Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brownies and Boondocking

Ellie 002 After more requests for the S’mores Brownies recipe, here it is:


S'mores Brownies
From: Weight Watchers "Sizzle It" Cookbook

2 1/2 low-fat honey graham crackers
1 (13.7 oz) box fat-free fudge brownie mix
1 (6 oz) container plain fat-free yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
16 marshmallows
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350
Line an 8" square pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Allow foil to extend over rim of pan.

Break crackers into rectangles and arrange in bottom of pan.
Prepare brownie mix according to package directions and spread over crackers.
Bake until tootpick inserted in center of pan is clean, about 35 mins.
Let cool 15 minutes.

Heat grill to medium high (can also use campfire)
Thread 4 marshmallows each on 4 skewers and toast over fire until soft and browned.
Spread marshmallows over the top of the brownies
Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of the marshmallows
Heat in oven just until chocolate chips begin to melt, about 2 mins.
Let cool completely
lift the brownies from the pan and cut into 12 servings.

Per serving (1 brownie): 190 cal, 2g fat, 1g sat fat, 0g trans fat, 0 mg chol, 167mg sodium, 42g carb, 0g fiber, 4g prot., 56mg calc.




Now, as to the Boondocking part of today’s blog title, well, I should learn never to say never!  After several days of trying  - unsuccessfully - to find a spot for both our rigs in an RV park somewhere in Arizona, Janna convinced us to give boondocking a try.  She assures us the place where they are parked – about 20 miles northeast of Quartzsite will be easy for us to get into with our Castle.

The closest we’ve been to boondocking in this rig has been a few nights in Walmart parking lots, and an overnighter at a Cummins facility.  Otherwise, we have been tethered to the almighty power pole, and at least water hook-ups.  So the idea of “officially” camping with no hook-ups for multiple days (and nights!) has not been on our agenda.

We’re busily making lists of all the things we need to do and get taken care of in the next couple of days before we head off to the wilderness.  A new adventure!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zoo Day

What a great way to celebrate a birthday!  First, I had so many good wishes from an incredible wealth of friends!  You all made my day special before I even left the Castle.  Thank you.

The plan was to go to the San Diego Zoo, where Deb and Ron would catch up with us when Deb finished her work day early.  After taking care of a couple of errands, we got to the zoo around 11:00.  We were hungry by then, so our first stop was to get a snack.  I wanted to see the baby Panda, Yun Zi. This baby Panda is just 5 months old and has only been on view at the zoo since Jan. 7.  When we got to Panda Canyon, I was disappointed at reading the viewing hours, it appeared we missed it by about 15 minutes.  But then, someone came out and said they were still allowing people through, so we went right in – no line!

What a treat to see mom and baby playing in their yard:

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Our next stop was the “other” Pandas:

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By this time, Deb and Ron had joined us, and we continued on with our zoo experience.  There are so many interesting animals here!  Deb is quite a zoo fan, she has an annual membership, so she’s very familiar with the zoo’s layout and offerings.  We let her guide us to the various exhibits, all the time visiting and watching the animals.

Between Jim and I, we took hundreds of pictures!  Here are a few of my favorites:

Probably the closest we’ll be to having a pink flamingo in our front yard:

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I love meerkats!  I still haven’t forgiven Animal Planet for discontinuing their series, “Meerkat Manor”:

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See the dirt the elephant is flinging on her back?  Just after I took this picture, she picked up another trunk-ful of dirt and flung it – at me!

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I spent several years in my work life as a secretary – so this picture is in honor of those years – a Secretary Bird:

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Just because!

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If you know how Jim feels about snakes, you should be very proud of him for not only walking all through the snake house, but actually taking pictures! This rare albino boa constrictor had to be at least 15 feet long!

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As we were getting ready to wrap up our zoo day, we were fortunate to witness the afternoon flight of the macaws.  A large “crate” with a dozen of these colorful birds is raised on a pole.  The doors are opened, and the macaws fly out to return to their roosting area for the night.  From the time the doors open until the birds are out of sight is only a few seconds, so I think Jim did a great job getting this shot:

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After our zoo adventure, we went to dinner at Fidel’s Mexican Restaurant with Deb and Ron.  What a fabulous day!

I’ve had a couple of requests for the recipe for the S’mores Brownies, so I will post that in a separate blog!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

We Share Our Day with Special People

Gosh, it’s been awhile since we got to spend time with any of our RV Dreamer Friends.  But today, Rollie and Gina (All Because Two People Fell in Love) finally got to come and visit.  We’d planned to get together with them last week, but the rain had other ideas for us all.

They have been staying at Camp Pendleton while their son, Thomas is here.  They picked him up at 29 Palms and brought him here, where he is stationed for the time being.  Rollie has been very busy installing all the wiring for their new solar system, but today they took time out from testing the system to drive down here to Santee to spend the day with us.

We’d originally planned to eat out at Olive Garden, but then I decided it would be just as fun and more healthy for us to eat here.  So Jim and I planned the menu which ended up being beef kabobs, coleslaw, “Clayton’s Beans” and a new recipe from a book Dortha gave me for Christmas.  The book is a Weight Watchers cookbook on grilling, and the recipe is for S’mores Brownies.  Yes, really!

We had a beautiful day for a visit and had the patio all set up and ready:

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When Rollie and Gina arrived in their big truck, which, by the way, generated some interest from the neighbors!

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Jim grilled the beef kabobs that Gina helped me skewer:

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Then we visited and laughed as we swapped stories:

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Time to get into those S’mores Brownies, really?  Weight Watchers?

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After a very fun day, it was about time for them to face the traffic on the way back up to Camp Pendleton.  We took a couple more pictures:

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Before sending these very special people back to their home on wheels:

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With promises that we’ll see each other again soon, either here or “somewhere down the road”!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Time Marches On (and so will we)

 Jim 018 Today’s picture is one we took at the Birch Aquarium back on January 15 when we visited there.  We survived the big storms of last week, the weather finally dried out and we got our sunshine back.  But, we may get more rain tonight.

We’d hoped to get together with Rollie and Gina last week, but decided to postpone, since the day they were coming over was the worst storm day.  We rescheduled for this Thursday.  It will be great to see them again and get caught up with their news.  The last time we saw them was at the gathering at Buckhorn Lake last March.

By Saturday, our cabin fever was in high gear, so we got our chores done and then took a drive out I-8 East to the Viejas Casino.  For signing up with their Players Club and earning 5 points each, we got a “free” buffet dinner.  All in all, we had an enjoyable afternoon and nice dinner, and all it cost us was what Jim lost (I came enough ahead to somewhat mitigate his losses). 

Jim had a dental appointment yesterday, and determined that he really doesn’t need to stay here longer.  There is still work to be done to finalize all his procedures, but that needs to wait a few more months.  He can have the work done at another office in the same dental business group that he’s using here.  They have offices in several locations, including Colorado Springs, where we’ll be in May and June.  In the meantime, there really isn’t a need to stay here, so we are making plans to get back on the road!  It looks like we will be meeting our friends Janna and Mike in the Yuma area and will spend some time there.  I’m sure we’ll miss this area, but we’re both looking forward to getting back to our normal nomadic lifestyle.

Jasmine asked me to tell her friends who commented on “her” post hello, and she’s glad you all enjoyed reading about her adventures.  She also said BoJangles will get a turn to write a blog entry soon.

We want to express our deep sadness at the passing of a special furbaby.  Laurie and Odel (Semi True Tales) lost their beloved cat, Luna, today after discovering that she had a large tumor.  She was a very special cat who will be greatly missed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Jasmine

Mom says people like to know what’s up with the “Furkids”, that’s me and Bo Jangles.  So she’s letting me write about us today.  Like we’re doing anything exciting, hah.

I guess you know it’s pretty rainy here in Santee, California, so we’re not allowed to go outside very much right now.  No nice long walks, ground sniffing or anything fun like that.  Mostly sleeping.  Oh, yeah, well, we did get baths yesterday.  Yuck.  As if we don’t get wet enough going outside, she has to make us stand in the shower and get all soapy, too.

When we do go outside, Mom puts these crazy raincoats on us, have you ever seen anything so ridiculous?

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I just let her do it because, like I said, I really hate to get wet, and even worse is having to do my business in the rain.

Mom got some new stuff for that Wii Game she likes.  This one has a place to add your pets, so she set me and Bo Jangles up on it.  I thought it was going to be something fun:

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But all they have in there for dogs is our weight.  Who cares about that!

I want to PLAY!

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Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  I’m going to see if I can talk Mom (or Dad, he’s easier) into giving us a snack.

Mom says Bo Jangles might get to write the next blog update.  Till then…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

We Take Our Turn (with the rain)

Remember, I said we expected the rain?  It got here yesterday, and I think we’re getting enough to offset a whole lot of the days we enjoyed warm sunshine while many of our friends were getting cold and wet.  Now it’s our turn!

Our little corner of the campground turned into a river for the second day today, more on the way over the next few days.

Jazz makes do with a little nap, using her cow as a pillow and my jacket as a blanket:

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And Mr. BoJangles waits for a break in the downpour so he can go out to play:

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We’ve had enough of a break every once in a while to get them out for a quick walk, and for us to go out for a quick bite to eat for dinner this evening.  Otherwise, we have our books!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life in Southern California

Ellie 019 We’ve had many comments about the lack of blog updates, so I thought I’d dig deep and come up with something to write!

I’ve mentioned that I love it here, but is it all that perfect?  Well, yes and no. The weather has been just about perfect, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons for the “loving it” part.  We spent so much time over the summer being less than completely warm that not having to deal with cold temperatures now is a blessing to me.  Since we arrived just before Thanksgiving, we’ve only had a few days of rainy weather. Although, the next rain is on the way right now!

Santee Lakes Campground is a little world unto itself, and we feel safe and happy here. It’s generally pretty quiet, with weekends providing a few more families that come camping.  There are birds galore.  Of course, I only recognize a few, like the snowy egrets, great egrets, mallards, wood ducks, coots, crows, finches, sparrows, hawks, hummingbirds and so forth.  I saw a juvenile green heron a few days ago, patiently waiting at the lake shore for some tasty morsel to swim by. There is also wildlife, although we’ve only experienced the coyote, which is probably a good thing, since I’m not sure how thrilled I’d be to come across a snake or even a raccoon!  We hear the coyotes early in the morning and at night, and I saw one a few days ago, just on the outside of the campground property.  The trail around the lakes and campground is wonderful for walking the dogs, and little blue bags are provided at handy intervals.  The office staff is friendly and helpful and the neighbors seem to be pretty nice.  It appears that there are a mix of snowbirds and local workers who live here more or less permanently.  I say more or less because, technically, you can’t stay here on a permanent basis.  There is a limit of 6 months at a time, after which you must be out of the park for at least 2 weeks. The couple next door to us stays in one site for 6 months, then they go somewhere for a couple of weeks and come back to a different site for another 6 months.  I guess they’ve been doing that for several years now.

Most of the things we need are in close proximity to the campground, which is situated on the edge of the little town of Santee. There are grocery stores, restaurants, a coin laundry, parks, and other shopping venues within a few minutes’ drive.  Everything else, like the beach, major shopping, attractions, etc., are fairly easily accessible via a freeway.  And that brings us to the things we don’t like so much – the traffic and the California drivers.  If you’re from California, or have lived here any length of time, I guess you get used to driving the freeways like a maniac, because that’s how you need to drive here, or risk being run off the road!  I doubt anyone ever gets a speeding ticket in California, it’s totally expected to drive at least 10 miles an hour over the posted limit.  And the crowds, well, at first I thought the crowds might be due to the fact it was the holiday season.  But, no, here we are in mid January, and it’s crowded everywhere all the time, even during the week.  Again, I guess you get used to it, but we really do prefer small towns with a slower pace.

So, how do we spend our days?  Just about like many of our friends, a combination of staying home doing chores, reading, cooking (and eating said cooking), walking, exercising with the Wii, playing with the dogs, “computering” and visiting; or, going out shopping or sightseeing.  When the weather has been especially warm and sunny, I’ve gone over to the pool, area where I soak in the hot tub and lay in the sun.  There are 2 swimming pools, but they are not heated, so they’re very cold!  I go to my Weight Watchers meeting every Wednesday morning, and Jim has regular visits to the dentist.  We do the laundry, clean house, and take care of the routine maintenance around the motor home.  Of course, right now, there is football to consider, but we’ll have to manage without that very soon.

In short, it’s a great life, this retirement thing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Out and About

Yes, I know – it’s been too long since I posted an update!  But, we haven’t really been doing much that’s newsworthy, at least until earlier this week.  So let’s get caught up…

We found out through the grapevine that we had another recall on our engine.  Jim made a call to the nearby Cummins facility and determined that yes, we needed to have a little adjustment made.  Since we were due our annual oil change anyway, we got an appointment scheduled.  Early Tuesday morning, we had the Castle packed up and ready to take to the Cummins shop, which is thankfully only about 5 miles from the campground and doesn’t involve any freeway travel.

Here we are, nearly the first rig in the lot for the day:

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We got all checked in and were told it would be mid afternoon before we could expect to be finished.  With the dogs and our snacks all loaded in the little car, we took off to do some exploring.

I’ve been wanting to drive the back roads up to Aguanga, where there is an Escapees Coop Park, Jojoba Hills.  On the way, we stopped at this little pie shop in Julian, but just looked!  Really!

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We found the park, stopped at the office to let them know we just wanted to drive through and look, and then did just that. They have a very nice pool and clubhouse area:

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As with pretty much all of the Escapees parks, they don’t take reservations, but almost always have space at least in their boondock area.  This park charges $20 per night (including electric), and has a 28 day per year limit for stays.  We would certainly consider staying here sometime.

After we saw the park, we came back to Santee via I-15 and headed over to the Cummins facility.  Even though we were there before mid-afternoon, the Castle was ready to go.  We got back to our site and all settled in with time to spare before happy hour.

Yesterday, my friend Deb and her husband, Ron, met us in La Jolla for an adventure to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Here they are in front of the whale-tail fountain near the entrance: 

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Deb was “talking” to the octopus:

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Interesting and beautiful fish!

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Right now, the museum has an exhibit featuring seahorses, here’s one of the more unusual varieties:

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Posing in the shark’s mouth at the end of the tour:

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We then went to Torrey Pines State Reserve and walked a short trail to an overlook.  I was able to get my ocean fix!

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The Torrey Pine is the rarest pine tree, there are only about 3,000 wild trees growing along the California coastline, most of them in this reserve:

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We were just in time to watch the sun set over the Pacific:

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And then it was time to join the rush hour traffic back to the shopping center where we had parked our car. We went on in to the California Pizza Kitchen with Deb and Ron for dinner and then parted ways to head home.  It was a wonderful and fun afternoon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New Year, A New Decade

Yes, we’re still out here, enjoying life in Santee, California.  The Christmas and New Years holidays have come and gone, and we’ve settled into somewhat of a routine, or at least as much of one as we can tolerate.

Jim has progressed quite well in his healing and is able to eat many things, although there are some foods that he isn’t quite ready to tackle.  He has regular checks at the dentist, and now it’s just a matter of time before he’s at a point where we can take ourselves back on the road.

I had my eyes checked right before Christmas and just picked up new glasses on Monday.  Wow, I hadn’t realized what bad shape my old lenses were in until I put on the new pair – I can actually see clearly now!  The old lenses had a type of coating on them that had started to crack and peel just enough to make everything fuzzy.  I just thought it was my eyes getting worse!  Actually, my prescription didn’t change all that much, but enough that the new glasses are just a little stronger.

I’m still attending a weekly Weight Watchers meeting and enjoying this group very much.  The leader is very energetic and dynamic, and her “other” job is public speaking on the subject of health maintenance, so she’s very well versed in healthy living.  My weight has stayed stable, which is a very good thing.  Santa brought me some new Wii games for Christmas, including the Wii Resort and new Wii Fit Plus, so I am hard at work on those.

An early Christmas present to myself was the purchase of a Kindle electronic reading device, and I’m thoroughly hooked on that!  It’s so easy to get new books, the reading goes quickly, and it’s a great weight saver as far as not having to haul books around.  Jim has borrowed it to read a book I bought that he wanted to read also.  Now if I can just get him converted and purchase a second Kindle for him, we can stop carrying books with us!

We also moved again – from one site at Santee Lakes to another, our third since we got here.  The online reservation system evidently is at the base of what is known as the “Santee Shuffle”.  When you make a reservation here, you’re assigned a specific site, and if you decide you want to come in earlier or stay longer than your original dates, you could have to move.  Since we did both, we’ve had to go with the flow.  It gives us a little practice in our packing and setting up, plus we get a different view and new neighbors, so we really don’t mind all that much.

Yesterday we got our chores done in the morning and took a ride a few miles north to the Bernardo Winery, where we enjoyed a light lunch, a little wine tasting and some shopping in the village there.  The winery was started in 1889 and is the oldest continuously operating winery in Southern California:

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We ate lunch in Cafe Merlot:

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In the tasting room, I had some questions about the wine:

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Today was the first day we’ve taken time to go to the beach!  Jim looks relaxed:

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And we enjoyed watching some very young surfers:

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At the risk of “rubbing it in” I have to say that we chose correctly this winter as far as outguessing the weather, and have been enjoying some very nice, warm days here in Southern California.  (But, I think there’s a cold front on the way, and we could be seeing a cool down and some rain showers before too long).

We wish all our friends and family could be here too, and not having to endure the deep-freeze that winter is bringing to many other parts of the country!