Life's like that!

July 29, 2009

Horror Landlord/Tenant Stories

I cannot imagine the horrible things that landlord/tenant done to rental properties until I read some here.

All praise be to Allah SWT, so far our rental experience have been quite alright. Repairs that we reported to the management were taken care promptly for the most part. We also took good care of the apartment unit and clean up the place when we moved.

The only bad experience we have is that we are unable to get back our $300 deposit from our last rental place in Lubbock, Texas. After husband called and sent written notices to the management for a few months after we moved to DFW area, we never hear from them. In the end we decided that the effort put into getting it back is just not worth it.

For almost three years we do not have any major maintenance problems while staying at our current apartment complex. The only issue that we had was that water was turned off thrice at the last notice, and we had to buy bottled water from the supermarket.

While we cannot control how our landlord's help with maintenance issues, we can only document any type of incidents and communicate with them about damages and problem areas.

Allah SWT willing I hope that when we move to a new rental property, we will have a pleasant experience with the new landlord.


This American Life: Scenes from a Recession

This American Life: Scenes from a Recession


Host Ira Glass notes the sub-industry in journalism right now of reporting anything that looks like a sign of the recession. He then goes on to list a handful of his own favorites, including a dentist who’s seen an increase in broken teeth from grinding, and a decrease in shark attacks.

Act One. Is the Condo Half Empty, or Is the Condo Half Full?

Ira goes to Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood to talk to some condo owners who are in a precarious situation—since the housing market crash, the developer who renovated and sold them their units—Haso Meseljevic—has all but disappeared. He’s in foreclosure on half of their building’s units. His son Samel Meseljevic and lawyer Hugh Howard aren't much help either. In the meantime, they have no one to pay for the repairs and maintenance of the building they all bought into.

Path to Freedom: Self-Sustained Lifestyle

My dream lifestyle... read more about it here.


July 28, 2009

Heavy Summer Downpour

It has been raining quite heavily for the past two nights.

Husband knows that I've just transplanted new tomato seedlings, so he checks on them to make they are not drowning in the heavy downpour.

Since the weather is quite unstable this week, I don't think I will be driving. Allah SWT Willing maybe I'll walk to the nearby library with daughter when the sun is out.


Homemade Flour Tortillas

Last night I prepared a batch of flour tortilla dough and kept it overnight in the fridge.

This morning I left the dough out in room temperature for two hours before dividing it into small portions. This rolling pin was purchased at a vegetarian Indian grocery store for $3 in Irving. It is light-weight and so more useful to roll out small portions of dough.

In between rolling out dough balls, I cooked the flattened dough on a non-stick skillet on the stove. I love the brown spots on these tortillas.

The verdict? It taste so much more flavorful than store-bought ones, and I make about 15 flour tortillas for less than $1! Daughter keeps asking for more when she sees me making tortilla.

Allah SWT willing I will make corn+flour tortilla this week. I hope that one day I can make flour tortilla on an outdoor wood stove.


7 Basic Human Needs for Good Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

Although I have settled down into a daily routine of taking care of daughter and household matters, I still can't help but wonder if that is my calling.

This article helps to evaluate my current state of mental mind.

7 Basic Human Needs for Good Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

1. The need to give and receive attention.

"No Man Is An Island"
Without regular quality contact with other people, mental condition, emotional state and behaviour can suffer quite drastically. This is often particularly obvious in elderly people who have become isolated.

Self-diagnosis: Right now my circle of friends is quite small. I am quite picky about befriending people because my personality is compatible with people who are easy-going, family-oriented, and have a generous heart. I am thankful that my dear sister and her family are in Ohio, so we can get together anytime we can.

2. Taking heed of the mind body connection.

This is so important, and so often neglected. Without correct and regular nutrition, sleep and exercise, your psychological state can suffer considerably.

Self-diagnosis: I have lost much of my appetite due to the hot summer temperature. Also I have been sleeping later than usual because I have a lot on mind about moving to a bigger place for daughter's sake. I think I need to eat more veggies/beans and go back to sleeping early so that I can wake up recharged for the day.

3. The need for purpose, goals and meaning.

"The devil will make work for idle hands to do."
Perhaps the overriding element that sets human beings apart from other animals is the ability to identify, analyse and solve problems. This is what enabled us to develop to where we have.

If this ability is under-used, the imagination can start to create problems of its own - perhaps in an attempt to give you something to do because it is not occupied doing anything else.

Regardless, if a person is deprived of the outward focus and satisfaction created by achieving goals, mental illness is often close behind.

Self-diagnosis: Since I stopped working full-time last year, I have been trying to focus my energy and attention on daughter. I guess working outside the home provides a sense of instant gratification whereas taking care of daughter can literally drive me up the wall some times. I do have to remind myself that providing the best care for daughter is the best of me and her, so that I will try to retain my sanity.

4. Connection to something bigger than oneself.

Tying in with the need for meaning, this basic need provides a context for a person. It gives them a reason for being, over and above their own personal needs, that has been shown to benefit the immune system, mental health and happiness.

The obvious candidate would be religion, but can also be an idea shared with others, a club, charity work. In fact, anything that takes the focus off the self.

Self-diagnosis: With more free time now, I thought of enrolling in an online Islamic course. Allah SWT willing I hope to do so for the coming fall semester at (Thanks to Sr. Nor for letting me know about this web site.)

5. The need for creativity and stimulation.

Learning something new, expanding horizons, improving on existing skills all provide a sensation of progress and achievement. Without this, a person can feel worthless, or that there is no real reason for their being.

Self-diagnosis: I am learning more about homesteading, and how to cook more recipes from scratch. I think this gives me a sense of purpose and order amidst taking care of daughter.

6. The need to feel understood and connected.

Tying in with the need for attention, it seems that people have a need to share their ideas, hopes and dreams with others close to them. For some, this can be as simple a talking to a loved pet, but for most of us, it requires that we have at least one individual with whom we can converse 'on the same level'.

Self-diagnosis: Some times I wonder if husband realizes that being a SAHM is not easy for me. Although I love to be with daughter, I often find that I miss the social interaction with staff and students at the school. All praise be to Allah SWT I have a car to drive to my friends' place regularly, but watching over daughter's behavior can be quite stressful for me too. It seems we cannot have the best of both worlds.

7. The need to feel a sense of control.

"All your eggs in one basket."
The results of total loss of control over your surroundings, relationships or body are not hard to imagine, and have been well documented.

Self-diagnosis: I am still struggling with letting go of my career and not working outside the home. Not having financial independence has been hard for me to accept, but I need to trust in Allah SWT that we will have sufficient provision for our needs.


July 27, 2009

Recipe: Flour Tortillas

After looking around for a flour tortilla recipe that does not require milk as one of the ingredients, I decided to try this one out.

This recipe makes about 18 tortillas.


3 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder
3.5 oz -- vegetable shortening (cut into very small pieces) OR 7 tbsp veg oil
1 cup of very hot water

1. Mix all dry ingredients and veg oil in a mixing bowl.
2. Add hot water and mix well with dry ingredients for 3 minutes.
3. Cover with a clean cloth and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
4. Separate into small portions (approx. 1.5 oz).
5. Form into balls.
6. Cover them with a clean cloth.
7. Press dough out with a roller into oval shape. Turn 45 degrees clockwise and roll some more. Turn 45 degrees again and roll into round shape.
8. Place on a very hot pan or griddle.
9. Watch for air bubbles to form and flip quickly.
10. It will start filling up with air. Turn it over one last time.

Store the tortillas in a covered container to keep warm.


July 25, 2009

New Tomato Plants

Yesterday while watching the news, I was reminded by the news reporter to start planting seedlings for the fall harvest. So this morning I bought 5 tomato seedlings and 1 marigold plant at 50% discount at Calloway Nursery.

Initially I struggle with the decision to pull out all the mature tomato and cucumber plants to make space for the new ones. It was tough to uproot the plants that have been bearing beautiful fruits for us.

Well as the Chinese saying goes, "The new ones will not come if the old ones are not gone."

Allah SWT willing I hope that the new seedlings will grow well.


July 22, 2009

Flour Tortilla Recipe

Tortilla is a Mexican flat bread, and I usually buy ready made ones from the grocery store to prepare grilled chicken and salad wrap for husband.

Since I am trying to bake my own breads, I looked up the internet and found this recipe here.

Seems pretty easy to make my own tortilla from this YouTube video.

Allah SWT willing I will try to make a batch this weekend.

Flour Tortilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm milk (2% is fine)
Stir together the flour and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and vegetable oil to the lukewarm milk and whisk briefly to incorporate. Gradually add the milk to the flour, and work the mixture into a dough. It will be sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with flour and knead vigorously for about 2 minutes (fold and press, fold and press). The kneading will take care of the stickiness. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rest for 15 minutes. (This dough will not rise, but it needs a rest.)

Divide your dough into 8 balls of equal size, cover them, and let them rest again for about 20 minutes. Avoid letting them touch, if you don't want them to stick together.

Dust your work surface with flour. Working one at a time, remove each piece of dough and pat it into a 5-inch circle. With a rolling pin, roll out the tortilla, working from the center out, until you have a 7- or 8-inch tortilla a little less than 1/4-inch thick. Transfer the tortilla to a hot, dry skillet or griddle. It will begin to blister. Let it cook for 30 seconds, turn it, and let the other side cook for 30 seconds. Remove the tortilla, place it in a napkin-lined basket and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat for the remaining tortillas.

Although flour tortillas, like corn tortillas, are best if eaten right after they are made, these tortillas will freeze well. Wrap them tightly in plastic, and they will keep, frozen, for several weeks. To serve tortillas that have been frozen, let them thaw and come to room temperature, then wrap them in aluminum foil and heat them in a warm oven. Microwaving tends to toughen them.


Invasion of the Inflatable Pool

Two weeks ago, husband decided to squeeze all my plants into one corner in order to put an inflatable pool for daughter on the patio.

I have not been able to access my plants and so have to rely on husband to water them with the water from the pool. Allah SWT willing tomorrow I plan to keep the pool away and reclaim my patio!

Fortunately it has been cooler this past week, about 90s degree F, so the plants are doing alright now.

All praise be to Allah SWT I checked on the plants this evening and it seem well. Jalapeno pepper plants are bearing peppers now. I think I planted way too many basil plants, so I will be looking at ways to incorporate them in pasta dishes.

Allah SWT willing I will be planting bell pepper seeds this weekend. Hopefully we can get a decent fall harvest from the garden.


P.O.V.: Life. Support. Music.

Life. Support. Music.

Sypnosis from the web site:

In 2004, Jason Crigler's life was taking off. He was one of New York's hottest guitarists, and his wife was pregnant with their first child. Then Jason suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage onstage, and his doctors doubted he would recover. The journey that followed, documented by friend and filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar is a portrait of one family's struggle in the face of overwhelming tragedy.

A very touching film.


P.O.V.: New Muslim Cool

Another good documentary from P.O.V.
Episode: New Muslim Cool

Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Perez quit a life on the street 12 years ago and became Muslim; starting a new religious community, and rebuilding his shattered family. But when the FBI raids his Pittsburgh mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of the post-9/11 world. New Muslim Cool takes viewers on a spiritual journey to some surprising places in an America that never stops changing.

New Muslim Cool web site


P.O.V. - The Betrayal

Last night I watched the PBS documentary 'P.O.V.: The Betrayal'.

Here is the synopsis from the web site:

Filmed over 23 years, The Betrayal is the Academy Award-nominated directorial debut of renowned cinematographer Ellen Kuras in a unique collaboration with the film's subject and co-director, Thavisouk ("Thavi") Phrasavath. After the U.S. government waged a secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War, Thavi's father and thousands of other Laotians who had fought alongside American forces were abandoned and left to face imprisonment or execution. Hoping to find safety, Thavi's family made a harrowing escape to America, where they discovered a different kind of war. Weaving ancient prophecy with personal testimony and stunning imagery, The Betrayal is a story of survival and the resilient bonds of family.

It was tough for me to sleep after watching this film.

The scenes about Asian gangs killing teenager members reminded me about husband's account of his experience with Asian gangsters in Los Angeles.

The uncertainty and fear that the Laos experienced from the communist regime reminded me of husband's escape from the Khmer Rouge.

Most of all, the in-describable pain of losing parents, husbands, wives, children and relatives in the war reminded me of husband's loss of his own family in the Khmer Rouge.

All praise be to Allah SWT, I want to thank the film's producers for letting people know about U.S.'s illegal military operations in Asia in the 60s and 70s through this film.

I do hope that new generations of Americans become more aware of U.S.'s foreign policies and stop destruction of other countries by the U.S. government.

There are enough war casualties in this world to last the next million years.


July 21, 2009

Insane asylums for mothers?

If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers. ~Edgar W. Howe

Now I can fully understand the truth in this quotation.


Imaginative play with songs

Daughter has been really into imaginative play lately.

She loves to bring out her cooking tools to prepare delicious food for us, and uses her carpentry tools to build simple wooden structures.

I think I am getting used to hearing her hammering wooden pegs and stirring a bowl with spoons and forks. Initially I tried to get her to be quiet when she played with her toys. Then I realized that active, and sometimes loud, play helps her to develop her senses - sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. So now I don't stop her from banging on her things.

All praise be to Allah SWT, watching daughter exploring the world around her has taught me to be more patient with her.

When I try to get her to clean up her toys, it makes it more fun when I sing the clean up song:

Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere
Clean up, clean up, everybody, do your share

When I teach her about animals, I use animal magnets while singing songs about a specific animal e.g. Old MacDonald had a farm.

Now that my heart is set on helping daughter to learn about life, this quotation fits my feelings exactly:

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt


July 19, 2009

Ancient Chinese Science and Technology - Peking University

Interesting movie about ancient Chinese inventions from here.


1941 Original Chinese Animated Movie (Cartoon)

Old Chinese animated movie found here - Tie Shan Gong Zhu (Princess Iron Fan)

The first Chinese animated feature film. This a a heavily denoised, high bitrate (1800 kbps) version that some people may find easier to watch than other versions of the same film due to reduced video noise and improved luminance level. The audio track has not been enhanced. The resolution of this video is 688x416, which represents the actual image area after the black bars have been cropped from the original. Note that some of the image is missing from the bottom edge, this was unfortunately done at the time the film was originally digitized and all known versions of this film are clipped off at the bottom.


July 16, 2009

Visit to ER

This morning while I was getting ready to go out with daughter, she accidentally bump her head on the door frame when she fell.

As she was crying unusually loud and seemed to be in genuine pain, I took a look at her head.

Apparently the fall was seriously enough to cause a 3 cm bump on her left forehead and soon a cut wound was bleeding. I immediately called husband at his workplace, told him about daughter's condition and asked him to come home immediately.

I then called the doctor's office to see if I should bring daughter to see her pediatrician or bring her to the hospital's ER department. The nurse asked me if the wound needs to be stitched and I told her it seemed to be so. Since they don't do stitches at the doctor's office, she advised me to bring daughter to the ER.

By the time husband came back, daughter has stopped crying. I put a gauze over the wound before we left.

All this time daughter was alert and calm, so we were not as worried. But we have read about people who experiencd sudden unconsciousness after getting head traumas, so we tried to keep daughter talking to us.

All praise be to Allah SWT the doctor said that the cut is superficial enough not to get stitches, and the bump will be gone in about two days. He told us to bring daughter back to the hospital immediately if she vomits, become unconscious or weak, or doesn't seem to be her usual lively self.

For the next two days we will have to keep daughter home for close observation. Allah SWT willing we hope that she will get better soon.


Jero ジェロ

I am so impressed by this African American singer, Jero, who sings so well in Japanese!

More about Jero here.


July 15, 2009

Character Education

Read this from here.

October: Responsibility

Involves diligence, excellence, good decision-making, initiative, and courtesy

*Answer all written questions with a complete sentence.

*Complete your homework every day.

*Be as organized as possible.

*Don’t turn in any work that is less than your best.

*Be the best person you can be.

*Problem solve for yourself instead of depending on others.

*Take initiative instead of waiting to be told to do something.

*Learn from correction.

*If someone drops something and you are close to it, pick it up.

*Hold the door for the person behind you.

*Say, ‘excuse me’ after sneezing, coughing, or other bodily functions.

*Keep yourself and the bathroom clean and germ-free.

*Follow along when we read together in class.

*Look at the person talking during class discussions.

*Refrain from sidebars.

November: Citizenship

Involves obedience, charity, patriotism, and environmental concern

*Do things the right way the first time you are asked.

*Do not ask for rewards: do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

*Be quick, quiet, and orderly during transition times.

*When walking in line, stay to the right, keep your arms at your sides, and move quietly.

*Never cut or save spots in line.

*If you see friends in the hallway, wave to them but do not call out.

*Follow other teachers’ rules when they are in charge.

*Help people who are less fortunate in every way you can.

*Stand up for what you believe.

*Show respect for American symbols & during the Pledge of Allegiance.

*Be responsible for your trash.

*Do not be wasteful.

December: Kindness

Involves caring, random acts of kindness, generosity, forgiveness, & compassion

*Never say, “I don’t care” when someone tells you how they feel.

*Be kind towards others without expecting them to treat you the same way.

*Surprise others by performing random acts of kindness.

*Share with others whenever you have more than enough.

*If someone bumps you, say 'excuse me' even if it wasn’t your fault.

*Do not hold a grudge: you’re only hurting yourself.

*Try to understand WHY people act the way they do.

January: Respect

Involves patience, politeness, and showing concern for all creatures

*Do not show impatience when someone takes a long time to answer or understand something.

*Never say, “That’s easy!” when it’s hard for someone else.

*Learn to entertain yourself without being disruptive when waiting.

*Respond to an adult when spoken to.

*In America, it's important to make eye contact when spoken to.

*If you are asked a question in conversation, ask a question in return.

*Never interrupt an adult when you are being corrected: wait and then politely ask to explain yourself.

*If an adult does not let you explain yourself, let Ms. Powell know.

*Do not show disrespect with gestures or noises.

*Keep your grades private & do not ask about other people’s grades.

*Do not tease or harm any living creature for “fun”.

February: Honesty

Involves trustworthiness, reliability, integrity, and self-awareness

*Always be honest, no matter what the circumstances.

*Keep your promises.

*When you make a mistake, admit it, make things right, & let it go.

*Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.

*Don’t start, repeat, or even listen to gossip.

*If you wouldn’t say it to a person’s face, don’t say it to anyone.

*Before speaking, think, “Is it true? Kind? Necessary?”

*It’s okay to say you don’t know something.

March: Self-control

Involves humility, perseverance/ courage, and contentment

*If you win, do not brag; if you lose, do not show anger.

*Congratulate classmates when they are successful.

*Never laugh at or tease someone when they make a mistake.

*Do not stare or laugh at a student who is being corrected.

*Do not make a big deal out of bodily functions.

*Learn from your mistakes and move on.

*When work is assigned, do not moan or complain.

*Be patient with yourself and don’t give up easily.

*Be satisfied with what you have.

*Always find the positive in life; complaining makes everyone miserable.

April: Tolerance

Involves acceptance of diversity, equality, peace, and appropriate conflict resolution

*Laugh with people, not at them.

*Respect other students’ comments, opinions, and ideas.

*If people near you are too noisy, politely ask them to lower their voices.

*If someone asks you to lower your voice, say "no problem" & do so.

*It’s okay not to like someone; it’s not okay to be rude to them.

*Tell, don’t tattle. (Telling= trying to help someone, tattling= trying to get them in trouble).

*Accept that life isn’t fair and people sometimes do mean things.

*If anyone is bullying you, let Ms. Powell know.

*Don’t expect yourself or other people to be perfect.

*Don’t sweat the small stuff.

*When you feel like overreacting, take deep breaths and relax.

May: Cooperation

Involves friendliness, fairness, loyalty, and gratitude

*Greet visitors and make them feel welcome.

*When meeting new people, shake hands and repeat their names.

*Stay out of cliques.

*If someone you play with is continually rude and mean, choose other friends.

*Cheerfully work with any partner you are assigned so you do not hurt their feelings.

*When offered something, take only your fair share.

*Stand up for people you care about.

*Always say thank you when given something.

*When you receive something, do not insult the gift or the giver.