Saturday, 17 November 2012

California dreamin'

I left you at the end of October bemoaning the fact I would have nothing to share for the next five months.  Not so it seems....

On the sixth we took off for a trip down the West Coast from San Francisco to San Diego.  This was a treat for my birthday organised by my other half.  If you are interested in the tour itself that will appear in Clavering.  There will also be a couple of small posts in Chocolat and Starfish Cottage as I bought a couple of things for them but the main chatter about the shops and museum we visited is here in Bentleys. 

Friday 9th November 
We arrived in Sacramento and visited a doll's house shop called The Elegant Dollhouse.  This was run by what I am finding is the usual lady of a certain age who has been there for years and is sharing her own passion for the hobby as much as running a business.  I  spent a reasonable amount of time in there and was reminded how much difference there can be between American and English dolls houses and their 'fillings'.  In her thousands of items I couldn't find anything on my list of Bentleys' needs. I only managed to spend twelve bucks and some change and nothing for Bentleys. 

I bought another paper project - roses - so I have something to do here, assuming we ever manage to settle back in this year.
The other couple of things were for the other two projects.


Saturday 10th November
We set off again on our lovely coastal drive towards Carmel stopping off in a great little town called Pacific Grove (Monterey Bay).  It was filled with lovely little artisan type shops.... Our destination... Number 213 Forest Avenue was what seemed like the only closed store on the street!!  We are pretty resigned to looking up dolls shops on the web then driving there only to discover they don't exist any more, so it wasn't a huge surprise. We really must try ringing them before setting off.  We keep saying that.


We got to the main event of the day -  Smallsea Museum but dangled the satisfaction a little longer by having lunch first in the adjacent restaurant (serendipity).  Smallsea is located in a great mall called The Barnyard in Carmel.  It is full of interesting small shops (and restaurants!) in a pretty layout of different Barn style buildings with not a generic store in sight.  The museum was just such a joy and was the highlight of this trip. the chocolate shop was pretty good too.

The collection is described as A Metropolis in Miniature and is the creation of Diane and Howard Birnberg.  They build the structures and collect fine miniatures from all over the world.


Diane Birnberg was utterly charming and spent a lot of time talking to us about her passion. For those of you who already know this gem of a museum, they are currently working on a couple of huge new projects.  They will also be moving the entire Metropolis to larger premises next year.

On of the projects is to put (I think she said) three of their smaller shops into a large store setting.  The other big project which has been in the pipeline for some years is a two-wing museum (for English readers this means Art Gallery).  Diane said she has been collecting hand painted miniatures (and a piece of sculpture) for five years ready to begin.  I hope I will be able to return to Carmel some time, maybe when this is finished, to see this all again.


I have more than a hundred photographs from Smallsea and that's after editing out as much as I could bear to part with. This has led me to realise I really do have to do something about getting Cloud storage for my computer.  I hope to sort that in the next week or so and I'll let you know where you will be able to find these pictures and all the rest of my mini stuff albums.  It has proved nigh on impossible to choose examples to post here.  Just to give you an idea of the scale of this museum they have over a thousand figures in their various settings.  The figures are all just wonderful in themselves but the quality of the buildings and settings and the care which has gone into the selection of the thousands of items which make up Smallsea is just mind-blowing.  This is more than a full-time job, it is a life.

Monday 12th November 




We had a bit of a panic moment this morning when we realised Monday was part of the Veterans Day weekend which is a holiday for a lot of people.  We wondered if the two shops Ken had planned for today would be open.  (Always assuming they were still there)  Luckily the gods were smiling on me on my birthday.  Our first port of call on a blue sun-shiny day was Lariann'es Small Wonders in Ventura.  



This was such an incredible dolls house shop.  There were so many beautiful things to look at it was exactly the equivalent of going to a major doll's house and miniatures show.  I spent over two hours in there and could, in all seriousness, have spent the whole day.  Much of their stuff is beyond my budget but it was a joy to look at it all and dream and get ideas and find the occasional item to buy.  My daughter had sent me dollars for minis for my birthday so it was even better!  I ended up with several bits and pieces for sixty bucks.  The joy of having gift money is that it allows me to buy something like Dale R Kendall's lovely laser cut doilies which the rest of the time I just tell myself is frivolous.  I have wanted them since I started this game and now I own some. (a picture of these will be in Chocolat as they are for that project).  


For Bentleys I bought a lovely Bespaq book holder which I will be using for a potted plant stand.  It looks very clunky in this photo - no idea why - I promise you it is very fine in an Arts and Crafts way.  The hot water bottle and probably the basket are also for Bentleys.  The lock and hasp are for Starfish cottage.

The staff were incredibly helpful and nice.  Even kinder, when I got back to Naples I discovered I had been charged the full price for my book holder.  It was from a 50% off shelf and marked accordingly on the bottom which obviously the lady hadn't noticed.  I emailed them and they immediately emailed me to say they would send a cheque for the difference.  This is a shop worth travelling half way across the planet for.  Certainly one to go to if you are anywhere within range at any time.


Back in the car and we were off to My Doll's House in Torrance.  This was another really interesting shop.  It was very much a family business staffed by mother and son when we were in there, both of whom had a real love of dolls houses.  

The son kindly gave us a lot of his time and was really interesting to talk to.  He showed us several absolutely wonderful houses made by various people and their equally lovely contents.  


My particular passion was for a room box made (I think) by his grandfather.  It was fashioned from a leaf of their dining table and was  breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty.  The wood was perfectly cut and polished. A really, really beautiful piece of work.  I so hope that it will go on and on being loved and cared for.

I also hope this birthday doll housing becomes an annual event!

If this post has whet your appetite  for more pictures don't forget to come back next week by which time I hope to have sorted out a place to store all my dolls house photos. 

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