Growing Power

I’ve lived around Milwaukee, Wisconsin my entire life – I lived in the city limits for awhile, and just five years ago we moved west to its neighboring (and less pronounceable) neighbor Waukesha (that’s “walk-ih-shaw”).  Over the years Milwaukee has been associated with a variety of things, both good and bad:  Beer (good), Harley Davidson (good), Jeffrey Dahmer (bad) and Summerfest (mostly good).  But there’s plenty of underrated great stuff going on here too.  Growing Power is one of the most remarkable.

Will Allen's book, The Good Food Revolution

Growing Power, Inc. is committed to educating people and communities about the benefits of growing their own food, giving people the means and the knowledge to grow food, and distributing locally grown food.   In the context of Milwaukee – a very segregated city with a large urban population – that sounds like a pretty lofty goal.  Growing Power’s CEO, Will Allen, has summed up that mission very well:  ”If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.  I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

Amen.  That sounds great, but how does Growing Power do it?

Growing Power’s national headquarters is the last remaining operational farm and greenhouse in the City of Milwaukee.  The two-acre operation is home to thousands of plants as well as some livestock and bees.  With opportunities for hands-on demonstrations and activities, the headquarters site not only showcases the potential of urban farming but it also gives communities and schools the opportunities to gain the skills needed to implement smaller scale operations of their own.  Frequent workshops are held at the headquarters and around the community on diverse topics like vermiculture, aquaponics and greenhouse production.   There’s even a six-week intensive farmer training program.  While the bulk of Growing Power’s mission is accomplished through educating and growing, evidence of Growing Power’s ability to see the big picture can be found in their involvement in food policy initiatives and food justice issues, including the Growing Food and Justice for All Institute.

And all of that is smack-dab in the middle of what would otherwise be considered a food desert in the city.

Growing Power cites its goal as a simple one:  to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community.

To learn more about Growing Power, to volunteer, donate, learn, or to simply be inspired by the difference one man with a vision can make, visit their website:  Growing Power.



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Mandhari: A Beautiful Coincidence

I’ve often spoke lovingly of “my farm.”  I spent part of my childhood, from about 1984 to 1989, living in a rented farmhouse on a hill overlooking a lake.  My Mom rented the place for $400 a month, and the property included a five bedroom farmhouse, a garage, a barn (with additional garage), the biggest yard I’ve ever seen, and a wonderful view.  The farm’s owners had named it Mandhari, which they told us was Swahili for “beautiful view.”  The name was totally appropriate.

I have so many memories of the farm.  I raised chickens, ducks and rabbits there for the County Fair.  My grandmother lived there with us for a number of years, as did my brother and my Daddy Jack.  It was the last place I remember my Mom being truly happy.  She spent her time planting rows of bachelor buttons and roses that bloomed along the fence, and she loved to sit in front of the barn with her sketchbook drawing pictures of the beautiful view.

She even painted a picture of our farm.  It hangs in my dining room.

We didn’t leave the farm by choice.  My grandmother was already gone – she passed in 1989 – and my Daddy Jack had already been asked to move out.  It was just Mom and I there when we were told that the place was sold.  We didn’t even know it was for sale.  We had to pack up a whole house, and barn, and two garages in a big hurry.  And we had nowhere to go and no money to get there.

But we left.  We left behind a lot of memories.  Probably a lot of debris, too.  Most everything we owned, even my toys, went to auction and brought us far less than we needed to move.  And Mom missed the farm until the day she died.

I often wondered about the farm.  I still drive by when I’m in the area.  The place looks well maintained, and that makes me happy.  But that’s all I knew.

Until this week.  I was perusing Pinterest and, as the Internet tends to work, one link led to another, and I found myself on the page of a pinner who had a link to her blog with a tagline “the little farm on the hill.”  That made me smile – I used to have a little farm on a hill.  I clicked the link on a whim.

And I saw my farm.

She had a photo of some chickens – chickens! – in front of my barn.  I recognized it immediately.  Other photos showed parts of the yard.  It is different – better maintained than we could manage, certainly – but it was our farm.

I nearly cried.  My farm.

Her blog appears to be inactive since February.  I hope that’s because she is busy planting and tending to her beautiful place.  I posted a comment on her blog asking her to reach out to me.  I hope she does.  I have so much to ask.

Was my playhouse still in the backyard when they moved there?  Daddy Jack and I built that together.

Did the hallway and staircase still have the bizarre American flag/bald eagle red, white, blue and gold wallpaper?  That was something else.

Was the blue spruce tree still there?  We stole that from Colorado.  Mom and Daddy Jack liked them so much that they dug a few up and brought them back to Wisconsin with us.

Did they use the plate racks that lined the dining room windows that overlooked the lake?  Mom put her cobalt blue plates up on the windows and the morning sun would shine through them and fill the room with beautiful blue hues.

Did you find out the hard way that the giant tree in the front yard has been filled with concrete?  That was a surprise to us too, and I can’t explain that one either.

And what about my cats?  We left a bunch of barn cats behind.  I missed them more than anything for years.

I hope that she reaches out to me.  I have to believe that my finding her blog was an amazing coincidence that was meant to happen.  Mostly though I’m glad that my place of so many memories appears to have such an able caretaker who realizes what a treasure she has in that farm.


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Rawr! {Wordless Wednesday}

I went to the Milwaukee County Zoo with Jack’s daycare on Tuesday.  As Zoo Pass holders, Jack and I are regular Zoo devotees, but I was especially excited to see how Jack would enjoy our Zoo with the other Angelfish (the 3-year old classroom is called the Angelfish room, and these kids have some serious Angelfish Pride going.  It is pretty cute).

The weather was perfect, the kids were in a great mood, but the most excitement came from the tigers.  Those tigers put on a great show for the kids.

All of the little ones lined up by the glass portion of the tiger enclosure to get a better look at the big cats as they bathed and rested in the sun.  One of the tigers was pretty interested in all of the little faces peering in on his bathtime, so he came up to the glass and paid a special visit.

Jack was face to face with a tiger.

What a fun day.

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I just had the worst day

Everyone is fine.  It wasn’t like THE worst day. But it was…something.

It started out great.  I worked in the garden, took a bike ride to get some oven-fresh cinnamon rolls for the family, and then Jack and I were off to the beach for a few hours.  That part was fantastic.

Then we had to do our grocery shopping.  Our best grocery option on a Sunday is Wal-Mart, so Jack and I were off to the Wal-Mart grocery.  Things were going well until Jack uttered the words that every mom of a newly potty trained kid dreads:

“Mommy.  I have to go potty.  NOW.”

Wal-Mart is big.  HUGE.  And we were at the farthest possible location from the restrooms.  But I tried.  Oh, I tried.  I thanked my lucky stars for my fitness as I sprinted our cart towards the restrooms.  But things declined rapidly.

“Mommy.  I’m peeing in my pants.”

Oh, no.  Not just his pants.  His pants and my feet.  Did I mention that I was wearing sandals?  We were at the beach that morning.

I wanted to die.

Let me share the text I sent my husband:

But fortunately, my husband is really supportive and stands by me in times of distress.

At that point, Jack was soaked.  I don’t even want to think about my poor feet.  I tried to locate a Wal-Mart employee, to tell him, um, clean up in Aisle Two, but there was no one to be found.  I went to the checkout line and told the poor horrified trainee checker.  I felt bad for him, but worse for me.  Jack had happily forgotten the incident.

We hurried home, and I told Jack to get undressed immediately and head upstairs for a shower.  You’d think that the festivities would have ended there, but they did not.

No, no.  They did not.

I heard a little voice in the bathroom as I was heading up the stairs to start the shower.

“Mommy!  Somebody pooped on the toilet!”

Oh, dear God.

“See?  There’s poop on the seat.”

There was, in fact, poop on the seat.  Jack maintained his innocence, but I know the truth.


Pee and poop, all in the space of about thirty minutes.  At least I have my Summer Shandy.

And if you see this on YouTube, just remember:  don’t laugh.  It could happen to you, too.


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One Bad Egg

No, this isn’t a post about the chickens.  Their eggs are great.

This is about our Little Free Library, and why it is closed, as of today.

Just a handful of books, and the note. Everything was gone the next day.

In all, our community has been amazing about our Little Free Library.  People love it.  People were always so generous with their books and they respected the “take a book, leave a book” philosophy.  Our problems have been few and far between.  Until a few weeks ago.

A woman rolls up, empties all of the new books out of the Library, and leaves.  Sometimes she leaves with her arms full of books.  But she clears out all but a handful of romance novels that have been there for a few months.  She never leaves a book, she only takes.  And she takes almost everything, every single time.

I gave her the benefit of the doubt – maybe she didn’t understand the rules.  I left a note clarifying that if you aren’t donating any books, please restrict yourself to one or two books.  Well, she showed me:  she took all the books AND the note this time.

I’ve had it.  The Little Free Library isn’t here to benefit just one person.

It is there to benefit the wonderful people that we’ve seen sharing their books.  The joggers who do a double take, stop and peruse, and then continue their run with a book or two in hand.

It is there for the older couple we met last fall.  They thanked us for the “drive-up” library.  The wife is an avid reader, but also disabled and cannot get to the public library or bookstores easily.  Books from the “drive-up” library brought her hours of enjoyment.  And they donated three BOXES of books, too.

The Little Free Library is there for the kids who find a new story and choose a book over a TV show one night because they found something interesting and new in the Library.

The Little Free Library is for all the geocachers, too.  We love you guys, and we love that you’ve enjoyed the adventure that brought you here.

But it isn’t for just one woman.  Because she leaves just the romance novels, I suspect she is scooping up the books and taking them to Half Price Books, where they buy books by the bagful for pennies on the dollar, and they generally reject romances.  But whatever her motive, it is inexcusable.  And I am pretty powerless to stop it.

It was a good run.  I hope we’ll reopen again.  But right now?  One bad egg has spoiled a wonderful thing.

Please spread the word.



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Eggs, eggs, eggs! Twenty recipes that use a LOT of eggs

We have a lot of eggs.  A LOT of eggs.  We only have six chickens, but they are seriously prolific.  We get about 5-6 eggs a day, every single day.

I’m not complaining.  I love eggs.

But if we aren’t diligent about our egg consumption, we can get a pretty massive egg backlog in a hurry.  What can you do with a lot of eggs?

Plenty.  Here are 20 great recipes that use a bunch of eggs:

Angel food cake requires a whopping 12 egg whites.

These Dutch Apple Pancakes require 4 eggs each (and they are amazing).

Pound cake takes five eggs.

Even better than pound cake?  Coconut cream pound cake.

Deviled eggs are always fun.  This recipe is excellent, and for extra awesome points use homemade mayo (made with some of your eggs, of course!)

I didn’t realize that homemade ice cream required eggs.

Speaking of dessert, how do Portuguese custard tarts sound?  That’s one I haven’t tried, but the recipe sounds incredible.  Six eggs in that recipe.

Egg bread is not only tasty, but a loaf of braided egg bread is really beautiful.  Six eggs, plus one to glaze.

My personal favorite:  I just call it “breakfast.”  A bunch of eggs scrambled up with some crumbled bacon, sauteed spinach, green peppers, onions, and whatever other random veggies I can find.  And cheese.  Of course there’s cheese.

Quiches are an obvious choice, and this list of ten quiche recipes has lots of great options.

Someone braver than I am will have to report back on this Eggs Benedict Bread Pudding.   That has to be someone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely not mine.

You can make your own egg noodles.  Who doesn’t love big, fat egg noodles?

For the grain-conscious, a good coconut flour pancake recipe that uses four eggs is a wonderful option.

Of course, you could just hard boil a dozen and leave them in the fridge for some quick snacks.  Because our fridge is often home to a lot of eggs, I mark our hard boiled eggs with a big “H” so that we don’t confuse them with the raw eggs.

Spinach Pom Poms not only sound like a great recipe, but they have a cute name too.  The linked recipe even says you can freeze them.

Some breakfast pockets that are way tastier than anything you’ll find in the freezer aisle of the grocery store.

Frittatas are a great way to go through some eggs.  This recipe is a winner.

Emeril’s recipe for creme brulee sounds fantastic, but I am not skilled enough to make it.  But, if anyone wants to try it, I’ll supply some eggs.  You’ll just have to share your creme brulee with me.  Deal?

And last, but certainly not least, good ol’ egg salad never disappoints.

Happy eating!

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Ready, Set, Go! Hello Mornings Winter 2013 Begins

It’s here, it’s here!  The Hello Mornings Winter 2013 challenge has begun!

(If you missed my previous posts on Hello Mornings, it is an online Bible study group based on Facebook and Twitter.  The purpose of Hello Mornings is to get up early every day to spend some time with God through study or prayer.  I did the last Hello Mornings study in 2012 and loved it.)

Morning comes early around here during the week.  I have to be out the door by about 6:45 a.m. to miss the traffic rush hour and get to work on time, and before I can do that at a bare minimum I have to get myself dressed and ready, get Jack dressed and ready, and feed and water the chickens.  The Hello Mornings studies definitely add another dimension to my morning schedule, but through some careful planning I’ve made my mornings more than manageable.  In fact, I’ve really started to enjoy my morning “quiet time.”  It helps center me for a busy day.

Prep work

Every night before bed I make sure that I have certain things prepped for the following morning.  I lay out my work clothes and pack my gym bag.  I lay out Jack’s clothes for him.  I make sure that the food I’m going to take to work for my lunch is prepped and ready to grab and go.  And for my Hello Mornings study, I make sure I have a section of the dining room table completely cleared off (with a preschooler in the house, there’s always some kind of project on our table – usually Legos, or trains), I set my Bible and my Hello Mornings binder out, I make sure I have a working pen, and I select a coffee cup and put it in the ready position on the Keurig.  Having that coffee cup ready is more of a mental thing than an actual time-saver, but it works for me.

I also make sure that my sink is shining and all of my dishes are clean and put away.  I get a wonderful mental boost when I start my day in a clean kitchen.

Buzz!  Buzz!

My alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m.  I always allow myself one tap on the snooze bar, but I think as a part of this challenge I’ll try to wean myself off of that.  I get up, make my coffee and fix a little breakfast – usually an egg or broiled grapefruit.  I sit down with my Bible study, my breakfast and my coffee.  I do my reading, write some notes, and spend some time contemplating the lesson of the day.  It is a peaceful time for me – the house is quiet and I have the time to myself.  It feels good.

If things are going well, I also like to get up and move around a little bit to start my day.  As a yoga practitioner, sun salutations or a similar awakening, invigorating set of stretches are my favorites.  I spend my days sitting at a desk so whatever movement I can get in during the day is welcome.

If all is going as planned, it is just about six a.m. by the time I finish my study and yoga, and it is time to get dressed, wake my son, and bring him breakfast.  I’ve had an hour of time to myself and it makes such a difference in my days and my attitude.  By the time 6:45 rolls around, I feel like I’ve accomplished the things I need to get done and I can leave my home knowing that my day has started off well.

I’m ready for this Hello Mornings challenge – bring on 5 a.m.!


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I See the Moon

When I was little (and when I was much older, too) my Mom used to sing a song to me:

I see the moon; the moon sees me

Down through the leaves of the old oak tree.

I tucked it away in my memory with all of the other nursery rhyme songs, like Hickory Dickory Dock and Three Blind Mice.  It was definitely one of my favorites.  I particularly liked the touch that Mom added to it:

Please let the light that shines on me

Shine on the one I love – that’s you!

She was always embellishing songs like that.  For example, I’m pretty sure that the real version of Eidelweiss didn’t include the word “fart.”  But Mom’s version did.  Mom’s was definitely superior.

I sing lots of songs to Jack.  Most of them end up with him telling me not to sing, but he’s fond of a just few when I’m singing:  Happy Birthday, the ABC song, Two Tickets to Paradise, and I See the Moon, the Moon Sees Me.

Funny how that one song, that one melody – something that my Mom said she heard on the radio in the 60s and that stuck with her – endured like this and found a place in Jack’s heart too.

And his favorite part?  The one part that makes him say “Let’s do it again!” over and over?

Please let the light that shines on me

Shine on the one I love - that’s you!

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Hello Mornings: Winter 2013 Challenge

In August I posted about my decision to embark on the Hello Mornings Bible study challenge, and how that decision really had a positive impact on my life.  The gist of the challenge is to wake up early every weekday to spend some time with the Bible.  Participants can use a particular study guide, or they can do their own study, but the purpose is to get into the Bible on a daily basis.  The real challenge was to make time for reading on a regular basis.

I loved the challenge.  It kept me engaged and interested, and the daily check-ins with my lovely Hello Mornings group on Facebook really kept me accountable.  The group was shepherded by an Accountability Captain whose took on the task of keeping us all engaged throughout the challenge.  She posted insightful and fun questions, fun pictures and inspiring quotes, and generally kept us all thinking about the challenge for the duration.

I was so inspired by the challenge that I offered to become an Accountability Captain for the upcoming challenge.  This next session starts January 28th and runs through April 26th 2013.

Would you like take on the Hello Mornings challenge and join me?  Signup starts today: January 16, 2013.  Registration is limited to just a one week window.

If you aren’t convinced, or if you want more information, please check out the Hello Mornings Frequently Asked Questions.

If you are ready to sign up and want to join me, registration starts here, and you can join my group at this link.

The Hello Mornings Challenge has been such a positive change for good in my life that I can’t help but want to share it with others.  If you aren’t sure but you’d like to give it a shot, go ahead and sign up.  I’ll walk you through it if you’d like, and I’d love to see you give it a try.  No Bible study experience needed – I’m sure an example of that!

I hope to see you in the challenge!



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Busy Box Giveaway: Frosty’s Busy Box from Tmuffin

Busy boxes are one of those great toddler/preschooler projects that so many of us say “oh, I can make those!” but we rarely have the time to actually sit down and craft them.  Even though the components are always simple, actually putting them all together into one fun package is more of a task than many of us are up to – especially on those days that we need these easy diversions the most.  The three most popular posts on this blog are about busy bags for toddlers, so I know that parents are always looking for things to keep their little ones busy on road trips, in new places, and even at home on quiet days.  Even the most creative mom can appreciate an enriching toy/activity that’s already put together for her child to play with.

We had a serious need for a busy box a few weeks ago:  we spent three days at a waterpark hotel for Jack’s third birthday, but he was too sick to do much playing in the water.  Instead of three miserable days of trying to contain a sick-yet-energetic little guy in a hotel room, we were prepared with a beautiful Frosty’s Busy Box from Tmuffin.

And now, Tmuffin has one to give away to a random reader.

It was hard to get an action shot of Jack playing with the busy box that wasn't blurry - he was all over these toys!

Frosty’s Busy Box is a lot of winter themed sensory fun in one small package.  Jack spent a lot of time enjoying the scented Play-doh.  He explored it with the stamps, he rolled it into little tiny snowmen, he colored on it with the markers and sprinkled it with glitter.  He used the suncatchers to stamp figures onto the dough and he colored the stencils too.  He had days’ worth of fun with it, and he still asks to play with this busy box.  He certainly loves it much more than my own busy box creations.  Plus, it all came in an adorable little bucket.  What little one doesn’t love to have a bucket to put their treasures in?  Because it is so self-contained, this is the perfect little kit to toss in the car for a trip to see family, or the doctor’s office, a restaurant, or any other place where little minds and hands can get bored and restless.

I encourage you to check out the Tmuffin website and subscribe to the newsletter.  These busy boxes are just the tip of the iceberg there – you’ll find much more about babywearing, breastfeeding, and beautiful, gentle ways to connect with your children.  And don’t miss the chance to print out a perfect “thank you for breastfeeding” card while you are there.   I’m excited to see what Tmuffin has in the future, including a busy box subscription service.

If you want to win your very own Frost’s Busy Box, enter below using Rafflecopter!  The giveaway closes this Friday, January 18, 2013.  Good luck!

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