our home improvements continue

As part of our home improvement process we decided we wanted to replace our unwieldy sliding glass door (pictured here) with a French door. We did that in Gilroy and we really loved it. What we thought would be a straightforward process, however, turned out to be more complicated than we expected.

patio doorWe started with our go-to general contractor, who took care of the artificial turf in the front yard, our kitchen and bathroom counters, and, most recently, our kitchen track lighting. It turned out that it was not a straightforward task for him, and that he would be using an off-the-shelf unit from Home Depot. That wouldn’t work.

Renewal by Andersen does some heavy advertising in the area, so we called them and made an appointment. We spent two hours getting details we didn’t need to have and watching videos we didn’t want to see. The meeting ended with sticker shock.

We called a (more-or-less) local company which places ads in an advertising magazine that arrives in the mail. The guy came out, took some measurements, and promised to get back to us with a quote. We didn’t hear from him.

We then called a company that advertises in the Four Seasons monthly magazine. Again, we got far more detail than we needed and a somewhat high-pressure sales approach. The price was better than Andersen, but we thought it best to do some checking. We looked at their reviews on Yelp and the Better Business Bureau web site. Yikes! Deal breaker.

So I called the previous company and asked about the status of the quote. They were back to me in twenty-four hours with a price that was entirely reasonable. The Yelp and BBB reviews were excellent. The rep was here the next day, took final measurements, had us sign the paperwork, and he was on his way.

The lead time is perhaps six weeks, so it will be after the holidays and into the new year before we see our new French door, but the process has begun. We’re pleased and looking forward to seeing it installed.

Time keeps on slippin’ into the future

We talk about Einstein’s theory of relativity, but relativity is a scientific reality. We have to adjust for relativity in our timekeeping and GPS devices.

time imageIt’s not relativity in the scientific sense, but on a personal level we experience time at different speeds. I can stare at a digital clock display and it can seem to take forever for the clock to click over to the next minute. On the other hand, I can be focused on a task on my computer and an hour can be gone in what seems like no time.

Time can become relative when we look at the past as well. Someone on LinkedIn quoted another person’s tweet:

quoteSomeone said, “Thirty years ago,” and my mind went, yes! The 1970s, but they meant 1992, and now I need to lie down.

I feel exactly the same way. I look back fondly on the seventies. I still listen to seventies music regularly. I was at my hair stylist’s shop the other day and she was streaming seventies music on her Amazon Echo. I said, “I like your taste in music.” She replied, “I really love it. My dad used to listen to this music.” Make me feel old why don’t you? I have trouble accepting the fact that I graduated from high school fifty-one years ago. Can’t be? Can it? Yes, it can.

Thirty years ago I was working in Silicon Valley and Terry and I had been (back) together for a year. We moved to Gilroy when we bought our house there in 1997 and we moved to Hemet in 2105 after I had been laid off for a year. That meant we spent eighteen years in Gilroy. Sure didn’t seem like it.

Sometimes it all simply seems out of control.

We have the Steve Miller band to remind us that:

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future

That’s for sure.

rating hamburgers

I have been eating hamburgers since I was old enough to make my own choices from the menu at a restaurant. I suppose that’s true of many males my age. So when writer Lucas Kwan Peterson ranked twenty-three hamburger brands in a two-page spread in the Weekend section of last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, I felt qualified to respond.

I question Peterson’s taste in hamburgers.

Peterson ranked Burger King #23, dead last. Are you kidding me? Lower than Wienerschnitzel? (#21) Lower than Del Taco? (#18) Lower than White Castle? (#17) Burger King is not my favorite burger, but if location and circumstance facilitate, I can certainly enjoy a Whopper with cheese. (I’ve always wondered why the default Whopper comes without cheese.)

hamburger and friesAs for Del Taco, I admit to not having had their burger, but I don’t trust a fast food taco chain that also sells fries and burgers. If I’m going to Wienerschnitzel, I’m not going to get a burger. I doubt they put much effort into their hamburgers, and Peterson says as much.

I’m not sure where Peterson went for White Castle. There aren’t any in Southern California, so he would have to have made a trip to Nevada unless he had visited the East Coast. Of course, you could buy a box of White Castle sliders in the freezer section at the grocery store, heat a couple up in the microwave, and then ask yourself why you did it. I’ve done that.

Peterson ranked Jack in the Box at #15, which is about right in my estimation. They went through a phase of emphasizing their snack food in their TV ads recently, and I believe that their Sourdough Jack, which I used to really enjoy (and which Peterson lists as his recommended burger for Jack in the Box), has gone downhill of late.

The chain Habit Burger Peterson ranks at #13. Terry and I got takeout there shortly after they opened here in Hemet. We received two identical burgers, neither one of which was what we ordered. Terry couldn’t eat hers because it had onions, to which she is allergic. I ate mine, but I wasn’t terribly impressed.

Five Guys comes in at #8 which makes sense. When we lived in Gilroy there was a Five Guys one town up the road from us and Terry and I went there once. We enjoyed it, but not enough to go back. Plus, from Terry’s perspective the Five Guys burger was way more Weight Watchers points than In-n-Out because of the higher fat content in their burgers.

Speaking of In-n-Out, Peterson ranks it at #5. He lists Carl’s Jr. as #2. To list In-n-Out lower than Carl’s is just not acceptable in my mind. Carl’s has quality burgers, no question, and I enjoy them, but I went to college in Los Angeles County in the seventies and In-n-Out has a special place in my palate. And to rank In-n-Out lower than McDonald’s (#4) is simply insane.

Peterson’s #1 hamburger? Fatburger. I know they have a good reputation, but I haven’t eaten there so I can’t comment.

Peterson makes one glaring omission. While he includes establishments where burgers are secondary to their mission, he fails to mention one prominent restaurant chain: Red Robin, where hamburgers are front and center. Terry and I both love their burgers. The wait staff there is competent and attentive. If you still have COVID concerns (as we both do) they offer both curbside pickup and home delivery. Red Robin is a bit on the expensive side, but their burgers are well worth the price.

Peterson got some things right in his rankings, but I believe he was way off target in others. As a hamburger connoisseur since I was five years old I feel entitled to make up my own mind.

on quality work

I have written about how we have done a sort of incremental kitchen remodel in the seven plus years we have been here. (I still can’t fathom that it’s been over seven years.)

We have replaced all the built-in kitchen appliances that were here when we bought the house. We moved here in 2015 and the house was built in 2006, so the appliances were nine years old when we got here. Our final built-in replacement was the dishwasher. We are still getting the hang of the new one, but we really like it.

new track lightsOne addition we made when we did our kitchen remodel in Gilroy was to add track lighting over the kitchen counter. We have good lighting in our kitchen, but it was not optimal when doing prep work on the counter or when washing pots and pans in the sink.

That’s why we asked our contractor to install track lighting over the sink and prep counter. His electrician did that, and the result is marvelous. We love it.

But to do so he had to cut two holes into the wall in the dining area. So our contractor sent over his painter, who patched, textured, and painted. You would never know that the electrician had cut into the wall. There is no evidence.

There’s no point in showing you a photo of a wall on which it looks like nothing was done, so I’ll simply offer you a picture of our new track lights.

Terry and I are pleased.

honoring Pete Seeger (and more)

When I buy postage stamps I make a point of buying commemorative stamps rather than the plain vanilla generic stamps. I have noticed, however, that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has not offered any terribly interesting stamps during the past couple of years.

Pete Seeger StampsThat changed earlier this summer, however. The USPS issued a Pete Seeger commemorative stamp. I have long been a fan of Pete Seeger and admired his conscience and social activism (never mind his powerful folk music). Now, like most of us, I don’t put things in the mail much anymore. And at the time I was really in pretty good shape as far as postage stamps went. But Pete Seeger? I bought two twenty stamp panes because… Well, because Pete Seeger.

And now the postal service is making things interesting again. They issued a Hubble Space Telescope stamp on September 8 and there will be a set coming out on September 30 honoring Charles Schulz and his Peanuts comic strip.

But I don’t have anyone to whom I need to send mail.

Maybe our Christmas cards this year will have Hubble or Peanuts stamps on them.

taking a break from baking bread

We needed to replace our stove in 2019, and we used the opportunity to get a stove with a convection oven. Having that new convection oven, I resumed my habit of baking bread, something I did regularly after our kitchen remodel in Gilroy.

sourdough loafIn early August I realized I was getting tired of my own bread, even though I always have a variety of flours on hand (from King Arthur, of course) and even though I bake with different combinations from one week to the next. I keep a batch of sourdough starter going, and I also alternate loaves with and without sourdough.

Nonetheless, I was getting tired of my own bread, so I decided it was time for a break. I needed to get away from my own work for a while, and besides it has been just too damned hot to have the oven going. I have taken the opportunity to explore different varieties of store-bought bread, and there are some good ones out there. In particular there are some seriously tasty brands of sourdough that provide a flavor that I simply can’t replicate.

So it’s a nice change. I’ll get back to bread baking when the weather cools off. In the meantime I’m enjoying the work of other bakers.

replacing the last kitchen appliance

Terry and I moved here to Hemet in 2015, as you’re probably tired of me telling you. The house we bought was built in 2006, and all the kitchen appliances were the originals that came with the house. Since that time we have replaced the stove, the refrigerator (twice), and the built-in microwave. We have also replaced the countertops along with the sink and faucet.

That left only the dishwasher, which was chugging along just fine. It did a good job and was working well. The only annoyance was that the silverware compartment was in the drawer, which was awkward. On the other hand, it left more room for dishes in the main compartment.

But in recent weeks the dishwasher was not getting the dishes fully clean. I kept finding bits of food when I unloaded it. After finding just that on a recent Friday morning, I told Terry that we should visit our locally owned Appliance Showroom on Monday, the place where we had purchased two refrigerators, our built-in microwave, and our washer-dryer set, to look for a new dishwasher. She agreed. Later that afternoon, it occurred to me that we had nothing on the agenda that day and suggested that we go right then. Terry also thought that was a good idea.

It turned out that the owner, Larry, was on duty when we arrived. Now, Larry is a well-established Hemet business owner but one thing he is not known for is his political correctness. When we walked in I told Larry that we were looking for a new dishwasher. He looked at Terry and asked, “What about her?” My reply: “We’ve spent enough money here that we can do without the sexism.” So Larry, not much chastised, showed us his dishwasher line in white, matching our kitchen appliance set. “We keep the black and the white separate,” he said. An old, stale, racist attempt at humor, the same one he used when we were looking at refrigerators a few years ago.

dishwasher controlsWhat we discovered is that the trend in dishwashers is to put the controls on the top of the door so you can’t see them when the dishwasher is running. Neither of us liked that. He had, however, one model that was marked down as a “ding and dent” unit. Wherever the ding or dent was, it wasn’t where we could see it. And it was a nine hundred dollar dishwasher that he was selling for five hundred dollars. It was also the only one on the showroom floor with a stainless steel interior. And the controls? The controls and display were visible and accessible on the front of the door. We decided we’d better go for it, and we were glad that we showed up on Friday rather than waiting until Monday, by which time it might have been gone. To make things even better, Larry’s service manager scheduled installation for Monday afternoon.

The dishwasher has a lot of differences from the old one and we are still getting used to those differences. The configuration of the baskets is rather odd, and we are having to be deliberate in how we load the thing. But it is a good, solid appliance that we are happy to have found.

letting go of the old laptop

I had to do it. It just got too painful.

I have known for a long time that I was going to have to give up my Living Cookbook software. The program has not been updated since 2014 and the company has been out of business for a while. The program was on my laptop, which was over ten years old. That laptop had been growing progressively slower and less responsive for some time. I can’t move the software to my desktop because that would require the publisher to generate a new license key and the publisher isn’t there. I tried a workaround, believe me, but the workaround didn’t work.

laptop computerThe unfortunate thing is that the Living Cookbook software worked just fine. The surrounding pieces were what was failing. The computer became incredibly slow. Norton Antivirus would no longer run and would not reinstall. I installed a more lightweight antivirus program with a smaller footprint, and even it became balky. Finally, with everything running as slow as molasses, my Chrome web browser refused to open. That was it.

So finally on a recent Friday I went through the painful and tedious process of doing a full reset on the laptop, wiping out all of my data and personal information, then reinstalling Windows 10. The next day was one of the fortnightly electronics recycling days here in Hemet so I dropped it off. I saved the wireless mouse which I liked and hooked it up to my desktop – a nice and comfortable change from my old wired mouse.

I hated to give up the old laptop, but it was no longer usable in any real sense. I found the original packing list and it showed a ship date of August 31, 2010. That’s just short of twelve years. Pretty darn good for a laptop computer.

And how am I replacing Living Cookbook? I selected MasterCook. Not ideal, but serviceable. Details on that soon.

getting the haircut thing right

When Terry and I lived in Gilroy we had a regular hair stylist named Debbie. Terry would go in and then while her color was processing I would get my haircut. It was not inexpensive, but it worked well.

When we moved to Hemet in 2015 I found a hair stylist named Stephanie in the salon here at Four Seasons. She soon eliminated her Four Seasons hours, but I was able to see her at a nearby salon called Ambience. Stephanie did a good job (though she never touched my eyebrows), but the owners sold the salon and Stephanie didn’t like the business model the new owners instituted. She moved to a salon a half hour away. That was too far for me.

haircutI found a stylist named Taylor at a salon just west of downtown Hemet. He gave me a couple of haircuts, but I wasn’t happy with the results. I then came across Sonja who had a shop downtown. I was mostly happy with her, but I had a couple of haircuts I wasn’t pleased with. Then the height of the pandemic hit and she kept forging ahead, taking no precautions. Not for me.

I took to cutting my own hair in front of the bathroom mirror, with Terry doing the back. The team approach worked out well.

I didn’t want to keep doing that, however, and as the pandemic eased I found a small shop where the owner was taking proper COVID precautions. She did a good job, but after the first of the year I showed up for an appointment and she thought I was supposed to have been there the day before. I showed her my appointment card. I was there on the day and at the time we had agreed upon six weeks earlier. For my next appointment, a cold and blustery day, the shop was locked and closed.

Moving on. I had a couple of haircuts at the Ulta store where Terry has her hair done, but it was too expensive and the results were not great. I then checked the salon here at Four Seasons. For a while there was only one stylist, Lupe, who has been here forever. She has no interest in new clients. But by then a second stylist had come onboard. I had a few haircuts with her, but they never held up properly.

Time to try again. I found a small downtown salon on Yelp where the listing said they did men’s hair. The owner of the shop is Cheri. She was pleasant (and loved to talk) but took the time to ask me how I wanted my hair cut. She did a great job and Terry said it was the best haircut I’d had since we did the work ourselves.

It’s been a week and the haircut is holding up well. I’m hoping things work out with Cheri for the long haul.

a quick appliance repair

Terry and I bought a new stove in 2019 when the oven wouldn’t heat up and a repair to the old one would cost almost as much as buying a new one. Our local appliance store didn’t have what we wanted, so we found a Samsung range we liked (with a convection oven!) at Lowe’s. We have been very happy with it, but recently it started acting up. The oven took longer to heat up than before and finally it stopped heating up altogether. Never mind that this should not happen in an oven that was just over three years old. The problem was there and we needed to deal with it.

A and E Factory Service truckWe called our local appliance store, but they said that they don’t service Samsung and referred us to A&E Factory Service. I was familiar with them, as I frequently see their trucks here in Four Seasons and around town. No doubt you’ve seen their trucks as well, and perhaps even used them.

I called A&E on a Monday and was able to schedule an appointment for Wednesday. The service technician diagnosed the problem and had the part on his truck. The igniter had gone out. Our oven was working again within forty-five minutes of his arrival. Not only that, but the oven now heats up more quickly than it ever did. I’d say it’s twice as fast as it did before the performance started to deteriorate. Never mind that the technician kept trying to get us to sign up for the A&E service contract for fifty bucks a month. The end result was well worth the slight annoyance.

Our experience with our local appliance store (which we love and appreciate and where we have purchased several major appliances) is that it takes a week to get a service call and another week to get a replacement part. So while I love supporting local businesses, it is delightful to have such a quick resolution from a national company.

Thank you, A&E Factory Service.