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Thankful for good food

29 Nov

Oh, there are lots of things I’m thankful for but high among them is having a good weekend with my family, the time to cook really good food, and time to relax and rejuvenate.


I was in charge of dessert.  I made my husband’s favorite dessert.  It’s a secret family recipe.  His grandmother taught me to make it.  So, I call it Robechaud Cheese Pie.  It’s rich and delicious.  I also made pumpkin pie from scratch.  I was so proud of myself . . . I’ve never made pie crust before.  I was pretty nervous about it . . . I had a big can of Libby’s pumpkin and frozen crusts waiting just in case.  I’m glad to say that they weren’t necessary!  The recipe I used was from Martha Stewart’s website.  She has about 15 pumpkin pie recipes.  This was a very basic one, classic, traditional.  Fortunately, I know something about cooking because the recipe had an error in it.  It called for me to cook the pumpkin pie for about 1/2 as long as it actually needed.  I went to pull the pie from the oven and thought, “Uh-oh.”  I searched the web, including the other recipes on her site, and realized it needed 60 minutes, not 30 minutes.  I left it in for the requisite time and it was perfect.

My first pumpkin pie

I was happy.

Ruby was also happy. She loves Thanksgiving. She loves helping clean up messes. This was a batch of yorkshire pudding that had an unfortunate accident. Greg was mopping it up but Ruby really wanted to help. 🙂

Ruby helping to clean up a Thanksgiving mess!


Happy Halloween!

1 Nov

Trick or Treating in Boulder Creek.Ruth - Zombie GirlGage - "Bertric the Black"

My Little Zombie and the Wizard

4th of July – Small Town Celebrations

5 Jul

We started out the morning with a pancake breakfast at the Fire Station.  Our local volunteer fire department does an annual 4th of July breakfast — pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage.  YUM!

This is followed by the annual parade.  I forgot my camera in the car so I have no pictures of it for you.  I’ve forgotten my camera in years past, too.  It’s a great small town event.  It starts with fire trucks cruising down the road sirens blaring.  Then come all the smaller groups like the boy scouts and girl scouts and the local jazzercise classes and people with dogs and the local preschools.  It’s a great tradition.

Face painting to celebrate

Ruth got her face painted while we were waiting in line for the pancake breakfast.

Alba Schoolhouse 4th of July Celebration

After the parade, we headed to a nearby town where there was a celebration going on at the Alba Schoolhouse.  It’s an old 1 room schoolhouse from the town’s history.  The local neighborhood keeps it in good shape and has celebrations there periodically.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  Greg is playing with the SLV Community Band now.  It’s a concert band organized by our high school band director (retired now, he was our band director when we were in high school!).  They played patriotic songs and marches to celebrate the day.  There was also a ukelele-led sing-a-long.  It was very small town USA.

Enthusiastic about the 4th!

From there, we headed over to my mother-in-law’s to celebrate with family.  Greg’s aunt and uncle and cousins were also there.  Very fun.  (However it was when we were getting there that I realized I was getting Greg’s cold so I spent a fair amount of the day napping in hope’s of shaking it off — didn’t work!).  The kids swam.  The adults talked.  We at hot dogs.

Up on the Roof to watch the fireworks

Come dark, it was just us and Greg’s mom left.  We took chairs up onto her roof (there is a staircase up there) and watched the fireworks from there.  It was really cool!


Really wished I’d used my tripod but still you get the idea.  Fireworks.  So special.

Happy 4th of July!  Small town style!
What did YOU do to celebrate July 4th?

Exploring is Rewarding

3 Jul

Snapshot 2009-07-02 22-49-10

We love to go for drives.  In this age of high gas prices and global warming, just going for a long drive isn’t necessarily the most responsible thing to do but dang, we really like to just go for a long drive and see what we can see.  On this trip to Sequoia National Forest, we drove down Kings Canyon.

Kings Canyon was discovered by some Spanish monks who were looking for a good site for a mission.  They named it for the three kings who visited Jesus after his birth.  That’s why it’s not King’s Canyon . . . it’s the Canyon of the Kings.  Anyway . . .

This is a seriously beautiful place.  Leaving the main section of Kings Canyon National Park, you drive along the rim of the canyon and then make your way to the bottom along the river.   Kings Canyon is deep and steep and very beautiful.  The river is spectacular — particularly at this time of year when the snow melt is still flowing out of the mountains.

It’s a pretty scary drive.

If you’d like to see pictures of our trip to Sequoia, click here.  I put them up on Flickr and there is a really nice slide show feature.  I love it.  I know it’s lazy but . . .

Highlights of the drive included . . .

  • seeing an American Dipper at Grizzly Falls.
    We stopped there to see the falls.  There were rocks (there are lots of rocks in the Sierras).  The kids wanted to climb them (they always want to climb rocks).  Something happened and Gage ended up falling and hitting his knee (he didn’t want to hear that climbing on rocks comes with that risk!).  I sat (on a rock) and comforted him while Ruthie and Greg walked over to the falls and Ruth discovered the joys of the mist that comes off a waterfall (she was soaked!).  After Gage felt better, I walked over to look at the falls and right away saw a dark bird fly right into the waterfall.  I knew right away what it was but before I could get my camera on it, it was gone.  It came back again but again, no picture.  Still, it was so exciting to tick that lifebird off my list.  I’ve been wanting to see one since reading about Julie Zickefoose seeing one.
  • having a close encounter with a Mule Deer.
    Not all highlights are good experiences although this one does end well.  After we had lunch along the Kings River, we drove out to the end of the road.  Highway 180 ends deep in Kings Canyon, deep in the Sierra Nevada mountains.  As we drove along this quiet road, we were checking out the scenery around us, not driving too fast but not poking along, either.  All of a sudden, two mule deer leaped out in front of us.  Greg braked as hard as he dared and the 2nd deer almost made it out of our way.  We clipped it with our right front bumper in its hind leg.  The deer was a young buck.  We stopped and sort of sat there for a few moments.  The car that was behind us, pulled up next to us and told us that the buck had run off and run back towards them and crossed back over the road and was in the bushes next to us.  I got out and, after checking the car, I walked over and found the deer.  He was quietly eating in the bushes.  He heard me and walked away.  I watched him put weight on all 4 legs.  I think he was fine.  And . . . no damage to our car either.  Amazing.
  • picnicking next to the river.
    I had packed a picnic lunch and a full cooler of sodas and water.  We got a picnic table right next to the river, under the trees.  We were able to back the car up to the table and could leave the door open for Ruby to participate in our lunch too.  The food was delish but standard picnic fare — sandwiches, chips, pickles, carrots, snap peas, cookies.  Something about the day was wonderful.  We ate while being watched carefully by a pair of Steller’s Jays.
  • Boyden Caves.
    Halfway down Kings Canyon, we stopped at Boyden Cave.  We didn’t plan to tour but we wanted to get the info for a future visit.  Outside the little gift shop, the management had a series of comfortable chairs set up right along the river.  We plunked down there and watched the river go by, swallows swirling over head.   So amazingly relaxing.

Taking a drive into an unfamiliar area can be wonderful or it could be delightful.  This drive was beyond delightful.  If you ever get to Sequoia, take a day and drive down Kings Canyon.  You won’t regret it and be sure to say high to the Dipper!

The Dark Side of Camping

1 Jul

The buzzing, itching, blood-sucking dark side of camping.  exp_insect100

We were camping in the high Sierra.  We couldn’t see the water, but it was within 200 yards of our campsite.  When I walked down there the first time, I saw a lot of mosquitos and got some bites.  So, I knew we would see some at our campsite eventually.  The first three nights, we saw only the occasional mosquito.  We were able to bbq and hang out by the fire without it being a real issue.  But, then came the 4th night . . .

I was at the campsite alone.  Greg had taken the motorhome (and the kids) to dump the holding tanks (oh, the joys of camping in a self-contained vehicle!).  Ruby and I were hanging out alone.  I was hoping I wouldn’t end up sitting in the car to avoid the mosquitos and, thankfully, I didn’t have to.  It was lovely.  Beautiful breeze and no annoying buzzers.

Then Greg and the kids got back.  We parked the FMC in its spot and within about 5 minutes, we were under attack.  The mosquitos laughed at our bug spray.  It was terrible.  We were all chewed to pieces.  We beat a hasty retreat into the motorhome.  That was much better but it was 5pm and we hadn’t had dinner and I’d planned on our bbqing.  As the intensity of the mosquitos increased, we scrapped that plan.  We munched on other foods and stared in fascination at the huge number of mosquitos trying to get into our vehicle.  Taking a picture of a bug on a screen is really difficult.  But I got one that gives an idea of the number of mosquitos we were dealing with.


There were many, many more than that.  At one point, we counted at least 80 on that one screen.  They were all congregated near Greg’s arm — they couldn’t get to it but they knew it was there.  At one point, I had to run out to the car and get something (okay, okay, it was a soda to mix with gin for a cocktail!).   I opened the door, flew out, slammed it shut and ran.  As I came back to the FMC, I realized that it wasn’t just the window but the window, wall, and roof that were covered in hungry mosquitos.  It was intense.  When I’d look across the meadow (toward the creek), the setting sun would highlight hundreds of mosquitos heading towards us.  Shudder.

Here’s the really wild thing though.

After that night, we never saw anything like that again.  We got a couple more bites but nothing like the mosquito attack.  I’m sure it was the mosquito coils that I bought and we burned each night.  Sure, that’s it.

(Not my photo — borrowed from Flickr)


28 Jun


Campfires are an elemental experience.  The sound of them.   Watching the flames dance and twist.  Adding fuel to the fire.  All these things reach our spirits.  Fires in a fireplace can give a bit of that comfort to our soul but there is something about gathering around a campfire with family and friends under a starry sky for stories and conversation, warmth, and, of course, food.  (More on that in a bit!)


Campfires are also a safety issue.  When you camp in campgrounds, they generally provide a safe place for your fire.  When you camp in the National Forests, there are often no safe metal fire rings, just stone ones.  Much more satisfying.  Our campsite had a beautiful fire ring.  When camping where we were, you are required to get a fire permit before you use a campfire, camp stove, or even a propane lantern outside.  Why?  In order to reduce the risk of wildfires from careless campers, of course!  We anticipated having to stop at the Ranger’s office and get a permit but I found that I could take a test online and get my permit online.  Yay.

As part of the process, I had to learn how to safely manage a campfire.  We were really careful about following the rules.  Heck . . . I had to take a test!  We made sure our campfire was set up safely.  We followed the rules about how to put out a fire, too.  We kept a bucket of water near the fire and used the Drown-Stir-Feel method to put our fire out safely.

Gage’s job was to get a bucket of water everyday so that we could have our fire that night.  He braved mosquitos down by the creek to get the water. In the National Forests, you are also allowed to collect downed wood for your fires.   Gage, of course, had to get the biggest pieces he could find and haul them back with the water.


This picture looks like one of the ads from the Go RVing association.  Funny that they haven’t called to ask us to become spokesmodels for their industry!  🙂 I think they are missing a good bet!


Campfires.  Family.  And, of course, marshmellows.  Does it get any better than this?

Marshmellow ! by Tineeh

Marshmellow ! by Tineeh


24 Jun

When Greg and I were undergraduates, we went on our first camping trip together.  We tent-camped around the eastern Sierra mountains and Death Valley.  The most memorable thing about that trip was that Greg forgot to pack the tent and had to take my step-dad (a backpacker) aside when we stopped at their house and ask to borrow his tent.  It was a backpacking tent – a tiny bright orange puptent.  Oh well, we were young and in love and who needs room anyway!  But, it set a tone for us.

We bought our first RV when we were in graduate school.  We envisioned a life of taking our children and our dog camping.  Setting up in one place for a week and spending time exploring all there is to know about that one area.  Taking long rambling treks across various states and returning after a month to our home.

We did camp a fair amount in our 5th Wheel trailer with our 4×4 pickup truck.  We thought that would be the way to go for us.  And, it was when it was just us.  However, the reality of driving for 8 hours across the state (slowly because you are towing a trailer) with two small children and a labrador directly behind you wasn’t what we’d really hoped for.  Changes had to be made.

And they were, slowly, over time.  First of all, our children got bigger.  That seemed to happen without any planning on our part.  Secondly, we, again, slowly, over time, replaced the labradors with Ruby the Rat Terrier.  We never could have envisioned that small, compact, fiesty, and loving would turn out to be the best camping dog ever.  And, we replaced the truck and 5th wheel with our vintage motorhome and a small SUV to tow behind it.

And, we have struck camping gold.  This combination works.  Traveling 8 hours across the state to end up in our destination is part of the fun now.  The kids love camping in the motorhome and the flexibility of lounging on the back bed area with their books, DSes, or simply staring out the window or coming up and sitting in the front seat with us and watching the world go by and talking about what we see, big plans, concerns from school, or what that bird was that just flew overhead.  The dog is a camper extraordinaire.  She loves the motorhome, loves traveling, sticks around even if the door is left open, comes when called even while on the trail of some horrid little rodent (most of the time) and generally is worth her weight in gold (12 lbs, by the way).  And, for us, each trip has a veneer of goals achieved.  we can look back at those young campers with big dreams and know that we are living their dreams.  Oh sure, we are older, fatter, and more staid than we envisioned being but we are out camping with our kids and our dog and loving every minute of it.

Here is where we camping in Sequoia National Forest.  This is the site that we hoped against hope we would get.

Our site at Sequoia National Forest

Here is the view (part of it) that we enjoyed while we were camping there.


You’d like to think that I played with the color and made it more beautiful than it is.  And, I did boost the color a little in iPhoto.  But, it doesn’t come close to capturing the beauty of this area.  Some areas are larger than life and the Sierra Nevada mountains are among them.

We camped at 7,600 feet.  It was so beautiful.  The air is thin and the altitude gets to you.  The sun is so intense at that altitude.  I had headaches and felt queasy for the first few days.  We could see mountains that were 11,000+ feet from our site (only on clear days).  We experienced all the wonders of the Sierra summer weather from 40F nights to 80F days and sun that burned in less than an hour to pouring, bone-numbing rain.  We celebrated Father’s Day which seemed so appropriate since Greg is the reason we are campers and his father was the one who gave him the love of camping.  We explored and visited new sites and old, familiar sites.  We challenged our fears and sometimes conquered them and sometimes surrendered to them.  We spent time together and alone.  We read, played games, and talked.  We watched Star Trek:  The Next Generation episodes on our itty-bitty DVD player all curled up in bed together.  We looked at birds and animals in new ways. We fulfilled that dream that Greg and I had many years ago when we camped together in a little orange pup tent by the side of a road in Nevada.

And, we’re glad to be home.

We’re going here!

14 Jun


We had so much fun at Sequoia National Park last year that we thought we’d go back again this year.   We are camping in the National Forest this time.  They offer what is called dispersed camping — they designate areas where camping is fine, you don’t have to camp in specific campsites. You have to get a permit for campfires.  And, you have to be aware that it’s bear country.  And, you won’t have a ranger to come to your rescue if you mishandle your food and end up with a bear in your campsite. We’ll be camping in this area.

We are going to go horseback riding with the Horse Corral Pack Station.

Horse back riding in Sequoia National Forest

We are going to drive around that area and see things like the Buck Rock Lookout Station.

Buck Rock Lookout

And, of course, we’ll see massive Giant Sequoia trees.

Ruth & Gage at base of Giant Sequoia

It’s going to be quite an adventure!

We love watching TopGear!

20 Apr

top-gear-hosts1My husband started watching TopGear and before you know it, we’re all sucked in.  These insane Brits . . . Jeremy, James, and Richard are wild men behind the wheel. They love fast, powerful cars and drive them around the TopGear track in England.  They have a tame race car driver named The Stig.  My favorite part is the contests they are put through ridiculous challenges.  They are obnoxious and silly and we just sit back and laugh.  Oh, and the bickering.  They fight and treat each other horribly.

We watched an episode the other day where they went camping . . . it didn’t go well . . . anyway, as part of their activities while camping.  They went twitching . . . TopGear style.  I was all excited until they started pointing out cars going by on the highway near their campsite.  Hilarious.  Oh, they also set the camper on fire.  Seriously.

We all need a laugh and these guys are reliable sources of humor!

Camping with a Kindle

18 Apr

Camping with a Kindle

Now, I know that many people don’t consider camping in a motorhome really caming but . . . what can I say, it works for me.  And, I know from camping.  I’ve done the backpacking thing.  I’ve done the tent camping thing.  I’ve done the 5th wheel trailer thing.  And for me and mine, motorhome is the way to camp.

We camp in RV parks and state parks and friends’ driveways.  We camp with full hook-ups and we “dry camp”.  We do several camping trips a year.  We are a camping family.

When I got the Kindle2, I didn’t think much about the camping thing.  I just sort of assumed it would work for camping.  Our most recent trip to Disneyland was my trial run for Kindle Camping!  And, it worked beautifully!

One of the biggest problems with camping is that you have no room . . . even in a motorhome, you don’t want to bring along unnecessary items.  But, one of the joys of camping is that you have downtime to do things like reading.  And, sometimes you want a choice in what you read.  I’ve been known to bring 4 or 5 books with me when I go camping.  With my Kindle, I had more like 20 books with me and they took up less space than 1 magazine.

In our motorhome, we tend to leave our bed set up most of the time.  The kids sleep on bunks above us (see the picture above).  I tucked the Kindle into the magazine rack next to my pillows.  I hooked my Mighty Bright Light
on the magazine rack.  I was all set to read myself to sleep each night.

Some of the time, on our trips, we had power because we had hookups at campgrounds.  However, other times we were camping in campgrounds without power.  The Kindle stays powered up for days, particularly if you turn off the Whispernet feature when you aren’t actually uploading or downloading items.  Camping without power does not mean that I don’t have access to my Kindle.  (Besides, we have an inverter that I can use in an emergency.)  To be clear, I used my Kindle2 for 8 days on the camping trip.  I downloaded a book while we were gone.  I read for several hours a day (I read 4 books and started a 5th on that trip).  I read a LOT.  And, I only charged it up twice.  Neither time did it NEED it.  I charged it up because I could, not because I had to.  Pretty darn cool, if you ask me!  The Mighty Bright booklight also works on batteries or power.  I never did plug that one in — I used batteries the whole time.  It is a necessity to have a booklight because the eInk screen that makes the Kindle so readable does not have a backlight and therefore you must have an external light source.

There were also days when we camped without access to cell-phones or 3G networks or Whispernet but there were plenty of days that we camped with ready access to such luxuries.  On our trip, I finished reading the 2nd book in a series.   When I’d originally purchesed that book, the 3rd in the series wasn’t available.  It was pure joy to check in at the Kindle store and find that the next book was indeed available and download it within minutes.

The Kindle is lightweight, small, and lasts for days on one charge.  I think it’s a natural for camping.  I know it works for RVs.  I would absolutely find it useful for tent-camping.  In fact, I think I would be able to justify the weight and space for a backpacking trip.

Who would have thunk it?  Kindles are the ultimate camping tool!  Go buy one and camp!!!