Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doing the numbers

And they just don't add up.

I'll post when I've got this figured out.

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Monday, August 16, 2010


We’ve all got stuff. Miscellaneous stuff that does not fit in a special category – things such as an emergency radio, pruning clippers, screwdrivers, pliers, vacuum bags, a carpenter’s tape, protective gloves, a backup coffee pot, WD40, wasp spray, a hammer, etc. Every so often you need one of these items in a hurry. The sliding screen door starts sticking, or someone asks you how wide a wall is, or the shower curtain rod slips a screw. You don’t want to go all the way down to the basement, or out to the garage or storage shed. You need a tool right now!

I think many people keep a collection of miscellaneous stuff in the house. We stored our stuff in our pantry on a lower shelf. It was very handy spot, off the dining room and near the kitchen.

Back in April when Robert was sick, we needed a downstairs bathroom. Our son, Davis, hired a plumber and a carpenter, bought fixtures, and had it constructed in a week. (What a blessing.) The perfect place for a powder room was the pantry. That meant we had to clear the shelving out of the room and stash our goods elsewhere. Our living room and kitchen looked very strange for a while with shelving standing here and there. Gradually, some order was restored. But there was no convenient place for the household tools. They just didn’t fit anywhere in the kitchen.

I tried to figure out what to do. I gave over 800 books to the Friends of the Brentwood library. Then I had some empty shelves and stored the stuff in plain sight. I began to look for attractive storage boxes so I could put the stuff in them on the shelves and get it out of sight. This did not turn out to be a pleasing solution.

It is funny how long it takes to come up with a practical idea. I went round and round until I realized I had too many bookcases. I offered an old bookshelf on FreeCycle and received many inquiries and offers to take it off my hands. One person was a no-show, but the next day I contacted the second person on the list. She came right out and loaded it in her SUV.

Now I had space but no closed storage. I finally thought about a cupboard I had upstairs. I was using it to store quilt batting. I figured quilt batting could be squished and condensed and stuffed in the closet in my sewing room.

Let me tell you, those white laminated storage cupboard made of particle board are heavy. I tipped it up on its side and slid it across the floor on a utility towel. Very smooth, until I got to the stairs. It looked like a long way down.

One step at a time. I eased the cupboard down the stairs on the wool runner. It went fine for about four steps and then it swerved, pinning me to the wall. I carefully straightened it out and slid it down two more steps. Another swerve, straighten it out, down a couple of more steps, swerve, straighten, slide, all the way down. Once at the bottom, I made a cardboard slide from a large carton and pulled the cupboard across the living room and into the dining room.

Now all my stuff is hidden away.

I have to get started on my next project. I want to decorate the powder room. It is plain white and very boring.
It is a very small room. I’ve been pondering a weeping willow mural or finding some scenic wallpaper or perhaps a nice cheerful paint color. I’ll need to find a mirror, a towel holder, and some sort of storage for bathroom tissue and soap. If you have any clever ideas, let me know. The floor is beige tile. There is a 2-foot square window high on the wall next to the loo. If you click on the graphic below you can read the room’s inside dimensions. The fixtures are not to scale.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bye-bye blackberries

There were overgrown blackberry bushes along the back of my property early this week. I heard the sounds of a backhoe in the distance and knew it was going to be bye-bye blackberries very soon.

I decided to pick some berries before they disappeared.

This is a little early in the season to pick berries but I was able to grab some. The bushes were so bushy it was hard to reach in for the ripe berries without getting scratched.

A drainage ditch runs along behind the bushes and it has to be cleaned out so the water will keep flowing to the pump station. If the water is not pumped out, the island would flood from the inside. The local levee improvement district – BIMID – does my area every five years. At least it is not nesting season for the birds right now.
My bowl wasn’t too full.
I decided to cook up some refrigerator jam. I just winged it. I added a little sugar (maybe ¼ cup) and heated it up in a pot. I stirred and stirred while it simmered on the burner for almost an hour. It is delicious! It tastes so good on toast. It won’t last long.

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Monday, August 09, 2010


I didn’t have a picture for one succinct post, so I’ll share some miscellaneous photos from last week.
I smile when I see this road sign on my way to and from church in Brentwood. The speed limit on Sellers Avenue is 50 mph, but often we have to slow down to 15 or 20 when we get behind some slow-moving farm equipment. We have to be patient and acknowledge that we live in the country. We can just relax and enjoy the bucolic view of the fields with the magnificent Mt. Diablo in the background.

St. Alban’s church looked very good Sunday with its new roof, shining new white and blue paint, and its red door.

I learned that many Episcopal churches have red doors. You can see pictures of several churches with red doors at this link.

St. Alban’s church bulletin noted yesterday: "The red door tradition originated during the Middle Ages in England when it was a sign of sanctuary. In those days, if one who was being pursued by the local populace, shire reeve (sheriff) or gentry could reach the church door he/she would be safe. Nobody would dare to do violence on hallowed ground and, in any case, the Church was not subject to civil law. The red door was fair warning to pursuers that they could proceed no further. One who claimed sanctuary in this way would then be able to present his/her case before the priest and ask that justice be served.The red signified the blood of Jesus Christ who came to save all who took refuge in him. People who passed through the red doors were safe."

There was a town hall meeting on Tuesday held by the local levee district (Bethel Island Municipal Improvement District). It was a special meeting about a parcel tax. You might expect negative reactions from the citizens, but it did not happen. The district is putting a measure on the November ballot for a 10-year $250 per parcel tax. The presentation was thorough and well documented. The levee needs to be raised to protect all island properties and there is a dire need for rip rap. The district’s revenue has gone down by 25-percent due to the decrease in property tax, and the state has cut funding in half. I was impressed to learn that the district staff had voluntarily cut back their wages to help lower expenses.

I baked my first loaf of bread this week. It was so good. I was hesitant to try because it was always Robert’s bailiwick. I was sure I would do something wrong and be disappointed. I’ve been buying “artisan bread” at the grocery stores. It has been good, but the loaves dry out quickly. Now I don’t have to worry about that – I can bake my own. It did not take very long using Robert’s recipe. There is nothing quite like the aroma of fresh baked bread.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Late night treat

I just finished a bowl of ice cream with hot chocolate sauce.

It is very simple to make and takes only a few minutes. Pour some semi-sweet chocolate chips into a Pyrex measuring cup. You can fill the cup halfway – more or less – it does not matter.

Then, pour in enough whipping cream (or half and half) to almost reach the top of the chips. Put the measuring cup in a microwave and turn it on for 20 seconds.

Take it out and stir the mixture slowly. It won’t look quite right. It will still have some lumps.

Put the cup back in the microwave and give it another 20 seconds. Take it out and stir it slowly until it is smooth. Pour and spoon it over some ice cream. Enjoy.

Put some plastic wrap over the top of the measuring cup, refrigerate it and save the rest for tomorrow night. You can heat it up again and it will be just as good. This is so much easier than buying a big can of chocolate syrup because you can make just the amount you want.

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