Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting the Family Fix

I arrived at the Sacramento International Airport Sunday - late evening  - and was so happy when I found that Kari was there to meet me.  I hadn't seen any of my family since I left on my North American adventure last summer.  I'm sad that I'm not able to see my son Jeff's family on this trip; they live about 170 miles from my daughter's house and it's hard to get away during the week.
Kari, David and the four youngest of their six kids live in El Dorado Hills; which is a beautiful part of California.
El Dorado Hills with Folsom Lake in background
Serrano - residential area where Kari lives

For those unfamiliar with this large portion of California's geography, let me describe the area a little.  As all know California is a very long state; the Central Valley is a large, flat valley (that does include some foothill areas like EDH) that dominates the central portion of the state - it's 40-60 miles wide and stretches almost 500 miles from the north-northwest to the south-southeast, inland and running parallel to the Pacific Ocean coast.  It covers about 23,000 square miles and is roughly comparable in size to the state of West Virginia and is a little less than 14% of California's total land area.  It is home to some of the most productive agricultural land in the world.

El Dorado Hills, as the name implies, is located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, along Highway 50 E - heading towards Lake Tahoe and the Nevada State line, about an hour and a half distant.
Lake Tahoe - a wonderful place to visit - Winter or Summer

I am staying in Holland's bedroom; she's granddaughter #3 and is recently returned from Germany where she passed her first university semester at an international Bible College.  She has stories galore about her experiences both in school and doing the tourist thing all around Europe.

Department of Motor Vehicles -
Monday Morning

Since the purpose of this trip was to renew my California Driver's License, which had to be done IN PERSON, I wanted to get to DMV with time to spare in case there might be any glitches that would need to be corrected before returning to Abbeville, Louisiana on Wednesday; where Lacy and Eleanor are being cared for by wonderfully generous friends at Betty's RV Park.

I'd checked online and found a practice driver's written test and also a 'cheat sheet' for reviewing some obscure and some not-so-obscure driving laws.  I'd been notified that I was to take the written and vision tests, pay the renewal fee and have a newID photo taken.  'Bye-bye' to the current ID photo taken when I still had auburn-colored hair!

My son-in-law, David, suggested that I drive to Placerville, about 15 miles east off 50 because it would probably be less time-consuming.  Wrong!  It was Monday morning, so I waited in line for about 10 minutes just to get to the START window; then I was asked to be seated until my number was called.  One hour later it was finally my turn.  I confess I was a little nervous about the vision test, making the assumption that they're out to get little old ladies!

A nice service assistant gave me a vision test and said I'd done "perfectly."  I'm not sure if he was kidding, but I did PASS.  Yeah!  One test down.  A couple of my blog followers had suggested that I be careful with the written test and I do remember that it can be a little tricky.  I completed it and turned it in to the lady at the correct window.  Yippee!  I'd only missed one question - PASSED.  So, now it was just the photo and thumb print and that took only a couple of minutes and I was good to go.

With that out of the way I was ready to spend the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday with Kari's family . . . one active family, to say the least.  Both David and Kari work full-time, the 14-year-old triplets (Avery, Tate and Spencer - one boy with five sisters!) and newly returned world traveler, Holland, all have a very full plate of interests and activities.  It's a challenge to keep up with their individual and collective schedules.  I actually shared with Kari that I need to write everything down, just to know what, where, when, why, how and why everything gets done that involves my participation.  I will say that it's so much easier now that I don't have my own career agenda in the mix.  I can be flexible - I'm so enjoying just being around what I consider to be a very healthy and active family - Kari's.

Post Script Thursday Morning

I'm behind on posting but will catch up within the next few days.  Giving good thoughts to those of you who are trying to manage in bad winter weather.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

California, Here I Come . . .

I'm up and readying for my quick jaunt to Sacramento, California this afternoon.  Marvin finished up all my  shelving projects for me yesterday.  Oh, by the way, yesterday morning we had a low of 24F.  By about noon, it was well up into the 60s.  And, the low this morning was about 44F.  Go figure!
California State Flag
I spent time last night and will again today - getting things back into cabinets, cupboards and wardrobe closets.  I'm labeling all the storage containers as I go so it won't be so difficult to find things when I need them.  Yesterday, I finally found the outdoor temperature gauge that records on a gauge over my dinette.  I had to locate it (in the LP gas compartment!) so I could replace the batteries.  In the meantime, as I've been searching for the darn thing for weeks, I bought another; so now I have two separate gauges monitoring the outside temp from two different locations on the rig exterior!!!  Maybe I'm practicing for a new career - weather-woman MP!
Lacy has two couples ready to take her!  She's a popular lady!  I'd asked my next-door neighbors a couple of days ago and they accepted.  Then, last evening at happy hour another couple, who've just lost their dog a few weeks ago, asked if they could keep her in their RV.  I'll have to get her keep figured out with the two couples.  It's nice that she's well-behaved and popular.
This is El Dorado Hills, about 15 miles East of Sacramento off I-50, where
I'll be staying with my daughter's family
My house (rented) is in Roseville about 7 miles East of Sacramento off I-80
I probably won't see the GG Bridge on this trip.  This photo was taken from the
Marin County side of the bridge

Eleanor will be staying here in the rig - she climbed in last July and hasn't been outside since!  She's a rescue kitty and knows a good home when she sees it!  So a neighbor will come in to feed her and do litter box duty.

Hope all have a nice relaxing / exciting Sunday!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Crazy Cold Weather

It’s just been crazy weather with very little warning.  Yesterday it was in the 60s during the morning.  In the afternoon it got a little breezy with a slight chill in the air.  By seven or so in the evening it was dropping down into the 30s and this morning when I woke up it was 28F.   As if that wasn’t bad enough, the high today was 29F and it’s expected to be even colder tonight.  Brrrrr.
So this morning I bundled up in two sweat shirts over my pajamas to take Lacy on her walk; after opening the door, I remember putting my foot on Floribunda’s top step and the next thing I knew both feet were above my head and I bounced down the entry steps on my back and landed by clunking the back of my head on the frozen gravel next to the RV.  I let out a little screech but nobody heard me, so I lay there for a few seconds to make sure I was still alive and in Louisiana; then I picked myself up and took Lacy for a very short walk.

Upon returning inside warm Floribunda, I checked to determine what the physical damage was:  bruised and scraped back, several scratches and scrapes here and there and three broken to the quick fingernails.  As the day has progressed I’ve become pretty sore – kind of like I actually played in the 49er – Seahawks game the other day!  All I can say about it now is that I’m thankful; it could have been so much worse.  I’m a California girl; it never dawned on me to look for ice on my motor home steps.  It’s almost a half-inch thick so you can bet I’m now heading in and out holding on to the handrails!
The other semi-negative happening today was that I made a reservation to fly home to California this coming Sunday in order to get to the Department of Motor Vehicles on Monday to renew my driver’s license.  I knew when I left in July that my license would expire on my birthday in February.  What I didn’t know was that the renewal notice was going to require that I renew it in person!  It's that time when I have to prove that I'm still in control of my mental status, that my eyesight has not deteriorated, that I still understand California law regarding driving a private vehicle.  Oh, yes, and they want a current photo.  There goes the auburn hair color!  

I gave a few minutes of thought to the possibility of just letting the license lapse, but soon realized that’s not an option for me.  I’d not be comfortable driving around the country with an expired license.  I did call my auto insurance agent and she informed me that I could have a big problem if it were to have lapsed when I could be in an accident.  Yikes!  I don’t want even the slightest possibility of that happening!  So, off I go from Lafayette, LA to Sacramento, CA on Sunday; then I’ll return to LA on Wednesday night.  My generous neighbors, Kristi and Clay, have agreed to watch Lacy and Eleanor during my absence.  They have a beautifully groomed and happy dog and two very relaxed and satisfied cats in their motor home – I know they’ll take good care of my ‘girls.’

I first checked out flights from New Orleans to Sacramento - $850 without tax.  Then I tried Baton Rouge to Sacramento - $730 without tax.  At last I tried Lafayette to Sacramento - $548 complete.  Go figure!  The Lafayette airport is only about 20 miles from here; it won't be a big problem getting there on time. 

Tonight I'm snug in Floribunda with Lacy and Eleanor.  The ice is becoming thicker and the icicles longer.  Tomorrow, I'll decide what to take on my trip . . . not much because I don't even have anything larger than a purse to pack!  That makes decision-making so much easier!

Happy Weekend all!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A New Computer Desk

 I love the early morning hours.  After so many years of getting up early to head to the gym before going to work, I learned years ago that it's not the sleeping in that I crave, it's the waking early and NOT having to head out for exercise or work!  I love to have a nice mug of coffee and either read a book or jump on my laptop to check blogs, read emails, or just surf . . .
Reminds me a little of Lincoln!
This morning was one of those days; I finished reading Tracy Chevalier's "The Last Runaway," a novel about a young Quaker woman in Ohio, circa 1850, who is drawn into the clandestine activities  of the Underground Railroad, helping runaway slaves escape to freedom.

I did have a need to get a little cooking done as I'd invited Marvin, my handyman angel, for dinner today.  I bought some Black Angus rib eye steaks yesterday and wanted to make a nice dinner to try to thank Marvin for all his great work on my RV.  This morning I made bĂ©arnaise sauce, a sweet potato dish and balsamic vinaigrette.  All of this in my PJs!

As I was merrily working away there came a knock on the door.  Marvin was wanting to work on yet another project, building a small fold-down-from the -bedroom-wall desk.  He said we needed to  purchase some components at Stine's in Abbeville.  While I made myself presentable, Marvin did a little more reorganization of the exterior storage areas.  He's a master at getting the most out of every square inch of space.  When it's finally complete I intend to go around and make a list of each storage area's contents so I can find things in a month or so after I've forgotten where in the heck I put something!

While we were in Stine's buying screws, etc., we decided that, rather than using one of the left-over shelves for the desktop, we'd head to Wal-Mart to see if they had an appropriate cutting board we could use.  Yes, they did, for $17.  I bought it and we headed home to tackle the job.  Floribunda is not a big motor home as you can see here - work space is limited.

That's Marvin with electric screw driver on his chest, flashlight behind his head!

 Here's my MacBook Pro and Jetpack on their new desk.

Marvin's still not satisfied with the entire results and wants to do some refining tomorrow.  He's quite a perfectionist about his projects and I'm appreciative of his expertise.

Both Marvin and I enjoy eating dinner earlier rather than later so after the craft time, Marvin went to his trailer, probably for a well-deserved nap.  I put the finishing touches on the dinner and we ate at 4:30.  

The above photos were taken with my iPhone because I ran out of memory space on my camera's memory card; so I purchased a 32 Gig memory card a few days ago, went out to the car and took it out of the package to insert in my camera.  It flipped out of my hand and dropped down between the seats in Petunia.  I tried to reach down to pick it up with two fingers but couldn't quite grasp it; so I got out of the car and went to the passenger side to look under the seat.  The memory card was nowhere to be found.  I've spent the last three days going over the car floor with a fine-toothed comb. I cannot find the darn thing!  $36 for no pictures - yet!

Dinner menu - no photos:
Quickly sauteed rib eye steaks
BĂ©arnaise sauce
Smashed sweet potatoes
Buttered zucchini
Pear, avocado, cranberry, mescaline salad with candied walnuts and garlic balsamic dressing

Marvin and I are both 'watching our waists' so no dessert!

What's a "King Cake" in Cajun Country?

At Betty’s RV Park we’ve partaken of a plethora of “king cakes” in the recent weeks.  So, I decided to find out a little more about what this cake represents.   I’m so enjoying learning about Cajun culture:  people, history, language, and culinary traditions of this group of overt a million Acadians, the Cajuns, who live in Acadiana, the Cajun country of southwestern Louisiana.
Abbeville, home of Betty's RV Park, is about 18 miles south of Lafayette
In many countries throughout the Christian world, the “king cake” is traditionally served during the Christmas season, from Christmas Eve through the Epiphany on January 6th to commemorate the time from the birth of Jesus until the visit of the Magi (the 12th night after His birth).   Here in Cajun country the "king cake" is also traditional to commemorate the Mardi Gras season, which extends from the Epiphany (12th night)  until Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before the start of the Lent.

The traditional Cajun "king cake" is a round or oval-shaped cake decorated with the colors of
Mardi Gras:  purple, green and gold.  In 1872, New Orleans was visited by Russian Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanoff, who suggested the colors:  purple represents Justice, green represents Faith, and gold represents Power.                                                         

Inserted into the cake before it's baked is a (usually) plastic baby representing the Baby Jesus.  The tradition is that, as the cake is consumed at parties given during this Mardi Gras season, the person who finds the baby Jesus in his piece is responsible to host the next party!    Every day is a party day at Betty's; so the tradition here is that the person who finds the baby Jesus is responsible for buying the next "king cake!"  I think we're now up to about 5 "king cakes' during our daily happy hour.

Of course, as with so many traditions, there are almost as many variations as there are Cajuns!  Generally speaking, the traditional cake, Recipe, is actually an artisan bread, with many of the traditional Cajun cooking ingredients, like raisins, pecans, bourbon, brown sugar, spices . . .

At our happy hour gatherings the "king cake" servings are accompanied with libations (from non-alcoholic beer to all varieties of wine to mixed drinks and straight shots), great conversation and lots of laughter and camaraderie . . .    

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday, Quinn . . . and Floribunda Improvement Projects

Wednesday January 22, 2014

Happy 26th Birthday to my wonderful granddaughter, Quinn, who was born on 1/22 (1988) at 1:22pm in Marin County, California and has been a joy for me ever since.  I love you, Quinn.  Hope your day is filled with wonderful things.

During this wonderful stay in Abbeville (over a month now) I’ve received so much help with lots of big and little issues / travails of owning a motor home.  People, mostly guys, have been 
Johnny-On-The-Spot to help me with all kinds of issues and I’m so appreciative.  Generally speaking, I believe that RVers are friendly and charitable people; these friends have gone above and beyond the call of duty, especially Marvin. All RVers understand that there are always “to do” lists; some of which can’t be accomplished solo – especially for me with my limited (albeit expanding) electrical, building and plumbing abilities.

Now I'm at a point where lots of these current projects can be completed by me without help from others; I need time to cogitate - try things out and (if necessary) regroup to finalize the current storage choices, etc.  When I bought Floribunda in June she came with three wardrobe closets; I immediately made the one located next to the kitchen into a pantry.  I simply decided what I wanted to do, measured and purchased masonite-laminated plywood shelving at Home Depot and installed four shelves, utilizing the bracket strips that were already in the wardrobe.  At the time, I didn’t bother with the fact that the space had need of a cutout in each shelf to accommodate a wiring/plumbing area behind the cupboard.  I simply measured each desired shelf as a rectangle and left open space at the rear.  Well, several months later, I  realize how inefficient that is – traveling shifts contents and I’ve had things from one shelf fall through the opening to the shelf below, etc.  Ugh.  So, I’ve wanted to revamp pantry wardrobe with shelves cut to fit the area exactly.  In addition, I wanted to make one of the two bedroom wardrobes into shelved storage (also needing each level cut to fit the space correctly), as well.  Marvin has been so wonderful – accompanying me on shopping trips and doing the skill saw customization of all the shelves.  Our experience at Lowe's and Stine's is fodder for a short story one day.  He’s also going to build a fold-down shelf for me on one wall in the bedroom to use with my laptop.  I’ll buy a folding chair and be able to leave the computer set up whenever I’m parked.

I also utilized Marvin and others’ knowledge to determine that I needed to buy a new TV.  Then Marvin worked on removing the old tube TV, carrying it off to a charity, customizing the cupboard giving additional storage space behind the new flat screen TV, which he also installed.  I’ve offered to pay him for all his help but he flat out refuses, saying he has the time as, “I’m retired!”  So, I’m treating him to some restaurant and home-cooked meals; that’s all he’ll accept as remuneration.

This morning I’ve taken some down-time;  I need to get all the new and different storage areas organized in a way that works for me.  Nobody can do this for me and I’m enjoying the process in ‘retirement mode: ’  work a little, read, work a little, blog, work a little, take a shower.  Aaahh, that’s one great bonus of my life these days.  

Okay, I’ve had my blogging break; time to get on with de-cluttering!

Happy Days to All!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Email From My Cousin, Linda

  Charles Schulz Philosophy

   The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the  questions. Just read this straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.  

2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.  

3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.  

 4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.  

5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.  

6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.


 How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.


   Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.  

2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.  

3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.  

4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.  

5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.



The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.


 "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia." (Charles Schulz)


I'd love to hear some of your answers if you'd care to share.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Floribunda Improvement Therapy

Floribunda and Petunia ready to go - July 2012 - Loomis, CA

Lacy and I took a spin in Petunia Smart car to Lafayette day before yesterday to do a little Floribunda retail therapy.  First of all, we headed to a locksmith (none in Abbeville) to see what they could do with the key to the bedroom slide-out. 
I’ve left the key in the lock of the slide-out, where I’d found it when I purchased the rig in June.  The other day I noticed that it looked kind of strange; when I checked a little closer I realized the key was bent at a right angle.  Hmmm, how in the world did that happen?  In short order, the locksmith cut two new keys and returned my broken-in-two-piece original.  I was going to have him throw the original away but he suggested that I try the new keys, just in case.  I’m glad he instructed me to keep it because, in fact, neither of the new keys works; so I’ll be going back to see if they can get it get it cut correctly.  If not, I’ll have to buy a new locking mechanism.
The key wasn't actually broken until the locksmith put it in his machine.
I have completely worn out my eyes and psyche on the beige, gray, beige, beige interior color scheme that came with Floribunda.  I like color and have perhaps an abnormal affection for the warm curry colors of India.  I love red, gold, orange, peacock blue, green – lively, friendly, powerful colors.  I wanted a new quilt set for the queen-sized bed – something to liven up the room and coach.  Lacy patiently waited in the car while I shopped in four different places – Marshall’s, Ross, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond - nothing struck my fancy.   So, after telling Lacy we were on our way home, I decided to just make one more stop at Macy’s . . .Oh, dear – I hoped if I found something, it wouldn’t break the bank!  Well, wonders never cease.    I found this lovely, and colorful set – Martha Stewart Living brand - $320 for the quilt and shams – on sale for $87!!!
Lacy and Eleanor think this will work well for naps and bedtime
Marvin, my RV park Louisiana-born friend, a retired Fire Captain, has been wonderful about helping me out with various projects I’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the wherewithal, talent or tool-wise, to get accomplished to date.
He’s traipsed around the countryside with me, used his tools and even a few of my meager supplies to do several helpful storage projects.  AS my RV-ing friends know, storage and organization are the two big buzzwords of this lifestyle.  RV-ers are destined to repair, reorganize and make changes in their rigs for the entire time of the lifestyle!

One such project was my chassis battery (runs the engine and driving electrical operations).  The Interstate battery was purchased in June and still under warranty.  When I don’t drive Floribunda for more than a day or two, the battery doesn’t turn over and I have to use the auxiliary switch to turn the engine on.  So far, it’s worked every time; but, there’s always the first time, right?  Well, Dan, Wendell, Wayne and Marvin talked that over and decided I needed to take the battery to an Interstate dealer to see if it’s defective.  Marvin and I went to about three places before we found one that actually sells Interstate.  They put it on their charger for two hours, and then tested it.  It’s good!   Now what to try?  A little later, as I was talking to another neighbor, I remembered that when I bought the rig the seller told me about some auxiliary switches that are located above the exit door.  Hmmm, what did he say they are used for?  Oh yes, he’d told me the purpose of these switches is to turn off the chassis (engine) battery and the coach batteries during any period of time when the rig will be stored without operating for a length of time.   My neighbor said that the comparable switch in his rig is located low on the wall next to the exit door and his grandkids accidentally hit it and his motor wouldn’t start.  OMG!  I have some books on the shelf next to these switches in Floribunda . . . Yup!  The auxiliary switch was in the OFF position!  I turned both switches ON and started the engine right up.  Live and learn!

I’ve said before that I’m not used to watching TV anymore, but my buddies here want me to be able to if I want.  I think I’ve mentioned that Floribunda came with a tube TV, which Marvin took out – boy is it heavy – and we took it to The Ark, a Goodwill-type organization in Abbeville.  I have a Polaroid flat screen that would fit nicely in the same spot, including giving me some much-appreciated storage where the giant tube was located.  Marvin to the rescue again, about a four-hour+ ordeal; thank you again, Marvin.  We bought a wall-mount bracket for the TV at Wal-Mart.  Marvin made and painted plywood backing to mount the TV on, and we (well, I did help a little and made dinner for the dear boy) installed the ‘new’ TV.   I’d also purchased a universal remote but we weren’t able to get it set up last evening; so it’s back to Wal-Mart to try a more sophisticated remote model.
Eleanor waits patiently and watches project progress
This is the hole in the middle of the cabinet section above the driving area.  Marvin created this support piece to mount the TV.  The hole is for being able to reach into the space behind it to store things.  The insulation you see will be covered by another piece of black-painte plywood
This is with the flat screen installed with fingerprints from manipulation.  The rear-view mirror was in this spot; I've never used it but we left it until we figure out how to disguise the holes in the woodwork
Now I can put away all the things I’d taken out of the storage cabinets that have been sitting on the dashboard for days. 

Another project is the refinement of my bedroom storage and new office arrangement.  I’d had my laptop in the dinette area, which always appeared a little messy.  I’ve moved the ‘office’ about ten feet into the bedroom; so visitors don’t see all the workings every time they come to the door.   I have two wardrobe closets, a small counter area and six drawers in this little bedroom.   Marvin and I are brain-storming about making a little built-in computer desk, complete with a little desk chair that can be folded and stored for travel, in the bedroom (I’ll take some before and after photos) and I’ve rearranged clothing storage to make room for office supplies that can be stored in cabinets, rather than out in plain sight.   And, we’re going to make one of my two wardrobe closets into a shelved closet where I can store much more clothing (and other stuff) than hanging it up.  Yippee!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Few Heart Songs . . .

Check out this finale to Peter Pan in Glasgow

Four-year-old version of "Jambalaya"

Three-year-old chants Quran

Email from John this morning:
The pictures are wonderful, but the words at the end of this are whats most important in life...  






















"There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it.
You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good.
Love the people who treat you right. Life is too short to be anything but happy.
Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

Have a nice day, everybody!