Summer Lunch

2011 August 2
tags: ,
by Jennie

I’m trying to eat more fresh veggies (aren’t we all?), especially in the summer. I’ve had too many days when I’ve had none or only one serving of vegetables before dinnertime. One way I’ve found to eat more vegetables  is to make a quick veggie wrap for lunch.

Here are some combinations I’ve enjoyed:

  • Spicy corn salsa, tomatoes, black beans, spinach (in photo)
  • Hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce
  • Hummus, grated cheddar, carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli
  • Spinach, a tiny bit of salad dressing (I love Annie’s Green Goddess), broccoli, white beans

The basic idea is something really flavorful, some protein, something crunchy (chopped into bite-sized pieces), and lots of green leaves, all piled into a whole wheat tortilla. As long as I include veggies I like, it’s all good.  It’s a very filling lunch, and at least I know I ate a couple servings of veggies early in the day.

My kids don’t like things wrapped up like this, but they will eat carrots, cucumbers, celery and lightly steamed broccoli plain or with hummus or ranch. I often serve them a veggie plate along with a grilled cheese or PB&J.


Beauty and Bedlam

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Art Cabinet

2011 June 23
by Jennie

Tucked under a cabinet in my kitchen, there are a host of art supplies. It is so handy to have the basics–crayons, glue, paper, scissors, stamps, markers, pipe cleaners, fabric scraps–right there. My girls have easy access to the things they need for a quick project or just to pass some time, like that painful half hour before dinner. 

Other supplies for more complex projects are in the basement, and the super messy stuff (glitter, anyone?) is all stashed up high. But having a cabinet full of the basics right there where we’re all hanging out anyway is fantastic. The girls are empowered to create because these are all things they can access any time they like.  Having the materials organized into separate containers is great too. Note the reuse of peanut butter jars and wipes boxes; it doesn’t have to be fancy to work.

This art cabinet helps my girls incorporate art into their lives every single day.

Posted at Works for me Wednesday… because it does!

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Plan for a Super Summer

2011 June 16
by Jennie

Summertime goes quickly around here. My school-aged girls get a brief two months and one week of summertime fun, so it pays to use that precious time intentionally.

Last summer was fantastic for our family. Here’s my advice for making this a super summer too.


Reflect on what did and didn’t work last year.

Too many camps? Too few?  Too many bored afternoons at home? Too few? Just think about your memories from last summer. Try to repeat the highlights and work to avoid the low points.

Also, think about how your kids have changed. My youngest two were very clingy in years past, but this year, they are much more independent. So, they are more ready for swim lessons and more accepting when I leave them at camp programs. They also have more stamina and are okay with busier days.

Ask your kids what they want to do.

It’s really important to have a chat with your kids at the beginning of summer and see what they want to do. Children can be very knowing about what sorts of activities they crave.

For my oldest daughter, free time to play with her friends is high on her list. Another wants tennis lessons with her dad. Neither of those things are difficult to provide, but it’s so easy to overlook the simple things in the midst of a busy summer. Knowing what their top priorities are is so helpful.

Also, having a list of things they want to do is a wonderful for the days when you or they just can’t come up with something to do. A reminder to do something as simple as make homemade ice cream could turn an afternoon of boredom into a perfect summer day.

Plan for the must-dos.

If you are committed to family events or travel, be sure they’re on the calendar…along with extra tasks they require. Schedule the time for the shopping, packing, mail-stopping and other chores.  Maybe you can do some of those things when your children are at camps or at a friend’s house. Planning extra time for the non-fun activities will make those days less stressful for everyone.

Make up for what’s missing during the school year.

For my oldest, there’s never enough art at school. So, she gets to take several special art camps this summer, and I have ample supplies on hand for projects at home. For some kids, summer is the perfect time to take a break from one activity and try another–like exchanging ballet lessons for a swim team. My girls all want more playtime with friends, so now is the time to schedule those playdates! Things may not be as spontaneous, but at least they’re guaranteed to happen!

Plan for downtime.

I love the days when we don’t go anywhere. I love being at home, when I can catch up on chores and the girls can relax with no scheduled plans. These days are one of my favorite parts of summer. Sometimes these days go by in the blink of an eye…others aren’t quite as easy.

So I have a long list of activities in mind for those quiet days at home. Crafts and art are great. We can also pull out toys and games that have been forgotten about. Often, I can just send the girls outside to play on the playset, run under the sprinkler or come up with their own games.

Stock up on the summer necessities.

I’ve got loads of juice boxes, granola bars and Popsicles on hand. Quick lunches and portable snacks are a big part of summer for us. Having those on hand in bulk keeps me from being caught off guard when two or three or four other kids drop by. When we needed them, I kept swim diapers in the car and at home (for the sprinkler). I have sunscreen everywhere–in the cabinet by the back door, in my purse, in the car, in my girls’ backpacks.

That’s my plan to help this be a smooth, intentional, FUN summer.  I hope they help you do the same!

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Honey Maple Vanilla Granola

2011 June 13
by Jennie

The simple goodness of granola is easy to overlook. It adds crunch and flavor to the simplest serving of yogurt or ice cream. It fends off hunger when eaten by the handful as a quick snack.  The flavors and textures of the parts compliment each other so well, yet if you eat it piece by piece, you can savor each individual ingredient.

We’d forgotten how much we love granola, until my husband brought home a bag this winter. It was gone in two days! It’s super easy and cheap to make a big batch of granola. The best part is you can tailor all the ingredients to your personal preferences or what’s in your pantry.  Now, there’s almost always a container of fresh granola in our kitchen.

Here’s my recipe.  Use it as is, or adapt it to your own liking:

Honey Maple Vanilla Granola

5 cups oats

3/4 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

1 1/2 cups raw almonds, chopped

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup wheat germ

2 T Cinnamon

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup oil

1 t vanilla

1 cup dried fruit

First, spray a rimmed 11 x 17 baking sheet with non-stick spray. Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Add all the dry ingredients (except the dried fruit) together in a large bowl and stir well.

Mix the honey, maple syrup, oil and vanilla together. Pour over dry ingredients and stir well.

Spread the mixture on the baking sheet. Bake at 325 for 25 minutes.  Stir the granola. Bake 10 more minutes. Stir again.  Possibly bake 5 more minutes.

Bake until the granola is a golden light brown. Remember, it will dry out more as it cools.  Don’t overbake!

After removing from the oven, stir in the dried fruit. In this batch I used 1/3 cup raisins and 2/3 cup tropical fruit.  My favorite combination is half cherries, half blueberries. Let the granola cool in the pan. If you want to add mini chocolate chips, wait until the granola is completely cool. Store in air-tight containers.  Enjoy!

I linked up at:

Beauty and Bedlam

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Winter Sunrise at the Farm

2011 January 10
tags: ,
by Jennie

A beautiful winter sunrise over our farm: the majesty of the clouds was amazing. Enjoy!

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Playing with food

2011 January 5
by Jennie

Proving yet again that it really takes very little for my children to entertain themselves, at dinner a few days ago, they created “oval beans.”

Yes, that would be shelled green beans in Annie’s macaroni shells….but presented just so.

Now, this dinner happened at the end of a very long day that included three ballet lessons, zero naps, and so many meltdowns I lost count.  Yet finally,we made it home for dinner, and the children–the tired, cranky, hungry children–began to eat…and to play with their food.

Charlotte began to shell her green beans, immediately eating the outsides and setting the actual beans aside. She also insisted on examining and dissecting each lima bean to see if it had sprouted at all. (A few actually had). She and Kathleen began comparing their veggies. Then they made the creations above, beans on the half shell, if you will.

The first thought that came to mind was, as you might expect, Stop playing with your food. Only sheer exhaustion caused me not to say it out loud.

And thankfully so, because my next thought was, Who cares if they’re playing with their food?  They are happily eating green beans. They are interested in learning how beans grow and sprout. They are working together to make these miniature, gourmet-to-children delights. They are proud of their work.

I’m pretty relaxed about mealtime because I have to be with three young children.  However, I do have some basic standards that I try to enforce, like using utensils. But that night, I just let go of all such notions and watched my children play with their food. I had to cook a second round of green beans! Even better than the high rate of vegetable consumption, I heard the tears, the whining, the frustrations that had marked the evening turn into giggles and bonding between sisters. I saw budding scientists examine and hypothesize, and I watched budding chefs work on their creative presentation skills.  I got all that just because I stepped back and let my children play with their food.

Playing with food is gross? Maybe. But I’m okay with that.

Shared at Works for Me Wednesday

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