Monday, November 26, 2018

To buy or not to buy

I’m thinking about buying a 3-quart Instant Pot for cooking in our motor-home. After spending too many hours reading reviews (I usually start by reading the one- and two-star reviews and then move up to the higher ones if it still seems like the product might be worth it) I’m starting to think I am over-thinking this!

Of course, I don’t want to waste money or throw away food if it ruins something. But my time and energy are worth something too. It is draining to spend this much effort and time considering all the options. Shopping on-line means I don’t have to spend hours driving all over town, but how much have I gained if instead I spend twice as long on the computer reading all the reviews?

One gain, if you can call it that, is that I’ve learned that there seems to be an endless variety of one-pot cookers out there—even ones that look like little ice chests. I was particular interested in a couple of Crock Pot brand cookers I discovered during my researching instant pots. One is a 2.5-quart Crock Pot slow cooker that looks like a pretty oval casserole dish. Another is a slow cooker that has a metal pot that allows sautéing first before slow cooking. It also can be used as an extra oven.

It struck me this morning how ironic it is that I, who am trying-to-overcome-perfectionism, am driving myself nuts trying to make the perfect choice about which cooker to get.

What am I afraid of? Wasting money for one thing. Maybe one way to help battle that fear is to buy all three at once, there by “wasting” all the money right off the bat.

I’m also afraid that it will just be another big thing making more clutter and that I won’t use it enough to make it worth it. So, buying all three at once and increasing the clutter even more will certainly confront that fear too!

I am also afraid that it will make cooking more challenging and frustrating. After all, I have gotten along all these years without it and I know how to cook fairly well with the simple equipment I already have. Why mess up a good thing? Of course, cooking in our motor home is already more challenging than cooking at home so maybe one of these tools would really make life on the road easier with just a little effort to learn some “new tricks.”

And true confessions: Since all cooking lately feels like a frustrating waste of time maybe trying one or all of these devices will stir up a sense of adventure or will at least help me appreciate and even enjoy regular cooking with my simple methods again.

So what will I do? I don’t know. We'll see…

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Vacation Part 2 - Caprock Canyon

It didn’t take very long for me to readjust to being back in our regular sized house after our vacation in the motor home. It is still just as big and crowded with things as it was when I wrote the last post but I was quickly reminded how helpful some of those things really are.

One of the large things I especially appreciate in our house is the oven. Not only does it hold more but it also gives more predictable results. And being electric It doesn’t have a pilot light. Which means no painful contortions on the floor every time we want to use it like the motor home oven requires. Maybe we can upgrade the one in the motor-home some time. It is 20 years old. There must be easier ones to operate by now.

So, what did we do on our vacation?

I’m glad you asked.

We camped at two state parks in the Texas Panhandle. The first weekend we stayed at Copper Breaks State Park (I hope to write more about that another time). Then we spent a week at Caprock Canyon State Park. Then we went back to Copper Breaks for the last few days.

It was, in many ways, the best trip we’ve had so far in our RV. Once we got out of the Dallas Fort Worth area the road was really good. We were on TX 287 most of the way. It has two lanes each way that are mostly nice and wide. There were only a few “nail-biter” road construction zones where they narrowed the road down to just a few feet wider than our motor-home with cement barriers on either side. John did a good job threading the needle. And by some miracle I did a good job not being too anxious. Even John noticed and commented that I seemed much less nervous over-all on the trip there. I unfortunately made up for it on our return trip—[see last post.]

The scenery at Caprock Canyon State Park is stunning! It is an interesting mix of the huge spectacular and the tiny spectacular.

The canyon is the most obvious huge spectacle. And it is gorgeous! The colors are amazing. The photos can't really do it justice of course.

The other huge spectacle are the bison. Not gorgeous! But huge. We definitely saw more bison than we expected.

Then there is the tiny spectacular.

I love to photograph small things, especially wildflowers. I’m learning, the hard way, though, that with wildflowers I need to seize the moment. When I see one I want to photograph I should just stop and do it right then because invariably when I tell myself I’ll do it later something always happens to prevent it, and wildflowers, I'm slowly learning, don’t last forever .

We arrived on Monday afternoon. There was a trail along the canyon rim within walking distance from our RV site. We didn’t plan to go far. It was getting late in the day and we were tired from the trip there. We thought, “we’ll just go a little way along the canyon rim and then come back and make dinner and get settled for the night.” Thankfully we did at least take plenty of water. And we always have a few snacks in our backpacks. So, we set out.

We were excited when we saw some bison at the beginning of the walk. John said wasn’t it great that we saw them on the first day as he has heard that some people go their whole time and never see any. John got this photo with his camera. It has more zoom built into it than mine. We weren't as close as this looks!

We were also of course wowed by the gorgeous views of the canyon and took lots of photos.

As we walked along I started noticing some really pretty little wildflowers too--spectacular in their own way. There was one in the middle of the path that especially caught my eye. It was a lovely shade of orange in a tiny trumpet shape. I told myself that when we came back by there in a few minutes I would definitely get a picture. I saw another one on the side of the path a little further on, but still didn’t stop. I felt like I needed to keep going. I guess it was a misplaced sense of duty to not hold my husband back, and after all we were supposed to be getting exercise. I was sure we would be coming back that way in a little while anyway.

I did take this photo of John with some flowers and promised myself I would take close ups of some of them on our way back.

But I didn’t see any more of the cute little orange one that I had seen. After a little longer we decided to turn around and head back.

A few minutes on the way back, we rounded a bend in the trail and were surprised to see… bison. About three of them were grazing near the trail. We had been warned that we should not get closer than 50 yards to them. Since we were already closer than that, John didn’t think we should stand there and wait for them to move on. The bison didn’t seem to think we should either. One of them looked at us in a way that made me think he thought we were already outstaying our welcome. So we did what any normal (crazy?) tourist would do: got our cameras out and took pictures. Then we quickly went back the way we had just come. (the other two moved out of the photo just before this. It is amazing given their size how quickly they can disappear among the bushes.)

As we considered our options and examined the map it was clear that we had to keep going on the trail that went along the canyon rim and hope that we could find the next short cut back. We were worried though because we had already passed the first short cut back and hadn’t noticed it at the time. So we wondered if we might miss the second one too. We were hoping we wouldn't since the trail kept going for several miles beyond that with no other way back.

We kept checking the map and John’s GPS on his phone trying to figure out where we were on the trail. I could tell John was worried when I offered him a bite of my my gluten free snack bar and he declined because he said I might need it for breakfast too.

After what seemed a long time and a lot of checking of the GPS and trail map we finally found what we assumed was the short cut back. There was no signs or arrows that I can remember, but there were two white metal poles and what looked vaguely like a trail heading back through them in the right direction. So we followed it with great relief and rejoicing.

We made it back much quicker than we had come since the short cut didn’t follow the canyon rim. And thankfully no more bison got in our way! I noticed that although John expressed delight over our good luck seeing bison on our first day the first time we saw them, he didn't seem quite so pleased the second time by our doubly "good fortune" to see them two times on the first day!

We also didn’t see anymore of the cute little orange flowers I wanted to photograph.

Several days later we went back on the same trail in hopes of finding them again but there was no sign of them. I did get several other flower photos, but not that one. Like Isaiah said grass withers, and flowers fade. Here are some I did find to photograph:

There were other small spectacles. Even the ant mounds were spectacular. They seemed to be inspired by the gorgeous canyons:

The winners of the cuteness award of course has to go to the prairie dogs:

i noticed one day when i sat a ways away from them that when prairie dogs are not frightened from humans being nearby they are not nearly as interesting to watch. They just quietly eat grass like rabbits or miniature cows.

Amazingly the prairie dogs didn't seem fazed by the bison. My friend Susan said that ranchers hate prairie dogs because cows frequently break their legs when they accidentally step in their holes. But bison don't seem to have that trouble. I guess bison are smarter than cows.
We also enjoyed seeing quite a few Monarch butterflies. They were coming through Texas on their Fall migration to Mexico. We didn't see large numbers like some towns in Texas get but we really enjoyed the ones we did see. Someone has described their flying as floating. There is something majestic about it.:

The butterfly on the left in this photo is the monarch. I don't know what the other one is called.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Home sweet home? Vacation Part 1

We got back from our vacation last night around 9:00 p.m.

We had a great time! One of our best RV trips yet.

We were hoping to be home much earlier in day. In fact we were all ready to leave for home at around 9:00 a.m., but had some mechanical problems and didn’t get on the way until around 2:30 p.m.!

I am thankful to be home safely! We were mostly on TX 287 from the Texas Panhandle into Fort Worth. That part was really good, especially compared to previous trips. The John Denver song "Country Roads" kept coming to mind. But once we got into the DFW metroplex things went downhill from there. I am so tired of living in the big city with its frenzied freeways and crazy drivers careening around us like we’re standing still--they no doubt think we are. The speed limits keep rising and everyone still seems to drive at least 10 miles over the speed limit no matter how high they go. The perpetual road construction projects confound and confuse our gps’s and are starting to feel like a form of domestic terrorism meant to increase everyone’s stress levels. I was literally in tears part of the time. After watching the news this morning, though, and learning about all the wrecks and traffic fatalities on the road this morning during the morning commute, I see how “easy” we had it last night and I am doubly thankful we made it home alive and in one piece.

Normally I am glad to be back in our regular house when we come home. But this time the house feels too big and too full of stuff. Making my early morning cup of tea this morning I was overwhelmed and repelled by all the choices. In the motor home I have one mug and two boxes of tea. One mug can be a nuisance if it’s dirty, I admit, but here there are a dozen mugs (not counting tea cups) and at least ten boxes of tea. True confessions: one of the boxes of tea in the motor home has a collection of several kinds of tea bags taken from my ten boxes here at home. The other box is because there was another kind I wanted from the grocery store while we were away. Maybe if we lived full time in the RV I would learn to be happy with just one or two kinds. It would be worth trying!

John said that if I feel like that after two weeks of living in a motor home then I must really be ready to downsize into a smaller house! He on the other hand is glad to be back in our regular sized house.

Well that’s a pickle. I guess that means we aren’t quite ready to move into that smaller house. One thing for sure though is I want to keep working on downsizing our stuff and get even more ruthless about what comes through the door. Getting rid of things is much harder than getting them in the first place. It also seems harder than doing without.

Maybe by the time I get us really de-cluttered we will both be ready to move. At least I might be happier to stay in the meantime.

I have gotten rid of an enormous amount of stuff over the years. So why is there still so much too much?

Before he left for work today John told me not to worry about all the stuff. That’s easy for him to say. Clutter and mess never bother him.

One nice thing about being back, though, is more alone time. Both while he is at work and even when we are both home. We can be in different parts of the house and not bother each other. RV living fosters togetherness all the time whether you want it or not.

I'm sorry this post is mostly complaining! I hope to write about our trip and post pictures soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Downsizing my fears

I’m doing some more downsizing. This time I’m downsizing my trunk load of fears. Some of them have weighed me down for years.

One of the biggest that I threw away a few days ago is the fear of losing my salvation. (Yes, you read that right. And no, I’m not interested in any theological debates.)

That was a big deal in most of the churches I grew up in. One pastor in particular seemed to preach it all the time. And even those that don’t openly preach about it may have it as a foundational starting point. I’ve noticed something about a lot of preachers. They generally aim their sermons at the hard-headed members of their congregation. They don’t seem to realize that even if they don't make a dent in these impervious ones, those of us that are overly sensitive and conscientious might be drowning in fear and condemnation by the end. Thankfully, as I am learning more about grace, I am getting less overly sensitive!

I read recently that experts say that anxiety is the foundation for all other psychopathologies. That means it makes me crazy! Or as a much older book says, "fear involves torment."*

I’m sick of being bullied by fear. It’s not from God. God does not give me a spirit of fear. He gives me a spirit of adoption! **

*Jasmin Lee Cori in "The Emotionally Absent Mother"; 1 John 4:18
** 1 Timothy 1:7 and Romans 8:15

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Strong for my tasks

Feel stressed because I again/still/always have more things to do than time and energy to do them with.

A few minutes ago, I was stressed because I couldn’t find my to-do list journal! Then when I found it, my joy was cut short when I opened it and was reminded of even more things that needed doing that I had forgotten about.

I am also stressed because the thing that I wrote recently, that I thought I might post today, now seems too bitter and I am concerned it will be dishonoring to someone. So maybe I will re-work it or set it aside for now.

Getting things done, as always, seems to be one of my biggest challenges. I do get some things done but there is always a long backlog of things that never make it all the way to the top of the list. Or if they do they sometimes get submerged again under a large weight of procrastination. What is behind that? Dread comes to mind. Why dread? Is it because I am being too perfectionistic?

Often when I want to do something there always seems to be another thing that seems more important so I second guess myself and don’t let myself do the thing I feel motivated to do right then.

Just before I started writing this I felt motivated to make a phone call that I have been putting off. But since I hadn’t written yet today and I was aware of all the other things that are coming up later in the day I thought I should wait on the phone call and write instead or I never would.

I could look at this as either being true to myself and not letting myself get side-tracked by lesser tasks. Or I could look at it as letting legalism about writing every day hold me back from getting things done when I have the time and energy to do them. But I know that writing energizes me in the long run, even when it seems to be taking time and energy in the short run.*

It’s a lot like exercise. Which is another thing I am trying to be more consistent in. I used to be very consistent and it did mostly give me strength and energy. But for various reasons I have gotten slack and I can tell I am losing muscle mass, another way of saying getting flabby. Experts say we start losing muscle mass after a certain age. I don’t remember whether it is 40 or 50 but since I am past both of those I know I am in that zone. So, it is even more important I don’t keep slacking off. I can also tell I am not as strong as I want to be. I want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman who’s “arms are strong for her task.”

* (In case you are wondering, I chose the first one. That way i can celebrate being true to myself! The second one just leads to condemnation, and discouragement. After all, that phone call can wait-again!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Mineral Wells Part 2 - Like twin fawns...

On Sunday most of the other campers began clearing out. And the deer started coming closer. I got these shots with my cell phone on my way back from the camp restroom. After the first few crossed the road I thought I would be clever and take a video since I could see that more were coming. Later when i looked at the video I discovered that i must have pushed the buttons in the wrong order and ended up just getting a topsy turvy video of my shoes and the road! Meanwhile while i was trying to work the camera I missed seeing how many deer really did crossed the road in front of me!

Over the next couple of days we saw quite a few more. John got several good shots with his camera. (My camera didn't get much use this trip as it was so rainy I didn't want to take it out much.)

They even came to the sites across from us after those people left. The first time the deer came John went out with his camera. But they didn't like that and went away again. I told him not to take photos of the ones near us anymore because i wanted to be able to enjoy watching them from inside the motor home.

We even saw a set of twins. I thought we had a photo, but I guess that was after i decided i would just enjoy them and not take any more photos.

Seeing the twins reminded me of a verse from Song of Songs when the Bridegroom expresses his delight in his bride and compares her to "twin fawns of a gazelle*" I thought, my Heavenly Bridegroom takes delight in me, his bride, like I delight in seeing cute baby deer. It is hard to imagine that God thinks of me like that when he sees all my faults, but I'm part of his creation too just like the deer.

I wonder if she thought she was hiding behind the tree?

My favorite of John's deer pictures

I somehow went out for a hike without a hair band. But John came to my rescue with this luggage tag he had in his back pack. If you zoom in you can see it says, "Pack for adventure, take off with savings."

Most of the trails were closed due to heavy rains throughout the weekend. But there were a couple next to the lake that we enjoyed.

The lake wasn't harmed by all the rain! :-) We went canoeing three times.

There were a lot of snags to watch out for. The birds make good use of them.

This bird isn't walking on the water and it wasn't that shallow there so it is probably on one of the submerged snags. Our canoe did hit one once but we were going so slowly it didn't hurt it. It is an inflatable canoe so I was very watchful and a little worried but John assured me it was tough enough to handle a gentle bump as long as the object we hit wasn't too sharp.

There were other birds besides cranes! but they show up so well and hold so still that we took more photos of them.

Home sweet home away from home. One time when we were coming back to shore a couple of raccoons dashed across the opening in the reeds in front of us. As we pulled up closer to shore we saw another one about to come out so we waited and it finally got up the courage and also ran across to join its family. Then I noticed two more had crept up and were timidly peering out from the reeds. They didn't seem as brave, so we thought we would help and backed our canoe away to give them more room. But as soon as we started moving backwards they did too and dashed back the way they had come! Sigh. So much for helping! 
A few minutes after arriving back from our long canoe trip Monday morning it began to rain. It rained all afternoon. Our site being next to the lake tended to get a river running through it whenever there was a lot of rain. And there was a lot. It rained in Dallas too. Our rain gauge at home showed we got six inches.

A shot from under our awning of the rain coming down.

A good rainy day project! John finished this puzzle while I read to him from Dickens' "Pickwick Papers." 

* Song of Songs 7:3

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Mineral Wells trip part 1

I wrote this right after arriving at Mineral Wells State Park a couple of weeks ago. I thought it wasn't ready to publish but just now when I re-read it it seemed fine to me. There aren't any pictures with it. But I'll try to post those soon. Most of them are on my husband's camera which I think he has with him at work. If I post this it will be a reminder to him to give me the camera tomorrow so i can download them, hint hint :-).

8/10/18 3:38 p.m. – Mineral Wells State Park, Space 64

We arrived a couple of hours ago. It’s still cloudy. But you wouldn’t guess by looking that we went through torrential rain to get here. I even wondered for a while if we might need to stop somewhere along the way and wait for it to ease off. Or if we would just have to turn around and go home.

More rain is expected throughout the weekend. I didn’t know when I reserved our place for this weekend that it might be the wettest weekend of the summer! I know we have been praying for rain. But I wasn’t feeling particularly thankful for the answer to our prayers on the way here.

The skies don’t look like they’ll be clear for star gazing. But the best night for the Perseid meteors is supposed to be Sunday night according to the lady at the office here. So that is still a couple of days away.

This park may not be in the list of top 8 places in Texas, (or was it 10) for star gazing, but that hasn’t stopped them. They seem to really know their stars and planets and are doing their best to encourage it. There is even a star party scheduled tonight, complete with telescopes, in the rv camping area near ours (Post Oak? We’re in the Plateau loop). It starts at 9:30. I want to try and do that.

Our site has lake access but not much lake view. There are a lot of cat tails blocking the view. But someone cleared a narrow passage through them. Unfortunately it looks like who or whatever it was also killed and demolished a large section of them in the process. But the access is just right for launching our canoe so that will be nice.

We do have quite a lot of trees around us. Some branches overhanging our roof too. Hopefully the possums or whatever wildlife lives around here won’t wake us up like at Joe Pool lake in June. Of course, we will want to wake up to see the meteors one or two nights. So if we can get them to jump on the roof at the right time that might be helpful.

An unusually brave and curious cardinal came to greet me just after we arrived. I’ve never had one come that close. He seemed remarkably unafraid. I wished I had my camera handy. But that might have scared him away. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy nature and not feel like I have to "capture" it.

I was reminded right after we arrived of another benefit of being here--an hour and a half away from home. I got a text from my neighbor E asking to borrow $20. She assured me she would pay me back when her dad is out of the hospital tomorrow. She has done that before, pay me back I mean. But I was thankful that I wasn’t there to have to wrestle with the decision of whether or not I should give it to her. It was nice to be able to say no and know that she could not argue or cajole.