Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Day 9: M2M: Making our Marks!

Started the day in another Presidential award winning KOA in Middlebury IN near the Shipshewana Amish lands and their trade fair. Guess who didn't get to go?

No, today we had goal: the Maker's Mark Distillery south of Bardstown KY. The last tour is at 3:30 and we got there at 3. No lie. At the conclusion of the tour, you may buy small bottles and "make your mark" by dipping the bottle in red "wax." Not that we did that.

Not much.

Embassy Suites tomorrow night and then home. Photos to come and wrap up remarks.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Day 8: M2M: Good-bye to Michigan

Today, I must have been in charge because we got to go antiquing in Traverse City while the guys checked out a golf course and the resort town of Elk Rapids. I found a few goodies , including one special mah-jongg item. I also took a photo of the snow depth in 1996-7, which will tell all why, lovely as it is in the summer, we do not live in Michigan.

The on-the-road quest has been for fabled Michigan tomatoes. We have stopped at several roadside stands in search of such and have come up empty handed each time. Finally, we struck gold and have two plastic bags full from an Amish farmer.

We have a new side trip, destination the Maker's Mark distillery near Bardstown, KY. Tomorrow we hope to traverse the length of Indiana as we are near Elkhart tonight, and make it in time for the final tour.

ETA home is Thursday, early afternoon. We've already racked up over 2000 miles and have made a hobby of viewing all the RVs in the campground for the next adventure.

I plan to do a best-of at the end of the trip.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day 6/7: M2M: Michigan at its best

Didn't get to post yesterday because the WiFi at the St. Ignace MI KOA was so sloooow. I was fighting an uphill battle so today, you get two (yes, two!) adventures for the price of one. And I won't be as long-winded because of it.

Yesterday we drove from Munising to the Mackinac Island area. Got there before lunch and took the shuttle to the ferry dock. Gorgeous day with blue, blue skies. Arriving at Mackinac is a bit like finding oneself on Main Street USA of Disney World. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island so it's only bikes, feet, and horses. Also, it's very clean and crowded. We walked up to the Grand Hotel, where the entry fee to walk through the building and grounds is $12/person. We paid and went to the Cupola Bar for a grand view.

Worth the price of admission, and if I'm saying that, you know it was.

There are flowers enough everywhere to turn a July-Texan green with envy. All ours are dead and it is too beautiful for words in every flower box and on every street corner.

We played an 18-hole executive putting course and while the Golfer won, the rest of us tied respectfully at second place. Dinner and a trip back across the straits.

Today we took the scenic road to Traverse City. Out on Old Mission Peninsula, we visited several wineries and are bringing "samples" home.

Cooking brats from Missouri on the griddle and starting home tomorrow afternoon after we antique.

There--I'll be in charge again!

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Day 5: M2M: Fogged!

So we get to the first place we're going to sightsee, Munising MI and Pictured Rock National Lakeshore. Until an hour ago it has misted and been so foggy we couldn't see the lakeshore! We did plow on though and go to Miner's Falls (really nice) and then the Miner's Castle rock formation. What did me in was two of my traveling companions saying, "Oh, it's just a little mile trail to the lakeshore!"

Yeah, right. I'm sure it was a mile. It's the climbing over dead trees and roots and the 45 degree angle that had me fearing I'd coast down on my rear! Then we sloshed through deep sand in the fog to get a picture on the seashore, where we could see some water. And, yes, I do have pictures, but my camera is back in the RV and I'm at a wireless cafe.

Going back up was better. I'm more a climber than a slider.

Lunch, laundry, antique stores (hey--I must have been in charge!), then the fog lifted like a curtain and we're going on the 6:30 sunset cruise to see the Pictured Rocks. Which is what we came for in the first place.

Tomorrow we meander to the Mackinac area.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 4: M2M: Generate-ing

12 MORE things to do while waiting for the generator to be fixed in Escanaba, MI: (And no, I'm not kidding)

1. Be thankful for cell phones to call for advice.
2. Be thankful you just passed an RV service center.
3. Be thankful they'll actually look at it and try to fix it. (They do.)
4. Make that second cup of iced coffee because you couldn't enjoy the first worrying about why the generator was all of a sudden DEAD.
5. Start this list.
6. Do handwork.
7. Read.
8. Exchange horror stories with the gals in the service center who rent their vehicles.
9. Run down the cell phone battery calling the rental company and the next RV reservation site.
10. Contemplate exchanging this RV out for another and putting on the rental agency's credit card.
11. Be glad it's turned cooler and you don't really need that generator for a/c until you start home on Tuesday.
12. Smile and wave to the mechanic as you slowly pull away.

It was a bad generator ground wire.

PS: We're in Munising, MI, and no, I haven't been in charge yet!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 3: M2M: A Tire-ing experience

Fifteen things to do in a Springfield IL Starbucks for 2 hours while waiting for new front tires:

1. Dry and curl hair
2. Split coffee cake
3. Tell everyone else's funny (to you) honeymoon stories. Wonder that some of these didn't doom marriage from start.
4. Watch grandparents and 3 kids at next table. Wonder if this is your future.
5. Tell your dad's war stories. Wonder that he survived.
6. Walk to Walgreen's.
7. On to Super K-Mart.
8. Lament that there are no antique malls within walking distance when you could go guilt-free. (Not that guilt will stop me.)
9. Solve the problem of cup holders on the dining table by buying a shower caddy.
10. Get a USA Today at McDonald's.
11. Back to Starbucks.
12. Buy water. What do they think this is--coffee?
13. Read the paper.
14. Read the book you (thankfully) brought with you.
15. Stand in front of McDonald's and be picked up by two guys in a rented RV.

On to the middle of Wisconsin to a family-owned RV park amid the pine trees. WiFi in the lobby. Spouse cooking chicken on the griddle. Travel companions doing laundry.

I sense an early night.

Spotted eight more state licenses and 2 Canadian provinces.

And... it's hot.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Day 2: M2M: The Wine Tour

Seven Missouri wineries later, we are winding down! Saw some lovely countryside, but only added 5 states to our license plate collection plus two Canadian provinces. I found that a bit amazing considering the number of winery parking lots we were in.

We cooked breakfast today, omelets, bacon and toast. Very good. Traveling down the road we passed antique mall after antique mall after antique mall. Operative word here is passed. I smell a girls' trip to the innards of Missouri.

Gas prices are $2.69/gallon. No lie. And when one has a 60 gallon tank, that is very important.

This KOA, West St. Louis, is also nice, but very different from last night. Only 4 showers per gender and the laundry doesn't open until 8 in the morning! We plan to be well on the road by then. Yogurt and cereal for us when we have a lot of ground to cover to get to central Wisconsin. (I've never been to Wisconsin, but once we do, I'll only have three states left to visit: Oregon, North Dakota, and Minnesota.)

Taking photos when place is considered photo-worthy, such as Oak Glenn Winery in Hermann. Whole town worth a second trip.

Don't know about Wi-Fi over the next three nights, but I'll try.

PS: Soon it'll be my day to be in charge. You'll know it is when we go to used book stores and antique malls.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Day 1: Moseying to Michigan

Ah, sitting in the RV at the Springfield MO KOA doing email and blogging. I think times have changed camping.

Today, we started at 8 with a photo in front of the RV, pulled out of the driveway and started our adventure. An hour or two down the road, the important question became: where's the gas tank. No one seemed to know, but a stop at the first gas station found it. ( Whew!) Then we learned we had to turn on the water pump before we used the toilet. Doing handwork I realized it's really, really hard to thread a needle bumping down the road and the roads in Oklahoma are very bumpy.

We started the license plate game and found 18 states, Ontario, and the Army-Air Force Exchange Service. Who knew?

Sandwiches for lunch, a stop at Precious Moments in Carthage, MO (verrrry interesting), dinner out (didn't want to push the cook-out issue), and we're at the KOA. Very nice and quiet except the trains every hour and the proximity to the airport. A couple of bottles of wine, the coffee pot set up for the morning, and the beds made.

Day one, over and out.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day .5: Moseying to Michigan

We named all of our RV trips: North to New Jersey, Rockin' West, Mission: Maine. So Moseying to Michigan will do until the minds I'm traveling with figure out what I've done and change it for me.

Yesterday, we picked up the rental. All I have to say is this: four ah-retentive adults combing over an RV for all its faults, videoing everything including the instructions on how to use it, and I'm surprised we made it out of the parking lot. The man in charge was more than glad to see us go.

Now that we've moved in and looked around, I am quite impressed. It's a 31' Class C, which means two of us sleep over the cab. That's fine and we'll trade for the back bed halfway through. Either we're underpacked or there is way more room than there was in our 23' Shasta from 20 years ago. The a/c has been running since last night and it is much cooler than the house. We were tempted to stay!

The one bug is the TV. Color though it is, it is playiing in black and white. There's a new VCR/DVD for our use which is very nice but it's still doing b/w. I'll report it in the morning. I thought it might be a cable problem, but even rearranging ins and outs didn't solve it.

So we'll be back to the 50s. I'll have to think of it as film noir.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007


In the early 1980's we had the opportunity to buy a used Shasta motor home. At 23' long, it sat on a Chevy chassis and drove like an oversized van. A tiny kitchen, a tinier bathroom, a back seat that made into a bed and a bed above the cab were the essentials. We took our sons, ages 4 and 6 at the time, on America-crossing vacations every summer until we sold it in 1988.

We started with a small adventure to S Padre Island. Our first night at a KOA in Austin had us buying plugs and hoses from the office because we didn't have the right things. The second night found us doing a bit better near Corpus Christi and after the third night we were in a condo with friends. Whew!

An inauspicious start to be sure. After that though, we got into this and over the next 4 years racked up miles to Disney World, Washington DC, the Amish Country, Maine, Hot Springs, Arkansas multiple times, the Grand Canyon. On two of these trips we traveled with friends in their borrowed RV and the stories there could fill more than one blog post.

It was fun, those trips. The spouse learned all about generators and overhauling them, sewer lines and dump stations. I learned not to cook inside and to cool everything down before it goes in the fridge, which is a bit of an oxymoron, but was a fact of our RV-life. If the a/c worked for the entire time we were gone, we chalked it up as a miracle.

We had our last trip in it in 1987, spending our 15th wedding anniversary eating sandwiches at Niagara Falls and noting that given a multiple choice question on our wedding day, this choice of anniversary celebration would have been our last. (We have since celebrated in higher style, but this is the one I remember vividly.)

We hated to sell it in 1988, but the trip for the summer was not going to be RV-friendly (a conference at Estes Park YMCA of the Rockies) and then, because we were nearly there, a trip on to Yellowstone. We waved good-bye as a young family with a son about 7 picked it up and drove it away. Occasionally, we'd think we'd see it and quirk a smile.

Now, twenty years later, we're going to embark again on an RV adventure. This time, we're renting a 31' with friends and heading to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I hope to blog along the way since campgrounds now advertise they have WiFi. We'll see.

Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

By dawn's early light

I am an early riser. Whether from inborn inclination or the fact that my mother made us get up early so we'd be on time either for school or to work at my dad's store, I don't know. I've done it for so long that rising after 7 is anathema to me. At that point, half the day is gone, or so it seems.

So I love summer when the dawn is early, like me. I love it when the night doesn't fall until I really want to go to bed. I remember watching Silence of the Lambs in a hotel room in Seattle one June. We'd got the kids to sleep finally ("but it's still light!") and settled in for the movie. Good thing it was light when we started it or I might have chickened out.

Later, in Anchorage over the summer solstice, we arrived at the bed and breakfast at 10:30 pm. The sun hadn't even set. What kind of heaven was this? We went straight to bed, only to awaken to gray skies. How unusual--we'd slept all night the first night of a trip. Uh, no. Read the clock: 2:30. The hostess told us the next morning that some guests would drag the mattress into the large walk-in closet for the first night so it would be dark enough to sleep. We adjusted, but I never lost my sense of wonder.

So between daylight savings time giving me more light in the evening and Nature doing the rest in the morning, I've been quite happy. I rise at 5:45, feed the inside cats, put the coffee on (notice the order in which things are done), and then feed the outside cat. Said cat has picked up a few hangers-on, so the patio has looked more like a lounge than anything else a few times. But it's been light and I've been able to count the whiskers and tails.

Alas, that is ending. Near 6 in the morning now, post-solstice, is creeping to dark again. Hmmm...

In my corner though is good news. I don't lose daylight savings time this year until November and then, while I lose my night hour, I'll get my dawn light back again.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Age check!

Besides the fact that I'm excited about the new season of Meerkat Manor due August 10 (it was, after all, the subject of my first blogs), I've found that I can be out of my element in more ways than one.

This past week I attended the national conference of the Romance Writers of America. It took place in Dallas and therefore was a mere trip down the highway for me. I parked my car at son 1's house rather than pay the $18 per diem at the hotel, and promised to buy dinner for the sons and spouses Thursday/Friday night.

Thursday night I dined with son 2. There are three tapas bars in his neighborhood and since they'd tried two of them, it was deemed appropriate to try the third on my dime. This was fine with me as I'd never been to such and felt I needed a guide for the experience anyway. We ordered a pitcher of sangrias and 6 appetizer portions ranging from salad to cheese to seafood to meatballs to an omelet. Dessert was an apple tart. While I enjoyed them all, I'd take a big plate of the shrimp/crabcakes any day. Yum!

But the interesting part was the crowd. The bar was doing a brisk afterwork business consisting mainly of lovely young women in their late 20s and early 30s, with a few men thrown in. The tables were occupied by couples (no one at the bar was interested in eating) or groups of single women. I took a break from scarfing the crabcakes to have a look around. Hmmm... I was greatly outnumbered.

In fact, had it not been for the white-haired couple sitting to our left, I would have been the oldest female there! Outside of a library children's program, I don't think that had happened to me before. Eek! And not only was I second oldest, I was second oldest by a generation.

Oh my. Age check!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

The business card

I'll be attending the Romance Writers of America national meeting next week. It's being held in Dallas, for the third time since I joined RWA in the fall of 1995.

In July 1996, knowing absolutely nothing about all this, I bravely printed business cards and jumped into the fray. I'd written 3 books and thought I was on the verge of stardom if I could find a right-minded agent/editor. Things don't always pan out the way we plan. I'm no longer innocent of the ways of RWA and conferences, I've written 11 books and found a right-minded editor at eWings Press. Stardom still eludes me and I'm a bit jaded. However, I've once again printed business cards.

Looking at them, I was struck by the differences from 11 years ago. Beyond the obvious of a different email address, I had printed on the back of the originals synopses of my three novels. I wonder if anyone ever turned them over and read them! I have a website now, a blog, and a publisher. I won the 2003 HOLT Medallion for Short Contemporary Romance. Considering I entered A SUITE DEAL, an ebook at the time, on comb-bound self-printed paper, I've always considered this a major accomplishment. I won against three Harlequin Temptations and one Silhouette Desire. I'm proud of it and it's on the card!

I always print more than I need, so this year I've stuck with 20. I imagine I'll come home with half of them, but I'll at least be prepared should the verge of stardom present itself.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Love forever

Wonderful story:

A friend was getting a pedicure and multi-tasking at the same time by reading a romance novel in order to finish it and pass it on. The pedicurist was young, Viet Namese, and anxious to talk. Trying not to seem rude but at the same time keep up both the conversation and the reading, my friend asked her what she liked to read.

She didn't understand the first answer. But the second, the second was "love forever."

Romance. The international language.


Monday, July 02, 2007

Homemade ice cream: need I say more?

I was mulling over several ideas for today's blog--why Monday newspapers are a waste of newsprint, why after having a week of air conditioning, we turned it off and still have not turned it back on and it's July!--when an email-pal in Connecticut (hi, Bob!) asked if we had an ice cream maker.

Bingo--blog subject!

Homemade ice cream is not only a summer tradition but a Southern one. My family had never bothered with the ritual--I'm sure my mother thought it would be too much trouble--but I always managed to find the front of the line for it at church and neighborhood gatherings. So I was delighted to be joining a family where homemade, hand-cranked ice cream was a normal way of doing things.

In fact, making homemade ice cream became part of our courting ritual. I would sit atop a pile of bath towels on the bucket and my future spouse would turn the crank. It came as little surprise to us to be given a hand-crank for a wedding gift. It was hardly a luxury, it was a necessity!

We were the only ones in our circle of newlywed friends to have been so gifted. So on weekend nights, someone would declare charades for entertainment and we would all contribute. Eggs would show up, a gallon of milk, ice. If someone's mother had brought fresh peaches from home, we added those. The 6-quarts of ice cream would disappear.

Upstairs from us lived a Japanese couple in the States for him to complete a Fellowship, I think in cardiology. We invited them to supper, made hamburgers and ice cream. The next day they shipped a maker home to Tokyo. Our cultural awareness with them (and we still exchange Christmas cards and letters over 30 years later) extended to a wonderful dinner of tempura shrimp in their apartment. Her English was extremely limited, but we were having a go of it, when a heated discussion broke out among them. (We had already survived the mashed potatoes/rice talk. She served potatoes thinking we wouldn't like rice. My husband was delighted to have the potatoes because all I served was rice.) Just as we were beginning to feel a bit awkward and wondering if a polite, but hasty, retreat back downstairs was in order, she got up and went to the cupboard. She returned with another plate of shrimp. We finally pieced enough of the story together: she had not felt the second plate worthy of being served to guests (they looked great and tasted better to us but didn't meet her standards), and he was thinking they had not set a bountiful enough table. I don't know if we had homemade ice cream or not for dessert.

Along the way, our first ice cream maker gave up the ghost and we had a second. A third. All hand-crank. Eventually, we decided that the hand-crank, oak buckets were not substantially better to merit their very expensive price and we went to plastic bucket and electric. The hard part seems to be to find a 6-qt. appliance which fits our 6-qt. recipe. We regularly give them as wedding gifts.

We stick to our old recipe. Our main bone of contention is rock salt to ice ratio. Every family must come to their own decision on that. Read the directions and go from there.

I'll give the recipe here. I don't know the origin and in the family there seems to be some discussion as to whose it is. The eggs are not cooked, so if that is a problem, stop reading now.

Vanilla Ice Cream (add fruit if you wish)

6 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1-2 T vanilla (we use Mexican)
Milk (whole preferred, but 2% works)
Lots of ice and rock salt

Beat the eggs and sugar. Shake the cream in its carton and add with the vanilla. Pour a little milk into the custard and mix well. Pour all into a cold ice cream can. Add the dasher and continue with milk to the fill line. Freeze.

Notes: COLD ice cream can freezes faster and if you can make up the cream base early in the day and put it in the fridge, it does better too.

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