Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tales from the Road: Jacksonville, FL



September 29, 2012 ~ Jacksonville, FL

We got up and on the road just after breakfast, pulled into Jacksonville around 2 pm.  I’d done a lot of research, trying to find a state park near Chip’s jobsite but, alas, it was not to be. Apparently the really nice parks are all beach side, too far for a comfortable commute. So, I had to settle for a “regular” RV Park.  

Flamingo Lake RV Resort received good reviews on the reviewsite, their website seems to back that up.  With the understanding that we weren’t going to experience the serene, tranquil camping experience we prefer, we made a reservation.  

Saturday afternoon is perhaps the worst time to check into a family-friendly park such as this. There were kids everywhere, zipping along on their bikes, splashing in the lake, playing football in the street. The adult guests were tearing around on golf carts, a pet peeve of mine..why can’t you jus t walk around the park? Why must we drive everywhere?? Anyway, it was really crowded and loud, and Loki was less than pleased. We managed to find the miniscule dog walking “trail,” about 50 feet of grass along a wooden fence.  I understand there is another dog-friendly area in the park, will be checking that out today. I’m reserving judgment for later today when the weekend visitors (hopefully) pack up and head out, but my first impression of this place isn’t positive. I’m sure it’s wonderful for families with kids, just not a middle-aged couple with a very nervous wolfdog. 

When dinner time rolled around, I consulted Happy Cow and found quite a few veg-friendly dining establishments, on the other side of town.  Sigh. Since we were both tired of driving and just wanted a quick meal nearby, we settled on a sports bar/pizza restaurant, Boston’s.  There was one veggie pasta dish on the menu but I really wanted to try their “famous” pizza, especially since they offer whole wheat crust! After ensuring that they could prepare me a pie sans cheese, I placed my order and when it arrived scarfed down a slice before I remembered to take a pic. Ooops! 



The crust was really good but the lack of cheese made the pie rather sparse. I think they could’ve loaded on some more vegetables to make up for it. It was healthy & tasty, though, so I’m not complaining one bit! 

Chip made up for my lack of meat/cheese with a Mama Meaty Calzone.  


We returned to the camp ground and took Loki for a little moonlit stroll. It’s a shame the abundance of street lights competed with the beautiful La Luna. 

full moon flamingo lake Park

Off to bed, tomorrow we’ll be hanging around Jacksonville for a while and then going home to Ormond for a couple of days while Chip supervises his other job project in Sanford, FL. 

Bye for now! 

Tales from the Road: McRae, GA



September 28, 2012 ~ McRae, GA

We got the call from the repair shop earlier this week, the RV is ready! Yay! Now, the long drive to Macon, GA to pick it up.  Groan. 

Chip is working a job project in Jacksonville, FL, about an hour and a half from the house, and the drive back & forth has been brutal. This is one of the reasons we bought the motor home, so that he could stay in his own “home” close to job sites, and I could join him.  Without that convenience, this past week has been a little rough on him. Bless his heart, the man never complains, but I know those before dawn drives couldn’t have been fun! So, now we’ll be able to rectify that problem. 

We decided to pick up the Beast and bring her to Jacksonville where we’ll leave her for the next week or two while Chip works in the area.  The drive from Ormond Beach to Macon is just under 6 hours, then another 4 to Jacksonville. We really didn’t want to do the whole trip in one day; I like to keep our daily drive times to 6 hours max, preferably 4. With this in mind, I started planning.

We didn’t really want to stay in Macon again so I looked for a campsite about an hour or so south of there, closer to the FL/GA border.  Again, we prefer to stay in national /state/county parks because they tend to be more “natural” and, frankly, cheaper! We don’t care about the amenities, can do without cable and internet for a night. I found a Georgia state park in the town of McRae, called LittleOcmulgee. It’s known for it’s beautiful golf course, not something we’re interested in but good to know.  I also found a campground in Jacksonville, more about that later. 

So, we got up bright and early, hit the road by 6:30.  I didn’t prepare any “road food” so we relied on fast food, grabbing a plain biscuit breakfast from McDonald’s. Not the healthiest choice but sometimes you’ve got to work with what you’ve got!  We got to Macon by lunchtime, picked up the RV and drove through Wendy’s for lunch. (Plain baked potato for me).  

We rolled into the campground around 3, did the minimal amount of set-up for just one night.  The grounds are very pretty, lots of trees and the rolling hills of the golf course are impressive. The staff was warm & welcoming, the Southern Hospitality in full swing. The camp sites were nicely spaced and there were ample trees & walking trails, Loki gave his seal of approval. 


 
 
The parks sits on the border of two little towns, McRae and Helena, which consist of a few gas stations, a couple of strip malls, and a Piggly Wiggly grocery store. When I searched Trip Advisor for restaurants, ONE pizza joint came up. Now, we knew there must be other restaurants around so we took a drive down “main street.” 

Here we encountered the town’s one attraction, according to Trip Advisor.


Lady Liberty, you are a long way from home, girl! 

We also found a Mexican restaurant which may have had the best food ever but since the windows were too filthy to see inside and there were just a couple of old beat up trucks in the parking lot, I wasn’t willing to take a chance. There was also the aforementioned pizza joint, also kinda scary looking, a McDonald’s and a little “family” seafood restaurant. Oh, and Pizza Hut – walk-up only, no dining in. 

Chip and I were dumbfounded. Where do these people eat? I imagine they make a 30-minute drive to a larger town where there is a Wal-Mart, etc., but being unwilling to do that, we were stuck. At this point it was happy hour so we figured we’d find a bar and sit down to discuss our options. We drove and drove up & down, around the whole area and could not find a bar. There was, however, a package store. Worst case scenario, we could go back to our RV and have a drink, right? We pulled in and proceeded to go inside. 

This was a drive-through package store. You walk up to the counter and the cashier gathers your order.  When I requested a bottle of chardonnay, the man laughed and said, “I may have one bottle, let me check. This here’s Redneck Land, honey!”  I guess with my nice jeans, high heels and Chip’s wild Hawaiian shirt, he could tell that we were tourists, huh? 


Properly amused, we took one more drive around “downtown” and realized that we had two choices: grab some groceries at the Piggly Wiggly to cook at the RV, or head to the park’s Lodge Restaurant. We opted for the latter. 

The lodge restaurant was very nice and clean, sparsely decorated in a simple country style.  Their big draw is the Friday Night Seafood Buffet which includes anything & everything deep fried alongside a salad bar, soup, dessert, your usual buffet fare. Though it looked and smelled good, neither of us are buffet kind of people and I knew there wouldn’t be enough veg-friendly food on their to warrant the $12.00 price tag. 

I was pleased to discover a Veggie Pasta dish on the regular menu which came with a trip to the salad bar and a bowl of soup.  I happily prepared a nice salad but didn’t really need the (tomato rice) soup. Chip went for the Philly Cheesesteak. While we sipped our beer & wine, I had a chance to do some people watching. Other than one other lady who also looked rather touristy, we were the only patrons with alcohol; everyone else had their glasses filled high with sweet tea.  Even the tables full of big burly men who you’d think would enjoy a nice cold brew on a Friday night were guzzling that tea like it was going out of style! I guess some stereotypes are true, they truly do love their sweet tea here in the south. 

Burnt Garlic Toast & Veggies, bland "tomatoe" sauce on top
Chip claimed his sandwich was very good, I was less thrilled with my pasta. The menu described the dish as “grilled vegetables mixed with linguine, topped with tomatoe sauce, served with garlic bread” and that’s exactly what I got. There was no spice in this dish, none. The veggies were grilled on one side, added to the pasta and then a dollop of bland tomato sauce was placed on top. The garlic bread was burnt. You know what? I ate it anyway. At least, I ate about a quarter of it. It wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had but I was hungry and it was edible and, most importantly, VEGAN. My belly was satisfied even if my taste buds weren’t, and tomorrow is another day. I won’t die from having a bad meal. Well, I might’ve died from eating at that Mexican restaurant, but I digress..

So, we brought our package store purchases back to the campsite, had a little drink on our patio, listened to the crickets chirping and gazed at the full moon through the trees.  We talked and laughed about our adventures (or lack thereof) here in Helena, GA, made our plans for tomorrow and am now headed off to read before bed.  

We’ll be headed to Jacksonville in the morning, “see” you then!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On My Hearth: Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

I decided to try Happy Herbivore's meal plan this week, looking for even more structure to help me get back on track after two week's vacation and a long weekend down south. I have all of her cookbooks, really enjoy her plant-based, no-added fat style of cooking. All of the recipes I've tried have been flavorful, delicious as well as healthy!

I started my day with Chocolate Banana Oatmeal...oh.my.goodness. Heaven in a bowl! The perfect combination of chocolate and bananas atop hearty oats made for a decadent and very filling breakfast!




 Chocolate Banana Oatmeal 

½ cup rolled oats (uncooked) (I used steel-cut)
1 ½ tbsp chocolate chips, crushed or chopped into tiny bits
(I used vegan carob chips)
½ banana, sliced


Cook oats according to directions in ¾ cup water, or more if you like your oatmeal a bit soupy. 


Top with banana slices and chocolate chip bits.


Makes 1 serving: 292 calories, 7.5g fat, 50.5g carbohydrates, 6.2g fiber, 15.7g sugars, 7.2g protein

8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus.

Monday, September 24, 2012

On My Hearth: Apple Butter



To honor Mabon and make good use of those delicious NC orchard apples, Kristyn and I decided to try our hand at making & canning apple butter.  Working with this recipe as a guide, I peeled and chopped enough apples to fill my slow cooker about 3/4 of the way. One of those fancy peeler/corer/slicer things would have come in handy but lacking one, I did it all by hand.



I then mixed a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, along with a splash of vanilla extract, poured over the apples, covered, and turned to high.  After about an hour I stirred them, turned it down to low and let it cook and cook and cook! I'd occasionally whisk or stir them and when they got to just the right consistency and color.  

We sterilized our jars and then Kristyn filled each one almost to the top.



We processed them for about 6 minutes, took them out to cool, and waited for that tell tale pop to let us know they were sealed properly.



Aren't they beautiful? We intend to give them as Yule gifts along with some freshly baked bread and other goodies.  Hmm..looking at my gift list, I'm not sure that six jars will be enough. Another trip to the orchard might be in order!

Michele~

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tales from the Road: Macon, GA Day 2

September 15, 2012 - Macon, GA

We got up bright & early on Friday morning as planned, had the RV packed and ready to go by 9 am.  Chip hopped into the drivers seat, turned the ignition key and..nothing. Well, the engine cranked..and cranked..but that was it. He let it sit for an hour, tried again, still nothing. After a brief conversation, we realized that our only option was to call the Good Sam roadside assistance and have the motor home towed to a local repair shop. While he was on the phone doing just that, I started packing.  Everything from the refrigerator had to fit into a cooler, all of the rest of our belongings must squeeze into the trunk and back seat floor of the car.  Not an easy task, let me tell you! We had two huge bags of laundry, a full refrigerator and pantry, not to mention all of the souvenirs we'd gathered along the way. Somehow we managed to fit the majority of it into the car, leaving the non-essentials safely stored in the RV.  After about 30 minutes the tow truck arrived. 



We followed in the car, spoke to the mechanic and sadly drove away, leaving the poor Beast at the repair shop.  We decided that it would be best to head straight home to Ormond, a 5 1/2 hour drive, and save the Gainesville visit for another time. I was disappointed, of course, had been looking forward to seeing my girls, but nothing could be done about that. 

We got home before dinner, and since we were technically still on vacation we treated ourselves to a meal-and-a-view at Ocean Deck.  Not the perfect ending to our trip but we made the best of it!

It looks like we'll be heading back to Macon to pick up The Beast this coming weekend, plan to stay in Paynes Prairie and catch up with my girls then.  In the meantime, we're here in Pembroke Pines this weekend, am planning a special Mabon meal so stay tuned for a holiday post!

Blessings,

Michele

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On My Hearth: Fresh Vegetable Soup



After a lot of pondering, I decided to re-join Weight Watchers, officially, at a meeting.  I know many people (including myself) have had success with the online program but at this time in my life, I feel that I need more structure and accountability.  Weighing myself weekly just isn't good enough, I need to answer to someone else. I also crave the support and camaraderie of the physical meetings, something you just can't match in the cyber community.  Now that vacation is over and we'll be (mostly) in one place for a couple of months, it's the perfect time for it.

The Volusia county chapter has something the Dade/Broward chapters are missing: the Monthly Plan.  For one flat rate, you have access to unlimited meetings as well as access to the E-tools.  For some reason they don't offer this down south, so I decided to take advantage of my part time Ormond Beach residence.  Hopefully when I'm in Pines, the center there will honor my pass, will have to figure that out. 

Anyway, I have been to a couple of meetings at this center before and really enjoyed the Monday morning leader, Barbra.  She's in my age range and has a similar lifestyle to mine so I feel that I can relate to her.  She's in fantastic shape, walks every day, is very motivating and inspiring, something I need right now.

When I look back to my weight loss successes, regardless of the eating plan, there are two common denominators: vegetables and exercise.  An abundance of the first, moderation of the second. It's common sense, really; the more fibrous, filling veggies I eat, the less room there is for junk. And when I move my body, even if it's just a 30 minute walk with Loki each day, I burn calories and boost my mood, minimizing the need for emotional eating and cutting down on cravings.  It's a win/win, and they work hand in hand. 

It's fortunate that I love vegetables of all kinds, yet I get tired of plate after plate of salad.  This is where soup comes in.  Soup warms and fills me better than raw cold veggies, and provides a bit of "comfort" as well.  I find that if I have a big vat of soup in the refrigerator, I will grab a bowl of that before going for the junk food, and almost every time it fills whatever need/craving I have with nominal calories consumed.

One of my favorites is the tried & true Weight Watchers Fresh Vegetable Soup. There have been variations of it floating around for years! It used to be called Zero Point Soup but now it costs 1 PointsPlus; I can handle that. There are calories, after all, and even good ones add up.

I gathered up the ingredients yesterday and made a big pot..after cooking til almost done on the stove top, I transferred the soup into the crockpot and kept on warm for the remainder of the day, making it readily available.  Chip even gobbled up a bowl for dinner, said it was very good. High praise coming from my veggie-adverse hubby!

 
Fresh Vegetable Soup

Vegetable Soup
Weight Watchers Recipe

1PointsPlus Value
Prep time:  35 min
Cook time:  13 min
Serves: 12
 
Some say this soup is the secret to their weight-loss success. It's a great midday snack or dinner appetizer.

 

Ingredients

 

Instructions

  • Put garlic, vegetables, thyme and broth into a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in parsley or chives; season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Yields about 1 cup per serving.

Notes

  • If you like thick soups, consider pureeing this recipe in the pot with an immersion blender.

    There are so many variations on this recipe. Add or leave out vegetables to suit your taste.

    Save time by using frozen vegetables instead of fresh ones (though the texture of the soup might change a bit). You can also buy small amounts of pre-cut vegetables from your supermarket's salad bar.


I had a bowl for lunch and another for dinner, adding 1/2 cup of ditalini pasta and a sauteed veggie sausage to the dinner portion. Of course this added a few PointsPlus but made a more substantial while still low-PointsPlus meal. It was as delicious as I remember, filling and tasty, looking forward to another bowl or two today!

Enjoy!

Michele~


Tales from the Road: Macon, GA

September 14, 2012 ~ Macon, GA

After four nights in the beautiful Lake Powhatan, Chip and I reluctantly packed up the campsite and departed Asheville.  We weren't ready to leave, but our site was already reserved for another camper and since Chip was due back at work on Monday anyway, we figured it was time to go.  To lift my spirits, my sweet man suggested a stop in Gainesville on the way home. We could stay overnight in Paynes Prairie again, visit with my girls. Well, that put the smile back on my face! We got out the map and planned a route, decided to stop in Macon, GA for the night and then to Gainesville on Saturday.

We made one stop along the way, in Hendersonville, NC at Justus Orchard.





 

I couldn't resist the fresh apples!

Chip couldn't say no to the fried apple pie!

and we both fell in love with these little guys!


By lunchtime we were back on the country road, passed a corn field which was a foreign sight to us!



We rolled into Macon before dinner, checked into the campground at Lake Tobesofkee.  The lake view was so pretty, just wish they hadn't cleared so many trees from the campsite, quite a culture shock coming from the woods of NC!

Lake Tobesofkee; Macon, GA

What's for dinner?
 Since we were only staying one night, we decided to keep things simple, not set up the whole "patio" area, gas grill, etc.  As we were both tired & hungry, we set up camp quickly and headed out for dinner. This proved to be a challenge for me as the majority of the restaurants in Macon, GA (at least in our area) are either bbq, steak houses, and/or fast food joints.  Ugh! I finally located a Mellow Mushroom about 15 minutes away and since I've been wanting to try their vegan pizza, away we went.  Well, it started to rain, and we were driving on these dark & curvy country roads, no street lights, I was shaking like a leaf by the time we finally reached the restaurant!

Sitting under a giant Mellow Mushroom!
Super-yummy veggie pizza with vegan cheese


The food and atmosphere were worth the stress, though. We had an enjoyable dinner, returned to the RV and hit the sack early, planning to make an early departure the next morning.  This was not to be, however, stay tuned for more of our adventure!

Michele~

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tales from the Road: Asheville, Day 4



September 13, 2012 - Asheville, NC

This was my favorite day of the trip as it featured two of my favorite things: (healthy) food and books



I wanted to visit a well-known independent bookstore in downtown Asheville, Malaprops. One of my favorite authors, Patti Digh, lives in the area and often mentions the store/café.  Oh, my goodness, this place is heavenly! They stock a wide selection of books on many subjects, beautifully laid out. Their vegetarian/vegan section was amazing! 



The store was so warm & welcoming, I found myself with arms piled high in a short time. The local section was where I did the most damage to my bank account, gathering up several novels for upcoming Yule gifts.  I spent so much money (really, only $100, and well worth it) that I was led to a little section of books and told to choose one, or even two, for free! How lovely is that? After doing so, I happily made my way over to the café where Chip was drinking coffee, a free cup given to him as a thank you for his generous purchase.  I ordered a Fire Distinguisher which was a delicious spicy latte served in an enormous cup; delicious! Unfortunately I forgot to request soy milk, oops! 


I asked the (young, adorable) barista to recommend his favorite vegetarian restaurant in Asheville; without hesitation he led me to Rosetta’s Kitchen. With lunch plans in mind, Chip and I headed off to shop a bit more. We were immediately enticed by the incredible aroma trailing from one store, turned out to be a spice/tea shop. Mmm…we made quite a few purchases there as well as at the Native American “bead shop" where a sage kitty offered us a sample. We were able to cross a few more gifts off our holiday list, can’t elaborate any further on that or I might ruin someone’s surprise! 

Sage Kitty
Shopping is thirsty work, according to Chip, so we meandered into a pub for liquid sustenance.  The cutie pie bar maid at Bier Garden served us our beverages and we commenced to chatting about our pets. Her dog, Jinxy, sounds like he'd make a good friend to Loki; maybe we'll arrange a doggy park meeting the next time we visit. 



On the way back to the car we passed by the local library, noticed their used book sale and even though we had more than enough reading material to keep us busy, we just had to stop in. Ahem..we left their quite laden down with tomes, limped our way to the car and off to lunch!


Rosetta’s Kitchen is an adorable “hole in the wall,” would’ve driven right past if I hadn’t been ardently searching for it.  The décor is bright & colorful, staff is very friendly and helpful, and the food? Oh, my. I have never been to an all-veg restaurant before so I was practically hyperventilating at the thought! So many choices, all of them available to me; no thinking, planning, asking for substitutions, etc. etc.  All I had to specify was vegan and poof! Dozens of options appeared before me! I’d heard great things about their tempeh “wings” so we ordered a serving to share, along with Pad Thai for me, black bean chili and grilled cheese sandwich for Chip. Everything was amazing and, to my surprise, spicy enough even for me! 




Pad Thai, Tempeh "wings" and local brew
 

 We wobbled back to the car and to the motor home, spent the remainder of the afternoon/evening lounging around the campsite, reading and enjoying a nice cozy fire. A perfect day! 


Blessings,

Michele~