Tortilla Factory in Herndon, VA.

Problem is, I can't QUITE get it right.  Last time I thought it was because I switched ground red pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  You don't want a tablespoon of ground red pepper (cayenne) in anything!  I managed to subdue it with a lot of brown sugar.

This time, I had several pounds of tomatoes from my garden, nearly enough to make this recipe, so I thought I'd try again.  I had to buy a few tomatoes to get enough.

To follow the recipe, I had to acquire 29 ounces of crushed tomatoes, which, of course, I had to look up how to do.

 First I had to remove the skins.  You do this by cutting a shallow X in the side opposite the stem, dropping them in boiling water for a short period (I waited until I could see the skin around the X start to pull away) and then drop them in ice water.  The skin pulls off easily.

You're left with creepy, naked tomatoes.  These things are SLIPPERY.  Really, really slippery.  "Slippery as a skinned tomato" is now going to be my new description for things that are really hard to pick up and threaten to shoot across them room if you squeeze them too hard.  

Next I was supposed to quarter them, cut out the stem part and any hard or bad bits, and scoop out the seeds and water.  This was rather challenging, due to their slippery nature and the fiddlyness of the seeds.

I essentially destroyed these tomatoes.  I just ended up using my hands, and was grateful the phone never rang, because they were covered in tomato juice and pulpy bits.

The part after was to mash it up well.  The instructions I had weren't clear if you were supposed to do this while cooking, but I started it in a bowl and then continued mashing the more stubborn bits while it cooked.

That's technically a potato masher, but since I've never actually used it to mash potatoes, it is officially my tomato masher.  It worked really well for this step.

Now it's starting to look right!  once this finished cooking, I could have also turned it into pizza sauce, or just saved it for a future project, which is what I probably should have done.  I'm not sure if I could have turned it into soup, or if that's a completely different project.

I measured before and after processing.  I had 3.75 pounds of tomatoes before, and after I ended up with 32 ounces of sauce.  I'm sure this will vary, but at least it's enough for a quart.

I next added my ingredients for the salsa.  This is pre oil and vinegar stage, and I should probably have stopped there, because after this is where things went wrong.  The vinegar completely overwhelmed the salsa, to the point where I had heartburn all night after tasting it.  I'm not sure even brown sugar can save this.  

The second problem was that I decided to put it in the mixer to get rid of some of the chunks, and, well, it turned ORANGE.  It was certainly NOT orange when I did an initial stirring before putting it in the blender.  This hadn't happened the first time!  From what I read online, it has something to do with oxygen being mixed in too fast, or at least that seems to be the main guess of other people.  

I'm pretty upset that it turned out so disappointingly.  I opted to freeze it anyway, since I can't have chips right now due to oral surgery.  I separated it into lots of smaller bags, so once in a while I may get up the nerve to play with one and see if I can't make it palatable.  

I don't feel right providing the recipe, but it can easily be found by doing an Internet search for Tortilla Factory Salsa.  

September 19, 2014

Remember this rocking chair?  I wrote about it here.  

I found fiber rush from Cohasset Colonials, who had nice, if slightly pricy, chair weaving kits available.  It came pretty quickly, but I managed to burn my thumb on an oven rack a few days later, and so put off the weaving until it had healed and I had gotten back from my trip to Virginia.

Yes, that IS another old wooden rocker in the background.
Brian's grandfather made it.  

 I'd just like to say that this is a frustrating, painful, awkward process best suited to someone much more anal retentive and OCD than I.  The chair frame will never be even, which means your weaving will never come out neatly in the middle, and if you mess up early on, you won't know until it's far too late to fix it.  The weaving slows down quite a bit at the end as you try to feed yards of damp rolled up paper through a progressively smaller hole while the rush kinks and twists up on you horribly.  It will probably take me three or four more chairs before I get competent at this.  I saw some cute fabric woven chair seats on Pinterest, so it's quite likely that I will NOT use fiber rush as my next seat medium if I ever bring home an orphaned seatless chair again.

Here's my finished orphaned chair, now with a seat!  I can sit on it.  and rock.  It works, so yay for success!  

The instructions called for several layers of shellac.  Perhaps that will improve matters.

September 18, 2014

Pinterest, my inspiration for pretty much everything, these days, showed me these projects one day.

Source:  AllYou Magazine

The kittens, they got to me.  I loved it, but it seemed like an awful lot of cuteness and work for something that would soon rot.  I couldn't bear to watch the kittens rot!  The AllYou pumpkin looked fake, somehow, so I decided to use fake pumpkins for this project. The problem was I couldn't find any fake mini pumpkins that looked right.

Then I remembered my mother had made pumpkins out of fabric.  She showed me her pattern when I was visiting, but it was so simple I figured I didn't really NEED one, and someone was bound to have posted fabric pumpkin tutorials online.  Oh yes, I found lots.  There seemed to be two basic patterns, one just a rectangle, the other a set of at least 6 curved strips of fabric that was wider in the center than at the ends.

Sew News has a great pumpkin tutorial for the rectangle.

Quill Cottage has a great pumpkin tutorial for the sectioned pieces.

I went with the rectangular pattern because: I'm lazy, I wasn't sure what size pumpkin would work for this project, and after studying the instructions, it seemed like I would be doing the same thing to the pumpkin no matter what pattern I used.

I found a cheap foam pumpkin at Walmart that seemed to be the right size, and begged some leftover Halloween colored fabrics from my mother.  I didn't want them to be TOO Halloween flavored because I was afraid that would detract from the kitten shape.

Finished kitten hogging the limelight.

underside of a kitten.  Making the 'divisions' in the pumpkin left a deep hole on both sides!

Then I sat and made up a bunch of pumpkin kittens.  I used a 5"x10" rectangle, and that size produced a pretty good kitten head that would fit in the pumpkin.  For the eyes, I used black felt (buttons would have worked, too.)  I made the stems by cutting narrow strips and rolling them up tight and gluing in place. I used heavy duty button thread for the whiskers.  I figured out where I wanted to place the nose, then sewed on the whiskers so that the knot would be hidden by the nose when I glued it on.

I also used polyfill stuffing for the interior.  One of the sites suggested using plastic bags, which I thought was a great idea, but I had a really hard time getting my needle through the plastic.

 . . . feed us.

You can see the plastic bags I stuffed into the pumpkin to fill up the space.  I was thinking that hay would be cute to hide that, but then I thought it would be too much like Easter grass and it would get EVERYWHERE.  Now I'm thinking a square of burlap would work, and I might try that.

My problem is I don't like the pumpkin.  It's not big enough for ALL the kittens, and obviously I can't eliminate two of them! I need it to be wider, not taller, and I haven't seen any fake pumpkins like that.  It's also obviously foam and I've got little foam balls clinging everywhere.  Maybe a cauldron?  I'm afraid the darker kittens will disappear in that.  Maybe a basket with Halloween fabric/ribbon?  I'll have to experiment.  And take pictures.

UPDATE 10/19/2014

I tried a few more settings to see what would happen.

Firstly, I do like the burlap, but it's still so hard to squeeze them all in the pumpkin.

They were much more comfortable in the spider basket, and this would be good for if they were a table centerpiece that needed to be low profile.

I think 'Pumpkin Kittens in a Cauldron' is my favorite.  They look like they're just bobbing up and down in there, trying to get your attention.  I love the way the ones up front seem to be peering over the edge.  The fabric is 'spooky' fabric I got at Party City, and the grey helps the darker kittens stand out.  

I am never going to get a good photo of this tree.

I've currently got them sitting by my Nightmare Before Christmas tree (with more 'spooky' fabric serving as a tree skirt), both of which are in the family room, so I get to look at them all the time now.  Frankly, their wide eyed stare is kind of getting to me.  I love it!