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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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  • Saturday, February 27, 2010

    A thousand words on work-home balance

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, this post is actually worth five thousand words toward illustrating a typical weekend's to-do list and the feeling of ta-dah! when it's done.

    First: the laundry room with work in progress.
    Next item on the list, but going on concurrently with laundry: schoolwork. Reading papers, math tests, all in need of correcting and then recording in the gradebook. Thank goodness for remote access; I can record all of these scores while watching the Olympics!

    Ah, the good feeling when work is nearly done. Below are three baskets full of clean and folded clothes: one for me, one for Amigo, one for Chuck. If you look closely, there's a stray dryer ball in Chuck's basket. It got stuck in the sleeve of his sweater. Oops!

    And finally, the table is empty of school papers! They're all corrected, scored, recorded, and packed in my schoolbag for Monday. The package in the back is a to-be-mailed pack with two books requested from I included them with the schoolwork because they're both teacher books.

    Did I say the table was clear? Cleared of school files, but not totally clear. While waiting for the washer to fill and the detergent to dissolve (oh, I lead such an exciting life), I've been (are you ready for this?) purging the clutter on the basement shelves. Today I found an ancient, older-than-Amigo box of cancelled checks. They're destined for the shredder now, if the old shredder can handle the volume. Maybe I should just start a fire in the fireplace; the job might go faster!

    Uh, yes, that's a gin and tonic beside the checks. Don't judge me; the lime is a good source of vitamin C.

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    Friday, February 26, 2010

    I failed Eat-In Week.

    Yes, I did. I confess. It was timing, really. I couldn't make it happen. Here you are: the excuses.

    I had three evening commitments on top of teaching the full week. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday night were all staff development or class nights. When I have one of those nights in a week or even two, it's time to bring out the crockpot. Three? No time to prepare the crock, much less plug it in for the day.

    Results: I bought myself deep fried cheese curds (stop laughing; they're a delicacy in Wisconsin during the winter) after a three hour class in analyzing running records for reading instruction. The second night of classes Amigo went out to a (local) fast food joint for a perch-wich and fries. The third (well, really the first night) Husband had a day off and cooked, for which I am very grateful. Without him, it might have been frozen pizza - or worse.

    I normally treat myself to a Jo to Go coffee on the occasional (I admit it, frequent) Friday mornings. The rest of the week I set the kitchen coffeemaker and bring my own little thermos to school. I've built a good habit of saving money and reusing my thermos and coffee mugs. This week? I've been through the drive-through three times. Three. They're starting to greet me with "The usual?" instead of "Can I help you?"

    When I did cook, it was wimpy. A can of soup instead of homemade, frozen chicken patties on buns, leftover potato wedges (I did make them, they were good) and a can of baked beans. This is not my usual locavore standard. The most creative dinner was Sunday's casserole: leftover spicy rice, cream of mushroom soup, a handful of frozen peas and a chicken breast cooked up together.

    I made my own lunch four days and made a second sandwich to take to class Thursday night. But then... I ordered out with the rest of the staff on Friday. We do it as a team; order from a sub shop or restaurant that delivers, varying the place each week. This week, despite Eat In Week, I'm joining the order-out crowd.

    Confessions aside, this week is unusual. Since I began moving our family to a more local and fresher food supply, we've cooked largely at home. A meal out is an occasion, not an everyday deal. A Special Week isn't really the reason we eat in at our house; it's a philosophy that's becoming routine. Eat In Week, for all its good intentions, is just another gimmick. The real good comes from making eating in the norm, not the exception.

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    Wednesday, February 24, 2010

    Teacher safety in Social Media

    “Teachers are connected with other teachers and the community.”
    That’s what the Department of Public Instruction standards say. When these standards came into practice, I don’t think our DPI was thinking of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs. Technology has changed a lot in the time period I like to call Decade 2.0.

    When our country expanded toward the west and communities built one-room schoolhouses, teachers often had to chop firewood, stoke the stove, and clean the room before the students could arrive to learn. Many contracts put restrictions on teachers’ social lives and behavior outside of school, prohibiting dancing, dating, and drinking of alcohol.
    While we no longer have to stoke the fires, we still have to live up to a high standard of behavior at school and outside of school. Today’s teachers have to guard not only their professional reputations, but their personal reputations as well.

    According to a recent presentation, teachers can play it safer by using common sense and following these Do/ Don’t tips.
    • Do limit access to Facebook pages by using a restrictive private setting.
    • Do check employer policies – then follow them.
    • Do monitor your sites and remove comments that might be inappropriate or reflect poorly on you.
    • Do not post photographs of you, yourself, or your friends engaging in illegal or potentially inappropriate behavior. Okay, bunnies, behave in front of the camera.
    • Do not presume that an anonymous post provides protection. Anonymous posts can be traced.
    • Do not blog about job duties, colleagues, supervisors, or students.
    In the spirit of teaching, I end with a top three style summary:

    Top Three Ways to Protect Your Reputation in an Online World
    3. Minimize Risk
    2. Know and follow employer policies.
    1. Use common sense.
    Gee, maybe I could use this post as the required essay to get staff development credit. What do you think?


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    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    Potato wedges or striped spuds?

    I'm looking for something new, but not too new.
    Something different, but something that uses cooking staples I have in the house.
    Something tasty, but easy to cook.
    A side dish to go with a simple supper, probably a chicken casserole.

    There. Is that specific enough?
    Oh. I didn't think so.

    I pulled out a family standard: an elementary school's fundraiser cookbook. With half a bag of potatoes in the back hallway, I can make either of these. Advice, readers? Which one sounds the best?

    Baked Potato Wedges
    These look simple, and I keep the ingredients on hand most of the time.
    3 large baking potatoes
    1/4 cup oil
    garlic salt
    grated Parmesan cheese

    Pour oil in ziploc bag. Scrub potatoes and cut into eighths for form wedges; blot edges dry with paper towel. Place in bag and shake to coat with oil. Place on baking sheet, skin side down. Sprinkle with seasonings. Bake at 425 F. for 30-40 minutes.

    -The credit for this recipe belongs to a teacher with three young children. I imagine it'll be simple, yet tasty.

    Striped Spuds
    At a glance, I question the cooking method. I usually dice or peel my potatoes before cooking. This calls for boiling in the skin. I wonder if it makes a difference in the final result?

    6 potatoes
    2 cups sour cream
    1 1/2 shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 bunch green onions, chopped

    Boil potatoes in skins until tender. Peel and mash in large bowl. Stir in sour cream, 1 cup of cheese, salt, pepper, and onions. Turn mix into buttered casserole. Top with leftover cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F. for 30-40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Makes 10 servings.

    Well, bloggie friends and Internet acquaintances, what do you think? I have potatoes in the pantry; what'll it be?

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    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Big Brother has a WebCam.

    George Orwell could only have imagined the kinds of technology we see today. In his 1984, Big Brother was always watching. The main character had to go into a corner to write in his journal, knowing he'd be seen and his words read otherwise. In 1984's Utopian nation, there was no expectation of privacy.

    So when a high school in Pennsylvania checked out laptop computers to students, who would have thought the webcams could and would be used to watch the students? Computers that are part of a network can be monitored; it's part of the way systems are designed. The school district's laptops could be tracked if stolen or lost, and that was the excuse used for activating the webcams in the first place. But when a student was disciplined for inappropriate behavior that had nothing to do with computer use, families in the district hit the roof.

    The student in question was accused of "improper behavior in his home." The administrator accused him of taking pills; the "pills" turned out to be Mike & Ike candies. After viewing this behavior through the webcam, the administrator placed a disciplinary write-up in the student's permanent file.

    If the student had used the school-owned laptop to browse porn sites or shop for alcohol, for example, that could have warranted an investigation for policy violation. If the computer had been lost or stolen, the webcam could have tracked its location. In fact, according to the district, that's the only reason they would activate the webcams.

    So...what's up, administration? When students took the laptops home, did they know the webcams could be used to watch them? Did the parents (and the adult students, over 18) know that and sign a release permitting the act? A laptop in a home is not like a FaceBook page, put out on the Internet for the masses to see. Students can be disciplined for illegal behavior discovered via FaceBook photos - and have been in many districts nationwide. But spying on individuals' behavior in their homes through a laptop computer is a major misuse of technology.

    As my friend Liberty Rose has pondered, do professionals lose IQ points and the ability to reason when they become school administrators? The shocking incident in Lower Merion, PA, would support her theory.


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    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Saturday thoughts

    Maybe I'm overworked. Maybe I'm just feeling a little cabin fever. But really, why has this robin been around our house for so long? Most of his friends headed south last fall. He stayed through the winter. He must be freezing his tailfeathers.

    And who is this? Did I really work one of my students to the bone? Has he or she really collapsed and wasted away to nothing in the Book Nook?

    I'm not sure, but I think it is sporting a few artificial joints, too. Did this one get retained in fourth grade a few too many times?

    Perhaps it's just the season. I think I'd better turn off the camera - or at least start teaching a new science unit!

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    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Can you read me now?

    See that dark spot in the snow? Can you read it? Nope. Neither could I. In fact, neither I nor the other two drivers knew it was there when we parked for our staff development session at a local high school.

    You guessed it; it's a No Parking sign, smashed on the snowbank and nearly invisible.

    I don't think I can afford any more staff development days. Drive-thru coffee, drive-thru lunch, and (you guessed this, too, didn't you) a parking ticket.
    I was not a happy camper. I was not a happy teacher, either. And due to the poor quality of my photos (who can take a good picture of a sign in a pile of snow, I ask you?) there's no point in fighting the ticket.
    Call that groundhog; I'm ready to be done with winter. Bah, humbug. Heck, I'm ready to be done with school!


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    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    Having fun buying local

    We were taking care of details in La Petite's college town. She had a photo montage that needed a unique frame; I was visiting and had a vehicle, so we ventured downtown to a small business she'd noticed on Main Street. The business owner worked with her in choosing the frame, planning the end result. I browsed.

    He had set up a few tables of Wisconsin foodstuffs, all produced by small businesses in my fair snow-covered state. I looked them over, read the ingredients and the locations of the companies, and yes, I bought some. Two, in fact. I bought a brownie mix made by Dancin' Tastebuds in Milwaukee and rainbow couscous (such a fun food it has to be named twice!) from Rice River Farms in Spooner.

    This purchase doesn't totally fit the 100 mile limitation for locavore eating (well, the Milwaukee piece comes close), but heck, I buy Door County products, too, so why not? Both looked delicious.
    Then I got to thinking -- a dangerous pastime, I know. As far as economic stimulus, we were both buying from a small business in her adopted small college town. She'll be counted there in the census, and the campus and surrounding areas have been important parts of her life for the past few years. Yes, we were buying local - not my local, but her local. And that's all good. The ripple effect will be good, too. This small business owner will continue to buy from food producers in Spooner and Milwaukee and more, encouraging state food production rather than trucking in merchandise from far away. Yes, this small shop on Main Street could become a regular stop for me when I visit my kiddo's campus.

    I like this little college town. Whatever will I do when she graduates?

    Nope, this is not a sponsored post. Readers who know me recognize that this kind of shopping trip is right up my alley; small shop, locally owned, specializing in state products. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go bake brownies.

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    Tuesday, February 16, 2010

    Raspberry Pecan Muffins

    Alternate title: Fun with Cookbooks!

    I received several cookbooks for Christmas - each unique, each serving a different need in our family's quest to eat healthy and increase our sustainability. My brother and sister-in-law gave me Food to Live By by Myra Goodman, a cookbook with the subtitle "the Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook." This book is full of advice and anecdotes that make the transition to organic easy and enjoyable. When I made these muffins, the recipe sent me to references on other pages to make orange zest (fun with my new zester file!) and to toast the pecans. A sidebar talked about whole wheat pastry flour. I didn't have the special flour, so I used the alternative: unbleached all-purpose. The raspberries were in my freezer, purchased and frozen last summer when they were in season. It was the perfect dish for a snowy February morning - with coffee, of course.

    Raspberry Pecan Muffins

    1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup sugar plus 1 Tablespoon for topping
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg
    1 cup buttermilk
    1/4 cup canola oil
    1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest (I used orange)
    2/3 cup fresh raspberries or frozen, unsweetened raspberries
    1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

    1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter 12 standard size muffin cups.
    2. Place the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine well.
    3. Place the egg, buttermilk, oil, and zest in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in the raspberries and pecans. Do not overmix the batter or the muffins will be tough. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them two-thirds full. Sprinkle the remaining 1 Tablespoon of sugar evenly over the batter.
    4. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
    5. Cool for about 10 minutes.

    The muffins taste best the day they are made, but if necessary can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

    This is not a compensated post in any way. I received the cookbook for Christmas and I'm enjoying exploring its recipes and stories! Look forward to more, readers.

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    Monday, February 15, 2010

    It's not easy being green in February.

    It's snowing - still. Again.
    I have a cold, a virus that's making me feel tired and unmotivated and, well, tired.
    I just sent home report cards, and now I need to plan ahead to parent-teacher conferences.
    And it's still snowing.

    My spring garden looks so impossibly far in the future; all this snow has to melt before I can even consider getting out to turn the soil.

    Students are getting grumpy, unwilling to tap into their work ethic (for some, what work ethic?), not happy about having to put on boots and snow pants but whining about staying inside for recess, too.

    And the green blogging community's APLS (Affluent Persons Living Sustainably) Blog Carnival asks bloggers to post about maintaining sustainable living in the middle of winter. My garden is covered by at least two feet of snow, my compost bin is frozen, my attempt at making orange marmalade failed, and I'm supposed to think green? Well, maybe.

    Winter is a good time to clear shelves and box up donations for thrift stores. I have two boxes started and will gather more. I have four books in my bag that I'll mail tomorrow for We took two boxes of Braille books to the school for the blind last week, expanding their selection and making space in a corner. Cabin fever might not be curable, but making space on the basement shelves or purging the excess from a closet feels productive.

    With that in mind, I think I'll peel another orange, pour another cup of tea with lemon and (local) honey, and rest a little more. When this cold goes away and I feel a little better, I can fill another box with thriftables. When the roads clear, I'll take the goodies in.

    And as the days get longer, minute by minute, maybe some of that motivational energy will carry me through March, too.

    "Affluent" does not mean wealthy. In the APLS movement, affluent simply means people of middle class, people who make a decent living and believe in increasing their sustainable living habits. We're certainly not rich (I'm a public school teacher!), but we are secure and comfortable - long live the middle class!

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    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    I've got sunshine, on a snowy afternoon!

    I've been awarded the Sunshine Award! My friend Hannah from A Thought Bubble or Two graciously passed this recognition on to me. It's not easy to look on the positive side when the snow is piling up and my head is throbbing and my nose is running. But when friends build up friends, the sunshine breaks through the clouds figuratively while we wait for the storms to ease in a more literal sense.

    Here are the criteria for accepting this award:

    Put the logo on your blog or within your post (right click and save),
    Pass the award on to 12 bloggers,
    Link the nominees within your post,
    Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

    This is tough! I read so many blogs, and enjoy so many people online. Here's a list. Sample and enjoy!

    Janet at The Planet of Janet. She's another contributor to Mid-Century Modern Moms, and her adventures in motherhood can make you laugh until you're in tears.

    Melissa at Green Girl! We live so close to each other, but we haven't met face to face - yet. It'll happen. Maybe she'll help me figure out what went wrong with the orange marmalade.

    Mary at Minnesota Matron. I'm not sure how she accomplishes all that she does with only 24 hours in a day, but I'm glad she fits a blog into her busy life.

    Michelle at Scribbit. Motherhood in Alaska is both similar and different compared to motherhood in Wisconsin.

    Joanne, the original and fabulous Punditmom! I found her through Momocrats and still follow her posts.

    Josh, a.k.a. the World's Strongest Librarian. He's a fascinating writer, voracious reader, and positive voice in the world of disabilities.

    Judy from Royal Ranch - and not only because she sent me a bag of their Naked 'Nure llama manure compost tea mix. I admire her major efforts to increase her own green living and that of her Colorado town.

    Earth Muffin! We are kindred spirits: teachers, eco-conscious, and more. She posts sporatically, but it's worth reading when she does.

    A relatively new blogger but wise-beyond-her-years teacher, Liberty Rose of Teacher Ponders. I knew she was amazing in the classroom; her adventures beyond school walls have been unbelievable.

    Flea, blogging at Flea's World in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who makes me laugh daily. Look for Fred and Bessie, but watch out for Mr. Monkeysuit!

    Jenn from Mommy Needs Coffee. Even though her dog ate Flat Stanley, I still love her. With a blog name like Mommy Needs Coffee, how could I not feel a kindship?

    Leah at Suddenly Frugal. She brings sunshine in the form of possibilities and realities. The fact that she's also very eco-conscious makes her suggestions even better.

    Enjoy my dozen, and look for their suggestions, too!


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    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Tummy Troubles no more

    What's your passion? What have you always dreamed of doing but have never had the resources? Those are the questions that Prilosec wants people to answer. Yes, Prilosec - the "Official Sponsor of Everything You Do Without Heartburn” promotion.

    This promotion caught my eye not because Brett Favre was a spokesperson for the brand at one time, but because Amigo was a major consumer of the over the counter antacid when he had major tummy troubles at age 16. Teenaged boys don't usually lose 40 pounds in a time span of six weeks, but he did.

    Several months of a bland diet with no dairy, many bottles of acidophilus, and daily doses of Prilosec OTC, and test upon test upon test, he gradually regained his health.

    The "Everything You Do" campaign, however, isn't about illness. It's about people's passions, ideas, and wishes. It's about sponsoring people's dreams and helping them take their hobbies or interests to the next level. It's about ordinary people, folks like me and you.

    In categories like Arts & Crafts and Food & Cuisine, applicants ask for support to buy equipment or supplies in order to create their art and reach a larger audience. Many suggest that reaching an audience is an exciting opportunity, a chance to spread enjoyment and knowledge. Some in the Home and Garden category suggest that sponsorship will allow them to share their blooms and produce. Generosity is a popular motivation: read the Pets and Animals section and look for the Rescue operations.

    If I applied, I might ask for funding to take a leave of absence from my teaching job and work with Husband to write our parenting memoir; its working title is Educating Amigo. We believe the story will be inspiring and helpful to other families raising children with disabilities and *ahem* educational to educators.

    If you're interested in applying or voting for projects, look for more information and inspiration - in the "Official Sponsor of Everything you do without Heartburn."

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Prilosec OTC. Mom Central sent me a small gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Getting my kicks on 66 -- planning or dreaming?

    It seems strange; we're actively working on becoming more sustainable, remaining frugal, taking care of our family and our earth.

    Yet on the Bucket List is a road trip of many miles - coasting along Route 66.

    Amigo would enjoy listening to local radio, eating at diners, and meeting new people. I would enjoy the trip, blog each milestone, and probably bring a Flat Stanley along for the ride. La Petite would photograph it, when she wasn't sleeping through the daylight hours. Chuck? I'm not sure which part of the trip would be his favorite, but he'd probably find family along the way; his cousins are scattered across the U.S.A.

    My goals for the trip include seeing different sections of the country, stopping at diners and local family restaurants, taking time out to visit history museums that honor the memory of the Mother Road. That's what really drives me: the history piece. I love the idea that we'll be traveling a route with so many memories, so many tales to tell.

    Amigo and Chuck like to try local dishes -- within reason. Sampling road food would be more exciting and (mostly) healthier than identical golden arches along the way. Simply reading the menu in some places would be an adventure! La Petite has convinced me to try and enjoy sushi, at long last, but Da Boyz still resist. She'd be more of an adventurous sort with the road foods, too.

    Vehicle choice is a challenge. It'll have to be something that can take heat, both humid and dry, to make a trip like this. Both of our current vehicles are elderly; neither will be suitable for a long trip. A rental rather than a new purchase would allow us to leave the car or minivan in California and catch the train home. We thoroughly enjoyed traveling on the Empire Builder from Wisconsin west to Washington; I am certain that the trip by rail would be fascinating and comfortable, too.

    As for chronicling the trip, the blog is a good place to start. Daily like my other vacation journals or by topic, such as the Coffee Diary from another travel? Either would be effective.

    Cost is an object. If this trip happens at all, it won't be soon. Replacing the shower plumbing and fixing the upstairs bathroom are higher priorities. But someday, we'll look for sponsors or grants or lottery winnings (just kidding, I don't buy tickets), and we'll hit the road -- the Mother Road.

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    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    Bumper Sticker Fun

    Can you read this bumper sticker? Neither can I. Sorry. It was windy and cold, and we just wanted to get back in the car and get the heat on. Taking a quality photo with my cell phone wasn't a high priority.

    You might guess based on the Feingold sticker (almost readable) that although it's centered on the vehicle, the sentiment leans to the left. It does. The bumper sticker in white on red reads:
    Democratic Women are the Life of the Party.
    I think I'd like the driver of this minivan. Her bumper sticker is almost as much fun as this one.


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    Tuesday, February 09, 2010

    Zesty Orange Cookies

    I tried it, and it worked. I took the original Zesty Lime cookie recipe and tried it with orange zest and orange juice, and the cookies are delicious. I kept the lemon extract in for the tartness. The orange peel was freshly zested, and the juice freshly squeezed. Oh, the kitchen smelled good! Here it is: yet another way to use the case of oranges from the choir fund-raiser!

    Zesty Orange Cookies

    1 cup butter, softened
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
    2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
    powdered sugar for dusting (I only needed a few tablespoons)

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter; beat in sugar and extracts. Add eggs; mix well. Gradually add flour; mix well. Blend in orange juice and peel. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of batter onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on pan for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks and dust lightly with powdered sugar. Mmmm. Makes about 6 dozen.

    This recipe is based on Zesty Lime cookies in the 2009 WE Energies Cookie Book. I can't wait to try a few more.

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    Sunday, February 07, 2010

    Super Sunday

    I have a Super Cold. My plan for Super Sunday includes:
    • Claim the Super Couch as my turf.
    • Curl up with magic blankie.
    • Run the Super Humidifier all day.
    • Drink Super Fluids and eat Super Oranges constantly and often. Is that an oxymoron? Fine. So be it.
    • Rest.
    • Read the newspaper, including Super Bowl predictions.
    • Renew my friendship with the Neti Super-Pot.
    • Correct and record school papers, still on the couch.

    • Review plans for week with Chuck. This week looks to be more "normal" and less emotionally wearing than the last. (Crossing fingers and toes)
    • Convince Chuck to clean Buttercup's litter box. Even in my stuffed up state, I can sense a bit of malodorous atmosphere eminating from her cage. In order to heal my inflamed sinuses and exhausted body, I need to rest.
    • Watch the Super Bowl! On the menu: Super Burgers (Chuck's specialty), chicken soup (to fight my cold), and the continual ingestion of mega-amounts of fluids.

    And now -- drumroll, please -- my predictions for the game!
    The Colts are the stronger team. They have the technique, the talent, and the depth. Taken only on football stats, Peyton Manning should lead his rookie coach to victory.
    But.... the Saints have momentum and emotion on their side. Drew Brees is more than a quarterback; he's a leader in motivation, not just in passes caught. The Saints' defense isn't rated as highly as most Super Bowl teams, but think about the NFC championship game; it was the defense that came through and sealed the need for overtime, which sealed the victory.

    My prediction: Between the Budweiser Clydesdales and the Tebow controversy and the eTrade baby, there will be one exciting and dramatic football game.

    Meanwhile, I'm going to pour myself a glass of Airborne to fight this Super Virus.


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    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Tyler's Ocean

    For La Petite's friend Tyler, who is in his last days. Tyler's Ocean collection is being organized by Tyler's good friend and former roommate, Eric. Here is Eric's letter and request.

    One thing Tyler really wanted to do again was see the ocean one last time. Unfortunately that is now impossible. However, with your help, we can do the next best thing for him. We can bring the ocean to him. I don’t know exactly how much time we have left but I speak for all of us when I say that I’m not going to just sit around and do nothing while I wait for his time to come. Tyler is still here, this is NOT over, and we can still help him.

    So here is the plan. We need ocean pictures. If you have pictures of the ocean, we need them! We are going to take all these pictures and cover his entire room with them. This way Tyler can be at the ocean with all of his friends.

    The first way and probably the easiest for everyone is just to email them to an email account I set up just for this. The address is TylersOcean at gmail dot com. This saves people trips and hassles. With your help we can give Tyler something as close to one of his last wishes as possible. With just a little effort you can help us bring Tyler the ocean! --Eric

    This is not an anonymous Internet urban myth; this young man is La Petite's friend. If you have ocean pictures that you're willing to share, you can send them to Tyler's Ocean.

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    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

    The Great War touched everyone in London. The men went to war, became injured, died, or came home with internal emotional damage that no one could see. The families left behind suffered along with their beloved soldiers.

    In The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon, Evelyn Gifford is a free-spirited young woman in a London that doesn't know what to do with a forward thinking female. Trained as a lawyer, she successfully finds herself a position with a free-spirited firm, where she advocates well for her clients even as the judges hold back their respect because of her gender. Evelyn assists in the case of defending an accused murderer - one who had come home from the war depressed, yet a dependable and caring husband. On a weekend picnic his wife disappears, only to be found shot to death. The war-damaged widower must have killed her, or so the public thinks. Evelyn is determined to prove otherwise.

    Meanwhile, Evelyn grieves for her own older brother James, killed in the war. She idolized him in life and continues to hold his angelic image in her head and heart. When a young battlefield nurse turns up on the doorstep with a young boy, James' son, Evelyn and her family are at a loss.

    The complex plots and subplots wind together for a story suspenseful, surprising, and sensual. Evelyn's visits to avant-garde London society with her brother's lover are almost too colorful for her shades-of-gray family. Her mother, aunt, and grandmother continue to disapprove of her career even while they depend on her income to pay their bills. The presence of their new family member and his mother bring back memories of the deceased James, but also bring tarnish to his perfect image.

    The Crimson Rooms is a page-turner. It was difficult to put down; the dark moods and increasingly complex plot twists kept me rooting for Evelyn even as I wondered how much more she could realistically handle. Readers will admire her strength and still want to help heal the pain caused by the war and its aftermath, the travails of making her way into the men's world of London's courts.

    Reading The Crimson Rooms encouraged me to look for more of Katharine McMahon's work. She has also written The Rose of Sebastopol and The Alchemist's Daughter. The Crimson Rooms will be available on February 8 from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound online. Please looks for it at your local booksellers, too.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of G.P. Putnam's Sons / Riverhead and received a copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. The book is an advanced reader copy; I will pass it on to friends and family so that others can enjoy the fascinating and well-written story.


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    Tuesday, February 02, 2010

    Zesty Lemon-Lime cookies

    adapted from Zesty Lime Cookies, from the We Energies Cookie Book 2009

    Chuck teases me when I'm using my new zester file. "Don't you have enough zest for a year? Or two?" he'll say. To counter that, I keep finding recipes that use citrus zest in one way or another. Here's one with lemon and lime flavor. The original was more lime; I had lemon and lime on hand, so I modified it.

    Zesty Lemon-Lime Cookies

    1 cup butter, softened
    1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
    2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 cup lime juice
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1 Tablespoon grated lemon and lime peels
    powdered sugar for dusting

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter; beat in sugar and extracts. Add eggs; mix well. Gradually add flour; mix well. Blend in lime juice and peel. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls of batter onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Cool on pan for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks and dust lightly with powdered sugar. Makes about 6 dozen.

    I wonder if it would work with orange?


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    Monday, February 01, 2010

    On Brahms, Life and Death, and Being There

    Our school counselor lost her husband Friday night. It was sudden, unexpected, and tragic.
    A former colleague lost a brother recently; snowmobiling and fell through the ice. He was 29.
    La Petite has been wrapped up in supporting a friend who is dying of gastric cancer. She and her coworkers at the school paper are preparing a tribute. The young man had an early graduation ceremony last week; he is not expected to last until the actual ceremony in May.

    So much tragedy; big tragedies in Haiti, smaller emotional earthquakes in our circle of family and friends. What can people do? What can people say?

    A long time ago, when I was young and studying piano, I was struggling to play Brahms. I could play the notes, it sounded nice, but my performance was lacking in the emotion and the intensity that makes Brahms' works the dramatic pieces that they are.
    My teacher stopped and thought. Then she told me:
    I once had trouble playing Brahms. I couldn't express it properly, and I
    didn't know why. I didn't know what was missing. I never knew what to say at
    funerals, either.
    Then my husband died. And I realized what I had never known; that there was
    nothing anyone can say at funerals. All you can do is be there; and being there
    is the most important thing of all.
    And then, then I could play Brahms.

    Well, I stuck to Debussy and Chopin for a long time. But I know now; even if there is nothing to say, no way to help the grieving, it's important to be there.

    If you'd like to Be There for La Petite's young friend, go here to make a contribution. He was an active and healthy young man until cancer hit him; swim team record-holder, computer geek, and more. The family is struggling with bills, including the rent for the off-campus apartment that he can no longer use due to his illness.

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


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