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Book of Spells

“Gracious Heavens!” exclaimed Ava Brassfeather, as she peered from the window of one of Steampunk-Shrunk’s gothic towers.
“Hush, she might hear you, my dear,” hissed Penelope. “She’ll probably put a curse on you, or whatever her sort get up to.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed Ava, but in a slightly lower tone.

The object of attention was one Mistress Ectophemia Fleabane, the latest – um – companion of the apothecary.   Regular readers may recall the distrust with which our little league of ladies and gentlemen have always regarded the proprietor of The Dodgy Pharmacy, as it is know in these parts.  Since the arrival of his new friend, though, things have taken a definite turn for the worse.

Ava had spotted this woman skulking around the shrubbery far below, gathering plant and insect specimens into dusty jars and pursuing some poor creature or other through the undergrowth with a dagger.  There appeared to be a rather sulky yellowish mist surrounding her.  It was all most unbecoming.

“I’d just persuaded that chap to begin stocking some useful items in his shop,” Hugo told us.  “He’s doing spare parts for mechanical arms, steam engine oil, time traveller pills oh, and some rather fine powder that improves one’s hearing quite astonishingly.”
“Beg your pardon?” said Henry.

But there was barely a smile. No one was in the mood for Henry’s humour. It was as if Mistress Fleabane’s unsavoury yellow fog had settled over everyone.

At that very moment, the door of the tower room creaked open and the crone herself stood before us.  She held out an aged and yellowing tome.

“I’s done yer a book,” she croaked, proudly.  “All writ in me own fair ‘and, it is, with a bit of assistance from me dear friend the apothecary, as he’s so good with ‘is grammar.  It’s SPELLS!”  This last word was issued like a challenge and she fixed her beady little eyes on each of us in turn, daring anyone to object.

“Well how lovely,” cooed Penelope, with impressive presence of mind.  “Thank you so much, Miss, er, Mistress Fleabane.”

Hugo strode forward and took the volume from her hand.  If he was scared that it might explode on impact, he showed no sign of it, although we noticed that he used his mechanical hand to take it.

A long and awkward silence followed.

“Well then,” the woman said at length, “I’d best be gettin’ back to them bats.  Got loads to de-wing before midnight.  I’ll bid you good day.”  And she left as suddenly as she had arrived.

A collective shudder travelled around the room but in spite of our trepidations, we were all keen to read the spells in her book.

Here is what we read:

BOOK OF SPELLS

SPELL TO VIEW PHANTASMS from other dimensions

Hold a holographic mirror before your face and turn towards the direction from which you suspect the creature to be approaching.  NB: This can normally be ascertained by sounds or odours emanating from the beast.

Stamp your left foot upon the ground three times and say,  “Reveal thyself, foul being,” loudly and clearly.

A clear image of the phantasm should become visible in the glass.

You would be wise to hold some means of self defence in your other hand, with which to protect yourself if the being should be of an aggressive nature.  However you will now know exactly what manner of creature you are dealing with.

SPELL TO PROTECT THE TRAVELLER FROM TIME SICKNESS 

When engaging in temporal voyages, the time traveller will often experience unpleasant side effects and become disorientated.  Protect yourself with this spell.

The night before the journey, which should preferably be whilst the moon is waning, smear a generous quantity of octopus slime (available from all reputable apothecaries) over your head, paying particular attention to the area behind and beneath the ears, and recite this chant whilst drinking a strong cup of tea:

“May the e’er-moving oceans instill into me, their calmness in motion as I sup this tea.”

This should enable you to enjoy your time-travelling.

SPELL TO ASSIST THE USER IN MAINTAINING BALANCE AND POISE (particularly useful before a tea duel)

Prepare a concoction composed of equal parts brain juice and broomstick fleas.  Spread it over the part of parts of the body in which you wish the balance to be most evident.  If this is legs and feet, perform the ceremony standing on one leg.  If it is hands and arms hold a moderately heavy object in one hand and attempt to keep it as still as possible.  

Repeat the words, “By brain and broom balanced be,” three times.

You should notice a definite improvement as you speak these words for the final time.

SPELL TO INCREASE STRENGTH AND VITALITY

This spell is best performed in an extremely hot and steamy envirnment, such as an engine room or in the vicinity of any steam-powered contraption.  Light a red candle and place it on the ground.  Allow it to burn while performing the spell.  Remove any particularly restricting or flammable items of clothing (allowing modesty to be your ultimate arbiter when making choices), run in a circle around the candle seven times and then leap over the flame, repeating the words:

“_____________ (insert name) be nimble,  _____________ (insert name) be quick,  _____________ (insert name) jump over the candlestick.”

This may be redolent of a child’s rhyme, but it is in fact a powerful charm which, when used in the manner described imbues the individual with extreme power and fortitude and allows him (or her) to indulge in such onerous and exhausting tasks as are deemed necessary for life.

Ensure that any resultant burning or smouldering garments or soft furnishings are extinguished without delay.

SPELL TO ENCOURAGE GROWTH OF FACIAL HAIR

Should any gentleman feel himself to be lacking a full and lustrous beard, extravagantly bushy side burns or an elegantly waxed moustache, he is advised to perform the following spell:  Vigortously rub a mixture of steam engine oil and tarantula hair (both freely available from reputable apothecaries’ stores) into the requisite area of the face while repeating the words:

“Grow, you fine whiskery protuberances, grow!”

Repeat as required over the next several days.  

Please note: It is not advisable for ladies to use this spell unless they wish to undertake a career in a travelling show or circus.

 

We stared at one another in total astonishment.

“Steampunk witchcraft?” muttered Henry.  “Didn’t know that was a thing.”
“More like a thinly veiled advertisement for the items in their shop,” snorted Hugo.

However many hands thumbed those pages throughout the following days….

Should you wish to procure a copy of this volume, a downloadable version is available from the SteampunkDollsHouse

 

 

Grimoires

Mrs S is away from home at the moment. Leaving Steampunk-Shrunk Towers in the capable hands of Charles and Henry, she has traversed the country once again and is sojourning in the sweltering East.

To keep her occupied in spare moments, she has taken a sheaf of printed covers and pages to construct a plentiful supply of Grimoires – enough to tide us through the plethora of Steampunk-Shrunk stalls coming up this autumn and to cover the inevitable rise in demand at the SteampunkDollsHouse shop around Halloween.

Cutting and glueing the spell books together is the easy part. Each page then needs to be ‘distressed’ to give the appearance of great age.

This is a time-consuming process involving a variety of substances and techniques. Grimoires, after all, must expect to be exposed to all manner of strange environments and materials over the centuries.

Once suitably ancient in appearance, each little volume will be offered for sale. No two are completely alike.

As for the spells, charms and advice hidden within their pages – customers should take these with a large pinch of salt (along with essence of bat wing, scale of newt and a sprinkling of items digg’d in the dark).

Credit must be given to Betsy at www.etsy.com/shop/chocolaterabbit for the excellent covers and illustrations.

Keeping Close

As regular readers will know, Mrs S has this unfortunate habit of stuffing us all into suitcases from time to time and heading off across the country to run Steampunk-Shrunk stalls in far flung places.  We are jolted on and off trains, up and down escalators and thrown into luggage holds on coaches and it is far from pleasant.

Henry about to set off in the clockwork time machine

“Well,” she says, a trifle testily, “If Henry and Charles would focus their excellent minds on creating space machines instead of time machines, perhaps they would contrive some sort of mechanism to move us smoothly and effortlessly across the land.  Until then, we are all stuck with our present modes of transportation.”

However she has agreed to work locally for a few months, and we are delighted to say that all our forthcoming sales are based within our beautiful county of Somerset.  (Check the home page for dates and venues.)  And of course we still have our delightful outpost at The Crispin Emporium in Street.

A rare shot of Dr Thrustington without his shades.

Last Saturday, we had a gentle, ten minute stroll in the sunshine to the Glastonbury Craft and Vintage Fair.  Such a delight!

We watched with rather mixed feelings as the beautiful Store of Strangeness was carried away to a new home, but imagine our delight when the purchaser returned a while later to collect Doctor Harbottle Thrustington to be the shop’s manager.  He doesn’t give much away behind those reflective glasses, but we could tell he was delighted at the prospect.  He was still more pleased when this charming customer decided to take Molly Forsey along to be his companion.  We think they make the perfect couple and wish them well in their new home.

As for the rest of us, we have a few weeks to breathe before heading for a touch of sea air at a Dollshouse and Miniatures Fair in Weston-super-Mare next month.  We hope to see some of you there.

Meanwhile, there is still the Etsy shop, for those who live further away.

The Clockwork Entomologist

It puzzled me… but I enjoy a good puzzle.

I have this pile of vintage clockwork parts, as many of you will know.  Time hasn’t been kind to them, left as they were to rot in an attic for decades.

for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHouseThe ones I can clean up and get working are either sold as they are to automaton makers or turned into pretty clockwork twittering birds that sell as fast as I can make them.  The ones that have seized up completely are taken to pieces, the parts being upcycled into our miniature gizmos and contraptions.

But there was this one.  It defied all reason.  The spring had snapped, the rubber bellows had perished, the little band that turned a few cogs in the middle had disintegrated, and yet, when I turned the key, it whirred into life.  I had no idea how parts of it were still working.

It most certainly couldn’t be sold or turned into a singing bird.  I removed the broken bellows and whistle.   Stubbornly, the part that was left continued to function.  Admittedly it was rather primitive, but each time I gave the key a few turns, the brass bit in the middle zoomed around at a rate of knots and the arm which should have moved the bird waved up and down unevenly, controlled by the blue steel cam.  I presume one of the broken parts had once regulated the speed.  The other mechanisms move relatively sedately.  This one, though, buzzed like an insect as it spun around…

…and that gave me an idea.

I hunted in an old box of bracelet charms and found a few dragonflies, a butterfly and a bee.  These were painted in jewel colours and most were stuck to the casing.  Another was threaded on to a length of copper wire and fixed to the wheel in the centre.

Next I turned my attention to the arm.

Arm!  That was when the idea of the Clockwork Entomologist came to mind.  Somewhere I had…  yes… in one of those boxes of junk-I’ll-find-a-use-for-one-day…

There it was – a 12th scale butterfly net!

Constructing a pair of arms and hands from epoxy putty was relatively easy.  One held the net and was molded to the flailing metal arm.  The other held a diminutive magnifying glass, cobbled together with a few bits from the stash.  It fitted neatly into the now empty housing from the bird whistle.  A pair of small black sleeves and cuffs dressed the arms in a suitably formal fashion.  My entomologist might lack all other body parts, but those he had were at least well attired.

The mechanism was housed in a small cardboard box, decorated with an assemblage of suitable images.  A few coffee stirrers were sawn up to make a cover for the spring, so that the sharp, snapped steel edges would be safely covered.

So there it is – my rather inept clockwork bug collecting automaton, swiping ineffectually with his net at the buzzing insect each time the little brass key is turned.

The vintage clockwork mechanisms (in full working order) can be bought from this link at the SteampunkDollsHouse, in case you’d like to try your hand at making an automaton.

The magical mechanical birds are available on Steampunk-Shrunk stalls (see home page for dates and venues) or from this link.

As for The Clockwork Entomologist – I’m not sure that I can part with him at the moment, unless someone makes me an offer I can’t refuse…

 

Covering All Bases – and Consequently Confused

What are we, exactly – we strange inhabitants of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers?

To be honest, we fall between many cracks.  Miniaturists?  Dollshouse suppliers?  Craftspeople?  Artists?  Steampunk?  Perhaps all of these, and a little more.

This mild existential crisis was brought about when we were invited to sell our wares at a Halloween Spooktacular (sic).

“But we don’t do spooky stuff,” Mrs S protested, having just returned from a highly successful steampunk rally where the retro-futuristic gizmos, gadgets, clockwork devices and watch cog jewellery had gone down splendidly.

“Ahem, miniatures jars of vampire repellent, banshee bane, undead eradicator and other such poisons and potions; carved skull holders with tiny red wax candles; scrying mirrors; grimoires; a selection of black and silver tables and cabinets, crammed with all manner of weird devices and artefacts…  You even have a fortune teller’s table,”  she was reminded.

“Oh, well yes.  When you put it like that, I suppose we are, um, slightly dark in places,”  she admitted.  “Fine.  We’ll do the Hallowe’en sale.

Before that, though, we have a dollshouse and miniatures fair to do in Weston-super-Mare, where we will mingle with purveyors of shabby chic 12th scale bedroom suites, impossibly tiny polymer clay foodstuffs and little pots of artificial flowers.  Bemused ladies of a certain age will politely enquire as to what, exactly, steampunk is, while long-suffering husbands will pause and stare in wonder into our turbine room or at our little time machines, and perhaps contemplate collecting a few miniatures themselves.

Next spring, we’ll be showcasing the craftsmanship and artistry involved in creating miniature wonders at the Best of Somerset Show in the appropriately diminutive city of Wells.

No wonder we – and many of our customers – are slightly confused at times.  Only that very rare and precious breed of steampunk dollshouse enthusiasts truly ‘get’ us, but that doesn’t stop the wider public from coming along to take a look and discovering utterly useless little treasures that they suddenly find they simply can’t live without.

If you pop across to the HOME page you’ll find details of the upcoming Steampunk-Shrunk stalls.

If you find yourself in the lovely county of Somerset, you can pop along to the wonderful Crispin Emporium in the town of Street, where you can view a selection of our wares from Tuesdays to Saturdays, 9.30-4.

And finally, if you live further afield, a selection of our wares can be bought from our online Etsy shop and shipped worldwide.

 

 

Professor Erazmus’s Patented Holographic Mirrors

Good day to you.  Apologies for the long absence.  I’ve been holed up in my garret at Steampunk-Shrunk Towers and rather engrossed in watching over my many wards, who are spread around the world these days, by means of my clockwork powered holographic global viewing lens.

Fortunately, most of them seem to be settling down now, and require a little less attention than was the case a year or so back.  That means I’ve been able to turn my mind to other things.

Several of my steampunk colleagues here have expressed interest in my holographic viewing technology (although a few are uncivil enough to call it ‘spying’).  They have asked whether I can provide them with a version of my viewing lens that does not involve such a cumbersome system of levers, pulleys and cogs as my own device.

I’m pleased to say, I have been able to oblige.  As I’m sure you are aware, we inhabit a holographic universe, and once an initial connection has been made, we are free to visit any part of it that interests us.  My device is the master machine and it has been a relatively simple task to clone the technology to handheld devices.  These are very attractive hand mirrors (available in our Etsy shop – The SteampunkDollsHouse) and wall mounted mirrors which will soon be available on our stalls at upcoming events.

Now anyone who purchases one will be able to use my technology to connect with any location – past, present or future, through staring into the holographic mirror with sufficient concentration and focus.

I, of course, will be able to follow all their observations from my master machine, but that is a small price for any customer to pay.  Their data will, of course, be quite safe with me…

The Clock Case Begins…

“Pa!” yelled young Jasper Coggleford, racing into the workshop and almost tripping on his apron in his haste.  “You have to come and see our new project.  It’s huge!”
Jeremiah, the senior partner of Coggleford & Son, Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry, smiled.  “Not another dresser, is it?  If so, we need to build up your muscles if you’re to help me move it.”
“No, Pa, much bigger than that.  Just come and see.”

Jasper led his father to the largest room in Steampunk-Shrunk Towers.

I should explain here that all but one of the inhabitants of this residence are at one twelfth the size of you or I.  This is due to a space-time anomaly caused by a time machine malfunction which I don’t have the energy to go into right now.

Only Mrs S, the owner of said residence, is what we would consider normal sized.  It was she who had acquired the object that had so excited Jasper’s imagination.

“Gracious heavens!” cried Jeremiah, as he surveyed the edifice that stood before them.
It was a vintage clock case, now empty except for some curious markings on the back wall and a small spring protruding from one side. The internal space was more than a foot tall, although quite narrow.

“Told you it was big, Pa,” Jasper declared, quite unnecessarily. “Mrs S says we can make what we like with it, once we’ve cleaned it up and restored it. She says her son and his partner found it for a fiver in an antique shop. They thought it would interest us.”

Jeremiah scratched his head. “We’re furniture restorers, lad, not house builders. Don’t you think it’s rather a lot for us to take on?”
“‘Course not, Pa,” grinned the boy. “If we put in a new ceiling and a ladder, we can have a room with an attic above it. I’m sure Mister Charles and Mister Henry will lend a hand.”

“Well, I suppose they would,” Coggleford Senior agreed slowly.

He continued with his careful inspection of the clock case.
“The structure is sound, and the woodwork will come up lovely with a bit of attention. Just look at those pillars – real beauties.”
“I knew you’d love it Pa,” laughed the boy. “Shall we get started?”
“I think we’d better, son. This is going to be a long job.”

And so the clock case restoration begins.

Time – Running like Clockwork

Up in the dizzy heights of Steampunk-Shrunk Towers, things were getting somewhat overcrowded.  We pride ourselves of being able to upcycle and repurpose just about anything that comes our way, but there are limits.

“We’ve repainted and upholstered all these odd dining chairs,” explained Jeremiah, but to be honest, nobody is going to want to buy them.  Everyone wants chairs in sets of four, preferably with a table.”
“I know just what you mean,” replied Charles. “My problem is all these not-quite-working clockwork mechanisms. Take this one, for example. It purrs along beautifully, but the rubber bellows has perished, so there’s no sound. We can’t make a silent songbird automaton, but it’s too good to throw out.”

Young Jasper, Jeremiah’s son, was listening intently.  He started to stroll round the clockwork machine.
“Excuse me, Mister Charles, Sir, but don’t you and Mister Henry make time machines?”
“Yes, Jasper, indeed we do,” Charles smiled.
“And what do they need to make them work?”

Charles laughed. “Perhaps a bit technical for a young nipper like yourself, but basically a valve and piston to build up a huge amount of pressure and a temporal modulator to control the time travel.”

“So if you took out the bird whistle and used its piston in a cylinder to build up the pressure, could you maybe use the arm that should move the bird to do the time modulation?” the boy enquired.

Charles’ jaw dropped open and he stared in amazement at the child.

“‘Cos I’m thinking Mrs S has those working watch faces kicking around somewhere – the ones that wouldn’t fit in our grandfather clocks, and we could let you have one of our spare chairs.  Oh, and I’ve been working on a camera that’s controlled by a foot pedal. I was going to use it to take what I call ‘selfies’, but I’m sure it could be adapted to fit a time machine, so that the time traveller could provide proof of the places visited…  Um…have I said something wrong?”
The boy blushed crimson, as he noticed that quite a crowd had gathered and all were staring at him with the most curious expression.

Charles took a deep breath. “No, Jasper, you have done nothing wrong.  Indeed, you have just had the most stupendous idea.  What a remarkable boy you are!  Would you care to help Henry and I to build the prototype, if your father can spare you, of course?”

Now it was Jeremiah’s turn to blush, as his heart swelled with pride.  “I’d be happy to release my son from his work with me for a while, Charles.  He’s a remarkable lad and I’m sure he’ll learn a great deal from you.”
“And vice versa,” muttered Henry, Charles’ brother and co-inventor.

And so the work began.  Henry tinkered, Charles created the elegant canopy and young Jasper buzzed around making wise suggestions and helping to attach the parts.  Even Henry just stood and scratched his head when the boy suggested installing a plasma screen above the motor, so that the traveller could see the view from the back-facing camera.
“Where do you get your ideas from, young Jasper?” he asked. “Are you sure you haven’t been time-travelling yourself and visiting the future?”
“Don’t know, Sir,” the boy shrugged. “They just sort of pop into my head somehow. Shall I fetch you the plasma screen I was working on last week?  It should fit nicely inside Mister Charles’ canopy there.”

Eventually the machine was finished.  Henry took his place on the velvet-upholstered chair and turned the brass key.  The piston began to pump, while the clock swung around on its steel arm.  Cams and cogs whirred cheerfully.

“There’s room for a little ‘un by my feet, if you can spare him, Coggleford,” Henry called to Jeremiah.

Jasper looked longingly at his father, but the man shook his head.  “Not today, my friend.  There are some things even Jasper is too young for yet awhile.  One day, though.”

“Soon,” muttered Jasper, hopefully.  Then, “Safe journey Mister Henry, Sir.  And please take lots of photographs for me.”

“Certainly will, young man,” grinned Henry, as he reached across and started the clock.

The Clockwork Time Machine, with working clockwork motor and quartz clock is for sale at http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SteampunkDollsHouse.  Click here or on one of the photos to go to the listing.

Jeremiah Coggleford & Son – Purveyors of Fine Furniture to the Gentry

“You’re somewhat younger than I expected, Mr Coggleford, if you don’t mind me saying,” announced Mrs S when we finally met.  “Are you father or son?”
I assured her that I was Coggleford senior.
“Then what age is your son?” she asked.
I smiled. “Jasper is still a boy, Madam, but he’s a hard little worker and a quick learner. I’m training him up and he’s so set on following in my footsteps that I decided to make him my business partner when he was eight.”
She was quiet for a moment.  “And so now he is…?”
I took a breath.  “He’s ten, Ma’am.”

I could understand her concern.  She’d told me she had a large consignment of furniture, all of which needed renovation.  She’d clearly been expecting a two-man team.

“Very well,” she said at length.  “I’ll give you a chance.  There’s a broken cabinet amongst the pieces I have.  If you and your child can make a good job of that within the week, I’ll take you on as my furniture restorers.  I’m giving you carte blanche.  Do with it as you will, but I need an interesting and inspiring result.”

The following morning, it arrived at our workshop.  The glass was missing, as was the base drawer and part of a door frame.  It was badly finished with uneven orange varnish.

“Right then Jasper,” I said.  “What needs doing?”

“Sand the whole thing down. Cut and shape a piece of wood to repair that door frame.  If we’ve only got a week, leave the drawer and use the opening as a shelf,” he said quickly.
“Good man,” I said. “But that’s just the start.”
“I know. The finish is what matters. I’ve got an idea, Pa.”

Well, I set about the sanding and joinery, while Jasper rumaged around the store room.  I could hear the clanking of metal and the clunking of paint pots, but I left him to it.  You see I’m a good enough workman, but the boy is just brimming over with ideas.  He’s original, the way I’ll never be.

He didn’t disappoint.  First a coat of matt black paint.  Then we had to lay the cabinet on its side and lift some rusty old cogs he’d found on to it.
“Are these to be attached, son?” I asked.
“No, Pa. Just leave them there for a bit.”

He sprayed silver paint across the cabinet.  Not too much.  Just a dusting, and when we removed the cogs, the design looked splendid.

I replaced the glass panels and Jasper – such a perfectionist – decided to fill the cabinet with bits and pieces, ‘So that the lady can see it as a working piece.’

I hardly need to tell you that Mrs S was mightily impressed.  She hired us on the spot and we now work for her full time, restoring what she calls her ‘Oxfam bag of dollshouse junk’ and creating beautiful pieces of furniture for the discerning customer.

You can find various pieces for sale here or by clicking on the photos.

Monty admiring the map chest.large cabinet and chair

Jasper with the small cabinet

The Smallest and Dodgiest Dispensing Apothecary

It all started when I allowed Molly to set up her own miniature book emporium on the Steampunk-Shrunk stalls.  That, of course, has been a great success.  People seem to enjoy perusing her little shop’s booklist and I have fun extracting the volumes they want with my tweezers.

Then I was aproached by the apothecary.  He wondered whether I could accomodate his shop on my stalls as well.

I have mixed feelings about the cures and potions, although I have to confess, they do sell rather well.

My first issue with them is that they’re not very ‘steampunk’.  More witchy, really.  I asked whether he’d consider selling engine oils and axle grease, but he wasn’t interested.
“People crave my potions,” he wheedled. “They simply can’t get enough of them.”
And that leads me to my second issue with his goods:  I’ve encountered several customers who expect them to work!

Oh dear.  I simply don’t know how best to react when an adult customer selects a minute bottle of glitter or cork chippings labelled ”Undead Exterminator” and asks in-depth questions about how to use it as protection from zombies.  Such things have happened several times.

So let me make it quite clear, here and now, that although this is probably the world’s smallest dispensing apothecary’s shop, and although the bottles look very attractive, are reasonably priced, and the bottom shelf has an ongoing buy-one-get-one-free promotion, they simply DO NOT WORK.

I have agreed include his little shop on my stalls but have made it clear in my labelling that it is an extremely dodgy establishment.  I also inform any potential customers that the contents of the jars are guaranteed not to work on anyone over 6 inches tall.

The apothecary seems quite happy with this, and his bottles continue to sell, so I suppose all is well.

 

Many of the labels, by the way, which make this shop so enticing are created by the quite brilliant Betsy at an Etsy shop called Chocolate Rabbit.