The Bento Life

February 14, 2013

Have you seen the bento craze? If you’re not familiar with it, it is (most basically) a way of compactly assembling lunch in a box that originates in Japan. There is more to it than that of course, including guidelines on how to choose the right size and pack your box so that you get the proper number of calories in the proper proportions. There are also people who send hours making cute bentos or charaben, but that’s a side shoot of bento making as a whole.

I started reading bento blogs over a year ago. After making do with several rubbermaid containers and some thrift store finds, I finally last month invested in some easy to use Lock n Lock bento boxes for Mario. I wouldn’t doubt if we’ve made the money back already in lunch packing! Not only does it encourage me to pack his lunch more often (I had gotten pretty slack about it since the arrival of Little Bit), but the way of packing small amounts of a variety of foods means that we don’t throw a scrap of anything away anymore. Two pot stickers, three broccoli florets, a quarter cup of rice — it all goes in the bento.

Here’s the Hub’s Valentine’s Day bento


Box 1: Oranges and blueberries, carrots with ranch in a tiny container, tomato salad topped with parmesan.

Box 2: Rice balls (molded in a novelty measuring cup from Dollar General!) topped with paprika sprinkled through a stencil (also DG), surrounded with green beans to make them stay.

Box 3: Mandarin chicken leftover from last night’s dinner, topped with cupcake picks (DG).

All three boxes have sealing lids, and they stack inside a snug little cooler.

Usually his bento is just leftovers thrown in boxes, nothing special like this. It generally takes me no time at all, since I pack it the night before when I would be boxing up leftovers for the fridge anyway. This one I spent a bit more time on, just because I wanted to, Little Bit was in bed, and the hubs was off at a guys only thing.

Happy Valentine’s!


Home Style

February 11, 2013

I frequently receive compliments on the styling of my apartment. It has happened enough times to prod me into writing this post. I learned most of these things growing up with my mother, who is a wiz at interior design. This is the first of what I hope will be a series about finding a style, sticking with it, and styling your home on a shoestring. This post will explain what I mean by those three things.

The most important thing to do when decorating your space is to find your own style. I learned this the hard way. When we decided to move back from China, I knew I was coming “home” to nothing. No couch, no bed, no table. Nothing. I started planning. Problem was, I looked at a ton of blogs and picked out things I wanted without stopping to consider what I liked. I ended up buying several things that are now sitting in our storage closet.

Second, stick to your style. It does absolutely no good to pick out a style that is 100% you, then only stick to it 75% of the time. If you buy something that doesn’t fit your overall style, you will end up unhappy with it or replacing it. Neither outcome is a good use of your money.

Third, this can be done with very little money. I hate it when I see a pinterest picture claiming to have inexpensive styling tips, only to click on it and find a budget of $1500 to makeover one room. That’s not my idea of a shoestring! Patience and planning can result in a well styled house on any budget. My living room cost about $750-$800. We started with an empty room and bought everything (couch, chairs, art, lighting, bookcase, tables) new for that. If you have anything already in your living room, or you have the time to craigslist or thrift, you could spend far, far less.

In the following posts in the series, I’ll explain much more about these three things, as well as share how I found my own style, how I stick to it, what I spent on what and why, and my biggest mistakes. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here’s half of my living room. I decided to take the picture without touching a thing (yes, that’s the plate from my lunch on the coffee table!). There’s still a looooong way to go, but it does accurately reflect my style.