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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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  • Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    Sweet Walnut Bread +

    The basic recipe is in my bread machine's instruction booklet. I took a chance and added to it. That's risky with bread because so much depends on the chemical reactions of the yeast and the other ingredients. An ingredient that deactivates the yeast in any way can make the result more suitable for a doorstop than a sandwich or toast. This time, though, it worked.

    Sweet Walnut Bread with Banana

    1 cup water
    1 1/2 Tablespoons oil
    2 1/4 Tablespoons sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 1/2 Tablespoons dry milk
    3 cups bread flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

    Add all ingredients to bread machine as directed in your instruction booklet, of course. Do this part by the book.
    At the beep, add 1/2 cup walnuts and 1 mashed banana. Daisy's tip: place sliced walnuts (or any nuts) in a small zipper bag and crush them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin.

    When bread machine's cycle is finished, remove loaf and set on cooling rack for an hour - or less, if your family is hungry. Slice, then serve.

    I'm tempted to add raisins or dried cranberries to this bread. Maybe next time I don't have a ripe banana handy, that'll be the day we try a new bread!


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    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Piece of (green) cake.

    The email subject line at work said "It's time to go green!"

    What? I scoffed. I'm a green teacher; greener than most. Go green? Easy.

    So I signed up for our wellness coordinator's Green Planet Wellness program. I registered by email so as to save paper. Good start, I'd say. Starting on Earth Day, April 22, I'll " from a list of 100+ reasonable, achievable green living activities segmented into 5 categories — Home, Work, Exercise, Nutrition, and Miscellaneous. Each activity is assigned a value of 1-4 green points, depending on its potential effect....There’s something for everyone — from simple steps like buying reusable grocery bags and trimming shrubbery manually, to more involved activities like installing low-flow shower heads and taking public transportation. Big or small, each step contributes to a healthier world and a healthier you."

    Ms. Wellness implies that we'll learn new green habits that will help us live more "healthfully." Is that a word?

    Well, Ms. Wellness, I've been re-using copy paper for several years now. When the principal complained that "No one is making half sheet copies or copying on recycled paper!" the paraprofessionals in the copy room said, uh, wait a minute. Daisy has been doing both for a long time. I gather plastic shopping bags and pass them on for re-use. My white-board erasers are old socks, washed in Borax to remove as much of the color as possible. I'm using spelling activities copied two years ago and fitting my instruction to these, rather than making new copies to fit to my instruction. Penmanship? When the class finished using the copied pages, I began using manuscript paper from the supply room and writing the copy material on the chalkboard.

    I'm faithful about turning off computers at night. I teach the kids to turn off the lights when we leave the room. Many of the materials I provide, from crayons to color pencils to correcting pens, are scavenged from years past when I prevented kids from throwing these away in June.

    Green living? I enjoy learning new ways to act locally while thinking globally. But "go green?" Sorry, dear Ms. Wellness, I'm already green.

    I'll get a t-shirt for participating, and there are prizes along the way. Prizes or not, this looks like fun. I can feel successful at this program, even as I'm feeling less successful in teaching my challenging class.

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    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Whether the weather...

    It's shovel ready. The economic benefits may be localized (okay, merely personal), but it fits the times. As soon as the weather cooperates, I'm on it.

    You guessed it: Daisy's small but wonderful backyard garden.

    I've never formally defined it as a Kitchen Garden or a Recession Garden. It is what it is: a backyard garden of vegetables for the family, both human and rabbit residents of our fair home. The plot has grown a little each year we've planted it, and we've added simple environmentally-friendly tricks along the way. This year our goal is to use the space efficiently and get a better yield.

    Here's the to-do list.
    Move walkway boards out of the dirt. These are re-used from an old fence. When it started to fall, we knocked it down the rest of the way and used the boards as stepping "stones" between the veggies.
    Move trellises and tomato cages. I'm still doing the research to find better and taller supports for the tomatoes now that I've discovered some of the techniques for nurturing them well.
    Spread the compost. It's still in the bin, and I'm eager to get out the soil-ready batch and start anew.
    Till. Husband does this. He now has his family's old rototiller, so we don't need to rent one any more.
    Hook up rain barrel. It's ready to use; we need to set it on its blocks and direct the downspout into it. Painting optional: I would like to paint it, though.
    Buy the seedlings. I have the seeds; the tomato, pepper, and broccoli plants will come later.
    Sketch the new layout. I know what I want; I just need to make sure I'm putting it all in the right place this year.

    Ta-dah! list:
    (That's the "finished" or "outbox," for new readers to Compost Happens.)
    Make rain barrel! It filled with water during a rainstorm earlier this week; it's "shovel-ready," too!
    Buy seeds!
    Get excited and motivated! Okay, that's always a given. I'll never be a farmer, but I do enjoy my tiny plot in the backyard. Playing, er, working in the dirt feels good. Feels right.

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    Friday, March 27, 2009


    I would make a good hermit, I like to think.
    We had a half day of school, and I was invited out to lunch twice by difference coworkers. I begged off and came home instead, using La Petite as an excuse. "She's home for spring break, and I want to spend time with her." Did they know La Petite didn't stand a chance of being awake when I got home?
    Instead of a fish fry lunch at a nearby restaurant, I made leftover mac & cheese with a can of Diet Coke with lime. It was perfect.
    Next I loaded the crockpot with thin-sliced potatoes, turned it to high, and added a few spices. It'll be scalloped potatoes or a facsimile tonight.
    After that, I gathered all the towels and cloth napkins in the house and started a load of laundry.
    Then? I settled down on the couch with La Petite (she was awake by that time) and watched Wednesday's American Idol, which we'd recorded for Amigo.

    In the 80s, we called it Cocooning. Stay home, curl up in a blanket, read a book, not go out. Lately we've heard about Staycations, but that's not the same thing. Cocooning is being cozy at home, not leaving the house. It's kind of a twenty-first century hermithood. Is that a word?

    It is now.

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    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Family dinner conversation

    or...Siblings say the darnedest things when they're old enough
    La Petite: I was watching an episode of Bones. It's all about these great nerdy anthropologists.
    Me: I should have been a nerdy anthropologist. That would have been a great career for me.
    Amigo: You already have the nerdy part down.
    Me: Yes, and I do the nerdy part well, thank you very much.
    La Petite: (laughter) Well, they used the word onomatopoeia. I was so happy: a television show that used the word onomatopoeia!
    Amigo: I had a weird, nonsensical dream the other night.
    La Petite: Nonsensical? Did you just use the word nonsensical in conversation?
    Amigo: Yes.
    Me: Back to the dream.
    Amigo: Petite, I think you'll like it. Mom might think it's funny.
    Me: Should I leave the room so you two can talk?
    Amigo: No, it's okay. I dreamed that our whole family was in jail, and I don't know what for, but we were all in jail. And to get out of jail, one of us had to wrestle a giant wild mountain lion and throw it in the toilet and flush it down.
    (La Petite mimics muscles, wrestling moves, then nearly collapses with hysterics at the mention of the toilet)
    Amigo: So I volunteered to wrestle the mountain lion, and I threw it in the toilet and flushed it, and then we all got out of jail.
    (La Petite has to look away and cover her mouth for fear of expelling food due to uncontrollable laughter)
    (I try unsuccessfully several times to sip my diet coke, still fearful of squirting refreshing beverage out my nose)
    La Petite (eventually, with less snorting): I guess if there's family court, there can be family jail.
    Me: Yes, kiddo, that was nonsensical all right!

    Husband doesn't know what he's missing when he's at his train club meetings and doesn't get to eat supper with us. Wait - maybe he does.

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    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Inbox, Outbox, and Pile of Things I Can't Face

    The piles of paper grow. And grow, and grow, and grow. My goal: before spring break, which will arrive much too late for my taste this year, minimize the paper piles. Deal with them all, or organize them to a point that they don't look quite so intimidating.

    Yes, there are two coffee cups on the desk. One is empty, needing rinsing. The other is full of whatever blend I made that morning. I wasn't drinking double that morning!

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    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Pantry (and refrigerator) raids with eggs

    A while ago we raided the chicken. This week, we raid her eggs. We're fortunate to have an acquaintance who raises chickens on a small farm and sells the eggs inexpensively. Husband comes home with a dozen whenever we need one or whenever this coworker has too many. The fresh organic eggs are delicious; they really do have a stronger flavor than the store-bought variety. And fresh? Sometimes we buy eggs the same day she gathers them. Deep sigh of contentment: these eggs are good.

    Over easy, scrambled, omelets, Dutch Babies, French Toast, deviled eggs and more, all are good egg dishes. Those are almost too easy; how does the pantry raid fit in? I thought you'd never ask.

    Taco-eggs. Scramble eggs, mix in leftover taco meat. Amigo likes his with hot sauce. I like mine with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Coffee on the side, of course.

    Hard-boiled eggs chopped and sprinkled over a salad. That's for the humans, not for the rabbits in the family. I was tempted to hard boil a few of the farm eggs with green shells for Dr. Seuss Day at my school, but we'd used them for breakfast the day before. Now I can honestly say I've eaten green eggs and ham!

    Fun with Omelets. Husband made omelets with thin-sliced andouille sausage, diced onions, green pepper, and grated cheddar for lunch on Saturday. I don't know what else he added, though, because those were hot omelets! I've added leftover ham to an omelet, sandwich meat diced in small pieces, and all kinds of cheeses. They're also good with chives, fried potatoes, and almost anything I can find in the fridge.

    Then there are the options for adding an egg to an unrelated dish. Sometimes this adds to the taste, sometimes it stretches the meal to go a little farther. Meatloaf, superburgers, meatballs. Egg bread, biscuits, pancakes, pie crusts (whisk the egg white and spread it on top for a golden crust), dumplings; the list goes on and on.

    Then there are the shells: compost them or crush and dry them to plant under the tomatoes to provide extra fertilizing power. You didn't think I'd neglect that point, did you?

    Add your ideas in the comments! I'd love to hear them.

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    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Saving the rainwater, growing the veggies

    We're not used to working together as a team. We're more accustomed to splitting up the responsibilities, or as Husband put it, we "Divide and Conquer." So when I signed us up for a rain barrel making workshop at a nearby environmental charter school, we stumbled through the process as an awkward team.

    I got out the camera and then left it on the kitchen table, so we ended up without pictures, but that's fine. Frankly, it wasn't a very photogenic experience. Just imagine a big plastic barrel, the two of us drilling holes and fitting it with two tubes and a spigot, and there you have it. We covered the top with mesh to keep the bugs out, and now it's done. We'll hook it up to the downspout at the back of the garage near the garden, and it'll be good to go. Er, ready to catch the next storm.

    It looks rather blah out there now, so maybe I'll try to convince La Petite to paint it. Maybe polka dots? It would match the deck chairs!

    Here it is, not hooked up yet, with the garden area in the background. It was too cold to even start working outside today. Sigh. If March goes out like a lamb, maybe there's hope.

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    Friday, March 20, 2009

    Recession garden? Bring it on!

    A few seasons back I waited too long to buy seeds. I didn't get any pole beans, and my bush beans turned out to be both green and yellow. Surprise, Green Bay Packer colors! But seriously, I prefer stringless pole beans for ease of harvest and preparation.

    Last summer compared my small backyard plot to the WWII era Victory gardens. Today's news is full of a new term: Recession Gardens. Folks across the U.S.A. are figuring out what we backyard gardeners already knew: fresh home grown veggies are inexpensive and delicious, with less risk of contamination in the harvest or shipping process. But with the new found popularity of vegetable gardens comes a drawback: not a run on the bank as in the Great Depression, but a run on the seed companies!

    I can't get out to buy seeds right away. Despite the thick piles of snow still on the ground, I have Spring Conferences at school this week and next. I won't have the time or energy to shop around. I could order online, but I'd really rather buy locally and stimulate my neighborhood economy. For what it's worth, whenever I get it together, here comes the plan! Step one in any major shopping endeavour: make a list! So far, here's what I own.

    I think the beans are covered now: I have both pole and bush styles, green and yellow. Herbs are good: see the thyme, oregano, basil, dill, and more on the left. Only one package of spinach, and that's about it. The black beans came from a plant I put in by mistake last year; I didn't have my reading glasses on for the fine print. Oops! I like black beans in soups and chili, so I'm going to try them again. The painted rocks were a student gift a few years ago; I still love them.

    Here's the seed shopping list for now:
    Peas, squash (zucchini, green), parsley, lettuces, a little more spinach.
    Tomatoes (cherry, Roma, and big juicy ones), peppers, broccoli.
    Asparagus! I've done the research, and I think I'm ready.

    The chives and green onions will come back, as will the rhubarb and the raspberries. It's time to go back to the store and see if they still have a good supply next to the snow shovels, anti-freeze and ice melt!

    Parent Bloggers Network is talking about green living this week. What can be greener than a backyard garden, complete with home-grown compost? They're also featuring green cleaning supplies from the Nature's Choice line by SC Johnson. Great idea, but I'd still rather play in the dirt, er, I'd rather weed the garden than clean my house.

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    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Who or what writes these things?

    I think my favorite local Chinese restaurant changed suppliers. Its cookie fortunes make sense less and less often. They are supposed to make some sort of sense or impart a certain wisdom, aren't they? Last night Husband brought home supper (Dragon and Phoenix: Mmmm) and we had some "What the heck?" reactions to the fortunes.

    Husband's: "You have an unusual understanding of the problems of human relationships." Really? He's an engineer, people. He works with technology. Cameras. Television equipment. People, yes, but mostly tech.

    But on the other hand...he's the family spokesperson at IEP meetings. Since we realized that teachers tend to overreact when I, their colleague, bring up difficult points, he's taken on the Speak Firmly and Carry a Big Folder of Evidence role. He does it well. Maybe there's an angle to this fortune after all.

    Mine: "Smile often, and see what happens." Huh? This reminds me of the old t-shirt saying: "Smile! People will wonder what you're up to." Then there's "When Irish Eyes are smiling, they're up to mischief!" I'm not Irish, so that last one doesn't apply.

    But on the other hand...smiling, even when I don't feel like it, can help raise the mood of my classroom. Kids relax a little, focus better, feel safer. A smile might go a long way during this long, long stretch toward a belated spring break.

    La Petite's: she's home for a few days to rest and let her body begin recuperating from mononucleosis. We're helping nurse her back to health by cooking and doing her laundry and taking care of her rabbits - and bringing her Chinese take-out that's a bit better quality than what she gets near her campus apartment. Her fortune cookie announced: "The secret of success is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside." She looked at it quizzically, read it aloud to us, and shrugged her shoulders. Maybe that philosophy will cure her acid reflux - or not.

    But on the other hand...This is a young woman with a very positive body image and no eating disorders. She enjoys her food and doesn't overeat - well, not often. She's a pretty decent cook, too, for a university kid. So she's supposed to let her food duke it out inside her digestive system? What on earth does that mean? This fortune got lost in translation.

    Leftovers! Chinese food take-out almost always provides enough for leftovers. I had the Dragon and Phoenix again for lunch today. The cookie with my lunch leftovers proclaimed: "Be patient. Good things come to those who wait."

    This one is simply unoriginal. But on the other hand...I think I'll sit down, read a book, blog, drink coffee, and wait for the laundry in the dryer to finish. Maybe I can claim the cookie's advice told me to slow down and take a break.

    Or something like that.

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    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Comfort Food: Mac & Cheese Bake

    Daughter is home from college with mono. We're working through Amigo's annual IEP. Both Husband and I face increasing challenges in our respective workplaces due to layoffs. We're secure (for now), but the workload increases and the stress grows along with the workload. What to do? Make comfort food for supper, of course! When I found this recipe, I said, "Cheese? We always have plenty of cheese in the house!" I can reach for these ingredients almost any time; they're staples in my pantry.

    Incredibly Delicious Mac & Cheese Bake

    1 can condensed cream of chicken (or celery or mushroom) soup
    2 cups milk
    1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    1 cup shredded Sargento Mexican Blend cheese
    1 cup shredded 4-cheese quesadilla blend cheeses (also a Sargento blend)
    1 package (16 ounces) macaroni, any shape. I used elbow mac.

    1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water. Drain.
    2. In a separate bowl, mix condensed soup, cheeses, and milk. Stir in cooked pasta. Pour into a greased casserole dish. Cover.
    3. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

    The cheeses called for were actually Parmesan and Mozzarella. I had the taco and quesadilla cheeses in stock already, so I used them rather than buy more cheese. Don't laugh; I have too much cheese in the refrigerator right now because we stocked up at the grocery store and then the BoyChoir fundraiser of cheese and sausage arrived. Whoa, baby, there are a lot of good Wisconsin snacks in our kitchen! I imagine you could use your favorite cheeses as long as you kept the portions the same.

    I used a two-quart casserole dish, and it was woefully too small. I was afraid of spilling every time I stirred. Next time I'll use something bigger - maybe a 13 X 9 pan instead.

    I found this recipe in a collection of coupons and made my own changes (of course, as usual). According to the little piece of not-so-junky junk mail, you can find more "homemade flavor" at with a search for the word "recipes." I haven't tried it yet. Look out family, I might become scary good in the kitchen!

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    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Celebrate (25 years of) good times, come on!

    Husband and I are coming up on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Our 25th! Wow. We're thinking about celebrating, just the two of us, with a trip somewhere.
    We're not big spenders. Our trip to Nova Scotia last year was part research (his genealogy), part family relaxation and fun. We stayed at a cottage off-season to get better rates, brought our bicycles, and cooked our own food while we were there. The biggest expense was getting there. This time around will probably be similar. We're not looking at a major expensive trip; we just want to spend time together and make it special.
    Husband suggested Seattle. Coffee for me, brew-pubs for him, we'd both enjoy the destination. But it's a little farther away than we'd planned. You see, Amigo will be at camp and La Petite will house-sit, but we'd like to be within a day's drive in case of emergency. It can be a long day's drive, but we're still thinking of not straying too far away from home.
    At the moment, we're considering putting a pin in the map at home and stretching out a string to make a circle about 400-500 miles from the center.
    Our hairdresser suggested we find a bed and breakfast, snuggle into the room for a week, and just relax together. It could work.
    Husband said thanks but no thanks to the idea of a dude ranch. I could be talked into Seattle, but it's a little farther than we want to go this time. Niagara Falls would be fun, but it's a little on the outer range for distance.
    We're not sure if we want to find a rural cottage or B&B and just take walks and spend couple time, or if we want to go to a big city and explore the museums and restaurants and other exciting experiences. We're not casino gamblers, so Vegas and Atlantic City are off the list. Shows? We enjoy watching a good quality concert, whether jazz, classical, or a capella vocal, or a musical stage show. We also enjoy watching the sun rise or set over a simple yet lovely beach.
    This makes it harder. We're looking for a long weekend or maybe a week. We don't know if we want to go country or city, fancy or plain.
    Then again, we don't have to drive. We could take a train somewhere. Husband loves, loves trains! We could go a little farther by train...
    Ideas, Internet friends and family? Drop a pin on the map in the heart of Green Bay Packer country and find a one-day drive. Then let me know what you recommend!

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    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    Wardrobe Function, Laundry, and Life

    I complained heartily when La Petite brought her laundry home at Christmas. Next time, I swore, she would do her own. Then she got sick. Mono, the scourge of college students everywhere, chose her as its next target.
    She kept insisting she was doing alright, didn't need us to visit, she was getting enough rest, her professors were letting her catch up at her own pace, and the works. Then she relented. "I'm feeling exceedingly mono-y now. Can I come home to rest for a few days?" Of course, we said yes.
    We wanted her to sleep, rest, and sleep some more, the only real cure for infectious mononucleosis. If she came home, we could handle all the cooking, the house would be quieter than her apartment, and I could (gulp) wash her growing heap of dirty clothes. I'm not a Laundry SuperHero Mom, but I have learned to be efficient and even eco-conscious with large loads of the family clothes.

    Not all families are so lucky. I remember when we were young newlyweds and used the laundromat down the road. When La Petite was born, we owned a washer (after saving our pennies and quarters!), but we had no dryer. I hung everything on racks and lines in the basement of our apartment. There are families, though, who don't even have those options.

    That's where Tide's Loads of Hope program steps in. The program was born in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to assist families displaced by the storm. Tide Loads of Hope helps in the aftermath of a natural disaster by providing clean clothes and a sense of comfort to families in need. Tide Loads of Hope truck or vans, a free mobile laundry service, travel to disaster affected neighborhoods. Hurricanes, floods, you name it, people need to wash their underwear. Taking on one piece of the recovery puzzle helps lighten the load, er, the weight on the shoulders of disaster victims.

    In the current disaster, the failing economy, donating to charities is down. But if you can spare a dime, Tide Loads of Hope t-shirts support this worthwhile program. Think about it; the more t-shirts in the dresser, the less often you'll have to wash!

    This Saturday morning as I'm alternating schoolwork with my strategic attack on the family mountain of dirty clothes, I resolve to feel grateful that I have a washer and dryer in the basement and I can deal with this major chore in the comfort of my own home. That in itself takes a load off my mind.

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    Friday, March 13, 2009

    See you in my dreams!

    Sleep like a baby? The person who coined that phrase wasn't a new mom or dad. The phrase should really read "sleep like a rabbit." Rabbits, like cats, never suffer from insomnia.

    Buttercup is as stretched out as she can be and still fit under the table. Yes, she's that big. She's waiting for me to go away with the camera, already, so she can nap.

    Peanut and Sadie snuggle in a sunspot on their favorite blanket. These tiny bunnies are peeking at the photographer, but they're not worried. That's because La Petite took the picture, and she's their "mama." They know she's a safe person.

    Remember Tiny Bunny? He could find his way into the strangest places. He napped almost anywhere, too. It's true, bunnies never have a problem finding a good place for naptime.

    Parent Bloggers Network asks about the creative excuses kids use to postpone their bedtimes. My kids are 22 and 17; I'm more concerned about getting them out of bed before noon! The new light goodies from sylvania still look mighty nice. I'm sure the bunnies would enjoy them.

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    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    Book to self connections.

    As kids learn to read the words and understand the content, we help them move beyond the basic levels of comprehension by making connections: Book to self, book to book, and book to world.

    Sometimes that spills over into my pleasure reading. I was reading Revolutionary Road and as poor Frank Wheeler faced his desk at work I could envision my own. He had an inbox, an outbox, and a stack of papers he referred to as "...stack of things he couldn't face."

    Mine are more of a to-do and a ta-dah! basket, with the anything in the ta-dah! basket heading directly to its destination. Sounds efficient, right? Well, maybe. But I still have a "...stack of things I can't face..." sitting next to the computer. In addition, the actual to-do basket has to wait until the planning and grading are done.

    Eventually, it all gets caught up, and I can go home and read again.

    If I read enough Harry Potter, maybe I'll find a wand that will help me vanish the stack of things I can't face.

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    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    Spring Fever Rhubarb Crunch

    You're right, I made this in March. In Wisconsin in March. I made this recipe the day after a snowstorm that dropped five inches of wet, heavy white stuff on us.
    I keep rhubarb in the freezer. When it's ripe and I can't bake it quickly enough, I dice it and freeze it in one-cup portions. To make this recipe I needed six (6!) cups. Here's the recipe and the play-by-play commentary.

    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel
    2 tablespoons orange juice
    6 cups diced rhubarb (about 1 1/2 pound)
    1 Tablespoon butter, softened
    2 slices white or whole wheat bread, cut into quarters
    3/4 cup finely chopped pecans, macadamia nuts, or almonds
    1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger or nutmeg (I used both, 1/8 teaspoon of each))
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup melted butter

    1. For filling: In a large bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, orange peel and orange juice. My rhubarb was so juicy when it thawed, I wondered if I should skip the juice. I didn't. Add rhubarb; gently toss until coated. Let the rhubarb mixture stand about 15 minutes or until a syrup forms, stirring occasionally.
    2. Using the 1 tablespoon butter, generously coat the bottom and sides of an 8X8X2 inch baking dish (2 quart square). Set the baking dish aside. I had supper in the oven (homemade mac & cheese, mmm), so I put the pan in the oven to let the butter melt.) Set aside.

    3. This is the part I changed from the original. I used the right ingredients, but I prepared it a little differently. Place a steel blade in a food processor. Add bread quarters, pecans, graham crackers, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Pulse a few times until mixture is crumbly. Somehow, it didn't seem worthwhile to get out my large and heavy food processor for just two slices of bread, so I threw in the whole thing. It worked like a dream, creating a nice and even and aromatic crumble.

    -Okay, we take a break here because I did when I baked this for the first time. As soon as I set aside the baking dish and the rhubarb syrup mix and made the crumble, my mac & cheese was ready. I set all three pieces of the dessert aside and had supper with my kids. After supper I finished the rhubarb crunch, put it in the oven, and cleaned up the supper dishes. Maybe that's why I....never mind. I'll get to that.

    4. Evenly scatter 1/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the rhubarb mixture. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the rhubarb. Drizzle melted butter over all. Oh, no! I just took the finished dish out of the oven and realized that I completely forgot the melted butter!

    Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 6 -- or 4, with a little left over for lunches tomorrow.

    I found this recipe in the April issue of Midwest Living Magazine. They suggest modifications such as mixing berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or chopped strawberries with rhubarb, substituting 1 1/2 cups of berries for the same amount of rhubarb. I suggest increasing the amount of sugar; mine was a little tart.
    They also suggest not forgetting the butter. I won't tell the family if you won't.


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    Monday, March 09, 2009

    March Madness in a Teacher's Life

    It might be March if I spend more time answering parent emails than I do correcting and recording papers.

    It must be March if the kids are so over-energetic and unfocused that we jump at any opportunity for a field trip, no matter where and what it is.

    It must be March if teachers are drinking coffee and tea at staff meetings after school -- with full caffeine!

    It must be March if there's an argument between teachers, principals, and playground staff over who needs to hold kids in for recess -- because the kids behaved badly for all!

    It must be March when a few low-seniority teachers actually feel lucky to be headed for lay-off.

    It must be March when the secretary makes an extra pot of coffee in the office and it's gone by first morning recess.

    It must be March when teachers actually want to take a sick day.

    It must be March when you hear muttering in the lounge about inventing a Ritalin salt-lick.

    It might be March when people on the calendar committee deny they had anything to do with scheduling the later-than-usual Spring Break.

    It must be March when classroom teachers start looking at crisis intervention training as a necessity, not an option.

    It must be March when the specialists close their doors and say, "I'm glad I'm not a regular classroom teacher!"

    And finally, it must be March when teachers start to plan how to get even on April Fools Day!

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    Saturday, March 07, 2009

    Inch by inch, Green is a cinch.

    BlogHer asked members to comment on ways they've been "greening" their lifestyles. The post has a sponsor, of course. Doesn't everybody? I started to comment, realized I'd forgotten my password, and vowed to come back. As time passed and life went on, I couldn't help but think that my recent Green Growth couldn't possibly fit in a comment box.

    You can tell from my blogs' names that I'm an environmentalist at heart. Compost Happens, A Mother's Garden of Verses... no doubt about this blogger's philosophies. Not at all. Then look through the archives: start with Mom's Playing in the Dirt Again! and then check out others under the labeles of garden and It's not easy being green. Green isn't just a color; it's a way of life.

    I'm not "crunchy" green in the hippy sense, though. I gave in to Husband's desire to hire a lawn service. We use a clothes dryer, not a clothesline. Our home is air conditioned, although in our part of Wisconsin we are fortunate not to need it often. I drive a minivan, too. Hey, I'm a mom of a teen and college student. We're always filling the back of the minivan with someone or something.

    The pale olive comparison (see above) is here so readers will know that green, like any lifestyle, has limits and levels. Seriously, it's easier than many people think. Teacher friends like to say "Inch by inch, learning's a cinch. Yard by yard, learning's hard." Incorporating environmental actions step by step, inch by inch, can be easy.

    I garden. This section of lawn doesn't grow grass, doesn't need mowing, doesn't need any chemicals. It provides delicious and fresh vegetables for much of the summer.
    We compost. Composting is easy, it cuts down on our family garbage, and it produces a nice soil additive each spring for the garden.
    We conserve energy by using a programmable thermostat, minimizing the use of the clothes dryer, washing clothes in warm or cold water, and more.
    There are more, many more, environmentally friendly practices in my home and family. Really, it's quite easy to bring green living practices into everyday use.

    Back to the top. It would be cheating to simply list the above practices in the comment box on BlogHer's question. These are not new; they're habits we've built into our lives for years. New and recent additions in my family's eco-conscious behaviors do exist. For example:

    We stopped buying paper napkins last fall. I keep them on hand (well, we haven't used up the package that was in the pantry when I set this goal!), but we have switched almost 100% to cloth napkins. This was a frugal choice: I bought the first set from a store's going out of business sale, and picked up a set of holiday napkins in new condition from a thrift store before Christmas. I wash them with the rest of the dirty clothes and towels each weekend - no extra laundry, no additional water/ heat energy used. This decision was so easy I wonder why I didn't start years ago!

    I set a goal last fall of buying No New Wrapping Paper. My family resisted a little, so I didn't push it on them, but I predict they'll come around. I reuse gift bags, make tags from last year's cards, and collect rather than recycle packing material. It worked; I bought no new wrapping paper, and (don't tell them I noticed), my family didn't come home with any new paper, either.

    My husband and I make a conscious effort to pay attention to buying local, especially in foods. That's tough in a cold climate like ours, and we're hoping to freeze more of our garden produce in order to avoid buying produce imported from out of the country. This is a nutrition decision as well as a commitment to minimizing our carbon footprint, as well as noting that local and fresh simply tastes better.

    So, BlogHers, are you satisfied with my contribution? I almost hope not. I'm committed to living lightly on the earth, and there are many easy ways to lighten my footprint. In my future I predict a second compost bin, a rain barrel or two for the garden, and possibly a food dehydrater to make the most of my garden yield. Spinning the rabbits' shedded fur into yarn might not be possible, but I know that inch by inch, my family and I will weave the green consciousness into action.

    And action, after all, is what environmentalism is about.

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    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Ah, Friday. Friday!!

    What a week! I found myself honestly including clip art in almost all of my emails. When I realized which search terms I'd used, I had to laugh. It was semi-hysterical laughter, of course, with the underlying, "How long is it until spring break??"
    To reschedule a parent-teacher conference involving four staff members: circus. It's true: step right up! Take a look at the drama in the center ring as we try to meld four conference schedules and find one common time that fits the parent's (narrow) request!
    I responded to an email from a co-teacher on the subject of another parent who is so in denial that she has one foot in Egypt: scream.

    After we finally got across the tightrope of scheduling by working out a time with three out of four teachers, followed by a time slot when two out of four can continue if needed: relief. This search term got me a batch of buildings and maps, though, thinking of "relief" as texture or architecture, so I tried relax. That did the trick.

    In response to a coworker having a rough week: "Could be worse; we could be out of coffee!" Of course, the keyword was coffee.

    I wonder what will turn up in the email today? Hm, maybe I really don't want to know.

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    Thursday, March 05, 2009

    A rohs by any other name

    The names have been changed to protect the innocent - and the outrageous.

    I received the following note from a parent:

    "It really bothers my daughter Preschusz that her name is misspelled so often. It should be P-R-E-S-C-H-U-S-Z, not PRECIOUS."

    What I wanted to write:

    Dere Mrs. Preshus' Mommie;

    When your daughter was born and you created a new and inventive spelling of her name, you did her no favors. If it really bothers her to see her unusual name spelled in ways that are more or less unusual than the one on her birth certificate, you might want to consider counseling. After all, she is cursed, er, blessed with this unique name that will be with her the rest of her life. Did you think about this when you named her?

    Did you think about the way she'd have to learn how to write her name in kindergarten, how you'd have to teach the teachers how to spell it so they could work with her?

    Did you imagine she'd feel precious, er, special having to re-do her name constantly, justifying it to her peers?

    Did you think about the bullies who would jump on her name like moths are drawn to a porch light?

    How will she feel when little Paula down the road can find key rings and coin purses and bicycle license plates with her name emblazoned on them and poor little Prech, er, Presci, er, whatever-the-heck you called her can not?

    How will your little one feel when she's a teenager and trying to fit in, but her name makes her stand out instead?

    When you named your little sweetie with that abominable spelling, you made sure she'll be bothered again and again by seeing errors on her name. Does she know it's your fault?

    In conclusion, dear Mother of the Spelling from Hehll, I'm not so sure it's little Precious who is bothered.
    I think, very possibly, quite probably, this whole name spelling conflict might be not about her, but all about you.

    The Teacher (or is it TeeChere?) from the Black Lagoon -- or rather, Lahguhn


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    Wednesday, March 04, 2009

    Not exactly Dooced, but close.

    An article in our association newsletter titled "Blogging and MySpace" discussed teachers in the blogging world.
    "In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that neither teachers nor students “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.... School employees, however, do not have an absolute right to First Amendment protection."
    The writer went on to give examples of cases balancing the public's right to know with workplace safety and privacy laws. Then it went on:
    "Most importantly, teachers must understand that they are held to a higher moral standard than most other workers and should not engage in public speech which might jeopardize their status as role models. Teachers are held to a higher standard as role models. If you behave inappropriately away from school in a way that can affect your role model status at school, you may be subject to potential disciplinary review."

    This part got me thinking. I do not discuss my politics at school, but I do volunteer and contribute to campaigns. If current administration considered my political involvement inappropriate and a negative effect on my "role model status," could that mean an end to my career? Could my letter to the editor in support of a candidate rub an administrator the wrong way?

    When I'm most stressed about work, I might blog about it. I won't share details, however, because it would violate an important part of my work: privacy and confidentiality. You're more likely to read about my reaction to an event and my resulting stress level than the event itself.

    We teachers know we're role models, and we know our conduct is important. But could actions out of school really affect our jobs now, in the twenty-first century?

    I'm not talking about criminal actions. To keep our children safe, certain people should not work in schools. I'm talking about human nature, balancing role model status with personal life.

    We're no longer in the days when a woman could not continue teaching while pregnant, when a teacher who dared to go to a bar would risk formal reprimand.

    My blog is written under a pseudonym. Friends and family (including several coworkers) know who I am. Blogging intimate details about work, though? Constitutionally or otherwise, it would playing with fire.

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    Tuesday, March 03, 2009

    Lemon Snaps

    From the We Energies Cookie Book, 80th Anniversary edition

    2/3 cup butter, softened (works best for me with 1/3 cup margarine and 1/3 cup butter)
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 egg
    1 egg yolk
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon rind
    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    (cold water)

    Cream butter; add sugar gradually. Blend well. Add egg and egg yolk, lemon juice and rind; beat until light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to creamed misture and mix thoroughly. Place dough in refrigerator to chill for several hours.

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Working with a small portion of dough at a time, roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and cut with a round cutter. Place onto greased cookie sheets. To make crackled surface, brush each cookie with cold water before baking. Bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. Makes 5-7 dozen.

    These were good: simple, tasty, good with coffee. I wonder if they might be better with frosting? Maybe a light powdered sugar frosting with a hint of lemon and a drop of yellow food coloring would do the trick. Anything too heavy or too rich would take away from the subtle lemon flavor.
    I think I might try my rabbit-shaped cookie cutters next time, just for fun. I have at least three different sizes in bunny shapes. Who says cookies have to be round?

    In other news, EcoWomen are holding an anniversary party to celebrate one year of their blogginess. Check it out here!

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    Monday, March 02, 2009

    Read Across America

    Dr. Seuss' birthday was March 2nd, and school across the USA choose this day to commemorate his genius and the fun of reading. In honor of the "Doc" and his work, here are my favorite facts about Ted Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

    1. His first book was rejected by 27 publishers before someone was wise enough to pick it up. Take about patience! The man never gave up.
    2. Dr. Suess worked hard. His book ideas that came by accident, such as Horton Lays an Egg, happened while he was at his desk brainstorming.
    3. His books were not fluff; he incorporated serious issues into many of his creations.
    4. The good Doctor questioned the status quo. When given a list of words he was to use in an Easy Reader, he realized the list was woefully inadequate and moved beyond it, creating the now classic The Cat in the Hat.
    5. Above all, Dr. Seuss realized that reading should be fun. His stories inspired children to read and keep reading, to enjoy their books and improve their reading skills at the same time.

    To really honor the man's memory, I need to act on these concepts, not just restate them every year on March 2nd. In keeping with my own personal Action goal and with Read Across America, here goes.

    1. It's time to look at crafting another professional article. My last one was published over a year ago. I have several ideas floating around my head; it's time to rough draft a few and settle on the best choice to complete and submit. In other news, I set a goal of adding to my poetry blog at least once a week. I've posted Haiku Friday most weeks, and occasionally added another. I missed when I was sick; well, there are priorities.
    2. Frustration often stops me in my tracks. Frustration with student behavior, lack of resources, budget cuts, and more, all get in the way. I need to get back to good old-fashioned hard work, set aside what I can't do, and focus on that which I can.
    3. Important issues? I spent time and money (mostly time) on supporting candidates that I believed would make a difference. Now that they're in office (Yes! We can!) I need to keep writing and calling and reminding them of their responsibilities to the constituents, the people who need them.
    4. See #3.
    5. The best motivator is often enjoyment. In this category, I'll keep reading. I read for fun, for reviews, for my profession. I keep passing on magazines to my daughter so she can read the most fascinating pieces. Amigo and I will continue to sit out on our swing when the weather gets better, and sit on the couch and read for fun when the weather is cold. Tales of Beedle the Bard is waiting for us.

    Happy Anniversary of your birth, Ted. Theodore Seuss Geisel, the man who revolutionized reading. We celebrate in the best way: by reading, reading, and reading more.

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    Sunday, March 01, 2009

    It's not easy being clean and green

    Simple weekend pleasures.
    A long shower, warm water, not needing to rush to get ready for school.
    In winter, showers are usually short so as not to over dry my skin. Today I took my time, breathed in the humid air (good for my recently healed sinuses), washed and moisturized. Don't worry, this is not a TMI (Too Much Information) type of post. I'm just reveling in the simple pleasure of being able to take my time.
    I like to buy decent shampoos, salon products, but they cost more than the drugstore variety. This often balances out, however, with the quality. The EcoStore shampoo and conditioner in my shower are good quality, and therefore I only need to use a little. There are no fillers (their company goal is No Nasty Chemicals) so the small amount of shampoo I used was plenty to clean my hair.
    Conditioner is a little harder. I have dry hair, and it's winter. That's not just any winter, but a harsh Wisconsin winter which equals dry, static-filled air and drier, static-filled hair. I ordered EcoStore's vanilla shampoo and conditioner because they're designated as being good for dry hair like mine.
    I've been using Ecostore's vanilla shampoo and conditioner for a week, and the results so far are good. The conditioner is light and rinses out easily, yet detangles and smooths my thin fly-away locks. Poetic enough for you? It's all true.
    Back to simple pleasures. A somewhat longer than usual shower, steaming up the mirrors, wasting water - I don't do this often. A little body butter afterwards, and I felt like a whole new person. I'm not the grungy mama in her sweats doing laundry any more; I'm the clean, green mama ready to plan the garden.
    If only the garden weren't still covered by two feet of snow!

    Ecostore sent me the small bottles of shampoo and conditioner to sample and review. The products are good quality and they shipped quickly; I'll definitely buy more from their company. Good variety, reasonable prices, effective products, and environmentally sensitive? Works for me.

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