A Special Sunday Brunch Part 1

Matthew Bramble woke up to the smell of food. Delicious, freshly-baked food, to be exact.

Matthew in Bed

‘Mmm, blueberry muffins,’ he said to himself. ‘I love Sundays.’

It was the custom for families living a leisurely stroll away from one another to take turns hosting potluck Sunday brunch. That day it was the Brambles’ turn to open their home to their neighbours. They would be joined by the Mulberrys, the Slydales and the Chantillys. Maurice Chantilly and his family actually lived a leisurely drive away from Larchwood Lodge, but his daughter Esme and Matthew were best friends at school so they were always welcome.

MB in bathtub

Scrubbing himself in the bathtub, Matthew thought about how wonderful it was that school was out. This was going to be an extra special term break; the Brambles were going on a beach holiday for a week! The idea of being someplace warm in December put him in a very good mood.

new clothes

‘Oh, there you are, Mattie!’ greeted his mother, Eleanor, as soon as he stepped out of the bathroom. ‘Here, put these on.’ She held out a set of new clothes, more fit for a day out in town than a lazy Sunday at home.

‘Why can’t I wear what I always wear?’ Matthew asked.

‘Oh, you know why -‘ Eleanor caught herself mid-sentence, as though something had just struck her. ‘The neighbours are coming and I don’t want you looking scruffy, that’s all,’ she added quickly. ‘Now get a move on. I’d better get the er, muffins, out of the oven.’

Matthew got dressed quickly.

Matt in the Mirror

‘It’s not quite my style,’ he said as he checked himself in the mirror, ‘and the t-shirt’s so baggy I can’t see my shorts!’

IMG_0009

‘But oh well, whatever makes Mom happy. I’m too hungry to argue!’

‘Are you ready, Mattie?’ It was his father, Mortimer, calling from halfway up the stairs.

IMG_0011

‘Haha, I see Mom’s made you dress up too,’ Matthew remarked, terribly amused.

‘You know I love your mother very much,’ he said good-naturedly. ‘Now come along.’

Matthew wondered what was making his parents especially excited about Sunday brunch. Perhaps there were having special guests?

As usual, the Brambles stood on the porch waiting for the neighbours to arrive, and as usual, the Chantillys were the first to come.

IMG_0014

There was a chorus of hearty good mornings and how-do-you-dos, and then from behind her back, Esme produced a box wrapped in cheery yellow paper. (Yellow is Esme’s favorite color.)

IMG_0016

‘Happy birthday in advance, Matt!’ said Esme. ‘Sorry the box is a bit squashed. Bumpy country lanes, hee.’

IMG_0015

‘Wow, thanks Esme!’ exclaimed Matthew. ‘You’re the best!’

‘Our friends asked that we throw you an early birthday party,’ explained his father, ‘since we’re going away on vacation next week.’

‘You don’t mind, do you, Mattie?’ asked his mother.

Matthew was beaming. ‘Oh, Mom and Dad! This is the best surprise ever!’

-end of Part 1-

Advertisements

The Making of My First Sylvanian Village

Sycamore CottageThe Sycamore Cottage had to go.

That was my first thought when I decided to build a Sylvanian village. The cottage is pretty but too girly even for me. I actually prefer the soft blue and cream colours of the Riverside Lodge, which unfortunately has even less usable floor area in my opinion. The adult in me yearned for a Sylvanian house that could accommodate all the features of a real-life house – living room, kitchen, dining area, bedroom/s and bathroom – and its inhabitants.  I examined the Sylvanian Families displays at all the major toy stores in town to get a good idea of what would make the ideal home. Surprisingly, Willow Hall – which is 50cm deep when opened – didn’t fit the bill, despite boasting 5 rooms and having a large footprint. I found the rooms too cramped; once you put the furniture in, there’d hardly be leg room for the critters. Cedarwood Terrace (21cm deep) and Babblebrook Grange (27cm deep), same thing. Oakwood Manor, too big, period. I was going to settle for Cedarwood Terrace when I saw Larchwood Lodge.

I didn’t fancy the teal roof, but I loved how spacious it looked, and a quick check on the internet using my smartphone (because the promoter didn’t know, tsk) gave me the info I needed to make my decision: it was 34cm high, 40cm wide and 31cm deep.

Best buy ever.

(Close second being Bramble Hedgehog Baby Boy a.k.a. Bilberry Bramble, which I had found 3 days earlier at a Toys ‘r’ Us. It was looking unassuming and ridiculously cute, all by its lonesome.)

Larchwood Lodge back top view

With all that space on the upper floor, my big adult hands could  set up the rooms without knocking into pieces of furniture and fixtures.I was able to install a complete bathroom on the right and a bedroom on the left that comfortably sleeps 4: parents on the double bed and the kids on the bunk beds, with some room still for a side table and a coat stand in the corner, which I intend to substitute with a wardrobe or dresser.

Close-ups of bedroom and bathroom:

Larchwood Lodge upstairs bedroom

Larchwood Lodge bathroom

And now for a look at the ground floor. Here’s the living room:

Larchwood Lodge living roomThere’s still space to the right of the TV for a fireplace or a grandfather clock. But I’m thinking of a long dining table for dinner parties.

Here’s the kitchen:

Larchwood Lodge kitchen

I feel like I’m missing a cabinet for storing the dinnerware and dried packaged foods. But I love how the stove is positioned right under the window so that the delicious cooking smells can waft outside and entice guests and family members to come in for a meal. 🙂 And check out the staircase! There are stairs instead ladders! Win!

And finally, here’s the front view:

Larchwood Lodge front view

Home Sweet Home. 🙂

I haven’t decided who will live here. My son decided we would be the charcoal cat family, so I used them in these photos, but after seeing the baby Bilberry Bramble, he now wants us to be hedgehogs, which is fine by me because the Brambles were the first family I owned. I do think they fit better with the country look of the Lodge. The charcoal cats look too posh for it, and my family certainly isn’t the posh sort.

Plenty of time for such decisions.

Back!

Wow, it’s almost 2 years since my last post. Where did all the time go? Where have I been?

Well, 2011 was a very eventful year. In March, my dad had a fall at home and died a week later so as you would expect, I lost interest in many things, including Sylvanians, as I mourned his passing. The grief then turned into a determination to set my life on the right track, and the fact that I found myself pregnant again gave it more impetus. My husband I had been renting for 5 years so we started looking for an apartment big enough for 4 in April, and got the keys to our home in June. Career-wise, I had been feeling bored and stuck in a rut for some time so I made a decision to take a position in another school, which would begin after my maternity leave in March 2012. Speaking of maternity leave, our second child, another boy, was born in November, and since then he has been keeping my hands full while making our lives messier, but happier than we ever thought possible.

Once I went back to work in March this year, I hit the ground running. In my 12 years at the old place, I have never worked as hard as I have (and still do) at this new school. There was absolutely no time for play; when I was not at work, I was home with the kids, who of course needed to be watched every minute. My Sycamore Cottage sat on my older son’s shelf with bits of furniture that I didn’t care too much for because he liked handling them, especially the kitchen appliances, but largely ignored by me and gathering a bit of dust. 🙂

Then my sister and her 10-year-old daughter came to visit from Melbourne 2 weeks ago.

In a house with no girls, my Sylvanian Families collection was the only thing I could offer my niece. I knew I could trust her with it because she has Sylvanians of her own thanks to me. So she and the older boy got to work and managed to create a village with practically everyone in our family represented! This is my favourite tableau by the kids:

Raiding the FridgeThose two represent my niece and my son, of course, raiding the fridge. 🙂 Here’s another one that I like:

the new arrivalThat’s supposed to be my brother (fox) and his wife (cat) with their newborn baby (cat in cradle), my husband (charcoal cat), my youngest sister (sister fox) and my younger boy (charcoal cat baby in stroller). And finally, can’t help but find this sweet:

getting ready for Christmas

I was so inspired by what the kids had done that when my sister and niece flew home on November 17, I didn’t pack away the village but instead felt the urge to build a new one. 🙂

Will the real Slydale please stand up?

When I saw the Slydales at the store, I just had to have them. I thought they were uncommonly good-looking:

I wish it had been the Flair (UK) version of the family, because that would contain each figure’s biography, which I always find amusing and interesting. There weren’t any fox families in Flair boxes at that store, nor at all the other toy stores that I visited. In fact, there weren’t many Epoch sets of these foxes either, just 3 to be precise. To me, that was another sign I should get them.

Naturally, I wanted to find out more about the Slydales. The Sylvanian Families site, my first stop when it comes to all things Sylvanian, only had a scanty item description: ‘Father Slick, mother Velvette, brother Buster and sister Scarlett Slydale.’ So I went to Beverly’s fantastic site to see if I could get more information about them. I found biographies which matched the ones that I found later on the Calico Critters site:

  • Mother, Velvette adores her family. She loves to take long strolls with Slick and her
    children Buster and Scarlett. Velvette looks forward to the times when she can sit
    back and relax in her favorite chair. She enjoys reading, writing and cooking. If that
    is not enough, she loves to ride horses too.
  • Father, Slick works as an electrician. His talents are so valuable to Cloverleaf
    Corners. Slick loves Velvette’s cooking and baking. Sometimes he waits around the
    kitchen for the next batch of scrumptious cookies to come out of the oven.
  • Brother, Buster is very proud of his father and hopes to be just like him some day.
    He often invites the other Cloverleaf critters, Branson Whiskers, Brother Gromwell,
    Linus Fisher and Spot Dalmatian to his house to play miniature golf in the backyard.
  • Sister, Scarlett is witty and charms many new friends in Cloverleaf Corners.
    Her favorite times are spent sipping tea like a grown up and baking cookies with
    her mother. She enjoys practicing the violin and often plays for her mother and
    father when they are having a special dinner together.
  • Girl twin, Linda crawls about the kitchen as her mother cooks. She likes to go
    into the kitchen cupboards for fun and pull out all of the pots and pans she can
    find. Velvette decided to set aside a special cupboard for Linda with lots of
    kitchen play toys.
  • Boy twin, Skitter looks in awe at his twin baby sister. It will not be long before he
    joins in the kitchen play fun.

I was convinced that I had read authentic biographies, and since I felt that I had a lot in common with Velvette, I adopted her as my avatar.

Then I stumbled across alternative biographies of the family on another site:

  • Slick Slydale is a mine of information and very clever. He’ll know the answer to any question you ask him.
  • Velvette Slydale is always on the lookout for a bargain. She has been known to travel for miles and miles and queue for hours and hours just for the spring sales.
  • Skitter Slydale is always on the go, but like his older brother, he is a bit naughty. His favourite trick is to run off with his baby sister’s toys.
  • Scarlet Slydale spends hours brushing her tail and is very proud of its glossy, healthy condition.

This got me confused. I know there was an earlier version of the Slydale family by Tomy, but they were brown foxes which looked very different from the Slydales that I have. But the ones on this site are identical to mine. Since the biographies that I saw first were from the Calico Critters site, my only guess was that the alternative biographies were Sylvanian Families (UK) versions. I have since learned that I was wrong. I started a post regarding the Slydales on the Sylvanian Families Message Board and was informed that the second set of biographies are also from a Tomy release.

So the Slydales have 2 different biographies, and since I am Velvette I have to choose which Velvette I’m going to be. I still want to be Velvette the loving mother, ardent reader, aspiring writer and good cook. Because I’m really not much of a bargain hunter.

How to Make a Cosy Retreat

So I went house-hunting recently.

I wanted something bigger than the Riverside Lodge, but I was limited by space. The new house had to fit into my bookcase. It couldn’t be taller than 34 cm and must have a footprint no bigger than 34 cm x 38 cm. After doing my research, I realized that the only thing that would fit into that space other than the Lodge would be the Willow Hall Conservatory Extension, a.k.a. Terrace House. Which, of course, is a smaller house.

Where’s the fun, decorating a tiny house? I asked myself. But an idea came to me. I could turn the Terrace House into a nice little holiday cottage. It wouldn’t take much effort or require a lot of furniture. In terms of story-writing, I felt that I could get ‘good mileage’  out of such a house. As a holiday cottage, it could be occupied by any Sylvanian, so I could in theory generate lots of stories with it as the setting. I was sold on the idea.

Having assembled the house and played around with different configurations, I decided to have a rooftop terrace rather than a front porch. Then I had to decide on furniture. I wanted the house to have everything that a lone occupant would need, namely:

  • a bed
  • a refrigerator
  • a television set, and
  • a cooking appliance, e.g. stove, microwave oven, grill

How difficult could it be, moving around 4 pieces of furniture? It took me 2 hours. This was the result:


The microwave oven came with a dresser which, after some frustrated attempts, I had to concede I didn’t have space for. I only needed the oven anyway, so I just had to figure out where to place it. It didn’t look right when I placed it on a coffee table. Finally, I settled for it sitting on top of the fridge, which is the set-up my mother-in-law has in her kitchen. 🙂

I went to bed, somewhat satisfied.

The next morning I discovered a problem:

There is no way the fridge door can open with the bed being so close.

So I swapped the armchair and the bedroom and turned the TV at an angle:


Not bad. My Sylvanian could now watch TV from the armchair or if he or she felt a bit lazy, in bed:

The problem was still with the fridge:

It’s great to be able to reach out and get a drink while staying seated in the armchair, but I think it’s stupid to have to jump over the armrest to get other things from the other compartments. So I left the space in the front of the fridge empty, as standing space:

I felt like a genius for having solved my interior decorating problems, and thought my experience worthy of sharing with the inspiring community of collectors at the Sylvanian Families Message Board. 🙂 I received encouraging feedback, which made me happy, and then Courtney of Sylvania Haven humbled me with a brilliant suggestion: “Maybe you could move the fridge/microwave combo to the wall where the bed was originaly [sic]?”

I almost dismissed the idea, but when I gave it more thought I saw what she meant.

Using Velvette Slydale as a tester, I found out that it is possible to open the fridge door fully if the fridge is where the bed originally was, and the bed is on the opposite wall. An adult Sylvanian would just need to scoot a little to the left to open the fridge. Yay!

The best part about this arrangement is that I now have space, where the fridge used to be, for a table and stool:


Now my Sylvanian has a dining area, which can double up as a workspace for say, an aspiring writer. The stool is absolutely necessary for getting food in and out of the microwave oven.


Another plus, the window is unblocked by furniture:


I even threw in a wastepaper basket for good measure:


As for the armchair that I chucked out, it goes up to the rooftop terrace, along with another identical armchair and a coffee table:

My little retreat is complete! What a fun project this has been.