Dismal when we got here, but then we saw wild pigs (the kind that can maim a dog) and swam wit’ da fishes

People aren’t kidding when they tell you West Texas is vast, wild and untamed. In fact, West Texas is the very definition of vast, wild and untamed. Look it up in a dictionary. I’m pretty sure it’s there. 
 
We’re parked at Davis Mountains State Park for a few days, and here’s what we’ve seen and done so far: 
When we got here, it looked like this. Brrrrrr and wet.

When we got here, it looked like this: brrrrrr and wet.

But the next morning? A herd of javelinas (see the baby?) next to our campsite!

But the next morning? There was a herd of javelinas (see the baby?) next to our campsite!

I thought this one was a rock. Until it moved.

I thought this one was a rock. Then it moved.

Sunday morning: a trip into town to get connected

Sunday morning: a trip into town to get connected

Nothing like a good old fashioned diner breakfast, with scenery like this!

Nothing like a good old fashioned diner breakfast, seated right next to an old-fashioned soda fountain!

Yyyyep. That about sums it up, in the best possible sarcastic way.

Yyyyep. That about sums it up, in the best possible sarcastic way.

Views from our hike on Sunday afternoon. We could see the McDonald Observatory from the trail. It's about 15 miles away, and we're going there on Tuesday for a tour and star party.

Views from our hike on Sunday afternoon. We could see the McDonald Observatory from the trail. It’s about 15 miles away, and we’re going there on Tuesday.

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Mule deer in the park. There's always that one...

Mule deer in the park. There’s always that one deer…

Adventure 2: The pool at Balmorhea State Park

Before today, I’d have said “You’re full of shit” to any one of these predictions

  1. You will swim in a spring-fed pool that’s so deep, people go scuba diving in it.
  2. And there will be fish and ducks swimming it it with you.
  3. And it’ll be 57 degrees outside, because it’s the last day of November.
From the park web site, “More than 15 million gallons of water flow through the pool each day, gushing from the San Solomon Springs. The pool is up to 25 feet deep, covers 1.75 acres, and holds 3.5 million gallons of water. The water temperature stays at 72 to 76 degrees year-round.” Well hello there, bucket list item we didn’t even know we had!
Tim contemplated it in his sweater for a few minutes...

Tim contemplated it in his sweater for a few minutes…

And despite the cold, the fish, the ducks (see them behind us?), and the depth, we took the plunge! Hey. I had cancer and teenagers at the same time. Not so much scares me anymore. Plus, I was wearing my magic shoes (see video below).

But despite the cold, the fish, the ducks (see them behind us?), and the depth, we took the plunge!
Hey. I had cancer and teenagers at the same time. Not so much scares me anymore. Plus, I was wearing my magic shoes (see video below).

That's me! In the deepest part of the deep! With the ducks!

That’s me! In the deepest part of the deep! With the ducks!

For those who are interested in the sciency part

For those who are interested in the sciency part

 Look. Some people need goggles, or nose clips, or a t-shirt for swimming. I happen to need shoes. I call them my magic shoes, I don’t care what you think, and I’m not giving them up anytime soon.

It’s Thanksgiving, and all I’ve got is this 8 cubic-foot refrigerator. Or, how the zip-n-seal baggie saved Turkey Day.

There be culinary challenges here, especially for holiday meals. A cooking girl’s gotta think outside the box that is her living quarters — and the even smaller box within that contains her kitchen — to make it all go down.

This year, my folks are cooking the bird and a few side dishes at their house, which is where we’ll gather this afternoon with our younger son, my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew. More cooking, serving and seating space for the win!

My assignments: two vegetables, rolls, and a pie.

To appreciate how small my refrigerator is, go stand in front of yours. I’ll wait. You there? Good. Now open the door. Note shelves that appear between your knees and your chin. That’s all the vertical space I’ve got.

Glorified dorm fridge We're talking 8 cubic feet. By comparison, a typical household refrigerator provides 18-26 cubic feet of storage space.

Glorified dorm fridge
We’re talking 8 cubic feet. By comparison, a typical household refrigerator provides 18-26 cubic feet of storage space.

But wait. It gets better. Now reach your arm in there and touch the back wall. Gotta lean in a little to make your fingers touch, yes? When I do that? My elbow rests just outside the front edge. That’s all the depth I’ve got.

But here’s how I made this half-meal happen, using only a 3-burner cooktop, a microwave/convection oven, and a fridge that isn’t even deep enough to hold a serving bowl.

Pecan Pie It's what you make when you can't make a dessert that requires fridge space

Pecan Pie
It’s what you bake when you can’t make a dessert that requires fridge space

In a traditional oven, this pie takes almost an hour to bake. Here in my handy dandy half-time convection oven: 25 minutes. And the crust didn't burn!

In a traditional oven, this pie takes almost an hour to bake. Here in my handy dandy half-time convection oven: 25 minutes. And the crust didn’t burn!

Perfection. And no Karo syrup! I used this recipe, with a few tweaks: omit white sugar; increase flour to 2 TBSP; increase pecans to 1.5 cups and lightly toast them first; flour both sides of crust to prevent sogginess.

Perfection. And no Karo syrup!
I used this recipe, with a few tweaks: omit white sugar; increase flour to 2 TBSP; increase pecans to 1.5 cups and lightly toast them first; flour both sides of crust to prevent sogginess.

Brussels sprouts All rinsed and ready to go Moroccan.

Brussels sprouts, all rinsed and ready to go Moroccan.

Once again, I've gone the plastic storage bag route for making these things fit in the fridge. And yes, the recipe is for Moroccan Carrot Salad. But Mom decided to make Copper Penny Carrots, so I just did a little produce switcheroo.

Yes, the recipe is for Moroccan Carrot Salad. But Mom decided to make Copper Penny Carrots, so I just did a little produce switcheroo. The cooked sprouts went into a storage bag and got a nice little shake-up with the marinade. And there they will stay, comfortably nestled in their teensy little space on the fridge shelf, until I get to Mom’s house and pour them into a nice serving dish.

Texas Slaw I managed to toss all the veggie shreds -- cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and radishes -- by hand in the largest mixing bowl I've got in here. There is *not* enough room to stir in the dressing without making a huge mess.

Next up: Texas Slaw
I managed to toss all the veggie shreds — cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green onions, and radishes — in the largest mixing bowl I’ve got in here. But there is not enough room to stir in the dressing without making a huge mess, so…

Plastic storage bag to the rescue! Again. I poured in half the veggies, followed by half the dressing...

Plastic storage bag to the rescue! Again. I poured in half the veggies, followed by half the dressing…

repeated with the other half of each...

repeated with the other half of each…

... and then zipped up the bag, did a little shaky-smooshy thing, and stored it right there in that narrow space between the Moroccan Brussels Sprouts and the Greek yogurt. That's cooperation on an international level right there.

… and then zipped up the bag, did a little shaky-smooshy thing, and stored it right there in that narrow space between the Moroccan Brussels Sprouts and the Greek yogurt.
That’s cooperation on an international level right there. Two empty serving bowls — one for slaw, one for sprouts — are packed and ready to take to Mom’s house!

Homemade Yeast Rolls This is my challah dough recipe, and I used to make the traditional long braided loaf for our holiday gatherings, but neither my gas oven nor my convection oven are big enough to hold a cookie sheet, so now we get rolls. And yes, these too will go in a zippit bag for transport to Grandma's house. Bonus: perfect size and heft for throwing across the table at your cousins.

Homemade Yeast Rolls
This is my challah dough recipe, and I used to make the traditional long braided loaf for our holiday gatherings, but neither my gas oven nor my convection oven are big enough to hold a standard cookie sheet, so now we get rolls. And yes, these too will go in a zippit bag for transport.
Bonus: perfect size and heft for throwing across the table at cousins.

My favorite RV kitchen storage solutions: keeping spices in a drawer. They slide around and topple over in a cabinet. And we need that space for cereal boxes and canned goods anyway.

My favorite RV kitchen storage solution: keeping spices in a drawer. They slide around and topple over in a cabinet. And we need that space for cereal boxes and canned goods anyway.

Just… don’t ask me how I’m gonna store our leftovers. That’s tomorrow’s challenge.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, whether your space is large or small!

Today I knelt on the roof and blow-dried the weather stripping. Must be Tuesday.

Pretty sure this was not in the brochure at the RV dealership.

It’s all part of that cascading effect of home repair: fix one thing, find two more that need fixing. We fixed the gutter, and in doing so, discovered that the plastic screw covering stuff was all dry and crackly with multiple holes in it, and was thus doing squat nothing by way of protecting us from the elements.

So we bought some new, shiny and pliant plastic screw covering stuff and got to work. Only it was a little too cold outside to manipulate the edges into the little metal channels — shrinkage, or so I’m told — and that is how I ended up on the roof with a hair dryer.

Actually, how I ended up with a hair dryer at all is part of the hilarity too. I’ve got curly hair. Blow drying is a big, big no-no, or I end up looking like Roseanne Roseannadanna. Our younger son took the household hair dryer with him when he went to college, so I actually had to go buy one at a thrift store, and we’ve used it for a couple of repair projects now. Handy little tool, that! Just… don’t point it at my hair.

Actual name: insert trim.

Actual name: insert trim (not “plastic screw covering stuff”)

Off with the old yucky ineffective...

Old yucky ineffective trim, shown next to a new piece for comparison

... on with the new.

… on with the new.

See? It covers up the screws that hold the gutters on, because they're ugly and let moisture in. Don't be that screw.

See? It covers up the screws that hold the gutters on, because they’re ugly and let moisture in. Don’t be that screw.

A fine, fine day at Rohrer & Son RV Repair

And why might replacing 30 feet of gutter be cause for such gushing? Because our younger son and his 4 years of construction experience were here, which meant the boy took my place on Ladder #2, and that suits me just fine.

Boy knows his way around a busted gutter.

Boy knows his way around a busted gutter.

It all started when we left Virginia last month, and learned yet another important road lesson: If you’re gonna check your GPS on the way out of a heavily wooded campground, stop the RV. Because if you don’t, you might not notice the tree branch that sticks out just far enough into the roadway to do a number on your left side. Alllll the way down your left side.

Ahem.

Anyway, Tim procured the necessary materials, borrowed an extra ladder and cordless drill, and pressed our visiting Longhorn into service to do the repair work today. Having it done at an RV repair shop would cost about $100/hour in labor alone, so we were delighted to get things squared away for only the cost of the materials, two sandwiches, a tall glass of iced tea, and an entire pan of chocolate chip cookie bars.

Four lengths of shiny new metal RV gutter, shipped from the manufacturer rather ingeniously fastened to a 6' wooden post.

Four lengths of shiny new metal RV gutter, shipped from the manufacturer rather ingeniously fastened to a 6′ wooden post.

New gutter going on

New gutter going on

Measuring the screw covering stuff to make sure we've got enough

Measuring the screw covering stuff to make sure we’ve got enough

Took my guys about 4 hours to get the job done, but that included two long breaks: one for lunch, and another to chat with the dude in the Winnebago across the street, who saw all the tools lying about, and thought Tim might be able to work a little magic on the Winnie’s slides, which were stuck in. Nope. That’s gonna take a professional.

My duties included fetching tools and supplies, hauling construction trash to the dumpster, and baking Dane’s pay. And even though I barely set foot on a ladder, I still managed to klutz myself into a bruised noggin, by banging it on the bedroom floor. Shut up. It’s a fifth wheel hazard. It happens. And I’m good at it.

I am 5'4". That overhang, which is our bedroom floor, is about 5'2" off the ground. And that is how we bonk our heads on it -- a lot -- when walking around the RV.

I am 5’4″. That overhang, which is our bedroom floor, is about 5’2″ off the ground. And that is how we bonk our heads on it — a lot — when walking around the RV.

Our supervisor, who is clearly on break. Again.

Our supervisor, who is clearly on break. Again. Worthless piece of fur.