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PostHeaderIcon Many Uses for the Humble Clothespin

As summer winds down, we repost a story that came to you last year about something just about everyone needs. Enjoy:


What has been a household staple for generations, the mundane, yet multi-purpose ordinary clothespin has evolved from an object of long lasting, economical simplicity to many forms and hybrids.

The first of its kind, straight wooden forms made in England were identified as pegs.  The craft was associated with gypsies using small split lengths of willow or ash wood.  Then in 1853 the spring type clothespin was invented by David Smith of Springfield, VA.

Today, a wide variety of clothespins are available for use other than hanging sheets out to blow in the breeze.  Take your choice, wood, plastic, rubber covered wire, in a variety colors or plain wood.

A bit of Americana in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA, there stands a skyscraper tall, colossal sculpture of a common clothespin.  In a Middlesex, VT, cemetery, a 5-foot-tall grave marker is mounted respectfully erect in the design of a clothespin.
In 1998, The Smithsonian Institute hosted an exhibition titled “American Clothespin.”  The curator of the exhibit witnessed a young lad turn to his father and asks “What is a clothespin?”

Albeit clothespins as such have a long and practical history, however, with the advent of the automatic electric revolution in the art and style of laundry practice, the humble adjunct to getting a grip on shirttails and socks has virtually been aced out for that purpose.  Some community home owners’ associations have even banned using clotheslines in the neighborhood and every manufacturer of wooden clothespins has closed its doors.

Nonetheless, the many assets and uses of the clothespin speaks well for its diversity, a closure for the potato chip bag is just the beginning.  Many craft projects, from creating dragonflies to sling shots or even building a mousetrap, incorporate the use of clothespins.  Playing cards attached to the spokes of bike wheels to simulate a motor sound couldn’t be done without clothespins.

Around the house, holding a nail in place with a clothespin while swinging the hammer will prevent damaged fingers.  Unable to stop a nosebleed, a clothespin will do, in a pinch.  As for organizing discount coupons, take-out menus and other assorted paper keepsakes in the miscellaneous (junk) drawer, you can count on the capable clothespin to keep rank and order in the file.

Using a marking pin to label, the wooden whiz can easily identify each electrical cord in the maze under a desk or behind the TV/entertainment center.  The clothespin serves at casual parties for place card holders or clip-on name tags.  In the kitchen or in the library, the ever-clever clothespin makes a perfect paper clip, keeping the page open while reading or checking a recipe in the cookbook. 

Pairing items together, such as mittens, socks and slippers, makes for ready access, as well as clipping elements of a child’s outfit with clothespins works for more successful self-dressing.  Pins of various colors can serve to label each family member’s lunch bag in the fridge or like-kind backpacks on the hook. 

On the road, a clothespin clipped to the visor is a convenient way to hold outgoing mail, a parking pass or a memo.  You can be creative with color or inventive decorations on a clothespin attached to your antenna for easy locating in the parking lot.

Then there’s the almighty strength of a magnet glued to the wooden wonder.  Ideas are countless, but on the fridge the can-do clothespin is reliable in holding on to kids’ collectable art work, shopping lists and important reminders.  In the laundry room, why not secure one on the side of the washer to hold a single sock awaiting its match that seems to elude its mate.

According the American Heritage web page, “Low tech and old fashioned though it may be, the clothespin continues to capture the imagination and attention of hopeful inventors.”  A grand total of 146 new patents for this marvel laundry mate were granted in the mid 19th century alone and 9 more in the U.S. since 1981.  Recent innovations of the catchy clothespin have been named The Teardrop, The Zebra, Hurricane Grip and even a Weather-Predicting incarnation.

As styles change in the fashion industry, so also is there dimension for the genesis of the perfect (clothes) pen. 


Karen R. Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and San Ramon resident. She writes regularly for www.allnewsnoblues.com and can be reached through tellusyournews@gmail.com


PostHeaderIcon Obscure Words of the London 2012 Games

In the spirit of public service, the editors of the Global Language Monitor have selected a number of the more obscure words and phrases (and related factoids)  related to the London 2012 Summer Olympics for your enjoyment.

Citius, Altius, Fortius (Olympic History) -- The Olympic Motto is actually Latin (and not Greek) for faster, higher, stronger 
Dead Rubber (Tennis) -- A match in a series where the outcome has already been decided by previous matches
Eggbeater (water polo) --  Kicking one's feet quickly in a back-and-forth motion keep the body above water
Fletching (Archery) -- Traditionally, feathers from the left wing of a turkey, goose, or raptor used to stabilize an arrow; now replaced with synthetics
Flu-Flu Arrow (Archery) -- An arrow with extra 'fletching' to slow its flight
High Drag Projectile (Badminton) -- The birdie or shuttlecock
Impulsion (Equestrian) --  The thrust, impelling, or pushing power of a horse
Kotinos (Olympic History) -- Olive branches fixed in crowns of victory in the classical Greek Olympics
Marathon (Olympic History -- The word marathon is derived from the Greek for fennel, the spice which apparently grew in abundance on the plains
Nutmeg or Nuttie (Football) -- Kicking the football between the legs of an opponent
Pankration -- A sport contested beginning in the 7th century before common era that combined wrestling and boxing (similar to today's mixed martial arts)
Pheidippidean Pheat (Olympic History) -- Forget the Phelpsian Pheat of the Beijing Games, according to legend Pheidippides ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens pronounced, Victory and then promptly died. The actual distance was about 24 miles or  38.6 km
Repechage -- First round losers are provided another opportunity to advance in a competition
The Snatch Deadlift (Weightlifting)-- Lifting the barbell in a single movement, as opposed to the Clean and Jerk
Victor Ludorum (Olympic History) --  The Champion of the Games, in Latin of course

Founded in Silicon Valley, Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor collectively documents, analyzes and tracks trends worldwide, with a particular emphasis upon the English language.  For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or click on www.LanguageMonitor.com-- KB





PostHeaderIcon One Ton Pumpkin Growing Contest is On

Organizers of Half Moon Bay’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off have announced they are offering $25,000 in total prize money for the first 1-ton pumpkin, which would be a world record.  

There’s a realistic chance it could happen this year according to Tim Beeman, CEO of Miramar Events.  However, Thomas Andres, a squash expert at the New York Botanical Garden, has predicted that the first 2,000-pound pumpkin won't be grown until 2014.  Still, the prize money is believed to be the greatest of any weigh-off in the world, organizers said.

The $25,000 breaks down as follows:  The winner receives $6 per pound plus a $10,000 bonus mega prize for a new world record, plus the difference to get to $25,000.  A 2,000-pound pumpkin would net $12,000 (2,000 pounds x $6 per pound), plus $10,000 for a new world record, plus an additional $3,000 difference to get to the $25,000 threshold.

To receive the $25,000 mega-prize, the grower must break and hold the world record and 1-ton record at the conclusion of the Half Moon Bay weigh-off.  If two or more growers happen to break the world record and 1-ton barrier at Half Moon Bay, the prize money would go to the grower of the heaviest pumpkin.  The current world record is 1,818.5 pounds, grown by Jim and Kelsey Bryson.  The Bryson’s new record was set at the Prince Edward County Pumpkin fest in Wellington, Ontario Canada in October 2011.

Defending champion of the Half Moon Bay Weigh-off is Leonardo Urena of Napa.  His pumpkin last year weighed in at 1,704 pounds and set a new California state record.  The Half Moon Bay win also secured Urena “Grower of the Year” honors from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.

The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival began in 1971 with an all volunteer non profit group determined to raise funds to improve Main Street in downtown Half Moon Bay.   In the forty-one years since it’s its inception, it has grown into a tremendous event featuring rustic pumpkin patches, arts and crafts, home-style food, entertainment, a haunted house, pumpkin carvers, pumpkin parade and more.  There is no charge for entry to the event.  For more information on the history and current activities, you can visit www.miramarevents.com.

If you are interested in growing a pumpkin for entry next year (the seeds are already in the ground for this year), you may be interested in learning the basics of growing a large pumpkin, and the dedication and care the growers give their prized possession during the growing season.

Giant pumpkin growers, such as the unidentified man above left, consider their hobby a true sport.  They devote a tremendous amount of time and money to grow their pumpkins.  Some growers cover their pumpkins with tents or sheets to prevent them from splitting in the hot sun.  They may spend as much as $50 on a single pumpkin seed.  A giant pumpkin can demand 27,000 gallons of water per month.  Some growers experiment with natural growth hormones that contain super nutrients.  There is even a store that sells everything you need to grow a giant pumpkin. 

Visit their website at www.extremepumpkinstore.com  The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth has an interesting website with pictures of some of the past pumpkin winners.  Go to www.greatpumpkincommonwealth.com

As a gardener myself, I was interested in the steps for growing pumpkins, big and small.  Some of the giant growers feed pumpkins a compost of water mixed with worm castings, molasses and liquid kelp.  A basic pumpkin growing guideline from Don Langevin, author of the book “How to Grow World Class Giant Pumpkins” is summarized below.

1. Choose a sunny location for your pumpkins
2. Buy quality seeds
3. Prepare your soil – Do a PH test.  It should be between 5.5 and 7.5
4. Use antibiotic-free manure and compost to amend your soil
5. Plant a cover crop in the fall and turn over in Spring
6. You can start your seeds inside and transfer to the garden in spring.
7. Pollinate the flowers.  The female flowers are easy to identify.  They have a small pumpkin at the base.  You can hand pollinate by finding the opened male flower, remove the petals and expose the stamen and pollen.  Locate the newly opened female flower and swab the internal parts of the female flower with the stamen.
8. Prune each main vine. Train shoots so they are perpendicular to the main vine to accommodate access to the pumpkins.
9. Fertilize.
10. Measure the pumpkins weekly.  Gains in circumference can average four to six inches in a 24-hour period.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival in the past, consider it in your October agenda.  The weigh-off will take place on October 8th from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on the I.D.E.S. Grounds, 735 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, Ca.  The champion pumpkin, along with the top five pumpkins overall, will be on display at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival on October 13-14 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m..

For more information on the weigh-off and festival, call 650-726-9652.

Jody McPheeters is a published author, freelance writer, and a gardening coach with a passion for sustainability and a love for nature and animals. Reach her through her website at www.yourgardeningcoach.com.


PostHeaderIcon Alameda County Fair Turns 100

Debuting on Wednesday, June 20, and running through Sunday, July 8, the Alameda County Fair is in full swing at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds.  Sense the spirit, feel the fun and enjoy the entertainment.  There’s something for those of all ages, and a milestone event it is---this year marks the fair’s 100th anniversary, with a Centennial Celebration to top them all.

The first Alameda County Fair commenced on October 23, 1912, running just 5 days.  As years passed, local leaders sought to establish a more modern fair, and following the San Francisco Exhibition, in 1939 the Alameda County Fair Association was born. Once considered an event where horse-racing was the highlight, the Alameda County Fair is now the proud host of livestock and agriculture, thrilling carnival rides, homemaking exhibits of quilts and artwork, baked goods and culinary contests. Fast-paced horse-racing still prevails, as well as the ubiquitous corn dog and cotton candy concessions.

This year’s Centennial Celebration wouldn’t be complete without the return of the downtown Pleasanton Parade.  A brand new concert format and a variety of distinctive memorabilia chronicling its 100-year history are on display.  The hometown spirit and synchronized sounds of a marching band, playing in the mood music, will be traversing the parade route on Main Street at 9:30 am on June 23 and again on July 7. 

In commemoration of the 100 Year anniversary, admission on Tuesdays is $2.00,  seniors are admitted free on Thursdays and there is no fee for kids on Fridays. The fair is closed on Mondays. Fireworks are featured every Friday at 9:30 pm. 

Friday, June 22 is Stuff The Bus Day where donating a new clothing item gets you in for just $5.00. On Wednesday, June 27,it's  Feed The Need Day, the fair’s food drive, benefitting the Alameda County Community Food Bank.  Bring four non-perishable food items and treat yourself to a feel-good day with free fair admission, and rides for $1.00 each.

The schedule of entertainment changes daily, presenting such names as Tower of Power, Rick Springfield, America and The Temptations.  One free concert nightly at 7:00 pm allows for overflow seating on the amphitheater lawn.

Special days and events at the horse races include:

A $10,000 Putting Contest, daily
Racing Seminars, daily at 11:45 am
T-shirt Giveaway, June 21

Opening Weekend Hat Contest, June 24

Binocular Giveaway, June 29
Acrylic Cup Giveaway, July 6
$1.00 Beers each Thursday before second race

Might you be interested in VIP seating overlooking the racetrack, close and in style?  Then the Trackside Terrace is for you!  Featuring a full, themed buffet daily, reserved seating, private wagering booths and No Host Bar, reservations in advance, including the fair admission, are $35.00/person.  The on-site price is $30.00 plus the fair admission fee.  Call (925) 872-6810.

Check out Festival Square, a destination within a destination, where each weekend’s theme highlights a beautiful culture from a region nearby or a distant land.  All aspects of that which fills us with pride will be featured:  community groups, professional and amateur artists, authentic local dishes, food contests, live musical acts and traditional cultural games.

In keeping with the historical significance of the 100 year anniversary, an opportunity is being offered to "Purchase a Piece of the Fair."  A custom inscribed personalized brick, which will be permanently displayed at the Alameda County Historical Monument at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds, is available to individuals and families at a cost of $180.00.  The charge for organizations or corporations is $330.00 for each brick.  Call (925) 426-7600.

Taking part in any of the variety of Blue Ribbon Contests is open for entries from Beef-eaters to Bakers, to Candlestick makers, with a grand finale BBQ Ribs and Chicken Cook-off on July 7.  Amble on by and peruse the choices of cheesecake, floral arrangements and jewelry designs.
On Face book, 100 Days of Giveaways is still in progress until June 19th, comprising prizes of a season pass of A’s Tickets, free tickets to the fair, a night’s stay at the Hilton and more.  Sign up daily and enter often to be eligible for a once daily giveaway of fun and exciting prizes.  

Admission tickets may be purchased at the gate or at a discount online.                                                                         
For further information on fair highlights or to watch a video for a look into the past, go to www.alamedacountyfair.com or call (925) 426-7600.

Karen Balch is a freelance writer, retired nurse, world traveler and has attended the fair many times over the last four decades. Reach her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .




PostHeaderIcon Novelist James Rahn at the Purrfumery

Mark your calendar and save the date for a visit to Velvet & Sweet Pea’s Purrfumery to meet Philadelphia novelist James Rahn in the lush El Cerrito garden of Laurie Stern.

Rahn's new book, "Bloodnight" has recently hit the streets and the novelist will spend an afternoon at the Purrfumery, where he’ll read a few pages from his gritty past.

The June 30 event runs from 1-4 p.m with the reading at 2:15 p.m. Copies of "Bloodnight" will be available to purchase and the Purrfumery will also be open for business. Light refreshments will be served. The Purrfumery is at 727 Sea View Dr. in El Cerrito.

Overlooking the Golden Gate, the perfumer's garden features pink jasmine, spearmint, peppermint, lavender, honeysuckle, gardenia and many other aromatic plants that Stern uses to craft a unique line of perfumes, body frostings, floral waters, and  bath salts. She also uses beeswax from her own bees in her products.

But on the afternoon of June 30, it will be the place to listen to the street-wise story of growing up in a fictionalized Atlantic City circa 1970.

"Bloodnight" transports readers to a Jersey shore resort town that was a violent and volatile place. By 1970, tourists who once loved the town were traveling to newer, trendier places. As tourist dollars dwindled, the locals lost their jobs. They unleashed their frustration on their kids. Kids, in turn, punished each other. Growing up meant hustling, and learning to be tough.

"Bloodnight" is Rahn's first book. His stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications and he has taught fiction at the University of Pennsylvania for 15 years. He and Stern are old friends, she said.

In addition to writing his novel, Rahn also leads the Rittenhouse Writers’ Group in Philadelphia--a series of acclaimed fiction workshops. He founded the group in 1988. Since then more than 1,200 people have participated.  It's considered one of the longest-running independent fiction workshops in the nation. Many members have gone on to publish short stories, novels, and nonfiction books, and have received fellowships from places like the Pew Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, among other organizations

To learn more about Bloodnight and Rittenhouse Writers’ Group go to "http://rittenhousewritersgroup.com/" --GG  


PostHeaderIcon Rejuvenate Your Bathroom - June Designers Log


Recently, clients have started kitchen or bath renovations. They get this glazed, lost look on their faces when asked what they want. But, "more space" "the lighting is bad" and "it's so dated" I hear over and over. For many these are the most personal, yet frustrating areas to work with. I started my business back in the late 80s as a kitchen and bathroom designer and have renovated and restored over 25 homes, so I know these rooms can be real problem areas.

Bathrooms seemed the perfect subject for this months Designers Log. We are caught between needing functionality and beauty and often end up doing the same tired look over and over. I always push my clients to think outside the box and be open to something different, but when it comes to kitchens and baths, most of us tend to be safe as they are not rooms we renovate more than once in a home.

Baths are, for me, the ultimate challenge. Unlike kitchens, which tend to be a gathering place, bathrooms are our private space and ought to be both intimate and comfortable. A full bathroom renovation can cost thousands, but there are things you can do for a quick pick-me-up. Try these 5 easy ideas to update and transform a boring bath.

Pull on it - Changing hardware is something anyone can do. Grab a screwdriver and take off the existing knobs and pulls. Replace them with updated finishes and styles. Knobs are the most functional for wet hands. For a modern, minimal atmosphere, use brushed nickel. For kids baths or for a funky look try different shapes and colors, mixing it up. While you are at it, remove all the traditional towel bars. Install hooks and stack or roll towels in a basket or open shelf. You'd be surprised how the space opens up without the standard, run of the mill towel bar.

Be ready for your close up - One of the most important features of any bathroom is the effective use of lighting. Whether you are shaving, putting on make up or just like a bright room, use a mix of different light sources. The single light bar above the mirror is not enough. And never use the so called "make up" bulbs that are usually the standard fixture. They leave shadows or hot spots and are unflattering. Try a combination of small recessed lights spaced 30" apart over the vanity. Add sconces left and right and you will have good illumination that covers your whole face. Make sure you have light in the shower and in the water closet. Surprisingly, these can be the darkest areas of a bathroom, and are not only needed, but add drama to your lighting scheme.

Small space, big look - Bathrooms can be tricky because there is rarely much continuous, uninterrupted space. Mirrors, shower doors, tub and tile surround can all make the room seem cut up. A good solution to this is to use big tiles, 18" or more if possible. Keep grout lines to a minimum and match your grout to your tile for a more cohesive look. Laying tile subway style elongates a room while big squares are currently a trendy look. Be careful with mixing patterns. If you like granite counter tops, use a simpler floor tile. I've never been a fan of the vessel sink, the ones that sit on top of the vanity. They add another dimension that is just not needed. Use simple, wide white porcelain under mount sinks instead. And always use frameless shower doors. Another easy and effective change, it will modernize your room like nothing else.

Make it personal - One of the most asked questions in bath renovations is what color to paint. No one likes gawdy colors first thing in the morning but it depends on the space. I would recommend that the master bath be a soothing color, like ochre,cream or anything organic in base. In this case, you want to feel that you are in a spa or Zen retreat. But in a powder room or guest bath? Go crazy! Use color blocking or stripes. Make your wow statement with green or blue. Show your sophistication with eggplant or gloss black. One of my favorite powder rooms had vertical stripes in black, brown and purple, a white pedestal sink and a black and gold Federal style framed mirror. Just this little change took a tract home half bath from blah to stunning.

Stow the stuff - The most fun bathrooms are the ones with unexpected and inspired storage. As mentioned above, find new ways to store guest towels. Cut out niches in the walls for candles and soaps. You can break up that boring double sink area by installing a floor to ceiling cabinet in the middle of the vanity. It can be shared and gives a nice feeling of privacy for each sink. Clutter can be the enemy, but not everything has to be behind doors either. Use racks, open shelving and stacking storage bins in brights colors. This is especially great for kids' bathrooms, combining fun and easy access. An upholstered bench that opens up allows storage for all that stuff normally found in the cabinet and gives a warm feeling to the room.

So whether you are a family or this is your own personal escape, the bath is where you start your day and often end it. Done right, bathroom renovations can make a huge difference in your home. From the powder room to the master suite, let it be the place that rejuvenates and calms you as well as a room you can be proud to show your guests. 



An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, Steve Wallace Design is based in Walnut Creek, California.  His work has appeared in Palm Springs Life and other interior design publications, and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live. He can be reached at  925 915 1005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.  Follow on Twitter @swallacedesign.


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