Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lunch Wars

My daughter started kindergarten this fall and I knew I would find some encouragement to pack her more healthy lunches after reading the most recent book I was sent for BlogHer Book Club, Amy Kalafa's Lunch Wars.  Indeed, I was right. 

As I commented on this post, I remember being in junior high and packing my lunch every day to take to school.  It always included my original combination of peanut butter and sprinkles on white bread.  I also threw in some processed food snacks and rarely added raw fruit or veggies.

At the ripe old age of five my daughter is already influenced plenty when it comes to her food choices.  If I left it up to her, of course her lunch would include a Lunchable every day, plus a few mini Snickers bars and a juice box and maybe some Doritos or fruit snacks.

I certainly don't fault her.  (Remember the twelve year old me I describe above?)  According to Kalafa, "Branding food packages with licensed characters substantially influences young children's taste preferences and snack selection and does so most strongly for energy-dense, nutrient poor foods.  These findings suggest that the use of licensed characters to advertise junk food to children should be restricted."  So why aren't they?  Ms. Kalafa and I would both like to know.  If "advertisers proudly admit to directing their work towards children to get them to go to the parents to buy the product despite the fact that the kids aren't the ones doing the shopping" then why are we letting them?

The thing is, that's just the packed lunches brought from home.  When you look at what's offered in school lunches, the findings are often worse.  Kalafa's film Two Angry Moms and then her Lunch Wars book delves into what is being offered to our kids at school and how we can advocate changes in school cafeterias.

I typically am not an activist.  I don't ever see myself really fighting for a cause.  I doubt I'll ever write a proposal to change the food service management company at my child's school.

However, I am a teacher.  Almost ninety percent of the students at my school are on a free or reduced lunch plan.  I see the kids eat pizza , french fries soaked in ranch dressing, hot Cheetos, and chocolate chip cookies every day.  I can totally get on board with "teaching food."  I am now encouraged to write a proposal for a school garden and can completely fit that in with our required annual service learning project.

But in her book Mrs. Kalafa provides so many ways to get involved in this movement that perhaps you'd find a different aspect you'd be interested in.  It's certainly worth checking into.  After all, if we don't get involved in what out kids are eating now, then we'll spend more time and money being involved in their health care later.

If you'd like to read more visit please join the discussion over at BlogHer Book Club.

This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

more than you ever wanted to know about my computers

Before I was born my mom worked in medical records and my dad was a stockbroker.  My mom then stayed home with my sister and I until we started school. Eventually my parents bought condominiums at Myrtle Beach and my mom was able to run the business of renting them from our home.  We had our first computer and it was so slow.  That was before Windows and during the time when everything worked from the DOS prompt.


We bought the second computer which was a lot faster and we started a home network.  We nicknamed the old computer Turtle and called the new one Myrtle (Turtle because of it's speed, or lack thereof, and Myrtle because our condominiums were at Myrtle Beach).

As the business grew, my dad quit his job to work at renting condos full-time with my mom.  I'm not sure why, but they named the next few computers Max, Maud, and Mildred.  When we became Harry Potter fans in the late 90s we named a new computer Harry.

When I went to college, naturally I had to stay with family tradition and name my new Dell desktop as well.  I called it Percy (also named after a character in the Harry Potter series).  My next computer was named Hermione and then Neville.  More recently, my husband jumped on board and called his newest Luna.

I don't think it's weird at all that we name our computers.  After all we are a tech family and we enjoy our gadgets.  Some people name their cars, we just name our PCs.  It certainly helps with networking.

Do you think I'm weird?  What inanimate objects have names at your house?  What should be the name of my next computer?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

painting pumpkins

I bought some small pumpkins the other day so the kids could paint their hearts out.  Julianna actually wanted me to draw a face on hers so that she could paint it in.  She stressed to me that she wanted it to be SCARY.  I headed to google and searched for images to copy.  I let her pick out the one she wanted and traced it on the pumpkin and then she painted it in.  Josh had so much fun painting his that he screamed when I put it outside to dry.  I ended up also giving him some paper plate to paint as well because he enjoyed it so much and we were approaching meltdown level if I hadn't conceded to letting him use up the rest of the paint we'd poured out.  Anyway, I think they turned out great and it was a fun activity we could do while we were waiting on bedtime to roll around.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

twenty three months

Dear Joshy,

Today is actually September 16th and I decided to start this letter a little early because as I type I'm sitting here watching you pretend to talk on the phone to your teachers.  You picked up an old cell phone and held it up to your ear, crooked of course, and said "Hey Ms. Beth! Hey Ms. Kristy! I call you!"  It was simply the cutest thing and when I see you do things like this I want to snatch you up and cuddle you like a baby forever.

We've had a great month.  We've gotten into a routine now and you're doing very well going to school/daycare full-time.  Some mornings you protest, but most mornings you are excited to see your friends Trent and Alex and you tell me about it all the way to school.  That is, after you stop crying because we had to wave bye to Daddy and Jules as they pull up to the drop-off lane at her school.

This month you've cut your two year molars and been a tad grumpy because of that.  You ran a low-grade fever a day or two and also had a runny nose a bit, but that also could be getting back to school and around all of the germs.  It seems that you've grown a foot although when we measure you it only shows that you've grown an inch or so since the beginning of summer.

You are still All Boy and people remark about it frequently.  You're rough and tumble, all about balls and climbing, and you talk incessantly about firetrucks, garbage trucks, skeletons.

This month you've learned the word "scared" and you still don't use it properly all the time, but it's so adorable to hear you say, "I scared."  Usually you say it about anything you don't want to do and that can be rather funny but it definitely makes me want to snatch you up and hug on you.

You've also learned to sing quite a few new songs this month.  Nanna has been trying to teach you "one little, two little, three little witches..." and you've learned several new radio songs from Daddy.  Your teachers have certainly helped you with ABCs and you soak up the words to Jesus Loves the Little Children and Jesus Loves Me almost every night.

You love your lollipops, Joshua.  I wish I had a nickle for every time you asked for one.  The preschool teachers sometimes give you one when I pick you up in the afternoons and you get so excited that you do a little dance.  I can't wait to see your face next month when you get a look at your birthday cake.

The thing that I don't get is why we can't translate that love for lollipops into successful bribery for potty training.  M&Ms worked for your sister, kid. You gotta get it together.  I know, I know, in you're own time.... We have had a few successes this week so it's not all a bust.  Maybe we're getting there.

As I wrap this letter up and head off to bed, I'm sitting here listening to you struggle to breathe in your bed thanks to your stuffy nose.  It seems you're starting to get another little cold and you've got a wimpy little cough going on.  I hope it doesn't turn out to be more, but I do love the fact that colds aren't as hard on you as they were on your sister at this age.  At least you don't throw up with every fever.  Thanks for that, kiddo.

So next month we celebrate.  We eat monkey cake (or Lightning McQueen cake, or dinosaur cake, or Dora cake, you've yet to decide) and we celebrate you growing to two.  We celebrate the joy you bring to everyone around you and we rejoice in the gift God gave us when you were born.

Love you bunches, Buddy.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

pinning good eats

Like many others, over the summer I became addicted to Pinterest.  It has proven to be a great resource for new recipes to try. Unlike all of the foodie blog recipes I read, I pin them to one of my boards and they're easy to find later instead of getting buried in my feed reader.  Here are a few of the things I've made lately and please note that a ton of them have been crock pot meals since I don't get home until 5 - 5:30 pm and have two starving kids in tow.

S'more Snack Mix

YUM-O!  Great mid-morning snack for work.  Not the healthiest snack mix so you just have to be careful not to over-indulge.

Angel Chicken

We love mushrooms and all thought this was pretty decent.  It was easy enough to prepare in about ten minutes before I left for work and ready when I got home.  I served it with angel hair pasta and roasted garlic broccoli (which is my new favorite way to fix broccoli - I could eat it every night, it's so good...).

Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I didn't really care for this one, but Jonathan and the kids liked it a lot.  I will still probably fix it many more times on those nights when I want spicy soup that no one else will eat.  It was really simple to get started in the crock pot in the morning.  When I got home from work I had to do a few additional steps and let it cook a tiny bit more, but it turned out well overall.  I served it with sweet potato fries (which Julianna complains about because they're so easy I've gotten to where I serve them all the time).  It makes a TON though so plenty to feed a crowd with!

Cream Cheese Crock Pot Chicken

This is another one that I loved and Jonathan really wasn't crazy about.  He said it was a bit spicy although I really couldn't taste that much spice.  Anyway, I ate it all week long for lunches at work and I could STILL eat it again if I had more.  I served it with brown rice, but sometimes ate the leftovers on top of baby spinach or with romaine lettuce and tortilla chips.  Mmmmmm... I'll definitely make it again. It's probably the easiest of all of these to make.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie 'n Oreo Fudge Brownie Bar

OK I made this one on Labor Day to take to a cookout at my sister's house and I have to say that I was really disappointed.  It really wasn't that great.  Maybe I just had high hopes because it looked so darn good, but it was kinda over-the-top and the Oreos just made it hard to eat.  None of it went to waste though, so maybe I'm just being absurd...?

There are some others, but they'll have to wait until a later post because I've gotta get to work.

In the meantime, please tell me, what good recipes have you cooked or baked lately?

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Jonathan and Julianna cleaned out their change jars a few weeks ago in anticipation of the Winston-Salem Airshow that takes place every year in September at Smith Reynolds Airport.  They went last year and Julianna really wanted to ride in the helicopter. It was quite expensive and technically you are supposed to be five to ride so Jonathan promised her that she could go this year.

Well, after they rolled all of their money and counted all their bills (plus Daddy added a little bit more) they had enough to go to the airshow and take a helicopter ride.  [Man, those rides are EXPENSIVE!]  Josh and I were just going to stay home since he really should have had a nap at that time anyway and it cost $12 to get in. At the last minute my sister called and said they had gotten an extra free ticket from her sister-in-law if I wanted to use it so all four of us hopped in the car and headed that way.

After sitting in traffic for a half hour we finally made it, parked, and went on in.  The kids got to build a wooden helicopter at the Home Depot booth and Josh enjoyed playing with it for the rest of the time we were there.  I was rather impressed with the quality of the kits they were giving away.  I expected it to be something pretty dinky but it was a nice toy and both of my kids really liked being able to use the hammer and put the pieces together.

While I was working with the kids on their helicopter projects, Jonathan went to sign up for the helicopter ride.  Unfortunately, he came back with bad news and we had to tell Julianna that they were all booked up.  Plus, they only had one helicopter there instead of the two helicopters that they've had in the past so they weren't going to be able to go and she was devastated.  We promised her she'd get to do it sometime in the near future and after a while she got over her disappointment. Still, there's nothing like seeing your baby's heart get broken.

We walked around and looked at all of the different planes. We watched the jets flying by and the trick planes as well.  There was even a lady standing on the wings of a bi-plane as it turned around and over and upside down.  Pretty neat.

We ate a hot dog lunch under a tent and walked around a bit more before Josh could fall asleep.

We got to go inside of a big FedEx plane which was a huge disappointment for me because I'm ignorant I guess and I thought we were going to get to see inside a passenger plane or whatever, but ti was just a big open space for all of the packages.  We couldn't even really walk anywhere once we were inside the door.  The kids did enjoy seeing the cockpit though.

It was a good little family outing and I'm glad we got to go.  We are fortunate to live in a place that has so many family friendly entertainment activities on the weekends.  I can't wait until my babies get the chance to fly on a real plane.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

believe it or not, Halloween is six weeks away

I absolutely LOVE Halloween.  Actually, I adore the Fall and everything about it, but Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.

You may remember last year we dressed up as the Super Mario Gang and I've been known to try to talk Jonathan into the Twilight or Harry Potter characters before.  Anyway, Julianna and I have begun our discussion(s) about her costume this year and I'm anticipating something Pokemon related.  We'll see... is offering a special 10% off coupon code* for you to use and share with friends and family. The coupon code is BLOGGER10. Get ahead of the Halloween crowds and get your child's costume tonight!

*All products are eligible for this discount. Coupon is good through Sunday, October 16th at 11:59pm PST. Merchandise total of $8.95 must be after any coupons have been applied. Discount does not apply to shipping, or sales taxes (CA only.) Coupon will be reflected as a 10% discount on the merchandise subtotal on the checkout page. Coupon cannot be combined with other coupon offers. Coupon is non-negotiable. Not valid for prior purchases. reserves the right to cancel any order due to unauthorized, altered, or ineligible use of a discount.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

the solar what?

Last Saturday we went to Boone to see my brother-in-law's hard work on the Solar Homestead / Solar Decathlon Project at Appalachian State University.  They designed a "self-sustaining, zero-energy home."  It will be on exhibit in Washington DC for the US Department of Energy starting this week and Travis is the project manager in charge of the construction part of the Solar Homestead.

We knew we probably wouldn't get a chance to get up to DC to see it on display so we decided to visit him in Boone before they broke it all down to travel.  It really was pretty amazing.

The kiddos were kinda tired and as it neared bedtime Josh got droopier and droopier as we carried him through the house.  We were terrified that he would run through and tear something apart that took months to build so we tried to keep him on a tight leash.

It was kinda funny to hear that all the guys working on the project decided to grow beards for their exhibition in DC in keeping with the Appalachian theme.  You can see pictures here.  Travis is the third person pictured.

Before we went to App, we also got a chance to walk around Boone a little and visit the Mast General Store on Main Street. Of course we had to buy some candy from the candy barrels.  Josh found a sock monkey hat to wear and Jules took my picture sitting beside this sexy man.

It was a quick trip, but I really enjoyed it.  I hope we're able to go back to Boone sometime in the near future, or at least take a weekend trip to the mountains with the kids when we can spend a little more time.

If you're interested, you can read more about Travis' project here and watch a video about it here. Everyone in the family is so proud of his hard work and it really is impressive.

Monday, September 12, 2011

this is what we learned at Kickoff to Kindergarten

The Children's Museum had a Kick-off to Kindergarten event a few days before school started.  It really wasn't too big of a deal but Julianna got to go through a pretend cafeteria line and get a tray and snack.  Then she got to go inside a real school bus and check that out.  The rest of the time we played in the normal museum exhibits.  Julianna definitely enjoyed the regular stuff more than she did the Kindergarten themed stuff.  And I guess so did we.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

my beautiful children

We took these at the downtown farmer's market one day a few weeks ago.  I thought some of them turned out pretty well.


Everyone says that when Josh squishes up his nose like in that third picture that he looks just like me.  If that's the case then I'm sorry kiddo.  :)

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