In three days, my daughter Elsie is turning four. She is wild and strong and smart and funny, and she is a lover of all things tiny. When we go into our local toy store, she is drawn like a magnet to a table in the center where there are tiny little woodland animal families called Calico Critters. While I walk through the shelves three or four times, eyeing every single toy and debating whether or not that would be a good gift for her classmate’s birthday party, she is glued to these little cats and raccoons dressed in clothes and playing house.
For Christmas, we got her the coolest little Calico Critter car with a pull-behind caravan that opened up to show an incredibly efficient and well-appointed family camping set up, complete with tiny pots and pans for the tiny caravan kitchen and tiny bunks with tiny sleeping bags. This was particularly thrilling for me, as the year before we had spent a month in a campervan driving around New Zealand, and is currently even more thrilling because we’ve since bought a ’67 Shasta trailer that we’re hauling across the country next month- but alas, that is another story for another post. We’re talking about tiny rodent families with furniture, people.
Anyhow, Elsie liked the camper just fine, but her real passion seemed to lie in the dressing/undressing and the putting to bed of the animals. And because I obsess easily over things I can make several months ahead of time, sometime around February I decided that Elsie needed a doll house. And not just any doll house, not the Calico Critter plastic Deluxe Village House or even the Calico Critter Cozy Cottage Starter Home. No. A) I didn’t want to pay for that. And B) Surely I could make something even better and more, ahem, personal? Well…I’ll remind my readers here that we live off the grid and do not have electricity per se. We bring in enough solar to power our satellite modem and charge the computer up but things like vacuuming and power saw-ing are out. Buuuuut, our dear friend up the road, he has a much bigger generator. And he has tools. And he is a carpenter and has plenty of scrap wood. And, most importantly, he loves and is loved by my girl. Seriously- she accepted his presence in our lives without so much as a blink last year, as though she had known him for all of her three years, why wouldn’t she sit in his lap during dinner? Why wouldn’t he want to watch what she could do in the front lawn? Anyhow, when I asked him if he could help me out, he said no problem, and the next afternoon it was finished. Just like that.
I painted it, plastered craft paper-wallpaper to the back walls, and started trying to figure out what to do for furniture.
I found a ziploc bag full of random pieces at a thrift store, and I went to the craft store for things like the bits to put together a coffee table. I made a couch out of glued together rectangles of cardboard, then wrapped it in some leftover fabric. My favorite thing I think is the lamp- it’s a cough medicine cup wrapped in washi tape!
My husband says I’m going to get more use out of this thing than Elsie is, and he may be right. But at least one of us is loving it, right? No, I’m kidding. I’m sure she’s going to love it. I’ll add some more photos after we give it to her on Sunday.
So speaking of tiny things, the book I’m sharing with you this week is chock full of tiny treasures. For the first time, I’m not blogging about a book I bought, borrowed from the library, or received from Uncle Jess. This one I actually WON! The Wendy Bird over at Good Books for Young Souls held a contest a while back and I won this beautiful book by Molly Coxe called Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue.
What’s super cool about this book is that its medium is photography, and each picture is lovingly put together with enormous detail and wit. The story is of a small woolen mouse, Benjamin, and his much bigger woolen elephant friend, Bumper. When Benjamin’s mother goes missing, he and Bumper hatch a plan to go on an adventure and get her back from the lair of the evil feline, Sir Pouncelot.
It is just so fun and so marvelously well designed- the photographer, Olivier Toppin, lives in Provence and took the photographs in a medieval hilltop village. The photos are really thorough, with tiny pairs of scissors, matchstick ladders, and corn kernels for a sling shot- it was definitely an inspiration for me in trying to figure out how to create little rooms in Elsie’s dollhouse. Thank you, thank you, and thank you again, Wendy Bird! My kids and I are certainly getting a kick out of Benjamin and Bumper.
Also- isn’t this just the greatest inscription? Molly Coxe even signed the book for my kids- I melted when I saw the little drawings at the bottom. Can’t wait to read more from you, Ms. Coxe! As I understand, perhaps there will be more Benjamin and Bumper books?