Pumpkin pine, Truro wine & a Captain divine!

Before I begin, check this out!

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Is that the prettiest little quart of beach plums you ever saw?!  When I saw a luscious pint of blueberries in the aMusing Miniatures Etsy shop, I sent off a message to Jennifer, its talented proprietress, asking if she could do beach plums. My house is now officially a beach house on Cape Cod, so a tiny basket of Prunus maritime on the kitchen counter is a perfect detail.  Jennifer did an awesome job, and I love them!

OK.  Construction continues with first floor glued in place, and floors being laid. Since this is an 18th century cape, I’ve decided that the floors should be appropriately…how shall we say…well trodden!  Having lived in Massachusetts for 12 years in very old houses with original floors, I can vouch for the fact that some of them are pretty rough!  (You haven’t lived until you catch your sock on an antique protruding nail which sends you flying bum over teakettle.  And I can’t tell you how many earrings I’ve lost in the cavernous cracks between the boards. Good thing they were all cheap.) But I find the old, wide pine planks with their scars and cracks and big black nails, and their soft sheen from probably millions of footsteps to be simply gorgeous.  According to Wikipedia, “Freshly cut eastern white pine is creamy white or a pale straw color but pine wood which has aged many years tends to darken to a deep rich golden tan. Occasionally one can find light brown pine boards with unusual yellowish-golden or reddish-brown hues. This is the famous “pumpkin pine”.  As below.

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I wanted this sort of antique flooring for my house, so I set to work in an attempt to create something which would suggest original wood in a very old home.  I grabbed some 1/32 sheets of birch plywood and lightly sanded them with fine sandpaper just to get to fresh wood.  Then I put a thing coat of boiled linseed oil on, followed by three coats of Minwax stain – Ipswich Pine (which originated – ta da! – in Ipswich, Massachusetts!).

Then, I sliced up the sheet using a heavy duty cutter which supposedly has a self-sharpening blade you never have to replace, but we’ll see how that works since I don’t think Fiskar’s had WOOD in mind when they made this bold statement.  I made what I thought were “wide plank” boards – about 1/2 inch wide.  I could have gone wider and still been in scale, but to my discerning eye, anything bigger started to look like something that should go into a Barbie house.  So I quit while I was ahead.

I cut out a black poster board subfloor and stuck down the “planks” with Aleene’s tacky glue.  Once it was dry, I lightly sanded again, slapped on two more coats of Ipswich Pine and…here’s where it becomes a case of “OK, seriously?!”  My “OK, seriously?!” moments are when I decide to do something tedious and minuscule that will leave me wondering if I’ve completely lost my mind.

I decided that the planks MUST HAVE little black nails!  So I ordered some practically nonexistent brass nails from MicroMark which have heads that are 40/1000th of an inch in diameter.  Yeah.  And then I stuck 100 of them in a piece of foam and laboriously dotted each head with spray paint primer for metal, and then with black spray paint.  You still with me?  Then, I drilled itty bitty holes in the planks, inserted the nails and gently tapped them in with a little hammer with a cloth covered head so the black paint wouldn’t come off on impact.  And the paint stayed on…until I put down three coats of Myland’s mahogany paste wax. And buffed most of the nails back to their (ghastly) brassiness.  I would have screamed, but, dizzy  and hallucinating from stain and wax fumes, I had no energy for a meltdown.  I merely crept off to bed and collapsed.

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But I have to say, I rather like the end result!  All the cracks and scars are there (courtesy of the Fiskar’s cutter), just like some RL floors I’ve walked on.  The camera’s flash washed the pumpkin-y look out of the second pic, but it shows all the wear and tear and THE NAILS!!!

Along with the major, ongoing construction, I like to do little projects with a quick result because I’m fidgety and impatient.  I figured that, along with the beach plums, there will be other items in the house specific to Cape Cod.  Truro Vineyards is located in North Truro, Mass.  I can’t tell a Pinot Noir from a Pinot Grigio, but I know a nice label when I see one, and I love these ones!

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So, I ordered a couple of green glass mini wine bottles, scrunched the labels down in Word and printed them on photo paper. (I have an inkjet and I get the cleanest and clearest results from photo paper when I’m feeling too lazy to run down to Staples and get images laser printed.)  I then peeled the paper from the back of the images, trying to get the thinnest layer possible for the label.  After a lot of futzing around with ink and water, trying to imitate white and red wines, and getting appalling results, I broke down and went out for some cranberry and apple juices, and squirted them into the bottles.  More futzing around with paper clay, trying to seal them.  Paper clay not being my forte, that was quickly abandoned.  But then I found some shrink wrap in my voluminous stash of mini stuff.  I punched out a little circle from the wrap and then cut a short tube to pull down on the bottle neck.  I tucked the little circle in on the top, then used a blow dryer to shrink the tubing.  A little trimming and voila!  Nicely sealed!  My joy was short-lived when I realized the juices were evaporating!  So, the shrink wrap will come off and I’ll cork the bottle air tight before shrinking again.  That’s for another day.  The biggest struggle was getting the labels to stick to the glass bottle!  I tried everything suggested by anybody on the internet: Mod Podge, white glue, beading glue, super glue, rubber cement – you name it!  Finally, I grabbed a lowly glue stick, scrubbed some on the labels and…they stuck!  I couldn’t believe. it.  Glue sticks don’t work for ANYTHING!  Well, now I know better.  They work for little wine bottle labels.

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My other little project was a portrait for the living room of the Cape house.  I navigated the web, looking for portraits of sea captains in Google images.  And while I found many which were perfectly fine, when I found this divine gentleman…

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His name was Captain John Howland, and according to what I’ve read, he was born in 1776 and went to sea at age 12, as a cabin boy.  By 20, he was a captain.  Not too shabby!  This portrait is by an unknown artist and apparently hangs in the New Bedford whaling museum. (While I definitely do NOT endorse whale hunting, the museum is a lovely place to visit, even given the grisly subject matter.)

I printed his portrait on photo paper to get the best result.  Of course, too glossy.  So, with a sea sponge (hah!!!), I gave it a couple coats of Mod Podge.  Nice textured matte effect, looking something like a portrait with brush strokes.

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Using bits of chair rail, I assembled a frame.  Because I wanted the frame to look like an antique, I put on a coat of antique gold Rub ‘n Buff and then used a straight pin and fine sandpaper to pull some of it off.  I then dirtied it up with some more Myland’s mahogany paste wax, so that the frame looked more like it had been banging around for about 200 years.  Captain Howland was carefully installed within, and he’s ready to take his rightful place above the mantel.   When there is a mantel.

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I just love his calm, handsome face!  He looks so cool and capable, as though he could have easily brought even the Titanic safely into port.

Back to work!  I’ve cut about 9 million bricks from egg cartons in preparation for the chimney, and have to find some proper linoleum for the kitchen.  And there’s the staircase…!  No rest for the wicked, as they say.

The Lurking Menace…and Construction Begins!

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The Lurking Menace is my Californian rabbit, Merri.  Woe betide me should I leave projects unprotected!  As she lies demurely under my worktable, you’d never guess she’s reduced a Mini Mundus desk to rubbish, rendered a HOM Queen Anne wardrobe a  hopeless splintered mass, and devoured my Newport instruction booklet nearly whole. Her nickname is The Great White Whale, and like Moby Dick, she is unrelenting and remorseless!  And can drag heavy objects off low-lying tables to boot.  Beware!!

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Despite the threat looming over it, construction has begun on the Cape Cod (style) house which I’ve chosen for my project.  Very successful dry fit.
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I discovered that the kit has an interesting floor plan – centered partition designs which leave parts of the interior front tucked away from view.  I wasn’t sure I liked this, as it seemed “wasted space” but as I began to muddle with it, I began to warm to the idea of peeking around corners or peering through windows or the front door to see these hidden places.  This will necessitate getting it right before the ceiling goes on, because there will be no turning back!

I had decided that unlike my previous efforts, I wasn’t going to just slap this house together in a crazy, half-assed sort of way, consequences be damned, just because I want to SEE something done.  Nope.  Cool, calm, collected PLANNING is the order of the day.  And that’s where the trouble began.  Researching genuine antique Capes on the internet (like this cute little 18th century job below) revealed that they are designed around a central chimney.  I want this house to be like a REAL Cape, so nothing would do but I had to have a central chimney.  Even in a house with no cluster of partitions, this can present a problem.  Putting in a chimney from floor to roof eats up a lot of prime real estate!colonial-cape-cod-2268048

My husband suggested just putting a chimney on the roof and “pretending” the rest of the chimney exists  out of sight somewhere. I couldn’t even dignify that with an answer.  Then he suggested I put the chimney on one end of the house. Horrors!  I’m building a Cape, not a tarpaper shack! A little Googleing can turn you into a right architectural snob.  He rolled his eyes, but diplomatically didn’t press the issue.  I spent an ENTIRE Saturday fudging the partitions around, dodging hubby’s helpful suggestions, trying to figure out what to do with the flippin’ chimney!

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My rabbits boys, Pooh and Koko, wisely remained silent, letting Mommy think.  Finally, the dim bulb over my head flickered weakly – put the chimney in a pantry in the kitchen!  That’s it!  When the old place was remodeled, they smushed in a little niche around the chimney to keep stuff in.  Genius!  And on the second floor – an exposed chimney with a small closet squeezed in next to it.  The idea is that this house is a nice getaway place, but old and small.  Cramped quarters, if you will!  So the idea is that space will have to be utilized to best advantage while preserving the old historic bits.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Once I got the chimney question sorted out, it was time to remove all the tape and add windows and a back door.  As I may have mentioned, I can’t use a ruler.  My husband says, “Measure twice, cut once.” But for me, it’s more like, measure five times, cut once and it’s still wrong.  I let him do the measuring AND the cutting, as power saws make me plug my ears and run screaming from the room.   You should have seen the look on his face when I told him I needed 9 more windows and a door!  He doesn’t know the half of it yet.

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More windows!!  And an “oooops!”  Decided I didn’t want this window after all and had to plug it up.  I’ll stick some spackle in the chinks.  It’ll be fine!

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And so the first floor is glued together, using my trusty clamps and one of my 5-pound hand weights.  Notice the nibbled end.  Merri strikes again!  And there’s the chimney.  I know it looks gigantic, but once it’s covered in egg carton bricks, and the second floor and the roof is added, it won’t look like a massive blank totem pole about to topple and crush the clueless tiny inhabitants.

So far, so good.  Early days…!