Writing measurable goals and limitless mission statements

I’m wiped out after eating school food in 2010. I can’t really muster enough strength to think about my goals for 2011. I did write some goals for 2010 and I want to share with you how I wrote them.

I write yearly, personal resolutions (and that’s when I got the idea for this blog a year ago!!) and make sure they are measurable and hopefully somewhat attainable. To make a goal measurable, it’s necessary to add quantifiable information including deadlines.

Instead of writing:
I will read more books
I wrote:
I will read 5-6 books in 2010.
It’s a better goal because it specifies what exactly I need to do to be successful. Additionally, I wrote the goal as a minimal estimate of what I could do for the year. I assumed I would easily read that many books and if you count audiobooks, I met that goal. Yeah me!

Instead of writing:
Write more handwritten letters
I wrote:
Write 5 personal letters every six months.
I did not meet this goal. I used to be a letter writer, but this year was too busy for me. I think my real-life friends understand though…

Instead of writing:
Cook new recipes when I canI wrote:
Cook a new dinner recipe every 4 to 6 weeks.
I didn’t meet this goal. Some months I was able to do it, but other months I didn’t.

Instead of writing:
Go on a family vacation
I wrote:The family will travel far away this summer by August 2010
I met this goal. We took a family vacation in July to visit family — and we flew so it was far away 🙂

Instead of writing:
Spend less time online
I wrote:
I will reduce time online by one hour total each week in 2010.
I’m laughing so hard right now. I can’t believe that I thought I could launch this blog AND spend less time online. Not met, not even close!

I believe that writing a goal is different than composing a mission statement. I think of a mission statement as a broader idea. Goals can be enumerated under a mission statement, but a mission statement can be vague as it inspires and directs, but doesn’t measure.

The blog’s goal to “eat school lunch every day in 2010 just like the kids” and mission “to raise awareness about school lunch” was fulfilled. I can’t believe I did it. On to more missions and adventures in 2011!

An introduction to Google Reader

**This post is written for people who read the blog via email or a bookmarked link. Those who already use an RSS reader, please comment on the post with additional tips**
When I first found out about blogs in 2004, it was a revelation. I was thrilled to find that I could read people’s thoughts about various topics from mothering to food to just plain old life. Maybe it was the voyeur in me, but I loved the whole idea of blogging. 
I bookmarked the blogs I found, but the more blogs I read, the more blogs I liked. How could I find time to read them all? I don’t know how I found out about RSS readers, but it wasn’t too long after I started blogging. Once I signed up for Bloglines, I was able to read all the blogs I liked and it took less time. Bloglines closed down in October (but I think it might be back up again), so I made the switch to Google Reader.
Most of you are blogging savvy (and more technologically skilled than I), but others have mentioned that Fed Up With Lunch is one of the few blogs you read. I’m assuming that you click over to the blog from a bookmark in a list of links or receive each blog post emailed to you. I want share something with you that will change how you consume blog content (and RSS content) and, most importantly, save you time.
Did you know that you DON’T have to have a google or gmail account to access this feature? If you don’t want to sign up for another email or you prefer another provider (I really like yahoo email), then don’t despair. 
Here’s my tutorial on Google Reader. I have also embedded a Google-produced video on how to use Reader at the bottom of this post.
1) Start by going to Google and clicking on “More” on the top of the screen. The drop down menu gives you many options and scan down for “Reader.” You will have sign in up with a non-google email if you don’t have a google account. If you already have a google account and are signed in, you will the below screen:
I used my sister’s account since it was a blank slate

2) Click “Add a subscription” and paste in the URL of the blog you wish to add.

The plus sign at the top left is where you can add a subscription

3) Google Reader will then search and find that blog’s RSS feed and the last 10 feeds, if available.

I snapped these screen shots last week hence the old blog post

4) To keep organized, you can label that RSS feed whatever you want. Under “Feed settings” look for “New folder.”

Yes, I’m a nerd…

5) Here I called labeled it “Food.”

…I need labels

6) In the bottom left-hand corner (“Blogs I’m following”), under “Food” there are 10 unread posts for my blog. Here’s what it looks like:

7) If you want to explore other blogs that Google thinks are similar, you can go back under “Feed settings” and find “Blogs like this.”

Until I did this tutorial, I didn’t know about that feature

8) Since you already read the last 10 feeds and you don’t want to re-read them, you can click on “Mark all as read” (where I put that dark line in the picture). “Mark all as read” comes in handy when you go on vacation and you don’t want to read what you missed. You can click on it and start fresh.

I’m so damn dorky that I like having no unread items.

It’s easy to see that you can potentially save a ton of time by reading blog content this way. Plus you don’t have to bother with loading up a full-on webpage with all the little badges and ads. I hope this was helpful — those of you who are more savvy than I am, please chime in by commenting with further suggestions.

Google’s official tutorial follows:

Titanium Spork Award Winner for October/November (and a call for nominations)

I can’t believe I never announced who you voted for as the recipient of the October/November Titanium Spork Award Winner….

Ed Bruske!

I went through my posts from December and wouldn’t you know it, I never announced that he had won (even though the poll results hung out there on my sidebar forever…).

I have been a big fan of his ever since he spent a week in the kitchen of his daughter’s school reporting on the school lunches in Washington DC as well as his trips to both Berkeley, California and Boulder, Colorado to dig deeper into how things work in model school lunch programs. He blogs in two places: The Slow Cook and Better DC School Food.

Congrats and a big thank you for all of your hard work! Because it was a combined award, it’s a double prize of two titanium sporks. Ed, I hope they arrived safely!

Please nominate a candidate to receive the Titanium Spork Award for December (in the comments).
Past recipients have included:

April – Jamie Oliver
May – Lisa Suriano
June – Laura DeSantis
September – Dr. Susan Rubin
October/November – Ed Bruske

There are many people working in the school lunch reform movement who haven’t received any recognition for their hard work and that’s why I want to continue giving out prizes to people making a difference. Please leave a comment with your nomination(s)!

Book Club – Free For All: Fixing School Food in America

I’d like to start a book club and read one food-related book every two months. In the future, we’ll work together to choose a title, but I’d like to propose Free For All: Fixing School Food in America for our first book title.

I bought this book back in February and then I ran out of time to read it. If there is one book I should read (and probably know by heart), I think it should be this book. The author, Janet Poppendieck, contributed a guest blog post last year, which I was reminded of when she recently appeared on The Lunch Tray blog as well as writing a piece in The Washington Post. Then Free For All: Fixing School Food appeared on Grist’s Favorite Books of 2010. It seemed like a logical choice.

After the holidays we’re all strapped for cas,h so don’t feel like you have to plop down some more money on something new. The paperback version of the book comes out on January 3rd, which is a little cheaper, but you can always go to your local library and check out the title. If they don’t have it at the library, you can ask to have it interlibrary loaned from a partner library. In college, I worked in the interlibrary loan (ILL)department of the massive, main library so I’m a big fan of ILL and what it does.

We’ll spend the month of January reading the book (and acquiring it if you don’t have it), then in February I’ll post discussion questions once a week. We’re in a unique position, one that I’ve never been in before: I have a way of contacting the author and asking follow-up questions if we have any. At the end of February, we’ll have Twitter and Facebook chats about our thoughts on the book and the outlook for school lunches based upon what we have learned.

Open thread: Santa snacks and other holiday food

From Working Mother Nov/Dec 2010
I hope you are having a terrific holiday with your family and loved ones. I’m excited to have all my favorite people in one room. This happens only once a year, if we’re lucky, and my son is so happy being the center of it all.
What special foods are you eating this holiday? What if anything do you leave for Santa? As children, my sister and I left decorated sugar cookies for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer. Oh how I loved seeing what Santa ate the next morning! He always left some crumbs. This year we’re doing stockings, but we didn’t leave a cookie out for Santa.
We’re having a traditional meal for our family: turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and I’m also going to make a broccoli salad (with bacon and raisins). Happy holidays!

"Kifmas ti!"

My favorite thing about this picture? The neck rolls.
My least favorite thing? He has grown out of that sweater in the three weeks since we put the tree up.

Thank you readers for following me along on this journey. I ate school lunch all year for my students. I think about them a lot when I see my son doing wonderful things and growing up into a beautiful little boy. I hope that life affords them the same opportunities I want my son to have. Most importantly, I want them to have access to safe, healthy food that will help them grow into productive citizens and realize their full potential in life.

Happy holidays everyone!

Soup explosions and other cautionary holiday tales

Tomato soup everywhere

My mom remarked, “I can’t drive at night.”
Me, “Why not?”
My mom, “I have a padiddle.”

I could not be more excited about the holidays. All I can think about is seeing my sister who I haven’t seen since July and the luxury of having my mom here for days on end. Of course as you have so kindly, or not so kindly, pointed out: I’m a worrier. Padiddles aside, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything works out with weather, travel and that stars are aligned.

I used to have a job where I got one or two days off for Christmas. There were many holidays that I would be driving back home on Christmas Day. Let me tell you I didn’t speed those days, I didn’t try to aggressively pass anyone, and my car’s maintenance was up to date. I was going to do everything in my power to avoid being a statistic on Christmas Day and breaking my mother’s heart. 

This week my husband and I have been sick. I blogged last week that my son had a cold (he’s over it for the most part) but this weekend the germs transferred. My husband is afflicted with something that he has been fighting off for about two weeks. It seemed like it wasn’t getting any better so I finally had to step in and take him to the doctor (he’s now on antibiotics). He has severe asthma and I don’t want to take any chances. Last December he got the flu and he didn’t leave our bed for days.

Despite this year’s illness, he decided that he wanted to cook something for us this weekend and chose a Indian tomato soup (he is teaching himself how to cook Indian food because he wanted to learn how to cook and why not start with something you like to eat in restaurants?). I could see that it was going to take a long time and, in an attempt to give him private time in the kitchen, I took our son out to run an errand, assuming that when we got back there would be soup waiting.

My little guy and I busted in through the door and I found my husband at the sink nursing a burn. He had tried to blend hot soup and the top of the blender exploded sending hot soup everywhere including his arm. Soup graffitied his shirt, the counter was a war zone… There were splotches covering every inch of the floor. The worst part in his eyes: my husband’s backpack was on the counter open. The outside and the interior was covered in tomato soup. He was pissed.

Thankfully he calmed down and we ended up eating some very delicious soup for dinner as there was still plenty that hadn’t been spun out across the room.

That night, after the small one was sleeping, we pushed our sick selves to clean the kitchen. He We ended up reorganizing everything. The way things are organized now is more functional and less slapdash. We’re both pleased.

I’m hoping everyone will be healthy in time for the holidays. I’m hosting my small family for the first time ever. I really need some kitchen time with them, it’s nourishing. I don’t care if we make messes, just as long as no one gets burnt! Fingers crossed while wishing you the same, readers!

Playing Santa

A friend reminded me, “It’s your little guy’s third Christmas!” I almost didn’t believe her. Wow. He should be an old pro at this now.

Our little guy doesn’t understand Santa. That’s fine with me. I have avoided the topic completely because I don’t want him to be scared by the idea of a weird man coming into our house.

As far as he knows, the only people who come into his house are his parents, his dog, and family and friends including our friendly landlord. When we’ve had workmen in the house, he gets very excited, but everyone is happy when they leave and we can settle back into our lives. 

At daycare they have Santa visit and the kids get a chance to sit on his lap. Last year we got three photos of him with Santa. It was almost a diary of events. The first one he is looking at Santa with suspicion and the next two are him in hysterics. He’s so distraught that it’s actually comical. But I’m happy I wasn’t there to witness it — I would have been upset.

This year at daycare he sat on Santa’s lap once again. The photos I got back are of a stoic little boy. It’s like he knew he had to be brave and get through it. Poor kid.

Oops.

Last week I happened to go to the mall for a quick errand and saw the mall Santa. He’s a natural with a real beard and everything. I would love a picture of my son with him, but I don’t think it’s worth traumatizing him. I’m still trying to decide if I should stop by and try…is it worth it? We’ll probably wait until next year.

My son is getting a lot of presents. Much of it is practical stuff though, including snow boots. I don’t know what happened but within the past month he has grown out of 24 month and 2T sizes and is solidly 3T on top. It’s great timing to run out of clothes right around the holidays.

Not a talented wrapper

I think about other families with limited means that have small children. I wonder how they keep up with the expenses. I can find cheap clothes, but one big expense is shoes. I take my son to the shoe store to get measured and he needs a new pair of shoes about every three months. Little kids’ feet grow quickly and one pair can run $50. I don’t know how other families do it.

This year I took the No Kid Hungry pledge and made a donation towards ending hunger in America. Earlier this month Share Our Strength partnered with food bloggers to Share Our Holiday Table. You really should check out all of the fantastic recipes these phenomenal bloggers created in support of No Kid Hungry.

(Not sure if you saw what The Bloggess did last week. She played Santa in a big way.)