Monday, February 27, 2012

Love this!


I am officially obsessed with Mrs. Meyers cleaning products....the Basil scent in particular. I want my whole house to smell like it. *happy sigh*

Not only are they non-toxic, they are also very environmentally friendly. 

They only had a limited variety of cleaners of this scent at Target, and although the website identified Fred Meyer's as carrying the line, they were nowhere to be found in that store.  I'll be scouring the aisles of Carr's in the following days in a last ditch effort before I give in (once again) to ordering them online.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Solution to Finicky Eaters: Bento!

 This all started when my nosy little Sophie peered over my shoulder as I perused the myriad of images in Pinterest and honed in on this picture:

"I want sandwiches like that! MOM! Would you please make me home lunches like that?"

Confession: I am lazy when it comes to Sophie's school lunches.  She is bipolar when it comes to her eating habits...will try anything seafood (her fave dish in Olive Garden is the steamed mussels!) but hates regular everyday lunch food like lunch meat, CHEESE, jelly...She would come home from school with a half-eaten lunch. And so, I hated even bothering to try and pack one.  Cafeteria lunch it is.

But this newfound enthusiasm has since inspired me to try readying healthy, balanced lunches for my little sweetheart again. Maybe, just maybe, if it looks fun, perhaps my Miss Finicky will actually eat it.

And the research began...What do I need? Where do I get that darned bear stencil? 

Thank goodness for the internet and the infinite amount of information! I located two online retailers of cute bento products (Alaska is a barren wasteland when it comes to shopping options) and I clicked and clicked until the contents of the online shopping cart made me smile.

Sophie is currently obsessed with pandas.  Two-tier, bento box with elastic band.

Stencils and food picks galore!

So here is the first bento lunch I packed for her:

 First tier:
Mini turkey meatballs 
(they are the perfect opportunity to sneak in carrots, broccoli, or whatever veggies you prefer)
White rice
Drizzle of sweet and sour sauce

**Next purchase, mini containers that will hold sauce/condiments**

Second tier:
Mandarin oranges (drained)
Carrots (cut into star shapes)
"I LUV U" made out of green grapes

Because I promised Sophie we'd eat lunch with her at school, I also had to pack one for little Liv.
Here's hers, using the Pottery Barn Kids lunchbox:

 Mini turkey meatballs, green grapes, cheddar cheese shapes, jello, chips, thin mint cookies.

Note: I packed this, knowing that I would be holding this lunchbox flat the whole time.  If packing for your little one to take to school, having the right lunchbox with appropriate depth is important (or else everything will tumble around and look like an unappetizing mess).

I was so so delighted to watch my girl devour her lunch! She ate ALL of it!!! There were no chips (Sophie's), nothing that hints at junk food at all. She ate the main course, to include all the rice, the fruit, and carrots.  Jeez, if I knew sticking little panda picks in her food would guarantee healthy eating, I would have done this years ago!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Accidentally on Purpose


Olivia always gets to pick a treat at the commissary checkout counter for big sis (who was at school at the time) and herself.  This last time, she grabbed two little boxes of the Willy Wonka candy Nerds.  It's a small container, just a tad bigger than a matchbox, with two compartments (one for the pink candy nuggets, the other for the purple). As I was putting groceries away I observed her set one box aside in the pantry, and sit down with a partially opened other box at the counter. She ate all of the pink candy, and left the box with the remaining purple pellets on the counter...I assumed for later consumption. 
No biggie...

When Sophia got home, she asks: "Did you get me a treat, Liv?"

Liv nods, "Yeah! I got Nerds for you! It's on the counter."

Sophie plops herself up on the barstool, picks up the box, and frowns, "Why is it open?"

Not missing a freakin' beat, "Oh, I ACCIDENTALLY ate all the pink ones."

Sophie's frown turns into an all-out glare, "And where's yours, then?

Olivia skips to the pantry, pulls out the unopened one, "It's right here, I saved it for me."

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Place for Everything...Teeny Tiny Pantry

 When the Military Housing rep gave us a tour of the housing unit we were being assigned, once she reached the kitchen area, she laid a hand on the closet door next to the fridge and rolled her eyes, "You have three kids? Well, I do, too. And this thing CANNOT fit all the food you need for a family of five! I use this supposed-to-be-a-pantry closet to hold my kitchen appliances. And I use that one..." she gestured to another closet twice the width, at the farther end of the kitchen, "...which is supposed to be a coat closet as my pantry."

I looked over at the Mister, who was already grinning at me.  This lady obviously does not understand "you cannot", "you will not", "you should not" are key phrases that trigger the
 button in my head. 

I've been distracted here and there, settling into the wild arctic world of AK. But I have never let that one go. Her arrogant little voice in my head every time I reach into my pantry to grab something. "Really, lady? You don't know ME!" But now, I've finally finished my teeny tiny pantry challenge.

Here it is:
1) The top shelf has all the box dinners like mac and cheese, rice-a-roni, (ya know, for them lazy days), pasta, and canned goods. I put in a tiered platform system so I can see the ones in the back without having to shove aside the ones in the front. 

2) The shelf down from the top has spice mixes and such.  There are four small stackable bins in the back, one holds baking ingredients (like walnuts for brownies, flaxseed for this delicioso pumpkin bread, and almond bark for chocolate covered peanut butter balls), one for instant ramen noodles, one for salad accouterements (croutons, craisins, candied walnuts, tortilla strips), and another for top shelf overflow.

-The spice mixes are housed in a clear acrylic box. A smaller one holds the Mister's Iced Tea and the kids' Kool-Aid sachets.

-There are two handled bins for easy handling.  One has my Keurig coffee pods, the other is the breakfast bin with individual packets of oatmeal, and syrup for waffles, pancakes, etc.

3) The next two shelves down are the most accessible to kids, so I have the snacks there within their reach.

-I've had this recurring problem of squished bread. The Och kids would not think twice about throwing the box of Cheez-its on top of the bread loaf. I don't like a lot of things on my counters, and a bread box in the traditional sense takes up too much room.  I found this plastic bread bin that perfectly fits one loaf of kid fave Wonder Bread.

-The label is hard to read, but to the left are two bins of snacks, individually portioned off since Miss Sophie likes to take a snack to school (love that her teacher gives his class a snack time). Unfortunately,  she would request a baggie of pretzels or Goldfish right when the bus was turning the corner to our stop.  With them portioned off in advance, she can just grab from the bin and she's good to go.  This is also helpful for grabbing a couple baggies to take on the road when we are headed on a Fam Och excursion.

-Now, this last shelf does not speak of my need to have things orderly as much as my desire to keep groceries from going stale.  You moms know of this, right? Half-eaten bags of potato chips laying in the pantry OPEN.  Cereal boxes OPEN. Or...bags of chips and cereal boxes EMPTY (oh and crap, because when I looked at the pantry before grocery shopping, I thought we still had plenty of it, but in reality, the empty box was just sitting there taking up space!). So these containers (from the Container Store) not only keep everything fresh, but visible. I know when things are running low without having to open and re-close everything. 

4) The floor holds the heavy bulky stuff.  Large containers of rice, sugar, and flour. Another bin of Splenda. The under-shelf wire basket holds all the annoying boxes of ziploc bags, foil, plastic wrap (I still do not like how this is set up).  The wire basket holds Sophie's lunch boxes should she ever ask for a home lunch. And, of course, there is always the backup case of Coke. 

There you have it. Organized and pretty. At random moments of the day, I fling open the door to my pantry just so I can smile at it. (Pathetic, no?)

I have the biggest urge to drag that girl into my house and open my PANTRY (complete with drumroll and fireworks) just so I can say, "I CAN fit food for a family of five in here!" 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quest for a Nitpicker's Perfect Planner

Control freaks need planners.  I (control freak numero uno) require one to properly manage a household of five (plus Taco Bell doggy). My planner reminds us of important occasions, eliminates excuses of "I forgot!", keeps bills paid, and ensures we do not go hungry (meal planning, folks, is a wonderful, wonderful thing). But there was a humongous roadblock  to all this orderliness.  If the planner-du-jour didn't quite meet ALL of my specifications, I had this habit of not using it. And so began the quest for the perfect one.

 In a previous blog, I posted an entry about the "perfect planner" (click HERE).  It had so much of what I was searching for.

Requirement #1:  it had to be pretty.  Yep.  That's right.  It had to be pretty. I have no desire in dealing with a standard monochromatic notebook. It has to make me smile.

This is the Erin Condren Life Planner.  I heart it to bits. I am on my second volume. 
Isn't it lovely?

One of the great things I loved about it is this:

At the back of the planner are sheets of colored sticker labels.  Genius! I could color code family members/types of events! (A complaint I had about the writing surface is corrected in the latest version).

Well, what's the problem, then? Hmmmm...well, Miss ERIN freakin' Condren only includes just a couple sheets of these sticker labels.  Three months into the planner, and I've run out of them.

Apparently, this is a common complaint about this planner, since the FAQ section in her website addresses the issue by saying: NO, they do NOT have additional sheets available for purchase...but, HEY, they DID add a couple more sheets to this year's planner.

Whoop-Dee-Freakin'-Doo, Erin.  That just buys me an extra month of labels then! What about the other two-thirds of the year? Really, it boggles my mind...people who use these planners, who invest in these ($40+) planners are busy busy people in need of LABELS!!!!

Anyway, I'm not about to turn blue holding my breath for the adjustment. Here's my own SOLUTION:

I actually purchased the 25 pack. Pretty Pretty Colors.
I'll color-code it my damn self.

And so it is a perfect planner...FINALLY.