One of the last things I needed is a new hobby. Yet, I started one a couple of months ago: bento-making.
And yes, truth be told, it has become my latest biggest obsession. I guess partly because it marries so many different important loves in my life: creativity/art + food + my family. And, in bento lunch box stories' case, even creative writing/storytelling.
And, I know that whenever I get a huge obsession like this, I often have to resist the temptation to create more projects based on my latest new interest.
That's why I've been telling myself NO to the idea of starting a separate bento blog.
I've been having that idea over the last month or so, but I knew it wasn't what I needed right now. I have too many things on my plate as it is.
But, being the ideaholic that I am, the idea just wouldn't quit.
That's why I mentioned in this blog post that it was something that had been niggling at me.
So, I decided to give it my 60-days treatment.
I know I've just confessed that I'm not really big on niche blogging right now. Yet, here I am, creating what is probably the most niche blog I've ever decided to create. I don't even know if there would be enough people interested in reading all about bento lunch boxes. But, at the moment, it doesn't matter. I'm happy with it.
It, being my latest web project: Bento Lunch Box Stories. My new niche blog: a bento blog. It's probably a sub-niche of food blogging, with a hint of family blogging.
There's still a lot to do on the blog. So, it's not even "launch ready" yet. I'm not even sure if the theme I'm currently using will be its permanent theme or not. I just didn't want to overthink it and spend too much time on it.
Usually, when an idea like this takes a hold of me, I just want to run with the persistent idea for a while.
I know I've started and killed off many web projects over the years. Others haven't been killed off but are lying dormant all over the inter webs. But, it's all good. For me, I just like to give persistent ideas a chance to take root and to grow. If it doesn't do its thing, then I'll leave it and decide whether to keep rolling with it or to let it go.
At the moment, I know I'm going to continue sharing the bento lunch box stories that I've started here on this blog. But, I would probably post the full explanations on the bento blog. And, I'll probably be doing more of my extended bento blogging on that site (e.g., tools, tutorials, tips, etc). Maybe just share links here every now and then.
So yeah, if you want to follow my bento adventures a lot more closely, do check out Bento Lunch Box Stories and subscribe. But, if you only want bento talk in small dosages, then no worries. You'll still get some bento posts right here.Read More
For Bento Lunch Box Story No. 4, I've finally decided to start packing shaped sushi for the kids. They've been begging for sushi in their lunch boxes but I've only ever managed to pack them sushi once before. Just your simple nori-wrapped sushi.
Since I got myself a new "starter bento kit" off eBay that contained a cat-shaped rice mould (for onigiri or sushi-making), I decided to give it a go. I just boiled sushi rice and made tuna-mayo as fillings for the rice + cucumber slices. The cat's face was made from nori (seaweed). I used a nori punch that came with the bento kit.
The kids both got a small bottle of soy sauce to eat with their onigiri/sushi.
Other things on the menu in this bento lunch box:
Here are this day's stories...
From The 9-year-old boy:
From the 6-year-old girl:Read More
While I've already started my Day 18 entry for the 31 Days of #31Newness Project, I kind of lost steam writing it. So, I thought I'll just save it for another day and catch-up on this project later.
So today, I hope you don't mind that I take a break from it by sharing with you Bento Lunch Box No.3.
I think this lunch box is something I've done about 3 or 4 weeks ago now. But, I haven't had the chance to blog about because of the 31 Days project.
It was my first attempt at a charaben or a 'character bento'. It took me well over an hour to finish it, as I had no idea what I was doing.
The kids enjoyed seeing the 'character', though, and had fun figuring it all out.
The boy's story:
The girl's story:
Food included in this bento:
Mandarin orange, rice cracker sandwich (with butter and smiley fritz), lettuce, hard boiled eggs, Milkies, Oreos, cherry tomatoes, potato crisps, and lollies (milk bottle + strawberry chewies).
Bento tools used:
Elephant food cutter, skewers, cupcake cups
If anyone told me I'd be enjoying making school lunch boxes a few weeks ago, I would have just pulled a face and said: "No.
I love cooking for my family. I enjoy doing stuff for my kids. And, of course, I'm all about finding ways to express our creativity.
But, lunch boxes aren't exactly the first things that come to mind when I think of ways to be more creative.
However, just over a week after my first foray into bento lunch boxes, I must admit: I am hooked.
Admittedly, it still seems crazy that it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to create a couple of simple bento lunch boxes. Normally, it takes hubby or myself about 10-15 minutes to throw them together, just before the kids rush off to school. And believe me, that just-throw-the-food-in-the-lunch-boxes-why-doncha approach will probably still be our main approach. But, now that I'm getting the hang of this bento lunchbox-making thing, I'm enjoying the process a lot more. Now, I just need to figure out how to make them a lot quicker!
Anyway, I'm blogging Bento Lunch Box Story #2 now because I'm going to admit another thing: I'm getting behind on my bento lunch box blogging.
Yes, you read that right. Even though I was planning on doing just 1-2 bento lunch boxes a week, which I thought would be good regular blogging fodder for me, I ended up making THREE bento lunch boxes this week. 3! I can't believe it myself.
But, seeing the excitement in my children's eyes when they know they're getting a bento is quite addictive, I must say. In fact, last night, while I was making Bento Lunch Box No.4, my daughter couldn't stop saying things like: "You are so super awesome doing this mum!"
Yes, I've fallen for their sweet sweet trap.
So, I thought I better get on with blogging these lunch boxes, or else I might fall in to a different kind of trap: BLOGGING OVERWHELM.
When I get overwhelmed with the amount of things I want to blog about, I end up freezing and not blogging. That's one of the reasons I end up extremely silent on this blog sometimes. And, that's also one of the reasons you're hearing more from me lately. I figured, the best way to stop myself from getting "blogging overwhelm" is just to get on with it.
So here I am. Getting on with it.
I decided to use the two new identical lunch boxes we bought recently from Ikea.
And, for this lunch box set, I just started off with the idea of using the star cookie cutter I had in my kitchen stash for some time now. Made the star smiley fritz sandwich you see there. Then, I decided to use the bear food cutter I had in my new bento set. Basically used it to etch a bear on the apples. I used one red and one green apple because the kids prefer two different types of apples (the boy likes the green one, and the girl likes the red one). To create a contrast, I added a "bed" of kiwi fruit slices for the red apple bear. And, I added watermelon slices for the green apple. That's when I had the idea about a bear at night.
So, I tried to create a night scene. Made a cracker sandwich using SkyFlakes crackers (cut-offs smiley fritz filling), painting one side with blue food dye. Since the lunch box is still quite deep, I find that I have to "pad" things to make it work. So, underneath, I put a bag of Smith's Thins crisps (blue packet) + a LCM choclatey bar (also with a blue packet). To reiterate the bear theme, I put some tiny teddies in a cupcake cup (with tiny teddies' friends, spotted dogs).
They ate pretty much everything. Except the blue cracker sandwich. They weren't too keen on the food colouring. My son tried it but when he realised his mouth was turning blue, he stopped. So, I'm not sure about using food colouring in the future. I'm not usually a big fan of them anyway. Having said that, I did see a box of natural food colours in the supermarket the other day. So, I might give that a go.
In any case, it took me an hour to finish these two lunch boxes. (And then some, as I ended up making a lunch box for the hubby too. Not bento style though. :))
Using the writing prompt, "At night, the bear...", these are the stories that the kids came up with...
The 9-year-old boy's story -
The 6-yr-old girl's story -
Since this is not a grammar lesson, I haven't really been correcting the kids' spelling, punctuation, etc. I just want them to write and enjoy exploring their creative ideas. One day, I would like to look back and help them out with the technical side of writing.
But, yes, I sure would like for them to be more confident with these prompts.
Anyway, today is the last day of school for Term 3 here in Adelaide, so I'm not sure if I'll be making a lot of bentos during two-week school holidays. My daughter has sort of hinted she'd still like me to make them one when they go to vacation care (they're booked a couple of times per week). But, I'll have to wait and see.
At least this might be give me a chance to catch-up on blogging Bento Lunch Box Story #3 and #4. And, I must say: I'm pretty happy with how the next two turned out, so I'm looking forward to sharing.
I always appreciate comments, regardless of where they're shared. So, will try to post some from different places. Like this one on Twitter from my friend Ibyang:
@shaicoggins well done with the bento lunches. So cute! Oh I can so relate with "blogging overwhelm" ????
— IBYANG ? (@ibyang) September 27, 2013
Remember that story about the kids getting into the habit of binning their lunches?
Well, as I mentioned in that Week In The Life update, I began thinking about how I can remedy that situation. My new online buddy Sarah had a great idea of doing sandwich rolls. I've tried it and it was cool. But, I think the kids need a bit more.
So, I started doing a little research on this. Then I remembered another creative online buddy, Monet aka bentogehl. I've been admiring her bento creations for some time now.
But, even when I first came across the concept of bento lunch boxes, I had no hesitation in putting it in the "too hard basket." I knew there was no way I could do anything like that.
How could I? I'm no good in the mornings. We're always just in a rush to get the kids school. And, I wasn't sure I'd have the patience and the skill to create those elaborate lunch boxes.
I told myself my kids would just have to make do with their standard lunches - a mix of fruits, crisps, sandwiches, crackers, cheese, etc.
Admittedly, even I was getting bored of their lunch boxes.
I don't remember having exciting lunch boxes as a kid. And, it was fine. I enjoyed going to the school canteen for recess and lunch. My kids are only allowed once-a-week canteen lunches.
And, I must admit, compared to their canteen and the canteen I grew up with - my old school's canteen resembled a huge cafe, with a good variety of food options. I remember having lasagna, pork barbecues, Spanish rice, and the like at school. Not every single day, but still. So yeah. My school lunches were definitely a notch better than theirs.
That's why that week during WITL, I decided I'd make the commitment to try a bit harder. I did a couple of practice creative lunches, which the kids seem to have appreciated. And, I started ordering bento lunch box accessories on eBay.
Last week, the first batch of my new bento accessories arrived:
Very basic. Just some cutters/food stampers. But, I got to work that same evening and created my first official bento lunch box (photo at the top of this post).
Food included: rice and corn crackers, buttered with bunny/stars ham + Oreos + Popped crisps + wheat grain crackers and house-shaped cheese + chopped bananas and kiwi fruit + strawberry-flavoured Up & Go
Part of the deal was that whenever I create a bento lunch box for them, they will write a story for me based on a prompt I create and their lunch box as inspiration. They seemed quite excited.
For the first bento lunch box story, the prompt I wrote was: "Today, the bunny..."
Inspired, of course, by the bunny-shaped ham.
And, here's what the 9-year-old boy wrote:
And, here's the 6-year-old girl's take:
No writing awards to be handed out, I know. But then again, I'm not going to win any bento-making awards either. 😉
It doesn't matter. They're cute.
I love that the whole lunch box thing becomes an adventure. A give-and-take food storytelling exercise. I think about them as I make their lunch boxes. And hopefully, I become a part of their day as they enjoy their food and write their stories.
I'm thrilled that they're now excited when they know I made a bento lunch box for them. And, I also look forward to them coming home with their feedback and their written stories.
A win all around, yes?Read More