Friday, May 24, 2013

Creature Comforts

Whenever I return from any shopping excursion, I can count on my cat Chloe to immediately hop into shopping bags, commandeer  boxes, and investigate our newest purchases; her latest fascination being one of those repurposed boxes used in place of shopping bags at Costco and big box stores.
As much as I enjoy having "eclectic" decor, a cardboard dish soap box just wasn't cutting it in our living room and as our beloved feline showed no sign of relinquishing her new favorite nap time spot, we popped a blanket in it for the time being and figured a remodel was our best bet.

The smallest feline is a masterpiece
          Leonardo da Vinci

I used 18th century garden follies as inspiration (I know, it's a stretch)
These delightfully detailed renderings are from

Feline Folly

I used:
the aforementioned sturdy cardboard box
decorative wood accent
joint compound 
assorted paint
Flexible moulding
old Christmas ornament for finial
cat figurine, mini artwork and accessories
scrap faux fur and gold trim
assorted spray paint
some of the supplies
I first cut an opening below the handles to enlarge the  "windows"
I then coated the box with joint compound to create a stucco-like texture and let dry thoroughly
 (the instructions said 24 hours). Once dry I spritzed the box lightly with some left over faux stone spray outside and a quick coat of white on the interior.
Chance of rain brought my painting projects into the makeshift studio/garage. I sprayed the moulding and finial and a plastic cup with hammered copper and gold 
I cut the moulding in half with a small hand saw (no need for perfection- the ends won't be visible, and inserted them corner to corner to create an arched roof, discreetly attached in place with clear shipping tape. 
Using hot glue, I attached a spruced up plastic cup and holiday ornament finial. I also spray painted part of an old dimensional a wall paper border the same coppery color and ran it around the top with glue. Finally, I popped the wood accent over the entryway.
 The Dollar Store Cat was cute but got a quick spray of white and stone paint and a small flower pot pedestal for a more garden statue finish. I then added a scrap of a faux $2 fur coat from a thrift store's discount room and a framed mini color copy of one of my cat paintings.

I glued on white drinking straws as window panes. I accessorized for curb appeal and waited to see if the "client" was pleased.
more inspiration:
Amazing luxury pet beds from $145-$5,500 (yes that's thousand)
Love Pets of all kinds?
Pop over to Annies 13th Birthday and Pet Party  to see the most adorable four footed guest list at 

Teatime with Kitty

Created using images from Graphics Fairy
While there are dozens of doggie treat recipes for fido, I struggled to find as many homemade options for his feline friends. Luckily I stumbled onto this site called featuring a menu of cat pleasing treats and even catnip tea! Thus the Teatime with Kitty idea was born.
Mousy Crackers are a hit
The best of both worlds: a tuna flavored "mouse" cookie. Using the Cat Cracker recipe, I molded the dough into rough mice shapes and added treats for ears before baking. While admittedly not the finest looking rodent, the treats were met with some approval from our furry friends. I also cut much smaller more snackable size treats from the same recipe.
Always check with your vet to be sure homemade treats are ok for your furry friend- 
some may have food sensitivities

Being naturally quite shy, Angel took her catnip tea under the dining room table

I left the treats, covered on the kitchen counter unattended, and when my husband arrived home, accustomed to my unusual culinary creations being left about, he unknowingly "sampled" one. Apparently they are not as palatable to humans. 

Fun Cat Fact:

Many sources, including confirm that not only was Winston Churchill a fan of cats, but that he would on occasion have his feline friend sit in on cabinet meetings and at times at the dining table.

PennyWise Tips

If a pampered Pooch is also on your guest list you can whip up these easy Dog treats in a Jar from our holiday Not-a Creature-was-Stirring post- just click link for details and instructions.

Or perhaps you might like to celebrate your beloved pet with an easy Pet Sihouette made with scrapbook paper on mini canvases or old jar lids.

I'll be linking up to Pink Saturday and more fun parties. Check out our "You're Invited Page

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On the Way to Cape May: Tea by the Sea

Angel of the Sea B&B: from top left- exterior, sign with namesake's mermaid angel, tea cups and saucer collection, view from the porch. photos Cpaul2013
While any summer day at the beach is a delight, I find what could be called the "off-season" is one of my favorite times to escape to the seaside. These short weeks just before the rush of tourists arrive or just after the last of the crowds dissipates at summers end, when the weather is still sunny but mild, are perfect for exploring the quiet beaches and local area charm. 
Recently, I was lucky to be treated to a quick Spring girls getaway- (Mother, Aunt, and friend in tow) to the charming town of Cape May NJ., known for it's history, (one of the oldest seaside resorts) galleries and shops, and especially its delightful Victorian architecture.

 We stayed at a charming historic B&B called Angel of the Sea which hosted afternoon tea on the lovely open porches. Of course, once back home, this served as inspiration for a by-the-sea themed tea party featuring ocean inspired sweet treats to kick off summer, even in my landlocked backyard. (Plus I had bought an adorable shell sugar & creamer set for $5.59 I was itching to use)

On the Menu: Sand Dollar cookies, Pearl shortbreads, Sea Glass Candy and assorted hot and iced herbal teas

I used simple blue and white tea cups
Casually mismatched china  (I don't have a matching set of anything anyway) and a wicker basket gives a relaxed beachy feel. A scrap of blue lace picks up the color scheme.

Sea Glass Candy

Sea Glass Candy in brown sugar "sand"

It's amazing how something as undesirable as broken glass becomes somehow enchanting after a long tumble about in the waves. As a child finding a magical piece of sea glass was akin to finding a precious jewel. So why not pay homage to these beach-combing gems with a sweet and pretty treat.
 A quick internet search found countless recipes to create a sea glass candy that mimics the real thing. Some recipes call for boiling down sugar syrup but past experiences have put me off that process (yes candy thermometers can explode!) so I found a shortcut version using colored hard candy and powdered sugar. 
beachgirl image from graphics fairy

You'll Need:
hard candy in appropriate colors
powdered sugar
cooking spray

Simply line a cookie tray with foil and spritz with cooking spray and arrange candy separating by color. (Large candies can be crushed slightly)
Melt in a 350 degree preheated oven and check constantly.
In 2-5 minutes candy should be melted into puddles.
Carefully remove and when cool, break into pieces. Be careful to remove sharp edges.
Sift powder sugar over candy and toss lightlty to coat pieces. Rub off extra sugar with paper towel to give slightly opaque finish. Nestle the candy in brown sugar "sand" to display if desired.
This is the process I used for my iceberg toppers for my Polar Bear Club party, to see a tutorial with photos click here pennywiseblog polar bear club

Place in a jar and label, be careful not to display the real thing in an accessible spot to avoid confusion, especially around kids. Not suitable for small children.

vintage postcard

Seaside Cookies

Pearl Shortbreads  * Sand Dollar Cookies

There so many amazing recipes for realistic shell and beach theme cookies using specific pans, professional baking ingredients and advanced kitchen skills. Short on all of those, I chose some much simpler ideas that still give a nod to the treasures of the sea. These are semi-scratch using store-bought treats as the starting point and just require some assembly.
To see the inspiration cookies or try more challenging recipes visit these delightful blogs (scroll down for English), and for cute kid clamshell cookies

Pearl Shortbreads

You'll Need:
you favorite shell-like cookie ( I used inexpensive shortbread)
any color flavored icing
white coated chocolate candy- (I used white candies from white and green coconut M&M's)

Sand Dollar Cookies

You'll Need:
round thin cookie 
white meltable chocolate
slivered almonds

The ingredients: almonds, white chocolate, butter cookies 
(the elves are making an all natural cookie now-woopee)

Simple pleasures: biking on a foggy morning or relaxing on the porch

Vintage photo exitzero
With full length dresses and hats and parasols, I suppose they didn't worry about sunburn in those days

Known as Painted Ladies, Cape May boasts streets lined with beautiful candy colored historic homes with "gingerbread" accents. 
Some of Cape May's best known landmarks:
The famous Pink House
 Historic Chalfont Hotel
Stately Congress Hall

PennyWise Tips

For fun and fascinating facts about this historic seaside resort visit the Cape May Historical Museum  and Genealogy Society

When creating a tablescape, I always "shop" around my house for items to use first
I popped some shells and a flameless candle in an IKEA outdoor lantern for a quick display 

And a birdhouse with a nautical topper which I had in the guest room adds to the theme

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cheers! Pink Champagne Cake for Mother's Day

Traditional flavored cakes might work for most occasions but why not celebrate Mom's special day with a rosy hued confection featuring something a bit more spirited. Bubbly pink champagne, creamy frosting and sweet light cake all come together to create this heavenly old fashioned treat.

There is much controversy in the culinary world over what constitutes an authentic Pink Champagne cake and dozens of recipes online. I found this easy semi-scratch recipe using a cake mix base for those of us with less advanced baking skills: 

image from Graphics Fairy

 I feel less guilty using an all natural cake mix despite adding food coloring
A note to purists, I subbed budget friendly pink sparkling wine for the champagne

 In the spirit of recycling I borrowed some leftover pink hued doves, (dyed in food coloring)
pink damask paper and gold letters used in my Love is in the Air Valentine Post 
Since my Mother loves birds these worked well and were perfect with the color scheme, but butterflies or flowers would be nice accents as well.

Add some sparkle with sugar pink pearls and white sprinkles
and a "Mum" ribbon banner on bamboo skewers
Simple and quick for those with limited confectionery skills

 Simple swirls of frosting

Serve with Tea in an elegant (yard sale) cup

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while,

 but their hearts forever. 

 ~Author Unknown

PennyWise Tips

Think Pink: Accent your table with pink flowers, ribbons, a vintage birdcage and of course a bottle of bubbly. This is a fun cake for milestone birthdays and other celebrations too

You might want to include a non-alcoholic dessert for any younger guests or those avoiding alcohol. 

This is also a wonderful day to celebrate any woman (teacher, coach, mentor, friend) who has been like a Mother or a "Mom in spirit" to you.

check out this weeks fun Linky Parties our you're invited page