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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, July 31, 2010

    Organizing Dinner: 70 Meals, One trip to the store

    I enjoy reading cookbooks. I enjoy reading cookbooks even more when they contain more than recipes: guides, ingredients ideas, alternatives, and more. When the publicist for Organizing Dinner contacted me about reading and reviewing this cookbook, I said "Sure! It sounds like it's right up my alley. Er, kitchen."

    70 Meals, One Trip to the Store is by Kelly Donlea, a cook and writer who shares her kitchen skills and philosophies in the Chicago area by way of cooking classes and demonstrations. She's expanding her programs by way of her web site, Organizing Dinner.

    You've read about my ideas and philosophies in creating pantry raids rather than run out to the store for missing ingredients. It's a frugal, time-saving, and even sustainable attitude. Kelly Donlea expresses a similar point of view in her introduction.

    "Facing dinner feeling helpless leads people to head to the drive-through, reach for a pre-packaged freezer meal, or run to the grocery store for last-minute, unorganized ingredients. These options leave you feeling less than successful in the kitchen. Not to mention, with an unsatisfying culinary experience."

    70 Meals, One Trip to the Store provides basic shopping lists to stock a pantry: a pantry suitable for raiding regularly. The recipes all use the same basic ingredients, but provide a variety of tastes and styles to keep an entire family's palates satisfied. After an introduction, the book begins with advice for getting started. A semi-annual shopping list stocks the pantry with core ingredients: canned goods, dry goods, condiments, and freezer staples. A sample weekly list suggests perishables to buy as needed: produce, meat, dairy, and bakery. The only part I'd approach differently is the buying of frozen vegetables, and that's because I'm lucky enough to have a garden and freezer. I will pick beans (or buy them at the farmer's market), then prepare and freeze them. The end result is the same; good quality ingredients, always available.

    Next: the recipes. I jumped right to the Pizza section because we've had a lot of fun making pizza this summer. The first recipe is a standard crust. If this works out, I might not buy crust mixes any more. No more excuses! There's a traditional recipe with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, a barbecue chicken pizza, a spinach and mushroom (I'd like this, but I'm not sure if it would fly with the entire family), and more. The other sections are Chicken Recipes, Ground Beef Recipes, Fish Recipes, and then Pasta, Soups, & More.

    A nice feature of this cookbook is the concept of stocking the pantry and then working with its contents. I've mentioned the frugal aspect and the sustainable idea that prevents unnecessary trips to the store. But don't think it's repetitive; these dishes look delicious. Expect more examples on my Tuesday recipe collection!

    70 Meals, One Trip to the Store and Kelly Donlea's other cookbook Cook Once, Eat Twice are available for order on the Organizing Dinner web site. The Smart Ingredients Blog has a grocery giveaway: a Smart Ingredients Giveaway. One subscriber each month will win a batch of ingredients for making the recipes in 70 Meals. What are you waiting for? As soon as this post goes up, I'm subscribing!

    Organizing Dinner sent me a copy of the book 70 Meals, One Trip to the Store in order to facilitate my review. I did not receive other compensation. The book is a good fit with my attitude and philosophy. Sorry, readers, I'm not giving it away. It's going straight into my kitchen!

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    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Internet Solutions to a Moody Summer

    It's been a moody summer. Rain, rain, go away. Teenager, quit grumbling. Collegiate one, we know you're busy, but does it really take two days to call us back?

    And remodel? Remodel should be a four-letter word. Seriously. At least until the project (another potential four-letter word) is truly finished.

    When I need to retreat into my laptop and cheer myself up, here are a few favorite places.

    Check out July 16; so, so adorable. July 14th's video is outrageously cute, too. Daily means daily; this site updates every day.

    I refer to this site often, so it won't come as a surprise that I enjoy browsing their many pages.

    I didn't add a hyperlink to this one; there's a better link in my sidebar. Swagbucks is a search engine that generates virtual "bucks" for regular users. The bucks can be traded in for gift cards and other "Swag." I usually trade mine in for Amazon gift cards. There's no cost; check it out, using the sidebar link, please. Disclaimer: Swagbucks did not pay me to say this. I really do use their search engine and earn a few gift card $$ by doing so. If you choose to sign up through my link, I will get a few swagbucks in credit for the referral. There's still no cost to you.

    You probably know Twitter. Plurk is another social networking site, but the structure is a bit more conducive to conversation. I'm Ddaisy; there was already a Daisy signed up. It's okay; she's in my network and I like her.

    Ah. I feel better already. Now if only the rain would stop for a few days and my pond, er, garden were more accessible....


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    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Breyers Smooth and Creamy, er, Dreamy

    I asked Chuck and Amigo for their input on the Breyers Smooth and Dreamy ice cream bars and ice cream sandwiches.

    Chuck: Mmm, this is good.
    Amigo: It's good, Mom. I like it.
    Me: Anything else? Details? I'd like your input.
    Chuck: I like the oval shape. It's easy to hold.
    Amigo: I like it.

    I'll give them the benefit of the doubt; they were snacking on delicious, creamy, tasty Breyers Ice Cream and they didn't want to talk with their mouths full. I'm sure they could be more articulate if I gave them time. I didn't tell the guys that these new treats have only 130 calories each - 160 for the sandwiches; they might refuse to eat them if they thought I'd bought something "low-cal." But maybe that's okay: more goodies for me!

    I picked up two boxes using coupons from MomCentral and Breyers: vanilla fudge brownie sandwiches and triple chocolate chip bars. Both choices are creamy and rich tasting, flavorful, and filling. It's a better quality product than the store brand I usually pick up; I could get used to having Breyers in the house! Vanilla was pure vanilla, the chips were real chocolate, and the light coating on the bars melted in my mouth.

    Getting it home was an adventure. The temperature was 84, and the heat index felt a lot hotter. A few streets were closed as crews cleaned up from the hail and wind storm the previous night. I'd run three other errands in the immediate neighborhood (combining trips to keep gas use down), and realized I couldn't make the last trip on my list - not with Breyers Ice Cream in my minivan. It was time to head straight home. I think I confused the clerk, though. She wasn't used to coupons that paid the whole price. She read it on one side, then the other side, and then reread both sides before she scanned it into her register. The coupons scanned exactly as they read: free. Still scowling at me and at my bargain, she sent the boxes down the conveyor to the bagger, who put them in my Chico Bag as requested.

    I still have two coupons for a free box of Breyers Smooth and Dreamy. Yes, you too can confuse the cashier and have a box of rich and creamy desserts or snacks for your freezer! the box won't last long; they're delicious. Leave a comment on this post; make sure you leave an email either through the profile or in the comment box itself. If there are more than two comments (please, please, please), I'll pick randomly and then contact you by email for your address.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Breyers and received products necessary to facilitate my review. Actually, they sent me coupons rather than send ice cream through the mail. But you knew that already. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Rhubarb Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

    Are you almost out of rhubarb? I'm not. I transplanted mine to make more room for the raspberry plants (that I AM going to harvest before the birds do, darn it), and the rhubarb is once again thriving. I'd better use up the bucket of rhubarb in my freezer so I can pick and freeze a fresh batch!

    In an effort to use up some of the rhubarb and to provide a decent snack food for the ever-hungry teenager, I made these.

    Frosted Rhubarb Cookies


    • 1 cup shortening
    • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 cups diced fresh rhubarb
    • 3/4 cup flaked coconut (optional)
    • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
    • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar


    1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in eggs. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.

    2. Stir in rhubarb and coconut. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

    3. In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies. Store in the refrigerator.

    Possible add-ins: coconut (see above), 1 teaspoon orange zest, a few chopped tart cherries

    Mother Nature Network led me to this recipe on AllRecipes. com.

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    Monday, July 26, 2010

    My Garden Show - beyond the backyard

    Looking outside has been a little scary lately. After a recent hailstorm, my tomatoes were draped weakly over their supports. I had to get up my courage and prune the broken stalks, tie up those that were salvageable, and hope for the best. Our fair state and my lovely county have received triple the normal amount of rain for July. If we get a little sun to balance it, the garden will be fine.

    But in the meantime, I just have to live vicariously through my Internet garden friends. Here's a fun site for gardeners of all types, all zones, all sizes of yards or no yard at all.

    Your Garden Show lets readers show their own gardens, see others' gardens, and see all kinds of green thumb results. The features an expansive 6,000 vegetable database developed by Cornell University (778 varieties of tomatoes - I didn't know there were that many varieties!) and a 5,900 ornamental database powered by Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the U.S.A.

    Uniting the 25,000 square miles of America’s gardens and beyond, encourages passionate gardeners to "show and tell.” Maintaining local roots in California, Iowa, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy, the team includes "Groundskeeper" Mark Kane, the former Executive Garden Editor of Better Homes and Gardens. (But does he use a smiley coffee mug like Groundskeeper Daisy? I'd guess not.)

    Like many hobbies and interests, gardening has a strong following on the Internet. is a good site on which to share the fun of playing, er, working in the dirt. Enjoy!

    This is not a paid post. The PR people at sent me an email inviting me to check out the site and share it if I saw fit. I liked it; this is my way of sharing. I hope your garden is growing well, your rain barrels are full, and the sun is shining on your zucchini. Well, maybe on the zucchini. Never mind.

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    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Farmers' Market, Daisy Style

    It's a typical Saturday, a bit hotter than most. I hit the ground running and got going to the Downtown Farmers' Market early, before the heat and the crowds could move in.

    First step: gather and pack bags. I especially like the one on wheels. That was a find!

    Second: find a parking space. Sometimes that's difficult; see, this area is already full.

    So I'll park on this side instead, and plug the meter.

    Stock up on great fresh foods, bring them home, unpack the bags.

    Reach for apron --

    -- and finally, get to work.

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    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Reading, reading, reading.

    Amigo is grumpy today. He slept until 11, which is not typical for him. He's a teenager, but as teens go, he's a morning person. Sleeping past 10 is unusual for this kiddo. When he's grumpy, there's usually a point at which I just get sick of dealing with him and I have to walk away. When that happens, I think to myself, "Thank goodness for audio books."

    We make regular trips to the public library. I get books for pleasure reading (as opposed to professional reading that I do year-round), and he gets books on CD and books on Play-aways. The Play-away is a cool new kind of technology. It's tiny, the size of an MP3 player. People who check out a play-away provide a AAA battery and a pair of headphones or earbuds, hook them up, and they're all set to listen. Amigo likes to pick out two books on CD and two play-aways. At the rate he's going, he might go through the library's entire young adult collection before summer ends. He's already brought up the idea of bringing play-aways on road trips because they take up so little space in his luggage.

    Our public library is a hoppin' and rockin' place this summer. Finding parking is never easy. Frankly, taking the bus is easier. Librarians have mentioned that the hot weather helps; families want to take advantage of the free air conditioning, and if it means the kids are reading more, great!

    Amigo is at an age where I have less influence on how he spends his leisure time. However, he still reads. In part, that's because our summer reading has always been about fun: sit down on the outside swing, enjoy the breeze, read aloud together. I've never pushed him to read from a specific book list or topic. Many times he reads the Braille copy and I have a print copy and we ready together. Sometimes he tucks himself into a bean bag chair with an audio book and just enjoys the story.

    When a parent asks me, "What should my child be reading?" I answer, "Let them choose." Choose a book, enjoy the book, and have fun reading all summer long.

    I Can Read! BooksBecome an I Can Read! Member

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    Thursday, July 22, 2010

    Back to School Vaccines: it's not too early!

    I'm getting Amigo's paperwork ready for school in the fall. I'm dealing with my own health issues. And while medical care is all fresh in my mind, I find my mind wandering to my own students, those I will teach in the fall.

    Last year the children in my class were hit hard by H1N1. During a three to four week period, I saw five to ten students out each day. Each one missed at least four days; the sickest of the group missed two full weeks of school.

    Amigo is 18. La Petite is 23, a recent college graduate. In the five years between them, immunizations changed. It's very important to keep up on the changes; teens need regular physicals, just like babies and toddlers do.

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is asking bloggers to remind parents to immunize their teens and preteens. Did you know that while most infants and children get the vaccines they need, less then half of pre-teens and teens receive the vaccines specifically recommended for their age group?

    There are serious diseases that kids are at increased risk for as they approach the teen years such as meningitis, whooping cough, and human papillomavirus (also known as HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women).

    Meningococcal infections are very serious and can result in long-term disability or even death.
    Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is not just a childhood diseasemany teens are diagnosed with it each year. Five years ago, one of my 6th grade students had it and generously shared the virus with me - in June.
    Certain strains of HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, can cause cervical pre-cancer and cancer.

    There are three vaccines recommended specifically for kids at ages 11 or 12 to protect them from these diseases:

    Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against meningitis and its complications
    Tdap vaccine, which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
    HPV vaccine, which protects girls and women against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer

    In addition, pre-teens (and all kids 6 months and older!) should get the flu vaccine every year. Even healthy kids can get the flu and it can be serious. Just ask last year's fourth graders!

    You might be thinking, "Oh, that's fine for people with health insurance. What about those who can't afford vaccines?" Many of my students and their families fall into that category. Lost job or low income doesn't have to prevent necessary health care. Look into the Vaccines For Children (VFC) program for funding sources.

    I focus more and more on keeping my family healthy through holistic eating and natural methods. I will never give up their vaccines, though. Immunizations are too important to miss.

    I am writing this post as part of a CDC blogger outreach program. I may receive a small thank you gift from the CDC for my participation in raising awareness about pre-teen immunizations.

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    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    It's in the bag - or it was in my bag.

    Once in a while, the purse gets so heavy I feel compelled to clean it out. Just because I can fit a lot in it doesn't mean I should fill it up.

    Look: even Sadie is disgusted with the junk.

    I sorted, recycled, removed, and replaced. The stack looks much better now.

    It's much lighter on the shoulder, too.
    Maybe I can fit that new book inside now...


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    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Berry Corn Muffins

    The original comes from Food to Live By: the Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook. It was Raspberry Corn Muffins. I had more blueberries than raspberries in the house, so I tried it. Amigo, the big eater in the house, pronounced them good and asked for more.

    Berry Corn Muffins

    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
    1 Tablespoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
    1/2 cup honey
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 cup buttermilk
    6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) melted butter
    1 half-pint (about 1 1/4 cups) fresh berries or frozen, unsweetened berries

    1. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees F. Prepare a standard size pan for 12 muffins.
    2. Place flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to combine well.
    3. Place eggs, honey, sugar, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Gently fold in the berries. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.
    4. Bake muffins until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
    5. Place the muffin pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes - if you can resist! They smell wonderful. Remove muffins from the pan and serve warm - with coffee, of course!

    This is not a sponsored post. I received the cookbook as a Christmas gift, and I'm having all kinds of fun cooking and baking from it. The berry season is nearly over, even in our Northern zones; did you save and freeze any? Try these muffins!

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    Monday, July 19, 2010

    Staying cool in the heat

    We installed central air conditioning when we bought our home many years ago. Health was one reason: Amigo had asthma when he was young, and humid heat would make him miserable. We'd cooled the tiny duplex we called home with a window unit and a series of fans. Finally having central air was a huge relief.

    Air conditioning, centralized or a window unit, isn't always necessary. Frankly, when the weather is less extreme, I'm happy to open up the house and let the breezes keep us comfortable. Our den is usually the coolest room in the house. It's small, it has two windows across from each other, and it has a ceiling fan, too. The windows and fan keep the air moving just right, making the den couch the perfect place for a summer nap.

    But I wasn't talking about napping. I was thinking about cooling, keeping comfortable in summer's heat.

    Mother Nature Network featured 8 Ways to Stay Cool without A/C. Without going over all eight (you can follow the link yourself), I'll choose my favorites.
    -Stay hydrated. Absolutely. Water, water, everywhere. Drink up, folks. I just put a pitcher of fruit punch in the refrigerator in case we need an alternative. Lemonade, iced tea, all are good.
    -Avoid using the oven. Right on! I've cooked on the grill, used the microwave, and the few times I used the oven, I did not preheat and made a point of turning it off immediately. I'm lucky to have a small kitchen, and the heat from the oven does not spread to the rest of the house. And those cookies I've been craving will just have to wait until tonight; it's not worth it to heat up the oven midday.
    -Add to the above: avoid heat-creating appliances during the hottest part of the day. Laundry can wait until evening or get done early in the morning. Seriously. There's not rush.
    -Close the curtains. Blinds, curtains, window coverings of any kind can block the sun's heat and prevent the room from overheating in the first place. If you're using the A/C, this simple step helps keep the cool air from reheating, overworking the air conditioning.

    If you're sweating like crazy and really, really need to air condition your living space, which is the most frugal choice: window units or central air? Leah Ingram discusses this very issue on her Suddenly Frugal blog. The simple answer: there is no simple answer. It depends on many variables. Leah explains it well; check her out.

    So readers, stay cool, drink lots of liquids, and blog from the shade or an air-conditioned coffee shop. That coffee is good over ice, too. Works for me, and keeps me cool!

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    Saturday, July 17, 2010

    Lucky seven: a list of seven links

    I subscribe to ProBlogger not because I'm a professional (far from it) but because his suggestions and discussions are fascinating and useful even to a small-time blogger like me. His latest challenge is a list of seven: seven links. Here's mine.

    My first post, It's not easy being green, briefly discusses the name of my blog and my gardening philosophy. If I rewrote this today, I might rephrase it a bit. I'm not so much a lazy gardener as I am a practical planner. I plant in such a way that weeding isn't necessary every day, I use rain barrels for watering (so easy and so frugal!), and if something doesn't grow well, I'm okay buying it at the farmers' market.

    A post I enjoyed writing: I enjoy blogging in general. If I didn't enjoy it, I would close up the blog and spend my time elsewhere. Many posts that related to the 2008 election were fun to write because they were fun to experience. Volunteering at Democratic headquarters. Election reactions. My favorite, the Recipe for an Historic Inauguration.

    A post which had a great discussion: This post about work email didn't generate a lot of comments, but it certainly described a great conversation. The funniest part? It was all true. All I had to do was copy, paste, and report. And laugh.

    A post on someone else’s blog that I wish I’d written: This was easy. I went straight to PunditMom and searched her archives. The woman is brilliant. Her open letter to the New York Times after a reporter thoroughly disrespected women bloggers - well, read it.

    A helpful post: I searched the archives for "advice" and found this post on increasing backyard composting, the tale of my failed adventure in making marmalade, and this post about pseudo-professional attire.

    A post with a creative title: The recent "No bladder left untested," despite its tendency to make people cringe, gathered a lot of attention.

    I wish more people had read my response to the Republicans' response to BP. Accountability is still important in my world. Is it still important on both sides of the Congressional aisles?

    A list of seven with more than seven links: done! It took a while, but I enjoyed the journey through my archives. Readers, I hope you enjoy the journey through the links.


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    Friday, July 16, 2010

    Coping and Cooking

    I've had a lot going on health-wise lately. Issues that are not life-threatening, but miserable. Sometimes the tests to find out why I'm miserable make me feel temporarily even more miserable.

    So I fool myself into thinking I'm calm. Sitting back on the clinic chair, finding a focal point, breathing slowly and steadily. Visualizing peaceful places, imagining quiet and calm sounds. When all else fails, it's time for my sense of humor to kick in, and I distract myself thinking, "This is going to be a blog post" and then start writing it in my head.

    After the appointments are done, I realize that things really aren't all that bad. Really. But I get home and my body disagrees. Aching back from tension. Sore jaw; I must have been clenching my teeth at some time. Overnight? In the doc's office? I'd internalized the stress I thought I didn't feel and placed it firmly in a convenient joint.

    To make matters worse - or better? - sometimes I don't want to cook, but there is no excuse. We have plenty of food in the fridge and in the pantry. Lots of planned-overs, lots of good vegetables from the farmers' market, and more. It's rather difficult to justify calling out for pizza on a typical summer day, appointments or no appointments. Nope. I'd have to be feeling much, much worse to rationalize pizza, wings, and cheesy bread sticks. Sniff. Sigh.

    It was one of those nights. I was sore from being poked and prodded, achy jaw, sore lower back, and tired. Anemia? Stress exhaustion? Poor sleep? Who knew? But the family had to be fed, and I was the one with time and opportunity to prepare it. I reheated my coffee (half-caff, with an eye toward minimizing self-induced tension), tried not to clench my jaw any more, and took stock.

    Planned overs:
    -chorizo, cooked on the grill a day earlier.
    -sweet corn, already cooked

    Pantry staples:
    -rice (Texmati this time)
    -olive oil
    -roasted red peppers

    Farmers' Market bounty:
    -green pepper
    -fresh peas
    -fresh spinach

    Did you guess? Stir fry! Rice cooked with a teaspoon of seasoning and a half cup of peas added. Onion and Pepper sauteed in olive oil, red peppers diced and stirred in, then corn cut off the cob and added to the mix, chorizo sliced thin, a little water and then spinach on top of it all. Meanwhile, the rice was cooking with the peas in the middle.

    Know what, readers? It's all good. Keeping a well-stocked pantry, and then supplementing it with planned overs and farmers' market produce presented a positive result. It was easy enough to create a decent meal that I would not, could not talk myself out of it. And in the end, I felt better. Better for eating decent food, better for not wasting money, better for not feeling sorry for myself.

    Now that I'm feeling positive and productive, I think I deserve to go out for ice cream. Chuck? What do you think? A grasshopper, perhaps? Get the keys; I'm on my way.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Baby Girl Discovers Shoes

    Is this not the cutest expression ever? Readers, I challenge you; give me a caption for this photo. Leave it in the comments. All captions must be as adorable as she is, or at least as cute as the shoes. Got it? Go!

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    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Strawberry Crunch Bars

    Have you ever looked for recipes and come up disappointed? I have. I subscribe to several food newsletters, follow foodies on Twitter, and own a variety of cookbooks. Sometimes the right recipe just doesn't turn up.

    For example, searching for strawberry recipes will inevitably turn up several that use strawberry jello mix or strawberry jam or a bag of frozen berries instead of real strawberries.

    I wanted a snack bar - something homemade, not a store-bought prepackaged granola bar. Strawberries were in season, and I'd just frozen a big batch and made jam (three kinds!) when I found this. It used jam, not fresh berries, but I made it anyway - with my own strawberry jam.But as I got ready to put it in the oven (I don't preheat until I'm ready in order to cut wasted energy), I realized I didn't have the correct oven temperature. Back to the Internet! I pulled up the original source in case I'd missed that detail: nope. The publisher hadn't put in the temperature. next, I went to Plurk, my favorite social network. I posted my question and within five minutes had the answer!

    The bars are delicious. They're good as dessert with a little whipped cream or good as a snack. So try it: with your own jam or Smuckers!

    Strawberry Crunch Bars Daisy Style

    1 cup all purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 cups rolled oats or quick oats
    1 Tablespoon wheat germ (optional)
    1 ¼ cups brown sugar
    2 tsp cinnamon
    ¼ cup melted butter
    ¼ - ½ cup applesauce (start with the smaller amount)
    ⅔ cup strawberry jam or jelly

    Combine the first four ingredients in a mixing bowl. Pour in the butter and ¼ cup applesauce, and mix until slightly wet crumbs form (adjust the consistency by adding more applesauce). Press two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Spread the jelly or jam over the base and crumble the remaining mixture over the top. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

    Serve warm or cold, with or without whipped cream on top or ice cream on the side. The possibilities are endless. I might try this with a different kind of jam - I wonder if orange marmalade would work? Stop laughing. I dare you.

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    Monday, July 12, 2010

    Remodeling the old homestead: choosing the colors

    We had a big pile of color choices. How big was it? Here it is, Mount Colorama, taking over our kitchen table.

    We narrowed it down, and Chuck analyzed the choices once again. This was harder than it looked; he kept going back and forth, asking what I thought, asking La Petite for her input, going back to the store for a few more. We started making comparisons. School bus yellow? No.

    "Show me that yellow card again?"

    Then Chuck picked a black-eyed Susan from a neighbor's yard.

    I brought home a bouquet from the Farmers' Market.

    Finally, Chuck brought home a sample can of the shade to actually put it on the wall.

    It's good. This is the shade.
    Final pictures: when the carpet's in and the walls are done, I promise I'll share.


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    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    Rain, rain. Or not.

    Our summer started out like a soggy mess. The rain barrels filled and overflowed, filled and overflowed some more. I started rearranging the overflow tubes so that different sections of the garden got flooded with each storm.

    Last week the weather was fabulous. Not too hot, not too cool. Windows open at night for lovely sleeping weather. No rain. We're actually using the water in the barrels! It's the kind of weather when I can actually get out in the dirt and accomplish gardening goals.

    Task one: transplant herbs. I bought a few lightweight, inexpensive pots from Fleet Farm. I moved the herbs from their long hanging pot; now they're on the steps leading up to the deck. I felt like they needed more space to grow and they were getting too soggy. I also noticed that a few stray oregano seedlings were coming up in odd places. They must have reseeded last year, unseen by me. I'll pick up more oregano seeds and fill in the rest; we can reserve this long, narrow pot on the rail for oregano and just say it was meant to be.

    Task two: take care of the transplanted rhubarb. I moved several rhubarb plants from their home near the garage to the former abode of mint and hollyhocks. I've decided to wait a few years before trying hollyhocks again; mine caught a bad case of rust last year. As for mint, we still have plenty.

    Task three: fence the new tomato plot! Chuck started this, but has had little or no time to finish. I'll weed a bit, keep the tomatoes on their supports, but that's all. You see, the neighborhood rabbits have found a home there. We chase them out, wave them off, and talk sweetly to the baby one so we don't scare it. No, not really. But as long as these three adorable furry creatures find refuge in my tomatoes, I can't plant carrots. Or more lettuce. Or expect the broccoli to reach maturity.

    Task four: keep it all watered. That's easy! The barrels are still very full, thanks to yet another storm over the weekend.

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    Friday, July 09, 2010

    Increasing the iron: the research

    I have anemia. Yes, all the garbage my body's thrown at me lately has drained me of iron. In my own locavore way, I'm planning to increase the amount of iron in my diet, too. It can only help.

    So far, I've found that red meat, egg yolks, seafood, shellfish, oysters are high in iron. Some of these are also high in cholesterol, so I'll need to balance this. Shellfish and oysters are not exactly plentiful here in the great lakes, but I can get other fish. Did you notice I left out liver? It's high on the iron list, but it's not going on my shopping list. Nope.

    On the plant side, we have dark green, leafy vegetables (grow, spinach, grow!), dried fruit, beans, lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, and artichokes. Blackstrap molasses is another iron-rich food option. If I make grandma's baked beans with molasses, that would be a great side dish. Red beans and rice would be good, too. I wonder if the rest of the family will eat artichokes? I like artichoke hearts in pasta dishes at the local Italian restaurant. Am I gutsy enough to cook them myself? Maybe.

    The good news? Adding vitamin C in the form of orange juice, tomatoes, or berries can increase your absorption of iron-rich foods. Homemade jam with organic berries! Homegrown tomatoes! Berries from the Farmers' Market on top of iron-enriched cereal - with orange juice on the side! I can do this.
    The bad news? Coffee can actually interfere with the absorption of iron. Hm. Must think on this one. Sob.

    Before I take any more action, I think I'll take a nap. Rest is good. ZZZZZZzzzzzzz.

    Much of my information came from Everyday Health's collection of articles on iron in diets. I'll keep working on it and discussing this with my doctor. No worries, bloggy peeps. And you know it: if I find a good recipe, I'll post it here.

    And you also know this: I'm open to suggestions. Leave me a link to a good iron-rich recipe, and I just might try it!

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    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    No bladder left untested

    It is a cruel, cruel world.

    I needed an ultrasound to help figure out what's going wrong. If you're familiar with ultrasounds and uteruses (uteri?) you might know that these are done with a full bladder. According to those in the know, the full bladder makes it easier to distinguish the uterus and recognize what's in it. Hence, the pre-test instructions noted that for a 12:15 appointment, I was to empty my bladder at 11:00, drink 40 oz. of liquids between 11:00 and 11:15, and then refrain from emptying the aforementioned full bladder until after the test was completed.

    Enter Teacher Bladder!! Educator humor always mentions teachers' superhuman bladders. I can look at the clock during class, register that I have 40 minutes until the recess bell, and say to myself, "No problem. I can hold it." An ultrasound shouldn't be any different. Or should it?

    Well, I was nervous. Nervous about the tests and nervous about the potential results, although I hadn't yet admitted that to myself. Nerves + full bladder = added nervousness and an increased need to go.

    Upon arrival at the clinic, I had to wait in not one, but two waiting rooms. Nervousness + waiting + full bladder = even more increased need to go.

    After completing the final registration and getting my fashionable wristband, I had to walk past no fewer than two large, prominently labeled restrooms on the way to the radiology department. Oh, the torture!

    Yes, I called on my inner teacher - in July. Now that's just cruel.

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    Wednesday, July 07, 2010

    Many moons ago, I thought I was done.

    I thought I was done timing these lunar cycles. Not the full moons that send my students' behaviors into the stratosphere, but the cycles that most women know and tolerate and handle with an aplomb that very few men could face on a monthly basis, thank you very much.

    I thought I was done facing the dementors, those Potter-esque creatures that make their victims chilled to the bone, feel like they'll never be happy again, and after the attack, head for the chocolate.

    I was rejoicing, cleaning out the bathroom vanity and saying, "I don't need these supplies any more!"

    Enough euphemisms, readers? I thought I had reached the big M: Menopause.

    I was wrong.

    After restocking the bathroom and heaving a deep, heavy sigh, I realized this had gone on a bit longer than normal. I made note of the start date and kept track of unusual traits. Three weeks in, I called the clinic.

    We scheduled tests. Blood tests, ultrasounds, the works. I thanked my lucky stars that I have good coverage. I thanked my lucky stars that I didn't decide to teach summer school this year; I had the flexibility to schedule appointments without making sub plans and using up sick days. I could even -- well, anything more borders on TMI, much too much information.

    Results came in:
    I'm anemic. Not surprising, to be honest.
    I have a few abnormal cells here and there, but nothing serious.
    These should not be problems. But should, you know, is a bogus word.

    Based on this, we move ahead. I'll keep you informed, readers and friends. So far, rest easy in the knowledge that I'm resting and recovering, too. And I'm hiding that box of fudge in the refrigerator.

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    Tuesday, July 06, 2010

    Sloppy Joes!!

    This is modified from the Uncle Ben's version; I didn't use the rice. I tried it with rice and it was good, but we felt like putting rice on a bun was a little overkill in the carb category. The sauce was tasty, though.

    We served it with leftover potato salad and veggies from the graduation party. No cake for dessert; it's all gone!

    Sloppy Joes

    1 pound ground beef
    1/2 teaspoon olive oil
    1 cup onion, diced
    1/4 cup green pepper, diced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    3/4 cup ketchup
    2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    1 teaspoon Worcerstershire sauce
    1 teaspoon mustard
    1 teaspoon white vinegar
    1/4 cup water (if needed)

    hamburger buns (I like whole wheat buns best)

    1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add the ground beef. Stir to separate the meat and then add the onions, peppers, garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue cooking until the meat is cooked and the onions are translucent - about 5 minutes.
    2. In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water.
    3. Drain meat. Add liquid ingredients to meat in skillet and stir well. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes to meld the flavors.
    4. Serve on whole wheat buns.

    Mmmm: a simple staple, done well.

    For the original sloppy joe recipe, look here.

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    Monday, July 05, 2010

    Top Ten Reasons I Adore Fleet Farm

    10. Fleet Farm had the tomato supports I needed when no one else in town stocked them.
    9. My receipts come with a discount on gas at their gas station. If I fill up the minivan there after making a purchase, I save. I fill my van so seldom; if I can wait to fill the tank when I'm at Fleet Farm, it's a winner.
    8. The clerk at the Fleet gas station resembles a young Brad Paisley. If the teen girls start hanging around the bait counter, we'll know why.
    7. I can resist most impulse buys because of the unique merchandise. I do not need a blaze orange negligee. Really, honey.
    6. I said most impulse buys, not all. I did buy a small funnel for my jam. It turned out to be a perfect fit for the tops of the jars, and it prevented waste and messes. I've never seen this little gizmo anywhere else - only at Fleet Farm.
    5. It's a huge store; getting what I need requires exercise. Who needs a treadmill? Who needs to walk the mall? I just shop at Fleet Farm.
    4. It's easier to say than Farm and Fleet.
    3. Chuck and I bought our bikes there three years ago, and they're still going strong.
    2. It keeps me humble. Walking from the canning supplies to the garden center I passed through the equine section. There are things on the shelves that a city girl like me will never need. Need? I don't even know what most of the equine equipment is!
    1. At Fleet Farm, I found everything I needed to make my first batch of jam!

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    Friday, July 02, 2010

    Move the spill - virtually

    As we edge into our fair country's Independence Day celebrations, many families will be traveling. While you're making plans and carrying them out, keep in mind the true cost of fuel.

    How big is the Gulf Oil Spill now? Move it anywhere you wish, virtually. I moved it to Lake Michigan to put it in perspective.

    Try it. If the size of the disaster didn't worry you before this, it will now.

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


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