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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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  • Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Ducks in a row, ducks in a row!

    I just finished the workload f
    or my graduate class. Did you hear the cheers? The class meant a lot of work, and it took a lot of energy that I didn't have (darn clinical depression and anemia), but the total time and energy (and monetary) investment was worth it. I learned many fabulous new teaching tools, and I am now certified to teach online. That's the biggest part: I have another option in my future. Just knowing that I might not have to endure another year as damaging as this one - well, knowledge is power.

    I know which coffee mug will be my favorite now.

    I changed the art on the wall, too.

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    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    Keeping the family happy

    Happy and frugal - these two don't always go together. We're pinching pennies these days. Luckily, we've discovered thrift shopping.

    Amigo and La Petite and I were visiting relatives recently, and decided to check out the thrifting opportunities in their town. Amigo needed a polo shirt or two for his forensics meets, so that was our main goal. Amigo, of course, had his own idea: a bean bag chair.

    First stop, their local Goodwill store. La Petite guided Amigo to the furniture department while I poked through the shirts in Amigo's size. My teen, search through his own shirts? Oh, no, he had priorities. But I found two in blue patterns that worked for him, and we checked out. The next store on our list had a note on it. Sister-in-law had noted that this place had lots of clothes. I put La Petite and her smartphone in charge of navigating through town. Our journey ended in a strip mall with the thrift store and a Sears Outlet on the other end. Amigo teased me about trying on a pair of shoes on the way to the men's shirt racks - heck, I didn't know he'd be there before I was because they had no furniture, much less bean bag chairs in stock! I picked out two more - orange this time to go with his school colors, orange and black.

    The Sears location was mainly an appliance outlet, and they didn't have coffee grinders. Yes, dear readers, my coffee grinder bit the dust last week, and I was sad. Very sad. I did find a vacuum-sealer for preserving my garden produce next summer. It's out of season, and that's fine with me! I can store it until it's time to pick and freeze the vegetables.

    Keeping me happy: 4 polo shirts at an average of $1.50 each and an inexpensive tool for preserving the garden yield.
    Keeping La Petite happy: chief navigator status. She's good at this, with or without GPS. Need directions? Ask her.
    Keeping Amigo happy: listening to store announcements in Spanish followed by English, testing his memory from high school Spanish classes. He has excellent hearing and a knack for languages and accents.
    Keeping all three of us happy: time bonding together.

    And the happiest fun? Playing with their baby cousin and the cats when we got to our home away from home. Yes, it was priceless.

    I wrote this post (after returning from our visit and thrifting trip) while participating in Social Moms blogging program, this time in cooperation with Farm Rich. It is not a paid post, but I could qualify for a Target gift card worth $25. To find out how you can participate, click here.

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    What next? What's next? Good day- Bad day

    It's in the same family as the glass half full vs. the glass half empty. If I have a Bad Day, it's often the kind of day with one piece of bad news after another falling my way and my coping skills failing. That's the kind of day I ask, "Oh, no. What next?!" It's the kind of feeling that has me wanting to curl up in a fetal position under a blanket and hide.

    If I'm feeling decent, feeling like I can face at least a small part of the world, I'm more likely to ask, "Okay, I handled that. Now what's next?"

    Wisconsin workers are asking both questions. New Jersey teachers are joining the fray by asking their own governor to respect their workloads. Instead of a sit-in or protest rally, they brought their work out in public. They carried their schoolbags to the local mall and graded papers and wrote lesson plans, creating a new way to publicize teaching: the Grade-In. By creating a useful and productive way to show their work, they asked, "What's next?"

    Publicizing the importance of a job is one way to remind lawmakers that the work matters. I prepared a letter to the editor of our local paper reminding readers (and I hope, my lawmakers) that the union-busting could cost us federal grant money that would eliminate our local bus service. Did anyone in the State Senate or State Assembly realize this? Were they and the governor simply ignorant of the connection, or were they truly uncaring? My representative in the Assembly introduced an amendment that would have exempted transit systems from the law, allowing bus service to continue. In the partisan way, the Republican majority voted down every single amendment to the bill, including this one.

    Amigo doesn't drive. To get to work or to enroll in higher education, he will need the Transit System in our area. He is not alone; many people without cars or without the ability to drive need the buses to get them everywhere they need to go. Amigo's reason? He's blind.

    I can't be in Madison to protest because of my health. I can, however, write letters to my lawmakers and to the newspapers. One newspaper already contacted me for more information; now what's next?! Get on board the bus and save public transit!

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    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Southwestern Beef

    I haven't tasted this yet; it's simmering in the slow cooker right now, even while you read this. Normally I test recipes before I post them, but the meat was still a solid block from the freezer yesterday.

    2-3 lb. beef roast
    1/4 cup onion, sliced
    1/2 cup beef broth or stock
    3/4 cup salsa (spicy to your taste!)
    olive oil for browning meat

    Brown meat on all sides in olive oil. Place in slow cooker on top of onion, with broth and salsa.
    Start by cooking on high for 1-2 hours.
    Turn to low and simmer for 4-6 hours or until tender.
    Slice across the grain or pull apart.
    Serve on rice or as filling for fajitas or burritos.

    Just imagine the aroma in my house!! Shhhh: I'll clean that litter box as soon as I get the coffee started.

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    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Gardeners' Sustainable Living Project

    Over the ground lies a mantle of white... so how can I be thinking green? A week ago I could see brown - yes, the ground was showing! Then we were hit by a late-arriving record-breaking snowstorm, and my gardening goals had to wait. Again.

    Each year, every spring, I expand on my eco-consciousness by choosing at least one more goal toward a more sustainable garden. Last year my goal was learning to can. I made jams, stewed tomatoes, and salsa. I blanched and froze green beans, sugar snap peas, and corn sliced off the cob. In fact, we just finished the last bag of green beans last week. I had just enough organic strawberries to make ice cream last week, and the blueberries in yesterday's muffins were organic, too. There isn't much left in the freezer; thank goodness spring and garden season is on the way!

    My main goal this year is to plant primarily heirloom varieties of tomatoes and peppers. If possible, I'll do the same with green beans and squash. These seeds and seedlings may be more expensive than my usual stock, but the quality and perhaps even the quantity will be well worth it. Last year only half the new garden plot was planted; this year, I'm filling it completely.

    Sustainable Gardening goal number 1: Plant heirloom varieties.
    Sustainable Gardening goal number 2: Fill the space, square foot style
    Sustainable Gardening goal number 3: Enjoy. Enjoy the planning, the planting, the process, and eventually, preserving the results (family says "More salsa this year, mom!).

    Are you interested in becoming more sustainable? Join the Gardener's Sustainable Living Project! There's snow on the ground, but I joined in anyway.

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    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Will Walker Get on Board?

    I sent Chuck a link to this editorial reminding Wisconsin's governor of deadlines to secure funding for Amtrak's Hiawatha line that runs from Milwaukee to Chicago. This is NOT high-speed rail, the money Walker returned to the federal grant. This is the commuter line with ridership has doubled in the past eight years. It makes sense to apply, and apply ON TIME, for the money.

    But when has Scott Walker made sense?

    Here are Chuck's top five reasons that Walker will not bother to apply for the transportation grant to improve the Hiawatha line.

    5. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is a Democrat. Walker hates Democrats.

    4. Tom Barrett is not just a Democrat - he was The Democrat Who Ran for Governor Against Walker. The petty governor will hold that against him forever.

    3. Walker's dislike of rail goes back before his refusal of high-speed rail development. In 2007, he used his position as Milwaukee County Executive to kill a light rail plan that would have complimented the city's bus network.

    2. Did I mention that Walker gave away the funding for high-speed rail that would have gone through Wisconsin, connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis? Therefore, he has no reason to support upgrades for the link from Milwaukee to Chicago.

    And now, the Number One Reason that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker will not apply to help fund the Hiawatha line:

    1. Walker would never do anything that makes it easier for Democrats to get to Illinois.

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    Friday, March 25, 2011

    In favor of Recycling Programs

    In my fair state of Wisconsin, recycling is required by law. Certain materials - you can guess: paper, glass, aluminum, and certain other recyclables - are no longer allowed in landfills.

    • Recycling programs provide 97,000 jobs in Wisconsin.
    • Recycling programs contribute $5.4 billion (yes, Billion) to Wisconsin's economy.
    • 2 million tons of waste avoids landfills by getting recycled instead.
    • Wisconsin was the first state to pass laws mandating recycling.

    Our new Governor doesn't believe Wisconsin should remain at the top of the cycle. His new budget cuts state funding for recycling, but doesn't change landfill laws. He thinks that eliminating recycling mandates and cutting funding to localities will balance the budget. Remember, these materials still can't go in landfills. Does this make sense?

    Gaylord Nelson, proud Wisconsinite and founder of Earth Day, would be appalled.

    What's next? I hope the governor doesn't outlaw composting!

    Facts and figures from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters.

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    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Reading the walls

    Inspiration sometimes turns up in unexpected places. We stayed several days in this lovely inn and noticed messages in strategic places. Can you read it, or is the glare in the way?

    "What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?"
    Below is a little smaller, but worth the effort to read it, too. It's from Vincent Van Gogh.

    "If you hear a voice within you saying, 'You are not a painter,' then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced."

    Look below -- someone listened.

    Her paintings are scattered throughout the inn.
    For me, it was enough to see the quote beside the easel.
    Now I think I'll log off and work on my book manuscript.

    All photos from Sweetfield Manor. Readers, you know how much I need peace in my life; Sweetfield helped provide that, and good coffee, too.

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    Tuesday, March 22, 2011


    I saw a recipe for vegetable gumbo on a wellness page, and (of course) with just a few modifications, we had gumbo for supper. I've made gumbo before, and I've even posted recipes for gumbo and jambalaya in the past. I was especially proud of creating this batch with ingredients we already had in the house. Stock the pantry and freezer well, and it's easy to cook from scratch.

    Daisy's Gumbo

    1 small onion, diced
    1/2 green pepper, diced
    1/2 red pepper, diced
    (Oops, I was out of celery. I'd fed the last stalk to the bunnies that morning.)
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
    1 14 1/2 can tomatoes (I prefer them diced)
    2 cups corn (fresh or frozen kernels)
    2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
    5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
    Optional: Italian sausage and/or shrimp, 1/2 lb. each
    Creole seasoning or hot sauce to taste

    Ridiculously Simple Directions
    Before starting: Brown Italian sausage (if adding meat) and remove from pot.
    1. Over low heat, begin cooking onion and peppers in olive oil. Add garlic (and celery). Simmer for a few minutes.
    2. Add tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and one Tablespoon of Creole seasoning. Heat through.
    3. Add stock. Bring to a boil.
    4. If you're adding meats, add the sausage now.
    5. Peel and dice shrimp. Add 3-5 minutes before serving.

    Serve with rice!

    I made this in my cast iron Dutch oven. It worked like a charm. Heated up evenly, nothing stuck to the pan, it was perfect. Did I mention that Chuck gave me the Dutch oven for Christmas? It's wonderful.

    In case you don't like to follow back-links, here's the Creole seasoning.

    Creole Seasoning Ingredients:
    2 1/2 Tablespoons paprika
    2 Tablespoons salt
    2 Tablespoons garlic powder
    1 Tablespoon black pepper
    1 Tablespoon onion powder
    1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 Tablespoon dried oregano
    1 Tablespoon dried thyme

    Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in a tightly covered jar. Yields 2/3 cup.

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    Monday, March 21, 2011

    Bausch and Lomb Bio-True

    The prefix bio- means life or living. Biography. Biology. Biodiversity. Bioluminescence. I hear you: bio what? Look it up. Bioluminescence. It's cool. Bausch and Lomb set some pretty high standards for their new contact solution BioTrue.

    BioTrue gets its name from the research involved in creating the product. By studying how the eye itself works, how it naturally cleans and hydrates and keeps itself healthy, researchers created BioTrue contact lens solution. Like my previous contact solution, BioTrue can clean and store my contacts. I only need to bring one bottle along if I'm traveling. Unlike my previous solution, BioTrue is exactly the pH of human tears and contains a lubricant that already exists naturally in human eyes.

    I once asked an eye doctor about the importance of the brand name on contact solution. He told me, "For a lot of people, it matters very little. For a few people, it matters a lot." My experience with store-brand contact lens products led me to believe that I'm one of the latter category; quality of solution makes a big difference to me and my contacts. I found BioTrue to be an excellent storage solution for my contact lenses and to clean them as well. It really does keep my lenses, and by association my eyes, wetter, er, better hydrated. This is a product I can buy again, even with my sensitive eyes.
    I wrote this review while participating in a Mom Central Consulting blog tour on behalf of Bausch + Lomb Biotrue. I received a Biotrue sample and a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate. They sent a collapsible shopping bag, too; it's already in my purse and ready for use.

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    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    The world spins out of control

    Recovering from depression isn't easy when the news is bad. It doesn't help that I'm a news junkie, one who reads the print newspaper from cover to cover before turning on CNN. How can I feel like the glass is half full in a bad news world?

    I'm starting week 7 of an 8 week online course. I'm feeling positive. My course work is going well, my grades are good, and I'm keeping up with the interim deadlines for the final work.
    Good news: this course will certify me to teach online.
    No longer good news: These credits would have been enough to allow me a lane change, a move on the pay scale.
    Bad news: As soon as the current contract expires (in June), we no longer have steps and lanes on our salary scale. Spending my money in this way no longer has a financial incentive.

    Glass half full philosophy: This opens up a new avenue for me, that of teaching online.
    Glass half empty philosophy: what a waste! All this money! All this time! All this work!

    Glass half full: At least work-related tuition is tax deductible.
    Glass half empty: in 2012. And who knows what kind of changes may take place in the tax code?

    Glass half full: I'm passing. Heck, I'm doing a stellar job! My grades are great!
    Glass half empty: Who cares? Thanks to our governor, my time, money, and work are worthless.

    Well, this is not working. I'll never finish weeks 7 and 8 if I focus on the negative, the glass half empty ideal.

    Maybe it's as my engineer husband says. It's not that the glass is half full or half empty; the glass is simply twice as large as it needs to be.

    Rats. That didn't help my spirits at all.

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    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Spring (Garden!) Fever

    Yes, I'm getting restless. In terms of health and well-being, I think it's a good sign. The problem is, I can't get out and play in the dirt yet - my garden areas are still covered with snow. Did I mention that yesterday? Uh-huh, I'm a little obsessed. Since I can't get play in the dirt yet, I spent part of today reading about others and their plots.

    Mother Nature Network titled their feature "Save money, reduce stress, and make tastier meals through gardening." Wow, that's some pretty high expectations for a patch of soil! My favorite advice from this piece: conserve water with a rain barrel. Mine are still upside down; the weather needs to get a bit warmer and the ground a bit more solid before I set them up to collect rain water.

    The Eco Women ask "Do you Grow Your Own?" In the midst of the many choices gardeners make, it's easy to overdo. Recycla of the Eco-Women reminds beginning gardeners to start small and choose wisely. Do the research: read the books, check the library, read the blogs and the web sites that pertain to your zone.

    As long as it's getting warmer, I think it's time for me to start putting this together.

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    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Spring Kick Off Blog Hop: Easy Rhubarb Cake

    Spring - yes, I'm a bit obsessed with watching the snow melt. Just like a pot boiling, it doesn't go any faster with me staring out the window. But since Nina and Sarah at Recipe Lion had a February theme of Winter Warm-ups, they decided to think positive thoughts and celebrate March with this theme: Favorite Spring Recipes.

    At the risk of tempting fate or attempting to fool Mother Nature, I pulled the last bucket of rhubarb out of the freezer and tried something new from a Kraft Kitchens newsletter: Rhubarb Dump Cake. It's not a true dump cake in the sense that this cake does layer the ingredients in order, but it is a very, very simple cake.

    Rhubarb Dump Cake

    1 lb. fresh or frozen rhubarb, diced (about 4 cups)
    1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, adjusted for sweetness of rhubarb
    1 package (3 oz.) strawberry or raspberry jello
    1 package (2 layer size) white or yellow cake mix
    1 cup water
    1/3 cup butter, melted

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Place rhubarb in bottom of a 13 by 9 inch baking pan.
    Sprinkle sugar and jello mix over rhubarb.
    Whisk together cake mix, water, and melted butter until well blended. Spread to completely cover rhubarb.
    Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.

    Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I'm thinking of having it for breakfast with a cup of java.

    And then I'll resume staring out the windows and watching the snow melt. There's a whole season of fresh rhubarb just waiting to burst free, I just know it.

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    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    What's on your mind?

    Deciding on one blog post wasn't possible today. It's not writers' block, but the opposite; there's too much going on.

    The new laws have a direct effect on me and my job. Our contract is still being reviewed; I've got one, I just hope all is well so I can sign it and have a job next fall.

    Wisconsin's politics have moved across the nearby Great Lake to the great state of Michigan. Hang in there, workers!

    There's room and plenty of fodder for another depression post. My recovery goes on, slowly: a marathon, not a sprint. Whether it's an informational or personal post, I hope that by sharing I can do some good. Depression is widespread. Because it's a mental illness, people don't talk about it. I'm taking a deep breath and talking.

    La Petite continues her job search. In this economy, I'm happy that she's looking. It would be easy to give up, but she hasn't.

    Amigo is competing in forensics. He hasn't told us much about it; I think he'll be great.

    My garden is still snow-covered. The snow is melting! Eventually I'll see mud, then it'll dry a bit and I'll have soil! Real soil-slash-dirt and I can go out and get my hands dirty prepping for planting.

    We just replaced our main family computer- not by choice. The previous desktop gave up. Thanks to the local Noon Lions' Club, we were able to make it accessible for Amigo immediately. They donated the money for his adaptive software. Their generosity makes our lives so much easier, so often. So if you're looking for a cause, look no farther than the local Lions.

    So, readers, that's a taste of what's on my mind. What's on yours?

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    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Green Bean Casserole

    It's better than you think. This one's from Alton Brown. I found this make-it-from-scratch recipe for green bean casserole on (are you ready for this?) Swagbucks TV. I was earning a few Swagbucks watching their Food videos and saw this one. I called Chuck over to watch it, too, and we decided to try it. The recipe calls for a large cast iron skillet, but I used my Dutch oven.

    Green Bean Casserole
    by Alton Brown, courtesy of Swagbucks TV

    for the topping:

    2 small or 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 Tablespoons panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs will work, but not nearly as well)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    non-stick spray

    for the casserole:

    1 teaspoon salt
    1 pound fresh or frozen green beans, trimmed, preferably blanched
    1 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
    2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1 cup chicken broth
    1 cup half and half

    Preheat oven to 475 F - yes, 475.

    Combine the onions, flour, panko, and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Toss onions 2-3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.

    While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Mr. Brown suggests blanching them now. I used garden beans that I'd blanched before freezing, so I didn't take the time to do it again. So...on the with beans.

    Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or Dutch oven) set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for another one minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6-8 minutes.

    Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place pan into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

    No, this is not a sponsored post, either by Alton Brown or by Swagbucks. If you'd like to sign up for Swagbucks, a fun way of earning something for nothing, there's a button at the top of my right sidebar. If you sign up through me, I get a few "bucks" for recruiting. Other than that, I just keep having fun searching for random rewards and earning points by watching recipes that I might actually make!

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    Monday, March 14, 2011

    In with the good air, out with the bad air

    Last fall MomCentral sent me a Filtrete water pitcher to test and review. We're still using it. I filter water for my coffee, to make juices from concentrate, and Chuck used some last weekend to mix up a delicious rum punch with fresh nutmeg grated on top. Oops, I'm getting off the subject.

    The Filtrete water pitcher is good quality. I replaced the filter on top and kept using it; it's really working out well for us, providing filtered water for many uses and reducing the amount of bottled water we purchase.

    Home air filters should be replaced regularly, too, and Filtrete (a 3M company) makes a high performance filter called the Elite Allergen Reduction Filter. Clean air is just one healthy home tip found on Filtrete's Clear Advantages site. If you're like me, you'll visit a site like this once, gather tips, and then forget to go back. Filtrete makes it easy, though; just subscribe to their eNewsletter. It's seasonal, so it won't clutter your inbox. The eNewsletter offers seasonal tips for air quality and even a reminder to change air filters regularly.

    I did not get an air filter to test for this review. However, I did have a good introduction to the brand from my water filter experience. The Filtrete web page is full of good information and opportunities to buy their products if you can't find them locally. I found a Special Offers page, too, offering mail-in rebates and more. Filtrete is also on Twitter as (you guessed it) @Filtrete.

    Thinking about allergens is making me sneezy. Just staring at my friendly pet rabbit, that loving and shedding little source of animal dander, and remembering the mold season coming soon (begone, snow!).... it's probably time to change the air filter at my house.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Filtrete and received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate. Now I'm thinking about the allergens to come as the temperatures rise and the snow melts; I'd better put down the computer and get the air filter changed.

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    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Depression hurts and confuses.

    Yesterday, my back hurt and my head hurt. My back hurt because I have no energy to stand or walk for any length of time. Making lunch or supper meant pushing my limits, which caused pain. My head hurt from exhaustion; I slept much of the morning, despite sleeping well the previous night.

    Rest is hard to come by in this Midwestern work ethic. I feel like I should be constantly accomplishing something. During the playoffs and the Super Bowl, I could allow myself to watch a game or two - but there was usually laundry in the washer and dryer while I was watching. I'm taking an online class right now, and getting that work done helps rationalize another nap.

    Depression hurts emotionally. Dredging out the energy to make small talk, even with family, is tough sometimes. I've always been a peacemaker - at work and at home. Right now, I just want to walk away. I don't have the energy to converse, much less mediate.

    Some days I have more questions than answers. I've had flashback dreams of that November night in the ER, the night with the chest pains that scared the heck out of me. Why the flashbacks? I don't know. It doesn't mean I want to be sicker or go to the hospital. This dream may just mean I'm doing too much, too soon, too fast. Maybe it's a warning that I need to slow down, no matter what my Midwestern work ethic might say.

    Lately, recovery consists of two steps forward, one step back. Days exist when I have the energy to cook, but not clean the kitchen. I need to slow down and put myself first. Slow down, rest, and heal.

    Now if only our state politics would let up, and I could stop watching news....

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    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Concussion: more than a headache

    There they were, my Green Bay Packers, getting close to the end zone and scaring the New England Patriots because a touchdown would have put the Packers in the lead. Then Matt Flynn's pass was tipped...

    Readers, I hear your questions. "Matt Flynn? Daisy, what are you talking about? Aaron Rodgers was the starting quarterback for the fantastic Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, not Flynn, was the MVP in that incredible Super Bowl win!"

    Yes, readers. Aaron Rodgers, starting quarterback, had been hit hard in the helmet the previous week - hard enough to suffer a concussion. He hadn't recovered sufficiently to be cleared to play, so Matt Flynn, his back-up, started in his place.

    Concussion is the term for an injury: an injury to the brain. When the brain is shaken, spun, or suffers a blow (such as a blow to the football helmet), it moves rapidly - too rapidly - inside the skull. Symptoms of concussion vary, but some key signs of a concussion are:
    • appears dazed or confused
    • can't remember events immediately after or prior to the hit or fall
    • double or blurry vision
    • concentration or memory problems
    • any change in the athlete's thinking, behavior, or physical functioning
    I didn't list loss of consciousness, although even a momentary loss of consciousness is one of the most common clues that a concussion has occurred, because a concussion doesn't always result in blacking out. It's not safe to assume that a young athlete is "fine" because he or she didn't see stars or pass out. Even a "bell-ringer" or a "ding" to the brain can be serious.

    In fact, my caution list is woefully short. Since many young children play under inexperienced or untrained coaches, parents shoulder the burden of watching over their children's safety.

    Aaron Rodgers had the entire Packers' training staff examining and treating him, including doctors and physical therapists and professionally trained coaches. Young athletes don't have that advantage. The CDC has several resources aimed at coaches, teachers & school personnel, and parents.

    If the Super Bowl MVP can miss a game in order to recover from a concussion, anyone can. It's better to miss one game than the whole season.

    This is not a paid post. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) asked me to help publicize this important topic. If you'd like more information, the CDC's home page for Concussion is here.
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    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    Family Travel Tips

    Ten Tips from Daisy for Family Travel

    Tip: Know your limits. Budget and plan accordingly.
    These tips change as families get older. Chuck and I have traveled by train across the country from East to West, and along the East coast from Miami to Washington, D.C. Had we done this twenty years ago, we could have gone in coach the entire way. Now that we're both 50 and, well, mature travelers, we prefer beds at night, so we paid a bit more for the Amtrak roomette. It was worth it.

    Tip: Acknowledge that each family member has different taste, and respect each other's tunes.
    When our kids were younger, we'd bring our own music and take turns choosing what to play in the vehicle's CD player. Now each person brings their own headphones, earbuds, and music player - MP3, mainly. Well, that is, each person except the driver.

    Tip: Have enough cup holders. Seriously.
    Cup holders are awesome. Each traveler should have his/her own. Mine, of course, will hold my morning coffee. Chuck, La Petite, and Amigo? Most likely Mountain Dew. We all have our chosen vices.

    Tip: Travel eco-responsibly as much as possible.
    Whenever we hit the road, I feel some guilt for not being as green as we are at home. Instead of cloth napkins, we'll use paper. We'll pull out disposable wet wipes for convenience. There is room for compromise, though. I often bring my own water bottle or travel coffee mug. Many places make it easy to recycle; go ahead, do it. And when all is said and done, don't beat yourself up for not being perfect.

    Tip: Pack light.
    Somehow, dirty clothes seem to take up more space than clean clothes do. Pack with room to spare. And then there are the souvenirs; leave room if you plan to buy anything at your destination or along the way.

    Tip: Choose souvenirs wisely.
    Did I mention souvenirs? My favorites are those that are useful and fun reminders of the trip. Coffee mugs make great purchases; so do t-shirts and sweatshirts if you wear them. On our last trip, we picked up a lovely hand-made wicker basket. It became an additional carry-on for the trip home, and now it lives next to my recliner with my lumbar pillow and recent magazines in it. This lovely yet simple basket will always remind me of the trip.

    Moving on a bit more quickly, here are a few tips for traveling families:

    Tip: Bring pillows or blankets. My best travel-related purchase ever was a horseshoe pillow. I use it in the car, on trains, and on airplanes. These supplies are almost always cheaper at home than on the road.

    Tip: Bring reading material. Last trip I packed two books, read them both, and left them in the Bed & Breakfast's bookshelf for future travelers. One of my favorite reading tips? Buy a local paper.

    Tip: Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst. If your plane is delayed, what will you do? If the car gets a flat tire, do you know how to change to the spare? If you're stuck in a traffic jam at lunch time, do you have snacks to prevent starvation and (worse) crabbiness?

    Tip: Look for simple pleasures. Scenery. Sounds. Plants. Animals. Regional foods. Time together to talk and simply enjoy each other. The best memories of the trip aren't always those that cost a lot of money. After all, the key word in Family Vacation is Family.

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Alamo blogging program, with the possibility of earning a gift card worth $25. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

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    Tuesday, March 08, 2011

    Pan Fried Cod with Peppers

    Chuck created this recipe based on something he found in the book Dining on the Pacific. He changed the recipe enough to be called his own. He's a great cook; I'd love to see him take over the kitchen, but then who would make sure all the Packers specialty shows were on the air? Never mind.

    Here it is!

    Pan Fried Cod with Peppers


    2 tablespoons of Crisco Extra Virgin olive oil

    1 clove of garlic minced

    1 small can of minced clams, drain out and reserve the liquid

    1 small yellow onion chopped

    1 tablespoon sugar

    1 green pepper chopped

    1 red pepper chopped

    1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with lime juice & cilantro

    Pepper to taste

    Preheat oil in a 3 qt saucepan. Add onion and begin to sauté. Sprinkle in sugar and garlic when onion begins to turn opaque. Sauté for another 2 minutes or until onions just begin to carmelize, being careful not to burn garlic. Add peppers and tomatoes. When peppers begin to soften, add clams without the liquor. Stir, reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 tablespoons of the clam liquor. (This helps prevent the liquor from curdling and will begin to add some saltiness to the topping.) Add pepper to taste.


    1 ½ to 2 pounds of Cod fillets, washed and dried. (About 6-8 pieces.)

    2/3 cup all purpose flour

    ½ teaspoon McCormick’s ground paprika

    1/8 teaspoon McCormick’s ground cinnamon

    2 tablespoons butter

    2 tablespoons Crisco vegetable oil

    Thoroughly combine all dry ingredients in a storage sized Ziploc bag.

    Preheat oil and butter in a skillet.

    Place two fillets at a time into bag and shake them until well coated.

    Place the fillets into the hot skillet and pan fry until golden brown, turning once to do other side.

    Continue until all fillets are done.

    When removing from skillet, place fillets onto a plate with a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

    Serve fish on a bed of rice with a generous portion of topping spooned over it. Serves 4.


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    Monday, March 07, 2011

    Mrs. Lerner's Afterlife

    Let's call her Mrs. Lerner, the teacher in this story. Mrs. Lerner passed away, and continued on her peaceful way toward the pearly gates. St. Peter met her with, "Welcome, Mrs. Lerner. Here in Heaven, we all make contributions. What would you like to do?" Mrs. Lerner responded, "I'm a teacher, so I'll teach."

    Peter called over St. John-Baptiste de la Salle, the patron saint of teachers, and had him escort Mrs. Lerner to her new classroom. When she got there, she was was shocked to see the conditions. 40 desks. 35 textbooks, all outdated. Pencils, pens, and paper were sufficient to supply the class for perhaps one day, no computers existed, and a cracked chalkboard hung on the front wall.

    "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed, "this is horrible!"

    Boom! Suddenly, Mrs. Lerner was in an entirely different locale, escorted by a devilishly handsome young man. With a fiendish smile, he brought her to a very different classroom. 15 desks, well-equipped with supplies, books of all reading levels and interests, an interactive whiteboard, and behind each student, supportive parents. On her desk lay a contract offering the opportunity to bargain for decent working conditions as long as she continued to teach.

    "I don't understand," she murmured, shaking her head. "Why the advantages here, of all places?"
    The devilishly handsome escort slyly reminded the dedicated educator, "Mrs. Lerner, when you asked the governor for this, where did he tell you to go?"

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    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    What does healthy feel like?

    Chuck and I went out for dinner last weekend. I mentioned that it had been two weeks since my last appointment and a change in medications. I thought there was some progress. He asked "How can you tell? How will you know when you're better? What are the signs?" And then we realized together that I hadn't been healthy in months. I might not know what healthy feels like.

    I spent the summer with peri-menopausal issues, ending with surgery that seemed to quiet the hormonal changes. I was still weak, tired, and anemic.
    In September I taught on crutches for a while until the good family doctor figured out that despite the negative blood tests, I did, indeed, have gout in one foot. Reaching a diagnosis meant we could treat that, and I could regain strength and walk around school again.
    Then there was the Virus That Was Not Influenza.
    The following months were full of one thing after another, including clinical depression, eventually leading to the decision to take a long term medical leave of absence and recover from any and all of these problems.

    So once more: how will I know what healthy feels like?

    On an average day, I'm here (imagine me holding hand up to chest level). A healthy person would be at this level (holding hand above head). On a Good Day I might feel like I'm here (hand at chin), but too many days I still slip to here (waist level). That's an improvement. Before I began resting seriously and pursuing formal treatment, low days were (knee level) and average days barely made it to (waist high).

    I'm smiling more often. I sleep a little better, but family doctor is still working with me to improve the quality and quantity of shut-eye. My dreams are still tense, but they're not all school-related. I've decided to set up La Petite's aquarium and put a few fish in it. It'll be relaxing to watch easy to care for. So - is this what healthy feels like? No, not really, but I do feel improvement.

    I guess I'll keep reveling in each small improvement, taking care of myself, and moving those levels gradually higher and higher. Some day in the future, I'll look in the mirror and realize "This is what healthy looks and feels like." Readers, trust me; I'll let you know when that day arrives!

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    Wednesday, March 02, 2011

    An Oldie,but Goodie: A Tribute to Dr. Seuss

    originally posted in March 2007; originally published in WSRA Journal in 1997

    When we were young
    And could pick up a book,
    A man with a gift
    Made us all take a look

    At a cat with a mission,
    A feline with style,
    Dressed up in a hat
    With a hint of beguile.

    The cat made us smile,
    The Grinch brought a tear.
    While the Whos down in Whoville
    Inspired a cheer.

    Those red fish and blue fish
    Or green eggs and ham
    The Star Bellied Sneetches
    And that Sam-I-Am

    The poor little boy
    Wearing five hundred hats
    Got caught in the oobleck
    That fell and went splat.

    His stories had morals,
    Were strong with conviction,
    Even though written
    As young readers' fiction.

    A clear point of view,
    The compassion he saw,
    Like"...a person's a person,
    No matter how small."

    The elephant Horton
    Who said what he meant,
    That he could be faithful,
    One hundred percent.

    And think of the Lorax,
    The one who said, "Please,
    Oh, Please stop destroying
    The Truffula Trees!"

    His creatures were special,
    Both comic and tragic,
    Some small and some large,
    With an aura of magic.

    Think of the characters,
    Ageless and timeless,
    And how he could make
    Something rhyme that seemed rhymeless!

    The point of my story,
    I'm sure you have reckoned,
    Someone quite special
    Was born on March second.

    Creator of Yertle,
    And Thidwick the Moose,
    A talent unequaled:
    The dear Dr. Seuss.

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    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Potluck with the Geeks

    Chuck was at a model train show recently. While he was gone, I realized I had a draft in my queue that I hadn't posted yet. What does that have to do with trains? Read on.

    It was the annual gathering of the model train club: a cookout-slash-potluck of the guys. They requested that Chuck bring his famous German potato salad. He did, but he did even better. Remember, these guys are geeks who identify totally with the main characters on the show Big Bang Theory.

    From the left: Fizzbin Fruit Salad, Pickles Set on Stun, Photon Tomatoes, and the aforementioned potato salad.

    Fruit salad:
    fresh pineapple, raisins, gooseberries,

    Photon tomatoes:
    spicy deviled egg mix (yolks only) in plum tomatoes: use the yolks of hardboiled eggs for a traditional deviled egg mix, with the addition of smokey red pepper sauce. Scoop the seeds and pulp out of the cherry tomatoes; fill with the egg mixture and top with the tops of the cherry tomatoes.

    Pickles set on Stun:
    pickles marinaded in brine from Marzetti's hot pickled yellow peppers.

    Next year I think he'll bring something that requires a pizza cutter so he can bring his new one.
    Thanks, ThinkGeek. You're awesome.


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