Shelly asked about the rice balls; here's the story. First is the rice. You want something medium- or short-grain. We get ours at costco in 50-pound bags. Don't use "Minute Rice®" or "Uncle Ben's®" or basmati rice or the usual "long grain" rice popular on supermarket shelves -- the kind of rice you typically get at Chinese restaurants in other words. What you need here is the kind of stuff you typically get at Japanese restaurants; it's fairly sticky. Don't buy something labeled "glutinous rice", though; that's too much of a good thing. I grew up on Hinode brand "Calrose" rice; I think if you get rice with a Japanese brand name like Shirakiku or Kohoku you'll be OK. volume calculation to verify that ½-cup is correct. Maybe it's more or less, but that's what you're aiming at.
If you have some "nori" (dried seaweed) around, you can wrap the rice-balls in it, but not everybody likes the seaweed. It's hard to imagine, I know, but it's true. If you're going to a Japanese store anyway, ask the proprietor for "aji-tsuke nori" -- it's prepared with "mirin" (sweet Japanese rice wine) and some other stuff, probably MSG, which really adds to the taste. If you suffer from "Chinese restaurant syndrome" you might want to go easy on this stuff.
But the rice balls were a success at pool day.
For those of you with an inner dietitian (or inner dietician -- /usr/share/dict/words has this but the spell-checker hates it), I have no idea whether this works with brown rice.
For those who love those extremely salty Japanese picked plums (probably no overlap with the inner-dietitian set), feel free to tuck one (or part of one) in the center of the rice-balls. Hey, it's a free country!
Update: another ingredientIf you can't get hold of the "yukari" stuff above, the tasty stuff at right also works just fine. The big white letters on purple background says "gohan ni mazete" (mix into rice). The rest of it I can't quite read, but it looks to me like "young vegetables and plum shi-so" -- I don't know how to say "shi-so" in English but maybe it's "Japanese basil"?? Lousy translation, but that's what the dictionary says.
This was the stuff used for the December 2010 pot-luck. I cooked 3 "cups" of rice (more like 2¼ cups American uncooked), and, as above, stirred and let it sit for a while. Then I added a little over 3 tablespoons of the stuff from the envelope at right, and used wet hands (I put salt on a plate and picked up a little salt on my hands from the plate) to form triangular prisms, a little smaller.