Make & Buy Combo

I aim to make healthy bento, but I don’t always have time to create from scratch. The completed bento is most often a combination of items I made and bought. Thanks to frozen boxed products, grocery-baked goods, ready-to-bake dough and restaurant take-outs. It makes bento fixing less brain-racking on days when my creativity need some pumping.
Broiled cauliflower, ½ BBQ Pork bun, apple slices, mashed potatoes, cheese croissant

English muffin pizza, sliced apples, grape tomatoes, Laughing Cow cheese, Sweet & sour chicken (sans sauce), gummies

Mandarin Orange, hashed brown, bacon chips, , grape tomatoes, mozzarella nuggets, wheat Stix

Fruit cocktail, Pillsbury croissant w/cheddar, grapes, Laughing Cow, vanilla raisins, sandwich


Going Home

March 2009

In the 8 years we’re here, we’ve gone back home only twice and it was for special occasions – my BIL’s wedding and for Dad and Mom’s respective 70th birthdays. There was no special occasion for this forthcoming trip. 5 days to go! I still pinch my cheeks.

Going home is a whole production. The expensive plane fare compels us to stay a minimum of 4 weeks. That means Sushi would miss school that long, Sashimi would miss daycare without refund, and Mr. & Mrs. Hotpot would miss work unpaid. Boohoo! And because we don’t go home often, we make side trips locally and within Asia. The trip expense alone will have already ripped off our pockets before we put the pocket money.

Besides the school- and work- related responsibilities, i.e. turnover of tasks and curriculum to miss, the logistics every trip is lengthy and complicated. We map everything down to the nitty gritty. You’ll be surprised at the checklists we make – for Before, During and After the trip, the To-Dos and the To-buys, the calendars we print out for scheduling rendezvous, and a timetable of the 12 hours leading to the flight.
July 2006

The anticipation for the trip is usually long. It could span from 6 months to 3 seasons, from the time the trip decision was conceived (vacation leave approved) right to leaving. But in between, life goes on. There’s work & school, and the everyday with the kids, meals to cook, dishes to wash, house to clean… right to the very day.

Aside from meeting family and friends, the main purpose of this trip is to recharge my batteries, a.k.a. R&R. Mums don't really get any day-off, do we? So I will engage in a total SPA – head to toe, including hair and nails =]. I will eat and be merry and shop ‘til I drop. Carpe diem! But there is nothing more that I am looking forward to on this vacation than the respite from chores and a full devotion to the kids and myself. There is no more excuse to not spend time with the kids as there are no chores to do. The trip to me is the Armageddon of housework.

5 days from now

The very moment we leave the house for the airport, I’ll be singing “Salagagoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!” Cinderella’s rags will turn into a beautiful gown, the pumpkin into a golden carriage and the rats into coachman. “Put 'em together and what have you got, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo!” But I shall remember that the spell would be broken upon our return.

That will be a different story. For now, I still have 5 days to go. I am slipping into vacation mode at an exponential speed. My manager said, “much awaited eh?” I can’t wait to say, Hasta la vista!


Stair Master

On my recent medical check-up, my family physician asked me if I exercise. I told her that I have been taking the stairs, if that counts. She gave out an insulting laugh. She thought I was referring to the stairs at home. Yes, I have 5 splits levels worth of stairs at home, and kids or laundry basket to lug up and down through, but of course I didn’t mean that.

For the last 3 months, I have religiously been taking the stairs at work. I work on the 5th floor (and my physician couldn’t believe it). That’s a combined 93 steps. And I do 4 trips each day – coming in & out, and down for lunch & up. No miss. Do the math. There are times I want to renege with thoughtful excuses of I’m running late, it’s a busy day, or I miss the interactions at the elevator. And then I’ll snap back to thinking if I renege once, I am bound to renege habitually.

With our daily mundane, working-out is really OUT.  Even the Wii Fit didn’t help =[  Now, thanks to the Fire Exit, I’m a proud stair master without a Stairmaster.


Halloween Shopping

I take the kids to Party Packagers each year to pick costumes for Halloween. Every year I also tell myself, I should make my own. Nah!

The shoppings trips have been more for Sushi, as Sashimi can wear the previous costumes of his older brother until he learns how to object. tsk tsk tsk. It’s the practical thing to do while we can, since these costumes would have been worn only once.

What a lucrative business for retailers selling Halloween treats, costumes, pumpkins and decorations at this time of the year. This is one side of Party Packagers - two of these walls of just costumes - where you pick and order, claim it on the other end of the store, and fit on aisle 5. Decision-making was easy. Sushi picked a cheap one. That's. My. Boy.

Costume is partial. I asked if he really likes to be Ninja or he picked that because it's cheap. He said he did not want me to spend "a lot of dollars" and also really wanted to be a Ninja after seeing Kung Fu Panda 2, The Karate Kid, and after a few classes of Karate in Summer Camp.

Ninja it is.



Everyday I wake up earlier than everyone for some alone time. Used to be I'd have coffee, read magazine, listen to radio/news, and prepare breakfast. Since Sushi started big school, bento fixing takes precedence on my mornings. It’s not always easy. There are mornings of too much brain squeezing, especially when I am running low on supply. Or on bad egg-days (boiled egg too long it’s rubbery or difficult to peel). Or mornings I'd wake up minutes late and I don’t have time to shape the sandwich or carve the apple. Or moments of I-don't-know-what-else-to-put-in-there. This is where the fillers come in. I'd put packets of Bear Paws, Rice Krispies or Gummies, and tell Sushi, “this is not priority.”

But every time I snap close the completed bento, there’s a sense of accomplishment no matter what's inside. If Sushi doesn't finish them in school, he makes it up at home. I don't sweat it anymore. But most days it's emptied, and I'm a happy mom.

Here are the bento boxes out of the good and not-so-good mornings. 
Omelette tortilla, Korean seaweed, mandarin orange, feta cheese phyllo roll, fruit cup

Cheese croissant, fish rolls, apple slice, mozarella nuggets, grape tomatoes

Plum, lychee jello, Spanish bread slice, cheese & omelette on skewer

Cheese, blueberry cupcake, croissant, raspberries, cucumber, gummies

Pizza tortilla, apple, sandwich sushi, gummies

Fruit-jam sandwich, jello, drinkable applesauce, broccoli, siomai w/furikake

Apple, Wheat Stix, Laughing Cow cheese cube, English muffin w/banana, grape tomatoes

100% Korean

We go to our accountant in North York three times a year. It’s not a short drive and we do this on weekends. It’s customary we book the meetings around noon or dinner so we eat in the area as well. We don’t have a lot of Korean 小吃 hole-in-the-wall, where we live so we frequent this small Korean restaurant in Leslie/Finch – 100% Korean.

They have 8 banchan, which Sushi attacked plate after plate, omitting only the spicy Kimchi.

We ordered our favourite Gamjatang (Pork bone soup). No picture. Nothing special. And Stone-pot Bibimbop.

Made the mistake of ordering this Seafood Rice Cake.

My mind was thinking Seafood Pancake. Though I'm not a huge fan of sticky rice cakes, I love the sauce. It was so flavourful. However, too full we didn't exhaust this dish. The leftover I cooked at home with shrimps and enoki mushroom - tada!



Sushi who's now in Gr2 doesn’t get much homework from school. So I supplement it. He knows that every day when he comes home from school, he’ll first have snacks and do homework before playing, sports or screen time. He also knows that he may not have any homework from school, but he has “homework from Mom”. Tsk tsk tsk. Our after-school activities, a.k.a. homework, includes but not limited to the following:
  • Math worksheets – now it's multiplication with carry-over, graph and charts, problem-solving
  • Science – Dinosaurs workbook, One Million Things encyclopaedia, or the atlas
  • Journals – may be in paragraph form, time table or calendar
  • Computer – Raz-Kids (assigned by school) or NBA SIM
  • Writing – makings lists; and now he's tracing numbers in Mandarin : 一,二,三,…九,十
  • Books – at least one a day, and should be able to retell or predict the ending
  • Free Choice – now he's so into baseball cards,writing baseball stats and players
  • Grocery – should be observing and participating, but most times he just plays DS =[ 
  • Library – borrow sports/auto magz, books, DVDs, check-out himself & note the date they're due (he has his own library card)
  • Talking Current Events –  i.e. 9/11 Attack, the wedding of the Duke & Duchess, Gaddafi's death, natural disasters and sports talk with Dad
  • Prayer – before bedtime; proper structure of praying – A.C.T.S.
  • Movies – animated or not, any one that stimulates the thoughts. Last night we watched The Truman Show. He was fascinated when I told him the plot of the movie, real vs fake, fact vs fiction.

    The kids laughed so hard in this rain scene. It was priceless watching them. Okay, this is off-topic.

    There's a lot to learn from the everyday things, not just from textbooks. You'd think I’m being the Tiger Mother.  Far cry. I do infuse some fun into these activities. I seriously do! But also, I want to instill a good discipline with homework and time management. It’s tougher when he gets to higher level.

Oprah's Farewell Speech

"Each one of you has your own platform. Do not let the trappings here fool you. Mine is a stage in a studio, yours is wherever you are with your own reach, however small or however large that reach is. Maybe it’s 20 people, maybe it’s 30 people, 40 people, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your classmates, your classroom, your co-workers. Wherever you are, that is your platform, your stage, your circle of influence. That is your talk show, and that is where your power lies. In every way, in every day, you are showing people exactly who you are. You’re letting your life speak for you. "

I love to read - sometimes memorize - and share quotations.  Oprah's farewell speech summarizes the 25 years of her shows.  Long, but poignant and powerful, it took up the entire program, thus I couldn't memorize =[  I often find myself googling for its transcript, so might as well put it on here.  Her speech - specifically the above lines - was what drove me to blog [more] and expand my audience.  Warning, if you're not a fan nor fond of O, you may stop right here or jump to the underlined - lines that I often go back to. 


On September 8, 1986, the first national episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show was broadcast into homes across America. Now, 25 years later, Oprah steps onto the stage for the last time to share her greatest lessons and hopes for her viewers.

“After deliberating for some time, we decided to do what we do best, and that is a show about and with everyday people. This show always allows people, hopefully, to understand the power they have to change their own lives. If there’s one thread running through each show we do, it is the message that you are not alone. Twenty-five years and I’m still saying thank you, America. Thank you so much. There are no words to match this moment. Every word I’ve ever spoken from this stage of The Oprah Show for 4,561 days of my life is what this moment is all about.


Miso Clam Soup

I am always alternating the Live Clam in Mixed Mushroom Soup or the Spicy Seafood Soup on my visits to Tako Sushi.  I blogged about the Spicy Seafood here.  It doesn't seem hard to replicate at home, so I tried.

The intention was miso clam soup. Squirt miso paste onto boiling water. Throw in clams (cleaned), crabsticks, enoki, black mushroom (soaked overnight), and blanched Japanese udon. Quick and easy. I served mixed fish balls on the side. That's dinner.

And this is comfort food soup during the cold months.


Welcome Fall

Fall Colours at Erindale Park - the largest park in Mississauga

The park offers walking trails, birdwatching, canoeing, fishing (for rainbow trout & Atlantic salmon) and a spectacular view of nature.

We shouldn't be spending the entire visit on this playground facility. But the kids love it here.

Erindale Park
1695 Dundas Street West
before Mississauga Rd


Bacon Chips

My boys were fighting over my bacon chips. I made them using turkey bacon.  I rarely buy deli meat, like hotdogs and bacon, because of sodium nitrate. But when I do I pick chicken or turkey. I'm no health expert but I do read and compare labels, then pick the lesser evil.

Put some into the bento.

We've always loved this, but my bacon chips is the real thing.


Joshua Radin

When life throws you lemon, make lemonade. Have Joshua Radin on your playlist while you sip your lemonade.  It will empty your thoughts and let you be in the song.

I first heard Joshua Radin from the Ellen talkshow, where he sang live and was invited back to sing on Ellen's wedding.  I downloaded his album right after that. Apparently his songs have been played on Grey's Anatomy, Brothers and Sisters and American Idol.   His album became my soundtrack around Sashimi's birth.  Now it is my background music when life throws me lemons.


I Heart Hotpot

The weather is getting cooler, it's time to take the pot out for soup. And we love soup. You can tell from my blog's title.  It was my life back then...

With these people.  Picture taken with famous celebrity Kris Aquino when she featured the restaurant in her now defunct daily talk show.   

Hotpot restaurants are a must-go wherever we are in Asia. Sadly we haven't been to one in the Toronto area.
Giguo (Taipei). This is individual serving.  Check out the menu and nice modern interior.

Tien Hsiang (Taipei). This is communal. We picked a medicinal soup base.

Gloriamaris Hotpot (San Juan). This is communal but one pot is not enough for us =]

This is my own [bowl]. I make them pretty good. I must!  For the soup base - whole chicken (or bones), cabbage, garlic, tong chai (preserved vegetable), bonito flakes, salt & peper to taste.  Easy peasy! No secret ingredient and no flavour enhancer. And then I just throw in sliced meat, leaf vegetables, noodles, sweet corn, meatballs, crabsticks, tofu and whatnot.

I continue to use a lot of the hotpot items in our daily dishes, including Sushi's bento.

Fish Tofu with beans w/enoki, taro bread slices, fruit cup sans its juice

Crabsticks & fishballs with onigiri, grapes, apple, rice crackers

Fish-shaped fish tofu with hardboiled egg, edamame, raisin bread, Rice Krispies


What's In Your Bag?

The Kangaroo Keeper is the bag within my bag. It organizes the hundred things inside it, including the essential water bottle I take with me all the time. And that makes my everyday purse weigh about 6lb. tsk tsk tsk. The set comes with a large & small keeper, like a joey inside a mama roo, both are reversible to make more room. Can also be used separately or together.

I prefer the tan colour over black, as black would turn your purse into a black cave.  Switching bags is now hassle-free. I just plop this Kangaroo from bag to bag. Not that I change bags too often.

These are my bric-a-brac:

(1) Water bottle (2) 2 foldable shopping bags, I don't like retail plastic bags (3) coin purse (4) foldable fan that doubles as kids toy (5) cellphone (6) Advil for hubby (7) Polysporin for kids (8) Salonpas for headache (9) Gloss  (10) pen (11) emergency kit (12) kids colouring book  (13) granny-ish wallet (14) notebook (15) saline nose spray when it's too dry (16) work badge (17) crayons for kids (18) extra battery for my camera (19) hand lotion (20) hand sanitizer (21) house/office/mailbox keys (22) store coupons

Without the organizer, it would be a pain to comb through my 22 things, sometimes more, just to look for one.

As Seen on TV.  Order your Kangaroo Keeper now =]


Homework While On Vacation

For our forthcoming vacation, Sushi will be missing 4 long weeks of school. That means for that long I am also on break from bento making - wahoo!  I asked the teacher what schoolwork I need to take in advance so he's not going to trail behind. This is what she provided me. Click photo to enlarge.  These are good suggestions. Though I'm not sure if we can follow through. Who wants to fight with kids onto writing journals or drawing graphs while on vacation?


Port Credit Memorial Park

Port Credit Lighthouse by the Credit River, a good meeting spot

We fed the swans & ducks with Dempsters bread (lol)

The playground has a soft Absorb-a-fall kind of flooring that's pretty safe for the kids should they slip or slide.

Map illustrations beneath the slides

Multiple swings

Replica of the Port Credit community

Including this fire truck

Port Credit Marina

Port Credit Memorial Park
Lakeshore Road & Park Street
Mississauga ON