Tuesday, August 30, 2011

back to school:: lunches

the school supplies have been purchased.
we've got clothes to get them through the first few weeks. they'll be wearing shorts for a while.
new backpacks are in the house.
what's left?
only my favorite subject:: lunches.

our school has a great, healthy lunch program. it's gone through a transformation since we've been there.  i used to volunteer in the cafe when it was frozen chicken patty sandwiches and chips.  now they have a caterer that provides a hot, well balanced meal.  but it's a treat for us to buy.  i feel like i can pack a yummy and nutritious lunch for them everyday.  and it doesn't take much time.

it does take some preparation.

i have found that i should tackle the kids lunches the same way i do the family dinner menu.
i plan it out for the week.  this helps to vary what they eat and to make sure that i am using what i have. it eliminates the frustration in the morning of what to pack.  and if i do it in conjunction with the dinner menu i can work in leftovers.

i have three goals in making the kids their lunches.
1. give them something they will eat
2.  provide them the right nutrition for the day.
3. make only one boring turkey sandwich a week.

i hate boring lunches.
i hate when i pack boring lunches.
why not make it good and fun with just a little thought.

my oldest will eat pretty much anything.  he has a big appetite. i am more likely to buy lunches for him from the cafe because they are hot and he'll eat it.  my middle one is picky and doesn't have a very big appetite. he could eat the same thing for lunch everyday and be happy. my little one eats well and varied but she would much rather play than eat. small bites of food are better for her.   i have to deal with all of these issues when planning their lunches.

it's easy for me to make their lunches when i think in terms of categories:
1 protein - turkey, chicken, cheese
1 carbohydrate - wheat bread, pasta, roll
1 fruit - apples, grapes, strawberries
1 vegetable - carrots, salad, cucumber
1 treat - crackers, small cookie
1 drink - water

we are making a few changes this year.
i usually buy the water pouches with fruit juice in them.  this year i am doing only water and slicing lemon, orange or strawberries for some flavor. we'll see how long this lasts.
any treat that i include in their lunches will be homemade, except for maybe the crackers and occasionally some chips.

not every lunch is completely balanced.  i think that if they eat well most of the time, the occasional "treat" is ok.  and i believe that food should be fun.  they have to want to eat it, otherwise what's the point.

i love that our school is also moving towards a more nutritious school environment.  they have converted our monthly bake sale of mostly donuts and cupcakes to a treat sale that offers more nutritious alternatives and more home baked items.  everyone will benefit from that and that makes me happy.

i wanted to share some of my favorite resources for finding good lunch ideas.  these are great sources of inspiration, especially for my two youngest kids.  i think my oldest would rather i pack him a turkey sandwich and not cut it into a hello kitty shape.  we'll make adjustments for each.
this lunch rox
simple bites

my sister often jokes that my kids will be the ones with gourmet lunches, a cloth napkin, and no ziploc baggies.  and i say, why not? 

i'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

Monday, August 29, 2011

weekly menu:: week 35

friday night we met up with some friends from school for food trucks and fro yo.  each week it feels like the crowd gets bigger and there are more trucks to choose from.  not the best place for someone who has a hard time making a decision - like me.
bobby got chicken tikka masala and i got the crab roll from the pokey truck.
i'm not a fan of the masala but my crab roll was a-ma-zing.  i could have had a few other items from this truck,  but it can get expensive.  the kids got tacos from a taco truck.  i still haven't been able to get the nutella crepes but it's at the top of the list for next time.

it's menu time again.  this is the last full week of summer vacation for us.  i think the kids are excited to start school next week.  and i'm ready to start a new, more scheduled routine.

monday: turkey paninis, salad
tuesday: sesame soba noodles, egg foo young
wednesday: sopes de chorizo
thursday: we have a dinner party
friday: pizza - or food trucks
saturday:  eating out
sunday: appetizers - cheese plate, fruit and veggie tray, hummus and pita chips

hoping this week goes by slowly.  i want to enjoy these last few days together.

have a wonderful week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

five on friday:: best things about camping

1. being together
any vacation we take we get to be together.  but there is something about camping that makes us closer as a family.  we work together to set up camp.  bobby starts the campfire, i cook, the kids wash the dishes.  everyone does their part.  we work together to put everything away -  roll up sleeping bags, pack up the tent, put clothes away.  we encourage and support each other - as we swim across a river, hike up a long steep trail or try to get warm in the middle of the night.  it is definitely a bonding experience.

2. taking a break from electronics
we were in a part of the park that did not get reception.  no cell phones or internet.  and of course no tv or video games.  we find other ways to have fun.  yahtzee, swimming, and making up games. or just hanging around and talking. it makes me want to turn the tv and computer off more at home.  these breaks are needed, especially in the summer.  and it makes us all more thankful when we do have them.

3. appreciating nature
that's a given, but it still surprises me how overwhelmed i am by it.  to look up and see the stars.  to walk through a grove of trees that are hundreds or thousands of years old.  to go through a tunnel and feel like i've been transported to another place.  it gives me a huge sense of perspective and appreciation.

4. fun things for the kids
like the junior ranger program.  the kids learn about the park, the environment and it gives them something to work towards.  at the end they get a badge and a pin and they say an oath to protect the parks.  love that.

5. time
to read.  to play. to laugh. to talk. to see. to try. to listen. to snuggle. to experience. to fully take advantage of the day.

*things we don't like:  the mosquitos, the dirty feet and the threat of a bear coming into the campsite because of our minty fresh breath.  but that comes with the territory and we wouldn't have it any other way.
have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

adventure:: yosemite

back in may, jordan and his classmates ventured to yosemite for a week.  he came home with such enthusiasm and admiration for what he experienced that he motivated us to take a mini vacation this summer.

we went to kernville on friday to bottle our wine (more on that later). on a whim, bobby checked the yosemite website for availability and he got us a site for 2 nights in wawona.  it was an hour to yosemite valley, but we took what we could get.
we got there on monday around noon, set up camp and made sandwiches for lunch.  our campground was right next to the south fork of the merced river.  the kids wanted to swim, so we walked down to the bank.
to our delight, there was a rope swing.  but the kids would have to swim to the other side to get to it. everyone hesitated at the thought of swimming across the cold water.  the river wasn't too wide or very deep but it still presented a challenge.  jordan made it without a problem.  andrew thought about it for a while.  and then i heard him say under his breath, "no turning back" and he took off.  his courage and determination literally brought a tear to my eye.

even bobby and sofia made it across safely and took a turn on the swing.

then it was time for dinner.  i should do a post on camping food. as someone who enjoys to cook, camping is no exception.  i think you can eat well and take it easy.  since we were only camping for 2 days we really made it easy on ourselves.  we "borrowed" leftovers from my in-laws, had cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and made dinners that were quick.

for dinner tonight we brought along a leftover rotisserie chicken that i shredded and then packed in a ziplock.  we brought tortillas, shredded cheese, salsa and some rice i made the night before.  then we just reheated and served with an ice cold blue moon.

after dinner we went to the ranger talk in the auditorium.  ranger shirley set up a campfire and talked about the tradition of storytelling and how important it is to carry on this tradition.  and i love a good story.
we sang songs, talked about black bears and then she told us all about the mountain men of the sierra nevadas.  we make an effort to go to the ranger talks whenever we visit a national park.

one of my favorite things about camping is the morning cup of coffee.

with breakfast.

and then we drove for an hour to the valley to see el capitan and half dome.

we decided to take the mist trail and see vernal fall.  we didn't know the hike would be tough.  and we started off with an injury.

there was a lot of whining, complaining and stopping for water on the way up.

but we made it.  safely.

i may have had a death grip on all of the kids.

we avoided getting eating by squirrels.  then we walked back down.

we were all aching and dragging our feet.  it ended up being a 2 hour hike on a steep trail.  but we are so glad we did it.

we took a car tour around the valley and stopped at a picnic area for some lunch.

seriously everywhere you look it was breathtaking.

just to tease me, bobby let me look around the ahwahnee hotel.  it was a cold night in the tent for me.  but the beauty and comfort of the hotel could not justify the price.  at least not on this trip.

we made it back to camp for dinner and dessert.  banana with chocolate and marshmallows over the campfire.

we were in bed by 9.

the next morning we got up at 7:30.  we had to pack up and check out of our beautiful campsite.

then we took the shuttle bus to mariposa grove to see the sequoia trees.  we didn't have a lot of time and we i was pretty sore from the hike, so we i took it slow.  we did get to see nature at it's finest.

and before we knew it, it was time to go home.

we vowed to come back and see some more.  hopefully before andrew's class comes to visit in sixth grade.

glad to be home and in our comfy, warm beds.

Monday, August 22, 2011

weekly menu:: week 34

where is the time going? i'm cleaning out cupboards in the kitchen and getting rid of old magazines, except the saveur and bon appetit ones, of course.

here's what we'll be eating this week:

monday: sausage, green bean and potato packets on the grill
tuesday: turkey burgers and fruit
wednesday: asian spinach salad
thursday: shrimp ceviche tostadas
friday: calzones, salad
saturday:  grilled halibut tacos with peach salsa, rice
sunday: eat out

the kids have 2 1/2 weeks of summer vacation left.   last week we finished off the supply shopping, bought backpacks and textbooks, that was not fun.  this week we're cleaning out closets and "refreshing" the kids' wardrobes.  going back to school can be expensive!

have a good week.

Friday, August 19, 2011

five on friday:: favorite blogs

i went through my bookmark categories and picked out my favorite blogs from each.  i've shared some of them here and there.  hoping you find some inspiration.

1. crafting::  elise joy blaha
i love the balance of crafting, cooking and everyday life posts.  her writing is easy and yet i learn something every time i visit.  i also love the graphic look of her site.  she is redesigning her blog, so make sure to check back on monday. check it out here.

2. cuisine:: sunday suppers
i love the concept of this site.  they make dinner on sunday and then the following week they share recipes, entertaining ideas, photography and even flower arranging.  they haven't done a dinner in a while, but look back at their archives for some beautiful ideas.  check it out here.

3. photography:: penny de los santos
she...is....amazing.  if my life had taken a different direction, perhaps this would be me (minus the short hair).  she started as a photojournalist for national geographic.  but her photography has evolved into a storytelling device for culture, food and passion.  she is currently doing a series of videos and pictures all on her iPhone.  check it out here.

4. design:: black eiffel
this category contains blogs for entertaining, graphic design, fashion.  this is a simple blog that posts ideas and inspiration all in one place.  check it out here.

5. inspiration:: ordinary courage
good words, pretty photography, a nice breath in my day.  i've posted her ted videos before.  she is funny but so inspiring.  she talks about the courage to be who you were meant to be.  check it out here.

there you have it.

have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

how i blog

i am by no means an expert on  blogging.

but i did start a blog 4 years ago and have kept it going.

someone asked me for some tips.

i thought i would share what i do.

1. i use blogger
i use blogger because it's free. plain and simple. it let's me do everything i want to do.  if i wanted to make this blog bigger and better, (more pages, different content, more attractive)  it might make sense to pay for typepad.  but i just wanted to get started, and free was the only way to go for me.  at one time i had a .mac blog but that was only because we bought our computer and they gave us a deal on a year subscription.  i am happy with blogger and see no need to go anywhere else for now.

 i also had a food blog on wordpress for a blink of an eye.  i love their look.  and it's free too.

2. i write about anything and everything
i was so worried at the beginning that i didn't know what my voice was.  i started this blog to write about our family and what we do.  i knew that only the family read it and that was ok.  it also gave me a place to post the hundreds thousands of pictures that i take.  this year i got a little more serious about blogging and have been posting this and that to figure out the kind of blog i want to have.  in the end it may just be a blog about my family.

my biggest goal in writing this blog is to practice.  sometimes my style of writing works and sometimes it doesn't.  sometimes i publish my posts and sometimes i don't.  the point is to write.  if you like to write about food, great.  if you like to write about sports, great.  if you like to write about travel, take me with you and we can write together.  write about anything and eventually your voice and tone will reveal itself.

3. i make time to write
probably the number one question i get is, "when do you have time to write?" the answer is, i make the time.  i made a committment in january to write something everyday.  and i've been consistent, for the most part.  i usually write after the kids go to bed.  in the summer i am writing in the morning.  it takes me about an hour to write a post, depending on the topic and the number of photos i have that day.  sometimes i have a topic in mind and sometimes i don't.  but usually if i sit down at the computer and just start typing something develops.

4. i keep a calendar
this has been my best tool since january.  i bought a calendar specifically for my blog posts.  i can plan ahead what topics i want to write about.  i can look back and make sure i don't repeat myself.  i use the calendar to jot notes or websites that i visit.

5. i have a few regular posts
my weekly menu, wordless wedensday and five on friday.  these posts help take the pressure off of trying to figure out what to write.  they give me a structure and that makes it a little bit easier.

6. i give myself the freedom to change things up
i don't force myself to write.  i don't force myself to be funny although it may seem that way.  i do take this blog seriously but i don't want to pressure myself.

7. this is me
yes, bobby edits my work sometimes.  but for the most part this blog represents who i am. the words come from my heart and they are honest.  i use my pictures.  and if i do post someone else's photos i make sure to give you an accurate link.  it's important for me to be authentic.  note - 2 of the photos in my slideshow from the wedding contained photos taken by my sister in law.  i forgot to mention that in the post.  so sorry sandy.

8. i'm not looking to make money
well, at least not on this blog.  i want this blog to always be me, not kitchen aid or target.  although i'm not sure i would turn them away if they wanted to advertise here. i would however consider writing for someone else's blog.  that would be fun.  want to hire me?

9. i look for blog posts throughout my day
i think about stories and blogging all the time.  sometimes my stories come from a picture i took or something someone said.  i am listening and looking and aware of what's going on around me all the time.  that skill comes from studying writing my whole life.  you write what you know.  ideas are percolating all the time.  i use my calendar to write those ideas down and when i feel like i've got something i take that idea to the computer.  i actually have an idea that i want to make a feature on my blog, that will eventually become a book and then a show on food network.  just kidding family, i'm getting ahead of myself.  but it's something i've been wanting to do for a while.  stay tuned.

10. i just write
it's pretty simple and sometimes pretty obvious.  just write!

i am a huge fan of the pioneer woman.  she had a post on blogging that i love and you might find more valuable information there.  check it out here.

please, if you are considering starting a  blog, just write.  you will never regret it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

weekly menu:: week 33

and the days just keep going by.  the summer is almost over and we still have a few adventures to go on.  it will surely make these last few weeks go by even  faster.

we started our day on saturday at the beach with friends.

the kids went boogie boarding, even sofia and bobby.

we saw a seal and dolphins swim by.  it was overcast all morning and before we knew it we were sunburned, despite our big umbrella and sunblock.

we ended the day at malibu wines with some other friends.

 this place is awesome.  you pack a picnic, buy a bottle of their wine, sit at a table and listen to the live music.  the girl who performed was a trip.  she had us laughing with her stories before each song.  i'm sure it had nothing to do with all the wine we had.

sunday we spent the day school shopping and swimming at my parents' house.

this week we have a few playdates scheduled and my sister comes home from her honeymoon. then we will be bottling our wine over the weekend.  hope it's good.

monday: chicken enchiladas, cilantro lime rice
tuesday: jalapeno jelly salmon, couscous with vegetables
wednesday: parpadelle pasta with summer vegetables (have you seen the cover of martha stewart living this month?)
thursday: greek salad with herb chicken
friday: eat out
saturday:  bottling wine
sunday: bottling wine

yes, i am considering making the pasta on wednesday but i haven't committed to it yet.  the one and only time i attempted to make pasta didn't turn out so well.  i'll let you know how it goes.

friday night bobby and i watched food, inc.  and wow, i was impressed, or should i say, it left an impression  on me.  one that i don't think will be forgotten.  we have already cut beef out of our diet.  more than anything because it just doesn't sit well with us.  but after seeing this movie i am thinking about making some other dietary changes as well.

i've been wanting to read secrets to a healthy metabolism  for a while now.  i'm hoping to make some changes to our diet before school starts.  i'm not planning on going all out at first, that's not realistic for us.  but little changes to start and then more if we feel the need.  hopefully i'll share our progress.

wish me luck.  and have a good week.

Friday, August 12, 2011

five on friday:: 5 cool things we did

we spent wednesday and thursday in orange county.  our first stop was disneyland and then some time with gigi and great grandpa in laguna woods.
1. pooh's pigout
it's a tradition, you see.  you ride on whinnie the pooh.  there's never a line and it's a cute ride.  you exit conveniently by the candy shop where they have the most amazing confections; chocolate covered pretzel rods rolled in mini m&m's, gigantic cookies and marshmallow bars, marshmallows on a stick covered in chocolate and sugar.  it's the one treat we get all day.  this time around sofia chose the minnie mouse cake pop; red velvet cake mixed with icing and covered in chocolate and sprinkles. (yes, just about everything is covered in chocolate.)  if you get a chance to stop in, they have the most beautiful candy apples that look like mickey and minnie or belle.  they also have a window for you to see how they cover everything in chocolate.  the pigout part is your choice, but we recommend it.
2.  new rides
we went to california adventure and rode the little mermaid ride.  the wait was only 10 minutes, i'm not sure i would have waited more than 20 minutes to try it out.  well, maybe.  sofia was so excited it would have been worth it.  we also went on the new star tours.  we kept an eye on the wait time all day through an app on my phone.  at one point the wait was 110 minutes, a little too long for us. but it got down to 65 minutes and that felt more doable.  it was worth the wait.  the kids loved it and having it in 3d was a bonus.  even sofia enjoyed it.  we can't wait to take bobby.
3. time with gigi and great grandpa
they live in a community for active seniors and we love visiting them when we can.  great grandpa made waffles for breakfast, the kids played with dominos, and i got to visit for a bit.  gigi showed me some of her family's heirlooms.
this beautiful dress belonged to her mother  (or grandmother. i can't remember which.)   look at the delicate handwork and the tiny waist.  it was incredible.  she is hoping to donate it to the historical society soon.  i'm glad i had a chance to see it before she did.

4. an old tree
they took us for a walk to another section of the community that had a trail that ran along a creek.  the trail led to a park with a lot of different trees.  jordan and i figured that this tree was about 440 years old. it was a very cool shape and the thought that it was here at the time of the pilgrims made it even more amazing.
so i let them climb all over it. and take pictures.
one of my favorite things to do is to lie under a tree and look up.  i find so much peace in that.  we could have spent hours here, but our stomachs were ready for lunch.
5. pie at polly's
this restaurant is very close to where they live.  we've heard about it a lot and their rolls are a coveted item at our family gatherings.  we went there for lunch on thursday and of course we had to have a slice of their famous pie.  gigi and i shared a piece of rhubarb and strawberry pie - delicious.  jordan chose the coconut cream and andrew devoured the chocolate silk.  they were generous enough to save just one bite for daddy.  they wanted to bring some of the happiness to him.  and he was happy!
we enjoyed our time together with grandma, grandpa tom, gigi and great grandpa.  we look forward to visiting them again soon.

oh and a bonus was getting a wake up call from becky that baby kendall had arrived happy and healthy.  we are so happy for the new family and can't wait to meet her.

looking forward to another good weekend with friends.  hope you have a good one too.