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Working With Michaels Hutches

A Project in Quarter Scale

There's an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door
Don't know what they're doin'
But they laugh a lot behind the green door
Wish they'd let me in
So I could find out what's behind the green door....

by Jim Lowe

One of the cool things about El Paso is that there are so many different neighborhoods with varying architectural styles. Some of the old fashioned houses in one particular neighborhood always reminded me of illustrations from my old fairy tale books. I always wondered who lived in houses like that.

A few years ago I finally got to see inside one of those houses.

Just before Halloween I had been visiting with an old friend of mine, Bonerella Skelly, who owns a millinery shop. She had introduced me to one of her customers, a tiny little woman named Beneficia, who turned out to be a lovely person.

"Wanna, why don't you and your husband come for a little party?" she asked. "I'm inviting Bonerella and Skully and the Calaveras. Just a casual get-together after the trick-or-treaters have all gone home to bed."

"You better take her up on that invitation, Wanna," Bonerella confided. "Beneficia is the best baker I have ever seen, and her pastries are to die for... so to speak."

After my husband got over the initial shock of his first meeting with the Skellys and the Calaveras he has been pretty blase about my ever-widening circle of interesting, if unusual, friends. However, he is not a party person, so when I told him about the invitation, he said for me to go on ahead and he would spend the evening in his chair watching CSI or something.

Frankly, I am not much for parties, either, but I do love good conversation and great pastries, so I called Beneficia with DH's regrets. She said to tell him Hi and that she would be sure I left before the witching hour, chuckling at her own little joke. "It's easy to find, dear," she said. "It's the house behind the green door."

There is limited parking on the streets in that neighborhood, especially on a holiday evening, so I had to park several houses down.

I heard quite a racket as I approached, but assumed it was late-tarrying neighborhood trick-or-treaters. However, as I got a little closer I realized that it was both rousing piano music from the house and a whole gaggle of crows in the bare-limbed trees.

I never have cared much for crows, and their loud caws reminded me of that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds! I was about ready to turn back to the car and get out my cell phone to cancel when suddenly the door opened.

And there, standing in the doorway, was cheery little Beneficia in a purple shawl. "Well, hello there, Wanna! Happy Halloween!"

"Come on in; I do love company. All the precious little trick-or-treaters have already gone home to their little beds, and unfortunately, Bonerella and Ghouliana and the husbands had a special Gathering at Concordia Cemetery to get to tonight, so it's just you and me now. I still have plenty of goodies left."

"I was just playing an oldie but goodie from the 50s when I heard the racket out front and figured I better get out my basket and see if it was you. Have a treat," she said, holding out the basket.

I smiled and shook my head even as my mouth began watering at the delicious aroma. "I really need to lose weight. You are really tempting me."

"Well, we never get too old for an occasional sweet, do we," she said, waving the basket temptingly.

She gestured to her table. "Or, if you would rather, I have a special meat pie here, and we can have dessert later."

I swear I heard a fluttering noise and for a moment thought there was some kind of black bird breaking through the crust, so I declined.

"No, thank you, Beneficia; I've already eaten. Nowadays we go out to eat and to the movies on Halloween because the neighborhood children have all grown up and left home. We figure we paid our dues handing out candies for over 30 years in the area."

I couldn't resist. "But I will take one of your treats."

"Well, sit down and get comfortable, Wanna, and I'll get us something to drink," she said, directing me to a chair. I liked the fact that it had a matching ottoman, as I do enjoy putting my feet up.

"Oh, I do love this time of year," she said, getting a silver pot from her hutch. "I have some lovely hot mulled wine, er, cider, that is guaranteed to give you a nice little buzz. Make yourself at home and feel free to look around."

"I'll take you up on that," I said, and, leaning back with my feet up, enjoyed my delicious pastry as I surveyed the cosy little sitting room. She likes skirted tables, I observed, and that lamp is much like one that I have in my real-life house.

"I am going to the kitchen for a few minutes," she said, turning to go. "I just need to add a few things to the wine, er, cider.

I admired a lovely standing clock much like the one my husband's aunt and uncle purchased at The Brass Shop years ago on one of their visits. I always wanted one like that, but we just never had the money to spare in those days. I am not even sure The Brass Shop is open any more; I need to drive over and see, I mused.

Something caught my attention, a flicker of movement in the area of the table.

I hated to think it was that meat pie again! I couldn't help it; I kept wondering if maybe she might be cooking the crows in her yard. I shook my head in disgust at myself. Wanna! Good grief! Get hold of yourself!

At this point, my hostess returned, and we spent a cosy hour or so chatting and drinking that wonderful mulled wine, er, cider, whatever, and eating her delicious pastries.

"What are these called?" I asked, helping myself to another one, even as I knew I shouldn't indulge myself so.

"These are called Olordy Jelly Buns. One second, and I will write the recipe down for you." And as she rummaged for paper and pen, I took another bite. Now I understood why they had that name. Olordy!

"Unfortunately, some parents who don't know me won't accept anything except readymade prewrapped candies and such. But those who've been in the neighborhood a while usually try to sneak MY treats out of the children's goody bags for themselves before the children notice! I volunteered to be the chair for the Neighborhood Improvement Group's cookbook, but I haven't heard back from them yet. "

At that point, I heard the clock bong on the half hour. "Oh my goodness, where has the time gone?" I cried. "I certainly didn't intend to keep you up so late."

"Oh, this is nothing, honey. I come into my element when everyone else is heading for their pillows!"

"Well, I guess it was all that wine, er, cider, but I need to visit your powder room before I go, I'm afraid. I don't think I can wait until I get home. "

"Top of the stairs," she said. "And while you are gone, I'll just tidy up a bit."

As I headed for the stairs, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a Green Man on her wall. Cool! I collect Green Men, myself. This one had a twining plant of some sort growing out of the top. It appeared to move, but obviously it was a trick of the light.

There was a lush green plant on a little side table underneath, and some kind of interesting glass globe on a little pedestal. Hmm; looks almost like a crystal ball, I thought.

Before I entered the bathroom, I couldn't resist taking a peek into her bedroom.

Miss Beneficia loves her comfort, I noticed. Her bed looked so inviting with its soft plump comforter and pillows. And, spotting a book beside her bed, I deduced that she likes to read before she goes to sleep, just as I do,

I didn't want to turn on a lamp, so I wasn't quite sure, but it appeared that some kind of little critter was crawling on top of the book and smiling sleepily up at me. Oh, a book worm!

It must be the mulled wine, I thought, but everything in this house seems to be moving, even the trim on the mirror is waving like some kind of large insect antenna!

She had a soft warm throw in her comfortable chair, and a good reading light from that floor lamp.

I headed on to the bathroom and then hurried back downstairs. "Thank you so much for inviting me," I said. "It's been a lovely evening."

"My pleasure entirely, my dear," she said, handing me the recipe and some more buns that she had wrapped. "Give these to dear Robert," she said.

The Green Door closed behind me as the clock bonged midnight, and once again I heard piano music. As I walked to my car I began singing,

(Midnight, one more night without sleepin')
(Watchin' till the mornin' comes creepin')
(Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?)

What a lovely person Miss Beneficia turned out to be. I saw her occasionally over the years, and every time I visited she served a new treat and gave me the recipe. Last time I did any baking, I came across several in my recipe box - Surprise Bundles; Bits & Pieces Brittle; My My My Macaroons; Power Pockets, but I couldn't find the one for the Olordys....

Unfortunately, you know how it is; people lose touch. With the advent of fall, however, I am planning to continue some of my rambling afternoon drives through old neighborhoods, and next time I think I will see if Miss Beneficia is still there. I sure would like to have another Olordy!

There's an old piano
And she plays it hot behind the green door
Now I know what she's doin'
And she laughs a lot behind the green door
Cause she let me in

So I could find out what's behind the green door....



Remember when everyone was rushing to purchase Michaels hutches?

And how upset we all were when we learned they were being discontinued? Well, lucky for me, I stocked up every time some appeared in our local Michaels, and not long ago I noticed a peaked roof hutch on a shelf and decided to do something with it, and then I found the bin in the pantry that had several of those hutches. Aha!

I believe it was Pam Junk, who has the whimsical online group SmallandSmaller, who was the first person to design graphics for the peaked roof and flat-top hutches. She coordinated swaps with other NAME members who sat together at the conventions. Each person made her own house graphics and made enough of one item so that when the table gifts were exchanged, they each wound up with furnishings for the entire house. When I first joined quarter scale groups I was enthralled by the delightful results of those NAME table exchanges.

I have finally begun to gain confidence in doing quarter scale, so finding that hutch finally unleashed me from my summer doldrums.

This hutch is 5 1/2 inches tall, 3 1/2 inches wide, and 2 inches deep.

Some who made the houses kept the doors and covered them with the graphics. I decided for my purposes I would not retain the doors (my husband obligingly removed them all for me). Eventually I will either cover the opening with plexi or put the houses inside an acrylic container; gotta keep the dust out, of course.

I used Pam's own graphics to make my first Michaels hutch house, the Summer Cottage, as yet unfurnished, and then designed my own graphics for several others, which I hope to fill before too long.

I used my PaintShopProX program and gave the house a stucco finish, similar to another house I have been working on.

This is also essentially the same door that I had already used for another house, which is representational more than realistic because it originated with a painting, but I added the stained glass panels, creating the eyes in the upper panel after looking at some plastic cling spooky faces that I had purchased at the Dollar Store.

The windows were adaptations of basic window shapes that I had used for another house. In my original windows, the dark in the center was where the curtains came together. As I worked on these I thought, Ah, those look like candle shapes, so I left them, and then I added the eyes peering out. Also, I used the stained glass design from the door panel, as well, for trim.

But it still didn't seem Halloween-y enough. And then in my Halloween folder I found a piece of clip art of a spooky little tree and that's when I got the idea for framing the house with the trees. I created more branching limbs and added the crows, finagling to make the graphics fit the hutch shape. I printed it out with the landscape setting, and simply cut it to fit the peak, creased it at the corners, and wrapped it around to the back.

I did a lot of printing out of quick copies as I figured out how to make the trees lap over convincingly. At this point I am not sure if the window is not level, or if it is the angle of this picture! lol

Isn't it interesting how the difference in angles gives a slightly sinister look to these eyes?

The wallpaper graphics were in my files; probably all Pam's. I drew the solid black line at the top of the black and white paper, and also added the black lines along the border on the bottom floor paper, as well. The original border had sunflowers; I used a black marker to draw jack-o-lantern faces on the sunflowers, although they don't really show up in the pictures. Originally I thought about using orange paper, but it was too much. The yellow worked better with my purple and green polka dot chair

I printed out a second copy of the graphics so I could cut the triangular piece for the upper peak, and also so I could cut out additional tree limbs and glue on to extend from the trees to lap over the edge and unify the design. (I made sure to cover the cut edges with black marker.)

A strip of the house paper was glued along both sides of the interior, covering the edges of the wallpaper for a nice finish when the full graphics were folded and glued around the edges. I used a black felt marker to color the bottom wooden edges of the hutch and touch up where I smudged the black in doing all that folding and pasting.

And when I thought it was all finished, and set it by my computer for a week or so where I could see it, I realized I DID NOT LIKE IT!

So, I went back to the drawing board, meaning I asked my husband what he thought. lol He helped me recognize the problem when he couldn't figure out what the white things in the windows were, or what the black was, or why the eyes were there, and why the door was so cartoonish and as I tried to explain I concluded that I was just fiddling and not clearly seeing what resulted from the fiddling. As they say, If you have to explain it, it's not working!

As I mulled over what to do about the windows with the peeping eyes, I started looking through my files and folders for inspiration. I saw some green shutters and what popped into my mind was an old song from my teenage years:

by Jim Lowe
(Words by Marvin Moore and Music by Bob Davie)

(Midnight, one more night without sleepin')
(Watchin' till the mornin' comes creepin')
(Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?)

There's an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door
Don't know what they're doin'
But they laugh a lot behind the green door
Wish they'd let me in
So I could find out what's behind the green door ....

Aha! There's what I needed - a green door and windows, and a party going on behind it!

So, with the song running through my head, I created a brand new green door and windows, glued the new graphics over the previous house, and gave it a roof of black archival cardstock. I set it at eye level to admire it, and as I stared at that green door, then I knew who I was visiting at that little house, and the story came ....

The bed was a swap item that I repainted. In my early days with quarter scale groups, I was the winner of an auction of a large number of quarter scale swaps during a Quarter Connection online convention. I was so happy at all the goodies that it didn't occur to me to keep the names for later attribution, and unfortunately, by the time I finally began using them, years had passed.

I removed some paper graphics from the headboard and redressed the bed with an all-cotton fabric with a spider weg design. I like the way the yellow in the design echoes the yellow in the lower floor wallpaper.

I made the pillows separately. The round one is fabric glued over a bowl-shaped finding.

This wonderful little book worm on a leather book was also a swap item. Don't you love his little face? (It is so tiny that you can't really see his face in real life.)

The dresser was also a plain wood swap item that I colored with a black felt marker. I wanted to use a larger dresser more in scale with the lamp but there was not enough room.

The black insect shapes behind the mirror were tiny pieces that I removed from a little fishing lure Christmas ornament. I made the lamp; its design is nail art. The vanity tray and clock were also swap items. I added a piece of black paper at the back so that the clock would stand up.

The fan back plastic chair is one of two that I purchased my first year at the Chicago shows. Originally I planned to use both of them in the lower floor and use the polka dot chair in the bedroom, but this one plain chair looked so much better once I had decided on the spider web fabric for the bed and the black print wallpaper. The white throw is all-cotton, fringed with a pin and shaped with glue. I made the floor lamp. The angle and magnification of the picture make it look a lot more obtrusive than it is in real life.

The chair and the witch were my inspirations for making this house. I purchased this lovely little witch at the NAME Portland SmallScales Show in April 2012; unfortunately I don't recall who made her. I added the purple shawl to lighten her a bit since she was dressed all in black and sort of faded into the room. She originally had a broom in her right hand. I removed it and gave her the basket of Olordy Treats, and then forgot to put the broom back in her other hand until I had taken all these pictures.

Her basket containing the Olordy Jelly Buns (made with the tiniest googly eyes) is one of many I made a few years ago by stretching a glued piece of finely woven fabric over a plastic-wrapped pencil eraser and fastening with a rubber band until dry.

I painted the basket while it was on the form, then cut away the excess fabric when it dried. The handle was made by coating with glue two threads pulled from the material's edge, twisting them together, and wrapping them around the pencil to dry.

I purchased this chair and its crescent shaped ottoman from Joanne Whisenhunt, and just love it. It provided the color scheme for this room.

By the way, the flooring was the lining from a large mail envelope from some business mail. It was lying beside the computer when I was mulling over what to use that would tie in to my color scheme without being too obvious!

I made the crystal ball with a small bead and an eyelet. I had a much smaller gold eyelet originally, but accidentally dropped it in the floor and have yet to find it! I decided then to go with the slightly larger yellow one in case I dropped it again! lol

The green plant was in my stash. The table itself was made from the base of a Dept. 56 weather vane, and the top was a small slice of gemstone in my stash.

I have a great affection for Green Men, and was thrilled to find this little Green Man bead. I added the quirky little sculpted vine and leaf growing out of his head. (If I had it to do over again, I would omit this border.)

I made the skirted table and lamp. I believe the floor clock was purchased from Bonnie Lavish. I have had it for several years.

I added the witch's broom later; it sure looks better in real life than it does in this picture, especially at this angle! I made the flower arrangement on the table.

The hutch, table and chair are all BPF pieces, painted and distressed. I didn't think to get a picture of the hutch before gluing it in place, unfortunately. The silver pot was a Teapot Shop swap.

There is a blackbird coming out of this pie, although I cannot seem to get a good picture of it. I wish I had thought to photograph it before everything was glued in place. It was made by Janet Smith, who does incredible quarter scale foods.

I added the purple cushion and pillow to the BPF chair. The cushion is purple silk seam binding and the pillow is made from a very small piece of embroidered ribbon.

I really enjoyed designing the graphics for this house, and its furnishings were such fun to do, as well. I am looking forward to furnishing the other Michaels houses that I have been working on.

Once again, my thanks to Pam Junk! You inspired me, Pam, with your creativity and generosity!

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