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we just made this for the kiddos!

blogged here

(61::365)

Taking a page from Japanese bento cookbooks, I froze leftover spaghetti in foil liners set in mini muffin tins. Once they're frozen through, I put them in shallow tupperware for longer-term storage like this. Then I have a cache of homemade pasta ready to drop into my son's lunches when I'm looking for a red-colored dish. They thaw by the time he's ready to eat.

 

Full details on freezing spaghetti cups here.

This is my obsessive way of keeping my son's bento lunch accessories organized and within reach when I'm packing lunch in the kitchen. It's a US$0.99 metal strip from Ikea, and oversized magnetic spice canisters from Ikea (3 for US$4.99). Full blog entry here, speed tip info on the pre-filled sauce containers here.

 

(EDIT: I'm running a lunch gear organization event and contest; submit your ingenious organization methods by March 14, 2008 to win a copy of the upcoming bento book Face Food. Full details are here.)

This lunch took about 5 minutes to put together, with a mini shepherd's pie I made at the same time I made a big shepherd's pie for dinner the other night. The little skewered tomato and cheese "sandwiches" were very simple -- just a slice of cheese and halved cherry tomatoes. Full post with mini-tutorial here on my blog. Extra-thick aluminum foil cups for unsupported cooking here and in my blog.

people never look as lovely as they *really* are with flash. well, at least not MY flash.

 

at ignite portland 4

Have a stash of fruit jello cups in the refrigerator to grab and throw into packed lunches. Add fruit to the juice jigglers (thicker than regular jello), and pack in common condiment containers with little lids. No need to buy special food cups: see my full entry here for common alternatives and gelatin cautions.

Another speed bento that took five minutes to put together. Recipe and tutorial for the faux latke made from leftover potato salad here. The faux latkes can be frozen after they're fried to have on hand for maximum speed when packing lunch -- just drop one frozen into your lunch and let it defrost naturally.

Photo for my post "Avoid airplane food, pack a bento lunch"

 

This packs up very small; the packed version is here. Detailed photos and information on the individual items is in my Lunch Tools set .

Homemade jello jigglers made with straight blueberry juice and unflavored Knox gelatine (no sugar), poured into reusable plastic food cups for packing in lunches. They're thicker than regular Jello, so they hold up all day at room temperature (recipe is on the Knox packets). Just drop one into my son's lunch in the morning like this and go! Big time saver.

After freezing leftover pasta in foil-lined mini muffin tins, I popped them into tupperware for freezer storage. Easy to grab one and pop it into a packed lunch like this -- it'll thaw before lunchtime.

To keep track of what's in my freezer, I took a tip from a book on freezing and made magnets out of the weekly supermarket advertising pages and a magnet sheet (or old cheap refrigerator magnets). This also helps me track what I've pre-made and frozen in individual portions for speedy lunch prep. Magnet assembly view here, full blog entry here.

Brilliant idea to use a delivery receipt for a birth announcement!

When our son was born, I went from spending my days taking photos of food for my blog to taking photos of my baby for...well, that was the question! We don't have much free wall space to hang framed photos, and you can only make so many photo books. After ordering a couple custom photo ornaments for gifts last Christmas, I decided I wanted to free ourselves from all the Christmas decorations we'd accumulated just to have something to decorate with and start creating my own ornaments from our photos.

 

The custom ornaments aren't cheap, so to fill out the tree I ordered a pack of Moo.com's half-size business cards, which let you put a different photo on the back of each one. I picked out 100 of my favorite pictures, or roughly two photos for every week the year. For the fronts of the cards (which became the backs for my purposes), I choose a red background and had a verse from a Christmas carol and the year printed in a suitably Christmasy font. We made a trip to the craft store and brought back two spools of 1/8 inch satin ribbon and a 1/8 inch hole punch. To make the garland, I simply punched a hole in each of the top corners of each photo and threaded the ribbon through. It took a lot less time than I was expecting, and with just a few hours of work I had decorations for our tree that truly reflect all we have to celebrate in our life now.

 

I'm planning to continue making these every year. Once our son is old enough to help, I want to turn it into a family tradition, sharing memories as we make the new garland and hang the ones from previous years. I like the one I made so well, though, that I may restring it on less holiday-colored ribbon and leave it up all year long.

 

(Check out my original review of Moo Cards in the second half of this post on my food blog, Pie of the Tiger.)

Speed bento technique of cooking multiple items in a frying pan at the same time (and cooking eggs in the little foil bento cups). Details and recipes here.

Surprisingly, you can actually prepare onigiri (rice balls) in advance and stash them in the freezer. The trick is to use very fresh rice (that's moist and hasn't been sitting in the rice cooker for hours), wrap each onigiri individually before freezing, and when you take them out of the freezer -- heat them in the microwave until they're warm and soft again. If you thaw them on the counter or in the refrigerator the texture will be hard and nasty, so the microwave step is very important.

 

In this photo I put all of the freshly wrapped, warm onigiri (shaped in molds) on a metal pie plate to speed freezing. Next, I put them in a labelled freezer bag and sucked all of the air out of the bag with a straw before sealing (think do-it-yourself FoodSaver vacuum packing). This helps ward off freezer burn.

 

Full details and yaki onigiri tutorial here.

Instead of throwing away the Valentine's Day cards we got at our school parties as kids, we would turn them into placemats by arranging them between two sheets of clear contact paper.

Child-safe night light

my kids played their first UNO game yesterday. the boys used these card holders I made with cottage cheese lids + brads and they worked great!

more here

Made out of a gutted Case Logic CD case. Diaper bags aren't Grup enough for me.

 

Edit: this got picked up by www.parenthacks.com/2006/05/homemade_diaper.html

Travel soap holder and toothbrush travel case hold baby washcloths. Wet the washcloth, put it in the case, and tuck it inside a lunchbox or diaper bag for an environmentally friendly alternative to wet wipes. Full entry on oshibori and how to make your own out of commonly available items is here at Lunch in a Box.

The case actually holds only one banana when closed, but here I photographed it with two differently shaped bananas to show how the case accommodates both straight and curved bananas.

The Boy is off at a chess tournament, giddy at the novelty of hotel-staying and event-swag accumulation. Us girls, left behind, have to make our own excitement, today, in the form of microwave potato chips dusted with paprika and kosher salt. Not bad at all.

 

www.lovelihood.com

If you pack onigiri (rice balls) or decorated rice for lunch, speed up your morning prep time by pre-cutting nori into shapes you use often, and store them at room temperature in a sealed freezer bag with a dessicant pack to keep moisture away from the nori. Full post and storage instructions for the freezer here.

This was given to me and other SFO->SYD passengers near a couple and their young child; it contained cookies and earplugs, and is probably the most thoughtful thing I've seen a stranger do in quite some time. Maybe there is hope for us after all...

Detailed guide to packing a bento lunch (with tips from Japanese bento cookbooks) and list of "gap fillers" to stabilize lunches for transport is here at Lunch in a Box.

Serving the theme of our 15-month-old son's new bedroom.

 

Sincere thanks from the talented artists who took these photos, from left to right: Untitled by shadowplay, On the 1st of November by xylonet, and My next car ... (used by permission)* by slight clutter

 

* Update: I have received retroactive permission from slight clutter (who was kind, reasonable, and understanding in her response, while still making her reasons for protecting her copyright clear) to use her image and am still awaiting a response from the photographers of the other two images. If you're thinking of doing something like this with copyrighted images on Flickr, I do recommend asking for such permission *first*.

Flexible ice blanket is essentially a quilt of tiny ice packs that can be cut apart to produce tiny reusable ice packs for packed lunches (or leave whole to wrap food in a cooler or wrap arm/leg after injury). Especially convenient for throwing into tight insulated lunch bags or small spaces. Full post here.

Scrambled egg purse with green onions, for packing in lunches (usually out of plastic wrap). This simple technique is often used with mashed pumpkin, potatoes, rice, etc. to give shape and design to an otherwise unstructured dish. Recipe and tutorial in my blog entry.

Make edible ice packs by freezing prepackaged puddings, jellies, canned fruit in small containers, etc., or make your own in lidded condiment cups. Full details are here.

JT got a bit scared, cuz when he came out - everyone howled with laughter (good kind) - so he got carried through the "parade" just after this picture.

 

Costume was homemade with help from mother-in-law and mother. see what we did here: www.parenthacks.com/2006/10/how_do_you_prep.html

For a how-to post on making learning chopsticks with disposable chopsticks and a rubber band. Full post with a review of Edison learning chopsticks and Fun Chop gadget is here.

The belt was longer than needed so I wrapped it around the chair to shorten the length.

Very simple -- uses a slice of cheese and halved cherry tomatoes. Mini tutorial and full details here on my blog, finished product in a lunch here.

For a how-to post on making learning chopsticks with disposable chopsticks and a rubber band. Full post with a review of Edison learning chopsticks and Fun Chop gadget is here.

I created this "tickler" type system for weekly items because I was having a very difficult time keeping up with physical items I needed to take with me each day when leaving for work, and taking Tanner to school.

 

For example, If I found out on Thursday that Tanner had a 'swim day' next Tuesday which required me send him to school with a pair of swim shorts and a towel, I needed to be sure he got their with what he needed.

 

I added the note to my calendar (PDA), but I was still required to hunt up the items, usually on the morning he needed them. This was causing delays in the mornings that I wasn't willing to accept.

 

So, finding out Thursday that next Tuesday we needed to leave the house with a pair of swim shorts, and a towel, I would immediately locate the items, and put them in the Tuesday bin. I just added this to my PDA's calendar, or Next Actions list in the @Home context.

 

Each morning I check the bins for notes I may have left myself for tasks due on that day, or for physical items that I need to leave with. This works great for returning moving rentals as well. I've also started unloading my pockets, such as wallet, keys, wedding ring, etc, and placing them in the next day's bin. This assures me that I don't leave the house 'unmarried'.

To help him keep track of what we're doing during the week. The sun shows what day it is today.

(it's on our magnet wall)

kirstencan.typepad.com

Pretty much my favorite picture of Jasper ever. Perfect timing. He LOVES spoons. He'll be good at a restaurant as long as he has spoons to hold (idea courtesy of Parent Hacks, we always ask for extra spoons first thing when we get there). We may have to start bringing our own, though, as he cries when we take them away.

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