Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How things are going with our December schedule...

So far we're really enjoying our Advent plans; our girls are enjoying it, especially the older one.  The little one is still to little to really get into some of it, but I think we have a good balance this year for both of them to enjoy it. 

Today we had an unusual opportunity.  My husband got off work early, so we picked up the girls from school together and headed over to our local convention center.  They were having a Festival of Trees to raise money for a local organization.  I'd say there were about 50 trees on display, each decorated uniquely.  Some in memory of a loved one, others as an advertisement for a company.  The girls REALLY enjoyed looking at all the different styles.  I was surprised at my older  daughter's interest to identify the states by their shape and 2 character abbreviations, she wanted to look at every one of them!  I loved one that was designed in Southeast Asian theme, with bright colors, and 3 Asian umbrellas on top.  I really should have taken pictures, but I was so into the family time and soaking in the design ideas.

Another thing I wanted to share with you is a book I recently had the pleasure of winning!  It ties right in with our goal to focus on Christ and giving to others in need.  And, ironically, it arrived soon enough that we will fit it into our "new book" night on the 15th, so this will eliminate the need for us to purchase one.  The book is The King's Christmas List.
I really didn't know what to expect when I opened up the cover of the book, but inside was a story that cuts right to the heart, and yet it is worded in a way that will really inspire children to want to help others.  This will be a book we open every year.

We have mostly the same tree and mantle as last year.  Not a whole lot of change, although I may have eliminated or added a couple of things and organized it differently.  Here's a link to last year's pictures.

I would love to hear if you're doing anything special for the Christmas season!  Please post a comment and share!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Plans- Child friendly

We had 3 goals in creating this plan for the Christmas season, or as some call it, Advent (which means the coming of Christ).  Our minister has been preaching a series titled "Advent Conspiracy,"  We have always done Christmas differently, at least since having children.  We have always had presents, though in a modest way (with a very small budget).  We have not done Santa, however.  We do not ask the kids what they want, so no list making!  We, instead, always wanted to keep the focus on Christ, not on getting things.

The first objective for us THIS year was creating lasting memories for our children.  How many gifts from your childhood do you actually remember receiving?  Probably can't count them on one hand, unless you have a photographic memory.  The second objective was making sure our focus was on Christ!  The third was considering how much we already have, and how there are so many people out there who are much less fortunate than us.

That being said, here are our plans, I have to create the physical calendar, but this is what is going inside.

Dec 1: Luke 1:26-38.  Angel Comes to Mary.  Angel Coloring Page.
Dec 2: Matt 1:18-24  Angel appears to Joseph.
Dec 3: (Friday- Movie Night) Veggie Tales Christmas Movie 1 (Star of Christmas)
Dec 4: Matt 14:15-21; 24:35; Prov 28:27; Isaiah 58:10 Feed a family in Haiti and a family in Honduras (rice bag and food basket from Lifeline Christian Mission)
Dec 5: James 1:27; 1 Tim 5:3; Talk about what it means to be a widow and what we should do; Tomorrow, bring dinner to 2 widows.
Dec 6: (Bring the dinner to widows) Also read Isaiah 9:1-7 Names of Christ prophesy; Veggie Tales Song "For Unto Us a Child is Born" which ties into the scripture reading.
Dec 7: Luke 2:1-5 Trek to Bethlehem (Life Group meets that night)
Dec 8: The Pine Tree Parable book; Christmas Tree coloring page
Dec 9: Make Christmas Cards (Finish tomorrow if needed)
Dec 10: (Friday- Movie Night) Veggie Tales Christmas Movie 2 (The Toy That Saved Christmas)
Dec 11: Bake Christmas cookies; visit neighbors with goodies
Dec 12: Luke 2:6 "No room for Jesus" discussion for kids, the idea that if people had known who was being born, they would have offered their room
Dec 13: Deut 15:11; Prov 19:17; 1 John 3:17-18; Acts 20:35; Eph 4:28; Discuss children who are much less fortunate, ie. no bed to sleep in; Buy a bed for a child in Honduras through Lifeline Christian Mission.
Dec 14: Sing Christmas Songs; Lessons & Carols at daughter's school
Dec 15: Unwrap a new Christmas book (need to pick, buy and wrap ahead of time) and read it together.
Dec 16: Mark 1:1-11 Prepare the way; John the Baptist baptizing people; Jesus gets baptized
Dec 17: (Will be in the car) "Lord, Bless us with..." fill in the blank; Listen to Christmas music
Dec 18: Legend of Candy Cane; Bookmark craft; eat a candy cane!
Dec 19: Using small strips of paper, write who you want to pray for this season, make a prayer chain and hang it (like garland).  Doesn't have to be just people you know personally (ie. children who will receive your gifts, etc.)
Dec 20: 1 Peter 5: 1-7 Shepherd; Buy a Bible for a child in Haiti or Honduras through Lifeline Christian Mission.
Dec 21: Matt 2 Wise Men; What gift(s) would you bring?; Coloring Page
Dec 22: Family Game Night
Dec 23: John 1:1-18; Light of Christ; Drive around and see Christmas Lights
Dec 24: Bake a cake for the birthday celebration; Candlelight service at church
Dec 25: Luke 2:16-21; Open presents.  After naptime, eat birthday cake!

What will you do differently this year, to shift your focus?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cranberry Apple Crisp

 "In all things give thanks..." 1 Thess 5:18
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I hope yours is filled with friends, family, and good food!
Don't you just love fall?  I think one of the things about fall are the warm, hearty foods, and the flavorful desserts to follow!

I made this quick crisp for the family.  Hope you'll try it!
Cranberry Apple Crisp
3 large sweet-tart apples, such as Cameo, or go with a more tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cubed
1 pint fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup whole oats
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

 Mix together apples, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and cornstarch.  Heat in pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to soften and mixture thickens.  Put mixture in a pie or casserole dish.  Cut butter into the oats and brown sugar (and optional pecans).  Mix with your fingers until it is mixed well; spread evenly over the apple mixture.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, when crisp is bubbly and topping is browned.

Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apples, apples and more irresistable apples!

Our Scenic Drive through the NC Mountains

Getting closer to the apple farm, and saw some wonderful waterfalls

Apple farm
Last week we drove 6 hours to the NC mountains in hopes of picking apples.  What we didn't know was that all of the 10 orchards in that one town were not going to let us pick.  We were really bummed.  When we got to the random orchard we chose, we realized that it was best they pick for us!  The trees were literally on the slopes of the mountainside, and surrounded by a lot of yellowjackets!  Not exactly ideal when you have young little princesses!

But it was still worth going, as we saw some gorgeous little waterfalls along the drive, some great scenic views of the remaining fall leaves, met some great apple farmers, and came home with a huge box and another bag of apples. 

After sampling their apples, we went with a box of Cameo, a combination of tart and sweet, very juicy, and large!  The other bag of apples was Pink Lady, less juicy, more dense, but a promise for sweetness about a week later (now).

I decided to make some apple butter for canning.  This year I made my own rather than someone else's recipe.  I've made it twice, and I love it.  It's not as sweet as your typical apple butter, but it's delicious!  I had some friends at the office try it out, and it seems that other people also liked it, so it's not just me.

I have speculated as to why it's not as sweet.  It's quite possibly that the apples are the reason for the slightly tart flavor.  It could be the honey replacing some of the sugar  (I used NC Wildflower Honey).  Either way, this apple butter is easy to make and really worth trying!

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

10 large apples, such as Cameo
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel apples, and chop into large chunks.  Throw them into a large slow cooker.  Put remaining ingredients in, tossing to mix slightly.  Put slow cooker on low for 10 hrs or overnight.  You may stir a couple of times, if desired.  Otherwise, you can just leave it.

In the morning, stir the apple mixture.  In batches, blend in the blender.  Or, if you have an immersion blender, you can blend it right in the pot!  Pour into sanitized canning jars.  Follow standard canning procedures.  If you don't have standard canning procedures, you can visit the real Martha's website for some great tips on easy canning!

So I have many more apples, and so I also made some homemade applesauce for canning.  It's so easy, really anyone can make this:

Cinnamon Applesauce

8 large apples, such as Cameo
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Peel apples and chop into large chunks.  Place chopped apples in a dutch oven.  Splash with lemon juice, and stir in cinnamon until blended in.  Cover and put on medium heat for approx 30 minutes.  Test to see when the apples mush with back of stirring spoon.  If they do, they're done!  Put the apples in a food processor, and blend for 10-15 seconds.  Eat warm, refrigerate, or can for future eating!

As my husband said, "It's like warm apple pie!"

I made something else with the apples.  I'll share later this week.  Hint: a great fall dessert!

Happy fall!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lunches- trying not to be boring!

My oldest daughter has to have lunch packed daily for school.  I actually started doing this when she started summer camp, which was a day camp that she went to all summer.  I will say that I enjoy having fun with this, but I do not go to quite the extreme that some bloggers do. 

I believe that lunch, just like all other meals, should be healthy.  I also believe that kids will be exposed to junk, and that while they should be eating and enjoying the healthful foods, you should not completely deprive them of the things they will see the kids around them eating.  One day they will be making choices on their own, and it will be good to give them a balance.

That being said, here are some lunches, with comments on some:
 This one has chips, homemade salsa, peaches, blackberries, cheese cubes, some homegrown lettuce and a sprig of parsley (and yes, she will eat that), and standing in the middle is 1/2 of a Kashi bar.

This next one here has little sandwiches, fruit strip, carrots and spinach, Doritos, and Kashi Warm Cinnamon cereal.

 Above are cucumbers as flower stems, tortilla and cheese flowers, pear slices, strawberry applesauce, Kashi crackers and dip.  Below I did air-popped popcorn, Kashi crackers and cheese, granola and Craisins.
 Below was canteloupe, Kashi crackers, peanut butter, cheese cubes and carrots.

 Above is my black bean salad (see recipes), raspberries, spinach, tortilla & cheese flowers, and pear sauce (Trader Joe's).  Below (one of her favorites) was refried beans and chicken (got heated up at camp), spinach, cheese, tortilla, and grapes.
 Sunshine egg salad over a Sandwich Thin, cheese for the rays, freeze dried peas for the eyes, and an apricot smile.

 Above she got chicken, whole wheat blueberry muffin, bread, spinach salad (with 1 grape tomato), and 1 large strawberry.  Below she got chips and salsa, spinach, apple slices, chicken & cheese.
 She really liked this butterfly, with a Simply Fruit rollup antennae.  The sandwich was tuna fish, and I found some food markers at one of the local arts & crafts stores.  Served with an orange.
 This last one is supposed to look like a palm tree, with apple slice palm leaves, a Flat Out original flatbread with peanut butter for the trunk, cherry "coconuts" and a monkey.  Served with carrots and teddy grahams.
I'm not perfect, but adding in a little creativity makes lunches interesting for my daughter!  There are still many days of just a sandwich with fruit or chips. 

I hope to soon post a recipe of something I do with the leftover scraps of bread & crusts from making lunches.   Perfect for autumn!  Would love to know what some of your favorite autumn recipes are...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Muffin Tins

Sometimes it's nice to know that the items taking up space in your home are good for multiple functions.  I've been thinking a lot lately about muffin tins, which typically don muffins and cupcakes. 

Many moms out there are serving up bento style lunches at home in muffin tins.  It's a way to use up leftovers, offer a variety of foods to your child, and it's also fun for your child to eat out of a muffin tin on occasion.  Here is a blogger who I like to follow, she does 'Muffin Tin Mondays' with her child.

My garden has had an over-abundance of basil and parsley this year.  While I still have a LOT to use, I decided to save some for use in the winter months when my garden is long gone.  I washed mounds of the leaves, big and small, then stuffed a muffin tin full.  Each one is about 1/2 cup of packed basil.  I then filled up the muffin cups with water and placed it in the freezer.  Once frozen solid, I was able to remove the big cubes of frozen basil and place in a large zipper bag and freeze out in the deep freezer.  If you decide to try this and are having difficulty removing the cubes from the muffin tin, try tilting the tin near the kitchen sink and spraying with lukewarm water on the underside.  This should help them loosen up without melting them!

I work an early morning shift at my job so that I have the ability to pick up the girls in the afternoon when school lets out.  The downside is that I have to rely on my husband to feed them breakfast in the morning.  About once a week I'll prepare something that will be healthy or just different from the ordinary stuff.  I think that making a pot of homemade oatmeal or grits, then freezing in muffin tin cups, would allow him to defrost breakfast in portions as needed!

Why not make quiche or breakfast casserole in muffin tins?  This is a fantastic idea for brunches or pick-me-up breakfasts on the go.

Having a casual ice cream social?  Put different toppings in the muffin cups, add some spoons, and it's an easy setup/cleanup!

What about non-food uses for muffin tins?  If you and/or your kids like to work with beads, you can separate out beads by size, color, use tins for different string types, etc.  Easy for hands to reach in and pick out, and keeps things organized!

Use  your muffin tins when cleaning up small things that pile up in the laundry room.  Emptying out pockets?  Hair bows in one cup, money in a cup, crayons... then when you're done doing laundry, or cleaning up, take the tin with you to put those little things away!
What ideas do you have for muffin tins?
My friend Kimmy chimed in on Facebook, and so I had to share (thanks, Kimmy!):
"I like to make meat loaf in them!! Also at Thanksgiving I make my stuffing in them., called stuffin muffins! :) You can melt down old crayons in them and make new round crayons!!"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Took time to smell the flowers today...

We went to New Bern, NC, today.  We visited Tryon Palace.  If you're local, you may like to know that they currently open up the gardens FREE on the first Sunday of each month.  We took LOTS of pictures, and here are just a few.  I love North Carolina, and how green it is most of the year.

Hope you can appreciate some of these beautiful pictures!
Have a wonderful Labor Day, and muffin tin ideas are next, I promise I've been working on that!  Also coming soon, a series of lunchbox pictures.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I need a new use for my ...

Do you have something that you need a new use for?  Do you have a creative use for something that is unusual?  Please share!  Just leave a comment on this post.  Maybe I can help come up with some fun ideas...
Coming soon, new uses for your muffin tins.  They're not just for muffins and cupcakes anymore!

Banana Nut Pancakes and Banana Maple Syrup

I made breakfast for dinner one night this week.  I wanted something simple that night.  I started with Hodgson Mill's Whole Wheat Pancake Mix, which I picked up at The Fresh Market.  I had not ever tried that pancake mix before, but it looked good, and the ingredient list was simple and trans fat free.  I have to say, it was delicious and hearty.  I really liked the texture of this mix.

I made the mix per the box instructions for 12-14 pancakes.  I then added 1/8 cup chopped walnuts and 1 banana, chopped into small pieces.  My girls don't love nuts at their age, so I chopped the nuts pretty finely.  I then made the pancakes on the griddle as I normally would.  I will say, it only made 10 pancakes (and I don't feel like I made them that big).  But they were nice and fluffy, and because they were so hearty, 10 was more than enough for our family of 4.

For the syrup, I (again) wanted to try something different that wasn't pure sugar, something with some nutritional benefit.  So I went with the theme of the banana again.  Bananas are so inexpensive right now.  I buy a huge bag of them at Sam's Club, and they're only about $1/bag right now.

Banana Maple Syrup (for 4)

3/4 cup PURE maple syrup
3 bananas, mashed completely with a fork
1-2 Tbsp orange juice

Mix all together.   Warm if desired.

Because it's never enough, I served fresh raspberries on the side.  Yum!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New library bag for my oldest daughter

When my daughter turned old enough to get her own library card (5), I told her I would make her a bag to carry library books in.  I also said I'd have a pocket to hold the library card.  Well, here it is.  I finally finished.  I have lots of excuses for not getting it done sooner!  ;)

The 2 main fabrics and the pink ric rac were all from Patsy Aiken Designs (I love that she sells her fabric!), and the fabric for the pocket was a $1 square of fabric from Walmart that just happened to coordinate well!

I sewed a gusset bottom, to hold lots of books.  It's quite big, she's probably going to have to grow into it.  But she loves reading lots of books, and she's a very girly girl, so naturally she loved this new bag!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mmmmmmmm.... Awesome Healthy Banana Bread

Okay, so most banana breads are good.  The original version of this recipe, that I grew up eating because my mom made it growing up, was so good that I never really loved other people's banana bread recipes.  Sad, but true.  It was just that good!

I have since "healthified" this recipe, and even with ALL of the flour being whole wheat, my husband (and biggest critic of healthy food), LOVES this.  I use King Arthur Organic 100% Whole Wheat Flour.

If you don't use much buttermilk around the house, then a good option for you would be SACO cultured buttermilk.  It's powdered buttermilk.  You can keep this small canister in the bottom back corner of the fridge and it will be there for you whenever a recipe calls for buttermilk.  I recommend you make about 1/2 cup of this before beginning your bread ingredients.  Just mix and refrigerate until it's time to use it.  When it's time for the baking soda/buttermilk, mix together.  It will get kind of foamy, but then you don't get that weird baking soda taste in your bread.

Bananas: when ours get too ripe (black), I peel them and stick them in ziploc baggies, 3-4 per bag, and freeze until I plan to bake.  The night before baking, I place the baggie(s) in the fridge and let them defrost.  When it's time to add them into the mixture, I pour them in, juices and all!

The recipe below is actually a double recipe.  Today I made 1 full size loaf and 4 mini loaves.  You could make 3 full size loaves with this recipe (or 6 mini loaves).

One last thing I would love to share.  Recently a friend told me she made my banana bread recipe (and how she loves it) but being summertime, doesn't really like to eat much of it because she likes cooler foods in the heat of the summer.  (And this summer has been ridiculously hot!)  I told her how most of the time, when I make it, I'll slice at least 1 loaf up into slices and freeze them individually in baggies.  Then, when I get the urge, I pull one out and eat it frozen.  Sounds strange, but it's GREAT!  And, it's nice and cold on a hot day.  Try it sometime!

So, without further ado:

AWESOME and HEALTHY Banana Bread

2 sticks real butter, softened to room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
7 very ripe bananas (black is best)
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda dissolved into 4 Tbsp buttermilk

With a blender, cream butter and sugar completely.  Add eggs and whip up until well blended.  Mix in the bananas.  Using minimal blending (to avoid over mixing the wheat), add in flour and salt and blend until just mixed together.  Mix in baking soda/buttermilk mixture.  Pour into greased loaf pans and bake at 325 for 50-60 minutes (test after 50, plan for an extra 10 minutes if not done).

Enjoy your banana bread!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I *Heart* Picnics

We've had picnic dinners a few times this summer.  I love to picnic, especially when we can go to the park and hear free music to enjoy while we dine.  I love getting creative with what we're going to eat, and I don't typically go simple.  It's too fun not to.

Recently I took some mini cube sandwiches with chicken breast, sliced cheddar and southwest lime ranch dressing on pumpernickel bread (wheat for the girls).  I made regular sandwiches, but then cut into 4's and put them on toothpicks so they were small pick-me-up sandwich bites. 

To go with it, I chose fresh raspberries and kiwi wedges for fruit, and a simple black bean salad that I whipped up with some stuff from the garden.  Hope you'll try this simple recipe.

Black Bean Salad

1 can black beans, drained
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, snipped
2 small Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime

Mix together and refrigerate or pack in cooler until ready to eat!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pizza Sandwiches

Last night we made pizza sandwiches.  I named them pizza sandwiches simply as a way to get my kids to not turn their noses up at it.  My oldest daughter told me (on the way home to make them) that she made pizza sandwiches at camp one day (during edible art week) and they were 'nasty.'  I assured her they were not the same as the ones we were having at home.

This was inspired by some leftover marinara sauce from a pasta night last week.  I love Newman's Own Organic Marinara, it has almost a little kick to it.  The bread I used was artisan bread from The Fresh Market, I had them slice it for me.
Pizza Sandwiches
1 loaf of sliced multigrain artisan bread (not TOO crusty)
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1 large fresh mozzarella ball, sliced 1/4" thick
Fresh basil leaves
1 fresh tomato, sliced
Spray some olive oil on a large nonstick frying pan and warm up to medium heat.  Meanwhile, spread a tablespoonful of marinara sauce on each slice of bread (for both sides of your sandwich).  Layer slices of mozzarella, tomato, and a couple of basil leaves, snipped on each sandwich.  Assemble and cook just like a grilled cheese sandwich.  Eat while warm.
By the way, the girls loved it!
VBS is going on this week, and I'm in charge of crafts for K-5th grades.  Fun stuff (and pure craziness, at times)!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Snack Time!

I am a snacker.  I have to.  Usually every couple of hours my body is telling me it's time to have a little something to eat.  I've had to learn to go for healthy snacks, because in reality I'd really rather have anything that looks good, like Peanut M&M's or some cookies or something.  I still occasionally have those things, but I've trained myself to eat better during snack times.  This has really helped me to feel healthier.

Some simple snack ideas (no real brilliant ideas, mostly common sense, but maybe there are some you haven't thought to try):
Choose piece/serving of FRESH fruit (apple, orange, pear, banana, peach, cherries, blueberries, strawberries) and combine with raw, unsalted almonds (~16) or walnut halves (~5).

Combine 1-2 Tbsp hommus with celery sticks or some Kashi 7 Grain crackers (~6-8). Don’t like regular hommus? Try Red Pepper Hommus- or if you love garlic, then try Garlic Hommus (Fresh Market carries these by Greek Gourmet and they’re delicious).

Don’t have time or pocket space for fresh fruit? Try some of the newest “fruit leather” by Fruitabu or Stretch Island Fruit Co., small like a thick credit card. It’s a little like Fruit Roll-up but with all natural fruits, some organic brands, and some interesting flavor combos. Combine with nuts to get some protein.

Head over to and buy some freeze dried veggies- the peas and corn are great for snacking on, and they also offer a “hot” seasoned version in snack size portions. Not to mention that many of their freeze-dried fruits are wonderful when fresh fruits are not in season.

Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter is great on celery, whole grain crackers, apples… limit the PB to 1-2 Tbsp.  Bored with peanut butter?  Almond butter is also really delicious!
Eat a Hard-boiled egg with a single serving No-Sugar-Added applesauce or pear sauce of your choice. Trader Joe’s has an amazing organic pear sauce that is a little chunky and FULL of flavor! Also good: Mott’s Summer Strawberry applesauce.

Buy an “air popper” for making popcorn without oil. Add a MINIMAL amount of butter and salt. Switch up seasonings occasionally- instead of butter and salt, add a shake of Cajun seasoning or another seasoning that sounds yummy to you. To feel more full with the popcorn, have some water with a Crystal Light lemonade packet mixed in. The sweet/salty combo is great, and popcorn is a WHOLE GRAIN food!

Sargento now makes some great snack cheese sticks in different cheese flavors, pre-portioned. They look like string cheese but are not. Combine this with a fruit, carrot sticks, or some whole grain crackers.

Caprese salad as a snack! Buy some REAL mozzarella (that looks like a ball or several small balls), eat with some fresh basil leaves, tomato, add some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Boar’s Head Turkey (or chicken) – 2 slices combined with whole grain crackers. Boar’s head meats and cheeses contain no fillers, gluten, artificial colors, flavors or trans fat, and have been recommended by the American Heart Association. They also have some ideas for 100 calorie snacks:

Buy cottage cheese in the individual serving sizes. Combine with a handful of grapes, a peach, apricot, etc.

See my theme? Most of them combine a protein with healthy carbs (fruit, veggie, whole grain).

Happy snacking...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bento Lunches and a Red White and Blue Food

Busy busy busy... We're in the final countdown for lots of end-of-school-year activities.  After this coming weekend things will be a lot less hectic.  This weekend we had an outdoor dinner of grilled chicken (Greek seasoning from Pampered Chef), zucchini and pineapple, some tzatziki sauce for the chicken, garlic artisan bread, garlic and olive oil couscous, and some of this fruit salad, red white and blue for the holiday.  The salad consisted of ripened d'anjou pear (peeled), gala apple, blueberries and raspberries.  All of the berries are just amazing right now.

Last week we had to start packing lunches for our oldest daughter every day.  I didn't want her to feel like she's eating a sandwich every day, so some days I've done Bento box style, and other days I've given her the opportunity to choose what she wants to eat.  One day she said, "Mommy, I want a banana dog on Friday!  It just so happened that I had extra hot dog buns from a cookout, and a fresh banana, to which we added PB&J- voila, you have a banana dog.  Here are some of the Bento lunches:
Bento 1: Not too creative, she ended up just making a sandwich.  LOL.  American cheese and Oven Roasted chicken from Boar's Head; whole wheat bread, strawberries that we picked at the farm, and some teddy grahams.  Got some cute animal food picks designed for Bento lunches such as the ones seen here.

Okay, a little more creative on day 3, maybe.  Hearts and stars for bread, chicken and colby-jack cheese; yogurt tube, organic carrot sticks, blueberries in a cupcake liner, and some teddy grahams.  (Day 2 consisted of PB&J, I'll be blogging about sandwich ideas on another day.)
Week 2, Day 1 (Bento #3): Ants on a log- I used Smucker's natural peanut butter and Craisins (she will not eat raisins); cheese bites that I got from couponing, raspberries, and tortilla strips.

Today, being a holiday, I decided to do a quick fun treat for the family, so I broke down and made red white and blue Rice Krispie treats.  I used 5 cups of the cereal (instead of 6) and replaced the last cup with 1/2 cup freeze dried strawberries and 1/2 cup dried blueberries.  They were 'berry' delicious!  Our 2 year old had never had the regular version of those treats before and didn't eat much because it was so sticky.  The rest of us thought they were fabulous!

Happy Memorial Day!
I'm so thankful for those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.
God bless the families of those who served sacrificially.