Enhanced Library Laboratory Lighted Test Tube Racks

Green Lighted Test Tube Racks Here we go with Halloween 2016! Usually there are many Halloween projects in motion all year with nothing ready to display until October, but I’m so happy that this year I have a COMPLETED new project already finished, even before September began! These underlighted test tube racks for your spooky Halloween laboratory will make your test tubes glow, can use any color bulbs you like, and have no power cords to hide!

I invested in around 100 plastic test tubes with matching lids for the Exploring Ectoplasm Essences tasting quiz for Halloween 2014, so of course I want to use them again! Those tubes were intended to be displayed in the round distillers in the Ectoplasm Engine of the Spirit Materializer device, but the Library Laboratory needs a more traditional and authentic way to hold many test tubes, plus we need a better disposal plan for the used tubes. Halloween Three Lighted Test Tube Racks guest Elisabeth worked in a college chemistry department and found me an old wooden test tube rack from the trash that was perfect so I thought I’d make more to match from scratch, then I finally stumbled on brand-new ones that matched on Amazon where I could use free credit card points!

Mini battery pack LED lights on copper wireI found these LED battery string lights had the smallest battery packs on Amazon (sure wish I had found them for my Elsa sparkling snowflake cape!), plus the bulbs were inline along thin copper wire that was easy to bend into whatever shape necessary. They sell several colors, but the purple is not UV reactive enough for black light effects.

Marking the centers of the divots to drill from the opposite sideMy test tubes were a little skinny for these wooden racks, but it’s not enough of a problem for me to rebuy test tubes, since the curved divot in the base still holds them from sliding around too much. If that is a concern for you, you can purchase fatter test tubes to go in your racks, or I have seen some sets of racks that come Drilling the bulb holes from the underside of the wood test tube rackswith test tubes in Halloween decor this season. My test tubes still sat in the center of the divots, which is what is important, since that’s where you hide the light. I marked spacing of the centers of the divots from one end on some scratch paper, then turned that over to transfer the marks and then drill from the bottom side. If you have an extra long drill bit, you may be able to drill through the top holes to aim for center without Adding clusters of 3 bulbs into each holemeasuring, but you can see mine didn’t reach far enough to go all the way through the wood. Make sure you use a drill bit large enough to fit 2-3 of the LEDs into the same hole.

Leave the drilled rack upside-down to add 2-3 bulbs into each hole, sticking up as far as they can without the bulb actually peeking above the wood into the curved divot. Use your fingers to feel if they are poking out at all. I found it was easiest to twist 3 bulbs together along the Bulbs glowing through the newly-drilled holeswire starting at the battery pack. If you are using the shorter test tube racks, you will have leftover lights, but these copper wire strings are easy to cut off the bulbs you won’t use, and the rest of the string stays lit.

Need to fix the flow escaping from underneath the Lighted Test Tube RackAs you shove the bulbs into the holes, bend the wires as flat as possible against the wood to the side, compact so none peek out past the wood. The wires will not bend flat enough for the flat wood base to sit on the wires without rocking, plus this thin battery pack can tuck under the rack to hide it as long as you add wooden bead feet…however the glow escapes out the bottom too! I was able to use a single Lighted Test Tube Racks in processwidth of heavy-duty black duct tape that covered the light spill plus neatened the wire mess, but you have to cram the wires tightly together or they will sneak out of the tape edges. You can see in the photo to the right that I have one rack showing the bare wires folded, then one already taped down before adding the wooden bead feet with hot glue.

Hiding the battery pack under a duct tape hingeThe wooden feet only prop up the racks a little, but enough to see the bright white battery pack at the wrong angle, so I made a hinged flap from the same black duct tape that has enough Hiding the battery pack under a duct tape hingesticky spot to stay closed, but the edge of the tape is folded so it’s a handle to lift the battery pack to change the batteries. Make sure to orient the battery pack so the on/off switch is to the end of the rack so you can flip the switch by feel, and don’t tape it upside-down so you can’t access the battery compartment. ;)

I was hoping for UV blacklight effects from some purple/UV LEDs, but I have discovered this summer that it is very tricky to find true UV LEDs for sale to consumers, mostly because no one advertises what the output wavelengths actually are. You can see here that using the purple version of the same battery copper-wire light string didn’t even light up the tonic water that gives a bright blue glow under even a basic compact fluorescent blacklight bulb. Even trying a 12V LED strip with good blacklight reviews didn’t make the test tube blacklight effects Purple Lighted Test Tube Racks give no blacklight effects at all :(any better. Online research and my own testing revealed that you need the UV range to reach past 365nm for blacklight effects to show, and if it has too much range higher into the visible spectrum, you’ll just get too much purple vs. UV, exactly what happened here. If you look carefully at the very bottom of the tubes, you can see a tiny blue glow from tonic in tube 2 and a slightly green glow from the vitamin B in tube 5, but not enough to bother. What matters the most no matter what color light is how many suspended particles are in the liquid for the light to bounce all the way up the tube, without being too opaque like fruit juices. Here you can see the comparison with purple lights on the left, white lights in the back, and green lights to the right, all using the same test liquids…and our overwhelming winner for Ectoplasm Experiments to match green glowsticks was pale green lemon-lime Gatorade on the far right!

Three Lighted Test Tube RacksFrom left to right in each rack to compare:
sour apple mixer = green, glows green
tonic water = clear, should glow light blue but I don’t think there’s enough UV
different vitamin B pill = pink, glows brighter pink in UV
100% vitamin B solution = brown-green, should glow bright yellow-green in UV
tonic water + vitamin B solution = pale brown-green, should glow aqua in UV
lemon-lime Gatorade = doesn’t glow in UV from any vitamin B, but refracts light perfectly!

Since the wooden bead feet match plus the rest of the equipment will be dark, I think I like the racks the pale natural wood color they already are, but when I get the rest of the Library Laboratory arranged, I reserve the right to decide to stain them darker….but for now, onward to other Halloween projects for the Webmistress Hosts a Victorian Halloween at Castle Brittahytta! :D

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The S’mores Awaken

B-Rey-Ta and BB-8It was the most anticipated movie of 2015, and even though everyone most likely saw it already, 18 of us enjoyed watching Rey, Finn, BB-8, Han & Leia in The Force Awakens as our last summer backyard movie! The S’mores Awakened the fun food, including Starkiller Cocktails, Frozen Lightsabers, and my carefully-arranged BB-8 Cheese Plate, and I even pulled together a quick Rey outfit to go with the purple lightsaber I built at DisneyWorld!

B-Rey-ta from The Force AwakensSince my heart has always belonged to Star Trek, I have never dressed up as anything Star Wars ever before, but since the votes landed with The Force Awakens for our Cinema Brittahytta summer season finale, I figured I could quickly throw together a Rey outfit for fun. I know my lightsaber is the wrong color, but I built my own at DisneyWorld and I liked purple best since there was no aqua or teal blade. ;) The hair was perfect for a hot summer day, and we mimicked some poster poses pretty well! For the full details how I assembled the outfit, see my separate costume post here.

Menu & Cocktail CardsI got lucky and was able to brainstorm plenty of fun menu and cocktail ideas for this theme, like Frozen Lightsabers, Millenium Fal-cones (Make Your Own Snow Cone), Jakku Sunset, Starkiller Cocktail with Glowing Lightsaber Stirrers (“an elegant stirrer…for a more civilized age”), Kylo Ren Kettle Corn, and Finn’s Fresh Fruit Salad. I grabbed images from online and designed menu and cocktail cards with the free Star Jedi font, which looked pretty good!

Menu chalkboard with The S'mores Awaken, BB-8 Cheese Plate & Finn's Fresh Fruit SaladI wrote out the menu chalkboard in the same classic Star Wars font, starting with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” in the blue font from the opening credits, listing the menu in the classic Star Wars font, ending with The S’mores Awaken – Light Side or Dark Side?

Due to lack of s’mores consumption this year, I have been attempting to recycling homemade marshmallows all summer! What started as the Trek chevrons for 50 Years of Star Trek were cut into small stars and rolled in blue & red sugar for Star Spangled S’mores for the 4th of July Fireworks & Fun, then to transform them into The S’mores Awaken I used the white stars with The S'mores Awaken - Light Side or Dark Sidenormal milk chocolate bars as the Star S’mores Light Side vs. black modeling chocolate slabs and black stars for the Dark Side…heehee! Thankfully I still hada stash of black modeling chocolate I could soften and roll just fine, and painting the marshmallow stars with black food coloring went fairly quickly.

Robin says, “May the S’mores be with you!”

Cutting lightsabers from cardstock for popsiclesFrozen Lightsabers aren’t an original idea, but I still had a ton of single popsicles from a kind donation in July, so I figured why not use them? I found a nice graphic of whose lightsaber is whose and enlarged them to cover the popsicle stick and as wide as the popsicle. I printed onto cardstock, cut them out, then prepped with double-stick tape, since I couldn’t assemble these Ellie enjoys her Frozen Lightsaberuntil people arrived or they would melt! I arranged them popsicle down in clean ice in a big bowl, and Ellie & I enjoyed ours, but I’m afraid most of them melted before others had their chance.

Millenium Fal-Cones ready and waiting to make your own snow cone!Millenium Fal-cones Make Your Own Snow Cones were all set up and ready to go on the kid-height table by the waterfall, but since Ellie has been making them all summer, they weren’t used until later in the evening….when E & V suckered their dad into shaving the ice for them…lucky kids! ;)

Millenium Fal-Cones shaved by dad! Millenium Fal-Cones shaved by dad! Millenium Fal-Cones shaved by dad!

Beware the menacing red Sith glow in the Kylo Ren Kettle Corn! 
Some of the fun food was just renamed. Finn’s Fresh Fruit Salad was a new name for one of my favorite summer staples. I can always enjoy leftover fresh fruit salad! The Kylo Ren Kettle Corn was our normal kettle corn in the Cinema Brittahytta popcorn boxes but with a menacing red Sith glow from the depths! I do love my little submersible LED puck lights adding a little glow almost anywhere!

 

 

Creating Glowing Lightsaber StirrersI have been using glowstick bracelets as drink stirrers for years now, so of course they were natural Glowing Lightsaber Stirrers “an elegant stirrer…for a more civilized age” just by printing smaller versions of the same Frozen Lightsabers images onto cardstock, cutting them out, then using thinner double-stick Glowing Lightsaber Stirrers tape to add to the ends of the unwrapped glowsticks. I left them uncracked until the party (except for the proof of concept test) so they would be ready for my custom cantina cocktails!

I designed two themed cocktails that could both be made as mocktails for others and that could use the Glowing Lightsaber Stirrers. The Jakku Sunset was inspired by a Tequila Sunrise but with pineapple juice and gold rum for a more exotic feel. The Starkiller Cocktail was a color story using my knowledge that the black vodka layers nicely over full-Kevin plots using his Starkiller Cocktail...beware!sugar blue raspberry mixer…and the bright red maraschino cherry looked like the eye of the beam! We used my LED glasses to make them glow, I still had star ice cubes from Fireworks & Fun that gave that extra Bartender B-Rey-Ta with her custom cantina cocktailsfinishing touch floating on top against the black vodka, and Kevin sure looks like he was plotting for the First Order and the Knights of Ren as he sipped his!

I do believe that of all this fun food, I am most proud of my BB-8 Cheese Plate, not only for the rhyme and the mosaic-style execution, but that I didn’t see any other BB-8 Cheese Plates online! You might have seen my carrot cupcake fail from earlier this year, so there was no way I was going to go through that Creating my BB-8 Cheese Platemess again…but I always have sliced cheese for parties anyway, so this was the perfect answer! BB-8 is already orange and white, classic cheese colors, so I only needed to paint some black food coloring accents and it looked great! When Ellie walked in and saw it, her jaw dropped to the floor and she couldn’t wait to eat him! Robin & Nathania were also jumping at the chance to make him BB-Ate…haha!

Had to take this photo! ;)We could have started the movie earlier since it was dark early enough, but there were still some on their way, so we finally started at the normal 9pm summer movie time…and I couldn’t resist taking the iconic shot of the words scrolling into the starfield! 18 of us was a nice full house for our summer season finale…and we did have two kids Lightsaber fight!who brought their own lightsabers to duel with Rey! No fair that E had TWO red lightsabers…those Sith are sneaky! ;)

I sure had a blast that so many of my friends could enjoy summer backyard movies with me again. Hope everyone enjoyed their summers too! Stay tuned for next year’s 10th anniversary season of Cinema Brittahytta with special surprises in store!

Lightsaber fight! Lightsaber fight!

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Rey from The Force Awakens

B-Rey-ta from The Force AwakensSince my heart has always belonged to Star Trek, I have never dressed up as anything Star Wars ever before, but since the votes landed with The Force Awakens for our Cinema Brittahytta summer season finale, I figured I could quickly throw together a Rey outfit for fun. I know my lightsaber is the wrong color, but I built my own at DisneyWorld and I liked purple best since there was no aqua or teal blade. ;) The hair was perfect for a hot summer day, and we mimicked some poster poses pretty well!

Rey & BB-8Star Wars heroines always have unique hair! Rey has essentially three ponytails that aren’t pulled all the way through, so they stay in floppy loops. I don’t have very thick hair, and what I have is fine and currently layered, so even with brand-new elastics and Rey Full Outfitstarting with gel added to fully wet hair, I had trouble with my loops slipping out of the ponytails, especially at my neck. I always get so warm during summer movie nights that this hairstyle was a nice treat!

Rey is a scavenger so it was appropriate for me to scavenge her outfit from what I already had in my closets and craft supplies! I have new khaki hiking pants that tie at the knee which were perfect so that was easy. I didn’t have a cap-sleeve ivory Chopping a competitor swag tee into Rey's tunictunic, so I cut a competitor swag tee I had never worn and left it unhemmed. My mom had given me some fur-lined black boots that were the perfect look, so glad I kept them!

Cutting leather jacket scraps into Rey's double-beltI found some leather scraps in my steampunk stash so I was able to hack together Rey’s double-belt that stayed anchored with safety pins. My wrist cuff was an old brown belt also from my steampunk stash wrapped around my wrist then buckled.

Before I found my gothic wrought-iron Castle Modern bed, I had a garden arch as a headboard with some faux floral draping over some long loose-weave muslin I had dyed a pale periwinkle to blend with my darker periwinkle sheet set. I have kept the muslin of course, and not only did I know exactly where it was, but there were two matching fabric scraps the perfect length for the arm wraps! Since I’m taller than Rey, I was concerned I might not have enough muslin to drape front and back properly, but it was so long I actually had to pin it shorter!

B-Rey-ta from The Force Awakens Rey Poster

B-Rey-Ta and BB-8I had to have the lightsaber light my face while holding my BB-8 Cheese Plate, and we even had a lightsaber battle after the movie…no fair that E had TWO red lightsabers…those Sith are sneaky! ;) For the full story of our Cinema Brittahytta summer season finale, you can click here

Lightsaber fight! Lightsaber fight! Lightsaber fight!

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Coloring Cookies

Coloring Cookies - PeacockWe have a fun group of friends who get together every so often for an afternoon of crafty projects plus food and wine. This summer we celebrated the Leo Ladies birthdays (including me!) plus coloring books were chosen as the theme. Since I knew cake was already coming, I thought I could print some coloring book designs on frosting sheets, bake some vegan sugar cookies, and bring my food pens for a fun edible activity! My Coloring Cookies were enough of a hit that I might draw some original designs for Christmas and for the next Mardi Gras party for 2017!

It would easy to cut square or rectangular cookies too, but I found enough circular coloring book designs that I decided making all circles would seem more like cookies instead of pages. This first batch was an experiment, and I discovered that too fine of a line would print Rolling & cutting Coloring Cookiestoo pale and thin on the frosting sheets, so the thicker bolder lines are better. Too intricate a design was too difficult to color with the food pens, so I will keep this all in mind when drawing my own designs.

Cookie decorating activities at my previous parties have always been popular, but the small tubes of colored frosting that are so convenient to buy and easy to hold in little hands NEVER dry ever, which makes a big mess when proud artists are trying to carry their creations home Cyd & Jen enjoying Coloring Cookies after the party. I tried using my own small bottles of royal icing that should set before the evening is over, but those were still too messy for Halloween 2015. The big advantage to these Coloring Cookies is that the food pens dry almost immediately on the frosting sheets, so they are ready to take home, plus the colors last a couple weeks easily when kept in a tin away from light. Just be prepared for kids to mash the felt tips of the food pens, so might as well get the cheap ones instead of the Gourmet Writers that are my longtime favorites. Try the cake decorating section of your favorite craft stores, and I’ve seen several cheaper sets with less colors even at major grocery stores the past few years.

No kids at this party, and everyone is a crafter of some sort respecting their tools, so my food pens were safe…and they got really intricate in their color patterns! They each spent almost as much time as I spent on my peacock, then I channeled my 9-year-old self for a pegasus with rainbow border…who knew the peach pen would shade a white horse so well? ;)

John colors a cookie Jen's finished cat cookie Cyd's finished owl cookie Britta's finished peacock cookie
John's eyeball cookie got chomped Jen signed her cat cookie Cyd's owl cookie was gorgeous My rainbow pegasus cookie :)

Watermelon KegThe bonus edible “art” for this party was a watermelon keg! The first attempt was at my fireworks party this year, and it worked well enough, but the watermelon was too small. I found big watermelons at Costco and this one looked much better as a serving vessel. I also used my perforated pot insert with my immersion blender to keep pureeing the chunks as the rest strained into the matching solid stockpot. We learned the first time that you definitely need to strain the juice well or the tap will clog, even thought it’s a thicker tap than a beer tap kit. I worked on everything down inside my big kitchen sink for an easier scooping and blending angle plus easier cleanup. I don’t think this was popular enough to use with a pumpkin for Halloween, but for the relatively cheap price under $10 on Amazon Prime, it’s worth it for summer BBQ fun next year too!
Scoop out all the insides of the watermelon keg to puree into juice Add the screw-in rubber feet from the kit to hold the watermelon keg stable Puree the watermelon chunks with an immersion blender in a perforated stockpot so the juice strains through while you keep attacking the chunks Punch the tap through the wall until the seal meets the outer wall, then fill with the strained watermelon juice

Never fear…our summer fun isn’t finished quite yet! Stay tuned for the Cinema Brittahytta season finale up next!

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Hogwarts Fun to Prepare for the Cursed Child

7th year Hogwarts student Britta show the new recipes Golden Snitches and Chocolate Frog S'mores to Prepare for the Cursed Child

Back in 2011 I thought I was retired from Hogwarts parties because the last movie was being released…then lo & behold, in 2016 not only was a new Wizarding World movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” due in November, but a new Harry Potter story in July! It is only 320 pages since it is the script of the stage play in London only, but since Harry Potter and the Cursed Child picks up 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, this was the perfect occasion for 16 of us to enjoy some Hogwarts-style summer Cinema Brittahytta fun and watch the final movie with the 19 years later epilogue to Prepare for the Cursed Child!

Full Hogwarts chalkboard menu with Chocolate Frog S'mores and Golden SnitchesI got out my Potter paraphernalia from storage, including collectibles like Honeydukes candies, my interactive wand, the Hogwarts crest tapestry, and the Mirror of Erised, plus my homemade decor like my spellbooks, Horcruxes, ballpoint feather quills and homemade leather Sorting Hat, I set out the Ogle the Owls contest with prizes, and I wore my homemade Hogwarts student uniform from 2003 with robe but no gray house sweater since it was too warm. I brought back classic recipes like mini Cauldron Cakes, Butterbeer Light, Frozen Butterbeer, and Polyjuice Potion Punch (aka Bubbling Witches’ Brew), Herbology Fruit Salad, included my two summer staples Four Bean Salad and Cheeses & Crackers, plus I added two fun new recipes: the Golden Snitch corn muffins, and custom Chocolate Frog S’mores! Ellie and I even had an intense wizard duel, and an early birthday present “magically” appeared as I cast Wingardium Leviosa!

Elias pulls a Butterbeer LightI still had some unopened diet cream soda in my stash, so a whole 2 liter bottle plus 1 1/7th cups of sugar-free Torani English Toffee syrup made a spigot jar of Butterbeer Light with “all the alcohol & calories charmed away!” Elias claimed one of my four Butterbeer mugs from Orlando and pulled himself a pint or so. ;) I also had some flat leftover non-alcoholic sugar butterbeer that was perfect to freeze into pucks for my ice shaver, but it took a full 24 hours to freeze because of all the sugar. Beware that if you try to freeze the original alcohol version it might never freeze solid! Since I wanted the ice The Sorting Hat enjoys a Butterbeer Lightshaver available as Frozen Potions Class, I shaved all eight butterbeer pucks right before the party, and stashed the Frozen Butterbeer in a covered bowl in the freezer to scoop into cups or mugs during the evening. I was even lucky to have some left and still fluffy when I started reading my copy of the Cursed Child book the following weekend!

Hogwarts Student Ellie with some disgustingly foamy Polyjuice Potion punchSeveral other kids were expected but only two attended, so there was too much other fun like Ogle the Owls to do the Frozen Potions Class Ellie added some more potion ingredients to her Polyuice Potion Punch...would it yield unexpected results?!?with the snow cone machine. I did have some potion bottles set up plus my foamy Polyjuice Potion Punch, also known as Bubbling Witches’ Brew in my book Enhanced Eerie Elegance and in my video series on YouTube. Ellie added some more potion ingredients to Disgustingly foamy but extremely tasty Polyjuice Potion Punchher Polyuice Potion Punch…would it yield unexpected results?!? All I noticed was lots of energy into the evening for an intense wizard duel AFTER the long movie! ;)

"I open at the close...and I'm quite tasty!"I had scanned & printed edible Golden Snitch wings back in 2012 to add to a gilded modeling chocolate orb for the Hogwarts student cake for Piper’s Potter Party, and I always planned to make a batch of cupcakes to demonstrate possibilities and post the wafer paper sheets for sale on Etsy, but I never got around to it. Here was the perfect Same vegan corn muffins as Luscious Little Lionsopportunity, but I already had SO many sweets on my menu, I tried to think of something savory. Voila! The tasty vegan corn muffins that have appeared at two previous movie nights as Luscious Little Lions should be perfect! Cutting a thin slit to insert the cut wafer paper Golden Snitch wings I only had white whole wheat flour and not even a milk alternative, plus I used my shallower mini muffin pans, so they ended up a little drier than usual, but they still looked perfect once the wafer paper wings Completed Golden Snitch corn muffinswere carefully tucked into small knife slits in the crumbly cornbread! I couldn’t believe that I didn’t even think about Harry’s winning Quidditch catch in his mouth before we took photos! “I open at the close…and I’m quite tasty too!” ;)

 

Cutting around custom-printed Chocoloate Frog Card frosting sheets on homemade marshmallows
I didn’t have my edible printer until after I “retired” from my Hogwarts parties, and I had so much fun using the papercraft projects I had designed for my parties as edibles for Piper’s Potter Party, I wanted to try something new! I had already made Chocolate Frog cards & boxes as cookies, and s’mores are my summer special dessert, so Chocolate Frog S’mores were born! I didn’t have time to create new card designs, so I used the fun photos of my friends that were the original test batch years ago, including Dobby & Nearly Headless Nick from my Year 7 at Hogwarts party in 2007, Captain Glen, and myself as a couple different characters, printed them on frosting sheets in my edible printer, cut out all the cards, mixed up some homemade marshmallows (only 2/3rds of a batch this time but the same recipe as 50 Years of Star Trek), smoothed out the marshmallows as best I could, then gently set the cut frosting sheets on the sticky surface of the fresh Cutting the perfect size homemade vegan graham crackers for the Chocolate Frog marshmallow cardsmarshmallows while they set overnight. I crammed them closely together with just enough room to cut between them, and I was lucky my small metal spatula server was the perfect size, since my rolling pastry cutter would have overshot too much!

While I was waiting for the marshmallows to set, I baked my now-traditional vegan graham crackers, using the frosting sheet backing papers to cut the graham crackers into pentagons that were exactly large enough around the marshmallow cards to show. I didn’t bother making matching top crackers this time since I was already rushed for this party from too much July chaos.
Painting eyes on the custom-molded Chocolate FrogsOf course the chocolate was the frogs! I insisted on a realistic frog mold for my papercraft boxes and used the cutesy version for my Peppermint Toads, but the realistic frogs are quite small, so I thought the cutesy frogs would be a better amount of chocolate for the s’mores. It took a couple times of spooning melted Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking chips in my two molds to get enough frogs, then since now I have nifty Completed Chocolate Frog S'moresChoco-White edible paint, I added googly eyes to all the frogs…heehee!

The marshmallow cards sat on the matching graham crackers, but setting the chocolate frogs on the marshmallows completely covered all the fun people details, so I set the frogs in a separate footed dish in the center of the large tray so everyone could take a frog with their s’more.Why did everyone choose Dobby to roast?!?

With all the choices of cards, I’m not sure why everyone chose Dobby to roast?!? Poor Dobby! The frosting sheets don’t roast like the marshmallows do, Ben enjoys is roasted Chocolate Frog S'morehomemade marshmallows melt easier than storebought, and the lack of top graham cracker caused logistical issues, but Ben still enjoyed his Chocolate Frog S’more!

As we were enjoying the evening chatting, eating, and some playing Pokemon Go, since I had my wand out, Glen asked me what the levitation spell was. “Wingardium Leviosa” I replied. He said, “You Glen flies the USS Enterprise 1701-A drone right at me!have to do the right wand motion,” so I did my swish & flick. Then he said, “Now do it to the couch”…I did, and magically the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A floated up into the sky!!! I had seen earlier this year that there was a 50th anniversary drone due in July, and he found it for my birthday! All the crashing was extra hilarious after seeing Star Trek Beyond the night before. Glen demonstrated his newly-practiced drone flying skills all around the backyard, Elias had fun catching it with a bean bag when it fell, and I got a couple fantastic photos and The USS Enterprise 1701-A drone complete with birthday bow on the bow! ;)funny videos! My first attempts flying inside after my first lessons were pretty bad, so I will need more practice for sure! Thank you so much, Glen!

Here are some videos of the 50th anniversary USS Enterprise NCC-1701-A drone in flight! Glen demonstrated his newly-practiced drone flying skills all around the backyard!



Frozen Butterbeer with my Hogwarts dinner!After the movie was finished, no one had any Butterbeer Floats, but some more Frozen Butterbeer was enjoyed, and several were toasting their Chocolate Frog S’mores over the fire pit. Outstanding Owl Ogler Ellie winning her prize from the treasure chestEllie wanted a prize so I told her she at least had to try to find some of the owls! She found quite a few, so I awarded her Outstanding Owl Ogler with her selection from the treasure chest! Not too long after, she challenged me to a wizard duel, which was quite a battle! Thanks to Glen for capturing all the intense wand action! ;)
 


Wizard Duel: Ellie vs. Britta Wizard Duel: Ellie vs. Britta Wizard Duel: Ellie vs. Britta

After such a fun party plus the refresher of watching the movie, I was definitely Prepared for the Cursed Child! You can see how much fun everyone had by clicking to view the rest of the photo gallery…and there’s one more movie before this summer season is over, so stay tuned!

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Fireworks & Fun 2016

Fireworks 2016We had another year of fantastic Fireworks & Fun for the Fourth of July! The parking shuttle service was used for the first time ever, and 24 of us enjoyed a warm afternoon but a chilly evening with barbecue, snow cones, several salads, a new Fresh Watermelon Keg, Sparkling Sugar Star cookies, my traditional homemade vanilla custard ice cream, and new Star Spangled S’mores! Thanks again to the City of Santa Clara for the stunning show!

Festive Fourth Friday OutfitsThis year I paced myself much better by decorating and only making one or two food items each night, so during my weekend before the Monday holiday, I had time for Margarita Friday with friends, a patriotic pedicure, and even a Sunday evening hike! Little did I know that was an even better plan than I knew, since I woke up 5am party day miserable with suspected food poisoning…ugh! I called my mom to ask for any tips getting through it and if there was Professional Patriotic Pedicureany chance I might feel better by evening, then my dad insisted she drive the 3 hours to come help me. Thank you very much, Mom! I didn’t touch any food all day, party or otherwise, carefully sipping Gatorade & ginger ale to stay hydrated with electrolytes and sugar calories, and my mom set out all the party food and disinfected doorknobs and surfaces just in case I was contagious. I had to take several Mom taking a photo of the impressive fireworks!breaks to lie down, but thankfully all the guests had a great time as usual. My mom had been pondering coming to see “my” fireworks one of these years, and she was really impressed how close they were and such a perfect view from my yard! She was even taking photos to post on Facebook…haha!

Cutting stars from Star Trek chevrons...can't waste all those homemade marshmallows!Since I had made 50 special s’mores with homemade marshmallows for 50 Years of Star Trek movie night the week before, but not many were eaten, I found a Dipping homemade marshmallow stars in red & blue pearlized sugarmetal star cutter that fit just inside all the Trek chevrons to cut star marshmallows. While the edges were sticky, I dipped them into a mix of red and blue pearlized sugar, then used normal Hershey bar squares and the same graham crackers as the Trek s’mores. I had these all assembled and Assembled Star Spangled S'mores 2016 version, ready to arrangecovered on the big baking sheet so all that was needed on party day was to arrange them on the big silver platter. Robin did a great job!

Menu Chalkboard with Star Spangled S'mores 2016 versionThe fresh watermelon keg was new this year since Robin had seen it online & really wanted to try it. I was able to get the tap kit from Amazon in time, but Tracia scooped the watermelon to be the keg, and my mom & Kian turned the extra watermelons into juice, plus Ben brought more he had juiced at home. I heard it was refilled three times Fresh Watermelon Kegduring the party, so it was definitely a hit! I immediately froze the extra watermelon juice since I think another watermelon keg will appear before this summer is over. ;)

No one made Razzle Dazzle Tinis this year since I usually lead by showing everyone how to make them, and I quickly erased the Corndog Sparklers from the menu chalkboard since those were scheduled to be made the morning of the party and didn’t happen. My first guests Main Food for Fireworks & Fun 2016are always kind enough to help finish setting food out, and all the help was really appreciated this year since I couldn’t touch anything! In addition to the s’mores, Robin also arranged the Sparkling Sugar Stars, Kian helped using the stick blender to pummel the watermelon juice into submission, Rob & Bethani set out all the new patriotic fans I got in case it was too hot, and Tracia finished arranging my new little red, blue & white LED star lights on the tables, then I could take photos!

Outer Patio Food Table with WaterfallThe outer patio table with the bunting was for more guest food, the Sparkling Sugar Star cookies, and grilled items. Ben’s Chocolate Frosted Banana Cupcakes were tasty on their tier tower! Since that table was also already getting too full, we decided the kitchen dining table would be for desserts like Rob’s famous cheesecake, Sheila’s patriotic coconut cake, Nathania’s Oatmeal Fudge Bars, and Jerry’s Cherry Tart.

Here is the full menu of what I provided for Fireworks & Fun 2016:

Fireworks & Fun FoodRazzle Dazzle Tinis
Fresh Watermelon Keg
Make Your Own Snow Cone
Patriotic Pastry Brie with Smorgabritta Spiced Loquat Preserves
Aged Manchego Slices with Smorgabritta Quince Preserves
Celestial Cheeses
Four Bean Salad
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Outer Patio Food Table
Apricot Cashew Quinoa Salad
Old Glory Green Salad
Festive Fruit Salad
Sparkling Sugar Stars
Star Spangled S’mores
Homemade Old Fashioned Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Ellie, Master Snow Cone Maker!Ellie is a master snow cone maker from all her practice during several summer seasons now, so she showed Elias how it was Ellie serving Marco a snow conedone, then they kept walking around asking everyone if they would like a snow cone…what excellent service! I wonder if their arms were sore the next day from all that manual ice grinding? I even had a couple plain ice snow cones myself. It was the only crunch I had all day and it tasted so good! ;)

Playing Rock Band before fireworksWe got out Rock Band while the sun was going down, but we didn’t turn everything on until the sun was completely off the screen, about an hour before the fireworks started. At Homemade ice cream ready to enjoy during the fireworks show!9:15 my mom dished up my homemade ice cream, this year on the outer patio table – why had I never done that before? We brought the fruit salad out and arranged with the star cookies as a little sundae More Rock Band after fireworksbar. With only 24 people this year, there is even more ice cream left over. At least I knew it tasted as good as usual since I licked the spoon on Friday night after I made it! ;)

The fireworks were over by 10pm, but traffic is a total gridlock all around my neighborhood for at least an hour, so some played Rock Band, while at least a couple others tried melting some Star Spangled S’mores over my new gas firepit. It sure was easier to light the gas firepit AND turn off, but I’m not sure if it gives as nice of a char flavor on the marshmallows? Kevin and Ellie seemed to enjoy them for sure!
Roasting a star marshmallow Freshly-melted star marshmallow on a Star Spangled S'more Kevin & Ellie enjoying their Star Spangled S'mores Kevin & Ellie enjoying their Star Spangled S'mores

There were plenty of fun things I missed but at least I took a few photos of partying people, and even attempted a quick selfie in hopes of showing my red streak in my twisted hair and my LED star necklace. ;)
Tracia & Cyd Marco, Ben & Robin enjoying the shade on the patio couch Partying People on the Patio Sheila feeds a Celestial Cheese to Festive Onyx
Finally some shade in the grass Partying People on the Patio Pile of Partying People? Party selfie with red hair streak and LED star necklace

I was able to put out a few flags, the paper lanterns, and my front door wreath the morning of the party, and I had decorated inside in advance, but totally forgot to take photos inside this year. A few more decor photos are in the full gallery below.
Outside Decor Outside Decor Outside Decor Patio Decor

You can see the full photo gallery with all the partying people by clicking the link below. Huge thanks to everyone who helped and had fun, especially my mom who went above and beyond the call of duty! Hope Santa Clara keeps having annual fireworks so I can keep having my Fireworks & Fun party! :)

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Cinema Brittahytta Season Premiere – 50 Years of Star Trek

Lt. Peterson to Enterprise...let's celebrate 50 Years of Star Trek!This weekend 18 of us celebrated 50 Years of Star Trek as the Cinema Brittahytta Season Premiere…as Jen said in her RSVP, “Yay, it’s officially summer!” Since it was so hot, I wore my Classic Trek lieutenant’s uniform I made 15 years ago, complete with vintage boots, and we enjoyed Redshirt cocktails and grilling Starfleetza Pizzas, but no one melted any of my homemade marshmallows of the 50 S’more Trek special s’mores I made, one for each year…darn!

Personal Trek Fun and ToysThere is so much great Trek to watch that it is hard to choose only one to watch to celebrate all 50 years, but for the sake of the next movie “Star Trek Beyond” opening in July, I chose to watch the 2009 reboot with Spock Prime and the new cast. Many of us had forgotten what an entertaining movie it is, and we were thankful we could still enjoy Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin on screen even though they are no longer with us.

This was rushed decorating, since I only had 4 days after returning from a 2-week vacation in Spain seeing 26 castles in 10 days, so I only put up a few posters, got out all my Trek uniforms, and arranged all the Trek toys, collectibles, and photos I could easily find. I didn’t get the table Some of my Trek costumes and tshirts on displayarranged until after the first guests arrived, but then it looked great! I especially love how so many eras of my life have fun Trek photos to make me smile!

Special Trek slideshow then trailers before the movieI was able to throw together a quick slideshow of all the movie posters, some blooper shots from several TV shows & movies, plus my personal Trek fun since 1991 that included several friends who were in attendance. Little Julianna found me to tell me excitedly that she saw me on TV, and it was pretty funny to tell her to watch for her dad Jeff and Uncle Louie on TV too!

Sheila got into the Trek spirit by wearing the Spock shirt I painted in highschool!I have even more Trek tshirts in storage, but I got out the shirts I could easily find to be available for anyone to wear if they wanted, so Sheila got into the Trek spirit by wearing the Spock shirt I painted in highschool! Classic Trek style soft-focus courtesy of my smeary lens…we’ll call it an intentional effect! ;)

Partying People on the PatioThankfully the sun was behind the trees by the time people started arriving, so even with fans running on the screened patio, outside was much cooler. I was running around so much that my face never cooled down until after dark!

50 Years of Star Trek menu with S'more TrekHere’s the menu for the evening, with some of the quickest chalkboard art I’ve ever done right before guests arrived…it turned out much better than I expected. ;)

50 Years of Star Trek Menu: Ice Trek Cocktails with custom ice cubes from Classic Trek and The Next Generation! More details about Romulan Ale, The Redshirt, and the Vulcan Death Grip below. Starfleetzas – Grill Your Own Pizza, Chevron Cheeses, Federation Fruit Salad, Commbadge Chocolates, using NextGen commbadge molds I made in 2002, then hand-gilded with gold and silver luster dust, and finally S’more Trek, a full tray of 50 special s’mores, one for each year!

Ice Trek Cocktails on the barI knew I wanted to make a cocktail called The Redshirt, but it wouldn’t be Trek without some vivid blue Romulan Ale, then I added something green to be the Vulcan Death Grip. Yes, those are Trek shot glasses from my collection! The complete cocktail recipes are at Glen was brave enough to add more tequila to his Redshirt cocktail!the bottom of this post if you can’t read the cards in the photo. Only Glen was brave enough to add even more tequila to the already-mixed berry margaritas, but thankfully he survived the traditional redshirt fate! ;)

Classic Trek Chevron Ice Cubes for Ice Trek CocktailsBefore I left on vacation, I made several rounds of ice cubes using the custom silicone molds I had made years before, the Classic Trek chevron I made to fit custom s’mores several summers ago, and the Next Generation commbadge mold I made for the first Trek Mystery party in 2002. After I had enough ice cubes, I started molding chocolates, just melting my trusty 60% Ghirardelli baking chips and chilling in the fridge until set. I also made 30 Trek chevron Starfleetza pizza crusts before the trip, safely stashing them in the freezer, then I was on my way to Spain…

Pouring melted chocolate into the custom Trek chevron silicone molds Pouring melted chocolate into the custom NextGen commbadge silicone molds Unmolded Trek chocolates, ready for decoration Barely baking the Starfleetza crusts to keep their shape 

When I got home, there was still all the luster dust to paint on the chocolates, plus decorating and making other food! It was only a couple hours to add the gold to the Classic Trek chevrons, but it took a couple evenings to finish all the gold and silver on the Commbadge Chocolates. Too bad I didn’t see anyone eating them, but at least they looked great…ready for Captain Picard to tap and say “Picard to Enterprise!”

Painting gold luster dust onto the Classic Trek Chevron Chocolates Painting both gold and silver luster dust onto the Commbadge Chocolates Finally finished gilding all the chocolates! Completed Commbadge Chocolates 

I had a new idea this year to make my Violent Vertebrae rollups into Trek chevron shape as Reboot Rollups. The lavash bread doesn’t bend into points very well so the shape is only Reboot Rollups for 50 Years of Star Trekapproximate, but they worked pretty well. Spread the jalapeno artichoke dip on the lavash bread, taking out any large chunks, roll up inside foil, but instead of leaving as a round roll, squash lengthwise into a point on one side, with the two legs of the off-center chevron on the other side. Freeze overnight in this roll shape so they are nice and solid. Remove from the freezer and use a serrated knife to gently saw slices away from the roll while keeping the chevron shape. Arrange on a tray while they are still frozen for easier handling, then cover and let thaw completely in the fridge before serving.

Spreading the artichoke dip onto lavash bread for Reboot Rollups Forming the rolled log of lavash bread and artichoke dip into the Trek chevron shape Forming the rolled log of lavash bread and artichoke dip into the Trek chevron shape Cutting the chevron shapes away from the frozen rollup log 

Bending custom cookie cutters for Star TrekThe whole reason I finally bought a stand mixer was to make my own marshmallows several summers ago….but the cookie cutter I had custom-bent into the chevron shape back then had disappeared since it had been Cutting Star Trek Chevron Cheesesborrowed! To cut marshmallows you need a solid tall metal edge, not my copper tape I use for other custom cookie cutters, so thankfully I had another simple oval in my stash to bend a new Trek chevron. While I was at it, I made a smaller chevron a better size for custom Chevron Cheeses, which worked great!

Mixing the thin ribbon of boiling sugar syrup into the bloomed gelatinFinally, with the new cutter ready, and the pans prepped with wax paper, non-stick spray and lots of powdered sugar, I was ready to make the marshmallows! This time I used Alton Brown’s marshmallow recipe (full recipe at the bottom of this post), but I added some honey since I was at the tail end of my corn syrup. This added a nice extra flavor without affecting Marshmallows almost to maximum fluffthe sugar crystallization. After the thin ribbon of boiling sugar syrup was finally mixed into the gelatin and completely fluffed up stiff, it was ready to spread into the pans to set. I wanted to make 50 special s’mores, one for each year, so I filled one sheet plus almost half of the other, only Homemade marshmallows spread and dustedabout 1″ tall. I sprinkled more powdered sugar over the top then patted the surface with another sheet of wax paper to smooth the top flatter, then let them set overnight. The next evening I Flipping over the marshmallow slabflipped over the entire slab of marshmallow onto a freshly dusted sheet of wax paper, then using a dish of water to keep the cutter from getting too sticky, I was barely able to get 50 chevrons cut, but there are cutting scraps of course. Maybe I can save them for winter to cut up for hot chocolate, but it’s Cutting marshmallows is sticky stuff!too hot right now to enjoy them that way! As each was cut I dusted the reverse side with more powdered sugar and set them on another wax paper lined tray. I kept the cut marshmallows covered one Closeup of S'more Trekmore day until I assembled with my gilded Trek chevron chocolates and the purchased graham crackers into a full platter of S’more Trek!

I blew it and only took before photos of the Starfleetza pizzas in action, not any of the ones everyone made for dinner! Big thanks to Sheila for bringing a cheddar jack cheese mix to add to my mozzarella, plus setting out all the pizza toppings in my custom-melted space-age dishes I saved from the 2002 Trek Mystery party. ;) Starfleetza Pizza Crusts ready with the USS Enterprise pizza cutter!Of course even though I made the crusts small enough they didn’t really need cutting, I had to get out the USS Starfleetza Pizzas ready to grill!Enterprise pizza cutter I got as a Christmas gift a few years ago! Heehee… It did make for an awesome photo in front of the perfectly positioned pile of pizza crusts!

As is usually the case with my movie nights, I am finally assembling my own dinner as the trailers are running, then I get to sit down in the cool night air and enjoy my dinner on my lap in front of the big screen. When I realized I didn’t have any finished Lt. Peterson's dinner: Starfleetza grilled pizza, Reboot Rollup, Federation Fruit Salad, Chevron Cheese, Commbadge Chocolate, and S'more Trek!Starfleetza pizza photos, I decided to take a photo of my dinner plate in front of my 25th anniversary Trek print with Kirk and Picard…then saw my own reflection too!

Keep reading for the full photo gallery plus complete recipes for the Ice Trek cocktails and the homemade marshmallows…and stay tuned for two more movies this summer!

 

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Delicious Daisies Cake

Happy Birthday Mom!Grandma Helen made the rules that my direct maternal line are all 39 and holding until we turn 90, so to know what number this milestone birthday is for my mother Diane, you must count the daisies covering the cake! Happy Birthday Mom!!! Glad you loved your Delicious Daisies Cake!

The irony is that embarrassingly I only decorated this cake! My mom had baked a cake a couple weeks before for another event and saved one layer in the freezer, then because the day was hectic shopping with my brother, she even made her own favorite seven-minute meringue frosting and assembled it! Even though I had made all the daisies the week before, it took at least 20-30 minutes to carefully place them all on the still-tacky frosting, but she loved the result and said daisies are indeed still her favorite flower!

Piping royal icing daisies and birthday message plaqueI knew I needed decorations that would survive driving 3 hours, so I decided on royal icing so the petals would stay outstretched instead of flopping like fondant. I still won’t reveal the actual number, but I knew the cake would be small, so the daisies needed to be small to fit the full number on the cake! I made a full sheet pan worth, which ended up with about 5 spares, a couple of which ended up needed for breakage when assembling the cake. Since I wouldn’t be able to pipe a clean birthday message over the flower texture, I made a separate plaque surrounded with mini daisies…but the daisies on the plaque are extra to the milestone count!


Decorating the birthday message plaque Decorating the birthday message plaque Decorating the birthday message plaque

Since the piping tip I used wasn’t fine enough for the border daisies, I planned to fill in more tiny daisies with a smaller piping tip later, so after all the royal icing dried overnight, I started decorating the birthday message. I wrote the message with orange food coloring pen, then immediately sprinkled yellow sugar so some stuck to the letters, giving a sparkle effect that matched my plan for the daisy centers. I used the same orange pen for the tiny centers in the border flowers, but I added a toothpick dab of clear piping gel before sprinkling the yellow sugar so the centers would be rounded and fuzzy like real Decorating the daisy centers with food coloring, piping gel & colored sugardaisies. After I carefully shook off the loose sugar, I used my 000 piping tip with more white royal icing to add even smaller daisies around the border, and let those dry while I continued decorating the tray of daisies.

I used the same technique for the centers of the larger daisies, with the orange food coloring pen, more piping gel using a wide tip so it would mound like the raised center of a real daisy, then only piping a couple rows at a time before sprinkling the yellow sugar so the piping gel wouldn’t dry too much. I was hoping the yellow color would pop more instead of being so translucent, but it still gave a fuzzy impression…but I didn’t expect them to look like gumdrops! haha…Smothering the piping gel in yellow sugar for the best fuzzy effect I gave all the centers heaping piles of yellow sugar and tapped the sugar gently into the piping gel so as much would stick as possible.

Birthday message plaque completely finished!By then the tiny daisies around the edge of the birthday message plaque had just barely crusted over enough to lightly draw the orange, add the piping gel and yellow sugar to finish those centers…then everything was ready to drive to my parents’ house!

Extra sugar shaken off the daisies, ready for transport...Since the royal icing was stuck to the wax paper, I was able to gently tip the whole sheet to shake the sugar off the rest of the daisies. I left the royal icing stuck through transport so they wouldn’t slide around. That worked Closeup of layering the daisies onto the fresh meringue frostinggreat! I was able to peel each daisy very carefully off the wax paper with only bumping a petal or two once in a while, and those were easily hidden in the overlap pattern I used to cover the entire cake. Nice to be able to use all my years of practice unpeeling royal icing Awful Arachnids for Halloween for another occasion! ;)

Secret support for the birthday message plaqueThe entire milestone quantity of daisies perfectly covered the entire cake like it was planned…but that meant the birthday message plaque had to stand up! We leaned it on a normal candle for photos, but my mom wouldn’t dare attempt to hold the cake for fear of breaking something…haha!

The birthday girl is ready for the spinning lotus candle!You might remember the silly spinning lotus candles from Cyd’s birthday last spring and my summer birthday. I bought several colors back then and have been looking for more chances to use them, but I think they would violate fire code in public restaurants where we usually celebrate birthdays! I thought the yellow one would go well with the yellow/orange centers of the daisies…but since it was a small cake, the lotus candle covered almost the entire top!

After my mom made her wish, my brother immediately investigated the spinning lotus candle and figured out how to stop the annoying singing without cutting the wire! The way he showed me used both hands to close the petals first, but while I was filming he found an even easier way…haha!

Successful spinning lotus candle! The descending fist from above... Bopping the center of the candle with a fist closes all the petals and turns off the music! The fist bop was so unexpected that I laughed almost to the point of crying...hahaha!

Delicious Daisies CakeThe fist bop closing all the petals and stopping the music was so unexpected that I laughed almost to the point of crying…hahaha! Serving the Delicious Daisies CakeAfter our giggles were finished enough to breathe, it was finally time to cut the cake. I removed the center daisies, cut carefully between the side daisies with only a little damage, then used the center daisies as garnish…it looked quite pretty on the plate, and it tasted great! Hope you enjoyed the Delicious Daisies Cake!

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Apple Cider Caramelized Onion Bacon Mushroom Mac & Cheese

Stirring in the goat cheeseFor the First Annual Mac & Cheese Cookoff Contest at Rabbit’s Foot Meadery on March 30th, I created my own recipe inspired by a restaurant dish I had once plus an online recipe using hard apple cider. The rules were to start with all the ingredients from a box of Kraft brand Mac & Cheese, then go wild! I used my own hard apple Closeup of the final tasty mixcider homebrew for this batch because I’d rather save my Rabbit’s Foot/Red Branch bottles for drinking! :)

I’ve participated as a contestant and a taster for the meadery’s chili cookoffs and soup cookoffs before, but the word was spread wider for this one with over a hundred RSVPs, so Mac & Cheese Cookoff required opening the brewing floor!they opened up the brewing floor with tables to accommodate all the entries, and there was a long tasting line! I’m very glad I made a double-batch to fill my crockpot! My entry for the Mac & Cheese Cookoff - half-eaten already!The one that won 1st place was all out before I got there, so I have no idea how his recipe compared to mine, but we both included bacon. ;) The 2nd and 3rd places were both too spicy for me, but at least I got a respectable number of first place chips in my cup!

Here’s my recipe if you’d like to try it!

Apple Cider Caramelized Onion Bacon Mushroom Mac & Cheese

Add-ins for 1 box of mac & cheese, or any other recipe yielding 4 cups cooked.

Prepare the basic mac & cheese according to the box instructions:
Boil 6 cups water, cook pasta for 7-8 minutes until tender. Drain pasta, then while still hot, stir in 4 Tbsp butter, 1/4 cup milk, and powdered cheese packet until creamy.

Caramelizing red onions with cooked bacon in hard apple cider homebrew1/2 cup cooked crumbled bacon
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup hard apple cider

Cook uncovered in a large skillet over medium heat until onions are caramelized and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from pan and stir in to the prepared mac & cheese.

Sauteeing mushrooms and chopped apples in hard apple cider homebrew1 medium apple, cored & chopped (skin on)
1 1/2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup hard apple cider

Cook uncovered in the same skillet over medium heat until apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated but also deglazed the flavor from the onions & bacon. Salt & pepper to taste. Remove from skillet and stir in to the prepared mac & cheese.

Stirring in the goat cheeseAdd 4 oz goat cheese, stirring to melt thoroughly, and enjoy!

I put the double-batch in my crockpot crock but put it covered in the fridge overnight. When I left for work, I put it into the crockpot on low heat so it wouldn’t dry out. When I got home, it was hot & ready to drive it to the contest, and didn’t dry out all evening. I did have about half left, which I enjoyed over the next week…yum!

You can see all my photos of the fun evening in the gallery below. Hope you enjoy making your own embellished mac & cheese!

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“Castle Modern” Bedroom Decor

You might have noticed by now that I love castles, and my dream is to live in one someday, hopefully one I can build myself. Halloween is the perfect excuse to display all my castle decor and even turn the Master Bedroom January 2006outside into Castle Brittahytta, but a lot of my year-round decor inside my midcentury-modern house is what I call Castle Modern, mostly accessories acquired over the years. Even before I bought my house, I found a fancy cast bronze queen bed frame at a consignment store, so I bought it and sewed my own velvet gold and black scroll bedspread for it. It’s been 10 years in this house already mostly the same, with a minor update when I built my custom litter box cabinet in 2013, and I always wanted something more decorative behind the head of the bed, but hadn’t figured out what. Last year I saw a tapestry blanket that wasn’t as cheesy as so many others I’ve seen, so I got it for only $25, but I was too busy to hang it until recently.

New fairy tapestry over the bed gives the guest room a castle upgradeWell, not only did the tapestry not fit proportionally, since even with the sides folded in it wasn’t the right size for the corner posts, and also the fairies were mostly hidden behind pillows due to the angled ceiling, but the dark bronze gothic arches of the bed that I love so much just blended into the tapestry…darn! So I decided my guest bedroom could get a castle upgrade instead. There is more ceiling height above the guest bed, but I still had to fold the top over all the way to the design so the main design wouldn’t be blocked by the bed frame. It replaced two Harry Potter movie posters, so this is a castle upgrade for this room for sure.

Closeup of the new teal crushed velvet swag with gilded lion bracketsI also recently sorted and consolidated all my boxes of fabric, so I knew I had several long lengths of various shades of blue-green crushed velvets, plus extra lion curtain rod brackets I wasn’t able to use after the kittens climbed the curtains too much and bent the original curtain rod! The best shade with the rest of my teal bedroom accessories was the leftover scrap from the skirt of my Mrs. Peacock costume from the first Clue mystery party, which was fabric originally purchased for Britta Skeeter before I found the silly pink leopard print robe. To get the swag long enough to drape in more Updated Castle Modern bedroom decor with new teal crushed velvet swaglevels, I cut it in half lengthwise, then sewed them together for one long strip. The seam is tucked into the top lion bracket, then I played around with draping until I liked the effect. Hanging the ends on top of the corner posts let the panel corners drape into points, which was a happy accident. I am really pleased that this looks opulent while highlighting the shape of the arches. I am a little worried that the points hang down far enough to be tempting kitty toys, but so far they haven’t cared yet. ;)

Now if I could just move all this Castle Modern bedroom decor into a real castle…!

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