Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pumpkin Patch Cracker Stackers

The morning that E's co-op preschool class had a pumpkin patch field trip scheduled, our 14-year-old kitty Meow Meow died of cancer. Because Z had been so distressed and anxious the previous few days at her declining health, I opted to keep her home from school that day. But I knew the pumpkin patch would be a welcome distraction, so we all went together. Z had loved this pumpkin patch when we went with her co-op preschool class when she was 2 and 3! Plus our teachers used to be her teachers, and they'd love to see her again!

E's Pumpkin-licious Lunch
Uncured ham, goat cheese, Glutino crackers and pretzel chips, organic carrots and strawberries
Wednesday, 10/29/14 - I packed a pumpkin-themed lunch for E for our pumpkin-themed adventure! She's just starting to get into enjoying the MOMables DIY Cracker Stackers and actually stacking and eating the elements together instead of separately. Plus it's a quick option for Mama to pack, and very easy to grab a mini cookie cutter and make a fun theme!
mini pumpkin cutter silicone pumpkin cup

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Ladybug Lunch for Z
Uncured ham, goat cheese, Glutino crackers and pretzel chips, organic carrots and strawberries
Since I hadn't planned on Z coming to the pumpkin patch with us, I had packed her a ladybug garden theme instead. Exactly the same lunch as Little Sis, but with a scalloped flower cutter and ladybug silicone cup (found on eBay. Good luck. They're hard to find!)

For those of you interested in a few pics of our pumpkin patch adventures, keep scrolling!

Tools of the Trade
Food for Thought

Both girls fought me a little at first, insisting that they were too sad to leave the house. My First Grader even threw my own words back at me. "You said I could stay HOME from school today!" Lol! But luckily once we arrived at the pumpkin patch, the Corn Box was our very first stop. My sensory kiddo looooooooves playing in the giant sandboxes filled with dried corn kernels.
Last year we went without Big Sis, and E clung anxiously to me most of the time. It was so fun watching her blossom by having her big sister around this year! She charged fearlessly behind her sister and tried so many things that I had had to cajole her into (or had to give up and just sit and wait until the group moved on) last year.

Both girls were proud of their pumpkin choices. Z picked the biggest one she could find, and E went for the smallest. So she could carry it herself! Lol!

This farm has a large Kiddie Corral full of fun activities. Tire swings cut into shapes (tractors this year, but horses in the past,) sitting on a wooden horse to lasso a wooden calf, "milking" a wooden cow, exploring cow hut things, slides, climbing and exploring tractors, water pump trough ducky races, giant chalkboards, and bubbles! E wanted to play at their little climbing toy shaped like a house, and swing on the swings, but Big Sis spent her time mastering the art of gigantic bubbles. I was so proud of her! She didn't get frustrated and start hitting or melting down when her wand didn't make a bubble, or when someone would bump her or pop her bubble before she got there. She tried different methods of dipping the wand to get the best results, different waving techniques, all kinds of things! I was quite frankly gobsmacked at her level of dedication and hard work. It was fun watching them enjoy the corn box and petting the kittens and cooing over the bunnies. But watching my big girl concentrate on her bubble skills was the high point of my day! 

By the time we got to the How Tall This Fall pumpkin near the entrance, both girls were donnnnne! So I got a few belligerent pictures of them in front of it, and then we left for Nana's! Z was still sad over losing Meow Meow, but a morning full of fresh air, natural light, and massive sensory input really helped her cope.
October 2014: E (almost 3,) and Z (almost 6 1/2)

Here's the same pumpkin from when Z was 2, next to the last time Z and I went 3 years ago (age 3,) followed by E not cooperating last year (age almost-2)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hamster-and-Cheese Sandwich!

A simple lunch made appealing using the CuteZCute Cuddle Palz cutter set and the colorful Pink Yumbox Panino! My First Grader wants a pet hamster soooo bad (or a mouse, or a lizard, or a fluffy white baby kitten...) So I almost always make her sandwich hamster-shaped when using the Cuddle Palz!

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Hamster-and-Cheese Sandwich
GF ham and goat cheese sandwich, organic grapes and carrots, petroleum-free Trujoy Choco Chews
The silicone trivet that I cut to fit the large compartment of our EasyLunchboxes fits perfectly in the large compartment of the Yumbox Panino tray as well! It helps fill the space, plus helps keep the sandwich from sliding around when there isn't other stuff tucked in there to hold it in place.

Since Tootsie Rolls have artificial Vanillin flavoring, which is most often derived from petroleum, I found these Choco Chews which are just like them, but safe! They also make dye-free square fruity chews which are just like Starburst! These Choco Chews fit perfectly in the little treat/dip compartment of the Panino!

How to Make Cute Cut-Out Sandwiches with Gluten-Free Bread
Gluten-free bread is very difficult to work with, since it doesn't have that pliable stretchy squishy gluten in it! It tends to be crumbly and dry. Making imprints is difficult, and when cutting smaller shapes out of the bread, the whole thing tends to fall apart. But through a lot of trial and error, I've found a way to make it work! Not always 100% successful, but I'm definitely getting intact sandwiches 8 times out of 10!
How to use CuteZCute cut-out cutters on gluten-free bread without it falling apart!
You can see in the first photo that I'm using the Cuddle Palz body cutter to push the face cutter far enough into the outer cutter to punch through. I find that when I remove the bread from the outer cutter first, the inner shapes are more likely to push and stretch the bread enough to make it tear. Keeping the outer cutter on holds the bread together better. Yay!

Where I fail is usually during Step 3. I go too fast or push too far on one side before loosening the other sides. You have to be very careful and just move a smidge at a time, then loosen the rest that same smidge, then back around again and again until it's all off safely.

Toddler Tiger
GF ham sandwich; organic green beans, carrots, grapes, apples
Since I only have one Yumbox, Little Sis got her tiger-iffic lunch in an EasyLunchbox! Because I only had heels left, I attempted an imprint for hers. Bzzzt! Fail! The bottom half of the tiger's face fell off, and a bunch of the bread between the whiskers flaked away! I managed to make it look decent enough by putting the face back together on the sandwich, but that's just for looks. It didn't hold up when eaten. Not that she eats her bread usually anyway.

Tools of the Trade
  CuteZCute Bento Sandwich Cutter Cookie Stamp - Cuddle Palz    

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Crowning Glories

Crown cookie cutters are the perfect sandwich cop-out for this Mama. Easy for me, super fun for my girls! Sometimes I even manage to decorate them with candy or sprinkle "jewels!"

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Big Girl Princess
GF Dark Chocolate Dreams PB sandwich, DF chocolate; organic strawberries, apricot, carrots, sugar snap peas
Thursday, 6/5/14 - My (then) Kindergartener got chocolate squares in her lunch for a special treat. Which was a dumb move on this Mama's part, because I totally forgot that on Thursdays, Z had her OT appointment between her AM and PM classes and ate lunch in the car... next to Little Sis! Doh! Luckily she was happy to share, even though I wasn't going to ask her to. I figure it's my mistake, my job to suffer the howls of the toddler! It never ceases to amaze me how amazingly generous both my girls are with each other!

Teeny Princess
GF chocolate PB sandwich, candy-coated seeds; organic grapes, carrots, peas, salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, dressing)
Little Sis got the same crown sandwich as her big sister. Instead of chocolate squares, I gave her some extra dye-free candy-coated sunflower seeds (Trader Joe's.) Sometimes E will eat salad (especially if it's in MY lunch!) so I tried some on her again. She ate roughly half. Yay!

Little Sis got started on her lunch before picking up Big Sis from her AM school. Her pure delight in her packed lunches makes the extra effort so worthwhile!

Tools of the Trade