Jarred

Hey, homies! I’m finally posting again! Been home sick with a sinus infection that went untreated too long. Long story short, glad to be on the mend!

I’ve recently realized my favorite little buddy in the kitchen (aside for Jasper begging for scraps – yes, he’s a cat – and Hadley wanting to “help”). While I’ve probably mentioned the beauty that is a mason jar before, it’s time to declare my undying love for them, along with a bunch of things you can use them for. Come. Let’s chat.

We’ve currently got a few sizes of mason jars floating around, but our all-time faves are minis (4 oz.) and half pint-sized wide mouth Ball jars. They’re perfect for storage (well, duh, that’s why they were invented), but you might be surprised as to how many ways that we use them. And, guess what! We don’t jelly/preserve a damn thing in them. I think I’m kicked out of the club. (One day, my friends. One day.)

Salad dressing – The tiny ones are perfect for transporting dressing for lunch. Seriously, just pour in your favorite or do what we do: olive oil, some vinegar, and seasonings.


This also deters anyone from sneaking your salad topper from the fridge at work. Seriously, a couple of weeks ago, I observed someone who had forgotten their salad dressing perusing the row of dressings others keep in the fridge, as if shopping. So, bringing one serving of dressing is perfect AND super easy.

Dry spice mixes – We don’t buy spice packets for things like tacos, chili, and salad dressing (Dave’s a fan of Good Seasons, but he hasn’t quite perfected the recipe yet). So, we double or triple the recipe and store the rest in our tiny jars. I use a dry erase marker to make a note of what’s inside, then just spoon it out as needed.

Mmm. Tacos.

Lunch packin’ – This is especially an awesome one for toddlers. We send breakfast and lunch to Grandma’s for Hadley, so we’re lucky that she’ll hear stuff up as needed. Most days I’ll pack his whole lunch in a glass container with a silicone-lined lid, but I’ll often split it up and give, say, his peas and carrots or corn in a tiny jar. They’re also a great size to fill with applesauce. Just like those little plastic cups at the store, only eco-friendly, reusable, and you can control what goes in. It’s also super cheaper to buy or make organic applesauce in large amounts and dole them out.


Yogurt keepers – Similar to the applesauce idea, yogurt is a great snack that is the perfect match for mason jars. The little ones are awesome for the little guy (just check out that link!), and I use the slightly-larger size for my own. Again, cheaper, reusable, and easier than you’d think!

Snack ‘n dip – Half-pint jars are a great way to make a tasty, healthy snack alternative. Just put whatever dip you like in the bottom and the fruit or veg spears of your choice standing up on top of it. Carrots sticking in ranch, apples in almond butter, celery in peant butter. Really, the combos are endless, and make otherwise boring snacks something to look forward to.

On-the-go snacks – Speaking of snacks, the 4-oz. size is awesome for toddler treats on a little trip. Fill ’em with raisins, mini crackers, pretzels, or dry cereal and skip the baggie.


Serve up some fun – Use mason jars (plain or decorated) to serve appetizers or little snacks for company. I even like the idea of creating a salad or taco bar by filling separate jars with toppings and just scooping out your favorites with a spoon or fork. Simple, rustic, fun.

Bank it – Hee hee. While Hadley has an incredible robot bank for his millions (uh, no), Dave and I use a few jars, labeled with simple cut-out paper rounds on the top, to sock away for future goals. It’s cool to look and see our change filling up these jars that have super happy connotations. Just seeing the vacation jar brings a smile to my face.


Oh, and surprisingly, none are swear jars. Knowing me…one probably should be. 😉

Coconut oily goodness – Dave and I both use coconut oil for different (and wondrous!) uses. He keeps a tiny jar of it nearby to style his hair with, and I have some mixed with essential oils (namely, peppermint and an “alignment” combo) for occasional aches and pains. Like, now. On top of getting stupidly sick, I pinched a nerve in my shoulder/neck. *didn’t say I was smart*

Decorating – Pinterest has a million awesome decor ideas using mason jars. I used the large ones to display fruit skewers at Had’s second birthday shindig and they provided some “height” and purtiness (totally a word) to the table. I’m dying to try one of the painted jar crafts, too!

Gifting – This is a great tip that I hope to use for the holidays, but you can use it all year long. Fill a pint jar with some candy, a favorite product, or something homemade, like granola or a “recipe in a jar” layering dry ingredients, and tie on a tag (I suggest printing something quirky/dorky like “we mix you a merry Christmas!” for a recipe mix). Embellish with ribbon or raffia…or don’t. Either way, the jar acts as a beautiful presentation, so you may not even have to put it in a gift bag.

Flower “vase” – Looking for a no-nonsense, sweet, rustic alternative to those flower shop vases? (Sometimes they’re okay, but mostly outdated or too frilly-looking.) Well, mason your vase game! The cool thing is that you can split up a mixed bouquet and use various sizes of jars to create a tiered, layered look. 


Holding collections – We have one jar that stores rocks and sticks that the little guy “collects” on walks. I’m sure that, as his “collections” grow, we’ll be splitting them up into organized items, too. And, not only does he feel that the things he finds are validated in their special containers, but they look cool all lined up. Which I can’t say for most of his toys. Ahem.

So, that’s just some of the ways we use our beloved little jars! Do you have any awesome ways that you utilize them that you’d like to share with the class? Go ahead in the comments!

Gotta Stay on Top of My Life, Gotta Stay on Top of My Life

Is it just me, or is September kind of like January’s nerdy kid brother? Given all the back-to-school craziness and a return to “normalcy,” I tend to be confronted with the fact that I clearly didn’t do enough of a productive nature over the summer (even if I actually got a ton done). I flounder and stare face-to-face at a necessity to get my life in order. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. Teachers, parents…hey, even single or retired folks. Something about that chill in the air, am I right?

January’s the cool kids’ turn to pick some resolutions in an attempt to kick start some positive change. I see September as a quieter, yet tad more frenzied time to do the same. All those lists that people consider on January 1st are just as relevant on September 1st. Perhaps because they’re not under a microscope as much, they may not be as intimidating…maybe?

So, obviously I’m taking a few steps to “stay on top of my life.” (If you don’t know the Kids in the Hall already, I beg of you — check out the video. If you’re not into a bit of bloody violence or quirky humor, please, for the love of God, don’t click. Oh, and this was a huge part of my adolescence. Explains lots.) For a simpler take on this, I provide you with this hilarious (or, if you’re not in the know, ridiculously random and stupid) take…


Yeah. I made that. Ahem.

Back to the point. Given that September is equivalent to January, I thought I’d share a little list of the “resolutions” I’ve already started working on. Some are relevant to being back at school and having more structured time (which means focusing on using my time more wisely) and others are just good ol’ self improvement things.


For the record, I hate the word “resolutions”, too.

Bed by 10pm (on school nights). Dang nabbit, I’m doing this. Depending on the night, falling asleep by 10 is easier than…coming up with an analogy. Other nights, my energy level is higher and I’ll force myself to lay down, sans TV/cell phone/any screens whatsoever and read. It’s helped me get to the conclusion of the book I’ve been reading ALL SUMMER, so that in itself is pretty rad. It also makes me far less grumpy come 6am. Um. Generally.

Getting in some exercise. I’m not taking on the PXButtKickandLiftChallengeXXI or whatever, but I’m hoping that by incorporating variations of cardio/Pilates/yoga/core strengthening, I’ll be gaining some much-needed extra energy as well as *hopefully* toning up some of the squishy bits. I’ve already mentioned it, but Spark People is a great free site that provides a variety of videos at various levels (hello, beginner!) and numerous lengths. I’ll probably move on to other sites if these ones aren’t cutting it anymore, but for now they’re perfect.

I think one of my issues in the past is that when I get it in my head to do something — anything — I go gung-ho initially and have a hard time following through at ANY pace. Apparently it’s something my father did in areas of his life. When it comes to exercise, I’ve done this but also burnt out thanks to overdoing it from the start. So, I’ve started out by doing one medium-length or two shorter videos at a time, breaking a good sweat but leaving myself feeling energized rather than totally zonked. I’ll build on.

Oh, and I’m doing this 3-4 days during the week and 1 day on weekends, while keeping track a) the exercise(s) and b) duration of workout on our family calendar, partly for motivation and partly because I have the memory of a…of a…I don’t even know what.

Setting boundaries. This. Is. Hard. I fall into this trend of not leaving school until after 4:30 (our contract says we can leave at 3:30). And it’s not like I’m doing anything super important. I’m just fiddling here and there with stuff that can totally wait ’til the next day. So, I’m trying to leave by 4 (and earlier on Fridays, can you imagine…). This helps with the aforementioned exercise goal (fitting in the exercise, a shower, and getting dinner underway before the guys get home) and will help me stay focused during the day on what needs to get done instead of putting stuff off ’til the end of the day.

“Money money money mooonnnneeyy. MONEY.” (That stupid song that’s used for “The Apprentice.” Gah.) I’ve mentioned this lately, but I’m going to be paying close attention to my spending, writing down my purchases, analyzing where my cash is flowin’ and why, and researching some ways to keep it under tabs.

For those in the balcony seats, let me project: I’M NOT GREAT WITH MONEY. It’s tough to admit that, as an otherwise generally responsible adult who thus far HAS been fine with moolah. (And I don’t have massive student loans as an excuse like my awesomely-getting-on-top-of-it husband.) But, yeah. We’re looking at some pretty big goals as a family and if I don’t focus on this area of life, it’ll be my fault. Not cool.

Thank goodness for cool, approachable sites like Our Freaking Budget. We also glean some good advice from Dave Ramsey, so you don’t have to leave any “Dave Ramsey is a GOD; we got rid of $1 million in debt and now have $1 million in savings thanks to him!” spiels in the comments…unless you want to brag. In which case, go on with your bad self.

Oh, and I’m even considering taking part in one of those “zero spend” challenges. Maybe. We’ll see. I’m gonna go cry now.

Planning meals. This one will help with finances but I’m also highly interested in seeing if meal planning truly does help me a) cut back on food waste, b) save ka-ching at the super and farmers’ market, and c) make life easier. I’ll check back if it does and let y’all know. And I’m on the hunt for real food cook-ahead and slow-cooker meals. SO hard to find slow-cooker recipes without a can or bottle of something super processed to bring it all together (and undoubtedly make it yummy).

Simplify, as always. This is kind of a life goal that sits on my shoulder everyday. I’m pretty lucky, though. It’s more like the cartoon angel version on the right side rather than the naughty/devilish kid on the left side. So, there’s that. But, yeah. PURGE is the name of the game. A lot of our house is looking more and more like “us”, and I love that, but we still have storage spaces (and, heck, out-in-the-open spaces like the toy explosion storage in our living room) that need another once-over. The basement is also in dire need of straightening and hoeing out (who you callin’…) AND painting, so there’s that.

The thing that sucks for me is that, well, again…I’ve got my dad’s gene of needing the motivation before getting up and DOING something. Takes me forever to finish a project, but once it’s done, it’s done pretty darn well. So, I can’t say on Monday that I’ll plan on working on the basement Saturday. I may wake up Saturday feeling motivated to do something else that’s equally important. Or play with Hadley all day. Or sit on my tush watching the world whiz by (while the laundry’s going…because at least then I’ll feel like I did SOMETHING). Whatevs.

But, I think the only way to break this is to just DO. Like, we wouldn’t have gotten our recent front porch project completed if Dave hadn’t said, “Okay, I’m going to start this.” (Once he started, I had to finish, so I didn’t want to let his hard work be overshadowed by my laziness.) And, believe me. I did NOT feel like doing it, but when it was done…well, awesomeness ensued.

Live in the moment. Observing the changes in Hadley. Enjoying the humor that my students pump into random lessons. Looking for moments of simple joy and lucky experiences. Contacting friends to hang out or come over for meals or meet up for coffee. In general, remembering to savor the good and hold onto the bad momentarily. 

Hey, look! Seven things in my list. Whatchya know? So, what about you guys? Do you feel like this time of year is a bit like New Year’s with its feeling of “let’s start this season on a new foot”?

Or are you just psyched for pumpkin spice everything? Really, though. Who can blame you?

Pouch Disappointment

Yep, it’s a Friday Foodie post, but of a different ilk. (I love that word. Ilk. Ever since I heard Dave Foley say it on “The Kids in the Hall” back in the day, I thought, “That’s a word for me.” Dork, thy name is Megan.)

I got an email the other day from my hubby directing me to this site. I then went directly to the horse’s mouth, and eventually discovered that we had three of the aforementioned recalled pouches in our collection. Actually, I was kind of relieved that it was only three, but it’s always a little disconcerting when you look at the rest of the pouches you do have and think, “Hmm…should we be using them??”

Since he was clearly on a roll, Dave then shot me a link to this video. Be forewarned: There are bugs (or baby bugs, as it were). Gross. We admit that there’s a chance (conspiracy theorists that we are) that it’s someone trying to debunk organic foods, for whatever sinister reason…but it’s just too questionable to ignore. I couldn’t stand the thought of Hadley sucking on one of those things, unknowingly eating larvae or some other such nonsense.  

See, we’d gotten out of the habit of making baby food since, well, he’s hardly a baby anymore. *sniffles* He eats mostly adult food, cut down to size, which helps a lot since we no longer have to literally spoon feed him, plus it’s great for his coordination and pincer skills. Win, win.

However, this kid is a bit of a pig. I recall my big brothers eating constantly as teenagers, and I can’t help but think he’s going to be a tall glass of water just like them. He’d eat all day if you let him. Seriously.

So, to round things out, we throw him a pouch or two each day. My mother always comments that they’re not worth the money considering that he sucks them down in about fifteen seconds flat, but I know they tide him over and we always ensure that they’re organic and not full of sugars and additives. They just help.

After seeing this, though, I’m wary. We have some pouches on hand that I know I’ll keep using. But, it looks like I’ll be using them sparingly…then returning to making baby food. I guess it’s Baby Food 201 (vs. 101…get it? Like college? *ahem*).

And in the interest of full disclosure, when I looked at these links, I became distraught at the thought of not only figuring out what to give him for regular food everyday, but to put the time back into grinding down food into a thick liquid for him to slurp down in no time at all.

Yet, I let it mull in the back of my head and put aside my stubbornness (very challenging, I might add), and immediately set off to make a few servings.

Here’s how I roll…

Firstly, for storing foods for Hadley, we use a combination of mason jars (the tiny ones are getting to be a tad TOO tiny, but I still throw some applesauce or yogurt into them as a snack) and our smallest BPA-free glass-and-plastic/silocon-topped storage containers. It works for most things, but those pouches were just so damn easy, it’s hard to ignore the fact.

Warning: Highly technical description ahead. A friend of ours gave us an awesome gift that included pouches that you set into a plastic thingamabobber where you could shmush the baby food down a tube and into the pouch. Um. Easier said than done. (And it wasn’t that easy to describe, LOL.) As Hadley’s food got thicker, the wateriest part of the baby food would leak out and create quite the swear-fest from our kitchen. I’m going to revisit those pouches to see if there’s a way to just use a funnel and be done with it; it would suck to waste those, especially since the pouches look almost exactly like the Earth’s Best and Plum’s ones we currently purchase.

But, awhile back (before he was even on mush/solids), I got a package of green goodies to review for Green Child Magazine. One of the items was a pouch with a heavy duty zip top that you could easily funnel food into called the Little Green Pouch. So, I broke that bad boy out (after a bit of hunting) and tested it for realsies (I used them back in the day, but Hadley wasn’t at that “suck independently from a pouch” stage yet).

Here’s a quick recipe I threw together:

 
Sweet Potato Apple Pouch Provisions

1 Sweet Potato, peeled and diced/chopped (the smaller, the less time it takes to cook)
1-2 Apples, peeled and diced/chopped
1-2 c. Liquid (water, apple juice, etc; we used apple cider, but use whatchya got, and depending on how thick you want it, use more or less liquid)
a few dashes of seasoning like cinnamon or cumin (optional; I didn’t use anything and it was friggin’ delicious…good enough for an adult to take for lunch as soup, I kid you not!)





Throw everything into a pot and bring to a boil, then put a lid on it (ha!) and reduce the heat. Allow to boil until the sweet potato is super soft. Stir occasionally. (We cooked dinner, ate it, did dishes all while this cooked, so it was awhile but it’s not like you have to stare at the thing while it cooks.) There will still be liquid, but you want it.


Take it off the heat and use an immersion blender (mine was a Christmas gift last year, but you can find them under $20 and they’re WELL worth it!) to puree. I did this for a few minutes to ensure that it was all wicked smooth. Add more liquid if needed. Allow to cool for a few minutes.


Then, I opened up the zipper and used a funnel and a spoon to fill that sucker up. It’s sitting in our fridge, along with the leftovers (I can refill the pouch with it as needed; this makes 3-4 servings of 5-6 ounces, depending on how big your sweet potato is).


By the way, this was a small batch because I had to use up the sweet potato and I had that brain drain goin’ on that happens to us all post-5pm (okay, some days it’s post 5am). So, multiply it as needed. 😉


These bags are freezable, too, so if you’re using this type of system be sure to leave a little head room. I also make sure that I let it cool completely before shoving it in the freezer, just because I suck at science and am never sure if something’s going to explode in there. #aintnobodygottimeforthat #thatnevergetsold

So, we’ll see what time I can find to make some more of these up. It’s pretty obvious that I’m going to look into purchasing some more “Little Green Pouches”, too. I’m not sure what other veggies will work (it feels like forever since I’ve had to make baby food, although I could count it in months) — green beans can get a tad stringy and not break down all the way, but peas are perfect. I’ve got a squash just begging to be used, to hopefully he still likes that flavor. Just take some time to experiment! At least we know there won’t be maggots or any other unthinkable crap in it. Just my cookin’. 😉