Domesticity

My husband’s second favorite food is chicken parmesan.

Guess how many times I have made it?

If you said never, then you correctly assume I am a terrible wife.

Ok, maybe not TERRIBLE. I mean, I’ve made his FIRST favorite food multiple times. But still. Something was lacking in my wifedom.

So on my drive home from work last night, I decided to make it right. On my big grocery trip, I had purchased several chicken cutlets with the intention of doing…something with them. Something that Joey could take for lunch in a sandwich of sort. Now I figured, why not bread those bad boys?

First, I had to find a recipe that wouldn’t take over an hour to complete. Did you know that most of the recipes take OVER AN HOUR to complete? I don’t know about you, but when I’m making dinner, it takes an hour TOPS unless it’s for a special occasion. Chicken parmesan would be no exception.

I found two recipes that I figured I could combine. One was this Easy Chicken Parmesan version. I was drawn to it because “easy” was in the title. The second was the recipe on the back of the bread crumbs tube. I liked that one because it nixed the frying step. And since I’m all for recipes that DON’T send us into cardiac arrest (again, except the favorite food…that’s a special exception), I chose to incorporate that recipe as well. I also took some liberties, if you will, with the breading. Here’s the breakdown.

Step one: In a bowl, crack one egg and 1/2 cup of milk. Whisk together. In a shallow dish, mix about a cup of bread crumbs, a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese, and (and this is the kicker) half a cup of crushed up Doritos. I went with the pizza flavor because we had a few left in a bag in the pantry and I thought, “What the heck?”

{egg mixture, crumb mixture}

Step two: Spray cooking spray on the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Take your chicken cutlets (or chicken breasts sliced/pounded to be about 1/2 an inch thick) and dip them first into the egg mixture, then coat them with the bread crumb mixture.

{chicken, breaded}

**Note: There is some debate in the world of chicken parmesan as to whether you should dip the chicken in the egg mixture or the crumb mixture first. I’ve had it both ways, but since I didn’t plan on frying this version, I decided the egg mixture first would help the crumbs stick better. I don’t regret that decision.

Step three: Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees. About 3-4 minutes before the chicken is done baking, top each piece with a couple slices of fresh mozzarella.

{chicken and cheese, baking}

Step four: Serve with spaghetti and marinara. Top with additional shredded mozzarella if desired.

{chicken and cheese, baked}

{chicken parmesan}

Result: Success! We both cleaned our plates.

{clean plates}

Some of us even had seconds.

{happy husband}

And requested that we make Wednesdays “Chicken Parmesan Night.”

And you know what? Now that I have a recipe that only takes half an hour and is fairly healthy (certain slabs of cheese aside), we just might make that happen.

Remember how last year I made the laziest resolutions in the whole wide world? (Side note: Accomplished ALL of them. Sup.)

I know I already shared my goals for 2012, but I’ve decided to also keep a running list of additional goals as I accomplish them. Because sometimes you just don’t have the foresight to know what you have in you.

So, for my first official Goals I Want To/DID Accomplish (or GIWT/DA…catchy):

1. Use my crock pot more often

AND

2. Cook new things

Case in point: Last night’s dinner.

I saw a tempting looking photo on Pinterest and, after reading through the recipe linked to the picture, decided it was something I could handle.

Pretty much all you do is open a bunch of cans, pour them into the crock pot, add spices (or, in my case, a packet of taco meat seasoning), add chicken, and let it sit for 8-10 hours. Easy-peasy.

You can find the full recipe here. The only thing I would change if I made it again would be to skip the extra water. I don’t know if it’s because I use a low-sodium chicken broth, but the extra moisture really made the whole thing a bit, well, watery. (It helps if you add a bunch of crunchy chips — my favorite is the lime-flavored Tostino’s version.)

The best part was walking into a house that smelled like chicken soup and ladeling out dinner within minutes of getting home. Easy dinner, no peanut butter and jelly required.

PLUS I can cross two things off of my goals list. Win-win. I can’t wait to see what my next goal will be.

This is a pretty slow week for just about everybody. Let’s face it, we’re all just trying to soak up as much vacation time as possible. Or, if you’re me, you’re just living for the upcoming Monday off work.

So I probably won’t be throwing too many deep posts at you. (Or really, too many posts. Girl needs a break from blogging.)

For today, I’m just going to share a couple pictures from the cocktail party. Enjoy!

First, the decor. (Plus, isn’t my cousin cute?)(Also, I think this is the only picture ever taken that really shows how big our dining room is. I mean, it’s not a dining hall or anything, but it’s pretty big for the apartment.) As I mentioned, the theme of the party was pretty much sparkly stuff and candles.  I know, it’s a really catchy theme. Rolls of the tongue.

But the point is, it’s pretty and makes for a pretty festive atmosphere. It’s actually hard to capture in pictures, but just trust me that things were glowy and pretty. (Say pretty again.)

My apartment actually looks its best in dim lighting. In dim lighting, it feels cozy and warm, and you can’t see the perpetual film of dust on the dark furniture (seriously, it spawns) or the dingy yellowish-white color of the walls. Which is why I will probably only ever host evening parties.

So anyway, I hung sparkly tinsel and distributed copious candles.

Action shot my cousin captured of me lighting candles on the shelves.

Next, the food. Everyone was commissioned with bringing the ingredients for their favorite drink (or just an exciting drink to share) and some kind of food, whether it be dessert or an appetizer. Here’s what I put out before guests arrived.

It was basically my goal to make throwing the party as un-stressful as possible, so I took it easy on snacks and just worked on the presentation. Gourmet brownies (an end-of-the-year gift from my boss) cut into small pieces, a veggies and dips display (presentation inspired by this), and an Oreo layer cake (inspired by this).

Side note: If you ever want to go all out with one of those Oreo cakes, you will seriously need at least ten packages. My cake was four, and it was only two tiers high with about 3 layers of cookies per tier. Just sayin’.

Plus, my drink of choice was a champagne punch (1 bottle champagne + 2-ish cups orange juice + 3-ish cups ginger ale…add ice), which I probably should have made more of because it went pretty fast. Live and learn. Fortunately, there were plenty of other options to keep everyone satisfied.

Of course, the true tone of the party is set by the guests. Specifically, what they wear. Fortunately, my friends are always down for an excuse to swank it up, and they didn’t disappoint:

That isn’t everyone, but there were a few latecomers who didn’t make the group photos. (They looked nice too!) It was pretty fun to look around the room and see all the sparkles.

So there you have it! The night was spent snacking, drinking, chatting, and showing our wedding video. (It was requested…I swear.)

Thank you to my lovely cousins for their photography skills (and fancy camera having-ness). It was SO nice seeing you!

I think this is a good photo of us. (Ha.)

Til next year, you stay classy, folks.

I am my mother’s daughter. An almost embarrassing amount. But instead of inheriting my mother’s good qualities, I think I’ve only managed to garner her quirks. Seasonal allergies year-round. Awkward feet. And bizarre compulsion to overhaul my house hours before company arrives.

Here’s a quick story from my childhood. (You want a minute to grab some popcorn? No? Ok, moving on…) My grandmother had given my mom fabric for curtains. I don’t really know why. Apparently my mom asked for it or my grandmother had just given them to her. It doesn’t really matter. The point is, my grandmother gave my mom the fabric.

Months went by, and our guest room remained curtain-less. MONTHS. To the tune of almost a year.

Then, one day, grandma and grandpa were coming to visit. The NIGHT before, my mom was slaving over her sewing machine, because she would be damned if grandma knew she had put it off that long.

(There’s a very good chance I’m telling this story incorrectly…I was like, nine when it happened. And I didn’t care that much about decor at the time. The but the gist is correct. I’m sure my mother will leave a comment clarifying, so be sure to check back.)

Another example? My mother once painted an entire room at 3 a.m. the night (morning?) before guests were supposed to arrive. (Actually, I think the guests were grandpa and grandma again…)

But come on. PAINTED. A. ROOM. Do you know what goes into painting? Drop cloths have to be laid down. Things have to be carefully outlined in tape, and then the tape has to be removed. And this room had fairly high ceilings, meaning a ladder was involved. AT THREE IN THE MORNING.

It sounds crazy, right? Well, watch your tongue, because I’m apparently the same way.

So you know how I had been on this mission to get my apartment properly decorated before my cousins arrived? (I’m not calling it “re-decorated” because this is the first time the decor is fully thought out.)

Well, my cousins were due to arrive at midnight on Thursday. My plan had been to finish all the decor in the dining room Wednesday night (all I had to do was hang some pictures on that blank wall). But when I went to hang one of my giant pictures, the hooks on the back broke and the whole thing came crashing down, breaking one corner of the frame.

Cue my second decor-induced temper tantrum.

I swear, I’m not a giant baby. I just hate when things don’t do their jobs. It’s just like when people don’t do their jobs. Except no matter how much you yell at a picture frame incapable of hanging on a wall, it never says it’s sorry. Blerg.

Which meant I had exactly 24 hours to solve my problem. And I had to work on Thursday. Which meant…you guessed it…a lunch-hour run to HomeGoods.

So I came home with a French print I wasn’t sure I liked and a mirror I liked but wasn’t sure would work on the wall. Spoiler alert: I ended up not using either of these items.

In the end, I gave up on getting things perfect before my cousins arrived. My saner-than-I-am husband finally sat me down and convinced me it was ok that things were not perfect and that I could run out Friday morning to the craft store and buy a new frame for the original poster I wanted to hang. Things would still be ready for the party.

Basically, I needed to relax. Guess what I’m really not good at.

The point is, in the end I did what he said. I’m returning the French print, but keeping the mirror to later be incorporated into…I don’t know, somewhere. Maybe our bedroom. I just like it. The posters were hung on the wall (with a much more supportive wire that the craft store lady assured me would hold the weight). And when everyone finally arrived for the party, the apartment was as close to perfect as I could have gotten it, even if everything had gone according to plan.

So what lessons do we learn here?

1. Don’t put things off. Please, please, please, don’t put things off…self. But remember, I’m fighting my genetics on that one.

2. Stop freaking out. Again, this is a battle against my very DNA.

3. No one really cares as much as I do. My cousins do not care if only one frame is hanging on the wall when they arrive. My guests would not have cared if the whole wall was blank. Only I care. I know this. It is not enough to make me chill out.

So spill: What’s the project you put off until the last minute and ended up driving yourself bonkers over? A final paper? Buying a present for an event? Hanging gigantic frames on your dining room wall? I need to hear ’em so I feel like less of a freak.

Ok, so when we last left our hero, she was about to explain how she created the two DIY art pieces on her new floating shelves above the desk. Let’s tune in, shaaallll we?

And that’s about all the third-person talk I can handle in a single post. Anyways.

So as I mentioned, I was really drawn to prints with big, bold typography and maps. I love to incorporate really personal details into our home. I mean, it’s our home — shouldn’t it look like it? Plus, it’s nice to know we have a little something that you won’t find in anyone else’s apartment, ya know?

First, I found a big graphic of New York state on Google images.

That’ll do. Then I took it to Photoshop and filled it in with an olive-y green color. Next, I added the wording underneath. (Tip: I made each word it’s own text box so I could manipulate them to being the same width and roughly the same height.) Finally, I added a little clip art heart.

Which left me with this:

I liked it, but I really wanted the yellow-y parts to be a shiny gold. I thought about cutting out the yellow and layering the print over a piece of gold foil, but I didn’t find anything at the craft store that was the right metallic. Plus, I know myself, and I know I’m way too impatient to cut that carefully.

What I am good at? Coloring inside the lines. (My kindergarten teacher is thrilled somewhere.) So I bought a metallic gold permanent marker and simply drew over all the yellow parts.

Here’s the finished product:

Then all I had to do was pop it into a vintage frame I picked up at Goodwill ages ago. I had actually been about to throw it out because I didn’t have anything the right size for it, but my little print fit perfectly.

The lyric art was even easier. I simply copy/pasted our song’s lyrics into a word document, formatted it to be a 4-inch justified rectangle, switched it into Courier font, and then cut the printed document to fit in a 4×6 frame that I had lying around.

So there you have it! Two custom prints for under $4. (I had to buy the gold pen.)

Want your own customized map print? Send me an email and we just might be able to work something out 😉

I recently read a blog post about shelving arrangements. (What, you didn’t know that was an art form? Get with it. I’ve known it was an art form since…well, basically since I read that post.)

But all jokes aside, you have to admit that there’s a definite difference between well styled shelves and poorly styled shelves.

For example, I think you could definitely call what I first threw up on my new floating shelves “poorly styled”:

I mean, it wouldn’t kill me to look at that every day, but it also wouldn’t inspire me. (Though it does still thrill me to walk into the apartment every day and not see the clustercuss of disaster that used to live in the corner of our living room.)

The main issue is that I’m not really a designer. I rarely look at something and just see what it can be. I’m more one of those people who has to mess around for a while, moving things this way and that, and then – lo and behold! – one day it’s like, “Yup. That is it. That is it right there.”

It’s one of the main reasons I like Pinterest. I can let more talented people do all the hemming and hawing and just take what I like from each inspirational photo.

Speaking of which, I of course turned to Pinterest for some shelving inspiration. Here are a few of the photos that caught my eye (click the images for details):




So what have we learned from the pictures I selected? I like texture and 3-D elements. And I really like the look of the frames leaning against the wall. A lot.

But I wasn’t really looking to spend a ton of cash on this little endeavor (especially since I still have to grocery shop for the party!). Which lead to getting a little crafty.

First, I checked out Etsy for some more inspiration. I was really drawn prints with over-sized typography and maps:



Which lead me to make this:

A nice homage to the place where the hubs and I fell in love, married, and first lived together. Check back tomorrow for the details of how I made it.

And see that smaller frame to the left? Well, I wanted to add a second frame to layer over the bigger print. I remembered reading this post on Young House Love (told you I loved those guys), and decided to make a frame with the lyrics of our wedding song, Hold You in My Arms by Ray LaMontagne. Voila!

Then I started doing my usual shifting, shuffling thing until the shelves started looking like something I would want to show off on my blog. Until they looked something like this:

 You might recognize some of those pieces, but here’s a quick breakdown of why they’re all meaningful:

Plus, you know, some of my favorite books. Because I’m me. So there you have it!

I’m pretty happy with the final result. Plus, we can actually use our desk (I wrote this post while sitting at it!). Go figure.

I had this goal of taking a blogging hiatus while I’m off work, but seeing as how I already have several posts written for the next few days, I think I can manage to keep things updated without actually using any vacation time to write.

Speaking of which, see you tomorrow for a how-to on making my DIY posters, and later in the week for a final room update. And if you’re not too busy, don’t forget to check back on Saturday for a BIG blog announcement! (You’re on tenterhooks, I know.)