Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's For Dinner? Romano's Macaroni Grill At Home

If you have not tried Romano's Macaroni Grill Boxed Dinners yet, you really need to try this as soon as possible!

I have tried making Alfredo sauce at home a number of times and never find a recipe that really works for me. I have also tried to purchase white sauce in a jar, nothing is as good as going to Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill.

Until, my wonderful friend, who works for General Mills told me about this boxed dinner. I was not overly optimistic, since it is a boxed dinner after all. But I gave it a try.

Here is what it looks like if you were only to add chicken. This is one box! It feeds me, my husband, and my 4-year-old with enough left for a lunch serving the next day. I often make two boxes since I think this is really good and like to have left overs. Not to mention that I cook for 6 or 7 ever night, you never know when someone will show up right as you are serving dinner. Believe me, this happens in my house all the time!

I like to add broccoli so the vegetable is in the meal. I use the steam in the bag kind from Green Giant because they are so quick and easy. In the microwave for 5 minutes and you don't have to dirty another dish!

Maybe it is because I grew up in Minnesota and like a hot dish but I like to have a main dish that covers all the food groups.

Yum! Doesn't this look good? That's my Pampered Chef Family Skillet and Bamboo Spatula. If you want awesome cookware like this contact Tiffany, she's the best!

And this is the awesome bowl I got at the thrift store. I have wanted wood bowls for ever and had to buy them when I found these.

I typically serve this with garlic bread. So fast and easy. The entire meal takes about 30 minutes to make. If you buy pre-cut chicken it's even faster. I cut my own because I have fancy knives and want to use them! No, really it is because I don't think to buy pre-cut chicken.

This dinner is a little on the spendy side if you are used to Chicken Helper, which can be as cheap as $1 a box plus chicken. This is closer to $4.50 or $5 a box, plus chicken and Broccoli. However, there are coupons for $0.75 to $1.00 off in the paper almost ever month and I bet you could find them online as well. Just remember, this tastes just like restaurant quality so you may spend $9 for the entire meal but it feeds 3 to 4. That's not even 1 meal at a restaurant!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ice Cream Man! Ice Cream Man!

When we lived in Minneapolis three different Ice Cream Man Trucks came by our house at least one time a day from May until September. If you wanted ice cream all you had to do was go outside and listen. Within minutes you would hear the familiar songs of the Ice Cream Man.

Now, we live 6 blocks north of our Minneapolis house but we are in Brooklyn Center. We have 1 Ice Cream Man and he comes one time a day. This is Heidi's favorite time of day.

On Saturday she needed to take a nap so we could go to a birthday party in the evening. She was tired and went down better than normal and was sleeping in her bed.

After about 2 hours she came running out of her bedroom. Here's the story, as she tells it, so imagine Heidi wrote this in a very excited state:

"I was laying in bed. I was awake but not up yet. I heard a song that sounded like it was coming from the TV. It kept getting louder and louder and louder and louder out my window.


I put on my shorts and ran out to the living room but I missed him."

She had been sleeping in her standard napping attire and was not able to comprehend the Ice Cream Man was really outside and then get dressed quickly enough. She was disappointed but with the promise of sweets are the birthday party she recovered quickly!

On to the next project - the Play Room

With the bathroom completed and Shawn going back to work on Monday, we have moved on to painting the Play Room. I always used to call it the Toy Room and that's what it was. A room on the main floor of the house devoted to Heidi's toys. Now, it will be the Play Room. I want this room hold her toys but also all her to play with them in the room, not having to drag them out to the living room. I also want her to be able to be creative in this room so it will have plenty of space for her painting and drawing.

Heidi is painting the magnetic primer on the wall. It's an iron based primer that you put under paint. When complete and dry magnets stick to it. This will be a good place for all of the stuff she has on the fridge right now.

The primer is black but will be covered with a gray paint. This is the wall where the piano had been. The piano is in the dining room now and will be in the basement soon. It's an Upright Grand Piano is it is VERY heavy and hard to move.
I really am bad at before pictures but I am good at progress and after pictures! Part of the problem is Shawn starts the project before I get to take the pictures. But in this photo you can see the old color on the wall around the black primer. And the back wall, by the window, is the new red. The top of that wall will be white.
These two pictures together kind of give an idea of the size of the room. It was built to be a formal dining room so it's pretty big, probably as big as Heidi's bedroom. It has a closet and a window so if we added doors to either side it would quickly be a 5th bedroom.

There had been built in cabinets in the corners. We were using them for storage but they really did not serve the purpose we had intended.

When this is done, it will be red on the bottom, white on the top, the magnetic section will be gray with a white frame around it, there will be white molding on the floor and around the window, and the door to the closet will be painted white. There will also be new white shelves in the corner, Shawn is building these, and we have lady bug decals for the wall above the shelves.

I am very excited for this room to be completed. Our basement currently looks like a toy hurricane hit it. My goal is to have it all completed and set up by end of October so we are not rushing for Thanksgiving. Now that Shawn will be back at work he will have less time to work on the trim and cabinets.

Wish us luck on the next project!!

We are also doing a concurrent project - painting the living room and main hallway. The first coats are up but I am not going to post pictures for a few days.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

All Done!!

We finished the bathroom this weekend!! We have been done for awhile now but there were some finishing touches to put on. Shawn is going to make a cover for the vent since I can't find a single one that I like and he is going to make a cabinet door for the laundry chute to replace the old metal door. Other than those two things WE ARE DONE!!

Looks great, huh?? I love the small green tiles in the center. Notice how the shower rod is slanting down. This is because it fell on me the other day and I have not been brave enough to try to fix it again. If it's staying where it belongs the I am going to leave it alone!
This flooring is so beautiful. I like the large tiles and how it looks with the pink rugs.
Shawn added these shelves. He re-purposed the glass from cabinets he removed from the toy room and used scraps from the floor molding as the brackets.

The three other things in this picture that I love... We now have a bathroom fan. I often forget to turn it on when I am in the shower but when I do the mirror is not foggy when I get out. Since we had mold issues going into this I am ecstatic to know it will not be so damp in this beautiful room! Second, the 6 panel solid oak door instead of the old hollow core door. Which allows for the third thing, the hook on the door for my robes and Heidi's hoodie towels.

Our facet is called Bamboo. It has a great old well look to it. The pink carnation was taken from the restroom at my work a few weeks ago. They change out the flowers every Friday night so before this one went in the trash I brought it home for Heidi. We didn't know where to put it so it ended up in the bathroom and was inspiration for the pink accents.
Here you can see the bathtub faucet. It matches the sink. You can also see pink shower liner. This thing is fabric, not plastic, and machine washable! I was smitten!
And finally, the finished product. My husband is the best!

Now we are on to the next project - painting the play room. Since our house has two dining rooms when we moved in we made the formal dining room into a play room for Heidi. It has always been very crowded and didn't seem to serve a real purpose. Shawn has taken down the built in corner cabinets, tore out the carpet, and is starting to paint. Pictures to come, hopefully tomorrow! Stay tuned...

No Farting!!

This morning we had breakfast with my parents, my Grandma Helen, and her Boyfriend Frank at Fat Nat's Eggs in Brooklyn Park. I love this place. The food is good and the service is even better. The waitresses are all older so they know what they are doing. This is a place where you can order coffee and know it will be refilled often. Not to mention the huge portions and reasonable prices.

By the restrooms there was a poster that looked like this one.

Heidi and I were waiting in line for the restroom. Here was our conversation:

"Heidi, check out that poster. It says No Farting."

"Why do they have a No Farting poster?"

"Well, I guess they don't want you farting in their restaurant."

Heidi, now worried that she will be caught farting says "what happens if they catch you farting?"

"I think they will fine you. Add a farting charge to your tab."

Heidi says "Oh, no..."

Then a waitress walks out of the ladies room and sees us looking at the poster and I say "She likes your poster, she is wondering what happens if she is caught farting."

The waitress looks right at Heidi and says "we will catch you and you will be in trouble!"

The waitress and I laughed and Heidi and I headed into the restroom. Heidi looks at me and says "I don't want to get in trouble! What if I fart in here?"

"Don't worry, I will not tell anyone..." I respond.

The good news is, she didn't get caught and there wasn't a farting charge on our bill!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A crafty afternoon

I have been pretty inspired lately do express my creative side. I like to paint, throw pots, and cross stitch. I also like to keep this blog, read books or magazines or blogs, and learn new things.

I have spent a fair amount of time over the last month doing all of the above, except for pottery.

Heidi likes most of these things as well.

This afternoon, after work and school were over for the week, we sat down and did a little painting.

Heidi picked out this house at Michaels last night.

It looks like a nice little hut on the ocean in Hawaii.
She painted it pink, brown, and put in blue for water. She decided this was a house on the water in Hawaii, just like her teacher Judy wants.
She worked so hard on this. We have painted together in the past but we have always worked on the same project. This time we each had our own so she was able to do whatever she wanted with this house.
I think she did a fantastic job!
She has decided to give it to Judy as a gift. I think Judy is going to love it also!
I pick up this letter puzzle at Michaels last night as well. I was not sure what to do with it. But a friend of mine is expecting her first baby in February. Sorry, can't say who, they haven't told everyone yet!! I think I am going to give it to her for a early baby gift.

It turned out pretty good. I think I need a few more small paint brushes if I am going to do detail work like this. And if she has a boy the pink might be a little odd but once you put the letters in I think it will balance out. Or I can just repaint it!

It was a fun, quick little project. Took about a hour to do the entire thing, including taking out supplies and cleaning up in the end. I look forward to my next project!

Inspiration Has Struck

Lately I have felt the need to express my creative side. However, I have always thought that I needed to have something in mind to do with the finished result. Give as a gift or have a place to display it in my house. When I don't have a plan for the craft I lose my motovation. There are always a million other things I should be doing, I should not spend my time making things that will end up packed away or adding clutter to my house.

Recently I came across a website called where you can sell your handmade crafts. I suppose that's a good way to express my creative side and also feel like I have a plan for the final project.

Last night we went out to Michaels and ended up hitting a wonderful clearance sale.

They had color/activity books for $1 regular price so we picked up 2 of those. We found a bracelet making kit and got one for Heidi and one for a gift. We are going to make a new Halloween Haunted House. Heidi is going to paint and decorate a box and I found some cute bird houses. I also found a few dirt cheap cross stitch kits.

Here is the first cross stitch I am going to take on.

Put this in a cute frame and someone might want it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

There is this phenomenon created by all of the concrete in a downtown area that raises the temperature in the area a few degrees. This can mean that storms will pass around the area and leave the downtown mostly untouched.

Yesterday, the storm did not care about the concrete. It had a path and it was going to stay on it.

At just after 2 pm on Wednesday, we were sitting in our conference room that overlooks some parking ramps. We have a pretty good view of the north side of the city from there. One of my co-workers looked out the window and said "well, that does not look good..." We looked out and saw debris from trees floating above the roof of a 7 floor parking garage.

About 10 minutes later the emergency alert sirens sounded. We ended our meeting and left the room that is mostly windows to find a radio.

We learned that about the time we were seeing the tree debris there had been a tornado touch down on the south end of town.

As of now, nearly 18 hours later, there have been no injuries reported.

This is a picture taken by my cousin Andy. He was in South Minneapolis trying to drive home. He had to pull over to the side of the road since he could no longer see out of his windshield. It rained like this for a long time prior to the tornado and then again after.

Here is a picture from taken by Richard Sennott. (not sure if it is okay to post this, I will take it down if I am told this is bad :) It is a picture of a South Minneapolis neighborhood where you can really see the damage to the trees. It's a tragedy so many beautiful trees were lost.
It is, after all, Tornado Season. This is the second time in 2 weeks the emergency alert sirens sounded.
How about a little humor to lighten this up a bit...
I was worried about how Heidi would be holding up through this storm. Since she goes to school right down the street from my office she was experiencing the same weather I was.
When we picked her up we wanted to know what she thought about going into the Tornado Shelter but we didn't want to right out tell her that there had been a tornado. We asked her if she had a Tornado Drill or Practice. Shannon asked if she left her room in the afternoon.
This lead to a lot of confusion as we all were expecting her to say she went in the shelter and didn't like it. Instead she told us they did not have a Practice and never left her room. Except for when she had to help Adnon get his puzzles.

Then this morning on the way to school she said "yesterday, when we were in the Tornado Warning, the trees looked like they were going to fall over..."
Shawn said "So, you did go into the Tornado Shelter!"
Heidi said "No! We just had a Tornado Warning! We did not go into the Shelter!"
Shawn and I just looked at each other and laughed. I guess we didn't specifically ask if she had a Tornado Warning, we only asked if she had a Tornado Practice so that was the question she answered! Leave it to a four year old to be so literal!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Fairy Circle...

The Fairies visited us the other night...

These were just beautiful so I had to take a picture.

A Pinata Party!

Heidi attended a birthday party last weekend for one of her very best friends, Amaya. Amaya's Mom had made a pinata out of paper mache and covered it with tissue paper. I thought this would be a good project for Heidi and I to try so I invited Makayla over and we got all messy!

Heidi had never experienced the fun of paper mache before. She was a little leery about sticking her hands in especially after she saw Makayla and me! We explained that it was basically pancake batter and whatever she got on her shirt would wash out just fine. Eventually she dug right in.

We covered balloon's in paper mache to make the classic Easter Egg look. Then they had to dry. This took a few days.

On Sunday, we invited Makayla, Willy, and Emily over for a decorating party. Heidi put on a pretty dress and got to the decorating! She covered her egg keeping the Easter theme.
Makayla took the more difficult path. That's the difference between a 13 year old and a 4 year old. Heidi just wanted to get it ready to fill with candy. Makayla, however, had the patience to make hers into something special.
Since Emily and Willy did not make the paper mache with us earlier in the week they covered balloons. Emily had specific instructions on how Jess should cover the balloon!
And Willy's went down the stairs. Since he was down there anyway, he might as well bring up the butterfly net - you never know when you are going to need a butterfly net!!
We tried everything to get Heidi's pinata to hang from the garage but it just was not strong enough. It fell after the first swing. Shawn suggested we let the kids whack it on the ground. Heidi liked this idea.
Emily did too!
And as we thought, Willy was the one to make the candy come out.
The kids each had a little gift bag to fill. Heidi and Willy grabbed candy as quickly as possible. They were happy with the invite list of this party - without the added challenge of 15 other kids stepping on each others hands they were able to fill their bags.

Emily was much more picky and was only picking up candy she really wanted. Quality over quantity I guess!

Once they each had a piece of candy it was clear that the girls needed a nap before they turned into a candy monster so the party quickly ended. Emily and Willy went home with bags of candy and Heidi put hers back in the candy drawer (yes, we have a candy drawer, it's where we keep all of the candy she gets from holidays, parades, birthday parties. Out of sight, out of mind really works with her.)

Makayla's pinata ended up being a cat or maybe a pig. It was super cute but the battery on my camera died so sadly we have no pictures. She was happy to fill it with candy and take it home whatever it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's so close!!

The bathroom is so close to being done I can feel it! Shawn said we should be able to shower in there by Monday.

As I mentioned before, the design is based on a display we saw at The Tile Shop in Plymouth.

Heidi has been such a big helper. She loves to watch Shawn and she asks a ton of questions. I think this is great. She is going to be able to do her own home improvement projects when she owns a house!

I love my new sink and vanity! I happened to bring this flower home from work for Heidi. We put it in low ball crystal glass and were carrying it around the house trying to find a place for it. Since our house is in complete disarray right now nothing looked right until we put it on the sink. It looks so perfect there! I think I may do my accents in carnation pink...
The floor adds a rustic southwestern charm. And the giant mirror above the sink is lovely! What a wonderful job Shawn has done!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Our weekend at Morning Star Resort on Lake Andrusia

This past weekend we went up to Morning Start Resort on Lake Andrusia ( This is the resort Dawn and her family own. It was cold and rainy on Saturday but pretty nice on Sunday. What ever the weather, we had a great time.

The lake is 11,000 acres and is known for Walleye fishing. It's part of the Cass Lake chain of lakes, connected by the Mississippi River.

Dawn's sister Cindy has this dog, Hunter. She is a really silly dog who is very good at entertaining herself. She spent 20 minutes in the lake splashing herself so she could bite at the water! She swam all over and when she was able to reach she stood on her back feet like a person and danced around. It was the funniest thing I have seen in a long time!
Heidi and Dawn's niece Faith were instant BFF's. They spent most of the weekend together, riding bikes, running around, playing. We hardly saw Heidi during the day, we missed her! But she had a blast and did not want to come home.

Heidi wanted to ride Faith's bike since her training wheels were hard on the dirt road. Faith was so nice to push Heidi around on her bike.

Then Heidi wanted to try her bike without training wheels so off they came.

But she still needs some help so we will be putting them back on soon. She's not quite ready but she is getting there!
We spent a lot of time with Justin while Dawn was working. It was nice to hang out on the weekend with my brother! He took the girls on the 4-wheeler, which is always a hit with Heidi. Here is a picture of Heidi and Grace on the 4-wheeler with Uncle.

I was not sure what Heidi would think about not being Justin's only niece any more but she really did not care. She really likes Faith, Ariel, and Grace!
Heidi really wanted to go fishing so Shawn and I took Heidi, Grace, Faith, and Mackenzie (one of the seasonal girls) down to the dock.
No fish were caught because four little girls are stompy on a dock and the sure like to talk! It may have also been because we did not have bait...
Shawn helped Mackenzie fix her hook while Heidi checked out Justin's tackle box.
I love this picture. We were all getting on the boat to take a ride around the lake when we noticed all of these Turkey Vultures swarming. I counted 14. Shawn said, "No way there are 14 there! I only count... 14!" HA!
Justin let Heidi and Grace drive the boat on our ride. We filled the pontoon with 5 little girls and 4 adults - Heidi, Grace, Ariel, Faith, Mackenzie, and Madison (Mackenzie's twin sister), Justin, Dawn, Shawn, and me. It was a nice ride. The kids ate chips and then decided to feed them to the fish. It was a bit cold but no one complained.
Heidi and Grace enjoyed acting like monkeys on the counter.
On Sunday, the wind was mostly gone so Shawn and I took out the canoe. It was our first time on a canoe together but we had fun.

The good news is that we never once tipped it! ;)

Later that day Dawn was able to take a break and we went out on another ride.
Heidi made sure Libby was well hugged over the weekend. She also made sure all of the cats were carried around and much as possible.
Libby enjoyed playing navigator. This made me nervous...
And then Libby got cold so I shared my sweatshirt.

We had such a wonderful weekend. We wished it would have lasted longer but we had to get back to work and the bathroom project. And reality...