Day 309 – Meeting Goals

november30Ahh, November 30th in NaBloPoMo world.  Thank God.  Today is my 30th blog posted this month, one per day.  I finally met a goal.  On the 1st of November, I looked at what everyone was starting, I think this and Movember are the only things I’ve seen finish.

My Facebook friends who started out being thankful, probably still are, but they haven’t shared in a while.  The NaNoWriMo campaign to write 50,000 words in a novel dropped off for me on November 12 with 11,560 words – oh yeah, that was my first day in country in Baja – no wonder.  I didn’t even make it as far as last year, but at least this book isn’t stuck, I still have story in my head yet to write.  And, I know this is cheating because this blog is not a book, but I have written at least another 12,818 words this month, so if I added them together….nope, still really short.

So I guess, one of two isn’t bad, 50%.  The blog I enjoy, it’s fun to be able to share with others what I’m up to.  I’m afraid when I take stock of my 50th goals on the 4th this month, I’m going to find I’m short meeting those too, but one failure at a time, please.  Thank you all for coming along on this journey, remember to read What’s It All About, if you are wondering why I’m taking up space here.  Happy end of NaBloPoMo to all of you.


Day 310 – Random Travels

Travel day – this one to Montana, all the way up the I-15 to near the Canadian border.  We planned lunch so that we could stop at our favorite little spot, Yesterday’s Calf-A, in Dell, Montana.  It was once a one-room school house, the hand painted sign says 1903 to 1963.  The chalkboards and books are still in place.  The tables are community based, so if the place is full, you may be eating with strangers.  I don’t think there are two chairs that match in the whole place.  But, the food, the FOOD, is really why you’re there.  All of it is homemade, the roast beef or pork roast (if available) is the best, and I don’t even like roast beef.  They serve it in a whole or half dinner, or as a hot roast beef sandwich.  I always go for one of the dinners because that comes with a homemade roll, and the rolls are awesome.  Let’s not forget the pie, there are always several varieties available.  What I like best about this place is that everyone is passing through.  There are only 35 people who live in Dell, so aside from the girls who work there, almost all of the customers are either headed North or South.  There is always lots of conversation about the condition of the freeway, and generally some talk about cattle.  That one I haven’t figured out yet, but it is always a common theme.

On an unrelated note, have you seen the new Coke machines?  Ok, maybe not so new, according to Wikipedia, they’ve been available since 2009, but they just got to the Mountain West.  The Freestyle machine combines your base soft-drink product with a variety of flavors.  I love Vanilla Diet Coke, which of course, they don’t bottle anymore, so I think the Freestyle is a great thing, the opportunity to make it myself.  Of course, it might be important to actually have Diet Coke available first, right Beef O’Brady’s?

Day 311 – Challenge Yourself

It seems like everywhere you turn, there are always suggestions on how to live your life.  I have a friend who each month posts a cute little picture that lists at least 30 things to do during the month.  The November suggestions include changing your hair style and going to the library.  My personal favorite was sitting on the floor and reading the dictionary.  Some of the suggestions I try to include in my everyday living, things like forgetting a grudge, opening up to the person I am the closest to, and taking a risk.

Rich would probably say I’m not so good at taking risks, I would argue that I only take calculated risks.  I am a fiscal conservative in almost all respects.  I try to live thrifty most of the time, and then…all of sudden, I will do something silly and BIG.

Like two years ago, I bought three properties, sight unseen.  They were in three different states, Utah, Montana and North Carolina.  The real estate market was such that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  The home in Utah we were able to turn really quickly, the day we finished it, we sold it.

We are now on our way to Montana, and it is a beautiful state, it isn’t called the Big Sky state for nothing.  I just wish that we could spend time here in the summer months, but that’s when we are the busiest. I love the house that I bought, although I don’t intend to live there.  Now that we have finished with the myriad of things we needed to do to finish up the season, we are headed North to finish fixing the house.

At this moment, it has no kitchen, needs some new tile, new carpet and new paint.  Nothing serious is wrong with this house, it just needs some TLC.  Our plan is to spend as much time as necessary to give it that TLC.  I just need to get motivated, the whole project seems a bit overwhelming, after all it’s 4320 square feet of TLC that it needs, and right now I’m missing that motivation. So, if any of you have one of those life suggestions you would like to pass along to boost my motivation, this is the place to share.


Day 312 – Struck a Chord, the Broke Years continued

Yesterday, I talked about the broke years.  Some of my friends commented about it, that maybe living like we’re broke isn’t such a bad idea.  Perhaps we take some of the fun and adventure out of our lives when we have the money to do “grown-up” things.

  • When you can always afford a hotel room, will you choose to camp on the beach?
  • When you can always afford a steak, will you eat at the taco shack on the corner?
  • When you can always afford to go out to eat, will you invite people over for a home-cooked meal?
  • When you can always afford to go to the movies, will you invite friends over for game night?

I think we need to start a revolution, let’s take back our time and spend it with friends instead of with things.  Let’s spend our time doing things instead of being entertained by others doing things. Let’s embrace Milton-Bradley’s family game night.  Let’s hold on to our money for the better investment we can make with it, there may be a time we are broke again, so let’s hold on to it til then.  Let’s make a pact to return to the simpler things, when dinner out doesn’t cost $100, but maybe $14 instead – what can we do with that extra $86?  Can we help someone who needs it more than us?

A couple of years ago Rich and I were feeling especially broke on Valentine’s Day, so we wanted to find the cheapest date possible for a cold February night.  We found it, and we had fun in the process, no reservations required, we had Costco hot dogs and then went to the cheap movie theater.  Not counting gas, but popcorn included the whole date was $11 and we laughed as much that night as we have on any other date night, maybe more.  It was a fun challenge.  Tell me about your cheapest date, was it fun? was it romantic?

Day 313 – Remember being broke, broke?

Do you remember when you were broke?  Not just living on a budget, or tightening your belt, but broke, like you’re eating broke food, broke.  My kids are in that position right now and man, do I feel for them.  This is the middle daughter, the one who got married just a few months ago.  Now with a job and lots of responsibilities, it’s wearing thin not having any money.  I totally understand, I remember what it was like.

In my early 20’s, going to college, being married, having a child.  We were too stupid to recognize how broke we were.  We would show up at my parent’s house at least once a week around dinner time, and, oh, I guess we could stay for dinner.  We would do the   same at his folks’ house.  Broke food for us was canned chili and eggs; baked potatoes (fresh from the field) and turkey hot dogs, ‘cuz they came in a 5 lb. box.  That was our broke food.  We showed up late for things; so we wouldn’t have to pay the admission charge, and our only entertainment was visiting friends with the one six pack of beer we would splurge on for the weekend.  Life was certainly simple then.

Remember the crappy jobs we had, before our careers began, just to get by.  I spent a season working alone in a big, dark potato warehouse at night after the kids were in bed and I could sneak away for a few hours, just to afford diapers.  I regaled my kids with stories about the broke years and how it eventually gets better, I don’t think they a) wanted to hear it, or b) believed it.

As the years went on, our finances improved, we moved away from broke food, so far away that you can’t talk me in to eating any of those foods even now.  We got to the point that we could meet our friends at a restaurant and go out to a movie, instead of the 6 pack and card game.  I’m not sure our entertainment choices improved, and life wasn’t so simple anymore, but the stress dissipated somewhat.  Good luck to my kids, it is worth it to work so hard at something, after all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Day 314 – Home

Home…in this day, it has such a strange context for me.  We got Home yesterday, that is to say, we arrived in the town that we lived in before we went on the road.  I still have houses here, but other people are living in them, so they are not Home.  The only family left here, in this little town, is my dad, but yet, people we saw when we got back asked, how long are you going to be Home?

Home is wherever we are, it’s where the semi is parked at the moment.  It’s not NorCal where Rich is from, it’s not Idaho, where I’m from, it is where we are together.  None of our kids live in the same place, so a congregation of majority doesn’t count as Home either.  We have spread the five biological children we have over four states, Minnesota, Alaska, Idaho and California – although one NorCal, one SoCal – so that might as well be separate states.  Our siblings, only one each, are in Virginia and Arizona.  So what is Home?

This is particularly important today as our one college student is trying to figure out where to go Home for the holidays.  But it’s just not as simple as all that.  Rich and I are spending the next month in Montana, but that’s just temporary.

As a child, my dad was in the military, so Home was ever moving then too.  The only time we thought about the concept was my first grade year when dad was stationed in Vietnam, he moved us Home before he left.  Home then was my mother’s hometown of Shelby, Michigan.  We had grandparents, aunts and uncles and about a zillion cousins there.  But a year later when he returned safely, we were gone again, never really with an opportunity to go Home again.

The constants I know about Home, in our current society, the concept changes daily.  We are mobile, but we are connected.  Home is wherever you hang your hat, home is where you are comfortable, home is where people love you.  We have great friends all over the country that are close enough to be family, so for me Home is wherever and whenever I am with someone who cares about me.  Welcome Home.

Day 315 – Did they rave about your T-day dinner? If not, stop in here

It’s hard sometimes to not have traditions, my life doesn’t have the same room for the traditions I’ve always had.  Cooking the Thanksgiving meal has been one of my favorite things to do for years, it is easy and they rave about it.  If you didn’t get rave reviews, or you were just too scared to take it on.  Drop by here over this next month and I will give you everything you need to make a repeat performance at Christmas that will stun your family and friends.  I didn’t get to cook this year, so let me help you, and the best part is, it will ALL be homemade, with just a few secrets thrown in.  I will even give you the timing so that you can keep your day easy and relaxing, the only frantic time is the last 30 minutes and if you recruit a little help ahead of time, even that will go smooth.


Here’s your menu:

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Gravy
  • Peas
  • Fruit Salad
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Rolls
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Whipped Cream

No yams or sweet potatoes, no green bean casseroles, nothing to yuck it up and add more work than is necessary.  You can feed an army with this as is, and everyone will walk away satisfied.  The cost is reasonable, I’ll give you some hints on what to do if you are feeding more than 10 people, otherwise, everything I give you will feed at least ten.

What to do ahead of time:  Go shopping at least three days before so if you have to buy a frozen turkey, there is time to thaw it.  That’s it – only the shopping, everything else can be done the day of.

First tasks:  Pumpkin Pie and Cranberry Sauce

Unless you are a regular pie maker, do what I do, buy the Pillsbury refrigerated rolled pie crust.  This will be the only thing that is not homemade in the whole meal, no one is going to notice by the time you serve the pie.  Things to remember:

  • Use the Libby’s pumpkin, a large can makes two pies
  • The recipe is on the can
  • Use deeper dish pie pans so it doesn’t spill over the top
  • Use a pot to mix your pumpkin ingredients, it has a handle that makes it easy to support
  • A fork is all you need to mix with, no fancy gadgets, no mixers, no Kitchen-Aid
  • Let the pie crust sit on the counter while you mix your pumpkin, then unfold it, it will break less at room temperature
  • Bake the pies until done, stick a regular table knife in the center, when it comes out clean it is done
  • Read the instructions catefully, there is a temperature change needed
  • Bake both pies at the same time

While you are making the pies, you can also make the cranberry sauce, yes, I said MAKE the cranberry sauce.  It’s so easy,

  • One bag Ocean Spray cranberries from the produce section
  • One cup water
  • One cup sugar

Put the water and sugar on the stove, heat to dissolve the sugar, then add the cranberries and bring to a boil.  ***Put a lid on it – the cranberries will spit all over every surface as they pop.  Again, the recipe is on the bag.  Most important part, when they are done cooking, drop in to a heat proof container (I use a mason jar) and put in the fridge for cooling.  If your kids are like mine, I also buy a can of the Ocean Spray jelled cranberry, just put it in the fridge when you buy it so it slices easier.  The homemade stuff is pretty tart.

Check back next week for more help on how to make your Christmas feast amazing.  If you started these tasks at 9:30, you are done with everything and have the kitchen cleaned  up and your shower taken by noon.  To make sure you don’t miss anything, click Follow, or Follow by email.  Turkey and stuffing are up next.

The one tradition I could manage this year, on Thanksgiving Day I send emails to my kids and others that are important in my life telling them why I am thankful for them.  No group stuff, this one has to be personal.

Day 316 – Transitioning

Remember math class, you thought, when am I ever going to us this in the real world?  Whatever this was, let me tell you, you get to use it when you travel.  I seem to do more math than anything else.  First, there is the currency.  Translating dollars to pesos and back again.  Each location has a little bit different conversion, with some it was 10 to 1; others were 12 to 1.  The best we found was 12.95 to 1.  If you don’t think that’s a challenge.  Add to that the fact that Mexican money looks so similar, but yet so foreign.  We try really hard to have enough pesos on hand to take care of our needs, especially in the small towns and in paying for gas, but not so many that we come back with too much.  I actually keep a jar with all my left over pesos, we call it seed money for the next trip.

Gas is the next challenge, in Mexico you buy in liters, not gallons, and then the amount is in pesos.  I have no idea what we paid for gas in Mexico, pretty sure it was cheaper, but really couldn’t tell you.

Next up is kilometers vs. miles.  We are lucky that the speedometer on the Jeep does some of the conversion for us, and we have the GPS too.  I changed the Lowrance to reflect speed and distance in kilometers so we didn’t have to make the conversion every time.  Of course the BFG race book had miles, but the highway markings were in kilometers.  Just one more thing to keep you guessing.

Last math to do was Fahrenheit to Celsius, the AC units in the hotels we are at in La Paz and St Ignacio were in Celsius.  I only know that 21 was too cold and 24 was too warm, I’m guessing that 70 was somewhere in the middle.

Getting back to the states, the transition comes easier, but it’s still hard not to reach for a water bottle when brushing your teeth, and knowing that you can actually put the toilet paper in the toilet here.  Ahhh, today I am thankful for America and for my math teachers.

Day 317 – Baja 2012, Day Ten

Slap, Pop, Slam…no, not the updated version of the Rice Krispies, kids playing pogs on the sidewalk,  those are the sound they make.  We stopped at Adriana’s on the Malecon in San Felipe.  I just couldn’t see making the trip all the way here and not stopping for the best shrimp quesadillas in the world.  Maria’s grandkids, three boys ranging in age 3 to 7 were on the sidewalk with their pogs.  I remember pogs, Kayla had a whole duffle bag full of them, maybe 15+ years ago.

When my kids were little, their dad ran an auction barn, so they could often pick up toys they wanted on the cheap.  Kayla did that with pogs, she was probably eight or nine at the time.  She had more slammers than anyone else on the playground.  Everyday she took a large bag full to school, I’m pretty sure she handed out a handful to all her friends so they could play too.  Kayla has always been very generous that way.  She’s the girl who brought home strays, whether they were cats or people never mattered.  If someone was in a bad situation she brought them home to help them.

Next week is the Christmas Tree Fantasy in our hometown, since the moment Kayla figured out there was a giving tree, we had to go to the Fantasy on the first night it opened and find our giving tree recipients. It was important that the kids all had someone their own age to buy for.  Then we would spend one night just shopping for those presents only.  My Kayla was always the most generous, she just wanted to buy one more thing, every time.  I’m very proud of her and hope her generosity of spirit doesn’t wane in her grown up years.  It is one of her best qualities, love you Kayla.

Day 318 – Baja 2012, Day Nine

Do the Shuffle, the words reverberate like they did when I was twelve, Van Morrison had it going on then.  My shuffle today needed to be the Stingray Shuffle.  We slept on the beach again last night, this time at Buenaventura on the Sea of Cortez instead of on the Pacific.  The temperature was perfect, we even had a dog that slept right outside our tent protecting us.

Just before dawn I thought swimming sounded like my idea of heaven, and it was too.  The water temp was just right, the sun hadn’t yet peaked over the ridge, just that lightened sky, a light breeze in the cove there.  I swam for a while and then started in to shore.  It’s very shallow along the cove, you can be 75 feet out and still touch bottom, very sandy and clear, there is a ridge of rocks that only run about 15 feet right near the shoreline.  I was just getting my feet under me when I felt like I had stepped on someone’s home, I flailed and tried to look at the bottom of my foot, all I could see was that it was bleeding and hurt like hell.  I stumbled on to the shore and Rich met me with my towel, he noticed the blood right away.  I hobbled back to our camp and the pain started to intensify.  Within half an hour I was writhing in pain.  It hurt so bad and I couldn’t figure out how to stop it, there was no comfortable position, nothing I could do.  It was like my toes had a permanent charlie horse, the intensity was that strong.  I managed to get dressed and packed up, but the thought of riding in the car was making me nauseous.  When my toes started to swell and red streaks run through them, we decided that maybe something really was wrong.  Rich went in to ask the locals, they knew right away, I had stepped on a stingray.  That little barbed tail and jabbed right in to the fleshy part of my foot.  Fortunately, they knew what to do.  Aside from the shuffle to avoid getting stung in the first place, we put my foot in 112 degree water and let it soak.  The relief was immediate, thank God.  Mark, the local, kept telling me I just needed to stick it out, it was going to be hot, but it was important it was that hot.  I figured out 112 is about what my bath water used to be.  The paid subsided, the swelling went down and I’m not even hobbling.  I am thankful they knew what to do.

Things I learned today, avoid getting stung, hurt worse than having babies; carry a pan to heat water in, you never know where it might happen; check this off my list of things to do, I think I can count it as one of my 50 firsts this year, never happened before, hope it never happens again!