January 29, 2014

2014 Happy New Year !!!

Sneaking in a quick post before the end of the month,  so I can wish you all a Happy New Year before February!!

Right now I feel like I am in a scene from the book, The lion, the witch and the wardrobe,  as yet another lot of snow has decided to fall, encasing our home in a winter wonderland rather reminiscent of Narnia.  This winter has been particularly brutal with wind chill temperatures dropping to minus 26 degrees at times. 
We are grateful to be living in a warmer home, although, we have to laugh thinking back to the summertime when Craig quite confidently announced on moving in that we were not likely to get more than a few cm's of snow being tucked away in the forest and so close to the sea and the city. He even went as far as to say that we would probably only use the old wood stove in the basement a hand full of times.  I quickly advertised and sold the pile of wood in our back yard in October to make space for the anticipated veggie garden in the spring.  Not, as I should have done anticipating the first heavy snowfall in November!!

Happily there are plenty of people out there planning their Spring and Summer weddings in the US and Europe and of course it is wedding time of year in Australia which is where several cake topper birds are heading these days.  
I found a lovely supplier for my felt last year. Laura at Fiddlestix Designs in the US has been providing all the felt for my cake toppers and mobiles.  Sadly she has decided to stop selling felt so I shall be looking elsewhere for a new supplier of the lovely soft merino wool blend felt.  For some reason it can't be found here in Canada.  I will miss Laura's friendly and professional help, especially when replying to my endless questions while I procrastinated over which colours to order! Something only a designer would understand.

Some of my customers have been kind enough to send me photos from their wedding day, with the little birds perched on their  beautiful cakes!  Here are a few for you to see....

 From classic white 

To vintage or shabby chic weddings...

Rustic country weddings and even woodland weddings.  Such a variety of wedding styles and all so pretty.

I hope you like them :)

December 22, 2013

A White December

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!
A whole two seasons later means my blog news update is well overdue to say the least.
I last wrote during the summertime as we were settling into our new home, reunited as a family of four. We explored the local area and made the most of all the sunny days living close to the sea.  
The cooler days came along and quite quickly turned into white winter ones, with early snowfalls in November and temperatures way below zero into the double digits.
Jemma had to return to South Korea by the end of August and I do miss her so much. We got used having her around for many months enjoying her company. 
Amber is just 25 minutes away by car which is nice.  She has been immersed in studying, working and socialising, so we have had an empty nest again - which is how it should be when you have raised two independent daughters who are quite capable of living their own lives.
My Etsy shop kept me busy throughout August, September and October with continued orders for wedding cake topper birds regularly coming in. I introduced mobiles back into my shop and started taking care of two primary school children for a few hours a week, giving some structure to my days.
Although my new home does not give me the inspiration that our old Victorian farm house did with its quirky character, I always look out for DIY projects and ideas to work on when I get a break from sewing. 
I had been looking out for a large old picture frame for some time, checking in thrift stores and the sale ads in the local newspaper but couldn't find one large enough for what I had  in mind.  I wanted to make a statement chalk board for my kitchen and had seen a few on Pinterest.  One suggestion was to use door trim to construct a frame, which I decided was a good alternative to try.  

First I bought two lengths of door trim from the local hardware store and a large enough piece of lightweight backing board measuring 50" by 25".  Craig used a manual saw to cut the door trim for me, using a saw frame to get all cuts at a perfect 90 degree angle to form the frame, which was then glued to the  board and clamped together to dry.  The board had been painted prior to this with chalkboard paint in black found at the local craft store, it went on easily and needed three coats for a nice smooth finish. 
I am pleased with the end result and it cost under $20 in total!

Now all I need is for Jemma to come home and write a fancy menu for me in her perfect handwriting to make a simple but effective piece of art in my kitchen. In the meantime I shall have some fun scribbling on it! 
 This week we have Amber home for the holidays, which is lovely.  I get to stock the pantry again with plenty of delicious food, decorate the Christmas tree, sip a little red wine, dabble in some baking and smile sweetly as she tries her very hardest to convince me that we really do need a small dog in our lives!!  This would, apparently make her want to come home so much more often.
Let's just say, I am still very much on the fence on that subject.  

July 20, 2013

Summer days in Tantallon, Nova Scotia

Hello dear friends,
I just love summertime,  we have been living in our new home for a few weeks now and once the initial unpacking was out of the way we set to work to improve it.  The first place that needed tackling was the back garden.  A nasty gravel and weed ridden yard was crying out for some proper grass.  Not willing to wait for seed to grow we opted for the more expensive delivery of turf or sod as the locals here in Canada call it.  
It was all hands on deck as we spread out a huge pile of good quality soil that then had to be moved into place and leveled out before the rectangles of grass could be laid on top.  
Between the four of us we lifted, carried, laid, patch worked, flattened and watered the sod until we were all exhausted and bitten silly by the relentless mosquitoes.   (the down side to living in the midst of a forest area)
Some scorching weather followed which meant Craig was out early morning and late evening watering and fighting a losing battle with the Mosies for several days!  
It seems to have paid off now and we have some rather lush grass behind the house to walk on, making hanging my washing a pleasure and not a pain.  
Inside with all our bits and bobs around from the old house it feels like home again. 

Once the gardening was under control we decided to take a well deserved weekend break and headed by car and ferry to Prince Edward Island, commonly referred to as P.E.I.  for a couple of days.
We loved Charlottetown with it's bohemian atmosphere, well kept homes and gardens and beautiful beaches. With almost Mediterranean temperatures the water was a welcome place to be and the balmy evenings were spent down on the harbour board walk listening to music, while tourists meandered around, the ladies in their summer dresses and the guys in shorts and deck shoes.  

Now we are back home again we have been visiting local beaches and lakes to cool off in the higher than usual temperatures for July, armed with a picnic lunch, brolly and blanket we are all set.  I am not complaining at all as I know how quickly the summers end here and it is lovely to be making the most of having my two daughters home for the summer before they go back to University again.

Hazel x

June 28, 2013

We moved house!

Hard to believe that it is over 2 months since my last post, but so much has transpired since then.  
Having spent the three coldest months of the year Jan, Feb and March, renting a small, warm apartment in the center of Halifax. As the crocuses and daffodils started to open up we packed up our personal belongings and headed back to our own home in the Annapolis Valley. Jemma had stayed with us the whole time and Amber was finishing her first year at University.
The house was put back on the market at a much lower price and within a few weeks we had serious buyers, a young family who wanted to move in asap.

It was all systems go as we started the task of packing eight years of collecting stuff to fill our big old Victorian home.  Kijiji became a life saver as I photographed many of the pieces of furniture that would be surplus to our needs in the unknown smaller new home we would subsequently move into.
Furnishing an older home is such fun, neglected vintage finds became useful and pretty with a little TLC and a coat of white paint!! As each lovingly restored piece found a new home I also made some new friends along the way, which was an added bonus!  

We attempted to hold a yard sale which was not so successful, being in a remote village we didn't have many drive by customers, so we donated things by the bagful to the red cross, local library and other charity organisations, very little got thrown away as I am a great believer of recycling and after all one persons junk is another persons treasure!

On June 3rd we said goodbye with mixed feelings to the home we had named Blossom Hill, with it's surrounding apple orchards and happy fun filled changing seasons that were the inspiration for starting this blog back in 2006!  

So begins the next chapter of our life here in Canada.....

Hazel xx

April 04, 2013

Happy Easter and Hello April :)

I love the month of April.  Even though Spring is always late in arriving here in Nova Scotia especially down in the valley, there are promising signs that it is thinking about it.  
A few little snowdrops and crocuses have bravely dared to make an appearance, struggling through the remnants of snow clinging to the ground and it is lovely to see a little colour here and there.
With Spring approaching my wedding cake topper orders have been flooding in at such a rate that some days I have been struggling to keep up.  Most buyers plan well ahead with weddings scheduled in July and August but I have had a couple of rush jobs for those early Spring dates that need to be made up and sent out, to arrive in under two weeks!

I think adding little legs was a good call,  even though the birds were popular standing on their little felt heart shaped ones the new design is more versatile and means they can stand on top of softer icing as well as the fondant iced cakes.  
I was recently sent a few photos of the creative way my customers have displayed their little birds; in nests, on top of archways and underneath tiny bunting flags, which I am considering offering as an addition to the birds.  I have made the fabric bunting flag cake toppers before but only sold them on their own.
These little blue and silver grey birds are so shabby chic and pretty in pastel shades of blue and pink.

The traditional dark grey and white birds.

Our home is back on the market too this spring and with a very much reduced selling price we are hopeful that this will be the year of downsizing to a home with no barn and a garden instead of some fields.  The property would be much better suited now to a family with young children and perhaps a couple of horses or alpacas.
Whether we are going to be spending summer in the valley or moving closer to the city it is a time of year I really look forward to.

March 09, 2013

A Chocolate Treat

When it comes to cooking, I am not really in my comfort zone.  I do have the occasional moments of genius or luck, but generally I tend to stick with what I know best when it comes to meal preparation, always a little scared to experiment as many recipes seem to have a long list of ingredients, more often than not missing from my pantry or fridge at any given time.
However, two, or rather three things have wet my culinary appetite recently and inspired me to be more creative in the kitchen!
The first was being presented with a mini birthday cake last weekend made from scratch by my youngest daughter Amber.  This was a surprise in itself, given the fact that she not only took time out of her busy University schedule but she also got together with her friend who is studying food nutrition and they concocted a sugar free recipe for a chocolate cake with a soft walnut topping!

I have a health condition called GSD3, which means my liver can't process refined sugar, so I have to really limit how much I can have. I don't like to use artificial sweeteners but do use stevia which a natural sweetener.  Amber made this cute 3inch cake using a little natural maple syrup. 
The second source inspiration came from the vivacious and talented chef Jess Pike, a Scottish lass who runs cooking demonstration classes at my local superstore.  She also has a website called A Pear of Tarts. I have been going to Jess's what's for dinner classes held on a Monday lunchtime for a few weeks now.  While watching her expertly cooking she also entertains us with some hilarious stories thrown in.  At the end of the class the students or viewers get a little plate of her creation to try out and a copy of the recipe and a gift card to spend in the store too.  I really look forward to these classes and am gathering a few recipes to try out at home.

Jess Pike 

Last, but not least was coming across a great blog called 'can you stay for dinner' written by Andie Mitchell.  Her story intrigued me and I enjoyed reading it.  She writes well and has some great food ideas and a healthy outlook on life which I really admire, there are so many recipes on her blog that I am going to have a go at making.

Have I made you all hungry yet??

December 15, 2011

Christmas is coming ....

The month of December is well under way, it seems to come around faster every year - how does that happen??  
November was not the best month for me in terms of physical activity. I took a bit of a tumble on some black ice in my driveway at the end of October!  The heavy rain had frozen on the edge of the deck and as I headed out with the good intention of going for a brisk early morning walk around the walking track in town, my feet just disappeared from under me and I wacked both shins on the edge of the wooden deck and skinned my knees, hands and chin!
Craig came rushing out to rescue me when he heard the loud shriek expelled from my lungs and almost slipped himself but managed to regain his balance and help me to my feet.  I had deep bone bruising on my shins as it turned out but luckily no fracture or breakage.  Maybe the calcium supplements do work!  
The recovery time however I have discovered does take longer the older you get and it was almost 6 weeks before the swelling went down and my shins ankles and knees had gone through various colours of the rainbow.  It was nice to finally be able to walk properly again without feeling pain.  
November was on the other hand quite eventful in my shop and I was very excited to receive another lot of beautiful soft merino wool blend felt in the mail from BenzieBazaar
I had chosen colours for my most popular animals in earthy tones suitable for deer, squirrels, bears, hedgehogs, puppies and kittens.  Also some ivory white and dark grey for the wedding topper birds.  

The first order I made up in the new felt was a set of Alpaca's to be used as a wedding cake topper.  I designed the pattern to be slightly larger than my usual 2" size which is what the bride to be wanted.  Then I had a request for some birds in mustard yellow and golden brown, rainstorm blue and cream, with contrast stitching in silver grey.
I do enjoy making up these personal custom orders for weddings and am particularly happy to be taking on a project for three sets of mice and squirrels for a wedding planner soon.  
When I mention to people that I make up cake toppers in the form of animals they often look a little perplexed.  When you are in love and planning a wedding it is often the little details that make all the difference and to have a cute keepsake, especially if it has a special meaning (Craig and I have referred to each other as bunnies since we got engaged over 20 years ago!)  
The feedback photos are always lovely to get, you may remember this pair of deer I made a few months ago? 
Well, it's back to the land of felt and stitchery for me this morning, interrupted only by the need to put another log on the wood stove to keep my fingers nimble and the occasional mug of hot tea to warm my toes!
I hope you are all enjoying the run up to the Christmas holidays :)

Hazel x

November 15, 2011

Etsy Pre-Christmas Sales

Hello to all my followers :)
I have had a little blogging break while keeping busy sewing quite a few orders for my Blossom Hill Etsy Shop over the past few weeks.  It can get a bit hectic in the run up to Christmas. 
Here are just a small selection of the little felt animals I have been designing and sewing.
 A collection of these assorted birds to a boutique in Halifax. 
 3 tiny deer for a baby's nursery in the US 
  Scandinavian Christmas felted wool red berry heart decorations  
 Some little Japanese Totoro wood spirits !
 Unicorns and winged horses 
 A little peach bunny made from a new colour merino wool felt ordered from the US from Benzie Bazaar.  I am patiently waiting for another delivery soon with more of the popular brown shades that are running low in my sewing room.
This cute Pitbull puppy was a custom order for a lady who wanted a miniature version of her own little dog.

Plus of course the little bird wedding cake toppers :)
This particular pair are flying off to the UK!

October 14, 2011

Well Hello Autumn!!

Autumn is here, which is quite evident in the beautiful spectrum of colours of the leaves on our trees.  Craig couldn't resist  getting out the camera one sunny morning this week and taking a few snaps.
It's amazing how quickly it all happens from a tree full of green to varying shades of red and gold, before a few windy days come along and send them all falling to the ground.  
Don't you just love the feeling of stepping and jumping on crunchy autumn leaves? 
It's so satisfying :D  

Hazel x

October 01, 2011

Family Friday - Princess Amber

August came and went and the school holidays ended, which was a bit sad but all good things have to come to an end and although the sun didn't shine as much as previous summers, all the veggies and fruit still grow well.  We harvested spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots, beets, peppers and courgettes. The tomatoes were late but bountiful none the less by the end of the month and I managed to make a few batches of sun dried tomatoes and delicious chunky sweet tomato soup to store in the freezer for winter. 
Sometime in July Amber was asked (as she and Jemma have been every year we have lived here) if she would be willing to take part in the Morristown Princess Tea, where they choose a epresentative aged between 15 and 18 to take part in the Berwick Gala Days celebration.  Both my daughters have declined in the past due to the stigma attached to pageants generally.  
However this year Amber got more information and discovering that a Princess in the Gala Days festivities is more of an all round representative rather than a beauty queen, with emphasis being on public speaking, good morals, manners and work ethic. Having thought about it she decided to enter the event.
The local ladies in our community were delighted and she attended a special Princess tea where she got her crown and sash.  Some of the duties once she was chosen were to be in the gala days parade on a fund raising float.  This was decorated and prepared in our barn.  All 15 candidates from various villages in the valley got together daily and had a busy week visiting the elderly in a hospice, patients at a rehabilitation home, judging a local desert contest and meeting and greeting young and old at various other events.  The main function was a princess tea where Amber had to stand up in front of a room full of spectators, local politicians included and deliver a prepared speech on her chosen subject of being a good role model.  
The week was very busy and Amber was chosen as second lady in waiting, a title that she was more than happy with.  She found her experience to be a positive one, having fun with the other girls that took part and was happy to end the summer holidays with some great memories before starting her final year of high school.  
I am very proud of her naturally and since then she has started grade 12 and now has a part time job in the evenings and weekends so will have a busy year ahead while deciding on her future university plans.


September 23, 2011

Family Friday - July in Montreal and a bright red car!

This is a small post for my extended family and friends, especially the ones who aren't familiar with facebook where I tend to write things on a more regular basis.  
Each Friday I am going to keep you updated on what we have been up to starting from the month of July after Jem left for Korea and there were just the three of us; Craig, Amber and myself for the summer holidays.
With Craig's new job we soon realised that we really needed another set of wheels as sharing one car was not going to work with his new job being over an hours drive away.  After looking tirelessly in the local classifieds etc. Craig came to the conclusion that a trip a little further afield was required and before I could say 'are you sure?'  we were boarding an overnight train to Montreal!!  
Armed with some felt, thread, stuffing and a few selected patterns I was prepared to make a few tiny animals en-route to list in my Blossom Hill shop when I returned in a few days time. I began sewing them together unaware that I was being closely watched by the gentleman in the seat behind me.  After I had finished a couple of them curiosity got the better of him and he asked me what I was doing.  I told him about my online business and he wanted the two little bears I had made.  When I had finished the fourth and final one he bought those too, so my train journey turned out to be quite a productive one!
Montreal is a lovely City and we managed to find a little car to get us back home again via Quebec City. The drive home took about 15 hours, which worked out well with the three of us taking turns at the wheel.  
Above the City of Montreal

Amber in Old Quebec City

                                         The shiny red Honda Fit from Montreal
Our friend Dave came to visit us in July from New Zealand, in fact he gave the car a wonderful clean and polish, which was very kind of him!!
Next Friday I will tell you about Amber's involvement in the Gala Days celebration when she represented our village Morristown as their Princess.