The only National Park on our winter trip was Big Bend. Neither of us had been there before, in fact, neither of us had really spent much time in Texas before. We learned a lot about Texas during the ~3 weeks we were there. It is, as they say, BIG! And this National Park is also a biggie. We camped in Rio Grande Village Campground, and we were lucky to get just about the last open site with electricity in that campground. We were on the east side of the National Park, click on this link to see a map of the area. We drove as far west as the Chisos Basin Visitor Center, a very scenic drive. Not for trailers and large RV's, however, with some tight twists and turns. The picture above was taken at an overlook near that center, it's a gap called The Window between the mountains with a very long range view. We also took a hike on the Boquillas Canyon Trail. It's not very long and not very hard, I was kind of wimpy that day. But we had a great view of the river and the Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen across the river.
During the month of February, we joined forces with good friends, Bob and Debbie, at a rental condo in Florida. We were on the panhandle, east of Destin and west of Panama City. It turned out to be a great vacation spot! We had plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping, sight-seeing and beach! Our condo was plenty roomy for us to do group activities or watch a movie, but still room to spread out when we wanted to. The kitchen was large and well supplied, so a lot of the meals were cooked right there. Buddy's was a great seafood market nearby, and we enjoyed the chance to learn more about cooking seafood that's not walleye!
With our extra time at home for who knows how long, we have decided to dive into some home projects that would have otherwise been left on the back burner while we cavort across the country. Inside the house, outside the house, and in the trailer, there is an assortment of things to be done so we have some flexibility with the weather.
Here's just a quick look at the before and after of our out front flower beds. We created 3 long flower beds about 20 years ago from rocks that we hauled in from other places. The picture on the left shows how the short rock walls had deteriorated over the years, and many of the plants (all perennials) had either died off from cold winters or had outgrown their spaces. So we (mostly Bob) dug out all the rocks, then started over with the walls. We were surprised at the amount of rocks that had been completely buried, I guess by erosion. We actually ended up with some extra rocks after building up the new walls. The photo on the right is one of the renovated walls. And now I get to buy some new plants! The nurseries around here are open, with changes made for safety of the public. So I've been able to pick up a few things, and will add more as time allows.
I thoroughly cleaned the inside of the trailer, so now it looks like new again, almost! The interior of a lot of the cabinets are white, and they get marks from pans, bowls, canned goods, etc., during the rattling around that occurs while flying down the road, no matter how much I pad or cushion them. Luckily, it mostly comes off easily with those scrubbing eraser pads. And I needed to hang a few things on the walls, in the shower, at my bedside and in the kitchen. The outside of the trailer really needs a good wash, but we'll wait for a warmer day for that. I put a new quilt on the bed, and we'll be camping in the driveway for now.
Inside the house, I've been cleaning in places that I've never cleaned before! Even Bob cleaned and reorganized his workbench in the basement! I cleaned out my entire food pantry/cabinet, which is the only way I can really clean and sort and reorganize the shelves in there. A few new containers to help fit the spaces helped a lot, too. I would love to have gone to the Container Store for a chance to browse their wonderful ideas and devices. That store is heavenly for someone like myself who likes to organize things, or at least try to organize and stay that way!
Another new-to-us recipe to share, a regular pot roast with a deliciously seasoned coating added. Another recipe that we will do again in the future.
Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pot Roast from Taste Of Home.
Cooking time about 6 hours in crockpot on low.
1 boneless beef chuck roast, about 3-4 pounds, cut into 2 pieces
1 pound medium red potatoes, quartered, peeled if desired
1 cup baby carrots
¼ cup Dijon mustard (or less according to my husband but I liked it as is)
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon pepper
⅓ cup chopped onion
1 ½ cups low salt beef broth (sub burgandy wine or brandy plus water for the broth if you like)
Put the carrots and potatoes in the bottom of the crockpot and then the roast on top. Mix together the mustard, rosemary, garlic salt, thyme and pepper; rub over roast. Top the roast with the chopped onion and pour in the broth. Cook on low until meat and vegetables are tender, for 6-8 hours. There's even a video for this recipe.
I'm trying to remember how to do this! I might need to go back to a tutorial to get this blog post done right!
We've experienced a lot since the year 2020 arrived, and I have been pretty quiet about it in this format. So I've got some catching up to do!
We've been traveling to so many new places, then scuttling home to stay safe as the awareness of what was coming with the coronavirus became very clear. So we did shorten our planned travel by a couple weeks, but we still had 2 ½ months of the worst part of Minnesota winter behind us! We enjoyed our travel with our Airstream so much, she's just right for us! Click on the "Read More" below to read more of my story.
We have taken on another update in our home. I think we are finding ourselves in a new life phase with lots of questions to ponder. We have lived in this house since 1988. It's hard to imagine living in another house. But it's also hard to imagine keeping up a 3 story home with surrounding acreage when we are 20 years older than we are now. If we are lucky! We consider the idea of selling and moving, and I look around at the 80's style house and wonder who would even want it! We have updated the kitchen and main bathroom, so that's moved out of the 80's! I watch quite a few episodes of House Hunters and Fixer Upper, and I just cringe to think of what potential buyers would say about our house. "OMG, popcorn ceiling everywhere! No master suite! Little closets! We can't fit our king size bed in any of the bedrooms. How can they live without marble countertops? Gut job!"
So we do want to make some improvements, but we aren't ready to sell. And making improvements now means we get to enjoy living with them.
When we built the house back in 1988, we installed a wood-burning stove in our greatroom. That room is large, covering the kitchen, dining and TV area, plus stairs and a loft and vaulted ceiling. We were "open concept" before we even knew what it meant! To help with our heating of the whole house, we used our wood stove a lot. If we were at home, and started it early, we could keep it burning all day long and used the gas furnace very little. And we had a plentiful wood supply, with quite a few dead trees from oak wilt on our property. Feeding the wood stove became a routine for us, and it it could really put out a lot of heat. It had a 3-speed fan on it, and we never used the high speed because it just made the house too hot! We have a large ceiling fan that helped circulate between upstairs and downstairs.
There are a few down sides to having the wood stove, but they never outweighed the benefits. There's the work of cutting the wood, bringing it into the house, and tending the fire. Making kindling, cleaning out the ashes and cleaning up the mess on the floor after filling the woodbox were a few more downsides. The worst, in my opinion, was the smoky smell. It smells quaint when you stand outside and catch a whiff of wood smoke from a fireplace or bonfire. But it doesn't smell quite so quaint when you feel like your whole house and clothes and hair smell like that! When I started quilting for customers, I was very worried about getting their precious quilts smelly. In the long run, I never did sense that the quilts retained any odor, and people I trusted to tell me the truth said I didn't smell like a bonfire! But it became more of an annoyance to me.
I have a new finished project to show you! Knitting has become a very favorite way for me to have something to work on when watching the scenery go by as we are driving, or watching a recorded show, or following a YouTube channel. Plus, fabric and yarn can very often be found together, so that's a bonus when we are going places. My yarn and fabric purchases are kind of like souvenirs.
Last week Debbie and I went to Houston for the International Quilt Festival. We have always wanted to do this, and even though we have been in Houston several times just prior to this show, we have been there for business, rather than pleasure. Although we always found some joy in going, no matter what! This time we were not there to buy and order merchandise for the store. We went for the fun of wandering among the many booths of vendors, spying some favorite fabrics and new ideas to take home with us. We stayed at the Cambria Hotel, and really enjoyed our room and the view from the 15th floor. In the mornings, we walked the 4 blocks over to Phoenicia to find some breakfast and/or lunch at this wonderful grocery and deli. Then just about 2 more blocks to the Convention Center. We were very comfortable with walking everywhere we went, and made sure we got back safely to our hotel before dark.
I don't have a lot of pictures from our visit there, but we sure had a lot of fun! One night we even played Scrabble in the hotel lounge! (We each won a game.) We did both get excited to see some new products, and we shop well for each other because we have similar likes. And because neither of us really needs any more fabric, we can get away with buying ½ yard pieces which we split in 2 and we each get the satisfaction of something new!
Some thoughts and tips about going to Quilt Festival -
Don't be afraid to stay in the nearby hotels, if you can't get a room at the Hilton, which is the hotel linked with the Convention Center. We were not afraid at any time. There has been a lot of improvements in the area of the Convention Center and Minute Maid Park. We went to restaurants within walking distance, too.
We highly recommend stopping at the Phoenicia Market to get some food or snacks or salad/sandwich to take to the park or convention center for lunch. Much cheaper than the food court at the show, and much more tasty and fun. When you go there, make sure you look at all of the interesting products they have, and go upstairs, too.
We did not know that rolling bags are not allowed into the show. (They are allowed for the Quilt Market that we attended, organized by the same Quilts, Inc., group. We checked our rolling bag in the morning, used large tote bags for our shopping, and then paid $1 to get our rolling bag out at lunchtime and put it back in the storage area until the end of the day, when our tote bags were getting heavy again!
They do rent scooters, and there were a lot of them to dodge. Plus, they allowed strollers, even for kids that climbed out of the strollers and toddled through the crowded aisles. Would have loved to have my wheelie bag with me, to compete with all those other vehicles!
There are 3 nice restaurants within a short walk. There is an Italian restaurant and a seafood restaurant within the Convention center, and a good Mexican restaurant in the Hilton across the street. I can make an entire lunch from their chips and guacamole, prepared fresh at our table!
Remember to have lots of fun!
As we age, we can get a broken down in some ways. The same thing applies to appliances! I just had to retire my lovely old clothes dryer. It started making a very loud noise and spewing smoke from the inside and outside! Good thing Bob was home, because we wanted to get it out to the garage as quickly as possible in case something started flaming! The clothes got a little stinky but that washed out, and I got to finish the laundry at the laundromat. I have had this dryer for a long time, 37 years, in fact! Purchased in Sioux Falls, SD, in 1982, from Sears. I found the receipt and instruction book in the file drawer.
So we went shopping for a new one, and only paid $100 more for it than the 1982 model! I do prefer less whistles and bells for the most part, because over the last 37 years I have used the normal everyday setting 99% of the time. Except when doing something special like knits or a quilt. So we are back in business and the old one has gone on to that great laundry room in the sky!
Every now and then I am reminded of the leaps of time in my life, as I am sure you are, too. Like this dryer which was a fixture in our home for so many loads of clothes! Or last week, when I was talking to Dan and he said it was his 7th anniversary of moving to Whitefish! And I had just recently told someone that he had been there 4 years! Sometimes, it's all a blur. That's one reason I started keeping a vacation and trip log. I would try to remember what year we had done something or visited someplace, and really not remember. So now I keep a little journal of the trips and things that we do for vacations. It really helps! Maybe you need one, too!
Well, we didn't really do much wandering on gravel roads, but it is a pretty picture! After that wonderful quilt show in Sisters, we had to turn our attention to getting back to our home sweet home. Bob had a very important and crucial commitment to be back for on 8/21. Golf. Yes, the golf guys had an outing planned, and just like my wish to be at the quilt show, this golfing escapade was not to be missed!
We had to cross through eastern Oregon, into Idaho, then across Wyoming and South Dakota before we could cross the Minnesota state line. The map below shows an outline of most of our trip. The little green marker marks "Home". All those other little markers are the places we camped, until the letter "Y". At the time I was making the map, I wasn't sure which way we would come back across SD. The little checkered flag marker is on Glenwood, MN, which we knew would be our last night before home.
I don't think I have talked about our driving plan before. One of the things that Bob and I have realized is that although we have taken many road trips, we have usually been hell bent on getting to our destination. Then we have a week or so of vacation, and wait until the last possible moment to get back home before our vacation ends. And interstate highways have been our friend!
Now, vacation time has morphed into "new life experiences away from home"! There's no big hurry to get anywhere, so we can stop and smell the roses. We decided that on this trip, we would limit our daily drives to no more than 250 miles, and avoid interstates whenever that would be reasonable. We pretty much succeeded, I think we did have a day of about 300 miles somewhere, but for the most part we stuck in the 200-250 range. That makes such a difference! We don't have to plan what time to get up, pack up, arrive and get parked again in a new spot. We also did very little with advance reservations. Most of the time, we just had a rough idea of where we could go each day in our mileage range that would keep us moving in the right direction. Then while we were driving we would look up possible campgrounds and make some phone calls. We did, however, try to plan ahead for the weekends and 4th of July, because campgrounds were often booked up for those times. We didn't always end up in our ideal locations for those times, but with a little scouting around, we were never left stranded. Plus, we had the ability to just find a spot for boondocking (aka dry camping, freedom camping) with the battery power and water from the trailer.
Click on "Read More" for the rest of the story!
The small city of Sisters, OR, presents an annual quilt festival each July. This is a dream destination for a lot of quilters and fiber artists. I was able to go once before on a bus tour, and promised myself that I would come back with Bob on our own schedule, not the tour schedule! Luckily, we were able to work this destination into our travel this summer. We didn't know very far ahead, so we didn't have a place to stay. Even with quite a number of private, city, county and federal camping areas around there, it took us some work to finally find a spot in Redmond, OR, about 20 miles from Sisters and 20 miles from Bend. It's actually called the Expo Center campground, because it's on the grounds of their outdoor entertainment facility and fairgrounds. And it's pretty nice, if you don't mind that there are no trees! We couldn't really be picky, so that's where we landed.
I spent one day, Friday, at the Sisters High School for a Sit and Stitch group. There are classes by internationally known designers for several days prior to the one-day show. There weren't any class openings on Friday, the only day I could be there, so the chance to sit down, stitch some wool applique, make new friends, and share ideas, was wonderful. Bob's not really much into stitching, although I have offered many times to teach him! And I've been missing the chance to do this as my own form of socialization during our trip.
The people in charge of this annual event are the owners of the Stitchin' Post right on the main street of Sisters. Jean Wells started the store and show quite awhile back, and now her daughter, Valeri, is the owner and leader. But they work together, along with many other people, to make this happen. They receive hundreds of quilts from all over the country to be displayed on the streets of Sisters for 1 day. Mostly they are hung outdoors, but some businesses have room indoors, too. Volunteers start at 7am to hang the quilts on ropes and lines and walls of buildings. It is all planned and choreographed in advance. The firemen volunteer to help hang the highest quilts with their trucks. Here's an example:
Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!