Friday, April 29, 2011

Sonoma Bento One Year Anniversary!

Today marks one year since I started this blog. I am so thankful for all of the support and interest from my bento friends. Some of you make bento, some of you do not, but all of you have been so kind and encouraged me to keep learning and keep improving my bento skills. This has been a great year, and I can't wait to see how my bento lunches will evolve in the next year. So, I thought I would do a before and after kind of a post today. Here is the very first bento I made, back on April 21st, 2010.

The upper tier has a heart shaped onigiri rice ball, steamed broccoli, slices of baked sweet potato, grapes, and a sliced strawberry.

The lower tier is filled with salad greens from Offerings of the Land, carrots, mushrooms, watermelon radish, and half of a hard boiled egg. And now, for my remake of my first ever bento, drumroll please......

The first bento I made was in a GINORMOUS bento box. The only thing you really can fit into that box and not have way too much food, would be a salad. Instead, I used this new black bento box (it's still kind of big at 600ml) and packed everything much tighter. Packing your bento box tightly will not only make sure that things don't roll around and shift, but it will also put enough food into your bento box to fill your tummy at lunch time. In this bento box: I have an onigiri wrapped with a strip of nori that I punched with a flower shaped craft punch. There are a few green grapes, a strawberry from Williamson Farms, a flower shaped slice of purple sweet potato, steamed broccoli rapini from Triple T, a mix of wild arugula from Triple T along with torn romaine lettuce, slices of carrot, a french breakfast radish from Ortiz Farms, a small container of salad dressing, and a tamagoyaki omelette made with slivers of green garlic from Middleton Farms. The only thing I forgot was mushrooms, and I actually did have enoki mushrooms from Bohemian Mushroom Farm, but I spaced and forgot to put them in. You can also see that the lighting is MUCH better in the remake than in the original bento. I take pictures of my bento next to a bright window. I also use scrapbook paper or fabric for a background. The original bento was shot in my office kitchen. Not really conducive to glamorous photo shoots. :)

This is the first bento I posted on Sonoma Bento on April 29th, 2010. As you can see, I was already making some big steps and improvements from my first bento attempt. I actually really like this bento, and I was wondering how I would remake it. In this bento: a pita sandwich with wasabi tunafish salad, baby carrots, radish slices, broccoli, two onigiri with slices of cucumber in them, and half of a boiled egg with black sesame seed details.

In my re-do: a magic round bento to the rescue! I have basically the same wasabi tunafish sandwich in a pita, but I put black sesame seeds on the outsides. Also in this bento: steamed broccoli rapini from Triple T, green grapes, a bear onigiri with nori eyes and a pickled ginger red mouth, radishes from Bernier Farms, cucumber slices, baby carrots, and a little hard boiled quail egg from Triple T with nori eyes and a carrot beak. The original bento was pretty cute as it was, so this is just a different spin on the ingredients in a different shaped bento box. I was a little puzzled about why I put both bread and rice in the same bento, which I don't do now. Ah well, this did come out pretty tasty.

Beverage Pairing Suggestion: J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Brut. A great and affordable sparkling wine to toast one year as a bento blogger! YAY!

Something you may have noticed in my newer bento photos: a watermark. As my photos have improved, I decided I should brand them so that they are credited to me. I place the words "Sonoma Bento" in my photos, using background or foreground colors and placing them in fun spots. Many bento bloggers do this, and it is probably a good practice to use if you are uploading your own bento photos. Credit should always be given where it is due, and you don't want someone to steal your photos and claim it as his/her own.

A few words about how my style and approach to bento has changed: I used to think that I needed tons of picks and cupcake liners to make my bento kawaii (or cute). I find that I rarely use food picks. A sharp knife is the tool I use the most in making my bento. I do like to use small food cutters for a quick cute element. Tweezers are important for placing details. Probably the most important part of my bento making style, however, is the farmers market! Seasonal, fresh food is what I like to build my bento around. Not everything comes from the farmers market, but I try to feature at least one local item in every lunch.

Now for the celebration! In honor of my one year blogiversary, I am giving away a fun set of bento items. It's a starter kit of sorts! Here's what I am giving away:

A set of colorful chopsticks.

An onigiri mold, so you can make hearts, stars, and bears.

A nori punch shaped like an apple.

A set of 12 food picks.

And finally, this cute three tiered pink bento box, and my handmade onigiri bento box strap. The band is pink felt with an elastic section, and a felt onigiri face on top. The bento box itself is brand new, and has a shallow upper tier to hold chopsticks or utensils (maybe a slim sauce pack), and then two tiers for food.

There are 4 ways you can win this awesome bento prize pack. Please leave each entry as a separate comment:

1. MANDATORY: You must be a follower of this blog, Sonoma Bento.
2. Tweet about the contest. Please let me know if you tweeted about the contest, and if possible include the link to your tweet.
3. Mention this contest on your blog. Please let me know about your blog post and include the link to your blog post.
4. Tell me what your favorite bento tool is and why, or if you don't make bento box lunches yet, which bento tool you would really like to have.

I will randomly select one entry as the winner on lucky Friday the 13th of May. :-)

GOOD LUCK! And thank you, thank you, thank you for being a part of my bento adventures. :)


  1. Happy Anniversary! I love to look back on our first bentos. I do find the rice ball mold very handy, but I do need to try more gadgets. I do like how you list where you get your local foods from. Looking forward to many more, and thanks for your encouragment to me.

  2. I follow your blog using my BlogSpot Dashboard. I love how you were able to improve upon your first bento, but found that your 1st blog bento didn't really need any improvements! That is encouraging!

  3. I am fairly new to making bento. I have collected:

    *egg molds - so fun!
    *onigiri molds - seemingly too small
    *sword toothpicks - haven't used yet
    *sauce bottles - haven't used yet
    *craft punches - These are fun, but I'd really like to have emoticon/face ones!
    *flower shaped veggie cutters - I like them
    *bento box - brand new!

    I am thrilled to finally have a cute bento box! I haven't made a bento in a few months and hope the new box will inspire me. I was often bummed not to have a cute box and my regular plastic dishes just weren't great. I've only made 24 bento lunches so far.

    I love your starter kit here! The onigiri mold looks better / bigger than the one I have.

  4. YAY! Happy bentoversary!!! \0/\0/\0/

    I rather liked your very first bento... But your redux certainly looks more like a pro :)

    I follow your blog via rss-feed in my Netvibes-reader; not sure if that counts... (it's the only way I follow blogs). My fav bento tool is the box: that's how I fell for bentoing, those pretty boxes!

    Here's my tweet:!/graasland/status/64259876444057600

  5. You know I follow your blog! (Do I get an extra point for you following me at the grocery store?)

    Happy one-iversary!

  6. Even though I already have chopsticks, I love those chopsticks you're giving away. If I don't win them, I want to know where you got them. That bento box looks really practical, too.

    Just many bento boxes do you have in your house right now?

  7. Congratulation, happy birthday one year old!
    It's so fun to check out *before after bento*. I love all of those bentos here. I'm sort of afraid to look at my own before-after. Maybe I don't want to share with everyone lol!

    Your handmade felt onigiri is SO adorable!!

  8. Happy anniversary! I am a new follower, and fairly new to bento making.

  9. I see you don't typically use them but my favorite tool(s) are picks :D. I find them to be quick and easy way to add cute for lunches for my 7- yr old, and most importantly, they are his favorite.

  10. Happy one year! :)

    My favorite tool by far would have to be my rice cooker! I'm not super at cooking rice on the stovetop, and I really love the convenience of adding the rice/water/salt when I feel like it, then programming it to come out at a specific time. No effort!

  11. Happy Anniversary!
    I'm a follower, and I make bentos about two months. I like to read your blog! It's great :)

  12. Congratulations, friend for your one year anniversary. You inspire me often with your organic produce and fresh approach. Keep up the good work.

  13. I'm late but I still want to wish you Happy Blog Anniversary!! Your first bento is so much better than mine :)

  14. I follow your blog with gfc
    Happy Anniversary!!

  15. I tweeted!!/n4zfk/status/67300581387157505

  16. blogged it

  17. I love the egg molds and the mini hot dog cutter that turns it into and octopus, it's so easy to make the kids happy lol

  18. Happy Blog Anniversary!
    You reminds me that mine is almost turning 1 year too! :)
    Its amazing to look back at where we started and see how we have transformed.:)
    Keep it up!

  19. My favourite bento tool at the moment are the set of cutters and expression punch came along with Karenmama's bento book.
    It really helps!

  20. Very nice giveaway, been a follower for a while and I love your photos. :)

  21. My favorite tool(s) are my vegetable cutters for sure. Even though I dont use them a lot, they make decorating a snap, and work in all sorts of foods (my favorite is using them on cheese!).

  22. I follow your blog. I am new to bento and have just ordered my first boxes. It was fun to see your fist bentos.
    I don't have any tools for bento yet but am looking forward to starting with my first bento box in a few weeks.

  23. My favorite bento tools are my set of small, leaf-shaped cutters! I find myself using them all the time!

  24. I tweeted! But I'm horrible at Twitter, so I'm not sure if I did it right. =/

  25. Oh, I forgot one thing... I like you at facebook. :D!/profile.php?id=100001838751176&sk=info

    Then Im always up to date about your activities. ;)

  26. Happy birthday for your anniversary!

    I follow your blog via blogspot.

  27. I don't really know what my favourite tool is. But the ones I'm using most are silicon cups, cute foodpicks, and vegetable cutters. They're in nearly every bento I make (of course not the cutters but cut vegetables). I also love my bunny-shaped noripuncher, and sometimes my onigiri molds.

  28. I really enjoy my divider cups. All the little accessories are awesome!

  29. As I am just starting the bento journey, your very first bento looks awesome to me. I didn't even think it needed improvements lol
    (Oh and of course I follow your blog...I love it!)

  30. I tweeted the giveway ^^!/tcdm4/status/69130879494144000

  31. I don't know what my favorite tool is yet because I am just barely starting out. But I know I definitely want molds for the rice shapes, as hold punchers for nori. It seems like so many cute things could be made with those tools. I guess I'll find out as I learn more which tools are totally necessary, which may not be necessary but add cuteness or style, and which I'd never really end up using.
    I'm so grateful for those of you who post bento blogs and tweets, makes me so excited to begin this too!!!

  32. Congrats! I'm a big fan of cookie cutters, but would love a nori face cutter

  33. Hi, congrats on one year!! and many more to come. :D

    My favorite tools are cutters. I like to cut little images of cheese and deli meats when I can. I also like metal cutters the best so I can use them on veggies as well. Plastic are alright, but if I have a choice I use the metal ones. I haven't used rice molds yet, but I would love to try.

    Second would probably be egg molds. I love using those, and when I bought them I thought I wouldn't use them much. They're now used a lot and I discovered that I like hard boiled eggs. ^^ Yum!!

    (I started putting my name on my bentos as well. I was told to from a friend.)

    Every bento I've see that you've made is beautiful. Very organic looking, and reminds me of nature. I can wait to see more; you're very inspirational!


  34. hi i am your follower and Happy Anniversary!
    I like oniguiri molds, molds of rice and the bentos
    in my blog list is the link to your blog

    I leave a Peep in twitter

  36. Re-entering! Silly Blogger ate my comments. =(
    I'm a follower!

  37. I tweeted about your contest as thepoetcalliope.

  38. My favorite bento tools are my food cutters! I find myself using my leaf and flower shaped ones all the time to add an instant fun element. =)

  39. I blogged about it here:

    Interestingly enough, I'm taking Japanese Literature as a summer class right now. We have to do a presentation on an aspect of Japanese culture... so of course, I picked bento! =D