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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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  • Monday, November 30, 2009

    A Bad Day at School: Reality Show Edition

    Assistant: Who was that guy who visited your classroom late in the afternoon?
    Daisy: the Superintendent of Schools for our district.
    Director (to photographer): I hope you got a good angle on him. He's the big guy, the boss of the boss of the bosses.
    Daisy: I hope you didn't get the kid falling out of her chair while he was there on camera.
    Assistant: That was funny! And the kids who kept giggling; didn't get that this was an important guest.
    Daisy: Funny? Hardly! He must think I'm a complete disaster; the kids were awful while he was here!
    Director: We followed him next door. That class told him math is boring.
    Daisy: Shakes head, hand on forehead. Is it Friday yet?

    Back up, earlier in day.
    Liaison officer: I need to talk to Johnny.
    Daisy: Johnny, go with Officer Krumpke.
    Director: Can we use that? He might be a juvenile offender. Those records would be sealed.
    Daisy: No, no, no. He's just a bully who needs a little, um, firm hand. One with a badge and handcuffs to impress the point.
    Liaison officer (returning to room): We need someone who actually witnessed the incident.
    Daisy (to class): That means someone who saw it happen, not someone who heard the rumors.
    Officer Krumpke: Speaking of rumors, let me clear up a rumor that's going around in your grade. I am not a school security guard; I'm a police officer.
    Daisy (aside to Officer K, as they walk into the hallway, motions toward gun): That's a heck of an arsenal for a security guard.
    Officer K: (laughs out loud)

    Back up, earlier in day
    Daisy (quietly, turns microphone off): Carter, did you take your medicine at lunchtime?
    Carter (bouncing on chair): What? What?! I didn't do anything.
    Daisy: I'll give you a choice: show me which you choose. You can start reading here, quietly, or you can take some time to settle down in the office.
    Carter: No way!
    Daisy: Show me. You're not in trouble; you just need to choose where you're going to read.
    (three minutes later)
    Daisy (on phone to office): Carter's on his way; he needs a little time to settle down before he comes back to class. He's bringing his book and his reading log.
    Assistant to director: Gee, all the other kids settled down now, too.
    Daisy: It's called removing the entertainment. Now back away with that camera and let me teach these kids to read!

    Back up, shortly after sunrise
    Assistant: Why do I have to ride in the mom-van with you and the photog?
    Daisy: You drew the short straw. Oh, drat. Darn it!
    Assistant: What happened? Did you forget your homework? Your lunch box? Ha-ha. Ha-ha.
    Daisy: Worse. I forgot my coffee!!

    Maybe that explains everything!

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    Sunday, November 29, 2009

    When green products have wasteful packaging

    Eco gifts. Love 'em or hate 'em (and how could anyone truly hate a gift that helps keep our planet healthy?), they're here to stay. Last year I gave reusable shopping bags, some simple, some fancy. This year, I'm still looking for the perfect inexpensive eco-gift for my extended family and friends.

    Mother Nature Network has an unusual set of gift suggestions in their Quirky Gift Guide. I seriously like these bootie slippers, but they're a little pricey for my gift budget. My favorite, however, is this wallet. If Amigo needed a new wallet, this cute bifold made from ties and suits would be perfect.

    I've been thinking of giving anti-static dryer balls as a stocking stuffer. They're inexpensive, long-lasting, useful, creative - all in all, a good gift for the family members who don't need Random Stuff in their Stockings. But wait: look at this wasteful packaging! Much bigger than the product itself, plastic galore, impossible to open without scissors, yada yada yada. In other words, how could such a good product come in such a terrible package?!

    I contemplated returning it. Really. In the balance, is it worthwhile? Thinking long term, these simple anti-static balls will keep a year's worth of fabric softener chemicals out of the water supply, save $$ by removing the product from grocery lists, and help take good care of clothing in the process. That's my dilemma: does the good outweigh the bad?

    Readers, what do you think? How do you balance the eco-good with the eco-bad? The green with the greenwashing? The green and frugal product in the plastic package?

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    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Are your holiday cards in the mail yet?

    Mine are not on the way. Mine sometimes even end up going out close to or even after Christmas. I confess.
    I heard a Plurk friend exclaiming that she'd already received a card from an uber-organized Martha type. I guarantee it wasn't me. In fact, I just cut up last year's cards a week ago! With the help of a few fun craft scissors and a basket full of holiday and birthday cards, I can create gift tags and little decorative pieces for gift wrap. Some cards will yield not just one, but several cute tags.

    Martha Stewart doesn't live here. Nope. Never has, never will. But I'll tell you this: I haven't purchased gift tags since we were married 25 years ago. It's too much fun (and green and frugal)to do it this way!

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    Friday, November 27, 2009

    The Great Small Purse Drive

    Mocha Momma is who I want to be when I grow up. Oh, wait; she's younger than I am. Oh, well, she's wise beyond years and simultaneously young at heart. Did I mention generous? Creative? Resourceful?

    She is a high school administrator in Springfield, IL, at a school with, well, lots of difficulties. Safety is a big concern, and with that in mind, students cannot carry backpacks around with them. Boys complained that girls were allowed to carry purses, and the policy was updated to limit purse size.

    70% of the students in this high school live at or below the poverty rate. These girls can't afford a second purse just to keep themselves together at school. Mocha Momma came up with a solution: the Great Small Purse Drive.

    I've been reading Kelly's blog for several years now, she's read mine, and we've emailed back and forth. She's a woman of integrity, with great taste in coffee and a great sense of what's important in life. I trust she'll get these purses into the hands of girls who need them.

    Purses should be smaller than a standard 8.5 X 11 piece of copy paper. Send any donations to:

    Kelly Wickham
    P.O. Box 9465
    Springfield, IL 62791
    Let's do it, readers. Pass the word and pass the purses. One big closet clean-up for you; one small purse for a young woman.

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    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Prepping for Thanksgiving, the Reality Show

    Assistant: What's wrong with this coffee?
    Daisy: I'm cleaning the coffeepots with a vinegar solution. Don't drink it.

    Director: Okay, I've sent him out for Starbucks. What's next? How much can you really do ahead of time?
    Daisy: Quite a bit, actually. Today is just cleaning. coffepots, roasting pan, extra crockpot, wine glasses. Tomorrow I'll get out the tablecloths and napkins. Wednesday we'll cook all the side dishes, and the only thing we'll have left to cook on Thursday will be the bird.

    Daisy: In fact, I even cleaned the oven. Slaved over it. Scrubbed, soaked, worked my fingers to the bone. Oh, the sacrifices I make to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house!

    Assistant: I'm back! Who ordered the Pike Place blend? Hey, you folks got a lot done here? How'd you do it all in such a short time?
    Daisy (in a stage whisper): I called in the Fairies.

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    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Stuffed Animal Day: a Simple Pleasure.

    From the reading corner rug.... the guardian of the pencil case... the teacher's file cabinet...

    ---there's no doubt. It's Stuffed Animal Day at school!

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    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    Adventurous Thanksgiving Side: Arroz con Gandules

    Disclaimer: We haven't tried this yet!! I have no idea if this recipe will become a regular on our table or will be a complete flop. In fact, we're searching for the right beans (gandules, also call pigeon peas and also called Jamiacan beans) as well as the spicy sauce, sofrito. At this time, Chuck is considering chickpeas or blackeyed peas as an option for the gandules and Tiger Sauce for the sofrito. Advice is welcome!

    Arroz con Gandules

    1 1/4 cups uncooked white rice (we can do this)
    2 1/2 cup water (yes, accessible)
    1 1/2 tablespoons sofrito (Chuck is planning Tiger Sauce instead)
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
    1 can Gandules Verdes (Jamaican beans)
    1 cup cooked ham, diced
    1/4 cup red bell pepper, roasted and chopped (Chuck prepared these in advance on the grill)
    1/4 cup green bell pepper, roasted and chopped (see above)
    salt to taste

    In a pot, mix oil, sofrito, ham, and peppers for 2 minutes over medium heat.
    Add rice and water and mix well, then add gandules verdes and cook uncovered until water is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
    Stir, cover pot, and simmer for another 25 minutes.

    Well, bloggy friends, will this work? Does Iron Chef Chuck with the Cool Shoes have suitable sauce and beans? Or should I shun this dish in favor of the traditional mashed potatoes that I'm making for the more conservative types at the family table?

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    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Breaking news: Teacher Cleans her Desk!

    I told my friend the Reading Teacher that I planned to clean my desk. Really get it down to the desktop. She replied, "It really doesn't look that bad, compared to some." Well, "compared to some" was the key phrase. I wanted to be able to wipe down the entire surface to prevent further spread of - well, whatever might spread in an elementary classroom.

    And when I got a little closer, it really did look that bad.

    I attacked one pile after another. Filed. Corrected. Recorded. Returned. Sorted. Filed again. Recycled. But when I assessed the progress mid-day, it looked worse, not better.

    But I was relentless. My gradebook got a workout. The kids' mailboxes were full of completed work. My wastebasket was full, and the recycling bin rustled with papers I couldn't reuse. Even (gasp) the pile to the left of the keyboard, the infamous Pile I Cannot Face, was organized into file fodder - er, file folders. And finally (drum roll):

    The bell rang. And it was clean. And the poor little Girl Scout who came in after school with her fundraiser must have thought I was the nuttiest teacher ever, taking pictures of my desk!

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    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    The Fabled Fairies of Thanksgiving Reprise

    Originally posted in November of 2008 during the Thanksgiving preparation season,
    reposted with very few changes
    By the way, I haven't found these fairies yet; have you? Send them my way when you do!
    Thanksgiving Dinner? No problem! I'll call in the fairies. They'll do everything.
    The laundry fairy washes, dries, and presses the table linens, including the cloth napkins. If she's feeling generous, the sheets and towels might get folded, too.
    The turkey fairy will practice her specialty and make sure the heirloom bird is cooked and carved just in time for dinner. White meat and dark, it'll all be moist and savory and leave just enough leftovers for sandwiches and a turkey noodle soup. She'll create gravy from the drippings and simmer the carcass remains to make stock.
    The baker fairy will take care of pies, pumpkin and otherwise. He's an expert on flaky crust, selected spices, and the perfect portion of whipped cream. Don't let that Simple Simon guy get in the way; the kitchen's too small for anyone who begs to taste the wares.
    The brownie - the cunning little house elf - will clean the home thoroughly, put the leaf in the big table, and get the extra chairs out of the basement.
    I wouldn't dream of neglecting the wine fairy; the sommelier so tiny she only recommends, never lifts, a bottle. Her taste is impeccable. Now if we could stop her before she over-imbibes and falls asleep on top of the piano...
    Did I mention the decorator faiy? She'll fix the fireplace mantel with something tasteful and seasonal before she makes sure the couch and rocker are properly arranged for the annual holiday gladiator jousts known as NFL football.
    The ambiance fairy keeps the wood fire crackling in the fireplace, the aromas wafting deliciously through the home, and the family discussion topics neutral.
    The kitchen fairies; really, there must be a whole crew of these talented sprites. One to do the shopping early and avoid the crowds, another to make sure the cranberries are perfect (and Wisconsin-grown, of course), and a magical maestro with the potato masher. Then we'll need a feisty fairy, one with attitude - yes, you, Tinkerbell, you can make the coffees.
    Mom, you can send the fairies over to my house now that we're the designated hosts on Thanksgiving Day. Let them know I"ll have their room ready and their favorite cookies baked. If they arrive on Sunday there should be enough time to get everything done.
    Wait...what do you mean...they're not real??!!?

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    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    50 Ways to Love your Larder

    Never Waste Food Again - 50 Ways, 50 pieces of advice. I found this post through a link on Eco-Women.

    I do fairly well on this list. Vegetables are fairly easy. Between bunnies and soups, we rarely waste a veggie.
    Fruits? We're doing a decent job on that list, too. Orange peels get composted, apple butter is delicious, and Chuck has been pulling the raspberries from last summer's market out of the freezer to top his ice cream.
    Grains - I use leftover pasta and rice in casseroles, soups, and other leftover concoctions. Bread is a little harder. I like toast and sandwiches, but Amigo and Chuck usually pass on the PBJs in favor of some other sort of lunch fare. Making our own croutons and setting aside bread crumbs is something we haven't tried yet. Maybe we will - or maybe we won't. I'm not a big eater of croutons; La Petite enjoys them, however.
    Making the Most of Meat: I started making soup stock from meat bones a few years ago, and wondered what took me so long to discover the process. It's so easy, it tastes so much better than broth from the jar of granules, and it is nearly no-cost.
    Herbs - we moved the herb pot inside, so we're still working on it. The basil died, the rosemary is struggling, but the oregano is stretching toward the windows in search of the elusive winter sun. If I have more success with herbs next year, maybe we'll freeze or dry some.

    In conclusion, my fellow green-folk and family, we live in the land of plenty. Let's make sure that less of that plenty goes to waste.

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    Friday, November 20, 2009

    What is Compost Happens all about? My elevator pitch in rough draft

    Who am I? I'm Daisy, and this is my blog. I write it, I maintain it, and I hope you enjoy reading it. Once in a while, I make changes. Unless we're professional bloggers by trade (and some are), any of us in the blogsphere will change what we can and spend time within reason to keep our blogs unique and good quality.

    Last summer the buzz for bloggers included creating an elevator pitch. For example, if you were in an elevator at the BlogHer conference and you had to quickly describe your blog, what would you say? Here's my first attempt:

    Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part eco-consciousness. It chronicles my home life, teaching life, coffee, garden, .... oh, darn it, this is getting too wordy.

    Okay, here goes again.

    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.

    That's a little better, but it's still a rough draft. Should I mention A Mother's Garden of Verses or Mid-Century Modern Moms? Maybe. Now I'm thinking and revising, and that can only lead to positive changes.

    Any changes, however, need to retain the integrity of the blog. Reviews, for example. The FCC is now regulating bloggers' reviews, calling for clear disclosure of donated items and paid posts. Frankly, BlogHer ads have always required that kind of disclosure; it's not new. Mothertalk/ MomCentral, unfortunately, is getting some negative exposure. I commented on a post related to integrity of reviews, and the emails came flooding in.

    When I posted an honest review of James Patterson's Dangerous Days of Daniel X, Mothertalk quoted a select few lines that made my post sound neutral, if not positive.
    When I reviewed Return to Sullivan's Island, I was again honest. Mothertalk asked me to change the review. I modified a few lines, but I could not make the book sound good. It just wasn't. In fact, the first Sullivan's Island was so much better I wondered if the author had really written the sequel.
    Since then, I've been blocked from doing further book reviews.

    Mothertalk/ MomCentral doesn't seem to get it. Glowing sugar-coated reviews are not credible. If I encourage people to read a book, it'll be worth their time. I'm a teacher, published in professional journals, a teacher of reading and writing, an educated reviewer. By telling me to change a review or not post it, they compromise their site's integrity.

    Frankly, I don't plan to compromise mine.

    Compost Happens is a personal blog; part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper, taking care of family, garden, and coffee. I post honestly and straight from the heart. Count on it.
    Like it or not.

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    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    What is Normal? Who is Normal?

    "But you seem so normal!" It was a phrase in a post from Deafmom, a post she titled "You're not really deaf, are you?" This one got me thinking - a dangerous pastime, I know.

    Normal = neuro-typical, non disabled.
    Normal = typical, following the norm.
    Normal = expected, unsurprising.
    Normal = cool forehead, no fever.
    Normal = just another sheep following the herd.

    Is Normal good or bad? Is Normal something in between? Is Normal a comfort level, don't rock the boat, or is Normal that's-the-way-we've-always-done-it?
    • Does Normal have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)?
    • Does Normal need an adapted cell phone?
    • Does Normal stay in the background or insist on action?
    • Is Normal pink, red, or mauve?
    • Does Normal get on the right track, just stand there and wait to get run over?
    • Does Normal slow for yellow lights or speed up?
    • Does Normal walk to school or take her lunch?
    The last one is the really telling question. "Normal" in the sense of non-disabled or neuro-typical is a label that doesn't really make sense. It implies that the disabled person is someone out of the norm, out of the mainstream, off the track. It implies that the person with a disability isn't one of the crowd, sticks out, doesn't belong.

    "Normal" doesn't need to go the way of the R-word (retarded). Normal is, after all, a city in Illinois. But all of us, not just the so-called Normal folk, need to think before we speak. Telling a disabled person that they are not Normal is inaccurate, hurtful, and just wrong.

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    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    Thinking of Thanksgiving

    The random thoughts that come with Thanksgiving planning sometimes surprise even me, the blogger with a category label for Random Thoughts.

    Let's try an organic heirloom turkey this year! Last year the Fabled Fairies earned a Butterball coupon (or two). This year we noticed an ad for a nearby meat market and their turkeys and decided it was worth a try. Local business (all of 6 blocks away), quality product (we've bought their sausages and pork chops and other meats in the past), what's not to like? If we decide we prefer the (gulp) mass-produced meat, we'll go back to it next year. But seriously, I hope not. A few more dollars on a special turkey will be dollars well spent.

    Brother and Sister-in-law will be staying at their Chicago-area home this year. They're expecting a tiny new addition to the family, and mama-to-be may feel uncomfortable fitting into a seatbelt. Staying home will allow her to relax and maybe, just maybe, start timing contractions in the comfort of her own home. We'll host a slightly smaller party: our own nuclear family, including La-Petite-home-from-school, my mom and stepdad, and Chuck's parents.

    Sister-in-law usually brings the pies; maybe it's time to try the bakery down the road from the meat market. I love to bake, but pies are not my specialty, and I don't think a mixed-berry dump cake would fit the Thanksgiving menu.

    Now I just need to decide if we're having rootmash or regular mashed potatoes - or both. Opinions? Preferences?

    Yes, I KNOW there's a Packer game. Chuck is thankful that it's in Detroit; he'd have to work if the game were at Lambeau Field. We'll plan our dinnertime around it, and squeeze a radio into the kitchen so the cooks don't miss a play.

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    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Basic Wheat Bread for the bread machine

    Wheat bread is usually more dense and heavier than it's fluffy white counterpart because the flour is lower in gluten than regular bread flour. This bread machine's instruction book suggests vital whole wheat gluten as part of any wheat bread. I found gluten at a natural foods store after searching the aisles of two large groceries. I advise you to call ahead and save yourself a trip! The gluten helps the bread rise better. Now that I've tried it in this straight wheat recipe, I'll adapt it into my mixed white/wheat and the honey wheat with oats bread that Margalit shared with me.

    The wheat cycle may start with a rest period to let the flours & grains absorb the liquid ingredients, softening slightly before mixing and rising. The bread is still more dense than the standard white, but that's exactly why it's so good.

    Whole Wheat Bread with Gluten

    1 1/4 cup water (warm)
    2 1/2 Tablespoons oil (I prefer olive oil)
    2 1/2 Tablespoons molasses (if you measure the oil first, the molasses will slide right off the measuring spoons!
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    2 Tablespoons dry milk
    3 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 Tablespoons Gluten
    2 teaspoons active dry yeast

    Bake on whole wheat cycle.

    I served this as a side (chili was the main course) with a variety of spreads and toppings. I had honey (sweet, local, and delicious) on mine. La Petite chose Nutella. Husband (a.k.a. Chuck) chose honey as well. The other options were jelly, peanut butter, or plain butter. No matter how we topped it, the bread was delicious.

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    Monday, November 16, 2009

    The frugal and green teacher: room decor edition

    One more sign of a frugal and green teacher: low- and no-cost room decor. First, train pictures illustrate our theme of "All Aboard the Fourth Grade Express!" The pictures are from an old calendar.

    Demonstrate expectations like headings for written work and make a poster from the demo. Materials: two scraps of chart paper, a piece of leftover tagboard, and a blank flash card. Yes, I often use book characters as examples. It's a literary and entertaining attention-getter.

    And the fall foliage, large size, scavenged from the give-aways when another teacher retired. These are two-sided; they look great from the school's front lawn.

    Then there's poster fun: using tagboard already in stock, an overhead projector, and clip art, a little creativity makes a world of difference and saves a bunch of money.

    Is there more in the NaBloPoMo edition of the Frugal and Green Teacher? You'll have to click back next Monday to find out.

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    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Think locally: economic impact of the NFL

    Family and friends know that I back the Green Bay Packers, win or lose. I dress in their colors from head to toe. Chuck earns a portion of his income at Lambeau Field each year. We're not season ticket holders; the legendary waiting list is too long to consider. We take our enjoyment of the game in our living rooms, texting or g-chatting our reactions to La Petite on her college campus.

    La Petite spent her first nine years living in the shadow of Lambeau Field, on the corner of Oneida Street and the aptly-named Stadium Drive. She learned to ride a bike in the Packers' parking lot, and learned about entrepreneurship with her lemonade stand during training camp. She's in her twenties now and training to be a photojournalist, and she spent a day job-shadowing at a pre-season game. That's one awesome "Take Your Kid to Work Day!"

    Now one of my favorite green sites has recognized the economic value of a local football team. Most NFL teams belong to a single wealthy investor. The Green Bay Packers belong to individual stockholders, among them many Wisconsin residents. The stock has emotional value only; no dividends. Stockholders attend an annual meeting (at Lambeau Field, of course), but have no say in team decisions.

    Mother Nature Network posts green news and views every day. This weekend, they included a guest post about local economies and, you guessed it, the Green Bay Packers. Win or lose on the field, the team has a great impact on the people of Green Bay and Wisconsin.

    When you add into the equation the idea that Chuck does most of his Christmas shopping at the Packer Pro Shop, it's easy to see the impact. I think I'll go get our cheesehead hat and get ready to watch them play the Cowboys! Cringe. Wisconsin native Tony Romo might just tear my green and gold team to pieces.

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    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    A Tree with a History

    This tree was tall. It was born as a hybrid, created to be a pulp tree for the paper industry. It grew quickly, spread its seeds quickly (we pulled out its descendants every spring), and reached for the sky amidst the other trees in our old, historic neighborhood. It fell not to a lumbering crew, but to an urban tree crew with chainsaws and ropes.

    The scientist who once lived in the house across the street experimented with trees, combined the cottonwood and poplar, created a successful cross-breed for his industry and planted one in his front yard. That tree was a climber for the kids, a host for birds' nests, and a favorite route for traveling squirrels. But in the last year or two, it was leaning, stooping like an elderly grandparent reluctant to use a walker. Every storm would drop a few branches in the yard or the street, and the family was nervous. What would it take to knock this once-stately old giant into a home? At its size, it could take two or three homes with it if it fell.

    So the humans took it down before the winter winds could do it. In keeping with the legend and the memories, Chuck and I salvaged several pieces. Chuck sliced a few thin for me; I'll take them into my classroom. My students can look at the rings, analyze the age of the tree, and imagine the history it has seen.

    A teacher down the hall is an expert in forestry. She's offered to look over the rings and help me interpret. In exchange, I'll share the rich stories of the tree, its developers, and its fans.

    It's not Aldo Leopold's old oak, but this tree is special. A few small pieces are on the woodpile, but there's more than firewood in this gentle giant.

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    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Random acts of Fridayness

    Last Friday was so full of random occurrences, I couldn't write a straightforward blog post to describe the day. Even attempting a chronological day wouldn't make sense. So.... here goes, in no particular order.

    Random Acts of Fridayness

    While I was in the kitchen putting together Twice Baked Potatoes and pork chops, Amigo was listening to old time radio dramas. "Mom, this one is Dinah Shore. Groucho Marx just invited her over for dinner."

    Near the end of the school day, a coworker burst into the room and told me that her son, a fighter pilot, would be in the flyover at the upcoming Packers game in Tampa Bay. She (my coworker, not the pilot) is a total non-sports person. This may be the first time in her life that she voluntarily watched a football game!

    My fortune cookie at lunch told me that I'd be having a close encounter of a positive kind.

    A substitute teacher, in for two weeks for a teacher who was hit hard by H1N1, brought me Starbucks (16 oz. Pike Place blend, black) as a thank you for helping her with science plans.

    I pulled up to Jo to Go this morning and the barista (should that have two r's?) knew what I wanted: 16 oz. hazelnut, black.

    Chuck thought he might have to work late, but the newsroom was able to cover the stories without sending him out with the satellite truck.

    Daughter sent word by g-chat that her computer now gets internet in her apartment. It's not really a fix, more of a patch, but she was able to chat with her mother on a Friday night. A techie friend came over and helped her connect.

    In conclusion, despite the lack of order in the recounting, it was a good Friday. Now the suspense: will such a day happen again? Will Daisy have a pleasant Friday ever again? One that's eminently bloggable? Stay tuned, readers, and we'll see if there's another day packed with random acts worth reporting in the life of Compost Happens.

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    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Preparing for winter, thinking of spring

    The chairs are stacked, and the cushions are stowed away in the basement.

    The new composter is set up on bricks, within reach of the driveway. I will actually be able to compost coffee grounds and filters all winter long!

    I'm still thinking about the old bunny hutch. The hutch is old, not the bunnies. Our pet rabbits have house privileges now; we don't use the hutch any more. I've been stashing my garden tools there. The debate: should I take down the hutch completely? The rhubarb could expand into this area. Or should I keep it, take off or repair the doors so it's more usable? I think I'll decide in the spring.

    Still to be done: put away the little cello-playing frog (hiding behind white roses) and take care of the roses. The rosebush on the right is a knock-out breed; according to my current information (provided by my mother) it doesn't need to be cut back and insulated for the winter. It's trying to send up one more bloom before the snow comes. Should I chance it?

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    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Open Sesame -- Street, that is.

    One of my favorite lines in the original Muppet Movie is Big Bird's response when Kermit and Fozzie offer him a ride to Hollywood. "No, thanks. I'm on my way to New York to break into Public Television." Anyone watching the movie knows Big Bird and knows where he's going. Can you tell him how to get to Sesame Street?

    When we were in Seattle last July, Chuck and I visited a traveling exhibit of Jim Henson's Muppets. Sesame Street, the Muppet Show, early commercials - you name it, it was covered. I couldn't take pictures inside the exhibit, so we took pictures (of course) of the advertising on the way in and on the way out. How to get to Sesame Street, in my book, leads straight to Jim Henson, with a good helping of Joe Raposo's tunes on the side.

    And if muppet memories aren't enough, go visit Mir at Wantnot. She's doing her best to give away a DVD called Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days. Her contest expires tonight, so go on!

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    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Twice Baked Potatoes

    I have a few recipes for potatoes baked twice. I think this one will become my go-to for leftover or planned-over baked potatoes. No, I didn't grow the potatoes. I didn't make up the recipe, either; it's adapted from Kraft Kitchens. I get their recipe newsletter, and it often yields a simple winner like this. Nope, they don't sponsor me, and they don't need to chip in. If they did, I'd have to admit to having a few of their blue boxes in the pantry. But anyway, here goes --

    Daisy's deliciously simple Twice Baked Potatoes

    6 medium to large baking potatoes
    1/2 cup chicken broth
    1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
    1/4 cup diced green onion (mine were in the freezer, cut up last summer)
    1/4 cup sour cream
    1 teaspoon brown mustard
    1/4 teaspoon paprika - optional

    Step one: Bake the potatoes. I started them in the oven and then finished them in the microwave so I could bake both steps in the process in one evening.
    Step two: Cut lengthwise and scoop out the potato centers, leaving a good solid 1/4 inch shell to support the filling.
    Step three: Mix broth, 1/2 cup cheese, green onions, sour cream, brown mustard, and potato mush until it's smooth.
    Step four: Scoop filling mix into potato shells. Top with remaining cheese and a sprinkle of paprika on each potato shell.
    Step five: Bake! for 20 minutes at 375 or until warmed through.

    Serve with something delicious. Here, at La Casa de Daisy, it was pork chops. Amigo and Chuck enjoyed them, so they've passed the Guy Test. Enjoy!


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    Monday, November 09, 2009

    The frugal and green teacher: reading edition

    Another sign of a frugal and green teacher: books procured through Our grade's theme is trains, so I entered "trains" in the search box and clicked "children's" for genre. I ordered ten books, all good quality literature, at a variety of reading levels. My students love them. This is a rare day; most of the time, these books are in someone's desk.

    The USA Pop-up books, however, were in the Target dollar aisle a few years ago. I bought five. Hmmm... I see four in the picture. One is in a desk somewhere, and I'm sure the kiddo is enjoying reading it!
    Tune in next week for the next episode of The Frugal and Green Teacher, NaBloPoMo edition!

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    Sunday, November 08, 2009

    Typical autumn weekend chores, reality show style

    Director: Ah, a beautiful autumn day.

    Assistant: Who's that guy on the swing? What's he doing in the shot?
    Daisy: That's Chuck. He lives here. I married him twenty-five years ago.
    Assistant: Oh. Well, I'm going to check the weather forecast so we can plan the rest of the week.
    Director: That's a lot of leaves. Shouldn't you have something powerful like a leaf blower?
    Chuck: Who needs a leaf blower? Picks up rake and tarp, clears lawn in record time.
    Director: Get the shot from a number of angles; watch out for shadows. It's really sunny. Is November always like this in Wisconsin?

    Chuck and Daisy: laughter

    Director: Make a note: when we edit this, show the before and after. Hey, wait a minute. What did you do with the leaves? Burn them?

    Chuck and Daisy, to each other: Shake heads.

    Daisy: It's like this. Most residents rake their leaves into the streets. City crews will pick them up, take dump trucks full of leaves to the brush dump, and pile them up to decompose there and become mulch. City folk can bring their own buckets in the spring to pick up free mulch.
    But me? I spread a blanket - a thick blanket - of leaves on the garden. It'll insulate the soil and decompose into its own fertile mulch right here in my own yard.

    Chuck, aside to director: Yes, she's a science teacher. She's channeling her inner Ms. Frizzle right now. Want to see where the rest of the leaves went?
    Director: What's the picnic table doing upside down?

    Chuck: It's weighing down the leaves and the cardboard barrier until the snows come. That's the new tomato garden. It's easier to set it up now than to dig and rototill the growing grass in the spring.
    Assistant, running up to director: Did you see how much open space there is in the backyard? We could stage a weather balloon launch here!
    Chuck and Daisy, shaking heads again: Let's sit on the swing. They might take a while to consider this one.

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    Saturday, November 07, 2009


    Reducing, recycling, reusing, repurposing, and - upcycling? What's with this new trendy green term?
    Reducing: buying less, buying products with less packaging, planning ahead for making less waste.
    Recycling: returning something to a plant that will make it into the same product or something similar, such as aluminum cans.
    Reusing: 'Nuff said. Use it again. And again. And again.
    Repurposing: finding a new use for a product. Chuck brings home Chinese food, Daisy turns the foil dish into a small baking pan. A store receipt becomes a bookmark. Old t-shirts get torn into strips to hold tomato plants to their supports. You get the picture.

    So how is upcycling different? Upcycling takes repurposing to a new level. An object gets repurposed with an attitude, so to speak. One famous example is the old television turned into an aquarium. Not everyone can take upcycling that far, but think accessible. Think possibilities. Glasses from the thrift store can turn into candles for teacher gifts (mine was cinnamon, very pretty!). A pretty t-shirt gains a ruffled skirt and becomes a little girl dress (I bought one from a crafter and La Petite, then age 5, loved it). I'd place my rain barrels in this category, too; two fewer big plastic barrels in the landfill, used for a very eco-friendly purpose.

    I don't sew well enough to quilt, or some of Chuck's and Amigo's favorite t-shirts might become quilts or throw pillows instead of rags or tomato supports. I think the old-socks turned white-board erasers is more of a repurposing; it's not a step up in the world for the sock, although it does make it more colorful. How about the polka dot chair project? I don't think that qualifies as upcycling; the chairs are still chairs, just cuter than they were at first.

    So, dear readers, add to the list.
    • What does it take for repurposing to become upcycling? Does the coffee can full of pencils count, or is it more of a simple repurpose?
    • What have you upcycled - or seen and admired as an example of upcycling?
    • No, I don't consider Brett Favre in a Purple uniform to be an example of upcycling. That's an example of - never mind.

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    Friday, November 06, 2009

    We've only just begun to prepare for spring gardening!

    The killing frost came. I harvested the last beans, tomatoes, peppers, and parsley. I pulled down the bean vines, yanked out the pepper and tomato plants, set aside the wire cages for spring. The second rain barrel is emptied and up-ended; I'll use the main one for one last soaking, then open its drain and turn it, too.

    Meanwhile, it's fall, when the vegetable gardener's mind turns to -- spring! We're preparing a new plot for tomatoes. Last year, the tomatoes grew too big for their spot, outgrew the wire tomato cages, leading to broken stems and shading the pepper plants behind. I moved them, and found another not-so-good season. No tomato blight here, thank goodness, but I planted them too close together and they didn't have enough sun to really flourish. Solution: Prepare a new plot in a sunny location for the tomatoes. Decision: start it now.

    This is the layered, no till, often called "lasagna" approach. The lowest layer is either newspaper or cardboard. I had boxes galore, so I flattened them and spread them out. The area is bordered by boards from an old deck; they'll hold down the boxes for now and designate the sides in the spring. If I decide on a different edging, it'll be simple; just pick them up!

    Layer two: grass clippings, mulch in progress. I'll add a little more each weekend until it (gulp) snows. As I carried this organic material from the brush pile, last weekend's nasty chest cold reared its ugly bronchial head and I had to go inside. The first layer is enough; we can add leaves and more when we get time.

    The decision next spring: To till or not to till? I'll look it over, see how the soil weathered the winter, and decide then.


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    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Ode to Bubba the Singing Fish


    Bubba; the singing catfish, fit to be fried,
    Your outrageous talk leaves us fit to be tied.
    Bubba, oh Bubba, you're still quite a dish,
    Hangin' out on the wall like a filet-o-fish.

    (background guitar vamp)

    Bubba's been fishnapped, with no ransom that could rescue him from the clutches of La Petite, who couldn't stand hearing "Bad to the Bone" any more and hid Bubba high up in a closet. Unfortunately, her brother grew, and grew, and became tall enough to search the highest shelves of his closet and find his old friend, Bubba!!

    Repeat refrain.

    (background guitar vamp)
    Bubba's been eaten, too. Chewed up by a sneaky rabbit who liked the taste of vinyl, soft rubbery material, and found this funny looking fish to be the perfect material for gnawing. Bubba's tail is down to nothing, but its hard plastic base still tries to wave when he says, "Hey, drop me a line sometime!" The head? There's not much left. Maybe he needs to join the scarecrow in singing "If I only had a brain!"
    (guitar improvises a short lick from Wizard of Oz tune)

    Repeat refrain.

    (background guitar vamp)
    Bubba, the survivor fish, has been thrown across the room in frustration. Darn thing goes off when we're not ready for it; sometimes even the television blinking will set him off to announce "I'm bustin' outta here tonight; you with me?" Bubba, the adults in the house would be happy to oblige. Garbage night, perhaps? You're too big to flush down the toilet like a requiem for a pet goldfish.

    Bubba, oh Bubba, ne'er to be fried
    We'd go on without you; believe me, we've tried.
    Bubba, oh Bubba, your history's long
    And storied, I'll say, as I finish this song.

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    Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    A Bridge Party

    This was the view in front of us.
    Behind us, the river.

    Amigo applauded the band when the ceremony was done.

    Then we visited Chuck, hard at work keeping the news of the Bridge Grand Opening on the air.
    Doesn't the inside of this truck remind you of the cockpit in the movie Airplane?

    And finally, we walked the length of the bridge (before traffic was allowed!) to get us back home. Home, for a warm drink and a snack.

    The bridge is open to traffic now; maybe soon I'll drive across the brand new span!

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    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    Apples and Banana and Dump Cake - Oh, My!

    I was making supper on a school night: planned-over brats from the weekend grill, a can of beans, and whatever fruit was handy.
    A big bowl of ripe almost-becoming-soft apples sat on the table. One lone ripe banana sat on the counter.

    You guessed it. I baked. Here's the result.

    Apple Dump Cake Plus

    Fill the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan with thin-sliced apples (about 4 cups) and banana.
    Top with 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened and sliced.
    Dump over this one bag of basic yellow cake mix. I keep a store-brand box of yellow cake and white cake in case this kind of situation arises.
    Top with another 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened and sliced.
    Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Cool -- a little -- and then serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

    P.S. I also added 1 cup of frozen blueberries from last July. They added color and a little fun. If I did this with apples again, I might add a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg. Come to think of it, cranberries might be a nice combination, too.

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    Monday, November 02, 2009

    The frugal and green teacher

    A sign of a teacher both frugal and green: provisioning, using repurposed and reused materials.

    From left to right: coffee cans for 'found' writing utensils, wire basket (second hand) filled with notebook pages donated by last year's class as they cleaned up in June, box of re-usable paper with one blank side (extra worksheets, memos, newletters), and junk mail envelopes (under the chunk of our state rock, red granite) for field trip slips and lunch money.

    My students take to this like ducks to water. They even "play school" with some of the old worksheets! That box helps me empty my old files with much less guilt because there is much less waste. Those with messy desks often jump for the wire basket rather than dig into what resembles an archeology site.
    Tune in next week for The Frugal and Green Teacher, NaBloPoMo edition.

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    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    Just Another Saturday - or not.

    It was almost a typical Saturday.
    The to-do list read as usual:
    Correct papers
    Clean kitchen
    Clean bunny cage

    Added to the list yesterday:
    Prepare Halloween candy for trick or treaters
    Set up pumpkin, light candle
    Start fire in fireplace
    Rake leaves off sidewalk so trick or treaters can find their way

    Here's the Ta-Dah! list:
    Laundry (dull, boring, but necessary chore, got done in between everything else)
    Correct papers: lots of them! (Science, spelling, language arts, and more science: more than usual due to make-up work in the latest wave of H1N1 in my school building)
    Clean kitchen, and re-do it after supper (and wonder why I manage to want to run the dishwasher when there's a load of laundry in, every time)
    Clean bunny cage (Why does she get so anxious when I'm taking away her dirty box? I replace it with a clean one right away. She doesn't have to wait.)
    Rake leaves: done, but only in the front yard and only enough to clear the sidewalk. It was so windy that raking is almost pointless, like shoveling 2 inches of snow when there's a dozen more coming. (Did I say snow? I didn't mean to even think of snow. Not yet. You didn't hear that.)
    Prepare Halloween candy; I tested one of each kind to make sure they were all fresh. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
    I set up the pumpkin, but it was too windy to light the candle. Next year, we're getting the battery operated tea lights.
    Start fire: while I was out replenishing the candy supply, Hubs started a fire. Sort of. Eventually. It was kind of like this.
    1. Open damper.
    2. Set up wood.
    3. Set up firestarters in form of old Braille paper or cardboard.
    4. Light fire.
    5. Realize damper was left open after last fire, and now it's closed.
    6. Open damper.
    7. Take down smoke alarms.
    8. Turn on ceiling fan, open windows a crack, turn off heat.
    9. Blow on fire; get it started, finally, for real.
    10. Wait patiently for house to clear of smoke.
    11. Sample new supply of Halloween candy to make sure it's suitable for late trick or treaters.
    12. Settle down on couch in den - Ah. Saturday night. Life is good.

    Now the to-do list begins for Sunday. That, folks, totally revolves around the Big Game that kicks off at 3:15 at Lambeau Field.

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