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Leaving on a Jet Plane
Feb 26th, 2010 by Nancy

It’s pouring rain outside. Again.beach scene 4

I love Eugene, and I’m a Northwest native (“Clan of the webbed toes”) so rain doesn’t really register most of the time, but after a spate of gardening last weekend I’m getting a bit fed up with February, and March is threatening to march in this weekend looking suspiciously similar to it.

I concede that I have nothing, comparatively speaking, to complain about. You East Coasters are having a winter for the record books and the most recent storm means that many of you can’t even see this post because the power is out, and I really, truly, feel for you.  Weather over there has gone from “inconvenient” to “Dorothy’s house just flew by the front window,” and you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Nobody on either coast, then, would fault any of us for daydreaming about warmer, drier climes.

Getting to those locales is weighing heavy on my mind, though. Notwithstanding the cost (both financial and environmental), we all know the real truth: food on airplanes is mostly pretty wretched stuff. To add insult to injury, now we have to spring for it.

I was pondering this dilemma awhile back, and my wool-gathering turned from the destination to the journey, and what, exactly, I’d pack in my Lunchsense lunchbox for the trip.  I realized I had a few constraints, as follows – all the food would have to be:

1) Relatively non-perishable since the FSA would confiscate the ice pack (although we CAN pack ice in the drink bottle, then dump it out before boarding the plane, then get more ice on board, if absolutely necessary);
2) Lacking in any liquids or gels in quantities over 3 oz.;
3) Free of un-neighborly foods like allergens (i.e. nuts) or really aromatic stuff like, oh, limburger; and most of all
4) A meal that will be the utter envy of my cabinmates. A meal that will make the security guards that x-ray the lunch box stop the machine and stare in awe. A meal that will have passengers climbing over seat backs to get at it.

I realized at this point I needed professional help.

I needed a chef.

Enter good friend Andy Roybal, who took my constraints and weighed in with this response:

I would not worry about the temperature control because food has a 4 hour window in which it is safe and you would want some of the items to come up to room temp for better flavor.
The menu:
Rice is out because cold rice sucks but I would do Inari Nigiri – Sweet Rice wrapped in Fried Tofu Skins, it is normally served cold and three pieces would fit nicely into one of your containers. Along with that I would have a container of Soba Noodle Salad (again served cold) with julienne Green Onion, Carrot, Cucumber, and Red Pepper in a Soy-Ginger Dressing. Then you need some veggies… Soy Beans to the rescue! Edamame seasoned with Hawaiian Sea Salt, Toasted Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil would be a nice. Here are a few more ideas… no harm in more vegetables, so let’s add a small side of Seaweed Salad available at most Asian stores already prepared. If you still have room… some home made Teriyaki Chicken would be nice… you can eat it cold and that rounds out your meal with a bit of protein. You do get to bring on 3 oz of liquid, so in the small salad dressing container, I would fill it with some Sake!

That would be my meal. I hope that helps… if you don’t like that one I was thinking of a Middle Eastern Lunch of Falafel, Hummus, Baba ghanoush, Tabbouleh, Yogurt Sauce and lots of Pita Bread.

Thank you, Andy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Aside to Andy: The last line about kills me – “if you don’t like that one…” Oh fer heaven’s sake, Andy, have you FLOWN lately? Do you know what you’re up against?)

Can’t you see it? You get on the plane with your tidy little lunchbox, and about midflight when your cabin mates are prying the plastic wrap off their nine-dollar “club sandwiches” and trying to discreetly open little mayonnaise packets with their teeth you pull this feast out, smooth your cloth napkin (included) on your lap, smile graciously to them, and dig in?

So – what would you pack?

To all of us – hang in there, spring’s just around the corner. In the meantime, I’m going to daydream about warmer, drier, beautiful places. Like Eugene in August.

p.s. Stay tuned – Andy says he’ll come up with recipes for the goods above.

p.p.s. And if dreaming about good food isn’t enough, slide on over to foodgawker for a visual, virtual orgy of good food AND good photography.

Seeing Shades of Green
Feb 23rd, 2010 by Chris

Gaia shineI’ve got a confession to make.  I’m not the Greenest person in the world.  Wait!  Before you strap me to the back of a wild orca, or string me up a Redwood tree, hear me out—please.  I’m not that bad.  I haven’t cashed any kickbacks from ExxonMobil or Dow.  I recycle, I carpool, and I (usually) walk my boys to and from school each day.  I live in Eugene, Oregon for goodness’ sake, a haven for organic, natural fiber, tree-hugging types.  You can get publicly flogged for tossing compostable foods into a trash can here.  So what’s my environmental atrocity?  I’m a stay-at-home-dad who needs to prepare two reasonably healthy lunches every weekday morning before 8 a.m., and I’m not a morning person.

Still doesn’t sound so deplorable?  Well, it started years ago while I was working evening shifts at a local newspaper.  I simply wasn’t getting enough sleep, and it slowly became harder and harder to perform my morning chores as a walking, slit-eyed zombie.  My wife would wake the boys and set them up with a cereal/oatmeal/bagel-type breakfast before placing a cup of strong, black coffee on my night-table, shoving me (hard) and slingshot-ing herself off to work.  I would often stay in bed until the last possible second when I would force myself upright, slurp down one, then two cups of java and frantically prepare my sons for school.  In this weakest of possible conditions, I abandoned good sense and succumbed—to individually packaged, grab-and-go food items.  Yes, I really should have known better, but (please forgive me) my boys just gobbled those fruit cups, yogurt tubes and energy bars right up.  The worst part?  I don’t work the night-job anymore, yet I still (occasionally) ignore my want-to-be-Green conscience and opt for convenience.  This is an inexcusable exercise in poor judgment, but there are no two ways about it—“it’s not that easy being Green.”

In 2008, U.S. residents, businesses and institutions produced 250 million tons of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW), commonly referred to as “trash.”  This amounts to about 4.5 pounds of waste per person per day.  We recycled and composted 83 million of the 250 million tons.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential waste (you and me) accounted for 55-65% of the total MSW generation.  Containers and packaging made up nearly 31% of the 250 million tons.  Only two manmade structures on Earth are large enough to be seen from outer space: the Great Wall of China and the Fresh Kills landfill.

So, should I hang my head and skulk around with a Scarlet Letter sewn to my guilty conscience?  Yes, in all honesty I probably should, but we at Lunchsense like to view the Green Movement as just that—a movement; a progression from a toxic, yellowish-neon shade to the deepest emerald hue.  Clearly, you can’t plot me on this Green graph next to Ed Begley Jr., but by recognizing and addressing my own waste problem, I am heading his way.  Rather than dodging the Green Police and fretting over whether I’m “Green” or not, I’m simply accepting the continuum and trying to become Green-er.  Now (thanks to Nancy), I utilize reusable containers much more frequently, and I also buy bulk when I can.  There are a number of tasty items available in this under-appreciated section of the supermarket.  And remember–you can buy as much or as little as you need.  Ask yourself how you can limit the amount of waste you produce each day and share your own confessions/suggestions with us.  By increasing our awareness and making the most of our Lunchsense, we can all grow Greener each day.

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World is available
Feb 18th, 2010 by Nancy

veganlunchbookThere are moments in running a biz that generate an “I have arrived!” feeling. They include:

- my first sale
- getting the patent on the lunchbox
- my first TV interview
- my first newspaper article
- my first “hey, I saw somebody with one of your lunchboxes at work and they said they loved it!” from a friend

They are moments that give me a huge boost: I really like what I do, and I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing at this time in my life, but it always helps to know other people occasionally agree with me.

This is the latest: Lunchsense lunchboxes got a very nice mention in the latest cookbook from Jennifer McCann, “Vegan Lunch Box Around the World, 125 Easy, International lunches Kids and Grown-ups will Love!” available here.  Jennifer is also the author of the Vegan Lunchbox blog, veganlunchbox.blogspot.com – a fine stop for anyone looking for lunch inspiration, vegan and otherwise (the latter category being the one I land in). Please do check out the blog and the book!

Instant Karma
Feb 9th, 2010 by Chris

nirvana1With the New Year well underway, it seems like a good time to do a little accounting. No, I don’t mean finally opening the credit card bills you’ve been hiding for the last several weeks (though you should at least take a peek before attempting your next purchase). I’m talking about considering your Karma account. “Karma account?” you might ask. Yes, that’s right, and we all have one. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Well, in my world I have my own version: “It takes a bunch of friendly neighbors to get me through my to-do list.” Sure, some of you (those without children, of course) might be more independent than that, but honestly, don’t we all get by “With a Little Help from Our Friends?” Where would any of us be without an occasional favor? The luckiest among us live in vibrant communities full of helpful neighbors, and the best way to keep ourselves on the right side of this vital group is to pay attention to our Karma accounts. If yours is anything like mine, it looks a lot like the check-book after Christmas . . . “I owe, I owe, I owe.”

Okay, so we’ve all been getting, and it is our turn to do a little giving. What do we do? Obviously, there is the ever popular returned favor, like for like: you picked-up my boys from school last week when my washer exploded and flooded our house, so I’ll get your daughter this week while you are waiting for your son’s broken arm to be set. It’s all nice and tidy, Karma in/Karma out. But, perhaps you are few favors down. Or, you really want to gift a close friend. Maybe you want to get the attention of a new friend or co-worker who (if you are single) also happens to be very cute. I’d like to suggest that timeless Karma classic: treating someone to lunch. This might seem like an obvious choice to some, but before you make those reservations at the swankest hip spot in town (remember those credit card bills), or (Heaven forbid) start jotting down orders for the nearest drive-through, consider the word: “treat.” Yes, it implies you’re paying, but what else?

To treat also means things like to care for, to entertain, or more suggestively, to heal (as in, what ails you). Synonyms for a treat include delicacy, ambrosia, or the simple, charming goody. Any sandwich that starts with the word “Big” and ends with a trademark symbol hardly fits this description. Even that $12 Club with the awesome cup of French Onion that’s available at Swanky Swanks falls short of truly caring for someone.

Consider this alternative: taking a few moments to thoughtfully prepare a healthy, lunchtime snack that you can serve to your friend and enjoy on the fly. Treat inherently implies something special, so be creative and add a personal touch. Cut your carrot chips into stars, whisk up your famous vinaigrette, or maybe a little spinach dip. Include that awesome ginseng tea, or a fresh berry smoothie, and don’t forget the homemade oatmeal-raisin cookie because for many (all the kids in my house) treat means something yummy and sweet. Stack them all neatly into your Lunchsense lunchbox and find a special spot, preferably outdoors, but anywhere quietly adjacent to the beaten path should do. Invite a friend and celebrate your greenness (more Karma points) with a trash-free treat while sharing an appreciative smile. If you use your Lunchsense wisely, your Karma account could overflow.

Natives and immigrants
Feb 8th, 2010 by Nancy

audio splitterMy daughter (she’s 11) and her friend begged me to let them use my laptop a few weeks ago to watch a movie in her room, since my boys were watching some movie with stuff blowing up. I relented, but requested that they use earphones so the boys wouldn’t know. My gal pulled out the pair she’d just bought with allowance money and lent her original pair to the friend, then they turned to me and asked,

“Do you have a splitter?”

I said no, my laptop has two headphone jacks so we wouldn’t need one.
Then it occurred to me: “how come my 11 year old knows what a splitter IS and what it’s FOR?” I certainly didn’t when I was her age. So I asked, “how the heck do you know what a splitter is?”
Her friend turned to me and said, very gently,

“Nancy, we’ve grown up with this technology. WE (gesturing to herself and my girl) are natives.”

“YOU are an immigrant.”

Ouch.

But so very true.

Chris, the mug shotOn that note, I’m introducing a new face, a new name, and a new voice to the Lunchsense blog. Meet Chris Naugle:  Born on the East Coast and raised and educated  in the Midwest (Uof Missouri) and Northwest (U of Oregon), Chris now resides quite happily on the West Coast as married father of two elementary age boys.   Chris says he is living the Great American Novel before hoping to someday commit it to paper or at least the internet.  And this is what I get for asking for a bio at 10 pm and receiving it around midnight: He is mostly exhausted.

He also happens to be a dynamic, opinionated writer who can not only complete a sentence, he can even turn a phrase.

Perhaps you assume,

“Oh, Nancy (being an immigrant) needed a tour guide to navigate this online, technology-infused world, so Chris is the go-to guy.”

Um, no, that’s not it. Chris is also an immigrant. He’s joining me on this undertaking because as a small biz owner there’s just not enough of me to get everything done, and he’s a fine writer to boot. We immigrants to ANYTHING just need a little extra help now and then to “keep all the plates spinning,” as the old saw goes.

So then, say hello to Chris, and wish him well (and a little sleep).

Here’s that pesky postscript: after my daughter, her friend and I had that above exchange, my girl said, “Mama, don’t put that on Facebook.” This has become her stock statement after anything funny, embarrassing, or even mildly insightful and interesting comes forth. As always, I agreed to respect her wishes and keep it off Facebook.
But she never mentioned the blog.

A Day in the Life
Feb 1st, 2010 by Nancy

BoltI spend many waking hours and more sleeping hours than I care to admit working on the lunchbox biz.

This blog is meant to reflect that which I’m passionate about, including (but not limited to) good food, waste reduction and running a small biz.  I’ll readily admit I’m passionate about at least a few other things (starting with my family), but I’m inclined to keep them clear of my ramblings.   However, I had a day last year that definitely involves my family, and has absolutely nothing to do with the biz, but was so…noteworthy…that it warranted a posting.  It happened on a no-school day – President’s Day, maybe? – and involved not only my crew but a handful of local families.

Happy reading.

The Participants:

Me, home for the day.  I have three kids: Delainey (10), at Kayla’s house; Noah (8) and Evan (6), both  who are at home with me.

Lisa, also home for the day; she’s mom to Hannah (10), at Kayla’s house, and Mason (8), Roscoe (7), and Alex (6), all at home

Kayla (10) and her little brother Kai (5), both at Kayla’s house with Delainey and Hannah

Fisher, Noah’s friend, at his own home

Alexandra (10), friend to all the girls, and her mom Joan, also at their own home

My husband Mike, at the high school where he teaches, overseeing a chess tournament

The action:

Yesterday: Lisa suggests that we take a bunch of kids to the dollar theater to see “Bolt”.  They don’t get many opportunities to go to a movie in a theater, and we’re happy that it’s something ALL the kids might enjoy AND it’s at a very attractive price.

Today, 9:30am: Noah complains of general malaise; I give him a dose of Tylenol, figuring he’s just tapped out from a long weekend and will rally with the extra attention anyway, but the Tylenol won’t hurt.

11am: Lisa calls me – Mason is on task to complete his homework, but has two pages to go and will not be allowed to see the movie until he finishes.  He’s digging in his heels, and Lisa wants to know if I’m going to the movie and could take Roscoe and Alex so they don’t get punished for Mason’s transgressions.  I agree to this; I have no interest in seeing Bolt but (as most parents would know) that doesn’t really have any bearing on the day.   Since I first have to deliver Evan and pizzas to the chess tournament around noon, I can make it to Lisa’s in time to scoop up Roscoe and Alex for a 2:10 movie.

But what about the girls? Delainey wants to get together with Alexandra, and they may want to see the movie, and Hannah and Kayla might also want to see the movie, so I add it up: me+Noah+Roscoe +Alex+3 girls will fit in my van, but only if Evan agrees to stay at the chess tournament, and he’s undecided; I can’t manage a 4th girl, and since Lisa can’t go anywhere until Mason finishes his homework, we’ll have to see if Joan can drive.

11:15: I try to call Joan, but that call is interrupted when my cell phone rings.  It’s Delainey calling from Kayla’s: she wants to know if I reached Joan to confirm her get-together with Alexandra.  I tell her I haven’t yet, but there’s a possibility we’d all be able to go to see Bolt, but it hinges on having another driver, which could be Lisa if Mason comes through or Joan if she and Alexandra are interested.  I agree to call her back when I know more; she has to check with Kayla and Hannah to see if they’re interested in the movie too.

I call Joan back: Alexandra’s itching to get together with Delainey, and any other friends would be just great, and yes, she might be interested in the movie, and yes, Joan thinks she might be able to drive.  I count again: me+Noah+Roscoe+Alex±Evan (pending chess) leaves me room to spare, if Joan could drive all the girls.

11:25: I call Delainey back, and she says they’re all interested in going to the movie.  I agree to stop by Kayla’s house and scoop up all three girls, deliver Kayla and Hannah to Lisa’s house and Delainey to Alexandra’s, do the pizza run to the chess tournament, return to Lisa’s and get the boys at 1:45, then take them to the movie.  Kayla and Hannah, meanwhile, will walk up to Alexandra’s when it’s close to movie time and Joan will drive all four girls.

Easy, easy, easy.

11:35: I call Lisa back, and she says Mason’s definitely NOT going to the movie because three other friends just arrived and Mason is playing with them and she is certain he will not get his homework done in time (and probably won’t care either).  I tell her the plan with the girls, and she figures it will work.

11:40: Fisher calls, wants to play with Noah.  I count again: me+Noah+Fisher+Roscoe+Alex±Evan (pending chess) would still fit, so I offer to take Noah to Fisher’s now, then to swing back to Fisher’s house at 1:30 to get them before I go to Lisa’s to get the other boys to go to the movie.

11:40: I load up the van with the trail-a-bike (so Evan can get home from chess with Mike), and Noah and Evan, and go to Kayla’s house.  I go in to get the girls, and there stands Kai, who also wants to go to the movie.  I count up again: me+Noah+Fisher+Roscoe+Alex+Kai±Evan (pending chess) will still fit in the van, so I say sure, he can play at the Lisa’s while I go deliver pizza to the chess tournament, then I’ll pick him up and take him with everyone else to the movie.  Besides, he’s altogether too cute and good-natured to refuse.  So Noah, Evan, Kayla, Hannah, Delainey, Kai and I pile into the van and we go to Lisa’s house.

11:45: I drop Noah at Fisher’s house with instructions that I’ll return for them at 1:30.

11:50: Joan calls, tells me that she doesn’t think she’ll be able to drive after all because she’ll need to be around for her son’s activities later that afternoon.  I tell her that the girls will probably understand, and perhaps even Lisa will be able to drive if Mason gets his act together.

11:55: I drop off Kayla, Hannah and Kai at Lisa’s house with the promise to return for them at 1:45 and instructions for Lisa and Joan to work out the girls’ transportation to the movie.

12:00: I drop Delainey at Alexandra’s.

12:25: Now with only Evan in tow, I get pizza, go to the high school, and join Mike and the chess team for lunch.

1:15: Evan has decided he wants to go to the movie, so we load up and head to Fisher’s.

1:20: I call Joan to confirm the movie transportation plan.  She doesn’t think it will happen as Delainey and Alexandra have now made other plans.

1:25: I call Lisa to tell her that those girls will not be going to the movie after all.

1:35: I pick up Noah and Fisher, and (after doubling back to get Noah’s glasses) we head for Lisa’s.

1:40: Lisa tells me Kayla and Hannah were so disappointed that they wouldn’t get to go to the movie after all that she has agreed to throw Mason and the two remaining friends of his in HER van and she will deliver Kayla and Hannah to the theater if I will keep tabs on them.  I agree to this.

1:45: I reach Lisa’s house, where Roscoe, Alex and Kai pile into the van with Noah, Fisher and Evan, and we head to the theater, following Lisa’s van with Hannah, Kayla, Mason and his two friends.  After half a morning of scheduling and rescheduling, we are FINALLY ON OUR WAY TO THE MOVIE.

1:55: Noah (in the front seat) announces to me he feels awful and thinks he might throw up.  I check, he looks ashen.  I hand him the trash bag and figure that two hours sitting in a dark movie theater won’t kill him or anybody else.  Ultimately, he does not throw up.

2:05: We arrive at the mall and hike over to the theater ticket window, where we meet Hannah and Kayla, whom Lisa has just dropped off.

2:08: the 2:10 showing of Bolt is sold out.

The two ten showing of Bolt is sold out.

THE TWO TEN SHOWING OF BOLT IS SOLD OUT.

2:09: I call Lisa and tell her the news, and she cracks up.

2:10: Lisa doubles back to the mall, picks up Roscoe, Alex, and Kai.

2:11: I return to the van with Noah, Fisher, Evan, Kayla and Hannah, then on the drive back I try and call Fisher’s house (as I don’t want Fisher to be at our house with Noah in his condition), but as I can’t reach Fisher’s parents I call Lisa and ask to leave Fisher there.

2:25: I drop Fisher off at Lisa’s.

2:35: I drop Kayla and Hannah at Kayla’s.

2:40: Noah, Evan and I return home.  Noah immediately heads for bed.

The necessary postscripts: I’m usually not this cavalier with a sick kid.  Noah was low in the morning, but rallied; he was low on the way to the movie, but the prospect of FINALLY getting to the theater had just too strong a pull on him.

Lastly, these are all wonderful kids and I’m happy to take them to the dollar theater when the opportunity arises.  Most of the time the outing does NOT turn out like this one did.

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