Saturday, 26 October 2013

Back to business

The lovely long summer days on the boat have faded into the crisp autumn reality of a new job and everything that this brings with it. The sad end result is that my poor miniatures have been long-neglected.

I dragged my long-suffering husband to Miniatura in September and bought a few goodies, including this adorable little blue tit made by Aidan Campbell that is perched high in the eaves of Gulliver's Bookshop. I'm also waiting for a certain delivery from the lovely Tim Hartnell of Anglia Doll's Houses as he's creating Meg's house for me from one of my earlier stories. I have All-Fingers-Crossed for a Tuesday delivery, so you might want to brace yourselves for an unbearably excited blog update, with far too many photos and exclamation marks!

The £100 house is still chugging away, although real life decoration has taken over momentarily. Once we've repainted my study, then we're full steam ahead with the innards of that one, including (I hope!) a DIY spiral staircase for less than £3.

Famous last words?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Singing the blues

One of my other real pleasures in life is boating. We're lucky enough to own our own narrowboat and there's not much in life that can beat throwing the kids and the dog on board and travelling around England at 3 miles per hour. Unfortunately, with the torrential rain of the past 24 hours, it means the rivers are officially in flood and we're going nowhere. It's typical - umpteen weeks of heatwave and the weather only breaks when we're ready to head out on the boat.

So, it's back to the £100 house, which I'm thinking of naming The Cakery - for the obvious reasons! It's now a snazzy shade of blue and, rather than weeping into its beer with only the cat and some guitar riffs for company, it looks like it has taken on a whole new lease of life. The Annie Sloan clear wax has really lifted the matt paint. This shop is actually a bit of a looker when it comes down to it! 

One thing that really surprised me was that Sid Cooke houses don't come with 'glass' in the windows for 'safety reasons'. I'm not quite sure what's unsafe - does the perspex morph into an axe-wielding maniac when the moon is full? 

Not to be perturbed, a lovely colleague unearthed the perfect thing... overhead projector acetate. It's completely obsolete now that we have fancy interactive whiteboards in classrooms, but perfect for mini-glazing! A bit of snipping later, and we have fully fledged windows at zero cost.

Much as I'd like to paint the window frames themselves, it's probably not going to happen. They're plastic, and getting a decent finish on that is going to be nigh on impossible. So cream they are and cream they're going to stay. There's a bit of touching up to do where the blue has bled a little onto the render, and the green street sign needs to turn white, but there's progress definitely being made.

What do you all think?

Total spent: £35.95
Remaining: £64.05

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A game of two halves!

As far as the best laid plans of mice and men go, this one has definitely gone awry! I had such noble intentions of doing the whole of the outsides of the house for nothing (mostly because I think I'm going to need the money for cafe contents!) but no matter how I tried, cardboard roof tiles just didn't look as good as the real tiles on my other properties. Against the lovely Richard Stacey individual bricks, it looked plain wrong.

OCD about frog tape. That'd be us!
So I eventually haggled a set of 500 plaster roof tiles down to £5.95. It's a decent compromise and means the external part of the house should look pretty impressive for any budget, let alone a running total of £35.95!

Kicking myself for not sticking to THE PLAN, I sulked my way through some of my bookmarks. Surely there had to be something out there that would save me from my spendthrift ways? And lo, there it was! Freecycle, and a lovely lady who gave me a load of Dulux tester pots for the inside of the cafe. As if that wasn't enough, I'm staking out 99p floral furniture on eBay.

Ikea was keen to chuck out the chintz, but I think a cunning bit of recovering and we could have some very stylish bits for the top floor. A great spot for a coffee and a gossip. Oh, go on then, cake too. You've twisted my arm and I need to put my feet up after all that bargain hunting. It's exhausting stuff!

Total spent: £35.95
Remaining: £64.05

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

And we're off!

The £100 house is well underway, and now I've finished work for the summer, we've no excuse for not cracking ahead. The brickwork on the shop is pretty neat, but quite a few were damaged and needed gentle prising off and replacing. A bit of TLC and a generous slathering of mortar, and the place is starting to look pretty good.

Unfortunately, this meant I had to brave the garage for some paint. We live in a 1930s house, and the garage attached to it is woefully inadequate for a modern car. Admittedly, the estate agent was right, it can certainly accommodate a car - fantastic, as long as you don't need to get out of it. On those days where I'm longing for peace and quiet, it can seem quite appealing: "Sorry, Love. Can you deal with the nuclear fall-out with the kids? I'm stuck in the car and suffering dreadfully with only a sizey paperback and a G&T for company."

In the real world, the garage has become a multi-purpose store room/laundry/gym and home to half a million spiders, who seem to be swigging Babybio and working out. I swear, they're ten times normal size and square up to you the second you set foot in THEIR domain.

I grabbed the box of paint and ran!

There are all sorts of leftover sample pots from painting the Mountfield, and after a bit of rummaging, we found some ready-mixed render too. So we've stippled and painted the top floor in a cheery Farrow and Ball House White. The green woodwork needs to go - it's chipped and gone completely in some patches, so Craig & Rose Smalt (from the Mountfield front door) is being pressed into action once more.

With all awkward little joins between blue and cream, it's a fiddly time consuming job but it's brightening up the external of the shop enormously. More pics to follow when it's finished. In the meantime, what clever ideas have you all got for cheap or free roof tiles?

Cost so far: £30
Left to spend: £70

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The £100 House

"Is it possible to buy, build and furnish a dolls' house for less than £100?"

I posed the question to my hubby over dinner one evening. His eyes lit up with a devious gleam. This was clearly not only something that would keep me out of mischief for a few months, but I'd be doing it on a budget too! It was definitely not something to be sneezed at! I don't think he's quite forgiven me for the impulsive purchase of Gulliver's when I just nipped into Miniatura for some plants and a pair of rubber gloves.

And so, the rules of the game were drawn up.
  • £100 cash. Not a penny more can be spent. This must include the purchase of the house and everything to go in it.
  • Anything in my scrap bag of fabric, or hubby's wood remnants, or odds and ends of cardboard, glue, fabric and paint are fair game. They're leftovers from other projects and have no monetary value.
  • Nothing can be used from other dolls' houses or purchases that are intended for future dolls' houses.
  • Swaps MAY be possible - and, indeed, probably necessary when my maiden voyage into polymer clay results in a 12th scale version of The Blob.
  • Shipping counts in the £100 total.
So, with no further beating around the bush, may I present my first £30 very well spent on eBay.
As you can see, it's a Sid Cooke shop, which has been partially tackled by someone else. I like the look of these shops anyway, but it came with loads of extras, including a load of Richard Stacey bricks and mortar to finish off the job someone has started. 

The additional baseboard is perfect for an outdoor cafe (well, we might as well make the most of the weather we've been having!) and I've got lots of wood and shelving and a couple of DHE lights for inside. And a handcart. Because my sanity is clearly off to hell in it with this project!

My immediate plan is simple. Let's get the externals of this shop finished off for zero money before I go on holiday. Now I just need my hens keep their legs crossed a bit because I need their egg boxes for paving slabs.

Can I turn this abandoned shop into a trendy modern coffee shop for less than £100? I truly have no idea, but it's going to be immense fun finding out.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Strange happenings

I must confess that I'm probably the unluckiest person in the world. If 101 tickets were sold in a raffle with 100 prizes, you can pretty much guarantee that I'll be the one left at the end. Yes, that'd be me - the one who wasn't even lucky enough to get the knitted poodle toilet-roll cover in the sickly shade of 1970s avocado green.

So imagine my surprise this morning, when I discovered I'd won a giveaway prize on MitchyMoo Miniatures. Seriously! That's me. Look right there by the gorgeous little hurricane lamp that Pepper has very kindly given me. I literally squealed out loud, and the cat has been giving me very funny looks all day as a result. I suspect she thinks small pieces of lego are on the loose again...

I think the lamp may well be destined for the front archways of Gulliver's. The plan is to do worn wooden double doors in both archways, with rusty chains and padlocks. Josh needs somewhere for his motorbike and tools, and it looks like that might be just the place for it. And the lamp!

Thanks so much, Pepper. It's really made my day :)

Friday, 14 June 2013


Patience is a virtue, or so I'm told. It's definitely not one of mine, that's for sure. The agonising wait for my latest purchase to cross the Atlantic, party a bit in customs and finally turn up today has been a nail biting experience. Would it get damaged? Would it be as amazing in person as it was in pictures? What on earth was I going to use it for? There wasn't a story attached to this one - it was bought on sheer impulse to celebrate a promotion.

It's a beautiful and contemporary one bedroomed apartment by the talented Phillip Nuveen. The art work alone is beautiful - but the little attention to detail is what makes the place look so real. How can anyone resist those marvellous lamps, for a start?

So, tonight I'll be sitting here smiling, wondering who will live here and what is going to happen to them.

It's one of the nicest pleasures in the world :)