Impromptu giveaway

Thursday, August 30, 2012

mini flower ham and cheese sandwiches
celery with peanut butter and fruit snack/bites (100% fruit)

I can't think of anything else to say today... so.... how about an...

Impromptu giveaway! 
In honor of Mommy+Me hitting 200 likes on Facebook (squeal!), 
I'm giving away a 2-tier bento box!

I was going to wait until I write my 100 post in 2 weeks... 
or my 1 year blogiversary next week... 
but I'm not a very patient person.
Winner will win this cute new cute 2-tier bento box!

All you have to do is comment at the bottom of the page and answer this question:
What is your (not your kids'!) favorite lunch?

Not sure what the giveaway Blogger legalities are, but I won't force you do anything else, 
and your comment below will be an entry for this giveaway. 
Open to US residents only due to shipping costs. 
Please like my Facebook page 
if you haven't already. 
Feel free to share this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter... 
no extra entry, just major suck-up brownie points and virtual hugs from me though. 
I do need your email address (so I can contact you if you win) so please don't comment anonymously! 

Entries will be accepted now through Tuesday, 9.4.12 at 11:59pm EST. 

The winner will be selected at random, and announced on Wednesday, 9.5.12. Good Luck!

no PB just J

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

jelly sandwich, edamame, cheesestick
watermelon, cherry yogurt

My daughter can finally have PBJs at school (we were nut-free for preschool last year) and she asked for "just jelly sandwich."  She chose her favorite Chobani cherry Greek yogurt and a cheese stick for protein. Packed in one favorite boxes, Laptop Lunches bento lunch box.

Hummus Deviled Eggs

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I was packing Miss C's lunch while eating a hardboiled egg for breakfast. After scooping her hummus into a dipping container, I smeared the remaining hummus from the knife onto my egg... ding! *LIGHT BULB* What if I mashed up the egg yolks with hummus? So I unpacked the 2 eggs I had packed for my snack, sliced each one, scooped the egg yolks out. I mixed in about 2 tbsp of prepared red pepper hummus. and spooned it into the egg whites. Next time I will add a splash of olive oil to thin out the consistency and add some relish similar to this Hummus Deviled Egg from Sabra. Hummus is a great alternative to mayonnaise, and you can even leave out the egg yolks altogether if you wish.

Hummus Deviled Eggs

Sloppy Joe, Pizza and Pitas

Friday, August 24, 2012

The rest of Miss C's first full week of Kindergarten: 

Sloppy Joe (Jane? since its a girl?) 
green peppers w/ranch, and cantaloupe
Googly eye stickers make a sandwich less boring, right? 
packed in an EasyLunchBox 

Leftover Ham and Pineapple Pizza
tomatoes, cantaloupe and strawberry yogurt w/blueberries
packed in a square Lock&Lock

Pita and roasted red pepper hummus
hard boiled egg (white only), carrots, fruit medley
packed in a Goodbyn Bento Box

my lunches and photography problem

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My lunch below is grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, steamed green beans and strawberries. But let's not talk about my food right now. Let's talk food photography. A few months ago, I bartered a home-cooked dinner for quick photography tips from my friend Josh. He also teaches classes at a local college and museum, so I know he knows his stuff. He gave me a few pointers about flash vs no flash, using natural light, ISO stuff, and other technical camera stuff. Well, over the summer, I did not blog much, and my iPhone camera became handier than my bulky Fujifilm FinePix camera. (Oh, how I wish for a Nikon DSLR...) I forgot all that camera settings stuff we talked about. 

Another problem is natural lighting. Last year, preschool started at 9am, so by 8:30am, the sun has risen; even though I had to lug all the lunches to our master bedroom window on the other side, I get great natural light. Now, Miss C have to be ready around 7am. The sun is barely up at 6:45am, and when Daylight Savings Time hit, we'll be completely in the dark that early in the morning.

Googling (yep, that's totally a word) "food photography" gave me a few ideas: a DIY lightbox or a flash diffuser. So the cheapest thing I have on hand is tissue paper to use as a diffuser.

using pre-sunrise lighting, no flash
Notice it has a blu-ish shade. Ick. 

using the tissue paper diffuser over the flash
The colors are better, the salmon looks yummier, but the 
flash definitely accentuated the oiliness of the asparagus.

 using my iPhone, left pic without flash, right pic with flash

I need a bigger kitchen or a space at home to create that lightbox. I think. Or I just need another photog lesson. Any pointers? I have a budget-friendly Fujifilm FinePix and an iPhone. (um, Josh? Help?)

Mickey and the new Laptop Lunch

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My first souvenir purchase in Florida during our vacation was a Mickey sandwich press. Then we went to Whole Foods to meet a fellow bento blogger, Sarah of Bentoriffic, where I passed by a Laptop Lunch bento display. I couldn't help it. I had to have one. 

Mickey imprinted ham and cheese sandwich,
simple salad w/tomatoes and ranch,
yogurt w/diced strawberries,
hummus with pita chips

The salad, hummus, and yogurt little containers had lids. I did not buy a bag specifically for the Laptop lunch box, and most of my bags were too small for it. It fit in a regular rectangular lunch box, but did not have room for her drink or ice packs. It had to travel upright in a ThirtyOne thermal tote. Miss C reports that the containers did not leak, and that she ate all her salad.  My husband will not like it because there are more containers for him to wash. (Can I say again that I love that man? You'll probably get sick of reading that, if not already. haha!)

Here's another proof why I love my husband: 
He is so patient with my sometimes neurotic tendencies:

This is on first day of school. I put her on the bus and went to work, The Hubby gets home from work before the bus drops her off:


Second day of Kindergarten. The elementary school is not nut-free.  I'm assuming they will have a table separate for those with allergies, and when I asked, the teacher said that there are no allergies in her class. So Miss C can enjoy her PB&J sandwiches again. The nut-free alternatives for peanut butter were okay. She wasn't fond of Sunbutter unless I mixed it with chocolate syrup. Speaking of chocolate, we are absolutely in love with Nutella, a chocolatey hazelnut spread. So yummy. In moderation. And I may or may not have eaten Nutella by the spoonfuls out of the jar. 

Nutella pocket sandwich
cherry tomatoes and mozzarella kabobs
strawberries and blueberries
and half a Clif brownie bar

Mommy's lean lunches

Monday, August 20, 2012

I forgot to post my lunch last Friday. It does not look like much, but I have to have morning and afternoon snacks/mini meals which typically includes a protein and veg/fruit (not pictured).

 I'm trying this healthy eating thing along with working out. It's going really well. I'm not doing any specific "diet". Just trying to eat healthy. I'm trying to get 5-6 meals daily. Minimizing processed food. Minimizing grains, pasta and rice (which is difficult for this Filipino girl).  Lots of veggies and occasional fruit and focusing on protein intake with good fats like olive oil and avocados.  My exercise regimen Insanity® (day 43!) along with bootcamp Mondays and Wednesdays, and Zumba on Tuesday nights. 

Today's lunch:

and check out a new addition to our collection. This 2 tiered bento box is super cute! 

First day of Kindergarten!

Friday, August 17, 2012

No... I did not cry. It was an all smiles morning!

Because of my super late post last night, I skipped my 5am workout in lieu of depositing towards my sleep debt. I set an alarm at 6:00 am. Miss C woke me up at 5:58 am. I asked her to go to her bedroom and change clothes. She came back to my room at 5:59 am. No lie. This girl usually takes 10 minutes to put on socks! Excited is an understatement. At 6:45 am, while I was still fighting with the camera settings since I have no natural light that early in the morning, putting lunch box inside her bag, she kept telling me to hurry because she might miss the bus (which was scheduled to arrive between 7:15/7:30). At 7:25, she stepped on that bus, sat down and waved at me through tinted windows. Despite the lump in my throat, I waved back. My baby is in Kindergarten. Seriously?

1st lunch of 2012-2013 school year!
Miss C requested ham and cheese sandwich rollups, 
carrots with ranch, blueberries, and a couple gummi worms.
Packed in her new Goodbyn bento box 
decorated w/stickers that came with it.

Coincidentally, ham/cheese rollups and goldfish crackers were her first lunch last year. 

FAQs {Part 2}... My bento supplies and tools

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last year, I started out with only a couple boxes and cookie cutters. My first lunch looked kinda plain. As the year progressed, our lunch/bento collection started growing. I started following other bloggers and gave me ideas on what other products are out there. Then I found All Things For Sale... like a kid in a candy store...

Q(s): What do you use for packing lunches? How do you organize/where do you store them? 

A: At first, our lunch supplies fit into a little cupboard in our kitchen. Then our collection just grew astronomically that I used one of those big Sterilite plastic tubs. Last weekend, my husband put together this cabinet/drawer combo specifically for our lunch stuff! (I love that guy!) 
The pictures on the left show most of the lunch boxes we have.
 As for the tools I use, I pretty much use anything in my kitchen. I use sandwich cutter, my cookie and fondant cutters from my cake decorating supplies, molds, chopsticks, toothpicks, and many more. I'll pick my favorite supplies and feature them below.
Upper left: lunch bags including EasyLunchBox  Cooler Bag, Thirty One Thermal Tote and Cinch-It-Up Thermal Tote and Miss C's Hello Kitty Lunch Boxes. Upper right: egg molds, rice molds. Lower right: Sandwich cutters, mini cutters, silicone ice pop molds, containers cups. Lower left: picks and misc bento supplies, napkins (paper and reusable), stickers  
My favorite supplies: 

1. EasyLunchBoxes

Hands down my favorite purchase last year. I've been using them for 7 months and have are the same quality as when I bought them. They have not warped or stained or discolored. We use them at least 3-4 times a week. The divided compartments allow me to easily divide food so they won't touch. The Wilton silicone cups fit in the container with the lid on. The containers are not leak-proof, but I have put yogurt and applesauce in them without it spilling, but Miss C was pretty good about keeping her cooler bag upright most of the time. This was easier for her to open compared to the disposable like product. 

2. Cutters
The one shown above is my favorite for vegetables and fruits.  Knives, sandwich cutters, cookie cutters, sandwich cutters -- if it can cut or shape a food or a sandwich, try it! You don't need anything fancy. They have sandwich cutters hanging near the bread aisle at most grocery stores and at dollar stores. I've taken heart or Christmas tree cookie cutters from my baking supplies and used them to shape sandwiches. I think to start out with, I would recommend getting the Wilton 100 cookie set. It has letters, numbers, basic shapes and most generic holiday cutters.

3. Picks and Decor

I highly recommend AllThingsForSale for all your bento/cutesy lunch decor needs.
This is where the fun starts. Use picks to make fruit or meat/cheese kabobs. A boring leftover spaghetti lunch? Stick a cute elephant pick on top to make it more lively! (make sure your kids understand to take them off but don't throw them away! haha!) 

4. Silicone Cups

These cups not only divide food too keep it from touching, they also add a pop of color. 

Q: What do you use to keep hot lunches hot and cold lunches cold?

A: Most of my lunches are leftovers, and we have a microwave at work; that's why I use ELBs the most. Most of Miss C's lunches are cold--I have more flexibility with other bento boxes. 4 out of 5 lunch bags we have are thermal lined. I use ice packs for C's lunch and it keeps them cold until lunch. I have several types of ice packs, flat ones, round ones, shaped ones and I choose depending on the space in bags. (Hint: If you put the ThirtyOne bags in the freezer or refrigerator, it keeps cold longer) I have a couple Thermos-like containers that I use for hot lunches.

Q: Where do you buy your supplies?

A: Everywhere! Online, in stores, garage sales... Here is a list of stores I have found bento/lunch supplies
Target (check the Dollar bins near the entrance for cute stuff!)
Walmart (I've found some Lock/Lock-type containers in the kitchen section)
TJ Maxx
Dollar Tree 
Family Dollar/Dollar General
Daiso (I've never been there, but I have friends and family in California that has generously bought and shipped me some goodies!)
Michael's (check the baking section for picks/baking cups)
Old Navy (they sometimes have lunch boxes and bags near the cashier area)

Tomorrow morning is Miss C's first day of school! It is a little weird to start on a Friday, but it is what it is. Backpack is packed up, clothes are laid out, bento lunch supplies are organized and put away, ingredients are in the fridge, Miss C is (finally) asleep... Kindergarten, here we go! 

FAQs {part 1}... just in time for back to school!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Miss C is going back to school in 10 more sleeps. How can it be possible that my baby is 5 and going to Kindergarten... to the "big kid" school... on a "big kid" yellow bus. (Did you notice though that school buses are orange?)  Anyway, I thought I’d write a couple posts this week on how to get started, my favorite bento/lunch boxes and tools, and other tips. Today, I’ll focus on food.  In a couple days, I will show you my supplies and my favorite lunch making tools.

Hello Kitty lunch box
Q:  What kinds of food do you pack?

A: Anything! From sandwiches to leftovers, I pack pretty much whatever is on hand.  I use the USDA’s Choose MyPlate as a guideline on what to pack. I try to pack the 4 major nutrition blocks: protein, vegetables/fruits, carb/grains.  Sometimes, I add a treat like fruit snacks or candy. My child pretty much eats a variety of food, so I try to pack food that she has already tried and I know she likes. I don’t put something she hasn’t tried yet with her lunch, we try to introduce new foods during dinner, when I can encourage her to try.

Lock & Lock divided container
I have not gotten the allergy/lunch guidelines at her new school for kindergarten, but with her preschool last year, they had a nut-free policy. Check on your school policy regarding allergies, and I encourage you to please follow those guidelines. I know it’s a challenge when your child loves peanut butter and refuses to eat substitutes, but I think of the other child’s life and health. Allergy reactions can be mild or life-threatening, so please keep an open mind and follow your school’s allergy guidelines, whether for your own child’s lunch or special classroom treats. My friend, Keeley of, has a daughter who is allergic to gluten and nuts, so check out her site for allergy-friendly ideas.

Sunbuttersandwich on a 2-tier lunch box 
Q: How do you think of cute ideas to shape or arrange the food?

A: I don’t typically make character foods. Once in a while, I will get inspired by something Miss C watch, an upcoming holiday or a Bento Blogger (a network of my bento-blogging friends) themed blog-hop.  A simpler way to explain “bento” is arranged lunches in a box. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you make it. You can use divided boxes, silicone cups or small containers to divide. Sandwiches are pretty easy to cut with cutters. Cut up vegetables in similar shapes. Arrange crackers or cheese in rows or stacks. Use mini skewers or food picks to make kabobs of fruit, or meat/cheese, or even meatballs and tortellini! If you choose, you can draw or paint on the sandwiches with edible markers, shape and mold rice or mashed potatoes. You can even mold eggs!

Star Wars Bento Bloghop in an EasyLunchBox container
(May the 4th be with you)

I invited my other bento friends who have written and posted ideas on how to get started bento-ing (is that a word?) to add their links below! Check them out and get inspired!

Q: When do you find the time to make lunches?

A: I tend to do procrastinate (this post was supposed to happen 4-6 weeks ago). It is a bad habit, I know. I try to make lists and menus. And while I try to make lists and menus, I tend to deviate from them a lot, depending on my mood, Miss C’s mood, or what food we have in the fridge.  

2-tiered bento box with "Gogurt" in silicone ice pop mold
 This was our morning routine last year (which will probably be similar to kindergarten this year): 
- Wake up, shower/dress, (get myself ready for work,) 15-60 min 
[depending on how many times I push the snooze button]
- Wake up Miss C, get her dressed and ready, 10 min if she’s in a good mood.
(she can do this herself now, so I’d free up more time to get our breakfast ready,) 
- Miss C eats breakfast while I prepare lunch, 15-20 minutes. 
- Take pictures of lunch, pack up and leave. 5-10 minutes.

(To be honest, I leave the kitchen a mess until my husband comes home 

and washes the dishes in the afternoon. I love that man!)

There are times when I pack our lunches the night before. Usually, if we have great leftovers and I don’t necessarily have to “pretty it up”, I grab the EasyLunchboxes and store the leftovers on those, leaving the other compartments empty to for me to put fruit/vegs/etc the next day.
Mommy's leftovers in an EasyLunchbox 

Q: Why do you do this?

A: “Mommy, that is AWESOME!!! Thank you so much! I love you, too!” That pretty much sums it up… We all have different ways to show love to our children.  This is my way, I guess. My gift to my child that I can actually do.  I have friends that sing to their children or teach them music. I can’t sing (well, I can, but not well) to my child. I have friends that are very animated and are great story tellers. I can’t make fun voices when I read to her. I have friends that sew cute dresses or costumes and make bows. I can’t sew a button. I work full time, so I can’t be home to make certain memories with her that my other stay-at-home mom friends do.  I’m not comparing myself with my friends and their gifts. “Playing with food” is what I love to do. And every single lunch box is packed with love. :)

P.S. Did you notice the new blog redesign by my friend Shalon of Pretty LovelyDesign! Check her out! She’s kinda awesome! Thank you so much, Shalon, for the logo, for the blog, for your patience w/my pickiness, for everything!