Anti-Shopping Christmas Guide

Today is “cyber-Monday”. I guess that’s something of a big deal, because it’s all over yahoo! news, and my facebook page. So in response to all the shopping pressure, and because I am like a stubborn mule that likes to go against the flow of normality, I am posting my anti-shopping recommendations.

I don’t hate shopping. That’s the problem. I love shopping especially for all the people I care about, and if I had millions of dollars they would all be getting random gifts from me year-round, just because I saw something they would like. Unfortunately, I shop for myself whenever I am shopping for others, so I usually double what I would be spending, if not more. Due to all of the costs, as well as travel associated with this time of year, Hubby and I had started to completely hate Christmas. We wanted to reverse this trend, and feel good about the money we’re spending, as well as control the amount. This is how anti-shopping was born.

We are giving charitable donations in the names of all our friends and family this year, and giving them cards to let them know. I have done a bit of this in the past, and here are some of the websites I’ve used:

1) World Vision – this charity allows you to donate in tons of different ways. You can sponsor a child, buy a goat or flock of chickens for a village, or help build a well to provide clean drinking water. They also have a shop where you can buy cool little things, and the proceeds go to the charity.

2) Defenders of Wildlife – this site allows you to sponsor dozens of different animals in order to help protect their habitat, and advocate for their protection. You can adopt sea turtles, wolves, penguins and many others, and the gift recipient gets a plush toy, which is super sute.

3) Local Charities – does the person on your gift list volunteer somewhere? Do they have a pet cause, like homelessness, gay rights, or child welfare? Find a charity in your city so the gift can help close to home.

4) Animal Trustees of Austin – Speaking of local, this is a great organiztion that provides low cost spay, neuter, and basic medical services for animals in Austin.

5) Town Lake Animal Shelter – Town Lake does not turn away any animals, and is dependent on charitable donations to care for all of them. This is not a no-kill shelter, but from what I understand they are trying to transition in that direction.

6) The Human Fund – The link I’ve provided here goes to a video by the founder of the Human Fund, explaining their mission and goals. I think this one is already pretty well-known, so I’ll let the video speak for itself.

There is always the Red Cross, and several other well known national charities most people would be very happy to help support. The issues we run into with our family, is that we don’t know what they already own, or what they’d want for the most part, and it gets frustrating. For the young kids we will still be buying toys (mostly Batman related, of course), but for the adults I will be making handmade cards to let them know what donation we made in their name. This way I can have fun crafting, and yet I don’t have to wrap tons of stuff. That’s win, win in my book.

PS. You can always shop your little heart out at my Etsy store also: http://www.etsy.com/shop/thatcleverchick I’m basically a charity case.

November 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Random typing, Thriftiness is Cool. 5 comments.

Use It Up: Turkey

I’m sure by now you are probably sick to death of all the turkey that is filling your fridge. You probably should have taken my advice and not made a turkey to begin with, but it’s too late now. Lucky for you, I have dozens of recipes to hide it in! Most of these are chicken recipes I blogged awhile ago, so I’m just going to link to them here, and tell you to substitute turkey for chicken. It’s the equivalent of a “back flash episode” on a sitcom, but there may be some new material showing up at the end. In fact, probably, so scroll on past the list of the recipes you loyal minions have already committed to memory, and the rest of you use this as motivation to read everything I’ve ever posted. Yes, they are all gems such as these:

1) Broccoli Cheese Casserole – just add some turkey for more protein, and let all the gratuitous cheese cover up that turkey flavor.

2) Turkey Enchiladas

3) Mexican Turkey Soup

4) Turkey Spaghetti

5) Turkey Soup

6) Turkey Salad

Oops, I think that’s everything. I have no idea what I was thinking of earlier when I said there might be new material down here at the end. Maybe I was hoping I would come up with something by now, but instead I made dinner. You can always make turkey sandwiches also. Um, turkey pizza? Yuck, no. Turkey pasta salad would probably be good. Phew! Ok, well The Office is on. The End!

*UPDATE* New Recipe!! I finally thought of one! Turkey and dumplings – the lazy way (my specialty):

Your basic ingredients are shredded, leftover turkey, chicken broth, and a can of biscuits. You can add celery, carrots, and onions to the broth if you want, but you should keep the amount small, and chop them up pretty fine.

The trick is to get your broth BOILING, then open your can of biscuits, and tear a couple into small pieces, and drop them into the broth. I usually only use about 2 biscuits for dumplings and bake the rest, but it depends on how large a batch you are making. They plump up, so keep that in mind when you are tearing your pieces. You don’t want the whole pot to turn into a giant glob of biscuit goo. I usually cook it for about a half hour, then pull out a dumpling to test for doneness. I KNEW I had another recipe!

November 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Since you got a bonus post yesterday, which you undoubtedly utilized today for your Thanksgiving feast, and you’re probably about to slip into a carb-coma, (and I’m probably not far behind), and the frights of the holiday shopping season are not quite upon us all yet, I decided to write a little post. The end.

Just kidding! As I’m sitting here, Hubby is begging me to go make some chicken salad. Yes, MY Hubby that hates all poultry loves my chicken salad. It’s one of the recipes I like because it’s easy, and has laziness built in. I’m going to get it started, then come back and pass my wonderfulness onto you minions. I swear, you must be the luckiest minions ever to exist.

I start off with chicken breasts. I don’t get the boneless, skinless ones, because they cost way more. It only takes a minute to rip the skin off, and since we’re making shredded chicken, the bones don’t matter. I did a very early post about shredding chicken, and making soup, but I’ll just reiterate here. Since my only goal is to make chicken salad, this will be a bit simpler. Remove the skin from the chicken, put it in a pot of boiling water, cook until you can easily pull the meat off the bones with a fork, of course playing video games in the meantime. Once you can pull the meat from the bones easily, take the chicken out of the water and set it on a plate to cool. Play more video games.

Once the meat has cooled, I rip the big chunks off the bones, and use a knife to cut it into smaller pieces. I personally don’t like cubed chicken in my chicken salad, but whatever floats your boat. I do put cubed chicken into soups, because it’s less labor-intensive than shredding everything by hand. For this, I take the smaller cubes and shred them into a tupperware.

**At that second, I heard my pot boiling over and raced into the kitchen to prevent a mess. Obviously, I was way too late, and the water had put out the gas burner, plus coated the stove. I turned off the burner, and scooped out about 4 cups of chicken water. Let that be a lesson to you all not to over-fill the pot, especially if you plan to be 40 feet away from the stove while it’s cooking. This thing is called “My ATTEMPTS at Cleverness” for a reason, people.**

The other day, I was shredding a bunch of chicken at once, and decided not to make the chicken salad right then, but I didn’t want the shredded chicken to dry out. I stirred mayo and ranch dressing into it, and put it into the fridge that way, planning to add the other ingredients later. It worked out well, because the chicken soaked up a lot of the dressing, and was flavorful, and moist, even though it’s all breast meat.

Once you have your chicken shredded, chop up some celery and mix it in with the chicken, ranch and mayo. Ranch dressing gives this stuff more flavor than plain mayo. You can add some garlic salt and dill as well. The other thing I like to add is cooked frozen peas. They make it even tastier. I usually just eyeball the amounts on all of the ingredients, and taste it several times along the way. If you can, add the celery and peas at the last minute. This will help the celery stay crisp, and prevent the chicken salad from getting watery.

**Yep, just had to race into the kitchen again, swearing the whole way. You’d think taking about half the water out of the pot would help, but no. Now I have the lid off and the heat down some.  I’ll be heading in there to read at the kitchen table in a minute so I can keep a closer eye on the death-chicken.**

This recipe is also a great way to use up leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. You can eat it by itself, in a sandwich, in lettuce wraps, or on top of a salad. While the chicken is boiling, I have one chicken breast in the oven for myself, and a butternut squash for dinner. If it weren’t for all my overflow issues just now, I would be one smug chick, with all this multitasking going on. The dryer is going, and I even gave the dog a bath today! I am awesome, other than the chicken water coating my stove, making the whole house smell like cat food a bit. And I was feeling so clever, too.

November 25, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

Spinach Casserole

For those of you who don’t know, I have some kind of massive death-virus of DOOM and hatred on my computer, Carl. Carl has been a wonderful, trustworthy storage unit for several years now, and has every photo I have taken since I started college. Almost 10 years worth of photos are currently inaccessible to me, and might get completely vaporized. I’m trying very hard not to panic, shriek, and throw things until we know more, but at the very least, Carl will have his memory wiped like C-3PO at the end of Star Wars: Episode 3. He won’t have the same personality, but hopefully he’ll come out cleaner, and more efficient. What does all this have to do with casserole? Good question, but that was kind of rude, and definitely impatient. Calm down. Basically, I have to write a bunch of posts that don’t need pictures, and I have a TON of picture-needing posts I was all set to write. So here’s a damn recipe for you insatiable piranhas.

This is a delicious, yet very simple and cheap casserole to make, just in time for Thanksgiving! If you are contributing to a large affair, there is very little chance that anyone else will bring this, or any spinach dish, really. Everyone will really love it, and you can use this as an opportunity to tell everyone you know about my blog, and how wonderful intelligent and creative I am. I’m not putting words in your mouth, just giving you a little push in the right direction.

You will need: 2 16 oz. bags of frozen spinach, 1 of those cardboard things of cream cheese (you can use reduced fat, but it doesn’t taste as good because it’s not as bad for you), and one stick of real salted butter. Optional: one 8 oz. can of water chestnuts, and/or some pine nuts. This fits well into an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

I leave the spinach out on the counter to thaw completely, and go play video games for a few hours, while congratulating myself for multitasking. If the laundry is running at the same time, I’m doubly smug. Once the spinach is completely thawed, cut a small corner off the bag, and squeeze all the water out you can. I often have Hubby do this so I can continue to “multitask” on the Xbox. Once the spinach is as dry as possible (seriously, squeeze the bejeezus out of it), pour it in a bowl. Put the cream cheese and butter in  a separate bowl together, and microwave them in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until it fairly well mixed and liquid-y. There can be small lumps of the cream cheese still, they will bake into the casserole, so no worries. Mix this into your thawed spinach.

At this point, you can drain and add the water chestnuts, if you like the texture of chalk with the flavor of celery in your food. Yuck. But I don’t judge. Well, I do, but I wouldn’t say it to your face. Stir everything really well. You don’t want to come across a plain spot in the casserole. You want every bite to be soaked in fat and butter so everyone thinks you are an amazing chef. Spread this into a baking dish, and bake it at 350 for 30-45 minutes, until the edges are golden and bubbling. I like it when the edges get crispy, so I leave it in a little longer. You don’t even really need to use baking spray in the pan, because all the butter makes it lift right out. When serving, you can use the pine nuts as a garnish on top, but to me they get in the way of the fat/butter/cream cheese flavor, so I don’t bother.

This stuff is almost like spinach dip, without the crackers getting in the way of the deliciousness. This is a great recipe for travel because you can mix everything the night before, then put it into the baking dish and bake it in the morning if you have to leave super early. You can also bake it, travel wherever you’re going, and reheat it when you get there very easily. Just pop it in again at 350 for five minutes, or when the edges are bubbling again. You can even microwave it to reheat it, without any loss of flavor. I usually make double the amount, but in two separate casserole dishes. This stuff is so good, I never come home with any leftovers, so I keep one of them just for us at home. Hubby would survive on this, if I let him. He willingly squeezes all the water out for me, knowing this casserole will be his reward. Damn, now I want some, but I don’t want to go to the store. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I make so you can have a better life!

November 24, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

The Laziest Thanksgiving Ever

I’m sure most of you have Thanksgiving plans in place by now, and if you’re the one in your family saddled with creating a feast, do I have a treat for you!! I made Christmas dinner for my family last year (albeit just 6 of us), and I would gladly do it again, it was so simple. My trick? Forget the turkey. That’s right!! They take forever to cook, never get even halfway eaten, and are (from what I hear), a pain to make. Why do I need to get up at five a.m. and baste the thing all day, when not much of it will get eaten, and I’ll be stuck with tons of leftovers I’d rather not eat?

Do we have a vegetarian Thanksgiving? Not by any means, but that’s not a bad idea. I just buy a fully cooked ham and heat it up instead. Ham stays moist, and is super popular in my family, plus the leftovers can be used in thousands of ways. Why be chained to tradition? If your family prefers brisket, or tofu, or deer meat, make that. There is no point to wasting a bunch of time and effort to cook something everyone feels obligated to eat, but would prefer not to. Of course, if your family likes turkey, buy a fully cooked turkey, and then follow the rest of my lazy-feast instructions.

There are tons of side dishes that are fantastic for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any pot-luck event, that are simple to make and super popular. If you’re having a vegetarian feast, most of these should still be right up your alley.

1) Green bean casserole: This simplest, yet most iconic Thanksgiving recipe. Go to the store. Buy 2 cans of green beans, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, and one large can of those french fried onions (which will usually have the recipe on the side of the can). Drain the green beans, mix in a bowl with the cream of mushroom, and about 2/3 of the fried onions. Hide remaining fried onions from spouse, as he regards them as a snack food. Buy more fried onions, after spouse has discovered can with blood hound-like accuracy. You can mix in a half cup of shredded cheese also, if spouse has not eaten all cheese in existence. Pour into a baking dish and smooth out with a spatula, then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Pull the casserole out and scatter about 1/3 of the fried onions on top, and put it back in for 5-10 minutes, so the onions on top get golden. Retain any remaining fried onions to bribe spouse into doing manual labor, such as taking out the trash, or rearranging furniture. (After I read this aloud to Hubby, he laughed and said “Now I want fried onions”).

2) Stuffing – Yes, I use the box stuffing. I make it more realistic by sauteing celery and onions in butter and mixing them in, and using real chicken broth in the recipe. If you’re making it vegetarian, you can buy vegetable broth in the soup section of the grocery store, which will work well instead of chicken broth. If you have one of those family members who is picky about stuffing, ask if they would like to contribute theirs to the meal. These type of family get-togethers are often pot-luck, so it’s not unreasonable to ask someone to bring something. If you’re like me, you probably dread hearing complaints from That Person, so this can be a way to bypass any difficulties.

3) Sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes – to me, these things are kind of redundant, but some people get all antsy about having both. I almost never partake in sweet potato casserole, and I don’t get the point. Why take something as delicious and naturally sweet as sweet potatoes and add marshmallows and brown sugar and all that crap? I mean, sweet is in the name. But, whatever people want. You’re going to have to google that one. Last year, boxed mashed potatoes were requested, so that’s what I made. I love that my family is as accommodating of laziness as I am! You can use real potatoes, heavy cream, and loads of butter, or you can use this healthier alternative I got from the South Beach book. You take a whole head of cauliflower, clean, chop, and boil it until it’s mushy. Drain it well, then blend it smooth in your food processor. Use Land ‘o Lakes fat free creamer, and the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, salt and pepper to flavor it. It comes out super creamy, and buttery tasting, but is much healthier for you. Hubby even likes this, and he doesn’t like cauliflower. It does not taste exactly like mashed potatoes, but it’s really good, and substitutes just fine for me.

4) Cranberry Sauce – canned is the preferred style in my family, but you can buy the bag of raw cranberries in the produce section at your grocery store, and it has the directions on the bag. This is a very cheap recipe, since it’s mostly just the cranberries, and some sugar, and it can be impressive to see homemade cranberry sauce on the table. Maybe it will distract from the box stuffing? The problem is it makes a LOT of this stuff, and honestly, it’s not all that popular, at least with anyone I know. Be prepared to have cranberry banana smoothies for a week or so after the holiday. The plus side is that cranberries are really good for you.

5) Gravy – If you aren’t making any meat, you probably don’t want gravy anyway. I’m assuming that most of the packet kinds have some meat products in them as well. The way we make gravy here in the south, is with some kind of meat dripping usually, so a ham is the perfect way to start gravy. For southern cream gravy, take the pan you made your ham in, and pour any drippings into a small frying pan. You can also add some pieces of fat from the ham to this, and saute it a little. If you’re making a turkey, I think this is where you use the bag of organs from inside the bird, like the kidneys and stuff. You may have to call an official grandma for that one. Once your drippings are boiling somewhat, scatter some flour into it. You want to scatter it as finely as possible to avoid clumps. I usually dust flour across the pan with my left hand, and stir the pan constantly with a whisk in my right hand. Remember to make the gravy thinner than you’ll want the final product to be, because it will thicken once it cools a bit. Add milk slowly, and continue stirring, letting it boil and thicken again. I usually end up tasting my gravy dozens of times, and adding garlic salt and pepper for flavor. If you don’t have any drippings or fat, you can use beef broth to start off. It’s easiest if you use bullion rather than canned broth, and make it at least double strength, so the flavor will be stronger. I haven’t tried this with vegetable broth yet, but they do make vegetable bullion, so it could be feasible. I’ll have to try it sometime.

6) Rolls – I LOOOOVE homemade bread, but I sadly have no idea how to make anything decent. I do have a recipe for beer bread which is pretty good, but not exactly Thanksgiving-y. I’ll probably write a post for that later. Since that’s the case, you can either rely on your own abilities, pawn it off on a family member, or buy some at the store. I usually get that Mother-o-Mine to make her yeast rolls, but otherwise I get some from the actual bakery at the store. I’m not really a fan of the frozen ones, and the pop cans ones don’t fit in with Thanksgiving, at least in my mind. Most of the people I was feeding last year are fairly carb-conscious, so not providing rolls was the perfect solution. I didn’t have to do extra work, they didn’t have to struggle with the temptation of my fantastic cooking, and I didn’t have tons of leftover bread products that would have led to my pants hating me.

7) Desserts – I know desserts are pretty iconic for this time of year, especially pumpkin pie, and pecan pie in the south. Unfortunately, I am dessert disabled at this time of year. I don’t like either of those things. I know! ME!! Turning down desserts! No, the world is not ending, hell has not frozen over, and pigs are not flying. Pumpkin pie has never tasted like anything but dirt to me, and I don’t like pecans, or really any nuts at all (that’s what she said), so I generally ignore the dessert table at family gatherings. I do like apple pie, which is appropriately traditional, and you can follow my recipe here, substituting apples for peaches. Just make sure to peel your apples, cut them into bite sized pieces, and coat them in cinnamon and sugar, vanilla extract, and maybe a little nutmeg.

Any type of assembly of family can lead to stress, unless your family is super-fantastically-sweet, in which case you are either lying, or too dumb to notice all the drama going on around you (just kidding! You were probably raised by a family of elves). Cooking for any number of people can be stressful by itself, and more so if you’re worried about complaints, or dissatisfied family members. Avoid as much drama as possible by sticking to what you know, and getting other people to contribute. There’s no reason why you should be the only one to shoulder all the cost and stress of the event, plus having to clean and organize your home. Maybe ask people if they want to bring something, without pressuring them, and many people will even offer without prompting. If there’s someone who can’t cook at ALL, maybe they can bring salad, wine, or a veggie tray, or anything your were going to buy at a store anyway. If Grandma always makes her super-delicious stuffing, ask if she’d like to bring it over. One less thing for you to plan and purchase will make a big difference to your stress level, and also prevent any “Where’s Grandma’s stuffing?” type issues. The less stress you have now, the more you can tolerate at Christmas. Or just start drinking now. Don’t forget that if you are going to someone else’s home for Thanksgiving, they would probably appreciate the reduced stress of you bringing something as well. I usually bring lots of alcohol, or just do several shots before arriving. Trust me, it makes life easier. Happy Holidays!

November 23, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 3 comments.

How to make work less crappy

I know, we all hate our jobs. Even for people that have fairly decent jobs, this is the case. Why? Because we aren’t designed to sit at a desk, staring at computer screens, or stand in one spot serving coffee all day long. We are supposed to be out searching for deer and berries! Or, at least, I’m supposed to be at home, watching movies and crocheting. Yes, that’s how my people evolved.  

Regardless, work sucks. So, how do we make an ucky situation more bearable? Well, you are on the right blog post, because I am all about that.

1) Snacks – I keep a hoard of nice little treats in my desk for those days that are just unbearable. I’m not talking about candy, necessarily, because I don’t want to grow into my chair. Things like fruit leather, beef jerky, oatmeal, and yes, chocolate, are perfect desk snacks. I also like those fruit cups with the tiny oranges. We have a group fridge in our office, and I do keep a few things in there, like yogurt, bananas and peanut butter, or carrots and dressing, cottage cheese, and humus. Anything that is small, easy to eat while still working, and at least somewhat healthy is a good idea.

2) Beverages – you know I have an unhealthy obsession with beverages. I bring my own iced tea to work, and we have coffee and water provided. I bring skim milk to put in the way-too-much coffee I drink, so I don’t have to use that powdered junk that was recently added to the “Seemingly-innocuous-but-gives-you-cancer” list. I brought a liter of juice up here, drank it, and have been reusing the bottle to mix my own Crystal Light at the office. It’s much easier and cheaper, and eco-friendly to do it that way, as opposed to the individual water bottle sized packets. I try really hard to drink enough water during the day, and this method definitely helps.

3) Physical Comfort – I try and wear the most comfortable, yet office-appropriate clothing I can get my hands on. I have several tops that are basically glorified t-shirts, and I loooooove them. I also wear only flats, or fairly low heels.  

4) Environmental Comfort – This one can be harder to achieve if you don’t have a designated work space to call your own. If that’s the case, I suggest having a bag of some sort that you carry with you that has your comfort-creating items in it, if possible. I keep a sweater and space heater in my office at all times, because this place is freaking freezing. I also have a small stool under my desk to put my feet up on. I also brought a decorative metal box from home to put my monitor on so it would be easier to look at all day long. I have been intending to bring a normal lamp up here for ages, to counteract the halogen lights at least somewhat, and make this place more bearable. I have a bamboo on my desk, but my main goal with that is not to kill it, like I did its predecessor (sorry, Carl!).

5) Work Related – I make sure I have the pens I like, in ample supply, and all the things I tend to use. For example, I have post-its galore in here, because I use them for everything. I try to keep the clutter on top of my desk to a minimum, just because it helps keep me sane.

Just try to figure out what things about work irritate you, and are under your control to improve.

For those of you who are in school, or do not have a designated work-space, here are my suggestions for what you should have with you most of the time (guys, just get a messenger bag, or keep these things in your car. There’s no need to get a purse):

A) Tissues – can be used for everything from blowing your nose to cleaning up a spill, to staunching a wound.

B) Water – whether you have a reusable bottle, or a planet killing one, just have it around. The worst thing is being trapped somewhere, with nothing to drink, and thirsty as hell.

C) Entertainment – I kept a small novel in my glove box for years. It was perfect for the dentist, mechanic, jury duty, or waiting on a friend. I also carried a Sudoku and pencil in my purse.

D) Pens – I have been at the bank so many times, in the car lane with those swooshy things that send your money to the tellers inside, and I don’t have to request a pen to sign my checks because I have a dozen in the car. For some reason, it takes them 20 minutes to send you a pen in the swooshy thing, and I don’t want to sit around with my engine running that whole time.

E) If you tend to get cold, keep a sweater in your bag or car. I have one I got at a thrift store specifically for this. It’s black and white, so it basically matches anything, and it’s great for those times when I’m stuck somewhere that is frigid.

F) Emergency Supplies – I keep gum, those small plastic flosser things, and a tiny bottle of mouthwash in my desk at work so I can prevent any lunch-related embarrassment. Listerine also make those teensy breath-strips, which would be easier to carry around.

Ok, so I’m kind of out of things to say, and can’t exactly think of an ending to this post, so how about “and then, the unicorn ran into the woods, to spread joy and happiness for all eternity. The end.”

November 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Random typing. Leave a comment.

Minor Alteration

I’m kind of picky about T-shirts. I hate it when the collar is just tight enough that it feels like a really weak, tiny python is trying to kill you all day long. We have a work event coming up where such shirts were dolled out. I instantly hated it. I mean, not only does it have the logo of my oppressor employer emblazoned across the front, it was super uncomfortable and ill-fitting. What more can a girl ask for? Unflattering AND uncomfortable? Sign me up!

This is the shirt collar, pre-intervention.

I cut it! That’s right! I just hauled off and cut a slit in that bad boy.

I tried it on after I cut it, and folded the edges under, to see if it would meet my neck-space requirements.

I made sure to roll the edges under and pin them down. You want to create as natural of a neckline as possible, because however you sew it underneath will show through the fabric. I, of course, used the whip stitch for this one. I don’t have thread in this blinding color of blue, so I was using something darker. I tried to lift only one thread at a time to sew through the front so as little thread as possible would show.

The end! You can barely see the stitching on the edges, and it makes a nice V, instead of the blocky shape of the fabric flaps. It looks decent, and it’s more comfortable. If I was going to do this with a shirt I cared about, I might even wrap the collar with ribbon to make it look more finished.

AFTER all this work I thought to myself, “I wonder if we have to give these back after the event?” I believe the answer is no, but that is something I should have thought about before getting all scissor-happy.

November 19, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 1 comment.

Announcing my Etsy Store!!

For those of you that haven’t heard of it, Etsy.com is a website similar to ebay, but with only handmade or vintage items for sale. Individuals start their own stores to sell whatever handicrafts they come up with. After the great necklace making jamboree, I decided to start one myself! I have my own Etsy store!

I also figured, that with the weather getting colder, I’ll be sequestered at home crafting my little fingers off. This gives me a way to keep crafting, without filling my house entirely, and I get to share some of my wonderful crafty things with you! Aren’t you lucky little minions?? Some of the pictures maybe the slightest bit blurry, so buy lots of my stuff so I can afford a better camera!

November 17, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, My Quest to be more Interesting. 2 comments.

My Birthday

As I am writing this, it is my birthday. I’m publishing it a few days from now, so none of you bastards can STEAL MY IDENTITY!!!! Haha, jk, it’s because there are already posts lined up, and I’m too lazy to reorder everything. The reason I’m typing right now instead of out eating fancy food, and getting foot rubs from Hubby, is that he is fantastically sick. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you know that my main goal is to avoid catching whatever it is he has, and secondarily to not be responsible for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Somehow, I know that the zombie apocalypse will be eventually caused by something stupid I do, and I’d like to prevent it as long as possible. You’re welcome, America.

Anyway, in spite of being indoors (and downstairs, to avoid contagion), I have had a pretty awesome birthday. I had a Halloween party for my birthday party this year, so I basically just celebrated early. I got to do several of my favorite things: 1)Hang out with my friends 2)Dress in a costume 3)Drink heavily 4)Eat a cake made by Brandy, the stewrat. (pics to follow).

Yesterday, my gift from Hubby came in the mail. It is FIVE books of a series I have been wanting! Now he’s sick so once I’m done writing things for you people to read, I can go read. The girls at work also took me out to lunch to get some Pho (you KNOW I love me some pho), AND made me chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting!!! PLUS I had about 80 million “Happy Birthday” notes on my facebook! All in all, a great birthday since it is on a week day.

I’ve been told that this year will be the last good one, in life? in eternity? I don’t know they weren’t clear, but I can see that. Soon people will be all “ohh, you’re almost thirty! WHERE ARE YOUR BABIES? YOU MUST HAVE BABIES NOW!!” I’m not looking forward to that.

Now, here are the pictures that will show you why I had such a fantastic birthday on Halloween weekend, and why I was too busy to post a bunch of Halloween crafts:

Yes, that is me on the right, dressed as the Baroness from G.I. Joe (the cartoon, not that vomit of a movie that just came out), and Hubby is dressed as Adam Ant, the singer.

Here we have Goose from Top Gun, and Risky Business (aka Brandy who makes the world’s best cakes).

Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Yes, little Flapjack had a costume! Captain Flappy von Flapjack!

The most awesome Rainbow Bright ever! Her wand even lit up!

And here are all my naughty nerds! You can see Brandy went all out as Risky Business, then we have a Punk, the Baroness, Rainbow Bright, someone who just came from her grandparent’s house, Dolly Parton, and a Cholita!

This is my fantastic cake that Brandy made! It’s a 1up mushroom from Mario Brothers!

And then Mario and his controller showed up!

Mario and Bowser have some, uh, tension they need to work out.

They make such a cute couple!

Beetlejuice, with pet sand worm, and Grumpy the Carebear seemed to be having a great time together.

Beans is a zombie prom queen. She even made her own banner, which says “Prom Queen 1984”. The writing looks spectacular, and I totally stole it for another year. If you haven’t guessed by now, the theme was 1980’s.

Sarah did a fantastic job making her blue fairy costume. There is still glitter in my kitchen though.

Here we have a golfer (who took some heat for her “costume”), and Punky Brewster. Punky even had buttons all from the 80’s on her jacket!

Marty McFly here even made her own hoverboard! I wish I’d gotten a better picture of it, but it looked dead on! These two, Samantha and Jon, just got married, and I was honored to attend. Congratulations you two!

We did a lot of decorating as well, but this post is REALLY long, even by my wordy standards, so that will probably show up in another post. I hope all of you enjoy Halloween, and are as inspired by my creative friends as I am.

November 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Random typing. 3 comments.

Black Purse Post

So sis-in-law was a huge fan of Dr. Stacey’s purple purse. Her birthday was in October, so I made this black and white version for her. She requested one long, skinny pocket to be attached horizontally on the inside for pens and pencils. There were two other pockets on the other side, one for her cell, and one for her keys.

You’ll notice the strap on this one is not crocheted. Sis-in-law had a very specific length desired, and since crochet tends to stretch, I used this bad ass belt instead. I got it at a thrift store, and removed the metal belt-y ends. I used tacky glue on the raw edges so it won’t fray apart, then I used black thread to attach it to the purse. I got that button at Hobby Lobby, aka my second home.

There she is, cute as a (star) button. Look at her shirt! Did I choose the perfect button or what? I love giving homemade gifts!

November 13, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. Leave a comment.

Necklace Holder

Now that you have undoubtedly made lots of necklaces, because you obviously do whatever I say, and you read this, this and this post, you now need somewhere to put them. I happen to have lots of junk laying around my house, constantly, so I reused a bit of it to solve my too-much-necklace-having problem.

Oh no! Too many necklaces!

I used a picture frame that we had accidentally broken the glass out of, some fleece fabric, a glue gun, and black fabric.

This particular frame has wood backing, which worked out really well for this project. The sturdiness was really helpful. I measured about five layers of this fleece fabric to be the padding. You could use some quilt batting also, but I wouldn’t recommend polyfill, or any regular stuffing. You need something that will stay completely flat. 4 of the layers were cut exactly to the edges of the wood. The last layer is shown here. The first 4 layers are between the wood and the larger layer. The larger piece will wrap around to the back of the wood, holding in all the edges of the smaller pieces. If you had all those layers wrapped around the side it would be too fat to fit back in the frame.

Once I had all the fleece fabric cut and measured, I squirted some tacky glue onto the wood to hold the fabric on. I also went a little crazy putting some glue between the layers. That was a bit of an issue later, and I’m still on the fence about whether or not to use it. If you do put glue between the layers, use it sparingly, and don’t make any globbies. Oh, that’s not a word spell checker? What about blobbies? No?! Well then what the hell should I call them?

I cut the black fabric about a half inch bigger than the fleece fabric. I folded the raw edges under, and secured everything with loads of hot glue. If the fabric were not going back into the frame, I would have used something else that would secure this better. Since the frame will be holding everything in place, I’m not that worried about it.

I folded it over all nice and pretty, even knowing that this would never show, because I’m neurotic like that. Once everything is dry, and I cannot emphasize that enough, once it is COMPLETELY DRY, pop that bad boy back in its frame. I lined my new necklaces up all pretty-like, and used needles stabbed into all that padding to hold them up. This makes it really easy to hang them up and rearrange them, provided you waited until the glue dried!

My not-so-clever confessions: I used big glue blobbies, and didn’t wait for them to fully dry. As a result, some of the needles were really hard to get out, and even put back in, because glue had either dried onto them, or in bog globs under the surface. The whole thing looks fantastic though, and I barely had to move the needles at all to avoid glue glops. Learn from my fail.

November 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 4 comments.

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