Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bento Post - the last one of 2011!

I'm WAY behind on my bento pictures.  Since last week my poor spoiled child has been taking Lunchables to school for lunch, since we're out of housing and all of my snazzy bento supplies are in transit to the UK.

Anyways, I thought I'd post a few photos of some of the lunches I missed posting last month when they were relevant...  Ooops!

This one's pretty old but I can't remember posting it before.

Cherries, kiwi, mini salad with cheese stars, mac and cheese and under-the-sea dogs: mini octo and crab.
This was C's lunch on a day when we were out and about running errands.  It's a mini-version of the same lunch A had that day - apples, edamame, ham and cheese wheels, grapes, and a pumpkin candy.
The A version included a cookie.
Simple onigiri, hot dogs, apples, edamame and a pumpkin spice cookie
Bunny love.  ;)
Actually really liked this one - it's an olive spider and ham and cheese sammy rolls that say EEK with carrots, apples, and edamame - in the view below you can see how cute the spider is.  Hehehe

Red-dyed spaghetti (she won't eat spaghetti sauce, but red spaghetti is cool) with grilled chicken and a heart shaped bread, carrots, kiwi-love, cherry tomato and a brownie bite.
Sunbutter and jelly jack-o-lantern on skinny buns bread, mini-weenie, grapes, cheese, kiwi, and carrots.  There is a story behind this lunch.  Ask me some day.
Boo sammy with apples, grapes, carrots and cookie
Mini-mummy pizzas, apples and carrot-o-lanterns
The laziest ghost onigiri ever.  Fortunately my kiddo is pretty indiscriminate about rice.  Plus this one came with sprinkles - which she LOVES.  Also had candy corn, edamame, carrot-o-lantern, and mini dogs.
And that's that.  I may have a few more photos but since we're operating in-transit now, those won't be uploaded at all till we are settled in at our new address.  For the moment, I'm on vacation.  ;)

Book Review: Room

Book 25/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  (I DID IT!!)  Date completed: November 28, 2011.

Room.  I took an interest in this book months and months ago while it was first on the bestsellers list, but because of VERY mixed reviews, I put off reading it.  Then my friend (the same friend that recommended I listen to Crank) said it was great and that I should give it a go but only if I was doing the audiobook format again.

So, like I said, I had been looking for entertainment for my upcoming flights and I downloaded Crank, Room, and one other book right then and there on her suggestion (I believe it's Still Missing, but my iPod is like 5 feet away from me at the moment and I can't be bothered to double check the title...  Sue me!)

Like with Crank, I "spoiled my appetite" and started listening to it as soon as our move started.  I sat out in the hallway as the movers packed up our belongings with my headphones on and listened to this book.  And then I just couldn't stop and ended up subjecting my children and husband to listening to this book (and my incessant hushing) during each of our car rides together.  At first listen, this book is absolutely obnoxious.  I didn't read any reviews thoroughly before starting the book so I wasn't sure what exactly I was getting myself into.  Room is told from the perspective of a (very sheltered, to put it lightly) five-year-old, and as my husband pointed out, it sounds like a really long cheesy radio commercial, or maybe a radio show from the 50s.  It's told entirely in the voice of a small child, save for the parts where other characters are talking.  As I adjusted, though, I wasn't so bothered by Jack's voice any more, nor was I bothered by his childish grammar - actually, I found myself repeating "Jack-isms" to my husband, who I do believe got pretty involved in this book too.

As a sidenote - I don't recall if I've ever mentioned it before, but I bought my husband The Hunger Games trilogy audiobooks and he listens to them like they're going out of style.  It's pretty much the only way I can get him to share in my book obsession with me.  So for him to be cool with listening to Room at every opportunity with me is probably because of that.  He has probably listened to the full Hunger Games trilogy at least 10 times now.  And no, he's not sick of them yet.  They're that good!

Anyways once I got used to Room, I absolutely could not stop listening to it.  It's the story of a woman who is abducted at age 19 and kept isolated by her captor in a modified garden shed for seven years.  The story of her and the wonderful, charming, sweet product of her abuse - her five-year-old son, Jack.  Going into the story, none of that is entirely apparent however and it just seems like Ma and Jack are a couple of weirdos.

This is a definite good read.  I gave it four stars, one short of five because Ma's character did, on occasion, drive me crazy...  But I think that's sort of to be expected from someone so detached from the world.  This book doesn't leave anything out.  It includes all the details from Jack's perspective and it's extremely haunting.  I don't want to say too much and give the story away, just know that you really should read Room.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: Crank

Book 24/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: November 21, 2011.

This was different for me in many ways.  Crank was recommended to me by a friend who said it was really different and that she'd really enjoyed it.  I didn't know what to expect, but she suggested the audiobook as that was how she'd taken it in.  So, ok, I'm up for new stuff.  Plus, I've been wanting something to entertain me on the plane that doesn't require my eyes.  Figured an audiobook would be appropriate.

But I didn't wait till I got on the plane to start listening to Crank.  I started listening to it in the car on a drive to one of the other bases here on island to keep me company since I was going solo.  Right away I noticed how it was written much differently than anything else I've ever read.  I looked it up when I got home and found out that the book was written entirely in verse, almost as poetry.  (Which explains why the recording was only a little over four hours long total.)  It is from the perspective of a 16-going-on-17-year-old girl, Kristina, as she spirals downward into addiction.  It's very raw.  Talks about rape, talks about specific drug usage, talks about scandal of all sorts, teen pregnancy, abortion, and all those things that mothers of daughters worry about incessantly.

Anyways, at just four hours, I finished this book pretty quickly.  I put on my headphones and listened while I folded laundry and did dishes, I listened in the car on a couple of errand runs, and before I knew it, the book was over.  It scared the shit out of me, if I'm being honest.  I only gave it two stars, but not because it was bad - just because it really wasn't my thing.  I didn't relate at all to the plot - I was always pretty straight-edge - most would say my teenage years were quite boring and I'm alright with that.  But I did find it...  Well, fascinating, because of the absence of such chaos in my own life.

Apparently this book is the first in a series that continues to follow Kristina's life.  I'm not sure if I'll read the others, but this was definitely an interesting experience for me.  And makes me want to squeeze my children a little tighter.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: Divergent

Book 23/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: November 14, 2011.

I stumbled upon Divergent because I am such a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Divergent is the first (and currently the only - book number two, Insurgent, is due out next May) book in Veronica Roth's new trilogy.  It is very similar in feeling to The Hunger Games.  Maybe it's biased for me to review it in comparison but I couldn't help myself all throughout from feeling like they were spun from the same thread.

Beatrice (aka Tris) is a sixteen-year-old girl in a dystopian civilization divided into five factions: Abnegation, whose people are known for their selflessness; Amity, whose people are known for being caring; Candor, whose people are known for honesty; Dauntless, whose people are known for their fearlessness; and Erudite, whose people are known for their intelligence.  Beatrice is born and raised in Abnegation, but when her turn to choose her life's path and designated faction comes about, she opts to leave behind the family and the life that she has always known.

The story details the sometimes brutal initiation process for the teenagers entering into the Dauntless faction, but more specifically, it follows Beatrice's unique case as she tries to conceal the dangerous truth (and understand what it really means) that she is, in fact, a Divergent.

This is Veronica Roth's first book and I think it's really good.  I only gave it three stars on Goodreads, because I feel like it has a lot of potential but it just felt so much like The Hunger Games to me that I want to see what else is going to happen in the trilogy before I commit to absolutely loving it.  I felt like some parts were very predictable, where I never felt that way with The Hunger Games.  It's another time where I wish I could give ratings with half-stars, because Divergent certainly would merit three and a half if I could do it.  I'll definitely be reading the next book when I get my hands on it, and the other reviewers that say if you liked The Hunger Games you'll enjoy Divergent were right.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book Review: Love Walked In

Book 22/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: November 3, 2011.

Ok, so this was another Pinterest find because I liked the cover.  I'd probably have never heard of this book or Marisa de los Santos otherwise.  I gave it a three-star rating on Goodreads, but it was one of those times where I really wished instead of a five-star rating system, they used a ten-star.  I think this book would have merited more than six stars out of ten but probably only about seven total.  So, yeah, I suppose what I'm getting at is that I feel like about a 3.5 star rating is more honest.

The book started out really well.  I was hooked on it right away, especially from the first Clare chapter as her mother seemingly goes insane...  And Cornelia certainly was a lovable character, too.  She made a lot of classic film and book references and I like that sort of thing.  She's a hopeless romantic and a bit of an under-achiever, but content with her life in general.  The book creates a very unlikely connection between Cornelia and Clare, who we several chapters in discover is the daughter of Cornelia's super-suave boyfriend, Martin.  When Clare's mother goes off the proverbial "deep end," Martin finds himself suddenly solely responsible for the 11-year-old daughter he has essentially spent carefully avoiding her whole life.  He turns to Cornelia for help with Clare, and this was about the point where I sensed a plot-twist approaching that I wanted to dig my heels into the mud to prevent.

Without spoiling the story, I can only say that things changed about halfway through this book.  I felt it coming and I was really hoping against all hopes that it wasn't going where it was, but I was right.  Nothing terrible happens, just that it was really..  well, unbelievable.  And sappy.  And that was why it took me nearly a month to get through.  I lost interest.  It ends happy, it's just not the ending I'd have chosen.  The first half of the book, though, I really enjoyed!

Oh well.  On to the next.  It's definitely crunch-time.  I'm running out of days to complete the last three books.  I have started Divergent this weekend so hopefully I'll get through it pretty quickly and painlessly, but with the move and our vacation so quickly approaching and my husband going in for gallbladder surgery this week...  I'm slightly stressed out lately.  So we'll see.  Need to do a bento update soon, and a life-in-general update, too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Bento Catch-up

I really need to get myself into a good, solid routine.  With the upcoming move, though, I am fighting it.  Anyways my blog of course is the first thing to suffer - oops.  I have been bento-ing though and generally taking photos.  Here's another attempt to get the blog caught up on what A's been eating for lunch.

Sheesh.  I was SO intimidated on the morning I put this lunch together.  The day before, A had accidentally forgotten her standard lunch bag at school.  Which is technically not an issue since I bought her two different lunch bags that match her backpack exactly for this reason.  But this lunch box is a LOT bigger and I had bought the Pottery Barn Kids insert that fits inside of it to put her meal in.  I hadn't used the insert before so I was kind of concerned about how it was going to work out.  The box is way too big for a 5-year-old.  But I did manage to fit in her drink (Apple Qoo) and a pretty balanced meal in there.  Just, a lot of it came back.  She had cheeseburger buns, a cucumber roll (her favorite), carrot shapes, fruit jelly, and kiwi.  Not my favorite way to pack a lunch but I figured I'd document it anyway just for fun, since it was such a big deal at the time.  Here is a link to the container, if anybody's interested - it would definitely be a great box to use for an all-day outing - you could even stick something breakfasty in the covered space if you wanted to and have it separate.

HK onigiri and mini dogs, cucumber, carrots, strawberries, "cherry" tomatoes, cheese and a fruit jelly
Pizza wheels, edamame (on the animal picks), strawberry, banana, and carrots
Ham and cheese roll ups, cherry tomato, banana, carrots and jelly
Onigiri, broccoli, tomatoes, hot dog, apple and cheese
Banana, carrots, edamame, tomato balloon, and pizza rolls (crescent dough wrapped around pepperoni and string cheese)
C's mini-version of the pizza roll lunch
Under the sea - girly octodog, carrots, tomato, seal with olive, goldfish crackers, strawberry, and fish-shaped onigiri

Ham slices, diced peaches, tomatoes, carrots and olives with mac-and-cheese lion face

The first Halloween bento of 2011 :)
Mini mummy dogs - used lit'l smokies and seamless crescent dough - they're propped up on a banana and sharing space with a black cat sugar cookie
Mac-o-lanterns.  :)
Fresh fruits and veggies, leftover fried rice and gyoza with animal picks. 

Ok, that's all I've got.  Phew!  Here's to being caught up!  :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: The Help

Book 21/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed:  October 5, 2011.

I feel like The Help doesn't really need to be reviewed.  I feel like this book's reputation speaks for itself and I am just predictably giving it another five-star review.

I'm sure nearly everyone who might encounter this review already knows that The Help follows the lives of several women in Jackson, Mississippi and the lives of their black maids, also known as "the help".  Somehow a book whose main issues are racism in the mid-20th century and toilets is one of the most moving books I've ever read.  I felt like I was best friends with Skeeter Phelan, Aibileen Clark, and Minny Jackson.  And Hilly Holbrook - well, I just wanted to punch that woman in the face.

I bought The Help several months ago when it had been lingering at the top of the bestseller list, and I didn't know a lot about it except that it was getting rave reviews.  And then the movie came out and I heard from stateside friends via Facebook how incredible it was.  So I decided I'd go ahead and read it finally.  I had a very hard time reading Winter's Bone and blamed it largely on the vernacular but in The Help, I loved the way the maids sections were written in their own casual (if grammatically incorrect) language.  I could hear Aibileen, Minny, and the others speaking in my ears just as clear as could be and after I'd set the book down, I found myself wanting to talk the way I'd been reading.  Fo' sho.  Law have mercy!  I don't know why this is, but I just found the maids SO endearing.  I could not get enough of them.

Skeeter Phelan crosses an "invisible line" between white and colored women and secretly befriends maids in her quest to put her newly earned degree to good use and write a book about something that bothers her and seemingly nobody else - a book from the perspective of "the help" regarding exactly what it's like to be a colored woman in the very repressed state of Mississippi.  This secret work changes the lives of nearly everyone in the community, as well as poses a huge danger to many of the maids involved and Skeeter herself.

Certainly a book worth reading, though I'm sure you already knew that.  Seriously though, sit down with this one.  It's good.  And if you're like me you'll be waiting on pins and needles to watch the movie afterwards.  It's not out here yet, so I'm about dying with anticipation.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bundle of Bentos

Our external hard drive where we store our photos, music and videos filled up completely so I was unable to upload bento pictures from the past week and a half.  M did some transferring, so now we're back in business and I have a bunch of lunches to share.

Hello Kitty and friends onigiri with ham, carrots and apples.

Corn-doggies with attitude, carrot flowers, banana, baby corn and jelly.
Edamame, baby corn, rice, flower hamburger and bananas.
Macaroni Grill leftovers (by request!):  Broccoli, grilled chicken, pasta and a jelly.
Typical Monday hodge-podge disaster lunch - Anpanman sweet potato rounds, Hello Kitty mini dogs, jelly, baby corn, edamame, kiwi, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and baby carrots.
Wise sammies - Carrots, ham and cheese owls and veggie crackers (underneath).  She had a sidecar box full of apples with this one.
The boy owl
The girl owl
Packed up nice and cozy in a window-box.  :)

Fun-fun-fun!  This catches me up for the moment.  Thank goodness my computer is functional again!
Bento Lunch

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Book 20/25 in the 2011 Reading Challenge.  Date completed: September 20, 2011.

I found the cover of this book while perusing Pinterest one day and I was drawn in by it instantly (much in the same way I was with Before I Fall.)  Pinterest seems to be one of my main methods for book-scouting lately.  In the case of The Memory Keeper's Daughter, the title sounded familiar, though I couldn't place it.  After I'd gotten through more than half of the book I mentioned it to a friend and she told me that it had been made into a Lifetime movie, which she had seen.

The subject matter of The Memory Keeper's Daughter is a little heavy.  A young woman in 1964 gives birth in the midst of a snowstorm.  Her husband, a doctor, ends up delivering his own firstborn: Paul, a perfect little boy.  And then, unexpectedly, he delivers his own second born: Phoebe, a baby girl with Down Syndrome.  In order to spare his wife the pain he had experienced growing up when his younger sister died as a result of a heart defect, he asks his trusted nurse to take the infant to a facility and tells his wife that their son's twin was a stillborn.

The nurse finds herself unable to leave Phoebe to live her life unwanted in the cold facility and winds up ultimately raising her as her own child.  The secret tears the young family apart in a very slow and painful way as Norah - Paul and Phoebe's biological mother - finds herself unable to let go of the daughter she never even laid eyes on and her husband, David, continues to burrow himself further and further into an elaborate tangle of deception.

The book was good.  It wasn't my favorite piece of literature and there were things I disliked about it - the way David could never bring himself to do the "right thing," the way Norah was unable to control herself through her grief or her failing marriage, and a few strange and unnecessary (in my opinion, anyway) additions to the plot.  But for me, it was worth reading through to the end - even though it took me nearly a month (in the book's defense it has been a chaotic month!) to get through.  I gave it a Goodreads rating of three stars, and I'm looking forward to watching the movie.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Holy moly, these past few weeks have been chaos.  I really am starting to feel like this move will never finally be behind us, and it is driving me crazy!  There has been some confusion regarding our passports and the move is being delayed as a result, much to my dismay.  I love Okinawa but I'm so ready for something new.

On the Tokyo Tower's Main Observation Deck
Let's see, where did I leave off?  Aha!  With my Before I Fall book review - it's funny, I finished reading that one and reviewed it and I didn't post my exciting news!  We went to Tokyo for a week - just me, the kids, and a couple of friends.  It was a blast.  We went to Sanrio Puroland (AKA Hello Kitty Land), Tokyo Disney, Roppongi and Hard Rock CafĂ©, Tokyo Tower (absolutely fantastic!), Ueno park and science/natural history museum, Build-a-Bear Workshop, and a few other sights.  We rode (and LOVED) the trains, we flew Space-A (military charter - basically free flights!), and walked all over the place.  It was a really awesome experience for the kids and me and I'm so glad we finally got to do it.  Unfortunately M couldn't take leave so he was super jealous.  He's been to Tokyo but not for sightseeing - he went directly after the 3/11 disaster and stayed at Yokota AB helping with relief efforts.  Needless to say, he didn't have a lot of time to spare.
At Puroland

So anyways, it's been hectic.  Tokyo, move processing, and A's first week of Kindergarten, two Labor-Day-weekend barbecues, A's first ever Girl Scout function (she's a Daisy - eeeeeek!), and a super crappy head-cold - all within about 21 days.  It's a wonder I've managed to even fit in reading.  I'm about halfway through my current book, too - The Memory Keeper's Daughter, which I'm enjoying.

Last week I sent my sugarpie off to Kindergarten.  It was bittersweet.  She is loving it but I find myself swirling around throughout the day trying to figure out why she isn't following me around any more.  I got so used to her being home in between pulling her from Yochien and this new school year, I don't know what to do with myself while she isn't around.  Luckily things haven't really calmed down consistently at all so my nest isn't too terribly empty, and now M is starting on two weeks of leave so he'll be home with me too.  Of course, we'll be busy.  I anticipate nothing but headaches for the next two months or so.  It's looking like our move won't be happening till December, now.

On the bright side, A's LOVING Kindergarten.  She's crazy about her teachers and she loves riding the school bus and that important sort of feeling that only comes with being a Kindergartner.  So I'm really excited that she'll have a few extra weeks in her current class.  We'll get almost to Christmas break before we have to transfer her, so I think that'll be really good for her.  She's got all sorts of things going on all of the sudden and it's so exciting and so intimidating.  I am not used to being the mother of an elementary school student!  It has been nerve-wracking but it's the sort of thing I think I might be content getting used to.  I love getting up and packing her lunch (miraculously) and making breakfast.  I love picking out her outfits for school, I love packing her backpack and buying school supplies.  I love that she has brought home green dots (good behavior) each day so far (knock on wood!), I love the book orders we shopped through this weekend, and the 100 book club tally sheet and the "shoe tying club" at school...  What can I say?  I'm a nerd.  I'm embracing it.

Anyways I figure one day she may very well be less enthusiastic about school so I may as well soak these times up while I still can.

And I've been bento-ing again, and loving it (for the most part ;) hehehe).

A's first day of Kindergarten bento!
She really loved this lunch - it was so sad though when I picked her up from school she announced to me that she hadn't had enough time to eat her whole lunch and she was SO HUNGRY!  Apparently, her school's policy allows for a 15 minute lunch session for Kindergarten students.  Not hardly enough, if you ask me - my kids are the slowest eaters EVER!  But she is adjusting to the art of speed-eating, and getting better every day.  The first day, she scarfed down her lunch in the car on the way home.  It was too funny.

ABC grilled cheese sammies, star-shaped carrot slices, a google-eyed strawberry and underneath it all she had some edamame.
Dessert, which I'd intended to fit in the same box, but had to use a sidecar because I had to free-hand cut the sandwiches and they turned out way bigger than I'd hoped.  Anyways it's an apple decorated mini-cupcake and some Cinnamon Toast Crunch (her favorite).
Second day bento - mini corn dogs with a Hello Kitty pick, apples and edamame.
Third day bento - macaroni and cheese with deli ham, Hello Kitty carrots, strawberries, and "cherry" tomatoes.
A's fourth day - Friday - was a half day.  So while I'd actually had something pretty neat planned for her lunch, I didn't end up packing her anything and she got home before noon.  So, she and C ate lunch together, which was nice too.  C had been missing her all week.

We're just about in a routine - we read two books each night and we get up early so that we have spare time in the morning which works out really well for us.  She is definitely excited to start her new school week tomorrow and I'm contemplating her lunch tonight.

Will try to update more regularly, but no guarantees!
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