Part Three Bento Lunches: What to Pack 

So you have read my previous post and made a pledge to pack healthy lunches this year. (You can make an official pledge at Power Your Lunchbox for coupons, free printables and prizes!) You have purchased an awesome lunchbox and maybe some fun tools to use but now you are feeling a little lost about what to put in them (Check out my lunchbox tools post here) No worries, I have composed for you a list of my go to foods for lunches!

 Proteins

  • Deli meats
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned chicken
  • Meatballs (I always have a bag of frozen meatballs on hand)
  • Hard boiled eggs or egg salad
  • Falafel (I get these frozen at Trader Joe’s)
  • Sunbutter (or nut butter if your school allows it.)
  • Sausage links or patties
  • Veggie burgers
  • Hummus

Grains

  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Pasta salad (Have you seen the adorable shaped pastas that World Market carries?!)
  • Pita
  • Whole grain bread
  • Wraps
  • Bagel thins
  • Plantain chips
  • Crackers: my favorites are Annie’s Homegrown, Special K multigrain, Trader Joe’s Edamame, pita chips and pretzel thins
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal

Dairy

  • All natural sliced cheese (great for cutting into shapes!)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Babybel cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese

Vegetables (Raw)

  • Carrots
  • Bell Peppers and mini sweets
  • Celery
  • Green beans
  • Snap peas
  • Jicama
  • Lettuces
  • Tomatoes (grape and cherry)
  • Cucumbers
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Zucchini and yellow squash

Vegetables (cooked) 

  • Carrots*
  • Bell peppers*
  • Green beans*
  • Peas*
  • Corn*
  • Edamame*
  • Succotash*
  • Butternut and acorn squash
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Greens (Kale, collard, mustard)
  • Dr Praeger’s broccoli and spinach little bites (Whole Foods)

*I keep bags of these veggies frozen at all times and just pack a serving as I need them. I often just let them defrost and serve without heating, especially corn and peas!


Fruit (fresh)

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Clementines or tangerines
  • Plums, pluots, plumcots
  • Melons
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes

Fruit (frozen)

  • Berries*
  • Peaches
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple

*Frozen berries work great to mix in with yogurt or to make a smoothie but do not hold up in the defrosting process to serve as your main fruit!

Fruit (canned in 100% juice) 

  • Oranges
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Apricots

Treats

  • Cookies: my favorites are School house cookies and yogurt shaped stars from Trader Joe’s, Annie’s Homegrown animal crackers and Bitsy’s Brain Food Alphabet cookies (found at Target and Kroger)
  • Cookie butter (Trader Joe’s)
  • Dips: ranch, ketchup, BBQ sauce
  • Chocolate chips
  • Dried fruits

Most often when people say they can’t pack bento lunches they site two main reasons.

  1. It wastes food. The only food I waste is the crusts of bread. As do millions of moms who cut the crusts off of their children’s sandwiches! But you could even save these and make bread crumbs from them. When I cut cheese and vegetables I most often put those leftovers in my own lunch for the next day. You could easily use veggies for soups or stock and save cheese to top casseroles.
  2. It costs too much. I can just about guarantee that the lunch I packed is cheaper than buying a lunch able. And certainly healthier. However, one thing to keep in mind when you shop. Always buy in season! You will pretty much never see me pack peaches in the middle of winter unless they are frozen. Also buy small quantities of items. Yes, I may pack 3 fruits for my daughter each day between breakfast, lunch and a snack. However, when I buy bananas I only buy 3-4 at a time for the week and 1-2 apples and pack her a quarter on an apple and take the rest for myself.

What are some of your go to lunch items that you pack for yourself or your kids??? I would love to add to my own collection!

Happy Packing and come check me out on Instagram @hollyamethyst for more lunch ideas and come back here soon for some fun holiday lunch ideas!

Holly

Part One Bento Lunches: Why Pack Bento?

Can you believe it is already Back to School time??! What a better time to talk about the benefits of packing your kiddos school lunches and maybe making them fun! This will be the first in a series of posts focused on packing lunches in a fun and efficient way!


Ever since Grace was a glimmer in my eye I knew that I wanted to pack her fun lunches. I get that it is kind of my “thing” and it might not be yours. That’s okay! But let’s talk about why you might want to consider making bento lunches or just making fun lunches!

First, let’s discuss that bento is a traditional form of lunches that are popular in Japan. If you want a traditional style bento there are certain ratios of rice, veggies, proteins and the way it is set up. So I am using the term “bento” very loosely to describe my style of food art/fun food/packed lunches. Also, while I pretty much always think about making the presentation of food appealing, I don’t necessarily pack food art/theme lunches every day as you can see from Grace’s lunches. However, I do pack my daughter’s lunch EVERY. SINGLE. DAY (and breakfast and snack, too!)

Now that we have that out of the way.. Let’s discuss why we should pack our kids lunches rather than depending on our schools to provide lunches. Maybe I can convince you it isn’t quite as bad as it seems.


Why Pack a Bento?

  • It’s healthier! Have you SEEN what USDA considers healthy??! By packing a lunch I have the ability to pack in season fresh fruits and vegetables that my daughter would rarely be able to eat otherwise. I’m pretty sure I have never seen a kiwi, mango, avocado or zucchini served on a school lunch plate. Look, I GET IT! They have to serve hundreds of kids on a budget and have restricted storage space!
  • Environmentally Friendly! Did you think I was going to go through a whole post without saying something about the environment?! Maybe next time… If you use some of the lunchboxes that are out there to pack lunches for your kiddos then you can help the environment. Instead of using styrofoam plates at school or tons of plastic bags you can use a bento style container. I PROMISE YOU they will pay for themselves! Check out my post next week for my favorites 🙂
  • LEFTOVERS!! If your kiddo has access to a microwave or if you have a thermos or food that can be served cold, you can send in your leftovers from dinner, which makes packing a BREEZE.
  • You know what your kid has eaten. Maybe I am the only one that cares about this one.. But if I KNOW Grace ate all of her lunch and she only takes 2 bites at dinner, I am okay with that. If she hasn’t eaten at all the entire day I know something may be up with her. When I get her box back and half the food is in it and she asks for a snack as soon as she gets in the car, I know why.
  • Quality Control. I had a friend who was a school teacher that has told me how gross school cafeterias are. I am confident that this is not true across the board- so no shade toward you awesome school lunch workers out there! But I know exactly what is in all of the food I send in for my kiddo. I don’t have to worry about her getting moldy bread, bugs in the kitchen, mice problems, food that is undercooked, hair in the food, etc.
  • Send in a little love. I know that I need to work. I know that my daughter is well cared for at her daycare and she LOVES going. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t often think about how I wish we were together every day. Packing a cute little lunch is my way of sending my daughter a little love in the middle of the day when we have been apart for a few hours. She can open up her lunch box and it’s like a little love note from me. I’m sure she just sees a sandwich that looks like a cat, but at least she likes cats.
  • Variety. This ties in a little with the fact that it is healthier. When you pack a bento style lunch you often pack small amounts of several types of foods. That way in the event that your kiddo decided that morning that apples are the worst ever even though they ate them all day yesterday, they have other options. I will purposefully pack small amounts of things that I KNOW Grace doesn’t like and pack them over and over again in her lunch. Guess what? She has started eating her raw carrots and watermelon!
  • Creativity. This is kind of a two fold benefit. It’s fun for ME to pack fun lunches. I enjoy making Grace’s lunches cute and the challenge that I can make it. (Like my ABC lunches that have been challenging me for nearly a YEAR and I am only on “I”) There have been some EPIC fails, don’t get me wrong but I enjoy trying to get my creative juices going and seeing how amazingly creative other moms are out there. I also think that your kiddos will enjoy the creativity. Grace gets a kick out of telling me what her lunches were each day. She will look through the pictures on my phone and giggle at the different lunch themes I have made for her. It makes food fun for her too!

I hope this encourages you to start packing your kids lunches this year to give them healthy and yummy options! Come back next week and check out part two on my favorite tools to make lunch packing as quick and painless as possible. Also come check me out on Instagram @hollyamethyst for all of Grace’s lunches!

Marquee Love with the Kids

Hello, hello!  Apryl with you today to share a little Marquee Love!  Heidi Swapp has these great DIY Marquee letters available at stores like Walmart, Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  They come in A-Z, and some assorted shapes like arrows and hashtags and are around $12.  Marquees are all the rage right now in home decor and  the DIY version is perfect for those of you who want to add your own style and flair.  This DIY kit is really simple.  So simple the kids can do it.

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What it is, is a plain white letter that comes with a letter template, the lights, and the bulbs.  The sky is the limit when it comes to decorating these.  If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry.  There are Heidi Swapp Paper pads, washi tape rolls in the perfect sizes, glitter and Marquee glue to get you started.  For this letter, my daughter and I began by tracing the S (using the provided template) on to the glitter paper.  We also marked the holes.

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After cutting out the letter from the glitter paper, we punched the holes out with a hole punch.  The holes are an important detail to remember because that’s where the lights go!

We then took a roll of Heidi Swapp pink and white washi tape to cover the outside edge of the letter.  This washi tape is the perfect width and you just roll it out and smooth it along the sides, careful not to get air bubbles,  It’s easy to lift up if it takes a couple of times to get it lined up just right.

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Once the decorating is done, it’s time to get the lights in.  The bulbs simply push down into the holes and fit nice and snug.  On the backside of the letter is where the string of lights go in.                 \                                                                                            IMG_8361

Most letters will stand up on a flat surface or can easily be hung on the wall.  My daughter Sydney proudly displays her first initial masterpiece on the wall in her room.

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Hope this inspires you to create some Marquee decor of your own with your kids, or on your own.  Have fun with it and be creative!

Apryl

@adh_j

Exercise with Littles:{Lunges + squats + planks + lifts}

I don’t know about you, but if you were anything like me during pregnancy- you put on some weight. I went from being 175 pounds (I was in the process of being healthier when I found out I was preggo) to delivering my 6lb 12oz baby boy at 266 pounds. My doctor was in shock during the beginning of my third trimester when I had managed to gain 30 pounds in just under a month. A closer look revealed I had polyhydramnios and the start of preeclampsia. I enjoyed just about all of my pregnancy but during those last few weeks, I was ready to meet my little guy. None of my clothes fit, I spent one night crying because I literally couldn’t get off of the living room floor without my husband helping, I had elephant sized cankles, and EVERYONE would ask me how many babies I was having. BTW, it was ONE guys, just one baby! So, after Isaiah was born and I was off of my two week restriction from the c-section, it was time to get to work!
In the beginning, losing weight was easy! I was exclusively pumping because little man couldn’t latch, and I was keeping busy with housework and chores and the numbers on the scale we’re going down. But then as my supply dwindled when Izzy turned 5 months, the numbers on the scale stopped changing too. Now it was time to actually do some work. Because it had been a WHILE since I had done any form of real exercise, me and the hubs started with walking. We’d pack up the diaper bag, load Izzy in the car and go to the park down the road that had a walking trail. We would walk just about everyday, unless it rained or we had plans to go out. The numbers on the scale started going down again; for a little while. Then I was stuck again. And still over 200 pounds. I was so frustrated and my hubs would calmly tell me, it takes work; it takes time.
Nowadays, Izzy wants ALL of everyone’s attention, ALL of the time! He’s just at that age where he wants to play and wants the people around him to be fully engaged with him. So when it comes to exercise, I’ve got to be creative!
Izzy helps me do four different exercise moves and since he weighs 22 pounds- it’s hard work! We usually start with planks. While I am planking, Izzy hangs out right in between my forearms and we talk and make silly faces. Most days, planking consists of at least five grabs at my face and hair while my core starts to shake! But we make it through.
Next, we move on to squats! This is one of Izzy’s favorite moves. I start with knees bent at a 90 degree angle while I hold Izzy in front of me, against my chest. Then as I move up, I bring Izzy out away from my chest and up above my head; all while making rocket noises of course! He also loves pretending to be Superman. Most days we get in 15 reps. (This kid is heavy, remember!)
After squats, we bust out some lunges. I keep Izzy close to my chest for these too, and every other time that I go into a lunge, I dip Izzy upside down for a second. His giggles make it all worth it! I try to get in 10 reps per leg when we do lunges.
And finally, we end our mama and me workout with lifts. These bad boys give me jell-o arms. But I should have some killer arms by the end of the year for sure! I lay on my back with my knees bent and my feet flat on the floor. Izzy starts out sitting on my core with my hands under his armpits. Then I lift Izzy superman style! After I bring him back down I thrown in some tickles, and sometimes when I need a couple seconds break in between lifts we play peek-a-boo (one of his favorite games).
It’s all a great way for me to work my way to being a fit mama, but more importantly- we have fun! I spend one on one time with my little guy, work out my body, and show my sweet babe how to be active and healthy! Plus I’m finally down to 202 pounds! (Getting closer to pre-pregnancy weight one step at a time!) It’s basically a win for everyone.

 

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We hope you give our mama & me workout a try. Leave a comment and let us know how it went, or other ways you get in exercise with your little!
Kelsey + Izzy

@Radlittleizzy on IG

RadLittleIzzy.squarespace.com

Farmer’s Market Panzanella Salad

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Certain foods just taste better in the summer. One of my favorite summer foods is a panzanella salad. I like to go to the farmer’s market to pick up my ingredients for this yummy and filling salad. Of course, I love to go to the farmer’s market for many reasons. And since I like lists, here are my favorite reasons to shop at the farmer’s market!

1. Avoid the Coldscape: Do you know WHY the tomatoes you grow or buy at the farmer’s market taste so much better? They are allowed to ripen on the vine and picked at their peak and sold to you. When you buy produce from the grocery store the food goes through what is called the coldscape. Upon being picked it is chilled to nearly freezing to slow down the ripening process. Don’t get me wrong, without the coldscape, I would have never eaten a mango or banana in my life. But when I can avoid the coldscape I will!

2. Get your kids involved: Our local farmer’s market has a goat milk soap vendor and they will often bring their baby goats for petting, they have a playground, music and ice cream. It is a great opportunity for my daughter to choose new fruits or vegetables that she would like. She learns what different foods look like and from where they come. A true family event that you definitely do not get at the grocery store!

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3. Try something new: For this trip we got golden cauliflower to try. I love that there are so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables that are not always found in our local grocer.  You can ask the farmer’s themselves what it tastes like and they can often give you ideas on how to prepare it.

4. Good for the local economy: Support your local farmer! Keep your money local! There is a reason why shopping local is so huge right now. It’s just the right thing to do whenever possible.

5. Good for the planet: I know, I know.. I say this in most of my posts. But it is true. You avoid all of the transportation costs of shipping your food halfway around the planet when you buy local. Think of all that electricity that must be used to keep the coldscape functional. It’s just better for the planet to buy as much as you can from a local farmer.

After our trip to the farmer’s market we were all set to make our panzanella salad. The great thing about this salad is that it is super versatile. You need some type of crusty bread, a juicy vegetable and olive oil. Other than that you can adjust to your taste. I hate to sound like Ina Garten here… but I would highly recommend using “good” olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We will typically buy a big bottle of average olive oil for every day cooking and keep a small bottle of the expensive stuff for finishing oil, dressings, etc. This recipe is very approximate; just do whatever looks good to you!

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1 pint cherry/grape tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes

1 medium cucumber

½ French baguette

1 bunch green onions

Handful of fresh basil

1 tbsp fresh oregano

Fresh mozzarella cheese

1 clove garlic

“good” olive oil

“good” balsamic vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Cut bread into large cubes and add to large bowl with halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, chopped greens of green onion, chopped basil and oregano, cubed cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste and chop garlic finely. Drizzle about 2 TBSP of olive oil and 3 TBSP of balsamic vinegar over everything and toss until everything is coated well.

Refrigerate for at least a few hours. I like to refrigerate it for awhile to let all of the juice soak up the bread and then let it come back up to room temperature for serving. It will taste even better the next day if you can wait that long!

And THAT is summer in a bowl, my friends!

I hope you enjoy!
Holly

Collect Moments Not Things

Hi it’s Apryl and in my last post I shared some photo taking tips using your phone and shard some recent vacation photos of mine.  Today I’m here to show you how to get those fabulous photos from your phone and into photo albums.  It’s all done with your phone.  Have you heard of Becky Higgins and Project Life?  If you haven’t you need to check it out.  She has developed an easy way to scrapbook and this past year has brought it to the next level by creating a Project Life App.  Right now it’s only available for iPhones, but rest assured the Android version is currently being developed as well!  It’s awesome.

Here are a few pages I made using the app:

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To make these pages, you need your phone, your phone pictures, and the app.  Here’s what the app looks like so you can find it easily in the app store:

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To give you a good idea of what the app is like here is a bit of a step by step.  You are given some page templates and kits when you first by the app and of course you can purchase more kits for $0.99 or $1.99.  Once you have completed pages, you can have them printed straight from the app.  Choose either 8×8 pages for $0.99 each or 12×12 pages for $1.99.  The quality is AWESOME and when they arrive you just slip them right into the page protectors of your album.

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You’ll have a ton of fabulous pages in your photo albums in no time at all!!

            

      

Have fun with all this creativity right in the palm of your hand!

5 Quick & Easy Exercises for the Mom on the Run

It’s no secret that carrying a child does a number on your body. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with having our old body back after the bundle of joy makes that grand entrance. Most of us have to accept the #mombod. For me, I gained a ton of weight….More weight than I am comfortable with to be honest. I lost more than half within the first couple of weeks after delivery, but I had a good bit left before I could get back to pre-baby weight. 

For the first few months after the little arrives, life is well…. chaotic to put it nicely-  diapers, bottles, sleepless nights, cranky babies- all of it can frazzle you to no end. But, all the craziness does come to an end and eventually you do start to think about yourself and YOUR wants once again. 

I became a single mom when my son was 18 months. I was a college student with over a year left to graduation and the VP of an organization on campus. I was BUSY. I was TIRED.  I had NO TIME! So those were my excuses.  I’ll start my healthier lifestyle AFTER I graduate I told myself. 

Well, its been 3 1/2 years  AFTER graduation and I am just getting around to living a healthier lifestyle. Why? Because I was full of EXCUSES!  Now as a single mom, I own a children’s boutique,   Paper Plane Lane do some private accounting AND recently started doing some Social Media Marketing. It’s VERY EASY for me to say that I do not have time BUT this time I decided to throw the excuses out the window and add fitness to my life . 

Here are 5 ways I use to squeeze being active into my daily life:

1) Do 50 squats  while brushing your teeth- BOTH morning and night. – takes some practice- my best advice is imagine your going to sit on a bench. Start with your arms behind your back, as you bring them in front of your body, squat down and sit on that bench! Watch this video: 

How To Do A Squat

2) Before bath time, do 50 lunges on each leg- make sure to place your hands on your hips to help with balance!  Watch this video:

How To Do a Lunge
3) Everytime you decide to open the refrigerator- do 1 min plank- on each side- yes EACH side- and the BASIC plank- that’s ONLY 3 minutes of your life at a time, you can spare that! I bet you think twice about opening the refrigerator again!  Core strength helps with lower back pain mommas- I suffer a good bit with lower back pain, adding planks has helped tremendously! 

How To Do A Plank
4)  Do 250 jumping jacks throughtout the day- try to get in 50 at a time- babies think this is the funniest ever- use it as a form of entertainment and to get some cardio in! 
5) Do 250 jump ropes throughout the day- try to get in 50 at a time- this is also a form of entertainment for the little as well! I spent many days jump roping in my home with an infant. He’s finally at the age that he wants to learn to exercise with his momma! Score! 

Be on the look out for my fitness goal for the rest of the year… Coming soon! 

Until then, keep working on your #mombod ladies! 

—brandi