Thursday, March 29, 2018

Naturally Beautiful Easter Eggs

How many fondly remember the magic of dying Easter eggs as a child? Simply dropping a store-bought pellet into a glass of water and vinegar produced vivid colorful concoctions in mere minutes. While admittedly quick and convenient, I thought I'd go with natural hues this year and dye my eggs with recipes using vibrant veggies, spices and fruits. 
A few attempts in the past have garnered murky lackluster results but after some more research I felt confident to give it another go and share the results, for better or worse. 
A trend for many years now, recipes for natural dyes are all over the internet and while they involve more intensive dying time, the formulas are fun and easy to whip up with many ingredients you may have on hand.
I started with a limited palette of blue, pink and yellow from recipes I discovered on the delightful sites Live Well Travel Often and thekitchn which used used beets, red cabbage and turmeric. I tweaked the pink formula by substituting a can of sliced beets for fresh. 
Most of the formulas I discovered simply involved boiling water, salt and the colorful natural ingredient of your choice, pouring the dye into large containers to cool, adding vinegar, and popping in the hard boiled eggs to soak in the refrigerator. Various sites recommend dying times of several hours to overnight for different results- (I dyed mine in the morning and let set in fridge for about eight hours) 
The dye colors were surprising vibrant 

The results are in and the winner is Turmeric with a bright vivid yellow and smooth finish! The cabbage yielded a lovely speckled blue and sadly the beets a drab khaki brown- (maybe I should have used a fresh beet instead of canned after all)
My eggs did seem to scratch easily while still wet, so next time I'll handle with more care and clean surface gently prior to dying.

On a few eggs, I tried a resist technique with letter stickers for a monogram and wax crayon swirl to add some flare. Several of these didn't turn out as the stickers floated off in the long dying process but I was pleased with this blue version with my husband's initials.
Either way, my "helper" Bijou was fascinated!
Bright Blue-red cabbage and Sunny Yellow- Turmeric
Since the blue and yellow hues were the most vibrant I thought I'd use them as my models and set them among some sunny yellow flowers in blue and white pots.

The conclusion: This activity was lots of fun and a nice way to get creative in the kitchen- next time I would love to experiment with some new and different ingredients - (cherries, berries and bright herbal teas come to mind)

Vintage image from the Graphics Fairy

Egg Fun Facts 
   Egyptians and Persians are among the people of many ancient cultures who decorated eggs in vibrant colors to symbolize Spring's season of rebirth

Early Christians dyed eggs red- often using onion skins - to represent Christ's blood

In medieval Europe pretzels with two hard boiled eggs were hidden for children to find on Easter, an event much like modern egg hunts today

The first Faberge Egg was created in 1885 for Tsar Alexander the third for his wife and opened to reveal an enameled yellow yolk, golden hen and small diamond and ruby crown

The world's largest chocolate egg measures eight feet tall and weighs 176 pounds. The sweet treat boasts pink and yellow polka dots and has a whopping 436,000 calories. It was created at the Fairmount Hotel in Dubai

for more eggstraodinary Easter facts visit the fun site theholidayspot

Wishing everyone all the Joys of Spring!
For links to more Easter recipes and crafts hop over to Easter at Pennywise

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

St. Patrick's Day: Whimsical Wee Folk

No matter one's heritage, the seventeenth of March is always a day to celebrate all things Irish. Whether whipping up authentic recipes from the Emerald Isle, imbibing in a hearty Guinness or adopting the wearing of the green, embracing a touch of Ireland, however small, on St. Patrick's Day is a fun way to brighten those wintry grey (at least here on the East Coast) not-quite-Spring days. 
Maybe it's the mystical magic of the Irish landscape, or its rich storytelling tradition, but few cultures share such an enchanting passion for whimsy and folklore, fairies and fantasy. This year I thought I'd create some Wee Folk of my own to join me in celebrating their homeland and add a little luck of the Irish to my day.

I can always count on The Graphics fairy for delightful vintage images to use in my projects and her collection of Irish images did not disappoint. While leprechauns are the norm, I chose some cheerful ladies in green along with the little seated gent.

Simply print out image and use as is or if desired embellish with your favorite craft or scrapbooking supplies you might have on hand.
after their makeover- I opted for gold and green puffy paint, stick on jewels and a dose of some glittery sparkle
I attached these Wee Folk to foam board for support. Impossible to cut neatly, I glued on a rough shape smaller than the image, adding a triangular prop. Not pretty but this works just fine to hold up these lightweight figures and remains unseen in the back.
Then simply set among your decor,
or add some Irish magic to teatime.....
with classic soda bread of course

or make a mini scene: One lass plays shepherdess under a cloche with some tiny white lambs
 (a wooly staple of the irish landscape) 

Short on time?- The original images feature charming sayings and backgrounds and can be printed out for quick cards, labels for baked treats, or festive decor. Find these and more on The graphics fairy

 You might recognize the same little gentleman in our Lucky Leprechaun Shoe craft from our past St. Patrick's post

Ireland, it's the one place on earth
That heaven has kissed
With melody, mirth,
And meadow and mist.
                                                         Irish Saying 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Italian Cherry Cream Sodas: An Easy Sweet Valentine treat


Many among my friends and family have mixed reactions to Valentine's Day. For some it can be a holiday of grand romantic gestures complete with roses, proposals and champagne, for others a simple fun card or box of candy will suffice, and I know several who opt to forgo the "stress" of this "commercial" holiday altogether. 
 However you celebrate, it's always fun to add an  easy but sweet treat to your day as a nod to the occasion. I thought this year I'd say "Te Amo" with an aptly rosy colored Italian cherry cream soda for a quick Valentine's afternoon break.
Delicious Italian style sodas have been popular at coffee bars and cafes for quite a while now but also are fun and simple to whip up yourself at home. A quick online search lead to countless recipes for cream sodas which all basically consist of a mix of a sweet flavored syrup and carbonated water topped with whipped cream or half and half. That's it!
Elegant flavored syrups for these sodas are easily available in shops and online but as some can be a bit pricey and contain artificial colors or flavoring, I thought I'd experiment a bit with other options. I found a natural cherry juice from my local supermarket worked wonderfully. It was also easier than the cooking, straining and cooling involved in making your own syrup from berries and sugar.

Italian Cherry Cream Soda
Really a non-recipe recipe, ingredients can be adjusted to suit your taste.
I used:
natural cherry juice blend - store brand, 100% juice
carbonated or mineral water
 (some prefer club soda's milder taste but any bubbly water will do)
canned whipped cream

Since juice is less concentrated than soda syrups I used more than you normally might in this recipe. I started with about 3 parts juice to one part chilled sparkling water and simply topped generously with whipped cream and popped in a straw. 
These drinks tend to appeal more to "grown ups" as they are less sugary sweet than the traditional canned variety.
I served in tall stemmed glasses for a festive flare
send some love: image made with vintage photo from the the graphics fairy
I served with a store-bought berry biscotti and fruit

Wishing everyone
Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

La Chandeleur: French Crepe Day

                                                                                                               All Photos CPaul
I've always been fascinated by the way different holidays are celebrated in cultures around world. It seems on almost any given day of the year, there is a festive occasion of some sort going on somewhere . 
 I was delighted to learn recently that throughout France, Candlemas, also known as La Chandeleur or Jour de Lumieres, is traditionally celebrated on February 2nd by the lighting of candles and by eating that french favorite, crepes! Not as familiar stateside, this celebration of La Chandeleur seemed the perfect respite from the lengthy drab winter weeks following fun and frenzied holiday festivities and was a good excuse to try my new crepe pan! (a steal at Homegoods)
 For many Christians, this February date, marks the day Jesus was presented to the Temple in Jerusalem, but the holiday can also be traced much further back to older pagan roots, honoring the eventual return of Spring and longer sunlit filled days.
But why candles and crepes? 
Some say Pope Gelasius established the tradition in the 400's by distributing crepe like treats to pilgrims in Rome during annual candlelit processions. 
The round shape and golden color of crepes was thought to represent the welcoming return of the sun as well as, more practically, a good way to use up surplus flour, a staple that time of year.
I displayed with (flameless) candles and french and Spring inspired props
As someone who loves to enjoy these delicious and very adaptable treats, I have had limited success in making them at home. Sadly, more stacks of rubbery ill-shaped crepes have wound up in the garbage can than on the dinner table. So for my first celebration of Candlemas, I thought I'd attempt one of the easiest recipes I was able to find online at the wonderful blog savorytooth. With a few additions (vanilla and sugar), I was able to whip up some surprisingly tasty, flourless versions of these classic treats.

Wonderful as sweet desserts or savory meals, crepes can be reinvented with endless fillings or toppings from chicken and spinach to chocolate or applesauce.
I opted for sweet toppings for my customizable easy crepe bar including morello cherries in natural syrup, tangy lemon curd and fresh berries. Of course butter, honey and whipped creme are welcome additions as well.
Easy Flourless Crepes
3 eggs
1 oz package cream cheese softened (I used Neuchatel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or other desired flavor)
2 tablespoons fine sugar

Simply pop ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour a pancake sized amount onto a warm skillet or crepe pan and swirl until it forms an (almost) even circle. Cook over low-medium heat until golden brown, flipping once. Dot with butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Legend says if you hold a coin in one hand and successfully flip the crepe with the other, you will have good luck in the coming year. I admit I didn't attempt this.

Bon Appetite!
For more on Chandeleur click on why-do-the-french-eat-crepes-on-le-chandeleur

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Autumn Antler Tablescape

While turkeys understandably take center stage at Thanksgiving, it can be fun to include nods to other wildlife in your seasonal Autumn displays as well.
 With my Halloween props and pumpkins still on display, I thought I'd use what was on hand to create a quick and easy Fall centerpiece.
Pumpkins and Fall foliage are natural holdovers from the previous holiday and since this year my "costume" consisted of plastic antlers from Walmart (and some stick on deer face stickers from the drugstore) I thought I would play to the still popular antler trend this Thanksgiving.
Birds, a fox mask and deer made for a woodland twist on Halloween
deer friendly plastic antlers
I simply arranged the costume antlers with mini pumpkins, dried corn, faux leaves and Fall foliage in an old soup tureen base.
Nature inspired tableware, touches of gold and flameless candles complete the warm Fall palette 

Admittedly smitten with these forest friends, last year I opted for Thanksgiving deer decor as well with a vintage stag image and easy pumpkin redo.
simply click link for details

Give Thanks for Unknown Blessings already on their way
                                             Native American Saying

Wishing our U.S. followers 
our friends worldwide a 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Thrift Benefit for Animals, Last Chance Ranch and a Halloween Black Cat Shoe

If, like me, you love a good browse through a thrift shop, you know your purchases are all the more special when the proceeds go to a charitable cause close to your heart. A few years back, the talented blogger and animal lover Jeannette Cheney, from Country Design created an event to highlight those resale shops who specifically benefit our beloved furry, four footed, or feathered friends. 
The mission:
 Make a purchase from a thrift store that benefits animals or animal charities.
 Makeover the item (large or small) in a fun new way.
Then join up with other bloggers in sharing it all in a post on October 26th. 
This way bloggers from across the country can help promote these worthy causes and their big hearted shops. 
Lucky for me there is a delightful thrift shop in my area run by Last Chance Ranch, a wonderful organization that helps foster, care for and lovingly re-home countless abandoned or abused animals from horses to dogs to parrots and even lizards! 

 click link above to learn about this organization's history, mission and amazing work on behalf of animals
Their Shop
 The ranch's bright and cheerful shop features a wide variety of well displayed and fabulously priced items. 
It boasts an extensive array of pet supplies for dogs, cats, horses, fish and birds as well as gently used clothing, accessories and jewelry for their human friends. Also not to miss, are books, furnishings and home decor items. 
Since this thrifty blog challenge coincided with Halloween time, I thought it would be frightfully fun to do an easy project in the spirit of the season and happily wandered the charity's shop until inspiration hit, in of all places, the shoe section.
Charlotte Olympia Cat Shoes $495.00
I remembered a while ago these "cat" shoes had taken the internet by storm, appearing on celebs and "cat walks" and while undeniably charming, the $495.00 price tag was not. Of course crafty cat fancier fashionistas everywhere immediately took to making their own less pricey versions and I thought Halloween would be the perfect time to follow their lead and recreate this whimsical feline footwear. After all, what could be better for the well dressed witch this October season?
I found these black pumps with "kitten" heels on a display for $2.99 and was delighted to find they had been marked down to a mere $1.00
My other fab finds (I had to share) also included an almost new good sized pet carrier, pet dish, picnic basket, lace up riding boots (for my occasional lessons), classical CD, and a beautiful coffee table book on dogs - all for $17.00! 
   DIY Kitten Heels
With some basic crafting supplies, this was a fast and easy redo. Since I would only be wearing them for the "witching hour" as costume wear, I opted to quickly hot glue and paint on accents instead of more complicated sewing. Being fairly dainty, of course, these would not be good shoes for long walks, for children or for dancing the night away, but for a few hours handing out candy, I figured they would serve me in seasonally spooky style. 
I began by removing the decorative pearl accents and saving them for some future project down the line (one adorns the hat on my bewitching faux feline friend above). For the eyes, I used beads from a strand found at Joann's Fabrics in a sale bin, but you could opt to use buttons, paint, or for those talented in needlework, embroider eyes on as well.
Scraps or a sewing patch kit in a coordinating color is perfect for the small amount of fabric needed for the ears and squeezable fabric paint makes quick work of the simple ear accents, pink nose and silver whiskers. Simply glue and paint accents as desired to create your own fabulous feline, no great artistic skills needed.

Quick tips: a paper template keeps ears uniform in size. Depending on the brand, squeezable fabric paint can sometimes take hours to dry so be careful to avoid smudges while waiting for paint to set

I then popped in a pair of inexpensive leopard insoles for comfort and a chic touch.
 I chose black low heels for my project but any style shoe and combination of colors from tabby to tortoiseshell would be fun!
Wishing all of our friends, on two feet or four,
 a bewitching Fall Season!
Last Chance Ranch resident and four footed 
volunteer Mugsy and friends bring 
smiles to seniors in assisted care

For more on thrifty DIY's and Animal Charities, please pop over and visit these other creative bloggers participating in this fun benefit!
For Pennywise's previous benefit posts on the Ranch, Animal Lifeline and Animals in Distress, click HERE