Top Ten List – in which Daisy is under the weather

Remember the Daisy Reality Show? It was the fictional creation of a reality show featuring yours truly, a television producer, and the producer’s bumbling assistant. Creating “Reality Show” posts lets me experiment with point of view and reassure myself that my life, in reality, is quite ordinary. Here’s a potential discussion between the producer and her assistant.

Producer: We won’t get much today. Daisy isn’t feeling well.

Assistant: Really? I hadn’t noticed. How can you tell? Give me one good way to tell that Daisy isn’t at her best!

Producer: I’ll do better than that.

  1. Daisy didn’t label or put away the applesauce she canned three days ago.
  2. The kitchen compost bucket is full.
  3. She stepped outside, said,”The container plants need watering,” and stepped inside without watering anything.
  4. The large hot water bath canner, full of water, still sits on the stove, taking up space.
  5. Daisy made coffee this morning and only drank half of what she brewed.
  6. Daisy ate popcorn for breakfast – stale popcorn, at that. Easy on the tummy, I guess.
  7. She didn’t empty the dishwasher, either. That’s one of her pet peeves; a dishwasher full of clean dishes, and a counter with piles of dirty dishes.
  8. The newspapers from the last two days are still in their (stupid, wasteful, plastic) delivery bags.
  9. Bunny didn’t get fed until quite late this morning, and the litter box still isn’t clean.
  10. And the biggest piece of evidence that Daisy might be ill: It’s Saturday, and she didn’t go to the downtown Farmers’ Market.

Assistant: Oh.

Back to School – Virtual School, Daisy Style

Back in my regular classroom days, preparing for school meant something different. I posted this three years ago, and only one item needed a change. Can you guess which piece wasn’t on the list three years ago?

Here are a few examples.

  • Then: I’d browse the school supply ads and stock up for students that I knew couldn’t afford supplies. 
  • Now: I stock up on canning supplies and fresh, local foods so I can feed my family through the winter.
  • Then: I’d plan at least a week in advance, usually more, to spend time in my room setting it up for the students’ arrival. It would take several days.
  • Now: I stopped in last week to pick up a few things and drop off a few others. Over the weekend, we picked apples on the tree out front of the office.
  • Then: I’d get the calendar up to date, noting staff meetings and parent-teacher conferences and any other commitments outside of the regular hours.
  • Now: I’ll get the calendar up to date. This item is still necessary.
  • Then: I’d spend a few Saturdays at school preparing my room and catching up with coworkers.
  • Now: I spend Saturdays at the farmers’ market or in the kitchen working on stocking the pantry.

I also make a point of spending time outside. It can be as simple as weeding or watering the garden or reading a book on the deck, but getting out is an important ingredient in self-care. Heck, playing Pokemon Go and walking through a park is a relaxing, mindless outdoor break, too.

Back to school means back to my cubicle and much, much more. The process may look different on the surface, but underneath the hustle and bustle it’s the same: getting ready for a new group of kids and parents.

Squirrel!

Both of us, Chuck and I, have worked with people who are easily distracted. I’ve taught many, and not just those with formally diagnosed ADHD. Have you seen the tee shirts? “Look, something shiny!” “They just don’t understand – Look! A chicken!” Or our favorite, “SQUIRREL!”

I’m reminded of certain days in class when keeping kids focused was just not going to happen. Imagine the following conversation in an intervention reading group for  an online middle school.

Me (Teacher): Open your books to page X, “The Prince and the Pauper.”

Student J: Prince died.

Me: (thinking “Squirrel!”) Yes, he did. This story is written by Mark Twain. What do you know about Mark Twain? Have you read any of his other works?

(Student L. logs in late, not using her name, but as “Llama.”

Me: Llama, please log out and log in with your real name.

(Student logs out and returns, using the screen name “Lori Loves Llamas.”

Me: Hi, Lori. I like llamas, too. Open your book to page…

(Lori types into chat): I like llamas because a llama spit on my brother.

SQUIRREL!!! 

Some days, I should just go back to bed.

Why I Like “Outdaughtered” on TLC

Ah, reality shows. The Daisy reality show would never be reality; my life is actually rather dull, and I mean that in the best of ways. One of the shows in the Big Family category has caught my attention, and here’s why it did.

Outdaughtered features the Busby family, a couple with six daughters. One girl just turned six years old, and the other five little ones just turned two. You read that right, readers: quintuplets. The only all-girl set of quintuplets to be born in the U.S.

Many scenes feature Danielle, a.k.a. Mom Busby, sitting on the playroom floor surrounded by the toddlers. I remember working in child care, spending hours on the floor surrounded by preschoolers or toddlers. I handled that for six to eight hours, and I can only imagine the Busby family handling their little ones 24/7/365. Danielle earns my respect for being a stay-at-home mom to six little one, five in diapers.

Adam, a.k.a. Dad Busby, is dealing with a mental health problem; he has a major depression going on. I understand how that can feel; the worst depression of my life took place about seven years ago. I made some difficult decisions during that time such as blogging my progress, sharing (or not sharing) my diagnosis with coworkers, and much later, deciding to put my real name to a very public essay on depression. I admire Adam’s courage in allowing his depression to be seen on their television show. By publicly owning his illness, he risks criticism from people he doesn’t even know. By publicly admitting he needs help, he risks being seen as weak. But on the positive side, by publicly owning his depression, Adam Busby lets others, especially other men, know that they can seek help. They don’t need to suffer alone or tough it out. Adam earns my respect by facing his depression, and by doing it in a way that may – no, WILL – help others.

Now to the third reason I follow the Busby family’s adventures in reality television. Hazel, little Hazel Grace, is the reason. Hazel was the smallest quint at birth. She developed more slowly and reached milestones such as walking later than her sisters. Hazel also has a vision problem. Her diagnosis thus far is not the same as my Amigo’s blindness, Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), but we went through a journey much like Adam and Danielle’s when Amigo was a baby. Hazel is adorable and lovable, like many tots. Every time I see her squint and every time I watch an episode at the eye doctor’s office, it takes me back. 25 years ago feels like yesterday.

And that, dear readers, is why I record Outdaughtered on Tuesday nights.

And that, my friends, is also why I’m worried about a family in Houston that I don’t even know. I hope the Busbys and their extended family in Texas and Louisiana are safe and healthy in the midst of Hurricane Harvey.

More Stories than Successes – This Year’s Garden

“Now that’s a story.” Miss Franny Block, the librarian in Because of Winn-Dixie, would start out her stories like that. Opal, Amanda, and even the dog would settle in to listen.

My garden has been more successful in generating stories than in producing vegetables. I’ll let storyteller Grandma Daisy tell the tales.

Oh, yes, that was quite a year, 2017. Families worried about the potential for war. They worried about our president being, well, not all there. Gardening was an investment in feeding the family and it was cheaper than therapy, too. Well, that’s a different story. 

Everything was planted, and not much was coming up. Broccoli? Nowhere to be seen. Beans? They were okay. Peas? The vines looked good, but didn’t bear fruit. Other gardeners blamed the weather, so I joined in. 

I’d planted zucchini near the raspberry, but I didn’t realize how little sun would reach that spot. That zucchini finally sprouted after I cut off a few low-hanging branches from the neighbor’s tree. It’s okay, kiddos. It’s legal to trim a tree that hangs over your own yard, even if the roots are next door. But the zucchini. Since nothing was happening, I put in a few seeds near the tomatoes. Brilliant! I thought. The squash plant will provide ground cover. When it starts putting out blossoms and needs pollinating, the vines will be near the flowers and the peas will be done. No such luck, my dears. The variety of zucchini I’d planted wasn’t going to crawl along the ground. This was determined to reach for the sky, more bush-like than vine. 

I ended up transplanting two tomato plants that were getting swallowed up by the zucchini and putting them in a container on the deck, near the French doors. At least there I couldn’t forget to water them. 

Then there was the lettuce. The lettuce didn’t come up, either. I wondered if the seeds were bad or if the soil was drained of its nutrients from too many years of planting? No matter what, I needed to do something about it. I decided to plant more lettuce in a different section of the garden. 

And then I left the seeds out overnight. Remember? That about did me in. I scattered some seeds where the broccoli hadn’t grown, and then I tossed a layer of commercial topsoil over them. A little water, and life was good again. I also planted a few heads of lettuce started not from seed, but from the tails of lettuce from the store or the market. “Grow your own food from your kitchen scraps!” the video bragged, and where lettuce was concerned, it worked. 

I scattered a lot of the soaked and dried seeds (thank goodness for grow lights!), and not much happened. Dill? Nope. Parsley? It’ll have to reseed itself from the first patch. Spinach? We’ll see. I put it behind the garage in a partial sun area. There’s still hope. Maybe. 

But the best story of all is this: the pollinators were coming back. I saw three – 3! – round and fluffy honeybees circling the flowers in the front yard. I had planted more blooms than usual, hoping for just that result. 

Now that’s a story – or more than one. Lettuce, zucchini, transplanting tomatoes – soaking seeds, too. Grandma Daisy covered the major points. She didn’t finish the summer story because – well, because I don’t know the end yet. Stay tuned, readers. School starts soon, so I’ll be busy, but gardening is therapeutic. It helps me slow my mind and lower my blood pressure. I’m sure there will be more stories.

The Trouble with Pickles

Not Tribbles, but Pickles. The trouble with dill pickles, specifically: the pickles have to rest and, well, pickle in their jars for at least two weeks before they’re ready to eat. At that time, if the pickle recipe didn’t work or if I messed it up somehow, it’ll be too late to go to the farm markets and buy pickling cucumbers. They’ll be out of season. Meanwhile, I’ll just hope the new-to-me-recipe for dill pickles is successful.

The trouble with canned tomatoes (diced or chopped, in my kitchen) is that the preparation takes a long time and a lot of effort. Dig out the stem, blanch and peel, chop, and then pack tightly into a jar. All of that happens before I can even consider putting the liquid in the jars, checking the head space, and then actually processing in the hot water bath canner. On top of all this, I have to hope that I packed the tomatoes tightly enough to avoid the perfectly functional but perfectly ugly Fruit Float.

The trouble with bread and butter sweet pickles; my food processor cuts the pickles too thin, so I have to cut them by hand. The food processor just died, so I’m glad cutting the pickles by hand is my usual routine. This one is really no trouble at all.

The trouble with salsa is similar to the trouble with canned tomatoes. Last weekend I convinced Chuck to join in the preparation of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Since he is the main consumer of salsa in the house, it was only fair. Thoughtlessly rubbing his eye after dicing a jalapeno pepper? Well, that was only careless. Ouch.

The trouble with troubles in general? Not much, really. All of these problems are easily solved. All, that is, except the dill pickles. Two weeks from now, people, I will know if the new recipe is my go-to for dill pickles. Waiting…waiting…

I’m Back Online!

Did you miss me? No, don’t answer that. I was offline for a (much too long) time while my laptop was repaired. When I got the laptop back, I couldn’t log into my dashboard or cPanel or AMP. After trying numerous combinations of usernames and passwords, even though I was darn sure I knew what it “should” be, I gave in and sought help from the hosting provider. The Helpdesk type person was very patient and, well, helpful. He went through a number of possibilities, verified my identify multiple times (for which I’m grateful), and within 20 minutes had me back on my dashboard.

Then the screen dimmed as if operating on battery, and I realized the rabbit had nibbled through the laptop cord while I was focused on troubleshooting the blogs. At this point, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I laughed. There may have been tears, but hey, I laughed. 

First world problems, indeed. When I went to the computer store to buy a new cord, I had a chance to tell the folks there about the problems I’d had. Bookmarks were fine, usernames and passwords not so much. Clerk/techie nodded thoughtfully.

Meanwhile, I did get into the dashboard for A Mother’s Garden of Verses early this morning. I posted an encore, one that unfortunately is very relevant today.

Read and enjoy. It’s good to be back online.

Scraps or Pantry Raid – Tomato Soup

The end result was tomato vegetable soup, served with grilled cheese sandwiches and applesauce. Here’s how it came about.

I’d been canning tomatoes a few days earlier. The process of peeling tomatoes, while not like herding cats, is time consuming and yields an interesting leftover. To peel tomatoes, I drop several into hot water for a few minutes and then into ice water. The peels slide off (almost) effortlessly. Almost. The results: a lot of tomatoes without skins, and a big bowl of water laced with tomato remains.

On the theme of the TV show “Scraps,” I decided this tomato water was too good to throw away. On the theme of a Pantry Raid, I used only ingredients that were readily available in my freezer, refrigerator, or pantry. Nothing fancy!

Step one: we skimmed off some of the water floating on top. The tomato content kept sinking to the bottom, so why not?
Step two: poured the tomato water into a large slow cooker and let it simmer on high overnight.
Step three: add herbs. A few green onions, a clove of garlic, some minced basil – all simmered in the soupy mix for several hours.
Step four: Store boiled down mixture in refrigerator overnight.

To make soup for supper, I added a few simple ingredients along with salt and pepper, thickened with arrowroot starch (Penzey’s is the best), and served with crackers.

Simple ingredients added (but not measured precisely): a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, a small can of commercial tomato paste, salt and pepper, frozen peas & corn & shredded fresh zucchini.

This tomato soup, whether you call it a Scraps menu or a Pantry Raid, is a winner. Next time I can tomatoes, I might do the same!

The Continuing Saga of the Soil

In which Daisy discoveries the peas didn’t do well, but the beans? Stay tuned.

The peas, those lovely little vines that filled the space in between the random flowers, didn’t bear fruit. They produced a few tiny pods, but no peas. I don’t know if it was soil troubles, a hot & dry spell, or other issues, but my garden produced no peas. I pulled the plants and set them on yet another section of garden that didn’t produce any produce. When they dry, I’ll  toss the whole pile in the compost.

Beans, however, are looking great! They’re bushy as bush beans can be, reaching for the sun with their lovely little leaves and producing flowers and actual green beans. Yum! I have enough beans in the freezer already, so everything I harvest will be supper. Or lunch. Or raw beans for a snack (oh, yeah, they’re that good).

Meanwhile, I made a few decisions. The area with the non-producing pea plants will be devoted to flowers next year. I’m seeing more pollinators, so I’d like to keep them happy. The sections that just didn’t grow are getting an infusion of organic matter (a.k.a. compost).

As for behind the garage, the raspberries are coming back, little by little. Chuck trimmed a tree that was overreaching its borders (at the edge of the next door lot), and that helped allow more light into this area. I spread lots of parsley seeds so the parsley plot can expand even as the raspberries try to take over. Last, but never least, some of the bulbs for walking onions were trying to sprout in the tray where they were stored. I dug two shallow trenches and tossed the bulbs in. If they don’t come up this season, they’re likely to bloom next spring.

And that’s the current status of the Backyard Garden, folks.

 

In Season: Zucchini Bread with Cherries!

This may become my go-to recipe for zucchini bread. I made a few minor changes (I hear you laughing, you who know me well), but the basic recipe is from the Essential New York Times Cookbook. I do have a beef with the way it’s indexed. This wasn’t listed under zucchini; I found it in the Q section for Quick Breads, and then under S for the name of the pastry chef who created the recipe itself. That’s a little bit like the way I saved so many recipes under E for Easy-to-make or D for Delicious.

But anyway, here’s my version. When cherries are no longer available at the farm markets, but zucchini is still prolific, I’ll probably make this with chocolate chips. Mmm.

Zucchini Bread with add-ins (cherries this time)

2 cups grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

Combine sugar and butter in large mixing bowl. Beat together, adding eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add this mixture gradually to the liquid mixture, alternating with grated zucchini. Fold in walnuts and cherries or other add-ins.

Bake in loaf pan or three small loaf pans for 50-60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack before slicing.