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

  • Wednesday, September 30, 2009

    How much garden still grows?

    Call it leftovers, call it a fall crop, call it the end of summer. Call it whatever you wish; to me it means that school has started and summer gardening is nearly done.
    I neglected the broccoli and it flowered.

    The beans are hanging on, producing a few more handfuls for the steamer, and even putting out a few small buds that might ripen if the warm weather holds.

    And of course the zucchini continues, even after I cut back the vines to prevent the powder mildew from spreading even farther.

    The kitchen has green tomatoes ripening on every windowsill. If you've ever seen my kitchen, you know that means on both (small) windowsills and probably beside the sink. I'm going to keep visiting the farmers' market until it's over; when the fresh vegetables and fruits are gone, I know I'll mourn.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    New Basic White Bread for the New Breadmaker

    When my new bread machine arrived, I cleaned it up and tried it out with the basic white bread recipe in the instruction book. The bread machine and its recipe worked like a dream. This recipe makes a 1 1/2 lb. loaf. Can white bread be delicious? This one is.

    1 1/8 cup water, warm
    1 1/2 Tablespoons oil (optional; I use olive oil)
    1/2 Tablespoon sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 cups bread flour
    2 teaspoons active dry yeast

    Cook on basic cycle.

    I ordered a Breadman model TR875. It had good reviews and was highly recommended by other breadmaking bloggers. So far, so good! Now that school has started, I'm more likely to bake bread on weekends. A loaf of plain, delicious white bread is a great start to grilled cheese or french toast. On a cool weekend day, the aroma makes the whole house smell wonderful.


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    Compost: How far can I go?

    Compost: how far can I go? How much waxy paper, how many pizza boxes, will actually decompose in the bin with the kitchen waste? Only time (lots of it) will tell.

    Last spring I set a few composting goals in a 3-2-1 Summary style. I'd noticed that the litter from the bunny boxes didn't decompose completely. I still compost the contents of the bunny boxes, but this time I'm planning on leaving the bin for a full year. The time and the heat of a second summer season, I hope, will help the pine and red cedar bits decompose all the way.

    Popsicle sticks didn't decompose very well, either. To hasten the process, I broke the sticky sticks into smaller pieces. If the additional time and the breaking down of fibers doesn't make a difference, I'll know they're just not suffiently biodegradable for a backyard bin.

    My main goal was to add in papers of many kinds - papers and cardboards that are food-tainted or otherwise unsuitable for recycling. Take pizza boxes, for example. The lids are usually contaminated with bits of pizza sauce and spices. Advice from the Interwebs said this: tear these lids in strips, soak them to further break down the fibers, and then bury them in the compost. The cardboard circles from the frozen Tombstone can go this route, too. Further experiments: the wrappers from butter/margarine sticks (hoping such small amounts of dairy won't cause a problem), waxy wrappers from orange dreamsicles, an occasional paper towel.

    That paragraph makes it sound like we eat a lot of junk food. We do consume a fair share, (blush) I admit it. Pizza or drive-through foods are the exception, though, not the rule. I'd rather use my crockpot than bring in a Big Mac, and the family knows it.

    There won't be many paper towels, either; we've eliminated paper napkins and paper towels almost entirely.

    But ultimately, this experiment will depend on time. I have the new composter, and I'll use that one exclusively next season while the big black one sits and does its thing: lets the compost happen.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    On being self-sufficient

    A city family, even in a small city, will be dependent on the grocery store and the basic utilities. The question nagging in the back of my head is this: How much of that is really necessary?

    It's a small city lot that makes room for my garden behind the garage, a plot that has gotten a little larger over the years we've lived here. We grow a small amount of our food here, more a supplement than a significant amount of the family food supply.

    I haven' t learned to can -- yet. I bought some of the supplies I need, and decided that next summer my project will be jam. The raspberries in the backyard yield almost nothing, and what little ripens goes to the birds before we even know it's there. But I do have rhubarb, and we have the farmers' market. Market strawberries, backyard rhubarb, and maybe raspberries and blueberries will make some J for our PBJs next summer.

    I blanched and froze beans this year, both green and yellow, and a little bit of sweet corn, too. I have cartons of frozen rhubarb and grated zucchini frozen for winter baking. Soup stocks, turkey and chicken and beef, share the freezer space with the vegetables. When it's time to cook, I'll reach in the freezer instead of adding a commercially made mix to the crockpot.

    The freezer is small, though. When Chuck picked it out, he wasn't thinking of putting up enough food for the winter. He and I both thought it would just be a convenience. Now, a few years later, I wonder if we need a larger one. But do we? What am I really planning?

    If we grew or bought from the farmers' market more of our produce, we wouldn't need to buy it from the grocery store. It would cost less purchased in season, and taste great when we cook it. It would be mainly organic, introducing fewer chemicals into our systems.

    We could look into getting a dehydrator, something I've only read about. We have the storage space in the basement, but it's a bit damp in fall and spring. Is it suitable for dried food? Need more research before I go farther with that angle.

    Back to canning. Many vegetables and fruits become ripe just when I'm starting school, and it's just about impossible to spend the prep time in the kitchen that's really necessary. Or is it? Could I do enough of the work in July and early August to make this happen? I don't know.

    My kitchen is so small it'll be hard to make room for a major process. Blanching the beans took up (I am not kidding) close to half the counter space.

    But really, if we picked up another medium sized freezer, an upright perhaps, we wouldn't need to go shopping every week. We'd be able to pick up milk and orange juice and bunny food, buy meat in bulk on sale, but the veggies and fruits would be in the house already.

    I'm dreaming, but it's a dream that could work out in the end. We're city people, so we're not going to put up a chicken house in the backyard. We'll just have to keep buying eggs from Chuck's coworker who does raise chickens. But learning to make our own jams, freeze our own tomatoes and peppers and herbs, can do more than just season our foods.

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Broccoli -- flower-ettes?

    Dear gardener friends;
    Is this supposed to happen? Is my broccoli supposed to flower, or did I do something wrong?

    Leave a comment, please. In the meantime, I'll try for a clearer picture and I'll hope for rain - for the entire garden.


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Rhubarb Nut Bread

    Warning: make a double batch for sharing. The batch I set out in the staff lounge on treat day was gone by morning recess.

    1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
    2/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
    1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 1/2 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups raw rhubarb, chopped
    1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
    1/3 cup white sugar
    1 tablespoon melted butter

    Heat oven to 325F, lightly butter and flour two 8"x4"x3" loaf pans.
    Combine the brown sugar, veggie oil and the egg.
    Combine the buttermilk (sour milk), baking soda, salt & vanilla. I mixed it up; added the vanilla to the brown sugar/ egg mixture. It worked.
    Add the milk mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with the flour, beating well after each addition.
    Fold in the rhubarb& the nuts.
    Turn batter into the two loaf pans.
    Sprinkle with the melted butter and sugar.
    Bake for 45 minutes or until done.
    Turn out on a wire rack to cool.

    From Recipezaar - a plurk buddy recommended this, and I'm glad she did! I look forward to making it in January with some of the rhubarb in the freezer. I wonder if this would make good muffins?

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Meal Planning Monday: the reality show

    Assistant: I can't believe you're making an entire show out of meal planning. This is not dramatic or funny.
    Director: If TLC can make a half hour episode of Kate Gosselin grocery shopping, we can make something out of meal planning.

    First step: Inventory. Thawed a whole chicken Saturday night using the dying coals of the grill so it'll taste smoky. Red peppers roasted on the grill Saturday as well; we made good use of the grill time. Sweet corn (among other goodies) from the farmers' market, tomatoes from the garden, and the everpresent early autumn zucchini. Using those items as starting points, here goes.

    Assistant: Do people really plan an entire week? I'm being devil's advocate here to help make things interesting, understand. Where's the video here? The grill? The dying or dead coals?
    Director: Whatever. Knock yourself out. Go ahead. Make my day.

    Monday: Rotisserie chicken, sweet corn, banana bread, salad (including cherry tomatoes, of course). This is a meal full of planned overs. Chuck works late on Mondays, so it's just Amigo and me eating supper at home. There will be lots of chicken left over and I'll make chicken stock with the carcass. See Wednesday for more.
    Director: So Monday is planned-overs, heading into Wednesday. Is Tuesday anything special?
    Me: I have a meeting after school, so I won't be home immediately. This is the kind of day that works better if I prepare the meat the night before or Tuesday morning before leaving for school.

    Tuesday: stuffed meatloaf. Ground beef and ground turkey, with all the additions of my usual meatloaf, but in two layers with roasted red peppers squashed in between. Cook it up in the oven as usual and serve with...hidden zucchini orzo and a vegetable or maybe baked apples (farmers' market, of course).
    Wednesday: here comes the reference to Monday. Chicken soup in the crockpot! Leftover corn, a few other veggies (did somebody say zucchini?), and maybe egg noodles. Mmm.

    Director: did you plan this soup all along?
    Me: Sort of. I have a longer meeting after school, Grandma will be here with Amigo, so an easy supper is in order. She'll add noodles as needed when she gets here. I'll be home by 5, I think, and I'll make grilled cheese or something simple very simple to go with the soup.

    Director: Okay, what's next?
    Me: No idea. I usually just plan a few days, not the whole week. I don't have a meeting on Thursday, so I'll actually have time to cook. Maybe I'll grill something.
    Assistant: The grill needs cleaning.
    Me: Then again, maybe not.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    Sometimes there are days like that.

    I ordered a sub sandwich Thursday and saved half for Friday in another teacher's refrigerator. Her water bottle tipped, and I had a soggy sub for lunch.

    Sometimes there are days like that.

    I didn't want to cook last night, but couldn't justify ordering out or going out. I threw a few things together and called it Kitchen Sink Casserole. Dirty rice (with ground beef and miscellaneous spices and garden vegetables), meatsauce from last night's spaghetti, egg noodles, the tiny bit of leftover spaghetti, all in a casserole dish. It was actually rather tasty. But yes, indeed, it was an Ultimate Leftover.

    Sometimes there are days like that.

    The newspaper never showed up on our porch. Sometimes our carrier is a little late, but she's usually reliable. I don't remember her ever missing us completely. Chuck has been on a roll with the evening crosswords this week; this will wreck his perfect record.

    Sometimes there are days like that.

    I gathered up a stack of Time magazines to mail to La Petite and discovered that Buttercup the hungry bunny had chewed on two issues. One was still readable; I'll send it anyway.

    Sometimes there are days like that.

    My minivan may need work on its exhaust system, the garage door is turning temperamental, my tomatoes look awful, but the zucchini keep growing and growing and growing and growin. They're the energizer bunny of the neighborhood gardens.

    And as long as we have zucchini, we will not starve, even on days like that.


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, September 18, 2009

    In answer to the rhetorical question "How was your day?"

    If I really described my workday in detail, it would be so jargon-filled that only small portions would be understandable by the greater public at large. Let's try anyway.

    It was benchmark day. With Title I and REACh funds, we formally benchmarked reading levels for each and every student in our school building. We'll do it again in January and May. Today was my day to write sub plans, copy my word lists, and participate in benchmarking my class.
    How's that so far? Not bad, eh? Let's go on.
    My sub would need the multimedia cart to show a Safari piece for science. He'd also be teaching a make-words vocabulary activity and a personal narrative lesson in taking brainstorming sessions and focusing on one seed moment.
    Meanwhile, I reviewed the differences in Rigby benchmarks vs. Fountas and Pinnell and how that would affect my levelled reading program in fiction and informational. We discussed formulas for calculating error rate, self-correct rate, WPM speed, fluency, comprehension rate, and instructional vs. independent levels. Then the bell rang, and we were on.

    I pulled the benchmark kit out of the reading specialist's office, organized my workspace in a corner of the instrumental music room, and called my first kiddo to read for me. Using the intermediate kit and the adaptive calculator for reading rate, I benched her, sent her back, then calculated the data I needed while she and the next student walked the halls. Error rates, meaning based or visual, all were important tools for planning instruction. That's the heart of assessment, isn't it? But I digress.

    I finished the second student and then sent him out for recess. I was on my way to ask the Title I Reading teacher about comparing comprehension and fluency rates in an when the 6th grade teacher almost ran past me. "Georgia's going to Starbucks. Do you want anything? Of course you do!"

    I reached the Title teacher in her cubby within the library and asked her about satisfactory vs. excellent comprehension scores, extending rather than literal comprehension, and what counts and what doesn't as additional information in the retell. Text to self connections and the less common text to text connections are the best options for extending the retell beyond the literal. Then she redirected me into the speech/ language room because the SLP (not the PSL) was going to Erbert and Gerberts to pick up lunch. Would I like anything? I'd brought a lunch, but this sounded better, and I could add up the cost without analyzing fluency, so I said yes, please, and I'll take the avocado on top.

    With lunch on the way, I was momentarily distracted by the library media specialist having trouble with the large Monovision monitor that attached to our computers. She and I troubleshooted (troubleshot?) and found out that we needed to reset the screen resolution and one other display option before it would work. Then we rebooted, observed, and shouted woo-hoo! so loudly that the kids coming back in from outside heard us and stared. I can just imagine: "There they go, bouncing around the computer monitors again. What is this, some kind of celebration dance?" If they only knew.

    My day? Pretty good, all in all. Unique, to say the least. I can't wait for tomorrow.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Conserving Resources: It's as simple as a barrel.

    Green Moms Carnival is hosted by Mindful Momma this month, and they're posting on the topic of Conserving Resources. I didn't post far enough ahead to actively participate, but I can still contribute.

    One of my favorite ways to conserve a finite resource is by using a rain barrel. In fact, I liked the rain barrel so much I bought a second one in August! Here's a quick 3-2-1 summary of the highlights of my special water-conserving tool.

    Three reasons to use a rain barrel instead of a conventional sprinkler:

    1. Set it up correctly, and it'll water the roots, not the leaves, of the plants.
    2. The water goes directly into the soil; very little evaporated.
    3. It's rain water. It doesn't have to go through the treatment plant before it waters my garden.

    Two changes in thinking with the rain barrel:

    1. I'm careful with the water. After all, I "harvested" this myself!
    2. I use this water to rinse litter boxes and compost buckets, too.

    One final thought in favor of rain barrels:

    1. It saves the potable (drinkable) water for its intended purpose: human consumption.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Bake with local fruits: Apple - cranberry crisp

    I live in the middle of a small city, but I still enjoy reading Living the Country Life. I might skip the article on choosing a healthy breeding pair of peafowl (peacock and peahen, for other city folk), but I'm sure to enjoy the photos and the recipes. I found this one in the October issue.

    Crimson Cranberry-Apple Crisp

    3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    3 cups sliced, peeled cooking apples
    2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
    1/2 cup quick oats
    1/4 cup packed brown sugar
    2 Tablespoons wheat flour
    1 Tablespoon wheat germ (optional)
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    3 Tablespoons butter or margarine
    2 Tablespoons chopped nuts (optional)

    Step 1: In a small mixing bowl, cmobine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Place the apples and cranberries in an ungreased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over fruit. Toss gently to coat. Bake, covered, in a 375 degree (F) oven for 25 minutes.
    Step 2: Meanwhile, make the topping. In a small mixing bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and nutmeg. With a fork or pastry blender, cut in butter or margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts or wheat germ, if you like. Remove cranberry/apple mixture from oven. Sprinkle topping over partially cooked fruit mixture.
    Step 3: Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes more or until fruit is tender and topping is golden. Cool slightly. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream or other delicious topping. Makes 6 servings.

    Living the Country Life suggests using 1 cup dried cranberries if fresh or frozen are not available. Right now, I suggest browsing the farmers' markets for fresh apples and keeping an eye out for cranberries. I used Macintosh apples; I'd stick with sweet apples to counter the tart taste of the cranberries.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    I'll pass the test, Mr. President, but give me a chance.

    Dear President Obama;

    I'm worried. My state, like many others, is in a budget crisis, and it's affecting education. Wisconsin is one of many who covet a piece of the economic stimulus pie. To stand a chance, however, we'd have to change laws. Important laws. Laws that govern how I do my job - and how to evaluate if I'm doing it right.

    Mr. President, in order to be eligible for stimulus money, test scores must be used as part of teacher evaluations. That's where I get nervous.

    You see, Mr. Obama, I teach in a unique neighborhood. The gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots is huge. You name it, I teach kids who've lived it. Poverty. Homelessness. Abuse, physical and otherwise. English Language Learners who read at a kindergarten level - in fourth grade. Transient families who move at least twice each year. Families who care about their children and want them to learn, but struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table, with no energy left for homework assistance, no money for books.

    This is a great school with a great staff. We're not shy about accountability. Sit in on a staff meeting and you'll hear us discuss ways to do more with less- less money, less time, less respect.

    However, we can't control our raw product. If I were producing paper and received an inferior load of pulpwood, I'd refuse to accept it. If I ran a restaurant and my supplier brought me poor quality meat, I'd send it back. I can't control my class list; I have to teach them all, reach them all. That challenge is a part of the joy of my work.

    I speak for many teachers when I say we want all children to succeed. We continue to work with each child, finding time when there is none, motivating those who are incredibly behind to make as much progress as possible. I'd love to see the child who reads like a second grader improve to a fifth grade level on my watch. I'll work toward that goal every minute that this young person is in my class. But if this child fails a state test one day, a test mandated by the folks in some faraway city, should it hurt my career? My paycheck? My job security? My reputation?

    If the child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder runs out of medicine the day of the test, please don't blame me for the way her scores drop when she can't focus. I want her to succeed even more than she does. When the bipolar student hits a major depression, let me help him get counseling and medical care; don't force me to force him to fill in the bubbles on a high-stakes exam.

    President Obama, please rethink this part of your program. Instead of No Teacher Left Untested, let's apply stimulus money toward leaving no child behind.



    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    Random thoughts and sights near my classroom

    On top of my file cabinet, in front of the sub folders, evidence exists that I'm a fan of books and small cute animals. Underneath it all, I'm still a Green Bay Packers fan. That, and the top of the file cabinet is ugly as all get out, so I used the title towel to cover the worst of it.

    The main train poster looks great in the hallway. With La Petite and Chuck (the man with the shoes) to advise me, I made this one myself.

    The scene below was outside my classroom window one morning. The three fifth graders had a little trouble with a tangled rope on the flagpole, and the liaison officer stepped in to help. It's such a great feeling to see kids getting a positive experience with a police officer - when many in our neighborhood see only the negative side of law enforcement.

    The picture I didn't take - the dead squirrel on the ground under a tree and the young girls surrounding it, looking for all the world like they were having a funeral. Some events don't translate quite as well to the blog space. You're welcome.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Seven Ways I'm not "Green Enough" - and why it's okay

    I have a talent recognized by me coworkers; I can rationalize almost anything. This skill comes in handy when applying for grant money or writing persuasive papers. In the real world, rationalizing helps balance wishes with reality. I wish I could be more eco-conscious, but when all is said and done, I'm pretty darn good. Here are my confessions, along with the rationale for each weakness.

    1. I don't own a clothesline.

    Family members have seasonal allergies, so hanging clothes in the pollen-filled breeze is a bad idea. Sleeping in sheets dried outside will trigger sneezing and wheezing at the least, hives at worst.

    2. I use commercial laundry detergent and dishwasher soap, too.
    Time is money and money is time, so making and experimenting with DIY soaps isn't practical. I do use anti-static dryer balls instead of fabric softener in all loads but delicate. The Balls don't work as well with sweaters.

    3. I drive a minivan.

    We still need to move La Petite back and forth to college a few more times, and the minivan is also the only vehicle (short of a full sized van) that will hold Amigo's recumbent 3-wheeler. This is a need, not a want. My elderly minivan (a 1998 Pontiac Transport-Montana) would have qualified in the recent Cash for Clunkers rebate. I didn't do it. The new, and smaller and more fuel efficient vehicles are great in concept, but I don't think the program would have rewarded me for trading one minivan in for another, not to mention the challenge of making car payments and tuition at the same time.

    4. Chuck (the husband with the cool shoes) buys bottled water, and I don't stop him.

    This is a convenience issue. He needs to be able to grab a bottle and go, taking it with him on the job. Amigo and I solve this by filling our reusable bottles at the school's water fountains (bubblers, in the local vernacular). Chuck doesn't. Oh, well, it's a balance.

    5. I use paper coffee filters.

    I compost them. 'Nuff said.

    6. I don't compost year-round.

    This is a weather/ climate problem. I've noticed that scraps placed in the bin in October or November will still be whole and recognizable in late March or April when it's time to spread the compost and till the garden plot. It's simply too cold here in the Northern Realms for the process to happen naturally. The bin itself is in the back of the yard, difficult to get to in the snowy Wisconsin winters. I'm working on this dilemma; I've placed the new composter where I can reach it in midwinter, and I plan to let the big bin sit for an additional year. Eventually, I'll be letting one sit and decompose while I fill the other, and then switch.

    7. We don't use cloth bags at the grocery store - well, not all the time.

    Amigo and Chuck do the grocery shopping and do it well. They prefer not to be bogged down in details like bringing bags to the store. When it's just me, I re-use the paper bags they bring home. If we're just stopping in for a few things, we use the cloth bags I keep in a convenient place at home or in the car's glove box. It's a start, and we're getting better. We hardly ever get "new" plastic bags in the house any more. Again (see #4) it's about balance.

    So on we go, along the long and winding road of getting greener each day. It's discouraging sometimes, when spreading the word feels like trying to teach kids to work on their math without talking (if you know the secret, I'm listening). But as my eco-colleague says over at the Green Phone Booth, feeling overwhelmed doesn't have to mean becoming immobile.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    The first week of teaching -- for a gardener

    A week of teaching means little or no time in the garden. My poor tomatoes are gasping for breath, craving water. My beans are doing fine at the end of their growing season. Parsley looks good, and the bunnies are happy with that news. But the squash, you ask, the squash...

    How did I miss these huge zucchini? Where did they come from? How did they get so, well, huge??

    I didn't plant any yellow squash this year. Who snuck in and cross- pollinated my greens with yellow? There are two more on this vine, even tinier than the two you see with the blossoms still on.

    And last, but surely not least, the white pumpkins (if that's indeed what they are) have been joined by what might be one of their orange counterparts. Maybe. Perhaps. I didn't plant this, either.
    Did someone or some thing sneak into my garden recently? It's a mystery, all right.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, September 08, 2009

    Ah, Zorba, your Summer Veggie-Corn Chowder is delicious.

    An open letter to Zorba Paster of Public Radio fame:

    Dear Dr. Paster (May I call you Zorba?); I enjoy your heart-healthy recipes. I find most of them delicious and practical. I often print out the good ones on Saturday morning as I'm making my list for the Farmers' Market. When I heard Summer Vegetable-Corn Chowder, my reaction was "MMmmmm! Must make this!"

    But Zorba, there were a few weak spots in this one. I present it here to share with my readers, complete with my own Daisy-style commentary.

    2 potatoes, peeled and diced (What kind of potato? Russet? Red? Yukon gold? Blue?)
    1/4 cup leeks, sliced thinly (I've never cooked with leeks before. This will be fun.)
    1/4 cup red onion, diced
    1/4 cup celery (feed the leftovers to the rabbits, of course)
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 Tablespoon margarine
    2 cups low-sodium broth (my homemade broth is low sodium, but somewhat higher in fat)
    2 Tablespoons cornstarch
    4 cups skim milk
    2 16 oz. cans Corn (Cans? Zorba, it's harvest season! Get fresh corn! Cans? No way.)
    1 cup evaporated skim milk
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
    1/4 cup parsley, minced (this came from the garden, and the bunnies got the leftovers)
    1 Tablespoon Dill Weed (I skipped this)

    But wait - before we even start. Dr. Zorba, this recipe aired in late August. Really. Think about it. What do gardeners and farmers' markets have in abundance in late August? Zucchini!! Where's the zucchini in this recipe? And how about herbs? They're all over, fresh as can be.
    I added 1/2 cup grated zucchini and at least a Tablespoon each of thyme and oregano and rosemary. The house (and my hands while cooking) smelled wonderful.

    Back to business. In a large soup pot over medium heat, add chicken broth, potatoes, leek, onion, and celery. Add in margarine and garlic. Cover and simmer 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
    In a saucepan, dissolve cornstarch in cold skim milk. Whisk over medium high heat until thickened, and then whisk into soup pot. Add corn (cans? Hmph, I used fresh corn), evaporated skim milk, salt, and hot pepper sauce to pot. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to thicken the chowder. Don't allow to boil! Serve warm in bowls, topped with parsley and dill.

    I had fairly good luck with this recipe. I wish I had cut it in half. It says "serves 6" and they mean it. I was feeding three, and I could have halved the recipe and still haved, er, had plenty.
    It wasn't thick enough for my taste - I like my chowders thick and creamy - but I think that was my fault. I was feeling impatient and hungry and the teenager was too, so I rushed the cornstarch and milk step. Had I given it more time, the chowder might have been thicker. As it was, the soup was still delicious and the house smelled heavenly.
    Really, Zorba, I like going to your web site and finding full nutritional details for the recipe along with many other heart healthy selections. Right now I'm searching for recipes with fresh vegetables, and this one fit the bill.

    But really. Canned corn? Bleh.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    Random thoughts on browsing the newspaper

    A small feature in the state section notes that homeowners are using less water. The Public Service Commission found that we residential Wisconsinites are using 7% less water than we used to use. Maybe the rain barrel craze is helping with that number.

    In the National section: For those without a job, Labor Day is just another day in the struggle. For laid off teachers and school paraprofessionals, it's a reminder that the school year is starting without them. It's not that they're not necessary; the fact is that budgets are too tight to hire enough staff to fully meet student needs.

    The editorial cartoon by Joe Heller reminded me of what I heard on NPR the other day: the H1N1 cases we know are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Preparedness is a balancing act. I'm stocking the freezer and the medicine cabinet, washing my hands frequently, and in general taking all the precautions I can to prevent H1N1 from devastating my family. I'll be prepared, but I'm not going to worry outright until it happens close to home.

    One commentary writer put the Obama speech in perspective with a satirical column asking "How dare Obama urge kids to succeed?" Really, folks. How did this planned short speech take on such conspiratorial tones? It's not a campaign, it's not a dramatic town meeting on health care reform. Whether your family supports President Obama or not, it's time to respect the office if not the man. Let's teach our children to listen and think and interpret what they hear rather than to plug their ears and shut out the elected leader of the free world.

    Labels: , , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Sunday, September 06, 2009

    Back to school and Pondering Potter

    Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place.

    What makes a book or series worth re-reading? A good story, believable and likable characters, a unique world so strange and splendid it can't be imagined - unless described by a brilliant storyteller. Harry Potter is one such series.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a special magic. The shortest of the seven, it introduces Harry and his readers to a whole new world: a world of magic. Witches, wizards, a sport played on flying broomsticks, owl post, powerful potions, and more incredible yet believable things exist in this parallel world. In The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry first learns of his family and his wizard identity.

    Readers can share his awe as he learns that his new school has its own train that leaves from platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station. Somewhere between platforms nine and ten, he encounters the Weasley family, asks them for help finding the train, befriends Ron, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mythology? Legend? Wizardry? Ghostology?

    I enjoy rereading The Sorcerer's Stone because of JK Rowling's genius. The settings are magically unique, but she describes them in a matter of fact tone so that we readers know this is only the beginning of the mysteries to come. When she describes the staircases at Hogwarts' School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, all 142 of them: "...wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday..." it's simply in a paragraph about Harry attempting to learn his way to his classes.

    And the classes! No Intro to British Lit here. Harry takes History of Magic (taught by a ghost), Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, and the cursed (literally, but we don't know that until a later book) Defense Against the Dark Arts.

    The "strange and splendid place" in the first line is the Great Hall as Harry sees it on his arrival at Hogwarts. In his limited upbringing by his neglectful Muggle (non-magical) relatives, he had never even dared imagine a world so wonderful.

    Thankfully for all readers, JK Rowling did imagine such a strange and splendid place - a world nearby, yet far different from our everyday Muggle existance. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone stands on its own as a wonderful story and sets up the reading world for an adventure that begins - and ends, several books later - on Platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station.

    My students won't have wands, owls, or school robes. They'll write their assignments with pen on paper or type them on computers, not ink and quill on parchment. One of my challenges, though, is to create a safe place for them to experiment, read, and write. Maybe one of them will create a strange and splendid story for another generation - some magical day in the future.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Friday, September 04, 2009

    Before and After: the school poster story

    Step one: I took all the posters out of the drawers, spread them out, sorted the collection. What a mess! To top it all off, I didn't have anything that illustrated the theme for this year: trains, the Fourth Grade Express.
    I attacked it the way I attacked the dearth of science posters a few years ago: with clip art and the overhead projector. Decidedly low tech, but also low or no cost, it worked for me. Luckily, my artistic daughter and my husband's knowledge of trains provided the needed boost to make these posters come alive. Here's the rough draft of the "Read" poster.

    Here's the big view of three posters above my students' lockers.

    Here is the final product of the "Read" poster. La Petite decorated the city, added a sunrise, and made all three passengers reading during their commute.

    What would I do without family? No, don't answer that. Family members who willingly help with a school project are truly priceless.

    Labels: ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Thursday, September 03, 2009

    Blanching and Freezing Beans: Yes, I Can!

    According to my Twitter friend City Slipper, blanching is easy. I just need a colander and a big
    stockpot for boiling water. But wait - my colanders are too big, or my stockpots are too small!

    Okay, the steamer basket fits. I can do this.
    Step one: bring water to a boil. Lower beans into water. Bring water back to a boil, and boil for three minutes. I can do that. Yes, if you're wondering, those are indeed Daisy' Famous Green Bay Packer beans.

    After the three minutes, put the beans in ice water for three minutes to cool.

    Remove from ice water, and then dry. I had all three steps going at once in my tiny kitchen. Packer beans boiling, green beans cooling, and yellow wax beans drying.

    Since the drying step takes the longest, I eventually had all the beans spread out on the counter at once. I froze them in quart-size Ziploc vaccuum bags. Some time in December or January, we'll have really good beans, better than anything on the grocery store shelves.

    The best part of cooking these will be knowing they were grown locally. About a third of this batch grew in my garden; the rest came from the farmers' market. It took a little research and a little time, but this action was worth it.

    Labels: , ,

    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Questions on examining a Class List

    Is that Samantha, Sam, Sami, Sammie, or something entirely different?

    How about Edward? Ed, Eddie, Ted, Teddy, Ward?

    No, William, I won't call you Squilliam, despite the SpongBob reference. Will, Bill, Willy, Billy, or anything like it will do. And Jake? No, "the Snake" is not an appropriate school nickname.

    Does Dominic go by Dom, Nick, Nicky, or Domo? If Benjamin can be Benjie, I suppose Dom could be Domi.

    Elizabeth is Ella, not Lizzy or Beth. Isabel is Izzy, and Christopher is Topher, not Chris.

    How about Clayton and Carlton? Clay & Carl? Or not? Oh, wait, one of them goes by CJ.

    How many Ashleys and Emilys can there be in one grade?

    Then we get the creative spellings. I don't even want to go there.

    But after I master the name game, we're good. I hope and plan that we're ready for a good year.


    Digg! Stumble It! add to kirtsy

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Fruit chunk muffins

    I had one peach, a few small tart apples, a small bag of strawberries taking up space in the freezer, so what did I do? I baked muffins, of course.

    My go-to cookbook for muffins (The Good Home Cookbook) didn't have an apple-peach-strawberry combination, so I combined two recipes, of course.

    Fruit Chunk Muffins by Daisy
    based on two muffin recipes by R. Perry in the above-named cookbook

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup wheat flour
    1 cup sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon allspice
    2 large eggs

    1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup applesauce, 1/4 cup oil)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/8 teaspoon almond extract
    1 1/2 cups diced fruit, preferably fresh or frozen
    Optional: 1/2 cup chopped almonds (I was out of almonds that day)

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin tin.

    2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and spices in a medium bowl. Set aside.

    3. Beat together the eggs, oil (& applesauce), and vanilla & almond extracts in a small bowl. Pour into flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the fruit pieces.

    4. Fill the muffin cups three-quarters full with batter.

    5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

    6. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and cool briefly on wire racks. Serve warm or cooled - or with coffee, of course.

    Tip: to peel the peach, I used the hot water- cold water trick. Immerse peach in hot water for 30 seconds, then move it to the cold water for 30 seconds. The skin will peel off easily without taking much fruit with it.


    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.