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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, May 31, 2010

    Memorial Day Weekend

    The tomatoes are planted, the seeds are in, the herb garden is on the deck. But the most important display isn't the bush or the pile of woodchips; it's the flag flying in the front yard.

    The parade route goes down a street half a block from our home; it's the least we can do to show the colors.


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    Saturday, May 29, 2010

    Remodeling the old Homestead: the bunnies & Dr. Seuss

    While the workers are here, the Big Bunny (Buttercup) has to be caged.
    Since the daughter has graduated and is moving back home, her bunnies live here, too.
    The bunnies are not friends with each other. Not. At. All.

    Normally, Sadie lives in our bedroom. However, we have no bedroom right now; just a collection of 2 by 4s, many of which actually measure 2 by 4 inches - But that's another story. Temporary home for Sadie is the den, but the den doesn't have a door. Well, not a regular door.

    We've been keeping Buttercup in her cage while the workers pound up and down the stairs. When she's out of her cage, we have a temporary gate on the stairs. But the day the plumber was late (tried to put off our job until later, but the inspector said "ahem, today, sir") Chuck took pity on the poor furry creature and let her out. In his frustration that day, he sent me the following email.

    Try this Mr. Fox in Socks sir:
    When the summer plumbers battle over a vent-le in a stud-le and the Butter-Bunny’s running on the crumblys in the roomblys and that Butter-Bunny’s eating the wettest of the lettuce, then that’s a Summer Plumber ventle studle Butter-Bunny crumbly roombly wettest lettuce battle.

    The plumbing rough-in is done and passed inspection. They
    may move forward onto the next step.

    Thank goodness.

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    Friday, May 28, 2010

    Remodeling the old homestead: The Reality Show

    Presenting: the new TV Series, Driving Ms. Daisy's Husband Crazy!

    (Actual email from Chuck after dealing with a difficult day in the remodeling process)

    The wild and wacky adventures of the father and son plumbing team, Chuckles and Bo!
    It’s Two and a Half men, but the extra half is the big guy’s gut.
    Reminiscent of Martin and Lewis, Laurel and Hardy, Sherri Lewis and Porkchop (except they were cute), Gonzo and Camilla.
    It’s like Kukla, Fran and Ollie and the Keystone Cops compressed down into two people
    The entire Muppet show on the road in a plumbing truck.

    Enjoy classic comedic lines like:
    “Phooey, we have to move the potty.”
    “Hold on! I think I hit cement.” (Remember, they’re on the second floor of a wood frame house.)
    “Hand me the saw up through the potty hole.”
    “Hey! What’s going beep beep beep in the dumpster?”

    Yes, it’s potty humor at its best. 9pm/8 central, right after America’s Funniest Home Videos. Pipe down; I want to hear the theme song!

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    Thursday, May 27, 2010

    Noodles & Company, Pasta and Vegetables

    When MomCentral asked me to be part of a blog tour that reviewed Noodles & Company, I emailed La Petite, who was still at school:

    "When you come home, we need to make a trip to Noodles & Company for a product review. Darn. Such a sacrifice. I hope you're up for it. "
    She was up for it. She replied, "I just can't say No to Noodles."

    Our opportunity came sooner than we thought. I picked her up at her roommate's home in the Madison area after a big graduation party. On our way out of town, we looked for a place to have a light lunch. We didn't want to sit down and have something heavy, but we wanted something better than fast food. Lo and behold, we spotted a Noodles & Company outside of Madison's East Towne mall.

    I hear you thinking, "What a coincidence! Did you plan that? Come on, Daisy, out with it."

    No, we didn't precisely plan to go to Noodles & Company that day. I did pack the bowl coupons in my purse, though, because I knew our route would take us down an immense Strip with just about every restaurant option you could want. Luck was with us; the Noodles & Company was on the right side of the road at the right time.

    At the suggestion of Mom Central and because it was in season, I ordered the Asparagus and Lemon Linguine dish. It tasted as good as it looked. Feta cheese on top, snap peas to join the asparagus, simply delicious. Those are La Petite's sunglasses, by the way; you didn't think I was that fashionable, did you?

    Daughter had her "usual," the pesto cavatappi with chicken. She let me try a bite of hers, and she sampled mine. Both were delicious.

    Prior to this review, I hadn't been to Noodles & Company for a long time. Our local Noodles restaurant isn't close to home, it's close to the mall. I'm not a big mall-goer, so we end up there on rare and special occasions. I'm glad I took the time to go; I really do enjoy their menu. Speaking of menu, you can go to their web site and check out the menu before you go. I highly recommend clicking on the Farmers Market link and then playing the little veggie/ noodle musicians' video. It's adorable.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Noodles & Company and received five Noodles & Company bowl cards to facilitate my review. Mom Central also sent me a thank-you gift certificate.

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    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Remodeling the Old Homestead: During

    Want brick and mortar? I'll give you brick and mortar. This is in what's left of the master bedroom; it's the chimney. See those 2X4s? They really measure 2" by 4". Yes, they're that old.

    This is what remains of the bathroom.

    When was this tile put in? Any ideas? It was under carpet since the 1970s at least.

    And last, but not least, here's the hallway. On the left is the new bathroom. On the right will be the new laundry. Straight ahead? The main bedroom still stands, without walls. The bedroom without walls; couldn't that be a country tune? No, never mind.

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    Tuesday, May 25, 2010

    Philly Pepper Pot, Crock Pot style

    Chuck read the original recipe in his new book, Dining on the B&O; recipes and sidelights from a bygone age. He wasn't too thrilled with the main ingredient (tripe), but he thought with beef it might work well. Here's his version.

    Philly Pepper Pot, Chuck's Crock Pot version

    1 lb. beef for stew, cut in bite size pieces and lightly browned.
    2-3 teaspoons salt (optional)
    6 Tablespoons butter
    6 Tablespoons flour
    1 quart beef stock
    1 green bell pepper, sliced fine
    1 red bell pepper, sliced fine
    1 yellow bell pepper, also sliced in thin strips
    1 onion (white works well), shredded
    1 Tablespoon dried thyme
    salt and pepper to taste

    Melt butter over low heat and add the flour, stirring constantly until smooth. Add the stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
    Place the meat and peppers and other ingredients in crockpot. Pour the beef gravy over the top. Simmer on low for 8-10 hours.

    Serve over egg noodles or rice or on its own with home-made bread on the side. This will be thick!

    Note: the original recipe called for tripe. If you're a fan of tripe or feeling adventurous, go ahead and use tripe in place of the beef.


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    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Tomato, tomahto

    Here it is as it looked last week; my new tomato plot. A plain triangle, a few grass clipping layered over a little compost.

    We covered the area with cardboard and newspaper last fall, outlined it with a few posts and spare boards, and let nature do its job over the winter.

    To read the rest, go to Green Spot-On!

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    Saturday, May 22, 2010

    Remodeling the old homestead: Before

    The hallway - well, it was a hallway.

    The closet had two sides for hanging clothes, a set of shelves in the middle, and sliding mirror doors.

    This closet was mine, all mine: just a place to hang things. No door, it had a curtain.

    Do you wonder where everything is now? After all, the closets look empty.

    Yes. You guessed it; everything is piled in the corner until the project is finished and we have closets again. Until then, I hope we don't need clean sheets; they're in the bottom bin.


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    Thursday, May 20, 2010

    Tweens and Body Odor

    I sent the following note home in my class' weekly newsletter.

    "I’ve noticed an increase in body odor in the room. Are your children ready for deodorant? It may be time to have the personal hygiene talk with your child!"

    The best version of this "talk" came from a school nurse who had a son in sixth grade. She was a middle school nurse, so she had street cred with my students at the time: the dreaded 6th graders. She talked about face washing, astringent, and acne. She informed them that only 30% of kids their age washed their hands after using the bathroom, and challenged them to become part of the elite 30%. She taught the kids that as they reach their preteen years, the body starts producing hormones. Those hormones combined with sweat create (drumroll) Body Odor. She explained the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant. When she was done, they were psyched.

    I now teach 4th grade, so the *ahem* odors in a spring-time classroom are not as intense as a room housing 6th graders between its chalkboards and walls. However, after an intense afternoon recess of kickball and jump rope, the scent still wafts through the air.

    Socially, it's not popular to smell of sweat and body odor. As children get old enough to use deodorant, sometimes I need to approach the awkward subject and tell them it's time. So when MomCentral offered a blog review tour for Unilever products geared for preteens, I offered to check out the products.

    In addition to the products (Dove deodorant and body spray), Unilever presents a web site devoted to talks between parents and teens about this uncomfortable subject. It's called Don't Fret the Sweat. I suggest browsing the site together and then leaving it bookmarked for further perusal, er, surfing.

    You may find a less, er, aromatic home and a more confident tween or teen. Trust me; your child's teacher will be relieved, too.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Unilever and received the items necessary to facilitate my review. The deodorant and body spray went by way of our school counselor to a girl in my class who is socially awkward and developing body odor. She's a sweetheart, and this little tool might help her feel more confident. The scent is light, and she won't be conspicuous while wearing it, either.
    In addition, Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Closed minds

    Seen on the way to a graduation ceremony:

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    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Fun with squash

    Sometimes I just let Chuck take over the kitchen. He's good at it. This time I made the main dish and he put together the vegetable: acorn squash. I'll try to replicate it in writing for you, but he didn't measure.


    1 whole acorn squash
    maple syrup


    Preheat oven to 350.
    Cut acorn squash in half. Scoop out seeds and gunk. (Yes, that's the official term: gunk)
    Place squash halves upside down in pan - we used a small pyrex oven pan.
    Bake for 20 minutes.
    Remove from oven: turn face up, place pat of butter in each half. Score with fork or knife. Drizzle with maple syrup; sprinkle with pinch of nutmeg.
    Cook for another 10 minutes.

    Scoop out of skins; mash as needed. Serve warm.


    Kind of makes me want to plant acorn squash this year. 'Tis the season!


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    Monday, May 17, 2010

    An old bunny hutch

    Oh, the memories. Tiny and Beast lived in this hutch during the good weather months. Now? It stores a few pots, a watering can, a few gardening tools.

    To read the whole story of the old bunny hutch, go to Green Spot-On, my home away from Compost Happens on Mondays.

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    Friday, May 14, 2010

    KinderCone; plan ahead for next fall!

    A child's first day of school can be a bittersweet moment in a parent’s life, but in Germany and Austria it is a day of celebration and appreciation. On that day, families present their first grader with their very own Schultüte. Inside, the child finds little gifts, treats, and school supplies. KinderCone wants to inspire every family and their young children to enjoy learning by celebrating this special event in their lives.

    The KinderCone company sent me a modern-day Cone to see and review. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of it; I'd expected something smaller. It's bright, colorful, and exciting: just the atmosphere to help a new student feel confident and enthusiastic about the coming year.

    The first kindergarten in the U.S.A. opened in Watertown, Wisconsin; the town still maintains a museum dedicated to this important innovation in early childhood education.However, Kinder in Kindercone doesn't stand for kindergarten; it represents the German term for children. In our American school system, we start kids in kindergarten rather than first grade. Many, though, consider grade one to be the first year of serious schooling.

    But on the serious and sweet sides, a kindercone is a gift to inspire and excite, something special for young scholars. Motivating a child is important, and a special first day gift is a wonderful idea.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of KinderCone and received KinderCone samples to facilitate my review. The samples are going to my school, where many children are not lucky enough to receive such wonderful gifts. Mom Central also sent me gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. Maybe a Teacher Cone is next: filled with coffee beans, perhaps?

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    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Dandelions: a weed is just a flower out of place.

    Have you seen the commercials? The ones that imply that dandelions are evil, nasty, even toxic creatures that intentionally invade your (gulp) Lovely Lawn. The commercials want you to buy their product, of course: the Chemical Killer of Evil Dandelions. Here's one fighting for its life in the middle of the mint. I predict the mint will win. Mint is a very aggressive plant that doesn't give up easily.

    But chemicals? Expense aside, I don't need them. I don't want them on the mint; I might use it in cooking or to mix a mojito. I don't sweat the dandelions; I use them to offset the high cost of lettuce.

    Buttercup loves them.

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    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    Berry Almond Quick Bread

    This recipe looks like it'll be a mainstay when the berries are ripe in the summertime. I made it in mini-loaves with blueberries from the freezer the first time, and it was delicious.

    From Eating Well in Season: the Farmers' Market Cookbook with very few changes.

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
    1 cup nonfat buttermilk (see Tip, below)
    2/3 cup brown sugar
    2 Tablespoons butter, melted
    2 Tablespoons canola oil
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract
    2 cups fresh or frozen berries (whole blackberries, blueberries, raspberries; diced strawberries)
    1/2 cup chopped toasted sliced almonds (see Tip, below)

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F for muffins or mini loaves, 375 for a large loaf.
    2. Whisk flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
    3. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar, butter, oil, vanilla and almond extracts in another large bowl until well combined.
    4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients, and stir until just combined. Add berries and almonds. Stir just to combine; do not overmix. Transfer batter to the prepared pan(s). Top with additional almonds, if desired.
    5. Bake until golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Follow time suggestions for various pan sizes below. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature - with coffee, milk, or any other brunch-style refreshing beverage.

    -If you don't have buttermilk in the house, mix 1 Tablespoon lemon juice into 1 cup milk.
    -To toast sliced almonds, cook in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2-4 minutes.
    -Pan sizes!

    Muffins (standard muffin pan): makes one dozen, bake for 22-25 minutes at 400.
    Mini-Bundt pans (6-cup mini Bundt pan, scant 1-cup capacity per cake): 22-25 minutes at 400.
    Mini-loaf pans (6x3 inch pans, 2-cup capacity): makes 3, bake for 30 minutes at 400.
    Large loaf pan (9x5 inches): make one loaf, bake for 1 hour 10 minutes at 375.

    Please note: this is not a product review. I won the cookbook as a prize in Brighter Planet's contest for Sustainable Cooking Ideas last December. While I didn't make the top five for the grand prize (an Amazon Kindle), I felt proud to make it into the top twenty tips and I enjoyed reading the other entries.

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    Monday, May 10, 2010

    Changes in the plot - the garden plot!

    We covered the area last fall to make the transition easier. So far, we're on track. The lawn is gone, and now we're building the raised bed itself. Thanks to our generous neighbor (the one with the amazing stacks of firewood), we have boards. Next step: dig the trenches and set them up. After that: dirt. Soil. Lots of it.

    Adding to the seedlings in my living room window: I brought these home today. Tomatoes, peppers, and a few herbs, we're ready to go. Well, almost. I'm still going to buy a few ordinary store tomato plants almost as insurance. I know they grow; I'm not sure yet about the new heirloom varieties. What if I can't make them grow?

    (Is that an oxymoron? New heirloom? Like jumbo shrimp or cafeteria food?)
    But seriously, if you'd like to see more of my ever-changing urban yard, check out Green Spot-On, my home away from home on Mondays.


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    Saturday, May 08, 2010

    Guerrilla Gardeners in my 'hood?

    We planted lilies of the valley. We still get green onions. The onions are BIG.

    I think a person planted the onions intentionally: someone who lived in this house before we did. They are strong and stealthy (the onions, not the gardener), the kind we call walking onions. When not harvested, they sprout a new bulb on the top. The bulb's weight tips the onion stalk to the ground, and the bulb begins to grow a new onion plant. And the cycle goes on. Not that I complain; they're delicious, fresh, and free!
    Guerrilla gardening may have begun in the late sixties or early seventies as part of the Flower Power movement. Today it seems like part of a green movement, a desire to beautify vacant lots or trashy looking property. Mother Nature Network covered the Guerrilla Gardening movement in London, where gardeners sneak out with their seeds and trowels under cover of darkness for fear of discovery. Their motto is "Fight the Filth with Forks and Flowers." Their weapons? Spades and seed bombs.
    I have guerrilla gardeners around my neighborhood, too. Here's the evidence. This flower was inside the barrier, not outside, when I planted the bulb. I'm sure of it. Did the London brigade sneak into my yard?

    Then there's the lone tulip in the daylilies. I didn't plant it there. Not a chance. But a stealthy gardener with a fascinating accent didn't plant this. No one from across the Big Pond (not Lake Michigan, you dolt, the Atlantic) came over to move my bulbs.

    Yep. The evidence is circumstantial, but it's enough to convict.

    The camouflage can't fool me. That's no gorilla hiding in the leaves. It's our Guerrilla Bulb Transplanting Squirrel!

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    Friday, May 07, 2010

    Pantry Raid

    It wasn't a new recipe. This meal didn't break any new ground. I didn't harvest it from the backyard (well, not much: just the green onions and parsley). It was, however, a classic Friday night, I'm tired and I want some rest, don't ask me to be the Iron Chef tonight, kind of meal.

    It combined planned-overs with ingredients already in the house. It was a classic Pantry Raid.

    Planned-overs --> something made in advance with the intention of being a "leftover." I grilled pork chops earlier in the week. When the chops were done and the coals were still hot, I put a few brats and sausages on the grill to cook.

    Friday night I pulled onions and green peppers from the freezer, sauteed them in olive oil, eventually added green onion (fresh from the garden!) and a few stray leftover vegetables from the refrigerator. I sliced thin a few spicy sausages & one bratwurst and stirred them into the mix. Topped with a few sliced overripe tomatoes, it made a lovely and aromatic mix.

    Meanwhile, I offered Amigo a choice of pastas; he chose rotini. I made the whole box (planned overs!) and served the sausage mix on top of the pasta with a little grated parmesan and diced parsley from the garden for garnish.

    On the side: rhubarb bread and applesauce. It was so delicious, I almost pulled out a wine to go along. Well, no, I didn't. But it was delicious. The smoky taste from the planned-over sausages was a nice touch.

    Iron Chef I'm not, but the presentation was rather nice, too.

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    Wednesday, May 05, 2010

    A Teacher's Pet Peeves

    I do my best. I have a quote near my desk reminding me not to let that which I cannot control affect that which I can. What about those items that seem to be under my control, but keep happening? Every teacher has them: the pet peeves.

    1. Perfectly good pencils left behind on the floor at the end of a day. This student will probably complain tomorrow that he has no pencils, and therefore cannot do his math. Grrrrrr!

    2. Paper, recyclable paper, in the wastebasket - when the recycling bin is right next to it! I worry that we're raising a generation of kids for whom recycling is a "yeah, yeah, yeah, okay" instead of a useful and valuable action.

    3. Violins left at school all week. This is twofold: the violins get in my way, like the one right under my chair legs. More important, the students aren't practicing. If they only play the instrument once a week, they'll make no progress. It's a lot like learning math or reading: practicing the skills is essential to maintaining knowledge and making progress.
    Okay, readers, spill it. What are your pet peeves, teacher or not?


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    Tuesday, May 04, 2010

    Glazed Orange Drop Cookies

    Yeah! Another recipe that uses orange marmalade!

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup butter or margarine
    1/2 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup orange marmalade
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add reserved flour mixture gradually, mixing until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in marmalade and walnuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until set and lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate cookies with icing. makes about 3 dozen.

    Orange icing
    1 cup sifted powdered sugar
    2 Tablespoons melted butter or margarine
    1/4 teaspoon orange extract (or lemon, if you don't have orange)
    1 to 2 Tablespoons orange juice

    Combine powdered sugar, butter or margarine, orange extract and enough orange juice to make a thick glaze. Mine was so thick I had to heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. The original recipe only had 1 Tablespoon butter, but I needed 2 to make it spreadable.

    Original recipe was in the WE Energies Cookie Book from 2006.


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    Monday, May 03, 2010

    Seed inventory!

    A few years ago I had the misadventure of planting too late because I bought seeds too late. This year, I'm more prepared. I bought some last season as the stores were clearing out their stock. I ordered some seeds online, ordered tomato and pepper plants from a nearby environmental charter school, and then stored them all in my little blue basket.

    Here's the inventory:

    Plenty of beans -- and if you'd like to see the rest and hear my incredibly articulate and knowledgable (not to mention modest) comments, click on over to Green Spot-On for my Monday column.

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    Copyright, 2003-2008 by OkayByMe. All rights reserved. No part of this blog may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval without written permission from Daisy, the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. In other words, stealing is bad, and if you take what doesn't belong to you, it's YOUR karma and my lawyers you might deal with.