Switchback bento

Switchback bento

Switchback bento

I went a bit switchback mad! Here are some simple cheese wraps, surrounded by a tomato, a cucumber, an apple and a beetroot all done with the switchback method, as found here on bento.com

On our way shopping yesterday we decided to pop in at the Oktoberfest seeing as it was on our way. It was also Family Day which means a lot of the stalls have reduced prices on selected items. We bought some food (fish and chips!) and my little boy went on a ride and we got a stick of fluffy white Candy Floss (cotton candy). We’d already been in a Superdrug type shop (called DM here in Germany) where the kids got free balloons (so that saved about 10 Euros having to buy them at the Oktoberfest πŸ˜€

I was a Doubting Thomas last week. My Nokia XpressMusic camera phone malfunctioned and had to be sent away for repair. I had very low expectations for any positive news about it being repairable or replaceable. Usually here in Germany as a consumer “No Quibble” certainly does not apply. In fact I once bought a pair of Rubber Gloves from Schlecker and they tore the first time I put them on, but even though I had my receipt they refused to exchange them. Call me petty, but you’d think for a 2 Euro pair of household gloves, it would be a no-brainer. I save my receipts for EVERYTHING in case the item goes wrong within the gurantee period and sometimes if you argue long and hard enough the sales assistant will eventually back down / give in / agree to replace the defective item, seeing as the price of the item (even a 50 Euro electrical item) will pale into insignificance when they realise it would just be easier to issue a cash refund and have done with it.

Since we’ve been living here in Munich, we’ve had disputes with Bauknecht (Dishwasher company), Alice (Telecom / ISP), Postbank, Saturn (electrical goods) and even the British Consulate IN Germany. Rarely has making a formal complaint helped to resolve the issue, but it does make you wonder if nearly every company has some kind of deal with the German version of the Consumer Advice Bureau called the Verbraucherzentrale, because if you PAY the Verbraucherzentrale a fee, they will try and get your dispute reolved by offering a COMPROMISE so that you only have to pay HALF the amount the company is trying to rip you off for. So an 80 euro unwarranted charge from the dishwasher company ended up being settled for 40 Euros PLUS a 10 Euro fee to the consumer advice place. I’m obviously a cynic, and was quite prepared for news that my Nokia phone would be not accepted for free repair due to something I had agreed to when I signed up for the 2 year contract (signed my life away), and that I would be paying for a broken phone for the next 12 months.

End: rant

But credit where it’s due, O2 took care of sending my phone off to Nokia for repair / re-installation of the software / replacement of the touchscreen. I was only without my phone for a few days and now I’ve got it back, I am a very happy bunny boiler. So thanks O2 and Nokia. πŸ˜€

TRYING TO ORGANISE USEFUL CLUTTER

You can’t organise clutter, you have to get rid of it. I know, I know. But there are tools and gadgets we need on a daily basis that get shoved in drawers, left where they were last used or “put to one side”. You know what I’m talking about!

As I have been doing some SERIOUS decluttering this past week, I have found all sorts of USEFUL CLUTTER. I’ve found cables, adapters, connectors, memory cards, jigsaw pieces, belts, bobbles, nail varnish, lens cleaner, nail varnish remover, remote controls, batteries, covers for the remote controls, magnets, pegs, chess pieces, lego pieces, thingamijigs and whatdyacallits.

About a year ago, I made a list of the top 10 items that we seem to need on a daily basis that we need to lay our hands on and could never find. My husband put a new “special” shelf up – high enough that nosy boys and curious fingers can’t wreck the system hehe πŸ˜€ and I made labels for the edge of the shelf for each item on my top 10 list.

Here’s my list of items we need regularly but didn’t have a place for:

  • Nail clippers/tweezers
  • Glue
  • Measuring tape
  • Stapler / hole punch
  • Batteries
  • Pens
  • Sticky tape
  • Clips / paperclips
  • Remote controls
  • Keys
  • Scissors

Each item has aΒ  specially designated, labelled place on the shelf and has its own specially designated, labelled box / container on the correct part of the shelf. So since then, these top 10 items have been a LOT easier to find. This systemΒ  works best if you put things back straight after you’ve used them. We don’t always put things back straight away because we are not Born Organised. BUT when we are cleaning up (this is the royal “we” of course!) doing FLYLADY 5 min room rescues and stash and dash de-clutters then it is great to have a designated place for the item to call “home”.

Ok so there are 11 on my list but the last one was borderline so we had to include it, they are still referred to as the Top 10 on the “Top 10 shelf” πŸ˜€

Well writing about it makes it seem over simplified… I mean, in my kitchen I don’t have labels for the spoons, the forks, the plates etc – everything (everything?! hmm maybe not!) already has its place, and these aren’t labelled. Although thinking about it, I wonder how many cupboards and drawers I could put in good order simply by assigning labels?

I used to have labels on my chest o’ drawers at home as a kid. That way, you could always find a t-shirt or socks. I’m having an epiphany today – I think I might start doing that with my all my drawers and cupboards too, in my bedroom and kitchen!

But first! I will make labels for all these 20 remaining “useful clutter” items, and then let’s see if our home will start to be tidier, AND we will be able to find things more quickly.

“A place for everything and everything in its place” umm, right, ok, lightbulb moment. πŸ˜€

Funny that, cos I had an epiphany this morning too as I was using my rubber scrubber to brush soggy cornflakes out of the carpet. I could have prevented the cornflakes being scooped out onto the floor if I’d cleared the breakfast pots away from the dining table STRAIGHT AWAY instead of leaving them out to be interfered with. A stitch in time prevents nine. Right, now I geddit LOL πŸ˜€

Do you have a blogspot blog? Me too, come and follow me so I can follow you back: bentoboxuk.blogspot.com:

This bento is featured on What’s for Lunch Wednesday

Peacock Bento

Peacock Bento

Peacock Bento

We had a fantastic day out at “Wildtierpark Poing” in Munich (a wild animal park) on Wednesday! peacockWe were able to stroke some rabbits and guinea pigs, and feed antelope, goats, ponies and donkeys! We also saw some huge bears. There were random peacocks wandering around the picnic area as well as chickens and ducks.

Here is a bento that I made inspired by the beauty of the magnificent bird, the peacock! I also wanted to try out the sealed sandwich idea that Lia from Bentolicious blogged about.

Just Bento CookBook
just bento cookbook
Taiyaki maker
taiyaki maker
Chokotto Rice Cooker ~ Compact Cooking
Chokotto Rice Cooker ~ Compact Cooking
Penguin Gummy Candy Maker
Penguin Gummy Candy Maker

I don’t have a bread mold / sandwich shaper (apart from the toastie maker) but after rummaging through my plastics box which is mostly full of old baby bottles and lids, I thought I would try using a large teat ring and a smaller one, that seemed to nest inside each other quite well. I made some chocolate spread sandwiches from brown bread and pressed the larger ring onto it to get my first circle, then I turned it over and used the smaller ring to seal the sandwich. I was pretty impressed because they came out quite neat and tidy considering the improvised tools for the job!

These are the teat rings from the old baby bottles that I used to make the pressed sandwich with sealed edges.

rings for sealed sandwich shaperrings for sealed sandwich

And then I put coloured cheese peacock decorations on and carved the same design into a red apple. You don’t get a zoomed out photo today seeing as this was only a snack experiment bento and there isn’t really much else in it apart from some cucumber slices, but someone has been messing about with my fridge settings and the cucumber was frozen solid so it does not look how it is meant to, and I don’t have any other salad or fruits to do much bentoing with. But I’m a big believer in making do with what you have got, so here it is!

The rest of the bread offcuts went into a bread and butter pudding, which I am told was delicious, but I didn’t try it seeing as I am trying not to have any empty calories. πŸ˜€ I have lost 4lbs so far since I started doing my daily exercise and watching my portion sizes, using the weight loss tips on this blog post and I have proudly marked it on my progress chart on my wall! only 22lbs more to go! πŸ˜€

I recently placed a couple of orders with Cake Balls UK to have a box of Gluten Free coffee and walnut cake balls and a bag of chocolate and orange cake balls sent to my relatives in the UK as birthday gifts. As agreed the balls were sent out for delivery before the recipient’s birthday and I’m told they are really delicious and came packaged really neatly too. PippaD from A Mother’s Ramblings recommended Cake Balls on her blog and that’s where I got the idea, so thanks Pippa, and thanks Anna from Cake Balls UK for delivering the fantastic birthday gifts! You have my recommendation too!

You can follow Anna from Cake Balls Uk, Pippa from A Mother’s Ramblings and Lia from Bentolicious on Twitter and their Blogs.

I have never placed a bento items order before, I still consider myself a beginner seeing as I only started making bento in January 2010, and I have never bought any “proper” bento tools, preferring to try to make the best use of what I already have such as cookie cutters for shaping rice or cutting cheese or vegetables, craft punches for the nori seaweed and my craft needle pen for cutting the cheese. There are definitely some basic items that I would suggest could be bought as a bento starter bundle if you don’t already have any tools for making your bento. And I am very tempted to order them myself very soon too! The items I think would be the most useful are the nori face punches, the egg moulds, theΒ  onigiri presses, the flower shaped vegetable cutters and the the decorative food picks.

Have fun and happy bento-ing!

Flamenco Feel Bento

Aubergine bento

Aubergine bento

My DH cooked again. He knows I have 2 favourite dishes of all time (apart from Fish and Chips and Cauliflower Cheese!) ; Iraqi Tapsi and Moroccan Lamb with Prunes. Well, today he made something extraordinary! He made the Iraqi Tapsi with Beef, but it had elements of the flavours of the Moroccan Lamb with Prunes, with a sort of sweet, cinnamonny taste to it, with piquant snatches of hot chili… Totally mouth watering, juicy, aubergines, sumptuously served in a thick, delicious sauce, textured with small bites of tasty beef steak and red onions… What a heavenly meal! And although I tried to be good and only took a very small second helping, I did eat more than my fair share, and as John Cage would say, I will not be disparaged! I realise my efforts to eat low fat, little and often are in vain, but you have to realise a dish like this does NOT come along every day! I am still committed to doing all the other reductions of fat and sugar and portion size, (My Scaredy Cat Challenge!) but it’s the weekend so this can count as the “treat”! And I do not feel guilty – I feel happy!Β  πŸ˜€

And of course the leftovers went in the bento box, along with some rice, black olives, cucumber and cherry tomatoes.

The olives made me think of Spain, and you wouldn’t believe the lettuce I got from the supermarket – It was like bringing home a bunch of flowers! A huge, curly, astonishingly beautiful lettuce! I have never, ever in my life been so drawn to a salad vegetable! And I carefully broke off just 1 leaf of it and held it in my hands and saw …

… a flamenco dancer!!

So I made this:

Flamenco Dancer

Flamenco Dancer

With black olives for the hair, a tomato hair flower, cheese arms and face, a cucumber body and of course the lettuce leaf for the dress.

And if you’re looking for a connection between an Iraqi-Moroccan dish and a Spanish Dancer – it’s the word “Flamenco” which is believed to have come from the Arabic word fellahmengu, meaning “fugitive peasant”,Β  derived from a root meaning “to flee.” The term came into use in the 14th century, and was first applied to the Andalusian Gypsies themselves, who were called either gitanos or flamencos.

You can see the Wikipedia entry about Flamenco here

Ay, ay, ay!

If you are interested in getting into bento making or want to improve or simply try out some new techniques, try this list of tricks, tips and bento tutorials

How to do cheese colouring (bento tutorial)

Just Bento CookBook
just bento cookbook
Taiyaki maker
taiyaki maker
Chokotto Rice Cooker ~ Compact Cooking
Chokotto Rice Cooker ~ Compact Cooking
Penguin Gummy Candy Maker
Penguin Gummy Candy Maker
Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Sometimes it is difficult to get inspired to make a bento, especially if you have limited ingredients. You don’t have to have many fancy foodstuffs or lots of time to be able to turn a normal boring sandwich into a decorative delight if you have some coloured cheese sheets prepared before hand.

To make the coloured cheese slices:

I recommend Gouda because it is a nice texture and flavour, and seems to absorb the colour well, and is nice and elastic-y and non-stick, without being too soft or too hard.

Cheese and food colouring

Cheese and food colouring

If you will only need a small amount of coloured cheese, you can use one slice and spread the colours on each quarter of the cheese. This is also a good way to get some of the colour to overlap slightly, which can be an interesting effect if you cut the cheese shapes out going over the join. You can experiment and see what colours or shades you can get. Tip: Red + Yellow = Orange, Blue + Yellow = Green, Red + Blue = Purple. I only have the 4 colours of food colouring so I did 4 sections. I have to wear latex free gloves when handling food, NOT because I’m a hygiene freak (even though I am!) but because of an allergic reaction when food comes into contact with my skin. Great hobby for me to pick eh?! LOL

So using a clean finger you spread the food colouring on the cheese, and rub it in. The food colouring I am using is washable and does not stain your fingers or gloves, but I don’t think it comes out of clothes. In the past I have used bits of boiled egg white or another piece of cheese to do the spreading of the colour, just use a chunk of it like a paintbrush. You could probably try a clean paintbrush, I haven’t but I think it would work just as well. You’re more likely to have a finger or cheese scrap to hand.

Spread the colour on and rub in

Spread the colour on and rub in

Then it will look all messy and wet. Don’t worry! Just put the piece of cheese on a flat tray or plate and cover with cling film. Then put it in the fridge to dry off and for the colours to absorb. You can do this at night and it will be ready in the morning. If you are impatient you can blot it dry with some tissue.

The colour is absorbed

The colour is absorbed

When you are ready to use the cheese, it will be a lot more manageable and a lot less messy, and will be a pleasure to cut into whatever shape your heart desires. My best tip is to use a needle or a needle pen that you an get from a craft shop in the “pergamano” section. You turn the cheese over and cut the shapes on the back,so remember cut out the mirror image!

Cut the cheese on the reverse

Cut the cheese on the reverse

If you know you will need a larger amount of coloured cheese, you can of course colour bigger pieces of cheese, and store them in cling film until you need them. I am a big believer in not wasting food, so all the scraps and off cuts get saved and made into “rainbow” cheese toasties!

Larger sheets of coloured cheese

Larger sheets of coloured cheese

Then you can arrange your new shapes onto a sandwich or cold rice (not hot unless you want the cheese to melt LOL!) add some salad andcrunchy snacks and voila! A decorative lunch!

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

And a close up

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Snails with Sunglasses bento

snails with sunglasses bento

snails with sunglasses bento

Today’s bento was quite a quick one with no planning really – I just had to make some lunch and found some large pasta snail shells (lumaconi) in my cupboard that I thought would be tasty with tuna and sweetcorn mayonnaise. So I made them into snails with sunglasses on (nori stars) and cucumber bodies. Here they are munching on the carrots, turning them into flowers.Β  Sorry about the photo, it came out a bit blurry today!

To see step-by-step instructions on how to make this bento, please visit my new “Squidoo page”Β  Thanks especially to @gotfaeries / @kawaiibentoclub on Twitter for introducing me to Squidoo. Check out the Kawaii Bento Club on Facebook too, it’s brand new!