Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Giving Tree

So, I had this lunch in mind for Shel Silverstein's day. Something exciting and awesome, celebrating two of the most amazing books I've ever read - Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. These two books of poetry had a deep impact on my entire childhood. For me, the works of Shel Silverstein were full of silly wonder and deeply profound thoughts, worded in such a way that spoke to me. 

I borrowed Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library probably more than any other book ever. I've read these poems to every one of my children as infants, though they likely don't remember. Some I can still recite from heart. 

I would curl up under the covers often, letting the words flow over my young brain. "If you're a dreamer, come in..." A perfect welcome, an Invitation to wander through the pages. Most of these two books narrated my childhood years. 

But back to the present! So, I had this lunch in mind, right? I mean, a blog hop celebrating the best poet ever, I was all over that! But you know what they say about the best laid plans... Life just kind of got in the way. Got down to the wire, the last day before it needed to be done, and I woke up thinking YES! Today it WILL get done. And then my phone melted and I discovered that the rabbit hutch had been accidentally left open all night during the first heavy rainstorm of the season, resulting in a very wet and unhappy bunny, and the dishwasher started leaking, and did I mention that my freaking phone melted?! And then I had to go to work. So now it's midnight, and the super detailed, hand painted homage to my favorite books of poetry is not going to happen.

Instead of honoring my childhood, I decided at the eleventh hour (erm, 10:57, actually) to look to the present and chose a book which makes me think not of being a child, but of being a parent: The Giving Tree. The tree loves her boy so much, and she gives and gives and gives until there is literally nothing left of her, and then she gives some more. Meanwhile, the only thing the boy gives her is companionship when he wants something. But for her that is enough, because she knows that he loves her and she wants to take care of him. Seeing him happy makes her happy.

To me as a child, the take-away message from this book was that the tree was a sucker and the boy was selfish and ungrateful. How can you take-take-take like that and never give back?! As an adult, that has not changed, but at the same time... I can understand it. Sometimes, as a parent, you give and give and give and it's not because you expect anything back. You do it because you love them and you want them to be happy. Seeing their faces light up with joy is the best kind of return. Sometimes they may seem ungrateful, and they whine and fuss and complain, but you still know that they love you. And even though they don't always show it, you know they do appreciate you, and all that you do for them.

This lunch is completely gluten free and nut free, and contains:

Glutino gluten free crackers
Laughing Cow cheese
Schar gluten free shortbread cookie
tiny cup of mustard
grilled hot dog
sugar snap peas
provolone cheese

All tucked into an Easy Lunchbox container. To keep the food from shifting, I folded a napkin and tucked it in on top. If you're curious, it only took about twenty minutes to make the lunch, including grilling the hot dog and cutting up the veggies. 

There is a lot more wonder ahead!
Click the button to coninue on the hop to Beneficial Bento and see the awesomeness that is waiting for you there!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Stache Your Lunch

Apparently mustaches are very popular amongst teen girls these days. Who knew? Bean thinks anything with a 'stache on it is immediately super awesome and silly. Finally made her a mustache lunch this week!

This super silly pair of simple sandwich halves are gluten-free, made with Udi's bread, sliced meat, and cheese. They look to me like they belong in a vaudeville show and could break into a silly song any moment!

Along with the sandwich she has Glutino gluten free pretzel crisps and celery with a soft cheese spread, cucumbers and carrot bits, half a mini orange with grapes, and a couple of curled up gummi worms.

She loved the whole lunch, but her favorite part was definitely the new lunch bag...

Besides being hilariously 'stache-tastic, this lunch box is also a bright cheery pink and the sparkly mustache lights up when the bag is tapped. It is so perfectly, ridiculously Bean  that if I had designed one specifically for her I couldn't have made it any more exactly perfect.

Lulu isn't as amused by mustaches, but did enjoy her own 'stached up lunch.

She has pretzels, organic fruit snacks, a cheese stick, grapes, turkey rolls, carrots, a mini orange half, celery, and a soft cheese wedge all tucked into a Lunchbots Trio. These boxes are small, but fit quite a bit in that compact space. Exactly the right amount for a third grade lunch!

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Friday, September 19, 2014

It's Pirate Day!

Arrr! That it be, Matey!

 It's Pirate Day - International Talk Like a Pirate Day, to be precise.

We have a deep fondness for Pirate Day here in the Chaos house. A day when everybody dresses up and acts like [the fun, PG, much cleaned up] pirates, purely for the fun of it? YAR!

I found this little bit o' treasure at a grocery store over the summer and snagged it just for such a day:

It's exactly the right size for pirate-y lunches for Beaker!

In this lunch, he has:
 a pirate isle apple
pirate pear halves
'gold dubloon' Van's Say Cheese gluten free crackers
ham and cheese, run through
mini 'mud pit' 

A spinach stem X marks the spot on this sliced apple pirate isle...

Arr! And the pair of pirate pears are happy to see ye.

But beware the bloody bones sinking in the Smudge nut free cocoa spread mud pit!

Another pirate lunch from this week, on the same fun little plate...

This lunch includes:

half a skewered min orange
gluten free multigrain crackers
ham rolls
organic fruit snacks
a cucumber X
carrot sticks with onion dressing

Beaker even took pirate treats for his kindergarten snack today, packed up neatly in a tiny Jake and the Neverland Pirates tin!

Snack box holds:
gluten free pretzels
apple slices
Schar gluten free shortbread cookies

Tween Bean was totally into the Pirate Day lunch theme too, and she took this tasty treat filled Planet Box to school for her hearty repast.

Her PlanetBox Rover contains:

gluten free pretzels
skewered salami with green olives
a checkered apple isle
10 carrot gold dubloons (get it? 10 karat/carrot? Ha. Pirate pun!)
cucumber slices
a pirate pal mini cheese wheel
and a pair of delicious Schar gluten free shortbread cookies

We here on Chaos Isle be wishing you a festive Talk Like a Pirate Day, full of festive fun!

Want to see more piratey lunches? Check out these pirate posts from years past!

Also, check out the Bento Bloggers and Friends Talk Like a Pirate Day Link-Up Party! SO many awesome, amazing pirate themed lunches!

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cute Koala

An adorably simple lunch for Lulu today!

This darling little koala sandwich was made with the new Cuddle Palz set from CuteZCute. These sandwich cutter and stamper sets are both super easy to use and super adorable. The set comes with the tools to make a little mouse, tiger, bear, or this sweet koala:

The outside shape is included along with the cutter/stamper for the details, a body shape, and an adorable little pick for pushing out leftover bits. We are loving the new set!

In this lunch:

Koala sandwich
Yogurt with sprinkles
Apple slices and grapes
Carrot sticks with ranch
Pretzel twists and mini Oreos

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Monday, September 15, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten


How does the time go so fast? People have been asking that for centuries, but it is still a marvel. Babies grow up so very quickly. Just yesterday Beaker was giving us his first smiles, first foods, first steps. And now, a new first. His first day of Kindergarten!

He insisted on dressing all in Batman, because "B is for Batman, like B is for me!" His shoes and jacket were also Batman, and when the teacher introduced the letter they would be learning for the first day, he was utterly thrilled to find that it was none other than the letter B.

His classes are half days, so he has lunch at home and takes a snack to school to eat in the afternoon before recess. For his first day, he had this yummy muffin tin ABC!

Clockwise from the top left:
A blueberry lemon gluten-free cookie bar
Roasted chicken lunch meat rolls
Glutino gluten-free pretzels
ABC grapes
Yogurt with letter and number sprinkles
Carrot slices with dressing

For his first day snack, he chose a little Crayola mini tin lunchbox. It's the perfect size to pack a snack into a sandwich-box container! Both the tin and the box we found in the dollar section at Target.

He has carrot sticks and apple slices with Smudge (a nut free cocoa dip from Freedom Foods) and a few raspberries.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

First Day of School

Oh, wow! How is it that time of year again already?! It seems to sneak up faster and faster every year. One minute it's June and you're saying good-bye to your school friends, and the next minute it's September and time again for the rush to find school supplies and get everything organized for the new year.

This year I have all five of my kids in school! Five kids in four different schools is taking a lot more organization than I expected, but I suspect we'll get the hang of things over the next few months.

Brick (who hates having his picture taken and ran as soon as he saw the camera come out) is in tenth grade now. G-man is in eighth, his last year of middle school. Bean is in sixth grade, and Lulu is in third grade. Beaker just started kindergarten, but since he is in a completely different school program than his siblings, his first day was half a week later than theirs.

Of course they needed special lunches for the first day of school! Except for G, who was even more excited about the school pizza than he was about seeing his friends again. 

Bean has switched to a gluten-free diet like Beaker, to help clear up some health issues from last year. So far it has been helping, we think. For her lunch I packed a cute sandwich on gluten-free bread, with rolls of turkey scraps on the side. She also has a pair of Lucy's GF cookies, cucumber slices with carrot flowers, Glutino pretzel crisps (with a cheese 6), and fruit.

Grapes and oranges are some of the only fruits she can eat without allergy symptoms flaring up, so it's a good thing that they are so easy to pack for lunches!

For Lulu, a sweet little tiger sandwich on multigrain bread. Tucked in the top is a few mini golden Oreo cookies, with carrot coins and cucumber flowers on the bottom. She also has pretzels - with a cheesey 3 - and fruit, too.

Her little tiger and Bean's mouse were made with the new CuteZCute Cuddle Palz set from BentoUSA, and Lulu has a pair of triangle sandwiches cut from the scraps.

Bean and Lulu both have their lunches packed in our favorite Easy Lunchboxes.

Brick has a very similar lunch, packed in a Sistema Cube. I tucked a granola bar in for an energy boosting snack - high school tends to have some long days.

Brick took his lunch to school packed in this fun lunchbag I found over the summer. He said he got quite a few head turns and strange looks. Can't imagine why...

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

No Nuts? No Problem!

"But what will we feed them?!" The rallying cry heard all around, as more schools move toward a peanut and nut free system to ensure the safety of those suffering severe allergies. "What will we feed them, if we can't send peanut butter?"

I can understand the panic. I have a kid who eats a very limited diet due to severe food aversions, and one of the very few foods he will consistently eat is peanut butter. But all of that pales significantly in comparison to what a parent feels when they send their allergic child off to school. They are literally putting their child's life in the hands of others. It is scary! Nut and peanut free schools are a great thing for those who would suffer greatly if exposed to those allergens.

For us now, being nut and peanut free is a normal thing. Beaker's nut allergy is limited to hazelnuts and is thankfully fairly not severe, but we have plenty of friends with severe nut and peanut allergies, and we take every step we can to keep them safe. We've found plenty of delicious foods that contain no nut or peanut products, and I am happy to share some safe lunch packing ideas. Hopefully this list will help!

* Nut Free Spreads - Got a kid who really loves peanut butter and won't eat much else? Try a safe alternative spread! Sunflower seed butter is our favorite, and Sunbutter brand is becoming pretty easy to find in stores. WowButter, made with soynuts, is another good option. Both are very similar to peanut butter in both taste and texture, and have a pretty decent protein content. Try them on a sandwich with jam, or rolled up in a tortilla with banana and honey. Anything peanut butter can do, these safe alternatives can do better!

* Serve Up Soup - A Thermos is a great way to keep your hot favorites nice and hot for lunch! It only takes a few minutes in the morning to heat up a small pan of soup and warm a thermal container with some hot water, and it will keep the lunch deliciously warm until it's time to eat. We also love our Thermos for packing favorites like macaroni and cheese, ravioli, and spaghetti for lunch. Whenever I make a large pot of soup or such, I tuck a few small portions in quart sized freezer bags and stash them in the freezer. Then the night before I plan to send a 'hot packed lunch', I pull out the portion bag and tuck it in the fridge. By morning it is thawed out and ready for a quick reheat on the stove. Some chilled fruit and crackers are perfect on the side!

* A Twist on a Classic - My kids don't like tuna fish or chicken salad on sandwiches, but put it in a cup with some crackers on the side for scooping and suddenly it's the best lunch ever! I make mine with finely diced sweet onion, dill pickles, mayo and mustard, and just a dash of black pepper, and serve it up with either Ritz or rice crackers. This is one of Bean's favorite lunches!

* Do-it-Yourself - There is a certain brand of pre-packaged lunch product available in stores which is super popular among kids, and it's easy to see why. Putting your own food together out of separated ingredients is fun! The unfortunate side is that these boxed products are often very high in sodium and sugar (and let's not even talk about the inflated price tag!) With a few silicone cups and some simple ingredients, you can make your own version at home for a fraction of the cost and with much better nutrition in mind. The basic cracker-stacker includes crackers with your choice of sliced cheeses and meats, or you can try a few different favorites. Like nachos with cheese sauce and salsa, or fun mini DIY mini pizzas with a flatbread crust, marinara sauce, and choice of toppings on the side!

* Roll it Up - For a quick and easy protein, take regular lunch meat and cheese and just roll them up! The tube shape is easy for small hands to hold, and more fun to eat than any old sandwich. You can also mix this up by cutting the rolls into bite sized pinwheels.

* Let's Do Brunch - Not just for weekends anymore! Mix it up and pack a bit of breakfast for lunch. French toast, pancakes, and waffles all make excellent lunches. They're especially fun when cut into sticks and packed with a bit of syrup for dipping! Try adding some fruit and a hard boiled egg on the side for a well balanced meal.

* Beans, the musical fruit - Beans are an excellent, and often under utilized, source of healthy essential proteins. Bean dip with tortilla strips, cold bean salad, bean burritos - there are so many things you can do with beans for a nutritious and delicious lunch!

* That's a Wrap - Transform a boring sandwich or salad by tossing the ingredients into a tortilla and rolling it up into a wrap! If you want tasty sandwich or salad pinwheels, try rolling the wrap up tightly the night before, wrapping up with plastic wrap to keep it in place, and chill it overnight in the fridge. In the morning, slice into delicious and pretty pinwheels.

* And Speaking of Salad - Not fans of regular green salads? Try pasta salads instead! Toss your favorite whole grain pasta or tortellini with some olives, mozzarella, and other tasty ingredients for a delicious meal with plenty of vitamins and protein.

* Kid Favorites, Cold - Chicken nuggets and hot dogs both taste surprisingly good when served cold in a lunch box. Especially with their favorite sauce on the side for dipping! Pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches are two other favorites that are great for a cold lunch. Try it out - they might surprise you!

* Dip it, Dunk it, Scoop it - Avocados are a great source of healthy essential fats, and guacamole is great for scooping. Make your own by adding diced onion, lime, lemon, and garlic to a cut up avocado and mix together. Pack it with tortillas, crackers, or veggies for dipping. You can also try packing in a nut-free butter spread in a cup with apples, carrots, and bananas for dipping. Hummus is another excellent dip to pack as the protein in a lunch, and very good with cucumbers and pita strips.

So there we go - eleven delicious ways to pack nut and peanut free lunches to help keep kids safe! Want more ideas? Check out some of these great blogs:


Also, the Snack Safely Guide is an amazing list of nut and peanut free snacks and products and should definitely be checked out by anyone in search of safe snacks!

It may seem overwhelming and difficult to you now, but I promise that within a few weeks you will have it down pat. And those with allergies definitely appreciate your efforts in keeping them safe and well!

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