Día de Muertos

OrganizedBites.com | Día de Muertos

Scout’s PlanetBox “Shuttle” holds a peanut butter sandwich cut and stamped with a Sweet Spirits (Día de Muertos/Day of the Dead) Cookie Cutter/Stamp. The organic carrot and watermelon radish accents were cut with a tiny heart cutter and the large end of an icing tube. The circles and heart are “glued” on the sandwich with dabs of peanut butter. The groovy blooms are included in the Ateco Flower Cutters, and the hearts are from Wilton’s Mini Romantic Cookie Cutter set. The Shuttle is meant for smaller appetites and snacks. But, I find that layering chips or, in this case, Trader Joe’s Pretzel Thins and organic dried rose petals from Herbs by Diane underneath the sandwich allows me to pack a full meal for Scout in a more compact package. I know rose petals seem a little crazy for a fourth graders lunch. But, since finding a local, trustworthy source, they’ve become my go to for adding a shot of dye-free, colorful, fun.

Día de Muertos has always held a sweet fascination for me. Having lost four dearly loved, older family members in quick succession when I was barely in double digits, the idea of a holiday based solely on remembrance has always struck a tender note in my heart. I’ve been able to save my memories of my grandfather, great aunts, and father by holding them close and revisiting moments with them often over the years.

Two weeks ago, I lost my oldest brother to cancer. I was blessed to be able to be back home in Raleigh and spend precious time with him just before he passed. Thomas lived with passion and grace until the end, and kept his appetite and humor. That wicked sense of humor had me and my other two brothers in tears as we egged each other on weaving tales of family hijinks and dusting off long forgotten memories. And, I was struck by how often food played a key role in the stories…Mom’s banana pudding, stops at Wilbur’s on the way to the coast, Mama Wa making homemade mints, family dinners at the Ranch Motel. The days went by in a blur and with a succession of dishes dropped off by friends, supplemented with take-out from Thomas’ favorite joints.

Food and life and love and loss are so beautifully woven together. I can’t look at a Hershey’s with Almonds without catching a faint whiff of my Papa’s Old Spice. And, though we know it’s technically a flaw, no one in my family would dream of making a meringue pie that didn’t weep like Aunt Tene’s used to. I’ll never make pimento cheese without thinking of Thomas. I guess this is a big part of why I love to cook. It connects me to the people I came from, and let’s me share a part of them with Scout. It keeps me wired to the ones I love.

I’d enjoy hearing some of your food memories…feel free to share them in the comments. And, please click the button at the bottom to head over to Zoe’s Lunch Box to see what spooky delights she has in store. It’s bound to be a treat! But, come back tomorrow for a special post and details on how to score a discount from PlanetBox.

BBF-HalloweenHop-2014

Not pictured is Scout’s cloth napkin, peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes goes underneath her lunch, and a PlanetBox Cold Kit travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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A Boy Named Sue

OrganizedBites.com | A Boy Named Sue

I’ve lost a good chunk of my sense of humor since becoming a Mother.

When the opportunity to participate in this Shel Silverstein hop popped up, I was thrilled. I love children’s books, and wasn’t about to pass up celebrating the author of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Giving Tree”…then, a bit of trivia stretched and yawned in my noggin. Shel Silverstein was a songwriter, too. And, he had written a song that was wrapped up all warm and snug in my memory, Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”.

Game over. Lunch theme sorted and set. “A Boy Named Sue” it is. That song put me sitting in my grandfather’s lap as Johnny Cash performed on the black and white television set (complete with tinfoil wrapped antennae). My Papa’s Old Spice mingled with the house’s scent, a delicious blend of old books and Johnson’s Paste Wax. He rocked and chuckled as Cash played. Such a lovely memory. I haven’t heard the song in years.

Yesterday morning I whipped out this bento with pepper rings, lettuce, watermelon letters, and rainbow carrot slices (that look disturbingly like bacon to me), all in our Planetbox Shuttle. Scout came down for breakfast, and I googled boy + named + sue for a video to show her what her lunch was all about. While I tidied up, I listened.

The song played and the warm, fuzzy memories blew away. I had already realized my mistake before I spun around and saw Scout’s confused look. “Pretty weird, huh?”, I asked. “I don’t really get it”, she said, “it’s just a name”. “Yep, Scout, just like pink’s just a color…if a boy likes it, then it’s a boy color.” A girl’s name is just as good as a boy’s name. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Bam.

I told you my sense of humor had taken a hit. When I look at my daughter, my bright, mechanically minded, math loving, sewing, cooking, Batman obsessed daughter…I want the world for her. The whole world.  And, it’s going to take a massive perception shift to get that to happen for our kids. That includes all those innocuous little things that are so wrapped up in tradition and “well, that’s just how it’s done” that we don’t even recognize how “not funny” they are until you hear them sung to the rapt attention of your child that you’ve spent nine years guiding. Nine years of “girls are GREAT at math” and you’re free to love whatever color you want and play with whatever toys appeal to you. People are people whoever they are.

So while Scout ate, and I flew around signing her agenda and filling water bottles, we talked about how silly it is that the most embarrassing thing the dad in the song could think to do was to give his son a girl’s name. How wrong it was that a part of the son’s identity got him teased to the point that he became hard and combative. And, my heart ached for all the kids that get bullied because what they like doesn’t fall within certain perimeters, and for the kids too afraid to live the lives they want for fear of ridicule.

Honestly, I only started out to make lunch. I didn’t intend to take a stand and shake my tiny little fists. But, I’ve come to realize that if you don’t speak to your kids about your disapproval of something…you might’ve well of endorsed it. Sometimes, I think they learn more during our silent moments than they do from our speeches. And, it’s probably not what we want them to absorb.

Climbing down off my lunch box now to say, “Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein! I absolutely love most everything you’ve written.”

Here’s hoping that you’ll hop on over to Robot Squirrel and the Monkeys. As, she’s bound to have something fun and fabulous to celebrate Shel Silverstein. Click the button below or the link above…but, don’t miss her post!

BBF-ShelSilversteinHopBorder

Not pictured is Scout’s cloth napkin, peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes went underneath her lunch, and a PlanetBox Cold Kit travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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Deep Breath…We Have a New Doctor

Doctor Who, that is. Thirty odd years ago,  I first watched Jon Pertwee regenerate into Tom Baker on Public Television…my first taste of this odd rebirth of the titular character. Half a lifetime later, I’m clear across the country eagerly awaiting Twelve’s arrival with my daughter and a gaggle of Whovians. Heck, I’m blogging about it on the interwebs. Who’d have thunk it?

Scout and I have tickets to see the new Doctor’s first episode, “Deep Breath” at the local movie theater on Monday night. But, I’m kicking off the weekend with a “Lunch for Twelve” Blog Hop with some of my favorite geektastic bloggers, Edible Geekery.

If you’ve just materialized from Beneficial Bento, “Welcome!”. Please hit the hop button at the end of this post to continue on to see what wonders await at What’s in Our Lunch Bags, and hop around until you’re back with me. You’re not going to want to miss a single site. Trust me, he’s the Doctor.

OrganizedBites.com | Deep Breath...We Have a New Doctor

I packed Scout’s Planetbox “Rover” full of references from the Series 8 trailer. I was thrilled to see Madame Vastra of the Paternoster Gang, and can only imagine that Jenny and Strax aren’t far behind. I love that little potato headed fellow, Strax. He and the TARDIS are represented above as a couple of Trader Joe’s Salted Crunchy Peanut Butter sandwichs on Alpine Valley Organic Honey Whole Wheat Bread. The TARDIS cutter is part of a set from the Doctor Who merchandise over at Lakeland in the UK. Strax and the Dalek came from Warpzone Prints. (Though, ThinkGeek now has a similar set, and the shipping won’t give you a coronary.) I slid a layer of Trader Joe’s Cheddar Rockets under Strax to support the upper sandwich…and, to add a little crunch with lunch.

The organic cantaloupe Dalek is hiding amongst champagne grapes and organic raspberries, poised to exterminate. I couldn’t resist the berries. I’m utterly smitten with the dead sexy, red silk lining of the new Doctor’s coat, and had to include a splash of red in this lunch to echo that.

A honeydew T-Rex is perched atop a stack of organic Rainbow carrot planks. Rex’s tail was a bit to large for the space, so I bobbed it and flipped it around to look like he was swishing it on his rampage through London. At least, I think it’s London in the trailer…I’ve been arduously avoiding spoilers other than the official trailer, which I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post for you.

Stars cut from thin slices of the white carrots shine from a dark field of black olives. I swear, Scout could eat her weight in olives…fortunately, I’m happy to supply them. A couple of Trader Joe’s Schoolhouse Cookies and a dye-free red gummy star from the bulk bin at Whole Foods are today’s sweet finish.

Now, don’t forget to click the “Lunch for Twelve” button immediately below to travel through space and time to What’s in Our Lunch Bags. Karen is so ridiculously talented, I know she has something fabulous in store.

OrganizedBites.com | Deep Breath...We Have a New Doctor

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Back to Basics Blog Hop: BellaJackson Studios Utensils

If you’re looking for a little something special (and beautifully eco-friendly) to add to your bento stash for Back to School, look no further than BellaJackson Studios. Cyndi takes vintage flatware and gives it a creative twist by adding a stamped name or cute phrase. I chose the custom design option for Scout last year, adding a mantra to focus on what I hoped she’d work on that year…”Choose to Shine”. The gentle reminder helped her to remember to raise her hand, take a few chances, and dare to excel. Her Bella Jackson spoon is now her favorite piece of flatware.

There are so many cute stock phrases in stock, I find it hard to believe you can find one that speaks to you or your child. My BellaJackson spoon proclaims, “I like pretty things and clever words.” And, I do, don’t you know?

When you start your bento stash with solid, well made pieces like the ones from PlanetBox and Lunchbots, you don’t have to recreate the wheel each Fall. You have the major components of your lunch kits in hand and in good condition, allowing you to add a fun little accessory if you’re so inclined and the budget’s willing.

Go ahead and order now to be sure and have it when school starts. While you’re there, make a list of ones that jump out as the perfect gift for someone you know…Christmas will be here before we know it. (Sorry. But, it’s true. I can’t believe we’ve nearly put 2014 to bed already.)

Review: BellaJackson Studios

When I was Scout’s age, breakfast for lunch was one of my favorite packed lunch treats. She loves it, too. And, it’s a nice rabbit to pull out of the hat when you’re out of time…or, desperately need to make a run for provisions. Dry cereal goes in the Lunchbots 16 oz. Thermal Jar, while the milk stays cold in the insulated Klean Kanteen. A dipper from To-Go Ware holds fresh fruit and a silicone heart filled with cashews and almonds for crunch, color, and variety.

It’s all about the testing these days! Whip out your #2 yellow pencil, and click through all the posts in the hop, noting the letter and number on each post’s green tile. Once you’ve arrived back at the first post you read, arrange the letters in numerical order to break the code and pass the test. Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway (at the bottom of this post) to find the query just aching for the answer you find, and enter to win one of the fab prizes!BTS Hop 2015 Button #15

 The bell’s ringing for the next class!

Hit the button below to head over to see what Eclectic Lamb is going to school you on today.

BTS 2015 Blog Hop Button
If you’ve collected all the pieces, you can enter on the giveaway on the

Bento Bloggers & Friends blog.

Good Luck!

Not pictured is Scout’s cloth napkin, peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes went underneath her lunch, and a PlanetBox Cold Kit travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. It keeps Organized Bites running, and your support is greatly appreciated.

Packing Pacman

OrganizedBites.com | "Packing Pacman"I’m tickled pink to be participating in Wendolonia’s “3 Tools,  4 Lunches” series this week. Check out Wendy’s post to see all the details on the project, and to see how the other bloggers (Eclectic Lamb and Bentoriffic) used the challenge tools to fill the box we were assigned, the Lunchbots Trio.

The four of us were working with the Wilton Mini Romance Cookie Cutter Set and a Lace Cutter. Normally, I think of the design I want to create and break it down into shapes that I can build. This time I looked at the set of cutters and started spinning them in my head to see what I could make with them. The tulip cutter…ghost! Pacman ghosts!!! And, like so many things on the interwebs…once I saw it, it could not be unseen. This was a ton of fun (and, oh so easy) to make, and I’m really pleased with it. Though, I feel like I didn’t use the Lace Cutter to it’s full potential. But, man, did it make short work of cutting/imprinting the eyes, two at a time! The Pacman cheese sammie only required a circle cutter and a paring knife. I tucked two pieces of bread underneath the cheese, so Scout could reconstruct the sandwich…open face is not her style. There’s Trader Joe’s Seaweed Snack under the Packman. Trader Joe’s Little Gem lettuce underneath the veggie ghosts (Rainbow carrots and cucumber), and blackberries beneath the melon ghosties.

As luck would have it, Scout recently had the opportunity to play Pacman on an old school arcade machine at a friend’s house. So, she really enjoyed seeing it play out in her LunchBots. For me, it took me right back to 1980 and the Village Inn Pizza Parlor on Western Boulevard, post swim meet, smelling like chlorine and Hawaiian Tropic, and sporting my Dorothy Hamill bob. Who says you can’t go home again?

Many thanks to Wendy for hosting this fab challenge, and letting me play along. I’m honored to be in the company of these three woman. They’re each so talented and genuinely fabulous.

Check out the remaining posts (with other fun and fantastic bloggers) in Wendolonia’s “3 Tools, 4 Lunches” series here.

Not pictured is Scout’s little happy fellow fork, her cloth napkin, peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes went underneath her lunch, and a PlanetBox Cold Kit travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

OrganizedBites.com | "2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil"

The chatter about the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has been impossible to ignore, what with my FB feed blowing up with reports and pics from viewing party. And, who wants to fight it, anyway? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? So, I tucked the adorable armadillo mascot for the games, Fuleco, into Scout’s Planetbox “Rover” in the form of a Trader Joe’s Salted Crunchy Peanut Butter sandwich on Alpine Valley Organic Honey Whole Wheat Bread. His blue blaze, green eyes, and sassy, pink tongue are Trader Joe’s Jelly Beans (colored with fruit and vegetable dyes) that I flattened with a rolling pin and then snipped into shape with my kitchen shears. The tiny little earth patterned soccer ball is a foil wrapped chocolate candy from Whole Foods’ bulk department.

Fuleco, himself, was a quick and easy fix using my new CuteZCute Cuddle Palz cutter with the koala cutter. A tiny bit of kitchen shear cosmetic surgery gave him armadillo ears and a wide grin. Score! Cuddle Palz is the newest addition to the CuteZCute family that also includes the original Animal Friends (seen here) and Animal Palz, which is an amazing little sandwich cutter/press and a boiled egg mold. I used the Animal Palz to create one of Scout’s favorite lunches, this precious little trio of bats. CuteZCute is a company I trust to make a safe product, and I can highly recommend their cutters for versatility and ease of use. If you’re going to add cutters to your bento tool box for the school year. Any one of these three sets would make a great choice.

While I’m gushing about bento products. I’m going to throw PlanetBox a little extra love today. Fourth Grade marks Scout’s fourth year having lunch at school in her beloved PlanetBoxes. The Rover has been with us from the beginning and continues to perform like it’s brand new. I know price is a big concern for a lot of you. And, believe me, my budget is just as squeaky as most. But, once you get out of the disposable lunch gear mindset, think about how many times out of each year it will be at your or your child’s side, and accept the peace of mind it will give you in regards to performance, safety, and waste prevention…it’s a simple choice. Our Planetboxes have given me far more pleasure than any dinner out, pair of shoes, or long forgotten piece of sports equipment ever has.

Not pictured are Scout’s utensils (either her PlanetBox fork/spoon, little happy fellow fork, smiley fork, or her LunchBots cutlery set), a cloth napkin (usually one from Beneficial Bento), peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes goes underneath her bento, and either a PlanetBox Cold Kit or a Kids Konserve Ice Pack and Sweat-Free Cover travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. It keeps Organized Bites running, and your support is greatly appreciated.

Don’t Panic…Happy Towel Day!

Don't Panic...Happy Towel Day!Scout’s new (60% bigger) LunchBots Cinco is proudly waving its Geek Flag for Towel Day and Geek Pride Day. Homemade whole wheat “dough-phins” are poised to dunk themselves in the dipper of defrosted Dorot pesto sauce. Get the how-to for the dough-phins in this post. Black olives, rainbow carrot stars, and some fab marinated bean salad (a brand new favorite of Scout’s…Huzzah!) round out the veg. Cantaloupe slabs cut into the Hitchhiker’s Guide logo and a sun bring bright promise of the summer days to come.

About the tools I used to build this lunch. This was my first time ordering a cutter from Boetech on Etsy. My friend, Selena, from How About Cookie turned me on to this fab little shop. And, I have to say that I was beyond thrilled with the quality of product and her level of service. The dolphin cutter is from this set of Marine Animals. If you get this LunchBot, and I highly recommend it for an older kid or adult…or, as a snack bento for several littles to munch on, these square silicone cups from Wilton fit the smaller sections beautifully.

If you haven’t celebrated Towel Day, it’s not too late to grab your trusty towel and join in the celebration of Geek Pride.

Not pictured are Scout’s utensils (either her PlanetBox fork/spoon, little happy fellow fork, smiley fork, or her LunchBots cutlery set), a cloth napkin (usually one from Beneficial Bento), peppermint EO hand sanitizer and an insulated Klean Kanteen of ice water. I use two different ice packs to keep Scout’s lunch at a safe temperature. A sheet of Cryopak Flexible Ice Pack for Lunch Boxes goes underneath her bento, and either a PlanetBox Cold Kit or a Kids Konserve Ice Pack and Sweat-Free Cover travels in the mesh pocket of the case. And, everything…and, I mean everything, gets labeled with one of Scout’s Mabel’s Labels.

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Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase. It keeps Organized Bites running, and your support is greatly appreciated.