Thursday December 1 Abbeville, LA
With this being the first of December, December being the month of the Christmas season, plus red being the seemingly predominate color of Christmas, what better way to start the month out than with a photo of Red Rob. He really does like his new bigger tank, swimming around much more, and being the nice guy he is, not bothering his three new tank mates. [Editor's comment: This proves he is a finicky eater.]
I've been reluctant to post a photo of those "tank mates" mostly because I find it nearly impossible to take a decent photo of them. They certainly live up to their name, ghost shrimp, and for now, the above is the best I can do. They are certainly funny little creatures, having a clear body and two little black eyes. Since they have dark innards when they eat, and we've noticed them having dark innards on occasion, we know they sure aren't starving to death.
When we got ready to go do some siteseeing today, I asked Linda where she wanted to go first, and you can see what she picked. Everybody has something that gets them excited, and for Linda, it was the chance to see graves on top of the ground. She was hoping to see the little boxes she knew they used, but unfortunately this seemed to be a newer cemetery and the burial practices here weren't what she was looking for. She did however get to see sugar cane growing in the field behind the cemetery, and also all the artificial flowers on the graves which gave the cemetery a special sense of serenity.
Proving just how intelligent my beautiful wife truly is, she had a cemetery backup plan, and that was our next stop. Located downtown beside the Catholic Church is a really old cemetery with the older style burial vaults. True to the French heritage of the area, many of the early inscriptions were in French. Unfortunately I was too busy looking at the markers to notice if Linda tried to peek into any of the vaults, but my best guess would be that she did. Hey, if that was what she tried to do as a little girl in the cemetery near the church where she grew up, why wouldn't she try to do it today. After all, she's still a little girl at heart, at least sometimes I think she is.
Later I enjoyed looking at the church while Linda took photos of the flowers around it. Trying to get a nice photo of the side of the church, I noticed Linda with her two big cones, which she was proud to display. Later, after putting the two pine cones she had picked up on the church grounds in the Explorer, she plans to use them as part of the decorations in the coach, we walked around exploring the downtown area.
In the evening, after the Happy Hour, most of the group went into town to participate in the annual Abbeville Christmas Stroll. It's one of those small town America things where you go around to different businesses, getting your sheet stamped, and enjoying great refreshments and your fellow stollers. What really made it fun was the fact that our little group of eight RVers didn't know the town, plus it was after dark, but in the end we succeeded in collecting all of the stamps.
The drawing was to be held at 8:15, and we had our completed sheets deposited in the drawing box at 7:30, which wasn't bad at all for a bunch of visitors to the town. We didn't get a call, but that didn't mean we didn't win. This is one of the reasons why we fulltime, the joy of discovery, the fun and fellowship, the chance to really Live Life. As always, remember, Life is not a dress rehearsal. Don't be afraid to laugh, love and retire early.
Friday December 2 Abbeville, LA
Got a little better photo of Casper, the friendly ghost shrimp, as Linda has named him (or maybe her). I just can't believe how much pleasure that one gallon aquarium gives both Linda and I. It is so much fun just watching the antics of both Red Rob and the three ghost shrimp, to which Linda has given the names, Casper, Buster and Tiny, in order from biggest to smallest. Sure they are merely a fish and three crustaceans, but they are still fun to watch, and besides, they come when called, and we know dogs that don't even do that.
Three guesses to where we went today, and the first two don't count. It really is funny because like many people, my first exposure to hot sauce was Tabasco, but that was a long time ago and in the ensuing years I have moved far beyond it. Still it was very interesting touring the plant that made hot sauce famous. And I have to admit that when we eat at a restaurant and Tabasco sauce is on the table, I liberally douse my eggs or pancakes with it.
I don't know if our grandson Zachary is into hot sauce or not, but if he takes after grandpa he is. Irregardless, he will get something from Avery Island, a Tabasco smashed penny. It's little things like this, the connections, that make life, Life. We may be far away in terms of distance from our grandchildren, but they are never far from our thoughts.
I don't know when Linda's obsession with a fiber optic Christmas Tree first came into being. Maybe it was a year ago, or possibly even several years ago, but today it was fulfilled, and at WalMart of all places. It wasn't as easy as you might think as they had both green and white fiber optic trees on display, but when they had only green is stock, that settled the matter. I barely had all our purchases carried into the coach before the little girl I married, and who loves Christmas, was busy unfolding "her" tree. She asked me if I had any problem disposing of our old tree, the one that was my mother's, and I told her, "Not at all, this one is our tree."
This photo does not even begin to do it justice, and all I can say is that your loss in not seeing it in person, is your loss, since we get to enjoy the real thing and I am such a lousy photographer. Plus, I must confess I was truly surprised at just how pretty that $13 dollar tree really is, proving once again that my choice in a wife was impeccable.
As with every night at Betty's we enjoyed the happy hour and a half, having a great time teasing the locals, and learning that whether we go east, west, north or south when we leave here, we will eventually end up where we are going. You really had to be there to fully appreciate all the routes we were given to leave the park and drive to our destination on Sunday, none of which we will probably take, or maybe I should say, part of all, which we will take.
Betty's is not for the faint of heart, not for the those that don't socialize, but if that is what you enjoy, if you skip Betty's you are missing one of the true highlights of Life. Most people live life, some of us live Life, Betty Lives LIFE. So if you merely want live life, skip staying at Betty's but if you want to live LIFE, it is a must stop on the never ending full time road.
Saturday December 3 Abbeville, LA
A lazy day
Not sure why, but I really wasn't into doing much of anything today, and if Linda hadn't asked about spending some time in town, I would have probably just sat in front of the computer until it was time for happy hour. I had to chuckle at this squirrel that was outside our window as he seemed to be thinking the same thing. Every once in a while we would pause and looked inside the coach as if wondering why that human could be so lazy when there were acorns to gather and other work to be done. And something tells me Linda was wondering the same thing.
It was Linda that interrupted my train of non-thoughts with, "Look at what Casper's got!" Looking at the aquarium this is what I saw. The tan ball is one of Red Rob's floating fish food pellets that he hadn't eaten. It was being held firmly by Casper as he perched on a leaf of our new plant, and he was busy munching away at it. We'd read that ghost shrimp will eat any leftover fish food, and by golly, it was true. Later, when we noticed the the big tan area in Casper's innards we knew for sure that he had been eating that pellet and not just holding on to it. Life just doesn't get any more exciting than this, at least on some days it doesn't.
Sunday December 4 Livingston, TX
A rainy day
OK, got the rain out of the way, although it was with us all day. Morning came and the grizzly growled, the itching and scratching and other assorted sounds and smells of the actions of a normal grizzly getting up and going accompanying it. Some things are best left to the readers imagination, and I'll leave it go at that. I have been remiss lately at providing details of the delectable, delicious, delightful breakfasts that I prepare every morning, but not today.
That old saying about breakfast being the spice of Life couldn't be more true, even if there isn't much spice in our breakfasts because she who decrees to he who obeys, has indicated that she does not like much spice on her breakfast. This morning breakfast was perfectly diced sweet onions, sweet peppers, and garlic with a chopped half of a Portabella mushroom added for a little extra. Once this was cooked down, two whipped eggs which had a little milk added were stirred in and folded a number of times while they cooked. Topped with four cheese blend, diced tomatoes and chipolte sauce, it made for a great breakfast.
We very seldom drive on days when it rains, and I can say that we have never, in our six years of fulltiming, ever driven in as heavy a rain for as long as we did today. For nearly all of the five hour drive rain came down, sometimes a mere drizzle, other times so ferocious it was difficult to see the road. And even though it had been predicted, we still hadn't expected it to be nearly as bad as it was.
When it rains, it pours, and today it more that poured. Our destination was our home park, Rainbow's End in Livingston, Texas, and once there the rain never let up. We joke we come back her to visit our file folder, but really, we do enjoy our time here. I did get to check out my new to me raincoat we bought at the Unclaimed Baggage Store, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it was most definitely not a leaker. As night descended, the rain never let up, and still we were warm and comfortable in our home on wheels.
Our new LED Christmas Tree was an object of splendor on the dash. The Internet was working, the aquarium functioning and the TV showing HD movies, plus Desperate Housewives and Pan AM. Dinner was cooking, giving off odors that were to die for, and all the while we were warm and cozy. Life is what we make it, and we have to wonder if we could make it any better than this. Some people never take a chance, and others wonder how they could be so lucky to live the Life they do. We know which person we are, but which person are you?
Monday December 5 Livingston, TX
An interesting day in Livingston
Today found us doing some shopping at the Livingston WalMart. We had our list, but there were also some other things that caught our eye, or at least caught Linda's eye. As we passed by the fabric section she mention that she would like to make some fabric bowls, but not right now. Then what should appear but their clearance section, and Linda was an entirely new person. One that was drawn as a moth to light to that clearance sign. In the end we escaped without buying any fabric, but as to what the future holds, only she who seeks the unknown knows.
Nothing is ever as it seems, and while this looks like a beautiful young woman waiting for something that either wasn't, isn't, or won't be, it is not that at all. Linda had scheduled our once every two years eye examination to take place today. Two years ago we got our current glasses in Mexico, but based on that experience we decided to spend a little more money and have our eye exams done by an American Doctor. It is all how you feel about what is happening, and Dr. Smith left us both feeling as if what we had been been given, was the best eye care we could have asked for. It will take a week for our new glasses to come in, versus an hour in Mexico, but who's in a hurry anyway.
Photo of a happy girl, though earlier this morning when we went up to the mail pickup window she wasn't smiling. That was because there was a sign that said mail would not be available for pickup until 1 PM today. That woman sure does look forward to getting the mail, still suffering from her childhood memories of not being allowed to get the mail back then. This wasn't all of the mail either, as there was another box almost as big as all these put together, plus a bag of first class mail. I could envision happiness on her part over the next several days as she goes through it all.
It looks like Christmas came early this year, and while packages can bring all manner of things, the one constant was the huge smile on Linda's face as she opened them. To my, "That sure is a lot of packages" the response was, "And I ordered them all." The contents may not have been a surprise to Linda, but they were to me, especially this little iron. Linda is a woman who does not iron, or at least she never has up until now. In short order I was informed that it was to iron crafts, not clothes and never, never my clothes. The way it was said left no doubt the subject was forever closed. And with that, I'll end today's Daily Journal, while knowing exactly where I stand in the family pecking order.
Tuesday December 6 Livingston, TX
A cold day in Livingston
We went into town early this morning, Linda getting her Well Woman checkup, which confirmed she is a very well woman. As we drove to the Doctor's office I asked how long she thought she would be. "Probably a half hour since it is early and they won't be backed up yet." Famous last words, try an hour and twenty minutes. My plan had been to walk around town, looking at the buildings and doing some exploring of the side streets.
You know that adage about how people were healthier in the old days because they walked a lot more? I got that exercise in more ways than I planned. Because once we were done at the Doctor's office, there was a stop at the Post Office to mail a certain box full of Christmas presents. As Linda headed into the post office I heard her say, "Why don't you walk down to the Library, and I'll drive down." Google says it is six tenths of a mile between them. My legs said it was somewhere between six and ten miles. And my hand that was carrying the books I was returning said it was 20 below. I think I may be getting old!
For dinner we were going to make gumbo, though it actually turned out to be a cajun gumbo, based on the recipe we used and the ingredients we bought. The more I read about it, the more it seemed like gumbo has more recipes than there are folks who eat it, so we borrowed from several recipes to come up with our own version of sausage (boudin) and chicken gumbo. That plus using a store bought jar of roux, which is probably an affront to gumbo purists, but everybody has to start somewhere.
The Gumbo. Was it ever good. Was it as good as Sue's gumbo? Definitely not. Was it good enough for a first attempt? Definitely. Are there more attempts at cooking gumbo in our future? Most definitely. Could we probably get better tasting gumbo at a restaurant than what our first attempt produced? Most likely. But Life is an adventure and if we always take the easy way out, what is the result?
Wednesday December 7 Livingston, TX
An even colder day in Livingston
Yesterday may have been cold but today was far colder, and tonight is supposed to have temperatures in the mid 20's. We were here in Livingston this same time last year, and it is like deja vue all over again. Note the improvised ice scrapper, which in our Life is not supposed to be needed. The reason for being out at this hour of the morning was entirely due to Linda.
This morning we were off to the laboratory up near the hospital so she could get her Well Woman blood work done. The early hour had something to with not eating for so many hours before the test, and add to that, Linda having a strong aversion to starving herself. I don't mean to imply that she eats too much because she certainly doesn't, but when the time to eat arrives, the food better be ready and in front of her. So the earlier we arrived at the lab, the sooner she would get to eat, hence my scrapping the frost off the Explorer's windshield.
I will leave out the part about her going in the front door of the very large building the lab was in, walking all the way to the far end of the building, then back to the entrance without seeing the sign for the lab. Once back at the entrance, right in front of her was lab. In the meantime I'd walked away from the building, only to return and find her wandering around the parking lot looking for the Explorer. Since I'd dropped her off at the front door, then parked I couldn't blame her for not knowing where I'd parked, but it did seem to be in line with her problem locating the lab. Good Bob for not mentioning it.
One of the things we have always enjoyed is just how easy it is to decorate the coach for Christmas. Every year we try to get something new, and this year it was the fiber optic tree. Then at WalMart this morning I saw this string of LED icicle lights, and I knew exactly where they would go. A few command strip hangers across the top of the inside of the windshield, and we have icicles hanging across the front of the coach. Add to that the cool white light strings that drape the slides and the front, casting a glow throughout the interior of the coach, and Christmas is indeed a special time.
Thursday December 8 Livingston, TX
Three posts today as I catch up from a brief bout of self doubt and writing lethargy.
We are staying at Rainbow's End, an Escapee Park in Livingston and yesterday we toured the CARE Center, which is an adult day care center that is associated with Escapees. We will likely be volunteering for a month this summer as that is the time of the year when they have a very difficult time securing enough volunteers due to the heat and humidity of East Texas. Many years ago those using this facility were what we are today, and some time in the distant future we may be them. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need, and now we are the place in our lives that we have the ability to volunteer. Today we shifted gears and went on the tour of the park and the mail sorting facility, getting to see our mail folder.
In the afternoon Linda decided that we deserved a special dessert during the Christmas Season. Here she is digging out the chocolate chips, pecans, walnuts and coconut to make that very special dessert bar of hers. It is one of those things that fills the coach with smells that drive a person crazy as she mixes it, then smells even better when it bakes. Once out of the oven, the need for quality control testing is immediately apparent, a test procedure that requires multiple samples to ensure testing accuracy. Some times Life is a win-win, and this was one of those moments, at least for the fellow who was doing the quality control testing.
Unfortunately with all the testing that was needed, there was also an equal amount of exercise needed to offset the calories consumed during the testing process. That led us to walk around the park, ending up at the activity center where we stopped to check out what was available on the donation table. As we walked up, Linda suddenly stopped and out came, "Oh, my gosh, oh my gosh" and she wasn't referring to the gallon of AMSOIL.
For years she has searched for another dish drainer like the one we use, and there it was right in front of her! We were the only ones in the entire building at the time, but she was taking no chances, picking it up and ordering me to immediately put some money in the donation box. Later, as we walked back to the coach I asked what she would do if she finds another one some day. "Why I'd get it, you can't have to many of them" was her answer. With her displaying logic like that, I know don't stand a chance. Life, great and getting even better.
The day ended with Linda cooking supper, and also making sure I knew it. As I said to her, "350 plus days a year I fix the meals, so it is OK if you want to do it one in a while. I just wish I had the ability to turn back the clock and fix more meals over the previous forty years, I was so oblivious of the little things that would have meant so much, but I am working on them now." None of us are perfect, nor is Life is not perfect, but there is always tomorrow.
Friday December 9 Livingston, TX
A little fun
The weather has continued to not be the nicest, though it didn't get cold enough last night to unhook the water. That has meant most of our time has been spent inside the coach with the majority of outside time involving trips into Livingston to do some shopping. It's hard to believe the woman I married, the one who only went buying and never shopping, could in her dotage look at shopping as exercise. Who says you can't teach an old grizzly new tricks. Next thing you know I'll be calling her, Linda the frisky circus bear. In my dreams, in my dreams.
I think that Linda may have finally crossed one of life's great divides and is now truly living the Life we talk about. Note she is sweeping, but that was all that took place, except for just a minor bit of dusting. Today there was no making sure every last tiny nook was clean, not now, probably not ever again. Nor was everything picked up and put away, leaving every flat surface exposed and appearing to be unused. For years I have protested such cleanings, asking what is wrong with the way we live as fulltimers, isn't it the way virtually everyone else lives? I will admit to moving the furniture, though not nearly as much as she previously required, plus I did empty the trash. Not sure that classifies as a Good Bob, but if not it sure is close.
Unretouched photo showing what I meant about things not being perfect. Wait! Back up Bob. Photo of us having fun with George and Kelli, who we met at Betty's last week and who are now parked just a few spaces from us in Livingston. We had a great time visiting and enjoying each others company. It's amazing how blogs can bring perfect strangers who are not strangers at all, together as old friends.
Now, back to that first sentence in the above paragraph which was not referring to the three people in the photo. Focus on the pile of books by my computer, the ones I have been reading. Normally that would be a perfectly clean table except for my computer, keyboard and mouse when we would have visitors. The new and improved Linda didn't command that I should clean it up. I like that. On the other hand maybe she was just letting George and Kelli see what a slob I was. The mind of woman, the great unknown.
Saturday December 10 Livingston, TX
When we were at the Summerdale SKP park they did not allow any clothes lines, not that we normally put one up. Because of the ban, many of the RV's had a drying rack attached to their ladder. While one or two were store bought, most were homemade from pvc pipe. A few days ago Linda decided she wanted a clothes drying rack, and that I should make one for her. She wanted a heavy duty one so she could hang jeans on it and today we headed off to Lowe's to get what we needed to make it with our first stop being to look at the pvc pipe.
Nothing is ever as it seems and we will shortly return to the drying rack, but while we were at Lowe's Linda quipped that she was still looking for an amaryllis for Christmas. So here are the pots for the amaryllis and the narcissus we ended up buying. As we have run into in past years, many of the amaryllis bulbs had already started growing to the point the yellow leaves were twisted in the package. Not to be deterred, Linda got busy opening the boxes and eventually found one in the color she wanted that had just started to sprout. Of course we will now be hoping that it decides to really get growing and present us with a beautiful red flower about Christmas Day. It may not, but if we don't try then it sure would never happen. Isn't amazing that if you don't think you can do it, and so never try, you always turn out to be right.
Back to the drying rack, as you can see I managed to talk Linda out of making it as heavy duty as the pipe she first picked out. OK, maybe it wasn't really that way but I did think she spent a little too long looking at the heavy duty pipe. Wonder what new something or other she has in mind? We left Lowe's with two 10 foot sections of half inch pvc pipe, four elbows, two tee's, two eye hooks and two things I wasn't sure what they were called, but I had an idea of how to use them. I asked Linda, "Did you take a photo of everything?" to which she said "Yes."
Now I see that most everything was still in the bag when she took the photo, but I have to admit her answer to my question was certainly correct. Next time I'll ask if she took a photo where we could "see" everything. Of course one could say you could see everything in the above photo, if you looked in the bag that is. That woman is far too smart for me.
We had both spent time on the Internet looking at the many different racks people had built or bought, and read any discussion about their design. In the end we decided that ours would have to be custom built, designed to be stable, provide enough drying space, be easily put up and taken down, all the while fitting in the bay without having to be disassembled, and in the end we achieved just that. The photo shows an early test of the basic frame to see how it wold fit on the ladder. Then we went around to the side of the coach and tried to fit through the door and into the bay. We had sized it so we could do this and it was gratifying when it went in just as planned.
This is only to prove that there really was a plan, even though we ended up with slight modifications as we bought and built.
One of the questions we faced was how to fasten the rack to the ladder. We decided to tie cords high up on the ladder, then use a small ball bungie at the outer corners of the rack. By tying a loop in the cord this could easily be slipped on and off the bungie ball. I hope to put up a page that better describes all that we, especially since the way we came up for fastening the base of the rack against the ladder with those metal hooks was something we had not seen anyone use. I will try to have the special page done by midweek, and she who overseeth he who writeth will no doubt make sure it happens.
The final test, and Linda pronounced it perfect. It looks like it is fairly high off the ground, and it is, but Linda wanted it that way. Beside with the sections of bungie cord, she could just reach up and pull it down lower if we were ever in site that had a pronounced slope to the rear. Tomorrow will be the real test when she washes our sheets and hangs them out on it. Though something tells me she is going to pronounce it perfect. Which means, Very Very Good Bob.
We ended the day by going into town and watching, along with hundred's of other people, the annual Livingston Christmas Parade. We sat on the Courthouse steps, and watched as the floats, horses and happy kids passed by. It was great and it is what makes small town America so special. All day's are great, but some day's are really great, like today.