Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In your Easter bonnet: mini Spring hat making and tea party

Although it seems the whims of fashion have made Easter Bonnets a thing of the past, it wasn't too long ago that these "must-have" Spring accessories were proudly showcased by stylish ladies in Easter parades from New York's famous 5th Avenue to Main Street, USA 
 left to Right: 5th Ave Easter Parade 1911, unknown sitter in Easter Bonnet, 
Easter Bonnet from Ad 1945
In your Easter bonnet,
With all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady
in the Easter Parade
Irving Berlin

 
Left to Right: Easter Parade, Harlem 1947, Judy Garland & Fred Astaire 1948, 
Vogue cover
sources: by Henri Cartier Bresson, Film still: Easter Parade, Vogue magazine

Many years ago, our family, channeling their inner milliners, began the admittedly unusual tradition of making pint size decorative hats for Easter, starting with the very humble….styrofoam cup.
Add some paints, trim and extra crafty accents and voila: a petit but chic chapeau. 
Recent years has seen our family tradition turn into an annual ladies tea and hat making afternoon, complete with mock parade and photo shoot. 
My Mother, the consummate hostess, holds the event appreciated as much for her teatime fare as for her well stocked "craft room" an enviable basement space dedicated to fostering creativity. 
Of course the event is BYOGG (Bring your own glue gun)
   
Spring Bonnets
There are many different tutorials for these online but we've always found this system works for us
You'll need
styrofoam cups
we noticed different brands yielded different 
results and shapes.
paint which adheres to cup 
(avoid spray paint as it will dissolve cups)
trim, ribbons, florals and trinkets
head bands, hair clips if desired
hot glue guns 
photos and ideas for inspiration

Place cups, bottoms up, on a cookie sheet.
 "Bake" in preheated 300 degree oven anywhere 
from 2-10 minutes, checking every minute.
 (size of cups and variations in ovens will affect time)
   
As if by magic, the cups will shrink into a variety of hat like shapes. I always make extras to allow for "oopses" or the occasional dud.

Remove cups and allow to cool thoroughly, painting if desired. Faux eggs are on hand to make fun models.
If hosting a party, cups can be heated and painted with assorted colors the day before to save time and allow guests to dive right into the decorating part.
busy hands: gluing, snipping and trimming
Then decorate away: The fun part is seeing how each guest incorporates their own personal style. 
hats inspired by favorite colors, travels, or interests.
toothpicks become impromptu chopsticks for an asian inspired topper, stars add sparkle to chic black chapeau
Once complete hats can be displayed anywhere: on eggs, glassware,candlesticks or even small Eiffel Towers.

No need for serious fashion, as Easter Bonnets can range from the subtly cheeky to the all out outrageous.
Anne Miller in the ultimate Easter bonnet c1946
With the popularity of fascinators (Thanks Princess Kate!) we decided to attach some of our creations to plastic headbands or hair clips for some whimsical but wearable flair.
channelling my inner bunny
(don't think I'll make the fashion pages)


with a bunny tail in back of course

or why not spruce up household members in their Easter finest?
Angel reluctantly models a petal pink chapeau

Tea is Served
We kept our creative energies in full gear with festive tea time fare featuring a "Mad Hatter" theme including tea sandwiches, soup, scones and sweets
mini candy and decorative hats adorned the table

Easy 5 minute Hat Cookies Strawberry "Carrots"

Using simple ingredients, these fun treats can be assembled in the blink of an eye and are a perfect project for kids.

For Strawberry "carrots" simply dip fresh berries in orange chocolate melts with a few carrot ridges added
(Lots of versions on Pinterest) 
Hat Cookies
round flat cookies (store bought or homemade)
Marshmallows (cut in half)
Candy melts or baking chips -any color or flavor
(melted according to package instructions)
icing and sprinkles
cover cookies with melted chocolate
top with marshmallows (cut in half) and allow to cool.
Decorate as desired


Spring is in the Air….
furry friends on the mantel, tea cups and hats on the "Tea" Tree,  assorted cups
The House was brimming with bunnies, Spring flowers and teatime inspired decor
a cheerful foyer sets the mood



Wishing all our readers
a Delightful Spring!





Thursday, April 3, 2014

Easter Surprises: Treat Filled Hollow Eggs

Although no one knows exactly who dyed the very first Easter egg, it is certain that the use of eggs in celebrations dates back to the earliest of times and was a popular symbol of Spring or rebirth in countless religions around the world.
Nowadays, at Easter one sees eggs in a variety of incarnations: as chocolate or marshmallow confections, hard boiled, dyed and decorated or of course the common but colorful "snap apart" plastic versions, ready to be filled with candies and tiny surprises and artfully hidden away.
Who doesn't remember happily romping around a grassy lawn in search of these pastel orbs, snapping them open to reveal a handful of sugary sweets? This year I thought I'd try a twist on these classics by filling real eggs instead of the usual, admittedly much easier, plastic versions.
Seems "refilling" real eggs is nothing new. An online search led me to carcasons or cascarones: The confetti filled eggshells from a centuries old European tradition which were playfully cracked over unsuspecting people's heads by friends and admirers. Instead of confetti, I filled my eggs, like their plastic imposters, with tiny wrapped treats, toys or Easter messages and skipped the bopping on the head element.
You'll need
Eggs (I used jumbo size)
Easter Printables (I used images from the Graphic's Fairy)
Craft accessories: ribbon, glitter, etc
Paint which will adhere to egg surface
Hot glue 
Small treats, toys or Easter messages 
(appropriate to guests' age)

The How To's in a nut (or eggshell)
Carefully crack eggs in center trying to keep both halves as evenly sized as possible, draining contents into bowl for other use if desired. ( I made a Spring frittata)  Alternately you can poke a hole in eggs, carefully widening opening until it is large enough to insert chosen treats easily. Of course, these shells are very fragile so you might want to make a few extras in case of "unfortunate accidents."
Rinse eggshells thoroughly and drain on paper towels until completely dry. You may want to gently wipe inside with paper towel or q- tip.
I left some of the eggs white and painted others in natural tones using a chalky finish paint I recently found from Decoart in "whisper" and "vintage" shades, which I'm completely smitten with.
Once paint is dry, carefully fill eggs with mini treasures or greetings. I used wrapped candies for food safety in case any egg remained. If egg in is in two pieces, you can hot glue closed for extra sturdiness.
Camouflage with ribbon or trim
Gently decorate with ribbons or printed accents making sure to conceal any cracks or openings. No need to get too fussy, as these are meant to be broken. I used craft scraps stick-on jewels and cut an unbleached coffee filter for flair.
images created using free art from the graphics fairy 
The fun part is making each one different
and having guests crack them open for a cute surprise
They can be displayed on egg cups
or as here on a glittered dollar store candlestick
You could also personalize with names for a whimsical place setting
I arranged mine in a grapevine wreath lined with moss and florals to form a nest.

A cheerful sign gives instructions for curious guests.
Display with Springtime friends and decor.

For More PennyWise Springtime & Easter ideas 
visit my "a good egg" post
 where I make shadow box eggs...

or 
my teatime on the bunny trail for tea time treats and decor

Wishing you all 
the delights
 of Spring







Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Taste of Ireland: Berry and Baileys Pavlova

While everyone is Irish on St Patricks, we don't necessarily embrace the cuisine of the emerald isle in the most elegant of ways on this festive holiday. In fact, March 17th brings a flurry of fun recipes doused with vivid green food coloring, formed into cheeky shamrock shapes or featuring lucky rainbows. For a change, this year I thought I'd shelve the green dye in favor of a subtler confection featuring flavors indigenous to this wonderful country.
   
Until recently, I had no idea that the surprisingly simple pavlova (after all it was named for the famed Russian ballerina) is such a wildly popular dessert in Ireland. 
A quick online search yielded countless recipes and interpretations of this meringue based delight featuring fruit and cream fillings, including those with a dash of Irish liqueurs. Although more often enjoyed in summer, it is fast becoming a fitting dessert in honor of St. Patrick's Day.
  
Berry & Bailey's Pavlova
This recipe makes a modest sized pavlova serving about 4-5 but can be doubled and as it is very rich, small servings usually suffice. 
 I started with the basic meringue recipe I used in my New Years post, subbing vanilla for the orange flavor and making three large meringues as layers. 
Some Pavlova recipes call for small amounts of flour but the version below does not so it makes a lovely gluten-free option for guests with food sensitivities.
Meringue
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Filling and garnish
Heavy cream
Irish Cream liqueur to taste (I used baileys)
2-3 cups assorted Berries
Mint leaves
Sugar (I used superfine)
Agave nectar or honey

Preheat oven to 225
Beat egg whites until foamy. 
Sprinkle with salt and cream of tartar, continuing to beat until soft peaks form.
Add sugar and vanilla slowly while beating on high until stiff peaks form
This recipe made three 6 inch circles of meringue. I used an icing tip to draw circles and filled rest in with spoon. If desired a template can be placed under parchment and meringue traced for more perfect shapes. Bake 90 minutes on parchment lined cookie trays. Then let sit in oven (turned off) for 30 minutes with door ajar. Once cool carefully peel from paper.
Weeks of heavy snow meant limited produce at my supermarket so I opted for frozen mixed berries which I sprinkled with some sugar and let thaw. For filling simply whip 1 cup of cream with 1 teaspoon sugar and two teaspoons liqueur or more or less to taste.
Place meringue on serving plate, spread with whipped cream, top with berries and then more whipped cream. Repeat with next two meringues, making as level as possible.
For garnishes, I covered some berries and mint leaves with agave (I'm leery of using raw egg whites some recipes call for) and then sprinkled with sugar for a frosted look.
Any way you slice it, pavlovas are messy once cut into. I used extra whipped cream and mint leaves to try to prettify the dessert plates, drizzling some berry juice as an accent.
Serve with strong coffee or fragrant black tea.


For decor,
 I opted more for a deep green offset with neutrals, whites and cream tones.
 
In honor of the flocks of sheep which dot the Irish landscape, I added some (plastic) wooly friends in a terrarium to the tabletop.
 Since I already use these sheep in Christmas and Spring decor, and I'm a big fan of repurposing, for St. Patrick's, I simply added a printout of a photo I took from a trip to Ireland a few years ago as a background. Some greens and moss rocks from the dollar store complete the mini landscape.
Mist over Kylemore Abbey photo by C.Paul

White roses are an unexpected shift from the usual greenery.
 Ok, A disclaimer: the roses are repurposed from Valentine's (and somehow survived) 
Happily my "good" dishes feature a green accented rim.
 Keepsakes from travels add to the theme.
Yards of oatmeal colored burlap from the craft store serve as a tablecloth

For more Irish inspired ideas, please visit my post 
The Emerald Isle
Ireland in a Jar terrariums, Guiness Truffles, Paper Jewelry



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