Entries in living sustainably (17)


a few words on an important day

"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.  Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

-- excerpted from "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes


the poor object to being governed badly...

...the rich object to being governed at all. -- G.K. Chesterton

For anyone in the Portland area considering participating in Bank Transfer Day and/or the Move Your Money project, I can highly recommend Unitus Community Credit Union as a terrific local option for banking.

We made the switch several years ago when we were fed up with US Bank (NEVER AGAIN) and big corporate banks generally, and have regretted only that we didn't do it sooner. They offered an eco-friendly discount on our loan when we bought the Prius and have a loan program for purchasing a bike (including accessories) for people trying to switch over to bike commuting, which we also took advantage of. They even have their own smartphone app!

And if you're looking beyond just making your banking local, check out Localvesting (hat tip to our neighbor, Grant). I haven't read the book yet but the Resources page has a handy list of links to help you get started.

Lastly, because I'm feeling even more populist than usual lately: before Occupy Wall Street, before the French Revolution, there was the Peasant's Revolt.

lunch, blue bunny & moons

  • rice casserole (brown rice, broccoli, Italian sweet pepper, mushroom broth, herbs)
  • steamed broccoli
  • chicken breast and carrot slices
  • carrot sticks and kiwi berries
  • dark chocolate-covered raisins
  • apple slices with cashews as gap fillers

handmade christmas

Uncle Sal, showing Miss M the proper way to wear her new bike helmetAt last, the long-overdue post about all our handmade gifts from our delightful Christmas!

As most of you know, several years ago, we started opting out of the gift-giving hoopla during the holidays for a variety of reasons. It has made the holiday season infinitely more peaceful and enjoyable for us. (::waves at mom, who isn't convinced this is true but we love her anyway::) We do make exceptions for kids -- our nephew and nieces when they were younger and now for the Fabulous Miss M, and of course for Toys for Tots and the like -- because hello, party time!

For the Hall-Smiley Family Christmas this year, however, we decided we'd make homemade gifts for each other. Aside from being homemade, the other rule was that our gifts had to be made with things we already had on hand, if possible. So no going out and buying a bunch of supplies or some kind of paint by numbers kit or whatever. And you guys! As with everything that the Hall-Smiley Family does, our Handmade Christmas seriously kicked ass!

Guy's handmade gifts:


  • for Sal -- a case of beer composed of each brew Guy's done over the years
  • for me -- a half dozen of his homemade pasties, complete with packets of organic brown gravy mix, frozen and packaged so that I have an easy, yummy, homemade dinner on those nights when time is a hot commodity OR to go in a bento. AND! He even created a little treasure hunt for me to find them on Christmas morning, because he is an evil genius.

Sister's handmade gifts:


  • for Guy -- making and decorating (with Miss M's help) a ceramic mug for his morning coffee (no pic, sorry)
  • for Sal -- a wooden recipe box containing not recipes, but her memories of the meals we've shared as a family, everything that was served at the meal, and why it was memorable to her, along with blank cards to include the many future meals we'll share
  • for me -- a handmade card, which explained that my gift is a Girls' Art Weekend together, complete with an itinerary and meal plan, and including activities like a visit to an art museum, shopping at an art supply store, an afternoon of arty crafty time together, and then staying up late to watch movies and eat (good) junk food

Sal's handmade gifts:


  • for Sister -- a full quart container of homemade fresh mozzarella
  • for Guy -- his own special blend of a spicy nut mix, including a blend of different nuts that he toasted and lightly caramelized with brown sugar, then tossed with a carefully-tested combination of black pepper, coriander, thyme, sea salt, and Worcestershire
  • for me -- a little pencil sketch he did of garlic cloves, framed, with the words "Not just garlic, but also love" (it's a long-running inside joke/term of endearment)

Brittney's handmade gifts:


  • for Guy -- a book safe made from an extra copy of a book I had, complete with a bookmark made from ribbon and a little key (I can't remember how I acquired it, but it was already well-loved by the time I got it -- a big chunk of middle pages had come undone from the spine, it was missing its dust jacket, and had obviously been loved hard by its former owner, and I was only using it for a shelf display so I didn't feel too bad about cutting a big hole in the middle of it)
  • for Sister -- a collage piece about the what she means to me, done on a blank canvas I already had and other odds and ends from my various collections of crafty things (the quote is the KJV version of the "whither thou goest, I will go" verse from The Book of Ruth)
  • for Sal* -- etched beer mugs; I bought some inexpensive 20 oz. beer mugs from IKEA, so it wasn't technically using something I already had on hand. The rest of the materials were, however. Using some old contact paper, I made word stencils for the four basic ingredients of beer: water, yeast, grain, and hops. (I drew the words on the contact paper, stuck the contact paper to the glass, then cut out the letters with an Exacto knife.) Then I used this glass etching stuff I'd bought several years ago to use on the bathroom window (that I ended up deciding not to do) to etch the words into the glass. I'd never used it before and it was pretty old so I wasn't sure if it would still work or how well. Turns out, pretty great! The stuff is seriously scary so you have to be careful with it, but it works fast and was actually pretty simple.

*[Sal's was the hardest because there was no way to do it without him seeing it during the process, so I just had to lie to him that it was actually Guy's gift, that the book safe was Sister's in addition to the collage, and that his gift was the mysterious box that made a satisfying thudding noise when you shook it (thanks to the weight I stuck inside the empty box to make it realistic). (Seriously, do not mess with me about gift-giving subterfuge: I come from a long line of women who have made it an art form.)]


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.


lunch reminder of family fun at the farm

Enjoying veggies and the last egg from last week's share and it's got me in mind of the terrific day we had at the farm on Sunday. (More about that -- including pictures! -- below.)

lunch, Fit 'n Fresh:

  • salad greens: red oak leaf lettuce, red leaf butter lettuce, romaine lettuce
  • snap pea pods, carrots, broccoli; Jarlsberg and smoked gouda cheeses
  • more of the mini pound cake Sally made and blueberries from our bushes

Sunday was Kids' Day at Wealth Underground (our CSA) so I invited Sister, Guy, and the Fabulous Miss M to come up for some fun at the farm. We hadn't seen them since Sally's birthday -- far too long! -- so it was nice to get to see each other. And of course to get a refill of Miss M loves and cuddles! We had lunch when they arrived and did some catching up, then headed to the farm.

I know I've mentioned before how much I love the drive out there, but it bears repeating. It's just a few miles from the house, but any time we go north past the bridge, it's like driving backwards in time a little bit. Usually I'm driving from work, so it's a longer trip, but no matter how long my work day is on Tuesdays, I know I have that drive waiting for me at the end of the day, and I know that there's peace waiting for me at the end of the road. I was so excited to share that with our little family.

We were the first to arrive so we got to visit with both Chris and Nolan at length. We got to see the chickens and geese, feed the goats, meet the turkeys (that will be our Thanksgiving birds), and pet the rabbits. We learned that the geese have separated into two cliques and they get into rumbles like any respectable rival gangs should -- they're the Sharks and the Jets of geese! And even though we were conflicting with Miss M's normal afternoon nap, she was a real trooper, content to catnap in mom's arms for a bit while we visited. 

Another sharemember family soon arrived so they joined us as we began the garden part of the activities. Chris and Nolan led us through the old wood door that acts as the gateway to the planting area of the farm. We got to pick and taste flowers, try out our sour faces with some sorrel (which has featured in previous weeks' shares), munch on a bit of dill, water some plant starts, duck through the hothouse to check on the progress of the tomatoes and peppers, climb the sod mountain, and pick (and eat, of course!) pea pods and broccoli. Along the way, we met Eric and Katherine, who also work at the farm.
























We were then given the solemn duty of scooping a handful of compost and choosing our favorite plant to feed. Miss M decided we should feed the peas, so we did as ordered. She got a little boost from Dad to reach them.





Our tour ended with the awarding of "garden badges" in recognition of our mad farm skillz in the form of comfrey leaves, which stick to your shirt like magic! (Well, magic to an almost-three-year-old, anyway.)

Oh what a lovely day we had! We talked sustainability and small farming and kids becoming vegetarian when they realize where chicken really comes from and plans for future plantings and childhood memories. We met a rooster named Milton Freewater and delighted in a trampoline repurposed into a turkey pen (coop? enclosure?). And oh my, all the wonderful things that are yet to come in our shares! The weather was perfectly Oregon -- clear and comfortable -- and everything about the day was the stuff of good memories with family. Miss M had lots of fun and the adults had a pretty terrific time, too. As we settled into the car for the ride back to our house, Miss M declared from the backseat, "That was way fun!"

Yes, yes it was.


back to work

The sucky thing about vacation is the part where it's over and you have to go back to being all responsible and stuff. That part blows.

I was actually back to work yesterday, but it was a work-from-home day, so no bento. It seems rather strange to have gone two weeks without making one (I didn't really, but more about that soon in another post). Plus, it's hot, which means I don't have a lot of energy for either making dinner/lunch or for eating, so I'm keeping it simple.

Breakfast, pink strawberry sidecar:

  • homemade blueberry muffins (yes, made with fresh berries! that I made!)
  • cherries

Lunch, pink natural lunch:

  • red oak lettuce
  • "sneak preview" carrots from this week's share (as in: not quite ready yet, but they pulled a few to get us excited for the carrots in the upcoming weeks)
  • broccoli -- can you tell it's my favorite veggie?
  • sugar snaps
  • molded egg
  • sweet vinaigrette underneath the broccoli to make it all kind of a salad thing (see? the heat makes me even lazier than usual!)

Everything in this box except for the vinaigrette is from this week's share.

Lunch/snack, cute animals sidecar:

  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • strawberries (sadly, not Oregon!strawberries)
  • blueberries

Everything in this box is from this week's organics bin. If you're thinking to yourself, "Wow, that's a lot of produce", YES THAT IS A LOT OF PRODUCE YOU SHOULD COME VISIT SO WE CAN PAWN IT OFF ON YOU.

And in the Portland Is Eternally Awesome Department, Reason #65,172:

Portland Officially has the Greatest Hold Music in the World


if you can't stand the heat, you're probably just like me

Yesterday was the first sunny, warm day we've had in awhile...so of course that's the day I decide I want to roast things in the oven. I r smrt.

Made for a great dinner, though, and because today was forecast to be just as warm, I decided turning the leftovers into a salad was in order for lunch. Unfortunately, my plans to make blueberry muffins had to be scrapped because it was just too darn hot in the kitchen.

The beets, radish, lettuces, and spring onion are from this week's share. And Wealth Underground has invited sharemembers to post on their blog to show pics of meals we've made from our share produce, exchange recipes, and that kind of thing. Isn't that cool? So I do believe I'll be posting over there sometimes, too. I'm excited to see what other sharemembers post!

  • green & red leaf lettuces lining the box
  • herb roasted chicken breast
  • julienned carrots
  • beets roasted with spring onion
  • radish "flower"
  • sunflower seeds
  • homemade sweet vinaigrette
  • Ritter Sport chocolate with butter biscuit for a special treat

lunch, movies, and naked bike rides

[NOTE: Had this all ready to post this afternoon but my phone wasn't cooperating so I had to wait until I got home to upload the pic via bluetooth. A simultaneous "GRR!" and "YAY!" for technology....]

No time for breakfast today so a little bigger lunch. Tuesdays seem to be like that more often than not, mainly because I have a lot of meetings on Tuesdays. More than usual today, since one of my monthly conference calls is today, too. But! CSA share pickup tonight, woot woot!

Laptop Lunch box:

  • ham & cheese wrap
  • salad: wild mixed greens, red & green leaf lettuces, sesame seeds (homemade balsamic vinaigrette in the small container in the silverware compartment
  • star-molded egg, greens for garnish and carrots as gap fillers to add to the salad
  • fresh blueberries; dark chocolate and yogurt covered raisins in the small container

We saw Toy Story 3 Saturday night, and...well, no spoilers here so I'll just say that IT WINS THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF PERFECTION AND AMAZINGNESS BASICALLY. And also makes you cry like a fountain. NO NOT JUST ME SAL CRIED TOO EVEN IF HE DENIES IT BECAUSE HE IS A BIG LYING LIAR.

Saturday was also the annual Naked Bike Ride, though we didn't encounter any part of the ride this year. Portland, btw, had over 13,000 riders this year. I don't know how that compares to the turnout in other cities, but wow, that's a whole lotta naked!

The first time we ever encountered the naked bike ride was the about five years ago. We were driving someplace downtown and were stopped at an intersection by cops on bikes stopping in front of us and less than a minute later, this whole stream of naked bike riders went streaking by. It was awesome and hilarious, and I think we must've sat there and laughed the entire time. Portland ftw!

ETA: And thanks to this late posting, I've already picked up this week's share. A couple of new-to-me veggies this week: Italian lacinato kale and French sorrel. How exciting! Wonder if Sally has ever used either of these?

In every share so far, we've had garlic greens and/or spring onions, with those thick, long, pretty green ends that you see in the picture at that link, and they're always poking out of the bag along with everything else overflowing out of the top. I don't know what it is about those garlic and onion greens, but Hobbes goes completely bananas as soon as I walk in the door with them. I can't keep him away from them!

The first thing I do when come home Tuesday nights is march directly to the kitchen with the bag held well out of his reach (as he jumps along the way trying to reach them), pull out those greens and chop off the tops to put in the compost bin. Which then goes back under the sink with a twisty tie around the cabinet handles so he doesn't pry the door open trying to get at them. The rest of the produce is safe from him after that long enough for me to go change out of my work clothes and get a drink of water before I return to clean and store everything from the week's share.


it takes a village

Today was our neighborhood block party. There was lots of food and a bouncy house for the kids, and a makeshift stage for neighborhood musicians, chalk for the kids to draw to their hearts' content and a plant exchange and a map for us to mark neighborhood assets for trade and barter, or neighborhood activities: "Mike and Michelle -- garden with veggies for trade, flowers to share", "Ivy and C -- chicken coop, eggs to barter, cob structure sauna", "Mona -- textiles, music", "Paul and Pete -- carpentry and woodworking, foreign language lessons". Like that.

click to see more picturesBut the main event was the "intersection repair": painting the intersection down the street with a big compass rose design created by a collaboration of neighbors. There were buckets of recycled paint in nine colors and a chalked out design on the street. Everyone brought a brush and spent this gloriously beautiful day painting the hell out of the intersection. Mother Nature herself was completely on board, because she called a temporary stop to the weeks of rain that've put a damper on even the hardiest Pacific Northwesterner's spirits and even intermittently shut down the annual Rose Festival. Until late afternoon yesterday, no one was sure if this long-planned street painting project was going to happen.

But happen it did. With kids running about and a band rocking out in the background. And the end result? Pretty damn awesome.

We stuck around for a bit, but decided to skip out on the evening BBQ even though we'd spent the earlier part of the day making potato salad and cookies for the occasion. We love our neighborhood to itty bitty bohemian pieces, but it was a lot of people, and we already don't get a lot of time together as it is. Plus, with the first nice weather we've had in weeks, our little backyard sanctuary was calling to us.

We were sitting there watching the goings on after the painting was finished, just soaking up the moment and the lovely weather, and Sally said, "Sooo...do you still want to stick around for the potluck?" I grinned. "Do you?" "Not really." I had to hug him at that moment, because that's what you do when someone reads your mind and understands everything without you having to say anything. "Me neither."

So Sally threw a few skewers on the grill and I drizzled some fresh asparagus with a bit of oil and sea salt and pepper, then set the little table on our back porch. While we waited for the coals to get going, we did some trimming of the roses in the back corner and walked around the yard and marveled at how much it's changed in the 8 years we've been here.

Then we kicked back on the porch and talked while we took our time enjoying our dinner -- spicy marinated pork and Thai peanut chicken skewers, my famous dill and vinegar potato salad, and grilled asparagus -- the new star-shaped curtain lights for lighting and the local jazz station on low volume for atmosphere.

Not a bad day. Not a bad day at all.


first csa share of the season!

I had our CSA pickup to look forward to today, so I walked out the door at 4:30 PM so I could pick up our share and still be home at an earlier time than usual. Our CSA is just a few miles north of our house, in the West Hills just above Linnton.

As I got out of the car, I let go of the stress of the day and the last few weeks. I wish I'd thought to bring my camera so I could've taken pictures because it's absolutely magical, but their website will give you a bit of an idea. It was gray and misty and sprinkling (as it's been for days and days on end here) and the farm is nestled in the midst of forest. Chickens roaming about, rows of plants down the hillside, trellises made from random sticks and twine. Hand-lettered signs, a painting for the chickens to enjoy in the coop, window boxes full of flowers. I love everything about Wealth Underground, emphatically, everything they stand for and believe in.

Nolan and Chris were there to greet me as I picked up our first share in one of their lovely natural cotton canvas bags designed by Nolan. We got to know each other a bit, and I mentioned that Sal is the lead pastry chef instructor at OCI, which they've partnered with (Brian, one of the school's founders, is also a CSA sharemember). They're sweet and nice and kind, and clearly very passionate about what they're doing. They had samples of turnip there for tasting -- "Turnips don't usually get me excited," Nolan said, "but these do." I know why -- it was sweet and crunchy. Who knew? They were giving away cherry tomato starts -- yellow or red, our choice -- and even though we're always overrun by tomatoes in our garden, I took one anyway.

I'm so excited that we get to be in on the ground floor of this wonderful experiment of theirs! I left with a heavy bag in one hand, a half dozen fresh eggs in the other, and a grin on my face, and I ate a dinner that consisted of nothing but a heaping bowl of greens with turnip and radish slices, and fresh hard boiled eggs. (That's a pound of greens in the share.) I decided to make the arugula pesto recipe on their website.

This is going to be a good summer...


bin delivery ftw!

Broccoli, peaches, apples, oranges, pears, zucchini, HUGE fava beans, a whole massive bunch of asparagus, a glorious bouquet of basil, shallots, fennel, radishes, and what is possibly the most beautiful head of green leaf lettuce I have ever seen. I didn't get around to making my lunch until late (did work for my website clients like a good little worker bee) and was originally going to just stick random stuff in there.

But that bouquet of basil was calling me and I just had to do something with a bit of it. Thank heavens for my Italian heritage husband, who considers pasta, olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar to be staples, so that even at 11 PM, I can throw together a mighty fine meal with a minimum of fuss.

  • 4-flavor pasta (regular, beet, tomato, spinach) tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, shallots (sauteed in a bit of olive oil), fresh basil, and sea salt, with some radish slivers for garnish
  • chicken basil sausage, with some julienned carrots and cucumbers for garnish
  • Rainier apple slices, garlic dill cheese curds, dark chocolate and yogurt covered raisins

happy birthday, sally!

I'm excited about the prospect of all the produce we'll be getting this summer, what with our regular bin delivery, our vegetable garden, and the CSA we signed up for this year. May have to scale back our bin delivery until the garden and CSA peter out in the fall, as it's entirely possible we'll be overrun with fruit and veggies, but that's a good problem to have, no? Still a few weeks yet until we'll see anything from the CSA, though, and it'll be a couple of months before the garden gets going, so no need to panic just yet.

But it does mean that every other Monday, my bentos tend to be a little forlorn as they await the arrival of the next delivery. While we had the grill going last night, I had Sally throw on a couple of chicken basil sausages to use in lunches this week.

Breakfast, cute animals sidecar:

  • oatmeal, with Braeburn apple chunks underneath
  • butter, brown sugar, and raisins in the mini-sidecar to mix in

Lunch, black strawberry box:

  • chicken basil sausage
  • julienne cucumber and carrot strips from the weekend's sushi party (see below)
  • grilled potato with butter, sour cream, and green onion, leftover from last night's dinner
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • yogurt and dark chocolate covered raisins
  • garlic dill cheese curds

Is there anything better than a gorgeous weekend in the Pacific Northwest? NO NO THERE IS NOT.

All weekend we had temps in the mid/high 70s, blue or mildly cloudy skies, and not a breath of wind. Our roses exploded all over the place in the last few days, and combined with the rhododendrons and azaleas and irises, I'm so in love with our house and our neighborhood I could burst. Next weekend we'll be doing some yard work -- weeding the back bed so the plants my mom put in don't get clogged into oblivion, trimming back the lilacs, pruning the apple tree, planting a few new and replacement things, and putting up the twinkle lights in the trees -- but the yard is in good enough shape already that when Sister, Guy, and the Fabulous Miss M came for the weekend, all that was needed was to set the patio chairs out for us to while away some time soaking up the gorgeous, gorgeous weather.

They came for Sal's birthday -- which is actually today; Happy Birthday, Sally!! -- and we had a nice, easy-going time with family to celebrate. Did a bit of running around Saturday-- to Portland Nursery to pick up the gift certificate and two black and blue salvia my mom had reserved for his gift -- then to Steinbart's so the boys could get all atwitter over brewing supplies. We stopped for lunch at Grilled Cheese Grill, which Guy hadn't yet been to, and though we had to wait in line thanks to the street fair going on down the block, we managed to have a yummy lunch all around. Back home to put Miss M down for her nap, and we passed the time at our wonderful table under the apple tree, which is all you really need in life, frankly.

After a run to New Seasons for supplies, and back home for a snacky interlude of bread and cheese while Miss M ate her dinner, she was off to the pre-bedtime ritual of jammies, storytime, and a goodnight song. Meanwhile, we got things ready for Sal's requested birthday activity: a sushi-rolling party! Great, great fun and lots of laughs while hoovering up plates of sushi in every combination we could think of. When the last of the sushi rice was rolled up, we retired to the living room to finish off our plates and watch Louis C.K.'s most recent stand-up show and finished off the evening with four mini-cakes, complete with candles and a rendition of "Happy Birthday".

The next morning, Guy treated the chef (and the rest of us) to a fabulous breakfast -- yeasted waffles with lemon-poppyseed creme -- and then it was time for them to head home. Afterward, I retired to the nook for a bit to edit while Sally read some of his brewing books out on the front porch. We moved to the patio, where I did so more editing, though mostly I just kind of sat there in contented silence, trying to absorb just how absolutely perfect the day was. We grilled for dinner -- steaks and potatoes, with some steamed broccoli and green onions from our bin. And though I had website work to do, I did absolutely none of it, opting instead to watch a movie and fold clothes (I am determined to stay on top of the laundry, dammit!), get to bed relatively early, read for a bit, and get a good night's rest. Website work will be there tomorrow, and anyway, I knew it was supposed to rain today. How's that for procrastination?


monday? again?

Back at it after a busy (but lovely) weekend. Went down to Salem Saturday to spend the day and night with family (Sister, Guy, and the Fabulous Miss M) and as usual, had a great time together. Sister wrote me earlier last week to say that Miss M had asked if she could come to Portland for a picnic with Aunt Bitty, at which point I melted all over the floor, and had we not already had plans to go down there anyway, I would've dropped whatever I was doing and immediately driven right down there and whisked her away for a full picnic at the park, replete with every treat and confection I could cram into a wicker picnic basket. Because obviously.

Came home yesterday afternoon to the house in disarray thanks mostly to Hobbes, whose freakouts at the least little change are now apparently SOP at Hall House. Sigh. (Yes, I need to get to the pet store to get some Rescue Remedy. It's my last best hope, so everyone who reminded/recommended, keep your fingers crossed for us that it actually works miracles. Otherwise my next purchase will be a kitty-sized straitjacket....)

But! Once that was dealt with, I plotted out our vegetable garden layout, then Sally, that lovely man, did the actual planting so I could squeeze in a bit of writing time. Everything's now in the ground, juuuuuust in time for a late spring cold snap that's supposed to roll in tonight.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day and evening, and very warm, so we fired up the grill and whipped up dinner together. Then watched a movie while we ate and had chocolate gelato later for dessert. Not bad for a random weekend.

Bunny box, bottom tier:

  • grilled chicken from last night's dinner (marinated first in a concoction of Worcestershire, garlic, oil, red onion, leek, dijon mustard, and sea salt)
  • homemade potato salad (red potatoes, hard boiled eggs, leeks, red onion, yellow mustard, whole grain dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, oil, sea salt)
  • carrot sticks and sweet pickles

top tier:

  • kiwi slices and supremed orange sections
  • "stripes" of yogurt raisins and dark chocolate covered raisins

Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento:

  • in my pink strawberry sidecar (which I ate for breakfast before taking a picture) was vanilla and almond granola, a mini sidecar of Greek yogurt and strawberry preserves, and Braeburn apple slices

spring is in the air...

Busy weekend. I got no writing done this weekend, unfortunately (and synopsis still isn't done...) but I/we did get other things done. Did some housecleaning -- well, straightening, really...we're so far behind that we have to clean before we can clean! -- and the house looks marginally less like a sty than it did. The weather was just beautiful and we were able to open up all the windows throughout the house to really give it a good airing. Still have mountains of laundry to fold and put away and the floors all need to be swept and vacuumed (and if I were really going to do things right, I'd dust, but HAHAHAHAHAHA); perhaps I can tackle those this week. Oh, and I had to get all my monthly reports to my website clients and then everything invoiced, but that's all done at last.

Also got the soil in the garden beds worked and the compost from our compost bin amended into the soil, so they'll be ready for the starts we started earlier this spring. The starts trays are all out there now to acclimate to being outside and then we can go ahead and plant. Can't wait to get that garden going!

And because it was so nice out, we grilled! Well, Sal grilled, so today's lunch comes courtesy of last night's yummy leftovers.

pink strawberry sidecar (for breakfast):

  • a-little-less-than-half an English muffin with strawberry preserves
  • honey & nuts granola
  • Greek yogurt with a dollop of strawberry preserves in the mini sidecar

black strawberry box:

  • grilled chicken skewers marinated in a Thai peanut sauce
  • jasmine rice (made in a beef broth, which is why it's brown)
  • steamed broccoli
  • fresh mango slices
  • dark chocolate covered raisins
  • dried cherries as gap fillers

Insert clever title here

No water-based catastrophe today, I'm happy to report. Also? Organics 2 U wins the universe.

  • macaroni salad (I heart you, New Seasons deli!) with a ring of green peas to mix in
  • spinach wraps with herb roasted turkey and cream cheese; small container of honey peanut butter in the center for the apples
  • Enterprise apple chunks and green grapes, which kind of look like little jewels

Cheating, but still yummy

Cheating today. By the time I got home last night (7 freaking o'clock), I was completely exhausted and had a baby gift to put together still, not to mention feeding the cats and myself. I don't think I had more than an hour of time that wasn't a meeting yesterday, and in fact ended up having to break out my lunch in the middle of a meeting so I wouldn't be eating when the guy from Corporate arrived.

The night before last, I didn't get to sleep until late due to the very nice parallel tension pains running up my back from stress (though I did go to bed at a reasonable hour) and wanted to get to bed earlier last night to try to make up some ground. Just to add a degree of difficulty, I knew I had a meeting right off the bat at 8 AM that was going to take most/all of the morning, which would mean no opportunity to eat breakfast. In fact, that the day would pretty much be a day of non-stop running again, thus, the necessity for a hearty lunch. And since I haven't had time to cook since this weekend, there was just no way I was going to have the lunch I needed without a little help.

So today's lunch comes courtesy of New Seasons deli. God bless New Seasons and double god bless their deli. They offer a nice selection of good, well-made food and though it's not made by me or Sal, it's at least food that I know is fresh and organic (and usually local), with an ingredients list that's both short and pronounceable.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think it's important to share how I make this whole bento thing work for me with the very real challenges that come up daily, and that there are times when I just have to punt. Everyone's choices and criteria and reasons are different, obviously, these are just mine.

clockwise from bottom:

  • parmesan breaded chicken breast
  • orzo with mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and Italian parsley; roasted brussel sprouts
  • strawberries -- yeah, I know, not in season, trucked from California, and in no way as delicious as Oregon strawberries, but I was craving strawberries liek whoa, and so there you go...can you tell that I'm craving comforts? ;)
  • kishus with a bit of dark chocolate covered raisins in the little side container
  • orange juice (my immune system gets so depressed when I'm stressed that I'm hoping the vitamin C boost will be a bit of a preventative measure)

Unfortunately, I ended up having to go to a business lunch with the aforementioned Corporate guy and other colleagues, what was intended to be my lunch will instead be my dinner. Which is just as well, since I got home so wiped out that having something already put together was a nice little bonus after an especially trying few days. 

But I've just come out of a glorious soak in the tub, with the radio tuned to the local jazz station, candles everywhere. (I used the incredibly luxurious Think Pink bath bomb from Lush that Cat gave me. It fizzes the moment it hits the water and turns the water a lovely shade of pink, then releases a bunch of pink confetti hearts. Bless you bless you, J, for that unexpectedly prescient gift.) Thanks to that the tension pains in my back are considerably less than they were, I should actually get to see Sal tonight (he didn't get home until after 11 last night, just before I had to get to bed, and was up until the wee hours working), I've got this delicious meal to enjoy this evening, and tomorrow and Friday I'll be working from home.

Hurray for surviving the hurricane. ;)


So glad yesterday is over

Last night was one of those times when I had low energy and low morale (SO GLAD YESTERDAY IS OVER OMG), and everything I put my hand to seemed to end in fiasco. Among other things, I discovered that I don't like buckwheat honey (which I mixed with the last of the peanut butter to use with celery before tasting it), the potato I made for dinner was rotted in the center and though I managed to salvage some of it, there was only a smidge of sour cream and butter to go with it, so it ended up being a pretty blah supper, the Fuji apple I started to cut for today's lunch turned out to be mealy, and the Cara Cara orange I peeled had a rind thicker than the earth's crust and so much pith that I gave up peeling it about halfway through. I was so disheartened that I just kind of stood with the fridge door open (which always makes me feel guilty) staring dumbly at the odds and ends on the shelves and trying to figure out what to pack for lunch.

Because our corporate IT guy is coming today (whom I've never met) to review our systems, I knew I wouldn't have time for anything that required taking a length of time and sitting down to eat, that I had to be able to pick at it as I can find a minute here or there. At one point, the thought crossed my mind: well, I could just run and get something, it's not that big of a deal if I don't bring my lunch, and I could just skip breakfast altogether since I won't really have time for that, either. There's a Whole Foods close to the office, so I could get something healthy for lunch at least, even though I try not to shop at Whole Foods if I can help it.

Or, just as likely, I would end up not eating at all. Which I know isn't good, but happens all too often when I don't bring in a lunch. I don't have the time, I don't make the time, or the day just flies by and it's one of many where it gets to be six or seven o'clock and I haven't had anything to drink, haven't been to the bathroom, haven't eaten anything. (Welcome to my job. I suspect many of you can relate.)

So glad I didn't listen to that voice. I felt better once it was done, knowing that I was taking the time for myself, that I wasn't going to spend some outrageous sum for lunch that would end up in the pocket of some cracked out global warming denier anti-HCR nutjob, or end up not eating at all. The whole point of bento 2.0 baby! is that I'm making the time for myself, no matter how crazed the day is going to be, and maintaining a boundary that's been crossed too often and too far. Though this may not be the most glamorous breakfast and lunch ever, it'll get me through the day and I won't feel like crap at the end of it. (Well, not from food, anyway.) And despite not really being motivated or inspired, even odds and ends can become a decent little lunch on a day when I really need to give myself a little TLC.


  • stawberry yogurt
  • kishus
  • granola


  • EGGS! Finally got the extra large eggs so the molds came out really cool this time and decided to use both the heart and star. Also: grape tomatoes and red leaf lettuce*
  • smoked turkey bites, strips of whole wheat naan, and snap peas for baran
  • kishus with cut-up celery as gap filler

*I see a lot of bento pics using lettuce leaves to line the boxes, which makes for a really nice presentation. But I always wonder whether they ever actually eat the lettuce, or if it's just for show. I suspect the latter in most cases. That just seems like such a waste for me, so I don't use things that I won't be eating as part of my lunch. In this case, I thought it would make a handy little envelope for the turkey bites, since there are just three small strips of naan to eat with them.