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O-Hanami Bento (25-03-2012)

On Sunday March 25th we had a very special — BIG — picnic bento to celebrate spring with our friends. Like every year, we held our own Hanami Matsuri (cherry blossom feast) in the Amsterdamse Bos sakura garden. Unfortunately the Japanese cherry trees were only just starting to bloom, but there hasn’t been a better spring day afterwards so we were lucky anyway!

First of all I had to bake ‘something cherry’. Browsing brought me to a Martha Stewart recipe for vegan chocolate cupcakes with a cherry frosting, tried by BakedBree (substituting raspberry vinegar for plain and using cherries from a jar as fresh are not in season). Bree and her omni friends were quite positive so the choice was easily made!

Chocolat-Cherry Cupcakes for O-Hanami Bento (#178)

At the risk of sounding immodest: don’t you think they look awesome?? :) And yes, they were nice as well.. but I don’t think I’ll make them again. I didn’t much care for the buttery topping and you can’t really have the cupcakes without.

Here’s the rest of what we brought to the picnic.

O-Hanami Bento (25-03-2012)

Up front is my sakura box loaded with tofu puffs or inarizushi (a recipe from The Vegetarian Table: Japan cookbook by Victoria Wise), onigiri rice balls filled with umeboshi (pickled plum) and chickpea-wasabi mixture, rolled in respectively plum furikake and nori seaweed.

Both tiers of my yellow Circle bento box are filled with raspberries; behind that stands a small bottle of Kikkoman soy sauce. There’s an oval tier with Japanese style coated peanuts (the other two contain more sushi), a can of wasabi peas (which we didn’t eat) and white chocolate Mikado “Pocky’s” that are not vegan but a leftover from my life as a vegetarian that I wanted to get rid of. ;)

For drinks: plum wine, sake and lots of hot water for a choice of sakura hoija tea, plum vert, sencha, gyokuro asahi and genmaicha.

Dôh, of course we overdid it. But it’s o-hanami only once a year, so who cares? ;)

And if you thought that would be all… There’s more! Because our friends are foodies too. :D They contributed their own yummy goodies, like vegan apple pie, dolmas, dorayakis (sweet red bean paste pancakes) and cheese cookies for the non-vegans among us, cucumber and more nibbles. We think alike because additional batches of inarizushi and onigiri (with cucumber and plum filling) were brought to the party.

Here’s a picture of our belly-pleasing banquet…

Hanami 2012 picnic in Amsterdamse Bos

Are you getting hungry yet? ;)

Next up is my Bihun Bento!

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Join Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking with a food-related post!

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Bento Lunch


No Sunday Salon, no It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?, just a Tuesday update on Gnoe’s reading.


Cover 2666 (Roberto Bolaño)After I needed about a month to plod through Roberto Bolaño’s 898 page chunkster 2666 for Leeswammes’ readalong, I honestly feel like picking up something easy like a Carol O’Connell mystery.

But there’s another deadline coming up: the 25th of this month discussion starts on the Japanese Literature Book Group read of Kenzaburo Oë’s novel The Silent Cry. The Dutch translation has been waiting on my shelf for quite a few years now so I really want to grab this opportunity to join. Cover Voetballen in 1860 / The Silent Cry (Kenzaburo Oe)That I haven’t taken it up before has mostly to do with the title: Voetballen in 1860 (something like ‘Soccer in 1860‘). I’m not a sports person (ha! you can say that again ;) and since the name is about the only thing I know of the book — and I haven’t read anything by this author before — I feel quite reluctant. Still, Tony Malone mentioned on twitter that Oë has been an inspiration to Haruki Murakami and pointed out the similarity of the latter’s book title Pinball, 1973. So now at least I do look forward to discovering Murakamish things in The Silent Cry. ;)


Cover Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone (Ann Gentry)My current non-fiction reads are all food-related… Could that have anything to do with the fact that I recently turned into a newbie vegan (or rather ‘strict vegetarian’)? Or is it just the Foodie’s Reading Challenge, or maybe the Whip Up Something New! challenge that gets me this obsessed focussed? Anyhow, I (virtually) picked up the Vegan Family Meals: Real Food for Everyone cookbook by Ann Gentry this week. It will be released on June 14th but I received an early e-book for preview through Netgalley in February. I normally don’t request review copies but it seemed a smart thing to do in my Quest to find a good vegan cookery book. Of course I could not know I’d get one soon for my Birthday! ;) Cover La Dolce Vegan: Vegan Livin' Made Easy (Sarah Kramer)My sister-in-law presented me with La Dolce Vegan! Vegan Livin’ Made Easy by Sarah Kramer. I’ve read it from A to Z and made at least (!) one dish from each of the sections so I hope to write a review soon. I usually don’t actually read cookbooks so it says a lot already that I did now! ;)

Cover Verraad, verzoening en verleiding: de rol van eten in speelfilms (Helen Westerik & Louise O. Fresco)I’m also still reading about food in film in Verraad, verleiding en verzoening: de rol van eten in speelfilms by Louise O. Fresco and Helen Westerik. It’s taking me much longer than I thought, just because it’s not as interesting as I had hoped. It seems only to touch the subject of each film instead of going further into the aspects relating to food. Of course I’ve only read about a quarter of the book so I really can’t have an honest opinion yet. Anyway, the booklet is just 144 pages thin so I should be able to finish it soon, right?! I guess I’ll have more time for it once my course on film reviews has ended. ;)

Other Bookish News

Cover The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration (Ann McClellan)Last but not least I received a sweet seasonal present from my friend elm@: The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration, by Ann McClellan. It’s a book about the cherry blossom trees surrounding the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C. (been there, seen it, done that — but have to go back sometime when the sakura is blooming ;) that were planted in 1912 as a gesture of friendship from Japan. Every year the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held, just like Hanami Matsuri in Japan. And like my personal ‘Holland Hanami‘. ;) The book covers not only the history of the park and its festival, but also their roots and traditions in Japan. If you want to have a look yourself, check out this Google preview or a YouTube video on the festival.

Yesterday we had our yearly celebration of Hanami: cherry blossom viewing, in the Amsterdam Woods’ Japanese sakura garden. The weather was FABULOUS and I have not seen so many people in the blossom parc before! A sign with flowers in remembrance of the earthquake/tsunami victims attracted quite some attention too.

Sakura close-up

Mr Gnoe was reading part 3 of Murakami’s 1q84 but Poor Me had to do some homework for my film review class: writing about Barney’s Version — a movie that was more entertaining than I had expected and evoked thoughts about Rossetti, Dante, (William Blake), heaven and hell. I wonder if my fellow classmates had the same associations.

Hanami 2011 Bento (#139)

Hanami 2011 Bento, 10-04-2011

Of course there can be no Hanami Matsuri without a picnic — meaning: bento. I didn’t have much time to prepare so it was a small afternoon snack/late Sunday lunch. But GOOOOD. :) Unfortunately my cute usagi picnic bento *died* on the way back from Amsterdam Woods two years ago and I still haven’t gotten myself another Big Box. So we used some Emsa lock & lock containers instead. They’re leak-proof and that’s always great for transport. ;)


  • Italian Linghue crackers with rosemary
  • Root vegetable crisps
  • Cherry tomatoes & Cherry Belle or Champion radishes (de ‘ballenbak’)
  • Cucumber
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Sesame bread sticks
  • Edamame hummus — another yummy recipe from the La Dolce Vegan! cookbook I got on my birthday
  • Apricot-coconut treats from Vegalicious (super easy!)
  • Drinks: shincha tea (first flush sencha) and ‘prosecco royale’

Quick Snack Bento (#140)

Quick Snack Bento, 11-04-2011

Since I had to finish and mail my review of Barney’s Version when we got home from our day under the sakura trees, I had only a little time to make a Monday bento. So it was just regular sammies today, accompanied by an apple, banana and this snack box. No complaints here though! ;)


  • Edamame hummus
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Nuts & dried fruit: apricots, cranberries, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • Vegetables: spinach leaves, gherkin, radishes, cucumber, cherry tomato, caper berries, parsley

Have you been celebrating the blossoming of trees?

April’s Hello Japan! task is to celebrate spring, in particular the beloved sakura.

In the light of this month’s mini misson I thought it might be fun to share my ‘collection’ of sakura goodies.

It’s not a deliberate gathering of things decorated with Japanese cherry blossoms — I work in the museum field so there’s no need to collect anything myself ;) — but since I’m often seduced by cute sakura prints I seem to have acquired a few articles anyway ;)

So, about 2 weeks ago I gathered everything on the table and took a picture.

My sakura 'collection'

It was only after I had put this assortment away again that I remembered my favourite gift wrapping paper… and that I had forgotten to include the sakura chopsticks I recently posted about!

White sakura chopsticks My current favourite giftwrapping Black sakura chopsticks

Furthermore my kawaii ice cubes, onigiri mold, food picks & the lovely textiles I fell for a while ago– the red one is going to be a small jacket for my usagi thermos; the pink may become a bento bag.

And what about the loads of origami paper I own? Only a selection is shown here.

You see? It really looks as if I’m unconsciously subconsciously collecting these things. I even excluded prints here in which cherry blossoms or sakura petals are just a small detail, like my usagi bento box and thermos. But I did allow myself to include round 5-petaled flowers and not just the characteristic heartshaped blossoms… I can’t help it: I just LOVE sakura!

For those of you who wonder where to get these treasures (I know I always do), I’ll provide a list! ;)

  1. Transparant sakura gift bags from Etsy
  2. First 2 tea containers (left) from Japan Market in Leiden
  3. Other 2 tea tins from ’t Japanse Winkeltje (‘The Little Japanese Shop’) in Amsterdam
  4. Cherry blossom body butter from The Body Shop
  5. Embroidered furoshiki and handkerchief from eBay store
  6. Bookmarks were a gift from tanabata (Hello Japan! about Kyoto temples)
  7. White chopsticks were a hanami gift from Bento Babe
  8. Gift wrap paper from V&D department store
  9. Black chopsticks from toko Meltem on Botermarkt in Leiden
  10. Ice cubes from HEMA department store
  11. Onigiri mold from Toko Centraal on Achter Clarenburg in Utrecht
  12. Food picks from eBay (part of a set)
  13. Textile and some of the origami paper via Etsy (mostly Pixies Origami Store & This and That from Japan)
  14. Other origimi sheets from several DIY and stationary shops

Do you have any themed collections?

Earlier this month I wrote a post about our hanami picnic under the cherry trees.

Time flies when you’re having fun! Last Tuesday it was two years ago, on June 16th 2007, that I made my first real bento! I brought a lunch for two on a 16 km hike, in my first actual bento box. Of course I decided to use this blue usagi sakura box for my anniversary bento (#54) as well!

I like to think that the dots behind the white cherry blossoms (sakura) are full moons, since in Japanese culture rabbits (usagi) are often depicted with these mochi-tsuki. I still love this bento box a lot, but I use it less than my favourite flower lunchbox because that one’s smaller. Anyway, I’m getting distracted ;)

Upper tier:

  • sakura muscat white chocolate
  • 3 sesame-soy rice crackers
  • 3 yoghurt coated (dried) apricots
  • 3 mini plum tomatoes
  • basil
  • radish
  • pistachios
  • mix of roasted black & white sesame with a bit of walnut and nori to go on the spinach (in the other tier)

Lower tier:

  • quickly stirfried spinach with spring onion, kikkoman soy sauce and sake, topped with walnut and nori
  • (more radishes
  • scrambled egg with tomato and basil

Scrambled eggs with tomato is my favourite egg dish since childhood :) But it was all REALLY good!

ICHI, NI, SAN, SHI — on to year no.3 (&4)! :)

Het was veel beter weer dan vorig jaar, deze eerste pinksterdag waarop de Japanmarkt in Leiden plaatsvond. We hebben met onze vrienden genoten van de stadspicknick onder begeleiding van de taiko kids (drummers). Naast ons zat een groepje ‘cool kids‘ in trendy Tokio kleding, waaronder een heuse blauwgejurkte Alice in Wonderland. Zie de fotoset van ons uitje op mijn Flickr-pagina :) Deze ‘Alice’ had bovendien een soort van bento bij zich ;)

Zelf brachten we een pastasalade, auberginesmeersel en mediterane AH-quiche mee. Onze vrienden zorgden voor Amé, broodjes en fruitsalade. No need to tell you we had a great lunch! :)

Toen we uitgegeten waren gingen we naar de markt op het Rapenburg, waar we halverwege de butoh processie tegenkwamen. Dit was geweldig! De Hollandse dames in paarse kimono’s op rode klompen vond ik wel erg bedacht, maar de dansers zelf maakten alles goed. De hoofddanser (in rood) is Atsushi Takenouchi en ze werden begeleid op ‘trom’ door Hiroko Komiya. De optocht was een project van Fields of Wonder, dat op 4, 5 en 6 juni de — gratis — voorstelling Luchtruim in Leiden organiseert. Ziedaar een nieuwe tip van Gnoe ;)

Er waren meer kraampjes op de Japanmarkt dan vorig jaar (zoals viel te verwachten omdat dit jaar 400 jaar Japans-Nederlandse handelsbetrekkingen wordt gevierd), maar ik heb niet veel gescoord. Toch ben ik érg gelukkig met mijn nieuwe first flush sencha thee :)) en ik heb ook een schattig papieren lampionnetje met sakura-print gekocht — voor als we volgend voorjaar een hanami-feestje geven ;) Kawaii!

En het mag niet onvermeld blijven: we besloten de dag op het terras bij Huis de Bijlen met heeeerlijke groentekroketjes!

Hooray, my food picks from Japan arrived yesterday! They are much smaller than I thought: about 3 cm high, but that’s okay since the bamboo picks I already own are quite big.

I really love these new ones and would like to keep them wrapped and on display ;) But using them in my bento is even better :) I am thinking about a mexican themed bento with tortilla wrap, so that will be perfect! If I have the time, that is…

Which one do you like best? Usagi (bunny)? Neko (cat)? Sakura (cherry blossom)? Yuki (snow)? Kōri (ice)? I can’t decide: I think they’re all kawaii!

I got these colourful picks on eBay from Tokyo Gift, where I also bought my (first) bento box. They wrap their parcels in beautiful paper! Cool origata!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


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