Valley Cherries

my cherry pie

Recently, we all went cherry picking at Dempsey’s Corner orchard in Aylesford, Nova Scotia. They had 12 varieties to choose from!

If you have the good fortune of living in the Annapolis Valley (or passing through) this place is worth the visit. Besides many varieties of fruit, they have an array of adorable farm animals roaming about.

The cherries were so pretty they served as my muse for making a miniature scene.

my cherry stems

cherry orchard

My Inedible Pizza

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Well, it has been a very very long time! It’s so nice catching up on bloggers posts that I follow. It would be presumptuous of me to think I was missed. But in case one of you wondered where I went, it was not off the face of the earth.

I have been blogging about a different type of food interest these past months.

For about a year now I’ve been making miniature foods from polymer clay. I sculpt these in various scales from dollhouse 1:12 to 1:4 scale.

It started as a way to amuse my little girls but is now equally, something for me.

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More of my work can be seen on my other blog at blossomfriends.com

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: The Critters get a tub

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If you’ve checked out the arts and crafts section on my blog, you may remember how we made a simple house for the kids Calico Critters.

I promised my kids I would add a bath and kitchen to it. It’s been a few months, but finally here is the tub.

You don’t need to spend a lot to make your kids happy. And you can’t really put a value on seeing your kids enthralled with your creative process. My kids are always giving me great ideas for miniatures that can be made with something they found in the house.

I knew that my kids may eventually – accidentally (of course) – wreck all the little details. Which is another good reason to use recycled items.

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A tofu dessert container was used for the tub. It was a perfect size.

A straw from a juice box was painted silver and became a pipe. A bead fixed it to the wall. A button became the shower head.

A very small dowel was used for the shower curtain rod.

Bits of polymer clay were shaped into the tub faucet, a cake of soap, a sponge-on-a-rope, wall shelves, and a tiny drain for the tub.

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I’m  already in the planning stage for a critter kitchen. I think I will go all out for that project!

: DIY Calico Critters House

finished

For Christmas we bought our youngest girls Calico Critter families. Every time our kids seen them in the toy store they went crazy with delight, “they are just soooo cute!!” I agree, they have to be the sweetest toys on the market. My favorite is the Hedge Hog family.

My girls asked for the Chihuahua, Cotton Tail, and Koala families. When my 5 year old spied the baby koala in a sling on the mamma’s back, she fell in love. I have to admit I went doe-eyed when I seen it too…

baby in sling

We eventually bought them, along with a few sets of furniture. We did not buy a house though, because they are a bit pricey. I am sure they are great quality but for a large enough house, it would have been $200+.

I suggested to my husband we make one instead. So I got busy online looking for a building plan, and then my husband constructed it. The wood for our project cost us under $30. Can’t beat that.

He used 2×1” pine boards and plywood. Other than that you will need sandpaper, wood glue, clamps, screws, and a kreg jig if you have one. I finished shingling the roof with jumbo Popsicle sticks.The finishing and decorating was my undertaking. It was a lot of fun, but it did take longer than I had anticipated.

frame

A kregg jig makes for clean joinery

A kreg jig makes for clean joinery

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We got the plan from Ana White’s website. It is from her Dream Dollhouse plan. We reduced the measurements by half, because hers is Barbie-sized.

The pine was treated with polyurethane, and the interior was finished with foamboard, scrapbook paper, and printed card stock. The cute print-out hardwood floor, I found on Jennifer’s Printables.

The thing I love most about this house is the simple, open design. With 360 degree play-ability, two or three kids can play with this at the same time.

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kids playing3

kids bedroom

If you think about making one for your critters and have any questions I will do my best to help you. This house is also the right size for LPS or small doll families, approximately 3-4 inches tall.

livingroom

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what to wear

mirror

drawers

friends

As usual, I’m still not done. The kitchen and bath need to be furnished. Here is where the future shower stall will be…

shower to be continued

Tips:

-Use a Kreg Jig in the construction if at all possible. This ‘hides’ the screws making it more ‘pretty’ and safe.

-I suggest pine for the frame. It’s cheap, and it’s light. The finished dollhouse is a breeze to lift.

-Finish the interior walls and floors before fixing the walls in place.

-If building for a toddler, use a safer sealant. Natural shellac, tung oil, or bees wax are considered safe alternatives for children’s toys (warning: shellac stinks while it is curing).

-Make sure you use a small square and a mini level.

-Don’t use nails and use a minimal amount of screws. For safety, rely mostly on wood glue and clamps for construction.

-Sand, sand, and sand some more. You don’t want them to get a splinter while playing.

-Go slow. Don’t rush it or you will sacrifice the quality of the build and finishes.

-Don’t be too much of a perfectionist either! Your kid is not going to critique the heck out of it. No matter what, they will think you rock for making them a dollhouse.

It takes a weekend to build. Perhaps a day, if you are experienced working on such projects. The decorating could take an additional day or more, depending on how elaborate you want it.

My kids have been watching my progress the last few days and I have heard a lot of, “will it be done today?? tomorrow??

Three sets of big, excited eyes have been watching and waiting for me to deliver on my promise.

It was finally completed today! Well, sort of…I still need to finish the kitchen and bath,but it is finished enough to play with. I had the pleasure of setting it all up and surprising them after school. They played until dinner time and then on until bedtime.

Then it’s my turn!

: caramel apple butter

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Here I go again, making apple butter.

One might wonder if it’s worth it. It takes 7 lbs of apples to render approximately 975 ml total of apple butter (or less if you like your apple butter really thick).

With caramels added, YES, it’s especially  worth it!

I prefer my apple butter not too thick. It took 1 pound of apples to produce each jar of my apple butter. A neat tip to remember is that 2 large apples roughly equals a pound. For this recipe, you will weigh the apples after they are peeled and cored.

This produces a sweet fruit butter with a velvety texture.

If you want to know which apple varieties s are best for apple butter, they are the soft ones. They cook down faster. Braeburn, Cortland, Fuji, Gravenstein, Grimes Golden, Jonamac, Ida Red, Pipin, Spies, and the classic McIntosh will all work.

A great site, from Nova Scotia’s own Scotian Gold company, has lots of info on apple varieties and their many uses. You can find the list here.

Some uses for this gourmet spread: the centers of thumb-print cookies, a layer in apple crumble bars, or swirled through a bowl of porridge. My daughter suggested it slathered on top cinnamon rolls. Genius idea.

A quick spoonful when no one is looking is also deeply satisfying.

everyone appreciates homemade gifts

everyone appreciates homemade gifts

I’ve dressed my jars up and attached a handmade ornament. I am giving them as gifts this year, to my Christmas guests.

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Ingredients:

7 lbs peeled and cored apples, sliced

2 cups apple cider

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground cloves

4 tbsp. butter

16 oz. soft caramels (approx. 56)

 

Method:

In a large pot, over low heat, cook the apples down until they resemble a chunky apple sauce. This takes about an hour. When it reaches this point, add the cider and spices. With a spatula or wooden spoon, start to mash up any big chunks of apples, to speed along the process.

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first, cook down until you reach apple sauce consistency

Cook another 2 hours (checking and stirring occasionally), at lowest heat, then add butter and caramels. Stir well.

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Continue cooking, still at lowest heat, another 2 hours or until it reaches a consistency you like (mine resembled the thickness of peanut butter).

Remove momentarily from heat to blend with an immersion blender.

this is the finished consistency I chose

this is the finished consistency I chose

Sterilize and prepare jars for canning. Funnel in the hot apple butter. Wipe the rims of jars with clean damp cloth, to remove any apple butter splatter. Place on lids and rings, tighten, and place into boiling canning pot for 5 minutes (or double that if you live more than 1000 ft above sea level). *Make sure the water level is at least an inch above the jars so they are fully immersed.

When done, carefully set processed jars on counter to remain undisturbed for several hours. Then check to make sure they have sealed properly.

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This made seven 125 ml  jars

: glitter house tutorial

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You will spend a couple days on making one of these houses. If you are a normal person. But if you are obsessive, you will do it in one day. Skipping meals. Skipping your shower. In your pajamas. All day.

I find it very gratifying to start with a cereal box and end with a cute little cottage. They are straight  out of winter wonderland. I buy my embellishments from the Dollar Store and Michael’s. Sometimes I upcycle little bits and baubles I have laying around the house. I also make some items, like rocks or stepping stones, from polymer clay.

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Tiny strung beads work for a string-light effect. Paper drinking straws (the sturdy decorated ones) work great as posts/pillars. Floral picks can be dipped in white paint and glittered for trees. Even an old earring can be used to add architectural detail. You already have many items in your house. Just use your imagination!

Start by getting all your materials together…

materials

Basic requirements are: cardboard, scissors, xacto knife, cutting mat, tacky glue, matte mod podge, glue gun, paint brushes, painter’s spatula, mixing bowls for holding paint and glue (I recycle kuerig cup covers), acrylic paints, and embellishments of your choice.

You can find templates for these houses all over the web. Here is the link for the free template I used.

Instructions:

STEP 1:  Gather clean cardboard or chipboard. Cereal and cookie boxes are what I mostly use. Remove the side tabs that had dry adhesive on them. Discard these, but keep any pieces that are clean. These are great for cutting smaller pieces, like doors and windows.

cardboard

STEP 2:  Layout your template, starting with the bigger pieces. Avoid laying it over wrinkled or otherwise damaged areas of the cardboard. With a sharp pencil, trace out the template. Extend the fold lines past the template so you can pencil in the fold lines later with a ruler.

trace the templates

trace the templates

STEP 3: Lining your ruler up with the extended pencil lines (mentioned above), draw in your fold lines. Now score all fold lines with one pass of your xacto blade. Do this with light pressure. It will make your creases cleaner when you construct the house.

STEP 4: Cut out your pieces with an xacto knife (or scissors if you have an unsteady hand). Be very careful, xacto knives can cut fingers to the bone! * As you may note in the pictures, I cut past the template at the bottom of the house and also along roofs. This is so I can have some extra ‘glue tabs’, which make the house sturdier when I glue it to the base, or when I glue the roof to the house.

cut out all pieces and fold creases

cut out all pieces and fold creases

STEP 5: Construct the house by folding and gluing tabs to their proper places. I use tacky glue, clamps, my fingers, and a lot of patience for this step. I only use glue guns on the house when attaching house to base or roof to house. I prefer tacky glue because it gives time to square things up, or correct a mistake. Glue guns are globby and make seams uneven. They dry too fast and so there is less control. Glue house first, then glue house to base- always use a square or align house on your cutting mat before gluing to base. Attach roofs last. * You will need to put in your window panes (acetate, cellophane, or vellum) or your window scape (in my finished house it’s a painting of a boy with a Christmas tree) BEFORE attaching house to base. This is because you will need to attach these from the inside of the house. And that is my least favorite step and I always use a colourful string of words before it’s over.

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glue, align carefully and clamp

bump out folds

house is squared up before attaching roof

house is squared up before attaching roof

STEP 6: When everything is dry, coat the house exterior with a thin layer of matte mod podge. This is to prep for painting. Let dry thoroughly, then paint your house and roof. Let dry for at least an hour, then give it a second coat of paint. Don’t fret if at this point your house looks less than perfect. You may  see a stray glue thread, or perhaps a bump from the glue seeping out a crack. Don’t worry. If you can easily remove with tweezers or an xacto knife, give it a try. If not, embellishments and the faux snow will cover it.

paint then embellish

paint, then prepare trim and embellishments

STEP 7: Now the embellishments! First, attach trims to the windows and doors. Glitter the trims or entire house, according to how you want it. Attach any big features, like trees, porches/stepping stones, to the base. With Snow-Tex or by using DIY faux snow, add snow to ground, roof tops, trees, etc. Add garland, wreaths, beads, etc. with fine tip glue bottle or glue gun. Lastly, when everything is dry, glitter any snow or icy patches that have been missed.

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I’m glad if you followed through this tutorial and made your own glitter house. I would love to see it!

my putz2x

A great website to find vintage pictures for your own personal use is The Graphics Fairy. This link will take you to her collection of ‘100 free Christmas images’, like the one shown above in the blue house.

I make textural faux snow by mixing equal parts of white acrylic paint, school glue, and cornstarch. You can spread this on with a spatula or Popsicle stick.