Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Let's Do Lunch!

Ever stare empty eyed and empty minded into the fridge, the back of your mind panicking because you need to make something, anything for lunch--and you can't think of one single solitary thing that sounds good? Yeah, me too. Maybe if I share some of my lunch ideas with you, then you can share some of yours with me and we'll all come away richer!
I don't have pictures for our entire lunch menu, but I do have a few.

Here goes:
1. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (duh).
Home made bread makes a big difference with sandwiches for me.
2. Meat and cheese sandwich. This is Ezra's fave and he'd eat it everyday. I use whole wheat bread, Kirkland brand deli thin sliced ham and Havarti cheese. My favorite combo is Kirkland brand turkey, cheddar, ice burg lettuce and mayo. Serve with a dill pick or cucumber slices on the side and also some sort of easy fruit--apple, orange, grapes, etc.
3. Tuna fish. Chicken of the sea. Wait, I don't get it, is it chicken or fish? Hehe. Name that blonde. My kids like tuna without the sandwich. I simply open two cans of tuna, drain, add mayo and pickle and stick it in a bowl for them. Easy as pie. I usually serve wheat thins and cheese and bell pepper slices to fill in the empty spots.
Yesterday when I mixed up our tuna, we were out of pickles. So I changed things up a bit. I added mayo to the tuna, placed it on a bed of ice burg lettuce, grated some cheddar over the top and glopped on some pineapple salsa. Delish!
4. Grilled cheese and tomato soup. I use my favorite Trader Joe's tomato soup. If it's just the kids and I, I only use cheddar cheese. If Daddy is home, or we have friends over, I try to spice it up and add some Gouda, Munster or pepper jack. This particular day I added carrot juice to the tomato soup to infuse some health value. I thought I'd get away with it since I didn't add that much. Plus, it's orange. For the first few bites I was in the clear. Then Caroline mentioned that it tasted different. I stalled for the next few bites. Ezra chimed in that it wasn't the same. Finally I admitted what I had done. They were fine with it for a while. But then the carrot juice started to get a bit overpowering. The "earthiness" sort of sneaks up on you. I guess I won't try that again because usually they love tomato soup. I also got distracted by the lateness of the hour and trying to get Ezra to school on time and burned the sandwiches. Win some, lose some.
*You can put tomato soup in a sippie cup for your messy toddler. Caroline used to love drinking it up--made lunch more of an adventure for her and clean up less of an adventure for me!
You can add carrot juice to other things with better success--like smoothies. Carrots have a lot of natural sugar and lend a real sweetness to an otherwise tart smoothie. I like the taste best in a smoothie when mixed with orange juice. The citrus overpowers the earthiness of the carrots. And when I feed my family a smoothie filled with spinach, carrot juice and flax seed I can feel like a super mom for a minute or two.

5. Not so healthy--but a BIG hit with the kids--corn dogs. If you want to enjoy the meal as an adult, you can add some Trader Joe's sweet potato fries. I like TJ's better than Costco's. I could eat the whole bag. That happens to be 5 servings. Don't ask how I know. They are that yummy. Usually we have bell pepper slices with our corn dogs.

6. Mac and cheese. Old stand-by. Kids love you for it. Any fruit or veggie as a side goes with this. Or apple sauce. Endorsed by Mr. Potato Head.

7. Bagels and cream cheese. Often we add lunch meat. The kids don't enjoy adding spinach, but I do! I buy the honey whole wheat bagels at Costco and store them in the freezer. They mold very fast. They defrost easily, though. They are not my favorite bagel, but they are the cheapest and easiest to freeze and defrost. The very best way to consume said bagels is to spread on the cream cheese, add some fresh turkey (the kind you stick in a freezer bag for later on Thanksgiving day), a thick layer of spinach and a thin layer of cranberry sauce. Home made or the jarred version that Trader Joe's sells year round. Yum!

8. Quesidillas. We usually have left over black beans in the fridge, so I generally throw some in for added protein and fiber. Serve with sour cream and pineapple salsa for dipping. These go great with a fruit smoothie or a carton of yogurt.
(You can see that Ezra's top tooth is finally growing a mate. And he lost his fifth tooth last week--down on the bottom. I paid him a dollar to pull it last Tuesday night because it was sticking straight out and disgusting me. I wanted to pin him down and twist it out even though he was screaming. And that's pretty much not allowed. So, instead I bribed him to do it himself.)
9. Dipping Day. When you don't feel like making anything, don't. Just slice up a variety of veggies: carrots, celery, cucumbers, baby tomatoes, bell pepper slices, snap peas, etc. Place them with a container of dip, such as Uncle Dan's on the table. Add some apple and pear slices and a jar of peanut butter. Put out some cheese and crackers if you're worried bellies won't fill up enough on fruit and veggies with dip. Try not to gag when your kids dip their peppers in peanut butter and their pears in Uncle Dan's. It was all going to mix together in their bellies eventually. Aunt Megan taught us another version of this that she calls "slices". She slices up apples and pears, smears peanut butter on the sides of them and then adds various toppings--nuts, dark chocolate chips, etc. It was rather nummers.

And no matter what you eat--don't let your siblings dress you--or you'll look like that!
I am fresh out of lunch ideas. Please, share some of yours with me!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This Week We Don't Have to Miss Idaho

We've had snow since Saturday and the kids are overjoyed. With Monday being a holiday and school canceled Tuesday and Wednesday, it's been one long week of playing in the snow. Usually around here we have a wet snow, enjoy it for a day and then it melts. The trees don't stay coated and beautiful. But this time each branch has kept it's snow coat and it looks lovely. All the different colors of pine covered in white make a beautiful panorama. If I was a photographer, I'd have it documented for you. You'll just have to take my word for it.
My children keep their coats on, shed them indoors, put them back on, shed them again. You get the idea. I'm okay with it. Hours of outdoor play makes for good hard sleep each night. And darling rosy cheeks.
Warm fires and hot cocoa create moments to be cherished.
I leave you with a question. If your husband is out of town on business and you aren't taking your child to many days is it okay to go without showering?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Play Dough

Whether your child is in public, private or home school it's always fun to have home projects during the winter months. This play dough recipe has been around for a long time, but just in case you've never seen it before--here it is again.
You will need:

1 C flour
1 C water
1/2 C salt
2 T cream of tartar
2 T oil
food coloring
Yes, that is a LOT of salt. I have fond memories of making this dough with my mom often as a child. I have not so fond memories of tasting it after my mom told me NOT to. Pretty gross. I also remember molding it to look like a scoop of ice cream, placing it on a real cone and trying to get several of my aunts and uncles to try it. None of them fell for it. But dear Uncle Mikey pretended to to my great delight. I did not tell my children that story.
First, add all ingredients to a pot over medium heat.
Then cook and stir until stiff.

With our first batch I wanted two different colors, so I didn't add the food coloring until after we cooked the dough and broke it in half.
It was hard to work the food coloring into the dough and easy to stain hands and counter tops with this method. For the next batch, I simply halved the recipe and added the food coloring before I cooked the dough. That worked much better. We made two batches total and got 4 colors. This was more than enough for three kids to play with.
If you are working with a preschool child on his/her letters play dough works for "c" (clay, cooking), "d" (dough) or "p" (play dough). It can be used across several subjects--art, cooking, letter learning, coordination and spelling.
When I taught first grade we called spelling "working with words". Each week we introduced 5 new words to put on our word wall. These were high frequency words that needed to be memorized. Many of them don't work as "sound outs"--for instance "the". Each week a new word family was also introduced. A word family is a common ending that can be used for multiple words, like "at". Any word ending in "at" (cat, hat, fat, sat) would then be fair game on the weekly spelling test. The word families teach the kids to follow a pattern when learning to read and write.
Spelling can be an exceedingly frustrating subject for primary students. So can reading. To make working with words more fun we tried to involve more than the students' brains. I taught words first thing in the morning. To get everyone up on their feet and awake we started with some kinesthetic learning--we clapped, snapped, stomped and jumping jacked our words. This is a great way to help your child work on their spelling words at home. Simply say the word "cat" then say the letters with one clap per letter C (clap) A (clap) P (clap). Then say the word again. The word "cat" gets worked into the kinesthetic learner's whole body. During a spelling test, or while they are writing a story and want to remember how to spell a word they can close their eyes and quietly clap out the word to remember it.
Some other great ways to practice spelling are to spray shaving cream on a desk or a cookie sheet and have your child trace their words into the shaving cream. As a bonus, shaving cream works wonders on cleaning pencil off a desk. I usually did this project the day of open house when we wanted everything neat and clean for the parents to come visit : )
Clay, or play dough is another favorite for primary students to work with. They love the cooking process and they are especially excited to play with the dough. Ask them to practice forming letters or words before letting them have some free time to play to their hearts' content. Store dough in Tupperware or Ziploc bags.
I don't know that making your own dough saves you much money. It's more about the process. Making the dough together is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon. It's also a great time to teach safety around the stove, how to use measuring cups, taking turns, etc. And it motivates a reluctant learner to practice. Have fun!

Monday, January 9, 2012

California Dreaming

On such a winter's day! Not that today can be complained about for being too wintry. But after a week of being home I'm ready for some more sunshine and 70's, please.Other than going to the beach and Sea World, we did a lot of "hanging out" at Uncle Nate Dog and Aunt Megan's party pad.
We got to have sunset fires on their cool new hillside retreat.

If you click on the above picture to enlarge it, you might be able to see the cool (er, hot) heat waves rising up in front of Lucas.

You might notice Henry the dog lurking on the right in the above photo. He was such a nice well behaved dog...and all Nora could ever say to him was "Go away, Henry!". I'm sure he's happy not to have to hear that a bazillion times a day anymore.
There were reading sessions conducted by Aunt Megan herself (Ezra informed me one random day a few months back that one reason he loooooves his Aunt Megan is because she always reads to them).

Grandpa combed out a lot of hair--boy do I miss passing that job off to him!
Bballet/piano shows were conducted several times a day.
And I got royally spoiled with some time without kids. Megan and I went shopping (the fun kind) together for several hours one morning. We went on a nice long walk another morning. And on our last morning in California we took a long hike in the early morning sunshine. Do you think I could say "morning" any more? Thanks for all the fun times, Aunt Megan.
We also drove up to Burbank for three days of a Bible Conference.
All the pictures involve cute little girls in pretty dresses....boy did they have fun together! So much giggling, so much ballet, so many races up and down the halls and a lot of chit chattering. I can't describe how fun it is for me to watch my girls play with the daughters of so many of my childhood friends. I didn't photo document it nearly enough.
To speed up the clean up of the sound system at the end of the Bible Conference, there was a contest for children under the age of ten. Whoever could gather up the most blue electrical tape would win. The tape balls were measured by weight--not size. What fun for all those little boys and girls. And they were surprised to each get a dollar at the end just for participating.
Some of Grandma's Girls.