Thursday, September 27, 2012

Guest Post: Bento Boxes Make Fun Lunches Easy!

Hello to the followers of Making Lunch Special! I am an old friend of Amanda's and your guest author today! It makes me feel kinda famous and cool but I promise you I'm not. You can follow my blog over at . I've been blogging since long before it was cool.

So I know the Leahys from when they were young pups in love at Purdue. We're all grown up now with kids of our own too and thanks to the wonder of Facebook, have still kept in touch. Like the Leahys, my husband and I are navigating the seas of parenthood. We have a 3 year old and 5 year old. Your prayers are appreciated.

This past August, our 5 year old started full day Kindergarten and I cried for about a week. The good news, though, is that she loves it and is very happy with her school and teacher. While mourning her transition into school, I realized that there are some things a mom of an elementary schooler needs to do each day. Help with homework, make sure they are wearing the right shoes on PE day, sort through office paperwork, drop off, pick up and make lunch!

Tessa's school has a really great hot lunch menu (which even includes Little Caesar pizza on Fridays) but I decided to pack her lunch for a handful of reason. First, it's way cheaper. At her school the lunches are $4 a day, which adds up pretty quickly. Second is that it's probably healthier (although you will notice some delicious cold pizza and giant marshmallows make our regular menu).

 But lastly, I wanted to show her my love through her lunchbox. I know that sounds a little cheesy but it's true. I'm not used to being away from her this many hours a day, and I miss knowing what she's doing at all times. Those other things are somewhat out of my control as we 'cut the cord' a bit, but I do have control over what surprises she finds in her lunchbox each day.

The best decision I made was to buy a bento style lunchbox. Bento just means little containers. You know when you eat Japanese food and they sometimes have bento meals with lots of of little compartments of little things to try? You don't?....really you should, it's delicious.

I bought her and her brother both a basic bento kit with insulated bag to fit at Best purchase ever!

I've dabbled a little bit in making cute shapes and faces on food like Amanda does, but I'm nowhere near her level of awesome. Partially because I'm too lazy. But nothing make food cute like a quickly added candy eyeball, and my kids have really enjoyed that part. 

Here is a smattering of pictures of some lunches I've made since school started....

Here I made cheese and PB&Js into star shapes along with some carrots and ranch (in the tiny container), pudding with candy sunflower seeds and a banna applesauce. They 'apple sauce squirts' as my kids call them, are a great portable snack! We like the Trader Joes brand because they come in lots of flavor.

Excuse the nuclear color here. I went through a short obsession with the 'super vivid' setting on my camera. Those are not nuclear yellow worms, but cheetos. Also ham and cheese pinwheels, grapes, yogurt with honey and a pickle pack.

With the packaged things, I've found that part of the trick is to find things that fit into the box, otherwise it won't close. For instance, most yogurts are too tall.

One of Tessa's favorites...her Greek lunch. Those are pita chips with olives, carrot and a big vat of hummus for dipping. Plus an applesauce and giant marshmallow. Because it's giant, and cool.

Mini bagels are a perfect fit. I really need to buy some more of these cause the kids really dug them. This is a pretzel mini bagel with cream cheese, veggie chips, raspberries and yogurt. The kids Dannon with Micky Mouse on it is the perfect height!

So the only tricky thing about the box can be fitting things in just right. For instance, traditionally cut leftover pizza doesn't fit...but square cut pizza does! All the more reason to eat at Arni's.

I used a little melted chocolate to adhere eyeballs to their plums one day. Freaked the 3 year old out, though. He wouldn't eat it.

But he sure does love a dinosaur ham or PB sandwhich. This was just done with a cookie cutter and some candy eyeballs.

So I get questions on how things all stay in place without jumbling around. Well, several of the contatiners inside have lids, so anything that is liquidy or sticky gets a lid. (Look there are the nuclear yellow worms again)

Then the big box closes very tightly over the little ones, so there's no room for things to jumble around and intermingle.
Inside the bag is a spot for an ice pack to keep it all cold.
Then it all zips up in an insulated bag with a spot for a juice box on the outside. Unfortunately the juice doesn't stay cold but nobody at my house has complained about that.

I've really enjoyed making her lunch and I think seeing the containers makes it easier to pictures both balanced choices and correct portions. I know for sure it make it easier for her to eat as well, because she can see her whole meal laid out in front of her. Last year she took her lunch to preschool and was notorious for not eating it. I think because there were so many little items packed in ziploc bags that were hard for her to open, plus hard for her little brain to think of as a complete meal. So she would eat the crackers and ditch the rest.

She also loves how 'cool' her lunchbox is and showing her shapes and eyeballs to her friends. She's happy, I'm happy...and I feel like I'm giving her something important every day. Lunchbox love.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Long time, no post.

Well, the bad news is that I haven't posted on here because we haven't been serving a lot of "cute lunches" lately.  School is back in full swing and I am busy grading math tests instead of decorating sandwiches.  I promise to be back soon with some new cute lunches...

In the meantime... the good news is that my friend Laura is experimenting with some adorable Bento-style lunches as has agreed to share some of her ideas.  So please welcome my dear friend Laura!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Trio of PBJ Sandwiches

Here are three little peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches I made for my son in the past few weeks.  

First we have a slightly crazy looking bunny rabbit.  I used a cookie cutter from Easter to make the bunny shape.  My bread wasn't quite big enough, so I took my rolling pin to flatten it just enough for the cutter to fit.  You can still see a little bit of the crust on his chin.  The crazy look comes from two Wilton's candy eyes that didn't quite match.  A heart sprinkle for a nose and a few teeth carved from a few white chocolate candy melts complete the face.  I drew a mouth on using an edible food marker.

Next we blast off with a rocket ship. I made the sandwich and just started cutting away pieces with a knife to get the body of the ship.  I used left over sandwich pieces to lengthen the "fins" and add "wings" (I guess) to the sides.  It looked a little messy, but my son still loved it.  I used cheese and my tiny star cutter to set the scene and added some "cheese fire" to make the rocket blast off.  I added some candy coated sunflower seeds for decoration.
 Finally, a little Toy Story Alien.  Ever since we returned from Walt Disney World, little man has been almost constantly playing with his Bucket O' Aliens and Bucket O' Army men.  I decided to surprise him with a little alien lunch tomorrow.  The head, mouth, and ears were cut using some strategic slicing with an oval cutter.  The antenna is a piece of bread just sorta twisted up on the end.  An Alien needed (of course) three eyes and a light dusting of green sugar sprinkles.  Healthy? Well... no... not really.... so I'll make sure he gets some carrots and celery in his lunch as well.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Keep 'em Busy! Dino Lingo - Influenster Review

I have watched Dora the Explorer so many times that I thought my head might explode... I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm the map, I'm THE MAP!  I think that despite the annoyances of the program, it is awesome that my 3-year-old can count to ten in Spanish and occasionally yells, "Ayudame, mama!" when he tumbles off the bed he was bouncing on.  I took many years of Spanish in high school and college and it has been very useful to me in my job as a school teacher.

When Influenster provided a link to try out a kids language learning program called Dino Lingo, I was very excited.  I received this sample FREE from Influenster for testing and review.  Although the program is available in MANY languages, I chose to preview the Spanish one since that would be the one I would most likely buy.  This program is marketed to children ages 2 to 7 years old and is available through .  The cost is $99.95 + SH with a 30 day money-back guarantee.  To see what's actually included for that price click here.

My first reaction to this program was a little negative due to the quality of the animation (this is not Pixar), but I soon got over it.  You and your child are guided through the program by cute little animated dinosaurs.  Real video footage is alternated with digital & traditional animation to provide "in context" ways to observe the vocabulary and phrases.  Also, the program uses just the right amount of repetition to really help you "get" what they are saying.  For example, you are shown several pictures/animated birds.  Each time you see the bird, the Spanish word for bird pops up on the screen and it is said aloud.  This is repeated several times.  Then you see two birds.... then many birds which are counted in Spanish: FOUR birds: 1, 2, 3, 4... then a blue bird... and finally an in context sentence:  There are seven birds!

In the first disk, animals, numbers, and colors were intertwined.  The program was about 22 minutes long.  In between "learning" parts there are mixed interludes with dinosaurs and other characters dancing, counting, playing and more.  There were lots of silly parts that your child will laugh at, I think.

So, would I buy this entire program?  Someday, maybe, when I have an extra $100 to spend.  This is a reasonable price for this program and less than I have paid for other educational videos purchased via infomercials.  (You know the ones! I want my baby to read, too!)  I think that if you are serious about your child learning a language, this program could be very successful and fun for children and their parents.  In the meantime, we will still be watching a lot of Dora.  I think this would be a great gift to buy and provide your child's daycare provider or for your family video library.  It would give you a "non-junk" TV alternative while you are cooking dinner or folding laundry and your kiddo will learn so much.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DenTek Floss Pics - Influenster Review

Ladies and Gentlemen, line up your pearly whites and let's talk flossers.  You may recall from my previous post that I recently received a box of items for free from influenster to test and review.  The products were complimentary, but the opinions are my own.

I received two sample packs of DenTek brand flossers.  One for adults, the Comfort Clean Floss Picks, and one for kiddos, the DenTek Fun Flossers.  You can read all about DenTek's flossing products here if you wish.

I have never purchased kid's flossers, but we buy this type of product frequently.  My husband and I keep floss picks in our vehicles because you just never know when you are going to need to battle something stuck in your teeth at the red light.  We are not very brand loyal and usually pick up whatever is cheapest.  Here is a picture of the DenTek flosser on the left and the store brand flosser (from the package in my glove box).

My husband was a willing volunteer.  He flossed one side of his mouth with DenTek and one side with the store brand.  One major difference in the product was that the store brand only lasted for three teeth beofre the floss broke.  He was able to use the Dentek flosser for all of his remaining teeth and the floss was still tight on the plastic.  As far as flavor, both are "mint" but my husband preferred the store brand taste over the DenTek, but that the DenTek "wasn't bad."  Finally, the pointy pick part at the end of the DenTek brand is a thinner plastic than the store brand.  My husband said that he thought the DenTek was more effective as a toothpick.

The DenTek flosser is high quality for its purpose and I would definitely buy them for my family to use.

Influenster also send a sample of the kid's Fun Flossers.  What struck me a fabulous about this product as soon as I took it out of the package was that there was no pointy toothpick end.
No Pointy End! Brilliant!
If you have a little boy, you know good and well that anything with a sharp point immediately becomes a science experiment or a sword. (Where can I stick this? Who can I poke with this?)  I gave these to little man to use at bedtime and I can say it was a success.  If the point of a "Fun Flosser" is to make it fun for kids to floss, then this is a win for sure.  And with that, I leave you with some pictures...

Happy Flossing!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quaker Soft Baked Oatmeal Cookies (Raisins) - Influenster Review

Recently I joined Influenster , an exciting product testing group.  They sent me a box of products.  It's my job to test them and let you all know what I think.  I received these free products from Influenster for product testing. The items were complementary, but the opinions are all my own. 


The first product I decided to test was the Soft Baked Oatmeal Cookie from Quaker... mostly because I was hungry.  I was a little concerned about the raisins.  I hate raisins... it's a texture thing.  The first thing I noticed when I took the cookie out of the package is that it seemed really moist and was a really big cookie.  This was no tiny, crunchy cookie, people.  Quaker was serious about this.  I broke the cookie into three pieces.  My husband, my three-year-old, and I all tasted the cookie.

Husband:  "Pretty good... Flavor is kind of like an Archway cookie... I'd definitely eat more."
Son: "Mmmm...."  Do you like it? "Yes."  Tell me about it. "It's... weird... like a cookie, but a muffin... yeah... a muffin... can I have this for breakfast tomorrow, too?"
Me:  Soft. Chewy. Hardly noticed the raisins except in flavor (a good thing for me)

Result:  I would buy these for my family.  I order my groceries online through and they run $2.69 or $2.79 for a package of 6.  These have 170 calories per serving.  I can see this as a nice little afternoon snack and it does seem like a "healthier" cookie option for my little kiddo than chips or some of the other cookie options on the market.  This was super yummy and the other flavors look tasty as well:  Chocolate & Almond, Cranberry & Yogurt, and Banana Nut are available from my grocer. 

After eating the cookie, I thought maybe I should have taken a picture of it... too late!  
Here is the image from the Quaker website:

Monday, June 25, 2012

No Clowning Around...

Little Man requested "A clown sandwich with hot dogs too" for lunch today.

I used a plastic cup to cut the bread into two circles.  Mr. Clown needed a pair of candy eyes and some popcorn hair.  I used a "Captain Crunch crunchberry" for the nose and trimmed up a mouth from a fruit roll-up.  A little line with a Wilton's food marker completed his smile.

Do you know why cannibals won't eat clowns?
Because they taste funny!