Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crab painting and chocolates

Bay Hideaway RV  Our Winter stop
Bay St Louis, MS
Surprised with some heavy rains today,but we are all safe and sound here while we watch the tornado devastating Georgia, bad KY storms and the nasty ice farther north.  Yesterday evening  9 of us gals went to Picayune, MS to April's gallery for a session of painting.  April is an old high school pal of Michele's, the owner of Hideaway.  It was a fun time and something I so enjoy but never make time to do at home.  Several told me that Joanie,  another MN snowbird who is undergoing  her continuing chemo while here,  is an artist.  She and I shared a table and not to brag but I did not think she was any better at this task than myself; I would have preferred doing a seascape, shells, or???  but April, our host and instructor for the evening had determined that we would be crab painting and so it was.  She is quite patient and was a delightful instructor.  While doing this I learned a  bit about the crab and it's 5 appendages, what resembles our hand with the knuckles, and how it crawls and withdraws. 
My Crabby masterpiece
 I will use this as a conversation piece,  what do you think that is hosts in the bottom right corner?  In my opinion it is not what April said it is, the technique to construct that was not what I'd have done if I'd know she wanted that painted.  On neither hers nor anyone's completed paintings did that stuff in the lower right look like what it was supposed to be.  So there's my question for you, what's it? 

Well as if the painting class was not enough, the gallery includes chocolates by April for sale.  You can imagine that 9 women are not leaving without buying some chocolates.  I indulged in  several turtles, as the following photos show, the largest I have ever found anywhere.  The ruler is to give you an idea, this is not photo shopped.  Her dark chocolate turtles, she calls gators, and used that theme a top.They are over two inches wide and nearly one inch deep.  Jerry and I split one when I got back home to the coach, and even at that we only ate half of it between us.  Ummmmm.  Such a tough life we enjoy on this trip.
Aprils turtles and gators

Turtle, we shared half last night and have half for tonight
Rain has stopped and we must go get a local newspaper and see what's happening.  Due to  the downpour I did not get my laps in this AM, but later the sun is coming out and I will catch up. Tonight another Wednesday bingo for RV'ers occurs; my food prize donations were a hit last week so off to WallyWorld for  the same contributions--nuts, cookies and candy. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Oyster Festival and Car show at Pass Christian

Pass Christian, MS  harbor
The Pass Chistian harbor is ashore from the largest oyster reef in the continental US, so they know oysters.  This is only the 3rd year they have hosted the festival which had a gathering for all foods, locally made by  numerous vendors, a very loud band from New Orleans on a huge center stage and a massive carnival for children.  I found nothing at the vendor booths to purchase, although I did consider the 18 inch  trees made from cleansed and shined oyster shells.  The only reason we did not eat, the jambalaya would have been our choice, was it was midday and we were not hungry.  We have  been adhering to our one main meal a day mantra lately, all of those are too filling wherever we eat, true to the south, too generous portions of delicious foods.  Parking was free and plentiful although it appeared they had a big turnout.  We enjoyed it for a couple hours before departing. Talked to a local shrimper who said that while the heyday prior to the BP oil spill was gone, the industry and tourists are returning and life will resume with the strong surviving. 

The two men seated in their boat are overlooking the festival
The name of their boat is "Still Crazy after all these years"
Besides all the boats, there was an old car show which attracted Jerry, especially the Avanti (sp?) which he says are extremely rare and that he'd not seen one in many years.  He hung around it for a long time trying to find the owner to talk to to determine if it was original as it appeared or a custom knock off.  He had no luck, which was likely just as good, lest he get more idea$$$$$$$. Here he goes....amidst the engines which he particularly enjoys viewing. 

Jerry between two open hoods

The rare Avanti
As we were walking to the harbor all the old cars were driving in, so we watched the full parade.  Then they parked and hung around, some  owners like the Avanti's were not nearby but others set up chairs alongside their baby.  All the cars were immaculate and shined to perfection.  Lots of time and energy are poured into this hobby, no matter where in the country the owners live.

I have had little time amidst our snowbirding activities  here along the balmy gulf to post on the blog, but have had Facebook comments.  Easy to place photos direct from phone to FB  but not  able to do so from phone to the blog.  However, trust me, this is a great locale to outwait winter which appears to be in unusual icey uproar.  We may head over to the Florida tip or Alabama next,  having observed weather and  that  there are storms and other bad weather fronts descending across Texas. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Past time in the south is food and dirinks...

Return visit to Shaggy's in Biloxi MS
Today we drove to Biloxi, which is becoming the bane of our trips south.  Last year we spent many hours waiting out the Mardi Gras parade in which we found ourselves amidst, this year it was MLK celebrations as well as local citizens celebrating the inauguration of Obama.  Besides we are seeing many changes here, everything is expanding, the small Isle of whatever Casino we liked last year has been bought out and is expanding to the Golden Nugget mega.  We liked it before, smaller, a quainter  luncheon restaurant, etc but today we saw lots of construction, and a vague bleak emptiness, not the same and we promptly left. A brief detour through old downtown Biloxi proved scary to us white yankees and we decided not to look for more trouble; the locals were celebrating their President and evidently awaiting more free things from Obumma, but that is another story.  One kind woman who proved that all is not as it appears, cussed a man in his  truck parked  sideways in the street, to "get da  F out da way, some folks be tryin' to drive down  da damn street,  move yo sef"  well perhaps you get the picture.  This was worse than what I knew as Oak Park on a bad day in Sacramento, CA.  Enough.  We waved a thank you to her while the truck driver responded with the one finger salute to us, nevertheless he moved and we returned  to the boulevard along the beach.  Biloxi was not for us today and perhaps not again.   We decided we needed lunch (I did) and so Shaggy's was fun last year; it is a chain in the south but along the beach.  It proved that somethings do not change.
Shrimp po'bou and Magnolia brew

Seated amidst the birds that fly in through the open beachfront windows, we ordered and had cold brews.  I am partial to Pecan by Magnolia Brew of MS but Jerry is just as happy with his Bud.  Shrimp po'boy for me and he opted for something  not heard of before, a turf burger.  When he asked our waitress "what's that" she replied a 1/2 lb burger, topped with fried shrimp and cheese.  Jerry does not like cheese, so he asked that it be held, but bring on the rest.  Well  the gulf shores here have the  very best shrimp in the country.  And look at that po boy!  No way could I do justice other than eating the shrimp solitary  sans the wonderful bread, and the garlic french fires at Shaggy's are to die for, some things have not changed, hooray!  Well it was now 2:30PM and as we looked at each other and our food we knew we would not want to eat tonight, this would be our meal of the day.  Which brings me to the title of this post, eating is the past time of the south.

Shaggy's bar  all open along the right side
I thought my Louisiana gal pals were untoppable for foods (Marilyn and Mary Ann) but here in MS, they all add onto it.  In Sunday's paper I read that Mississippi is the most unhealthy state in the country the state where folks are most likely to die from coronary disease, diabetes, etc.; I can see why, everything is fried and delicious.  Who can eat like this and survive?  I feel a 5 mile walk coming up to work this off.  Actually I should probably walk the  18 miles or so back to the coach, but lets not get carried away.

Jeaux, our RV host,  behind the Mardi Gras dframe
However once back home, here at Bay Hide Away RV in Bay St. Louis MS ors d'oevres awaited from neighbors....OMG  another delicacy, Biloxi butter.  Who knew butter could be  improved upon?  Tast slices with this delicious spread are to die for.  Lest I forget what and how to mix it up,  there are many variations our host tells me. I convinced Jeaux, our RV grounds host to pose behind the Mardi Gras frame at the club here he is.  And here is a variation of Biloxi Butter, lest I forget the ingredients.  He warns that he cooks like I do, seldom measures, so do your best.   This will be something very new to MN and  even PA when I journey back there. Shrimp are plentiful here , shrimp and crawdads, so hardly a meal passes without them but this spread was new to me.

Biloxi Butter     Butter must be at  room temperature, not melted but soft,  mix all ingredients well and serve. May be made ahead of time and refrigerated, but bring to room temperature to spread.

                                   1/2 pound fresh shrimp, cooked, drained dry, cooled & chopped
                                  3 Tablespoons lemon juice (fresh lemons)
                                   1/2 cup butter   (real stuff, no oleos)
                                  2 Tablespoons pure ground horseradish
                                  1/2 teaspoon salt
                                  1/2 teaspoon black pepper
                                  1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
                                  drops of tabasco, to your taste

Mix and serve on crackers,  crusty french bread with great glasses of wine or gin and tonics or beer or???  Well that's the gist of food here in the south, plentiful and y'all have some now, h'yeah!.  No we did not eat this evening other than a few slices of this spread on delicious bread.  They tell me the wine rinses it down well and dilutes an ill effect.  Ok sounds good to me!  So ends another balmy sunny beach day along the MS gulf shores.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Food and sunshine

After a week  on the road, several days at Southaven MS waiting out the icey weather, we are in Bay St. Louis along the gulf shores at the Bay Hideaway RV.  We've logged 1186 RV miles from home,  20 hours and 40 minutes total drive time and put 162 gallons of diesel in the coach for $615. I learned from visiting others that they all track these things too; we RV coachers are a tracking bunch, apparently liking to detail how we spend our $$. 

At last, we are in the balmy 60 degree weather with sunshine, and crisp evenings,  hooray!  While I have been posting onto Facebook, there are different blog readers to catch up.  I have not yet mastered downloading the photos from my tablet or phone to this blog.  Besides Blogger seems to be determined to unfriendly use of Internet Explorere to insert photos, so I will have to use Google Chrome to share photos. 

We are staying at least a week in Bay St Louis, which is a laid back area,  out of the way for busyness which we favor,  but close enough to drive to New Orleans, Slidell, Biloxi and Gulfport. Next week we will visit the Stennis Space center up the road where they tested the operations for the space vehicles before shipping them to Houston and Orlando back when we had a space program.  And we have been invited to a Krewe float making, that will be interesting.

I have met more folks here in a couple days while  walking than I do at home all year, but then I know most of the people at home, and RV'ers, I admit, are a social friendly  group.  Joe seems to be the favored name amongst the men, there are 5 Joes here including the owner, a Cajun type whose name is spelled Jeaux, the others are from MN, SD, and WI.  To a "hey Joe" several men answer; there are also 2 women whose name is Joan, and they might look to answer as well.  How odd is this? 

This area is still recovering from the effects of Katrina and more slowly than the Biloxi area down along the shore. We are set here for at least a week and may stay longer because it is convenient, quiet and peaceful besides there is plenty to see within 30 minutes driving.  We landed here because the RV site in Biloxi was full, but several folks have assured us that we can do no better than right here, urging us to stay.  Today we are off to Gulfport for some minor shopping a few light bulbs for the RV.  Jerry learned from MN Joe to order RV plastic drawer latch hinges from eBay where a box full sells for $6;  those things break so frequently, and cost $3 or so at an RV supply store.  A good tip. 

So wander over to my Facebook page for photos.  We are off soon to pick up something for today's chili cookoff, where Jeaux has designated us as "tasters" being the newest snow birds in the park amidst the snowbirds who return here annually.  One thing I know is the pool is not heated and that is too cool for me,  but then noplace is perfect. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

On the road avoiding Gandolfo

It has become foggy along the interstate 90/94 , splotchy in parts, but we are onward, southward avoiding the more wintry blasts of Gandolf  set to arrive over the weekend, the mixture of letters  from that winter's storm name rearranged becomes fog land which has arrived  across Minnesotta. 

Our weather channel shows it is to be 60 degrees in Springfield, and that sounds perfectly wonderful.  I am nervous about traveling in fog, so as we approach Madison it clears.  Still it cannot  match that terrible tule fog in which we lived in California, the grey dim dankness that hung around for weeks, chilling the mind and bones.  I am partial to sunshine, the brightness, the balmy warmth.  We have enjoyed a nice winter so far with temps upwards near 50 degrees, sunny and no need for heavy parkas. 

Blog postings for the next month will be very periodic as we journey.  Exploring possible purchase of real estate for winter, a place or pad to dock the motor coach in late fall, fly home and then fly back for the winter is under consideration.  This goes against our primary inclination which is to not remain in one place whilst on the road.  We  like motor home traveling, after one area loses its allure, we can move on to the next.  There is so much to be seen in the country, why stay put until one has to do so confined by illness, age, or host of other debilitations such as financials.

We have found that traveling in our coach is economical, despite the cost of diesel fuel.  We are comfortable in our own bed too.  So off on this wintry journey,  southward.  Time to add miles to the Excursion in 2013.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Obituaries, "But wait what lurks there?"

Deserted bluebird box  along
backside of garden  
I have a habit of reading the obituaries, in the paper each day, not as necessary here where we do not know near the  people as when we lived in CA  for more than 40 years, but the  habit stuck.  The only reason we still subscribe to the daily newspaper is because Jerry reads it cover to cover with his pot of morning coffee.  I often do not read it until later in the day  or maybe even the next day or not at all.  But yesterday, as usual on a Sunday, I set with the local rag and the St Paul Pioneer Press which I pick up each week for more state level news and the reviews of plays, books, theater.. 

My friends father joked that he checked the obituaries first  thing each morning and if he did not see his name, he knew it was a good day to get on with the daily drill.  So yesterday afternoon after laundry, church, brunch and a nice walk in the cold outdoors, I was astounded when on the obituary page I  saw  my name, Patricia L Morrison!    I said to Jerry,  "Good Lord, I died!" and while he was tuned to football on the TV he said, "what?"  Well the woman  was older than me and lived  across the river in Wisconsin and in FL,  but sure enough there it was.  A very odd feeling, especially because it was a tiny paragraph, promising more later.  And then I said, "hey no body called to see if I'm here!"  Well  they'd seen me at church and after all the people who know me here know where I live and  my age, so the vitals did not match.  Still, don't you think someone might have commented?  A few week ago another Pat Morrison submitted a recipe for a Twinkies cake and several people commented on that, no it wasn't me.  But the obituary?  Not a word, today I laugh.

I understand that in in 1888, Alfred B. Nobel, inventor of dynamite, awoke to read his own obituary in the newspaper, a careless error made by  a reporter.  His brother had died, the death of the wrong brother was documented.  Nobel was shocked by reading his obituary that described him as “the dynamite king, the industrialist who became rich from explosives.” This  was his call to action, and he 
 resolved to change the course of his life, and to do something positive for society. He left his entire fortune to be awarded to individuals who have done the most for the benefit of humanity. The result was the Nobel Prize – five prizes awarded each year, the most notable of which is the Peace Prize.

I doubt I can top that, but it is an off putting feeling, ala Scrooge looking at the ghost of Christmas yet to be..  I had a doctor's appointment today and all is well, a simple  check up.  I forgot to mention to my  doc that I was reported dead but all evidence indicates every sign of life here.  We are packing up to head south in the motor  home and this will be a dandy story to share with friends along the way.  

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Time and pens in retirement

 "Retirement that will be the time of our lives, wait and see" my colleagues and I often pondered how great it would be, no more early AM commutes, no more bureaucratic and legislative meetings, no more long hours when we didn't know  when we'd get home, no more canceling our vacations to take care of ever constant program emergencies:  we anticipated having all the time to do all we wanted without intrusions.  In reality time is a  4 letter word, an evasive wisp, and if not guarded oh so carefully and jealously, it will be tinkered with by others, stolen one moment at a time, accessed by intrusions, from others who would take our time.. 

This past week, I once again rejoiced that  I have time, now, being retired so I can spend my time chasing around and following up on what does not happen as planned or promised.  I spent several hours on the phone following up about RX insurance cards that had not arrived on time with the change in our health care supplemental coverage.  Not that we had changed plans because we get  a good deal through my former employer, but the system was being changed.  No longer one card, we'd have two, one for all  medical except for RX drug coverage and a separate for drug coverage.  Welcome to Obysmal health care, more government control, more paperwork, more mess, more things that will not work.  One card arrived, mine not Jerry's.  After online attempts, which are usually my first choice, I  resorted to phone.  I learned after finally reaching a human being on the phone after looping around their system five or six times, spinning  the merry-go-round,  that the check is in the mail, not all went out in the same batch, our system needed more adjustment time than planned and on it went.  I feel sorry for those who "man" the phones, call center staff, they don't screw up the works but they get to explain it to unhappy creatures, like me, the customers. 

Another time waster  was from  XM Sirius, the purveyor of our satellite radios.  We like our satellite radios, it allows us to listen to programs traveling where we otherwise would not get reception.  And at home we tune in to Tom Sullivan on Fox Talk radio.  We enjoy Tom, knew him back in California.  But when I  go t in my SUV on Wednesday channel 126 was gone, a recording suggesting other channels.   No longer on the air.  After I returned home and got on line I learned  that  yes indeed XM radio had dropped one of my favorite channels.  Grrrrr, I am an unhappy customer, same rate less of what I want to hear.  So I called to express this frustration.  Their call center mysteriously named "Listener care"to hires people who cannot understand nor speak English very well.  I hate that, I live in America not South America, I want to hear and speak to someone who understands.  Too bad for me, likely my problem, I must be a bigot of some kind for even thinking that.  After one patronizing "listener" repeated to me "don't you worry that's why you called here...." That's the English translation which came out as "dooon u wareeee" I explained to her in very plain English, "I am not worried,  I am annoyed, I am angry."  then following her  script, she offered me a free radio just for calling, all  I had to do  was pay shipping...WTH?    I told her that I did not want a radio, I have perfectly good radios.  I wanted the channel back that they dropped.  She repeated, "don't you worry I will feex it...."  I lost hope.  I asked if I could speak to someone who could understand me.  She said she would "see,  now don't you worry,"   put me on hold and after a few minutes I hung up.  I know I'm retired, nothing better to do but be the hostage to the phone....I called back and expressed my outrage again which they assured me they were recording. Well isn't that special?  After the phone fiasco  I  sent an online protest and an email to which they promptly responded, "A representative will be in touch with you...."  I don't want a representative, I want Channel 126 back, period.  I have done all the complaint lodging I will do.  We will likely cancel our XM subscription for both radios, the portable which we take in the motor home on travels and the one in my SUV.  I suspect this may have been a deal with the FCC to approve the XM Sirius merger last year, nah that wouldn't happen in America would it? 

For my favorite pens time is up refills needed 
I also spent time this week  in Office Depot  and  another office supply store while feeling like a throwback to the stone age.  I go to those places to buy thumb drives, computer paper, computer chairs, maybe a printer, but do not attempt to get a "refill for a pen."   People, those who work there look at you strangely, like "where are you from?"  One young man carefully explained to me that pens are all disposable and do not need to be refilled in a tone that conveyed mighty questions about my sanity or my knowledge.  Well I know I have disposables too, but I have 4 pens in particular that I love, they are in the photo above, I have had them for many many years.  And finding refills, each one different and not the normal Dr. Pilot kind of plastic refill, is a search.  The blue  pen and pencil set, two bottom ones in the photo with my initials inscribed in gold were a gift from Mom  over 30 years ago; she and Barney must have gotten some sort of deal  from the local jeweler and chose to gift them to me, and while  I gushed over them to her, all the while wondering, I have come to cherish them over the years.   I love the feel of them in my hand.  I have plenty of lead for the pencil, but the pen has been empty for  many months.  The white pen is about 35 years old,  very special to me, another gift this from a friend  who is not on the planet, but who is always in my heart.  The biggest , 2nd from the top in the photo,  could double as a weapon because it is very heavy and it is just perfect for writing.   I wait and wonder where I will find refills each time they need them, all three are different  making it a triple challenge.  All three are now out of ink because I set them aside one at a time until later on when I have time to go looking around for refills.  Well the time has come and now the fun begins.  Perhaps on our travels I will stumble across an established  store for  people like me who still use non-disposable pens.  The time has come, the search is on.  My pens need ink.  

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us all about time,  "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant......"  So here you have it time, the universal measurement limited or in abundance, it serves many and goes along without regard to our human striving to keep it.....