Thursday, May 29, 2008

Snow, Snow, Snow

We went to Rock Creek, which is northeast of Bishop. Our campground, East Fork, is at 9000 feet, and we set up in the snow Thursday night. It snowed again on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. It wasn't until around noon on Monday that we saw the sun for more than 5 minutes. Luckily all this snow kept melting - it just wasn't that cold.

On Saturday, we drove out to the upper Owens River (above Lake Crowley), where Don got some great river fly-fishing in. He caught quite a few rainbows and browns, but didn't keep any.

From where we parked on the Owens, I took this picture of the snow clouds as they moved from west to east (left to right). They didn't come south to where we were, though, so Don was able to stay dry for several hours of fishing.

On Monday, after yet another snowfall, I drove up to Rock Creek Lake since Don had said it looked beautiful with the new snow.

Monday afternoon it was finally warm enough to sit outside and read while Don cooked hot links on the grill.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Our New Keystone Sprinter

After a year and a half in our Wave, we started to understand what we really wanted in a trailer. At first, we thought we'd want a motor home - and then found out we definitely couldn't afford one. We found this - which is much nicer than our Wave, and has a whole lot more room even though it's a foot shorter. (That's due to the huge double slide that has the dinette and couch in it.) This is a 250 RBS, meaning Rear Bath and Slide. It costs almost twice as much as the Wave did, but it's soooo worth it. I'll try to show as much as I can in the pics below.

This is the full-sized standup shower in the bathroom. It's almost as nice as the shower here at home!

Love those fixtures - this is called brushed oiled copper. This one's in the bathroom.

Nice sink/cabinet set.

Looking into the bathroom from the living room. The bathroom takes up the whole back end of the trailer, so it's twice as large as a normal RV bathroom. The shower is on the left as you go in.

There's a queen-sized bed in the bedroom, and you can actually walk to the "top" of it on either side - no climbing. As short as I am, I can reach those storage cabinets! That means I can actually use them!

I really like this kitchen sink and the tall faucet.

Here's another look at the kitchen sink and the cooking area. I've got lots of counter space with that flip-up extension, and 6 full-sized drawers for all my "stuff."

This is the entertainment center that serves as a dividing wall between the living room and the bedroom. Behind it are some sliding doors, and when you pull out the doors, you can rotate the flat-screen television to watch it from the bed! Below the television is a DVD/CD/radio/MP3 player.

Instead of a scissors sofa, we have a comfortable sofa-sleeper.

Refrigerator, bathroom door, and a full-sized pantry. Now I have room for food for our longer trips.

The dinette is about 5 inches longer than the normal RV dinette, and the table and countertops are a faux granite instead of plain white. There's a real light fixture above the dinette that makes it all look pretty.

More storage above the couch.

So what do you think? Can you tell I'm proud? We'll be taking it to the Sierras for Memorial Day weekend (I took 2 extra days off to make it a 5-night trip) and then to Colorado for the summer.

Getting Away From it All

Originally posted on April 3, 2008 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

The past two weeks have been spring break in our school district, and Don and I spent the first 11 days of it in the southern Sierras. First, we went to a place new to us - Kaweah Lake. It's between Visalia and the south entrance to Sequoia National Park. We camped at Horse Creek Campground, and for most of our stay had our loop of the campground to ourselves. I called our site "a room with a view." I sat outside nearly every day while Don was fishing, just so I could enjoy that view. To our left was Lake Kaweah, and to the right was a view up the Kaweah River.

We learned that the lake was built for flood control, and it fills up every year. By the end of May or early June each year, the water comes up and covers almost all of the campground. We could see it changing each day we were there - small islands and bushes became covered by the end of our stay. The campground is not open during the summer - it's under water!

After we left Lake Kaweah, we had reservations at a Forest Service campground on Lake Isabella. When we got there, it was a nightmare. First of all, more than half of the campground was closed - and I'm sure that's where the sites were that were large enough for RVs and trailers. We drove through a few loops - getting stuck several times and tearing up the side of our trailer against some trees and rocks. When we could finally make it back to the entrance, we saw that there wasn't even a camp host there to tell us where a decent site could be found. Soooo, we decided to go to Don's favorite campground - Rivernook - a private campground with full hookups and CABLE TV. Yeah, we were really roughing it. But he likes Rivernook, since he can fish in the Kern right from the campground. He also can drive up and down the Kern and fish all he wants. The picture to the left was taken from one of the places we stopped (the day I accompanied him up the river). Six days there was nice -all I did was sit and cross stitch and read and not even think about work.

Sunset on the Beach

Originally posted on January 4, 2008 on "Cookin' with Cyndi"

This was while the sun was still behind the clouds before it set.

About 10 minutes after the sun had set.

Holiday Greetings from San Diego

Originally posted on December 24, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

We're spending the holiday vacation in two places - first, we're at Santee Lakes Preserve, camped right on a small lake that's part of a 7-lake system in northeast San Diego. The temps are much warmer here than back home in the mountains - it was shorts weather today while we toured the Midway aircraft carrier. Don's spent lots of hours fishing (not catching - just fishing), and I've been able to relax, stitch, play on the computer, read, and not think about work.

This is the view out my back window. That's one of the things I love about this trailer's floorplan - the rear kitchen and a window to see what's behind us.

Just before we left to come on this trip, I received a statement from STRS (State Teachers' Retirement System), which predicted what I'll be making when I retire. It's considerably less than what I'm making now, and Don and I had a long talk about how we can plan even better than we have. The first thing we're doing is "practicing." I've been looking at websites about cutting grocery bills, and will be trying to implement some of the strategies I've learned about. One strategy is finding the "loss leaders" at the grocery stores. I learned that the front and back pages of the grocery store ads are where the loss leaders are found, and that I shouldn't even look at the inside pages. Another strategy is to locate the "manager's specials," which can range from specials that aren't in the ad to meats just at the edge of their expiration dates. Our local Vons store always has manager's specials on meats, and I make it a point to see what's available. Thursday I found a fabulous bargain on pork. They had a package that had a pork roast, about 8 inches long, then 14 thin boneless pork chops, and 6 1 1/2" thick pork chops. The total value of the package, which was originally a large boneless pork loin, was $35.00. They had marked it down to $11.46. Wow! I'm going to get 9 meals out of it, since the roast will make two different meals. I cooked two of the thicker chops first.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I've tried in the past, and we decided that we like this version the best of all.

Spicy Orange-Glazed Pork Chops

2 boneless pork chops, cut 3/4 to 1" thick
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoon orange marmalade
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water

Sprinkle chops lightly with salt and pepper; dredge in flour. Heat oil in a heavy skillet; brown pork chops on both sides. Combine remaining ingredients, mixing well. Pour over chops. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10-15 minutes. Liquid will form a glaze. Turn chops to coat, and remove them to a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth to mixture, followed by cornstarch and water mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens. Serve sauce over pork and cooked rice. Serves 2.

Breakfast this morning was a variation of sausage-egg casserole. I made it in muffin cups using refrigerated flaky biscuits. I think it came out pretty nicely, and they sure did taste good!

Sausage-Egg Breakfast Muffins

1 5-count roll flaky biscuits (they have to be the flaky ones)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 oz. (about 1/3 of a 1-pound roll) pork breakfast sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 375˚. Separate layers of flaky biscuits and place them in pairs in 6 muffin tins sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Since there are 5 biscuits and 6 tins, you'll need to "borrow" some layers from the others to make up the 6th one. When you put them in the tins, stand them on end, bottoms touching, and press to form cups. Sprinkle the bottoms of the cups with half of the cheese. In a skillet, saute onion and sausage together, breaking up sausage as it cooks. Stir in mustard. Break eggs into sausage, and continue to cook and mix until eggs are done. Divide mixture into muffin cups and top with the remaining cheese. Bake in preheated oven 17 minutes or until bread is golden and cheese is melted. Makes 6.

Lake Mead, Nevada

Originally posted on November 24, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

With a week off for Thanksgiving, we returned to one of our favorite winter camping places, Lake Mead. Gary had moved his motorhome to Echo Bay since Overton Beach had closed, and he invited us there to do some fishing. (Well, he invited Don to do some fishing - I enjoyed hours and hours of uninterrupted stitching time.) The bucket above represents only one afternoon of fishing, and was turned into 4 meals' worth of boneless striper fillets - plus one catfish. We ate fried fish two nights, and brought home 5 meals' worth of fish. So now I need to share with you the best way to make fried fish! This is how Gary makes it.

Fried Fish (Striper or Catfish)

1 cup Stovetop Stuffing mix (any flavor)
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
8-10 boneless striped bass or catfish fillets
vegetable oil (about 1/2" deep in a large skillet)

Put stuffing mix in a plastic or brown paper bag. Use a rolling pin (a can of vegetables will do in a pinch!) to crush the cubes. Combine stuffing mix, cornmeal, and Mrs. Dash in a large bowl. Place flour in a large plastic or brown paper bag. Combine eggs and milk in a shallow bowl. Shake fish fillets in flour until coated, and place in egg-milk bath. Then dredge in cornmeal-stuffing mixture, and add to hot oil. Fry until lightly browned on each side.

Henry's Lake State Park, Idaho

Originally posted on August 2, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

Henry's Lake State Park is where we spent the last two weeks of our vacation. We had a site with a great view of the lake, and it was close enough (25 yards) for Don to walk down with his float tube every morning and evening.

This is our view north from our campsite, with the only thing other than the lake being the two rental cabins.

To the east of our campsite lay Howard Creek Slough, home to hundreds (maybe thousands) of birds and two moose. The moose, both bulls, came out to graze every evening, and slowly made their way to the lake and back into the bush over a 2-3 hour period. People came from thousands of miles to Yellowstone and didn't see a moose, and we had our own moose here at Henry's Lake. (It's only 13 miles from Henry's Lake to West Yellowstone.)

The last photo I took on this trip was fittingly a very colorful sunset over Henry's Lake.

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

Originally posted on August 2, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

From our campsite on Henry's Lake in the corner of Idaho near Yellowstone, we could look westward up a low pass to some nice-looking mountains in the distance. After looking at the map, we could see a road going up and over that pass to some lakes and a national wildlife refuge. We packed a cooler and picnic basket, Don bought a 1-day Montana fishing license (the other one had expired several weeks ago), and we made it an all-day excursion.

We were surprised when we reached the pass - it really didn't seem like a Continental Divide Pass. But here's the proof!

This is the southwest corner of Upper Red Rock Lake, and you can see that it's way too shallow and marshy to fish. Besides, after we found a pamphlet about the refuge, we learned that there's no fishing in the larger lakes. Using the map in the pamphlet, we drove off in search of some fishing ponds and streams that were supposed to produce trout and grayling.

Some old buildings still exist from the first settlers who came to the valley. The mountains in the background are the Centennial Range, and the reason it's hazy is because of the the fires burning in Montana and Idaho. About an hour after the photo was taken, the smoke was so bad you couldn't see the mountains at all.

Willett Pond was the first one we came to, and Don was disappointed to learn that there were no fish coming to the surface to feed on the many bugs that were all over it. That showed him that they most likely wouldn't be interested in his flies, either. So we gave up on the ponds and headed back towards Red Rock Creek. We drove right past a "Dead End" sign, because I insisted that the map, printed in 2005, showed that the side road went all the way back to the main road. 5 miles later we came to a washed-out bridge, and had to backtrack almost 10 miles.

But that backtracking took us to beautiful Red Rock Creek. Another fisherman, who was leaving as we drove up, told Don that this creek has grayling in it. Don's never caught grayling, so he had to give it a try. No luck on this day. But the next day, he went back, and caught several.

Big Springs, Idaho - the begining of the Henry's Fork

Originally posted on July 21, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

About five miles from Henry's Lake is Big Springs. Here, waters from the Yellowstone Plateau have percolated down through the basalt and come out, thousands of gallons a minute, forming the headwaters of the Henry's Fork of the Snake River. From 1929 until 1953, a German immigrant named Johnny Sack lived in this little cabin he built himself, which is now open for visitors and run by the Forest Service. See the moose?

This is just one small "corner" of the springs, where the water flows out of the ground.

Trout and whitefish gather at the springs to feed and spawn, depending on the time of the year, and these huge trout were just hanging in the water below the bridge.

This young moose was enjoying his lunch of rich vegetation from the springs.

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho

Originally posted on July 21, 2007 on "Cookin' With Cyndi"

As I type this, we're camped at Henry's Lake State Park in northeastern Idaho - about 15 miles west of Yellowstone. A couple of days ago we took the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, and came to Upper Mesa Falls. Henry's Lake and the Island Park area are in a giant caldera, similar to the one at Yellowstone. The Henry's Fork (of the Snake) originates here, and flows south and "off" the edge of the caldera at Mesa Falls. We visited the upper falls, which has an old inn/lodge and pathways with viewpoints. Since we visited in the morning, we caught the sun in the right place to see the rainbow!

How I Spent My Birthday, Part 3: Red Lodge to Cody

Originally posted on July 21, 2007 on "Cookin' with Cyndi"

The next morning, we partook of the free breakfast at the hotel (carbs, carbs, carbs - the only protein was a hard-boiled egg), and headed back to Cody. Back up we went, this time stopping at the West Summit for a while for some picture-taking. To the left, in the center of the photo, is the Bear Tooth, for which the mountains and the highway are named.

If you look closely, you can see a lone mountain goat grazing in the lower center.

I really don't like having my picture taken, but I've been told that it's necessary for "posterity."

This picture, to the right, is now in at least five other vacationers' photo albums. We stopped at Little Bear Lake for a while, so Don could try fishing that one. So many people stopped, got out, and exclaimed, "Look, a fisherman. What a great picture!" or something along that line. Indeed, it was a beautiful shot.

Here he is, letting go of a small brook trout from Little Bear Lake.