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!


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Melt your heart: Easy Valentine's Dessert Fondue

While some fully embrace Valentine's Day in all it's romantic splendor, for those eschewing more formal wining and dining fuss for simpler at home celebrations, it's still easy to add a touch of DIY decadence to your day with a surprisingly quick, elegant and easy dessert.
It's hard to believe that the once-again trendy "fondue" was originally a humble means of making the most of leftover hardened cheese and stale bread during harsh winter months centuries ago. With it's roots in Switzerland and France, this melted cheesy blend, often enhanced with wine and herbs, soon spread worldwide- with a huge but brief renaissance in the 1970's (I'm sure there are lots of fondue sets in attics across the country). Fast forward a few decades and we find countless adaptations including the wildly popular array of heavenly dessert versions.
      At once indulgent and embarrassingly easy to make (4 ingredients, about 10 minutes) it's the perfect end to a Valentines dinner for deux or a fun addition to a party. Or, for a fun family dessert including the younger set (what child doesn't love to play with food?) simply omit the liqueur and supervise more closely.
White Chocolate Raspberry Fondue 
   
You'll need
12 oz. white chocolate
rasberry preserves 
1/2 cup heavy cream
1-2 tbs Grand Marnier or rasberry liqueur(optional)
or
orange or berry extract

assorted "dippers" of choice

In a heavy saucepan bring cream to a low simmer. Add white chocolate and liqueur if using, and stir until chocolate is completely melted (It might look lumpy at first, I used a whisk for a smooth finish) Meanwhile in small saucepan (or microwave on %50 power) melt preserves just until pourable.
Let sit for a moment then transfer fondue to fondue pot (or crock pot on low) and drizzle melted preserves into fondue and using stirrer, create swirls or patterns. You can use a plastic squeeze bottle if desired. For safety and to prevent burning make sure to keep an eye on any candles or crock pot and adjust temperature as needed.
For dippers we opted for strawberries, brownie bites (disclaimer -they are little Debbie's cut into cute squares) and sliced store bought pound cake cut in heart motifs.
                                        A "bouquet" of strawberries make cute dippers

Serve with a dessert wine or after dinner drink. Bon appetite!

Quick DIY Decor
A small dress form is dolled up in ropes of costume pearls and angel wings (as seen in many a previous post) from an old Halloween costume while books and flowers set a romantic tone
a reused DIY banner from scrapbook paper and stick on letters professes "I love You" a la francais- (Of course everything sounds more romantic in French)

For more Valentine's ideas visit our previous posts 

Dyed pink birds, cupid cupcakes and love letters from love-is-in-air

another romantic dessert from couer-la-creme-valentine-dessert.

easy DIY candy wrappers from sweets-for-sweet