Sep 2012

Blog, South America

DISCUSSION 19 Comments

Nachoshank Redemption

“What are these car parts?”  I had been sitting at the DIAN office for hours as Alicia tirelessly entered information about my illegally smuggled goods into her computer.  One should expect nothing less from a Colombian version of the IRS.  Sheena still sat outside on a concrete island in between two lanes of traffic, studiously reading her e-book.

“In the one bag I have a transmission.  The other suitcase has wheel bearings, nothing more.”  I was lying, but only because I didn’t think it mattered.  It probably made no difference to Alicia, on whom the difference between a hub, a stub axle, a catalytic converter and a wheel bearing would be lost anyway.

“And what is the value?”  I just wanted to get out of there, so I made something up.  “The transmission is about $700, and the wheel bearings are $85.”  It was my second mistake, because at the time I didn’t know that I would have to back it up with official proof.  I was digging myself a deep hole.  After a few hours of paperwork and computer entries, all I had to do was go to the Cargo Port and pay my import taxes.

“Just tell them that the parts are elementos de arte oficio,” a random stranger told me as I left the building.  “Otherwise you’ll have to pay high taxes. ”  I told him I didn’t understand.  “You’re only allowed to enter the country with personal items.  If you’re a tennis player and you enter with a tennis racket, this is an elemento de arte oficio.  It’s something that you use to perform your hobby.  It’s a personal item.  Just tell them you’re a mechanic and these things are for you to perform your hobby.  They’re like your tennis racket.”

At the cargo port, I was told to find an agent, give them my Customs papers, and pay the associated taxes.  According to Alicia, I should be suckling the sweet milk of Freedom’s teat by day’s end.  I promptly found a customs agent, handed him my papers, and told him I was there to settle my debt.  “It should be quick,” I said, “these are elementos de arte oficio.”  He mustered a contrite giggle. “Sorry, I don’t think so,” he said.  So much for that idea.  And not only was he sorry about my lame attempt to sidestep the laws of The Man, but furthermore I was not even allowed to handle payment of my own import taxes.  I would have to employ the services of a Customs Agent, or find someone who lived in Colombia with a commercial license to act as a Customs Agent.  Importing my contraband-ridden suitcases basically involved the same process as importing our van.

Day one came to an end and our transmission was still on lockdown in the damned DIAN office at the airport.  I regretted not pepper spraying the Customs Agent and making a run for the door when I had the chance.  That evening I put out the word on our Facebook page that we needed help, and a few hours later we were in luck.  The coworker of a friend of one of our Facebook followers would meet us the following morning and accompany us to the Cargo Port to pay our simple fee.  DIAN had gone too far this time – we had called upon a third degree of separation for help.

Omar met us in front of our house at 9AM where we hailed a really expensive cab.  Upon arriving at the Cargo Port, we were told that we must use a special software program to fill out more paperwork before we could pay the import tax.  They had a computer with the software that we could use, but no user manual.  The efforts of Omar, a professional importer, and me, a professional software designer, were useless against the confusing and non-user-friendly DIAN software.  Recognizing our conundrum, we opted to visit a Customs Agent in Bogotá to see if they could help.  Another expensive taxi ride ensued, and we soon found ourselves sitting in the office of a Customs Agent.  The prognosis?  In three days we could have our illegal contraband, and it would only cost us $180 on top of the import fees.  We declined the nice agent’s offer and took another expensive taxi ride back to the Cargo Port, where we withered away the rest of the day.  On our way out of the building on our way to hail another expensive taxi, we found a mysterious fortune-teller type named “Miss Ofelia” who could meet us in an internet café the next day and fill out our paperwork for a fee of $90.

The next morning Omar took another day off of work and met us at the internet café.  I was armed with fake receipts for my transmission and “wheel bearings”, reflecting the exact values I had reported to Customs.  Miss Ofelia clicked away on the computer for a couple of hours, eventually producing separate sets of paperwork for each illegal item I was importing.  All I had to do was bring them to the Customs Agent to pay my taxes.  Of course, it couldn’t be so easy.  When I presented the papers to the Customs Agent I was told I could only pay my taxes at the bank, and that I should bring my receipt back to him get another official receipt with a stamp on it.  Only then could I bring that receipt to DIAN where more paperwork could be done.

I went to the bank and paid my import taxes – another $200 – but I couldn’t get a receipt because the computer system was down.  After a few hours the system returned, I got my receipt, and we headed to the DIAN office at the airport.  Now it was time for Alicia to actually inspect my bags to be sure everything was as I said it should be.  Together we inspected the transmission.  She looked at it cluelessly as I described what it did and ensured her that it was brand new and not used.  Next it was time to inspect my pack of lies – suitcase #2.  When I opened it, Alicia looked so disgusted I thought she would lurch all over my stuff.  She looked at the pile of rusty parts and the timing light that looked like a gun.  “Those parts are all used.  It’s illegal to import used car parts.  And what is that gun?”  I tried to explain how the hubs and stub axles were somehow actually wheel bearings.  I placed a stub axle into one of the hubs and spun it, “See? It spins, so it’s a wheel bearing.”  I next tried to explain that the catalytic converter didn’t really count, and that I’d forgotten about the timing gun.  After a few minutes of my backpedaling she finally took pity on me.

“I didn’t see anything,” she said.  “Just wrap up those parts so I can’t see them.  I never saw anything.”  Next, she grabbed the catalytic converter and handed it to me.  “Put this in your bag.  It was never in the suitcase at all.  I never saw it.  Also, take this gun, throw away the packaging, and put it in your bag. ”  Somehow rules were being bent in our favor.  We had out-patienced the Colombian IRS!  I walked out of the quarantine room with a backpack full of undocumented contraband, watched Alicia type some more information into the computer, and then I was handed a piece of official-looking paper.

“You’re free to go,” she said.  All at once the taste of freedom came rushing back and I remembered what liberation felt like.  I grabbed my suitcases and wheeled them out the back door into the overcast, chilly air of Bogotá, handing my official papers to the police guard at the door.  All said, including airline baggage fees, import taxes, paperwork fees, and three days of taxi rides, it had cost us $721 to get our transmission and other assorted parts from the USA to Colombia.

After a day-long car trip from Bogotá to Susacón with Hernando and Constanza, it was time to get back to work.  We reacquainted ourselves with our little cabin and took a day to relax.  We stocked up on firewood and filet mignon for the grill – we weren’t here to rough it, after all – and prepared ourselves for the work ahead.

As a warm up for installing the transmission, I decided to start off by replacing our rear hub housings, stub axles, and wheel bearings.  We’d had two wheel bearing failures in close succession in Mexico and Guatemala, and I wanted to be sure that those were behind us.  I figured the most likely cause for the second failure was a bad installation by the Mexican mechanic, but I wanted to be sure.  I installed the salvaged hub housings and stub axles from my smuggled inventory, and replaced the wheel bearings for good measure.

Next, I tackled a few other minor jobs around the van.  In many cases I was taking preventative steps to solidify what I thought were weak spots to avoid future problems, and in some cases I fixed problems that actually needed fixing.

Our CV joints have had a history of problems, starting long before we left on our trip.  In Costa Rica one of our axles separated from the stub axle when all of the CV bolts simultaneously came loose, and recently the CVs had started to intermittently click – a sign that they were wearing out.  To avoid more problems, I rotated the axles from side to side to give the CV bearings a new surface to wear on, replaced a couple of worn CV boots, and safety wired all of the bolts together so that it would be impossible for them to come loose again.

The wire for our oil pressure warning light has been frayed for some time, after having been badly burned in a confrontation with an exhaust pipe.  I cut a new strand of wire and replaced it, noting in the process that the wire had been much worse than I’d originally thought.

In the interest of simplification, I decided to remove our air conditioner along with its 12x25x1 air filters.  I’d never actually hooked it up, and it simply served to be in the way of me accessing the left side of the engine.  It was the air conditioner’s fault that I hadn’t seen the frayed oil pressure light, after all.  Once I got it all out on the ground I felt a lot better, and in the process Nacho lost about 50 pounds.

Our front brakes had started causing us problems in Costa Rica when the pistons froze while leaving the trout farm.  I took this opportunity to give our front brakes a makeover; I rebuilt the calipers, replaced the piston seals and dust boots, replaced all of the brake hardware and springs, and installed a fresh set of braided stainless steel brake hoses.  The fact that our rotors had been warped in the Costa Rica incident would be hardly noticeable through the awesome performance of our nearly new brakes.

Since I was doing the front brakes, I figured I might as well do the rear while I was at it.  I found that one of my rear wheel bearing seals had allowed grease to escape and coat one of the rear brake shoes, so I thoroughly cleaned both shoes, sanded them, and cleaned up the brake drums.  To my dismay, but not disbelief, I found that the deranged mechanic of Susacón had sabotaged my driver’s side rear brake while he was in the process of sabotaging my transmission.  When I removed the rear brake drum on that side, I had found that he hadn’t bothered to tighten the bolts that hold the brake system to the hub housing.  And while he was at it, he stole both of my brake shoe return springs.  Hernando volunteered to go over to his shop to get them back, but the maniac denied everything.  Instead, I was forced to manufacture new return springs using things we found on or near the farm.  I knew that watching MacGyver would pay off some day.

Since I was in a fix-it mood, I decided to install an override for our automatic battery separator.  Since leaving home, I had a near-constant feeling of discontent with the battery separator that would automatically connect or disconnect our starting and house batteries depending on their respective voltages.  I decided that it would better if I could override its hard-coded decisions, so I installed a manual battery separation switch next to our radio.

Finally I had procrastinated enough and it was time to install our new transmission.  Since trying to borrow a jack from the local mechanic had backfired, I decided to try it without a proper jack.  I rigged up a series of ratchet straps instead, which would allow me to hoist the transmission into place.  I replaced the pilot bearing, clutch, and pressure plate, and then hoisted the transmission.  The ratchet straps turned out to be less than ideal for the job, so I had to position myself under the tranny and basically hump it into place using my pelvis.  It was the most grotesque thing I ever did to a tranny.

In the last few weeks before the transmission failure, the starter had occasionally ignored my pleas to start.  I took the initiative to replace it as well before it left us stranded.  With everything in place I turned the key and pumped life into Nacho for the first time in six weeks.  Everything went great until I depressed the clutch and tried to shift.  From Nacho’s belly the sound of crunching metal emanated.  Something was totally whack with the transmission.  After much debate and many phone calls I decided to remove the transmission again to see if all was well within the bell housing.  This time I located a proper jack to help me along.

After removing the transmission I found that everything was as it should be in the bell housing, although I noticed that the bracket that stabilizes the clutch slave cylinder was, and always had been missing.  At this realization I sprung into action and employed my blacksmithing skills to create a new bracket out of a piece of steel I found in the barn.  I also noticed that the reason for the metal grinding was an incorrectly installed clutch throwout arm.  I fixed the arm and got everything ready to reinstall.

With the jack, the installation went much more smoothly the second time.  I jacked that puppy into place, reattached the CV joints and safety wired them in place, and then bolted all of the other associated doo-dads in place.  I re-bled the clutch one more time for good measure and fired Nacho up.  This time when I changed gears I heard nothing but Nacho’s deep purr.

Later on I did a full tune up; new fuel filter, spark plugs and wires, new air filter, distributor rotor, and a new idle stabilizer.  I finished it all off by adjusting the timing to add a few extra hamster wheels to Nacho’s total power, and then took it for a test drive.  Cruising the streets of Susacón filled me with a sense of liberation akin to that of Timothy Robbins after he’d crept through the sewers and stumbled into the forest in Shawshank Redemption.  On my way back to the farm I passed the deranged mechanic of Susacón walking on the sidewalk.  Our eyes connected for a split second and it felt like I was staring into the devil’s soul.  When I got home, Sheena and I celebrated with a barbeque and some Club Colombia beer.

The following morning we Ioaded Nacho and said goodbye to Luis and Constanza.  In a display of true Colombian hospitality, they told us we could stay in their home in Bogotá for as long as we wanted as a liberation gift.  We locked up the cabin, pointed Nacho’s big, dumb, blunt nose out of the farm gate, and slowly pulled out onto the winding mountain road toward Bogotá.  Susacón, it’s been lovely.  Maybe one day we’ll ,meet again.

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Sep 2012
DISCUSSION 22 Comments

Gun-Toting Contraband Smuggler Man

Although we were having all kinds of fun with family reunions, seeing our friends, eating stuff, and drinking alcoholic beverages, it had come down to game time.  We were home for a reason, and we couldn’t avoid it any longer.  We needed to pick up a transmission, put it in a suitcase, check it onto a plane, and somehow get it through Customs in Colombia without being caught.  Since being home, we had also managed to acquire an eighth grade girl’s weight in other car parts, fishing equipment, clothing, and more car parts.  We knew it would require a great deal of savvy and luck to pull it off, so we trained for it in the only way we knew how; we played horseshoes to hone our precision, and we rode our bikes to build our endurance.  We saw a sign that said “purchase AK47 rifles” and right next to that was another that told us that guns were the source of freedom, which we were going to need, so we got some guns and shot some little clay disks.  We were willing to try anything.

Our first step was to swing by AZ Transaxle and pick up the transmission.  I was pleased to see how shiny and clean it looked; this would play a key role in my ability to lie my way through Customs in the event that I was caught trying to smuggle a used transmission into Colombia.  As you may recall, smuggling such things into Colombia is illegal.

Next, we had to pack it up.  We needed to make it as small as possible so as to fly under the radar of the Colombian Customs agents, and we needed it to be light.  The maximum weight allowed for a checked bag, regardless of how many crisp Benjamins you flash in front of the ticket agent’s face, is 100 pounds.  I decided to remove the bell housing to make it sleek like supermodel, and then build a slim wooden box in its place to protect the input shaft.  With any luck the box would survive a fall from the airplane’s cargo door.  Just to be sure, I wrapped the thing in a whole bunch of bubble wrap.  We didn’t want to sneak through Customs only to discover that we had a trashed transmission again, so we used wood and plastic.  Nature and science.

My original idea had been to try and carry the transmission in my carry-on bag.  Everyone said I was crazy, but it made good sense to me.  First of all, it would save us $350 in overweight baggage fees.  I mean seriously, who has ever had to weigh their carry-on?  All I would have to do is put the transmission in a backpack, and then pretend that the backpack weighed less than 20 pounds so that no official types would think anything was fishy.  Then, I would have to ensure that I could lift the transmission over my head and place it in the overhead compartment, while not leading on that it weighed more than 20 pounds.  And lastly, I would have to hope that the overhead compartment didn’t come crashing down, killing someone’s child.  That would make all of my sneaky heavy lifting effort null and void.  In the end I decided against it, but only for the children.

Finally the day had come.  Sheena went on her merry way to United Airlines carrying two checked bags.  In those bags were many illicit objects, including a transmission bell housing, a new starter, some new LED interior puck lights, new spark plug wires, a clutch master and slave cylinder, a new flyfishing rod, a spare alternator regulator, some new brake lines, and a few other odds and ends.  Her bags were, in short, Customs lightning rods.

In my bags, things were looking no better.  I went off to the Aeromexico counter carrying a transmission, two salvaged rear hub housings made of rusty cast iron, a slightly modified and very rusty catalytic converter, two stub axles, a fancy air filter, a timing light that looked just like a gun, and some corrosive/explosive fluids.  All very used, and all very illegal.  Well, the fluids weren’t used, but they were surely illegal.  My bag containing the transmission ended up weighing 94.5 pounds.  Just under the legal limit.  When the nice Aeromexico ticket agent weighed my bag, she looked rather shocked.  She told me, pity in her eyes, that I owed her $350.  I nicely asked her in her native tongue if she would give me another 20 pounds for free, and she instantly obliged, knocking $100 off of my fee.  Things were going great so far!  Good thing we shot those guns!

The trip to Colombia went off uneventfully.  My stopover in Hermosillo was too short to dart out to the taco stand like last time, but I did manage to gorge myself on tacos on my second stopover in Mexico City.  Poor Sheena ate at an American chain restaurant in Houston, and nothing more.

When I stepped off the plane in Bogota, Sheena was waiting for me at baggage claim.  She already had her bags full of illegal contraband, and waited patiently while I recovered mine.  I found a note on my bag saying that US Customs had seized something from my bag.  I unzipped it in a panic, and quickly found that they had only stolen my brake fluid and the cleaning agent for my new washable K&N air filter.  I zipped it back up, swallowed hard, and Sheena and I coolly walked toward the exit.

“Don’t worry, Sheena,” I said, “I shot a gun before we left.  We will have freedom.”

Everything was going great and soon enough we could see the exit doors; the rays of light streamed through the plate glass like bullets from a freedom gun.  As we approached the Customs agents, a mere 50 feet from the exit doors, I whispered for Sheena to look straight ahead and be cool.  I casually checked my watch, sighed, and pretended to see someone I knew outside.  This gave me a reason not to make eye contact with the agents.  And then, all at once, we were accosted.  An agent stepped in front of us and pointed to the x-ray machine.  His gaze said it all; “I know you’re smugglers, you sons of bitches!”

We pretended it was no big deal, and walked to the x-ray machine with our 244.5 pounds of illegal imports.  Sheena put her bags on the conveyor first, and I helped her stand them on their sides in just such a way, so that the bell housing would be less obvious, and the starter would look less like a bomb.  I hefted my transmission onto the belt next, followed by my hubs, axles, catalytic converter, and gun-like timing light.  I stared at the agent behind the computer, trying to avert her gaze from the screen using extra sensory perception.

Look away … look away … look away … look-

“We have something here! We have something here!”  She looked around, hand in the air, calling for backup.  Sheena and I looked at each other; we had seen Broke Down Castle, and knew that these situations usually ended up with the smugglers spending the rest of their lives in an all-women’s Thai jail.  The agent spun the screen around so I could see it.  Sheena’s bags were still in view, but she was pointing at mine.

“What is this!?” She seemed angry, pointing directly at the transmission.  I tried to think of something quickly that would make her believe that indeed this was not a car part.  Anything but a car part.  If she knew it was a car part, it would be all over.  Our illusion of freedom would disintegrate like the crumbling walls of an all-women’s Thai jail.

“Uh…it’s a car part.”  Doh!  “It’s … um … it’s a transmission for a car.”  Doh!  Doh!

She moved the conveyor, burping Sheena’s illegal contraband out the end.  “These are car parts TOO!”, she said, pointing at my next bag containing a whole gaggle of car parts.  As the woman continued to call for backup, I gave Sheena the nod.  She quickly snatched her bags and speed walked out the door and into the street.  It had only been a few seconds, but I could no longer remember what freedom tasted like.  Whoever made that gun sign was a liar and a moron.

A woman named Alicia, someone I would come to know all too well over the course of my Customs incarceration, led me across the linoleum floor to the DIAN office.  “Everyone fears the DIAN,” Constanza would later tell us.  “They are the IRS of Colombia.  Everybody must pay the DIAN.”

I sat in an uncomfortable chair against the wall while I watched a young man being humiliated by a DIAN agent as he pulled illegal electric motors from his suitcase.  “They are for my father’s business,” he said.  “Your father can’t save you! You’re in DIAN now, son!”  They didn’t say that, but we all knew it was true.  I waited my turn, what seemed like hours.  I would have to get used to waiting, as I was now a common criminal in the Colombian DIAN justice system.  Just another scumbag smuggler, trying to outsmart The Man.

“Car part smuggler? DIAN will deal with you now.”

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Sep 2012
DISCUSSION 10 Comments

No More Dreaming

When we began our quest last January, safely stashed in Nacho’s cabinet was a loaf of banana bread, a few slices of quiche, and my aunt’s cream cheese cutout cookies. The cookies however weren’t shaped in candy canes and Christmas trees like the two dozen times before, but angels and X’s and O’s. And when I ate the last slice of quiche somewhere along the deserted highway on the Baja Coast in Mexico, I had a strange sensation of helplessness, as I realized I was devouring the last tangible piece of home.

Fortunately the mind is strong. The sensations, emotions, and experiences tied to this place we call home are abundant, and within a split second, you can be home.

At least in your mind.

When I close my eyes, I am back at the doorstep on Skyline drive. In the foreground, Black Mountain rises high in the crisp blue sky. The smell of desert rain is irresistibly and deliciously potent, and from every direction, the long reaching shadows of saguaros paint the volcanic rock. Rabbits and families of quail scurry through the cholla cactus and aloe vera patches. And inside, saltillo tiles lead to the kitchen and the aroma of banana bread from the oven gloriously chokes the air.

And then there’s my other home, two hours North, which rises high above the desert. Here, the pine forest stretches for as far as the eye can see. This time, the San Francisco Peaks are in the foreground. When I step outside of our dollhouse in the valley, I stand frozen in time, so fortunate to be spying on the massive herd of elk bugling on the hillside. I run alongside the river, flowers in bloom, briefly stopping at the pond to catch my breath and to watch the mother duck and her trail of babies, bottoms up, scanning through the depths of the water for food.

Fortunately, in July I didn’t have to dream anymore. Our impromptu trip home landed us back in Brad’s home town of Prescott just in time for the 4th of July festivities. Brad’s family and mine gathered in masses, grilling up hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob. In true Southwest fashion, mounds of guacamole, spicy salsa, tortilla chips, and many salt rimmed margaritas lined the flagstone countertop.

Farther down the desolate back roads in Prescott, more relatives spoiled us with their delightful food.

July was also the perfect time to visit the Red Rocks of Sedona and the overflowing blackberry bushes that lined Oak Creek. After a wonderful day of mountain biking, Brad and our good friend Mike insisted they could catch us ladies (Lauren and I) some trout. In return for their hard labor we’d make them a blackberry pie and fudge. While they fished, we put on our pants and long sleeved shirts, ready to put in a good fight with the massive web of thorny bushes. We laid down planks of wood through the bushes, gaining us access through the mess until we left in victory, bowls full of lusciously ripe blackberries. Needless to say, no trout arrived back at the house; however we did gorge ourselves on blackberry pie (recipe).

Back in the desert, my bucket lists of things to eat was satisfied in its entirety. Brad’s was too. His only request was that we make it to Barro’s Pizza. History took place here for the two of us. It seemed like a decade ago, and in actuality it was. During high school he’d come in and watch me work while dipping his fat slices of pepperoni pizza into ranch dressing.

And finally, my mom slaved away in the kitchen, cooking up batches of banana bread, quiche, and French toast. Most certainly, if I were to make a cookbook of family recipes, these would easily be the top three. I curiously wondered what foods made home “home” for other people. So, I asked Brad. Chiliquiles from Martannes, the curries at the Himalayan grill, our homemade burgers and daily cappuccinos.

Our trip back home fulfilled us in so many ways. Truly, the food came nowhere close to the enjoyment we received by visiting with friends and family. We never know where life will take us and what circumstances, both good and bad will arise in the future.

Cindy, many X’s and O’s back at you, and may you have many angels watching over you as well.

Banana Bread
Yield: 1 loaf of banana bread

1/3 cup Crisco (or butter)
½ cup turbinado sugar (white works fine as well)
2 eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed banana (the riper the better)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a baking pan, coat the sides with butter or Pam.
In a large bowl, mix Crisco, sugar and eggs together. Next, add the mashed banana.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
Combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the bread pan.
Lick the bowl clean, preferably with a spatula or spoon. This batter is not to be wasted.
Cook for 45 minutes, or until you can poke the bread with a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Let cool on a baking rack. Slice and slather in butter!

Yield: 1 pie

1 cup of half and half
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of flour
½ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup of cheddar
Spinach (1 frozen package)
2 chicken breast (boiled and shredded)
1 prepackaged Pie crust
2 slices of swiss cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a bowl, mix together half and half, eggs, flour, and salt. Set aside.
Line the bottom of the pie crust with swiss cheese. Next, add the spinach evenly over the cheese.
Add the shredded chicken on top of the spinach, stopping when the chicken is level with the pie crust.
Pour the egg mixture lastly, stopping when the mixture has come close to the top edge of the pie crust.
Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture is cooked through and top has browned.

Challah bread French Toast
Yield: 12 slices

1 loaf of challah bread (egg based bread)
Canola oil
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
A few pinches Nutmeg
2 teaspoons of Vanilla
8 eggs
Whole milk (about 1 cup)
Powdered sugar

Thickly slice the challah bread and leave out for a few hours. This allows the bread to dry out, better absorbing the batter. In a bowl, add the eggs. Pour in the milk, stopping when the milk to egg ratio is 1:1 (about a cup of milk).
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Mix well.
Dip each slice of bread into the mixture and set aside.
In a griddle, pour an incredibly healthy dose of canola oil and heat to medium high.
Place the bread in the griddle and let cook on each side for 4-5 minutes, or until brown and crispy.
Sprinkle each side with cinnamon and sugar.
Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple syrup, or Brad’s favorite, plain yogurt and brown sugar.

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