Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Emerald Isle

                                                                                         Southern Ireland CPaul 2011
They say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, but it seems a shame for us non-Gaelics to only embrace this wonderful culture once every 365 days. Ages ago I was lucky enough to visit this magical country as a student, (friends, backpack and train pass in tow), and more recently again, (no backpack but Mother in Law in tow-- a long story) Once again, I fell in love with the breathtaking landscape, delightful people and fascinating history. Unfortunately with no immediate travels to Ireland on the horizon, but St Patrick's Day fast approaching, I thought I'd celebrate the Emerald Isle with some Irish inspired ideas here at home! 

Ireland in a Jar  

Guinness Chocolate & Bailey's White Chocolate Truffles

Paper and Lace Jewelry

Ireland in a Jar

Your own little bit of Ireland under glass

A few years ago I made these Irish themed terrariums and I thought I'd give them another go. These are fun to make or give as a gift. A bit of green brightens up March days.

You'll Need:
Large clear jar or container
Small pebbles for drainage
Potting soil
Craft or real moss 
Small scale plants- clover if available 
Oven bake clay (not model Magic!)*
Paints- I found the "enamel" acrylics seemed to work better
Any accessories of your choice- small rocks, twigs, miniature bridges, celtic design costume jewelry
neon glow sticks if desired
Printable labels

* When I made these a while back, I formed the little cottages out of model magic which looked cute at the time but the next day due to the moist environment- especially with the lid on, completely melted into a puddle of a marshmallow-like substance! Live and learn- this year I used oven baked clay!
Form the clay into desired objects. I googled Irish cottages images for inspiration- since many are centuries old they are charmingly imperfect so no need to be too exact.
I also made a tiny bridge and base for my celtic cross which I  found on sale in the jewelry section of my craft store. I used a toothpick to add quick details and texture.
Bake according to directions and paint. You can add a thatched roof by hot gluing raffia or moss.
 I then painted a quick wash of brown over the raffia for truer color and added some quick greenery.
Using pebbles and hot glue "build" a stone wall or two- this takes a little patience. Mine repeatedly fell apart once glue cooled so I made extras. 
 I chose lidded jar from the craft store and an inexpensive cookie jar from Walmart

 Place rocks in bottom of jar for drainage, cover with potting soil and moss and add small scale plants. After calling every nursery in a twenty mile radius I found it was too early in the
season to find shamrocks so I may add some later. I added some silk flowers for color
create your Irish landscape with your accessories

 I added glow sticks for a lucky rainbow
create your Irish landscape with accessories
tie on a blessing, place jar  in appropriate sunlight for the plants you've chosen and display or give away

I'm so thrilled this project was featured in

  the lovely Ivy and Elephants What's it Wednesday 

 the delightful Rooted in Thyme Simple & Sweet Fridays

the charming A Delightsome Life  Home and Garden Thursdays
and  the fabulous The Cozy Little House's  Tweak it Tuesday


Pop over and visit!

Wish I was Here

Don't worry I won't bore anyone with a lengthy slideshow, but here are a few of my favorite pics of some of my favorite places in the emerald isle.
Kylemore Abbey Connemara

local pub: wonderful Irish breakfast but I accidentally ate blood pudding!

Kilronan Castle grounds in classic Irish weather

An Irish Cat
Clouds over Yeats Country

May the Road rise to meet you---
cliffs of Moher

horseback riding Kilarney National Park
 admiring the view
Blarney Castle Grounds
Photos Christina Paul 

Find more pics and St Patrick's ideas and recipes (from myself and others) on my Pinterest boards  the emerald isle and slainte St Patricks day

Guinness Chocolate 

Bailey's White Chocolate Truffles

banner images from Graphics fairy

It's a drink- it's a dessert!

Though beer or stout, admittedly is not my first drink of choice, after visiting the guinness factory in Dublin, I have a new appreciation for the beverage, especially when blended into a dark chocolate truffle confection and dusted with cocoa!
And since one sweet treat is never enough, why not pair it with another classic Irish favorite combined with white chocolate into a Baileys Cream sweet truffle treat.

Guiness bottles through the years, Guinness factory Dublin, Ireland

There are oodles of Guinness and Baileys recipes from savory fondue and stews to cakes and candies but I adapted the guinness truffles from the guinness storehouse.
and the delectable Bailey's White truffle recipe from group recipes.

Prepare truffle mixtures according to recipes 
*I substituted semi-sweet and white chocolate bagged chips for more expensive bar chocolate and a less pricey Irish Cream for the Baileys but feel free to splurge if desired

 You can top the Guinness truffles with a mini pretzel for a classic pub taste combo and add mini Guinness labels

instead of rolling the white truffles into ball shapes- I poured the truffle mixture into some mini glass coffee cups for a take on Irish coffee and dusted with cocoa

Lace and Paper Jewelry
Considering green is one of my favorite colors, it's surprising I don't have many green items in my wardrobe- An admittedly difficult color to wear, the hue usually seems to make me appear slightly seasick. So when March 17th arrives I have to scramble in my closet for anything emerald, sage, celery or citron. An easy solution: Whimsical "jewelry" with a touch of green, incorporating beautiful celtic patterns, vintage images and lace which Ireland is so famous for. No this won't rival the gorgeous handcrafted jewelry you can find overseas - but it's fun to make or give and the price is right.

You'll Need:
Jewelry findings
for the necklace
Scrap or small section of wide lace trim
Modge Podge
Wax paper
for the brooches
a printable or design 
 (from our printable page or your own- I added my monogram but any saying or design will work)
Diamond Glaze or any liquid crystal finish (several companies make this)
Blank Card or card stock

Lace Choker

There are many wonderful lace jewelry tutorials online. I made this simple one using Modge Podge but thinned white glue or fabric stiffener can be used for similar results.
Trim a small section of lace to create bib for necklace in pleasing pattern
I dyed mine in some green food coloring for 10 minutes for a very subtle green and let dry
if desired weave some thin green ribbon through openings 
I snipped a few cuts along the top border of lace to allow for a slight curve when worn around the neck
I trimmed the ribbon and glued the ends into loops to atatch to choker

Paint both sides with Modge Podge, brushing away clumps or bubbles and allow to dry on wax paper. If desired add some dots of sparkly puffy paint. Dry thoroughly

Paper Brooches

A gift and card in one- give someone the Luck of the Irish to wear.

Print design to desired size and leaving a generous border, glue to cardstock or heavy paper.
Create a "frame" around image with metallic puffy paint and let dry. Despite a fine art degree, I have yet to master puffy painting-Thankfully I could trim the less than perfect border once dry.
Fill in surface area with Diamond Glaze and allow to dry to a clear hard finish, removing any bubbles as they form. As usual, I made a few extra to allow for "oopses"

a vintage image gets a lace accent
Cut out carefully and attach pin back. Pop onto a lapel or pin to decorative card stock if desired.
You could also add small loop and wear as a pendant.

The classic Celtic frames are from Dover Publishing and
the fun vintage image is from the Graphics Fairy

Pennywise Fun Tips

Not into hitting the pubs this March 17th? 
Pop in a fun chick flick featuring shots of fabulous Irish landscapes and a cute love story

For Kids:
 Sneak a few drops of green food coloring wherever you can safely- in the milk carton, their scrambled eggs, water bottles- and blame it on the leprechauns

Have kids design a leprechaun trap out of an old shoe box using a few coins as bait- take the bait but leave a sweet treat in it's place

Wishing Everyone the Luck of the Irish all through the Year!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Love is in the Air

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that a good portion of my life was spent well before the advent of many technologies which, today, I'm quite sure, I'd be helpless without (I clearly remember using my Grandmother's old rotary phone and ironically today am completely lost without my cell)
It seems much communication nowadays involves either being texted, tweeted, messaged or friended, so the idea of a handwritten, or even better, handmade, card is especially delightful. 
With that in mind I thought I'd use the popular theme of the heartfelt hand written missive in my projects to celebrate this Valentine's day. Though the actual origin of Valentines day is a bit of a mystery, many trace the card sending frenzy of our modern celebration back to France, inspired by the imprisoned Duke d'Orleans' romantic love letters to his wife. Since even my shopping list would sound more romantic in french I gave a nod to this idea and added some touches a la francais to my "amour" themed decor.

Joyeuse Saint-Valentin

Love Birds Mantle

I thought Valentine's Day would serve as a good excuse to spruce up my mantle (it looked so lonely since the reindeer left) so I repurposed some branches from my yard which I had spray painted white for my Christmas post "A Wing and a Prayer", adding some whimsical romantic and floral touches and of course birds.
These Dollar Store leftover Christmas doves got a rosy makeover thanks to a quick bath in food pink coloring
I dipped each one several times until I was pleased with the color
I used the Neon food coloring set for a truer pink
They will lighten when dry
* If you have cats, they will be very interested in "helping" you with this project
 I then added some accessories with hot glue. I cut a paper doily into a little crown
(you can see a white dove with silver crown in my December Wing and a prayer post) but adorn them any way you like.
I picked up some little birdhouses for $1 each at my craft store. They are so cute and can be re-imagined so many different ways.

Here they are easily transformed into a whimsical avian post offices with glitter, paint, paper and printables. I perched one on a $1 candlestick to add height.

Many of these fun Graphics are from the The Graphics Fairy! A fabulous resource for vintage images!
I added a French "I love You" banner using stick on gold letters on leftover pink damask scrapbook paper hot glued to ribbon with a scrap paper heart

Then I decked the mantle with some faux flowers, raffia, printable vintage letters (on our printables page) and nests and craft moss

Cupid Cupcakes

And to celebrate another Valentine feathered friend, Cupid Cupcakes: These easy "semi-scratch" cupcakes are simply store bought treats adorned with wings and arrows.

You'll need:
frosted cupcakes and/or mini tea cakes - homemade or store bought
Large and mini Marshmallows
white glitter sugar
large toothpicks
fruit roll-ups

 For the Winged Cupcakes

Disclosure: Little Debbie fans probably recognized the heart tea cakes.
The larger cupcakes were from my Giant supermarket bakery - who are far superior bakers to myself 
 Cut large marshmallows (on diagonal into 4 sections) and mini's in half.
Then dip cut sections in sugar sprinkles.
Gently stretch cut pieces to create feather shape. This gets a bit sticky.
Arrange into wing shape, by pressing pieces firmly together, starting with large pieces and adding small cut marshmallows on wing tips. Make extras as some wings will look better than others.

Insert carefully but firmly into frosting. Add a Cupid if desired.
 If they have trouble sticking attach with extra frosting as glue.

For the Arrows

Cut fruit roll-up to form tail of arrow. Press firmly around toothpick and snip edges to create feathery fringe. Insert on an angle into cake.

Insert on an angle into cake.

Enjoy with tea or champagne

Wishing everyone Lots of Love, Happiness and Sweet Treats this Valentines Day