Why You Need to Have a Keepsake Box
As your child grows, it’s essential to save a few items such as their school assignments, artwork, and others to remind you of how they were as kids. As a parent, however, you more than likely know that even though you would like to, you just can’t store every piece of your child’s artwork or other memorabilia due to limited space.
Nonetheless, you can use a keepsake box to store your young one’s most special mementos, hilarious artwork, excellent schoolwork, and other key items to help keep the memory of how life was for them while young. You can either use ready-made boxes that are designed for this purpose or make one that meets your preferences and needs.
Since a majority of the specially designed boxes are limited when it comes to storage space, it would be a great idea to use a Rubbermaid tub as a keepsake box. That’s in consideration that there are various sizes available and as such, you can always get the one that perfectly suits your needs. If your storage size requirements increase, you are free to either get a larger Rubbermaid tub or another one of similar size.
Should you think that a tub is not visually appealing, you are always welcome to use your artistic skills to spruce it up. Think of something in the lines of decorating the interior of the tub with special paper or adding stickers and/or other decorative items to the outside or inside of the keepsake box. If you are gifted artistically, you can opt to paint the box according to what you like or what you think your child will love.
It’s always advisable that you start using the box as soon as you can. This can, at times, mean adding items to the box even before you welcome your young one. Add items such as their ultrasound image, a brief handwritten letter expressing the family’s excitement, and anything else that counts. If your child has already passed that stage, you can use other creative ideas such as having them draw the duties that they will have in the house once they are older.
In case you have an adopted child, include items that can help them to visualize the special moment when they came into your life. Pictures and/or some document copies can come in handy for such a reason.
It’s especially important that you keep a record of every first moment that your young one had. A good example is a picture of their first day in school or the first time they were able to ride a bicycle without your help. Make sure to include the date. This comes in handy when being used for future reference. Include as many details of their first moments and items as you can – they will appreciate them when they’re older.
As a parent, one thing that you have to keep in mind is that your child can only remain in a certain stage for so long. The special moments come and vanish so fast, and a time always comes when you say “But they’ve grown up so fast”. For this reason, you should try to capture as many special moments as you can after which you get to decide which ones to store in the keepsake box.
One of the items that should not miss in the keepsake box is a picture of your young one when they wore their first school outfit or maybe their first Easter outfit. When your young one is old enough, they will love looking back at such a picture and others related to the most important moments of their lives. If you can, put a yearly class picture in your kid’s keepsake box, and be sure to note the date.
You can also add other school items such as paintings, drawings, and more in the keepsake box so that you have enough to cover every important moment of transition in your child’s life. Report cards also come in handy as far as reminding your young one how they performed in elementary school is concerned. It’s also an awesome idea to have your young one write a simple essay at the end of every year highlighting what classes they loved the most that year and why, who are their best friends, and what they aspire to be once they have grown up.
You will have to keep changing the important items that should be stored in the keepsake box depending on your child’s stage of growth. When they join sports, clubs, make new friends, or even start to date, add a few items, pictures, or whatever serves the best purpose of being a reminder of the great moments.
Once your child understands the idea of the keepsake box, you can get them to help with creating the contents of the box. Ask them to include several items that are valuable to them. Their input as far as deciding what items to include in the box comes in handy when it comes to preserving the memories that are dearest to them.
If they are interested, you can also encourage them to handwrite a letter to their future self and then seal it in an envelope. You will want to assure them that it’s okay to write about anything that they want to and that you are not going to read the letter without their approval.
Their keepsake box is not complete without items that remind them of the special moment when they graduate. To give you an idea, you can save their graduation hat’s tassel, a copy of their diploma, the best of their graduation day pictures, and more. At this point, you can also ask them to write another note detailing what it feels like to have completed school, what they hope for and plan for the future, and more.
While these ideas will come in handy to guide you on what you can include in the keepsake box, don’t limit your child to what you think is important to keep. Save anything and everything that is important to them, and have them actively involved in deciding. Remember that each child is different, so it’s okay if they want to save some things that you don’t think might be so important.
It’s also good to keep in mind that there is no opportune moment to open the box so that you can add items. You can open the box as often as required to add the items that are necessary to remind your child what life was like to them while they were younger. As you open it from time to time, take a moment to review the contents with them and laugh at their funny-looking artwork and other pieces of work that they created when they knew almost nothing.
Later in life, you can give the keepsake box as a wedding gift or anytime gift to your daughter or son, who will be more than excited to have a look at the contents and share them with the important people in their life. It’s also a great idea to open a keepsake box at a family gathering or another event where your son or daughter will be the focus of the event.
One thing you are sure of is that the keepsake box will be one of the most valuable gifts that your child will ever receive from you. It will not only always remind them of you but also the tiny yet great moments that they had while growing.
Vegan Cincinnati Chili
Chili with chocolate in it is one of those things that sounds so wrong, it just has to be right. The first time I heard about Cincinnati chili, I thought it sounded gross. Chili with cocoa powder? And spaghetti?!
But then I realized that mole sauce has some of the same flavors as Cincinnati chili and I love that, so maybe these crafty Ohioans were onto something after all.
We used to live near a restaurant that sold vegan Cincinnati chili and it was always something that we meant to try, but never got around to doing. And then the restaurant closed. I was disappointed, but then I kind of forgot about it until I saw a recipe for Cincinnati chili on There’s Always Thyme To Cook.
Suddenly, I remembered that restaurant and how I still haven’t ever tried Cincinnati chili. I finally resolved to make my own vegan Cincinnati chili recipe.
The easy way take the meat out of this recipe would be to use those soy crumbles they sell in the freezer case at most grocery stores. When I first stopped eating meat, I heavily relied on all those frozen soy meat substitutes. But they’re highly processed using some questionable chemicals like hexane and they’re made with genetically-modified soy.
And, to be honest, I don’t eat meat because I don’t like meat, so I don’t really feel the need to eat products that look, taste, and feel like meat, you know? (The only meat substitute I regularly use is Field Roast–I love yoooou, Field Roast! And if you ever need a recipe developer, call me!)
Anyway! Obviously soy crumbles are out of the question, so I decided to use lentils instead. I was a little bit nervous that they’d fall apart while cooking as lentils sometimes do, but they stayed intact.
And wow, I wish I had started making this vegan Cincinnati chili recipe years ago–the spices and addition of cocoa powder make the sauce reminiscent of mole. It’s like mole with slightly less assertive flavors, I guess. And lentils, well, lentils are good in everything, right?
They’re also way (way) cheaper than those frozen soy meat substitutes, making this recipe budget-friendly too.
A vegan Cincinnati chili recipe made with lentils. Adapted from There’s Always Thyme To Cook’s Cincinnati Four-Way Chili.
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp. chili powder
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 3 tsp. unsweetened cocoa
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3 c. vegetable broth
- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
- 8 oz. brown lentils, rinsed
- 8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
- chopped onion, (vegan) cheese, and/or crackers for garnish
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook 3 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add chili powder through paprika; stir to coat and cook 1 minute.
- Add vinegar, broth, tomato sauce, and lentils. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes (or until lentils are tender), stirring frequently. Serve over whole wheat spaghetti and garnish with onion, cheese, and crackers.
How To Make Your Own Balsamic Ketchup
I have a deep love and appreciation for ketchup. (You’ve seen my Cranberry Chipotle Ketchup recipe, right?) So naturally, when I saw that Heinz was introducing a ketchup made with balsamic vinegar, I decided that I needed to try it immediately. And then I found out it wasn’t available everywhere; it seemed the stores I frequent are not stores that carry it. Obviously, I had to try to make it myself. Obviously!
I adapted this balsamic ketchup recipe from Serious Eats’ Homemade Ketchup. Are you ready to make ketchup? Let’s get started!
You will need these things:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 chopped medium onion
1 minced garlic clove
1-28 oz. can of tomato puree
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, for that certain je ne sais quoi (yes, the “quoi” in ketchup is cloves–of this, I am certain)
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add minced garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds.
Add the tomato puree, brown sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, mustard, cloves, allspice, and cayenne pepper to the saucepan and stir. You need to be stirring it or the tomato sauce will bubble and gurgle and spatter all over your stove. No one wants that!
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Partially cover to prevent aforementioned spattering and simmer for about an hour (or until mixture has thickened to the consistency of ketchup).
Use an immersion blender to puree the ketchup until smooth. Alternately, you can dump the contents of the saucepan into your blender or food processor and puree it that way.
Eat your ketchup. Eat it with fries! Eat it with tater tots! Homemade ketchup is much more tomato-y than the kind you buy; the addition of balsamic vinegar gives this ketchup a depth of flavor you don’t get in regular ketchup. It goes well with just about anything, but we really liked it with sweet potato fries.
Making your own ketchup was an amazing, rewarding experience, right? And now you’re ready to make more condiments, yes? Try making your own mustard or whipping up some mayo with Julie from Burnt Carrots.
Lightly Sweetened Sparkling Meyer Lemonade
This week I wrote about my freezer not working right and my seedlings being stunted and yellow. It’s been one of those weeks. It all started when I dropped my camera and from there, it seemed like nothing was going my way.
But my spirits picked up a little bit when we were grocery shopping on Saturday and I found that the stock of Meyer lemons was replenished. They had been gone and I figured they were out of season, but now they were back! And sure, most of them were a little bit soft and worse for the wear, but I picked through them and found some decent ones.
So this is going to be a happy post. Happy, happy! No more complaining about my camera lens or my gardening woes or my warm freezer. Because Meyer lemons, especially unexpected Meyer lemons, make me happy.
Being a planner, I fretted a bit about bringing them home without a specific recipe in mind for them, but then I realized that the best way to enjoy the flavor of these Meyer lemons would be to make lemonade with them. Lemonade, after all, doesn’t need anything more than lemons, water, and sweetener.
And the only thing better than fresh lemonade is sparkling lemonade. Since we have a Sodastream, we can make sparkling water at home anytime we need it, so I used that–if you don’t have a Sodastream, just buy a bottle of sparkling water at the grocery store.
This Lightly Sweetened Sparkling Meyer Lemonade is bright, tart, and effervescent.
It’s impossible to be in a funky mood when you’re drinking sparkling lemonade. Impossible! As the name suggests, it’s only lightly sweetened with a little bit of agave nectar–I’m not a fan of cloying, syrupy lemonades, so I added just enough agave to balance the tartness of the lemons. If you like your lemonade sweet, add a tablespoon or two more. (Although the more agave nectar you add, the darker the lemonade will be.)
A bright, effervescent sparkling lemonade made with Meyer lemons. Just sweet enough to take the edge off the tartness.
- 1/4 c. Meyer lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons)
- 3 tbsp. agave nectar
- 3 1/2 c. sparkling water
- Combine all ingredients in a resealable bottle. Close bottle and shake until well-combined. Let lemonade sit for a few minutes before opening (and open carefully!). Add ice cubes, additional agave nectar, and lemon slices when serving if desired.
Mediterranean Style Rotini with Toasted Garlic Panko
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Coconut Lime Tofu Soup
Recipe | Coconut-Lime Tofu Soup
In case you were wondering, I’m still doing Weight Watchers (and I’ve lost 10 pounds–yay me!). It just feels weird to write about it all the time here.
Anyway! I typically find it easy to stick to the plan for breakfast and dinner, and I’m not much of a snacker, so that’s not a problem either. But lunch has been difficult. I don’t like frozen foods and I’m not a big salad eater. I did sandwiches for a while, but I burnt out on those.
I like some canned soups, but I’m trying to avoid them because of the whole BPA thing. When lunchtime rolls around, it’s usually, “Oh, what I’m going to eat? I guess I’ll have some potato chips and a tangerine.”
So I’m not so much over-eating when it comes to lunch–it’s mostly just that I’m eating odd things. Things that don’t really constitute a meal.
Not having time to whip up something from scratch on a daily basis, I’ve found that a good solution has been to make a big batch of soup on Sundays to eat during the work week. Soup is easy to heat up and I can have it with some fruit and one of my No-Bake Molasses Bites and it’s a filling (normal! non-potato chip!) meal.
After a few weeks of various lentil soups, I’ve moved onto Asian-inspired ones.
Last week, I found a recipe for Coconut-Lime Chicken Noodle Soup in Everyday Food (which apparently is so new, it’s not even up on Martha Stewart’s website yet–sorry, no link!) and I decided to adapt it to my tastes and diet to make Coconut-Lime Tofu Soup.
I took out the chicken and noodles and added tofu and mushrooms instead. As I squeezed the lime juice into the pot, I was worried that the soup would be too lime-y for me, but it worked–it reminds me of the coconut soup that comes with the lunch special at our local Thai restaurant.
Coconut-Lime Tofu Soup
- 3 1/2 c. vegetable broth
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
- 1-13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1-14 oz. package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed at least 30 minutes
- 8 oz. button mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 6 tbsp. fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
- 3 tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 tsp. light brown sugar
- 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- 3/4 c. packed fresh cilantro leaves
- Combine broth and ginger in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add coconut milk to broth; return to a simmer. Stir in tofu and mushrooms; cook 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender. Add lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, jalapeno, and 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves to pot; cook 1 minute more.
- Garnish bowls with remaining cilantro.
Garlic Rosemary Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Sometimes recipes come together right away and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. And other times, it takes several tries to get it right. This was one of those “several tries” recipes.
Remember a few months ago, I made sweet potato stacks? The potato I used for that recipe was a behemoth and a lot of the slices just didn’t fit in a cupcake tin. So instead, I tossed those extra slices with a little oil and put them in a baking dish.
Like the potato stacks, the slices in the dish crisped up on the edges and I thought, “Hm, I should really try making baked sweet potato chips like this.” I added the idea to my ridiculously long list of future recipes and forgot about it until I heard about the No More Mallows recipe contest.
The time had finally come to make my Garlic Rosemary Baked Sweet Potato Chips!
I brushed two tablespoons of oil on the first batch of chips I made. Although they were crispy and delicious, they were way too greasy. For the next batch, I decided to spray the chips with olive oil instead.
These didn’t turn out very crispy at all, so it was back to the drawing board. I tried tossing the potato slices with a tablespoon of oil and that didn’t work out either.
Finally (finally!), I went back to the brushing and used one tablespoon of oil instead of two. This worked! The chips were crispy without being too oily, which is kind of the point of baking chips instead of frying them, isn’t it?
In all my trial-and-error with these chips, I’ve come to a few other conclusions.
First, it’s really important to use the center rack of your oven–my chips burned when I tried using the bottom rack.
Second, you really should use a mandolin slicer or food processor to slice your sweet potato because if the slices aren’t uniform in size, you’ll have some start to burn while others are still soft.
And if you use a knife, you won’t be able to get thin crispy chips unless your knife skills are far better than mine (which, okay, I’m sure they are–a chimpanzee probably has better knife skills than I do).
Other than that, this recipe is easy as can be and the results will amaze you–delicious, garlicky and perfectly crispy baked sweet potato chips from your oven! I don’t think I’m going to be buying these at the store ever again.
Garlic Rosemary Baked Sweet Potato Chips
Crispy baked sweet potato chips brushed with garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkled with fresh rosemary and sea salt.
- 1 medium sweet potato, very thinly sliced (using a mandoline slicer or food processor is best)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp. rosemary, minced
- coarsely ground sea salt
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position rack in the center of oven.
- Whisk together olive oil and garlic in a small bowl. Brush two baking sheets with half of oil mixture. Place potato slices on sheets in a single layer and brush tops with remaining oil. Sprinkle with rosemary and salt.
- Place baking sheets on center oven rack. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until edges begin to curl and brown. (Note that the baking time depends on the thickness of the chips–even a slight difference in thickness can impact the time, so keep an eye on them!) Allow chips to cool completely on baking sheets.
Make the garlic oil mixture before you start slicing the potato for a more intense garlic flavor.
Chai-Spiced Slow Cooker Pear Applesauce
When I was a freshman in high school, I signed up for a class about cooking. Although, at the tender age of 14, I was already jaded beyond belief, I was secretly really excited about getting credit to cook. I had always loved cooking and even wanted to be a chef for a while.
You know who else gets excited about getting high school credit to cook? Kids who are in gangs. Or, at least, suburban kids who want people to think they’re in gangs.
The first thing we made in class was applesauce. As I looked around the room and saw all these tough gang banger types donning aprons and stirring applesauce on the stove, I realized, “I never have to be afraid of these people again. Because I have just witnessed them making applesauce.”
And, although in other circumstances, I’m quite certain these classmates would have loved nothing more than to terrorize the sullen girl in the Smiths t-shirt, I think they knew this too. So I spent the semester happily making muffins, applesauce, and mashed potatoes while listening to stories about drug deals, beating people up, and brass knuckles.
Prior to this cooking class, I had never made my own applesauce. In fact, it was the first time I even ate homemade applesauce. Or even knew such a thing existed. When I was a kid, I always ate applesauce when my mom put it in my lunch, but I wasn’t really a fan until I discovered how delicious it was when it was made fresh.
The texture isn’t thin and watery and you can flavor it as much or as little as you like. And did I mention that it’s easy? Because it is!
While applesauce is easy on the stovetop, it’s even easier in a slow cooker. And in a slow cooker, you get the bonus of having a kitchen that smells like apple pie for several hours.
Having never tried my hand at slow cooker applesauce, I adapted this recipe from Skinnytaste, substituting half the apples with pears and adding the flavors of chai instead of lemon rind. This applesauce (well, pear applesauce… pearplesauce?) is delicious on its own, but it’s even better added to a bowl of oatmeal or spooned over waffles for breakfast.
Pear Applesauce flavored with chai spices and slow-cooked in a crockpot. Adapted from Skinnytaste’s Crock Pot Applesauce.
- 4 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
- 4 medium pears, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 5 tsp. brown sugar (add more if you like a sweeter applesauce)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Heat on low for 6 hours.
- Remove cinnamon stick from slow cooker. For a chunkier sauce, use a slotted spoon to remove half of the apple and pear chunks. Use an immersion blender to puree the remaining fruit and then stir in reserved fruit chunks (alternately, you can cool the mixture and puree in a blender or food processor). For a thinner sauce, do not remove any fruit before pureeing.
Mayer Lemon & Basil Sorbet
As a consumer, my weakness is novelty. Instead of growing red tomatoes, I grow purple ones; instead of listening to No Doubt in junior high, I was obsessed with Pavement. I’ve always been slightly contrarian by nature and I think my appreciation for all things new and different stems from that.
When it comes to citrus fruit, this time of year is pretty good for novelty. I’m not much of a citrus eater the rest of the year, but winter is different. There’s Satsumas and Minneolas and Blood Oranges and they’re all readily available and affordable. And unlike regular oranges and tangerines, I like these kinds of citrus.
When I saw Meyer lemons at the grocery store, I knew I wanted to try making a sorbet with them. Their deep yellow rind was so bright and cheerful and it made the regular lemons a few bins away look so boring and blah.
The darker rind comes from the fact that Meyer lemons originated by crossing lemons with oranges. Although the appeal of Meyer lemons is that they’re sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons, I’ve found that they’re still a little too sour for my tastes.
So yes, there’s lots of sugar in this recipe. Not only is it needed to balance the tartness of the lemon juice, but also keep in mind that freezing anything will dull the flavor; the sweetness of the sorbet mixture is toned down once it’s frozen.
If you’re put off by the inclusion of basil in this recipe, don’t be–the basil is infused into the simple syrup, so it only imparts a little hint of flavor.
On the other hand, if you’d like to intensify the basilyness (it’s a word if I say it is!), try adding Thai basil instead or simply cut the basil leaves into ribbons before immersing them in the syrup and don’t strain the syrup before combining it with the lemon juice.
The sad thing about this Meyer Lemon & Basil Sorbet is that it’s totally perfect for summer, but you have to make it when Meyer lemons are in season, in the middle of winter. But really, you should buy them while you can–they are tasty.
Meyer Lemon & Basil Sorbet
- 2 c. water
- 2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. basil leaves, packed
- 1 c. fresh Meyer lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
- 2 tbsp. Meyer lemon zest
- Combine water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, continuing to whisk, until sugar is dissolved.
- Add basil leaves to syrup and cool to room temperature. Once mixture has cooked, transfer to a large bowl and cover. Place syrup in refrigerator and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Strain syrup through sieve to remove basil; squeeze out remaining liquid from basil leaves and discard. Whisk lemon juice and zest into basil syrup.
- Add lemon-basil mixture to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Once sorbet is solid, transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.
Wild Mushroom Fettucini with Smoked Apple Sage Sausage
After reading about Back to the Roots mushroom growing kits on several blogs, I decided to buy one when they were offered as a deal on Heartsy. Having had so little luck in my square foot gardening efforts, I figured that I’d try my hand at growing mushrooms.
Mushrooms grow on trees! They grow on our lawn after rain! Mushrooms are everywhere! You can’t not grow mushrooms!
Well, yes and no. I managed to get two crops out of my mushroom kit, but they were a little bit stunted because the first crop came when the air conditioning was on and the second was when we started turning on the heat.
Mushrooms need dampness and even with my obsessive misting, the mushrooms kind of dried out (as you can see in the picture below). Bummer.
But still, I got some oyster mushrooms out of the deal, so that was awesome. This is what I made with my second crop. Earthy mushrooms meet sweet-and-savory vegetarian sausage and wine-braised leeks–delicious! Feel free to substitute any kind of mushrooms or sausage that you like.
- 8 oz. whole wheat fettucini, cooked according to package
- 2 large leeks, halved lengthwise, cut into 1 inch pieces and rinsed thoroughly to remove grit (use the light green and white parts only!)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 c. white wine
- 4 oz. oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
- 8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 Smoked Apple Sage Field Roast sausages, crumbled
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and 1/4 c. wine. Cover and cook 7-8 minutes.
- Add mushrooms and remaining wine. Cook about 8 minutes more, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are just beginning to brown. Add crumbled sausage to pan and cook 2-3 more minutes.
- Add fettucini to pan and toss. Season with salt and pepper.