Monday, February 29, 2016

A Sandwich You Can Read

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This week my daughter's school is having a spirit week in celebration of reading. Each day they are encouraged to wear something specific. Monday was designated as "Wear a T-Shirt You Can Read Day". I decided to have have a little fun with this in her lunch. I stamped her peanut butter sandwich with "A Sandwich You Can Read". She saw me preparing this and seemed to think it was funny and cool. 

I packed the sandwich in one tier of our pink Lego like bento box. I like to use two tier boxes when I pack peanut butter sandwiches for her because it's easy to keep one tier at room temperature overnight while the other tier is stored in the refrigerator. The second tier here contains slices of Asian pear, green grapes, carrots, celery, apple slices, and tomatoes. I added an ABC pick and a notepad pick to go along with the reading theme. I packed crackers and a cookie in a small red Lego container and in the smaller red container, I added a few Tic Tacs with words for "Candy You Can Read". 

I stamped the sandwich with letters from this Cookie Notes Cookie Cutter set. It comes with three different cookie cutters and each has tracks for holding letters. You can see the tracks and the letters in the image to the side. This allows you to create any kind of message you like. My daughter really likes the individual, unique nature of the idea that it can be used to create any kind of sandwich message.

Since my son attends daycare at a different school, he is not celebrating the same days this week. But, I still wanted to pack a themed lunch matched to his interests, so I decided to use our special firetruck bento box. He has fruits and veggies accented with flame picks, a fireman's ax, and a firefighter hat. In the little box to the side, he has crackers and I will include a tube of yogurt too when I place this in his firetruck lunch bag

If you know a child who loves firetrucks, be sure to visit my post on our recent firetruck birthday party. You'll find lots of ideas for food, decorations, activities, and favors.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Breakfast for National Tooth Fairy Day

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Today was National Tooth Fairy Day and we celebrated with a simple, but fun breakfast. My kids had berry muffins with little fairy picks, blueberries and green grapes on tooth picks, and apple slices cut to look like teeth. I have wanted to get my hands on some of these tooth picks since I saw them a few years back on this post over on Bent on Better Lunches. But, for a long time I never saw them for sale anywhere. Recently, my friend, Amanda, at Bento Ninja found some and she was nice enough to let me share an order with her. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lunches for National Carnival Day

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Friday was National Carnival Day, so I took the opportunity to use a few of the vintage picks I had purchased last year. I also selected the Yumboxes with the trays shown below because the pictures went really well with the carnival theme.

My son's lunch is below. He had veggies, fruit, frosted mini wheats, baby Goldfish, and peanuts in the little circle section. I added clown and animal picks for the carnival theme.

My daughter's is similar with a few different picks and cheese in place of cucumbers. Lately, she has been liking shredded mozzarella. So, I placed some of that below a slice of Colby cheese cut in the shape of a giraffe. I used the giraffe cutter from this set to cut the cheese and press the image. I think these monkey picks are really cute. I got all these vintage carnival/circus themed picks from the Mother Goose Collectibles store on eBay.

A side note about these lunches. I packed them on Wednesday night and my kids ate them on Friday. The leak proof seal on the Yumboxes is perfect for packing lunches ahead. It keeps each section completely separate from the others. This means all the foods stay just like you want them. In this case, the cheese did not dry out, the apples did not brown, the crackers and mini wheats stayed crunchy, and the veggies stayed crisp. Also, the Yumboxes stack well in the refrigerator so it is really easy to pack ahead for times when I will be away for work or home late.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Umbrella Themed Lunches for Rainy Days

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It has been VERY rainy the last few days here. So, rainy that our pond is full, our neighbors' yards are filled with water, and our driveway is incredibly soft. We are beginning to feel quite stuck in the muck with all the soggy clay around here. The continued rain led me to decide on umbrella themed lunches for this Thursday.

First, I'll share my daughter's lunch. She has an umbrella shaped peanut butter sandwich colored with food safe markers in one tier of the blue bento box. The other tier holds slices of Colby cheese, tomatoes, and cauliflower along with chunks of plum cut and arranged on an pick to resemble an umbrella. Halves of sugar snap peas are also on umbrella picks. In the smaller silicone cups, she has a few mini saltine crackers and a few pieces of muddy buddies. I saved the white umbrella handles from chocolates we had a few years ago. I also have green handles saved from Lindt chocolate carrots that I have used in bentos for umbrellas before.

Since I colored the sandwich in pink, purple, and blue stripes, I decided to mix and match my bento box tops and bottoms to coordinate. This also allowed me to use two bigger sections as bottoms so that one was large enough to fit the sandwich and umbrella handle while still having a deep enough box to fit the umbrella made from plum pieces. I think the pink and blue combination will brighten my daughter's day tomorrow even if the rain continues.

My son doesn't eat sandwiches so his version of the umbrella lunch is much more simple. He has slices of apple, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber slices, a cup of blueberries, and some sugar snap peas. A couple of the sugar snap peas are cut and added to umbrella handle picks to look like umbrellas like I did in his sister's lunch. In the small red box, he has a few mini crackers and a few roasted chick peas. I will also include a tube of yogurt in his lunch.

I packed my husband's lunch in our Bentgo box. He has a turkey and provolone sandwich cut and colored to look like an umbrella. To the side, he has two more "umbrellas" made out of plum and apple. These were very easy to make. I just cut the side off of the apple or plum, cut the side in half, arranged the two pieces back to back so that the skin was to the outside, and stuck a piece of toothpick through the back to hold them together above the white handles.

The other tier of my husband's lunch contains veggies, and a Babybel cheese. The small square container holds homemade Ranch dip to go with the veggies.

While you are visiting my blog, you can click over to see another umbrella lunch I packed a few years ago when my daughter was in kindergarten and her class was covering the letter U. I posted my is for Umbrella lunch along with other lunches for Q, R, S, and T in this post.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lunches for National Tortilla Chip Day

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February 24 is National Tortilla Chip Day. Since my kids love tortilla chips and my daughter sometimes requests chips and salsa for lunch, I decided this would be perfect for Wednesday lunches this week.

In our blue two tiered bento box, my daughter has tortilla chips with a couple of Nestle chocolates, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, apple slices, and plum slices. On the side, she has a string cheese, and a small container of salsa. Over the last year, she has developed a taste for some spicy food items and salsa is one of the things she likes "hot".

In this picture, you can see the tiered box all assembled. This box is great for a lunch like this because I can keep the chips sealed in one section of the box so they stay very crispy while the foods with moisture, like the apple and plum slices, are separate in another section. 

The next lunch is for my son. It is packed in our three tiered round hamburger box. My son has tortilla chips, roasted chick peas, and a birthday cake Oreo in the bottom "bun" tier of the box. In the "lettuce" layer, he has veggies, and the "burger" layer contains four types of fruit alongside slices of cucumber.

This box is a little tricky to pack because the tiers that reassemble the lettuce and burger layers of the hamburger are quite thin, requiring that the food placed in them be arranged in a thin layer so that the box will stack properly allowing the clips on the sides to attach. My son LOVES this box and gets excited every time I use it. The struggle of getting everything to fit feels worth it when I see his happiness over getting to take this box to daycare for lunch. And, as far as cute, novelty style bento boxes go, this one is inexpensive. It is usually available for around $5.00 on Amazon.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lunches for National Play Tennis Day

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Sometimes when deciding what to pack for lunch, I check out what National Days are coming up. Looking at the list sometimes sparks an idea or reminds me of some supplies I have around. This was one of those nights. I looked and saw that Tuesday is National Play Tennis Day. Then, I remembered that a friend had sent me a cookie cutter shaped tennis racket and that I had a couple of vintage tennis racket picks from the Mother Goose store on eBay. Then, lunches came together and the process was fun.

The lunch above is for my husband. He has a turkey and pepperjack sandwich on a baguette alongside some veggies with one of the tennis racket picks. I used letter picks to spell out Play Tennis Day. The other sections hold Chex mix, a chocolate, blueberries in a star shaped cup and a couple of slices of nectarine. This is packed in our Fit and Fresh three section box.

The next lunch is for my daughter. It is packed in a Yumbox. She has a Babybel cheese, Muddy Buddies, fruit, veggies, and a tennis racket shaped peanut butter sandwich lying on a few Goldfish crackers.

I used the cookie cutter above to make the sandwich. My daughter liked the idea of the mini sandwich in this shape. This is a closeup of the tennis racket pick. I think it is pretty cute. Check out the Mother Goose eBay store for more cute picks.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Working Car Themed Lunch

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To start off this week, my son will have a transportation themed lunch. In our Working Car bento box, he has carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, apple slices, plum slices, raspberries, blueberries on vehicle picks, cauliflower, broccoli, mini round tortilla chips, and two Nestle chocolates. In the smaller Working Car box, he has roasted chickpeas. He tried a sample of these in a store and liked them. I am always searching for additional sources of protein for him since he mostly prefers fruits and veggies, rarely eats meat, and doesn't eat cheese, so I jumped at the chance to buy the chickpeas. He requested more later during the day that we bought them so I am hoping that he will also eat them in his lunch.

My son really liked the napkins I recently purchased from Sew Chic, Geek Boutique and asked that I include them in his lunch more often. So, I pulled out this car and truck napkin which goes really well with this lunch. I hope it makes him smile during Monday's lunch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Planning a Firetruck Themed Birthday Party

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This post is a little different from my usual posts about packed lunches. It will focus on the recent firetruck themed birthday party we had for our son who just turned five. Before I get into the details of the party, let me say that as far as kids birthday parties go ours are a little more involved than some might expect. But, by no means do I think all kids parties need to be like this. I'm simply sharing what we do in case others are interested.

For us, the process of planning and preparing for a party is fun for both kids and adults. Our kids usually start contemplating their next theme months in advance and then we (mom and dad) help find ways to expand on their ideas. We enjoy searching for or making the decorations. Our kids delight in finding themed party favors to share with their friends. I look forward to planning a menu that coordinates with the party theme. My husband takes on the challenge of preparing a creative cake. And, we all love working as a team to pull everything together the day of the party.

Having this type of party also offers us a chance to get our extended family members together outside of just Thanksgiving and Christmas. We appreciate the effort our family members make in taking time to come to our kids' parities and we like having the chance to share good food and fun times with them. 
My son has collected firetrucks since he was two. He loves all styles of them and knows lots of details about firetrucks from watching several videos about fire departments. So, when picking a theme for his fifth birthday party, he was happy to settle on firetrucks.

I collected ideas on this Pinterest Board and we made plans together as a family.

For the invitation, I wanted to incorporate ideas from a few others I had seen online and I wanted to include a photo of my son in one of his firefighter costumes. So, I started with the basics from this free invitation template from How to Nest for Less. I then modified it to include the details for our party and my son's picture.
Since the party was firetruck themed and ended up falling on a day with record low windchill values, I selected several spicy recipes for the food. I purchased these fiery tablecloths and really liked how the flames looked when the tables were filled.

The menu included the following. You can click each link to see the recipe I followed.

  • Hot Potato Soup (This soup is always a crowd pleaser. I have made it many time over the last several years and it is nearly always all gone no matter how big the pot of soup is.)
  • Mighty Meatballs (I use grape jelly instead of grape juice.)
  • Jalapeno Popper Dip with Pita Crackers (I skipped the cracker topping since I was serving this from a crockpot with pita crackers on the side.)
  • Queso and Chips
  • Spicy Mac & Cheese (Don't fret over the title of this one; it really wasn't spicy.)
  • Wonton Taco Cups (These were easy and popular.)
  • Jalapeno Pillows (Party guests liked these. They looked fancy, but they were not difficult to make.)
  • Buffalo Chicken Crescent Ring (All of this was eaten. I made it ahead of time and baked it onsite at the party.)
  • Cool Down Cheese Cubes (just cheddar and colby cheeses cut into cubes)
  • Red Hot Crackers (I made these the day before and the leftovers were still good days later.)
  • Doritos "Flames" (on request from my son)
  • Cheetos "Firesticks" (Based on an idea I saw on Catch My Party.)
  • Chili Spiced Almonds (These were tasty and very easy to make ahead of time.)
  • Flaming Fruit Trio (I used strawberries, mango, and pineapple because they were available as red, orange-ish, and yellow fruits in season at the time.)
  • Scorching Pepper Flames (I used red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. These were easy to prepare ahead of time and my kids love crunching on pepper strips.)
  • Sizzling Veggies (I used cherry tomatoes, carrots, and sunburst tomatoes because I wanted the tray to be red, orange, and yellow).
Below you can see the trays of fruit, and veggies alongside the crescent ring. I ordered these plate and napkin sets because I wanted the look of a real firetruck rather than cartoonish trucks I saw on other sets. I also ordered orange plastic forks and spoons in the 100 piece sets to ensure we had enough on hand. I was pleased with the quality of plates, napkins, and silverware.

Many years ago (close to ten now) I started making food signs when we had Halloween parties. They started out as a simple way to label the food so guests would know what was in the crockpot and wouldn't be afraid to try something new. I soon realized that adding clipart to these is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to carry through with the party theme and add decoration to the food tables. Sometimes, I use the same images on all of the signs and other times I use a different image on each sign. My daughter wanted to provide input for these and suggested a firetruck spraying water on the flames. We had trouble finding a truck spraying water at the right angle and eventually settled on a fireman instead.

I ordered these plastic bowls for the soup. Sometimes when we have parties, we forget that we need bowls and then have to make a last minute trip to the store. Ordering ahead helped me avoid forgetting and allowed me to pick a color that matched the theme.

And, because I'm crazy over the theme :) you might have noticed that I served most of the food in red orange, black, or white containers. Years ago, we bought a white porcelain bowl and platter set for $20 at a local price club. It has been so useful for parties and packs away easily. Our is similar to this one and this one. I also have these stacking containers in pink, orange, and yellow in a small round, large round, and square shapes. I find that I can use sets like these and crockpots for most of the food and then just look through my cabinets for containers or bowls that match the other main colors of the party.

I ordered this tablecloth for the dessert tables and cut it into two pieces.

We had this number five shaped pan from my daughter's fifth birthday a few years ago so we used it for my son's cake. I baked a chocolate marble cake in it and then froze the cake before "dirty icing" it with white icing and then placing it back in the freezer. 


We then covered it in red icing and cut out black fondant in the shape of a number five to simulate a road. 

We made cereal treats in a square pan similar to this and then my husband cut these into various shapes for the burning buildings. He then accessorized with a few of my son's Playmobil firefighters and firetrucks.

The dessert table included the cake along with the following items:

Closeups of the cookies and Jello are below.

The price on this fire hydrant cupcake stand dropped on Amazon the week of the party so we bought it and ended up being happy we had it to add to the table. We also ordered these flame cupcake picks and edible rice paper firetrucks (Order ahead if you want these. Ours shipped from Germany.). I attempted to follow this method from Beki Cook's Cake Blog to swirl red, orange, and yellow icing on the cupcakes, but I now realize I need to invest in real piping tips and bags to really pull it off properly.) 

We also had water, Capri Sun, and soda available as "Fire Extinguishers".

We kept the decorations pretty simple at this party since we had a lot going on at work and school in the weeks before the party. Sometime we make decorations for our parties, but this time most were purchased. I bought yellow and red tablecloths and alternated these on the tables where guests would sit. We taped yellow, orange and balloons at the center of these tables. And, we also had these firetruck themed balloons.

We brought my son's firetruck collection for kids to play with. We have found that bringing along toys coordinated with the party theme provides an easy, no cost activity for younger party guests. They can play when they first arrive, while adults are eating, or during gift opening. The toys offer unstructured, flexible fun for kids.

I bought this firetruck Happy Birthday Banner since it matched the plates and I didn't think I was going to have spare time to make one like I sometimes do. We used it on the gift table with an orange tablecloth.

Guests who wanted to had the option of painting firetruck themed suncatchers or making a firehouse sticker scene.

Since we invite family members and our kids' classmates to their parties, we usually have a wide range of ages present. Therefore, we usually try to offer party favors tailored somewhat to both younger and older kids. This time, we bought these favor boxes and these firefighter hats. The boxes to the left were for one age group and those to the right were for another.

The boxes for the younger kids contained these items along with some candy. Kids seem to enjoy temporary tattoos and rubber duckies or any kind of water toy usually work well as favors because kids get to swim in the indoor pool after the food, games, cake, and gift part of the party is over. And usually it's easy to find little coloring books or sticker books that match with the theme of the party. The boxes for the older kids had some of these same items and some different, such as mechanical pencils in place of crayons.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I don't think a party has to be this involved to be great. Our kids often attend more low key parties that are just as much fun. I think everyone should celebrate birthdays in a style of their own choosing. Birthdays are great opportunities to celebrate with loved ones!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Food Prepared with Love

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This post features two lunches and one breakfast prepared with hearts for Valentine's Day. First is a lunch for my husband in our Planetbox Launch. In the top left section, he has a mini orange, and a slice of nectarine with a heart-shaped piece cut out and inserted the opposite direction so the heart is more visible. Below that he has veggies in a pink cup, blueberries in a heart-shaped cup, and mini tortilla chips. In the larger section to the right, he has macaroni salad with an "I love you" ring and a mini turkey and pepper-jack cheese sandwich stamped "Be Mine". I also included a pink fork.

The next lunch, for my daughter, is packed in our pink, square Lego like box. In one tier she has a mini peanut butter sandwich stamped "hugs", mini tortilla chips, and a mini red red box holding TicTacs with Valentine's messages. In the other tier, she has nectarine slices, cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, Cutie slices, a heart-shaped piece of plum, and blueberries in a heart-shaped cup.

Last for this post, is a breakfast of very tiny strawberry muffins decorated with letter picks to say "I Love You". These were for my daughter and the box she decorated for collecting Valentines from classmates is in the background.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Mardi Gras Themed Lunches

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For the first time since starting to pack bentos about five years ago, I actually remembered Mardi Gras on time. For some reason, I always think it is in March and then realize too late that it is in February. But, this year I looked it up ahead of time and used my Mardi Gras themed picks (like these and these) to create these simple, cute purple, green, and gold lunches.

First up are the adult lunches packed in our green Lunchbots Quad boxes. We have green veggie chips, a couple of Girl Scout cookies, veggies, apple slices, and blueberries. This food went along with a chicken salad wrap (not pictured). The little containers below held almonds and green and purple candies.

My daughter's lunch is packed in our purple Yumbox and my son's is in our green Yumbox. They have pretzel dipping sticks, berries, veggies, and apple slices. My daughter has cubed cheese and my son has a granola bar. They also have green and purple candy hearts in the treat section.

In the end, this turned out to be a snow day so they had these while picnicking in the living room at home.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lunches with a Touch of Love

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My daughter said she really enjoyed the peanut butter sandwich from her last lunch and asked if she could have another one the next day. I said sure and decided to use one of the cutters from my heart set. These cutters are from Willams Sonoma. They have a heart shaped cutter on one side and phrases on the other. I selected the XOXO press and then used food safe markers to accentuate the letters. Sticking with hugs and kisses them, I included a lip pick, heart picks, and an XOXO pick. I chose this pink two tier box for this lunch partly because it was pink, but also because the style allows me to pack the sandwich in one section for storage at room temperature overnight while the other foods can be placed in a separate tier in the refrigerator. My daughter likes the peanut butter sandwiches better this way.

I used hearts for my son's lunch in a different pink two tier box. He has mini heart-shaped silicone cups filled with Goldfish and peanuts. He has a lot of blackberries because he loves berries, and then several veggies. I added two different heart picks to those to keep with the love theme. He will have yogurt along with this food for lunch.