Monday, August 30, 2010

It Begins

Our Senior year at Sewanee has arrived. Last week we had Quiet Day and Matriculation followed by the Dean's dinner. Saturday was the Picnic at Lake Cheston.
The kids had a blast in the water as usual and I'm not sure they ate anything except cookies and brownies while we were there.
One of the new seminarians brought her kayaks and all the kids had fun taking turns on those.

Yesterday was a taste of Fall with temps in the high 70s and lots of breeze. We went to church at All Saint's and then had a playdate and then went blueberry picking at a friend's house. They also own a horse farm with 23 horses, and have a large and random selection of other animals: a llama, parrots, a miniature goat, a pig, 5 dogs, etc. The kids were in heaven and I kinda was too. Watching them (especially *A*) run around this farm so naturally and totally happy was awesome. After visiting and petting all the animals many times, the kids rode the "gator" over to the garden area where we picked a bucketful of blueberries. Apparently this is very late in the season and they were just over-run with berries this year. The berries were growing in huge clumps on the branches like grapes, all we had to do was put our bucket underneath and kind of pull the berries down and off the branch. ^J^ said he felt like he was milking a cow. There was also a pear tree and the kids decided they needed to eat it right then and there warm from the tree. There was an apple tree as well so we got a bucket full of those too. Oh and they had a few watermelons leftover too so we each took 2. Unfortunately I forgot my camera so I only have a picture of our loot after we returned home. Time to start freezing, canning, and baking!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Food Stuffs *part 2*

Ok, so how about some irony. Last week I wrote about not wanting to partake of school lunches; this week we got a letter from the school board that we qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. Sooooo, I've been trying to weigh this conundrum in my mind and the other day I decided to try and see if *A* would agree to "buying" her lunch maybe one day a week if it was something she might eat. Yesterday they were having chicken sandwiches, tater tots, and lime (weird) applesauce. Not terribly appetizing but something I thought we could get away with and save $ on one lunch this week. So I approached her with the idea and she promptly replied, "Mom, all they have is junk food!". Um, ok. How can I possibly argue with that. I did end up convincing her to just try it for one day and it seemed to go fine, but she hasn't been interested in doing it again yet. I was even looking ahead on the lunch calendar and saw they are having cheese pizza on Monday, but nope, no dice.

So, tonight I bring you some of my recent go-to, meat-free, healthy lunch and snack items (Kindergarten eats lunch at 10:45 am so I also have to pack an afternoon snack). Hope these are helpful, I'm sure as the weeks progress I will be adding more, so maybe I'll post a sidebar link for future reference. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments and I'll add those to the master list as well. Oh and I reject the notion that school lunch needs to center around a sandwich with some stuff on the side. We do that, but often I'm just happy if we have a protein or 2, some fruit or veggies, and a healthy carb. So we mix and match the items below often for variety and convenience. None of them are terribly ground-breaking or novel, mostly this will just serve as a list to remind me of what to pack when I'm in a rut.

Good 'ol Stand-by PB&J
Grilled Cheese
String Cheese/Babybel Cheese
Yogurt, plain, vanilla, often with granola on the side to add in. Our new favorite easy yogurts are the Horizon squeeze tubes because they were on sale and had a coupon at Kroger so we stocked up.
Bagel with cream cheese (with or without sliced cucumber)
Veggie roll-ups (cream cheese spread on a tortilla rolled around carrots, cucumber and/or pepper slices)
Cheese Quesadillas
Cheese and crackers - our favorite is goat cheese and Triscuits
Apples and peanut butter
Dried fruit, we're still loving our stash of dried cherries from Michigan
Trail Mix, I love to use up the last bits of snacky things and throw them all together into a trail mix
Pita Chips
Annie's snack items, Cheddar bunnies, etc.
Leftovers from dinner
Mommy-made muffins
Nature Valley granola bars (or ones from Trader Joe's)
In-season local fruit, right now it's apples, cantaloupe and watermelon
In-season local veggies, currently we're overloaded with cucumbers, zuchini, and peppers. Unfortunately this child keeps trying but still hates tomatoes, so the dozens of cherry and grape tomaotes we get from the CSA are not an option.
Tortilla Chips

Ok, that's good for now. I'm hoping to experiment with cracker-making this weekend since I didn't get to it last weekend. Oh and here's a great post about yogurt making, we tried to make yogurt a long time ago but couldn't get the temperature right. I'm liking her suggestion of how to get it just right so maybe we'll have to try it again soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Food Stuffs

One day's garden bounty

We've been enjoying some pretty amazing food around here lately so I thought I'd share for anyone who's interested. For the most part, we've gone vegetarian for meals at home. I'm no longer buying meat at the grocery store unless it's from a source I feel good about. If we go to a Trader Joe's I try to stock up, but normally we're eating vegetarian with the occasional seafood thrown in. *A* loves shrimp and they both really love fried tofu. After seeing many trucks of animals on our trip to and from Michigan, *A* has been more sensitive about eating animals, although she has always sort of been a vegetarian anyway.

We've been so excited that many of our meals lately have been almost totally local. We like to call it "Everything Local but the Starch". Between our garden, the wonderful online local farmer's market, and the CSA we joined, we have lots of local produce to choose from. We also bought a herd-share from a local goat farm so that we can have local goat cheese each week. Unfortunately we don't yet have a local resource for flour or other starchy foods, but we do enjoy a few things that are totally local like a frittata with local eggs and veggies. The other night we had pasta with local vegetables and goat cheese topped with homemade pesto (made with basil from our garden). Lunch yesterday was a bagel with goat cheese, tomato and basil leaves and an apple; again, everything local but the starch.

I'm all about the pesto right now, we're putting it on everything. I used this recipe from my neighbor. Although I did use pine nuts because I had some on hand. My kids love pesto and they really love basil, they will eat basil right off the plant while I'm watering the garden!

We're also all about the granola this summer. This is our favorite recipe. I've tried many others, but this one is the best. I'm not a big fan of granola with molasses and this one uses honey (we use local). It's definitely not a healthy granola recipe, it's pretty full calorie, but it's homemade so no preservatives and it's cheaper! I can't tell you how much I love being able to completely pass up the cereal aisle at the store! We like this granola with milk of course, but also with yogurt, in pancakes, and even on ice cream!

My next culinary adventure is to try making our own crackers. I'm so annoyed at the amount of "stuff" in a box of crackers and now with a school lunch to pack, I'm having a hard time finding snack-type foods I feel good about sending. So, I'm hoping this weekend to experiment with graham crackers and another wheat type of cracker. Although I have found that Triscuits are the best bet on the cracker aisle with only wheat, oil, and salt listed in the ingredients! It's been fun trying to figure out interesting things to pack in *A*'s lunch. I want her to be more interested in what I pack than what's offered in the lunch line so it takes some creativity. So far she's not interested in what they are offering at school because it's very meat-based, but I know she'll enjoy buying her lunch some days. I will do another post sometime with some of the ideas I've come up with for packing lunches.
Ok, sleeping kids are up and it's time to go register *A* for soccer. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

1st Day of School

Monday was the first day of school for both *A* and (H). Big girl *A* is entering Kindergarten this year and we struggled for a long time about what to do, but finally decided to take the leap and put her in the public elementary school. We figured this is probably the smallest and best community school we will ever experience and it would be a safe place to try it out. I am slightly concerned about the amount of new schools she's experiencing (new school last year, new school this year, new school next year), but luckily she is a very resilient child. She went for a meet the teacher, fill out forms, etc day last Friday for only an hour but as you can see, she was very excited about that.

Monday she wasn't quite feeling 100% but she had a great time and when asked how it went (dozens of times), she always said "it was great!". Only half the class attended Monday and the other half yesterday, so today is the first full day with the whole class. She has P.E. today which I had to explain to her what that was, and so she decided to wear her converse so she could be ready to run. So things are going well so far. ^J^ and I are having a hard time with some of the odd public school things (behavior charts, etc) that I used to have to do and that we've been so against all these years with our Montessori background, but we're just taking it as it comes and as long as *A* is safe, happy and learning, we can deal.

(H) seems to really enjoy preschool a lot more this year. There were many days last year when he did not want me to leave, but he's doing a lot better this year. He has moved up to the big kid class that *A* was in last year so he's really excited about that, and he has 2 good friends in there with him including our neighbor. The first day we (yes, we) had some tears, but the past 2 days at drop off he has just needed me to sit a minute with him and then he gives me a kiss and I leave. One new thing this year is that when I pick him up at noon, he and I get 3 hours together before we have to go get *A*, so that'll be fun. 
Ok, here they are on their first day. Enjoy!
And their proud parents:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Catching Up and more Michigan (finally)

I can't believe summer is almost over and how slack I've been on the blog this summer. Hopefully once the kids go back to school, I'll do better. We have been trying to live up each day of summer left around here even if that means sweating profusely while doing so. The other day we went to visit the sand pile on the intramural fields behind our house and while we were there the sprinklers came on for the fields. It was such a treat to be able to cool off and run through sprinklers and we thought we might get in trouble when a groundsman came by, but he said we were allowed to do it anytime as long as we didn't twist the sprinklers around. Yay! So now when we're too hot to do anything but melt around 4:30 pm, we know where to go!

Last night was *A*'s Kindergarten Open House. She was super-excited and knows so many of the kids already from preschool, dance and swim team. There are going to be 4 kindergartners from seminary families this year and they are all girls, so that should be fun! Poor (H) needs a new buddy though. Luckily he's at an age where girls are still fun to play with because there are a few 3.5 year old girls he enjoys playing with at the cookouts and they'll be in his preschool class too.
Ok, I have so many fun things to share still from our Michigan trip so here are some more pictures. Enjoy!

So after our mini-family vacation, we headed Up North a bit further to the Traverse City area. We were actually staying outside of Traverse City this year but we ventured to "the big city" a few times. We arrived on the last day of the National Cherry Festival just in time for the parade. I'm a big fan of parades and this is one of the best. Marching bands, hundreds of floats, and lots of cool stuff to watch. It was very long (and very hot, especially for Michigan) but there are so many things (and ice cream vendors), so the kids were entertained the whole time. Here are some highlights:

After this we headed up to our cute cabin and spent the next few days lounging on the beach and swimming.
I'll post again soon about a cool road trip we took while there, but to close, here are some sunset pictures of our beach. Ahhhhhhh.