Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bento: Happy Halloween!

Today's Halloween lunch is in the traditional Laptop Lunch box.  The top left compartment holds parsley sprigs "grass" for the fingers made of Hebrew National hot dogs that were scored and a fingernail bed carved out before boiling.  This helps the "knuckles" open and look more realistic.  The onion slice was also boiled with the hot dogs to get the translucent look I wanted, and they were adhered with ketchup.  The boiled egg eye is adorned with a ring from  The bottom left container holds the mummy hot dog bun cut in half for the halved hot dog, a container of ketchup blood, and a set of creepy eyes (a ring) from ATFS.  An apple with a leaf pick (from ATFS) has been converted to a Jack-o-lantern with the assistance of small knife to carve holes and dried pineapple to fill each hole.  Toasted pumpkin seeds were a must for today, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

DIY Disney Autograph Book

We are gearing up for our Disney trip in a couple of weeks, and I've been busy getting fun things together for the trip.  When we went the first time 4 years ago (with our now 7-year-old), we had no idea.... I had read, researched, asked friends, but nothing truly prepared me.  We learned a great deal on that trip, and I fully intend to implement all that I learned this time as we travel with not ONE but THREE children to Disney.
This particular tip is about "the autograph book."  I didn't know anything about the book at all when we went the first time. You can buy the little ones at Disney (4 years ago, they were about $6-$7), and they work fine.  However, I also some incredibly cute ones while we were there as well.  Some were adorned with ribbons, stickers, rhinestones, etc.  I began searching on Etsy, and although there are some fabulous options, and they are time consuming to make, I simply can't justify $40+ per child for an autograph book.  It had better be fully customized with all of their personal images for that price, right?  That's when it hit me, and here is my own DIY solution.

**Disclaimer: These are not for sale. I made these using my home printer for my family's personal use only.**

I knew I wanted something that was:
  • sturdy enough to stand up to being beaten up in a backpack for a week.
  • customized for each child's personal images.
  • large enough to be able to see the pictures and have enough space for the characters to sign.
  • small enough to fit 3 in a backpack.
  • easily identifiable for each child.
  • nice enough to use as a scrapbook upon our return.
  • helpful in finding the characters our children most wanted to see while at each park.
While they are not perfect, we are all very happy with the results, and the kids have been going through their books talking about the characters already!  It's been a great tool to help get even our 3 year old twins excited about something that they do not yet fully understand.

How did I make them?
I started by creating a template in Publisher (another program would work fine, but it was easiest for what I needed.)  I created an 8"x8" box with a text box in the top portion that was anchored to the page, leaving a margin for the binding (that Kinko's actually put in the wrong place - it was supposed to be on top!)  I also left a margin at the bottom for my "helpful in finding the characters" code.  The books are 8 1/2" x 9".  Even though with Kinko's binding error, they could have easily been 8 1/2 x 8 1/2.  They worked out in the end; I'm just glad I had not yet sewn the covers!
My kids and I made a list of characters that they wanted to meet/see at Disney.  (I used a couple of lists I found online of the current characters.)
Now for the fun (and most time consuming) part.  I have a ton of fonts on my computer.  a.ton.  Seriously, it's a sickness. I typed in the name of a character or group of characters at the top of each page and then changed the font style and color to match the movie/show.  I added pictures I found online of each picture to ensure that my 3 year olds would be able to find their pages on their own.  (We are in the middle of "I do it ALL BY MY.SELF.")  Then, I went through and added images to their individual books of them dressed up as their favorite characters during dress-up or Halloween or even themed birthday parties, or in my eldest son's case meeting the characters last time.
I found a guide online that tells you where to find the characters that have designated "stations" within the parks.  I then coded the bottom of each page with "E-    HS-   MK-   AK- " and listed the designated station in the appropriate park section.  If a park did NOT have a standard place for a specific character, I put an "X."  My goal is to ensure that we meet each child's favorite characters at each park, and I know that this will make that easier for us.
I left a couple of blank box pages at the end of the books for anyone else not pictured.
I printed them out on cardstock on our home printer (52 pages per book) and took them to Kinko's to have them cut, top page laminated, front frosted cover added, back black cover added, and spiral bound.
For the fabric covers...I had several ideas, and they had different pros and cons.  I considered creating a cover that when laid open (flat) the two sides were pockets that the frosted cover and black cover would slide into.  I could still do a ribbon to tie them closed, but it didn't protect the page corners at all from getting banged up in the backpack.  Instead, I chose to do one big (reversible) pocket.  (Yes, I'm anal enough that the bows and buttons are replicated on "right facing" fabric on the insides as well.)  When the side ribbon is untied, these "sleeves" slide off and "reverse" outside of the book.  On the inside, each book has 2 ribbons that are sewn in that have been tied onto the spiral binding of the books to keep them from falling away in the shuffle to and from each character.
Are you inspired?
I'd love to see YOUR solution for the Autograph Books!  In a few more years, I know I'll have an even better idea of what we want to do for ours.
Need to book?
If you haven't booked your Disney vacation yet, I would LOVE to help you!  I am an Authorized Disney Vacation planner (in addition to being a mom of 3 munchkins.)  You can check out my website or Facebook page to contact me.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bento: Pumpkin Patch

It's Friday, which mean's it's a 3-lunch day in our house.  All 3 kids received a "pumpkin patch" lunch in  Laptop Lunch boxes. 
For the "big kid lunch," the sandwich box contains "pumpkin" carrot sticks and a jack-o-lantern apple with a pretzel stem and dried pineapple pieces in carved areas of the apple.  Mushrooms make the clouds over the pumpkin patch.  A sandwich cut into quarters is stacked into the 2 snack containers with fruit leather "toppers" with the pumpkin and the "negative" of the pumpkin cutout.  I also included a side of dressing for veggie dipping.
The "little people" lunches are packed in only the sandwich box from Laptop Lunch
The apple jack-o-lanterns were made as described above.  Oatmeal squares, crackers, cheddar cheese pumpkins, carrots, and a pumpkin fruit leather finish out these lunch boxes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bento: Creepy

This is another simple Laptop Lunch and consists of a potato bread sandwich with eyeball pics, applesauce with cinnamon and a green hand pic, dried young coconut and craisins with an eyeball ring.  The compact silverware is by Sistema, but I don't remember where I picked them up - possibly the Container Store. The pics and rings are all from (during my recent shopping spree.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bento: Spider Web

This Laptop Lunch is comprised of the sandwich box with a sandwich on potato bread and a spider and web (from for $1.25), one snack box with lid with dried young coconut and a creepy hand pic (also from as part of a 5 piece set), and an individual applesauce cup.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bento: All Eyes on You

Again, Laptop Lunch times 3!
The top one consists of a sandwich on potato bread, Quaker oat square cereal, dried young coconut and craisins.
The bottom two for our 3 year olds contain carrots, 1/2 an apple, raisins, crackers, and cheddar cheese with Gogurts for snack time.
All of the eyes are rings from

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bento: Finger Sandwiches and Eyeballs

This simple Laptop Lunch consists of "finger sandwiches" on potato bread with finger pics, grapes with an eyeball ring, and a mini cupcake with an eyeball ring.  Our little dude was surprised to see a cupcake in his lunch, because that so rarely happens!  The pics and rings are all from (during my recent shopping spree.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bento: Halloween

Today is Laptop Lunch  times 3. is a sandwich on potato bread, dried young coconut, craisins, and tomatoes.  The decorative items - Frankenstein, bat & witch pics, and the witch and Frankenstein rings (yes, fun for even after lunch) are all from, and the silicone muffin cups are from World Market and our local grocery store.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bento: Gone Batty

All of my goodies arrived from, and I have fun new "toys" for the rest of the year. Today's Laptop Lunch is a sandwich on potato bread with a bat cutout (with an existing cookie cutter) and colored with Wilton Food Writers, dried young coconut, and grapes with bat pics.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bento: October

It's that time of year again!  I made the Pumpkin Maple & Cream Cheese Whoopie Pies again yesterday (still eggless for our middle child - maybe next year we can use eggs), and I made them small enough to fit into the Laptop Lunch containers.  YUM!

I feel a little disenchanted with some of my bento accessories, because we've been using them for 3 years now.  Some have disappeared.  I ordered some new ones last week at, and I'm anxious to get them in!
In the meantime, a pumpkin, headstone, and witch cookie cutter helped dress up this last minute packed lunch.   Our seven year old has become persnickety about his lunches, and he loves that they're always "fun" in some regard, but he also makes requests about what is included.
Today's Laptop Lunch is a sandwich on potato bread, dried young coconut, craisins, a whoopie pie, and a peanut butter bar for snack time.