Saturday, January 30, 2010
One night last week, as we were putting together the salads for dinner, I realized we were out of Italian dressing. It's Mister J's favorite salad dressing, so I hopped on the 'net to see if I could throw something together from the ingredients in my pantry. I found a recipe that I was willing to try - meaning I had the ingredients on hand and it was easily halved to make a 'test' portion.
He gave it a try, which I was proud of, but then told me that it was, "not quite right to the same Italian in the bottle." He was, for his age, quite gentle and tactful.
Miss M, on the other hand, was not so gentle - she was dripping with drama and poutiness when she told me, "This is not the best day ever!" On this particular afternoon she was tired and I'd had to 'be the Mom' and enforce a rule only moments before, so she was unhappy with me. Still, I had to stifle my giggle until she turned and walked away.
What is the mystery of keeping your kids occupied indoors when it's snowing outside?
"Retro" Legos - lots and lots of them! Two buckets worth, supplemented with McToys. These aren't that old - I think they were Aunt L's - but the kids were still completely thrilled to play with them today!
Friday, January 29, 2010
The first notable difference for me is that the Original (aka 1.0) has one large lidded inner container, and the 2.0 has two lidded containers - one large and one small. (These are in addition to the dip container included with each size). For examples from my "lunches" posts, check here for bento 1.o and here for bento 2.0 (scroll to the 3rd photo). I can already tell you that I love the extra lids - it was my most-wanted improvement! I've tried not to do it often, but there have been times that I've put press-n-seal wrap on one of the small containers in our 1.0s because I needed a small lidded container. The lid really gives you much more lunch-packing flexibility, especially with the Bento Buddies - four additional inner containers, one in each size, and all with lids! (Look here - fourth photo)
I also think I'm really going to like the stainless flatware that comes with the 2.0s. I currently send re-usable plasticware with my kids - we already had it, it fits in the bento, and the kids like picking it out when I pack lunches. I don't mind the plastic-handled utensils that came with the 1.0, but they don't feel nearly as substantial as the stainless flatware. Plus, it just looks more 'grown-up.' And here's how the new stainless compares to our everyday flatware:
Left to right: Dinner fork, salad fork, Laptop Lunches fork, dinner spoon, teaspoon, Laptop Lunches spoon
This next photo is the best I could do to compare the size of the actual lunchbox (the outer container). The only difference in the outer dimensions is in the depth of the container. This is why the inner containers of the 1.0 and 2.0 are not compatible (not complaining, just stating fact).
Here's a depth comparison of the large lidded inner container:
The dark green is from one of our 1.0s, and the bright green is from my new 2.0. Do you see another small difference? I'll point it out again later, so don't worry if you can't see it. It's a slight difference, but I think it'll be a noticeable improvement.
And here's another depth comparison. That's the 1.0 dip container inside one of the 2.0 large lidded containers. The photo makes the difference look like more than it really is, I think.
These are the 2.0 (left) and 1.0 (right) dip containers. The walls of the 2.0 containers are thinner than the 1.0 containers. What does this mean? The lids of these dip containers, while the same length and width, are not interchangeable. The yellow lid will not seal the blue container shut, it will just fall off because the 'groove' on the underside is too wide to fit snugly. This will probably only be mildly inconvenient for me since I have two purple dip containers from both the 1.0 and 2.0 bentos and three large, bright green lidded containers, some from each series. It does make me wonder how well these new (2.0) containers will stand up to repeated dishwashing, though they are still fairly substantial.
I've had a lot to say about the lidded containers, but what about the non-lidded containers? This is the large inner container with no lid. The one on the left is from the 2.0, the one on the right is from the 1.0.
The corners are more square on the new non-lidded containers - I'm not yet sure how I feel about that since I haven't packed a lunch in the 2.0 yet. This is the container that usually holds a sandwich, some popcorn, or some other 'dry' food, but there is the chance of some sort of food getting stuck in the corners and being difficult to get out if I'm hand washing (soy butter comes to mind...). The same changes are also seen in the small non-lidded container.
Both of these containers are from the 2.0 - you can see the difference between the lidded container with the rounded corners and the non-lidded container with the more square corners.
Remember that small difference I mentioned earlier? You might have also noticed it in my photo of the dip containers, but I think it's most visible here - the sides of the new 2.0 containers are angled. This improvement already ranks high on my list, and here's why:
Bento Storage 1.0
Step 1: Nest two small containers in large container.
Step 2: Cover with the other large container. Store dip containers elsewhere.
The containers did not nest inside each other...
But now they do!
The two large lidded containers from the 2.0 and Bento Buddies set...
Fit inside the large non-lidded container. The small inner containers also nest (the lidded inside the non-lidded) and sit nicely inside the large containers. Then the small lids and the dip container inside of that. And, since I have the Bento Buddies, too, I figured out that it'll all fit nicely into the extra-large container (just put the extra-large lid underneath to keep it all together). I typically store the inner containers inside the outer container, and stand them hinge-side-up in my cabinet (kind of like books on a shelf, spine-side-up). But sometimes it doesn't all work out that way, so I store them like you see above (1.0). With the extra containers of the 2.0, I'm glad to see that I can store them much more compactly.
Oh, before I forget, I ordered the bento sleeve for my new 2.0. My kids have the 1.0 systems with the insulated carrying case (zip case with handle), but for my needs (and since I'll primarily be the one using the 2.0), the sleeve works better. We actually have two bentos with carrying cases and three with sleeves. The carrying cases work much better for my kids, but I think the choice really depends on your own needs.
So, do I have a recommendation? A preference of 1.0 or 2.0? Remember, I haven't had a chance to pack a lunch in the 2.0 yet, but if you are new to Laptop Lunches, I would definitely recommend the 2.0. It's more a more flexible system, especially if you order the Bento Buddies. It stores so compactly - a big plus for my cabinet with 5 bentos! The new stainless flatware is a big improvement. I do like the thicker-walled containers of the 1.0, but I imagine that once I use the 2.0 a few times this will become a non-issue.
I still see pluses for the 1.0 - the smaller size is great for my preschooler and kindergartner who have smaller appetites. I have packed my own lunch in a 1.0 quite a few times, but the extra depth of the 2.0 should give room for slightly larger portions or bulkier foods. I tend to take out the large non-lidded container of the 1.0 when I pack sandwiches for my kindergartner - the box isn't quite deep enough to not squish the sandwich a bit (see this post for photos that will explain). The 2.0 will also have more 'growing room' for older kids' appetites. We've had our boxes for about 2 years now, and they still look brand new - I expect that they will be around for a while!
Please feel free to ask questions in your comments - I'll be happy to answer them. And, if you decide to make a Laptop Lunches purchase, I hope you will use my discount code (in the right column)!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Today was a loooong day - and I'd forgotten that my lunchbox was due to arrive until I was turning on to our street. As I pulled into the driveway, I saw my package on the front porch!
the strong winds we've had the past couple of days....
bottom edge of the photo), which I'll tell you more about in a future post.
I like the new, all-stainless flatware that's included with the Bento 2.0 sets.
Here's the lunchbox with the extra inner containers - the Bento Buddies. I can't wait to give all of this a try - the flexibility of the additional containers excites me!
I'm planning to do the comparison posts over the next couple of weeks (actual timeline tbd). I've taken lots of 'comparison' shots, but I also want to be able to show you all of the different configurations with the new inner containers. I don't think those shots will be nearly as exciting if there's no food in the box. Besides, I've got plenty of photos to keep me busy in the short-term.
One last shot - three bentos in the top rack of my dishwasher, including all of the bento buddies.
All of those bright colors make me really happy!
So, pizza, strawberries, cukes and carrots, dip. Miss M's box had snack mix in the section with the dip container. Mister J's box, above, had some chocolate chips and cranberries - his snack mix was in a separate container for snack time.
VERDICT: Mister J had fruit, veggies, and Craisins left over, which he ate when he got home from school. Miss M completely ignored the pizza and carrots.
I'm thinking soybutter and jelly for tomorrow....
Saturday, January 23, 2010
We made a "pizza" lunch - whole wheat Ritz crackers, pepperoni (usually turkey, but this time the real thing), and mozzarella cheese cutouts. Here's where things really begin to part from the standard found-in-your-deli-case boxed lunch.... I included carrots with dip and some pineapple chunks.
Once again, mixed results. There were no leftovers of crackers, pepperoni, or cheese. Miss M refused to eat any of the 'pinecones' (aka pineapple) - Mister J ate a portion of his. Miss M ate more of her carrots than I expected, Mister J ate fewer. Really, if I only packed 3 carrots, wouldn't it look like I was starving them?!?
Here's the craziest footnote I could possibly add regarding what the kids are eating lately....
On Thursday night, the kids ate Dream Dinners' Tex Mex Turkey BBQ Wraps for dinner. They loved them. My two "I'll-eat-chicken-but-only-if-it's-a-nugget-and-maybe-sometimes-I'll-eat-sausage-or-bacon" kids ate shredded turkey with sauce, in a wrap. And tonight, they ate a spinach and apple salad with homemade honey balsamic vinaigrette. But they won't eat simple, 'normal' foods in their lunches. Hmmm... Should I be packing fancier lunches?
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Mister J's lunch - strawberries (finished), carrots and hummus (untouched), Boursin (untouched) and a mini Babybel (finished), Triscuits (finished). He also had Goldfish and Craisins for snack (finished about 2/3). I was really surprised that he didn't eat the carrots and hummus or the Boursin (which he LOVES). Perhaps I didn't send enough crackers.
Miss M's lunch - strawberries, Triscuits, mini Babybel, cucumber cut-outs, a couple of baby carrots, and 1000 Island dressing. I was surprised to find that my cheese fiend ate everything except the mini Babybel. She only took one bite because she didn't like the "cracker dust" (or some similar term for the crumbs) that got on the cheese....
I feel like I packed such a little bit of lunch for her today. I guess it looks small since I put the veggies in the big section. And I'm surprised that he didn't finish his carrots, or even touch them. I think I'm striking out more often that I'm having successes right now, and I just can't figure it out. We've got another long weekend coming up - perhaps I'll take the kids shopping for some new, 'fun' foods. I rarely do that any more - taking them to the grocery store can be, ahem, challenging. But if they will eat, it'll be worth it!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
We ordered pizza on Monday (school holiday for the kids, and work holiday for Big J!), so I sent leftover pizza in the lunchboxes on Tuesday.
I was glad to see Miss M's lunch box come home empty today (same things as Mister J's lunch, by the way). I've been reducing the portions a little bit at a time, but I also worry that I won't be sending enough. I have to keep reminding myself that she gets a snack midway through the morning.... I'm also wondering why the cucumbers were such a success today. Are my kids picky about cucumber peel like some kids are about the crusts on bread? Hmm... food for thought (pun intended)!
After a long day at school, it's no surprise that Mister J is just not interested in doing homework. He'd much rather be watching Dinosaur Train or Word Girl, playing Wii, or going to basketball practice. Truly, who wouldn't? However, the homework must get done. In addition to math homework each night, a weekly writing assignment, and a science or social studies assignment, Mister J is also supposed to read 15 minutes each day. I was having Mister J read our bedtimes stories, but it really wasn't working for us. He was tired, and so was I, so we weren't reading anything too challenging. Add it all up, and there were a few ... problems.
1 - Doing all of the homework in the evening is a big stressor for our family (yes, the whole family!), especially on nights when we have other activities scheduled.
2 -We were doing homework at bedtime. This is just not cool.
3 - We were selecting less-challenging books because we were all tired, which wasn't helping Mister J develop his reading skills.
About a week ago, Mister J's class was scheduled for a visit to the library. He'd listened to some of the Magic Treehouse books on CD during the holiday break and really enjoyed them, so I suggested that he select at least one during his library visit. He came home with three! THREE! When were we going to find time to read those?
(light bulb flashes on)
If we could listen to audiobooks in the Mommy-van, why couldn't we do our 15 minutes of daily reading on the way to school in the morning? Genius, I tell ya!
Aside from the benefit of spreading out the homework load across the day, I see lots of other pluses to this system:
1 - It's a way to slowly get into 'school mode' while still having fun (he really enjoys the stories).
2 - He's reading out loud - working on fluency and self-confidence
3 - Since he sits behind me instead of beside me (like when we read at bedtime), he's much more likely to try to sound out the words on his own instead of just asking me. Of course, being less tired also helps.
4 - Miss M is observing this, too - so there's a benefit there, too!
The Magic Treehouse books are challenging for Mister J, so he often spells out words that he doesn't recognize. Then, we just use some of his reading strategies to figure it out. I also think that talking through the reading strategies helps to reinforce them for times when he's reading independently. At the moment, I don't think he's using these strategies as much as he could be, so I am pleased that I can reinforce them while we do our reading homework.
Homework in the morning Works for Me!
Have a Works-for-Me Wednesday tip that you'd like to share? Head on over to We Are THAT Family to link up to the fun!
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
Oh, and this, too:
I've ordered the Bento 2.0 and the Bento Buddies in Berry. I think the larger size and added flexibility of the 2.0 system will be nice for packing 'adult' lunches. I am always surprised by the quantity that a 1.0 holds - more than my preschooler or kindergartner can eat in a single sitting, and definitely enough for an adult lunch. However, I think the added depth of the 2.0 will make packing sandwiches a little easier. I'm also excited about having a lidded medium container to hold servings of wet foods - no more cling wrap needed! I'll be posting about all of my 'discoveries' once the Bento 2.0 arrives - but you already knew that! If you are considering a Laptop Lunchbox, and you're still trying to decide between the 1.0 and the 2.0, I'll be giving my honest opinion about the pros and cons of each one. Stop back by in a week or so - or just add me to your reader to see the latest posts!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
We had some leftover rolls from our New Year's lunch that made great mini-sandwiches for the kids. I cut some deli meat and cheese to fit the rolls, and the kids seemed to really enjoy these sandwiches - the perfect size for small hands! Plus, just like adults, they enjoy variety - and 'special bread' counts just as much as having a different fruit or vegetable!
The 'sandwich' rolls made a second appearance, this time with turkey and cheese - two for Mister J and one for Miss M. I also added some cherries to this lunch - the kids think it's fun to pit out the pits, and I think it's a great way to get another color into their "food rainbow." It's been a while since we have had fresh cherries, which means it's almost like introducing a new food around here, so I started slow and mixed them in with something familiar.
Moving on to the "one photo" days.... I'll try and note any differences between the two lunches (besides quantity) that I can remember.
Similar lunches on this day - only varying in quantity (more for him, less for her - I think this is his lunch box). Mini Babybel and Triscuit crackers; a small salad with diced celery, cucumbers, carrots, and deli turkey; dressing in the small container; blueberries; pumpkin bread. The kids were both excited about a lunch that included a mini Babybel, so the cheese and crackers were gone. Miss M ate some of her salad and Mister J, a big salad eater, ate none. The reason? He saw the celery and passed on the whole thing. Guess I didn't dice it small enough! Nope, I'm not above hiding the good stuff in their food. Nearly every time I've packed blueberries in the past two weeks, at least some of them come back home. Hmph.
I expected to get raves from this lunch - chicken nuggets are a rare treat! I was disappointed. Although Mister J ate his, Miss M didn't eat a single one. I'd reminded the kids ahead of time that these would only be room temperature at lunch time (they aren't able to reheat lunches at school), and everyone seemed to understand. They've had room temperature pizza before - and gobbled it up! I guess these just aren't as good cold, no matter how much ketchup you put on them.... I sought advice from another lunch-packing mom; I'll try her tip later on and let you know how it works out. So, the lunch rundown: chicken nuggets (6 for him, 4 for her), sliced cucumber with hummus in a hollowed-out cucumber dip 'cup', Goldfish and Craisin snack mix, ketchup in the small container, cheese cubes (which the kids got excited about when I was packing the lunches). Perhaps I really should start scoring these lunches on a 10-point scale....
(By the way, huge apologies for the photo quality. Some of these were taken with my BlackBerry - on the days I couldn't find my camera - and those with my camera aren't much better. Hint, hint, Big J - I'm gonna be asking for a DSLR for my birthday....)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
"What's that?" she asked.
"I don't want rock-e-a-mole on my chip."
"How about you try one with guacamole, and then I'll give you a plain one after that."
"OK." (tastes chip with guac)
"Do you like it?"
"Do you want another one?"
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
She was so cute as she tried to say 'guacamole' - and as much as I'm tempted to try and hold on to those cute things she says, I do help her with the correct pronunciation. (The only thing that we don't work on is the way she says "Toy Story 2" - she says "Stoy Tory 2"! We've tried, and she's just not giving this up yet.) The funniest thing, though, is that we've had this same conversation - about a different food each time - for WEEKS now! Sometimes with foods that she's eaten before and truly enjoyed!
I'm linking this post to Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays. Hop on over to read Ann's post, read others who have linked up, or to add one of your own!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
So far, Bolt has the most developed personality. She likes to sit on the table for meals (um, no...) and sometimes answers back - thanks to Miss M's budding ventriloquism skills.
Bolt accompanied us on our holiday travel, went to Costco with us this week, and was a backpack stowaway and went to school one day this week with another little doggy friend.
Oh, and that 'leash' that you see? Actually a belt from one of Miss M's skirts, also known as the 'sparkle lasso.' Oh, yeah, she's one imaginative little girl!
Friday, January 8, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
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And again with the sideways pictures! But look below - they've given me a suggestion! Heading over there now....
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I dreaded the day that Blanket would unravel. I gently worked with the thin places, pulling the yarn to a thicker point before tying a loop of yarn into a knot. I reminded Mister J that Blanket is delicate. I'd tried once to find a replacement blanket. When I brought it home, Mister J informed me that it didn't feel the same. So, that was that, and this new blanket was just added to the pile of kid-sized blankets and quilts to be used for camp-outs, naps, and playtime.
I was out shopping with Mom/Grandma RL a few days before Christmas and we dropped in at a local consignment shop. I always check out the children's section, and this trip was no different. And there it was - a lovely, light blue, knitted/crocheted (I can't tell the difference) blanket. I walked over to it, felt it, and was instantly excited that this blanket might be The One. I didn't buy it right away - I'd been down that road - but I decided I would approach Mister J with the idea that evening.
Mister J is most often tearful when the subject of Blanket's future comes up, so I tiptoed a bit when I brought it up. I decided to leave the choices completely to Mister J. I explained what I found at the store and asked if he was interested in looking at it if it was still there (it's a consignment store after all, so there was only one). His answer? Yes. Whew! Two days before Christmas, Mister J and I went back to the store to look at the blanket. It was still there. I took it off of the shelf, opened the bag (I'd already checked it for snags, etc., the first time I saw it), and let Mister J feel it. He liked it! The final question - could we put Blanket away in a special place and let this New Blanket be the one he would snuggle with at bedtime. With a smile on his face, he said yes. I could have cried. Instead, I smiled, we walked to the front of the store, and I gave Mister J the money to pay for the New Blanket.
That night, as I was tucking him into bed with a freshly washed New Blanket, Mister J asked me when I was going to put Blanket in a safe place. Truly, at this point, I could have boo-hooed. This was so much easier on Mister J than I thought it would be! And, for that reason, it was so hard on me! Right before my eyes, my baby is growing up. When did milestones turn into barely noticeable dips in the road? This wasn't even a bump - not for him. I am so proud of him, even though it was bittersweet for me.
Birthday with Grandpa H
Happy Birthday Mister J
They've got photos, fun, and silliness, so it's worth taking a peek!
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I was very low on anything to pack into the Laptop Lunch Boxes for Monday. We'd traveled the last week of Christmas break, and Sunday was truly a day of rest. We really didn't do anything. I paid for it when I tried to pack lunches Sunday night.
Applesauce (which I poured out of a single-serve container - cringe!), pumpkin bread (which I baked when I realized I was desperately low on lunchbox-appropriate items), blueberries (miraculously, I had fresh fruit on hand!), ham and cheese sandwiches on leftover mini-croissants (thanks, Aunt J!)
Peach yogurt (poured from -gasp!- a single-serve container. She wouldn't have eaten it all anyway, so I snacked on about half of it as I packed lunches), pumpkin bread, blueberries, ham and cheese on mini croissant.
Vanilla yogurt, grape tomatoes and baby carrots with ranch dip, blueberries and cherries, turkey and cheese on a tiny croissant.
Carrots and cucumbers 'cut into shapes' per Mister J's request, roasted garlic hummus, snack mix (that, amazingly enough, has no peanuts), blueberries and cherries, turkey and cheese on mini croissants.
1) I need to work toward eliminating American cheese from our diet. I want to replace it with real cheese. I'm not sure I can get us all the way to low fat cheese, but at least I can get away from cheese 'product.'
2) I try very hard to buy domestic produce, but I caved at the grocery store. The cherries are from Chile, I think. The watermelons and cantaloupes, which I did not purchase, were not domestic, either. I came very close to caving on the watermelon, until I remembered that co-op bounty arrives on Saturday. But I could. not. resist. the cherries. They are so yummy, and I have eaten my fair share, but I want to work toward eating locally (a very long-range goal, but 'domestic' is a start).
3) I want to pack a wider variety of veggies in the lunches. Colorful peppers, broccoli (a sometimes hit around here), blanched asparagus. Ok, that last one is a stretch. We will try salads again when the weather warms up, and I'll start
4) I'd love to figure out a way to incorporate beans into the lunches - perhaps something that would go in the thermos? They eat edamame - but I'd also like to incorporate more black beans, chickpeas (not in the form of hummus), etc.
I know that all sounds pretty crunchy-granola, but I am becoming more and more conscious of what we eat and how much we consume (that is, stuff we use that is not re-usable, not necessarily just the stuff we eat). Therefore, the dietary improvement goals and the ((shiver)) when I opened a single-serving applesauce just to pour it into another container. Did I mention that I made applesauce over the break? It was a sort of experiment with proportions loosely based on a recipe I found online. It was delicious, and I definitely see more of it in our future. I left it a bit chunky - yum! Again, I digress....
I'm also worrying less about what other kids at school might say about Mister J's lunches. Yes, at the beginning of the school year I worried about this! From my lunchtime observations, using the class in which I volunteer as a guide, there are some pretty healthy lunches coming to school. Sure, there are pre-packaged convenience foods and sweets in some lunchboxes, but half or more of the lunches are healthy and contain a decent variety of foods. Have I mentioned that the kids drink milk at lunch? I'm slowly realizing that they don't often finish their milk (Miss M is especially guilty of this...), which bugs me since we are paying for that milk (!), but the other alternative is to send water since we rarely let them drink juice. And, since that can get confusing when they are making their lunch plans at the beginning of the school day (trying to remember if they need to buy milk or not), we make it easy by making it routine.
Well, that's the long version of two days of lunches in the life of an exclusively-lunch-packing mom. Hopefully, more lunches to come - perhaps with less commentary!