From step-by-step tutorials to helpful hints, the Readers.com family is always up for trying new things. Join us each month as we consult the experts in fields ranging from social media to antique hunting in our Hobbies & How To’s series, and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way!
We recently had the chance to talk with Marine mom, blogger, and expert bento box builder April about living abroad and how to master the art of bento box-making. Get to know April in our interview below and learn how to make a bento box of your very own. (And don’t forget to check out her blog while you’re at it!)
Could you give a brief introduction to our readers about you, your family, and your interests?
April: My name is April, and I’m a wife to a Marine and mommy to a three-year-old diva, Amelia. We love to travel, spend time outdoors, and enjoy family time.
You and your family are currently living in Japan. What do you like and dislike about living there?
April: We love living in Japan! It’s so vastly different from living in America. Everyone is kind to each other (even during rush hour!) and there is little to no crime rate in Okinawa. The shopping is so fun — everything is bright, colorful, and novel. It’s been an adventure getting around with our very limited Japanese, but it seems that no matter where you go in the world, charades is a well-known form of communication!
You make bento boxes for your daughter and share them on your blog. What inspired you to start making them?
April: My daughter attends a Japanese Montessori preschool and is required to bring a snack each day (in addition to her catered lunch). I was originally just tossing a few pre-packaged snacks in her backpack but kept finding them buried in the bottom of her bag at the end of the day. I decided to box them up in a bento box (still packaged!) so they would stay together on top of her school belongings and she wouldn’t miss out on a snack. Slowly, I started adding in fresh fruits and unpackaged snacks like we normally eat at home. Alas, a bento obsession was born.
How do you make a bento box? And, are there any tips and tricks that you have to keep in mind while making them?
April: A bento box is a Japanese style for packing a single serving of food. Boxes come in a variety of sizes, from tiny little 200 mL boxes and up to over 600 mL for larger meals. Since I only send a snack for my daughter each day, we tend to favor the smaller sizes. I am frequently asked how everything stays put inside the box once it’s packed. The idea is to pack the box as high and tight as possible so things don’t even have room to move about once the lid is snapped on! One of my best pieces of advice for an eye-pleasing bento box is to use a variety of color, sizes, and shapes throughout the foods you pack together.
Will Amelia ever eat from a non-bento again?
April: Amelia is already spoiled rotten as an only child. Even now on the weekends, she refuses her lunch unless it has a giraffe fork or star-shaped cheese!
You also own your own Etsy shop with many unique, handmade products. How did you get started crafting these, and what are some of you favorite sellers?
April: My handmade shop, Marine Parents, is how everything started (it’s mainly my handmade customers purchasing bento products from my bento shop!).
Several years ago, my husband mentioned in passing that he knew how to sew. Of course, I immediately put him to work making me anything I could think of. I began selling the items he was sewing on Etsy, but he didn’t have much time to keep a stock for me as he was already working full-time on base with the Marine Corps. He showed me the basics, I gave up, started again, gave up. After months of frustration and practice, I mastered my first project — a dSLR camera strapcover that is still sewn and sold in my shop, as one of the best-selling items. I’ve never looked back since then.
I love the challenge of customized orders and learning to expand my hands-on knowledge behind a sewing machine. Some of my favorite sellers — Little Wellies, Bubblewrappd, Three Little Bird Shop, and Yarn Bombed Antlers!