Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Quiet Thanksgiving

Roger here....
Dianne worked five, eleven-hour days this week so we did not have much time to discuss what we would be doing for Thanksgiving. Luckily, Thursday was not a scheduled work day for Dianne; otherwise, she would have had to work.

Last year the temp agency we work for organized a dinner for its workampers - not this year. We checked to see if any local restaurants would be open - no. We heard that we could drive fifty miles and eat at one of the local casinos, but since neither one of us are gamblers, that did not have much appeal. The only two feasible choices were to eat a normal meal in the motor home, OR to fix Thanksgiving dinner in the motor home. The first option seemed a little dull, sooo.... having the rookie cook, me, cook the dinner sounded like fun. How difficult can it be to roast a turkey? Dianne thought it would be great fun watching me try.

I was able to find a crock pot turkey breast and dressing recipe in Dianne's computer files. On Tuesday, I drove her to work at 4:30 a.m. so I could have the car to go to the grocery to buy the turkey breast and the fixins. It was actually kind of fun - much better than stowing merchandise at Amazon. The local Coffeyville ladies thought it was a hoot as I examined several varieties of frozen turkey breasts.

During the next two days, I kept myself busy thawing out the turkey in the fridge - hard work. On Thanksgiving morning I doffed my chef's hat (a retirement gift from my friend, Chris Graves - long story).
Since Dianne did not have a chef's hat and was not allowed to cook, she got to wear the plastic netting from the turkey breast. We are so festive here in our motor home.

The fun began with Bloody Marys garnished with fresh celery stalks served in our finest souvenir plastic cups.
The cashier at the Coffeyville liquor store did not like my choice of Bloody Mary mix, sending me back to get a bottle of very spicy Zing Zang mix. I am glad she did - so good that we drank them before I had a chance to take a picture!

It took a while to mix up the ingredients for the crock pot, but since the turkey slow cooked for eight hours, most of the day was pretty quiet. Dianne spent time looking at maps and info to get ready for our much anticipated sojourn to the warm weather in southern Texas - can't wait.
Since Purdue and the Colts were not playing, I spent most of the day channel surfing and relaxing. (By the way, I was able to see my 6th ranked Purdue Boilermakers beat 9th ranked Tennessee in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands earlier in the week - quite a game!)

When it was time for dinner, the boys hovered around Dianne
for the inevitable handout that they knew she would give them. We enjoyed turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pea salad. Dianne also had cranberry salad prepared by the skilled hands of local grocery personnel. Dessert was pecan pie, also from the grocery.

We received phone calls from both our daughters, Robyn and Amanda - wish they (and our granddaughter, Kaia) could have been with us. Robyn finished her performance stint on the NCL cruise ship in Hawaii and is back in Chicago. She will be moving to Los Angeles at the first of the year. Amanda is still doing well in Ft. Myers, Florida. We will be seeing her and Kaia in March. Otherwise, it was a pretty quiet day. Food, naps, TV, reading.

And what of the leftover turkey????? Turkey salad the next day.
(Dianne here: Both meals were DELICIOUS. All I can say is, WHATTA GUY!!!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Books & Products I've Seen at Amazon

Dianne here:

In honor of Black Friday (something I never cared about before as I'm NOT a shopper), I decided to write a blog about some of the interesting products and books I've seen while working at Amazon this fall. After weeks of being frustrated by not remembering interesting titles, etc., I finally wised up and scribbled down titles and names as I came across them. (No time to spend on this at work, so I hope I can read my scribbled-shorthand list.) I will try to add a link to the product at Amazon, if you want to read more about it or find it for yourself. The Amazon web site has customer reviews on most of their products that are helpful. I am NOT trying to get my readers to buy anything; just throwing out ideas and sharing interesting "Amazon Sightings."

I learned, for example, that I can buy my makeup from Amazon. Before, I ordered it from Sephora, but at Amazon I've been enrolled in their "one-click" order program for years, so it's just easier for me to order things there. My friend, Nancy, recommended this makeup to me last summer, and I really do like it, especially if I'm in a hot or humid climate. It feels like no makeup when you wear it:

Bare Minerals Makeup:

My brother-in-law has a nifty pillow for his GPS that he can move from car to car, to hold it steady on the dash. Our GPS, "Sacajawea," tends to wiggle and move in its permanent holder. We've even resorted to scotch tape to hold it steady. Now that I know I can order these pillows from Amazon, I plan to get one. I have stowed two different ones, one made by Garmin
and one by Tom Tom. I plan to research to see if Mio makes one also.

I've heard others rave about French-Press coffee makers. I've seen really nice ones, but I came across a practical one for the RV by Bonjour that is advertised as unbreakable:

Along with a milk frother:

I've seen lots and lots of gingerbread house kits in outbound totes moving along the conveyor belt, and I've stowed some nifty advent calendars.

Yesterday I stowed lots and lots of these Weber grill handle lights, and wrote it down thinking Roger might want one for ours. Unfortunately, they don't work on our baby grill, but it looks like a nifty item if it works for others:

Other things I've seen are lots and lots of cameras (Sony and Canon), toys of every description, baseball caps of every team, the list goes on and on and on....

Roger and I love Seinfeld-type humor, and our daughter (a professional comedy performer) turned us on to "Curb Your Enthusiasm." When we lived in our sticks-and-bricks house, we used to rent them from Netflix. We don't subscribe to HBO, because we wouldn't watch it enough to justify the cost, so that is the only way we could view it. Now, we no longer have Netflix in our new roaming lifestyle, so I was delighted to see that we can order the "Curb" DVD series on line, and can order it by season so that we can get just the ones we haven't seen.
(Note: Do not watch this series if you are easily offended!)

I have also stowed a lot of DVD series of old TV shows. Some of them surprised me, as I had no idea they were available:

The Donna Reed Show
I love Lucy (complete series)
Hogan's Heroes
The Waltons (complete series)

I had a lot of trouble finding a bin large enough for the Waltons series of DVDs. I finally had to take it to a special section for oversized items.

There are many others; these are just the ones I actually saw. If there is another one you are interested in, I'll bet you could find it if you browse under the correct heading.

A favorite movie for RV'ers is now available on DVD, too, Lucy & Desi in The Long, Long Trailer

I saw a design coloring book that I would like to use myself!! I immediately thought of my daughter, Amanda, as she is very artistic and loves to draw designs like I saw in this coloring book. It would be too intricate for a young child to color, but looks like fun to me at any age.

I saw a Christmas CD by Andrea Bocelli that my friend, Nancy, would like:

Amazon also sells used books. When stowing a new book the other day, I put it on a shelf next to an old, used book entitled "Texas" by James Michener. I definitely plan to order this book (used, from either Amazon or if I can't get a Kindle version, because Roger and I will be spending this winter in the state of Texas, our first-ever actual visit there (aside from driving across the panhandle on Route 66 one summer). One of my favorite books of all time is "Centennial," also by Michener, so I assume I'll enjoy "Texas." (I haven't figured out how to underline items in blogger, so I apologize for the quotation marks.)

Other favorite books Roger and I have read that I've seen and/or stowed, include: "Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett;

"Timeline" by Michael Crichton (a favorite of mine)

"Black Cross" by Greg Iles (Roger liked it and I'm reading it now on my Kindle.)

One funny book title I saw the other day was: "Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog." I don't know anything about it, but I thought the title was funny.

Another was "How Dogs Think."

Roger and I watch the Biggest Loser reality series. They have a cookbook out now
and exercise videos that I have seen and stowed.

A cute photographic book I saw (also thought of my daughter, Amanda) was "Monkey Portraits."
It has chimps, orangutans, and monkeys of all descriptions, some posed in costume.

I thought of my other daughter, Robyn, when I saw a guide book about moving to Los Angeles.
She's planning to move to L.A. next month. She has lots of friends already living there, so she may not need the book.

I plan to ask Roger if he wants the "A-Z Crossword Dictionary."

I might want to re-read some Erma Bombeck books (haven't read them since the early 1980s and I love her humor.) I stowed one the other day appropriate for Thanksgiving entitled "Family - The Ties that Bind...and Gag"

My fellow Scottish descendants might enjoy "How the Scots Invented the Modern World."
I never would have known about such a book if not for stowing it at Amazon! That's another one I plan to buy and read.

There's a book entitled "Make Money Teaching On-Line."
(I thought of Roger, although he's pretty good at retirement and might prefer the A-Z Crossword Dictionary!)

Last, but not least, I stowed a true-story book entitled "Saving Cinnamon." The title caught my eye, because our beloved grandpuppy beagle is named Cinnamon. This book is about a dog that was rescued from the war zone and sent to the U.S. I didn't have time to flip through it at work, but it looks like a heart-warming story, just from looking at the back cover.

There you have it: Amazon sightings that interested me, with no criteria other than that!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pampering Dianne

Roger here.... I am actually having fun pampering Dianne when she gets home from work. It makes us both smile, and at least I am doing something to help Dianne as she brings home a little bit of the cash that will help us pay expenses for the rest of the year. I thought it would be fun to document the new daily "welcome home" routine.

The process begins during each afternoon with the preparation of supper, snacks, and a hot epsom salt foot bath (hot water added every day at 4:40 p.m.)

When Dianne arrives at around 4:45 p.m. I greet her at the door with a glass of wine. Followed by a few short steps to the foot bath. Jasper usually nuzzles Dianne at this point while Charlie the Cat determines that the foot bath water is not drinkable. Snacks are then served, humus today, (Dianne here: Ha!! I pointed out to Roger that I would NOT eat humus, but I love hummus!! That's what happens when your proofreader is at work....) followed by pillow fluffing and then dinner.

We need to eat early because we only have about an hour to watch any of our recorded TV programs (Friday Night Lights, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Grey's Anatomy, Saturday Night Live, Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, The Office, and any Purdue or Colts games) before Dianne reads in bed for a half hour and dozes off at 7:30 p.m. She gets up every morning at 3:30 a.m. to get ready for work. A side note... Dianne does not actually watch the Purdue and Colts games, but she will watch the last two minutes if they win.

Speaking of Colts games, after Peyton and Company pulled off that amazing finish last Sunday, I dug out our Colts banner from one of the bays. We don't have one of those outdoor flag holders so I figured out a way to display it through the front windshield. It is back lit with one of the adjustable motorhome lights. It looks pretty cool from the street.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Git Along, Little Doggies...."

Roger here.... Due to our work schedules, there has been very little time for Jasper and Chaplin to take the long walks that they love. Since Dianne works days (now eleven-hour shifts), and I work(ed) nights (also eleven hours), there was little time to take the dogs on more than their twice-a-day pottie/poop walks.

We decided to devote one of our days off (last Wednesday) to the dogs. We started the day from our campsite at Walter Johnson Park by walking past the livestock pens
(good sniffing for the dogs)
and stopping by the rodeo arena. (The day before three cowboys on horses were herding cattle inside the fence as I was walking the boys. They ran right by us, and Chaplin was as excited as I have ever seen him. Evidently, he thinks he is a border collie because he wanted to run with the cows in the worst way.)
We were hoping that the cattle were still there. They were, but this time they were penned and certainly not being chased by the cowboys - much calmer. Nonetheless, Chaplin was still engaged. He seldom focuses on anything for more than a few seconds, but he stared longingly
at the cattle for several minutes before it was time to move along.

After watching the cattle, the four of us hopped in the Matrix for a fifteen mile drive to Elk City State Park. On the way through Coffeyville we were greeted by a two mile display of American flags in celebration of Veterans' Day.
They were spaced about eight feet apart on both sides of the street - an impressive display. These Kansas towns love to decorate.

Elk City State Park is located on the banks of the huge Elk City Reservoir, just north of Independence.
It was a Corps of Engineers property that is now leased by the State of Kansas.

For us, the hiking trails were the attraction. Because it was a Wednesday in November, we had the trails to ourselves. Jasper immediately went into his Oh boy, Oh boy, Oh boy mode.
He truly loves being the alpha male and literally pulls us along the trails.
At one point we lost the trail due to a blanket of fallen leaves. We (Jasper) were able to find our way out as we stumbled upon one of the park roads. We followed the road back to our car.
Hiking in sixty degree weather was a great diversion for both Dianne and me, as well as the dogs.

On the way back
to the campground we stopped in Independence to check out Braum's, the local ice-cream shop. Ice cream is my favorite food, but we don't keep it in the motor home because if it were constantly available, I would not stop eating it. Ice cream shops are a different matter. Dianne had two scoops of chocolate-almond. I had a hot fudge sundae. We may have to go back next week!

MR. MOM - HOUSE HUSBAND! Those of you with a good eye may have noticed the word work(ed) in the first paragraph of this blog. Now for the sad story..... I injured my back at work. I cannot pinpoint specifically when it happened, but the pain that ran from my lower back and down my right leg to my knee was excruciating. I put heat on it every night and took more Aleve than I should have, but about half way through every shift I could hardly walk. The pain lessened when I stooped or when I walked, but was unbearable when I stood without moving for any length of time. By the end of each shift I walked like Chester from the old Gunsmoke series. One of my fellow workers joked that he was getting me a walker for Christmas. I always felt a little better in the morning and went back to work the next day, but the scenario always repeated.

After three days of misery, I called in and went to a local chiropractor - my first ever chiropractic visit, and one of the very few times I have ever called in sick. The good doctor said that I was a half inch out of alignment. After a half hour pounding on me (He was very good, by the way), I felt a lot better. He remeasured and said that everything was back in place. He asked me to come back in two days before I went back to work. The follow-up visit went well and I was, for the most part, pain-free. When I returned to work the next evening, I was pain-free until about 2:00 a.m. (three hours before the end of the 11-hour shift). At that point all the pain returned at the same levels as before. This time, when I got up the next morning, the pain was still there - I could hardly walk. I spent the day hobbling around the motor home. The dog walk was a chore. At 4:00 p.m., an hour before my shift, I was still in pain (though not as intense as earlier). Dianne and I discussed it, and we decided that I could not continue to work. I could probably have continued with shorter shifts (and trips to the chiropractor), but the shifts have already been lengthened from ten to eleven hours (four days a week), and there are rumors that the shifts will go to twelve hours for five days a week - this happened last year. The earned money was not worth any kind of permanent injury or the continuing pain. So I am again retired. Disappointing, but the best decision.

Now for the fun part :)..... Dianne wanted to continue working. So, I am now taking over all the domestic responsibilities, the ones I already did + all of hers. I am now doing: all the dog walking (time for longer walks than before), cooking, grocery shopping, vacuuming, dusting, other cleaning, dishes, laundry, etc. After Dianne's shift ended last night, I greeted her at the door with a glass of wine, a hot-water foot soak with epsom salts, and dinner. (Dianne here: I just finished my overtime, fifth 11-hour day in a row, and I can tell you that I'm LOVING the special treatment from "Mr. Mom;" I'm already spoiled!!)

I (Roger) am doing my best to replicate Mrs. Cleaver, from the old Leave it to Beaver show - except of course for the dress, make-up and high heels. Jeans, shaving every other day, and t-shirts are more to my liking. Dianne tells me she can get used to this.

By the way, after several days of rest and daily stretching (orders from the chiropractor) I am pain-free again. Gotta go. I have a grocery list to work on. (I hope Dianne likes steak and baked potatoes every night.) (Dianne again: I'd be happy with cereal and milk, so long as I don't have to cook it!!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Woolaroc Museum & Lodge, Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Dianne here -- This week on our "tourist day," Roger and I drove south about 30 miles to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to visit the Woolaroc Museum and Lodge.   

Roger here....  We made an excellent choice for a visit.  Our friends from Indiana, Jay and Nancy, told us that if we were near Bartlesville, that we should visit Woolaroc.  We discovered that it was only thirty miles away, so off we went.  It was perfect weather for a visit - full sun and mid seventies!

A little background...  Frank Phillips was the founder of Phillips Petroleum (Phillips 66).  The self-made millionaire brought prosperity to Bartlesville and the surrounding area.  He built a mansion for his family in Bartlesville, but spent half of every year hobnobbing with other millionaires in New York City.  He intended to build a place in Connecticut to entertain his East Coast friends, but decided, instead, to build a ranch outside of Bartlesville for that purpose.  What a great decision!  The countryside here is beautiful - rolling hills, lakes, streams, rock outcroppings, and grasslands with interspersed forests.  The name itself, Woolaroc, is a combination of  the three main features: woods, lakes, rocks. 

The first structure to be built was the lodge.  The two-story log structure has a lot of character.  It overlooks rock croppings that descend to a scenic lake and Indian tepees.  You can imagine the guests (including two former presidents - Truman and Hoover) watching the sunsets in a unique second-story screen room.  The inside rooms are decorated by scores of animal trophies.  Frank must have given the local taxidermists a comfortable living.  Dianne took a moment to literally smell 

the roses that thrive outside the lodge.

Dianne again:  Will Rogers was also a good friend of Frank Phillips and spent a lot of time here.  Frank Phillips loved his Oklahoma lodge so much that he and his wife are buried in a family mausoleum on the grounds.

The museum

 honors the Indians and Cowboys that inhabited the area during the colorful years before modern times.  It is surrounded by countless life-sized bronze  sculptures. 

 The first room to be built housed the airplane

 (Woolaroc) that won a contest crossing the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii.  It has expanded to many galleries full of art and artifacts.  The architecture and lighting in the museum are as impressive as any museum I have visited.

Dianne here:  Remember that any of the photos on the blog can be made larger for viewing if you click on them.  (I especially recommend this for the painting and sculpture photos!)   There was no flash photography allowed, so I was at the mercy of the ambient lighting, but it was good enough.

  The artifacts included relics from an Aztec-like culture that inhabited the Oklahoma area, shrunken heads (Dianne's favorite) from Ecuador, and  countless Indian and cowboy items that Dianne and I took the time to leisurely examine.  Dianne took a picture of a collection of cowboy spurs.  

She was too embarrassed to take a picture of the shrunken heads, as a sweet, elderly docent lady was stationed nearby.  Dianne was afraid that the docent might think that she had macabre interests.   Only her husband and closest friends know that she actually does.

I am not an art fanatic.  I enjoy some of it, but it is not something that I would go out of the way to visit.  I must say, however, that the sculptures and paintings in this museum were fascinating.  Many were of well-known Americans (explorers, presidents, pioneers, and Indians).  Many were so well done that they looked more like photographs than paintings.  There were several Frederick Remingtons, an artist I have actually heard of.  Our favorite bronze sculpture was of four cowboys headed to town after payday.

  By a long shot, our favorite painting was a gigantic rendering entitled Navajo Fire Dance.  Our photo of this painting that covers an entire wall does not do it justice.

The two-mile drive from the entrance of the property to the lodge and museum was, by itself, worth the $8 admission.  Frank Phillips assembled a collection of animals that roam freely throughout the property.  Visitors are not allowed out of their cars during the drive as the animals are mostly not in enclosures.  The abundant animals were EVERYWHERE.  Dianne and I saw

 Texas longhorns, Elk with full antlers,

 a variety of smaller deer, emus, ostriches, and bison (buffalo) among many others.  At one point we watched a small European Fallow Deer walk in front of our car to greet one of its kind that was behind a fence. 

 (Unfortunately, we did not get a shot of them rubbing noses through the fence.)  A little further down the road, we stopped the car to allow a bison to finish crossing the bridge that we would soon cross.  

The big fella hung around our car for several minutes while we took multiple pictures.

If this was not enough, there are hiking trails on the grounds.  Since it was such a nice day, and we love to hike, we sought them out.  They were on the far side of the children's petting zoo.  After entering the area, there were several options.  There was not a map, but everything appeared to be well-marked (or so we thought).  We opted for the one-mile warriors' circle and traveled over rocky stream beds, rock bridges and through a wooded area where the trail DISAPPEARED.  

I hate when that happens.  The problem was that the falling leaves covered the trail.  After a few minutes we found an orange ribbon that marked the trail ahead and were back on our way.

Woolaroc was an unexpected surprise.  We thought it would be interesting.  We did not know how well-done it actually turned out to be.  This is one of those attractions that would be worth driving well out of the way to visit.  Oh, and if you do, plan to spend an entire day.

It was late afternoon when we traveled back through the animal sanctuary to head back to Coffeyville.  Since we had not eaten since breakfast, we decided to stop in Bartlesville to eat.  We chose the Outlaw Chop House.  The name of the restaurant reflects the numerous outlaws that inhabited this wild area decades ago.  We always try to sample regional food when we are in a particular part of the country.  What better place to have a steak than Oklahoma.  I had the Dalton Gang Sirloin.   Dianne had chicken-fried steak.  Yummy.  What a great day!