Thursday, 25 December 2014

The night before Christmas!

It was the night before Christmas and all around Rooibosch Hill, little critters were sound asleep in their beds, dreaming of the wonderful gifts that would be waiting for them under the Christmas tree.

But in the Tuxedo household things were not as calm as they seemed, for the smallest members of the Tuxedo family, triplets Angelica, Midnight and Pepperment, lay awake in their beds listening for the faintest sounds from the living room.

Angelica and Pepperment had all but given up on their quest, but Midnight was determined to see their plan through and suddenly he was startled from his near slumber by a sound from downstairs. Midnight jumped from his bed and dragged the covers from his two sisters while hushing them at the same time.

The three didn't make a sound as they crept down the stairs and into the living room. As they came closer, the triplets could see the jug of milk and the Christmas pudding that their mother had left out, still sitting on the coffee table. In the fireplace the flames had burnt out a long time ago, leaving only embers smouldering in their wake. 

The triplets felt the heavy weight of disappointment set in. Maybe Midnight had imagined the sound that made him jump out of his bed so quickly. But, just as Angelica opened her mouth to tell her brother exactly what she thought of losing so much sleep on their doomed quest, something amazing happened!

A jolly looking bunny with a big beard, wearing a red suit stood in front of the tree! He had a big bag, overflowing with beautifully wrapped boxes and started placing gifts under their Christmas tree as he softly hummed a jolly Christmas carol to himself.

The Tuxedo triplets couldn't believe their eyes, and watched in awe as the jolly old man stacked more gifts under the tree, then turned his attention to the Christmas cake and milk on the coffee table. They watched for a moment more before the candle in the middle of the room suddenly flickered and went out! 

When Midnight opened his eyes, the first rays of morning sunshine were already caressing the horizon and he found that he was in his own bed. Angelica and Peppermint were both still fast asleep, snuggled up in their own beds and he could still hear his father's snoring floating through the air from down the hall.

And as Midnight thought back at the events of the previous night, he found that the memory was slowly becoming more and more vague until he himself was no longer certain of the facts! But, as Midnight lay his head back on the pillow, trying to make sense of things, a thought suddenly came to him. - Right before he had fallen asleep the previous night, he had distinctly heard the chiming sound of sleigh bells ringing in his ears...


May this Christmas end the present year on a cheerful note and make way for a bright and happy new year!

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the critterzens of Rooibosch Hill!!!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Rainy days are here again! It is time for PANNEKOEK!

It has been such a lovely rainy weekend here in Rooibosch Hill, that the spicy-sweet smell of cinnamon is drifting through the entire villige...

Why cinnamon, you ask? Well, because everyone is baking pancakes of course! :-D In Afrikaans, we call them "pannekoek", and they are deee-licious!

For those who don't know, it is a rainy-day tradition in most of South Africa to bake pancakes and cover them in cinnamon and sugar. (LOTS of cinnamon and sugar!) In fact, no church bazaar, country fair or any other public gathering for that matter is complete without at least one pancake stand, regardless of the weather!

If you have a large family, and have to bake quite a few pancakes, the smell of cinnamon will waft through your house and leave everything smelling sweet for hours after! Baking pancakes on a rainy day is also a sure way to pave your way into your prospective husband's stomach heart... ;-)

Of course South African pancakes are very flat and very thin, and to the rest of the world, they are known as crêpes... So since real South African pancakes differ so greatly from pancakes in the rest of the world, I have decided to share my tried and trusted family recipe for anyone willing to try them.

You will need:
4 eggs
2 cups of cake flour
1/4 cup of sunflower oil
a dash of salt (Yes, I cook and bake with dashes!)
15ml white vinegar
300ml Water
400ml Milk
Sugar (White / brown, it doesn't matter)
Cinnamon (LOTS of it!)

Add the cake flour to a big mixing bowl, then slowly stir in the milk. Then add the eggs, oil, salt and vinegar before stirring them through. Lastly add the water. Mix everything together until you have a lump free batter. (If you do have lumps, simply pour it all through a sieve! Grandma won't know!) 
Your batter should now be quite runny and resemble a milkshake - we are not making flapjacks here, we are making "pannekoek"!

Put the batter in the refrigerator to rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Add a cup of sugar to a clean mixing bowl and stir in a tablespoon of cinnamon. (Or more if you like - If I had my way, I would reverse the proportions, or forgo the pancakes and just eat the cinnamon neat while I am at it!)
Dust the bottom of a serving plate with the cinnamon sugar mixture. (don't skimp!) This will form the base for your stack of pancakes and this first one will likely give you diabetes, but at least you will die happy!

Heat about a quarter of a teaspoon of oil in a non-stick pan. (Yes, I know it is non-stick, but just do it, because grandma says so!) Repeat this every  now and again if your pancakes start to stick to the pan.
Once heated, scoop a large spoonful of batter into the center of your pan, and quickly swirl it around to cover the whole pan. (If you find the batter too thick, feel free to stir in a spoonful of  water before baking the next one.)

Cook the pancake a few seconds until it turns light brown, then lift the edges with a spatula and flip it over to cook the other side. (Don't let them burn, you have to keep a good eye on them!)
Once done on both sides, turn the pancake out onto the prepared plate, then cover with a layer of cinnamon and sugar mix before adding the next pancake on top. Repeat until your batter runs out!
Serve your pancakes by rolling them up one by one and enjoy the spicy-sugary-goodness!

P.S - If a pancake flops, just scrape it out into a bowl, add some of the sugar mix to it and eat it with a spoon in front of the tv later. (No one has to know!)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Lovely Lavender rabbits

It has been so long since I have been able to post anything, that I am ecstatic to get back online to show you the newest happenings in Rooibosch! I have been forced offline for a while now, since my ADSL connection is giving us some problems... Of course, on the better days that we actually had some connection, I managed to set up a nice little post to post itself over the weekend - as you can see, that did not  happen! Oops...

I honestly don't know why I am experiencing so much trouble with Blogger, but hopefully I will sort out the kinks soon. This time around, I managed to delete the whole post while editing it!!! But, at least it seems like my internet connection was at least partly to blame this time around.

So, without further ado, let me rave on about my lovely Lavender rabbits, who have all been photographed out of their box for the first time. :D

How stunning are they!!!? O_O
I have been meaning to do a little write-up about them for some time now, but never quite got around to it. This is the first photo of my whole family out of their box, how exciting!

Since receiving the Lavenders on 27 April this year from all of my friends on the Sylvanian Chat Forum, as probably the bestest best gift ever, I have not had the heart to take them out of the box to photograph them.

Well, that is not entirely true - I carefully cut the tape on the box, removed the inner and snapped a photo of them all strapped in place. Yes, I realize how stupid that looked, but I couldn't take them out of the box!!!

So, one morning not too long ago, I realized that I needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so I decided to take some photos of my little Lavenders to create their webpage for them. The family photo turned into a whole photoshoot and I even did a little story about their snow day on my website.

Since the Lavender rabbits don't have official names, I found it difficult to write about father Lavender or mother Lavender and ended up giving them all suitable names. To be honest, thinking up names relating to purple wasn't that hard, so I ended up with father Carmine, mother Lydia, sister Violet, brother Tyrian and baby Lila. I decided to shorten Lilac to Lila so that she isn't just a colour. Mother Lydia is probably the only one that doesn't have a name that is also the name of a colour, but her name does hold the meaning - woman of purple, so I felt that it fit after all. :-)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Sylvanian Snow Day!

We don't have snow in South Africa. :(

Well, let me re-phrase that... We don't have snow in most areas of South Africa.

I have seen snow in the distance on the Drakensberg before, but I have never seen snow up close before. (Not real snow anyways)

We do, however, have heat here... LOTS of heat and it isn't strange to have a 40 degree (Celsius) day in summertime - which is most of the year, since we only have a few days of autumn and a few days of spring around here.
The rest of the time, it is summer, summer or winter. (Oh and did I forget to add summer?)

My poor polar critters are finding it pretty hard to survive in this heat due to the extended summers and total lack of snow! So, I have decided to remedy that for them even for just a little bit.

So, in the 38 degree heat, I made it snow in Rooibosch Hill... ;-)

It has been an idea that I have been playing with for a very long time, but it just never worked out for me. Fake snow is really expensive and I couldn't get my critters to stand / sit still on the quilting fleece stuff from the fabric shop! So, it has never snowed in Rooibosch before due to my lack of imagination...

But today was the day! I picked up a bag of white sugar from the grocery store and tipped the lot out onto a tray, collected my camera and some arctic critters and happily snapped away. The results were much better than I anticipated and overall I think the photos came out pretty well.
The critters enjoyed their snow day and even my little terror had some laughs watching is crazy mother play in a really big pile of sugar! (2,5kg of Huletts pure white sugar to be precise!)

Now it is time to clean this mess up... O_o

You can all probably guess what everyone is getting for Christmas presents this year, huh?
Say it with me - Sugar Scrubs!!!

Little Dolly Polarstar does not look too happy with this sudden cold weather...
Perhaps a ride on the sled will cheer Dolly up?
At least the rest of the family seemed to enjoy the snowball fight!

The polar bears couldn't have all the fun, so the De Burgh penguin family decided to join in too...
These critters are quite tricky to photograph, since they don't really "do" much and they are in reality nearly stark naked... O_o

♫ ♪ ~ Do you wanna build a snowman... Uh... Iglooo? ~ ♪ ♫

Penguins, penguins everywhere!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Frog he would a-fishing go.

I had some time on my hands today and decided to spend some time with my Sylvanian critters.  
This is the first of five photos that I took today for a local Sylvanian Families photo competition hosted by Pegasus Toys on Facebook.

I was originally thinking of using something cute and cuddly like the other entries (and WAAAY less green...) for this particular photo, but then I walked past my display cabinet and saw these little guys just staring at me with those AWEFULLY-FREAKY-HUGE-EYES!!! @_@

To be honest, I usually turn the Bullrush frog family around to face the back of my cabinet (Yes, yes, I am terrible - I know...), but since we were hit by a mini-dust storm recently, I have been cleaning out and dusting my figures bit by bit since Monday. Inevitably I felt a little bad for my poor froggies and decided to turn them around to face the outside world like all of my other critters. 

The Bullrush frogs are OK as long as you don't stare into their eyes for too long and you have to turn them at a little bit of an angle for a photo, or else they stare right back at you through the camera lens and steal your soul... 


Monday, 22 September 2014

Of grandparents and glasses...

Don't you just LOVE Sylvanian grandparents!? They seem extra cute and extra cuddly in their worldly, wise ways... But, the one thing that sets grandparents apart from our other dearly beloved critters, is the one thing that has caused me so many sleepless nights in the past: Glasses.

The first version of Sylvanian grandparents, came with tiny little wire-bent glasses, like my Wildwood grandparents above. I could never really figure out which way was supposed to be up on these and always end up removing them because they look just plain silly to me. :(

Next, we got plastic glasses, which I adore for their ease of use and the fact that they have a very definite "up" and "down".

But, some of my grandparents didn't come with glasses at all - Which incidentally are EXTREMELY hard to find on Ebay... - so I had to improvise and make my own in the end. :-)
I have been working on a project to make critter-sized glasses for my Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters these past few weeks.

I used steel wire from the hardware store and went with a thickness that I could easily bend and that looked good on the critters in my opinion. (Yes, I did take a critter along to the hardware store to test the wire out... and yes, I did stand there bending little bits of every roll of wire to test how tough they would be to work with...)

I did some tests on paperclips and beading/jewelry making wire as well, but I found the paperclips to be way too hard to bend into shape and the jewelry wire didn't hold its shape well enough when handled.

The first few prototypes didn't go all too well, but I finally managed to find a method that I could replicate with ease and I will try to show it to you here. 

To make your own glasses for visually impaired Sylvanians, you will need the following:

  • Steel wire
  • Two sets of needle nose pliers
  • Side-cutter / Wire cutter
  • A round pencil - Pink unicorn topper optional :)
  • Epoxy glue (I used steel epoxy, but any type works)
  • Sanding paper / emery board
  • Paints / Nail polish
  • Something to stick the glasses into while painting
  • Something to cover your work area while painting
  • Q-tips / Earbuds

I start off by cutting a length of wire, about 10cm long. Then, using your pliers, measure roughly 2,5cm of wire and bend a 90°  angle at the 2,5cm mark. Don't worry if your wire isn't perfectly straight, it will bend as you go and you will straighten it all out before painting anyway.

The next part is the tricky bit. You will need to wrap the wire tightly around a round pencil / dowel stick to shape the round "lens" part of your glasses. The 90° bend is likely to bend a little flatter while you are doing this, but just bend it back when you are done. Bend the wire all the way around the pencil one and a half times, so that you are left with a double layer of wire on the one half of your circle and a single wire on the other half. (I usually use the double layered parts for the bottoms of my glasses.)

Bend the 2,5cm of wire sticking out, back to form a 90° angle to your wire circle. (Apologies for the horrible image quality. I found it quite tricky trying to hold the wire in one hand and still keep the camera still in the other...)

Now that you have your first "lens", you need to bend the wire to form the nose piece. Because most of the critters have quite large, wide noses, I have decided to go with a wide band over the nose. This can easily be adjusted by bending the nose piece closed if you need to later on.

Using your pencil, bend the wire in the opposite direction as if making another circle right next to the first circle. This circle only goes half way around and does not form a full circle.

Now you will need to bend a third circle, starting from the end of the half-circle that we just made. Once again you will need to go around the pencil one and a half times, to reach the spot where the earpiece needs to go out from.  (Remember to keep the double wire on the bottom, single wire on top!)

Lastly, you will need to bend the earpiece back at a 90° angle, and cut the remainder off at roughly 2,5cm to match the other side. Try to align the earpieces so that they both leave the round circle frames at the same spot on either side of your pair of glasses.

*You can make glasses with only a single layer of wire, but these are flimsy and don't hold their shape too well when bent. You might need to bend the two layers of wire on the bottom of the glasses closer together when you are done, since they might be difficult to wind tightly enough otherwise.

You can leave your glasses like this if you like, but I didn't like the sharp edges on the ends.
To fix this, I used epoxy glue found at the hardware store. It has two components that you mix together to form a glue. This glue sets solid in a matter of minutes and sticks to almost anything!!! 

I used Pratley Steel  Epoxy on mine, but that was just what I had on hand and does not make much of a difference to the overall outcome. Mix the two glues together according to the manufacturer's instructions and apply them to the ends of your glasses. You will find that the glasses stand up fairly well when placed down on their "lenses".

I used a q-tip to smooth the glue out and shape it around the wire with my fingers. When the glue is dry, you might want to sand out any rough or sharp edges with an emery board or sanding paper before painting.

This set of glasses has already been sanded down and is now ready to be painted.

I used an old piece of packaging foam to stand my glasses up while painting them, but blobs of play-doh or Prestik will also work, just as long as you have some way of keeping the painted areas from touching anything while the paint is drying. 

To paint the glasses, I used Tamiya's model paints, mostly because I already had them on hand from my Canal Boat project. Before deciding on the model paints, I also had good results with nail polish, although I needed to use more layers to get a good cover. The nail polish also chipped off easily, exposing the wire underneath and needed to be touched up if you want to handle the glasses.

I painted my glasses in two batches, allowing enough drying time between coats so that the paint would harden. I used q-tips to paint with as well, simply because the brushes had some difficulty painting the round wire all the way around. I could press the wire into the q-tip slightly to get a good coating all the way around.

My finished product looked something like this. 

If you have paint blobs forming on your glasses, you will need to remove them with clean q-tips before the paint dries. (See Mr. Moss's lens on the right for an example) If you do have paint blobs that you missed, you can always sand that part down and re-paint it again later.

This method of making glasses works well for most critters and I find that by bending the middle "nose" section of the glasses, I can fit them onto almost any critter's face without much problems. I also later decided to make some of my earpieces slightly longer to fit better on critters with larger heads. (Like the old bear molds etc.)

So, there you have it! DIY glasses for little critters. Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Damara's Travels in Sycamore Springs

My little cheetah, Damara De Wildt, has been having the time of her life exploring in and around Sycamore springs this past month!

You can read the full version of her adventures in their correct order here:

Thank you Courtney and Miss Bibbit for being such awesome hosts and kicking this adventure off to an AMAZING start!!!

From the very first story, you have captured our imaginations and gave us so much to wonder about...Your photos are enchanting and I can almost believe that Sycamore springs with all of its wonderful inhabitants is real! (Plus, they have tuxedo cat cookies there, how awesome is that!? :D )

I am looking forward to seeing all of the other amazing places that our dear little kitten is yet to visit too and will keep this post up to date with links to all of Damara's stories, photos and special moments. :D

This week has also marked the first week of me going back to work like a normal person... O_O
No more working from home for me, but I can foresee a lot more Sylvanian spending-money in the near future too...
Unfortunately this means that all of my plans for my website for this week have been moved to the weekend - luckily our weekend plans are cancelled too, because I have a  lot of catching up to do in the tutorial sections!

PS. - If you want to make your very own Cheetah family, stay tuned - I am working on the tutorial a little every night and will have it up and running again soon with lots more photos!

Friday, 29 August 2014

We are freezing! O_O

We have been hit with a sudden and very unexpected cold spell this week and according to the weather channel, things are just going to get worse over the weekend... 

So, since winter has decided to grace us with one last bit of freezing weather before the summer kicks in again, I have decided that the best place to be on a Friday afternoon is snuggled up on the couch with a good movie or two! ~ And of course a big mug of hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows to go with that... 

I was very tempted to add a photo of my penguins, or perhaps even the polar bears to this post on this very cold day, but I decided that little Roma and Rona Persis were looking very snug and warm with their fluffy fur. The two even decided to play outside in this cold wind, much to mother Salome's protests!

Unfortunately their fur isn't as silky and smooth as I would have liked (And as you would expect a Persian cat to be...), but I must admit that they do grow on you. :)

After all, I have never met a Sylvanian that I did not like....

Keep warm and have a great weekend!!! 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

School Sports day in Rooibosch Hill

Since SSK has recently marked down the school sports day set (4416), I decided to jump at the opportunity and buy one for myself. I don't have any sports accessories yet and after all, it includes a Norwood mouse right? Who can resist!?

The lovely stock photo from SSK's shop website. See Katy Norwood there?

Aww, Katy Norwood is falling behind in the sack race!

And isn't Katy Norwood just too cute with that whistle (Note how big this soccer ball is...)

And finally we have the photo showing the included accessories, Barry Periwinkle (Let's call him a cousin) and little Katy Norwood.

Have I mentioned that little thing that I have with luck? Yes, this set does include a Norwood mouse... if you are lucky! However, Mr. Murphy never seems to smile on me and I usually do not have any other luck than the bad kind.

So, when my parcel arrived, I was very excited to add Katy Norwood to my village! Finally the Norwood mice would have a child of their own, Yaay! :D And, of course another Periwinkle  boy, because every Sylvanian village has to be overrun with Periwinkle rabbits... Bells were ringing and angel choirs singing in my mind as I opened my box to find:

Oh no, wait... Isn't that a Maces mouse?

Yes, it's true. I did not receive Katy Norwood in my box. Instead, I found a Maces mouse. I immediately contacted SSK to let them know about my surprise. I wanted to cry, the angel choirs were replaced by evil laughter, the bells and sparkles gone and disappointment set in.

I was much too disappointed to open the box, even after I received an answer from SSK that this is a known problem and somewhere on the packaging line a problem must have crept in, which has since been corrected. They did also promise to send off a real Norwood mouse figure for me for alerting them of the problem and I felt my disappointment lift slightly. None the less, this box has been floating about my study for a few days now and tonight I finally decided to open it.

Barry Periwinkle and Katy Maces decided to play baseball first, but Katy had some trouble pitching the ball.

So the two switched over to hockey instead. This went better, but Barry felt that playing hockey wasn't quite for him.

So he suggested that they try a sack race. However, Barry came second to Katy Maces and soon suggested they try something else.

So, Katy Maces drew a fictional goal line and Barry tried to get the tiniest soccer ball in Sylvania past her. This didn't last long either, since the little soccer ball was deflated to begin with! (The stock image's ball looks MUCH better!)

Lastly the two tried the egg and spoon race... Unfortunately Barry lost his balance just before the finish line and fell flat on his face, getting egg all over  himself while Katy Maces gained the lead.

At the end of the day, Katy Maces won the trophy and Barry Periwinkle went home with bumps and scrapes to remind him of the day that he was beaten by a girl! 

I don't totally dislike this set, but with the Maces mouse drama, I lost a lot of the zing that it had previously. 
Overall this is a good set though and you get lots of tiny pieces. The whistle is very cute and I really can't complain about much. Except the little deflated soccer balls... At least I think they are soccer balls though! :P

For some reason I couldn't figure the egg and spoon race out at first... It took hubby's laughter at my puzzlement over the inclusion of two spoons in a sport day set to finally realize that I was missing something. Of course he couldn't help but gloat at figuring out that the little white oblong balls were in fact eggs long before I did and we had quite a laugh at my attempts at figuring out what kind of balls they were...

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Sylvanian Sweets Store Review

Back in 2012, I saw a review on another collector's blog about the Sylvanian Families Sweet Store. The little pieces were just so cute and I couldn't resist adding this item to my ever expanding wish list.

I finally gave in today and got myself a little sweets store to add to Rooibosch Hill. ~ Space is getting limited, so I need to buy buildings very carefully these days!~

Initially I though that this set might have been a little bit of a waste since I already have the village sweets cart and the cake counter, but after opening it up and seeing all of the little bits and pieces, I definitely think that there is space in Rooibosch Hill for another sweet treats shop!

The shop itself is quite tiny and is much smaller than Madeline's boutique, the only other small shop that I own at this stage. The pink and cream color scheme is super cute and makes me think of a little old-fashioned sweets store. The floor is brown with little "tiles" that contrast very well with the rest of the inside of the shop, but the best part is the roof. Yip, the roof! This shop's roof looks like a little sun roof and it looks so cute if you have lights shining through. It provides more than enough light inside to play and is the cutest touch ever!

Inside, there are two little shelves attached to the walls and you have a loose display counter to put all of the sweets and treats on.

The stickers were easy to stick: One outside on the shaped notice board, two inside the shop, one on the bottom of the counter and two on either side of the window. These stickers are quite cute and are printed to resemble sweets in stained glass. They are also printed in such a way so that the colors correspond if you turn the shop around and look from the outside in, just like real stained glass would be!

This shop has three plates to display the treats on, and you get little printed paper doilies to put under the cakes. You also get two boxes of sweets and two take-away / carry boxes to transport the cakes in that you have to press out and assemble. I have to admit that these are a little drawback for me. The boxes are not made of cardboard as usual, but rather from a thick-ish paper, which make them difficult to assemble and use. It took me forever to get them right and I still need to go over them with some glue to keep them in place, since they keep unfolding themselves.

The sweets and treats are lovely though! i would call this more of a cake shop than a sweets shop, since you really only have three lollipops and a box of chocolates for sweets, but lots of little cakes.

You get three assorted folded waffle treat thingies, three of the cutest cupcakes EVER and five assorted iced biscuits. I love the bunny biscuit and the cupcakes are so special, very different from the cupcakes in other Sylvanian sets.

Display counter.

The plates added...

And the doilies...

Some sweet treats...

And the folded boxes. Done!

All in all I think this is a great set and I love all of the little bits! It has a different feel than the more formal cake counter and is also a far cry from the village sweets cart (That actually sells sweets!). I can see this set as the place where kids would get together after school to spend their pocket-money on cakes to share with their friends, or where grandma would take the grand-kids to spoil them on their visits.

I can already see that this cake shop is going to be a firm favorite hangout spot in Rooibosch Hill from now on.