Thursday, December 13, 2012

2 fun Happy Holiday themed bento lunches

It's beginning to look a bit like Christmas. 

There is nothing like a themed bento lunch to remind me what I love about this hobby. :)  

Two cute bentos from this week...

First up, Ethan's Christmas tree themed bento:
Holiday Tree Lunchbots Trio Bento Lunch

Packed in a Lunchbots Trio he has:
- peppered turkey rolled up on a tree bento pick
- cheddar cheese, cut into ornament shapes
- a silicone cup of raspberries, with some baby carrots tucked in the side
- pretzels 

The tree bento pick is actually from a set of drink stirrers. The pick fits inside one end of this long hollow tube... I just pulled it out. It makes a perfect bento pick!

The tree shaped silicone cup came from a baking activity kit I found at Target a couple years ago. 

Next up, Paige's Gingerbread Man themed bento:
Gingerbread Man  Laptop Lunches bento box

Packed in a Laptop Lunches box:
- two mini gingerbread man shaped sandwiches (peanut butter and honey)
- pretzels
- mini gingerbread man cookies
- clementine with a gingerbread man pick 
- raspberries in a fun pink triangle shaped silicone cup

The mini gingerbread man sandwiches were cut and pressed/stamped using the gingerbread man shaped press from this set of ice cream sandwich makers. (Love these!)

Whoo! That was fun. :)

Supplies used to make these lunches:
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Monday, December 10, 2012

a few bento lunches of late

Here are a few lunches that have been packed lately. 

I have been struggling in the mornings. And the effort put into packed lunches these days shows as much. 

I was worried going into this school year that adding Paige into the getting-ready-in-the-morning routine was going to be stressful. I was going from 2 kids needing to be dressed and fed (breakfast) and packed a lunch to three kids needing those things. And it was more stressful, but not too bad. 

But a few weeks ago something unexpected happened. Our littlest kiddo started school. 
His school bus comes just minutes after the big kids' bus pulls away. Having a 4th child to dress and feed in the morning has pushed me to my breaking point. While Tyler doesn't need to have a packed lunch (his school is only 3 hours long and he's home by noon), the morning hustle and bustle has done me in.

Tyler's 1st day riding the school bus. My baby! Sob!
All this to say, I apologize for my unreliable posting. It is just so difficult these days to make cute lunches and then to get my camera and set up the lunches for photographing... oh man. It's just been too rushed to manage.  I'm trying to regain my footing.  

Speaking of cameras, all last week my good camera had a dead battery and I couldn't find the battery charger. So the following lunches were all shot with my cell phone. I apologize in advance for the poor picture quality! 

EasyLunchboxes Pizza Roll bento
Packed in an EasyLunchboxes:
- a leftover pizza roll from a yummy pizza place
- Pirate Booty
- cucumber slices
- overpriced raspberries

PlanetBox Seeing Stars lunch
Seeing Stars in a PlanetBox:
- peanut butter and jelly sandwich on multigrain
- fruit leather, cut with a mini star cookie cutter
- cheese! cheddar cheese stars and a BabyBell cheese w/ star cutout from the wax
- granola bar
- Goldfish crackers holiday mix

EasyLunchboxes flower tops

Another EasyLunchboxes lunch:
- half sandwich of turkey and cheese on multigrain bred
- fruit leather flowers
- cucumber slices 
- turkey stick (husband buys these at the deli at Kroger)

Supplies used to pack these lunches:

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 things.

I could easily fill my list of five things I'm grateful for by ticking off the names in my home: Robert, Ethan, Owen, Paige, and Tyler. That would be true, and good, but also totally predictable. ;)

I could say I am thankful for my health, but that would be rather tongue-in-cheek, as I'm dealing with the flu/unknown crazy virus/plague from Mars and have felt worse than horrendous this week.

I could say I am thankful for food and shelter. And I am. Very.

For my 5 things I am reaching beyond the obvious and listing things that simply make me happy and appreciative. They are not monumental, thought-provoking, or awe-inspiring. Simply 5 little things I'm thankful for. :)

1. This blog. 
I started this blog on a lark. I just wanted a place to share cute bento lunches, bento supplies, and cute food techniques. That's it. In the beginning I had a handful of friends who read it and that was it. And that was wonderful! No one was more shocked than me when it started to grow an audience and get around. I'm still baffled by how that happened.  My commitment, interest, and time invested in the blog shifts like the tides. I go through long periods where I'm just not that interested in blogging about lunch. And then I will suddenly be overjoyed to do it again. It's nice to have this outlet available when I am feeling creative. Even if I get frustrated that it is such a narrow platform for creative sharing.  I do like to do other crafty, fun, artistic things, besides forcing food to look cute in small containers.

2. Starbucks.
I love sweet froofroo coffees and I'm not ashamed to admit it. :)  Starbucks gets such a bad rap, as if they are the Walmart of coffee shops. But I appreciate (and count on!) those little beacons of espresso delight that dot our landscape in a predictable little pattern through our towns and airports.  Like a good neighbor, Starbucks is there.

3. Warm weather.
Winter is my antagonist. I mean, really, look at how it greeted me this year. With a horrible flu/crazy virus/galactic plague and 105 temperature. We are not amigas. I hate jeans, I loathe wearing real shoes, long sleeves make me feel like I'm all tangled up, blah.
Ah, but warm weather! Shorts, skirts, short sleeved tops, flip-flops and cute sandals, colorful toenails that see the light of day! That's the good stuff.  You can take the girl out of California, but you can't take California out of the girl. 

4. Modern Day appliances.
Dishwasher. Washing machine and dryer. Air conditioning. Refrigerator. Vacuum. Waffle iron.
It really wasn't all that long these things were not commonplace. My grandmother raised her sons without any of these comforts. My father remembers ice block delivery!  I can not imagine raising a family without these conveniences. 

5. Photos.
I'm not a great photographer and I am okay with that. The photos I take of our lives bring me so much happiness and joy, just the same. I am very thankful for how easy it is these days, with digital photography, to take a lot of photos and to print the photos as you choose. It's like magic! 

So there are 5 fairly frivolous things I'm thankful for.  How would you fill your 5 things today?

Thanksgiving turkey snack

Hoping everyone has a very great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!
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Friday, October 19, 2012

the ghosts of Halloween bentos past

Despite the nippy air and pumpkins all around, I have not been feeling very Halloweeny. So alas,  I haven't made any Halloween bentos yet this year! The horror!

In an effort to get into the spirit I perused some of my past Halloween themed bento lunches. It helped to jog my memory about what supplies I own (my seasonal bento gear gets packed up and stored away after that holiday is over, so haven't seen my Halloween stash since last year!) and hopefully inspire me to get my creative creepy juices flowing.

In no particular order, here are some of my past faves. :)
(you can click the titles to go to the original post for more details about each lunch.)

bento lunch: high on the creepy scale:

close up of creepiness

Lunchbots bento: bats in the belfy:

Lunchbots batty

Toddler lunch: batty bento:

batter up lunch: toddler bento box

Halloween jack-o-lantern sandwich bento & a scrappy one too:

jack-o-lantern sandwich bento

I have to say, looking at these got me kinda excited to pull out the Halloween gear and get started with some spooky foody fun. :)

More of my past Halloween bentos can be found here

OOO000oooooooooo (that's me being scary).
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Disney World bento shopping

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I hoped to find some fun bento goodies while visiting Epcot in Disney World. I did discover a few things there, and also some other lunch stuffs in other places on Disney property.

Let's start with the miscellaneous mouse stuff. Mickey Mouse, that is.

In almost all the gift shops at every Disney place (all four theme parks, Downtown Disney, and in the resort shops) they had this same assortment of Mickey themed kitchen supplies:

Mickey food stuff

Cookie cutters, bread stamp, and pancake mold:

More Mickey food goodies

Some silicone items: a cake pan, muffin pan, and ice cube tray:

Mickey food goodies

Sandwich keeper:

Disney sandwich keeper

Mickey and Minnie plates, placemats:

Mickey Minnie plates

I kind of really liked the mini Mickey ice cube tray. I just wasn't sure I'd get much use from it (beyond frozen yogurt bites), so I didn't get it. Of these items I only purchased the Mickey Mouse bread stamp (shown in this Mickey Mouse is in the... PlanetBox post).

There were different things to be found at Epcot. Epcot has a Japanese Pavilion in the World Showcase side of the park with an expansive shop of Japanese goodies. I could have strolled around in that place for an hour, easily. Instead, I walked briskly for maybe twenty minutes until my husband called me to frantically report that our natives were growing restless waiting outside. But I was able to take pictures of a few things before I reluctantly left.

First, these were just inside the entrance and stopped me in my tracks. Sanrio lunch boxes. Swoon.

Hello Kitty Lunchboxes totes

They were designed with two sections, one upper and one lower. Sit upright. Long adjustable strap. Really nice thick insulation. I wanted one badly. I came to my senses and put back the one I selected (Keropi).  I reasoned that I already have a literal mountain of lunch bags and just can not justify another one. Although to be honest, had there been an actual Hello Kitty one I'm not sure I could have resisted.

Beyond these lunch bags there were a couple Hello Kitty sandwich boxes, but nothing that really stood out.

Nothing to do with lunchy stuff, but the store had so much stationery! I'm not sure what caught my eye with this particular display, but for some reason I took a pic of this paper rack (???):

cute paper

There were also a lot of bags. All sorts of bags. I loved (LOVED) this canvas tote. Sooooo very wanted this:
elephant bag

In case you can't read it, it says "Wash elephant with water" and then "A friend in need is a friend indeed". How hilarious is that? So kitschy and funny. That baby was SO going to be mine. Until I flipped over the tag and read the price - $45.  That is so much money for a fairly simple canvas tote (it had a square bottom and zipped close at the top, but still). Wah! I keep pulling the photo back up on my phone to admire it every few days. So sad to leave it behind.

At the back of the store is where the mega bento jackpot was discovered. The shop did not have any cheapie plastic bento boxes that are abundant in the Japanese dollar stores (nor any fun cheapie bento accessories), but they had a whole table of really nice, high quality, bento boxes:

bento boxes

I'm not sure about all of them, but those in the back row, like the bunny and cat, are Kotobuki boxes. They are so nice. I already have a few of those and wasn't in the market to add to my stash, so I didn't pick any up. They were all priced in the $19 range, which isn't anything out of the norm for Kotobuki. 

I was really digging that big monorail tray at the top. The big monorail holds a removable dish with two or three sections in it. Such a fancy presentation for a meal! It was very big and totally not practical, but so cool. It's probably not really a monorail, it's probably that Japanese bullet train. Practically the same thing, I'm sure. 

The last area I browsed before being summoned back to my offspring was the snacks and foods section. 

I was drooling at this mint Pocky. Mint! I've never seen this flavor anywhere before. Mint and chocolate is my favorite. Yum!

mint pocky

Some individual bagged snacks. How about some shrimp crispies?

strange snacks

And lots of koala cookies (as shown in this Australia Love bento lunch in which I brilliantly showcased the continent upside down). These are a lot like Panda cookies, that are pretty easy to find these days (I've seen them regularly at Target as well as World Market), but I've only seen koala cookies at a Japanese dollar store in CA before. And that shop only had stawberry and vanilla, I think (same flavors as Panda cookies). But these flavors looked interesting! Some sort of coffee (?) variety and one that shows a chocolate chip ice cream cone.

mmm cookies

As for what I purchased.... not too much.  I couldn't resist those cute koala cookies, and these coconut flavored animal cookies also landed in my hand basket. I haven't opened those ones up to see, but I sure hope they really have the animal names written on them like they show in the picture!

treats from Japan at Epcot

More foodie treats, these ones are not from the Japan Pavillion, but are the types of snacks available at just about every gift shop, candy shop, and bakery all over Disney World.  A spicy trail mix, Mickey shaped pretzels, Mickey cheese crackers, and some classic Disney character shaped cookies.

DIsney snacks

Those Mickey shaped cheese crackers were the secret key to my Hidden Mickey bento!

MIckey Mouse crackers

And that wraps up my Disney World bento/lunch shopping adventure. It took longer to get this post written up than I expected, but I had a visit to California get in the way (I went "home" to visit family and friends last week).  The bad news is: our pixie dust is mostly brushed off by now and the magic is fading away....the good news is: now that I'm nearly through with Disney Detox I might stop jabbering on and on about Disney World. Maybe. :)

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Friday, October 5, 2012

how I made a freezer stash of sandwiches

As I mentioned in my pathetic pizza lunch post last week, I was off on a trip and left my ten-year-old in charge of making lunches for himself and for Paige in my absence.

To make things a bit easier on him I intended to make a freezer stash of peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for Paige. But I fell behind on packing and I didn't think I had enough time to do it. We were also down to just the heels of our bread loaf.  I thought maybe it was time to try those Brand Name boxed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you find in your grocer's freezer. You know the ones. The ones without crusts...individually wrapped...the children of an old friend of mine refered to them detestables. Catch my drift? ;-)

So I came to terms with the fact that convenience may win out this round, and I would just pick up a box of those smuckers suckers and be done with it. 

At the grocery store I saw there was a whole wheat bread option of them. Awesome. 

Then I saw there was also a reduced sugar option. Looking good!

I grabbed a box out of the freezer and notice there are only four in the box. Hmmm. I look at the price. Almost a buck each. Seriously?

Finally I flip the box over and scan the ingredients....not one, but both of my big no-no's jump out at me from the list, one right after the other: HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL. 

Ugh. I put the box back in the freezer and hoofed it straight to the bread aisle. 

Back at home I quickly gathered my goods:

make ahead freezer sandwiches

- stack of fresh multigrain bread
- natural peanut butter 
- fruit preserves
- sandwich cutters 

*side note: this "jelly" is organic fruit spread from Trader Joe's. It's a blend of cherry, red grape, blueberry and pomegranate called Super Fruit and it's DELICIOUS. Seriously, I'm really not a jelly fan at all and I love this stuff! If you have a Trader Joe's and need some yum in your life, try this out!

** second side note: obviously, using sandwich cutters are not mandatory, but they sure are cute. I was going to use my Pampered Chef sandwich sealer, but for cuteness sakes I grabbed a handful of some favored Lunch Punch cutters instead.

Step 1: make your sandwiches. 
If you put peanut butter on both sides of the bread with the jelly in the middle it will help your bread from going soggy. 

Step 2: flash freeze your sandwiches. 

I'm not sure if this is totally necessary, but I was afraid if I wrapped them prior to freezing that moisture may collect inside the wrapping and form ice crystals...which would later melt when the sandwich thawed and potentially make the bread soggy.

So I just laid my sandwiches down on a small baking sheet and stuck them in the freezer for 30 minutes. That was long enough to partially freeze them, but not too long to risk freezer burn.

make ahead freezer sandwiches

make ahead freezer sandwiches

My baking sheet has a lid which I placed on top slighty askew. If I didn't have this lid I might have tried laying a piece of wax paper loosely over the top or maybe even a clean dish towel, just to protect from the freezer without totally sealing in any moisture (sealing it tight might negate the benefits of the flash freezing).

Step 3: wrap the sandwiches.
I chose to wrap the sandwiches in waxed paper. I secured the waxed paper with washi tape (a decorative paper tape that's all the rage in craft and scrapbooking).

make ahead freezer sandwiches

make ahead freezer sandwiches

Step 4: put the sandwiches in the freezer

               make ahead freezer sandwiches

And that's it! When it's time to pack up the lunch box one of the frozen sandwiches can go straight in to the lunch box or bento container from the freezer. The sandwich will thaw in a couple hours and be good to eat!

This little freezer stash got my kiddos through my absence (along with two days they bought lunch in the cafeteria). Ethan thought it was pretty cool he just had to grab a sandwich pack from the freezer. Paige thought it was pretty cool too because she told me when I got home, "mama, Ethan made me really cute sandwiches with shapes and he wrapped them up in special paper with your fancy picture book tapes! Like a present!"

I'm happy with how this turned out and I think I'll try to keep a little freezer stash on hand from now on. Might save my sanity on some mornings. :)

Supplies used to make these freezer stash sandwiches:

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