Starting Over … Again!

This is the post excerpt.

Once again I’m starting over on my blog. There was some difficulty with the previous hosting and none of the 475 posts would show up when RVingFulltimeWithTomAndElla.com was searched for.

So I’ve switched to a different hosting platform and am trying to rebuild.

Keep in mind that some of these posts go back to 2011.  That is a lot of posts to copy and paste.

Please keep checking back.

Thanks for your interest and your patience.


2017 September Santa University day 4


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One on the slides in our training on Santa Ethics

The past few days have been so full that I haven’t been keeping up with this blog. Here are some photos from the last couple of days.







Santas sharing experiences with each other was one of the most important parts of the program.


Sunday night ended with a BBQ at a park


Sunday’s sunset at the park

2017 September Santa U day 2

Our room

Friday 15th I awoke at 5:30 (mountain time). How did my body adjust to the time zone change and still wake me at my normal time? Or maybe, in reality I over slept by an hour because it would have been 6:30 central time.

It was nice to take a L-O-N-G shower! When you live full time in an RV, you learn to take shorter showers. Because your waste water goes into holding tanks that you then have to empty. 0916170719_HDRSo it was a luxury to take a longer shower in such a roomy stall.

We went down to a buffet breakfast that included just about every possible thing that might be considered breakfast food.

Our manager, Becky, had a short meeting with our group before going in and joining the larger group. Ever wonder what a room full of Santas would look like?

A room full of Santas and Mrs. Clauses in the back rows

And how are you to find “your” Santa in a group like this?2017-09-15_08.11.35 Easy. He’s the one with the plaid tam o’ shanter.

We started the meeting with the company history. Which isn’t very long because it is a newly combined company. Okay, we had the company(s) histories of both Noerr Programs and Cherry Hill Photography.

We had talks from organizations that we partner with such as Save The Children. There was a presentation by an Autism group.

We also had a representative from NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) who told us how they had accidentally become part of Santa’s history. Way back in 1955 a company had run an advertisement in the paper where you could call a phone number and speak directly to Santa. The only problem was the number was printed incorrectly and it actually dialed into the RED PHONE at NORAD. The first call they received was passed off as a prank. However as more calls started coming in, they started to play along and give updates on Santa’s current location. And the tradition has continued since then. There is even a website that tracks the Big Guy’s movements.

We broke for lunch.21727991_10155731171957258_4235982954233674786_n

When we got back to the meeting room, we heard short stories from some of the Santas present. We then stuffed 300 “stockings” to be delivered to children affected by the hurricanes.

In the afternoon we went outside for a group photo


And so ended our day


2017 September Santa University Day 1

September 14th We got on the road shortly after 4 a.m. and headed to Colorado for Santa University. We made our first pit stop about 5. We crossed into Nebraska

Sure is a lot of sky in Nebraska! Not much else to look at.

about quarter after 6 and stopped for coffee outside of outside of Lincoln Nebraska at 6:45 for coffee. The sky was just beginning to glow orange in the east.

The sky all rusty looking

8:45 a.m. quick stop at a rest area outside of Bradshaw Nebraska.

A few minutes later there is more color in the sky

Because we were going to be traveling today and this is the day I normally take my INR and glucose readings I decided to do them yesterday. My glucose reading was ex0914170703_HDRtremely good and my INR was slightly low is supposed to be between 2 and 3 and it was in a 1.7. However I know the reason why, I had forgotten to take it one night. So today while we’re on the road we called Dr Crimmins office and explain why and they adjusted my dosage for just one time.

We stopped in an Arby’s along the interstate and had lunch about 11.

After passing through the nothingness of flat-land Nebraska, we arrive at the nothingness of rolling hills of Colorado.

At 12:19 we passed into the Mountain Time Zone and suddenly we have our time is now 11:20. Shortly after that we passed into Colorado.

Hey! Mountains!

It was about 3:30 mountain time when we arrived at our hotel. For those of you keeping score, that’s 14 1/2 hours after leaving home.

A quick look around and we knew we had arrived  at the right spot.


We checked into our room and then into the Santa group. We got a goody bag, a name tag, and an agenda. We took our luggage to the room and then went back to the lobby to socialize. Around 5:30 we had a buffet supper. We were back in our room and in bed by 7:30. It was along day


Just Thinking about Journaling

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A page from my mother’s final journal.

Do you ever think about what the events in lives mean in the greater ebb and flow of our existence? As I’m writing my blog, I am for the most part, chronicling “events”. Mostly they are small events … the everyday events like “Ate breakfast and then went to the Cafe for coffee with friends.” Sometimes they are major events such as, “I had heart surgery yesterday.”

As I said, I mark these events on my blog. My mother did this for years and years by writing in journals. I have those journals from the last decade of her life. At the end her hands shook so much that the entries are difficult to read.

As I am now saving my chronicles of events, it occurs to me that the events are like stones in a brook. They may divert the water as it flows by. But they make little or no difference to the stream.

The flow of life is that way also. Life is what happens all around the events and not the events themselves.

2017 September part 2

Rudolf the Red Nosed Pickup

Friday 8th We were back on our regular schedule of coffee at the cafe and games and lunch at the senior center. After lunch we went to our storage trailer and brought home more things from there. Tom spent the afternoon rearranging things in our storage shed and getting the patio area clean and neat for tomorrows Williams Family Reunion.

Most of the activities will take place at the Lodge on Cutty’s Main Street. However, we wanted to be prepared for house guests also.

Ella spent the day preparing the salads for the reunion’s potluck.

We managed to get in a short nap before going to the Adult Center for Card Jackpot. Both Ella and Tom won two rounds. That means that we came home with a whopping $2.90 more than we started with. Yep, Card Jackpot is cheap thrills for sure.

It was about 8:30 when we finished playing cards and were surprised to see that the cafe was still open (everything is going to shorter hours now that the camping season is winding down) so we went in and got a couple of ice cream cones. We took them out under the pavilion on Main Street and sat and ate them while talking with friends. It was a great night for sitting outside.

On a more serious note: I received this email for my daughter in South Miami where they are hunkering down to await the arrival of Irma (the most powerful hurricane to hit the USA).

“We will be as prepared as possible before Irma arrives. We have food, water, propane, flashlights, batteries, a radio, candles, cash and gas in both cars. Andres is putting the shutters up right now while I get everything outdoors put away in the shed and playhouse. The girls are getting clothes and dishes washed in case we lose electricity and or water.

When we bought the house, we buried our power lines so we are less susceptible to power outages at the local level, of course wide-scale outages could still occur. Our house is elevated about 2 and a half feet so that helps with flooding. 

The addition has impact windows, but I’m planning to put heavy furniture in front of the windows and the two exterior doors anyway. 

If and when it comes to the worst of the storm, we will be in the interior hallway without windows. We have mattresses and sleeping bags at the ready to put down. 

We are fortunate that this is a natural disaster that we have time to prepare for.”


I have been writing about the supports that I’m adding under the slide-out rooms in our Sierra. Here is a photo to show how I’m bracing them. Keep in mind that this RV may never be moved again. The slides will be left out all the time. So giving them added support seems like a good way to save wear and tear on the RV framework.
You have to be up before dawn to see skies like this.

Saturday 9th was the day of the Williams Family Reunion. Tom and Ella started some things in crock-pots in the morning. We then packed somethings into Rudolf the Red Nosed Pickup that will need to be taken to the Cutty’s Lodge for the party.

We went for breakfast at Village Inn. It was a buy one get one deal. Besides Ella and I there were, Tom and Sue, Sandy and Francis, Francis and Sharon.
Sue, Sharon, Sandy, Ella
Tom, Francis, Francis, Tom
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Randy & Linda Cook, Kara Devilbiss, Jay Cook,  Stevie, Shane, Shawn, Shyan Dunaway, Kirk & Rita Williams, Morgan Hart, Mark Christopher, Madden Strand, Dawn Cook Gloege, Cash, Krista & Russ Pape, Jay Cook, Kerei Nelson and more that did not sign the guest book.


The reunion went off very well. Lots fun was had be all. After we’d emptied and cleaned the Lodge, most of us went back to our site. We had a nice day to sit out under the patio awning and just visit. We were somewhat in awe that all those people were able to gather comfortable on the patio and everyone had a place to sit. The 5 folding camp-chairs weren’t even needed.

Sunday 10th The first thing on our agenda was to check the reports on hurricane Irma. It appears that it veered to the west and is going up the gulf side of Florida. With all that was being said about Storm Surge we feared the flooding most of all because they live so near the cost. Because our family is in South Miami, we could breathe a little easier. We are still praying for them as well as those in the future and past path of this storm. This is the message we received from Amber, “The eye is over the Keys right now. By late afternoon/early evening we will have passed through the hurricane strength winds. We are fine. Lots of wind and rain over night but no flooding evening the street and mostly minor tree debris down.”  Thank you, God!

For breakfast we ate the other half of Tom’s Village Inn breakfast from yesterday. We added a couple more scrambled eggs and a little cheese and had three meals out of one breakfast. It was so nice outside that we decided to eat breakfast on the patio.

What a treat! Since we are no longer holding worship services at Cutty’s, we were able to attend service at our home church, Union Park UMC. It was nice to reconnect with old friends that we seldom see anymore.

One of our members has a ministry where he goes to local grocery stores and picks up day old bread and produce that has reached its “sell by” date. He then distributes it to various places … including our church. Our church members, as well as neighborhood folks can come and take whatever they can use. This time there were salads and fruit so, after the service, we made a lunch of them while continuing to visit.

Plus we were there for a special conference after the service. Our friend and pastor Lee Webb will be retiring. The conference was about funding a two year revenue stream for a full time pastor. The church’s congregation is technically too small for the Iowa United Methodist Conference to assign a full time pastor. The were questions about setting a limit and about paying the church’s apportionment that were brought up. However, in the end, the original proposal was accepted 47 to 3.

When Tom turned his phone on after the service there was an update from Amber in Miami, “We are still getting occasional bursts of 80-100 mph winds but the rain had let up. No flooding at all. I love my street! Just a few more hours.”


We came home and just relaxed for the rest of our Sabbath. As a matter of fact, we were supposed to go to an Employee Appreciation Dinner in the evening … and we forgot all about it.

Monday 11th (Patriots’ Day) Tom awoke early … as usual … and checked for messages from Miami, but found none. The last we had heard was that everything was okay and that it was about over with.

Since Ella wasn’t up yet, Tom started gathering information for next year’s worship services at Cutty’s.  He’s not doing anything too in depth, just finding scripture readings from the lectionary and finding a few hymns to go along with their theme.

After Ella was up, we had breakfast on the patio. 2017-09-11_10.04.41Then it was to the Cafe for coffee with Tom, Sue, Keith, and Dixie. Ella made double use of this time by doing laundry at the laudromat on Main Street while we visited.

Tom worked 11-7. This was his last day of work for the season. While he worked, Ella went to the Senior Center in Grimes. When she came home, she began packing clothes, meds, and so forth for our trip to Santa University. We just received our agenda for the school. It looks like Tom will be busy in school while Ella and the other Mrs. Claus are taking tours of museums and such. One of the items in the agenda was a dress code for one day … black slacks and a long sleeve red shirt. The only long sleeve red shirt that Tom had has frayed cuffs. So after work, we went to Walmart and purchased a shirt.


2017 September part 1

Friday 1st Tom worked 8 to 2:30 while Ella did her normal routine of coffee with friends and then to the senior center for games and lunch.

After picking Tom up from work, we went to a Visitation for Marion, a friend from Cutty’s, who passed away this week.

In the evening, Ella played Card Jackpot while Tom stayed home with an ice pack on his knee. He’ll be very glad when he gets in to see the orthopedic doctor on Tuesday the 5th. Hopefully it will lead to less pain. And hopefully before we go to Santa University on the 13th.

The trees are starting to get dressed in their fancy Fall colors.

Saturday 2nd Our day started with a communal breakfast of “Eggs any style” at Cutty’s Clubhouse. We had eggs, hash-browns, sausage, toast and a drink. We sat and visited with Tom and Sue, Francis and Sandy, and Lela and Liela.

After breakfast we went to Cutty’s Adult Center to retrieve our worship supplies which are stored there. We needed to bring them home so that Sunday we could take them to the Clubhouse for our last Worship Service of the season. We will have a hymn sing and communion.

From there we went to Walmart to purchase super glue.

A deeply torn thumbnail “jist ain’t no fun a t’all”


Tom tore his thumbnail about an eighth of an inch down into the quick. He keeps snagging it on things and it becomes painful. So, he thought he’d mend it with super glue. A drop of glue on the nail and covered with a tiny piece of thin plastic and it will no longer snag. TaDa!

Of course we couldn’t get out of Wallyworld without spending another $50. We bought supplies for the Williams Family Reunion coming up on the 9th.

We had just enough time to get across Des Moines to Marion’s funeral. It was a nice ceremony that celebrated his life and influence on his family and friends. We did not go to the internment which was in a small town in southern Iowa. Tom needed to be back to work the fee booth at Cutty’s from 3-10:30.

The campground was pretty full so it’s a good thing no one else came in to camp. There were only 7 full hookup sites left and 44 water and electric only sites out of approximately 500 sites. Most of Tom’s day was taken up with answering the phone, adding names to the “guest list” and issuing day passes to around 400 guest carloads.


Sunday 3rd Worship service was small, as we expected it would be, because of the long holiday and the change of location.  Other than worship in the morning, Sunday was much the same as yesterday for Tom. Ella stayed home and relaxed.


Monday 4th Labor Day Tom had the day off. As a matter of fact, since the camping season is officially over on Labor Day, the fee booth hours are being shortened and eventually the booth will be closed. Any campers will need to either use their gate key-card or call the office to gain entrance to the park. Tom will work only two more days: Thursday the 7th and  Monday the 11th (Patriots Day).

We went to Cutty’s Cafe for breakfast as well as coffee with friends. The Senior Center in Grimes was closed for the holiday.

Tom made use of the time by getting some more work done on bracing the slide-out rooms. Remember, that for all intents and purposes, the Sierra is a “Park Model” and may not be moved from our seasonal site until we die or get too old to live in it. Because it will not be moving, the slide-outs will remain out all the time. So bracing them takes a load off of the RV’s structure and will help to prevent sagging as well as possible wall/floor separation.

We also tackled a smaller, but much needed project: cleaning out the truck. We have an extended cab and the back seat has been a handy place to “toss” stuff that we don’t need now but may need later. It was time to empty, vacuum, and repack the things we actually need to carry with us most of the time. Things like fire extinguisher, work gloves, bottled water, and our “to go bag”. As RVers, there may come times when it is necessary to “run for cover” from storms or on a brighter side, we may be asked to spend the night with family of friends. Having a bag of extra clothes, extra medications,  health and grooming supplies, first aid kit, emergency blankets and other essentials can come in very handy.

Tuesday 5th We did our normal routine with coffee with friends at Cutty’s Cafe and then to Grimes Senior Center. After lunch we both had doctor’s appointments at the same time (different doctors but just across the street from each other). Tom to see an orthopedic doctor and Ella to see her eye doctor.

Her eyes are fine … not quite 20/20 but considering the coke bottle lenses she had worn since a child … altogether fine to not wear glasses except for reading smallish print.

Health - Page 63.jpgTom had x-rays of both knees. Gee, guess what? Yep, left knee is bone on bone. No wonder it hurts all the time. Eventually, after Santa season, he’ll need knee replacement. However, for now, it will be Cortisone shots every couple of months. That should get him through the long drives to Colorado and back, and then, a week or so later, to Texas.

3 years ago the VA doctor looked at “Tom’s” x-ray and said that he had plenty of space between the bones and it looked like the x-ray of a 17-year-old. Now Tom is wondering if the x-rays may have actually been from a 17-year-old and mixed up by the VA. I hope that the kid didn’t get a knee replacement out of the mix up.

 Wednesday 6th This morning Tom poached some eggs in salsa, warmed some refried beans and tortillas for breakfast. We ate and then hurried into Des Moines for our dentist visit for teeth cleaning. They found a loose crown on one of Tom’s teeth. It was pried off, cleaned out and then re-cemented into place. Ella will need to go back tomorrow for a filling and an extraction.

From the dentist, we went to Walmart for a prescription refill and then to the Grimes Senior Center for games and lunch.

As we came into Cutty’s, we went to our storage trailer to remove items from it. The plan is to have it hauled out for salvage once it is empty. We had nearly everything from under the trailer in its “basement” compartments, Displaying 2017-09-06_17.54.41.jpgwhen Tom was attacked by yellow-jackets. We dropped everything and ran. We got home and looked for Calamine Lotion but couldn’t find any. There was a tube of Aspercreme pain relieving creme which Ella applied to the many stings on his neck, back, and arms. There are about half a dozen stings on his neck alone. Notice the stinger is still in on the lower left of the photo. Once we saw the picture, it was removed.

We will have to sort the stuff we brought home. Some will stay in Iowa. Some will go to Texas and some will be donated or trashed. We still have more to remove from storage but not until it is liberally sprayed with wasp spray.

Village Inn’s Pie Rush Wednesday beckoned us to come have pie with friends at 2:00. Displaying 2017-09-06_17.37.28.jpgSandy and Francis, Tom and Sue, Jean, and Ella and Tom had pie and drinks. The pie was free when we paid for the drinks. Actually, Tom didn’t have a drink. He ordered, “a scoop of ice cream with a slice of Tripleberry under it.” The ice cream cost $.99 and the pie was free.

We played Train Dominoes in the evening and Tom was low score. That would normally mean that he would start next week’s game. However, we will be attending Santa University in Colorado at that time.

Displaying 2017-09-06_19.38.27.jpg
Sunset Wednesday
Sunrise Thursday

Thursday 7th the day started with Tom checking is INR and glucose readings (all good) Then an early breakfast then off to see the dentist. Ella came away with a new filling and one less tooth. We were in and out of the dentist so quickly that we had time to get back for coffee with friends (Keith, Jean, and Lela) at the café.

On the way to the Senior Center, we stopped at Kum N Go for gas. They are the only station in the area that has E-15 gas. E-15 (15% alcohol) is $2.499 compared to $2.839 for regular. Our GMC (Rudolf) is too old for the newer E-85 but he drinks the E-15 just fine.

We also stopped at the post office. I was hoping that my renewed membership card with the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas would be there. It wasn’t. https://www.ibrbsantas.org/

When we arrived at the center, most of the people were at a meeting concerning the Wii Bowling Tournament that the Grimes Center is hosting for all of the local Senior Centers. Because of the meeting, the people we normally play Fast Track were not there. However, Nancy and Ray were so we played a couple of games before lunch.

Lunch was a little strange today, it had no vegetables. It was a slice of processed ham (which looked boiled), hash-browns, and an orange. We did have dessert of apple pie and ice cream.

Ella, because of the tooth extraction, was supposed to eat only soft, cold food. So she had a couple bites of the ham and then ate her pie and ice cream along with Tom’s ice cream.

Tom worked the fee booth from 2-8. Because the “official” camping season ended Labor Day weekend, the fee booth hours keep getting smaller until they disappear altogether the final weekend of September. The campground remains open all year around. However, from October through April you must go to the office to check in. Office hours are from 8:30 to 4:30 at that point.

Thursday is also the night when Cutty’s Café serves a special meal. This week it was spaghetti. Tom thinks that spaghetti is nature’s most perfect food. Ella does not care that much for it. She was supposed to eat cool, and soft. However, she opted to have a flat-bread veggie pizza. Since Tom was working, she brought the supper to him.