Discovered a cool instagram hashtag:  #Preiser. Preiser is a nicer brand of HO scale figures. I generally like the 'miniatures in real world settings' style, so it's cool to see the creativity of a variety of people. This is a snapwidget of the first several photos that are hashtagged Preiser-there are over a thousand. I really recommend checking it out!



Instagram photo inspired by all the Boardwalk Empire we've been watching
We went back to Atlantic City one last time before we move. There are a bunch of things we "have" to do in the area- I made a list at the three month countdown mark of about 30 things- and going back to AC wasn't one of them. But, we still had a comp room left and decided to make the best of it. We stayed in the Claridge, which has been recently redecorated but I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that it didn't have an amazing view. Then I felt guilty for feeling disappointed and confessed it to Francis. He totally agreed. We looked out the window and the sun was just setting and it was beautiful, something we wouldn't have seen if we'd've had an ocean view...

Okay, actually, we ordered a pizza and Francis had to go to the lobby to pick it up just as the sun was setting. I tried to video tape it for him but somethings you just have to see in real time. We ate delivery pizza, watched TV, took a walk down the boardwalk.  I tried to play a slot machine with an expired cashout receipt. Turns out they expire after one year, what a rub! It's like the casino is out to steal your money!!!

The highlight of the trip for me was the car ride home. We didn't take the AC Expressway- we took a scenic route and stopped at some cute shops and a diner.  We spent $3 on craft supplies at a thrift store- look forward to a bunch of stick pin creations.
We listened to some great tunes.

We ended up having a great time and not "losing" any money, since I'm considering the pins an investment. 


Fran's Finds

When I went on that (disasterous) vacation in the south of France, the highlight was finding an incredible toy store on this gothic street. The store, Pomme de Reinette, had beautiful marionettes, and cases and cases of antique and reproduction tin toys, dollhouse furniture, and miniatures. It was a bummer to be alone for that experience, because Francis would've loved that store! 

Since a romantic trip to Montpellier, FR, isn't in the cards for us currently, a nice day at the Jersey Shore did just fine.  When we went to the shore a couple weeks ago, Francis picked up this cool four pack of children's card games at a dollar store on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

Now, I know these look like blurry scans, but they are pretty true to the actual printing quality of the cards:

Continue for images of cards...


A Spoonflower Story

I found Spoonflower.com when I was looking for the 'perfect' fabric for throw pillows. It's a digital printing site, where people make custom fabrics, and have the option of selling their designs in the Spoonflower Market Place.  I found some great stuff that I'll eventually commit to (probably something by Holli Zollinger).
I also tried my hand at designing fabrics- and though I don't really have the talent that the pros have, I really had a good time doing it.

The first fabric I made as a surprise for Francis, using his drawings, and I made a bathroom window curtain with it. I didn't understand how to resize the pattern on Spoonflower, and I chose the cheapest fabric option (NEVER AGAIN).
Friendly Faces by Francis X Friel
The next couple ones I made were with my drawings, that I drew intentionally to upload to Spoonflower.  Then, I made a bunch with Francis's drawings that had been scanned in the computer, which turned out pretty well, I think.
 The only bummer is that the fabrics print way darker than I was expecting, and also some of the colors were a little muddy. I ended up getting a  $1 color chart, which was a swatch sized piece of fabric, with color blocks and their corresponding HTML color codes. Since I've been editing the final colors within the Spoonflower site, and their editor uses HTML color codes, I'm pretty confident that any more fabric will turn out more closely to what I am expecting.

 To see the rest of what I put together,

Tin Woodsman by Francis X Friel


Zombie Craze

So my coworker, Eddie, who (paradoxically) loves miniatures but doesn't respond well to 'twee', wanted a box. He did not want trees or bunting flags, he wanted an urban scape. I put off making it for about a couple weeks, because I couldn't figure out how to make an urban scape interesting. 

Now, normally, the only Zombies in my life are sung about by the Cranberries, but Eddie is totally a zombie guy so I did my best to come up with something he's like.
guess what, it's a magnet!

The way I stretched myself on this one is that I painted the figures myself. I used stinky, caustic enamel paints, which look a thousand times better than thinned out acrylics I've tried to use in the past to paint figures. I cemented a loose arm to the child figures hand.

Preiser unpainted figures on the sprue:

Painted figures on the "Xacto X-tra Hands":

Craftsmanship wise, this isn't my favorite box. I liked the surprise box thematically, and the one for Emily and David was the most nicely made. But I'm glad I tried a couple new things. I don't have any plans to make any more boxes.

 Here as a bonus is the box that started it all*!!!!! OUR WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT!!!
*and the reason we have so many extra matchboxes ;-)
not a magnet.

Was "adorable magnet" on the registry?

Made for my friend Emily's wedding. I used slightly different scrapbooking paper- but what can I say, both Emily and Katharine like green.  I bought a "1lb" pack of fancy paper more than two years ago, and it's been INDISPENSABLE.  This paper had too much white in it, so I colored the while with watercolors. As you can also see, I figured out a way to not handwrite the message on the outside of the box.
Also a magnet.

Again I've used high quality figures, Woodland Scenics turf, bunting flags on gold thread...

As a small change,  I painted the background on stiff watercolor paper, so the edges of the box are neater and the inside folds are crisper. 
The real development is that I made two trees out of matches (trimmed shorter, painted brown with clumped greenery at the top) and tied the bunting flags to the trees.

Worlds Smallest Bunting Flags (tm)

Since the Birthday Surprise diorama, I've made three more matchboxes as gifts. I've consecutively made them more challenging to myself (with varying degrees of aesthetic success).

This here is the second diorama I made. It is exponentially better than the one I made for Tara. I want to steal the one for tara back and replace it with one of this quality:
Also has a magnet glued to the back.

Obviously, the scrap-booking paper I choose to wrap the matchbox in is much more interesting, and the gemstone label is cooler. I'll never like my handwriting, but it's much less distracting here than on Tara's surprise box.

Inside the box is the same premise, a german HO scale figure, model train turf materials, a watercolored background and bunting flags.
This time, though, I made the bunting flags for real on a gold thread! yay! fun and super easy!

I enjoyed making them so much, I made two more that that I have no use for:

The one that says TEENY TINY was made the same way as the Happy Birthday flags: the letters were printed on white copy paper in 4pt font, painted with watercolors and cut into 2mm triangles.

The one that says REPENT was printed on color paper, then cut into triangles. It is a lot more readable.


Birthday Surprise Box

 I made my friend Tara a birthday surprise box, with an HO scale figure (Preiser), a matchbox (we have a bunch left over from our wedding announcements) scrapbooking paper, watercolors, and model train foliage. I glued a magnet to to the back. 
As with all my projects, I wish my glue jobs, my handwriting, and my straight cuts were neater.


button, penny, and figurine collections


A couple years ago my sister gave me her pin collection- maybe a hundred buttons from the 80s and early 90s. They were displayed on the same horrible cornflower blue quilting material that hung over her bed when we were kids. I took them off the "tapestry" and found the very best ones to give back to her- on blue velveteen in a frame:

This picture was so dark and hard to see without lightening and desaturating it.

You can see, the small collection of buttons that I gave back to her are all top notch, but the frame itself is literally falling apart. I think the idea was good, but the execution and materials just weren't there.

I still had the remaining 80 buttons in a box and decided to make myself a "triptych" of collections:

Three collections on 16" x 20" RIBBA frames, with foam under velvet. The frames are 15$ each, but we already had one in the apartment.  I didn't want to make the same mistakes I did with my sisters gift and end up with something I didn't like, which is how I justified the cost.

The hardest part will be actually hanging them on the wall evenly.
I'm pretty happy with the buttons- even though I, and now you, know they are second tier from the original collection.  

The pennies are glued to the velvet- they seem pretty secure but I bet I could peel them off if I wanted to. I had some difficulty polishing them- more on that another day.

I stopped having so much fun towards the end of sewing the ceramic animals to the fabric- I didn't get as many as I wanted on there before I hit the old wall of boredom.


Cookie Party Cookie Party Cookie Party

Been making these cookies based on Smitten Kitchen's recipe, but with dried cranberries, super dark chocolate chips cut off of a chocolate bar, and molasses. I've made them three times, and even without being too precise with measurements, they've turned out GREAT !

Here are some from the first batch I made a month or so ago:

 I also making cookies or some other treat, and cleaning up so well from it that when Francis wakes up, they are just there- no evidence of mixing bowls or spilled flour. It's kind of weird- if it's a sweet treat I have to clean up right away- but if we make pork chops and broccoli those pots and pans will be "soaking" for days!

Meanwhile, we just got 8 boxes of samoas, do-si-dos, and tagalongs  in the mail from my dad's side (his step grand daughter is a scout). I have to keep reminding myself that there is no timeline on consuming them. Fran moved them from the coffee table to the kitchen, which has taken the pressure off.


mollusks have weddings

We went to Atlantic City a few weeks ago, and saw lots of things on the beach that we wanted to believe were natural wonders and one actually pretty cool specimen:

It took a few minutes of internet searching to figure out what it was...
here's a clue:
the most expensive item at the asian grocery store


Food Porn Victim

Like a fashion victim who wears whatever the trend is, regardless of how ridiculous it may looks, a food porn victim will combine spices and unusual ingredients with the intention of a photogenic, rather than tasty, result.
Listen, I don't like saying the word 'porn' either! I'm a double victim here!
Egg boiled in coffee, yolk with pumpkin and spices, "finished" with cumin and sea salt 
I made some weird deviled eggs for Thanksgiving. The ones you see above were the wildest, the other varieties a little less imaginative: bacon-avocado, jalapeno-avocado, and dill lovers. Guess which ones were the best and most popular.
I'll tell you, it's... Dill Lovers. 

I learned an important lesson about creativity, and the general preference for mayonnaise, not fruits or vegetables, in deviled eggs.


Corinne's Vending Emporium

this machine would have 25 different movie 'spoilers' to collect, printed on paper with a cute illustration.
Other than the machine and the capsules, the cost would be only in paper and printing.
I've priced out gumball machines and pretty much know the ins and outs and all the options, and its actually a pretty reasonable and realistic purchase if I had a product and location in place.  I have ideas as to how I could incorporate a free-spin (no coin mechanism) machine into a Philly Penny Press package, but I'd also be interested in having a vending machine in public.

Thoughts on  a public machine:
The product has to be unusual, but also something someone would actually want to buy. It also has to cost under a quarter to produce, and the production run has to start between a hundred and two hundred pieces.

Clockwise from top left: 1) as beautiful as paper cranes are, their demand is low because everyone makes them. 2) mending notions could be cheap if they are only a few pins and a mini spool (think like a hotel mending kit divided into 4 smaller kits) but cheaper supplies wouldn't have that rustic look the people want. 3) Artisanal edibles would go rancid in the capsules. 4) Cheap figures are not of the best quality, though this and 5) are the most feasible of the batch.
Even with a great idea (I think the spoiler machine is pretty good) not having a location is the biggest road block. I'd need a friend with a store or cafe, and the machine needs to work with the stores theme but not compete with the merchandise. There is not so much incentive to host a machine when profit margins are so small that profit share isn't possible.


On display

color scheming
The Squished Penny Museum in DC had only 250 pennies of its collection of 6,000 on display at any one time, because you cannot appreciate any more than that in one sitting. I imagine that number is significantly less for pictures of pennies.



After accidentally missing the Miniature convention last year and feeling like bull shit about it, I'm thrilled to tell you that Shelly and I made it this year. The deck was sure stacked against us but we live to blog about it! 
Shelly got this one picture of the Wright Guide Minis.
Wright Guide Minis had the largest display of cool tiny accessories, definitely a resource I'd use if I was a serious miniaturist.


Totally married!

As I begin writing this, it is November 12th, 2012, and Francis and I have been married for 41 days.  In the first week after we eloped, almost every friend or co-worker who I saw asked me if it 'felt different', the way people joke on birthdays. In this instance, I didn't know whether to say yes or no: 'yes' would require an explanation, and 'no' was flippant and false.


Gumball Machine Vignette

Francis and I have been interested in creating an HO scale train set up for a few years. We've accrued a lot of material for our first display (buildings kits, figures, landscaping), though I don't think it even fits into our '3 year plan'. We don't have the space or money- and it's the kind of thing where if you can't do it right, why do it at all. We want the buildings to be realistically weathered, and the terrain to vary. This kind of thing takes a long time to plan, as the materials are expensive and unforgiving. 

While we take the next few years debating on what season our town will be forever fixed, we'll occupy ourselves with apartment appropriate projects like this one:



Monday mornings

IKEA has free breakfast on Mondays. It's only the scrambled egg/potatoes/bacon option- we got the upgrades of a donut and a fruit salad. If you get there before 10 (they open at 9:30), or if you have the IKEA Family Card, coffee is free, as well. Since we can walk there, it was an extra good deal.
There were a ton of truckers there, a vacationing family or two, and a few people who seemed like the might be homeless. We got there a half hour early, accidentally, and a monday breakfast "regular" chatted us up outside. On days other than monday, the breakfast is only $.99, but it was a fun novelty to go for free breakfast.


Jumbo Theater to DEAL$




Granny-cart still going strong.



My favorite yard dog:
We named him Sesame. He spends 24 hours a day in this concrete driveway, and has a dog house made of a rubbermaid container with a hole cut out of it.


Slumlens Hipstapak

When I first moved to fishtown, this was an operating fish market.

When I first move to fishtown, this was an operating Goodwill.