School lunch favorites

I can’t believe the kids are heading back to school on Monday! The summer flew by, most especially because this was our first year not on the pre-school schedule. We had a great time going to the pool, doing hiking adventures, field trips and visiting the shore. I’m not quite ready to send them off to school on Monday😦

I have shared my favorite school lunch gear here and here and here, and I tend to get away from the typical sandwich, fruit and snack when it comes to school lunches. Instead, I like to do a variety of foods using a Bento type lunch box.

These are my favorite lunchboxes below, although I have always wanted Planet Box lunchboxes but can’t swallow the pricetag!

Easy Lunchboxes

While I’m not a huge fan of plastic, even though they are BPA free, these have worked for us for years and years! I add cupcake liners for snacks, or little containers.

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Last year, I bought these. Again, plastic, but affordable.
Bentgo Lunch. In the big compartment, you cannot really fit a sandwich unless you cut off the crust and cut it into fours which I sometimes do. I also use that part for crackers, quesadillas, or whatever my main item is. The top right part holds applesauce or yogurt without leaking, which is awesome! I also use that for fruit. In the middle, I put nuts, seeds, or juice plus gummies! In the right and bottom, I usually do snacks. It’s very versatile and I love giving little portions of everything.


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For water bottles, I switched from plastic to stainless steel and took advantage of an Amazon deal this summer for these:

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Now for my favorite things to fill lunches with:

Fresh Fruit! Grapes and berries are favorites, but year-round:  apples, pears, etc – you can spritz with lemon juice! Photo credit: Weelicious. I don’t make kabobs for school lunches!

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Granola bars – homemade. My favorite ones are Oh She Glows Glo Bar.

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Photo credit: Oh She Glows

occasionally for the main meal: :
~ Turkey & Cheese Roll ups, Cream Cheese & Jelly Roll ups

~ Fun sandwich shapes for PB & J, AB sandwiches

~Sprouted Grain Bagels or Toast, Quesadillas!


~Date/Nut Balls There are so many of these recipes out there, but this is a favorite. I tend to throw in the food processor whatever I have on hand and go with it!

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photo credit: Detoxinista


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photo credit: Minimalist Baker

~Nuts & Seeds

For a treat every now and then, I’ll make graham crackers in fun shapes!

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and for a treat sometimes we will buy Annie’s bunnies in the sweet or cheese flavor, or have veggie stix or avocado chips!

What are your favorite ways to fill the lunch box?!




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The Rocky challenge is here!

The Rocky Challenge, a 39.3 two-day event is coming to Philly Marathon weekend. On Saturday, runners can run the half marathon, and on Sunday the full marathon.   Runners in Disney do the Goofy Challenge, and now Philadelphia runners can complete this one!

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Finishers will receive medals for the half and the full and an exclusive 39.3 Rocky Challenge Finisher Medal.  Runners who have already registered for either the full or half marathon and are interested in participating in the Rocky Challenge will receive a $10 discount off their second race registration fee. Those new registrants signing up for both races as part of the challenge will also receive a $10 discount off their final registration cost.

The latest addition to Race Weekend offers a new level of difficulty for our runners who are always looking to push the envelope,” said Executive Director Sheila Hess. “We anticipate this inaugural year of the 39.3 Rocky Challenge to be not only a huge success but a boost to our registration numbers, which are already surpassing Half Marathon and Rothman Institute 8K registration numbers for this time last year.”

From race headquarters:

This new feature to Race Weekend partially arose from the enthusiasm of runners and charity partners, including the American Cancer Society and their DetermiNation program, who reached out expressing their support for a two-race challenge. The American Cancer Society, a Philadelphia Marathon charity partner for six consecutive years, was particularly interested in presenting an additional element to their racing community, team members, and fundraising athletes through their professional training program and extensive community of support.

Register here!


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Rock n’ Roll half marathon coming to town!

The Rock N’ Roll Half Marathon in Philly is coming on September 17 and 18th! The 5k will be on Saturday at 7:30am and half marathon on Sunday, September 18 at 7:30 a.m. The course will continue to start and finish in Eakins Oval.  A new course will debut this year with Fairmount Avenue and historic Eastern State Penitentiary on the course.

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Participants who run both the 5K and the half marathon will earn the coveted Remix Challenge Medal in addition to each race’s finisher medal.

Runners can still expect the same flat, fast and scenic route that this race is famous for,” said Ted Metellus, Course Director. “The biggest change is the out and back on mile 4 at Fairmount Ave instead of Spring Garden, which will add new scenery to this already stunning course.”

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From the race headquarters, American Association for Cancer Research, the first and largest cancer research organization in the world, is the race’s charity title sponsor. The AACR brings together the greatest minds to prevent and cure cancer through research, education, collaboration, and communication. The AACR promotes science education and training; and advances the understanding of cancer etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world.

Interested in running the half marathon?  Use code NATALIERUNS to save $20.


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Zucchini Muffins (vegan, gluten free)

I’m still bouncing with zucchini and I’ve made the same recipe so many times that we can’t look at it anymore!  Moving on to a nice breakfast or snack idea, that would also work for school lunches!
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ZUCCHINI MUFFINS (Vegan, Gluten free) adapted from Minimalist Baker Zucchini Cake
makes 12 
  • 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini, drained (I food process!)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup almond milk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour (or whole wheat pastry flour if not gluten free)
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/3 c mini chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 350. Add 1 tsp apple cider vinegar to the almond milk, let sit 5 minutes.  Food process the zucchini then drain it and press out all excess water! Stir together the zucchini, coconut sugar, vanilla, olive oil, and applesauce and milk/vinegar mixture.  Add baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and flours to the zucchini mixture. Stir to combine, do not over mix. Stir in chocolate chips if using!  Place in muffin tins – I used silicone! Bake for 20 minutes, or until set and browned! Let cool a few minutes in the pan (5-8) then push out and let cool completely on wire rack. Enjoy!

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Cooking through the Weelicious cookbook

I have not cooked much this summer, but when we came home from the beach, I was motivated! I found the website Weelicious soon after my first baby started eating solids. Blogger Catherine McCord wrote a cookbook based on her recipes and I rented the Weelicious cookbook from the library and worked through it over the past week. Below are my top recipes and thoughts on the cookbook!

The cookbook has a great introduction! It will make you want to get your kids to cook with you, shop with you, and be very involved in the food preparation process. I love to have my kids help out – but it definitely adds time and requires extra patience as well.  Sometimes it works and they actually want to eat the food they helped cook and other times it doesn’t.  Do your kids help you cook and food shop with you?

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The cookbook is organized into Part 1: Getting Started which is very thorough and includes getting your kids on the right track from the start, and Part 2: Recipes. The recipe section is organized into baby purees, breakfast, soup, dips, sauces & salsas, snacks, dinner, sides, desserts and drinks.  I love that it includes some baby purees.  There are bright pictures to accompany many recipes. I think for the cover, I would prefer to see food, not people. I feel the same throughout the book. I would rather see how a recipe looks instead of seeing the author picking fruit from a tree. Being able to see the finished product helps me decide whether I should make the recipe or not!  There are many quick easy pleasers in this cookbook. I would like to see more plant-based dinners – I didn’t find a dinner that I wanted to make.  Overall, there are great recipes and this book would be great to own.

Now for my favorite recipes. Photo credits from weelicious website.

Breakfast Quesadillas, p 70
Easy breakfast… or dinner

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Graham crackers, p 123. A favorite in the past, I love this recipe!
School lunches, pool snacks, definitely a favorite. I swapped out the brown sugar for coconut sugar.

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Cinnamon Honey Popcorn, p 139
This was a fun twist adding honey and cinnamon to popcorn!

Pbrb Waffle Sandwich, p 138
take a pb & j and grill it in the waffle maker!
This was a fun change to a typical lunch!

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Veggie nuggets, p 210
these were work, but fun to eat!

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Fried green beans, p 214
These were crispy and a good app!

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Chocolate rice krispy treats, p 240
The recipe is similar but add cocoa. Yum!

Sweet Beet Cookies, p 246
I want to try these and love the color for Valentines Day!

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Honey Cinnamon Cookies, p 255
Similar to the graham crackers but these have eggs in them.
The kids enjoyed these!

And from the website, these look great:

Breakfast Cookies

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Lactation Cookies!


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Raspberry Hearts – I see Valentine’s Day in the future!

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What are your favorite weelicious recipes?







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An attitude of gratitude

Studies show that showing gratitude is good for our health.

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Dr Mercola reports, People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. 

And it makes sense. If a person receives stressful news and views it negatively, it could destroy the person.  Someone equipped with gratitude would tend to see the silver lining.

If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” says Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center (Source)

So how can we show more gratitude in our everyday lives?

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One thing we have incorporated into our dinner routine is “thankfuls” – what are you thankful for today?  It teaches kids at a young age to look at the day and pick out things that they are thankful about. And sometimes they don’t come up with much – “this dinner” – but it exercises the thought of being grateful.

As adults, we could keep a gratitude journal. What am I grateful for today?  I love having paper journals, and there is also an app on Google Play with writing prompts that looks great! $2.99

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Think of those people who have shaped your life and write them a note.

We teach the children to say please and thank you, and we can also acknowledge small courtesies such as someone opening a door for us by doing so.  Make eye contact.

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Show gratitude for others by doing small acts of kindness – buying a coffee for the person behind you in line. What is your favorite pay it forward act?

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Being grateful is a work in progress! Sometimes it is hard not to pick negatives out of a situation, but with practice, we can focus on the good things. This morning, I got up early with the baby full of exhaustion on our last day of vacation and took her outside for a walk – I was so frustrated!  Then I got to see the sun rising over the ocean. My phone is broken but I’ll remember that view. The silver lining🙂



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Zucchini recipes roundup!

This time of year is crazy with zucchini! If your garden is overflowing with zucchini that you don’t know what to do with, I am rounding up some of my favorite recipes for consideration. I can’t believe it is August already!

My summer favorite – Minimalist Baker Zucchini Gratin (vegan)

I love having this for dinner. It is super easy and delicious!

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photo credit: Minimalist Baker

A last summer favorite: Minimalist Baker Zucchini Cake

This can be breakfast or a treat. I haven’t actually made the icing for it and I think it’s great!

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Photo credit: Minimalist Baker

Heather’s Zoodles over at Cookie and Kate
I thought this was great for lunch or dinner. I added kalamata olives and pumpkin seeds and found it to be super versatile.

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Cookie and Kate

A few that I haven’t tried but want to:

Cookie and Kate Zucchini Bread

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Cookie and Kate

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

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Cookie and Kate

Quinoa Salad with Zucchini – Cookie and Kate

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photo credit Cookie and Kate

Are you growing zucchini? What is your favorite zucchini recipe?


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