The Strawberry Cottage

Six years ago, my friend took her own life. She was 18. She’d struggled with depression and suicide attempts since she was 9. Just a child. I built the Strawberry Cottage (pictures below) for her.

It’s still missing some important pieces, but it has some of the things she loved in it. I need to put shingles on the roof still too. I just hate doing shingles. But I promise to do it eventually!

We always said we’d be neighbors someday, so the Strawberry Cottage is next to the Lavender House, which is my house. Lavender is my favorite color, and I was often told that I looked like a “deer in headlights” as a kid, so the Deer family lives in my house. I wanted to accept the child I was in order to move forward and become the adult I am now.

The Strawberry Cottage and the Lavender House at Christmas

Red pandas were our favorite animal, and after reading The Golden Compass series by Phillip Pullman, we agreed that our daemons would be red pandas. Thus, the red panda Calico Critter family is who lives in the Strawberry Cottage. I love the dresses that the mom and daughter wear.

The Red Panda family

The daughter’s bedroom is filled with the things my friend loved. Her favorite movies, albums, and books are on the bookshelf. The room and home are strawberry-themed because we loved strawberries. We also loved regular, grocery store mushrooms (not the hallucinogenic kind!!), hence, Mushroom Meadow. I miss going to Target with her and buying a thing of mushrooms to eat. I also miss her singing Lady Marmalade and Zydrate Anatomy. I miss everything about her.

Red panda daughter’s room

I miss her, and I wish she were here to see her house. I wish she could meet my dogs and my husband. I know she would love them. The dining room is pictured below. Sometimes I leave a cheesecake on the buffet because that was one of our favorite desserts.

The dining room

We were avid readers, so the living room has lots of books. It needs more furniture, but I haven’t decided what else to add.

The living room

The Red Pandas throw a lot of tea parties because we wanted to have a tea party together at a fancy restaurant someday.

Pumpkin spice tea party

We were both competitive ice skaters as kids, so Ivy Red Panda and Emma Deer go ice skating at Cate’s Ice Rink often as well.

Ice skating friends

Suicide prevention is not just checking on your friends. It’s access to healthcare and mental healthcare, making a livable wage, resources for victims of domestic violence, decriminalization of addiction, housing the homeless, education about mental health, LGBTQ+ acceptance, support for veterans, and believing and allowing people to share their struggles without judgment. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. It’s the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 34. Men over the age of 65 have the highest risk of suicide.

I miss my friend every single day.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Listening Skills

Since starting the master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I’ve learned so much about how to listen and connect with others in a way that makes them feel heard.

One skill that I’ve found to be useful is mirroring the person I’m interacting with. I try to match their energy, and I match the amount of eye contact they’re giving. Everyone seems to have a different level of eye contact that they’re comfortable with. I personally do not like a lot of eye contact, but if I’m speaking to someone who does, then I adapt to suit their preferences.

As for energy, I think a lot of us know how it feels to be super excited about something and to tell someone important to us about it, only for them to be not really listening or worse, to think whatever we’re excited about is stupid. So, I do my best to match the other person’s energy in a conversation. I am genuinely excited when someone comes to me with something they’re passionate about. It means I’m important enough to them that they want me to know about it. It’s kind of an honor. I also try to ask questions about whatever it is. In my experience, even if the question ends up being dumb, they’re usually just really excited to have an opportunity to talk more about it.

Another skill that has been helpful for me even in regular conversation has been reflecting. Reflecting is when you think about what the person has said and identify the feelings or meanings contained in their words and body language. This can help the other person feel validated. Reflecting can look something like this:

Person 1: My friends didn’t sit with me at lunch today. They sat outside and played hopscotch after without me.

Person 2 (reflection): It sounds like you felt left out and sad when your friends did their own thing at lunch today.

It’s usually okay to mess up the reflection too because it gives the other person a chance to correct you and tell you more about what’s going on with them.

A big area that I’ve been working on since I started school is how quiet my voice is naturally. People have told me my whole life that I’m soft-spoken, and they can’t hear me, but I never really knew how to fix it. I’ve really had to practice at speaking up, and sometimes, it really feels like I’m yelling, but when I play my audio back, I’m definitely not. It’s been interesting for me.

I’m also working on challenging and confrontation skills. These can be really important for making progress with clients, and they scare me a little because I’m not used to using them. They seem less scary to me now that I’ve learned more about them. A “challenge” can be like when a person is saying that they aren’t angry, but their hands are balled into tight fists, and their teeth are clenched, and you challenge them by pointing out their fists and teeth.

That’s all I have to say about listening skills for now. I hope you have a great day!

Welcome to Cate’s Mushroom Meadow!

Hi there!

My name is Cate, and I am also known as @mushroom_miniatures on Instagram. I am a graduate student in a master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. I have two precious dogs named Isaac and Miria. They are both girls! They’re named after the characters from the anime Baccano. They’re both rescues, and I hope to rescue many more animals once we own a home and have more space. My husband, Michael, and I met in 2012, and we have been married a little over two years. He’s my bestest buddy, and I love him so much! He’s very supportive of my hobbies, and he even built the shelves that Mushroom Meadow is on.

Mushroom Meadow is the name of my dollhouse village. I built my first dollhouse when I was 11, and I fell absolutely in love with the hobby. My village is populated by Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families. To clear up any confusion, here in the United States, these toys are called Calico Critters, but everywhere else, they’re called Sylvanian Families. I’m a little obsessed with these cute toys–I have amassed quite a few at this point. They’re just so cute! I especially love the Red Panda family pictured below. Red pandas are one of my favorite animals!

The Red Panda Calico Critter Family

Initially, when I began building dollhouses and making miniatures again in 2017, I didn’t plan to have figures in my houses. However, Michael found a Calico Critter Bear at Walmart, and he thought it was the cutest and most well-made toy he’d ever seen. The dollhouse I had recently completed at the time had a bakery on the first floor, and this bear Calico Critter came with a set of donuts and accessories. Michael insisted that it needed to live in this dollhouse and be a baker because it was perfect. I had never had any Calico Critters growing up, but my little sister and the kid I babysat both had multiple families and furniture sets, so I’d seen them before. At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Calico Critters in my village. I didn’t want to be one of those adults that still played with toys–I didn’t know how important play was to all stages of life back then! I adore Calico Critters now. They really are such detailed little toys. I love how, in the furniture sets, the sinks will have pipes and pretty little designs on the cabinets. I can’t imagine Mushroom Meadow without my Calico Critters. They’ve given me a space to come up with fun stories to share with my Instagram friends and to express myself. Speaking of Instagram, I really love the miniatures/dollhouse/Calico Critter accounts on Instagram. Last year, an Instagram follower created an event where everyone in the dollhouse community posted a picture of their dollhouse(s) all lit up for Christmas. It was so much fun to see everyone’s posts and get to know accounts I hadn’t interacted with before. Everyone is just so kind and accepting. I love it!

Mushroom Meadow at Christmas

In general, I love arts and crafts, and in addition to miniature-making, I also embroider, work with clay, and needle-felt. On this blog, I will be sharing my miniatures and anything else I make. I will also provide tips and techniques that I’ve learned that may be helpful to others. With embroidery, especially, I am constantly having new ideas or seeing new stitches to try on YouTube or Instagram. Right now, I am feeling very inspired by the song The Willow Maid by Erutan, so I am wanting to embroider a fairy soon, like in the song. As for clay, because it’s September, I am working on Halloween-themed food and decorations for my dollhouses. Somehow, I still have not made any actual miniature Halloween candy, so that is one of my goals for this year. Also, I love looking back at some of the things I made when I first got started. I will probably share comparisons of old creations vs. new creations because I think it’s helpful for others to see the journey. I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but for me, personally, it helps to know that everyone starts somewhere, and no one is perfect the first time they try something.

Embroidery of a Ghost Lady in a Lake

I will also use this blog to share some of the happenings of Mushroom Meadow. It’s a very busy place! Recently, a new family, the Maple Cats, moved in, and to make matters more complicated, they’re royalty! The Maple Cats live in a house I’ve named “The Fairytale House.” I included a picture below, but I will show more pictures and provide more information on this house in a future post. Every one of my dollhouses has a theme and a story. They’re all reflections of my personality and the things I love. And of course, autumn is here, which means Halloween is coming up! Everyone in Mushroom Meadow is unearthing their Halloween decorations and figuring out their costumes. Holidays are a very big deal in Mushroom Meadow. Every house gets decorated, and it’s a lot of fun.

The Fairytale House

Finally, because I am in my second year of my counseling program, my life is changing pretty considerably. I start working with real clients in the Spring. I am nervous and excited and happy and just feeling lots of mostly good feelings. I want to use this blog to share my journey and some of the things that I am learning along the way. All my classes so far have felt so valuable, and I have learned so much about people and how to connect with them. I have also learned a lot about how I can improve myself and my own functioning. It’s been a lot to process, but I love talking about school, and I hope you guys will be cool with hearing about it.

I don’t sell anything I make, but I would be happy to direct you to my very talented miniaturist friends if there is something you like or are interested in!

Anyway, I hope you’ll stick around for more. I can’t wait to hear your tips and feedback about my miniatures, art, and even my experiences in school!