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Friday, July 29, 2016

An Update on my Phone

I have good news, everyone!


IT'S ALIIIIIVE!! (sorry for the blurry pic. For some reason, whenever the flash is off on my camera, the resulting pix are blurry as hell, even when I'm holding the camera still)

As you may recall, the charging port in my Samsung Galaxy SIII phone is broken. I can plug in the micro USB cable, but the phone does not charge (the contacts in the port are either worn out or just plain broken). Unfortunately, I have not been able to procure a new phone with at least 8MP camera (which I need for the purpose of taking pix for blogging and personal use). While I have found cheap phones, their cameras are atrocious or they're severely underpowered (as has been the case with some Chinese phones I looked at online. They have 8 core CPUs, but only 0.5-1GB of RAM to power them. You need at least 2 GB of RAM to power a processor with that many cores). So, as is often the case with life in poverty: when you can't afford something, you go without it.

Since buying a new phone has been out of the question for some time, I consulted the oracle known as Google to see what would be involved in fixing the broken port. I found one video of a repair technician unsoldering the old port and then resoldering a new one in place, but my husband wasn't looking forward to the prospect of unsoldering my old port because he doesn't have the right tools for the job. And then, I came across a video of a guy who also had an SIII with a broken charging port, and he basically rigged an extra USB cord to act as a jumper cable to the wireless charging posts next to the phone's battery. It charged the phone by bypassing the charging port altogether. It was so simple, it blew my mind! Why hadn't I thought of this before? Then again, I hadn't realized my phone was capable of wireless charging in the first place...

The rig job. This video is responsible for resurrecting my phone

This morning, after waking up, my husband dutifully rigged up my USB jumper cable and upon securing it with some solder, he replaced the back of the phone most of the way and taped the excess length around the back. Yes, my phone looks cheap and strange with a wire tail hanging off the side and tape on the back, BUT IT WORKS!! Poverty has made me stop giving a flying fuck about the way something looks so long as it's functional, however crude it might be.

After going though and clearing out months of updates and alerts from Facebook, Instagram, etc, I've finally gotten my phone back to where it should be. No more going though clunky third-party platforms to use Instagram (though Instagram is stupid for making their service app-exclusive precisely BECAUSE there are some cases where people who don't have mobile phones but would like to use the platform and can't because some Silicon Valley asshole doesn't want to put forth the time and effort to make a desktop-friendly version of Instagram that's as good as the app!).

Everything is up to date now

It's good to have a working cellphone again.

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Picture of the Day

Hello everyone!

My apologies for not doing much in the way of writing for a while. Now that the baby is more and more active, I have even less energy and time to write.

It's monsoon season here in Arizona. For the next week or so, storms will come blowing up in the evenings because the heat bubble that has been sitting over the region for the month has boiled up the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) enough for it to create moisture-filled fronts which then drop rain, wind, and thunderstorms on the city.

Due to their nature, monsoon storms can be damaging. There are no shortages of downed trees, flooded washes, and power outages reported in the city when they do hit. Streets in low-lying areas are prone to flooding too. This was my street an hour or so ago:

My street is a river

This is what happens when you live in the floodplain of a river. The actual river itself is about a mile away, but because the surrounding area is low-laying, it floods whenever it rains. Fortunately, the swimming pool street doesn't last very long. It'll be mostly receded by tomorrow.

Some more of the flooded street, though my somewhat cleaned up garden kinda hides the view. It was drizzling still when I took this picture

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Fashionista

Hi everyone!

Here's a cute pic from the weekend.

Glam girl
Even though my daughter is only a little over a year old, she's already wearing toddler-size clothes (that shirt is 5T and the pants are 4T). In alot of ways, I'm not surprised by this. My husband and I are both large people, and as children we were both wearing clothes fit for larger individuals. Naturally, she too follows suit. I don't mind her clothes being a little loose on her. When it's hot out, you don't want any material sticking to your body.

Besides, jeans are good in any weather.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Smell of Death

Good evening, dear readers.

I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the horrible sight, so here's a mommy and baby kitty pic instead (pic found here)

Today, my husband made a grisly discovery.

He was going out to round up the cats for their morning feed when he noted the horrible smell of something dead and rotten wafting around the yard. He followed his nose to the front of the trailer, where the smell was strongest. Getting his drill, my husband unscrewed the soffet covering the bottom of the trailer and found the source of the smell.

It was a litter of dead and putrefying kittens.

A few days ago, we heard the sound of kittens mewing under our trailer. The Siamese minnie who we believe to be the mother of Puppy, our youngest cat, was pregnant and had now given birth. Since we had no idea where the kittens were under the trailer, we couldn't check on the newborns to see how many there were and what condition they were in. After hearing silence for a few days, I had assumed their mommy had moved the nest. It's not uncommon for minnie cats to move litters from one place to another after giving birth. Well, apparently she hadn't. My husband noted that from what he could make out in the remains, they still contained the afterbirth. It was like the Siamese minnie had just dropped the litter and abandoned them, not knowing what to do and not caring whether they lived or died.

With the help of a plastic bag, a shovel, and LOTS of garden lime, my husband buried the remains in the garden, right near White Chin's grave. It was heartbreaking to know of what became of the litter of kittens that the minnie had. I was looking forward to raising another litter of kittens, or at least whichever ones that I could catch. It literally put in perspective how miraculous it is that Puppy is even alive. Granted, her mother isn't very healthy (she wheezes constantly when she comes around) and was likely abandoned herself, but to drop a litter and walk away is just mind blowing. Perhaps its my own motherly hormones that make me feel this way, but to contemplate why the Siamese minnie had done such an irresponsible act made me feel depressed.

Powderpuff, 2013. She was my husband's favorite girl cat. He'd raised her from infancy and watched her grow into a strong and capable mommy cat.

True to his Catholic views on all forms of contraception, my husband has never been particularly big on spaying/neutering animals. But, upon making this grisly discovery, he has been adamant about trapping the Siamese minnie and taking her to get spayed. His view on spaying was always to do it after the minnie had at least one, maybe two, litters because having so many kittens can literally kill them. He'd seen this lesson play out many times over the course of his life. I saw it happen to Powderpuff, our beloved tortoiseshell calico who my husband brought into our marriage and whose untimely demise from birthing too large a litter too close to her last one was only the second time I ever saw him shed tears in front of me. Now, we're looking into getting a trap and seeing where we can get free/low cost spaying done. We plan to do a TNR, since the Siamese minnie is rather feral and doesn't like being around people much.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Some Updates

Hello dear readers!

As you may have noticed, things have been a little quiet here on the blog. This has largely been due to husband being out of town for a few days at a time over the course of these past two weeks. His job sent him to a small town near the US-Mexico border and with him not home to watch the baby while I cook and clean, I just haven't had the time or energy to write. One good thing about his business trip is that my husband got to stay in a historic hotel. A friend recommended the restaurant in the hotel's lobby, which my husband ate at and approved of mightily. It's said to be haunted (the front desk lady told my husband that an entity from the hotel followed her home and tried to strangle her in her sleep, and the colleague my husband was rooming with in the hotel room woke up in the middle of the night screaming from a terrifying nightmare. Coincidence? You decide...), but my husband hasn't seen or felt anything out of the ordinary. His demon-meter is fine tuned, but he's also well protected by the Lord.


I also have an update on the car. It appears that the bothersome electrical short which caused spluttering upon acceleration and prevented us from going up our friend's very steep driveway for fear of burning through yet another set of wires when going over to visit her, has finally been fixed! My husband, while diligently looking over the wires in both the engine and the dash, discovered where the insulation had worn off in some wires leading to the wiper blades. He fixed it and the car seemed to behave for a few days, even with him being a leadfoot. A few days ago, he went to visit our friend on the hill and made it up her beastly driveway with no splutter or fried wires. I still get nervous going up her driveway, but now I don't have to walk up it anymore.

Also of note, I've been getting to exercise my cooking skills lately. I made some more pita breads, this time using whole wheat flour, and I rolled them to be very thin, just like how my hubby likes them. They weren't fluffy like what I'm accustomed to seeing with pita bread, and were actually quite dense. I wonder if this is characteristic of whole wheat flour, or if I didn't let the dough rise enough, but I'll try again sometime soon. Also, after collecting the last of the harvest from our tomato garden (the damn things went absolutely gangbusters!), I made homemade tomato sauce from the overripe and sun-scarred tomatoes in the colander my hubby was using to hold them. I also used plenty of fresh basil from the garden (another plant that has a tendency to go gangbusters out here), but I used too much initially and had to take out most of the leaves once the sauce had cooked down. Once it was cool enough, I jarred the sauce up and put it in the freezer. It'll make for excellent pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce once I get around to making these respective dishes.

We knew this was inevitable. Pennywise Trump finally got his coronation and shattered the GOP while doing it

Finally, if anyone cares to know, I have been keeping up with the dumpster fire known as the Republican National Convention. Like most apolitical people, I've been kicking back with my beer and popcorn, watching the shitshow rage on. I despise the walking ballsack called Ted Cruz for a whole host of reasons, but I will give him due credit for doing the equivalent of defiantly sticking his middle finger right in front of the GOP's face at the Donald's coronation. But then again, I've always subscribed to the idea that Donald Trump isn't in it to win the presidency, he's running as a troll Republican to destroy the GOP and clear the way for Hillary. I don't support Hillary for a whole host of reasons, but she's much more qualified to run this country than Trump. Besides, if she's elected, then we won't have to flee to Mexico to escape the coming hell that is a Republican presidency. Bernie did what he was supposed to do and pulled her to the left.

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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Pita Breads

Good evening, dear readers.

After a fulfilling afternoon spent helping a friend and former neighbor fix up a trailer for her son, I had a hankering to make some more bread. Bread making, as I've come to figure out, isn't that hard. It can be time consuming, yes, but you're letting chemistry and physics do most of the work for you.

Playing with the curtain door at our friend's home

Since we had some leftover hummus in the fridge, I decided that pita bread was in order for dinner. Thanks to that amazing culinary school known as Youtube cooking tutorials, I found an easy and not-so-time-consuming recipe for Greek pita bread from my favorite Greek chef, Akis Petretzikis. I didn't have any fresh thyme, which the recipe called for, but since we have loads of Italian seasoning which we've acquired from moving inheritances and trailer cleanouts, I used that instead. It had thyme in it.

After kneading, rolling flat, and grilling them in my trusty cast iron pan on medium heat, the resulting pita breads were absolutely divine. They were soft and tasty with a bit of crisp on the outside. Since they were homemade, the pita bread loafs were different sizes and thicknesses, which gave them some variety. The Italian seasoning I added to the dough made a tremendous difference and gave the breads a very nice aroma in addition to a subtle taste. My husband really liked the pita breads too as he broke apart the piece and dragged it through the hummus.

My beautiful pita breads (note: I have no idea why the image is rendering sideways. It was taken right-side up!)

Akis was right: once I made homemade pita bread, there's no going back to store bought. It didn't even take that long to make, from activating the yeast to plating the finished breads, it took probably about an hour and a half total. It was a breeze compared to English muffins, which when made fresh is pretty much a whole-day affair.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Car Troubles, Part II

Greetings, dear readers.

Yesterday, I posted about how our cholomobile was out of commission. What started off as an ordinary brake job devolved into an ordeal involving a loose oil pump and now a knocking lifter in the engine. My husband feared the damage was immense and would cost a fortune for us to fix.

Our cholomobile still needs some surgery. The tarp keeps the sun and rain off of it while my hubby works

Last night, my husband consulted the advice of many seasoned Mopar owners on a forum he belongs to for Mopar car owners. The users suggested that the knocking lifter was likely stuck and that it got that way when the oil pump got loose and dropped the oil pressure in the engine. They suggested letting the engine run for about an hour on a low and slow idle to re-grease and un-stick the stuck lifter.

This afternoon, my hubby did exactly that. He adjusted the idle setting on the carburetor, turned on the ignition, and let the engine do its thing. At first, the knocking was loud, but then after about ten or fifteen minutes, I began to hear the normal engine sounds coming over the knocking. It was going away! My husband was overjoyed since it meant that it was just a stuck lifter and that more serious damage had not occurred. Eventually, the noise subsided to just a slight tick with each rotation, much like how it was before this whole mess started. My husband monitored the oil pressure and saw that it was holding steady within the low end of normal.

So now that we know that there is a lifter that's a little sticky in the engine, it's something that we're gonna have to keep an eye on. Chrysler made some damn tough cars, but they're not invincible. Until we can get the money to get an engine to rebuild this one, we're just gonna have to baby the car. My husband hasn't taken the car out for a spin yet to see how it handles, but he will soon enough. He still had a few things to take care of on the brakes before this while shitshow went down.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Car Troubles

Hello everyone! Hope you all had a safe and happy 4th of July.

Owing to my largely anti-American views, I don't typically celebrate 4th of July. But, it doesn't stop me from grilling or watching the fireworks. I had planned to spend the day with a family friend, except the Devil threw a very nasty wrench into those plans.

The day had started off normal enough. My hubby got up early and was working on the passenger side front brake after he heard some chattering coming from it. Figuring the shoes were worn out, he opened up the drum and saw that in addition to the shoes, the bearings were worn and it was actually a broken retention spring that was causing the noise. No biggie, we'd ordered a whole bunch of break parts because my husband knew they'd need some attending to just cuz of their age.

Car surgery

Later on, after he was done, my husband decided to test out the new brakes by going on a short trip to the store to get some pop and cucumbers before the 4th of July crowd got really bad. As he was going down the street, he noticed that the lifters in the engine were making some noise. He thought it odd, but he then stopped, poured a bit of oil into the engine, and continued down the street. As he turned the corner, however, the noise became louder and my husband told me he then looked at the oil pressure gauge next to the steering wheel and it showed zero pressure. He stopped the car and turned it off, and tried to knock on the oil pump, thinking a clog had stopped it up. My husband finally turned on the car, ooched home and once it was in the yard, he jacked it up to see what was going on with the oil pump.

Well, after spending nearly the whole day working on it, he discovered that the oil pump was loose! The engine's vibrations had shaken it loose from its spot because the previous owner hadn't installed it correctly. After cleaning and re-greasing it, my husband reattached the oil pump and turned the ignition switch. The gauge registered its normal pressure reading, but there continued to be a loud clanging noise emanating from the engine. My husband is now convinced either a lifter is stuck or totally broken. Either way, our cholomobile is out of commission for the time being. Fortunately, if we have to go somewhere, we have friends to rely on for rides and the city bus is marginally effective in moving us from point A to point B.

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

The English Muffins, Part II

Happy Sunday, dear readers!

Earlier this past week, I bought a jar of fresh yeast to replace the bag of yeast that had been sitting in my fridge for at least a year and a half. The first thing I tried making with that bag of yeast was English muffins, but they came out dense. Unable to pinpoint exactly where I went wrong, I decided to try making something else with the yeast. I settled on a pita bread recipe from Youtube, but when I tried activating the yeast, it wouldn't activate. I knew then that the yeast was bad and that I needed to get some more if I was gonna try making any bread recipes. Once is an anomaly, but twice is indicative of a systemic failure. Almost by chance, however, I discovered at the store that the kind of yeast I'd been given wasn't the normal dry active yeast used by the chefs in my Youtube tutorials, but bread machine yeast! It also goes bad after six months if it's not used up before an expiration date. I had no way of knowing this information beforehand, and there's no telling how long the family friend who gave me the yeast had it sitting in her pantry.

All ready to cook! Yes, I wrecked one, but it still came out tasting good

So with my fresh new jar of regular dry active yeast, I decided to give the English muffin recipe a second go. It was literally night and day working with really activated yeast. The starter sponge looked, well, like a sponge and when I set the dough on top of the dresser to rise, it REALLY DID RISE! It definitely doubled, and then some. Kneading the divine-smelling dough was much easier too, and it blew my mind how big the dough balls were once they'd finished proofing. They actually touched! I also used a fresh bag of flour that hadn't been hijacked by bugs, so I think that helped too.

I did make two small errors during this little endeavor. The first error came when I cut the dough into smaller pieces to roll: I forgot to put some flour down on a second plate that was needed when I was arranging the dough balls to proof. The dough balls on the second plate wound up not only expanding to be touching each other, but they also stuck to the plate's surface and wound up kinda misshaping the muffin a bit when I put them in my trusty cast iron skillet to fry. The other error I made was when I cut one of the dough balls in half because I hadn't realized how big the balls would be once they had finished rising, and deflated it. Oops! Needless to say, I left the other dough balls alone. They were about 2-3 times the size of the store-bought English muffins.

All done! Yeah, they don't look much like English muffins, but that's ok. I'm still learning this shit

I changed one other thing from the first time I made these English muffins. This time, I fried them in butter instead of olive oil. Even though I'm notoriously bad at this, it sometimes pays to read and follow the instructions in the recipe exactly as they're written.

Finally, the moment of truth came after my fresh batch of English muffins had cooled down enough to be handled. My husband insisted on using a knife to slice open the collapsed English muffin to toast and butter it. It was almost a complete 180 from the first English muffins I made. These were tasty, fluffy, held in the heat well and had a significant number of nooks and crannies! My husband was delighted with the result, even if this second batch was bigger and more misshapen than the store bought English muffins I was accustomed to seeing.

Look at that fluffy, buttery goodness! If my husband had been civilized and used a fork to separate the halves of the English muffin, I think the nooks and crannies would have been more obvious

Needless to say, this recipe is a keeper. Now that I have a better idea of how big everything is gonna get, I can either cut smaller pieces of dough or I can make a big batch of proofed dough balls and then freeze them, taking out only what I'd need to make English muffins for a weekend breakfast or something the next time I feel up to making these. I now feel very confident that I can try making other bread recipes.

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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Upgrade

Good evening, dear readers.

Today, my kitchen received some much-needed upgrades. For a while, we've been lacking in a few kitchen basics like a liquid measuring cup, baking sheets, a rolling pin, a whisk, and a 9x13 casserole dish. We've made-do without them, but since I've been taking a more active role in meal prep now that my husband has to work, cooking becomes a real bitch when you don't have the proper tools for the job.

Since we needed a few non-food items at Walmart, I got my kitchen tools. I even got a small Teflon-coated pan for when I make palacinke! The only thing from my list that I didn't get was the casserole dish, but only because our neighbor down the street was having a yard sale and my husband saw that she had bakeware for sale.

My new starter. It works beautifully

Even though the kitchen arsenal upgrade was great, the best upgrade I got today was a proper charcoal starter! My mom sent my husband a gift card to Home Depot for his birthday, and we used that to get my starter (as well as some needed hardware). I was happy because now I could light my charcoal in a relatively safe and effective manner as opposed to using the propane stove and risking burns during the transfer of the charcoal from the stove to the grill. Before we were married, I remembered that my husband had a small charcoal chimney starter which he used periodically for when he wanted to barbecue something, but his birdbrained roommate threw it away while she was cleaning his room (she insisted on it because she was attracted to him for all the wrong reasons). Now that we had a proper replacement of that doomed starter, it was time to break it in. Good thing I had thawed out some pork chops and a bit of ground beef. Baked beans were on the menu too!

The starter itself was pretty straightforward to use and easy to light. I'd seen Youtube chefs use chimney starters for barbecuing, so it wasn't hard for me to copy them. After all, it's not difficult to stuff old newspaper underneath the wire mesh separating the charcoal hopper from the lighting chamber. Some old grocery fliers were put to use as well as plenty of the hard-to-light wood charcoal I've been using. It took about 15 minutes or so before the coals were ashed over enough to be dumped into the grill. The handles were a bit hot, but I had some wet rags to help me grip them.

Sure enough, the starter did its job well. The coals were lit and put to use in a shorter amount of time than it would have taken to do the same job on the propane stove+transport to grill. I didn't even nearly-burn myself like last time.

Kickin' it old-school. I even remembered to add the molasses this time!

In characteristic fashion, I proceeded to barbecue my pork chops, some vegetables, and then cook the pot of beans on the grill. There's something relaxing about just kickin' back and letting the hot coals cook a pot of baked beans. It brings to mind old West cowboys around a campfire, relaxing and making their food.

Tomorrow I'm gonna retry making English muffins. I bought a jar of fresh yeast earlier this week and so I'm itching to test it out.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

First Steps

Greetings, dear readers!

Today marks a momentous milestone: the baby took her first steps!

Not quite walking, but she could pivot on one leg (which is what she's doing in this picture)

I knew this day was coming. For the past two weeks, when she'd crawl, the baby would crawl with her butt high in the air and her feet flat on the ground instead of on her knees like she normally would do. Today, when my husband took the baby out in the morning so that she could have a zoot and burn off some energy, she took three steps on her own towards him on the patio. Of course, when I went to go and observe the event, she wouldn't repeat it. Later on, however, as the baby was playing on the bedroom floor, I saw her stand up and take three steps toward the bed on her own before she reverted back to her normal crawling mode.

Monkey crawling

What makes this day even more special is that she figured out walking more or less on her own. She refused to be put in a walker, and while my husband and I would walk with her around the house holding her hands or letting her cling to our legs, there's only so much you can do to teach a kid to walk. Our pediatrician also said that when it came to walking, that it was a mind-over-matter kind of thing; even though they have the muscular ability to do it, the babies prefer crawling over walking because it gets them from Point A to Point B faster. Either way, I'm proud of my daughter. She's developing right on her targets.

Soon enough, she'll learn how to run. And that's when the real fun will begin...

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