seven years

This month, May 2022, marks seven years since Terry and I arrived here in Hemet. It is hard to believe.

A year after being laid off from my job we realized that we needed to do something different. We knew that if we moved south we could sell our house in Gilroy, a Silicon Valley bedroom community, and buy a house outright, without mortgage, here in Hemet. Since my dad was here, along with my brother and sister-in-law, our nephew Eric, and his daughter Teaghan, the move made sense. Thanks to my sister-in-law Bobbie we found a house here in Four Seasons, a gated 55+ community which has worked out marvelously for us.

Terry and Tasha

Terry and Tasha in the backyard the day we arrived at our new home in May 2015

The moving van showed up in Gilroy on Cinco de Mayo 2015, a Tuesday. Terry and I spent the night at the Best Western in Gilroy, and Tasha enjoyed one last visit to the canine resort she loved, Dog House Inn. We headed south on Wednesday the sixth and arrived at our new home late in the afternoon. We had an air mattress that Tasha thought was really neat, but she was even happier when our furniture and her familiar smells showed up on Saturday, May 9.

During the first few years we had some good times, having Saturday breakfast with my dad and the rest of the family. Then COVID hit in March of 2020 and restaurant dining was off-limits. We lost my dad at age 91 in August of that year, his internal organs basically saying, “We’ve done all we can do.”

Pre-pandemic, Terry had knee replacement surgery in 2018, and I had surgery for an intestinal matter in March 2019.

Before her knee replacement Terry found work as a permit runner for a solar company and I developed web sites for local nonprofits and small businesses. I also wrote for various high-tech companies here and there. When the communications director at my church left for her new life in Tennessee, I took on the church’s web site and getting out its weekly e-news. I also manage the web site for the local Student of the Month program, which honors high school seniors who have overcome personal obstacles.

All that time our loyal four-footed beagle-border terrier mix, Tasha, was there for us. She watched after Terry when she had her surgery and looked after me when I had mine. We spent a lot of money on medications to address her thyroid problems, her digestive issues, and her arthritis. But she was well worth it. In February 2021, however, our elderly puppy dog had done all she could do. Her body told us that it had reached its expiration date, and we had to say goodbye to her.

Terry had her second knee replacement surgery on Tuesday of this week and is recovering well with the help of the good folks at Kaiser Home Health. The recovery and physical therapy process takes time, but coming out on the other side I will be delighted to see her no longer cringing in pain when she takes a step that her knee doesn’t like.

So we keep on keeping on.

home office lighting

LED office lampTerry and I decided it would be a good idea to have a housecleaning service once again in advance of her upcoming knee replacement surgery. The company she selected has done a good job and we have been happy with their work.

One a recent cleaning day one of the team members went to Terry somewhat upset, holding the disintegrated remains of the lampshade from the floor lamp next to my computer desk. She was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing: dusting it off. That it fell apart in her hands was no surprise. I have had that lamp for a long time, more than ten years as best as I can estimate. The plastic shade was old and brittle.

The lamp had a long history. It originally used incandescent bulbs, which I replaced with CFLs, and finally with LED bulbs. In that lamp and throughout the house I have been quite happy with the light our LED bulbs have produced. In the bedroom I had to replace a floor lamp a while back, and I did so with a built-in LED floor lamp. It has worked out very well.

broken lamp shadeKnowing that there would be no way to find a replacement lamp shade, I went to Amazon looking for a new floor lamp. I focused on floor lamps with built-in LED lights, given our satisfaction with the bedroom lamp. I found one that I thought would be ideal, which you see pictured here. Assembly was simple and I plugged it in.

I have both floor lamps in my office connected to the plug operated by a wall switch. Since my new LED floor lamp uses a remote control, I wondered whether I would have to turn it on separately. I plugged it in and flipped on the wall switch. It came on with a delay of about four seconds, but without my having to touch the remote.

lamp remoteThe new lamp brings another improvement. Despite the pandemic winding down I’m still on Zoom regularly. My face is now no longer in shadow when I am on Zoom. With the old lamp I had to scoot way over to the left of my computer table to get out of the shadow. Now I can sit comfortably in my normal position and my image appears clearly.

One of the nice things about these new LED floor lamps is that you can adjust both the brightness and the color of the light to suit your preference. And the remote? It has a magnet, so I have it on the side of my file cabinet, completely out of the way.

That’s a really nice outcome resulting from a disintegrated lamp shade.

desk and lamp

reducing our gas usage

On a regular basis I get an email from the gas company telling me about our natural gas usage. The message has always told me we are using slightly more gas than average users in similar houses. This has always puzzled me because while we do a lot of cooking we have the thermostat set to minimize our house heating. The most recent message I received, however, told me that while we were using more gas than the most efficient users, we were using significantly less gas than average users.

We hadn’t changed any of our gas usage habits, so at first I thought that this must be because of the new attic insulation we had installed. But I looked at the period that the report covered and it turned out to be February 16 to March 17. That couldn’t be it, because the insulation was installed on March 14.

That left one other explanation: the new water heater we had installed on February 3. Terry had noticed there was water seeping abound the base of the water heater, so we decided we had better get it taken care of. The water heater didn’t look that old to me, but the plumber, who does a lot of work here in Four Seasons, said that it was the original water heater installed when the house was built. That would make it sixteen years old, so yeah, I guess it was due to be replaced.

So we are using less gas now. That is a Good Thing.

natural gas usage chart

sometimes a sous-chef

When it comes to fixing dinner, I am the primary cook. There is no good reason for that other than that I had that role when Terry was working as a permit runner and that division of labor has continued after her job ended due to the pandemic.

kitchen prepStill, Terry is a great cook, and I’m always happy to have her fix dinner. There is one instance in particular when I am pleased to be her sous-chef. That is on our surf and turf Saturday nights. On surf and turf Saturday Terry has steak and I have halibut. Our nephew Eric says we should call it his and hers, as the phrase surf and turf implies both the seafood and the beef on the same plate. Nonetheless we persist with our terminology.

On these nights I take responsibility for the side dish: either baked potatoes or potatoes au gratin (from a package, not from scratch). I also prepare the baste mixture for my halibut, set out the grill pan and other necessary utensils, and then step away from the kitchen. I leave it to Terry to take over. She grills her steak the way she wants it and always does a superb job with my halibut.

Those are some of my favorite Saturday evenings.

things we miss

Terry bought a bottle of port early in the winter for us to enjoy on a cold, wet Saturday evening, but we didn’t have one of those until last Saturday. I had been tasked with getting chocolate at the grocery store on Thursday, but I failed at that task: it wasn’t on my shopping list. Terry said that she would head over to RiteAid to get our chocolate, but I suggested it would be just as easy for her to go to See’s Candy. She did and brought home a marvelous box.

Goose & TurretsSo on Saturday we had a marvelous port and See’s chocolate candy while we sat in front of our artificial electric fireplace. It made us think of all the evenings we spent in the Hummingbird Room at the late, lamented Goose & Turrets bed and breakfast in Montara, California, north of Half Moon Bay and south of Pacifica. We would sip our port and eat the chocolate truffles that the proprietor Emily made for us while sitting in front of the gas fireplace, listening to the sound of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. We knew that we would have a superb breakfast in the morning that Emily and her husband Raymond would make for us and the other guests.

Those were wonderful days. We miss them.

the haircut saga continues

I thought I had a new hair stylist after a series of unfortunate events, as I wrote about a while back, but the success was short-lived. Sandra had her own way of doing things. She never got my name and never took my phone number. She recorded the date and time of my next appoint along with the services I required (a haircut—pretty straightforward), but nothing more. At the time of my most recent appointment last week her shop was locked, closed, and dark. It was a cold, breezy, uncomfortable day, but I knocked on the door a few times before giving up.

new haircutI needed a haircut. I was past due. The stylist at Ulta that Terry used, Liz, had moved to Houston. I saw Liz a couple of times, but was not happy with the result, hence my visits to Sandra in her small shop. Terry started seeing a stylist named Toni at Ulta and really liked her, so I made an appointment with Toni.

I guess Toni doesn’t like doing men’s hair. She was pleasant and accommodating enough, but didn’t offer to schedule a follow-up appointment and didn’t give me any sort of discount off of the exorbitant $50 Ulta men’s haircut list price. (At least with Liz she plugged in discounts that reduced my bill to $35 before tip.) To make an annoying visit even more so, I had to wait forever for Toni to bring me the invoice to take to the cash register. Seems the Hemet Ulta store is having problems with its computer system. And then there was a line for the register that wrapped around to the side wall. (Add to that the chicken burrito which I ordered with my Chipotle app that had an unacceptable amount of gristle.)

So the quest continues. There’s a comparatively new stylist in the salon here at Four Seasons. I think I’ll give her a try next time. I would love for some stability and continuity on the haircut front.

exercising again

I am exercising again.

That is no small matter. I had been very lax about exercising throughout the course of the pandemic. I had no excuses; I simply failed to get off my rear and go do it.

Map My Tracks screen captureHow did I get back to it? We generally take our Christmas tree down on or close to New Year’s Day. As a practicing Episcopalian I really ought to leave it up until Epiphany, January 6, but for practical purposes New Year’s works better. This year was no exception. We took it down on Sunday, January 2nd. Now, once the Christmas tree is down you have to do something with it. In our case it means chopping it up so that it fits in the yard waste Toter. That was quite a bit of work, and on Monday I noticed that I felt pretty good.

Time to start exercising again, I told myself.

My normal way to exercise is to go out walking. Here in our Four Seasons gated community there are several pedestrian-friendly routes I can take. I track my progress with an iPhone app called Map My Tracks. I find it annoying that every single time I start it up it asks me if I want to upgrade to the paid version. I don’t. But I keep using it because it is the only exercise app I have found that gives me all of the following: distance, time, maximum speed, and average speed.

I have been walking. I feel better.

fixing a subcontractor’s failure

Terry and I have long loved our reverse osmosis water systems. When we had just bought our house in Gilroy we attended a home show and came across a reverse osmosis (R.O.) system vendor. We signed on and had the system installed. We loved the crystal-clear ice cubes we got. (Never mind that a reverse osmosis system throws away a gallon of water for every gallon you get. I don’t want to talk about that.)

When we did our kitchen remodel the workers mistakenly trashed the system in the destruct process. We replaced it with a system from a company our contractor recommended. It was worse that tap water: my hot tea came out super strong, So I pulled out the Yellow Pages (remember the Yellow Pages?) and found a local water treatment company that installed a new reverse osmosis system for us. He was a good guy, and he maintained it for us until we sold our house in 2015. That system was in fact an improvement as the previous vendor was part of a national company and the service technicians had to come in from out of town.

water filterHere in Hemet, in November 2020 we had new countertops and a stainless steel sink installed in our kitchen. We decided that while we were at it we would install an R.O. system. I told our contractor what we wanted and he said he would check with his plumbing subcontractor. The contractor came back and said that the plumbing subcontractor told him that he installed and serviced R.O. systems. We said, “Let’s do it.” We did and loved the system.

Last November I called the plumbing subcontractor and said it was time to service the R.O. system. He asked who provided the system. Well, uh, you did. He had no record of what he installed. I sent him a photo of the system under our sink, but he never responded.

Yelp pointed me to a company here in town that specializes in water purification. I sent the owner two photos of the system. He confirmed it was a standard system that he could service. (At least the plumbing subcontractor did install a standard system and not one of those one-offs that both guys told me are out there.) Our new R.O. service technician replaced the various filters and pointed out that the unit was on the floorboard under the sink when it needed to be attached to the cabinet wall. He fixed that.

We’re now good for pure water (and those marvelous crystal-clear ice cubes) for another year.

time for a new iPad

My old iPad Air 2 finally reached the point where it was just too cranky for me to use. It would be at over fifty percent charge, but when I connected to the external keyboard it would blip out and then tell me I needed to charge it. That’s really annoying when you’re sitting on the bed with your lap desk and the cord on the charger plug just barely makes it to the wall outlet. Not to mention trying to use it with the cord in the way.

iPadThen there was the fact that my iPad became finicky about turning pages in the books on my Kindle app. Not a good thing, since I spend much of my iPad time reading books on my iOS Kindle app.

I did have that iPad for a while. Over six years, in fact. I bought it in December 2015, so that’s a pretty good run for an electronic device.

My new iPad is a fourth-generation iPad Air. I also purchased a compatible Bluetooth keyboard. Instead of selecting the cheapest keyboard, I bought one that looked particularly sturdy and functional. It was easy to set up both. I encountered only a few glitches, and the two play nicely together. It was not inexpensive, but for something that I use every single evening it was well worth the cost. The screen on my new iPad is more than an inch bigger than on my old one. That’s really nice.

I will get a lot of use out of this duo. And they should last a while.

an expensive product fail

Terry and I wanted to do something memorable for Christmas dinner, since Terry’s sister Julie and Julie’s adopted mother-in-law, Laura, would be joining us. Terry ordered prime rib from a specialty meat shop in a town about half an hour to the southwest. It was pricey. At about six pounds, it cost over a hundred dollars, but we thought it would be worth it.

prime ribI seasoned it with Jeff Mauro’s marvelous Dino Rib Rub and we put it in the oven using the roast setting. We said grace, sat down to eat, and… It was tough. Tough! I said nothing until Terry and I were cleaning up and I whispered my thoughts. Terry agreed. Julie and Laura were polite and gracious, not saying anything. Julie even took some of the prime rib home with her. We still had plenty left over, which Terry sealed up with our FoodSaver and put in the freezer.

We’ll use the leftovers for beef stew, tacos, and such. But prime rib for stew and tacos? Prime rib for which we paid three figures? Really?

There’s something very wrong here.