Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Phew. It's been a long few days. Mira has been sick. Since last Thursday night actually - almost a week. High fever, clingy, just wants to cuddle mom, sitting on the couch all day.

She's better now - only still crabby worn down and clingy.

And I have a few deadlines coming up. Oh dear.

Oh how I want to edit photos, scrapbook and most of all sew the new window shades for my bedroom and living room. I have all the material and the window guy will restring the weights on the double hungs on Friday. Yay!

I did get to play in the yard some yesterday - but there is the siren call of Mira awake from a long morning nap on the couch, wondering why I am not sitting next to her.

Till the weekend? Maybe?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day

How did you celebrate?

Rich celebrated by staying home with the girls (and all the crazy school drop off & pick ups that occur on an early out day) while I sat inside at a seminar, learning new stuff. It was a BEAUTIFUL day, which he spent dragging stuff for the church garage sale up from the basement, digging out the beautiful compost for the garden, and replacing the years old bowing splintering lattice that made up the compost pile walls. Two of our neighbors who also compost complimented us on our beautiful pile of compost. Funny the things that make you proud!

What did he rebuild the compost walls with? The old crib parts. Really. My brother & sister-in-law didn't want them back. Their grandson has his own crib. Can't give the crib away as it is way outdated by current safety standards. It's beautiful, can't just take it to the dump, and no place to store it. Jon, my BIL, suggested using it as garden art. Huh. You know...

So we did. Yes, it is also painted green. I spent hours sanding and stripping and then painting it with baby-safe enamel paint before I had Natasha. Quite the hoity-toity compost heap. Rich says it's perfect for the girly house he lives in.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I'm realizing just how often I rub the underside of my wedding ring with my thumb - about every 5 minutes when awake. At least I'm starting to not be startled when I notice.

See, it's been a good year or more since I have been able to get my wedding ring off. That's not a bad thing, just that I like to have it cleaned and professionally checked once in a while. Until recently some of my knuckles/fingers have been swollen enough the ring would hardly turn around on my finger, much less come off.

Almost 2 weeks ago I had my first dose of the new Arthritis med. Let's just call it a wonder drug and say I feel like Superwoman these days. No pain and my hands look more like they belong to me too. I can do ANYTHING - except get my ring off. "Soon" I thought. "Then I can have it checked at the jewelers and stop worrying."

Yeah - not so fast. Saturday morning I felt a sharp point poking my middle finger. Looked down. Pooh. A weak prong had broken and one of the small gems was gone. The ring had to be cut off.

I swear, the stories Rich and I can tell about the adventures of our rings...the rings have had much more trouble than we have in almost 17 years of marriage. Cheers to that!

Insurance will fix the damage, the rest will be evaluated and fixed as needed and the ring tucked away until it can be resized. Maybe in afew months, less if I'm lucky. My finger looks rather odd at the moment, with that skinny band surrounded by puff... So if you see me without a wedding ring or absentmindedly rubbing the inside of my palm or a random rock I've picked up, you'll know why.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bento photos

My last post talked about a few of the whys of Bento boxes, and a few giveaways that are still going on.

Here, finally, are photos of our lunches in the first few months. I'll apologize now for the quality - some are blurry, taken in haste to please hungry children. We have gotten a little more creative since - well, at least for Natasha and myself anyway!

Here are our boxes: Miras' at the top with the two kitties and Natashas' box at left with the cherry blossoms. If I remember correctly the box holds approximately 350 ml in the bottom compartment and 250 on top. (See the Lunch in a Box: Choosing the right size box post for more information). Sarahs' at the bottom holds the most, with 450 ml on the lower and 350 on the top compartment. It is a little wider and has a slightly domed cover. My box is on the right, approximately 350 and 250 ml (I think). Great for portion control. Since I eat with Mira and usually at home, it would be easy for me to find extra food if my lunch is not large enough. Or, I could finish whatever Mira leaves behind, but most days I have just enough.

A very blurry photo of my lunch: On the left bottom layer, several grapes, shredded cabbage with basil & fresh lemon juice, one leftover Beef/potato croquette (recipe Harumi's Japanese cooking, one of Natasha's favorite dishes from one of my favorite cookbooks) and some apple slices. Right holds some leftover chinese stirfry on rice, carrots and jicama. Two Lorna Doone shortbread cookies fit perfectly between the lid that secures the second layer and the box cover. If I remember correctly this was for an on-the-go picnic lunch at the Rose Garden after Art class and before swimming.

Michelles' bento: Leftover spicy pork stirfry over jasmine fried rice on the left and sugar dusted strawberries and grapes on the right.
Natasha's Bento: Same as Michelles' above, with two Fig Newtons replacing the grapes.
Natasha Bento school lunch: Leftover Pork Stirfry over brown jasmine rice and one Beef potato croquette on theleft. On the right one sticky rice ball (Sushi rice with dash of superfine sugar and Rice vinegar ala Mimi (Natashas' long-ago Japanese babysitter. We miss you Marilyn!), apple and carrot slices and fig Newtons. Natasha prefers veggies over fruit.
Another Middle school lunch Bento for Natasha: Ginger Beef and sticky rice stars - those are simply tomato picks for decoration in the middle of the stars. I usually cook the Ginger Beef that morning - it's quite fast, and cools fast in the freezer while I pack the rest of the lunch. Fresh pineapple on the right with a small container of chocolate animal cookies (organic of course). Natasha also loves Salmon with rice balls or over Udon noodles in her lunches. I always cook extra when we have salmon for dinner (or we count on Sarah not eating her portion), but more often I marinate and cook a large piece of salmon and then freeze it in 2-3 oz. portions. In the morning I cook and cool the Udon while making breakfast. Then when I pack her lunch I break the still frozen salmon into bite sized pieces and nestle it into the noodles with a fish bottle of extra sauce and if warm outside, a small frozen (plastic) ice cube. The salmon is always room temperature and ready to eat by lunch time. (see Harumi's Japanese cooking for our favorite salmon marinade, though I rotate through several.)

Sarahs' Bento: Sarah thinks rice balls are great in moderation so you won't see many in her lunches. She also isn't a big fan of most meats, unless I am serving sesame chicken. When we have that for dinner it MUST be in her lunch the next day. Leftover pasta is good, otherwise a variety of fruit, cookies, mini muffins and pretzels along with a shaped peanut butter/honey sandwich or bagel with cream cheese is what she prefers. Small containers of dip for veggies are sometimes used. The small containers of chocolate sauce for strawberries or caramel for apple slices in Fall always come back empty. Good thing they only hold a tsp. worth! Miras' Bento: Mira is the pickiest of all - she would live on pasta, cheese, strawberries and fishie crackers if I let her! Mira is not big on meat, peanut butter OR bread, so these are typical boxes for her. When I made the bottom box she specifically requested cheese slices on bread! Both boxes were demolished on picnics.

Hungry yet? I've added quite a collection of small food picks and colorful reusable divider cups, as well as a few more small cookie cutters. The food picks make it so much more fun to eat the fruit at school.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bento Boxes and giveaways

I don't think I've ever posted a photo of the girls Bentos, though I've taken quite a few photos over the past year. I first became interested after hearing about them on a few scrabooking site message boards last summer. Really! So I started checking them out. Oh I wanted one so bad - and they make so much sense. After a bit of research I bought 4 containers (still need to buy one for Rich) and a bunch of fun small containers for dividing foods, keeping cookies dry next to strawberries, etc. The girls each chose their own container, and waited as impatiently as I did. And now, they prefer their bento lunches. Natasha even said she doesn't care if she ever eats another school lunch again. That makes me happy.

There are so many advantages to Bento boxes:

  • They are small so they fit well in overstuffed Middle school book bags. And yet you can fit a whole lunch into such a small space. Really - take all of your lunch out of it's bag and containers, pile it together, and see just how big it really is. It'll fit!
  • No baggies, no paper sacks that stuff our landfills. You know they get thrown out, even when you ask that they be brought home. The Bento Boxes come home.
  • Yeah, most are plastic, although there are some nice metal boxes out there. BPA free boxes are available, and most lunches are packed cold and eaten cold or room temperature.
  • Easy to fill: Leftovers? Pile it in and forget about finding that leftover spanish rice, pasta, pancake, extra hard boiled egg or cornbread all moldy in the fridge a week from now. The kids gobble it up. GREAT for picky eaters. Variety is king! And still - only one container to wash. Perfect for Mom. (especially me, with no dishwasher)
  • Distracted or picky eaters? Somehow it just seems easier to mix and match fruits and vegetables in a box than a baggie. Fruit salad is great, but how about throwing in a strawberry, few grapes, and a few apple flowers? *flowers cut with a small cookie cutter. The scraps go in my fruit salad. Toss in a cute pick to use as a fork and it's that much more fun to eat. No more half eaten bananas or apples that come home mushed and grossly browned, unable to be saved. Berry season? Give them a treat and toss in a small sauce bottle filled with chocolate sauce. Same with vegetables. Mine aren't great veggie eaters, but a cherry tomato or few snap peas paired with a small piece of broccoli and a few carrot sticks together seem to disappear better than a whole serving of carrot sticks.
  • Mini-size is fun. Mini bread, or cookie cutters make for cute fun sandwiches. Honestly, when I give Sarah a whole sandwich, even if it's a HALF sandwich, she rarely eats it all. Give her 5 small butterfly or heart sandwiches*? She'll eat them all - and then doesn't complain about being hungry after school. For the 'treat' part of the lunch, I now make cookies smaller so they fit in the boxes. The girls think they are SO cute - even though the amount of cookie is now equal to 1 1/2 normal sized cookies, if that. Sometimes I toss in a few mini banana muffins with just a few mini chocolate chips baked in and they think they've gone to heaven. * the leftover bread scraps are saved and frozen, to be used later in weekend 'egg dish', made into garlicky bread crumbs for salads, fed to the birds, breading for various dishes...

Not ready to buy? That's ok - took me a bit too. Check out Lunch in a Box website - lots of great tips, recipes, and Bento reviews so you know what you're buying.

A few giveaways to get you started - go check it out, see what others are doing and enter. What do you have to lose?
Ends April 5:
Ends April 22:
Ends April 22:

I'll be back with photos later. Right now it's time to make lunch for Mira.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

LEGO Borg and April Fools

Mother Nature certainly is playing a mean April Fools joke on us with this cold windy weather. More on April Fools in a bit. Thought I'd finally post our Lego photos. While in Chicago I called two of the three Lego stores to see which had what in their pick-a-brick wall. Because the more specialty yellow Legos you can get for castles, the better. Everyone knows this, right?

Of course the store the opposite direction from home had the better assortment. So we packed up and headed North. Mira wasn't happy getting out of the car, but her mood turned around when she saw all the Legos. Like father like daughter!

We had earned 3 boxes to fill over Christmas and the time had come to cash in. Now, we had planned to make Lego blocks because you can fit more in the box than just tumbling some in any old way. The helpful staff even suggested that - although she said make a 10x10 block, and we fit 11 x 11 dots/side, 10 layers deep. Then again, she did point out that since the box didn't close flat, we could stack an extra layer or two on the top of each block, pyramid like.The girls though they looked a bit like Borg ships.

Do you know how long it takes to build 3 solid blocks, even this small? From many skinny legos? Natasha, Sarah and Mira helped. For a while.Then one by one they abandoned me, at first to fill the normal pick-a-brick reusable cups with miscellaneous flowers, bricks, ladders, race flags, shifters, cabinets and windows. And then they left me with only 1 1/2 Borg blocks finished, to go build in the play area and wander the store to make next years Christmas wish list.

One salesguy actually took an hour long lunchbreak while we were there. He came back in time to check us out. Ouch. But all those free blocks were worth it. And funny how the girls perked up when I decided to check out the Hannah Anderson store on our way out of the mall...

White Hair

So, is it wise to have all my white hair colored on, of all days, April Fools Day? I may end up with pink hair like my sister, laugh. It looks good on her... Well, it needs doing anyway. I really don't mind the white and who wants to spend all that time getting their hair colored every freakin single month? Cause I am NOT cutting it short, so it takes awhile to color. But really, it's almost spring and I've had enough 'white stuff' for the year already. I'll let the white grow out eventually - it is kind of pretty, but I think I'll wait until the new meds kick in. I start Humira next week - wish me luck. Going white will be ok when I can once again move like a youngling. White and arthritic? No thanks. Only one symptom of old at a time please!