Blogs I love: Sugar Lily

My friend, Liane, has been making gorgeous, delicious cakes forever, and apparently enough of us continually harassed her for her to actually turn it into a business! She has a blog showing all her amazing treats. I LOVE the Van Gogh Starry Night cupcake cake! Check it out:

April 29, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . Random typing. Leave a comment.

How to Make a Post-apocalyptic Costume

As you may have noticed, our friends enjoy costume parties, and costuming in general. For Sara’s, we celebrated in the theme of Fallout, which, if you aren’t aware, is set in the post-apocalyptic United States. I flipped through some costumes on different wikis online, and chose to be a Wasteland Surgeon. If you click on that link, you can see that I needed a blood spattered wife-beater shirt.

So you will need: wife beater, paint, newspaper, paint brush, and dirt. One thing I should have done first is tea-dye the shirt to make the whole thing beige. Get a pot of water and a couple bags of tea. Boil the tea in the pot, and soak the shirt in tap water. Squeeze out the excess water. Damp fabric wicks the tea into the fibers better than dry. Put the shirt into the tea, and stir it around for a bit. You can lift it out with a spoon periodically to see how you like the color. This method will never get your fabric that dark, it just kind of adds a beige tone, which is perfect for post-apocalyptic costuming.

We started out by watering down the paint a LOT. The yellow and brown are for pit stains, so you want it to be pretty diluted.

I started by dipping a stubby paint brush in the red, and flicking it with my finger to make tiny sprays of blood everywhere. Then I dipped it and flung it at the shirt from different angles to make slightly larger sprays. Then I straight poured some on, and balled up pieces of shirt to dip in the paint. You can see I stuffed the newspaper in between to keep it from bleeding through. The smears at the bottom are from me wiping my blood-soaked hands on the shirt, which is what would actually happen if I was a wasteland surgeon.

Hubby and I were working on this in the back yard while the neighbors were doing yardwork. I’m sure they think we’re demented now. They heard things like “You need more blood on the back”, “What if there’s some darker brown, dried chunks on it?”, “Is this a good blood color, or this?”, “I want some blood under my finger nails”. 

Here we go with pit stains. I balled up the underarm on each side, and dipped it into the pale yellow paint water. I squeezed out the extra so it would dry faster. We used the same method to make sweat stains on the front and back collar, and on the lower back. While these were still wet, I rubbed them in the dirt in the yard.

Finished outfit:

I had on a pair of Hubby’s cargo pants tucked into boots. I used brown eyeshadow, and black eyeliner to make dirt smears on both of us, and I added fake bandages in a couple places. I made those belt canisters also, but that will be another post. FYI, glasses are totally appropriate for this costume. They even give you a perk in the game, which increases you intelligence. Just like in real life!

April 27, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 3 comments.

Restaurant Review: Karibu

Karibu is an Ethiopian restaurant in Southeast Austin that Hubby and I stumbled across on a disappointing trip to the Habitat Restore. I had never had Ethiopian food before, so we decided to try it. It was definitely different, and very flavorful.

We ordered the lamb (Yebeg Tibbs), red lentils (Kay Misir Wot), collard greens (Abesha Gomen), and green beans (Fosolia). The waitress asked if we wanted it on one plate, or separate plates, and we got everything on one giant plate together. It came with a big basket of flat bread, that tasted like sour dough and had a great chewy texture. You eat everything with your hands, and can use the bread to scoop everything up. I preferred the way the food tasted without the bread, for the most part.

The lamb was delicious, the lentils were a bit spicy for me. The collard greens were fine, and the green beans were from a can, so not great. The reviews on yelp are kind of mixed, so I think people would agree with me. Overall, I give it a “If I happen to be in the neighborhood, and someone else is buying, I’ll go back”.

April 25, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Restaurant Reviews. 1 comment.

Pinballz Arcade

I have always loved pinball. I have no idea why, it’s just so awesome. Our friends Sara and Travis recently took us to a new arcade in town called Pinballz Arcade, on 183 near I-35. This place has an INDECENT amount of pinball machines, as well as other old school video games. I fell in love with the art work on many of them.

I don’t know exactly what game this is, but it’s very old. They have a plexiglass panel on the side so you can see how all the parts work.

Hubby was way better at it than I was, but I think I’m probably just out of practice.

For only four grand you can own an original Star Wars pinball game!

This place has food and drinks as well, but we didn’t partake so I can’t give my opinion. It did smell good, though. They have your basic ticket prize counter as well, which is pretty much pointless as always. Hubby got a barrel of monkeys though, which he seemed to enjoy.

There is no cost to get in, and the tokens are 4 for a dollar, and most of the games take 2 tokens to play. Price-wise, that’s pretty comparable to other arcades we’ve been to, but the game selection is massive. You can book the whole place for parties as well. Overall we had fun, but it would be really easy for me to burn through a lot of cash very quickly. But, I get a little addicted.

Overall, a good time was had by all!

April 23, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . My Quest to be more Interesting. Leave a comment.

Silk Screenery

Yes, this is about my sister Beans again, but I promise this is the last one about her for awhile. My sis is smart. I mean damn smart. She has her masters in some kind of sciencey-animal stuff that I don’t understand. She studied black bears in the Texas desert, and monkeys in Costa Rica. I stay home and make crafts for her.

One of our joint favorite movies is Ghostbusters! There’s one particular quote she loves, especially since she is now a scientist: “Back off, man. I’m a scientist” – Dr. Peter Venkman. Since we have a silk screen, I wanted to make it into a t-shirt for her.

The first step is to create the stencil. I used an alphabet stencil I had to write it out on a sheet of paper.

I then used an Exact-o knife to cut out the letters.

Here it is, about halfway cut out.

We have an actual silk screen, which is a wooden frame with silk (surprise) stretched across it. You put a piece of cardboard inside the shirt so the paint won’t bleed through, line up the stencil where you want it on the shirt, then press the screen down on top. You spread the silk screen paint on the back of the screen, and use a special squeedgee to spread it across the design and press it through the stencil onto the shirt. It gives you nice, even color and crisp edges. Here’s the shirt (which is pale pink, not white) after the silk screen.

I then used a paint brush to fill in the little stencil parts, like on the “O”.

Now you let it dry, and then lay a piece of clean paper over top of the design. Iron over top of that “until it’s hot to the touch” according to Hubby. He used to work in a silk screen shop, so I just trust his judgement. He tends to press down, and iron over the design for about a minute, with the iron on high.

These are some of the other things we’ve made lately with our silk screen:

Zombie masks!

Movie monster throw pillows! (which were already covered in cat hair by the time I took these pictures)

And a bandana for our sweet baby Flapjack! It looks just like him!

See? Hubby created that design himself, from scratch. He is always amazing me with his creativity.

We’ve also made t-shirts for my trivia group, and just for ourselves. We’ve had the silk screen for so long now that I don’t know how much it was. Maybe around $50, 6 or so years ago? For us, it’s worth it. You could always create these types of things with shirt paint instead, but it would take longer, and the silk screened stuff is more durable in the wash. With the silk screen, you can also make several of the same thing, which we did with the trivia shirts and zombie masks, using the same stencil.

April 21, 2011. Tags: , , , . Arts and Crafts. 3 comments.

Wedding Favors on a Budget

As you know from the last post, my sis Beans just had her wedding reception. For the reception favors, she wanted to hand out baby trees from the Arbor Day foundation. Two days before the reception, they still had not arrived, so she, of course, was flipping out a bit. Clever Chick to the rescue! (Yes, Again!) FYI: they did make it on time, so we just handed out both favors.

Since time was of the essence, I decided to make magnets out of oven baked clay. Some of the typical brands are sculpey, primo, and fimo, and they have tons of colors at Hobby Lobby, and other craft stores. I used a deep red for these.

This is a tiny rolling pin and cutting board I got specifically for craft projects, so I don’t have to worry about cross-contamination. They are from a child’s play set, so they are much easier to store than a normal sized set. I roll out small chunks of clay at a time, so it’s easier to keep it a uniform thickness.

I used a tiny heart cookie cutter, which I had on hand, but I got in the baking section of the craft store. These are usually used for bakers to cut decorations out of fondant, and they come in a variety of shapes. I think this one cost about $1. I got 11 hearts from each package of clay, so it worked out to about 15 cents each for that part of it.

I used a needle tool from my ceramics stuff to press their initials into the hearts. You could easily use a toothpick for the same result. You do want to press the letters in if you can, rather than trying to carve them in. It won’t come out as clean that way.

Here they are, ready to be baked according to the instructions on the package. I left them on top of the stove to cool overnight, and when I came down in the morning I thought there was a tray of cookies waiting for me. I was disappointed, but that’s the kind of thoughts I have before I get my coffee: “Cookies!! Are there elves, or…oh wait. Those are the reception favors. Dammit.”

Now you need magnets and strong glue. I had both of these on hand. You can see the magnets are $7 for 50, so about 14 cents each. Other than glue and the heart cookie cutter (both of which were fairly cheap), they cost about 30 cents each. If you wanted to get crazy you could buy stamps to stamp into the clay, or glue on rhinestones, fake flowers, whatever.

You don’t need a whole lot of glue for these. You don’t want it to squish out the sides everywhere. An amount about the size of a lentil should be enough. I let them dry for a few hours before packing them up.

This is mine holding up their invitation:

This is where I put it first, and I just thought that was funny! Yes, that’s Jimmy Carter dressed as a pimp. I have a whole set called “Our Pimpin’ Presidents” that entertain everyone who sees them.

So again, congratulations, Beans, the star of the blog!

April 19, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 1 comment.

The Cake Topper to End All Cake Toppers

For those of you who don’t know her, this is my sis, Beans. She is my one and only sibling, and she is just as odd and crafty as I am, so we get along great. She got married late last year, but still wanted to have a reception to celebrate. This whole week of posts is dedicated to Beans. Congratulations, Beanie Wienie, and I hope you enjoyed all your crafts. I may take a break for making you things for awhile. 

Beans wanted a unique and beautiful cake topper for her wedding cake. She searched around on Etsy, but couldn’t find anything she liked that was also in her price range. Clever Chick to the rescue! (Again!). She came over one weekend, and together we crafted it out of clay to be fired in my kiln.

We started out with a simple base and archway. We used a tupperware lid as the template for the base, to make sure it was actually round. The big piece in the center, which we not-cleverly-but-amusingly titled the “Poop”, is just there to hold the arch in place while we worked on it, and during the drying process.

I then textured the archway to look like wood. I even added little twig stumps, and hid hearts and their initials in the texture.

Beans created the pair of birds sitting on what would eventually be their swing. Beans loves birds, and has tons of bird figurines in her house and garden. She set them up so they were nuzzling each other. She also punched holes in all four corners for later.

Here is the plaque that will go at the top of the arch. Both of their first names start with A. You can see that the birds came out super adorable. The cake itself was the same blue color as the glaze we used. The spool of thread is from an antique store, and that’s what I used to hang the swing.

I used paint on the archway. I mixed the color I wanted, painted it into the texture, then rubbed it off with a wet sponge. That’s what this photo is showing, plus a “B” for Beans! 

Here’s the fully assembled product:

And here it is in place atop the beautiful and delicious cake made by Brandy the Stewrat who features in many of my posts.

And, oh yeah, it tasted as good as it looks. Now my sis has a keepsake she can display all the time with her other bird collections. I attached the plaque and held the swing in place with some silicone glue, and the grass texture on the bottom is just paint textured with a brush. Everyone loved the cake, and it’s incredibly special. Look forward to more wedding and reception madness as the week continues!

April 17, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. 11 comments.

Austin Poetry Slam

My friend Jessica is in the know on EVERYTHING. She has introduced me to so many cool things, I can barely keep up. But I did show her Back to the Future and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, so maybe we’re even. The other day she invited me to a poetry slam. I had never been to one, so I thought I’d try it out.

Turns out, this was the semi-finals of the Austin Poetry Slam. These poets are competing to get on a team, and go to nationals somewhere, representing Austin. Generally, they have a poetry slam every Tuesday at Spiderhouse, and it’s a $5 cover. It’s in the 29th street ballroom, which is either a new addition to the building, or I just never noticed it before. You enter from the 29th street side, and they have a separate bar inside. A Lone Star (my beer of choice) was only $2, just like all over town (you can see why it’s my beer of choice), and a diet coke was $3 with free refills.

The. Slam. Was. Amazing.

I never thought this is something I would really get into. A couple of the people were kind of pretentious, but some of them were funny, and most of them were awsome. There were a couple I was kind of “meh” on, but for the most part, I cheered so much I was still hoarse the next day. It was a lot of fun, and you could tell the audience enjoyed the whole thing.

Next week on Tuesday, the 19th is the Finals. It’s at the same place at Spiderhouse, but it’s $12 cover. These are guaranteed to be all new poems also, because they are not allowed to repeat, so even if you’ve been before it will be worth it to go again.

Also, I got hit on because I was wearing my Batman t-shirt, which made me laugh. Nerd girls are a hot commodity! Jessica also recognized the shirt from the blog, because she’s my number one stalker fan!

April 15, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , . My Quest to be more Interesting. 9 comments.

Book Review: Reserved for the Cat

I think at this point you people can probably tell what type of books I like. Sci-fi fantasy chick lit? Sign me up! Reserved for the Cat is another in the Elemental Masters series by Mercedes Lackey, and she totally brings it in this one. If you like this author or Anne McCaffrey, Kate Elliot and their ilk, you will love this one.

The plot follows a young girl who is basically destitute, and is working hard as a ballerina to try and make ends meet, as well as find a wealthy benefactor. Her mother passes away, and poor Ninette struggles even more. Once she ticks off the prima ballerina, however, she is toast. Comtemplating becoming a “lady of the evening” to put food on the table, she discovers there is magic in the world, and sets off on her adventure.

Now I know I am terrible at book and movie reviews. I desperately hate spoilers, and I try to avoid them at all costs. I try to give you guys a small sample of what occurs, and let you know whether or not I liked it so that you (hopefully) have an idea of whether or not you will. If that’s not helpful, sorry. Really by now you should all just trust my opinion on everything and just follow my advice. What the hell else are minions good for??

To sum up: this gets a Clever Chick rating of “Earns a place on my shelf, and will only be loaned out grudgingly, and with constant badgering until it is returned”. This puts me at a total of twelve books completed so far this year. Not too bad, but I’ve gotten bogged down recently in a couple different books, so we’ll see how it goes.

April 13, 2011. Tags: , , , , , . Book Reviews. Leave a comment.

T-shirt Alteration

When I went to that super swappy swap meet awhile ago, I acquired some awesome stuff, that just needed my special touch to make it perfect. This is one of those items. It’s a t-shirt dress. I love how the top fits me, but I have a little too much “junk in the trunk” for it to look good on me in the lower half.

I got Hubby to draw a line all the way around me while I was wearing it, so that I could cut it to the exact length I wanted all the way around.

It was a little longer in the back, which is just what I wanted.

I did this bad boy right. I even ironed the hem into place before pinning it. I folded down 1/4 to 1/2 inch, ironed it in place, then rolled it over another 1/2 inch and ironed that on the inside to create the hem. I then pinned everything in place. I was able to complete this project on my friend Jessica’s sewing machine (the same Jessica from the swap and several other posts), but it coughed to a tragic end right before I was done, so I hand sewed the remainder.

So now I have a nice t-shirt, that I may embellish on the front. It has a decoration on the back which was pictured in the swap post. It is really soft, and I love the fit. It may star in another post in the future. Ooh, more skulls perhaps??

April 11, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, Thriftiness is Cool. 2 comments.

How to make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Making chocolate covered strawberries is so easy, I just laugh every Valentine’s Day when stores want to charge me $15 for 4 strawberries. Those bakeries must roll around in their money cackling at all the poor saps they trick into purchasing them. Well, no more!! I will save you from being ripped off! Clever Chick to the rescue!!

First, buy a box of strawberries, wash them, and let them dry thoroughly. If they aren’t dry by the time you’re ready to start making them, pat them with a paper towel. I was making chocolate dipped cherries also. You can dip tons of stuff, but lets focus on the strawberries for now.

This is the stuff you need:

You can find it in the baking aisle near the chocolate chips. For the love of candy DO NOT buy unsweetened or baking chocolate. Those will make your mouth hate you, and probably yourself and loved ones will hate you also.

Hey look! I figured out how to get my camera to take pretty pictures close up!!

The chocolate needs to be melted in order to dip stuff. Generally, you don’t want to microwave it because it can scorch and taste terrible, and it’s just generally a bad idea. The grocery store does sell small containers of microwaveable chocolate (usually located by the fruit) that you can melt in the microwave, and then dip stuff into. That method is super easy, and still cheaper than buying chocolate covered strawberries. But, we’re doing this like I do everything: the cheapest way possible! Hooray!

So to melt it, you should use a double boiler. This is basically 2 pans that sit one inside the other, with an inch or two of space in the bottom inside. I don’t have one, so I do this the simple way. One pan with 2 inches or so of water in the bottom, and a bowl set into the top that fits almost perfectly. You will be melting the chocolate with indirect heat, rather than directly on the burner.  So put water in there and start it boiling.

Drop in some chunks of chocolate (they come out like ice cubes from a tray) and let them melt. You will have to stir it around a bit. If it starts to get stiff, or chunky, make sure your strawberries are dry, and if they are turn down the heat. You should probably have it around medium or lower.

We you start dipping, start with the biggest strawberries first, because that’s when the chocolate will be the deepest. Rotate them around in the chocolate, then lift, and let any extra drip back into the bowl. Set them down on a cookie sheet covered in foil or wax paper. They will cool to hardness at room temperature.

Don’t put them in the fridge unless you have to. I would make these the day you plan to eat them, and only put leftovers in the fridge. If they get too cold, once you pull them out condensation starts to form on them, which make the chocolate melt. I think I spent a total of $5-6 for this whole batch, and a bunch of chocolate dipped cherries also.

It may seem complicated, but once you try to make these once, you realize how ridiculously easy it is.

Update: I forgot to list the other things you can dip that are awesome: marshmallows, blueberries, chow mein noodles, pretzles, potato chips, banana slices (if you will be eating them immediately), and even BACON. I would recommend doing the salty things last, and for bacon you can drizzle it on top instead of dipping it. This makes my mouth water. I promise, chocolate covered bacon is so good!

April 9, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Cooking. 1 comment.

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