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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Peace, love and eight year olds

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

pin the peace sign

I thought I’d share a few more photos from my daughter’s birthday party this weekend. In addition to making the peace cake, we also made a “Pin the Middle on the Peace Sign” game for the kids to play. It’s always fun to come up with a new variation of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. (One year we even played Pin the Horn on the Unicorn!) Winners got a pack of origami paper.

8necklaces

My son and his friend made a treasure hunt for the girls, hiding 8 clues for each girl all over the house. Their treasures at the end of the game were necklaces with “8″ charms on them.

tacos

For dinner, we had a make your own taco/tostada bar. Everyone chowed down. So much so, that I didn’t even serve movie snacks because the kids were so stuffed from dinner and cake.

movie snack tray

But I have to show you these movie snack trays anyway. My daughter loves the kids’ snack packs you can get at the theater, so we made our own using cracker boxes, mini candy and juice pouches.

bagels

Breakfast was a mini bagel bar, and while they munched, the girls strung Froot Loops to make their own necklaces, which they promptly ate while wearing.

necklaces

They also did plenty of swimming, giggling and chatting late into the night. All in all, a very fun way to kick off year number 8!

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Peace of cake

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

peace-cake

My daughter turned 8 this weekend! We celebrated with a sleepover birthday party. She dreamed up this chocolate, vanilla, sprinkle and rainbow-covered peace sign cake and named it “Party City!” It was made in a silicone Fred and Friends Peace of Cake mold that we bought (new in the box) at a garage sale this summer in Seattle.

The nice woman holding the garage sale also gave us two gorgeous fabric Kindle covers that she made herself, and I’ve been meaning to go to her Etsy shop to make a purchase to thank her (She wrote her name on a napkin for me at the sale). And I just did! I treated myself to a new set of much-needed fabric coasters. Her name is Jenny Bartoy and you really should go check out her stuff. And if you’re interested in that super cool cake pan, you can hope you get lucky at a garage sale like I did, or you can pick one up on Amazon!

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Protein balls healthy snack recipe

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

protein balls 1

Ten minutes before I left to pick up the kids from school yesterday, I thought it would be nice to have a special (and healthy) snack for them when they got home. You know — first day of school and all. I found a recipe and mixed up the ingredients for these no-bake healthy treats in about five minutes. I modified the recipe using what I had, and here’s what I ended up with:

Protein BallsĀ (modified from this No Bake Energy Bites recipe)

Ingredients

1 cup dry oats
2/3 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract

(You could also add flaxseed, wheat germ, chia seeds or dried fruit.)

Instructions

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
After chilling, roll into balls with your hands. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to a week.

protein balls 2

The kids loved them, and I packed some of the extras in today’s lunches.

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First day of school breakfast

Monday, August 11, 2014

waffles

And the kids are off to their first day of school! Last night I perused a few fancy back-to-school breakfasts online. We’re talking homemade muffins, loads of printables, washi tape, flags, inspirational quotes. You know — supermom stuff. I was too tired to attempt any of it, so I closed my computer and went to bed.

Then I woke up early this morning with the idea of taping a few pieces of notebook paper together to make a festive place mat. Once I did that, I thought it would be fun to write out a few questions for the kids to answer. Didn’t want the Sharpie to bleed through, so I put some colored paper underneath. What do you know — this was shaping up to be a sort of blogworthy first day of school breakfast! I remembered seeing a candle in a waffle on another blog and figured — Hey, I can do that!

As I was finishing up, the kids emerged from their rooms all dressed and ready to go, sat down, filled out their questionnaires and blew out their candles, making a wish for the new school year. I like the idea of making the candle and wish a tradition. It reminded me of setting an intention at the beginning of each yoga class. Always a good way to shift my thinking to something positive.

IMG_0452

If your kids are heading back to school soon, check out my article for SheKnows with a bunch of fun and easy back-to-school traditions.

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Back to School Top Picks

Monday, August 4, 2014

back to school picks

1. Hydro Flask / 2. Color Appeel Crayons / 3. U Konserve stainless steel snack containers / 4. Hanna Andersson backpack / 5. Mark-My-Time digital bookmark timer / 6. PlanetBox lunch box

Yes, it’s that time. My kids will be starting back to school next week. These days, we order most of our school supplies from a single vendor online. The binders, pencils, sketchbooks, etc. arrive on our doorstep in a single box and we don’t have to run around town trying to track down the extremely specific items on the list. I know some of you love school supply shopping, but the last time I spent days running around town trying to find the right supplies in the brutal Arizona heat, I decided online ordering was well worth the investment.

Of course it’s always fun to supplement! These are some of my favorite tried and true products, plus a few more that caught my eye.

If you’re in the market for a new water bottle, I’ve been reading rave reviews about these stainless steel leak-proof Hydro Flasks. I haven’t tried them yet, but I love their wide mouth that makes it easy to fill with ice and water from the fridge door dispenser.

My friend Carrie gave me the idea of always having jars of markers, pencils and crayons on the dining room table so the kids can get creative whenever inspiration strikes. We love these Color Appeel crayons. You just pull the string and peel off the curly outside to reveal fresh new crayon stick.

Snack containers are a must in our snack-happy family. We use these Sistema containers, but also I love the look of this stainless steel nesting set from U Konserve.

Hanna Andersson has some great-looking backpacks this year, like the floral design shown, or lots of fun striped options.

My daughter spotted this digital bookmark that keeps track of reading time at Barnes and Noble and asked if she could please have one for her upcoming birthday. She even volunteered to read in the kids area if I wanted to do a little “secret birthday shopping!” How could I resist?

Finally, you know I love our PlanetBoxes. We’re heading into year two with ours, and I am still a passionate advocate for these lunch containers. It’s so fun and easy to fill up the compartments with healthy food. And I recently discovered I could wash the cases, so now they look brand new again.

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Colorful rolling carts and storage bins

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rolling Carts

We recently stayed at my aunt’s house in Berkeley. It was such a colorful and creative home, and one of the things I loved was the bright red tool cabinet that she used for storage in the bathroom. A few days ago, a post on one of my favorite blogs, Design Mom, reminded me about the functionality and style of rolling metal carts with baskets. Think toys in the playroom, towels in the bathroom, or art supplies in the craft area.

1. Excel Tool Cart ($78, Amazon) / 2. Luxor Workstation Cart ($139, Amazon) / 3. Viper Tool Storage Cabinet ($480, Home Depot) / 4.Go-cart White Rolling Table ($100, cb2) /5. Excel Red Tool Cart ($100, Amazon) / 6.Room Essentials Metal Cart ($60, Target)

Target always has a good selection of baskets. I recently bought the fabric bins (shown below) to hand off clean laundry to the kids for them to put away. I’m still working on getting them to actually move the clothes from the baskets to their drawers, but I do love the baskets.

 

striped fabric bins

These plastic bins are another inexpensive and easy clean option.

polypropylene baskets

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Green smoothie cleanse

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

blender

I know green drinks have been all the rage for some time now. I really was never that interested in jumping on that trend until I met two friends for coffee the other day and heard what they had to say. They had both recently done the same one week green smoothie cleanse and both lost 5 pounds in one week. Frankly I was so ready to lose 5 pounds in one week, I was ready to try anything. Something about turning 40 seems to have slowed down my metabolism. The pounds have been creeping on, and my usual methods to lose a few have been unsuccessful.

I don’t like to do extreme diets, but when I got the details, this one sounded pretty manageable. Here’s what you eat:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie consisting of 2 cups of water, 2 cups of fruit, three handfuls (three cups) of greens like spinach, kale or spring mix and up to 2 tablespoons of flax meal (or flax seeds)
  • Lunch: Green smoothie (same as above)
  • Snacks: Crunchy vegetables, apples, up to 2 Tablespoons of nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter), raw nuts (a handful a day). One friend added avocado and eggs because she was craving fats.
  • Dinner: Another smoothie (if you’re hard core) or if you prefer to do the modified version, you have lean protein and vegetables or salad.

You guys, these smoothies are delicious. Take a look:

green-smoothie

I use frozen bananas, frozen pineapple and frozen mango. I also tried frozen berries, but I don’t like it as much with berries. Something about that putrid color maybe. For my greens, I like spinach the best. Spring mix is okay, but romaine was way too stringy. I use a regular blender, which seems to do the trick, but the romaine left stringy bits in the drink. Gross, I know.

And the results? In two and a half days, and some cheating here and there (a mini croissant, a piece of pizza, mashed potatoes, a few chocolate caramel balls — okay maybe a lot of cheating), I’ve lost three pounds! I know — you’re thinking those pounds are just going to come back, but according to my friends, most of the weight they lost has stayed off.

Normally I drink a ton of coffee in the morning, but my desire for coffee has actually gone down and I am fine with just one cup. I can even imagine skipping the coffee because I’m so excited to blend up my filling and refreshing green drink! This is not normal for me.

So if you want to give it a try, take my friend’s advice and “be as lenient or as strict as you want.” I like the no pressure approach.

Here’s a link for smoothie inspiration: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Nutritionist-JJ-Smith-Shares-10-Day-Smoothie-Cleanse-Recipes-250635741.html

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Fun summer meal: Muffin tin lunch (or dinner)

Monday, June 23, 2014

muffin-tin-dinner

A few nights ago, I told the kids I would make a “kids’ choice” dinner. My daughter shouted out “Muffin tin!” I haven’t made the kids a muffin tin meal in YEARS, so it was fun to throw together this dinner and reminisce about when the kids were little. Plus, it’s always nice when it takes less than 5 minutes to make dinner AND the kids eat it all up. Tonight’s gourmet meal included a hot dog, PBJ waffle sandwiches, apple slices, string cheese, Siggi’s yogurt tube, grape tomatoes, snap peas and cheddar sandwich crackers. Do any of you ever serve meals in a muffin tin?

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Easy Family Dinner Idea: Tostada Night

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

tostada-two

My kids made tostadas last week at camp and had been begging to make them at home, so last night that’s exactly what we did. I can’t believe I never thought to do this before. It’s so easy, fun, and best of all — customizable for everyone’s different tastes. Here’s what we used:

  • One package of Guerrero tostada shells
  • La Preferida vegetarian lowfat refried beans (which according to my son are WAY better than our usual Rosarita fat-free refried beans)
  • One package shredded lettuce
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Crema Mexicana (sour cream). If you have a Mexican supermarket nearby, the Crema Mexicana is delish and the packaging is so pretty.
  • Salsa
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Smashed avocado
  • Shredded Rotisserie chicken
  • Hot sauce (I like Sriracha.)
  • Tortilla chips

My son was in charge of the beans, which he heated in a pot on the stove. I laid out all the toppings in bowls, and when my parents arrived for the fiesta, we all got to work topping our tostada shells to our liking and digging in. I cropped the photo below not to be artsy, but to hide the big bites I took before I thought to get out the camera.

tostada-one

If you have picky eaters in the family, just set out enough toppings so there’s something for everyone to love. Add some cerveza or margaritas and make it a party!

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How to make a presidential powdered wig

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

powderedwig

When my son came home from school a few weeks ago and told me he was writing a report on Alexander Hamilton, he was so excited that he had the choice of making a visual aid for his presentation or dressing up. He’s not a big fan of making “art” so his clear choice was to deliver his report dressed as the Founding Father himself.

Of course I immediately thought of this Google commercial about the mom who whipped up a Martin Van Buren costume for her daughter in mere minutes. I showed it to my kids, who wanted to watch it over.. and over.. and over. My son loved the ad but made me promise he wouldn’t end up looking like this:

Martin-Van-Buren

I did use Google, but went the much simpler paper bag and cotton ball route, since I don’t own a pair of pantyhose or a sewing machine. Here’s what we did:

How to make a presidential powdered wig

You’ll need:

  • Small shopping bag
  • Cotton balls or pads
  • Craft glue and paintbrush or glue gun
  • Black ribbon

Instructions:

1. Place paper bag on child’s head and mark how far down the front will need to go to cover his hair.

2. Cut off handles and cut paper bag like this:

bag-instructions

Image from freekidcrafts.com

3. Use glue and paintbrush to coat bag with glue, then place on cotton or cotton pads in overlapping pattern.

4. Stand wig on something to dry.

5. Tie black ribbon around “ponytail” part of wig.

6. Pop on child’s head, give them your black suit jacket and a white fringed scarf tied in a bow and send them off to school dressed in serious 18th century style.

alexander

 

Rock me Amadeus.

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