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.

reading the New York Times

When we lived in Gilroy Terry and I subscribed to the print edition of the New York Times on the weekend. That ended when I was laid off in 2014. However, I continued to receive the book review separately in the mail.

When we moved to Hemet in 2015, I thought about getting weekend home delivery of the Times again. But we were getting seven-day delivery of both The Los Angeles Times and the Press-Enterprise (a newspaper which I delivered when I was young) and between the two that was a lot of newspaper, especially on Sundays. I didn’t see the point of adding yet another Sunday paper.

NY TimesBut then the pandemic hit along with a change in ownership of both newspapers. This coincided with a general decline in the health of the print newspapers. Our Sunday papers became smaller. At the same time, I was getting tired of the unreliable arrival of the New York Times Book Review by the United States Postal Service. Since the Times was offering home delivery for half price for the first year I signed up for Friday through Sunday delivery.

I won’t go into detail about the difficulty that I had subscribing. Suffice it to say that it had to do with an ancient, out-of-date email address they had on file. It took two phone calls and both agents escalating the problem, but they resolved the matter and we are now getting The New York Times three days a week.

I’m glad to have their excellent national news and business coverage, and even happier to have their quality arts and entertainment coverage. But most of all I’m delighted that I don’t need to wonder about when my book review will show up.

home improvements

Terry and I have been very happy with the house we bought here in Hemet seven years ago. One thing that has not been great, however, is the way the house retains heat in the summer. We finally decided that it was time to do something about that.

Our contractor suggested that we install a whole-house fan. At first that seemed like a good idea. But when we consulted with his electrician who installs them we realized that would not solve our problem. The idea of a whole-house fan is that you turn it on when it is cooler outside than inside. So that wouldn’t help with the house retaining heat in the afternoon.

our great roomWhat we decided to do was to replace the insulation in the attic. At first I didn’t think it made any difference, but as the weather got warmer I realized the house was staying cooler later into the day. That is until the sun hit the northwest facing windows late in the afternoon. To solve that problem we ordered a set of patio blinds to help insulate the house that time of the day. They should be installed in a few weeks.

While we were at it we decided to have our air ducts cleaned. We hadn’t had them cleaned since we moved in, and who knows how long before that it had been since they were cleaned. That may or may not be helping with the efficiency of the air conditioner, but Terry and I are certainly sneezing less and we are using a lot fewer Kleenex. That is a Good Thing.

Now, just waiting for those patio blinds to be installed.

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