Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween: Easy Edible Pet ghosts




Browsing the Halloween aisles last season I ran into the most adorable Pet Ghosts in a jar. 
Of course I decided to run home and create my own DIY version with craft supplies I had on hand. It was such fun to make I thought I'd make a mini simpler (but edible) candy versions to give to my favorite little trick or treaters this year.


You'll need
Ghost peeps
Candy corn or other small treats
mini graham cracker pie crust
meltable chocolate
Clear plastic cups in appropriate size 
Printable labels 
embellishments

Melt chocolate according to directions. I used light cocoa but orange or yellow would be fun too.
Spoon into crusts and insert ghosts (Be sure they are standing up straight) and add extra candies of your choice. Let cool and harden completely

top with a plastic cup (these can be taped on if transporting) and add label if desired
or top with a bat ring and bead for an impromptu handle

not too scary labels for little ones

or for serving a tableful

Last year's non-edible version Here

Wishing everyone a Hauntingly
 Happy Halloween

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Enchanting Brew: A Witches' Tea party



 If anyone knows how to throw a party, it's Vanessa Valencia from 
A Fanciful Twist I was delighted to participate in her Mad Tea Party tea party this summer so when I heard she was hosting a Halloween Blog Party I jumped at the chance to take part.
While this is the season for stirring up all sorts of gore and ghoulish magic I thought I'd opt for a less terrifying fete and host an enchanting witches' afternoon tea.
With some scarily simple DIY's, a few hauntingly appropos props and easy semi-scratch recipes it's fun to delight your guests with a bewitching twist on teatime tradition.
  
Setting the Table
There's a  fabulous array of specialty Halloween tableware available for sale in shops and online (some at scarily steep prices) but it's lots of fun to create your own spooktacular dessert dishes without eating into your candy budget. 
This under glass decoupage technique has been around for ages and can be customized to the occasion using your favorite paper images, or even fabrics and trim and paint. 
I made a burlap Thanksgiving version you can see here

You'll Need
Clear glass plates of desired size 
(dollar stores often carry these)
Paper printable or image of choice
ModgePodge
Glass friendly paint
 I kept plates fairly simple using a printable I created with with spooky lettering and Gothic inspired images from The Graphics Fairy I cut out each design to desired size and generously coated the reverse of the plate with Modge Podge. I then firmly but gently attached images to back of plate smoothing often to remove any air bubbles. 
I allowed plenty of time for the plates to dry (several hours) before spritzing the backs with a coat of glass friendly spray paint. I chose one which simulates gold plate for an elegant touch.Once everything is set, a coat of clear varnish can be sprayed on back for extra protection 
Alternately printables could simply be placed under glass plates as temporary decor.


Please note: these dishes are in no way dishwasher safe and should only be wiped gently with a cloth to clean.

Hats Required

Of course a proper hat is a must for any afternoon tea and these downsized  versions of classic witches toppers give a nod to the wildly popular fascinator trend and are lots of fun to put together.
You'll Need
Plastic headbands or hair clips
Assorted Craft supplies which can include:
Small witch hats
decorative trim, tulle, hot glue, faux jewels, glitter, accents, ribbons

This project is really anything goes! I started using a couple small witch hats I found at my craft shop but you can create your own using paper or by cutting down paper party hats and adding a round brim.
I simply adorned mine with lace, paper, glitter and odds and ends.
I then either hot glued to a headband on a slight angle or attached to barrettes or combs. 

On the Menu 

While any fun Halloween recipes could work on the menu, in keeping with the "ladylike" teatime theme, I chose more delicately and subtly spooky fare than all out ghoulish or gory treats. I shared a couple here.

Spiderweb Deviled Eggs
This Classic party staple gets a seasonal twist using crackled hard boiled eggs, which are so popular around Halloween. To showcase the "webs" simply use your favorite deviled recipe and serve vertically on egg cups.  Store bought pumpkin spice cream cheese on cocktail size brown bread make cute pumpkin tea sand"witches" accompaniments.

There are different ways to achieve this crackled look (Martha has one using blueberries) but I tried this version from babble.com which uses frozen cherries for coloring. I've also read that food coloring or dark tea can also be substituted as the flavor is not detected. 



Bats in your Belfry Chocolate Bat 
Cake Toppers
Simple cakes or cupcakes (store bought or homemade) can get an easy accent with chocolate bats. I had seen this clever technique with adorable chocolate butterflies on the blog We lived happily ever after so thought I'd "wing" it with bats.
You'll Need
Frosted Cake or cupcakes
(I bought an angel food cake and added an icing glaze)
black choco melts 

wax paper
thick hardback books

Melt chocolate disks according to instructions and spoon into pastry bag, squeeze bottle or plastic baggie with corner snipped off.


 If desired sketch or print out bat templates, fold in half pressing crease firmly and center between open pages so wings arch outward creating dimension
      
Fold wax papers same way and place over template. Carefully trace template using melted chocolate, filling in silhouette and let cool completely. Once hardened gently lift and peel wax paper from back and attach to cake using icing.
The bat gate found at my craft store was really designed for miniature gardens



Bewitching animals and feathered friends join the party, resting amid natural elements. A bottle of "food coloring" potion adds a touch of magic.

  
A whimsical nest of pearls and timeworn books add interest

and the ladies arrive

Wishing everyone the Most Enchanting of holidays!
 Visit the delightful A fanciful Twist for more Halloween joys
&
links to participating bloggers
&
For these and other ideas pop over to our previous Pennywise Halloween Posts
 DIY Crystal Ball and Raven globes on nevermore 
Whimsical Hot Air Balloons when-pumpkins-fly
a friendly spirit from pet-ghost-in-jar



Monday, October 13, 2014

Thrift Benefit for Sheltered Animals: Animal Lifeline

I so was delighted when I learned talented blogger Jeanette Chaney of Country Design Style was hosting 
Thrift Benefit for Sheltered Animals
again this year. 
Rescue pets have been part of our family for as long as I remember and I was thrilled to support and help bring attention to organizations which benefit this very worthy cause. The fact that the event also includes thrift shopping and crafting made it a 
win-win!
   
The Challenge: 
1) Find a nearby thrift store whose proceeds benefits animals    
 2) Buy an item to redo and/or feature in your blog post 
  3)  Share your post and link up with other participating bloggers on October 14th   
Or   
Inspire others by sharing a story 
about how rescuing a pet has
 impacted your life 
   
    Not familiar with thrift shops benefitting animals in my immediate area, an online search happily led me to Animal Lifeline  
 located in Warrington Pa. Set in a modest suburban shopping plaza, the unassuming storefront belies the amazing scope of work this multifaceted organization does nationwide on behalf of animals in need.
Clockwise from top left: A cheery mural celebrates our furry friends, A four footed coworker on break, Fall and Halloween items welcome shoppers by the front window, china and collectables - including lots of animals of course, much needed Disaster relief

I was delighted to be able to chat with Animal Lifeline's founder Denise Bash who kindly took the time to tell me about some of the history, challenges and goals of this wonderful organization.
Started in 2006 as a garage sale, animal lifeline is now an instrumental resource for animal welfare, partnering with other organizations to help animals who are victims of disasters and abuse as well as raising funds for shelter rebuilds, supplies and much needed spaying and neutering
For more information visit www.animallifelinepa.org

Headlines: responding, rescuing and rebuilding,
stray cat Pele (found trapped in a soccer net) now safe and sound,
a doggy 5k fundraiser, a kitty check-up
photos Animal lifeline site and Pele by Cpaul

The thrift shop itself features 4 rooms brimming with a variety of housewares, clothing, children's items and gifts all delightfully and artfully arranged by theme. (there's even a wedding room) and the helpful cheerful shop staff clearly have a passion for the work they do.
 I found several fabulous treasures.....
 but since Chloe immediately commandeered the footstool, I thought I'd choose it to redo as a fun perch for her and my other finicky feline friends.
I popped off the top of the stool, cutting away the top layer of fabric (there were 3 more layers underneath so this was a re-re-redo) and gave the base a quick spritz using brushed metallic spray paint I had on hand.
I then cut out a layer of 1" foam, adding it for extra "creature" comfort. I tightly covered the top with white canvas fabric, stapling securely to the wood underneath. 
Once taut I began painting using chalk paint and acrylics.

I decided on a regal crowned kitty, stenciling "Le Chat" for some french flair and stamped a border in matte silver. Since the look is a bit shabby chic, I didn't fret over slight dings and drips and smudges.
 A spritz of clear coat added durability and protects against muddy paws. 



Does her majesty approve? We'll have to wait and see.

Love crafting for your critters? 
Visit our previous posts featuring Pennywise Pet Projects
Clockwise from top left
Photo Pet memento from last Years Thrift benefit: Blessing of the animals
Kitty tea party & Upcycled pet bed from a cardboard box from Creature comforts
 Dog biscuits in a jar & Pet silhouettes for the holidays from Not a creature was stirring


Thanks so much for visiting!
 hanging out in the Animal Lifeline office 


Please check out the links below or pop over to Country Design Style for the other bloggers participating in this event and links to touching rescue stories, inspired DIY projects and the various charities serving our furry friends around the country.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

La Dolce Vita: Italian cafe ice cream treat


                                                                                                Venice Photos CPaul2013
While it would be delightful to spend those early mild days of Fall savoring coffee laced treats at an elegant Italian cafe, limited time and budget means instead I'll make do enjoying a sweet, caffeinated confection here at home. (insert sigh)
Luckily I recently stumbled upon a deliciously creamy and impossibly simple (no machine needed) espresso ice cream recipe from Nigella Lawson. While perfect on its own, I thought I'd add a few easy touches to create a treat echoing the classic Italian dessert tiramisu. 


Easy Espresso Ice Cream

I was delighted by the smooth creamy texture of this ice cream and had expected a more grainy result which sometimes occurs when freezing other dairy recipes. A friend mentioned the  alchohol in the liquor might be credited with the smooth finish. I don't know but it certainly tastes wonderful.
You'll Need
1 1/4 cups Heavy cream
2/3 Condensed milk
2 tbsp. Instant Espresso powder 
( I found it at Wegman's supermarket)*
2 tbsp Favorite Coffee liquor 
(I used espresso flavored vodka I had gotten as a gift)
*dark instant coffee can be substituted for espresso powder but the amount might need to be increased for a similar flavor
Whisk ingredients thoroughly until blended and mixture is a light coffee color (I had lugged out the kitchenaid mixer but found using a simple kitchen whisk by hand worked in no time at all)
Cover and freeze 6 hours or overnight

Mascarpone Whipped Cream
I found many tempting recipes online with varying amounts of ingredients but liked the simplicity of this one from delightful blog chewing the fat., using heavy cream, mascarpone, vanilla and sugar. I halved the amounts for smaller servings.
You can Scoop the ice cream into elegant glasses or for a fun twist, I put a snack size scoop in mini espresso cups. 
Top with marscapone cream and sprinkle with a dusting of cocoa and chopped nuts if desired. Serve with lady fingers or biscotti. (My store was out of both so Stella D'Oro subbed in)

Props and souvenirs add a bit of Venetian romance

relax and enjoy


A painting inspired by Venetian Cats in my etsy shop le beau chaton