Thursday, February 04, 2016

Venting a Real Life Room: Never Doubt Super Pa


My wonderful mother recently pointed out that my blog has been... well... "boring" lately. Yes, yes it has. I haven't had many interesting things to report or any fun projects to share. It's been very boring out here on the farm this winter. For reals. But since I'm getting quite twitchy, it's time to start thinking seriously about working on the Beacon Hill. And perhaps leaving the house once in a while. And stopping being sick all the time. And stuff.

I did a "soft open" launch of working on the BH again by cleaning the mini room, which was a disaster zone. In between hacking my lungs out and long, restless naps, I moved small miniatures from disorganized piles into organized piles. Now that the room has been cleaned and moved around and labeled and put away, the goddess is perched and ready for proper attention:


Before I cleaned that room, there were a whole bunch of things piled on the Beacon Hill box and under the table, so I tripped whenever I went near the house -- or in the room at all, really. It's so clean and purty in there that I *almost* don't want to mess it up. But I will!

One thing I noticed right away when I moved into Briarpatch was that there was a distinct temperature difference between the mini room and the rest of the house. When I was little, my grandparents used that room as "The TV Room," and my cousins and I would all pile in there (SO many of us in there all at the same time!! How did we fit??) and watch TV. I don't remember it ever being hot or cold in that room. However, the door was always OPEN.

Now? It's either really hot or really cold in there. Sweaty or freezing. Pick one. And when the heat or air conditioning is on, there is a REALLY loud noise that comes from that one tiny vent under the dollhouse table. See it? Just to the left of the box on the floor? That b*tch is LOUD. Actually, the whole floor itself is loud when air is attempting to move right underneath it. Solution? Open the door! Let the kitchen send its heat/AC into the mini room! However, we all know what Gretchen does with miniatures.

*eyeballs Gretchen*

*shuts door*

[One time, I accidentally shut her in the mini room overnight. She was meowing like a frantic psycho in the morning, and I couldn't figure out where she was. Luckily, the miniatures survived.]

So anyway, leaving the door open all the time isn't an option. Plus, the mini room was super handy over Christmas when I needed a place to shove everything into when my relatives were coming over to hang out.

So what's a girl to do?

Enter Super Pa.

At the beginning of this winter season, I confessed to Pa that part of the reason I don't work on the Beacon Hill -- along with intimidation and fear and general procrastination -- is because it's f*cking COLD in that room all winter and then HOT in the summer. Even with the door open, it takes a lot of time to even out the feel of the room, and I get frustrated and just leave. Being a mechanical engineer, I knew Pa could figure out this problem. The man built his own corn boiler for his house. Actually, he built his entire own house. Wonk HVAC? NO PROBLEM FOR PA!

He began his investigation by noting that there is no cold air return in the room. There's your problem! Considering the fact that Grandpa built on this part of the house as an addition, one would think that Grandpa would have added a cold air return. Alas, I can't ask him why this was never a feature of The TV Room. In fact, now that I think about it, there aren't any cold air returns in the entire "new" part of this house. There are nice, big ones in all of the rooms in the "old part" -- directly across from the HVAC vents in whichever room you're in.

*scratches head*

Pa must have been at college when the addition was built or something.

So then Pa investigated the basement. It turns out there is a fan inside the duct down there that is THE LOUD THING. It's an old, beat up fan. Time for a new one! Pa ordered all of the parts for the fan, and then we waited, and then every part of the order decided to ship separately, and then finally the very last part of the contraption showed up from Home Depot squashed completely FLAT. Old road kill flat. It was a piece of round, metal duct stuff. Thanks, Home Depot.

*sighs*

In the meantime, I started to fester about the other part of Pa's plan. He wanted to put a vent in the door itself as a cold air return. Hmmmm.... I had googled such a thing and found some very unattractive examples. Visions of catastrophe struck! I started to get nervous about my pretty door that is right there in the kitchen where everyone can see it -- the very pretty kitchen that Pa lovingly painted a beautiful, buttery yellow for me when I moved in. The really NICE part of the house. Oh good LAWD, what was going to happen to my door in my ONE REALLY PRETTY ROOM????!!!! So I bit the hand that fixes me and told Pa I was worried about his decorative taste and asked him to NOT go get vents without me.

Yep, I think that falls into the Bad Daughter category of things to say, right?

BUT Pa will be the first to confess that he's an engineer, and he makes things that work and are correct and functional, but that doesn't mean they're always going to be "pretty." If I want "pretty," I do have to be specific about what "pretty" means.

So we went together to Menard's and bought the grates. They are coppery looking (which doesn't photograph well) and have a "rubbed oil" finish to them. Pa brought over a jigsaw and cut a perfectly beautiful, straight, just-big-enough hole right through the hollow door.

PRESTO MAGIC:


And from the inside -- just as PRETTY:


The results were immediate. I left the house for a few hours, came back, went in the room, and was NOT FREEZING. I shut the door, stood on the kitchen side, cranked the heat, and could feel the air flowing out of the room.

HOOOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!

It's still LOUD. Pa hasn't arrived to swap out the motorized vent fan thing in the basement yet, but it's sitting in a box in the entryway all ready to go. And I'm SO GRATEFUL THANK YOU SUPER PA YOU'RE THE BEST AND YOUR YOUNGEST DAUGHTER IS AN A$$HAT TO EVER DOUBT YOU.

Well, for now. 

While we were at it, we got new vents for the Green Monster living room. I was originally going to scrub off all of the wallpaper and repaint these vents, but they put up a helluva fight. I eventually gave up and had naked vents for the last whole year.

Vents before:





Vents after:




Thank you soooo much, Pa. You're the best!!!!

*shoves both feet and all eight of my cats' paws in mouth and swallows*

-----------------------------------------

Meanwhile, HUGE congrats to two of my friends who placed in the 2016 Creatin' Contest this year: Keli's Tropical Beach House won Grand Prize, and Brae's Otter Cove won Second Prize. I'm so proud of my friends!!!! CONGRATS!!!!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Returning to Space--In Miniature


Ten years ago when I started the Beacon Hill, I planned to have a Space Room. Above, you can see some metal and plastic space toys I got at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago when my parents came to visit me in 2006. They're not 1:12 scale, but they're small, so I thought they'd look good in the build. Then in 2009, I built the Observatory for the Greenleaf Spring Fling. I dug out my space toys to put in that build:


Ginger hijacked everything for her little space world. You can see some of the spaceships leaning against the walls here:


Downstairs, I added more space doodads, including a little moon man sitting on the shelf, front and center:


The view from the front door showed Starry Night and a couple of rockets. See that cat? Shortly after Gretchen moved into Farmhouse Villa, that cat disappeared, and I never saw it again. Perhaps one day the new renters in that house will find it shoved down in a heating vent. It's a shame because I really liked that cat. Sigh:


Flash forward to today. I've been cleaning and organizing the mini room to prep for working on the Beacon Hill. Alas, I've been sick and I mean SICK for months with a variety of colds and ailments that have driven me to the brink of insanity. So the BH prep has been slooooow going. We're almost ready:


One of my early purchases for the Space Room was a Metal Earth Fascinations Space Shuttle Endeavor kit. I got it out last week and finally put it together. It's very shiny and purty:


It has very nice metal etchings on it, and altogether it's quite realistic looking:


It's not 1:12 scale, but museum-ish pieces don't need to be. I didn't fully attach the little stand on the bottom because I might end up hanging it from the ceiling or attaching it to a wall. We'll see. I still haven't even chosen wallpaper for this room -- it's the last "fully naked" room in the BH:


Here you can see what was happening while I was taking the pictures. Gretchen LOVES this house. She loves it so much that I've had to cover most of the exterior with tin foil so she'll stop rubbing herself on it and climbing all over it:


Anyway, I have space on the brain now. I have a couple of true 1:12 space minis, but most of this room is going to have to be specially made by Yours Truly. I'm grateful that I took so long to get to this room because now my mini skillz have gotten much better than they were back in the Observatory days. Kinda. We'll see.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Coming Full Circle


Back on November 9, 2006, I got the Beacon Hill dollhouse kit in the mail. I know this because I wrote on this blog about it. Blogs are very handy for remembering when things happened. A very large box came in the mail at work, and I struggled to haul it in and out of my trunk and through my two security doors and up a flight of stairs to get it into my apartment. King (floor) and Webster (box) were fascinated:


I was slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the thing, but I also knew that I needed a project that could keep my attention:


And here we are, almost 10 full years later. Oopsie.

When I got the Beacon Hill, I actually did say that I was giving myself 10 years to finish it. I naively thought that this house would be my only dollhouse or dollhouse project. That swiftly went out the door when I started working on the Princess House a few short months later. That's the big problem with the Miniatures Bug. When it bites, it bites hard.

So anyway, time went on, and I started and stopped my new hobby in short bursts for many years. I only really got back into it around mid-2012. And now here we are on the eve of 2016 -- the 10 year deadline for ye ole Beacon Hill is right around the corner.

*insert ticking clock*

Now to be clear for a moment, I won't beat myself up if I don't get the Beacon Hill finished by next November. Miniatures are my hobby, and hobbies are Lifetime Fun Things. But I did find myself recently looking at Willowcrest Mortuary and feeling kind of meh about it. The Beacon Hill was calling to me from across the Real Life house: "Finish me, Blondie. You can do it!"

Really, Beacon Hill? I see you and your 10,000 bits of gingerbread trim. That looks like a LOT of painting and sanding and waiting and painting and sanding and waiting. OOF. But then again, boy will it feel GOOD to finish that house. So I took apart the dry-fitted Willowcrest and put it back in its box and shoved it under the sofa. Don't worry. I'll be back. It's just not your time.

Here's the bad part about taking a decade to finish a house: You can see all of the mistakes you made back when you were really green and now have the urge to FIX EVERYTHING. No no no! The Beacon Hill is what it is -- not a perfect house but an interesting house. Some parts will look faboosh. Some parts will look wonk. All parts will look interesting.

So even though I said right here on this blog very recently that I don't make New Year's Resolutions, I do have a goal. I'd like to finish up my Beacon Hill in 2016. If I don't, I'm not going to beat myself up. But I am going to try really hard. It's finally time.

Friday, December 18, 2015

MEOWY CHRISTMAS: A BlogHer Post


I wrote up a post on BlogHer about why I don't send out Christmas cards. I was trying to simply sound honest, but instead I sound a bit bent out of shape. I can own it. These things happen. Click HERE to read it.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Evolution of a Home


2015 has been a really strange year for me. I spent the first half of it in mourning. While I wanted to move into Briarpatch more than anything, I also knew that it might trigger the loss of my grandparents, and it did. I'm an incredibly sentimental and nostalgic person. This isn't necessarily a good thing because it leads to an intense longing for people or events that are no longer here and can never be recaptured. When I walked into my grandparents' home last November for the first time since the summer they both died, and it looked different and smelled different and was completely empty, a little tear opened up in my heart where Grandma and Grandpa Blonderson once were. I felt the excited wind get knocked right out of me.

It was hard to explain, so I mostly kept it to myself. I wanted to be HAPPY because Uncle and Auntie had given me such a precious gift by letting me move in here, and both of my parents worked SO hard to make it cozy and updated and pretty again. I was practicing gratitude for these things, so I felt guilty and ashamed about being blue. I tried to hide it. I decorated with wild abandon and settled in and made this home my home. But I still felt the nagging sense of loss. With time, it got worse.

Right as I was moving in, before I even got here in fact, Pa was yanking down wallpaper in my guest room and found this:


Buried behind the wallpaper was a Blonderson time capsule. A heart with "3-26-71" and "1971" and "Grandma + Grandpa." I've blurred out Grandpa's handwriting where their names were written -- actually, it was the nickname he had for her that he only used privately along with his name. My grandparents had been living in this house for quite a while before they wallpapered this room. I can imagine them one afternoon redecorating and Grandpa writing right there on the wall and Grandma blushing or maybe playfully chastising him for writing ON THE WALL. The rest of the walls in this room bear scars from where doorways used to be. When all of the wallpaper was gone, Pa and my oldest Auntie told me about the original layout of the house. This led here, that led there... I've learned far more about Briarpatch than I ever knew when my grandparents were alive. This new knowledge led to more sadness. What else don't I know? What else did I miss?

Time went on, and I went on with life. Eventually, Pa primed the walls of that guest room. I asked him to mark off the drawing so I could preserve it. Little did my grandparents know six years before I was even born that one day, their sappy granddaughter would show up, discover their graffiti secret, and be determined to keep it out in the open:


The guest room stayed unpainted and filled with packing boxes for many months. During that time, spring arrived, and I found myself in the midst of a Mid-Life Crisis. This is not to be confused with the Existential Crisis that was going on at the same time. The combination of these two things was The Perfect Storm. I found myself getting quieter and more trapped in my mind than I had been in many years.

The longer I lived in this house, the more random things I found. One day, I was digging around in an outbuilding and found a ribbon from the county fair. It was also from the 1970s, and Grandpa had won it for a copper art sculpture he'd made. The ribbon was dirty and wrinkled and sitting out there in the elements for probably the better part of 40 years before I found it. This led to a whole new set of those dreaded existential questions:

Is that what happens when people die? Their stuff just gets thrown away? Like their lives never happened, and their special things aren't special?

But also:

I don't really want this ribbon. It's not really that special. What do you do with all of the simple and small things that made up a person's life? Do you just erase them? Poof?

Looking around at my possessions, I started wondering:

I don't have any heirs. When I die, what will happen to all of my things? Some of my lamps are heirlooms, but some of them are from Goodwill. Will anyone know the difference? Will anyone care?

Because I found myself interested in my family's history and origins, I started messing around on Ancestry.com making a Blonderson Family Tree. I got a whole bunch of my ancestors in there and was having fun researching them, and then I noticed that my tree came down to a sad, little pointed V. For me, the buck stops here. All of those Blondersons -- all the way back to Germany and Ireland and wherever they all came from with their giant families -- and it just stops: Blondie Blonderson. The End. F*ck. That kind of sucks that this nice, big, interesting family tree is just going to stop like that.

*insert dark cloud*

Still, I tried to find meaning and importance and warmth. I chose a bright, rich, warm, exciting color for the guest room:


In the meantime, I slowly investigated more of the things in my Grandpa's shop, which I have to walk through to get to my car. I remember it as being a beautiful, warm, fun place to be. Now it's dark, cold, musty, and absolutely FILLED with spiders. Seriously, I'm going to have to do a massive spider bomb in there one of these days. Same with the garage. It's so incredibly dark and dreary in my garage and my shop. No likie. Miss the happy places.

Is this what happens? Everything just deteriorates and disappears?

I was very young when Grandma started losing her mind -- a diagnosis of Alzheimer's in life that was confirmed as Lewy Body Dementia after her death. I have very very very few memories of the "real" Grandma Blonderson. So it's Grandpa that I identify with more. To this day, I can't talk about him or write about him for longer than 10 minutes without tearing up. So how am I supposed to live in his house and not be sad? How do I make it my own? How do I deal with death -- this inevitable part of life that will happen to all of my aunts and uncles and parents and cousins eventually? How do I ensure that I'm not eventually overly affected by grief to such a point that I have trouble functioning on a day-to-day basis?

After my grandparents passed away, this house was opened up to the relatives. Take what you want. Furniture, photo albums, and the really really important things were taken and treasured. Truly treasured. Things that weren't so important? Things like a random county fair ribbon or an old text book? These things were left behind -- tucked away in a few leftover boxes. That's OK. We're not meant to hold onto every single little tiny itty bitty belonging from those we loved. We're supposed to have our own things -- our own special belongings that make up our own lives. It's OK to let go of these less-important belongings.

One day this summer when my sister and brother-in-law were in town, I asked them to help me throw some things away. There is a corner in the basement where some old things were stored -- some nasty old bedding, some quite disgusting pillows, bags and bags of fabric from Grandma's sewing days that mice had made nests in. I wanted to toss it.

I don't have to keep everything. It's OK. I can reclaim the good things out of this pile. I can get rid of the things that only mice would want.

We removed 11 giant bags of trash from the basement. I felt lighter. So much happier. The basement became less sad.

The paint went up:


I found a few old picture frames in the garage. I took them out in the yard and cleaned off 20 years of dust and cobwebs. Then I chose one that fit the the signature space perfectly:


This past August, cousin Kira came into town to visit. I invited Chicago Cousin and my sister to come for a sleepover. Chicago Cousin couldn't make it, but Kira and Dorothy were able to come. Kira made us a beautiful meal in Grandma's kitchen, and the three of us sat down at the kitchen table just like when we were little kids. Then we moved into the living room with wine and my old boxes of photos, and we talked and giggled and remenisced and created new, beautiful memories of Blondersons in this very house -- my house. Right about this time, the aunts and uncles and cousins stopped referring to it as "Grandma and Grandpa's house" or "the Folks' house" and started calling it "Blondie's house." I could see how this was true. I was slowly taking full ownership. That night, Kira snuggled in my bed with me, and my sister slept in the newly decorated guest room. I hung my special art near the signature piece:


I FINALLY put together the entire deco vanity I had bought for my Farmhouse Villa guest room:


I added a little taste of Portland to the mix as a tribute to the years I lived there with Kira:


And I put Grandma Blonderson's special guest room blanket back on the bed:


It's a very bright room, and it sings with cheer. It's the kind of room that it's very difficult to be blue in:


A few years after my grandparents' deaths, I noticed the sadness starting to lift. It wasn't something that I was consciously aware of for a long time, but one day, I realized I wasn't mourning anymore. I had come out of the really hard part and was ready to move forward instead of constantly looking back. I can't say that I'm completely popped out of my latest mourning experience. I still get flashes of my grandparents doing certain things when I'm randomly doing laundry or walking through that shop to go to my car. I feel little pierces of pain from time to time. But overall, I'm learning how to share Briarpatch with my grandparents' spirits. It's OK to miss them. There's nothing wrong with that. And it's OK to have my own life and not try to recreate this home as some kind of morbid museum to a long-ago childhood.

From the minute I moved in here, all of my aunts and uncles told me to make this house my own. I'm sure somewhere deep down inside, they knew that I needed that permission. I needed them to let me know it was OK to change things and grow and bloom here in my own way. I'm so grateful that they said these words out loud, so I'll never have to wonder if it bothers them to see different paint or furniture arrangements or the death of those God-awful briar patches that were all yanked right out of the yard. No, it doesn't bother them. In fact, they've all expressed happiness when they come here. "It's good to see a Blonderson in this house again," they say. It's wonderful," they say.

The week I moved in here, Auntie said, "It was meant to be." I finally believe her. And I'll work hard to create fun and interesting experiences for the wee Blondersons that they can remember fondly one day. The family tree will continue. It will all be OK.

(But no, I didn't throw away the county fair ribbon. I simply tucked it away for another Blonderson to find sometime in the future.)

Friday, December 04, 2015

The Nautical Emporium: A Quarter Scale Build


There comes a time in every hobbyist's life when you become consumed with a dreaded affliction: Stash Guilt. It strikes when you least suspect it. One day you wake up and suddenly feel overwhelmed with the amount of "supplies" you have for your hobby. For miniaturists, this usually comes in the form of kits. Oh good LAWD I have a lot of kits!! What if someone SEES THIS?!

To combat Stash Guilt, you can do one of three things:

  1. Sell some of your kits. [insert hysterical laughter]
  2. Hide your kits better.
  3. Build one of your kits.

In my case, I decided to build one. I went into my stash and dug out the Nautical Emporium, which I bought from Susan Benson of Quarter Source at the national NAME convention in St. Louis back in the summer of 2014. As far as stash kits are concerned, the Nautical Emporium hasn't been in there THAT long. There ARE kits that have been in my stash longer. I'm ignoring them. Or hiding them better. Whatevs.

So I broke out the wee kit and got started. Despite being 1:48 scale, there were a lot of little details that took some time. I stalled the longest on painting these wee birds, which were Roundtable kits from Barbara Meyer of mini-gems. Barbara is incredibly talented when it comes to painting itty bitty tiny things. Me? Not so much. I followed her instructions as best I could. Here is the pelican:


And here is the seagull:


You will understand my wariness when you see the kits. The pelican started out like this:


And the seagull started out like this:


I held my breath the entire time I painted them. This little statue of the sailor? Nope, not painting him:


Please note the lovely lasercut "AHOY" on the door acrylic. In the directions, Karen warned me to not put this acrylic in backwards. Thank you SO much for that reminder because it almost happened. Twice.

The top of the build has an acrylic window held in by wee anchors so you can see down inside:


The front wall has wallpaper and hanging decor:


You can remove the internal box as needed, so this is what the room looks like without it:


And here is the inside:


I was smart enough to buy the lovely masthead woman in PAINTED form from Barbara while I was at the convention. She had blanks, but NO NO NO. I wasn't going to attempt to paint this lady's fine details:


I'm very glad I left this one up to the pro because a naked version of the masthead would have stayed in my stash forever:


Barbara also had lobsters for sale to go with this kit. This unfortunate guy ended up in a pot on the table. Can we pretend he's just decor? There you go, little guy. We won't eat you. Yet. I love the anchor on the base of this table, and the anchors in the backs of the chairs. Karen thought of every kind of detail:


In this photo, you can see the other lobsters posing with a lobster trap. Again, just decor. I made those wee nautical-themed pillows from another kit. They took a lot of patience and tricky scissor skills:


The artwork was another kit. Some of the paintings have black shadow boxes, which pop off the walls nicely:


This corner is quite fun because I love that anchor wall hanging:


I broke one of these handles off of the wheel and was BOO HISS ROAR about it, but then I held my breath and glued it back on and painted it, and now you can't tell! HOORAY:


The barometer in the background is from a kit that makes 1:48 scale clocks from Templewood Miniatures. I thought it would be perfect here. I also love this little table that has anchor feet. I did not love painting those boats:


The room from above:


The right side from above:


It's really hard to show you the scale of the Nautical Emporium only through pictures, so here's a shot of me holding it in my hand to show you how tiny the dear thing is:


And here it is with the TeenieTow and the Mad Hatter's Café & Bakery, which are both 1:12 scale, or "full scale":


There. I feel better. Little by little, the stash is deflating.

Does this mean I can add more kits to it?

NO NO NO!!!