Sunday, September 15, 2019

Let my fingers do the shopping

Do you still remember the jingle for the Yellow Pages ad from the 60's? (Let your fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages. Read the ads. Learn the facts. Find it fast.) Well, of course you don't. You were far too young!! But, as soon as I thought about writing this post the jingle came to mind - and doesn't seem to want to leave!

Last evening I was at my son's house and he was talking about doing his weekly grocery shopping... online. He, and many like him have changed the way business is conducted. He has used an online grocery delivery service for years and only visits a brick and mortar store when he needs a special item at the last minute, or runs out of a staple. Sunday morning the family sits down to talk about the coming week and their grocery needs. He submits the order and a few hours later his food is on the doorstep. It made me think...

I don't particularly care to go grocery shopping. In California the traffic is horrendous. In Florida the grocery stores are limited in what they carry or are further away than I care to drive...  and ditto the traffic. So, thought I, why not give online shopping a try?!

The first service I found that delivers in my area was Instacart. Instacart employs shoppers who go to one or more stores in the area to shop for online clients. In CA I can select from about 4 grocery stores, SAM's, Costco and even Petco, to name a few. (This post is strictly an overview of my experiences. It is not necessarily an endorsement and I have received nothing from any entity to post this information.) The service has both a web-based interface and an app for a smartphone or iPad. I began playing around online, then downloaded the app. I haven't figured out how to make them sync, so my order didn't show on my phone. Maybe now that I have signed up for both interfaces they'll play well together on my next order.

I think I might like online shopping! I found ordering to be really easy. I could search for items, pick which I wanted and add them to my cart in whatever quantity I desired. There were a few items that didn't come up in my search. For example, I wanted a bag of Candy Corn. I knew the store had Halloween candy. I could even "see" the aisle in my mind where it was located. But, searching brought up no seasonal candy. However, at the bottom of the page there is a link for "Add a special request". I typed in Brach's Candy Corn, and was given the option to add a picture. Clicking on that , brought up dozens of images from the Internet. I could pick the brand I wanted, and the picture was added to my request. On every item I ordered I also had the opportunity to leave notes for the shopper. So, for "Corn on the cob" I indicated I only wanted the corn if it was really fresh, and if the stem wasn't dried out at all.

The prices from the store I was ordering from seemed to be almost the same as the prices I would pay were I in the store. I did look at a few items at a competitor's store, and the prices seemed rather high.  I noticed that the price for a Costco rotisserie chicken was $6.09 online, where it is $4.99 at the store. However, it is my understanding that you don't have to be a member of Costco to order from them through Instacart, so they must tack on a bit to make up that difference. Sale items were also included, and some of the prices I paid were actually less than the prices shown online.

I liked how this manner of shopping made me think about what I might prepare over the next few days. No more scrounging around in the fridge at 5:30 6:30, trying to cobble something together for dinner! Since the price for delivery changes is based on the total of your order, I also wanted to get over the $35 minimum for the $5.99 delivery fee - seriously... how hard was that?! (In reality, I didn't pay a delivery fee as I opted to try out Instacart Express for free for two weeks. The express program has an annual fee of about $150 which offers free delivery on orders over $35 for a year.) I am a bit picky about my vegetables and fruit, as well as meat. This time I didn't order any meat as we had stocked up on it last week. However, I do understand others' reluctance in having a total stranger pick out things I pick out by touch, sniff or by careful visual scrutiny. The corn was rejected by the shopper. She sent me this message: ".... your Instacart Shopper: Hello! The ends of the corn are very dry so I marked them as “couldn’t find”. Later, I realized I had forgotten to add eggs, so I texted her and she added them to the list for me.

I was given several options for delivery times. I opted for the first two-hour window and within that time frame my shopper arrived at my doorstep, scanned my ID since I ordered wine (yes! you can even get that if the store offers it!), delivered my groceries, and was on her way. I carried several bags into the house, put the groceries away and went on with my activities. It was a pleasant shopping experience in many respects! No traffic hassles, parking hassles or trudging up and down aisles. I didn't have to schlep bags from cart to truck and from truck to house. Once I had made my list and sent it on its way, I was free to tackle other pursuits... well, so vacuuming wasn't necessarily enjoyable, but I did get it out of the way!

Here is a summary of the expenses for my shopping "trip". All of the fees were computed by Instacart. It is my understanding that one can change and/or eliminate the service fee. The tip can also be changed. I gave my shopper a cash tip, in addition to this paltry sum computed by Instacart.

All in all, even if I paid an additional $5.99 for delivery, this seems well worth the savings in time and hassles. Oh, and I would hazard a guess, that were I shopping at the store I would slip additional items into the cart whose total would far surpass the fees I paid for being removed from that temptation!

If you are thinking of trying Instacart I can get you a $10 coupon (for a limited number of folks). Just saying!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Can't leave well enough alone...

Or maybe I should have titled this post:

image from
In April I blogged about the new, new house. I mentioned that there were a few things we didn't like about the new, new house. One of those was that in preparing the house for sale, the previous owner had all of the walls painted a "neutral" color. I actually like yellow, but enough is enough! I also thought that the powder room was really boring. It was boring in yellow, it would have been boring in beige (as it looks in the picture below) as well! So, I decided to do something about it. I'm not sure I picked the right path... but (see quote above!)

Although it looks beige... it is yellow. Trust me!
Nothing Done!
Mark placement with tape - Done!

Cut and install wood pieces - Done!

Paint upper wall and prime wood - Done!
Sand wood - Done!
Paint wood and space between - Done!
Sand wood - Done!
Repaint wood - Done!
Sand wood - Done!
Seriously... another coat on the wood?!

Install tile - Done!
Why, oh why, couldn't I have been satisfied with a simple coat of paint?!

Grout tile - Done!
Install towel holder - Done!
Order and install mirror - Done!
Replace light fixture - Done!

 Now I'm finished, right?

See title...

Get a new trash can - Done!
Get a toilet paper holder - Done!
Get a cutesy towel tray & paper hand towels for the back of the toilet - Done!

Now I'm finished, right?

See title....

Stop by a salvage shop and find a window shutter with character. Scrub it. Brush off flaking paint. Install it on the wall. 

Now... I am truly done*!



I think it is perfect!

* Forgive me, Sybil!
For years I worked with an amazing English teacher. She taught the 6th graders (and her colleagues) that potatoes are "done" and projects/papers/works of art/etc. are "finished". I do know the difference, but kept the improper usage in the spirit of the beginning quotation.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tabled Again!

When we moved to California we knew that we wanted to get a "real" dining room table. Well, actually what we wanted was a table to eat at in the "great room" (that isn't all that great) but something that would seat more than four people comfortably, or six people awkwardly.

We had moved the antique family chairs I painted and the table I embellished to California, but it wasn't really large enough. And, it wasn't the look I wanted in this house, in this room.

So, then we began our quest. We/ I looked online. It is tough to imagine what tables really look like when you see pictures online. We visited "discount" furniture shops. Nothing looked/felt appropriate. We stopped by a Danish furniture resale shop. We loved a few of the tables and sets of chairs, fine modern furniture from the 60's, and priced as such... and not really my style. Finally we stopped at Fenton MacLeron a furniture shop in Berkeley. I can't tell you how many times I drove by this shop. I thought it specialized in "Mission" style oak furniture. How surprising that they have so many other options!

The final choice
The shop has so many different tables that we spent hours walking back and forth and vacillating between different tables and different chairs. We left one day, putting a hold on the round table. We came back the next, and decided we wanted the rectangular table. Oh, but wait, here's another rectangular table with prettier legs. Here's one with a pedestal. And so it went.

We did the same thing with chairs. I felt like we were reliving Goldilocks. This chair is too tall. This chair is too straight. This chair doesn't feel good on my back. On and on... back and forth, and back again!

After a lot of deliberation we finally selected a table and chairs that we both liked! Ta-daaa! New table! New chairs!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Fennel and the Fence

This area of California has wild fennel. I love walking by clumps that grow along the trails. The sweet scent permeates the air. But beyond that, the plant is a pest. It is an invasive species, originally from the Mediterranean area, and readily takes over areas where soil has been disturbed. It is difficult to eradicate.

The yard of our new home had been neglected, and fennel was growing wherever seeds could find purchase in the dirt. Even in the middle of the flagstones. It has a long trap root, so pulling it out is not an option. (It appears to have a different root structure than the fennel bulbs we purchase to season yummy dishes.)

Fennel growing between flagstones in our back yard.
In addition to the yard being neglected, the fence between our yard and the neighbor below us was also in neglect. Several boards had pulled loose, leaving cockeyed peep holes. 

Peep holes through which we could see some of the aggravating fennel growing on the other side of the fence. 
A clump of fennel on the other side of the fence. 
 Fennel that is basically inaccessible from below... unless you have a very tall ladder!

Looking through the fence down into the neighbors yard.
So, taking advantage of one of the holes, I managed to cut down three large clumps of fennel. And, we repaired the leaning boards along the expanse of the fence.

Alas, the fennel will grow back again. But, the fence looks great better now. They say good fences make good neighbors... we'll see!

Thursday, August 22, 2019

WEP - The Red Wheelbarrow - August 2019 Challenge

There's a first time for everything, right? So this is my first attempt at WEP: Write, Edit, Publish. When I visited the site to find out more about WEP, the image smacked me in the face, bringing lots of emotional stuff to the front of my brain. I had to relieve the pressure by writing!

So, how did I get to WEP? I actually took some time to read recent blog posts from friends this afternoon, and as sometimes happens, I began leap-frogging from one blog to another on some sort of crazy link trail. That's how I stumbled, and became ensnared in, the WEP challenge!

WEP Blog

There it sat, forgotten and forlorn.
Flecks of red paint were all that shown
That once it was new, shiny and bright,
With handles of ash that were almost white.
The bed of the wagon canted to one side;
The leg brace was bent from too much pressure applied
When Larken mounded a pile that weighed far too much.
He’d hauled on the handles, with a guttural grunt,
The handles had bowed, the brace gave way
And Larken, swearing loudly, called it a day.

His daughter wandered from house to yard 
As memories assaulted her brain: sluggish and scarred.
She watched total strangers pick up objects to inspect,
Knowing they didn’t necessarily mean disrespect.
They couldn't know the stories or the memories each held
And she ached to shout out to them, she wanted to yell
That each one of these objects had been caressed by warn hands
Of Larken: a farmer, a grandpa, a scholar. Her dad. 
Her heart clenched, her throat closed, not a sound could she make.
She could only watch as the strangers would take
Another piece of Dad’s life to the cashier of the sale,
Tears welled in her eyes, she struggled to exhale.

A mere girl pulled her man toward the barn by his hand
And pointed to the wheel barrow; He must understand!
This is just what I need for our little place.
It can be my garden with a coat of red of paint.
You can straighten the leg and I’ll add some dirt,
And plant zinnias and mums and purple larkspur.
The daughter smiled. Dad's wheelbarrow, no longer old and worn,
Would get a new life as it was reborn.

I value your comments.

278 carefully chosen words! So hard to pick just the perfect one!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


One summer, quite a few years ago, I worked at a Girl Scout camp in Rhode Island. I was the director of the horseback riding program at this small camp. (Some day perhaps I should chronicle my experiences there!) In addition to horseback riding we had other activities, including the requisite campfires. I am reminded daily of one of the songs we used to sing around the campfire as I putter around the house, or walk the dogs in the nearby park. I am always enthralled/ amazed/ curious/ entertained/ intrigued by the boats that go in and out of the channel in front of our home, or sail on the other side of the breakwater. And, as the boats float by, the song "Barges" always comes to mind.

We get to watch sailboat races, with boats of all sizes.
Here is the ferry entering the channel.
The ferry began service in January. The terminal is only 3 miles from our house!
A car carrier at the dock, unloading hundreds of new automobiles.
The dredge has been working the channel for weeks. It is highly entertaining!
And, another view of the dredge , on a sunnier day (with fog beyond it)
and an ocean going oil tanker (?) heading into the port at Richmond, just two miles beyond "our" channel.
All manner of sailboats go in and out. We see tiny 8-10 foot boats in races,
and larger boats with their colorful spinnakers.
A tug and either the harbor captain heading out, or a Coast Guard boat.
Tiny tug.
This colorful tug used to be moored by the park near our house.
The car carriers are huge!
There are at least three carriers that come in and out.

I think this carries cargo in its hold!
Our windows provide a never-ending tableau of ships of all sizes, day and night!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Some Like it Hot

Or... We Are in Hot Water Now!

So, we sorta moved into our new home, just down the street from our previous home, in December. I think we spent about 5 days in the new home before returning to Florida. I flew back for a week in February, and then again in June/July. One thing we noticed was just how long it would take for hot water to actually reach the faucet in the kitchen, or the shower in the Master Bath. We'd set the shower,  then go get undressed, and grab a towel, and look for special shampoo. We'd test the water... still not hot. So we'd go find the shower scrubby, and the special shower cleaner, then test the water... still not hot. So we'd go back to the closet to get the bath robe, and brush our teeth... and finally, we'd stick a toe in the water and it was warm! Hallelujah!

OK, so we chalked it up to this being what it was... until we looked at the water heater in the garage. It had an extra piece on it. Upon inspection we learned that it was a water circulation pump (Oh, how I love the Internet!). It was set to circulate the hot water through the pipes in the morning and in the evening. However... that was not happening!

Our Realtor was kind enough to give us a home warranty. There is a $75 per repair charge. We didn't expect much, but called the number.  Shortly after we received a phone call; the repair guy was on his way. He arrived shortly thereafter. He quickly assessed the problem, cleaned the impellers on the recirculating pump, and we found ourselves in hot water in less than an hour!!

Now, when it is time to wash dishes, or take a shower, or wash our hands.... we have instant hot water. It makes us both smile!

(OK... so this may not be such a huge deal where you live, but water is at a premium in Northern California.  Every drop that is lost going down the drain makes me cringe. Now... no cringing as I wait!)

P.S. Three days later the pump failed. Picture a sad face. No more instant hot water. Back to waiting. However, the good news is that the service is guaranteed. So, we'll see Mr. Repair Guy when he returns for a visit!

Let my fingers do the shopping

Do you still remember the jingle for the Yellow Pages ad from the 60's? (Let your fingers do the walking in the Yellow Pages. Read the a...