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Organizing with Bento
05/02/2011, Auckland, New Zealand

One of the things that drives me crazy about living on a boat is that there are so many little nooks and crannies that it's often hard to remember just where you put something especially if you've moved it. Or to even remember whether you still have it on board. Since everything in Bento can be related I've been working on a number of databases to help us remember where stuff is. All of our cabinets are getting numbers and descriptions in one database along with a photo. We can then link them to the appropriate items. For example I have my food inventory, Mark has a spare parts inventory, and we now have a book inventory. You wouldn't want these in the same excel spreadsheet but you may want to be able to see what is in every cabinet on the boat or front cabin. This is where Bento comes in. All three inventories are separate but linked to the appropriate cabinet. This way if you have a cabinet that has some books, some spare parts, and some food items (we don't really organize like this but it could happen.) You don't have to look at three spreadsheets to see what is there. You can go to the cabinet and see the full list. It's also really easy to reassign something to a different cabinet because you don't have to rely only on numbers and try to figure out which cabinet is which number because there is a whole description and picture available. If you like to keep stuff in multiple places (1 filter easy to get and 3 down deep) it can like the item to multiple locations so you only have one record. In excel you would have to have two separate lines or columns.

I've also decided with our book inventory to keep check boxes for items "to take home" or "have been taken home." We have definitely wondered if we actually took something home or if we just couldn't find it.

Tomorrow I'll let everyone see what I've done with my quilting fabrics...

New Zealand
05/06/2011 | Tash
You guys are way too organized. I would just throw everything into a great big bag.
05/01/2011, Auckland, New Zealand

I simply cannot say enough about Bento. It has/is changing everything on this boat in a good way. If you're a Mac using sailor (or quilter) trust me you want to get this program. And if you are aren't - well maybe you should become one. I'm building a database that covers pretty much everything in our boat and Mark has switched all of his spreadsheets into it as well. What's great about it is that you can have multiple databases that all link into each other. I'm probably going to spend a couple posts explaining what I've done or am in the process of doing and hopefully get a few screen shots up here.

First and most important is my food inventory. I've set up a form that contains an item. At home I probably would have used specific item names but because I can't always get the same items out here I've chosen to use generic names and group items. For example instead of having Ritz and Saltines I just have crackers. I also give the item a category and subcategory that I might use to find an item. For crackers the subcategory is the same as the item but if the items weren't grouped it wouldn't be so that is why it is repeated.

The next important thing is that I have two slots for how much I want to maintain on the boat. The first is a unit quantity (30 packages). This is usually easy to calculate. The second is a weight quantity (3kg). I'm coming up with these numbers as I go. As I'm entering my purchases I'm entering the weight and this is giving me an idea of what weight is good to carry. This will help for countries that sell smaller packages and items I'm not used to. The weight is also important for items like rice and flour that are typically always sold based on weight. There is also a pull down menu (Kg Liters Units). The first row of input items is always units. 1 jug, 3 boxes, 4 packets etc. The second can be weight or units depending on your needs. In some cases I have no weight and just put units into both rows. We can get into that later.

Right now I'm putting in numbers for provisioning for the next 6-8 months. I plan to track when we actually run out of stuff. How much more we buy and what we actually consume. Then I will calculate how much we use in a month. Later I plan to change the numbers I've put in down to a months consumption worth so that I can then input the number of months we are going out for and it will give me the appropriate quantities. This way if I'm only shopping for two weeks I can put in a .5 and get an appropriate shopping list. This will also be helpful because you can leave needing to have provisions for 6 months but as the months go by you can lower that number and see if you still have enough or you are dropping to quickly in an area. Giving you the opportunity to keep your eyes open for the products in a store before you actually need it. But that is a step that won't happen for a few months. Or maybe I may work on that a little now?

Second step was to make a purchases database. This is where the type of item (Ritz), quantity (3 rolls), weight, expiration and purchase location are entered. It took me a while to realize that this was the best way to do this. Initially I tried to do everything in one database but then I needed to make all these crazy cells and it just didn't work. There is also a used column so that as we go I can keep the number that we bought in tact and still know how much we have consumed. I basically say the item is consumed as soon as I open it. If I take a roll of crackers out even if there are some left it no longer exists. This is where one area where the weight comes in handy. If you have a couple of large cracker rolls and a couple small cracker rolls your units go down by 1 no matter which you take out but your weight goes down proportionally so you have a better understanding about what you have on board.

I also enter the expiration date. When I'm shopping I try to pay attention to the dates on the packages I'm buying. First, I want to find the furthest date out I can. Second, I try to buy as much as possible with that same date. This way I only have to do one or two entries and not 10 and it is easier to track because I don't always have to check the dates when I take the items out. I just like to know when and where I've bought something. One good reason is if I were to get bugs in some of my grains I would know where it came from and could check other items from the same location. I usually just add the location to the pull-down menu so I don't always have to type it out.

The data from the purchases is automatically calculated and pull-up into the Provisions database and the amount needed to buy is then calculated. The great thing about this is that if my units or weights to buy goes above 0 the item is added to my shopping list via the smart collections options. You can set this at any number. I also have a smart collection in my purchases that pulls items that are expired or close to expired so that I can use them first or replace them. This brings up one shortcoming in Bento. You can't search related databases or see related databases in the list view therefore in the expired collection I can't see what the item is. I have to click on it. But that is probably a pretty minor concern in the grand scheme of things.

Okay that is probably enough for today. If this is interesting to anyone let me know and I'll keep going. If not well I'll probably keep going anyway but not for as long or detailed.

New Zealand
The Royal Wedding
04/29/2011, Auckland, New Zealand

Yes I have to admit that we did indeed go and watch the wedding. We don't have cable on the boat so yesterday morning I looked online and found that Monarchy New Zealand was having a watching party at a hotel just around the corner from the marina we are in. We thought it'd be a pretty good time but I'll have to admit it was a little lacking. They had a few decorations (a poster of the palace and cardboard cut-outs of Will, Kate, and the Queen) but not many. There was a cake but it was dry and the bar was pretty high priced. I actually expected the event to be set up a lot more like the election results party that Mark and I went to on our fourth date a few years ago. It was a huge room with lots of decorations and round tables so people could mix and mingle. Last night was set up in rows so that you didn't really have the opportunity to chat while you waited. Maybe the idea was to set it up like a church? The large screens were good but you couldn't really hear anything which made it very frustrating. People were just talking so loudly and only quieted every so often. When people were arriving at the wedding there was a guy siting in front of us who kept getting excited but I have no idea why since I couldn't hear anything.

I was surprised when the organizer of the event actually toasted "to the future King and Queen of New Zealand." I'll be honest and say that I never really thought of the Queen as being NZs queen. I've always thought of NZ as its own country but it is still part of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth countries are still tied to England. We also got a dose of English tradition when about half the room stood and sang God Save the Queen. I didn't expect the room to burst out in song.

Overall it was nice to watch since it was a historical event. The bride was beautiful, although I'm not really sure about the ruffles she had on her backside. And of course every princess should get to ride through town in a horse drawn carriage.

A little tip for today: Somehow I ended up with Mark's red wine on my white pants. No worries. I found a secret about 6 years ago that works wonders. A little palmolive dish soap and hydrogen peroxide. Mix it up, put it on and scrub. If it doesn't come out right away add a little more peroxide. This also works great on blood stains.

New Zealand
Not only do the toilets flush in the opposite direction...
04/26/2011, Auckland

...the cans are labeled upside down!

New Zealand
04/25/2011, Auckland

Cye is supposed to do be our guest blogger and let everyone know about our Easter so I'll give him a chance to finish brainstorming and see if he actually writes.

In the meantime I thought I'd tell everyone about my new favorite thing. I am of the belief that just because I live on a boat it doesn't mean I should have crappy kitchen appliances, utensils, pans, etc. I've been looking for a good cutting board for awhile and I FINALLY found an awesome one. Cye and I just happened across it in a grocery store we were checking out. My counters are slightly set down so that nothing can go flying off under way. Perfect for that purpose - terrible for cutting. I always hit my wrist on the edge and since I wear a watch on the same hand I cut with I always have to take it off so I don't damage the wood. The other issue I have been dealing with is that my counters have tiny little crevices around the edge that stuff likes to get stuck in. I was just going to get a higher chopping block and hope that it would do the job but then we found this Joseph Joseph Cut and Carve Chopping Board.

First it is slanted so I don't hit my wrist since it is angled up. Second it collects all the crumbs and meat juices since everything flows down and it has a lip around the edge. It is two sided - one side for regular cutting and the other for carving. I never thought I'd use the carving side that has teeth to hold the meat in place but I did on my very first night. Needless to say I am pretty happy with my new find. I'm really going to miss having good stores again for awhile. But I suppose that it what sailing is about.

New Zealand
Covered in flour....
04/22/2011, Auckland, New Zealand

and pasta, and rice, and sugar. Yes that would be me and my galley (aka kitchen). I spent yesterday vacuum-sealing all the dry goods that I purchased into smaller containers. As most boaters know bugs can become a big issue on boats so I make sure to reseal everything with bay leaves in it and I put bay leaves in all my cabinets and on all my shelves. So far Mark and I have been pretty lucky on the bug front (knock-on-wood) so I'll continue to do this. I was pretty happy to find a 500g bag of leaves at Gilmour's for about $4.

During the sealing process I had some problems getting by bags to go into the sealer and realized that they slide in easier with the textured side up. I also took the front cover off and put the sealer at the edge of the counter so that I did have to lay the bag flat and have stuff spill out. I probably should have cut the bags a little bigger but was worried about running out and well I kinda did. I actually went through 2+ rolls and was really hating the fact that the stores were closed and I couldn't go on a hunt for more and then I found some precut bags I forgot I bought and wanted to try. Then I was mad I hadn't been using those because they were the perfect size and I could have skipped the measuring step of cutting the bags.

I also worked more on perfecting my database which is coming along great. I made a few alterations yesterday after seeing how it is working but I think it is going to be invaluable the next time I have to do a big provisioning.

I haven't done a "tip" in awhile so here is one about repackaging.... Designate containers for your staples (flour, sugar, rice, pasta...) things you will always have some of out. Then repackage to fit those containers - not by weight or size of package. I have really nice OXO Containers (which fit perfectly in the galley above the sink for all you other Amel owners). I know that my flour and sugar containers hold 11 cups, my pasta and rice containers hold 6 cups, and my brown sugar container hold 4 cups so that's how I repackage my goods. When I need more I can refill a whole container and don't have to worry about resealing the bags or measuring anything out underway.

New Zealand

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