Monday, September 28, 2015

Planetbox Pods - We are GO for Lunch!

Planetbox just released a new line of Pods - reusable silicone cups sized perfectly for their stainless steel boxes! They kindly sent me the 4-pack sized for the Rover, but you can also get a 2-pack of Pods designed to fit the Shuttle and the Launch boxes.

 [This post contains affiliate links.

Organic popcorn, organic raspberries and grapes, Naturebox Blueberry Bite, PBJ Funagrette dressing, organic carrots, 
uncured ham, GF crackers, goat cheese
The Planetbox Pods cups are a little small, and don't create a water-tight seal with the lid, so they might not be perfect in every lunch, but they're a great set of "tools" to have on hand to add flexibility to your Planetbox packing choices! Since I would be carrying my 3-year-old's lunch into her classroom and could carry it flat, I went ahead and packed some dressing to dip her carrots, even though I knew it would leak if carried sideways (which the leftovers did, when she thoughtfully carried her lunch out of the classroom for me. Oh well!)

I had a mini heart cutter perfect for cutting goat cheese hearts to go on her crackers. They fit in the square Pods perfectly! Since my ham slices were so thin, I opted to rolls them up instead of cutting into hearts. But they also fit nicely into the square Pod!

Organic plum with strawberries, goat cheese stick, dye-free candy-covered sunflower seeds,
peanut butter, purple rice crackers, roasted kale chips
Just because you have four Pods doesn't mean you have to use them all at once! Even just one for holding some peanut butter for DIY PB Cracker Stackers is a perfect "fit" in any lunch!

This lunch was a fun lot of random stuff. Some leftover roasted kale, a homemade cheese stick made from goat cheese, half a plum left over from dinner, the last strawberry, and peanut butter and crackers! Lots of fun yummy goodies!

Tools of the Trade

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Night at the Circus!

Growing up, we rarely went to the circus. I'm not sure if it was that the circus didn't come around as often back then, or if it was too cost-prohibitive for my parents with four kids, or if it was just too exhausting for my mom to take the four of us out in public anywhere! Hahaha! Probably a mix, especially with my brother and his sensory issues with sounds and crowds and lights (which helped prepare me for helping and understanding my own sensory kiddo!) But I remember how overwhelming the three-ring circus was, with so much going on all at once. I like this new one-ring format better, with clowns and some aerial acts to entertain us while they're setting up for the next performers.

Feld Entertainment has provided me with a 4-pack of tickets to take my family to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Built To Amaze!® in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

This was the first time I can remember seeing protesters outside the circus. I didn't do a whole lot of research before deciding to attend, but I liked that there were mostly human acts, and I read up on Ringling Bros commitment to the health and safety of their animals. Granted, the information comes direct from them, so do your own research and make the choice that feels right to you! In the past, my kids have liked the animal acts best, but this time around, they were more excited about the performing "monkeys" [people!]

We attended opening night at the Showare Center in Kent with our 7- and 3-year-olds. I like it there because they will allow me to bring in a factory-sealed tub of dye-free cotton candy, as long as I declare it when they're checking our bags. We can buy Cracker Jacks, roasted peanuts, and bunless hot dogs at concessions, and they always have bottled water for a safe beverage option (they also had Vitamin Water and Coca-Cola in bottles, which don't contain artificial dyes or flavors either, and I don't have to worry about cross-contamination from the soda fountain nozzles!) I always bring empty EasyLunchboxes to use as lap trays, since bunless hot dogs are difficult enough to eat, especially when they're cut up for dipping in ketchup. And when we have to get the jumbo one because it'll be 25 minutes to get a regular dog that hasn't touched a bun, it's easy to pop a lid on over the leftovers and take it home! The EasyLunchboxes also make it a snap to share the peanuts and Cracker Jacks!

Dye-free tip for those of you wanting other treats or souvenirs: you can get the snow-cones in the collectable cups out at the tables, and ask for one with just ice. Then add some juice or soda (Coke and the lemon-lime ones are both safe) that you purchased from concessions for an icy treat!

I don't know if it was just opening night jitters or what, but several of the acts had some major flubs, with performers falling or tripping. But it gave me the opportunity to point out to my kids that even experts can still make mistakes, and that they got back up and tried again. And no one got hurt! Whew! Having the performers modelling perseverance and not giving up even when they'd made a mistake is a great lesson for any kid!

Both girls were delighted and awed by most of the performances. We had REALLY great seats near the front, which helped immerse and engage them better, and gave us all a great view of all the acts!

The girls liked all the aerial acts best, with the troupe doing throws and flips in midair, and the solo trapeze artist, and the ladies hanging from cloth and rings throughout various other acts. But my favorite was when the clowns tried to recreate the archer stunts with an audience volunteer. Hilarious!

We went on a school night, so the girls started getting whiny near the end. But the finale was flashy and fun enough to reel them back in. It was a great ending to an exciting night, and we got home right before bedtime!

The all-new Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Presents Built To Amaze!® plays the XFINITY Arena in Everett, WA from October 1 – 4, 2015, or check for other tour locations and dates!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Easy and FUN Tips for Keeping Your Kids Hydrated and Healthy!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #PureLifeRippleEffect #CollectiveBias

Everyone knows that drinking plenty of water every day is important for your health. But how can we help make sure our kids drink enough? Keeping it portable and EASY and working it into your daily routine helps both kids and adults stay hydrated all day! Keeping Nestlé® Pure Life® Water on hand makes it easy to have water ready and portable for all your end-of-summer outings and back-to-school needs!
I found Nestlé® Pure Life® Water by the case at Walmart. Easy to find and stock up for keeping my whole family hydrated all day long!

In a survey* recently conducted for Nestlé® Pure Life®, moms and their kids were asked some in-depth questions about their water intake and healthy habits, and the results may surprise you!
  • 33% of kids find it hard to remember to drink water without reminders, but only half of the moms (52%) surveyed said they regularly remind their child to drink water. Water reminders are necessary to build healthy hydration habits!
  • Drinking water is one of the biggest "healthy habit" struggles moms have with their kids (38%), even more than struggles like "eat your fruit" (29%), "get enough exercise" (23%), and "eat your breakfast" (19%).
  • 84% of moms say bottled water is a convenient way to ensure their child is drinking water
  • Kids who drink 4+ glasses of water per day are more likely to frequently exhibit healthy habits, such as getting their own water when thirsty, eating their fruits and vegetables at mealtimes without reminders, and requesting healthy food and beverage options for school lunches. Conversely, kids who drink fewer than 4 glasses of water a day are more likely to request soda, juice, and sports drinks (76%)
  • A majority of kids say they prefer a homemade lunch (57%) over a school-bought lunch. This preference for packed lunches offers a key hydration opportunity for parents – packing a bottle of water can help increase a child's water intake for the day!

*An online survey was conducted in June 2015 of 1,077 moms of kids ages 6-12 overall, including 254 Hispanic moms of kids ages 6-12. 1,077 kids ages 6-12 from the same household were also surveyed, including 254 Hispanic kids ages 6-12. © 2015 Nestlé® Waters North America Inc.

My youngest is starting preschool this year, and just like Big Sis, needs a healthy packed lunch and drink every day. Here I packed a gluten-free grilled goat cheese sandwich with some organic grapes, carrots, and broccoli. And a few cute food picks to make it fun! And of course, a bottle of Nestlé® Pure Life® water to wash it down and keep her hydrated for snack and lunch times!

Food and nutrition expert Robin Plotkin RD, LD has some great tips and tricks to help you keep your family healthy and hydrated. (I've added my two cents in italics underneath each tip!)

Prep ahead a week's worth of bottled water, like Nestlé® Pure Life® Purified Water, for lunches or on-the-go-events at one time. Store in the freezer and remove when needed to stock lunches, backpacks, or gym bags. The water will thaw throughout the day and be ready to drink when your child is ready.
Bonus: a frozen water bottle can act as an ice pack to help keep the rest of the lunch chilled until lunch time as well! I always make sure to plan ahead and use this trick for really hot days, as my older daughter's school lunches are stored outside. It's also the perfect solution for keeping disposable field trip lunches fresh!

Lead by example. Each time Mom or Dad goes for a drink of water, ask your children if they'd like a drink of water, too. Soon, it will be the kids asking the parents to join them for a water break!
I'm terrible at this! I'm constantly getting migraines, most often triggered by dehydration. I think I need to flip this and start making a habit for myself to drink whenever my kids ask for a refill!

Have cups, straws, lids, and other drinking "equipment" available to provide to your kids to make drinking water more fun. Empower them to fill their own cups of water - and praise them when they do.
We have a low cupboard at home dedicated for my kids' dishes, so they can easily get their own plates, cups, utensils, etc and choose the ones in their favorite color or design. So any time someone asks for a drink, I can send them to get their own cup first! I found some fun reusable silicone "gummy worm" straws that they especially enjoy using.

My older one is now tall enough to refill her own cup, and I found a child-size pitcher small enough for my pint-sized 3-year-old to pour herself, since she can't reach the fridge's water dispenser or even open the refrigerator door yet. After filling her pitcher, I can leave it on the little kiddie table that I keep near the kitchen for when they want to assist me with cooking, and she can help herself! Both girls prefer drinking bottled water, though, since the narrower opening helps prevent spills, and the grown-up sized bottles make them feel more "grown-up!"

Talk as a family about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In addition to eating a well balanced diet and getting regular exercise, discuss drinking water and getting enough sleep as part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

When explaining this concept to my young kids, I like to compare people to plants. Just like plants, we need to get enough proper nutrients from our food (soil, for the plants,) exposure to the sun, and plenty of water to grow and thrive!

According to 88% of moms surveyed*, water is the beverage their child most regularly drinks in the car. Make this a healthy habit by making sure that each child has a bottle of water in hand before they leave the house.
I just keep a whole flat of bottled water in the back of my car. That way I'm always ready when my girls (or husband!) gets thirsty.
Bonus benefits of always having water in the car: on super-hot days I've been able to use some bottled water to wet a cloth and wipe down my girls' car seats to cool the arm rests and buckles off so they didn't burn to the touch, as well as create cold compresses for foreheads and backs of necks when needed. Also great for cleaning scraped knees! And in a pinch, I've been able to DIY some baby wipes!
I have never regretted losing a little storage space to always have bottled water available in my car... but I have rued a few times when I had run out!

29% of moms surveyed* say that "fun tactics" would get their kids to drink more water. What's a fun tactic? Try storing a disposable cup or water bottle on a low shelf or in the side door of the refrigerator and label it with your child's initial. Or, use a favorite character sticker or trinket or even designate a special space in the fridge just for your child's water!

Kids seem to be naturally drawn to foods and drinks that have favorite characters on them, so why not use this to your advantage? Put stickers of their favorite characters or themes (dinosaurs, princesses, rockets, bugs, robots, etc) over the labels and on the lids of Nestlé® Pure Life® bottled water. Or let them decorate their own! If you're feeling confident in your graphic design abilities, you could even make some custom printable labels to tape on! (Or if you're like me, just do an internet search for some free printable ones designed by other talented people!)

    As a proud supporter of the Partnership for a Healthier America's Drink Up initiative, Nestlé® Pure Life® is committed to helping families make healthier choices, starting with hydration. Nestlé® knows that establishing healthy habits in early childhood has lifelong benefits - they call this The Ripple Effect - and they're encouraging parents and their kids to reach for water first!
    To ignite The Ripple Effect movement and encourage kids to get the water they need throughout their day, Nestlé® Pure Life® has committed to provide nearly one million 8 ounce servings of water to kids this school year through After-School All-Stars, an organization that strives to keep children safe and healthy through after-school programming.*

    To inspire other moms to join the Ripple Effect movement, they've enlisted mom ambassadors across America to share their tips for making healthy changes in their lives and the lives of their children.

    At, parents can share tips and tricks that they use to teach their kids about the importance of staying healthy and hydrated. With this movement, you will be empowered to send your kids off to school each day fueled and hydrated! So help your family Drink Up and be a part of the Ripple Effect - visit and share your tips for healthy hydration using the hashtag #pureliferippleeffect.
    I've shared my tricks with you on how we use Nestlé® Pure Life® Water to create a delicious back-to-school lunch and to stay hydrated all year! What is your favorite way to use it for your family? 
    *At over 20 participating schools in select markets across the country

    Tuesday, September 22, 2015

    Not a Hard-Knock Life! Annie at the Paramount!

    Image © Annie On Tour LLC
    The US National Tour of the Tony Award-Winning musical Annie is at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle, and STG Presents kindly provided me with a 4-pack of tickets to take my family to see the show last Sunday evening. It was such an amazing experience. From the moment the familiar music began playing, I was caught in a whirlwind of emotions and memories and pure joy.

    Growing up, the 1982 Annie movie was one of the very few kid-friendly shows we had on VHS, so I would watch it over and over and over again. (This was long before cable, and multiple channels of kid-only programming!) That Christmas, when I was 7 (Z's age!) my mom and her friend took me and her daughter to see Annie on stage in Seattle. Other than being confused and annoyed that Annie had straight hair throughout most of the show, unlike in the movie, I loved it!

    So imagine my joy when I got to invite my mom and my own daughter to recreate this experience together! I had thought to invite my mom's friend - that same friend from over 30 years ago! But instead my mom suggested that Z might enjoy bringing a friend from school, which was a brilliant idea. (Other than me being terrified of somehow messing everything up!)

    We made it to the theatre on time, got our tickets, and got some concessions, since neither I nor Z's friend's mom had remembered to send snacks! Hahaha! Based on the volume of chocolate, chips, candy, and drinks consumed, both children had been left to starve all weekend! Ha!

    Image © Annie On Tour LLC
    All the actors were phenomenal. As a parent, I had difficulty watching the orphans though, because I kept being distracted worrying about how late those young actors would be up, and how much school they must have missed to practice and travel for the tour! Ha! But the girls definitely enjoyed those scenes and songs the most. Well, the orphans, and the scenes with Sandy!

    Image © Annie On Tour LLC
    10-year-old Issie Swickle was phenomenal as Annie, but for me, it was Lynn Andrews as Mrs. Hannigan who stole the show! I am very attached to Carol Burnett's version of that character, both because I've spent a lifetime loving her as an actress and comedienne, but also from watching her in the movie hundreds (thousands?) of times. But Lynn Andrews' version was fabulous. She exuded exhaustion, bitterness, and even resignation for her lot in life; but underneath it all, also a layer of humor and even a little kindness. And she was not afraid to get silly in some fun big ways. My girl was torn between hating her for being mean, and loving her antics! In the movie, Mrs. Hannigan got the opportunity to redeem herself by showing that she did care for Annie when she found out that Rooster intended to harm her, and I regret that the play did not give the character that same opportunity. But that's my only complaint.

    The magic of experiencing this with my mom again, as well as with my own child; seeing my girl blossom socially and enjoy having her friend there, and my own emotions from all the triggers and memories from a lifetime of watching the movie, all made this such a rich experience for me.

    Image © Annie On Tour LLC
    Annie will be playing at the Paramount in Seattle through Saturday, September 26 2015, so there's still time to grab tickets at STG Presents or!

    For anyone not in Seattle, the tour is just starting, so you can check out the Annie the Musical site for all the cities and dates! 

    Tuesday, September 15, 2015

    Disney's Frozen Hot Lunches!

    Since I was sending some dinner leftovers for lunch, I figured I'd make them fun by going with a simple Disney's Frozen theme, which is always a big hit with my own little "Anna" and "Elsa!"

    Lunch for my Elsa
    Organic PB with snowflake sprinkles, organic apples, dairy-free chocolate (in Olaf container,)
    GF toasts with DF butter, leftover steak and green beans
    The whole theme started with the Frozen fork, when I went hunting for a kiddie fork to fit in the Omiebox for my 7-year-old, Z. The rest kind of fell into place! Helps that I organize my bento supplies by theme, so all my "winter" cutters and picks and such were together! 

    I chose the Omiebox because it makes it easy to pack hot stuff in the insulated compartment, and cold or room temp everywhere else, without needing to send multiple containers. However, the vacuum seal is too difficult for either of my girls to open without a lot of hassle, so I have to send it cracked open. Luckily it packs flat in our Arctic Zone Ultra lunch bags, and I'm in charge of carrying lunches to the classrooms most of the time, so no worries about spills. The insulated container is water-tight and the lid helps make that part easier to open though! 

    I tried making cool imprinted bread using a snowflake ice cream sandwich cutter and press, but the design didn't show, So I used the small cutter from a snowflake cutter set to look more snowflake-y. Since they were too small to drop in the toaster, and since I was toasting up all the scraps for some "cinnamon toast sticks" for myself, I broiled them in the oven for a few minutes on each side. Which is why all her little tips are sort of burnt!

    Since Z is in a phase where she hates all other fruits and will only eat apples if she has peanut butter for dipping, I packed her some peanut butter! I added several natural snowflake sprinkles on top for fun, and tucked a snowflake cupcake pick in with her apples. (She won't eat her apple slice if it's been skewered by a pick!) 

    I tucked a dairy-free chocolate snowman left over from last Christmas in an Olaf treat container (I find most of my dye-free, gluten-free, and dairy-free candies through Natural Candy Store and Vegan Essentials!)

    [This post contains affiliate links.]

    Lunch for my Little Anna
    DF chocolate, organic strawberries, "fairy bread" snowflakes, leftover steak and green beans
    My preschooler got an almost identical lunch, except that I only have the one Omiebox. So she got her "cold" foods sent in a Frozen snack box with utensils (the fork is in a compartment in the lid,) and her hot leftovers in a Frozen Funtainer jar.

    Since Z isn't into strawberries right now, and I needed to use them up before they went bad, strawberries it is! With a snowflake pick, of course!

    E prefers "butter bread" over toast, so I didn't toast her bread snowflakes. Instead, I added some natural blue sugar sprinkles (but the color dissolved off by morning) and snowflake quins to make fairy bread!

    Both girls ate every. single. morsel! Mama win!

    Tools of the Trade