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#Swag For The Little Ones

I hope everyone had an awesomely relaxing and happy holiday weekend, at least for those in the States celebrating it! For that matter, I just hope everyone on the whole globe had an awesome weekend. World peace would be awesome, you know? Anyway, I’m taking a pause from my big blog transitioning week to actually post something. Yes, you heard read correctly – this is the week that this blog gets a makeover. She’ll be a whole new girl by the weekend, fingers crossed all goes well! So far, I’ve been using WordPress.com for free hosting which has been A.Maze.Ing, and it was super nice of them to let me basically sleep on their couch for free while I got this whole endeavor underway; but it is long overdue for me to go out on my own. It also means moving over to a whole new server and getting a bit of a new look, as well. Stay tuned!

If things get weird and glichy, I apologize in advance and totally appreciate your patience. Please cross your fingers for me. #technologyisscary

Aaaaanyway, let’s talk about some stuff. Like, literal stuff. The kind we buy for our kids. I’ve always been fascinated when I’ve read bloggers writing about their fav baby and kid items (like Bower Power and Young House Love), because it’s interesting how some items are to-die-for-could-never-live-without for one parent… and yet completely useless for another. I thought I would contribute to the convo, so without further ado, here are my fav baby and kid items of all time. BTW, this post is not sponsored at all… just my humble opinions.

For the Preschool+ Crowd

#Swag For The Little Ones, Fav Kid Gear | Painting Sunny

  1. Crayola My First Crayola Triangular Crayons (16 count), $4.05. These are cute, so much less likely to break, and I’ve successfully washed them off walls. A few times.
  2. Melissa & Doug Animal Magnets in a Box, $11.99. The best part about these is that the whole back of each magnet is coated, instead of having a little magnetic choking hazard glued to the back like the old-fashioned ones I grew up with. They have held up for over 2 years for us, and still adorn our fridge today.
  3. Munchkin Shampoo Rinser, $6.00. We just moved into a place with two bathtubs, and the kids are reveling in it. Just a few months ago I picked this up and it is worth way more than the 6 bucks I paid for it. It is genius with no parts or grooves to get mildewy and need cleaned, a soft edge that bends against your baby’s head to direct the water away from their eyes, and even comes in pretty colors. Swoon.
  4. Nubby Super Spout Easy Gripper (2 count), $7.11. We are just transiting out of these and into straight-up water bottles, but I couldn’t even tell you how many Nubbys we owned over the years. They were so easy to transition to after a bottle, and the price is right too.
  5. mabel label’s Basic Kit, $34.95. I am def adding a new pack to my shopping list for this year, since I’ve never tried the shoe or clothing labels and am convinced they will change my life. We have used the little labels on school supplies, lunch containers, sports equipment, and countless other things. Who knows how much money it has saved me in lost sippy cups and rain boots?
  6. EasyLunchboxes (Set of 4), $13.95. If you’ve been around Painting Sunny awhile, you know that I have quickly become devoted to these lunchboxes. They aren’t just a lunchbox, they are a lifestyle. Affordable, well-made and kid-friendly… join me on this bandwagon.
  7. SweetPea3 2 GB MP3 Player for Kids, $84.88. This was a holiday gift a few years ago from the Grandparents, and although the price is an investments I also can’t imagine traveling anywhere at length without one. The kids use it in the house or on road-trips, and it’s a great break from DVDs to keep them entertained. The sound quality is good, they can work it themselves, and I’m pretty convinced it’s indestructible.
  8. Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Figure Eight Train Set, $22.96. Of all the wooden train sets out there, this one has my seal of approval. It beats out almost any competitor in price, is compatible with other brands, and the track is reversible which is awesome. Gotta love M&D, am I right?
  9. My Big Sticker Book of Nursery Rhymes, $19.10. We have a variety of these (courtesy of the grandparents) and I see our son toting them around the house regularly. The stickers are easy to move, the book is really well made, and the book itself makes good reading.
  10. Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat, $138.95. Our entire backseat is full of these right now. Literally. Both kids use them, with the 3.5 year old using it with the full harness still, and the almost-7 year old using the high-back booster option. It is seriously convertible, and the price is really appealing when you take a look at the car seat market. We’ve had one for 4 years now that is still holding up.

With my own being 3.5 and almost 7, this is definitely the stage we are in and loving it. I miss the cute little baby toes, but whole new worlds of toys, decorations, and adventures opens up with you hit that 3+.

Now, in reverse chronological order…

For the Baby & Infant Peeps

#Swag For The Little Ones, Fav Kid Gear | Painting Sunny

  1. Carter’s Fleece Baby Blanket, $29.95. Ours has duckies on it, and is one of the most valuable positions in this house. Blankie is a family member, and the couple times we thought he was lost I think I would have paid 1k to get him back. Our son still sleeps with his every night, it consoles him when he is sad or tired, and it was a major relief he began self-soothing pretty early on.
  2. Fisher-Price Rainforest Jumperoo, $99.00. This thing entertained two kids for us, and still was in almost-new shape when I re-sold it to a consignment shop for almost what I paid for it. It was hard to believe, but it was just well-made and both kids loved it in that stage where they want to be up looking around but need some support. No lie, it takes up some square footage of your living room… but if frees up your arms, so who can be made at that?
  3. BabyBjörn Baby Carrier Original, $71.99. Okay, we had the plain old black carrier, but if they had this pretty option when I was pregnant the first time I totally would have sprang for it. Of all the carriers I’ve tried out, this tride-and-true version worked best with our little ones who always seemed like little furnaces and hated being snuggled up too close for too long.
  4. Vicks Behind Ear Thermometer, $29.89. When our son was 2 we reached that point that the cheap little armpit thermometers were just not doing the trick… and when you think your kid has a fever, it isn’t a time you want to be frustrated trying to work something with tiny buttons. This was a great investment for our whole family.
  5. Ju-Ju-Be Be Right Back Diaper Bag, $139.95. Full disclosure, I did not have this actual backpack diaper-bag but I totally wish I did. We did go the back-pack style route with our diaper bag (which I can’t find online now) however, and were so glad we did. It kept our arms more free, saved us back-aches, and made organizing items much easier. Sigh – this one is so cute, someone please buy it so I can live vicariously…
  6. Philips Avent BPA Free Soothie Pacifier (2 count), $3.20. Our son was in the NICU, so came back with some of these famous green Soothie pacifiers. They were the only binkies he would use, and I loved that they were affordable, easy to clean, and didn’t have parts that would break easily.
  7. Munchkin Deluxe Dishwasher Basket, $3.82. I’d never lived in a home with a dishwasher until our son was born, and it was one of those moments when the sky opens up and you hear a church choir singing. This basket was ran through our dishwasher daily, and held an impressive amount.
  8. Panasonic Automatic 3 Cup (Uncooked) Rice Cooker, $29.95. Yep, you’re thinking I added this to the wrong list aren’t you? Well, HA! It totally belongs. I made all of our baby food at home for the kids, and it was much more healthy and affordable than buying the little jars. It was also super easy, which I think a lot of people don’t realize. But what made it affordable was that I did not buy one of those fancy baby-food making systems. In my opinion, they basically just do the same thing as a steamer. I used this Panasonic rice cooker (it also steams veggies) for both kids, and still use it for rice cooking today.
  9. Bright Starts Lots of Links, $4.99. Who doesn’t end up with a million of these? They are great for carseats, strollers, those playmat things… We had them everywhere.
  10. Jeep Liberty Sport X All-Terrain Stroller, $179.99. This is the piece de resistance. It has a built-in music player, can go on basically any terrain, it’s basket holds everything… It’s just amazing. I’ve owned a few strollers, but after we had this one I would never betray it. If my husband picked one favorite baby item, I’m pretty certain it would be this. Hold on, let me go ask him. Yep, he said the stroller.

Anyone else cook all their own baby food? Completely disagree with me about the fancy baby-food machines? Love your stroller so, so much you refuse to give it up? Want to label everything your kid owns?

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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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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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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The Recently Rundown: Ithaca Art Market, Whirlwind Family Visits, Prepping for 1st Grade

I know, last week I was totes not around much and everyone was asking “What is up with you, giiiiirl?”

Okay, I promise if we were living in a 90’s sitcom you would have been asking like that. On a plastic neon land-line phone with one of those curly cords. Does anyone else really, really miss TGIF at the end of a long week? Or remember Must See TV? That was awesome. Sigh.

Anyway, nostalgia aside – we had a lot going on! Prep yourself for some photos. First came the Ithaca Artists Market which was my first since moving into town, and I went there solo. It’s weird being alone when you are used to having little tykes with you constantly, but kind of liberating.

The Steamboat Landing here in Ithaca is an awesome location used for the Farmer’s Market and other events. See how pretty and spacious it is?

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI didn’t want to be a creeper and have to get into that whole “I totally have a blog and am legit. Really, please don’t escort me out” situation so limited my snooping around and photo taking. These are all iPhone pics, so bear with me!

There were a few local artists that, whether or not their wares were my particular style, I was seriously impressed with. Behold…

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI researched them a bit (again, I promise I’m not a creeper. My argument is becoming less convincing, isn’t it?) and this artist is a local by the name of Sally Dutko who specializes in fiber arts. They were colorful, original, and whimsical. Her website is linked right here. Check her out! BTW, she has no idea who I am – I just liked her work, I’m not paid or perked or affiliated with any of the artists. Well, besides living in the same town.

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThese pieces by Spirit And Kitsch also caught my eye as being fun and fresh and something unique in the crowd of stalls. Her website is linked right here, and her name is Alice Muhlback.

The one that took serious restraint not to go on a spending spree was this one…

Ithaca Art Market Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyI thought of Sherry at YHL and her ceramic houses. I think these trees and delicate vases are equally awesome, and love that they are made by a local artist too. I did some digging and believe the artist is named Matthew Glaysher, although he doesn’t appear to have a website. Matthew, if you are out there – you blew my mind.

What else has been going on? Well, prepping this kiddo for her 1st grade!

Prepping for 1st grade | Painting SunnyThe summer can fly by, and I don’t want her getting too rusty with her academics. So, when I spotted these worksheet books at Dollar Tree, I nabbed one subtraction, one addition, and one language arts book for $1 each. Obviously, since it’s Dollar Tree. All three of them are First Grade level, and I’m tearing out one sheet from each, which makes three per day, for her to do. And they are double-sided… so she has her work cut out for her.

Prepping for 1st grade | Painting SunnyEven if they aren’t chosen by her actual teacher and may not be perfect, I think it is helping her get back into the habit of sitting, focusing, and thinking about these topics. She has surprised me a couple times with what she can do, and a couple other times I realized how much a kid can forget over the summer! It’s a long three months, yo.

Next up was a whirlwind family visit with Grandma June and Aunt Norma! The kids were beyond excited. The delight when they saw their Grandma and Aunt was evident. These are some of their fav people in the world!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyIt was quite the visit. Above you can see the crew at the Syracuse Zoo, and they had a blast!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThey also hit up the Sciencenter here in town, which I don’t have a convenient pic of but they reported was spectacular. They also spent an afternoon at the Taughannock State Park at the beach, and apparently never tired of filling and emptying their little pails. So glad the weather was warm enough!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyFood is always a big deal with kids and whenever fam is in town, right? I’m pretty sure the above pic was taken at Ithaca Bakery, but I wasn’t there so could be wrong!

Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyWe all got together for dinner at a local restaurant called The Nines and it was so pretty out we ate out on the patio. It used to be a firehouse and now is literally next door to the firehouse, so it is a great location for a 3 year old to hang out just in case something exciting happens! We didn’t catch a glimpse of any firefighters or big red trucks, but might head back sometime during lunch on a weekday, just in case. The pizza was awesome. We are in New York, though… so shouldn’t expect any less.Family Visit Summer 2013 | Painting SunnyThese kids know how to eat.

Anyone else showing off local restaurants to family? Wishing they could fill their whole house with local ceramics? Just love pizza?

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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Let’s Do Lunch Again Sometime

Like, today. Or even better, every day this week!

Consider this the third installment of my learning-to-pack-school-lunches trilogy. Kind of like Mockingjay is to the Hunger Games, or Breaking Dawn is to Twilight. Let’s not even get into Harry Potter, those things go on and on. Didn’t their high school last 8 years or something? Can you imagine basically living through high school twice?

Okay, let’s put that nightmare aside and get back to business. When I realized I was about to begin packing lunches for the kids for the first time ever, I did my research and planned compulsively accordingly, then I went ahead and jumped right into it with my first full week. Since then, I’ve tried a couple things again, found some things that didn’t work and a few that were quite successful, and remembered to a few photos along the way. I think it’s best if we start with the successes. Let’s the games begin!

More School Lunches:  PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting Sunny

PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Blueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, baby carrots, diced cucumbers, and ranch dip | Painting SunnyBlueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, carrots, cucumbers, and ranch dip

More School Lunches: Cheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting SunnyCheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Bagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots | Painting SunnyBagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots  More School Lunches: Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes | Painting Sunny

Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes

Yes, one of the challenges is keeping the kids hands out of the lunch boxes the night before. Those grapes go missing so easily…More School Lunches:  | Painting Sunny

Those blueberry oatmeal muffins have been a hit. Remember when I baked them? I froze about half of them still in the silicone baking cups, and when I’m packing lunches in the evening (to be eaten the next day) I just pop them into the lunch box and they have thawed the next morning. Voila!

I almost always accidentally write viola and then have to correct it to voila. It would make no sense to be talking about violas right now.

As always, these lunches were made with EasyLunchboxes and the Mini-Dippers containers by the same brand (those are Amazon affiliate links). I’m not paid or perked to mention any brands, I just really have loved using them! They work out perfectly for our family. Check out their blog for a mega-ton of ideas, too.

Another success has been the No-Nut Pea Butter – the boy totally eats it! So far as I know he hasn’t noticed it’s not real peanut butter. When it runs out, I am totally trying out a few other things, though… thank you all for the awesome suggestions! You are my mentors on this journey.

What has not panned out the way I hoped? Just one thing that was so overwhelming disdained by the children it shall never be repeated. Cold macaroni and cheese. You would have thought I’d sent lumps of charcoal and stewed spinach by their reactions. In my defense, it was homemade delicious mac and cheese and personally I like cold mac and cheese. That, apparently, is not a hereditary trait.

Someone asked me what lunch bags I use. Good question, my friend! There is a link to a similar one to the type I picked up at Target right here. Ours looks a bit different (the front pocket Velcros rather than zips). I bought three of them, two blue and one black so we would have a spare in case a grown-up in the household wanted to pack a lunch or if one didn’t make it home. It’s worked out awesomely. Like, the boxes fit easily but snugly inside, nothing shifts around, the front pocket holds snacks and the top mesh compartment fits an ice pack. It’s like I designed a cooler bag just for my purposes, which never happens for me!

Anyone else tried to feed their kids cold mac and cheese? Others weirdos like me who prefer their pasta or pizza less-than-hot?

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