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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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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Noosa Yoghurt

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Noosa1

Have you noticed a new yogurt in the refrigerator case? It’s called Noosa and I had the great pleasure of receiving not one, but three cases of samples to try. The timing couldn’t have been better, because I was hosting a pre-hike breakfast at my house, so I got to share these treats with friends.

Noosa5

The Noosa got rave reviews — from the kids, the guests and me. It had been a long time since I indulged in flavored yogurt (anti-sugar mom that I am). I normally give the kids plain yogurt sweetened with honey. But I have to be honest. I had forgotten how good sweet yogurt can taste.

Noosa (named after a beachy paradise in Australia) was founded by an Australian couple who moved to Colorado and missed the “thick, velvety, tangy and sweet” yogurt from home. Well, I’d say they succeeded in creating such a treat. We tried raspberry, lemon and blueberry. Lemon was my favorite.

Noosa2

My son prefers the blueberry. Just look at all that fruity goodness he’s spooning up from the bottom:

Noosa3

Noosa is made with locally sourced milk and honey from Morning Fresh Dairy and Beeyond the Hive. It comes in these flavors: honey, blueberry, mango, raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, peach, passion fruit, lemon, tart cherry and plain. I usually let the kids have one “sweet thing” each day, and I count this as the sweet. They get so excited when I let them have a Noosa with breakfast.

After we’ve depleted our samples, I think I’ll buy Noosa every now and then as a special treat. It’s definitely a delicious way for me to get more dairy into my diet. Have you tried Noosa? What do you think?

Click here to find out where you can buy Noosa in your area.

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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.

milkbone-giving

milkbone-smile

milkbone-choppers

milkbone-yum

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:

milkbone2

milkbone3

milkbone-box

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

milkbone-mini

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.

painting-rocks

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.

rocks-tray

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

clif1

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.)

clif2

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.

clif3

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).

clif4

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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