Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lunchtime inspiration

School lunches can be a bit intimidating.  Especially, when you see pictures of ornately cut sandwiches daintily painted with food paint, everything following a special theme.  The idea of making a lunch can seem downright overwhelming at times, especially with kids.  They are picky eaters, they are starting to develop their own likes and dislikes.  Sometimes, it's just easier to throw a couples of dollars at them on their way out the door for them to grab something at school.  

At our house, we are BIG on knowing what our kids are eating.  We don't care about their calorie intake and we don't let anti-obesity rules dictate what my kids eat (yes, it's a problem, but we are not going to develop eating disorders in our children).  We eat lots of fresh food, limit the processed foods, and enjoy treats every now and then.  We also know our children and their needs for nutrition and what makes them thrive.  For example, Ethan needs protein.  A chocolate milk, cheese, or yogurt can instantly take him from grouchy and tired to happy and focused.  Because of this, his lunches often have at least one or two sources of protein. We rarely buy boxed drinks and just fill up Contigo cups with water for the day to drink. 

We also focus a lot on variety.  I don't spend a ton of money on lunch stuff because it's mostly things we have in our fridge or around.  I posted pictures to instagram the first two week of school and each lunch was different (you can find me here and #klassenlunches).

Also, we use Bento styled containers so that when they are eating, everything is in front of them at once.  It also limits plastic bags and trash, which is great, but what I found is that more gets eaten from these containers than when I just send bags of food.  I can also easily see what got eaten at school that day and what didn't.

Here are some helpful hints to make lunches easier:
* Don't spend more than 5 minutes making lunches, you will end up dreading and hating it!
* Try to make it different every day.
* Make a list of their favorite foods and try to incorporate them in their lunch.
* Let your kids help pick out new lunch items and test drive them at home (this summer, we picked up a Weelicious cookbook at the library and tried some out. . . some were great and some were flops!).
* Our favorite lunch containers are these.  This year we also added these and these and really like them.  This one fits perfectly into our lunch pails because we use pottery barn kids lunch pails, too.
* We also use Wilton silicon muffin liners and dip containers to keep foods from leaking.
* cookie cutters are a fun way to make sandwiches a bit more fun

Here are some of our favorite lunch ideas:
Turkey, cheese, and crackers
Hummus and Pita chips
snap peas, grape tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers
naan pizza
nutella roll ups
bagel and cream cheese
granola bars
pretzles and peanut butter
string cheese
Wheat Thins and Laughing Cow or Boursin cheese
apple sauces
Turkey and Cheese on Hawaiian bread
Honey Peanut Butter and crackers

I hope that this helps get you started or get you our of a rut!  It doesn't have to be difficult or crazy, as long as it's healthy and the kids eat it. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cranberry Vanilla Bean-Almond Oatmeal

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I will be honest with you.  It's the hardest one for me.  I try really hard to eat something every morning, but there are mornings that it just gets skipped.  Oatmeal tends to be one of my go-to breakfasts when I have a little bit of time in the mornings, especially after a nice, long walk. 

I have always liked oatmeal.  I remember begging my mom to get the Quaker instant packs as a kid (the blueberries and cream was my favorite!).  Somehow my love of oatmeal did not get passed down to my kids (unless in cookie or granola bar form).  Super sad face.  We don't buy them anymore  because they have all sorts of yucky things in them.  And, it's really not that hard to make it yourself (trust me. . . multi-tasking is perfect for oatmeal making!). 

So, last week, when I couldn't find the raisins, I just started working with flavors.  And trust me. . . it's pretty awesome! 

What's your favorite breakfast?  Comment or add your link in the comments!

Cranberry Vanilla Bean & Almond Oatmeal

1/2 cup oatmeal (not Steel-Cut)
1 cup water
handful of dried cranberries
brown sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp almond extract
Vanilla almond milk
slivered almonds


:: Bring water to boil in a small pot.  While that's going on, toss in your cranberries so they can plump up while you are waiting.  Add oatmeal and stir.  Let sit for a minute or two until done cooking.  Add sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extract to oatmeal and give a nice little whirl with a spoon.  Pour into your favorite cereal bowl.  Sprinkle oatmeal with slivered almonds.  Pour some vanilla almond milk over the top and eat. 

note: I tend to be a bit generous with my sugar. . . it's a problem, I know.  I usually use between 2-4 tablespoons. . . don't judge. :)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pizza Rolls

This is not the greatest picture.  I hope to replace it soon with another, but I keep getting asked how to make these pizza roll-ups, so I wanted to get a post done and I when I made a quick batch up last night, I didn't take any pictures until it made it into his lunch.  Again, I apologize!

I have made different versions of this over the years, but it's a great quick lunch recipe that's great hot or cold or great for a quick party treat.  I made these up for Ethan's 7th birthday party and they went quick!  Last night I made them for Ethan's lunch and they were eaten and then he asked for more when he came home for a snack!  

So, until I can remember to get the recipe pictures done, here's the rundown:

Pizza Rolls

1 crescent roll pkg
pizza sauce (we like the Trader Joes refrigerated kind)
pepperoni pieces (we found Hormel minis worked out perfect!)

On a cutting board, lay out the sheet of crescent rolls.  It should be one big rectangle.  Use your fingers to push the seams together.  Use a pastry roller to spread out a little, if you want. 

Spread sauce lightly to cover the rectangle.  Sprinkle mozzarella and pepperoni over it.  Roll up like a cinnamon roll and cut into slices about 1 inch think.  Place in greased baking dish and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes.  

:: Good cold or hot!  They make great lunches!
:: If you need to make a non dairy version, the Daiya Mozzarella shreds are awesome!  I actually do it with them and no one notices the difference!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ethan turns 7 and his painting party

I'm not really sure when it happened, but my first born went from being an active little toddler to a boy.  I feel like I blinked and it happened.  There are days when I really just miss those days. . . they were a little simpler and there were naps.  Man, I really miss nap time.   But, I digress.  He's officially 7 and had his first party where he got to invite a few friends from school and church.  It ended up being an incredibly busy day and if it hadn't been for the smokey/ashy air from the Rough Fire, he would have been a little late to his own party due to soccer (all games were cancelled because it of super poor air quality and raining ash).  It worked out though and it was a wonderful celebration of our sweet boy!  

This year we chose the fun theme of painting! We went with bright rainbow colors and just had fun with it.  There were so many things I wanted to do with this theme, but just didn't have the time for.  My very wise husband kept reminding me that no one else would notice. . . he's pretty much right! 

Ethan's party was at 10, because in our neck of the woods it is still VERY hot!  California does not get the memo that fall is coming.  I didn't really want to paint in the house, so in order to paint outside, we needed to do it early.   We still did a lot of candy, because a.) why not? and b.) the colors are perfect for a painting party!  We chose skittles, birthday cake M&Ms,  and lolly pops that I found at JoAnns with a half off coupon (score!). 
You can't tell by the picture, but underneath the yummy marshmallow buttercream frosting (recipe to come soon!), the cake is rainbow.  We went with the Duff Tye Dye cake mix that we found at Target (man, I love target!). 
To paint, we moved outside and stayed underneath the patio because it was really raining ash!  Each kid was able to paint their own canvas to take home.  We used painters tape and did block painting.  They turned out super cute!  I also had water color paper and water colors for them if they wanted to paint some more.  Everything turned out soooo cute! 

Aren't these paintbrushes awesome!?  IKEA for the win!  I bought a ton of them when we were there this summer! 

Here is Ethan and his best friend Abi.  Ethan was very diligent in making squares with his painters tape.  Abi made an A with her painters tape and check out how cool it came out!  I really love the little paint pallets I picked up at JoAnns (also with a coupon!). 

 We really did have a 7. . . I bought it!  We used it at the Beach House on his birthday, but I don't think it made it home with us.  So, my husband improvised. . . good thing I didn't throw away Weston's candle from this party!

And that's pretty much Ethan's party. 

 A big thanks to my best friend at Epiphanie design for taking pictures for me so I could focus on our guests!  I don't know what I would do without her!

Thanks for stopping by! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Meanderings

It's Monday.  I won't lie, I could really use some more weekend.  Anybody else feel that way?  Oh, please tell me I am not alone!  Yesterday afternoon, I came really close (well, probably not that close) to talking my husband into driving to the beach for some fish and chips.  I was ready to load up the kiddos and go.  But the thought of driving for 6 hours the night before school/work just sounded exhausting.  Good thing, I was just there a few weeks ago. 

Soccer season is officially in full gear.   It's going to be fun this year.  I am really excited to see how Ethan has grown gone from a boy who just wanted to pass out snacks to being right in the madness of the game, with a full on grin.  Weston starts indoor soccer this week, too.  I think that this week might be a tad crazy, but I think we will survive. 

We tried this mac and cheese last night.  The boys loved it. . . even Ethan, who has had the really good stuff (as in 100 percent dairy). 

My kids and I love Arthur.   So, this buzz feed was awesome! 

These look amazing.  I do have some apples that need to be made into something scrumptious today.

Have you seen War Room yet?  It's awesome.  I laughed so much and cried and was inspired!  Oh, to have a prayer life like that!  My bestie and I snuck out last week for a much needed movie night and ice cream!  I can't wait to see it with my husband!

My kids earned whistles from the library reading program this summer.  I am not really sure if it was smart on the library's part because by the end of the day, I really wanted to destroy the things!  This made me laugh. . . and then laugh some more!

Star Wars Fever is a serious epidemic in my house.  Weston has officially joined the Force and I finally had to add a princess leia lego key chain to my keys, because I was starting to feel left out.  I am outnumbered, afterall.  This post gave me a laugh!

So, one of my favorite bloggers posted some really cute wearable (key word, here) fall fashion inspiration and I'm completely in love with this sweatshirt.  Meanwhile, I will be at a soccer Saturday morning with a tank top and an iced beverage.  I am soooo over summer (it's 100 degrees as I type. . . ick!)

  I just found this pin.  I am very seriously considering making some! 

Well, that's all for now.  Time to go check some things off my never ending to-do list (I really, REALLY need more time in the day!).  Have a great day and thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings.  Feel free to comment. . . what are you considering, dreaming, or thinking today?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On Bible Memory and Why We Should

Okay, People.  I have a huge confession.  I absolutely hate to memorize things.  I remember having to memorize parts of various Shakespeare plays and I probably did the minimum to get an A.  I very specifically remember memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution in 8th grade very quickly while others said it so I could just get it over with and get the extra credit for saying it early.  I remember sitting around trying to memorize verses at summer camp to get our team points.  I helped. . . a little.  Others helped way more than I did.

Memorization has just never been my strong suit.  I am super good at memorizing details. . . strange details that NOBODY else remembers, but words. . . that's another story!  I get distracted.  I get really distracted.  And, really, let's just be honest, it takes work.  And quite frankly, after trying to do the many things on my to-do list & keeping my kids alive,  my brain is tired and run down.  Oh, and should I mention that once you turn 30 or have kids something happens to your brain and you forget things. . . even important things! It's a REAL problem.

But, last year, something happened.  Something changed inside me.  I became a table leader for the Bible Study I go to.  My co-leader and I challenged our ladies to memorize certain verses that stood out to us during our weekly studies.  Suddenly, I was in a position, where I couldn't use the excuse that I wasn't any good at Bible Memory.  I couldn't challenge my fellow ladies (younger AND older than myself) and then ignore the challenge.  I needed to work on this part of my spiritual life and grow in this area.  Also, one of my dear sweet mom-friends, was at my table and she memorizes entire books in order to keep her sanity.  So, if she could do that, then I could certainly memorize one or two verses!

So, I started making pretty cards (because I like pretty things) to put around the house in places where I frequent: the kitchen sink, the jogging stroller, the bathroom mirror, the dashboard of the car, and even the computer.  Believe it or not, I suddenly started memorizing scripture. And it really wasn't that hard.

I believe that the Bible, God's Word, is 100 percent true.  And, as a child of God, I need to hide His Word in my heart.  I need scripture to encourage me when I am feeling lonely, discouraged, or angry.   I need scripture to defend my faith when it comes under attack.  I need scripture to fend of the devil's lies and temptations (he is after all, out there to destroy my relationship with God).  The Bible is way more than a book of ancient stories.  It is full of wise words that are still applicable today, many, many, many years later.

Are you reading God's Word, but wanting more?  I highly recommend memorizing some verses and see what happens.  But, don't stop there. . . find a friend and do it together.  Keep each other accountable. Reward yourselves with a treat, even. Grow together.  I promise it's worth it!

Here's one to print out if you want to get started today.  

Friday, September 04, 2015

Flashback Friday: Fall Favorites

It's starting to feel like Fall. 

It's been kind of cool this week.  I say that and some of you might laugh, but a high of 95 has been wonderful  Plus, it's been cool enough during the night and early mornings to air out the house.  That makes a BIG difference!  But, I have no complaints because it has been a really mild summer here.

I bought my youngest two new long sleeve shirts. And, they are just sitting there because it's a little bit warm to wear them!  I also bought myself a sweater. . . and it's also just sitting there.  I really like wearing sweaters.

I had my first pumpkin spice latte last weekend (from Whole Foods).  It was quite tasty.  I heard they are actually going to add some pumpkin to the PSL this year at Starbucks.  I'm curious. 

So, in honor of fall, I am headed to the beach. . . where I will stick my toes in the sand, read a book, and hopefully wear a sweater and drink yummy coffee.  Oh yeah, and celebrate a couple of birthdays, including my oldest. 

While I do that, I will leave you with some of my favorite fall treats.  What's your favorite fall treat?  Link up in the comments! 

Candy Corn Cookies

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Autumn Salad

Apple Tart

Pumpkin Pie Muddy Buddies

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

A treat that screams FALL IS COMING!

 Well, first of all, I am completely humbled by the amount of people who read and commented on this post last week.   It was a hard post to write because it was me, sharing my heart, and that is way more difficult for me to do than sharing something that I made.  So, thanks for reading it and sharing it.  I hope and pray that you were challenged just as much as I was by typing it!  I hope to do more "heart" posts in the future. . . I want to get out of my comfort zone a little bit more. 

So, funny story.  My mom and I often share things.  We pass stamps and crafting supplies between the two of us and sometimes we even borrow kitchen gadgets.  Several months ago, I had borrowed her candy thermometer to make these, and we just sort of forgot about it. . . until Saturday, when she needed it.  The problem with that, was we don't even live in the same town, and she had just been here the day before.  So, Sunday after church, we ran said thermometer down so my mom could try out this caramel recipe that she needed to try out before she made a very large batch of it.  I honestly think, that she tricked me into it, because I ended up helping her with it.  It was fun.  There was a point we almost quit, but we kept going.  And, man, we are so glad we kept stirring and not worrying about the caramel.  It turned out amazing!  I have a few in the fridge and I might have to have a snack after I finish this blog post.  These were so amazing, that I took pictures of our hard work and decided to share them with you!  

The caramel was so amazing, we couldn't stop eating it.  Ethan absolutely loved it! He even shared with one of the recess aids at school, who apparently thought it was amazing (but that story came from the mouth of my almost 7 year old, so who knows what really was said).  Now, part of the success of this recipe was in the comments on the post. I am sure, if you have made, or attempted to make, caramel apples you may have ran into a sticky situation when your caramel just falls off of your apple.  Then, you just have this nice apple sitting in a pile of caramel.  Not quite a pretty sight.  There is one step that really MUST be done in order for this to be a success.  It has to be done, even if you are just melting caramel candies down and dipping your apples in them. Many people do not know that when you buy apples at the store, they are actually coated in wax to help keep them fresh and bright. . . so you want to buy them!  This waxy coat is what causes the caramel to stick.

Heat up your large pot half full with water.   Let it come to a nice boil and keep it there.  Make sure all the sticky is off of your apples.  Some of it will fall off in the boiling water, but it's easier if you just get a head start and take the sticker off.  Stick a popsicle stick in the top, by the stem, going down through the core of the apple.  Then, holding on to your apple by the stick, roll in into the water for about 45-60 seconds.  Once it dries, you will notice it's not so pretty.  But the wax will be off and your caramel will stick beautifully to your apples.  Once they are dry, you can start dipping them in the caramel. . . whatever recipe you choose.  But seriously this one I am about to share is really delicious! 

Caramel Apples

8-12 large apples (I reccomend granny smith, but we did red delicious and they were great).  
8 -12 popsicle sticks
  1 cup butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cup light corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla 

Stir the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk together in a saucepan of medium high heat.  Bring it to a boil, then reduce your heat down to medium (do this, or you will burn your caramel and you might just cry. . . trust me!).  

Cook and stir until theremometer reaches 248 degrees.  It  will take about 30 minutes and you might need a friend.  We found that the theremometer staying put would cause it to start burning so, one of us held the thermometer while the other stirred.  Don't take long rests because this also could cause burning.  Caramel is a fragile thing, but with patience it's beautiful and tastey!  

Once the thermometer reads 248 degrees (or firm ball stage, because you can actually form a ball and it stays!), add the vanilla and stir in.  

Next, start dipping those apples into the caramel,  Cool on a piece of parchment paper and try to wait patiently for it to harden.  



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