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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜€


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 ๐Ÿ˜€ 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 aย  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 systemย  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” ๐Ÿ˜€

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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This bento is featured on What’s for Lunch Wednesday

Mushrooms or Toadstools

Mushrooms and Toadstools bento
Mushrooms and Toadstools bento

This is spaghetti in cheesy-tomato sauce or should that be tomato-ey cheese sauce? The grapes are scooped out and balanced on top of sticks of white tinned cheese (TINNED?! CHEESE?!) Yes! Cheese from in a tin, in brine. I was horrified too when I first saw it, but I have come to eat it with fond memories of my honeymoon in Denmark! I don’t know if this is a particularly European kind of cheese though – I haven’t seen this kind in England before, only Greek Feta but that is from sheep’s or goat’s milk, I believe. This cheese is from cow’s milk and it’s quite salty. I got this from a shop that sells mostly Turkish produce and it has Turkish writing on the tin.

The Babybel is balanced up there as well on the cheese sticks and the little round white dots are cut out from the white cheese with a drinking straw.

Weight Loss Scaredy-Cat-Challenge: I have put on a pound since I last posted but I expect that is just from finally re-hydrating myself, so nothing special to report other than it’s back to business as usual with the small portions and being sensible with particularly fatty / greasy food (although I will admit that I found some frozen Indian Paratha’s, which taste like puff pastry and I fried a couple up as a snack. So we know where the extra pound came from don’t we hehe!)
So I need to lose that 1 back and then 1 further pound then I will be halfway towards my goal of losing 26lbs.

We went to see Toy Story 3 at the cinema at the weekend in 3D! I was amazed at the 3D effects. I wasn’t too amazed by the price of the tickets, especially when I thought we’d booked to see it in English and it turned out to be in German, but despite that, a good time was had by all and my 3 yr old managed to sit through the trailers and the whole film without toilet breaks, fidgeting, wandering off, moaning or complaining, so I was amazed. That was our first ever time at the cinema in Germany and the first ever cinema visit for the kids. My 18mth old managed to get to 30 mins before the end before starting to cry so DH had to take him out. Overall I was really glad we went – it was fun and a new experience and nice to spend time together as a family. On top of that, we had a lovely meal afterwards in an Iraqi restaurant / kebab house.

It’s been a busy time recently – my son has been learning to ride a bike (with stabilisers) which was fun and cute, especially where I got him on video saying “I can’t Mama, I can’t, I can’t!” then the next minute – “I DOING it Mamaaaaa!!! I DOING it!”

I have done some online shopping and had deliveries going here, there and everywhere. One of the fragile things I got from Amazon was broken so I had to get a new printer so I could print out the returns paperwork. Total justification for getting a WI-FI printer, scanner, copier all in one, ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s a SX510W Epson Stylus all in one. Was impressed with how easy it was to set up the Wi-Fi and my DH can print from his laptop wirelessly as well.ย  Thanks to the kid who put a drill bit in the old one thus rendering it destroyed. All’s well that ends well. ๐Ÿ˜€

Well, it will be if I can replace the broken Amazon item. Uh-Oh, I feel a Scaredy-Cat Challenge coming on…! I’d better psyche myself up to go to the German Post office to ship this package back…

Last time we went to the Post Office it was a complete nightmare – they had a Wendy-house thing made of cardboard – some kind of advert for house insurance or something, and my son kept hiding in it and knocking the chimney off it. It took us hours to get out and ended with me “betraying my cool exterior” and dragging him kicking and screaming out of the Post Office with everyone gasping in disgust, shock and horror! I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go back there!! Can’t I stay here?! Can’t someone else do it?! Maybe if I order a pizza, the delivery guy will take it back with him…. nice excuse to order Pizza LOL and a pretty good way to upsell on the Pizzas… offering a courier / forwarding service! now there’s a neat idea! Seriously!

Not in England though because the Post Offices are becoming extinct and “communities” need them so they can buyย  tokens for British Gas’s abominable Pre-Pay system, collect the “Giro” and get the DVLA tax disc for the car windscreen…. or the mobility scooter if it goes more than 4mph!!!.ย  Oh and don’t forget the bottle of bubbles with a little maze on the lid.ย  Not stamps, because no-one sends letters any more do they?!ย  I worked at a place once where I actually bought a franking machine with the company’s money to save us having to trudge to the Post Office and stand there waiting for the boxes to be weighed and labelled up. Shudder. So I admit I am guilty of playing my part in helping to get them extinctified.

Check out a new FLYlady-style game I blogged about here: Clock Patience Housework and a variation of the game here.

Happy Anti Procrastination Day!

Rainbow Tapsi bento

Rainbow Tapsi Bento
Rainbow Tapsi Bento

Today’s bento is a rainbow Tapsi, made using last night’s menu-planned evening meal!

This is my homework for the Kawaii Bento Club’s Bento Summer School!

I have mentioned Tapsi before, but I can’t remember if I gave you the receipe… it’s an Iraqi speciality and it consists of meat, usually beef, and a tomato and onion sauce, with fried sliced aubergines and fried sliced potatoes. It is one of my favourite meals ever along with Moroccan Lamb with Prunes, Fish and Chips and Mum’s Cauliflower Cheese.

homeworkTo make this rainbow Tapsi bento for my Big Lad (nearly 3 years old now!), I picked out the tomato and beef chunks from the tomato and onion sauce, and the sliced potatoes from the Tapsi, which were orangey in colour, having been cooked in the tomato and onion sauce. I put the tomato chunks to one side for the red, potato slices for the orange, some slices of Emmentaler Cheese for yellow, Cucumber for Green and yes I cheated and put blue food colouring on some more cucumber for blue – sorry but the only other blue food I can think of is Blueberries but I’m allergic to them. As in allergic to eat them. I’m allergic to most foods just to touch them, that’s why I have to wear gloves to prep the food, but blueberries actually make my mouth and tongue swell up.ย  Kiwis (or more correctly Kiwi fruits!) are the worst thing so far that I have found to give the worst allergic reaction skin-wise. I know tomatoes do a pretty good job at making my skin burn and itch but I have avoided letting them get me for so long that maybe the memory of the reaction has dulled over time. But I will not forget the Kiwi incident in a hurry (while I was making Kiwi Fish Bento) – it’s right up there after Natural Drug-Free No-Pain-Relief Child Birth! (I was conned!)

And finally, this wonderful curly tinted lettuce for the purple…! So it’s all natural colours apart from the blue! This was served with a nice fluffy CousCous!

And here is one I made for the Little Lad (16 months old):

mini rainbow tapsi
Mini Rainbow Tapsi

It’s the same ingredients but I shaved the skin off the cucumber for him, and only put a smudge of blue food colouring on here, and used couscous instead of cheese for yellow, though it looks more creamy white here.

On the Weight Loss Scaredy-Cat Challenge: I lost 6lbs before my trip to England, then put what felt like a Stone back on, (to see what delightful food we ate there see Bun Tin Beans) but we’ve gone back to eating relatively normally (with the occasional McVities Hob Nob here and there (it was Buy One Get One Free, you understand!) – but that’s Mcvities_Hob_Nobs_Twin_Pack_2x300gthe point; 1 or 2 biscuits and not a whole packet like I would have done in the past!)ย  and I’m back down to 171lbs –ย  I was 176lbs when I started the Scaredy-Cat Challenge, so I have made a very quick recovery really, Thanks God!ย  So on with the challenge – eating smaller portions and reducing fat and sugar intake and trying to do all these other Weight Loss Tips.

I think the key to success is eating Kelloggs All-Bran or Bran Flakes (known as DayVita here in Germany) for breakfast. It just makes me feel thin and energetic! And a nice strong cup of tea in a morning to wake me up!dayvita

My new Scaredy Cat Challenge is …drum roll!…to give up smoking! Since I came back from England, we have not bought or smoked any cigarettes! Last time I gave up was during my first pregnancy and I remained a non-smoker (ex-smoker) right through both my pregnancies. Unfortunately I started again last year and I thank giving up smokingthe UK Borders and Immigration for that for causing me and my family no end of stress with their award-winning pantomine act of failing to issue a simple visit visa for my husband just for a 2 week family visit to the UK… In fact just thinking about that makes me want to light up again right now.

This is partly connected to my third Scaredy-Cat Challenge which is to FACE our finances! As Flylady says: Financial Awareness Constantly Empowers! We are using Cash only for the Grocery shopping now, and the cards are staying at home. We are taking babysteps with this one and I know the results will not happen overnight, but as with anything we have to form new and better habits. And a new habit takes 3-4 weeks to form. I’m still trying to make going on the cross trainer a habit… eek not been on that contraption in a while! Though we have been going outside for walks and we even went strawberry picking on Sunday (There is a Pick Your Own Strawberries Field about 15mins walk away from our house!) – that must have burnt some calories! strawberry picking

But anyway, I think we are on the road to recovery, God Willing! I just hope this Scaredy Cat Challenge does not interfere with the first Challenge. We are into eating Sunflower Seeds now… a new addiction!

More challenges : De-cluttering – it’s becoming more of a habit now for me to see some clutter in a hot spot area and first “Stash and dash it” (Shove it all into a carrier bag or basket) then being good and remembering to “declutter the Stash and Dash bag” before bed or after dinner.ย  So the Living room and study and our bedroom are staying a lot tidier!

And I have now realised that a lot (99%!) of the clutter is usually either: Clothes for the wash, Dirty pots for the kitchen, Rubbish, or Toys – so when I’m going through the Stash and Dash bag or basket, I just sort the things out into 4 piles and then put them straight where they belong. Seems so simple doesn’t it?!

Flylady will help you get rid of the CHAOS!

I can’t believe it is only 2pm and we have already had lunch and I have just finished my blog post! It saves loads of time doing my kitchen clean up at night instead of in the morning! If only Flylady would have told me that – oh, that’s right she already did! LOL ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks Flylady! ๐Ÿ˜€

Edit: This is also featured on What’s For Lunch Wednesday

3 cool dudes bento

3 cool dudes bento
3 cool dudes bento

I’ve been really trying to stick to my FlyLady Routines recently and my house is looking better than it has in a long time! I’m doing Room Rescues, Hot Spot Fire Drills, Using a “Do It Now” approach, taking babysteps, beating perfectionism, just “jumping in” and using my FlyLady Timer and Feather Dusters!

My Scaredy Cat Challenge with the Twisters (Twitter Sisters!) is to lose 26 lbs (about 12kg). I have been trying to get into the habit of using the Weight Loss tips listed here, and I’m finding it’s not too hard to stick to! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve had a couple of challenges this weekend though, like when DH and DS3 were eating bubbled cheese pretzels, but I managed to keep temptation at bay, whilst focussing on watching Lost Season Two!

Without boring you with the details of what I’ve eaten over the last week, I’ll summarise!

  • Instead of eating 2 or sometimes 4 slices of toast (It’s a small loaf!)ย  I’ve only been having 1, and leaving out the butter and having Marmite instead of jam.
  • Brown instead of white bread
  • Kid’s sized portions of theย  main meal instead of my usual big plate
  • Salad without Mayo or dressing
  • Tea and coffee without sugar
  • Pumpkin seedsย  as a snack
  • I’ve resisted chocolate bars, pretzels, sweets and biscuits!

And the main achievement is that I have been on my cross trainer for 3 days in a row now, burning 100 cals each time!

To make this bento, I added some curry powder to the rice while it was cooking, to get this sunny yellow colour for my charaben cool dudes.ย  This is a mini bento (compared to the other bento box), and to give you an idea of the size of the rice balls, they are smaller than a golf ball, more like the size of a table tennis / ping-pong ball.

I have a new method for cutting the carrot flowers, seeing as I don’t yet have the vegetable cutters. I will try to post a tutorial later. And the apple design is new too, which is done using tubes of apple and carving away a cross shape out of the skin. I forgot to mention in my previous bento that I discovered it is possible to use the craft punch on red apple skin too! Check out the red apple skin hearts here.

I used some sliced courgette in this bento, and I only put half a teaspoon of oil into the pan just to finely coat the bottom of it, and then (almost-)dry fried them, til they got this nice charred look! They were really tasty!ย  The other ingredients in this bento are green and yellow peppers, some sandwich beef, carrot, apple and lettuce. The faces on the rice balls are hand cut from Nori seaweed.

This is the zoomed out pic:

3 cool dudes bento This is a new box that I got from the local supermarket “Penny” for 1 Euro! It holds about 300ml. I’ve read that if you prepare the bento in the “correct or guideline proportions” (some say it’s 4:3:2:1 and others says it’s 3:2:1) then the bento should equate to approximately the same number of calories as the number of mls of water it can hold.

Well I’m no maths whizz but 4 parts of carbs, 3 parts protein, 2 parts veg and 1 part of something else means 10 parts altogether, so that means 40% rice or noodles, 30% meat or fish, 20% veg and 10 percent dessert or pickles.

If, however, the rule is 3:2:1 then that’s only 6 parts, but 3 of those would be the carbs, so that’s 50%, then 33% protein and only 17% veg.ย  So either I’ve misunderstood what I’ve been reading, or there is some mis-information or contradictory schools of thought on this issue.

I personally usually try to make sure there are plenty of brightly coloured fruits or vegetables in there, and not go too mad with the amount of rice,pasta or bread that I’m putting in. I’ll also usually try to make sure there is some protein, with meat, fish or cheese. I’m a big believer in artistic license so trying to stick to guidelines or rules will usually play havoc with my creativity, so I don’t generally pay much attention to it, to be honest! ๐Ÿ˜€

While we’re on the subject, I had my first ever negative comment recently! ๐Ÿ˜ฎย  I’d topped a sandwich with some coloured cheese, and a comment came in that it was a “lazy cop out” and not a real bento. The actual words were: “Using cheese in bentos at all is cheating. It’s a lazy copout.”ย  Of course, I was wounded to the soul when I read that! twisted

I suppose technically none of my bento are “real bento”, if I’m not adhering to the 4:3:2:1 / 3:2:1 law, (or if I am not living in Japan and using only Japanese ingredients if you like a bit of over-zealousness!) but I’ve never heard of cheese being condemned in such a way. Bad cheese! ๐Ÿ˜€ However if you are a hardened bento rebel like me, and you do indeed like to sneak a bit of cheese in your bento making, check out my Cheese Colouring Tutorial!

And talking of comments – I’ve been messing about with the site and you will probably notice the sidebars are looking a little different recently, and the comments section is temporarily not visible due to a “Hide / Show Comments” button that is not configured correctly. I think you can still post comments, if you would like, and they don’t all have to be positive, I was kidding with the sarcasm earlier, honestly, constructive criticism is welcomed! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll try to get the comments visibility problem fixed asap! Thanks to everyone who has ever left lovely comments for me, it really is a motivation and inspiration for me to keep trying to come up with new designs / themes or techniques to share! ๐Ÿ˜€