Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Easy Crispy Baked Chicken

Here's another great, simple recipe that will definitely be a crowd pleaser. It has the delicious crispy taste of fried chicken, but it's baked!

4 chicken bottoms (I use them cut into eighths)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Crispy Coating:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup corn meal
1/4 cup corn flake crumbs
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
oil spray (I use Pam)

Egg Coating:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1. Preheat over to 350. Pour oil on the bottom of a 9x13 pan and set aside.

2. Combine all crispy coating ingredients in one bowl and the egg coating in another.

3. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture, then coat well with crispy coating and place in pan.

4. Spray tops with oil spray.

5. Bake uncovered for an hour and a half.

6. Enjoy!

(Tip: You can prepare it all in the morning and then spray right before baking.)

Let me know how yours comes out!

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Playroom... the plan

After we finished painting the playroom, it was time to come up with a plan. Here is a mostly-to-scale floor plan of the room with my proposed set up. This was definitely not the first configuration, but it is the one that seemed to make the most sense. The right side of the room would be reserved for the hubby - his desk, bookcase and file cabinets. The rest of the room would be free reign for the kiddies.

Each of the bold lines you see represents a door - most of them open into a closet, the bottom left opens to a storage room that is under the porch, and the bottom right and bottom center both open up to different parts of the same room. It's where the sump pump, furnace, hot water tank, work area, and crawl space all live. That part of the space is unfinished, except for the peel and stick tile floor.

This is the design board I came up with - note that most things will be altered in some way and not appear in the final design as they do here.

1. An no-longer-used mirror will now be in the dress up corner in the lower left of the room. It will be painted Behr's Tropical Breeze (our accent color for the room).

2. Play kitchen that we already own (got it as a gift) will be just across the door from the dress up area so all the imaginative play is near each other. There is also space there to park a shopping cart, stroller, and vacuum cleaner.

3. A row of hooks (not these exact ones) on the wall as a place to hang all the dress up clothes. I found an unfinished wood one with a little shelf that I will also paint Tropical Breeze.

4. & 5. Wooden shelf and brackets to hang over the arts and crafts table (not this exact one, but a close replica of our old kitchen table). The shelf will be painted and will be a storage place for all the coloring books and arts and crafts supplies.

6. Little Tykes play table which we already own. Perfect for doing a puzzle, playing restaurant, and much more.

7. Klippan couch from Ikea - its low profile (and low price), not to mention washable slipcover are perfect for a playroom.

8. Bookcase that we already own will also be painted. Besides for books, it will also hold puzzles.

9. Trofast system from Ikea for bulkier toys that don't fit neatly on a shelf.

10. Herman chair from Ikea - two of them for seating at the arts and crafts table.

I also set aside the closet next to the table for more toy storage. This will be for board games, playdoh, and other toys with lots of pieces that are contained in storage boxes (ex. lego, polly pocket, my little pony) I wanted to get a big rug for the middle of the floor, but the size I wanted was out of stock so I ended up getting two smaller ones to put next to each other (which actually ended covering up more space). I also got the Lekplats play mat for the little guy to drive his cars and trucks on. It will go right in front of the couch.

As you can see, this room is being done on a major budget - using mostly things we already own or budget-friendly items from Ikea. I know that as kids grow, so do their toys and therefore their storage needs so I don't want to spend too much on things that are liable to change in a few years.

Have any good playroom ideas? Please share!

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Playroom... in the beginning

We live in a rancher and the basement is almost the full size of the main floor (minus the portion of the house that was added on about 30 years ago). It's pretty much one large room, but there are a bunch of closets/smaller rooms coming out from it. I guess it has its pros and cons, one of the cons being how it was finished.

It's technically a finished basement, but paneling hung directly over the cinder block (no insulation in between) and peel-and-stick tiles right over the cement foundation is not exactly cozy!

We had been using a smallish room off of the kitchen as a playroom, but as the kids got bigger so did their toys! The basement was used as a dumping ground and my hubby had his desk with all his paperwork and miscellaneous items that didn't have a good home.

While in the planning stages for converting this to a playroom, I was also planning a 30th surprise party for my hubby. I conned him into going through everything, cleaning and organizing so we could prep for painting, but the party came first! It was a great open space to have lots of friends and fun before it became playroom. Boy, was he surprised :-)

We started out by taping everything and protecting the floor. My uncle is a painter and he suggested using Zinsser primer that was made for all surfaces, including the faux paneling that we have.
I don't know if you noticed, but there are SIX doors leading off of this main room. That's a lot of doors! We decided to use that fact as a way to bring more color into the room. We chose Behr's Fall Straw as the main wall color and Tropical Breeze as the accent color. 

Hubby hates painting but he was sweet enough to humor me and help out. This is a big room to paint!
Here is the room all painted. The walls are showing a little brighter than it really is, but you get the idea.

Then comes the fun part of bringing all the toys downstairs and figuring out how to set up and organize everything!

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fabric for Dining Room Curtains

We are currently in search mode for some new fabric to make dining room curtains. The ones we have now are maroon and gold - very traditional and not at all my style. We got them a few years ago, I think I picked them out because I knew the hubby would like them. :-) His taste is much more conservative and formal than mine so I know this is going to be a challenge.

I would like something with color to brighten up the space, preferably with a geometric type print. He would like something rather plain and muted. We were both off this weekend so we went to a few fabric stores but there wasn't anything that we agreed on, or rather I should say, nothing we agreed on that was in our price range i.e. not $75 a yard!

So now I'm looking online at different swatches. Here are some I picked out at fabric.com:
(Sorry for the mis-aligned swatches, I can't seem to figure out why they are not lining up properly. Boo.)

Covington Windsor Mariner ($12.98/yard)
Premier Prints Twill Gotcha Girly Blue ($7.98/yard)

Dwell Studio Bella Porte Charcoal ($18.98/yard)
Waverly Ellis Turquoise ($9.98/yard)
Waverly Cross Section Charcoal ($13.98/yard)

Swavelle/Mill Creek  Felton River ($8.98/yard)
Swavelle/Mill Creek Oskar Sea ($8.98/yard)
Premier Prints Key West Village Blue/Natural ($7.48/yard)

These are more my hubby's style. The first one is actually not too bad. I would try to do something to pull the blue out of it, but the second one... definitely not going to make it past the first round of cuts!
P Kaufmann Vassar Paisley Horizon ($14.98/yard)
Waverly Synergy Jacquard Sienna ($22.98/yard)

So what to do?? How does one convince their more traditional spouse that something more contemporary is the way to go? I guess if we had a very large formal dining room that would be one thing... But our dining room is used very often for family and friends to get together. And I mean we use it every. single. week. And 3 out of 4 weekends a month we usually have company so I don't want to get anything too precious that will make me go crazy if some food gets on it.

What do you suggest? What are your fabric picks? Do you ever disagree with your hubby about design decisions?

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Asian Burgers

I tried out a new recipe the other night and everyone ate it! Woohoo! It's always hard to find a recipe that everyone likes so when I find one that they do, I know it's a keeper. And the bonus is that it's sooo easy! Try it and let me know what you think. (It's from a new cookbook called "Fresh and Easy Kosher Cooking" by Leah Schapira.)

Asian Burgers
1 lb. ground beef
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce (depending on how strong you want the flavor to be - I used 3 so it would be more mild for my kids)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
3 tablespoons diced scallions (white and light green part only)
pinch of black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients and form into 4 large or 8 small patties. (I made 3 large and 2 small.)

2. Fry, grill, or broil for 5 minutes on the first side and 6-8 minutes on the second (adjust for smaller burgers).
3. Enjoy! (My daughter insisted on taking these pictures of her plate :-).

Instead of fries, I made rice to go with it as a side so it kind of goes with the Asian theme.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mudroom Reveal

Alright, so when I left off, we had installed the outer "frame" of the board and batten. Next to go up were the vertical battens. My amazing brother-in-law continued to help out with the project (like bringing all his tools) and used his nifty L-square to make sure everything was straight.

My son loves to "help" and got in full worker-man gear and got out all of his tools :-) Can't forget the hard hat and goggles - safety first!

Then the horizontal wood piece for the hooks went up.

And finally the smaller battens on top. You can see that not everything is perfect and that's okay! That's why we have wood filler, putty, caulk, etc. You can also see that we had to notch out a little opening for the light switch and the dremel was really useful for that. I don't have a picture of it, but my brother-in-law used his router to make a nice "top/shelf" across the moulding, using a plain piece of wood. It was way cheaper than getting a piece of crown moulding and easier to install.

Here is the wall all patched and painted. It looks so much better already! Still on the to do list: replace beige light switch and cover with a white one, remove old hooks, figure out what to do with the fuse box and hang up new hooks.

Ta da! New light switch, new hooks installed, and new pictures to kill two birds with on stone. The first vertical frame covers up the fuse box. I used Command picture hanging strips so it is easily removable whenever we need to access the panel. And the second vertical frame covers up the screw holes from the old hooks. Plus, I get to see these beautiful pictures everyday when I come and go. It looks so pretty that I almost didn't want to hang anything up, but that would've defeated the purpose of this whole project, right?!

Here's what it looks like on a typical day, I'm keeping it real folks. Magazine worthy: no, but functional: definitely!

How do you organize and manage your entry way?

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