Sunday, November 20, 2016

Quick Thanksgiving Pumpkin Makeover


While nowadays everyone eagerly shares photos of their dinners on Instagram, what was served at the very first Thanksgiving remains a bit of a mystery. Historians believe that native fish, fowl, venison, squashes and berries featured prominently on the menu. 

Of course our perennial favorite, pumpkin pie as we know it, would appear many years later, but records indicate that English settlers of the time did often make a pumpkin custard by hollowing out pumpkins, filling the shells with milk, honey and spices and roasting them in hot ashes. Today, centuries later the festive pumpkin still figures largely in our Thanksgiving celebrations in all sorts of recipes, desserts and decorating. I thought I'd pay it homage with a quick and easy pumpkin makeover to spruce up your holiday table.
   
Pumpkin Makeover 
faux pumpkin
I had Halloween pumpkins still hanging around  
and picked one which was a bit worse for wear
(or there are many in craft stores on clearance)
spray paint in desired color
clear varnish
metallic puffy paint 
ribbon and crafty accents 
glue
"Give Thanks" printable
Although turkeys are usually the star of the show, 
I opted for this image of deer for something a bit different
Printable created with lovely vintage Fall images from the thegraphicsfairy.com

How to:
Simply spray your pumpkin desired shade, 
(I used a warm metallic rose gold tone) and let dry.
print image to desired size and cut out. 

Dot edges with metallic or jewel toned puffy paint to create a quick border 
 add any bling or accents desired
 I sprayed printable printout with a spritz of triple glaze varnish leftover from another project for a nice sheen
glue onto pumpkin and top with a bow or leaf sprig
simply display with some fall touches and natural elements
I used my mismatched china, thrift store bird themed plates with a similar color palette and gold chargers (yes, those chargers from the dollar store)

I am grateful for what I am and have.
 My thanksgiving is perpetual.
                               Henry David Thoreau

Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to our US readers
and 
a Happy Autumn to our friends worldwide.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

French Inspired Fall Picnic


With the last of the Halloween candy stash well finished off and Christmas decor already popping up in every store it's easy to let the Fall season pass us by in a blink. And though we've long bid "au revoir" to the sunny days of summer, Autumn offers an equally delightful a venue for outdoor pursuits. Crisp fresh air and glorious foliage lure us outside without the worrisome sweltering heat, swarms of skeeters, or sunburn.

 And what better excuse to spend the day outside than a leisurely afternoon picnic. While paper plates, burgers and flip flops are the mainstay of summer picnicking, Autumn is the perfect time to embrace a slightly (dare we say) more civilized take on dining al fresco. Whether at a park or on your patio, it's easy to create a cozy yet elegant fete when you include simple gourmet inspired treats, old fashioned fun and games and a few creature comforts. 


   
Bread & Cheese Covers
Of course with food being the star of the event, finding accessories that are portable, practical and pretty can be a challenge.
 Browsing one of my favorite magazines I came across the most delightful french bread covers which sadly came with a less than delightful price tag of over four hundred dollars. Quality and beauty aside this was a purchase which wasn't going to happen. Neither, sadly was a last minute pastoral retreat in the french countryside for that matter. 
 Not to worry, with some inexpensive baskets, printable labels and twine, I can give my outing a bit of french provincial charm and keep my cheese and baguettes pest free for pennies on the dollar.
Simply find suitable sized baskets and weave twine through top for a handle. 
 I then created labels using type and lovely images from the thegraphicsfairy.com and cut and decoupaged them on card stock.
 I then simply popped onto basket with glue.

Grandmom's Faux Boursin Cheese
While petite rounds of this savory, but pricey, french gourmet cheese make wonderful party fare, it's easy to whip up your own version with staples you probably have on hand for a fraction of the price.

This recipe was a favorite of my grandmother who always served it with traditional water crackers. But it's delightful with sliced crudités, baguettes or even as a sandwich spread with fresh veggies. 

1 package cream cheese, softened
8 oz butter, softened
1-2 teaspoons minced garlic (depending on taste)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp chives


Mix all ingredients until blended and chill at least an hour or overnight. Add more or less of the herbs according to taste. The flavor is better if chilled longer.
Serve with baguettes spruced up with a quick wrap of parchment baking paper and a sprig of herbs.
We opted for simple fruit, bread, cheese and nuts for no fuss snacking, but for heartier fare, you could browse french cookbooks for recipes for quiches, vegetable terrines and tartes. Wine, mineral water or juices round out the menu.

Faux Boules
Though I couldn't tell you the difference between Boules, Bocci and Petanque, all describe wildly popular bowling games played throughout the world. In Europe it's commonplace to spot small groups of friends gathered, with great concentration, rolling metallic balls on patches of gravel or grass in public parks or town squares. In honor of this classic pastime I thought it would be fun to brush off my old bocci set which had been sitting idly in my garage forever and give it a quick makeover a la francais.
Bocci is a fun portable game and used sets can often be found at yard sales.
Boules uses shiny metallic balls with engraved grooves to differentiate them. I opted for an easy redo- using subtly different color metallic spray paints I had on hand. Simply perch on cups or lids, spray one side and let dry, flip over and paint the other side.

a thrift store basket (previously holding a child's tea) set makes a picnic perfect carrier
When the competition gets too fierce, books and art supplies provide relaxing ways to wile away the afternoon
"Shop" your house for accessories that add some comfort but aren't too precious to spend a day outside.
 A charming Waverly curtain swag (a clearance find at Lowe's) adds a pastoral touch.
Make sure to include some extra treats for unexpected guests. Our friend Tempest is getting a bit close to the wine.



Autumn is the hush before Winter    
                                        french proverb

for more Fall for francophiles (and the easiest apple tart) 
visit our post


Wishing 
everyone 
all the joys of Fall!




Sunday, October 9, 2016

Halloween Candy Bar Makeovers


Although the sad day eventually comes when we realize we are too old for trick or treating, the love of sweet treats is something we never outgrow. 
Even if it has been decades since you traipsed door to door on October 31st, why not indulge in your favorite candy bar, all the more fun spruced up with some Halloween flare.
There are countless ideas and printables out there for fun and frightful DIY candy rewraps for kids of all ages to be found online, but I thought I'd try a few whimsical not-so-spooky images to lend your confections a more festive than frightening and, dare we say, more grown-up air.

         

These are for the luxuriously large (once in a while) bars. 
Simply click on wrapper images to enlarge and print. (You may need to adjust printout size to fit your candy selection.) 
These labels work best on regular or oversized bars. I surprisingly found these yummy bars from Germany on sale at my local Supermarket. I designed these labels using fun vintage images from the fabulous graphicsfairy.com
I wrapped the candy bars in foil to cover label completely and then after trimming new printable label to size, wrapped around bar and taped discreetly on back.

a "not so scary" well dressed witch for fashionistas
purrfect for feline fanciers
for fans of feathered friends
for literary types, give a nod to Edgar allen Poe's famous raven

  These make fun party favors, simply display with some subtly spooky seasonal accents or enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea


For more romantic occasions, pop over and see our valentine's Day DIY candy wrapper post Sweets for the sweet


Wishing Everyone 
a Purrfectly Magical
Fall Season!


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Water Lily Cake: end of Summer treat



 Funny how a quick trip to the supermarket can be a sign that summer's inevitable end is on its way. Just last week, there among the usual grocery fare I spotted an enormous display of colorful Halloween candy; yes, pumpkins and candy corn in August!
 There was no denying the sad reality of the season's impending farewell and I was inspired to make the most out of these waning warm sunny days. 
I thought I'd celebrate with a sweet treat (of course) inspired by a favorite summer spot; a nearby park in lovely Bucks County, Pa where friends and family regularly gather to picnic and paddle.

photos CPaul
Nothing says lazy summer day like kayaking on peaceful lake surrounded by glistening water, trees, birds and other wildlife. 
I'm always especially struck by the abundance of waterlilies as I'm paddling along. 

Photo CPaul
So it seemed fitting to incorporate them into a fun cake, to serve as treat after a lovely day on the lake.
While you'll find countless elaborately decorated cakes online this semi-homemade option is much more simple in comparison but still fun and relatively quick to make with readily found ingredients.

Easy Lily Pad Cake
You'll Need
 a bakery or homemade cake in desired size and shape
(not a bundt as you need a solid center)
With a heat wave making our dog days of summer especially sweltering - I skipped baking and opted for a store-bought key lime cake in a cheerful green color
(Yes , it's Pepperidge Farm)     
any icing of your choice for accent
The green icing ripples on top were perfect for enhancing the water like effect. I simply piped frosting around outside to define edges
   
Piping gel
I hadn't had much experience with piping gel, which can be bought in clear form at a craft or bakery supply store and tinted to desired color. A quick online search, however, yielded countless easy DIY versions and after a few hits and misses, I opted for this recipe from food.com.
(Since I only had the brown vanilla on hand, I substituted a clear lemon extract and reduced corn starch to 2 1/5 teaspoons as the first batch was a bit thick)

   
simply mix, microwave, cool and color.

Piping gel note: for my small cake dimensions, I only used about a third of this recipe. While I was very happy with the water-like affect, piping gel didn't offer much taste wise, so a thin layer was enough for decoration without detracting from the overall flavor of the cake  
Decorations
marshmallows
green colored gum drop leaves
glittery yellow sprinkles if desired
fresh mint for garnish
I rolled green gummy spearmint leaves between sheets of wax paper and cut into Lily pad shapes
These can get sticky - but you can moisten knife with water for an easier cut and then simply set lily pads into piping gel
   Carefully cut marshmallows in half horizontally, then cut each half again to make four sections. 
You can dip cut edges in yellow cupcake sprinkles.
 Create water lilies of desired size by assembling with yellow sprinkled area as centers and arrange by gummy lily pads
Simply garnish with mint sprigs 
and serve with lemon iced tea

Wishing our readers
Happy Summer Days