Monday, September 1, 2014

Lazy Bento Challenge

I'm sort of between a rock and hard place as this summer comes to a close.  With my energies devoted to learning to walk again with a reconstructed knee and a busy work schedule, I've begun to put myself at the mercy of the day cafeteria, to my own surprise and disappointment.  One too many spoonfuls of uncooked soup ingredients, and realizing that my pedal bicycle days may be behind me for a good while, it's time to start packing my own lunch again and putting my focus back on other aspects of my health.  But I don't currently have the time to be "kawaii" at the moment, just utilitarian - whatever I can pack in one bag and reheat in a couple of minutes.

So I was excited to see this adult-size rubberized collapsible "bento" set at Walgreens as I was checking out the school supply sales.  Yes, it's thrifty material.  No, it's not a real bento box despite the packaging description, it's just a lunchbox with a lid and three compartments.  But a Bento specialist could do marvelous things with it, and it's large enough to hold breakfast and lunch for the average person - as you'll note below in the pictures.

My challenge to myself this week is to do my best to pack my breakfast and lunch, avoid the cafeteria, and limit my daytime calories.  This box will do the trick.   Why "Lazy Bento?"  Because this week I don't have the time to pre-cook and pre-package things, so it will involve a lot of thawed leftovers and re-configuring of frozen ingredients I have on hand.

Lazy Bento #1 for Tuesday - breakfast and lunch

Breakfast:  Jimmy Dean breakfast biscuit cut in half to be reheated a few seconds in a paper towel with morning coffee

Lunch:  thawed frozen prepared Chicken Makhani entree and a side of early peas

That's roughly 700 calories before any fruit or snacks, with dinner TBD

Sodium - unacceptable  Fat/Carb ratio - acceptable

Two meals in one box - and still room to pack in more.  This is not a kid-size bento box.
The Eco One compartments - one large and two "smaller" cups

TV remote next to the fully-opened large compartment, for comparison.  This kit can hold a lot of stuff.
Lazy Bento packed and ready for the fridge.  There is a plastic spork included in the lid.
In its original packaging.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

So I'm Rowena je l'assume

I had family who traveled to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando this past week, and came back with souvenirs of the chocolate reptile variety.

Too quirky and unique to open and crunch on just for a snack, I plan to release them with friends for a special coffee/tea time.  But I had to open the Chocolate Frog first and see which Wizard collectible card I had waiting for me.  It was Rowena Ravenclaw, though it appeared she had business elsewhere, as her portrait didn't speak to me.

Why shouldn't it be Rowena, my Harry Potter totem character?  Besides blue being her signature color, and her house being known for their intellectual prowess, her back story sort of mimics my own.  And I dare say that she also looks a bit like me, but without the nerdy cat-eye glasses.....

I may have to rethink my costume choices for the next sci-fi nerd convention....

And for the record, the chocolate frog appears to be more like a frog sitting in mud.  I don't imagine mine will jump out of a train window any day soon.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cold Press Coffee That's As Good as Cold Tea

Yes, that's a bold statement for me to make, but I'm a newly-evangelized believer.  Caribou Coffee's La Minita has been a yearly favorite of mine for years, but I went to a special tasting this evening where it was prepared as cold press, and I had to do a double-take.  I could have sworn there was a bit of sweetener added to it, but no.  I was assured by the manager that this was the real-deal, nothing-but-grounds-and-water flavor.

The other folks who arrived for the tasting were gulping it down like it was lemonade (or darjeeling) and skipping the hot-brewed option.  I thought they were crazy as I enjoyed my regular brewed cup.  But I asked to sample the cold press anyway, for comparison purposes, as any intrepid connoisseur would do. I ended up consuming two more cups's worth.  If I'm still awake typing the praises of the Peaberry at 3 a.m., there are six of my neighbors who know why.  Cold press typically hangs on to more of the innate caffeine in the coffee bean since it doesn't get filtered until just before it's consumed.

Would every coffee translate this well to cold press?  No.  Is it worth trying La Minita as cold press, even though it's seasonal and is therefore a bit more spendy while it's in stock?  Heck yes.  This is a coffee that non-coffee drinkers would enjoy.  It's that good.  Sweetness that borders on almost being floral, but it retains its chocolate undertones.

So have I convinced you to try it yet?


Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Writer's Bloc

After a year of adding absolutely nothing to my fiction writing projects, I felt the nudge to get my creativity flowing again this weekend and actually scheduled writing time as if it were an appointment.  With three chapters of one novel already drafted, and the main arc and end scene of another piece already developed, I have good reason to keep going and flesh them out, see where they take me.

Even if they stink.  Yes, even if they amount to nothing.  We owe it to ourselves as creative beings to see our projects through, even if they don't bring us notoriety or income.

The catalyst for this awakening?  Seeing a graph of "life" charted out by weeks and graphing how quickly each milestone appears on the chart.  If we live to the age of 90 (which few of us, even in this age, can truly count on), we have more than 4,000 weeks available to us.  Take out the weeks spent during our years of learning, and the weeks that will inevitably be unproductive due to illness or incapacity, and that leaves a smaller number.  Our creative years, our "best" years, have a finite number attached to them.

We have the choice of spending those weeks as we wish.  For me, I would regret not having completed my writing projects if I filled those weeks entirely with other priorities.  Others might bemoan the time they lost not getting sewing projects done, or never having learned a foreign language, or never having been bold enough to take up scuba diving. Others may find they're content spending those weeks devoted completely to helping others rather than honing a personal attribute. Writing something that entertains and informs people in some way, something that I also enjoy myself, bridges those two schools of thought.  Writing is a selfish activity, and it attracts a lot of perfectionists.  But it is also brave and social in that it is by its very nature meant to be shared with people, to serve them in some way.

So, as I bridge the season from late summer into early Fall - when I typically see my creativity return before the snow falls again to dampen my imagination - I plan to spend at least one of my evenings in each of my precious remaining 2,700 weeks developing my craft.  Introducing myself to the characters and settings that find their way into my daydreaming.  Imagining possibilities.

If you're reading this, what is your week best spent on?  What would you regret not doing - or doing?


Monday, July 14, 2014

Tea at Convergence 2014

Tea and wine appreciation were on the menu at this year's Convergence, and I was pleasantly surprised to have a few interesting things to share this time.  It's not every day that you meet other tea geeks, but it seems to be taking off among the 20-something crowd, much like the resurgence of knitting a few years ago.  No longer just about your grandmother's cucumber sammies, or the domain of the middle-aged enthusiasts like myself, tea can find it's way into just about any context.

My place setting at the Who tea - iced Moroccan Mint tea, genuine apricot scones, finger sandwiches, savory cheese fingers, and a Tardis and Weeping Angel biscuit assortment

What would Sherlock Drink?  This question was answered at the Geek Tea Tasting panel. 
A nice Lapsang Souchong, but I suspect Holmes would have also been a fan of Darjeeling

A simple, but ingenious Tardis-themed table setting for the Victorian Lady Doctors Who-Themed tea

The Lady Doctors' event was fun for all ages - the costumes were as intriguing as the Who-themed baked goods

Included in the price of admission to the overall convention was as-much-as-you-can-drink tea and coffee (the latte line is always crowded) at the F2E2 room.  Volunteers sling hot water and you have your choice of all kinds of loose-leaf and bagged tea varieties.  It's truly one of the things that make this convention unique - regular attendees go through a bit of a withdrawal after returning home and not having tea and coffee "on demand" at any hour of the day.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Art Imitating Life - Bento Box Stationery Set

I won this at auction last weekend.  I'm not quite sure what possessed me to bid on it, as its retail value is nil compared to what it's worth to a bento enthusiast as a novelty item, but the auction itself was for a good cause that I wanted to support, so it was win-win regardless.

This is a gently-used Crayola Pop Art Pixies Naomi Stationery Box.  Made for the hip, modern, global-minded child who wants to learn about....well...I'm not sure.  The marketing I reviewed online made this box sound like a learning tool for the middle-school sophisticate.  But people don't use Bento boxes per se to hold stationery, and parents were writing with complaints of the sticker personalization options being difficult to find or use.  So it explained why I may have found this example donated for auction.

Confusing marketing fails aside - this box is a bit of a gem.  It lacks nothing in kawaii-ness.  The chopsticks are gel pens that actually work, one was never used because it still had the plastic stopper cap on the nib.

Inside is a star stamp in the form of a pile of wasabi paste (were it brown instead of green, it could be confused for something else).  There are multiple small compartments that stow an ink pad for the wasabi stamp, a small note pad, and a pad of super-small post-it notes where the previous owner had left a "hello" written in red ink for the next owner.

It is ideal for storing the post-it notes and stickers that I use with my journaling and when I get around to building a presentation box for my real bento collection, it will be fun conversation piece.