Entries in bento box - ms. bento (60)


back in the saddle again

a prettier lunch than today's, using the OMGSOAWESOME box I received as an anniversary gift from SalllyI'll have an update soon (with lots of pictures!) of all the home improvement sanity taking place at Hall House, but in the interim, wanted to get a bento post up.  It's been almost a year since I posted one, even though I've been doing bentos since, including taking pictures, just haven't been posting them. But I got all of my pictures from the last year uploaded yesterday and I'm going to try to resume posting them as they happen.

There weren't even that many to post, at least compared to years past. It's not Bento Burnout, exactly, but I've just been ambivalent. It happens. (Bento 2.0, Baby! was obviously a reboot after a similar period of meh.) I do still enjoy doing my bentos, just not like before.

But I took advantage of the home improvement binge to clean out the cabinet where I store my boxes and gear and reorganize everything so it's all easier to get to.  The collection had outgrown the bin I had for them, and reorganizing the bathroom cabinet freed up some organizers that weren't working well in there but fit perfectly in the cabinet I use for bento stuff. (I love it when that happens!) And I got a new box (purple Lunchbot Uno, woot woot!) for my birthday that I haven't used yet, so I have that to look forward to. (Today's lunch needed heating, so a metal box wasn't going to work.)

So here I am, posting my lunches again and planning to continue. Not the prettiest one I've ever done, but at least I did it.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • chicken, broccoli, and cheese baked potato
  • carrot sticks and peanut butter
  • Granny Smith apple half; berry nut trail mix
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento -- breakfast (greek yogurt and vanilla granola in a Syrup O'Clock sidecar) and snack (Granny Smith apple half and almonds in the Tomo Tomi sidecar)

[The pictures I posted to catch up can be found in the daily bento gallery, starting about halfway down on page 4 and onto page 5.)


your perfect chaos is a perfect fit

Today is a post of odds and ends, wee tales of empowerment, quirkiness, and adorableness. Also, food.

A Tale In Which Our Heroine Gets A Sign From the Universe. Literally.

On the way to the store a few weeks ago, there was a handmade sign stapled to a lightpole saying "Go Brittney Go!" An unexpected exhortation to hurry, hurry to the store? Words of encouragement for braving the hordes in the produce section when I got there?

No, just a remnant from the Portland Marathon a few days before (the route brings participants across the bridge and down Willamette, which is the street I was on), one of many homemade signs of cheer and support along the route. This one was on neon pink posterboard and featured stars and glitter.

A little further on, another sign: "Brittney You Go Girl!" I grinned and said to myself, "Yes, Brittney, you go girl!" And then after that, "YOU ROCK BRITTNEY GO GO GO!" I nodded and pumped my fist a little, "Yes, Brittney, you do rock! Go, go, go!"

It was the most empowering trip to the grocery store I've ever had.

A Tale of What Makes This City Uniquely Fabulous

On the way home from that same trip to the store, I saw what would've been the most awesome thing that day, if I hadn't already taken the grocery store errand of champions just before.

In the bike lane on the opposite side of the street, a cyclist caught my attention from a few blocks away, which is saying something, since cyclists are ubiquitous in this city of that's a haven for bike lovers. It wasn't that he was an older man, nor that he was riding an older-style bike that forced him to sit more upright, nor even that he was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt instead of sporting the hipster-biker and/or Serious Biking Enthusiast gear that's more common. No, it wasn't any of those things, because you get used to seeing all types when bikes make up as much traffic as cars do.

What caught my eye was the white fur stole wrapped around the man's neck and shoulders. I kept staring as I got closer, trying to puzzle out this unusual fashion choice. Was it for warmth? It was a gorgeous 70 degree autumn day, so that seemed unlikely. And fur-anything is a rare sight here, the headquarters of Liberal and Vegan and Environmentally And Socially Conscious.

It wasn't until I passed him that I finally realized that it wasn't a fur at all.

It was his beard.

Parted in the middle and thrown over each shoulder.

I wish every trip to the grocery store was that awesome.

A Tale of What's Red and Black and Adorable All Over

Sister reported the following conversation between her and the Fabulous Miss M regarding favorite colors:

Miss M: And Aunt Bitty's favorite color is purple, like me!

Sister: Yes, and yellow.

Miss M: Mommy, what's Uncle Sal's favorite color?

Sister: I think he likes black. And red.

(I was impressed that she remembered that, by the way.)

Miss M: Uncle Sal is a Ladybug Man!

(And now you know why we spoil her rotten. When you're that adorable, it's a requirement.)

A Tale of Bento Catch Up

But not bento ketchup. Although that would be rad.

Super behind on posting bento pics, but there were too many good ones not to feature them here, and also, NEW BENTO BOX WOOT WOOT! In my search for non-plastic boxes, I've finally added a glasslock box called a Wean Green, which is a pyrex type of glass with a locking plastic sealed lid. This one is square and holds 490 mL, so it's a good in-between size with a nice depth. (For the locals: New Seasons sells them alongside the Lunchbots.)

10/15/12 lunch -- Ms. Bento

  • chicken noodle soup made by Chef Sal
  • carrot sticks
  • green beans
  • Cox's Orange Pippin apple with cashews as gap fillers
  • chocolate pudding

10/16/12 breakfast -- pink WeanGreen

  • molded egg
  • cashews
  • Honeycrisp apple
  • cheese cubes


10/16/12 lunch -- bento colors purple

  • King David apple with cashews as gap fillers
  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks with honey peanut butter for dipping


10/18/12 lunch -- pink Natural Lunch

  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • molded egg half
  • Anjou pear


10/22/12 lunch -- french bistro

  • crab
  • peas and carrots
  • King David apple with cashews as gap fillers


title from "Get On the Road" by Tired Pony


random friday!


Totally unintentionally. One of the catalysts for posting has been my bento pics, but my work computer has suddenly developed some bizarro error thing that's been preventing me from posting pics. So even though I write my posts the night before, I haven't been able to get my pictures uploaded when I'm at work, and haven't been able to figure out what the hell the issue is, and apparently those two things were insurmountable obstacles or something.

But! I cannot continue having bento pics stack up or I will just never get caught up (hahahahaha hello every house project update since approximately forever). And in the interest of getting caught up, I also have a ridiculous number of saved tabs in my browser that's becoming a serious impediment to being totally unproductive on the internet. Which means: Random Friday! Haven't done one of these in awhile.

Love Story, Twitter Style -- "Actor and comedian John Fugelsang shares the remarkable story of how his parents...a monk and a nun...met, fell in love, and went on to raise a family. Told in Tweets and photos."

Hobbes and Bacon -- A comic imagining of Calvin and Hobbes, in which Calvin has grown up, married the much-hate Susie, had a daughter, named her Bacon, and introduced her to his beloved Hobbes. Hijinks (and nostalgic tears) ensue.

Fan letter to a weatherman -- A child writes a letter to his favorite meteorologist, and proceeds to win the internet. "More awesome than a monkey wearing a tuxedo made out of bacon." Took the words out of my mouth, kid.

6 Things Rich People Need to Stop Saying -- Seriously. Have these people never heard of the French Revolution?

Educating Tomorrow's Culinarians -- Lovely little article in a local foodie publication about OCI (where Sal teaches), their philosophy, and their commitment to their students and the community.

via Nichelle Nichols' tweet...that's right, Uhura has a Twitter account because she is a total bamfI know I already reblogged this on Tumblr but whatever, its inherent awesomeness requires posting everywhere, all the time. YOU GUYS THIS IS A THING THAT HAPPENED AND EXISTS IN THE UNIVERSE. The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES was visited by UHURA OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE and they stood in the Oval Office talking about Thomas Jefferson and Captain Kirk and and then they posed for the cameras and gave the Vulcan hand signal and that will never ever ever stop being ridiculously adorable. President Obama is our Nerd-in-Chief, amirite?


3/20/12 lunch, pink Natural Lunch:

  • herb roasted turkey breast
  • roasted smashed parsnips
  • roasted brussel sprouts tossed in balsamic vinegar
  • Pink Lady apple slices


3/22/12 lunch, lunchbots duo:

  • herb roasted turkey breast, red leaf lettuce, dill Havarti in sun-dried tomato wraps
  • broccoli
  • baby carrots
  • dried cherries
  • sunflower seeds



3/26/12 lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • creamy vegetable soup made by Chef Salvatore (potatoes, carrots, broccoli, string beans, onions, garlic, parsley, Jerusalem artichokes, thyme)
  • turkey breast and dill Havarti in sun-dried tomato wraps
  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • kiwi halves
  • almonds and dark chocolate covered raisins

drive-by posting

I'd hoped to have the post for Miss M's room makeover up by now, but obviously haven't. I've sorted through all the pictures, just need to write it up -- hopefully I can get it done for tomorrow.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • beef stew (beef roast, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, collard greens, garlic)
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • almonds and sunflower seeds

despite needing 20,357 hours of sleep, i feel surprisingly good for a monday

It's because I (we) had a really terrific weekend. We spent it with our Smiley family, doing a wholesale makeover of the Fabulous Miss M's room. I'll have more about the makeover in a future post (hopefully tomorrow) once I've had a chance to organize all the pictures, but the basic summary is that we had an outstanding time together, one of the best family weekends ever.

Friday evening, Guy came up to help me get the moving truck we'd need for all the bedroom furniture before the rental place closed. After we dropped it off at home, I took him to the Lucky Lab for dinner, since we haven't taken them there yet and it's one of our regular haunts. And the reason it's one of their regular haunts is because their pizza is hands down the best. (Guy will quibble that it's not quite the best, and that some pizza place in Moose Jaw, Montana has the best pizza, but he is clearly cracked in the head.) Had a great time visiting and devouring pizza (and he reported that their beer was also terrific), then home to relax while we waited for Sal by playing a hundred thousand hands of Nerts, which I taught him how to play at Christmas.

Saturday morning, the guys got my old bedroom furniture that we were gifting to Miss M hauled up out of the basement, down the stairs of death to the truck, while I gathered up my various decorating supplies and tools, and by late morning, we were on our way. We spent the day working on her room (taping, painting, putting up curtains, moving in furniture), music cranked up and laughing ourselves sick while Miss M did a marvelous job of keeping herself occupied with Disney movies, puzzles, and coloring books in the middle of the floor. After a really long but productive and hilariously fun day, everyone headed to bed around 1 AM.

Everyone except me, that is. I stayed up while everyone else went to bed, because I wanted to finish the room and have it all ready for Miss M when she woke up. I finally dropped into bed around 4 AM, utterly exhausted but pleased with the finished room and excited for her to see it.

She loved it. LOVED. IT. She remembered my furniture from "her room" at our house (it used to be the guest room furniture, where she's slept during her visits since she was born, and she has always considered it her room because of it) and the little reading nook I created for her was a huge hit. The hot pink sparkly throw rug may have also caused a bit of excitement. And the lampshade dotted with star-shaped "gems".

Sister and Guy loved it, too, and thanks to all the storage we added and a few easy changes, they'll be able to contain more of the kid chaos, which should make their lives a little easier. And Miss M now has a room that more properly befits a little girl who loves pink, purple, dinosaurs, books, sea turtles, cooking, and princesses.

So even though today I'm sore and exhausted, I'm walking on pink and purple-colored sunshine, because seriously, after a weekend like that, how could you not?

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • rad nah (the rice noodles are underneath) with sesame seeds for garnish
  • green leaf lettuce, carrots, and sunflower seeds with a simple vinaigrette hidden under the lettuce
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • almonds

taking this circus on the road

It looks like we'll be taking the cats to the coast with us next month. ProcrastiGirl, our usual go-to superwoman in all things petsitting, is unavailable this go-round, and we haven't yet found a suitable replacement. And since cancelling our winter coast getaway is out of the question, it's becoming increasingly likely that the cats are about to get a vacation out of the deal.

On the one hand, we know from experience that they can travel with us successfully. Or at least, travel to the coast successfully. On the other hand, "can" and "will" are two entirely different things. It could be that they were so well-behaved because the windows of the cabin stayed open the entire time and they got a good dose of that temperate sea air, or because the cabin we were in was particularly to their liking, or because Mercury was in retrograde.

And even though they did great when we were actually there, carting them to and from the coast was an exercise in insanity. Smaug's ceaseless mow-mow-mow-ing on the hour and a half drive had us both twitching like prisoners of war in the first twenty minutes, and when she switched to the blood-curdling "aroo, aroo, AROOOO" halfway through, I was fairly sure Sal was going to yank the steering wheel to the right and just plunge us all over the side of the nearest bridge. I'm not sure I would've stopped him.

But barring some miraculous solution that presents itself in the next few weeks, we're just going to have to take our chances.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • beef stir fry (tip steak, peppers, onions, carrots, green beans, kale, secret sauce)
  • brown rice and peas with a carrot flower for garnish
  • carrot sticks and Bosc pear slices
  • FIRST SATSUMA OF THE SEASON OMG (although I love that they get increasingly wee as the season progresses...)

st. johns appreciation post

our little market square hosts the St. Johns Farmers' Market until mid-OctoberSeriously, our neighborhood is the greatest. Sometimes I wonder how we got to be so lucky to live here.

We looked at 42 houses before we found The One, and we were looking long and hard at the neighborhood for each, not just the house. Which is to say, we did our legwork, no question. But there was a sizeable amount of luck and faith and hope, involved, too. Driving through the little downtown area of St. Johns then was deceptive -- many storefronts were empty and what was there wasn't promising. The houses ranged from well-kept to rundown. It was the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of Portland.

But there was promise there. The downtown had a community feel despite the vacancies, and it was clear that many people had lived here a long time, and were proud of it. There was a police station and a fire house right there by the bridge, and a post office just a block past that, and a terrific library with original woodwork and stately old fixtures. There were wonderful parks and some great little shops and places to eat (granted, just a few). And then there was the house, and the bridge, and that view.

Saturday, after a trek out to Forest Grove for a vintage crafts fair (that turned out to be less "crafts" and more "stuff"), we stopped in our little downtown to check out a few of the newest shops we hadn't made it to yet. Barrel, a new wine and beer shop, was opening, so of course we had to be there for that. Right next door was Etcetera, a wonderful little home decor shop that will give me another place for gift shopping along with the already fabulous Salty Teacup. And right around the corner (past Grammy and Nonna's Toys, where we're always able to find something just right for the Fabulous Miss M), we had a chance to stop in at Olive and Vine for the first time since they opened. Salts and tea and olive oil and vinegars and spices, oh my.

Both of us now laden with shopping bags in each hand, we didn't dare cross the street to St. John's Booksellers, since we can never get out of that place without at least one book apiece (and our tottering to-read pile is already borderline hazardous). We had our options of Thai Cottage for dinner, or Anna Banana's, or James John Cafe, or Girasole, or John Street Cafe, or Signal Station Pizza, or could have bought ingredients to make it ourselves at Proper Eats Market. Afterward, we could've caught the latest release at the St. Johns Cinema (for less than one of of those big movie houses, and the option for pizza and beer to boot!), or a summer release for half the price at St. Johns Pub. Cakes and cookies from Tulip Pastry, cat food and litter from Tres Bone, bikes and supplies from Weir Cyclery, photography-anything from Blue Moon Camera, clothes for Sal at The Man's Shop...all of these and more are just blocks from our house in our neighborhood's little downtown.

From haircuts to freshly roasted coffee beans, our neighborhood has it all, and as we headed home, I had to pinch myself yet again at how lucky we are to live here.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • roasted butternut squash soup
  • broccoli and hard boiled egg
  • carrots and celery (with the leaves left on)
  • Starkcrimson pear with cashews as gap fillers

breakfast/snack, cute animals sidecar:

  • Starkcrimson pear
  • kiwi
  • walnuts

who knew evil could be so cuddly

I've said many times that Hobbes is a furry little terrorist, albeit a very adorable one, but he has recently upped his game and become downright tyrannical.

His newest tactic is to start tearing paper -- loudly -- when I go to the bathroom just after getting home from work at night. I think his expectation is that I will drop everything the moment I come in the door and sit with him (and Smaug, if he must make a concession) giving him non-stop attention until it's time to feed them. He's already disappointed that I'm not available 24/7 for uninterruped adoration, but if I must leave him for extended periods, then this routine is the minimum expectation if I don't want him to burn the place down. (He may not have opposable thumbs, but he could totally do it.)

Unfortunately, I frequently get home fairly late -- certainly much later than he would prefer -- and dropping everything (which would include my attache case, purse, lunch, and usually some other item(s)) really isn't possible. To say nothing of wanting to change out of work clothes, wash my face, put on slippers, etc. Or, heaven forbid, go to the bathroom after the 30 minute drive home.

He knows that as soon as I hear paper tearing, I'll come back to stop him. But since he chooses to do this while I'm in the bathroom...well, you see the problem, I'm sure. Meanwhile, he's out there like a paper shredder with a tail all, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING YOU SHOULD BE OUT HERE GIVING ME YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION I AM GOING TO TURN THESE IMPORTANT PAPERS FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANY INTO CONFETTI UNTIL YOU COME OUT HERE AND ALSO YOUR PREMIUM PAYMENT IS OVERDUE PAY YOUR BILLS YOU DEADBEAT".

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • broccoli cheese soup (still so yum omg)
  • broccoli and carrots
  • celery sticks and smoked sausages
  • bosch pear with walnuts as gap fillers

the fires of autumn are beacons homeward

our front Japanese maple is called "Firestorm", which has burgundy leaves that turn bright red in fall, then dark purple before falling off; it was a housewarming gift for Sal from my momWe planted this tree almost 10 years ago and every year, I forget just how gorgeous it turns in fall, and have to take seventy gazillion pictures of it, vainly trying to capture the degree of the red, a bright fire on an otherwise very gray day.

I always underestimate how long fall lasts here, and that the leaves stay on well into November, and how positively gargantuan some of the leaves are. I sent a collection of leaves to my grandmother one year, to share my Pacific Northwest autumn with her, and I collected two dozen different leaves without walking more than a block. The largest, from an old maple in the neighbor's yard, wouldn't even fit in a manila envelope without trimming the ends.

We had a day of errands Saturday, amidst wind and downpour, ending with a stop at New Seasons and bags of groceries to be hauled out of the car and up the stairs. (Douchebag developer, miraculously, finished up early and we've been able to park in front of the house again.*) In the midst of helping with the bags and being pelted with rain, I had to stop to take this picture of a rose petal amongst the yellow and brown. I know Sal must've wondered what the hell, and probably cursed me under his breath, but sometimes you've just got to stop and observe those little moments when they present themselves.

breakfast/snack, cute animals sidecar:

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • Another delicious soup that makes autumn kind of the best season ever. Broccoli cheese soup, to be exact, and holy deliciousness, Batman, it is simply divine.
  • more broccoli
  • not-at-all-hard boiled egg
  • carrot sticks
  • kiwi

*After all my pissing and moaning, you'd think I'd feel bad for complaining so much when they finished up a week early. Not really, but I do feel bad about complaining when I found out that the cross street that borders the property on the other side, which also has to undergo street improvements for the development, is going to be out of commission until February.


i don't mean to brag, but

We are sometimes the recipients of genuinely ridiculously awesome bounty. Part of that is a function of living where we live, and part is just plain good fortune.

Case in point: one of Sal's (former?) students recently went clamming with her family, which yielded an impressive haul of razor clams. The irony is that she doesn't like clams, just digging for them. So Sal was the recipient of an entire bag of freshly dug razor clams, all cleaned and shelled.

Thanks to her generosity, I enjoyed the most damn fine clam chowder for dinner last night that I have ever eaten in my entire life. Said chowder also included some of the smoked bacon that I mentioned last week that one of the other instructors at OCI smoked and cured with a class. He cut it up small and sauteed it with onion and celery, and combined with the magic of potatoes and cream and fresh thyme from the garden and, oh yes, and veritable mountain of fresh razor clams, and you have heaven in a pot, my friends.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • the aforementioned clam chowder, which is somehow even better the second day
  • carrot sticks and peas
  • herb and cheese bagel
  • Honeycrisp apple with cashews as gap fillers

taking reservations now for halloween 2012

greatest carved pumpkin ever or GREATEST carved pumpkin ever?I was thinking late last night, as I was packing my lunch yet again at half past midnight (SERIOUSLY I KEEP THE HOURS OF A COLLEGE FRESHMAN), that if I were a kid, the night before Halloween would be second only to the night before Christmas. The anticipation of showing off my unquestionably awesome costume that was sure to blow the minds of every kid in school (Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun had nothing on me), the chaos of kids hyped up on excitement and way too much sugar that turned the classroom into Mardi Gras and ensured not a damn thing was going to get done that day, the thrill of traisping around the neighborhood in the dark as if on a clandestine mission. And the candy, oh, the glorious candy!

I really love Halloween, but it's been years since I partiipated. As an adult, the potential for Halloween fun is vastly expanded, from costume ideas to decorating budgets to party epicness. But as an adult, the excitement of being nine years old has long since vanished (along with the energy that went with it) and the prospect of planning the kind of party you envision looks suspiciously like work, work, and more work.

Still. I do so love a good Halloween party. It is, after all, the themed party to beat all themed parties, and we all know how I love throwing a themed party. It might be too late for this year, but it's not too early to start planning for next year....

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • chicken pot pie made by Sal (chicken breast, peas, carrots, kale, onion, bacon*, with a lovely flakey crust he just whipped out like it was nothing)
  • peas
  • apple slices with cashews as gap fillers
  • yogurt-covered pretzels with dark chocolate-covered raisins as gap fillers

drive-by posting

Back from a week off, which included a trip to the coast, a Day of Portland, a Hall-Smiley Family Weekend, and several days of nothing that I didn't want to do.

And apparently I got so out of my regular routine, I totally forgot to post yesterday's lunch (even though I took the picture). I guess that's the sign of a good vacation!

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • chili w/cheese
  • half of a tortilla
  • celery sticks
  • garlic dill cheese curds
  • Honeycrisp apple with dried cherries as gap fillers
  • yogurt-covered pretzels

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • chili w/cheese that was originally arranged more artfully into a nice lattice, but didn't survive closure of the lid
  • tortilla
  • green beans
  • dark chocolate covered raisins
  • Honeycrisp apple
  • kiwi berries

like a girl at the ball, and my dance card is full

The crazy train that has been our lives (and more specifically, my life) has slowed down from "death defying" to "breakneck", and our/my reward for surviving is a pile-up of several things we've been looking forward to for a long time. A trip to the coast, time off to write, Hall-Smiley family time, apple festivals, wedding cake judging competitions, and more.

And things kick off this week with an awesomeness double-header: neighborhood game night tomorrow and Thursday night season premieres (Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office, and 30 Rock) with ProcratiGirl. Look at me being all social butterfly up in here.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • potato soup (srsly, I made a vat of it Sunday night)
  • carrots & celery
  • Honeycrisp! apple
  • dried cherries and cashews

summer begins to have the look, peruser of enchanting book

Fall is definitely here. It's my favorite season, all bright, crisp days and cool, clear nights. Or gray and rainy like it was this weekend. I love everything about it, from the smell and feel of the air to the turning leaves to the heavy sweaters and abundance of produce and craving for hearty comfort foods. And, joy of joys, Honeycrisp apples!

We were fortunate to not have a whole lot on the docket at Hall House, which meant that I could spend most of the day curled up in the library with a new book, and fall asleep in my chair for an impromptu afternoon nap. It also meant time to get laundry done without it feeling like a chore (folding while watching movies), and to stay on top of the dishes (always a challenge without a dishwasher), and to write for a good long stretch of time while Sal helped a friend harvest their hops (and coming home with a nice bounty as a result). It was the best sort of weekend, a combination of productive and leisurely, cozy and restful and restorative.

With such weather that makes a person crave hearty comfort foods, it's little wonder that Sunday night dinner would be something thick and creamy and served with crusty artisan bread and likely to put a person to sleep after two overflowing bowls full. Which we totally didn't have. We also totally didn't follow that with a slice of opera cake and a dollop of malted chocolate ice cream. We're all about moderation here at Hall House.

breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • oatmeal with raisins and maple syrup
  • Honeycrisp apple slices


lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • potato soup (potatoes, spaetzle, corn, celery, dill)
  • peas and carrots
  • Honeycrisp apple half
  • opera cake


title taken from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson, "Part Five: The Single Hound, LXV"


i, for one, welcome our google overlords

Sal and I have been trying out Google+ this last week, and while it may be too soon yet to say what its prospects are, I think I'm in love. For still being in beta, it's remarkably intuitive and I love, love, love the additional benefits if you have a Droid, because omg so seamlessly integrated. They have a long way to go yet before Google+ can pose any kind of threat to Facebook, but this feels like the next evolution of living online. (I would even make the case that it's a more natural evolution living online than Facebook has been. I'm admittedly biased, but Google's primary focus has always been on the user experience and it shows in the way Google+ is set up. Facebook's focus is different, obviously, since their client isn't the user, but I suspect if Google+ manages to a measurable success, Facebook will be forced to reexamine its focus and make at least some adjustments.)

Now, if I can just incorporate New Seasons grocery delivery into it somehow, I will be one happy girl. (RIP, New Seasons online grocery ordering and delivery....)

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • still working on that crockpot stew -- potatoes, carrot, onion, celery, kale, fava beans, roast pork
  • broccoli, carrots, cherries
  • plum sections
  • cashews and dark chocolate covered raisins with dried mango as baran

an azure depth, a wordless tune

the view from Cape Meares on a sunny, windless dayContinuing with recounting our vacation adventures, though it took a little longer than anticipated....

After leaving our cabin at Oceanside, we made the requisite stop at Cape Meares. It never gets old no matter how many times we go, but the weather was particularly nice and there was no wind, which is significant up on the bluff where the lighthouse is located. Sal hiked down to the lighthouse again, but I opted to stay behind on a bench overlooking the cliffs to read while I listened to the birds. I didn't end up reading much, but the meditation of sea and sky was what I was really after anyway.

We didn't have to go home right away so we decided to head north on 101 and come back on 26, since we hadn't been up that way in awhile and there was a coffee shop Sal wanted to visit in Cannon Beach. (One of his former students recommended it, and they grind their own beans, so.) It was perfect weather for the drive, clear and temperate, and since it was a weekday, traffic was light (versus the summer weekends, when it can suck mightily). Up through Rockaway Beach, Nehalem Bay, and Wheeler.  We took a lazy drive through Manzanita, happening upon a darling cottage that happens to be for sale and made my heart go pitter pat even though it doesn't have a view of the ocean. Then up Neahkahnie Mountain to one of the viewpoints to take a few pictures, the wind calm and the sky blue and clear.

Arcadia Beach, among the pics added to our vacation gallerySoon we were at Arcadia Beach, our old stomping ground. We used to make day trips to this beach pretty regularly before we started doing overnight stays at Oceanside, but haven't been back in awhile. It was like seeing an old friend, standing on the bluff overlooking the beach, and we decided we should resume those occasional day trips, because this was our ocean home, too, the place we made our own when we first got to Oregon, and a piece of us will always be there.

Then it was on to Cannon Beach. Traffic and tourists usually make Cannon Beach a place we avoid, but as I said, it was a weekday and neither the traffic nor the tourists were significant. So we had a lovely little drive through town. Unfortunately the place we were looking for was closed, but we found a wonderful bakery not far away. It was the perfect place for an afternoon treat -- pastries and coffee/hot chocolate -- before heading home.

After an evening to relax and a night in our own bed once again, we were ready for our Day of Portland. This has become our summer vacation ritual, that we dedicate a full day to just knocking around our beautiful city as if we were tourists. Except, you know, awesome. We don't have a rigid plan, just a list of sites we want to see, restaurants/food places we want to try, and shops to visit. The list is always longer than we could manage in a week, let alone a day, but it gives us lots of things to choose from as the mood strikes us.

Peninsula ParkThis year's was more of an itinerary than in previous years, thanks to a map of ideas Sal sweetly put together. First, was a stop at Chop (shows up as Tasty & Sons on the map because it's in the back) for fresh sandwiches and other necessities for a picnic. Then we headed to Peninsula Park to enjoy it all.

Peninsula Park has an extensive rose garden on one end, just there and open to the public. No gates, no fences, just a gorgeous manicured garden with a fountain at its center and benches all around for people to enjoy. How incredible is that?

It's beautiful any time (especially summer and fall), but the day could not have been more perfect, which made it wonderful for a picnic. And for a stroll afterwards, with of course lots of flowers for sniffing and taking pictures of.

Because he's incredibly thoughtful, Sal remembered that I've always wanted to stop at the Beverley Cleary Sculpture Garden, so he included a little side trip to Grant Park. We took a stroll through the park and sat for a bit at a table near the statues of Ramona, Ribsy, and Henry Huggins while kids played in the fountains that are part of the sculptures.

the Burnside Bridge with the Steel Bridge behind it, taken from the Eastbank EsplanadeThen we were on to the Eastbank Esplanade for another stroll -- there was a lot of strolling taking place on our day of Portland -- up the river a bit. It happened to be the first day of the Waterfront Blues Festival across the way at Waterfront Park, which meant lots of people, as well as boats and yachts all anchored near the shoreline to hear the music. Lots and lots of people, since summer basically exploded all at once that day after months and months of no spring and summer.

And because we really haven't had a spring or summer, I wasn't in the habit of remembering sunscreen. Which meant that I had a pretty snazzy sunburn happening by the time we finally headed home. Thankfully, we'd spent as much time in the shade at various parks as we'd spent in the sun, so it wasn't nearly as bad as it could've been. But I definitely got an overdose that had me a little too pink for a week or so.

For the rest of our vacation, we simply enjoyed being at home with the good weather, all the windows open and making the most of the yard (FINALLY) being fit for civilized people. We read books on the porch swing, played in the studio, brewed some beer, wrote some more chapters, took late afternoon naps, watched movies, and just generally relaxed for a few days before it was time to jump into the routine again. That's the nice thing about making your home your castle: you don't have to go anywhere to get away from it all.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • crockpot stew -- potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, kale, fava beans, roast pork
  • steamed broccoli
  • cherries, cashews, dried mango, and dark chocolate covered raisins


title taken from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickenson, Part Two: Nature, "LXIII"


let the wild rumpus begin

Success! Our yard, which now looks approximately like the wild jungles of Borneo, is about to be beaten into submission. We'll have to pay someone to do it, but we found someone who was willing to take their lives in their hands and attempt to restore it to its benign Pacific Northwest unruliness. Of course, there's the very real possibility they'll go inside and be eaten by wild things with lots of teeth, but better them than us.

And speaking of Pacific Northwest unruliness (oh, I kill me with these segues)...Saturday night was the Naked Bike Ride (link is SO not safe for work, but this one is). Ostensibly, it's a protest against fossil fuels, or a way to highlight the vulnerability of riders on the road, depending on whom you talk to, but it's mainly an excuse for people ride around the city letting it all hang out. Which is always hilarious if you happen to be out and about and suddenly a bunch of naked people on bicycles streak past (that's happened to us a few times). Guaranteed to make you smile and giggle and be glad for a bit of gentle absurdity. But this year was notable because Sal decided to join in. And had a blast, so I suspect this will be an annual activity at Hall House. Don't worry, there won't be pictures.

I can't boast anything quite so daring for my weekend. Did some writing, some art, made phone calls, avoided work stuff. I also made the mistake yesterday of not bringing lunch in with me. Well, the mistake was Sunday night when I didn't make one to bring, for no real good reason at all, and then yesterday...well, yesterday was the kind of day that makes a person glad they don't happen very often. It was merely coincidence that it also happened to be a Monday, but it certainly didn't help Monday's reputation for sucking.

Anyway. Today has to be better because I have both lunch AND breakfast, my replacement debit card finally arrived (srsly, what a PITA), and our summer vacation (mine and Sal's) commences Friday. Eleven whole entire days of not being at work. Such luxury! And with the yard finally restored to order, we don't even have to go anywhere for it to be awesome.

breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • molded egg
  • cantaloupe
  • red grapes

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • taco filling -- seasoned ground beef and rice, shredded colby, and a bit of sour cream in the little condiment cup
  • flour tortilla and red leaf lettuce for the taco
  • carrots and red grapes
  • cantaloupe
  • dark chocolate covered raisins and candied almonds (courtesy of Chef Sal)

cooking for charity

The radio silence last week was unintended, just a product of a busy week and lack of bentos, which are one of my prompts for posting. The lack of bentos was due to two different charity lunches, so no need to pack anything.

Tuesday was our team's turn for "Tasty Tuesday" (where one team volunteers to make lunch for the rest of our coworkers, who then donate money to go toward our charities). Our team opted to do a stir fry bar thing, which resulted in a heaping plate of yum. It's great fun, what we do, but each team feels obliged to one up the previous team, so it's become a challenge to come up with a plan.  We do try to do something healthy, but I suspect our next team lunch is going to involve the words "sundae" and "bar".

Thursday, I volunteered with a group of coworkers to serve lunch at the local Ronald McDonald House. (Ronald McDonald House is one of the charities our company partners with (the other being Habitat for Humanity) so we have events like this where employees can donate time, as well as organized fundraisers on their behalf.

It was fun and inspiring to see the house and all the measures they take to make it welcome and homey for the families who stay there. Every room is different because each of the rooms is "adopted" by a company or organization who can then decorate and furnish it in whatever theme they want. The Blazers have a room, of course, and both the the Ducks and the Beavers do, as well. (The Ducks room was occupied while were there, but we got to see the Beavers room.)

And they really go all out with the themes. One room was done in a Lewis and Clark Theme and it included a huge Pendleton blanket on the wall that was a map of the Oregon Territory, as well as a little built-in bench made to look like a canoe. So clever! There were lots of communal spaces to draw people out and promote the sense of community and family, and inspirational stories in every little detail. Just a really great organization all around.

Anyway, we made chicken enchiladas for the families staying at the house, along with a green salad, a fruit salad, and flan for dessert (one of my coworkers makes a killer flan). We did get to eat lunch as well as prepare it, but rather than satiate my craving, it just made me want more. Hence the enchiladas Sal and I made for dinner and the leftovers in today's lunch.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • enchiladas: seasoned beef, cheese, red onions, corn tortillas, mole', with some sour cream in the condiment cup
  • mixed wild greens with a bit of dressing in the sauce container
  • Murcott tangerines and part of a Pink Lady apple

I did actually have a bento for last week's Prompt workshop but forgot to post it so I'm including it here. No bento for tonight's Prompt, which is the last one. It's been a fun workshop and a good challenge -- highly recommended to anyone who's interested!

dinner (last week's Prompt), matryoshka:

  • broccoli
  • apple slices
  • carrots
  • crab



it doesn't feel like april

We've had something like 36 straight days of rain, a circumstance that's been cause for comment even in the rainy PNW. I never tire of the damp and the gray, so I'm happy as a rain-drenched little clam, but at this point, I can certainly understand why my fellow Portlanders are getting a little squirrelly.

Usually we've had some glimpses of spring by now, and a few warm days (read: above 60 degrees) by now. We were set to break a record with no 60 degree days before the end of March, but then had a 65 degree day on the 31st. Still, we usually have about ten 60 degree days by this time of the year, and even a few 70 degree days, so it's no one's imagination that it's been an unusually cold, wet, and gray first part of the year.

Anyway, thanks to the weather I'm still craving warm, hearty foods and potato soup sounded like just the thing last night. We had a leek and some chives in our most recent bin, along with more of those adorable little baby potatoes to use up. So I made a big ol' pot of it, and it was so good that I've been looking forward to my lunch all morning.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • potato soup: baby potatoes, leek, chives, dill, corn, spaetzle
  • carrots, snap peas, and half of a Pink Lady apple
  • tangerines and dark chocolate-covered raisins

Also, I got my new Lunchbot box added to the bento gear page, as promised.


a prompt for a twofer

You will groan at that play on words when you've finished reading this post. It's a really bad play on words, but I actually wrote most of this post last night and it was the best I could come up with at midnight.

And so anyway, I had two full on bentos today: one for lunch, one for dinner. "But why do you have a bento for dinner?" you might ask. Because tonight, my dear chickadees, was the first night of Prompt, the 10 week writing workshop run by Write Around Portland. It was my main birthday really-for-reals present from Sal. (I know, I was super extra spoiled this year.) It was also the reason I'm only now getting this post posted.

With the exception of a week-long writing camp when I was 15(?), I have never participated in a writing workshop-ish thing before. I am tremendously excited and I have no idea what to expect. You should come read about it over on my writing blog.

It's a brown bag event, hence the reason for a dinner bento. It's held at Powell's, which is kind of the best place in the world, I think we can all agree. It is also something like Disneyland for writers, so that is a thing.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • The Halls' Patented Cold Weather Soup, concocted from a roast (chuck roast, in this case) and a bunch of whatever-vegetables-we-have-in-the-crisper-and-need-to-use-up (this go-round: potatoes, carrots, onions, Swiss chard) thrown together in a crockpot -- with one or more of the following: tomato sauce, beef/chicken/vegetable broth, tomato paste -- and left alone for eight hours
  • sourdough bread
  • half of a Rancho Royale apple
  • plain yogurt with fresh (frozen) blueberries*

dinner, Paris slimline:

  • spicy meatballs
  • steamed broccoli as gap filler
  • mandarin halves, Rancho Royale apple slices, and fresh blueberries*, with a wee cup of yogurt covered raisins

*From our family berry picking adventure in August, which I just realized I forgot to post about. To celebrate Sister's and the Fabulous Miss M's birthdays, we spent the day at a U-Pick farm on Sauvie Island, where we proceeded to pick a buttload of blueberries and marionberries. And then had berry pancakes for breakfast the next morning. And berry-everything for several days afterward. And froze the remaining three quarters of a buttload and packaged them in handy vacuum-sealed portions.

Only one other person in the group brought their dinner, so I felt rather conspicuous eating mine in front of everyone. As I opened my box, one of the other people in the group said, "That is the cutest lunch box I have ever seen." Remarkably, my head did not burst into flames from being the (very brief) center of attention. It says something about how much I've changed that I forged ahead and ate it anyway rather than stuff it into my bag and go hungry until later lest I call any undue attention to myself. Usually whilst admiring the person who forged on ahead and ate her lunch/dinner seemingly without embarrassment. Perhaps there was another person sitting there thinking that thing I used to think, and maybe she'll bring her dinner next time.