School Lunches

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Boutique Worthy Without Breaking the Bank

If you've been following my blog you know that my middle daughter turned 4 today and is very excited about her upcoming Barbie birthday party. I am someone who loves to do every detail of event planning - the decorations, the food, the desserts, and even the outfits/accessories. I have a problem buying anything that I think I can make myself. However, I'm also cheap and anyone who does a lot of DIY knows that by the time you buy the supplies/materials, DIY projects are often much more expensive than just buying it. This is one project that I promise will cost only a fraction of what you would pay in a boutique. How do I know? Because I've sold many similar pieces from my own Etsy shop (I'm not currently on Etsy, but you can find Little Lollipop Designs on Facebook HERE!)

I love this project because not only is it cheap, but you don't need any special equipment. In fact, you'll probably find what you need in your kitchen - Freezer Paper! When I first read that you could make iron on stencils from freezer paper, my mind started spinning with ideas! I've used them for countless baby onesies, sports apparel, superheros, and now Barbie.

Freezer Paper
Printout or drawing of image
X-acto knife 
Shirt (or whatever material you are using)
Cutting mat
cardboard (or heavy cardstock) 

Step One:
Cut freezer paper so it is slightly larger than your image. You want to allow enough space around the image to protect your material while painting. Tape your freezer paper (glossy side down) on top of image on your cutting mat. If your image is dark enough for you to see you can simply use it as a guide to start cutting. You may prefer tracing it onto the freezer paper then cutting it out.

You can also use a cutter such as a Cricut for this project. However, I found that the glossy side doesn't stick as well to the cutting mats as well, so I usually cut with the glossy side up requiring me to first reverse my image. Some images don't need to be reversed but if you are thinking of doing any words you MUST cut the mirror image if cutting with the glossy side up.

Step Two:
Iron your stencil to your material taking care to make sure it is straight/centered.

Step Three:
Put a piece of cardboard or heavy card stock inside the shirt to keep the paint from bleeding through. This may seem like an obvious step but it is incredibly important. Without it, your project will likely be ruined. 

Step Four:
Using a sponge brush paint inside your stencil. I like to remove excess paint and dab around the outside of the image first and then brush inward (from the freezer paper to the material) to achieve a clean line.

Step Five:
Wait until paint is dry to touch and carefully peel off freezer paper. Make sure to keep cardboard inside until paint is completely dry.

This outfit cost me $10! The skirt was $6 (actually $5.97) and the shirt was under $4. (I had all the supplies I needed on hand.)

Of course I had to accessorize a bit so I used some beads I had on hand to make a Barbie necklace. I did order the silhouette and I stole a Barbie shoe to add a special charm.

There it is - a boutique inspired outfit for $10 and made during nap time. 

Barbie Breakfast

Last night while I was sharing my daughter's birthday treats for preschool today, I was also busy prepping the kitchen table for her Barbie Breakfast. It may look over the top but I just used what I already had around the house and the only actual cooking involved was simple french toast pops. It was surprisingly quick and easy which meant I could enjoy my morning with her and not running around cooking/cleaning.

I love this adhesive trim in the dollar section at our local Michaels. I use it on everything! I put it around the plates and around the cake stand. I've even covered lollipop sticks with it before for cake pops (MUCH cheaper than buying rhinestone cake pop sticks). 

I also always have tons of paper straws on hand (that I also pick up in the dollar section at Michaels) I also dipped the rim of a (very inexpensive) champagne flute in melted candy melts and then into sprinkles. I do not drink milk, but would almost make me want to. But not really... milk is gross. 

I finished up by making some miniature yogurt parfaits and cut some big flowers out of bread for french toast. After I toasted them I just stuck them on a stick and popped them into a cake pop stand. 

Here it is all ready for the birthday girl! 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Treats Fit for a Princess

This is my middle daughter. She is spunky, smart, and hilarious. She also has me wrapped around my finger and I can't count the times that my husband has pointed out how much I let her get away with. Frankly, I can't argue with him. It's a fact. The middle child does not lack attention in this family. In fact, I would say she the cream to my Oreo - and I love Oreos.

Photo by Birdsdream Design

Tomorrow she turns 4 years old. For months she has been talking about her first birthday party with her preschool friends. Her class is a small class of princess-loving girls. So what better treat to send then mini princess doll cakes? (Her birthday theme is Barbie, but it was incredibly difficult to find mini barbies that would work for these cakes. So for her birthday at school, they get Disney Princesses.) Here is my sweet little sous-chef mixing up her cake.

I did a fair amount of research to find the perfect dolls for these mini cakes. Most of them wouldn't work because of the shape of the dresses. The Magic Clip dolls work great because the dresses come off and the dolls are thin and easy to put in the cake. After the girls eat them the dolls can easily be rinsed off then their dresses can be put back on. My daughter already knows which princess she is giving to each friend and why. For instance one of her friends favorite princess is Tiana, but she knows she already has a Tiana figurine so she is giving her Aurora instead. :) 

You could replicate these using jumbo muffin tins, but I found the Pampered Chef 1-cup glass prep bowls are PERFECT!

After baking the cakes I simply cut the top off and flipped them over. I used a small round cutter to make a guide for the doll. I will say that my daughter desperately wanted to decorate the cakes. It was for her birthday and I know I probably should have let her. But I didn't. (I'm working on giving up control in the kitchen. It's hard. Really, really hard.) 

I'm just realizing that we don't have a cake to share as a family tomorrow night so tomorrow I am taking her shopping after preschool and then I think I will put her in charge of making her birthday dessert to share with the family. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Art vs Craft

Whenever someone asks what type of things I like to do/make I can never figure out how to answer. I love to cook, but I also love to bake. More than that I enjoy food styling and decorating. Then, there is food photography and, of course, eating! But outside the kitchen I love to create... stuff. It seems like such a simple question but when someone asks me what I do, I never know if I should refer to myself as a 'crafter' or an 'artist'. When I was in college studying studio art I overheard multiple teachers criticize 'crafts' so I naturally wanted my work to be more than crafty, I wanted it to be art. Well, frankly I never considered my work to truly be art either - it didn't feel meaningful enough to have that title. I felt like I was aspiring to be an artist but in the meantime worried I was just crafty. Maybe that seems silly, but those are the thoughts I have to this day when someone asks me what I do, which is I why I typically resort to "I'm a wife.. mom... daycare provider... oh, and I have a business out of my house making things." Great marketing strategy, eh? 

Furthermore, I have this room. It's always been full of piles of stuff. Call it what you will 'treasures', 'junk', 'supplies', 'garbage', 'projects'... it was a little (or a lot) of all of it. I am not an organized person. I actually love to organize, but it is absolutely impossible for me to maintain any sense of organization. But a few months ago I decided if I was really going to create a brand for myself and turn my 'crafts' into 'art' then I needed a space that allowed me to focus and be productive. So I began purging old projects, supplies, and junk until I only had what I really needed and had adequate space to store. I won't bore you with the details but it was A LOT of work. 

While I was up late one night organizing I came across a small cardboard box that belonged to my grandmother. It was a simple box that had little more than some trim, buttons, and needles (along with a single horoscope). I had kept that box for years, opening it once in awhile to admire then putting it away. I decided to finally make it into artwork that I could enjoy next to my sewing machine. So, at 2:30 a.m. I began gluing her old buttons, trim, and costume jewelry (that I've kept separately in a hot pink caboodle as long as I've had it) to a simple frame. There was one last piece in that cardboard box that my 3:00 a.m. sleep deprived mind thought was some sort of sewing machine part. I was so intrigued by it that I put it right in the middle as the focal point. I woke up realizing there was no way it could be what I thought it was and after careful examination (and some input from others - key, bottle opener), I still have zero idea what it is. Maybe that makes it more interesting. Maybe it looks foolish. It doesn't really matter. But, if you have any idea what it is, PLEASE leave it in the comments below because I would really love to know.

So is the piece 'art' or 'craft'? Let me know what you think. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Creating Me

Moms often talk about putting their own aspirations on the back burner and my experience is no different. I married my high school sweetheart when I was 21. I had my first daughter 9 months later. At that time I was still finishing up college studying studio art and interior design. I never sat still, but I also never felt like I was reaching towards my own personal dreams. Sure, I had dreams of being married and being a mom and I accomplished both of those before I turned 22. But I knew I had more to offer but still didn’t have a clear direction of what I wanted to do.

A couple years later I was pregnant with my second daughter and feared the cost of putting two children in daycare while working jobs that were unfulfilling. That’s when I made the decision to open an in-home daycare. Four years, and a third daughter later, that is where I am and I wouldn't change it for the world. The families are wonderfully supportive, the children’s laughter fills my days, and the time spent with my daughters is priceless. However, I once again found myself putting my own dreams on the infamous back burner. That is why January 1, 2015 was the day I decided to hold myself accountable for creating my own life. Obviously we are each responsible for creating our own lives, but for me it was about actually creating.  The thing is, to this day I rarely sit still. I am always making something (usually a mess) but I’ve always been making things for other people. I am now making the choice to create something new every day for me. I create things that will challenge me, help me grow, and create the life that I’ve wanted to live.  In addition to creating food and art I also have been working towards creating more meaningful memories. Learning how to put down the phone, close the laptop, and engage with my children to make simple meal prep, for example, a memorable experience. I have always enjoyed cooking but I have started challenging my own cooking daily with new ingredients and new skills. Also, after years of studying art there are still techniques that I’ve always wanted to try that I simply find too intimidating. I challenge myself to no longer be afraid of failing because the fear of never trying is far more detrimental.

I’ve had a ‘craft room’ but it’s typically been a guest room/storage room/piles-of-junk room/can’t-find-any-space-to-actually-make-anything room. I finally realized the importance of having an inspirational and relaxing space to work in, so I started purging all the little stuff I’ve been holding on to because ‘I could do something with it someday’, and made room to focus on the projects and techniques that I really want to learn. I refinished this old armoire into my dream piece for storing my craft supplies and projects. (Disclaimer – there is still a little more work to be done but I’m so excited about the progress that I couldn't wait to share!) Now, when I walk into my craft room, I can't help but have a little extra motivation.

When it comes to cooking, I have challenged myself to use new ingredients, to create restaurant worthy dishes in my own kitchen.  I find myself wandering around the produce aisle at Hy-Vee to find what new items I want to learn about. It’s not just about creating a dish with them but actually learning about ingredients. I have a true appreciation for food and want to use ingredients to create an experience for my family, not just a meal. Some people may consider it inappropriate to play with your food, but when I see my daughters rearranging their plates or meticulously stacking strawberries and fresh whipped cream on their waffles I know they are actually mimicking me and I can't help but smile.

(Read more about my kumquat vinaigrette here

Earlier I mentioned the importance of creating memories. Putting down the devices and really engaging in activities. This is undeniably my biggest struggle but it is often the most rewarding. With the arrival of spring I can't wait to create memories outdoors, but one of my favorite recent memories was just sitting down next to my three year old as she made her own PB&J. I didn't give her direction. I didn't tell her what to do. I just sat. I watched. I listened as she spoke to me. I watched as her beautiful bright eyes filled with pride in her own creation. 

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." - George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Grown Up Green Eggs and Ham

Aren't these eggs just beautiful? I have heard for years that farm fresh eggs make all the difference. The yolks are darker, the flavor is richer, and frankly they are just down right beautiful! I finally made a connection and started getting local farm fresh eggs. I can't get over the bluish-green eggs. They are by far my favorite. I know they came from happy chickens. 

With Dr. Seuss's birthday this week, and being a mom as well as a daycare provider, I look forward to trying out new 'Seuss-y' creations each year and I knew these beautiful eggs would be the star. I have no interest in adding food coloring to an egg and trying to convince my children to eat green eggs and ham. So, I decided to make my own grown up version of green eggs and ham. 

I started out making a spinach pesto. Having never made pesto before I decided to use a recipe and settled on this one. It was SO good! (I even made pesto the next day to serve with pasta for the daycare kids and I literally had to cut them all off after their FOURTH serving. SO GOOD!)

The final product was artisan bread, spinach pesto, crispy pancetta, and a farm fresh poached egg.

I don't think this was quite what Dr. Seuss had in mind when he was writing Green Eggs and Ham, but I do think he would have been very happy to eat it.

I also went a little over the top creating whimsical Seuss inspired lunches and snacks this week.

banana and strawberry stripes, pepperoni and mozzarella striped pizza,
"Thing One" gouda cheese, yogurt with blue sprinkles and a gummy "Red Fish", Oreo

Green plastic egg (filled with a treat) ham rollups, kiwi, "Sam I Am" gouda cheese, edamame, "green egg" vanilla yogurt with green candy, "green egg" candy melts and green candy.

Colored pasta, Lorax mini babybel gouda cheese, Barbaloot treats (chocolate teddy grahams
and marshmallows), salami rollups, Truffula tree tops (mango and strawberry),
trees (broccoli), "the last Truffula seed" (edamame).

Strawberry Milk with Truffula Tree feather straw

"B is for Basagna" - my daughter really wanted her basagna (lasagna) from dinner last night for lunch today which created a problem in trying to create a whimsical Seuss-y lunch. 
So, I decided to go with the ABC Book including a "Lion Licks a Lollipop" pink chocolate dipped blueberry lollipop, "Isabod is Itcy" teddy graham, "Four Fluffy Feathers on a Fiffer-feffer-feff" cookie, and an additional Zink Pink Drink (pureed strawberries and yogurt) which is technically from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

The Lorax - chocolate candy Lorax mustache lollipop
Truffula Tree - chocolate dipped oreo covered with cotton candy

Today is only Thursday so I have one more day left and I'm thinking a Horton Hears a Who lunch is necessary. I'll be sure to add it to my School Lunch page at the top. Make sure to continue to check back to see all my lunches for inspiration. 

 If you have any questions or Suess inspiration of your own, I'd love to know! Please comment below.