Splat Mats

My wife was so happy with the splat mat she ordered, she got a second one, and suggested I write this short review.  What’s a splat mat?  It’s a mat you put under your kids’ chair to protect the floor underneath from the inevitable messes your child creates when eating.  The ones we got were made by Bumkins.

The mat is actually quite a bit bigger than it appears in this photo. It’s 42 inches by 42 inches square.


  • Washable
  • Shakes out easily and dries quickly
  • Durable (the first one we received looks and feels new even though we’ve had it over 1 year)
  • Stain-resistant – even to spaghetti sauce
  • Inexpensive (around $18 per mat)
  • BPA free
  • Kids like it too for the Winnie the Pooh and Minnie Mouse designs.  When the mat comes out, they know it’s time to eat!  There are also Cinderella designs and Hawaiian Shirt like tropical patterns.


  • Made in China, with a chemical smell (but this goes away after the first washing)
  • Not skid proof (so be careful when walking)


Trader Joe’s Swiss Dark Chocolate Bar with 30% Whole Hazelnuts – The Real Deal

My wife and I visited Switzerland a couple of years ago and of course had to try their chocolate.  We sampled many bars, and found most of them smooth, creamy, and natural tasting, with none of the artificial sweetness you’d find in a Hershey’s or Nestle bar.

Our favorite was a brand we won’t name, and which is generally unavailable in the United States.  To our surprise we found the exact same bar under private label at Trader Joe’s!  (We are not naming the original Swiss brand name because we don’t want to give away Trader Joe’s supply chain secrets.)

$3.99 at Trader Joe’s for a huge 200 gram bar (we’ve eaten most of the bar pictured below) – so good:


Swiss Cow
Cow in ‎⁨Mürren⁩, ⁨Bern⁩, ⁨Switzerland⁩

What you might get if you order a “Western” burger in Tokyo

Last time I visited Tokyo, I was in the mood for a Western-style hamburger.  I found a small restaurant/bar with good reviews and sat down.  The menu was in Japanese, but I managed to translate one of the items: “Western burger”

Here’s what appeared on my plate:


Not what I was expecting (no bun), but it was good (every bit of it)!  Counterclockwise, we’ve got some kind of slightly sweet barbecue sauce in a ramekin, a nice thick burger patty, a grilled red pepper, corn, broccoli, and homestyle fries.

We also see roughly five different colors, including red, green, and yellow, representing not only a slight nod to Japanese tradition in a “Western style” dish, but also showing off the different nutrient profiles of the food on the plate.

MyFitnessPal (Premium) vs. The No S Diet

I needed to lose 10 pounds and tried out MyFitnessPal again, after several years of not using it.  This time, I tried the Premium trial, so I’m getting all the features and stats.

I’m reminded of why I quit using MyFitnessPal years ago.  If you’re not eating the same thing every day, MyFitnessPal is a time sink.  Expect to spend at least 5 minutes before or after every meal, scanning bar codes and weighing foods on the kitchen scale.  Then you’re worrying about what combo of nutrients you need or whether you’re going to exceed your carb/fat/protein quotas for the day/week.

As an aside, I’m reminded of Luke 12:22-23, [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”  Of course, if you continue reading, you’ll see Jesus is talking about finding food to eat at all, and trusting God to provide nourishment, rather than worrying about where your next meal will come from.

But I digress.  If you want to lose weight, or just maintain your ideal weight, you need something easy to stick with. Something that doesn’t require you to become a “full time calorie accountant.”  The free No S Diet, created by Reinhard Engels, does just this.  The whole diet is explained in one sentence: No snacks, sweets, or seconds, except on days that start with S.  That’s it!

You don’t need to buy anything to get started with it.  It’s not time consuming.  It’s easy to stick with.  No S really works.  It actually works a little too well – I lost 30 pounds the last time I used it, 15 pounds under what I wanted to be.  So I’m taking it easy this time.

I’m getting rid of MyFitnessPal again.  It’s neat to look at the stats, but Premium is not at all worth it at $50-$100+/year, at least for me.  If you really love counting calories though, it might work for you.

This time, I’m combining No S with aspects of the Shoku Iku Japanese food philosophy.  Basically, aim for 3-5 colors on every plate.  If you eat a heavy meal, balance it out with a light one the next time you eat.  Easy stuff.

Poke Bowl

Best Pancakes Ever

They’re not at IHOP.  Check out Original Pancake House:

The strawberry pancakes with whipped cream, fresh strawberries, hand-whipped butter, and a side of sausage links is so sooo delicious.

In the mood for an omelette instead?  Any omelette is enormous.  It’s a good 2 inches thick and still light and fluffy.

Black Forest Pancake (also known as the Dutch Baby)

And get a load of the Black Forest Pancake (also called the Dutch Baby in some restaurants) – oven baked and served with whipped butter, lemon, and powdered sugar:

Inexpensive too – you can share one plate of pancakes or omelette, side, and a drink for around $12 (with tip).  Or two plates for two for $25 with tip.

Worth going – I’ve been dozens of times to several different Original Pancake House locations and always had a great gastronomical experience.

Have you been to an Original Pancake House?  What did you think?

Weird Breakfasts

When I was 9, my teacher asked everyone to tell the class what they had for breakfast.  I stood up and announced I had pineapple on my cereal.  I thought this was normal at the time – didn’t everyone have fruit on their cereal?  To West Coast folks it may have been normal, but in my new East Coast school, it wasn’t:

Everyone laughed at me, even the teacher!  “Pineapple?!  You’re weird!”  The reactions got worse after I said I also put yogurt in it.

Nowadays, I pride myself in making interesting concoctions for breakfast.  Not only do I put pineapple on my cereal, but also applesauce, jam, peaches, etc.  One of my daily staples:

Steel Cut Oats with Yogurt, Jam, and Granola

  • 1/4 cup steel-cut (pinhead) oats
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granola
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 dollop strawberry, pineapple, or fruits of the forest jam

Cover steel-cut oats with water.  Nuke on medium for 10-12 minutes.  (Put paper plate on top of bowl so it doesn’t explode.)  Let it sit for 5 minutes or so in the microwave.

Top with yogurt, granola, and jam. A healthy breakfast and very tasty.

Carter at The Kitchenette had a good idea to microwave the jam to 20-30 seconds so it’s runny and mixes in better.  She also has a really nice photo of her version, made with milk.


Got any interesting or weird breakfasts you’d like to share?  Post in the comments.

Olive Oil Potato Chips

The best olive oil potato chip I’ve found comes from Good Health Natural Foods.  Kettle style, with a great crunch, and not too salty. Way too easy to eat the whole bag.

Good Health Kettle Style Olive Oil Potato Chips, Sea Salt, 5-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12)Only three ingredients: potatoes, olive oil, salt.

Dave over at Dave’s Cupboard tried the cracked pepper and sea salt variety and really loved them. I like them a lot too, but find they’re quite heavy on the pepper. Haven’t tried the rosemary or garlic ones yet.

Aldi seems to get them in once a year, so stock up then for ~$1.59/bag. Otherwise, you can get ’em on Amazon (12 pack) for a little more. (If you purchase from Amazon directly.) Be careful though – resellers usually mark up to over $3.50/bag.