The Bartman Farm

  I had the privelidge to tour the Bartman Farm today, unexpectedly.  I’ve known John Bartman for about 15 years. I met him when he was a young man working to grow the Democratic Party in McHenry County.  We’ve remained friends since then.  

  On John’s FB page he let his friends know the sweet corn crop was available.  I was already in Huntley this morning and thought why not head out to Marengo. Well there he was and he invited me to take a tour of the farm in his suped up John Deere that looks unbelieveably like a small range rover.
  John’s farm has been in his family for 40 years.  They own, rent, and work 700 acres.  Holy smokes!  I had no idea.    He showed me all the crops they plant, field corn (GMO and non-GMO), winter wheat, soy beans, and sweet corn.  He showed me a plat where there was an Algonquin connection.  It was sludge that was turned into fertilizer to spread on his fields.  Reduce, reuse, recycle at it’s best.

Before I left with my car back seat filled with sweet corn, I met John’s mom, dad and aunt.  It’s a family thing.

I spent my teenage years in Yorkville when it was a farming community.  Farming has changed significantly for the better.   John and I discussed how schools should develop a program to help students understand the farming business.  It is a business that is taken for granted.  Farmers feed the world.  Crops and livestock contribute to the Gross Domestic Product – yes they do if you recall your economics class.  We need to develop among our students, at an early age, an understanding of farming and the significance to our future.   I’ve always supported schools to have a garden plot that provides a hands-on experience in planting, nuturing and reaping the rewards of gardening.  

  Anyway, the end result of my trip was to pick up sweet corn.  IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!  Bicolor corn for dinner and it was perfect.  Thanks John for all you do.  It was a fantastic reminder of the hard work that goes into your profession.

It’s that time…Garage/Downsizing Sale

2015 Garage Sale

Yep, it’s time.  There’s a lot of stuff.  A lot of barware, accessories, bedding, towels, plastic drawers to hold bedding or sweaters – we used them at college for Chrissy, two sewing machines (Necchi & Singer) that probably need a tune up, and one sewing machine cabinet PLUS so much more.   My neighbor is also having a garage sale, or declutter as she’d like to say, and she has children s things.

My sister is the BEST at having a garage sale and she’ll be here to show us all how to do this.  She took the photos BTW.

There’s a recumbant bike also for sale.  I forgot to take that photo.  It was my son’s.

I forgot, there’s LOTS of children’s VHS videos.  I know but someone may like them.  There’s also a game cube?  Not sure about that but it’s in there too.  A 12 year old movie camera that looks like new.  We used it to take movies of Jacobs football games.

Some gardening tools, other tools we don’t need.  Or just stop by for lemonade.  We’d love to see you.

It’s Founders weekend so this seemed to be the best weekend while folks are all out.  Looking forward to seeing you.





The Light is Brighter Now because of Janine.

Dr. Janine SteffanThere are few people that come along in your life that really make a difference.  Dr. Janine Steffan was one of those people.  I met Janine offhandedly in the small conference room at Perry Elementary where she was working with another post grad student on their doctorate in education.  Later on we became fast literacy buddies when we both served on the District 300 Literacy Committee which was dedicated to helping struggling students to become passionate about reading, especially at the middle school level.rose-book-flower-backgrounds-book-rose-25275

The committee worked tirelessly to come up with ideas for reading.  She, and others, reached out to educators and special reading groups of educators to find, 1. best practices, 2. ideas, and 3. once we came up the the idea and money would you support it.  She was a genius when it came to helping youngsters read.

Janine’s recent research was in the field of adolescent reading and performance assessment.  Her skills in performance assessment were spot on especially when we finished a program for students to determine if it was helpful and provided success for them in reading.

Janine was so kind, so thoughtful, so centered in best practices for students – it made my heart have hope for struggling students.  We would come up with ideas in how we could raise money just for literacy.  One of our favorite ideas was to have a tea party with a well-known author.   The committee had a few great ideas.

The countless hours that were spent off the clock on the Literacy Committee showed how much she really cared for student success.  She touched so many students.  One of the programs we worked on brought an internationally renowned author in to talk to students about her books and her art.  That author helped to turn a student’s academics career around.   Janine wanted us to showcase the student in our Gala so that our donors knew we were reaching students.  She knew what worked for struggling students and wanted to celebrate it all the time.

There are so many of us today where our souls are sad today.  She touched so many lives and cared deeply for students.  Janine will be a joyful light to be remembered.

Many thanks to Helen Lawrence for the photo.

Imitation is the best form of a compliment

I just received my cookbook from my Facebook friend Letizia Mattiacci who lives  in Umbria in Italy.  She has a cooking school that looks like I would really enjoy attending should I ever have the opportunity to visit.   I was flipping through her book and saw a wonderful pork recipe that looked like braciole only better.

Her recipe uses guanciole, yep something I never heard of before but became acquainted with it this afternoon while watching Extra Virgin on the – it’s bacon, sort of.  If you can’t find guanciole use panchetta or heck, just bacon – I did.   The recipe inspired me to do something like this with chicken.

So here goes:

  • 2 skinned chicken breasts, rinsed, patted dry then pounded out
  • 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 T. melted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • slice of red onion, minced
  • 1 T. pesto
  • 3 T.  Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 T. fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
  • 8 slices fontinella cheese
  • 4 slices precooked bacon

Combine the bread crumbs, butter, garlic, red onion, pesto, and parsley.  It’ll be crumbly.

Assemble the chicken with bread crumb mixture, fontinella, then the bacon.  Roll up tightly and tie with butcher’s string.  In a pyrex plate, sprinkle black pepper, salt and a little Extra Light Virgin olive oil.  Roll each tied chicken breast in the pyrex dish.  Grill on indirect heat till internal temp reaches 160.

It was delicious!!!!!!!!  I don’t always have everything I need in the fridge but I have most things.  Improvising works  well most days.  It was so big I only ate half.  Enough for another day.  Thanks Letizia.



Can’t Judge a Recipe by it’s Photo

With Memorial Day on the horizon, I wanted a grilling item to prepare for the weekend.  Prior to the holiday, my social media sites flare up with lots of recipes.  Regardless of where I pulled the Chili Lime Chicken recipe from it was the photo that caught my eye.  After reading the recipe it had two ingredients that I personally steer away from, jalapenos and cilantro.  I threw caution to the wind deciding something THAT good looking can’t be all about the heat or cilantro.

2015 CLC 4The recipe was on the Rasa Malaysia site, known for her Asian culinary skills.  She has 900 + recipes on her site.  Meijer had chicken thighs for $.98/lb. Who could pass that up?  The package was Costco size so I split it up, half to us and half to my son.

I did cut down on the cilantro.  I only used 1 tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro.  I did use BOTH jalapenos, seeded of course.  The hubs loves heat.  I figured if it was too spicy for me, he’d enjoy them.

So here’s a tip, when you’re shopping and you remember you have limes at home, think of their size.  This requires ½ a cup of fresh lime juice.  Yes, I had 6 small limes that after I juiced them barely passed the 1/3 cup line.  I added water to get to ½.  I did use the requisite zest.

2015 CLC 22015 CLC 1OH MY GOSH, it was delicious and no hint of heat or cilantro.  NOT KIDDING.  I was sweating, on the way home from work,  thinking about it because I am not a heat seeker what-so-ever.  I served it with a watermelon and feta salad.  I’ve made this side dish many times.  It reappeared on Facebook with mozzarella with the watermelon cut into the shapes of stars.  That was just so cute.

In the end, it was a very good meal.  One I’d make for guests often in the summer.


Chili Lime Chicken

  • 5 lbs skin on chicken thighs
  • 3 t. fresh lime zest
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • 4 T fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 t kosher salt
  • 1 t chili powder, or to taste

Clean the chicken and pat dry.  I left the bones in.

2015 CLC 52015 CLC yUsing a 2 cup or larger bowl, whisk all the ingredients together.  The honey will fall to the bottom of your marinade so make sure you incorporate the honey into the marinade.

Place the chicken in freezer bags, they’re MUCH sturdier than regular Ziploc bags, and pour the marinade over them.  (I split mine into two bags)  Close the bag and coat well.  Place in the refrigerator for AT LEAST two hours, turning occasionally.  I left them overnight.

Grill till done.  The skin should be crisp.  Done is when clear juices run out when pierced by a knife.

No excuses when you food prep

Don’t you get a little overwhelmed by what we’re supposed to eat?  Doesn’t it just get you frustrated that you can’t drive through and just pick up breakfast (B), lunch (L), dinner (D), or a snack (S)?  Well I know full well what you mean.  Half my problem is prepping for BLDS.  Who the heck wants to stand there for half an hour cutting up all that stuff for one salad?  Honestly, could it get anymore gruesome?

WHAT would make it easier?  Hands up – someone make it for me.  That’s the answer I hear most from folks I know.  The biggest complaint is fixing it, that is to say, slicing up all the veggies and protein.

I’ve been following two Face book pages, Eat Clean, Train Mean, and Live Green  and Eat to Perform.  They both espouse to meal prepping which means in order to make it easier on us and be successful at achieving goals, we should do meal preps ahead of time.  Having said that, it takes planning but NOT A LOT.  Once you’re in the groove, prepping becomes second nature.

Each page has a website (Eat Clean, Eat to Perform) that can explain meal planning, menus, recipes, etc. but one of them likes to show other peoples fridges with meals already prepped. I was so impressed with these fridges of normal folks I was inspired to start prepping.  Plus both my trainers Tony and Randy encouraged me to meal prep.

I’m not here to discuss clean eating but to discuss availability of food in your fridge when you need it, to save time for that decent salad at lunch that you can assemble the evening before or in the morning, hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, or being the grill master of a Costco size pack of chicken breasts so you have sliced chicken (pork tenderloin, flank steak, salmon) already prepared for easy access.

IMG_0534One of my stresses is cutting all the stuff.  Part of that is having a SHARP knife which makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD.  A few years ago I found this Wosthof knife sharpener at Williams Sonoma.  It was really inexpensive and I purchased a bunch of them to give away as gifts.  Plus, a decent knife will make it less stressful.  A paring knife just isn’t the tool.


I purchase veggies and fruits all the time.  Sometimes the lazy cook in me purchases the cut up Meijer fruit.  You can see the my stock to the right.  The chicken was grilled this past weekend.  I sliced it up when I put it away.  Sometimes at Joe Caputos they have third day veggies that are much less expensive (carrots come to mind).


Look how nice and neat all that is now.  Containers of all sizes are a must.  I use the freezer lock bags for the lettuce.


Meal prep also makes for EASY storage in your refrigerator.

IMG_0533The end game here is to make it easy to create a meal.  This didn’t even take me five minutes to put together.

So as the title says, when you can food prep there should be “no excuses” for you or the family.


Garden Downsizing

We have our home up for sale because we certainly do not need all this room.  My gardens have become part of the marketing incentives as seen here at Lewke’s site.  I’ve really been taking in the depth and serenity of the gardens this spring.  Instead of planting, planting, planting I’ve decided to plant only the pots – because you know it’s not for me any longer.

2015 spr 1

2015 sp 2Being a gardner is very much like an artist.   You start with a blank canvas, or in this case empty pots and containers.  Add the coloring agents, or flowers from Tom’s or Home Depot.  I always stop at Tom’s because you could get lost in the gorgeous plantings or the bakery.  The Home Depot garden center offers many other types of plants to add to your garden at a lesser price.  This year I also stopped at Costco and found enormous geraniums for a GREAT price.  Of course they’re not there any longer – boo.

2015 sp3Potting plants you don’t need your entire entourage of gardening tools.  I always use leather gloves whenever working in the dirt.  In the major garden I use a garden ax which is my favorite tool.  Here we only need a trowel.

2015 sp7I started with the kitchen herb planter.  This year I removed the old coconut liner and added a new one but kept the dirt which lined the bottom of the planter.   I added more potting soil then laid out the herbs.

2015 sp9

Some of the herbs were root bound like the basil to the left here.  You just open the bottom of that root ball before you place it into the potting mix.  See the photo on the right. 2015 sp10 Add all the rest of your herbs, add more potting mix if you need to, then water.  Make sure you keep your tags so your hubby knows what he should be snipping when you ask him to bring you a sprig of Rosemary for tonights dinner.


Moving is a little cathartic as it forces you to consider what you really need.   I  de-cluttered a few of the pots.  I probably recycled 10 of them.  Nope, I will not need a gazillion pots where ever we are headed, and we don’t know the answer to that question either.

2015 sp14I do however need color in the deep shade of the gardens.  I chose white begonias and impatiens, red large begonias, lime green coleus, and a white wispy plant.  Those pots anchor the shade.  What you see at the right is one of the pots with Creeping Jenny and Bishop’s Cap on the ground.

Everything is potted, EVERYTHING.  Not spending any more on the flowers.  I’ve looked back at my garden photos, especially the ones where they were in the McHenry County garden walk.  OMG, just way too much planting but boy was it lovely.   I’ll have to get those out and post at a later time.

Take in the beauty of your gardening.  It gives you such a sense of peace along with a lot of sweat.


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