CREATED IN THE 80'S
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You may have met Miss Minnie Sparks at her Fireworks Stand last year. Obviously, she has to live somewhere, so I thought you might like to take a tour through her little cottage; with her permission, of course. She's at a meeting of the local Library Board today, and then she has to unpack some fireworks for her stand, but she sends her best regards and says to make yourself right at home. "During fireworks season I stay so busy I can hardly think," she confessed. "Why, I've only baked one cake this whole week!"
(Miss Minnie's was the first freestanding dollhouse I made, although at that time I didn't really know who lived there. She moved in later.)
This welcome mat was made by my friend, Sally Ferguson. It's gotten lots of use, as Miss Minnie has frequent visitors who enjoy her companionship, her cooking, and her willingness to listen when someone needs to talk. Miss Minnie tries to sweep it frequently, but it is fireworks season now ....
Miss Minnie and her visitors enjoy her front porch. "Remember when they moved the cemetery to put that freeway through? Well, this bench was on my family's plot, and it wasn't permitted in the new one," Miss Minnie told me once. "So, I just put it here on the front porch. It's always nice and cool to sit on, but I put a cushion on it in the autumn because it can freeze your bottom off. I like to sit out here when the weather is nippy with my legs wrapped in a quilt and drink hot chocolate and watch the leaves fall."
( I made the coleus by painting the leaves freehand on printer paper. The bench from Michaels is a fairly recent addition to the porch. Originally I had a rocking chair, but it always seemed out of scale and didn't leave much room for people to walk around it. If I were to do this porch today, I would probably paint it gray or at least score lines on it to suggest boards. I didn't think about that in those early days.)
This bear was carved by her good friend Ed using a chain saw.
Miss Minnie's macrame hanger was made by my daughter, Dana Newman McCartney, who used to do full-size macrame when she was a teenager.
I don't remember where I got Miss Minnie's chair, but Miss Minnie's papa's cider jug with the willow cuttings came from my friend, Sandi Gravelle.
Miss Minnie is quite a reader. Hmm, she's got a book on banned books and a book on canning. She's apparently a gardener who appreciates free speech.
Miss Minnie's fern in its tall wicker stand looks so healthy because her friend Ed Handy gives her fish emulsion from his aquarium. Smelly, but very potent fertilizer.
This little birdhouse was made for Miss Minnie by one of her grand-nephews. It was a present for Mother's Day. Although Miss Minnie has no children of her own, she is loved by many children in her family and in the community.
This overview of Miss Minnie's living room was taken on a rather gloomy day when Miss Minnie was having breakfast with her Cousin Sophie.
One of the things that strikes me each time I visit Miss Minnie is her fondness for ducks and geese. I asked her about this once.
"When I was a little girl," she said, "I always loved watching the geese and ducks fly overhead in those wonderful wavery v's. I could hear their faint honking, and always thought they were trying to tell me that I could fly, too, if I just really tried." She smiled then. "I only fly in my dreams, but I seem to have accumulated a lot of reminders of those long-ago childhood wishes."
I asked Miss Minnie about her phone. "Wouldn't you like the convenience of a cellphone, Miss Minnie?" She looked at me thoughtfully, "Honey, you must lead a very boring life if you want to talk to people no matter where you go. Carrying that old phone over to my little sofa is enough for me. Besides, I like the way it sounds when I dial it; it doesn't beep and burp like these newer ones."
Next to the wooden geese figure is a box that contained Valentines chocolates from Ed.
Because her house is quite small, Miss Minnie has chosen small-scale furnishings. She found this old brass daybed at an estate sale, and thought it would be perfect in her living room. She just made some new cushions for it, and it leaves her a bit of room for that healthy fern you see behind it. "The sofa I had in here originally belonged to my grandmother; most uncomfortable thing you ever sat on. I always said that kind of furniture was for looking at, not being comfortable in."
Children love to open that china rabbit trinket box when they visit. It was Miss Minnie's when she was a child. She has a sweet tooth, so it usually holds some little treat.
The little end table is one of a matching set; the other one is at the other end of the sofa. "You can hide a lot of stuff behind those little doors," she said. "I'm also thinking about the next time I make new sofa cushions. I may just put a ruffle or a kick pleat around the bottom; then I can slide a box under there to hold stuff, too. I'm always needing someplace to keep my crafting supplies. I just keep buying more."
And speaking of buying more, Miss Minnie loves to change things around in her living room; she loves flea markets and estate sales. "Oh yes, except for family mementos, I get rid of things frequently when Candlelighters calls. That way I can have the fun of finding another interesting bargain to fix up. I love the challenge."
What about a TV? "Well, honey, look right behind you. It's in that built-in unit that Ed made for me that covers that whole wall. Don't know how he ever finds time to work on his own stuff. He's always doing something for me."
Miss Minnie's intriguing sofa table was crafted by Ed Handy, too. That marbled box on the table contains her letter writing supplies. She has a large correspondence.
(The fruit is one of my early Fimo workshops. If I were to do the bananas now I would add more brown lines and make the tip brownish/green. I would also darken the indentation on the apple and rub some chalk on the side to vary the color a bit. Oh well, I was just learning then.)
Miss Minnie has a bit of a green thumb, although she doesn't have as many plants now as she did in her younger days. "Now that I'm retired from Blumrosen's Department Store, I don't have time to water and take care of all those plants. I have too many other things I'd like to do, so I've given a lot of plants to my nieces."
(This plant is made from dyed pepper grass. The container is jewelry findings. For examples of similar containers, look in Cheap Thrills pages.)
The lovely pitcher in her corner cabinet belonged to Miss Minnie's mother, and the china figurines were her maternal grandmother's.
(I bought the pitcher from Vince Stapleton at a show; I think I also got the figures at a show, too.)
This ceramic china jar was a gift from Miss Minnie's oldest nephew who served in VietNam. You might recall hearing that Miss Minnie has never married, but she has an extended family, including several nieces and nephews. Most of them loved spending weekends and summer vacations with Miss Minnie and often brought her souvenirs of their travels. Now their own children come for visits, too.
(The china jar was made from a wonderful bead I found at a bead shop; its base is a finding that I painted black. The knob is a glass-headed pin.)
This decorative basket is usually reserved for magazines. However, Miss Minnie has been spending considerable time going through all her old issues, looking for an ad she remembered seeing for some Coca-Cola trays she wanted to order. "For the life of me," she told me, "I cannot find that ad. Well, as long as I've got all these out, might as well take them to the old folks' home. Somebody there might want to read them."
(I glued a small brass ring to the bottom of the basket so it would sit straight, and glued moss and dried flowers around its rim. That's more dried stuff on the handle; the bow is painted wood. This is an example of the interesting ways dried flowers retain their color: the yellow ones are still bright as can be, but the ones that were bright pink are barely visible now. My husband brought me lots of tiny wild flowers from his hiking in my early mini-ing days. I have learned since that anything red, pink or blue I will need to paint later, because they fade so much.)
Notice the curtains just visible above the basket? These once hung in her mother's dining room and had been severely damaged by an angry cat. Miss Minnie cut them down to fit her cottage window. "Those curtains were the prettiest mauve color. Mama really had a fancy dining room when I was a little girl. She used to entertain a lot. I wouldn't have a cat, but I did have a dog." She sighed. "He was an idiot, ol' Firecracker, but a better friend I never had. Except Ed, of course."
When Miss Minnie got rid of her Victorian sofa for the brass daybed, she gained enough room to bring in this little bookcase, which houses more of her duck collection, as well as some other mementos. "Actually, I don't really need this many ducks, but people keep giving them to me."
The bronze deer figurine belonged to Miss Minnie's father.
That brass trinket box with the ivory rose lid was a gift on her 17th birthday from her childhood sweetheart, Joe Kindlin. Joe also sent that clock home from Japan when he was on leave just before being shipped overseas to Korea. "I know it's kind of outlandish," he wrote, "but see, that plane flying over the earth will always remind you of me, Minnie." And even though Joe was killed in Korea, it always does.
(I made all these items. The plane and globe were from earrings I found in a sales basket at a place called The Bonanza Store. The deer are model railroad figures.)
The shell on the top shelf of the bookcase was a gift to Miss Minnie from a nephew after his first trip to see the ocean. The wooden shoe was a gift from a niece who was an exchange student in The Netherlands.
The album on the bottom shelf contains old family pictures, as well as pictures from her youth with both Joe Kindlin and Ed Handy. It also contains a yellowed newspaper clipping:
LT. JOSEPH T. KINDLIN KILLED IN ACTION IN KOREA
Word was received Friday by Mr. and Mrs. Ace Kindlin of the death of their son Lieutenant Joseph T. Kindlin, who was killed in action in Korea on August 11. His commanding officer called his parents personally from Osaki, Japan, to tell them of his death.
Joe attended the local high school where he participated actively in sports and was Salutatorian of his graduating class. He was captain of the Varsity team which won the District Championship for the first time in 15 years. He was a junior in college when he entered the armed forces.
Joe received his training in Ft. Benning, Georgia, and was assigned to the Infantry Paratroops. He sailed in February for Japan, where he remained until his Division was sent to Korea. Lt. Kindlin was a member of the 27th (Wolfhound) Regiment of the 25th division.
It was Joe's dream to become a college professor, his childhood friend Ed Handy told the Herald-Post. Lt. Kindlin was engaged to be married to his high school sweetheart, Miss Minnie Sparks of this city.
Lieutenant Kindlin is survived by his parents, one brother, Frank Kindlin, and several aunts, uncles and other relatives
in various parts of Texas and Oklahoma. He will be buried with full military honors. Details will be provided when they are available.
Miss Minnie is both practical and sentimental. She used some remnants of her mother's cut-down lace curtains as the underskirt on her round table.
The topper on her skirted table was made from the same material she used to recover the cushions of her mother's old sewing rocker.
(This rocking chair used to be in my daughter Dana's dollhouse when she was a little girl. It was a gift a family friend brought her from Knott's Berry Farm in California and was originally brown with brown and white checked cushions.)
These fresh flowers are from Miss Minnie's small cutting garden. The china hen belonged to her Great-Aunt Lula, who used to keep safety pins and odds and ends in it on her dresser. Miss Minnie keeps caramels in it now.
You can't tell from this angle, but I think that book is Pride and Prejudice. Miss Minnie is a big Jane Austen fan.
Miss Minnie's friend Ed keeps her supplied with firewood left over from his carpentry and wood carving business. There's another duck next to the fireplace.
Miss Minnie took some painting lessons for a while. As far as I know, this oil painting and the two watercolors of ducks over her desk are the only ones she displays.
More ducks carved by Ed. Miss Minnie keeps a candle handy because she lives in an area plagued by thunderstorms and power outages.
Another plant. Fortunately, it can still flourish despite neglect and low light. "I always forget to water that one," Miss Minnie says. "I'm surprised it's still alive." During fireworks season Miss Minnie doesn't do much dusting, either!
(This plant was made from laser cut brass, painted and bent to shape.)
Miss Minnie's bedroom is quite small, but she manages to fit things in. "Well, behind you," she says, "you'll notice a large closet where I keep a cot for visitors. There's room on that wall for my sewing machine and craft area. You know, I made hats for many years when I worked for Mr. Blumrosen. I still do special order hats on occasion. Maybe after fireworks season I'll get my work area cleaned up and you can come see the hats I've been working on recently. I'm even thinking of getting a computer; there's enough room for it if I do a little re-arranging. One of my grand-nephews has been teaching me how to use the internet. Why, it's simply amazing what you can do with one of those machines."
What Miss Minnie doesn't know is that her nieces and nephews are getting together to buy her a computer!
Oh, you noticed the bear? She keeps it for children who sleep over and may have forgotten theirs.
Miss Minnie smiled when I complimented her on her bed. "Well, I worked on it a lot one long winter when we were snowed in several times. Those little figures represent all the little angel children of my family and friends." She sighed. "Although many of them are now almost your age. My goodness! I don't feel that old!"
(My friend Josefina Allen, who also makes exquisite Christmas ornaments [see my Christmas pages] made this coverlet with the attached bedskirt and matching pillow as a birthday gift. It is one of my favorite possessions. I made the curtains. I don't remember where I found that bed, but it was covered with an atrocious print that was very sloppily glued. But "it had good bones," as Miss Minnie would say.)
Another indication of Miss Minnie's interests: more books and another plant. And she does have a sweet tooth. Look at that variety of cookies. I wonder how she keeps from gaining a lot of weight. "It's in our genes, honey. All the Sparkses are stringbeans with lots of energy. Nowadays they'd probably have some fancy name for it and call me hyperactive or something."
You may have noticed several old-fashioned lamps, family heirlooms. Most of them have been electrified; a few still use kerosene for those times when the power goes off.
(I like to make books; these were contrived in my early days. The cover on the top book was cut from a magazine advertisement for oriental rugs. The spine was cut from a picture showing books in a bookcase. Nowadays I design my own books, and have made literally hundreds.
The spittoon and banjo belonged to Miss Minnie's grandfather. "I can play that banjo, you know," Miss Minnie confided. "But I never could stand chewing tobacco! I had to empty that cussed thing when I was a child. I enjoy looking at it now that's it's empty and clean! I use it on the porch in the fall with bittersweet branches in it."
(The banjo was a refrigerator magnet. The spittoon is a screw-on finial for a small brass curtain rod. My own grandfather played a banjo and chewed Brown Mule chewing tobacco. Guess who emptied HIS spittoon?)
That little lamp on her dresser has a camphor glass globe. When it's wet it's clear, but when it's dry, it's opaque. "Smells like camphor, too, when it's wet," Miss Minnie told me. "Shoot, nowadays nobody knows what camphor is! Used to smell that a lot in the old days; Mama used it when we were sick."
There's another of those figurines, a gift from her Cousin Clara. The butterfly jewelry box was a gift from Ed Handy one Christmas. "Surprised the heck out of me," Miss Minnie said. "First thing he ever gave me that wasn't a duck or a goose."
The painted hand mirror was a Mother's Day gift from another grand-niece, twin sister of the boy who made her birdhouse. That perfume was a gift from Cousin Sophie. "My, what she must've paid for that perfume! Probably could've kept me in groceries for a week. But then Sophie was never known for being practical."
(Miss Minnie might find it hard to admit, but Cousin Sophie has settled down somewhat. She has a thriving little business where she sells ladybugs. If you are interested in meeting another member of the Sparks family, you can visit Miss Sophie here. Well, heck, for that matter, you might want to learn about Uncle Buster, too.)
"Oh, my yes," Miss Minnie said, when I commented about her bedroom chair. "That rocker is old, old; my mother got it from her mother. I can still see Mama's face in the lamplight as she mended."
Miss Minnie keeps her mending in that old hatbox from Blumrosen's Department Store. "I don't much like doing it, but sometimes I'll work on things a few minutes before I go to bed. Puts me to sleep every time. Oh, that wrapped present? Well, that's for Ed. Next Friday is his birthday and I'm going to invite him over for supper and lemon poundcake, his favorite. Of course, any kind of cake is Ed's favorite."
"Don't you just love that wall hanging? My niece made that for me when she was just learning to do handwork. A real treasure."
(My daughter Dana "really" made that!)
"One thing I will say about this house is that it's lacking in closet space. I keep out-of-season clothes in that trunk."
Well, personally, I know for a fact that Miss Minnie also keeps a collection of love letters from Joe in there, too, as well as a fancy Valentine she got from her old boss, Mr. Blumrosen, the year she retired. "Imagine! The last person in the world I would have ever thought would give me a Valentine!"
That's Miss Minnie's garden hat on top. "Just because you work in a garden doesn't mean you have to wear an ugly hat," she says.
(About that trunk - on a trip to the West coast with our son Jeffrey, my husband made a special visit to a miniature shop in Lincoln City Oregon to purchase minis for me. When we were there the first time the owner was closing so I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted and was so disappointed. So he made sure to go back and asked her to pick out some special pieces for me, and one of them was this handcrafted trunk, which still smells of cedar when its lid is opened. What a guy!)
The frame in this rather blurred picture is filled with pictures of her nieces and nephews' children. It was made from a catalog cutout glued to a business card, then covered with acetate. The frame was made from molding strips.
The framed picture is needlepoint from Miss Minnie's mother. The Liberty bell is a souvenir from a trip to Philadelphia. "Oh, that was an interesting trip," Miss Minnie told me once. "Mr. Blumrosen wanted me to go as buyer for him. He didn't know a thing about womens' hats and things. Those were the days when one didn't leave the house without a hat and gloves. I still like hats. Too bad old ladies like me are the only ones wearing them these days. Although I will say that some of the Junior League crowd are beginning to ask me to make hats for them."
"Oh, that funny little animal in the chair? Well, one of the grandnieces made it for me for Christmas. I'm not sure, but I think it's a cat. Kind of gives me the willies, but I would never tell her."
One of the problems with this house is the ceilings and eaves. That's why I put the tub where it is. I decided to use trim to cover up some of the awkward ceiling joins.
"I enjoy sitting at this dressing table," Miss Minnie told me. "And the stool once belonged with the dresser in my bedroom. I decided I needed it more in here. Ed made the dressing table, but I made the skirt for it and covered the stool myself. I store stuff under those skirts, you know!"
"That wooden box with the plant pot in it is cedar; Ed made it, too. And I made the swan in a ceramics class. That was before I had gotten so darn many ducks and geese!"
The trims on the mirror are Fimo cut with Kemper cutters. The bath basket is stiff gift ribbon glued to index card. It is trimmed with tiny grosgrain ribbon and a sheep cut from the gift ribbon. The tissue box is a wooden bead with a wisp of real single-ply tissue glued in; I painted the design to match her dressing table's skirt. The cotton balls are the tiniest white pompoms. The Nivea jar is made from a cobalt blue bead from a bead shop. Its lid is a flat bead; the labels I cut from a magazine ad.
I've always intended to go back and put "glass" in the lampshade, but haven't gotten around to it yet.
"Now even if I forget to water it once in a while, this plant does quite well here in the bathroom where it gets lots of light and moisture."
(The ivy leaves are just various size heart cutouts from painted green paper folded down the middle. I find it easier to glue the wires in place first, then add the leaves. The hanger hook is made from a pierced earring wire.)
There's another plant in that shell on the middle shelf, too. The folded towels are made with a very soft faux suede. The hand towels in the gold holder on the top are made from baby washcloths.
"This one I call my pot-plant," Miss Minnie laughed. "That old thunder mug was Mama's; under hers and Papa's bed in my childhood. I painted it myself."
There's another fern by the window. It resides in a brass trunk. Although it doesn't show up here, there is soap in the soapdish hanging on the side of the tub. The soap is made from the top of a pink pick used in a hair roller.
Miss Minnie painted the wastebasket and cup to match her dressing table, too.
"Well, I've always enjoyed arts and crafts," she said. "Never could understand people who didn't put a little color and life in their homes. My house is not fancy, but it is comfortable and I enjoy making it homey."
Isn't it amazing to still see someone using an old-fashioned cookstove like this one?
"I have a confession," Miss Minnie said. "Ed converted it to gas. Clever, isn't he? He also set the refrigerator into that wall of cabinets behind you. I like the old-timey look, but I like the conveniences of today."
"I just keep that coal scuttle for sentiment's sake."
"My tea caddy matches a canister set that was Mama's," Miss Minnie said the last time I visited. "I'm just about to put some biscuits in the oven. Why don't you stay for lunch?"
"The ceramic chicken is a fun piece, don't you think? Reminds me of the faithful little hens I keep in the back yard. Don't know if they'll be able to stay much longer, though. Nowadays it's getting harder and harder to keep any kind of farm animal in town. Shame, too; can't beat fresh eggs."
"Oh, don't you just love him? I have his mate over the sink over there. Frank Kindlin's wife, Elaine, sure wants one of those cookie jars. Personally, I think she found out they're collectable; maybe McCoy or something."
Miss Minnie purchased this cupboard and whitewashed it.
"I was tired of those plain wood pieces. I also painted the table and chairs and the kitchen cupboard, too, but I didn't whitewash them. By the time I got all that done, I didn't want to fool with them any more. But it did bring some light into this dark little kitchen."
"I've just tried out a great new cake recipe. Better try a piece while you're here because it'll be gone after Ed comes over. I'm too busy right now to do any more baking until his birthday."
By the way, the eggs in that bowl came from Miss Minnie's backyard hens.
(My friend Sally who made the cross stitch Welcome mat also painted these cupboard doors.)
"I'll bet you can't guess who made the cow clock and the spoon holder! Shoot, I've only made two trips since Ed made that spoon holder. I need to go somewhere so I can find more souvenir spoons!"
(I'm a bit embarrassed by that window treatment. In those days I didn't know how to cut arcs very well. Surely I could do a better one now. Maybe one of these days I'll change it. Otherwise, I still like its design.)
(I made Miss Minnie's wreath by gluing snips of treated gray reindeer moss to a circle of florist wire. It's a bit hard to tell here, but that tiny polka dot ribbon wraps around the wreath.)
"Yes, I painted the sink and cupboard. Sure perked up those old pieces," Miss Minnie said. "The pig cutting board belonged to my grandmother."
"There's the other cookie jar I was telling you about. Oh, that zucchini behind the lettuce head? We had a bumper crop this year. I keep searching all my cookboods for more zucchini recipes. I've got a basket full to give you when you go home."
(This cutting board has mushrooms painted on it. The knife [can't see all of blade at this angle] is made with a turned toothpick and a sliver of flat silver sequin.)
Ed made the cow towel holder and Cousin Clara made the watermelon hot pad. Don't ask me why it hangs here by the sink instead of over by the stove. I didn't want to seem rude and ask Miss Minnie a question like that.
The little dog is not real. Miss Minnie also made him while she was taking ceramics classes. "Well, after ol' Firecracker passed away, I decided not to get another dog as long as I kept chickens. He used to drive me crazy chasin' them all over the back yard. The squawking was so bad that I was afraid the neighbors were going to report me."
"Honey, you tell folks they are welcome to come back and visit any time. And don't forget to visit my Fireworks Stand; it's goin' to open up in another couple of weeks."
NOTE: Not too long after this visit, those nephews and nieces got together and set up a tiny shop where Miss Minnie now makes and remakes hats. I'm sure she would love a visit from you, and perhaps you might find something at Hattery Flattery that you like, as well.