Happy New Year, Everyone! I hope your 2015 is off to a great start! Mine seems to be going at warp speed, but all is well so far!

I have lots of posts in the works for the new year, including tips on organization, homemade cleaning & beauty products, fun DIY projects, and more! I can’t wait to share them with all of you!

But meanwhile…. here we are at Lunch box Round Up #10. This will make a grand total of 52 lunchbox ideas! I hope you have found several that your kids have enjoyed. I’d love to hear feedback about what they liked or didn’t like about a particular lunch. :)

Well, since my kids have been back in school after the long Christmas break, they have only had 4-day school weeks (which is really nice, and I wouldn’t mind having that ALL THE TIME! But I’ll keep dreaming.) They started back on a Tuesday, then we had MLK day, then they had their very first snow day for this school year. I’ve also been allowing them to buy lunch at school on occasion, [cringe.] so I haven’t had to pack very many lunches this month. But I’ve managed to come up with 5 new lunch box ideas for this post. I hope you enjoy!

lunch January 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, Homemade biscuit,
salad, salad dressing

This soup was left over from dinner the night before and I always love to serve biscuits with homemade chicken soup. I recently discovered this great homemade biscuit recipe that is so much healthier than the canned version, and they’re so easy to make. I’ll be making them this way from now on. A spinach, sprouts, pecan, and dried berries salad round out this healthy lunch.

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Bread circles, cheese circles, ham chunks, berry medley, Vanana yogurt

It’s a MOMable! I used one of my Tupperware smidget containers to cut the bread & cheese into circles, then added some chunks of ham for make-you-own mini sammies. I used to do this a lot in the beginning and I had forgotten about it until I recently saw it on my friend Keeley’s bento blog. She makes some of the cutest lunches I’ve ever seen! It’s just a nice change of pace then a big ole sandwich. The yogurt is my latest discovery from Trader Joe’s. It’s called Vanana, which is a combo of vanilla and banana. It’s quite tasty, especially with berries mixed in. Yum.

lunch Jan 2012

cucumbers, carrots, homemade ranch dip,
peanut butter balls, dried tart cherries, yogurt tube

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Homemade chili, homemade kale chips, cheese, chips, sour cream

 My kids absolutely LOVE kale chips, and I love that I can get a bag of Kale from Trader Joe’s that’s already washed, cut up, and ready to bake! They’re totally easy and so addicting! My tween daughter likes to put kettle popcorn seasoning on hers. I like them with just a little salt. They bake up nice and crisp and just melt in your mouth. Here’s an easy recipe for baked kale chips. You should give it a try!

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Omelet wrap, vanilla-almond granola, frozen berry medley,
orange-banana smoothie

To make the omelet wrap, I prep the eggs the night before. I add 2 lightly beaten eggs to a warm skillet with olive oil, and cook just till set. I then slide them onto a plate, lined with a flour tortilla. I then cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge till morning. In the morning, I add chopped red peppers and green onions and mozzarella cheese, and roll it up. You could really add any veggie and cheese combo to this. It can be eaten cold, or gently heated in a microwave. Very tasty.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Lunch box Round Up. Be sure and stay tuned for more posts coming your way!

In case you’re wondering, those containers are called Easy Lunch Boxes and I totally love them. Click on over to get yours!

Happy packing!

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With just a little thought and effort, and A LOT of Google, you can make great homemade gifts for everyone on your list. Here are a few ideas to get you started. I’ve been making various homemade gifts all week and I’ll post more once I get finished with them. I won’t get into all of the tutorials, but links to the tutorials I used will be included in each idea. Enjoy!

Sometimes it seems like our Christmas gift list is never-ending: family, friends, neighbors, teachers, youth leaders, Bible study group/youth group members, coaches, scout leaders, music instructors, babysitters, co-workers, bosses, school bus drivers, mail carriers, roommates, school staff (office, nurse, etc.)… but look on the bright side. That just means that you are blessed by THAT MANY people in your life! So here’s a way to show them how grateful you are for them.

For the adults in your life…

First up, we have Sugar Scrub. Easy to make and people LOVE them!

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recycled artichoke hearts jar

No need to buy any jars. Just recycle those from jelly, jam, baby food, etc. Marinated artichoke hearts happen to be my teenage son’s favorite food and they make the perfect sized jar for gifts!

Here’s the basic recipe I use for sugar scrub:

50% sugar
25% vegetable glycerin
25% carrier oil (almond oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil)
5 – 10 drops essential oil (peppermint, lavender, orange, vanilla, lemon)
5 drops vitamin E oil (optional) this is great for skin and also acts as a preservative, making the scrub last longer

For one batch (approx. 4-6 oz.), start with 1/2 cup white granulated sugar, then add 2 tsp. of vegetable glycerin, and 2 tsp. of carrier oil. Stir the mixture until you get a good consistency (not too dry, not too oily.) Add more sugar, glycerin or oil as needed. Add vitamin E and essential oils and mix well. Scoop into jar and add a tag with instructions. I also threw in a pinch of red sugar crystals for color.

Tip: Oil separation in these homemade scrubs is normal. Sometimes it just needs a quick stir before using. Also, it can make a tub slippery if used in the shower so use caution. 

Here’s the tutorial I used to decorate my jars. I saw it on Pinterest and just knew I would use it for my jar gifts this year.

Another great gift-in-a-jar are homemade mixes such as Ranch, Taco Seasoning, and Onion Soup Mix.100_4421

 The homemade versions of these are much healthier than the store-bought ones. The recipes for all of these 3 can be found here. The Ranch recipe is a good basic one, but I also like to throw in some dill, basil, and black pepper as well. Just mix your ingredients in a measuring cup and use a funnel to pour it into a cute jar. I used a baby food jar. I also printed up the mixing directions and decoupaged them onto the back of the jar. I used the same method as I did on the sugar scrub jars to decorate it. (See above)

Next, we have an all natural, homemade vapor rub. ‘Tis the season to be sick, so bless your loved ones with this wonderful aromatic, soothing remedy.

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It’s very quick and easy to make, and does not contain harmful petroleum jelly like that other kind. I used the recipe found here. I don’t have a double boiler so I just used a pint-sized, wide-mouthed Ball jar in a medium sauce pan of water. As it turns out, this stuff works wonders on your skin too! Once you get a whiff of it, you’ll never buy “Oh, what’s his name?” in that little blue jar again!

For the (female) tweens, teens, college students & adults in your life…


How about some fun, wearable gifts? You won’t BELIEVE what these are made from, and they are so easy and quick to make!

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I know! Can you believe it?! Just trace your washer onto some scrapbook paper, fold in half to cut out your center (or use an Exacto knife,) and decoupage it onto your washer. Put a layer of Glossy Accents (usually found in the scrapbook section of craft stores) on top and you have a very attractive necklace! And it’s SO INEXPENSIVE! The larger washers were 19 cents and the smaller ones were….. wait for it……. 13 CENTS EACH!! The small ones are great for tweens. Here’s a tutorial on how to make them.

Here’s another very cool necklace. This one is somewhat more difficult to make than the last one, and does require drilling a hole, but I wouldn’t call it complicated, just a little more involved.

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I just LOVE these fragments by Tim Holtz. They are just clear acrylic pieces that you can do lots of fun stuff with. Here’s the tutorial for the necklaces. These make great teacher gifts!

These cozy, fleece tie blankets make excellent gifts for tweens and teens, and even on down to tiny newborn babies! (Just use less fabric.)

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I made this one with my 11 year old. She comes out of her room almost every morning with it wrapped around her. She absolutely loves it. Fabric stores like Hancock’s, Jo-Ann’s, and even Hobby Lobby will often have fleece on sale for 40% – 50% off, making the cost for these blankets between $20 and $25 for 1 1/2 yards of each color. (For a baby, use 1 yard. For an adult, use 2 yards.) There are so many different prints of fleece, it’s easy to find a style that’s perfect for your gift recipient. Here’s a tutorial on how to make them.

How about some festive, edible treats? Here we have Marshmallow Peppermint Pops. It is marshmallows on a stick, dipped in white chocolate, and sprinkled with crushed peppermint. MMMMmm.

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These are very quick and easy, make a fun presentation, and no cooking skills are required! I like to use the Wilton Candy Melts (available at craft stores). They’re very easy to work with and stays melted long enough for you to do an entire batch without it getting hard. To crush your peppermint, you can put candy canes or peppermint candies in a thick ziploc bag and beat it with a rolling pin, or use a manual food chopper. OR… you can just be totally lazy like me save yourself some time and energy and buy a bag of crushed peppermint. [Wink]

BONUS TIP:


Here’s a quick and easy idea for a homemade gift bag… from your recycling bin!

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Take an empty cardboard box and cut it open along one of the side seams. Now you have this:

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Now cut off one set of flaps, like this:

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Now just fold your box inside out and use clear tape to tape the side that you cut. Use your box as a tracing template, and trim a piece of scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or even fabric to cover the front, back, and sides of your box. You’ll also want to tape your flaps ones you fold them in for extra support. Punch 2 holes near the top, on both sides and attach a ribbon handle. Voila! An adorable gift bag.

I’ll be back with more ideas!

Happy gifting!

Disclaimer: Although these gifts are individually very inexpensive to make, they do require purchasing supplies and ingredients that may not seem so cheap. However, all of the ingredients and supplies used for these items  have a decent “bulk” price, and you will have plenty on hand to make lots of multiples of these gifts, AND you’ll have everything you need for a nice, last minute gift down the road, or just to whip up something  for yourself. ; ) 

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DIY iPod Sleeves — Great gifts!

I always look forward to whatever new “surprise projects” Becka puts on her wish list for me to make, especially at Christmastime. Last year it was the fun Christmas bag project. This past Christmas (2011), she wanted to give the kids some cool iPod sleeves. She had her heart set on this iPod sleeve, designed by Robyn at Dog Named Banjo

… and this earbud pouch designed by Erin Erickson at Dog Under My Desk. (Does anyone see a trend here?)

Aren’t they just so cute?! I think it’s way cool that she just happened to find two random patterns, by two unrelated bloggers, and both blogs were named in honor of their beloved dogs—how serendipitous! I have come across many patterns for DIY projects online, and I have to say that both of these ladies did an amazing job with their tutorials, not only in the written description, but with tons and tons of high-quality pics. KUDOS to Erin and Robyn on that!

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I made the iPod sleeve first. In her tutorial, Robyn does wisely caution her readers that different iPods may have different measurements. If there is one thing I would like to see her add to her tutorial, it’s a little more descriptive detail as to the exact circumference—lengthwise and widthwise—of her iPod, so that the reader can make a better judgment as to whether or not adjustments are needed before cutting. Although it appeared that her measurements would work for Brittany’s iPod, it turns out it was about 1/2” too short. Of course, even if that had not been the case, it still would have been back to the drawing board, because the sleeve is designed for a very snug fit, and after I finished it, Becka realized she forgot to tell me that Brittany’s iPod would have a plastic casing around it (which it did not when I measured it). Oops! Thank goodness we had lots of leftover fabric!

After adding a little more length and width to the measurements, I made the second one. Robyn’s instructions were easy-peasy to follow. If you decide to make one of these, I would suggest using a piece of muslin or scrap fabric to make the first one, keeping careful track of the measurements of the fabric. You don’t have to make the sample according to the full-detailed tutorial—just make two separate, unlined sleeves, stuff a piece of the batting in between, and stuff one inside the other, then try it on and adjust the template/pattern if need be. Also, keep in mind that the iPod plastic casings that have a sort of rubbery feel don’t slip in and out as easily as the metal casings do, but they still work. And if you are going to have a casing, be sure that it is on the iPod when you take the measurements!

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The earbud cover came next. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it came together. The tutorial calls for a 5”-or-greater 1” zipper, but all we had on hand was a 4” zipper, which worked just fine, with very careful attention to the alignment. We used one of those little round keychain holder thingies to attach the earbud holder to the iPod. I love how they turned out! I have to make a confession that I am a little slow sometimes, and I didn’t “get” that the musical pattern in the lining was a deliberate choice, because, well, it has a musical theme, for a music player. Duh!

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Much to the surprise of both of us, Brandon said he would like to have one too. That wasn’t in the original plan, because we assumed he would think it was too frou-frou. What do we know LOL! Becka happened to have some black music fabric as well, which would make it look more masculine. So I whipped one up for him too!

Brandon ipod cover

We had planned to make him an earbud cover as well, and we thought the thick sport zipper she had on hand would really add to the masculine look. But the sports zipper was so big and bulky that it made it impossible to achieve the perfect circle of the cover, so we abandoned that idea, at least for now.

I highly recommend these two patterns if you want to make your own cover. Both of these ladies have lots of other fun sewing projects on their blogs as well, and I may have to try some of them out too.

Happy sewing!

About Me

Blogger, small business owner, aspiring blog ghostwriter, E-Bay and Craigslist enthusiast, and etsy lover! If you are interested in having me write for your blog, contact me at happyasjustamom@hotmail.com