16 October 2013


For Dino's 7th birthday, we got him a Bible. Not another Bible storybook (though we have several really good ones) - a real, complete Bible. I have gotten each of my little sisters a Bible when they turned 7, with their name embossed on the front and a zippered cover to protect it when it gets flung around amongst their toys. At 7 years old, they are old enough to read some and to follow along when someone else reads.

The worship service at our church includes everyone together during prayers, announcements, singing, and offering. Before the sermon, they invite the 3-6 year olds to the steps in front of the stage for a children's sermon. This is almost always a condensed version of the preacher's sermon, focusing on the main topic or verse, but in a way they can understand. Then these young children are taken up for children's church, where they will do an activity and talk more about that Sunday's theme while the preacher gives his sermon in the sanctuary.

I absolutely love that this church sees the importance of worshipping as a family. It is important for children to see their parents worship God, to see how the church works, to know the songs and traditions that speak to our hearts. I love that this church also acknowledges that a 7-year-old child has been in school long enough to sit still for another half-hour and follow along with the sermon. He may need a small coloring book and crayons handed over from my church bag at some point if the sermon gets too long and he gets too restless, but I know he is still listening, even if he doesn't yet fully understand.

I have always given the NIV Adventure Bible, because that is what I had as a child, too. Dino loves, just like I did, all the little extras in that publication - highlighted verses, explanations about ancient money and measurements, colorful maps, and insights for the morals of the stories. That first Sunday, he was so excited to sit with us through the whole service, and for me to turn his Bible to the pastor's sermon verses. He got a little frustrated, though, when the pastor skipped around through the long passage, just reading one or two verses at a time then pausing to discuss them - I guess Dino expected him to read straight through and be done!

That week, we had Communion. This church celebrates The Lord's Supper the first Sunday of each quarter. I grew up in a church that served the bread and juice of Communion every Sunday, as a continual reminder of Jesus' sacrifice for our sins each week. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Cor. 11:26 NIV) "On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight." (Acts 20:7 NIV)

The sermon that day was from I Corinthians 11:17-24, on properly revering The Lord's Supper, ensuring that our hearts are right with God before partaking. I am sure Dino has seen Communion in church, but it has probably been a while. He was wide-eyed, asking what was going on. While the elements were being passed out, I read to him quietly from Luke 22 (in his own Bible!), explaining what the bread and juice represent, and talking to him again about Jesus' sacrifice. He was satisfied with the explanation that those who have been baptized are the ones who receive communion.

The next week, in the middle of the sermon, he asked if we would get a snack again! No, not until January... Or Christmas...

05 October 2013


I made Dino's birthday cupcakes in ice cream cones!

I said I wasn't sure how I was going to transport them to school, then Tim disappeared into the garage for the rest of the day! He made a beautiful carrier from walnut and ash, and finished it with food safe oil.

The carrier was a hit with the teachers, and the conecakes were a hit with the kids! He had Funfetti cake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles. One of the kids said it was like eating a rainbow!

Amy's Ice Cream Conecakes

1 box cake mix, mixed as directed*
24 ice cream cones**
1 can frosting


Preheat oven to temperature on box, and mix the cake batter according to the directions on the box. 

Cover 2 empty 9x13-inch cake pans or casserole dishes with aluminum foil. Poke 12 holes in each with a sharp knife (make X shaped holes). Place one cone in each hole. The foil will keep them upright. 

Fill each cone 1/2 to 2/3 with cake batter, just above the line where the cone gets larger. The easiest way to fill them is to put the batter in a piping bag, or a freezer ziploc bag and cut a small corner off the bottom.

Place in oven, making sure to keep the cones upright (if a cone is tipped, the cupcake will bake tipped). Bake until slightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean (oddly, my glass casserole took about 5 minutes longer than the metal cake pan). 

Cool completely. Top with frosting and sprinkles!

*you can use your own homemade cake recipe, of course, but make sure you use one that isn't too moist so that the cones won't get too soggy
**flat-bottomed "cake cones" not pointy "sugar cones"

04 October 2013

Bento Lunch 10-4-2013



Dino had several of his favorite foods for his birthday bento!
For snack, he had colby jack cheese, Wheat Thins, and GoGo Squeez applesauce.
For lunch, he had Pirate's Booty (cheese flavored puffed corn), fruit salad, and cupcake-shaped sandwiches!

The fruit salad has cantaloupe, honeydew melon, peaches, apples, kiwi, and strawberries.
The sandwiches have salami and turkey inside. I used colby cheese and monterey jack cheese on top to make them look like birthday cupcakes! The sprinkles were cute but he said they didn't taste good with the cheese (as expected...). I used a little mayonnaise on top of the bread to "glue" the cheese to the top of the sandwich. The "scraps" from the cut-out meat and cheese are stacked in between the sandwiches.

Here it is all boxed up. I let him use some of my bento boxes today, because we got him a new lunch bag that we found would only fit narrow containers!


All packed up in his new Mario lunch bag!

Disclaimer: this post has no product links, and I was not compensated for any part of this post.

03 October 2013

Recipe - Broccoli Frittata

We had an abundance of canned diced potatoes in the pantry, so I made up a couple of new recipes.

First I cooked 2 chicken breasts in a skillet with a little oil until cooked through. I diced the cooked chicken and added it back to the pan with a can of diced potatoes. I seasoned them with garlic salt, pepper, and Italian herbs. Stir frequently to keep the potatoes from sticking. While the chicken was cooking, I put 1 Tbs butter in a saucepan. When the butter had melted, I added 1 Tbs cornstarch. I stirred that with a whisk for a minute then poured in 1 cup of milk and simmered that over medium-low until thickened. Then I removed the white sauce from the heat an added cheese - I put in 2 slices each of American and Colby Jack cheeses, and about 2 Tbs Parmesan. I also added a spoonful of sour cream. When the cheese was melted, I poured the cheese sauce over the chicken and potatoes and stirred it all up. 

Dino loved this Cheesy Chicken and Potatoes! But I forgot to take a picture...

The next dish I made with the canned diced potatoes was a broccoli frittata:

Broccoli Frittata

1 Tbs butter
1 can diced potatoes, drained
8-12 oz. package frozen broccoli
Salt and pepper*
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2-4 oz. cheese**

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Melt the butter in an oven-safe skillet and add the potatoes. Stir often to keep them from sticking. Thaw the broccoli in the microwave, cut into small pieces if needed, and add to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl. Once the potatoes and broccoli are hot, remove from the heat, top with cheese, and gently pour the egg mixture all over the potato mixture. Immediately place the skillet in the hot oven and bake until almost set, about 10 minutes, turning the oven to "broil" for the last minute to really puff it up and finish setting the eggs. It is done when you shake the pan and the eggs don't jiggle. Slice and serve with a side of fresh fruit.

*I seasoned the potatoes with garlic salt, lemon pepper, and Italian herbs for more flavor.
**I used what I had on hand - 1 oz crumbled feta and 2 slices pepper jack cheese. This would be good with just about any kind of cheese - shredded cheddar, colby, monterey jack, parmesan, swiss, etc...

25 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-25-2013

Dino got a couple of surprises in his lunch today - a new Avengers box, a yogurt smoothie, and apple bunnies! The Avengers box has a sliding compartment on top and came with a spoon and fork. This lunch did not require utensils, so I packed veggies in the compartment.

Snack: Chocolate chip Quaker chewy granola bar and 2 peeled cuties (clementines)

In the sliding compartment: baby carrots and sugar snap peas (he hasn't liked these in the past, but I am all about presenting foods multiple times - eventually he might decide to like them - he suddenly decided to like broccoli a few weeks ago!).

Inside the box: honeycrisp apple bunnies, shredded colby jack cheese, Genoa salami, and Wheat Thins crackers - the apples and salami are in foil-lined muffin cups to separate the flavors and to keep the crackers from getting soggy

Drink: Dannon Danimals yogurt smoothie ("drinkable yogurt") in Strawberry Explosion!

I made his lunch the night before and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. In the morning, a big ice pack added underneath the food keeps everything nice and cold until lunch time!


Dino told me the other day that one of his friends takes lunch to school (a different school) every day and asked if he could take his lunch every day too! In typical 6-year-old-boy fashion, the story went on to include kids at the friend's school getting sick from the school lunch, and because Dino saw 2 whole kids get sick at school this year, their lunch must be bad too :-p

The verdict: Dino ate every bite! He said he ate all the snap peas even though he didn't like them... His favorite part of the meal was the "pizza shaped" salami! He loved the yogurt smoothie but wished it had been bigger. He asked what the apples were supposed to be shaped like - when I told him they were bunnies, he said he thought they were shark teeth!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

23 September 2013

Recipe - Elote

On a recent trip to Dallas, we had a late-night dinner at the famous Fuel City Tacos. Best tacos in Dallas. Best tacos anywhere. Simple, traditional, and absolutely delicious! This box has picadillo on corn tortillas and chicken on flour. The little cup is hot sauce, not boring ol' mild salsa! They also have a green sauce that makes grown men nearly cry, it's so hot! All of the tacos are topped with chopped cilantro, diced onions, and a lime wedge.

Fuel City Tacos isn't a restaurant - it's a kitchen attached to a gas station convenience store. They have an order window inside and an order window outside, and both windows had dozens of people lined up the whole time we were there. The people in line at Fuel City Tacos were young and old, preppies, thugs, hipsters, and at least 3 motorcycle gangs. Clearly these tacos have wide appeal! While you wait for your food, you can go inside the convenience store to get something to drink. There is a new covered porch to the side with rows of picnic tables so that you can eat there if the weather is nice.

But the best thing about Fuel City Tacos (in my opinion...) is the food cart just down the sidewalk.  They sell corn, a Mexican corn dish called Elote. You guys, this stuff is amazing. Absolutely delicious. All the layers melt in together. It is tangy, salty, and spicy - so spicy that you want to stop to take a drink, but so delicious that you don't want to stop eating it for anything! 

I recreated this deliciousness at home. The amounts are up to you. I found cotija cheese and crema at Kroger (our local grocery chain), in the dairy case near the Parmesan cheese. If you can't find cotija, try grated Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese.

Amy's Elote
inspired by the corn cart near Fuel City Tacos, Dallas, TX

Layer in a cup, mug, or bowl
(do 2 layers of everything, so all of the toppings are spread throughout):

hot corn kernels
lemon pepper
cayenne pepper
squeeze margarine (or softened butter)
sour cream (or Mexican crema)
hot sauce (I used Tapatio)
crumbled cotija cheese.

I really need to take better food pictures, but here ya go:


Disclosure: Though this post contains links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

20 September 2013

Recipe - Amy's Tzatziki Salad

Inspired by this article about Savory Yogurt Toppings on The Kitchn, I decided to experiment with a new recipe. There is a Greek food cart near my workplace called Woo Woo Greek Food - the explanation is that it's the sound a train whistle makes, and their cart was decorated to look like a train car! Their gyros are delicious - soft pita bread filled rotisserie meat, lettuce, tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce!

Tzatziki is a condiment made from strained yogurt (aka Greek yogurt), diced cucumber, and seasonings. It is served as a dip or as a delicious topping for sandwiches, wraps, or even pizza. Tzatziki is  is vegetarian, gluten free, heart healthy, high protein, low carb, and lowfat!

I decided to make a chunkier version of this dish as sort of a yogurt salad. It ends up tasting like chopped veggies smothered in tangy ranch dip!

A few notes about the ingredients:
Cucumber: I used a large cucumber because it was the only option at the grocery store - I would have preferred to use an English cucumber (long and thin, usually wrapped in plastic), because they are sweeter and you don't have to scoop out the seeds. If you use a regular cucumber, slice it in half longways and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon or melon baller.
Tomato: I used 4 golf-ball-sized vine-ripened tomatoes, but 1 large tomato (or 2 medium, or 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes) would work fine. You don't want to include the watery, seedy centers - just the firm outside flesh. Slice the tomato in half side-to-side, and gently squeeze out the goopy seed packets.
Herbs: I used a combination of dill, parsley, and Italian herbs.
Yogurt: Make sure your yogurt is plain. Vanilla is not plain - vanilla is sweetened and flavored! Many recipes recommend that you strain your Greek yogurt for 2-3 hours, with cheesecloth or coffee filters suspended over a bowl or large measuring cup, for a thicker consistency. If you are using regular (not Greek) yogurt, you will need to strain the yogurt for 14-15 hours for the right consistency.
Pita chips: I like to eat this with flavored pita chips, like Stacy's Parmesan, Garlic, and Herb.

Amy's Tzatziki Salad
Servings: 4 main dishes or 8-12 side dishes

1 large cucumber (or 1 English cucumber)
1 sweet bell pepper
1 large tomato, seeds removed
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper (black or white)
1 tsp dried dill (or 2 tsp fresh)
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 Tbs fresh)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cups plain lowfat Greek yogurt
Pita chips, for serving

Finely dice or grate your cucumbers (drain if it seems watery - you don't want watery tzatziki!). Dice the bell pepper. Dice and drain the tomato. Add all of the vegetables (yes, I know all 3 of these are technically fruits...) to a large bowl. Zest the lemon and add about half of the lemon juice to the vegetables. Stir in garlic, salt, pepper, dill, parsley, and olive oil.

At this point, I divided the vegetable mixture among 4 lidded containers so I could take individual portions to work for lunch. Add 1/2 cup yogurt on top right before leaving in the morning, and stir it all together at lunch time. Eat with pita chips!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

19 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-19-2013

Today's school lunch menu entree choices were Grilled Cheese (which Dino will tolerate but isn't crazy about), or Honey BBQ Pork Bites (which he valiantly tried once and declared "gross").

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day!!

Lunch contains Ritz crackers, pepperoni, turkey rounds, shredded colby jack cheese, broccoli and carrots, veggie dip, and mini golden Oreo cookies.
Snacks are parmesan Goldfish crackers AppleBanana squeeze applesauce.
(I didn't end up including the fruit cup - he needs a bigger lunch box!)

Cheese and dip are packed in EasyLunchboxes "Mini Dippers"
To make it a bit piratey, the crackers, meat, and veggies are tucked into these pirate-themed cupcake papers! Arrrr!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. 

12 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-12-2013

Packed lunch for me this time!

"Homemade Lunchables"
Ritz crackers, turkey rounds, pepperoni, mild cheddar and colby jack cheese
Carrots on top of broccoli on top of awesome Light Veggie Dip
Fruit salad (yummy, yummy)
Mini Golden Oreos (I couldn't find a link to the mini size)

I also packed a small container of grainy mustard to 'up the ante' on uninspiring cracker stacks, and a bag of Popchips for afternoon snack.

I'm having basically this same lunch 3 days in a row this week. Gotta eat up this fresh food!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

09 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-9-2013 - UPDATED

Today's school lunch was mandarin orange chicken and rice or mini corn dogs. Ok, I probably wouldn't like school lunch "Chinese" food either, but corn dogs?? As much as Dino loooves hot dogs, and he likes cornbread too, how does he not like corn dogs? Ah, well.

On the left side of today's lunch was a colby jack cheese sandwich on Sandwich Thins, cut in half with an all-beef hot dog in the middle. I used a small cookie cutter to cut out cheese stars to decorate the top (the cut-out cheese is inside the sandwich).

The right side of the box has silicone muffin cups with an apple from my mom's apple orchard in one, and broccoli and carrots in the other (with that awesome veggie dip in the yellow container).

Underneath the fruit and veggie cups were two surprise chocolate chip cookies! Eat your healthy food first, then you get a treat. I hope he finds them!

 He said it was all good! Ate every crumb!

Disclosure: Though this post contains product links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. Have I mentioned how good that Marzetti veggie dip is??

04 September 2013

Bento Lunch 9-4-2013

Dino again opted out of today's Mexican-food lunch offerings - taco with cheese and chips and rice, or fiestada pizza. I packed him the rest of his French bread pizza and apple slices from Monday's dinner at Mellow Mushroom, carrots and broccoli (more carrots underneath), ranch dip (more about that in a minute), and an all-beef hot dog (some of which was paired with bits of carrot to make "hot dog flowers").

I got this box at the local Dollar Tree store. Actually, I got 3 of them - green (shown here), blue, and red. The box has a built-in compartment perfect for something liquidy, like dip or applesauce, with its own little tight-sealing lid. I also used silicone muffin cups (one round and one square) to separate the fruit and veggies from the proteins. I didn't think he'd care if the hot dog and pizza touched.

Dino ate every bite and said it was good. All the pieces returned home this time after telling him the only thing that gets thrown away is the paper napkin!

Ok, let's talk about this ranch dip. This ranch dip has to be the best ranch dip I have ever tasted: Marzetti Light Ranch Veggie Dip. It is found refrigerated in the produce section of the supermarket, does not taste "light" at all, and actually has bits of veggies chopped up in it. It is thick, creamy, and perfectly tangy. I've always been a Hidden-Valley-mix-with-sour-cream kind of girl, but I'll be looking out for this stuff from now on! Ranch dip gets my boys to eat sooo many more fresh veggies. Dino suddenly decided he liked broccoli with ranch a couple of weeks ago, and this week he even liked fresh zucchini! Win!

Disclosure: Though this post contains product links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together. I just really like that dip!

03 September 2013

Labor Day Weekend 2013

Our long weekend, illustrated with terrible cell phone photos!

Saturday, we went shopping. All day. The boy was thrilled >>cough, cough<<

We started the day with brunch at IHOP! Yummmm!! I had the Two x Two x Two, with Harvest Grain and Nut pancakes. Tim had strawberry-banana French Toast. Dino had his usual Silver Five mini-pancakes, which he dipped in all the flavored syrups.

First we bought him his Cub Scout uniform. We bought the shirt and pants a size too big, counting on his continuing Scouts for a good long time! 

Then we took a trip to the pet store. While I took Dino around to see all the animals, Tim had the aquatic experts test a sample of his fish tank water, because he hasn't been able to keep anything alive... Ph, Nitrogen, hardness, everything was good levels... except Ammonia! That was off-the-charts bad! They recommended a 50-70% water change, and a better water conditioner. The next day, we drained about 60% of the water then added fresh tap water and the new conditioner. Tim will take a new water sample for testing at the end of the week to see if it is suitable for sustaining life now! While the water level was down, he also wrapped the water filter intake with a piece cut-to-fit filter material (made for air conditioner intakes, but cheaper at Lowes than the very same stuff they sell at the pet store at a higher price) because fish would occasionally get stuck when swimming by. The filter helps disperse the intake pressure so they won't get stuck! 

Next was a trip to the mall. I distracted Dino with a Chick-fil-A kids meal with nuggets and fruit while Tim shopped for a new shirt. Then I got distracted by shiny things at Glitter... We wrapped up our mall trip with a stop at the frozen yogurt bar!

The sky was starting to look a little gray, but we headed out to Kart Kountry anyway! We raced single and double Karts, and Dino got to drive the Kiddie Karts! 

After a quick walk through a flea market, we went to a shoe outlet store. Dino had great fun picking out the brightest, gaudiest shoes he could find for me, and couldn't understand why I didn't want to try on any of his picks! He found a great pair for himself:

 (Wonder how long those size-15s have been on the shelf??)

Saturday evening, we had a delicious dinner at Buca di Beppo. Dino requested the kids macaroni and cheese, his favorite! For the 4 adults, we ordered 2 salads, 2 entrees, and 2 pasta dishes:
  • Apple Gorgonzola Salad
  • di Beppo 1893 Salad 
  • Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken
  • Chicken Saltimbocca
  • Chicken Carbonara
  • Spicy Chicken Rigatoni
(clearly we like chicken!) Each dish was "small" size, serving 2-3 people. So by my count, we had enough food for 12-18 people... There were a lot of leftovers. Tasty, tasty leftovers.

This charming advertisement greeted me in the restroom:

As I understand it, the men's room features vintage photos of chubby little boys relieving themselves. Very eclectic art at Buca!

Sunday after church, we stopped by the wedding venue to count and measure tables.

We didn't do much else on Sunday, except eat leftovers and attend to the fish tank.

Labor Day Monday, we went to Familypalooza at Southeast. Dino got to check out a Police helicopter!

Dino had a great time! Hot dogs for lunch, crafts, inflatables... Not just any inflatables - inflatable water slides! 6 of them!! But when he was about halfway through the inflatable water slides, it started to rain. By the time he had finished, it was a downpour. We scrambled under the awning with everyone else, then decided to cut our losses and head for the car. The storm had dropped the temperature quite a bit, and Dino was freezing and miserable. Impressively, the KidWay performers kept right on singing and dancing on the outdoor stage in the middle of the rain and wind, to keep everyone's spirits up!

After cleaning up and drying off at my house (and after a quick trip to Kmart to buy some flip-flops since the boys' shoes were soaked through), we went to Mellow Mushroom for an easy dinner - French Bread pizza and apple slices for Dino, and build-your-own pizza for us with sausage, pepperoni, salami, roasted red peppers, and spinach!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

28 August 2013

Cub Scouts - Orientation

Lincoln Heritage Council - Boy Scouts of America
This week we went to the Orientation meeting for the Cub Scouts pack at our church. Dino recognized a couple of the other boys there and jumped right into the line of Tiger Cubs. The Scoutmaster told the Tiger Cubs to show the bigger boys how to make a straight line, because they obviously didn't know how! To start the meeting, the Scoutmaster asked for a volunteer to hold the American flag. Dino raised his hand so high that he was up on his tippy-toes! The Scoutmaster gave them a quick lesson about how to salute, in and out of uniform. That flag turned out to be about as heavy as he was, but he did his duty admirably, with a very serious (and slightly strained) expression on his face as we said the Pledge to the Flag. After the boys recited the Cub Scout Promise, Law, and Motto, they lined up to go to the gym.

Cub Scouts -
The meeting also turned out to be a potluck dinner, provided by the returning Scouts' families! Even though Dino had eaten dinner before the meeting, he went through the line to get some of his favorite foods - 3 dinner rolls, cantaloupe, and pineapple! When everyone was finished, the children (all the children - siblings included!) went outside to play a game while the parents had their orientation meeting. We got Dino signed up for the Pack and for the upcoming fall campout!

19 August 2013

Bento Lunch 8-19-2013

Dino threw an amazing fit on Friday when he woke up in a bad mood and decided that the only thing that was going to make him happy that day was a lunch brought from home. Uh, no way, kid. I would love to make you lunch every day, but there just isn't time for that! So after school while he ate a bowl of applesauce for snack, we sat down together and read through the next week's school lunch menu. I let him know in advance that I would make him lunch one day a week. He was happy with that and chose Monday (entree options on the menu were Mandarin Chicken w/Rice or Mini Corn Dogs).

Today I used a Ziploc divided rectangle container for Dino's lunch. I made a salami and colby-jack cheese sandwich on whole wheat Sandwich Thins. These are great for the round fillings that he loves, don't crumble like rolls, and don't have any crusts for him to worry about contaminating the rest of his lunch!

Beside the sandwich is a handful of baby carrots, with a container of ranch dip in the lower-right section, and diced fresh pear in the upper-right section. Below his sandwich is his chocolate chip cookie that he didn't eat after Subway lunch yesterday. He knows to eat the good stuff before he eats his dessert!

All packed up in his lunch box with applesauce and Sponge Bob Sponge Berry Go-Gurt for morning snack. I packed his lunch box the night before and put the whole thing in the fridge, so he added an ice pack on top in the morning before he went to school. Had to clip his water bottle to his backpack since his lunch box was full!

Dino ate every bite of his snack and lunch... Well, except that he forgot that the paper under his sandwich was holding a cookie, so he threw it away. :-( He also didn't realize that the dip container was reusable, so he threw that away, too :-( I told him after school that I'll be using a lot of little containers and decorations in his lunches that can be washed and re-used, so unless it is squeez applesauce or Go-Gurt, just put everything back in the lunchbox!

I made myself a matching lunch in an EasyLunchbox - salami, colby-jack, turkey, and Kraft Chipotle Mayo on a sandwich thin, carrots, broccoli on top of ranch dip, and diced pear. It was delicious and filling, and my co-workers were jealous!

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

14 August 2013

Bento Lunch 8-14-2013

School lunch today was taco, cheese & chips, or fiestada pizza. Dino wasn't crazy about those options. He always claims to dislike Mexican food but eats tacos and nachos at home just fine. He asked if I couldn't just make him a lunch?? He has been dying to take lunch in his new lunch box!

I filled his lunch box, the square container of a Rubbermaid Lunch Blox kit, with sliced colby jack cheese, Ritz crackers, an all-beef hot dog (sliced on the diagonal to make a cold hot dog more interesting), 2 clementines ("cuties"), and Teddy Grahams in a silicone baking cup. I placed a napkin on top of the food before putting the lid on, to keep the bears from escaping their container!

This lunch set came with an ice pack that snaps onto the box! It fit perfectly in his lunch box with his water bottle, GoGo SqueeZ applesauce, and a Fruit Roll-Ups Simply Fruit. He takes a healthy snack and water to have in the morning, so I told him to get milk at lunch. Since he isn't used to bringing lunch from home, he wasn't sure how to buy milk when he wasn't buying lunch. We'll have to ask the teacher about that.

I love these new Fruit Roll-Ups, because they really are made from fruit and fruit juice! No added sugar, unlike the second, third, and fourth ingredients in regular Fruit Roll-Ups: corn syrup, dried corn syrup, and sugar. (Funny thing though, real fruit must be sweeter than the added sugar, because a 14-oz. Simply Fruit roll has 10g sugar, but a 14-oz. regular roll has 7g sugar. Go figure. At least it's fructose instead of modified, concentrated glucose/dextrose/sucrose.)

It was a hit! The box came back completely empty! I asked lots of questions, through Dino's Daddy: Was it enough? Did you finish it just in time or would there have been time to eat more? Did you get milk to drink? What did you think of the cold hotdog? (he had never had one cold, so he was skeptical... I used to love them!)

Dino's review to his Dad: "I could have had some more crackers... It only took me about half of lunchtime to eat it all. I drank water, but hardly any of it. I liked the cold hot dog. She made it shaped just for me!"


My Amazon Affiliate links to items similar to those mentioned in this post:

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

13 August 2013

Uncomfortable Truths

Inspired by Katherine's Uncomfortable Truths on her blog, Grass Stains.

1. For more of my childhood than I care to admit, I believed that all dogs were boys and all cats were girls. Apparently I didn't understand the requirements for making more puppies and kittens.

2. I tried (unintentionally and unsuccessfully) to burn down the break room at work. I brought my lunch leftovers in a re-used sour cream container, but didn't notice that part of the foil seal was still there, until part of the container caught on fire in the microwave.

3. I don't like ketchup. I put mayo and mustard on my burgers and dip my nuggets and fries in honey-mustard.

4. I don't like carbonation - not Coke, not ginger ale, not beer.... I think the tingly feeling feels like fire! I used to ask for orange soda as a kid to try to fit in with my soda-drinking friends, but I would only take a few sips before giving up.

12 August 2013

Recipe - Cheesburger Potato Bake

I am always looking for ways to incorporate more fresh produce into my meals, in ways that my boys will still eat. They decided to rename this dish "Cheese Burgatators!" They loved it, and the leftovers were great too!

Yield: 10-12 Hearty Servings

3 lb Small Red or White Potatoes
1-1/2 cup (approximate) cooked pureed Butternut Squash (see note below)
1 medium Yellow or Sweet Onion, diced
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
3 T Flour
1/2 cup Milk or Cream
Scant 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Dry Ground Mustard
12 oz (3 cups) grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash potatoes and cut into bite-size pieces. Boil potatoes in salted water until fork-tender, about 20 minutes.

While the potatoes cook, sautee onion and ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until onions are soft and beef is browned throughout. Add plenty of salt and pepper to season the beef-onion mixture.

While the potatoes and beef cook, whisk the flour with the milk or cream in a saucepan, and season with nutmeg and mustard. Reduce heat and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in butternut squash puree (cook until hot if puree was cold). Remove from heat and add shredded cheddar, a handful at a time, stirring in a figure-8 motion until each handful is melted.

Drain cooked potatoes and place in 1 large casserole dish or 2 medium casserole dishes. Sprinkle beef mixture on top of potatoes, and spoon cheese sauce over everything. (Optional: Bake at 350 until bubbly, but since everything was fresh and hot when you put them together, you can serve right away if desired). Serve hot.


You have several options for cooked, pureed butternut squash.

1. BABY FOOD: Buy enough butternut squash baby food to equal 1 cup (make sure the only ingredients are squash and water).
For example:

2. FROZEN: Warm 1 10-oz box Frozen Butternut Squash with 1 cup of water (or chicken broth or beef broth, for more flavor) and blend to a smooth consistency.

3. FRESH: Peel the squash with a potato peeler (it will take 2-3 passes to get down to the bright orange flesh), cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and membranes with a spoon, cut off the ends, and cut into cubes. (I used a whole, large butternut squash, a little over 2 pounds after peeling and seeding). Use 1 cup of water or broth for each 1/2 pound or so (I used 2 cans of chicken broth). Boil in water or broth until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Puree in batches, filling the blender no more than half-full (hold the lid on tightly to prevent an explosion from steam buildup if it is still warm - do not blend while hot!). Divide the puree at this point into 2-4 portions, depending on the size of the squash. (My 2-pound squash yielded 4 portions, about 1-1/2 cups each. I froze the rest of the portions individually to use in future recipes, like stirring into spaghetti sauce or substituting for oil in sweet baked goods! I used 1/4 cup of puree a few nights later in place of the milk when I made Kraft macaroni & cheese!)

08 August 2013

The Cross

Dino was eating a slice of colby-jack cheese. He took a bite from each corner, held it up, and asked me what it looked like.

"A plus sign? An 'X'? Red Cross that's orange and white?"

"No," he said, "it's a cross! Like the one Jesus died on!"

Okay then! An open door! I decided to step through it... "Do you know why Jesus died on the cross?"

He thought for a moment, "So he could go back to Heaven to live with God?"

"Not exactly," I started. I asked if he remembered from the Bible stories that we had been reading, how people used to have to make sacrifices for their sins. God's people gave God offerings of food and made blood sacrifices to atone for their sins. This is how people showed God that they were sorry, and He forgave them. But each individual sacrifice was not enough - they had to do this continually, year after year. I reminded Dino that Jesus was God, visiting Earth in a human body. God sacrificed his own body for us, because His body was the Ultimate Sacrifice that could atone for ALL of our sins at once.
Hebrews 9:28a (NIV)
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.

Because of Jesus' death on the cross, we can be forgiven and live with Him in Heaven forever!

Dino took all this in, then asked, "Have I sinned??"

"Yes. We all have..."
Romans 3:23 (NIV)
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
"...Do you know what sin is?" I explained that it is when you do something that is wrong in God's eyes. Lying, cheating, and stealing are all sin. I asked if he had ever done those. Dino nodded his head Yes and even came up with some recent examples!

Then he went back to talking about cheese... I guess his brain was full for the moment!

I am so thankful for these moments, for opportunities to share Jesus with Dino. He has a big heart and an impressive brain that soaks up everything put in front of him.

07 August 2013

First Grade

Dino started First Grade today! He was sooo excited to be going to his new school, and with a brand new teacher (truly brand new - this is her first year of teaching since graduating college)! Ms. S is very sweet, and seemed to have everything ready for her new classroom!

Dino's First Day of First Grade
Dino's First Day of First Grade

Last night, we went to the Back to School Bash. Dino got to see his classroom and meet his teacher. He found his desk, his locker, and his cubby. He admired the globe and the shelves full of books in his classroom. We walked through the cafeteria and the gym, and found out where his bus would be parked. We filled out all the forms, joined the PTO, and got some information about Cub Scouts!

Dino had picked out a new backpack with a matching lunch box. He has been SUPER excited about the possibility of bringing lunch. He really really wanted to bring lunch on the first day of school, but the menu for the first day included some of his favorite foods, so I knew that he'd regret it if we packed him a lunch instead. He does have to bring a snack each day, though, so he does get to use his lunch box after all! Ms. S asked that they each bring a healthy snack (no cookies or chips!) and water for morning snack time, since their lunch is later than most. I gave Dino a choice of applesauce, oranges, or Goldfish crackers. He really really wanted to bring 2 snacks, but Ms. S said they'd only have time for 1 snack, when he asked her at the Bash... So he settled on taking squeezy applesauce and a water bottle in his lunch box for snack. I had gotten him this spill-proof water bottle earlier this year to take on vacation. It survived a 10-day trip attached to my backpack with a carabiner! I put the lunch box in the fridge the night before so it would be nice and cold when he attached it to his backpack in the morning.


My Amazon Affiliate links to items similar to those mentioned in this post:

Disclosure: Though this post contains affiliate links, I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post or pulling this information together.

29 July 2013

Geek Girl

This makes me happy :)

I'm a geek, but I'm not a gamer.

I geek out on computers, crafts, cooking, and cosplay (and alliteration, apparently...).

My favorite card is at 2:45 "Don't tell my daughters that Lego, Robots, and Superheroes are for boys."

I have a cousin very close to my age, and we spent a lot of time together as kids. Though he is a boy and I am a girl, we often got the same toys. We both had G.I. Joe action figures, Cabbage Patch baby dolls, and Hot Wheels toy cars. We pretended to be international spies, gourmet chefs, and scientists. We both played with my Easy Bake Oven and my chemistry set.

Yes, I had baby dolls and Barbie dolls. Lots of Barbies. My Barbie dolls babysat my G.I. Joes. My Hot Wheels parked in LEGO garages. I took apart my mechanical toys to figure out how they worked. I loved building blocks, Lincoln Logs, and Tinker Toys. I still do!

At college orientation, we were broken up into teams and challenged with building the highest tower out of drinking straws. I took charge, quickly came up with a design, and led my team to victory.

At an Engineering camp for incoming freshmen sponsored by the Engineering fraternity (there was not an Engineering sorority, of course...), we were again broken into teams and challenged with building the strongest balsa wood bridge. My team won, again with my triangle-based design, supporting more than double the weight of the second-place competitor!

I had an old-school college professor tell the class that girls didn't belong in Engineering school, that it should be men only. I had other professors question my choice of major - maybe I would be better suited in the Humanities Department or the School of Business, maybe music major or accounting....

My first Engineering boss told me, in his office during my annual performance evaluation, that although I was good at my job, I was throwing away my real talent and should quit to become a model.

I graduated with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and have been working in the field for almost 10 years now, first as an Electronics Engineer, and now as an IT Systems Administrator.

Earlier this year, I was featured in a display in my hometown's public library: Engineering in Your Community. I was the only woman on the board of 17 local Engineers!

(You've already seen my Lady Thor costume. Here we are dressed up for the local Comic Con as Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach!)

I don't ever want to hear anyone tell any of my children or my siblings that they can't do something because of their gender. It is OK for girls to play with toy guns and cars. It is OK for boys to play with toy kitchens and dolls. It doesn't matter what color bicycle a child rides - it rides the same whether it is pink or blue!

Of course I love being a girl. I love getting dressed up, whether for real or for play. I love having a man who loves me unconditionally, embraces every single one of my quirks, and listens patiently to my rants. I love being treated like a lady and putting on sparkly accessories. But guys, I especially love that those closest to me love and accept me for me.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a Mom with a successful career and a Dad who is incredibly patient with children, and both of my parents were dedicated to making sure I was a well-rounded individual who could compete in a male-dominated career field, cook beautiful dinners, rotate my own car tires, sew, whittle, crochet, go camping by myself, and be motherly to my younger relatives. I want to be able to teach all of my children these things, regardless of their gender.


Special thanks to The Bloggess for linking to the video at the beginning of this post, which sparked today's rant. Thanks for helping me find my tribe.

30 June 2013

Nana's Apple Dumplings

Nana's Apple Dumplings
recipe from Tim's mom Sherry

1 large granny smith apple2 cans crescent rolls (8 rolls each)
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1-1/2 Tbs sugar
1 (12 oz.) can Mountain Dew

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Core and cut apple into 16 slices (cut in half, then cut each half in half, cut out the core, then cut each quarter into 4 slices).

Place each apple slice in a crescent roll and roll up. Place in a 9x13 baking dish (2 rows of 8, nestled against each other).

Bring the butter, sugar, and cinnamon just to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil. Pour butter mixture over the rolls, then pour the entire can of Mountain Dew over the rolls.

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until the crescent rolls are golden brown and the sauce has thickened.

Serve warm, making sure to get some of the sauce with each serving.
I like to eat these with a scoop of ice cream!
Yield: 8 servings, 2 rolls each

24 April 2013

Linkage, Volume 200


How Animals Eat Their Food (video)
I was lauging out loud at the rhino!

26 Things Cats Are Not
9. A Sunny, Vibrant Dandelion
via Jamie's Rabbits

Reasons My Son Is Crying
All the many many completely logical reasons that children cry
"I wouldn't let him eat mud."
"He was thirsty. I shared my juice with him."
"We helped him put on the boots he loves to wear."
"I closed the refrigerator door."

22 April 2013

Linkage, Volume 199

Today's linkage is pretty heavy material.

Finding God in a Little White Pill
God's grace comes in many forms, including the blessing of doctors who help heal our minds as well as our bodies
via Jamie's Rabbits

Parenting Adopted Children
a mother discusses her adopted son's struggles with loneliness, isolation, lack of attachment, and abandonment and how to help heal his wounded heart
"Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us." -Ephesians 3:20

When I first met my child (video)
whether you met your child as a newborn in the delivery room or as a big kid in a park, it is a powerful, beautiful, life-changing event
via Jamie's Rabbits

To learn more about adopting from foster care, visit Adopt-US-Kids.

19 April 2013

Linkage, Volume 198

Oh hey there! I haven't forgotten about you, I've just been super busy! More posts coming soon!

Getting It Right
The Future of Customer Service: These Companies Are Getting it Right
via swissmiss

Signing at an Apple Store
The Coolest Experience I Had as an Apple Store Employee
via swissmiss

Cups (video)
this "modern pattycake" trend has been around for many years (they even did Cups on Full House), but this is an interesting arrangement using it as backup percussion for lovely harmony

How Did You Take That Picture?
...but how did you take that picture?
via Neatorama

01 April 2013

April Fools' Day 2013

Scope introduced bacon flavored mouthwash today, particularly enjoyable for those who don't like mint, or who really really like bacon.

Read all about the history of April Fools' Day on Wikipedia
"April Fools' Day is celebrated in many countries on April 1 every year, and many experts agree that it is acceptable to extend it to April 2 if one desires - due to the fact that the World is becoming smaller. It is such common practice, in fact, that Honduras' Department of Tourism filed for both days to be official, national public holidays in the last week or so."

And a round-up by the Wall Street Journal:
The Web's Best April Fools' Jokes

06 March 2013


(turns the TV on and it's NASCAR)
Dino: Look! The race is on!
Me: Which one is your favorite?
Dino: The race cars!
Me: Yeah... Which race car is your favorite?
Dino: The orange ones!!

Dino: I have a watch - it's Donkey the gray donkey from Shrek!

Dino: I have a pocket watch!
Me: You do?
Dino: Yeah! You gave me it to me!

Dino: Fall is my favorite season. And winter and summer. And spring.

(licking his fingers at Zaxby's chicken restaurant)
Dino: I really like the grease on their fries. That is one thing I really like about this restaurant!

Dino: Wanna know a secret? I'm a vampire. But I don't eat my friends at school because of the teachers. Actually I'm a vampire bat. But I don't do it at school, but not because of the teachers - because I don't have my costume. Actually it's a suit. My costume turns me into a moose. A vampire moose.

05 March 2013

Linkage, Volume 197

22 Pictures That Totally Seem Legit
via Pleated-Jeans

World War Eleven
The 38 Best Local News Captions Of All Time

watch people play board games! Seriously! The videos are long and super geeky :-p
For example, watch them play Star Fluxx
via Angry Chicken

Paint then Tow
handicapped parking space was painted around a parked car, which was then towed for being parked illegally
by One Foot Tsunami

26 February 2013

Linkage, Volume 196

Tuna Pizza
3. The math just doesn’t work no matter how you try: Biscuits + Evaporated Milk + Ketchup + Tuna do not, I repeat do not equal Pizza.
via The Mid-Century Menu

Dry Ice Bubble (video link)
Giant Dry Ice Bubble Experiment!
via Miss Cellania

Things I Wish I Could Put on My Resume
Education: Took 4 years of Spanish (and remember, like, three words)
via Pleated-Jeans

Japan's School Lunches
"Healthy" should not be defined by calorie count. Many of these school lunches are neither low-fat nor low-calorie, but they are a great balance of foods - heavy on rice, vegetables, soup, and fish. The meals are prepared fresh daily like they would be at home, with students taking turns helping serve.
via Just Bento (also a very interesting article)

24 February 2013

Bonus Dinoisms

(after a car show)
Dino: There was even a Batmobeetle! But Batman wasn't in it...

Dino: Do you know what my favorite show is?
Me: Spongebob!
Dino: Yep! Do you know what my second favorite show is? Gubble Buppies!
(he meant Bubble Guppies)

Pixyisms VII

(Picking her up from after-school care an hour earlier than usual...)
Me: Did you do anything fun after school?
Pixy: You came early, so I don't know...

Me: What did you have for lunch at school?
Pixy: It was so nasty. It was an egg roll. And there was this *green* sauce...

Pixy: Punch bug! Punch! Punch! Punch the baby! (baby doll...) Don't worry - I didn't punch her hard! Hahaha!

Pixy: I think Doc doesn't have any hair. He should put hair stuff on his hair.

Pixy: What is a baby horse called?
Me: A foal.
Pixy: What is a big horse called?
Me: A horse...
Pixy: I call it a horsey. That starts with an E at the end.

Pixy: We were having a commestration (competition) to see who could yell the loudest!

(shows me a radio-shaped eraser)
Pixy: Did you know this isn't a real iPod? It's a reraser.

08 February 2013

Linkage, Volume 195

In case you don't know Sweet Brown, watch this first:
Sweet Brown's Cold Pop Escape

Sweet Brown Toothache (video link)
Sweet Brown did a commercial! Everybody got time for dat!
via BuzzFeed

Are You Good at Following Flowcharts?
via Pleated-Jeans

Honest Toddler
Walked into my parent's room at 3AM. They looked at me like I was the angel of death. Just wanted a quesadilla.
via swissmiss

Madeline + Train (video link)
Madeline's dream came true when she got to ride a train on her third birthday!
via The Presurfer

05 February 2013

Linkage, Volume 194

Pepe Likes Tacos
These Chinese Knockoff DVD Movies Are Hilarious
via Pleated-Jeans

Dug the T-Rex
this lawn dinosaur in Redwood City, California, gets dressed up for every occasion
via Neatorama

Toddler Tantrum
46 Reasons My Three Year Old Might be Freaking Out
via Miss Cellania

Boogeyman Fighting Fish
22 Parents Who Are Doing it Right
via Pleated-Jeans