Terrible Teapot Tuesday: December

IMG_4499Meet Amelia? No, seriously, I found a few websites that identified this strange Rhino teapot as Amelia the Rhino teapot.

Apparently, rhinos aren’t big on attacking people (that’s the hippo that kills lots of people) so why are people attacking poor rhinos by making ugly teapots of them? One of life’s great mysteries, I suppose. Of course, that being said, people kill lots of rhinos every year. Stop that, you hear?! Save the Rhino!

I first saw this one while doing some shopping on zulily.com, but you can see Amelia in all her glory over at tarmtea.

Honestly, Amelia’s not too terrible, but still, she’s not one I’d like to serve my tea out of.

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Terrible Teapot Tuesday: November 2015

Turkey TeapotWell, friends, this is a fairly fearsome feathered teapot, wouldn’t you agree? I am a teapot lover, but I don’t understand the desire to put pilgrim’s shoes on a turkey and make it a teapot.

I found this Fitz & Floyd gem, part of their ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ series on sale for $379.99! That’s right, for the price of a tablet or a cross country flight, you could own this precious piece of crockery.

November: The Scarlet Pimpernel

scarletFor November, Read It & Steep will be reading The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.

Amazon.com describes it as:

‘This timeless novel of intrigue and romance is the adventure of one man’s defiance in the face of authority. The rulers of the French Revolution are unable to discern the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a man whose exploits are an embarrassment to the new regime. Is he an exiled French nobleman or an English lord? The only thing for certain is his calling card–the blood-red flower known as the Scarlet Pimpernel…’

I’m especially excited about this one.  It’s not only one of my favorite books ever, but it inspired an amazing series by Lauren Willig that I also fell in love with!  Should be a great discussion.

Womp Womp

I’m afraid, dear friends, I will not be sharing my Bahston Cream Cupcake recipe with you today. Why, you ask? Simply because it was not fit for human consumption.

First, I made cupcakes that I think I put in the oven a touch too long since they started to shrink and pucker on the tops a la photo exhibit one:

IMG_4147

Sad shrunken cupcake : – (

Gotta be honest though: they actually tasted pretty amazing despite being ugly. In fact, I put them in an airtight container and have been munching on them for almost a whole month with nothing on them at all. Delicious.

Sadly, however, I was so freaked out by their shrunken look that I made a whole new batch of cupcakes, finally remembering to use my silicon cupcake molds. See exhibit two:

cake

Oooooo, so pretty. Very yum.

Then I had to go and RUIN these cupcakes by inserting the filling, which instead of being lovely and delicious, simply soaked into the spongy cake and turned it into terrible dense hockey pucks. Turrible.

Then I covered it with the worst chocolate ganache that I’ve ever made. See exhibit three:

Bahston Cream Cupcakes

Kinda pretty, but not so tasty.

I should have done a mix of semi sweet and milk chocolate, me thinks. The ganache was too bitter, the cake too dense, the filling too nonexistent. This was a big ole’ recipe fail all around.

Steeper Melissa said, “Sorry, but not your best.” Too true, my friend, too true.

I think I served some kind of tasty tea, but to be honest, I don’t remember what it was because I was so upset about the stupid cupcakes.

October’s a selection from Edgar Allan Poe, who was born in Boston . . . should I try again? I can’t decide.

Sorry gang. My promise of tasty treats fell totally flat in September.

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Shutter IslandFor September, we read Dennis Lehane’s 2003 mystery Shutter Island. This book was made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in 2010. Steeper Kristin had submitted this book for our consideration quite some time ago. I must admit that we picked it from the teapot a few times previously. This time, when we chose this title and it looked like it was going to be discarded again, Kristin murmured with displeasure, “We’re never going to read that book.” Well, that was enough to make sure we chose it!

It ended up being a solid decision since almost 100 percent of our attendees (including two new members, yay!) completed the read. We all ended up finding it pretty creepy and twisty, which as you may or may not know, horrors! horrors! is our motto. Shutter Island definitely provides plenty of horrors. We found that it is wise to consider our narrator as unreliable, as is often the case with mysteries. The majority of us enjoyed the twist and didn’t catch on too early. A few of our members were hip to what was going on way early.

Surprisingly few of us had seen the Scorcese film prior to reading the novel and we all seemed to like it that way. Those of us who watched the movie afterward were underwhelmed. Despite a fairly stellar cast (DiCaprio being the least of these), we found that the movie attempted to beat the viewer over the head with too loud discordant music which actually decreased the suspense. As Steeper Melissa exclaimed in frustration, “Scorcesio!” It’s going to be our new curse word . . . . or a way to call the power of WonderTwins, or something like that. Try it, screaming “Scorcesio!” can actually be quite soothing.

We felt like one of our steepers seemed to have read a different book than the rest of us, his understanding and interpretation of the novel was so wholly different from our collective one. We agreed it was worth the read, despite several of us admitting that we may have found ourselves skimming the novel, mostly to get to the next clue.

Miss Kristin also found a really interesting theory about the end, but I don’t want to post any big spoilers here. So, if you’d like to know the secrets of Shutter Island . . . guess you’ll have to visit me at the library and check out a copy!

Our rating average turned out to be about 3.75 teacups, but since I only go by halves, we’ll round it up to 4!

4 teacups

Paper Treats

IMG_4120For our Paper Towns discussion, I couldn’t figure out just what to make.  The only food they really discuss was raw catfish (not an option) and brief discussions of the junk food they eat on their road trip.  I decided that August was a good time for strawberries and chocolate so I wanted to make a chocolate chip strawberry cake.

I adapted my recipe from Julia’s Album. I found her instructions to require baking time that was just too long.  I like my cakes soft and spongy.

Ingredients

  • 1 & 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla
  • 1 C sugar, granulated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C chocolate chips, plus a little for the top. (I did a mix of semi-sweet & milk chocolate)
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
  • powdered confectioner’s sugar for dusting.

IMG_4121Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a springform pan with parchment paper. Grease or non-stick spray the sides of the pan.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder & salt together into a medium bowl.
  3. Mix softened butter, Greek yogurt & 1 C granulated sugar: beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Don’t mix longer than about 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to medium, mix in the egg, beat until light and fluffy. Then mix in milk & vanilla.
  5. Mix in the flour mixture, gradually on low speed, just until combined. Be careful to not over mix.
  6. Fold in 1/3 C chocolate chips. Transfer batter to springform pan. Arrange strawberries on top of the batter, cut sides down. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top.
  7. Bake cake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. When the cake is done baking, let it cool (still in the baking pan) on a wire rack. After cake has cooled for about 40 minutes, you can release the cake from the springform pan.
  9. Serve your tasty treat refrigerated or room temp. Lightly dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

IMG_4122It was pretty tasty!  I still haven’t figured out the magic of getting my chocolate chips to float in the cake so the bottom of the cake was a bit chocolate heavy from settling and I over baked it just a bit. It was still a nice summer treat.

The strawberries seemed to sink into the dish a bit and I’m not sure if that was from being too wet when they went onto the cake or from my over baking. I’ll have to try again!

Paper Towns by John Green

Paper TownsBack in August we read Paper Towns by John Green and took our annual trip to the movies.  I’m sorry to say that we felt like our third field trip didn’t quite live up to the first two.

The consensus on the book was a bit ‘meh,’ but those of us who saw the film had definite and strong opinions about it. We agreed that there are often legitimate reasons for altering parts of books for a viewing audience, but in this case, the majority of the group found the majority of the changes unnecessary and detracting from the work.

The complaint for both book and film was that we didn’t much like the main characters. Seriously, if this book was about Radar and Ben, we’d be on board. It goes to show what kind of character the lead is that I can not remember his name. Ben and Radar, they were memorable, but Quentin (I did have to look it up) was just forgettable. Margo on the other hand was unforgettable, but not in a good way.  None of our group really understood Q’s fascination or could fathom why Becca was interested in hunting down her “friend.”  Margo’s just not very nice, even for a teenage girl.

Paper Towns movieMany of us enjoyed the book in chunks.  I liked the beginning and then it just fell off for me. Some said they’d enjoyed it up until the ending. Most of us weren’t fans of how Green finished it. I typically applaud Mr. Green for not finishing books in the predictable way, but this time, I thought he should have called this one a short story and ended it after about 25 pages. Both book and film promise a mystery that just isn’t all that mysterious or frankly very interesting.

The film’s lack of understanding of how long it takes to drive from Florida to upstate New York infuriated our PA crowd and we felt like the dropping of the group’s fear that Margo had died or was going to kill herself completely removed the incentive to find her and just dumbed down the whole experience.

The steepers who joined us for the filming were actually more entertaining than the film. Meghan sat to my right and used wild hand gestures and harrumphs to exclaim her displeasure at the numerous changes. My favorite experience came from Kristin. She sat stoically throughout the film, only moving to decline my offer of a raisinet (Meghan informs me that she believes that raisinets are just fruit masquerading as candy). The moment that the lights started coming back up, Kristin exclaimed, “Well, I hated that!”

She wasn’t the only one with such sentiments, while most of us didn’t love the film, Maureen’s vehement dislike was palpable. She admits that this in her 3 least favorite films of all time. That’s hardcore dislike, my friends. She also announced that the film sucked when Meghan was searching for the right word to describe her feelings about the film. She did, however, say that Paper Towns had seemed better to her than The Fault in Our Stars, to which Meghan replied, “Well, there is a lot less cancer.”

Overall, we gave this book about a 2.5 teacup rating and while we don’t rate the movies, this one would be pretty low on the list.

2.5 teacups