New stuff for the new year

#414 in a series of true experiences in real estate
January 2003, Hills Newspapers

I love new products, services and information, which maybe you do, too, so I have collected some that have come to my attention recently, and I offer them to you.

Peanut butter slices are now available, I was delighted to find via a newspaper ad, individually wrapped squares that look very similar to processed cheese slices. You keep them in the refrigerator which makes them easy to open and peel, then put them in sandwiches, on toast, or wrap around an apple wedge. Unfortunately, according to their website,, they are not yet available in our area. Too bad, I’d like to try them.

How about bread without crusts? No cutting or trimming necessary. I saw this product the other day at Albertson’s, then ran across a magazine ad for Iron Kids Crustless Bread. The loaf looks kinda strange, all white and square, but I see the appeal.

Did you know that Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley is bedding down premature twins together? A recent newsletter has a very sweet photo of a set of twins wrapped in a single blanket. They keep each other warm and, apparently, healthier. Looks so cozy that it seems all babies, not just twins, would benefit.

How much is a dollar worth today as compared to, for example, a dollar in 1973? That was the year I wanted to know about because I remember that I had just gotten married, I was making about $25,000 a year in salary and I sold my house for $18,000.

Turns out $1.00 in 1973 is worth $4.08 today. (The $18,000 house, however, is worth around $350,000.) You can find out the relative numbers for other years by going to and clicking on the Inflation Calculator.

Virtual pet adoption is fascinating via No more going to the SPCA and falling in love with every dog you meet. Instead you go to the website, choose one of various Bay Area animal shelters, then search by type of animal, age, size, and activity level. The animal is shown along with his name and description. You choose, then arrange for adoption. Right now at the Alameda Animal Shelter there are, in addition to dogs and cats, a hamster, a guinea pig and some hairless rats looking for homes.

In the AARP magazine I read that the average new home has increased in size from 1500 to about 2300 square feet in the past 30 years. It is true that many parents these days feel strongly that each child needs his own bedroom. I’m not so sure. While it is a boon for my older teenagers to have their own spaces, they chose to sleep in the same room until they were in their early teens. And, when I was a kid, my sister and I spent happy times giggling under the covers at night and climbing in and out of our bunk beds.

I am a big fan of old gas stoves, my current one being a chrome-top Wedgewood. Once I bought a new gas stove but sent it back after only a couple of days because I found it tinny and the top middle section hot to the touch. Plus the porcelain on the burner grates immediately chipped. The problem with old kitchen appliances is finding parts and people who can make repairs to them.

According to the Old-House Journal, the place to go is the Old Appliance Club,, where members (cost is $35 a year) point you to parts, service people, and authentic accoutrements such as owner manuals and salt and pepper shakers. Membership includes their newsletter plus unlimited personal consultation and resources. What a boon! Fact-filled website, too.

If you have a pond or pool that attracts mosquitoes, you might want to get some free mosquitofish from the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District, phone 510-783-7744 (or contact the county where you live). I did this, called them, and they came as promised with a bucket full of fish that eat mosquito larvae.

I was terribly pleased to have these pretty little fish, but they died the next day because tap water contains chloramines which are toxic to the fish. It’s easy to make water safe for the fish with conditioning chemicals, available at pet stores, but they must be put into the original water and all water that is added. Because the water in my small pond runs in automatically, I’ll have to figure out how to condition it before I get more mosquitofish.

“Ask the Bugman” newspaper column told readers to hang plastic sandwich bags with water in them to keep flies away. Just tape them to your doors, the Bugman says, and flies will not come in, apparently because the sunlight reflecting through the water-filled bags distracts or distresses the flies. This one fascinated me so much that I tried it for a few days, and it actually seemed to work, but I hated the sight of the bags, and took them down.

Whirlpool is advertising a most unusual appliance for “revitalizing” clothes. According to their mailing (I sent for it, just had to know more), this metal closet cleans odors and smoothes wrinkles. The size is 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep, 6 feet tall, and it costs about $1000.

Supposedly, you stand it in your bedroom closet or laundry room, plug it in, add a liquid freshener, and hang your clothes inside on hangers, and after about 30 minutes, your clothes are fresh and don’t need ironing. Note that the Personal Valet does not actually clean clothes. When they’re dirty, they still need to be washed or dry cleaned.

See for a demo with accompanying music. Who would buy this? Not I. But I was certainly entertained to learn that Whirlpool thinks there is a need.

Lastly, from a friend at Placer Title, I have the word on who owns minerals on your land. It seems that your ownership includes all ores, metals, and coal which are “in or on the land to the center of the earth.” Doesn’t that conjure up a picture? Do you remember ever trying to dig a hole to China?

Oil and gas, however, while classified as minerals, are in a different category. This is because oil and gas are “shifting, migratory substances.” In other words, they don’t hold still like, for instance, gold does. Therefore, you don’t have title to oil and gas on your land. However, you do have an exclusive right to drill for them on your land and to retain any substances brought to the surface. You can even sell those rights separate from the land itself. Got a taker?

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