14 Ideas for Back to School Lunches That Are Anything But Boring

Check out Get Out of Your Lunchbox Rut

by Jill Shepherd Anderson at Foodie.com

I wonder how many times between now and the end of August I will start a post with “Can you believe it is back to school time?” Yet it is. And although some days I want summer to slow down and take its time already, other days (like today -WORD), I am ready for my kids to back at school STAT!

One of things I do NOT miss about school is packing lunches. I realize many of you probably have responsible children who pack their own lunches, but if I want my kids to have any sort of healthy anything ever, I need to be slightly in charge of the process. Unless carbs with a side of carbs followed by a sugar chaser is a healthy lunch.

I love this round-up of healthy and fun lunch ideas for when the back to school routine starts up again. Lunches that keep me from getting bored when packing them and lunches that keep my kids from getting bored eating them. Everyone is winning!!

What do you like to pack for lunches to get out of the lunchbox rut?

This post is sponsored by Foodie.com

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I have a Pinterest board titled “Just Great Ideas, Period” where I pin things that are awesome but I am not quite sure where they belong. It is full of amazing tips and tricks that make your life easier. It is one of my favorite boards.

Recently I stumbled upon an e-book that is basically that Pinterest board in book form. Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters is full of “just great ideas, period”.  And the best thing about it is that it gives you tons of uses for things you have around the house that you probably had no idea about.

For instance, have you ever thought of making a deep dish pizza with a springform pan? Speaking of pizza, have you ever used a pizza stone to make a giant cookie? Did you know you could use hydrogen peroxide to make “oxiclean” (and save yourself a bundle? And if you want to be “fun mom” this summer (I have a board for that too), did you know you can use baking soda to make invisible ink?

Creative Ways to Use Just About Everything

Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters was such a fun read and I found myself saying “NO WAY!!” over and over while flipping through it. I kind of want to try something daily because there are so many things I never thought of before. Tara, the author, describes her book like this:

Are you tired of wasting your money on the latest kitchen tools and cleaning products? The things you already own can go the extra mile for you if you let them, saving you all those steps and keeping your money where it belongs – in your wallet. In Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters: Creative Ways to Use Just About Everything, you will find lists of 10 or more new uses for 44 everyday household items. Including everything from using your bundt pan to bake potatoes to making mini meat loafs in your muffin tin to using salt to clean coffee-stained mugs, this book is the answer to questions you didn’t even know you had!

Who doesn’t love saving money, time and sanity?

Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters just came out today!! And this week, you can get it for a steal. You can but it on Amazon for only $4.99 through the 17th (then it will sell for $6.99). If you want it as a PDF (which is how I do my e-books), this Mon and Tues, it will only be $2.99!! Wed- Fri, it will be $4.99 and after that it will be priced at $6.99

Also (said in my best infomercial voice), everyone who buys between 7/14 and 7/20 will get a set of bonuses:

  • 10 pages of printables (a cleaning checklist, a list of recyclable items, and an alphabetic index of all the recipes in the book)
  • Access to a 10-day Getting Started challenge during which they can win a $50 Amazon gift card

I don’t buy e-books that often because honestly I just rarely get around to reading/ using them. But I can honestly say that Coffee Filters to Cheese Graters will be a book I go back to again and again. For $2.99, you would be crazy not to check it out!!


Why We Don’t Do Presents on Birthdays


Well the title of this is a little misleading I mean on MY birthday we do presents. I like them on Christmas and Mother’s Day as well. I would even take one on Arbor Day if you insisted.

And we do give our kids presents. On Christmas and birthdays and as an occasional reward for not throwing a fit while running errands.

What we have stopped doing is asking for presents at our kid’s birthday parties.

First of all I am not a big believer in big parties every year. Even if you go minimal, they are expensive, and while I love to celebrate my child on their special day, I just don’t want to set the expectation of a Pinterest worthy blow out year after year.

I would love to say we have a method to how often each kid gets a big friend party but there isn’t really a rhyme or reason. Typically we try to do something with family either way. But friend parties are a little bit hit or miss. The last few years we’ve found inexpensive party packages to bid on at silent auctions so the kids have had more parties than is typical.

This year when Lily turned 10 and Hannah turned 8 they each got pretty big parties. And as I thought back to previous parties and all the presents the accumulated to add to their already overflowing toy piles, I had an idea. No more presents.

To be clear, they get presents from us. And goodness knows, there is no way to stop the grandparents, although we have been encouraging “experience” presents instead of “stuff”. My kids rarely don’t get the things on the top of their wish lists. But from their friends, we request no presents.

I know to some it may seem unfair and harsh, but I am desperately trying to teach my kids that more stuff won’t make them happy. Goodness knows it is a hard enough lesson for a grown woman to figure out. I would love for them to figure it out earlier than I have.

So instead of receiving, we started giving (and I’m not talking about those awful gift bags full of trinkety junk). We ask people instead of gifts to bring a donation. Not money because that is boring and as a mom I know how much kids love picking out gifts for their friends. Instead of gifts, they get to pick out something that will be donated to charity.

My kids get to pick their charities. I want to make it as meaningful to them as possible. This year, Lily picked a local food program that feed kids and her friends brought piles and piles of granola bars and juice boxes. Hannah picked the foster care agency our sweet baby came from and her friends brought piles of baby blankets and diapers. And then we make it a little date when we drop off their donations followed by a treat.

And you know what? My kids don’t seem to mind at all.


Are my kid’s deprived?

Five Inexpensive Makeup KnockOffs That Work For Me

Makeup Collage

I am not very skilled in the makeup department. So I get a little cheap when it comes to makeup. Partly because I don’t know what I am doing and so I don’t want to waste expensive makeup. Partly because I am just cheap in general. I think the politically correct term is frugal.

So often when I hear of an expensive brand that everyone swears by I go scouring the internet to see if there is a cheaper version that still does the trick. If enough people are talking about it then it must be true. And then I go and spend under $10 to find out if it is true for myself. 9/10 times it is.

I am sure makeup junkies and experts will tell you, you get what you pay for. But my clueless self will just keep on paying for the cheaper versions and going about my merry little way.

Here are a few makeup knockoffs that are working for me lately:

  • Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel EyelinerBack in 2012 I sung the praises of Bobbi Brown Gel Liner . It was fantastic as long as my little pot lasted, which was actually a long time. But I was bummed it often dried out. And for the cost, it really should have been amazing from beginning to end. The Maybelline brand of gel liner were on sale one week and I thought I would give it a try. Dare I say I like this even better? It lasts just as long, goes on smooth, and doesn’t smudge. I will say the Bobbi Brown eyeliner brush is FAR superior than the one that comes with the Maybelline gel liner. I know it is pricey, but the precision is amazing. So save on the eyeliner, splurge on the brush.

$8 vs. $30

  • Milani Shadow Eyez: After this many years of wearing makeup the one thing I cannot figure out is how to apply eye shadow in any way that doesn’t make me look like a hooker. So I have switched to giant crayons like a preschooler. I love “Champagne Toast” and wear it almost every day. It goes on smooth (unlike a lot of cheap brands I tried), don’t smudge and lasts for the bulk of the day. I’d like to try layering, but I am sure I would mess that up too. So for now it is just me and Champagne Toast. I am comparing it to Clinique’s Chubby Stick which I have tried before because I honestly think it knocks Clinique out of the park.

$6 vs. $17

  • NYX Blush in Pinched:  Everyone knows the gold standard in blush is Nars Org*sm (keeping spammers at bay). But it is mucho expensive. But it gives your cheeks a very natural glow (rumor has it like you just had the big O). For a fraction of the price, and after MUCH research, I decided to give this NYX blush a try. I love it. It is a perfect pink/ peach blend with a tiny bit of a shimmer. And now I have a very natural glow about me.

$5 vs. $40

  • Maybelline New York Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer:  I have long lamented about the raccoon eyes God has blessed me with. Nothing I seem to do erases them and, while various products have helped, I am always a little bit unsatisfied by them. Things are either too cakey, don’t provide enough coverage, or make me look old. I had been saving up waiting to buy the under eye concealer that wins award after award, Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat. Granted these are both technically highlighters, but that just gives me more ways to use it. I need all the brightening I can get. I’m not saying it is because of the new concealer, but I keep having people tell me I look younger. I’m gonna pretend it is the concealer. 

$6 vs. $40

  • Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel: I have saved the best for last. I started using a makeup primer a few years ago because I like how it helps my makeup go on even and stay on longer. As I get older I need all the help I can get hiding skin imperfections. You can get the Smashbox Primer that everyone swears by, or you can spend $6 on something that isn’t meant for your face at all. Similar ingredients. Similar results. Fraction of a price. You don’t need much and it does an amazing job. If you are skeptical, google it. It really does work!

$6 vs. $35

I’ve spilled my secrets. Now what are yours? I always loooove a good makeup tip!!




Ten Uses for Coconut Oil

coconut oil

Coconut everything is all the rage. I love big flakes of raw coconut in my cooking. I gave coconut water a try and wanted to barf. And I have had a jar of coconut oil in my cupboard for about 6 months but never even cracked it open. The hubby has a mild coconut allergy so I have always been nervous about cooking with it. But did you know there are a ton of other ways to use it? I rounded up a few ideas for this amazing fruit (yes it is a fruit, not a nut)

  1. Makeup Remover: This was actually the inspiration for this post. I ran out of my usual makeup remover (I have been making my own for a few years) and didn’t have all the stuff to make more. I remembered I had read that coconut oil removes makeup so I gave it a try. Hands down the easiest makeup remover ever. Even tough mascara came right off. I now keep a jar in my bathroom.
  2. Lotion: Since it is already in your bathroom, you can use it on your rough spots. I use it especially on my elbows and feet and it makes everything incredibly soft. I even use it as a chapstick! Plus no weird ingredients (have you read the ingredients in lotion lately? Oy vey!!)
  3. Shaving: Shaving cream is stupid expensive. Sometimes I use conditioner instead, but that seems pricey too. Coconut oil to the rescue. It leaves my legs feeling AMAZING.
  4. Heal a sunburn: Of course the best thing is to not get sunburned in the first place. Bonus: did you know that coconut oil has natural sun protection in it? How cool is that? Anywho, if you manage to get yourself burnt (as I did last week) coconut oil has soothing and healing properties.
  5. Cradle Cap: Hannah had bad cradle cap. I think I used olive oil on it. But coconut oil would have smelled so much better. Simply massage into head, leave on for a few minutes and gently rinse with a warm wash cloth. Problem solved. 
  6. Oil Pulling: Have you heard of this? I am curious, but haven’t tried it yet because I am so afraid it is going to make me gag. Are you on the oil pulling train? It is supposed to be amazing for dental health, gum health, teeth whitening and tooth pain.
  7. Diaper Cream: Thanks GOODNESS I don’t have to worry about this anymore. No kids in diapers over here. WOOT! But I read that it heals diaper rash quickly and naturally. Give it a try.
  8. Cooking: Use it in place of butter or olive oil when sauteing, stir frying or even baking. And certainly stop using vegetable oil. It does better under high temperatures than most other oils. And I always worried that it would give things a coconut-ty flavor but it doesn’t.
  9. In Your Smoothies: Throw a spoonful in your smoothies! Coconut oil has been shown to reduce cholesterol and belly fat and boost metabolism. Who wouldn’t love that? Rumor has it, it is also yummy in coffee in the morning (I don’t drink coffee so I can’t tell you).
  10. Hair care: Use as a leave in conditioner. Or use on the ends of your hair to tame split ends or frizz. Don’t overuse or it will make your hair greasy. But this time a year we could all use some frizz control.