Tuesday, January 22, 2013
We had a great time on our cruise to Progresso and Cozumel. The weather in Mexico was great and the water was so clear. They had just about everything you could want on the ship to keep you busy (shows, shops, a casino, and various other entertainment). The food was also fantastic (more on that later). The only problem we had was some rough sea days – at one point you had to hold on to something as you walked to keep from falling over. There were a lot of sick folks.
Here is a picture of my wife and I after we arrived at Progresso. Except for the rough seas, she really had a good time.
Here is where the trouble began for me.
Way too much food! I usually don’t worry about my calories when on vacation – I want to experience the local food wherever we go and I don’t mind working off the calories later. I discovered I can’t do that on a cruise… While the more formal dinners were fine (great food with reasonable portion sizes), we typically went for the buffets at breakfast and lunch to make more time to do things. I have absolutely no will power at buffets, though, and I just ate way too much. The friends we went with also liked to meet at snack places and bought us drinks during the evening shows.
When we got home after our 5-day cruise, I weighed 10 pounds more!!! Even after another day to get rid of the excess bulk, I still weight 8 ½ pounds more! Unbelievable! Too make matters worse, my son made arrangements for us to take the grandkids to the Mardi Gras parades this coming weekend (in the family sections of the parade routes). We will do it, but New Orleans has always had a lot of food temptations for me. After we return, I’m going to have to get extra serious and get this weight off!
But back to the cruising… It was very nice, but I don’t think it’s for me for several reasons. Aside from the food temptations, I like to do more active vacations. I also thought it was a little too “sanitized” – the places they took us to shop in Cozumel were owned by the cruise lines – all had similar prices and you didn’t really experience the local atmosphere. Even on an off-shore excursion, you were taken to a few preselected places that, to me, weren’t as interesting as exploring on your own. You were also rushed to get everything in before the ship left. My wife, like many others, also really felt bad during the rough seas. Not a good feeling when there is no way to stop the rocking. Perhaps a cruise around Alaska might be different because there would be so much to see besides open ocean. I’m just not the real “partying” type to enjoy a lengthy cruise over open water. It was a great experience, though!
Sunday, January 13, 2013
OK, maybe it isn’t really a ranch, but it's 100 acres of property we own in the country near Rocksprings, Texas. It’s our “get away” place that we have really worked hard on these past 10 years. We built a large cabin over a 2 year period (with a lot of help from friends), and we go here to enjoy the wildlife. When we first bought the property, we only saw one deer in a whole year. Because of our hard work, we now see “trophy” whitetail deer, elk, aoudad sheep, axis deer, sika deer, Rio Grande turkeys, Russian boars, and too many feral hogs.
I’ll blog sometime in the future on our specific game management efforts, but this posting is in response to some of you who asked what we do at the ranch. First of all, here is the cabin we built:
Here is the view from our cabin:
Here is a rock fireplace (for a wood burning stove) that we built one summer with rock found on our property. The stove is now in place, but I wanted to show the rockwork without the stove hiding some of our work.
The inside of the cabin is now finished, but I’m still rocking in below the cabin (it’s built on a slope). Here is the work so far…
Most of our work this time of year is clearing brush to get rid of some of the non-native juniper trees (we call them cedar). Many of the animals like it a little more open, and the cedars also take up too much water and stint the growth of our oaks and pinion pine trees. Here I am working on clearing some of the brush:
Here are two sets of “before and after” pictures to show the difference our efforts make:
I also fill wildlife feeders – to give the animals something to eat in periods of drought. I have 5 different feeders – 3 on timers and 2 that feed whenever the animals want it. Without this, we would lose many animals every year.
My wife and I also spent 2 years building a dam by hand. This picture was taken while work was still in progress. Even though we’ve finished it now with nice flat rocks mortared on top, there hasn’t been much water because of the severe drought.
I could show you so much more, but let me leave you with one last photo. Nothing like sitting on the porch and enjoying this sunrise!
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Several of you commented on my activity feed about canning jalapeños and smoking sausage. Preserving foods for later consumption has always been a hobby of mine. It's both a way to keep food from spoiling and also a way to try the food in a different way.
When I have a garden, I always have too many tomatoes, too much okra, and a lot of extra peppers. The solution is canning. I make homemade tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and even salsa. I also make pickled okra and pickled peppers. Pictured below are some of the pickled jalapeños I made yesterday. I added a few of my habanero peppers, and also a little sliced carrots and onion for flavor.
The smoked sausage takes a LOT longer to make. I grind up some wild hog and venison. I also grind some beef fat to make the sausage a little tastier (the other meat has no fat and would be too dry). After adding the spices and mixing it well (using a little Shiner Bock to make it easier), I stuff the mixture into natural casings. I then smoke the meat for 12-18 hours, starting at about 110 degrees and gradually moving up to 160 degrees. If you do it too fast, all the fat melts and the sausage will be too dry. I actually don't apply the smoke until the meat has an internal temperature of 125 degrees - it adheres to the meat better once the casings have dried out a little. I continue the process until the sausage has an internal temperature of 152 degrees (safe to eat without cooking). I then take the sausage out, spray cold water on it (to keep it from shrinking), and then let it hang for an hour. Finally, I put it in the refrigerator overnight to firm it up just right. It then looks like this:
Why do I like doing all of this? Maybe it is my obsession with food (ha!). But I also just enjoy making something unique that I've done myself. It tastes great and they make excellent gifts, especially this time of year. I just have to make sure I give a lot of that sausage away so I don't eat too much myself!
Friday, November 23, 2012
I've been feeling a little "down" after eating too much during Thanksgiving yesterday, but I got an "eye opener" this morning that helped get me back on track.
I don't normally take part in the "Black Friday" shopping, but I was awake at 3:00 AM this morning, so I decided to wait in line for an hour for a smoker I really wanted. I got the smoker (normally $329 - a limited few on sale for $179), and I also picked up 4 pairs of jeans at $9.99 each. Since the place was "crazy" with people, I decided to buy 2 of each size (38" waist and 36" waist) instead of waiting forever to try them on. I was wearing a 42" waist when I started this journey, so I figured a 38" is about right for now, and I can wear the 36" ones after I lose a little more weight. Guess what - the 36" ones fit just right! That certainly cheered up my day. I can still wear the other 2 with a belt, so I'm not going to return them. It just made me feel so good to see the progress I've made, and I'm determined not to go backwards!
While I still need to work on my choices concerning food, I'm going in the right direcion. We all "slip up" now and then, but if we just keep working at it, we can achieve anything we want to!
Saturday, November 17, 2012
We just finished week 6 of the 8-week 5% Fall Challenge. Although I never had the most weight lost for any single week, today I achieved that 5% goal and dropped 10.5 lbs during the challenge.
This accomplishment was really due to two things: consistency and commitment. I exercised hard and, for the most part, I kept my calories within my calorie range. I didn't always succeed on the calories, but looking back, I probably needed the extra calories a few times with all of the fitness activities I was doing. I also was determined to succeed - not just for myself, but also for the Teddy Bear team overall. There were many days when I really didn't feel like a lot of exercise, but I pushed myself anyway (sometimes after dark) to make sure I didn't let the team down. Perhaps my military background helped in the challenge - when you see that other team members are struggling for various reasons, you know you have to step it up meet the team objectives.
We still have two weeks to go in the challenge, and I don't plan on letting up (well maybe a little on Thanksgiving...). I hope everyone is successful in their journey to a healthier lifestyle. You can make it a reality if just commit yourself to success. I saw a great quote recently on SparkPeople:
"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." (Kenneth Blanchard)
Good luck to all of you!
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