Looking back through my blog I realized that I've shown a lot of my cute or specialty creations, and not very many of my "everyday" lunches. I also talk a lot about what works well for us, but rarely share things that don't work so well! The other day I pulled together a lunch that gives me the perfect opportunity to share both an everyday lunch and one to file in the fail category. Don't get me wrong...it wasn't an "epic fail" (trust me when I say we've had some doozies) but it certainly wasn't one of my better lunches.
You see, the night before I packed this lunch I made up a bunch of roast beef/cheese and ham/cheese sliders and wrapped them in foil so we'd have them on hand for busy nights between football and/or hockey practice. My fifth grader was so excited to see them in the fridge the next morning and he begged me to pack one in his lunch. It seemed easy enough so I was happy to oblige. I heated the sandwich in the oven for a good 15-20 minutes, pulled it out and let it cool slightly, and for good measure wrapped it in another layer of tin foil in an effort to keep it warm until lunchtime.
When my son came home I found an empty lunch box which I took as a good sign. However, when I asked him how he liked his lunch he said it was "ok" with a look on his face that told me it wasn't great. I asked for details and he explained that the sandwich was cold (which would have been fine) except the bread gets really crunchy when you bake it so it's a lot easier to eat when it's warm. He also said that he was still REALLY hungry when he finished so evidently even though it was a bigger/heftier sandwich than I normally make it wasn't enough for my growing boy. I'm learning that it takes a fair amount of food to fill him up so I'm going to have to pack his lunches accordingly moving forward.
So, there you have it! An everyday and very much imperfect lunch. Until I can find a better solution for keeping sandwiches warm until lunchtime the sliders will have to be reserved for after school snacks or dinners on the run.
I'm hoping some of you can relate when I say that school mornings around our house are nothing short of chaotic. A typical morning for us includes me in the kitchen making breakfast, packing lunches, and getting ready for work while my husband outlines our schedules for the day and ties up any paperwork and other odds and ends. The kids are eating, getting ready for school, packing their backpacks, stopping every now and then for a quick knee hockey game all while the dog is running underfoot making sure nobody forgets to feed him.
Last year our chaotic mornings really started to take a toll on all of us and I knew we needed to change something. Whatever we were doing wasn't working as almost every morning the kids were fighting, we were running around like crazy to get everything pulled together before they left for school, their rooms were left in shambles for the day, and the kids often forgot something at home that they needed at school. Let's just say...our mornings were not pretty.
Then, I stumbled across the book Cleaning Houseby Kay Wills Wyma and read about a morning routine strategy that I thought might just be the perfect solution for us! In the book she recommends filling a jar with one dollar for every day of the month for each of your children. The kids have a list of tasks that need to be done by a certain time every day or a dollar is removed from the jar. At the end of the month the kids get to keep whatever money remains in the jar. When we implemented this system we were very clear with the kids about the morning expectations. In order for our kids to keep a dollar in their jar they need to complete 5 tasks by 8:15am: 1) Make Beds 2) Brush Teeth 3) Comb Hair 4) Put Clothes Away 5) Backpacks Packed We gently reminded them about the expectations for the first few days, but then let them know it was their responsibility to complete the tasks without being reminded. If they leave for school and we realize they didn't do something on the list we simply remove a dollar from the jar and leave a little note explaining why they lost a dollar.
We have tried several "allowance" techniques in the past and none have worked well for our family. This, however, has been very effective...not only in streamlining our morning routine, but it also give the kids an opportunity to earn and manage money which they love! This has definitely brought welcome relief to our morning routine so I thought it was worth writing about in case any of my readers are struggling with similar issues.
It's been a while since I've done a "Monday Morning" post so I thought I'd share a new favorite breakfast around our house. A few weeks ago , while on a family vacation, our oldest son tried a Mexican Quesadilla and LOVED it. He begged me to try to recreate the recipe so I did my best and this is what I came up with!
Today was a bittersweet day as we sent our kids off for their first day of school knowing this would be our oldest son's last year in elementary school. Everyone always told us that time would go so quickly once the boys started school, but we didn't realize just how fast it would go. It seems like only yesterday when we walked him into the Kindergarten classroom and hoped beyond all hope that he would have a positive school experience.
As my oldest son starts fifth grade and my youngest starts second grade today, I have to say that we are so appreciative for our school and the environment the staff provides for our children. I know a lot of people must think their school is "the best", but I truly do believe our little elementary school has something special. Whether it's camaraderie among the staff, the teacher-student relationships, the communication between parent-teachers, the community involvement, the extraordinary field trips, or perhaps it's a combination of it all...whatever it is, they have definitely developed a culture within the school that makes it wonderful to be a part of!
Both of our children, with the help of the teachers and staff at the school, have developed a love of learning. When my oldest son was going through his "reluctant reader" phase it felt like a pivotal moment. It seemed as though my son could have easily learned to hate reading and been frustrated with school in general. However, his teachers were right there guiding him to books that were perfectly suited for his interests and skill level. We worked together and I'm happy to say that as he heads into fifth grade he now loves to read and has become quite a bookworm.
What the school has done for our kids really does go beyond the classroom though. One thing I love about our school is that they value their community and encourage the kids to be involved. Over the years the students have collected money for cancer patients through the "Pennies for Patients" program, purchased groceries for local families in need, donated school supplies, the list goes on and on... Teachers and staff often go above and beyond when it comes to providing opportunities for our kids to practice good citizenship and for that we are thankful!
We honestly can't say enough about our this school. I know we will be eternally grateful for both the educational foundation and the lessons in citizenship they have provided the boys. We couldn't have asked for a better environment for them to be in through their elementary years.
Thank you, NHE! Here's to another fabulous year!
And because we think our "school rocks" I thought I'd go with that theme for today's lunch. The lunch includes: peanut butter lavash bread sandwich (you could use sunbutter for a nut-free option), strawberries/blueberries, grapes, string cheese, gluten-free Snickerdoodle cookies, cucumbers
A few years ago my sister-in-law and I had a great conversation about a tradition they planned to start with their kids as they entered into their school years. She and her husband would pick one character trait (i.e. citizenship, trustworthiness, kindness, integrity, etc...) to focus on throughout the year to bring attention to something they considered to be of great importance. It was a concept that resonated with me and ever since then I've been trying to think of ways we could incorporate a similar concept into our home.
Every time I've tried to narrow the choices down to one trait I've been overwhelmed and unable to choose. Then earlier this summer I was reading "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"by Susan Cain and it hit me. The trait I'd most like to focus on with my children this year is CHARACTER. In the book the author explains how we, as a society, have shifted from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality as outlined by cultural historian Warren Susman. He explained that as the country transformed from an agricultural nation to an urbanized powerhouse at the turn of the twentieth century the way Americans behaved was drastically altered.
The Culture of Character, perhaps best remembered by my grandparent's generation, was a time when the ideal self was disciplined & honorable. Good manners, integrity, citizenship, duty, golden deeds, reputation, and good moral standing were highly desirable traits. The author said that during this time "What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private."
This is in stark contrast of what so many people of our generation are drawn to as an ideal self. The new Culture of Personality is a time when people are hyper-aware of how others perceive them, they are captivated by people who are bold & entertaining, and they desire "performance" roles. Traits associated with this culture are dominant, forceful, stunning, magnetic & glowing. In his findings Susman wrote, "Every American was to become a performing self." It seems I could go on for days with examples of how this "Culture of Personality" is playing out in today's society, but I think the recent performance of a certain someone at the VMA's is evidence enough. I'm sure every single one of us has plenty of examples of people in our lives who go to extraordinary lengths to get noticed, validated, and/or publicly recognized. It points to the fact that we've become far more self-serving as a society and according to Susman, it might explain the plethora of anxiety issues facing so many Americans as of late.
Having read this information I was immediately compelled to focus our attention on honoring CHARACTER in our children. Throughout the school year (and beyond) we'll be talking about what good character means and looks like. We will keep our eyes open for opportunities to encourage & praise the kids when they display good character along with pointing out others who are showing acts of character. We'll also be sure to share a lot of stories about our grandparent's generation where people were expected to work hard, have integrity, show good manners, be good citizens, and live with honor. These are all traits we hope to instill in our kids so focusing on CHARACTER seemed like a good focal point as we head into a new school year. Hopefully, this is something we can continue with each and every year.
To serve as a little reminder for our kids I printed this photo of my grandfather (a.k.a. Popo) working in his garden along with a quote that seemed fitting for our focus this year...CHARACTER.
I also created the same quote on a chalkboard background you can download HERE if you want to print a version for yourself!
Since we are on the subject of good character...friends of ours from the neighborhood have been supplying us with beautiful zucchini from their garden. We love them for this as it has allowed me to experiment with lots of new recipes. I found one I will definitely be adding to my recipe rotation so I thought I'd share it with you. My kids think this tastes just like their Grandma's chocolate pudding cake!
Chocolate Zucchini Cake (adapted fromComfy Belly)
The first time I made this recipe I made it in a loaf pan which worked well. With school starting early next week I thought I'd make this batch in mini cake pans so they could easily fit in the kid's lunch boxes. You could use mini muffin tins or a simple square cake pan as well. The cake pan I used can be found HERE. What I like about it is that you can invert the mini cakes and fill them with berries, ice cream, or another topping of choice OR simply turn right side up for a traditional mini muffin.
Keep them inverted and fill them with berries, ice cream, or another topping of choice!
Or flip them over for a more traditional mini muffin!
As some of you know I work full-time as a photographer and graphic designer in addition to recording my thoughts on food, children's literature, and nutrition here on This Lunch Rox. One question I'm often asked is "How do you have time to do it all?". I see this question posed to a lot of other bloggers/creatives as well and more often than not I see replies that include the word "coffee". While I do enjoy coffee, unfortunately it doesn't hold that magical power that allows me to "do it all". In fact, the reason for this post is to let you in on a little secret...I simply CAN'T do it all! And my lack of blog posts here over the past few months is proof!
There seems to me to be a universal delusion about what life is like behind the scenes for many bloggers, photographers, writers, crafters, etc... I'm sure this has something to do with onslaught of social media where we are bombarded with what seems like a cloud of awesomeness. Whether it's Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, you name it...there's always people out there seemingly doing more and being more than many of us could ever hope to do and/or be. Sadly, I think that when people compare their lives to what they see on-line they somehow think they are inadequate or falling behind.
When I first started my business eight years ago I'll be the first to admit I fell into believing this. (Keep in mind this was before Pinterest and Instagram were around...I can only imagine the kind of pressure I would have put on myself then!) As my business grew and my kids grew I felt a constant pressure to do more, more, more. I watched some friends in my industry achieving astonishing success, traveling, speaking, parenting...it appeared as though they had it all and they looked fabulous doing it to boot. At the time this seemed like it would be a glamourous lifestyle and something to chase after.
It didn't take long for me to realize that trying to do it all was nothing short of impossible and left me feeling miserable not to mention exhausted. Just as I started to discover what all I would need to sacrifice in order to become that successful photographer so many people dream of being our pastor gave a sermon titled "What Are You Going to Do with Your Dash" He explained that when you die your tombstone will be marked with the year you were born and the year you die. Those two years will be separated by a dash. This dash represents your life and everything you chose to do with it. Hearing that message made me realize that we only get one chance here...one life. It forced me to STOP the insanity of trying to achieve more and do more.
I took time to reflect on what I wanted I wanted my dash to be about and came up with some themes.
- Be present and involved with my kids
- Help my children develop a passion for learning
- Live a healthy lifestyle
- Preserve and document family memories for myself and others
- Continue learning through books, classes, etc...
- Traveling with my family
- Develop authentic relationships
- Make time for creative projects
When you read that list maybe you'll understand that This Lunch Rox allows me to have a creative project, or why I'm constantly talking about books on my personal Facebook page, or why I write so many blog posts about children's literature, etc... Having said that, in order to give those things top priority I've had to make difficult decisions over the years. It means that I'm unable to do things I wish I had the time to do:
- Finding more time to spend with friends
- Spending more time volunteering at school
- Taking on more clients
- Developing a more rigorous exercise regimen
So, I guess to answer the question "How do you it all" ...I would say that I don't and I'm sort of proud of that. It means that I've learned to say no. I've learned that in order for me to focus on what I consider to be my top priorities I've had to acknowledge the fact that I simply can't do it all and that's ok! Sometimes I wish I had time to do the fun, craft projects I've found on Pinterest. I wish I had time to host more dinner parties. I wish I had more time to do lunch and go on fun day trips with my friends. The reality is that in this season of my life I simply have to prioritize. Maybe someday I can make time for those things, but for now they are on the back burner.
If you're finding yourself feeling overwhelmed or wishing you had more time to do the things you want to do I would encourage you to stop and write down a list of your top priorities. Then as you map out your everyday to-do lists stop and ask yourself if you're saying yes to things that will help you live your dash the way you intended.
When I stumbled across this passage in the book,A Reading Promise, it really struck a cord with me. In this industry especially, I think it's very easy to get caught up in a competitive game that nobody will win. As photographers we can spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting our craft and there's nothing wrong with that. Just remember that this is a journey, not a race. We have one life and it's up to you how you'll spend it!
Having said that, I'm gearing up for another school year with my boys which means new blog posts are just around the corner! Stay tuned!
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Oklahoma following the horrific tornado yesterday. Please consider making a donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters such as this. Donate byvisiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
As most of you know by now I love books! Maybe it's the former teacher in me, but I really like to read! I'll read just about anything and over the years I've discovered that I tend to read various genres in spurts. Whether it's autobiographies, historical fiction, literature, healthy living...I tend to read several related books in a row before switching to another topic. So far this year I find myself reading a lot of young adult fiction. Obviously as a child I loved this genre, but I've been drawn to it again probably because I'm constantly on the hunt for books I think my kids would enjoy. Also, the little neighbor girl and I share a passion for books. We've been exchanging titles and comparing notes which is yet another excuse for me to explore this genre again. Over the past few months I've read some great books and I thought I'd share them here knowing that I have a lot of book loving readers who might be interested!
I'm always showing my kids' lunches, but since I'm sharing some of my favorite reads so far this year I thought I'd use this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite things to eat for lunch...roasted vegetables! Often times I'll make a double batch of roasted veggies to serve with our dinner knowing that I'll have just enough leftovers to take with me to work the next day. This is a quick and easy lunch to heat up and it tastes oh, so good! I don't have an exact recipe as I'm constantly changing the ingredients seasonally. Below is a general recipe that could get you started, but it's easy to change it to your taste.
3 zucchini cut in chunks (I use yellow and green)
1/2 med red onion, chopped
1/4 red pepper, chopped
1/2 c. mushrooms, chopped
1/2 head cauliflower florets
2 TBS olive oil
1.5 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until veggies are well coated. Spread veggies on a large baking sheet and bake at 425 for 30-40 minutes.
My kids are going through a phase where they are LOVING graphic novels (a.k.a. comic books). At first I was somewhat reluctant to let them forego chapter books for comic books, but if you've been following my blog for a while you probably already know that I try to give my kids as much ownership in what it is they're reading as I can. I've learned over the years that it's a critical component of building my kids' love for reading. As the boys dove into graphic novels it seemed I couldn't keep their nightstands stocked fast enough. Thank goodness for our local library where we've checked out an average of 25 books every other week because the kids go through them so quickly.
Of all the graphic novels they've read, their absolute favorite is Garfield! There is something about him that the boys find so endearing and it's not uncommon for us to hear them laughing out loud when they're reading Garfield books. As a mom of boys I think it's such a challenge to find books that grab their attention. While we've found a lot of great chapter books, I've not yet found anything that quite draws them in like a great graphic novel. I understand the literary content isn't comparable to a well written chapter book, but I know this is a phase of their reading journey and I intend to take full advantage of their enthusiasm for this genre. If you have a reluctant reader or are struggling to find books for your kids I would highly recommend giving graphic novels a chance! I'll continue to add some of my boys' favorites on my Amazon site HEREso stay tuned!
We have a late start school day today which provided me with a little extra time to put together a "fancy" lunch. I thought I'd make a Garfield themed lunch in honor of their favorite book series at the moment. This lunch includes: turkey sandwich with cheese accents, Ellsworth cheese curds, carrots, chia seed cookies, strawberries and grapes all packed in a Planet Lunch Box.
Today's quick-and-easy lunch is brought to you by my 7 year old! He was so excited about this lunch because it features his "ham roll-up"...something he feels confident he invented. You see, often times I'll serve a few pieces of lunch meat & string cheese to the kids as an after school snack. One day I turned around and saw my youngest son rolling his lunch meat around his string cheese and eating it like a roll-up. When I told him that was a great idea he asked if he could make it for his lunch box some day. So, this morning my little guy came down and made his ham roll-ups and then pulled the rest of the items he wanted included in his lunch. I helped him assemble everything in his lunch box and when I asked him if I could take a quick picture for the blog he smiled from ear to ear. He was pretty excited that I was going to share his little lunch featuring his ham roll-up invention with all of my readers.
So, without further ado...my little guy's lunch today includes: ham/string cheese roll-ups, strawberries/blueberries, almond flour chocolate chip cookies, hard boiled egg, cauliflower, pickles all packed in this PLANET LUNCH BOX found here: http://astore.amazon.com/thluro-20/detail/B006IVM9VS
One question I'm asked often is how I find time to make lunches with my work schedule. Let me start by saying that my kids don't get a fancy lunch every day. In fact, more often than not their lunches are quick and easy taking less than 5 minutes to throw together. The secret for me is prepping over the weekend. Since transitioning to a healthier lifestyle nearly three years ago this is something that has become essential for my family. Each weekend I stock up on fresh fruits and veggies and rather than just throwing them in our refrigerator drawers I take some time and cut it all up and store them in air tight containers. This saves me a lot of time when I need to throw together lunches and/or quick after school snacks.
In addition to cutting up fruits and veggies I typically make three baked goods over the weekend. The baked goods usually include one batch of cookies, a batch of muffins, and a sweet bread/bar. (Over the years I've learned to make mini muffins and smaller sized cookies so they fit in the lunch boxes.) If I know we have a busy week with evening activities I typically make double batches of everything so we can use them as sides for dinner.
Here's a quick peek at our fridge after this weekend's prep. Along with the fruits, veggies, and baked goods you'll also notice some other staples I like to keep stocked in our fridge...hard boiled eggs, string cheese, and unsweetened almond milk for smoothies.
Today's quick-and-easy lunch is made up entirely of things I made up over the weekend. Almond flour waffles toasted to use as "bread" for a peanut butter sandwich, yellow peppers, hard boiled egg, pumpkin mini muffins, strawberries/cantaloupe, cheese curds all packed in aPlanet Lunch Box