Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Monday, December 19, 2016

Proud Parents of a new R. N. and Other (Far Less Important) Things

At Sunset Shores RV Park, Willis, Texas...

Many of you saw this on Facebook, but you'll just have to bear with us again, as it isn't every day that parents can gush over an offspring's accomplishment like this one. Our Mindy just graduated first in her nursing school class, all the while raising two boys under seven years of age and home schooling them, too boot. She said it was the hardest thing she ever did, and the amount of sleep she lost to be at the top of her class must have been epic. She had the unwavering support of our son-in-law, Tyler, and we helped when we could, along with others, but it was mostly her sheer determination to excel that resulted in her finish at the top. She has informed us that she will be pursuing her B.S.N. right away. From the perspective of fulltime RVers, it was nice that we were able to swoop in from time to time and provide some help and yet not be underfoot. We are, as you can imagine, incredibly proud of her.

Now, on to really trivial matters:

Blasting through our location near Houston was the same strong Arctic cold that froze the rest of the nation. Fortunately, we didn't suffer a hard freeze this far south. But since we won't be leaving for the Rio Grande Valley until after the holidays, we were going to have to endure temps in the low thirties, so how did we prepare for it? Why, I did what any good Texan would do--cook a pot of chili!

I don't know about you, but I like spicy chili, and I also see this as an opportunity to toss in some surplus ingredients that may need to be used from the fridge or pantry; I don't really use a recipe. In this case, I browned about a pound and a half of chili meat, tossed in a lot of chopped onion and garlic, some chopped fresh jalapeno and serrano peppers, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, black pepper, cajun seasoning, a good bit of chili powder and cumin, some leftover homemade salsa, a can of beef broth, a can of green chiles, and a couple of aging cans of storebought chili. Then I simmered the whole thing for about 45 minutes. Yes indeed, it was spicy; but boy, was it good! Did I use beans, you ask? Well, no self-respecting Texan would put beans in chili. That was something brought here by carpetbaggers after the civil war, and I think we hanged most of those folks.

Now, before you call the chili police about the horror of my using canned chili, you shouldn't mock something you haven't tried. Canned chili, which is something Texans should really only use as targets on a shooting range, provides not only some extra flavor, but it also provides the emulsification that would normally be required for good chili by adding masa flour to the chili, as the purists would do. The neat thing is, no one will ever know of your sacrilege; it will just taste like really good homemade chili. I only revealed this secret because when someone gets old, like me, he really doesn't give a rip what people think. And when the chili police come after me, I won't go quietly.

Here's something I found amusing. I was checking out at Wal-Mart the other day, and I saw this taken out of the basket of the customer in front of me:

Really?, I thought to myself. I can only assume this was a gag gift, but it may not have been. The chia pet and its variations have been around for a long time, so I suppose there's a market for these things. I just have trouble understanding how watching little chia plants grow on a pig--or a zombie's hand--is compelling enough to pay money for it. But then, I haven't understood some of our culture for a long time. Apparently though, Wal-Mart knows something I don't know, and that's why the Waltons are zillionaires. 

Having devolved this narrative from Mindy's exciting news to a discussion about a chia zombie (sometimes I worry about myself), I'll leave you with this equally useless tidbit regarding the origin of common sayings:

"The Whole Nine Yards"

During WWII, U.S. airplanes were armed with belts  of ammo, which they would shoot during dogfights and on strafing runs.  These were 27 feet long and contained hundreds of cartridges that fed their machine guns. The belts were carefully folded into wing compartments that were adjacent to the guns. Often, pilots would return from their missions having expended all of their bullets on various targets. They  would say that they gave the enemy "the whole nine yards," meaning they used up all of their ammunition.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Healthcare Concerns as Fulltimers; A Lighting Project and a Favorite Recipe

At The Vineyards Campground, Grapevine, Texas...

We had to take a short trip back to the DFW area for a doctor visit. We really like the Vineyards RV park, which is probably one of the nicest in the state. It is owned by the city of Grapevine, and it is hardly typical of municipal RV parks in general. First of all, it rests on a large lakefront property whose value is probably incalculable, given its location in the middle of the DFW Metroplex. Secondly, it is a first class development with hard surfaced roads and sites, many of which front on Lake Grapevine itself. Thirdly, the city fathers--fully aware of its attractiveness to RVers--exact a steep price from its users. Unlike most municipal parks, you don't get to stay here at a loss to the city so RVers will go into town and spend money. Instead, you dole out plenty of moolah for your site, and then you still go into the quaint town and spend more. As you can imagine, there's plenty to do in the area, and the park is almost always full. The price? Think around $50 per night or between $1100 and $1800 a month, depending on the site you choose. Normally, this would be a little pricey for us, but the park is very close to our doctors' offices. We only stay a few days at these prices.

The Vineyards suffered devastating damage from a 100-year flood a couple of years ago. Every single site in the park was flooded, some covered by more than 20 feet of water. It took a long time to rebuild, but they have done a superb job of bringing it back.

Here's our site right on the shore of Lake Grapevine: 

If you've read this rag for a while, you might think that we are hypochondriacs, judging by how often we visit doctors and dentists. Well, we are not fortunate enough to have escaped medical problems as have a number of our disgustingly healthy friends. We both have some fake joints and other conditions that need medication and monitoring from time to time. Fortunately, these are controllable, and they don't cause us any physical limitations at the moment. I also have the good fortune to be married to Sandy, who watches me like an owl who has spotted a fat field mouse. If I so much as hiccup, she will drag me to the doctor. 

Now, being less than fond of visits to the doctor or dentist, I usually protest vigorously, so we compromise and I do what I'm told. My initial pushback is usually more symbolic than real; I already know how it will end when she gives me "the look." However, I have learned to trust Sandy's instinct without making too much noise, as I am positive that her prodding very likely saved me from colon cancer some 30 years ago.

As relatively new fulltimers, we are still working through healthcare concerns that we likely share with others of our ilk. We had established great relationships with and confidence in our local doctors and dentists over decades here in the DFW area, and we haven't yet found all the new ones we'll need at The Woodlands near Houston, where the kids and grandkids are and where we will likely be spending most of our downtime. We're getting there, however, having found a dentist and ob-gyn who will fill the bill, but we have more healthcare providers whom we have to test-drive, if you will.

I read in my friend Richard's blog that he recently upgraded the bulbs in the light underneath microwave in his motorhome. That got me to thinking that we have the same problem with too-dim lighting above our kitchen range, so I decided to do him one better and install some extra lights, which I did all by myself, and nothing blew up, and no one was electrocuted. Amazing!  

Here's the pitiful little light we had:

So, I picked up this three-light LED kit from Home Depot:

A quick install underneath the microwave:

And voila'!

Went from this...

To this...!

I really didn't realize how much this little upgrade was needed; but now we might be able to follow recipes a little better!

Speaking of recipes, I recently made a batch of my favorite spicy tuna salad:

Now if you're like us and are a fan of tuna salad, and you also like spicy food, as we do, this one is for you. But be warned: It is not for sissies; there are no fewer than six kinds of spicy peppers and seasonings in this concoction! You can, of course, modify the recipe to your level of tolerance but, if you are fearless, you'll make it like in the recipe below. And while we're talking about tuna, please don't buy some cheap canned tuna like Star Kist or worse, some store brand. You may need to go to an upscale store to buy solid pack albacore tuna cooked in its own juices or do like we do and order it from a private cannery in Oregon like Sportsmen's or Chuck's. The difference is not to be believed. In fact, when we were in Oregon two summers ago, we made a point to visit Chuck's store and pick up a case of the good stuff. It's easy to order online too, and you won't be sorry. And yes, it's a little pricey, but aren't you worth it? I think so. 

Okay, here we go:

Mike's Hotter than the Hinges of Hell Tuna Salad

1 8 oz. can albacore tuna (Use the good stuff; I'll be watching.)
1 small stalk celery, chopped
1/3 cup fresh chopped carrots
1/3 cup fresh chopped onion
1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped (you can use jalapeno, but that's for weaklings)
1/4 cup chopped hot garlic dill pickles
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup drained and chopped Mama Lil's Goathorn Peppers (see comment below)
1 teaspoon Los Chileros Salsa Mix (see comment below)
1 boiled egg, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Black pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise (If you don't use Hellman's, you're not serious about cooking.)


1. Break up the chunk tuna in a bowl and then mix in all the remaining ingredients. Don't overmix; you don't want it to get mushy.

2. Eat. (A beverage should be nearby.)

Notes:  Mama Lil's Goathorn Peppers:  These are spicy and slightly tart Hungarian peppers in oil, hand packed in Oregon, and I use them in many dishes to add a unique flavor. They're also good in Italian antipasto. Easily obtained by mailorder.

Yes, I know--all the expensive specialty products just for a tuna salad? Well, yes! It's just not the same without them, and it's not like you can't use them in other dishes, right? While we're at it, let's talk about the Los Chileros Christmas Salsa Mix. This can be ordered from Los Chileros in New Mexico where they have lots of great New Mexican seasonings. I use it in fresh salsa, breakfast burritos, juevos rancheros and anything else that's spicy. It's good stuff.

By the way, we usually don't make sandwiches out of this tuna. We eat it with crackers, but not just any crackers--

Yes, this is our favorite cracker--Trader Joe's Everything Crackers. If we should ever run out of these, a call to 911 is in order.

Obviously, you can adjust the recipe as desired, but you should know that Sandy can eat this with no problem. It hasn't always been so, however. Living with a spicy food nut like me for 40 years, she has had to make some major adjustments to her palate. When we were dating, I remember well her timidly dipping the corner of a tostada in a tiny bit of mild salsa and then shaking off the excess, lest she might taste a little heat. 

You've come a long way, baby!

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; please forgive me if I don't appreciate it enough each day.