Sunday, September 28, 2014

La Calavera Catrina joins the party (Hispanic Heritage Month)

Meet Catrina Calaveras. She has a livelier history than the nice man at the Arizona Latino Arts Center was willing to share.
A little milk with my tea, I think.
Catrina is a calaca -- a decorative skeleton associated with the Día de los Muertos -- but she's not just any calaca. Her origin is José Guadalupe Posada's print La Calavera Garbancera, the skeleton of the elegant dandy. The big hat and high style was intended as scathing commentary on Mexicans of indigenous origin who lightened their skin and adopted fancy clothes in order to imitate the European styles of the upper classes, rejecting their own heritage.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let's Visit Curacao! (Hispanic Heritage Month)

Arguably, a trip to Desert Sky Mall, primarily to visit Curacao, is less "Hispanic Heritage" than "Hispanic Right Here, Right Now." However, a Latino-focused traditional mall is apparently something that doesn't exist outside the Southwest, and it's an important enough trend in mall revitalization that the Wall Street Journal has covered it twice:

Also, it's the last place in the U.S. where you're likely to find Novi Stars still stocked, if you need Novi Stars NRFB. 

What's a little body horror between friends?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

In Search of Latin American Fashion Dolls (Hispanic Heritage Month)

My initial response when D7ana posted about Hispanic Heritage Month was excitement: exploring more in this area fit really well with my junket through south Phoenix, and I figured surely the central library would have educational and cultural displays, as they do that sort of thing.

Except, this time, not. They're busy moving Government Documents to the fifth floor, which means eliminating half the non-fiction section, which really makes me wonder where the books are going. Anyway, Elena Rodriguez (a.k.a. Teresa) took Hayden on this disappointing trip to get her out of the house while Meygan and Sophie redid the bathroom, and all they came home with was a book.

The one to the left is "Indian," to the right, mestiza.
It's called Mexican Popular Art: Clothing and Dolls, by Wendy Scalzo, and it's quite a fine book if you're interested in souvenir and collector dolls. I learned that the ubiquitous full skirt and peasant blouse has a name -- china poblana -- and was a briefly popular, regional fashion of the 19th century that was reinvented in the 1920s as "national costume." This fits nicely with my theory that much of our beloved past was invented in the 1920s, so it makes me happy. (How Buildings Learn has an entire section on the invention of Southwestern architecture in the 1920s.)

My real interest, though, is in popular dolls -- the Barbie equivalents. Let's go find some.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bathroom surprise!

Sophie and Meygan have decided to surprise Hayden by fixing up the bathroom.

(After seven photo shoots and ten drafts of my promised Hispanic Heritage Month post, I'm still not satisfied, so that's going to hang fire a little longer while I enjoy my last Marinela Choco Roll and get some tidying and organizing done. There are still three weeks to the month.)

The key to happiness is accessorizing.
Unsurprisingly with Phoenix construction, the marble walls ripple a bit. There are rumors that we got a building code some time in the 1980s, but I've never seen proof that it's enforced in any way. (I was very pleased to get beige "marble" in Dollar Tree contact paper, regardless. The floor is a vinyl sticky tile from Home Depot.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

La Grande Citrouille Opens, as a result of The Great Culling

Welcome to La Grande Citrouille, where big-headed yarn people come to play. They do not leave because I've been doing some serious culling of projects to accommodate being more into playscale these days, so they have nowhere to go.

There's something for everybody at La Grande Citrouille.
The name is a play on local emporium La Grande Orange, which is sort of an upscale grocery, only it serves hot breakfast and the sit-down place where you eat your hot breakfast is sometimes a pizzeria, and by the time all is said and done, valet parking is required.

The look is inspired (very loosely) by shipping container houses like the one Upcycle Living used to have on display in the Roosevelt Row Arts District. La Grande Citrouille is clearly just the thing for one of the few remaining vacant lots (new condos have been taking over).

The Great Culling has been brewing ever since Katie and Hayden were unexpectedly joined by Alexis, Sophie, D'Laura, and Cleo, which somehow turned 1:6 land into a boom town that now has a "permanent" population of thirteen or fourteen. I want to work on Katie & Hayden's house. I want to sew a winter wardrobe for the entire gang. I approach other paint-and-fuss projects (beyond the Old Schoolhouse, which is Katie's dollhouse) with a grim sense of duty. (I secretly wanted to do playscale for years.)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The bottom of the fakie barrel proves lower than heretofore believed, on a visit to South Phoenix

As I passed the $1 toy bin at barrio Kmart, I noticed a baggie doll who appeared to be a belated fakie for My Scene Barbie. A little rummaging determined there's an African-American version (who is determined to hide her face for shame at being involved in this) and. . . a pale blue one?

Remember the people who'd say "I don't care about race, it doesn't
matter to me if you're white, black, or green"? Well...
They are called Glam Rock Dolls, presumably because that's what the random doll-name generator spit out.

I was at barrio Kmart because I'd gotten up at 4:30 on Friday morning with a burning desire to develop a complicated spreadsheet model, stomped in to the office saying "I am in the middle of developing a complicated spreadsheet model, I cannot speak to anybody until it is done," and finished it at 2:30 in the afternoon. Having poured the entire contents of my brain into Excel, I thought I'd leave early and take the Mars Orbit shuttle down to the big Goodwill in Tempe to look for eBay-able items, as rebodying Pocahontas/Rebecca and Bratz Meygan had cut into the planned inventory.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Fruits of Old Town Scottsdale (and a shopping guide!)

Elena Rodriguez brings Katie some dolls for her dollhouse.
They're not fully articulated, but you know toy makers are cutting back on that.
These are very small worry dolls from Guatemala. The Mexican Imports store in Old Town Scottsdale sells them for 10 cents each. (There's a list of where else to find toys in Old Town at the end of this post.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quick and Easy Project, Stage 5: Package Arrives

Katie ponders how to arrange the furniture in her dollhouse. Right now, it's all bare metal.

"It's just like what I had as a kid."

Here's how tiny 144th scale is.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dollar General goes all-in for fakies, plus bonus Walmart camper

In the wake of acquiring Dolores, the Dollar Store Beauty (who is now getting rerooted with yarn dreadlocks, just because), I made a trip to Dollar General to see if the bagged African-American $1 fashion doll was as luridly bad as I recalled. Short answer: yes. Her only possible future could be as a superhero, as she was clearly bitten by a radioactive spider.

However, Dollar General has geared up for Christmas with a full new toy aisle that included Gothic Tales, including a pretty good Clawdeen Wolf on an unarticulated 9" body.

I'm pre-teen Clawdeen.
The Draculaura and Frankie knockoffs weren't nearly as good: Draculaura has an orange streak in her hair, while Frankie is very, very green. As a dose of painful irony for budget-conscious families, Dollar General now stocks Monster High dolls for $12.98, so the real thing is right there to compare. (The sudden surge of MH product to discounters suggests that Mattel is still dealing with excess inventory problems.)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dollar Tree Beauty: Review and Clothing Fit Comparison

On the way back to the train from Walmart, I stopped at Dollar Tree to see what they had in the way of $1 fashion doll knock-offs. To my surprise, they had $1 fashion doll dresses (but horrible quality, with serged hems) and a plethora of ambiguously brown fashion dolls in better quality dresses.

The ambiguous brownness sucked me in. Usually Dollar Store Beauties, along with Swap Mart Beauties, are a whiter shade of pale, with the exception of the eerily glowing African-American baggie version at Dollar General. This gal also has a face comparable to the higher end of Swap Mart Beauties and the Just Kidz dolls, rather than the unfortunate raccoon-eyed look of the Barbie knock-offs at the 99 Cents Only.

Here, all the ambiguously brown gals gather, with varying levels of enthusiasm and skepticism, to check out Dolores. (Non-keepers don't usually get names, but calling her "the Dollar Tree Beauty" for much longer is going to get tedious.) What they're most curious about is which of them can wear her clothes.

Clockwise from bottom left: Liv Alexis (AA), Briony (EAH Briar Rose), Krys (lighter Alexis),
Dolores in box, Cleo de Nile, Hattie de Nile (Cleo #2),
Elena (Fashionista Sporty), Rebecca (Pocahantas head on Fashionista Artsy body).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A new plan for Spidey's house

In the wake of discovering that Spidey's bathroom plan was fatally flawed, I decided to try a new room layout. This house is a vintage Arrow Cape Cod that sports a truly bizarre and cramped floor plan.

So easy to move a bathroom when no plumbing is involved!

Spidey's bathroom dilemma

In a wave of euphoria at the Quick & Easy Project reaching a necessary pause point (but having genuinely been both quick and easy so far), I thought I would tackle Spidey's bathroom in the Victorian Fixer. Last week, I had finally "done" the tile. As I put away the paper for the Q&EP, I realized I have scrapbook paper in exactly the kind of period floral pattern that I wanted for the bathroom.
Two great things that do not go great together.
It clashes violently with the tile. Worse yet, once the sink (painted in "wintergreen") has been seen against the wallpaper, it also appears to clash violently with tile that it got along fine with before.

That is why this house has never been quick, nor easy.

Quick and Easy Project, Stage 4: The Endless Touch-Ups

The roof is now painted in Apple Barrel "Chocolate Bar" and the front edges lined in Apple Barrel "Khaki." Doing some of these coats late at night has led to lots of touch-up. I determined that spray paint can be touched up by spraying a bit onto a sheet of tin foil, then brushing it on.
Even with the thinnest brush, I keep making a mess.
The bedroom and lounge floors ought to be ribbon, but it turns out I have no 1/2" off-white ribbon. None. I have colors that may not otherwise exist in the visible spectrum, but no off-white.

In the mean time, I've tried thin leather scraps (right color, way too thick) and plush baby blankets from the 99 Cents Only (the white is too white, the beige is too beige).

There is a vague plan that the tower should have a bell, and I do not have a bell, but I'd bet Michael's or Hobby Lobby will have a small wood cut-out bell on my next trip.

At this point, there is nothing I can do until the furniture arrives on Tuesday, which means maybe I should declare another Quick and Easy Project and see if that speeds me along.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Quick and Easy Project, Stage 3: The Modge-Podging

Katie discovers a dollhouse.
I know I had one of those as a kid.
In a frenzy of late-night activity on Wednesday, I cut wallpaper and flooring for the Old Schoolhouse, and modging was podged. This took only about three tries to get the paper in tight, but not too tight. Wallpaper is only on the back walls because. . . um. . . design decision.

The roof has also had two coats of chocolate-colored acrylic paint but needs at least one more.

Here's a close-up of an earlier stage, as it's time to identify what room is what!

Wallpapering is such a GLOPPY task.
Bottom floor: left (green/red) is the kitchen; right (pink/beige) is the dining room.
Middle floor: lounge.
Top floor: left (white tile) is the bath; right (lace) is the bedroom.

After moderate dithering over whether I should go to Auntie Em's in Glendale on Saturday to see if she has unpainted metal furniture (but I've been to Glendale twice this summer) or whether I should call and ask if she has it (but she'll tell me their inventory is huge and to come look for myself) or whether to repeat these activities with the even less likely dollhouse shop up at the top end of Scottsdale. . .

I ordered the furniture I wanted from tandscraft on eBay. I did it on the bus between Tempe Transit Center and Curry Road, which means it took under nine minutes and furnished the house for about $20. It will likely be in my hands on Tuesday night, and ordering frees about 3-4 hours of my time during the week (to go to the Scottsdale dollhouse store after work) or on Saturday (to go to Glendale).

Cue question: "Did I just spend $20 on what was supposed to be a free project?" Um. . . well. . . none of the other houses needs any more furniture at all, other than the Moose Lodge being missing a kitchen table. . . and I have supplies for all the trim on all of them. . . so um. . . it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Quick and Easy Project Stage 2: The eBaying

At the end of Stage 1 (Euphoric Activity), I determined that the furniture I'd intended for the Old Schoolhouse (my Salvation Army shadow box) was far too large. It seems that when it comes to dollhouse-making, I have no sense of proportion.

The first possible size that occurred to me was 1:144 ("dollhouse for a dollhouse"), mostly because this scale is very small. While the painted metal furniture in this scale runs $10 a room and up ($60 to furnish this house. . . um, nope), unpainted sets are much more budget-friendly.

Dining set from seller tandscraft, who has an amazing selection of room sets.
Then I Googled for "144th scale furniture," as who among us would not?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quick and Easy Project Stage 1: Euphoric Activity

Quick and easy projects always begin in a rush of enthusiastic activity, in which the progress that can be made is boundless!

I set my alarm for five a.m. so that I could spray paint in the cool of pre-dawn darkness. The 1980s French blue -- traditionally accompanied by pink and chickens -- had to go. Beige is the word. If I ever write an erotic best seller, it will be titled 50 Shades of Beige.

Goodbye, mid-1980s blue! Goodbye, ghosts of chickies and bunnies!
There are downsides to my dislike of artificial light. For instance, I reached into my dark closet and pulled out a beige-ish spray can... which turned out not to be my usual khaki/almond shade, but medium brown.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Beginnings of a quick & easy project, hair cut, dresses, cat

Here is my reward for stopping at Salvation Army to buy drinking glasses, since the cat smashed the last of the prior set. For $2.50, I got three vintage poppy-patterned glasses that were marked $1.99 for the set, one unpriced glass with little star-shaped flowers, and this shadowbox, also marked $1.99. If it's below 90 tomorrow morning, I am going to hop out in the yard and spray paint this beige.

Five rooms, no obvious scale.
This is intended as a Quick, Easy, Satisfying Project that will display some of the 1:48 furniture that started as Hobby Lobby charms and use some of my tiny-patterned scrapbook paper that doesn't fit the Swamp Home's ambience.

Of course, QESPs are the road to perdition, since they're never as Q or E as they seem like they ought to be.

Meanwhile, Catra, partly repainted but regrettably skirtless, surveys progress on the bathroom tile.

"I think I need to talk with the tile installer about unblocking the window."