Category Archives: Recipe

Whiskey or Whisky

Donna had an appointment at the hair salon in Tempe on Tuesday. We rode the Spyder there – about a 20-minute ride from ViewPoint RV Resort. I dropped her off at 11am and continued on to the Total Wine store at Tempe Marketplace. Total Wine is a big box discount liquor store. They have a huge selection and good prices.

I was looking for a bottle of Scotch whisky. I like to sip single malt Scotch occasionally. There’s a difference between American whiskey and Scotch whisky – beyond the spelling and geographic origin – they are made from different ingredients. Scotch is malted barley that’s been distilled twice and aged in oak barrels. American whiskey is distilled primarily from corn.

The aging process for Scotch whisky takes place in oak barrels – usually in barrels obtained from American distilleries after they’ve been used to age whiskey. Some Scotch distillers will then transfer the whisky to used European wine casks – like sherry casks. The aging process takes place while it’s in the barrels or casks. Once it’s bottled, the aging process stops. So, if you have a bottle of 10-year-old Scotch and put it on the shelf for five years, you still have a bottle of 10-year-old Scotch.

Scotch whisky also has distinct flavors depending the region it’s distilled in. The largest region is Highland which is known for a warm, smooth product. A sub-region is called Speyside and it’s similar to Highland Scotch but also produces fruitier flavors. Scotch produced off the coast in the islands (Islay) is often peaty and/or smokey.

My preference is Speyside or Highland Scotch that’s been aged a minimum of 12 years. Scotch that’s aged 18 or more years is usually far superior but the price jumps exponentially. A lot of people will say not to waste your money or taste buds on inexpensive Scotch. I disagree – to a point. I look at it like shopping for red wine. Anyone can spend $30 or more and come home with a decent bottle of red wine. To me, the trick is finding a decent, affordable daily glass of wine for about a third of that cost. I shop for Scotch in this manner also.

My fallback position on single malt Scotch is Glenfiddich or The Glenlivet 12-year-old Scotch. These are very popular and affordable. I like to try out different offerings from time to time. When we’re in California, Trader Joe’s carries their house brand of Scotch which they obtain from a brokerage called Alexander Murray. Alexander Murray buys from various distilleries and bottles under private labels. They carry 750ml bottles ranging from cheap 8-year-old Scotch to very expensive 25-year-old Scotch. I’ve had their 13-year-old and 15-year-old and it’s quite good.

At Total Wine, I found a bottle called Glen Ness 12-year-old Highland Scotch. It’s their house brand and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a couple of dollars less than Glenfiddich and I found it to be fairly comparable – although I think Glenfiddich has a little more complexity. That was probably more than you ever wanted to read about Scotch.

After we returned home, I took it easy for the rest of the day. The temperature reached the upper 70s and things are blooming all over the desert. Tree and grass pollen counts are high and I’m suffering from pollen allergies. Donna rode her bicycle to her physical therapy session and afterward continued on to complete a 16-mile loop.

Donna prepared one of our favorite fish recipes for dinner. She wrapped individual servings of cod with asparagus, orange juice, butter and fresh tarragon in parchment paper.  She put the parchment wraps on a baking sheet and cooked it in the convection oven.  It’s very easy. She makes four servings and we enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Parchment wrapped cod filet

Perfectly cooked

Here’s Donna’s recipe…

Fish in Parchment with Asparagus

4  15×15-inch squares parchment paper
4  5-to 6-ounce fish fillets (such as halibut or cod; each about 1 inch thick)
12 fresh tarragon leaves
2  tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces plus extra for buttering parchment paper
1  pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed (and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces if desired)
4  tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place parchment squares on work surface. Generously butter half of each parchment square (I rub the parchment with one end of a stick of butter). Top buttered half of each with 1 fish fillet. Dry fish with a paper towel and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with 3 tarragon leaves, then 1 piece of butter. Arrange asparagus around each fish fillet; pour 1 tablespoon orange juice over each. Fold parchment over fish and asparagus, folding and crimping edges tightly to seal and enclose filling completely. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing apart. Bake fish packets 17 minutes. Slide packets onto plates and serve.  NOTE: Can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, making it a great dinner for company.

On Wednesday morning, I played in the round robin pickleball matches. In the cool morning hours, my allergies seem to be a little more subdued. By the afternoon, I was going for eye drops every four hours or so. I took it easy for the rest of the day. Yesterday the temperature reached 86 degrees and we should see upper 80s through the weekend.

Carting the Kayak

We had a quiet afternoon on Wednesday indoors to beat the heat. On Wednesday evening, Donna made a new-to-us dish for dinner. She pounded boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then topped them with a mixture of spinach, garlic, onion, feta and spices, rolled up the meat around stuffing and browned it. It was excellent served with a side of orzo topped with fresh tomato and kalamata olives cooked in the pan with the chicken.

Chicken

Chicken stuffed with spinach and feta

Thursday morning I inflated the Sea Eagle kayak with the foot pump. We strapped the kayak onto the cart and pulled it down to the river. The kayak was easy to pull with the new cart.

Kayak strapped to cart

Kayak strapped to cart

We pulled the kayak out of the Crescent Bar RV Resort through the emergency exit and walked down the road to a trail that led to a small beach on the Columbia River.

Trail to beach

Trail to beach

It was about half a mile from our site to the beach. The cart worked well and even rolled through the sand without a problem.

Donna with the kayak where we launched

Donna with the kayak where we launched

After removing the kayak from the cart, I pulled the pins and took off the wheels. The cart folded and easily fit in the rear space of the kayak. We don’t have to worry about leaving the cart on the beach when we go out on the water.

Although we didn’t have the wind gusts we’ve been experiencing over the past few days, there was a fair breeze blowing across the river from the west. The river flows slowly south through Crescent Bar – right to left in the photo. The wind created a chop coming across the river.

Wind chop on the water

Wind chop on the water

We paddled upstream to get a feel for how hard it would be to go against the current. The wind was more of an issue than the current was. It’s a fairly big body of water here. I was surprised at how shallow it was for the first 20 feet or so from the shore. I’ve seen power boats here so maybe it’s not quite as shallow as it looks through the clear water.

There weren’t any boats or jet skis out this early. We hit the water around 10:30am and the day was already heating up. We paddled upstream and found a boat anchored in a small cove. There was a big house on shore with a beautifully landscaped property. We assumed the boat belonged to the homeowner. No one was aboard and I wondered how they got from shore to the anchorage or anchorage to shore.

When we turned around to head back to the beach where we launched, we found that coming down river was harder than we expected. The wind-driven chop pushed the rear of our kayak, turning us to starboard. We kept heading out into the channel instead of hugging the shoreline. It took a lot of corrections to keep us on track.

While we were out on the river, a couple of F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets passed overhead. They were practicing low-level flight maneuvers and banked 90 degrees as they roared past us. This area is a designated as a low-altitude military training corridor. In certain areas of the country, the military can conduct low-altitude flight (below 10,000 feet above ground level) without regard to the 250-knot speed limit imposed on regular air traffic below 10,000 feet AGL.

We headed back to the RV park around 11:45am. On the way back, we met a couple that saw us go out. They were kayakers too and wanted see where we launched from. We gave them directions to the beach.

In the afternoon, we made a run to Quincy on the Spyder. I dropped Donna off at the Akins grocery store and rode over to the post office. I had a package there from the RV Water Filter Store. This was the first time I had something delivered to the Post Office addressed to General Delivery. I’ve heard that general delivery works well if you are in an area with a smaller post office. The Quincy Post Office qualifies as small. The clerk was friendly and she retrieved my package right away. Big city post offices seem to have issues with keeping track of general delivery mail. I was hoping that our regular mail from our service in South Dakota would be there, but it hadn’t arrived. I’ll have to go back there this morning to get it.

Yesterday the temperature reached the upper 90s. Today the forecast calls for a high of 102 degrees. I’ll make the run to town before noon to avoid the worst of the heat. It looks like this afternoon will be a good day to read another book and maybe take a dip in the swimming pool.

Tomorrow I’ll take Donna to Pangborn airport in East Wenatchee to pick up a rental car. She’ll drive the rental car over Cascade Mountains to meet her sister Sheila in Issaquah where she is running a marathon on Sunday. Donna will spend the night with Sheila at her hotel, then she and her nephew Connor will meet up with Sheila at the finish line.

Donna will come back Sunday evening. We plan to head out of Crescent Bar on Monday and go to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Synchronizing Cylinder

On Sunday evening, Donna prepared a new recipe called sweet and spicy salmon. My oldest daughter Alana shared the recipe on Facebook and Donna wanted to try it. She bought frozen wild Alaskan sockeye salmon steaks from Costco. She placed each piece of fish on a square of foil and poured coconut oil over the salmon. Then she drizzled the fillets with honey and dusted them with a mixture of cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Then she sealed the foil over the salmon and I cooked it on the Weber Q grill.

Sockeye salmon steaks wrapped in foil

Sockeye salmon fillets wrapped in foil

I slightly overcooked the salmon – I wish I would have taken it off the grill sooner. The thing is, the salmon keeps cooking in the foil – it has to be opened up quickly once the fish is off the grill. Steam rose from the foil packets when I opened them.

Sweet and spicy salmon hot off the grill

Sweet and spicy salmon hot off the grill

The fish was tasty though. We’ll make it again – next time Donna says she would add just a little more honey and maybe put veggies in the packet with the salmon. I’ll take it off the grill sooner and open the packets quickly.

Sweet and spicy salmon served with roasted brussel sprouts

Sweet and spicy salmon served with roasted brussel sprouts

All day I’d been checking in the forward basement compartment for a hydraulic oil leak. The paper towels I had spread in there remained dry. On Monday afternoon, I fiddled with the hydraulic jacks. A few hours later, we had a small drop of oil spreading on the paper towel. It was dark by the time I checked it out so I couldn’t determine the source of the leak.

After playing pickleball this morning, I cleared the forward basement compartment and crawled inside. I used a flashlight and clean paper towels to see if I could figure out where the oil was coming from. There’s a 1-1/2″ diameter hydraulic cylinder about a foot long in the compartment. Each end of the cylinder is held to a steel tab with U-bolts. I could see hydraulic oil on the threads of the U-bolt on the rear of the cylinder.

HWH synchronizing cylinder

HWH synchronizing cylinder

I loosened the U-bolts and tried to trace the oil. There’s a 90-degree elbow fitting and a hydraulic hose near the U-bolt, but it was dry around the fitting and hose. There’s also a rod that protrudes from the end of the cylinder. I read through a HWH hydraulic system service manual and learned a few things.

The cylinder is a synchronizing cylinder – commonly called a synch cylinder. It’s used when two or more hydraulic rams are operated simultaneously – such as the hydraulic generator slide or the living room slide-out. It’s not part of the leveling jack system. This had me puzzled because the intermittent leak happened after we set up here at Tower Point RV Resort. I haven’t operated the generator slide or the living room slide since we set up two months ago.

I found out that the rod protruding from the end of the cylinder will move when the system the synch cylinder is plumbed into is activated. So I tried running the generator slide open and checked the rod. No movement, so it’s not part of the generator hydraulic system. Then I pulled the living room slide partway in. The rod extended from the cylinder. So it’s plumbed into the living room slide hydraulic rams.

I put the living room slide out again and checked the synch cylinder for leaks. No sign of any fluid leak. I cut an empty one-gallon plastic water jug and made a catch basin. I wired it in place under the end of the synch cylinder where the oil dripped from the U-bolt. I’ll keep checking for a leak and try to trace it again. In the mean time, the catch basin will keep oil off the basement carpet and anything else in there.

Catch basin wired in place

Catch basin wired in place

I’m hoping the leak isn’t an internal problem with the synch cylinder, but I’m beginning to think it may be. I looked it up and that part costs $474!

Yesterday I stopped in at the Towerpoint office to pay the electric bill and extend our stay to Wednesday, April 20th. The lady in the office was going to give me five extra days at the monthly rate instead of reverting to the daily rate. Then we talked about the daily rate with Passport America. We’re Passport America members and it gives us 50% off of the normal daily rate. She did the calculation and the Passport America rate worked out to be about $10 higher for the five days – but it included electricity. The monthly rate doesn’t include electricity.

We’re expecting temperatures in the 90s before we leave. That means running both roof air conditioners – and using a lot of electricity. I opted for the Passport America rate so I’ll have no worries about running the air conditioners as needed. She told me not to pay my current electric bill – they will read the meter again on Friday (our original end date here). I’ll settle the electric bill and pay for the extra five nights then.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Directing the Dolphin

I finally got started on a couple of easy projects yesterday after a couple of hours on the pickleball court in the morning. We had much cooler weather – the high temperature for the day was 67 degrees. That’s a drop of more than 20 degrees from the weekend. It stayed overcast and windy all afternoon and a few raindrops fell – not enough to wet the pavement though.

I went to Ace Hardware to pick up some 3/16″ rivets with long 1/2″ shanks. I wrote about my rivet repair in this post.  The rivets I used for that repair were a little short and didn’t hold well enough. I needed to replace them again. The longer shanks on the rivets I used this time should hold up fine.

I planned on buying some carabiner clips to secure the doors on the cabinets I installed in the trailer. The doors are set up for padlocks but I didn’t want to hassle with locks every time I wanted something in the cabinet. I thought a carabiner would work if I could find the right size. Donna had a different idea. She’s been working with Procter & Gamble’s PR firm. They sent her a package that included Tide PODS and a few gifts. One of the gifts is from a company called Munchkin – they make baby products. The product Donna received is a latch to secure cabinets, drawers and anything you wouldn’t want a toddler getting into. They’re called Munchkin Xtra Guard multi-use latches.

Munchkin Xtra Guard latch

Munchkin Xtra Guard latch

Donna received four latches – I used two on the cabinet doors and it looks like they’ll work perfectly. They’re easy to install – they have an adhesive backing that sticks to the door surface.

Xtra Guard latch on the trailer cabinet

Xtra Guard latch on the trailer cabinet

There’s a button on the top and bottom of the pads – holding these buttons in releases the latch. They should keep the doors closed while we roll down the road but it will still be easy to access the cabinets.

Latch released

Latch released

I decided to order two more of the Suncast cabinets to install in the trailer. I like the way they’re built and it will make it easier to store and access stuff.

I took a few measurements and installed D-rings to secure the Traeger wood pellet grill/smoker in the trailer. That was the extent of my projects for the day. Today I’ll add a few more D-rings to secure the ladders and a few other things.

Last week, I stopped at Seńor Taco and had the daily special – fish taco with rice, beans and soft drink for $5. Donna and I like fish tacos – we always have them when we’re in San Diego. Good fish tacos obviously need to be made with a good fish filet. Then it’s the sauce that makes them special. The Seńor Taco fish tacos are good.

Fish taco plate at Seńor Taco

Fish taco plate at Seńor Taco

On Monday afternoon, I rode the Spyder to the Sprouts store at Higley and Southern. Donna sent me there with a small shopping list. I bought two fresh tilapia filets, a lime, a jalapeńo pepper and an avocado. Donna already had the corn tortillas, cabbage and cilantro. She made blackened Baja fish tacos.

Donna's homemade fish taco plate

Donna’s homemade fish taco plate

She seasoned and pan fried the fish filets in a cast iron skillet. Her sauce was made from yogurt, jalapeńo pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Very tasty and we each had two big tacos for a total cost of about seven bucks!

Last night, Donna made a spring minestrone soup with chicken meatballs. The meatballs were made with ground chicken, panko bread crumbs, minced scallions and garlic, egg, salt and pepper. Another tasty treat. We had leftovers for lunch and it was even better the second time around.

Spring minestrone

Spring minestrone with chicken meatballs

This morning when I rode my bicycle home from pickleball, I found a motorhome blocking our street. It was a 34-foot National Dolphin. I carefully went around the front of it where there was about three feet of clearance. Once I went around it, I saw a woman sitting on the steps in the doorway of the coach smoking a cigarette. I stopped and she said, “I’m wedged in here.”

I looked back and saw what she meant. Apparently she was pulling out of her site and turning left. She didn’t account for the swingout of the rear and the last basement door on the right rear was hard against a palm tree.

After looking at it, I told her she needed to crank the steering wheel full left and slowly back up. She was afraid of causing more damage. I told her it will scrape at first, then swing away from the tree. She did as I said and was able to reverse back into her site. Then I had her go forward and angle to the right to pull into an empty site across the street from her. Once she pulled halfway into the site, I had her reverse again and crank the wheel to the left. I guided her back then told her to stop, crank the wheel right and come forward. She was in the street now heading in the opposite direction of the way she first tried to go. It didn’t matter – it’s a short street and either direction will take you to the park exit. With a wave and a thanks, she was on her way.

She was alone and driving a motorhome into or out of a tight space without guidance isn’t easy. Although her coach was only 34 feet long, the National Dolphin is gas powered and the chassis has a lot of rear overhang. The longer the distance from the rear axle to the rear of the coach, the greater the amount of swingout.

We should see a high temperature of about 70 degrees today with partly cloudy skies and a gentle breeze. Very comfortable. This evening we plan to meet up with my friend from high school, Andy King, and his wife Donna for sushi.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Still Loving Leesa

Shortly after we arrived here at Towerpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona Donna decided to use her account credit to order a couple more meals from Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh is an easy way to have all of the ingredients on hand for a tasty, balanced meal. They pack fresh ingredients into a box with an insulated liner and ice packs, then ship it to you. On Wednesday night, Donna made a Mahi Mahi piccata with capers, Israeli couscous pilaf and sauteed spinach. The only things she needed from our pantry were butter, olive oil, salt and pepper – everything else was in the package including the fresh lemon.

Mahi Mahi piccata

Mahi Mahi piccata

This tasty dish took about 30 minutes to prepare.

The pickleball courts are closed on Thursday and Friday this week due to a horseshoe tournament at the sports complex. So I caught up on a couple of projects on Thursday. First up, I installed the rubber bumpers on the cargo trailer ramp door. These pads will keep the metal rim of the door off the ground and prevent scraping.

Rubber bumper

Rubber bumper

I didn’t want to rely on the flanged screw head to hold the rubber bumper – I thought it would most likely tear through the rubber in short order. So I was off to Ace hardware where I found one-inch diameter fender washers.

Rubber bumper with fender washer

Rubber bumper with fender washer

When I returned and started the installation, I found the #10 one-inch self-drilling screws I had were too short. So I was back on the Spyder for another trip to the hardware store for 1 1/2-inch self-drilling screws. After taking a few measurements, the installation was easy.

Rubber bumpers installed on rear ramp door

Rubber bumpers installed on rear ramp door

My next chore was to break down all the cardboard boxes we’ve accumulated since we’ve been here. We had boxes from the trash receptacle Donna ordered, the Hello Fresh box, the Leesa mattress box and a few other things that were delivered. I completely filled a recycle barrel with cardboard. Lucky for us, Towerpoint provides two recycle barrels per site.

Speaking of the Leesa mattress, we’re loving it. It’s hard to say if it’s better now than it was on the first night. We both think there may have been some improvement – we like it so much it’s hard to quantify any improvement. We are both side sleepers and the Leesa mattress is so much better on my hips. I used to feel pressure points on my hips, but not with this mattress.

Although I started honey pollen allergy therapy a couple of months ago, my pollen allergies have kicked into high gear. The unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing has everything blooming around here. After I completed my tasks yesterday, I went to CVS for allergy medication. I prefer not to take daily doses of medication for allergies, but at this point I have no choice. I bought Zyrtec and hope for some relief without too many side effects.

The weather almanac shows an average high temperature for March 4th in Mesa, Arizona at 73 degrees. Today’s high is expected to be 91 degrees. We’ll have slightly cooler temperatures over the weekend and be back in the 70s by Monday. I shouldn’t complain about the heat – I’ll take it over cold weather any day.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Like Christmas Again

Saturday went as planned – after I posted to the blog, Donna went for a bike ride and I took my quadcopter over to De Anza Cove Park across from the RV Resort entrance (map). I practiced hovering, flying away from me and back and also flying from side to side. It takes a fair amount of concentration to keep it under control. Hovering requires constant throttle adjustment as the ‘copter will climb or drop with any change in wind or if I make a right-left or forward-back correction. The four rotors that create lift for the ‘copter also control the heading by making small speed adjustments thus tilting the platform. A half hour was enough so I walked back to the coach.

The day before, UPS had dropped off three boxes for Donna. When she returned from her 20-mile bicycle ride up Rose Canyon Trail to University Town Center and back through Clairemont, she wanted to open the boxes. They were sent from an editor at Family Circle magazine who is looking for product reviews from cleaning experts for the April 2016 issue.

I opened the smaller box first and we found it packed with household cleaning and laundry products. The next box had a lightweight Oxo broom and dustpan set with an extendable handle. That box also contained more cleaning products including a soon-to-be released shower and tub scrubber from Oxo that Donna said is a cleaning dream come true. The last box held a Shark Rocket AH452 lightweight vacuum cleaner with powerful suction. It’s a new product and I didn’t find this exact model online, but it’s similar to this one on Amazon. It was like Christmas all over again – opening boxes and finding surprise items inside.

Donna still had Sheila’s car, so she took a trip to Vons and Trader Joe’s to get groceries. We expected the weather to deteriorate by the end of the weekend, so she wanted to stock up for the week. She bought a nice five-pound whole chicken at Trader Joe’s. I prepped the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill and we teamed up to season the chicken. It’s much easier if one person lightly rubs the chicken with olive oil, then holds and rotates it while the second person applies the seasoning inside and out. Donna did the first part and I shook the seasoning. I used the last of the Traeger chicken rub on the inside and back of the bird then applied Sweet Rub O’Mine.

I roasted the whole chicken on the high setting on the Traeger. The Sweet Rub O’Mine has a lot of sugar in it which caramelizes and helps attain a nice crispy skin. In the photo it looks like the skin is burnt. It isn’t, it’s just the caramelized rub. The chicken was flavorful with no burnt taste at all.

Traeger roasted chicken

Traeger roasted chicken

Dinner plate with a wild rice blend with dried cranbeeries, pecans and scallions.

Chicken breast and wing with a side of yummy rice and steamed green beans

Donna whipped up an absolutely delicious side dish. She added dried cranberries, pecans and scallions along with some orange zest and orange juice and honey to a wild rice blend after cooking. The chicken was moist and tender. I paired the meal with a bottle of Voo Doo American stout brewed by Left Coast Brewing in San Clemente.

Voo Doo American stout

Voo Doo American stout

This is a dark, full-bodied, malty stout with flavors of chocolate and coffee. It’s strong at 8.0% and balanced at 39 IBUs.

Sunday was a lazy day for me. I put away a few things we had out in preparation of rain in the forecast. Donna went out for a four-mile run. Then she took down the Christmas decorations and stored everything away in a basement compartment. I spent the rest of the day watching the last week of regular season NFL football.

We made stacked enchiladas for dinner. I cut about a pound of leftover brisket across the grain then diced it. Donna put enchilada sauce in the bottom of a pyrex casserole dish then added a layer of corn tortillas. Then she poured more enchilada sauce over the tortillas and added the brisket meat and cotija cheese. This was followed by another layer of tortillas, sauce, meat and cheese. Then the top layer of tortillas was put on and covered with sauce, cotija cheese and white cheddar cheese. Foil was placed over the casserole dish and it was baked at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. It made a great meal and I’m looking forward to reheating the leftovers.

After the last game of the day with the Minnesota Vikings prevailing over the Green Bay Packers – thus winning the NFC north division – we watched a couple of episodes of Mr. Robot. It’s a USA Network series that we’ve enjoyed watching. We have one more episode left in season one.

The rain predicted came overnight. It’s cloudy but fairly warm at 60 degrees this morning. Our friends Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road) arrived here at the RV park yesterday. Tonight we plan to join them for dinner and sample a few beers. I have another bottle of Voo Doo and some IPAs. The rest of our week will probably be low-key. There are a series of storms lined up in the Pacific that will bring periods of rain each day in the coming week.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

 

How the Gig Crumbled

I’ve said before that all farmers’ markets have similarities, but they also offer local flavor. In Albuquerque, the local flavor revolves around red and green chile peppers. Donna bought a loaf of green chile sourdough bread at the market on Saturday. On Sunday morning, she made a breakfast dish she’d tried at the Cracker Barrel in Nashville – eggs in a hole. She sliced the bread, cut a hole in the center, then toasted the bread in a frying pan and added egg in the center. It made a nice combination with the fried eggs and green chile flavor.

Egg in a hole with bacon strips

Egg in a hole with bacon strips

I opened yesterday’s post by saying a reader had asked what became of the consulting gig I was offered. I wrote about that offer from my former colleague, Skip Redmond, in this post last April.

At that time, I was expecting a contract and we had a trip to Valencia, California scheduled on the following week for on-the-job training. I would leave on Monday and work through Friday and return Friday evening. This was all arranged via e-mail exchanges April 8th, where Skip said he was ordering my business cards and we would be rolling.

When we originally discussed the opportunity during a lunch meeting in November, Skip said the work should suit my RV lifestyle. Each job would take five or six days, depending on the travel time. I would have two or three weeks lead time – all I would need to do is make sure I had access to a major airport whenever I took an assignment. He said the work would be infrequent, maybe six to eight trips per year.

I received another e-mail from Skip later on April 8th that puzzled me. He asked how many weeks per month I would want to work. Weeks per month? This didn’t sound like an infrequent assignment. I replied, asking Skip if something changed – I expected to take an assignment every six to eight weeks as we discussed in November. I didn’t hear back from him.

On April 16th, the Thursday before our scheduled trip to Valencia, I e-mailed Skip and asked if the trip was still on. He replied that the trip was cancelled and he would get back to me with new dates when he got them. I never heard from him again.

I don’t know what happened. I heard that another former colleague went to work for Skip. Maybe he decided it wasn’t worth it to hire me if I wasn’t willing to work “weeks per month.” The lack of communication has certainly put me off though. I’m retired and I don’t want or need to work on regular basis. The job he offered in November sounded ideal for me. Maybe he was just trying to lure me onboard, then he could make it into something more than infrequent assignments.

So that’s how my consulting gig crumbled.

Blue Apron Dinner

We had much warmer, summer-like weather yesterday as the thermometer hit 83 degrees. I spent hours on my laptop trying book places to stay in The Woodlands area of Texas and also on the gulf coast in Rockport. When we know we want to be in a particular area at a certain time, I like to book ahead. When we’re traveling, I like to have open dates as well to allow spontaneity.

Our plan was to arrive in The Woodlands on May 14th and stay through the 18th so we can meet up with Allen Hutchinson and his family when he competes in the Ironman Triathlon there. Of course, the Ironman competition brings a large number of visitors to the area and finding an RV site close to the course was impossible. I didn’t book it earlier, because some of our plans were still up in the air.

I ended up finding a swanky RV resort in north Houston, about 12 miles from The Woodlands. This resort is more expensive than our usual choices, but we’ll make do. Finding a place in Rockport was very time consuming. There are 36 RV parks in the area. I looked at websites, then found each park on Google Earth. Many of the parks I looked at appeared to be dirt sites with lots of trees. I rejected these. I don’t want to be in a dirt site for two weeks on the gulf coast. Rain is likely at some point and a dirt park could end up a mud hole. I’m also wary of too many trees close to a site. Trees can cause damage or at the very least, block satellite signals taking out our TV reception.

I found what appeared to be an ideal park. It showed sites with huge concrete pads – all sites over 70′ long and 40′ wide. I called them and was told they were completely booked through September! I worked my way down my list and heard the same thing from a few more places. This was worrisome. Our friends John and Sharon (On the Road of Retirement) told us about a place at Copano Bay in Rockport that they said lacks amenities but wasn’t a bad park. It also has a dock and is right on an inlet called Salt Lake which is part of Copano Bay.

When I phoned the park, they were very accommodating. They found a site for us and also blocked a smaller site directly across from our site to drop the trailer in. We’re in business! We’ll arrive there on May 18 and stay two weeks, departing on June 1st. We plan to spend some time visiting with my middle daughter Jamie who lives with her family in Robstown, TX.

We’re unsure of our route from there, but we think we want to make stops in Memphis, St. Louis and Des Moines on our way to Minneapolis. Donna will have a half day of work in Des Moines, producing another round of cleaning videos for Better Homes and Gardens. Whichever route we take, I’m sure we’ll find fun and adventure along the way.

I watched most of the Detroit Red Wings versus Tampa Bay Lightning NHL playoff game. Neither team has won two games in a row in this best of seven series and last night was no exception as Tampa Bay prevailed. The series is tied 3-3 with game seven in Tampa Bay Wednesday night.

We left during the third period of the game and took an Uber car to North Park. My daughter Shauna and her roommate Cat had invited us to dinner. They prepared a meal from Blue Apron. Blue Apron.com is an online company that creates recipes, packages the ingredients (you can choose enough for two or four people) and delivers it in a refrigerated box. Each meal comes with instructions and most meals can be prepared in 35 minutes or less.

Cat and Shauna slaving over the stove

Cat and Shauna slaving over the stove

Cat and Shauna are graduating from Cal Western School of Law this Friday. Cat’s mom, Lil, came here from Hawaii for the graduation and joined us along with Shauna and Cat’s other roommate, Sara, for dinner. The food was great and the conversation interesting. We stayed until it was close to 9pm before we had another Uber ride home.

Corned beef style flank steak with braised cabbage and potatoes

Corned beef-style flank steak with braised cabbage and potatoes

More family will be here by Thursday for the graduation ceremony. We booked a room for my step-dad, Ken, in Mission Valley. Shauna’s sisters, mother, uncles and cousins are coming. Cat has a number of family members arriving as well.

Today’s weather forecast calls for another sunny day with the high temperature approaching 80 degrees. I plan to play pickleball this afternoon. Donna and I are thinking about buying a portable pickleball net so we can continue to play as we travel.

Almost Famous

The excellent desert winter weather has returned. The temperature was in the mid to upper 70s yesterday. The thermometer should hover around 80 degrees with no rain forecast in the next 10 days. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops quickly though down to an overnight low of about 50 degrees.

Donna took advantage of the weather with a bike ride in the morning. She had work to do, so after lunch, I rode my mountain bike along Eastern Canal. The dirt path along the canal was rutted from work trucks passing through while it was muddy last week. The water in the canal itself is still muddy.

Muddy canal

Muddy canal

With the water being so muddy, I didn’t expect to see fish in the canal. But I did see a couple of fish and also discovered turtles in the canal. The turtles were very wary though. Every time I stopped to try to photograph one, it would disappear under water. I saw one sunning himself on the side of the concrete bank. I came slowly to a stop and he stayed put. As soon as I pointed my camera phone at him, he dove into the muddy water.

The canal has locks every mile or so to control the flow and water level. These locks also contain the non-native white amur fish that are put into the canal to control aquatic plant growth.

Canal lock

Canal lock

Near one of the locks, I saw workers from the local power utility company, Salt River Project (SRP), digging a hole. They had a hose about six inches in diameter connected to a giant vacuum in the back of a truck. As they removed dirt, it was sucked into a large container in the truck. I don’t think I’ve seen this before.

Digging a hole

Digging a hole

I asked one of the SRP guys what they were doing. He told me they had to put up temporary structures. They were digging holes for large wooden poles. The poles would have a cross bar and uprights attached, like a football goal post, also made from wood. This was in preparation for work on the high-tension lines above. They were going to string a new bundle of wire from University Drive south to Guadalupe Road, a distance of more than five miles. This bundle would feed a new substation.

The lines high overhead would remain live while the work was performed. Shutting down the lines would knock power out of many neighborhoods in the area. The lines carry high voltage – 230,000 volts! The wooden pole structures are put in place as a safeguard. If a line is cut or broken and comes down, it will be held off the ground by the poles. Grounding 230,000 volts could be disastrous and very dangerous to anyone in the area.

230,000 volts in those lines

230,000 volts in those lines

Donna is making me almost famous. She did an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette promoting her new book, Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. In the interview, she mentioned my blog. The article has since been syndicated and has been picked up by newspapers across the country. This article has a sub-heading that reads “Take Some Notes From Author Who Lives In Motor Home With Husband Blogger.” By the way, I posted my 400th blog post yesterday.

Last night, Donna prepared something a little different for dinner. She followed a friend’s recipe for pizza chicken. This dish features pounded chicken breasts smothered with homemade marinara and baked with pepperoni and shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. It was a novelty dish that we both enjoyed.

Pizza chicken

Pizza chicken

She served it with sauteed zucchini and onions.

Pizza chicken with sauteed zucchini and onions

Pizza chicken with sauteed zucchini and onions

I’ve had few people inquire about the horseradish-infused vodka I mentioned in this recent post. I haven’t made it, but Sara Graff told me how it’s done. Her first batch was made in a mason jar – the second was made in a large bottle with a resealable cap.

She peels a fresh horseradish root and then cuts it into strips the size of large french fries that will fit inside the mouth of the bottle. She tied string to each of the horseradish strips and put them in the bottle. The strings suspend the horseradish and also aid in removal later. (If you’re using a mason jar, you can just toss the horseradish “fries” into the jar and fish them out later.) Then she filled the bottle with Sobieski vodka. The bottle is left in the freezer for five or six days. Then it’s ready to serve. You’ll want to remove the horseradish strips because it will make the vodka taste bitter if left too long. Sounds pretty simple. We’re planning to make a batch.

 

The Monastery

Donna has had a number of projects tying her to her computer lately. While she worked on Friday, I attended a fun event. My friend, Leendert Hartoog is retiring from Boeing after 30 years of service next month.

Boeing is downsizing their helicopter division here in Mesa, Arizona. They’ve offered early retirement packages to a number of employees. These retirements will take place in January, February and March of this year. The soon-to-be retirees organized a get-together on Friday afternoon for the guys leaving and a number of previously retired colleagues also attended. Leendert invited me to join them at The Monastery at Falcon Field at 3pm.

The Monastery is a unique place. They have an indoor restaurant/bar and an outdoor one. You can order food off the menu or grill it yourself outdoors! The property includes a large outdoor barbeque area with a sand volleyball court.  While we were there, a group of college-age kids were playing volleyball and enjoying beer in the sun.

Sand volleyball court at The Monasery

Sand volleyball court at The Monastery

We sat at a table with Patrick, another Boeing employee and one of the Red, White and Brew regulars. Patrick didn’t get a retirement package and plans to work for another five years. We enjoyed good local draft beer and I heard stories of “the old days” at Boeing. It sounded a lot like some of the experiences I had in the corporate world at Volkswagen of America.

Leendert on the left with the Boeing group

Leendert on the left with the Boeing group

Friday night, Donna prepared a cast iron pan-seared garlicky flank steak served over bok choy and carrots. I really like bok choy, especially when it retains a bit of crunch after cooking. The flank steak was prepared with a quick marinade and a pan sauce made with the steak drippings, beef broth and soy sauce. Very tasty! We enjoyed leftover steak on a salad the next day.

Beef with bok choy

Garlicky beef with bok choy

We had clear, blue skies and temperatures in the mid to upper 70s on Saturday, but it was windy. The wind was from the northeast at 10-15mph with gusts over 20mph. We scrapped bicycling plans and spent most of the day as homebodies. Donna spent the day catching up on work after taking a few days off this week – she did a 7.4-mile hike with a group of park residents on Tuesday morning and we were out most of the day on Wednesday.

While she worked, I dumped and flushed our tanks and did a little clean-up. I relocated our hummingbird feeder to the bedroom window on the passenger side. It was at the left front of the coach, but I think there was too much activity in that area from our neighbors, keeping the hummingbirds away. We’ll see if they come to the feeder now.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the park and stopped at the pickleball courts. The courts were empty. Donna and I found paddles in the equipment box and a ball and knocked the ball back and forth for a while. We think pickleball might be fun. We signed up for lessons next Friday.

Last night, Donna prepared flax and almond crusted chicken. She pounded the chicken breasts before spreading a thick marinade of almond butter, olive oil, and spices over the breasts. After resting for 30 minutes, she patted the mixture of ground flax seed and almond meal over both sides of the chicken breasts then baked them. Another great recipe – and more leftovers for salad today!

Flax and almond crusted chicken

Flax and almond crusted chicken

The weather guessers are calling for fine weather today with a high of 80 degrees. We might head over to the Mesa Marketplace – it’s a big outdoor flea market in east Mesa that’s open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.