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)
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

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ring Carson for Tea:Welcome back Downton Abbey

Perhaps we can credit the Abbey's scenic grandeur, elegant settings, or edge-of-your-seat intrigue, both above and below the stairs (really Thomas?), with its unprecedented popularity both stateside and across the pond, but for me, it's also the magnificent costumes which keep me utterly enchanted by this series, season after season.
Naturally I was more than delighted to receive a gift of tickets to Winterthur Museum's exhibit, the Costumes of Downton Abbey in nearby Delaware, and it did not disappoint. 
Photos CPaul2014
Former estate of the du Pont family, the gracious Winterthur Museum displayed the costumes and accessories in elegant vignettes with information on the designs, historical context, sources, and stills from the show. It was fascinating to see how the clothing, textures and subtle details translated from screen to reality.
This exhibit has closed but others are popping up around the US and Canada- (Biltmore in N.C. will welcome the costumes in February) or for an interview with Downton's talented costume designer pop over to downton-abbey-costume-queen For more on Winterthur's exhibits and events visit 
Sadly my camera decided to misbehave that of all days, so I came home with limited photos but lots of inspiration. I thought I'd share some whimsical DIY projects to bring a little Downton into your everyday
*Historians and purists please note, these ideas are purely a fun nod to the era so please forgive the glaring historical inaccuracies 

Edwardian Costume Choker

 While I'd love to don one of the great outfits from the exhibit, I'll settle for a fun DIY accessory with basics from my closet to help set the tone for a Downton tea at home with friends. An online search found a myriad of jewelry items and accessories inspired by the show including this fabulous tutorial for a lace one by love Maegan. Loving the look but lacking much sewing prowess, I thought I'd come up with a simpler temporary party favor version to put together in minutes.

You'll need
wide black lace or edging with interesting details
velcro dots
printable-accented with metallic pens
faux jewels or accents 
images, CPaul, graphics fairy, Dearestgeeksof
simply measure and cut lace for neck size and glue velcro dot on each end. I then spritzed the image with clear varnish and once dry attached with hot glue. Accent with some sparkle and stick-on jewels.

While the show spans a decade of transitions in fashion, Dowager Violet still prefers the high necklines popular in her day.

Petite "Faux" Charlotte Russe
Created for the Czar Alexander' s daughter Princess Charlotte by famed french Chef Careme, and popular in Downton's day, this elegant dessert can be complicated to create. Since my kitchen staff consists of several curious feline friends rather than the able Mrs. Patmore and her crew, I thought I'd opt for a simpler no fuss recipe, in the spirit of the confection. This, perhaps healthier, adaptation uses light cream cheese and Greek yogurt in tune with January's resolutions.

You'll Need
Lady Fingers 
(I used 12 but will depend on size)
1 8oz regular or neuchatel cream cheese (softened)
1 container Greek yogurt (5.3 oz) 
(any fruit flavor)
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp orange or other flavored extract
berries, whipped cream, mint for garnishing
This is adapted from a recipe for Couers du Creme on my Valentine's day post 
or makes a nice fruit dip as well
Line a 6" round or square container with plastic wrap leaving extra hanging over edge
*If using a larger container you can adjust ingredient amounts as needed
arrange Lady fingers around edge, pressing together where they meet
Fill with cream cheese mixture and smooth evenly
cover with Lady fingers, tearing pieces to fit if needed
(this will be the bottom so no one will see it anyway)
Cover with plastic and
Chill several hours or overnight

Invert onto decorative plate and carefully remove plastic
garnish as desired
Set the table and serve with tea of course
I added props like silk flowers and "family photos
(images found online,  printed in sepia tone and popped into frames)

Carson gets an earful, scene from Downton Abbey
With much of the show dealing with Downton's residents adapting to the "modern" world, (who can forget the Dowager wrestling with a swivel chair) the gramophone becomes one of the symbols of the new age. I've seen modernized versions of gramophones which connect to smartphones in chic home shops but thought I'd make a more humble DIY version in homage to this retro now hip icon.
I used:
mini speaker for phone or iPod 
(I got one from the store Five below)
small cardboard box, paper tubes, 
plastic cup, lid, straws and paper bowl
faux wood shelf paper
black, brown and metallic spray paint
Printable labels and accents
printed from fun site featuring labels from 1898-1926
This project channels your inner kindergartner by simply assembling boxes and odds and ends until, through trial and error, you're happy with the result. Here's a brief run down of what I did. 

I cut out an opening to fit the speaker and then covered the box with "wood" paper. 
I hot glued the bowl and cup together, adding an angled cut piece from the cardboard roll, and sprayed it gold.
An old lid painted black makes a record with a printed out vintage label
I then hot glued it all together, adding supports where needed 
add some details like some gold painted craft sticks and labels found online
My husband , taking this literally asked where the handle was- so I quickly painted two bendy straws and voila!
You can here a snippet of it playing on PennWise's facebook page
Turn on some old fashioned tunes and dance the night away!

 For more Downton DIY's visit our previous post 
Tea Time at Downton Abbey
Downton Masks, DIY Abbey votive, Earl grey shortbread spoons

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Break out the Bubbly: New Year's Eve Champagne Truffles

No one really knows how champagne became the official drink of New Year's Eve, but in cultures around the globe this bubbly beverage, or an effervescent alternative is a must-have. 
While never one to turn down a flute of something sparkly, this year I thought I'd indulge my sweet tooth by adding this festive drink to some white chocolate truffles for a sweet confection before the healthful resolutions kick in.
Champagne Truffles
Label using image from the Graphics Fairy
There are many truffle recipes to be found online, most using a combination of white or dark chocolate, cream and butter as a base with a variety of add ins or toppings. I used this yummy one from a candy section of

I used a leftover mini bottle of champagne 
as the recipe only required 1/4 cup
I added festive silver sprinkles
You can pop truffles into flutes (glass or plastic) and print your own labels to make fun favors or add a name to use as place settings
or serve with fresh strawberries

Dollar Store Decor
After the creative hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and with Christmas decor still up and aglow, I like to keep New Year's adornments simple but festive. Some repurposed holiday ornaments and a few spruced up dollar store finds give a stress-free nod to the holiday without too much fuss or expense.
a top hat gets some flair thanks to scrap paper, printable and bling.
Hats and masks also make fun photo props for guests.
a $1 mask gets a quick makeover

Christmas balls in white and gold make whimsical "bubbles"

Make a toast and wait until midnight!
I nestled a small clock in snowflakes and stars under a cloche
 (a quick sub from last weeks Christmas village)

For more New Year's Eve DIY projects 
check out our past posts
ornament "bubbles" and noisemaker makeovers
from: auld lang syne
Pink champagne meringues
fromto sweet a New Year

Wishing everyone health, Happiness and prosperity in the coming year!