Santa Maria Home Show

My husband and I attended our local home show today at the fairgrounds in our hometown of Santa Maria, CA.  It has traditionally been held for one weekend annually. However, this might be considered something of a milestone as there hasn’t been one for the past couple of years here due to the tanking residential building industry. I was hoping to find some local services and vendors for the bathroom remodel I’m planning. Enough so that I could compare prices and products. I found only one bath remodeling company that is actually a national chain and I am leery of “systems shops”.

Unfortunately, our town wasn’t quite ready for this show. None of the major local building product vendors like Home Depot represented. Sears was there trying to sell roofing and heating systems. There were a couple of cabinet companies. There were proportionately less vendors that actually had anything to do with home improvement and the show was predominated by the local cable and satellite TV companies, people selling pots, pans and Tupperware, vacation timeshares, cosmetics… oh and some woman trying to hawk $60 jars of hand lotion! The company that puts on the show, Char-Go Productions of Santa Barbara, advertised that there would be more than 100 vendors but my estimate was more like 25 or 30. Of the three convention halls available at the fairgrounds, this show was in the smallest. The largest was empty, and the third building had an event for consignment sales of children’s clothing.  There were so few attendees that vendors were practically grabbing at us as we walked the isles. It felt like we were walking the gauntlet.

We are a town of over 100,000. I’ve gone to shows in much smaller venues that were much larger and well attended, so I’m perplexed at this show’s apparent poor marketing strategy. and wonder why they didn’t cancel it. I felt sorry for the vendors that showed up and invested their time and resources. In years past when I was selling cabinetry, I worked as a vendor at this very same show. I remember even then that vendors complained that it seemed like a waste of time and it was at least twice as large as this one was. I really felt embarrassed for the town and realize the show’s presenters don’t live here and are just in it for the money.  Notably, there were no admission or parking fees, so their “profit” from the show comes entirely from the vendors’ rental of their booths. Looks like they didn’t get much! The Char-Go folks will need to rethink their strategy to convince the local market place that this could be a successful venue for vendors and a worthwhile event to draw potential attendees. Clearly “free” is not going to do it.

I’m considering writing them a letter. I’d like to do more than just ‘rant’ in my blog. I don’t know what, if anything, I could add that would be helpful. I know that residential construction is starting to pick up in my area (a little) but I’m afraid this home show makes our local industry look more like proof that we are still in the grips of a recession rather than edging toward recovery.

Master Bath Remodel

I’ve finally settled on a design for our master bathroom that eliminates the tub completely. We’ve been living without one for six months and have decided we’d rather have the space and a larger shower that will be more accessible as we get older. In fact, was inspired by some recent health issues to make this adjustment. As we are living in a 55+ community, this is not a bad idea for resale purposes. We will continue to use the existing cabinetry to be painted white with new doors, drawer fronts and hardware added. The current counter is a bit low at 30″ (even for my husband and I who aren’t very tall). So we’ll be installing pedestal sinks without the pedestal set into the counter as semi-vessel sinks that will add about 4″ height.  I chose the pebble accent tile not just because I like the look of it, but because I love the way it will feel under foot as a finish for the shower pan. The rest of the tile is just a simple white, inexpensive subway tile that will make the space feel bright and spacious. The flooring is actually a strip vinyl product that looks like wood, that is easy to install, and is water resistant. The fabric for the window valance and the vanity skirt I actually purchased and never used for the same set up (only for the kitchen) in our last house. It actually coordinates very well with the bedding we have in the adjoining master bedroom. The plumbing fixtures and cabinet hardware look like brass but are actually going to be polished nickel.

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Before and After Floor Plan

Before and After Floor Plan

Gadgets

Awhile ago I wrote about a thing called a Garlic Zoom that chops garlic. Now there’s a gadget that peels them for you too.

This morning on The Kitchen (Food Network) was one of my favorite periodic segments where they demonstrate gadgets vs. the old fashioned way (like using a paring knife). Today one of those gadgets was a simple silicon tube that is used to peel garlic. Checking them out on ebay, one can get one for as low as a buck and they come from China. garlic peeler

Now I’ve always done it the old fashioned way with the side of a wide chef’s knife that really is kind of messy, sticky peels stuck to your hands and you come away smelling like a clove of garlic. However, this new garlic peeling method works really slick and the smell is left on the gadget and not on your fingers.

I don’t actually have a garlic peeling tube, but I do have a couple of small silicone objects with which I decided to see if I could get the same results. One was a larger cupcake mold and the other was a silicone jar opening pad that was a give-away from my bank (several years ago). Both of these worked like a charm, though the jar opener worked better and I don’t like the idea that my cupcake mold might forever smell like garlic.cupcake mold

 

With the jar opener pad, I just folded it over like a taco shell and inserted a few garlic cloves inside. Then you roll it just firm enough not to crush the clove. And voile’ the peel comes off like magic sticking to the silicon in small shreds. My jar opener has a textured side that I used against the garlic and it seems to work better than the smooth side. I peeled a whole garlic (with 20 cloves) in less than two minutes. Clean up is a breeze and no more stinky garlic fingers! The jar opener pad can be rinsed under water or even go in the dishwasher if you are worried about garlicky smelling  jar lids. jar opener

I guess the take away from this post is there are lots of ingenious gadgets on the market that are inexpensive and don’t take up a lot of space (like the silicone jar opening pad, the garlic peeler or the garlic zoom). More importantly, you may find things you already have may do the trick nicely.

 

 

I Made This!

Too much time on my hands? Maybe! Got inspiration for this piece from Pinterest:

Sea Shells, Vintage Carnival Glass Vase, Vintage Bead Necklace.

Sea Shells, Vintage Carnival Glass Vase, Vintage Bead Necklace.

 

I started with a vintage carnival glass vase that belonged to my grandfather. I found a tag on the bottom that looks like it was purchased at a garage sale. I have no idea of its age or value –just that it is covered with a relief of mermaids. I’ve been collecting sea shells (mostly bought) for many years. The beaded necklace came from a thrift store and was probably from the ’50′s or earlier. (I liked the way it blended with the colors of the vase.) The base underneath the vase that is covered with shells was an old ceramic pillar candle holder. The shells and coral on top are affixed to yet another taller candle holder. The base pieces —candle holders, larger shells, coral piece and vase— are glued in place with liquid nails and the rest of the shells were affixed with hot glue. The beaded necklace is not glued on –I could still wear it someday! This is a very heavy piece.

BS Health Insurance Boondoggle

This is a continuation regarding yesterday’s post if this one seems odd or unclear.

I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands and not rely on the crazies to resolve my lost payment issue. I do not want my bank to reimburse me (yes they were actually willing to do that!) and have me double-pay the BS (Blue Shield) insurance company. So I’m having the bank fax proof of the payment to them. Hopefully this will resolve it. I don’t care if my measly payment amount is insignificant enough to the insurance company or my bank that they would allow that. I want it done right. Is that too much to ask?

Could not log onto either the bank’s website or the BS insurance company’s. Thought maybe it was my computer. So I restarted it and cleaned out my cache. Still no luck. So when I called BS insurance company, the customer service guy said (and I quote), “Don’t bother. It’s unreliable.” banghead

Yippee– I Have Health Insurance!

That’s the only good thing I can think of that has resulted from the Affordable Care Act. I can actually get insurance. A couple of years ago due to my age and physical condition I was denied any type of health insurance. So one would think I would be jumping for joy because the law states now that I cannot be denied.

However, taking on Covered California’s system to get insurance through the ‘Exchange’ is like working with a robot with short circuit issues. I’m inclined to feel the whole operation is run by severely brain damaged individuals from the asylum we call our state capitol. They have a Facebook page where they answer questions from frustrated citizens trying to get help –or even basic information from Covered California:  https://www.facebook.com/CoveredCA .  Reading the questions and complaints from others who have tried to use the system gives me a headache! One such repeated comment is the long hold times when you try to call –just to discover you may get cut off after an hour or two. CoveredCA’s response… “We get thousands of calls every hour.”  Well why do you suppose that is? Could it be the system is so screwed up and confusing that people are calling for help who shouldn’t have to? If the system was as great as they claim, this would not be happening and actually, CoveredCA shouldn’t even need a Facebook page.

First of all I’d like to talk about the Exchange where one is given to believe there would be choices of insurance companies. Where I live we have the following choices:  Blue Cross or Blue Cross (Blue Shield or Anthem respectively). Some choice. There are four plan options available says CoveredCA: “You can choose to pay a higher monthly premium for a Platinum or Gold plan so that when you need medical coverage you pay less. Or you can choose to pay a lower monthly premium for a Silver or Bronze plan, but when you need medical coverage, you pay more. It’s up to you.” Well is it really up to me?  My income is limited, so like most of the athletes from the US that metaled in the recent Olympics in Sochi, Russia, I should probably settle for Bronze if I could.  However, after comparing plans and knowing that I have to see a physician and have tests rather frequently, it didn’t make sense to have a plan with a ridiculously a high deductible and co-pay amounts, that covered very little, just to say I’d met the letter of the new law that says I have to purchase insurance. So, I chose the ‘recommended’ choice: Silver. Because of my age the monthly premium is a whopping $600+ per month. Because of our household income, we qualify for a subsidy that reduces our monthly payment to a $256 per month or roughly about the same as a car payment would be for moderately priced car. Makes me wonder if anybody in my age and income brackets actually chooses Gold or Platinum… Really why do they even offer such an incredibly expensive option. Oh that’s right —so they can say there are actually options available in the Exchange.  I’d love to see a break down after a year or so to see what people actually chose… Don’t think that’ll happen.

I would like to note that CoveredCA sent me a letter after I enrolled stating I did not qualify for the “enhanced” Silver plan due to our income. First of all, I have no idea what the difference is between the enhanced version of the plan I got other than it is apparently better than what I got and I can’t have it. Gee thanks for the heads up. Does me a world of good to know that!

OK… So my husband (who gets insurance through his employer that is super crappy but free) and I bit the bullet and took on the monthly expense of my insurance because I am the one with the health issues, I’m older… and well it’s the law. We diligently paid the premium monthly since January. Moving smoothly along… until I get a notice in the mail from Blue Cross Blue Shield stating my policy is being cancelled for nonpayment of premium. WTF!  It turns out that I paid the premium through my online bill payment system  through my bank (like I do all my other bills) and BCBS (emphasis on BS) does not like this. What company in the world does not like to get payments directly from a bank?! Anyway, they said they received it on time when it was due but returned it to my bank on the 4th. (That was 20 days ago mind you and the next payment is due in only a few days.) They prefer that I pay my bill using their online system on their website, send a personal check via snail mail or agree to automatic deductions from my bank account (that is going to happen not EVER).

I looked on my bank account statement online and could find no evidence that the funds were returned to me. I verified this with both my bank representative and one from the bill pay system. I called BCBS back –their hold times are at least as long as CoveredCA’s. The representative who I finally talked to after another 45 minutes on hold told me he couldn’t find any evidence that I’d paid. I told him it showed on my statement that I did and the last BCBS rep I talked to verified it and told me it was returned to my bank. He hung up.

So, my bank is going to send me a form to sign that will get me reimbursed for my loss. The catch(es): 1/ it will take two weeks to process, and 2/I will never be able to pay BCBS through the bank again. I asked the bank rep if this meant just the bill pay system or did it also apply to writing a check or using my debit card on their site. He didn’t know. Jeesh…

I feel like every place I’ve turned regarding this new health insurance policy I have has lead me to nothing but incompetent crazies! Very tempting to just let the damned thing get cancelled and pay the tax fine.

Garlic Zoom

800px-GarlicBasketI have to admit I can be a sucker for new gadgets. I have a salad slicer with lots of components sitting in my cabinet that I’ve never used because it just seems so fussy to bother with. Most of the gadgets I see can really be replaced with a single sharp knife. So who needs ‘em?! Right?

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Well, last weekend on the Food Network channel’s new show The Kitchen they reviewed some gadgets and one of them was a little object with blades inside with wheels called a Garlic Zoom. It seemed kinda silly. Then while at Ross a couple of days after viewing the show, there was actually one on the shelf for a little less than $6. I thought why not do my own test to see if I would agree that the best solution for chopping garlic is still a good sharp knife as indicated by the show. So at worse I  would be out the price of a latte and one more piece of junk stuffed in my gadget drawer.

800px-Italian_garlic_PDO

Imagine my surprise when the thing actually worked! You do have to take the skins off of the garlic cloves. And I do that with the side of my chef’s knife cracked against the side of the clove –so I guess I still need a knife for that part. But that’s all –then just stuff the peeled clove in the top of the little door on the gadget. Then you just roll it on the counter and the little chopping knives in it go to work creating a nice mince. 41r3vWHFdLL31kKmlJdNwLEasy Peasy!

You can see in the bottom picture there is a bigger door that opens to get the chopped garlic out and makes it easy to clean. Just rinse it out  but be careful of the little knife gizmo inside that comes out as it is pointy and sharp!

I’d say the co-hosts on The Kitchen missed the mark on this one. It’s easy to use, easy to clean and is tiny so it doesn’t take up a lot of storage space. I would highly recommend it especially for those with difficulty mincing with a knife which happens when people get older (than the co-hosts on The Kitchen). The Garlic Zoom gets a big thumbs up from me!

IMG_0001[1]It worked pretty good on a serrano chile too. I just cut the stem off and cut it into thirds and popped it in. I use the seeds because I like them hot. Pretty much anything bigger wouldn’t work so good because this gadget is tiny and you need to use a fairly firm chile to get it to work.

FYI… they sell for closer to $10 on Amazon plus shipping. I’m not sure I would have bit for that price. I got mine at Ross when they just happened to be stocking the shelves with a new shipment of kitchen stuff.