Feminisms, and What Sisterhood Means to Me

When my parents announced that I would be attending an all-girls Catholic high school, I thought my life was over before it even got started.  In some respects, it was a relief, because I wasn't exactly the most sought-after female in my elementary school, and I was glad that I wouldn't have to worry about impressing boys on top of surviving adolescence and AP English.  On the other hand, I also knew how cruel girls could be, and I worried what it would be like to be with other females without the distraction of boys to diffuse some of the intensity of emotion.

Our high school had a big sister/little sister mentoring program, but the camaraderie and comfort it promised was short-lived.  In fact, on Big Sister/Little Sister day, it was standard practice to dress your little sister as a baby, complete with bib and pacifier, showering her with gifts of balloons and teddy bears.  The next day, the juniors wouldn't give you the time of day.  It was, you might say, an early education in female relationships.

Like most high schools I knew, we took cliques for granted.  Despite the call to solidarity from movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, we divided up the world into neat categories -- the jocks, the nerds, the cheerleaders, the druggies, the sluts.  And while I'm sure that our brother school had its own system of classification, it felt like ours was somehow more rigid, more stratified, more well-enforced.  For all of its talk about compassion, what I learned in high school is that females can be very cruel to each other, and I left high school mostly hating women (with a few notable exceptions, some of whom read this blog).

Oddly enough, in college, I joined an all-female choir, searching for something I couldn't quite define.  I stayed with the group through my senior year, and even became its two-term president, but it never became a place of solace for me.  Until late in college, most of my closest friends (again, with a few exceptions) were men; in fact, the "maid" of honor at my wedding was actually a "dude" of honor: my first long-term college boyfriend.  In graduate school, the friends I counted among my closest confidantes were male.  Even at my first job, there were divisions among the staff, all but one of whom were female.  I had returned to the place where I was an undergraduate, and I know that when I first started working, women in my unit were jealous of each other, jockeying for what little power and recognition there was to go around.  Back then, perhaps they saw me as an interloper, as a young upstart, as someone too smarty-pants for her own good.  Or as something else entirely, I don't know.  What I do know is that I didn't make friends there until much later in my career, something I still regret.  I told only one person there what was happening during my multiple miscarriages.  I wanted, desperately, to be tended to by a woman during those dark days, when I dragged myself to work, day after day, in a sea of blood.  But I didn't feel safe asking for compassion or understanding.

After I had my first child, I joined a group of stay at home moms, even though I was working full time; there weren't any other groups available, and I desperately wanted to talk with other women about the struggles of parenting for the first time.  For a while I tried to host weekend playdates, and even occasionally take a day off from work to be with my son and attend one of the group's events.  Still, I found them exclusive and cliquey: not all of the members of the group  were treated with equal respect.  Eventually, they said I wasn't participating enough to be part of their group, and they asked me to leave.  I started my own group, a working mom's group, which has now been in existence for over five years, though it goes through fits and starts of activity and connection.

The bottom line is this: though I have been lucky to develop friendships with individual women over the years (JeCaThRe, C., R., C., J., and C., I'm looking at you), the first time I really felt like part of a community of women was when I started blogging.  So when Keiko and Mel posted about their reactions to Mayim Bialik's comment about wanting female comfort after her car accident, I knew I wanted to respond.

Bialik writes:

"At the scene of the accident, I’m certain there were women standing around. For whatever reason, not judging, no woman came up to me to comfort me or console me at the accident site. As a modest woman and a feminist woman, I craved a woman to hold. Just as in labor, I believe women can give women special support and I missed out on that."
Keiko uses Bialik's comment as a jumping-off point for an incredibly brave and bold post about legitimate rape, abortion, and taking collective action against what some people have called the "War on Women" in American politics:
"I feel like now more than ever, given our current national discourse on women and women’s rights to their own bodies – I feel like this is when we should band together.

To be the woman that Mayim Bialik so desperately needed and wanted in her moment of crisis. To reach out and console one another. To fight for another and not against each other."
While I don't think that women always "get other women," as Keiko says -- I have proof of several all-female environments to suggest otherwise -- I do worry about the current discourse on women in the U.S., and I wonder what it will take to turn the tide.  When Senator Akin made his remark about "legitimate rape," I was upset not just because one politician said something stupid (because really, politicans--and many other highly visible people--say stupid things all the time to the national media), but because I know that there are women out there who will still vote for him, who will feel like that comment wasn't about them.

Mel wonders, more generally, why women don't more often step forward to help other women, in real life and in blogging.  Is it, she wonders, because as the receivers of help, we don't express our needs clearly enough?  Or because as potential helpers, we second guess our ability to be helpful?
"If we want women to succeed, to feel as if there is a benefit to being in a community of women, we need to do more to hold each other up.  And the reality is that sometimes that will mean getting messy: jumping into someone else’s emotional world and offering our support and keeping perspective if our efforts are rejected (since we’re all individuals and have unique wants about comfort) and still trying again with the next woman."
Both of these women are women who do help other women.  Time and time again, they have stopped at the scene of the accident, even when they were suffering themselves.  Mel is not only the architect of a far-reaching community of women who support other women through infertility and loss, but has demonstrated her commitment -- through projects like ICLW and the LFCA -- to teaching us how to be more compassionate, involved, engaged bloggers -- not to mention her work mentoring and supporting new women writers.  Since her debut video on YouTube, Keiko has become an impassioned advocate for the infertility community, active in RESOLVE, working to catalyze a national conversation about infertility that is free from shame, but also offering resources like eBooks and eClasses to help individuals on their personal journeys.

I don't know what prevents us from abandoning the role of "bystander" and stepping forward to act on behalf of other women: whether it's fear of possible rejection, or worry that perhaps we can't do enough, or feeling like we are too different, or feeling like we can't know what another woman might need, or worry that our offer of assistance will be seen as demeaning to its recipient.  But what I do know is that we need to get over our hang-ups.  These two posts describe what sisterhood has come to mean for me: not necessarily seeing things the same way, or taking sides on the breastfeeding debate, or judging each other for working or not working, or having the same politics, or wearing the same clothes, or having the same body type, or making the same choices about parenting styles, or being vegan or paleo, but about being here for each other.  Connecting with each other.  We can be a diaspora and still stop to comfort another woman at the scene of the accident.  We can still leave supportive, thoughtful comments on blogs where we disagree with the author.  We can disagree about abortion, but protect women's rights over their own bodies.  We can write two completely different posts on the same subject, and still end up in the same place.

And maybe it will take courage to do so.

But unlike other things that are in short supply these days, courage is something we have enough of to spare.

Assuming you're female (because most of my readers are), what do you do to support other women?  How do you get beyond the divisions we create among ourselves to nurture others in the diaspora?

August Rewind

Miles Run - 67.08. This is just about the least number of miles I have run. Ever.
Races Run - 4 (2 half marathons and 2 5ks). I dropped out of a third half marathon.
PR's Set - None, unless you count the most miserable race ever, and I think I finally have a race where I felt worse than New Hampshire.
Minutes of Plank - 40? I tried to get a bit better about these this month, but I still just haven't been having the motivation/dedication.

So this was a craptastic month.

My knee is a TON better than three weeks ago. I ran four miles last night, but they were super slow and sluggish. Just been feeling really tired lately. Optimistic about the exercises/stretches they have me doing at physical therapy. I think I'll continue to go once a week for a while. Also wondering if they can suggest something for the tight calves. I was going back through my race reports and the problem was first brought up in January/February of last year. Um??? I thought it had "only" been bothering me for a year. Either way, it is certainly NOT normal and I need to tackle that next.

On the horizon for September... Well, it is really all dependent on how this weekend at DISNEY goes. If I am able to get through it with no issues, then I will leave my schedule alone for now. Still am really considering dropping the Bear Chase. Not completely, but my longest run outside of racing last month was 5 miles. And that was only one run. Two four mile runs, everything else was less. That does NOT bode will for training for a 50  miler.

Anyway, optimistic that September will be a better month!

Oh how I love Roasted Veggies!

I learned to love roasted veggies while on the 5:1 TSFL plan.  Of course then, I didn't add potatoes and onions as they are higher carb veggies.  But most veggies taste delish this way.  Broccoli, yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage... it's so good!

 Just chop up your veggies and toss with a little olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and garlic seasoning (or whatever spices you want - it even tastes good with just s/p)
 Line a cookie sheet with foil and a little non-stick cook spray.  
Roast in the oven at 425 for about an hour (possibly less if you don't have potatoes in the mix), and...
Voila!  Yummy roasted veggies.  I also usually sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar afterwards and it really makes it so tasty!!  My kids gobble this up too.

ENJOY!!
~Margene

Maiala Park Rainforest Walk in Photos

It was a beautiful, clear, sunny winter day on Sunday 5th August. The Half-dozen and I decided to drive out to Mount Glorious after church.
We stopped at Maiala Park where cheese and bacon buns, apple juice and choc-caramel slice were inhaled consumed with the kind of enthusiasm usually shown by those who have been marooned on a desert island for several weeks. (But then, most of my children tend to eat like that most of the time.)
Afterwards, the younger girls decided to roll down the grassy slope while Dragon climbed high into a tree.
Kitcat wanted to climb the tree too.  Dragon gave her a lift up to the lowest branch and told her she was on her own after that.  Thankfully she was unable to pull herself up any higher and Dragon was waiting to catch her in case she fell down.
Possum just sat at the table, looking pretty, and watched her siblings play around.
Then we cleared the picnic table, packed everything back in the car and walked through the magic doorway to the rainforest.
(Actually, it was just a dirty shelter built over the start of the pathway, but it soon lead to some rather magical things.)
A few metres beyond the magical doorway the Half-dozen found jungle vines and decided to hang around for a while.
Dragon decided to have a swing.
Teddy was intrigued by this fallen tree which was like a raised pathway leading away from the walking track right into the depths of the forest.  She would have liked to follow it to its end, alluringly hidden from sight by foliage of the overgrowing plants.
Possum found a tree with a view, or with a window, or both - depending on how you look at it!
Ducky found a tree with a strange, knobbly pattern on its trunk.
Mousie was certain she had found The Magic Faraway Tree
(one of her favourite of Enid Blyton's storybooks).......
..... and I thought it did look rather magical basking in a sunbeam.
As the sun touched the hollowed trunk at just the right angle, illuminated windows appeared.
Kitcat was dwarfed by the huge roots supporting this enormous tree .....
..... but a little further along the track she found a tree she could conquer.
Here's my Half-dozen in the rainforest ....
.... the knobs on this tree trunk looked like the hand-holds on a rock climbing wall.
There were interesting things to discover almost every step of the way, like these naturally plaited vines.....
..... and this charming section of the track which was densely overhung with tree fern fronds.
We were amazed by the enormous buttressed tree roots .....
...... and enchanted with the tiny details such as this teeny little vine clinging bravely to a pencil-thin sapling.
From the heights of the forest canopy ......
...... to the exposed spiky roots that almost seemed to squirm and writhe like a mass of savage worms on the forest floor .....
...... we took in the wonder of God's creation, from the delicate simplicity of a vine-wrapped tree trunk....
...... to the baroque-like artistic grandeur of the strangler fig at work.
After exploring the rainforest, this fallen tree was a perfect opportunity for a group photo.

Retro Run Pics and The Knee

If you missed my recap, you can read it here.

They might not have had water, but they had photographers at a few points on the course:

Start Line
Start Line
Between Mile 1 and 2
Mile 3
Mile 3
The Knee

I had PT yesterday afternoon and the woman was MYSTIFIED at my pain. She seemed annoyed that I couldn't better pinpoint it and that certain tests weren't hurting when she thought they should. My "homework" until I go back on Thursday is four different exercises designed to strengthen my hips/gluts. FYI, I can definitely TELL that I'm weak there as just doing these simple things were pretty hard. Huh. So there you go.

In other news... I ran TWO WHOLE MILES last night on the treadmill at my regular(ish) run pace - 10:17 and my knee did not hurt. (I had permission from the PT to run - she suggested I do all my runs for a while on the treadmill if at all possible). I'm waiting to hear back from my coach on where we go from here.

Perfect Moment Monday: Cookie Dough

Perfect Moment Monday is a monthly blog hop/writing prompt, sponsored by Lavender Luz at Write Mind Open Heart, about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between. On the last Monday of each month we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

When I was in college, a slightly-more-than-friend (not quite a boyfriend, but not quite a friend, either ... remember those kinds of relationships?) took me hiking.  We wound our way up a rocky trail that looked out, at the top, over a stunning valley on fire with the color of autumn.  He took me in his arms, bent me over backward so I could see the bowl of the valley and the bowl of the sky in perfect opposition, upside down, and whispered in my ear: "take a good look, and remember this."

And to this day, I do.

I've written before about in-betweenness and about stillness.  About how I'm not good at either one of those states of being.  How they are uncomfortable places for me to inhabit, because I just want to get there.  To the end of things.  Or at least, to keep moving.

But there's also something stunningly beautiful about that liminality, too, the second of stop-motion between here and there, when you're exactly in the middle, even if you're in the middle of chaos.  If you can be aware enough to notice those moments, they can take your breath away.

Which brings me to my Perfect Moment Monday.

Usually my Perfect Moment Mondays (or Perfect Moment any days, for that matter) are quiet affairs.  So it was a good challenge to notice one during a particularly chaotic day.  I was in charge of four kids today, two of my own, and two that belong to my friends.  I love these kids, because they mix so well with my own: the older boy is a year older than my son, but is a good match for him in terms of interests and challenges him to keep up physically, and the younger boy is a gentle but ever-so-slightly mischevious spirit whom my daughter adores.  And yet, having four kids to watch, especially when one of them is a toddler, is a lot.  On days like this I always think of two moms with four kids who live on my street, and marvel that they do this every day.

After a long morning cooped up inside because of the rain, and a long hour of reluctanctly patient quiet trying to let my daughter nap, everyone needed to get out.  We took a variety of wheeled things (bikes, scooter, wagon) to the park up the street, which was--miraculously!--not drenched, and spent some time climbing on the playground and zipping around in circles.  Eventually, my daughter found her way over to the swings; when she tired of the "baby swing," I took her in my arms, sat with her in my lap on the "big girl swing," and held on tight around her waist as I began to pump, sending us higher.

"Higher," she said, "higher ... higher ... squeee!"  She squealed with a mixture of delight and fear as we rose higher into the air, nesling into my chest like she rarely does at home.  The air was warm and thick, but the wind on our faces and in my hair felt good, and suddenly, I reached that point where the chain on the swing just about goes slack before gravity takes over and you arc back down again towards the ground.  I felt her whole body tense with pure joy at that moment, enjoying the place where she held her breath, between "up" and "down."

And I heard my friend's voice, as I often do during moments like this, when I notice them, saying "take a good look, and remember this."

That space between, when it's not one thing any more, and yet not quite the other, either.  Delicious.

Cookie Dough Balls
After the cake yesterday, you're going to get the wrong idea.  Trust me, it's not all sweets around here!  I made half of this recipe in order to put them into ice cream that we made together today as a treat for the boys.  They're not yet ice cream, and they'll never be cookies, either, because they don't have any baking powder.  But you can eat the dough because there isn't any egg in them.  Vegan cookie dough.  Two versions: one not really healthy, and one healthy, with nuts.  Your choice.  You can't go wrong.

The standard sweet version:
1 c. turbinado or coconut palm sugar (brown sugar will do, too)
2 T. sugar (your choice)
1/2 c. nondairy milk (I used soy)
1/2 c. nonhydrogenated margarine, like Earth Balance

1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1  3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
 1 1/4 c. dark chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl combine sugars and nondairy milk until sugars are moistened.  Beat in margarine and vanilla creaming until combined.  Add flour and salt and beat to form a soft fluffy dough.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Place a sheet of waxed paper onto a cutting board.  Scoop out balls of dough onto waxed paper (I used a 1/2 t. scoop) and freeze 1 hour or until firm.

The healthy version, from Love Veggies and Yoga:
2/3 c raw cashews
1/3 c oats
2 T. agave
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c chocolate chips

Feeding the Pets

Nile loves to feed the pets.

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Luckily they're quite patient with her.

Don't worry, they get fed in separate bowls, Nile just likes to ration out Bolu's (the little toy poodle) food to Mr. Chips (the big dog) sometimes!

Charlie Parker - Dizzy Atmosphere (2/28/45)

Gotta love Bird with a bouncy rhythm section: Sid Catlett (drums) and Slam Stewart (bass).



Retro Run (Race Recap)

Denver, CO
Sunday, August 26
A's 7th 5k
Weather - Sunny and HOT HOT HOT


I received a Schwaggle that made this race about $14, so we all decided to do it. Even though it is HOT and in August... why. Why do we do this? For whatever reason, Denver likes to have the 5k's start SUPER late. This one didn't start until 9:30. 9:30!!!

We left the house around 8, hoping that would give us enough time to drive there, get a parking space, and pick up all our stuff. The lots at the lake were already full, but we parked on a side street not too far away. It was plenty of time.

We took some pictures by the lake of what we "thought" were some super awesome 80's outfits. I should have taken  more pictures of people there, as we were by FAR some of the most underdressed people. If you can believe it.





We missed out on the awesome group warm up, and lined up in the back. You know, since we had 2 kids, a stroller and a dog. There was supposed to be music at all the mile markers, and we assumed that there would be at least one water station. You know, since it was already 80 degrees. Nope.

A's a bit grumpy at mile 1 - no water!
The course was fine, I'd actually never run at Sloan's lake before. It was crowded, and obviously we were behind the super slow folks. It wasn't at all a big deal, I really just wanted to get in some light jogging so I could test out the knee. Good news! I didn't have any pain at all! Of course, I was totally moving at a snail's pace.

Around mile 2, A decided she wanted to walk with J and Chopper. That was fine, I planned on jogging until mile 3 and then turning around to walk in with them for the finish. Somewhere around  mile 2.5 I hear "mooooooommmma!!!" and I turn around and A is sprinting towards me. She said she felt like she was ready to run.

When she decides she is ready to run, she can RUN. I had a hard time keeping up and was worried about the knee, but it was fine. We managed to pass L, who had been jogging with H in the stroller, and crossed the line. She booked it the entire last half mile, and her final sprint was 7:33! We saw no water and headed back to meet up with J. We walked him up to the finish line.

A and I finished in about 45 minutes, and the course was just a bit short. Even with all my "back and forths," I measured 3.02 miles. L measured around 2.9 miles.

The Good:
  • People had a LOT of fun with this race. The costumes were awesome!
  • The free sunglasses were a nice, fun touch.
  • The live band was really good.
The Bad:
  • No water before or after the race - it was over 80 degrees when we started at 9:30. Not cool!
  • No food after the race. NOTHING. We didn't get done until about 10:15. A little snack would have been nice.
  • No volunteers on the course except for at mile 2. There were some chalk arrows on the ground, but obviously we must have missed a turn somewhere, or the course was just really short.
  • No timing of any kind (we did know this in advance).
I cannot imagine paying $50 for this race. I would NOT have been happy. Having spent only about $14 a person, it was pretty good.

What You Need: A Recliner, Chocolate Cake, and Perspective

When I moved out to LA for graduate school, after living my entire life in NJ, I piled all of my worldly possessions in my little blue-green Ford Escort: my books, my CDs, some clothes, my bedding.  I figured that we could get anything else I needed when I got there.

My mother drove across the country with me, helping me with the move and the transition to a life 3000 miles away.   I'd secured a place in a one-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood, large enough for a futon in the bedroom, a beanbag chair and a smaller futon for the living room, some upside down crates that I used as tables, and a piece of plywood laid across two crates that I used as a desk.  At Kmart, I splurged on a tiny cheap wooden dinette set with a white table and farmhouse chairs, and I think I found a used swivel chair curbside somewhere off of Melrose Place.  I was living in the lap of luxury.

Sometime in the fall, my father came to stay with me for a visit.

For all of his risk-taking and adventuring, my father was also a creature of habit, the kind of guy that fell asleep in front of the television every night, head tilted back, mouth open slightly in a light snore.  Like Archie Bunker, whom he vaguely idolized, he had his chair, a recliner that no one else sat in (mostly because when we were at home, he occupied it).  I remember talking with my mother about the upcoming visit, laughing nervously, wondering where my father would sit.  She told me he'd make do.  I was dubious.

When we climbed the stairs and opened the door to my apartment, I held my breath.  What would he say about this, my first place of my own?

I entered the room, a few steps ahead of him, and turned, stepping aside with an arm flourish a la Vanna White.  "So?  What do you think?"

He was gaping.

Uh-oh, I thought.  I braced myself for the firestorm of disapproval.   Wondering what he was seeing.

"But Tinita," he said to me in all seriousness, in his slight Spanish accent, "where do you sit?  Where is your recliner?"

I almost peed myself laughing, though I knew I couldn't possibly laugh out loud.  Having refused any financial support from my parents, determined that I was going to do this doctoral degree thing alone, I was living close to poverty level.  Rice and beans and tortillas were my staples.  The improvised desk, the crates for bookcases and tables, the cheap pots and pans that leaned backwards from the weight of the handle when I put them on the stove, all of this carefully selected with a graduate student budget in mind ... and he wanted to know where my recliner was?

He insisted that we go, straight away, to a furniture store to procure said recliner. 

"But Dad," I said, as gently as I could manage, "they won't deliver it today."   You will, I thought, still laughing to myself, have to plant your ass on my cheap carpet.

My father was a stubborn man, though, and would hear none of my logic.  I was able to delay the trip to Levitz for a day (because heaven forbid we go somewhere sensible like IKEA), but eventually, he won out.

I dimly remember the visit to the furniture showroom, feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience.  We sat on recliner after recliner, my father and I, opening and closing them with great gusto.  Looking at fabric samples.  A strange father-daughter bonding.  "This one has a HANDLE!" he would exclaim, legs flying out with a thunk as I sank down into a green model further down the row, bouncing a bit to test its resilience.

We finally settled on one, a wide seat with low armrests, a deep forest green fabric with barely visible multicolored stripes, and it arrived on the day my father was to leave.  He sat in it for a good long while before we left for the airport, and when I returned home, it still smelled like him, a combination of hard work and aftershave.

I still have that recliner, 17 years later.  It's worn, like any piece of furniture that has lived in a graduate student apartment and made its way across the country.  But I can't bear to get rid of it.  Right now, it lives in our bedroom, where sometimes I sit in it, looking out the window, or curl up in it and cat nap.  Sometimes our kids rock in it for a minute or two while I'm folding laundry.  It reminds me of my dad, sitting in his recliner on a weekday night, falling asleep in front of the news, completely at peace.

I didn't need a recliner.

But sometimes, the things you didn't need turn out to be exactly what you needed after all.

Have you ever been surprised to "need" something that arrived at just the right time?

Six Minute Chocolate Cake
Adapted from the original Moosewood Cookbook.  My husband informed us tonight, as we were playing in the kitchen after dinner, that some chocolate cake would be exactly right.  You never need chocolate cake.  But this one comes together quickly, is vegan, and you don't have to feel too guilty about eating it.  A five year old can (and in fact did) make it mostly on his own.  It's not drop-dead fabulous cake, or rich gooey cake.  It's good, un-fancy cake for when cake is really, deep down, what you need.

1 1/2 c. flour 
1/3 c. cocoa powder 
1 t. baking soda 
1/2 t. salt 
1 c. sugar (coconut palm if you like)
1/2 c. oil (melted coconut oil would be great here)
1 c. cold brewed coffee (or water if you don't like coffee)
2 t. vanilla (or 1 1/2 t. vanilla and 1/2 t. almond extract)
2 T. apple cider vinegar 
chocolate chips (optional)
 
Glaze (optional; I rarely do this)
1/2 lb bittersweet chocolate 
3/4 c. hot water or 3/4 cup milk 
1/2 t. vanilla extract 
Preheat the oven to 375F.  Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt and sugar into an ungreased 8 inch square or 9 inch round baking tin.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, measure and mix the oil, water or coffee and vanilla. Pour the liquid ingredients into the baking tin and mix the batter with a fork or small whisk.

When the batter is smooth, add the vinegar and stir quickly. Pale swirls will occur where the vinegar and baking soda react (this is actually really entertaining for a five year old). Stir just until the vinegar is even distributed throughout the batter.   If you're feeling crazy, toss some good chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Set aside the cake to cool.

If you are making the glaze, reset the oven to 300F. Melt the chocolate in small ovenproof bowl or heavy skillet in the oven for about 15 minutes. Stir the hot liquid and vanilla into the chocolate until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake. Refrigerate the glazed cake for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving.

In South Africa

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While in Pretoria, South Africa, we went with our friends to a gift shop that had all kinds of items, big and small.

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I was nervous to turn my back on this trio. My rational mind assured me they were stuffed. But I think some animal instinct inside me said "DANGER!"  It was unnerving.

Did you notice this guy in the corner of the pic above? I don't know what to say about him, either.
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But his friend looked quite ferocious.
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The store had all kinds of stuff, but I was most tempted by the zebra-skin rugs. I hope to get one as a souvenir of living in Africa!

The next day I met a friend for brunch at an adorable little place called Isabella's.
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I miss having a proper bakery to go to!
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I did get some cookies to share. The food was outstanding, I had the toasted smoked salmon, egg &  cream cheese bagel:

"Smeared with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon, spring onion, sliced avocado, capers, gherkins, pickled onion, parsley, creamy goats cheese & fresh sauce made with mayonnaise."

It was DELICIOUS! Made me miss "real" food all the more.

We had a great time just hanging out. Neil enjoyed imitating their mini-bulldog, Rugby.
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Katie and I are both due with our second babies about a week apart! Hopefully we get posted together one day so the kids can be friends.

When it finally came time for us to head home, we felt like we had enjoyed a mini vacation in the city. On the drive home, I saw the countryside with a little clearer perspective: Desolate, but beautiful in its starkness.
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