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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Saturday, December 31, 2011

    What a difference - a year makes

    One year ago, it was the end of a year and the beginning of a long winter's nap. Rest. Healing period. I took a leave of absence from my teaching job after the winter break to rest and seek treatment for the worst depression of my life. Now -- well, I've come a long, long way.

    In 2011:
    I learned that it was possible to love my work, but hate my job.
    I used my writing skill to procure grant money, buying books for struggling readers. No one at school seemed to care.
    My physical and mental health were at the lowest I've ever experienced.
    I struggled to get through Christmas, a holiday I usually love.
    "My" Green Bay Packers had one more season game left. To make the playoffs as a wild card team, they had to beat their arch rivals (and division champions) Da Bears. They beat them - and more.
    I was preparing to visit doctors, counselors, and the pharmacy often. Very often.

    As 2012 begins:
    I can say I love my work. I found a position that utilizes my teaching strengths and my interests in technology.
    I use my writing skill for blogging, and I have a workable rough draft of a non-fiction book.
    I also use my writing skill to communicate with parents of my students. This skill was useful last September when I recruited families to attend a field trip that had been poorly attended in the past. My coworkers were thrilled.
    Both my physical and mental health have improved significantly. No, they've improved greatly. I'm not out of the woods yet, I haven't reached full strength emotionally and physically, but I'm doing very, very well overall.
    Christmas was as it should be - a time to gather with family and friends to enjoy the traditions that make the holiday special.
    My Green Bay Packers clinched the division title weeks ago, a first round bye and home field advantage last week, and head into the playoffs with an impressive win-loss record. Did you notice that absence of quotation marks around the word my? Check it out here.
    Doctors and other medical professionals? I value those who helped treat me through the toughest and darkest hours last year. I'm in their offices much less often now, and that's a good feeling.

    What a difference a year makes - in so many ways. I still have flashbacks, usually in the form of nightmares or insomnia. I still tire easily, or at least more easily that I feel I should. However, this happens much less often now than it did just twelve months ago. But thanks to family, friends, and medical professionals, the marathon that is recovery continues.

    I won't even bother to go into the political climate in the past year - yet. It'll show up in another post or posts.

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    Friday, December 30, 2011

    Eating the Opponent: Detroit!

    Eat our turf, Lions!

    I mean - the project continues. La Petite has her lucky jersey (Aaron Rodgers' retro style), Amigo has his touchdown dance, and we have Eating the Opponent. Upon further review, we found that the Coney Dog actually has Michigan roots. To make this in true Detroit style, we'll need the following:

    • all-beef weiners, natural casing preferred
    • all meat chili (no beans or other additives), a.k.a. Coney Sauce
    • diced yellow onions
    • yellow mustard (optional)
    • hot dog buns, lightly toasted
    Readers, I think you can figure out how it all fits together.

    In the interests of shopping locally, I'm going to pick up my hot dogs at the neighborhood corner market and find some good buns at a nearby bakery. I think we can handle the chili ourselves.

    Now that I'm an owner, Eating the Opponent takes on new meaning. Or does it? We were pretty hard core already. The Packers have a bye the first week of the playoffs. How will I know what to cook?

    In other news: Badgers Fans, consider serving Duck on New Years Day. You get the drift.

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    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    Cooking School!

    Rouxbe Cooking School online

    Lesson One: Pan Frying

    I learned quite a bit from this lesson. I'm a decent cook and my adventurous side shows in the kitchen, too. This basic technique lesson included heating the pan, controlling the pan temperature, and when to adjust the heat. The lesson suggested a stainless steel pan that can also go in the oven. I received one for my birthday, and I haven't had the courage to use it yet.

    Each lesson follows the same structure: Goals, Video, Practice, Quiz, and Discussion. The videos are good; simple, easy to follow, and yet not condescending or dumbed down. Practical advice exists, too. The pan frying lesson recommends a stainless steel pan, but includes a section on other types of pans, including cast iron.

    After the lesson comes the fun part: the Edible Exercises, or Practice sessions. Rouxbe offers a recipe collection featuring the focus skill for the lesson. Choosing is nearly impossible - all of these look so good! I might try one today and a different recipe later on.

    If I see anything pan fried that fits our Eating the Opponent plan, look out! I have a stainless steel pan and now I know how to use it.

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    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Pasta Pan-fried with Butternut Squash, Fried Sage, and Pine Nuts

    Do you have a few butternut squash stashed from last summer? This is a delicious way to put a squash on the table.

    The original recipe called for an entire squash and lots, I do mean lots, of pasta and herbs. With our almost-empty nest, we made half of the original. Chuck cooked up the rest of the butternut squash in a tradition way, mashing it with sugar and butter.

    1/2 medium butternut squash
    1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
    1 clove garlic, minced
    olive oil
    salt and pepper to taste
    1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
    1/2 pound farfalle pasta
    1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
    2 oz. high quality Parmesan, shredded or shaved (about 1/2 cup)

    Heat oven to 375. Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the strings and seeds from the center. Flip the squash halves upside down and peel them. Cut the squash into 1 inch cubes. Toss with the onion, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mince about half of the fresh sage leaves and toss with the squash.

    Spread the squash mixture in a thin layer on a large baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes or until the squash is soft.

    Heat pasta water to boiling and cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain and set aside. As the squash finished roasting, heat about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large high-sided saute pan. Drop in the rest of the sage leaves and fry for about a minute, or until the begin to shrivel up.

    Remove with a slotted spoon and salt lightly. Crush with the back of a spoon.

    Add half the pasta to the pan, along with half the roasted squash mixture. Crumble in half the sage. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes or until the pasta is heated through and getting crispy on some of the edges. Add the pine nuts and cook for another minute. Stir in half the cheese and serve.

    These are the amounts we used. I hope the "half a squash" doesn't confuse anyone. It was delicious.

    Chuck found this at

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    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Taking Stock of Christmas

    What can I give you this Christmas?
    Something sparkling to go with your eyes?
    I'll give you the light of a Yuletide star
    from the cold December sky.
    What can I give you this Christmas?
    Something soft like the sound of your name?
    I'll give you the hush of the falling snow
    as it settles on the ground.
    There isn't much that a boy like me can give to a girl like you.
    I've searched the Christmas shop windows and now I know it's true.
    What can I give you this Christmas?
    Not a thing that I've seen will do.
    So I'll give you my heart and my own true love
    that will last the whole year through.

    Something sparkling, to go with my eyes?
    I'm not much of a jewelry person; I'm a casual dresser. No tiaras here, just fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm at my desk before the office heat kicks in But my eyes - I'm hearing impaired, so my eyesight is precious. My sweet husband saw me through cataract surgeries in both eyes. He even agreed to the expensive and not-one-cent-covered by insurance multi-focal replacement lens. Now, the world sparkles a lot more brightly than it ever did.

    Something soft? My new Snuggie in a Green Bay Packers print is very warm and snuggly, soft and sweet. And since my ever-patient husband, a.k.a. Chuck, has a whole different outlook on the football season, it's really sweet of him to buy this for me.

    But his heart and his own true love - my supremely wonderful spouse outdid himself this time. When I mentioned my desire, he called it "...a worthless piece of paper." He wasn't far off. It doesn't pay dividends, I can't sell it, it's so non-transferable that I can't even leave it in my will. But in spirit, it's worth a million, and when I opened the box, I had a lump in my throat.

    Readers, I received a share of Green Bay Packers stock for Christmas. I am officially - literally, not figuratively - an NFL owner, an investor in the Green Bay Packers.

    Lyrics to 'What can I give you this Christmas?' were hard to find, and I still can't find the songwriter's name to give credit where credit is due. It's a lovely song, and it fits the true sentiments of gift giving at this time of year.

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    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    The Twelve Days of Walker in Wisconsin

    2011 has been difficult year for me and for Wisconsin teachers in general. Thanks to our soon-to-be former governor, Scott Walker, we have lost salary, benefits, and bargaining rights. But our state has lost much more. A colleague found this online, and I thought it was worth sharing. Credit goes to the Solidarity Singers for spreading the word; I don't know who wrote the lyrics.

    On the first day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    An unarmed populace.

    On the second day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the third day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the fourth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the fifth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the sixth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the seventh day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Russ Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the eighth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Health care for the poor, Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the ninth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    A United DNR, Health care for the poor, Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the tenth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Lower than average unemployment, a United DNR, Health care for the poor, Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    On the eleventh day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    The shrinking middle class, Lower unemployment, a United DNR, Health care for the poor, Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    (Dramatic tempo change and a grand pause -- )
    On the twelfth day of his term, Scott Walker took from us:
    Domestic partner benefits, the Shrinking middle class, Lower unemployment, a United DNR, Health care for the poor, Decker's shining virtue, Good public education, HIGH SPEED RAIL!! Fair union contracts, Safe drinking water, Stem cell research, and an unarmed populace.

    In response, we say to the Grinch a.k.a. Walker:

    In the first twelve days of the recall we gathered over 500,000 signatures.

    'Nuff said.

    Enjoy your family and the holiday season, readers. Remember, your vote counts. When the time comes, please go to the polls to preserve the best gift of all: a democracy.

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    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Eating the Opponent: Chicago!

    Why are you reading blogs? It's Christmas Eve! Oh, yes, it's NFL football day, too. My Green Bay Packers play tomorrow, though. However, Green Bay maintains its popularity in the NFL schedule by playing on the national stage again, this time on a holiday: Christmas Day.

    In the Okay By Me homestead, we'll eat the opponent on Christmas Eve. Tonight. After a day of wrapping presents and organizing gifts and cleaning the house, I just don't feel up to cooking something special. Neither does Chuck. It's a good thing the Packers are playing the Chicago Bears. We picked up a Chicago style deep dish pizza yesterday from a take and bake place. Followed by Christmas cookies for dessert, it will be the perfect Christmas Eve supper.

    After the presents are unwrapped, the brunch eaten, the naps taken (believe me, I'll need one), we'll gather around the Christmas tree and watch our Packers take the field once again. It's Aaron Rodgers' neighborhood, remember, and Sunday promises to be a beautiful day.

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    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Rouxbe Cooking School

    It was an impulse. I admit it. I signed up for a trial of five lessons with Rouxbe Cooking School online. I thought, "Why not?" After all, I enjoy playing in the kitchen, I like to post recipes on my blog, and the folks at home (mainly Chuck, my ever-tolerant and loving husband) will enjoy the results. On top of that, I teach online; surely I can learn the same way.

    Each lesson follows the same structure. First, goals of the lesson. We teachers would call those objectives. Second, the lesson video. Rouxbe recommends watching, rewinding, watching again. Next comes the fun part: Practice, also known as Edible Exercises. Last, I'll take an interactive quiz and then participate in a discussion board.

    Readers, my dearests, be prepared for reviews of the cooking school. I'm more of a simple cook, where my husband is more of an Iron Chef type in the kitchen. Whenever he's interested, I invite him to look over the lessons and participate in the practice portion with me.

    Meanwhile, I'm baking cookies. It is, after all, the night before the night before Christmas!

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    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    When nothing is going right...the Worry Monster

    Heard on Twitter - "When nothing in life is going right, go left."

    I lean pretty far to the left as it is, so I find other ways to cope. The hardest part of coping with life in general is facing the Worry Monster.

    The Worry Monster invades my thoughts when something unpredictable or uncontrollable is coming up, something I need to face but can't really change. The Worry Monster enters through the side door, suggesting I worry about something coming up - a routine medical procedure, perhaps. As I'm consciously deciding not to worry about it, the Monster will suggest something else that deserves worry. By the time the Monster leaves, laughing its evil laugh, I've probably worried about a number of upcoming dates or vague future events.

    I fight the Worry Monster by staying active. Politically, the Worry Monster thinks I should worry about all that's going on in Madison. In place of worry, I choose concern. I write letters and emails. I blog. I volunteer with Organizing for America (OFA) by entering data after phone banks and canvass days. I make an occasional donation, but my main contribution is time.

    I fought the Worry Monster before the frost came by working in the garden. Simple and mindless tasks such as weeding and watering provided think time. Think time isn't worry; it's work-things-through time. As long as I remembered the mosquito repellent, I could stay in the garden for hours, weeding, watering, and processing thoughts. The garden really does nourish the soul.

    Now, when the garden lies sleeping the winter away under a blanket of leaves, I play in the kitchen. Cooking is work; baking is play. It's productive, fun, and a great creative outlet. I've considered attempting sourdough bread; maybe it's time to get serious and create a sourdough starter. Maybe - after the holiday cookies are done.

    So take that, Worry Monster. If not much is going right in life, I just turn to the left and get busy.

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    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Pumpkin Bread for the Bread Machine

    Bread Machine, Breadmaker, Breadmaker, Bread Machine. You know what I mean. It's the appliance that allows us busy cooks to have fresh bread with a minimum of fuss.

    Here's a special variety of bread for the upcoming holidays. I'm tempted to add raisins or nuts to it: maybe next time.

    Add to bread machine in this order.
    1/2 cup milk
    1/2 cup canned pumpkin
    1 egg
    2 Tablespoons margarine or butter, cut up
    3 cups bread flour
    3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

    Select basic white bread cycle. Enjoy!

    Adding nuts can happen at the "add more goodies" beep mid-cycle or at the beginning. Readers, any preference as to timing?

    Enjoy the bread, and have a great holiday full of good food and family fun.

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    Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Green Bay Packers fans

    You know you're a Green Bay Packers fan if:
    • Your favorite starting quarterback has a streak of incomplete passes - 3 in all.
    • You buy Christmas gifts at the Packer Pro Shop for out-of-state relatives.
    • You imagine the visiting teams saying, "We came, we saw, we lost" on their way out of Lambeau.
    • Your favorite field goal kicker is considered in a slump if he misses. That's misses one field goal.
    • Your weekly superstitions continue, even though you know the team doesn't need your help.
    • You have a cheesehead that sports the words "NFL Owner."
    • Your decorative ceramic seagull wears a Barbie-doll size cheesehead.
    • Instead of rushing into laundry to prepare for game day, you just take out another piece of Packer-wear because you own enough to last through the playoffs -- and indeed, the Super Bowl.

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    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    The Fault Line of Public Opinion

    I saw the metaphor in a novel by Jodi Picoult. She was describing a demonstration, with protesters separated by a neutral zone patrolled by the National Guard. This neutral zone, the space between the opposite sides of the issue, was the fault line of public opinion.

    Wisconsin has a fault line now. The push and shove of the fault line lies in our public opinion, our State Senate, our State Assembly, and even our State Supreme Court. The atmosphere is one side against the other, majority rules, and winner takes all no matter what the cost.

    The danger in living on a fault line is that an earthquake could occur any time, without warning. We Wisconsinites are good at preparing for blizzards, taking shelter from tornadoes, and mopping up after floods. We're not used to the earth shaking beneath us, dumping dishes from shelves, breaking windows, and opening cracks in the streets. We're also not accustomed to our state capitol attracting thousands of middle class demonstrators, a legislature that is obsessively divided along party lines, and a governor who refuses to be photographed from his bad side.

    Wisconsin citizens and voters are choosing sides now. With strong leadership, maybe the members of our legislature will relax their posturing and focus again on their real responsibilities: making laws, thoughful laws, that benefit the citizens of our state.

    This weekend is a huge one for activists. Expect to see clipboards, lanyards identifying volunteers, busy offices full of volunteers. If you're a friend or family IRL, call me. I have petitions and I know how to use them. Together, we'll reclaim our government. Then, and only then, we can reach across the fissure created by the fault line of public opinion.


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    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Death and Drama

    The talk, not necessarily in this order, floated around the office as drama unfolded on a wet and snowy day.

    "Why haven't they used an AED yet? By the way, where's ours? On this floor or first?"

    "Shouldn't someone be directing traffic?"

    "I don't like the looks of this. The ambulance isn't moving; it's not rushing away."

    "I mean, they're giving CPR in the road and people are just driving by!"

    "They just dragged her out of the car."

    "It's snowing. The road is so wet. Couldn't they at least..."

    "Oh my God. We just watched someone die."

    It was a sobering experience. From our point of view, it happened quickly. From the victim's point of view, it didn't happen quickly enough. On an ordinary day at the office, we heard a siren that stopped nearby. This wasn't enough to attract attention; sirens are not uncommon in the neighborhood. But then my coworker, one who actually has a window in her cubicle, called out, "Oh my God, there's a body in the street!" Well, not a body - yet - but a person in need of help. The car was pulled over, the person laid out on the road, and a paramedic gave rapid chest compressions. We didn't know if the victim was male or female; somehow, the feminine pronouns took over.

    The fire truck with lights on was parked behind the patient's car, but the opposite lane wasn't blocked. Cars kept driving down the street, coming within a few feet of the action. The wet snow, almost a rain-snow mix, floated down on all involved in this surreal and tragic scene. The road was soaked, as were the sidewalk and the nearby strip of grass. No matter where they'd taken her, she'd have been soaked as they worked to revive her.

    The ambulance pulled up with its EMTs and a stretcher and an AED. Too much ABC for you? Emergency Medical Technician and Automated External Defibrillator. Many public buildings now have AEDs, schools included. Updated CPR training often includes using an AED. My last training did.

    Back to the drama. The ambulance pulled up. In less time than it takes to write it, the EMTs had their AED in hand and were on the ground getting it set up and attached to the patient's chest. They lifted her (him? we would never know) onto the stretcher and backed off to let the AED do its shocking job. The patient was still getting shocked as the stretcher was lifted and rolled into the back of the ambulance.

    And then the ambulance stood still. We did, too, horrified by the scene and yet unable to pull away. From the moment the fire truck rounded the corner with its siren on, we weren't needed. The professionals were here. They would save this person. It's what they do.

    "I don't like the looks of this."
    "It has to be a bad sign that they're not rushing away."
    "They just went in the building to get the other people from the car."
    "How long do you think it was?"
    "Long enough to realize she was sick, call 911, and get the paramedics on the scene."
    "Several minutes. Oh, my."

    And then: "Oh my God, we just watched someone die."

    It was a sobering thought. As we turned to practical workplace matters, our thoughts strayed to the person in the street. Who was with her? Were they friends? Did she leave close family behind? Did she know they were trying, trying hard to revive her and save her life?
    What would we do in that situation? Could we pull over and call without panicking? How many of us knew CPR well enough to get it started? Where was the AED in our own building, and how many of us knew how to use it?

    We still wondered why no one had arrived to direct traffic. After all, there was a space reserved for a police car in our own parking lot. It was common to have an officer or two nearby. By this time, though, traffic no longer mattered. The large emergency vehicles drove off slowly, lights no longer flashing. We imagined they moved sadly, as if the trucks themselves grieved for the death they had failed to prevent.


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    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Banana Bread with Crumble Topping

    Recipe from Bakesale Betty: Oakland, CA. This was part of our Eating the Opponent challenge as the Packers prepared to play the Oakland Raiders.

    Ingredients: banana bread batter
    1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
    1 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup mashed rip bananas - 2 to 3 medium
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
    1/4 cup honey (local, of course)

    Crumble ingredients:
    2 Tablespoons sugar
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    2 1/2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

    Butter and flour 9" by 5" by 3" bread pan or alternative
    Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
    Whisk bananas, eggs, oil, and honey. add dry ingredients; stir to blend. Transfer batter to pan(s). Mix crumble ingredients; sprinkle over batter.

    Bake bread at 350 for 1 hour - less if splitting it into smaller pans. Cool bread in pan for 30 minutes (if you can wait that long). Turn pan on its side; slide out bread, being gentle with topping. Turn bread right side up and cool completely.

    This might just become my Christmas morning standard. It can bake and then cool while we're opening presents. By the time we've left the wrappings as playthings for the rabbit, we're hungry enough to enjoy a special treat. This banana bread with more could be just the right treat.

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    Friday, December 09, 2011

    Eating the Opponent - the Oakland Raiders

    Sometimes it's the quest. It's the journey, not the destination. When Eating the Opponent, however, the destination matters, too. The Oakland Raiders presented a challenge.

    Oakland, CA is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the United States. Since local foods and signature recipes often come from local culture (see Gumbo or Jambalaya), extreme diversity poses a problem. What to serve? A Raider Nation head on a platter didn't seem, well, tasteful, to tell you the truth.

    I tried searches for local foods, local restaurants, and even stadium foods. No luck. I found some fascinating sites and interesting articles, but no foods that could grace our table the weekend the Packers play the Raiders. Finally, a search for Oakland Recipes turned up a list of signature recipes from local restaurants. Chuck wasn't thrilled to try cooking duck, so I opted for downloading a savory chicken recipe from SR24 and a banana bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping from Bakesale Betty's. Both look delicious on the page; they'll be delectable on our table.
    In other news, Chuck found out that in 2009 the Raiders' stadium was named the most vegetarian friendly venue in the NFL. Maybe we'll have Boca Burgers instead of the baked chicken.

    Superstitious? No, not really. But we followed this routine last year as we watched our Packers go to the Super Bowl and win it. Why mess with success? Besides, this Eating the Opponent game is a lot of delightful fun.

    Hey, Raiders fans? Good luck with the new stadium. You deserve it. Believe me, we Cheeseheads understand your passion for the local team. Maybe Favre would come out of retirement to help you out.... never mind.

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    Wednesday, December 07, 2011

    Flat Stanley visits a Virtual School

    (By guest blogger Flat Stanley)

    I went to work today with Daisy.
    Daisy is a teacher in a newfangled kind of school; she teaches online.

    Daisy's students (and those of the school) live all over the state of Wisconsin. There's a map in the school offices showing where the students live. Wow! They're really spread out.

    Daisy took me around the high school side of the school. I met the Social Studies teacher, and we fooled around with Google Maps. He was looking for Westminster Abbey.

    The high school language arts teacher has a cubicle full of posters encouraging reading - everything from Shakespeare to (be still my flattened heart) the Cat in the Hat.

    Ah, high school science. I look forward to biology and earth science. I have a little more math to learn before starting physics. It'll take more than just knowing how to add, or so I've been told.

    Back in Daisy's cubicle, she taught me to use a rubric to grade writing projects.
    She looked over my first one and decided to grade the rest herself. I guess teaching writing isn't my strength - yet.

    Well, science is still one of my favorite subjects, so Daisy logged me into a Virtual Class in middle school science.

    Cool. Very cool. The teacher called on students and then let them "write" on the virtual whiteboard to connect vocabulary words with their meaning. This would be a great way to learn, at least for a flat geek like me. I could keep on traveling, as long as I had Internet access.

    I looked over Ms. W's shoulder as she worked on lesson plans.

    Then I moved once again to middle school language arts. They write a lot of essays. Wow!

    We couldn't stay away from Daisy's desk for long, so I offered to help her make phone calls.
    A fifth grader needed help with her math. Ooh, those multi-step problems. They rock my socks off! Wait. I don't wear socks. Never mind.

    Daisy and her coworkers were great hosts. They told me if I want to teach like they do, I need a working knowledge of computers - and a talent for making coffee.

    Thanks to Flat Stanley, visitor from Irving, TX, for the guest post today.

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    Saturday, December 03, 2011

    Eating the Opponent - New York or New Jersey?

    My Green Bay Packers play the New York Giants tomorrow. In keeping with our tradition, we are planning to serve New York cuisine of some sort tonight to represent eating the opponent. This gets complicated, though. The Giants don't actually play in New York. Their home field, Met Life Stadium, is actually in New Jersey. What to do, what to serve, what to eat?

    Amigo suggested New York strip steak. Chuck and I said, "Sure! That'll be delicious." It was almost too easy, though, so we kept going with our research. We settled on bagels for breakfast - not just any bagels, bagels from a local store that calls itself Jersey Bagels. They have great coffees, too. Ahem. Easy decision, that one.

    Then Chuck found a site called New Amsterdam Market, saw a picture that inspired him, and started searching for the recipe. He found a pasta dish that incorporates butternut squash and fresh sage, both ingredients we have in the house. We'll have that on the side with our steak tonight.

    In other factors, it's lousy weather this weekend in Northeastern Wisconsin. 37 degrees Fahrenheit, steady rain, and that means cold, wet, and colder and wetter. Two cold-weather teams ought to do well in this mess, but neither will enjoy playing. I almost (almost) hope the temperatures go down several degrees and that rain becomes snow. Green Bay Tough means coping with snow is easy. Well, maybe not easy, but within reason. Is New York-Jersey tough the same?

    Several years ago when Giants' quarterback Eli Manning came to town, a local television station decided to change its schedule and refuse to air reruns of Manning's favorite show, Seinfeld. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it had no effect on the game. Favre threw one of his patented interceptions (Rodgers will let him keep that record), and the rest is history that ended with the Giants beating the Patriots in that year's Big Game.

    Here we go, with the Packers undefeated at 11-0. Can they battle the elements as well as they've battled opponents? Will Manning and company be able to overcome Mr. Rodgers' home field neighborhood advantage? Stay tuned, and eat steak. New York strip steak, with a Big Apple on the side.

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    Friday, December 02, 2011

    Pizza? A vegetable?

    Pizza: I love to pile on veggies and herbs. Spinach, basil, oregano. Peppers, onions, garlic. Tomatoes and tomato sauce.

    But really, Congress and USDA, commercially made pizza in itself is not a vegetable.

    My homemade pizzas are covered with at least two kinds of cheese - real Wisconsin cheese, of course. I don't call it a dairy product, even though it probably has a thick enough cheese layer to qualify.

    Local restaurants make pizzas from scratch with zucchini and spinach and other fresh, delicious ingredients. They don't claim to meet the recommended daily allowance of vegetables. In all honesty, the local pizzas have enough toppings that they probably would meet the goal.

    But seriously. A frozen pizza with a thin layer of sauce? Not, I repeat NOT, a vegetable. Require a minimum amount of real tomato in a required amount of sauce, and then maybe I'll believe it's nutritious. I know how I make pizza, and I've seen the pizza in school cafeterias. Folks, there's no contest.

    Now consider that many children get the best meal of their day at school, and then think about that slice of pizza.

    No, people, pizza is not a vegetable.

    Would you like to tell Congress that pizza is not a vegetable? Click here to sign a petition and support true nutrition in school meals.

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    Thursday, December 01, 2011

    Hickory Farms Gift Baskets

    Every year I create gift baskets for our extended family. I'm lucky; if I start early, I have time. My gift baskets are no match for the professionals, though. Hickory Farms, for example, sent me a gift basket to review and I was impressed.

    When the box arrived, I was eager to open it and see what had come from Hickory Farms. It was like an early Christmas gift from Mom Central! The basket was a good size, wrapped well, and looked like it contained a lot of delicious treats. I emptied the top layer and stood back to look it over.

    I noticed that the packaging was paper, shredded small and crinkled. The effect was a nice looking basket with a neutral background for the fruit, sausage, cheese, and more, and then a reusable or recyclable batch of packaging. This was a case of good packaging, keeping the pears and apples from bruising, and filling the basket as well. Within the layers of shredded paper fill were more pears and apples!

    The fruits were delicious and fresh. One popular feature at Hickory Farms is their $3 - 3 Day shipping. Freshness matters when giving food. I recommend this shipping option because my fruit and cheese was just right and ready to eat when it arrived. See below for a close-up of the fruit. The racing sausage guys were a little jealous when I paid attention to the Hickory Farms sausages, so I let them join in the picture.

    The cheese was fresh and flavorful, a smooth and tasty medium cheddar. The beef summer sausages sliced easily and tasted good with crackers and cheese as we watched our Green Bay Packers trounce the Detroit Lions. This was definitely a winner in my book - er, kitchen. I enjoyed the Hickory Farms basket, and so did the rest of my extended family.

    I wish I could have found out exactly where the cheese and sausages were produced. In a state like Wisconsin, where cheeses abound and sausages even race around a baseball field, it's logical to want to trace the origins of these products. Product quality was excellent, and freshness a plus. Wherever the butchers and cheese makers are, they do their work well.

    As for the basket and the packaging, there are two birthdays and the Christmas holiday coming up. I know I'll reuse these by filling them with my own homemade goodies.

    I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Hickory Farms and received a product sample to facilitate my review. And what a generous and delicious sample it was!

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