Monday, February 27, 2012

Healthy Lunches in a SNAP! With a giveaway from Wean Green

It was when we first started going to a Waldorf school that I began to wonder if the way we were eating as a family wasn't as healthy as I thought.  Our school at the time recommended reusable containers and no prepackaged foods but rather emphasized whole foods, fresh foods, and balanced meals.  I quickly had to expand my lunch packing options to attempt these goals but I was afraid my daughter would rather go hungry all day than eat many of the options I came up with.  It turned out, I had less faith in her palate than she deserved.

Over the years of lunch packing our family has developed a bit of a repertoire of foods for our lunches.  Today the bigger girls pack their own lunches, following the expected guidelines of a balanced meal and going off a list we created together to be sure we have plenty of variety and interest.

Each lunch is expected to have the following:

Two (or more) proteins
One (or more) veggie
One (or more) fruit
No more than one "pantry food" (i.e crackers, pretzels, bread, baked snack, etc. not central to main dish)

For a while we included grains in our list but since that tends to happen anyway and is often covered in the main dish or pantry food option, we don't worry about it too much any more and instead just aim to have healthy grain options available to make for easy lunch packing.

Our family's favorite homemade granola bars

Easy grains for lunch options:

(Adaptable for the gluten-free diet as well.)

  • whole wheat bread
  • cooked brown rice
  • cooke quinoa (actually a high protein seed)
  • cooked barley
  • oatmeal
  • homemade granola bars (we love this basic, build your own recipe)
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • corn tortillas
  • whole wheat pita bread
  • whole grain crackers
  • whole grain baked snack (a delicious and fun recipe that is easy to convert to whole wheat are these soft pretzels, my girls love helping to make them.)
  • whole wheat pastas
  • whole wheat couscous
  • popped popcorn
  • whole grain muffins
  • whole grain pancakes

Together we sat down and brainstormed lunch options, making a list to go on our refrigerator and color coding based on food type.  With thick colored pencils and a few block crayons and we had a colorful list of foods to fill our lunch pails and lunch baskets.  Not only does it make it easy for the girls packing their own lunch, but daddy and I use it too, not only for packing school lunches but often for inspiration for lunches and even relaxed dinners for the family.  With a simple list of nutritious and tasty foods we've already agreed upon and enjoy, preparing our shopping list is easy, and putting our lunches together even more so.  We are omnivores so there is meat and dairy on our list but it's simple enough to adapt to your family's diet and preferences just by following the basic outline above.

Homemade avocado/carrot/cucumber/cooked tuna sushi
with an apple, pretzels, hard boiled egg, and peanuts

Some of what's on our list


Brain food, muscle food, growing food.  Don't skimp on this one.

(At the time of this writing, Bayou Village School had no known nut allergy issues, so nuts are on our list.  If your child's school is a nut-free-zone, you would want to be sure there were no nut options on your list.)

  • almonds
  • walnuts
  • all nuts
  • roasted chick peas (a huge family favorite- recipe coming!)
  • tuna fish
  • hard boiled eggs
  • egg salad
  • nut butters
  • quinoa (or anything made from quinoa)
  • cooked beans
  • hummus (homemade)
  • black bean and spinach hummus (homemade)
  • chicken salad
  • strips of meat (often from left overs)
  • taco mixture
  • cheeses
  • yogurt
  • seeds


If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

  • any vegetable julienne (carrots, celery, zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers, etc. Best w/a dip like hummus!)
  • salad (keep it simple and dressing on the side or it gets soggy)
  • homemade salsa (corn chips as the pantry food make this a real treat for my kids)
  • avocado slices/chunks
  • veggie based sauces for pasta
  • slice cucumbers
  • whole fresh, raw veggies- wash and go (asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli chunks, etc.)


The best kind of sweet is the kind packed with nutrients and flavors straight from the earth.  Earth's dessert!

  • fresh and contained fruit (apples, clementine, berries, peaches, tangerines, plums, pears, etc.)
  • chopped fruit (pineapple, fruit salad, fruit kabobs, etc.)
  • kiwi (cut in half, accompanied by a spoon to spoon out the insides)
  • fruit rolls (fruit with nutbutter wrapped in a tortilla)

Dish ideas

When you can, make it fun but don't stress over it, share the experience with your child.

  • Veggie Rainbow Wraps
  • bean pizza (mashed beans with garlic, salt, and pepper, spread on bread or tortilla, sprinkle with cheese and veggies)
  • lettuce wraps (shredded carrots, a touch of dressing, tuna or other protein wrapped in lettuce)
  • sandwiches (think beyond peanut butter and jelly, almost anything can be on a sandwich!)
  • left overs
  • pinwheels (just about anything protein plus veggie/fruit topping rolled up in tortilla and sliced in pinwheels)
  • sushi (whole wheat rice, sushi wraps, tiny chopped veggies, and tiny pieces of protein, roll and slice)
  • pancake sandwiches (left over homemade whole wheat pancakes with nut butter and fruit slices)
  • beans and rice
  • stackers (protein options and veggies sliced to stack on whole grain pieces of bread or crackers)
  • couscous surprise (couscous mixed with protein options- beans and/or meat with cooked veggies usually)


  • nut butter mixed with honey or agave nectar (fruit dip)
  • live culture yogurt or sugar-free yogurt with molasses and honey/agave nectar (fruit dip)
  • nut butter mixed with soy sauce, ginger, and honey (veggie dip)
  • 1/2 plain yogurt, 1/2 cream cheese in food processor with cilantro, cumin, spinach, salt, pepper, tablespoon of salsa (veggie/chip dip)
  • yogurt whizzed with fruit (fruit dip)
  • hummus (easy to make your own: chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt pepper)
  • bean dip (any bean can be made into it's own version of hummus, experiment!)
  • guacamole
  • marinara dip (veggies- left over spaghetti sauce!)

  • Take advantage of left overs and don't be afraid to "repurpose" food, creating a new dish from left overs.
  • Don't underestimate the power of dips, veggies and fruit with dip is fun to eat and maybe even new foods will be attempted this way.
  • Small portions, try not to over pack food, it can overwhelm and just gets thrown away.
  • Individual containers in lunch box/basket makes it easier for young ones to manage.
  • Introduce new foods along side a favorite.
  • Include home rituals such as cloth napkin, utensils, etc.
  • Intentionally create left overs- make too much rice and set aside, grill an extra piece of chicken, etc.
  • Ask your child what their friends have for lunch that looks good, try it if it fits with your lunch standards.
  • Pack foods that can last most, if not all day unrefridgerated and encourage finishing lunch for after school snack to avoid waste.
  • Aim for whole foods (not processed, whole grains, fresh produce, etc.) for more nutrition, less chemicals.
  • Have an idea of lunches for the week so shopping is done ahead of time.
  • When possible, make the night before and have ready in the fridge to grab and go.
  • Involve your child, even young ones, in packing lunches.  Ownership tastes better.
  • Have occasional treats, specially homemade ones like these fruit roll-ups.
  • Make food together over the weekend that can keep and go in lunches later like the roll-ups or granola bars.
  • Limit refined sugars and high sodium foods to help your student's attention span.
  • Reusable containers save money and avoid trashing our planet.
  • Be creative- we're often boxed in by our ideas of meals, branch out and be creative.
  • Trust the old standbys too- if your child likes the same thing every day, if it's balanced then why not?!
  • Pack it fun and attractive but don't stress over presentation, they won't care.
  • Know when to stop trying if a food keeps coming home uneaten and wait for another time to try again.
  • Clean out the lunch containers together immediately and talk about tomorrow's lunch then.
  • Let your child get creative, they may surprise you with interesting and nutritious choices to try.

More links for ideas:

Some of our favorite lunch containers are the tempered glass containers with snapping lids from Wean Green.  Wean Green is a family owned, eco-friendly company with practical and affordable products that help make packing lunches and storing food safely a snap.  I love this company.  Featuring tempered glass (break-resistant, and we've tried, trust me) and BPA-free snap on lids, Wean Green's containers come in a variety of sizes to meet all your lunch packing needs.  I love how colorful my 4 year old's lunch basket is with the bright Wean Green container lids and she loves helping pick which containers to use when we're packing her lunch.

Wean Green is generously giving away a set each of their wean tubes, snack cubes, and sandwich cubes to one lucky winner, a $40 value.

To be entered, please leave a comment below sharing your favorite packed lunch tip.

For a second entry, visit the Wean Green site and come back to post here with the link to the set you'd like to have today.

That's it, two easy steps for a possible two entries.  Please also be sure to head over to the Wean Green Facebook page and thank then for this opportunity and click "like" to keep up with news, information, and additional opportunities from this wonderful company.  Opportunity to enter the giveaway will be available from February 28 - March 28, 2012.  A big thanks to Melissa Gunning, the mom behind Wean Green, for this giveaway, their generous support, and for caring for families and the environment.  Good luck everyone!

Important: only a possible two entries per person, any additional entries will be deleted and abuse will possibly result in all of an individual’s entries being deleted.  Please be patient in waiting for comments to show up as some have to be moderated from the spam filter.  Thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

this moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers.  A single photo (or two) – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your "moment" in the comments for all to find and see.

Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Nicholas and Advent Rituals

It's late, though I'm by nature a night owl.  My children are nestled in their beds, snuggled down with their special friends and warm blankets.  We like to make the most of the few cold nights we get here in Houston by lighting some candles, donning our warm pajamas (that we grow out of too quickly for the amount of time we actually get to wear them), drinking or eating something warm for our tummies, and then burying ourselves in soft warm blankets following our bed time rhythms.

Tonight our story before bed was the story of St. Nicholas and his secret gift giving.  An added element for our ritual was setting shoes out (easy to do with laying out clothes for school in the morning) and making plans to do an unexpected kindness for someone else tomorrow.  Come the morrow, there will be a tiny chocolate St. Nick, a clementine, some whole walnuts with sparkly gold shells, and a small gift tucked inside each pair of shoes.  Around the shoes will be a light dusting of glittery magic dust.  Not much and nothing fancy but this festival day is a part of our family's advent rhythm and this year we're adding a potluck at our school to share the warmth of community.  I loved watching Evangeline, almost 4, really understand what's going on and after sharing our story together she enthusiastically encouraged everyone to get their shoes and then go to bed so St. Nicholas could come.  "Nicholas is coming!" she cried.  Tomorrow her face is going to be the real treat!  I love the wonder, the connection to a real person that lived so long ago giving of himself to care for others, the emphasis on giving to others and to giving to those in need, and developing the sense of expectant waiting that is advent.  Going through the day tomorrow we will all be aware of the history of St. Nicholas helping those in need and inspired by him seek ways to give warmth and hope to others in need this advent and seek to carry that spirit on throughout the year.

I wanted to share just a quick list of St. Nicholas resources if you'd like to try some this year or plan to incorporate them next advent season.  Keep in mind the date differs around the world though the most recognized St. Nicholas Feast Day is December 6th.  Some celebrate on the 19th, others on Christmas.

St. Nicholas Stories
St. Nicholas teaching story (From a Waldorf Kindergarten, I read and then retold an abridged version)
St Nicholas traditions from other families
St. Nicholas activities

St. Nicholas Day isn't the only advent ritual we observe, I'll be sharing more about those and about Waldorf festivals in general over the next few weeks.  What rituals and rhythms do you observe during advent?  What winter holidays are you preparing for and how will you celebrate them?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Finding this moment

The post with way too many pictures.

Last week the blog was silent.  However, the same could not be said for my home.  It was glorious, having all the kids home for the week, we enjoyed every minute.  Since I was pulled into the rhythm of having everyone home, my writing routine was thrown off and happily so.  But we're back!  Our children are happily back at our beloved school with the white picket fence.  I loved their enthusiasm last night as we prepared for bed and the next morning as they realized they were returning to school today.  I do believe they were more excited to be going back to school than they were about having a week off.

I've worked out a rhythm of sorts for the blog, something to aim for but not live by.  Part of that is the Friday posts "This Moment" where I share a single photo without words of a moment from the week that I want to pause and remember.  Here, these moments are usually about my children or the school because in this season of my life that's what I want to be sure I take time to savor.  It's easy to get buried in the business that goes with having and caring for children and I don't want to miss those special moments in all the "organized chaos" of our lives.

I used to scrapbook.  I imagine I'd still enjoy it but time and space to spread out are seriously limited so my scrapbooking supplies sit mostly untouched.  Digital photography makes it easy, snap a picture and if you don't like it, delete it, if you do like it, keep it.  As a result I have thousands of photos.  The problem is they are primarily from times I thought to bring the camera, mostly special events.  But I want to remember the daily, the simple, ordinary, extraordinary moments in our lives.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

The idea came from Soule Mama, the popular blog by Amanda Soule though I first saw it over at Waldorf Mama.  I started it on my personal blog some time ago and then moved the ritual over to here.  When I first started I really just liked the idea of having a simple photograph post every week and focusing on something I wanted to remember seemed so simple.  What I didn't expect was how much it would tune me in to my family.  Thanks to this ritual I'm looking for moments.  Slowing down long enough to appreciate them happening, being grateful for the gift each moment brings.  The moments themselves may be fleeting but they leave a lasting effect in not only my memory but in the specialness of our daily lives as a family.  Because I'm looking for moments to photograph I am catching glimpses of love, connectedness, joy, playfulness, sweetness, happiness, tender expressions, creativity and so much more.  Moments that if I weren't looking for them I may miss.  Worse, I'd probably take them for granted.

Now every week I look forward to finding those moments.  Collecting them like treasures to be pulled out and admired from time to time.  Each week knowing I have a "deadline" of sorts to share a moment I'm more aware of them unfolding around me.  But more than the pictures I'm collecting and sharing is the whole presence of being aware, of taking the time to look for and cherish such moments.  Noticing those moments has changed how I see our lives.  I am more aware, tuned in and grateful for so much that is precious and beautiful all around us, happening all the time.  I smile more too just because I notice more things to smile about.

I'd like to challenge you to look for moments in your week.  Keep your camera handy, doesn't have to be a great camera, your phone camera is fine, and be on the look out for those special moments.  They may surprise you, there may be far more than you thought.  Pick one to share, which may prove to be difficult, and savor the moment.  Your moment.  Then share it with us here, comment on the thread of my weekly Friday "This Moment" with the link back to your own so we can share it with you, or just post it to the wall over on the Bayou Village School Facebook page.  You never know, you may help someone find the hidden moments they've been taking for granted in their lives too.
I've posted below a few moments that I've loved but weren't selected to share until now, and these are just a few.  The pictures aren't quality photography, just what I happened to snap with my little Canon PowerShot or my iPhone (love the Hipstamatic app) and often in a hurry with someone pulling on my arm.  But they are special moments none the less.

How do you hold on to special moments?  What keeps you tuned in and aware of the beauty filling the ordinary? How will you find and remember moments?

Friday, November 18, 2011

this moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers.  A single photo (or two) – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your "moment" in the comments for all to find and see.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Preserving Play, Preserving Childhood

Today I read this article about what we're doing to our children's play.  With the rise in popularity of educational toys as a culture we've begun to push our children towards "productive play," meaning play that is going to teach them something we've determined to be educational.  Unfortunately, by educational we usually mean "what we can test."

Experts have been warning of the dangers of children not having open ended play, loss of imagination and problem solving skills, decrease in creativity and ingenuity, and pressure for children to produce results younger and younger.  These problems could have some very serious ramifications for our children as they become adults.

Before we were drawn to a Waldorf environment for our daughters' education, we fell into encouraging "educational" toys and "productive" play in our children.  It wasn't long before we started to see stress responses from our then second grader.  Which is how we ended up in our first Waldorf inspired school.  This move became a game changer not only for our daughters' education but our home life as well.  Through conversations with other parents, reading various materials, and parenting seminars offered by our school, we shifted to a different expectation of our children's play: joy.

I can tell you, from the change in our two older daughters' stress levels, it was completely worth it.  That was just the beginning.  Within months of altering our home life, our play expectations, and our educational approach, we had children that were excited to go to school, their creativity blossomed, their interactions with others became more peaceful, and the whining decreased!  These changes along with cutting out media- particularly screen based media, gave our family a gift we didn't realize we were missing: our children were given their childhood back.

This weekend Laura Olsen from the Austin Waldorf School, Waldorf teacher, and mother of 4 will be presenting on "Waldorf in the Home: Helping Children Stay Young" and "Rhythms, Ritual, and Reverence: How Waldorf Education Supports the Needs of the Growing Child."  Both of these presentations will be invaluable for parents that want to encourage their children to unfold in a peaceful setting that embraces their needs for peace and rhythm in their daily lives.  With practical tools to help parents preserve the childhood of their children, Laura will help parents explore what they can do to make their home a safe place that values joy and wonder in their play.

Don't miss out on these two opportunities to learn more on how to meet your child's needs without conforming to the dangers of a culture that is robbing our children of their play.  These presentations are open to anyone, not just to families within BVS, anyone interested in adding tools to their parenting toolbox are welcome to attend.  For more information visit either the school website events or the Facebook page.  Hope to see you there!

Today it is a priority in our home to preserve our children's childhood.  One that we enjoy.  Over the years our daughters have showed us how to slow down and embrace life.  Enjoying play for no other end than to play.  Through rhythm and ritual we are all developing a reverence for life, sharing in our chores, play, and learning with joy.  We have a lot to learn and plenty of room to grow (we also have our seasons that we struggle with falling back into old patterns) but the journey is worth the effort to continue to add to our toolbox.

WIP Wednesday

I'm not a fast knitter.  I'm even slower at sewing.  But someone in our house always has some kind of craft in progress and I have found over the years I've been blogging that having a weekly rhythm of posting some sort of work in progress (WIP) helps give me incentive to keep the creativity flowering.  Oops, typo.  I like it though.  Keeps it flowing too.  Sharing even the tiny bit of progress and seeing the progress others are making in their own creative ventures is inspiring.  So I hope you'll share too.

So I'm sharing.  And I'm really hope that as part of this weekly rhythm I won't have the same WIP to share next week and will have moved on to a new project!

My first WIP is a knitting project.  My hands are often cold when I'm writing, particularly since these days I'm running daily IV fluids through a PICC line due to a pregnancy condition I have called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  Sometimes I feel like living in Houston there really isn't much of a need for knit woolies but right now I need something.  This past weekend, tired of the aching cold fingers, I cast on with a yarn I've been holding onto for a long time waiting for the perfect project.  The yarn is Becoming Art's Neverland colorway, a favorite of mine, on Cielo worsted, a superwash merino.  It's divinely soft and smooth without fuzz, perfect for these fingerless gloves.  The stitch pattern for these is inspired by these Leyburn Socks and I love it so much I'm contemplating a matching slouchy hat inspired by the gloves, inspired by the socks.  You can never have too many hats, even in Houston, right?

Next up is a multimedia piece of art for my younger girls' room.  I had help starting it and snapped this when I set it aside to dry.

I don't have a photo but next week I'll be sure to get one, a month ago I started a nap matt for Evangeline to have at her class.  It's been sitting for a month.  Hopefully it this will motivate me to tackle it again and get it done so she actually has something to lay on during peaceful quiet time at school.

Also lacking photos but my kids have started elving.  Secretly, or not so secretly, crafting bits and pieces to sneak under the tree for a sister, mom or dad, a friend, or teacher.  I love seeing their creativity bloom as they embrace the joy of giving handmade gifts to their loved ones.

So what are you working on?  Share your WIPs in the comments, we'd love to see them!