Sunday, February 17, 2019

A miniature French harpsichord for my birthday

A miniature French harpsichord made from following plans in a miniature furniture making plan book, was how I spent my big 6-0 birthday.  That wasn't the original plan, but then hubs and I got sick with some kind of strange bug and my birthday plans were dashed.  It felt kind of odd not to have anything fun or exciting or special to do that day I woke up, so I decided, sick or not, I would make it memorable and do something I truly enjoy~so I looked through a book of plans and decided to make this elegant looking harpsichord for my dollhouse.  
 The plans are in a book called the Mott's Miniature Furniture Workshop,
and it has black and white schematic drawings of all kinds of furniture to make.
 The Mott's were a family that built miniatures in California, and they were the first people ever to have a miniature shop.  They put all their miniatures in a museum in the Knotts Berry Farm and it was there from 1958 until the 1990s.  Sadly they had to pull out, and all their miniatures were eventually sold off at a Beverly Hills auction. I myself went to Knotts Berry Farm in the late 60s as a child but have no recollection of going into the miniature museum there.  
 Anyway, this book has difficult and easy projects to build, 
and the author said this was not a difficult one, and because it was French,
 I decided to make it.  The other thing I liked was that it included the art work
 inside the book that is used for doing the decoupage on the tiny harpsichord 
to look like it is handpainted. It was a bit trying, but not terribly hard,
made from two pieces of wood and the rest mostly cardboard, and store bought legs.
I didn't follow it exactly, and some of the details I left out, thinking it was good enough.
After painting it with Annie Sloan Olive Chalk Paint, I pasted the appliqués on the piece.
After it dried, I applied some French gilding wax 
in Venetian Gold to the piece to jazz it up. 
 As with a real house, anytime you get a new piece of furniture you must make room for it.
So I did some rearranging but am not sure this is going to stay like it is now.  
 My pretty balloon shaped Porters chair used to sit by the window,  
and it looked quite nice there.  But since the harpsichord had no place to go,
 the chair got moved upstairs to the informal living room.  
The downstairs living room is the formal room, where 
visitors to the Maison are entertained.  
The upstairs living room is just for the family, just like they do in the White House, 
and I suppose all the palaces and fancy chateaus in France.
This informal living room is taking some time to get itself together.
Mostly because it is turning into a room with castoffs and bargains,
much like one could possibly have in real life.  These neat little vintage pieces
of miniature furniture have been finding me by way of antique shops and thrift
shops, and I can't pass them up.  For example the drop down desk.  It is 
a very nice dignified piece, as is the corner bookcase.  Still in a dark wood finish,
I have yet to decide if they will remain or get switched out when something better comes along.
 My sister Ellen has been finding lots of vintage miniatures at vintage shops for me!  
Its been unbelievable how lucky she has been running across such treasures.
Look at these handcrafted electrified chandeliers at $5 each!
 And then she found a bunch more for me....
and that is great because I am about to start making another dollhouse for baby Reeve.  
Reeve's dollhouse will be  a Marthas Vineyard gingerbread cottage that has furniture painted as if Peter Hunt, the Cape Cod artist, painted it all himself!
She loves my dollhouse, so its time for her to have her own sturdy little cottage
where her little hands can get busy rearranging the tiny things to her hearts content.
In the meantime I am making miniatures and making way for the recent
vintage finds in my Maison.  As usual, I find myself way 
more interested in the decorating part than the wood trim, flooring 
and all that carpentry stuff, that I still must do.
It will get done, but until then I will keep decorating of course.
And as far as my big 60th birthday goes, my kids had taken me and hubs
out to a lovely place, Eastern Standard in Boston the weekend before as we had planned to be away.
I am so thankful for that night, it was very special. 
Between that wonderful experience and crafting the 
harpsichord, I will remember turning 60 for sure!

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

Low Carb Dieting Pays Off

 After two months of following a carb restricted diet, I have practically reached
goals!  My total weight loss now is 15 pounds and it is now evident in my appearance and 
the clothing I wear. I went for a mammogram and before I put on my smock,
I noticed, hey I am looking pretty good now!  So I snapped a pic and will show 
you a few uncomplimentary photos of how I looked in recent months.

 This is a cropped photo showing me at Nora Murphy's book signing party.  
That is a full figured Amy, 15 pounds heavier than the first photo.
This photo which I particularly dislike was taken when I visited
my mom and dad in September.  I remember being pretty shocked at
how "big" I looked.  Photos don't lie, and maybe they can help us get motivated
enough to do something about it.  Finally after Thanksgiving day, I decided to do "something about it". I had always had luck with cutting carbohydrates, and for me it didn't seem to be as effective as 
it was when I was in my 40s and early 50s.  I realized I was overlooking some carbs, in the form of 
white wine, and after swearing the wine off, I started seeing results!
(I posted this in Instagram, which you can follow at amymaisondecor)
 Day after day of following my dietary rules, I am hoping I can offer inspiration 
to those of you who may have felt like I did when the pounds started to creep up.
 This photo above was taken this past week, after waking up and hopping on the scale.
No makeup, still in pjs, and I was feeling proud of myself for sticking with it.
There is nothing better than seeing the numbers continue to drop.  
I started at 156 pounds and now weigh 141 pounds.
 I have a few left to go, and know that by staying on course it will happen.
 There are times when you just want to eat something with carbs, and when 
that happens, go ahead, but get right back on the diet the next day.

I miss bread the most!
I found a brand of Scali bread, Fantini, at my grocery store
that has 10 carbs a slice.  Scali is a thin sliced Italian bread with seeds on it, shaped
in a long oval.  I cut it in half and then my carb allotment is only 5 carbs.  
Note first that the serving size is 2 slices.  And there is 1g of fiber, so it
is 19 carbs for 2 slices. Less than 10g carbs for one slice. In the loaf, there are 
little slices at the ends, so have one of those, or cut the big center slices in half
to enjoy only 5 carbs for a piece of bread or toast. 
My point is to say, figure a way to have what you want at times you "need" it.
I have a poached egg on a small piece of scali bread for breakfast and I enjoy it so much.
 Earlier I posted about a great spaghetti sauce, called RAOS homemade sauce.
Since then I have discovered another awesome red sauce, with 5 "net" carbs and
it is absolutely delicious.  This sauce was found at always I am busing 
reading labels to see if I can eat it and stay on track.
Love that it is organic too!  To calculate "net carbs" you simply look at the 
carbs per serving, which is 7g, then subtract the dietary fiber, which is 2g,
which means you are taking in 5g of carbs at a meal.  I use it with Costco's Italian meatballs
which are 5 grams for 4 meatballs, or I make a meatsauce, which is no additional carbs,
and then serve it over Spaghetti squash, or simply put it in a bowl and chow down.
Hope this encourages any of you wanting to drop a few pounds.
In the meantime, I am working on the dollhouse, 
and watching baby Reeve two days a week.  
Here she is in the kitchen washing the tiny potatoes.
Her dad just opened another restaurant in Boston and I 
sent him this snap chat of Reeve being very efficient in the kitchen.
This dinner menu was a roasted chicken and broccoli.
  This is the easiest way to include potatoes for dinner, so he 
can still have his potatoes, and  
 I just avoid them and have extra broccoli.
Dieting low carb is now just a way of life for me and its not
that hard to do.  I wish you luck and remember to just count your carbs and 
look up recipes if you want to get creative.
It has me feeling a lot happier these days, that is for sure!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Decorating the Dollhouse

 My French Dollhouse, The Petite Maison, is a work in progress. 
The exterior is looking so much more French now!
This is the dollhouse how I found it at the consignment shop. 
It was nicely built from plywood, with the exterior painted, but not much else.
When I saw it, I thought the roofline looked very French, and I could modify the
house to give it that Frenchy look. I also knew I needed to replace the railing system
that was on the little roof deck area.  
( Inspiration: a real French Chateau)
Notice the roofline, which is similar to my dollhouse.
A big part is accessorizing the dollhouse interior to give it the French flavor
 with  rustic yet fancy, shabby and cottage, 
and of course luxe elements that I dream up in my head.
 The more I add to a room, the better it looks, yet dollhouse decorating (for me)
runs a fine line of being cluttered and too much if one overdoes it.
The salon (living room) is feeling quite nice now, with the lived in details
of a tote bag with magazines, some flowers on the table, a candelabra with pretty 
little shades that give the room extra dose of personality. 
 An old piece of lace, trimmed to be a mantel scarf over the marble,
some flowers and a vase, magazines on tabletops, these are the little
details that make a mini house a real looking home.
 This brass candelabra is a common one that many miniaturists buy, as it
is affordable. I darkened mine up to look tarnished, then I made some shades
to turn it into a lamp. This is the pattern I created to make shades. I add the glue to the tab
section when I attach it.  
Curling the shade pattern around a pencil helps to give it a rounded
dispostion which is helpful too. I cut up a gift bag that had pretty patterns and used the 
checkered part to make the gingham look I wanted. Then I stuffed a little piece of 
packing peanut foam inside the shade so it could sit on top of the candle and not fall.
 It looked so charming on the vintage bombe chest I found on Etsy.
 After I made the shades, I tried to make hatboxes using the same gift bag paper.
These little things are hard for me to make, and I imagine it will get easier.  
They add the old fashioned details I want for the bedrooms, and I will be making more.
 There is much to do, and the house is evolving.  I found some pieces at
a thrift shop, and added them to the "music room".  A very nice white 
overstuffed sofa, and some mahogany pieces, that will be customized to
fit my style.  I am obsessed with working on the house, and am getting much
pleasure creating and finding things for my Petite Maison.
Winter has finally arrived with an arctic blast and snow and ice....
The nice thing about dollhouse decorating is one can stay inside and 
survive the long winter quite happily!
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Friday, January 18, 2019

Grand French Curtains for the Dollhouse Salon

Dollhouse decor includes dressing the windows sometimes.
Window Treatments can make a room, especially if you are aiming for the palace look.
You need luxurious draperies with all kinds of details, and once again, I found inspiration
Lea has a DIY section for making lots of French things, and one is her salon curtains,
that are even fancier than those that I made.  But I followed her instructions for the gilded 
cornice board, and it certainly added the French panache I was looking for.
The cornice has a gilded crown trim, and a gilded cameo in the center
that features an "antique" fabric.  I print up the old looking French florals
on my printer. ( One day I will do a post about the printer I use, as I did a lot
of research on what type of printer to use for the dollhouse fabrics and rugs,
and the type of ink your printer should use for best results. ) 
 The pale blue silk fabric was taken from a pair of draperies I had in my own house, and from which a remnant was made into a table runner, that I no longer use.  I had laundered the silk runner in the washing machine and it made it gather up in these tight wrinkles that are perfect for the rumpled gathers of a floor length curtain in an old manoir. The Cornice itself is a piece of heavy paper, and then a piece of wood is glued inside it to help keep its shape. To the outside the wooden crown molding pieces are glued, and finally the cameo is glued on top of that.  Lea has a different instruction, but essentially it is the same, and this was easier for me to achieve.  After building the 
cornice, I glued the silk curtains onto the inside of the cornice after measuring and trimming the length of the curtains so they would hit the floor.
I am very happy with the results, and I am grateful for the inspiration I 
found to create something special, that has my own twist and not an exact copy.
Creating a dollhouse is satisfying because by collecting and creating pieces, 
you make it a one of a kind, with your personal stamp.
 The other thing I had been trying to make from Lea's book were paper flowers.
These are not easy to make, and I am not quite satisfied with how they came out.
But I am happy enough to not keep trying!! These will just have to do!
 The process requires patience and that is a new skill I am learning.
Step after step and I finally had enough flowers completed to add to the
Mini Maison.  They bring the house to life I think, and are much better 
than the cheap ready made flowers for sale on miniature sites.
This is a random shot of the flowers placed on table tops, before the 
furniture had  been placed where I want it...but it gives you the idea of how
pretty a room looks with flowers, just like in real life!!

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