Simple and Delicious Chicken Parmesan

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I wanted to share tonight's chicken parmesan dinner because it was SO delicious and SO simple. Even though you may not be able to get your hands on the exact sauce, because honestly, sauce is a huge part in this dish tasting so yummy, I'll share what to look for when purchasing canned sauce from your grocery store! Not that you need much of a recipe for this sort of thing--I think it's just all about how you fry your chicken and what sauce you use. Obviously it's going to be different for everyone depending on how much you want to make so I'll share with you what I did!


Here's What You'll Need 

* Boneless/skinless chicken breasts [I found ones that were already sliced thin so I had four total. I go for organic/all natural chicken]
* Seasoned bread crumbs
* 1 egg
* Splash of milk
* 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce [I used Dominick's which is made locally here in upstate NY. Top shelf is always best. The less ingredients the better. It truly makes a difference. Don't go cheap on sauce]
* 2 cups mozzarella cheese [I always buy the larger package so I'm not limited]
* Oil for frying
* Linguine [I used whole grain]
* Dried parsley for garnish

Here's What You'll Do

* Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
* Using a 9×13 baking dish and spread a thin layer of sauce and put it aside
* Mix the egg and milk in a shallow glass bowl
* Pour the bread crumbs into a dish


* Pour about 1/4 inch deep of oil into the frying pan. [Once the oil is hot, dip the chicken into the egg and then coat it with the bread crumbs. I used a spoon to help get bread crumbs onto the top of the chicken].
* Brown the chicken in the frying pan, just a couple of mins on each side, not worrying if they are cooked all the way since they will be baked as well.


* Once they are ready, transfer them to the baking dish, put some sauce on top of each piece of chicken, cover the baking fish with foil. For the thickness of my chicken I set a timer and let them bake for 15 minutes. [If you buy regular thick breasts, you definitely want to cut them and pound them prior to breading them so they are thinner and will cook much faster].


* Once the timer goes off, add the cheese to the top of the chicken and continue baking uncovered until the cheese is nice and melted, about 10-15 more minutes.


* While the cheese is melting in the oven, get your large pot of water ready, and once the chicken has about 8 minutes left in the oven, boil your pasta. Make sure not to break your pasta. It will make its way into the pot as it starts to cook!


* Once everything is set, drain the pasta and remove the chicken from the oven. Put the pasta in a shallow bowl. I took some sauce from the baking dish and put it on the pasta. Then I placed a chicken breast on top and garnished with dried parsley. And that's it! A super easy and yummy meal for your family to enjoy! 






Anna's New Play Nook

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Update May 2015

The ever changing play nook has a new addition! Read about how I transformed the boring magnetic dry erase board here. :]


Here's how it all started....

I'm SO happy that Anna's play nook is finally complete! We live in a two bedroom apartment and thankfully have this nook right off of our dining room/computer area.  When you look at this photo, our dining room is to the right and the computer area is where it took this photo from. She is almost 19 months now, so this play nook was a MUST HAVE and I'm very thankful for this random space!


I linked previous posts for the kitchen and play table makeovers below so that you can get that info if you are interested in taking on any projects yourself. Honestly, the hardest scariest thing was getting that map into that frame! And the easiest thing was going to a carpet store in town and having them take a scrap piece of rug to create a custom area rug to fit right into her space [we have laminate floors and I didn't want her to be on the chilly floor in the winter time]. 


This map is amazing and I'm obsessed with it because it is so accurate and adorable. The link in the caption below will take you right to it. It's actually one for those fabric peel and stick maps that goes directly on the wall, but I knew it would get ruined in a heartbeat so we decided to frame it behind glass. Which I think will pay off in the long run because we will be able to take a dry erase marker to it when she is old enough. The only issue is, this map is 24in x 38in and pretty much... you can't find a frame that size. So we went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a 24in x 36in frame and a white foam-like board, had the nice man cut it to 24in x 36in, and also had him attach the hardware and wire to the back of the frame because I was afraid we would somehow ruin it.

It was a tad terrifying trying to get the map onto the board since we knew we would have to leave a couple of inches off the edges and fold them behind the board for it to fit in the frame. Looking back, we should've just got a bigger board, stuck the damn thing on there and then had it cut. But, that's okay, you live and your learn. Just so you know, the map really does peel and stick because we took a few tries to get it perfect and it came off okay. The company that we got the map from sends you a big squeegee and that made it a lot easier to apply the map once we actually got it perfectly placed. We squeezed that bad boy in, and now it is safe. I must admit though, because it was within Anna's reach at one point, we did manage to get some food on it. Oops! I think it's one of those things only we can notice ;]

US Map


The post for the IKEA DUKTIG kitchen makeover can be found here.



The post for the IKEA LATT play table makeover can be found here.

banner // shade // pendant cord // tea set 

Anna is SUPER happy to have this space. It was a miracle I even got these photos. This play area NEVER looks like this. It shouldn't look like this. It's always covered in toys like you see below [which this is actually a not-so-messy day], and that's the way we like it :]

Update April 2015

 I'm super excited to have finally added some organization for Anna's crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paint brushes! This was a mega budget-friendly addition. I already had the cafe rod, which is seriously like $5 at Target. Then I found these awesome tin pails in TheOneSpot section, and they came in a two pack for $3! The BEST part is, they have these 'hooks' on the back and as soon as I picked them up I envisioned them on a rod above my daughter's play table.... so here it is! I had to lightly pinch the hooks to fit snug on the rod. It's great because I can remove the tin pails when I am not watching her like a total hawk because the last thing I want is crayon or marker all over our apartment walls! ;]






DIY Growth Chart Ruler

Sunday, March 22, 2015


This is a project I've been wanting to do for quite some time now. I just could not for the life of me figure out how the hell I was going to get the tick marks and numbers on a piece of stained wood and it not be a complete and total disaster...until I came across these AMAZING vinyl decals from Little Acorns by Ro on Etsy. The best part: They are only $10, she includes an insane amount of directions [from wood choice, wood prep and application of the decals] and they are e-a-s-y.


** When you order the decals, Little Acorns by Ro seriously gives you every direction you need to create this ruler, so I'm not going to go into super detail... And if you want the directions beforehand, as soon as you order your decals, message her on Etsy and she will totally send them to you! :]

Materials: 

* 1 x 8 x 8 pine board and had them cut it to 6ft [Lowe's does that for free]. They sell 1 x 6 x 6 as well, but the 8in wide boards look better in my opinion, and you also want to leave room for your markings that you will make on your growth chart.
* Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner [I used Minwax]
* Stain of your choice [not anything too dark because you want to see the decals well. [I used Minwax Provincial]
* A cloth for conditioning and a cloth for staining [an old wash cloth works or they sell them at Lowes in a two pack
* Medium grade sanding block
* Pencil 
* Tape measure
* Credit card [squeegee] 

What I Did:

* I gave my board a light sanding with a medium grade sanding block. I rounded off the edges a bit as well, and paid special attention to the end that was cut because it was a bit rough. I highly suggest getting the dust off with a tack cloth which you can find at Lowe's or any home improvement store. 
* Follow all the directions for the conditioner and the stain.
* This may be a no-brainer, but make sure to stain the sides and the ends of the board as well since you will be able to see them. I also chose to stain both sides of the board because I wanted to see which side looked better. 
* I let my board dry for about four days once it was stained. [I did two coats, didn't bother to seal. I'm sure it will be fine]
* It's SUPER important to let the board dry COMPLETELY so that it is not sticky in any way, otherwise your decals will not adhere properly. 
* Since the board is meant to hang 8in off the ground, we measured accordingly, starting with marking the first foot at 4in up the board, marking every 12in after that, and applied the decals [they come in multiple strips and the numbers are separate].
*The way they are cut makes them incredibly easy to apply. I always found once we made sure they were good and stuck [squeegee them with a credit card], we peeled off the transfer paper at an angle and boom! It was done! 
*I nailed a sawtooth picture hanger about one half inch from the top of the back of the board [make sure you take that into account when hanging it. Ours was initially too low when we tested the height up the wall with a tape measure]
* Use a tape measure to find your 8in mark from the ground and hang your ruler! :]

This hanger worked out great. The ruler sits flush to the wall.


Such an awkward apartment wall between the thermostat, vent and outlet, but definitely the best spot for our
growth chart ruler :]

IKEA DUKTIG Makeover

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Here's another one for all you IKEA addicts out there...a super simple and budget friendly DUKTIG play kitchen makeover! I had an interesting experience with this one because I made my own chalk paint and kind of totally jacked up the recipe and then was able to fix it. Yikes! Considering the madness, I am beyond thrilled with the way it came out!


There are approximately one million different chalk paint recipes online. I have been super 'anti-make my own chalk paint' until I got real cheap on this one and I also couldn't find the exact color that I needed from Annie Sloan. I was not about to buy three different colors to get ONE. Sooo, I went to Lowe's and purchased a sample size of Valspar Sweet Mint [it was like $3.00 and exactly one cup/half pint]. THIS is the recipe you want to use. I've been told the link is being weird so if that doesn't work try THIS. 

[The struggle was REAL for me, people. I screw up all the time so don't look at things on my blog and think what I do is one shot and it's awesome, because that isn't real life...]
- Here is where I epically failed: I used too much plaster and I did not use hot water. 
- Here is what I got: super clumpy paint that I had to constantly add water to. BUT, it did work. I don't recommend my route because it was a hot damn mess. 
- Lesson learned: a little plaster goes a long way, and hot water is your friend. Once I made it through the chaos, I sealed it with Annie Sloan wax, and I must say, the paint is real strong and I will totally do it again, except the correct way this time. 

I did not go all hardcore pimpin' out this kitchen because it's going to be played with like crazy [and already is]. There are also approximately one million different makeovers on Pinterest for this project, many of which are incredibly badass and include crazy colors, custom counter top, and spray painting the hardware or changing it out--but, I wanted this to be simple and inexpensive. Also, the thought of spray painting plastic kind of makes me want to die and it also freaked me out that my child would be playing with spray painted things. Nothing against people doing that, I just couldn't deal...

I totally jacked the 'backsplash' idea from a makeover I saw on Pinterest. I bought a foam board from the craft store and had my husband help me draw subway tiles with a gray sharpie, because Lord knows I can't draw straight lines on my own...

- We found that the horizontal lines had to each be two inches wide, for a total of six rows
- Then we drew vertical lines every four inches down every other row
- Finally, we went into the empty rows and just drew a vertical line for the center of every existing tile above and below it. 
[Gah, I hope that's not too confusing. I was too 'in the moment' to take photos of that process]
- To secure, I just did little circles of hot glue in each corner and now it's officially installed!

DUKTIG utensil set // Melissa and Doug and pans set // Mason Jar salt and pepper shakers [similar]

This is a fun way to decorate for each holiday, Anna's got some Easter decor going on right now. :]
Mini Easter tree [Target: TheOneSpot section] // galvanized pot // glass jar // 'A' [AC Moore]

SKUBB Storage box set // DUKTIG play food here and here

oven tap light [similar]

Hope you enjoyed this simple, budget-friendly play kitchen makeover! I know my little one sure has :]

IKEA LÄTT Makeover

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If you've read my IKEA posts before, you know how obsessed I am [and if you came to my apt you would know too] mainly because a lot of their furniture is: wood, super affordable, a blank slate, and comes in a million pieces with directions that just have photos, and I for some reason really enjoy that shit. You feel pretty bad ass when you are done putting furniture together...well, at least I do. 

I was reeeealllly excited to come across this LÄTT table for $20. Yep. The whole thing. Real wood awesomeness. I decided the original look was less than exciting, so here's what I created! I'm very happy with the way it came out and it really was NOT a difficult project. Scroll past the finished photos and I'll tell ya exactly what I did to achieve this look! 




Simple Steps to Achieve this Look

Okay, so here's the stock photo and what your set will look like once you remove it from the box:

Materials:

* Pre-stain wood conditioner [I used Minwax in the half pint] 
* Stain of your choice [I used Minwax Provincial in the half pint can]
* A cloth for conditioning and a cloth for staining [an old wash cloth works or they sell them at Lowes in a two pack
* Foam sheets [I used 1" Project foam 2 pack from Walmart]
* Fabric of your choice [Girl Charlee has an awesome selection. This fabric that I had was left over from an old project. Unfortunately I didn't see this exact one on their site]
* hot glue gun & fabric scissors
* Your LÄTT set, of course [comes with everything you need to assemble it]

Conditioning and Staining:

If you plan on staining or even painting, do NOT put the set together just yet. Stain or paint the pieces individually, and allow them a couple of days to dry. It'll just be easier to get into the little corners and such.

I didn't take any photos of me applying the conditioner or the stain because that's pretty simple, and honestly, I can barely handle remembering to take photos of the steps! [Sad but true] I did not find sanding these pieces prior to staining necessary. Up to you if you want to sand first. 

Just follow the directions on the cans and you are golden, swear. The conditioner is mega important because it allows the stain to cover evenly and not look blotchy, so don't skip that part. Do all the stinky staining in your garage first and let that dry for a couple of days before you put anything together. If not, it will be sticky and you may get stain on the cushions when you go to put them into the chair.

I chose not to use any sort of seal. I bought some polyurethane but I don't find it necessary, and I had this vision that it would somehow ruin my hard work by bubbling or something and I would wind up on the garage floor crying! Ha, yes. So again, totally your call! 

Cushions: 

I did take take photos of the cushions because this part isn't necessarily tricky, it's just one of those things that HAS to be done a certain way or you won't be able to put your cushion into the chair. You want to cut the foam to actually fit within the notched areas of the seat board. I just laid my board on the foam and used the edges of the board to draw my lines with a sharpie and with a couple of cuts the foam will fit right within that notched area. Just hot glue the foam on and you are good to go!

I then laid them face down on the fabric that was also face down and cut accordingly to make sure I had enough to over lap on the bottom. The SUPER important part here, are the corners. You want to make sure you pull nice and tight on the fabric in the corners because those notches are your key to your seat being assembled properly. I made sure to pull tight on all sides. It was easy with this fabric because it is a jersey knit. I used hot glue to secure the fabric because I just found it to be easiest that way. 

I then sprayed each cushion with two coats of Scotchgard, because let's be honest, my child is going to get something on them and I probably will too! ;]

Assembly:

IKEA gives the best directions ever. [Here they are] Directions with no words rock in my opinion. Just a couple of things that will change for each chair due to adding the fabric on your seat cushion:



*The only thing I have not done yet is add a sheet of plexiglas to fit over the table top to protect the extreme white of it. Once I do that, I will come back and update this post. I already bought the 18x24 sheet from Lowe's, I just need to have them cut it down to 17 3/8 x 23 3/8 and then I need to add little notches so that should be fun! 

UPDATE: I had the plexiglas cut at Lowe's in the dimensions I listed above and I just sanded the corners to round them some with a medium sanding block and I was able to fit it on just fine. It's not perfect, but it certainly serves the purpose of protecting the table top from any crayons or paint!


Can't wait for my little one to enjoy her new play table. Leave a comment if you have any questions! :]

PS: Here's why you'll want plexiglas! A magic eraser easily gets it off and then clean the streaks with your household cleaner [I use JR Watkins].




Kiddo Books We Love

Saturday, March 14, 2015

When I was a kid I LOVED to read. We are so lucky to have the amazing books that we have today for our kids. I've made sure that Anna has a library full of books. Not just random books, but books that I have looked into before purchasing. Prior to teaching math, I taught small reading groups for kiddos that were struggling, and I learned A LOT about books, and that there are books that are just plain better than others. I'm thankful for that experience because I now know what to look for when it comes to purchasing books for my little one. I am no expert by any means, but I'd figured I'd share some of our favorites and why we love them so much because without some of my friends helping me, I wouldn't know about these. :]


Indestructibles: Okay, these books totally ROCK. They are seriously indestructible. The material that they use to make these books is so awesome. They are nontoxic and 100% washable! They are chew-proof, can't be torn, and are super easy to hold and bend. These are not considered 'board books.' The pages are much thinner, but because the material flexes easily, the pages are easy to turn. I highly recommend them if you have a little one that loves to consume books or tear them up [which mine has unfortunately done to a few]. They are really colorful and simple. Some of the books are simply graphic and do not contain words, while others are filled with pictures and labels. Graphic books can be really powerful because you can develop any story you want. It allows a book to be both fiction and non-fiction which is great! If you click the link above you will find all the books on Amazon, and they allow you to 'look inside.' 

Highlights [Magazine]: Holy I was am obsessed with Highlights. If you are a child of the 90s you know exactly what I am talking about. I about cried when I saw that these subscriptions are still around. Here's the beautiful thing about highlights...they are broken down into levels. Hello Magazine [ages 0-2], High Five Magazine [ages 2-6], and Highlights Magazine [ages 6-12]. Huge shout out to my Mom for finding this, because she is the reason my daughter has her first subscription! The link above will take you to the main page where you can read about the three different levels they offer. I LOVE the Hello one that she is in right now because of the 'find it' feature which shows them objects on one page and then on the next page they have to 'find it' in the picture. There are mini stories and poems, it is super simple and has great illustrations. The pages on this are also tear proof and the corners are nicely rounded for safety. Our subscription also came with an adorable calendar--score!

Sandra Boynton Series: Sandra Boynton board books are just plain perfection. By far, at the top of my list. They are educational on so many levels: vocabulary, opposites, numbers, letters, animals, rhyme, etc. Plus the illustrations just crack me up! Her books are not traditional, whimsical in a sense really. They really allow you to get into the characters and exercise your sarcasm when reading. Definitely great for modeling differently elements of fluency. Because as we all know, we are our child's first teacher. There are a ton more that are still on my list to get. Click the link above and you can read all about each one on Amazon!

These are just some of the books that I like to read with my little munchkin during the day. If you are looking to build your child's library, I hope this post helps to get you started. :]

Anna enjoying some Sandra Boynton this morning. :]

Anna's First Birthday

Saturday, March 7, 2015

In honor of my little nugget officially turning one and a half today, I decided to share some photos from her first birthday party! I can't believe it was six months ago! It was suuuper simple, nothing fancy. Just about twelve of us enjoying watching this little momma crawl around in her amazing tutu.

I was SO stressed out that day because about a week before her birthday, I found out the bakery that I had ordered her cupcakes through, actually had to SHUT DOWN due to the renovations that were going on in the hotel they were attached to. Downtown problems...anyway, I got my money back and decided that I would Pinterest some simple vanilla cupcakes and buttercream icing and that I was going to tackle the baking on my own. I did a trial run, and somehow the stars aligned and all came out great. Phew!

The main thing is that we had fun and I have some photos to share with her when she is older! Not a whole lot you can do for a first birthday. Some people take it waaaay over the top and have photo booths and props, and everything is decorated to the nines, but honestly, at that time Anna could only last a few hours before she was totally over it and we had JUST moved up to NY so I kept the decor to a minimum. I think with her turning two this year, we can definitely incorporate a couple games or something that goes with her theme. I have no idea what that will be. Hopefully she can choose :]

tutu // felt crown // 'one' iron on vinyl 
These garlands are SUPER simple and fun to make! Just find your favorite card stock colors, punch them our cut them out [I suggest punching them out. I use the Martha Stewart ones] and carefully slip them one by one through your sewing machine! Make the garland as long or as short as you want and use whatever color thread you want! They hold up really well and are super lightweight!


To decorate the table a bit, I used those Martha Stewart craft punches in the shape of a heart and just punched out some card stock in the colors I wanted. I also used the same punch as well as round one to punch out some amazing gold and glittery card stock [that doesn't shed] that I found at Michael's to make a simple decoration for the cupcakes. To make the banner, I used that same glitter card stock, cut it out in the shapes I wanted, hole punched both top ends with a single punch and strung pink ribbon through.

The baking angel was on my shoulder that day because I managed to make these treats [minus the macaroons]. It was fun, but this year, I'll hire someone! [Banner made by me with this amazing glitter paper from Michaels that does NOT shed]
I somehow managed to swirl this homemade icing on myself. I have no idea what came over me that day--anyone who knows me, knows I'm not super handy in the kitchen. 
I made the 'one' banner with card stock, ribbon, a single whole punch, and adhesive letters. I cut out the pink card stock in the shape that I wanted and hole punched both top corners to string the ribbon through. I couldn't find gold letters in the font I wanted, so I traced some adhesive letters on the glittery gold card stock and then just hot glued them on to the banner! 

She totally refused to smash the cake! Boo!
At least two of us were looking :]