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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Picture of the Day

Happy Thursday, dear readers!

On Saturday, my husband came home from Walmart with a small inflatable kiddie pool. Since the weather had become so beastly hot (like over 100 degrees Fahrenheit!), my husband decided that a small kiddie pool was a good investment for keeping the baby cool. He'd planned to buy a small plastic round pool, but since he didn't have the means of transporting it home (no room in the car and it wouldn't tie well on the roof), he decided that the inflatable one was better in terms of price and storage. On Tuesday, he blew up the pool on the patio and filled it with some water. He and the baby then went for a little swim, from which I got today's picture of the day.

Swimming with Daddy

I joined in shortly, but we didn't stay out long because a storm rumbled in and we had to go inside. But, it was nice to have a pool for a bit. Nothing like low-budget ways to have fun and stay cool in this desert.

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The Pita

Hello, dear readers!

Today, I was feeling ambitious. I decided to try out my bbq as an oven by making some pita.

I got the idea for tonight's dish from a Serbian-language cooking tutorial I saw from my favorite Youtube grandmother, Jelajelena Petrovic, called "Pita sa Spinacem" (Spinach pita). I knew when I watched her video that I had to try making this, but I hesitated because my husband views cheese as though it's the spawn of Satan. After I asked him whether or not he'd eat a spinach pita if I made one, knowing that it had cheese in it (I resolved to use feta, since it was the closest to what I observed the Serbian cheese used in the video to be) and receiving an answer in the affirmative, I then set about procuring the ingredients I'd need. The one conniption I had was whether we had suitable bakeware for the pita, but after digging around in the cabinet where we keep the pots and pans, I found an aluminum pie pan which originally housed a tray of cinnamon rolls from the store. My husband had saved up a few of those to reuse, and it was big enough to fit on the grill.

Baking the pita on my grill

Thank goodness it rained this afternoon, so the ground was nice and wet. I cleaned out the old crappy coals from the barbecue and after putting in a few fresh ones, I decided to light them using some paper towels soaked in cooking oil thanks to another Youtube tutorial I saw (I refuse to use lighter fluid because then the food tastes like it). It took a few sheets to get the coals going, but I finally got them lit. My husband was whining at me to use the propane stove, but I refused because I didn't want to burn myself during the transfer.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pix of the process because the baby was being exceptionally clingy and was throwing a crying tantrum because my making the filling and assembling the pita meant that I couldn't pick her up and hold her like she wanted me to. I was able to hold her while I fried the onions, garlic and spinach over the hot coals, but once the pita was assembled and on the grill, she went and nursed herself to sleep. Her tantrum had worn her out.

Pitas, as I alluded to in an earlier post, are classic Serbian food and generally don't require much in the way of effort to make. It's an ideal quick-n-dirty meal that can be thrown together in about an hour or so to feed a hungry family or party guests. I wasn't sure how it would taste, given that the coals are made of wood and tend to impart their flavor onto foods, but I was happy to give it a try since I was trying to avoid using the oven at all costs. After I put the pita on the grill to cook, I realized later that I'd forgotten to add milk to the filling. This minor error proved to be providential because as fate and the fickle monsoon weather would have it, another storm blew in and I had to cut the bbq baking time short so that I could take the pita inside. The milk in the filling would have made the fillo dough soggy and rendered it inedible at that stage.

My grandmother would call this "dead"

Despite being undercooked, the pita was cooked enough to the point where you wouldn't get food poisoning from eating it. And actually, it wasn't bad! Only the top layers of the fillo dough carried any hint of charcoal flavoring from the grill, but it wasn't bad. It blended nicely with the rest of the ingredients. When my husband woke up from his nap, he saw the dead pita and finished it off in the oven's broiler. Ironically, he rendered the feta cheese inedible to his standards when he did that because while the top was golden brown, the cheese melted and set off his gag reflex. I was disappointed because now it meant that he wouldn't eat my pita. My husband was also disappointed because he liked the taste, but he couldn't eat melted cheese cuz the texture triggers an adverse reaction in his throat (I think he's allergic to cheese, but it only happens when the cheese is cooked). We'll see about breakfast, after everything is nice and solid.

After a quick stint in the broiler. Much better

Would I do this again? Yes. I have another roll of fillo dough set aside for this purpose. Next time, however, if I can't use more spinach, I'll use half as much feta cheese. I'll also remember to add the milk to the filling, but I think the spinach could stand to have a good chopping so that it would fit easier in the folds of the dough. Also, I'll figure out a way to get the grill to light hotter so that my pita will bake properly. Despite the storm throwing off my timing, I'm genuinely pleased with how this came out. It was much better than my burek.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

The English Muffins

Greetings, dear readers. It's been a busy couple of days. Thursday was my husband's birthday and we celebrated with some good Benedictine beer and fried chicken from our favorite chicken joint. Simple celebrations are always the best.

On Tuesday, I broke new ground and made English muffins. I enjoy English muffins, but the ones from the store leave much to be desired. So, when I came across an easy English muffin recipe on Youtube, I knew I had to give it a try.

About a year and a half ago, I was given a small cup full of yeast by a family friend. I kept it in my fridge to keep it cool since the pantry in our kitchen where the baking goods are stored tends to get kinda hot in the summer and I didn't want any bugs or heat to get at the yeast and ruin it. I've been itching to make something with it to see if it's still good, so I figured English muffins were a good starter.

Activating the yeast

The dough before rising. It was sticky and wet

I first activated the yeast, then mixed the dough using my giant salad bowl as a mixing bowl and my sifter to get the bugs out of the flour (I honestly have no idea where those weevils are coming from. I vacuum out my pantry once a month and yet they still come!). After letting the dough rise, I made the mistake of not flouring the counter  enough so the dough was leaving a sticky mess. I added alot more flour and that solved the mess, but now it was too dry and I had to add a little water into the dough to moisten it a bit more. After separating and forming the muffins, I coated them in cornmeal and put them off to the side to proof. While the recipe called for using butter to fry the muffins, I used olive oil instead because it was healthier than butter. I fried up the English muffins in two batches, using my handy cast iron pan.

I set the dough to rise on top of the dresser in the bedroom, since that was the warmest place in the house. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pix of the dough after it was doubled.

Frying the English muffins

I put an egg yolk wash on top of the muffins to use up a leftover yolk. I don't think I should have done that cuz it made the English muffins look burned.

How did my muffins come out? Bad. I don't know where exactly I went wrong, but the resulting English muffins were dense and tough. My first reaction was to wonder if the yeast had gone bad, (especially since I couldn't obviously tell if the dough had doubled at all during its rising stages) but the second batch of English muffins were definitely fluffier than the first batch, so bad yeast may not have been the culprit. That being said, however, the yeast may not have activated well. I didn't cover the bowl when I was activating the yeast, since the recipe didn't make mention of it, though in some other videos I watched about making bread, I noticed that just about every other cook covered the bowl to let the yeast activate.The possibility of overworking the dough also occurred to me, though I doubt that because breads in general need alot of kneading to smooth them out.

All done

My husband suspects the dough's temperature at cooking time to be the ultimate culprit because after the muffins had finished proofing, I put the dough in the fridge because it was the late afternoon and it was getting to be kinda hot in the house. I put the dough in the fridge to keep it from going bad cuz I knew it was gonna be a few hours before the house was cool enough to cook in. At cooking time, I basically took the dough out of the fridge and put it in the pan without letting it warm up.

Batch 1: dense, felt underdone; note the lack of nooks and crannies classic of English muffins

Batch 2: A little better, but not by much. Some nooks and crannies present, but still pretty dense

In short, my English muffins came out bad, but there's too many variables to determine just where exactly I went wrong. That being said, I'm not discouraged. I will try making English muffins again, but this time, I'll be a bit more diligent in my work. Breadmaking is an art, and it's something that I'm learning to enjoy.

One thing that surprised me was just how long breadmaking takes. To activate the yeast takes about 15-20 minutes, and then once mixed with the flours and other ingredients, the dough needs to be put aside to rise for about 2 hours until its doubled in size. But, there's more! Once the dough is kneaded and shaped, the resulting loafs have to "proof" for about an hour to double in size. It literally took me all day to make the English muffins that I'd intended to have for breakfast. Oh well. Still, nothing beats fresh made bread, however it comes out.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016


Happy Sunday, dear readers!

While the rest of the country celebrated Father's Day, my family did not.

We celebrated Juneteenth instead.

A brief explanation of Juneteenth. Pic found here

Juneteenth is a Texas holiday commemorating the emancipation of the Black slaves in the state. The name is a combination of June and nineteenth, the date the emancipation was first celebrated formally in 1865. It was my husband who introduced me to this holiday in 2012, and he told me how when he was a younger man, he used to celebrate the day by eating fried chicken, watermelon with salt, and drinking cheap shitty beer. While his idea of celebrating Juneteenth came from the racist tropes of Blacks that he'd grown up with in Texas, I didn't mind eating fried chicken and a watermelon on this day. I'm not a big melon eater, but I've had watermelon every year on Juneteenth since 2012, even if beer and fried chicken were out of the question.

I did my bbq-ing last night. Pic found here

What surprised me most about my husband's choice of celebratory foods was the watermelon with salt. I knew about watermelon being seasoned with sugar (my grandma did that), and chili powder (the Mexicans did that), but not salt. Apparently, this is something only Texans did as my husband did not recall anyone in Louisiana seasoning their watermelons with salt (they did pickle the rinds, however). I didn't particularly care for the taste of salt and sweet watermelon the first time I had it, but I've grown to tolerate it.

Forget Father's Day. Sure dads are important, but the holiday has become so commercialized that it's been rendered worthless. Thank goodness my husband isn't crazy about parent-themed holidays. At least with Juneteenth, it was a holiday we could spend together as a family and somewhat relate to since both of our respective peoples (Irish and Serbs) had been utilized as slave labor over the course of history by various Western European powers. Today happened also to be the hottest day on record (a whopping 115 degrees Fahrenheit!), so it was a good day to stay inside and feast on leftover London Broil, baked beans, and watermelon. I had to kick myself out of bed super early so we could go to church early in the morning in order to get our Sunday obligation to attend Mass out of the way before it got too hot out.

And that was how I spent my Sunday.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Return of the BBQ Queen

Greetings, dear readers!

It's been a busy week, but tonight I'm pleased to make an announcement: I have resumed my seasonal role as the BBQ queen of Arizona!

As I've written, I've had the cooking bug for a few weeks now. On Friday, I spent the afternoon diligently cleaning the inside of my trusty little BBQ to get it ready for the summer and the heavy use it will undergo. Cleaning the grill of what had to have been a few years worth of ash buildup made me wish I had a larger grill for some of my more ambitious projects (like baking!), but until I can afford a larger grill, this bitty broiler will have to suffice.

The grill is ready

Tonight's debut dish of the season was none other than a London Broil. We bought one on sale from the store about a week ago, and now it was time to eat it. I looked up a few recipes online for cooking it, but in a twist from my usual protocol, I did not want to make a marinade for the meat. I decided that I would score the surface of the meat, but I wasn't sure what else to do in addition to that. I then found a video where the cook massaged the meat with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper before throwing it on the grill, and I decided that would be the extra step I needed. I tend not to marinate my London Broils because I feel like they don't add anything to the overall dish that can't be achieved through a low-n-slow cookdown on the grill.

London Broil

Before grilling the meat, I lit the coals using an old propane camp stove, and carefully transferred the hot coals to the barbecue one by one with my tongs because there was a strong breeze blowing in and I didn't want to start a fire in my yard because it's been so dry here. I then threw in several handfuls of hickory and pecan woodchips which I'd been soaking in water for a few hours so they were nice and moist and ready to smoke. I've come to appreciate the use of woodchips, since they enhance the flavor of the meat quite well. Finally, I plopped the meat onto the grill and let it do its thing. I only periodically would come back out to turn the meat, since I was doing this brisket-style in preparation for 4th of July, when I will make a REAL brisket.

Beans on the grill. Kickin' it old-style (note: I have no idea why the image is rendering sideways. It was taken right-side up!)

After about an hour or so, I called the broil done and brought it in. Since my husband asked me to make baked beans to go with the broil, I then proceeded to grill up some onions, peppers and sausage to put into the pot with the cans of baked beans. I was gonna do this old-school and cook the beans on the grill since the heat was already there and I REALLY didn't feel like heating up the house after hearing that it would be over 110 degrees Fahrenheit tomorrow. After adding some fresh coals because the old ones were pretty burned out, I placed my cast iron pot full of baked beans on the grill to cook. Some periodic stirring, and they were good to go after an hour or so. BBQ baked beans aren't bad. It feels like I'm camping when I cook them on the open grill.

All done! Look at that meaty goodness!

When my husband got home from work, he just about had a foodgasm while eating my broil. I was a bit worried that I'd undercooked it because while London Broils have to be pretty rare to be edible due to the nature of the cut, I didn't want my broil still mooing while I was cutting it to eat. Fortunately, my husband called it just perfect and had a healthy helping before going to bed. He had a bit of the beans too, but the broil was far more preferable. I, on the other hand, was glad it came out great. I'm very careful about not undercooking or vulcanizing food so as to render it inedible.

I'm very encouraged by this first creation of the season. I wonder now what other creations I can make for my family. Maybe I'll bake something next. That's something I've been wanting to try for a while.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Interview

Happy Sunday, dear readers. I got a pleasant surprise at the Carmelite church tonight because the African priest who's last Mass I'd attended had been so terrible (he was VERY long-winded and rambling) that I almost designated him as the first African priest I DIDN'T like, redeemed himself by being concise and orthodox with a stirring sermon about virtue. I was most pleased to see that his connection to the Holy Spirit was strong tonight. I usually have a very positive opinion of African priests (Indian ones too) because the ones I've met were well-catechized, orthodox and usually more intelligent than the average American priest I encountered. I suppose he was having a bad day that time and it just happened to be the first Mass I saw him in. Oh well. He's back in my good graces now and life can continue on as usual.

On Thursday, my husband had a job interview. He applied to work as a janitor at a local Presbyterian church, and the office called him in to be interviewed. Since there were errands to be run, I tagged along on this dreadfully hot day.

It may surprise some of you to learn that despite my die-hard Catholicism, this was not the first time I've been to a Presbyterian church. When I was growing up, my family joined an up-n-coming Serbian Orthodox church in the suburbs close to my home town. Before then, we'd been either going to the churches in the city of Chicago or the monastery in Lake County. Since the church parish was still so new, we didn't have a proper church of our own, so the managers were renting out the side chapel of a huge Presbyterian church in Deerfield, IL. I don't remember much about this place since I was a kid during the time we went there, but I remember the chapel being small, dark, and dusty with cobwebs on the windows. However, the building it was connected to was quite large. There was a hall behind the choir area which led to a kitchen and that was where the coffee hours were held. The basement was huge because that's where the Sunday school, Serbian language/culture, and dance classes were held and where the caretakers lived (they would regularly complain about the rambunctious kids banging on the door that led to their living quarters). I also remember my Serbian language teacher taking us on a tour of the building where we went past the double doors in the basement separating the part where the side chapel was to the main building, seeing the school classrooms there, and going into the actual main church itself. I don't remember exactly what the interior of the church looked like, but I remember there being alot of nice woodwork and it was dark. The second time I was in a Presbyterian church was when I was in 6th grade. It was for a comparative religions class which also included a trip to a local mosque and the huge Presbyterian church which was located in my hometown's downtown. Like my family's starter church, this local Presbyterian church had some nice dark woodwork inside and lovely stonework on the outside, though I remember looking at the tiny medicine cup-sized communion cups and kitschy-print missalettes in front of me in the pew and thinking this place looked more like the bank my parents did business with (at the time) than any church I was familiar with. There were crosses and banners proclaiming the glory of God, but not a single crucifix could be found anywhere.

Playing with her sunglasses

On this trip, I would not be checking out the church. I would be sitting in the office waiting area while my husband was interviewed. The secretary was kind and got the baby and I some water, but just like my previous trips to Presbyterian churches, the property was huge (this one was large enough to sustain a proper school). While the actual office itself was roomy and light with bright cabinets and clear windows, the waiting area was kinda dark. It had dark woodwork with kitschy stained glass depictions of biblical scenes and Christian themes lining the top of the room, but there was an entire wall which was designated as a sort of gift shop with trinkets, books, handmade quilted items, fair-trade coffees and mugs with the image of the church printed on them all for sale. The office waiting area itself was not very big, but it was large enough to walk around and the baby could crawl on the carpet without interruption. There was also a large china cabinet that held some mementos off to the side behind the chairs and on the coffee table in the middle of the room were two copies of some Billy Graham evangelical magazine keeping a "bible" company (I put bible in quotes because it wasn't exactly a Bible. It was selections from the Bible arranged to form some kind of storyline). I skimmed through the magazines and the "bible", but the baby kept me from delving into too much of this heresy by crawling around on the floor.

After the main office lady called my husband to the back for his interview, I walked around the waiting area and looked at the various things on display, both in the china cabinet and a nook across from the door. It was in the china cabinet that I first noticed a book with Cyrillic writing on the cover. Given my Slavic background, it piqued my interest and I took a closer look at it. On the shelf where the book was, I also noticed a pair of cloth dolls dressed in traditional Russian costumes half-hidden behind a folded sign explaining the items on display. I couldn't tell exactly what the dolls costumes looked like or where they were from in Russia, but I had the impression that the costumes were pre-Kievan Rus, based on the headdresses. On the shelf below was also a lacquered cup in traditional floral patterns. Below the Russian mementos was a display from Romania. There was either a place mat or a belt woven in a traditional pattern underneath a small Romanian flag and a plaque from the city of Timisoara.

The china cabinet. Not pictured: Russian cloth dolls in traditional costumes. Also, what is it with Presbyterians and dark wood?! It's too East Coast for this part of the country

The contents of both the Russian and Romanian shelves, the display signs read, were donated to the church by evangelical bible societies doing missionary work in their respective countries. I began feeling my blood pressure go up in anger as I read the sign on the Russian shelf which stated that the book which caught my attention was apparently a Russian bible and that it had been donated by a family evangelizing in Russia on behalf of the Wycliff Bible Society. These maggots have NO business poaching my people away from the REAL Church, just adding fodder to their CIA/Masonic front! I may have been suspicious of Protestantism in my previous life, but my conversion to Catholicism and subsequent marriage to my husband introduced in me a militant hatred of them, with bible-thumping evangelicals taking the lead in the hate list. Also, while reading Cyrillic is slow-work for me, the book did NOT say "Bibliya" or "Holy Bible" on the cover. It said "Hosh Habar", which Google translate says means "Aromatic Message" (Google also suggested that it was in the Kazakh dialect, which I thought might explain the costumes on the dolls, but an image search didn't match up any costumes from Kazakhstan that were remotely close to what I'd seen). Fortunately, I had the baby to look after and she provided a much-needed distraction to keep me from raging and destroying that cabinet.

Finally, after about thirty minutes or so, my husband came back. I refrained from saying anything about what I thought of the Presbyterians until we had left the church property, keeping the subject limited to his interview. My husband felt positive about the job interview, but gave it a 50-50 chance that he would be hired. He told me he was interviewed by three people, which I thought odd because if you're a qualified candidate for a job, you typically have only one interview with whoever is the person doing the hiring. Once we were out of the parking lot and away from any prying ears, I told my husband about the Russian mementos and how furious I was to see my people being led away from the Faith. I also complained how the decor in the office was in bad taste because it was dark wood with cheesy stained glass images, to which my husband surmised that because Presbyterians are outside of the Church, they can never know the true beauty of the Faith and can only resort to making copies of what they think it should be.

Well, it's been a few days since the interview and we haven't heard anything back from the Presbyterian church. My husband assumes it's a no-go and has proceeded to apply for other means of stable employment. The temp and inventory counting jobs are few and far between right now, so he's been trying to get more regular employment. So far, he's been canvassing for a political office, but that job ends the first week of July. Time to keep looking.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Picture of the Day

Greetings, dear readers!

My daughter has learned a new skill: climbing! It began with her climbing up onto a small stool that my husband keeps near his desk in his work area which functions like a small table and holds random stuff like extra wires and gadgets. First, she would knock the stuff off the stool, then climb up onto the surface and proceed to either try and get at the stuff on my husband's desk or just chill on her new perch. Needless to say, baby-proofing my husband's work area became priority number one for an afternoon.

Well, just after she learned to climb the stool, the baby then proceeded to climb on top of one of the side tables here in the bedroom! The baby had cleverly figured out how to use the lower table as a stair to get to the higher table. So in celebration of my little mountaineer, here she is at the summit for today's picture of the day.

I'm coming for you, Mt. Everest...

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

Adventures in Cooking: Glazed Pork Chops

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

My creation for tonight's dinner: glazed pork chops with a green bean and insta-mash potato side dish

Since today was Sunday, it was my day to cook. I've had the cooking bug now for a couple of weeks, but in spite of the number of cooking videos I've spent the evenings binge-watching, I just did not know what to make. I was leaning strongly towards spaghetti sauce, especially since there are a number of vegetables in the fridge and in cans that need to be eaten, but it was too hot and I felt too lazy to make them. Boiling spaghetti is quite the heat producer too, though I managed to get around that by microwaving the noodles with some water in a bowl.

However, we did buy a pack of pork chops on super sale at the Mexican grocery store earlier this week. It had been a while since we'd eaten pork chops, so I figured I'd make something with these. As much as I love beef, I need a break from the stuff periodically. Since I haven't had the time or energy to clean the grill, there would be no marinate and BBQ for these pork chops. Instead, I decided to try glazing them after I saw a picture that a friend of mine posted to Facebook about her delicious-looking attempt at making glazed pork chops for her family.

While sweet pork chops aren't really my thing, I decided to give them a try because my husband advised me how good brown sugar and pork chops are together. I scoured Pinterest for a few recipes and found some that had some appealing ingredient combos, but none were to my liking overall. I knew I would need brown sugar and molasses for sure, but I didn't know what else I could add. After looking at a few different recipes, I had a basic idea of what was needed, but I would ultimately be pulling the recipe off the top of my head.

For the rub, I mixed up some salt, pepper, paprika, garlic and onion powders, and a substantial amount of brown sugar. The end result of the rub was sweet but with a spicy punch. I decided to add the molasses while the chops were being caramelized in my handy cast iron pan. Since there was already kind of a sweet crust on the chops from the sugar, I only drizzled a little molasses onto each side of the chop. My big fear was that I would vulcanize the chops (I'm pretty good about judging how well they've cooked on the BBQ grill, but frying can be a little tougher), but after my husband sampled a bit of my work, he was delighted by how tender they were and how well the flavors melded together. The baby liked them too, since they were tender enough for her 2.5 teeth to chew on.

I was overall pleased with my work too. While I don't remember exactly how much of each ingredient I used to make them, this glazed pork chop is definitely a keeper!

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Friday, June 3, 2016

The Wedding

Greetings, dear readers!

Today was a very long, but happy day. One of our dear family friends was getting married and asked hubby and I to be the witnesses to the happy event! They decided to have a civil ceremony at the new courthouse for legal reasons because while they wanted to marry in the Church, they couldn't get in contact with a priest to set up a meeting where he could do the necessary pre-marriage counseling and set the date. Their advanced ages and shaky health also meant that waiting for a priest to set a date might not be in their best interests at this time. At least with this civil ceremony, they would be legally bound for the purposes of wills and other legal matters.

My outfit for the wedding. Since it wasn't the church wedding, I didn't wear anything fancy-just a nice top and pants

We arrived at the county courthouse around 4PM. Once in, however, my husband nearly got us thrown out of the building because the security guard wouldn't let him bring in his giant sippy cup and it made my husband curse up a blue streak for which the guard threatened to evict us all. Fortunately, once we all calmed down, the security guard allowed my hubby to go and put his cup back in the car while our friend's fiancee, the baby, and I remained behind, taking off our jewelry so as not to set off the metal detectors. Once we regrouped and passed through the metal detectors, we got our things and got dressed while the couple to wed got their place number from the employee handing them out. By 4:30, we were up on the 4th floor which is where the weddings are held.

View from the top.
Being goofy with daddy

After waiting for what seemed like an hour, our friends finally got in line to get their courtroom number assigned for the wedding. As they stood in line, our friends also decided to volunteer to be witnesses for the couple in front of them. This couple was a man with his 9-months pregnant fiancee, and they apparently got stood up by their witnesses. The lobby and hallway were very crowded with couples of all ages and backgrounds waiting to have a judge seal their unions. It was not like our civil wedding in 2012, where there wasn't much of a crowd and was held in the historic old Pima County courthouse. As I observed the couples, their witnesses and guests in their various wedding attires, I suddenly felt bare because I realized that I was one of only a handful of people who did not have a tattoo. My husband noted this observation as well, and thanked his father for pounding into his head the no tattoo rule because it was something that could be utilized by the police for identification purposes.

Tying the knot

Finally, it was our friends' turn to get married. Since they were the witnesses for the couple in front, the judge decided to officiate both couples at once. It was a very pleasant ceremony and I was touched to see our friend put a ring on his wife's finger, especially since at our civil wedding, we weren't able to do that. Once the judge pronounced the couples as husband and wife, hubby and I signed the marriage certificate as witnesses to our friend's marriage. Since our friends did not tell their respective families or friends about the civil marriage, I will respect their privacy and not post any pictures where they are identifiable. Also, my husband's decision to turn off the flash on my camera and his atrocious photography skills rendered the courtroom pix blurry and the subjects semi unidentifiable anyway.

A shoe is a magnet for children

After the ceremony, we went back to his wife's old apartment at the assisted living complex where she lives for a small celebration. We picked up some fried chicken at our favorite chicken restaurant and some ice for the drinks, and had a delicious dinner of fried chicken, baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and biscuits. The baby ate her fill of the feast, as did the rest of us. Before our friend came to get us, I kept telling hubby to go to the store and get a fruit tart as a wedding cake, since our friend can't eat gluten and his wife isn't crazy about cake. But, we didn't get the chance to go because it was horrendously hot outside and my husband didn't want to wreck something in the car by making the trip. Fortunately, his wife bought a pack of eclairs from the store bakery. They would have something nicer for their church wedding, since that was the more important one. While we sat around and digested the food, the baby explored and played around on the carpet. She had once crawled on that very carpet several months ago when our friend's wife moved into that unit and the living room was still empty. But, eventually, little batteries ran out and she fell asleep on the way home.

One last zoot (note: I have no idea what those white colored blobs are in this picture. I saw them after I'd taken the picture, but I didn't notice any dust or bugs floating around at the time and they did not appear in subsequent pix. But since this is a senior living facility, there's no telling what it could be)

I'm very happy for our friend. I wish him and his wife the best for their new life together.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Play Date

Good evening, dear readers.

It was blazing hot on this Dope Day Thursday. We made our way to the clinic to get my husband's medicine and see our friends there. Even though I've been accompanying my husband to his clinic since before we were married, our subsequent transition into parenthood has gained us a few friends there who are also parents in recovery. I've written before about being the wife of a recovering opiate addict and while it's not always easy because the stigma of addiction is still so powerful in our society, most of the addicts are ordinary good people who need all the support they can get to stay clean, just like anyone else who is battling a chronic illness.

Baby get together! My husband and daughter with Little Friend and her aunt

On our visits, we've befriended a mom, her sister who lives with and looks after her, and her now-4 month old daughter. We first met them when her daughter was just a mere six weeks old and despite having been born prematurely, my husband and I have shared the ladies' joy in watching the baby grow healthy and strong. Our daughter has taken a liking to the infant and is happy to see her little friend every time we meet in the clinic's waiting room. Though the babies don't exactly play much with each other cuz, well, they're babies and they haven't quite figured out how to interact with another strange little human; they smile and reach as well as make noises at each other. When Little Friend gets a little bigger, I'll see about setting up a proper play date for our daughters to play with each other. Now that she's getting older, I want my daughter to start learning how to socialize and deal with other people her age cuz this is a very important skill for becoming a functional member of society. It'll also be good for me cuz taking care of a baby 24/7 is a very exhausting job and I need the company of fellow moms as an occasional break from the demands of parenthood.

After our clinic visit, we went to Mass and then to the home of another dear family friend. Her computer was in dire need of some updates, and she hadn't seen the baby for a while. It was while we were going up her driveway that a rather frightening incident occurred. Since our friend lives on a hill, her primary driveway is very steep and regardless of whichever vehicle we're driving, I always get very nervous going up her driveway because I imagine the car either conking out due to the grade or flipping over when going down the driveway to leave. Well, my fear came somewhat true when I saw smoke pouring out of the vents in front of the windshield and seeping inside the car as it spluttered up the driveway, followed by the horrible smell of burning wires just before we made it to the top. When we got to the top, my husband parked the car and turned off the engine, opened the hood and threw the kill switch on the battery to stop the currents. Sure enough, the alternator's lead wire had shorted and melted. It wasn't as bad as it sounded or looked and my husband proceeded to re-wire the alternator, but not before sending me and the baby into our friend's house where it was cool.

In the weeks leading up to this incident, we'd been having some problems with the alternator in the car. Whenever my hubby would goose the gas, the car would splutter and he observed the voltage dropping significantly during the hiccup. Then, just a few weeks ago, my husband had to replace the alternator after the damn thing completely busted and the resulting massive short burned up no small number of wires under the hood. After the alternator and the damaged wires were replaced, the car behaved better but still spluttered whenever my husband stepped on the gas pedal quickly. Chalking it up to him being a lead-foot, I frequently reminded him to take it easy when pressing on the gas pedal. I was feeling apprehensive about going up the driveway, and my feeling was vindicated by the shorted wire. I made my husband swear that until the spluttering problem was fixed, we were not to go up that driveway when visiting our friend. Fortunately, she has a few others that lead to the property which aren't car killers.

My daughter and one of our friends granddaughters. She was in love with my daughter from the day she was born.

The actual visit itself was pleasant enough. Our friend had her grandchildren over and they were sitting with her on the couch, watching TV. The baby got to show off her standing skills and play with our friend's granddaughters. Her youngest girls are four and five, so while they're a bit older than the baby, they're still close enough in age to make for playmates. Her preteen granddaughter also played with the baby, which was nice since she absolutely loves babies and small children. As we played, my hubby fixed the car and then came inside to work on the computer. Once finished, she paid my husband and we left to go home.

Play dates are fun. I look forward to having more of them.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Couscous Challenge

Good evening, dear readers!

Yesterday, I came across a video on Youtube of British chef Kerryann Dunlop making a Turkish-inspired couscous salad. After watching it and realizing I had pretty much all the ingredients needed to make this dish, I decided to answer her call challenging us to make this recipe. I decided it was gonna be for dinner.

Here's the video:

And here's my take on it:

Even my husband loved it, and he's not crazy about couscous! (note: I have no idea why the image is rendering sideways. It was taken right-side up!)

There were a few deviations that I took when making the couscous salad. I didn't have smoked paprika, just the regular kind. I also didn't use chili peppers, nor did I feel like opening up a can of chili tomatoes to compensate, but I also added three large cloves of garlic and used different proportions of fresh herbs based on what I had available and could tolerate eating (I'm cool with cilantro and parsley, but I'm not much of a mint eater so I used the littlest bit of yerba buena I could cut off since that was the only mint I have. I'm not sure exactly what type of mint yerba buena is (I think it might actually be spearmint. It certainly smells like it), but it's a common herb used for teas by the local Mexican population. A neighbor gave us our yerba buena plant a year ago and it has gone absolutely gangbusters in the garden). I also didn't have any tomato puree like what the recipe called for, but I think in this regard it would have ruined the dish.

This is not the first time I've had couscous salad. A few weeks ago, I cooked up a box of couscous we'd been given a few years ago and added my usual salad staples of tomato, cucumber, garlic powder, olive oil and vinegar. I won't say I fell in love with couscous, especially since I'd never eaten it in my life prior to then, but I genuinely liked it. I make it a point to now always have a box in the pantry for when I feel like having some.

The first couscous meal I ever ate. Certainly not as fancy or colorful as tonight's creation, but it was good enough to get me to make it again

Overall, I was quite pleased with the way this dish came out. Next time I make this, I'll add some chicken to it since I think the two will go well together. My husband was also delighted with the result since he'd eaten his fair share of couscous in the past, but had grown tired of it as he got older and stopped hanging out at the Sufi mosque where he was introduced to the dish by some Palestinian congregants. The one thing he griped about was that it was hard for him to gum the cucumbers, but everything else was chewable for him. Periodontal disease in his 40s robbed my husband of his teeth, but he can still eat most foods and speak without impairment. The only things he really can't eat are nuts and anything really tough or hard since teeth are required there. This has proved to be a blessing for the baby cuz if my husband can't eat the food, neither can she.

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