Welcome the New Year

Hopefully you have some kind of plans for New Years, even if it’s just sitting home, watching movies and the count down. There are lots of traditions surrounding this time of year, and I thought I’d give you a little rundown of the ones I plan on celebrating.

1) Champagne – Yes please!! I freaking love this stuff, and this is the one time of year it’s socially acceptable to drink several bottles, all by myself, “for luck”.

2) Black eyed peas – I think this is mostly a Southern tradition. I have some vegetarian and vegan friends coming over, so I won’t be using up any of my glorious leftover Christmas ham. I plan to put them in a pot with a ton of water, and boil them until they’re nice and tender. I may even get crazy and boil them with a beer or two mixed in. Then I’ll saute some chopped, fresh garlic, onions, and jalapenos, and mix it into the beans, along with some chili powder, salt, and cumin. Om nom nom.

3) Grapes – this is another tradition I learned about last year at the party of a friend who does more research than I do. You are supposed to eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the new year. Some people eat a 13th one for bonus good luck.

Epicurious has a really good article about more traditions, that I would basically have to plagiarize in order to keep going, so maybe you should just read that.   

To all of my friends, family, and random readers, thanks for reading this year, and continue to do so, or I’ll find you. Happy New Years!!!

December 31, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Cooking, Random typing. Leave a comment.

Wildflower Fun

Last fall, Hubby and I went on a mini-adventure to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center here in Austin. This place is filled with native Texas species, and chock-full of educational goodness.

The whole place is littered with sculptures. It’s a very relaxing, calm place, and it was much bigger than I initially thought.

There’s also an art gallery on the property when you wander back far enough. They have a delightful little cafe also, that we really enjoyed.

I’m just going to post lots of photos now, since I haven’t been able to in AGES.

I wish this meant my computer was working, but unfortunately these are just old pictures I found on my facebook. That’s also why I wasn’t able to give a more detailed account of our trip.

If you want to visit them now, but don’t want to spend the $8 to do so, they have a free event coming up January 22 called the Tree Talk Winter Walk. They will teach you (and maybe ME!) about native plants, and how to use them in your own landscaping. They will have plants for sale, as well. The hours and details are in the above link. I’m very intrigued!

December 29, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . My Quest to be more Interesting. Leave a comment.

How did it go?

So after my constant bitching about Christmas, and stress, and family drama, I’m sure you’re all wondering how everything turned out. Well, here’s how it went down. Thursday, even though family arrival was imminent the following day, I laid down, read a book, and took a nap. Hubby didn’t get home until after midnight, and I cleaned and wrapped presents from around 11pm to 3am, or so.

I woke up around 9am, cleaned some more, and fortunately, most of the family groupd were at least an hour later than planned. This gave me time to drink way too much coffee, and run around the house, shrieking obscenities at the animals for not keeping their fur to themselves. By the time my folks arrived, the place was decent, and even smelled ok, but mostly because it smelled like coffee. I think it was exuding from my pores at this point.

Cars were unloaded, and random accumulations of things were brought in. (Oh, I forgot to mention I had to re-clean my craft room, because of course it is a hot mess, and it was going to be used for an additional guest room). My Gram in Dallas sent two huge tubs of yarn with Mommy Dearest for me and my sis Beans to divide between us. This resulted in Beans taking the only 6 rolls of yarn that matched each other, and leaving me with all the random stuff (which is fine. I’m going to make stuffed animals out of it, and Beans will be jealous!).

So fast-forward to the best part of all: gifts. This part of the story starts a few weeks ago. Hubby is a HUGE Star Wars fan, and has been his entire life. He has been wanting an FX light saber for as long as I’ve known him, and this year the Star Wars website was having a huge cyber-Monday sale, so I broke down and bought it. Knowing this probably suspicious-looking package would be arriving at the house, I took the precaution of not allowing Hubby to check the mail (our mail has an area for packages, but little did I know how massive this package would be).

I was at work, on the phone with Hubby as he arrived home one day. We were chatting, when he suddenly said “UH OH!” in very worried tones. I, of course, had no idea what was going on, and assumed it was something actually bad.

Hubby: “There’s a package on the porch! It’s all long and skinny.”

Me: “Oh crap! Don’t look at it!”

Hubby: “It’s too late! My brain already put something inside it!”

Me: “Just put it in my craft room and don’t look at it (praying it doesn’t say STAR WARS.COM on the side in huge letters). Look, I don’t want you to get your hopes up. It’s just a poster (thinking this is a stroke of genius lie).”

Hubby: “This box is kind of bog for a poster”

Me: “Uhh, it’s a big poster. That’s why I had to order it online”

Hubby: “You’re a terrible liar”

When I got home, I saw the box was completely blank on the outside, thankfully, but it about arm-pit height, which made it damned hard for my poster explanation to be plausible. I opened the box to check, and yes the glorious light saber was in there.

Me: “Yeah, it’s what I thought it was. I don’t know why they used such a big box”.

Hubby: “I’m dashed.” (seemingly disappointed).

Over the next week or so, Hubby and I went back and forth about it, and I kept telling him a lightsaber was too expensive, and he kept telling me I was a terrible liar. The Wednesday before Christmas, I happened upon a Star Wars poster he didn’t have, and then the idea came to life. When I got home, I took the light saber out of the humongo-box, wrapped it separately, and hid it in my closet. I put the cheap, tiny poster (which he’ll like anyway), into humngo-box, and wrapped it.

The whole family opened all of their presents, then I let Hubby open the “big” present. When he opened it, he tried so hard not to look disappointed. He smiled, unrolled the poster, and told me it was cool, and said thank you. His face turned a bit pink, and he gave me a brave smile.

We started clearing up the mess, and I looked around and said “Beans, I think I forgot one of your presents. Let me go check” (I worked this out as a signal ahead of time, so she wouldn’t be disappointed. Don’t worry I wouldn’t do that to my only sister!). When I came back I had the wrapped light saber behind me, and I said “Beans, I couldn’t find anything for you, but this one has Hubby’s name on it. Weird”. When I handed the long, skinny box to him, he turned bright pink, and started laughing. Mommy Dearest took a bunch of pictures that I hope to add soon.

Hubby was so excited! When he opened the paper, he tore it open to reveal the Star Wars logo. I was surprised how slowly he opened it, maybe shy to get too excited after his earlier disappointment. When he finally got it open, he was bright pink, laughing and choked up all at once. I totally tricked him!!!

He loved his light saber so much he kept turning lights off in the house and turning it on so everyone could see it. He did that a couple times while I was in the kitchen, and I had to yell “Turn the lights back on! There are things on fire in here!!”

That made it the best Christmas ever. I made my Hubby super happy, but also tricked him!! By the way, his other gifts were socks, underwear, and a snuggi I got for free, so the light saber was definitely the best thing ever. I even got him the right one, and we got a free Princess Leia pen with it! That is win, win, win.

December 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Random typing. 3 comments.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing holiday, whatever you celebrate. Merry Christmas from your favorite Clever Chick!

December 25, 2010. Tags: . Random typing. Leave a comment.

Christmas Fatigue

As I write this, it is December 23rd. People will be here for Christmas in T minus18 hours, and I’m not doing anything about it. Looking around, there’s the basic clutter like always, but the whole place needs to be swept, mopped, vacuumed, straightened, washed, dried, and organized. I want the visiting family to be comfortable and have a good time, but I am Christmas-ed out.

I didn’t buy a tree, and I don’t plan to, even though I saw them for $10 at the store. We didn’t put any lights up outside. I have a wreath on the front door, but there are still skulls on the mantel from Halloween.

All my neighbors have lights up, some to the point of ridiculousness. TONS of my friends, even the single ones, have been mailing me Christmas cards. I just don’t know what to think about all this. Hubby and I have the most thoughtful, caring friends in the world, who have sent us gifts I didn’t expect, but completely love. I generally love Christmas, but for some reason this year I just want it all to be over.

Every year the Christmas season starts earlier. Right after Halloween now, stores have all the Christmas stuff up. Wait guys, there’s still Thanksgiving, remember? But no, they want to work us into a buying frenzy NOW, so we all feel like we’re getting a jump on it. When we start stressing and freaking out so early, it’s no wonder I’m sick of Christmas by the time it gets here. I know I’m not the only one. I heard someone at the store today on her cell phone say “I’m so over Christmas”, and it’s sad, because it should be about spending time with family, instead of dragging my ass all over the city looking for gifts for people. This is the one time of year we are all pretty likely to have coinciding time off. Let’s use it to chat, drink beer or cocoa, and watch movies or sit by a fire.

I have no idea what anyone owns, wants, or needs. I barely remember what I already own. I would almost rather hand out cash at Christmas because I know for sure it would get used. I love giving handmade gifts, but afghans take forever to make, and guys don’t generally wear jewelry, so it’s not a perfect solution. Plus, that’s like handing someone a baby of mine. How do I know they’re going to care for it properly?

I hate what Christmas has become; not just the complete and overwhelming commercialization, but the constant mental battle of “Will this be adequate for what that person is likely to get me? Is this an equal gift among the siblings/spouses/parents/etc? What about this person? I don’t like them, but they’ll be there and I haaaaavvee to get them something.” It makes me want to go to Europe so no one ever has to buy me anything ever again, and vice-versa.

Right now, I need to go lay down with a heating pad on my neck, because I woke up with a horrific crick in it which is making me hold my head funny, so it’s making the other side hurt too. To any of you who maybe coming over tomorrow: if the house isn’t clean, at least it will smell good, because I’ll be making a ham. If you want ham, you will keep your mouth shut about any mess. That’s right, I’m holding the ham hostage to guarantee good behavior!

December 23, 2010. Tags: , , . Random typing. 1 comment.

Blogs I Love: Two Tokens

Two Tokens is techincally a web comic, with a blog on it, but this is my blog, so I make the rules. Plus, I didn’t want to make another category on the tags. Two Tokens is run by two hilarious guys, who the main characters Black and Tan are based on. It is a haven of nerdliness, and oh wait, there seems to be a cameo here from…That Clever Chick!! My alias on their site is Oracle, but you’ll notice the gravatar image is the same.

Yep, a REAL ARTIST made a portrait of me! He did leave off my habitual snarky expression, but I think that was just to be nice.

The comic is hilarious, and geekerific, and all the blogs posts are funny as hell, not just mine. These guys even have tables at conventions periodically, so you little nerdlings could possible meet them in real life! Oh, the joy! Check them out at www.twotokens.com, and on the upper left under the “Archives” button you can read all the past blog posts. Have fun!

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

Recipe Review: Chunky Fruit Oatmeal Cookies

First ever, recipe review!! I don’t generally make cookies, so when I needed to for a Christmas cookie party, I was kind of at loose ends. I don’t really have a “go-to” recipe that I love. I was at the store, buying oatmeal, and saw a recipe on the side of the canister. They’re called Chunky Fruit Oatmeal Cookies, and I tried them out. They ended up pretty good. Here’s the recipe:

1 box cake mix, any flavor (I used chocolate, and it was good)

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) melted

2 large eggs

2 cups Oats

1 package (5-6 oz) Dried Fruit Bites (any flavor) (I don’t know what those are, so I used dried cranberries, 3/4 cup)

1. Heat oven to 375. Set 2 ungreased cookie sheet pans aside.

2. Combine cake mix, melted butter, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute (I just mixed it by hand with a spatula and it was fine. It gets really thick.)

Scrape down bowl sides and mix for 1 more minute at medium speed. Cookie dough will be thick (I told you). Stir in oats and fruit bites (at this point I used my hands to knead the oats and fruit into the dough).

3. Drop cookie dough by teaspoonful and 2 inches apart on cookie sheets (I used my hands to make little balls of dough. I wasn’t sure how much they would spread, so I kept them pretty far apart. They barely spread at all).

Bake on middle oven rack for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown (chocolate cake is already brown. That’s not a good way to measure when cookies are done). Remove from oven and let cookies set on cookie sheet for 1 minute. Use a metal spatula to remove and place on wire racks to cool completely (why would I get anything else dirty? Let them cool where they are).

Makes: 48 two-inch cookies (I ended up with almost 60, somehow. Oops)

Overall, they were pretty good, mildly sweet cookies. They would be really good with chocolate chips instead of fruit, I think. I also used the same recipe to make thumb print cookies, with a few alterations:

Leave out the dried fruit, and instead of making balls of dough on the cookie sheet, flatten them out some with a hollowed out spot in the middle. Don’t make them too thin, though. Bake them for maybe 5 minutes, pull them out, and use a spoon to add a little raspberry (preferably seedless), blueberry, or strawberry jam on top. Put them back in the oven for 10 minutes. You want the jam to start bubbling and pool into the cookie. These came out really good, although I did burn a couple on the lower rack. :/

Well, that’s the end of my first ever recipe review! Most recipes require some adjustments, so I figured I’d just write it all out. Good luck, and happy cooking!

December 19, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

Movie Review: Auntie Mame

Last year for New Year’s, Hubby and I had the idea to watch all of the AFI top 100 movies this year. Somehow, we’ve only watched a few, though they have been pretty good, for the most part. Yesterday we finally watched Auntie Mame, which has been in our Netflix queue this whole time.

Some older movies can be kind of stiff, or even unintelligible just due to the passage of time. This movie was actually really funny and entertaining the whole way through. It’s longer than most current movies, but there weren’t any boring parts. Some of the effects were a bit campy, but that’s to be expected. Hubby and I both laughed frequently, and completely enjoyed it. Like Bridge on the River Kwai I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe these old movies aren’t as stuffy and boring as I always thought? We’ll see. I still don’t like Citizen Kane.

December 17, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Movie Reviews. Leave a comment.

What I Learned from Tyra

Now that Tyra Banks’ talk show is no longer on the air, I’m not sure how to feel about it. She definitely tried to throw substance into the show, and cover issues that mattered, even if her handling of situations was not the best (her in a fat suit on blind dates accusing men of disliking her because she was fat was really uncomfortable, and seemed staged). I’m working during the day, so I never watched much of her show personally. I mostly just saw clips from The Soup, which were HIGH-larious! I did, however, glean a couple useful bits of information from her.

Bras: Bras are hard to choose. You can’t just grab the cutest and be done with it, despite what Victoria’s Secret would have us believe (SIDERANT: No more jokes about “Well, I guess Victoria’s Secret is out!” That’s not clever. It is obvious and boring, so please stop. Everyone has now been officially notified, so anyone making jokes similar to this in the future may be pummeled with oranges until they repent. END SIDERANT).

First, you have to know your cup size, which I think you get by trial-and-error (I may have missed the start of the episode). The around your body part, the 34, or 38, etc, is tricky also. It is supposed to be below your shoulder blades. If yours is riding up constantly, you need a SMALLER size, not a larger one. This is also what can cause the top of the bra cups to flop forward. When you are picking out your bra, you also need to make sure this part fits you firmly on the LOOSEST setting (the Courtney Love setting? ooh! Burn!) Bras tend to stretch over time, so you can use the tighter clasps as time goes on.

Another hint I learned from a friend working at a lingerie shop, is never put them through the dryer, and try to hand wash them as much as possible. That keeps the cups from doing that thing where they get all bizarre and lumpy, seemingly with nothing inside to make lumps from. Is it the work of an evil sorcerer? I don’t know, but I do know that reshaping, and then allowing bras to air dry seems to foil his dark spells.

Lips: I get chapped lips like nobody’s business, for no apparent reason. I have tried all kinds of chap-sticks and lip salves, and glosses, but not much helped. Tyra showed that using your tooth brush to brush your lips gently helped remove all that horrible dead skin, and make your lips nice and soft. I took this a step further. When I go to bed at night, I put on a thick coating of chap-stick. This soaks in overnight, and makes the dead skin soft, and easier to remove in the morning when I brush my teeth and lips. Huzzah! It works better than anything I’ve ever tried.

I hope all of this helps some of you. I apologize for the lack of Christmas craft posts. There is a lot of crafting going on around here but a) much of it is gifts I don’t want people to see online before they get them, and b) my computer is still dead, and I have no idea if my camera is compatible with this Mac, or how to make that happen. On another side note, I keep getting questions about how to comment. There’s a little button at the bottom of each post that says Leave a Comment, right down there mixed in with all the tags, and the published date. It’s hard to see, but it’s there, and I do read, and generally respond to all comments, so keep them coming. Maybe you yahoos can give me some ideas instead of making ME do all the work. I’m a lazy person, or haven’t you figured that out yet??

December 15, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . House Stuff, Random typing. Leave a comment.

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in the West

This movie, Once Upon a Time in the West, is an iconic spaghetti western, with a compelling story. It stars Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda, and was directed by Sergio Leone. Much like other classics, like The Magnificent Seven, this is a tale of justice, and the whole story is completely entrancing. The musical score is haunting, and very distinctive, and I absolutely love it. It adds so much more dimension to the film.

I know what you’re probably thinking. I don’t seem like the type to enjoy westerns. I do love a good spaghetti western though. This one has that perfect blend of style, story, and characters. There are no weak parts. The entire execution is fantastic, and this is spaghetti western at its best.

With spaghetti westerns and B-movies, you kind of have to filter out the good ones. Fortunately, you guys have me to do all the leg work. See how much I love you little minions? I’m willing to sit on my couch, crafting and watching movie after movie, just so you know what to watch. I accept appreciation in the form of gifts and cash.

Spaghetti westerns and B-movies are low budget, mass produced movies, which is why they can be so hit-or-miss. There are definitely some jewels out there (like obviously The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly series), and this is one of them. Once you have seen it (because this link contains **SPOILERS**), check out this music video someone made from the movie and Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage”. It’s phenomenal (my link tool isn’t working right now, so here’s the address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pyp34v6Lmcc )

Look, one blog post leading to at least TWO HOURS of entertainment. You’re welcome, minions!

December 13, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Movie Reviews. 1 comment.

Best BBQ Chicken Ever

By “Best” I mean the ultimate combination of cheap, easy, and tasty (that’s what she said?) Buy chicken at the store. It can have skin and bones, and this recipe is great for breasts because it keeps them moist (oh my, this whole thing is spiraling into an endless stream of double entendres. You can play along by yelling “That’s what she said!” at the appropriate moment).

I de-skin the chicken, and chop up some onions in big chunks. The trick to this is the right bar b que sauce. There is no way I’m going to take the time to make my own, so I’ve tried a couple brands at the store. My favorite is Stubb’s bar b que sauce, if you’re lucky enough to live near Austin. They sell it at HEB. I love to rub Stubb’s sauce all over the breasts.

The other option, if you happen to live further away (which is fine because the city is full anyway; you’re probably better off where you are), is the Kraft Original bar b que sauce. Sounds boring I know, but it has the perfect blend of the flavors I look for, plus it’s fairly cheap for a large bottle.

I don’t have a grill, so we are baking these suckers to perfection. I usually spread a little sauce in the bottom of my glass baking dish with my finger, then lay the chicken on top. I throw in the chopped onions, and pour more sauce over everything. I usually make a whole bunch at once, then eat the leftovers for lunch later in the week. I bake the pan for at least an hour at 350, sometimes turning pieces over to keep things moist.

When I’m packing up the leftovers, I pour all the excess juices over the meat in the containers. This keeps the meat nice and moist for whenever I want it. This is a great recipe for when you have a bunch of stuff to do, and just want to put something in the oven and ignore it.

So how many “That’s what she said!” did you end up with? I counted 5, or 5 1/2, depending on your interpretation. If you found many more than that, you’re probably trying too hard. Have fun with your meat! (6).

December 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. Leave a comment.

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