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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Steampunk and Chocolate go together like tea and scones. After all modern chocolate was created in the Victorian era and steam power made the first mass production of chocolate possible. Not to mention when I think of chocolate factories, I think of Willie Wonka, which has a steampunk vibe.

I set up a Steampunk event to tour the Keggs Chocolate factory here in Houston Texas. It’s not quite Wille Wonka’s but it’s a lot of fun and full of freshly made chocolate treats. Yum yum! The choclate factory -Chocolate was first molded into solid form in 1847 by Francis Fry, who added melted cacao butter back into Dutch cocoa then added sugar, creating a moldable paste. He called it “eating chocolate” Two years later the Cadbury brothers were also selling “eating chocolate”. And in 1861 Richard Cadbury created the first heart-shaped candy box for Valentine’s Day. If you like milk chocolate like I do, you can thank Daniel Peter, who invented it in 1875  by using condensed milk his neighbor Henri Nestle developed. Then Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle formed the Nestlé Company.putting swirls on the choclate to tell which kind is which

In 1879 Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching machine to heat and roll chocolate to a smooth and creamy consistency so it melts on the tongue. In 1895 Milton S. Hershey sold his first Hershey Bar in Pennsylvania. He made it using modern, mass-production equipment he purchased at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

so hard to decide – it all looks good

So we can think the Victorian era for chocolate. After the scrumptious chocolate factory tour, we had lunch at Your Cup Of Tea, an English style Tea House.

Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Her latest Steampunk Romance is a re-release, As Timeless As Magic, the sequel to As Timeless As Stone and Brass Octopus is coming in September.

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We recently had a fun event in Houston for the local Steampunk community. The Brass Ball, a DJed dance with multiple musicians and vendors was held Sunday July 27 at Mimms Martini and Wine bar on Montrose. You can see photos of the Brass Ball here in the blog post.

This event had me thinking about Houston saloons in the 19th century. The main choice of drink in the saloon was whiskey, also called rotgut, sheep-dip, cactus juice, coffin varnish, and tarantula juice. In those days cowboys and western gents could partake of more than just a drink in a saloon. In 1839, a local Houston, Texas newspaper decried the town’s houses of ill repute. The newspaper was probably either The Houston Morning Star, a daily newspaper founded April 8, 1839, or the Telegraph and Texas Register, a weekly newspaper that included local, state, and national news, established July 10, 1839. The Houston Morning Star was actually printed in the office of the Telegraph and Texas Register.

In Houston Land of the Big Rich the author, Geroge Fuerman, statesbrass ball 2 that from 1880 to World War I Houston’s vice area was on old Howard Street. In the early 1900’s the brothels in Houston used a practical bookkeeping system based on towels. One was given to each customer and at the end of the night the madam counted the brass ball 5towels and paid the girls accordingly. There’s a story about a Howard street brothel in those days that caught on fire. The madam fled the burning house by taking the outside stairs but when she looked up she saw the porter jump form a second story window with his arms loaded with towels. She exclaimed, “Thank God. He saved the books.”

I did find some saloon information from other Texas towns. In the early 1870s in Lampasas Texas a gunfight broke out in the saloon between state police and outlaws. Three officers were shot to death in the saloon and a fourth was fatally wounded while trying to escape.

There’s even a Texas saloon story involving Jesse James. The brass ball 9outlaw lived for a time in the area of Granbury Texas. He fell in love with an 18 year old saloon girl and began to settle down. In those days if a saloon patron was upstairs with a saloon girl when his wife came to drag him home, the barkeep would send the man down the husband escape, which was the outside stairs. The saloon girl Jesse loved had to run down the husband escape one night but she wasn’t fast enough to escape a bullet in her back. Some people say the saloon girl still haunts the empty up stair rooms around the square in Granbury.

I’m glad to report the Brass Ball at Mims was old fashioned fun and great music without any wild west shenanigans or shootouts but there were some card tricks.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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I recently worked a temp job where my co-workers sent a group email once a week when the food trucks came to the area. Everyone was always so excited about lunch on those days. It was the one time they all went to lunch together. In a large group they’d walk over to where the food trucks parked to try out the different ones. Some of the most popular food trucks in Houston, where I live are Yummy’z Kitchen serving American classics, the waffle bus with their gourmet waffle sandwiches, and FoodGasm offering everything from burgers and lobster rolls to wings and waffles and deep-fried Oreos. I love the food trucks that come to the Houston Highland Games each year where I get cultural delicacies such as haggis, bangers and mash, and scotch eggs and Irn – Bru to wash it all down. I haven’t got my granddaughter to try haggis yet but I did get her to each a scotch egg. She loved it. And everyone loves food trucks. Here are some great photos of actual Steampunk food trucks. It might surprise you to know food trucks aren’t new. And, yes, they go back to Victorian times. They were called lunch wagons then.

In 1887, Walter Scott, a Rhode Island pressman at the Providence Journal, made extra money selling homemade sandwiches and coffee he carried in baskets to co-workers. This little side business did so well Scott upgraded to a horse-drawn wagon with walk up windows on each side. There, he served fresh sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, sweet pies, and steaming coffee. Scott’s customers, these late night regulars and shift workers, were the rough and rowdy kind. He often had to hold their hats as collateral until they paid for their sandwiches.  Sometimes he even had to collect  payment with a club. It seems selling sandwiches in the Victorian age wasn’t for the faint of heart.  Still, his business boomed. Soon copy cat lunch wagons popped up giving him some local competition.

A Massachusetts wagon owner,  T.H. Buckley, discovered building lunch cars was more profitable than operating them. Commercial production of lunch wagons began.  The leading advantage of Buckley’s design, No. 22,743, Patented Aug. 22, 1893, was a series of windows extending  around the wagon and a door on either side of the wagon. The row of windows in the upper portion of the wagon body added a light and airy appearance. Buckley’s wagons also had large wheels to maneuver over the cobblestones, overhangs to keep patrons out of the rain, decorative murals, frosted glass and shiny fixtures, as well as ice boxes and cook-stoves.

The united States post Office honored these early lunch wagons with a 29 cent Lunch Wagon stamp issued on April, 12, 1991.

Food Time Line is a great source for 19th century foodways for Steampunk stories – authentic saloon menus are even listed and a recipe for a pioneer birthday cake as well as Queen Victoria’s favorite foods. Also click here for some great Lunch Wagon images.

If you enjoy eating at food trucks keep that in mind when writing stories set in the 19th century. Have your characters stop by a food wagon or create a character who owns a food wagon.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space, which is as crazy and as entertaining as it sounds. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus. Maeve Alpin will be making several appearances this month at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in New Orleans and at Comicpalooza in Houston.

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February is a party month, a birthday party month that is for many great 19th century writers, scientist, and innovators, who had a huge impact on the Victorian era and beyond:

  • Charles Dickens, February 7, 1812
  • Jules Verne, February 8, 1828
  • Thomas Edison, February 11, 1847
  • Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1809
  • Charles Darwin, February 12, 1809
  • George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., inventor of the Ferris Wheel, February 14, 1859
  • Susan B. Anthony, February 15, 1820
  • 288Levi Strauss, inventor of blue jeans, February 26, 1829
  • Buffalo Bill Cody, February 26, 1846
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, February 27, 1807

And in Houston, Texas on February 8th we partied like it was 1849, celebrating the 165th birthday of the Father of Science Fiction, Jules Verne. Thanks to the Alternate Reality Group of Houston (ARGH), who put on the fun event at Katy Budget books with cakes and games and giveaways to honor Jules Verne. The  luscious cakes , one vanilla, one chocolate, were decorated with the image of a French postage stamp honoring Jules Verne and the cover of Around the World in 80 Days.  My favorite Jules’Verne quote is from Around the World in Eighty Days –  “Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.”

The Big Kahuna of ARGH gives away a Jules Verne book to the proud winner of the Jules Verne quiz.

Speaking of quotes and other Jules Verne’s trivia, the ARGH created a fun Jules Verne quiz and gave the winner a Jules Verne hardcover book.

We all had a blast celebrating and many of us came decked out in our finest Steampunk attire to celebrate this Science Ficiton pioneer. Jules Verne had fifty four books published in his lifetime.

  • 1863 – Five Weeks in a Balloon – Cinq semaines en ballon
  • 1866 – The Adventures of Captain Hatteras – Voyages et aventures du capitaine Hatteras
  • 1864 – revised 1867 – Journey to the Center of the Earth -Voyage au centre de la Terre
  •  1865 – From the Earth to the Moon -De la terre à la lune
  • 1867 – In Search of the Castaways – Les Enfants du capitaine Grant
  • 1869 – Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea – Vingt mille lieues sous les mers
  • 1870 – Around The Moon – Autour de la lune
  • 1871 – A Floating City – Une ville flottante
  • 1872 – The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa –  Aventures de trois Russes et de trois Anglais
  • 1873 – The Fur Country – Le Pays des fourrures
  • 1873 – Around the World in Eighty Days – Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
  •  1874 – The Mysterious Island – L’Île mystérieuse
  • 1875 – The Survivors of the Chancellor – Le Chancellor
  • 1876 – Michel Strogoff
  • 1877 – Off on a Comet – Hector Servadac
  • 1877 – The Child of the Cavern – Les Indes noires
  • 2751878 – Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen – Un capitaine de quinze ans
  • 1879 – The Begum’s Millions, – Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum
  • 2811879 – Tribulations of a Chinaman in China – Les Tribulations d’un chinois en Chine
  • 1880 – The Steam House – La Maison à vapeur
  • 1881 – Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon – La Jangada
  • 1882 – Godfrey Morgan – L’École des Robinsons
  • 1882 – The Green Ray – Le Rayon vert
  • 1883 – Kéraban the Inflexible – Kéraban-le-têtu
  • 1884 – The Vanished Diamond – L’Étoile du sud
  • 1884 – The Archipelago on Fire – L’Archipel en feu
  • 1885 – Mathias Sandorf
  • 1886 – The Lottery Ticket – Un billet de loterie
  • 1886 – Robur the Conqueror – Robur-le-Conquérant
  • 1887 – North Against South – Nord contre Sud
  • 1887 – The Flight to France – Le Chemin de France
  • 1888- Two Years’ Vacation – Deux Ans de vacances
  • 1889- Family Without a Name -Famille-sans-nom
  • 1889 – The Purchase of the North Pole -Sans dessus dessous
  • 1890 – César Cascabel
  • 1891 – Mistress Branican
  • 1892 – Carpathian Castle – Le Château des Carpathes
  • 1892 – Claudius Bombarnac
  • 1893 – Foundling Mick – P’tit-Bonhomme
  • 1894 – Captain Antifer – Mirifiques Aventures de Maître Antifer
  • 1895 – Propeller Island – L’Île à hélice
  • 1896 – Facing the Flag – Face au drapeau
  • 1896 – Clovis Dardentor
  • 1897 – An Antarctic Mystery – Le Sphinx des glaces
  • 1898 – The Mighty Orinoco – Le Superbe Orénoque
  • 1899 – The Will of an Eccentric – Le Testament d’un excentrique
  • 1900 – The Castaways of the Flag – Seconde Patrie
  • 1901 – The Village in the Treetops – Le Village aérien
  • 1901 – The Sea Serpent – Les Histoires de Jean-Marie Cabidoulin\
  • 1902 – The Kip Brothers – Les Frères Kip
  • 903 – Traveling Scholarships – Bourses de voyage
  • 1904 – A Drama in Livonia – Un drame en Livonie
  • 1904 – Master of the World – Maître du monde
  • 1905 – Invasion of the Sea – L’Invasion de la mer

He was a busy writer. And he wrote all his books in careful longhand – he didn’t use a typewriter, though they were invented in the 1860s. What is your favorite Jules Verne book? Feel free to answer in the comments below.

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, fantasy and happy endings. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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I shake John Carney and then Christine Carney’s hands. “Happy New Year and welcome aboard Airship Steamed. Watch your step,” I call as I stretch my short legs in a leap across the wide gap between the dock and the airship. John and Christine, the owners of Thick and Thin Designs, follow me into the parlor.

I gesture towards the crimson settee, which features curvy lion head legs and claw feet. John and Christine take a seat there. I sink into the large armchair across from them. I raise my voice to speak over the clang and grind of the airship as we take off. “Cupcake toppers are wonderful and they take a cupcake to a whole other level. What drew you to the fascinating art and business of creating decorative acrylic cupcake toppers, jewelry and ornaments?”

Christine glances at the blue willow teacups, shaking and rattling on the tea table between us. “John’s an MFA student at the University of Maine and had been working as a tech in the new Innovation, Marketing, Research and Commercialization Center (IMRC) on campus and fell in love with the laser cutter. We knew that machine would allow us to produce what previously only existed in our wildest dreams. One night while I was cooking dinner, we envisioned a massive zombie horde placed upon dozens of cupcakes and the idea to produce unique, quirky cupcake toppers was born. We always knew that we wanted to be in business together and this was our opportunity.”

“How can you not love any business inspired by the vision of a zombie horde on cupcakes.” The dainty china cups cease rattling on the tea table as our airship glides smoothly pass the clouds. “Several of your Thick & Thin creations have a Steampunk appeal:  gears, mustaches, tentacles and hot air balloons. Do you have an interest in Steampunk?” I pick up the teapot and pour my guests a cup of Earl Grey.

John and Chrisitne pick up their teacups. “We love the Steampunk genre! We love the combination of beautiful clothing, dirty industrialization and the whimsical nature that threads through it all. Steampunk and those who love it are always an inspiration for us when we’re creating new designs because we know that there are great number of people out there who love it and not many products to support it.” Tendrils of steam rise from their teacups as they each take a sip.

I pour myself a cup of tea. “How do you get your inspiration for your creations?” Lifting and tilting my teacup to my lips, I take a long sip.

John reaches for the sugar bowl, picks up a white cube and plunks it into his tea. “We’ve always been fans of the obscure, geeky and cute so we often find inspiration in our hobbies. When we’re deciding what to put on our shop we think of things that we would want and can’t find anywhere else. We have a very diverse group of friends, sometimes thinking about what they might want can lead to innovative designs that we wouldn’t necessarily think of for ourselves. The tentacles for instance were created specifically for one of our Cthulhu loving friends who had just moved to the US from Spain. Obviously they had to be shared with the world, and now they are one of our top sellers.” He dips a silver teaspoon into his cup and swishes it gently from side to side.

Reaching for the dish on the table, I pinch a slice of lemon and inhale the invigorating citrus fragrance as I squeeze a few drops into my teacup. “Since this is Steamed, I have to ask do you like Steampunk fiction?  If so, what are some of your favorite Steampunk books or authors?”

iChrisitne leans back in the setee and takes another sip of tea. “I’m a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft and have loved the His Dark Materials trilogy by Pullman since it was first published. I love science and enjoy Steampunk fiction especially because of its, often positive, view of mechanics and its favorable portrayal of women in the field. It’s inspiring to women young and old to not let anything stop you from doing what you love, especially public opinion.”

I bring my teacup to my lips. As the steam from the cup blows warm on my face I finish the last of my tea and set the cup down. “As a husband and wife team, do you both design the cupcake toppers? If so, are some of the designs collaborations?”

Christine sets her teacup on its saucer on the table as John  does the same. “All of our pieces are collaborations. We will bounce ideas back and forth off of one another during the initial phases of a design. I will often check for scientific accuracy while my husband checks to make sure the piece will be interpreted visually. After the first rendition is finished in Illustrator, we’ll print a few test prints off and discuss how we feel about the piece and whether it’s successful before putting it up on the store. When looking at our shop line-up any design that is animal related or cute can be attributed to me and anything mechanical or figurative can be attributed to John.”

Hearing rattling and clinking, I glance at the tea table, the cups and saucers are shaking.”I know what that means, the airship is landing. I have time for one final question. What is your favorite cake or cupcake topper?”

Christine grasps hold of the arm of the settee, bracing for the landing “My favorite toppers are the tentacles! They were a blast to design and always go over well at a party! John’s partial to the ninja toppers, it was one of his first designs. He’s always thought that they perfectly represent our style and aesthetic, while showcasing the fine detail we are capable of in our pieces.”

The airship steamed has  landed and John and Christine Carney must get started on making cupcake toppers for all the parties in 2014, but they left their left calling cards for us.

Website, Online StoreFacebook

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Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 19 published books. Her latest Steampunk/Romance is Conquistadors In Outer Space. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.

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A couple weeks ago, I got to do something cool–I went to the inaugural event of a brand new steampunk group.

In Michigan, there has long been a lot of steampunk activity in the Detroit area, and a number of people who attend the Detroit events do so from around the state and even into Ohio. There’s been some attempt made to get a group going in Grand Rapids, but until recently, the Lansing area was devoid of organized steampunks.

Not any more. Introducing, Capital Steam, which is largely, at this point, a Facebook group. Something I’ve learned about the steampunk community is that there are both formal and informal organizations. Formally, you have the smaller groups, predominantly airships, where informally, you have all the steampunk fans in the region who show up for various events. For instance, in Detroit, the Detroit Steampunk Consortium, Up in the Aether, and the Ann Arbor-based Woodruff’s Grove Steampunk Society all have pretty much overlapping members, as does Steampunk Michigan and Survivors of the Great White North. Now, many of us have also joined up with the fledgling Capital Steam. Since I live about equidistant from Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing, I have no qualms about this.

The first event came off beautifully. In the afternoon, small groups met, in garb, at various local attractions. I was at the R. E. Olds (yes, as in Oldsmobile) Museum, and both fun and education abounded. I met some new friends I can’t wait to see again, and saw some really cool old vehicles as well as other accoutrements of the era.

In the evening, we all met for a lovely dinner in the restored railroad dining car at Clara’s Lansing Station. A few of the Detroiters showed up to lend their support, and a number of totally new recruits arrived as well to start things off right. There was good food, excellent company, wonderful clothing, a fair bit of booze and enormous amounts of laughter. Following dinner, some of the crew retired to a local coffee house/pub to end the evening.

The next event, scheduled for October, is tea at a Lansing mansion, the Turner-Dodge house. I’m looking forward to this eagerly, and already planning my wardrobe.

It was just about a year ago that I discovered southern Michigan had an active steampunk community and went to my first event. It’s been a wonderful, busy, crazy 12 months. A meme I’ve seen on social media says “Happiness is finding other people who are the same kind of crazy as you.” Yeah, that applies to my experience with the steampunk community over the past year.  Can’t wait for year #2.

In other news, I will be appearing at PandoraCon in Cincinnati, Oct. 9-11. If you’re in the area, come look me up! I’ve also been approved for a steampunk panel at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans next May, and will be one of the hostesses for the steampunk tea. Finally, my January Gaslight Chronicles novella, Ashes & Alchemy is up for pre-order on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Charles Dickens and his wonderful books with strong fleshed out characters, exposing serious social issues, influence authors to this day. Also,  A Christmas Carol still influences Christmas celebrations. Most families include A Christmas Carol in their holiday tradition by reading from the book out loud or attending a play of it or watching one of the film versions on TV.

In Galveston Texas they go one step further, bringing the images in Dickens’ book alive in the annual Christmas festival, Dickens On The Strand. The 2012 Dickens On The Strand is even more special than usual as this year marks Charles Dickens  200th, Birthday, he was born February 7, 1812.

Here’s a merry ode to the festivities, just imagine Glen Campbell singing it to the tune of Galveston.

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear carolers singing

I still hear the bells ringing

I still hear the bells ringing

I dream of old fashioned fun

I dream of old fashioned fun
In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

I still hear the children laughing

I still hear the children laughing
Still see the gentlemen so dapper and dashing

Still see the gentlemen, dapper and dashing

Still recall Queen Victoria waving to everyone

Still recall Victoria waving to everyone

As her carriage rolls down the strand

As her carriage rolls down the strand

In Galveston

In Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

Galveston, Oh Galveston

reenactment of a civil war camp

reenactment of a civil war camp

With period nurses in white uniforms

With period nurses in white uniforms

See me hold a civil war replica gun

I held a civil war replica gun

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

At Galveston

Steampunk is recognized at this Victorian celebration with steampunk square, a steampunk costume contest, a steampunk street ball, and steampunk attendees and airship crews march in the Pickwick’s Lantern-light parade. It’s fun for the whole family and I had a blast. And the food and the shopping was incredible.

For additional steampunk photos taken at Dickens on the Strand, click here

Here’s another Christmas treat, for S. J. Drum’s A Very Steampunk Christmas, click here

May your Christmas be a steamy one, even if you didn’t make it to Galveston.

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Maeve Alpin 

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