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The absolutely true story of a nine year old and his lunch
Sep 21st, 2011 by Nancy

iStock_000013297428SmallI scored big on the lunch-making front today.

I was prepping bits and pieces of lunch for my nine year old as I passed through the kitchen – mixing leftover turkey soup from last night with the last half cup of noodles from a few days back, getting it started in the microwave, locating the wide mouth thermos in the cabinet, that sort of thing.  I checked with Evan about the rest of the lunch as we passed in the hall:

“Do you want watermelon?”

“Nah.  Do we have any peaches?”

“I don’t think so, but I’ll check.  Plums…and yes! A peach.”

“Yay! I’ll have peach. And carrots too.”

In the medium (and large) lunchbox, the thermos fits nicely to one side, which leaves room for three side-dish-sized containers, or two containers and a drink.  I don’t put the ice pack in the lunchbox when I use the thermos – they sort of compete with each other, leaving us with cool-ish soup and warm-ish milk by lunchtime – so I don’t pack milk on thermos days either, and I let Evan either buy milk at school or carry water.

I chopped up a carrot (Insider’s tip: the most nutritional value is in the peel, so cut the carrot into many thin slivers and they won’t notice you didn’t peel it)(better yet, for boys chop them into arrowheads – they love that) and put it and half a peach into two little containers. I popped these into the lunchbox next to the thermos, and tossed in one of the unmatched spoons from the silverware drawer that I really hope he loses at school someday.

Evan noticed the empty spot and said, “hey, there’s room for one more thing.”

I never pack a treat in my kids’ lunches.  Have you ever emptied out a lunchbox at the end of the day to find that your child didn’t eat anything…except the cookie?  And you wondered why that kid was cranky and whiny after school?  Our house rule is this: eat your lunch, and you can have a treat when you get home.

So I was surprised and a little horrified to hear these words coming out of my mouth: “How ’bout a cookie?”

I guess I figured that homemade turkey soup, a peach and carrots was certainly a good enough meal to justify a cookie, but I was breaking my own house rule which every parent knows is a sure-fire way to lose all pretense of authority forever and ever.  I waited for Evan’s response.

“Okay!”

No surprise there.  But then the kicker:

“Oh, but wait, there’s no water.”

Trying really hard to mask my shock, I said as casually as I could muster, “You want water instead of a cookie???”

MAMA’S BIG WIN FOR THE DAY: “Yeah, water.”

And he trotted out the door to get his bike out of the garage.

HALLELUJAH! AND AMEN!

Finally! Personalize it!
Aug 2nd, 2011 by Nancy

Not quite what we offer, but this IS the ultimate in personalization!My son Noah ran into a problem in 3rd grade.  Most of his friends had Lunchsense lunchboxes, but they all seemed to be big fans of the blue color box in medium.  Since all the lunchboxes went into a bin at the start of the school day, were carried en masse to the cafeteria and returned to the bin after lunch, then left for all the kids to pick up before leaving at the end of the day, the kids often just grabbed the first blue lunchbox they found.  The result?  I washed out Jackson’s or Wesley’s lunchbox more often than not.  Mitchell always brought home the right box – his had a name tag – but we all reminded our kiddos to doublecheck before bringing home their lunchbox.

Fortunately, this will no longer be a problem.

We here at Lunchsense are proud to announce the arrival of a fresh new option for all the lunchboxes: Personalization!

As of today, for a smallish charge ($7.50) you can order up an embroidered lunchbox that’s just right for you and you alone.  We opted for embroidery over silk screening as it cleans up in the washing machine just as well as the lunchbox itself.

The details, in a nutshell:

  • Two fonts – block and script;
  • Four thread colors – black, electric blue, silver and gold;
  • Two locations (on the lunchbox) – on the top to the left of the closure button, and on the front. On the top, there’s room for 8 characters on the small, 10 on the medium, and 12 on the large; on the front, there’s a 15 character limit on any size lunchbox.

Don’t want your name on the lunchbox, but still want to say something?  That’s fine – you’re only limited by your imagination (and the character limits)…

  • Does the athlete in the family have a jersey number?  How about “Jackson #32″
  • Do you want to tell the world about your favorite hobby? How about “Love to Garden”
  • Does your lunch occasionally disappear from the office fridge?  Have your lunchbox tell the perps “Hands off!”
  • You can even write something in both locations: “That’s right…I’m a fan!”

With the combination of eight lunchbox colors and four thread colors, you can probably get almost any team color combination to boot.

So – what do YOU say (with your lunchbox)?

P.S. Just to make a big entrance with this new option, we will be offering FREE PERSONALIZATION to any order August 8 and 9, 2011.  No code necessary, it will be available to everyone lucky enough to order it or smart enough to read the blog!

Foodie Tuesday: Dulce de Leche Brownies
Apr 5th, 2011 by Nancy

Dulce-Brownies-300x275Oh, there’s so much to share, and Tuesday comes but once a week!

Chocolate. Butter. Sugar. Nuts, or no nuts. Finger food, and two-bite sized.  Honest, sublime, homey, decadent, simple, sophisticated: brownies may be the all-time perfect treat.

Besides, Foodie Tuesday was due for a sugar fix.

Here’s an offering for Foodie Tuesday that may actually improve upon perfection: chocolate brownies with a sweet gooey layer of dulce de leche in the middle.  This brownie recipe is a time-honored classic that I’ve made dozens of times (even in gluten-free flour; all I add is a little xanthan gum to keep them from falling apart in my hands), and thanks to David Lebovitz and brought to my attention at babble.com, the addition of dulce de leche is simple and effective. Best of all, for those of you in the lunch-carrying corps, these are eminently packable and sure to draw longing stares from your coworkers.

dulce brownies 2

If you like that kind of thing.  It’s your call.

Unfamiliar with dulce de leche?  Here’s another link from David with the recipe.  Easy as can be: one ingredient, a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Enjoy!

Portlanders: Better Living for you!
Mar 17th, 2011 by Nancy

BLS posterDo tell, oh neighbors-to-the- north: does the new program Portlandia change the way you refer to yourselves? Are you now Portlandians, or do you remain Portlanders?

My husband and I lived in Portland for about 7 years.  Our daughter was born in there (okay, Milwaukie, technically). We moved to Bend for a lovely 18 month period, where our first son was born.  We moved to Eugene thereafter, where our second son was born.

We’re not moving anymore.

I will be making the trek at the end of this month to the Expo Center in Portland for the Better Living Show, which (if the last couple years is any measure) is bound to be a great time.

Many good reasons to go….

Food samples!

Admission is free, and here’s why: the Better Living Show organizers want to counter the impression that “green = expensive.”

A wonderful kid’s pavilion!

The weather will not improve, so while you’re waiting for a break in the rain to mess about in the garden, you can pick up some new gardening tips and ideas.

1,001 ways to green your home!

I’ll be having my annual drawing for a free lunchbox in any size and any color, but you have to stop by the booth to enter.

More samples!

Enjoy a 20% discount on every Lunchsense lunchbox set purchased at the Better Living Show!

You can train, bus or bike to the show, but if you must drive you get a buck off parking if you carpool (3 or more).

If you don’t make it to the show but do “like” us on Facebook, you will help your friends who order later – if we reach our goal on Facebook we will offer $5 flat rate shipping for all of April!

Fashion!

Lots of other presentations!

Did I mention food samples?

Last but not least, a fabulous lineup of lunchboxes!

Check here for a slideshow of last year’s event, stop by booth 529 and say hello, and maybe even walk away with a marvelous new lunchbox while you’re at it.

‘Hope to see you there!

Foodie Tuesday: a new series
Mar 16th, 2011 by Nancy

I make the lunchbox.  YOU make the lunch.

This has always been my response when customers ask if the Lunchsense lunchbox they’ve just ordered will come, um, pre-loaded.

You might think I’d be all about recipes, clever tips, great photos – an endless resource for what to put in that fancy new lunchbox.   As you might know, I’m a huge fan of food, from growing it to cooking, reading about, and most of all eating it, in (most) all its wondrous form.

But how do most of MY lunch-packing adventures go?  Not so adventurous, frankly.  I usually only pack lunch for my 3rd grader and 5th grader, and their tastes are…still developing, shall we say.  If I were to even try writing about what I usually pack for these two I’d run out of words by Friday, and you’d get pretty sick of what I had to say by about Wednesday.  ‘Hardly inspiring,  I’m sorry to say.

I’m not doing you any favors, though, if I’m not sharing some of the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering delectables that come across my desk and browser in the course of business, so as of today I will officially start fixing that.

By the way, how do you define a foodie?  Is it someone who’s a food snob?  Someone obsessed with eating “correctly” (whatever that means)?  Let me know, I’d love to hear your thoughts about “my-lunch-can-beat-up-your-lunch” food snobbery (or would that be “my lunch can have your lunch for lunch”?)  vs. genuine, heartfelt foodie-ness.

So then, today: what’s on the (virtual) menu?

Since it’s lunch, and that conjures images of sandwiches, I’ll start with this: Raspberry Chipotle sauced Pulled Pork Leftovers topped with Candied red onions & provolone cheese, found on My Year on the Grill:

pulled pork sandwich

Didja get all that?  Here it is again: sweet and smoky raspberry and chipotles slow-cooked pulled pork recipe; bright, tangy candied red onions; velvety provolone.  Crunchy+pillowy+salty+seedy bun. Pull all this out of your lunchbox and you’ll be the envy of all your office mates.  For the surprisingly fast and easy raspberry chipotle sauce, see here .

I’ll be getting Foodie Tuesdays out every week.  I’m open to suggestions as well – if you see something just too good to hide, let me know!

Lunch is the "Friendliest" Meal
Mar 2nd, 2011 by Chris
Photo taken by TheRehn, stock.xchng.

Photo taken by TheRehn, stock.xchng.

As the unofficial custodian of the Lunchsense Facebook page, I’ve decided we should make a push this month to reach 250 (FB) “likes.”

“Why?” you might ask.  Why should I bravely endeavor to persuade complete strangers to become new friends?

The answer is simple—“It’s what we’re all about.”

Certainly, new “customers” are nice, but consider the Lunchsense mission:

to change the way people THINK about (and pack and carry) LUNCH.

Sure, we want you to contemplate the benefits of our box, but first, we’d just like to get you to consider what’s inside.  We want to invite you to re-evaluate the possibilities of this under-appreciated, “brown-bag” meal.  In the interest of your health and well-being, it strives to be a much larger part of your life.  And, it’s eager to be shared.

We rarely get a chance to have lunch with family members during a busy work-week, but that doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate “family” wherever we are.  Relationships develop over shared bites in lunchrooms, cafés or at picnic tables every day.  A noontime respite is the perfect opportunity to share rants & raves and to formulate like-mindedness.  It’s a communal exercise—when we collectively stop grinding for a moment, and grab some grub with our mates.

It connects us with our community.

Do you eat at the same place every day?  With the same people?  Alone?  Indoors, or out?

This simple practice, nourishing ourselves, improves the quality of our lives if we let it.

We want to spread the word—“lunch!”  Hopefully, becoming more well-liked on Facebook will enable us to enrich a larger community.  AND, if we reach our goal—250 “likes” by March 31, 2011—Nancy will offer $5 shipping to everyone for the month of April (2011)!

Please visit our page this month, and invite your Facebook friends to do the same, as we attempt to build our group of enlightened grubbers one lunchbox, and one lunch-break at a time.

HouseSmartsTV Gives Lunchsense a Green Light
Feb 14th, 2011 by Chris

The bustling staff at Lunchsense world headquarters is a proud, yet mostly humble group.  The truth is, we get a little squeamish about blowing our own horn, so—it’s always nice when someone else decides to tell more folks how helpful our lunchboxes can be.

HouseSmartsTV.com is primarily a home-improvement site run by Chicagoland’s “Mr. Fix-It,” Lou Manfredini.  They also occasionally produce cooking or lifestyle pieces, and they recently featured Lunchsense in a video about healthy, environmentally-conscious, noontime-meal solutions.  Hooray!

Check it out, pass it on and above all else—enjoy your lunch!

As if free shipping today wasn't enough...
Nov 29th, 2010 by Nancy
"Uh, Johnny?  I've been meaning to talk to you about the packaging in your lunch."

"Uh, Johnny? I've been meaning to talk to you about the packaging in your lunch."

If you’re reading this you’re already probably digging around in the website for more information on the wonderful Lunchsense lunchboxes.  To this I say, “Yay! ‘Happy to have you here!”

You might also be looking for any other deal on top of cyber Monday free shipping.  I’m happy to oblige – here’s a 10% off coupon code to use any time between now and December 9:

BLOG10

Of course, if you use it today, you’ll get free shipping AND 10% off.  Sweet deal, that is.

"Thanks" Giving Santa a Bucket of Coal
Nov 24th, 2010 by Chris

Bucket of CoalIn response to a perceived discourtesy, November’s holiday-spirit, simply referred to as “Thanks,” is sending December’s patron saint, Santa Claus, a bucket of coal for Christmas this year.

Disturbed by Santa’s increasing intrusion on the month of November, Thanks feels forgotten and rudely ignored.  “It’s just so inconsiderate,” she said.  “We used to share the parade with him, but now he’s coming with the full-color newspaper inserts, direct-mailings and television ads before the turkeys even reach the stores.”

Public concern over Santa’s expansion appears to be mixed.  “I wish it was Christmas every day,” one seven-year-old boy confided.

Thanks, however, is convinced “St. Nicholas” has committed an egregious mistake.  “That fat, old elf is finally going senile,” she said.  “He doesn’t know what he’s doing and he’s confusing the kids.”

The facts suggest Claus did start the Christmas campaign earlier than usual this year.  Toy catalogs began trickling into mailboxes almost as soon as the trees surrendered their leaves, and electronic solicitors began flooding email accounts just after the recent elections.

When questioned, Claus admitted to a misunderstanding, though he blamed it on the complexities of varying international customs.  “I might have gotten a little mixed-up,” he confessed.  “The Canadians have their thankful thingy in October, and the missus is always nagging me about needing to ‘check the list twice’ and everything, so I didn’t want to dawdle this year.”

Is it merely an accident, or instead, a growing trend?  Ever since Kris Kringle endorsed “Black Friday” as the unofficial start to the Christmas season, retailers have been utilizing his likeness earlier and earlier to promote their sales.

“Santa is good business,” one store-manager concluded succinctly.

Statistical analysis indicates consumers, in turn, are beginning to shift their attentions to the Christmas season sooner than ever before.

“Thanksgiving?” one mother of four shrugged, “I’m thankful when my shopping’s done and all the presents are wrapped.”

In the U.S., Thanksgiving has legally controlled the fourth Thursday in November since December 26, 1941 (the day after Christmas).  Traditionally, the holiday has occurred on this date since 1863, however a source close to the Ministry of Christmas contends, “Nobody has ever said anything about the following Friday, or any of the weeks prior, for that matter.”

This same source, in an exclusive interview, revealed that Santa is no longer solely in charge of the Ministry, and that he is most likely not the one responsible for the increased promotional effort.  Tech-hungry consumer demands have allowed corporate retailers and manufacturers to muscle in on the North Pole’s operation.

“Kids don’t just want dollies, tin soldiers or BB guns anymore,” the source instructed, “they want an iTouch, an X-Box or a Nintendo DS.  Who do you think makes those, the elves?”

For her part, Thanks is unwilling to let Kringle off the hook.  Interviewed in a grocery store parking-lot, next to a row of leaning fir trees, she confirmed that she had heard the rumors but added, “Santa not in charge anymore?  I simply won’t believe it.”

Regardless of who’s to blame, Thanksgiving has clearly been slighted, and the effects of this negligence have yet to be fully realized.

“I don’t mean to seem ungrateful,” Thanks explained.  “Everybody loves Santa, especially the children, but I just think we need to stop and appreciate what we already have, before we begin asking for something new.”

When asked what she hoped to accomplish by her symbolic gesture, Thanks replied, “Gratitude should precede bounty in action and acknowledgment; it is the parent of all other virtues.  Santa should understand.”

Life and times of a small biz: what's a fax number worth to me?
Sep 24th, 2010 by Nancy

fax machineA couple months ago I eliminated my fax number.

Although I wasn’t going out of my way to get rid of it, I am now no longer reachable by fax.

I guess it isn’t accurate to say I eliminated my fax number.  Actually, it was taken from me.  Here’s what happened:

I subscribed to a service called eFax that assigned a telephone number to me that served as my “fax” number.  If someone wanted to send something to me, they’d dial that number then eFax would email me a digital file (like, though not, a pdf) of the sent pages, and I’d be good to go.  Best of all, it was free, simple, and seemed a good environmental choice – no trees were killed in the conveyance of information to me.  eFax did offer several other “premium” plans that came with a monthly price tag, but since I’d receive maybe one fax every other month, the free option was absolutely sufficient for my needs.

Recently, I worked with a customer that apparently didn’t have my email address, but did have my fax number, so he sent me a handful of faxes – about six in all, each about three or four pages in length.

What I didn’t realize (or more likely since I’d had this service for a couple years, what I didn’t remember) was that if I sent or received more than 20 pages in a single month I’d not qualify for eFax’s free service any longer.

So I was a bit surprised to get a notice from eFax stating that because of my recent activity I no longer qualified for the free option and in order to continue using their service I’d have to upgrade to the premium plan.

SO – Does $17 a month seem a bit steep for a biz to pay for a service that it uses maybe 6 times a year? To send or receive information that can also be conveyed – in better form – via email?  Which, ironically, became my only choice not because I sent a bunch of faxes, but because someone else sent just barely 20 pages in a 30 day period?

‘Seemed that way to me, but I wanted to find out if eFax felt the same way.  I called them several times, and was given the same answer several times – in order to keep my fax number I had to cough up $16.95 a month.

After mulling it over, I realized that (even though it feels otherwise) THIS WAS NOT BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE.  The eFax phone people were cordial, honest, and straightforward. The 20 page limit was there in my original plan, I exceeded my free limit, and I was shown the door.

THIS IS ONLY A REALLY LOUSY BUSINESS MODEL.

The fax number just sat there in my signature block, quiet and safe and staid: address, phone, fax, email, website.  It wasn’t really doing anything except adding one more line to the block, and maybe adding the perception of one more nugget of legitimacy to my operation here: “see? I’m a REAL biz – I have a fax number.”  Now that it’s gone, though, I realize it won’t be missed.  While I feel for the people that have my contact information but don’t know the fax number isn’t live anymore (although so few of them fax anything I’m not losing any sleep over it).

But as a small biz owner, I am somewhat more concerned to think that eFax considers this a viable way to do business. Yeah, they weren’t making any money off me, so why should they care?  Here’s why:

They hasten the demise of their own services by kicking me out.  They weren’t losing any money on me either, but they did lose a whole lot of goodwill.

I hear it said that bad customer service stories are repeated nine times by the “victim”.  I don’t want that kind of storytelling about Lunchsense, ever.

It’s actually not been that big of a hassle to get my fax number off my “collateral” (that’d be the name for all the paper stuff that has my biz information on it), as most of it I print on-demand – for example, I have the file with the letterhead, and when I need to write a letter, I write it and print it (or, more often, email it).  Invoices, packing slips, carton inserts, whatever – most of it either didn’t have the fax number to begin with or I only print in small quantities.

I can also email printer scans for someone who has to have my signature, so the ONLY THING I’m now left without is the ability to receive a fax.  It is no significant loss, frankly.

Please: do you have a similar story?  If you were me, what would you have done?

Next week: a customer service tale that I strive to emulate.

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