The nice weather made me want to be outside. The only problem was our yard and patio were a wreck. There were at least a dozen pool toy inflatables, accumulated over the years and scattered about. Most had been chewed on and mauled by either the kids or the dogs. Who could really tell? There was also the veritable hazardous materials issue with all the expired pool chemicals, or as I like to call it, my experiment to get that white line off the tile.

We had the husband's barbecue smoker -- a monstrous thing that still hasn't been taken on its maiden smoke voyage, even after two years. We had moving blankets . . . wait, what? Why? Never mind. Sports equipment, 3,000 balls of all shapes and sizes, and I'll be darned, a gigantic chocolate smudge the youngest proudly claimed as having done to the stucco last summer.

Most of this was neatly stacked -- it's hard not to laugh at the irony -- on top of an outdoor dining table I haven't had the pleasure to know is there for the last couple of years. I told my husband that most of it, if not all, had to go. Including the bowing table underneath. I proudly called it The Great Purge. The hubs called it unfair. He's quite close to becoming a bonafide hoarder. Which is why he protests filling a garbage can with stuff he asserts he can use for some unspecified purpose in the indeterminate future. Pfft!

It's because of his close proximity to landing on a reality TV show, and also for my peace of mind, I do as many purges as possible throughout the year, even though this was the first outdoor attempt in years. Charles got as far as bringing the trash can to the patio, but then stood there, pouting. I knew I had to act quickly, or I'd lose the momentum.

"If you throw all this stuff away, how about we go to Lowe's and pick out some new patio furniture where the old table used to go?" I asked.

Thank you, Lowe's. Thank you for being so attractive to the suburban male.

We actually went to Bed Bath & Beyond first. Ha ha! Got you, husband! We bought a huge umbrella sans the huge base. Charles and I thought we could fashion our own base in the ground with a cement plug, of sorts. We're being pretty conservative in our estimates when we say the cement base will be operational soon. 2015.

Our youngest made the real find, however, moments after he tumbled a stack of lawn chairs on himself. As the wee one got up, his daddy pulling chairs off him two-by-two, he grabbed a box from a low shelf.

"Oh look, Momma. These are nice lights," he said.

They were. So, I bought two boxes -- the round cafe lights you can see strung up all over alleys and squares in Europe and South America.

By the time we got to Lowe's, the patio set purchase was looking grim. When did these things get so expensive? I must've missed the news report detailing how wicker was a commodity the likes of diamonds. Besides, isn't there a "birds will habitually mess on it and you'll be too lazy to wipe it down" discount for all outdoor furniture? There should be.

Oh well.

At the end of the day, we didn't have a new outdoor dining set, but did have an umbrella that would stay in the box for the next three years, and two boxes of those gorgeous cafe lights. I took the time to string them up and then waited for nightfall.

C'est magnifique! In my Bakersfield backyard, no less.

Heather Ijames is one of three community columnists whose work appears here every Saturday. These are the opinions of Ijames, not necessarily The Californian's. You can send email to her at Next week: Inga Barks.