This is probably the longest post I have ever done but it is very representative of an action packed week. It won’t hurt my feelings at all if you skim the words and just look at the pictures…lol. I took Monday and Tuesday off to spend more time with friends and it’s been a very full couple of weeks. Bill and Kelly are staying a week here in our RV park and they came on Monday. It was really nice that Kelly planned this out months ago to make sure she got to spend time with us. If you don’t know (I didn’t) RV parks in Florida fill up VERY early for the peak months (Jan-Mar). So it takes advance planning especially if you are trying to coordinate with other folks. Thankfully Kelly knew this and she pushed me to lock in here at Rainbow Village back in November and I ended up getting one of the last two spots. Kelly called at the same time and booked her week, and I am so excited the time has finally come. We have been driving all over the place to see people, and although it’s totally worth it, I am excited some folks are coming to us.
I read in Howard and Linda’s RV-Dreams journal that its common etiquette for the person already at the campground to cook a little meal for the people coming in on the first night so they don’t have to mess with cooking the same day as travel and setup. I really like that idea, and although I knew Kelly was seeing her parents Monday night wanted to do something. So I went up to Lazy Days in Tampa and picked up Cori and Texas Jo and then brought them back to see our RV park. We hung out for a while and I threw together some chicken and rice for Bill and Kelly to have for lunch the day they came in. Thank heavens I had something to fix. We’ve been running around so much I hadn’t gone to the grocery store, so it wasn’t as elaborate, but they really seemed to like the sentiment and having something hot to eat for lunch that they didn’t have to make. Once they got settled Bill and Kelly came down to my rig and the five of us hung out for a while. Then Greg and Craig came down, and Lee got home from school, and Kelly and Bill went to have dinner with her parents who live close by. The six of us then went to Indian Rocks Beach. We really wanted to share the sunset with them and have them listen to the veteran that plays taps every night at sunset. They talked to him a little and it turns out he is a Vietnam vet and every night he plays taps to honor the boys who didn’t come home. It was a lovely sunset and a lovely moment, and to add to the specialness we saw our first dolphin. I didn’t get a picture unfortunately, but it was frolicking about 30 feet from the shore right when the sun went down…magical. I spoke to one of the older gentlemen who was there and he said seeing a dolphin was a good sign. As the weather gets warmer they come to this beach in pods, so I am hopeful about future dolphin sightings and maybe a picture or two. Afterwards we took them to Crabby Bill’s for a Florida seafood experience and this time I got the local grouper which I highly recommend ($42 for dinner and $8 for tip…damn that appetizer!!)
On Tuesday, Kelly and I met for Zumba in the morning. There are 4-6 activities everyday here in the Rainbow Village, but because of work I have not been able to attend anything that really interests me. Since Kelly did Zumba for two years she wanted to go and when she invited me I thought it would be a good time to get started working out a bit. I brought my work out clothes with me, but have not even put them on…and since I really want to push myself to at minimum have 20 minutes of cardio three days a week this seemed like a good place to start. It was really a lot of fun…totally kicked my butt…was fun though. Kelly was awesome at it…me not so much 🙂 One of the best things about her is how encouraging she is though and she talked me through some of the rougher parts. This was NOT Zumba for the elderly. I broke out in a sweat and was huffing and puffing 20 minutes into the 45 minute session. The ladies in the class were really nice and encouraging also, and I definitely want to go back. Unfortunately it’s only once a week, but I really enjoyed it. As I may have mentioned I’ve been having some problems with my back and I was really feeling it when we were done. Kelly and I went back to the rig and she showed me this excellent stretching exercise you can use to relax the back. Amazing!!! I laid right down on her RV floor and stretched until the tightness went away. You know you are good friends with people when you can lay on the floor of their RV 🙂 Bill was very nice about the whole thing, and looked away as requested because I felt a bit silly. Silly or not, wow, the exercise worked and my back felt great when I was done. For those who are interested I laid on the floor on my back and then slowly brought my knees up to my chest. As soon as it started to hurt I stopped in the position until the tension eased then slowly used my arms to bring the knees in a little closer. Wait for the ache and repeat. It took at least 10 minutes before I could get my knees completely to my chest, but when that was done, the pain was gone.
Tuesday evening Cori and Greg came over for dinner so we could have a business meeting on Lee completing some videos for the RV Solar Solutions website. Although Lee is training as a mobile tech he doesn’t want to stop using his years of video experience and he would like to make videos on the road for campgrounds, nonprofits, or small companies like Cori and Greg’s. Since we are all such close friends, Lee can make a video for them which can help get the word out about RV Solar and down the road Lee will have something he can show potential clients as an example of what he can do. It started a little shaky for me because in the past when we had company we have usually sat outside, but it was a cold and rainy night and we were all in our rig together. I got hit with a strong wave of claustrophobia pretty early on and Cori and Greg were very supportive until it passed…which thankfully it did. They all had the business meeting in the front of the RV (we have a front living room model) and I hung out down in the kitchen cooking dinner and playing with Hobie who got to come visit our rig for the first time. Our computer desk is in the front, and Lee has hooked it up to our television, so they had a nice big screen to work with. They showed him some examples of videos they liked. He showed them some examples of work he had done, and they discussed vision along with a “homework” item of preparing an outline of the major concepts they would like to communicate in their videos. It was a very productive meeting and afterwards we all had dinner and as always great conversation.
On Wednesday it was back to work and I was playing serious catch up. I usually check emails on vacation days and address anything critical, but the other items do pile up. The nicest part of the day was Kelly came down for my lunch break and just sat with me and chatted. I like working in the rig and enjoy going to the offices when it makes sense, but I do miss having lunch with friends on occasion. She had strawberries and yogurt (healthy and yummy) I had Shrimp Lo Mein (not so healthy…lol). We chatted for the hour and when it was up I was right back to work. Really really nice. Wednesday night we took a day off and just watched some TV and ate some chili. I love having some chili or spaghetti sauce in the freezer for busy days and it was a great, quick hot meal.
Thursday, Kelly and I had coffee in the morning and then she went to the Clearwater Aquarium with her mom to see Winter..the dolphin with the mechanical tail they made the movie about. Her mom has an extra free ticket for me and I would have loved to have gone…but you know; work. Still it was nice that her mom asked me and Kelly and Bill came over for dinner that night. When we were in Pennsylvania Kelly made Seafood enchiladas for the group and I absolutely loved them. They tasted just like the seafood enchiladas from Chi Chi’s my favorite Mexican restaurant that Lee’s mom worked at for many years and I have been wanting to try the recipe for months. For some reason I was a bit intimidated by this one though so I asked Kelly if I could buy the ingredients and she would walk me through it…which of course she was happy to do. It’s a good thing she did because there were lots of steps, but this recipe is outstanding so she walked me through it and I feel like I could make it myself next time. I have included the recipe below but be forewarned this one is not for the faint of heart. It has roux in it…for heaven’s sake …which I got to make for the first time and wasn’t so bad 🙂 So the recipe for Shrimp and Crab enchiladas is here.
Anyway, we had a nice time just chatting. We have a lot of our family photos as a screen saver on our computer, which is in turn hooked up to the TV so we talked as pictures of our life flitted by. It’s a great conversation starter, btw, and a way to share your life in a non intrusive sort of way. You’re chatting about something and a picture comes up and someone asks …”who is that?”…or says “wow you look so young”, that sort of thing. At first I just had pictures of my past life on the screen saver, which was making me kind of sad to be honest, but as we add new memories and experiences I started adding new pictures in. The screen saver is on a randomized setting so one minute you see us with the girls in our 20’s and the next you see pictures from last weekend with the gang. It’s cool, because metaphorically I am saying my life is not just about what I experienced in the past but also about what’s happening now…and it makes the pictures less boring because we are constantly adding to them. Many people I know brought an electronic picture frame with them because you don’t have the space for picture albums. This is that concept on steroids!
Friday, Jo and Ben came up..and I promise I am getting to the sunset cruise here soon…lol. Jo and Ben have an Arctic Fox, but they also have a second truck which has a truck topper on it. We call their main rig the mother ship, and the smaller truck camper the “shuttle craft”. They can use the shuttle craft to take small trips, which is a very cool concept. They couldn’t find a site in Rainbow Village unfortunately, but were able to find an opening in Vacation Village about two minutes away. It’s not the best park, but for a couple of nights it will do. They are set up to boon dock in the shuttle craft, but from what I have seen there is precious little wally docking or boondocking in Florida so we were really glad they found a case close by and I was so happy they went to the effort to come hang with us. Following etiquette, Kelly made dinner for them on their travel day and also invited her parents who live 15 minutes away to come over. Everyone was a little worried about me with 8 people in their rig but it turned out to be just fine. First of all Joe and Barb (Kelly’s parents) were great and since everyone mostly sat I did OK. Joe worked as a deep earth core sample driller for many years and told some very cool stories about things he had found over the years (like a 90 million year old clam!). Kelly said she had the best show and tell as a kid because her dad was always finding neat stuff. He’s also worked all over the country on projects in New York, The Golden Gate bridge, etc. Basically he would pre dig down very deep to tell the engineers what type of soil and rock they were dealing with prior to the building starting. He worked on the original World Trade Center for example, and we had some interesting conversation on why it survived the 93 bombing but not the 2001 airplane strikes. He’s a great story-teller and when he gets really excited the Jersey accent comes out, which I love!! Since I work in construction, he reminded me a lot of most of the guys I work with so I felt comfortable right away. Barb’s really nice too and we spent some time talking about the difference between living in a condo complex versus in an RV. There’s a lot of what I call “high school” nonsense in condo communities, and we were talking about how nice it is that if our neighbors are obnoxious we can pick up and move. Barb largely likes her neighbors but she did look a little jealous 🙂 Kelly made clam chowder from scratch and we spent a great three hours laughing and talking. Plus Barb has a ton of birds at her condo complex, because one of the tenants feeds the storks hot dogs…yes hot dogs are bad for them but they love them apparently, so I am excited about stopping by and taking some pictures before we head to Tarpon Springs for our cruise.
Before the cruise on Saturday we stopped by Kelly’s parents condo to watch the feeding of the storks. There’s a gentleman there who has been feeding the wood storks hot dogs and they are almost as tame as dogs coming right to his hand to take the hot dogs. Yes I know it’s terrible for them, but damn it was cool and I had never seen a wood stork before let alone many and that close up. Plus whose going to argue with him…I’m not!!
After the storks (you can see more bird pictures on my bird page), we drove to Tarpon Springs to the marina. We arrived at 2pm and the captain told us he was worried that there might be a small craft warning on the water and if that happened we would have to return immediately with no refund. His previous cruise had experienced very high waves. He also couldn’t really leave early because captains have to submit a float plan, similar to pilots and their flight plan and they aren’t supposed to deviate from them. We talked to each other and decided unless it looked absolutely terrible we would give it a try. We paid for this earlier in the month and knew we wouldn’t have another opportunity to all be together so to me it was worth it even if the cruise was cut short. It turned out to be an absolutely amazing day. The wind actually dropped significantly and when we went out the sea was very calm…we were sailing at about 4-5 knots. I don’t know much about sailing, but I know what I like and there was enough breeze for some movement but not enough to make things rocky. The ship is called the Atlantis V and was captained by Joseph and his mate Austin. The boat is run by a non-profit and all proceeds go to Foundations Youth sailing program for disadvantaged kids. The first mate Austin was 20 and he was learning how to be a sailor. The kid lived on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin his entire life (high school graduating class had 5 people in it) and last year he moved to Florida all by himself to pursue his dream of making a living on the ocean. Gutsy, gutsy move…and the mate and captain were very pleasant during the entire sail. It is very informal…we were allowed to bring our own food and drinks on board and the boat will go out with a minimum of 6 people. If you are in the area check out groupon which had a $32 per person deal which couldn’t be beat. We were out over 3 hours so it was less than $10 per hour per person…a steal. My favorite part of the boat ride was the three times we saw dolphins. Initially they were far away, but on the way back they sailed along side the boat under it, and along both sides playing in the wake for at least 15 minutes. Never seen anything like that and the experience was absolutely magical.
We had such a good time, it truly was a perfect day so we gave Captain Joe a $20 tip per couple (he was worth every bit of that tip) and headed out to the Greek restaurant, Dimitri’s on the Water that the Captain recommended. Kelly has been wanting lamb from a Greek restaurant for a really long time, so we knew we definitely were going to have dinner. Problem though we had really stressed the dining out budget in February so we needed the price to be reasonable. This btw is the first place we have eaten in with tablecloths for a really long time and normally that is not kind on your budget. We managed though and had dinner for $25!! I had a salad with 4 shrimp…why 4 you say, well because the menu said market price so I asked. The waiter must never get asked that and he had to talk to the kitchen and they were $2 a piece…so I got 4. Lee got a Greek burger and we both drank water. Kelly really enjoyed her lamb, the company was great, and the service was absolutely outstanding. We actually tipped the waiter $7 on our $25 because he was so good. My thought was he shouldn’t have to suffer because we were on a budget. I bring all this up I guess to show you can eat in a nice restaurant on a budget, you just need to be really careful about what you order. Did I have to grit my teeth a little to ask the question about how much the shrimp cost?…sure. For a long time, I just plunked down the money, often regretting the cost versus value at the end of the meal. Understand we are not averse to $80 dinners, but we are trying to adhere to a budget and the more frequently we dine out in a month, the lower the checks need to be…it’s just math, not a statement about my value as human being or a my social status…at least that’s what I keep telling myself, but it truly is a very different mindset. Lee and I actually fist bumped when we got the check…that’s the first time that’s ever happened 🙂 Oh and I really appreciate my friends being so supportive as we work through it!!
So that was our week…we did more on Sunday, but I am going to use that for next week 🙂 I honestly can’t remember the last non vacation week in my life that was packed with so much activity. When we started this I told my boss I was tired of living my life on the weekends (which he totally got since he is a very cool guy) and in our sticks and bricks I feel like that is all we ever did. This week absolutely proved I can “live” during the weeks and still work which is nice. I’m tired, but it’s a nice tired and look at all the cool stuff we got to do. Can’t beat it.
Mrs Gregg’s Baked Beans
This recipe was passed to me by my grandmother Betty, but she got it from Mike Greg’s mom who according to grandma made it as a meal when they were all poor. It is absolutely best 1-2 days old and I like it cold but it warms up just fine for those who like their beans hot.
- Four 16oz cans of regular pork and beans (I like Campbell but dealers choice)
- 1-1/2 cups of brown sugar
- 2 TBL Mustard
- 1 cup ketchup
- 8-10 slices of bacon
- Onion Salt
- Place beans in a large pot
- Add brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup and mix
- In a large pan cook bacon cut into quarters. DO NOT cook until crisp.
- Pour bacon and grease into bean pot and stir well
- Sprinkle lightly with onion salt
- Heat beans slowly to boiling; reduce to a simmer and simmer for 1-2 hours stirring occasionally; taste and add more onion salt if needed
- Let sit overnight on the stove
- Refrigerate the next morning
- Heat and serve or serve cold at your next group function.
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