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The School Lunch Round-Up: End of Summer Fast Approaching

Summer may be coming quickly to a close, but the lunches just keep coming! With a soon-to-be-1st-grader in summer day-camp and a preschooler doing his thing in preschool, every evening means taking a few minutes in the kitchen to ensure they are well-fed little ones the next day. With one swimming sometimes twice a day and the other being a 3-year-old… they both have a lot of energy they need kept fueled.

After sharing these first five lunches and then this update with five more, I noticed a trend and decided to just go with it. Thus begins a series of school lunch round-ups, brought to you at the end of every month when I pick five fab examples and share them with ya’ll.

As always, I’m using Easylunchboxes, the Mini-Dippers by the same brand, and Wilton Reusable Baking Cups. Heart them all so much!

School Lunch Round-Up: blueberry oatmeal muffins,  colby jack cheese cubes, a banana half, Kashi 7 Grain crisps, and baby-cut carrots | Painting Sunnyblueberry oatmeal muffins,  colby jack cheese cubes, a banana half, Kashi 7 Grain crisps, and baby-cut carrots

School Lunch Round-Up: mix of white and blue tortilla chips, seasoned black beans, colby jack cheese cubes, kiwi slices, and red grapes halved | Painting Sunnymix of white and blue tortilla chips, seasoned black beans, colby jack cheese cubes, kiwi slices, and red grapes halved

School Lunch Round-Up: whole wheat English muffin PBJ (or PB alternative), Chobani yogurt tube, blueberries from the local Farmer's Market, and thinly sliced cucumber | Painting Sunnywhole wheat English muffin PBJ (or PB alternative), Chobani yogurt tube, blueberries from the local Farmer’s Market, and thinly sliced cucumber

School Lunch Round-Up: mini-bagel with butter and strawberry jam, baby-cut carrots, Chobani yogurt tube, watermelon chunks, and cucumber chunks | Painting Sunnymini-bagel with butter and strawberry jam, baby-cut carrots, Chobani yogurt tube, watermelon chunks, and cucumber chunks

School Lunch Round-Up: slices of naan bread, hummus (in container), string cheese, sliced peach, and baby-cut carrots | Painting Sunnyslices of naan bread, hummus (in container), string cheese, sliced peach, and baby-cut carrots

I’m going for at least one vegetable and fruit every day, whenever possible, as well as getting a solid protein in there. These lunches are vegetarian as Haven doesn’t eat meat and they are both fine without it for lunch anyway.

Noticed there are three snacks there too? Haven’s day-camp asks that we send two snacks (one for morning, one for afternoon) and Diallo wants one in his lunchbag too, just for the sake of fairness. He usually eats his cereal bar in the morning on the way to school, since his preschool actually provides snacks twice a day – usually grown in their own school garden or from a local farmer or bakery!

Want more inspiration? Check out more lunches with me on Pinterest or peruse the EasyLunchBlog!

Anyone else go through naan bread in their family like crazy? Eating three peaches a day while they are in season? Cutting up cucumbers in a variety of styles to entice your children?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.

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Read & Eat: Almostkinda Shrimp Gumbo & The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

You may recall that one time and the other time that I paired up and reviewed a recipe and a book in one sitting. Because nothing beats scarfing something down while flipping through some awesome pages. So let’s all take a break from analyzing the VMA awards and Googling what twerking is. Please.

Disclaimer: Depending on the food you’re eating, take care when turning pages. Loaning out a book with cheeto-fingerprint-corners can be awkward.

Read & Eat: Almostkinda Shrimp Gumbo & A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Painting Sunny

Yes, I love my soups and my novels… Almost equally. Not sure which one edges the other out, but in this case, it was pretty much a dead heat. I’m excited to share with you Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Woa and a maybe-not-all-that-authentic-but-really-yummy Shrimp Gumbo. Let’s hit the books first.

Read & Eat: Almostkinda Shrimp Gumbo & A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Painting Sunny

Yes, this is when I was dueling books at the airport with a somewhat strange pairing.
It totally worked though.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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If you’re in the mood for a novel that is both substantial and engaging, here it is. Every family’s story is both a comedy and a tragedy, and every individual is influenced by their heritage in ways we often don’t understand. This highlights the balance in one family and the insight into what drives us from one generation to the next.

Sometimes with a determined grimness and sometimes with a smirking humor, Diaz baldly lays out historical backgrounds and cultural experiences as a foundation for characters that feel very real. It’s rare to find a book that blends modern experiences so comfortably with a sense of ancestry and deep-rooted ways. There is perseverance, fear, and destiny – Beli, Lola, and Oscar are always moving from something, towards something and through something at the same time.

With multi-perspective storytelling, it can easily feel jarred and confused; somehow this novel manages to avoid that. Yunior serves as an anchor while the books moves fluidly through several characters, stories, and time periods to create a more rounded understanding of the family as a whole. Get 1/3 of a way through the book, and you’re sunk into it – you’ll feel compelled to stay up late and finish.

If you’re into this kind of thing, might I suggest some other fav’s of mine such as House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

Okaybees, let’s get to the food!

Read & Eat: Almostkinda Shrimp Gumbo & A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Painting Sunny

Sources: Pinterest and Original

Yes, this took a little bit of time to make. Consider it an investment. This stuff is very customizable, delicious, filling, and even freezes awesomely. Try it asap with some brown rice (not only a healthy choice, but a little more substantial when paired with the goodness of gumbo) and some fresh-baked rolls. Wegman’s were responsible for ours, of course.

Check out the original source, and keep in mind how easily you can make it your own. I changed a few things up, myself…

  1. Instead of being a seafood gumbo, mine was simply a shrimp one. Shrimp was a more affordable choice, and one everyone in our fam will eat a little more readily.
  2. I skipped the green bell peppers – I don’t eat them.
  3. I used vegetable stock instead of water/seafood stock. I keep vegetable bullion cubes in the house at all times since they are so useful.
  4. I skipped the boiled ham, as two out of our four don’t eat meat (but do eat fish & seafood).
  5. I use one of these fresh seasoning tubes in EVERYTHING as they are amazing, instead of dried herbs, etc.
  6. Obviously, I added cayenne pepper. You know me.

I give this recipe 4 stars, as well.

Read & Eat: Almostkinda Shrimp Gumbo & A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Painting Sunny

My little guy even tried some out. What a champ!

Anyone else reading Junot Diaz? Think cayenne pepper is the finishing touch to pretty much anything? Finally watching Orange Is The New Black? I’m obsessed.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.


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Click: iPhone Photos Every Day

Just a little over two weeks ago, I launched a project for myself to try and stop and take note of something in my daily life, each day. My tool is my camera phone (I have an iPhone 5, thanks to a tech-savvy husband) and I’m grateful for the awesome technology I have access to, as well as all the little pretty things that exist in my daily grind so each day I’m snapping at least one pic and sharing it. At a little over the halfway point in my challenge, I updated a page here with all of the daily pics, but below I’m shared a few of my favs so far.

Join my over on the Pinterest, the Facebook, or the Twitter where I’m posting them each and every day!

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting SunnyMy daughter’s little feet. Well, at almost 7 years old they are becoming quickly less little.

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting SunnyAre those purple square totally out of control? Out local Farmer’s Market is amazing.

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting SunnyMy baby, just a little longer. He is sucking on his two middle fingers (as he always is) in case you were wondering. Blankey is a family member, here.

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting SunnyHomemade egg challah. Mmm.

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting SunnyWhen she wanted to try calamari, I thought she’d stick with the chewy ring-style ones. Nope. The little tentacle-style ones were her fav and were promptly devoured.

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny

iPhone Daily Photography Project Update | Painting Sunny I’ll update the full gallery page when the project is over, and give ya’ll a head’s up! Thanks for sticking with me, and please share your own photo challenges! Anyone else impressed with purple produce? Have a kid that will eat on the wild-side?

Xoxo, Dani

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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Planning For The End (Table)

We moved to a new state/town/home eight weeks ago, which means we have been using a big, blue plastic storage tote as a end table for eight weeks now. Honestly, it was already there as we unpacked and approximately the right height to sit a lamp on so there you have it. It is time to get it together and get real with our tables.

Last week I popped into a local second-hand store here in Ithaca, the Finger Lakes ReUse, with only about 10 minutes to spare. I knew I was after side or end tables (someone tell me the difference?) and this one stood out in the crowd pretty quickly. Not because she’s beautiful (she isn’t) or flashy (definitely not) but because she was the somewhat-hard-to-find-size we need, very very sturdy, has rounded-corners (we have little foreheads running in circles nearby) and has a shelf below for storage.  At $35 she was a bit more than I would usually want to spend for a second-hand table, but she fit the bill so I took the leap.

Here she is in all her… well, not exactly glory yet…

Planning For The End (Table) | Painting Sunny

But she will get there. Oh yes, she will.

Planning For The End (Table) | Painting Sunny

The classic Paloma Pose. This is her version of blue steel. Yes, our children propped all those pullows up against the walls for some reason. I assume they were probably launching something across the room at them… sigh.

Planning For The End (Table) | Painting Sunny

There is a label on the bottom, but looking up the company online yielded zero results. You can kindajustbarely see in this photo the underside of the top of the table which I think shows the original color of the wood and which was actually quite nice.

It isn’t good wood, just veneer, and is a bit dry and the finish is not in great condition. So it is slated to be refinished for sure. I’m brainstorming ideas, so please let me know if you think I’m on the right track or totally bananas. Anyone else just get that Gwen Stefani song stuck in their heads? No? Just me?

I’ve found some good Pinspiration (not all of the pics linked are of tables, so you have to use your imagination a bit).

Perhaps a glossy black with gold dipped legs like this?

Or an ultramarine blue like this?

You all know I’ve been in a Mid-Century mood, so maybe a nice avocado like this? I’m afraid that might be hard to coordinate, but would be a little unique. The green table linked here is gorgeous too… the color is so bold!

In the meantime, I’ll see what the Mister thinks, get it all gussied painted up, and show it off!

Anyone else doing 10-minute-or-less thrift store shopping? Have a cat with a photo-op problem? Want to dip some stuff in gold?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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A Mid-Century Modern Mood

It has been a long minute since we have had a mood board up in here, and as I have been spending some time daydreaming about the day I can design a whole living room for myself and freely DIY/buy/magically procure everything I want for it, I thought maybe we could wistfully daydream together. And lately, I’ve been in a very mid-century modern mood.

In case you are curious or just a mega nerd, “Mid-Century modern is an architectural, interior, product and graphic design that generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.” – brought to you by Wikipedia.

If I could wave a magic wand, this would be the result:

Mid-Century Moodboard | Painting Sunny

  1. Mid century modern custom address sign by Daddy’s simple signs, $75
  2. Bentwood Pendants by West Elm, $168
  3. Mid century poster print, MIES’S PIECES geometric shapes, artists giclée print by visual philosophy, $24.99
  4. Spectral Floor Lamp by inmod, $430 (on sale)
  5. Mid-Century Danish Modern Dresser by Revitalized Artistry, $975
  6. Madeline Chair by Urban Outfitters, $379
  7. Martini Side Table – Silver by West Elm, $149
  8. Sheepskin Rug, Ivory by Pottery Barn, $79-$179
  9. 2-piece dahlia candle-holder set by CB2, $19.95
  10. Danish Modern Side Table by Urban Outfitters, $179
  11. Jester vase by CB2, $49.95
  12. Night and Day Convertible Sofa by Urban Outfitters, $649

My partner-in-all-things-life is very much into clean, new, modern design while I like to blend that pretty evenly with eclectic, vintage pieces. Mid-century and Danish modern design is one place I think we could meet in the middle, so I’ve found my eye catching on it more and more as inspiration.

Are some of the items above major-splurges? Yes. Obvi. My budget could not stretch to create this room, but a girl can dream! In reality, there are some steals linked up above too (like that almost-too-cool giclee print) and for the rest I would DIY or bargain-hunt to find similar looks.

Need more inspiration? Books are a good place to start.

Mid-Century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details by Bradley Quinn

Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors by Michelle Gringeri-Brown

Charles & Ray Eames: 1907-1978, 1912-1988 Pioneers of Mid-Century Modernism by Gloria Koenig (this would make a gorgeous coffee-table book!)

Some other inspiring articles & round-ups include…

the nest’s Mid-Century Modern Decor Finds Under $200

Dwell’s Mid-Century’s Greatist Hit’s

HGTV’s Add Midcentury Modern Style to Your Home

Anyone else feeling the Mid-Century Modern Vibe? Kinda think Danish people must be really cool? Surprised that Urban Outfitter’s furniture had such a classic look?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.


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Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Who loves cookies and humor about taxidermy? I’m estimating at least 6% of the population, that’s who. Doesn’t that pique your appetite? Let’s read and eat with my all-time-favorite-and-I’ve-tried-a-lot chocolate chip cookies (they are even healthified) and Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. Both are delicious.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyLet’s whip up these cookies based on Bev’s Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe at Eating Well and then settle down with a good book. Maybe make some tea or grab some milk? Or tea with milk? Do people really do that still?

The only real differences between the original recipe and my version are:

  • I used quick oats instead of rolled oats, because I had some and can never tell the difference.
  • The I use whole wheat flour as the recipe calls for, but I usually use whole wheat pastry flour, or sometimes “white whole wheat”. The pastry flour makes them much more light and delicate, crispy around the edges but still substantial. Mmmmm. It isn’t always easy to find at the grocery store, though.
  • I used a bunch of random types of chocolate to use up my stash and to change it up.
  • I TRIPLE the recipe. Go big or go home – I’m not playing games here.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyThe first step of the recipe calls for grinding the oats in a blender or food processor.  Honestly, it’s prob not necessary to do if you don’t have one or don’t feel like it. Still, when I do I food process the oats into a course meal as shown in Exhibit A the picture above.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyDid I mention I used a bunch of random chocolates? Yep. Different recipes call for different things, and I end up with bits of everything. Since I tripled the recipe I needed 3 cups of chocolate. This included milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, another brand of semi-sweets, and chopped up baker’s semi-sweet chocolate. The melted chunks in the cookies are always so nice from the chopped stuff… mmm.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting SunnyIf you make an obscene amount of cookie dough (I’m pretty self-aware) there are several methods for what to do with it. Sometimes, I just spend an afternoon baking them all, cool them all thoroughly, and then freeze them in freezer bags with the air sucked out of them. Other times, I freeze the dough.

You can see above my method for what to do with the dough when freezing it. I keep in the bowl what I want to bake that day, then portion the rest into pieces of saran wrap which I wrap tight around the dough until it looks like a tube, then twist the ends. The dough-tubes can now be placed inside a quart-sized freezer bag. Just stick them in the fridge to thaw the night before you want to cookie-it-up.

BTW, I usually use a plastic straw to suck the air out of the bags. It’s high tech.

Read & Eat: Chocolate Chip Cookies & Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson | Painting Sunny

Strange bed fellows?

Yes, the above picture was posted to Twitter in May, from an airport lounge where I was waiting on a flight to take me to a job interview. I got the job – so I guess I may owe it partially to Jenny Lawson… and Junot Diaz. Probably not sharing the salary, but a sincere thanks seems to be in order.

Travel is totally exhausting, for me. I always have a hard time staying focused and energized. Usually I’m not that person who is reading several books at once, but on an airplane I like to pick two and switch between them. A combination of one book that is intense/serious and one book that is hilarious/irreverent seems balanced and provides some perspective when you’re considering a 5 dollar bagel while breathing in recycled air. Try it out sometime.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

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She is funny, and so is her book. So let’s just get that settled right at the start. Jenny Lawson is irreverent, charming, mildly concerning, and very entertaining. She makes your weird family feel at-least-normal-level-weird. Jenny somehow both self-deprecates and ego-inflates herself. It’s weird and sounds impossible, but makes for some well-rounded story-telling.

I’m not going to use the word “quirky” or say she is the “female David Sedaris” because everyone else has a million times. I will say it is just a good book, all comparisons aside. If you’re a fan of her blog (The Bloggess) you know how she works, and I honestly don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

If you aren’t a Lawsbian (the name given to her fans, though I’m not clear by who…) be honest with yourself before reading. If you like the idea of “edgy” but cringe at swear words or morbid dead-animal jokes, this is probably not your cup of tea. I don’t know why I keep talking about tea today either, let’s put that aside.

Loved the Let’s Pretend This Never Happened? Check our Laurie Notaro (my favorites are this one and this one). She has been a fav of mine for years, and while a little less morbid and a little more raunchy than Jenny Lawson – it’s good times, for sure.

You can find the book here, or The Bloggess at her blog and on Twitter, where she is sort of omnipresent. If you’re just starting, try with this post – it’s a quick and accurate introduction.

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.

PSS: If you’re interested in more Reading & Eating, check out this post.


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iPhoning It In: Embracing My Camera Daily

I’m making an effort to let go a little bit. You know – relax, and more spontaneously admire things around me.

Daily iPhone Photography Project: eight eight thirteen | Painting Sunny

I love creative forms of expression if you haven’t noticed. I can, however, get hung up on worrying about something being “ready” and “high enough quality” to be worth the effort and to share with others. Is a painting really finished? Is a photography pretty enough? Is something composed uniquely or contrasted enough? It never feels like it. So I’m about to do a little project to “let go and let blog” by each day taking up my iPhone and capturing a photo of something around me.

Above is the very first one, taken yesterday evening as flash floods came down in our area. The drainage outside of our apartment is not quite holding up to rain lately, and as I watched the water flood up over the back patio and sidewalks, I thought about how grey and drizzy the rain was as it threatened to spill over our door-frames and onto the carpet; but how cheerful the children’s toys and scooters and wagons looked sitting outside, and how grateful I am that those things are in my life.

So, here’s the gist. Every day for 30 days I’ll snap the pic, and will post it to my Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest locals. I may edit the photos a bit in trusty Photoshop (things can’t be all crooked, yo) but I promise not to Instagram it or use a filter. Nothing against Instragram – I’m just challenging myself to let things be, just a little bit.

Being a research nerd, I thought I’d round up a few inspiring iPhone photogs and websites, so why not check them out?

Brock Davis’ 2012 iPhone Photography (Yes, I also mentioned him here)

Chase Jarvis’ Photography Blog and his book about it

iPhoneography, an iPhone Photography Blog

National Geographic’s Tips For Better iPhone Photography

Y’all need to hold me accountable, so please share your own camera phone adventures, times you just throw in the towel and call it good enough, ideas for relaxing a little and enjoying the ride…

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.