PlanetBox Review: Nixon’s quirky eating and the Lunchbox that makes it all ok

The arrival of PlanetBox lunchboxes in New Zealand has been long awaited by Mums and/or Instagram food stylists for a long, long time.  With a picky eater on my hands, these bento-style lunch boxes looked like just the thing to help Nix make the most out of his packed lunch each day.  Little & Loved kindly provided the Rover for review, check out their range of PlanetBox products and accessories here > PlanetBox Lunchboxes available in New Zealand!

I’m writing this mid-bedtime battle with Nixon, so I feel like I’m banging on a bit about his somewhat ‘difficult’ behaviours at the moment but it is what it is.  Our little guy is a gorgeous wee package full of surprises and challenges and we love him for that, as trying as they may be.

Anyhow, food is the topic de jour, in particular, Nixon’s LOVE of food.  

This statement comes with caveats, of course, doesn’t everything when you’re discussing a 4-year-old?

Nixon loves all food that is;
  • Quick to eat
  • Not touching other foods
  • Not mixed with other foods ie he loves berries and he loves yoghurt but he can’t stand berries IN yoghurt.
  • Not in any way being devious about vegetables.  “Just don’t try and hide veges in my shit Mum, just don’t”.
  • Not past it’s prime, even slightly.  no brown bits on bananas, apples or avocados, please.
  • Not a fancy hybrid of any kind.  A croissant is perfection.  A pain au chocolat is abhorrent!
  • Not in excess of any one element; too cheesy no good, too buttery no good, too much mince in a mince pie?  No good.

So meal times at our house are usually a two-step process.  We usually cook all the components of our meals separately, serve Nixon in his divided plate and then combine the ingredients for everyone else’s meal.  Last night we had an amazing turkey and vegetable fettuccine.  Nix had roasted turkey, fettuccine pasta with alfredo sauce (no bits!) and chopped tomatoes and beetroot on the side.

Kindy lunches are a similar scenario, complicated further by the fact that lunch must be packed separated and stay separated throughout the day – bento style.  Needless to say, we’ve had lots of semi-full lunch boxes (with the contents inadvertently mixed together) return home at the end of the day with a very hungry wee boy.   Nix needs to eat a lot and to eat often, so finding the right lunchbox for him to get used to before he heads off to school later this year is key right now.

I’m totally aware of how OTT this sounds (it’s just a freaking lunchbox right???), but, Zoe from Little & Loved took some time via Instagram to chat me through lunchbox options for Nix and his ‘requirements’.  There’s no doubt that PlanetBox as well as other bento-style lunchboxes have become popular in recent years BUT, they are quite an investment.  If you’re looking at purchasing online it’s amaze being able to ask questions before dropping 90 bucks on your kids’ school lunch receptacle right?

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Planetbox Stainless Steel Lunchbox

So, Nixie’s PlanetBox Rover arrived and I was immediately in love; the gorgeous, retro packaging, the seemingly indestructible nature of its eco-friendly, stainless steel construction…….. I know a friend who has had 3 PlanetBox lunchboxes for her kids since her eldest began school over 6 years ago and they are still going strong, so the longevity of these guys is amazing.

However, I underestimated the depth of my son’s food ocd.  That river runs DEEP ya’ll.  I was all set up to send him off to kindy on Friday with his new PlanetBox lunch box but, a ‘Farewell Day’ for his plastic Systema was required.  Literally, I had to agree to one more day before we could recycle the lunchbox I thought he disliked so much because his food got all mixed up inside it!

Strange little fellow lol.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Planetbox Stainless Steel Lunchbox New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Planetbox Stainless Steel Lunchbox

Two weeks into PlanetBox Life, both Nix and I are converted and convinced.  I initially worried that the latch system might be a bit tricky for him (no idea why I presume my 4.5yo is a baby still?!) – it isn’t, that it might be a bit heavy – it isn’t, that it might not hold enough – it does.  But my most overwhelming observation comes from the fact that Nixon’s PlanetBox comes home from kindy four days a week completely empty.  These are the most perfect, rubbish free, bento-style lunchboxes I’ve personally ever used or seen.  Nix eats everything now because his food stays separated………no matter what.  I’ve flipped it, shaken it all about (as does Nix on the daily!) and the smart design stays true every time.

Zoe has a great range of eco friendly Planetbox stainless steel lunch boxes and accessories in stock here in New Zealand, all with a five year warranty.  Dishwasher safe, eco-friendly, non-toxic and built to last, I know I’ll be using this awesome lunch box for years to come.

Shop the Little & Loved collection here > Stainless Steel PlanetBox Lunchboxes

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True Story: The printer that made me forget how much I hate printers

I’d given up on home printers years ago, but after receiving Epson’s innovative WorkForce EcoTank Printer to review, I’m ready to smash work, life admin and school projects in 2018 – without running out of ink once.

I am a techy, gadget geek, early adopter kinda girl.

You don’t keep blogging for over 10 years without having some sort of affinity for how technology can increase productivity and creativity and improve your lifestyle, at least to some degree.

Despite most communication being conducted via email these days, ‘life admin’ still requires paper and printing. Forms, permission slips, itineraries, confirmations, tickets, bank statements, school projects, photos… I need to print multiple times per day (heads up, in my experience, printing needs increase exponentially with the number of kids you have!).

I swore off printers 3 years ago after bringing the last failure home. I purchased a ‘WIFI’ model that never connected to our network, wouldn’t talk to my Mac computers, printed everything on a 25° angle and required new cartridges constantly.  The kicker?  If you purchased on special it was often cheaper to buy a whole new printer (which came with ink cartridges) then it was to stock up on ink. This sort of false-economy is super disheartening as both a consumer and as someone who tries to think about the impact our purchasing has on the environment.

It was time to say goodbye to the weakest link in our home office environment, preferring to suffer through the inconvenience of waiting for that friend who could print something out at work (Dave and I both work from home so this was ridiculous!) or actually driving up to our local stationery store and using the kiosks there.

The printer that made me forget how much I hate printers

There is always an exception to every rule, however, and it appears one printer company have magic-ed up a device that can do what I need it to do – and do what it says it can do on the box!

Meet the Epson WorkForce EcoTank ET-4750.

My New Best Friend!

This multi-function marvel has addressed every problem I’ve ever experienced with printers as, well as doing its basic job of printing better than I could have imagined.

Why I LOVE my Epson EcoTank Printer

So many reasons, but let me count the ways:

  • EcoTank – there’s a BIG clue in the name; this printer has no cartridges, it has refillable tanks (!!) and comes with enough ink in the box for 2 YEARS WORTH OF PRINTING! I’m dead.

  • WIFI Direct Print/Copy/Scan: I know, sounds good right…but…NO buts this time, it legit works and is super easy and fast to set-up. I work from two Macs, my husband uses a PC and there are iPhones, Samsung and Huawei phones in our house – WE CAN PRINT FROM ALL OF THEM. It’s a home office miracle and I love it!
  • It holds 250 sheets of A4 (in a hidden draw so Nixon can’t steal it for his ‘projects’): this may not sound like a big deal, but I’m often printing in a hurry e.g. homework ‘remembered’ as Ethan is running out the door for the school bus. Scrambling for paper to print with and then struggling to get it to feed without jamming etc. is now a distant, horrible, memory (lol).
Half a ream in the paper tray no worries!
  • Borderless printing: I had no idea my EcoTank did this until we returned from Japan and Nix wanted to bring a picture to Kindy news of a manta ray he saw in the aquarium in Osaka.  I actually squealed in delight as the beautiful image came out of the printer. Guys remember – borderless printing is GOALS!

The convenience of having a home printer again and the ease of WIFI printing is just so delicious; I’m literally singing the EcoTank’s praises to anyone who will listen. There is a large range of models and price options available and all come with that amazing no cartridge, refillable tank system and 2 years of ink included.

Check out all of the options here for more info> Epson EcoTank Printers

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Nixie’s gorgeous borderless image of Waffles/Talulah (the visiting pig) to share for news at kindy.

Recipe for Summer – Fruit and Ice Cream

Waitangi Day is the line in the sand when it comes to New Zealand summer I reckon.  The big stuff all happens ‘Pre-Waitangi’; the massive 6 week school holiday kicks off for the kids, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, road trips, tropical cyclones………….

Come Feb and the return to school – ‘Post-Waitangi’ summer kicks in.

It’s just my opinion but this is where the best summering happens as we all begin to savour every last sunshine-y Sunday, every after school beach-dash and every balmy BBQ dinner.  Shaking every last grain of sand out of summer in New Zealand is our duty as Kiwis.  Much like our ‘no man left behind’ attitude to summer stonefruit or our ‘eat ALL the berries’ culinary philosophy, making the most of these golden days is in our blood and helps me survive the extreme hardships of winter……in Auckland :::::::shudder::::::

Forget your kiwifruit or Navel Oranges, or any other fruit growing without a stone, bramble or vine.  I’m a summer fruit girl from way back.  As such, a snatched glimpse of a laden Christmas Plum or Golden Queen tree has always been a bit of a trigger for me (I’m sure many of you can relate right?).  I can remember a very blurry summer holiday when I was around 12 and had the good fortune to be invited away with my besties family.  The bach we were staying at had a marvelously overgrown and steep backyard that wound its way uphill towards the neighbouring fence line.  Exploring in the shade of the afternoons once we returned from the beach yielded a marvelous discovery – a Golden Queen peach tree, surely as ancient as the Kauri, (I mean, it was definitely as BIG as a Kauri wink wink, I was 12 remember!) literally groaning under the burden of its fruit.  The dilapidated fence separating us from our golden prize was merely a challenge, and not of the moral kind, unfortunately.  The lack of houses in any direction simply reinforced the fact that this ripe token of summer was ours for the taking, and besides, pilfered fruit always seemed to taste a wee bit better when you were 12!

Fast forward more than 20 years and some of the first things I purchased when we bought our house were fruit trees.  One Golden Queen peach tree, one heritage black plum and one nectarine tree.  To be honest, my mini-orchard was on the back-foot from day one with its care in my decidedly less-than-green hands so we are struggling, but, I’m picking the 2019 harvest will be a beauty, ie we might get some fruit we can eat!  My lack of peach-prowess could, of course, be due to the fact that we do not live in the Hawkes Bay.  They’ve got that peach growing on lockdown there which is why another kiwi fave of mine, Tip Top, keeps it local and uses real fruit grown by real NZ farmers in their Peaches & Cream Ice cream – no dodgy fence jumping going on here either, tsk tsk 12yo Melissa lol.  When we’re growing so much amazing produce right here in NZ we should absolutely expect that our local suppliers are sourcing FRESH ingredients from those growing it locally.  Combining one of our most beloved summer fruits with the goodness of New Zealand milk and cream is a taste of summer I hope my boys will remember as synonymous with growing up in New Zealand.

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The iconic Boysenberry is another kiwi fave that takes me back to pinching fruit from the vine on my Nana’s farm. Its incarnation into the multiple award-winning Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top has made boysenberries a generational obsession in our family.  If there was a momentous stop for a scoop of ice cream when I was a kid,  I don’t remember my Mum ever (ever, EVER) selecting any flavour other than Boysenberry.  Habit or heritage, whimsy or some other romantic hankering for the past, the fruit and flavours of New Zealand are freaking awesome and play a huge role in how I remember the 38 summers of my life.

Nelson farmers have taken up the reins and for years have been supplying Tip Top with enough kiwi boysenberries to keep that famous ripple in the freezer year round – but I reckon ice cream always tastes better in summer, yeah?

Keeping it real and, real kiwi is a big deal to Tip Top, one of the bit-players in each of my summers.  Recognizing the importance of legacy ingredients in our lives, it’s rad to see that using REAL fruit grown right here is just as important to the big guys as it is to would-be-backyard-mum-orchardists who might one day grow enough peaches for each of us to have one simultaneously.

This post was made possible by the good peeps at Tip Top!

PS Find our waffle recipe here

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Ethan and one of his best friends planned a Waitangi Day Waffle cook-off and nailed them! They were pretty stoked when I whipped some surprise toppings out of the freezer – Peaches and Cream and Boysenberry Ripple ice cream from Tip Top.

Family Travel Japan: Nara and the Great Buddha

Nara was added to my Japan To-Do list pretty early on as I felt it was an easy combo of culture, religion and cool stuff for the boys, ie lots of roaming deer lol.  Oh and this place is ancient!

The boys and I were on our own (which is always slightly terrifying for me at the moment because…..Nixon!).  Dave was working so we packed up and headed south on the train.  One little local line (¥150 ea) and then we were free-riding on the JR trains with our passes.  Ethan and I make a good team whilst navigating train stations so we managed to complete the 3 transfer trip with no problems.

You don’t have to walk far from the station to experience the cuteness, and often aggressiveness of the Nara Park deer, 50m from the train station they are out of the pavement, harassing punters for deer crackers!  In the Shinto religion, deer are considered messengers of the gods and there’s over 1000 of them roaming the giant park.  Purchase the little crackers from the vendors with green umbrellas for ¥150, break them in half and have fun.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Nara Park New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Nara Park New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Nara Park New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Nara Park

After Fun with Deer, we wandered for a bit as there was a small lake nearby and my fish-mad boys needed to see if there were fish to peruse.  

Nara Park is so, so big guys.  I was super stoked we had the stroller as the walk from the station to Todai-ji, the Buddhist temple housing the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Daibutso was quite a hike.  But, on the way, we (accidentally) found the Yoshikien Garden.  A beautiful moss garden divided into 3 separate areas.  With free entry for foreigners we were in like flynn and the boys really, really enjoyed exploring this deserted but stunning corner of the park.

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Nix didn’t want to leave but I eventually coaxed him out of the garden and we headed to our final destination within the park, Todai-ji, which was, until 1998, the worlds largest wooden building.  The scale of this complex is so huge it boggled our minds.  Watching the boys soak up the history and craftsmanship in world heritage sites such as this is what our trip was all about for me.  Hopefully, they remember how these sights made them feel about their place in the world – I’m probably reaching here a bit with Nixon I realise lol.  The Daibutsu statue, the flanking Bodhisattvas and the two wooden guardians protecting him are so beautiful you simply won’t want or be able to rush through the building.

Entry was around ¥600 each for Ethan and I, approx $7.50NZD and totally worth every cent.

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Like other large stations in Japan, there are some great shopping and restaurants to experience in Nara before you board your train.  Though on this day, Nix was so beat, we sat down in McDonald’s for the ONLY western takeaway meal we would eat for the entire two weeks!  That’s not a bad track record, plus, I really wanted to eat an egg burger lol.

You could definitely spend a whole day exploring Nara Park and see so much more than we did, my boys can’t be pushed for speed when they are doing lots of walking – and neither should they when it’s of the sightseeing variety.

Don’t miss Nara, it’s fun, low key, relaxed (providing there’s no festival on at the temples) and you can explore at your own pace.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Japan Nara Park

Fly Jetstar to Japan like we did >