Wednesday, October 31, 2012


We are Sanding!

And Staining!

We have finished another section of the deck railings.  This area is along the back of the house, family room door and outside entry door to the laundry room. The six steps are not yet done, but will be.  At this point we are almost but not quite half way. 244 uprights complete, 272 to go.

This is the Next Area ...
When I counted the 516 uprights, I counted each of those on the stair well as two.  We will it break down into smaller sections.  In fact we worked on the upper deck, which is outside the kitchen door, yesterday and today.  It is ready for stain, but there is rain coming tonight so we just put a tarp over it to protect the newly sanded uprights.

This is the view from the deck side.  We have not done the floor in this area yet.

And the same place, but looking down another set of stairs that go to the area below the house. 

As I was snapping pictures this morning, I took this one looking down from the kitchen deck.  I thought the image is interesting.

This project is a big one, but it is not difficult. It was time to do it for the good of the wood.  I keep telling myself that part of it is so a future potential buyer will see the decks as a big positive and a wonderful space, not as a humongous job that will need to be done again in the future.  

It should still look pretty good next summer. 

Not all my time is spent on work around here.  I have also been planning our winter trip and have booked our first reservation using our new Passport America membership. 

We just do not have enough experience to just drive and stop wherever we end up.  I like having a plan, and like to know where we will be sleeping.

I hope all of you who have been affected by Sandy are OK.  As of Wednesday afternoon (when I'm writing this) I haven't seen any posts by the few people who I know are there.  I'm hoping it is just because the power is still out!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sorting ...

Rain again today ...

Friday morning is our trash pick up. I pay for three cans a week, but often do not fill them. I recycle some things, but because we are on a small rural road our trash is all together.

This morning I filled two cans with debris from the studio.  Not hard to do.  I have been getting rid of stuff on and off for a couple of years, but there always seems to be more to toss.

Over a year ago I pulled several boxes out of our little attic that needed to be sorted. I tossed things that I considered "mine" and set Craig's aside in the upper hall. He needs to say: "save or toss" if it is something of his. He has not shown any inclination to deal with stuff, but he knows he will have to.  

Today he went thru the pile of boxes in less than a half hour.  Almost all of it went into the van for the next dump run.  His decisions prompted me to cull out a half closet of fabric scraps.  

Dare I add the skis?  I know I will never ski again and there doesn't seem to be anyone who wants them as a donation.  

Maybe tomorrow. The van is not full yet.

What was hardest for you to sort thru?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rainy Day Pursuits

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were spent sanding and staining deck railings.  We have finished slightly more than one-fifth of them. 

Rain was predicted for the first half of the week, so we planned on a few days off.  

We woke Monday to a wet world and enjoyed a relaxed morning. 

Then we went to a matinee showing of the movie ARGO.  It was as good as the reviews said it was. It is definitely worth seeing, or if you are not a movie theater person, putting on your future DVD list.

Although it didn't rain on Tuesday, it was a bit too cold and damp to return to the sanding project.  Instead we did a few things around the Alfa including running the generator and the engine.  Craig also installed some hooks and eyes in  the table and the wall to help keep the table from tipping over when we are driving.

Pendleton Blanket on the Alfa couch
I have been looking for some fleece fabric with an Indian print ever since we bought the Pendleton blanket at Crater Lake.

They say when you are decorating a room you should start with an "inspiration" piece. This is mine. Anything I bring in will either echo the colors, the pattern, or the spirit of the blanket. 

Last week I finally found the type of fleece I was looking for. The colors are a little different, but it reflects the spirit of the blanket.

Several years ago, when I was having back pain, Craig bought me a vibrating, heating, chair-pad.  I have used it often and it was kept on a chair in our family room.  It is black, which was fine for a room with two black leather couches and two black leather recliners, but not compatible with the Alfa decor. 

Sunday, while Craig worked on his part of the sanding, I made a cover for the chair pad using the new fleece fabric.

I have also been looking for a new back support pillow to use in the Alfa when I want to read or watch the TV. For years, I have used the type of pillow that has arm rests, but feel that since the bed in the Alfa is only a queen size, the arm-rests would take up an unnecessary amount of space.  So I wanted a different kind of reading pillow.

Of course, I couldn't find exactly what I wanted.  So I had to create it. 

I bought a foam rubber "bed wedge" pillow at Bed Bath and Beyond. I cut it in half, and combined the two halves to make a fatter wedge. I added a rolled piece of "egg crate type" foam mattress pad, along the top edge. And then I covered it with my new fleece fabric. 

I wish the background color of the fleece had been a dark brown instead of black, but you can't have everything!

I have also replaced the original light colored throw rugs I bought last fall with some dark brown ones.  The light ones just got too dirty too fast, and really shed a lot of lint in the dryer each time they were washed.

The rain forecasted for tomorrow has been cancelled. So it will be back to work on the railings once again. 

I'd rather be making things for the Alfa! 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pants-Eating Sander

I think everyone loves to get new tools. Men seem to really like them if they are bigger and more powerful!

After working with his old, smaller belt sander. Craig decided he needed a new bigger one to sand the 28 steps involved in the deck refinishing project. 

He bought a 4 X 24-inch Variable Speed Craftsman belt sander at Sears. He has not had a chance to use it on the steps yet, but he did try it out on the top board of the railings.

More Power!

[From Craig] This new belt sander is one of the finest tools I've used. It includes a speed control that keeps the belt speed constant, regardless of how hard or how lightly it's pressed onto the work. Its 11 HP motor enables such pressure-independent speed control, and at 8.8 pounds it's much lighter than Makita's competing 11 HP sander (16.6 lbs). The speed with which it handled today's work on the top boards of deck railings was very satisfying! (Just don't let it near your clothing! See below :-)

But then he got in trouble! I had just walked up to him as he was working, when he suddenly started shouting: "Turn it off! Turn it off!" As far as I could see, nothing was on, and then I realized the sander had stopped and was jammed in some way. I grabbed the cord and unplugged it.

He was lucky this time. It only got his jeans. 

I don't think Sears will want this picture for an ad campaign. 

He took his pants off and tried to get them out of the sander without damaging it. He had to take it apart a bit and use pliers to get the jeans out.

The sander is fine, Craig is fine, but the jeans are beyond repair.

Craig has had other power tool accidents in the past. He cut his leg with a chain saw, his finger with a table saw, and scuffed his knee with his disc sander. Three trips to the ER in almost fifty years is not bad.

I'm very glad he was not hurt this time, and that we can laugh about it. As I took the pictures above, he said: "I sense a blog post coming." He was right.

Accidents: I almost always cut myself with a new knife or after one is sharpened. I have burned myself more times than I can count both in the kitchen and with hot glue in the studio. I bought an electric scissors once and it cut more than the fabric I was working with.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beware of What You Wish For!

I have pretty well run out of projects that I can do on my own around here.  Some of the things I could be doing have to wait until Craig does other work first, or are Craig's projects and I am just a helper.  Much of the time I'm not even that, and I get restless wishing I could do something to make the house ready for the market.  

I guess I could be doing more housekeeping, but the large clouds of dust and dirt that go with renovations are very discouraging.  Particularly to someone who hates housework as much as I do!

I could be getting rid of stuff, but I want Craig to be involved. He is busy with the repairs and not ready to start going thru things yet. He assures me it will not be a problem, it's just not time yet.

Most of this summer I kept wishing there was a project that I could be working on that would contribute significantly to the improvement of the house.

I guess I got my wish. Sanding and staining the deck railings is very much MY project.

Craig will, and has, helped with some of the sanding.  He is using his new belt sander for the top surface of the rails, but I am doing the picky stuff. We found that the staining works best when we do it together. Craig on one side and I on the other. That way we can catch the drips and missed places. We work well together.

We finished the first section of fifty-five uprights today.  The color will fade to a more golden color with time. 

I have also gotten part of the next fifty-plus partially sanded.  I'm using two small hand sanders.  It's slow, but not difficult. These are among the easier sections because I can get at both sides in comfort.  I used the eight foot step ladder for one side of the first section, but it was easy to move, and I'm quite used to step ladders.  I just can't go up high on the extension ladder.  Craig will have to do some of the outsides of the upper deck rail.

I try not to think about the whole job.  I'm working on one upright at a time, one section at a time. 

This is how they look before I sand.  They have been power washed and need the oil staining to protect them from the sun and rain.  

In my last post, I mentioned I thought the rain we were getting was the end of the wild fire season.  I was quite wrong.  That rain did very little to dampen the grasses and brush.

The weather has been wonderfully warm all week, but last night we started getting some pretty gusty winds.  That increases the fire danger. 

As much as I love the warm temperatures, and want to get on with my project, rain will be most welcome.

I do so envy all you houseless people out there.  Especially those without decks!

Someday ...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

(Update) Ready to pass on a good book

Kim was the winner.  A number of others also responded, and I hope Kim will do the same and pass the book on when she is finished with it.   I would strongly recommend it as a good winter read. I will think of it often when on a hike or at home sanding deck railings!

When we returned from our trip I was delighted to find a package from Judy containing the book "There Are Mountains To Climb" by Jean Deeds.

It is a very inspirational account of her journey along the Appalachian Trail.

Both of us have read it and now I'm ready to send it off to one of you.  

I will mail it to the first person who emails their name and mailing address to me at

I hope that person will also pass it on when they have finished it.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012


There was a song that went "It never rains in California..."

Sometimes it seems true.  For us, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains just south of San Francisco, it doesn't rain from late May or early June, to October.  Then it will rain on and off until spring comes again.  

I get pretty used to clear weather, and don't think about working around rain until it starts.

On Tuesday I started the huge deck rail sanding project mentioned in my last post. I stopped work when the clouds started building up and the wind blew cold.
It didn't start to rain until late that night.  Wednesday was pretty dry, and I was again able to work in the afternoon for a while until it started to thunder quite loudly.  We rarely get thunder storms, so it was a bit unnerving.

Today is Thursday.  It rained quite hard in the night and everything is very wet outside.  No sanding today.

As luck would have it, I got an order for a Large Moose yesterday, so I worked on him today.  The animal head business has been dreadfully slow all summer.  I have had several international orders, but when I send the customer a shipping estimate they have backed off.  Oh well,  I feel like I had a very good run with it, and it might be time to hang up the old glue gun and retire.  

Well, I'll make the moose first.  It will buy a tank of fuel if we hurry up and fill up  before the prices rise much more!

Craig did find and buy a larger belt sander, but he too must wait for things to dry out again.  He happily took the day off today to listen to the baseball games. 

Rain is good.  It means the end of the wildfire season for another year, and when you live in the forest that is a relief.

Do you like the fall change of weather where you are?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All Hands on Deck

While I've been cooking, Craig has been sanding the deck.

He started the deck refinishing project the week before we went to Yosemite by renting an orbital sander.  Unfortunately he and that sander did not get along and he promptly returned it!

When we got back from our trip he spent most of a week trying to hire someone to come and do the sanding for us. But it seems the local "Deck Doctor"  doesn't sand decks, and would not recommend anyone who did. He said he just does repairs and stains without sanding.

We had the decks replaced some years ago, and at the time we stained them with an oil base stain.  We were told we would need to sand them and re-stain every few years to keep them looking good.  But time flies by, and except for sanding and re-staining the top surface of the rails we have not done anything to them. Over the years the stain has faded, worn off, and the wood has discolored in places.  If we just put on more stain the discolored areas turn black.

Last week Craig rented a drum sander and it worked much better for him.  

In one afternoon he sanded the upper deck and part of the lower deck.  About 450 square feet.  Enough to start with.

He then worked with his belt sander on the edges.
He sanded for several days.

On this day the weather was a bit cool in the morning. A reminder that winter is coming and soon it will be time to shift to indoor projects.

Finally it was time to stain. 

I applied the stain with a roller one board at a time. 

Then Craig wiped off the excess. 

Working together we finished the areas he had sanded in one day.

Before he sands the rest of the flat deck area, which is mostly under cover, Craig is going to work on the two flights of stairs, and the small deck outside the kitchen door. He wants to see if he can buy a larger belt sander for that.

It's hard to believe the railings were once the same shade of "redwood" as the deck is now.

My knees are old, and I cannot kneel without great discomfort. But I can sit, and so I am now in charge of sanding the railings with a hand sander.  

Only 516  2"x 2" upright rails! 

I'm pretty sure I won't finish until spring. I will work on them section by section. Sanding and staining as I go. Working when the weather allows.

I couldn't find a pair of goggles to protect my eyes from the sawdust, so I dug up the ones I used for skiing. Maybe I should use this for a new profile picture! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

For Laura and Teri, a little more about making Spring Rolls

I thought I'd write a bit more about them and encourage you to try making spring rolls yourselves.  

Laura, look for herbs in the tubes, they really do taste fresh.

Teri asked if the wrappers had to be steamed. The answer is no.  

Spring roll wrappers do not have to be steamed or cooked in any way, nor do the rolls themselves.

They are softened by dipping them into warm water.

I prep all of my ingredients first, then set up with a dinner plate next to the sink, and a wide bowl like a soup bowl in the sink filled with warm water.  

Next you dip one wrapper into the water, wetting it completely. You will quickly feel it soften. Place it onto the plate, it will continue to soften as you put your ingredients onto it. You do not need to rush, nor leave it soaking for long.

Lay your ingredients, starting with the shrimp or avocado near the edge that is away from you. Fold up the lower edge, then the sides as if you were making an envelope. Roll it away from yourself to complete.

At first most of your rolls will be loose and may not be pretty. They will taste just as good though. It takes a bit of practice.

I set each roll onto another plate, leaving space between them so they don't stick together. I cover the plate with a wet paper towel and refrigerate until serving.

This web site has step by step pictures using some sort of square wrappers. To me they look like egg roll wrappers that have to be fried, but the folding is the same as the round ones.

Another fun thing is you can roll just about anything. Try using spinach, rocket, or cabbage! And you can make two or twenty! The wrappers keep forever if you don't break them or get them wet.

Have fun, and let me know how it works for you.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Spring Rolls

We don't have any fall color here yet, so here's another food post.

I had not cooked spaghetti squash very often before this last six months or so, because I didn't know how to prepare it. The outer skin is very hard and I had trouble cutting into one.  Peeling them is hard too.  Then I read that you could bake or microwave the entire squash before peeling.  Easy!

You simply pierce the squash in several places, like a potato,  so it doesn't explode, and microwave it for 10 to 18 minutes, depending on how big it is and on your microwave power. 

On a recent shopping trip I found the smallest spaghetti squash I had ever seen.  They are usually about the size of a football.  This one couldn't have been more than six inches end to end! 

In less than 10 minutes steam was coming out the holes and it started to crack so I knew it was done.

I took it out and let it cool for about an hour.  If it wasn't done, the stand time would finish the job.

I cut it open lengthwise, removed the seeds and dark colored stringy stuff attached to them. I then scraped the pulp into a bowl with a large tablespoon. This little squash gave me about three cups of pulp. Although this could be done just before dinner, it can be held in the refrigerator for a couple of days.  There are many recipes for it from plain to fancy.

The best way to think of Spring Rolls is that they are an Asian hand held salad. Traditionally they contain rice noodles or bean threads.  It was Craig's suggestion that I try using spaghetti squash instead, and it has become a favorite of mine.

In California, you can buy Spring Roll Skins at most large grocery stores in their international foods section. I don't know about other parts of the country, but I'm pretty sure they are not hard to find anywhere.  (When I was a young wife in Milwaukee, I had to go across town to a special Mexican grocery to buy tortillas.)

Spring roll skins are thin and hard, and made from rice flour.  

Making spring rolls is not difficult, but it does take some time and practice. It is best to prep all of your ingredients in advance.

Spaghetti squash: prepare as above, or use rice noodles made per package directions.  Cool either.

Fresh mint and fresh basil, lettuce, preferably romaine or leaf:  shred or cut into fine strips. Put in separate containers. I use coffee filters instead of bowls for the prep to cut down on dishes. 

Carrots: cut match stick size, or shred with box grater.

Avocado: not shown above, peeled and sliced.

A protein:  I used cooked shrimp that I cut in half down the center line. You could use tofu or imitation crab legs.

I thought about taking pictures of how to roll them, but there are several very good tutorials on the web. Just Google "how to make spring or summer rolls." I needed both hands. 

The top roll on this plate was an experiment.  I realize that it might not be possible to get fresh mint and basil when we are in small towns or national parks. I also wanted to make one without any shrimp.  Recently I bought a refrigerated tube of basil made by 'Gourmet Garden' and found in a produce section.  The "fresh by" date says it will keep four months in the refrigerator. It squeezes out like toothpaste.  I also have dried mint and cilantro on hand.

So I made one with larger slices of avocado instead of shrimp, a line of tube basil,  generous sprinkles of dried mint and cilantro, and extra shredded lettuce. It was quite nice.  I did some research on the internet and found the 'Gourmet Garden' also makes mint in tubes. Their store locator shows many stores including Walmart Superstores.  It might be possible to get it there!

Finally, we always eat spring rolls with a couple of different dipping sauces.  I like the  peanut sauce made by 'House of Sang,' and Craig likes a home made sauce made with oyster sauce, chili, sugar and garlic.  If anyone want the recipe send me an email. 

Give them a try.  Experiment with the ingredients to suit your own tastes.  

My daughter says my eight year old grandson likes to roll his own!  It's that easy.

Oh, and they are low calorie, low fat, and low carb!

Whats for dinner at your house (or RV) tonight?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Excellent Breakfast

The Alfa is tucked in on her pad for a while.  We may take a short run in November, but basically we will be working on house projects until our Christmas get away. 

It's probably a good thing we don't have a trip soon because California is having a fuel crisis.  Gas prices are skyrocketing. $5.00 gas is being reported in San Francisco, and some stations are closing temporarily rather than pay the high wholesale prices. COSTCO is one of them.  I paid $4.50 for regular yesterday!

So ... I can either put the blog on hold, unlikely, or write about other things in my life, like food.

I had an excellent breakfast this morning.  Leftover ratatouille with leftover spaghetti squash mixed in. 

So good!

Picture from the Web
I cooked the Ratatouille in the slow cooker on Tuesday.  

So easy.  

I really like the cooker I have because the ceramic inner pot is removable and fits into either my home refrigerator or the RV refrigerator, and I can do all the prep work the night before if I want, it is so much easier than doing all the chopping and making a mess in the morning.

I don't really follow a particular recipe. This is how I make it:

Cut the following vegetables into 1" - 1 1/2"  chunks and place into slow cooker, adding the seasonings as you go:
1 large onion
3 bell peppers, red, yellow and orange. 
1 green bell pepper (optional)
2 crook neck yellow squash 
2 or 3 zucchini 
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers
1 large or 2 small peeled eggplants

2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes that have been peeled and seeded, or 2 cans chopped tomatoes that have been drained in a sieve to remove excess liquid.  

Lots of chopped up garlic,  
2 or more tablespoons salt and pepper, 
a generous amount of Italian blend seasoning or your own mix of dried oregano and basil. Parsley is good too. I just shake it on as I add layers of veggies.

A generous splash of olive oil. 

I mix all of this together and top with 1 thin sliced smoked sausage. I use a turkey one from Hillshire Farms. 

Vegetarians can leave the sausage out.

In the morning, I start the slow cooker on high for a little while if possible and then turn it down to low for the rest of the day: 8 hours or so.  If it looks done before dinner time I switch it to warm.  

I do not add any extra liquid to the veggies, nor do I salt and rinse the eggplant. 

Ratatouille is a hearty vegetale stew that is wonderful on a cool autumn evening. I serve it in a soup bowl with both a spoon and a fork.  Sometimes I add a sprinkle of fresh basil or parsley on top if I have it.  

A nice slice of fresh homemade bread completes the meal. Bread is also great to sop up the juices.

The above recipe amount made eight servings.  We had it two nights for dinner, then Craig had it for lunch one day, and I ate the rest for breakfast today.


What is one of your favorite fall comfort foods?

You are all gone

Strang, I have been checking my Blogger Dashboard from time to time today, and you are all gone.  It says I do not have anyone on my reading list.  Comments seem to still be there, and I can go to individual blogs via my Followers links.

Is anyone out there?

If you read this please leave a comment.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I was good and bad today

Craig loves baseball.

Me?  Not so much, but every few years he gets me to go to a game with him.  Today was the day.

In the past, I have always rewarded myself for going to a game with garlic fries, bratwurst, and sometimes cheese nachos.  I was determined to not eat any of those things, and packed a baggie of carrot sticks and  sliced red pepper.  I put them, and a bottle of water into my purse with a cool pack.

Good intentions, but I was lead astray.  Not by any of the favorites mentioned above, but by my own generous intentions (sure!) and a hot day.

Craig asked me to stand in line and get him a BBQ pork sandwich while he went to get a beer.  The BBQ was being sold at the same stand as ice cream, and one of the ice cream options was a double dip in a cute little plastic baseball hat. (I'm really trying to put an altruistic spin on this) Craig loves ice cream and eats it almost every night at home. 

I thought the cute cup would be fun to use as he watched and listened to all the play-off games in the upcoming weeks.  But the only way I could get this special prize for him was to buy some ice cream.  

 I choose his favorite flavor, butter pecan.

After getting his sandwich and the ice cream, I went down to our seats to wait for him.  It was really hot, and his my ice cream started to melt.  What to do?

I had to eat it.  
Bad me. 

It was very good. 

I'm not ashamed, because I had really bought if for myself.  Carrots only go so far.  Only a saint would be willing to buy him a BBQ and pass on the Ice Cream.
I'm not a saint.

In addition to his BBQ, Craig also had a bratwurst.  
He offered me the first bite.  I said no.
He offered me the middle bite.  I said no.
I ate the last bite. 
I am not a saint.
It was very good.

I also ate my bag of veggies.
They were better than the bratwurst. 
They tasted fresh and cool. 

I shared them with Craig.
Good me.

What have you indulged in lately?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Went Shopping Today

The idea that women like to shop for clothes is a myth.

At least around here it is.  I am a woman.  I hate to shop for clothes.

But I looked at myself in the mirror today and decided something had to be done about my appearance.  The favorite tee shirt I had on hung like a sack, and I have noticed an increasing problem with my elastic waist pants wanting to slide down.  

I probably should have hung onto the thin clothes I tossed last year, but I never expected to be this weight again.  I know this is not a bad problem, but for me shopping for better looking clothes is a nightmare!

I spent seven hours shopping today!  Well, the first hour or so was not exactly for clothes. 

 I went to REI to look at a topographical map of the Death Valley area.  Our trip there is not until Christmas, but I can't help starting to explore from my recliner in the evenings.  You can go into the park from either the East or the West on Hwy 190.  The West entrance would be the closest for us, but I have been reading RV forums and consulting the "Mountain Directory West" and have learned there are several curvy mountain areas with up to a 9% grade if you go in from the West.

Every one suggests the East entrance.  When I checked out the topographical map I can see why.

While there I browsed the sale racks, and found something I have been looking for.  A simple windbreaker jacket. This Sierra Designs was on sale for $11.98.  Originally $44. The nice thing is that it comes with a little bag that the jacket can be squished into and you can then hook it onto your back or waist pack.  Great for hiking.  It also has a hood so if we get caught in the rain or strong wind my head will be protected too.

Feeling good about that purchase, I decided to go across to the mall and look at some other new clothes for myself.

 The biggest problem is I don't really know what I'm looking for.  I did manage to find two tops that I liked, but that was all. Everything is either to dressy or to young. I don't want to look like an old lady who is wearing teeny bopper clothes.

But, I feel like I have a new body and want to put prettier clothes on it!

Speaking of which, I reached my goal of -45 pounds while in Yosemite. My BMI is now 25 which is "normal".  No longer "overweight"!  I had new blood work done when we got back, and although my 3 month average blood sugar is a little high, my fasting glucose was under 100 for the first time in my adult life!

I feel great!  I wish I had a fairy godmother who could wave a wand and bring me new clothes.

If nothing else, I can always put in new elastic or get some suspenders.