7 School And Work Lunches Approved By My Daughter And Husband

7 lunch ideas for Back to School
7 lunch ideas for Back to School

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 7, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks there to learn more about the highlighted products.)

After meal planning and making lunches for many years, my family and I have decided to shake things up for our upcoming back to school and work routines: we’re eating more fruits and vegetables and trying out different food combinations and ingredients.

Recently, I sat down with my high school daughter, who prepares and takes lunch every day, and my husband, who brings lunch to work a few times a month, to discuss new and fun ideas.

My daughter tested these lunches when she was at her summer day camp job and my husband enjoyed the leftovers from the photo shoot – yup, all the meals got a thumbs up!

We’re also making a conscious effort to include reusable, BPA-free items rather than single-use plastic. This is made easy by all of the innovative containers from one of my favorite stores: Kitchen Stuff Plus.

Here are the 7 school and work lunches we’re enjoying:

The Bistro Box
Putting together eggs, cheese, crackers, and fruit/nuts in a box takes no time. This Locksy box with two compartments is perfect, but you can also use a bento box. My husband loves this because there are lots of little things to choose from. And, my daughter loves the special fruit container with a built-in basket to keep fruits like strawberries dry. I am also totally loving this container myself and use it for my daily fruit-on-the go. The juices of any fruits, like watermelon, stay at the bottom and keep the melon pieces fresh.

Bistro Box lunch idea featuring Trudeau Fuel Fruit Container
Bistro Box lunch idea featuring Trudeau Fuel Fruit Container

The Hot Food Combo
My daughter likes hot meals: soups, pasta, beans and rice, and veggie chili. The thermos shown is the perfect size (290ml). Add chips and cheese in a slim box and keep them on an ice pack until it’s time to eat the chili. The chips stay crisp and intact. Note the water bottle where you can add any fruits, like the cucumbers here, to infuse the water.

Hot lunch combo with Thermos + Locksy box for keeping chips intact
Hot lunch combo with Thermos + Locksy box for keeping chips intact

Spinach and Chicken Salad In A Box
On busy mornings, I reach for boxed salad greens and sliced pears and put them in the bottom part of this double-layered bento box. The top compartment can hold chicken or other wet vegetables to add at lunchtime. The small round containers hold parmesan cheese and dressing.

Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box
Spinach & Chicken Salad in a Locksy Bento Box

Chicken Greek Salad With Avocado Dressing In A Jar
The salad in a jar is my daughter’s new favorite. Use a thick dressing at the bottom to keep the salad from wilting. For the avocado dressing shown here, place one ripe avocado in a mini-chopper and add lime and orange juice, olive oil, honey, and salt and pepper. Then, layer cucumber sticks, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, olives, feta cheese, and chicken, leaving room at the top. When it’s lunchtime, shake the jar and enjoy a very tasty and filling meal!

Chicken Greek Salad in a jar
Chicken Greek Salad in a jar

The Wrap Combo
This wrap is made with boxed spinach and sliced chicken that is meal-prepped earlier. You can include hummus or avocado in the wrap. To keep the wrap on theme, there’s guacamole and salsa for dipping the wrap. Veggie sticks and dip complete the meal.

The wrap combo in a Locksy container
The wrap combo in a Locksy container

The Customizable Sandwich
Sandwiches are one of our favorite options. Usually, they include cheese and some kind of deli meat. My husband likes tomatoes, but doesn’t like them in the sandwich because it makes the bread soggy. That’s why this little Locksy box is perfect. And, so is this yogurt container with a built-in freezer top.

The cusomizable sandwich and the Trudeau Fuel Snack Pod with built-in ice cap
The cusomizable sandwich and the Trudeau Fuel Snack Pod with built-in ice cap

Leftovers For Lunch
I love ordering extra take-out dinner food to use in the next day’s lunch! We do this with falafel, and I make my own Israeli Salad at home as a side dish. The next day, these little pita pockets are the right size to fit in this flat box and the little containers perfectly hold tahini and Israeli salad that can be added to the pitas at mealtime. Look for my recipe for Israeli salad in the next week!

Leftovers for lunch - falafel with condiments in separate containers
Leftovers for lunch – falafel with condiments in separate containers

I hope these lunch ideas have inspired you to try something new for the upcoming school year.

And, I’d love to know what your favorite and most popular lunch ideas are, so please comment below!

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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What I’m Sending To University With My Daughter This Fall

 

Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus
Getting ready for back to school with Kitchen Stuff Plus

(This post first appeared on the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, on August 1, 2018. You can read that post here and follow the hyperlinks to learn more about the highlighted products.)

Although it’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to my oldest daughter when she goes off to university in September, it makes me feel better knowing she’ll have what she needs to make her dorm room feel a bit like home.

When we looked at the Kitchen Stuff Plus website, there were many room décor and snack accessories to choose from! We chose items that are reusable and environmentally friendly, conducive to healthy eating, and durable – so she can still use them when she eventually moves off campus.

Clothing & Shoes Storage

Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers
Non-slip hangers and underbed storage containers

These velvet-covered hangers ensure clothes stay put without sliding to the bottom of the closet. Because they’re all the same, the closet will look more organized and aesthetically pleasing.

For shoes, we chose an under bed container to hold out-of-season shoes and an umbrella.

Bath Accessories & Toiletries

Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical
Dark towels and a shower caddy are practical

We went with navy towels because they’re easier to keep clean-looking! A shower caddy is a must, à la sleep-away camp.

Keeping beauty accessories tidy
Keeping beauty accessories tidy

For holding makeup and hair styling accessories, this flat plastic container with high sides is perfect – she can move the bin around and then store it under the bed when it’s not in use.

Coffee & Water Bottles

Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages
Double tumbler perfect for hot and cold beverages

We opted for two types of mugs, in two different sizes. We love that both containers can be used for hot or cold liquids and foods.

Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go
Travel mug with handle is perfect for students on the go

The smaller mug with a handle is just right because she can easily hold it and reach into her backpack for other things. And, both containers are wide-mouthed and easy to clean – yay!

Coffee Station 

In-room coffee station
In-room coffee station

My daughter is someone for whom writing comes at crunch-time, meaning late night studying. Having an electric kettle on hand means she can make coffee and tea in her room.

She also picked out a rose gold colored coffee press and an electric milk frother. She’s very excited about sharing lattes and drinks with friends while enjoying the usual fun conversations that come with dorm living.

Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug
Rose-colored coffee press and monogrammed mug

By the way, we’ve been making iced lattes every morning at home for a few months now and one of our tricks is sweetening the drinks with simple syrup (recipe below). This reduces the need to store sugar in the dorm room, not to mention keeping ants at bay!

To quickly make a latte, pour coffee into a tumbler, add syrup to taste, and then pour in the milk – usually no spoon is needed for mixing!

Jars For Storage and Snacks

Jars for desk accessories and snack storage
Jars for desk accessories and snack storage

Keeping snacks such as nuts and chocolate in glass jars or plastic containers is neater, sanitary, and more conducive to having dorm-mates drop in for a chat and a snack.

We also liked this set of 3 mason jars in a caddy for storing markers, pens and pencils, coffee utensils, and reusable stainless-steel straws.

Himalayan Salt Rock Lamp

Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp
Himalayan Rock Salt Lamp

When my daughter saw this lamp, she loved it for various reasons. It gives off a warm, zen light, setting a calm mood for the room. And, the negative ions it emits help manage dust and odors.

Packing up for university is still a few weeks away, but getting these items ready is making the upcoming university drop-off feel like it’s going to run a tad more smoothly!

Simple Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Drops of lemon juice

Place the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, adding the lemon juice a minute before you remove the syrup from the heat. Store in a closed jar, at room temperature.

What tips do you have for helping a student get dorm-ready?

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This post was sponsored by Kitchen Stuff Plus. All opinions are my own. A special thank you goes out to Sophie and Joanna for helping me with understanding dorm life needs today!

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5 Ways To Make Toronto (Or Any Big City) Feel Smaller

Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall
Nathan Philips Square at Toronto City Hall

Ever feel like Toronto is getting too big, too busy, and too hard to get around? Well, you’re not alone. In 2016, the census metropolitan area of Toronto was almost 6 million and is growing at a faster rate than the national average. In fact, Toronto ranks as North America’s 4th largest city in terms of population, according to the Economic Intelligence Unit, after Mexico City, New York, and Los Angeles.

I love living in a big city. There are always new exhibitions to see, restaurants to try, and quaint neighborhoods to discover. In fact, I often feel there are so many options to choose from, and that I miss out on some fantastic opportunities because I just can’t be in two places at the same time!

One of the things that I’d like to share more with you, the readers of my blog, is how to live slow and intentionally. I didn’t realize there was a term for how I like to live. I’m an emotional person, love connecting with people, and tend to overthink things. But I also appreciate all the things life has to offer, the big and the small, the material and the immaterial. I like being alone as much as I like being with others. And, I like walking outside as much as I can, enjoying nature and just feeling a part of the world. Yes, even in a big city, you can experience much of mother nature. Continue reading

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7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

Broummana, Lebanon
Broummana, Lebanon

7 Reasons I Love Visiting With Family

In the last month, I’ve visited with family in two very different parts of the world, and I wanted to share with you why I loved these two family visits. In early March, I went to Lebanon to visit my parents, brothers, and extended family, and, in late March, we went to the US to visit my husband’s family. Although these trips were in places far apart from each other, the reasons I enjoyed the visits are very similar.

As part of being mindful of how I spend my time, I really paid attention to the visits I had and why they were so important and meaningful. Visiting family seems like something you do because it’s associated with a certain holiday or milestone. Sometimes you feel like you need to make these visits out of obligation or expectations. Sometimes you love making the trips and taking the effort. And, sometimes, you’re just so darn grateful for the opportunities and savor each moment. The latter is how I felt in the last month.

Here are the 7 reasons I loved visiting with family recently. I hope they inspire you to plan more visits!

Reason 1: My family is a part of my history
This sounds so obvious, but it’s really deeper than having people who are related to you. I’m talking about the family resemblance, the common cultural background, a country’s understood traditions, and the feeling of connectedness. When you’re around your immediate and extended family, you see where some of your mannerisms and points of reference come from. For example, in Lebanon, we’re a bit of loud family. We yell from room to room or outside to someone in the garden. The neighbors pretty much know what we’re up to! In my family in particular, we are bitterly honest with each other and we tell it like it is. For spouses and in-laws, this may seem harsh at times, but it’s what we’re used to and how we grew up. It’s done lovingly, really. Engaging in this banter made me understand that growing up like this was normal for me, but that it might not seem so normal to my nuclear family of my husband and two teens, or for my in-laws. Continue reading

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Sharing the ‘Little Things’ That Made Me Happy In A 24 Hour Period!

Enjoying the little things in life

When you enjoy the little things in life, you feel happier. It sounds simple, and it is. You know what I’m talking about: the little things like appreciating a blue sky after a few days of rain, walking around comfortably in above zero temperatures after weeks of freezing weather, and engaging in a pleasant 15 minute conversation with your teen.

In today’s busy world, I feel like I’m always on the go and that I don’t have a second to myself. Well, in the last few days, I’ve enjoyed a lot of little things that have made me happy, despite running around and overscheduling my time. Perhaps inspired by the little notebook I picked up from the dollar store recently or perhaps inspired by mindfully appreciating every moment I have with friends and family, I thought I would share the simple things that brought me joy over a 24 hour period.

Here are the little things that made me happy over the course of a day: Continue reading

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5 Tips For Hosting An 18th Surprise Birthday Party!

My oldest daughter turns 18 in February and we decided to throw her a surprise 18th birthday party. She’s got a lot going on during her last year in high school including balancing school, social life, and university applications. We knew she wouldn’t have time to plan something that we could work on together, so I thought it best to throw her a surprise. I’m glad we did, because, a few days after her party, she said that she would not have had time to plan a party on her own.

I’d never thrown a surprise party at home before, so this was new to me. The hardest part was hiding some of the decorations and the cake, as well as orchestrating her being out of the house. Also, having 3 hours to decorate and get the food and activities ready was quite a challenge. But, I had lots of people helping me and it all worked out. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that kids like to be together, no matter what the occasion.

Here are my 5 tips for throwing a successful 18th surprise birthday party: Continue reading

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Say Hello to Stress-Free Meal Planning with HelloFresh Canada!

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry by HelloFresh
Sesame Beef Stir-Fry by HelloFresh

It’s the little things that make a big difference. Last week, not having to plan, shop, or think about my meals made my week so easy – this, thanks, to a delivery from HelloFresh Canada.

I usually do the meal planning, shopping, and cooking for my family and I love doing it. Being a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom, I have more flexibility in shopping and cooking than most households but, every once in a while, I find myself in a rut and out of time and out of meal ideas. The kids complain that the meals aren’t up to their expectations and ‘why can’t we have something good’! I’m not upset when I hear those words – I just ask them to make a list of their top 5 favorite foods and I go from there.

Having said that, getting HelloFresh Canada delivered to my door last week was such a treat!

Roasted Pork and Peppercorn Sauce by HelloFresh
Roasted Pork and Peppercorn Sauce by HelloFresh

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, HelloFresh is a service that makes meal prep and family time fun. The chefs at HelloFresh come up with meal ideas based on in-season produce, and they source everything locally, which I love.

All you have to do is go online, choose your meals, and then get everything delivered to your door. You choose the type of plan you want (pronto meals, which are ready in 30 minutes or less; family meals; or veggie meals), the number of people you want to feed, and the delivery date. It’s a subscription service that you can stop by following the instructions online.

HelloFresh Canada Delivery
HelloFresh Canada Delivery

Continue reading

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8 Steps To Stress-Free Holiday Baking!

Holiday Baking TipsI love to bake and it’s something that I do several times a week, all year long! People ask me what I do with all the baked goodies, but the truth is that we eat most of them, take them for school lunches, and share them with friends. The latter is especially true around the holidays, because we end up gifting a lot of baked treats. It does take a bit of planning to get it done effortlessly, so I’m sharing my 8 steps for stress-free holiday baking!

Holiday Baking TipsStep 1: Make a list of what you want to bake
This step sort of starts itself around the beginning of October when you see holiday baking magazines in the check-out aisle. It’s easy to get inspired and reminded about what you want to bake. I usually take out holiday baking books from the library and do some online searches. I also ask my husband and kids what their favorite treats are, and I add them to my list. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes, because it’s always fun to find new favorites. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some new treats I’m going to bake this year!

Holiday Baking TipsStep 2: Clean out the freezer and fridge
Although we have a frost-free fridge, I still find that there is some frost build-up in the bottom of the freezer. This is probably because of the uneven temperatures in our kitchen and because we open and close the fridge a lot. I find the beginning of the holiday season to be the best time to do a big clean. Purging expired and freezer-burned food clears space for storing all of the holiday goodies. This takes me 24 hours to do as I let the fridge sit overnight, but it feels so good to start the holiday season with a clean and empty freezer!

Holiday Baking TipsStep 3: Take an audit of your ingredients, spices, and flavourings
Continue reading

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7 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired By The Toronto Gift Fair!

It’s mid-November which means it’s the Christmas and holiday season everywhere you look! Given that clothing, shoe, electronic, department, and jewelry stores derive anywhere from 20-30% of their annual revenue from holiday sales, it makes sense that stores are heavily promoting gift-giving!

And, for us consumers, getting a head start on holiday shopping is always a good way to enjoy a stress-free holiday season. I’m always amazed by my friends and family who are so ahead of the game. You know what I mean: that friend whose house is all decorated by December 1st and whose shopping list is done. This is the friend who’s enjoying the holidays the way they’re meant to be enjoyed: relaxing in front of the fireplace and listening to Christmas carols – doing anything except shopping at the mall! Every year, I say I’m going to get more and more things done ahead of time, and I do a pretty decent job, especially with my holiday baking! (more on this in a future post).

Because buying gifts is the most time-consuming and most difficult part of the holiday season, I thought I’d suggest some ideas for preparing and completing your list. Here are some ways to think about your holiday gifts, as inspired by the Toronto Gift Fair. Continue reading

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Always With Love

It’s Valentine’s Day and last year I wrote a post (link here) about why I’m okay with Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is as good a day as any to talk about love because every day is a good day to talk about love. But, what is love, really? It’s lots of things and it’s about describing how you feel about lots of things. It’s about falling in love with a person or your first-born child. It’s about loving something inanimate like your first home. It’s about forgiving people and accepting them for who they are, and that, to me, is the most important part.

The title of this post comes from my Dad, who, since I’ve become a parent, has repeated to me: ‘always with love’. By this, he refers to how I parent, discipline, guide, and teach my kids things. It’s so hard to be patient, to forgive the things your kids say to you or about you. It’s so hard to punish or tell a child you don’t approve of what they’re doing, nicely. But, that’s what you have to do, and, to do it properly, you have to do it with love. Continue reading

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