Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of 2011...

And I still catch myself starting to write 2010 on the very occasional check that I write!

It's been an interesting year, the first one that we've actually avoided being anywhere that there was snow! We were in Mesa, Arizona when the ball dropped on TV last year, going from there out into the desert for the Quartzite Desert Rat Rally X with 125 mostly Alpine coaches. From there we spent time in San Jacinto, California in order to get a follow-up ultrasound of my leg that proved the blood clot was resolved and I could 'cease and desist' with the daily coumadin.

We went to Lake Havasu for a week checking out the light houses and London Bridge, then spent a week in Salome, Arizona before heading back to the Mesa area. We moved around to a couple of area RV resorts before finally settling in for a month at Sun Life RV Resort. We were there long enough to watch a pair of baby hummingbirds grow up and leave their golf ball size nest. In late April Forry finally fulfilled his desire of returning to Meteor Crater for the first time since he was seven years old.

We explored beautiful New Mexico the first few weeks in May including a wonderful visit with my friend Tina, her daughter Delcherie and granddaughter Kaili (and enjoying Tina's fry bread) While in New Mexico we celebrated my 70th birthday and Forry surprised me with not one, but two gorgeous squash blossom turquoise necklaces!

We spent the last part of the month in Utah exploring Canyonlands and Zion National Parks, then had a visit with Daughter Dawn's in-laws in Nampa, Idaho. June was family time, starting with a visit to Sister Sherry and the mastiffs in Touchet; down the Columbia Gorge to Daughter Dawn's family in Hubbard, Oregon; then north to Mount Vernon, Washington to spend time with Daughter Mary Mae's family before heading back over the Cascades to our homeplace, Tree Heart Ranch, Ltd.

We left Auntie Violet at the ranch the first part of July and flew back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the biennial convention of Mennonite Church USA, then spent another week with our RV friends Bill and Leslie exploring that portion of Pennsylvania. The rest of July and August were spent with the obligatory dental and medical check-ups and the more pleasant task of spending time with our Menno family and Brother Pat's growing young family.

By September 7th we were on the road again, heading east through northern Idaho and Montana, then southeast through Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska. We finally found our way to Kansas for Mennonite Church USA Executive Board meetings and wonderful visits with Walt and Clara and Roger and Carmen (Menno church family who had moved back to Kansas).

Next came Missouri, Illinois and Indiana (drove on the "brickyard" -- the Indianapolis Race Track). We had HWH hydraulic hoses replaced in October in Elkhart at Stuart's Service who rank right up there in great service! We snuck up into Tecumseh, Michigan to spend a couple of nights in that state, then were on to Ohio and Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Derby track as well as learned how to make bourbon on distillery tours. Somewhere in there I flew back to Spokane to work at the Mennonite Country Auction...

We met up with our friends Tom and Juni in Tennessee in November, visiting Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and having Juni as a tour guide at Elvis Presley's Graceland and downtown Memphis. We stayed right on banks of the Mississippi River in Arkansas, then spent a week in Tunica, Mississippi.

We parked for a week on the River Styx in Alabama, then finally made it into Florida in early December. Our friends Leslie and Bill are spending the winter at Mouse Mountain near Orlando and we made our first visits to the Disney World Resorts with them. We celebrated Christmas with my Executive Board colleague Juanita's congregation in Apopka, then had dinner with Leslie's family.

We have reservations for the next couple of weeks in the Florida Keys, but that is as far as we have plans. We do know that we eventually want to head all the way up into Maine early next summer, then return to the Pacific Northwest along the northern tier of states, picking up the ones that are not yet on our "visited" map.

It is exciting to think what this new year of 2012 will bring!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Lazy, Quiet Day

This end of the Peace River RV Park seems to be completely full. And judging by the tags in the windows of the RVs around us, no one will be moving on before we do. So this morning there were no racing engines nor huge rigs maneuvering around to wake us up or disturb our morning coffee drinking. It's a fairly quiet area of the park as well. We are away from the pool area or an area where there are children. We might have an occasional child biking by, but that's about it.

There may not be many children, but there are lots and LOTS of dogs. There is a constant parade of dog walkers. There may be an occasional single dog, but ninety percent of the people seem to have two or more. And for some reason, there are a lot of them that have pit bulls and Rottweilers (even though the park rules say "no aggressive breeds."). There is one lady that comes by with three of them -- she is not walking them, they are pulling her! There are also a lot of little dogs of all kinds, again at least two and sometimes three. But, I must say, there don't seem to be a lot of barkers here, which is really nice.

I got three loads of clothes washed today, so am once again all caught up. Other than that, I haven't accomplished much. I have been reading Lauraine Snelling's series of books about early day settlers in the Red River area of North Dakota. I'm so glad that I was able to re-download them unto the new Kindle!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Life Goes On -- Even in an RV Park...

It says in the brochure for Peace River Thousand Trails that the park can accommodate rigs up to forty feet long. That may be true, but they certainly don't enforce it. Early this morning, there was this 45 foot, three-axle fifth-wheel that was attempting to park across the narrow road from us. With the truck and trailer, he is a good 70 feet long --

The driver knocked on the door of the neighbors next to us and had them more their car. He had us boxed in. We really can't move Auntie Violet as there is a tree right behind us! The truck pulling the fifth-wheel was a huge Volvo truck that ended up less then a foot from Auntie Violet's nose --

I was sure glad that I had put my little lavender tree and the wrought iron road runner alongside Auntie Violet instead of in front where I usually put them (the above two pictures were taken through the cooling screen we put in the front windows) --

Then when they finally got the fifth-wheel parked, instead of parking the truck alongside, he parked it along the road. It's a pretty narrow road and due to the tree in the back of our site, we are right close to the edge as well...

Oh well, I guess I just need to relax and not worry about anyone clipping us as they fly by...

When we arrived at the RV Park yesterday, the package with my new Kindle DX was already here. It looks just like the old one except that it is black instead of white. It seems to function a bit more quickly than my old one as well. The Amazon people had sent me an email with a prepaid mailing label to print. Forry removed my old Kindle from the case and put the new one in; then I repacked it in the same box the new one came in and taped it up and put the new label on.

This afternoon we went to the post office in Wauchula to send the old Kindle back and discovered that it was a UPS label, NOT a USPS label. And there is no UPS store in the town. The lady at the post office said that we would have to call UPS and have them come pick it up...

So when we got back to the RV Park, I stopped at the office to see what I would have to do to allow the UPS guy to come through the security gate. She said I needed to leave the package at the office and they would see that it went out with their UPS delivery in the morning.  I do have the tracking number so I guess I can make sure it gets sent...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Movin' On

We got up and got going fairly early this morning and pulled out of Bee's RV Park by 10:30 even with putting all of the Christmas stuff away. We really didn't move to far, just a couple of hours south to Peace River RV Park near Wauchula. I don't think we've traveled a single leg of all our travels this year without running into this --

Road construction is just part of the game -- and in this part of the world they don't have to stop for snow and ice!

We definitely were in orchard country today! We passed miles of orange groves --

And lots of trucks full of oranges --

These mesh sided trailers looked really neat all filled with fruit --

I think we passed a juice processing plant. There was no signage that we could see, but there sure were a lot of trucks heading that way --

It sort of reminded me of home. Instead of wheat or potatoes or onions along the road that had bounced off of the trucks, there were oranges.

Then we began to see the empty trucks heading back out to the orchards --

We actually drove past the RV park which was on the other side of the four-lane divided highway and had to make a U-turn at the next corner to get back to it. We made reservations at Peace River RV Park through our Resort Parks International (RPI) membership, but it actually is a large (400 plus sites) Thousand Trails facility. It's the only park we have ever been at (except for a couple very small self-service parks in the west) where we were NOT assigned a site!

The lady at the desk showed us the park map, showed us the areas that "were pretty full," and the sites where we "might get satellite service," and then told us to "call her and let her know what site we parked in..." It reminded me a bit of flying Southwest Airlines with the people evidencing the same kind of rather rude pushy behavior.

There were two rigs, and then a third, rig that pulled in behind us. While we were unhooking Toad (as advised by the lady in the office) so that we could check out the available sites, they pulled around us with their tows still attached. Keep in mind that this is an older park with fairly narrow roads. They went racing up and down the roads looking for sites. I watched one of them come around the same area three times...! There are actually quite a few empty sites, I counted at least twenty as we drove around in Toad. And there are fifty or sixty more in the area with only water and electric hookups.

In the meantime, we had found a spot down towards the end of the sites with sewer hook-ups. All of the sites are back-ins as the pipes in between are not buried very far below the surface and are vulnerable to breaking if driven over. While I waited in Toad at the site for Forry to drive Auntie Violet down to it, I watched one of the later-comers actually pull around and pass him on that narrow road!

We are sitting in a site that is oriented north-south, so we could look out the Auntie Violet's and watch this gorgeous sunset tonight.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sherlock Holmes!

We have been talking with Bill and Leslie about going to one of the new movies that are out this Christmas season. We had been thinking about going to see Warhorse, but Leslie decided that it would get too emotional for her ('cause "it's about animals..."). After checking out was on at the theater closest to us, we decided to go see the Sherlock Holmes movie.

The Epic Theater is halfway between Bee's RV Park where we are staying and Mouse Mountain RV Park where Leslie and Bill are staying so we figured we would just meet there this afternoon and then come back here for dinner. It was a good plan except that Sally, our dear sweet GPS unit, could not find the theater! The site she took us to was just a field. We drove on another long way, then after talking to Bill and Leslie -- who were already at the theater waiting -- we finally made a U-turn and headed back. The theater was actually almost five miles from where the GPS said it was.

Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows is an interesting movie. There is some pretty wild photography and use of fast and slow motion -- especially during fight scenes. We had gotten there barely on time (missed ALL the ads and previews), so ended up sitting closer to the front then we probably should have to get the best effect. But it was fun.

I had picked up a very nice couple of flank steaks when we at Costco a couple of weeks ago. I took one out of the freezer last night and marinated it this morning in lime juice, chopped garlic, cumin and the last of my original bottle of Mexican lime oil. Later I added sliced onions and peppers to the marinade as well. When we got back after the movie, I broiled the steak, stir-fried the peppers and onions, and toasted some corn tortillas. We had a great meal of steak fajitas!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Day of Leftovers...

I must have really been tired last night! I was in bed by 10:30 when we normally stay up until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. And I slept around the clock! (Oh, all right, I admit I got up a couple of times to stumble into the bathroom...)

So by the time I got up this morning, it was time for brunch. Forry had cracked and cleaned the couple of crab legs that I had left from Christmas Eve.  I got them out of the refrigerator along with eggs for omelets. He used the new little grater that Santa had stuck in his stocking to grate some Gruyere cheese and I sauteed some green onions and chopped up a few celery leaves. The omelets were delicious!

Later we finished off the little bits of seafood cocktail and cranberries that I'd brought home from Christmas dinner. I think they tasted even better today then they did yesterday!

Our neighbors in the RV across the road from us were very busy taking down and putting away all of their Christmas decorations. I noticed tonight that they were probably the only ones -- the park is still pretty brightly lit up. We will be moving further south on Wednesday, so will pack our things up and put away the Christmas box tomorrow.

The five-way switch on my hard-working Kindle DX quit working last week. ;-(

After trying all the reset tricks I know and checking the Kindle Internet trouble-shooting page, I finally called them. The lady I talked to didn't take long to tell me that I had purchased it in March of 2009 and that it was out of warranty. But then she said that with their service support, they would send me a replacement for $90. A quick check showed that the DXs are still selling for about $250, so we decided to go ahead. She assured me that they would ship a new one that would arrive by the 28th. I gave her the address of the next RV park, Peace River Resort, that we should be at on that date. Then I called to alert Peace River that it was coming...

I am lost without my Kindle! Thank goodness that Bill and Leslie gave me a hard copy of Walt Disney, An American Original as part of my Christmas present!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer


Juanita Nunez, one of my colleagues on the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA, co-pastors with her husband Eligio, Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer, a Mennonite Church in Apopco, Florida. This morning we were able to join them for their Sunday School and the Children's Nativity Program. While my grasp of Spanish is minimal, I am still able to "sort of" follow along, especially when I know the topic under discussion. It was good to see and visit with Juanita at her home church, and especially nice to meet her husband, son, daughter-in-law and darling baby grandson.

Like all such programs, the Children's Nativity Program was delightful. One of the young girls -- perhaps eight years old -- sang a very impressive solo. So sweet, dressed in her angel costume holding the microphone like a pro.

After a trip home to change clothes and pick up the crab cocktail and cranberry relish that I had made last night as our contribution to Christmas dinner, we headed over to Bill and Leslie's. Then we went to the home of Leslie's parents for our Christmas feast. We had both ham and a turkey loaf with all of the fixings. A bit later, Leslie's brother John came with his wife Eunice and their darling little daughter Isabella complete with tutu! Of course, Auntie Leslie just had to add the Mickey hat and ears...

 Leslie has been giving both Forry and Bill a bad time about their resemblance -- at times -- to Grumpy of the Seven Dwarfs. (Bill has a couple of Grumpy t-shirts...) and she found Forry the most delightful mug. I do think there is a certain resemblance?

I think it is just darling!

I got treated even nicer. Leslie had ordered me another bottle of the Mexican Lime Olive Oil from Arizona after she discovered mine was almost empty and that I was hoarding the last drops!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve and Joe's Crab Shack

For many years, we have had cracked Dungeness crab for Christmas Eve dinner (we've had some interesting excursions finding crab, but that's another story for another time.). Last year, when we were in Mesa, Arizona, I checked a few stores, but could not find any. Then someone got the bright idea that we should go to Joe's Crab Shack.

Bill was fighting bronchitis, so he stayed home. But Leslie came with us along with our friends Tom and Juni who were also spending Christmas where it was warm. We had a great time, eating crab and lobster -- and the best part was that I didn't have to clean the crabs!

So when we joined up with Bill and Leslie here in Florida a week or so ago, we immediately decided that we would be going to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner on Christmas Eve. Leslie had already checked and discovered that there were THREE of them in the Orlando area! Which is sort of funny 'cause there were NONE in the Seattle or Portland area...

What is fun about the Joe's Crab Shack franchise is the variety they offer. You can order King, Queen, Snow or Dungeness crab or lobster or a combination thereof. Then you have to decide what kind of seasoning you want yours cooked with, a range from Cajun to Chesapeake to BBQ. They come in a pot with an ear of corn and a couple of boiled potatoes. There is a hole in the center of the table with a bucket in it for you to toss your shells into. You also get a roll of paper towels to use for napkins and a piece of newspaper for a place mat. If you order crab or lobster, you get a bib tied around your neck and you're given a couple of packets of hand cleaner wipe along with a nut cracker and one of Joe's pry tools (that say "stolen from Joe's Crab Shack on them.).

Bill and Leslie ordered a combination of King and Queen crabs while I stuck with my traditional Dungeness choice. And Forry -- he decided he was going to eat popcorn shrimp tonight! And then as if all the seafood wasn't enough, we all four shared a version of S'mores -- a decadent dessert of graham crackers on a bed of chocolate sauce, topped with a slice of chocolate cake that was topped with gooey toasted marshmallows! Scrumptious!

So after dining at Joe's Crab Shack two years in a row, it is now a tradition, right?

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Sense of Anticipation

I am seventy years old. How could I possibly be feeling like a little kid? But, I do have a sense of anticipation as tomorrow is Christmas Eve! It's not about presents, because we don't do much more then little stocking stuffers (and I find and wrap most of them...). It's not so much about food, though we are planning to go to dinner at Joe's Crab Shop tomorrow night and having Christmas dinner at Leslie's parent's house on Sunday. It's certainly not about a WHITE Christmas, it was almost ninety here in Clermont, Florida today and we actually turned on the air conditioners. It's not about family, as they are sadly all a L-O-N-G way away.

My early memories of Christmas are of driving around town at night looking at the Christmas lights and decorations; of pieces learned and recited for Grange Christmas parties; of Christmas Eve at church and then going to Grandma Kubik's house to open presents -- in the parlor we weren't allowed into any other time of the year.

The constant of Christmas all of my life has been a sense of wonder about the child that was born in the barn -- and laid in a manger. The realization of what a wonderful gift that infant was to be to all of us. So I guess that's what the sense of anticipation is all about. A sense that once more we are celebrating the remembrance of that wonderful present so many years ago that still is with us today!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Toes

It's hard to buy presents for people who are full-time RVers. Most of us really do not want anything that takes up more space or adds more weight. I was in great need of a pedicure -- we've gotten far enough south for sandals and my toes were not fit to be seen in public. Half purple nail polish and half plain nail just doesn't cut it!

My bright idea was to invite my friend Leslie to come get a pedicure with me as her Christmas present. (The fact that she drove us over to the nearby mall doesn't matter, does it?) It was fun to sit and chat while our feet soaked. And we both ended up with Christmas red toes!

I am intrigued by the plethora of little "Nail" shops in almost every strip mall. This one, like every one that I've been in this year, looked like it was a family affair. Two guys, one older and one younger, and two women, again one older and one younger. I'm pretty sure they have all been Vietnamese. It seems like they've carved out a niche in the beauty market. The shops are all pretty much alike: manicure stations in the front; a line of pedicure chairs with soaking tubs along the wall; and a couple of little rooms on the other side for waxing services. What's really nice is that all of the ones I've seen take walk-in customers, which is really nice for very mobile RVers.

Soon after Leslie and I got back to their RV Serenity, Bill fixed a great broccoli and beef stir-fry for us. A nice way to end a lovely afternoon!

Today was the shortest day of the year and it really got dark early. We watched the last of the sunset as we drove back home. I will certainly be glad to see the days start getting longer again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mail Call

It's always a good day when the mail comes. When you don't get your mail every day, it seems like a real treat on the day it does arrive. We have been very fortunate that our eldest daughter Mary Mae has continued to receive and forward our mail for the last almost five years that we have been on the road. She mainly uses the Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes. Almost every time we pick up a box at the local post office, we get a comment about "getting our money's worth!" MM can pack more stuff into one of those boxes.

Today there were two boxes. One was the usual fat heavy one, while the second was a bit thinner and quite a bit lighter. What a delight when we got home to open the lighter one and find that Grandson Varick and Granddaughter Claire had decorated an evergreen swag to hang from Auntie Violet's outside mirror. This has been a tradition every Christmas at their house to decorate swags for family and friends and it was neat to get one in the mail!

We spent a good share of the afternoon reading through the mail and enjoying Christmas cards and letters. A special treat was getting the school pictures of Varick and Claire and a nice card with pictures of my Nephew Jared and Becky and my darling grand-niece Ellie. Pictures aren't as good as actually seeing them, but they help.

Later this afternoon our friends Leslie and Bill came over bearing shrimp for supper. I made us each a salad with green onions, avocados, cucumbers, orange peppers, palm hearts, artichoke quarters lettuce and tomatoes topped off with peppered toasted almonds. Bill stir-fried the shrimp with some special seasoning he had and we once more had a feast.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Beginning to Look...

Today was a BIG day for Auntie Violet. She got a bath today and looks all shiny and clean. One of the maintenance men here at Bee's RV Park moonlights in his spare time washing RVs and cars. He had offered to do ours last week as we were leaving for Bill and Leslie's, so we put him off to later this week. He stopped by this morning and said he was off this afternoon and could do it. So Auntie Violet is now all ready for the holidays. Forry got inspired and dug the Christmas box out of the basement bay. Now she has all of her icicles hung along with her "JOY" sign. We'll need to get a set of those little battery lights for Granddaughter Claire's lavender plant...

There are many RVs around the park who are beginning to look like Christmas as well --

I really needed a tripod to get a shot of this Christmas tree in the window of the fifth-wheel across the way from us --

These folks are in the next row over. They have a bit of everything at their site --

And of course, there is the obligatory palm tree. I think there is one in more then half of the RV parks we've ever been at --

These are just the RVs I can see when standing outside of Auntie Violet! It was a bit different when we were over at Mouse Mountain RV Park where Bill and Leslie are staying. Almost everyone there had some type of Mickey Mouse or Disney theme. (There are many Disney park employees staying there...)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Errands -- and More Errands

Today was a day for running errands. We were just going to make a quick run to the post office to mail a couple of things, then Forry wanted to see if he could find a new switch for the lamp on his side of the bed at a Lowes. Then he decided he needed to go to Napa Auto Parts and then we decided we needed to go to Harbor Freight. So our quick trip turned into a good part of the day!

Since we really don't know the Orlando area at all, we relied on what I had been able to find for addresses on the Internet and what the GPS unit told us. We were able to find a couple of places that were in the same vicinity, but I'm sure we probably drove a lot of extra miles to get to the rest. We have the GPS unit programmed to avoid toll roads, so we end up seeing a lot of nice country that we probably wouldn't get to see if we took the freeways.

We saw a couple of grapefruit and orange stands on our way out and promised ourselves we would stop on the way home. But, of course, we didn't see a single one while coming back!

We did get a nice Christmas package from Daughter Dawn that had some packages and lovely notes from the grandkids -- and new pictures of Grandson Micah and Granddaughter Kyra! We saved the packages for Christmas, but are enjoying the pictures and notes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Auntie Violet Gets New Lights!

Thanks to our friend Bill, Auntie Violet is getting all new light bulbs. Forry has been wanting to change out all of her halogen light bulbs to the newer -- and cooler -- LED light bulbs. Bill had run into a VERY good deal on a case of the bulbs. His coach, Serenity, didn't need the whole batch, so he offered to sell us as many as Auntie Violet needed. The bulbs are sort of funny looking, they have nine little "bulbs" of light on a flat piece --

This is what one of the old halogen light bulbs looks like --

While this is one of the new LED ones --

This is one of the ceiling lights with the new bulbs -- and the glass cover back on. The new lights are not only much cooler then the old ones, we think they are brighter as well.

After Forry put in some of the twenty-two new light bulbs this morning, we went over to Bill and Leslie's to spend the afternoon. Leslie and I went over to Bed, Bath and Beyond and Michael's, while the guys went to the Bass Pro Shop. It was so nice to just spend time with another female browsing and window-shopping!

I had gotten some lovely lamb chops and some artichokes when we were at Costco the other day and had taken them with us. After we all got back from our outings, we had a wonderful feast. Since their diet doesn't allow Bill and Leslie to have dairy currently, instead of Hollandaise with the artichokes, Leslie made a great dip with mayo, soy sauce and garlic that I almost like better.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Golf Carts

I am beginning to think that a prerequisite to a long-term stay at an RV park must be a golf cart. I really believe that there may be more golf carts in use at RV parks then in all of the golf courses combined! Auntie Violet is currently sitting on a corner site in Bee's RV Resort. It's kind of fun to sit at my desk and watch the golf cart traffic outside the window. Many of them have tinsel and stockings and lights and all kinds of holiday decorations, but I've seen none to beat this one we saw last night at Disney's Fort Wilderness. This "sled" was quite a sight!

The heads of the reindeer (attached to a bar in front of the golf cart) swiveled back and forth. And be sure to note Rudolph's red nose!

The other mode of transportation we saw a great deal of yesterday was strollers! These are just the ones parked outside of one of the restaurants --

Bill says he has seen times when the porch was actually completely full of strollers! And I must admit, I did not get whacked by a stroller even once yesterday! Usually when we are in a crowded area, they are a constant threat, but the folks yesterday seemed to be quite courteous and careful.

Today was a down day for us. We slept in and didn't leave the RV park. I got a couple of loads of laundry done and Forry drained the grey water tank. He also took apart the lamp on his side of the bed. The switch has been acting up and not working part of the time. It finally quit working at all. Turns out it is completely shot. Sounds like a trip to the hardware store is now on the docket.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A VERY Fun Day

Our friend Leslie is a Disney addict. She came by it honestly, having grown up in Florida and making many trips as a child to Disney World. Since their marriage, she has created another addict in her husband Bill. So we had two premier guides today for a visit to check out the Christmas decorations at the Disney hotels. We started out at the main parking lot, then took a tram to the monorail. We took the monorail to the Floridian, perhaps the classiest of the hotels. They have this incredible gingerbread house in the lobby.

Note the size of the house -- compared to those people that walked in front of me! The chimney of the house actually smoked --

Outside of the hotel, they were roasting -- and giving away -- chestnuts. None of us had ever eaten one before.

You had to peel away the outside husk... They are fairly soft and mealy. We all decided they were definitely an acquired taste --

The grounds of the hotel have some beautiful topiaries -- I loved this one of Mary Poppins --

In the middle of the lobby was this several stories tall, exquisite Christmas tree --

From the Floridian, we took the monorail to the Contemporary Hotel to see another gingerbread creation --

and gingerbread tree --

Then we took a boat ride over to Fort Wilderness, the Disney campground. We took a "sleigh" buggy horse ride around the RV Park to see all of the incredible and elaborate decorations done by the people staying in the park. We really lucked out as Leslie had tried to make reservations for the ride, but they were sold out. Talking to the concierge, Bill discovered that one of the four carriages did not take reservations, so we got to ride after all.

After eating the chicken salad picnic that Leslie had fixed for us, we took another boat ride over to the Polynesian Resort where we planned to watch the evening fireworks. We could see the castle of the Magic Kingdom across the way --

While we were sitting on the beach at the Polynesian, we watched the Fantasmic Water Light Show out on the lagoon. King Trident with his seahorse steeds --

The octopus waving his arms --

And a dinosaur having a little snack -- 

We were in a great spot to watch the fireworks. I didn't get any pictures, but Leslie did, and maybe I can show some of them on tomorrow's blog.

After the fireworks, we walked back from the Polynesian to take the tram back to the parking lot. By the time we got back to their place and from there to Auntie Violet, it was midnight. But it was a VERY fun day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

FINALLY -- A Costco Trip

Okay, I admit it. I am a Costco addict!

It's been quite a while since we were anywhere near a Costco warehouse store -- now we have an abundance of riches -- there are three of them in the Orlando area. I checked on the Internet to see where the closest one was. Turns out it is in Altamont Springs, 23 miles away from Bee's RV Park.

I was in the Toad preparing to program the address into the GPS, but I couldn't get it to turn on. Sure I was doing something wrong, Forry tried it, but couldn't make it work either. So we got Auntie Violet's unit and put it into Toad. We programmed it to avoid toll roads, so it took us on some two-lane back country roads. We saw a lot of country, a few goats, lots of cattle, and five sandhill cranes! We also saw many nurseries and several groves of oranges. Which, according to Florida native Leslie, are getting increasingly scarce.

One of the very nicest things about Costco warehouse is their produce. They always have a large variety and it is really fresh. Today we bought blueberries and a papaya, peppers and cucumbers and a carton of Florida strawberries that smelled like real strawberries. Costco also carries the small hothouse Campari tomatoes that also smell -- and taste -- like tomatoes from the garden.

I also like Costco meats. They come in packages with way too many of any one thing for us, but I bring them home and repack them in zippered freezer bags. Today I bought skirt steak, hamburger (in one pound packs) and some luscious looking lamb chops; all of which are now re-packaged and in the freezer.

It's fun to sample all of the goodies at stations around the warehouse. Today Forry sampled some sausage that he liked well enough to buy some for Sunday morning breakfasts. But what he likes the most about Costco is their Polish dogs. You get a Polish hot dog and a soft drink (refillable) for $1.50! They have held that price ever since they opened! If you go into a warehouse around lunch time, you will always see men in suits and office attire getting their dogs. You can't beat the price!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A VERY Lovely Evening!

We are in the "overflow" area at the entrance to Bee's RV Park. When we arrived here about three this afternoon, there was no one in the office. And the sign on the door said they would be back at 9 AM! There were notes on the window for two people with assigned spaces, but none for us! I called the number on the door; got an answering machine and left a message about our plight stating that we would go into their overflow area until told otherwise.

The overflow area is right near the entrance and is a nice grassy area with both water and 50 amp electricity. So not too bad a place to stay. Shortly after we got settled, I got a call back from the number I had called. The lady said that her husband had been having chest pains and they were in the emergency room. I assured her that we were just fine, that she should take care of her husband and we would see her in the morning.

We did a bit of clearing up in the RV, then sat down to read for a bit. I noticed a lovely sunset forming outside and stepped out to take this picture --

and heard the voices of our friends Leslie and Bill who had just driven up. And they came bearing supper! Leslie had found a new recipe for a lime shrimp and avocado salad that was just scrumptious! While it was very nice not to have to cook tonight, it was even nicer to see Bill and Leslie. We definitely talked the evening away!

Part of our discussion was about when to go to Disney World with the two of them. If there ever was a tour guide who knows her way around the Disney properties, it's Leslie! Since we are getting very close to the Christmas holidays and school vacations, we decided we had best go this week before all the families on vacation show up...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Think We've Found a Gem!

Sometimes you just get lucky, I guess. We found a gem of an RV Park today! Yesterday when we decided we did not want to drive all the way to Clermont in one day, Forry just started looking at the map and outlined an area about halfway there. Then we looked at our directories to see what we could find in that area in the way of RV campgrounds.

We found two near White Springs that both looked good and offered a 50% discount. I called the first one, Lee's Country Campground, let it ring, but got no answer, not even an answering machine. So I sort of shrugged and started looking for the number of the second one. But before I could punch it in, my phone rang.

It was Myrna from Lee's Country Campground calling me back! And apologizing because she hadn't gotten to the phone in time to answer my call! Myrna asked me the usual questions: how big is your rig; any pets; do you need sewer, etc.
She then assured me that they had plenty of space and could give us a pull-through space.

We left Pine Lake RV Park in good time this morning and had an easy trip east on Interstate 10 through Tallahassee. We stopped for diesel at a Pilot near Midway, Florida. We put in 48.4 gallons at $3.829. With our RV Advantage Card it was a quick in-and-out as the card gives you Pump Start privileges and there is no need to go inside until it is time to pay. It also gives us 3 cents per gallon off. Not much, but that's $1.44 we didn't have to spend...

We were pleasantly surprised when we turned into Lee's Country Campground. It's small, they have eight acres with only 38 sites. Very tidy and clean. There is a gate across the entrance and there was someone there immediately to open it for us. The office is just beyond the gate and Myrna was waiting for us. She said that they had started the park from scratch twenty-two years ago. The park has no long-termers, mostly over-nighters and a few weekly renters.


Auntie Violet is parked on a grassy area with 50 watt electrical service and a water hook-up. We very quickly put the jacks down and the slides out. I put an acorn squash in the oven with some honey and butter and thawed some crab cakes for supper. Rigs have pulled in on both sides of us since this picture was taken. Like us, they are on their way further south.

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Tummy Doesn't Like Me!

It doesn't like me and it woke me up at 4 AM to make sure I knew it! After a couple of trips out of bed, I decided to grab my fleecy, hardly ever worn, bathrobe out of the back closet and curl up on the couch with the afghan. And there I stayed the rest of the morning.

By noon, I was feeling better, so I finally ventured to get dressed. I had a scheduled conference call at 2 PM for the Racial Healing Task Group that I am involved in, so thought it would help if I got out of my nightie for the call. And that was the extent of my ambition for the day.

Forry, however, went out and got the grey and black water tanks drained. And he took the garbage down to the dumpster at the end of the park. All in preparation for moving on tomorrow. Oh, I guess I did do something else! I called the Bee's RV Resort  to see if we could change our reservation start from the 13th until the 14th. Then I called Lee's Country Campground in White Springs to make a reservation for tomorrow night.

When I had made the reservations at Bee's, Forry hadn't yet sat down with a map to see how far it actually was from here at Pine Lake. It looks like it is about six hours of driving, which it is more hours then we like to drive in any single day. Now, with the new reservation, we'll break it up into two days of driving.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Day at Home -- Mostly

It was VERY late when we got home last night, so we did not get up very early this morning. We spent most of the day inside Auntie Violet -- it was just too chilly to sit outside. In fact, I haven't even pulled our lounge chairs out of Toad yet.

We joined the folks at Menno this morning listening to the video of last month's Harvest Festival. We are so grateful to Bill D who has faithfully mailed us videos of Menno services. And to Gene who sits up in the balcony every Sunday running the video camera! I think that no matter where we travel, Menno will ALWAYS be home to us.

Late this afternoon we finally got up enough ambition to go into town to get Forry milk for his breakfast cereal (I've offered to share my Greek Yogurt with him, but for some reason he'd rather eat his cereal dry than share my yogurt!) The GPS unit in Toad showed that there was a Winn-Dixie grocery about twenty miles from Pine Lake RV Park in the town of Arianna.

We followed GPS Sally's directions, but when we got to where she said the store was, all we found was a park. We finally spotted the store on the other side of the park. There was no road between the park and the store, so I guess Sally assumed we were already there...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Trip to Tallahassee

This morning we drove the seventy plus miles to Tallahassee to visit our friends Danny and Gail. We have been friends for many years (Gail proceeded me as President of the National Rural Health Association - NRHA). Even though they lived a long way away from Washington State (first in Texas, then in West Virginia), we would see each other at national conferences and pick up the conversation right where we had left off the last time. We would also see each other every fall at the Health Sector Assembly in Utah where we both represented rural health at that prestigious think tank.

Then there was our memorable trip to the NRHA convention in Anchorage when we stayed on afterwards and with Wayne, another friend and a former NRHA President, spent another week exploring Denali National Park and the Fairbanks area.

We were fortunate this trip that we were able to meet up, as Gail and Danny had just returned on Monday from a trip to Venice, Italy where they were celebrating Gail's 60th birthday. We spent a very pleasant afternoon visiting, catching up and taking a long walk around their neighborhood. While we we were out walking, the power in their area went out, so we returned to the house in the dark. It came back on in time to fix a very good dinner of lamb steaks, collard greens and roasted yams. We finished off the evening by watching the first half of the Republican Iowa debate before we made the long drive back to Auntie Violet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mr Fixit...

We had thought about going back to St. Andrews State Park today, but woke up without a lot of ambition. Forry did get started on a couple of "fixit" jobs. One that he's been thinking about and one that just popped up yesterday...

We've had an occasional leak in the back on the bedroom slide caused by the gasket not folding out properly. When it stays tucked in and the rain drives from that direction, the water comes inside. Forry had bought some strips of rough adhesive that he put on in the hopes it would create enough friction to pull the gasket out properly. Of course, doing that job meant that the ladder had to be taken off the top of Toad -- a job in itself.

The other job came up just yesterday when all of a sudden the clothes I took out of my Splendide washer were WET! Sopping wet! I tried running them through the spin portion of the cycle again, but that didn't help a bit. Fortunately it was the last load of clothes. So this morning, Forry took the drain assembly apart to clean it. He did find a nickel caught in there. Hopefully, that's what was causing the problem. I'll have to find something dirty to wash so we can see if it's really fixed.

I used the second half of some stew beef I had purchased and frozen to make another batch of stew for supper. Onions, turnips, a rutabaga, parsnips and a small sweet potato -- um, um good!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Trip to the Gulf

This afternoon we drove down Highway 231 towards the Panama City beaches. We had picked up a brochure at the Florida Welcome Center that told about the nature trails at St. Andrews State Park, so we went to check it out. The area is full of palmetto thickets and a mixture of pine and deciduous trees --

We drove into the park and down to the jetty where we spotted these two Brown Pelicans resting on the rocks --

This Great Blue Heron was standing in the shallows, patiently waiting for a fish --

A Great Egret flew in to the edge of the rocks --

Then waded in closer to shore. It was not the least bit concerned about me standing there --

There was a very nice new boardwalk that went out to Alligator Lake. It was chilly and we saw no alligators, but watched several herons and egrets fly in to roost for the night on the opposite side.

This incredibly white sand is said to be quartz washed in from the Appalachian Mountains?

We saw this Northern Mockingbird and several of his family watching all of the park activity --

As we were driving back to Pine Lake RV Park, we watched the clouds turn all shades of pink in front of the almost full rising moon --

It was a nice afternoon, but we want to come back and spend more time exploring this beautiful park.