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Ring Master MomMarch 15, 2015Leave a comment

Healthy St. Patrick’s Day snack ideas

Horray for St. Patrick’s day – my chance to make everything in my house look like a rainbow! We do cook authentic food on St. Patrick’s Day, but I thought I’d take a moment to share the yummy & healthy snacks and meals I like to create for my family.

Yogurt parfaits are a staple in this house so it’s just a slight adjustment to make a granola rainbow and kiwi shamrock.

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What I love most about making rainbows with fruit and vegetables for my kids is that it gets them excited to eat their colors and it’s less of a chore to repeat over and over again to “eat those veggies!” As a parent, you know that you can’t always win at getting your little ones to eat all of their veggies every night. My kids have changing tastes and having a nice variety keeps them talking about favorites and how they like to help prepare them.

Pro tip – I love setting out plates of vegetables as I cook because they seem to be eaten up very quickly by little ones who are hungry from running around all day!

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Don’t forget to eat your fruit, too!

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By now, you probably know I am a huge fan of pastas in silly shapes and colors! My favorites are from World Market since they have natural dyes and almost every holiday.

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I love serving pasta with roasted rainbow vegetables because it adds in a ton of great flavor. Depending on how thinly you’ve sliced your veggies, you’ll want to cook it at 425 for about 15 minutes. I sometimes coat them lightly with olive oil, salt, and Italian seasonings.

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Cutting out small shamrocks from spinach is an easy way to add some vitamins to pizza. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

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Hope this provides some colorful inspiration to your St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Erin go Bragh!

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Ring Master MomFebruary 12, 20151 Comment

Valentine’s Day food for toddlers

We love holidays in our house, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. My kiddos have loved heart shapes since they were very small and I’ve always had fun creating meals for them in February. Below are a few ideas for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. I wanted to share with you that we’ve created in our house over the past few years. Apologies for some of the photos – they are a few years old and from phones older than that.

I love homemade donuts, and these turned out so well! I don’t have an original recipe – I use the instructions they send with the pan.

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My kids are obsessed – seriously obsessed – with yogurt parfaits. This is another great breakfast idea that you can switch up with different types of greek yogurt, fruit, and granola. The hearts make it extra yummy!

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This next idea for breakfast is the classic egg in a hole idea, but made with a heart shaped cookie cutter. I fry on one side since I like my yolk on the runny side, but it’s up to you! Bacon hearts are simple – cut one slice of bacon in half and shape! I always cook mine in the oven at 400 for 15-17 minutes.

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Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereal has changed shape over the years, but it always a hit in our house – no matter the holiday. Talk about a fast breakfast idea!

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Oatmeal is a great breakfast idea in February. The warm oats warm up any cool morning and “writing” love notes on top really puts a smile on anyone’s face. Once I have prepared the oatmeal, I scoop a few spoonfuls of red raspberry preserves into a small sandwich plastic bag. I cut an extremely small slit in the bottom corner and used it as a pastry bag to decorate!

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Nothing says love like red and hearts. Combine that with one of my favorite flavors – red velvet – and you’ve got yourself a yummy breakfast! I use a red velvet pancake mix from World Market with a heart egg ring set. Make sure to use extra oil or spray so nothing sticks!

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My kiddos love snacks as most young ones do! Heart shaped anything ensures nothing is left behind!

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This special treat sandwich with Nutella and sprinkles is made by cutting a heart shaped cookie cutter through one side of bread. Too easy!

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We change up this snack every month or so in our house. It doesn’t always include sprinkles, but it’s a fun treat (especially ones with natural dyes!) and my little ones always want more.

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I have tried for a few years to perfect the heart shaped ice cubes and I think this year I’ve done it! I’ve always used water and natural dye and it VERY quickly melts as soon as I place the ice in the milk for my kiddos. This is fine because pink milk is fun on Valentine’s day, but I’m looking for something slightly more stable. I decided to smash up raspberries and place them in the tray. They froze perfectly and stayed in a heart shape for a long time.

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Homemade heart marshmallows are a sweet surprise to any cup of hot chocolate!

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Not much could be easier for dinner than pizza! Heart shaped pepperonis are made with my smallest cookie cutter and you could substitute veggies or even create your own heart shaped pizza dough!

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My husband James is a huge fan of beets, and son Patrick loves goat cheese. These two salads combine both which is a hit in my book! I bought pre-sliced beets and cut them in heart shapes with a cookie cutter. For the goat cheese, I mixed it with some of the beet juice from the can and spread it on parchment paper and froze it for about 30 minutes. After, you can use a small cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes!

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Cost Plus World Market always has a different pasta for every holiday! They are my favorite for little ones for their creative shapes and natural dyes. I roast seasonal veggies and splash on shitake seasame dressing for a dinner that’s always gobbled up.

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I received a great non-stick heart shaped cake pan from my Auntie a few years ago and I don’t believe they sell the one I have anymore. They make lots of great ones I’ve included in links below. Funfetti makes this cake even sweeter.

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We don’t usually exchange big gifts with the kids, but little books like this always show lots of love which is what this holiday is all about.

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I hope you enjoyed this Valentine’s food round-up for little ones! Below are affiliate links to all of the products I used mentioned above.

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Ring Master MomJanuary 20, 2015Leave a comment

Healthy road trip snacks & entertainment ideas for toddlers

About once a year (okay okay, our average is really two!) we drive together as a family to Disneyland. It’s about 800 miles round trip and I have lots of ways to make the trip enjoyable for toddlers. Healthy snacks are key in my book, and so is creative entertainment.

When I was pregnant with Patrick and wandering the streets of downtown Sydney one morning with James, I was obsessed with finding fresh fruit. The only cafes for blocks had fried and heavy pastries, and I felt out of luck. I remember passing a 7-11 and remembering they had fresh fruit! I was in heaven as I scored a delicious pear and I’m here to let you know that you can find lots of great food on the road.

I know it’s easy to pack pre-cut veggies and other healthy snacks, but this post is all about what you can find at most gas stations or convenience stores. My criteria for finding healthy snacks are as follows:

*They cannot be messy. Alice is 3 and Patrick is 5 and there’s no way I’m buying them their favorite juice – Odwalla Green Machine. No I do not want them covered in green from head to toe the moment we hit a bump thankyouverymuch.

*No artificial colors. This rules out so many treats that are bad for you anyway.

*No sugary or salty snacks. There are sugar and salt added to a few items below, but it’s not in excess. No Big Gulps or Cheetos here!

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There are lots of fruit options now with fruit cups becoming popular, but a lot of them include sugar in the syrup, so that didn’t make my cut. Apples, raisins, and bananas are nature’s perfect snack! Speaking of sugar, the yogurt does contain some, but much less than the others making it the less of two evils. And, it’s greek where most others are not, and sugar is an ingredient after fruit. It really defeats the purpose of eating yogurt with fruit if sugar is an ingredient before! I also found boiled eggs which my kids scarf down. Nothing added there! An item with salt are the nuts. Every bag of nuts I found had salt added, and this had the least amount and most variety. Last on my list is hummus. This came with pretzels which is a crunchy and creamy creation.

As a general rule, we don’t use the DVD player unless the trip is more than 4 hours. Our favorite things to do on road trips is listen to cds, books on tape, and color. I’ve included affiliate links below to items we use for the kiddos. Oh, who are we kidding – the Roald Dahl book on CD is a guilty pleasure of mine as well! I hope you enjoyed these ideas and safe travels.

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Ring Master MomNovember 26, 2014Leave a comment

Healthy Thanksgiving snack

With lots of special treats around the holidays, I thought I’d share one of my favorite healthy Thanksgiving snacks for little ones!

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The best part is that you can use any fruit your kids enjoy or whatever’s in season. Enjoy & Happy Thanksgiving!

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Ring Master MomOctober 24, 2014Leave a comment

Halloween crafts for kids

We have been crafting it up this week in the Ring household and I’d like to share a few of what we created! Both crafts are easy to do with little ones and can be done at your own speed.

First up are tissue paper jack-o-lanterns. What I love about this craft is that kids can personalize their pumpkin! My 3 year old Alice wanted to do only an orange outline as it took her longer to grasp the square tissue to glue on her page. My 5 year old Patrick wanted a spooky face and added a long vine to the top.

I started prepping by cutting a few tissue sheets into small squares. These do not have to be perfect as they will get scrunched up by little fingers, so don’t stress about even edges. Each kiddo drew a face onto paper as I cut. Take the square tissue and place it at the bottom of the pencil. Scrunch up the tissue as much or little as you like, and add a dab of glue before attaching it to your jack-o-lantern.

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Little fingers can take a bit of time creating each piece because they are using those fine motor skills!

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And here are the finished products

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Next up is a washi tape pumpkin garland. I gathered halloween washi tape, paper, pen, scissors, and halloween twine. First, I drew two large pumpkin shapes on each paper. The kids grabbed tape and cut in lines larger than what I drew. That way when you cut the pumpkin shape, there’s not a lot of white on your garland.

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Once the tape is on, cut into your desired pumpkin shape and add two small holes to string the twine through.

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Happy Halloween!

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Below are affiliate links to some of the craft supplies I used. Have fun creating!

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Ring Master MomSeptember 4, 20142 Comments

The future of food

Do you dream about the future? Will we have flying cars in our lifetime? Ever wonder about what our food will look like?

A little background on me – I love food. I enjoy cooking, baking, and dining out with my family. I love food so much that the vocal point in both labors of my children changed from a calm and serene Hawaii to the meals I ate while there. I guess you could call eating an experience and my happy place.

Please note that there are many more of what I think of as disturbing things going on with our food. I don’t have time to list all of my grievances here. Any bold phrases are links to articles and more information.

What we eat has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. Let those numbers sink in. Every wonder why they’ve raised so much? There are more additives and fillers to keep “food” cheap and you coming back for more. Why is there a need to add sugar to everyday items such as bread or soup? Because it’s cheaper than using real food and your brain will be tricked into craving more.

For some reason, ultra-bad trans fat is still lurking in many foods. Here’s a hint when you’re buying – if it says zero grams of trans fat, there’s trans fat inside! Zero grams is not the same as none unfortunately.

With daily news articles discussing GMO/Monsanto vs organic crops, last year the UN completed a study saying that small scale farming is the only way to feed the world. Should we eat what nature’s given us? How far should we go to feed ourselves?

It’s hard enough being parents and worrying about every tiny decision in your child’s life. Companies make it incredibly difficult for you to go to the grocery store and make healthy decisions. They are there to sell you their product, and will do whatever it takes to grab your child’s attention. How would snack time change if our produce aisle looked different?

Misleading labels make it easy to bring home crap. I cannot believe we live in a world where it’s okay to label a yogurt container as “strawberry” when it contains no actual strawberries.

I still don’t get artificial colors in foods. There are natural dyes, but of course they’re not as bright and more expensive. With links to ADHD in fake colors and pesticides, wouldn’t you want to subtract this from your diet?

Natural doesn’t always mean healthy, but if this is what the sun does to real vs chemical ice cream, sign me up for real every day of the week.

I am not perfect in the quest to feed my children ONLY locally sourced, organic, dye-free food, but I try very hard to find real food to feed my family. Friends often ask how my kids eat such a wide variety of foods from different cultures and the answer is as easy as they eat what I cook. If possible, I’d eat jelly donuts for the rest of my life, but it really wouldn’t last that long. It’s hard to make sacrifices to eat well, but it’s worth it. This article reinforces the need to start out as early as possible to set a good example for our children and instill great eating habits.

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Another great tip for getting little ones to eat and snack healthy can be found on my Instagram page or searching through #eatyourrainbow. I am surprised at how taking a minute or two to arrange colorful food in a beautiful way gets them to explore things they’ve never tried. Even my husband munches on things he normally wouldn’t grab from the fridge.

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I’m hopeful that in 50 years, my family is eating actual food with no fillers, additives, or chemicals. What a concept!

What are your thoughts? Do you and your family have guidelines before going grocery shopping? How do you feed your family?

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Ring Master MomAugust 15, 2014Leave a comment

Making the switch to greek yogurt

With of few of my Mommy friends asking me how I got my kids eat greek yogurt, I thought I’d share a few pro tips!

It doesn’t matter if your kids are eating sugary crap with candy on top (yuck – I long for the day when there will be fresh fruit to add in instead of M&Ms!) or plain and want to make the switch to greek. It just takes a few days to get your tastebuds adjusted and you can feel good about eating healthy. Just be sure to still read labels when it comes to sugar and fat content.

If you think it may take a few days, I would suggest buying vanilla greek yogurt first and adding in fresh fruit and granola. My kids tend to scarf down every bit if they are served like this:

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After this, you can start using plain greek and adding in a small amount of honey or fruit if you’d like until tastes adjust.

It’s also great start using as you cook to make a thick and delicious ranch sauce for dipping fresh veggies or a healthy substitute for ice cream when making popsicles.

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I hope these tips help your family make the switch!

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Ring Master MomAugust 9, 20141 Comment

Update time

Hi Friends!

I am sorry I’ve been MIA here this summer. It started out with a bang and I’ve been tired by most evenings I wanted to blog but happy and my heart is full of wonderful memories with my family. This post is going to be about my struggles with my period so if the words “uterus” or “blood” scare you – I’d advise you to a) grow up (ha!) and b) find another site to keep you occupied.

I decided to share my experience because it was hard to find friends who had gone through this. Even the older ladies in my water aerobics class had no advice to share with me!

I have had horrible periods my whole life. They are heavy, long, and painful. I’ve never skipped school, sports, or work because of this, but I’ve had my moments where I have had to close my eyes and focus on something happy. After having kids, I can liken the pain to contractions!

In early June, I talked to OB-GYN about my options. The pill sends my hormones into a tizzy and caused lumps on my breasts the last time I took it. Since I was pretty sure I was done having children, we discussed surgery options. I would first have an ablation and if that didn’t work, I’d have a partial hysterectomy. James and I had discussed these options prior to my appointment so none of these options were a huge surprise to me.

And I’m sorry, but this brochure had me cracking up when I received it. I cannot relate to her at all. I know I’m not the average age for this surgery, which is one of the reasons I’m sharing my story here. I want other young ladies to know all options and see what’s right for them.

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I had blood work and a pap-smear to rule out cancer. Phew! Also had a 25 minute vaginal ultrasound to get the full picture of what was going on down there. And side note – buy a girl a drink before such a long ultrasound! My OB-GYN told my that she saw 3 things that were causing my bad periods. First, thick lining which would be taken care of with a D & C. She also spotted fibroids and polyps which could be taken care of by having an endometrial ablation. I was also told that these three things can make it difficult for women trying to get pregnant. Knowing that info made me hug my babies extra tight when I came home.

A week or two after my appointments, I was at my favorite blogging conference – ALT – in Salt Lake City. On the last evening, right as the garden party kicked off, a friend tapped my shoulder to let me know I had a spot on my skirt. Color me embarrassed as this has never happened to me! My friend Troy took this pic about a moment before the drama unfolded! Notice the light color of my skirt!!

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I hurried upstairs to change and quickly shower. When I was in the shower, I noticed that I was bleeding like never before which explains why a super tampon and giant pad did no good after 45 minutes. This did scare me though and then my lining came out. Three times. Since I couldn’t stop this, I knew I needed to go to the ER. I called my friend Jess who was still enjoying herself at the party and asked if she’d come hang out with me at the ER for a bit. I am very thankful that she came with me as it took several hours to get everything sorted.

The doctors first came in and held my hands and told me that they thought I was having a miscarriage. I told them not possible – I’d just had a super long ultrasound. They wanted a pregnancy test first which was fine by me, but it took them an hour to come back and let me know that I indeed was not pregnant. An hour of thinking that you maaaay be having a miscarriage was not fun. I was finally given a hormone and told that the bleeding would stop soon.

I got back to my hotel room to sleep for a few hours and then hop on a plane back to SF, nap, cook dinner, and go back to sleep. I woke up at 6 the next morning, packed for camp for a week for myself, Alice, and Patrick and we were on our way to the woods! The hormone I took to stop the bleeding took that entire week to work. I still had to go to the bathroom almost every hour for the first 4 days. This was difficult to do with two small kids but luckily my Dad and good friend Rebecca were nearby to grab the kiddos while I ran up to the head!

Surgery was scheduled for my next period and I was in and out in a few hours. I ended up having a bad reaction to the anesthesia and was violently throwing up the first day and in total pain. Like the “nobody talk to me and I’m going to see if laying on the bed upside down helps” kinda pain. James was a rockstar and called the doc to get some meds to control everything. One pill for nausea and for pain was all I needed. Recovery has been good otherwise – just feeling uncomfortable and still bleeding til things are normal again. I’m very hopeful for less pain every month and I’ll keep you posted if I have undergo anything more dramatic.

My hope with this post is to inform others of options. It was tough to find others out there who have had surgery in their early 30’s. I’m excited to feel a bit more normal and not like I need to go to Costco every month for supplies.

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Ring Master MomJuly 9, 20141 Comment

Meal prep

I just did my first meal prep for lunches this week – and it was incredibly easy and satisfying! Let me back up a bit. I eat horribly around lunch time. I run around chasing kids, snack, put together puzzles, snack, have a dance party, snack – you get the point. I really want to change this, so I decided to prep lunches ahead of time for the week so I can stay on track for eating healthy.

I decided to categorize vegetables, grains/legumes, protein, and toppings. Those include sesame seeds, hot sauce, citrus zest, and herbs. Each week I’ll pick a few from each category to (hopefully!) keep things interesting. I also just got started on soups & stews to freeze!

This week I sauteed spinach in garlic and made tequila lime chicken with cilantro. I added black beans and two types of tomatoes from my garden. I love being able to walk in my garden to pick fresh veggies & herbs! It’s inspiring me to plant a lot more next season.

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My favorite part of this process is that I only cook once 5 days! Fewer dishes and less mess are a win-win in my book.

Have you done meal prep before? What are your favorite foods to prep together?

Below is an affiliate link to the containers I used.

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Ring Master MomJune 16, 20141 Comment

Building a vegetable garden with kids

Our family was thrilled when we bought a home because the 4 of us were previously squished into a 2 bedroom condo and were ready to literally plant some roots! There was a park next to our condo so we were always able to play and explore, but there’s really nothing like having the freedom to do that anytime in your own backyard and make your own decisions about what to plant and grow. We had to totally redo our entire house once we purchased it (roof, windows, interior, plumbing, floors, you name it – it was redone!) and the garden was on the back burner for a while. We made small improvements here and there for the last two years and I’m very proud of our progress.

Both front and back yards were covered in junpier bushes and red and white rock. The soil was incredibly dry and full of clay with made attempting to dig anything out nearly impossible. James was able to remove a few bottle brush trees in the back by himself, but we needed professionals to help with the bushes.

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I mean seriously, it’s bush next to bush next to bush.

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We also had landscapers add irrigation and a lawn in the front and back. This in addition to pulling out the juniper bushes took 3 guys one week. We also found out a year later that the tree in the back was a fruit tree despite it looking sad and not trimmed maybe ever. We trimmed it back and discovered that we now got to enjoy plums every Summer!

About a year and a half ago, we bought a few raised beds along with lots of organic compost to get started in one corner and work our way around to the chicken coop. Here’s Alice about a year ago supervising her ladies.

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Sometimes we get surprises! I’m assuming it’s from the birds and squirrels who love to sneak a snack and possibly deposit seeds. We had volunteer pumpkins and carrots!

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This is what we have in our garden now

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Veggies:
*Cucumbers
*Yellow & green beans
*Lettuce
*Carrots
*Red potatoes
*Pumpkins

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Fruit trees:
*Cherry with three different varieties
*Mandarin
*Meyer lemon
*Lime
*Fig
*Plum
*Apple with six different varieties
*And we are lucky enough to enjoy a few apricots with a neighbor’s tree that drops sweet treats into our side yard

Fruit:
*Early girl & sun sugar tomatoes
*Strawberries
*Blackberries
*Raspberries

Herbs:
*Cilantro
*Parsley
*Basil
*Mint

Hopefully I can get my act together and grow more veggies in the Winter, too!! What are your favorite things to grow?