Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mid-Week at My Place - Cookin' for the Kids

When I switched my kids to this new school one of the things I liked was that the school offered a lunch program. It was run by a group of volunteer parents who cooked fresh, diverse hot meals for the kids at the school who wanted them. The meals are funded through donations and every kid is welcome to a plate and seconds - even thirds if there is any left.

The idea is simple, no kid should go hungry at school.

Sadly, at other schools many do.

For me it was wonderful, here were parents providing what I believed should be a mainstay in a cold climate like Canada's - a healthy hot meal. I never understood why places like Florida, with their hot climate, had subsidized hot lunches but here where the weather can sometimes tip below -20c the school board didn't even offer soup to primary and junior school kids.

Needless to say. I signed up to volunteers, and yesterday was my 1st day in the kitchen.

It was busy and tiring - we only have from 9am to lunchtime to get the meal ready for up to 170 kids and we do it from a kitchen half the size of mine at home with minimal equipment. There were 2 other parents cooking yesterday, seasoned volunteer, and I was amazed what we can do with so little. As we cooked and the smell filled the air I could hear kids in the hall going "Mmmmm! Smells good!" and a few popping their heads in to ask what was on the menu. By quarter to twelve we had Mac and Cheese made from scratch, salad with fresh made dressing, fruit and rice ready for anyone who wanted it.

Since I hadn't served yet I hung around to see how that went as well so I knew what to do when it was my turn. The 1st kid thru the door was my daughter. Immediately I saw her begin to beam and I could see the pride in her eyes that I was there as a 'lunch lady'. I'm not too sure what she enjoyed more, the hot meal or being able to tell her friends that I helped make it. Doesn't really matter, I know I enjoyed doing it, and am glad to be part of it.

Worryingly, as I said, it runs on donations and a little bit of funding. While the program is in it's 3rd or 4th year it is evident that it needs more donations and volunteers to be sustainable. Changes were made this year to try to ensure it's success and we are hoping that our efforts between now and the new year are enough to keep it going - otherwise not only will my daughter no longer be able to have a hot lunch, a nice to have for her, but there will be some kids in the school, the kids that inspired the program in the first place, who will go hungry. We know this because before the program started they sat in the caf. every day with no food from home and when school started in September and there was a delay in starting the program there were a few kids arriving lunch-less to the cafeteria every day.

 Next week I fly solo in the kitchen for one day. I'm nervous that I can pull it off on my own but I'm going to do my level best. There's nothing better than a full tummy to help little minds grow and learn,and  I think I'm privileged to be able to help such a program. I hope to be able to do it until our school board decides a full belly is just as important as a textbook when it comes to learning.

If your reading this and thinking you would like to help us out somehow we would appreciate it! Much of the equipment we use is either insufficient or in need of replacing and our donations recieved barely cover the food. If anyone out there has any of the following new or gently used kitchen items to part with we would gratefully accept the help.

Right now we need:

  • a couple new rice cookers
  • restaurant sized buffet chaffing dishes
  • a food processor
  • large pots (that can fit on a residential sized stove)
  • new kitchen knives
  • more cutlery for the kids or better yet 'mess kits' they can take home and clean so we can use less paper plates (we have very limited access to a commercial dishwasher)

Many thanks as always for stopping by and having a read.

BHappy and have fun where ever you are!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Fridays I'm In Love... with Pirate Puppets

I love these Pirate finger puppets. I really do.

Whimsical and really well made, they're 100% wool, feel great and are hand made responsibly in Nepal.

I love that they are far more durable than conventional finger puppets. Made using a traditional wet felting technique there are no seams to fray or break. Each finger puppet is, with the exception of some decoration, fashioned in one piece with safely dyed boiled wool and because they are handmade each one is always a little unique.

I love that they are Pirates. Boys love imaginative puppet play just as much as girls, but sometimes are stuck putting on animal themed puppet plays or Knights of the Round Table themed plays with Prince Charming puppets just because it's whats available. With 4 puppets in the set there are so many stories to be told either playing on ones own or in a group.

Thick sturdy felt with nice bright colours, they hand-wash well. These guys, their ship and Chest of Gold can play hard.

Keep them nearby to play with, bring them out to enjoy when the little guy needs to keep busy - there perfect for Adventures while waiting for a meal to arrive at a restaurant, great to take to Grandma's or even to inspire amusement while waiting  in a doctors office.

I love that they're only $19.95 a set in a nice recycled paper box, that makes them a great affordable gift in my book.

Hope you like them and if you love them too let me know!

Thanks for stopping by and checking out what I love,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Trick or Treat?

We're getting into Halloween 1st gear around here in my house. My daughter is pondering her 4th year as a monkey versus 'something else, but I don't know what' and my son has been adamant that he will be whatever his sister decides to be. After a hiatus last year from manning the door to join my family door to door we've decided to do the door thing again this year.

There are no arguments over what we give out.
The kids can't wait to go shopping.
I will have no leftovers and if I do they keep perfectly well on a shelf in a box.
There are NO CALORIES - NO Sugar
and most of all the kids love them!

We give out school and craft supplies and we have kids literally squealing with delight at our door!

We've been at it since before we had kids. Refining as we go. We estimate what we would normally spend in candy per kid and put it towards bulk packs of things we can break down into individual gifts - toss them in a spooky decorated box and often let them pick one or two things if they are old enough or zero in on something in particular (like the girls and the coloured pencils). Like I said the kids seem to love it - even more than we thought they might - and our treats are useful, different and fun.

Here's my shopping list and tips for this Halloween at the dollar store, discount stores and my other haunts about town.
By carol , from Wikimedia Commons
  • Look for multipacks and items that can be grouped together by tying them together or put in tiny paper surprise loot bags.
  • Multipacks of notepads are a hit with the bigger kids
  • Funky pencil and pens which are always a hit. Get the different styles, not just Halloween but the sports, animal, colourful and patterned, flocked and metallic.
  • Markers, highlighters, coloured pencils bought by the dozen or more and split up.
  • Glitter glue - a huge hit with the girls.
  • Mini erasers come in large quantities and fun styles and are great to dole out multiple items.
  • Finger Traps are a classic
  • Watch out for costume jewelry from the dollar store, while the sets are great for breaking up and the Mardi Gras necklaces seem  great their finish may be dodgy and unsafe.
  • Loot bag packs of cards, bubbles, crackers are all great.
  • Keep an eye out for the large packs of mini playdough in a variety of colours. On sale these can make awesome treat for the wee ones.
  • Stickers, all kinds of sticker sets. Kids love the stickers.
  • Removable tattoos
  • Dollar Store craft kits. Our local store has colour your own spooky themed wooden craft kits (yes, I know its not the best sourced wood but we do what we can) usually 4 or 5 printed wood cutouts and some markers to colour them up.
  • New this year I'm adding Silly Bands. Lots of those little things in a pack and the kids seem to be right into them this year so I expect they will go over well.
Yes, this means more organizing than dumping a pile of candy in a bowl and No, there is no leftover candy for my darling hubby and I to 'force' ourselves to eat before our kids do... but it is worth it to us. A little less processed candy shared around the neighborhood and a bit more fun to be had by all.

What do you do for Halloween? do you give out candy or have something different you do you would like to share? I'd love top hear from you.

Oh. And if you want to steal our idea of crafts and toys, please do and let me know what it was like at yours when you did!

Thanks for stopping by
Have fun and BHappy,