Foodie Friday: School Lunches

As my first born is getting ready to start Kindergarten, I am starting to think about what she might eat for lunch. This will be her first year eating lunch at school. The lunch menu for the first two days and the following week are posted on the school website, and a quick gander at what’s being served tells me we need to pack lunches. I am not complaining about the quality or nutritional value of the lunches, I just know what my daughter will and will not eat. And she won’t eat most of what is listed. I don’t want to coddle her, but I don’t want her to go hungry either. I definitely don’t want to feel like I’m throwing $2.50 per day into the trash! So…. I’m in need of a lunch plan.

The reality of the situation is that I know Amelia will be eating PBJ sandwiches more often than I would like to admit to myself. But I have been perusing Pinterest *you know, my favorite website?* and there are a lot of ideas out there. Some are really good and some are just insane.

I did find one little jewel though. This weekday meal planner that is perfect for planning out lunchbox fillers!

Please help me out. What are your favorite go-to lunch box meals? What do your kids love in their lunches?

Doing Hard Things

My mantra this summer has been “You can do hard things.” I have to keep telling myself this, because I keep trying hard things and getting discouraged about halfway through. Over June and July I took a graduate course called Statistics for Researchers. This is a tough class and I chose to take it online over 8 weeks instead of on campus over 16 weeks. It. Was. Hard. But I can do hard things.

The first weekend in August, my wonderful Husbee convinced me to “hike” a trail in the Wichita Mountains. The purpose of this hike was to make a video project that will be used in our church. I put the word “hike” in parentheses because this was no hike. What he actually meant when he said “hike” was CLIMB. We were joined by our friends Zack and Karen for the beginning of our trip, and they rejoined us on the last stretch.


This is Karen’s picture. The rock formation in the top left photo is called the Apple and Pear- that is where we were heading. It’s hard to tell from pictures just how big these rocks are and how high up. I want you to know- they are huge.  

We started out on a trail that seemed pretty easy. No big deal. A few bumps and steps up. A few rocks to step over and tree limbs to duck under. Then we came to the “Valley of the Boulders.” This picture is borrowed, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same valley:


I borrowed this picture from http://www.summitpost.org. I have been trying to wrap my brain around what we actually did and where we actually were, but I am a novice hiker and that was my first time to this area. I have no idea what any of the trails were called. 

This picture actually does it no justice at all. Those are some BIG rocks! Like, taller than me rocks. We were climbing on and over them and jumping from rock to rock to get to the next trail. My first boulder jump was so scary that it took me about 10 minute to work up the courage to do it! I did finally jump and climb my way down to the next trail which led us to the rock rooms, which are not quite caves but definitely a place one could take shelter if needed.

From the rock rooms, we followed the trail out into the sun. I think it’s important to tell you now that I was carrying 3 liters of water on my back and Zach was carrying 1 liter along with various camera equipment for our project. 3 liters of water is heavy. It was in a bag with a drinking spout, inside of a backpack that didn’t fit quite right because it’s Zach’s, and I am not a very big adult…. which may be an understatement. The trail stayed in full sun the rest of the way to the bottom of Elk Mountain.

At the bottom of the mountain, I thought “I can do this. It’s not so bad.” About halfway up, I was ready to quit. I was almost crying, and had come very near to hyperventilation due to sheer panic! This climb is much steeper than it looks from the trail at the bottom. I wanted to just let Zach finish the climb alone, make his video and come back for me. I was in the shade and I could just wait it out- I thought. But of course, Zach wouldn’t let me. The rest of the climb was a religious experience, let me tell you. I pushed my self harder than I have in a  very long time- both mentally and physically. I came close to tears and hyperventilation a few more times on the way up. The mildest incline was about 45 degrees and we were basically bear crawling on all fours for the entire second half of the climb. I was having to stop and rest every 100 feet or so. Then we came to the last stretch. Again, I told Zach I couldn’t do it. It looked like it was completely straight up from where we were. Did I mention we had zero climbing equipment? It was just us and our hands and feet. I don’t even have any hiking shoes- I was wearing running shoes!

I did finally muster the courage and strength to do the last stretch upward.


Zach and me at the Apple and the Pear.


Just so you know how big these rocks are- this is Zach standing directly under the Pear on a previous trip. It’s really, really ridiculously big!

The trip down was just as terrifying as climbing up had been. We couldn’t really go down the exact way we went up because it was so steep that we might have slid down too quickly. So, we had to find a new path. This proved very difficult. There were times we were climbing down, and unexpectedly came to a place where the rock just dropped out from beneath us. We would have to climb back up, then climb sideways until we found a place where we could descend this crazy rock with no equipment. More crying, more hyperventilating.

By the time we got back to the rock rooms, we were out of water. I was on the verge of heat exhaustion. I had to remove the empty water backpack because I couldn’t breathe. I took off my long sleeved shirt because I felt smothered, but when I sat down to rest, I started getting goose bumps. It was 100 degrees outside, but much hotter on the rocks. We still had to walk a ways on the trail before we reached the Valley of the Boulders again. I did NOT want to climb back UP those rocks. But I had to. I made it to the top of the valley and saw Karen. I once again was near tears. She handed me the last little bit of water they had. Some other hikers overheard us say we were out of water and handed us a Powerade. What a life saver. We were still about 2 miles from the car at this point. I started trucking down that last trail toward the parking lot. I was afraid if I stopped moving, I wouldn’t be able to get up and go again.

I have never experienced anything like this. I had to keep telling myself “you can do hard things.” You know what? I CAN do hard things. So can you. The only way to prove this to yourself is to do something that you think is too hard.

 

Foodie Friday: School Snacks

As the kids are going back to school it’s time to build up an arsenal of snacks/snack ideas. Some of us will be sending snacks for the whole class, and some of us will just be bringing little snack monsters home. Either way, you want to be ready with a healthy snack that won’t ruin kids’ appetites for dinner. When I search Pinterest, my favorite place to search, I find a lot of really complicated snacks that need to be cooked and heavily prepped. I don’t know about you, but I need quick and easy. I work and it’s pretty much time to start cooking dinner when we get home. I just want something I can hand the kids to keep them from withering away in the 30 minutes to an hour it takes me to get dinner on the table.

Here are three easy ideas:

  • Popcorn- you can pop it  yourself, or buy it already popped on the chip aisle. Mix in a few chocolate candies or chocolate chips and you’ve got a fun snack everyone will enjoy.
  • Cheese sticks- you can serve them alone for a quick something to tide kids over before dinner, or with pretzels and grapes for something a little more substantial.
  • Pickles- kids love ’em, they don’t fill you up too much. For a fun way to serve, or make it more of a lunch-time thing, try ham and pickle roll-ups. Take a thin piece of deli ham, spread it with cream cheese and roll it around a pickle. Secure with toothpicks and slice into bite-size pieces.
  • Easy Recipe for Ham and Dill Pickle Appetizer Bites found on KalynsKitchen.com

Good luck and happy snacking!

It’s Time to Do Something

Lately I have noticed a rash of social media whining. It seems that we, as a society, have gotten into a really bad habit of complaining on the internet about things in our communities without taking any action to find a solution. Today, I say to you “It’s time to do something about it!”

If you see a problem that needs fixing, go and fix it. If you noticed something in your home needed repair, wouldn’t you repair it as soon as possible? I mean, if you repeatedly chose to not make the repair it would diminish the value of your home. By choosing to not find solutions to community problems, we are diminishing the value of our communities.

For a timely example, I present the saga of the school supplies. This time of year, the local news stations like to run stories about how expensive school supplies are. This is no big revelation. They’ve always been expensive. These news stories ultimately lead to an unproductive online debate over who should be picking up the tab: parents or schools. This argument has no winner. Ever. I suggest that instead of arguing over this issue, we take it upon ourselves to find a solution in our own community. Easy for me to say, because it’s already been done in my community. But easy for you too because I am willing to share with you what solution worked here. In Chandler, OK, the Rotary Club has made it an annual project to purchase school supplies for every child in kindergarten through sixth grade. How do they do this? First, they send out a form to all the parents asking for parents to pay $15 if they can. If they can’t, their child(ren) will not be excluded. Many parents pay the $15 and maybe a little more because that is really cheap for school supplies. Second, they do a few fundraisers throughout the year. They do a stew dinner, they sell ice cream at the local ice cream festival and they sell raffle tickets once a year. I think that’s it. Just three measly little fundraisers. Third, they ask businesses to donate. A few local businesses who are willing to donate to a cause like this can go a long way. Fourth, and finally, buying all these school supplies in bulk saves a lot of money. The average family is not going to be able to do this alone. It takes the larger group to purchase bulk items at a discount.

This particular solution to this particular problem is just one example. My point is this: If you see a problem in your community, do something about it. Complaining to the abyss via Facebook or Twitter adds fuel to a nasty fire, but does no good for anyone. To find solutions, start with a committee or focus group. You could recruit your friends and family or you could utilize groups that are already formed like civic groups, 4-H clubs, Home and Community Education Clubs, churches, or PTO groups. Join one of these groups or start your own. Talk to the leaders and parents in your communities about the problems you face, and brainstorm ideas for solutions. THEN, the KICKER is to put a plan into action.

We don’t need a politician to make our country great again. Let’s make our country great again by making our communities great again! It’s time to DO SOMETHING!

Foodie Friday: Awesome Summer Squash

summer squash

I helped out with a cooking demonstration on the OSU campus last month and one of the recipes shown and served was called Awesome Summer Squash. Let me tell you, it IS awesome! Here’s the recipe for you:

Awesome Summer Squash

3 or 4 small summer squash, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Dash dry, red chili flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine (if you don’t like wine, you could use half lemon juice/half water)
1 tbsp goat cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Add squash in a single layer to the pan and brown it. You want the squash to sear, but not get too soft. Once brown, flip and brown the other side. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook until garlic is fragrant, but do not let garlic burn. Burned garlic is not good. Add in wine and simmer. Turn off heat or remove squash to a serving dish. Sprinkle goat cheese evenly over the top.

This dish is so good. If you don’t like goat cheese (or can’t get it  where you live) you could try shaved parmesan or cojita cheese. Ricotta also might be good. This may change the nutrition info.

Per serving:
Calories: 70
Protein: 1g
Carbohydrates: 5g
Fat: 4g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 95mg

Shared Parenting Time: Quantity Equals Quality

Children deserve the opportunity to be loved by both of their parents and should not be caught in between parents who do not know how to get along. Research shows children who have healthy relationships with both parents do better later in life. Shared parenting time provides children with more opportunities to develop deep, lasting bonds with both parents.

Have you and your co-parent thought about shared parenting time? In shared-parenting arrangements, also known as joint custody, children spend 30 percent to 50 percent of their time with each parent, which creates more opportunities for the child to have meaningful experiences with both of their parents. The good news is that shared parenting is not only possible, it actually works!

Quality time between children and parents is often spontaneous and cannot always be planned. Consequently, increasing the quantity of time a child spends with both parents will increase the amount of quality time in the relationship. Quality time includes opportunities for teaching and sharing values with our children. For example, helping with homework or teaching your children through discipline helps create a strong parent-child relationship, which is what every child longs for and needs for healthy adjustment following divorce.

Research shows that except in extreme cases where it is unsafe to do so, shared parenting benefits the child and the parents. However, shared parenting may not be an option for everyone. For example, in situations where one parent is deployed in the military or is gone for long periods of time due to work responsibilities, other custody arrangements may be a better fit for the circumstances. The safety of your child is the most important aspect to consider when creating a parenting plan. In situations when your child’s safety is a concern, it may be best to seek legal help in determining the right parenting plan for your child.

 

QuickTip Tuesday: Get Ready for Soup Season

If you’re one of those people who loves to make a nice hearty soup on a chilly night, it’s time to start getting ready now. I know, it was 100 degrees in Oklahoma yesterday. No one is really eating soup. BUT if you get ready now, then you could save yourself some money later. Keep a gallon sized freezer bag in the door of your freezer. If you ever have leftover vegetables (corn, green beans, peas, squash, carrots… whatever you like) throw the leftovers into that bag. Just keep adding to it until it’s full. Mix it all up and you’ve got the makings of a nice vegetable stew. Add in some broth, beans, some canned tomatoes or tomato paste, season and you’re done! If you’re not into vegetarian, add in some stew meat or ground beef. Yum!