Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Voting in Wisconsin

Today was a historic day in Wisconsin's history.  The 3rd recall of a governor.  As I type this, the results are still coming in but currently Walker is in the lead.  However, as I would like to point out to the people cheering Walker's win, only 26% of the vote count is in, the remaining 74% may tell a different story (so shut up already!)

Politics aside, I'd like to share the story of my voting experience.  After school I went to the city building to vote.  As I pulled into the normally rather empty parking lot, I realized I would be hunting for a spot for a while.  There were dozens of people streaming in and out of the building all going to do their civic duty and right.  I noticed several former students in line or actively voting and I passed the time waiting in line guessing which way they would vote.  "Oh, J would definitely be voting for Walker, M for Barrett, D, hmm, not certain."  My next door neighbors were in the line right in front of me with their granddaughter.  I noticed former students there with their grandparents, parents with small children, and people like me, just going to vote after working. 

While I stood there waiting,  I realized I was tearing up.  Now, please realize, I cry frequently.  Matt teases me because I cry at Hallmark commercials. But this was different.  I was crying because I'm proud.  I'm proud that even though Wisconsin is divided right now and even though I'm afraid to tell people I'm a teacher, we live in a country and state where we have the right to make our voice heard. AND we take advantage of this right. 

When I vote I always think of the women who struggled to ensure that I have this right as well as the men and women who have fought and continue to fight to protect our nation and ensure my right.  Voting, to me, is not a civic "duty." "Duty implies something that you have to do but is not enjoyable like paying taxes.  Voting should be considered a civic privilege. It is a privilege that we all have, some take advantage of, and others would give anything to have.  We take our privilege for granted but complain when we don't like something.  Folks, there is something that you can do: VOTE!!! Especially in state and local elections, your voice matters.  Don't agree with the direction of your state? Vote!  Agree with how the city is handling local taxes? Vote!  People have died and continue to die to give you this right; don't let their deaths be in vain!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Crockpot Oatmeal, yum, yum!

Matt and I have been enjoying this recipe for sometime now. The original recipe says that it takes all night for this to cook; I find in my crockpot it takes about 4-5 hours. This recipe doubles VERY well. I usually double it. It has lasted for over a week and reheats great!

The only ingredients you need! Look at those lovely steel-cut oats!!!

Crockpot Oatmeal

1 cup steel cut oats

4 cups water

1/2 cup half & half

Combine & cook on low. Feel free to add fruit while cooking. Matt eats his with honey, I'm a brown sugar girl. :)

Before, after all ingredients are mixed!

And after, when oatmeal is finished!!

Monday, February 27, 2012


I don't really blog about teaching. I'm not certain why, I just chose not to. But something happened last week that I really need to share. I teach psychology and we were in the middle of our emotion, stress, and motivation unit (I noticed that these spell MES which could be a description of my desk ;)

To inspire discussion about difficult topics, I started handing out slips of scrap paper and having students write answers to questions like: What makes you mad? What causes you pain? What makes you happy? and other difficult questions to discuss out loud. I then read the answers and we talked about what we heard. We ended up having some wonderful discussions.

But the sad part was some of the answers I received. "It makes me mad when my dad ignores me." "It hurts me that I can't have a closer relationship with my mom." "It hurts when my friends make fun of me." "It makes me mad when people call me names." (These aren't actual answers; just my paraphrasing.)

These answers just break my heart. I wish I could share them with the parents of the authors. How could a father ignore a child? And what type of mother doesn't allow for a closer relationship with their child (daughter, I think) Some of them almost made me break Absolute Teaching Rule #1: Don't cry in front of my students (that's different from my Classroom Rule #1: No bleeding) Seeing the answers in stark pen and knowing the courage it took to write that made me very proud of my students. And this is just a little activity in one class.

Teenagers always get such a bad rap: They're loud, dumb, rude, disrespectful, etc.

On the other hand, they want closer relationships with their parents.

When parents choose others over their children, it cuts deep.

It hurts them when they're made fun of by the people who are supposed to be supportive and they don't know how to handle the situation.

They're just kids. Stuck in adult situations that no one is helping them with. A little empathy goes a long way.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

What to do with squash? New Recipe

Gesh, it's been some time since I posted. School started again and the harvest swung into fashion. We were able to save quite a few veggies and still have about 1 1/2 bushels of apples in the garage/root celler. (For some reason, I prefer to think of it as a root celler, more romantic!) Part of what we have left are a multiude of squash. Now, I like squash but after a while, they get, well, boring. So I developed a new recipe for Christmas:

Squash Tart

1-2 squash ( I used Delicata and some other type that I forgot the name of, but I think any winter squash would work)
cream cheese (I used 1 1/2 boxes), room temperature
puff pastry, thawed

Clean the squash and cut into 1 inch-ish squares. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and salt, bake until soft.

Cook 3-4 slices of bacon. Remove from pan and add chopped onion, saute.

Roll the puff pastry till about 1/2 inch thick. Add spices to cream cheese (I added celery salt and pepper and a little of the bacon but add what you would like)

Place puff pastry on baking sheet on parchment paper. Smear cream cheese on pastry, put squash, onion, and bacon on pastry. Roll up edges slighty to form crust.

Bake at 350 for 25ish minutes, or until done. Enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2011

"As the Jelly Jar Seals," a canning (soap) opera!

"Yes, I can!" is my punny slogan. I can and I CAN. This time of year, I CAN. Whatever I can (ha!) get my hands on. So far this year, it's been two types of pickles, pickled beets, and beet jelly. Today I think it will be carrots.

Canning is one of those things that gets a bad rap. Sure, it can be dangerous with the large pots of boiling water and glass, but the sense of accomplishment that a person can get from knowing that they are saving food for the winter, and when you open that jar of lovely summer in the depths of winter, it is a wonderful feeling. I love looking at the jars we've preserved and just enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. I have wonderful memories of helping my mom can green beans (I wiped the top of the jar) and helping my grandmother freeze corn (I held the bag). Each time I can or preserve, I think of those times with loved ones and even though Grandma has passed away, she is still alive in my memory and my heart. I feel closer to her when I'm doing something that I remember doing with her! And I still call my mom to double check things ("How much juice do I need?") Sometimes I already know; I just call to chat about a shared passion.

Canning is making a come-back. As people become more concerned about what is done to their food and where it came from plus as food prices go up, canning will continue to be popular.

I made a zesty bread and butter pickle plus a normal bread and butter pickle for Matt who's not so fond of the the "zesty." The cucumbers came from our CSA plus some from Matt's coworker.

The cukes with red peppers and onions for the zesty. So pretty!

I made 2 quarts plus 4 pints of the zesty and 3 pints of the normal. A quart jar is about the size of a large pasta sauce jar and a pint is about the size of a large jelly jar. Not to be confused with actual jelly jars which are often latticed on the sides to be "prettier" than the normal canning jars.

I also made pickled beets and beet jelly. Beets are almost the perfect vegetable. According to the Nutrition and You website, beets are full of fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and anti-oxidants.

So many people don't like beets and I think they just haven't had GOOD beets. Beets need to be dressed up a bit (my favorite way is boiled with butter and salt/pepper, yum yum!) but when canning, you can use all of the beet. Cook the beets for the pickled beets and keep the juice from cooking for the jelly. The only "waste" is the skins from the beets that you take off AFTER cooking. And you can eat the tops as either a salad or cooked, how wonderful!

The pickled beets in their jar; look at that color! How many purple foods are there in the world? :)

The pickled beets and jelly. Beet jelly tastes like a combination of grape and strawberry, very yummy. I also like that in the background of this picture is my sewing machine; look at this domesticated diva! Canning AND sewing! :) If only you knew the ugly truth...

I ended up with 1 quart and 7 pints of pickled beets and 13 jars of jelly. All sealed, so it was a good canning day! I didn't can everything in one day. I made the pickled beets and saved the juice for the next day to make jelly. You heat the juice up again anyhow so why not save it till the next day. Just be certain that you label it when you put it in the fridge otherwise it looks like a funky type of Kool-Aid and people might try to drink it. (Voice of experience!)

The jelly jars cooling.

There is always one victim when I can, the stove top. No matter how hard I try to keep things clean or not spill, I still do. I think it's part of the gig to scrub the stove after canning, especially if you've been canning something that drips (like jelly) or is a dark color (like beets) or cooks for a really long time (pasta sauce). The stove always looks horrible. Here's proof:

And after some serious scrubbing!

Like new!

If someone is interested in learning more about canning or learning how to start, I can do another post just on intro-canning information or you can check out the USDA or an Extension office near you for more info.

Next time on "As the Jelly Jar Seals," will Merrilee can carrots? Will she ever have enough tomatoes to make sauce? Will Matt come home again to a filthy stove top? And whatever happened to Mr. Stripey Tomato, last seen entering the M&M household and not seen since? Will the mystery be solved? Tune in next time to find out!

Friday, August 19, 2011

I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!

For several years now I haven't had a bike. To be honest when we lived in NW Illinois, there wasn't anywhere to ride a bike to that was safe enough to enjoy. But here in WI, there are beautiful bike trails and most towns have bike lanes on the busier streets. So we began the "let's find Mer a bike" hunt. Now, with the number of bikes in existence already, I couldn't stand the thought of buying a NEW bike. And to me, most of the new ones weren't as sturdy as the older ones or as cute. I wanted a beach-crusier to just get me around town. I'm not planning on entering the Tour de Wisconsin (not a real race); I just want to ride my bike to the library.

Matt scoured Craigslist for me and found the perfect bike (for me). It's probably as old as I am since it has a bike registration tag for a nearby town dated from the same year I was born but it's still in good shape. The lady we bought it from had bought it for her mother who couldn't ride it any longer.

We paid the huge sum of $30 for it plus new tires (and a basket) and in the end, the bike was still cheaper than a new one and is of a sturdier construction.

Now I'm trying to figure out all the places I can ride my bike to. We have a grocery store just a few blocks down from us and when we need just a couple of items, I like to ride my bike. The day I made jelly and bought 10 pounds of sugar, I drove. My basket is only rated to 5 lbs. :) And I didn't want to walk with the sugar and all the other canning supplies I needed!

I take it to the library and use a fun pedestrian bridge across the river and a route that takes me around the big hill rather than over it. The only problem with a beach crusier is the one gear: me and hills can be a killer!

And yes, Mom, I wear a helmet!

My bike!

Monday, August 1, 2011

How Much Would You Spend??

We're in the wrong profession. Anyone reading this post is in the wrong profession, trust me.

See this lovely tomato? How much would you pay for it?

$3? $4?

These organic, heirloom tomatoes, sold at a "Hole" Foods store, were....wait for it........wait.....

$5.99 a pound

The tomato was 2 pounds, hence the lovely tomato above was $12. $12!!!!!

That better be one heck of a great tomato!

But when you eat out of season, you pay for "forcing" the vegetable to ripen. Personally, I'll wait until the tomatoes are actually ripe and I'll know that they will taste even better than the one above. Don't get me wrong, I'd give plenty for a good ripe tomato and some s/p but the cheapskate in me doesn't want to pay $12 for it!

And I saw people purchasing the expensive tomatoes. One lady walked out of the store clutching a lovely Mr. Stripey like it was priceless. At those prices, it kinda was. So see, we're all in the wrong profession. We should start heirloom organic tomato farms and sell our crops at a high price!

(And yes, I pulled my camera out of my purse and made Matt hold the offending tomato while others in the store stared at me. Oh well, I'm used to be stared at oddly by others, wondering what in the world I'm doing. I am a former CP worker and a current teacher, after all! It's part and parcel of the gigs!)