Well, my work travel plans changed (the Go Live date for the project I am working on got pushed out two weeks) so I was able to stay full-time in the camper from Thursday to Wednesday. I was excited about spending the whole week working in the camper because the two-day work experiment didn’t go as well as I had hoped. With what I learned from the two days I wanted to tackle a whole week. The first thing I did was make a complete weekly dinner menu and grocery list. It took around an hour, but the time will be well worth it as almost every night our entrée will be something I’ve never made before. I’ve been collecting up these recipes but with only the weekends to cook and such a crazy travel schedule my opportunities have been somewhat limited. As usual, I’ll only post the “winners” so you can see how the week went by how many recipes I saved at the bottom. I am also planning to blog as I go, since a full week is too much to remember. So the format will break events out by days and we will see what happens. Hope you like it!
Thursday and Friday
The heat broke and the weather was absolutely gorgeous on Thursday and Friday. For the first time we slept with the windows open and it was wonderful. It was also super quiet at the campground with none of our neighbors being here. I love love the birdsong in the morning and we have a pair of chipmunks (named Jack and Jill) who have sort of taken over our campsite which is great. We’ve been feeding them peanuts and the cheeky little buggers have gotten very brazen, even coming out and staring at us when there are no peanuts to be found.
I’ve found there are several advantages to working out of the camper. Since it’s such a small space, you can comfortably move around while on the phone without worrying about losing cell signal, and during one conference call I was able to sit the phone down and do the dishes. There are conference calls you are actively running and there are conference calls you just need to pay attention to, and I can certainly pay attention and wash dishes at the same time. Working from the camper was also super relaxing. Yes I have work to do, but when things got a little stressful the bird song and cavorting chipmunks certainly helped lighten the mood. I also can’t say enough about being done at 5-5:30pm and not having to deal with Friday traffic of any kind. That rocks!! Lee also brought my desk chair from home..it works better from a height perspective, but I can’t really get close enough to the laptop. Much much better but I need to keep looking for a solution. Overall everything was great until the weekenders started showing up. It didn’t get terrible or anything but man are people loud. Lee says he’ll have no problem getting me to stay in remote areas and I think he’s right. I was really enjoying my nature sounds.
Saturday we woke up early because we had lots of errands to run. I’ve been wanting to incorporate farmer’s market items into our menu plans for a while, but things have been so nuts I haven’t really had the chance. So we woke up early and went down to the Keene Farmers Market.
Really nice selection and I bought radishes, green onions, mushrooms (from Dave Wichland the local mushroom guy who raises his own mushrooms), and we got some garlic scapes for free. Because I want to try new things I also bought some Collard greens. I have no idea how to cook them, but luckily I have a wonderful brother-in-law who not only was born and raised in the south but is also an excellent chef. So you know who I’ll be reaching out to.
I didn’t like the tomatoes (they weren’t ripe enough) so we stopped at Green Wagon Farm right around the corner from our sticks and bricks house and picked up some tomatoes and fresh lettuce. They have amazing lettuce this year and I love being so close to such a great farm stand…although farm stand is an understatement. It is a working farm that sells its own produce.
After the farm stand we went to Tree Hugger farms to replenish our firewood. They have eco-friendly kiln dried wood that we have been using for our campfires. It’s a very cool setup; you drive into their covered bay and load however much you want into your vehicle. They have two prices; one for stacked and one for loose wood, and when you are done they come out and measure the height and width to determine a price. For a truck load of loose wood we paid $106 which was well worth the price. Plus the people are super nice and because the wood is kiln dried it is completely bug free and can be taken across state lines.
After Tree Hugger, we went to Target to look for baskets. With all this fresh produce we have started running out of counter space and wanted to try using some baskets as a container. I didn’t like anything at Target, but Pier One had just the thing and once we got home Lee zip tied (black zip ties 12 for $2) the baskets to our railing. It looks great and I like the solution because these baskets are open which will allow the vegetables to breathe. The only drawback is I will need to cut them down when we have to put the refrigerator slide in, but what a great solution when we are stationary for any length of time. We all know Lee is the king of the creative idea, but this one was actually mine….he must be rubbing off on me a bit. He does get credit for figuring out how to hang them though.
Speaking of being stationary, the campground had lots of tent campers this weekend. As a general rule these folks are on the quiet side, but a big group took over all the spots and they were pretty loud. I guess I was spoiled the last couple of days but really not the noise. In the end we went inside and watched a movie. Double pane windows are WELL WORTH the investment. Turn on the AC and you can’t hear a thing. I feel bad because they were nice people… one of them came over and complimented us on the rig and truck. As a side note, Lee gets a lot of compliments on the truck . That’s still funny for us because we are not truck people and for us the truck is simply a means to an end (ie: pulling the 5th wheel) . Neither Lee or I would ever have one (especially not this big) if we weren’t camping. But guys sure like the TRUCK. TRUCK in capitals because it’s a monster Ford F350 Dualy. (But it’s pronounced CHRUCK. – Lee) The point is I can’t blame them…technically they aren’t breaking any rules and they are having a good time, but it bugs me that we can’t just move. For me this is one of the most serious drawbacks to having a seasonal site. Now if we picked one with quieter neighbors and no drop in sites near us, it would be better, but unless you have friends staying in the same campground, you don’t really know what a particular site will be like until after you have committed. I also wish the campground owners would do a later drive by on the weekends. The last time I saw our security was 9:30 pm on Saturday night. Obviously a later after hours sweep is called for. We have found a solution…windows closed and fan on…but its a bummer we can’t sleep with our windows open because of the noise. I have decided though to take matters into my own hands a bit. Turns out we have outside speakers and my blue tooth on my phone syncs to the radio in the camper. Now under normal circumstances I would never play my music outside, but I may have to send some Celine Dion into the air if these folks don’t calm down a bit.
Oh I can’t forget; I finally made Sue’s Rally dip. We met Sue at the RV-Dreams rally and she made this dip that Lee was over the moon for. It has more ingredients than I usually use, but it freezes well and the look on his face was certainly worth the extra effort. See below for the recipe. This one I definitely recommend, especially for parties. We made the full-sized batch and froze 4 portions and Lee ate the fifth. After cooking the dip I didn’t feel like making a big dinner ( the dip is very filling), so I made a snack that my Aunt Susie recommends: Olives and Celery marinaded in her special Italian dressing. It was yummy. I also took some leftover chicken and found a simple chicken salad recipe online and made it. Lee liked it ok…it was filling, although he would have preferred the chicken shredded than in chunks as the recipe called for. I have included the recipe below because it is quick and easy, but you can dice or shred the chicken as you prefer.
We got up early and had a big breakfast and then went on a long paddle on the Ashuelot River. We wanted to try using two cars, so we left the truck at the covered bridge and drove into Keene to Ashuelot Park. There is a dam there and you can launch a kayak right after the dam. It’s cool because you can paddle pretty close to the waterfall and then make your way down the river.
It was an absolutely wonderful paddle. The weather was fantastic and it was all downstream!! Unfortunately we didn’t see much in the way of wildlife but we did see tons of cool Neon Blue Dragonflies and some wonderful natural tree sculptures. I love sculpture and my favorite is what is made in nature. Here’s one of my favorites. The picture doesn’t do it justice, the roots looked like pictures..very cool.
The only tough part was a section where a newly fallen tree had completely blocked our path and we had to stop and portage the kayak around the blockage. I thought it was fun…Lee not so much, but we did manage. I also took the opportunity to take my first outside pee break since I was a kid. Lee was kind enough to keep a look out for me!! There is no picture of that btw.
The rest of the paddle was uneventful and totally relaxing. I’ll admit it…I can get wound pretty tight, but there is something about paddling that goes straight to my core…better than a Xanax.
And just so you don’t think I am totally anti-social I went over and met the new seasonal couple that are in the lot next to ours. They seem like a nice couple, and she has a delightful laugh, so I went over and introduced myself and welcomed them to the neighborhood. Their names are Tina and Reaum (pronounced Rhealm) and they have an older dog named Willow. Willow likes to bury her food, so they have her in a pet pen and put her food on a plastic dust pan so when she noses it around she doesn’t hurt her nose on the cage. Ingenious. Hopefully will get to know them better over the next few weekends, but since they were in the process of packing up I just said a quick hi.
For dinner Sunday night we went all out with some beautiful steaks we had bought. I was going to make green beans almondine but the super market bought green beans were moldy so scrapped that plan and decided to steam the collard greens and put them with the almondine butter sauce. No clue if this will work or not but the collards were only $1.99 a bunch so it’s a cheap experiment. Josh’s recipe will need to wait until our next trip to the farmers market. Lee is making his mushrooms we bought over the fire and we threw in some of the garlic scapes to see how they cooked over the fire. Look at us trying new things. The steak was great everything else was so-so. Nothing made the recipe list below. It’s funny how some meals everything new goes great and others not so much. You’d think it would be more mixed, but usually its all good or all not so good.
Back to working in the RV for the week. The desk chair has certainly helped but I still feel as if I am sitting too far away from the desk. Not sure if there is a solution for that as we put the desk in the slide out and it’s raised, but I’ll keep thinking about it. I was considering one of those balls people sit on (my dentist’s receptionist uses one and loves it), but they are on the big side, hard to store during transport, and frankly I am so uncoordinated I can’t imagine not falling off the thing half a dozen times a day.
Monday I woke up and it was very still outside. I guess this is a good time to talk about claustrophobia as it is a cumulative problem for me and I have definitely seen it getting a little worse as the week has gone on. It’s funny because sometimes I don’t even notice it. When we looked at campers we were careful to pick our final selection that I felt totally comfortable in, but as we were looking throughout the day I could feel myself getting worse and worse. Essentially, I can handle tight spaces for short periods of time (ie: elevators rarely bother me), but the more I am in those spaces the more difficult it becomes for me. So spending the whole week in the camper, I can see a cumulative effect. It’s subtle (which is part of the problem) so I am doing fine and then suddenly I am not fine. Always catches me off guard. It happened last night while I was making dinner. Things were not going well, I was rushing around, and Lee and I were both in and out of the same small space. Plus he was doing the grilling, so I didn’t have the chance to step outside as much as I normally would. Also it was really muggy and still. If there is a nice breeze blowing and I have some airflow in the camper I am fine…even when all the windows are shut. It’s the stillness that gets to me, and even turning the overhead fan on doesn’t help much when the weather is hot and muggy. Also the rushing around doesn’t help. If I am being deliberate with movements, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much, but as any of you who have cooked a meal knows, sometimes everything is done at once and you need to be doing 5 things at the same time. That kind of harried movement in such a small space ..not so good for me. The other thing is the mess two people accumulate. Throughout the week, when it is just me during the day time, I kept the place pretty clean, but two people equals 2x the clutter and since we were busy doing other stuff this weekend it just kept accumulating. So the main point I think for me is slow down, control the temperature, reduce the clutter, and step outside more if it starts to get to me. Although I haven’t discussed it a lot, claustrophobia was my number one concern when we started camping. It’s the reason I am not a big fan of cruises and rarely take them despite the many advantages they offer. But camping is important enough to me that I need to find ways to cope and the best way to do that is to pay attention to how I am feeling and make adjustments earlier rather than waiting until its unbearable.
I also had a big project to work on Monday and miracle of miracles no conference calls. I can’t remember the last time I had a completely conference call free work day. Lee had shown me how to Bluetooth connect my phone to our camper radio and I listened to classical music on Pandora for a good chunk of the day. Around 1pm it was getting pretty hot, so I turned on the air. It’s much easier to stay focused when the environment is comfortable. Because I was home I was able to make spare ribs which is something I have never been able to cook before. The recipe required boiling the ribs in salt water for 1-1/2 hours which was no problem with me working in the camper. I also made two types of cole slaw (split the head of cabbage and halved the recipes) to give Lee a choice. He liked them both so I have included the recipe for ribs and cole slaw below.
In the afternoon, I received word that the husband of a very good friend of mine from work, died today from a massive heart attack. I have been wondering whether or not to mention it, but Jim was a really good guy and I can’t imagine he would have any issue with it. It is extremely difficult because he was our age, in relatively good health, and still had two younger kids. My heart goes out to Kellie and his girls. Kellie and I have been very good friends for the last 13 years and have spent many lunches talking about our respective husbands. She truly loved him and losing him in such a sudden and unexpected way is devastating. I write about what happened not only to pay tribute to Jim, who I considered a friend, but also to remind myself and others that life is short and we need to take advantage of the time that we have. Jim you’ll be missed.
Monday night I really needed some light TV to take my mind off of things (The Bachlorette) , which is not really Lee’s speed so he and I watched two different shows in two rooms for the first time. The bedroom TV worked great and I didn’t feel claustrophobic which was a good thing, but Lee’s war movie (Lone Survivor) was a bit on the loud side during the battle scenes. The room divider we have is pretty but doesn’t do much for noise control. Lee said he would bring in a pair of headphones from home so the person in the front can watch the movie as loud as they want. Should solve the problem. We watch separate TV at home all the time, so its nice to know this is an option if either of us needs some “alone” time. That’s a big part of the reason we bought a model with two separate living spaces (living room and bedroom) because we knew sooner or later we would be stuck inside and need the space. As we were narrowing down our choices, I knew I would end up in the smaller space and it was incredibly important to me that smaller space was doable. I was a little concerned about the bedroom but turns out it’s cozy not confining. A big difference for me.
Tuesday and Wednesday
Much quieter here as the Monday holdovers have left. The birds are once again chirping and the chipmunks ar scampering. Seriously, Jack and Jill have taken over the campsite. They run everywhere and give us reproachful looks when there are no peanuts. Lee found the opening to their den in a tree trunk behind the big rock on our site, so technically I guess it is their site since they live here and we are just renting the place. It was super humid again though today. I turned the AC on around 10:30. I did get quite a bit of work done. Had some productive calls and I could really focus because it was so quiet. We had leftover ribs and slaw for dinner…even better the second day. Then Lee helped me organize the cabinets. They were making me nuts because the things I needed the most were always on too high a shelf and we didn’t always know what we had. He organized by frequency of use, placing the most used items on the lowest shelves so I could grab them without standing on a chair. He did a fantastic job and but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. I am open to hiring him out for a minor fee 🙂
After organizing we watched The Last Ship (really enjoying that show) and then headed to bed. It started raining really hard around 9pm and didn’t let up all night. I mean it was pounding and even though we had a fan, a white noise machine, and the AC on all we could hear was the rain on the slide out. It took me awhile to fall asleep but once I did I was out. Lee had a very restless night, which is unusual because he’s generally a sound sleeper. In the morning, it was still raining very hard and I had an 8:30 conference call. There really isn’t anywhere in the camper you can’t hear the rain noise and I was pretty self-conscious about it, but when I asked the folks on the call if they could hear it they said it sounded like typing. That’s not good either, because it’s generally considered rude to type while on a call and unmuted. I’ll have to think this one through. It’s actually quieter outside under the canopy, but sometimes I need my computer in front of me. I have seen other seasonal campers (who don’t have awnings) put a tarp over the slide out above it and tied to a tree. This seems to me like it would work, because the drops hit the tarp not the metal itself. Lee is dubious, but I am interested in giving it a try…I’ll let you know. I was impressed that during the day time, the owners of the campground were actively patrolling the area. They had a small bulldozer out and were checking all the sites for issues. Good to know if we weren’t here someone would be watching out for our camper. Our site has been great though. It’s rocks then sand and the drainage is terrific. We have had no standing pools of water on the site itself, although the roadway is pretty muddy. I walked outside to thank Bill (the owner) for keeping an eye on things and I think he appreciated me not complaining about the rain. I am truly grateful that he is on top of the situation. When I walked back up the camper I looked into the door I had left open, saw furry movement, and screamed like a little girl. Jill had run up the stairs and was IN THE HOUSE!!!! Bill just laughed and said..”You gotta shut your screen door” (well no shit lol) and “Wait a minute he’ll come out.” Right when he said that Jill scampered out and was up a tree lickety split. Now I don’t mind the chipmunks having the run of the site, but I draw the line with having them inside the camper!! Good thing Bill was standing there because I would probably have panicked. Never a dull moment out here at the campsite.
One last thing I’ll say about the weather is that in a sticks and bricks house weather during the week (major snow storm aside) is pretty inconsequential. A long as it was nice on the weekends that is all we cared about, because that’s the only time we went outside. Staying in the camper, the outside is a part of everyday life and the weather just matters more. Extreme heat, humidity, lots of bugs, cold, rain they all have an impact on the day. It’s not bad, just different and it really makes you appreciate those perfect weather days so much more.
So overall the week went really really well. I am so glad I did it, because we learned a lot of things that didn’t come to light either during the rally trip or just coming out on weekends. I HIGHLY recommend the experience of staying the camper during a normal work week, whether you can work from it or not. It’s a great way to learn about the space and yourselves in it, plus it’s a fun way to spend a week!! We are taking next weekend off to spend time with Kay at the house, but will be back the following week to spend more time with our friend Jo. What a great summer.
- If your rug is getting wet during heavy rains, make sure it is pulled back enough to be completely under the awning. Yeah I know this should have been self-evident but our rug got wet a lot before we figured this one out 🙂
- Don’t leave your screen door open because chipmunks (or other animals) can and will run into the camper!!
- Ways to help reduce feelings of claustrophobia
- It’s all about the rig you buy. Walk in them, sit in them. If you feel the tightness in your chest, move on and find an RV that doesn’t feel that way. Don’t forget the bathroom. Make sure you can handle the size of yours as you will be spending time in there :). I stood in the shower in the selection process to make sure I could handle it.
- Reduce clutter. Clutter makes the spaces feel smaller
- Avoid quick movements in small space
- Hot and Muggy makes it worse, try to control the temperature
- Turn fans on for air flow
- Two people in a small space can make this waaay worse. If feeling claustrophobic go outside or have a way of quickly expressing to your partner that they need to backup and give you space.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling and make adjustments before it becomes uncomfortable
- Make the bed, makes the bedroom feel less small
- Plan on treating your outside as an extension of your space. Claustrophobia can be cumulative so the outside breaks reset the clock so to speak
- Understand what triggers the claustrophobic feeling (low ceiling height is a big one for me). Be honest with yourself and your partner about what you can and cannot do
- Windows and skylights are your friend. The illusion of openness is sometimes all you need
- My friend Jo who does not suffer from claustrophobia stated the more wooded the site the more closed in she feels. This was a great point but surprised me because I love the super wooded sites, but upon reflection the lack of sunshine and openness can be a bit oppressive at times. So walking outside doesn’t always have the desired effect if your site is closed in.
Sue’s Rally Dip
This is way more ingredients than I generally go for but the look on Lee’s face was well worth it. Plus it freezes well. This will make a batch big enough for a potluck or 6 single person portions. We saved two portions out and froze the rest in small Ziploc bags.
- 1 pound hamburger
- 4 Hot Johnson Sausages (chopped fine or ground)
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 cans black beans (15oz) (drained slightly)
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 bag of frozen corn (16 oz) or can of corn (15oz )
- 2 pkgs taco seasoning (do not add water)
- 1 can jalapeno chilis (4oz)
- 1 can fire roasted tomatoes (15 oz) you can double if you like more tomatoes or add fresh salsa at the end)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cilantro
- 1 cup shredded Jack and Cheddar cheese blend
- Blend hamburger and chopped Hot Johnson sausages and brown over medium heat
- Mix all other ingredients (except cheese) in a large bowl
- Mix in cooked hamburger/sausage mixture
- Portion out any parts you would like to freeze
- Place remaining in a covered glass casserole dish and microwave for 20 minutes (reduce microwave time to 10 minutes if you are heating a smaller batch
- Remove dish and sprinkler with cheese.
- Microwave for 1 more minute or until cheese is melted
- Serve with tortilla chips Lee likes the scoops
- 3 pounds pork spareribs
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 TBL cider vinegar
- 4 TBL Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 tsp cayennne
- Simmer spareribs in a large pot of salted water until tender (around 1-1/2 hours)
- Drain and place ribs in a shallow baking dish; let cool
- In a separate bowl mix all other ingredients
- Spread generously over the meaty side of the ribs saving the rest for basting
- Grill, turning frequently and basting with reserved sauce; until ribs are brown and lightly crusty about 15 minutes
- 1 head cabbage finely grated
- 4 TBL sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 carrots grated
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 4 TBL cider vinegar
- 2 TBL fresh chopped parsley (optional)
- Cut cabbage in quarters and remove core
- Finely chop the cabbage and place in large bowl
- Sprinkler with sugar and salt; toss to coat
- Add carrot and toss
- In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and vinegar
- Stir into cabbage mixture
- Cover and refrigerate until chilled
- Sprinkler with parsley before serving (optional)
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