It looked so inviting. Some of the guys who stay at the hotel talked management into getting a gas grill for the patio. The weather has been mild and the days for grilling are upon us. We would sit on the patio after work and savor the fragrance of the meat cooking on the grill.

We decided it was time for us to do it too. We bought a grill brush of our own to clean the community grill. We went to the great market and got some steaks and colorful veggies and a disposable grill basket to roast the veggies and make our meal complete. We cut and sliced, we sprinkled and marinated. We gathered our utensils, olive oil and glasses of wine. We carefully made our way down the three flights of stairs, making sure that we had everything we needed. We wanted to enjoy the ambiance of the experience without being interrupted by an unnecessary hike back up the stairs.

The moment had arrived. The final topping on the Memorial Day weekend. We set up shop. No one else was around. The sun had settled on the other side of the hotel and the conditions were perfect to enjoy each other and the succulent aroma of onions, steaks and potatoes being seared on the fire. But then the worst thing happened. ….the worst thing DIDN’T happen. It couldn’t be! There was no propane left in the tank? Surely the hotel staff had prepared for a moment such as this. Of course they had a back up tank in their utility shed. The shed couldn’t be just for bags of salt and snow shovels. We just KNEW they had another tank of propane in there to assist the unlucky guest that drew the lottery number for their steak to be held up from turning from red to brown. But it was not to be…..the hotel had no other tanks and no one to obtain one. They were sorry but there will be no gas at the OK Corral Hotel tonight.

It was an anticlimactic Memorial evening as we schlepped back up to our room, taking the elevator this time in defeat, and dragging our raw steak and sad vegetables along with us. We argued over which take-out place to call at this now late hour to be eating dinner. We settled on Jimmy Johns Subs. It was a very poor substitute for a ribeye but at least they do deliver “ridiculously fast” as their ads proclaim. So “Cheers” to our “Turkey Tom” sandwich as the last hours of our Memorial Weekend faded away.

A park along the Rock River.

A Stocked Market

A hotel bizspouse introduced me to a new market today. Wow–it has colorful and unusual fruits and vegetables, seafood that includes lots of fins and eyes and a wine selection that goes on for days.

I was surprised by the large deli and several attentive men offering to provide samples of the wide variety of choice meats and cheeses. There were breads galore and many grains and dried nuts and fruits in homespun cellophane packaging.

I’ve been making a conscious effort to try fruits and veggies that I have not been accustomed to eating and eggplant would be one of them. Ruining a great pasta dish with a poor pasta substitute like eggplant just seems wrong to me. This one looked more user friendly and indeed it was. After a few days of enjoying the flying penguin look, I sliced it thin and roasted it with olive oil and garlic and mmmmm crunchy little fried like morsels appeared on the cookie sheet. This market has peppers of every color, size and description! They were plentiful and they were CHEAP!

So thank you Mrs.Bizspouse from Alabama for showing me yet another interesting local find. Adventures come in large AND small packages.  There are so many reasons to embrace being on the road and a penguin eggplant is just another one of them!

Is it just me or does this little eggplant resemble a flying penguin?

Standing on the Rock

Everything in Rockford, Illinois has something to do with a rock…there’s the Rock River, Rock Cut Park, Rock Valley College, Rockford College. Rock River Times.  Then up the road is Rockton and Roscoe (switch the S and C sounds and you have rock again).

There are also some noteworthy people from this rocky place. Jodi Benson from Toy Story 3 and the voice of the Little Mermaid is from Rockford. And how about Shawn Wade the bass player for the band, “12 Stones (little rocks).  There is also the well known author John Ortberg, and the female astronaut, Janice Voss, who left the solid rock of earth to go into space. There is Chad Knaus too, the crew chief for that NASCAR rock, Jimmie Johnson. I guess my personal favorite rock reference for the city though would be Rick Nielsen, the lead guitarist for the ROCK band Cheap Trick. So by now, even though there are more, you are likely weary of my rock references so I will move on.

I will move on to the main Rock. The true Rock that I stand on and that is Christ. I know that I couldn’t have gone through some of the events and challenges in my life if I had not had the Lord and His word to stand on and lean on in those tough times. Now traveling along the road and being away from the people, the town and buildings and streets that are familiar and comforting to me for an extended length of time, I rely on the comfort and strength that will never leave me.

I don’t know what lies ahead with our next work project, just as you don’t know what lies ahead with your life. Our circumstances can change in an instant. I literally rest at night assured that God is in my corner and He’s watching out for me. So whatever lies ahead in Rockford or wherever, I say “Rock On!”

Attitude is everything.

Going on the road for an extended length of time is the ultra “getting out of your comfort zone.” What are those comforts? They are the tried and true habits and idols that we so easily slip into.  I struggle with a little addiction to a controlled substance AKA COFFEE. Now I can’t drink any old low quality, back burner brew. No, my coffee must be fresh, made with filtered water, the best fresh grown arabica beans that money can buy. That used to mean Dunkin’ Donuts beans freshly ground and brewed in my high quality coffee maker.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that a quality blend of coffee that can be purchased anywhere in the United States and brewed in a $29 hotel Mister Coffee pot can be quite a taste sensation!  I DO use filtered water but other than that…no gimmicks needed for a fine cup o’ joe.

Another example of keeping a good attitude is in not having access to a vehicle as much as I am used to. We had made the decision to only bring one instead of caravan driving across the U.S. But that means that if carpooling isn’t always available that other creative means for getting around must be sought. So….HELLO WALKING!!! The weather is gorgeous right now and there are sidewalks and bike paths nearby so it’s a great chance to get in some exercise! I had to check my attitude yesterday as I missed out on a ride that I was expecting and had some serious cabin fever. I decided a walk to the grocery store was in order. The interesting thing about grocery shopping on foot is that you no longer look at the price of the item but look at the weight….hmmmm how much do I want this item that I want to haul it back to the room? AND I figured that I could splurge on a bakery muffin and walk it off on the way home.

So with my grocery bag in one hand and my trusty cell phone in the other, I could get my groceries back to the room and catch up on news with my daughter.

The fragrant lilacs are so plentiful that they are casually trimmed and discarded.

The birds were singing, the lilacs were in full bloom and the muffin was yummy. Life is good.

People always ask me how I could leave my home to live in a hotel for months at a time. My standard answer is, “And let my husband be here without me? I can’t imagine being anywhere else?”

My name is Janet and I’m a chipaholic

I remember now why it has been over a year since we have eaten in a Mexican Restaurant. We have no control. We had forgotten that. It was Cinco de Mayo you know? May 5th.  It seemed like the perfect time to try a Mexican restaurant in our temp city.

After all, it was my Weight Watchers leader who even suggested the restaurant in the first place. Since I’ve lost ten pounds now (not a true ten pounds mind you because that first weigh in included a hat, coat, gloves and shoes just to assure a little progress that first week on program) and am back to my goal, I felt empowered to go in there on the Mexican holiday to celebrate with the locals. I just bet that Carolyn doesn’t let them bring chips to her table.

It’s that chip basket that is the problem. I had silently promised myself that I would count out ten chips and when they were eaten, I was finished. I would then patiently wait for my modest combo to arrive. But did that happen? Oh no, my hubby and I ended up finger fighting over the last small crumb nestled in the bottom of the basket. At least we did resist the urge to nod approvingly as the fourth “attender” offered to refill it. Don’t they know how bad your night can be after you have filled up on just ONE chip basket  between two people AND your “modest” combo?

But the chips are so good. At home I eat unsalted pretzels or baked potato chips. I don’t have a greasy chip within a mile of my hotel room. Okay, unless you count the vending machine in the laundry room but that doesn’t tempt me. But put me in a restaurant with loud music, lots of happy people and a basket of hot chips and I’m a gonner.

So after a restless night of dreaming about striped blankets, big hats and Pepcid AC, I believe it will likely be another year before we attempt to eat Mexican food. We need to face facts, we are chipaholics and we now know it.

A tribute to Manuel

This is a repost from February. Manuel had a stroke a few weeks ago and remains in a rehab center. So quickly our lives can change.

Manuel is the kindly older gentleman who does the maintenance in the hotel. He is always busy taking out trash or vacuuming or making repairs. Manuel does not speak English however, and I know little Spanish so I use a lot of universal sign language and he responds with Spanish words I’ve never heard before. It’s worked pretty well for us, that is until last Monday. That was the day that we moved from the 1st floor to the 3rd floor.
You see, our room had a lazy boy chair in it. (not the real name brand one but a cheap, vinyl recliner that we called Lazy Boy). When we saw that our new room had a plain old motel chair in it, we asked if we could swap them.
So Manuel came to the room with a dolly and a smile and proceeded to attempt to load the chair onto the dolly. It was heavy and awkward but we got it loaded and moved to the door but the door was too narrow. So after more unloading and grunting, we got it onto the elevator and moved to the 3rd floor.
Manuel kept saying something to me in Spanish and pointing at the base of the chair as we struggled to get it in place. I just didn’t get what he meant. My two years of high school Spanish were seriously failing me at this moment.
Then the light bulb came on as I realized what he meant.  This is what he was trying to say in his Spanish language. “Stupid lady, hold the bottom of the foot stool part of the chair because it keeps popping out to recline and that’s why we can’t get it moved where we are trying to put it!!!” He only used a couple words but I figured out what he was saying.
Now he smiles and waves each time he sees me, he’s such a friendly guy…..I bet I know what he’s thinking though.