Sunday, April 12, 2015

The First of May: Cupcake May Baskets


 Since ancient times, cultures and religions around the globe have welcomed the arrival of Spring with gleeful and sometimes raucous celebrations of all kinds. Garlands of flowers, music, dancing, and often a May Pole played a key part in ushering in warmer weather as new plants and animals sprang to life. After an especially grueling and seemingly endless winter this year (and having not relocated to the tropics as was seriously considered) I decided some celebration of Spring, however small, was a must.
Though the tradition of delivering tiny surprise baskets of flowers and treats to family and neighbors has waned in recent times, I thought I'd pay homage to this most charming idea with a sweet whimsical and edible cupcake version to enjoy with friends at home.

May Day Basket Cupcakes
These can be made with any favorite flavor of homemade or store bought cupcakes and icing.
You'll Need
Wafer cookies 
Favorite flavor Cupcakes 
Icing  
Berries
Mint
Licorice (trimmed to size)
Trim overhanging cake from cupcake top to make sides level
Ice sides and carefully adhere wafer cookies around cakes
(These can be trimmed to size with a serrated knife if needed)
Decorate Tops with icing
Cut licorice to size and insert as handle
(shorter pieces stand up straighter) 
add berries and mint
Display on a platter. 
A chalkboard sign marks the day and pretty tea cups continue the flower theme
Serve for a Spring tea
Please note: these may need to be disassembled to eat and are best enjoyed on a plate with a fork

Mini Maypole
A mini May Pole is easily fashioned from a chopstick, pastel ribbons, hot glue and flower topper. Simply pop into some Spring grass
or into a leftover Easter centerpiece

For a larger party or basket on a larger scale you can adapt this summer berry version from our
Simply add flowers and Spring hued ribbons
&
For More May Day Ideas
Including a May Day Fairy Garden
Syllabub dessert and Flower cones
visit our previous post

Thanks for Visiting!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hopping Down the Bunny Trail : Off to the races

While we all know of a certain fabled rabbit who famously lost his race against his rival the tortoise, we thought this holiday we'd give bunnies their due and host a race all their own. 
With a fleet of wind-ups at the ready (on sale for 88 cents), you can cheer on your favorite furry friend as they cross the finish line. If tiny tikes will be part of your spring festivities this easy DIY activity makes a fun addition to the ubiquitous egg hunts and sugar binges. For adults, add springtime cocktails and friendly wagers.

I used
Wind-up Bunnies 
(my dollar store and supermarket had lots of these)
Printable with names and finish line banner copied to desired size
skinny ribbon
tiny party favor trophies 
Egg topped floral picks or wooden skewers 
Flower foam ring (cut in two- a serrated bread knife works well)
a stretch of faux grass (by the foot at home improvement stores)
or green paper or felt taped together
Faux flowers, eggs or other spring accents
 Bunnies are easily identified when sporting their names
Simply cut out name icons and tape to strip of ribbon. Wrap around bunnies'  tummies and tape to fit securely on other side. 
The paper names can be trimmed to size to make sure they don't interfere with the winding mechanism or bunnies' movement.
Attach paper Finish Line banner to ribbon and tie or tape to wooden skewers or floral picks.Decorate foam with flowers.
Roll out faux grass or roll of green paper and set up finish line
Set Bunnies at the starting gate 
And Hoppy wins by a tail
   
 The closing ceremonies
 Mini jelly bean filled trophies for the champs


Please note, with aims of their own these little ones can hop off track, make a simple rule that when they run out steam they can be rewound and gently redirected.

Wind up bunnies: center: tin bunny from Liveauctioneer.com left and right Bunny with rider and carriage, both German c1910, ebay 
Before iPads and x boxes these were the tech toys of the day

Not just for Easter: for other times of the year or for those who don't celebrate the holiday, simply change the decor and wind up characters to suit your theme. This would be fun for a child's barnyard themed birthday as well.

A Happy Easter
and
Delightful Spring!











Monday, March 9, 2015

Irish liqueur Potato Candy: a childhood treat grows up

While I admit I'm someone who indulges my sweet tooth year round, there are some treats which sadly only make a fleeting appearance on holidays (jelly beans, candy canes and conversation hearts all have their hay days) and comes St Patrick's Day my go-to confection has always been Irish potato candy
Ironically neither authentically Irish nor a potato (although some recipes call for them), this century old, rather humble looking spud-shaped candy originated not in the Emerald Isle but in my home city of Philadelphia, Pa. In the rush of "green everything" which appears March 17th, this brown quirky confection is a delightful blend of coconut, sugar and cream cheese, sprinkled with cinnamon to resemble Ireland's famous crops. This year I thought I'd revisit this classic childhood delight, trying a more a "grown up" version with a splash of liqueur, hint of coffee and dusting of dark cocoa. While there are many of these "spiked" versions online, some incorporating nuts, whiskey or mascarpone cheese (yum), I opted for this adaptation, tweaking it for a more adult palate. 

You'll Need
1/4 cup butter (softened)
7 oz. shredded coconut
(you can use sweetened or unsweetened according to taste)
4 oz.cream cheese (softened)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons Irish liqueur
(Bailey's, Irish whiskey or other liqueur)
1/2- 1 teaspoon instant coffee2
 1tbsp Cocoa powder and 1 tbsp cinnamon (mixed)
Add instant coffee to liqueur and stir or warm in microwave ten seconds to dissolve and set aside.*the addition of coffee yields a slighter darker color 
than "normal" potato candy and can be omitted if desired
 Beat butter and cream cheese until blended
Add vanilla and liqueur mixture and then blend in sugar a bit at a time
stir in coconut
Chill 1 hour or more
Once chilled, mixture can be molded into potato shapes (this gets messy)
roll in cocoa mixture brushing off extra coating and chill again (about 1/2 hour)

For a fun way to serve or give, you can make your own tiny bushel baskets from clear plastic cups and Popsicle sticks.
If desired brush sticks with a quick wash of paint for a rustic look and trim with scissors to size. Hot glue around cup and let dry. Wrap a band of paper or ribbon around basket gluing in place. 
I created labels using images from olddesignshop.com
             Line with wax paper and fill with potatoes. Pop in a toothpick with label 
      Display on a moss lined tray and add Irish accents
Serve with Irish Coffee or an after dinner drink
Greens and an Irish flag add spirit


       Yeat's Country, card from gift shop at  drumcliffe tea house
      Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Interior Kilronan Castle Hotel
Photos CPaul2011
celtic knots from Graphics Fairy 

For more St. Patrick's day ideas visit our past posts
Bailey's and berry Pavlova
a-taste-of-ireland-berry-and-baileys
or
Ireland in a Jar terrariums
the-emerald-isle


Slainte!




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Woodland Tea Party for Two

While bleak winter days can find us staring soulfully out our window searching for signs of Spring, catching a glimpse of lively furry or feathered friends romping about in the snowy landscape can always bring a bit of cheer to your mood until warmer days arrive.
Living adjacent to a wooded area, I always delight in seeing assorted birds, deer and an occasional fox scampering through the trees or stopping by for a quick snack.
In a previous post, I shared a summer woodland tea party and thought a winter version would be lots of fun as well. With a snowy palette, wintry accents and a fitting sweet treat, it's easy to embrace the best of winter and it's woodland creatures while staying cozy inside.
created using images from the Graphics fairy  

Mini Woodland "Buche du Noel"
I've shared two full sized versions of this whimsical famous french dessert, usually reserved for the holidays, and thought I'd create scaled down individual versions with the simplest "No-recipe" recipe.
You'll Need
Small cake rolls (I used little Debbie)
Vanilla icing, (store bought or homemade)
confectioner sugar, mint, or berries, nuts
 or fruit for accents  
*For 2 servings, 2 cakes will remain full size 
and 1 will be cut in half to for branches
Having a party?
A full box yields 8 servings
Ice cakes in your choice of frosting. This Pillsbury "ready to use" icing has the perfect star tip for a bark-like texture or simply use a pastry bag or tines of a fork over for similar effect. I find chilling cakes in refrigerator makes them easier to work with- the chocolate coating is very fragile.
Carefully cut ends off of cake rolls to expose "roll" center. use a serrated knife to cut one of the cakes in half diagonally
connect these branches" to cake logs and touch up icing as needed
sprinkle with confectioner sugar for snow or add sugar sprinkled fruit, nuts or mint leaves
 I arranged them on individual plates for easier serving
Create tiny mushrooms by gluing Hershey kisses Mini marshmallows with a dollop of frosting 

For my previous full size versions of this dessert visit our posts
& a walk in woods


Winter Mini Garden
While it seems fairy gardens are all the rage, I have seen few winter varieties and thought I'd give one a try to use as a centerpiece. 
I added some wintry branches to a planter holding a mini pine leftover from the holidays. Faux snow layered with epsom salts ($1 a bag) enhances the "landscape" while a mini mirror creates a frozen pond. 
I accented with faux silver frosty branches and flocked deer from my Christmas decor
  
Tea is Served
Toilet paper rolls turn into napkin rings keeping utensils neat, when wrapped with strips of faux wood contact paper and twine.


With hints of cinnamon, clove and ginger, Chai is a delightful choice for winter.

Pennywise Tips

This is an easy and fun dessert for kids to make, no oven needed. Let them Customize using different flavor icing and  gummy bugs or candy flowers.

When making for a group, you can frost and assemble beforehand. Cover with plastic and chill. Add garnishes just before serving.

Thank You for Visiting!