Sunday, December 27, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Sunday, December 27, 2015 - Lots of Cooking Going On

We had a wonderful Christmas dinner.  Greg smoked these lobster tails, I added the broccoli-cashew salad, shrimp cocktail and the pumpkin pie in the background.  We touched base with my Mom and all of the kids and grandkids either by phone, Facebook or Facetime – isn’t technology wonderful?

We are going into the New Year somewhat lighter than we began 2015.  Although we indulge occasionally we have stuck very well to a low-calorie, low sodium diet since the first of September.  Greg is down 27 pounds and I am down 25.
The kitchen is quiet now, but it was pretty busy for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday.  I estimate that we spend six to eight hours a week cooking.  We usually divide that up over a couple of days and then the rest of the week we just reheat things.  I probably spend another four hours researching recipes, calculating calorie and sodium counts of the ones that sound interesting and then keeping track of everything we end up eating.  Since this is a life change not a diet for a little while I want to come up with things that make us feel like we are eating as close to “normal” as possible.  Tonight we enjoyed Teriyaki pork chops with sautéed peppers and onions and some pineapple-cashew rice.  The only sodium in this meal is what is naturally in the pork and it still tasted great.  Mrs. Dash’s Teriyaki marinade is wonderful.

This weekend we put together pickled eggs, barbeque sauce, salsa, breakfast burritos, baked hush puppies, freezer slaw, pickled onions, au gratin potatoes, sausage and bean soup, chicken noodle soup, pizza, and jumbo shrimp for cocktails.  I was finally able to put together a homemade sausage recipe that Greg really likes.  This one has been a struggle but Greg likes sausage so well and it is great to use for so many dishes it was worth it.  I used very lean pork and lots of spices (but no salt) and it really tastes pretty good.  With what we had left over from last week, we are set for some really good meals for the next week.  Knowing that we have something good to come home to helps us to keep from indulging in the good smelling food we serve at the grill.

Our weather is still pretty cool, I’m looking forward to some warmer weather in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Thursday, December 24, 2015 - Quiet Christmas Eve at Home

Hard to believe we have celebrated 8 Christmas Eves together.  This is the ornament we bought that first Christmas and its sentiment still stands.  I’ll admit that at the time we bought this ornament I had visions of huge family Christmas celebrations with all of the kids and spouses and grandkids with us all at the same time – lots of presents and lots of food.  Well, things didn’t turn out quite that way but the way it turned out is still extremely wonderful.
I read a quote the other day that said, “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise”.  I think for us that quote is true five times over.  All of our kids are such wonderful parents and are now themselves making their contributions to make this world a better place.  We are so proud and blessed to have all of them in our lives.  Although we aren’t all together in one place for Christmas we have spent wonderful times with them throughout the year.  And, of course they are always in our hearts and minds even if they aren’t here physically.

Our ornament for this year was purchased when we were in Bar Harbor, Maine earlier this year.  What a beautiful place.  What a blessing it is to be able to travel and to see so many of the wonders we have in this great nation.

We are doing our part to make Arizona “greener”.  If you are an avid gardener you have probably heard of the concept of “square foot gardening”.  That’s about what we have – one square foot.  The original concept was to make the most out of every square foot of garden you have.  I think we have done quite well, looking forward to fresh basil and cilantro.
The weather here today was very pleasant in the mid 60’s and sunny.  We walked to the grocery for a few things.  I’ve thawed out the lobster tails Greg is going to smoke for our Christmas dinner tomorrow.  Other than that my major accomplishment for today was figuring out how to put my Pinterest boards in alphabetical order (it really bothered me more than it should have that they were in a helter skelter order).  The fact that I know that normal people could probably care less whether or not they are in alpha order doesn’t keep me from wanting it that way.  Needless to say, I’m quite happy.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Saturday, December 19, 2015 - Christmas Party

The Cal-Am Resorts here in Mesa had a Christmas party for all of their food service workers this evening.  This was our splurge for the week, back to low calorie, low sodium tomorrow.  I was a little disappointed in the quality of the meal – prime rib was too well done, it was so tough I gave up on trying to eat it.  I enjoyed the shrimp and salad which probably wasn’t that much of a splurge but I had bacon and real salad dressing on it – yum.
One thing the caterers here do very well is baking – cakes and cookies are delicious.  I did go for a slice of cake with lemon filling.  Greg isn’t sure what kind of cake he had but said it was good J.
If you’ve been watching the weather channel you know that we are in the two to three weeks of “winter” weather we have here.  It has been in the mid 30’s at night and only into the high 50s, low 60s most days.  A few days it was warmer in Indiana than it was here.  We’ve been pretty slow at the grill since no one wants to sit outside and eat when it is so cold.  We are looking for business to really pick up after the first of the year when everyone gets back from visiting families during the holidays and the rest of the snowbirds make their way south.  Temperatures should be warmer then too.

Since it has been so cool we haven’t been out and about a lot on the motorcycle.  We did finally get our flu shots on Thursday.  We had tried twice at Walgreens without any luck.  We ended up going to Osco Drugs which is in the Albertson’s Grocery store we go to across the street.  They had an added bonus of 10% off on your grocery bill if you got a flu shot.

We are still going square dancing a couple of times a week.  Most of the steps are coming back to me now.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Saturday, December 5, 2015 - Christmas Decorations

It’s a little hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the temperature is in the mid 70’s but I’m not going to complain at all.  We bought this wreath last year and it has been in the “basement” since then.  I was surprised, I just had to fluff the bow and it was good to go again.  We decided the coach could wear these hats this year.  We tried to wear them one day last year while we worked – that didn’t work, too darned hot!
The little orange tree in front of our site got a few fake snowflakes.  We strung some icicle lights and snowflakes on the awning over the patio but I think travel has been a little rough on the lights, we need to make a run to Lowe’s for replacements since less than half are lighting up.

Most of our inside decorations are on this wall since we have room for the garland above this slide out.  All of the ornaments we have collected as part of our travels hang from the garland.  This worked out nicely since there isn’t any room for a tree to hang them on.

Those of you from Pendleton, Indiana might recognize the building in the picture, it is the elementary school that was torn down many years ago.

My Pinterest exploring does pan out sometimes with more than just recipes.  I saw this window decoration last year and had to recreate it.
Yes, we still have one of these.  I keep seeing on Facebook people asking “do you remember these?” – stop it, it is making me feel old J

The dashboard trays have some of our smaller decorations – the reason for the season, a mini nativity scene. 

These Precious Moments Christmas figurines are some the kids have given me over the years.

The Longenberger baskets ride on the shelf above the refrigerator all year long but they needed a little holiday touch.  This teddy bear that daughter Desira made for me also rides up here all year long but his red and green coloring works perfect for right now.

The kitchen angel keeps watch over everything.  She’s also up there all year long, I need all the help I can get.

We actually did our decorating yesterday but we went square dancing last night and I was too tired to write the blog.  We are having a great time getting to know new people and getting some exercise as a plus.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - November, 26, 2015 - Happy Thanksgiving


I know it’s a little non-traditional but we started off the morning by going square dancing.  Most people out here are retirees who aren’t cooking big celebration dinners so we had eight couples show up and had a good time.
We cooked our dinner to have at home so we could stick to our diet.  We were able to enjoy some of the Thanksgiving basics – smoked turkey, gravy, green beans, sweet potato and cranberry sauce in moderation.  We even had pumpkin pie after this, just a smaller portion J.
I have to admit I miss the green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes with lots of butter, stuffing and yeast rolls, but the scale is still going down and I don’t want to mess with a good thing.  It helps that we are doing this together so if one of us weakens the other one is there to pull us back.

The weather for Thanksgiving is 20 degrees cooler than last year out here.  We had a “cold” front come through and knocked out the 70-80 degree weather.  It got up into the 60’s today and is supposed to stay that way until next week sometime.  Maybe when the weather warms up again we can enjoy getting out on the bike more.  Right now we go out for what is necessary and that is about it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Sunday, November 22, 2015 - Recipe Conversions to Low Sodium

The Crosley family recipe for apple dumplings is a fall favorite so I was anxious to see if I could make something similar that fit into our diet.  The final conversion came in at just 106 calories and 110 mg. sodium per serving.  I did so many substitutions I was afraid it might not taste anything like the original, but it really turned out good.  I reduced the salt and used no sodium baking powder and unsalted butter in the crust.  Spray butter replaced melted butter and brown sugar blend replaced brown sugar to coat the crust.  Unsalted butter, just a pinch of salt and Truvia artificial sweetener instead of sugar worked for the sauce.
Greg scored two more successes using the smoker.  Before we left Indiana we bought a package of the thin sliced ribeye steaks that were served at the State Fair.  Just a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash Steak Seasoning and they were amazing.  Today he smoked half a fresh turkey breast for our Thanksgiving meal, he did it without brining the turkey but it still came out nice and moist.

I’ve also made no sodium sausage patties, broccoli cashew salad, barbeque sauce and banana oatmeal muffins this weekend.  Greg is happy with the sausage patties, the broccoli cashew salad is great and the barbeque sauce we have been using since the beginning when we found no salt added ketchup.  I should have stopped there because the muffins were kind of a waste of time – ok but not great by any means.

I know most of you could care less about low sodium food so I might be boring you.  But we get really excited when we find something like low-sodium sourdough bread at Safeway.  We had garlic bread!!  I’m not taking the time to write out our low sodium recipes on the blog, but if you find yourself in need of any, let me know.  No matter how hard I try there is no way I can find to fit our favorite ham loaf into the diet.  Pumpkin pie is presenting another challenge, I like our desserts to come in at less than 200 calories, will have to continue working on that, might get there before Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Thursday, November 19, 2015 - Busy Day Off

The grill is open regular hours now so this week we worked the same shifts we worked last year – Monday thru Wednesday 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  We stopped by today after the lunch hour rush to say hi to one of our co-workers from last year.  Gary is working Thursday and Friday so we hadn’t had a chance to catch up with him before this.
This is where we put in a couple of miles during our four hour shifts as servers.  We have 50 tables now and they will be adding a few more when they get the patio extension done.

I made a trip to the library while Greg went to check for mail at the resort post office.  I had twelve books with me that I wanted to exchange when we got here.  It had been a while since we had been to a resort with a well-stocked library.

Our first smoker meal, tilapia filets, was absolutely fabulous.  I even managed a lower sodium mac and cheese to go with them.  All in all a very tasty meal.  As of this morning I am down just over 19 pounds and Greg is down over 21.  We set a goal of staying below 1500 mg. of sodium per day and on most days we don’t even come close to that.  We’ve been doing this for a little over two months and it has really become a life style I think we can be comfortable with for the long run.

We found a place to go square dancing that is just down the road at another Cal-Am resort.  On Thursday they have lessons from 10:00 a.m. to noon and then every Friday they have a dance from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Since we are working the first three days of the week, this fills out our requirement for daily exercise quite nicely.  We went for the first time today, I was amazed that I still remembered what I was supposed to be doing since it has been over a year since we danced – we had a really good time.

Later on this afternoon we made a trip to Sprouts Farm Market to pick up produce, some no-sodium salad dressing, low sodium Boar’s Head deli beef and to order a fresh turkey breast to smoke for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Saturday, November 14, 2015 - NASCAR Truck Race

We won tickets to the NASCAR Truck Race sponsored by Camping World.  It’s a night race but we got there midafternoon to watch qualifications for Sunday’s Cup Race.
Our seats were high enough that we could see most of the track.  We were between turns one and two just across from pit stall number 3.  We were in the shade most of the day, so all in all pretty perfect seats.

This place is full of RV’s.  I’m not sure how they get them packed in so tight.  I think you would want to plan to be the first one in your site and let everyone else fill in around you.

The ones that have the best seats are these, but these spots are outrageously expensive.

Note the people on top of the RV just left of center at the bottom.  These folks have a good view of turns one and two but unfortunately for them most of the action happened between turns three and four.

The few brave people who sat on Rattlesnake Hill after dark had a pretty good view of turns three and four.  I don’t think you could get me up there in broad daylight let alone after dark when you can’t see where you are stepping.

The Goodyear Blimp caught the action all day long.

When we got home Greg’s new toy, a meat smoker, was sitting on the patio.  Since we are on this low-sodium diet we have to try every trick we can to bring some flavor to our food without using salt.  Our son-in-law Michael smoked some low sodium pork shoulder for us before we left Indiana and it is so good.  We have one package left in the freezer.  I’m hoping we can do as well as Michael does.  Our first attempt is going to be smoked tilapia tomorrow.  We finally got the scale to budge again, hope it is a while before we hit another plateau.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - Veteran's Day Celebration

The resort put on a really nice presentation to thank all of the veterans who are residing here through the winter.  The raising of the American, POW-MIA, and Canadian flags was beautiful.  Many of the residents here are from Canada and they honor their veterans on the same day.

We have quite a group of veterans to be honored today.  Greg is in the front row, orange shirt.
This group of veterans was representing the Air Force.

When we got home from work yesterday a new vehicle had been delivered.  We are about a block from an Albertson’s Grocery Store and we just walk over to shop.  Last year if we were getting more than four or five bags of groceries we would “borrow” a cart and then return it.  We thought that someone might frown on that if we got caught so we decided to go straight this year and get a wagon we could pull back and forth.  This thing folds up pretty small so it won’t be a problem to store it when we leave here.  Greg was wondering how we would keep it from getting stolen while we were shopping.  I suggested we just pull it through the store.  When he stopped laughing he decided we could use a bicycle type lock to chain it to a post.  I still think we could pull it through the storeJ  If I do that he will be taking pictures (and probably acting like he doesn’t know me).

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Sunday, November 8, 2015 - Busy Day Off

Temperature was 83 degrees today with a light breeze – beautiful.  This is the view from our front window.  All of the trees are some kind of citrus tree.  It doesn’t seem that the trees have as much fruit on them this year.
Greg split his time between watching NASCAR on the TV and a live web feed of the North American Livestock Expo on the computer.  He was also doing laundry in between, you can see the last load on the floor in the bedroom, I wasn’t paying any attention to everything that was in my viewfinder or that would have disappeared J.

Grandkids Jackson and Braelynn were showing hogs at the Livestock Expo so we were trying to catch the classes they were showing in.  I was able to snap a shot of Jackson and one of his pigs but Braelynn was either out of the webcam frame or she whizzed by so quickly I couldn’t get a good picture of her.  Proud of both of them, they did a good job today.  Jackson got second in one of his classes and Braelynn came in fourth (she was happy because 4th place was a pink ribbon).

I spent the day cooking so we would have tasty low sodium, low calorie foods for next week.  We’ve been doing good for two months now.  Greg is down just over 15 pounds and I am down just over 14 pounds.  We are at a plateau right now so I have to be sure to have the right food ready to eat or it would be easy to slip up since we aren’t seeing the big results.  As I write the blog, Greg is doing the dishes cleaning up the mess of my cooking binge.  He thinks I dirty every bowl and pan we own on purpose. 

We worked Wednesday, Friday and Saturday last week to each get in our 12 hours.  This week we’ll be working Monday from 4-8 p.m. since there is music on the courtyard late.  On Tuesday and Wednesday we will be working from 2-6 p.m.  Hopefully, they will get things going full steam in the next week or so and we can start working the same hours we worked last year which were morning and early afternoon hours.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Tuesday, November 3, 2015 - Sodium Free Shopping

Looks like we might be in for some rain this evening.  Wouldn’t hurt to get a little, our orange tree needs water. 

We’ve decided that we aren’t prone to panic.  On Monday evening the Phoenix area was hit by three earthquakes.  Greg didn’t even feel it, I felt the coach move when the last one that was 4.0 hit – my reaction was “hmm, that was strange”.  The news reports said social media was filled with people wanting to know what was going on and the police and fire departments were fielding all kinds of calls.

I think that we are so used to our home having some movement that it just didn’t register as a big deal.  Also, since we aren’t anchored to the ground like a regular building what we felt would be somewhat milder, I think.

We found some new sodium free things to try at the Sprouts Farmers Market.  I’m amazed at the number of “gluten-free” things that are available.  I counted twelve different types of gluten free pizzas, but no low sodium ones.  I would think that the number of people who should be on low sodium diets would far outnumber the ones that need to be gluten free, but I guess I don’t have any facts to base that opinion on.

We were excited to find Boar’s Head no sodium deli meat.  One thing we have missed is being able to have a wrap and some soup for a quick lunch.  I know we need to count our soup into our liquid count for the day but I don’t think that should be a problem.

I’m getting ready to head up to the ballroom for a couple of hours of line dancing.  Thought I better finish the blog before that, I may not be up to it later J.  Ok, I didn't get done with the post before I had to leave.  I'm sitting here now after dancing for two hours - I'm going to hurt in the morning.  Got to get this done fast and head to a hot shower.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Arizona, Mesa - Sunday, November 1, 2015 - Gallop, NM to Mesa, AZ

Pulling into Val Vista Villages RV Resort early this afternoon.  It is 84 degrees here.  When we left Gallup, NM this morning it was 21 degrees with a wind chill to 13.  We were ready to get out of there by 7:00 a.m., a whole lot earlier than our usual time!!
This is our home for the winter.  Our address will be 233 N. Val Vista Drive, #796, Mesa, AZ 85213.  We are in a different site than we were last year.  This one was a breeze to get into, last year was a real fight.  We didn’t have a patio last year, this year we have a double one which will allow us room to park the motorcycle instead of leaving it sitting on the sidewalk out front.  Our times are going to be off kilter from the kids again – three hours difference from our daughters and two hours difference from our sons.  I think our tree is an orange tree.

Before we left Gallup completely we waited in line at the Blue Beacon to get the motor coach washed.  The dust we picked up in Kansas became splotchy dusty yuck when we came through some rain showers – we were a mess.

I read yesterday that this part of New Mexico has at least 100 trains per day going through. 

We left Gallup on Hwy 40, this is just one of the many different mountain formations we came across on this trip.

Mountains entering Arizona look completely different.

A little touch of color.  Not sure what kind of tree the yellow one is, they really stand out.

As we enter Arizona there is a whole lot of open land, every once in a while we would see a cow or two.

As we neared the Petrified Forest area we saw yet another type of mountain formation.  These are smaller versions of what you would see in the Petrified Forest.

I don’t know the name of this mountain in the distance, but the snow on top was pretty impressive.  This is as close to snow as I want to come J. 

We took Hwy. 40 into Winslow, AZ where we picked up Hwy. 87.

I closed my eyes after I took this picture.  I don’t care if it said the height was over 14 feet, it didn’t look like we would fit.

Not a lot happening on Hwy 87.  It did occur to me that if you had a problem, there was nowhere to pull off.

We are entering Coconino National Forest.  I was expecting trees in a forest.

Found the trees and lots of sharp curves!!

More curves….

I tried to not look over the edge when there wasn’t a guardrail.  It did occur to me that a little guardrail probably wouldn’t stop a motor coach bent on going over the edge.

Not only were there lots of sharp curves, there were lots of steep downgrades.


Even though it was a little tense at times, the mountain views were awesome.
This is really something you don’t want to see when you are driving in challenging situations.  You know this person doesn’t have experience driving this vehicle and has no idea how it might react, plus they are towing another vehicle.  I was glad we didn’t have to follow them for long.
We knew we were starting to get close to our destination when we started seeing the cactus.

I’m told that the Saguaro cactus doesn’t start to grow “branches” until it is at least 50 years old.  These are some beautiful specimens.

A couple more shots of the different mountain formations before we got into Mesa.