Monday, 31 January 2011

No.85 Strawberry muffin and love heart bento

Tonight I cooked a vegetable curry for dinner. It's one of the things I rustle up when we have extra people in the house to feed since a pan of curry can be expanded as far as you like with an extra handful of this and that. It wasn't spicy enough for my taste, but with eight different vegetables and no added salt it was healthy and filling! While making the curry I realised that we didn't have any dessert for our guests so I quickly mixed and baked a batch of my vegan muffins. Tonight I added a little red colouring and strawberry flavouring so that they came out very bright and very yummy!

Tomorrow's bento features one of those muffins along with another portion of the feta, garlic and herb pasta parcels, some cucumber slices and a wedge of ciabatta. The savoury course has a cheese love heart with pink sprinkle eyes and mouth and the sweet section has a little red plum tucked in as a tip-of-the-hat towards a less sugary dessert.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

No.84 'Ssssnakey Pasta' bento

Goodness me, here's another Monday around the corner! I've managed to fit some relaxation time into this weekend, so I'm not doing too badly, really. The bento the children are having tomorrow features a snakey friend, cut from cheddar cheese using the second of my cutters from the set I mentioned in my Rabbit in Egypt post. Unfortunately, my rabbit cutter seems to have been mislaid in the kitchen, because I can't find it at all. Hopefully the bunny will turn up during the week as things get moved about. This lunch consists of feta, garlic and herb pasta parcels, topped with sliced tomato and cheese snake (green eye made from a green sprinkle), with spinach leaves and a wedge of honey and oat ciabatta bread. In the fruit layer are chopped and stoned plums, strawberries and green grapes.

We have some home improvements going on at the moment, and that feels quite good. Work on our late 1800s cottage, much ruined by the onslaught of decades of bad taste (wood chip wallpaper, umpteen layers of gloss on everything to just begin the list), has been very slow. However, the downstairs has finally been put into a fairly attractive state in the past year with many original features brought out and plastering work done. Upstairs is next, with our daughter's bedroom top priority on the list to give her a lovely new environment of her own before she starts secondary school. These plans being put into action have meant much sorting, stacking and throwing away of things on my part. I have almost completely rid the walls of the many layers of wallpaper and a plasterer is due to come over this week to give us advice on fixing a region of dodgy wall. I must remember to get a photo of some of the earliest layers of wallpaper before I strip it away, because I have got down to a tatty but pretty hand printed wallpaper in a duck egg blue with pink roses. I'd like to record it while it's still about.

Speaking of recording things... I'm now going to attempt my first blog post about how my 1940s vintage restyle is coming along. I'll start with some product reviews.

Bentovintage! But not about vintage bento I'm afraid (although I am considering an attempt at combining the two interests now and then). As 2011 was rolling in I decided that it was time for a personal restyle, since 2010 had brought me a few woes towards it's close and sometimes a change is as good as a rest, so they say. At least, I think I've got that right. My New Year resolutions were as follows:

1. Embrace 1940s vintage
2. Maintain a Vegan diet 
3. Be spookier

To explain the second resolution, I have been vegetarian since late childhood and have discovered I am allergic to dairy. Veganism is the most sensible way forward for me, if done properly. As for the third resolution, well... that speaks for itself. Be spookier, right!? So far I am very pleased with myself. I have managed to achieve all three resolutions and kept them going for almost a whole month now.

My first move in discovering the 1940s look was to bleach my vividly pink hair (Atomic Pink by Special Effects) into an extremely pale cupcake pink. I am aiming for white blonde in time by using the Virgin Snow Toner by Manic Panic, which I have already applied after bleaching to take the last of my pink down to the very pale cupcake pink I now have. Going completely blonde is going to require at least one more chemical treatment, but I won't be attempting that for a little while. Intensive conditioning is the way forward first.

The very next day after bleaching I went in to my regular hairdresser with a set of vintage hairdressing plans that got me some odd looks and a lot of confusion. After some gentle persuasion that I really did want to have the cut exactly as the design stated, my hairdresser got stuck in. I have ended up with what I am happy to say is a great 1940s Middy cut. I love it. I have naturally curly hair so when left natural without product I've been told it takes on quite a Marilyn Monroe shape! That is her hair, not all of her... What I've been doing is setting it in old fashioned rollers after washing so that I have a more uniform curl. I find it stays 'set' for at least three days, which takes me nicely to my next hair wash. Easy peasy!

So next it had to be makeup. I found some good information online about authentic forties makeup but have had to adapt it to my personal taste. I'm extremely pale skinned so there is no way on this earth I can get away with any orangey foundation tones. I have been using small amounts of Max Factor Panstick in 'fair' which gives me just the right vintage matte base. It works for the effect I want, but it's quite a heavy foundation so might give too much of an 'unreal' look for some preferences. Unreal works for me (see New Year's Resolution No.3).

Now, as for eyeshadow and liner, I needed a small colour range which I could wear consistently each day and wouldn't take too long to apply. For a 'pinup' style makeup look I discovered I would need a white/natural/cream eyeshadow and a dark colour such as grey or even black to team it with. The pale colour covers the whole lid and then the dark colour is shaded in from the outer edge of the eye and blended half way in. The effect is a shadowy look to the outer upper lid with the pale colour making the eyes look wide and fresh. The eye shadows are finished off with a sweep of liquid liner on the upper lid that ends in a kick that comes out as far as the crease and then as much mascara as you dare. I wear a red lipstick with a matching liner that I got from the Rimmel range, but there are plenty of good reds out there. That's all there is to it for a day to day look but I'm sure I'll try something more complex when I have an evening out (helloooo, in need of an evening out here!).

The eyeshadows I've been using are:

GOSH Metallic Rose, which I have found to be a great quality powder that lasts all day just as fresh as it was put on. I've used the white and grey shades to do the look I've just described, but I've also used the pale pink instead of the white or as well as the white and it looks lovely. I bought this in a sale for 3.70 GBP but it usually retails at around 8.00GBP. GOSH is one of the more expensive brands on the High Street. I've also used the shadows in this 'FACE' makeup palette by Topshop called Black Orchid.

Another lovely quality set which gives the desired effect. So far I have only used the white and black eyeshadows, a little of the lip gloss and a dab of the blush. The quality of the packaging is nice and it feels very sturdy. The wide mirror is great if you're going to carry the palette as a compact or as your sole makeup supply for a trip. I picked it up in the sale for 3.00GBP but this palette usually retails at 15.00GBP.

The last product I want to mention that I've used in creating my vintage look is Jolen powder bleach. It comes in a little box that retails for around 4.00GBP or a larger box at around twice the price. From what I've found the smaller box will last you for a VERY long time though since you need very little of the product for the purpose I used it for - eyebrow bleaching. The product is specifically for facial hair. It comes with a pot of cream, a pot of powder, a spatula and a small plastic mixing card to mix it on. It does the job and it does the job without irritating the skin, so I can heartily recommend it.

That's it for now dolls and dames! I hope I haven't bored you with the details too much and that some of you out there found my Bentovintage ranting a little bit interesting. If not, you've now got that little warning banner that will come up after the bento post and before the vintage section. As a disclaimer, I bought the products mentioned here with my own money and the opinions stated here are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

No.83 "Thursday Duckling" bento

Thursday's bento! This one has been added to What's For Lunch Wednesday over at What's for Lunch at Our House. Look over in the side bar to the right and you'll find a button that links directly to the site. You can add your own bento creation over on, too! It's a lovely way to share with other bento makers.

This bento has two little slices of my childrens' favourite mozzarella and tomato quiche, mini carrot and cucumber sticks, lots of olives and a cheddar cheese duckling with a strawberry leaf wing. In the second layer is the same five fruit salad I gave the children yesterday: grapes, strawberries, kiwi, satsuma and dried cranberries. Above is a picture of my daughter's bento box, since I showed my son's lunch yesterday and wanted to display a different box today. As snacks they will have flapjack and yoghurt. 

The frost has eased off on our early morning walks to school now so it's not so treacherous on the pavements, thank goodness! The frost is extremely pretty, but it's always nice to arrive at school with no broken bones. Since it has been an exam week for my daughter there has been less bird watching than usual and lots of revision questions thrown back and forth. As a treat for the end of her exams next week, she has asked for an Indian takeaway. Excellent choice my little dove! Since many things on an Indian menu are vegan and therefore suitable for your Mummy! Yay! She's not the only one looking forward to the end of her exams. Today we brought sweetie Friday forward and had a sweetie Wednesday because she had her Geography exam, which was the one she has been dreading the most. "It's Asia that gives me trouble." she stated seriously. "So large and so complicated." 

I have been letting her cross roads by herself lately. She's eleven, so some might think I have left it a little late. We've just never needed to walk apart, since we spend the majority of our time together outside of school. We also live quite a way out of town, so there has been nowhere safely accessible, at a short distance, she could walk to from home before. She's quite competent with roads as it turns out, and has picked up my daily safety routine on walks over the years. "It's like playing Frogger." she announced today after crossing the road back to me from the sweet shop, and I cringed as I responded "Ah, but on real roads you don't get three lives, my love." Oh so hard to let your little ones grow up! But she's starting secondary school after the Summer and needs and wants more independence. So she shall have it! I will just worry... She will begin walking part of the journey home herself, meeting her brother and I along the way. 

Oh look, I can see the end of the week from here!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

No.82 "Little Rabbit Holidays in Egypt!" bento

Little vegetable samosas are on the menu for tomorrow's lunch, along with basmati rice, tomato wedges and cucumber slices. I pulled out my little rabbit cutter to add a decoration. It's a lovely, quality metal cutter that came in a set along with a snake and another animal that I can't quite work out. Possibly a badger... Might have to have a go with the mystery animal cutter one day soon. So I popped the little cheddar cheese rabbit into the bento, (after adding a tiny eye with the cut off end of a chocolate sprinkle), and what do you know! I immediately saw that the little fellow had gone on his hols to sunny Egypt! There he is now, admiring the sight of the distant pyramids. I wonder where else in the world he might end up on his travels? He'll have to come back home in time for Easter, of course. With 2011 being the year of the rabbit, no wonder our bunny friends are getting about a bit. 

The second layer has a five fruit salad of grapes, strawberries, kiwi, satsuma and dried cranberries. With all that fruit packed into the childrens' lunch tomorrow I know they'll be getting they're vitamins! The picture below shows the absolutely delicious batch of vegan vanilla muffins my daughter baked today. Here they are undecorated, just after coming out of the oven. Yummy.

Friday, 21 January 2011

No.81 Quiche and raw veg bento

Pictured above is my daughter's quiche bento from yesterday. She had a slice of tomato and mozarella quiche with some chopped raw celery and carrot. I have been super lazy with making bento this week, although that isn't to say I haven't made the children's lunches with love and good nutrition, it's just that I haven't liked my presentation of them enough to photograph each one. Here is yesterday's lunch, but I'll give you a rundown of what my children have been eating on their other school days this week.

Monday: Home made pizza with thyme pizza base (my basic recipe which uses no yeast, just flour, water and a dash of rice milk and pinch of thyme), tomato paste, chopped spinach, yellow pepper, mozarella, cheddar cheese, onion and olives.

Tuesday: Leftover organic brown rice pasta with vegan pesto

Wednesday: Vegetarian sausage sandwich with ketchup.

Thursday: The quiche bento pictured above.

Friday: Onion and garlic pasta parcels with a simple tomato pasta sauce and a topping of grated cheddar cheese.

It just occurred to me that I haven't entered any bento competitions lately, or even looked to see if there are any out there at the moment. That's something I'll have to rectify, since I enjoy having a little food design goal.

Another thing that's on my mind at the moment is my new fashion hobby which is recreating a nineteen forties vintage look. I'd really like to blog about what I've been up to with it, so I need to make the decision of whether I'm creating a second blog or combining it with my bento posts. Preferably, I'd like to stick to just the one blog and adapt the layout of my posts to include '..and meanwhile, on the vintage front...' style addition. I hope that doesn't upset any readers of Bentovention, who might only want to sift out the food content. We'll see! Happy Friday everyone.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

No.80 Simple Pasta Bento

There is no fancy title for today's lunch! It's very simple, with the macaroni pasta that makes up it's main dish coated in the simplest pasta sauce possible. My children love it. It's just chopped tomato, finely diced fried onion and grated cheese. Along with the pasta is another of those little cheese pastries and in the fruit layer I've put some seedless green grapes and some satsuma segments.

They had some of this pasta with their dinner last night, so this is leftovers, which is the most economic way to create school lunches.

I suffered in the name of beauty last night and bleached my hair. A lot. I usually tolerate bleach quite well, but last night my skin really reacted badly to it. It was too late once it was on though, I had made a commitment! Luckily, after the allotted time was over and I washed out the icky stuff, my scalp was not too tender at all. Phew. So I have gone from Atomic Pink (very bright) to a very pale strawberry milkshake colour, with about two inches of platinum blonde roots. I'm having my hair cut at the weekend so will have closer to fifty-fifty pale pink/blonde. I am absolutely LOVING the pale pink! I thought I wouldn't be happy until I had it completely blonde, but that's not the case at all. I'm glad to be retaining some hints of my former pinkness and really looking forward to the different stages and lengths as I continue to blonde over the next few months. Yay for baby pink candy-floss hair! It rocks.

As an added bonus, my children love it too, so I'm getting lots of lovely comments from them.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

No.79 'Smiley Pastry' bento

Just a very quick lunch. A pot of pasta with green pesto sauce, and a cheese and onion pastry with a carrot smile and cranberry eyes. The pesto was leftover from yesterday's dinner, so the prep time for this was literally just a couple of minutes.

Not a very eventful journey to and from school today (still dark, still cold!), but we did get the chance to enjoy the early morning bird song! Always a pleasure.

No.78 'Two Gossiping Hens' bento

I'm quite pleased with this one. It doesn't have as much colour as it should, but it does have the right balance of being nutritious, yummy and cute. My two gossiping hens are made from vegetarian Quorn nuggets, carrot and cheese. They are sat on a bed of couscous with vegetables with the little bush between them made from a sprig of coriander. My children were delighted when I showed them their lunch this morning.

Yesterday my son was explaining the new lunch table arrangement they have at school. Each table has a picture of a fruit on it, and you always go to the same table to eat. They used to be able to sit where they liked, but apparently the younger ones were very noisy, so they have mixed them all up with the older ones in the junior department. My son is on the plum table, which is very appropriate for two reasons, his love of plums and the fact that he is my plum. 

He told me that one of the younger ones on plum table always cried through lunch, which was both upsetting to him and also meant that they were never the quietest table, which earns the privilege of going out to play first. At lunch yesterday, my son showed the crying boy the little piggy pakora in his bento, and the little one stopped crying straight away! They weren't the quietest table, but they did get to go out first along with the winning table, because my son had showed such kindness. Little stories like that overwhelm me so much with love for my children that I have to sniffle back tears. 

My son said he will show the crying boy his bento every day, so that he is happy to sit at plum table. I am so proud. I wonder what the little one will think of today's gossiping hens?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

No.77 'Piggy Pakora' bento

If you look closely, one of the tasty vegetable pakora in this bento box has transformed into a piggy pakora! Little tomato point ears and a cheese and cucumber snout. The pakora are teamed with a juicy salad of frilly lettuce, tomato, spring onion and cucumber. In the additional layer are some crackers, cheese and picked onions.

Sunday night already! How do the weekends fly by so quickly. We made the most of this morning by having a good lie in. Our usual 6AM wake-ups take their toll by the end of the week. Oh well. Off we go again!

Thursday, 6 January 2011

No.76 Vegetable Kung Pao Noodle bento

Not a decorative bento today, but a tasty one all the same! I spent the day wondering how to go about making a 'Lego' themed bento for my son, since he had requested one. I hadn't come up with any ideas, although my lovely bentoing sister has offered some great suggestions. As it turns out, walking home from school, my son was asking me for noodles for his lunch tomorrow. One of his friends brought in noodles for lunch today and he was really fancying them.

So I simmered some thick udon noodles with very tiny diced vegetables (green beans, carrots, peppers, onions) in just a tiny amount of water, then gently heated through some vegetarian spicy kung pao sauce. I didn't add any peanuts or cashews to the meal, since there is a nut allergy sufferer in my son's class. Mmmm, smells good! I added a sprig of coriander simply to add colour, but I know he'll eat it too. There are two pieces of chili and garlic naan that were leftover from dinner and a fruit pot I put together with strawberries and grapes. I'll send in yoghurt and a high fibre cereal bar as well. 

My daughter's meal was slightly different. As the non-vegetarian in the family she has some added pepperoni slices.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

No.75 'Sunset Salad' bento

Happy New Year! Back to school and back to putting a lunch-making slot into my day. For the past two days the children have been taking little home made pizzas in to school for lunch, so this is the first bento of the year.

Now that we're entering the second Wintery term of the year we're leaving the house for school in the dark and returning home just as the sun sets again! Except we don't see a proper sunset, with those summer warm colours shot through the clouds. It's a cold, gradual darkening with greys and blues and blacks. I was thinking about that when I was chopping salad for tomorrow's lunch, so I turned the vegetables into a colourful sunset over green fields, with a little semi circle of cheese as the sun on the horizon. Well, the children agreed it looked sunsetty at least!

Curly leaf lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cheese and diced crispy coated tofu. There is a fruit box to accompany it for dessert along with yoghurt. Strawberries, grapes and cherries.


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