Friday, 26 March 2010

Palm Sunday rolls on.........but worrying times ahead because it looks as if gigantic birds have been living inside St. Hils.....yikes!

Dear All
Another week has almost passed us by but lets not dwell on that old chestnut and instead I will let you know what I have been doing today after coming home this lunch time from my last working day of the week.

I have been busy trying to work towards finishing my Palm Sunday page and knowing time is now short, wanted to do some more today and hopefully finish tomorrow evening.  I am quite excited though because it is the bi-annual Miniatura Dollshouse Show at Birmingham's NEC tomorrow and Saturday and, of course, I am going as per usual.  Andrew always enjoys coming along with me and it is just as well that he does really because he is a good financial barometer when I am liable to get carried away!  So it may be I come home tomorrow and Sunday with........well....almost anything really as it just depends what takes my fancy on the day.  Palm Sunday, therefore, may have a twist I don't know about yet as a result. 

I have had a couple of faux pas whilst photographing this afternoon and evening. See my first one below........
You are NOT imagining it........that IS my big clumsy thumb occupying the top left hand side of the photos.  HOW did that happen?  I was so keen to get the focus right as this was one that I take freehand with a macro lens and flash I neglected to ensure my fingers were out of the way.  You can't see too well but I can let you know that Robert Alexander has brought Georgie, his pet dog, along and so Prince, the yellow labrador, is teaching HER how to make a palm cross having watched Ambrose SO carefully.....WHAT a clever dog he is!

The enlargement above is rather blurred but I think you can see that there is another faux pas.  I confess to a a spot of laziness here and have decided not to turn the book the right way up and retake the photographs.  I wonder if Amelia was bored with the very idea of making palm crosses and just opened her book whilst it was upside down as a kind of distraction?  After all she has been holding that book for rather a long time now and perhaps she can read the words upside down now she has read it so many times?  I hope she sets to soon and decides to help the others make the palm crosses.......

Gracie's "Gracie cakes" have, sadly, caught the attention of both Esme and Ernest as you can see.  Grace left them for the others to enjoy but only AFTER they had finished the palm cross makiing but the pair of ducks from the village pond had other plans......!  I hope you all don't think that the two ducks' beak repairs look too bad.

Ambrose and Alice are ready to help put the tea out for the children here.  Can you see two rogue rodents in the frame.............?  This is not my best photo and will not be on the actual page but I had to include it here because Nunc Dimittis is on the floor and I have to confess that, when I took the photo, I had completely forgottten he was there!  He IS difficult to spot but you will see a something of him if you check out the bottom right of the picture on the floor.

I expect some of you may have noticed that Grace has been missing from the above photos............that is because I had taken her downstairs to include her in the church. 

However as I prepared Grace's pose for her to be photographed I had to remove one pew but, in the process, I was made painfully aware that the pew behind the removed one had something rather odd on?  I had to pick it up to realise what it was and do you know what it was?  Sunflower seed husks.  Naturally it was not difficult to work out the culprit because it was our hand reared cockatiel, Pebbles whose most recent habit is to pick up a stray sunflower off the floor (sad to say he is a VERY messy eater but fair play because he DOES pick up after himself.........after a fashion as he does here.....) and fly on to the top of the towel covered church to dehusk it.   He will then fly back to the floor and repeat the trick.........  It must be something to do with  male cockatiels or something.  So the husks must fall down but WHERE?  Plainly IN the church.  I have yet to work out how he manages this trick given that gravity would normally work against him here as they would normally go straight to the floor.

 Hang on.....Andrew has just come up to see what I am up to and he reckons that Pebbles also drops them as he flies and, if one of the pews is outside for any reason when I am doing some photographs, the seed husks drop neatly on to them..........clever Pebbles!  I have to confess that we do have our friends comment that they always know if something has come from us because there are a few stray seeds in the bag!

I hope you like the picture as above. I am pretty pleased with it really because it was a "one off" for a change using the tripod, daylight bulb and delay timer with my Ixus 980. That is the joy of my latest camera. It does hold the possibility of occasionally taking THE perfect photo on the first attempt. I am pretty pleased too that Gracie agreed to stand without too many arguments with her 14 different joints. (slight exaggeration there!)  

Gracie decided she fancied practising for the Palm Sunday procession because she was determined to hold her palm leaf AND play her tambourine whilst singing AND processing.  I think you will agree she is doing well here?  I do admit to a little bit of cheating here because I have used the pew just a tiny little bit in order to balance her.  I have to say it.......I ADORE her socks and sandals and the way that the ankle joints enable me to tilt her little feet up and down as well as side to side.  Of course that means you have to ensure her feet are flat enough to stand as well as having her waist joint set so that the centre of gravity for the doll is correct too. 

Well wish me luck at the Miniatura tomorrow. I have got it in mind to seek out anything that is remotely Easter related but whatEVER I bring back be will all be the first to find out!
Till the next time.........

Friday, 19 March 2010

A little more on Palm Sunday to come with an interesting egg hunt twist for Easter..

Hiya Everyone!
I can't believe a week has almost passed since my last St. Hils' blog.
I have to thank Dollmum for her advice when it comes to making palm crosses because she suggested we soaked the palms first before the children made them up.  So there I was this afternoon soaking my "mini-strips" of palm leaves cut from the full size variety ie a pair of old palm crosses given out to Andrew and myself some time ago now as I mentioned in a previous blog. I even found a website with instructions how to make up palm crosses but have to confess I was not entirely successful in my attempt but at least I got enough idea in order to set up a few photoshoots which suggest I DO know how to make them............well almost......

The picture above has history!  As those who have read a previous blog will know, I have decided that Aunt Sal's Tearooms is an ideal venue for the children to learn to make palm crosses.

I was initially really set on having our Gracie standing up as Ambrose shows her how to make a palm cross.  However, for some reason, her 14 joints just defeated me because IF I managed to have her in a standing position I would pose her and as soon as the camera was ready I noticed the "ping" and she was on the floor as one of her knee joints buckled......arghhhhhhhhh.

So after more than a few attempts which, when upstairs in the bedroom where the dollshouse is, I have to use the ironing board as my props storage place as well as working area, I gave up and decided that Gracie was too tired to stand up so she was put on a chair instead.  However you would think having Grace sitting on a chair would be easier.........well yes it IS...............up to a degree. I tell you she is pretty clever when it comes to falling over EVEN when sitting on a chair.  My only way in the end was to remove the hand made matching seat cushion which I made for the chair.

I then thought that Tom would like to find out how to make a palm cross too so would you believe it but I took quite a few photos of him only to realise that his trousers were starting to fall down!  That is one of the worst problems.

I also had trouble because Sepp the rat had fallen over too and again I had failed to notice and carried on taking photos blithely unaware of my faux pas.  Apologies here as Sepp had not only almost fallen over but she is quite blurred too!

I rather love this photo with Prince because he also fancies having a go making a palm cross.  I am sure that he has already taken everything in when Ambrose was showing Grace!

I have mentally been moving on to Easter because, as you all have probably gathered by now, I am always in the process of forward planning with St. Hilary's and this year I quite fancied another Easter egg hunt.  I have to apologise though because I quite fancied using Aunt Sal's Tearooms again for all or some of the egg hunt.

I was having fun discussing this matter with a work friend this morning and, together, we had quite a laugh and I will try to explain why.  I started the ball rolling with the idea that Esme may have been laying some eggs because she was a little broody.  However I then realised that there was NO WAY that we could have any of those eggs used in such a thing as an egg hunt because we all know what happens to eggs that are found on Easter egg hunts don't we?  I would be hurting Esme's feelings quite badly if I say any more on that one.  So we moved on to the idea that Esme joins in the egg hunt in her own very special and unique way.  My story has started to evolve and it involves Esme missing the lovely times in the past when she was able to relax whilst brooding her eggs and then chicks when they hatched.  It was a great time because she could sit for hours in peace and quiet because she always chose a really quiet spot to build her nest where the noisy geese, moorhens and coots never frequented.
So this Easter she decides to join in the Easter egg hunt and you can see how in the photo below.......

 See here above how careful she is not to sit on the eggs too hard...................she doesn't want them to melt before the children find her with them does she? Of course it IS lovely and quiet sitting on some little Easter eggs in a basket under one of the teashop tables!   Shame Priscilla Jane has found her so quickly isn't it......?
Sadly as you can see she has had to accept her plastecine beak as permanent after we had to, in the name of tidyness, vacuum up the area where the broken bit of her beak most probably had fallen and we failed to find it.
I took all the photos here using the macro lens and flash on our Ixus 980.  The photo with Priscilla Jane is actually a cropped version and I will explain why.  I attempted close up photos and ones using the 3x zoom but, with the action of the flash, the background was too dark and unrealistic.  So a distance photo in good focus and then cropped seemed my best way forward here.  I am sure you will agree.....

Now I have not yet decided whether Esme will appear as above in the egg hunt on our Easter Day page.  I may recreate the scene under the altar instead................because that may be, in reality, a more peaceful environment for Esme to sit any kind of eggs if that is her mood............You will simply have to come back soon to find out what I choose to do on the day.................

Till the next time.....
PS:  Sorry to include a close up of Prince as below with his very own palm leaf but he is such a photogenic dog it has to be done...........................but don't let him know that will you?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Palm crosses for Palm Sunday...but put together in Aunt Sal's Tearooms?

Hiya Everyone
The "children" have been busy.......or, more accurately, should that be ....the "children" will soon be busy?.......making palm crosses for Palm Sunday.  So why, I hear you ask, is there a picture here with Gracie's cakes plus some "infestations" of the rodent kind in the form of Sepp, Snowy and "Nunc Dimittis?  All will be on..................

I have been busy in my mind trying to think of something "a little different" for this year's Palm Sunday page.  I was therefore  very inspired by a recent blog I found to be linking to our home page ie Gadget Vicar blog where a group of pastors are cited to have met in Starbucks for a bible study.  I've long heard how church folk have sometimes decided to meet in a secular place of gathering like, for example, a pub........but Starbucks was kind of novel. However I am sad to report that Daffodil Green is but a small village with a small population so we doubt that Starbucks have yet to hear about the idyllic little place let alone set up shop there. However Daffodil Green DOES have its' own tearooms in the form of Aunt Sal's Tearooms so I thought it would be an interesting idea to have the children (under supervision......well of course!) help the vicar by making some palm crosses out of some palms in readiness for the morning service on Palm Sunday IN Aunt Sal's Tearooms for a change. The advantage of course is..........Archie is a very kind man who is always happy to offer a free cup of tea or drink of juice and a cake to the children!

As you can see above, Ambrose brings the palm leaves along to the tearooms. You may wonder where these "palm leaves" come from. Well they are actually cut from real palm crosses which Andrew and I will have received from a previous year's Palm Sunday service. I love the fact that, as these "palm leaves" have been cut from real palm crosses that were distributed in a Palm Sunday service, they have actually been blessed too!   I just couldn't resist adding Prince to the "mix" here.  Sarah Schiff of Pocket Pets makes such splendid cats and dogs and Prince, who was bought from Sarah back last October is such a beautiful and realistic looking yellow labrador he HAS to be shown off regularly!

Now on to my rodent infestation.  I love the idea that my church mice have hidden inside the tin of Gracie's cakes.  If you all remember I did include a picture of the same on a previous blog.  However the idea has yet to have hit St. Hils so I just felt it HAD to be included in my latest Palm Sunday story....................  I think that Alice is NOT too happy about this though as you can see................and Sepp didn't help by hitching a ride with Gracie too because Alice is plainly telling Gracie off here because she has been just a little complicit in allowing this to happen........................You can see a good close up of the "infestation" at the beginning of the blog........................................  Grace WAS only trying to be helpful though in cooking some of her favourite cakes to share with the other children as a reward for making the palm crosses..............

I think the tearooms look lovely here..........all set up now for the others to arrive and start making the crosses for the Palm Sunday service. 

I will now have to leave you.........but I can tell you that Gracie is keen to have her tambourine with her this Palm Sunday morning.........................................she just LOVES to sing and play her tambourine in church and Palm Sunday will involve a procession WILL she cope with the holding of a palm leaf AND her tambourine whilst singing a chorus too.................. However - you will all have to pity ME far more.................I am planning not only to make sure she is hanging on to both tambourine and palm leaf.......but also to negotiate her not insiginficant 14 joints in order to have her stand convincingly too............................wish me luck.......................
Til the next time.......
PS I keep meaning to tell you all that it was I who embroidered that "Jemima Puddleduck" picture on the wall............on 32 count linen.........................not sure my old eyes would cope with that anymore but.....  It was Catherine, my sister, who embroidered the little house picture on the left hand wall........

Monday, 8 March 2010

Esme poor girl has a terminal accident.........well almost........

Hiya Everyone!
Gosh I didn't think I would be back again so soon but here I am with yet another tale of calamity to tell..... and this time it is poor Esme.  I fear that we may NEVER find the lost part of her beak ever again and for that I am mortified as it was 110% MY fault!

To explain I will start at the beginning.......I wanted a nice new photo for our home page to reflect the soon to arrive Mothering Sunday this coming week.  I am compelled to ensure that the beautiful Spring flowers box my sister made for me on a "special birthday" a few years ago now (don't ask me when...I try to forget!) is shown off each year if possible!
I built up a possible pose as per usual but this time my setting was more risky as it was OUTSIDE the church along the back of the bell tower wall.  Some of you may remember that I used it for the carol singing over the Christmas period on both my Christmas and Advent Calendar pages.  Vic Newey has done such a great job of the outside as well as inside of our church it is a shame for his work not to be shown off I am sure you will all agree.

See the above photo........check it out carefully.......and then wonder HOW muggins managed so many photos without noticing a certain pertinent below...

Poor Syd.......he had fallen over as I was arranging the ducks and I had failed to notice.    I have to admit to you that I was so mortified that I had, in my attempts to pose poor Esme, dropped her on to the carpet and in the process her makeshift beak repair had broken again!  Arghh.......however all was not initially lost because I almost immediately saw where her missing beak had gone.  So there I was sitting down and carefully, or so I thought, guarding the broken bit of beak which I had placed for "safe keeping" on a tissue on my lap, and in the process of picking up the tube of wood glue must have jerked or something and bingo............broken part of beak had gone missing completely.  We had the torch out.....checked the carpet floor, settee, where I had been name it.........we searched there.
So the picture you see above was a result of me giving up finally on ever finding the said broken part of poor Esme's beak.  I was still keen, though, that she should not miss out on her original photo shoot however.

I was immediately quite annoyed and upset at my own faux pas but then decided that I should be positive here and use it as an opportunity.  So I decided on reflection that, if I couldn't find the broken bit of beak which, incidentally, didn't look that great a repair when done anyway, I may find another way out of the situation.  Strangely I remembered that I had some plastecine which I bought from the childrens' shop, "The Early Learning Centre" many years ago. (children's shops can be a great place to find things when it comes to my miniature work - ie plastecine, pva glue, toy animals etc - hence the arrival of two lambs one Easter Sunday morning in St. Hils...........) YES - I decided to attempt my own makeshift "mend" of Esme's beak.  I can't tell you that I think it looks really brilliant but I hope it makes her just about presentable enough for future photo shoots without having to turn her back to the camera! 

You can see my efforts above.......and a close up as below.........

You can see my repair better here.  I used a bit of white and black plastecine to refashion her beak.......think she doesn't look too bad all things considered! 

Incidentally you will find that one of the pictures above HAS made it to our home page and has been turned into a new card for you to all to download on our Downloads page. Note that I have put "Happy Mothering Sunday" inside.

I won't give up looking for my lost beak.............I don't think poor Esme would quite forgive me for giving up quite yet................wish me luck.............

Till the next time....

Friday, 5 March 2010

Lent reminds me of our beautiful altar and more...........

Dear All
Isn't it strange how something can suddenly grab your thoughts?  I say that because I was musing on my next blog but as I was doing so I caught sight of our beautiful altar in St. Hilary's.  That is the beauty of having St. Hils in constant view when I am in our living room.......a constant reminder of all things good in my life.
 You can all see it above in close up as Priscilla Jane too admires it.  I will spare you the hassles encountered this afternoon whilst taking all of these photographs but I can assure you it involved various permutations of hand held flash with image stabiliser set, daylight bulb with tripod and timer, tripod with flash and timer, no tripod, timer, no timer.......................shall I go on?  ALL, of course, in an attempt to get that ONE perfect shot!

Where was I?  Sorry about that as I have plainly digressed again as is my wont!  Oh altar!  NOTHING would persuade me to part with it (a complete nonsense of course - WHERE would St. Hils be without an altar?!) because it really "says it all" in terms of the Christian message as it is encapsulated in the words, "In Remembrance of Me", carved along the front.  To me, it also explains the meaning of Lent so well in just those few words.
We SO have to thank Mark and Sharon Stockton of Stockton Miniatures for this master piece. I would NEVER cover this message up and that is why I so love my hardanger ribbon bands which fit along the top so perfectly and which allow for me to embroider a simple hardanger cross on each end.

I have to apologise though because Ernest (mallard duck husband to Esme and son of Eric!) and GP (young Grace's pet guinea pig!)   have insisted on sitting ON the altar.........I am not sure that any REAL church minister or church leader would be so readily accepting of such a thing in their church.  However St. Hils is not quite an ordinary church is it?  For one thing...................each member of the clergy and congregation is only 1/12 scale in size!!! 

Whilst I am thinking about it I MUST share with you something that did amuse me the other day.  Again it is all about search engine ratings and this time I think, if my memory serves me right, it was Yahoo on this occasion.  Would you believe that our modern day parable on the "missing teaspoon" came seventh in a search someone had made for the parable of the "lost sheep".  Whoops!  I found that whilst checking my statisitics one day.  Lets hope they were not completely displeased with their rather eccentric "find"!!

Apologies for wondering off there again!  I am back "on piste" again now I promise!

I wonder if any of you will have noticed a particular theme in our church?  I say this because we have not only had Mark and Sharon Stockton provide us with church furniture but also John Cheal, who has made us various "bespoke" pieces including the organ, eagle lectern, tea trolley and altar rail.  The furniture that we have received from Stockton Minatures is made out of the beautiful wood, black walnut.  I can still remember my emails to Sharon Stockton because I was just SO excited when I found their website.   Vic Newey had put our church together from the original kit and had even extended the width of the floor from ten to thirteen inches so we had more room in what was still, in effect, a glorified room box.

I was desperate to find some suitable church furniture but nothing seemed to be available online or in the UK mainstream dollshouse shops or shows.  However Stockton Miniatures in the United States of America was to prove  my saviour! 

As you can see with this close up of one of the pews from Stockton Miniatures, Ben is admiring the little  carved logo which is on every pew end.
John Cheal was anxious to ensure that his furniture, where appropriate, also had this logo on.  You can see below an enlargement of the portion of the organ ............

Priscilla Jane is SUCH an observant girl isn't she?  She has spotted the logo here on the altar rail too.....

The altar rail is actually made out of non-precious metal, ie brass, and wood. John has made great use of the logo taken from the Stockton's furniture as you can see and with the use of the brass and wood the effect is really lovely and so realistic!

When I commissioned John to make this altar rail we discussed it in detail because John wanted to know how I wanted to play things.  You see an altar rail in a real church usually has the centre part of the rail on a hinge so that it can open so that the minister and anyone in the procession can enter the sanctuary.  We discussed this at length until John suggested that he simply had the middle part of the rail as a separate piece which could be taken out or slotted in depending on the kind of pose I wanted to photograph.  You can see more on our News page where John is seen demonstrating the altar rail.

I have also spent some time this afternoon "playing" with a pose which has included Ambrose and Adele with this stand up small wooden cross which we bought from a Cathedral shop somewhere on our travels.  I think I made mention of this on an earlier blog...........  You just wouldn't believe HOW difficult such an "easy" pose would be to photograph.  I set the scene up on the right hand side of the altar thinking that my Ixus 980 camera would be happy to give me a good macro focus on Adele at least.......but no...................all of the photos were just too blurred to be usable.  So I decided to place Ambrose, Adele and Prince on the LEFT hand side of the altar instead with the said cross.  I eventually had something that didn't look too below. Apologies because Syd the pigeon is ALSO on the altar together with Eric and GP!

I then tried again with just Adele and Prince on the right hand side of the altar below.
I am not quite sure WHICH of these two photos I will put on our home page at the moment.  I don't feel that we are far enough into Lent to use them yet however.....perhaps when we come up to the fifth Sunday which is also called "Passion Sunday".

Phew - have I lost you all yet....I hope not but apologies if I have because I do have a tendency to ramble............
And now the smell of fish and chips in the oven downstairs beckons.......nothing better on a Friday after my last day of the working week.....
Till the next time.............