Bento Answers

I was asked how to go about doing bento and wound up writing a reply that was far, far too long for the comments, so I’m posting it. Forgive me if this is something that bores you.

A bento is a portable (usually single serving) meal.  That’s really about it.  The word is Japanese and what I do is, indeed a Japanese Bento. Though, I often put a twist on it and make Western food if the Spirit moves me.  A classical Japanese bento is 4:3:2:1  or four parts rice or noodles, three parts protein, two parts veggies and one part sweet (fruit is dessert in Japan and on par with a cookie, from what I gather).

Japanese bento boxes are very small, but if you pack them according to the formula and pack them tightly then you’ve got about the right size lunch.

A really good basic bento site is Lunch in a Box.  The author likes to look at what she calls “food art”, but when she makes bento, she’s making lunch and isn’t going for more than a simply pleasing arrangement in the box for her son.  If you google Bento and click on the images link, you will see some of the most amazing food art.   I don’t do that, myself, either.  I just like the food to look pleasing, but I don’t do characters or stuff like that.

I also like Cooking Cute, though she’s got a little baby and isn’t updating much.  She’s much more into the food art and makes some cool stuff.

Then there’s Just Bento, which is a perfectly delightful site written by a woman who is actually Japanese, grew up with a working mother who made bento, but certainly didn’t make the fancy character bento!   Her onigiri tutorials are really good as are her cultural discussions about bento and Japanese life.

All of these sites focus more on the meal than the art, which is my personal preference.

The boxes are quite small, as you can see here.  I can cover the top of the average Japanese 2-tier bento box with my hand and I’ve small hands.  The boxes are only about six inches long.

You don’t have to buy the cute Japanese box, though.  Plenty of people just buy a shallow, flat container that has a lid that closes tightly and use that.  (For an adult woman, you want about a 600ml container.  My bento is 580ml, so that’s close).  I get the cute things because I like them and for no other reason.  The cloth came with the bento set you see there, but for other bento, I often use a large bandana as the furishoki (wrapping or tying cloth.  I use the cloth as a napkin, too).

Because they’re so small, they fit in a large purse just fine.  I take them with me as a travel meal, especially on trains, though  hear that if you’re careful what you pack, they’re good for airplanes, too.  This is a nod to the Japanese tradition of the Ekiben, or train station bento.

This is my lunch for today. Brown rice onigiri (rice balls) with a non-traditional filling of Indian mango chutney, red peppers, grape tomatoes, chicken, bits of broccoli, a couple of sliced strawberries and a couple of kumquats.  Ideally, you try to put a lot of different flavors in a bento, but you don’t have to.  This is a hobby for me, but let’s be real. It’s just lunch.    I do it in part to force myself to have at least one really balanced meal each day and make them for my family because it’s just as easy to do an assembly line of them for everyone to have a nice lunch, too.   There’s a lot to be said for a pretty, colorful meal.

Manage Your Self: The Daily Routine

Probably the biggest challenge to being self-employed is self-management, especially when it comes to time.  The harried housewife understands this problem quite well.  I am here to tell you that you can learn a lot from many of the household management techniques for housewives, as well as other techniques to put your brain in the “work” frame of mind.

It’s a non-trivial problem.  When you work from home, you’re moving from a situation where you’re leaving the office worries at the office and merging your work and home lives.  One of my self-employed friends commented to me when I started that she didn’t think there was a single day when she did not work. She wasn’t saying it as a lament, but merely a comment.  She understands well the importance of recreation and living purposefully.  On sunny summer days, she gets up early and works hard so she can “play hookey” and go splash in the river all afternoon.  But for those of us who get sucked into things or worse, have procrastination problems, learning some formal time management skills is essential.

One of the dangers, especially if you love your work, is that you’ll neglect other parts of your life for it.  Having a passion for what you do is great.  I encourage it.  But that same passion should be applied to your family, your friends, your loved ones.  People are important.  Don’t let your family only interact with you with your face bathed in the light of a computer screen[1].

The Daily Routine

None of these things are magic money-making machines.  But what they are is good self-care that will get you geared up to take the day seriously.  Do not underestimate good self-care when it comes to motivating yourself.

Routine is also important.  Not necessarily that there needs to be a daily grind. In fact, if you want to work for yourself, chances are good that a daily grind is about on the level of your “want list” as bad breath and excessive toe hair.   But routine?  You want to make habit work for you rather than against you, so you’re going to want to be very, very sure that you’ve established habits that will help you.

I joke a great deal that I’m a bum, that I don’t have a job, things like that.  The thing is, while that’s a fun joke to make, you really do have to work and work pretty hard to make a living without a job.  It’s just that it’s more fun to me than working in an office, so it feels like play in some ways.

Get up at a Consistent Time

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” – Benjamin Franklin

Remember me talking about working on the balcony as the sun rises over the ocean.  Clearly, I am a morning person if I’m enjoying a sunrise on vacation!  I’m not going to tell you that you need to be up before the sun just because that’s what I do.  The advantage of early rising isn’t actually the point.  It’s a proxy for other behaviors that accompany the apparent success of the early bird.

Being an early bird isn’t always an advantage.  My father, from whom I inherited my morning tendencies, is usually in his office before most people are rolling out of bed.  Most of his clients, however, are about three time zones to the west and are not morning people themselves.  His day is almost done before they even hit the office.  They often want to discuss matters with him many hours after he’s put in a good, solid working day.   He has to structure his day to accommodate this or all he does is work.

The so-called early bird advantages are really a set of behaviors that are simply things we see more often in the early riser.  The early bird tends to be notorious for three things: working out, eating breakfast, and getting dressed and ready for the day right away.  These behaviors are indeed behaviors that encourage success.  If you’re a night owl and one of the attractions of being self-employed is that you don’t need to be up before ten, more power to you.  But even so, if you do not get up and hit the day like an early bird would, this program won’t work.   Be your rising time “oh dark thirty” or “Oh yeah, it’s nearly noon”, make it consistent and have a start the day routine!

Work Out

I’m not talking about becoming an athlete here.  Screw getting skinny or any of that vain nonsense.  It’s not what I mean.  I mean, get up and get the blood pumping to your brain within fifteen or twenty minutes of getting up.

I didn’t used to believe this was a big deal.   But, in the past two years, I’ve noticed a link between being willing to work out early in the morning and how many contracts I get.  I’m not talking about working out so hard that you hurt yourself or throw up.  None of that crap.  I just mean that you need to get red in the face and breathe hard for half an hour every morning.  No biggie.  Whatever it takes to do that is your call.   Fitness levels vary.  My father, who also works from home, uses an exercise bike.  I swim.  I know people who like to take a walk, run or swing a sledgehammer.  It doesn’t matter what, so much as it is that you do.

Regular moderate exercise has several qualities that make it good for the home-based worker.   It’s a mood enhancer, first and foremost.  To make being self-employed work, you do have to have the sort of d’Artagnan quality of charging into a challenge with a merry jest and your sword swinging.  But that attitude can be hard to keep up after weeks of no contracts, or a difficult client!  Exercise is great for the attitude adjustment.

Regular exercise keeps your energy levels up and regulates your sleep.  You do want something that’s going to ensure that you conk out hard each night, as getting used to the ups and downs of being self-employed can be hell on someone prone to wake at night and worry.  You want to be tired and sleep at night!

I was going to claim the next as anecdotal evidence, that exercise improves cognitive function[2], but it turns out that there have been real, peer-reviewed scientific studies that back this up.  Regular moderate exercise helps you think better.  For those of you whose office is your laptop, you’re probably selling THINK.  Make sure you can brane good.

For those of you who go to the gym to work out, it also provides a certain necessary level of human contact.  Yes, even the crankiest of introverts does need human contact.   Yes, I’m going to dedicate a passage to dealing with isolation, don’t worry!

Let’s face it, if you’re working from home, chances are good that your job is both sedentary and solitary.  It’s not unusual to pack on a few pounds when you start working at home, what with the nearness to the fridge and the lack of communal reference to what you’re doing.  Of considerably greater importance, it’s also not unusual to find your physical fitness taking a nosedive.   I’ll use myself as an example.  I used to take the bus to my office job, ensuring about a mile walk total every day.  I also was an administrative assistant on a college campus.  That meant I walked to run errands pretty frequently. I also worked on the third floor of a building with no elevators.  Those three factors forced a certain amount of activity that went bye-bye in favor of a maximum of a twenty foot walk to my computer.

What’s worse is that if you have the temperament at all to work for yourself, you’re going to find that you’ll lack the self-discipline to stop yourself from working a series of twelve hour days until you drive yourself a little nuts.  If you’re a knowledge worker, this means you’ll be sitting on your butt quite often.  For myself, I lived forty years without once having a backache.  I had my first some fifteen months into being self-employed after a series of twelve-hour days and eschewing exercise and instead whimpering about working too hard.  Don’t do that to yourself.  Get some exercise.

Eat Breakfast

Yeah, yeah, I know.  You’re a special snowflake that doesn’t eat in the mornings because of your delicate widdle system.  Have a damn banana after your workout and be done with it.  You will notice a positive difference if you try this.  I’m not saying you need something fancy here.  Though, if you’re working out of the home, you might be like me and want to whip up a veggie-stuffed omelet or a bowl of really good pinhead oats.  But don’t try to work on an empty stomach.  You’ve been fasting for nine or so hours and you need fuel to concentrate on your work.

Besides which, if you worked out first, you’re probably going to be hungry[3].

I’m not going to lecture about specifics of diet.  If you’re over 15, you’ve probably got a decent idea of how to eat to maximize your own mental and physical potential.  So, do that.  You’re a grown-up, so you can handle it.  If you eat or drink stuff that breaks your think, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

I personally, take it a step further and prepare a cute little lunch in a Japanese box (called a bento) for my lunch break, so that I am ensured at least two moderately healthy meals a day.   It actually does wind up helping concentration.

Get Dressed for the office

Some work from home franchises require that you get dressed as if you’re going to an office – right down to your shoes.  It really can help you take your work seriously, and can be a sign to you that it’s work time!  If this sounds like FlyLady, it’s because that’s where I first encountered the concept.  You can’t get more into self-management than being a housewife!

For your own business, it’s a good idea to set a dress code for yourself.  No, I’m serious.  It doesn’t have to be a suit and tie, though there are those who are successfully self-employed who do exactly that!  What you need is to set some standards for your office hours.  I know of an artist who puts on a smock when it’s time for work.  Yes, it’s an old dress shirt with a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon painted on the back, but it’s his professional garb and means it’s work time.  These cues really do help.

Figart Consulting’s dress code is as follows:  Clothes must be clean and neat with no holes.  Ratty sweats are not acceptable, clean ones are okay. Hair must be brushed (I have quite a mane), but makeup is optional when not out at a meeting.  Figart Consulting considers shoes optional, but since the main offices are in Northern New England, slippers are often worn.

I know it sounds goofy to speak of a one-man shop in terms of company policy, but it does help get you in the mindset of thinking appropriately about these issues.  I’m not gonna claim I’ve never worked in my underwear or jammies or whatever.  I have sometimes.  For me, I use it as a motivational technique, rather like Casual Friday or a way to break a temptation to procrastinate.  “If you get right on this, you can work in your jammies in bed today!”  But it’s not a habit, nor should it be.  You need to take work time seriously.

[1] This is a problem I still work on.  I love what I do and get sucked in.  But, I’d hate to blink and find out I don’t know my family, you know?

[2] At least, the words flow better when I’ve had a good swim that morning.  Hence the anecdotal bit.

[3] This may be a slight bias due to my chosen cardio. I swim.  Swimmers are notoriously starved after a workout.  Well-known fact, honest!

Bento Luxury

Yet another Not an Asian Bento.  The muffin-looking things are mini-quiches made with refrigerator dough and an egg and cheese mixture in muffin cups.  The meat balls are just a couple of regular sausage patties cooked in balls instead.

I made this mostly because I had onigiri today and don’t like rice every single day.

Yeah, it’s weird for someone who is self-employed and working from home to make one of these babies, but I can tell you it’s a great thing to have in the middle of a busy day — this little capsule of specialness and savor.  It’s like tea in the good china, or wearing silk lounging clothes.  I am sure a Japanese person wouldn’t see it this way.  I mean, it’s just lunch, right?  Or maybe it’s such a way standard way of life it’s not thought about.  I don’t know.  Is anyone who reads this Japanese?

While I don’t actually know what the original concept behind it might have been, the interpretation I throw on it — that it’s this little spot in my day to delight all my senses, is one that does a lot of good to me, especially in times of stress or trouble.  I’m extraordinarily busy in my business.  While that is a good thing in terms of my bank account and my pleasure at career success, that’s one aspect of my life.  And Noël-san is a hedonist when all is said and done.  This gives me a sweet little indulgence that is still a positive and healthy one.    It makes something healthy feel decadent and luxurious.  That’s a combination that works well for me!

Work From Home Course: Some General Principles

When deciding on what to do to generate income, I’ll offer the following suggestions:

  • Services tend to have a better hourly rate than goods.

A lot of people get hung up on an hourly rate.  Beyond making sure you can support yourself working a reasonable number of hours (no more than 50), I don’t get tied up in a knot about it.  However, if it’s important to you, it’s important to keep in mind.  I do earn considerably more per paid hour on direct client work than I ever did in any other job.  But I almost never have a full work week of directly paying work.  Few people who are self-employed do, unless they’ve become employers themselves.  I can’t teach you much about that, as I’m moving Heaven and Earth to stay a one-man shop.  But later chapters are going to deal with the ratio of paying work v. non-paying work.

  • If you can sell something more than once, do it.

Classic example would be a magazine article.  You sell first serial rights to the piece, then it’s yours to flog around in other place.  Short story anthologies where the story originally appeared in a magazine are another good example.

If you develop a course, certainly try to teach it more than once!

  • The less you can invest in materials, the better.

Keep your overhead down.  There are things you will want to spend plenty of money on, sure.  You want your tools to be as good as you need them to be.  But don’t be too seduced by the shiny.  No one gadget is going to be the Perfect Tool to Make You Rich. You were born with that one.  It’s between your ears.

There’s a difference between the shiny nifty gadget and the useful tool to do the job.   Learn that.  I could theoretically do my job on a dial-up Internet connection, but it would be like trying to cut wood with a blunt saw.  The high-speed Internet connection isn’t a nifty gadget, but a genuine tool.   A netbook, as cool as it would be to have a computer I could tuck into my purse, is just a shiny gadget since I’d have to have a more powerful computer for some of my work, anyway[1].

  • If you know something useful and can be engaging, teaching classes are a great way to generate some income.

People like to learn whether or not they’re autodidacts.  Whether it’s how to sew, how to do something specific on a computer or how to assemble food as art, there are probably people who want to learn how to do it.  If you create a once-a-week course in something, your local community center might be willing to offer it.   While not necessarily an enormous money-maker, it’s cheap advertising.  It gets your name and business out there, and associated in people’s minds with fun, usefulness or both.  It also combats the natural isolation of being self-employed without an office to go to.  Never underestimate that!

  • Put your life experiences to good use.

Everyone has life experience.  Yes, even you!  You may think you’ve lived a completely ordinary, pedestrian life.  I’ll let you in on a little secret:  Most lives feel that way when you’re taking it a day at a time.  Rock stars spend more time waiting on tour buses, or practicing music than they do performing, you know.  You and your life is a unique perspective and you’ve got genuine value to offer, so start looking for it!

Exercise: I Done Did This!

Okay, time for another exercise!

I’d like you to spend some time thinking about everything you’ve done in your life.  Screw the Seriously Impressive stuff.  What have you done that’s normal and pedestrian as well as what’s impressive?  We so often undercut the value of the stuff we see as normal and pedestrian, when it turns out people are willing to pay you for it!   For me, a good example would be writing a blog.  My God, talk about dailyness at its peak!  Yet, I really do make a fair portion of my income writing blog entries on the most amazing range of subjects.

So, sit down and make a list of at least fifty things you’ve done — earned a Girl Scout badge, written to your Congressman, made a meal for twenty people, volunteered at your church (list what you did), made a martini…  It doesn’t matter as long as you hit fifty items.

We’ll be building on this later on.  But the principle and the though pattern that I really want you to grok, and I mean drink it down into your soul, is that you’ve done useful things that people need and really will pay you to do!

And be prepared next week for a very long series on self-management.  It’s the second most important lesson you’ll learn.  (The first is to be willing to ask people to pay you to do stuff!)

[1] Though if everyone reading this wants to club together and buy me a netbook, I wouldn’t say no to it…

The Fifty Mile Challenge

I just got back from my swim at the gym. They’re going to do the fifty mile challenge again.

Basically that means you swim 50 miles between May 1 and August 31.

Friends, allowing for summer vacations and the like, that’s about 6,000 yards a week!  Honestly?  I really should do it, as it would keep me active and motivated through the summer.  Thing is, I really don’t want to hit the pool but three days a week and I’m not yet back into form enough that a 2,000 yard (~80 lengths) swim is really reasonable.  Certainly it has never been a standard-length swim for me.    I only swam 1,000 this morning.  Yes, yes, I have until May 1 to get ready, and if I push it, I can probably get there.  I’m tempted to try to swim 2000 on Wednesday1, just to see if I still can.

Honestly?  I’d like to do it just to say I did it, you know.  I suppose that’s rather the point — to encourage people to set goals just, well… ’cause!

Goodness knows it’ll help me with my goal of getting to bed on time.  That kind of swimming schedule will have me sleeping pretty hard.  Not a bad thing, all told.

But, it’s work time for Mama Noël, now.  Deadlines and proposals and projects, oh my!

1Yes, yes, I’m supposed to work out every weekday, but as a swimmer, I really need to get some weight-bearing work in for bone strength.  If I were walking or running, I really wouldn’t sweat it, but at my age facing the concept of osteoporosis is no joke.  I have a date with the squat rack tomorrow.

New Clothes

Finished a pair of pants yesterday.  No, no picture.  They’re just dusty forest green pants with an elastic waist and wonderful deep pockets.  Nuttin’ fancy.

I know I go on and on about how much I’m liking a wardrobe where all the pieces match all the others.  When I was a youngster and I shopped with my mom, I’d get “outfits” and let me tell you, I did not buy with an eye that whatever I got should “go” with other stuff in my closet.  When my clotheshorse mother (well, really my dad… he was the one making the money) was footing the bill, why bother to think about it? Yes, I’m sure Mom gently nudged me in that direction, but I’m not all that conscious of it.

When I was on my own, I learned to sew, but still tended to do so according to fancy, rather than an eye to a whole.  Then I went through a period of mostly wearing tunics or salwar suits, and again didn’t think much about my clothes in terms of a finished wardrobe.  So, it wasn’t until I was nearly 40 that I really had one, and I’m enjoying it.  I can dress things up or down with scarves or jewelry, everything matches with several pieces and I can go almost anywhere except a fancy dress ball and be dressed appropriately.  Since I haven’t worn a ball gown, nor needed to, since my last prom at 18 this particular wardrobe lack is less than urgent.

What’s also nice is when I get a wild hare to sew, I can design to a pre-established background. I’ve never really thought in terms of matching wardrobe presentation before.  What I really like about it is that once it’s done, I don’t have to give presentation a great deal of thought.  The wardrobe is there hanging in my closet and I don’t have to root through a bunch of mis-matching garments in the hopes of finding something. Or worse, I don’t have to have that sinking feeling that all my matching outfits are in the wash.  I can guarantee that I’ll have something appropriate in the closet even if it is not my bestest and most favoritest combination.

I’ll be making the green shell next week.  Garment construction is going to be limited to one a week simply to keep me from getting too into this at the expense of working.

I also need to get my butt over to the fabric store for some facing.  When my kimono fabric arrives, I definitely want to be able to get on that!  I’m making my next one unlined, just so I can have a summer yukata for visiting.  The lined kimono is really a rather heavy garment and really only nice for winter.  Though for winter, it is very nice, indeed!

Excuses and Workouts

Today was One of Those Days exercise-wise.

I’d worked quite late yesterday and hadn’t even the faintest intention of getting up at 5:00 to get in the water.  Wasn’t going to happen.  I’d packed my bag and laid out my suit, putting it on under sweats first thing this morning, with the intention of swimming at my usual after gym work time of 7:30.  That would give me a good hour in the pool if I wanted it before they kicked out the lap swimmers for aqua fitness.

I couldn’t find my keys.  Now, I had other keys to drive the car, or could even walk to the gym, but upon those keys were also the key I used to open the gym on days that I worked.  Losing those keys was going to get me in hot water.  So I went on a much more massive and intensive search than I ordinarily would.  Found ’em. You know how it’s important to put away your keys in the same place every time? Guess who broke that rule?  I finally found my keys.  I’d put them in a purse pocket I never use and only looked in because I was getting desperate.  <headshaking>

I almost blew off the workout, ’cause I was stressed, ticked off and feeling stupid.  But I was wearing my bathing suit and somehow I couldn’t force myself to take it off, change and put it away without having used it once it was on my body.  So I had some breakfast and a cup of coffee and got some work done before I went to the gym after the aqua fitness class.  Had a decent swim, but I don’t think swimming on a full stomach is my favorite way to work out.

If I had not put on that suit first thing, I probably would have blown off the workout.   So, clearly putting on a swim suit under my clothes if I want to ensure  I take the damn swim is probably a Useful Tool.

Ordering my life so that excuses not to do things that are goals seems absurd is probably a Useful Tool as well.  Goodness knows I’m pretty talented at coming up with excuses to be lazy when I’m lookin’.

Work From Home Course: MOAR Necessary sK1lZ

Necessary sK1lZ: Learn How to Learn

This is a biggie.    To be able to make a living without a job, not only do you have to be able to think outside the box, but know that what was outside of the box a week ago has just found a bigger box!  You will need to be able to have the confidence that you can learn new skills relatively easily and well.

I strongly recommend practicing learning new things on a regular basis.  Take classes as often as you can.  If you have a ferret brain, this is your chance to let it go wild.  You can pick anything you want to know how to do.  Learn to knit, learn to make bouillabaisse, learn how to program in LOLcode, learn how to install plumbing or the history of kimono-making in Heian Japan.  For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, don’t waste your time trying to decide if this is a useful thing to learn.  If you become fascinated with the effects of left nostril inhalers on modern culture, go for it and dive in!   You may or may not ever use it professionally, but keeping your mind flexible is crucial.

I’m only 40, so I’m hardly a Wise Old Woman, but I’ve been around enough to have learned that time spent learning something almost always pays off at some point.

Necessary sK1lZ: Administrivia

Remember when I said one of the things I’m good at is systems building.  That’s true.  It’s a strength, but when it comes to self-managing, it’s also a terrible weakness[1].  I’d much rather plan out a system than deal with its execution.  My favorite moment in writing a new piece is to open my word processor to outline view and write the outline for the it.  Visualizing the flow of the work is all kinds of fun.  As much fun as planning is, and as necessary as it is, it is also necessary not to get bogged down.

That said, there are administrative tasks that are absolutely necessary to running a business or organization.  It’s why a competent administrative assistant[2] never starves.

Now, if you’re going to be a one-man shop, you probably won’t want to be hiring an employee.  That’s okay to a degree.  But, since we’re talking sK1lZ, I have to ask, do you know how to:

  • Choose a business form? If not, talk to an accountant or your local small business association.
  • Set up a file system? It should be limited to one file drawer when you start out.  If it’s more than that, you’ve got something too complex that you won’t use.  I will answer one email from you about this if you need advice.
  • Do taxes? Plenty of self-employed people just suck it up and hire an accountant.  I cannot in good conscience advise you do to otherwise.
  • Choose what business equipment is right for you? This is really going to vary depending on what you do.  I’m a writer.  I could work from a smartphone if I absolutely had to.  In practice, it’s a laptop with a wireless connection.  When you start working for yourself and deciding what goods and services you’ll offer, take into account.

Many people tend to develop their own Baker Street Irregulars gang of “go to” people when they want to make sure they know what they need in a particular category.   Most of those same people are Irregulars for their friends, too.  It evens out and is useful.  Being a knowledge junkie, as well as being willing to pass on bits of what you know (barring giving away competitive secrets.  And I assure you I’m actually not here) is a good thing to do in working for yourself.

[1] It often seems to me that weaknesses wind up being out of proportion strengths.  Since I have no sense of proportion at all…  Well, you get the point.

[2] I actually dislike the term “Administrative Assistant” because these days the admin does the job that was truly what a secretary did back when we started using names like “Secretary of State”.   The name for the copy and file person was “clerk”.

Walk n'Roll America

Diabetes can have dangerous and life-altering effects, as Micah Bernabe of Portland, OR discovered. He lost his left leg up to the mid-shin due to diabetes complications and often must use a wheelchair to get around.

His wife, film student Holly Bernabe, decided that diabetes awareness deserves a dramatic effort and has decided to walk across the US to prove it.  She started the Walk n’Roll project, where she, Mr. Bernabe and their children will be walking and rolling fifteen miles a day across the continent to New York to greet the Statue of Liberty.

What made them decide to do something so impressive?

“What is driving us to do something so incredibly insane and potentially dangerous? We’ve got lots of reasons! My husband wants to do it to help raise awareness about diabetes (how he lost his leg) and hopefully raise some money for the American Diabetes Association. I want to do the walk to support him, and he to support me. Through our documentary, we plan to show why we are attempting this trek. As we progress, we will more than likely discover many new reasons along the way. I also plan to compare our experiences with other people who have braved this walk before us, and get inside their heads and hearts. I think it will be the experience of our lifetimes.”

Your faithful scrivener agrees.   I’ve known Holly for a few years in an online forum where her wit, compassion and kindness have been a fantastic contribution to the group.

If you want to follow their progress or give your support (the project is of course in need of money and some donations), check out Walk n’Roll and cheer them on!

Sam Vimes Would be Proud

I make it a habit to try foods from time to time, especially if I thought it was yucky before — just to make sure.

When I was a kid, the concept of fried rice was appalling to me.  At 17, I got a wild hare to try it again, did, and found I rather liked it.   When I was in my early 30s, I deliberately taught myself to like broccoli and other cooked vegetables so as to set an example for my children.

I was not a steak fan at the time. There hardly seemed any point to the tough meat (Southerners, in their wonderful skill with barbecue, tend to have a bad habit of applying that cooking method to all meats and overcook many meat dishes).  Then I was convinced to try a rare steak.  Oh my word, it was like the clouds parted, the heavens opened and the choirs sang hossanahs.

I’ve always liked my eggs hard-cooked — scrambled, boiled or fried.    The same person who convinced me to try the rare steak also liked runny yolks on toast and laughed at me breaking the yolks on my fried eggs and cooking them all the way through.  On a whim, I made some eggs sunny side up and had them on toast.  Oh my…  The point of runny yolks isn’t the yolks as such, but as a spread on toast.  Tasty.

Of course the next step was buying an egg cup (I found one for $2.50.  That was worth the risk even if I didn’t like the dish)  to try soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers.  I found myself looking forward to trying it today all through my morning swim.   I’m so glad I tried it.  Delicious, I tell you.

If you’re an American, you may never have heard of the concept of a soft boiled egg in an egg cup with toast soldiers.  I tend to think of it as British, having first encountered the concept in Terry Pratchett novels, but I’ve since read that other countries like them, too.   A soft-boiled egg is simple:  the white is cooked, but the yolk is still warm and runny (don’t shudder yet).  You put the egg in an egg cup, cut the top off, shake on a little salt and pepper, then dip strips of toast (soldiers) into the yolk. Afterwards, you just scoop out the white.  Ideally you should have an egg spoon for this, but my normal teaspoon with my flatware worked just fine.

It’s wonderful comfort food and doesn’t take much time to make.