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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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  • Wednesday, March 31, 2010

    I'll wear my necklace if you'll top my pop.

    In a fine example of upcycling, a nearby charter school made bottle cap necklaces to sell as a fundraiser. I bought a daisy, of course. It's just my style in so many ways.

    This is the back. We've asked around and Hubs even did a cursory Internet search, and we have no idea what kind of bottle this cap adorned.

    A cone-head style guy saying, "Pop My Top." Well, readers, ideas? Is this a regional item? A soda/pop bottle, or something else? I'm listening -- chime in!

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    Tuesday, March 30, 2010

    Newfangled Applesauce Cake with Splenda

    It was a Two Cookbook Day. Two new cookbooks came in the mail. Two collections of new ideas for my kitchen! Two opportunities for expanding my repertoire! One was accompanied by a box of Splenda brand sweetener compliments of MomCentral, the raw materials for their current blog tour.

    I approached this task with the eye of a teacher wearing out as she headed into spring break season: with an eye for simplicity. My chosen recipe had to be easy to make and could not require a separate trip to the grocery store. If I didn't have all the ingredients in the house, I'd turn the page and look for another.

    Here it is: Old-Fashioned Applesauce Cake

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ginger
    1/2 cup margarine or butter
    1/4 cup molasses
    1/2 cup egg substitute (the equivalent of 2 eggs)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray an 8x8-inch metal cake pan with vegetable cooking spray.
    2. In a small bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger. Set aside.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the margarine and molasses with an electric mixer on high speed for approximately 1 minute.
    4. Add the egg substitute and vanilla. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds. The mixture will be very liquid.
    5. Add Splenda and beat on medium speed until very smooth for approximately 1 1/2 minutes.
    6. Add the flour mixture and applesauce. Beat on low speed until mixed for approximately 45 seconds.
    7. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

    I was happy that the recipe was simple: everyday ingredients, short preparation time, and few dishes. Next time I make this, I might try some Daisy-style changes. Raisins, small apple chunks, or even chopped cherries might be fun. Serving it warm with a little whipped cream (and coffee on the side, but that goes without saying) earns points for presentation. Yes, my family talks that way after too many Iron Chef marathons.

    There are more recipes using Splenda on their Tastebook site, and you can order a cookbook in a binder like mine.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Splenda and received products necessary to facilitate my candid review. In addition, a donation was made in my name to the Meals on Wheel organization to thank me for taking the time to participate.

    The other cookbook? Just in time for planting my garden and getting ready for the summer markets, it's Eating Well in Season: the Farmers' Market Cookbook. Prepare for garden style recipes all summer and fall. Watch out, zucchini; I'm ready this year.

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    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Preparing to Prepare the Garden

    It's the end of March in Wisconsin. That means...well, it can mean anything. For a gardener, it means Don't Get Too Eager; We Could Still get Snow!" I can get started thinking about it - planning, not planting.

    I ordered plants from my local environmental charter school. I'll pick up those tomato and pepper and herb plants on Mothers' Day.

    I've heard of another unique source of plants. It's called Free Plants by Mail, and it's an organization that finds new homes for overstocks and extras: plants grown for nurseries and greenhouses and then not needed. Heard of animal rescues? This sounds like a plant rescue to me. It sounds rather tempting, too. Proceeds go to the Nature Conservancy.

    For more on my own garden planning, go to Green Spot On, where I guest post most Mondays.

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    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Elected officials, Health Care, and Bad Craziness

    It was on our local news today and in the morning paper; members of Congress being threatened after voting to pass the health insurance reform bill Sunday night.

    My congressional representative, a doctor, was victimized by a threat and one of the clinics that still carries his trademark had the word "kill" painted over his name. Another Wisconsin representative received death threats at his office in Washington.

    Worst of all, the president was threatened through a Twitter exchange.

    People, when will this end? Whatever happened to respecting the office, if not the officeholder? Whatever happened to respecting the dignity of the House?

    Freedom of speech has its limits. Vandalism, threats of bodily harm or death, discussing assassination of the elected leader of the free world -- all are WRONG. Clearly and simply wrong. Spreading hatred, encouraging violence, pumping up the anger levels of an already-conflicted world: not only wrong, but also dangerous.

    Someone, somewhere, somehow will take this too far. And then? Irony of ironies, that person will end up in prison - losing their right to vote, and gaining free health care sponsored by the taxpayers of the good old U.S.A.

    Wait. Something's wrong with this picture.

    But isn't that where we started?

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    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    March Madness ends for this team

    For once, the robo-calls made sense. "If we win tonight, bus reservations and tickets will be on sale from 8-9 AM on Saturday morning." "If you'd like to buy a t-shirt to support us in the State tournament, please stop in the school office!"
    The student body was not lacking in spirit!
    Grammar, maybe. English teachers, can you help with this one?

    Each door was painted in school colors, expressing their excitement. The elementary school down the road sported a big sign congratulating their "alum" on the team.

    They lost on Friday night. The team played well; the opposing team spoke highly of them, complimented our players on forcing them to change their defensive strategies in order to pull ahead and then stay there.

    Win or lose, the school came out in support of their basketball players and coach. The memories of the 2010 tournament will be theirs forever.

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    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Spring Fever Blueberry Muffins

    I may have posted this earlier - most likely last June when blueberries were in season. It's a classic recipe, easy to make, and just as delicious with frozen blueberries as with fresh.

    Blueberry Muffins
    from my go-to source for recipes, the Good Home Cookbook.

    2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
    1 cup sugar
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 cups (1 pint) blueberries

    1. Prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
    2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
    3. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until creamy and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. then beat in the milk and vanilla extract until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Fold in the berries.
    4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
    5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, until golden brown.
    6. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, and cool briefly on wire rack. Serve warm or cooled.

    Great with milk or (you guessed it) coffee.


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    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    How many bloggers does it take to change a bulb?

    This time of year, I'm watching the daffodils and tulips come up and marveling at the way a simple bulb can put forth new growth every year.

    The bulbs I'm testing now, however, are the electric kind, not the organic. They are, however, more environmentally friendly than past light bulbs and more user-friendly than early CFLs. I'm reading by the light of a Sylvania halogen Supersaver Light Bulb.

    Unlike early energy-saving bulbs, this light bulb resembles the typical lamp bulb and fits nicely in a lamp. It's bright enough to illuminate my book while using much less energy. It turns on immediately, without the warm-up or flicker of energy-saving bulbs of the distant past. In short, it works. The halogen supersaver bulb uses 43 watts, but provides as much light as a standard incandescent 60 watt bulb.

    One strong point in favor of this Sylvania halogen supersaver light bulb is this: it contains no mercury. When it's done (after 1000 hours of light, according to the package), I can dispose of it easily with no worries about contamination or toxic waste.

    In the headline grabbing storm of other legislation (i.e. Health Insurance Reform!), even my eco-conscious readers may have lost sight of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) which will phase out the traditional incandescent light bulb over the next four years in favor more efficient lighting products. The timing of Sylvania's halogen Supersaver bulb will help consumers replace their older energy-hogging light bulbs with the new style sooner rather than later.

    So far, it's a winner. This bulb looks good, fits my lamp, and provides enough light for me to read my books and see the keyboard of my laptop. It uses less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, and it promises to last a long, long time.

    If only it grew flowers, too. I guess I'll leave that to the tulip and daffodil bulbs.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of SYLVANIA and received products necessary to facilitate my candid review (two light bulbs). In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Spring Fever

    It's not really warm enough, but I pulled on a pair of capri pants today instead of my weekend jeans. Oh, the glaring white skin of winter! It's blinding.

    It's not really warm enough, but I went outside (in galoshes to protect from the mud) and looked over the new garden plot designated for tomatoes. I determined it needs a layer of mulch and a layer of topsoil.

    It's not really warm enough, but I took my Brewers baseball attire out of storage and thought about Major League Baseball.

    It's not really warm enough, but I brought out the lightweight jackets. I haven't put away the winter coats; it's highly likely that we'll need them again before the garden is planted.

    It's not really warm enough yet, but.... fill in the blank and leave a comment!


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    The Bar Crowd; does it include your kids?

    I read a featured blog titled "Babies in Bars" on Work It Mom. The blogger talked about bringing her baby to bars to hear her husband's country band perform. She talked about putting ear protection on the baby to muffle the din, nursing a young baby in a discreet corner, bringing an older baby's own tippy cup for juice or other beverages, and in general, taking care to make the trip safe and appropriate for baby and for other customers.

    It's Lent, season of the Wisconsin Friday Night Fish Fry. Fish fry events can be in supper clubs, family restaurants, church halls, and yes, taverns or bars. I'm sure there are little ones following their parents into the pubs and the taverns or waiting in the bar areas for the fish fry to be ready.

    Is there a deep meaning to all this babble? Maybe, maybe not. If I go to a downtown bar for lunch with Amigo (now age 18), we're not drinking. He's too young, and I'm probably driving, so alcohol with our fish fry or cheese curds doesn't make sense. Would we mind seeing a baby at the table next to ours? Not a bit.

    It's all about responsibility, really. If the parent at the next table is exercising moderation and good judgement, is taking good care of the child, and both parent and child are behaving well, it's not a problem - at least in my neighborhood.

    And isn't the main responsibility of anyone present in a drinking establishment just that: responsibility?

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    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Spring and garden, I'm ready!

    My backyard may look like this:

    But inside, I'm thinking of this:

    Seeds! Spring training! Brewers baseball, beans, and basil.

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    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Advocacy in the Blogging World

    It's a great world, the Blogosphere. People of all walks of life, conservative or liberal, rich or poor, can blog their concerns.

    And the Powers That Be? They'd better listen.

    Illinois legislators, listen up -- if you can. Deaf Mom tells you why hearing aids should be covered and why they're more important than (are you ready for this?) Viagra. I'll second her motion; without my hearing aids, I wouldn't be teaching. Thanks to my hearing aids, I'm earning a living, paying taxes, stimulating the economy, and staying politically active.

    New York Times, you have officially alienated women who blog. Punditmom has one of the best responses to the article "Honey, don't bother Mommy; I'm too busy building my brand." I might have thought the article neutral had the author left out the condescending remarks. Describing a blog network presenter as having the "good-natured sass of a sorority social chairwoman" and suggesting that "... you, too, might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial!" Get real, NYT. I don't post tutu-making tutorials. Rain barrels, maybe. So - what's your point?

    MOMocrats (Raising the next generation of blue) always have something valuable and current posted: Here's a post discussing the status of women and the way that status affects a country's peace, security, and prosperity.

    Meanwhile, my inbox includes communication from Organizing for America (OFA) reminding me that it's time to make phone calls and send emails to remind our representatives to get rolling on health insurance reform. My OFA neighbor asks:
    "Could you also let your readers know that they need to pick up the phone and call their member of congress to vote "yes" for reform? There are members of Congress whose votes are movable if they hear from enough of us. If callers leave a message, they need to leave their name and address, so the member of Congress can verify that the caller is a constituent. There could be a vote in the House of Representatives before the week is out."
    Stick together, women and men of the blogging world. The mainstream media may disrespect us, but they'll come around. They'll have to.

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    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Variations on Banana Bread

    I'm heading into a stress-loaded week. Parent-teacher conferences, daughter leaves for a spring break half-way across the country, son is caught up in March Madness at his high school, and Chuck hopes to survive the combination of stressors and the presence of two extra bunnies in our home while La Petite travels.

    Of course, I head for comfort food.

    While the chicken stock simmered (nothing precise, just water with chicken bones and skin, stray onion pieces, and the end of the celery stalks), I browsed the cookie recipes on my laptop. Then I realized I had many boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the house, and I did not need any more cookies.

    But beside the cookies in the snack basket sat were two rapidly ripening bananas.

    Banana Bread! Today's variation: a hint of chocolate.

    2/3 cup sugar
    1/4 cup butter or margarine
    3 eggs or 3/4 cup egg substitute
    1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 medium to large bananas)
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 2/3 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 Tablespoon wheat germ
    2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (the good kind for baking, not hot cocoa mix)
    1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. spray an 8- or 9- inch loaf pan with vegetable oil cooking spray or use your favorite alternative.
    Beat the sugar and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, bananas, and vanilla. Beat on low speed until well blended.
    Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and wheat germ. Add the cocoa and chocolate chips. Mix well.
    Stir dry ingredients into banana mixture just until moistened. Pour and scrape into the loaf pan.
    Bake at 350: 8 inch pan for 60 minutes, 9-inch pan for 45-50 minutes. Muffin tins? You're on your own. I don't know how long that will take.

    Cool 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve warm or cool; it's delicious either way.

    And maybe I won't eat so many Girl Scout cookies if I have this banana bread around the house!


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    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Working on Sunday: desk before and after

    Contrary to popular belief, teachers do work weekends. On a recent Sunday, I spent two hours at my desk with a to-do list. On the top of the list: Clean Desk.

    Here's the before picture. Book box, papers, near-empty hand sanitizer bottle, file folders - you name it, it was there. I knew when I left on Friday that I had to come back; there was no chance of facing this kind of disaster on Monday morning and starting the week feeling, well, sane.

    I waded through the piles on the desk, made the copies I needed, planned math lessons for the week, printed keyboarding scores, and more. I pulled out the cleaning wipes and dusted the top of the file cabinet (yuck), wiped down the desk (not so bad, really), and even dragged a wipe across the computer keyboard.

    Ah. Deep sigh of relief. Now I can face Monday with a more positive attitude. The bad news, though: it won't take long to pile up the desk again. It's just the nature of the job.


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    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Put insurance reform on your to-do list; it's on mine.

    To-do list for the weekend:

    Visit La Petite, pick up bunnies for break while she travels: her March Madness.
    Take Amigo to high school basketball game; his March Madness.
    Prepare for parent-teacher conferences: my March Madness.
    Support my local chapter of OFA (Organizing for America) in the fight for health care and insurance reform.
    Scale the mountain we call Family Laundry.
    Handle the weekly load of student papers and gradebook updates.

    That's a long list. Why the inserts? Well, someone needs to take care of the bunnies while La Petite is gone. They need daily feeding. Amigo doesn't drive, so he needs to ride the fan bus or get a ride to the play-off game.

    Oh. You meant the OFA insert. Well, dear blog readers, there is strength in numbers. I can accomplish more and make a bigger difference by joining with a group of people with like philosophies. Together, we can have an impact on our elected officials, and in turn make an impact on the laws that govern our land.

    On that note, here are a few notes that the Tea Partiers tend to ignore.

    -> 8 -- that's the number of people every minute who are denied coverage, charged a higher rate or otherwise discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition.
    -> 8 is also the number of lobbyists hired by special interests to influence health reform for every member of Congress in 2009.
    -> The status quo isn't working, and special interests are doing everything in their power to maintain that status quo.

    For more information, go to Health Care by the Numbers, where they'll feature a new number and fact set each day.

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    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    The Girl Scout in Me

    The Brownies at my school were working on their HerStory badge and wanted to interview adults who had been Girl Scouts when they were young. I pulled out my old Junior uniform sash and took a walk down memory lane.

    A quick inventory shows a few stars, tarnished from storage in basements and closets. Fly-up wings representing the move from Brownies to Juniors. Troop number, council name, and badges: badges galore.

    The badges are a fascinating glimpse into the girl I was in elementary school. Two music: one general, another more advanced. A cooking badge; I earned that with my piano teacher and her daughters. Two that imply outdoor cooking - what was the difference between the campfire and the grill? Was it exactly what it seems? There's a badge with a slipper, medeival style. Storytelling? Theater? The sewing badge that I earned along with my troop; I squeaked through this one by the skin of my teeth with my mother's help. The sewing gene skipped a generation; my daughter can sew, but I can't.

    The oval patch above the troop number - I now know it was the troop crest - featured a lily of the valley. I've always loved these gentle flowers, and I grow them in my backyard.

    With the patches - badges and crests and more - come the memories. I hope today's Scouts' memories last into their adulthood. I thank them for inviting me to visit their troop and stirring me to reflect on the way the Girl Scout in my past resembled the woman I am now.

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    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    He's a good cook. Here's the evidence.

    Poor Chuck. He just gets no respect. The minestrone disaster got all the attention, and it's actually the exception to the rule. When he cooks, it's usually delicious.

    On Valentine's Day we didn't go out; we ate in. He made steak, stuffed peppers, a fabulous green salad, and then topped it off with an organic wine. I merely baked brownies (from a mix, to tell the truth), and suggested he top them with raspberries from the freezer. A little whipped cream, and we had dessert.

    Points for presentation: top marks. Points for taste: fabulous. Points for being super capable in the kitchen: he's a keeper.

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    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    Minestrone Soup Adventure

    "Honey, where's today's paper?"
    "Recycled. You said you were done with it."
    "I was, but then I decided to make the minestrone soup recipe that was in the paper."
    "I can find it for you online."
    "No, thanks, I'll fly by the seat of my pants."
    Hug. "That usually works well."

    It's not what you might think. Chuck was making dinner; I had just come home from a Sunday afternoon at school, clearing my desk and preparing the new seating chart for March 1st. He wanted to make the soup, and the newspapers had already gone outside in the recycling. He's good at winging it, and he remembered the main spices, so he did.

    The soup looked good, smelled good, but... I took one bite and coughed until my face turned red. He'd overestimated the crushed red pepper. I couldn't eat a second bite. Poor guy; neither could he.

    Well, faithful readers, here's the original. Pay attention to the amounts of spices, and don't try to fly by the seat of your pants - not with the crushed red pepper, in any case.

    Minestrone Soup

    2 Tbs. olive oil
    1 each: large onion, celery stalk and peeled carrot, cut into small dice
    2 tsps. Italian seasoning
    1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
    2 quarts vegetable broth (We used beef stock)
    1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
    2 cans (15 or 16 ounces each) small white beans, undrained
    1 cup ditalini or other small, tubular pasta
    1 pound seasonal vegetables (see variations below)
    Salt and black ground pepper
    Optional: Parmesan cheese
    Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add onions, celery and carrots; saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes; saute until fragrant, about a minute longer. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to a simmer.

    Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and pasta is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings, including salt and pepper, to taste.

    Serves 8.

    The original recipe is here at USA Weekend. My only advice: add red pepper sparingly. Please. And serve with lots of liquids, just in case.

    In other news, you can still vote for my Zesty Orange Cookies at Foodista; just click the link below.


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    Monday, March 08, 2010

    I am teacher: who am I?

    The knowledge bases of a professional teacher are many, diverse, and complex; and skillful teaching requires systematic and continual study of these knowledge bases.

    Wow. Did I realize the depth of my profession when I chose this field? I can only answer that with another question: does anyone in teacher training truly realize the skill needed, the complex knowledge bases (not just base), and the continual study it will require?

    Teaching changes as children change, as society changes, as our economic system changes, and as our future changes. Perhaps you've heard people talk about the way many modern jobs and careers did not exist when the professionals in the fields were in elementary school. I'm not sure the general public understands the complexity - wait. Strike that, reverse it. I'm sure that most members of the general public have no idea of the complexity in every day of teaching.

    On that note, I think I'd better quit blogging and sign up for next summer's continuing education course. I'm looking at differentiation techniques for teaching talented and gifted students. They're in my class, in my neighborhood, and in our world. These are the quick learners, the voracious readers, and often the neglected students left to learn on their own as we assist the lower achievers. To add to another knowledge base, add to my diverse repertoire, I'm seeking systematic and continual study: again.

    Quote from The Skillful Teacher by Saphier, Haley-Speca, and Gower.


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    Sunday, March 07, 2010

    The next cycle in Washers and Dryers

    Dear Readers;

    We need you. Yes, we. Chuck and I are finalizing plans for a remodel of our upstairs bathroom and (drum roll) moving the laundry machines into our second floor. We have to make final decisions regarding those appliances, and we need advice. Your advice. Yes, you. Here's the situation.

    I'm planning to buy a front-loading washer. I've done the research, and that type of washer will meet our needs and save water and detergent in the process. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Now: the plot thickens.

    Pedestal or no pedestal?
    I'm pushing 50. Yes, 50. My back isn't as young and strong as it once was.
    It would mean less bending, less reaching to put the laundry in the machines and take it out.
    The pedestals also provide a storage drawer under the washer and dryer.

    Storage shelves above the appliances would be quite high, and I'm (ahem) short.
    One pedestal costs about $200-$240. Two (one for the washer, one for the dryer) will run us at least $400. Ouch. Is it worth the investment?

    Gas or Electric dryer?
    Gas dryers are more energy efficient than electric: both green and frugal.

    Gas dryers are more expensive to purchase ($80-$100 more than electric).
    Gas costs a little more right now than electricity.
    Is gas efficient enough to counter these two costs? Will we make back our investment?

    To stack or not to stack?
    Stacked washer and dryer will allow for more space on the floor: a drying rack, perhaps, and/or access to a window.
    We're approaching (slowly, we admit it) the empty nest. We won't need extra large capacity appliances for long.

    Side by side appliances can be larger capacity. The stackable models are somewhat smaller.
    Larger capacity would let me wash blankets at home, avoiding the semi-annual laundromat adventures.
    Weight. Can our old (1890) home support stacked appliances?
    Vibration. Will the vibration of a washer, in particular, cause a problem?

    Well, readers, please weigh in. What are your experiences with front loading washing machines? Gas or electric dryers? Pedestals? Stacked washer/dryer combinations? We need advice. Please leave your knowledge and expertise in the comments.

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    Saturday, March 06, 2010

    Weekend Greenings, er, Gleanings

    The grass that's peeking out of the melting snowbanks is brown, not green. If you're looking for green, try these sites.

    Eco-Women, Protectors of the Planet, are celebrating a birthday and hosting giveaways. Go enter! But not too many times, please - I'd like a chance at winning the tote bag.

    Mother Nature Network talks about natural, non-chemical cleansers. Do they really work?

    Green Girl, rather than echoing my sentiments on health care, speaks clearly and carries a walking stick.

    At the Green Phone Booth, Jenn the Green Mom is planning her garden while she waits for the snow to melt.

    Judy from Royal Ranch continues to introduce members of her "royalty" every Sunday.

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    Friday, March 05, 2010

    Photoworks and Baby Phun

    Babies and pictures and photo albums go together like a horse and carriage, peanut butter and jelly, or green eggs and ham.

    I have a new baby niece, so when Mom Central asked if I'd like to try out the new Photoworks site and build a baby book, well, of course I said, "Please, pretty please, may I?" Then I gathered all the photos I have of our new little sweetie and uploaded them to the site.

    Uploading was easy. I created a login and password, chose my book style, and then filled my own photo album with any and all potential book pictures. Placing the photos in the book was as easy as ABC, 1-2-3, do-re-mi, or drop and drag.

    As soon as I got started, I recruited La Petite to help out. She's the most talented photographer and layout pro in the family, so I shared my password and let her go to town. But people, you don't have to be a tech expert or a professional photographer to make this work. Photoworks albums are simple to make and produce high quality results.

    And that just gives me another excuse to visit and take more photos of our cute little dumpling!

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of American Greetings PhotoWorks and received a free photo book to facilitate my review. I feel lucky to be a part of this tour; it's such good timing for my extended family.

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    Thursday, March 04, 2010

    Health Coverage for all - are you listening, Congress?

    One of the best posts I've read about making health coverage available to all: Erin at Queen of Spain talks about her day in the ER.

    I saw a news feature about a new treatment for head lice; it's safer and greener, a method that suffocates the little bugs rather than kills them. Avoiding pesticides on children's heads? Good. Bad? It's only available by prescription. Families I've known who've been repeatedly re-infected haven't had health insurance. If payday was recent enough, they'd head to the drugstore for an over-the-counter remedy and hoped it would work. Meanwhile, their kids miss school until all the nits can be stripped using the proverbial fine-toothed comb.

    Two kids talking on their way to recess:
    Student 1: "Mrs. Teacher, do you know anything about insurance? Like doctors? Doesn't everyone have that?"
    Student 2: "My mom doesn't. She wants to get a good job so she can go to the doctor when she's sick."
    Two ten-year-olds bringing health care coverage into their real lives: what's wrong with this picture? One was a middle-class child, two working parents with good benefits in their jobs. The other was a child of a recent divorce and a tough time financially. Both were hardworking children of hardworking parents. Why should one family have coverage and the other not?

    Erin (a.k.a. Queen of Spain) was lucky; she could drive directly to the ER without a second thought.

    Remember the signs at the Vancouver Olympics? You know, after the USA surprised Canada's hockey team by beating them 5-3 in the first round.

    Heck, now they have a gold medal, too. When will the U.S. find its gold medal health care? Please don't tell me that only time will tell; we need it now.

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    Wednesday, March 03, 2010

    Honey, I broke the shredder.

    I've been cleaning and purging the basement shelves, determined not to be a hoarder. Every time I'm waiting for the washer to fill and the detergent to dissolve, I find another basement box and attack it. I've managed to find and freshen books that go to school or Goodwill or, clothes that are not suitable for anyone in the house (why did I keep these?) and go to Goodwill, and more. I've cleaned shelves, buckets, boxes, and done so thoughtfully. Last weekend I found an old (read: older than Amigo) box of cancelled checks.

    The checks were from a savings and loan that no longer exists. It converted to a bank, then merged with another, and by now I'm sure it's been swallowed so far it's unrecognizable. The checks date back to the days when people would get their cancelled checks back in the mail: paper checks. Honestly, you youngsters, that's the way it was.

    I looked them over. I recognized our favorite stores for groceries and sundries. The day care centers for the young La Petite and the younger Amigo. I saw the various styles of checks and remembered that we used to take turns choosing the design each time we reordered. Teddy bears, bright colors, trains, coffee motifs, initial monograms - it was like walking through a photo album of our interests many years ago.

    The account number would be irrelevant; the account was closed long ago. The address and phone number would be fifteen years outdated as well. But the checks contained our drivers' license numbers, and I wasn't sure if there were other identifying numbers handwritten on the memo lines.

    That left the shredder. I got through about three years worth of old auto loans and everyday expenses when the shredder shrugged and shuddered and announced with a groan that it was done. I unplugged it and let it rest, thinking maybe the fine appliance was just overheated. Chuck gently tugged scraps from the blades with a needle nose pliers. The shredder works now, but only for a few sheets of paper. Destroying the rest of the checks would take months at this rate.

    What to do? We did the only thing left: we lit a fire in the fireplace. Chuck crumpled the checks and added one small pile at a time to the fire. We joked about burning money. We enjoyed the ambiance and watched the Closing Ceremonies while our old money burned.

    I can't imagine the next box from the basement will contain the memories - or the challenges - that this one did. Readers, what have you found when you've cleaned and purged? Anything challenging? Interesting? Please share in the comments!

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    Tuesday, March 02, 2010

    Chili in the pot

    The Twitter Moms organization was looking for recipes that used canned food. My first reaction was to offer up the easy fruit cobbler made with a can of any fruit. It's easy and delicious.

    Then I read the directions. The request and the resulting contest called for a dish using at least two canned food items. This was a little harder in my pseudo-locavore home, but not impossible. One of my standards, crock-pot chili, uses several cans. I like it with homemade tomato sauce, but I rarely have sufficient tomato crop to make it that way for long. Chili is my standby when I have meetings or classes after teaching all day. Grandma comes over, adds the noodles, and serves it up with whatever side dish Amigo wants. In fact, to give credit where credit is due, "my" crock-pot chili was hers first.

    The next requirement was to watch this video about canned food. At 10 minutes it was a little long for my taste (I'd rather read than watch videos), but I did see some interesting facts. My favorite part was the timeline in the beginning showing the history of canned food preservation. Did you know that early canned food sustained the Napoleonic Army? I didn't, either. And that canned food was (supposedly) safe to eat after nuclear testing, making it the Thing To Have on the shelves in case of nuclear attack? Nope, I didn't have that little piece of info, either.

    But that's not why I make chili. I keep the staples for making crock-pot chili in my pantry year round. Here it is:

    Daisy' Mom's Crock-Pot Chili

    1 can red beans (kidney beans, chili beans, or other)
    1 can tomatoes (I like Red Gold diced with chilis)
    1 lb. ground beef or turkey, browned (leftover sloppy joe meat or meatsauce from spaghetti works, too)
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1/4 cup red and/or green peppers
    1/4 cup diced onion
    1 large can tomato sauce (or leftover spaghetti sauce: you get my drift, it varies)

    Place ingredients in crock-pot in that order. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. In true Wisconsin style, I add 1 cup elbow macaroni or pasta shells about an hour before serving.
    Serve with grated cheese (I said it's Wisconsin!) or sour cream on top. Mmmmmm.

    This is not a sponsored post. It is an entry in a contest on Twitter Moms. In fact, I'm not entirely sure the widget will work; I have yet to successfully upload a TM widget to Compost Happens. Well, here goes!
    Watch the Field to Table Video

    Canned Food Alliance


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    Monday, March 01, 2010

    Creativity; the kind I'd rather avoid.

    Oh, lovely day. My students are expanding their outlook in a way I'd rather they didn't.

    They have a new vocabulary word. The word is Hob knocker; if you look this word up there are several definitions:

    A Hob Knocker is a person that is considered cool but in a nerdy geekish kind of way. (Nickelodeon Definition)
    Hob Knocker: one who goes around hitting people in their privates. (true English Definition)
    Another definition is that one goes around hitting others WITH their privates. (true English Definition)

    Student definition: it means someone that walks around, acts cool, does drugs and smokes.

    What will they think of next? No, don't answer that. I don't think I want to know.

    In other news, I intercepted the following note between two students.

    R we going 2 play puppies at morning recess?
    do you love me?

    OMG! They're only 10 years old! Between the HobKnockers and the puppies and the young love, they don't leave much to chance.


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


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