Entries in bento gear (6)


vacation thus far

Sal @ Lovejoy Bakery, contemplating life, love, and the intricacies of laminated doughsOur WinterFest Vacation crossed the halfway mark a few days ago, which means we have successfully developed amnesia about all things work-related and managed to cram in a buttload of seriously awesome fun in the last week and a half or so: four days at the coast, WITH the cats, and no one ended up in handcuffs or a morgue; homemade gifts completed on time and delivered intact, and eventually gifted successfully; Smiley-Hall Christmas 2012 celebrated in the usual grand and entertaining style, with said homemade gifts exchanged during the festivities; a day of utter slothfulness that involved reading in the library with a cat on each lap and staying in our pajamas all day; full seasons of Dexter, Parks & Rec, and Sherlock (re)watched; and today, a Day of Portland that included Powell's and two(!) bakeries. And there are still four days left!

Powell's a complete madhouse today, by the way. We avoid anything that even hints of shopping in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but apparently, a mid-week afternoon three days afterward is still a time to be wary. Holy buckets.

I did, however, come out of there with two new bento boxes, of all things. The "Syrup O'Clock" line is new to me, but clearly adorable. They had locking two tiers that went with each of these designs, as well as a nesting set of square boxes for each, but I managed to resist. I do have some willpower, you know.

These are each 240 mL, which will make them perfect for my "Greek yogurt mixed with fruit" mornings. (The 300 mL sidecars are too large for a portion of yogurt and the 100 mL mini sidecars are too small. These are, therefore, the Goldilocks of my bento box collection.


new bento gear!

YOU GUYS I'VE FALLEN AND I CAN'T GET UP. This is getting ridiculous.

So, three new boxes (oh, and a new set of short flower picks!):

  • The Bento Colors box, in purple, which I have been lusting after for...well, more than a year. More than two years, actually. At last it is mine and I am victorious!
  • A Bento Colors Mini, in lime green, because.
  • The third is a new line, but it was so ingenious that I just had to have it. It's an origami bento (the "squares" design), the idea being that it folds into a bento box, and obviously can be folded flat for storage. I KNOW RIGHT. It was pretty much a law of gravitational physics that I needed to have that box. It even comes complete with little foldable dividers and baran! So cute! My thought is that it would be especially handy for trips since it's lightweight and can be stored without fuss. And it's not paper/cardboard, it's plastic so it's reusable.

Anyway, this was Thursday's lunch, which I didn't have a chance to post, packed in the Bento Colors purple.

  • 4-color raddiatore (tomato, carrot, spinach, regular) tossed with a bit of oil, herbs, and salt
  • molded egg, cut in halves
  • carrots and sauteed asparagus spears
  • Pink Lady apple and kiwi slices, with a small cup of dark chocolate covered raisins to inaugurate the new box properly

Today's is back to an old standby, Ms. Bento, thanks to delicious soup leftovers courtesy of Chef Salvatore:

  •  broccoli cheese soup
  • 4-color raddiatore (see above)
  • carrots, steamed asparagus
  • a few bits of pepperoni from a stop we made at Dick's Brewing on our trip last week
  • cherries
  • cinnamon apple sauce

The bento presentation for my coworkers is this Thursday. I finished the Powerpoint presentation over the weekend, which includes two separate photo slideshows, and there will also be a two page handout. Which...okay, that sounds totally dorkalicious when I put it in writing. BUT IT WON'T BE LAME I SWEAR. No really, it'll be cool and awesome. There's even a color-coded cha-

Wait, where are you going...?


bento glee, baby!




Click to read more ...


Go by train

Hello, internets!!! We are back from our Weekend Trip of Delight and Wonders. I highly recommend such a trip if you're looking for a vacation. Of course, you'll have to find your very own sweet and awesome and funny and generous Cat to host you in order to have as great a getaway as we did, because I'm not sharing, but you know, good luck with that.

So we went by train, which was pretty nice. Not quite as roomy as I expected -- I was expecting something a little more like European trains -- but definitely WAY more comfortable and roomy than an airplane. Also, never underestimate the luxury of being able to use your cell phone whenever you'd like without the threat of somehow interfering with the vehicle's navigation and plummeting to Earth in a fiery crash. (I've always been pretty dubious about that claim anyway, but whatever.) I don't even use my phone all the time or anything, but even being able to just check my gmail account real quick was nice.

Plus, you don't have to get there nearly as early -- we arrived about 30 minutes before departure -- and the whole carry-on/baggage thing isn't at all the hassle it is with flying. It's all just very low-key and uncomplicated. (Also, I just really love the great old Union Station here in Portland, and I hope the King Street Station renovations can really return that building to its former glory. Never underestimte the romance of an old train station.) With an iPod and a book, the trip passes quite nicely.

We arrived on time in Seattle to the lovely Cat waiting for us right there -- ANOTHER lovely thing about going by train, having your loved ones able to greet you right as you get off. She whisked us off to her home so we could offload our stuff and relax for a bit before going to get lunch. Chatted, relaxed, then she took us to the Baguette Box* for delicious, delicious sandwiches. The overcast cleared a bit while we were there, so we decided to check out Discovery Park since we'd never been, which was very nice, and we stayed until it started to sprinkle again. A bit of a warm up seemed called for, and of course she had the perfect antidote, a place called Chocolati, which specializes in (you guessed it) hot chocolate and handmade chocolates. Oh lordy, am I ever spoiled for hot chocolate now. Mine had orange zest incorporated into the chocolate, and that combination is pretty much my favorite combination ever ever ever.

*(Albino: it was just down the street from that coffee shop called Bauhaus that you and I and your friend walked to from our hotel)

Then it was back to her place for the evening to relax. While Sal took a much-needed nap, we chatted while she prepared dinner -- roast chicken, spinach gratin, and pilaf. Freaking delicious, by the way, which is pretty redundant when you're talking about food Cat makes, but it bears repeating. (Oh, and dessert later on were these amazing chewy chocolate sandwich cookies with ganache in the middle for filling, the extras of which she sent home with us on the train and which I am eating at this very moment and crying a little bit from the perfection.) Anyway, we had a really great visit that was like our hours long phone conversations but better because it was in person.  We solve the problems of the world during these conversations, y'all, so be glad we have them.

Cat got a fire going in the fireplace and we watched Chocolat while we ate dinner, which Sal and I had never seen. We're both kind of appalled that it took us this long to see it, frankly, and I feel like we ought to relinquish some awesomeness points for being so lame. Holy CRAP what a great movie. (I know, welcome to the world, right?) Stayed up late visiting, then finally got our bed setup in the living room and went to bed to the flickering of the fire. That was a pretty fantastic day.

Yesterday, we took our time getting going and then made our way to the International District to this great Vietnamese deli for our first banh mi sandwiches, which I've been wanting to try for some time. Love them so much that we're going to have to find a good place for banh mi here in Portland. Headed over to Uwajimaya to buy a bunch of random fun stuff for no other reason that it's a fun thing to do with a bunch of foodies. We stopped at the Daiso across the street first to see what kind of bento selection they had. A nice selection, actually, though nothing I really wanted (other than some short picks that I wish I'd gotten now, but we were going to a bigger Daiso store later so I figured I'd find them there and then didn't). We came away with about five different Pocky flavors, shrimp-flavored chips (always wanted to try them and didn't think to get a bag when I was at the one in Beaverton; pretty tasty, it turns out), crazy gummi flavors, "chocolate finger-flavored orange" treat things ("I don't think I want to find out what finger-flavored tastes like" "maybe the orange flavor makes it better?"), kimchi noodles, nori-wrapped sesame sticks, black-colored cola carbonated gum, and some other stuff I don't remember.

From there, we made our way further into the heart of downtown to go to the Daiso at Westlake Center. Along the way, we stopped at L'Occitane, where Cat introduced us to sinfully wonderful French bath and body goodies, as well as to Lush, which we'd heard about but never been to. OMG LUSH WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE. I've never been to the one in Portland, but unfortunately for my checking account, I will be a frequent visitor now.

The Daiso had some good bento stuff, and I (finally!) picked up the specific assortment of silicone cups I'd been looking for, some mini spoons/forks I needed for future boxes that won't come with utensils, and! a small box for breakfasts that will fit the bill for what I'd been looking for.

This means I won't have to order nearly as much from J-Box when I order the three other boxes I want. So even though I didn't find any more regular-size bento boxes that I wanted, it was still a successful foray. From there, we made a stop at City Kitchens, because duh. Convinced Cat to buy the perfect all-clad saucier that was on sale and that she needed because I said so, Sal found the spaghetti attachment for his pasta maker he'd been looking for, and I got some bright, pretty colored napkins to use just for my bento (both as furoshiki and napkins) that were on sale, as well as a cute, smaller stainless steel water bottle to use with my Ms. Bento and other boxes that don't have a drink bottle -- see above. (We use cloth napkins at home, but I wanted to get some specifically for my lunches because just using one from our sets of two or four means that there's always one in the laundry so we can't use it for dinners or whatever. This way, I'll have some specifically meant for my lunches. Plus, pretty colors!

So it was a fun and productive day. And by productive, I of course mean consumer-iffic! Not our normal activity, but it's fun sometimes to be happy little capitalists and buy things that strike our fancy, non?

We spent the evening all cozied up at Cat's, she and Sal cooking up a storm in the kitchen -- marinated shrimp and flank steak, both done on the grill, and cheesy grits with jalapenos, and bread pudding for dessert -- and me handing them samples from our various Uwajimaya purchases earlier. We watched the pilot episodes of "Burn Notice" and "Friday Night Lights" -- two of her latest obsessions -- while we ate and enjoyed them immensely, then visited until the wee hours until the fire finally burned completely down and we couldn't keep our eyes open any longer. (FNL has been in our queue since forever so we'll have to bump the DVDs for all the seasons that are out up to the top, along with BN. As if we didn't already have enough shows to catch up, yeesh! :)

This morning was another late and lazy morning, with a simple, civilized breakfast of toast and jam and tea, packing things up (making room in our bags for all our newly-acquired Stuff), and a stop at the Vietnamese deli for a couple of banh mi sandwiches for lunch on the train, then all too soon, our lovely vacation was over and we were saying goodbye and giving squeezy hugs to Cat.

So I'm off to pack myself something for the office tomorrow. and not really ready to go back to work, but I suppose what goes up must come down, eh? Yay for new bento stuff, at least!


It's official: I'm addicted


You guys. I am totally crazy. No really.

I now have in my possession a THIRD bento box. WTF I DON"T EVEN KNOW. And also! I have miscellaneous other bento-related paraphernalia and/or accoutrements. And it's all your fault! Because I was all, "HALP HALP I AM SUCCUMBING TO BADNESS" and you guys were all "COME TO THE DARK SIDE WE HAVE COOKIES" and so anyway.


I've been thinking for awhile of getting a smaller bento box for the days when I'm working from home, and thus have regular breakfast (oatmeal, usually) and dinner at a reasonable time, as well as the fruit basket readily at hand for snacks and so don't need as much eat. The two systems I have work really great for the office because they're my lunch and snacks for the day and my days in the office are usually long (witness last night, when I didn't get home until after 8 PM, thankyouverymuch). Ultimately, I think I'm actually going to get a few more boxes of varying (small) sizes, so I can mix and match according to my meal needs for the day.

Or possibly I am justifying my craving for more boxes. Whatever.

I have some picked out on my wishlist, but they'll have to be ordered, and I have to actually convince myself to buy them. (That whole "buying yourself things you want is selfish" thing is a bitch.) They have to ship from Japan, which also means some steeper shipping costs than usual, and it takes, like 6 weeks or something, so I figured I'd check out a few places in town first to see what they had, as well as to get a few of the incidentals, if possible. Less to ship that way. I AM BEING TOTALLY PRACTICAL OKAY.

[skip a whole bunch of boring explanatory shit that I typed up but does nothing but make my already long posts even longer]

SO ANYWAY. I am now in possession of the following:

  • Bento box (500 mL) -- Nothing special, and certainly not the cutest they had (of the limited selection), but it'll give me a chance to experiment with the smaller size before I order the super cute ones I want on my wishlist. I picked this one because of the adorable Nintendo-ese on the top:  "We are passionate about lunch communication. The lunch is a good day pastime." Right? That alone will make any lunch 10x better. Oh, and it came with a mini furoshiki!
  • mini microwave veggie steamer thingie -- This was on my wishlist so I was glad to not have to pay shipping for it; it'll be handy for being able to do some bentos in the morning instead of the night before, when I can steam a small handful of veggies real quick without having to heat up water and use my steamer basket.
  • food picks -- Again, nothing special (they didn't have any selection), but I didn't want anything too fancy or bulky or cutesy and these were just right, for cheap.
  • EGG MOLDS! The exact heart & star package I wanted, even! Plus, no shipping, so yay!
  • Pocky -- Because you just can't go to an Asian grocery and not get Pocky. It's a law.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Movie -- A big bag of wasabi peas for Sal, because he loves them. They weren't a bribe. Shut up.

So here's the new box with today's lunch.

clockwise from bottom:

  • fresh green beans on the bottom, with slices of chicken basil sausage to each side and cheese decorations; centerpiece is my very first molded egg, the shape of which is supposed to be a star but which you can barely make out because I used the large eggs we had on hand instead of the extra-large/jumbos you're supposed to use to really get the effect (I was too impatient to wait for a trip to the store...I've been waiting a looooong time to have a molded egg in my bento; I am also five)
  • Cotswold and rosemary-cheddar cheese slices with 2 carrot sticks as baran (divider)
  • 2 more carrot sticks and a tangerine

You'll note one of my new little flower picks for eating and the lid in the background. The last pic of the box makes it look black, but it's actually a pretty, dark blue color with a small pink flower detail on the lid. The furoshiki (the patterned cloth under the box) matches the flowers on the lid.

This is the beginning of the end, you guys.


Let's talk bento!

I started getting interested in bento several years ago when we made the switch to organic/local/non-processed food and fully committed to a more sustainable lifestyle. What originally got me interested was the elimination of packaging and waste, but the more I learned about it, the more fascinated I was.

I've been doing bento-style lunches for work for quite awhile, but I've just been using a conglomeration of containers we already had on hand (mostly Rubbermaid Foodsavers meant for storing leftovers).  Well, I do have a Fit & Fresh, which I love, but it's more for salads or sometimes sandwiches, since it's meant to keep the food cool and the lids aren't tight enough to prevent leaks if you have a soup/stew in it. (The other thing I've noticed is that the bread on sandwiches gets a little dry in it if you make your lunch the night before, which I do.)

I don't do the bento art/decoration thing (though I LOVE looking at  pictures of people who do!) because I'm too lazy, but I do like to have some sense of order or presentation. Presentation is, after all, what makes bento so fun. I realize it seems silly to get this excited about packing a lunch, but that's why bento is the raddest invention of all-time, because it magically turns what could be a rather unappealing assortment of random stuff out of your fridge and cupboards into the highlight of the work day.

Recently, however, I decided to step up my bento game in three ways:

  1. Go ahead and splurge on the two bento systems I've been lusting after for a few years now. The two systems I got are the Ms. Bento and the Laptop Lunch. I originally had the Mr. Bento on my list even though it had the four containers, which is just too much food for me. But then they came out with the Ms. Bento last year, which has three, smaller-portioned containers, so I was really glad to put that on my list instead. And the Laptop Lunches people recently came out with the 2.0 version, which includes space for a small water bottle and an insulated case for the whole system, so I'm glad I waited to get mine. The reason I wanted two systems is that I like the tiffin-style for more liquid types of foods like soups and stews, and the Mr./Ms. Bento systems are particularly designed for keeping foods hot/cold. I frequently take my lunch to a park near the office, and don't want to have to mess around with heating up my food, packing it back up and then going to lunch. (You can put soups/stews in one of the covered containers of the Laptop Lunch, but it won't still be hot when it's time to eat.) The Laptop Lunch is more similar to conventional bento-ware, it lends itself better to things like sandwiches and wraps than the tiffin style does. Plus, I like the pretty colors. :) I figured with the variety and flexibity of the two systems, I'd be more likely to stay with it.
  2. Try to incorporate some new recipes/influences in my evening cooking, the leftovers of which are generally the main part of my bento lunch the next day. Since I'm eating alone on weeknights, it's very easy to do fall into a pattern of cooking something very simple and quick that doesn't really generate leftovers (ex. scrambled egg sandwich, or cheese and crackers). And since we stay away from processed foods, it's a bigger challenge throwing together something for lunch the next day. I've managed it, but as part of my new plan, I've decided I'm going to keep this in mind when I'm ordering groceries, so that I include extra quantities of stuff like carrots and eggs that can round out a bento box nicely.
  3. Start taking pictures of my bento as an incentive to do it every day I'm in the office (M, Tu, Th) and to keep it fun.

I call my new lunch plan "Bento 2.0, baby!"

So as part of #3 of Bento 2.0, baby!, here's today's bento:

clockwise from the right:

  • leftover soup  Sal made Saturday night -- base made of the last of the tomatoes from the garden combined with chicken stock and cream, with fresh carrots, celery, onion, garlic potatoes from the garden, and chicken (this could've easily been a vegetarian soup with the chicken left out and the chicken stock swapped for vegetable stock -- very yummy and highly recommended)
  • ciabatta, also made by Sal -- one of the (many) nice things about having a Real Live Chef in the house who teaches baking and pastry is that your freezer is always stocked with delicious handmade artisan breads; there were also slices of cheese, which melted from the heat* so you can't see them
  • grapes from the last of the week's Organics 2 U bin (new delivery tonight, woot woot!) and a small bit of lemon cheesecake, another nice thing about having a Real Live Chef in the house who teaches baking and pastry :)

*The nice thing about the Mr./Ms. Bento is that it's designed to keep the bottom container hot, which in turn warms the middle container while the top container is just a little cooler than room temp. I wanted warm bread and softened cheese for my lunch, so I refrigerated the bread and cheese in their container overnight, thinking that by the time I was ready for lunch, the differential between the hot soup container and cold middle container would be just right. Turns out, it ended up quite a bit warmer so the cheese melted together before it cooled. It still made a nice snack with the bread, which was nice and warm, but I think next time, I won't put cheese in that middle container unless I intend for it to be melted.