Saturday, April 27, 2013

May Day Tea

The approach of May Day always transports me back to grade school where the holiday was celebrated with much fanfare and festivity. Attending an all girls school, we could revel in this day featuring flowers, romance, ribbons and new outfits with unabashed exuberance. The May Queen and her court were chosen from among the students and ceremoniously crowned as groups of girls danced around a May pole weaving intricate patterns from colorful garland.
Of course that was more than a few years ago, and the event seems antiquated and quaint by today's standards, but I thought I'd revisit the day this year with a Tea featuring a traditional sweet treat and projects celebrating and the symbols of Spring.

May Day Fairy Garden 

I'm not sure zoning would allow a Maypole in my backyard but this mini fairy sized version is a fun alternative and fairly simple to create.
You'll Need:
Wide mouthed container
Potting soil
Rocks for drainage
Small plants, moss, or grasses
Princess wand ( I got mine at the dollar store) or small painted dowel
Floral foam
Assorted ribbon
Faux flowers and accessories
Place rocks in base of container and fill with soil. Place floral foam where Maypole will stand and cover with moss or grass Plant flowers as desired leaving generous "lawn" area for May pole.
I kidnapped a little clay cottage from the irish Terrariums from my Emerald Isle post and perched it among the flowers. 

A plastic princess wand from a dollar or party store makes a great maypole. I chose a white one with pearl and ribbon accents, but a dowel or small stick will do as well. Cut ribbons to desired length and add to top of pole. 

I had some lace dipped in ModgePodge from a previous project and popped that on top as a makeshift crown.
Being indecisive, I then tried a few "faux" flowers instead.

 Children around a MayPole, Ireland 1909 
image from national archives

image from Graphics Fairy
from 1859 French garden Book
May Day traditions date back to the time of the ancient Romans who worshipped the Goddess Flora with a festival of flowers and dancing. Through the centuries the holiday has been reinvented around Europe as a celebration of spring and rebirth. In the opening of Tess of the D'Urbervilles the village girls participate in a May Day parade and dance, wearing white to symbolize purity and holding symbols of new life and fertility. You may want to have a tissue box ready if you watch this somewhat tragic movie but the scenery alone is worth it.

From the 2008 BBC version of Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Syllabub is a recipe dating back to the Tudor age and was thought to be originally made by dairy maids using new fresh Spring cream. There are dozens of variations of this whimsically sounding dessert using different combinations of fruits, flavors and spirits. Some say milk was squirted directly from the cow into a bucket of sweetened wine. Forgoing the use of livestock, I found one of the more simple recipes using storebought cream and white wine from a charming book called Seasonal celebrations

by Tessa Evelegh

Combine 3/4 cup white wine, zest and juice of one orange, superfine sugar in bowl and let sit for 2 hours
(I popped it in the refrigerator)
Whisk 1 1/4 cups fresh cream to soft peaks while slowly adding in wine mixture.
If desired, brush berries,flowers or mint leaves with agave or honey thinned with water.
Sprinkle with white sugar to frost and let dry.
Layer syllabub and garnishes in pretty glasses and serve immediately

The original instruction calls for edible frosted flowers, but not being able to locate any, I opted for sugared berries and mint as a substitute.
I spooned the dessert into mini parfait glasses from the Dollar Store
Find a quiet spot and enjoy

May Day Floral Cones

 Giving small floral gifts to family and neighbors is an old charming May Day custom, whether a small handful of wildflowers or a delightful May basket brimming with spring blooms.
 These dolled up party hats turn into festive floral May cones. 
Add any pretty paper, graphics below if desired and ribbon to hang.
In France Lily's of the Valley are the traditional flower of May Day so I included one, along with a French greeting on these pretty graphics from the graphics Fairy.
These cones make fun party favors as well.
 Wrap stems with plastic wrap and pop into cone for a temporary home.
 In some cultures, cones of flowers are stealthily hung anonymously on doors to surprise recipients. Kids especially love the "sneaky" aspect of this tradition.

Surprise someone

For fun facts, history and authentic Mayday songs visit 
May Day traditions

PennyWise Tips

Create a May crown by attaching fresh or faux flowers to a cardboard headband and crown a May Queen
 (or a few to prevent jealousy)

Serve floral infused teas to carry out the Spring theme and garnish store-bought cookies with fresh mint and fruit

Does your house need a Spring Spruce-up?
Enter our giveaway for a chance to win a beautiful European handcrafted house number from Ramsign. 
Contest open until April 30.  
Details Here or visit previous post

Visit our Your Invited Page for fun Linky Parties

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Giveaway- Charming Ramsign House Numbers

Thanks for Visiting! Our contest is now over.

Ramsign Giveaway
I was so delighted when Ramsign offered one of their charming European style address numbers for a giveaway. These beautifully handcrafted enamel signs can be ordered in an array of styles and colors to enhance a variety of house designs. How fabulous would one be as a housewarming gift?
To enter for a chance to win simply pop over to the Ramsign site where you can admire their gallery of designs, learn about the history of the company and see how these delightful signs are created. Then just leave a comment here on Pennywise stating which style would be your top pick should you be selected as the winner. You can also visit them on facebook for more photos and ideas about how to include these beautiful signs in your decor.

The winner may select any house number from 1-5 digits
(sorry no name signs or address plaques)
A lucky commenter will be picked at random. Once the giveaway is closed, the numbers of comments will be put into a basket (or hat) and one will be randomly picked. The comment corresponding to that number will be the winner. Not terribly high tech I'm afraid, but should do the trick. Sorry friends and relatives don't count. Ramsign will contact winner via email to take order. 
Contest open through April 30th

A road to a friend's house is never long   Danish Proverb
assorted color palettes create different looks
A unique accent for interiors too
not just for addresses
why not order one featuring the year you were married?

Good Luck!

PennyWise Housewarming tips
Have a friend moving into a new home?
Giving housewarming gifts is a long time honored tradition and each culture has it's own unique customs. Some believe in giving a broom to sweep away evil or salt for good fortune. Why not create a fun gift basket featuring a bit more desirable gifts thought to bring good luck and happiness to the new homeowners.
you can reprint this or enclose your own gift tag
images from graphics fairy

A bird may be ever so small, it always seeks a nest of its own
Danish Proverb


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tea on the Titanic

Several years ago while browsing used cookbooks online I came across the most fascinating find titled Last Dinner on the Titanic.
 I had tentatively reserved it in my "wish list" for a while as I was worried there was something a bit macabre about recreating soups and desserts that were served on the evening of such a tragic event. But soon the romance and splendor of the era of transatlantic travel won me over, I clicked "buy" and days later was poring over the captivating old photographs, intriguing historical facts, and authentic recipes.
April 14th marks one hundred and one years since the fateful sinking (alas I hadn't begun blogging for the century mark).While countless people around the world will commemorate this historical date with a variety dinners, ceremonies and events, I figured I'd honor the occasion this year in one of my favorite ways, having a tea party.

Regular readers will note that I borrowed some ideas and props from my Downton Abbey Tea Party post, both being of the Edwardian era- (in fact Downton fans will remember how the opening episode announces the news of Titanic's sinking). History buffs take heed, as with the Downton Tea, this post is more of a fun, whimsical nod to the glamour of an era, and not in any way an  accurate portrayal.

Titanic Teacup

Many companies currently create fine Titanic inspired china, reproducing with exacting detail, the ship's famous patterns. Of course these can be quite pricey; I spotted one tea cup and saucer selling for over $150. So wanting first class china on a steerage budget,  I popped out to the thrift store for some more economical wares to spruce up easily with some china friendly paint. 

You'll need:
teacups and saucers- check they are not priceless heirlooms
china friendly paint
carbon paper
printable logo
small paint brush
 In the interest of time, I simply painted the recognizable White Star's logo onto simple but elegant gold edged serving ware, fitting somewhere in the middle of the pattern class hierarchy
 I found this basic white and gold almost complete china set at a thrift store- 
they just needed a bath
Using carbon paper I transferred the logo to the center of the plate and on cup
just paint in design- mistakes can be easily wiped away while still wet

Authentic White Star china patterns according to class


While actual Titanic dinner and luncheon menus have survived, I was unable to find much detail about what was served for afternoon Tea on this grand ship. Since first class passengers affectionately referred to the ship's elegant dining rooms as the "Ritz", I borrowed menu ideas from the tea served at the landlocked version of the very luxurious namesake.

The tea menu is based on an image from an actual dinner menu which survived the sinking in a passenger's purse. Employing a bit of computer magic I replaced the grilled mutton and potted shrimp with some classic tea time fare. Visit to see the original menu, what it sold for at auction and more fascinating facts.
With no staff of culinary masters on hand in my kitchen, I simply gave some"supermarket" eclairs a dusting of powdered sugar and served with berries

Tea in the Reception Room

reception room: sister ship Olympia

My own house boasts less than Titanic proportions but I added a bit period grandeur using some free samples of plastic ceiling tile I had from a project yet to be started eons ago.
I simply gave them a quick dusting of ivory spray paint to enrich the plastic finish and attached with tape to a display board.

Of course one needs a porthole, or in this case a round craft store mirror. After a few attempts at painting a sea view (the paint didnt cooperate) I settled for a few swipes of paint to simulate a reflection.
Tea is served

fun fact: the Titanic set sail with 800 lbs of tea and 3,000 tea cups!

Greetings from....

A fun way to reinforce the Titanic theme is by setting up small vignettes in different areas of your house. Imagining a passenger quietly writing letters to fill the long days at sea, I used some vintage postcard graphics to create cards that might have relayed a travelers adventures to those back home.
Some ladylike touches help create character

just love this touching early 1900's postcard from The Graphics Fairy

playing with the Sepia effect again- instant antiquity

Fun Fact: 3 dogs survived the sinking.  Although considered good luck and great rodent control, no cats had been aboard the Titanic

Titanic floating Lantern in a Jar

I love adding little touches of light to a setting even in the afternoon. This is an easy and unique project to accent a table or entryway. In January I created a Polar Bear Party party and used plastic wrap and water to simulate an icy arctic sea: an ingenious idea from Big Red Kitchen. Here the addition of a miniature floating Titanic image and a flameless votive create an iceberg laden tabletop seascape.

You'll need:
Titanic image (there is one on our printables page)
clear plastic cup
flameless votive
plastic wrap
clear jar or container

These instructions are similar to those of my Chinese floating lanterns
Cut out image of ship.
 Trim cup to about 1" height being careful of sharp edges. 
I cut two small slits in sides of plastic and slid in ship so it stood upright
Pop in a votive as close to center as possible to water test. If it is seaworthy continue.
 using a pin I created "windows" for the votive light to shine through

by day
by night

Crumple plastic wrap and submerge in water to create an icy sea
If you are hosting an evening event several votives will create a nice glow

Experiment with different containers-
At left I used an apothecary jar and at right the Titanic sets sail in a trifle bowl

PennyWise Titanic Tips

It doesn't take guests in full costume to set the elegant mood. Provide a box of hats, jewelry and gloves to add some Edwardian glam to your event and supply fun photo opportunities.

The Titanic orchestra was said to heroically continue to play while the ship went down. Adding period background music is a fun and easy way to set the tone. Light classical, popular show tunes from the day and even the "new" ragtime and jazz were popular. Check this delightful site for authentic music