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Monday, August 30, 2010

Jethro does a little work for once.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mrs. Keen's Apple Cake

This is my housemate Mitzi's magnificent 30-year-old adapted low-fat apple cake recipe. We whoofled it up in no time flat although Mitzi says it's great for breakfast, it was mostly gone by then.

Mrs. Keen's Delicious Low-Fat Apple Cake

2-1/2 cups peeled, diced apples
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup oil (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

Mix apples and brown sugar in a large bowl; let stand for half an hour.
Mix flour, soda, salt, cinnamon in one bowl.
Mix oil, vanilla, and egg in another small bowl.
Dump wet ingredients and dry ingredients into the apple bowl.
Mix, adding nuts and raisins
Bake in an 8-inch square greased pan at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

[Hannah]: Kaleidoscope Quilt - top is finished

The top is done!

Like ma, I like the patterns where it looks like there are curves even though there are only straight lines.

Which do you see more, the dark circles or the light circles?

Next step: sewing the quilt top to the batting and the backing.

Cats love batting. They immediately know they can be very helpful with this kind of material. How did she ooze herself between all these layers? I've never seen such a happy look on her face.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our absolutely favorite chocolate cake

I've made a lot of chocolate cakes in my life but have now settled on this one as the very best chocolate cake and - more importantly - the very best chocolate icing. It makes two relatively low 8" layers so you get more frosting per serving! We know this as "good Jeimy cake" after the person I first made it for...

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup cocoa plus enough to dust the pans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick softened salted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
5/8 cup buttermilk
1 cup cake flour
raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put an 8" round cake pan on wax paper and trace it with the back of a knife. Cut out the wax paper circle. Butter the bottom of the cake pan. Add the wax paper. Butter the wax paper and sides of the pan. Repeat with other pan. Dust both with cocoa powder.

Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Add cocoa, salt, baking powder, butter, vanilla and sugar and cream well. Add eggs separately beating after each. Add buttermilk and flour and mix.

Pour evenly into the two pans and bake for about 15 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and in about five minutes spread raspberry jam on top of each layer. It will sink in to seal the cake and prevent it from drying out.

When the layers are cool, put the thicker one flat side up on your cake plate. Put strips of wax paper under its edges to keep the plate clean while you frost it. Frost the top of the first layer, then put the second layer flat side down on top of the iced bottom layer and frost the rest.

Chocolate Buttermilk Icing

2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
7 tablespoons salted softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
5-6 tablespoons buttermilk (approximate)
3-1/3 cup confectioners sugar (approximate)

Melt chocolate in microwave-proof mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat them well. If it's too stiff add more buttermilk. If it's too soft add more confectioners sugar.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

A hospital in Ethiopia repairs fistulas so women can rejoin the world.

I've been meaning to write about the documentary A Walk to Beautiful, which you can rent or watch instantly at Netflix. The movie shows the work of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and won the 2007 Best Feature-length Documentary at the International Documentary Association Awards Ceremony. It galvanized me into sending a hefty donation (see the bottom of the post for links to donate or learn more).

You can also see it here, on YouTube (you'll have to endure a commercial first):

(From McClatchy News Service)

By the age when American girls start to attend preschool, girls in the Ethiopian countryside are already pressed into household labor, hauling buckets of water to help their mothers. Soon after that, they're handed the daily task of grinding grain with heavy stones to prepare injera, the spongy bread that's the staple of the Ethiopian diet.

"By the age of 8 they can carry weights that I can't carry," said Ruth Kennedy, a 54-year-old midwife at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital.

Hard labor and poor nutrition conspire against rural girls, who grow up sinewy and stunted.

But in traditional practice, girls are often married off by age 12 and expected to bear children within a few years. Their undersized pelvises are ill equipped to deliver fully formed fetuses, producing devastating complications, hospital nurses said. Some patients arrive at the hospital having endured up to seven days of labor.

At the end, the baby's head collapses and it emerges stillborn. The stuck fetus blocks blood flow to tissues in the pelvic wall, eventually tearing a hole.

Within hours the mother begins to leak urine and, in extreme cases where rectal tissue is also damaged, sometimes feces, nurses said.

Without treatment, women can leak from their vaginas for the rest of their lives, making it difficult for them to live among family and friends and forcing them to the margins of their close-knit communities. "Very few of their husbands keep them. They are spoiled," Kennedy said. "In a survivalist society, these little women become a burden."

The injuries to bladder and kidneys are extreme. "I smelled," [said one patient]. "No one talked to me. All my friends hated me. No one understood the condition." For several months Melise lay at home in bed in a fetal position, wracked by depression and trying desperately to stop the constant dripping of urine. She awoke one morning to find that her mother-in-law had thrown her things out of the house.

The humiliating injury is called obstetric fistula, a tear in the tissue between the vagina and adjoining organs, caused by prolonged labor in small, undernourished women—and now almost unknown outside the poorest countries of Africa and Asia. While the last recorded case in the United States was in 1895, researchers believe that 9,000 women will develop fistulas this year in Ethiopia alone.

Founded in 1974 by two Australian gynecologists, Catherine Hamlin and her late husband Reginald, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital has performed more than 32,000 free operations on women from across Ethiopia. More than 90 percent of patients fully recover

The couple performed the first fistula operations in Ethiopia as volunteers in 1959. Now the hospital, with support from nonprofit foundations and private donors, has grown into an internationally recognized center for fistula research and has trained doctors from 28 countries to perform the simple, life-altering surgery.

Their work has helped raise the profile of the debilitating but long neglected injury. In 2003 the United Nations Population Fund launched a worldwide "End Fistula" campaign, which is now working in 35 poor countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In recent years Sudan and Nigeria have opened centers for fistula repair.

Whitney Tilson of the Motley Fool wrote about the Fistula Hospital on April 17, 2001

Life in Ethiopia is very hard for most everyone, but it's especially hard on the women. Like women in most of the developing world, they tend to do the most difficult, dirty work, yet generally do not have access to the few opportunities that exist for an education and a good job. Many are married off at a young age -- sometimes as young as 10 -- and often start bearing children by their early teens. Childbirth rarely occurs with a qualified attendant, much less at a hospital. If there's a problem during delivery, common given the lack of prenatal care, the babies often die and the mothers can suffer injuries.

A common injury is called an obstetrical fistula, which occurs when the baby tears a hole into the bladder and/or rectum, causing the mother to become permanently incontinent and constantly smelly. When this happens, the husband almost always abandons his wife, who returns to her family, often to be rejected again. These women have lives of unspeakable misery. One didn't leave her bed, much less her family's hut, for nine years before making her way to the Fistula Hospital.

The hospital specializes in the relatively simple surgical procedure that repairs the fistulas, allowing the patients to return to normal life and even bear children again. It heals more than 1,000 women annually, at a total cost of a mere $400,000 -- a pittance by Western standards, but a fortune in Ethiopia. (this is where I sent money)

Cut yourself some slack.

From Brian Wagoner's Photos - Thailand 2010, seen on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Donkey escape artist (not mine)

Jethro is limping today - I have the farrier coming at 5:30 am tomorrow to see why. Here, a story from one of my donkey lists.

My one horse and now one of the four donks will open anything that is not secured to the point of ridiculous.

I put good chain locks on all the gates. They responded by taking the gates off their hinges.

I drilled the hinge pins and put cotter pins through them. They pulled the pins and took the gates down again. I've had to turn all cotter pins so that they cannot reach the closed end and wire the open ends so they can't just push them out.

They decided to jump the four foot fence. The fence is now five feet high.

Luckily their only interest seems to be in playing and/or coming to the house to see if some of their people will come play with them. They only want to come to us, not actually 'escape'. We headed for the paddock, scratching ears as we went and everybody, donks, horses and ponies just followed us right back into the paddock. It was an object lesson in the value of building those relationships of trust and escape proofing the entire property.

I thought the donk was going to crash the fence. Then, when he cleared it (he rattled it good but not so as to throw him off) I was fearful he would be injured on the landing. Instead he was all excited and trotted around quite proud of himself - his only interest was in coming to me (and showing off). I wish I'd had a camera.

Anybody else have a flying donkey out there? Are they known for jumping abilities or did he just have a moment when he got caught up in his play with the horse? He and the horse also play 'tag' and I didn't know donkeys were that fast or exuberant.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

I hate wasting stuff

Ordinarily I love weed-whacking, but the temperature hasn't been below the 90s here for more than two months, so the weeds everywhere, and whatever grass peeks through the weeds, it's all knee-high.

I tried to deal with the weeds by siccing the donkey and the horse on them, but my equids were the opposite of help - they always find tiny patches of the grass they prefer and scalp those to the ground (essentially killing those patches of desirable grass) while stepping daintily around the switchgrass I wish they would eat.

Here's something else that's wasted - why did I bother putting up that deer fence to keep out the deer when my donkey does exactly what they did? He likes mulberry trees as much as the deer do - so the first time he got the chance he stripped all the bark off a 15-foot high tree I grew from a seedling. Now it's dead. Good work, Jethro.

Noticing the temperature was merely 91 late this afternoon I decided to weedwhack and that's when I uncovered so many wasted and broken things it put me in a horrible mood. What did I get for three hours of weedwhacking. Buckets of sweat, hundreds of chigger bites, and a survey of ruined purchases, abandoned projects, stupid mistakes...

For instance, traces of failed gardening. I put a lot of effort into building a lovely terraced garden. It gets plenty of sun, and it was fun dumping lots of donkey poop and composted chicken droppings and hay on it - but because I won't go out there in the blazing summer sun and weed, and because my chickens dig up every single thing I ever try to plant, and because we have a drought every summer, there will never be a garden...

There were broken sprinklers and rusty garden implements under those weeds, and dried-up skeletons of the blueberry bushes I kept planting for years. When the bushes got enough attention, the squirrels ate all the blueberries before they were ripe. When I was out of the state studying Yiddish in the hottest part of August, the bushes turned into black sticks. Never again.

And as long as I'm sulking about waste, back inside the house were the credit card bills I forgot to pay on time - no matter how many times I've requested those automatic email reminders, the companies don't send them. Why is it so hard to send an email? Once, I got a phone notification from a credit card company - AFTER the bill was due. If they'd made the call two days sooner, it would have saved me all those fines. Hmm, wonder why they waited...

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Little Loves that I've Forgot

Came upon this while looking for a title for my new Yiddish cd.


Some poets sing of sweethearts dead,
Some sing of true loves far away;
Some sing of those that others wed,
And some of idols turned to clay.
I sing a pensive roundelay
To sweethearts of a doubtful lot,
The passions vanished in a day--
The little loves that I've forgot.

For, as the happy years have sped,
And golden dreams have changed to gray,
How oft the flame of love was fed
By glance, or smile, from Maud or May,
When wayward Cupid was at play;
Mere fancies, formed of who knows what,
But still my debt I ne'er can pay--
The little loves that I've forgot.

O joyous hours forever fled!
O sudden hopes that would not stay!
Held only by the slender thread
Of memory that's all astray.
Their very names I cannot say.
Time's will is done, I know them not;
But blessings on them all, I pray--
The little loves that I've forgot.

Sweetheart, why foolish fears betray?
Ours is the one true lovers' knot;
Note well the burden of my lay--
The little loves that I've forgot.

Arthur Grissom

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Muzak's Top Ten (Roz Chast)

Cleaning up my desk I found this oldie from the New Yorker. "Let's wait in this room forever!"

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Monday, August 02, 2010

In which greed conquers fear and Jethro gets on the porch to eat chicken scratch

Problem: now I can't feed the chickens.

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