Friday, September 28, 2012

pathetic pizza lunch: just keeping it real!

Over the years I've received a lot of blog comments along the line of:

"I don't know how you do it!", "Your kids are so lucky to get such great lunches every day!", "I wish I had your creativity!"

I always chuckle when I read these. 
Because the truth is this... 

I don't always do it. Sometimes Ethan packs his own lunch. And sometimes he and Paige buy the school lunch. (By the time this post pops up I will be out of state and in my absence Ethan is packing lunches for himself and Paige!)

My kids do not get great lunches every day. Many days their lunches are totally ho-hum, plain, no frills, no cute, nothing special at all. I just don't usually take pictures of those lunches. No pictures = no blog post. Those boring lunches definitely happen, they just don't often get documented. 

There are so many days I am not feeling creative at all! I don't make lunches the night before and I am not a morning person. It's all I can do some days to not cry when I walk into the kitchen to make breakfast and lunches in the morning. I am so not a supermom! 

So in the spirit of just keeping it real, here's one of Paige's totally pathetic lunches this week:

pathetic pizza lunch in EasyLunchboxes

Packed in an EasyLunchboxes container:
- leftover pizza
- pretzels
- cucumber chunks

That didn't look like enough food, so I also included a container of strawberry yogurt. 
I barely remembered to include a spoon.
Oh yeah, baby!

Supplies used to pack this lunch:

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

EasyLunchboxes twin pretzel lunches

It's not often I get to make identical lunches for my kiddos. But when it does happen it's really nice because it's so much faster than packing two completely different lunches!

Ethan has just recently discovered he likes soft pretzels. He used to eat them when he was really little, and then his food aversions intensified and he shied away from them. For years. And years!  Then about a month ago I started mentioning them, describing their texture, likening them to breadsticks (which he usually likes). I did this to warm him up to the idea of soft pretzels, with the grand idea of having him try one while we were in Disney World.

Mickey Pretzel

It totally worked. He tried it. He loved it. He wanted more. So thrilled! It's not like the greatest food ever, but expanding his acceptance of foods is a step in the right direction.

So I've bought those frozen soft pretzels and have been making those at home for a couple weeks. After a bit of experimenting I've found that I can make them the day before (I use the oven or toaster oven method), leave uncovered in a cabinet (to cool and not trap any moisture), and they are good to pack for lunch the next day. Hee haw.

On this day Ethan and Paige had twin lunches:

twin pretzel lunches in EasyLunchboxes

Packed in EasyLunchboxes:
- a soft pretzel
- kiwi fruit
- sunflower kernels
- carrots for Ethan
- cucumbers for Paige

The sunflower kernels are in the mini m&m tube. Those tubes work great for small messy snacks like seeds and loose granola. These short tubes are my favorite since they fit in just about all bento boxes. The longer tubes are easier to find, but they are harder to squeeze in.

Both kids also have a Snack Marker cocktail fork to eat their kiwi with.

Supplies used to pack these lunches:

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Laptop Lunches bento: Hidden Mickeys

Do you know about Hidden Mickeys? I first heard of them about 9 years ago when I was still living in California. I was absolutely enamored with the idea of them!

From WikiHidden Mickey is a representation of Mickey Mouse that has been inserted subtly into the design of a ride, attraction, or other location in a Disney theme park or elsewhere on Disney properties. 

There are whole websites and blogs out there devoted to chronicling all the hidden Mickeys in Disney locations. It's like a whole Where's Waldo thing, only funner and cooler because it's Mickey Mouse and not some random dude in a striped shirt, and it's at Disney World and not just a dizzying illustration in a giant picture book. 

A couple examples:
Easy one! Check out the rock formation in the center! :)
Can you spot it? It's a tricky one.... look directly under the wrist!
I didn't find too many Hidden Mickey's this trip. Most of the time I was trying to keep eyes on my kids (and failing) , not scoping out Mickey Heads. But I saw some obvious ones; an outline of stones on the floor of the giant aquarium in Living with the Seas at Epcot, and one place setting at one end of the long dining table in the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom was unmistakably a Hidden Mickey. :)

Okay, so now that you have had a crash course in Hidden Mickeys, here's my Hidden Mickey bento.

Hidden Mickey Bento Lunch

Packed in a Laptop Lunches 2.0 box:
- cucumber, cut into sticks
- Goldfish crackers
- leftover pizza pinwheels (from a take-out my hubs picked up while traveling home late)
- kiwi fruit

Technically, this lunch contains TWO Hidden Mickeys, although only one was intentional. The other one sort of snuck up on me and surprised me after the fact. Hidden Mickeys can be very sneaky. 

Can you find them? :)

This is how the Laptop Lunches looked before placing it in Paige's lunch bag. I used lids on two of the inner dishes to keep juices contained.

Hidden Mickey bento with Laptop Lunches lids

Hidden Mickey Hint: the two Hidden Mickeys are still visible in the second photo!  Teehee!

Supplies used to pack this lunch:
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

bento lunch box review: Gerber Graduates Mealtime Organizer

For a couple months I've had a lot of questions pop up, mostly on the Another Lunch Facebook Page, asking if I had one and what I thought of the new Gerber Graduates Mealtime Organizer. I really wasn't sure what to think about it. So I ordered one and now I have a whole lot of thoughts to share about it.

warning: this post has a heap of photos. 

The Gerber Mealtime Organizer comes in two colors: pink and blue. The cost is surprisingly low at $6.49.  When you order from Amazon "the colors may vary", meaning the color you are sent is random. It's a surprise

The one I received is blue. 

Gerber box, empty top view

My first impression of the box was that it was bigger than I expected it to be. Considering it's a Gerber product, and marketed to preschoolers, I anticipated it to be smaller. I'll get back to the size in a second.

My second impression was that it reminded me a lot of a pencil box. The latch especially, it just snaps closed, as many pencil boxes do. There is no tricky latch to maneuver. My three-year-old had no problems opening the box independently.

Gerber box, empty side view

The lid is interesting. On the right side there is a built-in cubby compartment. The lid to this compartment is completely removable, it snaps on and off.

Gerber box, snack cubby open

This cubby lid has a picture frame kind of thing going on with it. There is a space there to slide in a note or a photo.

At first I thought this was pretty cute. But then this morning I was about to put a family photo in that frame, but then paused thinking about condensation forming from the icepack.... that would ruin a photograph pretty quickly.

So next I decided to put a little note in that space. And I did end up doing just this, but I discovered that getting that cover off the frame isn't as easy as it looks. It wouldn't be easy for a child to access in a timely manner...and I have doubts that most kids would be able to get that frame cover back in place. 

Gerber box, snack cubby

That cubby isn't all that deep, maybe 3/4".  Here it holds a Trader Joe's cereal bar.

Gerber box, side view

Here's my big issue with this whole cubby compartment... it sits down inside the actual box, so it interferes with the space you have to pack the actual meal. You can see here how approximately half the depth of the box is obstructed by that cubby section being in the lid.

Gerber Box vs. Laptop Lunches

Back to the size... it is just about exactly the same size as a Laptop Lunches box. 
Here the Gerber Mealtime Organizer is sitting atop a Laptop Lunches 2.0 box. The length and width are nearly even.

Gerber Box vs. Laptop Lunches

Here is the Gerber box and Laptop Lunches box from another angle, showing that space-encroaching cubby area.

At first I didn't have a big opinion one way or the other about that cubby section, until I tried to use a standard sized silicone muffin cup in that big section....

Gerber box, muffin cups don't fit

This is just your regular sized silicone muffin cup (not the jumbo ones I use in Bynto boxes), and it is too tall to use in the Gerber Box. See how it is obstructing the lid from closing?

Maybe it's too close to the edge? I'll push it away from the wall of the box...

Gerber box, muffin cups don't fit

Nope, still no luck! The lid pops right up and doesn't come close to closing properly with the silicone muffin cups under that cubby area. 

Moving the silicone cups to the other side of the box...

Gerber box muffin cups, lid open

On the other side of the box, where there is no cubby section above, the silicone cups fit mighty fine! 

Note: the hinged lid. It opens completely and lays flat against the table surface. This is nice. Sometimes my kids are annoyed that Laptop Lunches lids will slowly fall closed, getting in their way while eating. That wouldn't happen with this box. 

Gerber box muffin cups fit

Side view of the standard sized silicone muffin cups sitting pretty on the non-cubby side of the box. 

Gerber box open with lid

A view of the box interior. It's made up of two small sections on the left, and one large section on the right. 

It comes with a fully removable lid that seals one of those smaller sections. See here:

Gerber box sealed lid

The lid has a nice silicone seal around it, making that one compartment leak-free. The lid can fit on either front or back section.

Being leak-free means it fits tightly. It's not too difficult for an adult to get that lid on fully, but a young child might not be able to press firmly enough to get it in place correctly. Might be a problem if kiddo doesn't finish their yogurt/applesauce/stuff and then those contents start spilling around between lunch time and getting back home. 

The fact that the lid is fully removable means that it can get lost. 

It also means you can just not use it at all, and have three open sections:

Gerber box fully open

Ethan's lunch today:

Gerber box pretzel lunch

Packed in the Gerber Mealtime Organizer:
- large soft pretzel
- fruitabu fruit leather
- kiwi
- cheddar cheese
- cracked pepper turkey rolls

I used the lid to cover the section holding the kiwi fruit. The ultra rad stainless spork is tucked behind the fruitabu.

Gerber box packed, side view

Here is a side view of the box, with the lunch packed. The pretzel is thin enough to fit just fine. 

I think thin sandwiches would work okay too - like peanut butter and jelly. My own sandwiches, always packed with a lot of spinach or other leafy greens, are far too puffy to fit in here. 

I packed the Gerber box in our GoGreen Lunch box carrier (more info about it in this post). This lunch box worked out fantastically, because there was space to the side to fit a Thermos FunTainer perfectly. 
Gerber box packed in GoGreen lunchbox

So that is the Gerber Mealtime Organizer.

I am not exactly sure what my feelings are on it. 

On the negative side: 
- it's quite large for a preschooler (the target audience, I imagine)
- that cubby section is riddled with issues: the lid to it can be lost, it's difficult to get pictures/notes inside the frame, and the biggie: it encroaches on the depth of the main lunch packing section
- the little inner lid will be tricky for young kids to put in place, the lid can be lost

On the positive side:
- it appears to be made quite nicely
- attractive colors
- the hinged lid
- very affordable price point 

Has anyone been using a Gerber Mealtime Organizer? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Supplies used to pack this lunch:

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

school lunch: Mickey Mouse is in the ... PlanetBox

Another day, another lunch! This one made me smile. We got Mickey Mouse in the house PlanetBox! 

Mickey sandwich in a PlanetBox

This lunch consists of:
- a peanut butter and fruit preserve sandwich
- pretzels
- cucumber sticks
- raspberries
- Goofy shaped shortbread cookie

The sandwich is a little special. It is stamped with a Mickey Mouse bread stamp and then sealed with my old trusty (though never crusty) sandwich sealer. 

Here's the process to make a sealed and stamped sandwich:

Step 1 - cut the bread. If you have a two-piece sandwich sealer like mine, use the cutting piece (for mine, it's the brown piece).

how to make a sealed sandwich

Step 2 - stamp the bread. One side or two. Your choice!


Step 3 - add sandwich contents. Whether it be gooey butters and jellies, egg salad, or something solid like ham and cheese: you MUST leave a clean border around the edges of the bread. The sandwich will seal on that border and if there is stuff in the way the results will not be ideal. The results will be messy at best, and most likely will not seal at all.

(the "good" side of the Mickey face is facing down on the cutting board. The impression seen here is the inside of the bread.)

Step 4 - bring your sandwich together and press with your sandwich sealer.  Admire your handiwork!
sandwich stamp

Often people are curious about how much bread is left to waste when making cutesie sandwiches. Usually there is not much wasted at all. Even though I use large bread (the wide loaves, not the typical sandwich sized kind), there is not much left behind at all....


What to do with the crusts? Sometimes I leave them out to dry a bit and then add them to a bag of other bread and cracker scraps to feed ducks when we go to a park. Sometimes I collect enough to make bread crumbs for a recipe. Sometimes my toddler eats them off the cutting board. Sometimes I toss them in the trash without a second thought.

The Mickey Mouse sandwich stamp (and the Goofy cookie) were purchased at Disney World on our recent trip. I got a few other lunchy goodies while there too. I'll share more about what I found after I get a chance to figure out the mess of photos from the trip. I have pictures spread out over 5 devices (two iPhones, a point & shoot camera, my good DSLR camera, and Disney's PhotoPass). Ay yi yi! 

Speaking of Goofy and Disney World, one quick picture share, in honor of it being Talk Like a Pirate Day. :)  Here we are on our first day in the Magic Kingdom with Pirate Goofy. He greeted us just outside Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Pirates at Disney

Ooh, but then later that afternoon, Ethan was chosen from the audience to go on stage with Jack Sparrow for a pirate tutorial. So fun! Owen was called up at the end too, to take the Pirate Pledge.

Pirate Ethan

I'm such a dork, I had scheduled all our outfits for the whole trip. I was so thrilled that Ethan and Owen got to go up for the pirate tutorial, but the whole time I was thinking "oh no! They are going to wear their pirate shirts on our next day at Magic Kingdom! If only they were wearing them today!". I swear I'm not generally a type-A personality. Just when it comes to certain things. Like kids clothing and their lunches. :p 

Pirate shirts. Not sure Buzz appreciated them the way Jack and Goofy might have.

Buzz Lightyear

Okay, that's enough from me. For now anyway. Heh!

Supplies used in the making of this lunch:

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

school lunches in a hurry!

The theme of these two lunches was "hurry up!".

The first was Paige's lunch on Friday. We actually arrived home from Disney World at around 2am Friday morning. We hadn't planned for the kids to go to school this day since we expected them to be exhausted and zombied out on the couch all day (goodness knows that's how I felt!). But by 9am it was evident they were no worse for wear and were wanting to do things like play hide n' seek and go ride bikes. So off to school we sent them. They were a bit late, but a tardy was better than another absence.

Anywho, this was Paige's lunch. I grabbed the PlanetBox since it was already out and just tossed some stuff in it. There's really no rhyme or reason to its contents. It was just rushed.

PB rushed lunch open

First I went to slap together a pb&j sandwich, but discovered we were out of bread. We did, however, have tortillas. So I made a pb&j roll-up instead. That is in the long top section. 

Since she already had the "sandwich" part of the lunch taken care, and because I had a giant jar of applesauce on the counter from making Owen's lunch (applesauce for him, I filled the big section with applesauce. This is in the leakproof PlanetBox Big Dipper container, which fits perfectly inside. There are a few dashes of cinnamon on top.

The sides contain a few donut holes that were brought home from our last meal at Disney, they are "dino-bites" (I think) from the dessert menu at the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney. The take-out box was on the counter, so in the PlanetBox they went.  Next I grabbed some Goldfish crackers and in the middle are some of my husbands driving snacks, cocoa covered almonds.

Here's the lunch with the Big Dipper lid in place. 
               rushed PB lunch

When this lunch came home I was shocked (shocked!) to find that Paige had eaten only half of the pb&j roll-up and the almonds and nothing else. She usually eats every last crumb. But she did end up eating most of the rest while doing her homework before dinner.

Yesterday's lunch was pretty rushed too. It was a Monday morning.  
And I'm in the throws of a Disney Detox. It was rough. ;-)

             Mickey Applesauce Laptop Lunches

In the top left section is a leftover cup of unsweetened applesauce from Disney. We accumulated quite a few of these. They came as a side with a lot of the kid meals at Disney and a lot didn't get eaten right away.

The bottom left is a rushed peanut butter & jelly sandwich (I didn't even cut it in half evenly, look how lopsided it is!), topped with two pieces of cheddar cheese cut with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter.

The sides are raspberries & grapes and fishie crackers.

This lunch came home empty. That's more like it! :)

Supplies used to make these lunches:

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