Fun Finds For Mom

Packed lunch ideas (and why I’m in love with Planetboxes)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

LUNCHES

 

I used to HATE packing lunches, but that has all changed. I really should get a job as a spokesperson for these Planetboxes, because they’ve changed my life (or at least the time I spend packing lunches in the morning). I think the biggest pre-Planetbox frustration was digging through our cabinet of jumbled plastic containers and never finding the right size or the matching lid. Plus, I was using hundreds of plastic baggies and spending plenty of money on single serve applesauce pouches, cheese crackers, etc.

Now, I open up these stainless steel Planetboxes, fill up the compartments, and pop them into their adorable containers with an ice pack. The kids seem to like them too, because the lunch boxes usually come home empty or nearly empty. I imagine they keep the food in better shape since everything isn’t getting smooshed. Then I pop off the magnets that go on the outside of the box, and put them in the dishwasher. Easy peasy.

You can buy them directly from PlanetBox, on Amazon or from Pottery Barn Kids. I bought mine from PBK because I liked the designs a lot better. I had been admiring these for years, but went ahead and bought them when they went on sale (which they still are — so I recommend getting them now before the sale ends!). For me, these are well worth the price (and I’ll probably end up saving as much since I no longer buy the single serve lunch items, and won’t be tearing through boxes of Ziplocks on a regular basis.) I am packing healthier lunches now too, and even better — the kids are eating them!

I added photos and descriptions of many packed Planetbox lunches on my Facebook page. (Yes, my kids think I am crazy for taking a photo of their lunch every day.) Check it out, and I invite you to share your packed lunch photos too!

Here’s what the Planetboxes look like on the outside:

planetboxdot planetboxshark

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Milk Bone Brushing Chews

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Almost a year ago, we adopted the sweetest little Havanese rescue dog. My daughter named her Biscuit. She is my first dog ever and I can’t believe how much she has become a part of the family. When I was asked if I’d like to sample Milk Bone Brushing Chews, I was happy to let my doggie daughter give them a try. I  must admit, I don’t brush my dog’s teeth with any regularity. In fact, I only attempted to brush her teeth once and it didn’t go so well.

These dental dog snacks come in two sizes: Mini (for dogs 5-24 pounds) and Small/Medium (for dogs 25-74 pounds). According to the product materials, giving your dog one treat a day is the same as brushing her teeth twice a week. Sounds pretty good to me.

Let’s see what Biscuit thought.

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milkbone-choppers

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Is that the face of a happy dog or what? The treat was so chewy (like gum) and she smacked away at it with gusto. I’d recommend monitoring the “brushing” since the halfway-eaten treat got stuck in her beard and she got confused looking around for it. I had to extract it from her face and let her continue munching. A post-treat face wipe would also be a good idea if your dog has long hair.

The product has great packaging:

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And here’s a close-up of the Milk Bone Brushing Chews:

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They smell really good — kind of like a smoky beef jerky. My son asked if he could eat one because “they smelled SO good!” (I said no.) You could use treats to help clean your dog’s choppers — OR if just to get awesome pictures of your pup “smiling”.  My son is now begging to give Biscuit her daily Milk Bone because “she chews it and she looks so happy!”

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Four Ingredient Healthy Cookies

Friday, March 7, 2014

four ingredient cookies

These easy (and delicious) cookies combine four of my favorite foods — bananas, oats, peanut butter and chocolate chips. They’re great for snacks, lunch boxes, even breakfast! Here’s the super simple recipe:

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

1 cup oats

A sprinkling of chocolate chips

1 heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter

Directions:

Smash bananas with a fork, mix all ingredients, plop spoonfuls onto baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

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Painted rocks and hidden hearts

Sunday, February 9, 2014

heart-rocks

Today, my daughter and I painted rocks. It was so relaxing and satisfying — collecting rocks, sitting in the warm sun, dipping our brushes and painting away while we giggled and talked. Earlier today I saw these painted heart rocks and felt inspired to combine my love of both Valentine’s Day and rock painting.

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hearts-and-face

Why the funny little face? After I mixed pink paint with orange, the result was a fleshy color. The shape of the rock suggested a face, so after it dried, I used Sharpies to draw eyes, nose and a little message around his head. A heart went on the back.

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Exclamation points were a favorite symbol for my daughter. And of course “love” and polka dots.

When our rocks were dry, we went on a secret mission to hide these little love tokens where they could be easily found — by neighbors, friends or the dog-walking regulars.

hidden-hearts

If you have the time, do try a little Valentine rock painting. (After cleaning everything up, we discovered a whole trove of smooth oval river rocks in our front yard. Now we have big plans to continue our painting tomorrow!)

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Grab and go snack ideas

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When I pick up the kids from school, they are HUNGRY. Usually I’m in a rush to get there on time, so I grab a quick snack as I run out the door. These little Sistema Klip It containers make it easy to pop in a snack and hit the road. I thought I’d share a few of my go-to snack ideas. Nothing earth-shattering here. Mainly nuts, cheese, fruit and crackers or pretzels. I try to get some protein in there when I can. Happy snack packing!

snacks!

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CLIF Kid Zfruit + Veggie snacks

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

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CLIF Kid just came out with a new product — Organic  Zfruit + Veggie snacks. They were kind enough to send me a box to sample. My kids tore into them immediately and declared happily “You can’t taste the veggies AT ALL!” (I’ve had them try cheddar crackers with broccoli in the past, and apparently the veggie taste wasn’t hidden quite as well in those.)

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These sweet snacks come in three flavors: Blueberry Blast, Cheery Cherry and Mango Mania. They get their veggies from sweet potato puree and carrot puree. Each rope has 50 calories and no fat. If you’re looking for protein, you won’t find any here, but you will get 3 grams of fiber, which you don’t always see in similar snacks. Watching sugar? Each snack has 11 grams.

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And in addition to their yummy taste, these little fruit and veggie ropes are peelable. On the left, you’ll see a whole one, and on the right, one I peeled into five tasty strips. Keep a wipe handy if your kids are going to be stripping away, because they’re a little sticky. The strips would make fun edible hair on a waffle  or pancake face (if you like to play with your food).

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The cute box these samples came in can be used as a planter for a kitchen herb garden.  Thanks CLIF Kid!

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Minted Holiday Cards and Gifts + a $100 Minted Giveaway

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

You may be thinking what I was — that it’s too late to order holiday cards and gifts. Fortunately, that’s not the case! The awesome indy-designed card and gift site Minted is stocked with great gifts and gorgeous cards, and they’re even offering a free upgrade to FedEx 2Day Shipping on gift orders of $50 or more! Plus, you can save 15% off all their holiday and new years cards if you order by December 23.

I’m also so excited to tell you I am giving away a $100 Minted gift card to one of you! Enter for a chance to win by leaving a comment on this post (see full details on giveaway at bottom of this post) or go straight to Minted and order your cards and gifts right now! I’ll be announcing the winner on Thursday morning, so please enter right away!

Here are a few of my favorite Minted offerings:

Custom Calendars

Café Grand Calendars

Order Minted calendars here >>

I gave one of these gorgeous calendars from Minted to my mother-in-law last year. It was easy to pick just 12 photos to drop in, and I even added all the extended family’s birthdays (even though I’m the one who really needs the reminder about all those birthdays!)

Photo Journals

Simple Thoughts Journals

These photo journals are perfect gifts for kids — maybe a niece or nephew.

Order Minted photo journals here >>

Personalized Stationery

Simon Says Children's Personalized Stationery

My kids have started writing beautiful letters lately. I think having their own stationery would encourage them to write even more (which I know the far away relatives would love). The design choices are amazing. I think I’d go for one with lines, to help them keep their writing steady.

 Order Minted stationery here >>

Holiday and New Years Cards

Frosted Windows New Year's Photo Cards

Last but not least, the selection of holiday and New Years cards is gorgeous and extensive. I have no doubt you will find many designs to love. Plus, you get to preview them with your photo and create your own personal greetings. Find out when you’ll receive them by with the Minted delivery estimator, or relax and take my approach that a New Years greeting is appropriate any time during the month of January!

 Order Minted Cards Here >>

Congratulations to Carrie who was randomly selected as the winner of the Minted $100 Giveaway!

Minted $100 Giveaway Guidelines: Giveaway closes Wednesday, December 18 at midnight. Leave one comment on this post to enter. The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced after winner is selected. If you win, please respond within one week to claim your prize. Thank you!

 

 

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Weelicious Granola Bar Recipe and Cookbook Giveaway

Friday, November 22, 2013

I don’t buy packaged bars very often (too much sugar, not so natural). That said, my kids and I do love a good granola bar, so when I received a copy of Catherine McCord’s new Weelicious Lunches, the first recipe I tried was the Chocolate Chip Granola Bar recipe.

This cookbook is packed with healthy, fun lunch and snack recipes kids will love. Seriously, if you’re in a lunch packing rut, this will get your creative juices flowing.

Scroll down for the Weelicious Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe AND a chance to win a Weelicious Lunches cookbook!

Weelicious Lunches

 

Weelicious Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Ingredients:

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or other dried fruit)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup honey

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine the oats, flour, coconut, brown sugar, chocolate chips and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, vanilla and honey.

4. Pour the wet ingredients over the oat mixture and stir to combine.

5. Spread the granola mixture on the baking sheet and shape it inot a 9 x 13-inch rectangle that’s about 1 inch thick.

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First I dumped the granola mixture on the parchment-lined baking sheet…

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Then I put a second sheet of parchment paper on top, and used a second baking sheet to press the top and sides into a rectangle shape.
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Tempting rectangle of granola ready to be baked

6. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and dry to the  touch.

7. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then cut into 3 x 1-inch bars using a serrated knife. These bars will remain fresh for several weeks if wrapped individually in parchment or wax paper.

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Sliced granola bars ready to be wrapped in plastic for a week’s snack supply

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These delicious granola bars never last long in our house.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of the fabulous Weelicious Lunches cookbook, packed with kid-friendly recipes like PB&J Pancake Sandwiches, Cinnamon Pita Chips, Banana Dog Bites, Pizza Muffins, Whole Wheat Cheddar Crackers, Mexican Muffins and Pretzel Bites, to name  just a few, please leave a comment on this blog post.

Congratulations to Sandy for winning the Weelicious Lunches Cookbook!

Giveaway Guidelines:

Giveaway closes Friday, November 29 at midnight.
– Leave one comment on this post to enter.
– The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced after winner is selected.
– If you win, please respond within one week to claim your prize. Thank you!

 

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UNREAL: 100% Real Candy

Monday, October 21, 2013

Did you know there’s a new candy company that makes a healthier version of some of our favorite treats? The company is called UNREAL, which is a little confusing, because it actually is real. In fact, I can vouch for the existence of this healthier candy, because I was lucky enough to receive a box of UNREAL products and taste them for myself. Here’s what arrived on my doorstep:

candybox

And inside:

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Okay, maybe there was a double layer of each candy, but I had to taste them before writing my review, right? First, let me give you the scoop on what’s healthy about UNREAL candy. Their version of M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, peanut butter cups, SNICKERS and Milky Way bars contain no artificial color or other artificial ingredients, no corn syrup, no partially hydrogenated oils, no GMOs, and no preservatives. AND, most important to me, they’ve cut the amount of sugar almost in half.

So how does it taste?

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Tastes like candy! And look how pretty these “candy coated peanuts” look with their natural colors that come from cabbage and turmeric and beets instead of dye! I loved the chocolate peanut butter cups — made with real milk chocolate and roasted peanuts. And did I mention UNREAL contains 40% of the sugar than that in the other brands? To compare each of their products against the competition, go here.

Now let me add that I am very aware of how much sugar my family consumes. My daily target for the kids is 15 grams or less, which is not an easy thing to do. Actually, it is a rare day when this goal is met — but I try. I avoid sugar-packed drinks, sweetened yogurt, and packaged granola bars (recipe for delicious homemade granola bars coming soon) but I do give them a little treat every now and then. And when I do, it’s nice to know that the treat isn’t packed with artificial ingredients. In fact, a few of these UNREAL candies are perfect to sprinkle in the little center square of the kids’ PlanetBox lunch boxes, where I usually put something sweet.

For those of you who like to encourage entrepreneurship in your kids, you may be interested to know that the idea for UNREAL came about a few years ago when 13 year old Nicky Bronner was none too pleased when his dad tossed his Halloween candy. Nicky channeled his anger into a quest to create a healthier candy company. Fortunately for him, his dad wasn’t only a candy tosser, but also an entrepreneur and angel investor who partnered with him to turn the teenager’s dream into a reality.

Get the full scoop on UNREAL candy on their website and Facebook page.

Find out where you can buy UNREAL at a store in your area right here or get it on Amazon!

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LEGO KidsFest Phoenix

Monday, July 15, 2013

legofest-turtles

My daughter and I attended LEGO KidsFest Phoenix yesterday at the University of Phoenix Stadium. We were there for the final session of the three-day long event, and while I thought we might go for an hour or two, we ended up staying over four hours! It was a LEGO-lover’s dream. When we entered, we were greeted by tons of life-size LEGO sculptures, mosaics, and tons of building opportunities.

legofest-friendslegos

The stadium floor was divided into different themed and activity sections, including several building stations. Above, you see a work table in the LEGO Friends area, where LEGOs were abundant — scattered on tables, and frequently replenished by staff members dumping bins of fresh LEGOS to use.

legofest-rainbow

We spent quite a while  working on our contributions to Creation Nation, a huge United States-shaped area that is filled in with event attendees’ creations over the course of the weekend. I overheard one boy tell his dad that he was going to stay there forever and never go home!

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There were tons of photo opps with movie characters from Harry Potter, Star Wars and more. (You can see my camera-shy daughter preferred taking the photos.)

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She got a kick out of  seeing some of her favorite characters in jumbo proportions. (That hedgehog is a favorite.)

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But by far her favorite activity was taking part in the tower and bridge building competitions. Teams of kids were given three minutes to work together and build their tallest tower and strongest bridge, which then had to survive being passed over to the judging table without toppling. All kids who participated were given LEGO prize packs.

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And I wouldn’t be a blogger if I didn’t take a photo of our dinner. So much for healthy eating — but man, were those fries good!

There was also a LEGO store (of course) where I bought the kids a set to work on together. Thus, my being able to write this post, while they happily build their LEGO Friends Heartlake Vet set this morning!

Visit the LEGO KidsFest website for more info on the event. Upcoming stops this year are the San Francisco Bay Area, Portland and New England.

LEGO KidsFest provided two tickets to the event for purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.

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New Looney Tunes Yogurtland flavors + a $20 gift card giveaway

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Yogurtland_Looney_Tunes_Logo-crop

One of my favorite places to take the kids (and myself) for a cold treat is Yogurtland. If you’re lucky enough to have a Yogurtland nearby, you already know how delicious the frozen yogurt is. My favorite flavors are coconut and coffee, but I always like to use the little sample cups to find new flavors to love. When Yogurtland asked if I’d help spread the word about the new Looney Tunes-inspired flavors coming July 8, I was more than happy to share the news!

From July 8 – Sept. 15, Yogurtland will feature six delicious new frozen yogurt and sorbet flavors and toppings inspired by the Looney Tunes characters, their personalities and favorite snacks and treats. Each character will have their own collectible spoon and cup, and Yogurtland is offering a new line of co-branded merchandise including notepads, pencils, key chains and melamine bowls, while supplies last. (I recommend taking the special Looney Tunes spoons home with you. I have a stash of Yogurtland spoons in my silverware drawer and they’re perfect for packing in the kids’ lunchboxes.)

**Select Yogurtland locations will be celebrating on July 8 with character appearances, prizes and free yogurt! (In Arizona, locations hosting kickoff parties include ASU, Avondale, Chandler Fashion Square and Dana Park.) Find your nearest Yogurtland location right here.

The new flavors are…

  • Carrot Cake (Bugs Bunny) – real carrots, hand-selected spices and cream cheese frosting
  • Dark Chocolate Orange (Daffy Duck) – premium cocoa with a light natural orange finish
  • Kosmic Fruit Kaboom Sorbet (Marvin the Martian) – pineapple, lime, banana and a secret ingredient – spinach.
  • Lemon Cream Cookie (Tweety Bird) – real cookies and lemon
  • Cactus Berry Tart (Road Runner) – real cactus pear with Northwest marion blackberries, blueberries, and red raspberries for a light tart taste
  • Devil’s Food Cake (Taz) – untamed chocolate deliciousness

Congratulations to kolpin who was randomly selected as the winner of the $20 Yogurtland gift card giveaway!Yogurtland would like to give one lucky Fun Finds For Mom reader a $20 gift card. To enter, just leave a comment on this post!

Giveaway Guidelines:

Giveaway closes Friday, July 12 at midnight.
– Leave one comment on this post to enter.
– The winner will be chosen via random.org and announced after winner is selected.
– If you win, please respond within one week to claim your prize. Thank you!

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