Friday, December 28, 2012

Desert Hot Springs

We really lucked out on choosing the Caliente Springs Resort in Desert Hot Springs, CA as our first stop after Christmas, and our first Passport America experience. In fact the 50% discount pays for our first year membership! If we hadn't had PA, we probably would not have stayed there because $50 per day is a bit rich for our budget. But $25 per day is not.

The resort was easy to find, had nice smooth paved roads and large spaces. It's mostly park models, which are simple structures that are common in sunbelt communities. 

We could make a reservation with PA for only two nights.  After January 1st, a one month stay is required because they primarily cater to Snow Birds who stay for the season.

The best feature of the resort is the hot water pools.  They have four smaller pools ranging from warm to very hot. There is also a large warm pool for regular swimming, water aerobics, and what was going on Thursday night, water volleyball.

I am a firm believer in the restorative powers of hot water! In past years I had memberships at 24 Hour Fitness where I went for water aerobics and a hot tub soak at least three times a week for many years. I dropped that membership a few years ago, because the club was over 20 miles from the house, and I had gotten a treadmill at home. I got more exercise and it didn't take as long. But I miss the pool.

On Friday we went on our first desert hike. We went to the Whitewater Preserve and walked a four mile trail along a desert river bed. There were many different colors,  all soft and muted. 

The weather was very nice.  I think it was close to 60 most of the day.  No wind to speak of and brilliant sunshine.  A perfect day for a walk. 

Most of the walk was on the Pacific Crest Trail. Recently I read books about women hiking the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. I was excited to see this sign and realize we were walking the same path as the gal in the book did. 

I didn't remember to take my hiking poles along, but most of the path was quite easy.  We did have to cross the river, but it was easy.

 In the afternoon we went over to Indio to the Shield Date Garden. I had read about it in one of my travel books and then again in Howard and Linda's blog.    

We bought a couple of boxes of dates and a couple of date shakes. They were yummy!

We ended the day with another soak in the hot pools.   Craig thinks it helped the pain in his toe, which I think is arthritis.  It just made me feel good all over!  

Saturday will be an easy drive of about 100 miles up to Barstow. We want to find some kind of optical shop that is open along the way, because Craig's glasses have lost a screw. We also need to get propane in the Alfa.

Our stopping point in Barstow is not exciting.  It is just a place to overnight.  We probably could just boondock somewhere, but we like hook ups.

Our reservation in Death Valley starts on Sunday night. Stay tuned for a post from there...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas 2012 - San Diego

Having arrived at our daughter's home three days before Christmas, we had some time to help her with the holiday preparations and hang out with our grandsons. The boys are into chess just now and they played together, with Craig, and with their mother.  I don't play!

Over the weekend I took several walks along the cliffs that are two blocks from their home. I had a great walking partner, Sandy, their Golden Retriever.  My daughter has a sore foot and was unable to come along.

My daughter and I went grocery shopping together, and I prepared Eggplant stacks for the Christmas Eve meal.  It was also fun to work side-by-side with her to make a wonderful beef Wellington dinner on Christmas Day. My son-in-law made a delicious Pavlova for dessert and the men  did the cleanup and the dishes!  

Christmas morning was dedicated to gift giving and present opening.  The boys were happy with all of their gifts and did not seem to be disappointed with anything. 

Our younger grandson loved his camo-Snuggie, and wore it all morning.  He had also made or collected small gifts for his stuffed animals and unwrapped them for each of the critters.

On Christmas we Skyped with our son in Seattle and with our son-in-law's parents in New Zealand.  Far flung family!

My daughter set up a very complex jigsaw puzzle that we all worked on.  Eventually everyone but Craig drifted away.

Games with complex rules seemed par for the day.  Our older grandson explains the rules to his mother!  (Notice he has the periodic table of Minecraft on his tee shirt!)

The days went by way too fast.  Tomorrow (Thursday) we will be leaving for Desert Hot Springs in the Alfa.


Friday, December 21, 2012

We're Here, and a Hobbit review

11:00 PM Friday night... 

We are parked across from our daughter's home in San Diego and just spending an hour or so reading before turning in for the night.

Our mission of having new Koni shocks installed was accomplished without hassle.  Our opinion of the results is still unresolved.  It seems to me that perhaps the ride on smoother highway surfaces is a bit nicer, but the rough surfaces of some of the Interstate highways cannot be "made better."  Bad road is bad road.  We are a bit disappointed.

Although we were welcomed by our grandsons when we arrived, they and their parents had other plans for the evening.  They were going to an "end of the world" party being hosted by one of the boys' friend's parents.

We decided to go to a movie.  We saw the Hobbit and enjoyed it very much.  Craig wanted to see it in 3D, but I have gotten dizzy when I go to 3D's and wanted to see it in a regular 2D format.  I was glad we did because the action was very intense and I'm pretty sure I would not have done well with the 3D format.

Peter Jackson did a wonderful job with the material from the book. It was visually rich in detail.  There was a lot of violence, but no guns!  I think the PG13 is just about right.  Kids younger than that might be overwhelmed and have nightmares because the monsters were so real and never completely vanquished.

The next few days will be family time.  We will eat, drink, and play games. Well, I'll try not to overdo the first two.

Hope you all enjoy this time as well, wherever you are. 

Peace on Earth may be too much to expect, but not too much to wish for.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On the Road!

3:30 PM. Thursday 
Almost to L.A.
I drove the last 150 miles.

Thought about Margie and Rodger as we past Pismo Beach.  A beautiful place.

California is called the golden state because for most of the year the hills are covered with dry golden grasses.  But in winter, after some good rain, everything is brilliant green.  

That's all for now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thursday Departure!

It has been a very busy week here. We both finished our Christmas shopping, Craig got the drywall repair done, and I got the hall painted before he installed the framing and two new pre-hung doors.

Checking and wiping after first coat of stain
The color will be darker after a second coat of stain and two coats of Polyurethane
He is replacing several older white doors with new stained birch doors.  All of the other doors in the house are stained wood.  After we get back he will be finish installing the two for a sliding door closet downstairs and then stain some new framing and baseboard wood.  Everything seems to take so long!

Today (Wednesday) Craig did all the pre-trip stuff like checking tire pressure and water in the batteries while I hauled our stuff from the house to the Alfa in our DR Power Wagon. 

 I have been going all out for several days getting everything packed and loaded.   We do not leave much of anything in her between trips, so it is a complete repack each time.  I figure if we need it in the Alfa, we probably need it in the house too and I don't want to start buying duplicate stuff!  

It is now slightly after nine in the evening.  We are relaxing in front of a cozy fire and will probably get to bed fairly early.  There is still lots to do in the morning. After bringing the Alfa down to the front drive we will put in some fresh water (we drained it this afternoon) and load the refrigerator.  I still have some clothes to put in along with all the bathroom stuff.  

In the morning, Craig has to see to the house, turning off the water, draining the irrigation system, setting the furnace thermostat down to 50*, and turning off the automatic back up generator. Because we live in the mountains, a winter storm can knock out our power for days.  If we were here we would run the generator, but that gets expensive. The only thing that needs power when we are gone is the garage refrigerator. We emptied the kitchen fridge, except for the orange juice and things I need to make travel sandwiches.  We will shut it off and prop open the door before we leave. What we are not taking along has been shifted to the garage fridge. I put some ice cubes in a bag in the freezer and will see if they have melted and refroze while we were gone.  If they do I will know that we have had a long power outage and will dump the few things from the freezer. 

[From Craig] As part of cleaning out the refrigerator before leaving, Merikay and I each ate a large bowl of ice cream Wednesday night. I got the Tillamook Marion berry Pie while she had their Caramel Butter Pecan. I must say that MB Pie is among the finest tastes produced by mankind, right up with Floating Island desserts at certain Parisian restaurants.

(From Merikay)  I must have walked up and down the back hill a dozen times today and didn't have any lunch.  I'm sure I burned off the calories from the ice cream in advance!

Some RVers like to pull out very early in the morning when leaving on a long trip.  We like to take our time, get everything in order and miss the morning rush hour traffic. If we are on the road by 10:30 we will be doing fine.  We have a long day of driving ahead of us, but we are both looking forward to it!

See Ya!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

mental illness

Below is the URL for a blog post everyone should read.

It is not political.

It is not a media twist, or expose for the purpose of getting a story.

It is the words of a Mother with a son who could be the next shooter.

I know it is the Holidays, and we don't want to think about things like this
I don't know what can be done, or what we as individuals can do.

All I know is it is time to help parents like this.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hi Ho, Hi Ho! It's On a Trip We Go!

8 days until we hit the road for our Christmas trip!

It is going to be a very open ended adventure. I have  two reservations, but there are a lot of days that I have no idea as to where we will be.

Our first stop will be in the LA area where we will spend a day at M&M, a Freightliner service place where we will be getting new Koni shocks put on the Alfa.  We decided that the shocks will be our mutual Christmas presents. I'm giving Craig the front ones, and he's giving me the backs.

When we were at an FMCA rally last year Craig heard a presentation in which it was said that one of the best improvements you can make to a motorhome is to get new shocks installed.  Our ride is pretty good, but we have had a few screws loosen and there are some rattles that make a bit of noise. We will see if there really is an improvement!  Craig says he's prepared to be disappointed...

We will spend Christmas with our daughter and her family.  

The neighbors were OK with our parking on her street for a few days last year, and I hope it will be OK again this year. At least we don't have last year's electrical problem that made us run the generator longer than we would like. It turned out we had a loose wire!

We will probably sleep in the Alfa, but spend the rest of the time in the house.  

We have a reservation for several days at Death Valley starting on December 30. It's about 350 miles from San Diego to Death Valley. I'm looking at a couple of different routes, and we may take a few days getting there. We will see some different places if we take a longer, less direct route. I think it will depend on the weather forecasts.

After Death Valley, we have three nights at a Passport America park in Las Vegas. I've never been there. I want to see the strip and the casinos. I'm not a gambler, but the bright lights call to me.

Then our plans are open. We might spend a week or so exploring the Lake Havasu area. I've found a Passport America park we could go to in Lake Havasu City. I called and was told we shouldn't make a reservation if we want to use our Passport America, but they generally have plenty of open spots.  

Again, it will depend on the weather.

I am torn. I know we should go right home and get back to work on the house if we want it on the market by summer, but on the other hand, once out of the driveway I want to keep going!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Interesting Winter Salad

Photo from blog " What's cooking good looking "

I made a rather interesting winter salad for dinner tonight.  I got the recipe from a blog I follow called "What's cooking good looking". 

In general I am not a big fan of kale, but I do love roasted vegetables, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Craig really liked it, so I guess it will become part of our repertoire. Below is the recipe and changes I made. 

I think it would also be good with roasted baby golden beets, or any of several other vegetables.

Mustard Marinated Kale with Roasted Winter Vegetables
serves2 people
5-6 large dinosaur kale leaves, stems removed and very finely chopped (This didn't seem like nearly enough because the leaves I had were quite small, so I used six small leaves from a bunch of dino-kale, and about the same from a bunch of curly kale.)
4-5 small "rainbow" carrots, tops removed and cleaned (I doubled this because mine looked so good.  I also cut them into thirds.)
3 shallots, sliced into wedges
3-4 Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and thinly sliced
10 or so endive leaves (I used one large endive.)
3-4 sage leaves (I used fresh, but I think dried would be OK.)
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves (packed tightly) (I used dried)
1-2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or another high-heat oil)
for the mustard marinade:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon Real Lemon juice concentrate, I used two and we decided it was a bit too lemony)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grainy mustard 
  • Preheat the oven to 400ยบ
  • Place the carrots, shallots, Jerusalem artichokes, endive, sage, and oregano in a medium-large sized  roasting pan and toss with the grapeseed oil and salt and pepper.
  • Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until the vegetables have started to caramelize brown.
  • While the vegetables are roasting, marinate the kale. Whisk together the ingredients for the mustard marinade until they are emulsified. Place the finely chopped kale in a large bowl and pour in ¾ of the marinade. Massage the marinade into the kale using your hands. Set aside until the vegetables are done (the longer the better, this will allow the kale to break down a bit and not be so tough).
  • Allow the vegetables to cool slightly, then arrange them on top of the kale. Use the last ¼ of the dressing to drizzle over the vegetables. Season with extra salt and pepper or olive oil if you like.
I made a Trader Joe's par-baked sourdough bread and served it warm on the side.  It was filling enough that the salad and bread were a complete meal.

The source blog has many interesting recipes that fit into a healthy eating plan. If you like to try new things, take a look.

[From Craig] In case this recipe doesn't fill you up for the whole night, or any time you want a nice snack, try sour cream spinach dip with reduced fat Wheat Thin crackers. I used Trader Joe's spinach dip, but any prepared dip (or your own) should go wonderfully with these crackers, which are the ultimate rarity: a low-fat version that's better than the original.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

I'm Keeping the weight off

So far, so good.  

I reached my weight loss goal of getting down to a normal BMI in September. 

I then went on to lose another five pounds in October and have ben flirting with one or two more since the beginning of November.

I am not doing anything "diet like."  I am trying to eat mindfully and think before I put something in my mouth.  I weigh myself every morning.

So far, so good.  

I think I established some better eating parameters over the last ten months, and do not find it difficult to stick with them. 

I am not a vegan, nor a vegetarian.  I avoid beef, most dairy, white flour, alcohol, processed foods, fast food restaurants, most pasta, and dishes with creamy sauces.  

I fry fish but do not eat deep fried fish. 

I have discovered baked sweet potatoes made with olive oil and lots of garlic is much better than french fries.

I have learned to eat  veggies in many low fat ways.

I never leave the table hungry.

So far, so good.

I was extra careful the week before Thanksgiving, and enjoyed all the goodies for three days. (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.)  I  had to be more than careful for the week after to lose the three or four pounds that I took on. I think they were just food in the "system,"  and a bit of bloating from salt, not gained fat.

Hopefully I will be able to enjoy Christmas with the same mindful eating.  Enjoy, but not over do. Smaller portions, not self denial.

I plan to weigh the same on January 9th as I do today. I'll post my progress again then.

... One small cup of Eggnog, not a half gallon!

I will not use the Holidays as an excuse to overindulge.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three little storage problems solved

As part of my healthy eating plan we eat a lot of fresh vegetables. Although the refrigerator in the Alfa is a double door type, I find it fills up pretty quickly when packed with produce. At the house I store things like onions, sweet potatoes and winter squash either in a basket on the counter or in the fridge. But in the Alfa, I don't want baskets on the counter. And since these foods don't really require refrigeration, I needed to find an alternative place for them.  

A bin in a cabinet seemed the logical place. For our last trip I put several onions, a sweet potato, and a spaghetti squash in an open plastic bin in one of the pantry drawers along with the breadbox and a few other things.
But this was not a good place because when the drawer and the door are closed, there is almost no air circulation.  Because the weather was mild we did not run the air conditioner and apparently it got quite warm in the drawer, and within a couple of days I noticed things were ripening quickly.  

Problem #1. What to do with produce that is not refrigerated.

Problem #2. We plug in our laptop and iPad to charge when we go to bed. Each of the cameras also has a cord for data transfer and charging.

We have been setting them up on the table to charge, but the available outlet is behind the leg of the table and a bit awkward to get at.

I have designated a desk drawer in the bedroom for cord storage, and want to develop the habit of always putting them away after use. But this has not worked well. We tend to leave the cord plugged in and the end loose. Downloading pictures only takes a few seconds, but the cord seems to stay out all of the time.

Problem#3. Cord clutter.

OK, so what do a hard-to-get-at plug, USB cords, and onions have to do with each other?  

My magic magazine rack conversion.

Several months ago I bought a wood magazine rack for $5.00 at a garage sale. I thought I might be able to use it in the Alfa, but up to now I couldn't find a good place, or use for it. Recently I got the idea to make it into a vegetable bin!

I cut a cover for it out of some scrap particle board and used some fleece and hot glue to make a hinge to keep the top in place when we are driving.

When sorting through my drawers, I found  two mesh bags with zippers from Walmart that I had never used.  I will put produce in them, and be able to wash them with the laundry occasionally since they are actually meant for washing "delicates."

The fleece fabric wrap around the dowel sides is to hide the white bags, but still allow air flow.

Before covering the top of the hardboard with scrap fleece, I used cable ties to attach a power strip to it. It is much easier to reach than the one behind the table leg, and the power cord will help keep the magazine rack from moving out from under during travel. 

As a more convenient place to keep the USB cords and perhaps a pen or two, I attached a lidded plastic box with velcro squares.  I think it was for storing small floppy discs in at one time. 

When my chair is in place you can hardly see this multi purpose, construction, but I think it will solve several problems without taking up much space.  

I'm also pleased that I used things that I might otherwise have tossed out! 

Reuse, recycle, repurpose...

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I really am trying hard to be patient and take every day as it comes. Last week I spent some time sorting and tossing. So much stuff!

After working on art materials and writing a thoughtful post about moving on, I got a couple of orders in Friday's email from customers who are willing to wait the couple of weeks it will take me to make the animals they want.  One is from a lady that has ordered something for her son every Christmas for the last  five years.  He has quite a collection! The other is from the UK, and the customer promptly reconfirmed when I emailed the shipping cost, and production time details.   So I guess I'll be working on sculptures for a bit.

Craig had a cold early this week and so put off starting any new work around the house.  But he felt better by Thursday, and since the weather was dismal, he took my suggestion to do a little drywall repair in the upper hall. 

 We had a leak there before the new roof was put on and there is some water damage. It's a good "putzy" job for a rainy weekend. It will probably take a couple of days for him to do, and then the hall will be ready for me to paint. I'd like to have that done before we leave for Christmas.

Friday, I spent some time going through my closet. 

I pulled out everything that was too big, worn out, or not wanted.  

I have done this several times in the last two years and although I know I still have too many, I  feel I am getting closer to having the right amount of clothes. 

Over the weekend I measured the length of the closet pole in the Alfa and marked off the pole in my closet in the house to be the same size. There is  24 inches of pole on my side of the closet.  I have installed some plastic shelves and a shoe holder on my side that take up the remaining space. Craig gets 32 inches of pole on his side.

Now I can see what is going to fit. It looks like I still need to cut down by about 1/3. It seems that jackets take up a lot of space.  I eliminated two today, but I still have more than I will have space for.  

I also have more Tshirts and sweatshirts than I need.  I tossed at least a dozen Tshirts into the rag bag today. We will be staining some new doors and woodwork soon and they will come in handy.  Since it is winter now I am wearing long sleeve shirts every day.  I know I'll need both long and short sleeved shirts in the future.  I wonder if I can stow some clothes somewhere other than the closet.

Little by little I have also emptied the overhead shelves on my side of our closet. 

I did another pass thru my dresser drawers too, and have tossed just about everything I don't wear.  I found a couple of pair of shorts that I didn't remember that will fit me now, and got rid of several that don't.

I also found this old treasure: A pair of cotton lady's dress gloves.  I've had them since we lived in Wisconsin 35 years ago.  I had a dressy winter coat that had a fur collar and three quarter length sleeves.  I wore these long gloves with it. I wonder where Goodwill will put them.  They are in perfect condition.

Craig doesn't agree with my way of getting rid of things a little at a time.  He says we can just load up the Alfa and whatever doesn't fit we will dump.  I told him his head will explode from the pressure of all the things he will have to think about in the weeks after the house sells!

[From Craig: as Merikay has been talking about this, I'm about ready to go in and throw almost all of my old clothes away. It would be a lot of
fun, and I would avoid having my head explode...]

 We will get through this.