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



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pennywise in Paris 2: la fin de l'été


 With the warm days of summer coming to an end far too soon, my husband and I, rather impulsively, decided to make the most of the last of the fair weather (and the last of our saved travel points!) to return to one of our very favorite cities. 
We had visited Paris last Fall and were completely enchanted by its history, art, and architecture: not to mention it's magnifique macarons(!) and although many feel August isn't an optimal time to visit, (many Parisians leave for the countryside and some businesses close) we found summer in this most magical of cities a true delight!
   
Of course we enjoyed many of the same classic, and "pennywise" summer pleasures we might at home: overindulging in ice cream, spending afternoons in the park and browsing flea markets, but all with a charming, and decidedly french twist. 
  
With no budget for a vintage Chanel bag or silk Hermes scarf, I returned home instead with happy memories, a handful of postcards and my camera brimming with photos as my souvenirs. Armed with advice and tips from far more seasoned Paris travelers we thoroughly enjoyed navigating the ins and outs of this fascinating city and thought I'd share a few highlights as a relative newbie to this marvelous city.     
*For more of my PennyWise Parisian favorites from a previous trip, visit 
Pennywise in Paris

Afternoon in the Park
Delights for young and old at the Jardin des Tuileries
  
Being such a densely populated city, Paris wisely offers relief from the crowds with many beautifully manicured open public (and child friendly) spaces, including the famed Jardin des Tuileries.
carousel:Fontainebleu square

Ice Cream and Sweet Treats

Site seeing can be hard work and of course ice cream and sweets become necessary to keep energy levels high. Shop windows laden with artful eats, all impeccably displayed, are almost impossible to resist. One afternoon, I popped into the wildly popular Laduree, and although I could easily have spent a small fortune on their exquisite creations, for just few euros, I was able to sample a few delectable macarons and get a glimpse of this gilded confectioner heaven.
ice cream stand Laduree Champs Elysees, A serious sweet shop: Laduree interior
yummy souvenirs

Browsing the Markets

Brocante

Paris boasts some of the worlds oldest and most established flea markets....

 but we also discovered smaller, yet just as delightful versions which pop up about the city and neighboring towns

trinkets & treasures

A Drive in the Country

Visiting Fontainebleau

While there are endless things to do in the city, we decided to venture out one day to visit the lovely Fontainebleau in the Barbizon forest. A manageable hour or so drive outside Paris, we found the small town and it's namesake chateau enchanting. 
Even better, the cost of admission to the castle was included in our must-have museum pass.
playful monkeys, detail wall ornamentation, Throne room, Library

Home to centuries of royalty and celebs of the day (Josephine Bonaparte and Leonardo's Mona Lisa resided here at one time) the castle reflects a fascinating mix of eras and varying design and architectural styles.
the "more is more" approach to decorating 
fewer crowds than Versailles makes for a relaxing visit
lovely grounds to stroll


a quick bite at a cafe and back to Paris
sunflowers at full speed



Bon Nuit!

Merci for visiting!






















Friday, July 11, 2014

A Mad Tea Party


Just as Alice found herself tumbling into the rabbit hole, I recently serendipitously stumbled onto the most enchanting blog called A Fanciful Twist.
 I was delighted to read about an upcoming (and wonderfully mad) tea party. Being smitten with all things tea and also a fan of Lewis Carroll's classic story, I knew I'd want to take part. So with some whimsical DIY projects and tea time accents, I thought I'd add a little wonder to my afternoon.

Faux Box Cake
Of course every tea party needs cake, and although I'd never turn down the real thing, I thought it would be fun to make a surprise fool the eye "faux" version which could double as storage for stowing other sweet treats.
I had seen lifelike faux cakes and sweets in a kitchen in charity designer show house and although fabulous, the $60 price tag had me wondering if  I could whip up a similar version at home for pennies on the dollar.

You'll need 
Round cardboard box with lid
Joint compound I had this leftover from my DIY Kitty House
Assorted acrylics and puffy paints
Large round beads
red nail polish
Clear glitter
throwaway icing kit


With pencil trace around lid on box. This will insure the top will fit well and open easily after Compound is applied. "Frost" box with joint compound staying below pencil line. Frost top separately  and let dry.
I colored some compound pink using craft paint and with a dollar store icing kit piped around edge and added quick rosettes.
 I brushed cake with a quick coat of Madge lodge for added sheen. I then sprinkled with some clear glitter and also used puffy paint for some quick embellishments around the rim.
Unable to find faux cherries I gave some large plastic pearl beads a coat of red nail polish and let dry.
 After drizzling some more polish to simulate syrup, I hot glued them on.
Staying true to the story, I added an "Eat Me" sign 
A drink me" bottle with an elixir of water and food coloring

Croquet anyone?
Who can forget the fantastical croquet game from Alice in wonderland. While I have no flamingos on hand, I did have a dusty croquet set in our garage (they can often also be found at yard sales) which I decided to make over for the occasion.
To my surprise, an online search yielded dozens of fabulous flamingo croquet sets for sale as well as plenty of fun DIY ideas for making your own: from basic paint re-dos, to amazing creations using power tools and store bought birds. 
I chose to keep mine fairly simple with some spray paint, fun foam and feather accents.
Though perhaps not the most durable, for serious play, they are fine for an afternoon on the lawn and to add feathered fun to the theme.

You'll need
croquet set
Spray paint
Pink fun foam
Assorted craft paint
Feathers and accents 
Trim
Hot glue
Playing cards


I sprayed my mallets a soft pink color, taping off part of handle area to leave identifying colors.
I cut flamingo heads from fun foam and painted quick eyes and accents
Once dry, I hot glued onto mallet, adding a fringe of feathers and some sparkle
I glued cards back to back, added some flair and slid over wickets 
The croquet balls get a quick hedgehog makeover with multi-surface craft paint
I hope the Queen of hearts would be pleased!

vintage image from the Graphics Fairy

In the interest of thrift and repurposing, I "shopped" my house (and storage bins) for decor and tea time accents without spending a dime. 
My mismatched flea market tea cups are perfectly imperfect for a "mad" tea
A clock and mini teacup under glass marks tea time
An old yard sale moss teapot which I knew I'd use "for something someday" adds whimsy 
A moss bunny from my Easter decor perches on a  DIY "tea chest" fashioned from yard sale jewelry box and featured on my Downton Abbey Tea Post
A mini $5.00 chandelier from a previous party adds ambiance
And of course the all important Mad Hatter's topper
on loan courtesy of my mother's fabulous hat collection
 We had a surprise visit from the Cheshire cat, although he didn't' stay for tea


Thanks so much for stopping by.
 For a link to other bloggers participating in this wonderful event and for more tea time ideas and inspiration, pop over to