Saturday, 7 January 2017

Guess what I have been up to...

2017 Arrived faster than I had anticipated and I find myself struggling to get my brain into fully fledged working mode again. The Christmas holidays were just too short this year, since we did not close down at work except for the few public holidays in December.

I did, however, manage to get a lot of work to my website done during this time and things are looking good to finally get it up to date.  My first few pages are already done and I still have a few photos ready to be sized and processed before adding them to the website. I just can't get over how CUTE everything is!!! I find myself playing with the items so much that I am simply struggling to get everything photographed because of this.

My website has been placed in "under construction" mode, so I have deactivated all of the pages that have still not been changed to the new template during 2016. The idea about this, is that it should provide me the opportunity to finally get everything in the same template, even though some of the pages might take a bit of time to be up again.

But at least it is progress!
I am looking forward to sharing my collection with you all again soon. Well... as soon as the post office starts delivering mail again.

Love, hugs & Sylvanians.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

So it has been a really bad year Sylvanian-wise

This year has not been kind to me. Health-wise things have been going well for a change, except for a little accident that landed me on my back for a little while - yes, yes... I took a tumble and landed on the ground very unceremoniously and totally un-flatteringly! But things have not been so good on the Sylvanian front lately. Since 2015, I have been trying to save a little and go slow on my Sylvanian purchases. The things that I did buy, were very dear to me or where pieces that I have wanted for a very long while to get. Then came the Christmas season and I found an auction that I was just DYING for... My first Solitaire kitties!!!

I had a dear friend help me out, since the seller would absolutely not ship to SA and we won them for a reasonable price! (Yay!) The kitties were in fair condition, fully clothed (except for brother's shorts - which I had a spare set for, so this auction was obviously fate, right!?) and just as lovely as any Solitaire kitty could ever be. Said dear friend even included some handmade dresses that I was not even aware of until now. (More on that later, I am bemoaning my loss here...)

But then the SA post office got their hands on my parcel and lost it in the most spectacular fashion ever. This parcel is so lost, that my poor little Solitaires might as well be lost at sea, starving and alone on some island... At the same time, I purchased another lot for me and a friend from one of my favorite Ebay sellers... And guess what? That one got lost as well! Now, before you place the blame on the senders, they are totally innocent in this, as both of them are as well known in the Sylvanian community as can be. This was totally a post office blunder.

So, I lost a few parcels and a little bit of my will to live along with them. The big thing though, is that I really wanted these figures. I was looking forward to having them and I really had great ideas for them to feature in the story that I had just written the day that we managed to win them off Ebay!

Then it started - my collecting friends started disappearing. First the local ones, then the ones over the seas and finally I started feeling very alone. All of the knowledge of my little hobby, all of the friendships that I have cultivated. All started vanishing one by one.

I must admit that this year has really been one of my collecting lows. But I have recently had the courage to get back on my high horse and charge forth. I have got a trade going, two trades pending and just placed some bids on Ebay. (I even won the first one!) But that is not what got me out of the deep dark hole, they are merely the result.

Depression is a very difficult thing to deal with. It is a monster of our own making that lives in the deepest, darkest depths of our minds. It lives in the closet and loves to come out and find you when you feel vulnerable, when the little things get you down or when you just take some time to be alone with your thoughts. But it is a monster that can be conquered, kept at bay and put back into the closet where it lives. It is a monster that I know well, because I met him when I was in High-school. We have been rivals ever since and periodically we have epic battles. She wins, I win, She loses, I lose myself... And so it goes on. The ever-waging battle. This time, she was too much and I was the one who ended up in the closet. For the longest time.

So I started colouring - heck, I am an adult who plays with toys, I might as well start colouring as well, right! I pulled out the books that I have had for months and never quite found the right mood to start on. I dusted off my pencils. And I coloured. I coloured my heart out. This went on for days, weeks! Sometimes the colours were bright and cheery, other times dark and dreary, but I kept at it until I finished my first picture. And the next and the next... Until I finally saved up enough money to buy myself a half-decent set of pencils - they were 50% off. It was fate! I hated it, I loved it! And finally I started coming back to myself, started venturing out of the closet and found a way to shove my monster back in her place.

Now, this is where this post should have ended, but hold on for a bit. (You managed to read my bleating this far, you might as well continue!) A few surprises have been in store for me lately - they each deserve their own post, so I will hold off on the details until I have the time to show them off properly over the weekend. Once again my Sylvanian friends came to my rescue - I don't always know how you know when I need you, but you do. And I am thankful for you. Each and every one of you!

I will start with the lovely crochet dresses that were made just for me - even though I did not have the chance to see them in person, the thoughtfulness of your gift has given me something to remember my lost kitties by. And that gave me a little bit of closure on their loss.

Aren't they stunning!? And in my favorite colour too! 

So perhaps my Solitaires have rather found another happy home and were not really meant to come home to me. Perhaps they brought joy to someone else's life and did not end up in a dead letters/parcels bin. I like to think so.

We will never know. But what I do know is that I have a network of faithful friends who mean the world to me! And I love you all dearly!!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Relatives are Coming!

It has been quite some time since I last had a moment to post on my blog. I guess life has just been a little difficult this past year and I have not had much time to enjoy my little critters as much as I would like to! 

I have decided to take some photos for a story that I have written a while back. (Or re-take the photos, as the originals were not to my liking!) The story was supposed to have been done by Valentine's day, but there simply was not enough time to edit all of the photos in time. This story is also the first of a trilogy for the Billabongs (You guessed it, the other two have also been written for quite some time...) and I am glad to announce that I am about half way through taking the photos for the next installment. I have set myself a goal to complete the other two parts before the end of March, so I am hoping that I will be able to stick to that timeline!

As for the photos of this story, they were taken with my brand new LED lights that hubby installed in my photo/crafting area. They are "cool white" and wreaked some havoc with my colours, so I added a reading lamp (which had almost yellow light!) and that made things a little better (worse)... I am still undecided! 

I really hope that you will enjoy seeing a day in the lives of my lovely little Billabong Koalas!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The inevitable health update - Part 1

It has been some time since I last wrote anything here... I have been absent on my blog a lot this year and in fact, I have been neglecting my little hobby waaaay too much lately... But, at the doctor's orders, that is about to change starting right now!

I recently wrote about how my life came to a screeching halt and I realized that I needed a bit of help. Well, after the normal medical poke, prod and repeat, we have come to the root cause of my troubles and have devised a plan that will get my life back on track.

So, what is causing this total system shutdown of mine? As previously mentioned, I have PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and some of the symptoms include insulin resistance, depression, insomnia, mood swings, headaches, feeling tired all the time, mind fog and other lovely hormonal imbalance issues... Oh fun! :(

But, the big thing to remember and keep repeating to myself is that it is treatable, although not curable, and many women get through this same trouble every day. But that still does not take the sting away from thoughts that I might end up getting diabetes, heart disease and cancer in the near future, I might never have any more children (Not that I was planning any, but I like to keep my options open and could see myself with a little curly haired daughter some day when my son grows out of my arms...) or that I have to limit my diet to things that I despise, and cut out all the things that I love. But perhaps the worst part for me, is having to remember to take the seemingly endless amounts of drugs... Metformin to keep my insulin balanced, Omega 3 supplement to prevent inflammation, Iron supplement for energy, progesterone cream to keep my hormones in check, the list goes on and on!

Right now I am struggling with the change in diet - Dairy free, Gluten free, Soy free, Sugar free, Low GI. I am learning about things like rice milk (I despise the taste of this stuff), 100 ways to cook greens (Umm stir fry and stir fry?), exchanging coffee for tea (NOOO WHYYYY MEEEE??? Oh, thank you, I would LOVE a cup of rooibos tea without milk and with 6 drops of stevia - I am praying that this stuff does not kill me...-  while you have your double cream Lattè!) and eating protein at every meal and snack. Then, of course, eating like a Hobbit is tough for me since I am so forgetful these days that I need to write everything down or lose it two seconds later...

It seems like when those things have all been implemented in my diet, I have been turned into a very forgetful rabbit! So I guess that is where my Sylvanian Families come in...

I spent the past two weeks repairing some of the code on my website that made it display incorrectly on some browsers - I find that burrowing myself into the endless lines of code makes me forget about the urge to nibble. Especially when I have to find the problems that beginner-coder-me created way back when!

Now that is finished, I have to start updating the pages that are already created, but are still stuck in limbo... At least all new pages will be created in the correct format! I write it off as a learning exercise - How NOT to change the layout of your website... O_O Next time, I will start from scratch and go from there!!!

After that, I still have to update the endless list of items that are not even featured on my website yet - yes, I now have a list! Some of their photos have already been taken, but most still need a little editing and watermarking. It is a big job, but it is a very nice feeling once something is actually completed. (Even though I can't see any changes yet, I know they are there!)

Love, hugs & Sylvanians.
Santie - LadyLollipop

Monday, 23 March 2015

The tiniest traveller.

Just a day before my birthday , I received a parcel slip in my mailbox...

Since I am still waiting for parcels from Ebay sent in December, I did not find this strange at all, and instantly set off to collect it.
The parcel was a small brown envelope without a return address, and it took the post office staff quite a while to track it down between the large parcels overflowing in their small sorting room.

On my way home, I could hear soft whimpers coming from inside the parcel...
I thought to myself that I must be imagining things and set the parcel down in the study to attend to other things first.

But when I returned, the parcel had moved a whole two inches from where I had left it!
Obviously, whatever was inside, wanted to come out very badly... O_O
So, gathering all of my courage, I carefully opened the parcel to reveal what was inside.

First, a piece of white paper appeared, as though being pushed from inside the parcel! Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was a note. The note was just as mysterious as the parcel itself, stating no place of origin or name of sender. It was a happy little note that instantly brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.

Swept up in all of the emotion, I totally forgot that there must have been something else in the parcel too... After all, that note didn't pop out of the envelope by itself!
As I set the note down again, I saw that the tiniest little traveler had climbed out and was now standing on top of the parcel!

And she was gorgeous!!! :-)
My very first Sylvanian mole! And all the way from the vintage (1985-1989) line of Japanese Sylvanians too.

She introduced herself as Hayley McBurrows and we had a nice chat over pre-birthday caramel tart and tea since the long trip and the awfully long wait in the post office sorting center was almost too much for this little critter to bear. She told me of the amazing village that she comes from and asked about my own critters living here in Rooibosch Hill.

Afterwards, I took her to my village and introduced her to the Clearwater vole family, who will be looking after her until I can find her real family. Little Hayley looks very happy in her new village and Sybil enjoys having a little one to care for again.

To this day, little Hayley's arrival is a mystery to both me and all the villagers of Rooibosch Hill.

***Little Hayley was a special gift from a friend abroad and reached me at a time in my life when it felt that the dark clouds were once again getting too much to bear. She was so unexpected that I woke the next morning feeling as though the weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I immediately started working towards chasing those dark clouds away again!***
**Oh, and the last little bit is not true... just call me Nancy Drew!**
*Hayley is not her official name - baby sister McBurrows is called Mo... Now you also know why I changed it!!! *

Friday, 20 March 2015

It's the small things in life that get you back on track.

Back in January I made a resolution to complete my website this year by doing a little every day. This resolution was cut short after the first week because of a family tragedy. Before we were completely back to normal after that, we were hit by "load shedding", our government's desperate attempt at stabilizing the power grid. These planned and sometimes (read mostly) unplanned power cuts wreaked havoc with cables and transformers and ended up damaging a lot of equipment, which made it even worse and after some time we were stuck without both water and electricity in my hometown, due to the water purification pumps failing. Things were tough, but TIA - This Is Africa, so we just kept going until things settled down again and returned (mostly) to normal.

Then, of course, while this chaos was brewing, we had a country-wide postal strike of nearly a year long which created an enormous backlog of mail items when the post office finally managed to sort things out - to the extent that I am still waiting for parcels to arrive from all over that were mailed out in December... This is not even considered a long wait at this stage, since the average waiting period seems to be six months by now. I have parcels that I need to send out as well, but my local post office is not taking international mail every day at the moment - to try and lessen the burden and clear some of the parcels out first... (It's not working...)

This year also marked the first time that my son attended "big school", since he is now in grade "R" and his days are suddenly filled with maths and reading instead of playing and running all day. We initially had some difficulty with the first school that he attended, since within the first week I was told that he is impossible in class and needs Ritalin because he most certainly has ADHD! A lot of tests, angry words, mommy tantrums and a change of schools later and he is now a little star student. But while we were tackling the problem, it felt like the end of the world was upon us and I felt like the worst mother in the world on most days.

I started alienating myself from my friends and even from my online friends, but still found some solace in my Sylvanian collection. I managed to at least do a lot of the research that I needed for my website, but during this time I found myself visiting some of my most familiar online haunts, the ones that I still had bookmarked from when I last felt lost and alone. Places with names like Sycamore Springs; Mystique Valley and Sugarbush Valley. I found myself spending hours on Hayley's website and Mel's Website just to pass the time. But before long, I inevitably started following the broken links back to websites that I knew so very well from the start of my collection - some completely abandoned, some still valiantly holding on to their little space in cyberspace, some of them with messages of collectors moving on in life - the online ghost towns of Sylvania.

As I wandered through the now-forgotten streets of Carrot Creek (On Youtube of course!) I found myself at the bottom of a pit of despair that I had not known for a very long time. It was too much. Everything was just too much. The thought of how pointless it all is came to me more than once and I found myself on the verge of giving it all up, of packing up hundreds of little critters and their little lives into plastic boxes and forgetting about their existence - the same critters that I so lovingly admire every day. I thought about deleting the seemingly endless strings of code that make up my website - the same site that I have so lovingly spent years developing. And these thoughts struck me as odd! It was not like me to not feel at all. I was usually the one to cry at soppy movies, halfway through romance novels and at all manner of inappropriate times. the one who stops to pick up strays...

So, I made a list of the things that I needed to change, saw a doctor, who confirmed that my PCOS was back in full swing and that I needed some medication to get my hormone levels balanced again, because I was suffering from mild depression. I stopped listening to the "trained professionals" and followed my mother's instincts to get my son into a different school. Life was returning to "normal" , but I still had the huge, cute, fuzzy obstacle to get over. My collection was a mess! I have not been adding my new purchases to my displays and in stead some of them were put away in my study closet, others in the cabinet under my display case and still other critters were sitting in unopened parcels on my desk because I didn't have the heart to open them and see what the yellow post office repackaging tape hid underneath... My website was a mess - so many pages couldn't be updated, because the information was unobtainable or because the critters were still stuck in the postal system somewhere.

So, this week, as a birthday gift to myself, I started opening the parcels one by one and I was astonished at what I found inside!!! Some of the items were my own - Ebay purchases long overdue, others belonged to a good friend of mine whose husband won't let her buy off Ebay and still others were not even expected! Gifts from friends who know me better than I know myself, little notes added to parcels, handmade trinkets and even big surprises! And suddenly the joy came flooding back all at once. Not joy over opening parcels, or receiving gifts, but at the knowledge that at some moment in time, someone thought of me.

I decided there and then that I would continue the tedious task of updating my website on a weekly basis - that way I could do a little each day and upload it all at a dedicated time each week. I managed to write some stories that need to be uploaded soon and I even got things ready for a weekend of photographing critters! I remembered why my collection took off so steadily in the first place. It was not the cuteness of the critters or the constant joy of getting "new" things, but rather the personal connection with people who understood me. The friends that I have made over the years collecting Sylvanians, the amazing people who all fight their own battles, just like me, and win! The ones that inspire me to keep going when life gets me down and who make me believe that anything is possible just because they live it every day and keep coming back for more!

Thank you to all of my friends for helping me to find my passion again. Thank you for the moments you all took to write me a little note, to send me a card or even to send me a little gift! Thank you all for checking in on me via email, pm or even connecting on Facebook when the only way for me to get internet connection is on my tablet with "Wimpy's" free Wi-Fi! You all helped to save me from a very dark place and I feel honored to be able to call you all my friends!!!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

We have our winners!!!

In my last post, I announced that I will be hosting a photo competition on my blog.

I know that the winners were already announced on the Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters Community forum, but I felt that they needed to be placed on my blog as well.

We received such lovely entries and the decision was a really hard one! But, it was still fun to judge the photos with my best friend and fellow collector who braved the hour-long drive just to get to me so that we could chat about Sylvanians and decide on the winners. I also have to thank my darling husband and mother both who gave some input on the entries and to my two anonymous judges who could not make the drive down to me, (You know who you are) thank you for being the tie breakers. ;-)

Our winner is PaigeLeeann with her lovely little romantic sunset dinner. 

The judges loved the dreamy sunset feeling that this photo has and overall it is super romantic! :-)

Our runner up is Kyraja with her wonderful little Snow-Warren grandparents having their fondue picnic.

The judges loved the grandparents being so overly cute having their picnic in the park! 

I have to admit that there was very stiff competition and in the end we were glad that the judging was over. If I could have my way, everyone would be a winner in their own category! The hardest part for me was that the photos all came from different people of all ages with different levels of skill and different outlooks on the theme.

Our winners have both been contacted and arrangements made for their prizes. 
I hope that I will be able to host another competition again next year!

Just for pure enjoyment - the other entries are posted below. You can enlarge the images by clicking on them. ;-)