Some news from the great bento suppliers who help to keep this site going! CasaBento  has greatly revamped and expanded their site. They have hundreds of bento boxes and supplies for sale, plus a new cooking accessories  section loaded with cute gadgets. Who knew that there were so many sausage cutters  for example?
Speaking of cute gadgets, All Things For Sale  has a great offer for anyone who’s been wanting to try out a Japanese egg mold . If you place an order worth at least $49, they will give you a set of rabbit and teddy bear egg molds for free!
It’s now summertime in the northern hemisphere, with hot, often humid days. This means you should take extra care with your bentos and keep them - and yourself - safe! If you’re new to bentos, please take a few moments to review the Keeping Your Bento Safe  article plus the Summer Bento Safety  article. If your local climate and/or circumstances require you to use an ice pack, they don’t have the be boring. For example, you could tuck in this pink heart-shaped ice pack  form J-List, or try these colorful Pocket Cools  from Bento&co. (Speaking of the last ones, they look a little like the tissue packs that are distributed for free in Japan to me…though unfortunately (or fortuately) I don’t see one that advertises a pachinko parlor, or tries to sell insurance, or wants me to sign up for ‘a fun job to do at home in your spare time!’ ^_^)
Speaking of keeping your food safe, some people have asked me recently about anti-bacterial (or anti-microbial) sheets, bento boxes and balans. Balan or baran are the little plastic divider sheets, often shaped like grass, that you see in takeout bento boxes and sushi sets. Regular plastic balan do not have anti-microbial qualities - they are just bits of plastic to divide your food and add a bit of color. Balan that are specifically labeled as anti-microbial/bacterial do have those qualities, but they tend to be expensive. Personally, I think these types of products are no substitute for good basic food safety practices, and if your budget it tight, you should definitely go for an ice pack and insulated carry bag first.