fearfully and wonderfully made

two bits for tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

if you've been following along, you know yesterday was my 21st first day of school.  it went swimmingly.  no funny news to report.  (except my horror at the widespread abuse of the tanning bed.  step away, you orange kids!).  of course that doesn't mean i don't have a story.  i always have a story.  but first, the sammich.

which can be found by following this link, and to which we've added 2 oz crumbled goat feta.  it's rockin' good. 
enjoy that sammich.  it's possibly my favorite of the week.
now like i said, yesterday's first day of school was without crisis or careless blunder, thus without a funny story.  so, without further ado,  i give you last year's first day of school news. 
last year, i was giddy as a little school girl and on my way to my  first day of school.  as the student.  i hadn't been a student since i graduated from louisiana state university in 1994.  many years had passed since, i was nervous.  i fret over how in the world i might, or might not, fit in with classmates that were younger than my own children, and a few professors that were my juniors, as well.  i was eager to do well, and my plan was four pronged:
  1.  1. surpass the results of my previous collegiate plan-- 'b's and c's get degrees'.
  2.  2.  avoid coming off as a nerdy, middle aged bookworm, 
 3.  do not reveal that i might be hopelessly behind the times and subject to being completely outshined by those smart young whippersnappers, or

4.  at all costs, do not stand out, and do not make a fool of myself. 
the bottom line was no different than my first day of school at any age.  God help me, please don't let me make a fool of myself.  
like today, it was over a hundred degrees, so the first huge risk i took was---and it was a biggie- that i bared my upper arms.  there was no way i could make a cardigan look like casual chic that day.  it was not a comfortable decision, and i was sure that there would be groups of people huddled together all over campus talking about that middle-aged woman's upper arms in their class that day, but i had no choice.  it was too hot.  i went sleeveless. 

otherwise, i would blend in to the woodwork as much as possible.  give short answers, sit in the back, avoid eye contact.  wouldn't do anything that would make me stand out.  and the first class, all went well.  i was fairly certain that no one even noticed my upper arms, simply because i was hiding in the back corner.  no laughs, no jokes, not one cracked smile, nothing to draw attention to my 'differentness'.  i was on my game. and the day ticked along without incident.

last class of the day, intro to problem solving and computing. i had a little confidence built in my ability to be as inconspicuous as possible (anyone who knows me is aware that this is an impossibly tall order), however i had a longer hike to that building, and when i arrived, all the back seats were taken.   blast it!  discouraged, but not defeated, i found the best, worst spot available, sunk down as low as i could in my chair, and kept my head buried in my notebook.  safe.

professor younger-than-i arrives, and with little fanfare, passes out a quiz.  wow, this was going to be hardcore.  no introductory pleasantries—we were getting right down to the heavy hitting.  he instructs us to quickly run through the quiz, being sure not to skip anything,  reading through everything first, and then completing it in as much time as we needed.  of all that, what i heard was 'quickly run through the quiz'.  all the rest was wa wah wah wah, don't take longer than everyone else, wah wah wa wa.  all in that voice of charlie brown's teacher.  i actually still have the quiz, saved as a reminder of a defining moment, so i could give you the exact questions, but i'll spare you—they went something like:
1.       what college math courses have you completed? and
2.      what is the answer to f!, and
3.      what is a prime number, and
4.     what email programs have you used?, and then this one—
5.      put down your pencil, stand behind your chair, and yell 'hilltopper' three times, sit down, and complete the test. 
now at the point in which i read this, only one other student, a young man on the back row, has done as this question instructed.  i had no idea what this wacky instruction was about, but perhaps he was testing our ability to be brave enough to follow directions, i thought.   it concerned me that the other students were sooooo slow, God love 'em,   but as much as i didn't want to stand out, i also didn't want to be labeled as cowardly, so by golly, i got up, stood behind my chair, yelled hilltopper three times, sat down, and completed the test. 
then question number 6.
6.       did you read the instructions as the top of the paper?
( well sure i did.  of course i did.  lemme go ahead and check again, but of course i did.  wait.  what?  what??? )
instructions:  write your name at the top of the paper  put your pencil down.  go no further.


you guessed it.  out of 20 students, three of us STOOD OUT FROM THE REST.  for all the wrong reasons.  what i strove to absolutely not do.  i did. 
professor younger-than-i conciliatorily  commended us for our bravery, and went on to explain the importance of following directions, or i guess that's what he said because i had blood pounding in my ears and his voice, again, sounded like charlie brown's teacher. the two other students left the classroom in shame, never to return.  and i, well i turned the whole thing into a joke, as i am wont to do,  made a bunch of new student friends (who were profoundly relieved that i had been the one, and found me human and vulnerable and plucky, albeit as old as their parents),  and decided to stay.  even though i made a fool of myself.  because in reality, the thing i thought would be the worst thing to happen, did not kill me, and, i determined, was not going to keep me from my blessing. 

so what is the lesson in all of this?
had i not been so concerned with the whole not-standing-out thing, i would have had my mind centered on the more important details, like, say, the instructions of the quiz.  you can't run away from who you are.  and you shouldn't even try.  your nature will find you out.  no matter how you try to be something you're not, or not be something you are, it will eventually come spilling out the sides, and make a big ole mess, so you might as well give in and love yourself just as you are…just as others love you….just as God made you.
i praise you, for i am fearfully and wonderfully made. wonderful are your works; that i know very well.
--psalm 139:14
that's my two bits for this tuesday.  have a great day.

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to school i go

it's my (approximately 21st) first day of school today, so we're taking it easy.  this week we'll be featuring sammiches to go, or to stay, wherever you find yourself at lunch.  we'll be having......

chicken scallopini with artichoke feta spread
roasted pimento cheese with bacon
roasted summer vegetables with goat feta and hummus
and turkey, swiss, and asparagus with cranberry chutney

and today, we're toting......

this is how it's done:

we made the turkey meatloaf from this post,  but with the following adjustments--
first, we used american measurements!  1 pound lean turkey with 1/2 pound ground pork, to which we added one half pint from maggie's farm cranberry vanilla pear chutney, 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and 1 cup chopped kale, 3 hard boiled eggs, and proceeding as instructed.  we ate a bunch of it for dinner, then we refrigerated the (little bit of) leftovers.  this morning, we split one quarter loaf of ciabatta, horizontally, spread one cut slice with a light layer of dijon mustard, and the remaining slice with a light layer of mayonnaise.  we added a healthy layer of mesclun lettuce, topped with a slice of meatloaf, wrapped it snugly, and away we go........

wish me luck!  can't wait to tell you all about it, tomorrow, on my two bits for tuesday, notes from maggie's farm.

have a great week!

summer savior mango lassi and chicken spinach sausage on naan with feta dressing

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

 summer savior mango lassi

lassi is a traditional chilled drink from india which is thought to have been around for centuries. it is made with yogurt and an assortment of flavorings and can be either sweet or salty.
you will find lassi on the menus of many indian restaurants  as it is a popular accompaniment to spicy food.  salted lassi is popular as a drink on it's own during the summertime, to replace moisture loss from perspiration, to prevent dehydration. 
the texture of your lassi can vary depending on the proportion of yogurt and water or milk used. some lassis may be thick and chunky, while others less so.  for vegan versions, coconut milk yogurt can be used, and the liquids, besides the traditional milk and water, can be rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, or even condensed milk.  seasonings can be savory or sweet;  sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, rosewater, salt, toasted cumin, cardamom, ginger, and mint are popular choices.  i've added a pinch of cayenne to mine, to complete the sweet, sour, salty, smooth, silky, and spicy party-in-my-mouth that i love so much.  some people like to top their lassi with clotted cream to give an extra rich flavor, or topped with ground pistachios or almonds to garnish.

this exotic refresher will be just the perfect thing, a real summer savior, to accompany my brown-bagging this week as temperatures continue to climb past 100° and i sweat and pant  traipse around campus stealing the occasional break, and looking for a shady spot for my lively little lunch,

clicking on the pictures above will make them larger, if you, like me, prefer the large print.
we look forward to seeing you tomorrow for a slew of brown-bagging goodies to get you geared up for back to school, or back to work, or just back to lunch, on freestyle friday
 see you then!

fresh start

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down.  --mary pickford. 

it was a year ago this week that i found myself preparing, with no small amount of trepidation, for my first day of school.  it would be the latest of over twenty-five first days of school as a student,  if each college semester were to be counted (and i had several more than the average 4 year degree held—'cause i've always been 'not average'), yet it had been fifteen years since the last.  i had always been an average student, the sum of above average ability and below average motivation, coupled with a terrific social life.  i had no reason to doubt that i could succeed at this back to school business, but the landscape had changed drastically in those fifteen years.  for example, the last time i turned in a thesis, i had torn the dot matrix printer strips off the sides, driven to a campus faculty office to submit, and now, printers had changed and were actually rarely used; seems my work would be submitted, most often, digitally.  and that was only one of a list of terms which meant an entire new vocabulary that i would need to tackle.

the words were tossed around so cavalierly, no one seemed the least intimidated by them,—i would need to send in my work via digital dropbox, or post something on the blackboard (which was no blackboard at all, didn't require chalk, and could not be found on any wall, in any classroom, in any building, through which i searched.  which i did. and found nothing).  i would register, orient myself, order books, and meet my teachers prior to class, all online.  didn't even require a new wardrobe, like was so often my first order of business in school preparations of yore.  i did it in my pajamas!  there were bulletin boards which were not bulletin boards.  we would have class discussions without even sitting face to face.  crazy stuff.

though the new vocabulary stymied me a bit, it was the social pressure, like it was every night-before-first-day-of-school of my past, that had me awake all night prior.  whereas in the past it worried how i would manage to earn myself a seat in the cool kid section of the bus, or how i might, with any luck, turn the super cute outfit my mother had chosen for me into a super cool and aloof outfit that would help me fit in a bit more, --for this new start i was wondering how to escape being 'the old lady on the front row' who asked all the questions.  oh you know her.  she was in all the lectures.  she was the one who had the most eyes rolling behind her.  she was the one 'most-likely-to-be-made-fun-of'.  i certainly would deserve the same, because i am sure i had rolled my eyes behind a few over-enthusiastic-curve-busters myself.  how would i keep from being one of those? 

i mean i still wanted to be cool, even though i was now the same age of many of my classmates' parents, and as old or older than (thanks a lot professor mc child prodigy—you know who you are.) my professors.  it was no different than trying to figure out how to be cool all those years ago. 
so it is with the humorous wisdom of a year that i look back.  since that night-before-the-first-day-of-school, i've mastered the 'lingo'.  made more a's than b's, tinkered with html, built a website, made a fool of myself a few times,  wrote a business plan (made an a on said plan),  scored invites to happy hours and graduation parties,  formed study partnerships, built and tiled a piece of furniture, become an amateur photographer, pulled all-nighters, crammed for tests, given a few speeches, formulated personal philosophies, plied classmates with homemade bread (because they're all so skinny) delved into world religions while shaping beliefs about my own, connected with students and professors via facebook, refreshed my knowledge of the french language, and much much more. 

perhaps the most valuable lesson i've learned is this:  i am the old lady on the front row asking all the questions.  i'm also the old lady on the front row cracking the best jokes.  that is who i am.  life is rich and wonderful and cool and nerdy, and so am i.  what i have learned is

i happen to be an old lady who asks a lot of questions, sits on the front row and tells some funny jokes and is occasionally cool  but almost always, most comfortably, nerdy,  and fits absolutely no mold at all….and i wouldn't have it any other way.   

so this year, for the first time, ever, i'm getting some great sleep on the night-before-the-first-day-of-school.

and i'm starting this year right, by indulging myself with one of my favorite, tasty, light treats at lunch.  no more expensive and tasteless cafeteria food.  no quick trips through the drive thru.  no greasy, energy-sapping fast food this year.  it's brown-bagging for me every day.  and i'll use this easy to prepare spread alone, today, to get things going………

light and creamy lemony artichoke spread

you will need—

one brick light cream cheese

one can artichoke hearts, drained

1 tablespoon capers, drained,

zest of one lemon, and the juice of one half

salt and ground black pepper, to taste.

1-2 t crushed dried rosemary

optional: grated onion and/or minced garlic to taste (which is great, but i spare my classmates for my brown bag edition, here)

cream together all of the above.  serve with pita bread, crackers, or as a dip for veggie crudités. 


tomorrow, we get a peek inside the lunchbox, and learn to set smart goals for this year, or the fall, or the last quarter, or whatever period fits, on tips for tuesday, notes from maggie's farm.  see you then.

cleaning up our act

meatless monday
notes from maggie's farm

homemaker's of yesteryear had a dedicated day for each homekeeping task, and their schedules generally went something like this:

since monday is laundry day on notes from maggie's farm, we're cleaning up our act and we're starting with the laundry room.

picking out a few of our favorite things

and then soaking in some inspiration.  is your dedicated laundry area more shabby than chic?  do you even have a dedicated laundry area?  a closet, a nook, a mudroom, in the house, in the utility room, off the garage?  wherever it is, could it be an oasis for you?  really?  a laundry room you ask?  well, sure it can and it ought to be since it's where you'll perform some of your most dilligent work.  let's make sure it is as cute and cozy, or sleek and shimmering, as the rest of your home.  it doesn't take cash as much as it takes vision.  we've pulled together some laundry room eye candy, on both grand (in case some of you are Rockefellers) and small (if most of you are like me) scales, that just might be the nudge you need to clean up your act.


and how about this one?  I love the art on the walls,


but we're not all laundry today.  we still have to eat.  and in true from maggie's farm style, it's going to be meatless, and marvelous, with little effort.  we actually hang all of our laundry to dry these days (and we'll go into all that tomorrow, on tips for tuesdays) so we need something that can simmer slowly with little attention as we go back and forth between loads.  enter this easy roasted tomato basil soup, which can be just about or all from scratch.  today it's all about easy, so we're going just about. (we'll save the big labor for another time because we have loads of loads laundry to do.)

(just about all) from scratch roasted tomato basil soup


1 small onion, diced
1 large rib of celery, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4T sherry vinegar
1 T butter
4 16oz cans roasted tomatoes
1 pint half and half
1 small bunch basil,  stemmed and chopped

saute onion, celery and garlic in butter until transparent.  add tomatoes and sherry vinegar, reduce to a simmer, and cover.

simmer on low, stirring occasionally to prevent any sticking, for as little as 1 hour, and up to 3 hours.  the longer this simmers, the more concentrated the flavors, and ease of breaking down the tomatoes.  after simmering,  blend with an immersion blender (or standard blender, in small batches, or food processor, in small batches , optionally, if you don't have an immersion blender on hand.  but really, get yourself one.  they're easy to work with,  cheap, and fun!).  this will yield a chunky, more rustic soup base.  you can skip to the addition of half and half and basil here, or for a silkier soup,

ladle soup into a chinois over a bowl (you can use a standard sieve, here, too),  and strain, pressing solids against the walls of the sieve.  return the strained base to soup pot,

add half and half, and chopped basil. (yes, i now wish to be addressed as samurai farmer chef because check out that chopping!  now that's some impressive chopping going on, huh? huh?!  okay, i'll get over myself.  later on.  eventually.  that mezzaluna makes me a little hard to live with.)

and it's ready to serve!

garnish with basil, pass salt and pepper at the table. 

want a touch of decadence? a spoonful of sour cream, cream cheese, or my fave, creme fraiche would be to die for, but too much and that might just be literal, so no heavy hands here, friends---just a little dab'll do ya.  

and now, you're a member of
the lads and lasses that launder in style club.

tomorrow is ironing day!  not all that excited, huh?  well, it's going to go a lot smoother (haha...see what i did there?) than you'd expect with tips for tuesday, on notes from maggie's farm
see you then!
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