The O.K. Chorale: Where the Wrapping Remains Green

If you think I’m a green freak (Amigo does), you may be right. But if you think my attitude toward wrapping paper minimizes the colors in the pile under the tree, you’d be wrong. Oh, well, maybe this isn’t the best picture. It illustrates the “before” pile rather well, though.

Gifts and wrapping

In case you think I’m obsessive about it, and you’d be correct, take a look at the second pile. From left to right: recyclable cardboard boxes, broken down; reusable ribbons and wrapping paper; gift bags ready for re-use. The garbage pile was so small, I didn’t bother with getting it into the photo.

Rabbit imitating a tribble on the right

In fact, we forgot to buy tape this year. We were down to the very last role.

A little time organizing, and we’ll be all set for next year. There will be no need to buy wrapping paper. Tape, yes. But no more paper, right family? Right?!

Readers, I’d love to hear more ways to green the holiday season. Please share.

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It’s all in the fortune cookies.

Chuck is a tolerant sort. He knows I have trouble throwing away the fortunes from the cookies that come with Chinese take-out food. When I cleaned out my work desk last spring, I found two (only two!) in my main desk drawer. A few days ago, we ordered Chinese for lunch at work. As we gathered together away from our desks, we shared both the humorous and the thoughtful on the little slips of paper in the cookies.

Mine.

Mine.

I might have more faith in it if there were more than two weeks left in the current year.

2016 has definitely been a roller coaster. The apocalypse of November 8 was a highlight, er, lowlight on the calendar.

Now, to the future. 2017 has the potential to bring to reality all the fears of 2016. The question: how can I resist the negative? Where are the best opportunities for activism, opportunities that will have an impact?

Meanwhile, I’ll settle for a photo of this fortune. I don’t need to keep it any longer. In two weeks, it’ll be history.

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Why a Trump Presidency scares me

The system of checks and balances is gone. With a Republican majority in the House, there’s no way to override bad decisions at the executive level.

Donald Trump’s cabinet is made up of people who will do his bidding, rather than people with experience and knowledge in the necessary fields.

He refuses daily intelligence briefings, saying he is “smart enough.” We teachers call that a “multiple meaning word.” Intelligence in this context means – well, heck, someone who doesn’t know the difference shouldn’t be president.

Russia influenced and intentionally interfered in the election process. In a race as close as this one was, any outside pressure could have changed the end results. The trouble with this issue is that while the CIA has confirmed Russian involvement through hacking and leaking select materials, there is no way to determine exactly how that changed the vote total. It’s just enough to question the legitimacy of the results.

Mr. Trump knows nothing about diplomacy and protocol. He has already angered allies through his thoughtless actions. I can only imagine – and I don’t want to consider – the potential for global disaster due to Trump’s big mouth.

Back to the cabinet. Leaders do not have to know everything. Strong leaders surround themselves with good people, people who will make up for their weaknesses. When a leader surrounds himself with people who owe him favors and people who will never tell that leader “No,” once again, the potential for mistakes gets worse and worse and worse.

Did you notice what I left out? Twitter. Donald’s rude and ridiculous tweets could take up an entire post on their own. I’ll just end on a general note regarding Twitter. Someone as impulsive and thoughtless as Trump does not belong in a position of responsibility. See above: diplomacy. Protocol. Lack of intelligence.

All of the above scare the heck out of me. How about you, readers?

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Depression Cake – another variation

Here’s the original recipe.

Depression Cake
(Named for a historical time period, not the illness)

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups strong coffee
2 cups raisins or currants or chopped dates
½ cup applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds (optional)
Powdered sugar for garnish (or serve with whipped topping)

Preheat oven to 350.
In large saucepan, combine granulated sugar, coffee, raisins, and applesauce. Simmer 10 minutes. In large bowl, blend remaining ingredients, except powdered sugar. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture. Pour batter into well-greased and floured 13 by 9 pan. Bake at least 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with whipped topping.

Adapted from a recipe in a California Raisin cookbook put out at least fifteen years ago.

Here’s how I really made it. The apple preserves are more like a homemade and home canned apple pie filling. I’d made cranberry sauce that morning, so the saucepan had some stuck to its sides, leaving a hint of cranberry flavor.

Depression Cake
(Named for a historical time period, in the hopes that our leaders learn from the past so as not to repeat it)

2 cups granulated sugar
Strong coffee and apple preserves, enough to make 2 cups
1 cups raisins
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.
In large saucepan (still sticky with cranberry sauce), combine granulated sugar, coffee, raisins, and apple preserves. Simmer 10 minutes. In large bowl, blend remaining ingredients. Stir raisin mixture into flour mixture. Pour batter into well-greased and floured 13 by 9 pan. Bake at least 30-40 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with whipped topping.

Adapted from a recipe I’ve had for years – I never make it the same way twice, but it’s always delicious.

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Progress in healing

Yet another cabinet member has been announced to a fanfare of “Oh, no!” Amigo didn’t remember the name, but he remembered enough to inform me that the new Secretary of Education will be a “billionaire school choice advocate.” I can only take so many of these announcements. They’re bad for my blood pressure. In the interest of my own health, let’s look for some silver linings.

The next time a woman runs for president, she will not have to jump the same hoops that Hillary did. Trailblazers, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton included, blazed a trail so that others can follow.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We’re bringing mashed potatoes, butternut squash, Packer veggies (peas and corn), and cranberry sauce. Have I forgotten anything? La Petite will bring the wine. The potatoes are in the crock pot as I type. Oh, pies! I bought pies from a local bakery this morning.

The nearby meat market (I love that place) was hopping. In fact, I changed my route to avoid the traffic on their corner as I was on the way to the bakery, another small business I love. I walked in, paused to inhale, and then picked up a box of cookies while I waited for my turn. The problem with shopping at a local bakery is simple; I always come out with more than I planned to buy. Problem? Maybe that’s not a problem. Small Business Saturday is coming up, and I saw two small businesses that were doing well already today.

Amigo has already found Internet radio stations that are playing 100% Christmas music. I’ll make a list, check it twice, and bookmark a few to listen to at work. Now if I can stop myself from singing along…

I predict January will bring another down period. This inauguration will be hard to take. But for now, let’s look at positives. For those who celebrate, enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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Election Day – and the memories

I was getting teary eyed just looking through Facebook. Eight years ago, the nation made history. Now we stand on the edge of making history again. Rather than panic, instead of worrying myself sick, I looked through my blog posts from Election 2008.

Grab a tissue.

From 11/6/2008:

It’s a Presidential Election that made history. Best voter turnout in forty years or a century, depending on your source. Record money raised and spent, although that can be taken as a positive or a negative. Record number of early voters by absentee ballot.

And the most important record of all: the American electorate finally crossed the racial line and elected a young, intelligent, articulate, and forward thinking man. And in the process, America elected Barack Obama the first African-American President of the United States.

La Petite was away at college, covering the election for the school paper. She had voted early. Her first presidential election, and she voted early because she knew she’d be busy on election day. We kept in touch by text message – the old fashioned kind of text message, with thumbs pounding out numbers multiple times to make the words. My thumbs, I kid you not, were sore.

As one state after another turned to blue on the map and the electoral vote total grew on Obama’s side, we sent each other texts that grew shorter and more and more exciting. When it was all over and she had finished putting the school newspaper into print and online, she emailed me and called the whole experience “… amazing. It’s going to be one of those ‘I remember where I was, who I was with, and what I was doing when I found out that Obama was elected as our 44th president’ type moments.”

Well, people, prepare for another one of those milestones. Will you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing when the final word comes in? I’ve already voted. How about you?

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From two years ago – what a difference.

Two years ago, the garden had officially succumbed to the freezing temps overnight. Today, I was outside in my Wisconsin Badgers tee shirt, turning soil and enjoying the huge blooms on the marigolds.

The election was nearly over (and I was worried). We’re a few days away from Election Tuesday. I’m worried sick. This election – it’s so unreal that it’s scary.

So what’s next? How did Compost Happens find a way to continue without politics or gardening on the topic list? Ha-ha. As if I’m ever at a loss for words!

Don’t worry, friends, family, and fans. There is still almost half of the NFL season to go. You’ll read the reactions of the O.K. Chorale as the Packers do their best to protect their best – Aaron Rodgers, that is. I might even post the results of our Eating the Opponent tradition. Indiana corn chowder (with bacon) and bacon cheeseburgers tonight as we prepare to meet the Colts on Sunday. if you were curious.

The garden was a simple pile of dirt and scattered straw two years ago. This year, like 2015, there’s a lot of green in the yard, providing a beautiful backdrop to the multi-colored leaves falling from the neighbor’s maples. In fact, I turned soil today and pulled up rogue grass roots to make room for a row of walking onions.

I still have a small tray full of green-turning-red and even more green-turning yellow tomatoes. I have enough ripe tomatoes to add to salads and BLTs for a little while longer.

As for the election results – I’m sure there will be reactions, good or bad, from the family here at the Chorale or from our favorite time traveler, Grandma Daisy.

What to write? Blog fodder? No shortage here, folks. As my favorite quarterback said a couple years back, R-E-L-A-X. I’m not going away any time soon.

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Short Conversations by text

Introduction – Blogging this election has been much harder than 2012 or 2008. I don’t want to give the Republican candidate any more of my time or blog space than he deserves, but if I stay silent, if too many stay silent, then his misogyny and racism will spread. Instead of posting election-related content, I’ll simply tell you that I VOTED already, and move on to an everyday conversation.

Actual Text Message Conversations (I couldn’t make these up)

from Chuck: Gotta love our downtown! I went out to plug the meter again and a stranger had already done it.

my reply: Pay it forward!

And yet another day — 

I was on my way to the Take and Bake pizza place to pick up a particular type of pizza for Eating the Opponent. As I pulled in to the parking lot, my phone went “Ding!” signaling a text message.

from Chuck: Here’s some must have – the Golden Girls Action figures. Someone really is producing them and will sell them at an upcoming comic con. Collect the whole set!

my reply: I want the Supreme Court Women set.

Chuck’s response: I bet the Ruth Bader Ginsberg action figure would kick the trump bobble head’s butt.

my reply: Darn right. Notorious RBG to the rescue! Add superhero cape to the judge’s robe!

Follow up: I haven’t ordered my blue pantsuit Hillary action figure yet. Yet. I still wish Lego would get serious and make the Supreme Court Women. 

 

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Excuses for the Things I Haven’t Done List

It’s sort of like a to-do list. I’ve accomplished a lot in getting the garden put away for the winter, but there’s still a great deal left to be done.There’s always an excuse, er, a reason, though. Let’s see.

Drain the rain barrels. But it’s still warm enough that there’s no danger of freezing. I use the rain barrel water to rinse out the litter boxes and the kitchen compost containers. Can’t I keep the rain barrels running for a little while longer? (she says plaintively)

Take out the last tomato plants.

It's a jungle out there.

It’s a jungle out there.

Cut back the flowers, such that they are. This is a low priority task. If I don’t do it, the small furry creatures will do it when winter sets in for real. 

Spread compost. This is an ongoing task. I’d rather spread it now than in the spring, but I can do this in the spring if need be. But if I don’t do it now, will there be room in the compost bins for the winter’s kitchen scraps? Well? 

Plant the walking onion bulbs I procured through foraging. It’s okay. I had permission. If I plant these now, they’ll come up in spring with little or no help. But before I put the bulbettes in where I want them, I have to weed that space. Yes, folks, it’s true. I need to weed the garden in November. Do you see why I’m procrastinating? 

Trim the lemon basil plant. This plant isn’t happy indoors. Maybe it needs a trim and a grow light. Maybe I should just cut it off and hang dry it, once and for all. 

Take a load of cast-offs to a thrift store. The pile I call the “Next Goodwill Load” is overflowing the laundry basket that holds it. But first, I really wanted to empty a couple more drawers. It’ll make room for hiding birthday and Christmas gifts.

Speaking of gift shopping, I need to get my annual spreadsheet in place. Ugh. It’s a necessary evil. Keeping track of what I’ve already bought will help prevent overspending. And since I started shopping in August – hey, don’t roll your eyes. Art in the Park (a local summer art festival) is one of my favorite shopping opportunities.

Rake leaves. It’s windy out. That’s enough, isn’t it?

But seriously, I’ve gotten a lot done recently. I cleaned out the main garden plot and the plot behind the garage. I’ve stirred both compost bins and added water to the smaller one to keep it from drying out. Rain barrel water, in fact. I’ve kept up with bunny’s litter boxes, and I add those to the garden soil, too.

Most important task of all: I voted. I voted early at City Hall. That’s a deep sigh of relief.

Readers, have you voted yet? All the other tasks can wait.

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Buying a Dishwasher – fun?

We did the research online before heading to the Big Box store. On the short drive there, I tapped into as many Pokemon Stops as I could (to fill my bag with balls, etc.), and Chuck told me all about the features we could get.

Sales Dude in Blue approached, and we welcomed him. He knew what he needed to know, so we asked our questions, got answers, made our decision, and ordered a dishwasher to be delivered and installed in a few weeks.

That’s the short story.

Somehow, within this entire shopping journey, we discovered that we have a great deal in common with Sales Dude in Blue. Gardening, canning, foraging. Foraging! Water conservation, rain barrels, desire to see more cities rewarding those who conserve. Cataract surgery. Cataract surgery? Yes, indeed, Sales Dude in Blue recognized a particular glint that indicates eye surgery, and asked if I was satisfied with my results. For the most part, yes, I answered. If the left retina had stayed attached, I’d be more content.

But anyway, we’re replacing our aging dishwasher in a few weeks. Days, in fact, before Election Day. Oh, my, even the behavior of a major appliance can make me think of November 8th. I sense a theme here.

We didn’t talk politics with Sales Dude in Blue. We didn’t need to. And when we’ve had the dishwasher for a few days and Election Day is done, I’ll have more reasons to sigh with relief.

 

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