I want this summer of 2012 to be one my kids remember. I want it to be fun. I also want to be able to say to them, “Go Play Outside!” as often as possible. I have lots of memories of being sent outside to play when I was growing up. There’s just nothing like summer when you’re a kid.
For a long time this area of our house has been off limits. It was full of mud, gopher holes, and sharp, dangerous tools. This fall we’ll have been here three years. And thankfully, this is the first summer where I think we really NEED this space for our family, and it’s ready! I’ll be showing you more later, but for now, we’ll stick to these home-made chalkboards I made for the kids. They’ve been a big hit, and were very straightforward to make. I saw this idea on several blogs a few years ago, and of course now I can’t remember any of them. I knew I could buy a chalkboard somewhere, but I wanted them to be small so the kids or I could move them easily, and I didn’t want to feel bad if they get banged up, as I’m sure they will.
I went to Home Depot one day to get something completely unrelated and came home with all the fixings to make these. I grabbed three square pieces of wood (I could wander in the lumber part of Home Depot all day just to smell the wood). I believe they are 2 ft. x 2 ft. I also grabbed 2 cans of this primer by Rustoleum:
And 2 cans of this Chalk Board Paint, also by Rustoleum.
Making these was very simple, but a bit time-consuming in order to let the primer and paint dry. I just followed the directions on the can. I’d throw on my painting clothes in the morning and slap a coat on. Then in the afternoon I’d do another.
I did three coats of primer and three coats of chalkboard paint. I think it took 3-4 days to complete.
The thing that was most helpful was using extra pavers to elevate the boards. See this picture below? This is how I started; do not start this way. Find something thick and even that you don’t care about and stick it under the boards so you can’t see it. Then you can paint the entire surface of the board AND the edges, and it is easy peasy.
We already had quite a collection of sidewalk chalk. I was thinking about buying regular chalk until I saw how much sidewalk chalk we have. We can wait.
I bought this handy carrying case at Target. The bottom compartment still needs something- haven’t decided what we’ll put in there.
We use some planters I got in the dangerous dollar section at Target to hold water for dunking our chalk. It makes the colors so vibrant.
The day we started using these, Anna was in heaven. I drew a picture on the middle board to show her how to do the water, and she was ready to go. This little girl is a creative type, just like her mommy.
Jack just has fun making a mess and asking me to draw things for him. Helicopters are the most popular.
What fun things do your kids like to do outside?
And by the way- do my pictures not look SO much better?! Hooray for new cameras!Read More
Are you ready to clean up your Pinterest Boards? Thursday is Clean Up Your Pinterest Boards Day! Join us and make sure your pins are legit! Can’t wait!
Are you ready for Mother’s Day? I am! I love having a day to celebrate the fact that I’m a MOM! I can’t believe I’m 36 and have three beautiful kids. Before I get into the details of my post, I want to share an event I’ll be attending and am SO EXCITED about! I’m also on the committee promoting it because I am so thrilled that this group exists for the sole purpose of giving MOMS a NIGHT OFF! Woot!
If you are a San Diego mom, you should come to San Diego Mom’s Night Out Mother’s Day Event! Don’t worry, it’s not on the “real” Mother’s Day- it’s Thursday, May 10th. National Mom’s Nite Out is the first nationally organized celebration of motherhood intended to bring together today’s moms, physically and virtually. National Mom’s Nite Out unites hundreds of social media groups, companies, local playgroups, mommy bloggers and mother social networks in giving moms a well deserved night off. National Mom’s Night Out consists of local events held across the country including ours!
San Diego Mom’s Night Out Mother’s Day Event is going to be at Bliss 101 in Encinitas. I live in El Cajon, and let me tell you- the drive will be worth it! Just a few of the fun things planned: wine, food, skinny shots, massages, and swag bags! Need I say more? Go get your ticket, gals! For reals- it’s going to be so nice!
Now, onto my tutorial- I am so pleased with how these turned out!
First things first: CREDIT. I first saw this project on Pinterest, which sent me to Mandy Douglass’ blog, It Will Change Your Life. At the bottom of this post I saw the cutest thing I’ve ever seen for Mother’s Day, and thought to myself, “I HAVE to make this!” I emailed Mandy, and she so graciously agreed to let me post this tutorial. Thank you, Mandy!Read More
For our final installment of Jack’s party, we’ll talk food, treats and I’ll give my thoughts on throwing a “real” party.
So let’s start by saying that I am not a party-food creator. I have serious personal issues making a bunch of pretty food that is only going to be chewed up and digested. Yes, it must taste good, but that’s sort of where my sense of obligation ends. Presentation of food is not my strong suit.
Given the number of people we had attending, we ordred giant pizzas. That was our “main course.” They came shortly after the scavenger hunt ended. We also had some snack packs of goldfish crackers and snack mix available for empty tummies.
I also made fruit kabobs. I went to Costco, bought a bunch of fruit, and skewered it up the day before. One tray was all the same, with a little bit of everything. When I got tired of making those I made another tray that had a bit more variety so people could pick and choose. What I love about these is that you don’t need utensils. I’m all about the finger food. Also, Costco had 12-packs of old-school soda- I couldn’t resist. Everyone seemed to like them, too! The kids had juice boxes, and we also had water available, and some Izze drinks, too- love those.
For cake, Jack was sooo easy. I didn’t really give him a choice on the cake vs. cupcake front. We were having cupcakes. But when I asked him what kind of cake, he said (in his adorably funny voice), “Ummmm, I fink… I waaaaant.. chalk-a-LOT!” Done. “What kind of frosting?” “Ummm, I fink….. white.” Done and done.
I followed most of what I described in my mini-cupcake post. This time I tried Trader Joe’s cake mix and I have to say I will not be using it again. They didn’t taste bad… they just didn’t taste that great. I saw lots of cupcakes with the frosting licked off and just a bite or two of cake. Bummer. Back to Duncan Hines I go!
I made candy-pops just because. Yup. Just because. They were SO. EASY. TO. MAKE. For reals. Check it out:
- Buy a mold (or two to make it faster), candy melts, and sticks (mine were 6″). Sprinkles worked very well for these, too. I got it all at Michael’s.
- Melt candy melts and put in a pastry bag or a ziploc bag will do just fine- cut off the tip. You may need to let it cool a bit as (duh) you did just melt it over the stove.
- While it cools, put sprinkles in the bottom of each mold. Make sure the bottom is covered well- not too much, not too little.
- Fill the molds with the melted candy, smooth them over with the back of a spoon. Doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth.
- Place the sticks and put them in the fridge or freezer until solid.
- *Important: check the sticks a few minutes after you put them in the fridge or freezer- sometimes they come up a bit, and once the candy starts to solidify (ooo- I just said solidify) you can push them back in and they’ll stick better.
- Pop them out and store. Put on a cute tray to serve, or wrap them up in little bags for take-home treats.
I got all of my trays at WalMart for ONE DOLLAR EACH. Go now! They are cheap but they are colorful and perfect for whatever. And I don’t care about what happens to them because they were only…. a DOLLAR.
And now… the wrap up. Will I do this again? Maybe. I think if I do another party like this it will be next year for a different child, that way everyone gets a super-special party once every three years or so. March is a huge birthday month for us- 10 people in my family/extended family have birthdays, so we have a lot going on. But it was so fun to have happy, cheery decor and everyone seemed to like it a lot.
I have the utmost respect for anyone who can do this for every child’s birthday, especially if they have more than one child. I’m also thankful that Anna doesn’t seem to expect the exact same party for her birthday, and we will keep it much more simple (I hope).
I will be back later today to create a “Jack’s Party” page and get everything properly linked up so you can go between posts easily. Thanks for reading!
Here’s one last shot of the birthday boy…
And again, many thanks to Tonya for sending me so many photos, including this one of my husband and my daughter, Em. These posts would not have been the same without her photos. You’re wonderful, Tonya!
It’s time to get craftin’ around here a bit more. I have been spending the last few weeks really cleaning out my craft room and getting it organized. It’s getting to be pretty awesome. Now all that remains is plowing through some projects so that I can clear off the bed, since the room is also technically a guest room.
I’ve had this little drawer organizer for over 10 years. It’s one of the first things I ever bought from IKEA, and it’s one of the only things I’ve bought from there that did not require assembly. I LOVE assembling IKEA furniture. I’m weird like that.
I decided that since we are going to be in this house until our kids are grown and in college, it’s time to commit to spiffing this thing up. I also organized all of my office stuff, and purged a lot, so it’s much more feasible to use this in a logical way. The little orange tabs you see above are what I used to temporarily label the drawers while I pondered what to do with this thing.
You may or may not have seen my sewing & crafting organizers, but this is the same fabric. Here’s my before and after; below you’ll see a bit about my process. Doesn’t it look soooo much cooler?!
To prepare the fabric, I measured the width of the drawers. I know that fabric tends to stretch a bit when you use it with Mod Podge, but I also wanted a wrap around on the drawers, so I added about 1/2 inch to the measurement. I pressed my fabric in the middle of the pattern- you can see the crease below. Then I measured the height of the drawers and cut very precisely. I actually had to do this twice because I messed up and Mod Podged a piece on upside down. Whoops. Note: once you put the fabric on, it’s never going to be the same, so if you mess up, you mess up. It’s best to have extra fabric for this project, unless you are perfect in every way. Ha.
I knew that I’d be working on this in spurts, so I labeled the pieces of fabric with the corresponding drawer and also an arrow to remind me which was way up. To do this, I used tailor’s chalk so it just brushed off before I Mod Podged. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance- that’s dangerous for me.
To attach the pieces, I applied a layer of MP to half of the drawer face, pressed the fabric down, and gave it a good rub down. Then I did the other side. Before the MP dried, I also poked a hole where the drawer pulls would go back in later. I just used a sharp pair of scissors. On the right, below, you can see the little bit of fabric that wrapped around the edge. These were stubborn- I had to hold them down for about 30 seconds while the MP did it’s work. I coated the top of the fabric with two coats of MP.
For the top, I measure the fabric and cut to size. There’s a metal trim, and the fabric stretched over it, so after it dried completely I used an exacto knife and trimmed it off. I coated the top with Hard Coat Mod Podge, and then sprayed acrylic sealer on it (just one coat) so that it wouldn’t be tacky on the top where I am putting some often-used supplies.
The drawers I labeled with vellum so that the pattern of the fabric wouldn’t be interrupted. I just love it.
Click here to see all of my Mod Podge projects!
Here’s the before and after again:
Also, you may have noticed my sewing machine cords back there on the left. I stuck two 3M Command Strips to the wall and I hang my sewing machine cords on them. That way, when I’m not using my machine and it’s covered up, the cords aren’t under the table getting in the way. Genius, right?!
One of my goals recently has been to find good, tasty recipes that my whole family will eat. No more short order chef! Paired with that is that I want to cut out a lot of processed foods, especially meats. My kids LOVE chicken nuggets. I, however, found myself cringing every time I put them in the toaster oven because I know too much about chicken nuggets now. They gross me out.
I recently bought this cookbook and I love it. I’m still working my way through it, but I have tried several recipes. So far, this one is our ultimate for a chicken nugget replacement. It tastes AMAZING. And here’s the thing- I do not like coconut. But I LOVE this chicken recipe.
I decided to take it one step further and make it in bulk so that I could freeze a bunch and have them ready for an easy dinner. I am so happy I did this- it was a bit of a process, but now we have a ton of these in the freezer. I learned a lot the first time around, so hopefully I can pass on some tips to you so you can do this with the same recipe or one that is similar.
Here’s what I recommend if you think you want to try this.
1) Try the recipe for dinner sometime soon. Just make one batch. (recipe below)
2) Love it? Move on. Make it in bulk.
3) Hate it? Something is wrong with you. Try again. (Just kidding!)
So here is the recipe in it’s original state. See below the recipe for a few notes from me.
Coconut Chicken Fingers
by the Meal Makeover Moms
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons canola or peanut oil, divided
- Place the chicken on a cutting board and slice each breast into 1/2-inch thick by 4-inch long strips (to yield about 7 strips per breast).
- Place the coconut, bread crumbs, salt, ginger and garlic powder in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Use a fork or your fingers to break up any clumps of coconut.
- Place the egg in another bowl and the flour on a plate. To bread the chicken, coat both sides with the flour and shake off excess. Dip in the egg and then coat evenly with the coconut mixture.
- Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until the bottoms are golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if the coconut browns too quickly. Flip the chicken strips, add the remaining oil, and cook until the meat is no longer pink and the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.
My notes on just the single-meal recipe: I used more egg and flour. I think in the end I used 3 eggs and about a 1/4 cup of flour. The key to this recipe is in the breading, though, which I also doubled. I must have macho chicken pieces or something. Also, you’ll see in some of my photos below that the coconut browns very easily. Unless it’s totally black and singed, this does not affect the taste at all, so don’t feel like you’ll ruin them if there’s some dark brown coconut- it’s still delish!
Another Note: you can watch these ladies make a version of this recipe in a video here. In the video online they add flaxseed meal to the breading- I will do that next time and will update the bulk recipe after I do so. Totally wish I had watched this video first! It does bother me how neat they are, though- I made a complete mess when making them.
Now make them in bulk!
Okay, so, now if you’ve tried the original recipe and you love it as much as I did, then you’ve come back and are ready to make it in a big batch.
Some things to think about as you plan when and how you’re going to do this.
- Don’t plan much the day you do this. It is straight forward, but it’s time consuming. If you have really small kids like me, then I would recommend doing this when your partner is home to keep things less stressful. You’re going to be dealing with a lot of raw chicken and you don’t want to mess it (or your family) up.
- Give yourself plenty of time.
- Wear some good shoes. I know-weird, but you’ll be standing a lot, so you should be comfy.
- Make space in your fridge just in case you need to throw the chicken in while you take a break or if you feel like it’s getting too warm. You don’t want to have to rearrange things mid-process, believe me.
Here are some basic things you’ll want to pull before you get started
- at least 4 cookie/baking sheets- 2 for raw chicken and 2 for cooked
- parchment paper
- disposable gloves (if desired, for working with raw chicken)
- meat mallet/pounder (if you like to have flat chicken- not totally necessary)
- large freezer bags
- paper towels
- lots of clean bowls
- a good pair of tongs for turning over the meat
- a good sturdy cooking pan- bigger is better
- cutting board
- patience and a desire to eat this totally awesome recipe again
Here is the adjusted recipe, followed by the process I followed. I’m sure one could do this faster, but I didn’t want to mess it up. After you do it once you’ll have your own process down in your head and you can make your own changes.
Recipe Adjusted for Large Quantities*:
You’ll see below that I bought two bags of all-natural, whole chicken breasts, rather than using chicken breast halves. These two bags combined had seven whole breasts in them. I got mine at Trader Joe’s, but this is cooking, not baking, so you don’t have to be too precise with most of this- the breading is the only thing.
- boneless chicken breasts; about 7 or 8
- 4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 4 cups panko bread crumbs
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- a bottle of canola oil (or peanut if that floats your boat)
*In general, make sure you have extra of all of these ingredients. If you run out of something, you don’t want to be scrambling for it right when you need it- no fun. If you run out of the breading, you can refer to the original recipe to make a smaller amount, but the ratio of panko crumbs, ginger, garlic and salt is sooo important, so be sure to stick to it! Also, as you work, pay very close attention to your chicken. You don’t want it getting too warm or you run the risk of making yourself or your family very sick. When in doubt, stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Rinse and pat dry your chicken. This takes away the slime (blech) and makes it easier to cut into pieces. You can also remove any bits of fat or other things you don’t want.
I used parchment paper. This is for later, but best to do it while the chicken is still cold. It just felt better than putting them directly on the sheet.
You can see above how I handled the really big breasts (tee hee). I butterflied them, and then each half was cut into about 8 pieces. I did end up cutting some of those really long pieces again, so sometimes I had as much as 20 pieces per breast. If you want, while you prep the chicken you can pound it so that it’s all the same thickness. I started with that in mind and then sort of threw that idea out the window after the second or third chicken breast. To each his own.
This is a good stopping point if you need to take a rest. I did. If you’re going to take a long break, be sure to cover your chicken with some saran wrap or it will dry out.
Step 4: Dredge the chicken pieces in flour. I didn’t take any pics of this process because it was very hands-on and I didn’t want to get my camera all covered with flour and chicken.
This was a great space saver. When I filled up the first parchment-lined cookie sheet, I placed a big cooling rack on top of it so that when I filled up the 2nd sheet, I could just slide the first sheet on top of the second. This way I could keep the chicken cool while I put together the breading and got the eggs ready. If you’re going to take another long break, be sure to cover them up.
You could also do this ahead of time, but your chicken will likely need to cool down a bit if it took you a while to dredge it in the flour piece-by-piece. This breading is the magic of this recipe. Do not mess with it- it’s awesome!
Step 7: Beat your eggs. Don’t have a pic. You can beat your eggs without referring to a picture, right?
This is what worked for me: I like working from left to right, so I set up the tray of chicken, the eggs, the breading, and then got my cook top ready to go. I made sure I had extra ingredients at the ready- especially the canola oil because you need to replenish it often while cooking. Here’s another view:
Start your process. I worked really hard this time to figure out a way to prevent both hands from becoming nasty, flour/egg/breading messes. Here’s what worked for me:
- Use a fork to place flour-coated chicken pieces in the egg.
- Transfer egg-coated pieces to the breading bowl.
- Use a different fork to coat the chicken in breading.
- Transfer the chicken to the pan to be cooked.
You’ll see in the picture above that there are little bits of coconut everywhere. You need to turn your chicken carefully or your tongs will essentially peel off the breading, so be very gentle when flipping them over. Regardless, you will need a coconut depository or you’ll have lots of overcooked coconut. Mine was reallly fancy- I used a paper towel, and I put it right above my cooktop so I could just grab them during the process:
As you begin, you need to find your magic number.
I worked with no more than six pieces of chicken at a time. I threw six pieces in the egg, transfered them to the breading. They are easy to lose in the breading, and you don’t want to pull out a piece of chicken and wonder,”How long has this been buried in here?” or “Did I get them all?” So I decided that six was my magic number. Once I plopped one batch into the pan to start, I could prep another while they cooked on their first side. Soon I had a rhythm to it.
The paper towels will absorb a lot of the excess oil.
You just made a boat load of chicken.
Once the chicken has cooled a bit, bag it up for the freezer. I filled four gallon-sized freezer bags full of this yumminess. I didn’t want to jam them too full so that the breading would stay nice. I labeled them with the date and how many pieces were in each bag. For our family, 25-30 pieces serves all four eating humans (7-month-old baby isn’t quite there yet). I’m sure that will change, but for now it works.
To reheat, I would recommend doing them at 375 for about 15 minutes, give or take. They reheat very nicely, but you want to get them very hot so that the breading will crisp up again. Do not even think about reheating these in the microwave- they will not crisp up again. And if I hear about it I will hurt you. Okay, maybe not, but still- use your oven or your toaster-oven.
Did you get to the bottom of this post? If so, I’d love it if you left me a comment! I’d really love to know if you do this- I’m so excited about it because it’s so much better for my family and ME. I know what I’m eating, I know it’s fresh, I know it’s yummy because I MADE IT. If you got this far, I’d also love it if you “liked” me on Facebook. If you scroll back up to the top you’ll see a “like me on Facebook” in my sidebar. I’m trying very hard to “grow” my blog and my audience, so I’d love to hear from you here or on Facebook! Thanks for stopping by!
*please note, I am not getting paid for this post; I dig the Meal Makeover Moms and their book, but am not making any cash-ola in singing their praises or elaborating/extending this recipe.Read More
I am so excited about these things!!!!!!
I keep walking by them, sitting on my cluttered table in my guest/craft room and I stop just to look at them sparkle. I plan on using them for at least two things. One is obviously decor for the holidays. The other you’ll have to wait and see.
I never got excited about glitter until I had kids, but seeing things the way they see them- now I like the glitter and such of the holidays. Now let’s get one thing straight: Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. We do not play Christmas music or decorate for Christmas until the weekend after Thanksgiving. But given what I’m going to use these for, I had to get crackin’.
So, here’s what you need to create your own glitter letters:
- glitter in desired colors (you’ll see what I used below)
- letters (I got mine at Joann’s, though I don’t really like them pre-glitter- next time I will get some cuter ones like these)
- glue (I used Elmers)
- paint for covering letters before glittering
- paintbrushes- having a few sizes helps
- small paper plates- cheap & thin ones that bend easily
- rulers and other things for tracing patterns
- newspaper for protecting your surface from glitter
Paint your letters. I painted all but a very small area first; let dry; finish; let dry. I did two coats, and I used acrylic mainly because I had some.
Once your paint is dry, you can pencil your design on the front. I knew I wanted each letter to be different. What’s lovely is that you don’t need to worry if you mess up- the glitter will cover it all- hooray! So, for example, when I did the “J,” I just used a ruler and traced it at an angle.
The “O” I freehanded, and I just labeled it with which color I wanted the dot to be, R’s for reds, G’s for greens. I used two different spools of thread to trace the circles.
Now comes the fun part- the glitter! I decided, since I needed glitter anyway, to try Martha Stewart’s glitter line. It does not disappoint- it is so fine (as in tiny) and the colors are just beautiful. These are the three colors I used (white gold, peridot & garnet):
I wasn’t sure if I’d want to buy the entire set that they sell with a bazillion colors. I’m glad I got the bigger jars, but will be tempted now to get the whole set and glitter my entire house.
For the “J” I painted the glue on with a paint brush and did only one color at a time. So I did silver first since it was going to be every other stripe. I’d paint a stripe with glue, sprinkle on the glitter, and then tilt & tap to get the excess off. At first I used a spoon until I got used to it, but found that after a while the spoon was just an extra step.
See that pile o’ glitter on my newspaper? If you keep reading you’ll see how I get it back in the bottle and make very little mess (I think).
For the “O” I just used the tip of my glue bottle. First I outlined the circle, then I filled it in. I did find that if I was super careful with how smooth the glue was, the glitter adhered better. Circles like the one on the right did not turn out looking as nice and I had to fill them in.
For the “Y” I did the red center first, then the colors on either side (sorry- for some reason “Y” didn’t get a lot of photo time and is sniveling in the corner.)
I think the most important thing about this is patience- waiting for the glue to dry. I used a rather thick coat of glue, and didn’t want it to run and mess up my design. So, for example, for the “J”, I did all of the silver stripes one day, and then the next I did the red and green. The hardest letter by far, was the “O.” Filling in all that silver around the dots took a lot of time, and it’s still not “perfect” but it’s cute.
So here’s how to get all that excess glitter back in the bottle/jar. You’ll see below that after I did some green glitter I had a TON on the newspaper. And on the right, you’ll see that my green glitter jar is nearly half empty. This is where those cheap & flimsy paper plates come in.
Take your newspaper and angle it so that the glitter all slides to the center creases in the middle of the paper. You’ll have to do this a few times from all sides of the paper. Then carefully lift your paper with it folded in half, and tilt it. Carefully dump all the glitter onto a paper plate (mine are about 6 inches across).
Now that your glitter is on the plate, it’s much easier to control.
Fold your plate in half, and then carefully aim it into the glitter jar- whoosh! It all goes in, and if you’re lucky, it doesn’t spill! Added bonus, you’ll hardly use any glitter- you’ll have a ton left. None of my jars are even remotely used up, even after making these pretty thangs!
And one final look. Please do tell, by the way- do you like glitter? Hate it? Like to have glittered things but don’t know about DIY? I wasn’t sure about this and am so glad I did it!Read More