Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tea Pirates: We Created a Teapot Racer

Teapot racing is the latest craze to sweep through the steampunk community. It is a remote control car obstacle corse with a lot of creativity thrown in.

The racer must contain a teapot, but other decorative touches are up to the owner of each vehicle.

The sport was started in New Zealand, so let some New Zealanders show you how it's done:

I saw some videos of teapot racing on Facebook and showed them to Blaze, who was immediately excited. There didn't seem to be any question about it, we had to make a teapot racer.

A couple days of brainstorming later, we decided we wanted to be Tea Pirates.

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We started out with the cheapest toy, tin tea set we could find.

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Then, Blaze spray painted the entire set black.

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We found a good deal on a remote control monster truck on Amazon. It was listed as used, but had in fact, never been taken out of it's box before. Only the box had been damaged.

Blaze was very excited to take it out for a test drive as soon as it arrived:

The body of the car turned out to be easy to remove, leaving a platform that was perfect for attaching the tea tray.

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The little tin tea tray was not only the perfect size for this, but it was flimsy enough that putting holes in it for screws was no problem.

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Blaze enjoyed doing the big stuff like spray painting and bolting on the tray, but then it was my turn to take over. I have fun doing the tiny detail work.

We named our ship (modified monster truck) the Earl Grey and decided it needed a crew.

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The crew consists of Captain Green, his daughter, Jasmine, Mr. Brewer, and Mr. Baker.

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The completed teapot racer:

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They mostly raid ships belonging to the East India Tea Company.

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While I was busy working on decorating the Earl Grey, a few days ago, Blaze was outside creating an armada of magnolia leaf ships that looked like they were about to attack the house. Destroying that fleet of leaf ships is what Blaze wanted to do as soon as I told him the teapot racer was complete and he could play with it.

The maiden voyage of the Earl Grey was not a gentle one, but nothing fell off, so I'm pleased.

Watching the teenager and I build our racer has caused my husband to become interested in building one of his own. He hasn't started work on one, yet, but he has a good idea, so this story may have a sequel in the future.

For more information about teapot racing, please visit Splendid Teapot Racing USA on Facebook


Splendid Tea Pot Racing NZ

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Little Chalkboard Buffet Cards

This week's impulse purchase was little picture frame chalkboards at Michael's craft store. They were only $1.19 a piece. They came in a very unattractive grey color, but that didn't bother me, because I have some spray paint and metallic leaf paint leftover from other projects.

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The frames were just hot glued to the chalkboard, so separating the two parts just required a little pressure (one had already come apart while still in the packaging, which is how I knew this step was going to be easy).

I sprayed all the frames with black plastic paint. I have found that other paints adhere better to plastic if a layer of paint intended for plastic is used as a base coat. I left one frame solid black and used a variety of metallic paints on the others.

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When the paint was dry, I used Super Glue Gel to reattach the chalkboards to the frames.

These make great reusable labels for food at a potluck, cocktail party, tea party, or buffet.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Neverwhere Tea Party

It's time for the second installment of  #Teapot Tuesday.

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This time, the featured teapot and all of the dishes are Noritake China, made in Japan. The pattern is "Candice". My husband inherited these, his mother's best china, when she passed away.

The featured book for this tea party is Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

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The passage from the book, which provides the perfect menu for a tea party, is the reception at the British Museum for the opening of the Angels Over England exhibit.

       "And then, with more enthusiasm, she said, 'Food!' She descended on the canapes like a small, smut-nosed girl in a too-large leather jacket who has not eaten properly for sometime. Enormous quantities of food were immediately crammed into her mouth, masticated and swallowed, while at the same time, the more substantial sandwiches were wrapped in paper napkins and placed into her pockets. Then, with a paper plate heaped high with chicken legs, melon slices, mushroom vol-au-vents, caviar puffs, and small venison sausages, she began to circle the room, staring intently at each and every angelic artifact.
       Richard trailed along behind her, with a Brie and fennel sandwich and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice."

                               - Chapter 9

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The menu:

Mushroom Vol Au Vents

Caviar puffs

"Little Smokies" sausages (little venison sausages are not so easy to find, so little smoked sausages were substituted)

Brie and fennel sandwiches

Melon slices and fresh strawberries

The Beast of London gingerbread cookies

Mint green tea

Orange juice for people who do not wish to have tea

The mint green tea was chosen because of the green colored restorative drink that Richard is given.

         "Richard knocked back the green liquid, which tasted of thyme and peppermint and winter mornings."

                         - Chapter 10

Puff Pastry Cups (needed for the next two recipes):

Defrost frozen puff pastry dough. It should still be cold, but no longer frozen. I took my dough out of the freezer and placed it in the refrigerator over night, then may the pastry cups in the morning. You can also just set the box of dough out on the kitchen counter for a couple hours to defrost.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make egg wash by whisking 1 egg yolk with 1 Tablespoon cold water.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface.

Use a 2-inch round cookie or biscuit cutter to cut as many circles as you can out of the dough. Then, use a 1-inch circle to cut a smaller circle out of the center of half the larger circles. Brush the large, solid dough circles with the egg wash and place a ring-shaped circle on top. Make the edges match. Move the completed dough cup to a parchment covered baking pan and brush the tops with egg wash.

Bake for 12 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes, before scooping any excess pastry from the center of the cups. I found that a grapefruit spoon is a very handy tool for removing the excess puff pastry without damaging the cup.

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Mushroom Vol Au Vents:

2 Tablespoons butter

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 pound mushrooms, roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 heaping tablespoon of finely cut fresh chives

3 Tablespoons brandy

1/2 Cup heavy cream

3 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional fresh chives for garnish (optional)

In a large frying pan, saute the mushrooms in the butter and olive oil until they start to soften. Add garlic, chives, and brandy. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, stirring all the time. Add cream and parmesan cheese. stir and cook until the cream thickens. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper. Spoon mushrooms into the puff pastry cups and serve.

Caviar Puffs:

4-ounces softened cream cheese

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4-ounce package of thinly slice smoked salmon, cut into 12 pieces

Black caviar

Fresh dill for garnish

Mix cream cheese, lemon juice, and pepper together and use the mixture to fill 12 puff pastry cases. Roll up a piece of salmon and stick it into the cheese in one pastry cups. Place a dab of caviar (about an 1/8 of a teaspoon) in front of the salmon. Garnish with a small sprig of dill, also stuck into the cheese.

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Roasted Fennel:

2 fennel bulbs

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of course sea salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut each fennel bulb in half and remove the core. Cut each half-bulb into 4 wedges and place them in a bowl with the olive oil. Toss until well coated with oil. Spread the fennel on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake 30-40 minutes.

The Brie and fennel sandwiches in the photograph are just made using plain thin sliced white bread. They were alright, but not as good as I had hoped. The next day, I tried making them again as grilled sandwiches, and they were beyond amazing! As DH said, "What isn't better when it's fried in butter?!" But, this is incredible, warm roasted fennel with melted Brie oozing out of the edges of the sandwich!

There was nothing sweet mentioned in the description of the reception, but I like to have something sweet at a tea party, so I took my inspiration from "London Below" and made boar shaped gingerbread cookies to represent "The Beast of London". London Below seems quite old fashion and gingerbread seems like a very old fashion type of cookie to me, which is why I chose it.

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The gingerbread cookie recipe can be found here:

The red eyes for the boar are cinnamon "Red Hots" and the tusks are slivered almonds. Both should be added to the cookies before baking.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Homeschool Chemistry

Blaze attended a chemistry class for homeschoolers this morning at Wakulla Springs State Park.

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The mom who hosted the activity did a fantastic job of taking a subject that could have been confusing and presenting it in a simple way that children of all ages could understand. She also provided a fun hands-on activity for the children to do in small groups.

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They learned about acids and bases, using red cabbage juice to test the PH of a variety of substances.

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After the lesson, everyone, even the wildlife, took refuge from the heat (the heat index was over 100 degrees F. yet again today) in the spring water.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Nemo's Tea Party

One of the pages I follow on Facebook claims that #TeapotTuesday is a thing. We have several teapots, so I decided I'd play along, by posting literature based tea party ideas. It's too much work to do every week, but I figure I can do it once a month, until I run out of teapots to feature.

This week, we have a plain white "Betty" style teapot with teacups and plates from the "From the Deep" dinnerware collection for a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, theme.

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There are no little sandwiches at this tea party, because Nemo is described as serving no bread.

“I must say, however, that there was neither bread nor wine..."

 "Amongst the dishes which were brought to us, I recognised several fish delicately dressed; but of some, although excellent, I could give no opinion, neither could I tell to what kingdom they belonged, whether animal or vegetable.”

This is a chance to be creative with seafood. 

The seafood does not have to make this tea party prohibitively expensive. A couple cans and a small package of lox is all I needed to create this. 

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I included seaweed in our food by making sushi and using rice crackers that included tiny bits of seaweed (found in the International foods section of our regular grocery store). 

"My cook is a clever fellow, who excels in dressing these various products of the ocean. Taste all these dishes. Here is a preserve of sea-cucumber, which a Malay would declare to be unrivalled in the world; here is a cream, of which the milk has been furnished by the cetacea, and the sugar by the great fucus of the North Sea; and, lastly, permit me to offer you some preserve of anemones, which is equal to that of the most delicious fruits.”

I substituted a large English cucumber for the sea-cucumber mentioned in the book. The cucumber was used both in the sushi and as a substitute for crackers or bread. 

The foods served at a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea tea party do not need to have a single culture of origin, since the Nautilus travels around the world. Products of the sea are the unifying theme.

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A map of Nemo's travels during the course of the book. 

Our Menu:

Homemade sushi (ours have thin strips of lightly steamed carrots, thin strips of fresh cucumber, and avocado as the filling)

Hummus with bell pepper octopus, served with sliced cucumber and rice crackers for dipping

Rice crackers with cream cheese and lox

Crab cups

Cucumber slices with curried shrimp

Coconut Macaroons

Chocolate sea shells

Black tea

Sushi Rice in a Rice Cooker

1 1/2 Cups sushi rice (rinsed two or three times) 

2 Cups water

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Cook 1 1/2 cups of rice with 2 cups of water. When the machine beeps, indicating that the rice is done cooking, add the sugar, vinegar, and salt. Stir until it is all blended together. Let cool until you can handle the rice with your hands. Dampen you hands with water when handling sushi rice or sticky rice, to keep the rice from sticking to you. 

Curried Shrimp

3 Tablespoons of Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (I have found that it is easier to grate if frozen)

1 4-ounce can of tiny shrimp, drained

Additional cilantro leaves as garnish (optional)

Mix everything together and served on crackers or cucumber slices.

Garnish each appetizer with a single cilantro leaf (optional)

Can be made a day in advance. Refrigerate in an air-tight container and stir before using.

Crab Cups

4-ounces of softened cream cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 can (6-ounces) of crab meat, drained

dash of salt

2 boxes (15 cups each) of frozen mini fillo cups

extra green onion for garnish

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Use a mixer to beat the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce together. Add the green onions, garlic, crab, and salt. Mix well. Place the fillo cups on a cookie sheet. Fill each cup with crab mixture and bake for 6 minutes.

Garnish with thin circles of green onion. I used three per cup.

The crab mixture could be made a day in advance and kept in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

“He discovered a coco-tree, beat down some of the fruit, broke them, and we drunk the milk and ate the nut with a satisfaction that protested against the ordinary food on the Nautilus.”

Coconut Macaroons

1 14-ounce bag of sweetened coconut

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs whites and salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to fold egg whites into the coconut. Spoon mounds of the coconut mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about an inch between mounds.

Bake 25 minutes.

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From the 1954 Disney movie of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mobile Again/Nature Journaling at Wakulla Springs

Thanks to a very generous gift from another homeschool family, we are mobile again. The previous owners of this car have just moved out of state and couldn't take the car with them.

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Today we took advantage of our ability to drive places and went to the homeschool program at Wakulla Springs. The topic for today was "Nature Journaling".

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Everyone took a walk in the woods and collected things from nature, that they could then draw and identify when they got back to the picnic shelter. A very extensive collection of books was provided for the children to look up the common and scientific names needed to label their drawings.

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After the lesson, there was free time in the spring.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Our Crushed Car

A sudden storm with 80 mile an hour winds swept through our neighborhood shortly after DH got home from work Tuesday night. I was almost finished making dinner when the lights flickered and went out. A few minutes later, there was a loud crash. DH looked out the door and announced that we no longer had a car. A 50 foot pine tree had come crashing down on it.

The first time we tried to go outside to look at the damage, we heard another tree come down in the neighbor's yard and quickly scurried back into the house.

We were able to sit down to a hot dinner before investigating the wreckage.

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As soon as the rain let up, all the neighbors were out walking around assessing the damage. We have lived here almost 3 years and this is the first time we have met most of the people who live on our street.

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One neighbor had a branch come straight down through their roof and into their living room, but no one was hurt.

This was not a great time to be without air conditioning. It was uncomfortably hot Wednesday afternoon when Blaze and DH took backpacks and went to the gas station a little over a mile away to buy ice. While they were gone, the mother of one of Blaze's friends showed up with two bags of ice, so we were able to give a bag of ice to another neighbor, as well as having more than enough for ourselves.

We had finished off the ice cream for dessert Tuesday night, before it could melt, and moved all the dairy products from the refrigerator into the freezer, so no food was lost.

The tree that fell on our car and a slightly small tree next to it, blocked the street on one side of the cul-du-sac and an enormous fallen oak tree blocked the street on the other side, so that no one could drive in or out. For almost 24 hours no help came. The tree continued to sit on our car and several people had no way of leaving, even though they had completely undamaged cars.

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Finally, a city tree removal crew showed up and told us they would get the tree off of our car.

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They only cut up the trees blocking one side of the cul-du-sac and they left all the logs and branches laying around. They never touched the big oak that was down, so that when the power company showed up they had trouble getting to all the houses and were only able to restore power to our side of the cul-du-sac. Our power came back on around 8:30 Wednesday night, but the people on the other side still had no electricy on Thursday morning.

A professional tree service showed up Thursday and quickly and efficiently removed all signs of the storm. They cleaned up the mess the city had left, took away all the fallen trees, removed dead branches from the trees that were still standing, and even cleaned the roofs and sidewalks. They had just finished cleaning our roof, when another storm hit. I walked out onto the porch to see what was happening and found one of the tree service guys sheltering under the eves at the corner of our house, so we talked for awhile. Just as Blaze came out to join the conversation, the power went out again and was out for about two hours.

The car has been towed away and power has been restored to everyone.

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DH was given a ride to work Thursday morning and a ride to the car rental place at the airport after work, so we have a nice new Toyota Camry for the next week.

It's not supposed to rain at all today, so I'm hoping we can go out and do something fun and have a completely stress free holiday weekend.

Crafty Crow