Sunday, September 18, 2016

10 Vegan Kid Lunch Ideas with a PlanetBox

In the last post I shared how and why I chose the PlanetBox as my favorite eco-friendly lunchbox, now I'm going to share with you some of our favorite vegan lunch ideas as shown by the lunches Avery has had in the following weeks since going off to kindergarten. Let's take a look...

Now before we get started, one important aspect of making these vegan lunches pack a healthy and yummy punch is to stock up on lunch-friendly favorites when I go to the grocery store. So each week I load up first on fruits and veggies...

Then on gluten-free snacks like crackers, pretzels, and veggie chips.

These are must-haves for filling the cool trays of the PlanetBox.

Oh and we always have to have a little sweet treat for the little small tray, here's some of our favorites:

Now that you know what we stock up on, here's some of our favorite vegan kid lunch ideas:

No time for the video? Here's a breakdown of each meal...

1. Main dish: Enchilada Pasta The rest: baby carrots, organic tortilla chips, fresh
strawberries, and a vegan marshmallow and Little Secrets candies 

2. Main dish: Homemade Grilled Cheese with Daiya Vegan Cheddar Cheese on
gluten-free bread The rest: Lentil Snaps Tomato Basil (they call them "Pizza Chips")
 grapes, apple slices, and a date

3. Main dish: Cheese Quesadillas with Food for Life Brown Rice Tortilla Shells
and salsa. The rest: organic corn chips from Trader Joe's, refried beans, grapes
and blackberries, and KinniToos gluten-free vanilla sandwich cookie
4. Main dish: Daiya Alfredo Cheezy Mac The rest: Half of a Spring Hill Farms
Tofu Veggie Burger
, peas, apple slices, and a
Hail Mary Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Merry Bites

5. Main dish: Corn tortillas and hummus The rest: Rice Thins, baby carrots,
grapes, and a vegan marshmallow

6. The main dish: Chipotle leftovers! The rest: organic corn tortilla chips,
apple slices, grapes, and a handful of Lily's stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

7. Beyond Meat's Beyond Chicken Strips (aka Veggie Nuggets to the girls) 
with BBQ sauce, On the side: sweet potato fries, orange slices, 

8. The main dish: Master Wok leftovers (local Chinese restaurant with tofu,
veggies, and rice) The rest: grapes, Rice Thins veggie crackers, strawberries,
Hail Merry Salted Brownie Merry Bites 
and a few Little Secrets Dark Chocolate candies
9. Main dish: Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on gluten-free bread with SunButter instead of peanut butter The rest: cherry tomatoes, Gratify gluten-free pretzels organic raspberries, and some Little Secrets candies
10. The main dish: Gluten-free spaghetti The rest: organic green beans,
Lentil Snaps Tomato Basil, apple slices, Hail Merry Salted Brownie Merry Bites
and a few Little Secrets Dark Chocolate candies

So there you have it, our favorite vegan kid lunch ideas with the PlanetBox! See anything that looked yummy? Or do you have any vegan lunch ideas? Post below. Happy lunch making! 

My Favorite Eco-Friendly Lunchbox

About a month ago before my oldest daughter went off to kindergarten I had some moments of panic, not necessarily because of the curriculum she’d be learning about, the friends she would make, or even the fact that she would be gone all day...I was most stressed about her school lunch that I would be packing for her. Being gluten-free, vegan and as green as I can be, the thought of traditional lunches brought from home with their baggies, plastic containers, and not-so-healthy food choices made me worry and can I do it? Can I pack a healthy, vegan, lunch for her in an eco-friendly way? 

In the years prior when she had attended preschool, I was used to packing a snack for her which had a simple formula: fruit and gluten-free snack (crackers, pretzels, veggie chips, etc.). I used a simple stainless steel snack container that was divided into two sections, which was easy enough. But the thought of a packing whole lunch  that she would be eating on her own (without me to open the containers, warm it for her and make sure she ate all her veggies!) left my head spinning.

So as I do with any new life change that’s stressing me out, I started researching what kind of containers or lunch box could I use that could be both eco-friendly and easy for her to use. I didn’t want her fumbling through 10 little mini containers but I also didn’t want her using Ziploc bags, which I rarely if ever use because I can’t bear the thought of just throwing them away after just one use. It wasn’t long into my search that I kept finding the same product again and again, a PlanetBox

These are cool stainless steel lunch box trays with sections that can keep food from touching. Even better the lunch boxes and be paired with a lunch bag which the lunch box fits inside just like a laptop, a waterbottle, and even fun little magnets to decorate the lunchbox.  After showing it to Avery and we both fell in love.  From there I reached out to the company and they sent me one to try, and since then I am hooked...and I’m not even the one who uses the lunch box! 

Check out more in this week's video:

The specific PlanetBox lunchbox I use is called: Rover which contains 5 sections within the lunchbox, as you can see one big section, medium sized sections and one little section (which we’ve deemed the “dessert section!”). The lid to the lunchbox is always attached as well, which comes in handy for busy and sometimes forgetful kindergarteners!

We also got the “Power Purple” Carry Bag for the lunch box to go in for easy carrying to and from her classroom to the cafeteria and then back home again. 

And we got a “Perfectly Pink” Bottle Rocket Water Bottle. These may just be my favorite eco-friendly water bottles to date. We haven't had any trouble with leaking or spilling!

And to be the icing on the cake, Avery picked out the “Rainbow” Magnet Design set. 

In case you’re wondering, the Rover Planet Box on it’s own costs about $55. Add in the carrying bag, and water bottle (which are discounted if you combine it all in your order) it’s about $87. Which I agree can be quite a shock to purchase, but considering the money I’ll save by having Avery bring her lunch instead of buying it all school year helps justify the cost already. But on top of that the PlanetBox also has a 5 year warranty so if you can imagine all the the other containers, baggies, and lunchboxes you would buy in the span of 5 years if you used other lunch box/snack materials, I’d guess $87 is not too bad. 

On top of that, the price is worth it for all the great features it has. My favorite is the fact that I can include 5 types of food in perfect portion sizes all in one compact lunchbox. This helps to ensure I pack fruits, veggies, plant sources of protein, whole grain snacks, and a little sweet treat all together for Avery. Not the simple PB&J with ziploc bag of chips I remember throwing together on my own as a kid.

I also love that she’s learning that a meal needs a little balance to it. A little veggie, some fruit, my main meal, and something small for dessert. That’s how a lunch should be. It’s funny now because if I try making her lunch from home with just one or two things she says, “Wait!” where’s a fruit we can have or do we have a veggie with this. And you can bet I always have to include that little dessert at the end!Any other time I would try to pack that quantity and variety of foods with the traditional green containers I’ve used before usually equals one heavy load, and that’s just for lunch. So that fact that such a variety of foods can be packed together easily and eaten with ease (not having to rely on a 5 year old to open each container and keep track of all the lids) is such a relief. 

Beyond that I also love that it’s certified non-toxic, BPA-free, and free from lead and phthalates too. Even better, no trash is created with her lunch. I love that packing this lunch for her each day doesn’t contribute to trash and bags being thrown into the landfill, that seem so simple when you just look at it day to day, but add that up once a day, each day of the school year, and each year of the child’s education and you end up with a pretty big mound of trash, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Read more here

One last secret perk of the PlanetBoxes is that they are just plain fun both for the parent and the kid. As our routine works now, Brandon and I often end up making her lunch for her the night before or in the morning before school, after getting ideas from her what sounds good for us to include. We both just kind of love the way the food looks, all cute and colorful in it’s little containers. It’s kind of like wrapping presents for your kids on Christmas Eve. We think, “Oh what if we include this? Oh she’d love it if we ______!” Then each morning after Avery wakes up I usually show it to her to get her approval or make last minutes swaps. The look on her face sometimes is truly like Christmas morning, “Wow, those grapes look so cute. Or “Oh crackers plus Dad’s famous grilled cheese...yes!”. Okay maybe we’re just food-prepping nerds, that love a good homemade lunch but either way, it’s made our food prepping time much more fun than I planned. 

She always has to taste test it in the morning! 
I suspect that as Avery gets older she will be much more involved in the making of her lunches each day, but for the time being, we’re doing good to get dressed and eat breakfast before heading out the door, so I’ll tackle that one another time (hence the reason why I have her help me start getting it ready the night before). 

So there you have it, our new favorite eco-friendly lunchbox: The infamous PlanetBox.  Truly it lived up to and exceeded all my expectations for the perfect lunchbox for my daughter and I can’t wait to get some more for the rest of my family.   What’s your favorite lunchbox? Have you tried the PlanetBox? Share your thoughts and ideas below. And stay tuned for my next post where Avery and I share our favorite vegan lunch ideas using the PlanetBox!

Disclaimer: PlanetBox sent me this lunchbox for free in exchange my for my review of it. The opinions are expressed are my own.

Be sure to check out my next video and post about our "10 Favorite Vegan Kid Lunch Ideas with a PlanetBox"...

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to Update Fireplace Brass

I don't know about you, but brass just isn't my favorite look. Nothing seems to date my living room fireplace more than the lovely brass trim that outlines it. But since replacing the windows and doors completely was not an option, I was looking a creative way to update what I already have. Then with a little searching online, I found the perfect solution...

Rustoleum's High Heat spray paint! Really that's all there is to it with this home project, you simply spray paint over the dated, old brass and then you get a nice black updated fireplace. 

So here's a little Before picture to let you see just how my brass was looking...

Let's take a look at this week's video to see how I made it happen...

No time for the video? Here's a breakdown of the project. Starting first with the supplies you'll need for this project:
Now that we've got all our supplies, let's get started with the steps involved to make your brass go buh-bye!

1. Clean your fireplace. It had been awhile since we've last had a fire and so I started by cleaning out all the ash and soot. I scooped it up and put it in a trash bag and then followed up with a glass cleaner to clean the windows and brass. This way when I spray painted, I would be painting brass, not dirt. 

2. Prep the area by taping and covering everything that you don't want to get spray painted. This is by far the most tedious part of the project, but it's one you don't want to skip. I used a plastic drop cloth and cut sections of it to cover the fireplace stone. Then I put painter's tape in the smaller windows. 

As you can see, I also used paper in the windows to save me from taping each inch of it. I also made sure to extend the drop cloth all the way over my carpet and the couch area near by just in case.

And since my brass was not only on the outside of the door, but also the inside...

 I ended up taping off and covering the inside of the fireplace and the inside of the doors that way I could spray paint the inside and outside all at once.

3. Open the windows, turn on a fan, and get the air flowing!  Ideally I would be using a super-green product without chemicals, or strong odors...but since I don't know of one that exists, this Rustoleum spray is all I've got. For me it still wins in the green department because of it's low price and the fact that I don't have to throw anything away, instead I just use what I already have. But one con to the spray is the smell. So take my advice and get all the air circulation you can get so you don't have to breathe the fumes in. I had to open my front door and back door, turn on the ceiling fan in the room, and make sure my kiddos were out of the house. 

4. Time to paint, the easiest and most fun part! Finally all the hard work is done, it's time to get to spraying. As you would with any type of spray paint, you'll want to shake it up ahead of time, spray close to the surface but not too close to make it puddle up or drip. 

I started on the inside of the doors and then moved to the outside, getting a steady spray all around the fireplace.

From there I let that dry for 15-20 minutes and then did a second coat.

Then for good measure I gave it a 3rd and final coat 15 minutes after that. Then I let it dry for 20 minutes. 

 5. Time to take off the tape. The paint dries fairly quickly, so 20 minutes after the final coat I started taking off the tape, plastic and paper. You may need to use your fingernail to scrape off any extra paint that may have seeped in from the tape or use the glass cleaner once more to make the new brass-free fireplace shine.

Then you're done! Here's the finished look of my now, brass-free fireplace.

It was so simple and easy to do it left me kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

So there you have it, how to update your fireplace brass. For me, this was just part one of my "fireplace makeover." Once I finished painting the brass I then tackled painting the stone which I did with a whitewashing technique using chalk paint.  Here's how that turned out...

Along with a final shot of the fireplace with our new hardwood floors (goodbye to you too carpet!).

I love how much brighter and more modern it all looks now.

Click here to learn more about how I did the whitewash technique. 

Do you have a brass fireplace? Have you ever painted one before? Share your experiences or questions below. See you next week!

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