Sunday, July 31, 2011

Easy to make dounuts

This doughnut recipe was in our morning email from Allrecipe.  Since we had a tube of buttermilk biscuit dough on hand, we decided to try them.
Grandma's Doughnuts
recipe image
Submitted By: Tiffany H.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Ready In: 20 Minutes
Servings: 10 doughnuts, 10 holes

"When you're hungry for doughnuts, but don't have the time to mix a dough, try this quick and tasty treat."
 oil for deep frying 
1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated buttermilk
biscuit dough
1 cup confectioners' sugar

1.Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). I used a medium pot and my candy thermometer.  I made three at a time.
2.Separate out the biscuits and cut a hole in the middle of each one, like you would a doughnut. I used a length of 3/4" PVC pipe from the art room that I dipped into flour to press out the holes.  It is now part of my kitchen gear.
You can get creative on this part and make different shapes. Just be sure not to make them too thick in any places, or they will not cook all the way through.
3.Carefully slide doughnuts into hot oil.  I made the holes first and they came out very round. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain briefly on wire racks placed over baking sheets.
4.Place the confectioners' sugar in a bowl and roll the hot doughnuts in the sugar. You could also use sugar and cinnamon or melted chocolate, or just plain.

They were really easy to make, and although not quite "Crispy Creams" they were quite good.

I have decided they would be great to make in the RV for my grandsons when we take them to the Rose Bowl parade in December.  Boys love doughnuts, and so do Grandmas!

Good for us?  NO!  But sometimes a sugar doughnut or three is just what you want for breakfast, and these are so easy I had to share the recipe with you.

RV research:  I had read somewhere that the shorter diesels had some problems with "popping" or "lurching."   I read quite a few comments on the RV forums and the advice was to just be sure you did a good test drive on the highway with any rig before you decide to buy.  Every comment from shorty owners was positive.  This does not seem to be a really big problem.

The other issue I looked into was "salt air damage." Since the latest MH I've been looking into is in Monterey California, I wanted to know what kind of damage to look for.  It seems body rust might be a problem.  Also we should be sure to have the breaks and hydraulics carefully inspected for salt damage. 

Good reasons to have a professional inspection done.

But first I will have to see the rig in person. Hope to make that happen this week.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Change of plans, busy week ahead

My trip down to San Diego to visit my daughter and grandsons has been postponed for a couple of weeks.  I'm very flexible, and it seems it will be more helpful for me to be there during a week when she will have no child care.

But, this is fine with me because the customer who bought a giraffe last month, liked it so much they ordered four more to go with it!  So next week I will be working on a lion, a zebra, a hippo, and an elephant.

Sounds like a safari theme to me!

There is another RV I'm interested in and will be doing some homework on it in my spare time.  It is a private seller and I want to have more information before I contact them.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

RV Smog Tests

One thing I've been wondering about is what are the smog requirements for RV's in California.  I know they are quite strict on cars.  I have to take my van in again this year. (the van has been running fine lately)  Several years ago it cost me a bundle to get repairs so it would pass the smog test.

I have never seen anything about it in any of the listings.  

I wondered if we bought from an out of state seller or dealer, what we would have to go thru to register it here.  

 Where would we take it for a smog test?

I finally took a moment to look it up.  Gotta love the internet!

In California, Gas RVs have to pass the smog test, diesel RV's are exempt. 

Yea!  One less thing to worry about.  We are pretty sure we want diesel.

Just today's information gathering. 

 No RV shopping this weekend.  I'm leaving for San Diego on Sunday.  Probably not next weekend either since I get back mid-day Saturday.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Measuring the Road

Yesterday and today I spent some time measuring and diagraming our road and driveway entrances to try to figure out if we could park a Motor Home here.

You can't see them, but there are a lot of measurements noted in pencil on this diagram of the road. 

On the top right part of the picture is an arrow.  We would drive down this way.  The target is the slab marked at the upper left.

The odd shapes on the bottom are our front driveway, and the wide place in the road outside it.  

The first challenge, after just driving down the 1/4 mile of narrow road with on major turn,  would be to turn the rig around so it is facing uphill. I think there is room  to do this in the wide spot in the road just outside our main driveway.

Going back uphill the turn into the driveway that goes to the parking slab is very tight. 

 I made my model is 36' feet long and 10' wide, (our limit is 35' and the width is listed on them is 8' 5.5") 

I have only marked the surface of the road.  There is 2-3 feet of unobstructed shoulder that although a bit soft, could be driven on or the back end could hang over without a problem. So it is not as tight as it looks.

Making the next turn  is also tight.  Not to mention backing back out!  

Craig looked at my diagrams and said he would back in rather and go out head first, then go down to the drive and turn around to go back up the road.  

Either way it will be a challenge.  Of course this is all theoretical.  First we have to find a rig we both like and fits into our budget!

Monday, July 25, 2011

RV Storage

Living at the summit of a very small mountain, I often have a choice as to which side of the "hill" I want to do business on.

Although we have not yet bought an RV, I have been researching where to store one once we do get it.

Craig has the idea that he could park it here on our land. Yes, it would be nice to have it at home.  There is a pad and electricity where the old shed was.  But getting it there would not be easy.  The road is narrow, the turns are  tight, and there are way to many old, untrimmed trees to drop branches on it in the place where he would like to put it. One good tear or dent in the roof would cost more than several months of storage fees. 

So I have been calling storage places on both sides of the hill.

Last week I called a few on the San Jose side.  None had available spaces.  I explained I was only looking for information and pricing.  Seems the rate is between $100 - $160 per month.  

Today I called a place on the Santa Cruz side.  They had six open spaces for 35' RV's or boats and charge $89 pr month.  That's a little better. I just need to know what our options are.

I have also watched all of the RV Driver Confidence Course Videos that Karen mentioned.  They seem like they will be very helpful.  I plan on watching them several times over.  Craig needs to watch them too.

Other than that, I'm not sure what I'll be up to this week.  A little art work, a little housework and a little dreamin!

Hope you all have a good week too!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Catching Up and some nice emails

Although the creation of the Six animals that went to Canada went smoothly, the shipping did not.  I have used Fedex Ground for Canadian orders before without any problems or SNAFUs.  This time, a few days after they were sent, they showed up back on my doorstep.  Seems that my invoice didn't have a statement of "country or origin" on it.  I had indicated the "country of origin" on the form, but because I used my own invoice instead of the one generated by Fedex (They said I could use my own in the information on their web site) the shipment bounced.  This error cost me, but not the full amount of shipping.  I don't mind paying for my own mistakes.

So after I redid the invoice and shipped them again, I went on to other things.  When enough days had passed that I thought they should have either arrived, or were about to, I checked the tracking number.  I discovered they were being held in Customs because they needed yet another special paper.  A notarized power of attourney  giving Fedex the authority to deliver them.  What?  I have never needed this before!  I called Fedex again and was told it was required because of the value of the shipment.  A few years back I looked into all of this, and at the time I thought I had read that this wasn't required on shipments valued at less than $1800.  So when I made out the invoice I made it for $1700 instead of the full value.  Wrong again!  The cut off point is $1600. So off to the Notary to get the POA, and fax it to them.

Lesson learned.  If I ever get another order that big, I will ship it in two separate shipments.  They were in two boxes anyway.

It still took two more days to clear customs.  I kept in touch with my customer, and all the while felt very embarrassed that I didn't know these things. He seemed OK with what was happening as long as I kept him informed.

I have to say I was delighted when I got his email after they were delivered.

He said:
"OMG we got them yesterday and they are freakin amazing. You do such great work. We love them. We have not taken the horns/antlers out yet bc we won't be putting them up for a few months but the actual animal heads are again, amazing....good work sista
thank you
When I did shows, and sold things directly to people, I was able to see them being carried off by a happy buyer, or if they were ordered,  it was usually by someone local and they came and picked it up or I delivered it in person.

Some days when I ship an order it feels like I am putting an unaccompanied minor onto a bus or plane, and I'm not really sure they will be loved and cared for when they arrive!

The week after finishing the Canadian Six, I also had two other orders go out.  One was a leopard to someone in California, and the other was a giraffe that went to Wisconsin.  I got this email from the person in California:

"We received our leopard head today and it's great!  Thank you so much!!"

But heard nothing from the giraffe person.  I don't ask the customers to let me know when things arrive, or if they like them.  But it's nice when they do.  I checked the tracking number and I know it was delivered, but that was all.

On the RV shopping front.  The salesman called me today about the Itasca that we almost offered on.  The other buyer did get his financing approved, so it is now off the list. But he is going to watch for similar rigs for us to consider.  This week I went on line and read reviews of dealers that we might find ourselves working with.  One had almost all bad reviews, one had a mixture of good and not so good, a couple had no reviews, and See Grins had all good reviews.  I know each persons experience is different and most of the time people only write complaints.  But it is comforting to read the place you might be doing business isn't a bunch of complete scum-bags and crooks.

We are working on the house this weekend, and I am leaving for San Diego next Sunday for a week, so we probably won't do anymore looking until after I get back.  I might look at some rigs down in San Diego however.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How old is your RV?

As we go thru this process I wonder about how old is to old for an RV.

We are pretty sure want a Diesel Motor Home, and do want to buy pre-owned because of the first three year deprecation factor.

But we wonder, how old is too old.  Is the 2004 we almost made an offer on, to old?  We would expect to get new tires and batteries for almost any used rig, and expect to pay a bit more for a warrantee and for other repairs.

But how old is too old?  If it looks like it has good maintenance over the years. 

How old is your rig?

COMMENTS and advice appreciated.  I know it is our own decision, but I like discussing things with others who have more experience than I do.

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Pots

I strongly resist the temptation to buy things because I think they will be useful in an RV someday!

I have bought a few good Rubbermaid containers, but other than that I have been "good."

When we went on our "rented RV" trip a few years ago I felt like the pots and pans I took along took way too much room because they didn't stack very well.

I wanted a set of nesting pots, and no mater what RV we buy they will fit into a cupboard better than what I have at the house.

They all fit one inside the other and have removable handles.  The best thing is the nested set then fits inside my favorite large dutch oven soup pot.  

This picture is not the exact set I bought, but I'm to lazy to find or take one.

I figure that there will be so many basic things we will need for the RV I might not want to be buying things like pots and pans. Knowing myself, I would "pinch a penny and make do." 

So I bought some now. It's like buying a tiny bit of the dream.

The box was on the steps when we came home from looking at RVs on Saturday.   

Now Craig has been teasing that they are the reason he is ready to buy an RV. 

 "Gotta have a place to put the wife's new pots!"

We have been laughing together more these last few days.   

Thats a good thing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

No Go

Someone else bought it before we could drive it!

Today, after the Women's World Cup game, we had an appointment to test drive the Itasca we saw yesterday. 

I did my homework last night: finding several  comparable listings, figuring out the cost of six new tires and batteries,  getting an extended warrantee estimate from Good Sam.  I ran the specs and options, to the best of my memory, thru NADA and came up with what I thought would be a low, but fair offer. ($85,000). In my mind I was also determined that any offer would be conditional on disclosure and our approval of all maintenance records, and our approval of an inspection by an RV inspector.

When we got to the dealer we were told that it had been sold.  I was a bit put out that our salesman had not called us to tell us not to drive all that way, but he apologized and said it had been a very hectic day.

We did not tell him what we had planed on offering, but we did ask what it had sold for.  Would you believe $85,000.  He said the buyer told him he had ben on his way up to Sacramento to see one of the rigs I had printed out as comps and decided to stop at See Grins to check out what they had first. After he told us what the sale price was I told him that was what we had intended to offer and showed him my information. He told me the other guy had also "done his homework."

What a hoot!  I'm not at all unhappy with the outcome.  It was a really stressful experience, but now I know how to come up with an offer price and also am quite comfortable with the idea that there will be others.

The salesman also mentioned that the sale was not 100% a done deal.  The buyer has to get financing and  "had a few credit issues."

So, if it falls thru he will call us.  Otherwise we are taking a few weeks off, doing some work on the house, and will start looking again.  We really want one that is a little newer.

I'm just unhappy that we didn't get to drive a diesel yet!

My impression that they leave you totally out in the cold may be incorrect.  I questioned him a lot more about what the dealer does when a rig is sold, and they do test everything for you.  I asked if this was in writing and he said it was.  I will still be very careful and put our issues in writing as part of any offer.

 I keep saying "I" because although Craig is 100% part of this, I am doing most of the research and doing most of the talking.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

RV Shopping

I am totally tired tonight. But it was a productive day.

Since we had never ridden or driven a Class A I thought it would be a good time to take a few test drives.  I had been to the Winnebago dealership before the 4th. and I liked the look of the 2011 gas 30' and 32' that they had there.  

Craig agreed to go look at them with me, even though I knew he wants a diesel.  

He drove the 30' and said it handled well, and was easy to turn and back up. I drove it a little in a parking lot and found it handled OK as well.
 But to be honest, neither of us could stand the rattle and shaking of everything inside.  I also noticed quite a bit of air noise around the passenger side window. It felt like an earthquake and we were on a fairly smooth road.

Craig declined the opportunity to drive the slightly larger one.  

We have talked a lot about new gas vs. used diesel, and this just put more negative on the gas side.

The other dealer in the area that has some Class A's is a place called See Grins.  They have just moved to a much bigger location in the last two weeks.  I didn't like the salesman I talked to last time, but I knew it was a source we needed to be in touch with during our search, so we stopped to see what they had. I am also disturbed by the fact that all of their prices are way higher than anyone else's.  Personally I hate to have to dicker, but when dealing with "used" that's the game.

I hadn't made an appointment because I wanted to connect with a different sales person.  (Which we did.)

We told our new salesman what we were looking for:
Diesel, 2006 - 2008, 30' - 35', preferably Winnebago or Tiffin, and that we were just in the beginning stages of our search.  

He asked about our budget and I gave him a suitably uninformative answer.  He showed us two RV's.  The first was a little Monaco that was a bit on the small size.  We talked about Cargo Carrying Capacity (Yes Karen I am looking at that carefully!) and when we figured it was only about 1500lbs.  we moved on.

I told him at some point that one of our objectives for the day was to be able to test drive a diesel.  But he said something like he only let the customers who were "further along in the buying process" to test drive.  So I guess because we were not ready to buy today, we weren't going to get to try one out.

Then he showed us a 2004, 34' Itasca Meridian.  We both did like it, but the asking price was way out of line.  There was nothing else on the lot that was of interest to us.

We exchanged information, and went on our way.
Before we did I asked a lot of questions about warrantee and what See Grins would do for us.  

I really heard a whole lot of double talk.  "As Is" but they "try" to do right by the customer.  I would rather hear words like 30 or 90 day guarantee, but none were said.  They are a consignment lot, so basically you are working with a middle man to a private seller.  Not quite what I want to be doing.

But when we got home, Craig totally surprised me by suggesting we make an offer on it.

We went online and came up with several comps to help determine what to offer.  It is way below what the seller has posted.

I called the salesman and asked a few more questions, and told him I was not happy with not being able to drive it.  He asked us to come back and we could do so.

So as things stand now, we have an appointment to drive it tomorrow.  

I'm really not sure if we should offer or not. 

 It definitely needs new tires and new batteries.  Any offer would take that into consideration, and be contingent on a professional inspectors evaluation, and a review of service records.  

I'm pretty sure the seller will reject the number we have in mind.  It should be interesting! 

The best thing about all the online browsing I have done, and the RV shows I have gone to, is I know that if we pass on this one, there will be another pop up very soon for our consideration, actually we found several among our comps to think about.

I'll keep you posted...

Friday, July 15, 2011


My thoughts and feelings are all over the place.  I feel scared and excited.  I've been a penny pincher all my life and now I'm proposing spending a big bunch of money on a luxury! An RV is a luxury.  Travel is a luxury.

I think, "No we shouldn't do it."  And then "Yes, it's our turn."

Except for a small mortgage we have no debt.  But it scares me that when Craig actually retires we will have to start drawing on our retirement savings. 

But that is what they are for, isn't it?  

I wish all the work was done on the house, but if we wait we will both be ready for a nursing home.

Maybe some trips will give us the motivation to let go and hire some work done, and not be held down by DIY projects.  If we don't we will never be done with it.

I know we can do this.  We CAN buy an RV and take a few  trips.   Other people do it.  Why not us.

It will work out.  

But I'm scared!  And excited!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Taking a Closer look

Yesterday Levonne and I met in Aptos for a walk in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.  There are several easy trails thru redwoods and mixed tree forest.  We actually got a bit "lost" because we were talking so much and the trails spit and intersected without much marking.  Our being "lost" was not a bad thing.  It simply meant we were not on the trail we thought we were and had to do a few turn arounds to get back to where we had parked the car.  I guess that can happen when two gabbers get together!

A walk in the park is always a treat.

I took my little point and shoot camera and tried to capture a few interesting images.

When I looked at what I had taken, I was as usual unhappy with the mundane results. When I'm "looking", I do "see" lovely colors and contrasts, but my pictures tend to be cluttered and include "too much information."

After a crop I came up with this fern image.  The composition and angle could be better, but I liked the contrast between the very new fern leaves with the glory and perfection of  old leaf. 

Another picture I took was of a spot of sun on the ground cover.

A throw away image, until I looked a little closer.

Do you see the danger lurking?

POISON OAK  in among the Sorrel and Ivy.  

This was also pulled from al larger picture.  I had notice just a few leaves with a bit of morning dew still on them in the corner of a larger shot.

Just having some fun!

The forest is a beautiful place on all levels.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Same Page

Well, Craig and I are getting closer to being on the "same page."

At least we are both thinking it should have wheels!

I made an appointment to test drive a couple of things this weekend.  Not yet to buy, but to see if we can come to some agreement on size and type.

I insist it be something I can drive!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

More trouble with my van

My van, a 1995 GMC Safari, is getting to the age where every breakdown is expensive and makes me wonder if I should just get rid of it.  Two months ago I took it in for an oil change and tire rotation, (at WheelWorks) and was told I needed new "struts."  $800 later it drove pretty smooth.

A few weeks ago it overheated on the freeway and when I got it in to have it checked out at the dealer, I was told it had a hole in the radiator.  $1200 later I had a new radiator and new hoses.

I have driven it twice since, and both times experienced an odd total loss of power.
The first was in a parking lot.  No stress.  The van just shut down.  I put it in park, turned the key and it was up and running just fine.

Today I was driving to Santa Cruz, on the freeway, about six miles from home, in the slow lane, and it just lost power and shut off.  I was able to coast to a stop in a safe turn out.  Once again it started right up with no problem.  Since I was almost to where I was going, I finished my errand and drove back over "the hill" and got it to the dealer's service department again.  Traffic was light, and I stayed in the slow lane ready to coast off if I had to.

Although they usually don't give courtesy rides up to where I live I played the good customer card and told them I had no other way to get home.  (It was noon and I would have had to wait until about six for Craig to pick me up.)

It seems they have no idea what the problem is.  The service writer just called and said they took it out and couldn't get it to fail again. They are going to keep it and try again tomorrow after it sits overnight.

If they can't find the problem, I'm going to avoid driving it any more than necessary.

I guess it's just old.  It is handy to have a van for hauling things and towing the rented wood splitter once a year, but if we decide to get rid of it I don't want another one.

 I would much rather have something that can become our "Toad!"

The hill:  I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.  My mountain is not very tall, only 1808 feet at the summit.  On one side is the ocean and the town of Santa Cruz.  On the other is the Santa Clara Valley, and the city of San Jose. People who live around here refer to going from San Jose to Santa Cruz, as  going "over the hill."  Or if you live up in the mountains you live "on the hill."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Art Work In Process Post 9 (last One)

This will be a long post, and only about the animal heads.

During the last two weeks  I have been working on what I have come to think of as "The Canadian Six."

 Much of the work is a repeat of what I have already shown you, so I just snapped pictures of what was different.

First off several people have asked me "Why dos your Exacto knife have a long red tail?"
The answer is because I go tired of loosing it among the fur and scraps on the work benches.  I can usually spot the red,  and save myself a great deal of looking-for-it time.

Moose Ears:

I use the same fur on the inside and the outside of the moose ears.  To create an "inner ear" I shave the fur with a WAHL clipper.

I also use it to shape parts of the faces and muzzles.

Impala horns:

I use rope to create the ridges on the impala's horns.  I do a layer of plaster cloth, then a layer of Hydrocal and finally black paint and sealer.

The Impala's nose is a little different too.

The white fur is his lower jaw.  The black is a piece of fabric that  I put as the inside of the mouth.  You usually can see it in the end.

I hot glue a "V" of wash-line to define the nose.  This is  covered with black fabric.

Next, I glue the fur to the bridge of the nose and forehead.  The edges of the fur are folded and shaved before being attached.

The upper lip is a bit of a challenge.  I have to fold and shave both sides of the split lip and get it in the center.  The top "rusty colored" part of the muzzle is cut and glued at the same time.  This is easier when the muzzle is all one color!

Getting this step done can sometimes take a couple of hours. I often have to remake the upper lips several times before I am satisfied.

The final step on many of the animals is to give the fur a little extra color or shading.  Large color markings are done with different furs, But here I am adding some sienna overtones to the Impala's forehead by carefully dry brushing acrylic paint onto it.  I also do some black markings around the eyes.  Sometimes if feels like being a makeup artist.

I did learn to use an air brush at one point, but find I have a little more control with a stiff brush and don't need a separate work area. So I sold the air brush at the last flea market!

Not every animal I make is to my liking on the first go.

As I looked at the Cheetah hanging on the studio wall I decided I did not like the way his muzzle and cheeks looked.

The solution was to rip them off and re do them.

The final step for the Cheetah is to give him some whiskers:

I use fish line for the whiskers and just Super Glue them in place.

The last stop before being boxed up and shipped is to get their pictures taken for the Web Site pictures.

We do not sleep in our Master Bedroom.  We keep a studio light set up, camera and computer there.

 It would be a hassle to put it together every time I do a new version of an animal or a new design.

Craig does the photography.  He shoots each animal from several different heights and angles.  Then I get to choose which one goes on the website.

He does all the website maintenance for me.

So, there you have it.  They have been boxed and taken off to FedEx.  Their pictures have been put on the website and my customer has been told they are on the way.

I will have a nagging worry for the next five or six days wondering if they will be lost, or damaged.

Hope he likes them!

What's next?  Last week I got an order for one of my favorite creatures.

 The Giraffe.  Better get back to work.