Another GastroSuccess!

I had a birthday over last weekend, and I mark myself now only one year away from my well-deserved Medicare holiday. After paying in all these years, especially in light of the carnage Obamacare has personally wreaked on us, it will be a delight to start with the payback! This is the end of the political comment section, read on for the fun parts.

My birthday was celebrated by the return of the Gastropalooza! There is a mix of opinions on just how many of these we have held, and this is most likely due to this event’s heavy support of the wine and tequila industries. However, I’m going with 5 (and a 1/2 if you count the after-party).

This year’s theme was seafood, which started out with a visit to the Stinky Market! That’s the locals-only name for a fabulous Asian market with a Vietnamese name that I can’t pronounce (and I’m afraid if I tried this post would be taken down) that has the largest selection of seafoods, both domestic and imported, of any fish store I have ever been in. I was told to keep my eye out for the frog tank, where I would be greeted by layers and layers of frogs stacked up for sale in a large aquarium. Not dead frogs, mind you, just very flatly stacked LIVE FROGS, with their eyes all blinking and staring out at you. I had my cell phone at the ready, and was primed to do a fabulous YouTube posting that would hopefully generate enough advertising income to retire on! But, alas, the tank was empty. So we settled on some very tasty ingredients for a Ceviche appetizer, some manila clams and prawns to mix with an existing jumbo bag of green-lipped mussels from Costco to steam as a second course, and Ralph, the main course.

Let’s start with the Ceviche, which required prep well in advance of dinner. For those of you who are unfamiliar, ceviche is a dish concocted by marinating very fresh fish and/or shellfish and herbs and spices in lime juice, which effectively “cooks” the seafood. Wally, one of our very adventurous friends and fellow-paloozer, could NOT take his eyes off of a very large octopus in the cooler. So, into the cart it went, followed by scallops, and a box of frozen green-lipped mussels (making them easy to cut into pieces). We added 6 pounds of fresh manila clams and 2 pounds of  fresh prawns and decided we had done enough damage to our wallets. When we returned home, Wendy and sister Mary made quick work chopping and dicing up Mr. Octopus.

Chop goes the Octopus!

Chop goes the Octopus!

Octo-Dicing for maximum flavor and chewiness

Octo-Dicing for maximum flavor and chewiness

Every ceviche needs spice and lime juice. Bro-In-Law Jeff had about 6 dozen Mexican Limes juiced and frozen, so we appropriated 2 quarts of that lovely nectar. And Wally and Wendy found cilantro, dill, and 2 types of scallions in Wally’s garden.

Spice hunting in Wally's Garden

Spice hunting in Wally’s Garden

The Scallion haul

The Scallion haul

The garlic is best when it’s peeled (or husked) and sliced thin. And for this we were given a wonderful tip from Frankie, Wally’s better half. This really is only good if you are husking a lot of garlic cloves, especially if you are slicing and not mincing them. Separate your garlic cloves from the bulb, and place them into a mason jar or other sealed jar. Shake them vigorously and, voila!, they magically husk themselves!

Shake it up Baby!

Shake it up Baby!

Well shaken and naked cloves, ready to thin slice

Well shaken and naked cloves, ready to thin slice

Super thin sliced garlic, lime juice, thin sliced scallions, diced fresh octopus, cut up frozen mussels, quartered scallops, and some finely diced English Cucumber, and in 4-5 hours you got ceviche! Just for fun, Wally took a small quantity of it and added a cup of high-test tequila to it. Yowzers! You have to try it to believe it!

The large glass jars are a MUST for presentation!

The large glass jars are a MUST for presentation!

And finally, meet Ralph. We found Ralph at the Stinky Market. He is (or was) a Bandit Fish, a wonderfully fat rock fish. And he just begging to be cleaned and stuffed with dill, cilantro, and lots of fresh lemon slices, then doused with EVOO, wrapped in heavy duty foil, and roasted on the BBQ on low heat for 30 minutes.

Ralph, the fat Bandit Fish, and our real Guest of Honor

Ralph, the fat Bandit Fish, and our real Guest of Honor

While we waited for Ralph to finish his sauna, we enjoyed the steamed mussels, clams, and shrimp. Then 10 of us picked Ralph, quite literally, to the bone! As a side note, our Grand-Niece Emma really enjoyed poking Ralph in the eye while I was cleaning and prepping him, that is until the loud “BOO!” that made her jump at least a foot off the ground. What a squealer!

A very special shout-out to all of those who made my 64th Birthday very memorable, and very gastro-satisfying: my best half, Wendy; my sister (and most excellent hosts) Mary and her hubby Jeff; my delightful niece Morgan and her equally delightful hubby Erin with their two delicious girls Emma and Annie; fellow Ninja-Barbequer Wally and his bride, the ever-floral Frankie; and last but not least Barbara and hubby Joe, she being the mistress of mouth-watering desserts, and he being one of the funniest Jews I ever laid ears on. I’m going to credit my future eBook that deals with Hayim Depot, the Home Depot for Jewish Guys, all to him.

Until we meet again! And, back by popular demand, here’s Tippy!

Garlic Husking

 

 

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Having Health Insurance is not the same as having Health Care: Obamacare Rant

HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE IS NOT THE SAME AS HAVING HEALTH CARE

I’m puzzled by the name of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). I’m one of a large body of newly-senior citizens who qualify for Medicare at age 65. But, as this is only my 64th year on the planet, I’m also in my last year of government mandated purchase of health insurance as required by the ACA. Complying with the purchase mandate, however, doesn’t really translate to having Affordable Care, because I certainly don’t.

My wife and I will both be turning 64 this year. We are counting the days, literally, until our decades of tithing into Medicare begins its payback. We both qualify for full coverage at 65, but until then we are stuffed wallet-first into that zone where we are basically paying a giant chunk of our small income to fund other people’s health care, and virtually none of our own. This is a classic definition of redistribution of wealth, but in our cases it isn’t so much redistribution of wealth as it is redistribution of paycheck. We work, and each month we funnel a big share of our modest earnings into a health insurance exchange so that others, who typically don’t work, can have cheap or free coverage. And somehow, through the law, we end up with virtually no coverage.

We both work full time, and although we don’t make much, we make enough to disqualify us from any federal subsidy of our insurance costs. Our employer, like many small business employers, doesn’t pay for any of our health insurance, they simply can’t afford to and remain competitive. And at our age, even though we are in excellent health, we are brushing up against the very tall ceiling of the cost structure for individual health insurance. When our income is added to a small pension from a previous career, we make enough to be comfortable, but not enough to sock away any appreciable savings. So we live comfortably as long as a disaster doesn’t strike. Because we can’t afford anything better, we chose to purchase a Bronze Plan through the state exchange. Affordable, in this case, is equivalent to Catastrophic Coverage. It provides us with minimal no-cost preventative care but has a whopping $6,000 (each) deductible for everything else. And after the deductible is satisfied (and most of our savings is gone), we are still on the hook for 40% (up to $6,350) of the next $15,875 in expenses. If a catastrophe strikes, even a moderate one, we will be well into bankruptcy before full insurance coverage takes over.

So, back to my puzzlement, why is Obamacare called the Affordable Care Act, and not the Mandatory Insurance Act? We comply with the law, but still have no effective health care coverage, and especially not affordable coverage. For even a modest hospital stay, we would be bankrupted even with our insurance. So why, then, should we carry the insurance at all? Our coverage provides for, at no additional cost, an annual physical exam for each of us, a mammogram for my wife, and flu shots. Even at the inflated prices that our health care provider charges to an individual out-of-pocket patient (which are 68% or more discounted for our insurance carrier), we would pay less than $1,600 per year for those things that are covered by our policy. The following diagram shows what we would pay for progressively more health care (there is one column for each of us). 2015 Health Finances Cropped

As a reference point, here are some claims made by our health care provider, Evergreen Health, and paid by our insurance carrier, Ambetter Coordinated Care:

Health Claims

From a health care needs standpoint, if we assume the best scenario (no health events during the year), we are out a total of $10,960 for our policy, but get about $1,600 in medical services for that. Our insurance carrier, by the way, will pay only about $200 for those services for me, and about $335 for my wife. That gives them a tidy profit of well over $10,000. The government rationale is that this profit can help to soothe the costs of covering others who pay far less for their insurance, or nothing at all. I’m still waiting to see any facts or science to support that rationale.

If we assume a more serious scenario, an injury or illness requiring a minimal hospitalization, we will probably be out-of-pocket another $5,000-$6,000 for a total of $16,000 or so. Our insurance carrier has, by now, still only paid about $550 for services since we absorbed all of the costs in our policy deductible. Their tidy profit is still intact.

God forbid we have a much more severe scenario, a major injury or illness requiring a lengthy hospitalization. We will easily blow through the deductible, and then easily surpass the next $15,875 of 40% coinsurance expenses before full coverage finally, mercifully, kicks in. We will, unfortunately, already have exhausted our modest savings, shoveling those dollars into the total out-of-pocket obligation of $23,310 (insurance policy, plus $6,000 deductible, plus $6,350 maximum out-of-pocket during coinsurance). This not-so-unlikely scenario puts us out of savings, deeply in debt, out of work, and in the hospital. Thank God at least one of us is being fed, even if it’s hospital food. That assumes, of course, that it isn’t both of us in the hospital, and we haven’t double-bankrupted ourselves.

How is this Affordable Care?

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The Muddscape gets Wet ‘n Wild!

It has been a long, long time since we last posted. And a TON has happened. It will take quite a few posts to get it all brought up to date, so like eating dessert first for dinner we will start at the end.
We sold the 5th Wheel. And bought a boat. My older brother Brian told me this is one of the two happiest days of a boat owners life. I correctly guessed the other one, and you can too. Guess, that is, because if you haven’t owned one you will have to find out for yourself.
She’s a real beauty. A 23 ft. Bayliner Ciera combo cruising and fishing boat. In body she’s a 1992 model, and there are lots of little cosmetic things we are excitedly fixing or upgrading. But her bones and guts are spring-chicken young. A 16-hours-fresh new 4.3L Mercruiser with a just-as-fresh outdrive. Both of those were upgraded from the 1992 vintage to 1993, a big change that year produced a more powerful and fuel efficient engine and a much smoother and more efficient outdrive. Of course, we are rigging with all new critical gear: new fire extinguishers (4 in total), new life vests (in assorted sizes), a whole US Coast Guard distress signal package, all new rod holders, a brand new crab pot winch, brand new LED submersible trailer lights, replacing all the on-board lighting with LED lighting, a brand new anchor/chain/line, a brand new Lowrance E-5 DSI GPS/Sonar/FishFinder, and a bunch of other convenience stuff. And, of course, Wendy has reupholstered all the cabin cushions in a cheery blue and green pattern. She looks almost new! Meet GeeDub2. That’s long for GW and GW, which is short for Grandma Wendy and Grandpa Warren.
GeeDub2
We are taking her on the maiden shakedown voyage the weekend after Father’s Day. Putting her in the water in Garibaldi (that’s in Tillamook Bay) and probably running up to Astoria for an overnight, then a little crabbing off the coast and some fishing too. We are very excited. The following weekend we managed to get 5 days in a row off, from Sunday June 30 through July 4. So we are schlepping GeeDub2 up to the Washington Park boat launch at Anacortes, plunking her in, and cruising over to Orcas to play with the family. If we have good crabbing on our upcoming Oregon Coast cruise, we’ll all be eating crab 2 weeks before the season opens in the San Juans. I don’t think we’ll have a problem finding some moorage…
We will have to resume telling our travel tales and adventures, and also filling you all in on the last 8 months since we left Park Sierra in Coarsegold and relocated to Hillsboro, Oregon just west of Portland. There is a lot to tell, a bunch of new additions to the clan, and plenty exciting developments. So stay tuned to the old Muddscape. Don’t touch that dial!

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Visioneering Forward

Has anyone noticed lately how a lot of TV shows are featuring “Visioneering”? This is the act of envisioning something you want, a goal or a thing or a relationship for instance, and imaging it to be real. Word on the street says that it produces results and delivers your wish. In any event, if it makes you feel better it can’t hurt.

The same TV shows have their characters making a Vision Board, a piece of cardboard or poster board upon which they glue or tape pictures of their vision. Then they put that board in a place where they see it frequently to help themself imagine the wish coming true.

Scientists might cast a little stank-eye at this notion, but even if it just improves your mood it’s an interesting and fun thing to do. So get out your Vision Boards, scissors, tape and glue sticks and get to work! The year is young and there’s plenty of time to make your dreams come true!

What would you wish for if you truly thought it would come true? Lots of money?

money

Moolah

A private airplane?

private plane

Your own private airplane

A fabulous new motorhome?

motorhome

Who wouldn't want this?

Maybe a country home?

country home

A nice little country get-away

Maybe a new vehicle?

tractor

This is MY idea of a new vehicle!

Or would it be for something more like good health?

eye chart

Good vision from good visioneering

Or happiness?

kitten

Coming through!

In any event, whatever makes you happy should be what you strive for this New Year. Build yourself a board. Have your kids build themselves a board. Or not. But make sure to get your mind in its right place and get ready to make it the best year ever!

Tippy has the day off, so here is his side kick Eddie to wish you a Happy New Year!

Eddie's TOTD

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Out with the Old

We’re still in Oxnard watching the clock tick on 2011.

Oxnard Sunset

Watching the old year fade away

We have had a remarkable year, one that brought us tons of joy and discovery, new friends, a new home, and a simpler lifestyle that is serving us very well. We wish all of our readers, family, and friends (and yes, even our enemies!) the best of the new year. It holds a lot of promise for all of us, and opportunities that only need to be seen to become real.

Here’s one guy that is truly enjoying some of the local color, a whole fried fish at a local Mexican restaurant, Cabo, in Oxnard. It’s been a good year!

Oxnard Fish Dinner

My whole fried red snapper dinner

It maybe wasn’t such a good year for this guy, however.

Oxnard Fish

The whole fried snapper

Another guy who had a great year is our Grandson, Brandon. He came to spend the night with us shortly after we arrived and got to spend some time with his old buddy Bongo. They don’t show well, but those are some brand new teeth up front!

Sleepover Brandon

Brandon and Bongo hanging out

We’re going to enjoy today doing some very relaxing stuff. It’s a beautiful day here in California weather-wise, so we’re taking in the beach. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be the movie of the day. Gelato will be lunch, and we’re throwing some lamb chops on the barbie for dinner. Happy New Year to all, and here’s Tippy with his  usual sage advice.

New Year Resolution

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On the Road Again 2

It’s been a long while since we updated the travel blog, and that’s mostly because we haven’t been traveling! We spent the last 4 months camped at Park of the Sierras SKP waiting for our name to come to the top of the list for a permanent membership, and it finally did! On December 9 we made the big move to our new permanent base of operations, site 114. It doesn’t look like much right now, but we have some plans to add a little landscaping and patio extension to make it much more comfortable. And we have a shed for storage!

The new digs at Site 114

A paved drive AND a shed!

Wendy and I have made lots of new friends here. Park Sierra, located in Coarsegold CA about an hour south of Yosemite’s south entrance, is a Co-op SKP park, which means that all of the members volunteer to provide services for upkeep to keep the costs of running the park low. We pay $110 per month for our site, and that includes all of the amenities except electricity and propane. We have a spacious site, a 9X12 shed, two friendly neighbors (Hi Becky and Paul!), a paved driveway, a huge clubhouse with a giant commercial kitchen, a huge Pole Barn with a large selection of woodworking, welding, blacksmithing, and general tools for our use, 4 miles of walking trails (wandering through an old-growth oak forest), and a ton of wildlife (mostly woodpeckers, squirrels and gophers, but also including bobcats, raccoons, and an occasional mountain lion). These gals spend most of every Tuesday quilting, and not just for themselves. They participate in Quilts of Valor, a project to donate high quality quilts to returning veterans as an appreciation for their service.

Quilting buddies at Park Sierra

Wendy has also taken up Beading. She caught the bug from her new friends, and has been cranking out these beautiful bracelets like crazy, giving me plenty of football-watching time!

Beaded bracelets are the latest new hobby

This place is a real treat, one of the finest RV campgrounds we have ever been in. It’s a private park (membership only). The founders followed their vision to carve this park out of a weed-choked oak forest 20 years ago, and now it’s home to about 500 retirees enjoying 254 spacious campsites spread over 160 acres in the Gold Country. We don’t worry about intruders much because the road in is a little rough.

A driveway it ain't!

Just kidding. That’s a photo of a bridge that washed out in a flood before the Friant Dam was built to create Millerton Lake, the main source of the San Joaquin River. We’ve done a lot of local sightseeing to get more up-close-and-personal with our new digs.

We are on a 2 month road trip right now, camped at Evergreen RV in Oxnard, CA. Because of the holidays (and because I didn’t book a site in time) this is a close as we can get to family in the San Fernando Valley and Beverly Hills. It’s a LOT warmer than Coarsegold where the nighttime temps were dropping into the high 20’s, so it isn’t so bad making the 45 minute drive in to see them.

We’ll be off in mid-January to San Diego to visit more family, and then off to southern Arizona for a few weeks of more warm weather to visit some friends at the largest gathering of RV’s in the world. Quartzsite AZ is host to approximately 750,000 RVs during January, an event that has been going on for more than 30 years. That’s an average of about 1.5 MILLION campers in one spot, all dry-camping in the desert (no water, electricity or sewage, although strangely the cell and internet service is excellent). We’ll stay until the water runs out or the waste tanks fill up, then we’ll skedaddle back to our new home base!

Oh yeah, here’s Tippy! Are you happy now Dan?

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Pulling the Rug Out

As part of our floor refurbishing in the rig we decided to replace the old carpeting in the dining area and our upstairs lounge, which functions as our office. The rig is 7 years old this year, and the original carpet is cut-pile beige, or at least it USED to be beige. We lifted up an edge that had been doubled over and it isn’t even CLOSE to its original color. We had originally thought to replace the lounge area carpet with vinyl, but the removal and reinstallation started to look way too complex, and so we compromised on some nice tight loop “office” quality carpeting.

The “Before” in the dining area was pretty ugly. Of course there were plenty of food stains, from us and the previous owners. But it was just poor looking and it never looked very clean.

The Dining Area (or Sewing Room!) Before

The “Before” for the lounge area wasn’t quite as bad, but it still was dated and never looked clean regardless of the effort we took to vacuum and spot clean.

The Upstairs Lounge (Office) Before

The carpeting in the dining area has one exposed and finished edge since it is in the slide that moves in when retracted. So we wanted to have a nice finished edge there on the new carpet as well. We elected to buy a large area rug (Walmart, $79) that was the texture and color we wanted, and we cut pieces out of it to do our carpeting job. In this way we were able to preserve the finished edge. Wendy made some adjustments after we cut it to fit on the small “wings” at the sides that lap around the wall of the slide. She cut the binding loose from the rug before we cut it to fit, and then sewed that same binding back around the exposed edges.

Wendy had to bring the Sewing Room outdoors

The original binding was re-used for the new cut edges

Carpeting the dining area was a snap. It’s pretty much a rectangle, and the table removes with just 2 screws (Note: there are round wooden plugs concealing the screws, use a small screw tapped into the plug to pull them out).

The Dining Area after clean up (staples, staples, staples!)

The upstairs lounge area was a bigger challenge. We have two opposing slides in that area, and the old carpeting was installed before them at the factory. So we elected to remove the foot panel on each slide to expose the underneath, and cut the carpet back as far as we could. After that it was just a matter of pulling out the old carpet and cleaning up any staples left in the sub-floor. We left the existing padding since it was in pretty good shape.

Under one of the slides upstairs

Once cut loose, the big piece pulled right out

We cut the single piece out of the rug and fit it to the area, making cutouts for heater vents and other structures. Then it was just a matter of folding it over and stapling it under the exposed edge with an electric stapler (Arrow ET501 with 5/8” staples). A few tacks in the dining area and done! We were very pleased with the result. It looks clean, is a darker color to not show stains so much, is a tight loop pile that won’t “grab” the pet hair so easy, and is MUCH easier to vacuum. We can even sweep it to get up loose bits. We had enough of the rug left over to redo the steps as well. Thank God for electric staple guns!

The finished Dining Area

The finished upstairs Lounge/Office

As always, here’s Tippy!

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