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Bento Lunch Making, Exploring The Possibilities!

A few weeks into the school year, I had a mother pull me aside. I was concerned my first grade daughter had done something to provoke her son and in turn prompt this private conversation. To my surprise, she started asking me about the lunches I pack. She went on and on about how my daughter had the cutest lunches and how do I find the time. Funny thing is, I just started packing bento lunches for my daughter this year. Bento lunch making can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it: for now I focus on the nutritional aspect with just some small special touches. With the rise in concern in the quality of school lunch, packing lunch is an easy way to control exactly what your child is consuming.

I was introduced to bento lunch making a couple years ago when my husband traveled to Japan for a film shoot. One of the gifts he returned with was a bento box for our daughter. I had heard of bentos before, but wasn’t really familiar with them. In Japan bentos are used as lunch boxes. If you do enough hunting around the web, you’ll find amazing bento creations. Once bentos become a part of your life, you’ll want to make beautiful lunches.

Beautiful lunches? Yes. Beautiful lunches.

With the arrival of our first bento (in the photo) my initial reaction was, but it’s so small!?! Is it a snack bento? No it wasn’t a snack bento.  After using it a few times I was actually amazed at how much food a bento can hold. Packing a bento lunch is truly going against the grain of how I was raised. Everyday in my lunch box, my mother would pack a sandwich in aluminum foil, small bags of things in ziploc plastic bags, or fill a thermos with soup. For some reason when packing a bento, lunch just feels more special. Maybe it’s the cutters I use to turn a simple slice of

Great Playgrounds In and Around Denver

Kids scale them. Parents covet them. Pop songs romanticize them.

Playgrounds abound in and around Denver. Many of them incorporate whimsical public art works and state-of-the-art equipment.

But it takes more than just those frills to make a great playground. It takes plenty of trees and shade and a little something intangible – a sense of community.

Great playgrounds engage kids’ bodies and minds – often with an imaginative theme – and keep them coming back. The very best have these things and then that something. Maybe it’s a panoramic mountain view or other nearby amenities such as a petting zoo, water park, skate park and sports fields.

With school out and kids looking for places to while away their summer, here are 11 Front Range playgrounds that consistently get high marks.

A. Spring Canyon Community Park

One hundred acres nestled in an idyllic foothills setting are punctuated by Inspiration Playground, which was designed to be universally accessible. It has a play surface that allows for wheelchairs, walkers and support braces, along with sensory- rich structures that encourage interaction between kids with and without disabilities.

B. Fossil Creek Community Park

Learning and play converge on this fossil- themed playground that includes a giant woolly mammoth, a

It Takes a Village

My neighbors were quick to offer a cradle when we told them we were expecting. They had used it for their now grown children. It has been loaned to over a dozen families for the first months of many lives. My husband and I are next in line. These same neighbors also offered the gift of cooking food for us for two weeks after the baby is born. We do not look at their generosity as a gift horse.

We have been extremely lucky in our pregnancy that not only our immediate neighbors but the community we have surrounded ourselves with in the last two years since moving to Colorado have embraced us and the life we are bringing into this world. These people are our village. It is not always easy to find a Colorado native in this landscape, so it seems many of us are without immediate family in this state. And for whatever reason the people that really want to call Colorado home know they have to call their neighbors their family.

I was reminded by the deafening lack of blood relation this past weekend when we had our big baby party at 35 weeks pregnancy. No one related to me nor my husband were in attendance. Instead we had friends of varying ages falling over themselves to host a party in our yard for us and for our baby. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

At the party my husband and I finally took the time to eat and almost like a steady mob scene we were encroached upon by at least 40 people. One of the party organizers and a videographer coordinated the movement of people and asked my husband to speak with us at the center. He mentioned how this baby is coming into this village, and we would need their help to keep our heads on straight in dealing with a child, a new experience for first-time parents. Friends then took turns reading poetry, blessings, and kind words.

There were a lot of tears, shaking, laughing, hugging, and a range of emotions that could not have been more heartfelt than if these people were our siblings, parents, or cousins. It is this community that has helped make this pregnancy rather easy. In the last 35 weeks I have been fawned over by close female-friends, had shoulders to cry on when I needed them, and have been profusely complimented on my appearance even if it was only to brighten my day a little.

My child will be a Colorado native, born to a village who loves it. This community of people have made my pregnancy relatively easy, and the baby will benefit from all of its surrogate aunts and uncles that have already warmly welcomed it. I am grateful for our village of tech geeks, academics, yogis, and overall good-hearted people who will greet you with a hug rather than a handshake. It is my hope to return their affection as their families also need that gentle support that a village reciprocates.

Kia is an environmental specialist and yoga instructor expecting her first child in the next month. You can read more about her impending mommy adventures here.

Participate in the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at Elitch Gardens on Thursday!

There is no better way to kick off summer than trying to become a part of history!

Elitch Gardens and PARC Foundation are joining the nation’s leading water safety organizations to present The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL) on Thursday, June 3, 2010, to build awareness about the vital importance of teaching children to swim and preventing drowning.

Together with water parks, pools, and other aquatic facilities around the globe, Elitch Gardens and seven other PARC Management parks simultaneously host one World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at 8 am MDT in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record. Attending World’s Largest Swimming Lesson at Elitch Gardens will be Olympic Gold Medalist David Walters, who won Gold as part of the 800-meter freestyle relay team at the 2008 Summer Games.

Elitch Gardens’ lesson will take place in the Commotion Ocean wave pool in the Island Kingdom Water Park. Anyone who participates in the swimming lesson at 8 am before the park opens will qualify for discounted admission to stay and play at Elitch’s all day for just $24.99 each. All individuals interested in participating in the lesson are encouraged to register at Elitch’s Facebook page or email