Sunday, January 30, 2011

Muffin Tin Monday - Her Favorite Things

This week's Muffin Tin Monday theme is "Favorite Foods." Well, I didn't want to just give her a tin full of candy. I had toyed with the idea of an ice cream toppings muffin tin buffet, but instead I decided to pick her favorites from each food group. As an added challenge, I tried to make the food shapes fit with the song "My Favorite Things." And then, because I am a nutjob was feeling creative, I wrote lyrics to go along with the foods I chose.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown paper packages, tied up with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes,
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes!
Silver white Winters that melt into Springs,
These are a few of my favorite things!

Honey Greek yogurt with honey on top,
Berries of all kinds, she never says stop.
Chocolate and sprinkles put her in good moods!
These are a few of her favorite foods.

Sandwiches made up of PB and honey.
(She) Loves fish eggs and bean sprouts, which I think is funny!
"Not orange cheese, just white cheese!" She's copping some 'tudes.
These are a few of her favorite foods!

When the cats scratch!
Find bro-ken dudes. [What she calls her humanoid toys.]
These things make her sad.
A "beautiful lunch" with her favorite foods,
And then she won't feel so bad!

Sugar Sprinkles on Strawberry Roses and Bean Sprout Whiskers on Carrot Kittens
Colby Jack Cheese Kettles and Colby Jack Cheese Mittens
Chocolate Fudge Packages, tied up with strings
These are a few of her favorite things!
Tortilla Sandwiches in white dresses with blue satin sashes,
Roeflakes (and cheese 'snowflakes') that stay on my nose and eyelashes.
Honey Greek Yogurt-with-honey-on-top Winters that melt into Springs
These are a few of her favorite things!

Raindrops on Roses: "Raindrop" sugar sprinkles! And flower-shaped strawberry slices!
I got these little heart boxes at the Dollar Tree. 10/$1! In red, hot pink and light pink assorted! Win some in my bento giveaway! (link at top)
I used a flower veggie cutter, just because they're a little easier to use than the mini cookie cutters.

Whiskers on Kittens: Bean sprouts. For the whiskers. And little carrots using a mini cat cutter. I had to cut the carrots into strips crosswise to get a large enough area. Yes. She loves bean sprouts. We order her a side of sprouts at the Thai restaurants.

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woolen Mittens: No clue what to do for a kettle or mittens. I have 18 - that's right. Eighteen - mini Winter/Christmas cookie cutters. Are any of them mittens? Of course not. Plus there's no room to cram another food into my lyrics. So we're just ignoring this whole line. *sigh* Okay okay. I guess orange cheese is technically in the lyrics already. I decided to use my Food Writers to freehand shapes onto slices of cheese, then used a steak knife to cut them out. Bleah. I hate freehanding.

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With Strings: Chocolate fudge brownie bite. Omnomnom. Plus toffee licorice "string" from Ikea. Any kind of sweet is her favorite. But I had just one of these left. *sigh* I love her enough to give her my last brownie bite, instead of just using a mini Hershey's.

Girls in White Dresses With Blue Satin Sashes: I have a princess/bride cookie cutter, but it's too big for standard bread. So I made a PB Honey tortilla sandwich and used the cutter on it. Blue sugar sprinkles on a honey "sash." PB Honey is her current favorite sandwich. Except for tuna fish with pickles, but that would have been impossible to cut.

Snowflakes That Stay on My Nose and Eyelashes: String Cheese stick 'nibblets' kind of look like snowflakes. If you squint a little. Plus she's been refusing "orange cheese" (Colby Jack) and "yellow cheese" (cheddar) lately. And she's never liked Monterey Jack. So, this is it, cheese-wise, until I can figure something else out! I used the CoJack anyway, for the mitten and kettle, but I'll probably end up eating them.
Since she love love LOVES salmon roe (and all other colors/sizes of sushi fish eggs,) I had to incorporate them somehow. I had thought about making them the 'raindrops' on carrot roses, but the sugar and strawberries was just too perfect for that theme. So we have some Salmon Roeflakes to go with the cheese.

Silver White Winters That Melt Into Springs: Yogurt "winter." The honey looks more like pee than Spring, but work with me here, people! And it must be honey yogurt with honey on top. Greek honey yogurt, which tastes really good on its own, is just not good enough for Her Royal Highness.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things:
My Very Favorite Things
Bunny ear barrettes!

I thought for sure she'd go for the salmon roe first, but the brownie bite was a close second. She surprised me and went for the brownie first, and spent some time working on eating the toffee licorice, which, in the past, she's rejected. Then she went for the salmon roe, quickly followed by the yogurt. "I need more honey yogurt with honey on top please!"
Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Project Lunch: My Little Muffins

Today I did another Kids Cooking Class with my MOMS Club. I know, I know. It's been a while! But we got snowed out in November, then I only had 1 person signed up in December and Z was sick, so we cancelled. But this month, not only was the busy holiday season over, but another MOMS Club member offered to host, and she has about 4 fewer cats than I do, and wood floors, so a lot fewer allergens floating around. Plus a lot more clean. Like, regularly. So that was all kinds of awesome.

It was hard to decide what to do. Summer I chose no-cook recipes. October was Halloween-themed, November was Thanksgiving-themed, December was Christmas-themed. Easy-peasy. In fact, it was hard narrowing down my recipe choices. But January? Total blank. At some point I looked up zucchini bread muffins. No clue what made me think of them. But almost immediately I found chocolate zucchini muffins. Well now. Hubba hubba.
I needed something lunch-y to go with them, so I decided we'd do chicken nuggets again, even though we already made some in September. Only one MOM made it to that, and she couldn't come this time, so it would be new to everyone else. Plus I changed it up a bit, since *I* liked the turkey nuggets that got cancelled in November a whole lot better.

For a quick recap of the Nuggets recipe:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken (or turkey) cut into nuggety bits
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
(oil or cooking spray, but we didn't grease the tinfoil this time and there was no problem.)

Mix wet ingredients. In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Coat nuggets in wet, then in dry ingredient mixtures. Cook 10 to 12 minutes at 450 F.

Since there's very little the kids get to do for this recipe (mix the crumbs, cheese and seasoning; mix egg and milk. Then I do the rest, dipping the nuggets into the egg mixture and then into the crumbs and onto the tray using my tongs) I changed it a bit. I gave each child a Ziplock with 3 Saltine crackers in it, which they crushed. Then I tossed in 1 Tbsp Panko crumbs, a dash of Italian seasoning and 'some' Parmesan each. Then they each got 3 to 4 egged nuggets to shake in their baggies to coat, then onto the tinfoil baking sheet.
Since 16 nuggets (5 kids) wasn't using up the whole pound of nuggeted chicken breast, I mixed up around 1/4 cup of Panko crumbs, a larger dash of seasoning and almost the rest of the Parmesan (I had measured out a little over 1/4 cup to bring with me.) I made the rest of the nuggets using just the regular ingredients (no Saltines.)
The kids' batch.

For the chocolate zucchini muffins, the reviews either complained that they were too oily, or mentioned that they had substituted applesauce for some or all of the oil. I didn't have any applesauce (and almost no zucchini! I had sent Unka Seesee to the store with a list, since I needed Cardamom and vanilla extract too, and would be using up almost the last of our canola oil, and I totally forgot to actually put zucchini on the list! Luckily my husband was able to pick some up on his way home!) My plan was to just use 3/4 cup of oil instead of 1 cup, but as I was packing my supplies up in the morning, I saw a lone banana on the counter, starting to brown.... Aha! I could use it instead of applesauce! Right? Right??

Chocolate Banana Zucchini Muffins
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 banana
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom

Makes 24

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease or line 2 12-cup muffin tins [or 4 6-cups, or any combination which involves 24 muffin-y holes being greased or lined... Ooo sounds dirty!]
Step 2: In a large bowl, beat the eggs.
Step 3: Mash in banana.
Step 4: Beat in the sugar and oil.
Step 5: Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini and stir well.
Step 6: Stir in flour, baking soda and powder, salt, and all 4 spices. Mix until just moist.
Step 7: Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling 2/3 of the way full.
Step 8: Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack. Store loosely covered.

What actually happened:
We beat the eggs. I broke all 4 into the mixing bowl and the kids each had a turn mixing.

Totally skipped ahead to step 6. (Although in the original recipe steps 3 through 5 were all one step, so I just accidentally jumped ahead one line.) Stir in flour, start adding spices, before realizing something's just not right. Go back to recipe. Deep sigh of frustration. Add oil and sugar. (Kids are "mixing" and helping pour in each ingredient. And licking the measuring cups and spoons. *sigh* Totally decide not to care. It'll all be cooked, right? Burn off all them spitty germs!)

Add cocoa and zucchini. Let each child try some zucchini (pre-shredded. I learned from letting them shred cheese my first class that it would take about a thousand years if I let them do it.) Watch as each child says "eww no thanks" as they flick it back into bowl. Final child gets smart and refuses to even touch it. Let each child try a "pinch" of unsweetened cocoa powder. Apparently it's tastier than I remember. There were no looks of betrayal.

Mash in banana bits. Break off a few 1" pieces to shut them up for kids to taste.

Add baking soda and powder, and rest of the spices. Make Let the kids sniff each spice before adding it.

Completely forget vanilla and salt. Which is okay, since Unka Seesee got Imitation Vanilla Flavoring, instead of vanilla extract. Ah well. I was going to use it anyway, but I was so overwhelmed. I'm not a cook. This was a lot of ingredients! And I know the order you add them in can be important, so I tried to follow the directions. But that's hard to do when someone keeps stealing your recipe card, and everyone wants to try all the ingredients.

Let each child choose 5 liners from my extensive collection (2 Christmas ones, 3 Halloween, 6 Valentines, plus the Stripes and Dots from Ver for my Santa Swap!) Try not to wince as pretty muffin papers go flying, and kids on end (instigated by the older girl, but definitely with Little Z as a willing accomplice) take initiative and start plopping batter all over the area near their chosen liners.

Move batter to a secure location. Remove huge hunk of flour and banana out of wire whisk that the kids were using to mix. Use scraper to unearth treasure trove of still-dry ingredients all along edge and bottom of bowl.

Since I could only find a 12-cup and 6-cup muffin tin, (couldn't find my red silicone 6-cupper) I had brought 3 of my Wilton Silly Feet clown shoe muffin cups, and all 4 of my chicken-feet cups (from TJ Maxx or Marshalls.) I let each child pick one to put one of their liners in. (I used the rest.) To keep everyone's muffins separate (which was totally unnecessary, as none of them asked for one of "theirs" later) I put the last 4 liners from each kid in one of the rows-of-4 in the 12-cup tin, and the 4th kid's in the 6-cup. Then just filled in with "Little Z's" (she had no interest in anything but stuffing as much batter and loose ingredients into her gob as possible.)

Pour batter onto counter into liners

Forget to preheat oven until all the batter is mixed and poured into liners. *facepalm*

The cheapy Dollar Tree V-Day liners got totally dominated by the color of the food inside, but the Reynold's Staybrite Polka-Dot ones (4th row in from the right, pictured above) kept their decorational integrity! They're lined with foil, so the oil and moisture doesn't seep through and stain the paper. Not that the kids cared a whit.  And I also liked that my fingers (and any surface they touched) didn't get that greasy shmear when handled.

They came out slightly overcooked, since at around 18 minutes I turned the heat up to 450 to start getting the oven ready for the nuggets (since they take less time to cook and prepare, and aren't as tasty cold, I opted to make the muffins first.) They tasted fine though.

As you can probably gather from my gross lack of photographic evidence during the cooking process, no cameras were harmed in the making of this meal. I totally forgot wanted to focus on the kids and make sure they were all involved and having a good time.
3 out of 5 chefs ate their nuggets. I think one of the other chefs actually tried hers. Plus my hostess's 16-month-old ate some. Little Z ate her 3, then 2 more of the ones that I made after, plus nibbled on 2 more of the ones that the one kid didn't eat.

Everyone ate a muffin. Surprisingly few crumbs. I hung out and jibber-jabbered until the hostess' 8-year-old daughter came home from school, and she ate one too. So even without the salt and vanilla, they must have tasted okay!

I liked the muffins (and the nuggets obviously. Since this was a repeat performance for me!) They tasted primarily banana-y, with a hint of chocolate-y. I've never subbed applesauce in before, so I don't know how much they'd affect the flavor. I have used sweet potato baby food in pancakes, and they do change the flavor, but it's very subtle.

I'm starting to run out of ideas! So if anyone has any recipes/ideas they can link or email me ( that are tasty for kids, let them be involved in a bunch of the prepwork (instead of me slaving over a hot stovetop while they run around like maniacs,) and don't require too much of the prep to be done beforehand (I'd hate to show up and have everything mostly made up. "Here are the chopped tomatoes, Here's the shredded cheese. Oh, and I cut and cooked all this part already" etc etc.)
Also the cooking times would need to be around 30 minutes or less, since we usually have a 2-hour window, and prep time is, like, quadrupled when you're letting toddlers help at all. Plus it needs time to cool, time for them to eat it, and time for people to show up late and kids to play!
Also nice if we can make something complementary to go with it, with short prep-times, similar cooking temps, or no-cook. I like to have mostly complete meals, rather than just a fun dessert. Pizza and pudding. Chicken salad and puddingNuggets and fries. Tortilla roll-up sandwiches and mini "cheesecakes." Guacamole and quesadillas. PBJs, cheese and fruit (for cookie cutter fun!)
My goal is to introduce the kids to new foods (avocados, for the guacamole. Zucchini for these muffins. Sweet potato fries with the nuggets, etc) or new ways to eat or prep familiar foods (cookie cutters, tortilla roll-up sandwiches, etc.) And to show the parents how much the kids can actually do to help. Is it messier? Yes. Will the measurements be as exact? No. Does it take a million-trillion-gabillion years longer to actually get it made? Yes. Well. No. Not quite that long.
I'm thinking, if I can figure out the logistics, of trying MTMs with them some time. Since it's one of my favorite ways to make her meals more exciting, and I love roping in new converts to Lunch-Fu! You will be assimilated.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WFLW - Thinking Of Spring!

For this week's Tuesday after-gym bento, I did no planning beforehand, and no prep the night before. (I fell asleep with the Z Monday night!) And we slept in ad were running late Tuesday morning (surprise, surprise) so I had only a little over an hour to put together our lunches, get her up and dressed, and get us to gym class. Immediately after class, we'd be headed up to pick up my mom, who was having cataract surgery.
I chose the Goodbyn, since it makes a nice tray to eat from in her carseat. It's a little deep, so not as good for lots of little things, but the EasyLunchbox (my other in-car go-to box) was going to be too small for all the stuff I wanted to include. Since she wouldn't have time for breakfast at home, I wanted enough food to eat on the way to gym class too. I chose green to be more Spring-y!
So for an easy theme, I chose flowers, since I wanted something sunny and cheerful to start my day!
Tulips (apples,) Daisies (cheese,) More Tulips (PB tortillas,)
Chocolate soy milk box, "Berries" (Godiva candy-coated chocolate balls,)
"Twigs and Leaves" (Pretzel sticks and Sweet Potato chips,) Butterflies (kiwi,) Ranch, "Branches" (PB celery)
The tulip apples were fun. We had half a Cameo that had been sitting face-down out on the cutting board for a few days, after a quickie late-night snack. It hadn't turned brown or anything! So I didn't bother sloshing them in apple juice. I used a cute little stem pick from a tulip hot dog shaper set, and the cutter from a mini Easter set.
We got a kiwi from Gramma Barp's house on Sunday. We had a farewell/early-birthday party for Z's Uncle Chris (my stepbrother-in-law! Love this family!) Z saw them on Gramma Barp's counter on our way out and asked for one. Yum! I love how it fancies up the butterfly wings! (Another mini-Easter cutter.)
Colby Jack cheese using a mini daisy cutter from the same set. She hasn't been eating her Colby Jack lately, and refused to eat it again today. *sigh* Cut-up string cheese nibblets are just so... boring. Ah well. Maybe I can work with slices of mozzerella to make shapes, or something.

For the PB tortilla sandwiches, I just spread PB on half a tortilla (I like the Mission brand ones,) folded it in half, and used my new tulip cutter from my Santa Swap partner Ver, from It's "A" Sweet Life. I opted not to use jelly or honey, since I've learned from past experience that they make their whole area in the container sticky by the time lunch rolls around. Which makes her all sticky when she eats them, which makes me all sticky, trying to wipe/feed/corral her. Not to mention making the carseat/table at gym class/water bottle/iPhone all sticky. (In case your deductive reasoning powers are asleep at the wheel, I'm not a fan of sticky. Which is hugely ironic and oftentimes humorous [to traitors friends and other bystanders] considering I frequently let my child eat messy, sticky things. The only clothes she owns without stains or bits of food permanently stuck on them still have tags! I have no clothes with tags still. *sigh*)

I packed my lunch in an EasyLunchbox. We got these pretzel sticks from Costco. They're organic and whole wheat, so they don't really taste like pretzels. More like salty, crunchy breadsticks. The sweet potato chips are from TERRA Chips. I love the Nutella tortilla roll-ups, since they taste like chocolate donuts! The tomatoes and broccoli are the last remnants of a veggie tray I got from my friend Jessica after a party at her house on Sunday, that I then turned around and fed to guests at Gramma Barp's party later that day! Woot! I realized later that the Ranch container in Z's box was useless, since I did a last-minute substitution of PB celery instead of carrots in there! Oops! So I used it for my meager veggies!
Nutella tortilla roll-ups (with PB tortilla scraps underneath,) pretzels and sweet potato chips,
tomatoes and broccoli with cheese scraps, kiwi and apple scraps.
She refused to allow me to take her picture. She kept pretending to look out the window until I'd put the camera away.

But I keep my passeger-side visor down and angled so I can keep an eye on her. Snap!

We got to gym class in time for the big trampoline. She got Miss Rae today, her favorite teacher. She's not good with new people.

And while she was jumping, I get a call from the surgery center, saying that my mom's surgery is over and she's all woken up and ready to be picked up... over half-an-hour early! And I'm still 30 minutes away! So I let Z finish trampoline time, then off we went! A whole 5-10 minutes of gym class! And we missed class the last 2 weeks, due to sleeping in perpetual lateness a cold.

She ended up stealing my lunch, since I didn't get a chance to eat it first, and licked all the Nutella off my tortillas. Nutella Ninja! She ate no apples, celery or cheese. Only the Godiva chocolate balls, a PB tortilla tulip sandwich, half of her pretzels, all of her (few) sweet potato chips, one kiwi butterfly and my Nutella. [Yes. I ate my licked-off tortillas. They tasted like licked-off chocolate donuts. Still yummmm!]

Check out the other cool bentos people have linked up from this past week!
Bento Lunch

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tried-It-Tuesday - 2011, Week 4

I can't think of anything new I did this week. Other than pimp out my husband's blog in a more blatant way, by including it in my giveaway! But I've done a giveaway before... But CSNStores paid for most of that prize I guess (I just paid some of the shipping.)
So... My first out-of-pocket giveaway! And my first major followers milestone! [Major to ME anyway!]  I'm super excited about it, and I've been hoarding stuff, saving duplicates, and buying extras when I see awesome deals, in the hopes of a Muffin Tin Meals swap, like I read about last year. But that didn't happen, so now I get to give it away! I'm super pumped, since I paid only $1.50 each for most of the items (the Betty Crocker Food Writers were a few bucks, and the bento box was $3. The silicone muffin liners were $4. And the metal cookie cutters came in a set, so who knows. But the rest were all $1.50 from Daiso, and a few items were $1 from Dollar Tree!) But the Daiso stuff sells wholesale for the same price as I'm paying retail at their stores, so,, and vendors on eBay charge $2.50-4 for THE SAME ITEM! Plus shipping! So I love having a super expensive prize pack that cost me a pile less!

OH! OH! I almost forgot! My first ever blogger event! Blogger's Night Out! While I don't really advertise it much here, I certainly don't hide the fact that we had trouble trying to make babies, and had to turn to specialists (and a gift of cash from my Grandma.) So while I joke that my Grandma got me knocked up, this little scientific miracle is nothing to sneer at! And it's so hard to talk about, since anyone who hasn't experienced this can't possibly understand. So it was wonderful to meet some local ladies who blog about their trials and successes, and to get advice, comfort and friendship from women who know exactly how I feel. Plus... cheesecake! Omnomnom!
Left to right: My friend Sunny from Sunny in Seattle, Me; and my new friends, Jen from The Best Laid Plans, and Katie from Taking the Statistical Bullet. The photographer was a wonderful lady, whose story is closest to mine, but she chooses not to have her face linked to her story yet, which I understand and respect. I am so glad to have met these wonderful ladies, and get advice, share stories, and just a chance to talk to people who just... get it.

So what have you done this week? Link up or leave a comment on anything new you've done, eaten, cooked, made or tried this week!

Muffin Tin Monday - Riding On A Merry-Go-Round

Be sure to celebrate my 50-followers milestone with me by entering my giveaways! I have a Muffin Tin Meal-themed one, and a bento-themed one, but you can enter both, and they both have great items for MTM!

This week's Muffin Tin Monday theme is Big and Little, Short and Tall. Well, whenever I think about basic opposites like that, I always get the song from Disney's The Sword In The Stone stuck in my head... "In and Out, Thin and Stout, that's what makes the world go round!" Etc etc.

I sang this a lot to Little Z when she was little, and sometime between 18 and 24 months she would sing "Up and down, up and down, Riding on a merry-go-round" to that tune. So now I think of merry-go-rounds when I think of opposites!
So I opted for a Merry-Go-Round Muffin Tin Meal! With some bigs and littles, shorts and talls!
Clockwise from top: Banana and blueberry kebobs, Raisins, Carrots, Hotdog and cheese kebabs,
Colby Jack cheese stars, ketchup, Zucchini fries, Pretzel sticks, Ranch
Center: PBJ Star sandwich
I used animal picks to make it more circus-y and Merry-go-round-y, but also to add some size fun. The circle caddy is a party tray thing my mom was getting rid of. Woot!

Big: Elephant pick (with zucchini fries,) big star sandwich, whale pick (with hot dog kebabs) [Okay. It's really a dolphin. Pretend it's a whale.] Also I used big muffin cups. Big banana slices (compared to the blueberries, anyway!)

Little: Little muffin cups. Little kitty (with the cheese stars,) dog (pretzels,) and turtle (fruit kebabs) picks. Little raisins and little blueberries. Little star cut out of top slice of sandwich.

Short: I used short muffin cups (the ones without clown feet!) Short carrot sticks. And a variety of short animal picks.

Tall: Giraffe pick (with the carrots.) Tall muffin cups (with clown feet.) Tall pretzel sticks. Tall zucchini fries (left-over from my Blogger's Night Out dinner Saturday night! I'll post about it soon!) And, of course, tall fruit and hotdog/cheese kebabs! I got the skewers from my Blogger's Santa Swap partner, Ver! They were perfect for this, since they're extra long!

Pointing out the 'little' blueberries. And the 'tall' skewers.
After jabbing the animal picks into her sandwich,
she gets started!
She didn't go for the kebabs at all, which was kind of a surprise. She did take the cheese and hot dogs off, but only ate the cheese. She ate the sandwich and the pretzels too. Nothing else. Kind of surprising, but then she ate very little the rest of the day, so just not an eating day today. Kind of like a reverse growth spurt. She goes through a few days of low appetite, then starts chowing down again full-time.

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth

Bento Goodies Giveaway! (Ended)

I have a bunch of fun bento stuff! Also great for at-home meals or Muffin Tin Meals!

We have:
1. 10 plastic heart-shaped boxes for sauce, seasonings or candies
2. Heart and star egg/rice molds
3. Plastic-coated paper cups in 4 sizes/shapes (small round - rabbit, large round - bird, large oval - bear, and small oval - squirrel)
4. 2-tier bento box w/band ad chopsticks. Blue base, animal graphics on lid.
5. Box of 200 plastic grass baran (divider sheets)
6. 24 plastic colored circle picks
7. 30 Assorted animal translucent short picks (has monkeys, chickens, snails, dog, puffer fish, starfish, cat, various fish, bunny, mouse, maybe more)
8. Mini cube rice mold (makes 3 mini rice cubes)
9, 10, 11. Star, Tulip and Winking Face laver/nori punches (works on thinly-sliced carrots or cucumber peel and dried seaweed)
12. Set of mini ocean-themed cutters

These are all new-in-package. This was all purchased by me personally. None of this was provided as a commercial incentive, or provided free to me for any reason. The only compensation I am getting from this prize pack is the good feeling I'll get when I pick a happy winner! Plus hopefully some new followers and such! And maybe some new creative-food-preparing converts! Value around $19-20 (more from most other bento merchants. More than double, after shipping!)

That No Man Enter Til My Tale Be Done: (King Richard II: V, iii)

There are several ways to enter. Please make a separate comment on this post for each entry. [For things like following, you only have to do it once to enter in both giveaways, but you'd need to make a comment on both giveaway posts.] 
If you've already followed/liked/etc, just make a comment that you have! This is to celebrate my EXISTING followers too! I will also ship internationally.

1. Follow this blog publicly. [Click the 'Follow' button on the right of the scroll, under "About Me" and "Followers." If you don't have a Google account of any kind (through gmail, Google docs, Picasa, whatever, you'd have to create one.)]

2. 'Like' my Facebook page (You'd need a Facebook account to do this.)

3. Follow me on Twitter (ditto)

4. Follow one of my husband's blogs publicly. His game design and review blog, The Play's The Thing or his trying-a-new-recipe-a-week blog, Week Sauce, whichever interests you the most! [You can follow both, but good for only 1 entry total.]

5. Comment on any post other than these giveaways. [Good for 1 entry total.]

Contest closes 11:59 PM on Monday, January 31st.

The Bento Gear Giveaway winner is...

Comment #37 Michelle!
"Hi, found you through What's for Lunch Wednesday. I'm now following. Really enjoy the site!"

Muffin Tin Meals Loot Giveaway! (Ended)

I've decided the theme for this batch of goodies is Queen Of Hearts! (With some other stuff thrown in, so it's not so girly!)

We have:
1. 24 paper cups with animal designs (elephant, rabbit, dog, chicken) [these are neat, since the graphics are on the inside, and they are lightly plastic coated, so are good for moist foods in your MTMs! NOT meant for baking!]
2. Outer Space mini plastic cookie/bento cutters
3. Set of 4 Betty Crocker Easy Writer Food Decorator pens (red, yellow, green and blue) Love these!
4. 12 silicone flower/scalloped muffin cups (3 each or red, purple, green and blue)
5. 20 heart picks (light and dark pinks, orange and blue)
6. Queen shoe cookie cutter [or Princess, or Renaissance-style men's]
7. Queen crown cookie cutter [or Princess. Even a King, if you use your imagination.]
8. 100 mini fork picks
9. 100 long picks with a heart on the top (in red, white, blue, green and yellow)
10. Set of 6 graduated heart-shaped cookie cutters
11. Face nori/laver punch [you can cut facial features out of nori (dried seaweed,) thin sliced carrots, or cucumber peel!)
12. 24 Valentines heart cupcake liners with 24 matching wood/paper picks

These are all new, unused items. Most are new-in-package, but the cookie cutters came loose. This was all purchased by me personally. None of this was provided as a commercial incentive, or provided free to me for any reason. The only compensation I am getting from this prize pack is the good feeling I'll get when I pick a happy winner! Plus hopefully some new followers and such! Value around $20 (Closer to $30-35 from online bento suppliers!)

The Gates Are Open, Let Us Enter Too: (King Henry VI, part III: V, i)
There are several ways to enter. Please make a separate comment on this post for each entry. [For things like following, you only have to do it once to enter in both giveaways, but you'd need to make a comment on both giveaway posts.] If you've already followed/liked/etc, just make a comment that you have! This is to celebrate my EXISTING followers too! I will also ship internationally.

1. Follow this blog publicly. (Click the 'Follow' button on the right of the scroll, under "About Me" and "Followers." If you don't have a Google account of any kind (through gmail, Google docs, Picasa, whatever, you'd have to create one.)

2. 'Like' my Facebook page (You'd need a Facebook account to do this.)

3. Follow me on Twitter (ditto)

4. Follow one of my husband's blogs publicly. His game design and review blog, The Play's The Thing or his trying-a-new-recipe-a-week blog, Week Sauce, whichever interests you the most! [You can follow both, but good for only 1 entry total.]

5. Comment on any post other than these giveaways. [Good for 1 entry total.]

Contest closes 11:59 PM on Monday, January 31st.


For the Muffin Tin Loot Giveaway, the winning comment is #17!

Comment #17 Congrats Morgana!

"I'm following your husband's gaming blog. I had to giggle- after I wrote the comment on the other giveaway, I realized I write both a game review blog and a cooking blog. I don't even think about my cooking blog much because when I say I'm working on my blog, that's the one I'm always writing for. Lol!"

Congratulations ladies, and thank you to everyone who entered! I'm super excited that one of the winning entries was for following my husband's blog. He started it at the beginning of the year, and after a few weeks, kept making little mewling comments about how he only had 2 followers (one being me!) Now he has 20! It was worth the price of admission to hear him exclaim the other day when writing his latest post "Hey! I got a bunch of new followers!" Plus *I* got a bunch of new followers, and found some wonderful new blogs to add to my read-list! And I love that I was already following (and/or subscribed to) so many of your blogs already! What a wonderful online community!

Fifty Is Nifty!

I've finally reached 50 followers! (Not counting me!) To celebrate, I've been buying extra saving up some goodies to give away! Since I have followers from both Muffin Tin Monday and from bento-ers via What's For Lunch Wednesday, I decided to do TWO themed giveaways! I'll do them as separate posts, to make it easier to keep track of the entries for each prize pack.
Contest closes 11:59 PM on Monday, January 31st.

Image from FreeGreetingsCards
Click here for:
Muffin Tin Meal loot giveaway
Bento gear giveaway

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Little Love Lost

Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation - Kahlil Gibran

While 'quickly popping in' to a Joann's with my sister, Little Z asked to use the potty. Well, I was certainly not going to turn her down! Since my sister and I had arrived in separate cars, she finished her shopping and I headed into the adjacent mall to find a potty. On the way to the potty was a toy store having a 'Sidewalk Sale.' Oooooooh! And right past the bathrooms was an Old Navy. Having a 40%-off-lowest-marked-clearance-prices sale. PLUS an additional 25% off if you use your Old Navy or Gap card! Double Oooooh!

So, potty first. She sat on the public toilet without complaint, leaning into me as I kneeled on the floor. (Uck. At least the bathroom was fairly clean looking!) She didn't end up peeing, but we apparently got there at a popular time, as there was a constant stream of loud flushes the whole time we were there, which unnerved her a little more each time.
I let her play a little in the toy store while I shopped the sale table as a reward for trying the potty. Then back into Joann's to buy the stuff in the cart I had left behind (90% off Christmas clearance!) and then a quick pop into Old Navy to see if they happened to have the sweater dress on clearance that I hadn't bought for her at the one I went to with my sister the week before.  Their baby/toddler clearance was abysmal. Loads of stuff in XS-XL though (roughly 4T to size teen size 3.) Loads. Luckily, kids XL fits me pretty well, in stretchy tees and sweaters, anyway! Cute hooded sweater dresses in my future! (With pants, of course. I can't get away with mini-skirts. Like, ever.)
I also found L-O-A-D-S of sweet deals in womens. Pea coats for $15, then minus the 40% and the 25%, making them $6.75! Regularly over $40! I got a bunch of shirts, most around $2-3 each after all the discounts. Got some hawt corduroy pants for my sister, for around $4, and loads of sweet plain and striped tees for both of us, for around $2 each! My big 'splurge' was a trench coat for $18, clearance priced at $40, and I didn't even LOOK at the original price, but probably at east $60 or more. I've been lusting after a trench or pea coat for years, but they were always so darn expensive!

Anyway. Aside from giving you a heads-up on this fantastic clearance sale, (the extra 25% off when you use your card is going on for a few more days, I think!) it's a little background on where we were when my next little story happens.

So I'm perusing racks and racks of stuff. Kids' for Z, Women's for me and my sister, and Men's for Unka Seesee, since my husband wants to try stuff on, so I don't bother getting him stuff. Unka Seesee gave me all his sizes when I went to the sale last week (no extra 25% off then, but I did get 20% off for opening and account.) Little Z spent most of the time in the cart I cadged from Joann's, since it had my bags in it, to keep my hands free, and my kid in it, to keep my sanity. Plus we parked outside Joann's, so I'd be returning the cart on my way back.
At some point Z wants to get out of the cart and roam a little. I let her out and remind her that she needs to stay near me. She immediately hares off, and I fetch her back and remind her that her choices are to stay near me or go back in the cart. Then I do something stupid. I quickly pop away from where I was browsing to see if I can get their little light show thing to work, since she loves it, and I can let her play there and still see her from where I was currently shopping. But I didn't warn her, since I didn't want her to get all excited about the "light show" if I couldn't find the 'on' switch, which I couldn't.
This quick little distraction takes less than a minute. I'd say 30 seconds, but you know how bad we all are at telling real time, so I'm leaning towards it actually taking more time than it felt like. I turn back to where she should be... and she isn't. I start calling for her. "Z! I need you to answer me right now." I've told her many times in the past that if she runs off, she needs to answer me when I call, so I can find her again. When I remember to remind her beforehand on a shopping trip, she's pretty good about responding. And usually I can hear her little 'teeheehee,' or the 'slapslapslap' of her little feet. But this time? Nothing. I drop down on my hands and knees to look under the racks in the section I had left her, and when I don't find her, I head to the front, to case the door. On my way I flag down an employee, who, when I tell her "I, uh, lost my kid," immediately springs into action.
She heads to the front door, telling the cashier to turn off the overhead music. Then she gets on her headset and starts telling everyone to look for my little one, giving them a description as I give it to her.
This whole time, I'm pretty sure my little nutjob just ran off and I couldn't find her because the store is so big, and there's so many displays and walls in the way, and she had a good head start, since normally I notice within 5 seconds that she's no longer within touching distance. 85% sure it's all good. 14% sure it's probably all good. And 1% oh crap.

She was found right away. Just as soon as the clerk finished giving the clothing description... "she's in the Boy's department." Ohthankyougod. I thank her, and head back to Boy's.  The employee back there who found her is a young guy, and I'm sad to say I barely spared him a glance. I barely remembered to even blurt out a "thank you" before bursting into tears and scooping up my greatest treasure. I hadn't even realized how scared I was, until it was all okay.
I had felt kind of stupid, getting employees involved, and I was afraid they'd contact outside the store to the rest of the mall or something, and then we'd just find her playing near one of the baskets of balls or something and have wasted everyone's time. But really, I should have flagged someone down and stopped trying to find her on my own about a minute sooner. After a quick scan and a few times calling for her, I should have gotten help. More people, spread out, blocking the exits. It doesn't matter that the odds of her being abducted by a stranger in a chance opportunity are so low. Roughly 115 per year in the US is still 115. I don't need my child to be one of them. So if being embarrassed about looking like a terrible parent is the price I have to pay, it's worth it.
Luckily it all turned out okay. As I was 99% confident that it would. She was a little terrified, since I guess she had started panicking and looking for me at some point before I got to her, and I gather that the employee was trying to keep her there to wait for me (but he didn't touch her, or even get within a foot of her. He just tried to block whichever direction she was trying to go. I don't know if he tried saying anything to her, but she has such a severe stranger anxiety, she doesn't even listen to anyone.) I watched her little body sag in relief when she saw me, though.

After clinging to each other for about a million years, we resumed shopping. We talked about how scared I was when I couldn't find her, and why I want her to stay near me when we're out in public. She spontaneously apologized several times throughout the evening for running away in the store and scaring me. And I think she twisted the part about when I remind her of why I want her where I can see her; she could get hurt, she could get lost, or someone could take her. She started saying that she was scared when she couldn't find me and the man wanted to take her. I think she's transposing the kidnapper scenario onto the clerk who had found her for me. I talked about how I had found an employee to help, and did she hear the talking about her on the radio? Did the man have a name tag to say that he worked at the store? Did he tell her that I was coming to find her? Etc. I'm hoping she doesn't cast him into the role of villain and create an imaginary nightmare scenario in her head. She tends to decide to be afraid of things, after seeing someone or seeing a show about someone being afraid of something. I know *I* still tear up when I think about it.

On the other hand, if it makes her stick to me like glue in public in the future, is it worth it?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tried-It-Tuesday - 2011, Week 3

Link up or leave a comment on something new you've made, cooked, done or tried this week!

I made Valentine Craft Kits for my daughter's classmates. Technically not an entirely new thing, as I did it last year too, but it's the best I could think of, considering I did nothing else new today. [It's not like sitting around all day in my bathrobe while my kid watches Spongebob counts as anything new!]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

WFLW - Hangin' With My Peeps!

This week I did two bentos for Tuesday! One for Little Z and me to take to gym (which didn't end up happening. We were running so late, we would have missed over half the class. So I took her straight to an indoor play area we had planned on meeting other mommies at after gym and ate in the car.) The other bento was Monday night leftovers from dinner at the mall for my husband!

Hangin' With My Peeps
PB celery, Hard-boiled egg, PBHoney sandwich,
crunchy peas in chickie container, broccoli and carrots, apples and blueberries.
We just restocked our celery, and The Princess is actually able to chew it up now, so I'm trying to remember to use it more. Plus it's yummy with peanut butter!
I originally only had the one little ducky pick in the hard-boiled egg (the last egg from my recent batch. Need to look up the directions again and make more!) but Princess grabbed the transparent pink and green chicks and jabbed them in too. The little container is a sauce container, but I put salt in it for the egg.
I just bought some crunchy 'baked peas' from an Asian market (along with the ducky sauce container, large chick sprinkle container and the transluscent chickie picks) and put some in my new chickie container. Her Majesty didn't like them. There's a disposable Ranch container from McD hiding under the broccoli, and a caramel dipping sauce one under the blueberries.
All in my new 4-compartment Lock-and-Lock container, also from the Asian market.


Year of the Bunny
For my husband, I packed his leftover teriyaki chicken and fried rice into an EasyLunchbox. I jammed some fried rice into my new rabbit rice mold (bought Sunday at the Asian market) and placed a pea where the eye would go. The containers in the top left compartment contain: (orange square with bunny) Sriracha hot sauce, (green bunny head) roasted sesame seeds and (pink bunny bottle) soy sauce. And a cute bunny pick to top it all off. I couldn't make it all too cute, especially as he whined and moaned about having to drag the containers on the bus to work and back and told me not to bother.

Super Bonus Bento
I made this bento in my Sassy On-the-Go box  for Z to eat in the car on the way to my sister's house last Wednesday.
PBH bear sandwiches, apple slices, cheese curds

Random other bento last week.
PBH sandwich, string cheese stick, baby tomatoes, carrot sticks,
apples and blueberries, with Ranch in the little blue container below.
Bento Lunch

Dollar Store Craft - My Crafty Valentine

I love the foam stickers and shapes, pompoms, chenille stems, table scatter, and other craft items that regularly rotate through the Dollar Tree stores. Super cheap, so I don't mind sharing them with random other kids friends' kids, cousins, etc. Or letting Little Z 'waste' them (by using them, of course!)

Little Z's preschool lets us exchange Valentines, in the kids' cubbies above their coat hooks, if we want to. Last year, one of my friends made little heart-shaped crayons (click here for my crusty attempt,) and another friend made awesome, yummy goodies! So I wanted to do something clever and creative too! But with less effort!

Luckily, the Dollar Tree had everything I needed to make a fun DIY Valentine craft for her school chums!

Valentine Picture Frame Craft Kit

  • Foam shapes (they have circles, rectangles, 8.5"x11" sheets, various seasonal shapes throughout the year) - $1 per 12-24. Enough for 1 shape per child (or cut larger sheets into enough shapes.)
  • Foam shape stickers - Valentines mix. 1-2 bags, $1 each
  • Foam letter stickers - 2 baggies for a class size of 15-20, 4 baggies for a class of 30. Or enough of the 4-sheet packs of larger letters to pop out letters for each child's name. - $1 per pack/bag
  • Glitter Valentines Table Scatter. 1-2 bags, $1 each (Optional)
  • Pompoms. 1-2 bags, $1 each (Optional)
  • Chenille stems, 1 bag, or spool of ribbon. $1 for either (Optional)
  • Packs of 4 squeezy glue - enough for 1 per kid. $1 per 4. (Optional) 
  • -Or- Glue Dots (available from craft stores, or if you have them on hand. Price varies. Optional) You can also just assume that everyone has some Elmer's at home, or else just stick with the stickers and not bother with the glueables. Especially for kids under 3.
  • Zip-top sandwich bags or cellophane Valentines bags - $1 per 24. Enough baggies for 1 per child.

Tools: (Optional)
  • Circle cutter 
  • -Or - Scissors and small circle or heart-shape (computer printout, jar or cup, stencil, cookie cutter, etc.) to trace and cut
  • Hole Punch
Valentines foam stickers, glittery heart table scatter,
foam circles
Halloween foam letters, large year-round letter stickers
large Spring letter stickers, Easter letter stickers
Chenille stems and pompoms from throughout the year
Large and small Glue Dots from Oriental Trading Company
Step 1 (Optional): Use circle cutter or trace and cut out circle or heart shape from center of foam shape. You can skip this if you don't want them to be picture frames.

Step 2 (Optional:) Using hole punch, punch a hole in the top center (or 2 holes at the top, evenly spaced from center.)

Another option, in lieu of punching a hole and giving each person some ribbon or a chenille stem, would be to cut up a thin flexible magnet sheet into little 1" squares for people to glue on, 1 to 2 per person. I use free magnets with ads on them that come in the mail, on the Yellow Pages book, freebies at fairs, etc, and save them with my craft supplies.

Step 3a (Optional): Sort stickers by color and shape (and letter.) I chose to do this so that one kid wouldn't get a clump of, say, all red doves, but no hearts. And also to avoid putting dark purple stickers in with the dark purple circle frames, and ditto with the dark pink, since they are the same shade and just blend in.

Step 3b: Divvy up the stickers (and glitter table scatter, pompoms, chenille stems or ribbon, etc amongst the kids' craft kits.)

Step 4 (Optional): If you are putting letter stickers in for each child's name, choose the stickers for each child. I put them immediately into the baggies the whole craft would be going in, so that I didn't lose any or get them mixed up later. You can use a permanent marker to write each child's name on the bag, or have a paper Valentine inside with the "To" and "From" filled in. Sorting the letter stickers helps here, to avoid getting a clump of all one color in a name, and to avoid letters that match the foam background shape! Also so you aren't sifting through the same ones over and over again for each subsequent name.

Each kit should have a baggie with 1 foam shape base, Valentines stickers, letters for that child's name (optional,) 5-6" of ribbon or a half or whole chenille stem (optional,) some glitter Table scatter (optional,) and pompoms (optional.) Also a glue dot per pompom and table scatter piece (optional,) or a glue tube (super optional.)
Finished product! 
I ended up giving each child 1 foam circle frame, 1 each of the Valentines foam sticker shapes (dove, heart, flower, plus 2 X's and O's,) the letters in their name (for names with common nicknames, especially when I hear them called both by their parents, like Daniel/Danny, I put in "daniel" and added an extra N and Y in case they opted to put "danny" on instead.) 3 large glittery table scatter shapes (2 large hearts and 1 smaller double heart shape per kid,) and 2 white and 1 red pompom from the Christmas mix (red/white/green/black,) plus a chenille stem to use as a hanger with the hole, and 6 Glue Dots (for the 3 pompoms and 3 Table Scatter shapes.)

My little craft kit Valentines.
Additional Ideas/Tips:
You can jazz it up by putting in some pony beads for them to string onto the chenille stem hanger, which you can also get at Dollar Tree, for $1 for a good-sized little baggie of them.

You can also type up a little blurb to go in each bag, telling them that they can cut the foam shape into a heart, or cut a picture frame hole out of the center, punch a hole or re-use free magnets for hanging, or suggest other items they might have at home to glue on, like noodles or pompoms or whatever and save yourself a bunch of the steps/materials.

This craft can be as cheap as $2 if you already have Sandwich-size zip-top baggies at home, and just get the foam shapes and a pack of Valentine stickers, for a class size of 24 or under.
If you get a little bit of everything and a glue for everyone, it can be as high as $24 for a class of 30 (2 packs each of foam shapes, pompoms, chenille stems, baggies, Table Scatter, Valentines stickers, 4 bags of foam letters, and 8 4-packs of squeeze glue.)

Also a great, cheap, craft activity to do with a preschool or Sunday School class, moms group, or a family gathering with a bunch of Oompa-Loompas.

I will be submitting this to Dollar Store Crafts and JDaniel4's Mom's Virtual Valentine's Day Party