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Ideas for School Lunches

I, like most parents, do not approve of our school lunches here and have to arm my arsenal with an array of interesting choices beyond pb and j! Sometimes it can be very difficult to come up with creative ideas that your kids will actually eat without breaking the bank! What my kids like is a break from sandwiches and soup and most of the time they like to eat it plain or with crackers. Here are a few of our most loved recipes. I make enough for myself to take to work as well.

Chicken Salad:
My kids and I love chicken salad and its so versatile, plus you can make it as low fat as possible. This recipe is very easy to use lowfat mayo; you can’t even tell the difference.

Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
5 teaspoons of honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs chicken breast
3/4 c pecans toasted
2 cups red seedless grapes
2-3 stalks of thinly sliced celery

Just a suggestion to use half the dressing first then add as you prefer. We don’t like our chicken salad swimming in dressing and I think I only used 2/3 of it.

Pesto Pasta Salad: so versatile, you can add or substitute anything to fit your dietary needs. I find every opportunity to add as many servings of veggies as I can.
Salad:
1 cup green beans fresh or frozen
1 cup of peas fresh or frozen
1 1/2 c of cherry tomatoes halved
8 oz of mozzarella cubed or the little balls are really convenient

Pesto: Or you can just buy it prepared
2 cups fresh basil
1 clove garlic
dash of salt
3 tbl pine nuts
1/4 c parmigiano
3 tbl pecorino
1/2 c olive oil

In a food processor or blender blend all ingredients except for olive oil. Slowly stream in olive oil. Cook pasta til tender and add green beans and peas for last 2 minutes. Drain and pour back into pot. Add tomatoes and pesto and stir to coat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. When cool add mozzarella and toss to coat and put into refrigerator. I usually coat the pesto when the pasta is hot so its evenly distributed. Optional toppings: chopped cooked bacon, shredded chicken, steamed red potatoes cubed, nicoise olives

Mediteranean Orzo Salad: What i love about this salad is that its really light but filling at the same time. To save money I actually use the olive and antipasto bar at my grocery store for the feta, olives and artichokes. Its cheaper than buying each separately unless you are using them in other recipes.

1 box of Orzo cooked
1 cup of Kalamata (or preferred) olives
1 cup of cubed feta cheese
1 cup of cherry tomatoes
1 cup of chopped artichokes (marinated or plain)
1/3 cup of finely diced red onion
1/2 cup of toasted slivered almonds

Dressing;
1-2 teaspoons dijon mustard (i like more)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 lemons juiced

This can be tossed together while its cooled. The lemon is really bright and brings a nice balance to the other flavors. If your not a fan of red onion you can soak it in ice water before you cut it; that will reduce the strength of the flavor.

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Warming Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is my take on one of my favorite soups growing up. I am a big fan of using what you have on hand so feel free to substitute things for what you already have in your kitchen.  This is super easy and very versatile!  Always a crowd favorite at potlucks.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs of Chicken (breast or thighs)
2 qts of chicken or vegetable broth

1-2 tbl of olive oil
1 Onion diced
3-4 cloves of garlic (more or less depending on your tastes)
1 bell pepper (i prefer red but use yellow or orange too) diced
1 can of green chilis
3-4 tomatillos or 1 can chopped
1-2 tbl of chili powder
1 tbl of cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano

sea salt and pepper to taste

1/4-1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 medium can of fire roasted tomatoes (muir glen makes fantastic ones!)
1 large can of pinto beans NOT drained ( you can also use cannelini or black too)
1 – 1 1/2 c of frozen corn (more or less if you want)
fresh corn tortillas sliced into strips
vegetable oil or shortening
cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)

green onions chopped (optional)

Directions:

To get rich broth, I usually poach my chicken thighs or breasts with bone and skin in the broth.  Set aside and shred or chop into bite size pieces.

In a large pot, cook onion, garlic, peppers, chilis, tomatillos, and all spices including salt and pepper for 5-7 minutes until soft.  Cooking the spices this way with the oil is a traditional method in Mexican and Indian cooking that is thought to “wake” them up and really does make a difference in taste, well to me at least.  When cooked add tomatoes with juice, beans with liquid, corn and broth in small amounts until the desired consistency.  My family likes it a little thicker so I only end up using like 1 cup of broth in mine.  Freeze any leftover broth.  If you like your soup even thicker you can finely chop a few corn tortillas and add it to the soup to thicken.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.  Taste it to check for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper as desired.  In a cast iron or deep pan, heat the shortening or vegetable oil.  Slice your tortillas and check a small piece in the oil to see if temperature is ready.  Fry in small batches and drain on paper towel.  Lightly salt.  Add chicken to soup to heat.  When ready to serve, top with cheese and crispy tortilla strips and green onions if desired.

I love serving this with my spicy cornbread!  Mix corbread as directed and add a small can of corn drained and a cubed block of pepper jack cheese.  Bake as usual.

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My Journey With Hypnobirthing

What is one of the first things you think of when you hear someone is pregnant or when you found out you were pregnant yourself? How did you envision labor and birth? Were you bombarded with information about your friends births and that of their friends as well? Was it positive or not? Chances are you had more negative stories than positive, unless you were very lucky. I was 23 when pregnant with my first. I was very scared of all the pain I was to endure when birthing a child. But I also had an aunt that was only 8 years older than I who had had 2 very successful homebirths. None of my other family even thought twice about another way. My poor grandmother was strapped down and knocked out, waking to her newborn babies. This was the norm for a very long time because women were looked at, and still now in many ways, as weak and not being able to withstand the intense physical and emotional process of labor and birth.

I knew there had to be another way. I shouldn’t have to look back on the birth of my children as scary and excrutiatingly painful. After all, women didnt have any anesthetic for thousands of years and we seem to have done fine. I was determined to see this as a positive thing. The alternative was just too overwhelming to deal with. I chose a nurse midwife to deliver our baby in a “natural birth” friendly hospital.  Sitting in the office one day I saw an ad for Hypnobirthing classes. My only thoughts about hypnosis were strange and fake episodes where the participants have to be playing along. I mean, cmon! But I thought it was something to look into and our first meeting would be free. When my boyfriend Aaron and I went to the first meeting we were a bit skeptical but thought we would give it a shot. After talking with us, our instructor Amy gave us a fear release. This was just really a guided relaxation that made you visualize and name your fears and consciously let it go. You are conscious the whole time. You choose how deeply to relax. I tell you after leaving that meeting I felt somehow lighter. I dont know quite how to explain it but one thing I can compare it to is doing yoga for awhile. I was relaxed (so not like me).

The main idea behind hypnobirthing is that your mind and your body are connected.  When we are scared your body reverts to fight or flight and your body then releases catecholamines, a hormone from the adrenal glands as a result of the stress.  In hypnobirthing, you are training yourself to relax and release the good feeling endorphins that lead to a more comfortable, easy faster and calmer labor and birth. In addition to that, it teaches your partner and you how to be in sync.  It also teaches you about the language of birth in our intervention based society.  How the word “labor” is changed to “birth process”, contractions are changed to “surges” and to not listen to anything negative about birth…from anyone!

This last one was the hardest by far.  Because you all know as soon as you tell someone you are pregnant then all of their stories about how long their labor was, and how all these interventions had to be done and how scary it was and awful and blah blah blah.  Do you ever wonder why women have to do that?  Why we are at constant competition to one up each other with birthing horror stories?  We have been conditioned to think that we are incapable of dealing with the intense process of birthing our babies.  This is not to say that there aren’t people out there who really do need interventions and I am conscious and thankful that I’ve had 2 low risk pregnancies and live in an age where if I had a real problem it could be attended to properly.

But I am here to attest and promote this fantastic way of labor and birthing.  It wasn’t until I had my second that I really understood how amazing our minds really are.  Like I said earlier, we were very young and broke with our first baby, barely together a few years and about to bring another soul into this crazy place.  My hospital journey was as good as it could’ve ever been.  I had zero interventions, and was able to labor and birth in a tub.  My labor lasted quite a while, about 24 hours, but I can say with confidence that I myself was the reason my labor lasted so long.  I was very afraid of becoming a mother.  I didn’t have the most concrete of upbringings, and I still struggle with my relationships with my parents.  My own fears of what kind of life I could give this innocent child prevented me from embracing  it all and just letting it be.  It wasn’t until I was pregnant with our daughter almost 6 years later that I realized this.  I knew this time would be different, because if I thought it, it would be.

My goal with my second pregnancy was to have a 3 hour homebirth from start to finish.  I was determined.  My husband and I had a few refresher courses but mostly did everything on our own.  He is an amazing coach and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in these wonderful experiences. We got an awesome team of homebirth midwives that truly respected our methods. Looking back, my labor was off and on for about 2 weeks.   So frustrating, but every time I thought I had a “surge” I envisioned my cervix opening ever so slightly each time.  My surges weren’t really consistent and they weren’t much at all really; more like Braxton-Hicks than anything.  One night, about a week or so after my “due week”, my water broke.  Immediately I was in high gear, but it felt so different I wasn’t sure I was in active labor really.  I felt so relaxed and it  just felt like rhythmic pressure.  I knew once there were no breaks between the “surges” that this was going to be fast.  We called the midwives and they got to our house just in time.  My daughter was born in the water and my son got to cut her cord.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  When all was said and done, I was interested to see how long my labor and birth was.  We ended up with a time of 3 hours and 19 minutes from water breaking to completion of 3rd phase.  Good enough for me 🙂

So if the fear of having a baby or another traumatic birth overcomes you…look into Hypnobirthing.  It may be the best thing you ever did.

Brittaini Pulver is mother to Santiago, 7 and Adelina 1 and lives in Columbus, Ohio with their amazing father, Aaron.  They plan to have more hypno water babies in the future.

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Leaf Prints

Hello There Natural Families! Its Brittaini again for your weekly art lesson! This week I have a great lesson that involves nature and the wonderful process of printmaking! This is one of my favorite methods to work with because you can use virtually anything you have on hand to create a beautiful and textural work of art.

Materials:
Newspaper
Any colorful paper for printing (rice paper, construction, comics, recycled artwork, etc)
Block Printing ink OR tempera acrylic paint (most paints you have around the house are actually temperas)
paint brush
pastels and/or chalk, crayons would work too
leaves found outside varying in size…newly fallen or fresh work best. dried leaves wont work

Directions:
1. Take a walk or you and your child can go around to the different trees, bushes, shrubs in your yard and pick an array of different types of foliage. You can extend into science by looking up the tree leaves and identifying them.

2. Spread out newspaper on your work space, have lots handy for printing. A printmakers area tends to get messy fast. Have your paper ready to print on and squeeze out small amounts of different colored paints on another piece of newspaper. Put the pile of leaves in an easily accessible spot.
2. Have your child choose a leaf to work with. Have them also pick out what color of paint and what color of background paper they want ahead of time. This can also be part of a planning process or if you prefer to just let them go with the feeling that works too 🙂
3. On a separate piece of newspaper, flip the leaf over and let your child paint on the underside of the leaf in an outward motion. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the leaf as it is delicate and can tear easily. Encourage them to use as many or as little colors as they would like.
4. Carefully flip the leaf over onto the printing paper in a clean area. Using clean newspaper, place over leaf and rub with pressure all over the leaf. Carefully lift off newspaper and leaf to reveal your print. Now the fun begins! Once you and your child get the hang of it, you will have a blast trying out different combinations with leaf shapes and colors.
5. When your art work is dry, you can have a lot of fun adding details with crayons, pastels and/or chalk. Create a border or add additional detail on top of the printed areas. Use a contrasting color around the edges of the printed areas to make it pop out from the background.

Hints and Tips:
*Have a smudgy print? use less paint
*try printing the same leaf twice without adding more paint for a more undefined look
*Print on greeting cards or make smaller prints to send as postcards in the mail to far away relatives and friends.
*Tear or cut around the edge of the printed leaf and glue onto another sheet of paper for a collage look
*use other things to print…dont limit yourself to leaves.
*Have fun be creative and dont follow any rules

Brittaini Pulver is the owner and designer of Long Mountain Art.  She currently co-habitates with her son Santiago 7, Adelina 1 and thier father Aaron in Columbus, Ohio where she teaches high school art.

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Color Wheel Radial Name Design

Hi There All!  This is Brittaini Pulver your Natural Kids resident art teacher!  I am very please to be able to bring you lots of lessons for exploring the wonderful world of art!

The Color Wheel:  We all know how important exploring colors can be for children of any age.  Here we explore how to create them, integrate some math concepts and create a beautiful radial design using your child’s name.

Age Level: Grades 4-12 although you can modify for any age

Materials:

Piece of chipboard or strong card stock for creating a template 2 x 6

black Marker, pencil and eraser, scissors

protractor and ruler

18 x 24 paper

Red, Yellow and Blue Paint (tempera or acrylic work best but you could use watercolor too), small brushes, water

Directions:

1.  On the 2 x 6 piece of card stock write the name in cursive as large and wide as possible.  Ignore dots for “I”s for now.  When you like what you have, use a marker to go over the name a few times, going wider and wider without going off the paper creating a thick broad line for your name.  See figure 1. and 2.  You may want to change or adapt the shape of the name as you do this.  Cut out your name.  Cut the outer edge only, ignore the insides of letters like “a” and the “o”.  Be very careful to cut accurately as you are now using this as your template.  I tell my students to use the lower part of the scissors to gain more control over the cuts.

2.  On your paper, take your ruler and find the cross hairs of the center of the paper in very light pencil.  see figure 3.  Using the protractor, match the center line with the center you just made on your paper.  Using the pencil, make marks at the 0, 30, 60,90, 120, 150 and 180.  Flip over and make marks at the 30, 60, 90, 120 and 150 degree.  This should give you 12 equally spaced dots.  Alternately, if you do not have a protractor you can eye ball it with pencil 12 equally spaced dots like a clock.

3.  Using your pencil and the template of your name, choose a dot on one of the sides.  Fit it so that the edge of the first letter of your name is close to the edge without going off the paper.  Make a mark where the dot lines up with your template.  This is important to do if you want your design to look even and radial.  Trace your name.  Now move around the circle rotating your name slightly each time; keep tracing until you have all 12 done.  BE sure to line up the dot on your name in the same place every time.  Now with your pencil draw all the insides of the letters like the “o” and the “a”.  Now you can choose to draw a tail towards the center like finished example 3 if you like.

4.  Pour out red, yellow and blue paint.  Keep some scrap paper handy for mixing.  refer to this link http://www.kidzone.ws/science/colorwheel.htm for color wheel.  It is important the sequence is correct.  Paint the primary colors first; red, blue and yellow in the correct spots.  Using equal parts of yellow and blue mix green and paint it in; equal parts blue and red for violet (purple);  equal parts yellow and red for orange.  These are the secondary colors.  Equal parts of 2 primary colors make the secondary colors.  The intermediate or tertiary colors are created by mixing 1 primary and 1 secondary color together.   Or if you want to explore ratios as a math extension you could do it this way; notice how the primary color is always listed first for the intermediate colors and therefore have the majority of the ratio:

Orange: 2 parts yellow, 2 parts red

Violet: 2 parts blue, 2 parts red

Green: 2 parts blue, 2 parts yellow

Yellow Orange: 3 parts yellow, 1 part red      Yellow Green: 3 parts yellow, 1 part blue

Red Violet: 3 parts red, 1 part blue          Red Orange: 3 parts red, 1 part yellow

Blue Green: 3 parts blue, 1 part yellow          Blue Violet: 3 parts blue, 1 part red

5.  Painting tips:  It is important that you mix a little more color than you think you need for a spot.  Otherwise, it will take some time to get the exact color you had before.  Load up your brush with paint and try to use the smallest brush possible.  Start at just the inside of the line in the space you are working on; that way when you put pressure on the brush the paint will be forced towards the edges leaving you a nice clean edge.  When creating your name, the thicker the better…smaller is NOT easier in this case especially if you do not have the most careful painter.  For smaller children, i highly recommend tracing the names on another sheet of paper so the child doesn’t have to worry about edges; they can even finger paint inside the names.  Cut out the names when dry and paste them to a background paper.  Younger kids will frustrate easily because they are still fine tuning their fine motor skills.  When you are finished and paint has dried, you may want to take a sharpie or heavy black marker and outline your work.  This is just an aesthetic choice.  Above all, have fun and modify as you see fit.  The most important concept about this project is understanding how colors relate and how they are made.

Brittaini Pulver is the mother of Santiago 7 and Adelina 1.  She is currently in her 9th year of teaching high school art for Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio.  She owns Long Mountain Art, an organic clothing line for babies and children.

www.longmountainart.etsy.com