Saturday, March 30, 2013

[From Craig] So here we sit on Easter eve, huddled around our fireplace.  It's starting to rain in California's Santa Cruz Mountains, a pretty rare thing this year. The temperature hasn't reached our traditional threshhold for having a fire: 50F. OTOH, we've gotten to the point that when we want a fire, such details don't matter as much as they used to.

Why isn't Easter eve of any significance among holiday traditions? As the story goes, Christ's followers must have been pretty unhappy on the original Easter eve, which may explain why nothing special is done for its reprisal. The Easter story is obviously among the best "great new morning" stories in literature.

Hopefully, you and yours are happy and well this evening and tomorrow and thereafter...

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I enjoyed myself this evening designing a card for Craig and I to give to other RVers we might want to keep in touch with. I used one of the pictures of us that was taken in Death Valley in January. Neither of us was having a good hair day, but I think we look relaxed and happy in a National park. I tried to keep it simple.

I did have some printer problems however, probably because one of the inks is running a bit low, and am looking forward to trying to print it on my new Epson wireless printer after it arrives tomorrow. 

We have more than two weeks before we leave, so I'm sure to get it right by then.

A couple of my followers have commented on "how organized" I am.  It's really not true.  I only seem organized because I have so much time to plan and dream between trips.  When we are full-timing, I'm sure I will be quite disorganized. That's why I need lists!

Do you have a card? Who do you give them to?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Little fixes for Little RV Problems

First an answer as to why we don't just put the house on the market "as is." Almost all of the projects, other than painting, we have taken on have been necessary repairs. California has strict inspection and certain things have to be fixed, or money has to be left in escrow to fix them. Market conditions have been tough. Realtors tell me buyers want a house that is move-in ready. It is far too big to be a fixer-upper, but it was in a condition that required a great deal of fixing up. In many ways it is a wonderful house in a wonderful location. But there are also some really "outdated" cosmetic features that we are not replacing, like the burnt orange shower and avocado green floor, that a new buyer is going to look at as a future expense. Some of the repairs are in my opinion not necessary. For example Craig is going to replace the overhead fan in the lower bathroom because "it is old and rattles and it has bothered him ever since we moved in here".

We know we will not get top dollar, but we feel we will get a better price if it is in reasonably good condition even if it is a bit out dated.

Now, onto the subject of the RV.

Shortly after buying the Alfa I said it was a bit like having a "play house". I have enjoyed doing little things to make it more functional without making major changes.  

On our last trip, we kept having problems with things falling out of the  freezer when we opened it after driving.  I looked at refrigerator bars, and came up with several ideas of my own using springs and dowels or PVC pipe.  

But then a much simpler solution came to mind. I cut lengths of foam type pipe wrap that are just longer than the width of the freezer. They don't weigh anything, are easy to move around, and didn't cost me anything because we had the pipe wrap from some project in the past.  Even if I had had to buy it, it is very inexpensive. We will see if it works on our next trip. If it doesn't I have a few other ideas.

We also had a few close calls with things falling from the refrigerator itself when the door was opened. I have been stopping at the local thrift store from time to time and found a couple of wire baskets for 50 cents each. They should help. The refrigerator shelves do have a small edge, but it doesn't do much. The wire baskets will allow air circulation and can be washed as needed.

Stick-em-up hooks! I love them, and have installed them in closets, on the bedroom wall, and in the bathroom. I like them because you can take them off without damaging the surface, and
you don't have to make a hole to put them up in the first place.

I had a problem finding a good place to store the pizza pick.  The only cabinet it fit into is over the fridge and that one is very hard to reach. Craig likes to make "breakfast" pizzas, and uses the pick often. I drilled a hole in the end of the handle, screwed in a large "eye" and put a large hook on the wall next to the table.

The pick now takes up virtually no space, and is easy to get to.  I hung it low and close to the wall so that it would be out of sight most of the time, and contact with the floor and wall will prevent it from swinging back and forth while we are moving.  

After hanging it up, I wasn't happy with the fact that the bottom edge is on the floor, so I made a little edge cover by cutting off the bottom section of an unused, heavy plastic document pouch. It can be wiped or washed as needed.

Big hooks, little hooks, all removable but strong. These three are part of a solution to having my favorite and frequently used spices close at hand when I cook. I first put the spices in several plastic storage containers over the stove, but then moved them to one of the large cabinets quite near the cooking space. This was still not as convenient as I would like. At the house I have built in spice racks in the doors of one cabinet. I thought of designing some for the Alfa and making them out of wood like the ones in the house. Which I may still do because I like the look of wood better than what I came up with.

But then I found these plastic baskets from Walmart.

Each set of three baskets cost less than $2. Each of the lower two baskets will hold five short spice bottles. I left space for the shelf, and each of the top baskets will hold five taller bottles. So now 30 of my favorite spices will be easier to get to. Less-often-used spices can still be in a box overhead. The kitchen cabinets are incredibly deep, and the intrusion of this size basket does not interfere with anything else.

A plus for these over wood is that I can see the bottle labels thru the slots. Building something out of wood like this could be difficult.  Maybe I can find a natural wood color spray paint...

What do you think these are? Can you guess their purpose?

They are small plastic cubes that I bought at Tap Plastics and  stuck down on the sink top in the bathroom with Craft Tack Reusable Putty. It is similar to museum wax. I have since learned it also comes in white, and if I can find it, I will replace the yellow stuff I used here.  

We put everything from the bathroom away before driving the coach. But we like to leave the soap dispenser out to wash  our hands when we are traveling, and have been just putting it into the sink. 

The little cubes and the base of the faucet hold this clear bin in place. Since the bin is not stuck down, I can lift it up to clean under and around it.  I removed the two suction cups on the back of it because they didn't work in this location.  It will keep the soap dispenser and my sunscreen from flying around the bathroom.

Pictures! We all love to have pictures of our family and of the places we have been.  But where to put them in a motor home? 

For Christmas, my Grandsons' Au Pair gave me a cute strip collage frame with pictures of the boys. As I looked around the Alfa for the best place to hang it I notice the ends of the slide were much like long narrow frames. The collage frame was just a bit wide for this space, but the pictures fit just fine without the frame. Using the Craft Tack, I put up some of the pictures she had given me, then I printed pictures from some of our trips. They are small, only three inches wide, but as I look down the line I remember each place and each day. 

There are a couple of other places around the Alfa that I will fill with small images as we travel.  With the Craft Tack no damage is being done to the walls and the pictures can easily be removed to make room for new ones. I will be using the collage frame in the bedroom. 

Do you display many pictures in your RV?  How and where?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting Ready for Our Next Trip

Within a week of returning from our trip in January, we decided our next trip would be in April to Casa Grande, Arizona, for the National Alfa Rally. We are still in the learning phase of using and owning an RV. Do you ever stop learning? Craig has found the Alfa forum very interesting, and hopefully has learned how to fix a few things without ever having them break!  He is looking forward to meeting some of the people he has been chatting with on the forum. 

After that we are going to visit my brother in Surprise Arizona for a day, and then go on to the Grand Canyon.

To get there, we will be driving across country we have traveled before, so it will be a couple of long driving days without much stopping. Not that that is bad. I like just riding and driving along in the Alfa. We plan to do our first Walmart boondocking. 

Our daughter bought us the Rand McNally navigation system for Christmas, and one feature is that you can have it show all the Walmarts, Sam's Clubs and Rest Stops on your route with notations of which allow overnight parking. I'm not exactly sure where we will stop, but I know what the alternatives are.

We have worked very hard on house project for over two months. I had a wish list of things I hope to see finished before we went out again. Many of them have been completed. Some things were done that were not on the list, but the one big project, the bathroom downstairs, will not be finished. That makes me sad because with that rolling over into the month after we get back, it is unlikely we will get the house on the market this summer. Craig gets really mad at me when I say that. He is far more optimistic than I am. I really wanted to have it ready by early summer because I think this house will show best in the summer months. People will appreciate the wonderful decks and cool family room more on a hot day than in the winter. There are also many more accidents on the nearby highway in rainy winter weather. It's funny how people tend to forget about that during the summer months. For me a classic example comes from Craig himself. Years ago, when we lived in Wisconsin, he was offered a job in Texas in July. He said no because Texas was too hot. He took the job in October or November, and I sat alone with a country house for sale in rural Wisconsin through the winter. 

I'm at loose ends right now. I don't have a project that I can work on that will make me feel like I am contributing to the goal of getting the house done. Just about everything I need to do involves Craig, and I don't want to take him away from working on those %*@x  bathrooms. Somehow I thought two months would be enough time to do one, but we have had some set backs.  

Next week I will be shopping and packing for our trip. I'm not sure what groceries to take because the week of the Rally will include a number of dinners, lunches and even one breakfast.  No sense in carting around food we won't need for a week.  I figure on shopping in Williams before we go up to the Canyon.

We finished our taxes yesterday, and now I have the use of the dining room table back. It is my trip-packing "staging spot." I have a long printed list and will be filling the table with things for the trip.  I know that if I put something in the Alfa, I will probably need it in the house, so most loading is done on the last day. I don't leave much of anything in the Alfa for the same reason. As I pack I try to think like we are leaving for our full time life. If I'm not putting something in that I will want to take along then, I am either leaving room or really evaluating if I will actually need it. I think this time when we get home instead of rushing around putting things away, I will put most of it back on the table and evaluate what we left behind. It would be a good time to fill some large boxes with things we can get rid of.  

One nice thing about having my list on the computer is that I can reprint it and make changes or additions with each trip.  In addition to what to pack, I list where in the Alfa everything is put. If I decide there is a better place, I simply correct the list. By the time we are full time, I should have a master list!  Of course it will continue to change, but I can try. 

My next post will be about a few little innovations I have done in the Alfa. Little fixes for little problems!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What My Doctor Said ...

I think this will be the end of this post line! 

Basically my doctor was no more help than any other. She listened and she was understanding about the pain I had experienced, but she could not give me a cause nor a real solution.

My Potassium levels were a bit low, but still within "normal" range. She prescribed a Potassium supplement. My Magnesium levels were not tested in the ER, but she had tested them in January and they were OK then. We discussed the use of the Magnesium oil, and she was OK with it.  I will have additional blood work in a week to check these two minerals again.

She gave me a prescription for Valium to be used as a muscle relaxant if I should have another occurrence similar to last Tuesday's. Its good to have it as an emergency treatment that will ease the cramps and keep me from having to call 911 again. 

We agreed that increased  hydration and stretching were both good and I should be sure to do.

Just to be on the safe side, she is ordering a Vascular Study on my legs.  We don't think there is a problem, but it is an elimination of a potential cause. She said the pulse was not strong and my feet were very cold.

If I learn anything else that might be of interest to others who have leg cramps from time to time, I'll be sure to share.

But other than that, I am returning to post about RV travel,  food, and getting ready for full timing!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Finding a product

From time to time Craig likes to write a post.  He doesn't want to start his own blog yet.  Perhaps he will when we are traveling. 

[From Craig] Seems to me that there is something out of order about our national marketplace. Here we are, more computerized and connected and surveyed and with supposedly better access to information than has ever been the case, and I can't even find out where to buy my favorite snack!

There's a brand of snacks called Boulder Canyon that seems pretty successful with potato chips, but also makes wonderful "Rice and Adzuki Bean" chips. In our area, Costco used to sell them but you can't rely on them to sell anything other than paper products from one visit to the next. Trader Joe's had their own version but their product turnover may be even faster than Costco. Our larger Whole Foods stores had them, but no more.

So here I sit hankering for this product, and I go on-line to find them. Of course I can buy them directly online, but at 5 ounces per bag, shipping small quantities of such things around the country seems wasteful. So I find Boulder Canyon's website and, lo and behold, they have a "find a store in your area for your favorite product" page! Just what the WWW should have in 2013...

I find the rice and bean chips and tell them where I live. Quicker than rabbit songs, they return a page of local stores, all of which are Nob Hill stores, which is a subsidiary of Raley's.  I go to the closest one but it doesn't have the chips. I call several other nearby stores, but their people check and say they don't have them.

I am quite depressed that my fellow Americans haven't jumped on the bandwagon for these absolutely wonderful chips, and made them something that every supermarket stocks. I already order more oddball things online than I care to think about because local stores don't carry them. Do I have to add rice and bean chips to the list?

Before my snack desire overcomes my reluctance, Merikay and I are shopping a nearby Nob Hill store (one of those I called) when I discover a BIG display of Boulder Canyon Rice and Bean chips.  Both of the two available flavors! Turns out that this store has more snacks than almost any other supermarket I've ever seen, and they distribute them among several sections according to no category scheme I can see. The failure of their people who searched for me isn't their fault, it's due to bad store organization.

Readers who like good-tasting, lower-fat snacks can help me here. As you roam around the country (especially if you should pass through Scotts Valley, CA) look for these two products and see if you don't agree they're really good: Natural Salt flavor and Chipotle Cheese flavor. Or ask at any supermarket you stop at, and maybe we can get a real grass-roots movement going.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Encouraging Call from Doctor's Office, and Insurance Question

I know my doctor will be out of her office for the first part of the week, but apparently she is still in communication with them.  I got a call today to change my appointment time because the doctor would "like to spend more time with me."  Now when was the last time you've heard that!  I remember once I went in for an appointment with a different doctor and had a list of questions. I had made the appointment because I had felt rushed in the past and was told I had to make a special appointment to ask questions.  As it turned out after I had asked just a few, I was told my allotted appointment time was up, and I would need another if I still wanted to ask questions.  Believe me, that was the last time I went there! This was not at Kaiser by the way, there the doctors always gave me as much time as I needed and answered all of my questions.

Speaking of medical issues, I'd like to ask the American, over 65, fulltimers what kind of health insurance they have. In addition to Medicare do you have an Advantage plan, or a Supplemental?  If it is an Advantage plan, does it cover you where ever you are at the same copay as your home office, or do you have to go back to your home base for most issues other than emergencies?

I signed us up for the Supplemental plan offered thru the AARP that is with United Health Care.  So far the coverage has been great.  I can go to any doctor who accepts Medicare, and any Hospital.  When Craig cut his head we went to an ER and he was covered 100%.  If we had gotten an Advantage plan it would have been with Kaiser, and I know it cost $100 copay for an ER visit, unless you are admitted.  We don't have any copay with the Supplemental, but our premium is higher than the Advantage plans. 

When we do go fulltime, I will probably try to get a doctor in San Diego for both of us because that is where our daughter lives and we are likely to visit there at least once a year. Once we sell the house we have no real reason to return to the Bay Area since we do not have family here at all.

If you feel this question is to personal or intrusive.  Please ignore my question.  

I heard from my sister that "Obamacare" is gutting the Advantage plans, but I also read that Republicans like Ryan want to gut Medicare.  Can they do that? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cramping Legs, follow up

I want to thank all of you who left comments on my March 13th post about having bad leg cramps. It warmed my heart knowing so many cared about me. I have carefully read all of your suggestions, and am working on changes that will hopefully prevent this from ever happening again.

Thank you Jim and Sandie for saying you would have hit the guy who said they were "just" Leg Cramps. My feelings exactly, but at the time I was curled up on the floor unable to move.

Al's description of my situation as being like "having a whole herd of alligators attacking my legs all at once". Yup. They just didn't want to let go. 

Potassium, magnesium, water, quinine, stretching, water exercise, Epsom salt soaks, Hyland's Leg Cramp PM, bananas, dates, potatoes, and pickle juice. I'm willing to consider them all, but I've tried the Leg Cramp PM in the past and it didn't do much for me. It is a homeopathic remedy.

I used to eat a banana a day, but it never helped when I had moderate cramping. I stopped eating bananas and potatoes when I started my weight loss plan last year. They do have a high glycemic index without the benefits of high fiber. Especially if they are ripe, which is the way I like them. On Wednesday I did some reading about foods with higher potassium levels, and find that avocados have more potassium than bananas and have more fiber. I've been eating an avocado several times a week for the last couple of months just because I like them and they have been reasonably priced. But I will still start including bananas into my eating plan again. 

It's the butter and gravy that make potatoes fattening, so I guess I'll include some plain steamed new potatoes. I had some last night and they were fine without any butter. My overall diet has been very high in vegetables and fruits so I don't know how adding these back in will help all that much.

I have found that sometimes tonic water helps, and sometimes it doesn't. It seems to help most when I've been hiking, so I will continue to drink it nightly when on an RV trip.

My regular doctor is on vacation and the soonest appointment I could get is next Friday. She asked me to bring in the lab results from that night, which I have gotten a copy of. As I look at them, it looks like all my results were pretty near normal. The potassium was on the low side of the normal range, and I couldn't find anything that looked like a magnesium test. The only really high number was my blood glucose level. We'll see what she says.

What I have found to try for the week is a product called "Magnesium Oil"(If you read all of the claims about this stuff it is a miracle product. I am as skeptical about it as I can be in regard to all the claims, but if it helps at all I let you all know.)

You spray it onto your skin (in my case onto my legs and feet) and the magnesium is absorbed thru the skin. I bought it at a Whole Foods. The clerk gave me a sample of it to try the first night. Actually the sample would have lasted several days, but I think it did some good relieving some small cramps I was getting in my toes, so I went and bought the product. It is rather expensive, but if it helps it will be worth it. She also told me to look up how to make it myself, which I did, and if it works I will give that a try. 

So there it is. I've been OK, except for a few little twinges.

I will post about what I learn after I see the doctor next week.

Till then I'll be drinking lots of water and ... 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bad Night, Trip in an Ambulance

First off, both of us are OK.

Tuesday night I had a terrible time that ended with Craig calling 911 and me being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. I am very grateful that nothing was seriously wrong with me. No heart attack, no stroke, no accidental cut or fall.

What did happen was that I had the worst attack of leg cramps I have ever experienced, and ended up collapsing on the floor, writhing in pain and screaming for help. I'm usually a pretty tough old bat, and this was not like me. It was uncontrollable.

I often get leg cramps in the night. I usually can just get out of bed, get to another room and walk them out. Painful, yes, and the reason I try to get to another room is so my little uncontrolled whimpers don't alarm Craig. He knows he can't help me and I am best left to walk them out alone.

This time I had a few cramps as I stood up from the recliner I had been reading in, when it was time to get ready for bed. First my foot and then my leg muscle tightened. It was a bother, but I got relief in a few minutes of walking. I have found that drinking tonic water can give me some relief, so I chugged a large glass of it before going to bed.

Not long after getting comfortable, I felt the muscles on the top of my foot start to cramp. As I got out of bed, it seemed like every muscle in both my feet, both my calves, and both my thighs tightened at once.  I couldn't stand upright or walk. I managed to move a few feet to grab hold of some bookshelves, but the pain was so horrific I collapsed onto the floor.

Craig heard me screaming and came to help, but rubbing and trying to flex my legs and feet did no good.  It seemed to go on and on.  I became wet with sweat, then cold with chills. I felt like I was going to vomit. Craig asked if he could take me to the ER, but I couldn't get up to get to the car. He called 911 and at least six firemen and EMTs came.  

By the time they arrived, the worst was over, but I still could not move without the cramping starting all over again. After  taking my vitals and getting me calmed down, they determined I had not had a heart attack or stroke, and was "just" having leg cramps.  The EMT asked that in terms of pain, if childbirth was a 10, where did this fall.  I said 11.  Yes, worse than childbirth!

At first they tried to help me up, but as soon as I moved the muscles started locking up again. They decided I needed to go to the hospital, but how to get me out of the house was a problem.  They could have brought the gurney in thru the front door, but that involves two flights of stairs.  The other option was to go out thru the laundry room that is right next to the bedroom where I was, but the gurney wouldn't fit past the washer.  

So they wrapped me up like a sausage in a crescent roll in the quilt Craig had covered me with, and used it like a stretcher. 

The ride in the ambulance was not easy.  My stomach was flipping and the motion of the ride was no help. The EMT gave me something to ease it, but it didn't have much effect.  Wanting to upchuck when you are strapped down is horrible.

Once in the ER I was given a shot for the nausea and put on an IV.

I started to feel a bit better, and the young male nurse replaced the used basin with a barf-bag that looked like this except it was bright blue.

I told him it looked like a condom for an elephant!  

Fortunately I no longer needed it.

We ended up spend most of the night in the ER as the IV drip did its work and we waited for the results of some blood work. The older doctor was very kind. He reassured me that it was not serious, but also that he could tell how bad the pain had been. He said my upset stomach was a reaction to severe pain.

The cause? He said there are several theories, but no cure other than prevention by stretching before bed and drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration. 

Today, Wednesday, my legs hurt but are not cramping.  I have consumed eight glasses of water and feel like a water balloon, but if it will save me from ever having that happen again, I will do it every day.  

Coffee, wine, and tea don't count.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Breakfast with Blogger Friends, Highlight of the Week

I finally have something to write about other than the work we are doing on the house!

The highlight of this past week was whent we took a few hours off and met a couple of other bloggers for breakfast.

Smiles all around.  Craig, Kate, Russ and Donna. Kate is local and is also in the process of clearing out a house.  Russ and Donna are from Oregon and are "any-timers". They call their rig Therapy because that is what getting away from time to time is for them.

It was very nice to spend a few hours with people who understand what we are doing.  We discussed the stress factors, and the challenges of running up against unexpected delays.  I felt good after being with them.

Now some boring stuff about work on the house.  

In the post that I wrote early Friday morning, I said nothing had gotten finished this week.  But by afternoon I had finished working with the WATCO Danish oil on the kitchen cabinets.  It is amazing what a difference this stuff makes!  Had I known, I would have done this five years ago for myself.

The same cabinet door before and after WATCO.  I used the oil that also has some stain in it.  For the kitchen I used Golden Oak. For the worse scuffs I did dab on some additional stain before using the oil.

One odd thing about this house is that there are six different baseboard and door frame wood treatments.  The place has been remodeled or added onto a couple of times.  For each improvement, different woodwork was used.  Craig has done two of them. The original woodwork is a rough cut wood that was stained with a black oak stain.  It was very common in the 60's and 70's in California.  Much of it has been replaced, but not all, and that which is still up is faded and scuffed.  Craig is in the process of staining new wood for around his new doors and the areas where we are getting new carpeting installed.   If the house lingers on the market, and everything else is done, he may continue replacing the woodwork throughout the rest of the house. Until then I have taken on the project of giving the old black walnut a fresh coat of stain.  

After and Before
WATCO to the rescue. 

 The result is not perfect, it is still the rough cut wood, 
but it's fresher. I'm almost done with it and then I will go back to working on more  doors with the clear restoration oil.

Craig has also been very busy, but his projects are harder to describe and take pictures of.

 So, I will end this post with an image of a recent sunset. We don't see as much of them in summer when the trees are full of leaves.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dump day

Garbage cans are full to overflowing!

My van is full!
We are starting the day with a trip to the dump!  
We decided we would have to get a professional from the door company to come and take out the patio door so we could big oak computer desk out.  We bought it before we had the new patio door put in.  After due consideration, Craig decided to dismantle the desk and trash it. We had planned on putting it on Freecycle anyway.  People are using their lap tops and don't want large home desks anymore.

Nothing much has been finished this week, but a lot has been worked on.  We have momentum.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Flea market

Craig went with me to the Flea Market on Saturday after all.  Last year he didn't want to go, and I think it was because he wasn't ready to start getting rid of things. Now he is, and it was great to have him along, especially for much needed potty breaks, or just taking short walks around to see what other vendors were selling. 

After years of selling at art shows, I don't get flustered by sudden groups of potential customers, or feel any fear of those with sticky fingers. If someone were to walk off with something, it would just be one less thing to get rid of! I kept our cash safe in a tummy pack.

The day was long, starting with getting up at 4 AM, and waiting in a seller line for more than an hour to get to a space.  With art show set-ups I had a strict routine and knew where everything went.  For the flea market, setting up was a bit haphazard.  I had most things priced and marked, which made it easier to deal with the rush of "first" buyers that descended on us as we unpacked.  I think they were mostly other sellers. Funny, once we were set up there was a quite a lull when there were no customers at all for anyone!

The weather was reasonably warm most of the day, but by mid-afternoon rain clouds began to roll in.  When the other vendors started packing up early we did too.  We ended the day with a well earned dinner at our favorite restaurant, Aqui Cal-Mex

We sold a lot of small things and made a little bit of money. Knowing this was not the right venue, I didn't take any "collectables" along.  I think I'm ready to try the auction house that Kate showed me two years ago.  The stuff I have for there isn't extremely valuable, but might sell for a few dollars more than at the Flea Market.  I don't want to deal with eBay or Craigslist unless I'm desperate.

My biggest disappointment at the Flea Market was the very low interest and few sales of the man-made fur I had along.  I am less interested in the dollars I might get from a sale than from keeping it out of the dump. I doubt Goodwill would be a good place for it.  They would probably just put it into the fabric bales they export to South America for recycling.

On Sunday, as I emptied the van, I had the thought that perhaps the place that takes donations from businesses and allows teachers to take whatever they can use, might be a good place to take the fake fur.  Some teachers with puppet or costume-making projects might be able to use it. That would make me feel good. I'll have to call them soon. 

I'm not sure what we will be doing this week, but I'm sure we will be working on the house, and the taxes.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Old Wine

[From Craig] Friday our efforts to get the house ready for sale led Merikay and I to confront our Very Old Homemade Wine.

Back in 1977 when we lived in Wisconsin, we sold our first house and bought our second, out in the country (or the cutting edge of suburbia). We found our property was near many kinds of old fruit trees and bushes, and took up the hobby of making homemade fruit wines. In 1977, our first year, we made Apple, Pear, Elderberry, and probably other kinds that we've forgotten.

Most of the first-year stuff was surprisingly drinkable. When our son took it into his head to get confirmed in a religion that had never been in our family before, we threw a party for our and his friends and relatives that featured homemade sausage, homemade bread, and homemade wine. A very homemade party!

The next year we seem to have made Huckleberry wine, although neither Merikay nor I can remember where the fruit came from. Then we moved to Texas where our lot included six persimmon trees. Guess what kind of wine we made those years? Unfortunately we could never overcome the alum mouth-puckering component of the persimmons.

We continued to drink our Wisconsin and Texas wines occasionally, and the remaining ones came along when we moved to California in '83. When we moved into our current home in '88, they were consigned to a wooden cabinet in the closet of our family room, of which one wall is an uphill retaining wall that provided some temperature stability. Occasionally we would try one of the old home-brews and discovered that they were turning to sherry that we didn't care for the taste of. So they have just quietly continued aging in their cabinet for 20+ years.

Until Friday, when my projects came to include painting concrete closet floors. We found that several of the bottles had started to leak, leading to gooey brown deposits in the cabinet. We hauled all the bottles up to the kitchen sink and started to empty them, tasting a few of those that had intact corks and reasonable-looking colors.

 All of the persimmon wine, about two dozen bottles from several batches, was still contaminated with the alum taste.  The few bottles of apple, pear, and huckleberry didn't prove to be anything we wanted to drink. The elderberry has been gone since about 1980.

Which leads to two related lessons: 1) only good quality red grape wine improves with age, and 2) if you make fruit wine or white grape wine, drink it soon or toss it.

Anyway it was a more interesting day than many of ours lately. And yes, the floor of the closet that the wine had aged in got painted.

Any past home winemakers among our readers?

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Things for the Alfa

First, a comment about this week: we got a lot done, but have run into a big setback, and a couple of larger-than-we-expected cost estimates on things that have to be done. Between that and just the ongoing stress of the projects we each had at least one "melt down". Fortunately we survived, and have both promised to try to be kinder to each other.

So enough said about the horrible house projects for a while.

I have been busy shopping for a couple of things I really wanted for the Alfa.

I needed a small vacuum cleaner. My first try was a cordless, rechargeable stick vac type that I bought thru Costco online last year. One of the things I didn't like about it was that it wouldn't stand up on its own. Even when I carefully propped it up, it toppled over more times than not. The bigger drawback was that it needed to be stored in its recharging station, and the station itself had to be plugged in.  There is no good place for it in the Alfa.  So I took it back.

The next vacuum I bought was also a stick vac. It had a cord, and could be stored lying down in the back of the closet. However, its suction was very weak and the cord was very short. It required three plug changes to go from front to back. I also didn't like the bagless dirt cup arrangement. Some people like these, but I seemed to get myself dirty whenever I emptied it. The snap-together connection was very awkward. I don't feel bad about adding it to the Goodwill or flea market pile because it was quite inexpensive.

Having learned something from these two, I knew I did not want another stick vac. I looked around in several stores and found a very nice, small, hand held, canister-style Oreck vacuum. It was not cheap, but it really does a good job.

The only negative I have found so far was that the shoulder strap was a bit uncomfortable. Poor me, not as much fat padding anymore. But that was quickly solved: I padded it with some foam rubber I had on hand, and covered that with a piece of left over fleece fabric.  It's nice and comfy now.

It also has a very long cord.  If I plug it in at the kitchen in the Alfa, I can reach everything from the front steps and driver's foot area to the back bedroom.

A big plus is its size.

(For the benefit of my non-RV friends, one feature of our motor home is a storage space under the bed. The mattress is on a platform that lifts up. This space is easily
accessible even when the slides are in and block the closet and some of the bedroom cabinet doors. The black spots on the floor are for the access  for the diesel engine.)

The little vacuum fits quite nicely in one corner "under" the bed. There is nothing else in there for now, but when we full time in the Alfa I will use this space for storage of extra off-season clothes, blankets and an extra pillow or two.

This week, the Oreck came in handy for regular chore in the house: vacuuming the wood ceiling in our living room.  In the past I have had to balance a larger vacuum while on a ten foot step ladder to reach the highest places.  This week I added a couple of sections of pipe from another vacuum to the telescoping tube of the Oreck and was able to reach all but the very highest point.  This year the accumulation of cob webs was more evident than usual because of all the dust from the home improvement projects. I usually do this every Spring and  Fall, or when I notice them. 

Another item I have wanted is a small travel iron. Craig asked why I would want an iron along at all since I stopped ironing his shirts when he retired. The answer is for sewing. I do want to take my sewing machine along since sewing can be a very practical hobby. You need an iron to press open seams etc. I have looked at several and settled on a little Sunbeam. I think it's cute. I haven't tried it yet, but it sure is smaller than my big old standard steam iron.

My third "smaller" item is a travel scale. I have had the same regular size bathroom scale for at least twenty years.  Lately it has been acting erratically and required frequent battery changes. I took it along on our trips, but didn't like the fact that it took up so much space in the cabinet under bathroom sink. So when I had a refund from Amazon for a returned item, I decided to buy a new scale. It is really quite sturdy and not difficult to balance on. The only negative is that when used side by side, it show my weight as about 1 1/2 pounds higher than my old one. It's somewhat like daylight saving time. A measurement number has changed, but reality has not. I have not really gained weight, but for a while I will be mentally subtracting that pound and a half just as I think to myself it's really an hour earlier or later than what the clock says when we first change over.  

I like the way it shows the fractional part instead of just the whole number, and chose the eye-catching red-orange over the conservative boring black.

Storage will be no problem. It is so thin!  It came with two little corners that can be put on the edges so it can stand on its side.

I was going to use them, but when I took it up to the Alfa, I found that without the corners, it easily fit into the lower shelf between the extra rolls of toilet paper, under the bathroom sink.  It will also fit in the space next to the toilet if I want to leave it on the floor. 

Finally, speaking of color, these are some new socks I bought at the outlet stores in Las Vegas --10 for $10.  I have decided that I'm going to save them for RV trips.  Especially in the evenings after my shower when my feet are "happy."

It is so much more fun finding a few special things for the Alfa or for trips, than ordering carpeting or interviewing plumbers for the house.

Have you found any new toys this spring? Or anything that makes you smile?