Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ARGHHH, I accidentally put my favorite shirt in the dryer and it shrank!

Does this ever happen to you?  As a busy mom I frequently throw a bunch of stuff in the washer but by the time its done, I completely forget that there was one item in the load that needed to be air dried. Once I take everything out of the dryer and discover my mistake, its too late.  That is why I loved this tip I stumbled on a while ago.

Use a dry erase marker to leave yourself a note on the washing machine.

How simple is that?  I've been using the tip ever since.  

Yes, this is my super old washing machine that I use just about every day.  I'm scared to replace it because they just don't make appliances as long-lasting and easy to repair as they used to!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to School, Back to Lunch Packing

Now that the boys are back in school, I'm back to lunch packing. I thought I would share a few of my lunch packing tips I've developed over the past few years.  I pack lunches for my boys every day for school.  One of my goals when I pack a lunch is to make them as trash free as possible.  All the supplies I normally use for lunch packing is re-usable.

I have a weekly lunch packing schedule that I follow to make things easier on myself but to avoid packing the same old lunch every day.  Sometimes I mix the days up a bit if it would be easier to pack a hot lunch another day or we're out of bread on Monday, but generally I keep to the schedule.  Sides could be fruit, veggies with dip, pretzels, crackers, cheddar bunnies, a muffin, granola bars.

Monday:  sandwich (Nice and easy for a Monday!)
Tuesday:  tossed salad with dressing in a small container
Wednesday:  hot lunch in a Thermos (Nine times out of ten, I make my kids' favorite pasta the night before to have leftovers for lunch)
Thursday:  creative lunch. Ideas include sandwich sushi, waffles with cream cheese, cold meatballs with marinara dip, cold pizza, cold quesadilla, mini quiches, corn dog muffins pitas wedges with hummus.
Friday:  lunchables style "snacky" lunch

We have two types of lunch boxes.  Both of them are divided containers so that once the lid is opened, the child can have access to everything at once and just dig right in.  I have visited school during lunch period and witnessed many other kids having trouble opening parts of their lunches, which really wastes valuable eating time.

The ones that I use the most are Ziploc divided containers that I bought at Target.  These are not perfect as a package of them usually only lasts for about one school year before they start to fall apart.  I really like them though because each compartment seals completely, keeping everything separate.
We also have two of the Pottery Barn Spencer Bento Boxes.  These are nice because there are a lot of compartments and they can fit more variety of food.   These are big boxes and require a big lunch bag to fit them and a drink.  The latch is a little questionable and seems like it could break, but both of ours have held up for now.  

For drinks, I usually send a reusable juice box container filled with water and a little squirt of Dasani Drops.

Other supplies I use are silicone cupcake liners, Thermos brand food jars, re-usable food picks, and small cloth napkins.  

When the kids are done eating, they know to stick everything back in their lunch bag and not to throw anything in the trash at school.  This helps prevent losing supplies that are not disposable.

Some Lunch Examples

Lunchables lunch Friday: ham, a pumpkin muffin, granola balls, cheese squares, fruit,  crackers, and a treat
Lunchables lunch Friday: 3 sour bears, crackers, cheese, pepperonis, strawberries, and a Trader Joes granola bar
Salad lunch Tuesday:  Salad, dressing, a leftover rhubarb bar, and a hard boiled egg with a tiny container of salt
Sandwich lunch Monday:  Sandwich, muffin, fruit, and Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Creative lunch Thursday:  pitas with hummus, raspberries stuffed with chocolate chips, watermelon, and crackers

 For more ideas, visit my favorite lunch packing blog, Wendolonia.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Raising Black Swallowtail Butterflies

One of the most fun projects our family did this summer was something we just happened into without even planning it.  I'm so glad it did happen though because we all had a great time learning more about caterpillars.

One day while playing outside, my bug-loving son Andrew discovered a bunch of little caterpillars on the dill weed we had planted in a pot on our front porch.  This year was the first year we have ever grown dill.  Friends on Facebook were able to identify the caterpillars as Black Swallowtail.  Andrew collected four of the caterpillars in a large plastic peanut butter jar and I researched what to feed them.  

The caterpillars grew quickly on a diet of dill and parsley.  It was just like the book "The Hungry Caterpillar"!  I would put a bunch the herbs in there at night and come back in the morning to find the herbs all gone and the caterpillars visibly bigger.  After a few days, we moved two of the fat guys to a second peanut butter jar.  

Another suprising aspect was the amount of poop these buggers produced.  I had to take the caterpillars out of the jars daily and dump the poop outside!  

When it was time to leave on our vacation, the caterpillars were still binging and growing and we didn't want to miss out on what would happen next so we decided to take them along with us on the car ride to Minnesota.  We prepared by picking a bag of parsley and dill from the herb garden at Minnetrista.  When we stopped at an oasis on the freeway in Chicago, we even took the caterpillars inside with us so they wouldn't overheat.

The caterpillars safely reached Minnesota and finally turned themselves into chrysalises.  After about 1 1/2 weeks, they emerged as butterflies and we released them. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where has IndianaAnna been all month?

I am back after 3 weeks of vacation and traveling, followed by a busy few days getting my boys ready for school and celebrating the youngest's 7th birthday.  Did anyone miss me?  We had a wonderful time on our travels, but it sure is nice to be home and sleeping in our own bed.

Here's a few photos showing what we've been up to for the last month.

  • Week 1 of vacation, the boys and I went camping with my parents at Gooseberry Falls State Park on the shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota (while Rob was a medicinal chemistry workshop at the University of Minnesota).  
  • Week 2 of vacation, we visited family in Minnesota.  Both Rob and I are from Minnesota and all of our immediate family members still live there. 
  • Week 3 of vacation, Andrew stayed with my parents for "Camp Grandpa and Grandma" while Rob, Robby, and I flew to Reno where we rented a car and drove to Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  The next day, we drove to Berkely to visit Rob's advisor from his post-doc days followed by a stop at the Jelly Belly factory.  Then, we were in Davis, CA for a couple days so Rob could attend and speak at a celebration in honor of his graduate advisor.  We finished up the trip with a day at Lake Tahoe.  

Gooseberry Falls State Park
Robby on the shore of Lake Superior
Exploring the tide pools at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Andrew in Gooseberry Falls 
Chilling our feet in the cold water of Gooseberry River

Swimming in the mouth of Gooseberry River, where it drains to Lake Superior 
Making banana boats for dessert while camping 

Family Time
A little pellet gun action in the morning on the Sammelson family sheep farm
How many cousins can you stuff onto a loveseat?
Fishing with cousins

Cousins checking out a caterpillar
40th anniversary party for Anna's parents

Not too nauseous after a morning of mountain driving.  We made it to the top!

"Mother and Son" giant sequoia trees

Sitting on the "Big Stump"

Learning about how new compounds are tested on flies at UC Berkeley

Private wine and chocolate tasting at Jelly Belly

Robby waiting for Daddy's talk to begin

Robby and I didn't understand much of this talk!
People in California have cool things like pizza ovens in their backyards
Too much party
At Lake Tahoe, we were all taking a lot of photos.  Its even prettier than I remembered!

Birthday brownies to celebrate Andrew's 7th.  (Recipe from http://www.thesweetslife.com/2012/08/fudgy-cosmic-brownies.html)

First day of school - 1st and 5th grades