Thursday, June 30, 2011

Exercise Guilt

And not the kind you get when you skip a session.

I just finished doing my running/walking for an hour for the third day in a row, and I’m cooling down now before either hopping in the shower or convincing the boys to go swimming.

Why do I feel such guilt for exercising? I’ve battled with this feeling for years. I find compromises, like having the boys play in the yard while I run, but still the guilt is there.

Little E. trots up to me in his camouflage boots and says, “I exercise with you mommy,” and holds out his chubby hand for me to grasp it. And it breaks my heart to snap back, “Not with me! If you want to exercise, go in the back yard or go swing.”

But I have to. I would get no exercise if I kept pace with a four year old, and the whole point is to get fit so that I can be healthier, stronger, and a better example to my daughters.

But the guilt! Oi!  He walks away dejectedly pouting. After a few minutes I see him playing with the dogs, laughing and covering them in that fine dirt that always collects under the oak trees. I begin to realize that a little boy’s life does not have to revolve around his mommy. Maybe it’s good for him to find things to do independently.

I am an overindulgent mom. If you know me, you know how much of an understatement that is. It’s one of my huge faults – to indulge my kids. I love being a mom. I love the time I spend with my kids. I love doing things with them. But I need to learn to love myself, to love spending time doing something for me and not to feel guilty about it.

I’m doing it. Slowly. A little every day. I start out by letting the boys know that mom is going outside to run. They are welcome to join me, but what are the rules? Nearly in unison they say, “Don’t go out by the road.” And? “If we need something ask our sisters or get it ourselves.” And? “Don’t come up to you when you’re running.”

Not that they always follow the rules, but they’re beginning to see that I’m not budging. It’s something I MUST do for me, even if I feel guilty.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weight Loss Myth

I blew a myth in the last two months, and I’m not pleased by it. I’ve been a subscriber to health magazines for year (I know, you wouldn’t know it by looking at me), and an enthusiast for tidbits of health wisdom. 

A couple of years ago I read some study that showed that those who consistently walk 10,000 steps a day or more will lose weight without adding anything else to their routine, such as dietary changes or aerobic exercise. Dog doody!!!

For two months now (just looked on my calendar, and I started this on May 4th), so for 2 months now, I have made it my goal to keep my step count up. Starting at 9,000 steps a day, I quickly worked up to a daily goal of 10,000, which I’ve now kept for over a month.  Legs were sore for the first three weeks. Energy level increased noticeably, But, and this is a big fat rhino butt, no weight loss. None! Not a single pound shed.

Okay, I understand that in compensating for my increase in activity (I was averaging about 4,000 to 5,000 steps a day before May), I ate with no restraints and no restrictions. Not a good idea. With that in mind, I’m greatly surprised that I did gain any weight. But I’m still 170. Yes, I am 170 and wear a size 14, which is 2 sizes higher than a year ago and 3 sizes higher than what I want to be wearing. Sure, I can wear most size 12’s and even a few 10’s, but 14 is my comfy size.

Back to the busted myth. I can not simply increase my steps and lose weight. I came to that realization and am very disappointed by it. Now what do I do? The definite need for a plan is apparent. I need to eat better and less. Drink more water and make the occasional alcoholic beverage even more scarce. Plus exercise in some sort of aerobic way.

I’m starting to figure out that the truth is that there are no secret tips or strategies for weight loss and health increase other than a proper diet and consistent aerobic exercise. That’s the secret.  Why would I think that hard work, proper planning and self-restraint are necessary for any life change? Silly me.

So today, to kick off my two month weight loss failure, I made a plan. It’s not a complex plan, but a plan nonetheless.

Every Day:
Walk/run 30 to 40 minutes (increase to an hour in the winter with the nice weather)
Eat 3 balanced meals
Drink 8 glasses of water or my homemade herbal tea

At Least Every Other Day:
Get in a little swimming in the summer, fall & spring

How do I fit this into my busy crazy life of homeschooling, running too many activities, and trying to be superwoman? I don’t know. I guess I’ll just have to find the time. Run and walk with the boys outside playing. They certainly can use the hour outside. Swim with the boys – they would love that! Yoga at night instead of retiring to bed early or in the morning instead of goofing off on the net.

I give myself a 2 month goal, working on fitting the exercise in first, and then seriously improving the health quality of what I cook: lower fat and less sweets. I need to realize that food can be good for you and tasty rather than just tasty.

I have my goals, I’m off to a good start (just got done with 45 minutes of alternating between walking and jogging), and I’ll see where this adventure leads to.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Turn 80-85% Lean Ground Meat into Nearly Fat Free Ground Meat

This is one of my frugal cooking techniques that I thought everyone knew about. You know, like microwaving your sponges. You don't microwave your sponges? Seriously? Look it up.

If I lived alone, I would probably go vegetarian, but we have a large family. They like to eat meat. Meat can be expensive.

When I look through the sale ads, generally the sale ground meat isn't the low fat, 93% to 97% lean ground meat. No, it's the 80% to 85% fatty meat for about $1.99 per pound. At least that's what we pay around here (Louisiana is not known for being cattle or turkey country).

Have you ever cooked with that stuff? The grease! It's, well, kind of nasty. The tacos swim in fat. Fat floats in your bowl of chili. Your soup has a layer of sheen on it. Okay, I'll stop there. The point is that it isn't healthy for you.

Years ago while looking through a bulletin board on feeding large families, I found a method of preparing or precooking your ground meat to remove nearly all the fat: boiling it.

Bear with me a bit more. Boiled ground meat, once added to a dish like chili or spiced heavily like taco meat, doesn't taste much different than frying it

In this post, I'm using 85% ground beef, but honestly we eat ground turkey more often than ground beef. The same method works the same with either one. It's rather simple.

1. Put the meat in a pot that's twice as deep as the meat.

2. Cover with warm water.

3. The next part, I won't show. It's nasty but necessary. Wear a disposable glove and use your hand to loosen the meat up. Otherwise you end up with one large boiled lump.

It should look like this afterwards.  See. No more large lump. Now put a lid on the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium high heat.

4. When it gets to a simmer, it starts to puff up like this. Give it a good stir with a wooden or metal spoon, and it will all sink under the water.

I love this method because I am a bit of a germ freak. Knowing that all this ground meat is immersed in water that is 212oF, well above the safe temperature for meat.

Let it simmer for about 20 minutes with the lid on. You can see the melted fat floating to the surface. Fat does float.

5. After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let everything cool down. The fat will remain on top, and the meat will sink. If you are grossed out, I'm sorry. Remember all that fat you would have been feeding to your family.

6. After it's cooled down, I use a metal mesh strainer to strain off the liquid, which I keep. In reality it is a low quality beef or turkey broth, and so I use it in my homemade dog food. If I didn't have dogs, I would drain it into the sink. If you do, REMEMBER to flush the sink with really hot water and a dab of liquid soap so that the fat doesn't solidify in you pipes.

This is the meat you are left with. It doesn't look much different from traditionally cooked ground meat, and once you spice it or add it to a soup, it doesn't taste different. Well, it is much less greasy.

I let it cool, bag it in zippy bag, put a date and label on it and then freeze it. When I want to make tacos, chili, lentil soup, sloppy Joes or a dozen other dishes that need ground meat, it's already cooked and nearly fat-free.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Meal Planning

Who actually does weekly meal planning? . . .

I actually do, but only in recent years. I know all the reasons not to. So why do it?

  1. It saves money. Instead of buying everything needed for a fully stocked cupboard, you buy what you need for only 6 or 7 meals.  Also, you can plan your meals around the local sale items. If roast is half-off, then roast can be worked into your meal plan.
  2. It saves time. Knowing what you're going to cook tomorrow means that you can utilize time saving things like crock-pots, rice cookers and bread machines. It also means you don't waste time on that ever present question, "What are we having for dinner?"
  3. It saves cooking. Since you can plan for one meal to lead into the next, last night's chicken parmesan can be tomorrow's chicken alfredo. Meaning you cook chicken once instead of twice.
  4. You use up what you already have. You can plan your meals around what's already in the pantry and freezer and only buy the few extra ingredients to make that chicken that's been in the freezer for months into a meal.
  5. Buy in bulk. If chicken is on sale, you can buy the larger, cheaper package and plan 2 or 3 meals around it. 
At first, meal planning can be intimidating, but if you have a couple of tools, it's much simpler.

First, it's handy to make a list of your families favorite meals, the ones you do over and over every week.  Don't try this all at once, but keep a piece of paper on the fridge. When you think of a meal that you have at least once a month, jot it down. Within a week, your list will be done.
My list started as one index card. As you can see, it's grown

You don't have to stick to this list. Every week, I plan one or two totally new meals and then pick the rest from my list. Even if you never deviate from the list, that's fine too. My husband grew up knowing what he would have for dinner every night, since his grandmother made the same 7 meals every week.

The second tool is a master grocery list with everything I could possibly need from the shop. It's full of every item I buy on a regular basis. No, it's not my grocery list - that would be insane. When I make my grocery list, after listing ingredients I need for my weekly meals, I review this master list to see if there is anything I left out. Then I can check the pantry to see how much of our staples we have, such as cheerios, coffee, whole wheat rotini, toilet paper, dish soap, etc. There is always something you run out of that you (or in my case, my kids & husband) to write on your fridge's dry erase board. Lord knows you don't want your weekend ruined by a lack of sour cream!

When I recently lost my master grocery list, I actually made a new one from looking at the previous month's grocery receipts. It was a pretty good way to show me what I actually buy.

Both of these lists get reviewed, edited and rewritten about once a year to reflect our families changing needs. For example, my current master grocery list has more basic food ingredients and less boxed mixes than it did 3 years ago had. Sounds a bit anal, I know. Actually in the long run, the lists get redone all year long as I scratch out one thing and add others. It's just that once a year I rewrite it so that I can read my own chicken scratch.

My meal list has evolved to have categories. One column for meals that can be vegetarian since I like to feed the family a few veg meals a week. One column for things that need to be baked since I try to bake mostly in the cooler months. I started a column for bean dishes this year since I'm working on that. Then a column for anything else.

Still overwhelmed? Let's go step by step in the process. It may take a while the first time you do it, but once you've had some practice, it takes less than an hour a week. 

Making a Weekly Meal Plan
Step One:
Check to see what you have in your pantry, freezer & fridge that can be part of a meal or a meal itself.

In my freezer I have pre-cooked ground beef and chicken breast (pre-cooked myself, but I'll cover that in another post). I also have some stew meat and a large bag of stir-fry veggies.

Step Two:
Check the sale ads for really good deals.

I generally make one trip to Albertsons each week, mostly for their sale meat. This week chicken leg quarters are .59/lb, roast is $1.99/lb and ground beef is $1.99/lb.

Step Three:
Take a look at your up-coming week to see if there are any really busy nights. On those nights, plan for an easy to make meal.

Our week isn't too bad, but there are some trouble days. Saturday is my errand day, plus I have to make jams for my church auction and 125 petit fours for another group. Saturday I need a no fuss meal. Sunday night Girl Scouts runs late, so it's leftovers, something simple or a crock-pot meal. Monday, I'm having oral surgery, so I need something hubby can cook. Tuesday I'm making cheesecakes both for my church auction and the feast for 125. Wednesday night we're running to the library, and therefore shouldn't plan anything complex. Friday night we have friends coming over, and so I need to make something in bulk.

I also consider the seasons. In winter, I bake more since the oven heats the house. In summer, I cook more stove meals and use the grill.

Step Four:
Actually plan each night's meal day by day keeping in mind all of the above.

Saturday: Something simple that uses up the bag of veggies and the pre-cooked chicken breasts.
  • Asian Vegetable Stir-fry. 
  • Basmati rice. 
  • Pre-cooked chicken on the side to give this meal a vegetarian option.
  • Leftovers, if there are any.
  • If not, quesadillas. Even my 12 year old can make these. So if I'm running too late, everyone will get fed.
Monday: Since I'll be totally out of it:
  • Pasta
  • Sauce & Meatballs
Tuesday: Something that uses up the cooked ground beef but can also be a veg option. Plus, it's simple to make and the kids assemble their own.
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
Wednesday: Using up the stew meat, plus making something that I can cook, leave and eat later.
  • Simple Beef Stew
  • Bread from the bread machine
Thursday: The only night next week where I can take my time, so one of my favorites:
  • Breakfast
    • Pancakes
    • Polenta w/ cheese & butter
    • Breakfast sausage (I can even get the vegetarian type)
    • Scrambled eggs or omelets to order
Friday: Need to feed 7 adults & 4 children and I want to use up the last of the cooked ground beef.
  • Red Bean Chili
  • Rice
  • Cornbread, but only if it's cool enough to bake. Or, maybe I can use the bread machine.
There you have it. From here, I figure out what ingredients I need to by and what we have. Along with my master grocery list, I make my list for the week. It doesn't take nearly as long you would think. From start to heading out to the grocery, about an hour. I figure it's time well spent since my meals are planned out, I won't need to make extra trips to the grocery and I won't spend money on food we won't eat.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lazy Blogger

When life gets busy, I tend to push my needs to the background. I admit blogging brings me great pleasure, but since it's not a necessity in life, I neglect it.  Like exercise, I know I would function better, get more done, feel better and have more to give if I just gave a little to myself first.

You may see a change in the types of posts. Oh, it'll still be on food, cooking, environmental consciousness and living frugally, but Mama Bear's gotten fat! A year of stress eating has taken its toll, and I now weigh more than I've ever weighed except when I was pregnant or postpartum. Even my family is telling me to stop working on the sweeter side of cooking and start working on the healthier side.

Unless I want fat to be my future and fat to be my fate, I need to realign the paradigm of my cooking universe. In the last 2 years I have become really good at desserts. My pastries, cakes, brownies, cheesecakes, etc have all gotten to the divine level of yumminess, but my hips can attest that I have no willpower. If it's in the house, I will eat it until it's gone. 

Let's see how far I can push my creativity and learn to cook a large diversity of healthy main dishes.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Homemade Dog Food Recipe

I've been working on this method/recipe since September, but before I posted anything experimental, I wanted some proof that it was good. Now I really wish I had taken a picture of my 15 year old, 50 lb mutt back in September. We would have sworn that Sara had maybe a few weeks to live. Her hair had nearly all fallen out, her bones were starting to show through her skin, she wasn't eating much, she slept most of the time, and she was fairly disoriented when she was awake.

A little over three months later, her fur is fuller and softer than it's been in 5 years. She's filled out and gained weight. Sara's eating plenty of both my dog-food and the kibble. She still sleeps a good deal, but much less than before, and she's alert when she is awake. Every now and then she even wrestles and tumbles with the other dogs. She acts and looks like a dog of 10 rather than 15.

I understand that it sounds like I'm exaggerating, but, if anything, I can't state enough how changed she is. My friends, who have come over weekly for the last year, are just as shocked.  I never thought I would see such a change in Sara, and we all thought, back in September, that she wasn't going to live much longer.

As for our other three dogs, saying they love the food is, again, an understatement. Their fur is soft. Fleas don't seem to be a problem. The ones we got from the pound in September have filled out and look more muscular.

I'm not saying I made the end-all be-all of dog food recipes. It isn't hard to make something better than dry kibble. Look at the ingredients in even the more expensive kibble, and you'll see what I mean. The top 3 ingredients most often found in even the pricey brands are:

  • Corn
  • Chicken by-products (beaks, feet, organs not eaten by people)
  • Ground bone (though it's rarely called that)
I did a little research on what the current theories about what dogs can and cannot eat, and here's a few guidelines:

    * soy - allergy
    * wheat - allergy
    * corn - allergy
    * garlic - toxic
    * onions - toxic
    * Grapes/Raisens: toxic
    * chocolate - toxic
    * Coffee: toxic
    * Tea: toxic
    * Raw Eggs: contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems.
    * Raw meat: is potential source of parasites and bacteria. (I know many people feed their dogs raw meat, but I have too much meat-germ phobia to do it.)

    * Brewers Yeast: full of b vitamins and other nutrients, but if given too much it can cause digestive bloating and death. Most pet stores sell it, and I give about 1/2 of what the bottle recommends.

    *Meat: turkey, chicken, beef or pork (I buy whatever is on sale) Remove the bones.
    *Peanut butter
    *Eggs, cooked

Quick cooking grains:
    * Rolled oats
    * Bulgur
    * Quinoa

Whole grains:
    * Brown rice
    * Barley
    * Millet

    * Green beans
    * Carrots
    * zucchini
    * Yams/sweet potatoes
    * Baking potatoes
    * Broccoli florets and stems
    * Pumpkin, canned, fresh or frozen
    * Beets, canned or fresh
    * Spinach, fresh or frozen
    * Apples
    * Pears

Legumes (beans):
    * Lima beans
    * lentils, green or orange
    * Peas or split peas, green, yellow or orange

    * Vegetable oils
    * Animal fats, like lard, tallow or fish oil

Once I had a good idea of what not to feed my dogs, I needed to know how much. It took a good deal of my google-fu to find out the daily recommendations for dogs.  Basically what I found is that dogs need about:
    * Carbohydrates = 53%
    * Protein = 22% (more for a puppy or really active dog)
    * Fat = 25%

My Basic Method (pictures and details will come later, but here it is for now)
- Yields enough for 4 medium sized dogs for 1 week. Supplement with kibble. Refer to the above YES list for specifics.
  • 2 lbs meat
  • 1 1/2 cups grain #1, dry
  • 1 1/2 cups grain #2, dry
  • 1 - 2 cups green fruit or vegetable
  • 1 - 2 cups orange fruit or vegetable
  • 1 - 2 cups red or purple fruit or vegetable
  • 1/2 cup green legume (bean), dry
  • 1/2 cup yellow or orange legume (bean), dry
  • 1 1/2 cups lard or other animal fat
  • 2 TBSP iodized salt
  • water, enough to cover contents
 I can go on and on in detail explaining why, but I've been trying to post this for 3 days, so it's going out in it's bare-bones and corrections-needed for now.
  • Place all contents in a large stock pot or large crock pot. Add enough water to cover contents.
  • Stock pot method: turn heat to high, bring to simmer, turn heat to low. Simmer 4 hours.
  • Crock pot (haven't tried this yet, but it should work in theory). Cover and put crock pot on high until simmering. Reduce to low, keep covered and simmer for 8 hours.
  • Use stick blender to puree contents, or a conventional blender using multiple batches. Make sure it's well blended.
  • Let cool. Store in  a large container in fridge.
Fixing it in the Morning:
  • For each dog, use 1 egg (large dogs use more). Whisk and microwave for ~40 seconds. Whisk again, microwave for another 40 second. Egg must reach a temperature of 160 degrees.
  • Brewers Yeast: 1/2 the recommended amount
  • Chewable kids' vitamin, dosage should be on bottle based on pounds.
  • Omega 3 rich oil (like cod liver or salmon): 1/2 tsp per 25 pounds of dog
  • 1 TBSP olive oil or canola oil
  • Wheat germ oil for horses (found in feed stores) ~1 tsp per 25 pounds of dog, but there should be dosage on the bottle.
  • 1 cup dog food (recipe above) per 25 pounds of dog.
Mix all together. I powder the vitamins and brewers yeast with a mortar and pestle (found at a health food store) for easier digestion.

Making it Affordable
I sold this to my husband by saying it will save money. I wasn't lying, but it does take forethought.
  • Buy what's on sale. If ground turkey is on sale this week, get that. If you have freezer space, when something is at a really good price, stock up for future weeks.
  • Save those parts of the vegetables that we don't eat. Limp carrots, broccoli stems, apple that's a little too soft. You can freeze then before they go really bad.
  • Look through your leftovers. Most of the time, 2 or 3 things from the recipe is from my leftovers. Week old rice, out-of-date broccoli and cheese, or hamburgers no one wanted. Before throwing something out, as long as it doesn't have a large amount of the NO stuff in it, use it for the dog food.
  • Buy in bulk rather than week to week. I have a gallon of wheat germ oil that's made for horses. It should last about 6 months or more. You can store things like that in the fridge to prevent them from going rancid.
As I said before, this isn't THE definitive dog food recipe, but I'm happy with it, my dogs are happy with it and so I use it. I did a bit of research and I'm pretty secure in thinking that their breakfast is better for them than kibble alone. Comments are welcome, and if I have something wrong or left something out, let me know.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

DIY Superhero Birthday Party Part 1: Planning

Do It Yourself Superhero Birthday Party
Part One: Planning

Before anyone thinks I'm really nuts, which I'm not discounting, for going all out on my soon to be 6 yo's birthday party, let me give you some of his birthday history.

My little dude turned the big one a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit, and we lived slightly north of New Orleans right where the eye sat for hours. So there we were, evacuated and living as refugees at the house of some wonderful friends, not knowing if we had a house, if my husband had a job, or if many others in our extended family were even alive. Not the most festive of environments.

Fast forward a year, and my little dude turns 2 when we're living across the country in New England, again in the home of another magnanimous person. We have no friends near us, he has no family at his birthday other than his siblings and parents, we're uncertain day by day as to where we're going to be living and pretty broke. Again, not festive.

He turns 3 in style with a nice party with many of our awesome friends, but not really any kids.  For 4 and 5, we've moved again, and most of our friends live too far to come down for an ordinary birthday. Throughout all, he has not once complained. He's a very kind hearted and generous little dude. But at 6, he should finally get the birthday party to make up for all the rest.

I let him make out the invitation list. We want it to be his friends and people he knows there, but he does ask his little bro who his friends are to make sure that they're invited too. (Told you he is sweet!) Then we spend an afternoon thinking up a theme, planning activities and designing the fun - all with his help and final approval (though I do tell him that once he makes up his mind and we start planning, he can't change it - and yes, he has tried).

Step One: The Theme
The first thing we did was figure out an overriding theme. Even if you want Superheroes or Scooby Doo, you still need a focus, an idea which all activities, decor, food, etc revolves around. If one were to have a Scooby party, for example, the theme could be the Case of the Disappearing Presents.

After hashing around several ideas that included mainly Batman, the Teen Titans, Robin, and other DC guys, we decided upon . . .

Superhero Training Camp
Sponsored by Batman

Step Two: The Invitations
Yes, even these are a DIY. We found the perfect jpg for the front of the card. Then I came up with our own text.

Calling all heroes . . .
Please come to my 6th birthday party / Superhero Training Workshop

To train to be the world’s best Superheroes!!

Birthday Superhero: child's name
Training Date: 01/01/2020
Training Starts: 1200 hours
Training Center:
123 Main Street,
Any Town, AB 12345
RSVP: 123-456-7890 or

Superhero costumes optional for both adults and children.

With a little messing around with MS Word, my printer, card stock and my paper cutter, I made some cute little cards. In the end, using Print Shop would have been simpler.

Step Three: Planning the Activities
Don't fret - I'll go over these one by one in individual entries. But all those brainstorming lessons learned in basic writing courses finally paid off. We spent about 3 hours throwing out ideas, looking up what others did on websites, and just going creatively crazy. After all that, we had about 40 ideas of activities we could do. So I set up some categories to lump them into.

Throughout this whole planning stage, every time I was overwhelmed or distracted, I would come back to the theme. How does this idea fit into a "Superhero Training Session?" It helped me narrow down our choices. No matter how cool the activity was, if it didn't fit with the theme, than we moved on.

What we ended up planning was, a basic itinerary for a training session:
  •  Warming Up (games to play while the kids arrive)
    • "Bat, Bat, joker" (duck, duck, goose). New kids can join the circle as they come.
    • Bat-Tag, like freeze tag
  • Gearing Up (creating the tools you'll need to be a Superhero)
    • Recruiting a side-kick (making superhero felt puppets - these are really cool! Pic on right.)
    • Cape decoration: picking your superhero symbol and painting it on your cape
    • Mask: making what you need to keep your secret identity a secret
    • Bat-a-rang deco: using colored sharpies and stickers to decorate boomerangs (made from blue cell foam and duct tape - see pic below)
  • Physical Training
    • Obstacle course
      • Bat-a-rang toss: tossing your decorated boomerangs into a cardboard villain
      • Capturing Catwoman with water (cats hate water!): Catwoman is painted on a piece of paneling board with little tacks on her fingernails, then tossing water-balloons at her (and possibly each other).
      • Mr. Freeze Game: Red Light / Green Light, but instead of "it," Mr. Freeze uses his freeze gun to freeze those moving.
      • Superhero Hippity Hop Race: a relay race with teams using Hippity Hops.
      • Aquious Blaster Practice: using water guns
  • Defeating the Villain
    • Joker Pinata: I don't think heroes should be the pinatas. If you're going to beat on something with a baseball bat, it should be a bad-guy
  • Fueling-Up
    • Food & Presents
  • Graduation from Training Camp
    • Graduation Medallion: Cookie Bouquet type cookies, but instead of sticks, wrapping them in plastic wrap and hot-gluing wide ribbons to the back to make them into "Medal Cookies." The cookies can be large round ones with Superhero symbols on it.
    • Certificate of Achievement
    • Party Favors: I'm figuring, between the puppets, masks, capes, boomerangs, medal cookies and certificates, a simple bag in which to carry everything home will be fine.
One Last Thing: Sources
Before I detail out how to do most of this step by step, let me give credit to the many sites where we found inspiration:

Now I've got to go. I have still so much to do. And wait until you see the cake!!!