Air Fried Baby Creamer Potatoes

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to French fries, here’s one.

Ingredients

  • Baby creamer potatoes
  • Seasoning (I use Bruschetta seasoning mix)
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Wash potatoes
  2. Cut potatoes in half
  3. In a bowl, slather potatoes in just enough olive oil to wet the surface of each potato
  4. In a bowl, sprinkle on seasoning and mix
  5. Preheat air fryer to 400 F
  6. Add potatoes to air fryer and cook for 10 minutes
  7. Flip potatoes
  8. Cook for another 10 minutes
  9. Eat

Air-Fried Chicken Breast Strips

Chicken breast meat is packed with protein and very little fat. But, it often comes out dry after baking. Here’s a recipe that is quick to cook and results in a more tasty, tender meat.

Ingredients

  • Chicken breast
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbs canola oil or olive oil

Instructions

  1. Mix all spices in a single spice dispenser
  2. Cut up the chicken breast into 1 inch wide strips
  3. In a bowl, rub olive oil over the chicken strips and sprinkle on the seasoning. Mix with hands to ensure complete coverage. 
  4. Set air fryer to a target thermometer temperature of 165 F.
  5. Insert thermometer such that tip is at center of thickest part of one chicken strips
  6. When air fryer has preheated, put all strips in
  7. When half way done, turn strips over
  8. When target temperature reached, remove legs and let stand for 5 minutes
  9. Eat

Easy Ways to Cut and Patch Drywall

Let’s say you want to install a bath exhaust fan in a bathroom that doesn’t have one. You’ll need to cut the wall or ceiling where the fan will go and you’ll also likely need to make holes in the wall or ceiling to run electrical wiring.

In the photo above, you can see that I made two types of openings:

  • Circular opening
  • Square opening

Making a Circular Opening

For the circular opening, I just used a hole saw attached to a drill. The benefit of this is it creates a clean, perfectly circular hole and you can reuse the cut drywall later to patch the hole. This type of hole can be made anywhere – it doesn’t need to be near or over a stud or joist.

Patching a Circular Opening

To patch a circular opening, I use a 1″x3″ piece of furring strip wood.

Drill a screw in the middle of the piece of furring strip and insert the wood into the hole as pictured below. Then, drill 2 screws while pulling the long center screw so that the wood doesn’t move around. Now you’ve created a backing for the drywall to be screwed in to.

Remove the center screw and screw the drywall into the wood.

Making a Square Opening

For the square opening, I like to use a reciprocating saw – specifically, the Milwaukee 12V mini cordless saw because it’s small and lightweight. Use a stud finder to find the studs or joists and draw an outline of the square you want to make such that the square (or rectangle) goes to each stud or joist. Then, try to make a clean rectangular cut so that you can reuse the drywall.

Patching a Square Opening

To patch a square opening, I use a 2×4 piece of wood to furr out the studs or joists to create a backing into which the drywall will be screwed. Pre-drive the screws into the wood a little bit and then clamp the wood to the joists to make fastening the wood piece easier.

Broccoli, Chicken n Egg Scramble

Here’s another high protein, easy-to-cook, delicious meal for you.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen broccoli
  • 1 cup chicken breasts (for simplicity, I use the Costco Kirkland canned chicken breast chunks)
  • 4 eggs
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Salt n pepper to taste
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put olive oil in 10″ pan on medium-high heat
  2. Put in chicken breast and cook
  3. Defrost broccoli in microwave and add to pan
  4. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper
  5. Add 4 eggs
  6. Sprinkle on some shredded mozzarella cheese
  7. Scramble
  8. Eat

This recipe is also good without the chicken.

High Protein & Healthy Smoothie

Get 40 grams of protein in a yummy smoothie drink.

Ingredients

  • Unsweetened almond milk (any brand)
  • Vanilla greek yoghurt with no or very little added sugar
    • Oikos Triple Zero Vanilla Greek Yogurt, 5.3 Oz. (15 g protein)
    • Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla Flavored Greek Yogurt (12 g protein)
    • Walmart Great Value Light Greek Vanilla Nonfat Yogurt, 5.3 oz (12 g protein)
  • 2 handfuls of frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, etc)
  • 1 scoop of 100% whey protein (25 g protein)

Instructions

Blend everything

Real-time Character Animation Lip and Facial Gesture Sync

If you want to create a video of an animated character that moves its head and lips as you move your head and speak, you can do so easily using Adobe Character Animator. Here’s how.

For this example, I’m using a character / puppet called Roger from AnimationGuides.com.

1. Import the puppet

In Adobe Character Animator, click File > Import and select the puppet file.

2. Import a green screen

Since we’ll want to overlay the exported character animation on other elements in a video editing program, we’ll want to add a green screen so we can key it out. Create a solid green image (RGB = 0,255,0) the size of the scene, e.g. 1920 x 1080. Then, import it and drag the imported item to the lowest layer it the Timeline panel.

3. Enable Puppet Track Behaviors

We can tell Adobe Character Animator which parts of our face and body to track as we move and talk in the camera. Click on the puppet layer to reveal the Puppet Track Behaviors panel.

The red button indicates that the particular item will be tracked when you move in front of the camera. For example, the Face item, when expanded, will show a red dot by “Camera Input” meaning if move your face in front of the camera, your facial gestures will be tracked and the puppet’s face will move accordingly.

For the lip sync item, the red dot is by “Audio Input” so if you speak, the microphone will capture your voice and convert it into lip movements on your puppet.

Body tracking is currently available in beta.

https://pages.adobe.com/character/en/body-tracker

4. Enable camera and microphone

For Adobe Character Animator to track your head and lip movements, you need to enable your camera and microphone. You’ll see a circle where your face should be centered in your resting position. Once centered, click the “Set Rest Pose”. You’ll then see a bunch of red dots on your face indicating points where Adobe Character Animator will track your facial gestures.

5. Start recording

Click the red record button. A 3 second countdown timer will begin. Start talking naturally and when you are done, click the red button again to stop recording.

You’ll then see some layers added to the timeline including your voice audio layer.

If some of the layers are longer than the audio layer, e.g. the puppet, Visemes and green screen layers in the screenshot above, trim the scene so the duration of the scene is the duration of the audio. Drag the right end of the gray Work Area bar to the right end of the audio track. Then, right click on that bar and click on “Trim Scene to Work Area”.

Now, your scene duration will just be the duration of the Work Area, in this case 5:20.

6. Preview and export the result

Click the play button to preview the recording. If you are happy with it. you can export it by clicking File > Export > Video via Adobe Media Encoder. This will open Adobe Media Encoder. In the Queue panel, choose a format (h.264) and preset (Match Source – High bitrate or YouTube 1080p Full HD). Then, click the green play button to start encoding.

You will see the encoding progress in the Encoding panel. You’ll also see the video duration as 5:21 seconds as that is the length of the scene in this example.

How to Build a Fence Frame

I recently had to rebuild a bunch of fences on a new rental property. As you may already know, the hardest part is digging the holes and building the frame. This article explains step by step how to quickly and correctly build a fence frame.

1. Run string from one end of new fence to the other end near the ground

In order for the fence to be straight, we need to make a straight line from both ends. Since we haven’t dug holes yet, we put the string near the ground so we can mark where we want the holes for the fence posts to go.

2. Mark post hole locations

Depending on the existence of neighboring fences, we may or may not need posts at the ends. Mark where the post holes will go. Each fence panel between posts will be 8′ long. For marking the locations, you can you use a wood stake, metal stake, flag stake, or spray paint. I prefer using flag stakes.

3. Dig fence post holes

Post type

Normally people use 8′ long 4×4 pressure treated wood for fence posts. If you do that, then the horizontal 2x4s (rails) will have to be toenailed into it or secured using metal brackets.

Toenailing 2×4 rail to fence post
Fence rail bracket

Either way, that’s a lot of work, especially if you later decide to make adjustments. Also, the wood can rot and weaken over time. For these reasons, I just spend the extra money and buy steel fence posts.

The Postmaster 1-3/4 in. x 3-1/2 in. x 7-1/2 ft. Galvanized Steel Fence Post is $30 at Home Depot. These posts have holes along them for securing the rails.

Post hole diameter

The post hole diameter should be about 3 times the width of the post. Since the steel posts are 3.5″ wide, then the hole should be about 10.5″ in diameter.

Post hole depth

The post hole depth should be 1/3 to 1/2 the post height above the ground. Since we want our fence to be the standard 6′ tall, and the steel posts are 7.5′ long, we’ll make our holes 2.5′ deep.

Top of fence

The height of the fence post and the top rail above ground will be 5′. Therefore, the top one foot of the 6′ tall vertical fence boards will be above the top rail. The problem with this is that top one foot portion of the fence boards can warp.

To fix this, you can screw a horizontal piece of wood (2×3 or 2×4) at or near the top of the fence boards on the side where the fence rails are.

Soak the ground

Before digging holes. you’ll want to soak the ground, preferably overnight. This will make it much easier come time to dig. The deeper you dig, the harder the soil. One way to soak the hole locations is placing a tube for concrete where each hole would be. These tubes are 4 ‘ long so you can cut them in half.

To secure the tubes, you can dig a small hole first using a hand digger.

Or, you can just use a jack hammer with spade bit to make a circle the diameter of the tube. The tube would then be inserted into the circle.

With the tube in place, you can fill it with water and let it drain slowly directly where you want to dig holes.

Digging tool

To dig holes, the easiest and cleanest way is to use a gas-powered earth auger. You can rent one from the Home Depot ($55 for 4 hours). You can choose from a variety of auger bit diameters. Choose a 10″ or 12″ diameter auger bit.

When you are digging, if you can’t dig any deeper, then stop and pour water into the hole and let the water drain. You can then dig again.

You may run into roots and rocks while digging with the auger. In this case, you’ll need to cut the roots using a reciprocating saw or break up the rocks using a jack hammer.

4. Insert posts and secure rails

Now that you have 2.5′ deep holes, you can insert the steel posts in them and screw 3 horizontal pressure-treated 2×4 rails between the posts.

Picture showing 3 rails between posts

Since each hole diameter is about 10″ or 12″ in diameter, and each post is 3.5″ wide, you have room to move each post so that a standard 8′ long 2×4 will fit between each post. Screwing the 2x4s in place before pouring concrete helps ensure the posts are plumb.

5. Plumb and brace the posts

To ensure the fence is straight from one end to the other, tie a string at both the top and bottom of both end posts. Then adjust the position of each post in between and using a fence post level, check for plumb.

To hole the posts in place, brace them using stakes. I prefer hitting a 2′ long steel stake straight into the ground and then screwing piece of wood horizontally between the steel stake and the post. The steel stakes are pre-drilled. There should be two braces perpendicular to each other to hold the post plumb.

6. Pour concrete

Mixing concrete is a hassle and a mess. Instead of doing that, just use Quikrete 50 lb. Fast-Setting Concrete Mix which doesn’t require mixing.

Pour the dry concrete mix in the hole up to 3-4 inches below the ground. Then pour 1 gallon of water for every 50 lb of concrete mix. The mix will set hard in 20 to 40 minutes. If you are unsure if the concrete will completely mix with the water, you can divide the concrete and water in half and or a third and work progressively.

Wait about 4 hours continuing work on your fence.

How to Make a Website Like This One

Set up a barebones WordPress site

You can just accept the default values (unless the defaults are asking you to pay for an upgrade).

Change the theme to the Twenty Fifteen

In the WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Add Themes and search for “Twenty Fifteen”.

Create a child theme of the Twenty Fifteen theme

style.css

Create a folder called mychildtheme or whatever you want to call it.

In the mychildtheme folder, create a style.css file with the following content:

The style.css file tells WordPress to load the Parent Theme’s files after the Child. It will override any styles in the Parent Theme’s style.css file that have the same selectors.

Template: Very Important! This is the folder name of the parent theme. If this variable is not correct the Child Theme will not work.

functions.php

In the mychildtheme folder, create a functions.php file with the following content:

This code tells your theme to call the style.css file and the parent CSS file.

screenshot.png

In the mychildtheme folder, create a screenshot.png file. A theme’s screenshot is the thumbnail image that shows up under Appearance > Themes in the WordPress Dashboard. The recommended image size is 880×660. The screenshot will only be shown as 387×290, but the larger image allows for high-resolution viewing on HiDPI displays.

Upload your child theme

Upload the mychildtheme folder to wp-content/themes.

Learn more about creating child themes

Activate your child theme

In the WordPress admin, go to Appearance > Themes in the Dashboard. You should see your theme listed. Click to activate it. In the screenshot below, my theme’s screenshot thumbnail is a picture of a cat.

Edit templates

Any PHP file in your mychildtheme folder will override the same file in the parent theme. For this site, I created some PHP templates so my child theme folder looks like this.

Download all files as a compressed zip file, unzip it, and upload each file to your mychildtheme folder.

Add background images

Search Google Images for large background images. Upload them to your WordPress Admin via the Media page. Make a list of URLs based on what you see for each uploaded image in WordPress.

Add JavaScript to randomly pick a background image

To add custom JavaScript, I just installed the “Simple Custom CSS and JS plugin” . Copy the code below , update the URLs to be the backyard images you uploaded to WP-Admin, then paste the code.

Whenever you update CSS or JS, make sure to flush the cache to see your changes.

Improve Internet / Wifi Throughout House Using Existing Coaxial Cable (MoCA)

So, in my 2 story house my internet modem is in the family room in the back of the house. The internet comes over coaxial cable by Comcast xFinity 1Gbps. There is a security camera at the front of the house facing the driveway. Every now and then, the security camera would go offline. To spread wifi all over the house, I have the tp-link deco M9 plus AC2200 mesh wifi router (3 wifi access points). The backhaul between access points is wifi, unfortunately. I can’t have a wired ethernet backhaul between access points because running ethernet cable would require opening up walls which is a lot of work. Fortunately, however, there is existing coaxial cabling throughout the house. So, I can use MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) adapters to bridge ethernet over coax so I can have a wired coax backhaul between access points. This allows the wifi signal at each access point to be much stronger than with a wifi backhaul. There are many diagrams and tutorials online but none that I found were clear enough hence this blog post. Below is my setup with a diagram which should make it clear what goes where.

https://motorolacable.com/mocawifi/

Now, if you don’t know whether some cables are connected or not, you can trace them using a continuity tester. I used the Klein Tools VDV512-101 Explorer 2 Coax Tester Kit, Includes Cable Tester / Wire Tracer / Coax Mapper with Remotes to Test up to 4 Locations ($27 on Amazon)

The continuity tester doesn’t work through splitters. Once you’ve tested all cables, you can label them in your junction box like I did below. As you can see, there is a 1 – 2 splitter where the one input is the coax cable from xfinity. The two outputs each go to the master bedroom and family room.

I added a new coax cable to go to the garage but it’s not connected in the picture because I need to add another splitter or replace the existing splitter with a 1-3 (or more) splitter. For MoCA to work, you need a splitter that

  • is not amplified
  • goes up to at least 1.5 Ghz (1500 Mhz)
GE Digital 4-Way Coaxial Cable Splitter, 2.5 GHz 5-2500 MHz

Before and After

Before

After

Powerline Adapters

You can also bridge ethernet over your home’s existing electrical wiring using Powerline adapters, e.g.

TP-Link AV600 Powerline Ethernet Adapter(TL-PA4010 KIT)

However, these adapters don’t work if there’s a surge suppressor. Also, there’s a lot more activity in your home electrical wiring that could interfere with the signal, e.g. from the refrigerator, hair dryers, air conditioners, washing machines, and other appliances.

Replace Ugly Grass With Concrete

At one of my rental properties, I had some really ugly grass on the on both sides of the property and a jungle of weeds in the back. The space was wasted because not could or wanted to use it.

The previous owners (investors) didn’t want to / know how to maintain the property so I was able to get buy it from them at a discount.

I decided to replace most of the grass (weeds) with concrete indicated in neon green below. I wanted the grass at the remaining areas indicated in dark green to be removed at a depth of 3 inches to place 3/4″ Ginger rock / Sonoma Gold rock. I also wanted to plant ten 15 gallon Italian Cypress trees along the eastern fence.

Here’s how the project went from start to finish.

Day 1: Hauling and Dumping Garbage

Loading debris into trailer using a wheelbarrow
Cutting old fence with a chainsaw
Preparing to cover the trailer before going to the dump
On the way to the dump
At the Lovelace dump in Manteca

Day 2: Removing Grass and Dirt

Before removing grass and dirt
Removing grass and dirt
Removing grass and dirt
Moving grass and dirt to trailer
After removing grass and dirt
Loading dirt in the back of the house into a power wheelbarrow
Moving dirt from the back to the front
Moving dirt from the back to the front
Loading dirt into trailer
Loading dirt into trailer
Loading dirt into trailer

Day 3: Removing Grass, Dirt, and Old Concrete Slabs

Removing old concrete walkway
Loading trailer with pieces of old concrete

Day 4: Installing Wood Boundaries

Hammering in wood stake into ground

Day 5: Pouring and Spreading Gravel

Pouring gravel (side yard)
Spreading gravel (side yard)
After spreading gravel (side yard)
Dumping gravel (front yard)
Spreading gravel (front yard)

Day 6: Compacting Gravel and Installing Rebar and Weed Fabric

Compacting the gravel
The wood form in which the concrete will be poured
Laying down rebar (not done yet)
Added weed fabric under wood borders so that weeds won’t grow along perimeter of concrete slab

Day 7: Finishing Rebar Installation & Watering Yard

Installing rebar in the front yard
Installing rebar in the side yard
Watering the yard

Day 8: Pouring & Finishing Concrete