Monday, November 23, 2015

Chalkboard Cookies: Quick and Easy Holiday Treat

As someone with limited baking skills, I always get a slight twinge of anxiety when, as the holidays approach, a deluge of fabulous cookie recipes appear online, festive cookie exchange parties are planned and magazines feature picture perfect treats on their glossy covers. 
An avid consumer of sweets, I ironically never mastered the particular art of these bite size delights. Of course this doesn't stop me from poring over recipes during on a recent search, I found dozens of fabulous ideas for the most delightful chalkboard cookies!
As expected, most of these beautifully made cookies required a scratch recipe, fondant or carefully crafted royal icing. How, I pondered could I whip up a just-about-as-cute but simpler semi scratch version?
With some trial and error, store-bought cookies, some vanilla and black chocolate melts (leftover from Halloween), I concocted a fast and easy adaptation of these trendy treats. 
With chalkboard "everything" still going strong in the world of decor and crafts, these cookies go with a variety of themes and can be customized for any time of year including, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or make a sweet gift for teachers.

You'll Need
Any plain flat round cookies 
(I used sugar and chocolate from my local supermarket)
black and white chocolate melts
plain white and wax paper
confectioner's sugar
Wiltons white cookie icing
fine paint brush

Lay out plain white or parchment paper and using black chocolate melt trace out cookie shapes, spacing an inch or so apart.
Cover with wax paper so tracing is clearly visible
Melt black chocolate according to instructions. 
Gently spoon chocolate onto wax paper in center of traced circles, leaving border around inside edge
While still warm, gently press the cookies into chocolate
Let cool completely 
peel cookies carefully from paper and turn over 
the chocolate should have a smooth surface
break a few white chocolate rounds in pieces to use as "chalk"
and write on cookie. 
you can warm (but don't melt) white wafers slightly in microwave for a few seconds for brighter color writing
If desired rub a bit of powdered sugar around edge of chocolate for a chalky finish
for more detailed look or brighter white you can create designs using a new clean paint brush and ready made icing
simply melt icing according to directions, pour onto a plate and paint on or use a combination of the white wafers accented with icing
While this technique doesn't render the most perfect lettering, the effect is lots of fun and it's an easy, enjoyable kitchen activity for kid's to help you with
Serve with tea or cocoa and arrange with seasonal accents 

or use winter or Christmas themes to enjoy or give as holiday gifts

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate,
Wishing our wonderful readers all the sweetness
of the 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Bienvenus Automne: Fall in France

Every once in a while, when a great travel bargain and those tricky airline points serendipitously align, an opportunity for adventure arises. This October I was delighted to travel to France for an (all too quick) boat trip on the lovely Seine river with stops in beautiful Normandy, an area I've always wanted to visit. 
on the river Normandy, CPaul2015
A highlight of the trip was a stop at the artist Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, and though it must be spectacular in Spring and Summer, the beautiful grounds, even at the end of the season, did not disappoint.
photos CPaul2015
changing trees, Giverny France CPaul2015
I soon learned that the region of Normandy is known worldwide for it's fine apples, delicious, but strong, calvados (an apple brandy) and exceptional cheeses. Boasting lush farmland, charming stone farmhouses and it's famous Norman cows, the area inspires rustic cozy recipes perfect for celebrating the crisp arrival of Fall.
I thought I'd recreate a little taste of Normandy once at home with this simple apple tart from the Barefoot Contessa (click HERE for recipe)
topped with a chantilly cream recipe I found on about

Calvados can be pricey and tricky to find, 
but you can easily substitute rum, water or apple juice
Frozen puff pastry sheets makes this an easy recipe for those 
with limited baking skills (moi!)
lovely for dessert or a breakfast treat

Photo CPaul2015
I halved this recipe and found it made enough for a generous dollop on each serving

served warm or at room temperature, these tarts are perfect with a cup of tea and good book

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile
                                         William Cullen Bryant 

Wishing everyone all the joys of Fall!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Raven Chandelier: Nevermore Decor

While tis the season to conjure up all manner of ghosts and goblins, regular readers may know that despite Halloween being my very favorite holiday, ironically I'm not a real fan of the grim, ghoulish or gory. Luckily it's fun and easy to add an air of eerie elegance to your decor without the frightful fear factor.
DIY chandeliers are all the rage (just pop over to Pinterest) and it's easy to find endless inspiration and fabulous, elaborate ideas online. I thought I'd share a relatively simple one I created just to add some flair to the holiday but have fun creating your own version. This is really an "anything goes" DIY that can suit a variety of favorite themes and color schemes
I used
child size hula hoop
black feather boa and tinsel
black faux flowers
 all Dollar store
party crown
beaded necklaces (5 for $1)
from party store
assorted ravens (from Halloweens past)
black spray paint
flameless votives 
black ones would have been great
clear tape
Although the hula hoop aptly featured a candy corn pattern, I gave it and the crown a quick spritz of black paint to go with the theme
I then secured the votives to the hoop with tape, spacing them evenly and making sure the on/off switch was accessible. I simply looped 4 strings of beads around hoop- no tape or glue necessary
I then draped the beads over the cross sections of the crown
 I wrapped the tinsel around the hula hoop and secured in spots with tape. 
I decided to add the boa under the crown as it was too short to go all the way around the hoop -  when I returned to the store to buy another, I found the display replaced with Christmas decorations!
I then popped on some feathered friends, and gothic flowers and once hung draped more beads over the hoop. When the sun goes down turn on the votives for a little magical glow.

Just a note:This is just a temporary and fairly fragile decoration which can easily be damaged, keep away from kids and pets, especially cats!

For more Raven ideas visit our past post

Wishing everyone a Delightful Halloween

I will be away from my blog off and on next week but I will respond to any comments upon my return 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thrift Benefit for Shelter Animals: Last Chance Ranch

When talented blogger and animal lover Jeanette Chaney of 
Country Design Style, decided to do something to benefit shelter animals, she really meant business. Now in it's third year, the
Thrift Benefit for Sheltered Animals 
is a fun way to support thrift shops whose proceeds benefit our furry friends and bring awareness to their causes.
The Mission: 
1)Find a thrift store in your area which supports an animal charity. 
2) buy and redo a treasure and share it on October 13th!
Share a story about a rescue animal who touched your life
 This year 15+ bloggers from around the country are sharing their "thrifty" makeovers and favorite personal pet stories! 
Click HERE for link to Jeanette's blog and list of those participating!
I love discovering new thrift shops and was thrilled when I learned of a recently opened nearby store which benefitted a local rescue called Last Chance Ranch. Starting as a non-profit in 1999, the award winning charity specializes in rescuing and rehabilitating horses and equines, companion pets and small farm animals and finding them loving forever homes.
Photos Last Chance Ranch website
For more information, happy tales, volunteer and adoption details, and the wonderful story of how the ranch was started please click 
Last Chance Ranch
    Though visiting the ranch is still on my to-do list, I was delighted to visit their neighborhood thrift shop and get information about the organization. 
shop photo from thrift store facebook page and two of my finds "before"
The bright, neatly displayed shop boasts cheerful, friendly staff and brims with a collection of clothing, household items and a Pet Room, featuring pet toys, supplies and even gently used horse tack at amazing prices. I picked up a few treasures but will definitely be back for more. Since my finds were on the smaller side I decided to do two quick little projects.
    Kitty Step Stool
Most cat owners agree, felines will find the most comfortable seat in the house and quickly commandeer it. As our rescue kitties are moving up in years, we noticed jumping onto their favorite spots was becoming a bit of a struggle. When I saw this children's step stool I figured it could be just the right size to give our fur friends a leg/paw up.
 I started with a paint redo with a multi surface primer (sorry Samantha)
 in white
I then created a printable with one of my favorite cat quotes using images from the the graphics fairy
I stenciled the center area with some chalk paint to add background interest.
I then taped off some areas and sprayed gold.

Once dry, I adhered the image using Modge Podge, adding some handpainted accents with multi surface paint. Since this piece will be very gently used the decoupage should hold up fairly well under dainty paws.
Once dry I spritzed with clear varnish for added durability
Cat Cafe Treat Jar
I see these types of charming canisters often while thrifting so thought I would try to spruce it up a bit to suit our feline friends. Though I wasn't quite sure what results to expect, for 99 cents I was willing to experiment.
Using the same multi surface spray paint primer, I painted the jar camouflaging any tiny chips and giving me a blank canvas. I then accented it with multi surface paint (I used Martha Stewart and Folk art) in a simple blue and white palette with some gold accents to work better with our kitchen color scheme.
I printed a kitty (also from the graphics Fairy) and painted a mini chalkboard reading "Cat Treats" in french for that fancy cat continental touch. I mounted the printout on card stock and gave it a quick coat of varnish and used double stick craft foam tape to attach it to the jar. Since this jar is strictly decorative and would be storing bagged treats, I didn't worry about it being dishwasher safe. The chalkboard could be removed and reattached if the jar needed to be wiped off with a damp cloth.

for a recipe for homemade Kitty treats visit
our creature comforts post

Many Thanks to Jeannette for organizing this wonderful event!

For our previous year's Shelter Animal Benefit posts and more pet related DIY's click below.
Animal Lifeline and a Kitty footstool redo

Blessing of the Animals keepsake and Animals in Distress Rescue

Pop over and visit these other bloggers for more fun  DIY's and Fabulous Pet stories

                                                          An InLinkz Link-up

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Halloween Recap: Pennywise turns Three

Pennywise turns three this month!
 In honor of our bloggiversary, we thought we'd mark the occasion with a recap of our October posts celebrating one of our very favorite holidays with bewitchingly easy DIY's and recipes.
We have....
Feathered friends prepared for Flight
From the posts When Pumpkins Fly and Nevermore

    Things that Glow into the Night
From the posts A Witches Tea and Halloween Fun

Not-so-scary skulls and ghosts

 Hats and cakes for Party Hosts

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

A Big Thank-You to all our readers
Wishing everyone a delightful Fall!