DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

9 Dec

diy mason jar lunch kit 7Do you ever find that one mason jar is just not enough? But that two mason jars rattling around in a lunch bag together make you fear you might lose your hummus due to breakage? (I guess you are also risking injury, and a mess to clean up . . . but the hummus, people! The HUMMUS!)

Well, if there is more than one person (me) in the world for whom this is an issue, I hope they find this post, because I’ve got the cutest solution!

DoubleJarThis quick DIY hack is inspired by this post by Kayla of Say Not Sweet Anne who calls her creation “DIY Lunchable Jars”. I saw her post and wanted to make some immediately!

So I asked my brother, whom I was visiting, if I could use his soldering iron. His reply?

“Don’t solder. Soldering makes too many fumes.”

Gah! So frustrating! But was I daunted? Oh no—I wanted to make these so bad.

So I asked my Dad if I could use his soldering iron. His answer?

“Don’t solder. It makes too many fumes.”

Do they share a brain those two???

“Why don’t you use tape instead?”

Tape? TAPE?? Tape is no replacement for solder! It would never hold!

I fumed. I schemed. I looked up “How to solder” on Youtube and priced out soldering irons . . . I spent days scheming how I could stitch rings together with jewelry wire . . . And then went absolutely nowhere with it.

Until one day when I was packing up my two doomed-to-rattle-and-endanger-my-hummus Mason jars for my lunch, I thought, “Oh, fine—I’ll try the dang tape.” I grabbed the closest thing, which was I think electrical tape (?) and hastily taped two Mason Jar rings together.

And do you know what? It actually worked. Not only that, it worked brilliantly! It worked so well that the next day I quickly taped together two wide-mouth rings with masking tape so I could bring salad and some crackers. Again, a flawless design (apart from it being really ugly).

But there is no reason to carry around ugly Mason Jars when there is Washi tape! And Washi-inspired tape!

Enter phase II of my design. I’ve always wanted a reason to buy Washi tape. So I picked up some Scotch brand and tried it. Super cute, though the inflexibility of the Scotch tape didn’t seem to grip the Mason jar rings quite as effectively as either of my ugly tapes in the prototype designs.

diy mason jar lunch kit 3

But the next thing I tried, well it combines two of the most beloved low-tech solutions: Mason Jars and Duct Tape. Not just any duct tape; not the ubiquitous silver kind, no. The cutest, girliest Duct Tape at the Staples store.

It did just the trick.

diy mason jar lunch kit 2

Flexible? Check. Sticky? Check. Super cute? Super check!

So please enjoy my super easy tutorial, and let me know what you’re packing in your new DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit! Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy (unless you’re secretly hoping someone will put it on Pinterest)!

DIY Mason Jar Lunch Kit Tutorial

Step 1diy mason jar lunch kit 4

Line up two clean same-sized mason jar rings.

Step 2diy mason jar lunch kit 5

Using tape of choice (or of convenience), wrap tape around the rings, keeping them even and together, until the tape goes around the whole circumference.

diy mason jar lunch kit 6Step 3

Put lids onto jars, and screw on rings one at a time. Make sure to decide which one will be upside down, and pack accordingly.

Step 4

Comment below and tell me what you’re packing in your new super cute kit (mine is hummus–of course–with Mary’s crackers on top).

It all started with dental floss: the story of how I became a Christian

8 Dec

Photo on 2015-12-08 at 6.01 PMI didn’t mean to become a Christian.

I was brought up as a good agnostic, daughter of an ex-Catholic and an ex-Anglican, both of whom had left the church in their teens. I had been inside churches for weddings and one or two funerals, and once with my Girl Guide troupe when I shockingly took communion despite not having been baptized (actually, in retrospect I think it a United Church, so it might have been okay after all!). I conveniently edited out my having received a Gideon’s bible some time in about 1985, in which I pledged my soul to Jesus, and advanced in my years dutifully shocked by the horrors committed in the name of religions, Christian and otherwise.

From the time I was a teen to my years as a progressive intellectual (self-diagnosed), I believed anything to do with Church was about as evil, exclusionary, and judgemental as it can come. I actually felt torn about supporting good works being done by church groups, simply because they were being done in the name of Christ.

Of course I had reason to be sceptical. But I had no idea that there were all sorts of Christians, and all sorts of churches. I never suspected I would find a church that I could join, let alone love.

I think it began with dental floss.

When I lived downtown Ottawa, when I started this blog in fact, I worked very hard to tighten up our finances so that I could afford to stay home. I paid a LOT of attention to grocery prices, and I was lucky to have a friend with a car who was generous enough to bring me to far-flung magical places like Food Basics and Costco. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t exciting.

One day at Food Basics, as we were loading our bags into our respective carts, my friend noticed a pack of dental floss that had been forgotten at the bottom of the cart. He checked his receipt: nope, they hadn’t charged him.

At this point I probably would have said to myself something like, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. It’s only dental floss,” or more likely, “I’ll just pay for it next time I come,” and then forget all about it.

But my friend immediately took it back to the cashier and paid for it. The two of them chatted and laughed about it, and away we went. I was impressed and I told him so.

“I try to live a values-based life.”

Values. Not something I had thought very much about. I mean, I knew what values were, and I knew what many of my values were, but at that point I hadn’t thought carefully enough about my values to apply them to my small day-to-day interactions like this one. I knew to teach people decently, but beyond that I just hadn’t really thought about it.

A few weeks later, we were having another conversation, this time at the park by the swings. He was a stay-at-home dad, and our kids were close in age. We were talking about choosing that lifestyle, choosing to stay home despite the income hit, and he said something that got me right in the heart:

“St. Peter doesn’t look at how big your house is, when you get to the pearly gates.”

On that day, at a time when money was tight, the kids were burning me out, and I didn’t know many people who really understood, or whom I could count on for a word of support; when, if I expressed any doubt or stress, people were more than likely to tell me, “Why don’t you just put them in daycare and go back to work–it’s bound to be easier.” . . . On that day, his words brought tears to my eyes.

Not the idea of the spiritual reward at the end of an earthly life, but the idea that there was a doctrine of thought—a theology—that supported me in my choice to stay home instead of working, a choice that puzzled most members of my family, and which seemed at odds with much of our culture.

My friend said to me that day, “Colleen, I think your values are really in line with some of the main-line churches. I think you might really like it.”

I can’t really say what exactly had changed in my mind from the religious intolerance of my youth, but at that moment, I craved support, the kind of support that would see me through the next few years of being home with my kids. I wanted to find more people who chose their values over their net worth. I wanted to be with people who would think it was more than okay to choose being at home with kids over buying a home.

I was sceptical, but also open. And the next week I decided to go and see for myself.

The first church I walked into was impressive in its size, and probably in the CVs of its congregation, but the sermon didn’t light me up, and the music was lacklustre.

But the second church I entered . . . well, it took my breath away. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I’d come on their feast day, and they were celebrating with a chamber orchestra joining the substantial sized choir, producing the biggest most glorious sound. Thinking back on this, it seems that God opened a door for me, and with that music, cracked open my heart. I sat in the back and wept the whole service.

It wasn’t hard to notice that this was a beautifully different kind of place. Their mission statement spoke of welcoming ALL people, and indeed there were people from many walks of life: people of all ages, abilities, gender expression, sexual orientation, economic status, colour, you name it. The people in the room were the living proof that this congregation practiced what was being preached.

After that first time, I had to go back. I started to attend every week, and after a couple of weeks of observing from the back row, I actually got up the nerve to approach the open table. I had never heard of such a thing, and I had to re-read the invitation several times: that Everyone is welcome to receive the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

It was again a hugely emotional experience—one of the most bittersweet humility—to take the bread, and the wine. Bitter because of what was inside me: a gate, a barrier between me and all that was spoken of, about the Spirit’s Love for all humanity, about God creating us all as beloved children.

But tear-blindingly sweet to take it and to allow the thought: This Is Also For Me.

And did I mention that it was a sung communion liturgy? And that the priest was a former professional singer? Oh, that music . . . I still miss that music.

Yet there was still so much a barrier inside of me, and I still felt so very separate from everyone else in that room. I yearned for Communion every week, and wept at the Anthem, but when reciting the Nicene Creed, and singing the traditional hymns, I gagged on the words that seemed part of an ancient judgemental and exclusionary script.

That changed a little bit a few weeks later when I timidly asked the young woman in charge of Christian Education, “So, does everyone here believe the same things? Does everyone else here believe everything they say and sing?”

“No, not really,” said this young, tattooed, completely cool and normal-looking girl, who wore a cross bravely front and centre:

“Everyone here is on their own journey.”

That metaphor: that overused and worn out metaphor of a journey . . . that metaphor was what let me in. I could sing and puzzle over the hymns. I could read and consider the Creed. I could take what lessons the Scripture readings held, and look for the useful wisdom in the sermon.

That was the beginning of my own journey.

That day with my friend at the swings, I wouldn’t have believed where my path would eventually take me. And I have no idea how far it will take me yet.

But I’ll save those stories for another day.

Project-Based Afterschooling

2 Dec

I’ve just had a bit of a revelation.

I am very guilty of being an all-or-nothing type of thinker, type of person. When my sweetie lost his job this past June, I went immediately from full-time homeschooling Mom, to job-seeking, basically full-blown Working Mom, in my attitude and the way my attention and time were being spent. That at a time when we actually had two parents at home, not just one! But the environment had changed. My MO had changed: it was now my prerogative to find work, and then do said work,  not look after the kids in the all-consuming way that I had been doing for six years.

And so it has gone. I found my new job in August, we took a little holiday, and then in September I started work and the kids went to school. Working Mom mode has reigned.

I drop them off at school, and we all do our jobs, mine at work and theirs at school, for six hours. Then I pick them up, and we head home, decompress, make dinner, and then try to enjoy some family time before bedtime.

My job is good. The kids are good. Life is good! We are very blessed. But the last few weeks I have been feeling very sad about letting go of our homeschooling life. I miss all that expanse of time spent together. I miss knowing the details of all of their stories–because I was there too! But most of all, I think I’ve been missing my role in their lives as guide and conductor, and mentor.

Meanwhile, while we have been spending that little bit of time between dinner and bed together as a family, there has been something a bit forced about it. Board games just aren’t feeling very *fun*, yet we all have the desire to spend the time really *being* together, not just watching a show.

So here are the entry points: me missing homeschooling and guiding the kids, a lacklustre “family time” routine, and a slightly neglected project space . . .

Which has led me to the (maybe not so) remarkable plan to begin: Project-Based Afterschooling!

Let me begin by saying that I have no desire to cram more knowledge into my kids’ heads, or to add stress to their lives, or make them overachievers or anything like that. This is coming from memories of my own childhood and tallying up all the skills I learned and all the projects I undertook, all on my own. Of course, it was in the days before iPads and streaming TV and handheld video games, the eighties my friends! I’m sure my kids would get up to all sorts of interesting stuff all on their own, but I have this desire to SHARE that stuff with them. And to nudge our lifestyle to support my own and my partner’s creative work. To celebrate our making, together as a family.

And to give us something to do together that doesn’t involve another round of Monopoly Party.

So here’s the plan:

  • Dust off my copy of Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert (a brilliant, amazing book that details exactly everything I believe education should be!)
  • Re-read my notes from Lori’s Master Class
  • be like a ninja and don’t tell the kids what I’m planning
  • clean up the project area and slowly start re-stocking with exciting materials
  • dedicate my full attention to the kitchen table area during “family time”
  • start journaling and photographing their projects, and start posting stuff on my tumblr feed again
  • celebrate the best of both worlds: doing awesome projects together as a family and basking in all the creative energy that comes out of that, while making money, and letting someone else take care of the academics.

I am sure I will update you on how this goes! But for now, I am excited–and feel like I’ve added some shades of grey to my previously black-or-white world.

 

Frugal Healthy School Lunches: My learning, my gear, and a simple formula

14 Nov

We’re relatively new on the school lunch scene, and learning as quickly as we can! Trying to send healthy foods that the kids will actually eat, without resorting to single-serve convenience foods, and staying on budget is a really tough mission. And it just seems to take such a long time. I pack the lunches the night before school (and celebrate on Friday night that I don’t have to pack for Saturday!), doing lunch for my two kids and myself.

This summer, I was wooed by these stainless steel Lunchbot containers, and fell in love with the Quad, a stainless steel four-section two-piece container. They make it easy to pack healthy stuff, because each day I am motivated to fill it with four different fruits and veggies, sometimes even managing to pack something like a “rainbow“.  My daughter came home one day and announced that her Lunchbot had been “wowed” by one of the teachers! I like the fact that there are only two pieces: the body and the lid, and I have a waterproof label on each of them. I had checked out some plastic “bento” containers before I purchased the Lunchbots, but was frustrated by the number of pots and lids involved. If you lose one lid, there’a whole section of your lunch container that’s useless! The Lunchbots were not cheap, but if taken care of, they will last forever–a frugal move as long as they don’t get lost! I actually got three of them, and will get a fourth once DH re-enters the workforce.

Staying Away from Single-Serve Convenience

They are so appealing: little one-serving pots of hummus, yummy yogurts in 100 g servings, individually wrapped granola bars, “fruit snacks”, yogurt tubes and drinks, juice boxes, Lunch Mates . . . How easy it would be to pack lunch if I could just open a half-dozen boxes and throw in some plastic wrapped food! Now I would be lying if I said I never buy this stuff. Just today I bought yogurt cups (on sale) and BabyBel cheeses. And I do buy Lunch Mates about once a month because it’s special for the kids. But as a general rule I am trying (so hard!) to stay away from the single-servings.

Some things I’ve used to make my own single servings include:

images

  • small servings of dryer, non-leaking foods like cheese or even hummus, in plastic (lidded!) Heinz baby food containers. These end up being WAY cheaper than buying plastic containers separately. And the kids really enjoyed the baby food!
  • a small (100 ml) leakproof rubbermaid container for wet things like yogurt. Just don’t forget to pack the spoon!
  • I snagged some LunchSkins in the late summer/early Fall when they were on sale at HomeSense. These are really handy for the occasional (cold) toasted cheese sandwich, or to send some sturdy crackers like Mary’s Crackers, or a piece of leftover pizza.
  • those rubbermaid drink boxes, which I remember from when I was a kid. I’m not thrilled about the plastic, but my Stainless Steel budget is already blown for this year:)

Unfortunately the kids are not allowed glass containers at school, otherwise I would totally be using Mason jars! That is what I use in my own lunch. In an upcoming post I will share my super cute Mason Jar Lunch Box solution.

Avoiding Processed Meat

While Pepperettes and mini Kolbassa sticks are sooooo convenient, and yummy, I’ve stopped packing them in our lunches for the most part. The recent “Bacon Study” reminded us of what we already knew: processed meat is not good for you. Reviewing the claims, I wouldn’t necessarily agree it is as bad for you as smoking, but I just feel uncomfortable about including it as a regular part of my kids’ lunches and my own. Plus, those things are dang expensive! On sale, they’re $6.99 for a dozen, which will be gone in 3 days time (or less, if DH gets snacky!).

Instead, I’ve been trying to pack meat from dinner as often as possible. The kids are happy to eat chicken, fish cakes, meatloaf muffins and other items cold. And I have been happy to pack warm leftovers such as soup or stew when we have it. I just warm it in the morning, preheat their Thermoses (then empty!), and pour it in just before running out the door. Don’t forget the spoon!

Simplicity is Key

If I’ve learned one main thing in the two and a half months of packing school lunches, it’s that simplicity is my BFF. After some trial-and-error in the first month, I’ve settled into a lovely routine, sparked by occasional surprises like that leftover stew or soup I mentioned.

My basic lunchbox looks something like this:

  • in the LunchBot: a four-way combo of grapes, cherry tomatoes, cut up pear or apple, cut up peppers, cucumber slices, or a whole peeled kiwi. Usually at the end of the week it is more challenging as we’ve eaten up most of the “good stuff” so I tend to include more apple, and might even double up with two sections filled with one item.
  • a protein which could be: sliced cheese, hummus, leftover meat from dinner, a BabyBel, or leftover soup or stew
  • a “bread” which could be: crackers, even buttered crackers, “fishies”, or bread if I’ve made a toasted cheese
  • a sweet: yogurt in a little container, a fig bar, some ShaSha gingersnaps, or even sometimes Cupcake fishies
  • a drink: usually slightly watered down apple juice in a plastic reusable drink box

This basic formula might look like good common sense, but it took me awhile to learn it, and it helps me to fill the kids’ bellies without too much difficulty and without too much expense. I pack most of the same items for myself, apart from the juice, and with the addition of my supreme Lunch Salad described in an earlier post.

What is your lunch box magic? Please share any of your tips for making a healthy frugal school lunch!

And then you eat salads out of mason jars — an accidentally vegan lunch salad recipe

5 Nov

eat salads out of mason jarsOkay, so I’m about two years behind the whole salad in a jar craze. But actually, I was Way ahead of the trend because I’ve been eating–and drinking–out of Mason jars since before they somehow became cool. Just ask my co-workers circa 2000 (they thought I was crazy! Who’s crazy now?!).

Despite my jar-lovin’ ways, I was sceptical when I first heard about salad in a jar. My scepticism asked, how can you possibly get enough salad into a jar to constitute a meal? Really, this girl gets pretty hungy, and I’m sorry but a mere pint of romaine just isn’t going to fill my bellah.

However. That was before I discovered my current lunch salad.

It’s crunchy. It’s healthy. It’s filling. And it packs conveniently inside a Mason jar. Oh, and did I mention it is also super frugal?

My lunch salad starts with a bag of pre-shredded coleslaw, which goes for $1.39 at Food Basics. One bag of cole slaw mix will make 3-4 lunch salads, which truly fill my tummy for hours.

I add a simple, wholesome, vegan dressing, toss with some toasted sunflower seeds, and head to work with my frugal healthy filling lunch. In a Mason jar.

Frugal Urban Tummy-Filling Lunch Salad

1 pint pre-shredded cole slaw mix, raw

1.5 tbsp tahini

Enough Olive oil to make it runny, about a tbsp

3/4 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Salt to taste

Sunflower seeds, roasted without salt

To take this to work, I usually pre-mix the salad the night before, following these exact instructions: First, place cole slaw mix in a bowl. In a small mason jar, mix together the tahini, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt, using an old bamboo chopstick. Pour dressing over the cole slaw and stir with the chopstick until everything is combined. Then use first the chopstick, and then your finger, to get every last bit of dressing out of the smaller jar and eat it right then & there because it is sooooo yummy.  Taste the salad and adjust for salt. Pack the salad in a pint-sized (500 ml) Mason jar, put the lid on, and store it in the fridge overnight. Pack the sunflower seeds separately, and when you are ready to eat, sprinkle them over the salad.

When you make it the night before, the salad shrink down as the cabbage gets soft and chewy. I like it this way, but if you prefer to follow the Pinterest-approved salad-in-a-jar method, you could choose to mix the dressing in the pint jar, then pour the undressed cole slaw mix in over top of it, keeping it upright overnight. In the morning at work, turn it upside down and the dressing will magically mix with the cabbage, theoretically leaving you with a perfect, fresh salad for your lunch. Still pack the seeds separately, or they will get soft and less fresh and crunchy.

While the second method gives you a fresher salad, I found the dressing didn’t mix completely well, as it is a fairly thick consistency, and I found eating it a bit awkward, with bits falling all over since they weren’t stuck together all nicely with the dressing. But maybe that’s just me. I am known to be a bit clumsy.

Enjoy my contribution to the world of “salads in jars”! With a full tummy:)

 

Making progress: routines, rituals and daily checklist apps

2 Nov image

I’ve always been plagued with a messy house. And with a stubborn nature that rejects routine and good habits. These things are not unrelated.

I was lucky to have had a six-year hiatus from the world of paid work, where I was free to make my own routines and carve out my own ways of life.

So for six years I struggled through the chaos freedom of a self-ordered life. It shifted and changed from nap times and nursing, to snacks and preschool, to park dates and swimming lessons, to phonics and project time. It was lovely. It was messy. It was how I had chosen for us to live.

So can you imagine my surprise when, after six years of this chosen messy life, after being plunged into 9-3 work, and walking the kids to school and home, and making lunches every night, and groceries on the weekend and a load of laundry a day, that I discovered I actually Like routine? Here we are, living our lives by someone else’s clock, and we’re thriving?? How can this be?

I’m more surprised than anyone to find that actually, routines work for me too–not just everyone else.

And now that I’ve made this realization, I’m taking advantage of it. I’m building rituals into our day purposefully. I’m harnessing the power of habits to make some lovely changes in my life.

I’ve learned through this blog that the best ritual to do every day is to do a ritual every day. Simply having a routine, a ritual, is a key to success. And the more rituals you have, the better! And the best way to add a new ritual, is to peg it to an already established ritual. Oh yes, this stuff works.

imageThe tool I’ve been using to bring more rituals into my life is a simple little app called List – Daily Success Checklist by Blue Logo. It is a deceptively simple and remarkably powerful tool for bringing in new habits and building upon already established routines.

I should note that this is an honest review and I am not in any way affiliated with this company, nor receiving any compensation for this review. I just really like this app and want to help people change their lives. It is a free app, but I purchased the full version for a few dollars almost immediately, and haven’t regretted it for a second.

Some of the things I have added to my checklist include: a 5-minute tidy upstairs, a 5-minute tidy downstairs right before bed, a 2-minute tidy of my “hot spot” where papers and things accumulate, setting out tomorrow’s clothes in the evening, wiping off the stove and counter, doing literacy work with my son, and doing 5 minutes of meditation and  15 minutes of writing per day.

It may seem too simple, but no joke: this app is really changing my life, and my home. I’ve struggled with clutter and housework for decades, but since starting this checklist app, things are getting tidier every day, almost as if by magic. I love writing, and yet until I added it to my checklist, I wasn’t doing any. Since then I’ve been writing daily.

I believe that change is always possible, and that trying many different paths is the best way to find the road to better things. Putting energy into seeking a brighter way always yield results. I am so happy to have found a tool that is working for me, bringing my daily life into closer alignment with what I want it to be.

Have you discovered any tools for change that you want to tell others about? Let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to respond.

Pink Things: a recipe for a frugal probiotic condiment

30 Oct scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side
scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side

scrambled kale & eggs with lacto fermented rutabaga on the side

I’ve been doing a fair bit of fermenting here the last few weeks, with some successes, and some screw-ups here and there. But one of my successes has been what we call “pink things”. What they are, in fact, are sticks of rutabaga, lactofermented with garlic and beet in brine. The beet chunks mixed in with the rutabaga make everything turn a vibrant pink, while the garlic just makes it yummy.

I think these are the brilliant pink condiments that Lebanese restaurants add to Shawarma.

Rutabaga are under a dollar a pound at this time of year–making this one frugal ferment! I though I had shared my recipe on my blog before, but when I searched, I couldn’t find it. So here it is!

Pink Things

1 rutabaga

2-3 beets

3-4 cloves garlic

3-4 pint/500 ml mason jars, very clean or sterilized with boiling water

1 litre basic brine (approx. 1 tbsp salt to 1 L water: less salt in colder weather, more salt in warmer weather; see note about water to use)

Peel rutabaga and cut into spears, about the size of your pinky finger. Dice beets. Bruise or crush the garlic cloves so that the flavour will emerge but the cloves will stay intact. Divide the ingredients evenly between the pint jars, making sure there is at least one clove of garlic per jar, and a small handful of beet chunks.

When the veggies are divided up, pour brine over it all to cover. The veggies should stay submerged beneath the brine: you can use a lid from a smaller jar, maybe weighted down with a stone that you have boiled to sterilize. The lids should be put on "fingertip tight" to allow carbon dioxide, produced during the fermentation, to escape.

Leave on the counter for several days, maybe 3 days if the weather is warm, and as long as a week if it is cooler. They will lose the “raw” taste, the beets will start seeping colour into the brine, and the whole thing will take on a dark shade of pink. If they smell alcoholic, or grow a lot of mold, throw them out and try again with fresh ingredients and sterile jars. Using filtered or distilled water can also help if you have problems.

These disappear pretty quickly at my house! I hope they are as popular at yours. What a frugal way to get some gut-supporting probiotics, in the form of a delicious condiment!

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