Entries in bento box - paris slimline (24)



I have the crud and want to do nothing more than lay in bed and watch movies. It started with a scratchy throat Tuesday night that hasn't gone away, then achiness and stuffiness Wednesday night, then congestion yesterday, and by last night, was a full-blown cold.

It's supposed to be beautiful and warm this weekend, when I could be doing any number of fun and glorious things. But I won't be doing fun and glorious things, I will be dealing with the crud, holing up like a wounded animal and subsisting on soup and juice and NyQuil.

Feh. Feh, I say.

yesterday's lunch, Paris slimline

  • chicken teriyaki meatballs
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • cucumber slices
  • cashews and dried cherries

yesterday's snack, cute animals sidecar

  • hard boiled egg
  • carrot sticks
  • almond butter for dipping

and then we said "open", and everyone went bananas

Whew! We have officially survived the week of All The Things and are now on Day 2 of our Winterfest Vacation, aka Two Glorious Weeks (And A Few Days) Of Not Working Dammit.

The week of crazydom was not without its fun, however. Friday was the long-awaited holiday party at my office, and you will perhaps be a little surprised that a company party could be described as "long-awaited", and in some years past, I would agree with you, but this year...oh this year, I have a story to tell.

Way back in August, the Executive Team decided to "go big" for the end of the year party in recognition of everyone's hard work. We upped the party planning committee's budget for food, drinks, and decorations. We also decided to do swag bags, since our company has never really had products with our name and logo on them before. The swag bags would include a reusable shopping bag, a really nice insulated steel coffee tumbler, an insulated steel 1 liter thermos, chocolate bars with our logo imprinted, and polo-style shirts with our logo embroidered.

But that was only the start.

We usually have a raffle drawing every year for prizes (usually gift cards), but we wanted the prizes to be really big this year and for everyone to go home with something great. We couldn't send everyone home with a big screen tv or anything, but we could make the raffle prizes pretty spectacular and then surprise everyone who didn't win with something awesome, too. And when I say "spectacular", I mean it: 2 iPod Touches, an XBox Kinect (w/an NCAA Football game and the Michael Jackson Experience game), 2 Kindle Fires, 2 16x zoom cameras, an HP laptop, an iPad, 2 Kitchenaid Professional stand mixers, and a 50" plasma screen TV. For the remainder, the committee was given a list for shopping for the surprise gifts so they would know what we meant when we said "awesome": cameras, iPod nanos, Garmins, Kindle Touches, Wiis, Keurig coffee makers, cookware sets, and a food processor. (The Executive Team was in charge of the big gifts, so that even the committee didn't know what they were.)

So the committee has been on a series of shopping sprees for everything on their list for the last two months, increasingly running out of room as our storage unit. Space became even more of a problem for the raffle items, since we couldn't even let the committee members see those. At the end of the Executive Retreat on Tuesday, we assembled all the swag bags, then had to cram them all amongst our cars' trunks. But it was coming together and we were downright gleeful about what was about to come at the end of the week.

The committee worked their tails off all week getting the conference room decorated for the party (last year was the first time we did it at the office, and they made it look really terrific; this year, they outdid themselves). Wednesday, the committee and the Executive Team wrapped the surprise gifts, hiding things inside other boxes so nothing could be guessed. We stacked them all up along the far wall of the conference room, and I'm pretty sure that when everyone filed in at the start of the party, they assumed the prettily-wrapped stack of boxes were just for decoration to hide the IT station that runs the projector and sound system in the conference room. Little did they know....

The raffle gifts were set up on tables at the front but covered with cloths when everyone came in, with the swag bags all lined up underneath the tables. Once everyone was seated, we welcomed them to the party, took care of housekeeping (party schedule, turn off cell phones, etc.), then showed them the contents of the swag bag that they would be getting at the end of the party. We then announced how the raffle would work -- everyone got a ticket, which they would place in a bag in front of whatever item they wanted to try to win, and we would draw from that bag for that item.

And then the fun began. We slowly revealed each item. The iPod Touches were first and got a surprised gasp, and it just kept escalating. By the time we got to the iPad, the room was a constant buzz, and when we showed the TV, everyone flipped out.

After everyone had a chance to mingle and put in their tickets, it was time to eat, followed by a fun Mad Libs style game at each table. And then it was time for the main event.

The raffle items were a huge, huge hit. As terrific as the raffle was, however, the best was yet to come. "But wait! There's more!" we said. Pointing to the pile of boxes in the back that most everyone assumed were just for show, we told them that the they were in fact not for show, and that we would draw all the tickets of those who hadn't won, and when their name was called, to go pick one out of the pile. There were only two rules: don't shake any of the boxes, and don't open them until we tell you to.

Getting through the remainder of the names took awhile, and I think everyone assumed that whatever was in the boxes would be something okay, but nothing nearly as great as the raffle items. Maybe another swag item, or a set of knives, something like that. Nonetheless, everyone was still having fun.

Once everyone had their items, we gave them the go to open their boxes, and the next two minutes were the best two minutes of chaos pretty much ever. You know what it's like when kids are allowed to just go berzerk on Christmas morning and open packages all at once, and it's just a flurry of patterned paper and exclamations and noise and excitement? Now imagine that in a room full of adults who weren't expecting it at all, and who had enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine and beer, and you will have an inkling of what it was like for that two minutes.

It didn't matter that they weren't all iPads or stand mixers. They were nice gifts that no one was expecting and in many cases, wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves but really wanted. We encouraged people to trade if they got something that wasn't as useful, and by the time everyone left, I think they all ended up with something they were glad for. I tried to talk to as many as I could to find out if they had fun and to hear their individual story about whatever gift they got. For several, it was going to make a difference for an otherwise tough holiday -- a Wii for kids who wanted one but wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, or an avid reader who was struggling with sight issues but couldn't justify a Kindle, or a new set of cookpans to replace the mismatched set that were older than I am. A laptop that would make it possible to work from home, an iPod nano for someone who wanted but didn't own an iAnything (exact quote), a camera for someone who could now take nice pictures of the new grandbaby.

There's nothing I love more than giving gifts, except perhaps giving them to someone who really needed that little boost of magic and hope and joy. I've been blessed with some really wonderful gifts in my life, but nothing is ever quite as fulfilling as being able to do that for someone else. And Friday afternoon was some of the most fun I've had in quite some time.

Best. Company Party. Ever.


As you can imagine, the week was so busy that I'm behind on posting bentos, so there's some catching up to be done here:

Tuesday's lunch, Paris slimline:

  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions (wow, lots of garlic today)
  • brown rice
  • sunflower seeds
  • carrot sticks and steamed broccoli
  • satsuma sections

Wednesday's lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • boiled egg,
  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • garlic butter dipping sauce in the little cup
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions
  • brown rice underneath everything
  • apple slices
  • carrots and celery
  • sunflower seeds

Thursday's lunch, Fit 'n Fresh:

  • romaine lettuce
  • boiled egg
  • carrots, celery, radishes
  • apple slices, mandarin
  • sesame seeds

the continuing douchebaggery of douchebag developer

So Douchebag Developer is back and making me hate him.

Two weeks ago (while my dad was here, actually), we returned from an afternoon outing to find "No Parking" signs blocking both sides of the street on our block. The signs were placed there on behalf of Douchebag Developer's project, which requires sewer improvements before work can begin. In 12 pt. font that's oh-so-easy to read when you're IN A CAR AND AT LEAST FIVE FEET AWAY FROM THE SIGN, the signs further informed us that the street would be blocked from October 12th to October 27th, Monday through Saturday, 7 AM to 6 PM to allow work on the pipes under the street.

You'll remember that we have no off-street parking at Hall House.

The first night, we parked the cars just past the end of the block. Someone broke into the Camry and stole the ashtray (which we use for change). We don't leave anything in the car so there wasn't much to steal -- they sifted through the few CDs in the console but didn't take any and rifled through the papers in the glovebox, but that was about it. They didn't even take the car kit we keep in the trunk. I could swear that I locked the car -- I'm obsessive about such things -- but since none of the windows were broken and there was no sign of tampering, I can only surmise that I left it unlocked.

Now, I realize that I'm partly to blame, and that Douchebag Developer isn't responsible for the criminal acts of other people. Our neighborhood is actually very safe and close knit, but transients sometimes migrate through on their way from the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill up to St. Johns. They're harmless, and you know, whatever few dollars of change was in that ashtray is worth far more to them than it is to me, whether it was used for a fix or for food. In the scheme of things, it's hardly worth mentioning.

But I know that it happened because our cars were parked out of sight of our house and the streetlight that they normally sit under. And for that, I do blame Douchebag Developer. (We've been parking our cars down the corner since then, since that street gets more frequent traffic and is more exposed, as well as being right in line with the neighbor's security light.) And I wonder what we're in for when this cursed development is finally finished and suddenly there are a bunch of cars parking on the street -- cars that will each have their own garages, but thanks to Douchebag Developer's douchebaggily planned development, are almost impossible to actually park in.

And there's the usual inconvenience you'd expect with such work: jackhammering and big chunks of asphalt dropping into gigantic metal tractor buckets at SEVEN O'FUCKING CLOCK IN THE A.M.; dust everywhere, and the smell of diesel, and pipes stacked on our nicely landscaped sidewalk strips; loud equipment and pounding that makes the whole house vibrate all damn day. Hauling groceries is a challenge already when you have to haul them up the seventy gajillion stairs from the street to the front door, but add having to park down the block to the whole expedition and suddenly the prospect of saltines and some grapes for dinner seems much more appetizing than having to get groceries.

But, you know, this stuff happens, and streets and sewers need work, and a couple of weeks of inconvenience aren't that big of a deal, my self-indulgent pissing and moaning aside.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday -- the day before all of this was supposed to end -- there was a flyer on our doorstep that new sewer work (sanitary sewer work, as opposed to to the storm sewer work that was apparently being done this last two weeks) commences today with the same restrictions, but will continue until "approximately" November 18th.

And that was the moment when my loathing for Douchebag Developer sharpened to a surgical precision.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • smoked sausages
  • peas and carrots, corn
  • molded egg
  • dark chocolate-covered raisins
  • Starkcrimson pear slices
  • yogurt-covered raisins

wicked fun

So at the last couple of neighborhood game nights, the game du jour has been a collaborative RPG called Arkham Horror. It is, in a word, awesome. There are eighty bajillion little cards and intricate character stories and monsters and big bads and weapons and MATH and COLOR CODING and ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS and OMG HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS GAME EXISTED BEFORE. Oh my little rational mastermind heart goes pitter pat just thinking about it.

Both the night following the first time we played, as well as last night, my dreams were occupied with Lovecraftian monsters and figuring out how many die I need to close a gate and strategizing what combination of Fight, Sneak, Lore, Will, Speed, and Luck I'm going to need for the next round. CLEARLY THIS IS A SIGN I NEED TO PLAY THIS GAME ALL THE TIME.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • smoked sausages
  • boiled eggs
  • green beans (more underneath the sausages and eggs)
  • carrots and celery sticks
  • dark chocolate with orange zest
  • dried cherries

whose slender roots entwine altars that piety neglects

Oh the adventures we have had! So many to tell you!

Like Wednesday night's neighborhood game night, hosted at our house. Or Friday night catching up and watching stuff with ProcrastiGirl. And yesterday, Sal rode in the Bridge Pedal, which is a bike ride that covers 35 miles and ten of the city bridges (including the St. Johns Bridge). (Which means Sal logged almost 55 miles, since it was 9+ miles to the starting point and then the same distance home.) And afterward, we did up a big ol' batch of stir fry on the patio, because life is ridiculously good.

Saturday, while we took our time over the brunch Sal made, talking about what to do with the day, we decided we were long overdue for a driveabout. We were getting a late start, so we needed a closer destination than, say, the coast. We decided on Vernonia, since we haven't explored much of the Coast Range that lies between Hwy 26 and Hwy 30.

We often pack a picnic for a driveabout, but didn't have much in the fridge that wouldn't take some prep time, so we decided instead just to grab a few snacks and our water bottles and go. Daylight was burning, after all. (You'll note I didn't say "sunlight", as it was overcast almost all day. But still temperate and nice, so no complaints here.)

Vernonia is situated in a little valley in the forested hills of the Coast Range. (Which sort of makes it a mountain town if you consider the Coast Range mountains. We don't, but the rest of Oregon does, so.) We took the Scappoose-Vernonia Highway from Hwy 30, a two-lane highway winding through deep, dark (I mean dark) forest and up and over the hills/mountains.

the Nehalem River at Hawkins ParkIt's a nice little town, a bit bigger than I imagined, with a slightly-larger-than-a-pond lake at one end and the perennially-flooding Nehalem River running through the middle. We stopped at Hawkins Park, which sits right alongside the river. They've built an ingenious little dam there to create a nice swimming hole (in lieu of a city pool, presumably), complete with a concrete embankment so you don't have to walk in dirt to get to the water, a ladder over the side down into the deep end, a wooden lifeguard stand, and a charming bank of lockers. They even used a water diversion to one side to create a wading pool for little ones. It wasn't warm enough to draw swimmers while we there, not even brave ones, but it wasn't hard to imagine what it must be like on hot summer days.

Setting for a creepy horror flick? Do we commit the mortal sin of slasher films and go investigate the creepy abandoned building? Yes, yes we do.We headed to the lake next, where there's a nice paved walking path that skirts the perimeter. About a quarter of the way around, there's an abandoned building off the path about a hundred feet. According to the placard on the walking path, it's an old fuel house for a now vanished cedar mill. (The "lake", as it turns out, is the old mill pond.)  It stored cedar chips to stoke the mill furnaces. It now has trees growing inside it. I love the poetry of that. Of course we had to look inside. And if I had woken up that morning with the intent to have an adventure, I couldn't have planned a more perfect discovery of treasure.

inside, a marvelous surpriseThe interior was like something out of a story. All four concrete walls completely intact, seven trees growing around the interior's perimeter, with sword ferns and bracken ferns and vine maples spreading out in the corners. The walls are decorated with colorful graffiti in more imaginative style than mere tagging, collectively creating the effect of a mural. And every sound echoes so that you speak softly and sparingly. A row of concrete platforms running down the center look like old stone seats from some ancient pagan ritual site, one that's so old that no one knows for certain just who built it or what they built it for, and combined with the simple peaked roof gables and the light slanting in through the trees, it has the look of a cathedral.

We still had some time before we needed to head home, so instead of our snacks, I suggested the restaurant that had caught my eye as we drove through town. It was really the word "brewery" that caught my eye, because Sal loves few things more than trying a new beer in a new town wherever we go, and I have had long experience looking for the signs of such things.

The Blue House Cafe, Espresso Bar, & Brewery, as it turns out, was just as much of a treasure as the mill ruin had been.The interior is charmingly decorated, all yellow and cobalt blue, with delightful touches here and there (like the beaded curtain made of wine corks and the blue painted nail heads throughout) and an ingenious outdoor seating area. It's a quaint restaurant serving time-tested family recipies and run by people who obviously care very much about what they do.

Their menu is largely Mediterranean and everything sounded wonderful, although that's one of the toughest cuisines for me personally since there are usually several key ingredients I just can eat. (Feta, kalamata olives, lamb, gorgonzola, pepperoncinis...I could go on, but it's just depressing.) Which means scanning for something innocuous or that doesn't have too many ingredients to ask them to hold, all the while wishing I could eat more than my frustrating palate allows.

We settled on the zataar flatbread, one with feta (for him), one without (for me). No idea what zataar was, but it was an adventure and that means you have to try things without knowing everything that's in them. He ordered their porter, I ordered a lemonade. Sal said the beer was decent, though nothing to write home about. The lemonade looked more like iced tea when it came, but I wasn't feeling particularly picky so I took a sip anyway. It was indeed iced tea, but so good I was glad for the accidental mix-up. It was infused with fresh mint and sweetened with brown sugar, so it had a delicious, crisp summery flavor that was most refreshing.

PLEASE SAL FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE THIS FOR ME I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER AND EVER AMENOur order arrived and with the first bite, I was in love. The flatbread was handmade and still warm, the zataar (a blend made of thyme, sumac, sea salt, and sesame seeds all ground together very finely) was mixed with olive oil and spread on the toasted flatbread, then topped with fresh tomato, cucumber, and onion. It was, in a word, heavenly. It may possibly have supplanted bruschetta as my favorite summertime treat. I'm still thinking about that meal two days later, and thinking a day trip to Vernonia may just have to be on our regular excursion list from now on.

You always take a chance on a driveabout that your search for adventure will end up being an uneventful day's drive in the car to nowhere in particular. You'll take your chances with the doubtful looking roadside cafe and it'll turn into a bust as often as naught. You'll point to a place on the map and arrive to find nothing much of interest. You'll have car trouble that is funny in retrospect, but anything but enjoyable at the time.

Still, even the least eventful driveabouts have their special moments: the hilarity that becomes a future in-joke, the music that imprints the moment just so, the odd sign or bizarre sight that makes you both go, "Did you just see...?" If they didn't, we wouldn't keep taking them. But every once in awhile, the search for a bit of adventure will turn up a little bit of mystery and a little bit of magic alongside those memories, and then you're hooked for life.

see the full set of pictures here

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • stir fry (chicken, collard greens, baby bok choi, green beans, onion, garlic, broccoli, and a special sauce blend) with jasmine rice and crushed cashews for garnish
  • cucumbers and carrots in rice wine vinegar
  • a few bites of zucchini-sweet potato bread, courtesy of the neighbor who brought it for game night lst week
  • blueberries (from our bushes!) and cherries


title taken from "Among the Ruins of a Convent in the Apennines" by William Wordsworth


tales woven of enchanting yarns

Saturday, a friend I met through Prompt came over for dinner, which necessitated getting the house whipped into some semblance of presentability, since it would be her first visit and I think we all know how important that first, er, introduction to my home is to me. The side benefit of which is that the house looks and feels so great, which we then get to enjoy for however long we're able to keep it up. (I always have to laugh at myself, because when the house is all clean and nice and pretty, I tell myself that this time, this time, I'll be better about putting things away and staying on top of the chores like dusting and vacuuming that make such a noticeable difference in how the house feels. Even as I know that my best intentions aside, I'll inevitably peter out and then start wishing for a magical housekeeping fairy to just come keep my house clean for me.)

She arrived, beautifully arranged basket of flowers in hand (flowers that she picked from her own garden and arranged herself), gorgeous mohair pashmina thrown over her shoulder.  The weather obliged with warm air and clear skies so we could sit on the patio (for the first time this year) to enjoy cheese and Sal's handmade crackers(!) and breads while we talked.  Then dinner, which she was uniquely suited to appreciate since she once worked as a professional waitress at a famous NYC restaurant. And Sal made a great dinner, not overstated or pretentious, but just what he does best:  exceptional ingredients thoughtfully put together.  (And dessert was totally amazeballs fantastic:  mini chocolate bombes with a ganache coating and two decorative tuille cookies artfully placed on top, with fresh berries and a berry coulee arranged around it on the plate.)

My friend has two qualities (among many) that make her a delightful dinner guest: 1) a life straight out of a book, chock full of eccentric (and obscenely talented) characters and extraordinary adventures; and 2) a storyteller's gift for the well-told tale. By the end of the evening, I felt like we'd been given some secret treasure and fully expected her to fly off on a magic carpet. No magic carpet, but she must have sprinkled some kind of enchantment around while she was here because here it is Monday and the house is still in perfect order.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • Yucatan roasted turkey breast
  • steamed broccoli
  • corn
  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • Pink Lady apple
  • cashews and dark chocolate covered raisins

all is forgiven, george lucas

Hilariously awesome astronaut factoid that cracked me up:

"The mental readjustment [returning from space] can be just as tricky. In 1973, Skylab 2 astronaut Jack Lousma told Time magazine that he'd accidentally smashed a bottle of aftershave in his first days back from a month-long sojourn in space. He'd let go of the bottle in mid-air, forgetting that it would crash to the ground rather than just float there."

I srsly lol'd at that. Speaking of hilariously awesome, there's this, which made the rounds of Tumblr last week (and appeared on my dash on May 4th, natch). It reminded me that his codename is Renegade for a reason:

Look at that stance -- that is the stance of a man who knows his way around a paduwan training course, is what I'm saying. OUR PRESIDENT IS A SEKRIT JEDI MASTER YOU GUYS.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • Cotswold and Niman Ranch ham in a sundried tomato wrap (with just a smidge of plastic to protect it from the asparagus spears)
  • blanched asparagus spears
  • Murcott tangerine sections on a bed of freshly-shelled peas, courtesy of OCI's culinary students (who had to shell a bunch as part of a meal assignment)
  • a lovely carved radish, courtesy of the exceedingly talented Chef Salvatore, with more peas as gap fillers
  • BOTH yogurt covered and dark chocolate covered raisins

distilling a personality with four simple letters

Today was another work retreat like the one we did last month. Which meant bringing in both a breakfast and lunch and again eating it while everyone else ordered from the restaurant menu. For someone who prefers not to call attention to herself, I've become remarkably ambivalent about this. Remarkable only to me, perhaps, but still.

We took one of those personality/temperament tests (a Myers-Briggs sort of test) as a team building exercise, and let me just say that I am apparently the most textbook case of the "Rational" temperament ever invented. I am, in fact, an INTJ, quantified in this particular test as a "Rational Mastermind". Which makes me sound like the most boringly benign super villain ever. Among other things, I:

  • have a temperament (Rational) considered rare (5% to 10% of the population) and a personality type (Mastermind) even more scarce (1% to 2% of the population). [No wonder I often feel like I'm from another planet.]
  • value logic and pragmatism above almost all else. [And that planet was apparently Vulcan.]
  • am ingenious, independent, strong-willed, and skeptical.
  • am generally even-tempered and goal-oriented. [Unless there's something good on TV.]
  • yearn for achievement and accomplishment. [A high score on the Scrabble game on my phone counts as an achievement, right?]
  • have an innate ability to grasp a project's necessary progression and understand how each step leads to the next.
  • prefer to stay in the background, reluctant to take command despite a skill for big picture thinking and focus on details. [HAHAHAHAHA TEST PEOPLE HOW DO YOU READ MY BRAIN WITHOUT A PROBE SCANNER THINGIE FROM A SCI-FI MOVIE.]
  • am fascinated with developing strategic plans for others to use. [Hello, my entire job.]
  • prefer a work environment where I can exercise intellectual freedom, am provided with challenging work, and have flexible hours, needing time to play at my own outside interests. [Otherwise, I get a little stabbity stabbity.]
  • am more comfortable alone than in a crowd, and if a job or social situation requires me to be outgoing or take center stage, I can soon become exhausted and need down time in a quiet place to rest and recharge. [SRSLY TEST PEOPLE YOU ARE KIND OF CREEPING ME OUT WITH YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF ME.]
  • draw energy from private, solitary activities, including reading, listening to music, and working by myself on my latest project or hobby.
  • crave closure and finality, as well as orderly procedure, and can be quick to make schedules, agendas, or timetables for myself or others to follow. [Excel is my woobie.]
  • feel unhappy or unsettled when my personal space is a mess. [HAHAHAHAHA NO REALLY]

There are actually 18 pages of details and charts in the report. My entire me-ness distilled into 18 pages with the accuracy of a DNA test. I read some of it to Sal last night and it was so spot on that he just started laughing. Somewhere around page three.

breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • cream cheese and barrel pickle in a sundried tomato wrap
  • Fuji apple chunk with an heirloom carrot garnish
  • peanut butter for dipping

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • honey-glazed red garnet yams, with a yam garnish
  • steamed broccoli
  • parmesan-breaded chicken breast
  • orzo pasta salad (mushrooms, roasted red peppers, caramelized onion, parsley, rosemary, and balsamic vinaigrette)
  • Fuji apple slices and heirloom carrot sticks
  • peanut butter for dipping with carrot garnish
  • yogurt covered raisins with carrot garnish

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.


short and sweet

Keeping things short, since yesterday's was such a long post....

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • spicy meatballs with broccoli as gap filler
  • mandarine halves
  • Fuji apple slices
  • carrot sticks and a Babybel cheese

vacation's all i ever wanted

Hello, internets!! I have returned, you may rejoice! Or roll your eyes, that works, too.

So vacation is officially over and I am officially depressed. (not really) Nineteen days away from work is really the bestest invention ever and should be something I do every month. Ha ha, I kid. (no really, nobody fire me, kay?) The downside of nineteen days of vacation is the coming back part, which is decidedly not part of the bestest invention ever, but I knew that going into it, so.

yes, it's really a screenshot of my Inbox (we don't count the Sustainability folder since it's all from automated online mailing lists)But you know what else is also not the funnest thing ever invented? THE TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN EMAIL MESSAGES WAITING IN MY INBOX THIS MORNING. Jesus H, people! Email in the workplace is srsly of the devil. I suppose I should be grateful(!) that I was gone when many people were also gone for various lengths of time for the holidays, because holy buckets I would not even want to contemplate the horrors. I'm hoping that half of that will be variations on "hey everyone I will be gone for the next 3/5/whatever days so long losers" and "oh yay vendors have brought holiday treats don't trample each other on the way to the kitchen" and thus deleted with no further effort. I AM VERY OPTIMISTIC IN THIS WAY. I kind of don't know yet how bad it is because I am feeling particularly avoidant today and thus haven't delved too deeply. Well, and I had meetings from the moment I walked in the door until, well, right now. Let's see, lunch or cleaning out my inbox...hmmm....

So, vacation! Was, as I mentioned, totally badass! It was a little more hectic at the start than either of us would've preferred due to some scheduling obligations, but nothing too traumatic. Things That I Did On My Vacation: A Thesis:

  • completed the creative room, woot woot! (now renamed officially to the studio, except on the web pages here because it would break all the links and I don't feel like fixing them all)
  • created our little hearts out in our creative room studio, woot woot! and left projects half-done, and all our stuff out, and it's totally okay because it's not in the middle of the kitchen or the living room and the cats can't get into any of it to chew on things and barf them back up and just generally yay for dedicated creative spaces!
  • did some writing on Book 2 in the new creative room studio; also, at the coast
  • made some way awesome presents for the homemade Christmas with our Smiley family, as mentioned in the last post (and yes, I still owe a write-up and pics of that...coming soon!)
  • finished Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which makes me sad because ye gods and little fishes that show is goddamn freaking awesome and joins the list of great shows that died too soon and I may now be madly in love with John Connor and his almost-human Summerbot and also also ALSO Sarah Connor the mother of us all and Derek Reese of the Reese clan and omg Shirley Manson still a Scottish badass and also in addition I need to see more John Henry playing D&D oh woe why why why was this show cancelled
  • went to the movies (saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader but still haven't seen Tangled so we're hoping we can fit it in next weekend before it's gone from the theaters)
  • played utterly ridic amounts of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on the Wii; in other news, we are hilariously behind on gaming trends (hahaha as if we have ever been up-to-date on gaming anything, we are srsly 124 years old)
  • got my website clients updated for January (those who sent me their updates, anyway) -- not really a vacation-y thing, but a considerable accomplishment considering my general attitude throughout vacation was "if it looks like work, then I'm not doing it, damn it"

a winter storm raged like a banshee the entire time we were at the coast, and of course the morning we left, it looked like this

  • spent four quite glorious days at the Oregon Coast
  • went out to eat at a new restaurant (Tasty & Sons); well actually, two, since we tried out Little Big Burger for the first time, as well
  • went to brunch on Alberta -- hahaha Tin Shed on any day of the week what was I thinking trying to get in for brunch? god bless Alberta's many coffee shop alternatives or we would have been hungry and thus cranky otherwise -- and then to Collage with Sal and managed not to buy everything in sight
  • started (finally) Wheel of Time: The Towers of Midnight and spent much happy time curled up with a satisfactorily heavy book either at the coast with a terrifically ferocious storm raging outside or at home in my terrifically cozy library; also, I have an addiction to adverbifying adjectives
  • slept in...like, a whole lot
  • did silly time-wasting things like playing an embarrassing amount of Angry Birds on my phone (what I don't even), for which I make no apologies because I freaking PWN that game, dude
  • oh yeah, and spent every available moment with my dear and beloved Sally Bear which was still not enough but way, way more time than we've had together in a long, long while

Our vacation clearly rocked it, I think we can all agree. There were a few things not done that we'd hoped to -- no LOTR marathon this year, unfortunately -- but there's no reason we can't do them anyway. It's going to take some time to get back into the routine of things, and there's always that period of the doldrums following a vacation, but it was worth it. Also, the cats have gotten WAY too used to having our attention practically 24/7 so I expect retaliation when I get home tonight. In other news, we live with terrorists.

And you know, we actually aren't planning to get back into the routine of things. We've long since decided -- and vacation was partly used for the planning of making this happen -- that we need to refocus our efforts on boundaries with the demands on our time versus spending our time in a way that's important to us. That refocus is something you just have to do on a regular basis, that resetting of boundaries, and we just haven't had a chance to catch our breath long enough to do it. So we did. Will. Are.

New Years' Resolutions? Nay nay, for we do not believe in them! Instead, these are Our Goals That Just Happen To Coincide With The Beginning Of A New Year No They Are Not Resolutions Shut Up. Anyway, 2011 will hopefully be a good year, better than 2010 was and it better be a damn sight better than 2009 or I'll demand a refund because holy crap, 2009 sucked it.

Anywhoodle, I'm back to work, back to posting, back to catching up on the past house projects so I can post on the creative room studio project, back to folding laundry and doing dishes and other illusions of responsibility, but in a new and revised format in which responsibilities and obligations get a portion of the pie than they were getting prior to vacation.

I'm also back to bentoing. I missed doing it, and I didn't. It was nice being all free spirit-y and lackadaisical about mealtimes and such, but I sure enjoy my pretty packed lunches, lo they give me great joy, Charlie Brown. Still, it's good to take a break sometimes, just so it stays fun and enjoyable instead of becoming another obligation, non?

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • jasmine rice with a stripe of peas
  • orange sections and Rancho Royale apple slices
  • Sal's custom blend of flavored nut mix (part of his homemade Christmas gifts)

special treat, cute animals sidecar:

  • sugar cookies Sal made for me last night as a special treat for my first day back to work, which he presented to me as bento animal cookies I KNOW RIGHT HE MADE ME HOMEMADE ANIMAL COOKIES HE WINS ALL THE AWARDS IN EXISTENCE

lol somewhat homely bento I maybe didn't put much effort into it. The protein part of the equation is a tad, um, lacking, but whatever, it's still a bento and it's still one more meal I'm neither skipping nor resorting to less healthy means for.


high and low, it all evens out

Oh dear. I am deep into the planning on the Sooper Sekrit Projekt, happy as a pig in poo, as an old Australian coworker used to say. I'm like a kid fixated on a new toy -- all other thoughts have been swept from my brain. I am Ralphie and this is my Red Ryder BB gun. It won't stay secret much longer, I can tell you that much. I'm fit to bust with blabbing about it, but I don't want to start too soon for fear of burning you all out on it before we've even begun.

In other, less bouncy news, we decided to let our reservation for the Nissan Leaf go. That's a pretty big disappointment since we've invested a lot of time and a (refundable) deposit into being one of the first owners of this amazing car. Sal's been following the progress on the Leaf for years now, we saw the demo of it at OMSI, we were on the reservation list in the first 5 minutes it opened up, signed up for the pilot program that would allow an auditing agency to track usage and other vectors in exchange for a credit on the charging station installation, have researched all the various incentives and rebates we'd qualify for, and we've been talking to City departments about permits for getting the charging station installed on our sidewalk strip (since it's a right-of-way).

We had our on-site assessment a couple of weeks ago with a representative from the organization that has the grant for the pilot program and then with the contractor who would be installing our charging station. And although they were excited for our participation since we'd be representative of urban dwellers with no off-site parking, the fact that ours is an elevated lot presented a problem. (As we feared.) In order to run the line, they'd have to bore through the retaining wall and do a bunch of additional work to install the station.

So we've had a sinking feeling for the last couple of weeks while we waited for the boring contractor to give us an estimate on drilling through to run the line. We knew it wouldn't be cheap. Would, in all likelihood, be astronomical. And we were right, unfortunately. The estimate came in on Monday: $10,000. And that includes the $1,200 credit for the charging station installation.

Portland is one of six cities participating in a joint federal-manufacturer program to intall charging stations throughout the city. Which means we could take the car to a charging station instead, just like we take our cars to a gas station now. But even though the Leaf has a fast charge option (which is one of the many great things about the car) that only takes 30 minutes, it will only charge 80% on the fast charge (compared to the 6 hours it takes for the regular charge to 100%). Which means it's just not viable for us, at least not right now.

Pretty bummed about that. But we're hopeful that there'll be a solution that works for us in a few years and in the meantime, be glad that the cars we have run well despite being older (the Camry is 10 years old, the Prius is 9 years old), get good mileage, and that we're less car dependent than we've ever been. On the scale of problems to have, this isn't really one.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • quickie sweet & sour pork: jasmine rice and leftover roast pork drizzled with sweet and sour sauce
  • kale sauteed with garlic
  • molded egg
  • gala apple slices
  • dark chocolate covered raisins

This is a classic example of bento being kind of magic. I stood before my fridge last night, wondering what the heck I was going to pack for lunch today besides a hard boiled egg and some apple slices. I had a smidge of jasmine rice leftover from last week's lunch and figured, well, I could include that with some sweet and sour sauce for a bit of flavor. And then I remembered we had some pork roast leftover from this weekend, and ta da! Sweet and sour pork! With the tiny bit of leftover sauteed kale from last week, I soon had a nicely packed bento and good, well-rounded lunch.


time keeps on ticking, but at least i have pretty lunches

Oy! How is the first week of October already over? Summer passed in a blur and I don't even remember what happened to September. And now it's October and pretty soon we'll be ringing in 2011. Holy crap.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • mini frittatas -- eggs, caramelized onion, broccoli, cheddar and Dubliner cheeses
  • green and royal burgundy string bean pieces on skewers
  • grapes
  • mini rainbow carrots -- aren't they adorable??
  • more beans (with a small container of sauce on the side for dipping)

breakfast/snack, pink natural lunch:

  • banana
  • grapes
  • D'anjou pear

little internet gifts for you. you're welcome

Okay, time to do a link dump so I can clear off some tabs in my browser. This is just a miscellany...a miscellany of AWESOME, that is!

Dalton Ghetti pencil lead carvings (with more here) -- Carvings out of pencil leads. Pencil leads. Like...how is that not the most awesome thing you ever saw?? I'd pick a favorite, but they're all amazing. The screw, the itty bitty hammer, the hand holding a goblet, the little key on the ring??? I just...like, how do you even...? You guys! There's a guy carving wee sculptures from used pencil stubs! That is proof of amazingness and wonder in this world!

James Hance, "Relentlessly Cheerful Art" -- Adorable, sweet, and hilarious art that makes my nerdy, geeky little heart go pitter pat. I'm particularly fond of the Star Wars/Winnie-the-Pooh crossovers, and if anyone wanted to buy me, like, all of them, I wouldn't say no.

Slacktivist, "Fortune Cookies" -- What fortunes in fortune cookies should say. The fourth from the last is my favorite. Oh, who am I kidding? I love them all.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • sourdough bread slices
  • Niman Ranch ham and herb roasted turkey on the skewer, pepperoni slices underneath, cheeses tucked around: mahon, gouda, Cotswold, smoked mozzarella
  • carrots
  • Gala apple slices
  • nectarine

Looking very monochromatic and orange-y today...better than gray, I suppose.


bacon pickles?! where have you been all my life?

Yes, bacon pickles. There's a guy at the downtown farmers' market who sells many varieties of pickles and pickled items. One of which includes bacon pickles. As in dill pickles in a bacon-flavored brine. And they are are exactly as delicious and fan-freaking-tastic as you might imagine. And when you have emptied the jar of the pickles, you can put other delicious things in the jar so that they, too, can absorb the bacon-y deliciousness. Proving the immutable Law of Bacon, which is that there are few edible things that bacon does not automatically make better*.

lunch, paris slimline:

  • maple smoked cheddar slices
  • molded egg
  • smoked sausages
  • bacon pickles
  • Starkcrimson pear slices
  • mini blueberry pancakes (made by Sally)
  • dark chocolate covered raisins

*Yes, I've tried the Vosages chocolate bar with bacon bits. It was...interesting. Not terrible, but not something I'd eat more than a few bites of. Voodoo's bacon maple bar, on the other hand...


all i need is a sleeping bag and it'd be like a sleepover for grownups

New Seasons saves the day yet again! Amazing what a difference a few key items in the pantry can make!

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • green beans sauteed with caramelized onions and a cucumber heart for garnish -- the beans are both the regular green and the royal burgundy from our share, but the lovely purple color of the royal burgundy beans dissolves when they're cooked, so they lose that wonderful contrast...still mighty delicious, though!
  • molded egg with carrots as baran
  • cucumber slices and carrot
  • Muenster cheese slices
  • cashews and dark chocolate covered raisins

dinner, laptop lunch:

  • herb fettucine in a garlic and chanterelle marinara with a cucumber flower garnish
  • Tuscan roasted turkey breast
  • more of the green beans sauteed with caramelized onions, this time garnished with carrot stars
  • carrot sticks and cashews in the condiment container
  • a bit of orange creme cheesecake from Sally for a little treat

The big work project I mentioned yesterday begins today. Well, technically, tonight. The project itself will take months to complete, but tonight's work, Phase 1, will be done overnight. I'm really hoping it won't take all night to do, but it will take several hours late into the evening at the very least, and thus I've come prepared with not only lunch for today, but dinner for tonight. That there isn't also a third one for breakfast in the morning is my optimistic hope that I won't actually need one.


what, addiction? never heard of it.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • grilled Thai peanut chicken skewers
  • jasmine rice
  • green and royal burgundy string beans
  • cucumber
  • rainbow carrots
  • cheese bunny crackers (Annie's Organic...we're currently re-addicted to them) with a small container of ranch for dipping hidden underneath
  • in the mini sidecar, random pieces of chocolate caramel cut from the big block in the fridge

If you've been following my bento pictures for awhile, you've no doubt noticed that many of them include a bit of chocolate in some form, usually my beloved dark chocolate covered raisins. It's in small quantities -- no more than an ounce, sometimes less -- but it seems to be just enough to satiate my craving for chocolate.

It's been WAY too long since I had any chocolate in my lunch, if my withdrawal symptoms are anything to go by, so you can imagine the cry of delight/relief when Sal mentioned that there was still some chocolate caramel in the fridge that he made for one of his class demonstrations awhile back. I did not wrap my arms around the big block of deliciousness encased in parchment paper and promise my soul and future progeny that my dark mistress would never leave me again. I have my pride after all, and anyway, you can't prove anything.


gettin' a little fancy

I don't know why it is, but my Paris slimline box inevitably ends up the most design-y of my lunches, even when I'm not really planning it to be. Or, as happened last night, when I was really just trying to fill the thing up with whatever I could scrounge. I suppose that must be the mysterious magic of slimline boxes, and why people like them.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • sausages
  • molded egg
  • peas
  • cherry tomatoes
  • blueberries
  • Jazz apple slices
  • dark chocolate covered raisins

get me off this crazy train of crazy craziness

Otherwise titled: "Welcome to My Life". Long, busy days, more work to be done than hours in the day to do it, and somehow I am still expected to be a responsible adult in the midst of it all -- vet appointment, tires replaced (F U DOUCHEBAG DEVELOPER I KNOW IT WAS YOU), website clients updated, grocery delivery to schedule, calls/emails to return (PLEASE DON'T STOP BEING MY FRIEND IF YOU'RE ONE OF THE PEOPLE I OWE THESE TO, K?), and a to do list to complete for top secret reasons (all shall be revealed next week...how's that for building suspense?). Oh and also? Our phones have simultaneously decided to go to shit, because we are cursed. (Epic post coming about the phone situation and all the ways in which we are Technology's bitch. But I digress.)

Wow, I sure am a fan of the parenthetical, aren't I?

Ahem. Anyway, could've saved you all of that by linking to this incredibly brilliant comic at Hyperbole and a Half, since it is basically the inside of my brain in electronic ink and pretty much everyone in my online circle has decided that lo, it is our manifesto. So from now on when I say, "YOU GUYS GUESS WHAT IT IS A DAY WHERE I HAVE TO CLEAN ALL THE THINGS I NEED PITY AND CHOCOLATE", you will understand my meaning.

Nonetheless, I soldier on. Including lunch, because I have reached a point with bento now where I am no longer able to function without it. Which is probably a good thing, even if it sounds like a bad thing, because it is a sign that I am actually eating on a regular basis and my body is no longer "what is this foreign concept of meals of which you speak?" every time I have lunch at the office. So...yay?


  • shrimp sauteed in butter, garlic, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper
  • bok choy sauteed in a bit of sesame oil and sea salt
  • molded egg, woot woot!
  • Rainier cherries
  • green grapes
  • Oregon! strawberries
  • blueberries
  • dark chocolate (I was scrounging in my bento cupboard and came across a few pieces of Valrhona 70% dark chocolate that'd somehow been overlooked -- I KNOW RIGHT -- and I may have possibly done the Snoopy Happy Dance in my kitchen)

I think I've mentioned our CSA share includes a half dozen fresh eggs every week, so I have been gobbling up yummy hard-boiled eggs that have pretty mottled shells. Some of them even a have pretty pale blue shelss! But they've been too small for the egg molds, so I haven't bothered shaping them. But then this week's had a ginormous one in there, bigger even than the jumbos at New Seasons. (It was seriously so big that I could hardly clip the mold shut. I even had difficulty getting it out later.) So obviously I had to mold it!


better than fast food, at least

A really unbalanced meal today, but I suppose at least it's unbalanced in a relatively healthy direction. I probably would've made more effort to even it out if I hadn't brought a sidecar for breakfast (plain yogurt, strawberry preserves, honey nut granola). Still...no starch and a little low on protein, so hopefully I won't run out of energy by the end of the work day.

Paris slimline box:

  • honey glazed roasted sweet potato
  • pixie orange sections
  • asparagus spears sauteed in a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and ground peppercorns
  • "purple heart" molded egg -- I thought purple would look pretty with the green, but didn't realize how close it would be in color to the box and there's not really any room to tuck some greenery around it for contrast (or at least, greenery that I would just eat by itself)