A little thing can be worth a big smile

It's funny, how easy it can sometimes be to connect with people we don't know. I bought a bottle of soda today and when I got int the car I discovered that I could not, for the life of me, get it open. Eventually I gave up, stopped at a gas station, and bought another one. The lady behind the counter was polite in a slightly distant way, and we didn't have much in common; she was a generation younger and a different race. But I was in that relaxed sort of mood that makes it easy to talk to strangers, so I told her that I had a perfectly good bottle of soda back in the car that I just could not get open. Immediately she laughed out loud and said "That happens to me too and it just drives me crazy!".  We shared a laugh and I left. The next place that I stopped, I said the same thing and got exactly the same result - the clerk instantly relaxed, gave me a big Cheshire Cat smile and "Oh, that happens to me too! Don't you just hate it?" We all have so much more in common that we think!  And that is a good thought to hold on to, as we start a new year.  

Three years ago:  Cold fishing in California

Kindle or Printed books?

Way back in April of 2012 Randy won a brand new Kindle, and I inherited his original one. That's how it usually goes in our family; Randy, who maintains a lively interest in new technology, gets a new version and I inherit the older one. Since, in spite of my 16 years as an IT manager I am not usually excited about new technology, this suits me fine; in fact, I often don't use my inherited toys. I never got much use out of the PDA way back when, and after experimenting with the Kindle a bit, I put it away.

But after over 4 years in the RV, I am still looking for ways to decrease the amount of stuff we carry around. My favorite books have never been on the list of things to get rid of, but that may change. I find that I don't read some because they are stuffed behind others, and the ones in front are getting torn from taking them in and out of tightly-packed shelves. So I am going to give the Kindle another try.  

It's going to take awhile before I agree it's a suitable substitute. Any time I have a few spare minutes, I love to pick up a book, flip it open to a random page, and start reading. I don't need to read from start to finish - in fact, I prefer not to. The first time I read a book I tend to skim read, so when I read snippets later, I get more out of it, and not reading it in order keeps it fresh.  I'm not saying it's the best way to read, but it makes me happy. Will a Kindle, with its front-to-back style, suffice? I don't know, but I am finally ready to give it a try.

Merry Christmas from Hilton Head Island

Another wonderful Christmas!  As we watch "A Christmas Story", we were reflecting on how much our view of Christmas has changed.  As kids, it seemed like Christmas would never, ever get here. Now it seems to show up in the blink of an eye! And it used to be easy to know what presents to buy; we got a tie for Dad and cookie sheets for Mom.  Seriously, we got her more cookie sheets than Tollhouse has.   

Now that we are adults, we are so blessed that it can be a challenge to find the right present; everyone we know has everything they want or need.  That is an amazingly wonderful situation to be in, except at Christmas.  

So the Christmas experience changes throughout our lives, and we start new traditions.  For example, the traditional Christmas breakfast in our household is smoked salmon on bagels with cream cheese, capers and red onions.  Randy smokes the salmon himself, and it is an amazing way to start the day!

So Merry Christmas to all!

One year ago: Skid Row Christmas in LA
Three years ago: California Christmas

Christmas decorations in an RV

Decorating an RV for Christmas takes a little imagination.  For starters, the space is really small and it's already filled with things we need.  Plus, traveling with pets adds another level of complexity.  What the dogs can't reach, the cat can, and all of them like to chew on things.  

In other years we would get a small tree with fiber-optic lights, then donate it to Goodwill after Christmas, which solved the after-Christmas storage problem nicely.  But this year we made some changes in the RV layout and I just couldn't decide where to put a tree that would be safe from the critters.  So we agreed to forgo a tree.  Then I saw something really pretty at Target - a small tree made from red curled wood.  I love the color, and it looks like it's made of flowers.  
It's small enough to fit on the table out of the dogs' reach, and Missy doesn't bother it because it's not as much fun to chew on as fake evergreen. Of course, we can't hang decorations on this so I strung garland across the top of the living room slide, and hung light-weight ornaments on that.

Looks Christmas-y enough for me! 

Three years ago: Pink Tornado

A Christmas party done right!

Aaron left last week, heading back to the cold Illinois winter.  For our last meal together in the Low Country we went back to the Oyster Factory Restaurant in Blufton to eat oysters and shrimp until we couldn't hold any more, then stopped at the Hilton Head Diner for cake.  I was so full of seafood that I could not even finish my chocolate cake, and when have I not been able to eat chocolate?

The winter here is colder than usual for Hilton Head, but that is pretty much "normal" for us.  In our first winter in Arizona, the locals talked about how unusually cold it was.  The summer we were in Nova Scotia, the locals talked about how unusually overcast it was.  We have come to expect to hear the phrase "it's never been this ____ before!"; fill in the blank with wet, rainy, cold, hot, humid - anything except what the area is known for!  But it doesn't really matter, where ever we are is a lot better than where we could be, and every adventure is different.

This weekend we went to the Staff Christmas party at Michael Anthony's Cucina Italiana.  My food pictures didn't turn out well, but I wasn't really paying much attention to photography - I was busy eating!  We started with a nice Antipasto tray, followed by a salad course.  I had greens with poached pears and candied walnuts, while Randy had Carpaccio di Manzo, which is thin-sliced raw beef with dressing.  He followed that with more beef - filet minion with a Sangiovese reduction and mushroom garnish. I was happy to find Gnocchi on the menu - I always love that.  For dessert Randy picked the sample platter, but I had the "Profiterole alla Chiccolata", which was a lot like chocolate lava cake - excellent!
In between the courses we had the White Elephant gift exchange.  Each White Elephant gift exchange has it's own rules; this time the rules were "only 2 steals during each person's turn".  So a gift could be stolen twice during my turn, but during the next person's turn it could be stolen again.  The bottle of Grey Goose when through several owners before ending up at Randy's place.  Me?  I walked off with a box full of chocolate!

One year ago: RV Remodeling
Three years ago: What the heck is Slab City?
Four years ago: Weird Cactus Things

Charleston, Beaufort and Firefly Vodka

Randy and Aaron have biked over 70 miles and Aaron has seen a bit of Savannah, so the next place to visit was Charleston.  On the way there, of course, we stopped to see the amazing Angel Oak on John's Island, which we first visited in August.
This time we noticed something unusual in the area - a little white squirrel!  A local artist said it had been there a few weeks.  Previously the only place we knew with white squirrels was Olney, Illinois.  This little guy has dark eyes so he's not an albino.  So we got to see one huge, gorgeous natural attraction plus one tiny, cute one - bonus!
Next stop:  Wadmalaw Island, and the small Firefly Distillery, which specializes in vodka.  And boy, do they like vodka; once they started making it, they just kept going.  Now they make all sorts of flavors, like sweet tea, peach tea, raspberry and lemonade.  I, of course, didn't care for any of it, but the guys bought "tasting" tickets and found several they liked.  We came home with blackberry, apple pie and chocolate pecan vodkas, plus some Bourbon. 
They don't usually do tours at the distillery but the owner, recognizing kindred drinking souls in Randy and Aaron, and took them on a personalized tour.

In Charleston we lunched at "Fuel", which Randy heard about on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  We have found that show to have some hits as well as some misses, but this turned out to be good one, and Randy's order was the best of the bunch - Jerk Chicken with pineapple and bacon, and a side fried plantains.  

Then we went to catch the ferry to Fort Sumter.  Unfortunately we were too late; because this is the slow season they only ran 2 ferries, and we missed them both.  Dang.  We did go through the Visitor Education Center, which was very interesting.  The actual Garrison Flag is there, partially on display.  They don't have a huge display area with controlled lighting and temperature, like the Smithsonian has for the "Star Spangled Banner", so their solution is to display a just small section, and slide the display window over to display a different section each day.  This diminishes the destructive effects of the lights.  They need to protect it because, as old photographs show, there is not much left. 
And based on the section that was displayed, what remains is thin enough to see through.  When it was whole, though, it must have been an impressive sight.  It was huge, with an unusual pattern of stars. Above the long display case which holds the original flag, hangs a replica, covering the entire wall.
But dang, we really wanted to see the fort.  It's over 3 miles away from the Center so we couldn't even get a good look at outside of it.  Looking out the window, we could just barely see the sand bar it sits on, way out behind the boats.  
Since we couldn't see the fort, we had a little time to spend at the City Market, looking for souvenirs.  Hand-made sweet grass baskets still cost several hundred dollars, so I still don't have one.  By then it was after 5 pm so we headed home; it's a 2 hour drive and the dogs were really glad to see us when we got back.

Today, Sunday, we visited another small town, Beaufort.  On the way we stopped at Port Royal beach to look for shark's teeth.  I'd found one earlier this year, but today all we found were oyster shells and seagulls.
So on to Beaufort.  After we drove across the bridge and parked, we looked back and saw that the bridge was a Swing Bridge.  Because some tall sailboats were waiting to get to the other side, traffic was stopped while the middle section of the bridge swung sideways, opening a channel for them to sail through.

And Randy's had a very short career as a deckhand on a shrimp boat; he helped this guy cast off a couple of lines so the boat could leave the dock.
It was getting cold (47?), so we stopped for coffee and tea to warm up a bit.  This is a very pretty town, with lots of beautiful old two-story houses with deep porches, white columns and blue porch ceilings.  There is a old Southern tradition that blue ceilings stop wasps from building nests, because the blue looks like sky to them.  Live Oaks grow here, too; sometimes they just take off in one direction and keep on going.
On our way downtown we noticed someone picking up nuts that were laying on the ground; they turned out to be pecans.  We tried a couple; I found raw pecans to be a little damp, and not as flavorful as roasted pecans. 
We went through a lot of the unique shops downtown before we learned that today was the day of the Christmas parade.  Beaufort is a town of about 12,000, and it seemed like half the town was in the parade.  It lasted an hour, which, as the temperature dropped, seemed like a pretty long time.  But everyone was was giving it their best.  The parade included bands, dance troops, cub scouts, church floats, firetrucks, dogs, horses, and several military groups.

And here in the South, "Three Kings" means something a little different!

Three years ago: Sand Shapes and Mud Pots
Four years ago: Back home in Arizona

A Busy Day, our style

Busy day today; Randy headed out with Aaron to bike almost 30 miles around the Island, so Brenda, Norma and I biked the 1 mile to Coligny Plaza, where we wandered through most of the shops before having lunch.  Afterwards we bicycled on beach a bit and picked up some shells.  As we headed back to the Resort, we found some fronds which had fallen off palm trees.  We collected a bunch to bring back to the Resort, and after dinner we got together again to make reindeers.  Such a busy, busy day!
Four years ago: Randy, on his own

Attention to Detail

Ah, Savannah, how nice to see you again!  
We always enjoying sharing our favorite places with others; today we drove Aaron over to eat at Savannah's premier eatery, Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, and to walk beneath the great Live Oaks that fill Savannah's historic squares.
And with each visit, we find something new to love.  This time we found the Armstrong Junior College, a lovely granite and glazed-brick Italian renaissance mansion built in 1919.  The college wasn't founded until 1935, so before that it was a personal home.  Nice!
As we walked along the streets, we kept admiring the architecture.  So many details, so much variety.  The massive structures are awesome, but I think what makes these places so special is that attention to detail.

From top to bottom, attention



Four years ago: White Trash Party!
One year ago: Remodeling an RV Kitchen 

Enjoying spending time with friends

I LOVE having 4 days off each week!  I started getting together with the other 2 Workamper wives on Tuesday, since we all have that day off.  This last week Norma was not able to join us, so just Brenda and I spent the day shopping and goofing off.  We discovered we both like those Disney animations, so today we went to see Frozen.  Loved it!  

Today Randy's buddy Aaron arrived, all the way from Illinois.  He's going to spend a few days here so we get to show him around the area - a great excuse to revisit some of our favorite sights.