Back to School: School Lunch Edition

It’s back to school time for me. This is our first full week of classes, and I have mixed feelings about starting back. A new school year is always exciting, but I’m having a hard time letting go of summer. What a wonderful summer it was! So much swimming and reading and napping and visiting family and friends. We took some great trips, too! Now I’m trying to get back to my school routine, with reading and getting up early and packing my lunch.

Confession: school lunch has always been a problem for me. It often involves something from the hospital cafe right behind my building. They have a fair number of healthy options (wraps, salads, fruits and veggies) but they’re expensive, and they’re packaged in a lot of plastic. I’ve been thinking about how to make my school lunches more affordable and sustainable. One problem has been heating things up – I can pack lunch from home, but I don’t like to microwave things in plastic containers. That’s where a serendipitous gift from my friend Adrienne comes in. Image

She brought me this beautiful bowl back from a summer long trip to Michigan. I do love handmade pottery. And now I have a bowl to keep in my office and heat my lunch in! I also brought in a fork and a mug from home, so that I can make tea and don’t have to use the disposable forks they provide in the cafe. Image

The glaze on the outside of the bowl reminds me of mountains. The mug (plus my stockpile of tea) should help me keep up with my plan to quit the diet sodas…which has been one of the hardest habit changes I’ve ever made. I’ve turned my corner of our  office (which I share with several other grad students – we chat. we confide. we share office supplies) into a little nest, with family photos on the bulletin board, a watercolor calendar for each month of the school year, and tickets from all the music and dance performances I go to on campus:

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I can’t say this means I’m totally ready for the back-to-school rush…but at least I’ve got my lunch situation under control! I’ve also been checking out some vegetarian lunch ideas and recipes, like these from vegkitchen, and these from the family kitchen.  I think that on the days that I don’t have leftovers to reheat, these should give me some ideas! I hope they give you guys some ideas, too – what’s your favorite school/office packable lunch?

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Local Farms Tour

Last Saturday, my part of the country was hit with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Thankfully, everyone I know is okay, although some of my loved ones are facing property damage and a lot of tree removal. It was a scary, windy, grey day and we were all grateful when the storms broke up and moved off. Then on Sunday, we had the kind of beautiful, sunny, clear skies that often follow such weather – a perfect day to leave the shelter of our homes, give thanks that we were still here and so was our house, and embark on the Piedmont Farm Tour.

The tour took us to four farms near Cedar Grove, NC. The local, family owned farms we visited included Whitted Bowers biodynamic farm, the Captain J. S. Pope sheep farm, Maple Spring Gardens, and Coon Rock Farm. We saw heirloom tomatoes, long rows of flowers being raised for the farmer’s market, lambs being raised for meat and wool, and we learned more about the differences between organic and biodynamic farming. Some of the farmers practice organic farming techniques but are not able to afford to go through the lengthy and expensive process of becoming certified organic. One farmer was forced to sell his old farm and buy a new one in order to get away from neighbors who did not share his organic, sustainable ethics, and who were contaminating his farm’s water supply. He made sure that his second farm has an enclosed watershed, so that he can control what gets sprayed onto his crops and into his water.

The farmers we met were dedicated, hardworking people, some with highly scientific explanations for why they farm the way they do, and all with deep convictions about sustainability and best farming practices. We spent a beautiful, long, sunny day exploring the farms, and I took a lot of pictures. Here are some of the highlights!