Key Lime Cream Pie

Last weekend we drove to Naples to see my sister Marj and her husband Larry. Before we left she gave me a bunch of key limes from her tree. I had never made anything from key limes so I found this recipe from Taste of Home. Howie and I decided it was a keeper so I thought I would share it with you.

Just the right amount of sweet and tart!

Here’s the recipe…..

1 package (11.3 oz) pecan shortbread cookies – crushed (about 2 cups)

1/3 cup melted butter

4 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup key lime juice

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, mix crushed cookies and butter. Press onto bottom and up sides of a greased 9 inch deep dish pie plate. (The recipe did not call for this, but next time I think I would bake the crust at 350 for 8 minutes to “set it up” a bit – then cool)

2. In a large bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners’ sugar and extract. Beat until stiff peaks form.

3. In another bowl, beat cream cheese, condensed milk and lime juice until blended. Fold in 2 cups whipped cream. Spoon into prepared crust.

4. Top with remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate until serving, at least 4 hours. If desired, garnish with thin slices of key lime.

We have BIG news………

But before I share our news, first things first. I hope you all had a glorious Thanksgiving…..we sure did. Howie’s niece, Nikki, lives about 1.5 hours north of where we are. She and her husband, Steve, graciously invited us to their home for a wonderful dinner with all of Steve’s family. It was a real blessing to be with family for the holiday! Nikki sent us home with bags of pecans from her backyard and home canned apple butter!! Yum!

The weather has finally warmed up and yesterday we were able to enjoy a PERFECT day at the beach. The water was cold but we did get in to cool off a couple of times. I got in almost to my waist but Howie “road the waves” for a while.

My beach bum!

A slow motion example of God’s power and wonder!

While out for a recent bicycle ride, we came upon some local wildlife. Thought I would share their pictures with you.

Our very first (LIVE) armadillo!
And our SECOND alligator!

One recurring, unmistakable event here along the southern coast are the amazing sunsets. Practically every evening if you look to the west, you’re breath will be taken away. The colors are fantastic – it’s a shame that camera’s don’t completely capture the beauty!

So Howie and I love this motorhome life but we decided we would like to establish a home base….a permanent address even if we don’t live there permanently. So we’ve given this a lot of thought and prayer and last weekend we drove to my sisters home in Naples where we BOUGHT A HOME! It’s actually a villa (duplex) in the same Naples community as Marj and Larry – Island Walk. We’re super excited and hope to close before the end of the year.

I will write more once we close on the villa and have definitive plans for moving all our things. Once we’re settled, you’re all invited to come visit – not all at once, please! But as always, until then, Happy Trails!

Campgrounds where we’ve stayed…..

We realize that many of you may be following us because you too have dreams to travel in an RV and you may be looking for information on places to stay. So we’ve started this new “mini-critique” category outlining campgrounds where we’ve stayed. Here’s what it takes for Howie and I to give a campground a perfect 10! (Prices listed are not exact)

* Spacious, private sites * Level site with cement pad * Bath houses well maintained and clean * Reasonably priced for the area * Cell service * Friendliness and helpfulness of staff * Maintenance of grounds and landscaping * Amenities and service

TOP SAIL HILL PRESERVE STATE PARK – SANTA ROSA BEACH, FLORIDA

SCORE: 9 COMMENTS: Missed a 10 because the sites were not overly spacious and the pads were gravel. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful park and we highly recommend staying here.

AMANA RV PARK – AMANA COLONIES, IOWA

SCORE: 4 COMMENTS: Not a great place to stay. The campground was just an open field with no landscaping. The sites were not private and you parked “back to back” with another RV, sharing a utility post. No shuttle service to the main attraction, the colonies. You had to walk 1.5 miles or so to get to restaurants and shops.

TABLE ROCK STATE PARK – BRANDON, MISSOURI

SCORE: 7 SITE: 150 PRICE: $23/night COMMENTS: Limited full hook ups, sites were not level and pads were blacktop otherwise gravel and grass. Bathrooms were reasonably clean. We would definitely stay here again but nothing super special. The ranger on duty at night was super helpful and friendly. Close to the Branson attractions! No pool but Moonshine beach was really nice – a couple of miles from the campground.

KANKAKEE SOUTH KOA – KANKAKEE, IL

SCORE: 7 SITE: 38 PRICE: $47/night COMMENTS: Sites were very close together and bathrooms needed updating. Garbage pick up service and decent cell service. Sites were level and they had a dog park. Pool was small but clean. Full hook ups – 30 amp.

STARVED ROCK STATE PARK – UTICA, ILLINOIS

SCORE: 5 SITE: 129 PRICE: $25/night COMMENTS: Sites were mostly grass and dirt with a little gravel. The sites were quite private but not spacious and needed trimming. The campground is actually a couple of miles from Starved Rock. No pool. Only had electric but it was 50 amp.

NOLIN LAKE STATE PARK – MAMMOTH CAVE, KENTUCKY

SCORE: 9 SITE: 002 PRICE: $24 COMMENTS: We really liked this campground! The sites were beautiful – very spacious, well maintained and cement pads. Water and 50 amp but no sewer. Missed a 10 because of a weak if any cell service and no pool. But a fabulous place – we’d come back!

LAKE CUMBERLAND STATE PARK – JAMESTOWN, KENTUCKY

SCORE: 4 SITE: 064 PRICE: $21 COMMENTS: This campground has seen better days. Needs maintenance. We actually had a very hard time picking out a site as they were either very short or extremely unlevel. The pads were gravel and just a few had a cement pad for the table as you see above. 30 amp and water but no sewer. The bathrooms, however were very good. We definitely will not return to this campground!

DEER CREEK STATE PARK – MOUNT STERLING. OHIO

SCORE: 8 SITE: 33 PRICE: $30 COMMENTS: This is a really great state park area. It had a bit of everything: Lodge, Beach, Golf Course, Cabins. Everything was really spread out so you had to drive to everything. 50 amp and water, no sewer. No pool and many sites were uneven. Cell service was marginal.

BROWN COUNTY STATE PARK – NASHVILLE, INDIANA

SCORE: 9 SITE: 373 (a handicap site) PRICE: $27/night COMMENTS: We loved this state park and our campsite. Very wooded area but still had fantastic cell service. Very private and spacious sites

CAHOKIA RV PARQUE – CAHOKIA, ILLINOIS (ST. LOUIS)

SCORE: 5 SITE: 34 PRICE: $45 COMMENTS: Short gravel sites right on top of your neighbors. Roads were bad. 50 amp full hook up. A good base for St. Louis exploration. Good cell service and it did have a pool. The price was not bad for WHERE it is but too much for WHAT it is. We would stay again in a pinch.

COURT SQUARE RV PARK – MOUNTAIN VIEW, ARKANSAS (sorry, no picture)

SCORE: 5 SITE: 9 PRICE: $28 COMMENTS: Narrow, uneven, grassy pads. 50 amp full hook up. No landscaping, pool or beach. Small, outdated bathrooms with 1 shower and 1 toilet. An OK place to stay to enjoy Mountain View, capital of bluegrass and folk craft center.

GULPHA GORGE NATIONAL PARK – HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

SCORE: 8 SITE: 25 PRICE: $15/night (senior America the Beautiful Pass) COMMENTS: Our site was beautiful. Private and a babbling brook. Sites along the stream were flat and private. Other sites had quite a slope to them. No pool or beach. 50 amp full hook up. NO SHOWERS but the bathrooms were nice and clean. A great park while you enjoy Hot Springs. We’d go back again…..can’t beat the price!!

PONTCHARTRAIN LANDING MARINE AND RV – NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

SCORE: 7 SITE: 60 PRICE: $56/night COMMENTS: All sites were level and gravel. Landscaping between narrow sites was well done and maintained. Staff was pleasant and helpful. 50 amp full hook up. Messy site in the rain!! Muddy. A reasonable rate for the New Orleans area but still a bit pricy for what you got. French Quarter within 15 minute car ride. Offer shuttle to and from town. Is also a Marina.

GULF STATE PARK CAMPGROUND – GULF SHORES, ALABAMA

SCORE: 10 SITE: 164 PRICE: $770/month (monthly price increased to $915/month while we were there = “in season”) COMMENTS: This is a fantastic campground in the heart of Gulf Shores. Many biking paths, large pool, activity center, camp store. The sites are spacious, concrete pads and afford quite a bit of privacy. 1.5 miles to the beach. Free access to Gulf Park Pier and Lodge. Friendly staff – this park is HUGE. Gated and great 24 hour security and they allow long term stays.

Sweet Home Alabama……

First, I apologize for taking so long to write….seems we’ve settled into the lazy daze of retirement and we really haven’t been doing anything too exciting to write about! Howie might disagree since I gave in and we went out and got a Dish for Junebug so we can now enjoy watching our favorite TV shows – Howie’s tickled pink!! Can you say football??!! We also bought ourselves electric bicycles! It’s been 20+ years since I’ve been on a bike so I’m VERY unsteady – and I have the bruises to prove it! I’ve been crashing every time we ride – my goal is to make it through just one bike ride without injury. I’m getting better so I think I’ll live, though I truly believe that bike riding is hazardous to my health!

Even Rosie enjoys rambling around the campground!

THIS IS A BEAUTIFUL STATE PARK!! The campground is huge and the sites are spacious and offer quite a bit of privacy. The bathrooms and shower rooms are large and kept exceptionally clean. We definitely recommend Gulf Shores State Park if you ever need a campsite. (BTW – this park has inspired us to start a new category on the blog – check out “Campgrounds” where we will do a short critique and score of each park where we’ve stayed!)

Super clean sites with large cement pads – loving it here!
Gulf State Park Pier – beautiful!

So last night, our second night here, we saw our first ALLIGATOR? Look right above my finger and you’ll see it too! Still have doubts? See the video below!

Very peaceful ….. at least from afar!

The Blue Angels flew overhead as we were watching the alligator – a beautiful evening!

The best thing ever….there’s nothing quite like family! I got a text from my cousin, Rhonda – turns out they have a condo here in Gulf Shores and they are here vacationing while we’re here. So we went to see their condo….a beautiful site – right ON the gulf!

Another surprise, Dori, Rhonda’s sister/my cousin, and her husband also own a condo in the same complex and were here – so last night the six of us enjoyed a great dinner at Fin N Fork, followed by banana cream pie here at our motorhome. We had an exceptionally nice time….like I said – there’s nothing like family!!

Howie’s work has been needing him quite a bit of late, so while he’s working, I’ve been getting some sewing done. My sewing center is working out quite nicely for me – I’ve finished a quilt, made a computer bag for myself, and made a rope table runner for my sewing center.

Howie just finished work for the day so we’re heading out to either enjoy the beach or go watch the Blue Angels practice. Hoping you all are doing well and also enjoying happiness and good health every day!

Till I write again……happy trails!

Have you ever been to New Orleans??

This is actually our second time here. I didn’t think it would be a place that I would care for but the culture is so different and interesting. It’s a party for your senses! You can’t escape the sounds of the city from boats passing by on the water to the steady clip clop of the horse drawn tour carriages to the jazz music of the street musicians. As you walk along you can smell the Cajun spices wafting in the air from the dishes being prepared in the many restaurants lining every street. If you’re smart, you’ll enjoy some of the food that New Orleans is known for like a beignet from Cafe du Monde, a muffuletta from Central Grocery or a bowl of jambalaya. It goes without saying that the sights you may see are not always typical or ordinary. It’s a lot to take in since it’s happening all at the same time. Like I said, it’s a party for the senses!

Enjoying a muffuletta and a couple of beignets!

The architecture is consistently remarkable. Even as you drive through the most ordinary of streets, each house is “gingerbreaded” to the max. Even the color choices for houses are a bit unusual, but side by side, they paint a beautiful picture.

We HAVE to tell you about our very favorite NOLA restaurant, Willie Mae’s! This place is about as “unfancy” and “untourist” as you can get, yet there are long lines to get in regardless of the time or day of week. Willie is an old woman, in her nineties, who knows how to make the BEST EVER fried chicken! It literally melts in your mouth. It’s the “sides” that Howie is also in love with. You can choose from mush, fried okra, red beans and rice, green beans, and home made mashed potatoes to name a few. This place really brings out the “southern” in Howie!! We recommend that you all make time to visit Willie Mae’s if ever you’re in town!! Tomorrow, we’re planning on going for shrimp n’ grits….another Howie fav!

(I’ll be looking for something a wee bit more “northern” to order.) Bless my heart!

Fried chicken that literally melts in your mouth….how does she do that?? Howie has a hard time deciding between all the southern sides. Here he chose red beans and rice, fried okra and a corn muffin along with his chicken, of course!
Willie’s is a small little building right in the middle of a residential area. There’s almost always a line any time of the day. There are multiple small rooms, sparsely decorated – certainly nothing fancy except for the southern cooking!
Here are Howie’s shrimp and grits along with a rosemary buttered biscuit. On top is my northern girl’s choice….a BLT! It goes without saying that Howie got my fried green tomatoes!!

On Halloween day, we just couldn’t help ourselves….we went on a carriage ride through the French Quarter and the oldest cemetery in NOLA. Not scary at all, but very historically interesting. Here you must have family already in the cemetery to be entombed here….there are as many as 150 people per vault!! You have to wait a year and 1 day to add a body since the last one, allowing for proper decomposition. Then they take away the faceplate, chip away at the cement or brick behind it, and slide in another body, pushing the previous remains to the back. Pretty weird, but interesting! By the way, the pyramid shaped tomb is Nicholas Cages – just waiting for him!! (FYI – our mules name was “Stormy”.)

So as I said earlier, there are always some “different” things to see in the French Quarter. Here are just a couple for us to share.

Night time on infamous Bourbon Street
Newlyweds??
Wedding pictures in the park – bride and bride. But the really “unusual” part of this picture that Howie took, is the HEADLESS PERSON in the foreground! Howie just happened to snap the pic as the guy leaned over. And on Halloween……cracked me up!
Another couple of strange ones!!

While in New Orleans, we stayed at Pontchartrain Landing RV and Marina. A really nice campground at fairly reasonable rates, considering it was NOLA! The sites were gravel and were separated by tropical bushes and palmetto palms. While we were there, four days in all, we got quite a bit of rain – but we were able to do all that we had hoped to while in this amazing city.

Our next destination is Gulf Shores, Alabama. We plan on being at Gulf State Park for the month of November. Thanks for following us and until we meet again………… happy trails!

Diamonds, diamonds everywhere……

And not a single one found by us!!

We are in Hot Springs Arkansas, birthplace of President Clinton and home of historic bath house row! Yesterday we drove over an hour south to Crater of Diamond State Park where the largest diamond found in the USA was mined. It’s still active and open to the public to find white, yellow or brown diamonds – only if your lucky! You keep what you find but we left empty handed! It was a super fun experience and I would do it again. Just plan on getting really dirty. While we were there 5 diamonds were found, including a 3 1/4 karat brown diamond.

First you watch a video so you have an idea of what you should do. Then you pick a spot in the 27 acres and fill your bucket with dirt and gravel.
Oh well…..like I said, we had a good time!

Yesterday, we went to the visitor center of Hot Springs National Park….it’s not like any other national park – this one is centered around the bath houses, not so much nature like you’d expect. The campground here is small (40 sites – all with full hook up) but beautiful. Very wooded and we have a babbling brook behind our site. We are also graced by the presence of one pesty little red cardinal!! He keeps knocking/pecking on our windows – I think he wants to be friends.

This is what I awoke to this morning, about a foot away from my head. Like I said, pesty but beautiful!! I named him Louie as in St Louie Cardinals.

Today we went to the mineral pools on Bath House Row, downtown Hot Springs. Four different pools with temps of 95, 98, 102 and 104. It was amazing and surprising what difference just a couple of degrees makes! We spent several hours relaxing and soaking it all in.

This is the mens bath room in the museum depicting how it was historically. There are private deep tubs in each room behind the doors or the men could sit under the stained glass ceiling around the bronze statue fountain.

Another final goodbye…….. So yesterday we closed on our home – that makes it official…….we’re homeless. Except we do have Junebug! Have to say, living in a 36 foot motorhome is a bit of an adjustment. It’s hard to get away from your spouse….good thing Howie and I actually like each other. We keep marveling that this is actually our life now. So far we are completely enjoying this new life style. Happy Trails!

We’re in the Bluegrass capital of the nation!

So here’s how it happened…….it was the night before leaving St. Louis and Howie was browsing the internet looking for things to see in Arkansas. Our plan was to meander south toward Hot Springs to spend a week or so before moving along. He found a town called Mountain View in the north central part of the state. The description intrigued both of us as it claimed to be the Bluegrass capital of the nation AND it boasted of an Ozark Folk Center where you can stroll the gardens going from house to house watching exhibitors of area arts. So we hit the road about 10 am and headed to check it all out. It did not disappoint!!

If you ever have a chance to get to Mountain View Arkansas, this is a fun and interesting way to spend a day. The town isn’t somewhere you “happen across” as there’s no interstate you can jump off of to get there. The roads are winding and hilly and on occasion a bit narrow especially in a 36 foot motorhome pulling a “toad”! Howie’s a natural at driving the rig so we didn’t have any problems.
Above is just a small portion of the grounds and artist buildings. The exhibits included fiber arts, quilting, copper work, pottery, stained glass, a blacksmith, basketweaving, doll making, broom making, knife making, and printing to name a few. There was also a restaurant and ice cream shop on the premises. Additionally, there was a theater where we relaxed and took in performances by a couple of different groups – all bluegrass of course!
The “Whoa Mules”. They not only performed musically, but they also entertained with a funny comedy routine.

And last night, we went to “The Meeting Place” to watch the Pam Setser Band, a local, featuring Charlie White (former Nashville musician and a current member of Wynonna Judd’s band), Brad Apple and Irl Hees on bass (formerly played with the Judds).

We have already met some super nice people along the way. For instance, our neighbors in Mountain View are Ron and his wife Jimmee. They are also in a Winnebago MH. They have been coming here for years and are actually pretty permanent fixtures in town. They have a couple of dogs, a couple of cats, a parrot and a miniature pig, HAMilton! He’s potty trained and starts squealing (like a pig) when Ron pulls him from grazing on the grass to go back in – what a hoot!

So we’re pretty much “packed up” and hope to get a pretty early start tomorrow morning. Heading further south where the climate is hopefully still a bit warmer. I actually folded up the extra quilt from the bed tonight and stored it away – probably a sure fire way to find record low temps where we’re heading!! Catch up to you all in a little bit – and as always, until then, happy trails!

Here’s your clue……

Yep, you’re right……we’re in St. Louis!!!! Yesterday we went to the Cahokia Indian Mounds and much to my surprise, it was VERY interesting! The museum is phenomenal! Howie is a big history buff but I think I enjoyed it just as much as I’ve always had a big interest in the native Americans. We spent several hours viewing the exhibits as well as watching a documentary film. Here are a few pics of some of the exhibits.

A replica of the village, population of 40,000, which existed from about 600 AD to 1300. The people eventually had to move due to over population, pollution of the land and exploitation of natural resources. Sounds a little too familiar!
Because it was about 50 degrees with winds around 18 mph we opted out of climbing Monk Mound – 156 steps to the top where the “king” had his house, He was high up so he could see the people (about 40,000) and keep them all in line. It took the people about 300 years to build this mound, carrying soil weighing 50-60 pounds per basket load!

We decided we needed a reward after contemplating climbing these stairs, so on a tip from my sister, Lori, we headed for “the best soft serve stand in the nation”. The hype is REAL! It was fantastic! Howie had a Hawaiian sundae and I had a “Christy” – a frosted brownie covered in vanilla ice cream and topped with fudge and caramel – yikes!

We asked that all the calories be removed!!!

Today we visited Gateway Arch National Park – a true engineering marvel. Howie’s been inside the arch before but I never was until today (My kids will argue that my memory has failed – they’re both certain that I was there years ago.) Something that “different” would have been deeply engrained in my brain so I think I’m right on this one. Anyway, it was certainly an experience. The weather was beautiful – a clear sunny day – perfect for viewing from the top.

Tomorrow is another travel day. We’ll be heading “south”, taking our time as we head toward Hot Springs, Arkansas. The weather’s been a bit nippy here so we’re hopefully heading toward a bit warmer climate. We are so grateful for all of you who have been “following” us and we certainly have been enjoying all the encouraging comments, well wishes and prayers for safe travels. To all of you who have welcomed us to “drop by”, be careful…..sometimes what you wish for comes true! Happy trails!

Saying goodbye and hello……

Beside, selling the house, we also made a big change…..we traded in Lady Bug! After just a few trips, it quickly became evident that towing a car with a tow dolly, just wasn’t for us! It would take about 45 minutes to get the car hooked up correctly and involved an “old man” (Howie’s now 72!) doing some contortions on the ground….definitely NOT one of his favorite things to do! Because the Beetle could not be towed with all four wheels down, we decided it was time to trade her in.

We found the perfect car for us….a Honda CRV. After much research, we believe this to be one of the easier cars to tow, four down. It now takes about 7 minutes to hook up and all from an upright position! So please, meet “Tag-A-Long” (named for obvious reasons!) We’ll be referring to her as “Tag”.

So, we also decided to trade in Junebug for an updated model! We found the perfect RV but were disappointed to find it was not available! I guess some things are just not meant to be!

That’s all for now folks…..happy trails!

Hi, everyone…..we’re back!!

Oh my goodness….what a whirlwind we’ve been living! After receiving an offer on the house, we returned home on September 19th. We packed for three weeks, weeding through too much “stuff” and sorting into motorhome/storage/pitch/sell. All went smoother than we could have imagined even though we were exhausted! We both marveled at God’s hand in all of this for everything we let go of, He brought a buyer or a taker. We now have (two) storage units and an empty house. It is SO hard to let go of some of the material things, mostly those that have a degree of sentimental value. Now I fully understand what my dear mother went through each time she had to downsize!

Moving is definitely messy business! Its exhausting in every way….physically and emotionally. To my wonderful Blunier family, the hutch in the background is one that Grandpa made for Grandma to store supplies to feed 16 kids! One of my most prized possessions!
Looking a bit empty but we’re ready to let our sweet home go…..time to “full time” it!

While we packed up the house, we also found time for some wonderful events. Howie’s oldest grandson, Mark married Morgan. It was a beautiful wedding and the newly married couple just glowed! The lucky couple will be honeymooning in Italy!!

Congratulations! We love you both and wish you the happiest marriage ever!

The following morning we headed to Peoria to see Kailey in a volleyball tournament! It is so much fun to watch her compete…..I just wish I could still jump as high as she can. The team took 6th out of 24 teams. Good practice for the state competition which is the beginning of November….Good luck, girls!

She’s number 14, just like her Grandpa, Bill, who wore the number throughout his high school days!

We also got to spend some time with my daughter, Amanda and her children, Kailey and Garrett. One event led us to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Here we’re standing in front of the Caribbean Reef! A great group pic, right? What most of you may not realize is that my son, Casey, is also in the shot! See the diver in the tank?? That’s him!!! He volunteers at the Shedd every Monday morning to dive the Reef and feed the fish…..he claims it’s the best day of the week! It’s so much fun to see him in there!

We ran across a couple of monkeys in front of the museum!
And after the Shedd, we went to one of my favorite hangouts in the city…..Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder, where the bread is flat like pizza and the pizza comes by the 1/2 pound in a bowl! Try it sometime….you’ll love it!

So, we were supposed to close on our house on Tuesday, Oct. 15th. However, that morning, we received a request for a week extension. Luckily, we had given our attorney power to sign for us as we had planned to be on the road that morning. So off we went, heading south for parts unknown…..or did we know exactly where we were heading???? Stay tuned for the next adventure and as always……happy trails!