First Time Making Fresh Spaghetti Sauce

Super long week at work and I was so glad to get home.  This weekend I was looking forward to doing a whole fat lot of nothing!!  So this may not be the most exciting blog post I’ve ever done, but I needed some serious chill time.  We had another showing on Saturday, which is exciting, and I drove into town to check the house one more time and pick up some vegetables at the farmer’s market.  It was super sticky and muggy on Friday and Saturday, and this is coming from someone who spent the week in Atlanta.  VERY unusual for September in New England.  This is when I was super glad we splurged for the bedroom AC unit.  Even though we are on 30 amp and can only run one at a time, it’s great because we can turn the bedroom AC on at night and the front room still gets cool but we don’t have to listen to the loud fan noise when watching a TV or a movie.  A large storm came in Saturday evening and  I was a little nervous about riding out the storm since the weather station said we might have damaging winds and hail, but Lee felt since we were under the dense tree cover we would be ok.  We bought a Midland weather notifier when in Tennessee and it worked great.  Went off right when it should have.  I was more nervous when it said tornado warning, but there was no shelter near by and since the only alternative was to drive 20 minutes to the house, we decided to ride it out.  Not sure how smart that was since Hollis, NH experienced a micro burst with 100 mph winds, but we own the choice.

Anyways, onto pleasanter things.  I have talked about how we are trying to reduce our grocery budget and although the farm fresh vegetables aren’t a bargain to me they are definitely worth the extra cost. The farmer’s stand around the corner had 5 Roma tomatoes left, some really nice watermelon, huge corn, and fresh Italian parsley.  I was super happy at the selection and excited about cooking fresh marinara sauce.  I love spaghetti and my mother’s recipe, but I have always wanted to try to cook sauce from farm fresh tomatoes, so Saturday night with the rain coming in seemed like the perfect time. Along these lines I read a great article on the plane about avoiding the super market traps and just had to pass it along.  It’s amazing to me how much marketing and science go into getting you to spend more money and these tips are to help even the playing field.

  1. Grocery shop alone – the longer you are in the store the more money you will spend so take a list and stick to it.  Avoid those impulse buys
  2. The produce department has the highest markups in the grocery store – Avoid buying “pair” items in the produce section as they are generally not the best priced
  3. When you walk in the store go to the left not the right. – Going clockwise forces you to reach over your basket which cuts down on impulse buys.
  4. Buy the biggest items first – People calculate how much they are spending by how full the cart is so the big items are on the bottom, the cart is fuller and you will likely spend less.
  5. There are speed bumps in the more expensive gourmet sections of the store – Some grocery stores have put a textured tile in these areas which slow down the cart.  Studies show that these speed bumps lead to a 17% jump in purchases in these sections.
  6. Don’t look at the characters on cereal boxes – Research has found that meeting another person’s gaze (even a 2-D character) fosters a sense of trust and encourages sales
  7. Skip the deli – The same items in the deli section that are found in the dairy section can cost up to 30% more.  This is because the deli workers need to get paid.
  8. Don’t think you can just get milk – The dairy section is in the rear corner of the store for a reason and research shows people who are planning on just making a “quick trip” for a few items often spend 60% more than they intended to spend
  9. Do the math – calculate unit pricing.  Only 9 states require unit pricing, but be aware the packaging is often misleading and the only way to know the best bargain is to divide the price by the number of ounces, pounds, etc
  10. Don’t touch things in the checkout aisle – Touching a product triggers a sense of ownership making you more likely to buy.
  11. Be careful of 10 for $10 deals – You don’t necessarily have to buy in that quantity to get the deal and sometimes the each price is not the best deal.

So after shopping I settled in to make the sauce.  I browned the garlic in olive oil and added fresh Roma tomatoes and chopped fresh basil.  I let it cook down the tossed with spaghetti and freshly chopped parsley.  It looked and smelled amazing, just like something you would get in an Italian restaurant but then we took our first bite.  Let me just say you will NOT see this recipe below, because the taste was incredibly bland.  I know I followed the recipe exactly I just didn’t like the taste.  But I was glad I did it and I choose to treat the experience as a metaphor for life.  Sometime you can use all the right ingredients and do everything right and things still don’t work out.  But it’s really about trying new things and the journey rather than the end result.

Marinara simmering

Marinara simmering

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

Spaghetti with marinara sauce

 

Plus just to show me up Lee made some yummy steak on Sunday night.  He even used our new P brand for the first time on the steaks cooked over the campfire.  Look in the middle of the picture and you can see it. Overall it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend and I really needed it.

Steak with a branded "P" in the center

Steak with a branded “P” in the center

 Lessons Learned

  • Invest in the second air conditioner
  • Grocery shop alone – the longer you are in the store the more money you will spend so take a list and stick to it.  Avoid those impulse buys
  • The produce department has the highest markups in the grocery store – Avoid buying “pair” items in the produce section as they are generally not the best priced
  • When you walk in the store go to the left not the right. – Going clockwise forces you to reach over your basket which cuts down on impulse buys.
  • Buy the biggest items first – People calculate how much they are spending by how full the cart is so the big items are on the bottom, the cart is fuller and you will likely spend less.
  • There are speed bumps in the more expensive gourmet sections of the store – Some grocery stores have put a textured tile in these areas which slow down the cart.  Studies show that these speed bumps lead to a 17% jump in purchases in these sections.
  • Don’t look at the characters on cereal boxes – Research has found that meeting another person’s gaze (even a 2-D character) fosters a sense of trust and encourages sales
  • Skip the deli – The same items in the deli section that are found in the dairy section can cost up to 30% more.  This is because the deli workers need to get paid.
  • Don’t think you can just get milk – The dairy section is in the rear corner of the store for a reason and research shows people who are planning on just making a “quick trip” for a few items often spend 60% more than they intended to spend
  • Do the math – calculate unit pricing.  Only 9 states require unit pricing, but be aware the packaging is often misleading and the only way to know the best bargain is to divide the price by the number of ounces, pounds, etc
  • Don’t touch things in the checkout aisle – Touching a product triggers a sense of ownership making you more likely to buy.
  • Be careful of 10 for $10 deals – You don’t necessarily have to buy in that quantity to get the deal and sometimes the each price is not the best deal.

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

First Time Paddling on the Connecticut River

Hello everyone…it’s been a busy week, but for those who are just interested in the paddling, scroll down and it’s one of the last things we did 🙂  As of this week we are living in the RV all of the time. No, unfortunately the house hasn’t sold, but we’d much rather be here than at the house, and since we paid for a seasonal site, this is where we are staying.  I traveled on Wednesday this week to Philadelphia but other than that worked from home base on Thursday and Friday.  Thursday was OK, but there were many, many large banging sounds from nuts falling on the camper. It’s startling,  really, and so loud.  Lee explained Thursday night that a squirrel is climbing a tree high above our camper and eating nuts there so a bunch of shells are banging the top of the camper from very high heights.  I asked if we could “wing it” with a pellet gun or something and Lee looked horrified.  Seriously, I love animals but it was distracting and that squirrel can eat somewhere else!   I also cooked during the week, which is a huge benefit of working from the camper.  I am not a huge fan of pork, but Lee loves it, so I made some pork with a maple syrup and balsamic vinegar glaze on the campfire and some rice.  It was very easy and Lee gave it an enthusiastic two thumbs up.  (To be fair, it was really two thumbs up one at a time, in order that I could eat uninterrupted. – Lee) The recipes for this week are all listed below.     The best part of Thursday was 9pm when we got a phone call from Kay.  I was so sure the call would come on Wednesday night when I was flying home, or otherwise unable to answer the phone, but thank heavens we were both together and in our camper.  Kay cried for a minute or two but then pulled herself together and said although the first week was rough she had “gotten her shit together” and they made her an element leader.  She seemed a bit bewildered that they would have chosen her for that but felt honored by it.  I can already hear the difference in her voice.  Say what you want about the process but it is life changing for everyone who has gone through it.    We both breathed a big sigh of relief that she was OK and I immediately booked our tickets and hotel for her graduation in October.

Friday there were much fewer “nut bombs” hitting the camper.  Maybe he heard my  evil thoughts and decided to move on, but Jill, our resident chipmunk was out in force and seemed happy to see me.  I tend to feed her throughout the day and she was super cute climbing in and out of our wood pile.  We knew the quiet was coming to an end though because it was Labor Day weekend.  I have to say our neighbors behind us  have been MUCH better.  Sometimes they visit and I barely know they are here.  Unfortunately, the site across from us is now occupied and their dog is a barker.  I understand how difficult it is to stop a dog from barking, but it does bug me when the dog barks and they make no attempt to correct it.  Seeing how much time our friends Jo and Ben spend correcting their dog’s behavior I think it’s really laziness to let a dog behave like that. Another issue that we dealt with is that while we’re here, someone has been parking in our sticks and bricks driveway.  Yes, you read that right, and the nerve it takes to just park in someone’s driveway astounds me.  Lee has been coming home sometimes in the morning, and for lunch every day, and has seen the car numerous times.  Needless to say at first it freaked him out but then he finally got annoyed enough to call the police.  At first they didn’t want to do anything, but he was adamant and they agreed to run the plate and contact the person parking there and tell them to stop.    Despite the barking dog , overall, Friday night was good and not nearly as noisy as I expected.  I was pretty tired from a long work week so we ate some leftovers and went to bed.

Saturday we decided to get up and hit the sales.  Last year we stocked up on several “seasonal” items such as bug spray, tiki fuel, and other camping stuff and saved a ton of money and I was excited to go again.  Plus we have run out of kindling and were looking for a new bag of it.  We drove north and stopped at several little feed stores, hardware stores,  lumber yards, etc.  Didn’t have a lot of luck finding anything but the day was beautiful and we had a good time.  Finally we made it to Mr G’s Liquidation Center and hit the mother load.   When the kids were small and we were broke we went there semi-regularly to stock up on canned goods and unusual items.  They have what they have, but prices are 30% -60% off what you find elsewhere.  Plus it’s like a treasure hunt and super fun.  We stopped going once the kids got older and we started to make a little more money, but now that we are trying to live on a budget thought it would be a great time to revise the tradition.   It was awesome!!  First of all, I felt great about what I got for the $150 I spent versus always feeling slightly ripped off when I go to a regular grocery store. In addition, they have items that are difficult to get here in the northeast anywhere else.  I bought two Plochman’s mustard (my absolutely favorite) and numerous cans of Pennsylvania Dutch mushrooms which I love and haven’t seen for years up here.  After all that shopping I was tired, so we headed back to the camper to meet the cable guy.  One of the necessities for spending the next couple of months in the camper was getting our cable box out here.  It was more complicated than I would have thought, so they sent out a cable guy and he and Lee tinkered until they got it to work.  If we were in a new place with things to explore TV would not be such a big deal, but since we’ve seen most everything in this area TV will continue to be a staple of our entertainment ..at least in the short-term.   After the cable guy left Lee took the trash down and ran into our sticks and bricks neighbor, his dad, and the former owner of our house.  Turns out the new S&B neighbors two doors down have been parking in our drive way and our S&B neighbor across the street did tell him we had not moved, but he continued to park there.  Well now we have a name with the car and I will be addressing it if it happens again.  Also it was nice for Lee to talk to Steve, the former owner of the house.  They raised three kids in the house and then moved when the last one graduated, and now we are doing the same.  Steve felt it was priced right and knows there is nothing wrong with the house, it’s just a lousy market right now.   We know that as well, but it was nice to get some validation.   They were all staying in the group site at the front of the campground, and I thought it was nice that they  were still friends and got together.

Although the campground had a pot luck event on Saturday we stayed at our site.  It’s time to sign up for next year and they had a band, potluck, and fireworks.  I have to say I have been very disappointed with the lack of events this summer and Lee and I have never really connected with the community (such as it is).  Although I like the couple who run the campground, I thought it was a little transparent that they scheduled an event just when it was time to sign up again.  Lee has asked me about it, but I said no.  My main problem is we cannot easily get our camper in and out of the site it’s in…which is not their problem, but also I feel their security is very lax which is.  With everyone up at the party we were looking forward to some quiet time, but the people across from us had gone up and left their dog in the camper.  That dog barked constantly for over four hours.  We had dinner, baked potatoes with chili and cheese  (which Lee loved; recipe is below), and finally I couldn’t take it anymore and asked him to go talk to the owners.  As soon as he walked up to them they looked upset and said “Barking Dog?”  On the one hand it’s nice to not be the only complainer, on the other hand if they knew it was an issue why didn’t they take care of it sooner?? Jill told Bill to go find them down listening to the music and make them take care of it.  Again, I understand how tough it is camping with dogs, but either buy that dog a bark collar or don’t go off to party and leave it alone.  Eventually, they came back and the dog barking stopped and we settled in to watch a movie.  Don’t get me wrong, we expect some noise on weekends, especially holiday weekends, but there is some camper courtesy that needs to be shown.

Sunday was a lazy day…well lazy for me, but Lee was bound and determined to fix a sound problem with the TV.  It involved two trips to Radio Shack and some grumbling, but he eventually hooked the TV up through the camper stereo. In the process he discovered that the radio was never hooked up to the antenna and he was pissed.  Overall our Open Range experience has been a good one, but when he runs across a situation where the builders cut a corner he gets mad.  I recommended he call the manufacturer and complain and we will see, but now we know why we can only get one radio station at the campground.  (Seriously, this is not at all cool. They just didn’t run a line from the antenna to the stereo, and now, to correct, a line has to be run through a finished, insulated camper. That should have been done when it was constructed. I really like listening to the radio, and if I’m not going to be able to, then I should have paid a few hundred less for the camper.- Lee) For dinner tonight we had some chicken on the campfire…just so-so, the recipe didn’t make the cut, but I also made (for the first time) Potato-Pepperoni Hash.  I thought I would try it because I liked all the individual ingredients (those who cook know that doesn’t always work out) but it was fantastic.  Definitely adding it to my new favorites and the recipe is listed below.  (She’s not kidding, she loved it. She ate all of it. Normally she leaves some food on her plate, and I get a  little bonus extra dinner, but this time she scarfed it all up, and now I feel faint from lack of nourishment. – Lee) Super super muggy at night so we turned on the air.  I have to say the AC in the camper is amazing even thought we are only on 30amp.  VERY pleased.  Oh one other thing about Sunday; I have read in blogs (and our friend Greg confirmed) that when the weekend campers leave you can scavenge their wood.  Been wanting to try this and finally the tent site near ours left a huge pile.  Lee and I went and got it and although I felt great about the free wood, felt vaguely guilty as well as if I was doing something wrong.  I know it makes no sense as the owners of the campground would just pick it up and resell it, but like I said felt weird.  That being said we go through a lot of wood and I don’t think we can pass the leftovers up.  (I really can’t make up my mind about this. On the one hand, if someone leaves wood behind, obviously they are doing that because they don’t want to take it with them, and they’re leaving it for “the next guy”. On the other hand, we’re not “the next guy”. On the other hand, the campground is just going to scoop that wood up and then resell it, so it’s not like the “next guy” is even going to get it anyway. So, overall, I feel like it’s OK to take it, but I’m afraid someone will say something. It just feels weird, and not just because it sounds like I have three hands. – Lee) 

Monday I slept in late (9am is not late. That’s half the day gone, and practically time for second breakfast. – Lee) and we scurried out the door to go paddling.  We went to North Star Canoe Rental in Cornish, NH and the guys there were really terrific.  It only costs $15 per boat to drive you 4 miles up the river and the guys were very nice and personable.  (To be clear, that price doesn’t include a canoe or kayak rental, that’s just what they charge you if you have your own boat. I have no idea what they would charge to rent one, but I bet it’s on their website. I also don’t know how much they would charge you to take someone else 4 miles up the river and just leave them there without a boat, but I bet that’s not on the website. – Lee) We weren’t sure how to handle the inflatable, but decided we would leave it in the bag and then blow it up onsite.  (Inflate, not detonate. I just like to be clear. – Lee)

North Star Canoe based out of a barn :)

North Star Canoe based out of a barn 🙂

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The two young men were fascinated with the Sea Eagle and asked Lee tons of questions as he was setting it up.  (Sadly, one of those questions was not “Hey dude, would you like to sit in the shade while I pump up your wicked rad inflatable for you?” – Lee) Our Sea Eagle 385  never fails to get attention, but I was surprised that two people who ran a canoe livery had never seen one.  Once we got it set up we started to put it into the water.  Lee wore his tennis shoes, not sure what he was thinking there, and took them off then we got into the boat.  (I was thinking there would be a dock. Also, shut up. – Lee) The river level was a little low starting off and we had to get out and pull the boat.  This is where the bare feet were NOT helpful as the rocks were very sharp.  I did have shoes though, and found a great new rock for my rock collection 🙂

The Canoe puller we put the Sea Eagle in the back of the bus

The Canoe puller we put the Sea Eagle in the back of the bus

Beautiful view from the livery

Beautiful view from the livery

The paddling was beautiful and there were only a few people on the river.  We got to see the Cornish Wooden bridge  longest covered wooden bridge that carries automobiles and that was neat but it really was hot.  Not muggy, just sun burning hot, and Lee doesn’t do so well in the heat.  (It wasn’t “hot”, it was “Jesus H Christ, we must be a mile from the sun” hot. It was end of days hot. -Lee)  I got out once and got completely wet…the water was so clear, but Lee was happiest in the shade or when the sun went behind a cloud.  (That’s pretty generous revisionist history usage of “happiest”. It would be more accurate to say that in the shade I was somewhat less likely to cheerfully beat someone to death with my paddle so I could skin them and use them as an umbrella. I do not like the heat. – Lee)

Cornish Wooden Brideg

Cornish Wooden Brideg

Longest single covered span wooden bridge that carries automobile traffic

Longest single covered span wooden bridge that carries automobile traffic

 

The views were amazing though.  The water was so still in places I got some great shots with reflections.  Pretty happy with how they turned out.

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Connecticut River

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Connecticut River

 

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Connecticut River

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Connecticut River

 

After paddling, we stopped at a corn stand and bought a dozen ears directly from the farm.  I wanted to try freezing fresh corn and thought at that price, I couldn’t lose.  I bought a dozen ears for $5 and when we got home I went to Pickyourown.org to get directions on how to freeze them.  Basically you boil the corn for 9 minutes then put in ice water for 9 minutes.  Afterwards you gently cut down the cob about 2/3 into the kernel, then put into a freezer bag removing as much air as possible then freeze.  It was fun but a lot of work.  I’ll let you know if the taste was worth the work.

It’s been a great week…going to Atlanta again next week, so Lee will get some quiet time alone at the camper.  I can tell he’s devastated :). (I am. I don’t know how I will get through the week. Probably rib-eyes, bourbon, and pie. – Lee)

 

Lessons Learned

  • Always wear water shoes when going kayaking (Did you not hear me when I said shut up?)

Recipes

 Grilled Rice Packet

  • 2  (10 oz) packages of Green Giant Frozen Rice
  1. Remove contents from package and place on large piece of heavy-duty Reynolds wrap
  2. Seal edges using double-fold seals
  3. Place packet on grill for 30 minutes; turn over once at the 15 minute mark
  4. To serve open packet and stir gently

 

Grilled Rice Packet

Grilled Rice Packet

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Chili-Cheese Baked Potatoes

  • Chili; whichever kind you prefer (I use  one McCormick Chili packets with 1# hamburger, and 1 can each of Light kidney beans and dark kidney beans)
  • 4 Idaho potatoes
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter
  • 2 scallions chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Pierce potatoes with a knife once and place into oven unwrapped
  3. Cook potatoes for 1 hour
  4. Remove potatoes and open
  5. Add butter, sour cream, and chili to taste
  6. Sprinkler with cheddar cheese and pop into the microwave for 2 minutes until cheese melts
  7. Add scallions to top of potatoes and serve
Chili-Cheese Baked Potatoes

Chili-Cheese Baked Potatoes

Potato-Pepperoni Hash

  • 3 -4 medium sized Idaho potatoes (diced)
  • 3 oz  pepperoni (diced)
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced) or 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 TBL vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Also, make some other food for yourself, because you won’t get to eat the potatoes. Tracy will scarf them all down.
  1. Simmer diced potatoes in salted water until tender; about 12 minutes
  2. Drain and pat dry
  3. Heat vegetable oil in large skillet
  4. Add potatoes and cook, stirring, until crisp; about 8 minutes (add salt and pepper to taste while cooking)
  5. Add pepperoni and sprinkle lightly with garlic; cook 1-2 minutes mixing well
  6. Remove from heat and stir in scallions
  7. Take whatever you made for yourself out of the microwave.
Potato - Pepperoni Hash

Potato – Pepperoni Hash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.  Search Amazon.com here

Nick comes to Visit

I worked all last week in Atlanta and was so glad to get home.  It was hot in Atlanta, not sure how I’ll handle the summers when we move down south.  I definitely don’t like sweating at 6:30 in the morning.  Heck I don’t like sweating at all but that’s crazy hot.   I did have a very productive work week.  The people were nice and we worked together to find a solution for a problem they were having, which is one of my favorite things.  I missed my camper though and was happy when I got to it around 7:30 pm.  Lee came and got me at the parking area.  We can only have one car at a time back here, which is more of an issue during the week than on weekends. When I came into the camper it was totally spotless and Lee had finished putting the custom-made drawer fronts onto the desk.  He has also met with the dealer tech and finally they replaced the bad washer dryer combo with a new Splendide and fixed the last of the remaining issues we had.  It was great coming home and I let out a huge relaxed sigh as soon as I stepped into the camper.

Desk area Lee made for me with customer drawer fronts stained to match

Desk area Lee made for me with customer drawer fronts stained to match

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spent the night getting reacquainted…wink wink, nudge nudge…and I fell asleep listening to the sounds of nature.  MUCH better than being in a hotel room.   The next morning we had to get up early though because we had a house showing at 11am.  Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful there is any kind of movement on the house, but I would have loved to have slept in a bit.  We swept, cleaned bathrooms, weeded, and mowed the lawn…essentially touched up, and then went downtown to send Kay her daily mail.  We are both trying to write something every day to her, even if it’s a card, and we’re both doing really good. We haven’t received anything back yet, but Lee says they don’t give her time to write until a couple of weeks in. Anyway, we needed to kill some time before going back to the house to close up and went to the farmer’s market.  Now, you all know I love the farmer’s market, and we bought some cool stuff this time.  We purchased some amazing cow’s milk cheese, goat’s milk soap (I got cranberry scented), some honey and goat’s milk bath scrub, an absolutely beautiful tomato and some delicious plums.  The plums were amazing. I can see that in the future farmer’s markets are going to cause me serous budget issues, but I just can’t resist.   We went back and checked the house and it’s a good thing we did as the Realtor had left the back screen door wide open! Then we went to the grocery store on our way back to the camper.  With just the two of us we are trying to reorganize how we menu plan and buy food.  I would like to work with a $150 weekly food budget, but we spent $190 this week, so I think that’s going to take some practice.  We are also going to the store together…it was always a “divide and conquer” exercise for us with one or the other going.  It went well although we did have a bit of a conversation about the $10 worth of pie Lee bought!!  (That was mostly a one-sided conversation. She did a lot of talking about the pie, I bought the pie. It’s pie. It needs to be bought, or it can’t become. – Lee) When we finally made it back to the camper I was pooped. I took a nap, knowing our friends were coming over and it would probably be a late night.

Georgia and Jim got here around six and brought Nick (Georgia’s son) and Chinese food.   Nick is the son we would have had if we would have had a boy, and has been part of our life since he started  interning for Lee when he was 15 years old.   That eventually grew into a part-time job for Cheshire TV (the public access TV station Lee runs) and led to Nick going to college and pursuing a dream to work in the entertainment industry.  Luckily he got some work right out of college and is currently on tour with Drake and Lil Wayne.  He has toured with them all over the US and internationally, and is now doing the domestic leg of the tour. He had a short break in Boston, so he came to see his family, and us.   Nick has an amazing work ethic (in no small part I think due to working with my husband) and keeps getting more work and promotions on the tour.  It’s a tremendous opportunity for a 26-year-old and we are so very proud of him and happy he is in our lives.

Nick and Lee

Nick and Lee (I’m not sure what’s all over his face, but it looks weird, doesn’t it?- Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a really good time with Nick, Georgia, and Jim, but didn’t get to bed until close to midnight.  So, to even things out I slept until 9:30 🙂  Lee made me a nice big breakfast and then I went outside to read a bit.  It finally got warm enough to take the ALS Ice Bucket challenge.  Jake Crosby had challenged Wendy and I and I couldn’t let him down, but I was driving myself crazy all weekend trying to think of a creative way to do it.  Finally, I gave up and just settled on a big bucket of cold water and the expression on my face.  Wow it was cold!!  But I did it, and challenged my best buds Jo, Cori, and Kelly to complete the challenge also.

Tonight we are having some steak and then I am driving back to the house to sleep in the stick and bricks.  I have my annual physical starting at 7am tomorrow and the hospital is right around the corner  from the house.  Then some work, getting my nails done, then back to the camper.  I did layout a menu for this week with some new recipes, so hopefully I will have some new recipes to post later this week.  I also added the seafood enchiladas to last week’s post as promised.  Our plan is to try to stay in the camper as much as possible until November 1st when the campground closes so I will be posting as things happen.  We also are definitely going to do some more paddling.  I read that paddling when the leaves are changing is amazing and that should be starting up here very soon.

Oh, one last thing.  In order to generate some interest in the house, we have worked with the real estate agent to change the listing.  Thought I would share it with you as I wish I would have done something like this from the very beginning.  You cannot be passive when you’re trying to sell your house especially in this market.  Will let you know if it increases the traffic.

WARNING! Looking at this home may cause you to make an offer!  This motivated seller has priced this large 4 bedroom 2 bath to sell. There is a balcony from the private Master Suite overlooking the large fenced back yard. Features a large concrete patio, an oversized garage, finished basement, lots of storage space, and much more. Located in a great neighborhood, within walking distance to Keene Middle School.  Seller will include all appliances, patio furniture, lawn mower, snow blower, and even the large screen TV! Immediate occupancy is available and assistance with closing costs is negotiable.

 

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Lots of Friends

Sorry I haven’t written in a while things have been pretty nuts.  Let me start by saying who knew I had this many friends 🙂  The cool thing about the camper is it’s a fun place to hang out and we have had more visitors in the last month than in any regular year in our sticks and bricks…and no I am not exaggerating.   Last weekend Jo came to stay with us.  Ben went on his annual fishing trip in Mexico, so Jo and the dogs came and hung out.  We had a great time and over three days exchanged our life stories…sorry Jo 🙂  I helped Jo walk the dog a few times and once we even did it in the dark with flashlights.  That was weird.  For those of you who have dogs in campgrounds it’s a matter of course, but we don’t leave the site at night and walking around with it being pitch black was a little spooky for me.  We also ate VERY well.  Jo brought some more of the fish from the ocean in Maine and we cobbled together meals every day.  Jo and Ben aren’t eating much meat (for health purposes, not ideology) but Lee and I love the meat so we fed Jo all kinds of stuff that was bad for her lol.  The dogs were happy though as I can’t resist feeding dogs from the table and they seemed to enjoy the hot dogs and other yummies they get at Aunt Tracy’s house.  Spoiling other people’s dogs is a lot of fun!!  The girls came out for lunch one day.  Kyrston turned 25 last weekend and we wanted to make sure we saw her, plus we wanted the girls and Jo to meet each other.

Jo and Kay

Jo and Kay

Lee

Lee

 

Kay not thrilled I kept taking her picture

Kay not thrilled I kept taking her picture

Kyrston or Sissy as we affectionately call her

Kyrston or Sissy as we affectionately call her

 

We also had an open house in the middle of everything and our new real estate agent said three couples seemed interested.  They asked some pretty specific questions which was a good sign.   It was a great weekend, and I didn’t want to miss any of it, so since I was traveling for work to Boston on Monday I brought my work clothes so I could leave first thing Monday morning.   This did not work out so well.  Having stuff in two places is a pain and pretty quickly I realized I had no cords for my phone etc.  I stole the camper cords and then realized I had forgotten my toiletrie bag.  So into the camper bathroom and I am grabbing toothbrush etc.  So I finally get into the car, a little harried and feeling like I was forgetting something when I opened the trunk and realized my work computer was back at the house!   So it was 20 minutes, in the wrong direction, back to the house, and then finally on my way to Boston.  Luckily I had no early morning meetings but by this time I hit the heavy traffic so didn’t end up getting to the office until 9:30.  I’m salary and normally work long hours so it’s not like I punch a clock, but I still felt vaguely guilty over being “late.”   So lesson learned when packing your work stuff double-check and triple check the packing.

Work was crazy this week as my major project went live on Weds and two other projects I am working on have had major milestones.  Normally I do a better job of spacing things out, but I’ve been a bit off my game with the stress of selling the house and Kay leaving.  Weds everything hit critical mass, but Thursday was much better and Friday when I left Boston to head home I felt like I had a much better handle on things.  During the week we had made plans to see some long -time friends of our Rick and Laura.  Rick was my travel partner for many years and we trained all across the country together.  When you spend that much time with a person you get pretty close and he and Laura had become great friends with Lee and I.  He moved back to Texas though several years ago and took a job with Oracle, so our communication over the last 7 years has been sporadic.  But every time they are in town they make time to see us, which is really great.  I was excited to show them the camper and catch up and we spent an enjoyable evening getting reconnected.  Facebook is great because in a way with old friend you feel like you just saw them yesterday but its nice to see each other in person.  One other cool thing is now that we drink (twice to the liquor store in a month), Lee decided he wanted to try Scotch and bought a small bottle of 12 year-old Glenlivet.  Scotch is all Rick drinks so it was a happy coincidence that for the first time in our lives we had scotch in the house.  I guess it was pretty good too.  We stayed up late and were sorry to see them go, but talked about them coming to San Antonio in a coupe of months when we go to Kay’s graduation.     Sorry the picture is so dark but we were talking so much I forgot to take one until it was pretty late.

Laura and Rick

Laura and Rick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So as I am blogging it’s pretty quiet.  Hanging out in the camper until our open house this weekend is finished at 2pm.  Been on the road I am honestly looking forward to plopping myself down on the couch and watching some TV.   Going to stay close to home the next couple of weeks and focus on Kay’s departure August 11th so you may not hear much from me, but looking forward to meeting up with Jo and Ben, Cori and Greg, and Bill and Kelly in PA the weekend of August 15th!!!

 

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First Time Staying a Week in the Fifth Wheel

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 

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.

Keene Farmer's Market

Keene Farmer’s 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.

Green Wagon Farm

Green Wagon Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Tree Hugger Farm covered area where you can pick your own wood

Tree Hugger Farm covered area where you can pick your own wood

Machines stacking cut and kiln dried wood

Machines stacking cut and kiln dried wood

 

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.

Baskets from Pier 1 to hold our fresh fruit and vegetables

Baskets from Pier One to hold our fresh fruit and vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Sunday

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.

Ashuelot River dam near the Ashuelot Park in Keene

Ashuelot River dam near the Ashuelot Park in Keene

You can paddle pretty close to the damn

You can paddle pretty close to the dam

 

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.

Look in the center of the picture for a neon blue dragonfly - Argia vivida They were everywhere throughout our paddle and even landed on my leg and on my paddle and stayed awhile so I could get a close look. Unfortunately they flew away when I tried to take a picture

Look in the center of the picture for a neon blue dragonfly – Argia vivida They were everywhere throughout our paddle and even landed on my leg and on my paddle and stayed awhile so I could get a close look. Unfortunately they flew away when I tried to take a picture

 

I love sculptures found in nature. This tree root system was amazing.

I love sculptures found in nature. This tree root system was amazing.

 

 

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.

New tree fall blocked the stream on both sides

New tree fall blocked the stream on both sides

We had to portage across this stream bed. Not Lee's favorite thing but we made it

We had to portage across this stream bed. Not Lee’s favorite thing but we made it

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.

Ashuelot River

Ashuelot River

Ashuelot River

Ashuelot River

 

Beautiful and quiet paddle on Ashuelot river

Beautiful and quiet paddle on Ashuelot river

The only people we saw all day they were embarking as we were landing.

The only people we saw all day they were embarking as we were landing.

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.

Monday

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 🙂

 

Organized by frequency of use and customized to my reach

Organized by frequency of use and customized to my reach

All the coffee and tea stuff up top

All the coffee and tea stuff up top

 

 

Hi frequency items on the bottom and all top shelf items clearly visible from the ground

High frequency items on the bottom and all top shelf items clearly visible from the ground

Look how much space this opened up

Look how much space this opened up

 

 

Chips and snacks all together and organized

Chips and snacks all together and organized

So much better

So much better

 

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.

Lessons Learned

  • 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
  1. Blend hamburger and chopped Hot Johnson sausages and brown over medium heat
  2. Mix all other ingredients (except cheese) in a large bowl
  3. Mix in cooked hamburger/sausage mixture
  4. Portion out any parts you would like to freeze
  5. 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
  6. Remove dish and sprinkler with cheese.
  7. Microwave for 1 more minute or until cheese is melted
  8. Serve with tortilla chips  Lee likes the scoops

 

Sue's Rally Dip

Sue’s Rally Dip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mississippi Spareribs

  • 3 pounds pork spareribs
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TBL cider vinegar
  • 4 TBL Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayennne
  1. Simmer spareribs in a large pot of salted water until tender (around 1-1/2 hours)
  2. Drain and place ribs in a shallow baking dish; let cool
  3. In a separate bowl mix all other ingredients
  4. Spread generously over the meaty side of the ribs saving the rest for basting
  5. Grill, turning frequently and basting with reserved sauce; until ribs are brown and lightly crusty about 15 minutes
Mississippi Ribs (the sauce is good for anything)

Mississippi Ribs (the sauce is good for anything)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old-Fashioned Coleslaw

  • 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)
  1. Cut cabbage in quarters and remove core
  2. Finely chop the cabbage and place in large bowl
  3. Sprinkler with sugar and salt; toss to coat
  4. Add carrot and toss
  5. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise and vinegar
  6. Stir into cabbage mixture
  7. Cover and refrigerate until chilled
  8. Sprinkler with parsley before serving (optional)
Old-Fashioned Cole Slaw

Old-Fashioned Cole Slaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First Time Working from the Camper

This is a long one. ..so many things have been happening I really need to get us caught up.  There’s a hodge-podge of stuff in the beginning, but I promise to get to the experience of working in the camper by the end 🙂

As you may know, our daughter Kay graduated from high school a few weeks ago, and is heading to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training  August 12th.  Before she leaves, my mom is taking her on a grandmother/granddaughter vacation.   It’s a really neat thing mom has done with all of her kids (when they graduated from college) and the grand kids when they graduate from high school.  The vacations vary depending on the interests of the kid and mom’s financial situation at the time.  I went to Hawaii and it was amazing, my sister Wendy wanted a shorter flight and went on a Caribbean cruise, and my brother Eddie went to Europe.  Kyrston (my oldest) went on a cruise to Key West and Mexico, Katy (my middle daughter) went to NYC and they saw 5 Broadway plays, and now it’s Kay’s turn. Of all of the grandchildren Mom has spent the least amount of time with Kay.  She was only 5 when we moved from Ohio to New Hampshire and I knew Mom wanted to do something very special for her.  Because Kay is fluent in Spanish (she was accepted to the crypto-linguistic program in the Air Force because of her talent with learning languages), they decided on a trip to Barcelona and then a cruise along the coast of Spain and Italy.  Very very cool trip and on an international boat which means because Kay is 18 she gets to do all the adult things European kids get to do such as drink and gamble lol.  Needless to say she is super excited. (And who can blame her? I’d love to gamble and drink my way around Spain and Italy!  – Lee)

So what’s all that have to do with camping?  Well for the first time in 25 years we will be without a child in the house.  Lee and I were married very young and had our kids right away, so our lives have revolved around kids.  As of August 12th we will be empty-nesters and we are expecting camping to be a huge part of our life in this new kid-less future.   So Kay is gone for the next two weeks with Mom and we are going to take this opportunity to try living out of the camper for two weeks.  Well Lee is…I have to travel for work Weds and Thursday of this week and all next week, but he wants to see what it is like.  Partially because the house is so empty while we wait for it to sell, and partially I think to ease into the kid-less state.  I have been traveling a lot of the last several years and Lee (who works 5 minutes from the house) has been the primary caregiver.  He is an amazing parent, but this is definitely likely to hit him harder than me because he has spent so much more time with the girls in the last few years.

He also has numerous camper projects that have been put on hold because when we were just coming out for the weekends and we’ve had lot of visitors it was tough to find time to get things done.  One of the first things he is working on is cleaning the outside of the camper.  We had tons of rain and various detritus from the trees is on top of the slideouts. He bought a product while we were in Tennessee called the Bon-Aire Ultimate Water Blaster.  It is this really cool expandable attachment that goes on a hose with a rotating head that can go straight up or down or side to side.  It was great to spray specific parts of the camper.  I think it’s incredibly neat and Lee says it works very well.  Here’s some pictures to show how he used it.

Spraying the awning

Spraying the awning

Spraying top of slide out

Spraying top of slide out

 

He also took some advice from Howard of RV-Dreams and bought a metal water manifold to hook up his separate hoses for (from left to right) hose to rinse off stuff outside, hose to flush sewer lines, fresh water hose.   Much better than the crappy plastic one he had previously bought. (I can’t say enough about this! It’s such a pain to have to attach and remove hoses. The manifold is awesome. Be sure to get a four port manifold, so you’ll always have an extra one, just in case. Also, invest in as many brass quick-connects as you need for every hose end and attachment. No more trying to loosen and tighten hose ends with slippery wet hands. They just pop on and off like magic. – Lee)

Water manifold

Water manifold

 

We also have been struggling a bit with smells in the camper.  Lee is not comfortable leaving the windows open when we are not in it, so little smells can quickly become big smells.  Some of the things we have done (which have all helped) are:

  • Used grey water tank chemicals to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waster is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping (don’t laugh, everybody poops! – Lee) turn the fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on your way out
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us. (Why would anyone PREFER to be in a small space a few feet away while someone else is pooping??? – Lee)

In particular I could smell something under the sink that was unpleasant.  Lee did some online research and discovered that the anti-siphon valve was probably bad.  The way it works is a P trap is under the sink (that’s the S curve part of the pipe) is supposed to be full of water to stop noxious gasses from coming back up.  The problem with a sealed system (like a camper) is the water pushes but the air can stop the water from moving.  Anti-siphon valves allow air to go down the pipe but NOT come back up, but they are plastic and cheaply made, and sometimes they can get stuck in the open position.  Lee bought a new one at Home Depot ($5) and replaced it. Smell gone.  See below for some pics.

 

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

Anti-siphon or vacuum break valve

P trap

P trap

 

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out...he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

Anti siphon valve is in the top left of the picture at the top of the pipe. It was tough for Lee to get out…he had to use a strap wrench to remove it

We also did some mini purging…well mainly Lee did.  It’s amazing how many things we picked up a year ago that are no longer relevant.  And Lee wired up the computer to the TV so now we can watch downloaded movies that are on our computer on the TV screen.  He also took this mat we bought and cut off the outside because it interfered with his chair being pulled back.  See below for the before and after.  It’s great being married to a handy guy. Seriously, it’s like living with MacGyver. (I have a much better haircut than MacGyver. – Lee)

 

Computer wires to TV

Computer wires to TV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mat down on the ground ...we still have

Mat down on the ground …we still have

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

Second mat after Lee cut the outsides away

 

Just in case you think I am a total slacker..I did put my books away.  I went from 450 books down to 30 and was really worried that my favorites wouldn’t fit in the camper, but I have to hand it to the designers of the open range; two cupboards are paperback height and two are hardback height!  I am so pleased with my Open Range.  Every time I turn around there is some little feature that makes being in the camper easier.  Really a great product so far.  Other than that and watching an excellent Wimbledon men’s final…I didn’t do much this weekend.  I’ve been traveling so much I really needed some chill time.  I loved cuddling up on my couch with the fake fireplace going this morning watching some Wimbledon.  Really relaxing.

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Paperbacks with room behind for some storage boxes

Hardback size

Hardback size

 

 

So while I was relaxing Lee was puttering.  It has taken years for us to get to the point where I can sit and he can putter.  But if you’re going to spend any amount of time in a camper…you need to learn how to do that.  It’s tough having two people work in the same small space, so one generally is sitting.  Plus with small square footage, really how much is there to do?  You can only clean and reorganize so much.  So here’s some more pictures of things Lee did.  Needless to say I am happy because his puttering makes my life easier 🙂

Hanging my clothesline

Hanging my clothesline

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes :)

Lee loves organizing everything. Big fan of boxes 🙂

 

 

Basement door...no space left untouched

Basement door…no space left untouched

Lee's tool side of the basement

Lee’s tool side of the basement

 

 

The non tool side...will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

The non tool side…will have more space when we find a way to store the boat in the truck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple more random things and then I think I am all caught up!  Seasonal sites are great on a holiday weekend.  No worrying about where you’ll stay or losing a day of a three-day weekend setting up and then tearing down right away again. The campground was packed, but people were well-behaved and we just stayed around our site to avoid the crowds.  Also, and completely unrelated,   I tested the “make a fire with chips” theory.  Fritos did NOT work but Tortilla chips worked great…see below

Did not stay lit

Fritos did not stay lit.  I heard later the scoops don’t work but regular ones do??  Not sure haven’t tested that

Ta Da ..much cheaper than a $1 fire starte

Tortilla chips stayed burning for much longer and a handful is much cheaper than a $1 fire starter

 

So finally to the working in the camper.  I work from home occasionally so it’s not a complete stretch to work from the camper but I was nervous about it.  Not sure why…Lee built me a great desk space and we have Time Warner internet at this campground so wifi is very fast and unlimited.  I just had some very important assignments due and wanted to make sure my work space was perfect for the next couple of days so I could focus.

Here's my desk

Here’s my desk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The morning started a little rough.  I got up took a shower and was online by 7:30 so that was good, but a couple of neighbors were staying for the holiday week and they were a bit noisy.   It’s ironic because Lee was raving about how quiet it is here during the week, so the first time I stay there was noise.  The birdsong and trees rustling in the wind were great.  Kind of like having a forest sounds CD playing in the background but for real, but then the older couple across the way started talking.  They must be hard of hearing because their voices were really loud…and I could kind of ignore that but she kept spontaneously singing.  I like music, but it was a bit off-key and very distracting.  I was about ready to turn the fan on for some whit noise when they left the site.  Things were very nice after that.   There was some light campground noise, but nothing to loud and I quickly got focused on my work.  I managed to accomplish quit a bit in the morning and at 11:30 took a half hour for a light lunch.  That was nice, I sat outside in a patch of sun and decompressed a bit from a couple of stressful morning conference calls.  I also saw a toad when I walked out my front door, which was pretty cute and not something you get to see in your average work environment 🙂

The quiet did get to me about 1pm.  There was less bird noise so I turned on the overhead fan to get some air flow and white noise.  I also discovered sitting at the desk that a few ants have snuck into the camper so Lee will be getting some Bug Stop on the way home.  Nothing more distracting than an ant crawling up your leg 🙂  It sounds like I was distracted a lot but not really.  Certainly less than an office environment when people walk up to your desk all the time.  I got quite a bit accomplished.

 

Around 2:30 things started to get uncomfortable again.  I have only sat on this chair for short periods of time and it’s really not comfortable…my butt is hurting not comfortable and my neck is hurting from not being at the right level with the table for typing.  So good to know.  It also got to 82 degrees in the camper right before it started raining and cooled down.  I had the fan on high but it was definitely a bit to hot for comfort.  Air flow was not that great.  So new chair and next time turn on the AC earlier 🙂

Around 3:45 we got a pretty serious thunderstorm…I am getting all the weather today.  I made sure my files were backed up i case we lost power, but nothing..not even a flicker which was nice.  We have really good surge protection on the camper and another surge protector on the computers, so I wasn’t worried but it was loud.  Plus the temperature dropped from 81 to 73 outside so that was good 🙂  One of the best things was I had a 6 pm conference call and instead of needing to leave late or take it from the car I was where I needed to be.  so I didn’t lose my whole night.  So overall it was a mixed bag.  I definitely need to gt the chair problem solved and the temperature controlled.  But it was quiet and I got a lot of work done.  Have to try it again and see.

 

Lessons Learned

  • Buy a Bon-Aire water blaster 
  • Use grey water tank smell product to help break down food particles that go down the sink
  • After flushing the toilet, push the pedal down just a little bit to put some water in the toilet to make sure the waste is diluted sufficiently
  • Flush with the lid DOWN, to help control the smell
  • When pooping turn the FanTastic Fan OFF (it pulls the smell up which is pretty unpleasant), flush with the lid down and then turn the fan on
  • Shut the bathroom door after pooping (with the fan on), so the smell does not float out into the other areas…it’s a pretty small space so this can get unpleasant quick
  • Generally one of us sits outside while the other one poops this is a matter of personal preference but it works for us

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First Time Having Rally Friends at the Campsite

What a fantastic weekend!!!  Our friends Jo and Ben who we met in the rally came to visit us and we had an amazing time.  Jo and Ben are both nurses and Jo is also a psychologist (which comes in handy as I am dealing with empty nest syndrome and house selling stress lol).  They decided they wanted to try travel nursing so they sold their house in the mountains near Colorado (in three days grrr) and started working on the road out of their Arctic Fox.  They are very experienced campers but new to the Full Time RV lifestyle and picked the coast of Maine as their first assignment.  Ben is a trauma nurse so it’s easier for him to find contracts, but it was a bit tougher for Jo as she is not licensed as a psychologist in Maine and had not practiced nursing in a year or so.  Plus people think postcard New England ,and it is beautiful, but culturally and environmentally it’s quite a bit different from the wide spaces of the west they are used to.

Luckily we can relate.  Even though we have lived here for 14 years, it’s still very different from the Midwest environment we are used to.  The main thing about New England if you have to think in terms of the 5 states (New Hampshire, Mass, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island).  There are lots of cool stuff to do, but you need to cover all the states to see everything.  They’ve been staying pretty close to home in Maine, but we gave them some of our favorites including Newport, RI, Mount Washington, and Stowe Vermont.  Those are places we have gone back to over and over and still enjoy.  They did get to see Moosehead Lake and saw a family of moose, which I am incredibly jealous of, and had a wonderful camping experience new Acadia National park.  Not only do they have their 5th wheel but they also have a second truck with a pop-up camper on the back.  They take the little truck (with their two dogs) everywhere and it allows them to boon dock and reach areas they could never get to with the big trailer…brilliant!!

Jo and Anubis the sweetest 12 year old rescue dog

Jo and Anubis the sweetest 12-year-old rescue dog

 

Ben and Peyton a beautiful Malamute rescue who is high spirited but very friendly

Ben and Peyton a beautiful Malamute rescue who is high-spirited but very friendly

 

We spent Saturday talking to Jo and Ben from 9am to 10 pm and never ran out of things to talk about.  We are fascinated by their new lifestyle and what it takes to work on the road.  It’s a weird dynamic because despite what it looks like  you are not on vacation.  You take your real life issues with you, but you have a freedom and flexibility that few who live in a sticks and bricks house will ever know.  Most of the couples we met at the rally are either retired or have sufficient investments that working is somewhat optional.  Jo and Ben are still carrying some student debt so working is a requirement for them.  It was great talking to them though because despite the challenges they are making it work and I find them extremely inspirational as a couple.  Plus they are both really interesting people and very fun to hang out with.

Jo brought haddock with her straight from a dockside stand close to Kennebunkport where they are staying.    I went to the local farm around the corner from our house and bought all the fresh vegetables they had so we had a fantastic meal.  I made this yummy salad with fresh lettuce (amazing), radishes, and green onions straight from the ground.

Farm fresh salad with Olive Garden dressing

Farm fresh salad with Olive Garden dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been wanting to learn how to cook fish on the grill..and Ben is a super fisherman…so Jo marinated it and Ben set to showing me how to cook it.  One problem, the Coleman grill we have only used twice would not stay lit…so Ben and Lee troubleshoot it while Jo and I laughed a lot.  The wine made things quite merry 🙂  Here’s some pictures showing the troubleshooting and how it stopped working in mid-grilling and we had to move the fish to the fire and then back again to the grill once they got it going again.  Despite the cooking crazy the fish was amazing!!!

Ben cooking the fish

Ben cooking the fish

Grill stops working

Grill stops working

 

DSC02051

Ben’s trying to fix it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jo always cool steps in to save the fish

Jo always cool steps in to save the fish

Jo and Ben transferring fish back to grill...thank heavens they are nurses see the surgical precision of the transfer It's like it was a transplant heart

Jo and Ben transferring fish back to grill…thank heavens they are nurses…. see the surgical precision of the transfer It’s like it was a transplant heart  🙂

 

Right after dinner we got a call from Kelly and Bill and Cori and Greg.  They were two other couples we had met at the rally and coincidentally were getting together Saturday night.  I know I’ve said it before but the quality of the friendships we made from the rally are beyond anything I have ever experienced in a group setting.  We all love the same things. We will be driving up to visit them in Maine in a few weeks and four couples will be meeting in Pennsylvania in August.  Also many of us have signed up for the RV-Dreams reunion rally in May.  Love, love, love these friends!!

Lessons Learned

  • You can use tortilla chips or Doritos as fire starters. Seriously we tried it and they burn great and for a while.  Potato chips on the other hand not so much
  • Check out TravelTax.com for an accountant Jo and Ben recommends who specializes in providing tax assistance to people who travel and work.

 

Barb’s Cucumber Salad

This is super simple and one of Lee’s all time favorites.  or best taste use farmer’s market cucumbers. 

  • 2 medium-sized cucumbers
  • 1 small white onion or half of a medium-sized
  • 1 cup mayonnaise you can substitute lite mayo or Miracle Whip but I like to use the real stuff
  • 1/3 cup of cider vinegar
  • Pepper
  1. Cut off ends of cucumbers and then use knife to cut a portion of the peel on the outside…2-3 long slices not required just makes it look a little prettier
  2. Cut thin slices of cucumber
  3. Cut onion into small squares about 1″ or long slivers
  4. Mix onions and cucumbers in a plastic bowl with a lid
  5. Add Mayonnaise
  6. Add cider vinegar
  7. Sprinkle with pepper
  8. Place lid on bowl and shake
  9. Open and sprinkler more pepper
  10. Shake again.  Continue until you can see some pepper flakes in the sauce.
Barb's Cucumber Salad

Barb’s Cucumber Salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben’s Grilled Haddock

  • 2 pounds haddock as fresh as you can find (you can also use halibut or tilapia)
  • 8 TBL Olive Oil
  • 2 TBL Lemon Juice
  • 1 tsp Basil you can double to taste
  • 1 tsp Parsley you can double to taste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • Foil
  1. Mix all ingredients (except for fish and foil); blend well
  2. Place marinade in large Ziploc Freezer bag
  3. Place fish in bag
  4. Shake gently to cover fish with marinade
  5. Marinade 30 minutes
  6. Place fish on foil sheet and the cover with another piece of foil sealing the edges tightly to make a packet
  7. Place fish on pre heated grill over medium heat and shut lid
  8. Cook for 5 minutes, turn packet, and cook for another 5 minutes
  9. Remove from grill and serve.

 

Fish before we wrapped it in foil

Fish before we wrapped it in foil

Fish after being cooked

Fish after being cooked

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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