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 Aboutfood.com

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!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Yuletide Tour: Winterthur Museum

 This March I received a delightful birthday gift from my Aunt- tickets to an exhibit of Downton Abbey Costumes at the lovely Winterthur Museum in Delaware. Turns out our scheduling conflicts and delays worked to our advantage as, visiting just this past week, we were also luckily able to catch the museum's festive Holiday Yuletide Tour. 
This vast elegant estate, formerly home of the du Ponts, boasts extensive gardens, fascinating collections of American antiques and a busy research library. Although my camera sadly was being uncooperative, I thought I'd share a few photos anyway, and to our Downton fans, I'll be including photos from the wonderful exhibit in a future post.
for more information on the museum and exhibits visit

The blue tree accented with daffodils echoes flowers on the grounds come spring

 An avid horticulturist, du Pont no doubt would have been pleased this floral tree brimming with hydrangeas and peonies

a sweet feather tree and tea by the fire

the "Downton" tree is adorned with pearls, crowns and little bells (shall we ring for Carson)
Gifts arranged in labeled individual baskets- such a charming idea

 Holiday music of the day
 a spot of tea
The soaring conservatory features a towering tree and pops of red poinsettias

Wishing everyone 
Joys of the Season

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Home for the holidays: Mason Jar Elf Cottage

While the wildly popular "Elf on a Shelf" has taken the world by storm in recent holiday seasons, his pint sized ancestors have been part of folklore in cultures around the world for centuries. From magical to mischievous, in a variety of incarnations and called by different names, these tiny friends seem to capture our imaginations especially around the winter holidays. 
So whether you share your home with a gnome, Nisse, Elf or Brownie or two, you can keep the wee folk warm and toasty this season in their own cottages fashioned from repurposed jars and basic craft supplies.
clockwise from top paintings by Swedish artist Jenny Nystrom
vintage Spanish Christmas Card found on Pinterest
Ein Apfelchen furs Rentier (An apple for the Reindeer)
Foto: Getty Images / Per Breiehagen

You'll Need:
Assorted jars, preferably with smooth sides
 multi surface (glass friendly) craft paint
clear or white glitter
faux wood contact or decorative paper
party hats
faux moss, snow, printables, accessories as desired
flameless votives
I first rinsed the jars and allowed to dry.
I then decided on a design and painted around window frames or any area I wished to remain clear first.
Then I filled in around clear areas with colors of choice (I chose frosty white with brown trim) this took two coats.
While paint was wet I sprinkled with glitter for a snowy finish.
I fashioned doors out of faux wood paper (Modge podged onto sturdy cardstock) but for larger projects you could opt for a popsicle stick elf door like the version I shared on my Scandinavian Christmas post
The roof was simply faux wood paper attached to party hats (left over from my Autumn Apple cones) or folded to form a roof shape.
Moss and a printable sign add the finishing touches.
Display with wintry props and forest friends
Pop in a flameless votive or two (I used salad tongs for the tall one)

Pennywise is now on Youtube: our elf cottage tutorial below

Wishing everyone the joys wonders of the Winter Season!

Don't Like to Paint?
I adapted this idea from a toadstool cottage -(a jar candle covered with polymer clay) I found online which is adorable. Unfortunately for me the instructions are in Chinese but the step by step photos are pretty clear.

Wishing everyone the joys wonders of the Winter Season!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing all our U.S. readers the Happiest of Thanksgivings!

Many Thanks from PennyWise for all your kind comments, input, and support.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

An Apple a Day: Easy Autumn Baked Apple Chips

It seems the humble apple suddenly takes on a sort of magic in the Autumn; baked into pies and cobblers, warmed as mulled cider or drizzled with caramel it's suddenly the must-have flavor to accompany hay rides, firesides and leaf raking. While never one to turn down these gloriously gooey sugar laden apple sweets, I found dozens of incredibly easy healthier apple snack recipes like these chips on Pinterest. 
I adapted this delicious one from kosher on a budget but there's also a pear version I'm dying to try from kleinworth & co. 

Cinnamon Sugar Baked Apple Chips

I experimented a bit as this is really a non-recipe, recipe. 

 2 large apples (I made a smaller batch but can it be doubled)
cinnamon for sprinkling 
1 Teaspoon sugar
Thinly slice apples into chips. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and top with sugar
 arrange on parchment lined cookie sheet
Bake at 250 degrees 1 1/2 -2 hours, depending on oven 
flip once or twice, until light golden brown and chip-like.
(It's a long cooking time but makes the house smell divine) 

I then popped them in festive cones fashioned from party hats, decorative paper and DIY labels. 
 I created these using images from the Graphics Fairy and added type (one in french for gourmet flair)

For cones, simply remove elastic and unfold party hat to use as template to cut decorative paper

Fold and secure paper into cone shape if sturdy enough or if lightweight paper place over hat for extra support. Add images or embellishments if desired with tape or hot glue. I cut the edges of  natural coffee filters and added as trim

line cone with wax paper and fill with chips and display in a basket of you like.

"Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits"                         

                            Samuel Butler

Options and Add-ins
Toss with raisins, dates or toasted walnuts for fall trail mix
Serve on a platter with greek honey yogurt for dipping

Thanks for Visiting and wishing everyone a Happy Fall! 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween: Easy Edible Pet ghosts

Browsing the Halloween aisles last season I ran into the most adorable Pet Ghosts in a jar. 
Of course I decided to run home and create my own DIY version with craft supplies I had on hand. It was such fun to make I thought I'd make mini simpler (but edible) candy versions to give to my favorite little trick or treaters this year.

You'll need
Ghost peeps
Candy corn or other small treats
mini graham cracker pie crust
meltable chocolate
Clear plastic cups in appropriate size 
Printable labels 

Melt chocolate according to directions. I used light cocoa but orange or yellow would be fun too.
Spoon into crusts and insert ghosts (Be sure they are standing up straight) and add extra candies of your choice. Let cool and harden completely

top with a plastic cup (these can be taped on if transporting) and add label if desired
Or top with a bat ring and bead for an impromptu handle if age appropriate. Fancy shaped cups would be or cups with patterns could be fun too. 

A reader also suggested using chocolate pudding or pie filling in place of the melted chocolate and popping in ghosts before serving (refrigerating ghost peeps can harden them)

not too scary labels for little ones

or for serving a tableful

Last year's non-edible version Here

Wishing everyone a Hauntingly
 Happy Halloween

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Enchanting Brew: A Witches' Tea party

 If anyone knows how to throw a party, it's Vanessa Valencia from 
A Fanciful Twist I was delighted to participate in her Mad Tea Party tea party this summer so when I heard she was hosting a Halloween Blog Party I jumped at the chance to take part.
While this is the season for stirring up all sorts of gore and ghoulish magic I thought I'd opt for a less terrifying fete and host an enchanting witches' afternoon tea.
With some scarily simple DIY's, a few hauntingly appropos props and easy semi-scratch recipes it's fun to delight your guests with a bewitching twist on teatime tradition.
Setting the Table
There's a  fabulous array of specialty Halloween tableware available for sale in shops and online (some at scarily steep prices) but it's lots of fun to create your own spooktacular dessert dishes without eating into your candy budget. 
This under glass decoupage technique has been around for ages and can be customized to the occasion using your favorite paper images, or even fabrics and trim and paint. 
I made a burlap Thanksgiving version you can see here

You'll Need
Clear glass plates of desired size 
(dollar stores often carry these)
Paper printable or image of choice
Glass friendly paint
 I kept plates fairly simple using a printable I created with with spooky lettering and Gothic inspired images from The Graphics Fairy I cut out each design to desired size and generously coated the reverse of the plate with Modge Podge. I then firmly but gently attached images to back of plate smoothing often to remove any air bubbles. 
I allowed plenty of time for the plates to dry (several hours) before spritzing the backs with a coat of glass friendly spray paint. I chose one which simulates gold plate for an elegant touch.Once everything is set, a coat of clear varnish can be sprayed on back for extra protection 
Alternately printables could simply be placed under glass plates as temporary decor.

Please note: these dishes are in no way dishwasher safe and should only be wiped gently with a cloth to clean.

Hats Required

Of course a proper hat is a must for any afternoon tea and these downsized  versions of classic witches toppers give a nod to the wildly popular fascinator trend and are lots of fun to put together.
You'll Need
Plastic headbands or hair clips
Assorted Craft supplies which can include:
Small witch hats
decorative trim, tulle, hot glue, faux jewels, glitter, accents, ribbons

This project is really anything goes! I started using a couple small witch hats I found at my craft shop but you can create your own using paper or by cutting down paper party hats and adding a round brim.
I simply adorned mine with lace, paper, glitter and odds and ends.
I then either hot glued to a headband on a slight angle or attached to barrettes or combs. 

On the Menu 

While any fun Halloween recipes could work on the menu, in keeping with the "ladylike" teatime theme, I chose more delicately and subtly spooky fare than all out ghoulish or gory treats. I shared a couple here.

Spiderweb Deviled Eggs
This Classic party staple gets a seasonal twist using crackled hard boiled eggs, which are so popular around Halloween. To showcase the "webs" simply use your favorite deviled recipe and serve vertically on egg cups.  Store bought pumpkin spice cream cheese on cocktail size brown bread make cute pumpkin tea sand"witches" accompaniments.

There are different ways to achieve this crackled look (Martha has one using blueberries) but I tried this version from babble.com which uses frozen cherries for coloring. I've also read that food coloring or dark tea can also be substituted as the flavor is not detected. 

Bats in your Belfry Chocolate Bat 
Cake Toppers
Simple cakes or cupcakes (store bought or homemade) can get an easy accent with chocolate bats. I had seen this clever technique with adorable chocolate butterflies on the blog We lived happily ever after so thought I'd "wing" it with bats.
You'll Need
Frosted Cake or cupcakes
(I bought an angel food cake and added an icing glaze)
black choco melts 

wax paper
thick hardback books

Melt chocolate disks according to instructions and spoon into pastry bag, squeeze bottle or plastic baggie with corner snipped off.

 If desired sketch or print out bat templates, fold in half pressing crease firmly and center between open pages so wings arch outward creating dimension
Fold wax papers same way and place over template. Carefully trace template using melted chocolate, filling in silhouette and let cool completely. Once hardened gently lift and peel wax paper from back and attach to cake using icing.
The bat gate found at my craft store was really designed for miniature gardens

Bewitching animals and feathered friends join the party, resting amid natural elements. A bottle of "food coloring" potion adds a touch of magic.

A whimsical nest of pearls and timeworn books add interest

and the ladies arrive

Wishing everyone the Most Enchanting of holidays!
 Visit the delightful A fanciful Twist for more Halloween joys
links to participating bloggers
For these and other ideas pop over to our previous Pennywise Halloween Posts
 DIY Crystal Ball and Raven globes on nevermore 
Whimsical Hot Air Balloons when-pumpkins-fly
a friendly spirit from pet-ghost-in-jar