Sun Basket Review

Last night we prepared and devoured our first Sun Basket meal. I've been wanting to try a meal delivery service for quite some time, but for some reason or other, I've never signed up for one. I though, "I don't need to spend extra money for a service to send me food from a set menu each week." Plus, call me crazy, but I enjoy going to the grocery store and picking out my own ingredients. I know, who has time for that?

However, after a year or so of getting $35 off coupons for Blue Apron in the mail every couple of months and talking to my sister-in-law about their Blue Apron subscription I was seriously considering pulling the trigger and actually subscribing to a meal delivery service. In our house we are not the type of people who can have the same dinners over and over week after week. That combined with the fact that my husband is often traveling or working late and when school is in session we often don't arrive home until after 5:30 p.m., I found myself slinging random and not always healthy food at my kids for dinner---frozen pizza, mac and cheese, and rotisserie chicken are examples of some of the regulars in the rotation. Sometimes I would go all out and fix grilled chicken or salmon along with some sort of roasted vegetable, but honestly we were in a serious dinner rut. I thought that a meal delivery service would be just the thing to add new recipes to our dinner routine. Also, quite frankly I was tired of throwing food away. You know, like when you need 1/2 cup of buttermilk for a broccoli salad recipe and have to buy a half-gallon of buttermilk because that is the smallest container the store sells. Then two months later, you find said buttermilk with a sell-by date that expired more than 30 days before. Maybe that only happens to me?

I was all ready to sign up for Blue Apron because quite frankly that's the one I'd seen so often. Marketing does in fact work! However, I was talking to one of my mom friends at the pool a couple of weeks ago and she mentioned that she used Sun Basket and she really liked the ease of the recipes (I had heard that Blue Apron recipes could be a bit time consuming, but I don't know that from experience). I decided to put in a little research. I compared Sun Basket, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh and decided that Sun Basket would work best for our family. (As a side note, I have no ill-will against Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, nor have I given their recipes a shot, so please don't take this post as me telling you Sun Basket is better than the others). 

I recommend putting in your own research to see what works best for you, but let me tell you what set Sun Basket above the others for us. They have dietary choices  with paleo friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free options. My husband and I are trying to eat paleo friendly so this was a huge selling feature for us. We are not super strict with our diet, but I'd prefer not to make a huge pasta meal once a week. Now, I'll go ahead a warn you, if you are strict paleo, then you will have to omit certain ingredients at times; however, the recipe will tell you how to adjust the meal to meet your needs. Another huge selling feature was Sun Basket's use of USDA organic produce, grass-fed meat, and non-GMO ingredients. Sun Basket was about $1 more per serving (I'm all for saving money) than some of the other delivery services, however, we thought the dietary options and quality ingredients seemed like a better option. 

We decided to give it a whirl. We opted for the 2 meal per week family plan for $9.99/serving ($79.92/week). We were able to get $35 off our first box. We thought, if nothing else we'd get some new recipe ideas and hopefully get out of our dinner funk. Since our box was coming from California, I did have a few concerns over the meat and produce arriving and being safe to eat. My friend assured me there were large ice packs in the boxes and everything was packaged really well. Then I began to be concerned about the amount of waste by a weekly delivery of ice packs, containers, etc. 

Our first box arrived Wednesday and everything was securely packaged for our first two meals: Vietnamese steak stir-fry with jasmine rice and Turkey tacos with cucumber-red pepper salsa. I wish I had taken a picture, but I promise to update this post with pictures when the next box arrives. Almost every bit of the packaging is recyclable, which helped alleviate my waste worry. Each meal is packaged in brown paper that you can then use to place all of your veggie scraps for compost (if you have a compost). Also, the insulation is made out of recyclable material with a 1 symbol so that can roll up the insulation and place it in your recycling. The ice packs can be drained in your compost as well and their outer plastic layer can be recycled. In addition, most of the food containers are recyclable plastic or they can be reused for leftovers or as containers for other things. For example, I washed out and reused the black bean container for my leftover salsa. The other thing I absolutely loved is that not only did I receive the recipes for the two dinners we picked for the week, the box came with a booklet of all the recipes for the week! This is especially exciting because I really wanted to try the Curried chicken salad with grapes, but didn't choose it as a dinner option this week. Plus there was an additional sheet with a cool Tic-Tac-Toe craft to make with your children.

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Our first meal was Turkey tacos with cucumber-red pepper salsa. Each ingredient was clearly labeled and properly portioned. The recipe was easy to follow with prep items in blue and cooking steps in black. There are also chef tips for using leftover items. I know what you're thinking, there shouldn't be leftover items. However, this recipe uses corn tortillas, which are prepackaged. The chef tip for this recipe is to use the leftover tortillas to make chips. Yum! I also love the tips for allowing your kids to help with the dinner making process. My eight-year old son helped with the cooking--his new favorite hobby. Although, I let him do more advanced cooking than the recipe indicates. His current specialty is scrambled eggs so I let him help with sautéing the poblanos and browning the ground turkey. 

So now I know you're wondering, how was it? I thought it was delicious. Not only was the recipe healthy, but it was flavorful. The only thing the kids weren't a fan of were the corn tortillas, but luckily we had some flour tortillas in the fridge. We had a lot leftover after our meal. But my husband and I keep our portion sizes pretty small for dinner and I was able to enjoy a delicious taco salad over spinach for lunch with all of the fixings. If you are looking to spice up your dinner meals with less stress and shopping time, I suggest giving a meal delivery service a try.

Happy New Year!

What will 2017 bring for you? Hardly anyone knows. We begin each new year with new hopes, dreams, and goals of making changes to our lives. Or perhaps our lives are perfectly fine and there isn't anything we want or need to change. Whatever your mindset, change requires effort, determination, and tons of perseverance. Rewind back to January 1st 2016, I made 3 goals for myself: get published, get organized, and lose 10 pounds, which just so happened to be the same 3 goals I set for myself in 2015. And embarrassingly enough, if I'm being perfectly honest, those were probably my goals in 2014 also. So if I've been working towards the same goals for at least 2 years, why haven't I achieved any of them? Laziness? Fear? Maybe a little of both? Or perhaps sheer overwhelmedness (yes, I know that's not a real word). You know the feeling I'm talking about, where you have so much going on that when you do have actual free time to get something accomplished, you don't know where to start or even have the energy to do anything else? Or maybe that's just me. Or perhaps it's the feeling when you try hard at something for a short period of time, but you don't see any results and you give up or become discouraged.

As a side-note, my 2016 was nothing to be sad or mopey about. It was actually pretty awesome. I went on four great vacations. Visited 5 states, traveled in 4 different countries, took my children on their first plane trip. I completed my first year in a new position at my school. Played, laughed, ran, and made many memories with my family and friends. Not to mention that I am blessed with two beautiful, healthy children, a wonderful husband, a great job, and a fantastic family and friends.

The truth is, achieving your dreams is not possible without heart and a whole lot of hard work. I will never reach my goals without making a conscious effort to work towards them. I will never publish my first book without spending time writing, each and every day. Although, I made a start in 2016, three blog posts and an outline aren't going to get my novel published. Likewise, I'm never going to get organized by doing the daily chores that need to be done and nothing more. I'm going to have to put in hours of time to get things to a functional point and then I'm going to have to work to keep things organized. And those ten pounds, well, I'm likely never to lose them unless I change my eating habits permanently. Instantaneous results will not happen and in all honesty, 365 days may not be enough to get my goals accomplished, but hopefully by this time next year, I will have made some progress toward these goals.

Why am I telling you all of this? You probably have goals and dreams of your own to focus on that differ from those of my own. My purpose in writing this is two-fold. A few months ago, I read a book called Living Well Spending Less by Ruth Soukup. When I was reading what she had written in her book, there were many times that I thought, “wow, she’s talking to me.” Although I knew that she wasn’t writing this book for Amy Fields, there were many things that she wrote that really stuck with me. So my thought in writing this blog post is that maybe there is someone out there who reads this post and feels the same way that I do, overwhelmed and scared of their goals, but ready to put in the hard work that it takes to accomplish those staggering goals. Maybe we can lean on each other and push each other to achieve those goals. The other reason I’m writing this is to hold myself accountable.  By putting my goals out there in the wide-open world of the Internet where anyone can read them, I’m more likely to be working towards them. I honestly hope that I if I run into you on the street sometime soon that you’ll say, “Hey, Amy. How’s your book going?” Hopefully, my response will be positive and more than, "I have an outline."

Happy 2017 to you! May this be the year where your dreams come true!

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians

My school year has taken off in whirlwind fashion once again, my Reading Lab groups are in full swing and I'm trying to re-organize my reading lessons in order to maximize student progress. I've also managed to get myself involved in a Special Education cohort focused on reading disabilities so that I can answer the new, popular reading question: Is my child dyslexic? Needless to say, although I've been on a quest for simplicity, relaxation, and finding more time for writing, I can never seem to get there. In order to fix this problem, my new mantra is "put writing first". So, even though I have laundry to fold, yard-work to do, lesson plans to write, and e-mails to respond to, I'm going to sit in this chair and not get up until this post is publishable.

Beginning of the year assessing is finally finished and last week I began working with my small groups of Kindergarten-3rd grade students. One of my goals this year is to provide my students with more targeted instruction based on their needs. This will be quite the tall order, since I work with close to 40 students each day, however, my job is reading intervention and I need to be doing more explicit teaching of strategies than students are getting with their regular classroom reading program. I also, want to provide them with strategies that they can take back to their classrooms and homes to apply to their reading.

Last week my lessons focused on classroom rules, getting to know the groups, and learning how to pick out "just right" books. If you have a reader in your house, you probably know that when your child reaches a certain age, usually by 2nd grade, he/she if very aware of his/her reading ability compared to others. He/she is also, usually very aware of what other children are reading. It only takes one student "reading" Harry Potter to make a whole class of 2nd graders think they should be "reading" Harry Potter too. While I see the value in a good healthy challenge and I would never discourage a child from reading, more reading growth will happen if students are consistently placed in books with just the right amount of challenge.

Earlier in the year, I observed in my school's 3rd grade classrooms and witnessed a series of lessons on choosing "good fit" books. They brought in a bag of shoes of different styles and sizes and showed students that although there are a variety of shoes, you have to think about size and purpose. What shoe fits one person, won't necessarily fit another. For example, you might love fancy heels, but you wouldn't want to wear them to go for a run. Also, all sneakers aren't the same size, so a size 10 running shoe probably isn't going to fit you if you're a size 7. So although your buddy might be reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, that doesn't mean it would be a good fit book for you. Their lessons also focused on using the acronym I PICK (Puporse, Interest, Comprehension, Know-words), to help students learn to pick "good fit" books.

Although, these lessons are fantastic and I loved the way they used the shoes as an analogy to picking books, I didn't want to step on any toes (no pun intended), by using the same lesson with my 1st and 2nd graders. So I googled "picking just right books" and came across a variety of anchor chart images. Several of them used an analogy of riding a bike to choosing a "just right" book and I thought many of my students could relate to riding a bike. I drew a picture of a bike going down a hill on my classroom white board and asked my students to tell me about riding a bike down a hill and what happens, I wrote "too easy" beside the picture and we listed what happens when a book is too easy (you go fast, don't pay attention, know all the words, boring). Then I drew a picture of a bike going up a hill and wrote "too hard" beside it. We listed what happens when book is too hard (slow, hard work, 5 finger rule-miss more than 5 words on a page, don't understand). Lastly, I drew a picture of a bike on a straight road and I wrote "just right" beside it. We listed characteristics of books that are just right (know most of the words, not too fast or slow, understand the story).

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The next day, I read the story Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians written by Jackie Mims Hopkins and illustrated by John Manders to my groups. Now, I did borrow this book from a 3rd grade teacher and I'm pretty sure she read it to her class, but as a teacher it's really hard to pick a book that no one in your class has ever heard or read before, so hopefully they'll forget by the time they're in 3rd grade. Plus I always tell my students that I read my favorites over and over again, which is the truth. In Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians, a little girl takes a shortcut through the forest on her way home from school and finds a house made of books belonging to the three "Libearians," (Papa bear, Mama bear and baby bear). In the house, she finds books that are too hard, too easy and just right. It was a great review for what we had talked about the day before with the bikes and books. Goldie Socks even used the 5 finger rule strategy to find good books for herself. After finding her books, she also found a nice cozy reading space, which is equally as important as what you are reading. You don't want to be too uncomfortable while reading, or too comfortable for that matter.

Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians
$16.02
By Jackie Mims Hopkins

The day after my Goldie Socks reading, I showed my students an Anchor Chart that I made using our white board notes outlining How to Pick a Just Right Book. I plan on laminating this gem and hanging it in my classroom for reference.

Every night my students are invited to pick out a book from my leveled book baskets to take home. I know my students are taking home books from the library and possibly from their classrooms, but I just want to be sure that at least they have one book on their reading level that they can read. Each day after they choose their books, I have my students read me the first page of the book to ensure they are picking something they can read. If he/she knows all the words, I encourage him/her to choose something a little harder. If he/she misses several words on a page, then I make them choose from a different lower level basket. For now, many students are choosing easy books, but I'm hoping with a little guidance, they'll be choosing Just Right books all on their own.

I Broke My Trunk

One of the most rewarding experiences as a parent happens when your child begins to read. It's no secret that I read to my children every night before bed, something I've been doing since they were babies. But the last few weeks have been a mixture of the usual Mommy reading with a smattering of 6 year old reading. Tonight as we were reading Henry and Mudge Puddle Trouble, I felt such pride to hear that little guy reading. I listen to children reading all day long, but there is something magical about hearing my own son sound out, read and discuss books.

The ah-ha moment when I realized, wow, my son can read really well, came a few weeks ago when he brought home the book I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems from the school library. I am a huge fan of Mo Willems! When I taught first grade we did an author study on Mr. Willems. One of my all time favorite children's books is Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale and you can't go wrong with Elephant and Piggie's silly stories. I was actually really excited that my son picked out an Elephant and Piggie story. As we pulled the book out to read before bed one night, probably the night before it was due, I told my son he should read the book to me. His initial reaction was, "No, I can't read this." (For some reason, early readers always seem to assume they can't read.) So, I actually talked him into trying it out and he read the entire book. Not only did he read the entire book, but he started cracking up about halfway through the book, when Gerald, the elephant is explaining to Piggie how he broke his trunk, which was fantastic because it told me that not only was he reading, but he was understanding what he was reading. Now don't worry, I'm not going to tell you what was so funny or how the elephant broke his trunk. You're going to have to check this one out yourself!

This book is also a great partner read. After my son read the story by himself, we chose parts. I was Piggie and my son was Gerald. The story is written through a series of speech bubbles, so I read the Piggie speech bubbles in my best Piggie voice and my son read the Gerald bubbles in his best elephant voice. The second reading brought just as many belly laughs as the first read and also helped with my son's fluency. I promise, you won't be disappointed. Another Elephant and Piggie book made it's way home this week and I can't wait to read it!