Monday, March 29, 2010

Coralling the Spices

You know how sometimes your mind grabs hold of a problem and refuses to let it go until it's solved? This was my mini-obsession this week. I love to cook. I also believe in cooking as much from scratch as possible, since processed foods are so high in fat, carbs, sodium, and chemicals. Therefore, it's been a hassle each trip to try to remember what spices to take since I obviously couldn't take the two large spice racks I have next to my stove at home.

The first step was to identify which ones I use a lot of: chili powder, parsley, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and powdered chicken bouillon. I found these small magnetic tins at Cost Plus World Market for $1.99 each. They're approximately 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches tall. The lid rotates to expose a slot and some holes for sprinkling without having to take off the lid. There is a larger size that is $2.99. [Note: right next door to Cost Plus, the small ones were selling for $2.99 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Always go to Cost Plus first!] These are going to be hanging on the side of the "hood" above the stove where they'll be immediately handy all the time.

Next, I was experimenting with ways to store and organize the small bottles of spices. (My trailer has a "spice rack" below the sink, which has enough room for 6 or 7 tall bottles.) One good idea was to put them all in one drawer, and to use a label maker to put the names on the tops so you could pull out the drawer and see them. I spent a few minutes one afternoon making the labels and cleared out a drawer in the trailer for them. Within 2 days, all the labels had come off. It seemed I was going to have to rummage through the drawerful of jars to find what I wanted each time.

Then yesterday while I was sewing, I looked up and saw my thread holders:

I bought these at Slumgullion Gift Gallery in Lake City, Colorado. Each one is made with two yardsticks and some "shelves." I moved the thread to a drawer in my desk (where it's much easier to get to from a sitting position while I sew), and filled the little mini-shelves with my small bottles of spices:

The McCormick, Simply Organic, and Penzey's plastic jars fit neatly into each shelf, and won't come out if jostled. The glass Penzey's jars (why did they change?) are almost too wide, but rubber bands hold them nicely in place. Since each one of these "shelves" hangs individually, I'll be able to put them on the wall next to the refrigerator.

Now my mind can go work on something else!

Another Day Closer...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Back Home Again

Welcome to Cindy, my 6th follower. We "met" under some strange circumstances, but are going to be good friends in this world of full-timing, and want-to-be-full-timing. She's from Texas; I'm from Texas - maybe we'll meet in person some day.

We came home from Lone Pine a day early - we saw on two different weather forecasts that tomorrow, our intended travel day, would be very windy. The forecasts also said that today would not be windy. At 5 am, we heard gale force winds outside, and thought we wouldn't be coming today. Then at 5:30, the winds abruptly ceased. We put everything away, disconnected and hitched up, and hit the road. As we got a couple miles down the road, the winds started again - and were really blowing the white "stuff" up from the Owens Lake bed. We stopped in Olancha for breakfast, and when we came outside afterwards, it was slightly breezy. The winds seemed to follow us all the way home - the winds that weren't supposed to be there - and Don had to work to hold his hands on the wheel for most of the trip. It sure was nice to get back to Mentone and park the trailer.

We unloaded quickly and I took off first - I had my Jeep parked at the storage facility - and I came home to a house that was 50˚. It was actually warmer outside than inside. Most of the snow in town has melted, but there are still huge piles left from the huger piles. The creek is running high from the snowmelt in the wilderness; I expect it will be that way for the next 3 months.

My friend Tara told me on Facebook that she was able to sell a few things at her garage sale; I'll itemize those later since I don't know what they are yet.

Before we left, I'd gotten rid of some sleeping bags, and still had a huge stuff sack left the size of a lawn-and-leaf bag. I decided to fill it with things for yard sale #1, and I'd read somewhere that you should put price tags on things in advance. I took about half an hour and have the bag half full.

In the yard sale bag:
2 handmade purses
1 pair Minnetonka sandals
1 pair Teva sandals
1 pair Teva hiking shoes
1 pair Crocs
1 half slip (new)
1 sports bra (new)
6 pairs Birkenstocks (barely worn)
1 curling iron
1 quilted project bag

To the trash:
3 t-shirts
2 pairs Birkenstocks
5 old undies

This is starting to get fun!

Another Day Closer...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A little bit of everything day

First of all, welcome to my 5th follower - Merikay! Merikay and I are kindred spirits - both of us are in the process of getting ready to be full-timers. She's clearing out her house, as I am, using the same processes, and is a list maker - as I am. It's going to be fun following her as we go on this journey together.

We're still in Lone Pine; Don is currently in his float tube on Diaz Lake. He had a great day there Sunday, so he's gone back. I've thoroughly enjoyed the time here alone, especially since I no longer have that horrible cold. I sewed most of the morning and took lots of breaks to play on the computer. I finished this little quilt top - it's called "Dolly Duette" and it's from the Jan/Feb '10 issue of Quiltmaker. The one in the magazine used reds and taupes; I substituted blues and beiges. It measures about 21" square.

As I said, I played a lot on the computer. It was a day of planning, making lists, looking at recipes, and researching 5th wheels. We've gone and looked at 5th wheels at dealers, and I've done a lot of "window shopping" on various websites - from manufacturers to rv sales websites. Right now I'm pretty sure I want a Teton. It's made for full-timers, and has plenty of storage and kitchen space. I like the layouts I've seen; I really like the ones with the island in the kitchen.

I'm pretty sure we'll be able to locate a used one with a truck included through the internet when the time comes. Who knows - we might be able to find a trailer and truck that we like in southern California. (Of course, once we buy it, we'll work towards changing the state of registration. I really want to cut ties to California.)

I found some great recipes to try when we get home; made some lists of things to do at the office (I can't believe I'm thinking about work - STOP IT!), and did a chart for paying off the two vehicles and the 2 credit cards.

Don just came back from the lake - I'll publish this and go sit outside with him for a bit.

Another Day Closer...

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Long Hot Day in Death Valley

Boy are we tired. I think now that the sun has gone down I've finally cooled off. We spent the day in Death Valley - and even in March, it's already hot.

We left about 8:30 this morning - took the route from Lone Pine along the north side of Owens Lake, and up into the pass in the southern Inyo/northern Argus Mountains. Our first stop in the park was the Father Crowley Viewpoint. It sits next to Rainbow Gorge - which really is more colorful than my photo shows. As we got out of our truck, we heard the roar of jets -

and looked DOWN. Two F-18s were coming through the gorge below us, and then catapulted up and around - and came by a second time. Being the daughter of an AF pilot and the wife of a retired AF guy, it was thrilling.

Below is a look north from the viewpoint to the Panamint Dunes in upper Panamint Valley.

Below, the road winds its way down 4000' to the valley floor. We'd crossed one mountain range - still had another one to go.

Right after you cross the Panamint Range, you come to Emigrant, which has a gas station and a small campground. A 2.4-mile bumpy dirt road takes you to the mouth of Mosaic Canyon. A short hike goes into the canyon, which is a slot canyon cut into the dolomite and the breccia. Below is the mouth of the canyon - and you can't tell yet that it's going to be a slot canyon.

Below, Don is coming back down from a wider section of the upper canyon.

This is one of the narrower sections.

And here am I, looking rounder than I think I look (!), in one of the narrow portions.

From Mosaic Canyon we next went to Salt Creek. It's a creek that runs about half of the year, and during the spring it has a huge population of pupfish. There's a "nature trail" - a long boardwalk that runs along the creek and through a salt marsh, where you can look down into the water and see the millions of tiny pupfish feed and mate.

We then saw this little guy sunning himself on the boardwalk. He was not afraid of all the people walking by.

By the time we finished the walk at Salt Creek, it was 12:45 - so our next stop was the cafe at Furnace Creek Ranch. We had some good burgers and fries, with several glasses of ice water, and headed over to the Visitor Center. We like a good Visitor Center - it must have a slide show or film, which this one did, and a good interpretive section, which this one sort of had. I wish it had been more. I would have liked a lot more on the history, geology, and wildlife of the park - especially since Death Valley is so huge. But we still enjoyed ourselves there, and decided that from there we'd head back to Lone Pine (and skip the drive to Badwater).

Sooooo, back over two mountain ranges and to our very hot trailer here at Boulder Creek - but with the windows opened and the sun going down behind the mountains, things have cooled off wonderfully. Dinner for me was cold cereal - no way was I interested in cooking anything. Don had a sandwich. Bedtime will probably be early tonight.

Another Day Closer...

Boulder Creek RV Campground

We are in site 63 at Boulder Creek RV about 3 miles south of Lone Pine. We really wanted to be up at the Lone Pine Forest Service campground, but when we were trying to make reservations, we were told it wasn't going to be open yet. Now that it's open, we're already paid here, plus Don didn't bring the gas can for the generator. No problem. We'll enjoy it here. The view of the Sierras is nice, the cherry trees are in bloom (I think they're cherries -Don says they're "fake" cherries) and there's a nice breeze that comes up the Owens Valley and keeps things cool.

Another Day Closer...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Nasty Head Cold

The night before last I started having a few sniffles, which led me to believe that I was allergic to something in the air. (Normally, when I get a cold, it starts with a sore throat.) After breakfast yesterday morning, I went to a few places in Bishop - the Ben Franklin store for some batting, the Schat.net store for a camera-computer cable, and the Mountain Light Gallery to see Galen Rowell's awe-inspiring photography. By the time I got back to the trailer around noon, I was hoarse and clogged - Don said I really sounded awful. Within a couple of hours, I had a full-blown head cold. Last night was a terrible night - the nose kept running, my eyes were itchy and watery, and I had to keep blowing my nose in order to sleep. I'm sure Don didn't get much sleep listening to me honk and sniff all night. Today he's out at the Owens River again, and I stayed in to rest and try to shake this.

I picked up some generic Dayquil - why do they make those pills so huge? - but this must be the worst day of this cold because it doesn't seem to be helping any.

(Yeah, I know, poor, poor, Cyndi.) As my friend Sandy said last night on facebook, at least the scenery's beautiful! The mountains in the distance in the top photograph are the Sierras, and the ones in the bottom photograph are the White Mountains. Bishop lies in a gorgeous high desert valley in between the two ranges.

Today I pieced together two mini-quilts for some swaps, but since I left all my colored thread at home, I'll have to wait to quilt and bind them. So after I hit "publish" on this post, I'm going to go sit outside and read for a bit - which will probably lead to a nice nap!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Another Quiet Day

Today was basically a repeat of yesterday, though Don stayed a little later at the river than yesterday. Also, I walked to the smoked meats store and bought some of the breakfast sausages I'd mentioned yesterday.

When Don returned from the river, it was too late for a lunch but too early to eat dinner - so while it was cooking, I gave him some homemade bean dip. This recipe is easy - just throw everything in the food processor - and it tastes just like Frito Lay's version.

Bean Dip

1 (15 ounce) can refried beans
5 slices bottled jalapenos (nacho slices)
1 tablespoon brine, from bottled jalapeno slices
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1. Combine refried beans with the other ingredients in a food processor.
2. Puree ingredients on high speed until smooth.
3. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Dinner was Chile Colorado and Spanish Rice- one of my favorite meals and so easy to make on the road.

Chile Colorado

1 lb. sirloin, cut in small cubes
2 small potatoes, peeled and cut in small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup water
1 cup burgundy

Toss sirloin and potatoes with salt and oil in a large skillet. Cover and cook over low heat - juices will come out and then cook away as the meat browns. This takes about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with chili and chipotle powders; toss to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with flour; toss to distribute evenly. Add water and burgundy; cover and cook over medium-low heat until thickened. Serve with Spanish Rice and flour tortillas.

Spanish Rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup white rice (regular or converted, but NOT instant)
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
2 cups water
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules or 2 cubes
2 tablespoons chopped peeled tomato (this is where I use canned tomatoes that I’ve frozen individually)
⅓ cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables
black pepper

In a saucepan, sauté rice in oil over medium heat until rice is brown. Add onion and garlic; sauté another minute or so. Add remaining ingredients. Cover; bring to a boil Lower heat and simmer approx. 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

I took pictures of the trailer with the snow-covered mountains in the background, but have left the camera-to-computer cable at home. I'll see if I can find a spare tomorrow - I'm going to drop Don off at the river and go shopping in Bishop.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On the (Windy) Road Again

Phantom Ship Island in Crater Lake Crater Lake National Park, Oregon 2009
(NOT where we are now!)

WINDY - as in WIND. We left home at 5:30 and had a nice breakfast at Arthur's in Mentone. (Why are their breakfasts so HUGE? They let me order off the senior menu because it had "smaller" portions - my French Toast plate had 2 thick pieces of French toast, 2 eggs, and 2 pieces of bacon - I didn't even eat it all.) By 6:30 we were on the road north. As soon as we got to Adelanto on the 395, we hit the wind. A system had come into California and was causing winds all through San Bernardino and Inyo Counties. We were heading right into it, so while we weren't ever in much danger of toppling over, it forced us to drive at 55 and below - mostly below. We used up 3/4 tank of gas just from Pearsonville to Bishop.

But we made it, and Don said he felt like he'd been run over by a semi from maintaining control of the truck and trailer for so long. So he took a 2 1/2 hour nap - and still was able to sleep last night.

Dinner was hamburgers and fried potatoes - comfort food. We either have hamburgers or chili dogs on our first night out - it makes it feel like "camping." We had no difficulties setting up the Carryout dome, but had to call DirecTv to get the receiver activated again. We'd replaced that receiver in the living room with a DVR, and told them we'd use the old receiver in our trailer. It was a simple matter of dealing with the overly-friendly computer voice, and it was fixed.

We're staying at Highlands RV in Bishop - it's on the 395 after you make the big left at the Highway 6 turnoff, and it's next to the smoked meats store. If you've never had the smoked meats, you have to try them. Really, really smoked. My favorite is the breakfast sausage - links that are about an inch in diameter and 4 inches long. I haven't seen an unsmoked version of these anywhere. I plan to pick up a few while we're here.

Highlands RV is Don's choice of campgrounds mainly because it's close enough to the fishing on the Owens River. He goes to the campground just below Pleasant Valley Reservoir dam, and has a 4-5 mile stretch that 's open year round. He walks the whole length and loses track of time - sometimes he doesn't come back until 3 or 4 in the afternoon, after leaving at 8 am. One time he forgot to take water, and was nearly sick by the time he got back here.

Highlands is what I call a parking lot campground. It's completely paved; most of the the sites are side-by-side pull-throughs. There's no tenting here - and of course, no grass anywhere to pitch tents if you wanted to. There are a few full-time residents along the far wall and in the back, but this is a clean, well-kept park with nice bathrooms and laundry, free wi-fi, and a friendly manager. It's right on the highway, but you can't hear the highway noise at all. About a mile up the road is the Paiute casino - we've never gone there because we've been too busy doing other things, but we might go this time just to spend a roll or two of nickels.

Right now Don is on the Owens. I did some sewing for a little while, and now I'm catching up on reading blogs, checking email, and tending to Wanderlust.

I'd like to welcome my 4th follower - Margie! Margie works on two blogs - one is Bruce and Margie's Full-Time Journey, and the other is My Healthy Living Through Weight Control. My husband's uncle Bruce, who died 2 years ago, was married to Marge - so these two names just go together in my mind. I plan to visit Margie's second blog a lot, since I need to keep working on being healthy. As I get closer to retirement, I don't want any weight/diabetes-related issues to slow me down.

Last week I did some work in the trailer that I want to share. First, we had taken the doors down to the bedroom - the track for one of them had come loose from the ceiling, and we discovered it was held up only by a few flimsy nails. Stupid designing, in my opinion. We took the doors out before our summer trip last year, and Don didn't like the glare of the sun coming in from the front door when he was taking a nap. So I made some curtains, which we hung on small tension rods. I got the fabric, a heavy duty household fabric, from JoAnn's, and used a large scrap to recover our ottoman/storage cube.



Next, I replaced the foam in the cushions on the sofa sleeper. The old cushions were soft and thin, and rested right on the base of the sleeper part of the sofa sleeper. They were horribly uncomfortable. JoAnn had some heavy-duty 5" thick foam, which I cut to the right shape using my electric knife. Since it was impossible to stuff that back into the zippered upholstery, I made some "pillowcases" out of cheap muslin. This made the foam cushions slip right into the upholstery. Don went to the hardware store and got a piece of 1/2" plywood, which he cut to fit underneath the cushions. It's almost too hard now, but a small pillow under my thighs makes the couch a whole lot more comfortable to sit it than before.

Another Day Closer...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Back to Plan A

The Harbor at Izmir, Turkey
August 1980

We did some more research, talked with our financial advisor, crunched some more numbers, and came to the realization that I won't be able to take the incentive.

I'm okay with this. It was exciting to be contemplating retirement - soon - but it's nice to know for sure - now - what the next couple of years will be like. We'll still have our trips, both short and long, and I'll continue to get rid of our stuff.

Our next trip is TOMORROW! We're leaving in the morning for a week in Bishop and a week in Lone Pine. These are two of our favorite "close" places, where Don will be able to get a lot of fishing in and I'll relax and try not to think about work. I"m taking my sewing machine, we'll have our satellite dish, and I've got a couple good books to read, too.

Another Day Closer...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Maybe a BIG change in plans...

Escalante State Park, Utah - looks like that rock outcropping is smoking!

First, I'd like to acknowledge my first three followers. Welcome to Marie, Vicki and Porter, and Freely Living Life. Thanks for being here! I enjoy reading other people's blogs, and hope that mine is worth reading.


Today I received an email/letter from the District, in which they officially offered the early retirement incentive we've been trying to get them to offer. Up until today, I'd been planning to retire in either 2 or 3 years. But when I started talking about the incentive to my friend and office manager, she said some things about finances, and credit, and so on - and told me I'd be stupid to not take the incentive. It's a gift of a LOT of money. Yes, I know that because I'll only be 54 in July that we'd have a year before the STRS kicks in, but that incentive will be enough for us to live on until then. (Don will still be drawing his retirement check from the AF for 4 more years.)

I came home, mentioned it to Don, and was able to convince him that it was something we might just be able to do. He got out the calculator, bills book, and scratch paper, and I got on the computer, and together we crunched numbers, argued, made lists of questions, and have decided to ....investigate further. I will go to the meetings at the District office, make my appointment with the STRS counselor, call my financial advisor, and continue to crunch numbers.

IF THIS WORKS, we'll be putting the house up for sale in a month or so - so that it's clean and empty and ready for viewing while we're in Colorado for the summer. I can't believe I'm even writing all this. It's almost surreal.

In the meantime, I got rid of more stuff yesterday! Two sleeping bags, two backpacks, two tents, assorted camping gear - all through craigslist. Then I gave my friend Tara a tub of assorted stuff, a sewing machine, and a hedge trimmer to see if she can sell it all at her garage sale this coming weekend. Vicki and Porter said getting rid of everything would be liberating - and it is. It's exciting, too! We're using the money wisely - I've gone 3 weeks without buying anything new except for 3 full-time RV books. I keep looking around the house, and see more and more things that will go to the garage sale - my friend Patrick says we're now going to have it at his parents' house (Suzy is retiring in June for sure). It's a good location, more flat area to put more stuff on display, and they'll be adding a lot of their own stuff. Should be a good weekend.

Another Day Closer...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Losing the Stuff Update #4

The Rogue River, near Agness, Oregon

Today I had a guy and his family come up from Grand Terrace in response to a posting I'd made on craigslist. He bought Don's backpack, my Big Agnes sleeping pad, and our backpacking kitchen gear - stove, pans, mugs, etc.

I've made, to date, $409 on ebay - mostly cross stitch patterns, but also a couple pairs of never-worn Birkenstocks.

We have a few other things on craigslist that are pending - the people will be coming next week. The first thing I sold was a portable heater that was "extra."

A couple of things I've learned about craigslist and ebay:
1. Some people will always try to bargain you down in price, even after you put "FIRM" in the craigslit posting.
2. You should anticipate a half dozen scammer's emails after putting a post on craigslist. They tell you they have a great new way to earn money, and give you a link you should check out. Delete them all.
3. ebay buyers really appreciate your not trying to cheat them on postage. Go ahead and charge 50¢ for an envelope, but don't just tack on a few extra dollars just because you think you deserve that much for the drive to the post office.

Another Day Closer...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

For My Father

Morning in Arizona,
driving east through the desert.
Sun in my eyes,
ocotillo and saguaro flashing by
at 70 miles per hour–
I’d love to stop and wander
away from the highway,
lose myself in the distant mountains,
sleep on the ground
with the howl of the coyote as a serenade,
eat out of my sierra cup,
watch the hawks hunt.
But I can’t–not this time.
Not with my children in the back seat,
my husband next to me,
driving east through the Arizona desert
to obligations, schedules,
to my father.

What’s that smell, my daughter asks.
Creosote says my husband,
and I am distracted again–
the smell makes my mind wander
out into the sagebrush.
The last time we came this way
we stopped at dawn out here,
patches of fog revealing pink and purple skies–
this time just clear skies
and haze along the horizon.
And I’m reminded again that my father,
who used to share my love of wilderness,
awaits us 2 days away–to the east.

15 years ago, Daddy and I were two wanderers,
searching for some meaning.
He’d gone through years of pain, anger,
and alienation,
and I was looking for a direction to take.
We’d sit at our campfire and compare notes–
lessons he’d learned,
people he’d hurt,
burdens he continued to shoulder.

I’d listen, and wonder
how much of my dad was in me–
how many of those lessons I’d learn,
how many people I’d hurt,
how many burdens I’d bear.
Kindred spirits I think we were.
We’d hoist our backpacks and climb higher–
always higher–
as if to rise above the pain and anger
we were trying to leave behind.

Back in Arizona,
my husband points out the fog in the distance,
jagged peaks jutting upwards above it,
and I hear Daddy’s voice,
showing me the summit of Windom Peak
above the clouds.
Oh, we wanted to climb that one,
but 4 heart attacks had slowed him down a little,
and we settled for upper Chicago Basin:
another campfire, conversation,
and coffee,
with the gentle roar of Needle Creek
to lull us to sleep.

I think it helped us–our time together, that is.
I learned that
a father and daughter could be friends–
that we each had something to give
to each other
that sustained us for the next 15 years–
and here I am,
driving east through the Arizona desert,
to see the man I was born loving.

Tomorrow night, Dad.
Put the logs in the fireplace,
and we’ll compare notes again.
It’s been a great 15 years.
I have so much to tell you.

I wrote this in 1995, long before blogs and the widespread use of the internet for personal things like this. I credit my father for passing on to me his wanderlust - and boy, did he have a wanderlust. He was never content to stay in one place for long, and as I get closer and closer to being able to LEAVE, I realize how much like him I am. I miss you, Dad. We should have traveled together even more than we did.