Tag Archives: volunteering

all vegetarian boxed lunches are not created equal: or how i ate a brownie and a pepsi for lunch and wasted food

So now I officially feel pretty stupid for complaining about the vegetarian boxed lunch way back in this post, because I think we experienced the holy grail of seriously gross and inedible vegetarian cuisine this past weekend when we volunteered for another History Day event.  Here’s what the lunch looked like:

Okay, that’s a Pepsi, a bag of carrot and celery sticks, a “Mediterranean Veggetable Wrap,” and a brownie.  Now, there were actually two vegetarian wrap choices: the one pictured, and some other non-Mediterranean wrap, so I’ll applaud the catering company for the variety.  To bad the variety was DISGUSTING.  The options weren’t labeled beyond identifying them as vegetarian, so I had no idea what was in the box before I opened it.  I had to open the wrap to inspect it to see if there was anything that would trigger my mushroom allergy (spoiler alert: there was what looked like a portabella mushroom in there, so I’m glad I checked); here’s what it looked like:

So that’s some weird-looking pesto-type spread, some kind of feta-like cheese, and a bunch of soggy, cold, (potentially grilled?) veggies: some zucchini and squash, something that resembled red onions, maybe some tomato and carrots?  And upon poking around with my fork I located what looked suspiciously like a mushroom.  Great.  I couldn’t eat it, in part because I was afraid of triggering my allergy but also because IT LOOKED TERRIBLE.  One of the women on my judge’s panel let me check one of the “regular” veggie wraps, which looked like the same exact crap minus the pesto-ish spread.  I ate the brownie and carrot sticks and drank a Pepsi for lunch that day, while people around me were eating Turkey-Bacon-Asiago sandwiches.  I would have KILLED for the veggie sandwiches they had at the last History Day; those boxed lunches included chips!  And pasta salad and a cookie!  I seriously wish catering companies would just TRY HARDER.

We did, at least, have a total blast judging History Day entries again.  Ryan got documentaries this time and I was judging websites; we saw some pretty cool stuff and met some awesome kids.  Ryan and I are marking down 4.5 hours apiece for this one, and now that summer is around the corner, we look forward to finding more volunteer opportunities soon.

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fun with volunteering, and the typical vegetarian “boxed lunch”

We LOVED our first volunteering experience today, where we judged entries in the Greater Kansas City (Missouri) History Day in Independence, MO at the Truman Library.  The relative pain of waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday (SERIOUSLY—we had to be in Independence by 8 a.m., and it’s an hour away, and we love sleeping in on the weekends) was mitigated by all of the fun we had geeking out over a bunch of high school and middle school history projects.  Ryan, Molly and I were all in different judging groups and divisions so we got to see a pretty wide range of stuff—some of it was great, some of it was…interesting (that’s about as candid as I think I can be!)  My assignment got changed thanks to someone dropping out at the last minute so I was bumped from judging group documentaries (bummer!), but I still had a blast, chatting with some cool students and learning some fun facts.  I also got to take part in runoff judging in one division.  It was so fun that it didn’t even feel like work.  We’re going to do another one of these in April.

I just want to be clear that what I’m about to say is not a legitimate complaint, per se, and I almost feel bad even mentioning it, because it’s so nice that the organizers had the foresight to order some vegetarian lunches in the first place, so Ryan and I weren’t screwed when lunch time came around.  Consider this more of a message to the world at large: a hoagie roll with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles, while certainly vegetarian, is not particularly appetizing to many of us.  I don’t know, I’ve never understood the “just go to Subway and order a sandwich with all the fixings but no meat” approach.  It’s a personal preference.  I mean, I feel like I’m splitting hairs and I just hate to be THAT PERSON who complains about a (free) lunch, but I just wish the caterers of the world would try a little harder.  Even a piece of cheese would have been a welcome addition, but even then it feels like the vegetarian cold lunch is a sad substitute for the ham and turkey sandwiches our meat-eating colleagues were enjoying.  I can’t stress this enough, I intend no disrespect to the organizers of the event or even the caterers, really: it’s nice that we live in a world where we’re accommodated at all.  I’m glad that there was some pasta salad and a bag of Sun Chips and a cookie to munch on when I got tired of eating my soggy hoagie roll with mustard and lettuce and a few sad onions.  (Although: I couldn’t figure out why the vegetarian boxes ONLY had Sun Chips in them, while the meat-sandwich boxes had freaking Doritos and other chips.  Like, is the assumption that we’re vegetarian and thus relatively healthy and averse to Doritos?)

My frustration here is exacerbated by the fact that I can’t even come up with a good solution for what a good vegetarian cold lunch would even BE.  A box of fresh fruit and raw veggies with dip?  I HAVE NO IDEA how to handle this one.  So friends: tell me what a good vegetarian cold lunch would be.  Keep in mind I’m allergic to mushrooms.  But all in all we are very grateful that we did have a vegetarian option for lunch here and we didn’t even have to ask for one.  That is really awesome.  The organizers of this thing did a really fantastic job in general and we’re really stoked that we got to be a part of it.

I’m going to count 5 hours of volunteering today.

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volunteering update

Our first volunteer opportunity is coming up in about a week, and I’m already super excited.  A friend of ours clued us in to the Greater Kansas City History Day competition, and Ryan and I will be tagging along with our friend and serving as judges this year.  We got our judging assignments a few days ago.  This year’s theme is “Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History.”  It sounds like it’s going to be a ton of fun!  I’ve also never been to the Truman Library so I’m really stoked for this.  We’re probably going to have to take care of most of our volunteering hours over the summer (we’re both really swamped this semester) but in the meantime I am playing phone-tag with someone at 4-H and waiting for them to finish checking my references so hopefully something will materialize with that soon enough.  I’m coming off one hell of a week where I graded almost a hundred papers in about four days, so I have some food updates to do for the blog that I’ll get around to as soon as I can.  It’s hard to believe that we’re already almost at the end of two months of our project!

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week one recap

We made it through the first week of the year, and so far I think the challenge is going pretty well.  I want to thank all of our friends for the tons of support, love, and advice they’ve given us already: we’re getting great food ideas and advice on products to check out, volunteer resources, and really positive feedback in general from most of the people we’ve talked to about the project.  Thanks also for checking out the blog; we remain excited about our adventure and we look forward to continuing our documentation here.  We’re keeping a list of topics we plan on covering in the future.  Full steam ahead!

Today I submitted my first volunteer application, to 4-H.  I hope to hear something back soon; I’ve decided to hold off on the Douglas County AIDS Project for now, at least until I get in contact with 4-H and figure out what sort of time commitment I’m looking at initially.  If I can get in with 4-H and I find myself with extra time and energy, I’ll expand my volunteering commitment.  Ryan already posted about our first recycling drop-off with our new IKEA recycling bags; I’ve got a post in the works about the challenges of recycling in Lawrence.  Tonight Ryan had his first class for UMKC this semester, and for dinner we had Palak Paneer (of the Trader Joe’s boxed variety—it’s pretty tasty, for boxed Indian food) with basmati rice and naan.  We’ve been eating pretty well and the hunger I thought I was experiencing last week seems to have abated.  I’m not really missing meat at all, which is kind of surprising.  I guess I figured that by now I’d at least crave something I couldn’t have.  I went to brunch at IHOP with some of my girlfriends on Sunday and had a brief moment of panic when almost everyone else at the table ordered bacon with their meals, but when the plates arrived I didn’t even flinch (I love bacon, for the record).  I know it’s a small victory, but it’s nice to know I can go out with friends and not be intimidated or weak if/when someone at the table orders meat.

I haven’t yet figured out what charitable organizations I plan on supporting this year.  Ryan donates monthly like a bill; I will make my donations in several chunks (either twice a year or four times, depending largely on how I decide to spend my charity budget) because it works better for me and my overall budget to do it that way.  I’m thinking of supporting one local organization and one international organization, but first I need to figure out how much money I’m going to make this year (my salary fluctuates if I decide to teach extra sections, which I am doing this spring, and I’m not sure yet how much the extra section will pay).  Locally I’m a fan of Harvesters.  Internationally, I like Médecins Sans Frontières.  I’m torn between supporting one organization or several.  I need to do some thinking and research before I decide, though, so I’ll say more about my decisions as I make them.

That’s all I’ve got for the first week recap.  Let the challenge continue!

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choosing volunteer opportunities

I’ve been thinking a lot about volunteering, but so far I haven’t taken any action that isn’t merely exploratory.  I need to get on this, because I will procrastinate, and I don’t want to not have something in the works when my busy semester begins.  A few weeks ago Ryan and I went on a mini-search throughout town and in the foyer of the Lawrence Public Library found some helpful information regarding local volunteer opportunities.  We found out about the United Way Roger Hill Volunteer Center, which happens to be right down the street from us and has a useful web presence at volunteerdouglascounty.org.  If you visit the site and click on ‘Find a Volunteer Opportunity’ on the menu at the bottom of the main page, it leads you to a searchable database where you can filter based on location, type of opportunity, etc.  There are tons of opportunities available—you can be a dog walker or a ‘cat companion’ for the Lawrence Humane Society, help with data entry at the food bank (Just Food), read the newspaper at the retirement community; there’s so much that I’m having trouble narrowing down what I really want to do.  I’ve got to find stuff that works with my schedule, obviously, but that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue yet.  So far I’m especially interested in volunteering for 4-H and the Douglas County AIDS Project; I think I’m going to apply to both of those, and if one or both turn me down I’ll find some backups.  I am actually sort of terrified about getting turned away from volunteer opportunities because I don’t have much experience volunteering.  I’ll keep the blog updated on my progress through the application/interview process.

The volunteering part of this project is such a big deal to me because it actually figures into my dissertation in a way.  I’m really excited about being able to give my time to a cause I’m interested in—but at the same time, I need to acknowledge my weaknesses and make sure I don’t take on anything I can’t handle emotionally, because I need to be useful and effective.  I can’t, for example, work with small children, but I’m pretty good with older kids.  I don’t think I could handle any of the humane society gigs —although the cat companion opportunity sounds like fun—I get attached to animals too easily.  I don’t know how I’d do working with mentally-challenged individuals.  Senior citizens?  Not sure, but I think I could hack it.  I really want volunteering to be fun and not feel like a chore, and I also want my talents and skills to be put to good use, so I’m keen on finding the right opportunity.

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