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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, July 28, 2011

    Finally - or at least a probable maybe

    La Petite and roommate have found an apartment in their new home city. It will be finalized by the weekend, I believe. I hope. She is hopeful, and it sounds like a good choice for them. After much searching and visiting and calling and emailing, this appears to be their destination. Finally.

    Amigo has asked to be more involved with the household cooking. Today he helped prepare the sauce for the pork in the crock pot. The house smells delicious, and he assisted. Later we hope to make ice cream. Vanilla this time: I'm planning on topping it with fresh berries from the farmers' market. Whipped cream, probably, too. Maybe nuts on top. Why am I writing in fragments? No clue.

    The ice cream is very rich and high fat because it's made with whole milk and heavy cream. This might not be good for Chuck's cholesterol. Don't tell his doctor, please.

    Speaking of doctors, I am finally off the waiting list for a psychiatrist. I've been in limbo since April, wondering if my depression is improving slightly or if I'm just getting used to it. Starting Monday, I'll be working with an expert. Finally. There's a shortage of mental health professionals in our fair city, so months-long waits are typical. Thank goodness my illness wasn't life threatening!

    A close friend and coworker found out the source of her own health problems. Her condition can be life threatening, but the medical professionals found it in time to keep her alive. She is finally working with a doctor who understands her rare condition and knows how to treat it. She's a determined woman, and will do what she needs to do to fight this disease and stay as healthy as she can.

    I remain active in Organizing for America (OFA) and the recall efforts in our State Senate. I'll be happy when the recall elections are over - at least I hope I'll be happy with the results. Maybe, just maybe, a change in the balance of power will encourage our state legislators to cooperate instead of fighting. Finally.

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    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Aprons galore

    They hang in a corner of the kitchen, ready for service whenever I need one. They may be stained from their many hours in the kitchen, but that's what they're for. They're my kitchen aprons, and they're getting a lot of use now that the jam-making season is going full speed.

    I pulled them out for a little better view. This coffeehouse apron is quite faded. It goes through the wash a lot. I bought this one - treated myself to a good apron to protect my clothes in the kitchen.

    The pink apron (it's pink, even though it looks quite pale in the sunlight) was a Mother's Day gift. It's in the best shape of the aprons because it's the newest.

    It's not just pink; it's a special pink. Part of the proceeds from the purchase went to breast cancer research. The straps sport little ribbon designs in white.

    And last - but never the least - is the apron Chuck bought me in Seattle. I enjoyed the city and fell head over heels in love with Pike Place Market. While I was browsing, Chuck bought the Pike Place Market apron without my noticing a thing.

    And now, enough of the apron trunk show. It's time to put one of these in the wash, one of these on, and get to making blueberry jam. Yum.

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    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    Raspberry Corn Muffins

    'Tis the season for fresh raspberries, and here's a great way to use them.

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

    1. Position the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400. Prepare 12 standard muffin tins.
    2. Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk to combine well.
    3. Place the eggs, honey, sugar, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small bowl and whisk to combine well. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in raspberries. do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them almost to the brim.
    4. Bake the muffins until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.
    5. Place the muffin pan on a wire rack and let the muffins cool for a bout 10 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and serve warm.

    The muffins taste best the day they're made, but they can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat in the microwave for about 10 seconds each.

    This comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: Food to Live By: the Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook. In the midst of summer's fresh bounty, it's my go-to source for using fresh fruits and vegetables from the Farmers' Market.

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    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    From the Market

    If you tried to follow me at the Farmers' Market, my dear readers, you'd quickly figure out my routine. When Chuck is with me we might stop at a few different booths, but in general, here's the plan.

    1. Park the car. Or minivan, as the case may be. Yesterday I parked my minivan in a row with six other minivans and a motorcycle. It felt right. So right, in fact, that I almost forgot to fill the meter. Parking is cheap in my small city; two quarters and a dime will reserve an hour.
    2. Gather the bags (including the one with wheels) and head into the Marketplace, otherwise known as the Main Drag of my fair city. The Saturday Market takes over five blocks in the center of town.
    3. Walk quickly to the opposite end of the Market to begin. I do this with my bags empty; they'll be full when I reach the area closest to parking again.
    4. Buy bunny food. I mean, of course, buy lettuce. There's a particular booth that has good lettuce mixes and good peas & beans, too. I start there. I have 3 quart bags of their peas in my freezer already. Mmmm.
    5. Buy corn (the only non-local produce I'll buy today), green pepper, and asparagus. The family is getting tired of asparagus, so this batch will get blanched and frozen.
    6. Find a good deal on berries. Today, it's blueberries and a quart of bing cherries. Oh, my, those cherries are good! I didn't see raspberries at my favorite booths; maybe (sniff, sob) that season's over. Already?
    7. Bread! The Amish baker makes such good bread. I normally buy two loaves; this week I only needed one. But it's been too hot to bake cookies, so I bought some of her oatmeal raisin. Yum. Great with coffee.
    At this booth, a young couple tapped me on the shoulder and asked where I'd gotten my bag on wheels. It's a Transit Company approved contraption (meaning I could take it on the city buses), and all three Goodwill Stores in town stock them. Inexpensive, too; I think I paid $12 or $15 dollars for it three summers ago. It's strong and holding up well.
    8. Coffee!! There's a great deli- small grocer inside the big office building at the center of the city. I pass through this former mall on my way to the car. This time, since Chuck wasn't busy looking over the barbecue sauces and salads, I picked up two pounds of coffee beans. The deli owner told me they're both local brands (I recognized this), and I know they're delicious. Win-win, folks.
    9. Back to van, pack the foodstuffs inside, and open the windows. It's hot! I'm sweaty! But it was worth the trip.
    5. Home to unpack! No, dear readers, I didn't take a picture of the counter full of produce this time. I only photographed one item - the one with meaning. In the hopes that the NFL lock-out will end sooner rather than later, I bought - you guessed it, Packer beans. Sing it - Green and yellow, green and yellow, green and yellow...

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    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    Hot enough for you?

    I'll give you some cooling images to cool your thoughts.

    Above: view out the front window, April snowstorm

    Close-up of branch; the snow was that thick and heavy!

    As the heat index rises, keep in mind: it could be worse. Well, it could be very, very different.


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    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    Brewers fans!

    You might be a fan of Milwaukee Brewers Baseball if:

    -a clean load of laundry includes a stack like this.

    -A random stack of caps includes one with an old Brewers logo. It's the one on the lower right with the barrel logo.

    Let's see: there are also three bendable racing sausage figures on my dresser. I didn't share the picture because it was embarrassing - the dresser was dusty. I deleted the photo and dusted all the dressers.

    Now I can watch the next game in peace, with my choice of t-shirts and an awesome retro cap. Go Brewers!

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    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Slow cooker honey "baked" chicken

    I used local honey, of course, from the Farmers' Market. I've been using the slow cookers recently to keep the house cool on hot days and to get supper rolling while I'm playing in the dirt - er, working in the garden. I served this with rice; Chuck shredded his on a bun. It's delicious either way.

    4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    2 Tablespoons butter, melted
    2 Tablespoons honey
    2 teaspoons prepared mustard (optional)
    2 teaspoons curry powder (I substituted paprika.)
    salt and pepper, optional

    1. Place chicken in slow cooker.
    2. Mix butter, honey, mustard, and curry powder (or paprika) together in a snall bowl. Pour sauce over chicken.
    3. Cover and cook on High for 3 hours or on Low for 5-6 hours.

    I used my 4 quart slow cooker. It was a good size. Adjust the amount of chicken and the size of the crockpot to the size of your crowd. This might make a good party dish.

    The original recipe was in Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook, a gem with 1400 slow cooker recipes. This is not a sponsored post; Chuck and Amigo gave the book to me last Christmas.


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    Monday, July 18, 2011

    Garden Mishaps

    Garden growth and development are dependent on so many variables. Rain, sun, quality seeds, critters... oh, yes, critters. I walked out to the garden to pick the few peas that are growing, and I found this little furball sitting in my lettuce. In my LETTUCE!!

    My reaction (you won't be surprised) was to stop in my tracks, look that bunny right in the eye, and call out, "How did YOU get in there?" It didn't answer me. Smart rabbit. It did show me its exit strategy: a piece of chicken wire that had pulled lose from the garage wall, right behind the rain barrel.

    If you'd like to read the rest of my garden mishaps, go to Green Spot-On for my Monday guest post.

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    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Pondering Potter

    Harry had never even imagined such a strange and splendid place.

    What makes a book or series worth re-reading? A good story, believable and likable characters, a unique world so strange and splendid it can't be imagined - unless described by a brilliant storyteller. Harry Potter is one such series.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone has a special magic. The shortest of the seven, it introduces Harry and his readers to a whole new world: a world of magic. Witches, wizards, a sport played on flying broomsticks, owl post, powerful potions, and more incredible yet believable things exist in this parallel world. In The Sorcerer's Stone, Harry first learns of his family and his wizard identity.

    Readers can share his awe as he learns that his new school has its own train that leaves from platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station. Somewhere between platforms nine and ten, he encounters the Weasley family, asks them for help finding the train, befriends Ron, and the rest, as they say, is history. Mythology? Legend? Wizardry? Ghostology?

    I enjoy rereading The Sorcerer's Stone because of JK Rowling's genius. The settings are magically unique, but she describes them in a matter of fact tone so that we readers know this is only the beginning. When she describes the staircases at Hogwarts' School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, all 142 of them: "...wide, sweeping ones; narrow, rickety ones; some that led somewhere different on a Friday..." it's simply in a paragraph about Harry attempting to learn his way to his classes.

    And the classes! No Intro to British Lit here. Harry takes History of Magic (taught by a ghost), Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Potions, and the cursed (literally, but we don't know that until a later book) Defense Against the Dark Arts.

    The "strange and splendid place" in the first line is the Great Hall as Harry sees it on his arrival at Hogwarts. In his limited upbringing by his neglectful Muggle (non-magical) relatives, he had never even dared imagine a world so wonderful.

    Thankfully for all readers, JK Rowling did imagine such a strange and splendid place - a world nearby, yet far different from our everyday Muggle existance. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone stands on its own as a wonderful story and sets up the reading world for an adventure that begins - and ends, several books later - on Platform Nine and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station.

    My students won't have wands, owls, or school robes. They'll write their assignments with pen on paper or type them on computers, not ink and quill on parchment. One of my challenges, though, is to create a safe place for them to experiment, read, and write. Maybe one of them will create a strange and splendid story for another generation - some magical day in the future.

    This is a repeat post from the past. I hope to get to the final movie of the Harry Potter series soon. I've read and reread the books, so I know how it must end. I'll be prepared with a package of tissues. Maybe a wand. Or an owl.

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    Friday, July 15, 2011

    The Professional Wardrobe - second hand style

    Regular readers know that I've traded in my classroom for a cubicle. I'll have a sizable class, but I'll be teaching them online. It's an exciting move, one for which I've been preparing for quite a while.

    My new cubicle will be in an old building that's been remodeled many, many times. It now houses two charter schools on its first floor, IT & helpdesk & Media Central offices along with a computer lab in the basement, and offices on the second floor. The offices include Special Education, Title I, English Language Learners/ Bilingual Education and more department heads. My new workplace, a virtual charter school, is also located on the second floor.

    Now the issues: the building is air conditioned. How well? I don't know. It is heated, but old windows are drafty and leak. The end result: I need to dress in layers. Serious, professional, layers. Since I'll be sharing hallways and bathrooms with administrative peoples, I feel the need to upgrade my wardrobe somewhat. Since my take-home pay will be lower next year (thanks to our nasty current state legislature), I was faced with the dilemma: upgrade wardrobe on a downgraded pay scale after a lengthy unpaid leave of absence. The solution was actually quite simple: second hand. Consignment.

    The first pair of jackets are good neutrals. They're both brand name pieces, and both were on sale 50% off the marked price.

    Then La Petite found some more colorful neutrals for me. I think we'll replace the rhinestone button on the peachy blazer, but I really like the yellow. Fall and spring, pastels for the office.

    Then I became more adventurous. Below is a Laura Ashley jacket in great earth tones with scattered shiny trim. Each time I looked at this one I thought of another pair of pants or shirt that would coordinate with it.

    La Petite said she wouldn't wear it herself, but agreed that it was a good style and good fit (and fun) for me. Here's the back view. It's fairly lightweight, too.

    Then I got serious about having fun. These two pieces were on the clearance rack as I went to check out. It's hard to see the detail on the vest; it's really gorgeous, front and back. These were 50% off the already low consignment price. The shirt is Croft & Barrow; the vest is Coldwater Creek.

    All that for a total of (drumroll, please) $60. Five jackets, a dressy shirt, and a vest: I'm rather pleased with the results. Oh, one more detail: only one needs to be dry cleaned. The rest can be washed on delicate cycle. Now that, my friends, is priceless.

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    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    New Decor: Amigo's Awards

    We've redecorated, courtesy of Amigo. I've actually had these up for several weeks, but I didn't have a picture. Amigo thought the picture would make a good Wordless Wednesday. Oops, I just added words!

    These are Amigo's awards from school! They included participation awards and special recognition, too. The plaque on the left is for the highest point total for a beginner in Forensics. the plaque on the right is a sportsmanship award for wrestling.

    Here's the close-up of his school letter. He earned the letter and pins for track, drama, and forensics. Impressive, at least in my view!

    I'll keep them up until they get dusty or until something else comes up. It's fun to look at evidence of his success every time we come in the room. All in all, he's a pretty awesome teenager.

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    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    Steak with Corn Salsa

    Chuck may not realize it, but watching him cook is aesthetically pleasing. Besides the aromas wafting through the house, he has a knack for gathering all the ingredients in a visual artistic kind of way. Here's today's recipe, in progress. He gets full points for presentation, both during cook time and on the table.

    Chuck made this Sunday night. I'm planning to make it again later in the summer when the corn is local and fresh. We used green onions and cilantro from the garden this time, and we'll have jalapenos and plum tomatoes available later in the gardening season.

    Steak with Corn Salsa

    3 cups fresh corn
    4 scallions, green and white parts cut separately
    2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    2 cloves garlic
    1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper
    1 plum tomato, diced
    1 jalapeno pepper, diced
    1 pound steak
    1/4 cup cilantro, freshly chopped

    Pan roast corn in a large skillet, stirring occasionally until browned. Transfer to bowl.
    Cook the white part of the scallion in the butter along with the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
    Remove skillet from heat and stir in corn, jalapeno, and tomato.
    Combine remaining spices and season steak. Cook to desired heat. Transfer to cutting board. While steak cools, reheat the corn mixture. Stir in green scallions and cilantro.
    Slice steak into thin slices, top with corn mixture, and serve!

    Amigo heard the recipe on one of his favorite Saturday morning radio shows, Zorba Paster on Your Health. He suggested we try it, and we're glad we did. This one is a winner, Zorba. Thanks for sharing!

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    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Rain, rain, come my way!

    The thunder yesterday sounded encouraging, but the storm dropped so little water that I felt I still needed to lug around the watering can again.

    It's been so dry (how dry was it?) that I've used up all the water in both rain barrels and I'm filling the watering can from the house tap. Sigh. It feels so wasteful! I've almost - almost, mind you - been tempted to hook up a sprinkler.

    In the category of wasteful, sprinklers score a capital W for Wasting Water. Why? Find my Monday post at Green Spot-On for more detail.

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    Thursday, July 07, 2011

    Good signs?

    I had cabin fever yesterday - just wanted OUT of the HOUSE. This may be a good sign. Instead of wanting to curl up on the couch or hide in my bedroom recliner, I wanted to get up and out.

    I took Amigo to see the family doctor yesterday afternoon. Amigo greeted him with "Long time, no see!" Doctor and I just smiled at each other; I've been in his office many, many times over the past six months. Many doctor visits: bad sign. Almost two months without needing a visit: good sign.

    Good sign of what, you may ask? I'm beginning to think there's hope for recovery from this long-lasting, never-ending, terrible, horrible, no good very bad case of depression. That would be a good sign. Even if I experience a relapse, I'll know improvement is possible.

    Good sign: I've been busy in the kitchen and in the garden. Productivity: good. Energy level: improving.

    Good sign: I'm spending less time online and more time walking. Activity, even in small amounts, is good.

    Not so good sign: I'm still on sleep medication.
    Good sign: Doc thinks I can kick the habit, and gave me a few tips for handling possible side effects. Readers, if I have insomnia for a few nights, I promise I'll update Compost Happens. I'll share a few garden stories, a few Amigo stories, and even a few La Petite events.

    Meanwhile, it's late morning and I hear someone moving around the bedroom upstairs. I think it's Amigo; the rabbit doesn't usually open drawers and closets. This is a good sign something, isn't it? A sign of brunch, maybe. I'll go start the bacon.

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    Monday, July 04, 2011

    Bunny on a leash

    It was a long weekend for Chuck, so he relaxed and spent some time with the bunnies. See that little lump of fur at the end of the leash? That's Krumpet. She's a tiny lionhead rabbit - a ball of fur that hops.

    I think they're having a little conversation right now. I can imagine it.

    "Hey, Krumpet, did something catch your attention?"
    "Oh, yeah. Did you see that parsley growing in Mom's garden?"
    "Don't get any ideas. It needs to get bigger before you can have any."
    Hop. Hop. "Oh, okay. I'll settle for the leafy lettuce."

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    Sunday, July 03, 2011

    Back to the Farm - Market.

    Daisy, what took you so long to post this weekend?

    Honestly, it took a long time to organize and prep and put away all the lovely produce from yesterday's Farmers' Market. I usually make a point of sitting outside on the deck, weather permitting, and listening to the birds and enjoying the breeze (if there is one) while pulling the hulls off the strawberries and taking the peas from their pods (the bunnies love the pods) and anything else that needs work. Maybe you've noticed I gave in and bought rhubarb. I remembered that last year I combined my own tomatoes with some that were given to me and some more from the Farmers' Market so I'd have enough for salsa. I tell myself it's okay to combine Market rhubarb with my own, now that I've discovered more ways to can it.


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    Friday, July 01, 2011

    Visit my guest post on Women on the Fence

    I'm on Women on the Fence today, talking about crushing the stigma of depression. Check it out!

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


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