Dear Clever Chick, Help!

I have decided that when someone asks me a crafting question I am going to shamelessly reuse the conversation for a new section I’m calling “Dear Clever Chick”. Feel free to gasp in awe at my creativity. 

These are crafting questions and cooking conundrums, probably none of which I’ll be any actual help with. That would require competence and sobriety, neither of which I have. But, I’ll do my best, then copy and paste so I can get back to playing Farmville napping volunteering at the animal shelter.

Loyal Minion: hi clever chick (Editors Note: She really started it that way! I didn’t add that!) 

I don’t know if you as crafty with fabric as you are with everything else…. If you are I need your help. I have a lovely strapless swimsuit that I want to add straps to. It’s not staying up where it needs to be, so the straps need to be functional. Any ideas?

 Clever Chick: I think they sell bra straps at Hobby Lobby, and that’s what I would get to add onto it. Do you do much sewing? If not, I can help you. It should be pretty easy. You just want to make sure you attach them strongly.

Loyal Minion: Good tip. I’ll check out hobby lobby. I do sew but I don’t have a sewing machine to make it look proffesional. Do you have a sewing machine?

Clever Chick: You should probably hand sew those. My sewing machine is dead at the moment anyway. I’m pretty sure hobby lobby sells them, but if you have an old bra laying around, you could just take the ones off of it and use those.

Even with these vague, barely coherent instructions, she managed to complete the project, and look awesome in the finished product. You can add straps to swimsuits or tube tops using the same method. All you need is a needle and thread. Just sew the straps to the top more than you think you need to. Remember, those straps are keeping you from flashing the world, so it’s important to make sure they stay where you want them.

Got your own question or issue? You can ask on my facebook, and if I feel like it, and you buy me enough presents, I might help you out.

January 31, 2012. Tags: , , , . Arts and Crafts. Leave a comment.

Western Party

Hubby and I have a roommate who moved to Austin from Michigan. She is so enamoured of Texas and the West in general, that she decided she wanted a Western themed birthday party. I do love a theme party, so we went all out, of course.

We don’t really have a lot of “western” type stuff to decorate with around the house (shocking!), so we decided to make some cheap, but adorable decorations. Hubby drew things onto crafting foam, which we then cut out, and stuck to the walls with masking tape. It worked great, and there are no holes in the walls or damage to the paint. Here’s a little armadillo he drew, and there were some rattle snakes and lizards roaming around.

Another cheap and amazing decoration idea was these cardboard saloon doors leading into the kitchen. They are so cute I can’t even stand it.

We wanted to get a lot of decorating done cheaply and quickly, so we cut rock formations, inspired by Monument Valley in Arizona, out of that giant paper from a teacher supply store. It was (I think) 89 cents per yard. We also drew the rock formations on the paper interlocking, like puzzle pieces or Pangaea, so that we got a ton of them out of each yard. These were also attached to the walls using loops of masking tape. The tiny cacti are also cut from the foam used for the animals.

This is a real horse skull we’ve had for years, and it is surprisingly handy! It’s on the window sill outside the kitchen as though it’s looking in.

Cowprint balloons: a necessity.

And we found these mustache stickers at Hobby Lobby in the scrapbook sticker section. I think it was $3 for 6 stickers. Obviously, I got the picture after Hubby started having fun.

Back off ladies, that’s MY Hubby with the evil mustache!

People came in a variety of costumes, from an Old West bartender serving tiny bottles of whiskey, to a bandido, to a grimey old prospecter, to more traditional western wear. Since I was running around setting things up (and drinking), I opted for a straw cowboy hat, Wrangler shirt, and cowboy boots.

For food we had Texas beers, hot dogs roasted over the fire outside (as well as vegetable kabobs since we’re progressive, healthy westerners), corn bread, and “tumble weeds”. The “tumble weeds” were chocolate covered chow mein noodles made into little clumps. We also had hummus with veggies and fruit with angel food cake.

Some other ideas we had: give bandanas away as party favors, put a large jar lid in your back pocket to mimic a can of dipping tobacco, have a contest to shoot tin cans off of something with nerf guns, make “cowpies” which would be brownie or Nutella cookies, baked beans, s’mores, and try to lasso the dog.  

It was a ton of fun, and everyone had a blast. Plus hot dogs cooked over fire? *Jazz Hands* Amazing! The costumes were epic, and I’m hoping to bum them off someone’s facebook page, since I was stupid and took no pictures. We played music by Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson. I never would have thought of this theme on my own, and it turned out great!

January 29, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts, My Quest to be more Interesting. 12 comments.

Mini Frittatas

Technically, I’ve already posted this recipe, but I’m trying something new with it I thought was cool. In the original recipe, you simply bake eggs in a muffin tin, then put them inside an english muffin or mini bagel to make a breakfast sandwich. I decided to get a bit creative.

I’m always harping on cutting carbs (but then I just consume them in the form of cake or beer instead), so I wanted to avoid the mini bagels. The thing is, I pretty much hate how eggs taste, so I needed to do something to disguise them as much as possible.

I started by scrambling them up in their tins, then adding a variety of ingredients directly into the eggs. I had some cocktail weenies in the fridge, so I sliced some up and dropped them in. I also used diced onions, cheese, salsa, Sriracha, and frozen spinach. Each one has a different combination of those things in it. Like the salads I’ve been having for lunch every day, variety is important.

They baked up just fine, the same as in the original recipe.

They came out pretty good, but still taste like eggs. Next time I will be adding way more diced onion, cheese, and maybe mushrooms.

I have eaten them all for work though. When I reheat them, I put a small amount of cheese on top, and sometimes salsa, and they’re actually really good. God, I love cheese. Maybe next time I’ll skip the eggs altogether and just make a big ball of baked cheese filled with onions and mushrooms. *drools*

January 27, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Cooking. 2 comments.

Dear Clever Chick: Painting Basics

For some reason, people have this delusion that I’m competent. In the face of overwhelming evidence, they continue to ask me for advice. Being the generous chick that I am, I share my limited wisdom, and, being lazy, I will now turn it into a blog post.

Naive Person Who Thinks I Have Skills: I have an art project question for you. I bought these ornate, fancy picture frames on craigslist and they turned out to be a yellowish gold color that doesn’t look good with any of my pictures. I want to either distress it or paint it (I’m leaning towards painting). Do you have any tips or ideas I can try?

Me Pretending to be Competent: I wouldn’t try distressing, just because that yellow color might still be visible (depending on the frame). If you’re going to paint it, since it’s a small project I would just go to a craft supply store and get a tube of acrylic paint that you like. Acrylic is the kind you can clean up with just soap and water, whereas oil requires turpentine, and also takes days to dry.

Acrylic will dry a tiny bit darker than it looks when it’s wet, so if you’re trying to match a specific color that might be important. If you don’t have a brush already, just get a cheap-ish one at the craft store. They should have the brushes grouped by what they’re used for, so just find one for acrylic paint.

I would take the whole frame apart (Edit: What I mean by this is separate the wood frame part from the glass and backing, so you don’t worry about getting paint on them), paint it over newspaper, then let it dry overnight. It probably won’t take that long to fully dry, but I can never be patient, so I always end up with finger prints on stuff where I “tested” it (Edit: This is completely true).

If you want to protect the coating once you’re done, you can get clear spray paint to coat it with. You can get different levels of shininess, and they have it at Wal-mart for around $3. Since it’s a picture frame, you might not have to worry about that. We use it on things that will be handled and moved around to prevent chipping. (Edit: Higher gloss levels make the object easier to clean. I have used clear coats on things I’ve spray painted as well, and it works great).

 So there you go. Advice, basic knowledge, and the laziest blog post possible. Do you have blog fodder crafting questions? Send them to me, and I’ll do my best to stay sober while I respond.

January 25, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Arts and Crafts. Leave a comment.

My Hands Might Fall Off

You maybe wondering why I haven’t been posting on time, or doing much crafting lately. This is why:

I finally finished crocheting this giant blanket that I have been working on, off and on for FIVE YEARS.

Appreciate the hard work that went into this. I DON’T HEAR YOU APPRECIATING.

I don’t even want to think about how much yarn and time I spent on the thing. It’s finally done, and I will never make another full size blanket again. Unless you get yarn for free, they are too expensive and time consuming. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get carpal tunnel surgery.

January 23, 2012. Tags: , , , . Arts and Crafts. 3 comments.

I’ve Been Busy

Some very few readers (Jessica) have probably noticed that I haven’t been posting as regulary as I used too, or as I would like. My job has recently gotten more demeaning demanding, so I don’t have as much time for fun things, like sleeping and breathing. I am still your wonderful, amazing, beautiful, intelligent, modest Clever Chick, and I will continue to post as often as possible.

January 21, 2012. Tags: . Random typing. 2 comments.

My Sis, Beans

I know I am constantly telling you all how amazing and hilarious my sister is. We didn’t always get along when we were young, but now she’s one of my best friends. We are constantly stalking each other through the internet, and now I have one more option: she has finally started a blog!

It’s called My Wildhood, and it is awesome. Not only is she hilarious, she’s full of all kind of useful information. She focuses more on nature and the outdoors, while I focus on crafting and sitting down. Enjoy stalking Beans as much as I do.

January 19, 2012. Tags: , , , . Random typing. 2 comments.

Stop SOPA!

For those of you living under a rock, SOPA is the “Stop Online Piracy Act” bill currently stuck in Congress. The bill is aimed toward ending piracy of movies and music on the internet, but it is written so poorly that if anyone is even accused of copyright infringement they can be shut down until they prove their innocence.

That’s right: guilty until proven innocent.

Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, Regretsy, and tons of other websites have turned off for the day, or made some form of protest. My tiny blog is joining these behemoths to show that I, too, support freedom of the internet. George Takei has written a much more eloquent protest here, and here’s a much more detailed accounting of how the bill works.

This is important, and we need to stop it.

January 18, 2012. Tags: , , . Random typing. Leave a comment.

The Tale of Murasaki

My plan for the new year is not necessarily to review every book I read, but instead to focus on the fantatstically good or fantastically bad ones. This one is terrible.

The Tale of Murasaki is about a real woman that lived in Japan 1000 years ago. She wrote a book called The Tale of Genji that is still translated today. I have never heard of Genji, but it’s supposed to be a big deal. This novel is based on the diary of Murasaki, and the author’s knowledge of the time period.

After reading this, I am very glad that I don’t live in fuedal Japan. Either it was massively boring, or Liza Dalby managed to suck all the fun out of it. Even when the palace burns down (which seems to happen once a week), or main characters die, very little actually occurs. There is no drama.

I can’t really word it any other way: this book is BORING. I think this and other Asian-esque books benefit from the success of Amy Tan and Memoirs of a Geisha. Readers love those books and want more like it, so they pick up something with Asian art on the cover. I know that’s why I grabbed this, but don’t make the same mistake I did! Save yourself!!

I even fought my way all the way through this one, thinking eventually something noteworthy would happen. Nope. On the Clever Chick Scale this gets a “Not even good when you have insomnia”. That’s pretty bad.


January 17, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Book Reviews. 3 comments.

How to save for a vacation

There are probably one million websites that will give you strategies for how to pinch pennies and save money. I am not going to cover any of that ground in this post. The one thing many of them tell you, is when saving for a specific goal, put that money in a jar as a visual motivator. Sounds great! But a plain jar? That’s not the Clever Chick way. Let’s make it fabulous!!

First off, you’re going to need a jar of some kind, preferably large enough to hold all the massive wads of cash you’ll be saving. We’ll be adding a decoration to it, and I pulled one out of an old calendar. You could use something from National Geographic, or any old magazine. You also need some glue, hopefully mod-podge, and a paint brush to spread it around.

I chose and trimmed this picture to fit between the bulges on my jar.

If you want to label your jar, I recommend using shirt paint. This, however, shows why it’s important to test your shirt paint on a separate sheet of paper first:

Ca-splosion! But, I managed to recover:

Once the word “Vacation” was dry, I flipped the picture over and spread Mod-Podge on the back. Just so you know, this picture shows waaaay too much mod-podge being used. You should probably put a fairly thin coat on the back. You also have to complete this part of the process relatively quickly so the paper shapes to the jar properly without bubbles, creases, or tears.

I laid my jar down on the gluey picture (of course making sure it was right way up), then wrapped the label around the jar. It might be easier to lay the jar on its side, then wrap the picture around it starting from one end. It would probably be easier to prevent air bubbles and creases. I also used the picture to cover up some ugly label stuff I couldn’t get off the jar.

This step needs to be completed fairly quickly, because once the glue gets on the paper, the paper starts to absorb the moisture. The paper can become weak and tear easily once it has absorbed lots of the glue (which is also why you should use less than I did). I held the jar, and smoothed the picture onto it with my fingers. Glue squished out on all sides, which I then smoothed over the outside. This is a “Do as I say, not as I do” type of craft.  I probably should have started from one end of the picture, and smoothed it to the jar as I went. Instead, I ended up with a few creases and bubbles, but unless you touch it you can’t tell. Here it is, coated in glue:

Here it is, dry and complete. You can see a couple creases, but I’m not too worried about it. At least I tried it and showed you guys how to avoid that issue. I also didn’t decorate the lid of the jar, but you can do so following this previous post of mine.

And of course you can use this method for any kind of saving goal. If you’re saving for a wedding, put a picture of a wedding cake; for a house, put a house, etc. Hubby and I have a bunch of stuff around the house that we’ve been planning to sell on eBay or Craig’s list, and any proceeds from those sales go into this jar. I’m hoping that will motivate us to finally get rid of this stuff, and declutter in the process. Here’s hoping!

January 15, 2012. Tags: , , , . Arts and Crafts, Thriftiness is Cool. Leave a comment.

How to get some sleep

My poor sis Beans was having some trouble sleeping the other day, and it made me think about how many “sleep advice” columns I’ve read online. They all discuss things like not having too much caffeine during the day, and having a bed time routine to help your brain realize it’s bed time. It seems to me that they fail to address the causes of wakefulness. You can ask Beans, I generally sleep fine, and lots, but there are times I can’t sleep. I love sleep, so when things are keeping me up I get rather irritated (and by “irritated” I mean filled with white-hot rage).

When you’re laying there trying to fall asleep, try to analyze what exactly is preventing you, then try to fix it. Usually once I’m already in bed I don’t want to get up to fix stuff, so I’m going to offer you a quick-fix and a long-term fix.

1. Room is too bright – Temporary fix: put a pillow or blanket over the upper half of your face. Don’t smother yourself. You may need to cover or turn your clock if it’s too bright. Long-term: depending on the light source, you may need to block it different ways. Make sure as many lights as possible in your home are turned off before bed. If it’s coming from outside, hang up thick curtains, or hang a bed sheet up inside the curtains you have to block more light. You can hang curtains over doorways as well, if light is penetrating the cracks.

2. It’s too hot/cold – Temporary fix: if you’re too cold, try to fold your blankets double over you, and tuck them in all around. Also covering the top of your head should help. Too hot. throw blankets off and sleep as spread out as possible. You may have to turn on a fan, turn down the AC, or get your hair wet to cool off. Long-term: figure out what temperature makes you most comfortable for sleep. If you are consistently cold throw a bunch of extra blankets on the bed, and use flannel sheets. If that’s not enough consider getting a space heater or electric blanket. If you’re always hot, cotton sheets and blankets should keep you cooler than synthetics, and you might need to invest in a box fan.

3. It’s too noisy – Temporary fix: scream at whoever is making the noise until they shut up. If that’s not feasible, try putting a pillow over your head. Long-term: if this is a constant problem try to talk to whoever is creating the noise to see if they can cut it down. If that’s not possible, like for road noise, you have a few options: ear plugs, a white noise machine or a fan to drown out the noise, or hang thick curtains to block noise. You can even hang up quilts, which will help insulate against noise and temperature.

4. Racing thoughts – Temporary fix: I get this problem a lot usually when we’re about to go out of town. It’s usually along the lines of “I need to remember to make coffee, get the bags, pack my toothbrush, grab that book just in case, and the snacks in the fridge…”  etc, etc. I have found that it helps me to list the things I need to remember, then just concentrate on remembering the number of items there are. So in the example above I would remember the number 5. In the morning I can just focus on recalling those 5 things, and that has helped me a lot. Long-term: keep a notebook and pen next to the bed to write things down. If you’re like me the thought of turning on the light is like torture, so rather than messing with that, get a pen that has a tiny light in the end. I have had several of these over the years, and they are convenient and inexpensive. You could also write down your thoughts at the end of the day before you turn in to help prevent this problem in the first place.

5. Not tired – I can’t think of a temporary fix. I generally read something boring for awhile until my brain is finally ready to leave me alone. Long-term: try to wear yourself out during the day. I know when I am physically exhausted sleep is usually much easier.

I hope that helps everyone. I love sleep so much, I hate the days when it eludes me, and I know it’s not pleasant for anyone. Happy dreaming!

January 13, 2012. Tags: , , , , . House Stuff, Random typing. 3 comments.

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