Aug 28, 2013

Help with School Lunches!

It's that time of the year again!  Time to make the school lunches!  For me, one of the best freedoms of summer vacation is the freedom from packing four school lunches. I am always looking for tips and tricks to make it easier and quicker!

At the same time, our family has been trying to eat more "real food".  And by real food, I mean food that is minimally processed.  Abiding by this idea cuts out a lot of my school lunch go-tos!  No more single serving packages of chips or pretzels!  No more overly-sugared yogurt tubes!  Lots more homemade goods and fruits and veggies!

Today I'm sharing links to several resources around the web that I've found helpful as we begin the school year.  Hope you find something that helps your family, too!

I really try to not have too much disposable stuff in my kids' lunches.  These lunch containers are my favorites.  I'm also going to try these this year.  And to replace those yogurt tubes, I may try smoothies in these silicon freezer tubes.

I use this lunch box but have also seen lots of people who use these.

This blog is all about eating real food and she's got a whole section all about school lunches.  Recipes, too!  I've been spending a lot of time on her site, getting ideas and trying things out. 

This is a great post about making lunches quickly.  Lots of other great ideas on her site.

I also found this good idea for doing a bunch of prep before the week starts so that each morning goes smoothly and quickly (At least in terms of lunch-making!  No guarantees on anything else!)  

As you may  know, there are also TONS of great ideas on Pinterest.  Poke around, see what you find, then come back here and let us know what caught your eye in the comments!

Aug 27, 2013

Pencil Cup Upgrade

All you need:
Needle or Tape
Pencil Cup from Dollar Store

I didn't have a needle that would be big enough for the yarn and also small enough to thread through the holes in the cup, so I twisted the end of the yarn and taped it up tightly. That's what I used as a "needle" and it worked great.

Like so:
Then just thread the yarn through in any pattern you like.  I did a very simple up-and-down pattern.  Adds a little extra color and zip to a plain pencil cup for very little money and just a little time!

Aug 21, 2013

Three Sieves

With the new school year upon us, I am sure that I will have opportunity to speak to my children about their teachers and friends, both old and new.  In times of transition, discontentment and criticism can easily creep in as we find our way in new settings and new situations.  I hope to help my children (and myself!) keep their words encouraging and hopeful, rather than tearing-down and negative.

In my daily reading the other day, I came across these three sieves, three filters for our words (and even...gasp!...our thoughts).

We can ask ourselves these three questions before we speak:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

I don't know about you, but that last one really gets me.  Is it NECESSARY?  I probably say a lot of things that aren't really necessary; they may not serve much of a purpose but to make me feel better.  

While I do plan to share these three sieves with my children, I hope to keep them in mind for myself as I go about my day.

What about you?  Are negative words or gossip a struggle for you?  How can we encourage one another?

Aug 19, 2013

2-Ingredient Pumpkin Spice Muffins

I've made these yummy pumpkin spice muffins for family breakfasts, teacher appreciation events, bake sales, you name it.  They are always a hit, and without fail someone will ask me for the recipe.  The taste reminds me of the pumpkin loaf from Starbucks.  

The funny part?  These are the easiest muffins you'll ever make, and you only need two or three ingredients!

What you need:

1 Box Spice Cake Mix
1 Can Pureed Pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
Pumpkin Seeds (Optional)

What you do:

Heat oven according to instructions on box for cupcakes.  

Grease or line muffin tin.  

Empty dry cake mix and pumpkin into large bowl.  Nothing else goes in here, no matter what the box tells you to do.  Blend cake mix and pumpkin with a hand mixer for 30 seconds, then mix for about two minutes or until everything is blended.  Don't panic!  This will be THICK, kind of like cookie dough.  Don't get crazy and add water or eggs or anything.  Trust me.  Just use a spoon or two and pop the mixture into the muffin tin.  

You can top with pumpkin seeds here, if you like.

Bake according to cake mix directions.  (I usually have to bake mine about a minute or two beyond what the box says.  A toothpick should come out clean when they're done.)

If you don't put the seeds on top, they look quite "rustic," I'll say.  Our family lovingly calls them Ugly Muffins.  They might not be much to look at, but they are delicious!  Make a batch of these, and you'll see.


Aug 9, 2013

Personalize your spiral notebook

Last week, I posted this post listing some easy and creative ways to use some of your extra school supplies. 

This week I'm showing you the Personalized Spiral Notebook

Supplies needed:
spiral notebook
pipe cleaners
spray adhesive
wax paper

First lay out your wax paper and place your spiral in the middle.  Using whatever pattern or design you wish, start laying out your pipe cleaners in order.  The pipe cleaners will probably be too long, so you have 2 options:  cut them before you glue them down or lay them all down and cut them all after the glue dries.

Then, using a piece of cardboard or plastic as a barrier, spray 1-2 inches of your spiral, starting on the left.  As quickly as possible, place the pipe cleaners on the sticky surface until you've covered all of the adhesive.  Then using a piece of plastic or cardboard as a protective barrier, spray the next 1-2 inches and lay the pipe cleaners.  Repeat the process until you've covered the entire cover.  Allow the glue to dry completely before you cut the excess or before you use it.

I'm going back to school this fall, and our school colors are blue and gold.  I thought this would be a nice, personalized gift for another teacher or a student.

Come back next Friday for a new super easy school supply craft idea.

Aug 7, 2013

Family Reunion Fun

We just got back from an amazing family reunion and I have to share with you an activity we did that seemed crazy at first, but ended up being one of my favorites.

Are you ready for this?

Are you sure?

Okay, here it is...synchronized swimming.  That's right, at our family reunion we had a synchronized swimming competition.  And it. was. awesome.

This wasn't my idea, so I can't claim any credit for it.  In fact, at first I wasn't very enthused by the idea.  But after watching the three teams perform their routines, I think this idea is a total winner!

Here is how we did it.  Teams were formed randomly, but with effort to get each team balanced with people from each generation.  The oldest team member was my Uncle Steve, who is 80, and the youngest team member was my cousins's son, Isaac, who is 4.  And of course, there were all sorts of ages in between.  We ended up with teams of 5 to 7 people.

Once the teams were formed, we had about an hour to come up with a routine and song and to practice said routine.  We practiced on land and in the water.  We also appointed two or three judges.

Here's what I think is great about this activity:

1.  It gets the generations working together.  So fun to see old and young coming up with ideas together.

2.  Anyone can participate.  My team kept our routine in the shallow end of the pool for our shorter participants, but one team had a participant wearing a life jacket.  So awesome.

3.  It is creative, but also completely silly.  Ridiculous, really.

4.  It made everyone laugh.  Really hard. For a long, long time.  

And just to prove my point, I give you this (very shaky from laughing) video (and please forgive my ridiculous giggling):

I think this idea could work with any number of gatherings, not only family reunions.  

What are some of the fun things you have done at family reunions?  I'd love to have more ideas for the next time we get together!

Aug 5, 2013

Yearly Project for Graduation Gift

Ashlee at Two Naps by Noon came up with a great idea for a long-term project that will be a huge hit with your child when he/she graduates.  

Write a letter to your child each year at a specific time, including interesting facts about them from the previous year, and include some cash.  Then, however many envelopes you have, you can give them one per day leading up to graduation.  I think I'll do mine at the beginning or end of each school year and possibly give to them in the days leading up to the time they move away for college.  

They will have lots of "love letters" to send them off and a nice little nest egg to get started.

I just wish I'd known about this when my kids were younger!

Aug 2, 2013

Fun and creative ways to use all those school supplies

School supply time is magical.  Seriously.  Second only to Christmastime, school supply shopping is my favorite time of year.  Is there anything better than the smell of a fresh box of crayons, a new unused spiral, a clean and full eraser?  That's right...NO there's not.

Where we live, school supply lists are coming out and the supplies are on sale.  The urge to buy is too much to resist.  When my local store posts a "Limit 6" sign, I HAVE to buy 6, even if we only need a few.  I usually end up with extra school supplies pouring out of our craft cabinet and no idea what to do with them.  So what can YOU do with all of these extras?  Here you go...
  • Pencil cases make EXCELLENT make up bags.  
  • Make a crayon wreath.
  • Use clear school boxes to store your measuring spoons.
  • Turn composition books into one of a kind journals
  • Punch holes in your kids artwork (it's okay, I promise) and keep them in a binder on a shelf or a coffee table to use as an art book.
  • Cover spiral notebooks in pipe cleaners for a creative cover. 
  • Use food coloring and Elmer's Glue to turn clear glass vases, jars, and bowls into sea glass.  
  • Melt down crayons in any mold to create a unique crayon or even decoration.
  • Use index cards cut into shapes to make gift tags for any occasion.
  • Glue map pencils or regular pencils around a cup, can or jar to create a one of a kind pencil holder for your desk!  (You can do it with crayons, too!)
  • And best of all.... school supplies can be a great giving opportunity for your kids.  Collect extras of everything and take them to local homeless shelters or community centers for children who need help!

But now I need YOUR input.  Which of the above crafts would YOU like to see in a detailed how to post?  In the coming weeks I will post detailed instructions. Stay tuned!