Sunday, October 21, 2012

What Every Woman Should Know About Her Vehicle

Cars made after 1994 are made with fuel injection systems. They replaced carburetors. If your mechanic starts talking about a carburetor for your 2006 Toyota Corolla, you have a problem.

Fluid Checks
Most car problems begin with a poor management of fluids. This is everything from gasoline to radiator fluid. Know how, where, and when to check your fluids. If the light is on, it's too late. When checking your fluids do it when the car has sat for at least an hour. Otherwise, removing a hot radiator cap will do more than burn your hand. When checking your oil, wipe the dipstick clean with a rag, reinsert it, then pull it out again. If the oil is below the fill line your oil is low. If it is below the add line, you have NOT been taking care of your car. Add oil immediately and go get an oil change. Make sure they change your oil filter. If your oil is dark or black, get an oil change.

The most obvious sign you need new brake pads is a squeaky sound. However, if you have a Jeep Grand Cherokee made no later than 2005, you will hear squeaking no matter what. Another sign you need new brake pads is brake dust on your wheels. If your wheels have a reddish brown or coppery colored dust on them, usually only on the front wheels, you have gone passed the point of squeaking and really need new brake pads now. Go longer than this stage and you will hear and feel grinding. Your brake pad replacement price just doubled. You are now grinding your rotors. Nine times out of ten your rotors can be resurfaced. But depending on how bad it is, it's safer just to replace them. If you suspect your mechanic is snowing you over, which happens the moment they see the brake dust, ask to see the rotors. If they can't show you or haven't even removed the tires or brake pads, leave.

Jumper cables
When connecting the cars, make sure the car that's doing the charging (#1)is in the same class or higher than the car being charged (#2). Don't charge a Ford Expedition with a Dodge Neon. Use an F-150 or an Escalade for example. Turn off all power to car #1. Place both cars in park or neutral if standard. Turn on the heater or air conditioner of car #2. This protects your electrical system. Connect the red terminals first. Use the red jumper cable clamp on car #2 battery first, and then the red terminal on the good battery in car #1. Next, connect the black cable on any unpainted metal surface on the engine bay of car #2. This will act as a ground. Connect the other end to the negative terminal on the good battery. Make a VISUAL inspection of the cables, making sure these are not loose in any way. Start the engine on car #1. Lightly step on the gas to increase RPM to about 1,500. The alternator will be charging the battery and giving enough voltage to charge the dead battery momentarily. Start car #2 engine. As soon as the engine starts, turn off the A/C or heater. Let both engines run for about five minutes, to give the dead battery enough charge. Disconnect the jumper cables starting with the black terminal on car #1, then the grounding cable on car #2. Then disconnect the red terminal on car #2 and then the red terminal on car #1. When in doubt, read the instructions on the bag the cables came in, assuming you still have it. If the battery sputters out shortly after, you need a new battery.

Flat Tire
Always travel with a full sized spare in your car. Have one mounted if you can't have it in your car. There is nothing worse than being on a road trip or somewhere far from home with your kids and your dog in the car, and all you have to get you home is a donut or nothing at all. If you drive an SUV or a truck, a full size spare is CRUCIAL. Always test the jack that comes with your car, every car comes with one. Make sure it is the jack that was intended for that car. You don't want to find out in an emergency that you have a jack meant for a Mini but you drive a Suburban. Standard jacks, the ones that the manufacturer included, always come with a tire iron or a tool to remove the lugs (the bolts holding the tire on). Always place the jack close to the wheel under the actual frame of the car. If you aren't sure which place is safest, check your manual. Do not change a tire on a hill. Loosen the lugs on the tire. This might take some elbow grease. But don't remove them. Raise the car just high enough to lift the tire off of the ground. Remove the lugs, put them in your pocket or your bra. If you've ever seen A Christmas Story you will know why this is important. Remove the tire by pulling it towards you and rolling it away. This is a very easy and simple process. If it has become difficult, you're doing it wrong. The most difficult part is lifting the spare tire if it's large, keeping track of the lugs, and the exertion of removing them. Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosey. Put the new tire on, you will need to support the weight of the tire as you line it up and slide it on. Apply the lugs by hand, then tighten them with the tire tool. DON'T OVER TIGHTEN. Make sure the tire is flush against the disc behind it. You don't want it tilted in any way. Lower the car. Tighten the lugs as tight as they will go without stripping the lugs. When you get home, Leave your spare in place and buy a new tire to replace the spare.

There are two major causes to an overheating vehicle, radiator leak or a failing water pump. The radiator is always behind the grill of your car. If there is any moisture or green liquid on the ground at the front of your car. You have a radiator leak. Do NOT drive your car. Call a mechanic. If you heard a strange swishing sound, like rushing water, or the sound of pump running out of water, your water pump just quit. Fix it immediately or your fan belt will be next.

Tension Pulley
Ever stop at a red light and hear an infernal squealing coming from under the hood of the car idling next to you? That's the sound of a tension pulley going out. It holds the serpentine belt. When the tension pulley goes out, the belt is no longer aligned. You will hear a constant squeal whenever your car is running. The belt will eventually shred and break. This will lead to a host of problems no one can afford. If you hear this squeal, pull over and call a tow truck.

Always ask for your parts back. Don't just say that you want your parts back, write it on the estimate or any document you are asked to sign. If work is done on your vehicle and the parts are not given to you as requested, the work is free. Also, if a mechanic does any work on your car without asking you first or that is not included on the estimate, you are not responsible for it. They will threaten you or refuse to release your car. Simply call the police or contact the Bureau of Automotive Repairs. Unauthorized work, no matter how necessary they say it is, is still unauthorized. Know what the parts you request should look like. If they show you brake drums and your car has brake discs for the rear brakes, then they aren't giving you the parts. Keep the parts they give you as proof that your parts were not returned.

Know what is wrong with your car before it goes wrong. All Ford SUV's and trucks from 2000 to 2010 run the risk of blowing a spark plug. There is a kit for this issue provided to any mechanic looking to fix this problem. But if you don't know that this is an expected problem, you may spend more money in the long run. Why pay for a spark plug change in a car that is prone to blowing spark plugs in the first place? Solve the recall problem instead. The tune up is included. Do the tune up first, and you wind up paying for the two services separately.

Know what's covered under warranty. It's better to take your car to the dealer when you have a warranty. Get a diagnostic on the car so that you are aware of what's wrong with it or potentially wrong with it no less than 3 days before the warranty expires. This way, if there is a problem with your car, and a mechanic says you need a new this or that, you can show the diagnostic that says he's wrong. However, if he's right, he'll stand his ground. You may have an issue to take up with your dealer. Even though the warranty has expired, the problem existed before it ended. They have to make the repair for free.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gumbo Vs Gumbo

Every Fall I am asked the same questions. "What is in traditional gumbo?" "Where does gumbo come from?" " What's the difference between Cajun and Creole gumbo?" Hopefully this post will help clear up the confusion. 

Origin of Gumbo
Gumbo came from Southern Louisiana in the 18th century. It's name either comes from the Bantu word for okra, (ki ngombo), or the Choctaw word for file', (kombo). The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including French, Spanish, German, West African, and Choctaw.

Types of Gumbo

Louisiana Gumbo
This was the original gumbo. It was merely an okra soup with file', chicken stock and the Holy Trinity (bell pepper, onion, celery). It was served over rice or with bread. 

Cajun Gumbo
The base for this soup is Louisiana Gumbo with a dark roux made of flour and pork lard. Chicken and sometimes andouille sausage is also added. The bone is left in the chicken. In recent years the okra has been removed from the recipe.

Creole Gumbo
It also has the Louisiana Gumbo as the base with a roux but the roux is not as dark. Instead of chicken, there is shrimp and andouille sausage. There are also tomatoes and less cayenne pepper. In recent years, the okra has been removed from the recipe.

Gumbo Du Monde
This is the most common and most recent version of gumbo. It contains the Holy Trinity, roux, file', chicken stock, andouille, chicken, shrimp, crab, cayenne pepper, hot sauce and tomatoes. It is the collaboration of all of the different meat gumbos, hence the "du monde". In my family's version, we do not use okra or tomatoes. This is very common especially for families originating from voodoo practicing Creole ancestry. 

Gumbo Z'herbes
This gumbo is for the Lent season. There is no meat involved. It's a combination of the greens, turnip, mustard, collard, spinach. They are cooked until they are a mush and strained. This is mostly eaten in Germany.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

10 Places Allergens Are Hiding In Plain Sight

1. Vacuum- Admit it, you've never cleaned the filters inside your vacuum. Well, obviously that is a source of allergens. But so is the brush and the outside casing of the vacuum. Every time I go to someone's house and see their vacuum the outside is just as dusty as the bin. Take a wet wipe to it after you vacuum to keep the dust away. 

2. Bottles- Look on your bathroom counter. It looks clean, but what about the lid to the Noxema, or the bottle of lotion, or the perfume bottle on your dresser. There is always some collection of dust around the nozzles or the on the lids. 

3. Headboards- It doesn't matter if you have one made of wood, metal, or fabric, allergens collect there too. If you have a fabric headboard, use the upholstery attachment of your vacuum and remove the allergens. If you have a wood headboard use wood cleaner and a wet wipe if its metal. 


4. Vents- Whether you have them on the ceiling, in the wall, or on the floor, chances are, you can't remember the last time you dusted there. The return vent, the one usually low on the wall under your air condition, is always the dustiest place in the house. If you have pets and long haired family members, all that hair, dander, and vacuum dust blow back ends up there. Use the vacuum home to clean there daily. 

5. Curtains- No one ever takes down the curtains to wash them. It's too much of a hassle. But I bet you never shake them out either. The curtains are the first line of defense against dust and allergens in your home. When you open the windows, everything blows past them first. You can either shake them out or use the upholstery attachment once a week to keep them allergen free. Personally, I like to spritz them with homemade Febreeze to keep the allergens away, keep them fresh and to keep the new dust from settling so easily. I vacuum them once a week. Homemade Febreeze works better than the store bought for this purpose. 

6. Blinds- Most people dust the blinds when the see the dust. But by then it's usually an inch thick. Spray a little furniture polish like Pledge on your favorite dusting tool and swipe them clean once or twice a week. he dust won't settle or build up.

7. Sofas- I have a leather sofa so I don't have this problem. But if you have a fabric sofa like my mother does, you have an allergen magnet. There is a reason it's call an upholstery attachment. When doing your daily vacuuming, give the sofas a few swipes with the attachments. You can probably get by with weekly cleaning but if you have severe allergies I recommend doing it daily. 

8. Plants- Sure, flowers are the obvious allergen. But did you know that when vegetable plants feel they are about to die they release as much pollen as they can as an attempt to live on in a new plant? When you have flowers you might hold onto them until they die. But once they begin to wilt, you will need to either get rid of them or remove the dying buds. The same goes for your herb garden. 

9. Appliances- The dryer blows air, so all around it and on top of it will be lint and dust. Don't forget to vacuum under it with a nozzle if you can. Don't forget to wipe down the kitchen counter top appliances. 

10. Clocks- We notice the dust on the picture frames because they contain images of our cherished family members. But we never notice the dust on the clock. We barely notice the time. When you dust the picture frames, don't forget the clocks.