My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tall mom's tiny world

My mom, who is six feet tall, has always lived in a miniature world in her imagination. Her favorite book as a child was Twig, about a little girl who created a magical wee world in her backyard that she herself became small enough to inhabit. Mom also collected dollhouse furniture as a child, and that hobby continued and evolved into her adulthood. So I grew up surrounded by smaller worlds within my world - an amazing general store, a one-room schoolhouse decorated for Halloween, a Santa's workshop, a huge bookcase of dollhouse rooms, an ice cream parlor, and this antique secretary desk whose bookcase mom turned into a Victorian dollhouse...

It even appears to have a full unfinished basement. ;-)

Most of her miniatures are stored away (though I have the Santa's Workshop, which she gave me for Christmas when I was 12) or on loan to the town library, but she always has this one on display in her living room, so I took photos of it during my recent visit.

Would you like a tour? Then step into the parlor...

(As always, click on the photos to see larger versions)

Everything is scaled 1" to 1', with the exception of the Springer Spaniel by the fireplace (Mom grew up with black and white Springers named Judy and Pookie, so miniature versions of them usually found their way into her dollhouses. This one wasn't to scale, but she was willing to fudge in this instance). :-)

The rug is a tiny, tiny petit point (as is the picture in the wooden screen to the left of the fireplace). Can you imagine the patience it took someone to make that? Can you imagine the eyesight it took to make that?

And the organ, though it doesn't play, does have moving pedals and knob thingies (clearly, I'm not an organist!)

(If you'd like to listen to a little period organ music as you explore the rest of the house, open this page in a new tab and turn your speakers on).

While Mom did make some of her dollhouse furniture, most of it is in her general store (including an old timey post office that takes up one corner, which she made using just an X-Acto knife and glue!) All of the Victorian furniture here she bought from miniature dealers.

Note the carved ball & claw feet (and casters),
another example of tiny petit point,
and the wee photo album and stereoscope.

The dining room...

Mom bought a full-size china cabinet like the one on the right
for $30 at the Trenton, NJ Goodwill in the mid 1960s.
It was gnarly, but she refinished it and, naturally,
displays dolls in it! :-)

Yet another painstaking petit point rug!

The daughter's bedroom...

Mom always liked to make up stories about the people who "lived in" the houses. According to her, the daughter is engaged to a young man who is away at some unnamed war, yet who was thoughtful enough to remember (and amazing enough to be able) to send her the roses on the bed. ;-) In case you're wondering, that's his framed photo on her nightstand...

My favorite touches in this room are the quilt on the bed
(Jo and Daphne, take note!) & the dog sleeping by the stove.

The rocking chair is "caned" with thread.
And I see our dear girl left her socks on the floor,
(something this daughter was never permitted to do!)
Note the chamber pot between the bed and the footstool.
Mom thought of everything! ;-)

The sewing room...

Probably not a room I'd have thought to include! ;-)
I'd have gone with a kitchen! (Or a woodworking shop. lol)

I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Miniature World of Mom, where men send roses from battlefronts to young ladies who leave their socks on the floor and their chamber pots out in full view. It's a magical world indeed! ;-)


P.S. If you enjoyed Mom's dollhouse, check out Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle! Mom had a coffee-table book about it from which she drew a lot of inspiration. ;-) It's truly unique, and with the notably unfortunate exception of the ghastly "polar bear" rug in the Prince's bedroom, the castle and its treasures are really impressive.


  1. The world of miniaturists has always fascinated me. Personally, I've never had the patience that it requires, and to be honest that's one reason why I never imagined I'd be a quilter (although the quilt on the daughter's bed does look remarkably like my style!), as I absolutely refuse to worry about whether all my corners meet exactly! But there it is--quilting is definitely my artistic outlet, as today I will finish my 135th quilt! Anyway, your mom's miniatures are quite remarkable. Thanks also to you and AdventureJo for your kind words and I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I enjoy yours!

  2. Daphne ~ Congratulations on finishing your 135th quilt! Wow!

    My mom, never known for her patience in the "real" world, was able to just get absolutely lost in her miniature one. When it came to that, she had not just patience but incredible focus and attention to detail. Though not a hobby I cared to get into, I always enjoyed her miniatures, and have dibs on her Halloween schoolhouse someday! :-) Once or twice, I even tagged along with her to her miniature shows (full of minis vendors) or her miniature club meetings (held once a month at various houses, though truth to tell I only went once and only because that month's hostess invited me to swim in her pool!) :-) Mainly, though, my interest and involvement was limited to making a mini stone fireplace as a school project that she incorporated into one of her rooms and the tiny skies I made in shop for the Santa's Workshop, and cleaning her giant dollhouse once a year. Took everything out and dusted it, then put everything back... usually where it was before, but not always! I had my own idea about where things should go, and whose socks shouldn't be laying on the bedroom floor. ;-)

    I had to share your fun web site with Jo, I knew she'd love seeing your quilts at the very least! And I'm very glad you're enjoying my blog! I really enjoy reading yours! :-)

  3. This really was truly magical; it's interesting how captivating it is to look into a miniature world.

    Like Daphne, I doubt I'd ever have the patience for it, esp. if it all had to be to scale.

    All the rooms are charming, but I think I like the dining room the best...of course a kitchen would have been very cool too. It's funny what you said about the daughter's room and the socks on the floor...I was thinking the opposite: there wasn't enough mess on the floor...but I guess that betrays what my room usually looked like.

    One of the little girls that lives nextdoor sometimes makes miniature fairy forts out of twigs and grass in her front garden...I love to look at them too.

    I must check out that book Twig.

    Thanks for such a fun and charming post.

  4. Rose ~ I had a feeling you would particularly enjoy this post! :-) I wish you could see Mom's miniatures in person. I wonder which of her collections you'd like best?

    When I talk to her next, I'll have to see if she has any photos of her other rooms and houses that I can scan and post. I'd especially love to show you her bookcase dollhouse, which is also Victorian and decorated for Christmas (it even has a music room). The kitchen in it was my favorite room! You would love it!

    LOL about our different reactions to the socks on the bedroom floor! :-) It's not that I was a neatnik kid, it's that my mom's a former Marine who was once in charge of the Bachelor Officers Quarters at Camp Pendleton. I had to keep my room tidy or there was hell to pay! (My dad lived in that BOQ - it's how they met - so he should have known what he was getting into!)

    It's been so long since I read Twig but I do remember it being a really sweet book. All those 5-star reviews amazed me, I didn't know so many others knew about it! But I'm not surprised they - and their grandchildren - adore it. I think you really would too, and bet that little girl next door would as well! I love that she builds miniature fairy forts, that's so sweet! (Wish the little girls in MY neighborhood would do that instead of 4-wheeling! *sigh*) How often are you out there helping her? ;-)

    I'm really glad you enjoyed this post, Rose! :-) xoxo

  5. P.S. Rose - Did you notice the Beatrix Potter figurines on top of the secretary desk? ;-)

  6. Wow, Laurie, this is so amazing! It had to be fun growing up around that. I would have adored it! I would never have enough patience to do it, but can see the draw to it. Very cool!

  7. Molly ~ It was fun to grow up with, and my friends all enjoyed it too. Mom made the mistake of telling the kids on our block that she was planning to make the Santa's Workshop (inside an old mantle clock that my dad had spied years earlier in someone's garbage during a bike ride and brought home under his arm!) They - and I - all hounded her till she got it done! :-)

    It was easy to get sucked into her tiny world, too. My grandmother had come to visit us for a couple of weeks when I was in 8th grade, badly fractured her ankle in a fall, and had to stay with us for 3 months - which included Christmas. Mom was busy decorating an elaborate 2' tall artificial tree and she recruited my grandmother - stuck in an armchair all day with a cast on her leg - to help. My grandmother's task was to string tiny chunks of styrofoam and little red beads for a miniature popcorn and cranberries garland. She'd been at it for a couple of days when my neighbor Brian came over to do homework with me. We were at the dining room table, just a few feet from where my grandmother sat stringing her styrofoam, and after a while Brian leaned over to me and whispered, "What's your grandmother doing?" And without a thought I said, "Stringing popcorn." He didn't say a word, but when it finally hit me what I'd said and I told Mom and my grandmother about it, we all exploded with laughter. How we'd have loved to hear what Brian said to his family at dinner that night! "Mom, Dad... Laurie and her folks have that poor old lady stringing styrofoam chunks and they're telling her it's popcorn!" LOL!

  8. All Ya'll ~ I wanted to point out that I just added a link at the end of this post to Colleen Moore's Fairy Tale Castle. I think all three of you would really enjoy it!

    And has anyone tried the link to the fun organ music yet? If not, you really should give it a Wirlitzer!

    LOL, I just can't help myself. ;-)~

  9. Santa's workshop would have been awesome as a kid! I can just imagine how much she got asked about it until it was done. lol That's hilarious about the "popcorn". No wonder it tasted so bland, right? tee hee

    I did check out the organ music and love it. It reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera. I'll check out the Fairy Tale Castle right now!

  10. Molly ~ The neighborhood kids were thrilled when the completed Santa's Workshop was finally unveiled. I was less impressed, because it was unveiled to me on Christmas morning, when I found it under the tree as my main present. I was 12 going on 13, and I'm sure my visions of sugarplums included clothes, albums, jewelry and a 10-speed. NOT a miniature Santa's Workshop! (To add insult to injury, I'd asked for a bean bag chair. I got one - my mother made it - but imagine my dismay to see that our beagle had gotten one too! Guess I wasn't the only child I thought I was). ;-)

    Anyway, it was later on, well into adulthood, that I more fully appreciated having the Santa's Workshop. Since it's in my possession I can take photos and blog about it, but it needs a few repairs first. I'll try to get that done in time to post around Yule, shall I? :-)

    Yes, had Mom and my grandmother put lemon juice, tamari and "nooch" on their styrofoam popcorn, it probably would have been a lot tastier! (I love it on real popcorn, anyway!)

    I'm glad you enjoyed the organ music! I hadn't thought of Phantom of the Opera, but you're so right! (It put me in mind of an old-fashioned carousel). I hope you enjoyed the Fairy Castle. I'd forgotten about that hideous polar bear rug since I hadn't looked at the web site in several months. (At least it doesn't appear till nearly the end, so I hope you had fun up till that part!) xoxo

  11. I'd love to see pictures of the Santa's workshop! I wouldn't have appreciated getting it at that age, either, but what a cool thing to have now. That's cute that the dog got a bean bag chair, too. lol

    The fairy castle is just *amazing*, even despite the polar bear rug. Wow!!!

  12. Molly ~ I will need to solicite BW's help with some of the electrical repairs on the lightning of Santa's Workshop, but I definitely feel inspired to get that done! I hope my new camera is up to the task - I'll need some really good closeups (it's a small space inside a mantel clock, and lots of fun details to photograph!), but I think I'll manage!

    I also talked to Mom today and she's going to try to find photos of her other mini collections and send them to me. I told her there's no hurry, and I'll probably have to remind her a few more times! ;-)

    I'm glad you enjoyed the Fairy Castle! She had some incredible, one-of-a-kind treasures in there. I can't imagine its value - I hope it's well guarded (and today at least, protected from the wind! Yikes!)

  13. lol about your grandmother stringing popcorn! I didn't notice the beatrix potter figurines before you pointed them out...very adorable, at first I though they were miniature ones inside the miniature living room...or are there some there too?

    I checked out the fairy cool. Of course I love the kitchen and the princess's bathroom...they never show the bathrooms in real's such a let down.

    I couldn't find the organ music though.

  14. Rose ~ Mini Beatrix Potter figurines inside the mini living room ~ now wouldn't that be too cute! I wouldn't be surprised if some exist, but no - Mom's are limited to the regular-sized ones on top of desk cabinet. :-)

    Very true about the bathrooms being left out of real castle tours! When we got to tour Buckingham Palace and were led into the Throne Room, it wasn't what I thought. ;-) It's enough to make you think that royalty never has to use the loo!

    This is the page I linked to that plays the organ music. It should play automatically, unless it uses some audio player you don't have?

  15. I think I strained my eye trying to take in all the beautiful details! ;-) Thanks for sharing your mom's treasure!

  16. This will not be my last look into this post because like all good miniatures, you can look at them a hundred times and always find something new and fun. I adore miniatures and as you know have dabbled in miniature quilting although I have a hard time with the 1" = 1' rule. I've made one or two that would meet that rule but mostly I just want them to fit on the tiny beds I also like to collect. Remember the "Heart's Desire's Quilt I made for the tiny bed in the kitchen that was inspired by conversations with you?

    I had to comment on Rose's miniature fort's by the girl next door. I had totally forgotten that my sister and I used to create miniature worlds in our back yard on an old card table. Everything was made of moss, twigs, rocks, leaves and whatever else we could find in nature. Mom took a photo of it which proves it must have been pretty cool cause the camera didn't come up for any old thing!! Thanks for bringing that memory back Rose!!
    Thanks for taking so many clear photos, La. I loved this post and am so glad you took the time to create it!

  17. Hi!

    Just read Adventure Jo's comment:

    The nature fairy forts are extra magical and neat you still have a photo to remember them by.


  18. VW ~ It's good to see you again! This place isn't the same without a few wheeks now and then! :-)

    I'm glad you enjoyed seeing Mom's treasures, and hope the eye strain was worth it! {8-)

    Jo ~ Of course I remember your "Heart's Desire" doll bed quilt! That was such a fun idea!

    Do you remember Mom's three teeny tiny illuminated rooms? I think she had them sitting on top of the general store case in the dining room at Maple Top. There was a living room, a kitchen and a bedroom. I don't know what the scale of them was, maybe 1/4" to the foot, but the bedroom had a very, very wee quilt on the bed that mom made to match the one in my bedroom, and even some itty bitty slippers beside the bed. She has some great photos of those rooms that I'm hoping she'll find and send to me so I can post them!

    Obviously, those photogenic faerie forts you built as a child were a foreshadowing of civil engineering things to come! Think the Army Corps of Engineers would let you build a life-size faerie fort out of natural materials? I think they darn well should. I think the world would be a better place if it had more moss and twig faerie forts scattered about it! ;-)

    If your mom still has that photo, perhaps she can send it to you to scan and email to me, and I could send it on to Rose! :-)

    Enjoy your repeat visits to Mom's dollhouse! The welcome mat's always out, and I believe there is always a pot of hot water and some tea on the dining room table for favored guests. ;-)

  19. Rose & Jo ~ Sounds like you would both enjoy reading "Twig!" :-)

  20. It is amazing to think of the research that went into organizing these rooms of miniatures. I take it your mother is an enthusiast of antiques as she not only has the miniatures in the antique style but she displays them in antiques. I sure believe that passions keeps the mind and body healthy. -- barbara

  21. Barbara ~ Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your comment! Did you happen to notice the shout out I gave your blog on my "Versatile" post, three posts down? :-)

    Mom was indeed an antiques enthusiast. Still is, I suppose, she's just in her jettison stage of life rather than collection stage. Her antique collecting happened by chance (or more accurately, by mischance!) My parents had been married a little over five years and had just moved from CA to NJ when the moving van got stuck in a midwest flood and they lost everything. In order to replace their furnishings quickly and frugally, Mom started going to places like the Rescue Mission and Goodwill, and my folks went to lots of farm auctions over the next few years (I was little, but I remember those and how I loved to go with them!) Antiques weren't in vogue then (mid 1960's), so they were able to replace their nondescript just-starting-out decor with some lovely antiques for very little money. They did spend a lot of time and elbow grease on refinishing, however! :-)

    They continued to collect antiques over the years, the secretary desk in the photo being a much later acquisition. We lived in some great antiquing areas, from Norfolk, VA to Maine.

    Mom only did two miniature displays inside antiques; this one and the Santa's Workshop inside the antique mantel clock case. My dad built almost all of her other display cases, with removable plexiglas fronts and rather elaborate lighting, but even those cases were made to look old and except for the large free-standing dollhouse (which looked more like a bookcase), they all sat on antiques! :-) And with the exception of her 1950's era ice cream parlor, all her miniatures are in an antique style. "Old school" is definitely her taste, as it is mine! (Which is one reason I enjoy your blog! :-)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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