Munchlers - Lunch Bags

I just have to tell you about these adorable lunch bags called Munchlers. I saw them while shopping yesterday and thought they were cute but I really want a bento box for daughter so I didn't stop to look at them. Tonight I was bouncing around on line and there they were again. I saw that they unfold to make a place mat, I love that. I don't know about your kids but mine ends up putting her food on the not so clean tables. With this lunch mat she would have a destination for that half eaten sandwich free of creepy crawleys. Most lunch bags have dark corners for crumbs and goop to collect in but because these flaten out cleaning them is a snap.
At around 10 dollars a pop you can't beat the design or functionality.

From Built
In our quest for a lunchbox that would captivate every kid, or kid at heart, we developed a concept that incorporates whimsical fun with practicality. We collaborated with the award-winning children’s book illustrator, Stephen Savage, to take on the project of creating zoo animals for the design of the lunchboxes. After all, what good is a lunchbox that doesn't look good?


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Fast Food: Sushi (Is sushi really fast food?)

As a mom I am always looking for healthy and quick meals for my family. I have to admit that it can be tough. We, as parents, have a lot to juggle and healthy meals can get lost in the circus of our busy lives. Last week, I noticed that spring was finally upon us and eating light was on my mind. The grill was ready to go, but the problem was that my 4-year-old wanted to “help,” and grilling is not the most kid-friendly of cooking techniques. I had to think quickly. It was 4:30 and dinner was nowhere in site.My daughter Claire suggested sushi. I said, “no way, it is too expensive.” She said, “No, mommy lets make it.” “Uh oh,” said I. Then the excuses came rolling off my tongue, “no rice, no crab, no seaweed…um…. we are out of electricity to run the rice cooker.”
That is when I thought to myself”, “What are you thinking? Your child wants to be with you and make food, isn’t that what you do? Make it happen!”

I gave in and we started looking through the produce drawer to see if we could make this happen. We found a carrot, a cucumber, purple cabbage (Claire wasn’t so sure she was going to like this), and an avocado. We even had nori–seaweed wrappers–and some wasabi. We had the fixings for sushi after all!
I sheepishly plugged in the rice cooker, “Look honey, the electricity just came back on, boy are we lucky!”
I did not have authentic sushi rice but short grain white worked quite well. Claire washed all the veggies and I sliced them. We seasoned our rice with rice vinegar mixed with a little sugar. Claire had plenty of jobs to do and none of them involved going near the five hundred degree flame-throwing grill, thank goodness!

I happened to be lucky enough to have sushi molds in my pantry for just such an occasion (like these). Sushi making with kids is so much easier when you have the right equipment.
After a short and very fun rice-covered experience (don’t forget to dip your fingers in water before working with the rice or you’ll start to look like a Yeti) our dinner was ready. It took about 35 minutes and the sushi was beautiful. We all chowed down and Claire really liked the veggies with her rice. I have never seen her eat with so much excitement. She forgot to be worried about the purple cabbage because she was so proud of what she had created with her own hands. I was proud of her.

In the end, I learned that when kids have a hand in creating their own meals, they are much more likely to try something new. Plus they get a sense of pride and accomplishment that comes from a job well done.

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Bouncing Boba Bubble Drink!

I have the travel bug, but I think the only place I will be going to this summer is to the market.

That doesn't mean we have to make the same old thing, it is summer let's taste the world.
My daughter has been begging us to take her to China, she wants to meet a Chinese Princess. She is 5 and very much ready to see the world.
I figured the next best thing was to go to the Asian Market and pick up some fresh Shanghai noodles
and some rainbow Boba.  First stop China!
Boba or tapioca pearls are used to make bubble tea a refreshing tapioca drink with origins in China but has spread through Asia and is gaining popularity everywhere. Boba come in black and other colors, they all taste the same.  The Boba sit in the bottom of the drink, you must suck the balls up through a large straw.  I would not recommend serving this to anyone under 4 as the balls are large and could potentially get stuck in a tiny throat. You could more common regular tapioca that would be safe for little ones.  Bubble tea can be made with milk, milk substitute or fruit based mix.  I wanted to make it easy to make at home and use ingredients I had on hand.  The Boba themselves are tasteless so the usual way to make them is boil them until they are soft, drain and mix with simple syrup or honey, I used agave nectar. 

We had some peach Jello mix in the cupboard so we mixed a bit in with milk, sweetened condensed milk and water. Then we mixed in the Boba and slurped them through a straw.
You could add the sweetened
Boba to lemonade, mango nectar, plain milk,soy milk,  shakes, or tapioca pudding.
Kids love color and I can imagine that big rainbow balls in a bowl of tapioca pudding would be really pretty. 
Boba or Tapioca pearls are a fun and silly treat.

As for the noodles, we prepared them according to package directions and then stir fried them with some mushrooms and kale and a splash of soy sauce.  Eating the noodles and Boba was fun and made dinner go smoothly.

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School is over...but camp is starting, that means MORE lunches

I recently started experimenting with Bento style lunches, the only problem is that after about 5 of them school ended! I guess I was a little late with this whole concept, but camp is starting so I am happy to say I will get to make more bentos this summer.I recently saw a cute post on Coffee and Vanilla 

She inspired me to start posting these lunches.
I started using my laptop lunch box, it works but we are planning a trip to Japan Town Mall to get a new cute little Bento box.
My daughter's preschool was nut free and meat free so lunches are tough, creativity had to be key.

Next year she will be in a public school so watch out for our new and improved lunches.
This box is really simple here is what is in it.

Thin egg omelet with cinnamon (tomago) on a skewer
Rice with nori strips and peas
2 kinds of beans
a date for dessert.

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The Playdate Café- playtime for parents and kids

The doors are open, come in get out of the heat!
I was lucky enough to have consulted on theconception and opening of a fabulous new cafe for kids and parents.
Joel and Nicki, the owners and I worked on the menu and other important aspects of this project, it was fun and best of all the kids love it!!
My friend Lisa Quinn did a live shoot from there last week, check it out and drop by for a snack and a break.
If you look really close you can my hubby and myself having a great time with some other moms and dads.

Playdate for moms! Lisa Quinn visted the Playdate Cafe in San Anslemo, a child-friendly cafe where the whole family can play, nourish and unwind.

About Playdate Café

Miss having uninterrupted conversations with friends and enjoying a meal with utensils? Wish you could have all this and bring the kids, without getting the evil eye when they make a racket?

Created especially with parents and caregivers in mind, the café lets you relax, worry-free, with a cup of coffee while your little ones explore our imaginative, custom-built play area. Play with your children, read magazines, get some work done with free WiFi, or meet a friend for a delicious breakfast or lunch. They also offer weekly sing-alongs, story times, and amazing classes like "Toddler Time."

Playdate Cafe
101 San Anselmo Ave
San Anselmo, CA 94960
(415) 459-7529 (PLAY)
Open 7 days a week from 9am - 5pm

For more information, including prices and special weekly events, visit: www.playdate-cafe.com

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How to Avoid "Sugar and Stress"

School is out and summer is here as far as I am concerned. Today we got the chance to walk downtown and see one of my favorite bands, The English Beat. What the heck is the English Beat doing in Novato anyway??

I discovered them in High School, my older brother was into them and I wanted to be cool too. Now let's get real, the last time I really danced to their music was probably in college and we can all guess how many years ago that was. Now things are different, we have a 5 year old in tow and showing up at the concert with a red wagon and sun screen is the norm.
The thing that doesn't have to be is eating really bad food, and spending 5 dollars on a cup of shaved ice doused with sugar syrup.
I knew my daughter would want a hot dog, to avoid that and keep dollars from flying out of our wallet we opted for a movable dinner. There is a time and place for hot dogs but we have such a variety of foods to choose from in the grocery store why not stock up. You can stock up on healthier versions of the standards like, tofu pups, turkey or chicken dogs, what ever you like that resembles the fair food.
We had a light snack before we left, so I was able to keep our dinner to go on the simple side.
We packed up the wagon with the essentials, sunscreen, blanket for later, water, Margaritas (for us silly, not the kid) and a bag of homemade fair food.I threw together turkey hot dogs wrapped in crustless wheat bread, with a squirt of ketchup. I wrapped them in foil and they stayed nice and warm.
We always pack nuts for a quick energy boost to avoid the low blood sugar tantrum. Too much sugar, too little sugar, how is one to keep track, just have snacks to avoid the whole thing.
We all danced like fools, ate our dinner, watched the sun set and got home without spending a dime and we were just as happy as if we had. We had a ball and I am sure there will be a lot of really sore middle aged people in
Novato in the morning!
Now our daughter knows all about the English Beat and we avoided "Sugar and Stress."

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Squeaky Clean

How are you going to get the ketchup off the celling, unfortunately that is your problem. After  your kids help you prepare a meal have them help clean up too.  It is no news to you that your kids make messes, but getting them to stick around to help clean up can be a challenge.

Here are just a few ideas for cleaning up with your kids.

Given the right circumstances kids can enjoy cleaning up after a meal. First remove the hardened on beans from your child's face, roll up their sleeve's and dig in.  Make it fun, add lots of bubbles, make the water just right and let them scrub.  Get small scrub brushes or toothbrushes that are easy to use. Use all natural soap for little hands like Mrs Meyers Lemon Verbena Dish Soap. Organize the area with a place to put drying dishes and don't overwhelm.  Just give them a few dishes at first and make sure to scrape all the icky food off. 
Clean up with them, make lots of bubbles and have a good laugh.

Here is a song you can use for the little ones to motivate cleaning and helping:
Everybody, Everywhere!
Everybody do your share!

I love this cute little set of brooms and mops too.  Searching Montessori Supply websites can give you lots of ideas for clean up tools for little hands.

I think you all know by now I love Boon products and the The Frog Pod is no exception. Get kids in the habit of putting away bath toys with this great frog.

Cleaning does not have to be torture for kids, 
teach them early that helping can be rewarding and 
fun. Now go make a mess!!

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