Chocolate Brownies

I was on Facebook yesterday morning when I came across this post by my cousin Steve Kowalczyk. I don’t think Steve likes to cook or bake but I think he likes eating brownies so I decided to try the recipe.

Below is the actual post:

Never buy boxed brownie mix again!   Follow the recipe below and make brownies for approximately .30 a mix!  Be sure to save this by clicking “SHARE”! You will be able to find it on your own timeline later! So simple, so easy. Not just frugal but cuts out the unknown ingredients. 1 Cup Sugar, 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour, 1/3 Cup Cocoa, 1/4 tsp Salt, 1/4 tsp Baking Powder. At Baking Time Add: 2 Eggs, 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil, 1 teaspoon Vanilla. Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.  OR use the amazing Pampered Chef brownie pan and bake it in much less time – depends on your oven, check after 12-15 minutes of baking and remove when brownies are done! Put mix in plastic bags or mason jars.
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I was confident that if Steve posted it on his timeline that it must be good and it is. And I made three batches of the dry ingredients and stored two of them in one of my new jars.
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Of course I needed to change the recipe a little so below is my recipe.
Chocolate Brownies
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder

the following can be added with the wet ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 1/4 Cup chocolate buttons or chips or chunks
  • 1/4 Cup desiccated coconut

At Baking Time Add:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla.

Bake @ 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes in an 8×8 or 9×9 pan. Remove when brownies are done!

Put dry mix in plastic bags or mason jars.

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Thanks Steve it is a very easy recipe, it came out moist and chewy and was a hit with Joe and our friends Libby and David.
Extremely delicious!

Internet in Clemente

Our first internet experience in Clemente was not so great.  We canceled our service over two weeks ago and did not get service back until  7/31 with the new provider. The initial hook-up was fast with the first provider requiring $140 cash up front for the set up which included paying for the router as well as the equipment attached to a huge bamboo pole they positioned in our yard. Service was paid in advance at the local co-op with $25 per month needing to be paid by the 10th of July for July service.

We had complained after only a few days of moderately good service saying the service was very slow. By the middle of the second week it was impossible for me to get on-line. Actually Joe thought I had gotten a virus in my computer because although his netbook was slow but still working, my computer could not get on line with 9 out of 10 attempts. He started working on my computer by restoring it to an earlier restore point, of course this deleted any updates, well you get the picture it just caused a great deal of work and I still was unable to get on line. The second week from Thursday through Sunday we suffered with nearly non-existent internet finally on Sunday we got in touch with the provider and he said they would be out Monday to check our equipment. Besides having very slow service and no customer service Joe started getting warnings from both Yahoo and Google telling him his internet provider was showing some unusual activity whatever that means and they would not allow him to open either of his accounts. Service got a little better after a call pm Sunday but still was not good, Monday we sat around waiting on the technician who was a no-show. Tuesday morning we told him to come to get his equipment. We had to pay for the router and were given a refund of $85. Total paid $165 ($140 initial installation plus July’s service of $25) refund $85 cost for lousy service for less than 20 days $80 but we do have a TP-Link Router 150Mbps model # TL-WR74ON if anyone is interested in making us an offer for it.

Our neighbor John has had good service with MD Mana Net and was kind enough to call and stop in to their office in Clemente on our behalf. After several attempts by him over a period of a week Joe and I finally stopped in on Tuesday afternoon of last week to find out what was happening. I spoke with Elio on the phone he has a basic understanding of English and we made an appointment for the next morning at 8am. About 2 hours later John showed up saying they were on their way. We were informed that they were waiting on a shipment of equipment and we should have service installed on Monday. They have two speeds 1k for $25 per month and 3k for $45 with a $33 installation fee. We are going to try the 3k to see how it works.

Our appointment time was set for 9am on Monday morning, by 10am I had followed up to have Elio say they would be there in one hour at 12:05 the crew showed up on a fish truck carrying a cane pole that I told them was not necessary because I already had a huge cane pole in my yard from the last internet provider. They informed me that they were going to lunch, at which I kind of laughed thinking they were making a great joke. Well it was not a joke they actually were only there to deliver the equipment and said they would be back at 5pm. I was not happy….again waiting all morning to find out…well you know where this is going. At a bit after 5pm they did show and of course nothing ever goes as planned, there were issues with the internet service, issues with the electricity to the pump house where they wanted to plug in the router. So they came back on Tuesday and finally we were installed, now for the bad news seems that my laptop is a bit too flashy for the current system in Clemente, so my computer does not work with the internet providers equipment…long story short I am using Joe’s Netbook to do all the updating of my blog, emails and it looks like switching to CNT will be to our advantage.

We hoped to have a better experience with this provider than the last and it seems to be exactly that. They returned again this morning with a new WiFi receiver and spent two hours working on installing that and then getting my internet working.

And it is working exceptionally well with excellent speed.  Elio said he would call me in about a week as they will be installing more updated equipment, maybe that means even better service. So I guess with patience happiness is possible.

Week 3 and 4 of Demolition Derby – What a Great Crew

Week 3 – we finally got internet service after we cancelled with the first provider – more on that later….

Two weeks ago Joe and I had a pow wow regarding having Patricia and her crew do the balance of the demolition that we want done to the house NOW!  Not knowing how the crew worked, how timely they were, how the end result would look we were hesitant to give a huge amount of work out until we saw some results. After watching this group for the past two weeks, seeing progress at every turn each day we decided to get all the demo done now. This way the dirt, dust and noise would be over and all we would need to do is design the kitchen, finish the guest bathroom and put in a laundry closet on the porch.  All of these are low dirt and noise. Also any of them can be done in the next several months or in years, depending on how we feel about it!  What we have done so far was not for esthetics but for the overall safety of our new home.

Monday morning bright and early the crew was back, ready to remove doors, remove walls and block in walls. We are taking the bathroom nearest to our master and closing the doorway into the kitchen, removing the pantry and closing that as well and opening a doorway from the bedroom.  They are also moving the wall in the kitchen a little over a foot making the bathroom which is currently very narrow into a bit wider space.

While we wait on the house to be finished, Joe and I attempt to stay away from the workers during the day making a quick dash in after they leave for the day just to take a look at their progress. Patricia can almost read my mind on how I would like things done and Freddy will always keep us both on track with any suggestions or opinions for making things even better.

While they were making the changes to our bathroom it was discovered that the area below where the toilet sat had no ground beneath it.

Yes, you read that correctly, when you look down you see light instead of what should be compacted earth topped with a concrete pad. This will require some work to correct but things pop up while renovating a house and we both knew that they would. I guess the awkward thing would have been discovering this particular issue while sitting “atop the throne”. So I am pleased that this was discovered before a pretty darn funny accident occurred. The explanation of this seems to have been a toilet issue where corrections were made to the plumbing beneath the toilet from outside of the house. The workmen never filled the area back in when they completed the plumbing work and no one in the house inspected their work. Even if you don’t know anything about plumbing or electrical or roofing you really need to look at what work is being done common sense would have told me that leaving a huge hole under the toilet was not a good thing.

The masonry maestro has removed all the walls and has completed the brick-work and is now applying the final  finish. He is a true professional, his corners are finished with a sharp edge, the bricks were in perfect alignment with a plumb line confirming my sight and his finish coat is impeccable.

I cannot tell you just how wonderful it has been working with these professionals. I had hopped that a shelf with cubby holes would fit behind the shower wall but it could not be worked out.

Freddy suggested that the shower head and water control be moved as its current position does not leave much room to the side shower wall and the plumbing team will reposition both the sink and toilet giving more room to move around in this more spacious area. On Friday of week 3 we went into Portoviejo and picked out white tile to finish the shower walls and floor as well as a beautiful almost marble look white tile Patricia called porcelina for the kitchen counter and back-splash area. I love the old 1” thick tiles used on the floors in the rest of the house and a close match will replace the blue tiles currently on the bathroom floor.

In the kitchen a concrete counter has been built in the corner to fit my kitchen sink giving me a wonderful work area on either side with a wood work table being assembled now for under the front window.

The guest bedroom closet has been finished and the doors hung, Freddy has had the upper panel that was stationary put on hinges allowing us to open it and use that upper space for storage to the ceiling. This closet will have a clothes pole for additional hanging garments as well as a shelf above for storage.

With the one door removed from the salon area it gives me extra wall area. The front section of the house which we will use as the salon had 5 doors making it almost impossible to position furniture. With one less double door we may even be able to fit a piece of furniture in that area.

As soon as the few plumbing and electrical changes are made and my tile installed they can start on the prep work to paint the interior of the house.

Things are moving forward. Not sure if we will be in by the first of the month. But both Joe and I feel that having the additional demo done now will save us our sanity in the future. Next week the cabinet guy should deliver my kitchen work table. Depending upon what I see will determine if I contract with him for the bedroom closets or look for another wood-worker for that as well as the kitchen cabinets. I really would like to live in the house for a while before deciding where and what type of cabinetry I will have them make for the kitchen as well as some cabinets for the master bathroom. Removing those two additional doors has opened up the kitchen for many different designs and extending our master bath has given us much needed wall space.

We had a very successful trip to Portoviejo. I had decided that finding a refrigerator and stove were my first priority but if I found a washing machine that I would love to purchase that as well. We had several stops to make before finally reaching Portoviejo. Patricia was getting a bit itchy as Freddy did not mention the numerous stops he needed to make on the way. Patricia wanted an early start so as to be back in Clemente by mid-afternoon.

“The best laid plans of mice and men”.

We arrived in Portoviejo close to lunchtime and stopped to have a quick bowl of Encebollado at what Freddy described as the best restaurant for this Ecuadorian treat. He was right it was excellent steaming soup filled with albacora. We were refreshed and headed for our first shopping stop of three appliance stores. We found the special of the week was a small refrigerator with frost free freezer and small stove unit for $777. Refrigerator was too small and I did not like the quality of the stove. We got several prices which we found to be high and moved onto the next store. I was not impressed with the selection here with most units a brand named Global not very sturdy looking but yet not inexpensive. The last appliance store, Super Colchon, found me picking out not just a great Indurama refrigerator freezer but a nice Eletrolux stove unit that even has a broiler and two oven racks (not something usually found in a 4 burner oven) but also a 33 lb capacity Samsung water conserving washer all for $1,600. Freddy got the young salesperson to throw in a sandwich maker, a blender and a beautiful set of ceviche bowls as my gifts. The idea of getting a regalo when purchasing large appliances is part of the stores’ promotion of certain appliances. Some give you a free gas canister with the purchase of a stove, others give a microwave with the purchase of a certain model refrigerator. It all depends upon the stores’ current promotion.

With enough money left over from my $2,000 that I had budgeted for two appliances, to get the third appliance as well as all the bathroom tile and the beautiful tile for my kitchen counter and back-splash along with the kitchen sink faucet and grout – I was a happy camper. Next stop was the mall that has a Kiwi where I could pick up ceiling fans, outdoor light fixtures, garden tools, a bathroom medicine cabinet and many other items. The pick-up truck was packed with poor Patricia sandwiched into the back seat surrounded by my purchases and the bed of the truck filled with appliances and tile. It was the best shopping day in history by my standards. I had inadvertently misdirected Freddy from his mission while in Kiwi which was to get paint prices so I guess he will need to make another trip back to Portoviejo real soon. Sorry Freddy but I really needed your advice on many of the things I was purchasing.

Week 4

After a closer inspection of the refrigerator’s manual I discovered, to my dismay, that it was not a frost free but a cycle defrost unit. This is a strange way of saying you need to shut down the refrigerator every 15 days and allow the ice that has formed in the freezer to drip down into a pan that you position under a drain hole in the refrigerator section. ABSOLUTELY NOT…I did this every 15 days in Playas and it nearly drove me crazy I will not do it the rest of my life here. I had Patricia take a look and yes we both did not understand Cycle Defrost. She also assumed it was a Frost Free unit and until we reviewed the manual, which was not in the floor model, and read the description of this model we both made the assumption that cycle defrost was a fancy way of saying frost free. She called the appliance store and they are going to allow us to exchange this unit for a frost free.

On Tuesday afternoon we left to exchange the refrigerator and were so happy to find a good sized frost free Electrolux refrigerator/freezer for $20 less than I had already paid. I purchased a mattress cover with the difference as cash refunds are not normally given.

The house is definitely coming along. The kitchen sink has been replaced with a better quality one as both sinks had issues that would require either to be replaced sooner rather than later.  The newly built counter has been tiled with a beautiful porcelina tile that we picked out last week. Plumbing has been completed, the faucet is in place with the drain the only missing link for a usable sink.

The master bathroom shower control and head has been moved to a better position for showering and the tile work has been started. The bathroom door has been hung and the light switch repositioned. I need to take another look at the position of the light on the ceiling as I do think that will need to be repositioned also or a second light added nearer to the sink and medicine cabinet. The threshold to the bathroom has been tiled and the plumbing beneath the toilet has been replaced and the area filled and is now waiting to have a concrete pad poured.

The guest bedroom closet now has a clothes pole installed with a shelf above for storage as well as a upper cabinet installed for additional storage going to the ceiling.
The painting maestro started this week and has completed the sanding and primer coat on two bedrooms as well as some of the work in the kitchen. He has also started to scrape the outside walls in preparation for the fungus treatment and eventual primer coat and paint.

Because of all the additional work that we added we will probably not be moving into the house for another two weeks. The most current concrete work needs to cure before it can be painted and all the new bathroom tile work also added to this delay.

When some of the door frames had been removed I saw what looked to be termite damage. Patricia said this is not termites but ants. Saturday afternoon Joe went through the entire house with insecticide spraying all the wood door frames and window sills. We wanted to do this while the workers were gone and before the final coat of paint is applied.  The spraying caused a flood of large and small ants as wells as bugs that looked like water bugs trying to escape. Joe went back in on Sunday and did it all over again with nothing coming out of the frames this time. I hope they moved out for good. The workers are sealing the house as I am not interested in fighting the lizards or bats any longer. Every ceiling is being sealed with concrete and any small cracks and spaces are being filled.

And I know all about the lizards eating bugs but actually for me their poop is more annoying than having a few ants in the house so GOOD BYE lizards move in with someone else who likes and wants your company!

On Saturday morning the roofer was back to secure the roof as he told Freddy that most of the roof tiles were not secure. Freddy wants to have the roof extended out to give us more coverage from rain for the windows as well as the splash area at the bottom of the house. Joe and I will have the roof replaced in the near future but it is not in our budget for right now.

CNT Internet

Today CNT installed internet at our apartment. First I must thank our landlord Mr. Ampuero and his son Pepe for all their help on our behalf with the folks at CNT. After many trips to both the Salinas and La Libertad offices, I and my translators were more confused by the minute. With one visit on Monday, Messrs. Ampuero cut through all the misunderstandings and got us just what we needed. We could have had internet installed on Tuesday but we were out-of-town so it was postponed until today. Thanks Pepe for making all the follow-up calls and getting the installation folks out here today. In this day and age we are so tied to our computer and internet for so many of our needs, between on-line banking, SKYPE, on-line shopping along with a host of other items we were totally lost.  Without access to the internet our family, especially Jennifer and Isaac in Japan and our relatives back in the states were only available by cell phone which is quite expensive. I also want to thank our friends Mary and Tod for allowing me the use of their internet for these many weeks, you guys are the greatest!

Now that we are back on-line I have a backlog of items to publish so I will get back to work. Thanks to all of you who sent concerned comments and emails, we appreciate your friendship,  Nancy & Joe