I’m Kristina - freelance graphic designer, backyard farmer, cookbook reader, project starter, and new mom to a gorgeous little boy.

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August 16, 2016

Veggie lunch ideas for kids

Forrest has been using the ever-popular Planetbox Rover during his first year of preschool (which just ended last week!) and I have to say that it has made packing lunches so fun. I know, right? But it IS! Having all the little compartments makes portions so easy and it forces me to come up with creative choices to offer him every day. For the record, he is a much more adventurous eater than his older brother who would be happy with a bean and rice burrito and fruit, punctuated only occasionally with hummus and pita or a bagel, every single day. Oh well. At least there is hope for one of them.

Here are some of the lunches Forrest has eaten over the last few weeks. I can’t say they are the *most* creative on the internet, but they are actual lunches that he happily eats. And taking these photos has given me a bunch of new ideas for the fall when he starts back up again! Plus I find looking at kids’ lunches endless interesting. There are so many good ideas out there!

nectarines, plum /  pea chips / cucumber cream cheese sandwich rolls / corn on the cob / apple-permission fruit leather

cucumber-feta salad / watermelon cubes / hummus and pita / seaweed / honest co. gummy vitamin

Breakfast for lunch!

banana / freeze-dried mangos / buttermilk flaxseed pancakes and syrup / hard boiled egg / gummy vitamin

blackberries and golden raspberries / cucumber spears with salt and lime / avocado toast with hemp seeds and basil / hard boiled egg / Matt Munchies Island Mango

baked tofu / pea chips / pizza bagel with hidden kale and hemp seeds / watermelon sticks / dried cherries

cucumber spears / cake bites (leftover from this cake I made) with cream cheese and chia seeds / roasted sweet potato “fries” with ketchup / mango cubes / gummy vitamin

I call this one “lunch de Trader Joes”. Their sprouted wheat bagels with sesame seeds are major lunch staples at our house! And they have 5 grams of protein per half, which is a major bonus.

Pixie tangerines / nut-free trail mix (no nuts at school) / sprouted wheat bagel with avo / chia kettle corn crisps / Matt’s Munchies Island Mango.

As you can see there are some go-tos that appear frequently. Right now we have like 1000 cucumbers coming out of our garden, and luckily Forrest likes them so he often finds them in his lunch. Also hard boiled eggs, because neither of them seems to like cheese in their lunch (it does get kind of soft) and I’m always looking to offer some kind of extra protein. Same with the treat spot. We have a no sweets policy at preschool so that spot often has a vitamin or dried fruit of some kind. Occasionally a yogurt pretzel if I’m feeling rebellious.

In the winter when I was actually cooking dinner, he would take leftover black bean soup, lentils and rice, or chips and beans in his lunch too. Might be time to revisit those. I mean in November, when it starts to cool off.

Would love to hear what other people are packing too! It’s so easy to get stuck in a food routine, isn’t it?

January 22, 2016

My go-to frittata

Oh look! ANOTHER POST! It’s a new year miracle.

Dashiell’s school has a community cafe on Friday mornings, and our class was charged with food preparation this week. Naturally I felt the need to over achieve just a teeny bit so I volunteered to make this and my current breakfast obsession, baked oatmeal. Which meant I was up before the sun and was a mere 30 minutes late to the sale. Time and I are not always aligned. Also note that this takes longer than you might think so plan ahead.

My friend Jason taught me how to make this frittata/tortilla recipe while we were in Kauai last year and while I’m not sure I’ve mastered it yet, I think the main pieces are in place. As with any verbal recipe, there’s a bit of trial and error when you get going. Here’s where I’ve landed after a few tries on my own.

6 smallish yukon gold (or similar) potatoes, thinly sliced
1-2 bunches of kale or other cookin’ greens
1 small onion
2-3 cloves garlic
thyme leaves
salt, pepper, butter

12 eggs
1 cup sour cream or greek yogurt or creme fraiche
1-2 cups cheese (I used fontina this morning, but gruyere would be yummy too)
chives, chopped

Heat oven to 350º.

Start by sautéing onion and garlic in lots of glorious butter, with a bit of salt and pepper. I use a really heavy, large cast iron skillet for this recipe, but you could use anything for the beginning steps as this pan won’t go in the oven. When the onions have softened, add the potatoes and thyme leaves (if you have them), then cook until mostly done and a little golden. Try not to break up the slices or let them get mushy. Remove these from the pan and let them rest in a bowl. Wipe out the pan, add more butter or olive oil, and saute the greens until just cooked, adding a bit of salt and pepper here as well. The key being that each part of the recipe should taste good on it’s own before you assemble it all together. Dump the kale into a second resting bowl.

Crack and whisk all eggs together in a large bowl. (I like to add a bit of salt and pep here too). Add sour cream and whisk until well combined. Add cheese and chives and mix. Now mix in the cooked greens. Then the potatoes, taking care not to break them up. Now let this whole mixture just chill for a bit so the flavors have time to get cozy with each other.

Meanwhile, I like to clean out my skillet and clean up the mess I’ve already managed to make. When you’ve given the mixture 5-10-15 minutes to rest, it’s time to start cooking in earnest. I’m sure you could wait longer, and more importantly, I’ve always wondered if I could do this part at night so it would be ready in the morning? I worry it would get soggy but maybe I will try it next time I make this.

In your clean skillet (washed or wiped clean, as long as there are no burned bits stuck to the bottom), heat over medium flame. Add lots of glorious butter again and be sure to coat all sides of the pan. When it’s perfectly bubbling, dump in the egg mixture and pat it down with the back of a wooden spoon. The goal being that the entire thing is nice and even in the pan. And now you wait. You’ll see the sides start to bubble a bit and the egg start to look cooked there first. Just be sure that the heat is low enough that the bottom doesn’t get hopelessly burned before the rest has cooked. You will likely need to turn it down to low during the process. The bottom will be brown for sure, but not burned. This takes, I don’t know, a while. Maybe 1/2 hour? I keep the lid on so the heat stays in the pan. I think this helps the top cook a bit faster, personally, but I’m not sure what the proper method for frittata cooking is. When it’s nearly cooked, the center will still be a little gooey. At this point I pop it into the oven without the lid for another 15-20 minutes, watching carefully and checking regularly so that it doesn’t burn.

When it’s cooked through and the top is firm, it’s done. You can take it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes of so, if you’d like to flip it out and serve it on a board. Or you can cut wedges right in the skillet and serve it immediately.

I have a stuffy nose this morning and couldn’t taste a thing so I can’t say for sure that it was good. But it has been in the past so I’m hopeful. It certainly *looked* good, which is something. And I think the key for this recipe is getting the egg to dairy ratio in a good place. I’ve found that 12 eggs and 1 cup of cream works well. I think the cheese is flexible, as are other ingredients. I would skimp on potatoes if anything to make room for more delicious kale. And I bet some mushrooms would be really yummy too.

December 22, 2015

Oven dried oranges for Christmas

Should we just pretend that me posting on this poor blog is business as usual? And I haven’t taken an approximately 3 year hiatus from being a blogger? I think that’s the best way to approach our relationship at this point. We have had instagram this whole time, after all. So… hi!

I have no idea why or how I chose this moment, 3 days before Christmas, when I am frantically trying to finish up work for the year, and cross off items on the to-do and to-buy and to-wrap and to-make lists that are floating around my house. But here we are. I needed to share these, I guess. They are so simple and beautiful and you could totally make them tonight. Or tomorrow. Or even on Christmas eve.

I have never made them before, for the record, so even a novice can be highly successfully at this simple DIY. We’ve made about 6 batches so far, which means that our oven is pretty much constantly running at 150 degrees. It’s nice to know that something is always happening in the kitchen during this time of year.

Slice oranges as evenly as possible to ensure uniform drying. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay them out like cookies. (Great activity for little hands, btw!) Slide them into the oven at 150 degrees and let them be. For about 6 hours. I’m serious. It takes way longer than you think!

I’ve been flipping them every so often so they dry evenly. And I should note that my new range is kind of amazing at not burning things. The 1949 O’keefe & Merritt at our old house would have fried these babies in 1 hour, I’m sure. This is to say that having an oven that keeps a nice, consistent, low temperature is key.

Once you get the hang of the perfect cooking time, they come out looking almost identical to the fresh slices you put in. And they look beautiful tied onto the top of present or strung up as a garland.

I hope someone out there makes them too! They are going to be a new tradition at our house for sure.

Merry Christmas!

March 24, 2015

Instacart grocery delivery

Two words: Game. Changer. That’s really all you need to know.

Here’s the 1 minute pitch on why you should use Instacart. Pick what you want from your store of choice (Whole Foods, for me), place order, go about your business, and magically 2 hours later your groceries arrive, hand-selected by a real live human.

First order comes with free delivery, and after that it’s a pretty nominal fee, considering you don’t have to get in the car with your kids and buy 57 items that you don’t really need. Even with the delivery fee, I think it actually saves money since you don’t buy anything but what’s on your list.

Nothing short of revolutionary. For reals.

Use this link for $10 off your first delivery!

October 15, 2014

Homemade fruit fly trap recipe

I realize that summer is officially over, but as you may have heard it’s never going to end in Southern California. And with summer and hot weather, come my favorite household pest… the fruit fly.

There’s no one who can spoil a glass of wine quite like a fruit fly, is there? Not to mention their constant mission to speed the ripening and rotting of anything fresh left out on the counter. Which is like everything delicious during the warmer months of the year! Tomatoes, peaches, melons, figs. They all have to stay out and the drosophila just won’t leave any of it alone. But I have a solution that has changed everything. The fruit fly suicide bath.

Two ingredients, one jar, days of fruit fly free living.

Pour about an inch red wine vinegar into a jar. Add one drop of dish soap. Leave on counter, preferably near where they like to congregate.

It is GENIUS. The soap breaks the surface tension of the liquid, so the flies can’t sit on top of the vinegar. They are unable to resist the sour sweet rotting smell and sink directly to the bottom of the jar. I’ve been keeping a jar like this out on the counter since June. When I haven’t seen any in a few days I usually dump it out and wait for their return, then make a fresh batch.

I assume eventually things will cool off here, but in the meantime this keep things in the kitchen feeling much more civilized.

September 22, 2014

A few days of summer in Mammoth

We spent a nice extra long weekend up in the Sierras before preschool started again and wow, I have missed it up there. Summer is such a perfect time to visit with small children. We’ll be putting Dash on skis for the first time this winter and that will be a whole different sort of adventure, but it was so nice to explore Mammoth without snow too.

There are big time perks to potty training with boys. The world is your toilet! Also big time perks to having an older brother show you the ropes. Mama is not sad to be (mostly) done with diapers.

As you can see we played in this creek quite a bit.

Puzzles with grandma and grandpa, watching woodpeckers from the deck.

Our first big hike as a family. Okay, maybe big isn’t the right word. But certainly our first real hike. Dash was such a trooper and Forrest was pretty happy snoozing in the backpack on our way past Devil’s Postpile and down to Rainbow Falls.

Lunch just tastes better outside after a long morning on the trail.

Mammoth is such a sweet town. It’s high up in the Eastern Sierras so the landscape is spectacular, especially if you’re able to take longer day hikes. But even if you stick close to town there’s beautiful scenery and exploring to be had. It just *smells* great in the mountains, you know? I’m trying to figure out how we can spend a month up here next summer.

This is a wildly incomplete list, but here are a few of our favorite spots.

Stay: Rent a house or condo, of course! Before my parents bought their house, we stayed at Snowcreek in the summers. It’s right on the meadow and includes access to community pools and a nice athletic club, with tennis, golf, and classes. There’s lots of camping options too, and a lodge and cabins near the lakes if that’s your thing.

Ride: Bikes! Rentals are available, including trailers, throughout town. We rented from Footloose because we’ve been renting stuff from them for forever. Also ride the town Trolley everywhere. It’s free and cute. The guys and I rode the entire loop just for fun a bunch of times. Boys and buses. You can’t go wrong.

Hike: Take the shuttle from the Main Lodge down to Red’s Meadow where you can access trails to all sorts of hiking and picnicking spots. Devil’s Postpile is neat and there are a few lakes to visit too. We hiked from Devil’s Postpile Campground to the bottom of Rainbow Falls and then took the shuttle back from the Red’s Meadow store. There are also a bunch of gorgeous, long day hikes from the valley up into the higher elevations. Minaret Lake and Thousand Island Lake in particular. Though these would be for those not dragging the children along.

Fish and Boat: Above town at the Twin Lakes. We rode bikes up the pass one afternoon which was awesome, but you can also take the trolley if that’s more your speed. Or take the trolley up and ride down. There’s lots of camping and cabin options up there too. And access to more beautiful day hikes as well: Mammoth Crest Trail and Duck Pass are favorites.

Eat: We mostly eat at home when we’re up here, but we had a delicious dinner at Campo in the Village and loved their patio with a Bocce court. Parents drink and eat, children throw things in a contained environment. Win! The Stove for the biggest, most popular breakfast in town. Mammoth Brewing Company pours delicious pints every day of the week. And there’s a sweet little natural foods market in town too. (There are loads of other options too, including some lovely higher end restaurants. But do we go there these days? Nope.)

Play: The meadow at SnowCreek. Mammoth Creek Park. The Adventure Center at the Main Lodge. The Mountain Bike park. Our cul-de-sac for high altitude scooting. Also golf and fly fishing and there are loads of summer “festivals” up there throughout the season. Plus the Village usually has games out for kids and hosts free movie nights too. And don’t forget the hot springs outside of town.

I suppose I could go on forever, but this is a good start, I think. We haven’t been up in the Summer for years and it was so awesome to see how fun and busy the town has become during the warmer months.

September 11, 2014

Reports of a juice cleanse

A few weeks ago I did my first juice cleanse. I posted it about it on Instagram a few times and some of you were curious how it went. First, I lived to tell about it! I bet you were wondering.

Let me start by saying the people at Urban Remedy were incredibly helpful in getting me set up with the cleanse I wanted to try. I chose their Purify Cleanse because I wanted to make sure the one I did wasn’t just tons of fruit juice, but instead mixed in some greens and such too. I am also stevia-adverse and while some of their juices contain stevia they were more than happy to customize my cleanse to include options that were unsweetened. Nothing against stevia at all. It’s just not my thang.

Brock and I decided to do the cleanse together, which was awesome. You kind of need a partner in this sort of endeavor, if you ask me. And two years into becoming a family of four, we were both in need of a restart of sorts. We are busy, we both work (him way more than me, but still), we have two kids, we are just starting a huge renovation project, there are days when we are just beyond maxed out. And preparing a delicious, healthful meal for dinner for the two of us ends up at the bottom of my list. A lot.

We’re both vegetarian and have done numerous cleanses in the past so to be honest I figured we would sail through the juice thing with no problems. Plus it seems like *everyone* is doing a juice cleanse these days, which makes it seem very achievable. And it IS. But it’s not so easy, I have to tell you! I think Brock spent three days sipping turmeric lemonade in a fetal position under his desk at work. Poor guy.

I found the mornings the hardest and by evening felt pretty good. I do not see much joy in getting out of bed without a cup of coffee or tea to look forward to, I have to admit. Which is the perfect example of why it was probably good to be forced to take a few days off. Cleanses in general are fantastic for breaking habits that don’t serve your best nutritional interests, and being that I don’t have a ton of time to devote to delicious meals for a whole foods cleanse (my usual choice), a juice cleanse seemed ideal.

Here’s how it works. You decide on a start date. Order your juice. And it arrives via FedEx on ice the day before. Which means you have no choice but to start or watch 30 bottles of juice go bad in your fridge. I LOVE that aspect of this particular program. No putting it off once you commit!

I also allowed myself some sprouted almonds throughout the day and a plain avocado at night as a treat. I feel strongly that cleaning up your diet for some time, whether it’s with a juice cleanse of something less extreme is an incredibly beneficial exercise and something that I will always incorporate into my lifestyle. But the truth is that pure juice is really hard! Especially when you’re trying to juggle work and kids and life at the same time. It was a great compromise to add a few raw snacks here and there, and the humor that Brock and I found in our experience was totally worth it. Not to mention the vitamins and vegetables my kids unsuspectingly drank while they stole sips from me.

As you can see Dash is enjoying his yam and burdock root “smoothie” while he watches an episode of Little Bear. Double treat!

So the big question… should you do it? Absolutely. If your curious, it’s a great exercise in restraint, it gives your body a break, it’s full of vitamins, and it’s delicious. Will I do it again? TBD.

September 5, 2014

The house project

Soooo, we bought a house. Which I mentioned on Instagram a few weeks ago. The other *thing* is that we’re also doing a full renovation on said house before we move in. It’s super exciting but also suuuuuper overwhelming too, not surprisingly. I don’t know what I’m doing and we’re operating on quite a tight budget to get everything we want to do completed. Oh and also, perfect and on par with all the amazing interiors I am forced to look at every time I go on Pinterest. Reality check!

We are making some good progress, and hopefully are only a few weeks away from submitting our plans to the building department. In the meantime the kitchen table is covered in floor plans and elevations and paperwork and notes. And I fry my brain every night before bed researching windows and fireplace inserts and tile and bathtubs and everything else that I apparently must pick out right this minute. Fun? Sort of. The pay off will be huge, but it is intense around here right now!

The fun part of course is the inside, and while this is in a way exactly what I wanted when we started looking for a house, I also know nothing and cannot commit to a decision for more than 10 minutes. I am absolutely unskilled when it comes to envisioning an entire house and all it’s surfaces as a cohesive space. But thankfully there is Pinterest, which is basically like an interior design app if you ask me.

The other problem is that I like lots of styles. I would primarily call myself a modern-ish neutrals gal. I like Scandinavian design, I like mid century, I like a little bit of rustic thrown in. See first mood board below.

But for whatever reason that style seems harder and more expensive for me to execute. Kitchen cabinets that I like for that style in particular seem super expensive and seem to be determining the entire style of the house. (See? I do not know what I’m doing!) BUT then again I also love white, black, and wood (if you could call that a style). A little “fancy” for my taste and our family, but incredibly easy for me to visualize and execute. At least I think. Truthfully I’m kind of leaning this direction at the moment.

And then there’s the really fun family-centric style of whites and bright bits of color. Also love this. Also seems do-able.

So where do we go from here? I am paralyzed and know that whatever decision I make I will second guess 1 week after we move in. I think this is why there are people called interior designers. One of which I am not. One of which we cannot afford.

If you’d like to see my House Remodel pinterest board it’s up for public consumption. And I pin to it quite often, not surprisingly. Fingers crossed the demo crew is ready to start before the end of the month. (Or if I had my way next week!)

*all images and their credits available on my pinterest board.

July 14, 2014

Our first camping trip

Our first camping trip with kids, that is. It was totally awesome, truly. Also a little challenging at times, as you might imagine. But really really a great trip. I grew up camping on the regular, to the desert and mountains and Mexico. All over the place. And I used to complain that I just wanted to go to Hawaii like normal people (LOL), but we always had a great time in the dirt once we got there. I hope this trip hooks our kiddos too. Dash wasn’t ready to leave and neither were we.

We laughed at how much of our gear arrived at camp with REI tags still in place. Apparently camping is a low key, low cost trip only after the 15th trip, when the initial gear investment begins to pay off.

The river right below our site was so super beautiful all day long. Particularly in the evening when it was cooler and the light was perfect. The big boys loved their first “fishing” experience. I brought them each a butterfly net, which quickly became a net for scooping sand out of the river.

His lovey was sooooooo dirty by the end. Had to run all the kids’ clothes through three wash cycles to get the dirt out.

Brock does not like to see a weekend pass without a Manhattan, so naturally he made them with a headlamp on top of the bear box whilst camping. We could not have fit one more item into our car, and he still made from for cocktail supplies. I like that in a man.

Little Bowie. The camper of all campers. I don’t think this little guy sat still for three days.

J and D watching a bear on the other side of the river. You can see the little black shape that kind of looks like a dog if you look closely.

Coffee just tastes better when you drink it outdoors in Falcon Enamelware.

Aren’t Jason and Laura the cutest? Good friends really make a vacation special.

I made the older guys each a collecting box that they could fill with treasures from around the campsite. And we brought a big box of art supplies for down time. They didn’t get nearly as into that as I thought they would, but next time maybe. A mom at our preschool gave me a great tip to just make a camping art box and leave it with the camping supplies. After seeing how incredibly dirty camping with kids can be, I’m glad I followed her advice. I stocked up at Target on Kid Made Modern supplies, and now we’re all set for our next trip!

Creating a space at camp that felt a little more “inside” with a shade and rug and chairs was nice for a little down time. The more gear the better, if you ask me. Quite a change from our backpacking days when we’d agonize over whether to bring one pen or two.

My big guy is so super into letters and forms and names right now. I love watching him devote such intense focus to creating things with his pens. Over a morning cup of hot cocoa. I think he might take after his mama in that regard.

Laura and I had a Google spreadsheet going to plan meals and gear between our two families. Works great when you’re trying to organize a trip that requires so much, well, organization. We also texted each other about 400 times in the week leading up to departure.

Forrest wasn’t too sure about a late evening walk over to the ranger campfire show, but he road along pretty happily in our Phil & Ted’s backpack. Staying up late is one of the joys of camping for little ones, don’t you think?

The only thing I wish is that we’d stayed longer! But alas this trip was really just to get our confidence up, and our gear in order. Plus we are at the end of escrow on a new house at the moment (fingers crossed!) and really couldn’t be away for that long anyway. There were plenty of people who were quite anxious that they couldn’t reach us for four days as it was. Did I mention we had no cell service? No phone! No internet! No instagram! It was awesome.

We managed to plan 4 new camping trips while we were gone so hopefully by next summer we really will be pros. We have a tent the size of a small apartment, which I think means we’re committed for a least a few years of outdoor adventuring.

If you’re curious, we camped at Sheep Creek campground in Cedar Grove at the bottom of King’s Canyon. We had a huge site above the river, number 12, I think. We drove through all four campgrounds there to find the best spot available (naturally), since they are all first come – first served. Would totally recommend this spot! There’s a nice swimming beach at the end of the road (literally called Road’s End) with rocks for jumping and a sweet little meadow walk that’s perfect for kids. You can also access the trail there for a really beautiful backpacking trip (Rae Lakes Loop) from there and some nice day hikes too.

My lingering sentiment about the trip: CAMP MORE!

April 24, 2014

Spring Cleaning

I have been enjoying spring more this year than any other year in recent memory. I usually think of spring as being fairly annoying in it’s tease between summer and winter. It’s usually sunny and windy, except when it’s grey and blah, and generally neither here nor there. But this year for loads of reasons it’s just been really calm and lovely.

The fava beans are blooming, the peas are curling up the trellis, the trees are flowering, the boys are eating dinner in the backyard, and one way or another I feel like we are going to have more living space this year, at some point. And it’s been timed perfectly with finally finally finally finishing Simplicity Parenting, after many months of coming and going from it’s pages. I’ve loved it so much that it’s been nice to spread it out and digest it slowly. To me it feels like the eternal spring of parenting. Less a parenting book and more a sort of manual on family life. I suppose it’s not for everyone but it is certainly for me and I’m so glad I finally moved it to the top of the stack on my nightstand, after many years waiting in the wings.

Now that we’re out of the trenches (how I refer to the first year as a family of 4), it’s been nice to start to focus some energy on something other than surviving and juggling and adjusting. And truly I think that’s what this book is about. It validates so many of my natural tendencies as a parent, it’s like ahhhhhh. There, see? I was right after all. Not unlike binging on NPR as a liberal. So satisfying and affirming.

I’ve been gleefully purging over the last few months, which is actually a near and dear hobby of mine on the regular. But now I have validation that it’s okay to put things directly from the wrapping paper into the Goodwill pile! Maybe it sounds extreme, but in my mind it’s the perfectly sane thing to do. (Side note, it also makes you feel just the slightest bit crazy; like when you ask friends to only bring one book as a gift for your 4 year old’s birthday, and then freak out because there are TOO MANY BOOKS. Koo-koo.) Which is just the tip of proverbial iceberg that this book discusses. There’s so much goodness to take away for both your children and for you. And even if you feel that you have a fairly rhythmic household, which I feel we do, I’ve found so many great lessons within it’s pages and so many interesting ideas that I can see being helpful for all of us now and for the years ahead.

I’m rambling. But really, it’s so worth a read. So perfect for spring, when one’s inclination is to refresh what you already have in one way or another. If you’ve read it, do tell what you think. If you haven’t, I couldn’t recommend it more.

Simplicity Parenting.