Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Food, Cooking, Storing, Appliances & Recipes I Liked

Someone asked me recently, "Did you just eat out all of the time?"
Actually, I ate out very seldom but cooking was definitely a challenge in the very small space.

Lessons learned in an RV come unexpectedly, very messily, and they stick--in more ways than one.   No matter how carefully things are packed away it takes only one misjudged corner turn, where a wheel or two ends up on the curb, to discover there are problems in stowing food. And I guarantee you that every RV driver has taken a corner too close or too fast at some point.

Food storage took months of such lessons before I reached some semblance of  order in my tiny galley.

The first hurdle was dry storage.  How do I reduce the enormous amount of stuff I had collected in my kitchen over all the years to no more than the essentials.  And how do I pack all the staples, cans, condiments and spices that are necessary to put together a meal and secure it ultimately from mayhem.

As I started packing stuff in the RV I learned very quickly, the fancy packages that encase food will occupy most of the shelf while leaving a lot of unusable space over and around the items.  It was that initial realization that brought me to the idea of cutting down those great big plastic containers cat litter comes in (thoroughly washed out of course) to the exact size of the shelf the containers were to sit on.  Then I took all those boxes of cereals, flours, beans and noodles and repackaged them in zip top baggies and threw away the boxes.   By layering each packet into the plastic boxes I was able to more than double the amount of food I could store, it was easier to find because I put similar items in each container and listed everything on the outsides of the containers.  Food stuffs were safer on the shelves because the containers kept things from sliding around willy nilly.

Hints:  Cut out all directions needed for items such as oatmeal, polenta, rice, etc. and pack inside the baggie with the food. 
Put one or two bay leaves in any packet that contains flour, cornmeal, grits, etc. to keep out the weevils.  Believe me--it works. 

On one crazy curve the fridge door flew open and deposited food all over the floor.  That told me those cute little tupperware containers were not the best storage either.  Besides I could never find the right lids, the bowls were as space consuming as the boxes had been,  food was hard to see when packed in colored bowls and tightly into the fridge, and when the bowls hit the floor the lids would usually fly off.

I discovered canning jars were the answer this time.  No matter what the size of the jar, there are only one of two size lids and the lids tightly seal the jars  so they don't leak when sloshed around.  The jars can hold very hot or very cold food, they can be purchased in any grocery store, and they can take a lot of abuse without breaking. I proceeded to toss out all my plastic containers and have not regretted it even once.

The best of all things about canning jars is that you can can--yes you can.  (I want that put to music please.) In other words, if the jars are sterile, and the leftover soup is really really hot, the jar will seal and hold for several days longer in the fridge.  In this way I did not have to dine on a batch of chili for seven meals straight. This procedure is not really canning unless the jars are boiled in water for at least a 1/2 hour but it will still stretch the life of leftovers far longer than usual.  Following is one of my favorite recipes to put into jars….

Mother's Eggplant Goulash

1# ground turkey, or chicken, or very lean beef
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut into bite size pieces.
Approximately 1  quart chicken stock  (water & bouillon cubes okay for stock)
1/4 cup low salt soy sauce

Salt, Pepper and Herbs to taste--preferably fresh but dry will do.  I use whatever is at hand…thyme, oregano, basil, savory.  

In large pot, boil eggplant in stock until tender.  Set aside while sautĂ©ing ground meat, onion and garlic until onion is limp and meat is no longer pink.  Add soy sauce and seasonings and stir until well mixed.
Add eggplant to meat mixture and enough of the liquid to give a nice broth. (not too soupy)
Serve over brown rice or chinese noodles.

Eggplant Goulash, pear salad with honey-yogurt and walnuts, and white wine.  YUM!


The RV has a two-burner stove, a hotel-size fridge, a microwave, and a sink with running water.  That's it!  Since the microwave was electric I seldom used it except as a bread box.  Ron bought me the wonderful little NuWave oven (above)  that I kept mostly stored away unless I was plugged in to electricity.  (Best meal in the NuWave…Onto a sheet of Aluminum foil place a tilapia filet, thin slice of onion, fresh herbs, slices of button mushrooms, dribble of olive oil and several tablespoons of white wine. Seal packet and bake until done.)
I also had a crock pot but used it only once or twice.  On really hot days I would turn on the generator for 1/2 an hour and run the air conditioner while I cooked.
I have the little table-top barbecue stove that I used a lot in the parks until I set the picnic table on fire.  (another lesson learned--fake wood tables will melt, then ignite, if they get hot enough.  The Rangers don't like that.)


I don't always want to get up and cook oatmeal in the morning so I found a recipe that I can keep in the fridge in canning jars and just pour into the skillet in the morning….

                          Oatmeal and Applesauce Pancakes

In a large bowl, usually the night before, mix….
                            1 Cup self rising flour (or 1 cup flour & 1 Tblsp baking powder)
                            1/4 teasp. allspice or cinnamon
                            1 Cup quick cooking oats
                            1 Teasp. vanilla
                            1/3 cup applesauce
(I keep on hand the small individually packed 4 oz applesauces and just eat a tablespoon out of the cup to make it the right amount.  Please don't tell on me.)
                             1 1/2 cups milk
                             3 tablespns syrup (sometimes I use molasses)
                             2 tablespns oil

Stir gently and pour into a jar to store in fridge.  Each morning I pour enough to cover the bottom of my Pam-sprayed skillet and allow to cook slowly until firm enough to flip.  (Hint: Spray spatula with Pam to keep batter from sticking to it.) Also, add a little more milk if batter becomes too thick.  Serve with lots of fruit and honey-yogurt.  Sometimes I add walnuts to the batter. 

Aunt Louise discovered this treat and I found the recipe on the Web.  It stores nicely in jars and was a nice dessert to have easily at hand….

Cherry Coke Jello



  1. Drain pineapple, reserving juice; set fruit aside. In a saucepan or microwave, bring pineapple juice and water to a boil. Add gelatin; stir until dissolved. Stir in pie filling and cola.
  2. Pour into a serving bowl. Refrigerate until slightly thickened. Fold in reserved pineapple. Refrigerate until firm. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Copied from Tasteofhome.com website

Now I am headed to a New Year's Eve Party and don't expect to be up to blogging for a few days.  I hope you all have have A GREAT NEW YEAR!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday lights and movies.

Here are all my neighbors and their lights were photographed from my front yard.


In his yard there is a complete creche, four or five Disney characters, lit up chili peppers, and carols playing.
Those green things are a sahuaro cactus and a mesquite tree.

Somehow desert trees don't do so well with lights on them.

Everybody is doing it so here are my top ten movies for 2013:

1.)  Gravity (This is as close as I can get to a trip to outer space)

2.) Philomena (Judy Dench is a marvel)

3.)  Inequality for All (Documentary by Robert Reich)

4.)  Mud (Matthew M. is changing his stage persona)

5.) Dallas Buyer's Club (Change complete)

6.)  Captain Phillips (Good adventure story though not exactly true.)

7.)  American Hustle (Hooray! Finally a movie that gives women equal footing--so they steal the show)

8.) 12 Years a Slave. (The language feels authentic and makes the story that much more real.)

9.) The Butler (Good acting and interesting to see Jane Fonda play Nancy Reagan)

10.) Much Ado About Nothing (Now that is the way I like to see Shakespeare played out)

These are movies I recommend but there are at least a dozen more that are playing right now that, I am sure, are excellent as well.  Anyway, I think it has been a great year for movies.

The highlight for me, however are the Academy Award nominated shorts that all play in February, on a three-night marathon, at our local art theatre.  The shorts are from three categories; live action, documentary, and animation.  If they are playing anywhere near you then don't miss them--I promise you will not be sorry.

Now let me know what movies you liked this year.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas musings...

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…..Hmm, I have never eaten a roasted chestnut.  I will add that to my list for next year.

Son, Ron, took his fiancĂ©, Loretta, to Minnesota for Christmas--I am not sure why.  The temperature  there today is 29 degrees--and that is the high.  Poor Loretta. It is summer in her home town of Perth right now. Maybe Ron is testing her.

Last weekend was friends, Don and Nancy's annual Solstice Party and it turned out to be the best ever.

Don started it off with a speech that included the history of Solstice plus lots of welcomes and recognition of friends.

Before the night was over the crowd had grown to nearly 100 people….

many of them friends for a number of years.

The entertainment was grand--and loud--with at least 3 microphones and speakers both inside and out...

But not even one irate neighbor showed up--even after the Karaoke got under way.

We had a drone that circled the party throughout the night.

And we had a great rendition of "Mack the Knife."

The wonderful thing about a party of such lovely friends is that they will all listen to the singing then applaud whether you are good or bad.

But many of them, on this night, were very very good.

Homage was paid to the best of all Christmas movies.

And those that were tone deaf found a great card game that included insulting politicians and testing ones sense of humor.

And others enjoyed just sitting around the bonfire that managed to continue burning until the wee hours of the morning.
Thanks guys, it was a great party.

Enjoy your Christmas dinner while you listen to my favorite tune...




 I hope you can access one of the above links, but if not go to Youtube and put in:

"Stuck in the Smoke hole of our Tipi" 
But be careful, this tune will not leave your head for hours. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tohono Chul with Friends and Laughter

Postings in this blog have been sparse because….
The social life centered around friends, family and the holidays keeps getting in the way.

Let's start with Suzanne.  A dinner with her always leaves me exhausted from laughter.   That is one piece of cake at Claim Jumpers!  The Food Network voted the dessert one of the top five most decadent deserts in the country.

I'm not sure what they would have voted about Suzanne.

A few days later I joined friends Pat, Suzanne and Belle (who is a very young 95 years old) for lunch in Tohono Chul Park.  (Another friend, Brittania had to rush back to work and I missed getting her picture.)

Dining outside in the middle of December is one of the perks of living in Arizona.

I read this following excerpt from a newsletter recently and some of these friends could definitely start one of these clubs.

"Steve Wilson, an Ohio psychologist and self-proclaimed 'joyologist,' launched the World Laughter organization in 1998 after meeting Indian gurus who were advocating laughter in hasya yoga clubs as a road toward health and peace. In conjunction with his Indian colleagues and growing numbers of U.S. supporters, Wilson began offering formal training of certified laughter leaders and the formation of laughter clubs literally throughout the world. This rapidly growing movement is propelled by little more than loads of laughter, physical release, and emotional highs. 

"Laughter clubs are organized by trained and certified laughter leaders anywhere for any sized group that can meet one or more times. What is unusual is that the group participates in a variety of laughter exercises for which there is no humor stimulus. The participants laugh loudly as a group, simply upon instruction to use different laughter sounds and cadences. They, and any observers who may come along (if the group has gathered in a public place such as poolside or the lobby of a hotel), just laugh heartily. Capitalizing on the laughter contagion effect, soon everyone within earshot is also laughing. 

"It is an amazing phenomenon. People in a dire or sober mood, who are preoccupied with their own personal problems, who fear for their business's success or the nation's future or a family member's illness or whatever issue is on their mind, all temporarily forget those stressors and laugh along with everyone present, friends or strangers. All are laughing and all quickly feel good. It's simple, it's bonding, it's stress reducing, it's physically relaxing, it's free, and it's legal! 

"Indian physician Madan Kataria is regarded as the founder of the international Laughter Clubs movement. The clubs are now found worldwide and touted to be applicable to eliminating strife and bellicosity among nations."

Author: Louis R. Franzini
Title: Just Kidding
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Date: Copyright 2012 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Pages: 26-27  

My friend Lynda joined me one evening for a stroll through Tohono Chul to view the lights and listen to the lovely music of Spanish Guitars, some folk singers and a blue grass group.

The park is run mainly by volunteers and covers one large block right in the heart of a very populated area in the northwest part of the city.

  Entering the park immediately removes you from the hustle and bustle of the shopping centers, traffic and noise of the surrounding commercial areas.

The park is the renovation of an old homestead that is now a lovely little tearoom style restaurant,

Besides the restaurant there are two gift shops,

 an art museum, an arboretum….

Several outdoor stages...

and lots of walkways for strolling through the cactus gardens.

It was a perfect holiday setting and really put me in the mood.

Here's wishing you lots of friends, fun and laughter for the holidays.  

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Those Damn Chores

Music:  "I tawt I taw a puddy tat…."
Me:  "Sigh Me, stop harassing that bird!"

About 3 months before leaving on this trip I began the process of stopping my mail.  I called every catalog phone number and told them to remove me from their mail list.  All those solicitation letters that include return envelopes got a message from me (stuffed into the envelope) that I had moved and left no forwarding address. (If it was a charitable organization then I put a stamp on the envelope to save them the postage).

My bills were all converted to automatic pay from my bank account or set up to be paid on-line.  Except for the credit card, all other bills were the same amount every billing so I knew exactly what would be taken out of my account each month. I notified all of them to send bills and receipts through email only.  Also, all bank statements and mailings were stopped and converted to email only.

All my income was set up to be deposited directly into my bank account each month.  Truly the best bank on the planet is USAA.  They pay all ATM charges, no matter where I access the ATM.  But they are a bank for military families, both active and retired (Roger was in the Navy) so the second choice might be Wells Fargo or Bank of America just because they are everywhere.

Send out a card to all your friends and family telling them to write to you only via email.   If that doesn't narrow the mail down to nothing then have a friend or relative accumulate the mail, toss out the junk, mark what's left, 'hold for arrival', then forward to a post office along your way. Approximately two weeks prior to your ETA select a post office in a smaller town (where there will be only one post office) and notify your friend as to where to send the mail. (I used mostly relative's addresses)  The internet provides the addresses and phone numbers so call to be sure they provide the service to hold the mail.

I subscribe to Verizon @ $50 per month and supplement it with free wifi at Starbucks, McDonald's, Home Depot, Lowe's and public libraries. I have a gadget that will pick up TV signals and show them on my computer but I have only used it a couple of times and it frustrates me so much I just packed it away.  I can always get most TV programs through Hulu Plus or Netflix.

I share the cost of the phone with a friend and the monthly fee is minimal.  For a while I thought I didn't need it but--well, I needed to call a tow truck in Colorado; along with a dozen other things I couldn't do on the computer.

My insurance will not cover a doctor or dentist anywhere except Arizona.  They will cover a visit to the emergency room in another state but then I have to return to Arizona  if there is any further care required.  So, I have made it a policy to return home each winter for my yearly checkups.  And southern Arizona is not a bad place to be when the rest of the country is in the deep freeze.

I have mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again...My supplemental health insurance offers the Silver Sneakers program, free of charge.  What I learned from my insurance agent is that the program is valid at just about every major health club and YMCA throughout the country.  I can use the equipment, pool, spa, and showers at any of them without doing anything more than showing that membership card above. WOW!  For the first time I can  actually say I love my insurance company!  It is a program for seniors and I do not know if there is anything like it for 'juniors'.  Before I found the program I researched whether I could get a national membership with the YMCA and was told, 'no', but one employee suggested I just go in to the desk and say I am interested in joining but want to check out the facilities first.  He said all the Y's would let me use their facilities free the first time.  I never resorted to the ruse but I can't say I wouldn't have in moments of desperation--and there were a few.

If you have seen Robin Williams flick, "RV" then you know the scene that is every RVers worst nightmare.  Yep, I had one of those.
I pulled into a Flying J truck stop  to dump the holding tanks.  I was surrounded by truckers, all of them within easy view of my upended backside as I struggled to fit the hose coupling to the tank's outlet pipe.  It was cold, the wind was blowing and there was a fine drizzle in the air.  But I had no choice.  I might be cold but the tanks were full almost to the point of overflowing. I had to dump.
The connection on my new hose (the one that the very condescending salesman at the RV supply store sneeringly informed me would couple to 'any' outlet, including mine) slipped right off and fell to the pavement the moment I opened the black tank valve.  Instantly,  there spewed the nastiest, foulest effluence all over the ground, my legs, and my shoes.
A nice trucker walked over and offered to help but I brushed him off--too utterly embarrassed to look him in the eye.  It took me two seconds to shut the valves down and reset the coupling, then I manually held it in place as I slowly opened the valve a second time.  Thankfully it held.  The minute the tanks were emptied I repacked the hoses, threw away my shoes, emptied a full bottle of hand sanitizer on my hands and feet, then rushed immediately into Flying J and purchased a shower.  When I came out of the station it was raining, hard, and with relief I noticed there was barely a sign left in the parking lot of my mishap.
NOTE:  Almost every town of any size has free dumps that can be found on the internet at Sanidumps.com.

The same website also tells which dump stations have potable water.  I have, in a pinch, filled the water tank at a car wash.  There is usually a handy spigot and if a manager is around he/she might be generous.  I never drink water from my holding tank even though I put a tablespoon of chlorine bleach in the tank with each fill up.  I also put a few drops of bleach in my dishwater--just to be on the safe side.

Most larger RV parks and KOA parks carry propane.  I don't think I ever noticed propane stations anywhere before getting the RV; now I can see a propane sign 3 city blocks away.  I have to fill my tiny tank (5 gals) about every 10 days since I use propane for cooking and to operate the heater in the living area.  The station attendants will do the filling and all I have to do is turn the valve off, then back
on when they finish.

Pretty easy when compared to my house in Az.  I drive up to the vacuum at a car wash, roll up the rugs, stick Sigh Me in her 'kitty brig', drag the vacuum hose into the RV and get down to business.  I follow that with a trip to the laundromat where clothes and bedding are washed.  Within a few hours everything is spotless and then I will treat myself to a dinner at a local Mom & Pop.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Planning Ahead--Recommended Books, Websites, Apps

Do I plan ahead?  Yes, sort of.  I have laid out desired routes then ignored them completely; reworked the route for something more appealing; or found that the desired destination had somehow vanished from the planet never to be found.
I do try, however, to start out with some semblance of a desired target.  And my process goes like this:

1.)  Tell everyone you know what you are shooting for--but be very general.  That acts as a motivator and helps to keep you on track.  For example, I am definitely going to Nova Scotia, someday.  There--my goal is out there, so hold me accountable.

2.)  The following is, to me, the most fun of all that I do.  It opens up my imagination and heightens the anticipation.  Start with the Atlas (a 'must have' tool) and make a general line from where you are sitting, to where you want to eventually arrive.  Those post-its you see on the map above are suggestions people have made to me of places to see, restaurants to find, and people to meet.  If any of you have a favorite then please let me add it to the map.
3.)  Draw the lines...What states will I cross? Are there any I want to avoid? Which ones have I never seen? Who do I know in each state?  Etc.

(The guide book above has some suggested routes through each state with points of interest along the way)
4.)  I have a collection of regional maps and they are the ones I mark up with colored pens, post-its, and various notes in the margins. The route is taking shape by now.
5.  This is about as far as I plan until I reach each state.  I now have a general route and know the major cities I expect to see when in each state.

6.)  I try always to cross into a new state on an interstate freeway because of the visitor centers that come up almost immediately.  From them I collect free maps and brochures, free coffee and advice from the employees. Also, many of the centers have free dump stations, free potable water, picnic tables to spread out all my maps, and they often allow overnight parking. Now it's time for the details.
While sitting at that picnic table I plan the specifics of the next few hundred miles-- museums, parks, attractions, suggestions from friends.

This book has been well worth the five dollars I spent in a used book store.  It has led me to places I would never have found otherwise--the Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump and the dinosaur museum in Canada, the canyon with the petroglyphs in Utah, a few ghost towns in Calif. and Texas, and a dozen other places that aren't touted by the Chambers of Commerce.

Or for $3.99, you can purchase an APP that is even more detailed and comes with colored pictures!

7.)  In the middle of all this fun stuff is the need to find potential over-night places to park.  

My Golden Age Passport is still the best bargain I have found anywhere.  I bought it ten years ago for $10 and I have recouped that money many times over.  The pass can be bought at the entrance to any National Park or Monument and is available to anyone over 62 years of age.  With it you get 1/2 price on camping at any National Park or Corps of Engineers park throughout the country. You also get free entrance to any National Park or monument for everyone in your vehicle.

The locations of government campgrounds may be found in these two books and I purchased both in Camping World stores. State parks may be bargains as well and those Visitor's Centers have booklets that supply all the lowdown.

Harvest Hosts is an organization of 400+ specialty farms, organic farms, family farms and wineries throughout the country where members may stay free if you just call the day before.  They are usually off on a country road somewhere but they are always fun and different and worth finding.  You can join through their website and it is $45 per year.

There are also discounts for regular old ugly RV parks.  I used Good Sam's Club (10% off) and Passport America (50% off RV parks) mostly the first year.  I may renew Good Sam's but I don't stay in enough parks anymore to warrant renewing P.A.

8.)  Using lots of colored pens and highlighters and one of the maps from the Visitor Center I circle stuff, draw lines, and make notes.  I note where every Cracker Barrel, Flying J, Love's, Nat'l & State & Corps of Engineer Park, Harvest Host, and friend or family's driveway can be found.  Using post-its I note the museums and attractions.  When I am all through I have a darn good idea where I will be going, stopping, sleeping and eating.

9.) And finally--The APPs.

Ron gave me this wonderful little toy that I have nicknamed "Precious".  It is beyond addictive.  If you want to play 'Words with Friends' (Like Scrabble) with me my handle is,  ToeKneeTucson.

It also helps me to plan my itinerary, so here are the APPS I have installed and that I use the most.  I welcome any others you may find helpful as well.  I also have used most of these sites on-line before Precious entered my life.

Yes, it really is a level--and it works.  It's great to have on the floor next to me when I am parking.

Free WiFi?  There are so many free WiFi signals coming out all the time that this is not always up to date--but it's still good. The most common are Public libraries, Starbucks, McDonalds, Lowes, Home Depot, Quiznos, some hospitals, many malls.  I mostly just sit in the parking lots--the signals are usually strong enough.

This one is the most important of all!  Almost every large town or city has one or two free dumps and this site will lead you to them. (Tucson has two) 

And, before I start out I check this APP.  
And if the weather is bad then I watch a movie.  I am no longer addicted to TV (if I ever was).  And if there is a show I want to watch I can see it thru Netflix.