Thursday, November 29, 2012

First Undersized Urbanite Project - A Herringbone Pattern False Floor

Since I am renovating a Keystone of Boston dollhouse that is in very, very good condition, I want to modify it in a way that maintains its value.  Not that I think I could actually get money for it one day, but who knows?  Maybe it will one day be auctionned off at Christies.  But, realistically, I want to be able to change it without destroying it.  So, the first project that I have taken on is to redo the floor in the main room.  The main room is a combination living room and dining room, with a half wall partitioning them.  So, the actual measurements are a whopping 15" x 24".  I am making the "hardwood" flooring from coffee stirrers.  Cost: $0.00.  Thank you, Trader Joe's and Barnes and Noble and Starbucks.  Each stirrer is 5.5" long, and my pattern requires cutting them to 7/8 of an inch long.  I will definitely regret this decision later, if I do not already realize my foolhardiness.

What I've done so far is fashion a cardboard footprint.  I had to glue two 8.5" x 11" pieces (which, for those math phobes out there, makes 17" x 22") and made up the rest with strips.  Then, I surrounded the perimeter with full coffee stirrers, and I will painstakingly and hopefully patiently glue the tiny, tiny strips of wood into a zigzag pattern.  Let's do the math, shall we?

Area of floor: 360 square inches (minus around 7 square inches for the cutout for the stair landing)

Area of one wood strip: 0.1640625 square inches (dimensions 3/16" x 7/8" or 0.1875" x 0.875")

Number of wood strips needed to cover floor: 360 ÷ 0.1640625 = 2194

Or, in other words, I'm going to be gluing for a very, very long time.  Let's hope it turns out okay, and that I survive the ordeal with most of my sanity intact.  Or is it already gone?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fixed Up Bedroom Set and Starburst Mirror

I spent an awfully long time
on that mattress...
...just to cover it up with a
fitted sheet
My inquisitive daughter found the bedroom set I bought from the estate sale that "coorced" me to buy the Keystone of Boston dollhouse.  But, I have made some minor changes.  The chair's back was off, and I've reglued it.  The cradle now features a mattress, as does the master bed, after one misfire.  I love the button detailing.  I need to now make the bedding.  I'm thinking white sheets would go best with the extremely busy hand painting. 
Then I have a new starburst mirror, made with polymer clay.  I will add it to my etsy store.  I love it! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Did You Know? Strawberry Shortcake Doesn't Look Like She Used To

I am too old to have enjoyed the first incarnation of many of the nostalgic toy brands that are still popular today, such as Care Bears, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake.  Those three things came after my time.  The big girl toys of my day were Holly Hobby, old style Fisher Price (that was, gasp, made in America), and Dawn dolls, or, at least, that's what I played with.  I was already growing out of the Muppets in their heyday, but I still loved them.  So it came as something of a surprise when, after my daughter's well-loved and overused Care Bear plate broke, that I started to look on ebay for a replacement and realized that, like me, these characters have changed over the years.  Unlike me, they are getting brighter, thinner and glossier, but also creepier.  To wit:

Now, it's not on the grounds of sentimentalism that I am basing my complaints; I wasn't a fan of these characters as a child.  Every redesign or new character seems to be getting thinner, while the American populace is getting fatter, and they all have huge eyes.  The new versions are slicker and shinier, but less cuddly and nuanced.  If you look at the left hand side of the pictures, they are warmer and more real (if babies wearing bonnets playing with cutsy animals, colorful bears playing on a cloud or rainbow-haired blue ponies could be real). 
In my research, I found many people were already aware of this phenomenon; people who, I must assume, have a lot more free time than me.  Some say the newer versions are sexier.  I say, those of us who are finding bears, ponies, and little girls who dress like fruit sexy should perhaps find help somewhere.  I just find them all more flat and artificial.  I miss warm children's characters.  Maybe it's just easier to make them into a figurine when they already look plastic. 

Ugh!  Holly Hobbie went from country, to surburban, to urban.  I wish I didn't know this.

Undersized Urbanite Contest


I am taking this dollhouse passion to the next level by joining a contest.  Last year, I was amazed at the entrants in a contest called "I'm a Giant", and, although it ended, or didn't, on a sour note, it still seemed like something that I wanted to try.  So today I found out about a new challenge, and immediately signed up.  At the moment, I am not expecting to win, I just need a goal to motivate me.  The contest is called the Undersized Urbanite, and I'm encouraged that it is not starting out with all sorts of designers and the stylish set.  It seems to be more populated by normal people, with full-time jobs, and a hobby that they like to share.

I have no idea what I'm going to do in this project.  I don't have mood boards, I don't have a grand vision.  I'm not even sure if I should paint it, as it is a collectible house and it's in really good shape.  I may make false walls and affix them non-permanently, which will add a level of complexity that I probably don't need.  I believe I'm going to make a new floor from popsicle sticks, but we'll see.  I may try to weave a stair runner on my miniature loom.  Let's see how my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants project turns out.  Here's what my dollhouse looks like today, so that when the miraculous redo is complete, we can all look back and marvel.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Malala's Father: Hero or Reckless Idealist?

I just watched a documentary about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani  activist, filmed before she was shot by the Taliban.  I was struck by her eloquence and poise, and remarkable diplomacy and maturity. As with her father, who professes that he "fell in love" with her as soon as he saw her, you can't help but realize that Malala is a very special person.  There was more detail in the piece than I was aware of from news reports and print media, and while I was impressed with the girl, my opinion of the father was more unclear.  Her father is educated, idealistic, impassioned, and brave.  Just like his daughter, he is charming.  But I was left uneasy during the film, knowing all too well what lay ahead for his child. 

Ziauddin Yousafzai ran a girls' school in the Swat Valley.  The Taliban broadcast a threat that, after a certain date, no girls could attend school, so Mr. Yousafzai was forced to close it.  Some hundreds of other girls' schools had been destroyed by the Taliban.  Her father spoke against the Taliban, but, despite criticizing others for leaving the Swat Valley in its hour of need, he did eventually and wisely move his family and himself temporarily out of harm's way.  But, upon their return to home, with a very shaky peace, continued shelling, and Taliban rumored to be in hiding amongst the people, Mr. Yousafzai was an outspoken critic of the terrorist organization.  His name was even broadcast as an enemy to be slaughtered. 

His grin is certain, hers more
circumspect (like Mona Lisa)
Was Mr. Yousafzai brave, or fool-hardy?  He raised his daughter well, that is clear, and he passed on his idealism.  But he knowingly put her in danger.  He was approached by the BBC for the name of a student to write for a blog, and he gave them her name.  Of course, we should teach our children to fight for their rights and speak out against tyranny.  But should they defy militant organizations that threaten and kill men, women and children to enforce their warped interpretation of religion?  I'm not sure that is the role that 14 year-old girls should be thrust into.  I am glad she is highlighting the plight of girls, and, indeed, the plight of everyone living under Taliban rule.  But, if Mr. Yousafzai wanted to protest Sharia law, should he have gotten his beloved daughter involved?

Malala's dream was to become a doctor; Mr. Yousafzai's wanted his daughter to become a politician.  Although I am sympathetic to Mr. Yousafzai and agree with his positions, I can't help but wonder, did Malala choose this near-martyrdom, or is she just trying to please her doting father?  What would I do if it was my daughter's education being threatened?  Would I put my pride and joy in danger?  It is such a hard call.  I can only pray I never need to make such choices.

Advice New and Expecting Parents Will Actually Use

Babies are adorable! 
Congratulations!   But....
Congratulations!  You are about to become a parent!  If you have just learned you are about to have a child, or if you have recently had a child, I am sure you are boning up on diaper options, sleeping tips, and nipple types.  All that is important, but there is some advice that is less well known, but possibly even more crucial.  Why does no one tell you these things?  It's possible because there isn't a dollar to be earned, but it's invaluable.  Here is advice you will need if you are considering parenthood.

Do not buy stickers.  Ever.  Sure, some experts tell you stickers are a great motivator for potty training.  That's just not true.  Potty training will happen when your child is good and ready, and no amount of stickers will move up that date.  But, what they won't tell you is that kids and stickers is one of the worst combinations invented.  You will need a good solvent, and flat-edged razor.  When you want to wear your favorite blouse, you will realize that it went through the wash with a sticker on it and it will now require 45 minutes to an hour of rubbing to remove it, after which, the blouse will be stretched in just that one spot.  Stickers will be placed everywhere, except on paper.  The best way to remove a sticker is slooooooowly.  Better yet, do not let a sticker cross the threshold of your home.

When you moms-to-be moan about how often you have to pee, let me counter that complaint with your post-baby bathroom experiences: at least you get to pee in peace.  Your self-interested child will take every opportunity to not allow a shred of privacy: either she will conveniently have to go the very moment she sees you heading for the bathroom, or she will talk through the door at you, ask for help, or even push things underneath the door.

I'm not sure what's better about Formula 409 than, say, Formula 216 or Formula 155, but you might as well get the oil drum size now.  That, and learn to love a sponge.  You might consider having one permanently attached to your hand now.

Fun toothpaste flavors such as Blue Sparkle or Pink Bubble gum are good for enticing kids to brush, but get bathroom towels that match these dayglo colors, or you'll be doing a wash after every brushing. 
You can thank me later.  Buy one
of everything.

See that loooooong aisle of pediatric medicine?  Get one of each.  Don't understand the value of a Nose Frida?  Can't make out what you do with a Savi Baby Medibottle?  It doesn't matter, just buy it now and figure it out later.  Teething gel, Desitin, Chloraseptic, you will never need them at noon on a Saturday.  Buying everything now will save you many an ungodly early morning run to the one pharmacy open at that hour.  While you're at it, you might as well get one of all of the adult elixirs, as well, since kids don't cover their mouths, and they do stick their fingers into their noses and wipe it on the nearest surface.  Hence, the 409 advice above.

If you have any expensive lipsticks, for an accurate simulation of having a child, smoosh your pinky finger into it.  Then, find a rug, bed linen, or silk outfit that you cherish, and wipe your finger aaaaaaaaaaallllllll over it.  Then, grab a nail polish and paint it on your favorite piece of furniture or kitchen surface.  Now you have an idea of what parenthood is like.

It's amazing we love them at all,
considering how disgusting they
And finally, when buying cute blankies, adorable crib sheets, and soft fluffy rugs, just remember this: they will be crusted over with milk regurgitation, vomit, poo and pee.  Better to just buy the unattractive 100% polyester, plastic covered stuff and you won't have to worry about how to clean Aunt Emma's hand knitted angora chenille afghan.

You're welcome.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Bucket List for When the Bucket Moves Closer

On the episode of the Office, when Kevin finds out he may have skin cancer, Pam contemplates what she would do if she found out she had a week to live. 
“If I knew I had a week to live, I would probably go to Europe…and South America…and the Grand Canyon…and I would want to see the Pacific Ocean. It would be a busy week."

Like Pam, there is quite a bit I want to do yet in this life, and like Pam, I assumed there would be plenty of time to do it.  Now I'm not so sure.  Most of my bucket list involves travel, but not all.  Please indulge me while I list some things I want to do before I die:

  • See a moose in the wild
  • Visit Scandinavia, especially Norway
  • See the rain forest
  • Learn how to throw pottery and blow glass
  • Take a gastronomic trip through India
  • Swim with a marine mammal
  • Have an occasion to dress in a princess ballgown
  • Slovenia, Slovenia, Slovenia
  • Raise a chicken
  • Pink Forest, Ireland and Green Lake, Austria
  • Quit my job and have a successful business
  • Cinque Terre, Italia
  • Have an extended family vacation on the beach
  • Become a grandmother
  • Have a goat farm
  • Live in France or Germany with my daughter
  • Visit the Far East
  • Have a crazy difficult hike/scramble up a mountain
  • Visit Polynesia and Hawaii
  • This...

Okay, the last bucket item does not need to necessarily be GC, but any funny, polite, handsome, smart, wealthy man will do.  Is there a Make-A-Wish Foundation for middle-aged moms?  If I live to 88, I am exactly middle age.  I have, at most, 20 good traveling years in front of me, and then it's time to raise goats and have a pet chicken.  So what am I waiting for?  Like most people, it is too expensive, my husband is too difficult to sway, and I figure I still have time.  But, the list above is not comprehensive.  It's time to book the trip to Fiji, NOW!

Friday, November 9, 2012

If You Can Make it Here...God Love You!

Life in New York has recently been, how should I put it?  Wacky?  Cuckoo?  Doolally?  Kooky?  Of course, we finally had the "storm of the century" that the scientists (or, as the right likes to call them, pessimists) have been predicting for a while.  So, I feel okay buying beachfront property now, since the next destructive hurricane is pencilled in for around 2110.  Thank goodness!  Many of my friends' and coworkers' lives were shattered, and many more of my fellow New Yorkers were coping without amenities that we, in this country, take for granted such as power, fuel, heat, food, and water.

I'll see your hurricane...
...and I'll raise you snow and
 a cold snap

And then, just over a week later, we were struck with a Nor'easter.  People endured, but many trees that survived the hurricane just gave up at that point.  It was frigid, and my heart went out to those who still did not have power.

On top of all of this, which was layered on an already tough job as a working mom, I am trying to deal with my cancer diagnosis.  Since my biopsy, for which I was out for three days, I have since taken another day to get doppler images and sonograms so that I can get neurological clearance for my radical hysterectomy.  I was to take a day last week Monday to get that clearance from my neurologist, but school was cancelled all week, as was my hard-earned appointment.  This week, the students returned on Monday, but they were out again on Tuesday for Election Day.  Happily, my school allowed teachers to volunteer on this day rather than go in for professional development.  Next week Monday is Veteran's Day, so another day off, and on Tuesday I get my PET and CT scan, plus hospital medical clearance.  I go back on Wednesday, but then I'm off Thursday to get my Primary Care physician's clearance and my makeup appointment with my neurologist.  Then, finally, finally, I'm clear for takeoff and I take off (lots of takeoffs there) another two days at least for my surgery.

I'm surprised I'm in as good a mood as I am.  Some of my optimism is from the huge outpouring of love that I've received since getting my bad news.  Some of it may be from the unity that communities usually feel in the wake of a disaster.  I feel like I've become accepted from my coworkers; schools in New York City tend to have a hazing period where many of the staff give newcomers a hard time.  I figure it must be like joining the army: the first few months are torture, and if one can get through that, then they want you on your team.  Like teaching isn't hard enough without those people who are unpleasant and unhelpful!  All but the most barbaric woman have softened towards me.  Trust me, when you are the most uncivilized person in a NYC public school, you must be very, very, very rude.  It's true that if you can make it here, you'll make it anywhere.  It's only in the toughest of tough towns that, in order to win appreciation and kindness from my coworkers, I needed cancer?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Freshen Up a Dollhouse Bathroom

My forced purchase of yet another dollhouse necessitates another redecoration.  The dollhouse I gave my daughter for Christmas last year had only 4 rooms, so it didn't have space for all those fancy niceties like a bathroom.  The new Keystone dollhouse has six rooms, so this house will have a bathroom! 

For a mere $5.96, I scored this trailer park, meth lab dollhouse bathroom set. It was advertised as "purple", but it had faded to a weird pink color, with dirt and glue masquerading as miniature mold and mildew.  I'm surprised the toilet didn't have brown stains at the bottom and cascading down the sides.  The shower head was completely out of proportion to the rest of the set.  The toilet didn't match at all.  It needed a redo.  A quick scrub, some spray paint, and a bit of rejiggering with silver paint, and voila!  It isn't complete yet, since it is still missing the toilet seat, shower head (which has been replaced with a new, more dainty, version) and shelf and mirror over the sink.  I will probably not reinstall the tiles around the tub.  But already it looks fresh and new.  Isn't it amazing what a can of spray paint can do?  Every couple of years a home needs a renovation, don't you agree?


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