Saturday 22 August 2020

Sad news


It is my sad duty to inform readers of this blog that the author, Karen Crossley (pawprint), passed away on 28 July 2020 at her home. Posted by her brother Gord Crossley.

Obituary for Karen Louise Crossley

A talented and prolific writer, she had recently retired, due to increasing health issues, from her position of Communications Ocer at Canada Revenue Agency, where she was employed since 2002.

Karen was a lifelong learner, achieving her BA in English and History from the University of Winnipeg, a Creative Communications diploma in Journalism from Red River Community College, and her master's degree in English Literature from the University of Manitoba, beginning studies toward a PhD shortly thereafter.

She loved both drama and travel from an early age; interests that she pursued for her own enjoyment, and professionally, as a freelance journalist and features writer for The Winnipeg Sun, and a freelance writer for numerous arts and entertainment programs and publications. 

She had an abiding passion for horses, in the flesh, in literature and as collectible models and figurines. She volunteered with the Manitoba Riding for the Disabled Association; was an avid fan of equestrian events, competitions, and novels; wrote her master's thesis on the children's literature classic, Black Beauty; was well regarded in the horse collecting world, known throughout Canada and the US; and most recently, created a blog, Dust Ponies, for fellow aficionados of Breyer Club model horses and other related collectibles.

Karen was pre-deceased by her father, Robert Crossley, in 2009, and is mourned by her mother, June, brother, Gordon, and sister, Kim, as well as aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Manitoba Riding for the Disabled Association, or the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Prezzie in Pink

On Monday I received the most delightful gift in the mail.  It celebrates no occasion -- it's not my birthday, a holiday, or any other date of note.  And no one bought me this gift.  It's a present from me to me, and I'm giving it to myself for no particular reason.  And yet I couldn't be more delighted.

As one of my pre-Breyerfest indulgences, I attended Anne Field's Field of Dolls Studio online sale.  This is the second one of her sales I've attended -- at the first one I dipped my toe in the water buying a pair of fetlock boots and some tiny candy bars.  I actually wasn't coordinated enough to get these during the live sale, but I managed to pick them up from the unsold leftover assortment.

For the most recent sale I got my act together and was actually online and waiting a few minutes before the sale started.  I was also pre-tempted by Anne's blog post that morning, which featured pictures of all the items she intended to sell.

I love Anne's dolls, but I hesitated to buy one because I'm not a performance shower and I felt they would be wasted on me.  I mentioned something to that effect in a comment on Anne's blog once and she said I didn't need to be a performance shower to buy one of her dolls -- that I might just find I have fun playing dress-up with a doll and a horse every once in a while.

I mulled that over for some time and this year, when I spotted a doll who really called to me from Anne's sales catalogue I decided to try to get it.  From watching the video of the previous sale, I could see that most dolls sold very quickly, so chances were good that I wouldn't get the doll anyway, but I decided to try.

Well, I did manage to snag the doll I had my eye on -- the doll I really have no use for but wanted anyway.  On Monday she arrived.
Unboxing her was a treat in itself.  Just look at the pretty pink bag she was shipped in!  How could anyone receive that in the mail and not find their day immediately brightened?  Inside the bag was a cute little shipping box.  I've never had anything shipped to me in a box like that before and I thought it was very attractive.
Inside the box was the inevitable roll of bubble wrap and inside of that was my doll, all wrapped up like a cute pink burrito.
She's everything I hoped for and more.  I can't really tell you what it is about her that I like the most.  I was initially attracted by her outfit, which is casual but classy, and by the no-nonsense look she appeared to have in her catalogue group shot.
When I got her in my hands and started to experiment with posing her, I found she was the most pose-able rider doll I've ever owned -- which is I suppose isn't all that much of a compliment since all my previous dolls have been Breyers, most of which came in sets with horses I wanted.  But I could instantly see how much more versatile this doll would be.
One of the many things this doll has over the Breyers is her hand-painted face.  I've tried taking a few photos of Breyer dolls and there's something flat about their faces, so that their eyes seem sunken and dead in photographs.  My Anne Field doll not only has a beautifully painted face, but she has tiny little black earrings to match her outfit and eyes that are full of attitude.  And even with my poor photography skills, she photographs very well.
(Her name, for what it's worth, is "May Mathers."  This is because the first time I caught sight of her was in one of Anne's May blog posts entitled "Edible Math.")

There are tiny but charming touches throughout her outfit as a whole.  Her hat is at the perfect angle, her shirt fits like a glove, her belt, threaded through tiny belt loops, is the cutest little thing, and even her jeans sport an unexpected back pocket.  There also seems to be some wear on the seat of her pants.  I don't know if this was intentional or a consequence of dressing the doll, but whatever it is it adds another touch of realism to the doll -- of course her butt would bear the brunt of repeated usage.  It only makes sense.
Now, of course, I have a yearning to add a casual English rider to my brand new doll "collection,"  but I'll hold off until I've played with my new toy for a while.  Obviously, I'm going to have to haul out my best Western tack (which is probably at least 10 years old by now), choose a horse and start playing dress up.  Since I am currently involved with an online photo show series, I might try to get some set-ups done for future photo showing. 
When I was a kid I never really played with dolls -- I just didn't like them very much.  Who could have predicted that one day receiving a doll in the mail would totally make my day?

Sunday 19 July 2020

Breyerfest Not-the-Surprise-Horse Surprise

As you will know if you been following my virtual Breyerfest saga so far, I did not purchase a 3-day ticket this year so I was not eligible to purchase the Surprise horse.

That being the case, the Breyerfest horses I am expecting (the 4-pack of Single Day Stablemates, the little green "Éire," and the Best of BreyerFest Stablemate Set) are all known to me.  I've seen pictures of all the models and I know what they're supposed to look like.

And still, somehow, Breyer managed to surprise me all the same.

You see, even though I'd already seen some of the 4-pack Stablemates in other people's posts and blogs, and even though my fellow Canadians with 3-day tickets were receiving their Celebration Horses this week, I didn't expect my 4-pack to arrive any time soon.  This was because I'd fallen into the habit of checking my order status every day and as of Friday morning all three orders were marked "unfulfilled."  That didn't bother me all that much -- I knew they'd get around to me eventually.

However, I was thrown for a loop on Friday afternoon when a Purolator courier suddenly appeared at my door with a small box in hand.  Sure enough, as the label on the side of the box proclaimed, it was my 4-pack of Single Day Stablemates (SMs).
I checked my account again on Friday evening and, sure enough, all three orders were still marked "unfulfilled."  So now I have absolutely no idea when my other orders will arrive.  I kind of expected that they'd issue a postage refund for one of them (as they promised to do for international buyers) before shipping them, but now I don't know what to expect.  I've always said it, but I have yet to truly absorb the fact that with Breyer the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.

Anyway, I am over-the-moon with my four new SMs.  I already have two of the molds in other finishes -- I have "Jersey" as the original SM Collector Club pinto and "Skye" as the original Premier Club SM pinto.  Now, however, I have them both in nice new solid colours.
As for "Orkney" and "Arran," I used to have a couple of the G2 Clydesdales but sold them all except for the porcelain, who may or may not also be for sale.  I do not currently have another mini-Croi like "Arran," but I have committed to purchasing half of the new 70th anniversary mystery SM box, so I expect to get another solid mini-Croi by early to mid-August.

The packaging of this year's Single Day Stablemates is particularly charming.  Amazingly enough, the patterns on each bag appear to be based on actual tartans representing the isles that inspired the SM names.  None of the tartans are ancient, but this is particularly impressive in the case of Jersey, which only registered a tartan relatively recently for the Jersey Pipe Band and so is difficult to find in most tartan databases.

Isle of Orkney Tartan (2000)

                        Arran District Tartan (1982)

                    Isle of Skye Tartan (1992)                              

                        Jersey Pipe Band Tartan (2011)

(Sorry about the odd formatting  -- Blogger and I are having a bit of a disagreement.

The flash on my photos washes out the colours a little bit, but I think you can still see that the bag patterns are the same as the registered tartans.

Anyway, once you get beyond the packaging the models themselves come out to play.

I was really looking forward to receiving "Skye," and he is everything I hoped for -- such a luscious chocolate colour.
But I think I may like "Jersey" even more.  He really surprised me when I saw how handsome he is in his glossy golden sorrel coat.  I just can't stop looking at him.
"Orkney," who I suspected would be my least favourite, does in fact hold that position, but he's better than I thought he might be.  There's something about his glossy white mane that made me suspect for a moment that he'd had hair extensions.  He hasn't, but the paint job does accentuate the mane very nicely.
And lastly there's "Arran" (or "Aaran" as the typo on her bag would have it).  She's a bit larger than I anticipated, but is a very complex mold for a Stablemate and the matte finish does suit her.  I'm not as crazy about her as some others are, but she's going to look great on the shelf.
All in all, quite a lovely surprise for a rainy Friday afternoon.

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Virtual Breyerfest - Real Experience

Well, that was an interesting weekend.

As I predicted, I was mentally exhausted by the end of virtual Breyerfest.  Physically, too.  I literally spent most of Monday sleeping it off.  What I didn't predict is how terrific, and traumatic, the entire experience would be.

I probably should have predicted some of the computer glitches that plagued Breyerfest 2020, especially on opening day.  But the folks at Breyer had sounded so confident about their ability to handle the increased website traffic that I was lulled into a false sense of security.  Friday morning brought me to my real senses.

The only bright spot was that it quickly became apparent that I was not the only one having trouble accessing various areas around the site.  That was a relief! 

However, in order to gain that knowledge I had to wade through a mire of nasty comments about the situation on the Breyer Model Horses Facebook page.  It was depressing, and I was deeply ashamed to find so many negative, unsympathetic, selfish attitudes circulating among my fellow hobbyists.  It was so bad that I hesitate to call them "my fellow" -- I would much rather distance myself from them than be counted among their number.  But although I do not share their attitudes, we do, in fact, share a hobby.  It's a reality I have to face. 

I can only hope that the sort of comments I read on that site reflect only a small, but very vocal, portion of the hobby.  And to help balance things out there were indeed a number of positive, sympathetic, and appreciative comments posted as well.

Anyway, being constantly shut out of making purchases at the Breyerfest store, I found myself with plenty of time to explore the rest of Breyerfest.  I think I was able to do all the other things I wanted to do, and most of them met or exceeded my expectations.

Here are some of the things I did, listed in order from those I liked the best to those that didn't quite satisfy:

  • watched all 3 Equus Film and Art Festival movies
  • went on all the Virtual Farm Tours
  • watched all the Meet the Horses videos
  • checked out the voting and reveals in the Collector Club Tent 
  • entered the two raffles I was eligible to enter
  • watched all the Hobby Talks or Seminars
  • watched a few of the Hands-On Hobby demos
  • looked at most of the Covered Arena videos
  • watched many of the Celtic Breeds videos
  • took in most of the Evening Show performances
  • checked out the Auction Horses (and quickly figured out that I wouldn't be bidding on any)
  • viewed the photos of the Contest winners
  • looked over the Champion Results from the Open Photo Show
  • visited some sites in the Artisans' Gallery and the Vendor Fair
Of course, the problems with checking out of the Breyer Store did drive me towards making some crazy decisions.  I originally had no intention of buying any of the three Store Special Horses.  As Virtual Breyerfest got closer and closer, though, I started becoming more and more oddly attracted to the Gypsy Vanner "Cheesecake."  It got to the point where I started entertaining thoughts of adding him to my cart if I managed to get the one thing I really wanted -- the Breyerfest Stablemate set. 
Glossy "Topgun*
Therefore when, on the second day, I still hadn't managed to snag the Stablemates and Breyer decided to offer pre-orders of all the Store Special horses in gloss, I was sorely tempted.  However, I suddenly became even more tempted by the glossy "Topgun" -- his colour looked much nicer under gloss than it had in regular matte.  It took everything I had to remind myself that I didn't really like or need any of those molds.  That's how quickly Breyerfest can make you temporarily lose your mind.
I managed to resist, but I did succumb to a crazy impulse I had to buy the Stablemate "Éire," the green Irish Drafter with the celtic knot shamrocks on his flanks.  I wasn't originally intending to add him to my collection, but when, during one of the restockings, the Stablemate set was not available but "Éire" was, I bit the bullet and bought him.  

It was my first successful purchase of the 'Fest, and by the time I picked him up I was desperate to buy something as a souvenir.  Of course, I will be getting the four-pack of Single Day Stablemates as well sometime soon -- I've seen a few of them in collectors' hands already and I'm totally charmed by the cute little tartan bags they come in.

And I finally got lucky on Sunday morning and was able to snag the coveted Stablemate set.  With that, my shopping was complete and I could go on to enjoy the rest of the 'Fest.
Best of BreyerFest Stablemates -- mine at last!*
I'm going to remember this 'Fest as both a frustrating and fun experience.  The shopping experience was extremely frustrating, and reading the feedback on the Breyer Facebook site was both embarrassing and depressing.  But with all the virtual videos I certainly was able to see much more of the action than I'd typically be able to see at Breyerfest live, and many of the videos were very, very good.

I was initially hoping that the virtual event would prove to be such a successful event for Breyer that they would consider adding a virtual component to future 'Fests.  However, given how exhausted they must be feeling after all the technical glitches, the number of times they had to change plans in mid-stream, and all the negative feedback they got from "fans," I kind of think now that they'll be approaching that idea with caution.

Which is not to say it won't happen.  During the wrap-up video Reeves International president CEO Tony Fleischmann mentioned that he'd like to add a virtual component to future Breyerfests to accommodate all the fans who, for one reason or another, cannot attend the 'Fest in person.

That seems incredibly generous to me.  Surely organizing Breyerfest live takes more than enough effort.  I certainly wouldn't have blamed the folks at Breyer/Reeves if it had turned out that the traditional experience, that they work so hard to put together every year, was the only one they wanted to offer henceforward.  The possibility that some sort of virtual component may become a thing of the future has me looking forward to Breyerfests yet to come.

*All images courtesy of