Sunday, June 27, 2010

Watch Out World!!!

As you can see (because I'd never have believed it otherwise!), I've managed to not only find a decent picture of myself (because they're very few and far between); I've also cropped it and included it on my blog and in my profile!  Took me three forevers to do it, but it's there!  The picture itself is a little large; I prefer fading into the background a little more, but haven't mastered that yet.  And I've changed the lay-out, which turns out to be rather easy, so you may never know what you're going to see when you visit!  This is GREAT! 

Another big event - Laura (my oldest daughter) not only managed to get both Nigel (my husband) and myself onto high speed wireless; she also set up my new 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier!  It's SO COOL!!  I can't wait to scan something and share with you!  Of course Laura, genius that she is with technology, couldn't believe how excited I was when her sample picture actually scanned to my computer!  I practically jumped for joy!

Now if I can just figure out how to fully operate my cell phone!  Oh well......what can I say?

Our youngest daughter, Liz, is flying in with "an important friend" Tuesday afternoon, so we'll have a lovely family get-together for the upcoming holiday!  I can hear the joyful noise now!

I hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!  Talk to you soon!  Love and Blessings, Jan

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nap Like You Mean It!

Here's Thistle Cat, in all her splendid, immoral glory! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Isabel's Latest Artwork

Isabel and I were in one of our "creative" moods the other day and while I was sewing my Morning Pages cover, Isabel made me this little sign to hang on our studio door!  Isn't it great?

And here's a picture of her holding my Morning Pages book!

Perhaps I'll re-read the book, The Artist's Way, and see how differently I view it.  Afterall, I initially read it in 2005!  This was LONG before I even thought of myself as an artist.  I do remember being very impressed with it at the time.  Who knows - maybe even Isabel will read it one day!

Take Care and May God Bless, Jan

Morning Pages!

I was trying to explain to Isabel what Morning Pages were and failed miserably, other than to simply tell her that it was something I actually wrote down, like a journal, and I did so in the morning.  I know - very weak!  Because I couldn't remember a better definition for them, and because I only just completed a cover for my one Morning Pages notebook, I decided to share with everyone.

Before going further, here's my Morning Pages book for March thru June 2005!  They were originally kept only in a spiral notebook, but I HATE spiral notebooks!  Inspired by all the lovely journals I see available on-line now, I finally decided (last week) to make a proper cover for them.


So what do you think?  Much better than a plain old spiral notebook!

The definition of Morning Pages, as outlined in the book, The Artist's Way - A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron, a book about recovering your creative spirit.  "Morning Pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness.  Three pages of whatever crosses your mind; some think of them as a form of meditation, a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self."  The way I now remember them is simply a way to clear my brain at the beginning of each day and make way for my more creative self to present itself.  Morning Pages helped me "clear the clutter".  And although I was skeptical when I first began, I remember them actually working!  My biggest problem was actually getting up any earlier than I already did in the morning to get them written! you know!  And you have the name of a great book that can help if you want to find or rediscover your creative self.  Because ALL of us have a creative side!

May God Bless, Jan

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Fursdon Cabinet Doll House!

This post has all the ear marks of being a rather lengthy one, but I wanted to include photos of an earlier and as yet finished project - my cabinet (doll) house.  Did you know doll houses were initially created in actual cabinets about 400 years ago?!?  They belonged only to the extremely well to do, and were used as a means of teaching younger girls of the home how to manage their own household in the future!

Mine actually started as a result of "Empty Nest Syndrome".  With my youngest having just moved out of the house and Nigel working crazy and long hours, I had to find something to keep me occupied.  Initially, I bought one of those doll house kits.  Not the best choice, especially when I realized the pieces weren't all there! This was corroborated by Nigel (because we know how screwy I can be with measurements, numbers, etc.)  I had been SO CAREFUL, laying each piece out, labeling each one in pencil.  Oh well, I eventually returned the whole thing and spent my refund on items "for" the dollhouse that I had, by then,  decided to re-create inside a cabinet!

I purchased an unfinished entertainment style cabinet, then taped off sections with masking tape.  Nigel - far more creative and talented than anyone I've ever met - created partitions from my "taped sections" that became the rooms!  Then the fun began!  As I stated earlier, it's unfinished.  Eventually I'd like to complete the upper level. It's destined to be an outdoor roof garden, complete with small pond, a vegetable garden, and various other items of nature.  I also want to electrify the rooms and add light fixtures!  Anyway, here are the photos!

Rather unassuming, isn't it?  I painted my favorite leaf pattern on the front panels (I should go back and add a few lady bugs!)  Are you ready to come inside?  Here goes!

I told you I was crazy!  It took about a year to get to this stage, perhaps a few months longer.  But it served its purpose!  There's no way you can be thinking of anything else when you're working in such minute detail!  Here are the individual rooms!

The front entrance!  Yes, it's decorated for Christmas - naturally!  The little gold and silver packages to the front left are from a vintage corsage I found.  The little ceramic dog on the stairs belonged to Gran.  To the far left back is a curved-glass curio cabinet - a replica of one that belonged to my other grandmother, Grandma Hoffman.  It's filled with shells, representing a fun past time when Nigel and I go to the beach!  The "rug" is a small crocheted coaster/doily.  Behind the tree and situated underneath the stairs is a small desk, with the one and only telephone on it!  The house is circa 1930's and I can't think of a better place for a telephone than out of the way, where no one can hear it's incessant ringing!  Not that I have an opinion on the matter!

The Den!  I cross-stitched the rug many years ago, without knowing what I was going to use it for.  Strange isn't it, how things always work themselves out in the end? I glued small seashells on a purse-sized mirror for over the fireplace, which has real "logs" in it (AKA: small sticks).  The book on the chair seat is a Sherlock Holmes mystery - a favorite of mine!  Also a favorite are the two "Staffordshire" spaniel figurines on either side of the hearth.  I've always wanted a "real pair", but prices are over the moon. Besides, these are much easier to dust!
Notice the coffee cup on the end table?  A nod to Nigel that is, as are the ships on the fireplace mantle and the seashells inside the little glass jar and on the wooden bowl (wooden button) on the table in the foreground.  It truly amazed me how intricate I could get!  The size of some of these shells are minuscule!
Speaking of intricate - notice the hardwood floors?  They're Popsicle sticks!  Yes, I cut up Popsicle sticks in various lengths (after watching Nigel put hardwood floors in our bedroom and living room).  I then glued them down throughout most of the house and varnished them with multiple coats to give them that lovely sheen! 

The Dining Room!  Lots to look at in here!  The blue "porcelain" plates on the walls are cut outs from a magazine cover.  You guessed it - I LOVE Chinese blue and white porcelain and have quite a lot of it throughout my own home!  There's also a blue and white "porcelain" cheese dish on the sideboard to the far right. The rug is another cross-stitched piece I did years ago and framed.  After realizing it would make the perfect rug, I unframed it, fringed the edges and ...voila'!

The Gingerbread House was pulled from a rather large Christmas decoration.  Each year, Isabel and my Mom (Nana to Isabel) decorate a Gingerbread House for Christmas!  They have great fun and I LOVE watching them "play" together! 

The tea sets are reflective of my love of tea, not to mention my first business venture - creating one-of-a-kind tea cozies for my Etsy shop!  The high chair was put in when Isabel was born - naturally!!

Detail of Dining Room Fireplace - Notice the miniature pitcher next to the candlestick?  I found it in a little shop in England that didn't have any other piece of miniature goods in the whole shop! Talk about serendipity!!  It's a replica of a souvenir piece for the sailing of the ship Titanic in 1912!  From an early age I've been fascinated with the Titanic; I have multiple books on the subject, including the one by Robert Ballard, who was the first to discover the submerged wreck in 1986 (I think it was).  I also had a wonderful opportunity to visit an exhibit of Titanic artifacts, held in Memphis, TN, some years ago. 

The glass (not plastic) triple-tiered dessert stand reflects my fondness for them; I have five of them made from various materials and in different sizes.  They're great to display or store items on, especially in my studio, because they don't take up as much space!  The long pink "candy stick" on the lower tier is a replica of candy Nigel enjoyed in England when he was a boy (and now he's grown too!)  It's called "Teignmouth Rock".  It's peppermint and has been a favorite of English children for at least a century or more.

Notice the walls?  I wall-papered the entire house with small-scale paper!  Initially I thought I'd go with painting the walls, but I wanted to keep true to the circa 1930's and I believe they were very much into wall paper at that time.


Another detail of the Dining Room Table - The little brown tea pot is known as a "Brown Betty".  If I remember correctly, it's dark brown color keeps the tea stains from showing and it's a standard in many English households.  The blue and white platter holds one of Nigel's all-time favorite English foods - the English sausage!  For those of you who are wondering, it tastes NOTHING like American sausage.  It's much milder and tastes completely different.  Naturally, there are a couple of cakes on the table (I love sweets!) and I believe there's another one on a sideboard too.  The table cloth is a doily and I've managed to cross-stitch one chair cushion! Only three more to go!

The Kitchen - Heart of the Home!  This room is a bow to Mary Englebreit, hence the red, black and white motif.  It was while reading one of her magazines that I became enthralled with miniatures.  I had been looking at what I thought was a full-scale living room setting when, in actual fact, I discovered it was a picture of her own doll's house living room!  I was amazed that anything could look so real, so life-like and be so detailed!  The bug bit and bit hard!

This floor is the only different one in the house. I had planned on using one-inch tiles to create the look I wanted, but it turned out they were too thick and looked "off balance".  What to do?  Hmmmmm......I know!  Get a 12" square white tile with an adhesive back (thank you Home Depot!), mark off one-inch squares, then color every other block with a black Sharpie marker!  Ta Da!!!

Every Fursdon House has cats and this one is no different!  And if you push down the little black lever to the trash can, you'll discover small pieces of wadded up paper trash!


Everyone in my family LOVES biscuits (not Nigel's family, and especially not Nigel!  Just my family!) Therefore, it stands to reason we'd have a batch of biscuits in the making!

Okay, so the Fursdon Cats aren't always "mousers" and these two little fellas are having a field day out of site under the stove.  I've had this little figurine for at least 20 years, perhaps longer.  Another one of those "had to have it but didn't have anything in mind for it other than it looked so cute" finds!

This red "barrel" is actually a little antique that Valerie (Nigel's Mom) gave to me (or one of the girls) years ago.  It's a series of nesting barrel shapes.  On the sill above it are some of the other nested shapes, sitting separately!  By he way, I LOVE the LOOK of this stove, but I'd NEVER be able to cook anything on it! YIKES!

If you open up the cabinet doors, you'll find all sorts of "tinned foot" items! There's peas, carrots, name it!  In the small red drawers sits tiny forks, spoons and knives!

On the open dresser to the right, you'll find two tins - one of Jacob's Cream Crackers (still a favorite of Nigel's and mine) and another of Queen's tea biscuits.  We've never tried those, but it's another bow to Nigel's English heritage.

And lastly, the "ice box" (AKA: refrigerator).  I remember my Grandma Hoffman always referring to the fridge as "the icebox".  I had a heck of a time trying to find a substitute for ice! Remember - this was created about 8-9 years ago, before the influx of "everything imaginable" on the market!  I finally found a Christmas ornament that was trying to mimic "ice".  And it was U.G.L.Y.  A far better use for "ice" is in the ice box!  Also, notice the bottle of "Jack Daniels" whiskey!  Yes, another favorite.  We frequently visit their brewery when out-of-town guests come to stay!  And it's in a "dry county" no less!

The Garage!  Notice there isn't a car!  Back in the 1930's, not everyone had a car.  And try as I might, I couldn't locate one that was to the correct scale (or even close!) without paying an arm and a leg, so I decided my car "is in the shop!"  I love the sink; every garage should have one (as our real one does).  They're great for cleaning up before coming into the house!  Notice the flooring!  They're actually tiny bricks!  I was amazed they actually made them.  So I bought all I thought I'd need and started laying them down and mortaring them (with glue) until I realized I didn't have enough, so I went back to Hobby Lobby (a favorite store) and bought some more.  Problem was - the new ones were a different color!! What to do?  No one else had any more and I'd bought all HL had.  So......I created the design you see above, which used both colors! I was rather proud of this, even if I do say so myself!

The Living Room!  Another doily covers the floor for a "rug" and there's a small fish bowl on a stand on the back wall, in honor of Nigel's wish at the time (and now a reality) for a Koi Pond!  The chair closest to you has another cross-stitched seat that I made years ago.  And just this side of the green chair, there's a small wooden "trunk" which started life as a small ring box.  On top of it, completely out of scale, is a miniature Book of Psalms that belonged to my Great Aunt Arlie Davis.  And if you can see it, the small book in the magazine rack is an Agatha Christie mystery.  She's my all-time favorite author!!  The "coffee table" is a small antique leather case that originally held a miniature deck of cards.  And the "jeweled box" on the small square table is actually an earring base!

Detail of Living Room Painting:  The one on the far left is an actual magazine photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, when she was a young girl!  I thought it would be great to have, given Nigel's background!

The Master Bedroom! Another one of my cross-stitched cushions is on the little "corner chair" seat. See the little "trunk" at the end of the bed? This is a very special piece - it is a small leather case that holds cuff links that belonged to Nigel's grandfather (Valerie's father). They're mother-of-pearl and probably the only thing Nigel has of his grandfather's. The little "case" on the other side of the corner chair (at the base of the tall dresser) is an antique case that holds dice! Or is that "die"? On the table is what looks like a special jewel box, but it's actually part of an old earring. On the dresser is an old-timey photograph of a baby, put there right after Isabel's birth. And next to it is a very special little box, with an inlaid top. On the bottom it reads "Made in Italy". It belonged to my Gran; she LOVED to keep little trinkets and things. So you see - I come by this quirk of mine quite honestly!!

The Maid's Room! She "lives in" and does sewing for the family! Wow! Wouldn't that be great? Notice the unfinished cross-stitched heart on the lower part of the bed? Just like me - always with a project going on! And the old-fashioned Singer sewing machine reminds me of the one my Grandma Hoffman had!

I love these little pieces - baby spools of threads and miniature skeins of floss hang on the wall.  And if that weren't enough, I found a miniature seamstress' work bag, with even smaller "stitching items" in it!  I found this at a convention for miniaturists that was actually held here in Madison, Alabama several years ago.

The Children's Room!  A crib for Laura (she's the oldest) and the cradle for Liz (the youngest).  The toys are reflective of what the girls had when they were little, as is the box of Desitin ointment on the changing table.  It may (or may not) have been in use in the 1930s, but I used it on diaper rash for my girls and on Isabel.  It's great stuff, even if it is a bit smelly!  The little blue house is an actual miniature doll house - inside the doll house!  Cool, isn't it?

Detail of the Children's Room:  The boat is reflective of Nigel's love of boats - all boats, no matter what kind.  He LOVES them all!  We now own two!  The little airplane (a Hallmark ornament celebrating the Wright Brothers first flight) was put in because both Laura and Liz joined the Air Force!  And the baseball bat and ball leaning on the door speaks to Liz being a member of a girl's softball team for several years.

Detail:  Another view of the little airplane, and the German Toy Soldier - which reflects all our years in Germany.  We befriended a family there and their son, Peter, always looked up to Nigel because he was in the Army.  Peter is now in the German Army and we still correspond!

These are pictures of Faeries in the Children's Room!  You DO believe in Faeries, don't you?

The Attic!  This was a LOT of fun because I got to be messy!  YIPPEE!!  And what went in it?  Everything I could think of that either I didn't have room for downstairs or it was "out of season" (which explains the Easter Basket!).  For the walls, I had some miniature newspaper print that I wall-papered with, then I cut up and glued miniature "4 x 4s" on top to indicate the room wasn't finished out (as many attics aren't!)

Detail of the Attic:  Isn't it great to store old boxes in attics, then go through them every couple of years.  You never know what you're going to find!

One room I forgot to mention, which I do NOT have "up close" photographs of is the Bathroom!  Yes, there's only one, but in those days (1930s), they were still very much a luxury!  If you look at the main picture at the beginning of this post (about three feet upward!), you might make out the little yellow duck in the tub for Isabel and we also have three rubber ducks in Nigel's Pond - just for fun!  Also, there's a miniature bar of soap, Cussons Imperial Leather English Soap, which is Nigel's favorite!  Any time someone visits England, they always bring him back as many bars as they can carry!  Also, can you see the little basket of "toilet paper"?  So cute! 

And now for the last, and as yet unfinished room:

The Rooftop Garden!  My plans include a pond and the ever present Fursdon Cat (at least one) and a little green frog on the edge of the pond (Mom loves frogs!), as well as a little flower garden and a vegetable garden.

See the little bird houses?  So sweet!  And the acorn tops are for making little nests.  You'll see one that I purchased in the next photo. I'm going to make several.  Also, the miniature glass jug - just bought it last year at the Northeast Alabama Craft Association (NEACA) show!  The hanging flowers in the terra cotta pot came from England.

See the little nest with robin's eggs?  It's a real acorn top! 

Small terra cotta pots with a bag of "dirt" (AKA:  black tea) that I purchased at the miniaturists' convention here in Madison.  The local miniature organization is called H.O.M.E., which stands for the Huntsville Organization of Miniature Enthusiasts.  I joined for about a year, but ran out of time to attend.  Underneath the bag of "dirt" is a miniature "stained glass window" I created. 

A better view of the potted flowers (from a miniature shop in England) and the little bird houses.

So now you know the story of the Fursdon Cabinet Doll's House!  I hope I haven't bored anyone! And who knows - perhaps you'll start a doll house of your own some day!  I started mine when I was in my 40's so anything is possible!  Enjoy and may God bless! Jan Fursdon, of Fursdon House

Monday, June 14, 2010

The "Finished" Sewing Machine Cover!

Nigel's words ring in my ears - measure twice, cut once.  I measure almost once and cut three times!  SCREAM!!  Will I ever learn to measure properly the first time? I get so excited about what I'm doing and I "just know" it will work itself out.  And it does - after I work it out myself with re-cuts!  Anyway, here's the completed sewing machine cover.  Somewhat different because it was about 4 inches too long and 4 inches too deep!  But......I LOVE the end product!  I had an absolute blast putting it all together and I'm seriously considering making some for my Etsy shop (  You have to admit - this is much nicer than those plastic covers that come with the machine!

Okay. Okay.  Here are the photos!  Hope you enjoy them!

Front Side of Cover - Isabella Cat meowing at a Blue Moon!

Detail - Little Blue Bird of Happiness!  Found at a local antiques mall with the certain knowledge that "one day" I would use it for something.  Now I know what that "something" was!

Back side of cover - Little Dutch girl cutting flowers!  Notice the scissors in her hand!  I saved that off another piece I was working on.  Again, I had no idea what it would be for at the time, but it was way too cute just to throw away!!  The girl is one of my Gran's appliques!  I have quite a few of them, all in different colors.  She made several small quilts of them for my girls when they were growing up.  I added the small white buttons.  It's very humbling to work on something that Gran created.  I feel closer to her, a part of her.  And of course this is where I got much of my own creativity from.

Detail - Button Flowers!  I could make these all day!  Loads of fun and super easy!

Right side of cover - Fancy boots!  Couldn't resist! Isabel sewed the boot buttons on by herself!  She's a GREAT help!  And my inspiration for all things fun and happy!

Left side of cover - The measuring tape is actually a ribbon cut from an old worn-out dress belonging to one (or both) of my girls!  The felt flowers are from my failed "first attempt" (but not the last!) at making luggage tags.  I like them much better here.  Don't you?

And finally - the top of the cover!  This was actually the first piece I started working on last year - when it was going to be a curtain valance!  I love the blues and greens of these fabrics and knew I had to do something that included them.

So what do you think?  I'd love to hear from you!  Jan