2018 Summer Celebration Trip

In April, I will turn 66, in September, Bill and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, and in December, Bill will turn 70. To celebrate all these special events in our lives, we decided to take the entire summer off from hosting/work-camping, and just relax and spend some quality time exploring New Mexico and Colorado. We’ve been to both of these states but never had the opportunity to spend the time needed to really appreciate the beauty of these states and what all they have to offer.

I’m documenting our summer travel here for our daughter, Shantel, and any family and friends that care to know where we will be this summer.

5/2 – 6/1  We will stay at the Sierra Hermosa RV Park in Questa, New Mexico. We picked this area because we thought it would be the perfect hub for taking day trips to surrounding areas that include: Eagle Nest which is situated on the enchanted circle scenic byway, Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument and Wild River recreation area, Carson National Forest, Taos, and the Village of Red River. Lots of fun things to see and do!

6/1 – 7/1  We will stay at Mogote Meadow Cabins RV Park in Antonito, Colorado. Here we will visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park, ride the Toltec scenic railroad, and visit the Conejos River, just to mention a few day trip activities this area has to offer.

7/1 – 7/31 We’re staying at Aspen Ridge in South Fork, Colorado. We are looking forward to traveling the Silver Thread Scenic Byway which includes visiting Lake City and Creed.

7/31 – 8/30  We will be at the Red Mountain RV Park in Kremmling, Colorado. This park is just six miles from the Wolford reservoir which offers all kinds of water activities as well as lots of hiking trails in the surrounding area.

8/30 – 9/29  We’re really looking forward to staying at the Monument RV Resort in Fruita, Colorado. This RV park is only about 30 minutes from where our kids and grandkids live in Grand Junction, Colorado, so we will have lots of  time to visit with our family that live there. Of course our day trips there will include exploring the Colorado National Monument and James R. Robb State Park with access to the Colorado River. More beautiful hiking trails to explore in this area.

Then, after a fun-filled summer, we will make our way back to our beloved Arizona. We plan to arrive back at McDowell Mountain Regional Park on 10/1 to enjoy another fun-filled winter season here.

Both Bill and I are beyond excited to take this summer to just relax, do lots of hiking and sightseeing, and have lots of time to visit with our family in Colorado. If any of our family or friends find yourselves in any of the areas where we will be over the summer, please feel free to contact us as we would love to have you come and visit us too!

Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

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Doing Our Favorite Things

Bill and I had another fabulous week spending time doing some of our favorite things.

We are starting week three of our new Paleo food plan so we planned our menu for the week, shopped for the things we need to cook all our meals, and we washed, chopped, and grilled lots of fresh fruits and veggies for the upcoming week. I think half the battle of staying on any new food plan, where you are required to eat whole fresh cooked food, is planning ahead and having things on hand that are prepped and ready to make a meal.

This week we will enjoy menu’s that include grilled fish, balsamic grilled pork chops, coconut curry chicken, Sheppard’s pie, cabbage rolls with sauerkraut and tomato sauce, warm steak salad, and lots of sides like sautéed leeks and poblano peppers, roasted fresh beets and carrots, grilled pineapple etc. We are both loving this new way of eating, and so far, we have both seen positive results. For the first time in years, Bill said his hands are not hurting him and he can actually make a complete tight closed fist… I am also noticing I’m not having as many little aches and pains.

We also enjoyed an afternoon date at the movies this week. Both Bill and I love going to the movies!

Then, today, we decided to get our exercise in by hiking the Fountain Hills Lake Overview trail. It’s a nice little hike that we had never taken before so we thought we would give it a try today and we are glad we did.

We started off climbing up and around hill,

that allows you to see all the way around the Fountain Hills Fountain Lake,

and all around the town of Fountain Hills.

After leaving the overview hike, we ventured on over to the Fountain Hills Desert Sonoran Botanical Garden which is located right in the town of Fountain Hills. Here is a picture of the hike map through the gardens.

Of course, there are lots and lots of mighty saguaro cactus everywhere. I found this group of cactus interesting because to me, they look like they are all happy to be together, and are going to hug.

This saguaro caught my eye because the more I looked at it, the more I began to see little faces within the rotted out places within the cactus… do you see any faces in it?

Then, much to our surprise, we found out there is actually a historical dam in the garden. Well, blow me over… who knew?

There are also lots of large granite boulders throughout the gardens,

and the green coating seen on many of them is called “desert varnish”.

Bill and I had never visited The Fountain Hills Desert Sonoran Botanical Garden. We thought it is a lovely little walk, and a good way to get some light exercise if you can’t make it to our beautiful McDowell Mountain Regional Park, or you just want to explore some of the surrounding areas…

It doesn’t take a lot to make Bill and I happy. After 30 years, we are still very much in love, are each other’s best friends, and we enjoy anytime we spend together regardless if it’s working, cooking or doing chores, going to the movies, or enjoying the great outdoors. If we’re together, we make whatever we are doing FUN! And really, isn’t that the way love is supposed to be?

Stay Tuned!

 

Mediterranean Meatball Ratatouille

Two weeks ago my husband, Bill, aka Papa/Bro and I decided we both wanted to try a new approach to  losing some unwanted pounds. After a lot of on-line research, and a trip to a local bookstore, we decided to give the Paleo food plan a try. This food plan is all about eating whole foods. It is also known for being a food plan that can help reduce inflammation in the body, something both Bill/papa./bro and I are excited to try.

One of the two books we bought to help us understand the Paleo food plan, and to provide recipes for us to follow the plan, gives this nutshell description of the Paleo food plan. “Paleo Made Simple:

  1. Eat whole foods, not processed
  2. Don’t eat grains (especially wheat, but also corn, rice, oats, barley)
  3. Eliminate dairy products
  4. Avoid legumes (beans, peanuts)
  5. Enjoy lots of fruits, vegetables, and plenty of protein

The Paleo food plan is often called the “caveman” diet because it is based on whole foods that have not been processed in any way. Fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, eggs, and grass-fed meats (when possible), i.e. beef, pork, bacon, chicken, and seafood.

Bill/Papa/Bro and I read through all the information and decided we are both “all in” to give this new food plan our best shot. The first thing we did after making our total commitment to this new food plan was rid our home of anything that is not on the Paleo plan. No need to have temptation in our way right?

This is week two for us and so far, so good. Bill lost 3 1/2 pounds and I lost 2 pounds. Everyday we try a new recipe from the Paleo books we bought. So far all of them have been very good and filling.

Today, I made Mediterranean Meatball Ratatouille. This is a picture from the recipe book showing what it is supposed to look like.

I started out chopping up some grilled zucchini (Bill grilled up a lot of fresh veggies for the week), and I added fresh mushrooms, and onions.

 I made meatballs out of ground Italian seasoned turkey, and browned them on all sides. Then I put the meatballs in the crockpot with the zucchini, onions and mushrooms, spices, and just enough chicken stock to keep it moist and set the crockpot to low for 5-6 hours. At the end of the cooking time, I put a can of diced tomatoes and two tablespoons of tomato paste into the crockpot and continued cooking an additions 15 minutes.

While that was cooking, I made a Paleo Bread from almond flour, baking soda, salt, eggs, honey, and apple cider vinegar. First I mixed the dry ingredients together,

then mixed the wet ingredients together,

and combined them to make the bread dough.

That was baked in our little outside oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, and produced this beautiful loaf of Paleo bread.

The next step in our dinner preparations was to process a head of cauliflower to make “riced cauliflower”,

that I stir fried in a non-stick skillet until it was tender but still a little firm. It was used to serve the ratatouille over.

The end result was delicious and something both Bill/papa/bro and I agreed we would definitely want to have again. High protein and very low carbs but very tasty, filling and satisfying.

It takes thought, time, and planning to cook whole foods vrs eating out, or using processed foods, but Bill and I are committed to this, and so far it is working great. We are excited to keep trying new recipes and see where this takes us.

Stay Tuned!

Leeks, Bacon, Mushroom, Lasagna

Yesterday, after Bill and I completed our daily exercise walk together, he went outside to work on some of his maintenance of our motorhome projects. With a home on wheels, there is always something to adjust here, or tighten up there…, So while he was working on his projects, I tackled one of my own projects for the day.

As many of you know, I don’t enjoy baking, I am more than happy to leave that to Bill and Shantel, but I love to cook. So yesterday, I made a delicious leek, bacon, and mushroom lasagna. OMG, we LOVE this dish. But, be warned, there is nothing about this dish that is calorie friendly( except that I used fat-free half and half  instead of heavy cream). However, “all things in moderation” so we only have this dish a few times a year.

I found this recipe on the internet from the Eat Smarter website. I adapted it just a bit, with spices and mushrooms etc., to suit our tastes.

Ingredients:

Leeks – I used 2

butter – I used about 2 oz

Salt ( I don’t cook with salt, or add salt to my food because I am on a low sodium diet for health reasons. I use other spices to substitute for salt)

3 tablespoons flour

16 oz beef broth (I used reduced sodium)

6 oz whipping cream ( I used fat-free half and half)

About 6 oz of shredded sharp cheese (use more or less to your taste). You can use any kind of cheese you like.

Oven ready (no cook lasagna noodles). I used 8 but you can adjust to the amount you are making. Or you can use the lasagna noodles you boil if you want to take that extra step.

Thick sliced bacon (I used reduced sodium).  Use as much or as little as you like.

I started with cutting two leeks ( a mild member of the onion family) into rings.

Then I placed the separated leek rings in cold water to let them soak so the sand that is in between the leaves can sink to the bottom. This is a very important step because if you don’t do this you will end up with…

all of this sand in you finished dish. Not good!

I added mushrooms that I cleaned and sliced to the recipe because both Bill and I love them, but if you don’t like mushrooms, simply omit them…

I fried bacon in a cast iron skillet, to ensure it got really crisp, then I removed the bacon from the skillet and

sautéed the leeks, minced garlic, and mushrooms in the fat rendered from the bacon.

Then I made the sauce using the same fat left in the skillet from the bacon and adding a pat of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour. Cooked that until the flour and butter looked a little brown. Then I added the beef broth and cream (half and half) and whisked to insure there were no lumps. Simmer until it comes to a light boil so it will thicken.

The next step is to spray a baking pan with non-stick spray and place a small amount of the sauce in the bottom of the baking pan. Then line the pan with oven ready lasagna noodles.

Top the lasagna noodles with the leeks/mushroom mixture, and top that with cheese and crisp bacon pieces (if you don’t eat bacon, or don’t like bacon, you can leave it out or replace with chicken, beef, etc.)

Continue to layer the sauce, lasagna noodles, leeks/mushroom mixture, bacon, and cheese until all the ingredients are used.

Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown (about 40 minutes).

I served this with a Normandy – Style Vegetable Blend, and YUMERS!!! Dinner was served.

This is one of mine and Bill’s favorite dinners. But like I said, it is not calorie, or figure friendly… but oh my, it is well worth the extra exercise to walk/hike it off every once in a while… 🙂 And, it freezes really well.

Stayed Tuned!

 

Exploring Prospect Oregon

Bill and I are spending the summer getting to know Oregon. We’ve seen some amazing and beautiful sights. It’s hard for me to say what I loved the most about our summer Oregon adventure to date. I don’t have words to give justice to the  beautiful Oregon Coast. And we are amazed at how many waterfalls there are in Oregon. Seems like every place we’ve visited had numerous beautiful waterfalls to see, and amazing hiking trails.

This week Bill and I went to see the Mill Creek Waterfall. It’s a little hidden jewel within the woods around the town of Prospect. The air is very smokey from the wildfires that are contained, but still burning themselves out, just outside of Prospect. But that didn’t take away from the experience once you get there.

We hiked up to the waterfall viewing spot, and sat and just enjoyed the beauty of the forest, and the waterfall cascading down from the mountain. So, so, peaceful.

The hiking trails around the waterfall are very pretty as well. Its like walking through an enchanted forest.

When we left the Mill Creek area, we went a short distance down the road to the Rogue River Gorge. The hike we took here started where the water coming into the Gorge looked calm.

But very quickly picked up speed as we made our way down the trail along the Gorge…

Of course the rushing water took on very different looks as the Gorge widened and narrowed, but all of it was amazing and really gave us a sense of the power of nature.

You never know who, or what, you will meet up with when you are hiking through the forest. This little guy/girl was slowly making its way across the forest floor towards the water. Looks like a snail without it’s shell to me.

This tree stump caught our eye and we just had to go over and read the sign in front of it that read “Living Stump: On the flat surface of the lava flow, away from the Gorge wall, the trees live as a group rather than as individuals, the roots of these Douglas-Firs have grown together, providing each other with nutrients and water. Before it was cut, the roots of this tree had grafted onto those of a neighbor. Because of this, the stump continues to live”. I find that AMAZING, and I LOVE that!!!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if everyone in the world, would take a lesson from these trees, and help one another (family, neighbors, strangers..), like that? Just imagine what a beautiful world that would be.

Stay Tuned!

Trillium Lake, Oregon

Today, Bill and I took a scenic drive to Trillium Lake. We stopped on our way along the side of the road so I could capture this picture of the mighty Mt. Hood. So reminds me of the first time I saw the Grand Tetons.

When we arrived at Trillium Lake, we were greeted and captivated, for the entire afternoon, by the stillness of the water (minus a few tiny ripples when a row-boat, or paddle board, goes by), and the sight of Mt. Hood in the background, casting its mirror image on the lake.

The water of Trillium Lake is crystal clear.

The lake itself is not natural: “The boggy meadows here were submerged by a dam built across Mud Creek in 1960.” But, regardless how the lake was built, it is beautiful, and the perfect place for folks that want to spend time in nature and having fun on the water.

The hike around Trillium Lake is a lovely 2 miles.

Around every curve in the trail is another opportunity to stop…, and take in all this area has to offer, like these pretty purple wild flowers that surround the lake.

I couldn’t resist getting a picture of these three canoes, one red, one silver, and one black, just lined up in a row on the edge of the water. So inviting..

As we made our way around the lake, I just loved how the trees seemed to part, and make space for me to take another picture of the lake and all the beautiful trees that surround it. Bill and I shared a lovely picnic lunch enjoying views just like this.

And how could anyone, with a camera in their hand, resist taking a picture of this adorable little blue canoe, sitting on the edge of the water between the trees, just waiting for someone to get in and take a spin around the lake? I couldn’t!

Another beautiful day exploring the FABULOUS state of Oregon.

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Starvation Creek Falls, Oregon

Bill and I took an amazingly beautiful hike today at Starvation Creek State Park, located in Oregon, just west of Hood River.

One of the trails we hiked was called “starvation creek” because it was said that a train was stopped there by snow drifts, and passengers had to dig out the train. No one actually starved there. The passengers were kept from starvation by men who packed supplies in from Hood River on skis.

There are several amazing waterfalls in the area. The first waterfall we saw was coming down from the top of a mountain, in a beautiful water cascade, that flowed down to a small creek at the bottom of the mountain. Huge, green trees, all around the area, made for lots of shade, and a beautiful picture.

The second waterfall we saw wasn’t as big, and I didn’t notice anything strange about it, until I got home, and started looking at the pictures I took. That’s when I noticed what looks to me, to be the image of a face of a man inside the waterfall. Don’t know if my sighted readers can see it, but Bill said he does. The man’s face is towards the top of where the waterfall begins. I can see two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and one ear. If you look closely, you can also see what looks to Bill and I like a snake that wraps around the man’s head just in front of the man’s ear, going over his forehead, and over the other side of the man’s head. The snake looks like it has its mouth open… This was early morning and no, we were not drinking…Ha!

When we got to this next waterfall, the water was coming down so fast and hard, we could feel the mist spraying out over the surrounding rocks and trees. It felt wonderful just to stand there and let the cool mist spray over us too.

It was a lovely hike, with stunning views. Like this view I captured looking down from halfway up the mountain trail we were on. The 24/7 train that runs by our campground is in the foreground, and there were lots of sailboats, with colorful sails, out enjoying the waters of the Columbia River Gorge.

When we first started our hike, we saw two men hiking up to one of the waterfalls we were looking at. They were carrying a large ice chest cooler between them. One of the men had on a white shirt and tie, while the other was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. The man in the white shirt and tie left immediately after the ice chest was delivered. The other man was taking pictures, and we got to chatting with him, and found out the man in the white shirt and tie was his friend who was getting married this morning right at that very waterfall. I asked if the bride was going to hike all the way up there in her wedding gown and heals… and he said no, they were going to ride bikes up to the trailhead, and then it was just a very short distance to the waterfall. He said the bride would be wearing a wedding dress, but it was not a big, puffy bottom gown. He said we might see the bride and groom getting married when we make our way back down the mountain after our hike. And, sure enough we did. An adorable young couple were saying their wedding vowels just as we arrived back to that spot. The bride was in a long white gown, but it was more straight fitting, and something like you would see when a couple are getting married on the beach…

As we made our way down to the beginning of the trailhead, we saw the “bikes” the bride and groom rode in on… How adorable is this three wheel bike with a sign on the back that reads “just married” complete with the traditional tin cans tied to the back of it?

Yet another fun-filled day in Oregon…

Stayed Tuned!

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