Tea for Two … or Thirty-two

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For my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party I decided to go with a garden party luncheon theme. It turned out to be one of the hottest days we had this summer so I made sure to have plenty of refreshments. Rather than employ hot tea on a hot day (even though the tea cups would have been super cute), I went with iced tea in the hopes that my guests wouldn’t collapse from the heat. I decided on a nice cold decaffeinated mint version (using Stash Organics Cascade Mint), a black tea with a twist (Teavana’s Mango Blank Tea with Lemon), and then the popular Earl Grey Gin cocktail (made with Tetley Vanilla Earl Grey).

And it is suprisingly difficult to make large quantities of iced tea. For one, I only had one pot large enough to hold the required amount of boiling water for each batch. So that meant I could only make one batch of tea at a time. I also only had one bowl large enough to hold that much hot liquid while it cooled. And then I didn’t have enough room in my refrigerator to cool it all down. But I did manage. It took a bit of math to figure out how many tea bags I needed for each of my batches (seeing as I usually just chuck two bags in a teapot and I’m done).

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And I had to calculate how much fluid would fit in each of my glass jars. I got these 7.5L ones from Home Sense for a reasonable price. Remember when you figure out how much water you need, you also need to consider any other displacement volume, such as whether you’re adding fruit (lemon slices) and/or ice.

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And speaking of ice, because I didn’t want to water down my tea as the day wore on, I chose to make my own giant tea ice cubes by freezing some tea in these little ziploc containers.

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All in all it was a very successful shindig, and everyone was refreshed!

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Wee Clay Pot City

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When I saw these wee things over at Say Yes to Hoboken I knew immediately who I had to make them for (but I’m not telling you: it’s a surprise).  Perfect for small plants, especially succulents, I could see these forming a little town on someone’s coffee table.

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I decided to make my own template for my wee town, so that I could get some variety in the buildings I created.  Just make sure, when you are creating your pattern, that you account for the width of the base and the thickness of your sculpting medium.  It’s all about the math, b’ys.

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For this little jobbie you need some Sculpey, a cutting tool (I used a paring knife), a smoothing tool (I used some old manicure tools), and something for rolling out the clay (I used an empty Screech bottle).  You will also need a glass dish for baking your clay, and a work surface that doesn’t stain easily.  Raw Sculpey is pretty toxic, so it’s best to work on waxed paper, parchment, or a silicone mat that you can easily wash.

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It’s a simple thing to do, but it takes some time.  First you need to condition your Sculpey by squishing it a bunch with your hands.  Then you roll it out, and cut out your shapes.

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When you press them together, make a little snake out of extra clay and use it to seal the edges — you want the wee pot to be water tight after all.

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My first go-round, I made my templates too big and so my little houses weren’t really all that little. You can see in the photo below how it sagged under its own weight.  Fortunate thing about Sculpey is you can just squish it all up and start again, which I did.  My new templates work on a 2″ square, and so I can make about four structures out of one pound of clay.

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I wanted a bit of variety to my city, so with the white Sculpy I made two regular houses, one house with a slanty roof, and a factory.

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Do you see how I raised the floor of the factory on the inside so that the plant would still come out the top?  I know: clever me.

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And the basic house:

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With the terra cotta coloured Sculpey I made a mansion (or row housing), a city hall and a church.  The church is just the small house with a cross instead of a chimney (which baked a bit wonky), and the city hall is just a big house with a circle cut out of the taller roof to signify a town clock.

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Use a smoothing tool to smooth out the edges on the outside, too, and the bottom.

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The next part is easy.  You preheat your oven to 275°F and pop your little structures into your glass dish (I lined mine with parchment, just because I find if the clay is right on the glass surface it tends to cook with a glossy flat edge that doesn’t jibe with the rest of the piece).  Bake for 15 minutes per every 1/4″ thickness of Sculpey.  You don’t want to overbake, but as some of my pieces were obviously thicker or thinner than that (yes, we’ve already gone over how much I suck at Sculpey), I go for a round 20 minutes and that seems to work out just fine.

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Haul those out of the oven and don’t touch them until they’re cool.  Sculpey is designed to shrink less than 2% while baking so you shouldn’t have much trouble with your watertight seal, but you should check anyway.  If it’s not sealed, just add a touch more Sculpey to the hole and bake it for a few minutes.

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I didn’t have enough Sculpey left to make a whole other building, so I made this little round pot.

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And then a wee man.  He’s a magician (hence the top hat and cape) and he’s sitting staring at this wee box, thinking.  So I call it Thinking, Outside the Box.  I gave him to the Pie.

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And there you have it.  I don’t have any succulents on hand, so you’ll have to imagine them in these shots.  But it’s a cute little town, no?

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