Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cleaning up after the construction crew

You know how it is when you finish up a house.   All that sawdust on the floor and windows.  Everything needs a good cleaning before the new residents can move in.

Did you know that the Pierce has 25 windows and a pair of french doors?   I cringe at the very thought of washing all those windows and practically faint when I think about sweeping and mopping the floors in 10 rooms!  So I hired a maid to do the cleaning in the new Dixie Manor.

Personally, I think she's doing a pretty good job of it, but Mini Napoleon has to follow along to make sure she gets it all done right.

Just one last polish of the fireplace mantel in the kitchen and she's all done!  

My maid is accustomed to cleaning a house this large since she works in my own Pierce. 

She mentioned that it was much easier to clean Dixie Manor than it is to clean my Pierce with all its furnishings.  I pointed out that she doesn't want to move across the country with the new Pierce and that it will be filled with furnishings too once it reaches its new owner.  Well, that made her stop and think!  She decided that she's quite happy right where she's at. 

Now if I can just find a mini gardener to do the landscaping for Dixie Manor for me.   Hopefully he won't have as much attitude as the maid does!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The best friends are the ones who know little things mean a lot

Some days it really overwhelms me when I consider how blessed I am to have so many wonderful people in my life.  I've never been what you'd call a social creature.  Let's just say that I have a lot in common with hermits and cats.  But all that changed when I discovered miniatures a few years ago.  Much to my surprise, not only did I discover a fabulous new way of life, but I discovered that I was making friends too!

That sort of shook me up for awhile since I'd never been good at making new friends, but there they were!  A whole bunch of new people who liked me and I liked them right back.   Unless you had watched my life story (fortunately not a Lifetime movie of the week), you'd never fully appreciate just how incredible this is, but from my perspective it's nothing less than a miracle.

I truly love these people too.  Even tho most of us have never met face to face the bond is genuine.  They are caring and loving people with strong hearts and sweet spirits.  They're *good* people.  I would go to the mat for any of them and I know that they've got my back too.  Most importantly tho, I know that they love me.  Truly and completely and without condition............I can relax in their friendship because it's honest and I have no fear that any of them would hurt me.  

This is something that I think about a lot but this week I received some special gifts of love that really touched my heart and made me realize even more just how wonderful my friends are.

Last week one of my friends sent me the cutest little washtub she'd made, filled with rocks and cattails and frogs.  I LOVE frogs!  When I told my friend that I collected frogs (something she didn't know about me) she turned around and made the sweetest little frog carrier you ever did see.  Sarah Ann immediately laid claim to it because, well, she likes to take her frogs out and about with her.  She's frog-sitting the washtub until I build my seaside Tennyson.

I was so delighted with my new little frogs that I happy danced around the house every time I thought of them.  But what made me the happiest of all was knowing that I have a friend who wanted to make me smile with gifts of frogs.  Yep, those little things do mean a lot and every time I look at them, I'll think of my friend and how wonderful it is to be loved.

I received another special gift in the mail this week.  Y'all know how traumatized I was when I had to cut my hair, right?  Well, one of my friends had an idea of how she could ease my heart a little bit.  She told me to send her a lock of my hair so she could create a special mini keepsake for me.  Would you like to see it?

The mane, forelock and tail of this sweet rocking horse are made of my hair.  I can't tell you how touched I was when I saw it.  I sat here with my heart overflowing because of the love that went into this special mini, designed to ease my sorrow.  It has a place of honor in my Pierce where I can see it from the loveseat where I lay when I can't be up and around.  When I feel especially bad, I'll have something to remind me how sweet it is to have such loving friends.  

My greatest mini treasures are the ones that have been made for me by my friends and I have so many that I could decorate an entire house with them alone.  And I also send gifts to my friends whenever I think of someone who is sad or I create/find a special mini that would be "just right" for someone.  If you're reading this, you're probably nodding your head in agreement.  Somewhere in your house is a closet that holds small boxes that you save because they're the right size to ship minis to your friends and most of them are boxes that have brought minis to you.   

We all know that feeling of loving and being loved that comes from giving or receiving these special miniatures.  And above all else, we know that it's not the physical gift that counts.  Most of us have more minis than we know what to do with................what we know to be *most* important is the reason we exchange gifts the way we do.  We do it because we love each other.   It's true.  The little things mean a lot, especially when they are symbols of 100% unconditional love for a friend.

I'm going to declare today "Love Your Mini Friend Day".  I want everyone who reads this to call or email at least one of your mini friends today and tell them that you love them.   

An award!

Casey over at caseyminis sent me this beautiful and cheery award!  Isn't it pretty!  I think that brought sunshine into my room even tho it's dark and snowy outside.

This award asks me to list six blogs that I follow.  I'm trying to figure out if I can cheat and add a 0 to the end of the six.  LOL!   But here's my list of six and if they pass it on to six more, pretty soon everyone will have this bright promise of summer on their blog.

The Hippy Quilter   Kathy's a rebel quilter, an earth mother, a bit of a hippy, and the best friend anyone ever had.

KathieB at  

Tracy Topps at

Teresa at

Gina at


Susan at  She's another one of those rebel quilters I hang out with.  If you've never hung out with quilters, you have to try it some time.  They'll keep you in stitches.  

Thanks Casey!  You really brightened up my day!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Bit of a Tease

I finished the roof of the Dixie Manor (the custom Pierce) yesterday and am so pleased with it that I had to post a pic.  Isn't that pretty!  The tower roof isn't glued on yet, but it's all ready to do so.  As I was finishing the roof yesterday it occurred to me that I was becoming very familiar with each shingle.  I mean, I was moving along with my paint brush, already knowing which shingle I would be coming to next.    When that happens, it tells you that you've spent a LOT of time with those shingles!  I used octagon shingles so each butt had to be trimmed individually so they were nice and smooth.  This is a delicate house so there couldn't be any rough edges on it.  We can't have a Southern Belle with a five o'clock shadow!  Anyway, after they'd been trimmed they were all glued on the roof and that took about a week.

Did I mention that the Pierce has the largest roof of any Greenleaf house except for the Garfield?  And the Pierce roof is one of the focal points of the house so it's important that it makes a statement.  My client chose the "iced lilac" scheme that I used on my French Cafe which delighted me because that scheme is *so* perfect for the Pierce.

But I digress (again, or as usual).  I'm not sure exactly how many shingles are on the Pierce but I know that the number is up in the thousands.  It's not the quantity that caused it to take so long to shingle, it's my obsessive Virgo personality.  Sometimes that goes a bit too far.  Among my tools on the table were my regular ruler with the distance between rows taped off so I'd get each row perfectly quilter's ruler so I'd be sure to get each row carpenter's level so I could double check that they were seamstress ruler with the little slide thingy so I could double check the distance between rows...............well, you get the idea.  Yes, I'm OCD but I'm okay with it.  LOL!

After the shingles were all on, I started the painting.  I used a greenish-grey was for the base coat to pop the grain in the birch.  Greenleaf birch shingles kick ass when it comes to beautiful grain and I make the most of that.  After the greenish-grey came another wash of blue-grey.  The blue-grey is in the same tonal family as the iced lilac on the body of the house but quite a bit darker.  I hand mix all my colors to be sure that they're just right and the combination of these two was a marriage made in heaven.  So the blue-grey went on as the foundation color for the roof and then I let the washes dry overnight.  The shingles lift and curl just a teeny bit which gives them a gorgeous realistic appearance.  It's kind of like the way Rik Pierce does shingles in paperclay, using the little lifts here and there to give a roof texture and depth.  That's why I use washes instead of stain or dye on this type of roof.  

The next step was to add in the primary color on the roof which is the same lavender as the trim.  I dry brushed that over each shingle, sometimes using a rag to rub it in and sometimes leaving it a bit streaked to give it a bit of texture.  The final step was to go back around the roof one more time with a dry brush of dark grey to add in the shadowing.

Four layers of paint on every shingle, but omg, it's so worth it!  This is a technique that Tracy Topps uses on many of her houses with wood shingles and I love the look.  One of my "artistic things" is to always blend paints so they look soft and natural so this technique is definitely one of my favorites.  I sometimes do a variation using stain for the undercoat and dry brushing one or two colors over it (like my Brimbles, my Houseboat and my Adams)   It just works for me, ya know.

I'm very happy with the way this looks on Dixie Manor.  The interior is all in pastels so this delicate blending of soft colors pulls the whole house together.  And it's almost finished!  All that's left to do on the house is add the gingerbread and then go around it with a magnifying glass to see where I need to do any touch ups to the paint.  After that will be the landscaping.    My favorite part!

 There's another storm system moving in and my body isn't taking kindly to it.  My hands (and the rest of my body) are telling me to go curl up in the recliner with the cat and a warm blanket and move as little as possible.  I think I'll turn on some quiet music and go do that now.  See y'all in a couple of days!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A lazy day

 Sometimes you just have to slow down a little bit and take a lazy day.  It's not a day off, just a day when I'm going to move a little slower than usual.  Translated that means that instead of moving at turtle-speed, I'm going to slow down to a snail's pace.  

I've been pushing hard to finish the shingles on the Pierce mainly because I'm too OCD to have blank spaces on that roof staring at me accusingly.  LOL!  But with the shingles done except for the top row and the ridge cap, I feel comfortable enough to step the pace down a notch.  It's rather enforced since my body is rebelling today but whatever the reason, it's nice to slow things down a bit.

My hubby has a pot luck at work tomorrow and the theme is my very favorite.........southern!  Obviously I only have two choices, either homemade biscuits or pulled pork.  Since I don't want to get up early in the morning to make a double batch of biscuits, I opted for the pulled pork instead.  There's a 12 lb pork shoulder butt simmering in bbq even as we speak.  Later tonight I'll go pull it all and send it to work with Bruce tomorrow.  The last time I did that he came back with an empty bowl that looked like it had teeth marks on the edges. LOL!  Apparently southern style pulled pork sandwiches are an unknown delicacy here in Denver which is why I make my own.  The only bbq you can get in this city is doused in ketchup-based sauce.    Not that I don't like a good bbq sauce, but pulled pork is all about the flavor of the meat.  I can imitate it fairly well here in the city, but we do have the red sauce imported from Paducah Kentucky.  I'll send along a bottle of it with the pork tomorrow.

I have a set of drapes in the pleaters that will be dry later on.  I'm not sure if I'll do much more with them today or not, but at least they'll be pleated and ready to work with.  The fabric is a deep red Moda marble that I adore.  In miniature it looks like velvet.  These drapes are going over the outside of a bay window and will have gold trim with tasseled tie backs.  Very old victorian and elegant.

That's pretty much my goal for the day.  I've been catching up with friends via phone, email and social networking which is always a good day.  Later on I plan on snuggling in the recliner with a bowl of popcorn and playing Mah Jong on TV.  We have DirecTV which I love because they carry the Game Lounge.  Lots of games to choose from and all of them can be played on my big screen tv using the remote control.  To be honest, it's the only thing I've found that will make me sit still and rest.  It's just enough distraction to take my mind off the pain and that's usually the biggest challenge for me when I try to just sit down and rest.  I get so restless that I'm bouncing back up and off to do something else.  Keeping busy is my pain management but that can sometimes backfire and cause more pain in the end.  So I'm really thankful that DirecTV has the Game Lounge on the days when rest is necessary.

With Dixie Manor B&B almost finished, I'm starting to get that itchy feeling to see how it all completed.   It's kind of like reading a book and getting to the last few chapters.  You just can't put it down!    All that's left to do is painting the roof, touching up a few little things here and there and the landscaping.  Well, there will be the packing part.  That's going to take at least three or four days to get it ready to travel!   But I do so want to see it finished soon!  The shingles have added a lot of character to it and once I get them painted, it's going to really come alive.  The landscaping is my favorite part.  It's like the cherry on the sundae that I always saved for the last bite because I liked it best.  LOL!  I'm already visualizing the flowers and greenery in my mind and it's going to be beautiful.

Oh, the picture at the top is a sneak peek at Dixie Manor.  That's the dining room.  I love that light fixture, especially with the wallpaper my client selected for that room.  Combined with the "clover honey" shade of woodwork, it's a beautiful room!

   I believe I'll go pop the corn now and snuggle in the recliner.  Napoleon loves it when I do that because he thinks I'm behaving as a decent cat should.  He curls up in my lap and purrs approvingly while I play games.   

Monday, February 8, 2010

A fairy tale come true!

I have a new favorite dollhouse!  I watched this house go together and talked to my friend Tracy Topps while she was building it so the love started quite awhile ago.  When Tracy first told me about her idea for the tower and the other details of this house, it literally made me swoon.  Just look at it!  It's amazing!   There are more pictures of this gorgeous house here and believe me, when you see the details, you'll fall in love too.   I'm always amazed with Tracy's stonework and this house raises the bar even for Tracy!  But the landscaping is what fascinates me.  Every time I look at it, I see something new.  The little brook is so delightful with all the plants and things.  It looks so realistic that I feel like I'm being transported into a new world.  The interior is just as cool and it's even wired with lights.  Can you tell that I'm in love?  Tracy put so much of herself into this house and she created a new masterpiece!

I'm not sure how she is able to part with it and for awhile she kept this house a big secret, only letting a few people see it.  She just put it up on the market for sale here.  I was stunned when she said she was going to sell it, but Tracy is like me and feels that every creation she does is made for someone in particular.  It's like the houses know that there is someone out there for them.  I believe that every person has a soul mate, but I'm starting to think that these houses do too because they sure are insistent about who they live with.  Anyway, Tracy knows that there is someone out there who is destined to own this house so it's up for sale.

I know it probably seems weird for one artisan to promote another artisan's work instead of their own, but I can't stand the thought of the owner of this house missing any more time with it.  It's kind of like a lost puppy.

So, the word is out now and I hope that I get to hear the details of the joyous meeting when the new owner and the fairy tale cottage are finally together.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if that happened on Valentine's day?  That would be a real fairy tale come true!

Tracy Topps' Store

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Things I think about when I'm shingling

Shingling houses is sort of a zen experience.  That's a nice way of saying it's a repetitive task and frees the mind to think of other things (except around gables which requires all of my attention if I want to keep them straight)  I find that my mind wanders when I'm doing things like shingling, sanding or painting.

Lately I've been paying more attention to where my mind goes and it's been rather interesting.  Sometimes I mentally read books.  Entire chapters will go thru my head and it's almost the same as listening to an audio book with ear buds.  Other times it will be whole album sides and sometimes it will be movies without the pictures.  And then there are the occasional random thoughts that make me go "huh?".

What are those little divots in the shingles?  They look like dimples in the middle of them.  I think they're probably from the die machines as they catch the birch and move it but I could be wrong.  If I don't pay attention, I sometimes put the shingle on with the divot side out and that annoys me.

Why is it more fun to paint over spackle than bare wood on the edges of window frames?  The paint goes on so much smoother but there's more to it than that.  It's like completing a circle.

What am I going to make for dinner tonight?  Oh, that one is pretty much a daily question and I peer into the paint pot like it's a magic 8 ball that will give me the answer.

Wouldn't it be interesting to watch them make sandpaper?

But sometimes my thoughts go a little bit deeper than the silly stuff.  I think about my family and my friends.  I think about my life goals, past and present.  I consider where I've been and how the events of that journey brought me to where I am now.  It's small wonder that I feel like there is so much of myself in my creations when I can look at a specific piece and think, "I resolved my feelings about something while I was making that".

There's something about using my hands to create that frees my mind and I consider that to be a gift.  Not only do I have this fabulous gift of a creative spirit, but that creativity allows me to explore my emotions and my thoughts all at the same time!  How wonderful is that!

I'm going back to my shingling now and we'll see where it takes me this time.  Who knew that the key to moments of inner peace could be shaped like a birch shingle?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Luuuuuuuuucy, I'm hooooooooome

Oh my, it's been awhile and I didn't mean to keep anyone hanging.  Real life has been a series of ups and downs.  The biopsy on my thyroid came back negative which is not necessarily good news.  The ultrasound is 80% accurate and the biopsy is also 80% accurate.  Um, what the hell?  I'm not sure how they do the math on this one but they opted for going with the biopsy results. I don't quite see how we can ignore a picture of the whole nodule full of microcalcifications in favor of a tiny tissue sample taken by a microscopic needle.  However, my doctor looked me straight in the eye and said she strongly recommended that I go see a throat surgeon and tell him how uncomfortable the thyroid nodules are and how they inhibit my breathing, swallowing and circulation.  There's a chance they might be able to justify the surgery based on that.  One of my friends said that it's like living with a ticking time bomb in my throat and that describes it pretty well.  I'm seriously pissed at the way insurance companies dictate medical treatments.  So at this point I'm babying my hands and trying to get by on cortisone shots as long as possible and hoping I can find a surgeon who'll take out the thyroid.

However, all that's been put on hold because of my hubby's unexpected medical emergencies.  That's a rather redundant sentence.  Emergencies are never expected.  We certainly didn't expect that he'd take an ambulance ride and end up in the hospital overnight with what appeared to be symptoms of a heart attack.  A ton of tests later and they said that it definitely wasn't his heart.  They saw a rather large gall stone in his bile duct on an ultrasound but since he was feeling better they discharged him and sent him home after two days.  We were home long enough to get one night's sleep and within about 24 hours of being released from the hospital he was back in the ER almost passing out from the pain.  This time they looked a little closer at the gall bladder and the next thing we knew there was a surgeon in the room telling us that they'd have him in surgery within 20 minutes.  They called in a cardiologist to be there just in case because of Bruce's heart history.  I was relieved about that because after three heart attacks we don't want to take any chances.  The biggest danger was bleeding since Bruce takes so many blood thinners.  They gave him a transfusion of blood platelets and away he went.  We were in the hospital another day until they said the bleeding was under control and let him go home.  Since he was on the cardiac ward both times they let me stay and "sleep" all night in a geri chair in his room.  We had one more trip to the ER  a week after the surgery because the day after they took out the stitches one of his incisions started to bleed.  They patched it back up and sent him home.

Bruce is doing great and feels better than he has in a long time.  The gall bladder was probably part of why he hasn't felt good for about a year.  They kept saying it was his ulcers but he had all the classic signs of a bad gall bladder.  The surgeon said that if it had stayed in him much longer it would have gone septic so we're grateful that they got it out when they did.  I had a major fibro flare up two weeks ago and was actually bedridden for a couple of days.  It was the worst I've ever had and something I hope I don't go thru again.  I'm still not back to my version of normal but at least I can make it down the stairs now.   I think it was a combination of a fibro flare and a surge in thyroid.  The two escalate one another.  But with all the unexpected medical bills from an ambulance ride, two trips to the ER, four days in the hospital and one emergency surgery, my surgery is going to have to wait for awhile.  Even with the insurance paying their share, it's still a big ole pile of bills!  Bruce is fussing at me about not going to the surgeon but it's really not that big a deal.  I've lived with this for years and I can live with it a little while longer.

Bah!  Enough of that negative shit!  I feel like I've been trapped under a dark cloud for so long that  I can't find the sunshine.  I know it's there and I'm going to keep digging my way out till I find it.    

My sanity has been this beautiful, wonderful Pierce that I'm building.  Despite all the interruptions I'm almost done with her.  I'd show pictures but I'm at the point where I want to wait till she's all done and "unveil" her.  I'm working on the shingles now and as soon as that's done, she'll be ready for the landscaping.  I'm dying to do that!  It's my favorite part.  What can be more wonderful in the dead of winter than creating this fabulous green garden full of trees and flowers?  I've picked out some of the prettiest mini lilac bushes and a gorgeous little tree with purple flowers to go in the yard and there's a sweet rose trellis for the side of the house too.  I have a surprise for the owner that's going in the yard.  Shhhh......don't say anything.  Oh wait.  She reads my blog.  Darn it, now I let the cat out of the bag.  LOL!  But I didn't say what the surprise is going to be so we'll just leave it at that and you all can find out when she does.    I can surprise everyone!

I've been doing a little work on furniture and draperies for my favorite mega-Garfield.  Its owner has been very patient with me but I've finally reached the point where I can work on both the furniture and the Pierce at once.  The picture I posted at the top of the blog is the library furniture that I just finished for him.  It's a very masculine room and I liked the contrast of working on the delicately feminine Pierce one minute and switching to the cigars-and-leather look of the library the next minute.  The Garfield owner sent me the desk and chairs for the room to be recovered. I stripped the leather off the desk top and replaced it first, then I re-upholstered the chairs with a buttery soft textured leather and gave the cane chairs a dash of color with the striped pillows and bolsters.  Isn't that fabric perfect?  I found that in a remnant bin at Hobby Lobby over a year ago and snatched it up with no idea of why I had to have it.  It's just kind of funky-cool and yet elegant all at the same time.  When I started planning this library I realized why I had to have that fabric.  This room needed it!  It's really the perfect fabric for the drapes and pillows.  It adds a strong and vibrant dash of color to the room without being stuffy.  This room says that the owner likes the finer things in life but he likes to have fun too.

I'll be starting on some dark red drapes for the music room next while I'm still shingling the Pierce.  There's a whole LOT of roof to that house!!!  I'm dying to see get the shingles finished so I can start the painting on them.  The Pierce owner chose a beautiful technique that I used on my french cafe of applying a grey wash to the shingles and then dry brushing some lavender into it.  It's going to match the stone foundation beautifully and give the house so much character.  Right now it looks rather stark but those shingles are going to bring it to life!

So, that's what I've been up to lately.  I'm kind of proud of myself that I'm still creating even thru all the chaos.  I consider my miniatures to be the lighthouse that keeps me on track when the seas get stormy.

Oh, I finally set myself up on Facebook (thanks to Tracy and Heidi pulling me along and insisting that I needed to be there)  As usual, they were right.  LOL!  I'm glad I did because it's another wonderful way to connect with other miniaturists and make some new mini friends.  If you want to drop in there, I'm Deb's Minis there just like I am everywhere else.  Come be my friend!