Thursday, 29 August 2013

Way Out West Murder Mystery Pt 2

It is the spring of 1884.  America's west coast is slowly being populated with small towns full of settlers, come to prospect for precious metals, set up ranches and run dubious saloons - and now the railroad is coming!

Cactus Gulch is one such small town, founded 20 years ago and tonight is has a festive air as the townsfolk get set to start their 20th anniversary celebrations.  However, all is not running smoothly.  Land disputes, disreputable card games, strange folk from out of town and hostile Indians all add to the tense atmosphere.  Join us in the Silver Dollar saloon as celebrations begin and find out how the evening unfolds ...
Once the invitations were sent out and my costume was sorted the next two steps were the food and decorations.  I had so many ideas but had to rein them in to affordable options! LOL  I saw an e-card the other day which said "An evil witch cursed me at birth with expensive taste and no money!".  While I don't go to quite that extreme, my mind does kinda go wild ... as in beyond my abilities and budget :)

I mentioned yesterday that I found some great on-line image resources.  My favourite was the digital collections at Duke University.  They have collections of sheet music, women's lib stuff, and many more.  Their online advertising collection is wonderful!  This one was particularly funny ...

HAHAHAHA!  It continues on a second page but I think you get the idea.
We are sure that the fact that it was "illustrated by models, especially of the feminine structure" would have reeled them in!  We all had a giggle at this one.

I printed off lots of vintage adds and used them in my decorating.  Free Form Games recommend that you have a large room for the guests to mingle in with another area/room for more private conversations.  We used our games room as the Saloon and then we turned our living room into a General Store/Mercantile.

We had a huge piece of calico that we used to cover our store at shows/fairs and we used this to hide the TV and create a backdrop.  I then created a buffet area using some plastic gingham table clothes that were on sale for a couple bucks.  Everything else came out of my stash or off the printer.

The buffet table
Here is the Mercantile we created.  Lots of food and medicine related advertisements here.

There is fruit and veg in the basket and the wood bin says potatoes
I printed off old medicine labels and stuck them to jars and pots.  Then I filled them with flour and coloured water.

I wonder if any of these will be used on the night!
Yes, the next add does mention cocaine.  I wonder what the babies thought????  I bet it made the toothache go away!

The Princess made these cupcakes.  They were her contribution to the night.  As we were making the cakes our power went out!  We have a gas oven so we could still cook but it took The Princess an hour to hand mix these ... you could say they were authentic!

mmmmm ... cupcakes!
And a few more adds in the Mercantile ...

I love the picture for Hunt's Remedy
Next up was the Saloon.  With the power out I couldn't cut out the lettering!  Thankfully it came back on and I quickly cut everything as it had been forecast to still be out at 7:30pm.  We almost had a REALLY authentic wild west night!

Welcome to the Silver Dollar Saloon
We printed off old reward posters to decorate the Saloon, along with more 'manly' adverts.

Is that you on the poster????
I couldn't get enough of these!
We decorated the bar with peanuts and chips/crisps.  Everyone brought their own drinks and we put them all in the bar.  Our junior bartenders helped to serve them (just don't tell anyone!)

Creative use of a vase :)
Silver Dollar Bar
Now that everything is ready we are good to go ... Lets the party begin!

Can't wait!
I tried to put a rinse in my hair to make it black but even after two bottles it was only a dark brown.  The next morning however it was almost black ... note to self - dye hair the day before! (and it is still washing out LOL)

Stocking up on supplies ... am I the murderer????
Here are our three 'Assistant Bartenders'.  The boys were supposed to be on camp but it was cancelled and as they were all home they were roped in to help.  The host for this game was the Bartender (The LOML) and he was responsible for the running of the game.  As he also had to see to serving the food and pouring drinks he needed some assistants.  The kids were only too happy to join in as they knew the food would be worth it :)  They helped reheat the food, pour drinks, and clean up.  They were terrific helpers.

The Thinker, The Extrovert, The Princess
We're ready.  Where are all the guests???

Ready for fun?
Everyone soon arrived and the fun began.  I can't really show you all the individual photos without everyone's permission, but everyone got into the spirit of it and dressed up.  We had more male than female roles but had more females than males ... did you follow that?  So we had some cross dressers, complete with beards and/or mustaches.  The host really does have lots to organise so if you are going to have a murder mystery night with friends I suggest you either have someone cater, have two hosts, or have some helpers like we did.

We forgot to take photos of the food but here we all are lining up to eat!  We didn't have anything traditionally 'wild west' as we cooked the main with meat from the freezer.  We had choice of slow cooked beef vindaloo and/or chicken tarragon, served with green beans & bacon, and our yummy sweet potato crunch.  I did once promise you the recipe when I got a photo, but as we forgot the photo again, I wont torture you any longer.  It really is yummy!

Way Out West!

Sweet Potato Crunch

2 eggs
1/3 cup evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk)
1/2 cup margarine or butter
3/4 cup sugar (Original recipe was 1 cup! ... feel free to lower this - I usually make it 1/4 cup for special occasions and nothing for everyday)
1t vanilla
3 med sweet potatoes, peeled, cooked and drained

Mix above ingredients until creamy, put in heatproof dish.

1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix together until crumbly and sprinkle over potatoes. Bake at 375°F/190°C until top is crispy (1/2 to 3/4 hour approx)

The first time I tasted this I was only little.  My Grandma always rounded up stray American's for Thanksgiving and they usually brought something.  This was made by two spinster sisters (The Boots) and it became a firm family favourite.  Like most American recipes from that era it was very sweet.  When it became my responsibility to make this I lowered the sugar to 3/4 cup and then kept lowering it until it became only 1/4 cup.  That small amount of sugar really does make it seem like a treat (especially if you don't have access to local sweet potatoes), and as we don't have it too often I tend to put it in.  But as there is also sugar in the topping it really doesn't need it if you are going to eat it more often.  We very rarely ever have leftovers when we serve this unless I make extra.

For dessert I really couldn't decide.  I wanted all my favourites but had to narrow it down to only three, while keeping everyone happy.  I would have added a German Chocolate cake and pumpkin pie (I considered pumpkin and pecan pie too).  But in the end I went with my absolute all time favourite ... banana cream pie (NO meringue).  And added in angel food cake with cream and strawberries, and key lime pie with meringue.

I was waiting to make the angel food cake when the power went off.  Let's just say that The Thinker was happy to have the power come back :)  He was whisking egg whites like his life depended on it!  Thankfully I made the pies the day before.

It was a fabulous night and I won't spoil the story for you in case you decide to give the game a try.  We laughed so hard my cheeks hurt the next day.  The game is very flexible and it involved double dealing, blackmail, more murders, and in the end we were all so caught up in our own deals that only the murderer knew 'who done it'.  It was like an episode of Taggart, Midsummer Murders, Inspector Morse, and Lewis all rolled into one!

It was a fabulous way to spend a birthday with a group of wonderful friends.

See you on Sunday for Storytelling Sunday.  I also hope to catch up on my blog reading this weekend and should be dropping by.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Way Out West Murder Mystery

August has been a quiet month on my blog.  I have been spending most of my time applying for jobs, writing selection criteria for the government applications (some of these can take almost an entire day to draft!), and using my spare time to catch up on all of the health checks that we haven't had time for (thank God for health insurance as they have been free!).  Being unemployed has been a mental and emotional challenge so The LOML suggested that we have a little bit of birthday fun to cheer me up.

Many years ago we had a couple murder mystery nights using the games "How To Host A Murder".  We hired them from the costume store and had a fabulous night of food and fun.  The LOML thought that it would be a fun way to spend the evening and after discussing it with me we decided to give it a try.  This time we searched the internet looking for a free game as the whole night had to be cheap.  He found Free Form Games, who make murder mystery games that you can download.  They have a free mini game for up to 10 people (perfect for us) as a sample game.  Having now already had the evening, I would enthusiastically recommend their games and we will by buying our next one from them. They are nice and relaxed as you don't have to sit around a dinner table like the ones we used previously, but they do require a host.

I LOVE to plan fun for people.  It gives me great joy, even more than the actual event.  So I set about planning, using ONLY the stuff I already owned (I bought only a few bits other than food!).  It has been a great way to use up old shop stock. Each couple needed an invitation along with their character book that tells them who they are, what they know, who they should talk too, and other important facts.  We thought it best that they have that info from the beginning to make the night less stressful.  However each character book could only be read by that person and no one else.

The free game was a wild west theme and I searched the internet for inspiration and pinned it all to a secret pin board, which I have now made public. Check it out if you like to print off your own ephemera as I found some great sites.  One of the best was the Duke University digital collections of old advertising!  But more on that in my next post :)

Here is my invitation ...
Way Out West invitation
It is a tri-fold design
Come to the Silver Dollar Saloon!
The part on the left introduces the scene and the characters are all listed on the right. It turned out exactly as I had pictured.  The red bandanna print was an image I printed and stuck to the front.

Next up I had to make the character books.  The LOML was the host (bartender) for the night and he didn't play the game but organised everything, including all of the printing.  He printed the character books and I then inserted them into the covers I had made, all without reading them!  But then came the hard part ... I couldn't put them into an envelope or the whole lot wouldn't fit into an envelope for posting without it looking terrible.  So I sealed each booklet with a piece of hessian/burlap and a seal made from glittery hot glue and a star stamp.

Finally!  The books are finished.
Each booklet had their character name on it along with costume ideas and their own name (I almost forgot that part, wouldn't that have been funny!).  I then tied it all together and this is how they looked before being slid into an envelope.
I LOVED the way they turned out.
 I wanted to choose my character first and I was stuck between Blaise Sadler, the local madame, or Runs Like A Deer.  In the end the Native American costume won out as I knew that I had a friend who could pull off the other costume far better than me!  Here is my character book as I couldn't photograph any of the others open and not read them!

That's me!
I used the inserts exactly as they came printed in booklet form.
Once the invites went out I had to start on my costume.  I decided not to go the authentic route as I wanted to be able to use the costume for other events.  I used calico as it is cheap (one of the few things I had to buy!) along with ribbons that I have been hoarding.  I bought the paisley ribbon at an open air market in Amsterdam years ago and haven't found anything to use it on.  I had fun sewing it on!!!!! (But I only tacked it on just in case I want it for something else)

My costume in the making!
Pop back on Thursday for the next post as I think I have shared enough for now.  I'm impressed if you read this far!

See you Thursday!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Storytelling Sunday August 2013

This year Storytelling Sunday asks you to "pick your precious". This is how Sian described it ...
Start looking around, see what you love. Pick Your Precious is for short story tellers and for long. You can take the idea of simply a photo with a few words; or, if you are a can't-stop-yourself storyteller, you can expand as much as you like. The thing to keep in mind is that at the end of the year you'll have a permanent record of the little things you hold dear - and your family will know why you are holding onto them! Doesn't that sound like it might be worth it? No more "Do you really need that?"
Please join us this year. It only takes a minute and even if you only write a story or two, that will be a few more of your stories written down.  (and better late than never I always say!)

This month is a special month as it is my birthday.  I love to celebrate birthdays and not just for presents!  Everyone deserves one day each year where they know without a doubt that they are special :-)  I have put in my dinner request and organised some fun with friends.  I have been a little down the past few weeks and organising fun has been a great cure.  I will share all about that in another post as it is now time for my story.  A birthday present ...

You may recall a birthday story last August for Storytelling Sunday.  The beginning of that story recalled the fateful year of 'no birthday celebrations' and today I wish to finish that story.  We were camping in France over my birthday and while the family didn't forget it, they also didn't make ANY plans.  Feel free to click on the link if you wish to read it and also how they made up for it two years later :-)

Once The LOML realised his mistake he suggested that we find a special birthday present during the final week of our vacation.  I think he was a little desperate as he started suggesting a few extravagant things, but I did eventually find something.  Something small that I love very much.  Every time I look at it I notice something else.  It reminds me of fabulous family times and a wonderful camping trip to France.  It is too hard to describe so I will just show you what I found, not far from Sleeping Beauty's Chateau, to bring home as my birthday present ...

Old French Village
It is quite dimensional
There is so much detail
It is a 21cm x 14cm piece of limestone and is a bas-relief.  We stopped at a beautiful little place with caves where they made wine and all sorts of limestone items.  No one spoke English and our French is limited to a few words and two phrases ... "Do you speak English?" and "Where is the toilet?".  Neither are really helpful when you rock up to a tourist spot, unless you are dancing in desperation :D  The owners of the place had printed tour sheets in English so we followed along behind the group and I read out each section to the family quietly at the back.  The caves are full of water which is limestone heavy.  Items put into the water have layers of limestone deposited on them and these pictures are created by molds of carvings that are placed into the water.  No two are exactly the same as the mineral deposits add colour and patterns.

We weren't allowed to take photos (and it was too dark anyway) during the tour and at the end everyone is served a drink in their underground bar.  Photos were allowed in there and you could also taste more of the wines that they had for sale.  Here we are in the underground cave bar ...

It was very cool and refreshing down in the caves.
The Thinker & The Extrovert
I fell in love with the limestone pictures as soon as I saw them and knew that I would be choosing my birthday present in their gift shop.  I looked and looked and looked until I found the perfect one.  It was a beautiful gift and The LOML stopped feeling so terrible after I finally had a present!

I knew I had kept the brochure somewhere safe and I hunted high and low for it so that I could remember the name of the place.  Moving so many times since then hadn't helped but in the LAST box I looked in I found them ... our tickets, the brochure, and some postcards as the low light photos didn't do the place justice.

Yes, I am a hoarder storykeeper
If you are interested in ever visiting you can find their website HERE.

And that is my story this month.  If you like a story or two head on over to Sian's and read a few more.  I usually grab a cuppa and sit and read them as they are all wonderfully told.  They will make you giggle and some have even made me cry.  Happy August everyone!


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Photo Scavenger Hunt Update

I am joining in with Rinda's Photo Scavenger Hunt this Summer Winter.  You can find all the details here and you still have time to join in.  The whole family has been searching for some of the harder ones and we have really enjoyed it so far.  In my last post I said that the kids and I were planning to go into the city to knock a few more off our list while The LOML had a hospital appointment.  On the drive in the weather turned nasty!  This was the view from the hospital into the city ...

Not sure where the 'light rain' was supposed to fall????
We decided not to brave the rain (and risk colds) to walk into the city.  As it turned out the Dr decided that she didn't need to run any additional tests so the appointment only lasted 20min and we drove home.  A little bit of a let down!  While we were waiting and gazing out the window bemoaning the lack of hunting, we started talking about the cloud in the shape of something item.  The Thinker looked out the window and said "They are in the shape of something right now!".  We all looked out in puzzlement.  (Do you see anything in the photo above, because I didn't)
"Smoke!" he said, "It looks like smoke".  LOL  Clever boy, but we will keep hunting for that one.

Later in the week it was sunny again (albeit cold!) and we took the kids to an indoor market.  If I can't find an outdoor market before the end I will have to use this one.  It is winter and all the outdoor markets are closed.  My dad and his wife opened a store here when it was first built in 1990 and I worked here on the weekends when I was with them.

It is only open Thursday thru Sunday (and Public Holidays) and there are permanent stalls and short term stalls.  It was a little disappointing going back there as I haven't been in years.  The economy has taken a toll on so many small businesses, the markets were only half filled and all of the short term stalls were just filled with overflow stuff so that it looked fuller.  The only part of the markets doing a roaring trade was the food court.

That same day we took the kids out for lunch as a school holiday treat.  We went here ...

One of our local pubs, and the best looking one.
It is a beautiful old building and not very far from where we live but we hardly ever go that direction.  The old pub sits in front of the market building and the markets were built to match it.  So I am going to use this as #18 Your local pub or coffee house.  Especially as I don't drink coffee!

How did those black trousers get there?
And today while I was making a cup of tea I looked up and saw this through the window.  A load of whites on the line with a single dark item :-)  The LOML knows that I only have two work trousers and I wash and wear them each day.  He didn't want me to be without them if I had to go into the office on Friday.  Isn't he lovely :)  But it did look kinda funny amongst all those whites.

That is my round up so far.  If you want to see all my hunt posts just click on the label 'Photo Scavenger Hunt' or search for #chippershuntphotos on Instagram.

Happy hunting,