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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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  • Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Daisy's Turkey Impossible Pot Pie

    Perhaps you've heard of the faux- pot pie trick, using biscuit mix instead of a pie crust. I'd heard it, but never used it. With a refrigerator full of turkey and other random turkey-related ingredients, I decided to try this. Here's the resulting formula, Daisy style.

    Filling (a.k.a. "crust")
    1 1/3 cup milk
    4 eggs
    1 cup Bisquick or other biscuit mix
    1/2 tsp. garlic salt
    1/4 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp herbs (I used fresh thyme & rosemary, growing in pots on top of the piano)

    Main Ingredients
    1 cups turkey, cooked & chopped (I used dark meat)
    1 1/2 cup vegetables (I used corn with a little broccoli & cauliflower)
    1 cup mushroom pieces (optional; I left this out)
    1/2 cup onions, diced (we had pearl onions leftover from soup; they were delicious in this)
    1/2 cup diced bell peppers, red & green
    1 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of Swiss and mild cheddar)

    Preheat oven to 400. Spray two pie pans or 8 inch round cake pans with nonstick spray. Thaw and drain vegetables. Mix meat, vegetables, and cheese in pie plates. Beat filling (crust) ingredients until smooth. Pour into pie pans over meat mixture. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes; serve warm.

    According to the original, one pie pan serves two people. We found that one was almost enough to serve our family of four. 2/3 of the second pan was left over. Leftover leftovers! Delicious. Next time I make this, I'll add gravy because the end result was a little dry. Chuck poured a little gravy over his second helping and pronounced it good, so I'll take that under advisement.

    For the original recipe, look to Healthy Home Recipes' web site. They have more options and ideas for this one, and the link might just lead you to something else that you like.

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    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    May all your holiday photos be lovely - Adobe Photoshop Elements can help

    I'm fortunate to live with an aspiring professional photographer. She does more than take pictures; she makes pictures. She uses her artist's eye, knowledge, and experience to set up the photo and edits it, crops it, makes it work. I learn from watching her, even though I know I'll never be at her level.

    I do take pictures for my blog(s) and for the school slide show. If I ever give in and open a Facebook page, I'm sure I'll post pictures there, too. But anyway, back to the topic at hand: here's my list of five tips for making a good digital photograph.

    1. Set up the photo before taking it. Look at the background and the lighting. A clean photo setting in the first place is easier than editing out clutter later.
    2. Know your camera and its settings. I'm still learning mine. When I think it through and set it up thoughtfully, the pictures turn out much better.
    3. Know your editing software. I'm looking into Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 for myself. I do not need the professional level Photoshop software, but I do want my end result to look good. La Petite uses a professional version of Photoshop, and she does wonderful work.
    4. Keep the camera charged. I know, that's a "Doh!" piece of advice. I turned up at the Homecoming parade ready to take pictures only to find I had enough charge for one. One picture of my students in their school colors. I haven't made that mistake again.
    5. Organize. My photos are in file folders by date and by topic. I delete those I no longer need, such as photos intended for the blog but never used. I also save them in compre
    ssed size for blog use; if a photo might be needed in its full resolution, I save it twice: once compressed, once not.

    One summer evening, Amigo and I were sitting outside reading in the backyard swing. La Petite hovered with her camera, making pictures of Amigo's graceful hands reading Braille. She eventually left us alone with our Harry Potter and went inside to download and edit her work. The final result was a contest winner titled "Touching Words." The photo is lovely, but my favorite part is the back story. Amigo had a spot of marinara sauce on his hand from the lasagna we'd had for supper. She had to edit out the sauce with Photoshop before printing and displaying the picture.

    Was it worth it? I think so, but I'll let you be the judge. Here it is: La Petite's photo of her brother, titled "Touching Words."

    For more information on Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, click on the Photoshop Home Page, follow AdobeElements on Twitter, or follow Photoshop Elements on Facebook.

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Adobe blogging program, making me eligible to receive a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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    Friday, November 26, 2010 Custom Photo Books

    Making gifts personal is a special and important part of Christmas. When Lulu asked me to try out their site by making a photo book, I thought of Christmas gifts right away. With La Petite's photos and editing assistance, I put together a lovely book of her work.

    Uploading the pictures was easy, although it took time. La Petite uses a professional quality camera, so her photos were quite high resolution. The time was worthwhile to make sure the book was good quality in the end.

    Placing the photos in the book was a mixed success. The drop and drag function was simple, but many of the layouts were odd sizes that required cropping of the original photos. I would have appreciated the option to resize the space on the page rather than resizing the photos themselves.

    I recommend choosing a theme right away. I made the mistake of placing photos in the book and then choosing a theme with the end result of changing photo dimensions. Had I chosen the theme first, I might have avoided some of the problem mentioned above. Themes are varied and can compliment any photo set from any occasion.

    When the demo book arrives, we're going to consider ordering more for gifts. Some people are hard to buy for; personal photo books are a great way to handle the gift dilemma. will offer one reader a free photo book: a 8.5 X 8.5 in. 20 page hardcover book. If you're interested, leave a comment and make sure I can contact you by email! I'll put all the comments in a hat and pick one winner. Contest will close Friday, December 3, to give the winner a fighting chance and completing the book and getting it by Christmas.

    Full disclosure: gave me one free photo book so I could experience the service and write a candid review. We're considering buying a second copy if we're pleased with the end result. There was no other compensation. Frankly, making the book was fun; it was enough compensation in itself!

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    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Thanksgiving Preparations at Chez O.K.: Reprise

    Thanksgiving Dinner? No problem! I'll call in the fairies. They'll do everything.

    The laundry fairy washes, dries, and presses the table linens, including the cloth napkins. If she's feeling generous, the sheets and towels might get folded, too.
    The turkey fairy will practice her specialty and make sure the bird is cooked and carved just in time for dinner. White meat and dark, it'll all be moist and savory and leave just enough leftovers for sandwiches and a turkey noodle soup.
    The baker fairy will take care of pies, pumpkin and otherwise. He's an expert on flaky crust, selected spices, and the perfect portion of whipped cream. Don't let that Simple Simon guy get in the way; the kitchen's too small for anyone who begs to taste the wares.
    The brownie -- the cunning little house elf -- will clean the home thoroughly, put the leaf in the big table, and get the extra chairs out of the basement.
    I wouldn't dream of neglecting the wine fairy: the sommelier so tiny she only recommends, never lifts, a bottle. Her taste is impeccable. Now if we could stop her before she over-imbibes and falls asleep on top of the piano...
    Did I mention the decorator fairy? She'll fix the fireplace mantel with something tasteful and seasonal before she makes sure the couch and rocker are properly arranged for the annual holiday gladiator contests known as NFL football.
    The ambiance fairy keeps the wood fire crackling in the fireplace, the aromas wafting deliciously through the home, and the family discussions neutral.
    The kitchen fairies: really, there must be a whole crew of these talented sprites. One to do the shopping early and avoid the crowds, another to make sure the cranberries are perfect (and local, of course), and a magical maestro with the potato masher. Then we'll need a feisty fairy, one with attitude -- yes, you, Tinkerbell, you can make the coffees.

    Mom, you can send the fairies over to my house now that we're hosting the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. Let them know that I'll have their room ready and their favorite cookies baked. If they arrive on Sunday there should be enough time to get everything done.

    Wait. What do you mean...they're...not....real?

    Originally posted in November of 2008. I'm still hoping these little helpers will make a stop at my house - they haven't yet. Sniff. Sigh.

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    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Cranberry Sauce with Lime and Ginger

    Our traditional cranberry sauce recipe reads like this:

    1 cup water
    2 cups sugar
    3 cups cranberries

    Bring to a boil. Simmer 20 minutes or until all berries have popped. Add cinnamon to taste.

    I found a new one this year.

    Cranberry Sauce with Lime and Ginger

    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup pure maple syrup or maple flavored syrup (we'll go for the real thing)
    1/2 cup water
    1 1/2 teaspoons finely shredded lime peel
    2 Tablespoons lime juice
    1 12 oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries
    1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

    In a medium heavy saucepan, stir together sugar, maple syrup, water, lime peel, and lime juice. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.

    Stir in cranberries. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger. Simmer, uncovered, about 6 minutes more or until berries have popped and mixture starts to thicken, stirring occasionally. Cool.

    Recipe found on Better Homes and Gardens Recipes web site - there may be more! Search them yourself.

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    Monday, November 22, 2010

    How to become a better reader

    Subtitle: a semi-productive cut & paste project to do when testing is over

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    Friday, November 19, 2010

    The continuing saga of UVerse

    Actual email from Chuck: the subject line was "Erg!"

    I didn’t get any housework done because I’ve spent the remainder of the morning on the phone trying to clear up AT&T’s confusions. Here’s the gist of 4 phone conversations, one of which was interrupted because the call was dropped because of the bad wires.

    They called to ask if the technician that came earlier this week (Monday) resolved our problems.

    No, the problems continue. What work did he perform?

    He tested the outside wires, found that there are some problems with the wires. Nothing else.

    Didn’t replace them?


    He was supposed to as per the previous technicians who tested the wires, identified specific bad spots, and put in an order for new cable. So now three technicians have troubleshot my problems to bad outside wires.

    We’ve no information about that, just that the inside technician reduced the speed of your service when he was there earlier.

    What! I’m paying for the higher speed and did not authorize him to do that, nor did he tell me he was doing that. Why did he do that?

    To reduce the number of interruptions to your service.

    (Aha, he’s masking the problem.) Well I want my speed restored and I think I should get a refund.

    We can do that once the problems are corrected and we know how much to refund.

    When are the problems going to be corrected? When are you going to replace the wires outside?

    We’ll dispatch a technician to check it out.



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    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Donors Choose Update: oh, yes.

    I was honestly thinking of writing about compassion fatigue: generous people who just can't give any more. With so many free-lunch students I can't even count them, families who have trouble buying pencils, and my own budget shrinking, I have a hard time coming up with a few pennies no matter how worthy the cause.

    And then I got the benchmark reading levels for my class. Seven fourth graders, only one with a diagnosed learning disability, all reading at a first grade level. Kids reading at the level of Frog and Toad, Henry and Mudge, Little Bear. But they didn't want to be caught reading Little Bear in front of their peers.

    So I went to work. Research: where can I find high -interest, low-reading level books for these students? All want to read. They want to read cool books, fun books. So I found cool, fun, and easy books. And oh, my, were they pricey. Buying any quantity for teaching purposes would require a significant investment.

    I wrote to several civic groups. I had missed the fall deadline for one. One turned me down saying we didn't "fit their mission," but referred me to another source. Yet another funded some more glamorous projects. Face it; books aren't sexy, no matter how necessary.

    Then along came I found them after writing a post for MomCentral Consulting, a PR post announcing their Bing "Our School Needs" project. One of the perks of writing a post was a donation credit code for You guessed it; I wrote my own project so I could keep my donation code at home, er, at my own school.

    I shamelessly promoted this project through Plurk, Twitter, and my own blog. Other bloggers promoted it, too, and even donated. Yesterday I got the exciting news: my project was closed. Funded completely. Done.

    Oh. My. Goodness. I could hardly sit still. Even though I've verified the orders and downloaded the thank you package, I'm still in a bit of happy shock.

    The biggest and happiest surprise was the speed at which the project finished. Several donors ate away very quickly at the first hundred. Then a large donor, a foundation new to me, stepped in and finished the job.

    Douglas and Maria Bayer Foundation, I applaud you. My students will thank you, too - as soon as I get their photo releases and help them write the letters. Seeing the project fully funded so soon and with a major generous donor really knocked my socks off. It's wonderful to see that despite all the needs in our world, compassion and generosity still thrive.

    Now, about those donor codes? The school down the road has a project, too. It's time to Pay it Forward.

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    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Sorry, no food in the house.

    I've been sick lately. It's not influenza, but it's a nasty upper respiratory thing that's just knocked me out cold. I haven't been eating, so I haven't been thinking about posting a recipe, either. My only "meals" have been chicken soup, crackers, and scrambled eggs. I haven't even been drinking coffee.

    Yes, it's that serious.

    So instead of leaving you with nothing, I'll leave you with an old favorite comfort food: Chicken soup.

    Chicken Soup with Rice
    It's the ultimate comfort food; keep chicken stock and chicken scraps in the freezer for soups or stews, and it'll be easy to put together a soup when you're not feeling well. Here are the ingredients that went into mine.

    6 cups chicken stock
    2 cups chicken scraps (from freezer, labelled "chicken for soup")
    1/4 cup onion, diced
    1/4 cup red pepper and yellow pepper, also from the freezer: last summer's garden yield
    1/4 cup frozen corn
    1 potato, diced
    1 carrot, diced (bunnies enjoyed the leftover peelings)
    1 stalk of celery, diced (see above: bunnies handled the ends)

    The entire mix simmers in the crockpot most of the day while I rest and heal. About 4:00, I add 1/2 cup wild rice and 1/2 cup barley.

    By the way - "eating the opponent" takes Green Bay to Minnesota. We're considering, in honor of Brett Favre, serving turnovers for breakfast.

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    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Money Management and Teens

    My "kids" are growing up and handling their own money, when they have it. The recession and its credit bust, especially the sub-prime mortgage crisis, made me think again about the importance of growing up money-smart.

    La Petite had to manage her budget as soon as she moved into a college apartment. We paid the rent, she split the utilities with her roommate, and she and her roommate handled the daily expenses such as food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. Oh, yes, I almost forgot - and bunny food and litter box refills.

    La Petite had a summer job when she was in high school, babysitting a young girl during the parents' workday. She worked at a big box store's garden center when she was home from college. These jobs provided a chance to develop a work ethic and a chance to handle a bank account. Her checking account is held jointly with me - mainly so I could handle deposits and withdrawals while she was gone to college in a different city.

    Amigo's situation is a little different. Teens on the autism spectrum sometimes have a hard time understanding the value of money. He has a bank account (again, jointly held with me, the mom-type person), and uses his own money for a few things. He doesn't have rent or food expenses because he lives in a dorm weekdays, so we parents have to give serious thought to finding ways to help him learn to handle money.

    Money management practice needs to be authentic. Playing games, holding discussions, and teaching him scripted money lessons are not very useful. He needs to plan the shopping trip, load his wallet, and go. Last weekend he took his girlfriend to McDonald's. Simple, yes, but a perfect way to find out how much a fast food meal costs and decide if it's a worthwhile use of his dollars.

    Debit cards and especially credit cards can strike fear into the hearts of parents of teens. American Express PASS program can help. A PASS card is a reloadable prepaid card that parents can obtain for their teens. It looks like a credit or debit card, so teens won't stick out socially by having a "different" card in their wallet. Since it's prepaid, there is no danger of overspending. The Amex PASS card is accepted anywhere that takes American Express. Parents have control over loading funds, monitoring spending, and even disabling/ enabling the use of ATMs if necessary. Gradually weaning teens from the parental control, letting them make small but correctable mistakes, can be part of the learning process.

    My teen is 18 going on 19, older than the target age, but this kind of card would be a useful tool for him. He could learn to keep track of his money online, a more accessible option than a print statement (he's blind). He couldn't overspend, so we'd need to talk over budgets and priorities before hitting the stores. Timing is good right now, too; Amigo loves Christmas and everything involved, including gift shopping.

    American Express PASS card has made me think. And when it comes to teaching money management, thinking is an important first step.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of American Express and received a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate. I did not receive an American Express PASS card as part of the review process; they provided the information and the link to their web site. Check out the site; it's easy to navigate and full of useful information.

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    Friday, November 12, 2010

    Seeking the elusive balance

    Regular readers know that I'm in the midst of an extremely stressful school year. Health issues in September made that even harder. I usually de-stress by gardening, visiting the farmers' market, and then cooking or canning what I harvest and buy. While on crutches, playing in the kitchen wasn't an option. Walking around downtown to buy fresh food wasn't in the cards, either.

    Seeking balance is tough. I'm recovering from the bout with gout, and my feet and ankles are slowly but surely regaining strength. I've learned to avoid the worst of the bullies at school (yes, some of my coworkers are nasty). Nightmares about school disturb my sleep or wake me in a cold sweat with a tension backache.

    I make lemonade with the lemons I've been given by writing grants, procuring books, and preparing a project that will benefit my neediest students.

    A recent weekend showed the challenge of successful balance.
    Spreading compost on the gardens takes strength, risks injuring weak ankle and sore back. But it feels so good, so productive, and sets up for a successful spring planting. What to do?
    I always bring home a bag full of schoolwork. Bringing out these papers and projects takes time and concentration and risks taking my train of thought to scary-stressful tangents. A stack of math or science papers can send my blood pressure sky high, but this work has to be done. What to do?
    The family needs to be fed, the blog needs updating, and there's laundry to wash, dry, fold, and stash. Well? Now what?

    Balance. I drafted the bulk of a math project, a summary and plan of a recent geometry unit for a math training institute I started last summer. With a focus on the task at hand (and the washer and dryer running while I worked), I created a strong rough draft that will need only a few additions and revisions Monday before the class meets on Tuesday.
    Then I grabbed a shovel and went to play in the dirt. Now I can stand and contemplate with pride the compost and soil on top of the barriers on the mint bed. After a few months under the snow and ice, this section will be available for better use in the spring. I stopped after this (three wheelbarrow-loads of compost was enough shoveling for the day) and went back inside.
    More laundry: wash, dry, fold, stash.
    Updated blog, planned more posts for later in the week, knowing I'd be in meetings at least three days after school and have limited blog time.

    There was more, and Chuck kept wondering why I didn't stick to just one project. Alternating physical and mental and emotionally-charged tasks helped keep me balanced. And after that, taking a break by the fireplace and doing a little recipe research helped plan for decent healthy eating later in the week. That's another good time investment; takes pressure off to think, plan, and cook at 4:30 after struggling to teach in a rough environment all day.

    Balance? I might never achieve the elusive goal. Maybe someday I'll reach that point. For now, what I'm doing can only help keep the effects of major stresses at bay.

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    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Veteran's Day

    In honor of our veterans and active duty troops - this day's for you.
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    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Dunkin' Donuts Coffee

    Me and my big mouth. I mentioned the latest product review for my blog and the lovely package (pictured below) that had just arrived in the mail.

    Minutes later, I was surrounded by fellow coffee-loving teachers suggesting that I really needed to expand the pool of taste-testers. They offered the art teacher's coffeepot.

    I gave in.

    The vanilla nut flavor made a home in the school office with our incredibly more-than-competent secretarial staff. They're wonderful people, and they've helped me out so much this year that there's not enough coffee in the world to say thanks. After I made a couple of pots of vanilla nut at home (I had to try it out myself, of course, or where's the integrity?) I delivered the rest of this delicious blend to the divine Ms. M and superior Ms. K.

    The mocha mint flavor tastes like Christmas. The first time I made it, I kept looking outside and expecting snow, not leaves awaiting my rake. I felt like wrapping presents and decorating the tree. I shared about half of the package with my teacher friends, but I'm setting the rest aside for December. They had a similar reaction, invoking statements like "I think I'll go home and find my Christmas music!"

    Pumpkin Spice is perfect for November. Harvest-style flavor, just sweet enough, and an aroma that brings Thanksgiving into my home - what more could I want? Well, someone to clean up after the turkey is carved, maybe, but I'll settle for Pumpkin Spice Coffee for now. The P.E. teacher was especially excited to try this flavor because she had seen it in the grocery store, but didn't want to buy a full bag until she knew it was good. Well, now she knows.

    My professional colleagues understand the role of a good cup of coffee in maintaining teacher sanity. I predict more of these lovely blends will find their way into our school building's coffeepots.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Smuckers and received necessary products to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. All that and a chance to share with my friends, too - now that's the holiday spirit. Thanks, Dunkin. Thanks, MomCentral. I hope your holidays are delicious and enjoyable.

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    Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    And another salsa!

    Every day a few more tomatoes ripen in the kitchen. I didn't have enough to make the canned salsa from last summer (don't even suggest I buy those wimpy grocery store tomatoes to fill in), but I did have enough for a basic refrigerated salsa. When Chuck and Amigo woke up Sunday morning, they smelled chili in the slow cooker and salsa cooling on the stove. They almost (not quite) wanted some for breakfast.

    Tomato Salsa Dip

    1 small to medium onion, diced
    1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    4 ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled, and diced (mine were small, so I used 7)
    1 cup tomato juice
    2 teaspoons dried hot red pepper flakes
    5 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
    2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    4 Tablespoons water

    1. Warm the onion, peppers, tomatoes, tomato juice, hot pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, and brown sugar in a saucepan.
    2. Mix the cornstarch and the water and add to the simmering salsa.
    3. Stir until thickened. Then remove from heat and allow to cool.

    At first glance, this salsa looked watery and overly chunky. I considered taking one third or even one half of the batch and putting it through the food processor for a little thicker, more blended texture. Chuck, however, objected. He thought it looked just right the way it was. So... since he and La Petite are the major consumers of salsa in our home, I decided to let it be. I can always blend it up a bit later if they change their minds.

    Based on a recipe found on by following terarecipes on Twitter. When it comes to cooking, the Internet is a great resource.

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    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Just another recipe contest?

    The email from administration had potential.

    Subject line: "New and Exciting Opportunity!" and I knew it wasn't spam.
    In the body of the email:
    "The USDA is challenging school nutrition professionals, chefs, parents and interested community members to create tasty, healthy, exciting new recipes for inclusion on school lunch menus across the country."

    Has anyone spotted the omission yet?

    So I thought "Recipes. School. Community garden. Local influences. Dairy - grade level curriculum. This has potential." So I went to the web site to find out that each team would "...develop, document, and prepare at least one healthy recipe in one of three categories (Whole Grains, Dark Green and Orange vegetables, or Dry Beans and Peas). The recipes get tested in a school cafeteria, then sent on up the ranks until a final cook-off.

    In the details, I found out that each team had to include "...a chef, a school nutrition professional, at least one student..., and at least one parent or community member."


    I'm only a teacher. I don't count. Students spend more time with me than with any other school professional. I supervise their snack times. I teach the health curriculum. I implement energizers to get them up and moving. I participate on the community garden committee, send home the annual state-given pine trees with advice for planting, and more. Despite my gardening experience, a growing interest in the locavore philosophy, recent ventures into the realm of canning, and skills in contest & grant writing, I'm only a teacher.

    And this USDA school cafeteria recipe contest doesn't include teachers.

    I guess the kids in my school will never get to taste my salsa or my orange marmalade.

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    Saturday, November 06, 2010

    Pants, Pants, Pants.

    Shopping for Amigo's clothing is not fun.

    Maybe that's not a strong enough statement. It is A PAIN IN THE PATOOTIE to shop for Amigo's clothes, whether he is on the shopping trip or not.

    I bought pants for him last summer and brought them home; did him a favor by bringing them home so he didn't have to go to the store. He swore the entire time he tried them on.

    We went to the shoe store. I let the store staff handle him, knowing he'd be more polite to them than he would be for me. While they helped, I found a pair for myself. Amigo made it to the car, then threw a tantrum that I had blown the routine by daring to buy a pair of shoes not on the list.

    I quit. I said "No more!" Chuck is now in charge of try-ons and shoe trips. I will order or pick up clothes as needed, but I will not deal with the verbal abuse any more. Asperger's or no Asperger's, this is not acceptable. If Amigo can't handle it with Chuck, we'll start taking him to the store and shoving him into the dressing room on his own. It's called a Natural Consequence.

    I ordered pants for the young man and got phenomenal bargains (thanks to Kohl's and Mir @ WantNot). Chuck handed them to Amigo this morning during the Saturday morning Public Radio listening routine, and lo and behold - all four pair fit.

    Deep sigh of relief. I cut the tags off and dropped them in the wash. One set of tags was actually fun.

    "So you're interested in (insert brand here)? Nice move. You're obviously smart, confident, and know what you want in life." Since I made the purchase, not Amigo, I'll take the compliment and conveniently set aside the fact that I bought them largely because of the sale price.

    "Relaxed fit: the technical explanation -- We made this to look relaxed, not fitted." Yes, that's Amigo's preferred fit. Relaxed.

    Care advice: "Love your neighbor. Eat more greens. Cheer up; it might never happen. Wash this when dirty." And on the inside of this tag: "(Insert brand name here) has been in the Helps-You-Look-Good business since 1948. We know what we're doing. People in magazines wear this stuff. Fashion people, sporty people. People who don't have to wear a suit everyday. So, we know it works." I can't see Amigo - or Chuck, for that matter - ever working a suit & tie job. This philosophy works for both of them.

    And the final tag in the series discusses the various uses for these pants. "Suitable for: Training, Napping, Eating, Driving, Sports, Whatever." Works for me.

    Why am I wasting these on my ungrateful offspring? I think I'll buy a pair for myself.

    This is not a paid post. If you're savvy enough to do a phrase search for some of they key parts of these tags, you might find out which brand I bought for the ungrateful teenager. Go ahead; click on the Swagbucks button in the right sidebar, register, and then search. You'll make my day.

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    Friday, November 05, 2010

    Lifelong Learning

    The best teachers are lifelong learners.

    At a staff development session the other night I was struck by the observation that none of us were new; every teacher in the conference room had at least 10 years of experience. Several had earned Masters' degrees in education. We were all there to learn a developmental method of teaching word study, phonics, and spelling.

    I learned a great deal. And as I left I wondered, where were the newbies? The rookie teachers, the ones who could implement this immediately and never look back at a spelling textbook in their entire career?

    Unfortunately, we're seeing a trend in recent graduates. They know it all. One, two, or three years into their careers, they know more than the reading teachers. They know more than the literacy coach, the professor who comes in for our collaboration grant, and the more experienced teachers.

    Brand new teachers have several advantages: energy, enthusiasm, knowledge of recent brain-based teaching theories. They don't, however, know more than the experts. And they certainly don't know it all.

    Maybe I should start thinking I know everything. It sure would be easier, wouldn't it? I wouldn't have to keep learning, spending time and energy and even money to find new ways to reach more children.

    Nope. That last statement said it all. Finding new ways to reach more children is the reason teachers keep learning. I think I found my answer.

    Now I'll just watch and wait for the newbies down the hall to realize this, too. Maybe we can carpool to the next class in Words Their Way.

    Or not.


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    Thursday, November 04, 2010

    The mint that took over the world

    I enjoy my mums. They are such tough little flowers; they keep on going into November most years.

    I'm not nearly as fond of the mint that grows like wildfire next to the mums. It tries to infiltrate the mums. It spreads in between the lilies and the daffodils. It smells good, but it is a very aggressive bully of a plant!

    Enter the resourceful Daisy. Dirty cardboard, big bags from bunny litter, large pieces of thick non-recyclable cardboard and layered paper.

    Next: convince Chuck to help. Dig out as much mint as possible. Cover area with paper layers and cardboard. Toss a layer of gravel on top to weigh it down. Later, when there's time, I'll bring up a wheelbarrow load of compost and/or dirt to cover the paper and gravel. Next spring there may be a few sprigs of mint coming up, but I can handle those.

    That's what mojitos are for, right?

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    Wednesday, November 03, 2010

    Putting the garden to bed for the winter

    It looked like this at first. Deceptive, really; the air was quite cold.

    Then I pulled out all the stops, er, stakes and supports and put them in a safe and sheltered place next to the garage. The rain barrel is already off the cinder blocks.

    Without their supports, the tomato plants looked like this -- sprawled across the ground, no strength left.

    Don't worry; I picked as many tomatoes as I could before this. A few random and hardy zucchini, too. We'll be eating fresh for a while longer.

    It's a bittersweet time, putting the garden to bed for the winter. It's the final end of one season and the beginning of another, and the waiting begins until we can plant again in spring.
    Goodnight, tomatoes. Goodnight, zucchini. Goodnight, peppers. Goodnight -- oh, all right, I'm done.

    Cross posted from Green Spot-On, where I am a regular guest on Mondays.

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    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Another Apple Crisp

    It's election day. Chuck is driving a live truck to cover a candidate's victory/defeat party. Amigo is at his boarding school, and La Petite is out of town, too. It's just me and the news reports.

    Readers, you know me. When the going gets tough, I blog and I bake. Apples are in season, so a pan of apple crisp was in order. I added a little rhubarb - the last of the season - too.

    Autumn Apple Crisp
    from Food to Live By; the Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook

    4 pounds (about 10) small, tart apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
    Juice of 2 lemons
    1 cup flour (the book recommends whole wheat pastry flour; I used half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
    1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
    2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
    8 Tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
    vanilla ice cream or whipped cream for serving suggestion, optional

    1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    2. Place the apple slices in a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Add the lemon juice and toss to prevent the apples from discoloring.
    3. Place the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl and whisk to blend. Add the butter. Using your fingers (or a pastry cutter: worked for me!), blend the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples, but do not pack it down.
    4. Bake the crisp util the apples are tender when pierced with a fork, the juices bubble up around the edges of the baking pan, and the topping is crisp and brown, 40-50 minutes. Serve the crisp hot or warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. Coffee on the side, of course.

    By the way, eating the opponent? Green Bay played the New York Jets. Chuck made a seafood chowder on Saturday, and we had bagels for breakfast on Sunday.

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