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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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  • Sunday, August 30, 2009

    Daily Goals in Lists of Threes

    The Daily Three philosophy fits nicely into my Action goal for 2009. This process limits planning to a managable amount. The to-do-list stays short, provides focus.

    It's quite simple. Several plurk buddies have picked up the habit of announcing a list of three goals each morning. As they accomplish each goal on the list, they post the news on plurk. Here are a few examples from my lists of three.

    3 goals: grocery shopping, go to bookstore, thoroughly check garden for ripe peas!

    This list came up right after vacation. I'd been gone for a week, the refrigerator resembled Mother Hubbard's cupboard, and the garden had grown quite a bit in my absence. The bookstore run: well, I never need an excuse for a bookstore visit. Really.

    3 goals: post office, harvest lettuce, catch up on Time Magazines.

    Post office is often on my list because I list books through On this particular day, I had six books to mail. Lettuce is on the list for bunnies and people; salad with supper tonight, bunny food at bedtime. I cut it back to the roots and it grows again. Time Magazine: I like to catch up before the news is old, but even so, I will get a little more depth on the stories I read in the newspaper or saw on CNN.

    Setting goals is also useful when I'm feeling lazy, but can't afford to waste the day. Here's a recent set:

    1- plan decent supper 2 - go to school 3 - start laundry.

    I specified goals for working in my classroom, too: basic hallway decor, posters, science kits. I want the room to look good, look welcoming in case kids wander through the hallways early. When the room appears ready, I can focus on actual planning and preparation.

    One of the best elements of the Three Goal plan is the focus, the prioritizing. There's much more to do in a day than these three items, but this reduces the overwhelming feeling of "There's too much to accomplish! I can't get it done!" Checking off each major item brings a great feeling of accomplishment. When the main three are completed, anything else feels like a bonus.

    Now: off to school to get a little more work done toward Open House tomorrow night!!

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    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    The various moods around town

    A thriving locally owned business encouraged re-use of 6 pack holders and suggested the purchase of a local product. If you're wondering what a "yokel" is, no, it's not a Yooper, it's a kind of beer by the New Glarus brewing company....

    ...the same company that brews Fat Squirrel and Spotted Cow.

    Later on, we saw this sign of the times; empty store, business closed, sign gone.

    This vacant storefront was only a block away from the Spotted Cow Crossing.

    But later, this truck turned off the highway in front of my minivan: a student driver in the professional truck driver program at the local technical college. Someone, somehow, is training for a new career.

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    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    More garden mysteries

    What is this? Is it an herb finally coming up or a weed that flew in on the wind?

    It's small; it sneaks in between the basil and the thyme plants. Does anyone recognize it? I'm a relative beginner with herbs, so go ahead. I can handle the truth.

    Then there are these orbs, the not-zucchini squash. They look more pumpkin-like each day, but they're white. I didn't plant white pumpkins. In fact, I didn't plant pumpkins at all! Ideas? The stems resemble pumpkins more than any other squash.

    And finally, last but never least, how does the zucchini sneak up on me like this? I thought I was done harvesting in this corner. More zucchini bread on the way!

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    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Teacher discount season - or not?

    I noticed a Walgreens store across town with a sign advertising teacher discounts on Wednesdays in August. I had a shopping list ready, so I decided to try out the store closest to my home, conveniently located on my route to and from school. First, I looked at their sign to see if they were advertising the discount deal.

    Hmmm. Maybe not. Is this the advertising equivalent of the blank stare? So I waited a moment, and the sign changed - to this.

    I took a chance, went in anyway, and filled my cart. Discount or not, there were many good advertised deals on my list. With a cart full of contact solutions, shampoos, hearing aid batteries, and buy-one get-one vitamins, I proceeded to the checkout with my teacher ID in hand and a question on the tip of my tongue: "I saw the sign on another store in town. Are you also offering the teacher discount?"
    Remember the blank stare in the first picture? It was mirrored on her face. "Uh-- I don't know. I'll call the manager." She did, the manager said yes, so the clerk sent me to the correct register for specials like this and paged the other clerk, who joined the Blank Face Brigade as she started up her register. "Uh - I don't know. I'll call the manager." This call included, "How do I ring this up?"
    In the end, I did get the discount. Lack of knowledge aside, the store clerks were helpful and willing to ask, and the manager was willing to guide them through the process.
    I didn't mention the signs. I thought they had enough on their minds.
    Update: It looks like Walgreens may be offering a similar deal to teachers during September. Watch for it in your locals!

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    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Zucchini Cookies - yes, cookies

    What do you get when you cross a (few) zucchini squash with a chocolate chip cookie?
    The zucchini are plentiful in the garden; Chuck brought home the cookie from work. Together, they provided inspiration for yet another fun day in the kitchen.

    This recipe is posted on the website for the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It's a creative and delicious way to use some of the grated zucchini from a bumper crop.

    (Makes about two dozen)
    1 egg, beaten
    ½ cup butter, softened
    ½ cup brown sugar
    1/3 cup honey
    1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    Combine in large bowl.

    1 cup white flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp cinnamon
    ¼ tsp nutmeg

    Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture
    1 cup finely shredded zucchini
    12 oz chocolate chips

    Stir these into other ingredients; mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

    Thanks to Barbara and Camille Kingsolver, creators of this delicious recipe and more. The day after I baked these cookies, I made their Disappearing Zucchini Orzo with multi-colored orzo I brought home from our vacation in Seattle. It was delicious!
    If you're wondering, that's my Where's Waldo coffee mug sneaking into the picture.

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    Monday, August 24, 2009

    Grilling vegetables and mysteries solved

    I picked up this tool at a grill specialty store. It's a grill "basket" for vegetables. It has slots in the base to let the air (heat) circulate; the veggies cover those in this picture. We drizzled olive oil and a little garlic in the bottom, then sliced the vegetables thin and placed them in the basket. I had zucchini squash, three kinds of bell peppers, onions, and red potatoes. Anything else? The basket was really too full, but somehow, it worked. The herbs on top (oregano, thyme, basil) gave the veggies just enough spice to complement the smoky flavor.

    On the side -- or the main dish, if you're a carnivorous type -- were beef kabobs. The meal was pretty good. I wish I'd put the vegetables on the grill a little earlier so they could cook longer; they were a little underdone. Maybe if I'd had a lighter layer in the basket they would have cooked through a little better.

    The leftovers (there were a lot of leftovers!) became a soup a few days later. Diced up small, tucked into a beef broth in the crockpot for several hours, a few ingredients added for fun (and to empty the vegetable tray), and we had a second meal from the same starters.

    Remember the climbing plant? The one I couldn't identify? The vine I thought resembled beans? It is, indeed, a morning glory. Or two, or three. The wild neighborhood rabbits have not nibbled.

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    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    Decisions: where to put the new compost bin

    My new compost bin is decorative enough that I could put it anywhere -- even in my front yard!

    It could go in the back, nestled in the small rosebushes.

    Then there's the deck, near the herbs and the geraniums. Or should it go near the polka dot chairs?

    Ah, here we go. It's not as picturesque as the front yard or the roses, but it's practical. Next to the garage, in a place where I can reach it even when there's snow on the ground. It'll be easy to get the kitchen scraps in it all year long.

    (Guest appearance by La Petite)
    The new composter is from Algreen Products. It's available at College student posing inside not included.

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    Friday, August 21, 2009

    White Coral Bells

    Photo by La Petite for Gardening Gone Wild's August Picture This contest. The theme this month is "Down on your knees."

    She allowed me to use her photo; I allowed her to post it on my blog. You might call that sharing; I call it lovely.

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    Money doesn't grow on trees or in the ATM

    Two years ago, I posted a few basic guidelines for going back to school with the three Green Rs; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Buying school supplies is also a good time to teach children about the value of money. Back to School sales employ all kinds of marketing. Does this student really need that Hannah Montana backpack or perfect purple polka-dot gym shoes?

    Teaching any good lesson requires a balance of theory and meaningful practice. A good source for money theory is the Moneywi$e eLearning tool developed by Capitol One and Consumer Action, a national consumer advocacy group. Available in English or Spanish, this online course of study has audio and video lessons to help learn how credit works and how to be a smart consumer.

    Amigo worked part time for the first time this year. He participated in a six week long employment program at our state school for the blind where he learned about interviewing, taking public transportation, packing his own lunch, and then actually worked several days a week for a real paycheck. He enjoyed working, bonded well with his boss and coworkers, and came home with stories galore to tell his parents. In addition to working, he and his pals stayed in a dorm where they did their own laundry, cooked and cleaned up, and handled themselves independently with the minimal assistance of the adult supervisors and teachers.

    One of the most important pieces of this program was the experience of managing his own money. Teens in the program made regular trips to the grocery store, the mall, and more. Some of his purchases included a ladle for his collection of unique kitchen utensils and a case of (are you ready for this?) individual packages of hot and spicy Cheetos. Yikes! He packed one in his lunch each day, snacked on them after work, and then donated the rest to an end-of-program party in the dorm. I'm just happy he didn't eat them all in one sitting.

    Now that he's had a taste of earning money, we'll work even harder to teach Amigo the value of those dollars in his wallet. Moneywi$e may be a good way to help him learn that his income is finite, has limits, and needs to balance with his expenses.

    If you'd like a shorter course of action, follow @TeachingMoney on Twitter for short snippets of financial wisdom in 140 characters or fewer. For more posts with details on Back to School money management, look to Parent Bloggers Network. 'Tis the season for the sales, and I'm not alone in posting to this valuable topic.

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    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    New Composter!!

    I'm a garden geek. My son calls me a green freak. My daughter? You'll see.

    Husband tolerates and even supports my green proclivities. In fact, he brought home my first composter and later bought me a pitchfork to go with it. Lately I've been hinting that I need a second compost bin. "What's wrong with this one?" he asked. "Nothing's wrong with it; it's full."

    That was in May. Luckily, compost compacts as it decomposes, making room for more. Now it's August, and the bin is filled to the brim with organic matter. It needs stirring, and then I'd really like to leave it alone for a full year - a full twelve months or more. That means next spring I would not empty the bin and till it into the garden soil; I'd let it sit until spring 2011 instead, giving everything a better chance to decompose completely. But meanwhile, where would my kitchen scraps and yard waste go? Enter the new composter.

    My new composter is smaller and cuter than my big beautiful bin. It has some nice features, too. This composter has a base and an insert to keep the solids off the bottom and let the liquids, the "compost tea," drain off, and a spigot in front for collection. Compost tea makes a great fertilizer, I've been told.

    When I want to empty the compost, I simply open the back. It stays open nicely, which will make it simple to shovel the rich soil enhancer into my wheelbarrow.

    The holes in the sides have purpose: they allow air to circulate and speed up the process, and the holes are big enough that I can poke a broom handle or stick inside to aerate the compost itself. And last, I mentioned it's somewhat smaller than my old one. It's still a hefty size - big enough to fit a college senior inside. Yes, that's La Petite, modeling the new composter for all of my lovely readers.

    The new composter is from Algreen Products. It's available at As soon as I decide where to place it, I'll post more pictures! Then I'll fill it with kitchen scraps and weeds and other organic goodies, and let the compost happen.

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    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Families in Crisis

    A dear friend and fellow blogger is in crisis and needs assistance. You may know Margalit from MidCentury Modern Moms. She has twins the same age as my Amigo, both fascinating yet challenging children.

    Her son is in the hospital, seriously ill. As she deals with this, she has other major financial crises that far exceed her savings.
    Her car, left in Maine, is being declared abandoned unless she can raise the $1,000 to go get it.
    The landlord has threatened to evict the family because of a broken window - a cost of $700 to repair, money they do not have.

    Please consider donating to the family through Paypal using the button below or in the sidebar. Margalit is a proud and strong woman; she would not ask for help if she weren't desperate. Small amounts add up; don't hesitate to make a small donation.


    Margalit has been very supportive for me during IEP conflicts and other issues. She is an intelligent and decent person; I'm offering help because I know her and trust her.

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    Geez, Brett. Purple? The hated Vikings?

    Let's look at this issue on both hands.

    On one hand, Brett Favre is geriatric by quarterback standards.
    On the other hand, a geriatric Favre plays better than some QBs do (or did) in their prime.

    On one hand, we're tired of hearing about him.
    On the other hand, his indecisiveness makes for some interesting comic material. Even the governor of Wisconsin promised he wouldn't "pull a Favre" and change his mind about retirement.

    On one hand, he's still the kid who loves to play a game he's played most of his life.
    On the other hand, he's Peter Pan: the boy who never grew up. That's not very attractive for a man pushing 40.

    On one hand, his dynamic play inspired people across the country to wear cheesehead hats.
    On the other hand, he could buy out the company that makes the Viking hats any time he wishes.

    On one hand, he's a classic. Today's college freshmen don't remember an NFL without Favre.
    On the other hand, they also grew up with Barney.

    So tell me, dear readers, will today's college freshmen think there are two purple dinosaurs on TV -- one in a big costume, the other in a #4 jersey?

    And if you haven't had enough of my Favre-ness, here's more.

    Purple? Say it Ain't So! (May, 2009)
    An Open Letter to a Great Quarterback (August, 2008)
    It's Official (or it was) (March, 2008)

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    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Raspberry Muffins

    Did you freeze raspberries and blueberries when they were in season? I did. I made these recently, and I hope I'll make them again when snow is on the ground and I can pull a bucket of fresh-frozen berries out of the freezer. If your farmers' market still has fresh raspberries, pick up a pint and make these.

    Raspberry Muffins
    from the Good Home Cookbook, my go-to book for standards and fun cooking facts

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 large eggs, lightly beaten
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
    2 cups (1 pint) fresh or frozen raspberries

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan or line the pan with paper baking cups.
    2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
    3. Beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter in a small bowl. Stir into the flour mixture and mix just until moistened. Fold in the berries.
    4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
    5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
    6. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool briefly on wire racks. Serve warm or cooled.

    In my kitchen? I serve warm with a side of fresh coffee.

    drain raspberries as much as possible or the muffins will have a reddish color. Not that there's anything wrong with that....
    I like to substitute half wheat flour for the white, using a total of 1 cup each.

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    Monday, August 17, 2009

    Whose job is it to get a job?

    New Yorker Trina Thompson is suing Monroe College for a tuition refund because she can't find a job. She accuses the office of Career Advancement at the college for not doing enough to help her.

    The zucchini is piling up in my kitchen, the mountain of laundry is growing, and my barren classroom is calling me to start preparing for school to start, but this headline stopped me in my tracks. Blaming the college? Really? Where did this philosophy come from?

    I have a hard time taking Thompson's case seriously. She graduated in April. She's applying for jobs along with people with years of experience, people laid off from their previous positions. Our economy is bad. Bad, with a capital B-A-D. It's a dog eat dog world out there, and she doesn't seem to understand that it's not the college's responsibility to build her a lovely air conditioned doghouse.

    According to Thompson, the counselors are supposed to call potential employers and recommend recent graduates. The career counselors, in her view, should be asking " Can you interview this person?" They're not doing that, and therefore she blames them for her unemployment.

    Listen, recent grads, counselors are in their positions to counsel, to teach students how to conduct a job search. They're not there to call employers, make connections, network in the field, or work the room. In short, college career counselors don't do the work. The graduate does. More accurately, the graduates do their own career search.

    I remember a career counselor telling us, "The job search will be your first job. Plan to spend 20 hours a week on it while you're finishing your last year of school. When you graduate, plan to spend 40. Searching for a job is going to become your full time job."

    She wasn't kidding.

    Years past my graduation, after working at different jobs that paid little but widened my experience, I went back to college to expand my teaching license and increased my options. Teaching jobs were hard to get, and I knew that. I put at least 20 hrs a week into the search at first, building in more hours as time went on. I made copies at Kinko's at night after my kids were in bed. I bought stamps so often that the post office staff knew me by name. I kept records and followed up on interviews. Upon finishing my student teaching internship (and earning a cumulative 3.8 GPA), I substitute taught for a year and a half before getting a job offer: a part time offer. Two half-days a week: a 20% contract. I took that contract, got laid off, called back, then used my foot in the door (foot? more like a big toe) to strategically maneuver my way into a full time position.

    Thompson is suing for emotional distress after an unsuccessful search - four months long. She complains that with her 2.7 GPA (a C+ average), employers ought to be pounding on her door at the urging of her college career counselors, begging her to interview with them.

    Really? Give me a break. With a sense of entitlement like hers, I pity the eventual employer who puts her on staff. If they're looking for accountability and personal responsibility, they won't find it in Trina Thompson.

    As for personal responsibility, don't even get me started on the kid who set himself on fire after watching YouTube....guess who his mother blames?


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    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Ten Places to Hide Zucchini

    Two years ago I posted Ten Ways to Leave your Zucchini.
    Last year the garden hardly produced any zucchini at all.

    This year, we again have a bumper crop. Since you can simply click to find 10 Ways to Leave (and you don't have to slip out the back, Jack), I'll take another angle this time.

    Beyond the Muffins: Ten Places to Hide Zucchini

    1. Spaghetti sauce; the chunkier the better
    2. Soup
    3. Salads
    4. Meatballs or Meatloaf
    5. Lasagna
    6. Scrambled eggs or omelets
    7. Noddles/ Rice/ Orzo
    8. Tacos, burritos, or quesadillas
    9. Fruit cobbler or crisp
    10. Cookies!! Yes, honestly, cookies.

    Okay, readers, the challenge is now yours: can you come up with another 10 ways to incorporate zucchini into foodstuffs, visible or not? Leave another suggestion in the comments!

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    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    Chocolate Zucchini Bread

    The short version: we have a lot of zucchini (six big ones in the kitchen as I type, and more growing!), so I baked this.

    The long version: Long ago, in a city north of here, when my children were young, I worked in a child care center. Several of my coworkers were named Michelle. One of the Michelles gave me a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread.

    When I pulled it out of the recipe box, the card was suitably stained with drops of chocolate and greasy fingerprints, so I knew I'd remembered a good one. To reinforce that claim, I noticed (I hear you laughing, you're way ahead of me) several changes penciled in! Here's the newer version.

    Chocolate Zucchini Bread
    makes 2 loaves

    Beat together:

    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    2 cups sugar
    3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
    2 teaspoons vanilla
    3 cups grated zucchini
    1/2 cup milk

    Sift and add:

    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cup wheat flour
    1/2 cup cocoa
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    Pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes.

    Now, I ask you, dear readers: if I added 1 Tablespoon each wheat germ and flax seed, can I tell Chuck (formerly known as Husband) that this is a healthy snack?

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    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Back to school - a teacher prepares

    Teaching is challenging, no doubt about it. Getting ready for a new school year is a process not just for children! I was skimming the usual "get your kids ready for school" articles in the local paper and I had to acknowledge that my own Back to School Routine isn't all that different from theirs.
    Getting my room ready is one big item with its own to-do list. More important than the room, however, is my motivation. Moving from summer to fall means adjusting from being able to budget and apply my time according to my own devices to living by a set of bells. It's a big change best made gradually.
    One Step: start getting up on time. I've kept myself to a 7:00 wake-up time for much of the summer, but it's been easier and easier to sleep in past 8 lately. Consider that I wake up at 5:30 AM on a regular school day from September through June, and I have a lot of adjusting to do with my body clock.
    Another Step: school supply shopping. My students represent all socio-economic levels. More than half qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning they're either below, at, or close to the poverty line for their family size. Job losses and economic struggles hit these families harder than most. With that in mind, I used a small part of my class budget to stock up on crayons, color pencils, and more while the supplies are on sale.
    Yet another step: make sure the family has enough clothing to skip weekend laundry if needed. Everyone has enough underwear and socks; as long as they have drawers in their drawers, they can wear their pants a second and third day if necessary.
    One more step: review the new math curriculum. I picked up all my manuals and support materials. I signed up for a day-long training session later this week. That means I'll have to make myself wake up and be alert and concentrate all day: see Step One.
    One last step to get through these final preparation weeks: Grind the coffee!

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    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Garden mysteries: Who or what is this plant?

    There's one in every crowd. The one that marches to a different drummer. The one who leads off in a different direction.

    The one who reaches out when all the others bunch together and reach up. When most of the group is producing long, green squash babies, the individualist is making its own decision......

    ...and making its babies round.
    What is this plant, and how did it sneak past my fence?!!

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    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Apple Butter in the Crockpot

    Apple season is on the way! I found the original version of this recipe on Crockpot365 last year. As usual (you know me) I made a few small changes. Important tip: adjust sugar based on tartness of the apples. Sounds obvious, right? Well, maybe. I bought some early Dutch apples, and they were very tart, so I used the full amount of sugar.

    It's a two part process. I chose to do both in one day; when school starts, it'll be a two day deal. Here goes!

    part I:


    Apples, 12-14 medium or 10-12 large (fill crockpot about 3/4 full)
    1 Tablespoon vanilla


    Peel, core, and quarter apples. The option exists to take out the peels later, after cooking, but I had a hard time doing that because the finished product was so thick.
    Place apples and vanilla in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until apples are very soft.

    After cooking, mash apples with fork or potato masher.

    Part II:

    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cloves
    1 Tablespoon molasses (optional)

    Cover again and cook on low for 4-6 hours. If you like your apple butter smooth (I do), blend with an immersion blender.

    This was very thick and flavorful. Serve on bread, graham crackers, or in place of the jelly on a PBJ. More ideas? Add comments, please! I'd love to hear them.


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    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Rambling on about the garden goodies and the locavore life

    I credit my increasing foodie awareness to reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. As I'm planning supper and adding to the grocery list, I'm also thinking, "What do I already have in the house? What can I buy nearby or locally to enhance it?"

    My beans are coming along slowly, a handful at a time. I'm not getting enough to cook as a side dish or freeze for later, so I'm just adding a few to each soup or stew I put together. Last night was one of those nights. The minestrone soup started with a little leftover stew diced up smaller, grew with the addition of a single serving of beef vegetable soup that was in the refrigerator. A can of tomatoes (mine aren't ripe yet), a can of garbanzo beans, a handful of garden beans and the last few garden peas, diced peppers, onion, and the usual herbs - oregano, thyme, and basil made it complete. I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer until the fresh veggies were done, and it was ready to serve. It would have been a better local meal without the cans, but there are limits.

    Then came the zucchini project. Four squash sitting on the cutting board just waiting to be of service, ready to be prepped for - well, for something. I peeled them, sliced them to fit in the food processor, then shredded all four. After I decided to bake chocolate zucchini bread (recipe will be posted soon!), I froze the rest. P.S. I snuck a little grated zucchini into the meatloaf, too.

    Rhubarb! A few years ago I read that rhubarb was little or no good after July 4th. That summer I frantically harvested all the red rhubarb right after Independence Day, diced it, froze it. Then it kept growing. Yes, friends, the rhubarb came right back up and continued to thrive in its sunny spot next to the garage. I kept harvesting and baking it all the way into apple season. Apple rhubarb crisp tastes fabulous when both are fresh!

    These days, I don't fuss about getting the rhubarb in by July. I do pick it when the plants start getting outrageously large. I have a batch on the counter right now; I'll dice it in the food processor, then bake something and freeze the rest, just like the zucchini.

    Later in the year, maybe even when the snow falls, I'll be able to bake zucchini bread and rhubarb muffins (whole wheat, of course) and have a taste of summer. All of this tasty pleasure happens because I've taken advantage of the locavore philosophy, incorporating more and more of my backyard garden and the local farmers' market goods into my family's diets.

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    Saturday, August 08, 2009

    It's all in the perspective of the one holding the camera

    Along the road and along the track, Chuck (Husband) and I pointed our cameras in different directions. We did this not just because he sat in the forward-facing seat and I faced the back in our little roomette, but because we look out on the world in different ways.

    I took this picture showing Chuck taking a picture of another train. In Chuck's photo, you see the train he was watching. Hey, wait a minute -- that train is on the same track as ours!

    The last three may look the same, but they're not. Two are by night -- one with flash, one without. The bottom shot was taken by day. When he took the night shots, I was asleep in the top bunk of our roomette.

    Chuck took a picture of this rare caboose still in use and hooked up to a freight train. I took a picture of the caboose that was turned into a cottage.

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    Thursday, August 06, 2009

    Mommy, where does zucchini come from?

    Once upon a time, a very long time ago, about last May, there was a patch of dirt behind the garage. Mom dug in the dirt and called it Soil and planted many, many seeds. Then she watered, pulled out weeds, watered, pulled out weeds, and watched with pride as the many shades of green stems and leaves emerged from the ground. The stems and leaves and vines grew and grew until a forest grew all around and it became the place where the wild things are. Wait, that's another story.

    It was eventful along the way in that little patch of vegetables. A wood chuck paid a surprise visit. A rabbit snuck inside a small opening. Mom fixed the fence and hung old computer CDs to help scare away the critters, hoping all along that the bees would still come by to pollinate the squash blossoms.

    What's a squash blossom? Well, honey, it's this flower: the one that magically changes into a baby zucchini if the birds and the bees stop by at the right time. Ahem. Let's stop right there. There's a fiddle tune called Squash Blossom Reel, I think. Let's look for it tomorrow on YouTube.

    Well, little one, after the big orange blossom fades and falls off, the pretty green squash will grow and grow until it's so long that Dad calls it a baseball bat and Mom takes ahold of it and twists it gently until it comes off the vine. Then she'll bring it in the house, clean it up, dice it up, and add it to supper. And lunch. And make it into bread. And grate enough to fill the freezer.

    Maybe the question shouldn't be where does it come from, but where will it go? It'll go in the zucchini bread, in the salads, in the stews, in the freezer, and it'll end up in.... No, forget I said that, honey, and just go to sleep. Once upon a time, there was a little one who asked Mommy all about zucchini....


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    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    Gumbo or Jambalaya?

    For the crockpot

    I found the original recipe for Gumbo in the July issues of the Braille Monitor. La Petite and I discussed gumbo vs. jambalaya and mainly came up with consistency as the answer. Gumbo is more like a soup, while jambalaya is a stew. New Orleans folks, is that correct? We can grill bratwurst with the best of them, but up here in Wisconsin, our knowledge of New Orleans style cooking is spotty at best.

    1 small yellow onion
    1 green pepper, chopped
    1 red pepper, chopped
    Any other peppers available? Chop them up and add them, too!
    ½ cup celery, chopped
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon cayenne
    3 bay leaves
    2 teaspoons garlic, minced
    ¼ cup chopped green onions (scallions)
    2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
    2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (for browning chicken)
    14 oz. chicken, shredded or cubed (cook’s preference)
    8 cups chicken stock
    Creole seasoning
    1 pound Andouille sausage, New Orleans style
    1 pound shrimp, precooked

    Add onion, peppers, celery, and spices to pot. Set aside parsley and green onions to add later. Pour chicken stock over vegetables & spices.
    Brown chicken. Season with Creole Seasoning. Dice or shred as desired and add chicken to pot.
    Precook shrimp, removing tails and skins. Do not overcook! Add to pot.
    Slice and add sausage to pot (or save until later if precooked – again, cook’s choice).
    Season to taste; add 2 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning if desired. My family liked it!

    Cook 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 on low heat.
    About an hour before serving, add parsley, green onion, (and sausage).
    Serve with rice.

    My family's verdict? Good stuff, mom. Even the spiciness was acceptable!


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    Monday, August 03, 2009

    Reality show: The One Where the Blankets go to the Laundromat

    Imagine: a day in the life of Daisy, the groundskeeper. Let's choose an ordinary, but not too ordinary, day of taking care of home, garden, family, and coffee. Here's one: the semi-annual Washing of the Blankets: The Laundromat Visit Episode!
    Director: "Okay, photogs, make sure you get a messy look. That's right, nothing too neat. Big piles all over the mom-van. Can we see a little contrast? Pull that patterned blanket throw out a little more, make it look like they're not stacked perfectly."

    The truth? They weren't stacked neatly. The minivan really does look that messy when the blankets are headed out for washing day. I have to spread the piles so I can still see in the rearview mirrors.

    A few token shots of the front-loading washers spinning, and it's time to load the wet blankets in the minivan again. I'm sure there's a punch line there: "Wet Blankets ruin enthusiasm for laundry!" Maybe not.

    Director: Can you see how many blankets there are? Do they all fit in the baskets? Is there any water dripping? Wet feet? Come on, there must be something interesting here.

    No, there isn't anything interesting involved in taking the comforters and blanket throws out of the front loading washer, folding them, and stacking them in the baskets without dragging the clean corners through the dirt. Trust me. Move along now, there's no drama here.

    Director: Clothesline time! Blankets flapping in the wind on the clothesline. Classic video! Get it. What...what do you mean, you don't own a clothesline? Daisy, you're the queen of green! No clothesline?

    Honestly, I don't own a clothesline. I did, however, hang La Petite's and Amigo's blankets out on the deck and on the backyard swing. They're the only family members without season allergies. The bedding that goes in the Master Bedroom goes in the dryer, or Husband (Chuck) and I would sneeze and wheeze our nights away.

    Director: Oh, geez, didn't you check this out? A clothesline would be the perfect ending shot behind the show credits. I can't believe there's no clothesline.

    Assistant: Sorry. I was too busy checking out her coffee mug collection. Here, we made hazelnut flavor, full caff. Want some?

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    Saturday, August 01, 2009

    'Tis the season: Packer Training Camp Season!

    You might be a Green Bay Packer fan if you know that training camp starts today.

    You might be a Green Bay Packer fan if you have Packer Beans growing in your garden.

    And now, the best for last: You might be a Green Bay Packer fan if even after years of retiring (or not), you still think this Montana town's name ought to be pronounced "Harv."

    Say, Brett? Stay retired. Please. We love you, but really. Retirement is right. Right now, that is.

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