Monthly Archives: August 2008

What’s going on with Inez?

It’s conceivable that someone, somewhere, has been asking that question. The short answer is “not much” and the long answer is below.

Well, …

Um, …

Ok. “Not much” actually covers it pretty well.

I spent August alternately getting ready for school and pretending school wasn’t about to start. This year I’m teaching 2 sections of introductory composition and one section of basic composition, serving on faculty senate, and “helping” our assessment guru, which means I’ve been given a course reduction so I’ll have time to nag faculty into submitting their assessment data.* Classes started Monday 8/25 and now I’m using the 3-day weekend to catch up, decompress, and clean out my car. What a glamorous life I lead.

Sunday 8/24 was my 45th birthday. Some friends threw me a beer ‘n’ nibbly things party and I got a few small gifts. I also received some Amazon.com cash and FABULOUS chocolate cookies from Jennifer in Reno and some actual cash (45 one-dollar bills) and 8 skeins of red alpaca yarn from big sis Linda. So even though I’m 45 (how did that happen???), I can’t complain.**

In crafting news, I’m crocheting a dense woolen vest, small child sized, to donate to Afghans for Afghans‘¬† winter clothing drive. Crochet is getting harder and harder on my right wrist, but if I knitted the vest it would never get finished; I crochet SO much faster than I knit. The vest is pretty cute — The front panels are variegated red/yellow/green wool that I hand dyed years ago, alternated with thin dark green stripes. The back is tan (leftover from Robin’s felted bag) and I’ll edge the whole thing in the dark green. My buddy Kathy is contributing vintage buttons from her vast store. I’ll post a pic when it’s done.

On the pet front, Ricky is recovered from a short dog fight 3 weeks ago which left him with a good-sized tear on his left cheek right below his eye. Three stitches and he had to be sedated to get them put in (and nearly to get them cut out — he is SUCH a big, howling baby). My friend Ellen, whose dog Rosie did the damage, split the vet bill with me and gave Ricky a big bag of Beggin’ Strips dog treats. When I spent a day away from home making cheese (see below), Ricky managed to open the pantry door, pull out the bag, savage it open in the living room, devour all the treats, and lick the bag shards clean. I’d say his recovery is complete.

Violet, my little Havanese*** mix, proved true to her (possible) working dog heritage last night. Havanese are from Cuba, where they were owned by the wealthy and kept as housepets, yet they seem to have a pretty strong herding instinct. Some sources say they were trained to keep ducks and chickens and such in or off certain parts of the estates’ lawns and gardens. At any rate, they are very sturdy little dogs and quite smart. Kathy and Mark have 6 ducks on their farm and have recently put in a large pond, which the duck of course adore. Last night, Kathy and I were sitting by the pond debriefing**** from the school week. I always take Violet to the farm because she is completely dependable off leash (unlike a certain beagle/husky we live with) and she loves running around. Anyway, after swimming for a bit the ducks wandered off. About 10 minutes later they came running for the pond, Violet behind¬† them. But she wasn’t chasing them the way she’d chase a cat, she was clearly herding them, trotting back and forth behind them, keeping them together and moving forward. And the ducks clearly weren’t afraid of her; she wasn’t attacking, just herding. And when she arrived at the pond herself, she gave us a huge smile — so proud! We were cracking up.

One summer afternoon, Kathy, Sharon, and I got together to make homemade mozzarella cheese using a Cheese Queen kit. It was SO easy and really took only 1/2 hour. While making the cheese — stirring, heating, cutting curd, kneading and stretching — in Kathy’s old farmhouse kitchen, we chatted about how satisfying it was and how we felt like we were extras in “Little House on the Prairie”.***** Of course, the pioneers probably did not 1) make mozzarella and 2) eat the whole thing immediately afterward with fresh pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and a nice red wine. Poor things.

And that’s all my news, fit to print or not.

*My qualifications? I’m an accomplished nag — ask my ex-husband!

**but I probably will anyway

***if ever you are looking for a small dog that IS NOT yappy and IS very much a “real” dog — playful, loyal, brave, a good watchdog — consider a Havanese or H-mix. I’d get another one in a minute.

****and beering

*****and the real Little House isn’t too far away — De Smet, South Dakota.

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It’s official!

Today, I was accepted as a member of the Paullina Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, which is part of the Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative)*. In this context, conservative refers to worship style more than socio-religio-political leaning — of the three conservative meetings in the U.S., Iowa holds the “California” position.

If you’re wondering about the process for joining a Quaker meeting, I can tell you it’s not like joining any church that I know of –there are no classes or baptism. I attended meetings for a while (spottily for 2+ years) and last month I submitted a letter to the meeting clerks, requesting to join (and promising to attend twice a month — a 45 minute drive — weather permitting) . The meeting appointed a clearness committee, which met with me to chat about my spiritual journey, my knowledge/understanding of Quakerism and of the IYM(C), what I felt I would gain from membership, and what I felt I could bring to the meeting. At today’s monthly meeting for business, the clearness committee’s recommendation to accept me into the meeting was read and entered into the minutes. Then the meeting members sprinkled me with oats** and taught me the secret handshake,*** and that was it. I received welcomes and hugs from the members before or after silent worship.

Being a recorded member of the meeting feels good — it feels like coming home.

*Yup, a long time ago, there was a schism.

**Old fashioned oats — it is a conservative meeting, after all

***It’s entirely likely that I’m making some of this up.

Let ’em eat (bundt) cake…

You may remember last November, when an attempt to bake chocolate chip cookies went hugely awry and I determined that I’d actually gone feral. Well, my return to domesticity has been so thorough that not only did I bake a cake for the local block party last night, but neighbors called me today to ask for the recipe. Next thing you know, I’ll be churning my own butter.

Here’s a pic of the cake, dark chocolate orange with two kinds of icing:

And here is the very simple recipe. I recommend this for potlucks, meetings, etc. — it takes very little work and people seem to be quite impressed (and it’s yummy).

Dark chocolate orange cake:

Step one: buy a Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Supermoist cake mix.

Step two: follow the basic directions on the box, except replace the water with orange juice and add 1TBS fresh or 1 tsp dried grated orange peel.

Step three: pour batter into greased bundt pan and bake, again following the directions on the box.

Icing:

When you’re buying that cake mix, also buy a pouch of Betty Crocker Drizzlers, milk chocolate flavor. This is a candy that you heat in the microwave and knead. Do so, following the directions, and artistically fling it around on the cooled cake.

Next, mix 1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar with orange juice until it’s of a thick, yet dizzle-able consistency. Fling this around on top of the milk chocolate.

Let the icings set up (you could refrigerate the cake). You’re done! Let the cake come to room temperature before slicing.

NOTE: The BC drizzlers are pretty fatty. It makes the cake dramatic, but you could also make the chocolate icing with powdered sugar, cocoa, and water to make the cake less deadly on the arteries.

Enjoy!