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Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day


While I did not get the chance to do any baking during this weekend's last stretch of semi-cool temperatures, I did manage to have an interesting Memorial Day.

'Murica. (This was once a profile picture for some Tea Party guy I followed on Myspace back in the day. I only just now discovered I had saved it)

I hadn't planned on doing anything special except domestic duties and cleaning off the bbq grill, but then my husband had the inspired notion that we should go to Mass that morning. Not because it was Memorial Day and we should engage in idolatry of the military, which is what this day is REALLY about, but because the soup kitchen where my husband did his community service has a Mass that takes place every Monday at 10AM. My husband had been to the soup kitchen Mass a few times, but I'd never witnessed it. Even though it was too early for my liking, I decided it was worth it.

We arrived at the soup kitchen and took our seats on the back porch patio a few minutes before the Mass began. The soup kitchen was once a single-family home and had been converted for the purpose of doling out food to the homeless and impoverished, but some reminders of its previous incarnation remained. A few of the staff and regulars recognized my husband from his visits there, some of whom I'd only met for the first time that day. The priest himself was an old left-wing Redemptorist from Boston who now ran a retreat center out in the boonies. Since the soup kitchen is affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement and is run by a pious Catholic who found his way to the Church through the unlikely path of Karl Marx, I expected there to be no patriotard/Murica troop worshiping on this property.

Vintage communist poster

The Mass itself was pretty uneventful, but even though I didn't feel threatened or harassed, my demon meter went off the second we parked the car and stayed on the entire time we were there. Basically, I felt like there were dark entities lurking around the periphery which made me feel uneasy, and some outbursts from the homeless men hanging around watching the Mass lent credence to that hypothesis. Now, I am well aware that within the homeless community, the rates of mental illness are through the roof largely because our mental health care system in this country is atrocious and its really easy to fall through the cracks; but, that being said, my knowledge of demonology tells me that people who are mentally unstable are more vulnerable to demonic influence because their condition provides a hook that demons can use to manipulate the individual to suit its needs. That being said, however, not every mentally ill homeless person is under demonic influence; only some are.

After Mass, we got a food box and went home. The Lord heard my recent craving for bagels and home baked bread, and boy did we get some! We were also blessed with some gourmet potato salad, green beans with mushrooms, fruit salad, and a blueberry pudding cake. Most of it was day-old stuff from local grocery stores, but they were still edible. A number of people complemented how nice our cholomobile looked too. Arizona lends itself to being an ideal place for older vehicles because the dry climate preserves them well.

And that was how I spent my Memorial Day.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adventures in Serbian Cooking


For the last few days, I've been binge watching Serbian-language cooking videos on Youtube. I've had a serious cooking bug burrowing its way through my consciousness, and so I consulted the bakas (grandmas) of Youtube for some ideas on what to make.

Since its only gonna be in the 80s this week, I thought about baking something. It will either be bread or burek. While my husband isn't much of a bread eater, I am. There is one grandmotherly Youtuber whose bread recipes caught my fancy. She calls herself Jelajelena Petrovic and her way of making breads and rolls seemed pretty easy and straightforward. They look absolutely delicious, as is evidenced in the video below.

Since I'm going off of a Serbian cooking video, whats gonna come out of my attempts will vary from the product shown. For one, I may not be able to get all the ingredients she uses in her videos (I don't remember if the Euro mart stocks Serbian cheeses/Bulgarian feta cheese or Vegeta (a common seasoning mix used in Serbian cooking)). Also, the ingredients are measured out according to European specs, where mass is used to measure out ingredients as opposed to volume, which is the American standard. My husband advised me to invest in a kitchen scale for this sort of endeavor, but we can't afford one right now. Thank goodness Google can do conversions for me.

One thing I was pleased to see was how much I understood and could follow along with the videos. I've never been particularly proficient in Serbian, but I remembered the words for ingredients like flour (brasno) and procedural steps like baking (pece). Some words I've never heard before but figured out, like black pepper (bibera) and yolk (zumance). For the words I didn't know, there was a plethora of online Serbian-English dictionaries to be found on Google.

This weekend, I will give one of Jelajelena's recipes a try. I'm looking forward to it!

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Puppy the Kitten

Hello everyone!

I've decided to post some recent pix of our rescue kitten. The baby decided to name the kitten Puppy, because everytime she sees the kitten, she says "puppy"! While I normally wait a bit to see how the kitten's personality develops before bestowing a name on them, I conceded to the baby's choice of cat name because I'm all for unique and unusual pet names. With the exception of Dreamboy, who was named for his uncle, all of our cats have unique or unusual names.


Anyway, some updates on the little girl. Her eye infection is gone, but she has a mad appetite for Vienna sausages instead of pate cat food or my husband's various fish pastes, which he shares with the big boys as treats. She is also very playful, always wanting to play boot-n-bite with us, especially at ungodly hours of the night, as well as always getting underfoot whenever we are walking around our home. As our scratched up hands and arms attest, she is a true kitten. She is also now potty trained, and has not had a single accident since the day after I brought her in.

Her eyes are pretty well cleared up. She's got almost all of the remaining tough guck off

Puppy and the baby have a special bond too. They both like playing with each other and Puppy doesn't get mean when the baby manhandles her, as babies are apt to do. Fortunately, with some vigorous instruction, the baby is getting better about handling Puppy more gently.

Playing with the drawer handle

Our remaining big boys are also tolerant of the new addition. Its not unexpected, since one of them is obviously Puppy's father (only an orange tom can father a calico). In fact, when they feel like it, they will sometimes play with Puppy. I've caught Pest rolling around with and batting Puppy in play, just like how he would do when he was a kitten. When they're done, the big boys then just up and leave. They generally aren't aggressive towards the kitten, but when they're annoyed with being around another juvenile, they'll make sounds telling her to back off.

Time for a cat nap!

Overall, Puppy has now become well-integrated into our home. Now that its no longer necessary to quarantine her in the bathroom anymore, she can zoot around our home to her little heart's content. We've had a few scares when we couldn't find her and thought she'd gotten out, only to find her sleeping under the side table in the bedroom where she can wiggle her tiny self into or under the server rack in the living room. She tries getting out when the door is open, but we stop her. She's not ready for the big, bad world yet. Eventually, we will let her out, just like our other cats are. We generally don't like our cats to be kept perpetually indoors because my hubby feels it makes them stir crazy. Each cat has their own territory, and being outside helps.

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Short Review of Beer: Niksicko

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

After a miserable Mass this evening at the Carmelite church, thanks to a long-winded and rambling priest, I needed something to help me unwind. I reached into the fridge and pulled out my last Serbian beer, Niksicko.

"Niksic beer". Pic found here

Niksicko (pron. "nick-sheech-ko") actually comes from Montenegro. Its name means "From Niksic", which is the city in which this beer's brewery, Pivara Trebjesa, is based. In production since 1896, Niksicko was a staple beer of my childhood. I can remember it being served at parties and festivals. In fact, Niksicko was my late godfather's favorite beer. My grandmother, despite running a militantly dry household, always bought a few bottles for him whenever she had him over for lunch.

After popping the cap off, I took a sip. I noticed a slightly sour smell, and I was disappointed with the taste of the beer. It was watery, almost like piss. Yes, its a lager, but I've had much better lagers than this (see: Jelen)! I wonder if the beer wasn't stale. Despite conventional wisdom surrounding alcohol, beer doesn't always get better with age.

The verdict on this beer is: undetermined! While I was disappointed by this initial tasting, I think it was a one-off bad one. I'd have to try it again to see if there's a difference in taste. My godfather was many things, but one thing he was not was someone with bad taste in alcohol! Though the stuff contributed to his eventual demise, he always made it a point to drink good quality liquors because his European upbringing valued quality over everything else.

For more information about Nikisco and its brewery, Trebjesa, check out their English-language Wikipedia page here (Serbian language website here)

As always, please drink responsibly.

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My New Earrings


This week, I received a much anticipated package in the mail. My new earrings!

The flash is a little bright and my hair is all over the place, but there it is! After four years, I'm back to wearing gauges again

I've decided to go back to wearing gauges again. I've missed wearing them, and also my silver earrings are pretty seriously oxidized and need to be treated. Upon recommendation from a friend and a convenient ad on my Facebook feed, I bought these cute elephant head acrylic hangar gauges in size 4G from this site called Body Candy. It helped that they were on fire-sale, plus I got a 10% discount as part of a promo, so they came out under $12 for the pair. The last time I'd worn gauges, which was about four years ago, I was at a 4G, and since I knew the main body of my earring was a 6G, I would periodically thread them through my piercing holes to keep them large just in case I decided to go back to gauges.

This morning, when I put them on, I realized my ear piercing holes were a little tight. I managed to get the gauges mostly in, but it'll be a few weeks before I can get them fully on. I don't want to tear up my ears, so I'll take it easy with the insertion, even if it looks weird with my gauges kind of out.

Me, 2012, and the last time I wore gauges full time before life changes made it impossible for me to continue wearing them. These nines were size 4G, and I'd decided long ago this would be my limit for the foreseeable future.

It may surprise some of you to know that I engage in body modification. I've always had a fascination with gauged ears and decided early on that I wanted to have them done, but when I decided to do it, I settled on not letting my piercing hole be too big. Part of it was hiding what I was doing from my parents, who disapproved of body modification in any form (if the hole's not big, I could say my earrings stretched out my ears, which wasn't a total lie since my silver earrings were kind of heavy), but also, my research into gauged ears told me that if I got up to size 00, that was the point of no return because my piercing hole would be too big to heal naturally back to small. I wanted that small hole option available to me just in case I had to ditch my punky gauges in favor of conservative jewelry (unless you work in a place that specializes in hiring misfits and the otherwise unemployable, most employers get wound up about body jewelry).

As for my husband's opinion on my choice of jewelry, he was ambivalent of my decision to return to wearing gauges. I'd been wearing them when he first met me, so he couldn't gripe about me wanting to get them now after we had been together for a while. But, he agreed with me in that my holes shouldn't be too big, just in case. Being a pious Catholic, my husband isn't particularly keen on body modification (piercing, tattoos, etc), but his objections to body modification stem from issues with conformity and government surveillance as opposed to religious doctrine. He admits his rationale is outdated, but it was something his father instructed him from the time he was a child, and it stuck till this day.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Moving Day

Hello everyone!

Yesterday, we made a special trip out of town. Our dear family friend is getting married, and he needed our help getting his home ready for his fiancee to move in! She can't move in right away because her lease is not up and she would incur a stiff charge if she were to break it now, but he wanted to set up a room for her so she would have a place to stay when she came over.

Our friend lives in Green Valley, which is a suburb of Tucson, AZ. I'd seen the town on maps many times, but I'd never been there. I never had much of a reason to go because the town is largely a retiree community. When our friend called us to ask for help, I immediately said yes. I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to help since I'd have the baby in tow, but I went along for the ride as much as anything. Also, since his fiancee would be there, I knew she'd be happy to see the baby and play with her for a bit.

Green Valley pecan orchard

The trip there was relatively uneventful. I never knew exactly what lay south of the Desert Diamond Casino on the Nogales Highway prior to yesterday, but there we were, cruising south past the casino and the local missile plant Raytheon. There was also a Thai Buddhist temple perched on a hill among a smattering of trailer parks, mom-n-pop businesses and semi-rural scrubland. From there, the scene morphed into pecan orchards as far as the eye could see. I knew that southern Arizona had quite a few pecan orchards as there was one I used to pass between Marana and Eloy when traveling up to Phoenix with my brother during our college days. As we wound our way through the orchards and into suburban consumerama, I marveled at how large they were, but also how much water these trees required. I thought Arizona was too dry to sustain large-scale agriculture like this. Guess not.

Once a major thoroughfare, Nogales Highway has seen better days

We would have arrived at our friend's home sooner, were it not for a poorly labeled sign for the frontage road pointing to the highway entrance instead of the actual road. Naturally, we followed it only to realize we were going south on the highway. After cursing a blue streak, my husband and I got off at the next exit and pulled into a nearby Safeway. My husband needed to use their WiFi, and cool his temper for a bit. After a few minutes in there with his computer, we had a better map and could actually navigate our way back to our friend's home. Since suburbs are never aligned on the grid pattern the way cities are, we had to go back on the highway and get off at the previous exit. We finally made it to our friend's home just before noon.

Playing with a drink coaster, just like mommy did at that age too

While my husband helped our friend move some furniture around the house, the baby and I kept his fiancee entertained. She was delighted to play and sing French nursery rhymes to the baby, but I didn't enjoy her company as much as usual. I unfortunately caught the baby's cold so not only did my sinuses feel like they were full of concrete, but I dealt with waves of nausea and being lightheaded on and off all afternoon. We had pizza for lunch, but later on after I got home, the nausea finally won. I suspect the slightly-undercooked pizza had something to do with it, but my husband ate it and he was fine! As usual, a good night's sleep did wonders for me and I felt much better today.

Despite my poor health that day, I did manage to enjoy the trip. I got to see our friend's home for the first time and expand my local geography a bit. I expect this won't be the last time we visit them. Our friend's fiancee was planning a birthday get-together for us because our friend and my hubby both share June birthdays (on different days, though). She hasn't set a date yet, but she'd call and let us know when she did. I'm eagerly anticipating this get together.

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

In Memorium: My Cat White-Chin

Greetings, dear readers.

Today, my husband made tragic discovery when he woke up this morning and went into the kitchen to pour himself some coffee. One of our big boy toms, White-Chin, had crossed the Rainbow Bridge into the happy hunting grounds in the sky. He was 3 years old.

Pest and White-Chin, 2014

White-Chin's death was not totally unexpected. For the past few weeks, he was suffering from an intestinal blockage due to hairballs. Despite our best efforts at treatment and hydrating him, it was too little too late. It was always right around this time of year that White-Chin would brush by death's door because of hairballs. While he had short hair, it was very fine and made him especially vulnerable to getting dangerous hairballs when the shedding season started. We would give him lard, water, any kind of fats, and specialty hairball products to unclog him and they usually worked. This time, however, it didn't work. It was painful to hear him yowling because of the clog in his gut, yet knowing there's not much you can do to relieve it. Surgery could have saved him, but we could not afford the procedure.

Though we knew the end was coming, it's never easy when a pet passes away. White-Chin was a cat we had raised from infancy, watching him grow from a tiny helpless kitten under the care of his amazing super mommy, Powderpuff, into a fierce alpha tom. His name came from his white chin, and he had been a twin to another shorthaired tom named Zlato ("Golden boy", because of his pale orange colored fur). Like many cats, White-Chin was aloof but liked to show his affection with us by headbutts, chirps, kneading while we lay on the bed, and standing on his rear legs to stretch up onto my husband. White-Chin was a lean, athletic cat with a long body, and he liked to stretch to show it off. When zooting around outside, White-Chin would often roost on the patio, near the front door, sometimes with a smug look on his face. My husband liked to say that the cat was being "dignified" when he did this.


Before we left for the clinic, my husband dug a grave for White-Chin in the yard. He found a stone to mark it, and we held a short funeral for our deceased cat. People might think it's ridiculous to hold a funeral for a cat, but I find that it gives me closure. My husband and I have raised and cared for cats for as long as we've been together (and he'd been caring for cats long before he ever met me), and I consider them a part of my family.

In a way, finding this new minnie of ours was an omen. It was as if God was saying "I'm gonna take your kitty soon, but here's another one for you to care for." Not quite a replacement, since I don't believe you can ever "replace" an animal like you can a pair of shoes or a shirt. You can acquire another animal after the loss of one, but each critter is unique. Anyone who has spent time around animals can attest to that observation.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Checkup

Hello again, dear readers!

Today was a long and busy day. We had to be at the doctor's office at 8AM for the baby's one-year checkup and immunizations. Unlike the baby, who is brim full of energy starting as soon as the sun comes up, us biggers need at least a gallon of coffee to get close to functional this early.

All tuckered out

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long. The doctor was absolutely blown away by how well the baby is growing and developing. She's right on par with a 15-18 month old. Her vocabulary impressed him the most, since she speaks now about nine words ("mama", "dada", "butt", "kitty", "puppy", "doggy", "broom-broom" (car), "num-num" (food), "titty") at an age when most kids speak one or two. He then ordered up her immunization shots as well as blood work to test for lead. Needless to say, the baby did NOT appreciate being poked and screamed accordingly. But, she stopped crying after a few minutes.

After this painful bit of medical necessity, we went to Walmart to get some cat food and juice. We also got the baby a cookie for being such a brave patient. Later on in the day, however, I noticed that she'd developed a runny nose and was congested. I wasn't sure if she'd picked up a cold from the doctor's office or if it was a side effect of the vaccines, but it's something I'm keeping an eye on. Lots of breastmilk and orange juice in the meantime.

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Greetings, dear readers!

Owing to the diurnal schedule my husband has had to keep all week for work, we decided to go to Mass at an earlier time this past Sunday. I selected a Byzantine Catholic church here in town since it was a place I had been wanting to visit for a while.

Lady of Czestochowa

The first time I had ever heard of Eastern Rite Catholicism (which is what the Byzantine church in this post follows for its liturgical structure) was when I was in my early teens and my dad told me about an Eastern Rite church he'd visited in college. My father, who despite his hatred of Ukrainians for their obnoxious nationalism, had a few relatives who married into Ukrainian families and it was through this route that my dad had the opportunity to visit an Eastern Rite Catholic Church after a friend of his cousin invited him to go. Even though he had been raised Russian Orthodox and indoctrinated with all the cultural anti-Catholicism that comes with being Russian, my dad had visited Catholic churches on a few occasions. He had an idea of what to expect, but at the same time he wasn't sure what he'd see. He came away from the visit feeling ambivalent. He recognized the Eastern layout and was cool with that, but he wasn't crazy about praying for the Pope.

I first became aware of a Byzantine Catholic church here in southern Arizona around 2012, when my good friend with whom I sat and passed out pro-life literature on the main lawn of the University of Arizona campus, mentioned them to me. There were a few women in the Latin Mass church we attended who were former parishioners there, he informed me. Given my Serbian Orthodox background, the existence of a Catholic church structured in a way I was familiar with piqued my interest, but receded to the back burner of my mind as the concerns and dramas of life took over. The Byzantine church would continue to periodically pop up on my radar over the next few years, but it didn't really register until recently after a near-altercation between my husband and a rude parishioner at our Carmelite church. I figured now was as good a time as any to come and check the place out.

I did a side part, and then from there I did this crown braid. Obviously, Sunday morning's version of this hairdo was neater than this. Its been in for a few days

View from the back. This style is actually a little bit harder than it looks

In a sharp departure from my usual protocol, I actually dressed up nicely for church. Normally when I go to church, I wear my Lady Guadalupe tshirt with pants and topped off with my Lady Guadalupe bandanna. This outfit has been my default Sunday attire for the last three years. Today, however, because we were NOT going to our usual churches, I decided to put on a good first impression. I wore a nice dress and did my hair specially for the visit. I did not pack my bandanna, as I didn't think I needed it.

When we first arrived, I marveled at how small the church was. It was tiny compared to our usual churches, though realistically, it was about the size of a single-family home. We entered inside and took our seats in the back. The altar setup was very reminiscent of my childhood, though the icon wall hiding the altar was not nearly as large or elaborate as what I had grown up with. A reader and a deacon were standing at the altar doing some pre-Mass readings, but shortly after we sat down, the priest came up to greet us. Since we were new, he handed us a missalette to follow along with the Mass. I skimmed through the missalette while the baby blew raspberries at some old ladies sitting next to us. Were it not for the wording being a little different than I remembered, it could very easily have been something I recognized from my youth. As the people came in and took their seats, I recognized a number of people from the other churches we went to, including a fellow ex-Latin Mass goer! I was also pleased to see lots of children, from a newborn baby up to school-age.

With today being Pentecost, I was pleased to hear that the entrance song to kick off Mass was the same song my favorite Carmelite priest, Fr. Thomas Koller, used to sing for the entrance song whenever it was his turn to say Mass. The rest of the Mass that followed was different from what I remembered, but then again, it had been over six years since I had set foot in an Orthodox church and I had all but forgotten how a liturgy went. The music sounded different from what I had grown up with too, even though content-wise, it was the same. The priest delivered an excellent sermon, though I wound up having to leave halfway through it because the baby got cranky and needed her titty break. Thank goodness there was a kiddie ghetto, and there were quite a few toddlers of varying ages in there.  The baby got distracted by the other toddlers and wanted to play, but the one toddler she did play with kept pulling my daughter's hair, a move in which her mother and myself stepped in to separate the girls from each other. It wasn't out of malice that the other toddler was pulling my daughter's hair. The toddler herself didn't have much hair on her own head, so seeing a head full of hair on a person similar in size fascinated her. Guess my baby's luscious mop of wavy brown hair is irresistible to both biggers and littlers alike!

As for Communion, it was distributed by spoon, just like how I remembered; though I'd forgotten just how far I needed to tip my head back so that the priest could dump the wine-soaked piece of bread into my mouth. I also tried not to chew on the bread, as per what I'd learned in my Catechism class. As I passed the icon arrangement set up in the middle of the church (there's a name for it, but I can't remember what it is), I noticed a few bowls behind the icon which were covered in thin towels with geometric Slavic embroidery. It made my heart jump with joy. At the end of the Mass, we went up to the priest for the final blessing and we had our foreheads annointed with myrrh. It smelled nice, but it was different from what I remembered. The myrrh of my childhood had a far sweeter smell, as opposed to the soapy one offered here.

Russian embroidery motifs

Finally, after the long Mass was over, we went into the hall for some coffee and snacks. We socialized a bit with some of the other parishioners too, but we couldn't stay long because my hubby had to work that evening and the baby needed to go home for a nap. The ones we talked to seemed to have come to the Byzantine church as a last-ditch effort to find a reverent parish and save both their souls and sanity. I met a family who were also ex-Latin Mass churchgoers (though the church they had attended at the time was way up in the foothills of the mountains, just barely within the city limits) and the time just didn't work out with their schedules. We were also recognized by a young couple from the Carmelite church, who also shared our displeasure at the chaotic behavior of the Mass attendees there. We rounded out our visit by chatting a bit with a friend of ours from the Latin Mass church who we saw there, and talking to the priest. He seemed like a nice, intelligent man who had a strong connection with the Holy Spirit. After I mentioned my background in the Serbian Orthodox church, the priest told hubby and I that there were actually a few couples at this church who were like us: one Serbian spouse and one Catholic spouse, and the decision to attend Mass at this church was sort of a compromise in honor of each sides religious traditions. I didn't think to ask him, but I wonder if he celebrated Slava for these particular parishioners.

Overall, my experience at the Byzantine church was a positive one. There wasn't a magic "aha!" moment indicating we'd found a home parish when we were there, unlike the first time I'd set foot in the Latin Mass church; but it marked a turning point for me because I could now go to an Eastern church and the negative memories I associated with it from forced attendance in my youth didn't bother me anymore. Hubby and I resolved to return here again soon.

Not mine, but it says "Born in America, but my heart is in Serbia"

The Church isn't fond of it, but occasionally, my diehard Serbian nationalism leads me down some strange and wonderful paths. I love the Catholic Church dearly, but I want my children (and husband) to know their culture and celebrate it. I may have serious disagreements with my family, but one thing they were adamant about was not forgetting our culture and that is probably the one thing I can truly thank them for.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Found a Kitten!

Greetings, dear readers!

A few days ago, I posted about some kittens my husband spotted in our yard this past weekend and our initial attempts at catching and taming them. This past evening, however, it was my turn to be the cat savior. Since my hubby would be working, I decided to spend the time catching up on some recent episodes of Ghost Adventures when I heard a loud mewing coming from outside! After not hearing mews for a few days, I naturally had to go outside to check it out, thinking it was one of the three kittens.

Much to my surprise, I saw this was a different kitten altogether! Unlike the others, this one was grey and white. Also, unlike the others, this kitten came running right up to me when I turned the corner of the trailer and saw something small, grey, and furry in the garden. Naturally, I scooped it right up and after a quick scope of the yard to make sure no other kittens were in need of rescuing, I took the new kitten inside. A few days ago, while cleaning the bedroom, I found a box and laid a blanket down in it just in case of a kitten rescue. I put the kitten in that box and placed it in the bathtub. I then ran and got an opened can of soft food and filled another can with water so that the kitten could have some food and drink.

Exploring the tub

Naturally, the baby was fascinated and intrigued by the new addition! She laughed and cooed at the kitten as it feasted, then explored the tub. I picked the tub because it was easiest place to confine a strange kitten until it could be properly introduced and integrated into the home pride. Also, this way, the new kitten could be given proper medical attention and cleaning so as not to introduce some pathogen into the home pride.

Kittens and babies (note: I have no idea why the image is rendering sideways. It was taken right-side up!)

I immediately noticed the kitten had some guck on its face, so I got some toilet paper and a bit of hydrogen peroxide to clean it off. When our big boy toms were kittens, they all came down with conjunctivitis, likely getting it from their mommy. When we could afford proper medical treatment, we would get a script from the vet for eyedrops and antibiotics. If that was not an option, we treated the kittens ourselves using tetracycline, a water/peroxide mixture to wipe the guck away, and triple antibiotic cream on the surface. It worked, and the kittens were fine within a week. As I cleaned this kitten's face, I examined it a bit more closely.

Poor baby needs its eyes medicined!

The kitten appears to be female. Her bottom was too ambiguous for me to make a definite call, but I noticed she had some pale orange patches on her legs. Grey, orange, and white meant this was most likely a calico. Calico cats are overwhelmingly female, owing to their XXY genetic makeup (there are calico toms, but they're rare and almost always sterile). Though her face wasn't totally clean, I did manage to get most of the guck off before she became too squirrly for me to handle. She couldn't have been more than 4 weeks old, as her eyes were still baby-blue. Like the other kittens, until proven otherwise, I'm inclined to believe that the Siamese minnie bore this one, though I don't know if it's possible for a Siamese cat to bear calicos. Given how she ran to me instead of fleeing and how comfortable she was with being handled by people, it's pretty clear she's been socialized for human contact. I also question her maternity because the Siamese minnie is still pretty feral and doesn't like being around people much; she taught her kittens that too.

Exploring the bathroom
Napping in my lap before returning to her bathroom quarantine

Once sufficiently cleaned, I closed off the bathroom door and let the kitten explore her new surroundings in safety. I also introduced the baby formally to the kitten. The baby was delighted with the kitten, but I had to be careful so that she wouldn't get too rough with the kitten. The baby can pet her, but she still overwhelmingly leans toward grabbing (whiskers, tails, fur, etc). Fortunately, kittens are much more forgiving about manhandling than adult toms are.

Today, the kitten explored more of her surroundings and got a proper bath. I did this with Pest and his siblings when they were kittens because they had no mommy cat to clean them. While her eyes are still gucky, they are looking a bit better.

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A Short Review of Beer: Jelen

Hello, dear readers! How has your weekend been?

Today, I reached a milestone. For the first time in my life, I had Serbian beer!

My camera flash kind of obscures the label, but it says "Jelen Beer, original recipe". The Jaegermeister deer has nothing on the Jelen buck

After my husband brought home some fried chicken, I decided that I should pair with it one of my Serbian beers that I bought at the Euro mart. After a friend surprised me a few weeks ago with some home brewed beer that a friend of his made and some Benedictine beers from the home monastery in Nursia, Italy, it was high time to make room in the fridge because it's getting pretty crowded in there. I picked the first beer I saw, which happened to be Jelen.

Jelen beer was a staple of my childhood. I remembered seeing it served at parties and festivals while I was growing up in the Chicago area, with its large Serbian community to serve as the market. Its name means "deer" in Serbian, and its label features a howling buck. Jelen an old, well established beer brand, going back to 1756 when it began being brewed at the Apatinska Pivara (Apatin Brewery), which is located in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina. The brewery is named after the town it was built in, Apatin.

As my husband arranged the fried chicken on plates for us to eat, I took a sip of Jelen and was literally almost blown away by the taste of it. IT WAS SO GOOD!!! It went down smoothly and had a very pleasant malty taste with a bit of body to it. I couldn't tell what kind of beer it was, however, because it wasn't listed on the label. My husband guessed it to be a lager (and he was right), and he too found it pleasing to the taste. No wonder this beer was such a big hit at parties! It's really quite tasty. The ingredients were pretty simple too, listing out "water, barley malt, maize grits, hops". While the alcohol content is pretty low (only around 5%), its taste makes one want to drink more of it so do be cautious of that. I can, and have, seen people get pretty wasted on this stuff.

A better look at what's inside the bottle. Its piss-yellow look betrays the true flavor. Pic found here

Sure enough, fried chicken and Jelen go well together, but don't make the mistake of eating a banana for dessert and drinking beer at the same time because that combo was gross. This is a meat beer, so pair Jelen with any meat dish you have.

I can definitively say, this beer is a keeper. Even though the brewery is owned by Coors (a particularly revolting brand of American domestic beer), the fact that its original recipe hasn't been tampered with is a huge relief. I must say, so far I've been pretty pleased with the quality of European beers (Slavic beers, in particular), and I will definitely buy more Jelen the next time I go to the Euro mart. Do try it if you can, but because this is a beer specific to Serbia, it may be difficult to find in your local liquor or grocery store. It's more likely to be available in ethnic delis, depending on which Slavic population is the most prominent in your community, if at all.

For more information on Jelen, check out the brand's Serbian language website here and English-language Wikipedia site here.

As always, please drink responsibly

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Birthday Baby

Greetings, dear readers!

Today was my daughter's first birthday! Though my husband had originally been scheduled to work on this day, a providential scheduling snafu led to him having the day off today. We could celebrate our daughter's birthday as a family!

One year ago. From this...

To this!

We started off the day by going to the clinic so that my husband could get his methadone. The staff was delighted to see us and some of our patient friends there wished the baby a happy first birthday. After a bit, we went to church so as to give thanks to God for our baby and express gratitude that she's made it to the one year mark, as well as hopes that there will be many more birthdays to come.

Playing with the bead and wire toy at the clinic

Owing to tight finances, we couldn't really DO any activities for her birthday (given how blazing hot today was, I thought about a day trip up in the mountains, but the car still needs some work done before that can happen). And with it being so blazing hot, none of us really felt like doing anything anyway. But, I was determined to get her a cake. I couldn't get the Rolling Stones t-shirt for her that I wanted, but a cake was non-negotiable. So after church, we went and got her a cake at the grocery store.

When I saw this cake, I knew it was the right one. It was white cake with buttercream filling

After a light lunch and relaxing for the afternoon, we had a delicious dinner of tacos (homemade seasoning makes a world of difference!) and finally, our delicious cake! Hubby and I sang "Happy Birthday" to the baby and he cut the cake, each of us getting a piece.

Hubby cuts the cake

Given that just about every baby I've ever seen with a slice of cake usually proceeds to mash it into pulp before body painting themselves with the cake, I thought for sure our baby would do that. It is a classic image, after all. Even though our baby is not known for neat eating habits (no matter how much I try to minimize the mess!), she wasn't as messy with her cake as I thought she would be. Cleanup did not require a power wash or second bath.

Being dainty

Trying to feed herself with the spoon!

Not quite covered in cake, but close enough. When she starts playing with food and reaching towards either me or hubby from her chair, it's her way of saying she's done eating and wants to play

Now that our daughter has reached the magical age of one, my husband and I will start trying to make her a sibling in earnest. After she was born, my husband and I agreed to wait until the baby was at least a year old before trying for another because I wanted sufficient time to recover from that pregnancy before undergoing another one. Also, by holding off another pregnancy, I feel like it gives the baby sufficient time to bond with me and know that I am her mother. While I would like a large family (my husband likes to say he wants 10 kids, but we agreed that three would be a good minimum), I don't want to have more children than I can care for at one time. I don't want to offload childcare duties (at least more than what is appropriate) onto my older children because that will not only confuse the hell of my youngest children, it will make my oldest children resentful towards me because I made them surrogate parents to their younger siblings before they were mature enough to handle the responsibilities of raising children.

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The Kittens

Greetings, dear readers!

While my Mother's Day this past Sunday was uneventful, my husband made an amazing discovery.

It started on Sunday night, when my husband heard high-pitched, infantile mewing coming from outside our home. He went outside to investigate, and saw there were kittens running around on our property!

Unfortunately, I don't have any pix of our kittens, so this will have to do. The kitten in this picture is about as old as the kittens we found. Pic found here

My husband spotted three kittens. One was orange and white, the other is cream-colored and white, and the last one is black. He tried to catch them and bring them inside, but they got away. Later on, he managed to catch the cream colored one and bring it inside the living room. However, by morning, the kitten had gotten out. My husband suspects it was rescued by its mommy, even though I was waking up every couple of hours because I could hear it mewing, so I would go into the living room to check on it and make sure it had food and water. On Tuesday afternoon, while I was outside doing the laundry, I spotted the black kitten. I tried to coax it to come to me and be fed, but it was skittish and ran away. I would see the kitten intermittently while I was hanging up the diapers, as it would come back in and out of the yard, running under our trailer.

This is as close a pic as I can find of what the black kitten looks like. Pic found here

As for where the kittens might have come from, there is a Siamese minnie (girl cat) that likes to hang around our home, and being the big softie for felines, my husband feeds her. She was feral, but has gradually become tamer with prolonged feeding and contact. When she first started coming around, she was pregnant. She disappeared for a while, emerging much slimmer than the beach ball with legs she had initially been. We knew she had her litter, but we could not find the nest. These kittens that my husband discovered are very likely her kittens.

The kittens appear to be about 4 weeks old (as is evidenced by their still baby-blue eyes), so their ages match up pretty well to coincide with the minnie's return, though if she had them under our trailer (as my husband believes), I was bewildered as to why we didn't hear mewing earlier. My husband told me that minnies can silence their kittens, though I find that a little hard to believe because every batch of kittens I've encountered/raised ALWAYS made a racket of mews when they're born and need tending to.

Because we love animals, hubby and I will try to find and tame these kittens. They don't have to be indoor kitties; our cats are largely outdoor kitties anyway. Since I don't believe they've had much in the way of contact with humans, I don't think these kittens will be adoptable, but it's ok. I've missed having kittens to care for. I must be coming down with baby fever, haha.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Crib: The End

Hello again, dear readers!

After about a month of hard work, the crib is finally done! It's been sanded, painted, reinforced, mounted on caster wheels, and is finally ready to be put to use.

Head and foot boards assembled

Unfortunately, the stretcher bar at the bottom was missing a screw. No worries. My husband's hoarded hardware took care of that little problem

Ready to paint

In a significant deviation from the original plan, I assembled the crib first before painting it. This was my husband's bright idea because he wanted to see where reinforcements would be needed in the overall piece. Though this was primarily my project, I did let him do the planning and some of the reinforcements. Due to his engineer's brain and decades of carpentry experience, this was the only part of the assembly that I let him handle. But, for the purpose of gaining experience, I helped by measuring, cutting, and mounting an extra plank on the back bottom of the crib, borrowing my hubby's skill-saw and drills for the job. Despite gorilla-ing the bolts for security and sturdiness, the back bottom part of the crib felt a little too wobbly for my liking. Since it was going in the back of the crib where nobody would see it, I left the reinforcement unpainted. The other side felt fine, and I will be taking the front side of the crib down when the baby is big enough so she can have a toddler bed.

All painted! One coat was enough

The paint I used was a water-based latex paint. Everywhere I looked online and at Home Depot, for the purpose of painting a crib, latex paint was recommended. The first coat was pretty opaque and I debated on whether or not I should do a second coat. I still had some paint left over and the 150 grit sandpaper for this purpose, but after my husband looked it over, he told me it wasn't necessary. One coat was sufficient. He told me he thought it looked better now than it did in the online pictures or store models.

The reinforcement. This is on the back side of the crib, so nobody's gonna see it.

Before bringing the crib into the bedroom, there were three final tasks that needed completion: installing the caster wheels, attaching the springs, and one final cleaning. Though it took me a bit to figure out how to separate the caster's socket from the wheel, my hubby handled the drilling on the legs. I'd planned on doing it, but he insisted on doing the drilling because the bit was larger and he had better control of the drill.

Man at work

Wheels on!

The spring

The rest of the final assembly was tolerable, though annoying. After wiping down the springs with bleach and getting it ready to attach to the frame of the crib, I had two hiccups occur here. The first hiccup was because one of the holes for where the bolt was supposed to go and attach the spring to the frame had a messed up thread and no matter how careful I was, I just could not get the bolt to take. My husband solved that problem by drilling another hole right about at the same level and inserting a carriage bolt and nut into the arm of the spring, but not before cursing the manufacturer for making the bolt holes in such an inconvenient place. This was due to the second hiccup: having allen wrenches that were too long to fit in the narrow gap where the bolts attached the spring to the frame. If my hubby hadn't searched the tool drawers for the L-shaped allen wrenches and found one that fit, I honestly don't know how I would have finished the installation. Hubby or I would have had to drill extra holes for new screws, thus further delaying completion and being an overall pain in the ass to do.

The crib is complete. Now time to bring it in

I finally wiped down the whole crib before calling it done. Since the crib sat outside and was assembled outdoors, I wanted to be absolutely sure the crib was clean of any outside pathogens. I'm a huge stickler for cleanliness, especially since a baby will be sleeping in that crib. While she's never been a sickly child, I don't want to take that risk. She'll have plenty of opportunities to build up her immune system as she gets older and more active.

After my hubby helped me to put the crib in the bedroom, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a crib mattress we had been given by a family friend about a year ago fit perfectly in the crib! Though our church friends gave us a mattress to go with the crib, I planned to use the one our family friend gave because that mattress was already inside our home (we used to play with the baby on it), but I was concerned that it might be too large to fit in the frame. Imagine my delight when I saw how perfectly the mattress lay on the spring. However, thanks to my neurotic cat, Pest, I discovered that the bottom of the mattress was covered in cat pee (there's nothing physically wrong with him. He just feels the need to pee on everything because he's territorial. It's a never-ending job, cleaning up after him) after I took it out of the closet where I'd been storing it. Needless to say, after a cursing tirade directed at Pest while he roosted on top of the car, I took the mattress outside and bleached the hell out of it. Experience has taught me that there is no substance more pervasive than cat pee, but I was thankful that the mattress was made of plastic and was easily cleaned.

All done. A baby can sleep here now

After the mattress was cleaned, dried and eau-de-tomcat free, I finally dressed the crib. Mattress, waterproof barrier, cover sheet, and I was done. It sure looked pretty. I haven't decided if I'm going to add a pillow in there or not (I have a small, flat one that would give her some padding without sinking her head in). Guess that'll be something to bring up at our next pediatrician's appointment.

But the most important question remained unanswered: what did the baby think of her new bed?

At first, she was unsure about it and wanted me to pick her up

But then, after her bath and night feed, she went to sleep. I was especially thrilled to see that her diaper and blanket baskets still fit easily under the crib, thus saving us space. Her cradle was arranged in a similar way

Overall, I'm extremely pleased with the outcome of this project. I got to flex my DIY muscles and build something practical. This gives me a big confidence boost for future projects. That being said, if I was going to redo this project, I would first use the right tools for the job (sanding wheels save arms!) and paint the pieces separately before assembling. I'd planned on doing that, but my husband talked me into going a different route. I would also probably tape over the holes where all the hardware went, since I think my paint played a part in that one spring hole's thread being messed up.

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