Archive | March 2013

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs

By Karen Hendricks

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s still fun to decorate Easter eggs whether you’re 3 or 93. With two teenagers and one almost-teenager in my household, there’s a lot of growing up, going on. As much as I enjoy and celebrate my children growing up, notching accomplishments and developing character, there are aspects of childhood left behind that I dearly miss–such as making craft projects together, coloring, painting and drawing. So the wonderful, annual ritual of making Easter eggs brings us back together for a “craft project” of sorts once again.

We have had fun making a wide variety of Easter eggs through the years, but one of our favorite methods is tie-dyeing Easter eggs. The colors are brilliant, each egg’s pattern and coloring is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to tie-dye… So it’s a winning formula.

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs:

You will need: food coloring, vinegar, paper towels, foil and hard-boiled eggs

1. Protect your work surface with newspaper. Tear off a piece of foil that’s slightly larger than the size of a paper towel. Place a paper towel on top of the foil. Pour a few drops of vinegar (3-4) towards the middle of the paper towel. Put 8-10 drops of food coloring in the center area of the paper towel, allowing some of the colors to overlap slightly, spread and mix.

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2. Place a damp egg on the paper towel and very gently, press the foil around the egg until it is wrapped.

3. Carefully peel back the foil and towel and place the egg on a clean paper towel or a stand to dry completely. You can usually color 3-4 eggs with the same foil/paper towel before the colors muddy and/or the foil becomes worn. You can vary the effects, the color combinations and the folds in the foil.

The end results - eggstraordinary!

The end results – eggstraordinary!

Tip: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don't get stained.

Tip #1: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don’t get stained.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Show us your Easter eggs! Snap a photo (or two) and upload them to our Facebook page to share your family’s creativity.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful spring season and a Happy Easter! 

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Living With Lyme (Part 1): What you May Not Know About Lyme Disease

By Mary Ann Filler

Just a little over a year ago, I thought that a person infected with Lyme Disease presented with a bull’s eye rash that could easily be treated and cured with a round or two of Doxycycline. My perception of Lyme changed in December of 2011 when I was diagnosed with the disease.

After educating myself about Lyme Disease, I realize that my symptoms began and progressed over a 6-year period prior to my diagnosis. My symptoms included knife like headaches, vision disturbances, dental issues, sinus infections, chronic bronchitis, a heart arrhythmia, neck and back pain, hip pain and chronic fatigue. About three years prior, I had a blood test that apparently ruled out Lyme. I now know that the blood test is not very accurate and that Lyme Disease is a clinical diagnosis.

A month prior to my diagnosis, I knew that something was desperately wrong. Every muscle in my body was firing, and I had extreme joint pain that traveled from one joint to another. It was like having the flu, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis at the same time.

I went to my general practitioner and he ordered a lot of blood work including a Lyme test.  This time, my Lyme test was positive.  That meant that at some point I was bitten by a tick (ticks are the main vector) and infected with the Lyme bacteria,  B. burgdorferi.

Unfortunately, when my blood test was negative all those years ago, it never occurred to me to look any further in to the disease.  However, after diagnosis I began to diligently research and read anything I could find relating to Lyme disease and treatment.

What did I discover?

 LYME DISEASE IS A POLITICAL DISEASE

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not even recognize the existence of Chronic Lyme Disease and the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) is in agreement.  However, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) validates those of us who are suffering with the chronic form of Lyme Disease.  As a result of the discrepancies in beliefs between the CDC, IDSA and ILADS, many medical doctors are not aware of how late stage Lyme can manifest in a patient’s body.

I have read accounts of people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on expensive and inconclusive diagnostic procedures only to be dismissed by their medical doctor and referred for psychiatric help.

THE BULL’S EYE RASH IS PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF LYME INFECTION

Well-informed doctors will treat patients who present with a bull’s eye rash, erythema migrans, without waiting for a blood test confirmation.  Unfortunately, less than 50% of people recall either a tick bite or a rash.  In addition, while the bull’s eye rash is considered classic, atypical forms of rashes are actually more common with Lyme Disease.

Years ago, I had an oval-shaped raised red rash that took quite a while to clear up.  I remember looking at it and thinking that it wasn’t a bull’s eye shape; I dismissed it as a spider bite.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

One version of a bull’s eye rash – Credit: Wikimedia Commons

THERE IS NO ACCURATE DIAGNOSTIC BLOOD TEST FOR LYME DISEASE

 The current standard for diagnosing Lyme Disease involves a 2-tier blood test.  The first test administered is a screening test called the ELISA.  The second tier test, the Western Blot, is only performed if the first test is positive and is used by many medical professionals as a confirmation of diagnosis.

According to ILADS, the ELISA screening test is unreliable.  The test misses 35% of culture proven Lyme Disease.  The Western Blot, is also inaccurate as 20-30% with acute culture-proven Lyme Disease will test negative.  In addition, the longer a person has been ill, the less likely they are to test positive as the antibodies that we produce as a result of having Lyme Disease decline over time.

Lyme Disease should be diagnosed clinically!

TREATMENT PROTOCOLS FOR LYME VARY GREATLY

 Once diagnosed, getting treatment for Lyme Disease presents another problem.  Since the CDC does not recognize the existence of Chronic Lyme Disease, some doctors will give a few weeks to a month of antibiotics and claim that a person is cured. Perhaps if the disease is caught in the early stages, this may be true.  However, for those of us who have a later stage of the disease, a couple of weeks to a month of antibiotics will not provide much relief.

The treatment protocols for Lyme are as numbered as the symptoms that manifest in each person.  “Lymies” and their advocates must decide the best treatment protocol on an individual basis.  Treatment is not a one size fits all process, and in many cases patients must go “off the beaten” path to find help.

LYME DISEASE IS ALMOST ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY ADDITIONAL TICK BORNE DISEASES

I had never heard of Babesia, Bartonella or Ehrlichia prior to my Lyme diagnosis.  These bacteria, also known as co-infectors, are found in critically ill individuals who also suffer from B. burgdorferi, the Lyme bacteria.  These co-infectors may be responsible for persistent and chronic cases of Lyme.

Credit: istockphoto.com

Warmer weather on its way… Credit: istockphoto.com

As we approach the warmer months of the year, we will all be spending more time outside.  For my next few blog posts, I would like to address issues relating to Lyme Disease.  My hope is that you will educate yourself about this potentially devastating disease, not only for your own benefit, but for your family and friends. There is no question that early diagnosis and treatment is much more effective than the treatment for the chronic stage of the disease!

Do you know anyone who has or suspects they have Lyme Disease?  Please share your thoughts and experiences!

March Madness!

March Madness - Let the Games Begin!

March Madness – Let the Games Begin!

By Ruth Topper

Do things get a little wild and crazy around your house in March?  If so, maybe you have a little March Madness going on!  You may be wondering (if you aren’t a big sports/basketball fan)… What is March Madness anyway?

Here they are - filling out their "Brackets"

Here they are – filling out their “Brackets”

Well, it is basically a tournament of the best college basketball teams across the country.  Prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament (also known as “March Madness”), each conference has its own tournament or conference champion who advances to the NCAA Tournament.  The teams who end up in the tournament are a mixture of conference champions, automatic bids and at large bids.  The colleges represented range from big names like Duke, Michigan and Michigan State, Notre Dame, North Carolina and North Carolina State, etc. to lesser known schools like Bucknell, Valparaiso, Gonzaga and Butler.  All I know is that excitement hit my household this past Sunday, March 17 when the sixty-eight teams going to the tournament were announced!   As soon as these teams are decided upon, basketball fans across the country go crazy!  They run to print off a “Bracket.”   This “Bracket” lists all the teams that made it to the tournament and who they are playing in the opening game.

Now the fun begins!  Basketball fans begin to do “research” on the teams to try & figure out who will win each game and move on in the tournament.  The idea is to narrow your “picks” down to the “Sweet 16”, “Elite 8”, “Final 4” and of course choose the two teams that will eventually play in the Championship Game.  These fans take this job very seriously.  Pools spring up in the workplace and lots of water cooler and dinner time discussion takes place as everyone considers the various teams, players, coaches, etc.  The joke in our family is that I can fill out the bracket knowing very little about any of the basketball teams and do as well in selecting teams that will win as they do after researching and agonizing over which ones to pick in every game.  The goal is to have the “Bracket” filled out by Thursday, March 21.

The kids fill out multiple "Brackets".  This is a "fun" one - meaning their favorite teams are winning!

The kids fill out multiple “Brackets”. This is a “fun” one – meaning their favorite teams are winning!

Rachel - showing off her brand new "Butler" t-shirt!

Rachel – showing off her brand new “Butler” t-shirt!

On Thursday, March 21 sixty-eight teams will have begun play.  After just a few hours of basketball play I start hearing moans and groans as teams lose and are out of the tournament or shouts of joy that a particular team is moving on!    The “Bracket” doesn’t stray far from the owner!  A highlighter will come out and if a team wins – they get highlighted.  (This is very exciting!)  If a team loses – they get a big X over them.  It’s really bad when a team loses in a very early round when that team was predicted to go to the Elite 8, Final 4 or heaven forbid – into the Championship game!  This could mean weeping & wailing – depending on the age of the fan!  (Yes, grown men have been known to cry – but not my husband!) This first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the highlight of a basketball fan’s year!  Multiple games are being played at the same time on several channels, exciting highlights of games will be telecast from station to station and these sixty-eight teams will be narrowed down to sixteen teams by the end of play on the first Sunday of the Tournament.

The following Thursday, March 28, these sixteen teams start play again.  By Sunday evening the sixteen teams will be narrowed down to just 4 teams (“The Final 4”).  On Saturday, April 6 the Final 4 teams face each other and we will be down to the two teams who will play in the Championship Game on Monday, April 8.  The winner of this game will hold the Championship Title for the next year!

Seth dunking the ball!

Seth dunking the ball!

Why do I share all of this with you? Well…basketball has become a favorite sport in my house.  All three of my kids (including my daughter, Rachel, who has a thing for Butler – not sure why) & my husband love watching basketball and shooting hoops (or ballin’) either outside in the driveway or with the mini hoop in our basement.  They love to talk about their favorite teams, the players, their “moves,” the “ref” calls and speculate who will come out on top of each game.   Frankly it is the only topic of conversation going on  right now in my house!

So…..what does March Madness mean to you?  Who is your favorite team?  Who are you picking to win the Championship Game? My pick is…

The Florida Gators winning over Gonzaga in the Championship. You heard it here first!

“The Healing That Chronic Pain Brings: Part 1 ~ Hidden Blessings”

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

Despite the smile on my face, being laid up is not fun.

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Do you know someone who is sick or battling an illness right now? Likely, you do. Everything from the common cold and broken bones to arthritis and cancer takes its toll on everyday lives. Each is difficult to deal with, and everyone reacts differently to pain and suffering. In the medical center where I receive treatment for back pain, a quote hanging on a banner reads, “We don’t value our health until we lose it.”

Once I was vivacious and active, and enjoyed running, hiking, kayaking and lifting weights. I worked with personal trainers and took fitness classes. My husband and I were on the go a lot – and working out was part of every day. We even made sure there was somewhere to run on vacation! I expected I would always be moving in one way or another, but 2 years ago my physical capacities and mental strength disappeared. Or so I thought …

One evening in December 2011, I said to my husband, “I don’t feel right. Something’s wrong.” That was the beginning of countless doctor and specialist visits. Diagnosis and choosing a treatment plan also involved multiple tests, x-rays, and scans. I battled endometriosis first. That disease, although not life-threatening, is extremely painful. Whereas each person’s pain level differs, it is not affected by how much endometriosis you have – rather by what it is doing inside your body.

Endometriosis spreads like wildfire and is very difficult to “stamp out.” Following a laparoscopic procedure to remove what could be seen, I endured a round of treatments to keep it “at bay.” Finally, a hysterectomy became necessary. Laparoscopic or not, that surgery can take up to a full year to recover completely.

Although endometriosis causes a good deal of abdominal pain, it can also have a “wrap around” effect and cause lower back pain. When my back pain did not subside several months following my second surgery, I had a new battle – to find out what was going on now.

Dealing with insurance companies, navigating our health care system, and being proactive about your care is difficult. Doctors are typically narrowly focused, and there can be little to no coordination between practices or sensible dissemination of information. You must research, and push your doctors to give you the care you deserve.

I learned I had a degenerative lower disc, an annular tear, and arthritis. So my battles began anew, and I started treatment programs and healing regiments to recover full use of my back and reduce my pain level. Only now am I beginning to feel a little better. I found out my disc tear will heal some (it can take up to 18 months), yet to what extent remains unknown. This means that my future holds hope for healing, but I don’t know what my lifestyle will be like.

Chronic pain affects many facets of a person’s life, and for us meant significant adjustments. I stopped working part-time and my husband works two jobs. We hired a housecleaner and ordered food through a grocery delivery service. Travel, even a short car ride, became too painful for me. Stress aggravated my condition. My husband rearranged his work schedule to drive me to outpatient procedures. We had no care for my son during these times, so he came too.

I was often exhausted – from battling daily pain, caring for my little boy when my husband was not home to help, and coordinating my healthcare. Even daily life became overwhelming to handle.

back painI felt very alone. It seemed others didn’t understand that my world had turned upside down. If I talked about it, I usually received platitudes or the “at least you don’t have cancer” talk – even judgment about my medication and treatment plans. I was ready to give up, and for a time went to a dark place within that I was not sure I would come back from.

Finally, one specialist convinced me to see a chronic pain therapist. This started my healing process. Over several months, and lots of pushing on her part, I finally emerged from my isolation and began reaching out into the world around me. She taught me how to reconnect with those who could be supportive; to let go of stressful, toxic relationships; and to make new friends and get involved in my community. She showed me how to embrace life again, and slowly my vitality began to return. That awakening also helped my physical healing which evolved to include massage, dance classes, and yoga sessions.

Reaching out and plugging back into life helped me. I am not completely healed, and still have bad days physically and emotionally, yet for the first time in over 2 years I have a glimpse of life on the other side of chronic pain. Hopefully, that will include more pain-free days and an active lifestyle. I am also able to look back at my physical pain and emotional despair, and see that although I experienced a trying time in my life, there were hidden blessings in the midst of my struggles. Ironically, dealing with chronic pain, and finding myself “off the merry-go-round,” has brought healing and clarity to my life:

*I know who my friends are. Unfortunately, there are few people who can handle supporting someone who is sick for a very long time. I am thankful for my best friends, Jen (our blog panel member) and Karen S., who have carried me through this ordeal.

*I can do more than I think I can. My husband says I get more accomplished in a day than women who don’t have chronic pain.

*I was forced to slow my life down and sit on the sidelines as an observer. One good thing this has affected is spending time with my son. Sometimes I worry about him dealing with the family dynamic of chronic pain, yet my husband is quick to point out how caring and empathetic he is at such a young age. I have been able to slow down time and watch him grow – inch by glorious inch!

*I discovered hidden talents. My doctors said no more running. This is hard for me to embrace (what, no more half marathons?!), yet I learned to dance which my doctors encourage to build core muscles and keep joints moving without impact!

*I have grit. It takes great mental fortitude to handle over 2 years of ongoing pain and still function with some normalcy!

Are you or someone you know dealing with chronic pain? Please share any hidden blessings you have found amidst the pain!

Coping with the empty(ing) nest: Step into your dreams!

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Image: Some rights reserved by Grand Canyon NPS

by Chris Little

In my last few posts I’ve been exploring adapting to the empty(ing) nest, that dicey time when you’re transitioning from being a mother with kids at home to a mother whose kids are off at college or otherwise on their own. I’ve written about the importance of reconnecting with your own dreams and desires, and about how volunteer work can help you engage meaningfully in your community outside your home, about how you might want to consider investing more in your work as your kids are home less and less. Now I’d like to explore the possibility that this transition time can be the time to start a new career entirely!

As your kids have grown older and begun to stretch their wings, of course you’ve grown into an older, wiser woman, too. Over the years you’ve learned some things about yourself, about what you need and what you love. But maybe you’ve had to set some of your dreams on the back burner so you could attend fully to the kids. Sometimes those dreams have evolved and changed over the years, as we’ve grown and matured.

Either way, now is the time to begin thinking about what you might do with your life, if you could do anything. What do you love to do? Can you begin to take steps to make that love your life’s work?

Liz trained to be a biology teacher in college. When she started her family she stayed home with the kids and got involved in volunteering for their schools. In her free time she stayed in shape by taking yoga classes, and she found she loved the way yoga made her body and mind feel. So as her kids have gotten older Liz has taken some teacher training classes and now teaches a few yoga classes each week. It’s not full-time, but it’s something she loves and looks forward to expanding into as the kids leave the house.

Deb did some freelance writing when her kids were at home, and picked up an adjunct position teaching English as a Second Language at the local community college when they were at high school. She found she loved working with her students, so after the kids moved out she went back to school for her master’s degree, and now she’s teaching full-time.

As moms who are “off the merry go round” we can find ourselves in a unique position as our kids leave the nest—we really have the opportunity to start a brand-new chapter in our lives. Sure, we may be a little sad about closing the chapter where we were home with the kids. But we can also be excited about writing this next chapter. Here’s how:

1. Look at your dreams.

Maybe you have a dream for what you’ll do in this next phase of your life. Or maybe the seeds of that dream are in hidden in your life right now. So take some time to think about who you’ve become over the years. What’s important to you? What do you love to do? What activity would you (or do you) do for free?

2. Lay out a plan for making them a reality.

This may take some time and energy, but you owe it to yourself (and your children and your spouse!) to put some thought into making this next phase of your life as rewarding as your child-rearing years have been. Ashley is taking classes so that when the kids leave home she can start a career as a counselor. Susan went back to school to learn massage therapy. Rebecca translated her love for cosmetics into a career as a Mary Kay rep. All are still available to their families. All continue to struggle to maintain good work-life balance. But all are negotiating this sometimes sad, sometimes surprisingly exciting time with optimism toward the future.

3. Step into it!

Remember, our goal is to raise independent kids who can manage their own lives, so if the kids don’t seem to need you any more, congratulate yourself on a job well done. But remain available for the times they stumble and need your help. And take a few steps toward making the rest of your life as rewarding and fulfilling as the last eighteen or so years have been!

So, what are your dreams for your empty(ing) nest years? What are you looking forward to getting into after the kids are out of the house?

 

St. Patrick’s Day Delights

By Jen Ashenfelter

Shamrock_leaf

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The corned beef and cabbage dinner, washed down with a pint of green beer, just doesn’t seem complete without Irish Potatoes. I do have Irish ancestry in the blood, but unfortunately I can’t claim this recipe as a family favorite passed down through the generations after surviving the Irish Potato Famine of 1845. According to Wikipedia, this confectionery gem covered in cinnamon and shaped like a little potato actually originated in Philadelphia over 100 years ago. Not Ireland! Go figure.

Our St. Patrick’s Day tradition started in 2008 when Christopher was in Kindergarten. The teacher of his after-school program made Irish Potatoes for the class. With no eggs or nuts in this candy, Chris could eat them! An instant hit, he has asked for them every year since that first taste.

Listen up all you St. Patrick’s Day traditionalists, there’s no Irish whiskey in this recipe. This is a family show–but if you stick around for a bit, you won’t be disappointed.

Irish potatoes

Photo Credit: pageneralstore.com

3 1/2 – 4 cups of confectioner’s sugar

4 oz of shredded coconut

4 tbsp butter, melted

1 tbsp vanilla

3 oz cream cheese, softened

Mix all the ingredients together. If the mixture seems too dry, add a splash of milk or 1/2 & 1/2. If the mixture seems too wet, add more confectioner’s suger. Shape about 1/2 tbsp into irregular ovals or potato shape. Roll into ground cinnamon. This will be a large batch for sharing with your “Irish” family and friends!

Ok, it’s time to get serious about our St. Patrick’s Day dessert. Buy a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream…and pick up some Irish whiskey while you’re there. Really–go now, I’ll wait. This recipe is serious business and comes from my high school friend Sue. I think she’s famous for it…at least pretty darn popular every March.

Baileys Irish Cream Bundt Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

Photo Credit: allrecipes.com

Photo Credit: allrecipes.com

4 eggs

1/2 cup cold water

1/2 cup Baileys Irish Cream

1 pkg instant vanilla pudding mix

1/2 cup canola oil

Glaze:

2 oz melted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 cup water

1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

Directions:

Mix all the cake ingredients together, blend well. Pour mixture into well-greased and floured 12-cup bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until done. Heat glaze ingredients until melted. Poke holes in the baked cake with a fork and brush warm cake with 1/2 the glaze mixture. Cool cake for 15 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack. When cake has cooled, brush with the remaining glaze. Serves 8.

What you do with the remaining Bailey’s Irish Cream is completely up to you.

If that wasn’t serious enough for you, then fly to San Francisco, drop into the Buena Vista, grab a seat at the bar, order an Irish coffee and enjoy! Or better yet, make your own…

Irish Coffee

Buena-Vista-Cafes-Method-Making-Classic-Irish-Coffee

Photo Credit: yumsugar.com

  1. Fill glass with very hot water to pre-heat, then empty.
  2. Pour hot coffee into hot glass until it’s about 3/4 full. Drop in 3 cocktail sugar cubes.
  3. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Add full jigger of Irish whiskey for proper taste and body.
  5. Top with a collar of lightly whipped cream by pouring gently over the back of a spoon.

Enjoy! What you do with the remaining Irish whiskey is completely up to you.

Eat in moderation. Drink responsibly. Designate a driver. Be safe and have fun.

Fun Links:

The Buena Vista Cafe, San Francisco

Recipes using Baileys Irish Cream

 

 

Lovin’ in the Lunchbox

By Karen Hendricks

Lunchbox staple--good old PB&J

Lunchbox staple–good old PB&J

Like the middle child, lunch doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. I try to instill a “good start” to the day with a healthy breakfast… and I focus on home-cooked dinners. But in between? Lunch is just as important!

A few months ago, I wrote about the challenges of packing healthy lunches for my kids in Think Outside the (Lunch) Box. Actually, it’s my husband who packs school lunches every day, God bless him. But we all need inspiration from time to time… the kids get tired of the same old sandwich routines, my husband gets tired of slapping PB&J’s together, and we all need to shake up the lunchbox menu. Several friends asked me to write about school lunches again to share more tips and recipes. So here goes…

Stuck in a rut? Shake up the lunchbox with these fun ideas:

  • Pack a chunky, healthy granola bar instead of a sandwich. I promise, the sandwich police will not get you. Who says you must pack a sandwich for lunch?
  • My daughters love packing “big salad” for lunch. It’s always an “everything but the kitchen sink” kind of project. Add a leftover chicken breast, sliced on top for protein. Or add a scoop of tuna salad, a sliced hard-boiled egg or “crab delights.” Plus lots of veggies of course and a little container of salad dressing.
  • Along the same lines, my kids love packing pasta salad for lunch. Pizza pasta salad is fun, with tomatoes, olives, green or red peppers, cheese and pepperoni. Add pasta and Italian dressing and voila!
  • Potato salad is also a great choice to beat the lunch routine blues. It’s a great, substantial choice for tiring gym days. Pair it with an apple and pretzels… yum.
  • Once in a while, treat your kids to a slice of leftover pizza in their lunchbox. But a word of warning: Their friends will be jealous and will ask their parents to do the same thing. You might get in trouble with other parents!
  • Greek yogurt is all the rage and my daughters love it. Packed with protein, it’s just as substantial as a sandwich. Pack one of the larger cup sizes with a container of granola to sprinkle on top, plus a piece of fruit, and they’re good to go.
  • My son, on the other hand, loves a hot lunch from time to time. He especially enjoys leftover mac ‘n cheese, spaghetti, or pasta casseroles. Invest in a small Thermos container and take time once a week or so, to warm up a leftover crock before school. It will stay warm til lunchtime and make your son (or daughter’s) day! Again, this is often a “meal of envy” around the cafeteria table so proceed with caution.
  • If your child likes tuna salad, chicken salad, etc… rather than making a sandwich, pack a container of the salad along with healthy crackers. Either dip the crackers into the salad or pack a plastic knife/spoon for spreading. Fun!
  • Purchase alternatives to bread: Create all-new “sandwiches” with artisan rolls, pita pockets, tortillas for wraps, etc. It gives your ham & cheese a whole new outlook.
  • Like PB&J? Mix it up a bit by trying PB&N (Peanut Butter and Nutella) or PB&M (Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Spread). These are fun for end-of-the week, Friday treats. I wouldn’t recommend this become a habit. 🙂

One of our family’s absolute lunchbox faves: Chicken Salad Sandwiches. This recipe came from a 1st grade cookbook my oldest daughter made as a Mother’s Day project 11 years ago. So I owe a debt of gratitude to her friend Christina’s mom for sharing the recipe–as I have told her several times through the years. It’s a winner! Part of the reason is the creative mix of ingredients–a tangy dressing, crunch of celery, sweetness of grapes, and toasty almonds. My children all know the recipe by heart and it’s a fun family project to mix it up together. It never stays in our frig for long.

All the ingredients come together for one awesome chicken salad

All the ingredients come together for one awesome chicken salad

The Best Chicken Salad Ever:

(*All amounts are to your liking… my apologies to my friend Ruth who likes concrete measurements)

Chicken breast, cooked and cubed (Hint: As a shortcut, I often purchase the chicken at the deli counter. Ask them to cut 2-3 thick (1/4″) slices. They might look at you weird… I get it all the time. But if I explain what I’m using the chicken for, they usually end up saying, “What a great idea!”)

Mayo

Lowfat yogurt  (use  50/50 mayo to yogurt… usually about 1/3 cup each)

It's a wrap... chicken salad wrap

It’s a wrap… chicken salad wrap

Cut grapes (halves) – we prefer red grapes – or substitute chopped cranberries

Chopped celery, about 2 ribs

Tiny bit of chopped onion, if desired

Sliced almonds (Bake at 325 degrees until light brown for extra toasty flavor), about 1/4 cup

Dill and/or Parsley

Salt

Cracked pepper

Mix everything together, tossing lightly. Enjoy!

If you have elementary-aged children, there are so fabulously creative lunchbox ideas flying around Pinterest these days. I’ve started a board on our Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest page called “Lunchbox Fun”–check them out!

Edible Muppets? Find this idea on our Pinterest page... Advanced lunchbox packing 301.

Edible Muppets? Find this idea on our Pinterest page… Advanced lunchbox packing 301.

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

Oatmeal: It’s What’s for Breakfast

Everything Goes Better with Peanut Butter

As always, feel free to share your ideas and strategies… how do YOU keep the lunch routine easy, healthy and delicious?