Day 120: hamburger, real potatoes! (and a bit about blogging)

Today’s menu: hamburger, real potatoes(!!!), apple, whole wheat buns
Can you spot the TWO whole foods that I ate for lunch today? I ate real potatoes and an apple! I cannot believe it. I almost feel out of my chair when I saw that the potatoes had PEELS! Amazing to me…. They were great!! (Peels have the nutritive properties)
To anyone in power reading this — THANK YOU!
I can’t help looking at the meat and thinking “Food, Inc” thoughts, but I ate it anyway….with a lot of ketchup!
I wonder if this blog is having an effect? It seems remarkable that there have been many little changes for the better in the lunches this fall. I notice and appreciate every one.
***
A reader wrote to me and told me that she was inspired to start writing a blog because of this blog. I was touched! I enjoy blogging and if you feel like it could be something fun for you to do, you should go for it. Then she said that part of her inspiration was that I was upfront about being new to blogging.
I should tell you that I have a personal blog that I started about six years ago. My most consistent readers were my mother, my sister, and the friend who introduced me to the concept of a blog. I wrote about lots of personal stuff under an alias (some things never change, eh?). Oddly never about food, but about my family, my work, my life. I was lucky if I got 10 pageviews a week. But that was fine with me: I was not writing for anyone but myself and my family & friends. So technically I was not brand new to blogging when I started Fed Up With Lunch. I knew about the power of blogs because I had my own personal blog.
So just so it’s clear, Fed Up With Lunch didn’t come out of a vacuum. But the decision to blog my journey eating school lunch every day was basically made on a whim. Late in 2009 I thought about other people doing yearlong projects (mostly the 365 photo blogs) and I liked that idea, but wanted something a little more meaningful than just random photos of my life. I thought about my work and my students and this idea literally just came to me. POP! Fed Up With Lunch was born. (I’m actually not religious, but I gotta wonder about a higher power…)
Going back to 2004 when a friend told me about her blog, I thought it was great. Every day I checked her blog to see what she was thinking about and doing. She suggested I start my own personal blog so I did. Weirdly, she ended up stopping blogging two years later, but I found it to be a great outlet for me and kept it up until I had a baby and then I only blogged about once a month.
I have NEVER been into writing journals, but I loved buying cute little notebooks and trying to write in them. It started around 3rd grade, when my family moved cross-country (one of the bigger moves) and I wanted to document the trip. I had a small, Mary Cassatt or Degas pink bound book and while I sat in the back of my parents’ station wagon, I would note things that I saw on the trip. Some journal entries were as long as a few sentences, but there was a lot of “cute farm house, exit 93 in Nebraska” (primitive tweets!). My intent was to go back one day and visit the cool spots that whizzed by me. Kids can’t control very much especially kids who move a lot and that was my way of hanging on to the neat things I saw.

A couple years later I found that journal and I was so embarrassed by how “little kid” it was. “Oh my god, what was I trying to write! My handwriting was terrible. You are sooo dumb!” I was critical of myself and vowed not to write anything again. Of course I wrote a lot of things (mostly about boys) that would appear in the first two to three pages of blank books that were abandoned only to be found later by an older, wiser me who couldn’t believe how stupid I used to be.

The worst criticism I ever gave myself was after I read an eighth grade journal in high school. I had been gaga over a boy in eighth grade. I mean, crazy-out-of-my-mind about this boy who was actually quite mean to me (It turns out he was gay! Poor thing probably was just trying to get away from me. My “gaydar” still sucks by the way) Middle school is basically a terrible time for everyone and I moved twice if you can imagine!

Anyway, I just tore into myself when I read my little scribbles about my unrequited love. “You were so silly and just stupid.” I may have even thrown it away because I don’t have clue where that journal went. Anyway, I basically didn’t keep a journal after that. It’s really a shame how hard we can be on ourselves.

Thankfully that friend introduced me to blogging. I found the experience to be very different than writing in a journal. The pros to blogging are that it’s much easier to see how you change over time, it’s easy to share, it’s searchable, and it’s fun to do something online. The big con for me was that I missed writing by hand. I have distinctive handwriting and I like to write things by hand (that’s why I have always been a letter writer). It sounds vain to say I like my handwriting, but it’s true. I also like to read something written by my loved ones in their own handwriting. Everyone in my life has handwriting that suits them. For example, my husband has deliberate printing and never does cursive, which suits him perfectly as he is a logical, mathematical thinker. I just like looking at words written by my husband or my mother or my sister. They could write the phonebook and I’d enjoy it.

Well, that was a tangent!

***

Tips on starting a blog

1) Decide what you want out of a blog — personal, political, food, cooking, issue-based (adoption, infertility, etc) There are zillions of great blogs out there. I love following people’s journeys.

2) Start it up without telling too many people — I started up my personal blog and emailed the URL to my entire address book. A few months later I realized that I wanted to talk about people who had received the link by email. Don’t make that newbie mistake! Start blogging with a small audience and widen slowly.

3) Don’t worry about posting daily — I’m only posting this much because of being in the middle of this amazing project.

4) Consider micro-blogging if blogging is too much of a time commitment — Tumblr and Twitter are great!

5) Choose wisely — Blogger (blogspot) is a great platform if you, like me, don’t know that you are doing. WordPress is another option but I think you have to be a little more savvy with plug-ins for designs, etc. Blogger takes care of the “behind the scenes” stuff.

Any other tips that I’ve forgotten?

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19 Responses to Day 120: hamburger, real potatoes! (and a bit about blogging)

  1. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 4:16 am #

    I could never keep a journal or diary as a kid for the same reasons – I would go back and re-read it and be disgusted with myself! I think blogging is different because you generally write with an audience in mind…even though you write very personal things on this blog, it's not like you're writing just for you!

  2. CLAMCO October 7, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    OMG! I love my blog! There are T-shirts that say "Nobody cares about your blog," and that's probably true in my case. When people email me and ask me what's new, I often give them a tidbit and then refer them to my blog for more details and pictures, but they rarely ever check it. I've been told by one friend that he prefers a personal email. So I do it mostly for myself and I'm having a lot of fun with it!

  3. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 10:08 am #

    That "meat" looks oh-so-sad…

  4. Kim October 7, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    That was a pretty good lunch! It does look like some intelligent thought went into it. The beef patty looks sort of grey to me but that must be from getting steamed in the reheating process. Those cardboard containers always strike me as little food coffins. Anyway, maybe some day the school can find a way to afford grass-fed beef (that's just me fantasizing).

    Thanks for telling us about your other blogging experience, Mrs. Q. Very interesting stuff.

  5. Aimee October 7, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    I know that it's probably just a weird color balance on the photo but that shot of the hamburger open face grossed me out. The bread looks like it's moldy green and the "meat" looks like you found it days after it fell out of a garbage bag in a dank alley, haha.

  6. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Dear Mrs Q,
    A friend introduced me to your blog; we live in NC Asheville. How many days do you still have to eat that lunch? I think at our school we still can be lucky, food is served 'fresh' out of a dish. I hope that you have a doctor who looks over your progress, because at our school the food is just dis..ng.
    Eddie.

  7. Viki October 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    Hey Mrs. Q. That burger looked sad, but the Apple, now that is a winner! Potatoes, I remember my dad growing potatoes, in fact I have pictures of him planting them with my oldest child. Wish I had a huge plot just to grow potatoes.
    I have a blog, I sometimes write, I mostly read other blogs and comment on them.

  8. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Yeah for potatoes and an apple! That "hamburger" looks scary, but I'm with you on celebrating the baby steps.

    I wonder if a way to balance the cost of healthy school lunches would be to have "hot food" only certain days of the week. I always packed a sandwich and snacks growing up. Now that I live up north hot food is welcome in the winter, but who normally eats a hot lunch at home everyday? I'm not sure if I missed an explanation earlier in your blog about why kids get a hot lunch every day (at my school on the junior high does, elementary school gets sandwiches and wraps)

    I'd much rather have a pb (or almond putter) & j with an apple and pretzels one day a week, if that money saved could go towards real, unprocessed food on another day. Just wondering.

  9. Brooke October 7, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    I love blogging. I have been having lots of fun with mine.

    I enjoy reading your blog about school lunch. Not so much because I have strong feelings on the nutritional value of the lunches provided, but the pictures you post of the days lunch is a constant inspiration and reminder as to why I pack my daughter's lunch. She is quite picky and I can guarantee, without a shadow of a doubt, that she would not touch anything on those trays. Thank you…

  10. Neysa October 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    I'll add a few more tips about starting a blog —

    1) Write for yourself. To avoid the seemingly inevitable "fizzle out" that ends most new blogs, be sure that you're writing about something you know and love. That way you're more likely to keep making posts.

    2) Find your voice. There is something that makes your point of view unique. Find it, hone it, and emphasize it.

    3) Brevity is the soul of wit. It doesn't matter if you're Shakespeare — no one wants to read your long flowery essay. First, make sure you have a point. Second, get to it.

    4) Finally, layout matters! Make sure your blog is readable, simple, and clean looking. Good pictures are a necessity.

    These are things I've learned while writing my own blog. Hope they are helpful!

    P.S. that hamburger is totally gross.

  11. Jenna October 7, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    I was so nervous to start my blog. I am not very good with spelling and grammer so I was sending each post to my sister or mother to edit. By the time they got it back to me I wouldn't be as excited to post and things never seemed to get done. I finally decided that it was too much work and who the heck cared if I wasn't amazing at English?
    At first I was set on having a lot of readers but I realized that wasn't going to happen. I have a few (moslty family) but it has occured to me that this blog really benefits me. It is theraputic and a hobby (blending my two favorite things food and photography!).
    I encourage everyone to start a blog…as a diary, scrapbook, photo sharing platform, as education to others or as a way to document a journey. Good luck to all!

  12. Justine October 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm #

    When I was younger, I tried really hard to keep a journal like my older cousins, but man journal/diary writing was not for me. Now I have a blog 🙂 But maybe I will write a few lines here and there in a notebook. I LOVE to buy notebooks. I have a notebook buying addiction, especially the cute ones from the Target $1 section!

    Just Better Together

  13. Anonymous October 7, 2010 at 6:26 pm #

    I've thought this several times but only felt compelled to point it out now, but I'm surprised by the lack of toppings for the burgers when you get them.

    Back when I went to school, we were served the same vacuum-sealed, oven heated junk that your school is forced to feed students, but on hamburger day, you got a shrink-wrapped container that had a handful of shredded iceberg lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a few slices of dill pickles (the container looked exactly the same as your burger's container, it was just cold instead of heated). In short, you got a real hamburger, and you assembled it to your own liking. Needless to say, hamburger day was one of the more popular days for kids to selectively buy lunch, because they were pretty good, as far as cafeteria food went.

    I'm surprised you don't get the same shrinkwrapped veggies that we got with our burgers. Have lunches really regressed so much farther since I was in school?

  14. Renee October 7, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    I keep a gardening blog, but I'm the only one who reads it 🙂 I sent the link to my sister, mother, and one close friend, who all enjoy gardening as well, and they look at it once in a while.

    I really started it just because it was easier to keep a garden journal online, where I can easily add photos of the garden. I do it to remember what I did in years before, and to compare the timing of when things bloom, the weather from year to year, etc. This year I took a picture from the same place each month, to see how the garden progressed as we went from early spring through summer. It's fun, but I'm not really writing with an audience in mind.

  15. A. B. England October 7, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I've never kept a journal for similar reasons, but I love my blogs. The work-at-home blog helps keep me focused on my work and leads to some interesting conversations every now and again. My fiction writing blog has kinda gone into hibernation for now while I finish up the "cookbook."

    Oddly enough, the way you reacted to the writings of your younger self is how I react when I come across some piece of fiction or another I wrote a few years before. I think maybe the memory of looking back at old work and cringing is one thing that's been holding me back from finishing some projects I've had going for years. Good for improvement perhaps, but that self-flagellation can be crippling too.

  16. Anonymous October 8, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Wow this is good. I do believe that your blog will improve
    school food. Thanks for giving all of the students a voice
    for better choices of food.

  17. Richard G October 8, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Yes you have changed things for the better. To try is a brave choice and one far better than conclude the idea was impossible an thus never to try.
    I think your points on blogging, as well as those of who have contributed already, are for the good. It is, perhaps, faintly addictive. To say that is narcissistic is perhaps a step too far – I think that one would soon be told about that. On the other hand it is imperative that one has opinions, and can stick to them, but also that others may not agree.
    I started, on a whim, back in September 2006 and I thought then that in the unlikely event I reached on-hundred posts I'd call it a day.
    I really hope that you are not going to stop at the end of the school year.

  18. Penny October 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

    I've been trying to blog from time to time since about April, but haven't gotten much up yet. However the issues I want to still bring up are often centered around my interests, including affordable, healthy food, education, employment opportunities for women who have stayed out of working life for example for maternity leave, and arts, crafts and such.

    I guess my stumbling stone is that my mind works faster than I can ever hope to type. I get a little schizophrenic with my blog content, since there's less continuity between posts than with most "popular" blogs.

    And I think my readers are a total of two people; my fiancé and a friend who's close enough for me to call him a brother. 😀

    It doesn't matter, though, because I like writing. And I make about $400 a week doing part-time freelance copywriting, so I guess I can't really focus on my blog anyway, while I get money writing something else… 😉

  19. Emaline October 10, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    I started my blog about a year ago and my boyfriend is the only one i know of to have read it bu that is ok. You see my blog is about my struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide. I figured someone might find it someday and realize they aren't alone. That in itself was enough for me.

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