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All about mason jar salads

It can be really tricky to pack a lunch salad ahead of time. By the time lunch rolls around, it might not taste fresh anymore and vegetables can lose their crispness. Then there’s the issue of dressing. If you add the dressing too early, the lettuces can get soggy. But taking a container of dressing can be bulky. A mason jar salad is the perfect make-ahead solution to your lunchtime salad dilemma.

A mason jar salad is built in layers. Dressing on the bottom, vegetables in the middle followed by protein, then lettuce on top.

So now that you understand what it is, here are some tips to making your perfect mason jar salad.

  • What size mason jar should I use?

The wide-mouth quart size (4 cup) mason jars work best for a large salad. If you wanted a smaller salad, the next size down would be a pint-size jar (2 cups). Whichever size you use, be sure to choose the wide-mouth type as they are much easier to fill up and dump out the ingredients.

  • Where do I buy mason jars?

Mason jars have become more popular lately, so it is easier to find them at regular grocery stores. You may also find them online. Craft stores may even have them.

  • Why do you use mason jars and not plastic containers?

Technically, both plastic or glass jars could be used, but several recipe sites prefer mason jars. They state that a glass mason jar keeps the salad fresher for much longer; it could be that you get a better seal with a mason jar than with a plastic container so that helps to keep food fresh longer.

  • Doesn’t the lettuce get soggy?

The key to non-soggy lettuce is to layer ingredients correctly, keeping the dressing and lettuce away from each other. Each layer acts as a barricade between the dressing and lettuce. It is typical to use vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions near the dressing. Basically, these vegetables end up pickling in the dressing so any vegetable that you think would taste good pickled would be fine in the barricade layer.

  • What is the best way to layer a salad?
  1. Start with the dressing.
  2. Next should be vegetables that hold up well to the dressing (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, celery, carrots, peppers, etc.)
  3. Softer veggies or ones you might not want to marinate in the dressing come next (e.g., mushrooms, zucchini, sprouts, beans, corn, avocado, etc.)
  4. If used, the pasta or grains would be the next layer.
  5. The protein layer (e.g. meat, eggs, or cheese) usually comes next.
  6. The last layer should always be the lettuce, but you could add nuts or seeds in this layer too.
  • How long do mason jar salads last?

Most people make these salads to eat during the week for work, so it is usually recommended to eat them within five days. However, depending on the ingredients, mason jar salads can last five to seven days in the refrigerator.

  • How do I keep the avocado from turning brown?

Squirt either lime or lemon juice on the avocado before layering it into the mason jar. Mason jars do a good job of keeping air out, which also helps to keep the avocado fresh.

  • How do you eat the mason jar salads? Do you eat them straight from the jar?

You can shake the salads then dump into another bowl. Most people find them too awkward to eat right from the jar.

– Beaumont Weight Control Center. Did you know that the center offers cooking classes to kids in the community? View a list of upcoming classes here.

Back to school tips for kids of all ages

Summertime is great isn’t it? Firefly catching, s’mores eating, late-night fireworks, family barbecues, swimming until your skin turns wrinkly, and sleeping in. As August rolls around and the back-to-school clothes, notebooks, and ready-made lunch options flood the aisles, you slowly start to plan for the new academic year.

Some parents are eager for the start of school. Getting back into a routine is a relief for some while others love the lazy days of summer with its freedom and spontaneity. Understanding your nature in this way will help you get your kids ready for school. If you’re naturally a routine-lover, enforcing the new routine of getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier over the week or two before school makes sense and will be easier for you than will a parent for whom routine is a hassle not a joy. Either way, by the time school starts, like it or not, a new routine will need to be in place and waiting until the night before can make it tough for kids of all ages.

Switch your child’s sleep and wake routines

It’s the wake-up time that matters most. For every hour that your child’s sleep routine is currently off, it will take four to seven days to adapt. In other words, if your child is getting up at 9 a.m. and will need to get up at 7 a.m. for school, it will take 8 to 14 days for the new routine be in place and for your child to wake up well-rested. For teenagers, who might be waking at 11 a.m. and will need to get up at 6 a.m., that five-hour switch will take a couple of weeks.

Here are the steps:

  1. Wake your child at the new wake time (the time they need for school in a couple weeks). This generates a sleep debt since they won’t have slept enough and will make them sleepier earlier at night.
  2. If you are a routine-oriented parent: Move the bedtime earlier by 15-30 minutes per day until you reach the new bedtime (See the How much sleep does my child need? chart)
  3. If you are a less routine-oriented parent: Watch closely for “tired” clues in your younger child and adjust the bedtime. Most kids will start falling asleep earlier within three days of the adjusted wake time. Note: Restlessness, agitation, and hyperactivity may mean you missed the sleepy clues.

Even though it may take four to seven days for each hour of time that the wake-up time adjusts for your child to feel rested when she wakes up, the bedtime will likely adjust sooner.

Bully-proof your child

Of course, you can’t actually bully-proof your child but you can give your kids of all ages scripts to use in a variety of circumstances that will empower them. Before school starts back up, role play with kids of all ages and all abilities to not just bully-proof them but encourage them to be an active bystander when they see other kids being picked on. Here are some age-appropriate scripts to practice with your child.

  • Preschoolers/Early elementary
    • If someone is making you feel sad or bad, or says. “I don’t want to play with you,” you can say, “I don’t like what you said. I’m going to play over there instead.” Then walk away. Or you could also say, “I don’t like what you did. I’m going over there.” And walk away.
    • If you see someone else whose feelings are being hurt and you want to help them, you can say to the kid being hurt. “Come play with me right now.” Or “I want to play with you. Come here.
  • Mid-elementary
    • When someone makes you feel sad or bad about yourself or is picking on you, you can say, “I have something else to do now. See you later,” and walk away. Let your children now they can talk about their feelings later with you or their pediatrician. If the same person keeps at it, he or she will stop pestering you if you keep ignoring them and walking away.
    • If you’re uncomfortable with how someone else is being treated, step in and say to the person being treated poorly, “Let’s go do something else together”. If this is happening among your friends, you may feel comfortable saying, “Stop it, I don’t like the way you are talking to _______. It makes me feel bad.” If they don’t stop then ask the person being treated badly leave with you. If they choose not to, you can say, “I don’t like the way this feels, I’m leaving now.”
  • Middle school/High school
    • You can be stronger with your friends now in middle school if they are treating you or other people poorly. Say “Stop it. Now. Talk to me (or the other kid’s name) nicer than that”. If they get all snooty or tease you about it, you can make a joke, stand firm or walk away. But if it keeps happening, think about whether you want to be friends with that person.
    • If the person treating you poorly isn’t a friend, just walk away and ignore them. If they are treating someone else poorly rescue the person being treated poorly. Engaging the bully won’t help.

Reduce first-day jitters

Whether it’s the first day of a new school or a new grade, many kids worry. Some worry about where their classroom is or where they will put their books, while others worry about whether they are smart enough to handle the work that third grade or seventh grade or tenth grade demands. Regardless of age, new school years bring new worries for many kids. Here are some strategies to help calm those anxious minds:

  • Do a dry run. Most schools are open the week before school starts as teachers are prepping their classrooms. Take some time to wander the halls, find your child’s locker, check out the cafeteria, find the nearest bathroom, whatever it takes to get familiar with the physical space and reduce the worries of day one.
  • Pull out some of your child’s best work from last school year. Remind your child of his strengths as a student. Whether they are an artist, musician, writer, or athlete, find the evidence from last school year that can reassure them that they are ready for this next step in the academic, social, and physical ladders of life.
  • Follow the bus route, walk to school, or ride bikes together: whatever the route to school, practice! Doing something in advance builds confidence and makes it easier the next time around.
  • Finish summer homework early. Don’t leave the summer reading, essay writing, or math packet to the last minute. By finishing it a week or more ahead of time you reduce anxiety the weekend before school starts.
  • New school means making new friends. Try to connect with other kids before school starts (no matter your child’s age) so the first day of school starts with at least one familiar face. For middle and high school kids, ask the school if there is a mentor program, a buddy system, or an orientation time for new students where they can meet current students before the first day of classes. For younger kids, school playgrounds are great places to hang out the week before school to meet other families.

Final words of advice: Each new school year is a new beginning for you and your child. Try to leave behind last year’s baggage and successes and allow this year to start fresh. The beauty and magic of childhood is the fact that kids are constantly changing, growing, and developing. Last year was last year. This year can hold the promise of joy and success for every child and every parent, too!

– Dr. Molly O’Shea, a board-certified Beaumont pediatrician, offers traditional medicine in non-traditional ways including newborn home visits and emailing parents directly. She has practiced pediatrics for nearly 30 years and was the “Ask the Pediatrician” columnist for the Detroit News for many years. A journal editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics, she also organized the AAP’s national continuing education programming for pediatricians. Dr. Molly loves cooking, traveling and spending time with her family.

Summertime language activities for children and their families

image credit: Personal Creations, Flickr. CC license.

Summer doesn’t mean you have to take a break from stimulating speech and language skills with your children. There are still many opportunities to enrich communication skills. From trips to the zoo, waterpark or beach, to camping and other family vacations, you’ll have plenty to talk about. Here are some suggestions for incorporating language into your fun summer plans.

Schedule play dates with friends and classmates. Play dates foster peer interaction, play, functional communication, and social skills. Offer a few summer activities (bubbles, sand toys, swings) and encourage conversation/interaction. Later, ask open-ended questions about what happened, who was there, and other details.

Plan a day trip. Take a trip to the beach, park, museum, amusement park, or zoo. Providing your child with a variety of experiences gives them a broader vocabulary base and builds connections to stories and books they may read. While planning for the trip, talk about what you need to pack for the trip. After the trip, tell the story of what you did that day. Check online for nearby family-friendly activities and discounts.

Go for a walk. As you walk with your child, encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions (e.g., What do you like to do outside?). Make observations and comment on what you see around you (e.g., I see a blue bird flying in the sky), while encouraging your child to do the same. Or try an “I Spy” game to focus on inference skills by describing items and having your child guess what you see.

Make a snack together. Cooking and baking create natural opportunities to practice following directions. Together, check the ingredients list and create a shopping list. While shopping, discuss what you will buy, how many you need, and what you will make. Talk about the size (large or small), shape (long, round, square), and weight (heavy or light) of the packages and where you put them (in the cart, on, under, above the grocery cart). Then get to cooking! After the snack is made, have your child describe what they made. Take it a step further and see if your child can remember and retell all the steps in the process.

Read. Reading with your child is one of the best activities you can do to promote language and literacy skills. While reading, ask your child different “wh” questions related to the story (e.g., Why is he sad? What do you think is going to happen? Where are they?). Visit the local library to check out new books.

Host a scavenger hunt. Work with your child to write clues and create maps for participants to find the items. While writing the clues together, work on sentence formation and vocabulary development. To target a specific articulation sound, think of items that start or end with that sound. Completing the scavenger hunt targets critical thinking skills and following directions.

Camp in the backyard. Set up the tent with your child, tell campfire stories and make s’mores. Not only is this activity so much fun, but it targets narrative skills, imaginative play, and following directions.

Have a game night. Board games, charades, bingo and card games are very interactive and fun. Most games can have multiple players at a time so invite over the neighbor kids for some laughs! Games encourage turn taking, social skills, rule-following and understanding directions.

What are your favorite summertime activities, and how do you incorporate learning during while the children are not in school?

– Alexandra Barman, M.A., CF-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech and Language Pathology Department, Beaumont Health

The constraint of the four-year college

Many families, especially those with students in the high-performing districts in Oakland County, are bound and determined to ensure their child’s admittance to a four-year college or university. While this is a good fit for some, for others, 18 is simply too young for a high-pressure environment away from home. Especially for teens who have been “helicopter parented,” being suddenly unmoored from the constant support and touchstone of their families is simply too much to take all at once.

Unfortunately, there is often extreme social pressure on both teens and their parents about “where are you going to school?” Students who don’t want to go away to school may not understand they have options — and often their parents also don’t think there are acceptable options. Yet the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that the average bachelor’s degree completion rate for community college transfers was about 60%, compared to the slightly less-than-50% completion rate for students who started in a four-year program at a college or university. For students who transferred after completing an associate degree, that percentage jumps to 71%.

Think about what exactly these statistics mean:

  • Nearly half of all students who start at a four-year college or university will not complete their degree within six years.
  • A high income level does not significantly change this statistic. Only half the students from families with an income of more than $90,000 will have a bachelor’s degree by age 24; only 1 in 17 students from families with an income less than $35,000 will graduate.
  • More than two-thirds of students who complete an associate degree before transferring will complete their bachelor’s degrees within six years (including time spent at community college).
  • As a point of comparison, the in-state rate per credit hour at Michigan State University is $513; at Oakland Community College, it is $92.
  • More than 30% of all freshmen at four-year colleges and universities drop out. If they took 12 credit hours each semester, that is a cost of at least $12,000 for tuition alone, compared to a tuition cost of around $2,200 for the first year at a community college.

These statistics are even more tragic when you consider the more than 50% of students who don’t finish their degree are often saddled with crushing student debt and no increased earning power to compensate.

Lower cost not only lowers debt accumulation, it can allow young students to explore a variety of different topics, so that when they do transfer to a four-year institution, they have a much better idea of what they want to continue to study. It is not unusual for students to change majors, which is why colleges use a six-year completion rate as the statistical standard for success.

Another advantage can be freeing up money for a student to take a gap year after they’ve completed their associate degree. Students can also opt to go more slowly and work full or part-time while taking classes, to help them figure out what education they really need to meet their career goals.

There are many options for students to start their community college studies before graduating high school. In Michigan’s Oakland county, these options include dual enrollment, early college, Oakland Schools ACE program (a partnership with Oakland Community College), Oakland Technical Schools’ early college programs, and homeschooling to complete high school requirements with college coursework.

Of course, this does not even begin to explore the myriad skilled professions (e.g., master electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders, etc.) that require intensive, multi-year apprenticeships. During a time as an apprentice, students are paid to work in their field of choice while also taking classes, often on the weekends. Those who complete an apprenticeship have no student debt and have skills that are and will continue to be in very high demand around the country.

As parents, we need to better connect with what our children want, what type of education best aligns with their interests and abilities, and be willing to buck against the constraints of thinking admission to a four-year college or university is the only reasonable option.

– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to two teenage boys. She is also a marketing consultant, business coach and copywriter who volunteers for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program.



Our family’s “hoedown” reunion

One of my favorite summer traditions is a family reunion. But it’s not any reunion. My husband’s family hosts a yearly family reunion called the “Hoedown.” Although the name might suggest otherwise, there are actually very few cowboy hats and “yee-haws” present. Instead, the purpose of this weekend-long reunion is to spend quality time with family members from across the United States and create many memories together.

This year marks the 46th year for the hoedown! I personally have attended for only 10 years, but this  quickly became one of the summer traditions I look forward to every year. Family members from California, Georgia, Texas, New Jersey, South Carolina, Florida, and Ohio all travel to the 200-acre family property in Rose City, Michigan for a long weekend.

Every year incorporates different fun activities such as a kids’ fishing tournament, adult/kid obstacle course, strong man competition, cookie competition, bingo, and even a cardboard boat race. But the unending presence of family is what I really look forward to each summer.

On the welcoming day, there is a big breakfast followed by a float down on Rifle River; everyone brings their own vessels and gets on the water with drinks and music. Typically lasting a few hours, this is a nice way to catch up to see what’s new in everyone’s life. From there, everyone participates in the year’s highlighted activity and then breaks for lunch back at their own individual cabin, camper or tent. Afterwards, we all gather back together at a central pavilion for a big potluck family dinner where there is great food and even better company. After everyone’s belly is filled, the karaoke machine gets pulled out, and we catch up and belt out a few favorite tunes. Kids and dogs run wild and everyone lets their worries go in the up north breeze. As my own kids grow older, they look forward to seeing their cousins who live from far away and I hope treasure these times just as much as I do.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.

Our favorite summer traditions

Our family’s favorite summer tradition is a trip to Red Oaks Waterpark in Madison Heights. It has a wave pool, three water slides, a lazy river, and a kid-friendly play area. (Bonus: Oakland County residents get discounted admission.) Our favorite time to go is during the Twilight hours from 4 – 7 p.m. Twilight admission is only $8 for Oakland County residents. We bring a picnic dinner and have lots of fun. I do recommend wearing water shoes as the bottom of the wave pool can be prickly on sensitive feet. Red Oaks also has a River Walk for adults on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, where you can walk against the current in the lazy river from 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. for $8. I haven’t tried it yet but I’m hoping to go this summer. – Emily Swan

Summer traditions … They’re the best and so many to choose from! My kids love traditions, big and small. Some of ours include a trip to northern Michigan with my parents, two sisters and their families. There are 16 of us total: eight adults and eight kids. The cousins just love to be together, playing in the water, running wild, and eating lots of ice cream. It is chaotic and wonderful. There is something special that happens when you get that vacation time away with family. I love planning meals, cooking and eating together, and my favorite is getting the early-morning and after-nap snuggles from my nieces and nephews (sweet bed head, the smell of fresh lakeside air and sunscreen). My immediate family of four also does a weekend in South Haven every summer. My husband and I met at WMU, so the west side of the state is special to us and we love sharing it with the kids. And lastly, before school starts back each year, we do a day at Rolling Hills Water Park in Ypsilanti with our neighbors; the moms even do the slides! So fun! – Kelly Ryan

When our kids were little, one of our favorite summer traditions included exploring the many amazing cities and lakes right here in Michigan. Whether we ventured north, south, east or west, it was all about discovering new and exciting sights that our beautiful state has to offer. Favorite activities involved swimming, biking, mini golf, volleyball and playing cards. Lazy days seemed to center around big scoops of ice cream, while a nighttime favorite included campfire gatherings and eating s’mores. The tradition continues once more! Last summer, we had a blast introducing our grandchildren to the beautiful beaches in the thumb area. – Deanna Robb

Our summer tradition when our kids were little was to visit Kelleys Island in Ohio. My husband’s great grandfather bought a cottage there around the turn of the century and it remains one of the oldest buildings on the island. Our kids loved it because the only rule was “no rules!” – Lori Polakowski

Summertime traditions with our family evolved over the years as the kids got older. But one tradition is we always seem to celebrate is the 4th of July together in our hometown. The big, all-day celebration starts with a parade, then a family fair and craft show, along with hot dog eating contests, and all-star baseball games at the city park. Then of course the big fireworks display tops off the night. It’s always great to have family and friends come over for the day. We have yard games going and the pool is open all day. There’s always lots of great food for grilling as everyone brings a dish. It’s a great tradition that we still enjoy as a family even as the kids have grown into adults! – Lucy Hill

No matter the summer vacation plans, we always make time for a visit to an amusement park! Each summer we visit Michigan’s Adventure or Cedar Point, and to be honest, most summers it’s both! Both are about a 3-hour drive for us, which is totally worth all the fun we have. Michigan’s Adventure has a fantastic water park, which is included with the price of admission and perfect for a midday cool down. Cedar Point has the absolute best roller coasters in the world, my favorite is Steel Vengeance. If you like to plan ahead, both parks offer deep discounts on admission throughout the year. I like to grab their Black Friday Deals! – Nichole Enerson

As my kids have gotten older and busier, it’s gotten harder to get everyone together. But one thing we still do every summer is take a trip to Cedar Point. We are amusement park junkies; we will go anywhere within driving distance to ride the latest coaster, but Cedar Point is our home turf. Everyone has their favorite ride that we make sure to hit. Because we have season passes and visit often, we never wait in long lines since we know we can ride another time. My youngest and I always look forward to the new stage show (Cedar Point has the best in-park entertainment outside of Disney!), and the rest of the family humors us and goes with us as well. Every trip to Cedar Point includes french fries at the back of the park at the Happy Friar. Don’t forget that you can get free courtesy water at every concession stand, which is especially important on hot days. Finally, the trip home will always include a stop at the Dairy Depot on Route 2. After all, it’s not a summer tradition if there’s not ice cream involved! – Nicole Capozello

I am not a tent camper but a few summers ago, my family discovered yurts at a county park. Since then, we’ve gone every year. My son takes his fishing gear and could spend hours at the dock trying to catch something. There are kayaks to rent, arts and crafts, hiking trails, and entertainment. We take our bikes and some board games, too. We love making a campfire, cooking foil dinners and having s’mores. There’s a tractor/wagon ride that goes all through the camp and we look to see which critters we’ll see on the ride. Another highlight is when we see the mounted Oakland County sheriff deputies. It’s a relaxing weekend away for sure! – Becky Bibbs

Two of our favorite summer traditions are family reunions and camping trips. We typically combine the two for a “family hoedown” every year in July and camp for a long weekend to spend time with family from across the United States. The weekend typically includes a fishing tournament on the property’s lake, bingo, treasure hunt, swimming, campfires, and a float down the river. It is such a fun time! – Stephanie Babcock

Red, white and blueberry cheesecake cupcakes

image credit: skinnytaste.com


  • 12 reduced-fat vanilla wafers
  • 8 oz. 1/3 less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 oz. fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz. strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
  • 8 oz. blueberries


  1. Heat oven to 350° F.
  2. Line cupcake pan with liners. Place a vanilla wafer at the bottom of each liner.
  3. Using an electric mixer, gently beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Gradually beat in yogurt, egg whites and flour. Do not overbeat.
  5. Pour into cupcake liners filling half way.
  6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until center is almost set.
  7. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate at least 1 hour.
  8. Top with fresh strawberries and blueberries before serving.


Makes 12 cupcakes. Each serving is 1 cupcake.

Nutrition analysis per serving:

  • Calories: 98 calories
  • Fat: 4.5 g
  • Sodium: 29.5 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 10.5 g
  • Fiber: 0.5 g
  • Sugar: 7.5 g
  • Protein: 3.5 g

REcipe adapted from skinnytaste.com.

– Megan Husek, RDN, is with the Weight Control Center at Beaumont Health Center. Did you know that the center offers cooking classes to kids in the community? View a list of upcoming classes here.