email: okaybyme at gmail dot com

View My Complete Profile

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.

Subscribe in a reader

  • The Garden Central
  • Your Garden Show Interactive Online Community
  • Hometown Seeds
  • Live to Garden
  • WormsEtc; composting, vermiculture, and more
  • Rion Greenhouses - modular kits
  • Rose Gardening A great source for pictures and information on roses!

    website metrics

    My Stats

  • Thursday, April 30, 2009

    Will swine flu fizzle or present a pandemic?

    Timing is everything, and "shoulds" are bogus, even when a pandemic is threatening.

    I should make sure our medicine cabinet is stocked.
    Reality: I usually buy over-the-counter meds when they're on sale, especially vitamins & supplements. They run 2 for 1 specials so often I never want to pay full price.
    End result: We have lots of some meds, we're almost out of others.

    I should make sure our cupboard is stocked.
    Reality: Fear of Mother Hubbard Syndrome is alive and well, and we have plenty of canned and frozen foods - including the beef stock I made last night after grilling steaks. That will be one. good. soup.
    End result: We'll be able to last a few weeks if we're quarantined. A month? That might be tougher.

    I should go over my files and records from Public Health Training.
    Reality: I barely have the time and energy to get my school papers corrected and recorded.
    End result: I'll pull the files when the first case gets reported in my state or in town.

    Heck with all this! I should be gardening!
    Reality: Wisconsin weather is fickle, and there's still the potential for frost later this week.
    End result: Planting will wait until the end of May.

    I should write a knowledgable post about swine flu.
    Reality: Swine flu posts abound, as do up-to-date articles. Search any reputable news site for swine flu and you'll find updates.
    End result: I think I'll go check the medicine cabinet and see if I need to make a stop at Walgreens!

    In between writing the rough draft and hitting publish, I received the latest newsletter for public health volunteers in my fair city. The advice is routine, and I hope the situation remains so. ------->Prevent germ transmission in standard ways, stay home if you're sick, etc.
    -->Store a two week supply of food and water and pet supplies, stock up on nonprescription medicines, and keep prescriptions current.
    -->Keep a good supply of basic health supplies such as thermometers, gloves, soap and hand sanitizers, and cleaner/ sanitizers such as bleach.
    -->Plan ahead: know how family members will be cared for if they're sick.

    Hmm...with aging parents and a kiddo in college, the last item on the list isn't as easy as it sounds. Maybe I "should" make a few phone calls.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, April 29, 2009

    Going green: am I ahead of the game?

    I signed up for our wellness coordinator's Go Green program. I'll get a cool t-shirt when it ends, and I get to examine my lifestyle and incorporate green habits into my daily routine.

    Or not.

    I read the list of activities and realized I'm way, way ahead of the people who wrote this list. This is a good program for beginners, but for my family? It's so easy it's almost laughable. Encouraging, perhaps, knowing that my efforts are significant. Sad, though, that so many people don't already participate in easy, easy ways to lessen their impacts on the Earth.

    In the Home category:
    Insulate your attic. Done, along with the new roof five years ago.
    Install a programmable thermostat. Immediately when we bought the house 13 years ago
    Get an energy audit. Shortly after we moved in; we've gradually taken steps to improve the energy efficiency in our 1890 Victorian. Currently on the list? Replacing old windows.
    Create a compost pile. Hahahahaha! I've had one for ten years and plan to start a second.
    Install a low-flow toilet. Turned off the old water guzzler in the basement, the other two in the house have been replaced with low-flow.
    Insulate your water heater. Again, we did this years ago.

    As single items, these make a lot of sense. The way I use them in combination, they work even better.

    I think I'll clean the rabbit's litter box, dump the soiled and biodegradable litter in the compost bin, and rinse the litter box with rain-barrel water.
    Next I'll use a rag formerly known as Husband's t-shirt to clean the oven window with my 7th Generation multi-surface cleaner. Then I'll be able to watch what's baking without opening the oven and releasing heat, forcing the temp down and starting a mid-cycle reheating.
    I made a serious and successful effort to reuse packing materials as gift wrap last Christmas. Packing material is also great for mailing books with my Paperbackswap account.

    Some goals have to be modified. Using a clothesline is a great energy saver. In my climate and due to my family's environmental allergies (hay fever, etc.), a clothesline isn't realistic. Instead, I choose to wash by color and fabric type, then dry by weight and wetness. The heaviest and wettest clothing (jeans, sweats) get washed first and dried last. They hang on a drying rack in between so they're merely damp when go in the dryer. I just started using anti-static dryer balls to save money on fabric softener and use fewer chemicals. The balls work well on regular laundry and not so well on delicates, so I'll continue to use Downy on sweaters. The change is still worthwhile. The fact that the box from the dryer balls is the perfect size for wrapping gifts (in re-used packing material of course), is a bonus.

    It's a good feeling, this knowledge that I'm doing right by the planet. Going Green is more than just a 30 day activity. It's a way of life.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    Mom's Famous Home Fried Potatoes

    No, they're not really fried. They're baked. They're simple, too.

    Use white or yellow potatoes for best results.

    Portions: I plan one medium potato per person, more if the person is a potato lover like La Petite.

    Scrub potatoes. Dice, skins on, to about one inch squares (or random shapes, but keep them a fairly regular size for even heating). Pat dry with towel.

    Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray. Spread potatoes on sheet, then spray potatoes with non-stick spray. Sprinkle with seasoning salt such as McCormick's Season-all. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Turn, then cook for 15-20 minutes more until a fork easily goes through potatoes. Note: check after five minutes, depending on your pan's finish. You may need to stir or turn more often to prevent sticking.

    Serve with your favorite main dish!


    Add diced onions or scallions
    Serve with chives and sour cream

    To cook on the grill: sprinkle olive oil on doubled aluminum foil. Place potatoes in foil, season, then fold foil closed. Cook near coals for 20 minutes, then shake (to stir and avoid sticking) and heat through on regular height grill. If potatoes aren't done yet, finish in microwave. The smoky taste is delicious!


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    The neverending saga of the telephone wires

    Husband cut down an ornamental tree that had grown a bit too tall for itself. It was lovely when it was small, and I'm sure the previous owners of the home enjoyed it. But as it grew, it blocked the sun from my garden and its thorns (spikes! ouch!) imperiled anyone walking under the drooping branches. We made the decision, and down it came.

    But high up above the ladder, the tree branches were tangled in and around the phone wires. He called the AT&T equivalent of Diggers' Hotline to let them know about the problem and find out what they wanted to do. When he finally reached a real person (after several minutes of the voice-system maze), he was told to cut the tree down completely. When he was done and the branches were just dangling, they would send a crew out to get the tree out of the wires.

    He cut the tree down. When freed of their lower supportive brethren, the tiptop branches wobbled, twisted, and fell free themselves. They left the phone service lines dangling, however. That was just the beginning.

    Husband called again to leave an update. We got a phone call later that week from a service technician who wanted to come while we weren't home. Should have been fine; he didn't need to get in the house. But no, it wasn't that simple. Somewhere in the chain of command, the story became garbled. The tech thought we had trouble with U-Verse, our television service. He tested the line going into the home, found no problem, left us a note with his phone number so we could call him back because he couldn't get into the home, of course.

    So....husband called again. He explained that it wasn't a U-Verse problem, a cell phone problem, or a landline problem. All of our services were working well. It was the line outside that might become a problem. He even described it in engineering terms so the technicians could understand. I offered to send them the above pictures if they needed more information....

    The next morning, a weekend with all of us at home this time, the technician called. "I understand you want a wire buried?" Husband got off the phone and nearly collapsed with laughter. For a communications giant, the local folks certainly couldn't get a message straight! The tech showed up twenty minutes later, Hubs showed him the dangling wires, described the recent problem and the fact that the tree and the lightning strike a few years ago had collaborated (okay, maybe not consciously planned) to weaken the wires. The technician, the first one to actually finally see and understand the problem, said he knew who would do this work and he'd call him right away.

    Concluding act: The above-mentioned technician showed up at the door on Sunday afternoon. He rang the doorbell greeted Husband with, "Hi, I'm here to replace the wire that runs from the pole to your house." Imagine further laughter here, but all out of view of the poor guy. He honestly thought that was the message. Husband took him out back, showed him the wire, and he said, "Oh! I can do that. And I'll record the lightning strike, too. These wires get weak with repeated stresses, so we like to keep records so we know when to replace them." He got his ladder, did the work, and was gone within half an hour.

    And all was well with the wired world.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    Compost 3-2-1: Summary and Goals

    We teachers sometimes use a summarizer technique called a 3-2-1 review. It's like a bulleted list that helps students process what they've learned and show that they've gained from the activity or unit. For example:

    While watching the video, fill in the following.

    3 things you already knew
    2 new facts
    1 fact or concept that surprised you

    New Year Goals

    3 habits I will keep
    2 events I'm looking forward to
    1 goal or change for the new year

    I can use the same 3-2-1 techique to summarize my composting progress.

    3 items that decomposed completely: no sign of them at all!

    • coffee filters with coffee grounds
    • banana peels
    • waxed paper
    2 items that did not decompose: I should leave these out from now on.
    • Dental floss. Don't laugh; it's waxy, contains food residue, it makes sense that it would decompose! But it didn't.
    • Pine litter from the bunny box. The small dry pieces partially degraded, while the wet one are gone for good. If I left the bin for another year, just to finish decomposing, I think the used litter would completely fade into the soil. Maybe when I get that second compost bin...

    1 goal: another item to add to the compost pile, one more thing to keep out of the garbage can and landfill

    • Non-recyclable paper and cardboard. Examples: the cardboard circles from pizzas, food boxes containing crumbs or soiled with food residue, and the like. I've started ripping these into long strips and soaking them (in rain barrel water, of course) before adding the paper to the compost.

    There you have it: my 3-2-1 review, a summary of the pile I just spread on the garden soil. The resulting assessment will be a long time coming: to fully evaluate the success of this year's bin, I'll need to wait until next spring, when the latest pile of compost (you guessed it) happens.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, April 24, 2009

    Will she clean for her mother's visit?

    I'm staying in my daughter's apartment Friday night. La Petite, age 22, is in college and lives in a place suitable for, well, college kids. Once in a while, she and her roommate clean the place. Sometimes.

    The kitchen usually isn't too bad. The girls like to eat, they cook decent food (the boys down the hall drool with envy), and they wash their dishes. They've even been known to wash dishes by hand because the dishwasher and the town's hard water don't clean thoroughly. Well, maybe not during midterms or final exams.

    The bedrooms are okay for the most part. If the laundry is growing its own compost, I won't see it. She hides it in the closet, and for that I'm grateful, even though I think she really hides the hamper to keep the pet rabbit from chewing holes in the sweaters.

    But the bathroom -- the bathroom. It's an adventure. The landlord replaces parts with no regard for color matching. So even clean, this bathroom is an experience. Mint green toilet with a white seat, a sort of goldenrod for the tub and shower, and a 60s style shade (does it have a name?) for the floor - and remember, that's when it's clean.

    I asked her if I should bring my own sheets, and she said she has extras. I trust that means clean.

    I'm not sure anyone dusts the light fixtures; hopefully they don't need it. Maybe now that the ducks and geese have flown north for springtime someone can spare a feather duster...

    The rest? I'll take my chances. She's a college senior with a full course load and more; following Fly Lady's cleaning tips isn't on her agenda. Frankly, it's not on mine, either. Spotless it isn't, but whose home is? It'll be a little more comfortable than being a guest in her old dorm room!

    Parent Bloggers Network wants to know how people clean. Honestly, I'd rather garden. But gardening tracks in the dirt, so I can't help but clean a floor and a sink once in a while. I don't have any Pledge Multi-Surface Cleaner yet: am I missing the boat? Will it replace the crowded shelf I call the Cleanser Bottle Graveyard? Is it environmentally sensitive? Is this disclaimer a little too long and a little too silly? I blame the wine we had with dinner. At least I'm looking forward to a fun weekend.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Climb on the wagon - the spring garden wagon

    This wagon was in my inlaws' garden shed when they moved to their senior condo. Mother-in-law (MIL) knew she wouldn't use it again, but she resisted giving it away or leaving it with the house. Like many of their "heirlooms", the wagon landed at our humble abode. Husband suggested putting it in the rummage sale. We don't need it; we have a wheelbarrow. Our yard is so small; we don't need to transport brush or leaves any distance, really.

    But we couldn't quite bring ourselves to let it go. I considered setting it up as the centerpiece of a flower display, with the pots arranged artfully inside it and various ivies draping over the sides. With La Petite's flower expertise and artistic asistance, possibilities abound.

    Then Husband cut down the ornamental tree that had gotten too big for its branches, blocking the morning sun and poking its higher reaches into the phone lines. He filled the wagon with brush (while I used the wheelbarrow elsewhere in the yard), and then stacked firewood in it.

    Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

    I won't hazard a guess as to the value of this wagon, with its metal mesh sides and base and the heavy duty handle and wheelbase. It's probably old, but not an antique. There's no damage or rust, even after spending the winter next to the garage in the (recordbreaking) snow. Rust proofing on a garden implement? Maybe. Just lucky? Maybe that, too.

    But for now, I like it. We'll use it for firewood or build a flower-scape around it. Cute, it's not, but it's solid. This little green wagon has a history, too. I think we'll keep it around.

    Woodpile: lighter colored branches are the fresh pieces.
    They'll weather and dry for at least a year before they're fireplace-ready.
    The "new" old wagon made this process a little easier.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Green Reading: In honor of Earth Week, my favorite eco-friendly sites

    Happy Earth Day!
    Any lifestyle change is easier when there are others around for support. My teen son may say, "I'm not into this green crap," but I can dismiss the teen attitude and keep communicating with my greener friends. As I stick the homegrown tomatoes and spinach into everything my teenager eats (ha!), I'll read my favorite green blogs and web sites and get more and more reassurance and support for my eco-friendly ways.

    Ecowomen, Protectors of the Planet! This blog is written by four women who share my outlook on life. The fact that one lives only a few miles away is a bonus. I would read this site if they lived in another country!

    Mother Nature Network. They rate highly enough in my bloggy life that I put their button in my right sidebar. Readers can find it there as well as in this paragraph. I like their news roundups, their op-ed pieces, and their blogs. The videos I skip because I prefer text. Take note, MNN; a transcript of your videos might attract a few more hits.

    Susan at Farmgirl doesn't just talk the talk: she lives it. From her adorable sheep to the recipes she posts (using organic ingredients as much as possible), I can live the country life vicariously through her. Don't forget to read the copyright paragraph! It's different every post.

    Earth Muffin lives south of the border (she's in Illinois). Her blog resembles mine: a little family, a little life in general, but always with an eco-friendly outlook. Her family is wearing Green Bay Packer attire in the profile, too: we're kindred green (and gold) spirits.

    Then there's The Best Green Blogs, a directory of bloggers with green sensibilities. I have the button for their home page in my sidebar, too. Ooh, look here!

    BlogHer has a green section, too. It's growing little by little. As we serious green bloggers contribute, this section will get stronger and stronger.

    Work It, Mom includes green and frugal articles and features a blog called Sustainable Life. Green living isn't limited to Stay at Home Moms or farm-dwellers. It's all of us.

    I hope the expansion of eco-sites on the web indicates not a trend, but true curiosity and interest. This can only improve environmental awareness. And as awareness grows, action will follow.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    Toasted cheese sandwiches with an attitude

    You pick the attitude; I'll help with the sandwich. A simple grilled cheese sandwich can be much better than soft and squishy white bread and mock-dairy cheese-food.

    First: good bread. I like wheat, the family likes white, so I use homemade white with a hint of wheat or commercial wheat that isn't too full of what Husband (affectionately) calls nuts and twigs.
    Second: spread the butter thin, very thin, on one side of the bread. This side will go on the outside while the sandwiches are cooking, er, toasting.
    Third: use good cheese. Individually wrapped slices of cheese food are okay in a pinch, but good Wisconsin cheddar is better. If it's not melting fast enough for you, grate it first. Also try colby, swiss, provolone, or for the gutsy palates, pepperjack. Real cheese takes the blandness and gives it zip.

    Now the fun: the add-ins. Inside the sandwich, try these:
    • tomato, sliced thin
    • sliced ham, very thin
    • any good lunchmeat: turkey or chicken, even salami
    • chorizo or polish sausage for an ethnic twist

    On the outside, consider:

    • olive oil of your choice in place of butter
    • thyme, rosemary or basil
    • Italian seasoning

    These simple steps can make your basic sandwich into a full-fledged luncheon ingredient or visitor-worthy panini. Well, my visitors tend to have simple tastes like I do, so it works for me.


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Does Sears know it's Earth Week?

    Green, frugal, or both, I decided to use a mall gift card on Sunday. The card was a student gift that was still burning a hole in my purse. The mall's parent company had been in the headlines because they just declared bankruptcy, so I decided I'd better use the card ASAP, PDQ, before it lost its value.

    I started at Sears. They had pruning clippers on sale. Craftsman (warranty), on sale (frugal), sharpen-able (is that a word?): I bought one. While the clerk was running my gift card through the register, I pulled out my chico bag and said, "I don't need a bag. I have my own." The clerk replied, "Oh, you can't use that here."

    WHAT??!!? I can't use my own shopping bag? You're forcing me to take your worthless piece of plastic? He insisted, saying it was because I'd be stopped by security if I carried merchandise in any bag but one clearly labeled Sears. I fumed and grumbled my way through the rest of the store, avoiding the clearance racks and other deals for fear of collecting any more wasteful packaging.

    At my next stop, Target was actually giving away reusable cloth shopping bags to the first several hundred customers. I sighed with relief and headed to Bath & Body Works for foam soap. They let me use the Target bag and commented on how much they liked it. My last stop, Williams-Sonoma, didn't have the cloth napkins at a price I liked, but they had some sale merchandise from Easter (okay, chocolate) that cost just enough to use up the gift card. They, too, were happy to allow me to use my own shopping bag.

    Sears? I've heard rumors that they're not weathering the economic downturn very well. The small plastic bag they forced on me didn't cost the store much, but if they lose many eco-conscious shoppers like me, that'll hurt.

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Sunday, April 19, 2009

    Greening the Weekend Chores

    Is it easy to become green? Live a more eco-conscious life? It seems like after taking the basic steps - recycle, compost, start a garden - it takes a little more effort to incorporate additional green habits into our lifestyles. Today Husband and I spent more time in the yard getting ready for spring. Here's the Green Task List from today's chores.

    1. Brush pile. Dear darling Husband cut down a small tree last weekend, and today was the day to get rid of it. We thought (briefly) about renting a chipper and chopping up the entire thing, but decided against it. Why? It's free to drop off the branches etc. at the brush dump. The brush dump staff will chip this wood and add it to the dump's mulch pile. Mulch is free to city residents. Why pay to rent a power tool when we're already paying for the service with our taxes? Decision: take the branches to the brush dump. Pick up mulch when we need it. Cost: $0. Time spent: three minivan-loads to the brush dump about a mile from home. Green factor? Pretty darn good. Rationalizes keeping my (not a guzzler, but not exactly fuel efficient) minivan, too.

    2. Basic Maintenance on south side of house. This is the side with the tulips, the mums, the annuals, the Hen & Chix plants, mint, and if I'm lucky, hollyhocks. I raked out the old dry leaves, cut down the old dead mums, lost my clipper, took all the dead and dry goodies to the compost bin, found my clipper, moved a shepherd's crook with two wind chimes, and pronounced the area ready for spring. Green factor? Typical, which is good.

    3. Emptied and moved the rain barrel! We planned to set up the new rain barrel under a downspout at the back of the garage between the rhubarb and the garden itself. We dropped it back there, went back to our normal lives, and then it rained. And filled the barrel. I've used the water to clean bunny litter boxes and rinse out the compost bucket, but it was still three quarters full and too heavy to move. My solution: hook up a hose to the spigot and water a few bushes. I drained enough of the barrel that it was light enough to move, and then recruited Husband to put a few concrete blocks underneath it. Now it's propped high enough that gravity can help me use the hose with more success, and Husband will reattach the downspout and aim it toward the barrel itself - hopefully before the next storm arrives. Green factor? Great! The neighbor behind us (a new gardener!) saw it and now wants one for himself.

    4. Basic weekend chores: laundry. I bought a pair of anti-static dryer balls to replace fabric softener. So far, I'm seeing - or should I say feeling? - good results. If they work in the long term, it's another victory for green living and fewer chemicals in our lives. Simple and eco-conscious, just the way I like it.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    By train or by plane or by ferry? Anniversary trip plans continue

    A while back I talked about plans for our anniversary. 25 years of marriage, people! We're ready to celebrate. We thought we needed to stay within a day's drive of our home. La Petite reminded us that she'll be home taking care of the bunnies and working at her job, and she can handle immediate emergencies that might pop up. In the meantime, we can get on a plane and be home within a day.

    So...we're back to the first plan. We're doing the research and seriously considering Seattle as our destination. We'd like to travel by train: specifically, Amtrak's Empire Builder. We'd catch it in or near Wisconsin and travel Northwest across Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, and eventually Washington.

    Seattle has brewpubs. It has coffee. And it's a green, very green city. What's not to like? We indulge Husband's love for trains in our chosen mode of travel; we'll indulge my eco-consciousness with the destination.

    I stumbled across this hotel on Mother Nature Network. Of course I'm interested! My Midwestern frugal sensibilities, however, cringe just looking at the nightly rates. I'll have to do a little more research and find out if there are deals available for common folk like us - or if these are ballpark rates for a big city like Seattle. The idea of staying at Seattle's fir LEED certified hotel really appeals to me -- and to Husband, too. "...a new echelon in sustainability" sounds incredibly attractive. It may be worth the price. These hotels are also eco-friendly and have great locations. I read and appreciated the parent company's environmental statement as well. I don't need fancy, really, but I'd like to spend my green where it'll make the greenest impact.

    Of course I want to visit Pike Place Market, the place where Starbucks Coffee was born! I enjoy local markets, whether farm or craft, wherever we go. We'll put it on the plan.

    The main goal, however, is to spend time together. Be a couple. Enjoy each other's company: just us. Our offspring are wonderful people (teen and twenty-some that they are), but it's time for a grown-up break. Our twenty-fifth gives us that opportunity. We're thinking and planning now; we'll be ready for action later.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, April 17, 2009

    Beyond egg salad: Deviled Eggs galore

    Deviled eggs are deviled eggs. Right? Wrong. I have a few egg-stra possibilities for cooks with an abundance of Easter eggs in their refrigerators.

    My beloved Eggbert (Husband's temporary i.d.) has a knack for finding the right spice combination for great variations on deviled eggs. No matter which flavor you're making, I recommend the Frugal Cook's Pastry Bag: a zipper baggie with one corner cut off. Squeeze the yolk mix "filling" through this corner to make it flow egg-actly the way you want it.

    Take your basic recipe (and here's one if you don't already have your own), and have fun with it.
    • Southwestern Deviled Eggs: a dash of chili powder with the paprika; a splash of tabasco sauce in the egg yolk filling if you're really adventurous.
    • Country Style Eggs: Add sweet pickle relish to the egg yolk mix, leave out the paprika.
    • Zippy Eggs: Add a tablespoon of spicy brown mustard to the yolk mix.

    Not to be outdone, I found this recipe (courtesy of Rachael Ray) and decided we should try it. Husband bought the salmon, and we'll try it. As long as we have eggs, we'll always have something good to eat.

    Prepare the Deviled Eggs yolk mixture using 3 tablespoons sour cream in place of the mayonnaise. Stir in 1/2 cup finely chopped smoked salmon and 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives. Fill the egg white halves and (optional) top with chopped capers.

    Hmmm...I wonder if we could use mock crab meat instead? Hand over those Easter eggs and I'll try it. I'll have the ears on that chocolate bunny for dessert.

    Parent Bloggers Network and the American Egg Board are looking for creative ways to prepare hardboiled eggs after the Easter baskets go back into storage. If you'd like to join in and post your own egg-cellent solutions, check here for details. Put on your Easter Bonnet, with all the flowers on it, and join the Egg Parade.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    It's not spring yet, honey!

    I tried. I really tried to feel like spring, but Mother Nature did not cooperate.

    I spread the compost on the garden and started using the bin again. I had to wear a knit hat and warm gloves while I did it. It's not spring yet; I had to wear gloves to keep warm, not just work gloves for leverage.

    I washed all the blankets and comforters at the laundromat (an annual spring cleaning chore) and put a different, thinner comforter on the bed. Husband was too cold and couldn't sleep. It's not spring yet: I had to put the fluffy blanket and thick comforter back. (So much for avoiding those elder-mama night sweats, grumble grumble)

    We opened windows just a crack to enjoy a little fresh air, but then we forgot to turn the heat back on. In the morning, with 37 degrees F on the outside thermometer, we piled on the blanket throws while we read the Sunday paper and waited until the hardworking furnace worked hard to reheat the house. It's not spring yet; we still need heat.

    Husband won't put away the snow shovels. He's superstitious that way. A coworker talked about putting away his snowblower, "...and we had two major snowstorms the next week! It's not spring yet!" He'll take care of the snow tools in May -- or June, if he's really uber cautious. If we put the snow removal devices away, we'll get a blizzard.

    But Husband did give in and work in the yard with me. He took out the chain saw to cut down an ornamental tree that had gotten too big. This was an adventure; the uppermost branches were tangled in the telephone wires. He called AT&T, knowing they wouldn't want him messing with the wires in any way. After going through all the switchboard options (no, we don't need service; no, we don't need billing), he finally got a Real Person on the line. That Real Person told him to remove the tree and call them back; they'd take out any remaining branches that hung from the phone lines. Luckily (I think), the branches untangled themselves and came down as he cut out the bigger branches below.

    The garden plot is closer to ready. The sun-blocking tree is gone. The compost is spread, waiting for soil-turning. Unfortunately, it's not spring yet. But when Mother Nature turns that corner, I'll be ready. Shhh: don't tell her I'm ready now!

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    Husband's Seasoned Spaghetti

    Husband came up with this variation to use leftover spaghetti one day. It lives on in our repertoire as a side dish that's good with a number of meats and vegetables. He emailed the directions to me on a day when he'd planned to cook but had a last-minute change in plans. I served it with teriyaki-marinaded beef (stir-fried) and steamed cauliflower. I'm still working on making room in the freezer and pantry: we had all the seasonings and the spaghetti in the cupboard already.

    In a large pot, cook spaghetti like you normally would.

    Strain noodles into a colander, place pot back on the burner with high heat.
    Add 2 Tbsp of cooking oil. Give oil a moment to heat up.
    Add 1 chopped stalk of green onion, sauté for 1 minute.
    Pour noodles from colander into pot with hot oil and green onions.
    Add flavoring stuff (adjust to taste preference):

    1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
    1 Teaspoon Tiger Sauce
    Couple shakes of Red Pepper Flakes.

    Stir, stir, stir for about 3 to 5 minutes until noodles start to fry and water is evaporated.

    (But you don’t want the noodles to be actually fried. If in doubt, take them off the heat early.)

    Daisy's additions: fewer red pepper flakes, 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds.

    Serves 4. Adjust seasonings as needed for more or less. I wonder if this would work with rice? I could call it Daisy's Rice-a-ghetti. This has possibilities.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, April 13, 2009

    The Virtual Great American Bake Sale

    In real life, bake sales bring in minimal profits. Sometimes a non-bake sale brings in a better total. Instead of baking, people donate the amount they would have spent on their donated baked goods. Typically, any fundraiser is most successful if it can target an audience that isn't already paying for the service. For example, a child care center selling t-shirts will only take in money out of those parents already paying tuition. But Girl Scouts selling cookies will sell to people who are not paying dues to the troop, and therefore will bring in a fair amount of usable funds.

    When I heard about the Great American Bake Sale, I read through the information and decided it was worthwhile. I gave them my Mosaic Muffins. Adapted from another recipe to use my own garden produce, these muffins fit today's sensibilities by using homegrown ingredients and having a fair amount of nutrition. They taste so great that your family doesn't need to know they're good for you.

    Money raised from the Great American Bake Sale will benefit Share Our Strength, a group working to eliminate child hunger in America. As unemployment increases (it's at a 25-year high right now), families have less money, and children have fewer regular meals. I see this every day in the students who concentrate better after lunch because they didn't eat breakfast, the kids lined up for free breakfast at school because they didn't have much to eat the night before, those who enviously eye the healthy snacks their wealthier friends brought from home. If children are going hungry in my relatively stable community, there are thousands worse off in other parts of the U.S. Share Our Strength spends a lot of time and money supporting after-school and summer meal programs.

    You can help by spreading the word, making a donation to Share our Strength, or ordering the ebook. There's a button on the sidebar for the VGABS e-cookbook. Remember, if my muffins are in it, it must be good! I can't wait to see the other recipes.

    Most of all, I'm happy to spread the word and increase contributions to help minimize - better yet, end - childhood hunger.

    The Complete 2009 VGABS Recipes Ebook

    Features all 170 of the submitted recipes. Many of the recipes include pictures.

    On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
    Add to Cart

    Shopping cart courtesy of E-Junkie.

    Because we know file size may be an issue for some, the below ebooks have split the 170 recipes into 4 categorized ebooks so that you can choose just 1 or 2 of your favorites, if you'd prefer. Just like for the Complete ebook, many of these recipes include pictures. And again, they are available for purchase based on any donation amount of the buyer's choosing.

    Muffins & Breads

    Features 24 recipes.

    On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
    Add to Cart

    Cookies, Candy, Cakes, Bars & Brownies


    Features 50 recipes.

    On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
    Add to Cart


    Features 49 recipes.

    On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
    Add to Cart


    Beyond Baked Goods (Appetizers, Breakfast, Main Dishes, etc.)

    Features 47 recipes.

    On the checkout page, manually change the amount (USD) field to your donation amount.
    Add to Cart

    This is not a paid post. I'm merely helping spread the word about a cause worthy of your attention and support.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, April 10, 2009

    Bye bye, Sweet Bunny.

    He was mischievous, our little Peanut. He was tiny enough to stick his little bunny head into a box of Mike & Ikes or a bag of Chex Mix, sneaky enough to grab a chip from La Petite's roommate (see her in the picture, not even noticing), and sweet enough that no one could be mad at him when he did.

    He lived in a house of Packer backers, and somehow found his little furry way into the heart of the excitement and fandom.

    He wasn't the Easter Bunny; in fact, we had to keep the Easter baskets out of his reach. See reference above to Mike & Ikes? Jelly Beans and lollipops could suffer the same fate.

    He did, however, look adorable posing for pictures in an Easter basket -- when he wasn't nibbling on the sides, that is.
    Our sweet funny bunny Peanut, so much character in such a little package, died Friday. He'd been sick for a few days, and he passed away in La Petite's arms as we packed the car to bring them home for Easter weekend.
    Bye bye, little Peanut. Join Beast, Tiny Bunny, and the others in that bunny hutch in the clouds. We'll miss you.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, April 09, 2009

    A Victory Garden in the Family History

    Husband took a day trip last weekend to a nearby city in order to photograph gravestones for his family history web site. He invited me along; I declined, preferring to start readying my garden. He invited Amigo; Amigo wanted to stay home and start his spring break by relaxing. Husband then called his mom and dad. They initially said yes, and then his dad backed out in favor of a nap or two.

    On the road between here and there, Mother-In-Law talked about her childhood in Milwaukee. She meant the big city itself, not a suburb. MIL spent her formative years on Milwaukee's north side, around 41st Street between Silver Spring and Capitol Drive. They lived in a small house, and her father bought the two lots on either side when the owners were in arrears on their taxes. "He got them cheap!" as she told Husband. Using the extra lots, the family started what she refers to as their Victory Farm in the sity of Milwaukee.

    They grew vegetables, they raised chickens (she remembers somewhere in the range of 500!), and near the back of their lot, they grew the grain to feed the chicks. She, as the only daughter, canned the blueberries and raspberries as they ripened. When they had more than they needed, she would work out trades with the neighbors and/or the small grocers in the neighborhood. She remembers trading berries she'd canned for a box (crate? case?) of peaches. She canned the peaches and started the cycle all over again. She threw a few peach pits in the backyard, and lo and behold, two peach trees came up. As they began to bear fruit, the family didn't need to buy or trade for peaches any more, either. The peach trees were a hardy variety, a Rocky Mountain type, so they held up well in this cold Wisconsin weather.

    I've read that at one time Victory Gardens produced 40% of the nation's food supply. That figure sounded awfully high to me, but if a lot of city families did what my MIL's family did, 40% becomes more believable. MIL told Husband that the family started their Victory Farmette just before World War II. It must have been fairly well established by the time the Victory Garden became the trendy thing to do.

    My backyard plot - call it Kitchen Garden, Recession Garden, or just my patch of dirt - won't come near Victory Garden quantities. I can only hope it'll grow stories that I can tell my kids when they have kids of their own. Maybe they'll talk about how their mother liked to play in the dirt all summer long and added home grown spinach to everything they ate!

    Happy Love Thursday, everyone, and keep telling the family tales. That's the kind of growth our country will always need.

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, April 08, 2009

    Avoiding Mother Hubbard Syndrome

    I read a lot of news, and a piece that caught my eye lately was an article on people stocking their pantries with canned goods. Even as they buy seeds for their Recession Gardens, people who are nervous about possible layoffs are preparing to avoid Mother Hubbard Syndrome: the fear of "When she got there, the cupboard was bare, and so her poor dog had none." No one wants the dog or the kids or the family as a whole to go without, so they're buying foods that will last. If the family loses a paycheck unexpectedly, they'll still be able to feed themselves for a while if the pantry is full.

    I'm not sure if we got caught up in the widespread Mother Hubbard Syndrome or just lost track of our grocery lists, but the freezer in the basement was so full we couldn't put another thing in it. I haven't been formally Meal Planning in the way of so many frugal bloggers, but this week it helped keep us on track and use up some of what's in the fridge and freezer. Sunday night I made a homemade pizza with spaghetti sauce, red and green peppers, & pepperoni from the freezer. Monday was teriyaki beef, Husband's Chinese noodles (I'll post his recipe soon), and steamed cauliflower. Tuesday: roaster chickens were on sale last weekend, so we bought one. No room in the freezer, so it goes on the menu ASAP. In the empty the freezer project, frozen veggies will join the chicken on the table. Leftovers will end up in soup -- soup to cook this week, as there's no room in the freezer for extra stock or meat scraps!
    Next: there was a frozen container of tomato soup (from last fall's garden) that'll join leftover sloppy joe mix in a crockpot chili on Thursday.
    Oops, missed a day. What to do today, Wednesday? Tacos! If we have any leftover meat, it can join the chili.
    Friday? Friday we'll be on the road to pick up La Petite which makes it another good crockpot day: time for the leftover chicken to surface in a soup. We'll come home to the aroma of homemade soup and (if I'm on top of things) bread in the bread machine. What a great welcome for all of us!

    It's a great feeling to feed my family and still have food to spare. Many families aren't so lucky. Please consider buying a little extra for your local pantry. Together, we can weather this recession by helping each other out.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, April 07, 2009

    Pork BBQ in crockpot - or something like that

    I confess. As with many of my stock dishes, there is no recipe for this one. I start with the pork roast and add various ingredients until it seems right. Amounts? I usually build it early in the morning (read: pre-coffee), and I don't take the time to measure very much. But it works for our family - except for Amigo, who isn't fond of it - so I thought I'd share.

    Crockpot Pork BBQ on a bun.

    No, the crockpot doesn't go on a bun! But I couldn't think of any other way to phrase it.

    1 pork roast (a 4 lb roast serves me family of four with plenty of leftovers)
    2 cups beef broth or 2 cups water + beef bouillon mix
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1/2 cup onion, diced
    These are the main components. Now for the sauce. Enterprising crockpot cooks can make the pork plain and add sauce later according to people's tastes, add a commercial BBQ sauce, or create their own concoction. I combine the last two options.

    Daisy's add-ins
    brown sugar
    ketchup or tomato paste or nothing tomato at all (I'm unpredicatable in the kitchen, and it's okay).
    Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce

    Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours. Baste periodically to keep meat moist. Close to serving time, thicken liquid with your favorite thickener (I like cornstarch and cold water mix, stirred into the hot liquid and then simmered for 30 minutes).

    Serve on the best buns or sandwich rolls you can buy or bake. This meat is often heavy and moist and will soak through cheap buns. Go ahead: splurge!

    I've considered doubling this recipe for a crowd, but I haven't hosted any crowds lately. Hosts and hostesses could even make two kinds in two crocks: one plain, one BBQ sauce. The possibilities are endless! I've heard this works with chicken, too, for those don't eat pork.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, April 06, 2009

    R & R; I think I'm getting this technique down.

    I'm getting better at this relaxation concept. Today was much more low-key than yesterday.

    Housework: not much. Made cinnamon rolls for breakfast to go with the coffee, made supper (with Husband's help) - home made pizza. Put away the remainder of the clean clothes.

    Schoolwork: none. None!!

    Relaxation: afternoon nap. Ooh, that felt good.

    Garden: It was mighty cold outside and very windy, so I didn't spend much time on it. I just dug out another wheelbarrow load of compost and dumped it into the garden, and then I loosened what was left in the compost bin with a pitchfork. The compost is really compacted tightly; tough to get out and spread.

    Reading material: Started Carry Me Home by Sandra Kring. She's one of the authors coming to town for our Book Festival later this month. It's a good book so far: strong story made unique by the point of view from which it's told.

    More reading material: Amigo has a braille copy of Tales of Beedle the Bard, so I sat with him (and my print copy) and we read together for an hour. I hope he doesn't outgrow this simple pleasure anytime soon.

    Simple fun: watched Country Music Awards with Amigo, chatted online with La Petite, sipped a beer with Husband.

    Feels like a break, at long last.

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Sunday, April 05, 2009

    Weekend Update, Spring Break R & R, Daisy style

    Saturday summary:
    Relaxation: slept in until almost 7. If you're thinking "Only 7?" I need to remind you that I get up at 5:30 AM on school days. This means an extra hour and a half of rest.

    Schoolwork: checked school email. Nothing urgent, deleted a bit of junk. Now I can let that rest for the remainder of break.

    • Laundry. Lots of it. Typical Saturday in that way.
    • Cleaned bunny's litter box and cage (see garden, below).
    • Dumped compostable litter (very dirty) into garden. Spread it out on top of soiled paper, unrecyclable. By the time I plant in late May, this "garbage" will either decompose or be tilled into the soil.
    • Arranged overflow pipe from rain barrel so that any additional water goes directly into the garden plot. Used water from the rain barrel to rinse bunny's litter box.
      Despite accomplishing very little in the garden itself, I am feeling very green!

    Reading material: finished (and enjoyed) The Eyre Affair. Now I'll start a few of the books I picked up at the local independent bookstore yesterday. One side-benefit to using I know I spend less on books than I used to spend, and therefore I can buy a few new ones now and then. I'll keep those that warrant a reread, and I'll post the rest on PBS. With those credits, I'll get more books for me and audio books for Amigo. All that and stimulating the local economy, too -- must sit down and take a breath.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Saturday, April 04, 2009

    R&R, spring break, Daisy style

    It's all about balance. Always. My balance for the just-begun spring break is part plan, part recipe, part goal/ to-do list.

    Relaxation is top of the plan. Stressful job, stressful economy, potential stress at every turn of the newspaper page or channel change: letting go is important. Very, very important.
    Keeping up with schoolwork is part of the break. Amigo has homework to do, too. Our plans include taking the long weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) off from schoolwork, and then working on a little each day. When he's doing homework, I'll work on schoolwork.
    Preparing the garden is part of my plan, too. It's too cold to plant, and will be for some time, but I can start getting the soil ready. This kind of work could be tedious, but it's not. It feels good to get the garden ready to grow again. There's a definite connection between the garden growth and my own feelings of contentment and competence and calm.
    Spring cleaning usually happens in June in my house, but I'll get a few things done. Mainly, I plan to bake and keep the kitchen in good shape! Amigo and I often make a laundromat trip with all the blankets and comforters in the house. It's an easy chore, but one that can't be done at home because the blankets are too big to fit in my regular washer.

    Progress so far: Spring Break R & R update, Friday
    Relaxation -- slept past 8:00 AM, stayed in pajamas until 11
    Schoolwork -- nothing formal yet, but laundered the old socks I use as white board erasers
    Gardening -- removed stepping stones and trellises and tomato cages from garden, emptied two pots of dead herbs & potting soil over the fence, took "before" pictures of garden to use for contrast when I finally reach the "after" stage
    Spring Cleaning -- scrubbed kitchen (easier than it sounds; the cleaning service was here a few days ago. I just maintain what they've already done.) Mailing another Paperbackswap package could fit in here, too.
    Relaxation, part 2 -- had a Funday Friday lunch with Amigo and Husband at a local downtown diner. I had their Greek skillet with hash browns; delicious. After lunch we walked down the street to a bookstore (an independent, no big chains) and bought a few books related to the city's upcoming book festival. The pleasure reading from these will last long beyond the week-long break.

    This break's off to a good start, I'd say. Now I think I'll take another relaxation break with my laptop, check Twitter and Plurk, read some of my favorite bloggers as well.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, April 03, 2009

    Musings with the remote control in the morning

    On watching morning television, a pastime not usually on my list:
    Local news is full of layoffs. I feel lucky to have a secure job -- for the moment. Husband has to cover these layoffs in his TV news job. Tough to handle. I think I'll change the channel.
    Morning television can be ridiculous sometimes. The hosts just randomly called someone, asked them to name the presidents on Mt. Rushmore. They could only get two. My fourth graders can answer that! I think I'll change the channel.
    Spring cleaning advice! Vinegar water solution and crumpled newspaper to clean a mirror or a window. That's old news, people. The cleaning staff at my school use a vinegar-water mix to clean chalkboards. I associate the scent of vinegar with clean -- or with Husband's German potato salad. Change channels again.
    International news is talking about head injuries and kids. Sad, but useful information. I'm on break; I want something less stressful. Change channels!
    Weather!! "Very nice weekend." Now we're talking! It'll still be cold here. I hope it warms up enough that I can dig in my garden. Ooh, these commercials are really bad. At least I can laugh at them.
    Click. Click. Click. Click. All these channels - and nothing on! More coffee, maybe I'll turn it off and browse the blogs.
    That's the answer. I'm on break. No guilt, just relaxation. Browsing the blogosphere, here I come!

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, April 02, 2009

    Dear Delia; Can you deal with impending death?

    Delia is an advice columnist with attitude, a household how-to guide maven, mother of two young girls, and dying. As she faces her cancer-shortened future, she contemplates her future and comes to grips with her past.

    From the proper etiquette of hanging unmentionables on the rotary clothesline to the erotic pleasure of watching the man in her life toss dirty clothes in the washer, Delia can solve any dilemma related to laundry. She advises a grungy bachelor to thoroughly clean his bathroom in order to keep his girlfriend in his life, an unhappy wife how to clean red wine out of a tablecloth while addressing her attraction to her husband's assistant, and both ordinary and unexpected domestic dilemmas.

    But the real dilemma for Delia is how to prepare for her own death. Coming to grips with her past, addressing a future without her presence, she decides to write her last How-to guide: The Household Guide to Dying. This guide makes sense to her because she's writing from experience even as she goes through the process noted in the title. Her editor balks at first, then encourages her to continue. Writing this Household Guide helps "control-freak" Delia recognize that she can make an impact, but she cannot plan and control everything.

    Readers meet Delia as she revisits her past in a trip to a tiny trailer in a tiny circus town that she called home for nine tumultous years in her early adulthood. Some memories are innocuous, some hurtful, some more complex than she'd expected. All are important in her emotional journey to seek answers to life's peaceful and painful questions.

    At times I felt like Delia and her family were much too calm. I was almost grateful when her daughters and husband broke down yelling and crying. "I hate you because you're dying!" was much more realistic dialogue from an eleven-year-old than some of the other talk.

    Ultimately, I found The Household Guide to Dying to be a pleasant and interesting story. I didn't feel tears as it came to a close; rather, I felt peaceful. The novel isn't so much a death story as it is a tale of life and personality, a tale that leads to closure. Don't fear the potential sadness in the title: this is a novel to read and savor.

    Mothertalk provided me with an early pre-publication proof to read for this review along with a small honorarium from


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Search & Win

    About 1 in 5 child deaths is due to injury. CDC Vital Signs


Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

    Copyright, 2003-2008 by OkayByMe. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval without written permission from Daisy, the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. In other words, stealing is bad, and if you take what doesn't belong to you, it's YOUR karma and my lawyers you might deal with.