All posts by Carolyn

French Lentil Soup

French Lentil Soup
This is a tasty and filling soup, despite being meatless. The original recipe called for water in place of the stock or broth I prefer. The stock/broth, plus lentils combined with rice gives complete protein content for the soup. I also converted this recipe for use in a crock-pot.
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Cook Time
8 hr
Cook Time
8 hr
  1. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 large onion, chopped
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 1/2 cups French, green, or brown lentils
  5. 64 oz (two cartons) of chicken stock or low sodium broth
  6. 1 celery stalk, diced
  7. 1 turnip, diced
  8. 1 bunch sorrel or spinach, cut in 2 inch strips
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 large carrot, diced
  11. 1 large potato, diced
  12. 1 can low sodium tomato sauce
  13. salt to taste (you'll need more than you think)
  14. 1/2 cup cooked white or brown rice
  1. Pour olive oil into a sauce pan and gently saute onion and garlic over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent.
  2. Rinse the lentils and add to crock pot. Add the stock, cut vegetables, sauteed onions and garlic, and the rest of the ingredients except the salt and rice.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  4. After 8 hours check on the soup. It should be very dark brown, and about half of the lentils will have broken down completely.
  5. Season the soup to taste and add the rice.
  6. Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired. Definitely serve with bread, because folks will want to get every drop of this soup out of the bowl!
Adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila'Latourrette
Adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila'Latourrette
Lost Rambler

Reuben Casserole with Thousand Island Dressing

I love Reubens of all variety — classic Reubens with sauerkraut, alternate Reubens with coleslaw (which is called a Sycamore at the fantastic fast food restaurant, Tops, in the Pasadena, CA, area), and slightly more healthy Rachels with coleslaw and turkey instead of corned beef.

But Reubens can’t be found everywhere, so when I found myself with left over sauerkraut from Sunday’s dinner, I searched around and found this recipe on Betty Crocker. It’s not perfect, so I’d love to hear how you’ve modified it. Richard and I thought it was good, but a little too liquid. I think using leftover home-made mashed potatoes instead of instant might fix the problem. I’ll update when I cook this one again after St. Patrick’s Day.

Reuben Casserole with Thousand Island Dressing
Serves 6
Try this tasty casserole when you're craving the flavors of a Reuben sandwich but you can't find a good deli nearby.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 hr
Total Time
30 hr 10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 hr
Total Time
30 hr 10 min
For the casserole
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 3/4 cups milk
  3. 3 tbsp butter or margarine
  4. 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  5. 1 pouches (4.7 oz each) Betty Crocker™ sour cream and chive mashed potatoes
  6. 1 cup corned beef, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  7. 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) sauerkraut, drained well (rinse to taste)
  8. 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
  9. 4 teaspoons caraway seed, if desired
For the dressing
  1. 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup ketchup
  3. 1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
  4. 1/4 cup dill pickle relish
  5. 1 pinch salt
  6. 1 pinch ground black pepper
Directions for the casserole
  1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Grease or spray 2 1/2-qt baking dish.
  2. Heat water and butter to rapid boil in 3-quart saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in milk and mustard. Stir in 1 pouches potatoes just until moistened. Let stand about 1 minute or until liquid is absorbed. Whip with fork until smooth.
  3. Spread about 1/2 of the potatoes in baking dish. Top with corned beef. Spread sauerkraut over corned beef and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons caraway seed, if desired. Spoon remaining potatoes over top; spread gently. Sprinkle potatoes with cheese and remaining caraway seed.
  4. Bake uncovered about 30 minutes or until cheese is light golden brown.
  5. Serve with Thousand Island dressing on the side.
Directions for the dressing
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well. Store in an air tight container in the fridge.
  2. Can be made in advance, but should be well chilled before topping casserole.
  1. Remember to drain your sauerkraut well to prevent excess liquids.
  2. I don't like my Thousand Island dressing too sweet, so I use dill and sweet pickle relish. Dill pickle relish can be hard to find in some parts of the country. You could try using mustard relish, or just use the sweet pickle relish and omit the dill. You could also add a squeeze of lemon juice to cut the sweetness as well.
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Lost Rambler

Gooey Holiday 7 Layer Bars

This recipe is based on one from the 2015 Betty Crocker 24 Days of Cookies. The original calls for white chocolate chips, but I wanted something a little richer, but less sweet, so I went with semi-sweet chocolate chips. When I got everything home and started the recipe, I realized I had picked up evaporated milk instead of the condensed called for. Oops! So I replaced it with a substitute I found on Just a Pinch (I’m not going to include a link here because there is a script on that site that isn’t functioning and crashed my browser…).

To my delightful surprise, they turned out amazing! Like ooey-gooey brownies, but gingerbread flavored. Enjoy.

Gooey Holiday 7-Layer Bars
Yields 32
An awesome ooey-gooey mix of gingerbread, brownies, and 7-layer bars.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
33 min
Total Time
2 hr 50 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
33 min
Total Time
2 hr 50 min
  1. 1 box (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ gingerbread/cookie mix
  2. 2 Tbsp butter
  3. 1/4 cup water
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1 cup brown sugar
  6. 4 Tbsp flour (divided)
  7. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet or bittersweet chips
  10. 1 cup chopped pecans
  11. 1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  12. 1/2 cup flaked (unsweetened) coconut
  1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of 13x9-inch pan.
  2. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter, water and 2 Tbsp flour until soft dough forms. Press dough in bottom of pan. It will be sticky.
  3. Bake 15 minutes.
  4. While the crust bakes, whisk brown sugar, remaining 2 Tbsp flour, baking powder and salt until smooth. Make sure to get any lumps from brown sugar into the mix.
  5. Pour down sugar mix evenly over surface. Sprinkle chocolate chips, pecans, cranberries and coconut evenly over top. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until bubbling along edges and coconut is lightly toasted. For my tiny gas oven in the RV, it took 18 minutes.
  6. Cool completely on cooling rack, about 2 hours. Cut into 8 rows by 4 rows.
  1. The original calls for sweetened flaked coconut, but a lot of the commenters talked about it being too sweet, so I tried it with unsweetened, and found it just right for my tastes. If you have trouble finding unsweetened, try the natural or organic food section of your grocery store, it's often there.
  2. The substitute for condensed milk I used here is 1 cup brown sugar whisked with 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Omit these ingredients if using a 14 oz can of condensed milk.
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Lost Rambler

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Tetrazzini
Serves 8
Quick and easy (and huge!) recipe for using leftover turkey, ham, or chicken.
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  1. 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  2. 2/3 cup milk
  3. 1 (16-ounce) jar Alfredo sauce (I like Bertolli)
  4. 3 1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey, chicken, or ham
  5. 12 ounces egg noodles, cooked
  6. 1 (10-ounce) package frozen petite peas, thawed
  7. 1 (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  8. 1 1/2 cups shredded baby Swiss cheese
  9. 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  10. 1/2 cup crushed garlic-and-butter seasoned croutons
  11. 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  1. Whisk together soup and milk in large mixing bowl; whisk in Alfredo sauce. Stir in chopped turkey, next 4 ingredients, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Pour into a lightly greased 15- x 10-inch baking dish.
  2. Stir together remaining Parmesan cheese, crushed croutons, and paprika; sprinkle evenly over casserole.
  3. Bake, covered, at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 more minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  1. Okay, so this makes a HUGE casserole. Too huge for Richard and I to eat, too huge to fit in my RV's oven or convection oven. So what I do is make it in two casserole dishes and freeze one for later. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight; bake, covered, at 350° for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
  2. If you want to "healthy" this up, use low fat/low salt replacements for everything you can except the milk, but as usual, don't expect it to be as rich. Skim does not perform well in casseroles I've found, but then I use 2% milk for everything since it lasts longer in the fridge compared to less fat milks. I don't like drinking full fat milk, but that has the longest shelf life of all fresh milks.
  3. Also, I do not salt this casserole, since the Parmesan cheese is salty and the cream of mushroom soup, Alfredo sauce, and garlic-and-butter seasoned croutons are already salted.
  4. Crushed seasoned croutons make great toppings for other casseroles too!
Adapted from Southern Living, November 2003
Adapted from Southern Living, November 2003
Lost Rambler

Two-Day Turkey Soup

First off, I should say that soups are one of my absolute favorite things to cook and eat. Not sure if this dates back to eating out with my father who would order soup and salad for dinner many places, or because soup is one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, but why-ever, I love soup. Good soup is an easy but time consuming process, however, but it’s one I enjoy.

This recipe is not going to be your typical recipe card type thing, and you won’t find specific ingredients or amounts listed here. Just a description of the process. This can be adapted to almost anything you have on hand. It starts with a good bone stock.

Bone stocks are awesome. First off, they allow you to get every bit of nutrients out your meat purchase, so they are economical. Secondly, they’re healthy, because they capture many of the nutrients (like calcium) from a meat product that you wouldn’t normally get unless you like to crunch down on bones.

I use my Nesco cooker on slow cook to make broths, since it doesn’t take a lot of electricity compared to cooking the stock on the stove and using propane. In this instance, I break the turkey carcass down so that it fits. This is a messy job and requires confidence with your knife skills. Just make sure your chef’s knife or butcher’s knife is good and sharp for this. A dull knife will slip off some of the cartilage or small bones and frustrate you, and possibly cut you.

Add the carcass to the slow cooker along with some aromatics like carrots, celery, onion, and garlic (if you want a garlic broth). You could also use leaks, shallots, or roasted garlic; fennel; or daikon radish. I wouldn’t replace the root vegetable (carrot) in this recipe with other root vegetables like turnip, unless you roast them first and really like the taste of turnip.

You can, before adding to the slow cooker, roast off all the vegetables with the pieces of the carcass for a more intense flavor. It all depends on how intense you’d like the stock to be. Try it both ways and see how you like it. For basic turkey or chicken soup, I don’t typically roast the carcass or vegetables, because I like a slightly milder stock for these soups and my carcass has already been roasted once. If you’re using beef or pork bones (neck, thigh, etc.) that you bought raw, you’ll need to roast them off first, so add the veg in large chucks to the pan as well.

At this point you can add spices (but not salt yet). I like peppercorns and bay for turkey or chicken soup, but you could add star anise, whole coriander, or just about any whole spice you so desire. Woody herbs like rosemary or thyme can be added here too.

Turn the slow cooker on and go about your day. You can leave this to cook overnight, but at least eight hours is what works for me, but the longer you cook the stock, the more nutrients you’ll get. Remember to give yourself time for the stock to cool after cooking when planning this out. You don’t want to add a container of hot stock to your fridge, because it’ll throw off the interior temperature, especially if you have a smaller RV fridge.

A note about time when cooking stock. Some folks cook their stocks for less time, because the shorter your cook time the clearer your broth will be. If you want a clear stock (for an elegant consommé or a savory gel, for instance), then don’t cook it for more than four hours. But there is a catch to those clear stocks. You won’t get all those good nutrients I mentioned. Particularly, you won’t get a good amount of calcium if you don’t cook it long enough for the bones to become a little soft.

Cooking for a long time does produce a cloudy stock, but it’s a super-flavorful stock packed with nutrients, so it’s your call. I always cook my stocks for as long as I can because I’m not really one of those folks who buy into the “food must be beautiful” theory. Some of the best food I’ve ever had could be considered “ugly.”

Strain the soup once it’s cooled enough to handle. If you’ve got a lot of meat on the bones, save it and separate the meat the next day. Once the stock is room temperature, put it in the fridge overnight. This will allow the fat to separate off. I often incorporate the fat into my soups, because I like the mouth-feel and flavor and I’m not afraid of fat. But if you’ve been advised by your doctor to go on a low fat diet, or if you don’t like the taste, make sure you skim the solidified fat from the stock before using it. This will be easy if you’ve cooked your stock for at least eight hours. Why? Because the stock will gel in the fridge from all the collagen in it after the long cook time.

After you’ve skimmed the fat, you’re ready to make the soup. For my traditional turkey soup, I use carrots, celery, and onion. I use a medium dice for these because I want them to have their shape in the finished soup and be a good size on the spoon. You could go smaller if you like, but don’t cook the soup for too long, as a smaller dice will break down.

I soften the veg in the soup pot over medium heat in either olive oil or olive oil with a little butter. I don’t use straight butter because it can burn/brown. This could be good for some soups, a brown butter base, but I’ve never tried it. Might be good for a soup with a nutty profile, such as a squash soup. Let me know if you’ve tried it!

Once the veg softens, add the stock and cubed or shredded turkey. Let this simmer for as long as you like, or until an hour to a half hour before dinner, depending on what else you’ll have in the soup.

Now for the add-ons. I like turkey soup with egg noodles, rice, potatoes, or barley. This year I made it with egg noodles. I added the dry egg noodles and simmered for about an hour, which resulted in noodles with just the tiniest bit of toothsome-ness but not mushy. The noodles were nicely flavored by cooking in the soup, but FYI, they will thicken the stock a bit while they cook, since they will give off starch. If you don’t want this, pre-cook your noodles and add at the last minute.

Adding uncooked rice will always thicken the soup, sometimes to the point of it not being a soup anymore! So I use pre-cooked or par-cooked rice. Barley takes a long time to cook, so I pre-cook my barley as well. Add these at the end, bringing the soup back to a simmer before serving.

Finally, right before serving, add any fresh leafy herbs you like and the salt. I like parsley, dill, marjoram, sage (cut very fine), or basil here. If you want to use a woody herb to flavor the soup, like thyme or rosemary, you’ll want to actually add this to the stock with the aromatics the day before.

Salt your soup to taste. I tend to under-salt my food and let my eaters salt at the table. If this is the first time you’re making soup, you may be shocked at the amount of salt you’ll need to use. But remember, you’re talking about salting, at minimum, 6 cups of stock! It’ll take a lot, but go in small increments, because once it’s too salty it’s hard to go back. Adding some canned stock (not broth!) if it’s too salty can help bring it back into balance.

I will occasionally, if I want a very rich broth, add about a quarter cup to a half a cup of homemade gravy to the soup. On other occasions I’ve brightened the soup with the juice from half a lemon right before service.

Ultimately, making this soup is about love and fun. It’s never the same year after year, and I always enjoy approaching it with a free hand. It’s a lot of labor, but I enjoy it since I know I’m bringing a delicious and nutritious meal to the table for my loved ones. Enjoy! And of course, if you have any questions, please ask below.

Baked Sauerkraut

Baked Sauerkraut
Serves 6
This is our recipe for baked sauerkraut, an important holiday recipe. It is a combination of Richard's Mom, Anne's, recipe and my own. Richard's Mom did not use apples in her's but I do. I like the balance it gives the sauerkraut, but they are optional.
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  1. 1 bag or large jar of sauerkraut — I use somewhere between 32-48 ounces
  2. 6 strips of bacon, cut across the grain into lardons
  3. 2 medium onions, sliced thin
  4. 2 medium apples or 4 small, sliced thin, optional
  5. Bacon fat or lard if necessary
  6. 1 tbsp caraway seed
  7. 1 tsp celery seed
  8. 2-3 tbsp flour
  9. 1/3 cup water
  10. salt
  11. pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Open sauerkraut, wash to taste and drain over sink. Repeat to taste as necessary.
  3. Meanwhile, cook bacon until crisp.
  4. Remove lardons with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  5. Cook onions and apples in bacon fat until soft.
  6. Add more bacon fat or lard if it looks dry -- there should be about 2-3 tbsp fat in the pan.
  7. Sprinkle with caraway, celery seed, and flour and cook until bubbly, stirring, about 1 minute.
  8. Add water and stir to combine.
  9. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  10. Remove apples and onions from heat and mix in bacon and sauerkraut.
  11. Spread into 9x11 pan, or similar size.
  12. Cover, either with lid or aluminum foil and bake for 30-45 minutes.
  13. Remove cover and let brown for 15 minutes.
  1. We serve this with fresh -- not smoked -- Polish sausage on the holidays. To cook the Polish, first boil it, then cut it into 3 inch pieces and bake. If you're low on oven space, the Polish can be baked in the sauerkraut by nestling it into the kraut.
  2. Serve with horseradish and ketchup.
Adapted from Richard's Mom and My Own recipe
Adapted from Richard's Mom and My Own recipe
Lost Rambler

New Orleans’ French Quarter

Blog Entry November 22, 2015

The Royal Sonesta in the French Quarter
The Royal Sonesta, with it’s raw bar called Desire, on Bourbon Street. We always got rooms on the other side of the hotel — quieter at night that way.
When I was younger, I visited New Orleans with my parents frequently. My mother loves the French Quarter: my parents honeymooned at the Royal Sonesta. We always stayed when we went to New Orleans for my parent’s professional conferences. I remember going there as a very young girl and having my imagination fired by the feeling you get of being in another world.

The only other place I’ve visited on the North American continent that looks like the French Quarter is Montreal. And no wonder, since they were both primarily built by the French. I’ve never been to France, but I’ve always imagined it looking like these places. It’s a wonderful place to walk around and dream of travel, which was one of my favorite activities as a child. As an adult, my life revolves around travel, as I dreamed it would.

When Richard said he wanted to visit New Orleans on the trip down I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to walk with him in the French Quarter and share some of my memories. But particularly, I wanted to enjoy some of the fantastic food with him. For me, the French Quarter is all about sensory experience: the look, the sounds, the smells and tastes.

But the French Quarter is not someplace you want to drive around. The streets are incredibly narrow, as you would expect for a 300+ year-old location. So the best strategy if you aren’t staying in a nearby hotel or at the French Quarter RV Resort (they have regular buses), would be to find a parking lot off Canal Street.

Image of One of the Canal Lines streetcars
One of the Canal Lines streetcars that run up and down the center of Canal St.
I recommend Canal because it’s a large street with lots of hotels off it, which often provide the lowest price for parking. Also, there are multiple stops for the Canal/Cemeteries and Canal/City Park/Museums streetcar lines. Harrah’s New Orleans Casino is at the bottom of Canal as well, if you are so inclined. Just be aware that you’ll have to turn left across the streetcar line to get to most of these hotels, and that the maze of streets in the French Quarter can be tricky with unpredictable one way streets (one of the many reasons you don’t want to drive in the French Quarter itself).

So we parked at the Astoria lot, which is valet. Not my favorite thing to do, but it was convenient to Bourbon Street. We visited during the day, which is my recommended time to see the French Quarter, unless you are a heavy partier and intend to use cabs to return to your hotel after drinking. On a Sunday there wasn’t a lot of folks on Bourbon St, so we walked down Bourbon to St. Ann to Jackson Square.

To me, Bourbon Street is a lot more fun in the daytime. You can look down the side streets and see all the little alleys and courtyards. You can stop and check out the history plaques and read about the buildings. When you hear good music coming out of a place, you can stop and listen. And you can do all this without drunks bumping into you!

St. Ann Street is a good one to cut down to Jackson Square. It runs parallel to Canal. It’s not a huge street, but it’s big enough to feel safe during the day. If you’re there at night, I wouldn’t recommend taking side streets unless you are in a group (I wouldn’t recommend going to Bourbon St. at night unless you are in a group, either). Although it has stores and museums and restaurants on it, you can also see that people still really live in the French Quarter, that it’s not all places that cater to tourists. It’s a living place.

From St. Ann, we came out on the top end of Jackson Square. Jackson Square is bounded by the river and Decatur St. (what I think of as the bottom) and the Presbytere, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Cabildo on the top, which line Chartres St., though cars can not cross the square on the top here. The Presbytere is part of the Louisiana State Museum, featuring a huge collection of Mardi Gras artifacts. The Cabildo was the seat of government during the Spanish colonial era. We didn’t have much time (seeing all three of these gorgeous sites would have taken all day), so we went in to the St. Louis Cathedral. Having recently visited several of the oldest churches in America in New York, we wanted to see St. Louis since it is a different architectural design.

Image of Inside Saint Louis Cathedral
The interior of Saint Louis Cathedral, built in 1727.
St. Louis Cathedral is spectacular inside. Covered in brilliant murals, the Cathedral reflects some of the different cultures brought together in New Orleans: Latin on the murals, French on the Stations of the Cross, and Spanish and French influence in design and style.

One of the main driving architectural features of all cathedrals is a beautiful ceiling. The idea was to beautify these ceilings to guide the parishioner’s eyes upward, towards God. Other architectural features do this as well, but the spectacularly painted ceilings in St. Louis’ do it to perfection. I wanted to sit in the pews and cast my eyes upward all day.

But we weren’t just in the French Quarter for the sights. Soon our stomachs reminded us that we were here for food as well! We left the Cathedral and went down St. Peter to the nearby Gumbo Shop.

Image of Outside the Gumbo Shop
The Gumbo Shop’s sign hangs from a balcony on St. Peter’s Street.
The Gumbo Shop is a small restaurant tucked into a converted residential space. There are three dinning areas: the front room, an outdoor courtyard, and the back room. It is an intimate space, but even at the end of the lunch rush, still not too loud. There was a line for seating when we got there, but everyone moved through pretty quickly.

Image of Crawfish Etouffee at the Gumbo Shop
My Crawfish Etouffee at the Gumbo Shop. Ooo-Eee was it good!
We started with the grilled Boudin sausage appetizer. The Boudin was rich, with a snappy natural casing and a soft interior, perfect for smearing on a French roll. Richard got the Creole combination platter: shrimp creole, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. I snuck some tastes and the red beans and rice were perfect – porky with that long cooked bean creaminess and just the right amount of smokiness. The Shrimp Creole and Jambalaya were both tasty as well, but I could have eaten a bucketful of the red beans and rice. I got the Crawfish Etouffee. The sauce was made with a shrimp stock and that extra dark roux you find down here, liberally studded with crawfish tails. Unlike other Creole/Cajun sauces the Etouffee sauce is made with the traditional trinity — onion, carrot and celery — instead of the Creole/Cajun trinity — onion, carrot, and green bell pepper. We both emptied our plates.

Image of Art vendors in Jackson Square
Art vendors in Jackson Square
After the Gumbo Shop, we strolled leisurely around Jackson Square down to the river. Jackson Square is a center for arts production, so the fence around the park that occupies the center of the square is a walking gallery for local artists selling their wares – everything from fine art, mixed media, street performers, and even fortune tellers is on display here.

Image of View of New Orleans Downtown from Riverfront
View of New Orleans Downtown from the French Quarter Riverfront
The riverfront affords beautiful views of downtown and the Crescent City Connection Bridge. If the wind had not been so high, we could have sat and watched the ships make their way down to various terminals for hours. Especially if we had a couple of beignets and some coffee from Café du Monde. Unfortunately the line on a Sunday afternoon for both take out and dine in at the Café were way too long, so we just sat a while and admired the view.

From Decatur St there are several streetcar stations for the Riverfront streetcar. We took the Riverfront streetcar line back to Canal, then took the Canal/Cemeteries line back up to our parking garage. A word of caution about the Canal lines. Both the Cemeteries and the City Park/Museum lines go up the center of Canal St, so don’t worry about which of these you get on if you only want to go up Canal a coupl of blocks. But the stations are in the middle of the street, and crossing can be difficult, so watch traffic carefully.

Image of Inside the Riverfront Line Streetcar
Inside the Riverfront Line Streetcar
If you’re going to do a lot of traveling on the streetcars (seeing the Garden District from the streetcars – the St. Charles St line — is my mom’s personal favorite) then get one of the Jazzy Passes. Normal rate is $1.25 for one way with $0.25 for a transfer. The Jazzy Pass is $3 for one day, which can be ordered online. But you’ll want to allow 5 to 10 days for delivery, more details on NORTA’s Jazzy Pass page.

Image of Buildings around Jackson Square
Around Jackson Square are plenty of places to sit and people watch.
The French Quarter is, in my opinion, a magical kind of place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. To truly see it, though, allow yourself more than an afternoon if possible. Even though you can get a little taste of everything in one afternoon, like we did, to really appreciate it, you’ll want to spend more time. New Orleans itself also has a lot to offer in terms of museums, cultural events, dining, and live music. Just make sure if you are planning to stay in one of the state parks outside of the city over a weekend to make reservations some time in advance, since these parks (Foutainebleau State Park, for example) fill up. Profiter de la vie et de la danse!

Plotting the Rest of the Way South

Our loose plans for the month of November were to go south, stopping in Ohio, Kentucky, and Louisiana on the way to Alamo, Texas. Richard did a great job of trip routing down here to (outside) New Orleans. But we were both kind of stumped on the best way to get from New Orleans to Alamo.

The big elephant in the route between New Orleans and Alamo is Houston. Nothing against the city of Houston, but to be perfectly honest, their interstate and freeway systems are kind of scary. Richard had never driven there before, but I have, and I vividly remember the traffic and confusing roads. I lived in Los Angeles for 13 years, and even I didn’t wanted to drive the interstates around Houston again, most specifically in an RV.

Every route we looked into seemed to take us either through, north, or south of Houston, and all way too close for comfort. We’d heard from other RVers that the best time to take on the city would be early, early Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we plan to visit the French Quarter this Sunday and leave on Monday. And there was no way we were going to brave Houston traffic on a Monday morning.

So we called our fellow (and far more experienced) full-time RV friends who traveled from Illinois to Alamo every year. We’re going to be staying in the same park this winter on their recommendation, so we thought that they would have a good route. And boy, were we right!

Richard spent a good part of an hour on the phone with our friend getting the scoop on the route. The route will take us through Louisiana and then straight down to the coast. From there we’ll hug the coast, going down Galveston Island and from there on to Port Lavaca, where it turns inland. It involved several bridges, but best of all, a free ferry! Did I mention the ferry is free?! I think I did, but let me get it out of my system. Free ferry!

He also gave us several park recommendations. Our plan is to take it in three to four legs. The first leg will take us almost out of Louisiana. The next to a county park we found across right on the beach south of Galveston Island. There we want to spend a couple of days getting ready for and enjoying Thanksgiving. We both also need to get some work done for a couple of clients as well. Juggling travel and work sometimes means that you’ve got to just hunker down somewhere for longer than you planned to get the work done.

From the county park we’re looking for someplace between there and Alamo. The last leg will be on to Alamo! It’s exciting to know that we’re almost there, but at the same time, I do enjoy the traveling. Chloe doesn’t like travel days very much, because our routine gets changed. She does like sitting on my lap while we travel though.

Tomorrow we visit the French Quarter. I’m so excited to share with Richard all the places I’ve been, and to get some good Creole or Cajun cooking (including a beignet from Café du Monde).

Sun Roamers RV Resort

Our original plan for visiting New Orleans, Louisiana, was to stay at one of the state parks on the northern side of Lake Ponchartrain, Fountainebleau State Park in Mandeville. We called the park for availability, and much to our disappointment, they were booked up for the weekend. After calling and researching online, we discovered that all the state parks within a decent driving distance (defined as an hour and a half or less) of New Orleans were all booked, except for Bayou Segnette and Grand Isle. These are both on the south side of New Orleans, and Richard and I agreed neither of us wanted to take the coach through the New Orleans metropolitan area. We much prefer to avoid driving in large cities, or even driving too close to large cities, if possible.

So we started searching out private parks in the area, and found many of them to be either inconveniently located (for us) or out of our price range. Interestingly, and for those more adventurous about driving their RV in city traffic, we even found, on recommendation from our friends on iRV2, a park located nearly in the French Quarter itself. Finally we found a park just over the border in Picayune, Mississippi, called Sun Roamers RV Resort.

Image of Driving into Sun Roamers RV Park
After a couple of turns down the drive, the park opens up.
Like many private parks, Sun Roamers is primarily a seasonal destination, with many sites filled with stationary park models or RVs. The presence of seasonals don’t bother us, although if we are planning on a long stay somewhere, we generally prefer for the seasonal sites around us to be well taken care of, as in the case of Sun Roamers. Sun Roamers does have a fairly good selection of sites designated for their traveling visitors, however if you are a big rig (40 feet or larger) you may find some of the spaces pretty tight.

The sites in the front area are reserved for short-term stay visitors, while there is another section for longer stay visitors. Three of the short-term sites have full concrete pads (always a plus in my book). The park is surrounded by tall pines which act as a visual reminder that you’re in the Pine Belt, as they call it.

There is a distributed wi-fi system at the park, which provides a fairly good signal throughout, although like most systems it gets very slow around the later afternoon and evening as everyone gets home and logs on. Laundry and shower facilities, as well as an Olympic-sized pool (not heated), a clubhouse, a small non-denominational chapel and a pond round out the amenities. We managed to get a weak satellite signal on 110, but not 119. 129 (if we had the capabilities to use it) was also clear from our site at the front of the park.

Image of The office front porch at Sun Roamers
One of the office cats sunning on the front porch at Sun Roamers.
After Katrina, the park underwent some renovation. The office looks new, and the staff were welcoming and helpful, with popcorn and coffee for visitors. They offer daily trash pick up, which is fabulous, but although they advertise as being a green park, they did not have recycling facilities. I have to say that I am very disappointed by the general lack of recycling at most parks, even state parks, but I suppose that’s a complaint for another time.

Image of a Crook-necked crane
A crook-necked crane in the water.
I got my first picture of a crook-neck crane here, and the office is home to three or four cats who were friendly. I do enjoy stealing some cat time when I can. 🙂

Weathering Over

It’s five in the morning, an hour before my normal wake-up hour, and Richard and I are sitting out here in the living room watching the storm. We couldn’t sleep anymore due to the very loud and very close lighting strikes. As you can see from the radar, it’s pretty darn huge, and it’s been moving slower than we thought based on the weather forecast from last night.

Image of Large Storm over Mississippi Radar View
Here’s the radar from last night, around 10:20 pm when we went to bed.
Here’s the radar from last night, around 10:20 pm when we went to bed.[/caption]The storm is now moving in a north, north-east direction, sticking us with some red and yellow bits for a while yet. This was exactly why we decided not to go all the way to Mandeville, on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain outside of New Orleans. Not only did we think it wouldn’t be a great idea to explore New Orleans in the rain, we also weren’t sure of the amenities at Fountainebleau State Park, the campground we’d decided on in the area.

So, the decision to stay here and wait it out was probably a good one from a travel perspective. Our choice of sites, however, was probably not a good one, from a tornado perspective. We are out of the lake’s flood plain (that I can tell, although massive flooding could reach us from here), but here in the New Campground area of the park, there isn’t a storm shelter very close by. The closest is in the area they call the Second Loop, which was packed with RVs on Monday, and didn’t have any spots available for a coach our size.

There was a tornado watch issued for Hattiesburg at 3:00 am this morning, and there still is a one for the area until 9:00 am. Which brings me to two points: having a weather radio or app, and what to do in case of a tornado.

Even when I was tent camping, I always carried a weather radio with me into the forest. Now we have a weather radio combined with our walkie talkies, and I have an app called Weather Alerts on my phone. The app gives the same sound the weather radio or the television would, and woke me up at 3:00 am when the first tornado alert was issued. It is my opinion that no RVer should be without some kind of system like this. We use the app primarily, but we have the weather radio on the walkie talkies for emergency use, such as when the power goes out and my phone battery dies.

I think we’re pretty well prepared to be made aware of bad weather, or a tornado specifically, but what do you do if there is a tornado near you while you’re in an RV? In our sticks and bricks, we new exactly what to do. Go to an interior location, low to the ground, putting as many walls between you and the outside of your house as possible. The news last night had a new one for me: wear helmets if you’ve got them. Stay away from windows. Go to a storm shelter if there is one nearby.

But there really is no place in the motor home that puts multiple exterior walls between us and the tornado. The only place I can think of is the bathroom area, but it’s got a lot of glass in there. If we’d been near the shelter, I might have gotten Richard up and moved us there when the 3:00 am alert sounded. So, I went back to sleep. Was that the right thing to do? Not sure. We didn’t get picked up and thrown to Oz while we were sleeping, so it worked out. This time.

I’d love to hear about any of your stories or advice on what to do when a tornado alert sounds and you’re living in an RV.