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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Saturday, January 31, 2009

    What else can go wrong? No, don't answer that.

    I haven't cooked all week, except for oatmeal, and that really doesn't count. When I'm feeling sick, I know I have to feed the family, but I'm so tired I just want to collapse on the couch and nap instead of making meals. Our menu has looked something like this:
    Monday - frozen pizza (with apple rhubarb crumble cake for dessert)
    Tuesday - tuna casserole
    Wednesday - Pizza Hut delivery
    Thursday - toasted cheese with baked beans and canned fruit on the side
    Friday - brats (under the broiler, the grill is buried in snow), a can of soup, and yogurt.

    Breakfast was a little easier. Amigo isn't fussy, for a teen. I threw oatmeal or toast at him each day and sent him off to school with a pocketful of cough drops so he wouldn't feel left out of the cold (virus). Lunch? Leftover chicken soup on Monday and Tuesday, after the morning nap. The rest of the week, I tossed a PBJ and an orange in my lunch bag to eat at my desk while I caught up on plans and my gradebook.

    In keeping with my neo-frugal outlook, I've made my own coffee many days and filled my mug from the office pot on others. I haven't visited my favorite beverage kiosks once during the month of January. Oh, no, did I hear they're closing stores? And it's my fault for not providing stimulus? Never mind.

    Friday, I thought I'd treat myself to a hazelnut at Jo to Go. Then I realized the temperature was a balmy 1 degree above zero. That matters, you see, because my minivan doesn't like the cold weather. I can't open the driver's side window if the thermometer reads lower than 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Already a little down, I made myself a small batch of coffee while I was getting Amigo out the door. Then I realized I'd left my favorite insulated mug at school, and I felt mildly depressed. I filled my backup mug (of course I have a backup insulated travel mug, doesn't everybody?) and headed out to school.

    I sat down at my desk, checked email and reveled in the fact that there wasn't much, and then started attacking the mess on my desk, when my neighbor teacher came in with a mocha latte from Starbucks! I burst out in a smile for the first time that morning, thanked her, and then told her about my forgotten mug which was still lost. She remembered seeing it in the library next to the computer printer. w00t! I zoomed down the hall to ask the library media specialist, and sure enough - there it was! Oh, the day was looking up now.

    So for a short while, my desk sported three coffee cups. Yes, it did. Three.

    And the day, although hopeful, did not improve. I remember muttering under my breath (to the same media specialist who'd found my mug earlier in the day) something about the desire to invent the Ritalin Salt Lick.
    She didn't let me hide under her desk, but she did laugh out loud and chase my kids into line so I could take them back to class. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if I have a rough day, I don't want to have it anywhere else.

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    Friday, January 30, 2009

    In the headlines, for better or for worse.

    It happened. The man who put the Goober in Gubernatorial got his just desserts. (I stole that punch line from Public Radio. Blame me for repeating it, not for creating it.)

    Multiple risk factors, anyone? The mother of the California octuplets may already have...six kids.

    Arizona Cardinals' Nation? It doesn't have a ring to it - yet. People don't sign up their newborns for tickets at birth, do they? Oh, wait - when the retire and give up on tickets, Packer fans move to Arizona! That's it!

    I may have to carefully plan the mailing of my paperbackswap books if the Post Office cuts down its service days.

    Grammar police are still active! Does the leader of the free world dare to split an infinitive?

    I think I'll set my newspaper aside and read a book until the Super Bowl commercials start. Sing it with me..."Feelin' Kind of Sunday!"


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    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    random thoughts on a sick day

    Closed captioning can be fun. The errors in the live captioning can be entertaining.

    Constant coughing is painful. Really painful. My chest aches. My ribs ache. My tummy muscles, weak as they are, ache.

    An hour of CNN is a long time. Must change channels to avoid growing paranoia. I saw the report on Home Depot cutting jobs and panicked about La Petite's summer position. Emailed her, turns out the local vendors are okay; they're not laying off, just not hiring new.

    Being out of school is a blessing and a curse. I'm not struggling to teach while I cough, but I am worrying about how my class is behaving and how much I'll have to reteach on Wed.

    Plugged up ears, sinuses, and the works lead to pressure and headaches. Leaving hearing aids out is a mixed shot; relieves pressure a little, but makes the world an auditory blur.

    Vaporizer is still kicking out steam. Is that why I slept better this morning? Maybe I'll move it into my bedroom tonight.

    Can you believe Ellen Degeneres is 51? She looks so good!

    Books for La Petite ordered from Amazon. I'm sad that my local bookstore didn't have them; I really like to buy locally whenever I can.

    Last night was almost comical. Husband took the time to turn on his new surround sound system for a favorite show, then fell asleep, snoring loudly on the couch. I was coughing in my nearby rocking chair, trying not to laugh because it made me cough more. Too funny.

    I'm recovering, slowly but surely. Still need rest, still need fluids. I'll pack a big water bottle in my lunch and cough drops in my schoolbag.

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    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Farm cookies!

    This recipe reminds me of Ranger Cookies. In my lovely home state of Wisconsin, we don't have rangers, but we have lots of farms! We also have rabbits that look like cows, but that's another post entirely.

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup butter, softened
    1 cup brown sugar, packed
    1 cup granulated sugar
    2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
    a teaspoon vanilla
    2 cups uncooked quick oats
    2 cups cornflakes
    1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

    Preheat oven to 375 dgees F. In small bowl, combine flour, baking poowder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well; set aside. In large bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture; beat until well combined. Stir in oats, cornflakes, and nuts (dough will be stiff). Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls on ungreased cookie sheets; flatten slightly with a fork or the bottom of a glass. Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 - 10 minutes, or until done. Makes about 4 dozen.

    I didn't have cornflakes, so I used what I had in the cupboard: Smart Start cereal. It worked very well. I baked these on a cold, cold day when we were all housebound, and they hit the spot with a cup of hot cocoa - or coffee, of course.

    Recipe from 80th Anniversary We Energies Cookie Book.

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    Monday, January 26, 2009

    How can I be Green when the ground is White?

    The compost bin is snowed in, the garden is covered with a mantle of white, and my rosemary plant didn't survive the move indoors for the winter. What's an environmentally conscious mom to do?

    The thyme plant is flourishing. We add thyme to almost every soup and stew and casserole. If only I could grow time as well....
    The basil plant is alive, but not doing as well. If I can nurture it through the winter it might thrive on the deck in spring.
    I still make bread in my breadmaker, incorporating local honey from the farm market.
    The rhubarb in the freezer is good with the apples from the music department fruit sale.
    Speaking of the fruit sale, the oranges are good in my daily lunches and the grapefruits on weekends. The rinds, though. What to do with the orange peels? In spring/summer, I would compost these.
    I have a lot of oranges. Even eating one a day isn't enough to finish the entire case some years. Should I buy a juicer? Is it worth the money? In my tiny kitchen, would it be worth the space?
    The tomatoes - oh, the tomatoes! I still have tomato soup and tomato sauce in the freezer. The last batch picked before the killer frost ripened oh-so-slowly on the kitchen counter. Honestly, we ate "fresh" tomatoes until Christmas.
    The reduce, re-use, recycle philosophy lasts year round. Thrift stores are great places to donate and to shop. This is both frugal and green.
    Then there's the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag, what did you think I meant?!) philosophy. As the trend spreads, some of the reusable bags get cuter and stronger.
    Cloth napkins are working well for the family. I wash them with the regular laundry each weekend. We still have the package of paper napkins we bought in November.
    Amigo continues to get audio books from He loves searching the titles and choosing for himself. I love the price tag (free; I just pay postage when I send one out).
    Time magazines go to La Petite when we're done. Working Mother and any others around the house go to the drawer at school destined for cutouts.

    Maybe I'm doing alright on this green philosophy. I do enjoy winter, but I'm looking forward to spring, too.

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    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Ah, my generous family, they shared their cold germs.

    Top ten things to do with a stuffy head, drippy nose, and achy body on a winter weekend

    10. Keep tissue box handy at all times.

    9. Eat grapefruit for breakfast.

    8. Drink lots of liquids (coffee du jour: Harry & David's Roasted Chestnut).

    7. Fill and plug in vaporizer.

    6. Tuck in under blanket.

    5. Drink more liquids (cranberry grapefruit juice).

    4. Take extra vitamin C and Airborne.

    3. Plan cold-fighting supper: chicken soup in crockpot.

    2. Read blogs while drinking more liquids (orange spice tea).

    1. Take a nap. And another nap.

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    Saturday, January 24, 2009

    Little things worry me.

    La Petite has been coughing a little deeper and a little worse each day. Today she had a slight fever. What if she's getting bronchitis again? The health center on campus probably won't be open until classes start three days from now.

    Amigo also has a stuffy nose and cough. He's complaining that one ear is plugged up now, but doesn't hurt - yet. I sense an ear infection coming.

    Husband has a week of vacation days coming up so he can deal with Amigo's odd schedule during the high school's final exam week. Husband's parents have assumed that he's available all week to do chores and run errands for them. The sandwich generation rears its ugly head yet again.

    Several meetings are on the calendar at my school next week, and only a few look to be really useful. Most are more likely to be necessary evils: the kind I need to attend to create a paper trail, but won't have a direct impact on helping kids.

    La Petite's medicine refill came in the mail 1 1/2 hour after she left. She put off getting it refilled until the last minute. I'll mail it to her, but geez. A few days earlier would have made a big difference.

    Amigo was oppositional and outspoken and obnoxious this morning. Feeling under the weather? Upset that his sister was leaving? Coming down from his birthday celebration? Resisting returning to routine after two days off from school? Who knows? Could be all of the above.

    Husband's workload is increasing as his employer joins the trend of budget cuts and layoffs. No one is immune. My "raise" is eaten up by increasing premiums. I should feel grateful to be working, but it's difficult to find motivation as the workload grows.

    My hearing aid battery just died. I'll go get a new one, and then I'll see if I can schedule a new appt. for cleaning and service. Sigh...another item on the calendar.

    Speaking of cleaning and service, my minivan doesn't like the bitter cold we've had lately. The driver's side window doesn't go down when it's below 10 degrees F., so I can't indulge in simple pleasures like drive-up ATMs or drive-through coffees. More important, though, is the fact that this window mechanism needs repair. We're putting it off until spring when cash flow is a little more fluid.

    No wonder I'm feeling a little bit down. By themselves, each one of these items would be a light weight, easily hefted and handled. Add them together, however, and the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

    Or maybe it's just PMS. Pass the chocolate!

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    Friday, January 23, 2009

    The usual three ring circus

    Juggling. Juggling work, family, home. Juggling the needs of aging parents and needy kids. Juggling tennis balls that become eggs that become watermelons. Juggling several large fruits with one hand while holding a cup of coffee in the other...okay, back to the topic.
    Is family life really about keeping all the balls in the air and keeping them moving, or is a more accurate metaphor that of a tightrope walker? Balancing on that thin wire, holding a number of props weighing us down...let's see how this can look.
    On my school/work shoulders, progress reports and an upcoming IEP. Added to that weight was a directive to move "my things" out of my old classroom. The boxes they thought were mine, however, were actually old curriculum materials. I threw several away, hoped they weren't valuable, and labelled the rest for storage. Then, and only then, I returned to my desk and my gradebook.
    On the other hand, or the other shoulder, Husband had the week off during Amigo's final exams which helped with the odd schedule that always accompanies finals. I could stay after school for an extra hour because I didn't have to rush home to take the kiddo to an appointment.

    Rather than go on and on about the uneven balance of work and home and outside events outside my control, I'll just call on a skill many mothers possess. I'll climb on that tightrope, look straight ahead, find a focal point, and breathe. In, out, in, out. Then a deep cleansing breath, and I'm there, on the other platform, still holding all of my burdens, but at least able to hang onto something for support.
    That's what it's all about; support. The safety net below our tightrope is real and necessary. I think my next task is making sure that net is in good repair.

    This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by BOCA. I can't write about juggling without thinking about my grad school friend, Deb, who found herself competing for attention with a very real juggler.

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    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Happy birthday, turn off your alarm clock, school is closed!

    It was a pantry raid that could have made even the host of Suddenly Frugal proud. Weather had something to do with it, too. It was bitter cold; the kind of day when the thermometer appears broken because it can't handle double digit degrees below zero. Schools were closed, and we were housebound for the second day in a row.

    Amigo thought this was great because it was his birthday and he got a bonus opportunity to sleep in due to the unexpected day off from school. I really, really didn't want to go out of the house, though, with the weather so cold even icicles weren't forming. Unfortunately, the vaporizer wasn't working and we needed a birthday cake, so an errand run was in the works. Our favorite bakery is half a block from Walgreen's, so it would have been a quick one if I had to go.

    Instead, I utilized the fourth R: repair. I cleaned the vaporizer, added a pinch of baking soda, and it worked again. Yippee! One errand eliminated.

    Next, I dug through the pantry and found a yellow cake mix. Yes! I could bake his birthday cake without ever leaving the house. Wait a minute...frosting...I had a full can of white frosting and a chocolate package only about a third full. Yellow cake really works better with chocolate, not white, so (you guessed it) I mixed a little white with the chocolate to make a light chocolate frosting to top the yellow cake. I made a small amount of powdered sugar frosting with a few dark chocolate kisses melted in it, and asked La Petite to drizzle it artistically on top. We add a few candles and basic cake decorations (from the cupboard), and Amigo's birthday cake looked good enough to serve to the Grandmas and Grandpas.

    We still left the house to take the family out for a birthday dinner combined with a bye-bye back to school dinner for La Petite. Somehow, leaving by choice wasn't quite as freezing as the errands might have been.

    Seventeen: wow. Where did the years go?

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    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Recipe for an Historic Inauguration

    Take one republic, preheated by
    Poverty and
    Health care crises.
    Blend worries, industry failures, job losses
    Top with slashed budgets and crashing morale.
    Mix dedicated candidates with
    and Passion.
    Nurture from deep grass roots
    Seek hope, change, and motivation.
    Beat at high speeds until competition peaks.
    Organize. Volunteer. Vote.

    Set aside to cool.
    Season with Knowledge
    Plans and Ideas
    Fold in global perspective,
    Authentic world view.
    Ship by train to nation’s capital.
    Set atop quality cabinet.

    Serve with courage and inspiration.

    photo credit: La Petite, at a rally last June


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    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Things to do on a "snow" day

    • Feed bunnies, turn on TV.
    • Read School Closings crawl. Resist temptation to cheer loudly.
    • Give Amigo the news.
    • Attempt to sleep a little longer (easier said than done).
    • Turn on coffeemaker and computer.
    • Plug in the crockpot with chili for supper.
    • Send Husband on his way with the observation that our indoor-outdoor thermometer doesn't handle double digit negatives: the negative sign is where the tens place is. It may say 14 degrees, but it's really 14 below zero.
    • Override thermostat program to keep house warm enough for people today.
    • Watch the Early Show (Weather Dude Dave is in Green Bay and looks c-c-cold!).
    • Start the breadmaker. Plain white bread sounds right today.
    • Make oatmeal for kiddo.
    • Change bunny litter boxes.
    • Start a laundry load: napkins and towels.
    • Take Twitter, blog, and Plurk breaks!
    • Make lunch, watch news.
    • Take a few phone calls.
    • Slice and serve the fresh bread with butter and (homemade) jelly.
    • Stir chili - wow, the house smells good!
    • Move napkins and towels to dryer.
    • Check in with CNN and The Weather Channel
    • Take another blog break!

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    Sunday, January 18, 2009


    That's the word.
    Thought, creativity, ideas: those are the easy parts. Taking a deep breath and putting the ideas into action is much, much harder. That's what I need to do.
    I was reading a column on Work it Mom about doing a closet "cleanse." There are several ways to approach this, and my closet needs a major cleanse. So does Amigo's. La Petite's probably does, too, but none of the others matter in the Action goal: just mine. Action means I'll choose a plan for cleaning the closet, purging it of clothes I no longer wear, and organizing what's left. When? I don't know, but that's just one example.
    We had a surprise (sort of) day off from school a few days ago, and I took part of the day to clean the kitchen, and I mean really cleaned it. Scrubbed the stove, cleaned a few refrigerator shelves, rearranged part of the tiny counter space to make snack baskets and phone chargers more accessible. I baked bread and then cleaned the breadmaker inside and out. I wish I had a cover for it so it wouldn't get so dusty - wait! Action! I used a pretty towel to cover it. It's a good temporary fix, a frugal choice (no $ spent), and it'll keep the breadmaker cleaner between uses.
    I hope to have more days like this, days when I can take on a small project and finish it. Each time I take action on something at home or at school, I can feel successful.
    So here goes, the word for 2009: Lights, Camera, Action!!

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    Saturday, January 17, 2009

    Interview me!

    The Good Flea had an interview posted on her blog, and I couldn't resist. I joined in. The questions are hers; the answers are mine.

    1. You're a composter. How did your gardening career start and what's your favorite thing to grow?

    We lived in a small duplex with a plot behind the house that measured about 2' by 8'. I grew tomatoes and beans because they grew pretty much straight up and didn't need much space. Now that I have more space, I still grow tomatoes and beans, but I've added peppers, broccoli, spinach, and several kinds of lettuce. Oh, and chives, green onions, and a few other herbs like basil and thyme. I hope the zucchini has a better season next summer; I hardly had any last year.

    2. Living in Wisconsin, I'm guessing you have a favorite stew or chili recipe. Where did you get it and why is it your favorite? Do you put spaghetti noodles in your chili? Because ... ew.

    Wisconsin chili is unique in that way: we like to put noodles in it. I prefer elbow mac or shells to spaghetti in mine. In fact, I made a batch of chili today because it was so cold outside! It made the house smell wonderful, so I baked bread to make it feel warmer and smell even better.

    3. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Wait. No. I mean, what grade do you teach and why did you choose to go into teaching?

    I started out as a music teacher and then decided that I really wanted to teach in a regular classroom. After teaching in day care and preschools and eventually moving into elementary school, regular classroom teaching is still my passion. If I make a move in the future, it would likely be to a virtual school, where I would guide the parents who act as learning coaches for their children.

    4. Can you name all seven dwarfs without cheating?

    Sneezy, Sleepy, Dopey, Happy, Grumpy, Doc, and Bashful, of course. No problem. Who was that pale teenager who showed up at their cottage after she ran away from home?

    5. How did you and your husband meet?

    We were college sweethearts. Our 25th anniversary is coming up this summer. Wow!

    The RULES of the interview game:
    1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
    2. I will respond by emailing you five questions (I get to pick the questions).
    3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
    4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
    5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.


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    Friday, January 16, 2009

    Warm on the inside, water mains breaking on the outside

    The outdoor thermometer reades -1.1. Yes, 1 degree and a tenth below zero, before wind chill. The heater is cranking out warm air, and I can feel it sucking my paycheck in with each degree of warmth it adds to the room. Mornings have been even colder. One of our oldest school building suffered a water main break in the bitter cold earlier this week.
    My kitchen is drafty. My classroom is drafty. I dress in layers to work indoors!!
    And....(drumroll, please) I eat oatmeal for breakfast.
    The children I teach don't always have a chance for a warm breakfast. Several depend on school breakfasts. While it's nutritious and often delicious (I love the smell of cinnamon toast in the morning!), it's not the same as warm cereal at the kitchen table.
    As the temperature drops, I worry about kids being warm enough, too. Do they have gloves and mittens? Sweaters? Hats or hoods? In this weather, even the most die-hard Cool Teenagers will wear their warm layered clothing.
    I work with some incredibly generous people. When a student needed shoes in October, she had several pair to choose from within hours. A family was displaced by fire, and typical of working poor, they had no insurance. A teacher contacted a friend with an unused set of bunk beds and put out an all-call for sheets. Less than a week after the fire, two young boys were no longer sleeping on the floor.
    If you're making resolutions or setting goals in these hard economic times, please make sharing part of your plan. Whether you're buying an extra can of soup for the food pantry or dropping coins in a red kettle, people need you.

    How did this all come from oatmeal, you ask? Parent Bloggers Network has teamed up with The Quaker Oats Company to spread the word about the Start with Substance campaign to donate up to one million bowls of oatmeal to those in need. Go to for more information.

    This post was written for Parent Bloggers Network as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company. This is making me hungry; bring out the raisins and the cinnamon!

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    My Seven Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

    Heidi tagged me with the ever popular Seven Things meme. I could spontaneously come up with seven random and useless facts, or I could write an entire series like Bubbly Thorp did, or...well, how about this angle?

    I'd rather bake than cook, but I end up doing the majority of the cooking chore because I'm the first one home from work on weekdays. Here are my favorite gadgets to get the evening meal on the table.

    1. The crock pot! Chili, soup, stew, or casserole, it can simmer all day while I'm teaching. When I get home, I add the noodles or the dumplings, and it's ready to serve by 5:30. The aroma when I walk in the door? Priceless.
    2. Bread maker! I'm on my third. I wore out the first two. Whether I'm making a mix or baking from scratch, it's a great time saver. I must learn to knead dough on my own some day, but for now, the bread machine is my friend.
    3. Immersion blender. I don't use it as often as the top two, but it's a great tool. I can stick it in the crock pot (see #1) after tomatoes or potatoes have been simmering all day, and voila! Creamy soup. I used it to mash potatoes on Thanksgiving and Christmas because it's so handy and easy to clean.
    4. Mixer and/or MixMaster. I enjoy baking, and these two are my assistants in putting many doughs together. Cookies, brownies, quick breads, you name it, they would take much longer if I attempted to mix them by hand. the handheld mixer is more than 20 years old and still going strong. The MixMaster is a hand-me-down from my Mother-In-Law, so I don't know how old it is. I'm glad she passed it on to me; I don't think I would have bought one on my own, since I didn't know how useful a MixMaster can be until this one stepped into my kitchen.
    5. My coffee grinder is a luxury, and I enjoy it immensely. I can't wait to grind my Obama Blend for the Inauguration!
    6. Food processor! I use this for garden goodies. I'm still getting to know its blades and its idiosyncrasies. Remember the pepper mush? I'll fix that next summer. Really.
    7. George Foreman Grill. This one makes the list because I don't use it. The girls (me and La Petite) gave it to The Boys (Husband and Amigo) for Christmas. They're getting to know George, and we're watching...and eating well.

    The coffeemaker is a given.
    I'm still hoping for a rain barrel or two for Mother's Day.

    Here's a recipe that uses #1, #3, and #6. Serve it on fresh bread using #2, with a cup of decaf later (fresh ground with #5, of course). #4 could mix up dessert, and we'd have a meal using six out of seven!

    This meme is so popular that I can't possibly tag anyone else. If you'd like to take it on, leave a note in the comments so we can read your responses!

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    Tuesday, January 13, 2009

    Monkey Bread: another easy brunch goodie

    Monkey Bread is similar to sticky buns, except in Monkey Bread, it is a bunch of little sticky buns baked together. Some people like to add raisins, or dried cranberries, others add walnuts and chocolate chips. I used raisins and walnuts the first time, but I can see endless possibilities for add-ins with this sweet brunchy treat.

    2 cans refrigerated biscuits or 1 package Grands
    ½ cup packed brown sugar
    6 Tablespoons (3/4 of a stick) butter
    1/4 cup white sugar
    1 tablespoon cinnamon
    1/4 cup each raisins and walnuts (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-10 inch tube pan or Bundt pan.
    Mix the white sugar and cinnamon together in a medium sized zipper bag. Shake well.
    Take out the refrigerated biscuits, and cut them into quarters (eighths, if you’re using larger biscuits). Place six to eight pieces in the bag with the cinnamon sugar mix and shake to coat. Repeat until all pieces are coated.
    Place the cinnamon-sugared dough pieces in the of the greased pan, layering over and over until all of the biscuit pieces are in the pan. If you are using raisins or walnuts, place them among the biscuit pieces as you are layering.
    Melt the butter with the brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute, and then pour the melted mix over the layered biscuits.
    Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once done, let the bread cool in pan for 5 minutes. Turn upside down onto a plate to serve.
    To eat, simply pull apart and enjoy!

    This brunch dish works well alongside Dutch Babies. We found out the leftovers (there were leftovers?!) tasted best microwaved for 30 seconds, then eaten with a fork. Sticky mess, perhaps. Worth it? Yes, absolutely!


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    Monday, January 12, 2009

    To-Do list fights with Ta-Dah!! list

    Who needs an inbox and an outbox? I have to-do and ta-dah. Sing that last one: Ta-Dah! Here's the set from mid-day Sunday: let's see which side wins.

    Accomplishments for the day so far

    • made coffee
    • cleaned kitchen
    • ran dishwasher
    • washed two loads of laundry
    • dried four loads of laundry (including two that were washed last night, hung on drying racks overnight. Jeans and sweats work great that way)
    • folded five loads of laundry (the socks and underwear were already out of the dryer last night. they don't wrinkle, so I left them overnight)
    • Read the Sunday newspaper (yes, even a working mama deserves a simple pleasure)
    • Ate a grapefruit (it's an investment in my health. Of course that goes on the list!)
    • Are you ready for this? The major accomplishment for the morning:
    • I took the ornaments off the tree and put them in storage.
      Diced veggies and thawed other ingredients to put a turkey soup in the crockpot.
    • Made lunch for Husband and me and Amigo while La Petite slept in
    • Cleared Christmas decor from the mantel and around the house, sorted it into "keep" and "donate" and "throw away," stored the "keep" boxes.
    • Replaced Christmas decorations with snowmen for January!
    • Helped Amigo with his homework
    • voted for the Packer in the Click for Cans contest

    I think I need to sit down and take a break with some playoff football, a Diet Coke, and laptop time.

    Yet To-do

    • correct spelling tests (abbreviations)
    • correct math tests (mid-chapter, multiplication and division)
    • check penmanship papers
    • add barley to soup, determine side dishes, prepare to serve supper
    I must add this: Husband, noticing my progress in getting the ornaments down, took off the lights, stored them, and then dragged the tree outside. He put the tree stand in the basement and even (yes, honestly, he did) vacuumed all the pine needles and put the furniture back in its regular place. Isn't he a gem?

    Hmmm. I'm a pro at rationalization. But even without rationalizing my excuses for doing housework before schoolwork, this looks pretty darn good. No guilt: I've accomplished plenty, and the rest will get done, too.

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    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    I'll take that advice!

    I always read the Employee Wellness Newsletter. Sometimes I skim it and roll my eyes, but once in a while there's an article that makes sense. There was dietary advice this time. Here are a few carefully selected quotes along with my reactions.

    "Research shows that what you eat can significantly affect your mood."
    Um, yeah, why do you think my coffee addiction is such a big deal, y'all?

    "For breakfast, try oatmeal or eggs. Both contain an amino acid that helps boost the levels
    of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good."
    Yay! I'm doing something right: I often make oatmeal from breakfast. My favorite is steelcut oats with raisins and brown sugar with a hint of cinnamon sugar on top.

    "As for the blueberries, save those for lunch. The antioxidants in them will ward off workday stress." Stress? What stress?! And how about my daily orange? It smells good, tastes good, and adds vitamin C to give my immune system a fighting chance against the kids sneezing and coughing and breathing at me.

    "Finish with a small piece of chocolate."
    Oh, yes! I can deal with that advice. My colleague down the hall has a stash of dark chocolate and sometimes even shares it.

    But wait...they didn't mention coffee. Uh-oh. Where does my daily cuppa (or two or three) fit into this picture?

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    Friday, January 09, 2009

    Reclaiming the den

    "Can we take the tree down tonight?"
    "Absolutely not on my agenda."
    "But the Maids are coming tomorrow!"

    Let me be clear. I am not wealthy. The Maids are on the order of a cleaning service, a group of people who come in once every four weeks to do the main cleaning chores in our home. I have the utmost respect for them (and tip them every single time) because I really detest cleaning. They clean the floors, the toilets, the bathtubs, and the sinks - all the dirty and grimy places I can't stand. The Maids will be the last item I cut as we adjust our family budget for the tightening economy.

    But I digress. I really started this post thinking about the den, the mantel full of Christmas decorations, and the rapidly-drying Christmas tree. I like to have the tree down before the Maids' visit because they vacuum and dust, and that's exactly what I need done after the holiday decor goes back in the basement. This year the post-Santa cleaning visit arrived closer to Christmas than usual, so we weren't ready to deal with the tree.

    So here it is, already the second week in January. I'm back to school, Husband is luckily (according to him) not working any play-off games, but Amigo is gearing up for final exams and I'm busily gathering data for Semester I report cards. Who will take the tree down, and when will it finally happen?

    Most years we get the tree down and the knick-knacks stored within a few days of the New Year. The Maids sweep and vacuum any needles we've missed and leave the place looking Christmas-free. This year, I'm going to end up doing it all myself because no one, but no one else is interested in helping out.

    No help? I'll be like the little Red Hen. See if I bake any cookies for the lazy family this weekend. Not if I have to do it all. by. myself.

    Parent Bloggers Network is looking for more stories about the holiday clean-up. If you'd like to post on the topic and link to them, go to their main blog. SCJohnson's new website also gives cleaning advice... for the dreaded day that I stop the cleaning service!

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    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    Kitchen? It's mine again.

    I'm glad to be done with this.
    They looked better like this.

    But I kind of miss these.

    They were fun to decorate, and even more fun to eat.
    I'll have to find another reason to bake soon.

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    Tuesday, January 06, 2009

    Dutch Babies (pannekukken)

    A simple breakfast or brunch dish from my Plurk buddy Barb in Nebraska

    In a large oven-safe pan, melt a stick of butter at 425 degrees.
    While butter is melting, break 6 eggs into a blender and whirl at high speed for 1 minute. While motor is running add ½ cup of milk. Then slowly add 1 ½ cups flour. By now, the butter is melted. Slowly pour batter into the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Check periodically to pop air bubbles. They look frightening, but they taste just fine.
    Use pizza cutter to cut into pieces. Serve with maple syrup or jelly.

    This reminds me of when my kids were young and I made French Toast regularly. Sourdough bread from the day-old bread store, half a dozen eggs, and a little syrup made an easy and inexpensive brunch for the family. If the grocery store had a sale we might have had bacon on the side.

    As is my style in the kitchen, I'll experiment with the Dutch Babies recipe. I might try it with wheat flour or oatmeal added, cranberry sauce on top, or other goodies. Maybe egg substitute for half the eggs, too. In spring and summer, the eggshells will go in the garden or the compost, of course.
    Enjoy! My next planned kitchen experiment: Monkey Bread!

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    Monday, January 05, 2009

    Word of the year

    Resolutions. Goals. Good intentions. Words.
    In another trend sweeping the blogosphere, the philosophy is this: choose a word. The word will be your focus, guiding changes and progress in 2009.

    G's Cottage, the first place I saw this, chose Cultivate as her word. This is a great multi-meaning word. It encompasses nurturing, planting, growing, assisting, caretaking, and many more action words. Cultivate would fit my teaching profession and my gardening hobby and, face it, motherhood.
    But cultivate is G's word. No matter how well it might fit me, it's not quite right.
    Christine, the leader of this movement, provided a long list of words from which to choose. This list, while comprehensive, doesn't cover everyone's personality and/or needs. It's meant to guide and suggest, not limit.

    So far, my personal list is narrowed down to these.

    Clarify: Think, act, speak clearly. Keep goals in mind: eyes on the prize, while simultaneously focused on the process. Maybe Clarity is even better.
    Mastery: Aim high, don't settle. Improvement is good; mastery is better.
    Acceptance: Change is good, but accepting limits is also good. As in the famous serenity prayer, the key is knowing what I can and cannot change, and accepting this.
    Willingness: Not digging in my heels, but moving ahead willingly. The opposite might be "grudgingly." No one sets a goal of being unwilling; it seems to happen on its own. Willing or willingness would be reminders to push forward with a "glass half full" philosophy, working to make the glass overflow.
    Balance: need I say more?
    Health: this one is almost too broad. Physical, emotional, mental health; my own, my family's, my pets' health?
    Action: Similar to willingness or willing, this word would remind me that thoughts and ideas are cheap. Action is where the change originates, begins, ends, and succeeds.

    Later this month I'll choose a word, a term that will guide me toward goals that make sense. One word. It will most likely come from this list, but maybe a better one will turn up. Until then, it's back to school, back to work, and back to (hopefully) a consistent sleep schedule.

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    Sunday, January 04, 2009

    Packer Pride helps the hungry

    Green Bay Packer fans are proud people. We spend our Sundays (and some Monday nights) wearing green and gold, sporting hats that resemble wedges of cheese, and simply cheering on our team. Win or lose, playoffs or no playoffs, we still identify ourselves with the guys doing the Lambeau Leap.
    Green Bay Packer fans take pride in other contests, too. Campbell's Soup's Click for Cans is going on right now. Here's how it works.
    Click on "Vote Now" and then choose the contest that includes the desired team. Click on the appropriate helmet (yellow, with a big G), enter the code to prove you're not a robot, and voila! You've voted.
    Fans can vote once a day.
    The highest scoring teams will receive donations of soup for local food pantries. I drive past the Salvation Army headquarters on my way to work, and the lines and crowds there have grown noticably. Our local food pantry is getting fewer donations even as the requests for assistance increase. My own school's Adopt-a-Family program is serving fewer families while we'd rather be serving more.
    I hope you'll help the Packers once again win the Click for Cans. But most of all, bloggy friends and acquaintances, I hope you'll take the time to make a difference. Soup can be a meal for a hungry family. Help those cans get where they're needed.
    For more details on the contest procedure, look here.

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    Saturday, January 03, 2009

    Mom's playing -- in the kitchen?

    Gardening and baking. Two seemingly dissimilar activities, both serve a similar place and purpose for me.

    I tried to blend butter and sugars the other day and the butter wasn't ready. It reminded me to plan ahead, get the butter out ahead of time, and let it sit. I stopped, waited, and got back at it with better results and a more peaceful, easy feeling. The cookies were delicious.

    Gardening is also a slower process, a contrast to my high pressure teaching job. When I put the garden to bed for the winter, it's a melancholy feeling not only for the yield, but because I truly miss working with my hands in the dirt.

    Both gardening and baking let me incorporate a few more healthy ingredients into our menus. Spinach, fresh tomatoes, and crisp green beans make their way onto the family table in late summer and fall. When I bake from scratch, I can control the ingredients that make their way onto my family's plates, not to mention using up foodstuffs that might otherwise go to waste. I recently used up two very ripe bananas in a banana bread. Husband helped; he peeled the bananas.

    Gardening gets me out of the house and away from distractions like the telephone. Baking doesn't do exactly that, but it does take me out of the whirlwind that is my life. Putting the ingredients together, measuring properly, following a recipe (well, to some extent) all take just enough concentration. Just enough, that is, to take my mind off the many day to day stressors.

    We're steadily working our way through the Christmas cookies, so I'm looking at a few other ideas to plant in the kitchen. Cranberry muffins, anyone?

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    Friday, January 02, 2009

    Four by Four

    Jill from Charming and Delightful tagged me with the 4 by 4 meme. Yes, I'm still conscious; it was figurative, not a literal tag. Those boards don't measure a true 4" by 4" anymore, either, just like a 2 X 4 is really only about 1 1/2" by 3 3/4".

    Four places I go over and over again (not counting my workplace):
    The Post Office - they recognize me as the one who mails books for PaperbackSwap.
    Walgreens - a quick stop on the way home, and the medicine cabinet is refilled.
    Jo to Go - I drive through for a coffee treat more often than I should. Well, I drive through when the temperature is reasonable and my driver's side window cooperates.
    The public library, more in summer than during school. This is usually a joint trip with Amigo while he looks for audio books.

    Four people who mail me regularly:
    My mother (and brother and sister-in-law)
    La Petite, when she's away at school
    Margalit, my cohort and fearless leader at MidCentury Modern Moms
    My grad school friends. That's four, not one, but since we were dubbed the Fab Five, I'll count them as one. We no longer teach together, so we email a lot.
    I'll leave the foreign lotteries off the list.

    Four of my favorite places to eat, (apart from home)
    Confucious, Chinese take-out or eat-in. Delicious.
    Mary's Family Restaurant, a locally owned place with tasty chicken dumpling soup
    Blueberry Hill, local pancake house (Amigo and I tried it out last summer and liked it)
    Angels family restaurant (a little hard to get to now with road construction, must do it again)
    I notice a theme here: these are all local, no national chain restaurants on the list.

    Four places I'd rather be now:
    In bed, asleep. I need a lot of sleep.
    A hotel - any hotel, as long as I'm not responsible for cleaning. And it needs to have wi-fi, and in-room coffeemaker, and the daily paper. I don't ask for much -- or do I?
    Shopping with friends -- buying optional, talk is free.
    A local coffeeshop: good brews, good music. Who needs a bar when a favorite blues musician is playing at Brewed Awakenings?

    Four favorite TV shows:
    Green Bay Packers football games
    When Weather Changed History (Okay, I'm a science geek. I admit it.)

    Four movies I could watch over and over again:
    Sleepless in Seattle
    The Muppet Movie ("Not often you see a guy that green, got the blues that bad." Classic.)
    The Terminal

    Four people I'm tagging:

    Minnesota Matron

    G from G's Cottage

    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    Margalit at What was I Thinking?

    I hope 2009 is starting well for all of you!


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    Thursday, January 01, 2009

    Hindsight is always 20-20, so enjoy it!

    Looking back over the year: here's the way each month started in 2008. I offer the first line of the first post of each month, complete with link to the post should you want to read the rest.

    January: Last January 1st was a retrospective like this one, so I offer instead New Year's Eve 2007.
    February: It's a little like Supermom meeting her Kryptonite.
    March: One thing that keeps me judging music festivals is this.
    April: When Jordan proposed "Savoring the Season" for her next group writing project, I thought, savor what?
    May: I bake bread when I'm home watching a sick teenager. Doesn't everyone?
    June: Some days I think the world revolves around underwear.
    July: I can't call it a la king, or a la queen, for that matter.
    August: Dumbledore's wisdom.
    September: A passive chore is something that "does itself" while I'm doing something else. October: Pepper and Potential
    November: I remember the days when teachers could have kids bring in candy wrappers....
    December: Ah, contradictions. This is a case for "Shoulds are Bogus."

    It's interesting that none of these First Date posts were election-related. The primary and general elections were huge on the national scene and in my own life. The selected posts do touch on other big subjects for 2008: Amigo's illness (May), our family travels (June), and the challenges and changes in teaching (November).

    May you live in interesting times, and may the interest and challenge be exactly what's right for you. Happy New Year!

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