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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, May 31, 2011

    Daisy's potato salad

    I know I've posted this in the past. I apologize for the redundancy. It was a good three day weekend, with a good balance of busy and relaxing, with a nice short parade on Monday. Picnic season is here and Chuck brought his German potato salad to share. Here's my standard potato salad; we're a two potato salad family! Ah, so skilled, we are.

    1 1/2 lb. red salad potatoes, cut into small chunks (peeling optional; I like mine peeled)
    1/2 cup Miracle Whip or similar dressing
    2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
    3 green onions, diced
    black pepper to taste

    Cook potatoes in boiling water about 15-18 minutes, until tender. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain again, completely.
    Combine remaining ingredients in medium mixing bowl. Add potatoes; mix lightly. Sprinkle with fresh herbs if you wish, and then leave a comment for me. I love new variations on old recipes!
    Refrigerate several hours until chilled.

    Serve cold.

    The green onions and chives are up. I take pleasure in knowing that I don't have to buy green onions; I can just walk out to the garden and pick one when I need it. It's a simple pleasure.

    Enjoy. Stay out of the storms, and enjoy the good weather as long as it lasts.


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    Monday, May 30, 2011

    I love a parade!

    Every year we start Memorial Day by throwing our lawn chairs in Amigo's bike basket and hitting the road for half a block to stake our claim on a good place to watch the parade. Seriously, it's half a block from our home. We watch from the front yard, and when the police are putting the traffic barriers up, we head over and park ourselves in the road under our favorite shade tree. Here's Amigo and MIL cheering on the municipal city band. Chuck? He was relaxing.

    Amigo didn't look excited to see my alma mater march past. Well, at least he applauded.

    I tried to get my neighbor's son in this shot with his baritone - instead, it looks like part of the seventy-six trombone section from Music Man.

    And then we went home. Home, to help out our "real live veteran in our front yard," as Amigo put it. FIL didn't want to struggle all the way down the street with his walker, so he settled under our mock cherry tree and read a book. We gave him a little flag next to his lawn chair so he could be part of the festivities.

    Happy Memorial Day, everyone. May your family members in the services stay safe and return to you soon.

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    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    What to bake?

    Kitchen sink muffins!
    Darn, no zucchini. I thought I had some in the freezer; zucchini just doesn't freeze well. Tips, anyone?

    Make home made ice cream!
    Ah, ice cream maker bowl isn't chilled. Put it in freezer, wait a day.

    Blueberry muffins! Now this I can do. Get 2 cups of blueberries out of freezer, let them thaw for a while, then make muffins. We can eat them tomorrow during the parade.

    Meanwhile, I'll go work in the garden before the rain arrives.

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    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Five on Friday: Politically Speaking

    I couldn't do it. I started to write about the control freaks we have in our state legislature right now, not to mention in the governor's office. I couldn't do it. My shoulders went up to my earlobes, the back of my neck tightened, and my stomach twisted in knots.

    Instead of a standard political post, here's a list of Five for Friday.

    Five Reasons to be Concerned about the Wisconsin legislature

    5. Members of the Senate do not treat each other with respect. What happened to parliamentary procedure? What happened to the golden rule? The rudeness on the Senate floor is downright embarrassing.

    4. Majorities in both houses treat the minorities like dirt under their feet. I understand the concept of "Majority Rules," but in our system, the minority still has the right to be heard.

    3. Even Madison's annual Bratfest is becoming partisan because Johnsonville Brat CEO contributed to Scott Walker's campaign.

    2. The governor still thinks everything goes better with Koch.

    1. I like the name Wisconsin better than its Twitter alternative: Fitzwalkerstan.

    So on we go, into the long weekend. When the politicians walk past during the parade on Monday, I'll do my best to be quiet. Maybe. Or maybe I'll just honk the horn on Amigo's bike to drown out the Republican slogans.

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    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Fun with Closed Captioning

    Closed captioning can be entertaining.

    There was the time I was watching an Olympic hockey game (USA vs. Canada: USA! USA!) and the closed captioner typed "honky talent" instead of "hockey talent."

    How about this one: "Inaudible lyrics."

    Then there was the Piggly Wiggly commercial - or was it just a sponsored voice-over? - that should have read Shop the Pig but instead was captioned "Slop the Pig."

    How about the captioner for the Today Show that had Hoda saying "Good Booze Day Morning!" instead of Tuesday morning?

    Did you see the opera singer who competed on The Biggest Loser? She was on the Today Show, and the captioner wrote Oprah for Opera. Now I know Oprah's all over the headlines right now, but she's not an opera. Not yet.

    A political hot potato turned into "hot spot state toes." The discussion was a federal budget issue, too, not a state conflict. Not that my fair state of Wisconsin is lacking in political conflicts....

    Chuck turns off the closed captioning when he watches Gordon Ramsey for two reasons: 1. I can't stand the guy. 2. The captioning consists of "(bleep) (bleep) (bleep)."

    Enough already. Or do I mean Enough All Red Ye?


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    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Preparation and Planting Progress

    Weeds. Weeds, weeds, weeds. I took a shovel and turned the soil so I could pull out the multitude of weeds that had taken root in my triangle garden. In the process, I found out that my soil is really heavy on clay - still. I'd thought the layering we did last year would have helped mitigate that. Not enough, apparently. Clay and weeds: not a fun combination.

    Finished the weeds and harvested a few dandelion greens for my bunnies' snack! Next: the grid. I used masking tape this time. It's easy enough that it takes no time at all to set up, and temporary enough that it can come down as soon as I'm done planting.

    The next steps aren't in pictures yet. 1. set up the tomato supports, plan where to plant each kind of tomato. 2. Transplant!

    I've been out every morning checking on the progress. There's a little green coming up here and there, and it looks like the right stuff. It looks like what I planted. It will grow, and that's all I ask.


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    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Stewed Rhubarb

    The theme ingredient at Daisy' house is rhubarb. Amigo requested Rhubarb Upside Down Cake, so I'll make that next weekend when he's home. This stewed rhubarb is similar to applesauce, made with rhubarb instead.

    2-4 cups rhubarb, diced (1/4 or 1/2 inch)
    1 cup water (add more as needed)
    Sugar to taste (my family likes it sweet)

    1. Diced rhubarb.
    2. Place rhubarb and water in a large saucepan.
    3. Over low heat, simmer until rhubarb is soft and mushy: at least 45 minutes on low, stirring frequently.
    4. If rhubarb begins to scorch, add another 1/2 cup of water.
    5. Cool and add sugar to taste. I used 4 Tablespoons for 3 cups of rhubarb.
    6. Add additional sugar to the family's preference. We liked ours sweet.

    This was a hit with three out of four family members. Chuck even suggested I find a way to can it. We have enough rhubarb each year; I'll look into it!

    The original recipe came from Big Black Dog. I'm so glad I subscribe to her blog. She has excellent recipes and advice.

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    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Five Summer Getaways & Experiences

    Social Moms wanted bloggers to name five summer experiences that every kid should have. Think about it. The times that make memories are not those that were scheduled to the hilt, but they are the summer activities that were unique and fun.

    Live Music - It's too easy to think that music originates on iTunes or YouTube. Watch the street musicians (buskers), attend local outdoor concerts, look for free recitals, and enjoy hearing talented people share their performance skills.
    Camp - Whether in a tent or cabin, a formal location with counselors or a small tent in the backyard, camping builds appreciation of outdoors. Children who are comfortable exploring the woods are more likely to grow up knowing and caring about their environment.
    Road trip - Long or short, across town or across the country, coping and getting along in the limited space of a car or minivan is a life skill. Learning to use the bathroom before leaving the gas station, respecting each other's personal space, and that the question "Are we there yet?" is not allowed under any circumstances - all of these are skills that will help get along with college roommates, coworkers, and bosses later in life. No matter where the family is going, surviving a road trip is a learning experience.
    Alternate forms of travel - Children who've ridden on a ferry understand how large waterways can be. They may not be able to rattle off statistics like gallons or surface area, but they can describe feeling the motion of the waves and seeing water, water, in every direction. Traveling by train, if you're lucky enough to have it available, provides a whole different set of scenery than highways. And don't forget bicycles; riding a bike to the library beats driving there. Just remember a backpack for the books!
    Farmers' Market - Wisconsinite Aldo Leopold once described two dangers of not owning a farm. "One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other, and the other that heat comes from the furnace." Seeing the people who grow the food goes a long way toward building an understanding that food doesn't originate at a grocery store. It grows in the ground, and someone plants, tends, and harvests it.

    I didn't address organized sports or play-dates or summer school. All of these have value, too. The greatest value of a summertime activity is the experience itself and the memory that experience creates.

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


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    Rhubarb, tomatoes, and random thoughts

    Rhubarb! I have rhubarb! In fact, I spent time last night looking through my new go-to books for canning, wondering if I could can some of this bountiful harvest. Since it was too cold to plant tomatoes until recently, I focused on rhubarb.

    I did find a recipe that looks a lot like the stewed rhubarb I made for supper tonight. It was like applesauce, but with rhubarb instead of apples. Make sense? I found one and thought Yeah! Canning commences! And then realized I will need eleven pounds of rhubarb to fill seven quart cans. Yes, I said 11 lb. of rhubarb! Well, if I harvest and freeze this week and do the same next week, I'll have all eleven before I know it. Yum.

    The tomato seedlings are in the ground now! I tallied up the tomatoes and put the supports in place as a planning maneuver. All right, I also did it because I wanted to get in the garden and it was too darn cold to plant! Only a few green sprouts dared poke their little heads out from the soil, and they're all spinach. Yep. I will have a minimum of 13 tomato plants, even if those I started from seed do not make it (darn late blizzard) and at least 5 peppers. The pepper plants are coming up better from seed, and if they survive, I'll have nine pepper plants. Salsa time!

    I'm experimenting with various new dishes, and right now rhubarb is my theme ingredient. Part of the locavore menu involves eating what's ripe and in season. By the time it's our of season, we'll be tired of it and ready to move on to something else. About the time my family rebels and shouts out "No More Rhubarb, Mom!" strawberries will be coming into their prime. Then I can mix strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb crisp, strawberry-rhubarb dump cake -- bwahahahaha! Just kidding, family. I'll be more creative than that. Maybe.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we helped another family rescue five bunnies last Monday night. I think that's a sign that I'm feeling a little more energetic; I went with daughter to help out, even though it was getting late.

    I could share a picture of the garden plot, but it would be rather dull. Soil, compost, remains from last year because I'm going no-till this time, and a few red spiral posts standing sentry, all alone, with small tomato plants.

    But trust me. I'll overwhelm you with garden pictures eventually - hopefully sooner rather than later.

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    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    Mrs. Lerner's Afterlife - a story worth rereading

    Since the Rapture was (ahem) yesterday, I thought it was a good time to bring out this story once again.

    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, May 21, 2011

    The Great Bunny Rescue

    When La Petite's phone rang, it was the mother of a friend. She and her youngest two children had come across five domestic bunnies that had been abandoned at a construction site near a local bike trail. They went back with lettuce and a large box, lured the furry ones, brought them home, and called The Bunny Whisperer, a.k.a. La Petite.

    We knew what to do, so Chuck and I joined her. We gathered two cages with litter, hay, and pellets for each cage. La Petite knew where we were going, so she drove. When we pulled into the driveway, Friend's Mom and two kids in pajamas led us into the garage where she'd set the box.

    Five full grown domestic rabbits were in the b
    ox. Two were harassing the others, so Chuck picked up those two first and looked them over closely. "Yep. Boy bunnies. Let's separate these from the others." We put the two males in one cage and the three females in the other, and they calmed down significantly. All five started to nibble on the hay and pellets, and they even found the corner with litter and used it appropriately.

    Four looked like they may have been related or from the same litter; the other was a lop-eared character who didn't resemble any of the others. He was either a major case of recessive genes or was unrelated. Cute, though. They were all cute, even though they were incredibly dirty from their adventure and trauma.

    We left them settled for the night, and La Petite made arrangements to help Friend's Mom take all five to the Humane Society the next day. When they delivered the bunnies, La Petite reported to me that all five looked cleaner and they were eating well and (are you sitting down?) at least two of the three females were pregnant. We were further appalled.

    We'll never know why the owners dumped the bunnies. Maybe realizing the males were mature was too much to handle. Getting them neutered could have been too expensive. Maybe the owners realized that not only were the males mature, but the females were expecting. If five bunnies are too many, five plus two litters of babies would be overwhelming.

    The girls, getting a little attention
    I still don't fully understand, though. La Petite and Friend's Mom brought the rabbits to the shelter. The previous owners could have done that instead of dumping them. Pet rabbits are not equipped to survive in the wild. They don't know what to eat, and they'll be eaten soon because of their lack of camouflage. With their domestic coloring, they'd be hawk bait before long. The little albino in particular would be easy prey for eagle-eyed predators - and I do mean eagles.

    La Petite was pleased with the people and the set-up at the shelter. Rabbits and other small animals were kept a significant distance away from dogs and cats and in a separate room. She said they looked clean and well cared for. We wished we could have done more. When cash flow is a little easier, maybe we'll make a donation. We're grateful to have a Humane Society in town. We're also grateful to know people like Friend's Mom who thought it was important to rescue these animals when they were homeless and in danger.

    The Boy Bunnies

    We're grateful we're able to make a good home for our pet rabbits: Sadie, Buttercup, and Krumpet. We love them dearly.

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    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Picnic Time at Recipe Lion's Blog Hop

    Recipe Lion's monthly Blog Hop for May features picnic recipes. It's in the 50s today, drizzling, and we even gave in and turned on the heat again, so it's hard to think of outdoor picnics right now. A few days ago the weather was so hot and muggy stores turned on their air conditioning! Well, that's Wisconsin weather: if you don't like it, wait a day.

    Whether having a picnic or dining al fresco on the deck, food safety rules are paramount. Keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold so bacteria doesn't have a chance to grow. If we attend a potluck picnic, I prefer to bring a cold dish for just that reason. Salads are great: fruit salad, lettuce salad, or similar dishes are easy and delicious. Desserts are good, too. My rhubarb is growing like wildfire, so I'm going to bake rhubarb treats soon and often. Here's a simple rhubarb bread that makes a good picnic food or snack.

    Rhubarb bread: makes two loaves

    1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
    2/3 cup vegetable oil
    1 egg
    1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 1/2 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups raw rhubarb, chopped
    1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
    1/3 cup white sugar
    1 Tablespoon melted butter


    1. Heat oven to 325F, lightly butter and flour two 8"x4"x3" loaf pans Combine the brown sugar, veggie oil and the egg.

    2. Combine the buttermilk (sour milk), baking soda, salt& vanilla.

    3. Add the milk mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with the flour, beating well after each addition

    4. Fold in the rhubarb& the nuts.

    5. Turn batter into the two loaf pans.

    6. Sprinkle with the melted butter and sugar.

    7. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

    8. Let cool. Serve warm or cool, with butter or plain.

    My tip for rhubarb; harvest frequently, whenever the rhubarb is red. Use a food processor to chop into tiny pieces. Freeze in a single layer on wax paper on a cookie sheet. When frozen, pour into a container. This method allows cooks to pull out exactly the amount needed without thawing the entire container. Mm; rhubarb bread in January. Savor the thought.

    blog hop button Fabulous Food Friday: May Blog Hop

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    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    The best Mug Shot ever

    When we travel, my favorite souvenir is a coffee mug. I drink from my Amtrak mug and remember the trip on the Empire Builder. I sip from my lobster mug and remember Nova Scotia. Whenever I finish a major project, I like to pull out my "ducks in a row" mug to show that I do, indeed, have all my ducks in a row.

    Now I found another mug, a historic mug, that I must have.

    Last year, President Obama said, "I can't go around with my birth certificate plastered on my forehead." When he released the long version because his short version wasn't good enough for the conspiracy theorists, he told reporters that he didn't have time for this silliness. He had more important things to do. A few days later, he announced that Osama bin Laden had been found and killed. Ahem.

    To thumb my nose at those who still don't understand that Hawaii is one of the United States, the Democrats have come up with the perfect mug.
    Go ahead; go to this link and make a donation of $15 or more and get the Born in the USA mug. Stay active and stay caffeinated and get yourself a piece of history at the same time. I plan on it.

    Disclaimer: I am active in progressive politics, including Organizing for America, but I was not paid or sponsored in any way for this post. This mug was too good to pass up.

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    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Rhubarb Muffins - a classic

    The first spring in our home, many long years ago, we discovered all kinds of fun things growing. We'd moved in late enough in the fall that everything except the grass was brown, and nothing was blooming. We enjoyed the show as daffodils, tulips, daylilies, and even a beautiful bleeding heart bush made their appearances on the stage. Tucked into the backyard next to the garage we found rhubarb.
    Since that spring, I've developed and discovered many rhubarb recipes. This one's tried and true, a regular product of my tiny kitchen. I found it in a newspaper, modified it slightly, and then started making it regularly.

    Backyard Rhubarb Muffins

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    ½ cups whole wheat flour
    ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
    ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup applesauce or 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
    1 large egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
    ½ cup buttermilk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup fresh rhubarb, cut in ½ inch dice
    1/8 cup brown sugar, packed
    1/8 cup chopped walnuts
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with non-stick spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.
    Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil (applesauce), egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the rhubarb. Scoop batter into the muffin cups.
    Topping; Combine the brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over the tops of the muffins, dividing equally.

    Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean and dry. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Makes twelve muffins.
    Alternate topping: After cooling, drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.

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    Monday, May 16, 2011

    To-do list

    The weekend's to-do list:

    Buy plants from arboretum plant sale. Check.
    Remove weeds from garden plot.
    Set up rain barrels. Check.
    Make grid to guide planting.
    Plant tomatoes and peppers.
    Put in the tomato supports.

    The Milwaukee Brewers were playing well Sunday afternoon, though. It was a little distracting. Must enjoy those home runs while they're happening! Go, True Blue Brew Crew!

    The tomatoes can go in tomorrow.


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    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Not everyone loves the rising phoenix

    God help you if you are a phoenix
    and you dare to rise up from the ash
    a thousand eyes will smolder with jealousy
    while you are just flying past
    --Ani DiFranco, "32 Flavors"

    The quote from "32 Flavors" resonates with me, and not necessarily the way DiFranco intended when she wrote the song. Recently I told my family that I am tired of being a trailblazer. I'm hearing impaired. I teach, I write, and no one in the school district seems to know what to do with me. They're accustomed to shuttling their disabled students off to special classes, but a disabled, capable, professional? They're stumped.

    Maybe the image from DiFranco's song is what I need. If I can re-imagine my role not as the one out front stepping in front of the crowd, leading the way through the mud and getting slashed with low-hanging branches, if I can envision instead the phoenix rising from the ashes, it might give me the strength to fight my battles and leave a good, clear path for those who follow.

    It's not easy being - well, it's like Kermit the Frog. It's not easy being different. I wonder if some perceive my success as somehow easier, rather than harder, than theirs. Do they think I got a break because I don't hear well? I have a hearing aid compatible phone. I.T. provided me with a longer cord so the computer monitor doesn't interfere with my telecoil setting. Those reasonable accommodations, however, didn't make teaching easier than it is for other, non-disabled teachers. These accommodations merely leveled the playing field.

    Now I'm moving to a new position, one that I feel will be a better fit for my abilities than attempting to hear and react to a large, noisy classroom. I applied for and got this job through seniority, not through disability. I hope no one thinks I've jumped the line by virtue of my hearing loss. Then again, who cares? Anyone who thinks so is wrong. I know what the truth is, and if I rise from the ashes on my own, it's a gain for all around me.

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    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

    Imagine two elderly sisters. One sister cares for injured birds, fixing their injuries if she can, wrapping them in an embroidered handkerchief for burial if she can't. The other sister provides fresh bakery and home made jam with a special listening ear for the person who brought the bird for treatment.

    Now go back sixty years. Imagine the same sisters preparing for the fair and looking for methods to raise money. One sister creates a cure-all tonic and sales pitch worthy of the best snake-oil salesman, and the other sister goes a more traditional route by entering a cake-baking contest.

    The two sisters are The Bird Sisters in a rural part of southern Wisconsin. Rasmussen's memory for the area is accurate and detailed, and her descriptions show the roads and yards and homes as they could exist. Many such towns do exists, with homes resembling the house where Milly & Twiss live. The setting is as important a character in the story as the people. - home and barn, long roads and small town, intimate church with steeple and bells - The interactions - person on person, person with place - create a complex and bittersweet story.

    Milly and Twiss befriend their unusual cousin Bett, sent to visit by her mother while she straightens out her life. Bett initially provides a welcome distraction from their own parents' conflicts, but she is also the catalyst in a change that alters the directions of their lives. Milly and Twiss are nothing alike in appearance or personality, but Bett's summer changes them and brings them closer than they'd ever imagined - or cared to imagine.

    The Bird Sisters is Rebecca Rasmussen's debut novel. Her narrative is smooth and engaging; her characters' dialogue is authentic and believable. This book was a page turner; I didn't want to put it down. I look forward to Rebecca's future works!

    Crown Publishers (a division of Random House) provided me with a copy of The Bird Sisters with the agreement that I would participate in the book discussion on with the author. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the discussion. My copy will make the rounds of the readers in the family. I hope they enjoy it as much as I did.


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    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Good tired, bad tired

    Good tired means I've been working, using energy well, wearing myself out in a positive way. Muscles might be sore, a little tense, but it's a productive feeling. Spring gardening is one way to reach a good tired feeling.

    Raking, shoveling soil, squatting to plant seeds, all this takes energy. As recently as a month ago, I wasn't sure I had the energy to do any of these tasks. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't, but I know that now I can handle it. I worry, though; am I overdoing?

    Bad tired happens when I wake up in that dark cloud, the dark cloud that holds me to the bed and makes me wonder if it's worth even walking into the kitchen and turning on the coffeepot. Bad tired is not having the emotional energy to walk outside, much less get the trowel and seeds and get the planting started.

    Bad tired feels like "Why bother?" Bad tired is dragging through mud, trudging up the same section of path over and over until I give up. Bad tired is a night when I feel tired, but not sleepy, and get tense just thinking of how tired I'll be in the morning if I don't sleep well. Bad tired, you can see, is a vicious cycle.

    Bad tired happens less often now. I credit my garden with a lot of the good tired. That little patch of dirt that hosts the seeds and seedlings each summer is also a source of motivation for me. The internal energy that says, "Plant now, you'll be glad later!" leads to the good tired, the feeling that I've accomplished something. I have more to plant in the next two weeks, and that's good. Energy still isn't at its normal level, so spreading out the efforts is the best way to handle this. If I overdo and collapse from exhaustion, my two steps forward will yield two steps back, and then it's back to bad tired.

    Deep breath: I brought in the tools. Now the rain can come and soak the seeds. I'm going to take a nap, and it's a good tired.


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    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    SEALS - doing a good job, quietly

    Navy S.E.A.L.S. are in the news right now because of their successful and heroic mission to take out master terrorist Osama bin Laden. In the midst of the flurry of follow-up news, people are asking, "Who are these soldiers, these specially trained men? Where did they come from? What will they do next?"

    My thoughts were running on a different track. While the news programs were showcasing the rough training and the statistics for this group (75% of those who start fail to finish), I was wondering about all the missions they'd completed quietly, out of the public eye. The bin Laden mission was by nature destined to become public knowledge, but much of what they do is less well known.

    I was also thinking about a set of fiction books that follows a different team, the Fey team, an intense team of military professionals who also complete most of their missions quietly, out of the public eye. This is the team featured in The Fey, Learning to Stand, and Who I am by Claudia Hall Christian. The series takes its name for the main character, Alexandra Hargreaves, also known as Alex The Fey for her uncanny knack for solving unusual cases.

    When I'm reading, the characters have to become real in my mind. They can be unusual, they can be over-the-top off-the-charts types, but if the characters feel real to me, I take them into my head and follow their paths through various plots. Alex is a strong character. She's tough, yes, but it's an internal strength that carries her through her missions and her personal challenges. She can be female and be in charge. I buy into her character, flaws and strengths together. Her coffee addiction may be the only trait we share, but I can see into her mind and feel her emotions as Hall's books progress.

    The Fey series ventures into an area of life I know not at all: military life, special ops, green berets. The adventures of the team may or may not be realistic, but I don't have the experience or knowledge to judge. And that's fine; my job as reader is not to judge, but to enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed following the challenges, failures, and successes of Alex the Fey.

    Want to know more? Go to for everything from purchase information to sample chapters.

    This is not a sponsored post. I've met author Claudia Hall Christian through social networking and decided to check out her work.


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    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    To ADA or not to ADA?

    "Don't throw ADA at me; it makes me angry."

    Let's set aside for the moment the fact that the principal who growled this at me was actually quoting the wrong law; he should have said "IDEA" or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This quote is a strong memory from Amigo's primary years. We'd reminded the principal that he needed to use appropriate methods for dealing with a blind child, and he put on an attitude. That attitude was part of his problem; he didn't want to recognize the need for reasonable accommodation, much less take responsibility for accommodating for a student's disability.

    Now the position is different. I'm seeking reasonable accommodation for my hearing loss. I've handled all necessary adaptation for fifteen years - buying and maintaining hearing aids (not covered by insurance), working with the IT dept. to get a usable phone and a slightly longer cord so the computer didn't interfere with the telecoil settings on my hearing aids.

    Now I'm seeking a preferential placement: one that will allow me to use my teaching skills, but not constantly adapt to noise levels around me. It's taking forever, and I don't feel supported. Thanks to our clueless governor, when our contract expires in July, I may no longer have a professional association for support, either.

    ADA, however, is a federal law, not state. It should still work in my favor. I'm not talking about a lawsuit or taking anyone to court; I'm just looking for a way to continue teaching despite my disability.

    Documenting this disability feels impossible. I jumped through hoops to get an appointment with the Ear, Nose, & Throat doctor (ENT), who told me he couldn't write what I needed because he had no knowledge of teaching. He then referred me to a doctor in Occupational Medicine. My regular clinic wouldn't take me unless I get a referral from my employer or it's a workers' compensation case. The other large medical group in town agreed to make an appointment. Now I just have to worry about whether or not this doctor can write the letter I need.

    This garbage is not helping my depression recovery. Not a bit.

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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    The Icing on the Cake

    Recipes from Moms
    Have lasted the test of time
    Nineteen fifty-eight.

    This is a standard in my mom's repertoire. I remember it being delicious on poppyseed cake, but it'll work on others, too. The last line of the haiku refers to her source for this recipe: Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two Cookbook, published 1958.

    Brown Sugar Icing

    1/3 cup butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
    2 Tablespoons milk
    3/4 to 1 cup sifted confectioners sugar

    Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in brown sugar. Boil and stir over low heat 2 minutes.
    Stir in milk. Bring to boil, stirring constantly.

    Cool to lukewarm (120 degrees, if you're measuring)

    Gradually stir in confectioner's sugar. If necessary, place pan in skillet of ice water and stir until thick enough to spread.

    Recipe states that this is for an 8 or 9 inch cake, but it's really enough for a 13 x 9" rectangular cake.

    Daisy's note: it melts in your mouth, it's so good.


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    Monday, May 09, 2011

    Sorta Square Foot Gardening

    I garden the way I teach and the way I cook; I don't always follow the script exactly.

    In Square Foot Gardening, it's only right if the garden has a permanent grid and uses the perfect mix of soil. Well, I applied some of the philosophy. I rarely plant in rows; I usually plant in groups, often squares, to use the space more efficiently and choke out weeds whenever possible.

    My soil, however, is the basic backyard garden soil with twelve years of compost mixed into the ground. It's not a perfectly lovely store bought mix, but it drains well and grows lots of vegetables. I don't use a permanent grid, either. I like the concept, and I measure (well, I estimate) when I'm planting, but I don't build a grid. I use temporary guidelines of masking tape or in this case, string. Again, not perfect, but it gave me the guide I needed to plant seeds in the right portions and the right places.

    The walkway is an old board. I'm not even sure what it was anymore. Fence? Deck? Now it provides a boardwalk so I can stay out of the mud and avoid stepping on my precious plants.

    This, my friends, is the before picture. In a month or two I'll post a during shot - if I remember. The after picture, the one with results, might not happen. Hopefully, I'll be too busy harvesting and preserving the goodies!


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    Sunday, May 08, 2011

    A Mother's Garden

    My garden is only just started. I've put in the bean and pea seed and a few shallots and onions. Mine isn't nearly as well fenced in as this one.

    Of course, I'm only fending off bunnies, squirrels, and woodchucks.

    Since I don't have to worry about monkeys, I think I'll sit back and have a cup of coffee and relax. Weather permitting, I'll see if I can get a few more seeds in. To me, that's a renewing and relaxing Mothers' Day.

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    Saturday, May 07, 2011

    Treasuring Simple Pleasures & Everyday Joy

    MomCentral calls this blog tour in honor of Mother's Day "Treasuring Everyday Joy." I added Simple Pleasures to the title because the everyday happy moments are often simple.

    My little darlings are entering adulthood; Amigo is 19 and La Petite is 24. Chuck and I are gradually getting tastes of what the home will be like as an Empty Nest.

    Since my children are not home every day, I treasure the days and nights that they're here - mostly. I'm sure we'll reach the point where we love it when they arrive, and we like it when they leave. We're not there yet. I still get a tug on my heartstrings when my young adults leave for school and work in other cities.

    Simple pleasures include eating supper together at the table, watching Jeopardy as a group, and exchanging stories of our time apart. Simple pleasures might be shopping with La Petite; we're both bargain hunters. Amigo is a fan of Public Radio, and listening to Old Time Radio Drama is his favorite Saturday night routine. When I join him, I might listen, or I might just relax with my laptop and work while we enjoy each other's presence.

    Simple pleasures are different when the "kids" are gone. La Petite and I email, text, and chat online when she's not busy. Amigo emails me or calls me with news. He called last weekend as his bus left the site of their forensics meet; he'd earned a first place medal! Thanks to cell phones, we were able to share the celebration right away.

    Yes, my babies are gone. They haven't been babies for a long, long time. If I need to fulfill the urge to snuggle a small one, our bunnies are usually willing to step up. Hop up. Okay, I pick them up.

    In honor of Mother's Day and babies everywhere, Johnson's is contributing $1 to the March of Dimes for each "promise" (like) on their Facebook page. They are also hosting a series of photo contests on Facebook; check out the page for details.

    This was not a typical product review blog tour. I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour sponsored by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Johnson's. I will receive Johnson's Baby products and a promotional item as a thank you for my participation.

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    Friday, May 06, 2011

    The Depression roller coaster

    Some days. I mean it. Some days my anxiety level goes up and down like a roller coaster, and my stomach feels like it rode one, too. Yesterday, for example:

    Woke late, with sinus headache, after nightmares: high
    I know better than to go back to bed when I wake near my regular time. I don't know what possessed me to go back to bed, but I paid dearly for it.

    Drank coffee, concentrated on data entry for local politicos: med. high
    Sinus headache started easing, but still painful; entering data is a tedious job, but it feels good to make a contribution. I kept thinking, though, about how I wouldn't be able to keep up the volunteer work when school starts. School - now that's another nightmare.

    Showered, employed Neti Pot (apologies for that image): improvement. Lowered pain & anxiety
    Between Neti and the steam from the shower, sinus headache finally eased significantly.

    Lunch, noon news: low, somewhat relaxed
    No news may be good news, but I still like to check in mid-day for the Ag Report. Just kidding. My favorite segment is really the PetSaver.

    Ran errands to pharmacy & credit union: anxiety rising
    Staff meeting looming at my new school; almost forgot to use my own bag at the pharmacy, I was that distracted.

    Sent daughter to vet with rabbit: medium anxiety (routine visit)
    But she was driving my minivan with the rabbit cage in the backseat, and paying with my debit card. Okay, I shouldn't worry. So I didn't. Much.

    Killed time before staff meeting: anxiety rising higher and higher
    This was my first staff meeting at my new school, my first staff meeting since going on medical leave. I was manufacturing stomach acid by the quart, if not the gallon.

    Attended staff meeting: anxiety high, but stable
    Introduced myself to new principal, participated in reconfiguration routine (don't ask, it's a routine procedure, but wickedly stressful for those changing grade levels).

    The roller coaster analogy came to me as I put up my umbrella and walked the short distance home. My heart was still pounding, but my mind was listing all the reasons this was a good move for me. Good coworkers, escaping the bullies at my previous school, heading into a positive change. Maybe. Hopefully. Stomach acid subsided, and I went to meet a friend for soup and salad at our favorite family restaurant.

    Then the anxiety level went up suddenly as I plugged in my laptop and the cord began sparking and smoking at a spot that had been spliced. Aargh!

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    Thursday, May 05, 2011

    Strategies: Building consensus or conflict

    I'm a mediator by nature. I keep plugging on, working for solutions. I'd rather look for commonalities than differences, and I'd rather build consensus than conflict.

    That's why I'm so frustrated by my current state leadership. Wisconsin's state senate and assembly are not just dominated by one party, they're ruled and controlled by the majority. Amendments suggested by the minority party are automatically rejected, discussion ignored, and the constituents of those districts end up unrepresented. Demonstrators are taking to the streets because they're feeling unrepresented and they're not feeling heard.

    I'm a problem-solver. I want to see issues resolved and compromises reached. I know budget cuts are inevitable; we teachers have been working under budget cuts for years. We, like the teachers on Jeopardy, are fiscally as conservative as we can be.

    Chuck and I noticed that the teachers on Jeopardy's Teacher Tournament always bet conservatively in Final Jeopardy. Chuck suggested it's because teachers are so accustomed to not spending money that given a chance, they'll keep what little they have. In a Jeopardy tournament, that is a losing strategy.

    If I keep teaching, I'll continue doing more and more with less and less. I'll keep writing grants, I'll keep getting as much as I can for as little as possible. It gets harder and harder to educate children well while doing more with less while our schools are funded by people who believe in conflict, not consensus. And that, good people, is a losing strategy, too.

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    Wednesday, May 04, 2011

    Mother Nature, give us a break!

    A few short weeks ago, this was the view through our front window. It was 2011's version of April Showers.

    A close-up of the branch looked like this. Some neighborhood trees lost branches; they were just too weak to hold the heavy, wet showers. Er, snow.

    It's all melted now, and the weather theme since has been wind. The backyard is either swampy or squishy, depending on whether it's raining or not on a given day. The garden beds look good; they've been raised and composted enough that the excess moisture is draining well. It's still too cold and too muddy for me to spend much time prepping and planting.

    Well, if April Showers bring May Flowers and Mayflowers bring pilgrims, what do April Snowstorms bring? Besides a swampy, spongy backyard, that is. Well, readers, do you have an answer?

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    Tuesday, May 03, 2011

    Chicken Breast with Herbs

    Before I even post the recipe, I'll note for you: be flexible with the herbs. This recipe is likely to still be delicious if you run out of parsley and have to use fresh spinach. Guess what - that's what happened here! I have lots of fresh oregano, though, and that was the main herb. I added onion, too. Here goes:

    Chicken Breast with Herbs

    1/3 cup chopped parsley (or spinach, if your pet rabbits have eaten all the parsley)
    1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
    1 Tablespoon finely shredded lemon peel
    1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
    1/4 cup diced onion
    3 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
    1/4 cup chicken broth

    1. In small bowl, stir together parsley, oregano, lemon peel, and garlic. Set aside. This will smell good!
    2. In 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat, cook onion and chicken until chicken is browned on the outside. Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. Leave onion in the pan. Stir in half the herb mixture. Add broth; bring to boiling, stirring to scrape up any browned scraps from pan. Return chicken to skillet; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 8 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
    3. Serve with pan sauce; sprinkle with remaining herb mixture. Serves 4.

    This chicken dish worked well over long grain rice.

    I do plan to plant parsley so I'll consistently have enough in the house for cooking, even while I'm keeping the bunnies fed and happy.


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    Monday, May 02, 2011

    Daisy and the Gatekeeper

    Actual phone call with clinic; I am not making this up.

    Me: I'd like to make an appointment to see Doctor DHH (deaf- hard of hearing).
    Gatekeeper: Regarding?
    Me: Creating a letter discussing medical accommodations for my job.
    Gatekeeper: Oh, we don't make appointments for that. He just writes a letter.
    Me: He already wrote a letter, and my attorney says it's not suitable.
    Gatekeeper: In what way?
    Me: It needs to be specific, suggesting an accommodation and giving a medical reason for that accommodation. I need to talk to Dr. DHH. Could you please check his schedule?
    Gatekeeper: We write letters to employers all the time. The one you have should be sufficient.
    Me: I've run it by my attorney, and she says it's not specific enough. I'd like to talk to Dr. DHH so we can draft a new one.
    Gatekeeper: We send these out all the time to employers and SSI for disability cases. No one has ever had a problem with this.
    Me: Please schedule an appointment for me so we can resolve the letter completely.
    Gatekeeper: Oh, no, instead let's see what's in your file.
    Me: (pacing next to phone)
    Gatekeeper: Okay, he sent a more detailed letter to your family doctor and a short one to you. You picked it up two days ago.
    Me: Yes. I have it. It's a short summary, and it needs detail. Maybe Dr. DHH could call me.
    Gatekeeper: Let's see if the family doctor letter has what you need. We could send that one.
    Me:(pausing while she looks it up)
    Gatekeeper: Maybe you don't need a doctor's letter at all. You just need the audiology report.
    Me: No, I've already asked. I need a letter from an MD. If I need to include audiograms, I have several years of them on file.
    Gatekeeper: Oh, Dr. DHH won't need more. He has the one from November.
    Me: If he needs to show that the loss is progressive, he'll need a series of audiograms over time.
    Gatekeeper: Oh.
    Me: Shall we schedule an appointment?
    Gatekeeper: No, I'll ask Dr. DHH if we should use the medical letter.
    Me (firmly, but politely): I will stop by to pick up a copy. Do not send it to my employer until I've reviewed it with my attorney.
    Gatekeeper: Oh. Well...
    Me: I'll pick it up Monday morning. See you then!

    Notes: I managed to make an appointment a week later by going through a different receptionist. Dr. DHH was appalled to hear that his "gatekeeper" had refused to schedule my appointment the first time I called. We're still working on the disability documentation, but at least I made it one more step up the ladder.

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    Sunday, May 01, 2011


    La Petite has an internship in another town, so she's only home about half the week. Just so we don't miss her too terribly much, Chuck redecorated the fireplace mantel with something uniquely hers: her collection of Converse shoes.

    Yes, this is only part of the collection. We were able to "borrow" from her supply because she is dressing more professionally now and wears dressier, but still comfortable, shoes. I guess that means she's grown up now. Maybe.

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


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