Saturday, September 27, 2008

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It!

Not only is this girl cute, smart, and full of personality, she's also got a heart as big as Texas. Over the summer she held a Lemonade Stand fund raiser for a local group called RAH! Every penny she earned (including the money she got from recycling the cans) was donated. RAH! contacted our local paper and they interviewed her for a story which was published today. Want to read about it?

Click here.

Sometimes I Love The Boy Scouts

Aside from being a mother, wife, and (very part-time) ASL interpreter I also occasionally don the hat of Merit Badge counselor for our local troop and crew. To be truthful, the boys generally avoid coming to me because I really make them work to earn their badges. A group of 3 boys was recently up for the challenge and came to me to earn the "Citizenship in the Community" badge.

A couple months have passed and today we met to finalize this badge - which included reporting on the issues of a recent school board meeting and presenting reports on our fine city. One boy (I'll call him Scout) was a little nervous about his report but did a great job in presenting it to the group. When he concluded I pulled out my merit badge worksheet and looked it over to ask him a few questions about points which were not covered.

Me: "So, Scout, what would you say are the best features of our fine city?"

Scout: "Um.... 7 Peaks and... the library? And.... um... BYU?"

Me: "All good and correct answers. How about the popular places where people gather around here?"

Scout: "I think.... 7 Peaks and BYU and..... maybe the library?"

Me: (trying to think of popular places to gather besides church) "Um... Yes! Definitely lots of students gathering at BYU, right? OK, last question. What would you say is one of the greatest challenges our city faces?"

Scout: "The Utes."

Me: (stifling laughter) "OK, how are the Utes a challenge?"

Scout: "Well, BYU is always beating them, but sometimes it's close."





Merit badge approved.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Princess Speaks

(photo by the talented Trish)



On the way to kindergarten this afternoon:

Me: So, how are you liking school, Princess?

Princess: It's awesome.

Me: Oh, yeah? What's so awesome about it?

Princess: Well, I like my music teacher because she's not mean.

Me: You mean, she's nice?

P: No. But do you know what?

Me: No, but I know his brother Somewhat.

P: MOM! What are you even talking about?!

Me: OK, sorry. Tell me about what.

P: We should go to Hawaii.

Me: Why Hawaii?

P: Well, not the real Hawaii. What I mean is that we need to go to a beach again. Well, not really a beach - I mean a beach that looks like Hawaii. OK, mom? Because beaches are fun and they have lots of waves and shells and stuff.

As we pull up to the school: Hey look, it's Brooklyn! She has the same name as our cousin, huh mom? And look! It's Camry! Isn't that the most beautiful name? I really like her name. And she's really nice.

Me: You mean, she's not mean?

P: What? You're crazy mom. I'm leaving out of the car now, OK?

I love this age. Her thoughts can be so random and funny and it makes me want to hug her and kiss those sweet, round cheeks. I wish I could strap a recorder on to her somehow so I could hear all of the conversations I am missing out on while she's at school.


That lucky kindergarten teacher.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Another Quilt Auction

I decided to auction another quilt for the Nielson's Recovery fund. Did you miss out on the last one? Here's your chance!


You know you want it.

The auction is taking place over at my friend ~j.'s blog (<---- that's a link, you click on it!). So head over there to bid on this
54" x 54" handmade beauty!


And if you happen to want expert advice on (or need help with) the whole process of applying for a good college then you'll want to check out her other auction, too.



Happy bidding!

Brown Baggin' It: Recipes

(photo from tasteofhome.com)

It's our last day of sack lunch goodness. And you know what that means? RECIPES! Here you go...

TORTILLA ROLL-UPS

Pretty basic, really. Get your tortilla and spread what you want on it. Roll it up and cut it how you like. Here's my kids' favorite:

flour tortillas
cream cheese
lunch meat
spinach (or lettuce)

One it's rolled, cut in half (or in pinwheels), throw it in a baggie and share the love.


BROWNIE BITES

packaged brownie mix (or whip up your favorite brownie batter)
optional: Reeses mini PB cups or Rolos

Pre-heat oven to 350. Spray mini-muffin pans with cooking spray. Fill each cup with a heaping tablespoon of brownie batter (a little more than half full). Bake for about 12 minutes. If you want the optional chocolatey goodness, stuff an (unwrapped!) PB cup or Rolo into the center of each brownie bite while they are still warm. Let them cool for about an hour. One box of brownie mix makes about 4 dozen.

SUPER EASY PUMPKIN MINI MUFFINS

small (15 ounce) can of pumpkin
1 box yellow cake mix

Prepare mini muffin pans with cupcake liners or cooking spray. Put pumpkin into a bowl. Add cake mix and stir (don't use a mixer!) until well combined. Pour into mini muffin pans (each cup half full) and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Options:
-Add mini chocolate chips
-bake as regular sized muffins instead (bake for 22-25 minutes)


CAKE MIX COOKIES

1 package of cake mix (any flavor)
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (or whatever chips you want)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. (If it's too hard to mix, add a little water.) Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets after removing from oven.

Options:
-Chocolate cake mix with white chocolate chips is tasty!
-Yellow cake mix with milk chocolate chips is my kids' favorite
-Spice cake mixes make great cookie sandwiches with cream cheese icing in the middle.


SCOTCHEROOS
(A yummy variation of the traditional rice crispy treats - from my sis-in-law Michelle)

1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups rice crispies

OPTIONAL TOPPING:
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Combine sugar and corn syrup in a large pan. Heat to dissolve sugar & bring to a boil. Remove from heat & stir in peanut butter. Add rice crispies. Press into a greased 9 x 13 pan. (optional topping: Melt chips together in a saucepan then spread on top of rice crispies in the 9 x 13 pan.) Let cool, then pray that there will still be some left to put in your lunches tomorrow!

Did I forget any? If so, let me know. And that's it! Go make some awesome lunches for you & your kids. (If you are looking for a pay raise at work, your boss wants one, too.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brown Baggin' It: Dessert

Photo from justdesserts.com

I saved the best for last. But your kids probably don't - not at school. And I probably don't while they're at school, either. Moving on...

DESSERTS! There are so many ideas besides the ginormous amounts of prepackaged stuff they sell at the store. You know about those things already - Chips Ahoy, Pudding Cups, Yogurt Tubes, Oreos... I'm going to tell you about stuff you make at home that gives your kids amazing bartering power in the cafeteria. Not like they'll want to trade. But they could.

These treats are all sturdy enough to withstand the trip from home to the lunchroom...
  • Brownie bites (pictured above) are everyone's favorite. I'll give you the recipe tomorrow. But only if you're really nice.
  • Homemade cookies! There are all the old standards, but if you're in a hurry you'll want to make my cakemix cookies. Very tasty. Again, recipe tomorrow.
  • Mini muffins. The varieties are as endless as your imagination. For those of you with no imagination, I'll give you some ideas: blueberry, pumpkin, poppyseed, oatmeal, banana, chocolate chip, apple cinnamon, zucchini or carrot.
  • Pudding cups. Make your own pudding and put it in those "disposable" containers. Freeze it the night before and it's perfect by the time they eat lunch.
  • Peanut butter balls! Roll them in graham cracker crumbs instead of dipping them in chocolate and enjoy!
  • Dessert Mix - Just find the sweets in your pantry, dump all those almost empty bags in a bowl and dish out equal servings in baggies. Some things you could include: chocolate or butterscotch chips, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, coconut or cereal.
  • Rice Crispy Treats! You can add all kinds of fun ingredients to the standard recipe to mix things up a bit - broken up candy bar pieces are pretty tasty.
  • Dessert pizza. Slice it, bag it and pack it until it's gone!
  • Sugar cookies. These can be made special for each kid to fit their interests and decorated with just about anything. Make mini circles with a cookie cutter then frost one and squish another on top for some great little cookie sandwiches.
In a pinch? No treats in sight? Try these two standbys:
  • Graham crackers with frosting (who didn't love these as a kid?)
  • Saltines with frosting (Have you tried them? Then don't knock 'em. A perfect combination of salty and sweet!)
Maybe you don't want to make something. Maybe you like buying stuff at the store. OK, fair enough. Here are some fun store-bought treats that go well with a little note:
  • M-azing candy bars: "You're one M-AZING kid!"
  • M&Ms: "Have a Marvelous & Magnificent day"
  • Sweetarts: "I love you, SWEETART!" (This one's great for teenage boys)
  • Mounds: "Hope your day is MOUNDS of fun"
  • Fanta soda: "Have a FANTAstic lunch"
Just hit the candy/treat aisle and come up with your own...

Hooray! You're on your way to being someone's favorite person with these lunchtime ideas. And we're not even done yet. Tomorrow is recipe day!

I know you'll be waiting with baited breath.



(What the heck does that mean, anyway? It sounds disgusting.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brown Baggin' It: Sides

Okay - I'm not THAT creative. I couldn't get an orange to look that awesome to save my life. But there are all kinds of great sides (no carving skills required) to serve up with your kids' sandwiches in their lunch bags! This may seem like I'm stating the obvious, but:
  • Fruits! (grapes, raisins, kiwi, apples, clementines, strawberries... you know these guys.)
  • Veggies! (carrots, celery, peppers, broccoli, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, etc...)
  • Chips! (every variety under the sun, including apple and sweet potato!)
  • Crackers! (grahams, saltines, Goldfish, wheat, cheese-flavored, pretzels...)
Now here's where it gets fun. Serve these things up in unusual ways and they'll be begging for more! Here are a few ideas:

FRUITS
  • Fruit salad! (yummy, yummy...) If your kids like one fruit, they'll love a mish-mash of fruit even more. Throw some grapes, strawberries and orange slices together with some pomegranate seeds in a ziplock baggie. Just use whatever they'll eat.
  • Make a trail mix with a variety of dried fruits: raisins, craisins, apricots, apples, coconut, dates, mango, bananas, etc. Check out the bulk foods section of your local natural foods store for a plethora of choices!
  • Fruit dip or dipping caramel can be sent in a small disposable container along with your fruit. (BTW, Does anyone really throw away those disposable containers? NOT ME! Just curious.)
  • Apples can be cored and then filled with peanut butter. Tasty!
  • Fruit kabobs. Love 'em!
VEGGIES
  • One word: DIP.
  • Fill some celery with peanut butter or cream cheese. You can even top with raisins for the ever-popular "ants on a log". Those are some mighty big ants, though. They look more like... never mind.
  • My favorite: Cukesicles! One year we had an over-abundance of cucumbers in our garden. No one wanted to eat them until I found this idea in a Family Fun magazine: Peel them, cut them in half, and insert a popsicle stick. Voila! A cukesicle. Suddenly, my kids liked them. Their friends even wanted one. Too bad zucchinisicles didn't work out.
  • Send some "lunch money". I read this one in a magazine, too, but can't remember which one. Cut some vegetables in circles (carrots & cucumbers are good) and put them in a baggie labeled "lunch money". I had to write: "Veggie coins = lunch money" and then my kids thought it was funny. You do what you gotta do.
  • Veggie kabobs! Who doesn't like vegetables on a stick?
CHIPS/CRACKERS
  • Back to the trail mix idea: just mix what you've got in your pantry for an instant Salty Salad! (Who says your kids won't eat salad?!)
A few other non-dessert sides:

THINGS TO PUT IN "DISPOSABLE" CONTAINERS:
  • mandarin oranges
  • applesauce with sliced bananas (Try it! YUM!)
  • salsa (fruit or veggie type)
  • guacamole
  • yogurt (freeze it, by lunchtime it will be ready to eat)
Now you want to know about desserts, right?

I bet you do.

Have you ever heard the saying, "Good things come to those who wait?"




Tomorrow.


Oh, and p.s! If you want recipes for anything I've mentioned so far, let me know. I'm doing lunchtime brown-baggin' it recipes in 2 days.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brown Baggin' It: The Main Course

(photo from realage.com)

So you've got your lunch bag ready. What do you put in it? We'll start with the "main course". Sure, PB&J comes to mind. And that's what my kids get quite often. But there are so many other possibilities!

Here's my list. Mix and match. Get crazy!

SANDWICH BREADS:
  • Wheat or white
  • Bagels
  • Waffles or pancakes
  • Pita pockets
  • English muffins
  • Tortillas
  • Rolls
  • Hamburger or hot dog buns
  • Baguettes (these make cute little sandwiches)
  • Croissants
SANDWICH FILLINGS:
  • The classic, peanut butter and jelly
  • Any variety of lunchmeat
  • Tuna
  • Peanut butter and honey
  • Eggs! Egg salad, scrambled, fried...
  • Avocado
  • Chicken salad **
  • Cream cheese (whipped is best) and jelly
  • Cucumbers and cheese (use Tillamook cheese if you want your kids to REALLY love you)
  • Don't forget the BLT! (bacon, lettuce and tomato)
  • Peanut butter and diced apples
  • Fruity cream cheese with thin-sliced strawberries
You can get really creative with sandwiches. These are just suggestions. But maybe your kids don't like sandwiches? (This one's for you, ~j.) Then here are some other ideas:
  • Pigs in a blanket **
  • Cheese and lunchmeat with crackers (HomeLunchables)
  • Chips with salsa or hummus - or both!
  • Bean and cheese (or whatever you want) burritos
  • Leftover pizza (or English muffin pizzas)
  • Loaded quesadillas
  • Salad! (the variety here is endless...)
**And here are a couple of recipes in case you don't know what I'm talking about:

CHICKEN SALAD

canned chicken (drained!)
mayo (or we prefer ranch dressing) to taste
red grapes, sliced in half
diced celery, to taste

Mix it all together in a bowl and slap it on your bread of choice!
Our recommendations: serve in croissants, pitas or rolls.



PIGS IN A BLANKET

1 can refrigerator biscuits
1 package hot dogs (we prefer smoked sausage)

POP! open the can of biscuits (scares me every time!) and overlap 2 biscuits, flattening them out. Lay a hot dog on the flattened biscuits and wrap the biscuits around the hot dog, securing both ends of biscuit together. Bake according to biscuit instructions (until golden brown). These can be prepared the night before and refrigerated until lunch-packing time.

A few more fun suggestions:

-When making the homemade 'Lunchables', cut out the cheese and meat with small cookie cutters. Who can resist?

-Make sandwiches fun by cutting them into unique shapes like bears or snowmen.

-Cut the centers out of sandwiches with cookie cutters. This is great for kids who don't like crusts (you know, crazy kids. Because the crust is the BEST part!).

-When making tortilla roll-ups, you can cut them in half OR cut them into a bunch of little pinwheels. It's like having a tea party in your lunch bag!

-And, speaking of tea parties...pack a little handkerchief and a cup, plate and pitcher from a toy tea set so they can have their own little tea party during lunch. (Try to top THAT, lunch ladies!)


Want more ideas? Sorry, this post is already way too long.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about 'side dishes'.

Y'all come back now, y' hear?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Brown Baggin' It

I was reading my friend Shellie's blog the other day. She expressed some frustration over packing school lunches and asked for some advice. The problem was, I didn't feel right about using her comment section for what was sure to be a novel on the finer points of brown-bagging it. Because I've got skills when it comes to school lunches, people! MAD skills. So here we are.

Where do I start?

First off, these ideas can be used for everyone. You don't have to be a kid who is taking lunch to school. You could be the President of the United States and have your lunch-maker-person pack you an awesome meal that will make all the presidents of other countries jealous when you pull your lunch bag out during some long, drawn out foreign policy meeting or something. I'm just sayin' - everyone likes fun, tasty lunches.

Okie dokie. I am going to make this a series type of thing. There is just too much information to share! And I'm starting with an often overlooked aspect of bringing a lunch from home - the container. Now in my family brown lunch sacks work best. That way no one is getting in trouble for losing their lunch box (again) or for accidentally kicking their reusable bag on the roof of the school (again). You use what you like, though. Recycle your grocery bags, go buy that Batman lunch box you always wanted as a kid or cart off with an ice chest - you decide. But here's how to make it fun.

Jokes! Who doesn't like a good joke? Every day I write a new joke on my kids' lunch bags. These jokes end up being shared on the bus, in math class (the teacher insists!), during P.E. and even with some of the lunch ladies (who are jealous that they don't have lunch from home). If you don't have a brown bag, you can write a joke on a sticky-note. Or an index card. Or a napkin. You get the idea. A few good places to find jokes online are here or here or here.

You could also write a love note.

Or include some brain teasers or logic puzzles.

How about drawing your kid a picture?

Throw in a minute mystery and give them the solution when they get home.

The possibilities are endless!

Okay, now you have your bags all ready. Tomorrow I'll start giving you ideas on what to put in them.




By the way, the answer to Coolister's joke (see photo above) is:
Put your head through a window and the pane will just disappear!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

But Can You Find The Wooly Mammoth?

The toys! What a mess! I thought with despair
As I carried the laundry beyond the top stair.

But before I could utter the guilty child's name
Mary Poppins came to mind and I made the mess a game.

I turned things around (you can, too - if you try!)
By seeing the mess as a game of I Spy!

I spy a monkey, a Lego (or two)
and a doll with a permanent mustache tattoo.

I spy a wheel, Clark Kent in disguise,
and a red floppy hat with some tough looking eyes.

I spy a train, a brown and white pup,
and a baby that I can't resist picking up!

Now it's your turn. It's easy! Just give it a try.
Enjoy your home's messes by playing I Spy.




Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just To Clarify...

I sure appreciate all the ego-boosting comments that were left after my last post. I promise, I wasn't having a pity party - although (Allen pointed out) it may have appeared that way. Here's what I mean when I say no one appreciates my specialness...

I have many rare talents.

For example, I can pretend I know all the words to any song on the radio by filling in my own words when I'm not sure what is being said. You know that song, "Bubbly" by Colbie Caillat? I love singing that one... It starts in my toes and I crinkle my nose and that just shows that I'm good with prose. You make me smile, please stay for awhile now or else I will stalk you wherever you go. See what I mean? It's a gift.

You know how the overhead music at the grocery store occasionally plays a dancing song - one you just want to groove to? Well, I don't hold back. When my body wants to move to the music, I oblige. Who cares that the 20-somethings (and my kids) are mocking me? Usually an offer of some soft-serve changes their minds - and occasionally Coolister or Thumbelina will even bust a few dance moves right along with me. (note to self: Try offering soft-serve to the 20-somethings to loosen them up. You know they wish they were you.)

When my kids get invited to a last-minute birthday party I can craft a gift with some random supplies like felt and eyelets within a half hour. I mean, I'm sort of like McGyver, but with a sewing machine. Does it get any better than that?

I have a knack for using the word poop around my kids whenever possible, mostly because it makes them giggle nervously. (Why is everyone afraid of that word? Everyone does it. What's the big whoop?)

I can remember sayings from my childhood at the most convenient times. For example:
Random Person: Shut up!
Me: I don't shut up, I grow up. But when I look at you, I throw up.

I can also push a cart full of kids, pull a cart full of groceries and carry a baby on my hip, all while finding the best price on peanut butter. Are you catching my drift here? Specialness.

But how is all this talent received by those I spend most of my time with (a.k.a. my children)? With eye rolls and exasperated sighs.

But secretly, I think they love it. So I'll keep trying my best to really let all my specialness shine through.