Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Favorite Lunch Supplies and Solutions

100 Days of Real Food completely changed the way I pack my son's lunches.  Although I did pretty well with selecting healthy non-processed choices, I would often fall into a creative rut and send the same things every day. I love how 100 Days of Real Food educates me about making better food choices. And since she posts photos of her kids' lunches on her Facebook page, I always get great inspiration there as well.

Over the last year, we have worked to improve not only Noodlebug's food but we have also moved towards a zero-trash goal. I get great lunch ideas from both 100 Days of Real Food and Weelicious.  Weelicious is coming out with a new cookbook for lunches soon and I can't wait to see it.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces of lunch gear:

1. Hanna Andersson Lunchbox

We bought this Deluxe Lunch Bag from Hanna Andersson last year.  I also got the matching food jar.  The deluxe version has an additional compartment so you can keep hot/cold items separate. This style is no longer available but the new ones are now online.

2. Klip it Lunch Cube

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 I love this thing! It folds in half and is easy for my son to open.  I highly recommend hard-sided boxes like these to keep your food from getting squished in a soft-sided lunchbox.

Sometimes, I will use a Ziploc divided lunch container instead. We wash these out and reuse them.

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3. Silicone Molds
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I always worried about the amount of sugar in most yogurts so I started making my own yogurt smoothies with a recipe from 100 Days of Real Food.  I usually make a big batch on Sunday, fill the molds, and throw them in the freezer.  We add one to Noodlebug's lunch most days along with an ice pack.  I put the molds INSIDE OF the hard-sided lunch container to keep them safe. We've never had a problem. They are usually thawed perfectly by lunchtime.

4. Ice Packs

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We use a couple of different types of ice packs. I have two of the above Rubbermaid ice packs.  I have one monkey and one frog.

I also recently bought this Kids Konserve ice packs from Ecomom.

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5.  Reusable Napkins

Although it would be easy enough to sew your own, I splurged and bought some of these fun napkins from Funkins. Each one comes with a tag where you can write your child's name.  They have so many fun patterns!

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6. Utensils

I just got this set of Sugar Booger utensils. I love how they come in their own carrying case.

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They come in a variety of patterns and are available at Ecomom and Amazon.

7. Food Storage

I got this great idea from 100 Days of Real Food. These little silicone muffin cups are great for dividing out crackers, fruit, salads or anything else that needs to be contained. We often use these for hard-boiled eggs.

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 My son loves the pouches from Plum Kids and Ella's Kitchen so I still stick those in his lunch occasionally.  However, I just found Squooshis recently and we are trying that out.

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 We've been using these resuable Squooshis with organic applesauce from the jar.  You could easily use them for anything squishy, however.  The bottom of the Squooshi has a ziplock and we haven't had any accidents so far.

For anything that doesn't fit into the hard-sided box, I use Itzy Ritzy bags:

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 These bags come in a variety of sizes and colors.  I have a few different size things like crackers and fruit.  Much much better than plastic baggies!  They are BPA-free and are machine-washable!

I am very careful to label all of Noodlebug's stuff and I use two different types of labels.  First of all, I love these rubber labels from Inchbug:

They are very stretchy and fit around just about any kind of bottle.  I have been using them for years and they hold up beautifully. Find them here.
On a side note, I use Inchbug's tag labels for clothing.  They are small stickers you can put on a tag and they even go through the wash!  When you are done with the item of clothing, just peel them off!  I love these since i resell all of Noodlebug's clothing.

You can also get labels like these from Name Bubbles.

Check out this 100 Days of Real Food page and this Weelicious page for some wonderful visual lunch inspiration.  There is also a great Bento Box series with lots of photographs at Hellobee.

 We are working really hard on eating healthier as a family and eliminating garbage.  We started using most of these products when my son was 4 and he has had no problem getting used to bringing everything home. We haven't lost anything yet! I love all the inspiration I'm finding on the internet.  I hope these tips help you over the Summer and into the school year.  I'll add to it as I find new things!

(There are NO affiliate links within this post. I receive no compensation and all opinions are my own.)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fair Results

Noodlebug and I always try to submit items for our local fairs.  The first fair of the season was last weekend.  I am proud to announce that Noodlebug took first place for his tree painting:

He was pretty proud! He did a series of four of these paintings representing the four seasons as a gift for his grandmother.  All of the dots were made by dipping the eraser end of a pencil in paint. 

And the biggest surprise of all....

I took Best in Show!

I haven't created anything in months. This was the last piece I did and I was really proud of it.  I'm thrilled that others liked it too.  Noodlebug and I have decided to put our winnings into a savings jar for a trip to Disneyland.  Our goal is to go in May but we'll have to see how much money we can save.

The next fair is in July. Fingers crossed!!!!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Citrus Lane Review: June 2013

This is my second Citrus Lane box.  I have to say that it is a lot of fun for Noodlebug and I to get these boxes.  We subscribe to the 5-yr-old Boy box.

Citrus Lane offers a monthly subscription box of items for children ages 0-5.  You can tailor your box to boy, girl or gender neutral. The boxes are $25 per month for a monthly subscription.

This month's box had a "fun in the sun" theme. 

The first thing I pulled out was a Crocodile Creek space-themed water bottle. This water bottle retails for $11.99.

Then, I pulled out a Mole Hand set from Haba.  This will be perfect for digging in the sand at the beach this Summer. The set retails for $6.00.

Next, there was a full-size Top to Toe Body Wash from Bathtime Kids.  Perfect timing because we were all out of body wash. This wash retails for $15.95.

Finally, there was a trial-size Sunny Sunscreen from Episencial. We love Episencial products so I am always happy to get anything by them.  Since this size was specially made for Citrus Lane, I figured out its worth based on the cost per ounce listed on Amazon. I came up with $6.59.

The box usually comes with about four items and list of discount codes for buying more.  I'd say this box's value was about $40. And these are all things that we will definitely use.  The water bottle will be great for the new school year. 

If you'd like to try Citrus Lane, follow any of the links within this post to get $10 off your first box!  I'm already looking forward to the next box!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Superhero Birthday Party

This post is much delayed but it has taken me this long to recover from the party!

Noodlebug's 5th birthday was on May 18 and we had a (non-licensed character) Superhero birthday party!  I pulled a lot of inspiration from Pinterest and the internet for this one.  It was very important to me that the kids be the superheros so we had no licensed characters. No Batman. No Superman. No Spiderman. Nada.

I got my invitations from Tiny Prints. I use them every year. I am a big fan of paper invitations. I think they are more formal and make a nice souvenir.  Plus, I don't have to worry about people not getting the invitation. So many times I have not received digital invitations from people and then found out about a party at the last minute. Tiny Prints gives you the best of both worlds because they offer digital websites where your guests can RSVP.   Here is the invitation I used:

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We created a Superhero Academy at our house.  I made handmade reversible capes in gender-neutral colors for all of the kids using the wonderful tutorial from HIDEOUS! DREADFUL! STINKY! For kids this age, I highly recommend going with the 30 inch length. Otherwise, they look too short.  I also ordered some mask/sunglasses from Oriental Trading Company.

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I was going to make felt masks with elastic straps but then worried that the straps would break.  The kids loved the Superhero sunglasses.  Cheap and easy to use. The arms would often pop off but they were easy to put back on.

I used an old hot water heater box and spraypainted it to look like a phone booth. When the kids arrived, they entered the phone booth and selected a cape and some sunglasses.  The kids mostly liked crowding into the booth together.

The guests then headed to the backyard to the fueling station to fuel up with healthy snacks. We didn't have anything sugary.  Berries, carrots, crackers, etc.  I used the wonderful free printable from Simply Swanky for the food signs.

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I modeled the activities after Designer Girl 007's ideas and printables.  We started with a "Magnificent Minds" guessing game.  I really didn't want to use candy so I compromised with a jar filled with circus animal crackers.  I told the kids that the circus animals had run away from the circus because of toxic slime. They had to guess how many animals were in the jar. The winner would receive the jar of animal crackers.This tied into another activity and worked well.

 After snacks, the kids officially entered the Superhero Academy.  Their first task was to cross the LAVA PIT!!!! This was by far the hit of the party.

My husband rigged up a board across a baby pool we already owned. We filled the pool with water and I threw in some red food coloring.  I bought a cheap fog machine off eBay for the steam effect.  The kids wanted to do it again and again.

After that task, they moved on to MIGHTY MUSCLES.

I used a dowel rod I already had along with two styrofoam balls from Michael's. Be warned. These balls are very expensive. I used the Michael's 40% coupon. Because spray paint tends to melt styrofoam, I handpainted the balls and added "1 TON" to each one.  It made for a great photo op.

Then, it was on to LEAP A TALL BUILDING IN A SINGLE BOUND. I had been hoarding boxes for months and spraypainted about 7-8 of various sizes.  I used the smallest size as the building the children would jump over and the rest as a backdrop.

The next activity involved a bit of creativity. It was called SAVE THE CIRCUS. I have this great circus playtent from Bazoongi that I wanted to use but had to figure out how to incorporate it.  I told the kids that some toxic slime had taken over the circus and the circus animals had fled. (to the MAGNIFICENT MINDS jar!!!) Each child needed to enter the tent and retrieve some of the toxic slime.  My original idea was glow sticks that served as Kryptonite but I wanted to stick with the non-licensed character theme.  So, the toxic slime was glow-in-the-dark slime from Oriental Trading Company.

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The last activity was a wild one.  I called it SAVE THE PLANET. I purchased a giant Gigaball from eBay and told the children that a giant meteor was headed to Earth and they had to stop it.  This was the other big hit of the day. The kids took turns getting inside the Gigaball and getting rolled around.

Then we had the graduation ceremony. Each child got a certificate that I purchased from Designer Girl 007. 

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I also made superhero stickers using this tutorial for Photoshop that I found online. I made one with each child's first letter and printed it out on 8.5 x 11" sticker paper.  Then, I trimmed them and attached each one to the graduation certificate.

So, their favors were the cape, sunglasses, slime, certificate and sticker.

I tried really hard to recreate this photo booth.  It looked great but we couldn't get the results we wanted.

I think the photographer needed to be a little higher up and photographing from overhead.

 Everyone seemed to have a good time. With sixteen kids, it was a lot of work but I think it was memorable.

I purchased all the signage and certificates from Designer Girl 007.  

All photography by Paul McGavin.

Monday, June 17, 2013

End of Year Teacher Gifts

Money is tight this year so I combed Pinterest for some ideas for homemade teacher gifts.

I thought this tutorial from Sun Scholars looked really cute.

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While mine aren't as cute as the original and I didn't have time to embroider them, I still think they turned out all right.

Just a few more days left of preschool.  I know I'm going to cry on Thursday!!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Keeping Busy this Summer!

I am going to start compiling a list of my very favorite resources for activities for kids. There are so many things I would like to do with Noodlebug! Of course, I will still be working full-time over the Summer.  But I work ten-hour days in June and July so I can have Fridays off.

1.  A great group of bloggers put together the CAMP MOM ACTIVITY PACK and I ordered my copy right away.  It has printable planning pages, activity ideas and more for kids ages 3-9.

2. I have been stockpiling ACTION PACK e-zines and ALPHABET GLUE e-zines for years.  I can't wait to start using them this Summer now that Noodlebug is old enough. Sadly, we lost ACTION PACK founder, Kathleen Ricketson, but you can still get all thirteen issues of her amazing e-zines.

3. I have been buying each of THE ARTFUL PARENT'S ebook series and can't wait for her to come out with the Summer edition.  Hopefully soon!!!!

4. Kiwi Crate!  We have been members of Kiwi Crate for a few years now and love it.  Although there are other subscription craft boxes for kids, I love this one because it is fairly inexpensive and comes with almost everything you need for each craft.  They are very flexible with subscriptions so you could order just for the Summer or you can join and then suspend your account as needed.

5. The Natural Nester's AT HOME SUMMER NATURE CAMP ECURRICULUM.  I am so intrigued by this 8 week curriculum. At $39.95, it isn't cheap but it has been put together by some quality bloggers.  And I can use all the inspiration I can get!

6. Here's a free downloadable PDF of ways to entertain your kids from Quirk Books!

7. Get inspiration from blogs!  Some of my very favorite blogs post amazing activities for kids almost every single day.  My favorites (which you can find in my sidebar) are:

All for the Boys
Artful Parent
Imagination Tree
Little Acorn Learning

8. Michael's is doing a Passport to Imagination event with three 2-hour events per week for only $2.  Lots of really fun-looking crafts!!!!

9. Classic Play is doing Camp Classic Play with all kinds of activities. You can download a free certificate and badges that the kids can earn throughout the Summer.

More to come.....

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