Thursday, May 29, 2008

Star Wars Bento

For the Star Wars Challenge in Bento Challenge.

Rice is forbidden rice mixed with sushi rice and seasoned with mirin furikake, Darth Vader onigiri filled with tuna mayonnaise, a red pepper light saber, cheese and nori x-wings and tie fighters and an egg Death Star with a Cheddar letters and red pepper laser beams.

Forbidden rice; Kitchen Nightmare

The real reason it's forbidden...

Forbidden rice was once only for the Emporer - and I can see why. This stuff for all it tastes nice, a bit like nutty popcorn and has a chewy texture, it's a cooking nightmare. It paints the whole stovetop plum. Now granted, if you are one of those lucky souls who has pots with proper heavy lids where this kind of spitting debacle doesn't occur - tell me where you got them because I don't think I want to endure this much more.

It's worth it though for the lovely purple rice - pretty and flavourful. Now I must go clean it all up.

(Since Trinity asked)

Forbidden Rice

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bentos for 29/5/08

Husband gets a protein heavy bento because I felt like it.Two smoked salmon onigiri with mirin furikake. Smoked sausage, red pepper and rocket leaves.Bottom has mini kebabs of leftover turkey from turkey and veg pie (Was yummy), salami and cheese and cucumbers. He'll get a side of mixed nuts, and apple and an orange.There's quite a lot of food crammed into that small box - believe me! But it's my experimenting bento. I was trying out making the tassel things with omelet - which has soy sauce in it which is why it's brown - and turkey. The egg heads - although I was trying to cut out the white, expose the yolk and put a face on it, but I couldn't find the yolk and missed it. The rice ball is egg yolk cooked rice filled with smoked salmon and with white ears - because I forgot to leave extra egg rice for the ears, and the pink is salami, cheese face and red pepper tongue. Wee broccoli bits to fill in the holes, carrot flowers and an underbed of rocket and and some haribo. Joke to follow as I'm knackered.Can you guess? I know the close up is fuzzy - sorry! I was sneaking around hiding it from everyone so I don't ruin the Friday suprise. And no - this won't be Friday's onigiri. I'll make a fresh one. He looks like he's sleeping. dammit!

Bentos for 28/5/08

Husband's bento also looks a simple affair - Perhaps making these up so late at night isn't such a good idea?

Top has carrot and red pepper wit turkey and cheese roll-ups with a few bites of mini salami.

Bottom are three very big inarizushi filled with the horseradish furikake and smoked salmon. He also got a sidecar of mixed nuts and dates, an apple and an orange.

yeah yeah...over exposed. *sigh*

Sassy's not been eating her lunch. The playground with all its Pokemon trading excitement means she's not got the attention for food. Sigh. I'm going to try cutting back the amounts I put in her meals for two reasons: to save money and encourage her to eat more. I figure if she sees less she'll be more likely to eat it all. That could be twisted logic but we'll see. So there's a lot of spaces in there for a reason. Top has two onigiri with horseradish furikake - Which is really nice as it has the flavour of horseradish but not the heat - filled with smoked salmon. Snack cheese and cherry tomatoes. Bottom has carrot, red pepper and a few bites of mini salami. The lid has a bag of haribo minis and a riddle: How do you spell hard water with 3 letters? Ice! Ok it's a lame riddle, I'm not best pleased myself, but it was the best I could find at 11:30pm.

So I get a little obsessed sometimes!

So what? There's no harm...really. So I forget to blog about other things. There's not a lot going on just now so what's there to talk about? Sure the weather is fabulous (although it's raining today) and Spring is moving into Summer, and I have really nice new neighbors who are so quiet considering there's five of them in that small three bedroom house and I'm jealous of the kids are so into gardening and I want to hire them to come play in mine for a while just to turn over and mulch the beds now the daffodils and tulips have gone by - oh a weed hunt! I'd have candy prizes for a good weed hunt. Rubber gloves supplied by me to protect fingers from thistles and nettles.

I haven't read anything since my Mom left, I've been making a real effort to keep the house tidy and vacuumed - a real challenge when here's sand being blown in all the time. And the bento stuff is really exciting just now and a lot of fun - where I'm planning fun themed bentos every so often and how to get them done from food and all that stuff - it does become obsessing. Does ham or turkey make a better fleshtone? Can I cut this fragile nori just so without tearing it (usually the answer is no)? Will it all fit in? Will it look dumb? Will they like me - the flickr group people who I want to impress with my natural talents - that's where the fantasy part slips in - and well do they really like me? blah blah head is determined to be busy.

Currently sleeping about five hours a night. This is what the longer days of Summer do to me. In a month's time I'll be getting three to four and getting rather weird. I'm sure my archives will reveal I get weird at these times. I tend to drink a bit more in order to knock myself out at night...not that it ever works for long. Once I hear the birds chirping at half three in the morning *Bing* I'm up! You'll always read about seasonal affective disorder bothering people mostly in the winter with depression from lack of sunlight. I get sleep deprived from too much. And black-out blinds and ear plugs don't work - I've tried. Really what I should do is just go with it and cut back on all the busyness of the day - you know like a siesta time. Slow down - since there's so much more time to get things done I should chill the pace and not get so charged up about everything. The laundry can be hung to dry and I can forget it until 9pm. Meals are easy because who wants stew in Summer? Nah just quick grill meats with easy veggies and salads.

And I'm yawning as I type this...I'm going for a shower, brb.

SO much better! And I made some coffee.

Which reminds me of something else bugging me. I found out my decaff coffee was actually not decaff. I hate when that happens! And it happens more often than you think. In America it's really easy to find the decaff coffee: it's in green. Regular isn't. Green lid and label = decaff. Just like in restaurants the decaff coffee pot has an orange top, regular is black. But here it's anything goes. Actually, it looks like they're trying to streamline the decaff into blue label and lid = decaff. So silly me I went and grabbed the Kenco coffee with the blue lid assuming it was decaff. We've been having caffeine at all hours lately so no wonder we're both not sleeping well. OOpsie! So I went yesterday and got some real decaff. I read the label and everything even though it still had a blue lid. Not Kenco this time, I'm pissed at them for not toeing the decaff = blue lid line.

I really need a haircut. And why am I shedding like a German Shepard? I'm dropping hair everywhere! Plugging up the drain in the shower. It's not like I have full, thick hair to begin with. It was just starting to look really nice and thick for a few weeks, and then it's all popped out. OH and the amount of silver is shocking. It's like I've grown old hair over night. I've decided to just let it grow out and to stop colouring it. I may change my mind when the full horror of the silver is revealed but I'll give it a try. So far I'm very silver at the temples but not much anywhere else. Perhaps I'll end up looking distinguished? Are women allowed to look distinguished?

And a pedicure. I've never had a proper pedicure. Perhaps I should treat myself.

So yes. Bento planning. I'm getting ideas for a series (I sound like an artist don't I - gee whiz) of Batman bentos and Star Wars Bentos...just have to draw out the ideas to get placement right, figure out what foods will make the right colours and shapes and then get cutting and "pasting" (It's great how mayonnaise and other condiments are sticky)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sassy Bento 26/5/08

Sushi bento for SassyFace too today. She loves sushi and has done since a very young age. We used to take her into Yo! Sushi in Edinburgh (It's gone now, we're very sad about that) as a toddler and the staff were so amazed by her eating anything put in front of her they would give her bits of food and say "See if she'll eat that...Wow!" So she got to eat free there a few times. Maybe that's why they're gone? Anyways...

Top is the edible joke on rice paper with a cut up apple school bar; compressed fruit that looks and has the texture of plasticine but the kids love them.

Middle has two large tuna and avocado maki rolls and four smoked salmon rolls with carrots, mange tout and a piggie full of soy sauce.

Bottom is a hodge-podge of whatever I could think of to fill the bento. I tend to do the veg and extras in the morning, and this morning I was not very sharp. So we have mini salami bites, babybel, cucumber butterflys, raisins and a few smoked turkey and Bavarian cheese wraps.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Husband Bento 26/5/08

I felt a sushi week was in order. I have the sushi presses and haven't used them much - but I love them! They really do make making sushi so much easier and less frustrating.

Top has small salmon and wasabi rolls and two large tuna mayonnaise with peppers and cucumber and avocado topped with black and white sesame seeds. Pickled ginger and a soy sauce fish.

Bottom has mini salami and chili cheese kebabs with leftover cheese - I wasn't gonna eat them - cherry tomatoes, carrots, rocket leaves and mange tout.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bentos for 23/5/08

Yes I started this one a bit early, but there's a lot of good TV on a Thursday night, so leftovers are chucked right into the bento. But don't think it's a slap dash affair!

My Husband is computer guy, and he loves Linux. I thought a TUX penguin - the Linux mascot, would be the tiptoppiest of man-geek lunch bento eva!

Left is sushi rice with sesame furikake, nori shape and orange pepper feet and beak.

Right has leftover steak with ginger soy and garlic sauce, spring onion and seasme. Carrots, mange tout and leftover pepper bits with a babybel.

As it's 5K day (He's a fit geek) he'll get a sidecar of mixed nuts, dates an orange and an apple.

I can't very well make a fancy bento for Dad without making one for Sassy face too. Once the penguin was done I figured since I had all the stuff out, I'd try an idea I've been toying with, and make a bento dragon.

Lid has fruit chews and gummy bears with an edible joke.

The top is plain rice with red and orange pepper cut out head shape, nori stars and thin strips of nori for eyebrows and frown lines (I have tiny scissors once used for newborn fingernails that did excellent for this). Babybel cheese for eyes, nose and mouth and rocket leaves for whiskers.

The bottom is supposed to be the dragon's tail which is a segmented hotdog with cucumber and carrot, some cheese and ham pinwheels and a red pepper tail tasslething.

I hope with all her running about before school it all stays together, but at least I have this picture to prove I tried.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bentos for 21/5/08

My Mom flies back home to Tennessee today. We're bummed. The two weeks have flown by and I just don't know where the time has gone. It's supposed to be the sign of a good visit, but it still sucks. I wanted to send Mom off with a nice lunch so she didn't have to suffer the ills of airplane food.

Two onigiri, one with a ham and cream cheese parcel inside the other with a pickled onion (She loves them!), rocket leaves, two seasoned fried chicken kebabs (pointy bits cut off so airport guys don't freak out over little pointy stick) some sugar snap peas, carrots and hummous to dip them in and a babybel.

I hope she likes it and has a very safe flight. I'll miss you Mom!

Click for more...

The SassyFace actually ate 90% of her bento yesterday! That's rare and excellent. Today she has my bento box (Isn't it cute!) because I was too tired to wash dishes last night after two hours of bento making...and hiding in the kitchen to avoid sad "My Mommy is leaving me!" feelings (Because my Mom flies back home to America today) Top has two onigiri with fried chicken inside, and several chunks of fried chicken, with mange tout and carrot flowers on some rocket leaves. Bottom is fresh mango, babybel and some cut up pieces of "School bars" which are compressed fruit chew bars. I think they taste awful but my kids love them. There's apple and blackcurrant flavours. A haribo for playground dessert. Oh shit! I forgot a joke! (Later added "Why did the tap dancer retire? He kept falling in the sink!") (Tap in the UK word for faucet)

Left: Two onigiri one with ham and cream cheese parcel inside, the other has fried chicken, mini fried chicken kebabs, rocket leaves, mange tout, red pepper. Middle: Puree of ham, red pepper and cream cheese topped with nanami togarashi, sliced carrots, sugar snap peas, red pepper and sliced hot dog. Right: mixed nuts, haribo, apple and an orange. I made this, thought it was great, then now just as I'm typing it up I realise; Husband isn't going into work today because he's taking Mom to the airport and will work from home later. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I'll count this as practice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bentos 20/5/08

Link to picture

Husband is loving his bentos. Apparently his wife loves him better than any of his friend's wives love them. That strokes my competitive ego to no end.

Today he runs a 5K so he's got extras.

Left are three kebabs with mixes of rolled ham, fried chicken, chilli cheese, babybel, red pepper and sugar snap peas on a rocket salad with a few cherry tomatoes to fill in space.

Middle has more peas, carrots and leftover bits of kebab stuff that didn't get put on the skewers with sliced hotdog and a cup of cream cheese with cayenne.

Mixed unsalted nuts, tangerine, apple and a grape tootsie-pop that I got from the American/Mexican import store Lupe Pintos in Edinburgh - awesome shop if you're near there. I spend a fortune there a couple times a year to ease my homesickness.

Link to picture

I've had five hours sleep - my own fault for getting absorbed in a good book. So Sassy's bento is lacking the child-friendly flair but I'm sure she'll be happy nonetheless for it.

Top is the daily joke (which I love) and some gummy sweets

Middle is cut raw veggies and some cream cheese for dipping with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds.

Bottom are kebabs of roast chicken, rolled ham, cheddar, red pepper and pea pods on some rocket with a few apple flowers dipped in lemon juice so they won't brown. I've also snipped the point off the end of the kebab sticks to avoid accidents at school. You know how kids get.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Race For Life 2008

Yesterday was my second turn at Race For Life and it was a great day! I think there were twice the amount of people this year over last year. The weather, for all it did rain on us for about ten minutes, was sandwiched between glorious bright sunshine.

My plan was to run the 5K and get back home fast for other family meeting this afternoon, but dipshit that I am: I got the wrong time. So rather than kicking off with the runners at 11:00, I was stuck with the walkers at 11:30. That'll teach me to re-verify my details. But it was blessing in disguise as I had brought my camera with me and spent a lot of time walking among the crowd and snapping photos and taking video...which later I lost because my of fat thumb pushing the "Sure format my disk!" button instead of taking the photo I wanted. Gutted! But many of the pictures from the last part of the race were saved. I did run about half of it when there was plenty of space to maneuver on the outside.

Almost immediately I was holding back my emotions and fighting tears. As I walked with the crowd of a thousand I couldn't help read the dedications on everyone's backs. People who've died from cancer, people who've survived. Grannies, uncles, husbands and children. You see their pictures of when they were smiling and happy and know they're gone. It was hard to get caught up in the great spirit of the walk when the undercurrent of loss was right there in front of all of us. Some of these people only passed away a couple months ago. One read "For my best friend, diagnosed two weeks ago," and I wanted to put my hand on her shoulder and give a supportive squeeze, but it's not the thing we do, we walk on. And we did - nearly 3000 of us.

Constant music, lots of supportive applause from the sidelines, lots of laughing and folks in costume keeping the energy of the event high and light. I loved those people.

I finished in under a half an hour - how I have no clue as I said I was half walking, so I must have ran more than I thought. I got my medal and bag of freebies - including brown lipliner, Yuck! I thought that just eaten a chocolate cake look was over with? and headed out because we had to collect Shorty from a birthday party and then go to my in-laws for late lunch. Such a busy day, but those images and the feeling of the day will stick with me for a while. I'm looking forward to it in 2009. Running this time! Click continued for pictures...

Sassy Bento 19/05/08

Today I felt like using the teddy bears so it's a teddy bento.

Top has hawthorn wafers which I picked up in the Chinese market and they taste niceish and kind of weird, a bit like sweet pine sap, so we'll see what the SassyFace thinks. Gummy bears and her joke for the day.

Left has two ham and cheese roll-up kebabs, salad and a curried rice bear with nori accents.

Right has red and orange peppers, sugar snap peas and cucumber bears

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Husband Bento 19/5/08

I know it's against the rules to make bento the night before, but I'll be damned if I'm waking up at 5:30 just to make the Man's lunch, and wouldn't expect me to, either because he's awesome.

Monday is a gym day, so the top extra is mixed unsalted nuts, dates and a couple figs.

Middle is roasted chicken breast, rocket leaves on the bottom and ham roll-ups with Mexican cheddar and salad.

Bottom has mixed veggies and a cup of cream cheese with cayenne.

This all goes into an insulated lunchbox with an apple and a plum.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sassy Bento 16/5/08

Sassy Bento 16/5/08

Friday is Pizza Day! And pizza didn't fit well in the rectangular bento box, so since this box came free with the Thermos lunchbox I'll use it.

Three slices of cheese pizza, sliced hot dog, grapes and carrot stars. Two plain teddy rice balls. There's a box of raisins and a clementine in her lunchbox too which I added after the photo out of guilt that may not be enough food in there. There always is because my kid eats like a bird but it's a Mother's worry and so...

Today's joke is "Why did the tomato blush? It saw the salad dressing!"

I used a cut to size non-stick baking sheet to separate the pizza from the rice shapes because I didn't want tomato sauce stains on the plastic. This all fit in the one box which was efficient. It also will keep the rice paper from melting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Happy Birthday Shorty!!

Shorty's 4th Birthday Cake 13/5/08

This is Shorty's 4th Birthday today. She asked for a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and that's what she's got. She is allergic to eggs and milk, so this is a vegan cake, but I challenge anyone to tell the difference - This cake is amazing!

Cake recipe:

1.5 cups of white flour (I used self rising)
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup of soy milk
1/2 cup of orange juice
2tsp vanilla extract
2tbs white vinegar

Preheat oven to 180C. Double sift all dry ingredients and remove any lumpy bits. Mix all wet ingredients - EXCEPT VINEGAR; that's put in last - and whisk into dry until smooth. Should make a thick batter. Add vinegar ans stir in quickly, pour and get straight into the oven. The vinegar and baking soda begin to react and is what makes the cake rise and become really fluffy so you cannot let it sit around. Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven until a stick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Fudge filling recipe:

1 cup caster sugar
6 tbsp corn starch
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbsp vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients in a large sauce pan and whisk in the water. Heat over medium flame until it starts to boil. Once it boils watch for it to become lumpy and pull off the heat and whisk the shit out of it. if it's really runny, put back over the heat but be careful not to burn. It should get thick but not as thick as frosting. Add oil and vanilla and whisk in. Allow to cool completely - it'll thicken while it cools, then spread onto a cooled cake.

Frosting Recipe:

3.5 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegan margarine (I use Pure Soya in the UK)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mush it all together with a flat spoon or spatula until it becomes frosting (I blew my nose after this part and it was coated in chocolate/sugar dust. Ew!)

Topped with marshmallows and icing hearts.

We're taking the cake to Pre-school today for a party there with all of Shorty's friends.

Pictures of Shorty to come soon...

Saturday, May 10, 2008


My Mom always comes with presents. I don't ask for much, whatever she wants for the kids, cinnamon sweets for Husband and I usually need new lounge wear (That's fancy sweatpants to you layfolks) and vaseline intensive care for dry skin unscented - they don't sell that type here and it's my favourite(That's my secret to being almost wrinkle free). But this time I did ask for some bento supplies, mini food cutters and lunchboxes. All of it very, very welcome.

Mom also brought me a surprise. She brought me some new underpants. She must have read in the blog how UK underpants are always too big, so I have to buy them two sizes smaller. She she's shown up with ten size ten underpants. People: These are humongous! I used to be a size ten American - those pants would never have fit me. At a UK sixteen those pants don't fit me. They would only have fit me in my last trimester of pregnancy. People: The pants are humongous!

I'm wondering if the USA has reordered the size charts? With the rise in obesity, maybe they thought to save some folks the shame of a wardrobe full of larger sizes by relabeling the sizes? Adjust an inch here and there, folks stay happy, maybe even loyal to the shop to sells the "truer" size. What's the hip measurement for a size ten these days, 40 inches?

Humongous, satin, full girl brief pants. I might stitch them together and make a kite parafoil.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

She's here!

Mom arrived safe and sound. She's having a nap now. I may be away some this fortnight.

My Mommy is here!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Crazy with added annoyance...

Continental airlines has an ass-backwards way of writing up an itinerary. So I just spent over five hours in the airport, with hyper and expectant children, waiting for Mom, only to find out she's arriving tomorrow. Someone is a dickhead...I'm not sure who yet. I'm leaning towards them. Nowhere on the itin does it say the plane arrives on the 8th.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure they're the dickheads and I'm the hapless victim here.

So. Mom comes tomorrow and not today. So glad I have that extra booze on hand.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I get a bit crazy...

When mom comes to visit. I've been eating chocolate and spooning lemon curd out the jar and just eating it. Minor, really. I used to binge for a week, but it's just been today so I think that shows improvement.

I went to the grocery store for some decaff tea and odds-n-sods when I thought; Do I have enough booze in the house? My Mom likes to drink a bit. so I grabbed a bottle of red and white wine and then picked up weird things I can't even remember - except for the promotion price of Lavazza espresso which we currently love since we got the amazing awesome cafetiere stovetop brew thing. So I got that. A few pizzas on sale for under a pound that I can freeze for later days when I don't feel like cooking.

Completely forgot the decaff teabags. But I do have plenty of booze.

Tyranny Of Pink

In March Eleanor Bailey of The Guardian wrote this amazing article about the Pink Invasion and how it's ultimately damaging to girls.

The tyranny of pink

If you're the parent of a little girl, you'll understand: their world has turned decidedly pink, and there's no escaping it. The effect, says Eleanor Bailey, is like living in a one-party state run by Barbie - sinister, fascistic and devoid of any choice

Saturday March 29, 2008
The Guardian

It began the week our daughter, Catrin, was born. In a card, a friend with a daughter wrote menacingly, "Welcome to the world of pink ... "

We had a boy already, so we knew that certain behaviour is innate - we deprived our son of a toy AK-47, so he made guns out of sticks. Equally untaught, our now two-year-old daughter will wrap the same sticks in a blanket and attempt to cheer them up.

Hunting and nurturing, it seems, come naturally, and that's quite sweet. But retailers exploit these instincts for profit. Girls might naturally be drawn to femininity, but never have their fantasies been so vividly available in material form, and never so young. Pink, and all its sparkling paraphernalia, has become unhealthily desirable.

"Pink is just the marketer's way of getting at girls' psyches," says Sue Palmer, former headteacher, literacy guru and author of the bestselling Toxic Childhood. "It's grooming them for a lifetime of consumption. Companies started marketing to very young children in the 90s, when they discovered that babies could recognise logos before the age of one."

Christmas shopping last year, I was overwhelmed by the sickly glow in the girls' toy department at John Lewis. Ever brighter, the latest pink toys vibrate on the shelves until the walls seem to close in. The words "fairy", "princess" and "ballet" (often all three) are written on anything to up the pink factor. In Marks & Spencer, looking to buy pyjamas for my daughter, there was nothing untouched by pink fairy dust. The saleswoman there told me there is "no call" for anything plainer. It felt like I'd woken up in some kind of one-party state (led by Barbie, naturally); a pink dystopia, and no one has even noticed.

"People think it is harmless enough," says Lyn Mikel Brown, psychologist, activist and co-author of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes, "but we don't see the full picture. When you put all the little pink things together and see how girls' choices are narrowed, how the marketers have created desire in little girls to express their uniqueness through accessories, you realise how pernicious it is."

"Pink sells," says Noreen Marshall, curator of dress dolls and childcare collections at the V&A's Museum of Childhood in east London. "It's the most commercial route, but it has got out of hand. It has snuck up on us in the past 10 years. Pink has always been there, but now it is omnipresent. We need an anti-pink campaign."

The only way out of the pink clothing problem is to pay a large premium. And even then girls' clothes are dotted with sequins and pink details, beading, random roses and silvery bits - all very pretty, but it's like being forced to douse your girl in floral scent and hang a sign round her neck saying, "Female: only interested in how I look."

"It has gradually become normal," says Mikel Brown. "Girls grow up thinking that's what it means to be a little girl. Parents forget that it was ever different."

It's true. Friends who I assumed would be on side say things such as "But girls' stuff was always pink." It wasn't - look at books from a generation ago and you'll find girls in green T-shirts and white shorts and brown dungarees; they look old-fashioned now, strangely androgynous, like little Jodie Fosters. Or people say: "But we all wanted pink, too, we just weren't allowed/it wasn't available." Yet I have a photographic record of the purple and green striped bedroom wallpaper I chose because they were my favourite colours. Or they even say: "But if you've got the money and girls like it, what's the problem?"

There are two big problems. First, the lack of other options in an era when we are supposedly overwhelmed by choice tells girls that there is only one, highly prescriptive, way for them to be feminine.

Second, the desire created for pink and fluffy soon morphs into a desire for pink and sexy - the next girl - purchasing stage.

While naff boys' clothes suggest that your lad is some hybrid of Einstein and Rambo - with words such as "genius", "roar" and "tank" splashed across chests - the aspirational look for girls is more alarming. Along with "princess" and "born to party", the legends on young girls' T-shirts include "porn star".

"The sexualisation of pink is happening younger and younger," says Mikel Brown. The so-called Kagoy (kids are getting older younger) phenomenon sees young girls sporting frilly, pink play bras and thongs (Sue Palmer says she commonly sees five-year-olds in them when visiting schools), and playing with sexy-shaped dolls such as Bratz much earlier than a generation ago. "The American Psychological Association," says Mikel Brown, "has a taskforce on the sexualisation of girls in the media, which connects pink and sexy with girls' depression, eating disorders and self-esteem issues."

So what's to be done? Well, if girls' love of pink isn't going away, perhaps it can be used as a force for good.

Lisa Clark, agony aunt for Mizz magazine, has written a self-help guide for teen and tween girls called Think Pink. It stars a character called Lola Love, who promises to bring out your "sparkly, gorgeous, happy-to-be-me self".

Clark believes pink evokes happy, positive thoughts. "And when you wear the colour pink, people respond to you in a positive way," she says.

"I make no excuses," says Clark, "I'm a girl and totally embrace my femininity by wearing pink and thinking pink, and really can't see a time when pink isn't the colour of all things girl."

"Be confident, be gorgeous, be glamorous," concurs the new, very pink, The Girls' Book of Glamour: A Guide to Being a Goddess, by Sally Jeffrie.

Must confidence be inextricably linked with gorgeousness and glamour so young? I want my daughter to feel OK on the inevitable days when she looks like an old dishcloth, too. The message here seems to be that the way to happiness is to look gorgeous - and the same as everyone else.

At Clarks shoes, I was unable to buy pink-free girls' footwear and had to compromise with a shade I call "least pink" - a kind of purplish brown, with pink trim plus obligatory flower. Suzi Smith, girls' senior range manager at Clarks, says, "Plain doesn't sell. We are seeing more children being given consumer power, being asked to choose at a very young age. Parents want to make the experience enjoyable for the child. Often they are working and they just want to go with the flow. They think it's important that their child is fashionable. It is a different world now."

No one can blame wholesome Clarks shoes for trying to keep pace with fashion - it's move or die in retail, after all. Nor can you blame individual parents for not wanting their child to be the odd one out.

"You love your kid, you don't want to deprive them, so you join the merry-go-round," says Sue Palmer. "I have no problem with consumerism, as long as it's not manipulating children, but the fact is that multi-million pound budgets and the best psychological minds are being deployed in this battle. Parents recoil in horror at the pink phase, but we have to wise up to the consequences of our materialistic society on our children."

And while we recoil, we carry on buying the pink, girly, fairy, sexy stuff.

"Why are our toy shops more gender-segregated than ever?" asks Rosalyn Ball, a writer for The F-Word, an online magazine about feminism, because "stereotypes sell ... the human brain responds more readily to things that it can recognise. Stereotypes allow our brains to do less 'searching' when we evaluate new people."

Pink is a popular stereotype, and it seems to be one that many of us want to believe. Research published last summer suggested that girls naturally prefer pink, and it made the headlines around the globe. The fact that it was merely the opinion of 208 people was overlooked, as we lapped up far-fetched theories that cavewomen needed to be able to spot berries and flushed cheeks in dark caves.

So perhaps I should give up the fight and let Catrin turn into a pink fluffball? I know she'd love it - she already picks the pink jigsaw and chooses pink clothes given half a chance. But, I wonder, do straitjackets come in pink?

*Re-printed without permission. I hope they won't mind.

** I want to know how to do those post cuts with a link to the rest of post. I've tried lj-cuttext="readmore" but it doesn't work (And I left of the <> things so you could see the command) Any suggestions greatly appreciated.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pink toys cost more and it's a sexist scandal!

As it's birthday prep time, with Shorty turning four on the 13th and Sassy turning nine on June 17th I've been made painfully aware about how diametrically different these girls are from each other, and how wonderful it is they don't see it or care.

Sassy my Tomboy and Shorty my Girly-girl.

Sassy is now starting to appreciate/fold to the peer pressure to be more feminine. I've not asked her why she's wanting pink combat trousers, or pink sweatshirts when she then wants black sneakers with Action Man and everything Justice League and Pokemon. She's loving her bento lunches but hating the ugly lunchbag I have for her (It's in Miami Dolphins colours, so I sympathize.) So when I was stockpiling at the grocery store yesterday I thought I'd get her a new lunchbag. Simple, nothing fussy. They had two types, a store own brand and a Thermos brand. The Thermos brand was £5.00 and came in black or magenta. The Tesco brand came in black for £1.30, but their pink one was £2.00! Why?! Why would you charge me an extra .70p for the pink one? Does pink plastic cost more? Not according to Thermos is doesn't. So tell me Tesco - what's with the sexism? Oh, it must be sexist - otherwise why not price match the same products?

Because you think I'm going to cowtow to your demands on the basis of my daughter's absolute need for gender advertising? Do you think my kid is going to go into gender identity crisis because I won't spend the extra .70p to get her the pink lunchbag? She'll become the butt of humiliating finger pointing from her girl-friends at school for being the poor kid with a black lunchbag? An object of pity because her mother doesn't think she's worth the pink lunchbag? Why Tesco do you charge more for the pink?

Oh and don't think Tesco is alone in this - have you ever noticed that a lot kid's toys charge more for the pink version of the exact same technologies - and it is tech toys primarily. Never noticed? I did. That's why Sassy has blue and green toys, because I wouldn't pay extra for the pink - it's fundamentally wrong. I'd have gone so far as to boycott the product all together but she really wanted her leapfrog talking book leappad thing.

Well I didn't buy Tesco's lunchbag. Sassy actually did want a pink lunchbag this time, so I bought her the Thermos one. Then I went and wrote a long complaint to Tesco on the scandalous, sexist pricing policy. I actually did use the phrase "Scandalous and sexist!". I don't care the price, £1.30 over £2.00 is nothing really but it's the fact people are being price gouged for feminized products. I'm on a search now to out the sexists and scandalous behavior because Tesco isn't alone in this. ToysRus also have same item/different colours price discrepancies, although granted not as bad as they did a few years ago. I will now challenge this whenever I find it and demand a price adjustment, or the details for the item's company complaints team.

I'll let you know if Tesco gets back to me - they should within 7 days by writing. I'm also writing to ToysRus to let them know that the Bop It toy in pink costs £3.05 more than the multi-coloured one (And it's way ugly!). Oh, and Tesco again is charging £4.00 more for the pink Vtech notebook over the blue one. (Shorty was looking over my shoulder for the searching shouting "I want the pink one!" and I shake my head at the situation I'm in. she wants it but I'm not paying extra for it. I'm not buying it at all. Get used to disappointment, kid.)

The real thing of it is I don't give a shit about the thing being pink over blue, I'd prefer neutral coloured toys anyways - but it's the unfairness to charge more for the girlish colour. That is just wrong unless there's a charitable reasons applied like donations to breast cancer research or something. But that's not the case with any of the items mentioned in this post.

So come here and out your sexist shop! Tell us where else you've found pink items overpriced as compared to the unisex/boys ones. I'm on a rampage now - I'm going to send letters to all of these companies. You should too - I can't be the only one annoyed by this.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

And We Toasted With Champagne!

A few years ago when I was Twenty-two (What?) I moved to Scotland to get married to Almost Husband. At the time I was 140lbs and just quit a three pack-a-day smoking habit. Husband doesn't smoke and never has - well the occasional cigar but it usually made him sick later. It was the perfect opportunity to quit; new country, new home, new friends, new routine. Nothing attached to smoking. I'll admit it was much easier. I relapsed later - as smokers are want to do, but never ever to the full steam of three packs-a-day. (I've quit and start several times. Currently non-smoker for nearly a year from a three smokes a week habit.)

In the early weeks of my living in Edinburgh, Almost Husband wanted to take a hike around Arthur's Seat, which is the highest hill in Edinburgh and has the best views. I figured why not. I had nothing better to do. We took the long path that winds around the hill and stopped to point at the birds in the various ponds that dot the area. When we got closer to the start of the peak - as it's an ancient volcano it has a very steep peak at its top as opposed to more comfortable hill-like mound of green-ness. I got halfway up and had to stop; lungs burning, legs trembling and coughing up charcoal. I knew there was no way I would make it to the top and I certainly didn't want Almost Husband to see me like that. We stopped, walked back down and went for lunch. I've never forgotten that private shame of having to say I couldn't go on. Almost Husband did try and make me feel better and told me of how he'd only climbed to the top once before himself, and it took hours and he was exhausted. Plus he did it alone so no one would see him huffing.

Yesterday, we'd gone shopping in Edinburgh for Shorty and Sassy birthday presents. By 2pm we were done and wondering, what next? We were driving along the back of Edinburgh and could see Arthur's Seat, and I said that one day we should take the kids for a walk around the ponds. The car, somehow, made its way there just then. We'd gone swimming, and shopping and had an onigiri lunch and were a bit tired. But there in front of us loomed the ascent to the top of Arthur's Seat. Sassy said "I want to see the top!" and so we went. I knew it would be awful, hard and the kids probably couldn't make it all the way, so for what it was worth, we'd humor them.

Up we went, stopping every thirty paces or so so the kids could sit, turn around, see how high they'd climbed, point out boats on the Forth, we could see our town across the water, up some more and the swans got smaller on the pond, up some more...waiting for it to get hard.

It never did. It never got hard. Husband and I kept looking around for signs that the hill had been altered to make the climb easier, but there was nothing but hundreds of years worth of rock and scree paths made by adventurous scramblers like us. The kids were amazing, a few times Sassy said she was getting too tired, or too scared and wanted to go back but when she saw her younger sister soldier on she followed. To think my almost four year old was fitter than I was at 22! I saw the slope I'd quit on all those years before - and I ran up it. So steep I could only run on my toes, but I did it with the kids shouting after me to slow down but I had a hill to beat!

We had to stop about 30 feet from the top because the peak is all rock and steep banks and we decided it was not safe for the girls to climb any higher. It never got too hard for us. Even Husband was commenting on how he was waiting for it to get hard; and it never came. His gym routine is doing wonders for him.

So, we felt sorry for our very out of shape younger selves. We were thinner sure, but today we are far healthier than we ever were. I went out for a shop last night after we got home (And treated the kids to happy meals) and bought a small bottle of Asti Spumanti, and after the girls were in bed, Husband and I made a toast to each other, to our continued good health.

Friday, May 02, 2008

My New Hobby

I started sending Sassy-face off to school with packed lunches this week. The cost of groceries is getting high as they just announced an increase in school lunches so I decided to go back to the packed lunch.

Sassy never used to eat all of her lunch. Actually she ate very little of it and would just eat the snacks and none of the healthy stuff. In frustration I bought her school lunches instead - out of sight out of mind. This time around I thought the best way to encourage her to eat her lunch was to make it more appealing than the traditional.

Here comes Japan to the rescue with its exotic, eclectic and fun culture of Bento. All you have to do is do a google image/Flickr search bento and you'll get the idea of what these lunches are like. Some are art, some are fun, some are practical and some are an outlet for nouveau cuisine. Whatever your take on it, my hope was that I'd found the way to make lunch exciting. So I've been collecting bento boxes, accessories, pretty doo-dads and thingamagigies and a whole lot of ideas.

I didn't want to put them all here, so I started a Bento only blog called Obento Baby! so if you're curious about this bento fun and want to join in - go have a look!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I've finished the frige. Took me 15 minutes.

The Bad FreezerThe Ice GeographyThe Clean Freezer

It fought back and cut me twice, but I beat the bastard down with the high velocity hotness of my Steam Buggy classic.

I'm so annoyed...

I cannot get things to work smoothly and I'm distracted. I'm bordering on depressed, I can see the signs. I'm avoiding everything that needs to be done like house work, and getting bogged down in the mundane frustrations that are just now fucking plaguing me! Like the counters are always a mess in my kitchen because I have no space to put things so I'm always dropping things on the floor or shoving things out of the way to be able to prepare meals. I would like to just be able to pull something out of my cupboard - without a half dozen contents falling out - and just make something, tidy it up easy and have a neat kitchen when I'm done.

The sink backs up if there's so much as a kernel of corn in the drain.

I reorganized the cupboards last week, and now they look like they need done again.

My fridge is a nightmare. My freezer has an inch of ice in it.

The laundry is getting ridiculous, I'm considering sneaking a third of everyone's wardrobe off to the charity shop to reduce my workload. The worst part is I wash it, dry it, fold it and can never get it put away. So I have neat piles of clothes everywhere.

I have no storage. I have no storage. I have no storage in this fucking house.

I hate my body. I was supposed to do a HNT today, as it's Osbasso's anniversary but I tried many times and could not find an inch of half nekkid me that was not repellent. My body image is the worst it's ever been.

Husband is supposed to go for a business trip to Dubai but we don't know when. Was supposed to be leaving tomorrow but it's not looking likely. He's a mess over the office dicking him about. My Mom is coming over for a visit and Shorty has her 4th birthday on the 13th, and I have the Race For Life on the 18th and he may be away for all of it. He's so pissed off that I'm getting empathy pissed.

I've been eating sugar. Really I should just be a grown up and drink. Liquor, the harder the better. (but I hate to drink.)

When I try to write I suddenly remember the kitchen is a mess, there's a dish to wash, a pile of clothes to put away, a toilet to scrub (Everyday - the kids aren't big enough to drop the poop in the water so there's a poop smear down the inside of the bowl everyday, twice a day. Sometimes more.) a frige to tidy and so on and so on, and then the self-disappointment begins because I'm supposed to have done all that stuff already and if I had - I' be able to write. But you're bad so go do your chores. Then I rebel against myself and read a book.

All my tulips this year are yellow. Where did my pink ones go? And Shorty keeps calling them "Jewlips" which makes me cringe.

I'm struggling with dehydration. It's a ridiculous state to be in, I don't feel thirsty, and then I'm so thirsty I should've noticed it ages ago. The dark pee is my first sign, usually. I know the cutting out sugar and caffeine would make this go away, so I guess I'll suffer it for now. Sugar is my crack. Can one go to a rehab for sugar addiction? Can I get dried out from sugar?

Today I will:

tidy the kitchen
put the clean clothes away.
Bully the kids to put their clean clothes away
make bento box treats for freezing
after I defrost the frige
probably after I run and go to the gym
nag the kids and threaten with removal of TV and DS if they don't clean their room
play the lottery - one bit of optimism is needed.

Ok. I'm going. Pity party over.

Did I mention the really fucked up dreams I had last night? Just fucked up. And gross. I remember two. The first was Husband and I up on the top of this rickety wooden staircase that was high as a bridge. It was dark and we had to get down fast because bad guys were chasing us. I'm not good as going down stairs (weird phobia of tumbling down so I'm a rail gripper and two feet per step sort) and Hub was behind me, and he nudges me and I tell him to stop it, and he keeps getting impatient until he picks me up from behind and runs down the stairs holding me (This in reality is impossible and in the dream I felt quite small and childlike) and then he dumps me on my butt at the bottom of the stairs and tells me shut up or the bad guys will hear us. I was so pissed at him for treating me like a child.

Then the other dream was full on gross (but puts me in mind my period is probably due). I was sinking into a hot bath, on a bright and sunny afternoon, ready for the relaxation. The moment my skin touched the water it turned red and I was bleeding, just dripping blood from every pore, but it didn't phase me as I sank into the water and watched the water turn so red it was almost purple. I thought to myself "Oh well, if I'm going to die, this way isn't so bad." and closed my eyes and felt rather peaceful. But I didn't die. When I thought I'd soaked long enough I pulled the plug and watched the water go down the drain, and then was annoyed I'd left all these bloody chunks of meaty jelly in the tub that I then had to clean up.

Now that I've depressed you and put you off your meals, I'm away to clean the kitchen and defrost the frige.

Nicked MeMe

Saw this one on Chick's Blog.

You're feeling: Dehydrated and cranky.

To your left: The shelves of DVDs and CDs.

On your mind: Coffee and chicken and lemon water.

Last meal included: Rice and chicken.

You sometimes find it hard to: Give a rat's ass.

The weather: Wet but nice.

Something you have a collection of: Dvd, cd, books and notebooks full of synopsises (Synopsi?)

A smell that cheers you up: Newborn baby's hair, bacon.

A smell that can ruin your mood: Dog poop.

How long since you last shaved: Tuesday. (That was armpits)

The current state of your hair: It's sporting that "BedHead" look.

The largest item on your desk/workspace (not computer): Bamboo writing tablet, No sorry it's the damned printer.

Your skill with chopsticks: I get by but do cheat and spear things with them.

Which section to head for first in a bookstore: New Releases.

Something you're craving: Breakfast and water.

Your general thoughts on the presidential race: If only I could just make that noise Lurch makes on The Addams Family...

Favorite place to go for a quiet moment: Quick access: the shower, long time access: the woods.

You've always secretly thought you'd be a good: Judge.

Something that freaks you out a little: Going backwards.

Something you've eaten too much of lately: Rice

You have never: Damn, the list is way longer than it should be (for now). (I liked chick's answer)

You never want to: Be bad, but sometimes it just happens.