Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gear Wall Decorations


This has been an on-going project for about a week. It didn't have to take that long, but I decided to make only one "gear" each day.

For less than $2, I purchased one of each size of cardboard circles sold in the cake decorating section of our local party store. This was just a short cut, to make sure that I started out with perfect circles, but there is no real reason that tracing around cups, bowls, or plates onto any cardboard wouldn't work just as well. It would just mean a little more cutting.


I used a combination of scissors and an X-acto knife to cut the cardboard circles into gear shapes. Then, used spray paint that was left-over from other projects to paint the gears.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Chai Cupcakes

My little parade of experimental cupcake recipes continues. Our favorite new flavor, so far, is the chai cupcakes. They were actually made as a way of turning a plain white cake mix into something more exciting.

It uses powdered, instant chai tea mix (found at Fresh Market).


Chai Cupcakes

Follow the directions on a box of white cake mix, except substitute milk for the water and into the milk, stir 1/4 Cup powdered chai mix. Follow the cupcake baking directions on the box.

For the frosting, make standard cream cheese frosting , but stir 1/4 Cup of chai tea powder into the melted butter, before adding anything else.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bleach Dying

I used cloth from an old black futon cover to make an airship pirate themed tablecloth.

I started by masking the areas that I did not want to bleach, with tape. I used duct tape only because that's what I had on hand. Regular masking tape will work fine.


DH says this looks like the beginnings of a poorly constructed Klingon costume:


Using a 50% water to 50% bleach solution in a spritzer bottle, I sprayed all over the bare stripes in the center of the cloth. Then I placed the stencils I was using on one section of the cloth and sprayed all over them.


As each section started to dry (which didn't take long in this heat), I moved on to the next section, reusing the same stencils.


When the entire cloth was dry, I removed the tape.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Please Watch this Video

A friend posted a link to this video on facebook yesterday and it is so moving and wonderful, that I wanted to share it here.

An Autistic Girl Writes About What it is Like to Be Autistic

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Steampunk Party Food

The gears have been turning, trying to come up with as many ideas as possible for a child's airship pirate/steampunk birthday party. This week my thoughts went to food, beyond the cake or cupcakes.

If I had a little girl who wanted a steampunk party, I would go with a tea party. I really like the idea of going around to all the area thrift stores and buying pretty teacup and saucer sets, so each guest has a unique teacup that is theirs to take home after the party.


I wouldn't do that for a boy's party, though. Despite a long standing family joke about DH and Blaze having MANLY tea parties, I don't think that would go over well with the other little boys around here.

I think we need to stick to gears, airships, and pirates, with maybe a little "mad scientist" thrown in.

DH bought me a new set of candy molds from eBay, which have a transportation theme, and include a zeppelin. So, more fuel for my party planning obsession.


I tried out the candy molds last night, as treats while Blaze and I were watching the DVD of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and they came out beautifully.


Even though the molds are not built for making lollypops, I was still able to make one.


I also tested out a theory that I'd been wondering about for awhile. I put melted chocolate in a frosting bag and used it to trace the gear designs on the covering sheet of plastic from the stencil set I purchased from Michael's several months ago.

That also worked well, although this heat is not the friend of chocolate. Almost as soon as I removed my creations from the refrigerator, they would start melting. Hopefully, that will no longer be a problem by the time the actual birthday happens.

Other food treats that I will probably be using are Cheese Gears, a variation on the cheese cracker recipe I posted here several months ago


and the chocolate covered marshmallow top hats with goggles:


Gear Shaped Pasta Salad

1-pound box of Piccolini, mini wheels shaped pasta

3-ounces of julienne cut, smoked sun dried tomatoes

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 small red onion, chopped (optional)

Parmesan cheese, to taste


1/3 Cup balsamic vinegar

3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Here is the snack mix I plan to serve. I have a plastic top hat that I picked up for under $2 at the Party shop, that I'm going to use as a serving bowl.
Nuts and Bolts Snack Mix

Green drinks and steampunk seem to go together, so here is a recipe for a child-friendly green drink:

Lime Milk Punch

For additional recipe ideas, there is a free online steampunk cookbook that can be found here:
Fuel for the Boiler

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gifts From the Summer Garden

It's too hot to spend much time in the garden, but some of the plants do very well with my neglect. This is the lemongrass plant that we bought in a little 4-inch pot at the beginning of last year:


It's now taller than I am.

My husband occasionally uses lemongrass in his tea, but most of the time the plant has gone unmolested, until I saw on a cooking show recently that the lemongrass stalks can be used as skewers. The skewers are made by stripping a stalk of lemongrass of its outer leaves and then cutting the lower stalk into desired lengths. I'm going to strongly suggest wearing gloves while harvesting lemongrass, because the leaves are very sharp and will leave cuts, that are very similar to paper cuts, on unprotected hands.


Ground Lamb Meatballs

1 LB. lean ground lamb

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 Tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

1/2 Cup dry bread crumbs

1 egg

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

flour for dusting

oil for brushing

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the meat, onions, and other ingredients in a food processor and blend until well mixed. With moist hands, break off walnut sized lumps of the mixture and roll into balls. Dust each ball with flour, stick a lemongrass skewer in it, and place it on a baking sheet. Brush the meatballs lightly with oil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through.


The other garden crop we have in abundance is green beans, so here is DH's favorite green bean recipe.


Spiced Green Beans

4 Tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed dried chilies

1 LB. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces ( if fresh green beans are out of season, frozen works fine for this)

1/2 Cup water

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Heat the butter in a frying pan until melted, but not smoking. Add brown mustard seeds, cumin, and chilies. Fry until mustard starts popping and turns gray. Add beans and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the water and cover the pan with a tight fitting lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Uncover the pan, add coriander, salt and sugar, and stir while cooking until all the water evaporates. Serve.


The banana trees I planted in the Spring aren't producing yet, but they have grown way taller than me.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Disco Gas Mask

Other people probably have children who beg for "normal toys". My child begged for a gas mask that he saw on Etsy. He kept coming up with practical reasons why he would need it, like so he wouldn't be breathing all that dust when a big bus drove past us as we were walking on a dirt road, or when campfire smoke was blowing in his direction. I don't think this pretend gas mask will really help in either of those situations, but it looks pretty cool in a dark room, if you don't stare directly at it.

So, yes, I gave in. After months of begging he has a gas mask that flashes multiple colors.


This is the video that convinced him that he had to have this flashing, dance party gas mask:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Summer Fun

It's the end of week 6 of summer swimming lessons, only two more weeks left. This summer is going by so quickly, but we've been having so much fun.



This week's new accomplishment at the pool, was Blaze being able to swim under the half-wall that separates the diving area from the deep end swimming lanes. Last week he could only go that deep with help (his instructor would place a hand on his back and guide him under). Yesterday, he did it for the first time by himself.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Steamy Little Party Picks

As far as I've seen, there are no party supplies, commercially available, for a child's airship pirate/steampunk birthday party. Luckily, Blaze has let me know months in advance what he wants, so I've already started working on it. I have far more free time now, than I will have in early December, which is when his birthday actually is. I have decided to make cupcakes for the kids, along with a small cake that can hold the candles.

To make the cupcakes look steampunk, I've made cute little steampunk people, using the website, tektek, which is for creating sample avatars for Gaia Online.

Gaia Dream Avatar Maker


I saved each avatar picture to the computer desk top, then moved them to a Word document, so that I could print off a whole page full onto white card stock.


A couple of the designs I chose were made by other people, and some were avatars I made for the members of our family last year.

Next, I traced a gear shape onto card stock and cut out a number of "gears" equal to the number of avatar pictures I have.

If you print this next picture out as a full page on card stock, it should work perfectly, and save you the trouble of tracing one template over and over (which is what I actually did).



I used metallic colored spray paint (leftover from other projects) to paint both sides of the paper gears.


When the paint was dry, I placed a small canning jar lid over each avatar and traced around the inside edge of the lid with a pencil, to make a circular cutting line. Then cut out all the circles and glued them to the "gears".


If you want to make these for a more mature party, you can use old, copyright free images found on-line.


The final touch is to add the stick. This is just a 4-inch bamboo skewer, attached to the back of the "gear" with a single line of hot glue.


As soon as the hot glue is dry, which is a matter of minutes, the picks are ready to use.


The other cupcake decorating item that I plan to use, just arrived in the mail today. They are laser cut cupcake wrappers, made by a craftsperson on Etsy.


Geekinesis, Laser Cut Cupcake Wrappers on Etsy

My New Favorite Flower Photo

My bamboo trellis has fallen down, and I have learned a valuable lesson about how to choose mature bamboo, so it doesn't rot so fast, but the passion flowers continue to grow on the trellis wreckage. I love the way passion flowers look! They look like they should be growing on some exotic other planet.


Crafty Crow