Sunday, August 28, 2011

Homework Caddy

The start of school is days away and that brings lots of fun and excitement.  But one thing I can guarantee that none of us are ready for is the dreaded HOMEWORK.   I am especially worried this year that the homework load will be increased greatly with a soon to be 4th grader.  And then also juggling the needs of a 1st grader into the mix.  Trying to fit homework into the busy day is always a chore but it is important to carve out dedicated time to get it done.   I have found that there is nothing worse than getting the kids wrangled together and ready to go and then having to do the mad search for homework supplies - we need to locate a sharpened pencil, where did that eraser go, a green crayon is necessary......   And last year it got even more complicated with needs like a protractor.  REALLY?  Who has one of those just laying around?  I ended up having to find a printable one on-line and cut it out.  It worked, but was pretty lame.  
So this year I have created THE HOMEWORK CADDY to help alleviate these issues.  A place to keep all of our supplies centralized and within easy reach.

And making it pretty, just adds to the fun!   I started with a basic caddy I found at Target and painted over it with black magnetic paint and then craft paint and added fun papers and embellishments.
The magnetic paint helps to create a system to contain some of the smaller items like paper clips, erasers, small stapler and pencil sharpener that would just get lost in the bottom of the caddy.
I then created two cups of supplies, one for each child.  Sometimes it is best to separate the girls during homework time to reduce distractions.  This way, each girl can take her basic cup of supplies to her own area (kitchen counter, dining table, great grandpa's secretariat.....) and not have to go back and forth to find what they need. 

Then it was time to put all the supplies into the caddy.  I started with the girls' school supply lists and tried to have most of those items also in the caddy.   Scratch paper is very handy to have around along with a dry erase white board for practicing spelling words, long math problems and parent demonstrations. 

So now our caddy is complete!  I have no fantasies that we are going to breeze through homework everyday with no problems, complaints or tears (oh, I forgot to add the tissues!) but I hope this system will make the chore just a little easier to manage.

I shared this post on Made By You Monday

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mom's Lunchables

Sorry any Lunchable fans out there but I am not one of them.  I can actually say that I have made it 9 years of being a mommy without ever purchasing one and I highly doubt I ever will.  Now don't worry, I have bought plenty of other junk for my kids to make up for it I am sure.  I have a few complaints about Lunchables.  The nutritional content is pretty lousy with no fresh or wholesome ingredients.  Though I did see some add that they have ones with fruit now.  It's about time.  But just as bothersome to me as the lack of nutrition is the amount of waste these create.  I cringe seeing them getting thrown into the garbages at school thinking how much garbage they are creating.  And don't even get me started on the amount of garbage our school district creates with their lunch system.  I could rant all day on that one........ 

But really, the concept of the lunchable is quite brilliant and I am not ashamed to take their idea and make it my own.  The sticking point in making these quickly becomes the packaging.  Last year I found these great Ziploc containers that are close to the perfect solution to making your own Lunchable.  Link to Amazon product HERE although I have seem them for much better prices in local stores.
These Ziploc containers have a larger section and then 2 smaller sections.  Great to put your own meat, cheese, crackers in.  My only "complaint" is I would love the big section divided up into two.  But I take care of that myself by wrapping up the crackers in some leftover cotton fabric from my napkin project (post coming soon).  The fabric just goes in the laundry and then stored in the Lunch Zone for next time.  The wrapped crackers then give separation for some fruits or veggies.  I also find I can usually combine the meat and cheese into one smaller section to leave a section for fruits or other items.  Occasionally I will throw in a small treat since my youngest has pointed out to me that "real" lunchables have candy in them.  Lovely......

Here is a simple Lunchable I packed for our trip to the park the other day.  Carrots, peanut butter celery, simple fruit (replacing my failed nectarine fruit leather), whole wheat Ritz crackers, Hormel's Natural Choice ham, cheese cut into hearts and grapes.  It is fun to add some stickers to the top to add a little fun and personalization. 
Throw a water bottle and ice pack into the lunch box and you are ready to roll for a yummy, healthy and fun lunch.  And it is probably cheaper than a Lunchable too.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yogurt Cones

Now these obviously can't go to school in a lunchbox but are perfect for before-school breakfast or after-school snacking.  It is amazing how putting something in an ice cream cone makes it so much more appealing than serving it in a bowl or the original container.  And the cone makes no nutritional difference either way.  Reading the nutrition facts is ridiculous, they are all air I guess:  Fat - 0 Cholestrol - 0 Sugars - 0 Protein - 0  Vitamins - 0  Oh wait, they do fufill 1% of your daily carb intake so I guess that is something!!
The girls love these and will eat more yogurt this way than just plain so I have no problem dishing the yogurt into a cone and handing it over.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Failed Snack Attempt

In the attempt at wholesome and healthy foods, there is bound to be failed attempts and this is one.  I have stumbled upon the blog Weelicous that has so many interesting recipes but they definitely are ultra-healthy.  Although I started mommyhood being extra healthy with the girls, I have slipped a bit along the way and my girls' palettes don't always accept my healthy attempts.  I saw the peach fruit leather recipe and thought it looked like a fun project to try while the hubby was traveling.  I had a bunch of nectarines that were getting a bit too ripe so it was perfect.  I was prepared to share with you the process of blending the nectarines (skin and all) and then pouring it to 1/8 inch thickness onto a pan and bake for hours and hours and then a few more hours.   But after all the efforts, the results were not quite what I had hoped.  It was difficult to have consistent drying times, so the edges were too done while the middle wasn't done enough.  I ended up losing about 1/3 of the batch due to this.  I still had hope that the girls would be wowed with the taste but no such luck.  They were tough to chew and not too tasty.  I would wonder if doing a fruit blend would help the taste but I don't think the extreme time it took to make is worth another attempt.  So I think I will be sticking with these for the lunches
I have been eyeing a homemade yogurt recipe next.  Have any of you tried that before?  Is it worth the effort?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Apple Carrot Mini-muffins

Mini-muffins are a great lunchbox item.  You can make a big batch and then freeze them to pull out the night before and throw in the lunchboxes in the morning.  Muffins can sometimes be a bit questionable on how healthy they are, especially store bought ones.  These hit the mark on being healthy, yet still give a bit of a sweet factor with a cream cheese glaze on top.
The food processor certainly makes grating easy.  Mine is a hand-me-down from my mom that is close to 30 years old.  If that isn't a great endorsement for Cuisinart I don't know what is. 
I brought these on a playdate and they got mixed reviews.  The majority of the kids ate one or two, one girl ate at least 5 and was shocked when she heard they had carrots.  Another child didn't like them at all.  They definitely aren't too sweet and have a bit of a healthy taste to them but overall I think they were good enough to make again.   You could add some additions like coconut or raisins to add a little more interest. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Going Home Note

I find that almost weekly I am writing a note to the school office to allow one of my children to go home with a friend.  Having a premade note that just needs a few blanks filled in helps me get these notes written and in the backpacks quicker.  I think they also help my children recognize them and take them through the proper channels at school to get the appropriate approval.  If you make your own notes, you can fill in the appropriate school and child names to make the process even faster.
Note to School

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stocking Up

There is nothing worse than getting ready to pack lunches in the morning and find that you are out of all the main staples.  I like to try to keep stocked up with an extra loaf of bread in the freezer at all times and some basic canned items in the pantry.  Here are some great coupons to use to stock that pantry to be all prepared for quick lunches in the morning.  I especially honed in on the coupons for soup and nuts, as those are go to lunch items in my aresenal.  The V-8 fruit juices are also great for making "Fruit Wigglers", recipe coming in an upcoming post for those.
click on photo for link to coupons

And the PTA president in me wants to remind you that all these items are "Labels for Eduction" so make sure to take the extra minute to clip the labels.  I keep a jar in the PANTRY LUNCH ZONE and just drop these labels, along with the valuable box tops in as I get them.  Then every few months I bag them up and send them into school.  This is free money for the school, costs you nothing and really adds up.  Our school, which is fairly small, brought in almost $1000 in cash from boxtops and lots of credit from the Labels program for purchasing playground and p.e. equipment and other school necessities.  So clip those labels and help your school out.  Or better yet, send them to me and help our school out:-)