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.

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.

Start the conversation today

The birth of a child can rapidly change our perspectives on life. Simply notice how our attention and focus changes from caring for ourselves to the devotion and attention we give to a new baby. During pregnancy, a mother cares for her body to ensure her baby is given the best opportunity to thrive, then she suddenly finds herself sleep deprived, hungry, and mentally drained. After months of anticipating a new addition our families, the time comes and we welcome our newest love. We are so immersed in our new parenting role, it can be difficult to consider the unpredictability of life.

The fact that life can be unpredictable takes me back to a day when I was working as a nursing assistant at Beaumont, Royal Oak. Since I worked on a unit where the population was mostly older adults, it was common to have declining patients. As I began my morning routine, I looked over my patients for the day and I realized I had a 31-year-old patient. She suffered a tragic car accident a few years earlier. My heart sank a little as I entered the room. I spoke to her, and to her parents, about my plan for her day. It was hard to tell if she knew what I was saying, though her family did. As I began her care, I engaged with her parents. They went on to tell me about the person their daughter was before the accident. She was a vibrant, young mother who loved life and her young son.

This patient story sticks out to me, especially today as I work in advance care planning. Advance care planning focuses on encouraging open and meaningful conversations about our future health care decisions if we should become unable to communicate those wishes ourselves. The thought of anything happening to us at a young age is not something we often think about, but it should be.

Many of us plan for the financial future and name guardians of our children in the event of a tragedy, but we don’t plan for who will make our health care decisions should we be unable. Often we think those who love us will know what to do if they need to make decisions for us, however roughly 40 percent of the family members who find themselves in this unexpected situation suffer PTSD and forever question their decisions.

Advance care planning and advance directives are not just for the elderly, frail, chronic or terminally ill, it is for all adults 18 years old and over. Completing your advance directive ensures that if you lose capacity to make decisions, your wishes and values will be honored in a shared decision-making conversation with your patient advocate and physician. Through advance care planning, we empower ourselves and provide a sense of relief and understanding for our patient advocates and family.

I have completed my advance directive as a gift to my husband, my parents and siblings, and especially for my children. You should also make your wishes known; contact us at or 947-522-1948.

Amy Fresch, Beaumont Health, Advance Care Planning Coordinator

What is “successful” parenting?

Recent headlines about wealthy and/or famous parents bribing officials, forging documents, and money laundering all for the sake of a coveted college admission begs the question: How far will you go to ensure your child’s success?

Very often it seems that the “success” of the child is really about the success of the parent. It is difficult to withstand whatever consistent social drumbeat marches your family forward, whether it’s success in school, in sports, or some other endeavor. Parents often feel they are in competition with other parents about which summer camp their child will be attending, what grade they got in math, or what nifty trophy they brought home (regardless of the fact that every child got a trophy, diluting any actual significance the trophy might have had).

One word that seems to have completely left the conversation is “fun.” Somehow if the answer to “what is your child doing this summer?” is “having fun,” we feel we are slacking — and lacking as parents. When we center our notion of successful parenting around what others think, that in turn becomes a value we teach our children. And when children believe that what others think about them is more important than what they think about themselves, they are prone to anxiety and depression.

Social media is the perfect incubator for children and teens who are overly concerned about what others think of them. It’s all about who’s “liking” them, who clicked on their picture, how many followers they have. When their parents are also heavy social media users who look to other parents to set expectations, it normalizes social anxiety and the “success” competition.

So how do we shut out this noise and get back to the business of parenting our children? The first step might be to take a break from social media ourselves. You may feel far less anxious about yourself as a parent and gain a clearer perspective. The next step may be far more difficult: Figuring out whether or not your children are really happy. If your child is experiencing anxiety, the answer to that question is probably, “No.”

Today’s parenting style often centers around keeping children “busy.” This “busy”-ness leaves children little room to daydream, explore and figure out what they really love doing. You may find you can leave a relentless and expensive travel sports schedule behind if the competition and exhaustion is just raising your child’s anxiety level. Perhaps they’d far rather be drawing, writing or riding around the neighborhood on their bike.

Think for a moment about those wealthy parents now facing jail time for bribing their kids’ way into college. Lori Loughlin’s daughter, for example, was not remotely interested in continuing her education. She was actually running a successful business she loved, which has now been all but destroyed because of her parents’ activities on her “behalf.” Clearly getting into college was not about her, it was about her parents – how they perceived themselves and, very likely, how they thought others would perceive them.

As parents, we need to trust in and support our children’s journey of self-discovery. When they are encouraged to pursue what they love, they will find success, but it may come about in very unexpected ways. Be prepared to ensure your child’s future by pushing back against the notion that there is only one way forward, concentrating instead on helping them to forge their own unique path.

– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to a 16-year-old skateboarding artist whose current plans include stunt school and a 19-year-old who has been exploring everything from culinary to HVAC to landscaping to welding. She is also a marketing consultant, business coach and copywriter who volunteers for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program.

Common bug bites in Michigan

It’s that time of year when the warmth we’ve waited so long to experience finally arrives. With the scents of flowers, the sounds of children laughing, and the picnics and park dates on the calendar, there is often a faint buzz in the air too. That sound brings the inevitable bug bites that also make their appearance this time of year. Thankfully, in Michigan, most bites are just a nuisance, but their appearance sends a lot of people to the web — and I’m not talking about Charlotte’s! To serve as a quicker reference, below are some of the most common bug bites, what to look for, and how to treat them.

Mosquito bites

  • As Michigan is surrounded by water, mosquitos are one of the most common bug bites experienced.
  • If bitten, a swollen flesh-colored or pink hive-like bump will appear where bitten. The bite site will be very itchy.
  • Most bites resolve on their own within a few days but calamine lotion, over- the-counter hydrocortisone, and cool compresses can increase comfort.
  • Notify a healthcare professional if you experience fever, muscle aches or if you aren’t feeling well after a bite.

Tick bites

  • Ticks are more commonly found in wooded areas or around tall grasses.
  • Ticks burrow into skin and are usually visible surrounding a reddened area of the skin. They can feed as long as they are attached, so, if discovered, remove right away with a pair of tweezers taking care not to crush the tick. Wash the area after removal. If possible, save the tick in a jar to be tested in case infection develops. A non-itchy, small red bump will form.
  • Most bites resolve on their own but seek medical attention right away if the bites spread, turn purple, look target-like, or if fever and body aches develop.

Insect (bees, wasps, hornets) stings

  • Stinging insects are usually more common in late summer and early fall.
  • Symptoms include discomfort at the sting site, warmth, swelling and often times a visible stinger can be seen. Remove the stinger as quickly as possible and wash with soap and water.
  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone, calamine, ice and elevation can help.
  • The biggest risk for stinging insects is allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing, and vomiting after a sting. Call 911 or seek medical attention immediately in the event of an allergic reaction. If a known allergy exists, always carry epinephrine.

Non-poisonous spider bites

  • Spiders inject venom through tiny fangs and can occur year-round but are more common in summer months.
  • They are often hard to identify but usually present with redness, swelling, and pain at the bite site. Spider bites are usually seen as a single bite and may develop overnight.
  • Bites usually resolve after a few days on their own, but calamine, over-the-counter hydrocortisone, and cool compresses can increase comfort.

Poisonous spider bites

  • The brown recluse and black widow spider are the two poisonous spiders found in Michigan. While they are not very commonly seen, they do generate a lot of fear.
  • A brown recluse spider is brown with a violin shape on its head.
    • A bite will start as pain at the site followed by a blister 4 to 8 hours later. Next, a depressed center and bluish appearance will appear 2 to 3 days later.
    • Non-fatal but skin damage, fever, vomiting and muscle pain can occur.
    • Seek medical attention and if possible, bring spider in a jar.
  • A black widow spider is black with a red or orange hourglass figure on its underside. They are often found in large piles of wood.
    • A bite will be accompanied by immediate pain and swelling, and severe muscle cramps will develop within 1 to 6 hours. The bites are rarely fatal, unless multiple bites occur.
    • Seek medical attention if bitten and if possible, bring spider in a jar.

– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of three young children and volunteers with the Parenting Program.


Happy(?) Mother’s Day

I’ve never been a daughter and a mother on the same Mother’s Day. Well, that’s not exactly right. I am still my father’s daughter on Mother’s Day, but my mom passed away before I became a mom. The first Mother’s Day without my mom was bad. Really bad. I missed her like crazy. I had been trying for some time to become a mom myself without success. I was lost — a train wreck. I went to the cemetery where she was buried to visit her grave. I asked my mom for help becoming a mother myself. I literally said, “I don’t know how much pull you have up there yet, but if there’s anything you can do to help, I really want to be a mom.” Three-and-a-half weeks later, I found out I was pregnant. My daughter (who has my mom’s blue eyes even though her father and I have brown eyes) was born the following February.

Awwwww. That’s a sweet story, right? Beautiful happy baby, beautiful happy ending, beautiful happy first Mother’s Day, right? Wrong! My first Mother’s Day as a mom was bad. Really bad. I was still a train wreck. But — you know — I had a new baby. I wasn’t sleeping as much as I was used to. My body was getting back to normal, but I was still adjusting to nursing and my C-section scar. It’s understandable that I would be emotional. And of course, I still missed my mom. It was hard to celebrate that day without her, even as I held that gorgeous gift she had managed to send me. It would get better. I would get better at living through those days that screamed for her.

Over the next decade or so, my family and I tried all kinds of things to celebrate Mother’s Day in a way that would work, in a way that would be better. I wanted to honor my mom but also celebrate having the role I’d wanted my whole life: my favorite job of being a mom. We tried doing Mother’s Day the way my mom did it: making dinner for all the other moms in my life including my mother-in-law and our grandmothers. But honestly, that was too hard because it was what she had done. We tried to be out of town, going places that she liked to go, for Mother’s Day. Don’t get me started about keys locked in cars, hot water running out in a cabin we stayed in, or restaurants that closed down without our knowing it (they were the last time we passed through!). Nope, that wasn’t the fix either. Once each trip fell apart, I did too. Even though my amazing husband and kids did everything they could to make the day special.

So here’s what I’ve figured out, 22 years later. I can’t make it right. There is nothing I can do, nowhere I can go, no plans that I can make that will compensate for the fact that I am motherless on Mother’s Day. So I don’t. At some point on that day every year, I’m going to fall apart. I’m going to be a train wreck. I know it. My family knows it. That’s OK. It’s a testament to the amazing woman who gave me life and raised me to be the (hopefully at least half as amazing as she was) mother that I am. I spend my day with the people who made me a mom and I miss the woman who should be there to see it.

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

Earth Day, plastic edition

Parents, it is our responsibility to step up our game. Ugh, I know. We are all doing the best we can in so many areas of our lives. You might say, “Please don’t push me to do better.” But I am going to do just that because wherever you are in your consumption of plastic (which is actually both figurative and literal), you can do better. We must all do better.

Earth Day is the best when it’s about the kids. Kid-centered activities of recycling crafts, seed plantings, and science experiments are so much fun! But it’s about the kids in another way, too. We have to think about what type of Earth will we bestow upon our children. Do we really want to pass on an Earth that is covered in plastic? Plastic pollution is everywhere: air, soil, rivers, lakes, oceans, beaches, even in our drinking water!

China and India are no longer taking the plastic we drop into our recycling bins. It’s piling up in some communities or being sent to landfills or incinerators in others. The answer: stop using so much plastic!

We use plastic for many reasons; it’s inexpensive, lightweight, but most of all it’s convenient. However, the convenience and the savings aren’t convenient or inexpensive if we stick our children with the bill and a big mess to try to clean up. (Our kids can hardly clean their rooms!)

Enough, I say. Let’s think about how, when, and where we can avoid plastic as if our children’s future depends on it.

  • Reusable bags: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” has a new member: “Refuse.” If you haven’t gotten into the habit of bringing your own reusable bags everywhere, now is a great time to start. There are endless options for bags. You can even find bags that fold up into tiny pouches that fit into a purse. Yes, bringing your bags takes planning and you have to make it part of your routine, but it’s worth it. Plastic bags are the low-hanging fruit of what we can live without.

    Don’t just stop with bags at the grocery store. Take your reusable bags to big box stores, the hardware store, even take out for restaurants. Tell them why you are bringing your own bags and refusing the plastic. (It’s for the children!) If you’re kids are like mine, they may say, “Mom, don’t embarrass me!” Do it anyway.

  • Produce bags: OK, you’re a pro at bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store. But the first thing we do in the produce aisle is pull on that big roll of plastic bags and tear one off. Instead, put your produce in your own muslin cloth or recycled bag. Also, seek out produce that isn’t pre-wrapped in plastic. You’ve already created the habit of bringing grocery bags. Just add produce bags to the routine.
  • Water bottles: It’s 2019. Disposable plastic water bottles are so last decade. Fill up your own stainless steel or glass water bottle. Not only is the plastic hugely wasteful, but water bottling companies are draining the freshwater in small towns in Michigan, Maine, and other beautiful states. If you are providing the drinks for the soccer game or birthday party, bring a large dispenser and paper or compostable cups. You can encourage others to bring their own drinking vessel, too. Collapsible stainless steel cups are fun!
  • Coffee cups: Some of us drink as much coffee as water! (Hey, we’ve all got to get through the day). Many take-out coffee cups are lined with plastic and can’t be recycled. Find yourself a ceramic coffee cup or insulated thermos. Make your coffee at home or hand your empty mug to your favorite barista. You’ll skip the waste of the stirrers and lids too!
  • Pay attention to packaging: Wherever possible (grocery store, big box store, etc.) opt for items wrapped in paperboard or cardboard rather than plastic. Notice other places you can skip the plastic, like choosing cotton swabs with paper sticks rather than ones with plastic.
  • Lunches: The European Union just passed a law to phase out the use of many single-use plastics, including cutlery, plates, straws, and Styrofoam food and drink containers to help reduce marine litter, prevent 3.4 million tons of CO2 emissions, and save about $25 billion in environmental clean-up costs.
    • Kid-friendly options abound for reusable and non-plastic lunch packaging. Try beeswax wraps (they are fabric dipped in a beeswax blend) instead of plastic wrap. Consider stainless steel bento boxes with separate compartments for each lunch item. Reusable bamboo or stainless steel cutlery comes in compact cases or cloth pouches. Find reusable lunch packaging that fits your style as well. We can’t let the kids have all the fun. It can be a great conversation starter.

If all of this is new to you, it’s not too late to take action. Start with one or more of the action items. When you’ve mastered those, add another. Some of these actions may require us to expand our comfort zones. But hasn’t much of parenthood? And what better gift could we give our children than a healthy, thriving Earth? Parents, we can do this. Happy Earth Day!

– Melissa Cooper Sargent is Beaumont Parenting Program blog contributor with a background in green living.