Archive for November, 2011

November 29, 2011—7 Eggs, 3 Potatoes, A Pound of Bacon and a Jar of Applesauce

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Everything was planned out perfectly. We would have Jenna’s favorite meal for supper. I would take tomorrow’s lunch and supper out of the freezer leaving it free of food so I could defrost it before we were to leave in the morning. On the way to our next destination, I would stop and get groceries. We would be all set. Perfect!

Two steps into making supper I realized that I lacked a major ingredient. How did that happen? I had made sure I had everything. This wasn’t just about making Jenna’s meal but about defrosting my freezer. The park we are currently at is too far from a town to just run to the corner grocery store and pick up the ingredient I lacked and there was no substitution at home. I looked through the fridge, freezer and cupboards again and found the ingredients in the title of this blog. Hmmmmm…I would have to come up with a Plan B.

I decided to use what I had to make a skillet. You know, like those you see in a breakfast menu at a restaurant. It worked and actually was pretty good. I had just enough to feed all five of us. It wasn’t the healthiest dinner but it worked.

We’ve had to learn to be very flexible and how to make do. Sometimes we are miles away from even an average size town, let alone a large city. Usually, we aren’t close enough to make a quick trip into town for a forgotten item. I can only stock up on so much due to space and hauling weight. Any extra room we have is used for gluten-free items.

Tomorrow we will be near an Aldi. Yay!! Not only do I save a ton of money there but they also carry a lot of gluten-free foods. We’ll have to celebrate with Jenna’s favorite meal tomorrow night!


November 28, 2011—Just an Ordinary Day

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

We don’t have much to report today. School and music lessons took up most of the day. We did take a break in the afternoon to hike a couple of miles at a state park. The sun was out so we were hoping to find some alligators but at only 50 degrees it must be too cold for them. Still it was great weather for a walk and we enjoyed watching a variety of birds that we don’t have in Michigan.

It seems like the thing people want to hear about most is how the girls are doing. Our oldest, Jenna, just started a blog of her own. You can read it at www.campingteen.com.


November 27, 2011—Crater of Diamonds State Park

Monday, November 28th, 2011

After church this morning, we headed to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. For months, we had been telling the girls about this cool state park at which they could mine for diamonds and other gems. The best part is that if you find them, you get to keep them.

When we arrived, we met a lady in the parking lot who was covered in mud from the knees down. She looked at us and said, “I hope you brought boots because it’s just awful out there.” Yikes! We hadn’t thought about all the rain we’d had over the previous 24 hours. The sun had also decided to hide behind the clouds, making the 49 degree day seem colder than it was.

We asked the opinion of the very nice ladies working at the visitor center. They said that it was in fact very muddy in the crater but we could buy galoshes for $9/pair in addition to the $7/person ($4/Eva) entry fee. They did let us walk out a little ways to the mine to check it out. People digging for diamonds were either in knee high boots or had plastic shopping bags rubber-banded to their shoes. Everyone was muddy. We decided to go through the museum and gift shop instead.

Crater of Diamonds is definitely worth the stop. It’s a beautiful park. The visitor center is very informative about how diamonds are formed and about the various diamonds and gems that have been found over the years at the park. We drove through the campground and found it to be the nicest state park camping area we’ve ever seen—and we’ve seen some very nice parks. Every site has a level cement pad and grilling area. The RV sites have full hook-up; including sewer. The park itself is extremely clean.

Even though we didn’t actually get to dig for gems it wasn’t a wasted trip. The historical and scientific information alone were worth the drive. We definitely want to visit this park again someday.

Crater of Diamonds State Park–http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/


November 16, 2011—A Quiet, Rainy Day

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

This morning we woke up to what sounded like very heavy rain. We saw nothing but kept looking out to see what the noise could be. We waited for a full five minutes to find out. Finally, it came. I’ve never heard rain so far away before it actually hit. It literally came down in sheets.

We had planned on going back to the state park to look for alligators but one felt like going out to do anything. Fortunately, he had already planned a day of school. We also got a lot of little chores done around the inside the camper. The homemade pizza I made for supper was the perfect end to a kind of lazy yet productive day.


November 25, 2011—School the Day After Thanksgiving?

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Yes, we had school today. We will have it tomorrow as well. I’m not being mean. We just can’t afford to take extra days off if we want to continue to sight-see and still take time off for Christmas. We also took Tuesday off of this week to go to Hot Springs National Park and of course we didn’t have school yesterday. We don’t want to miss any of the attractions in the areas we visit because we don’t have our math done. On the other hand, we have to get math done. If we want to have fun, we need to make sure we keep on track with school.

I’ve read of homeschoolers who have taken cross country trips like this in a year’s time. I don’t see how they did it and had school. We would have to see one state each week. That’s a lot of traveling and a lot of sight-seeing in a short amount of time. We love all the places we’ve visited but there are times when we just want to be at ‘home.’ Barry needs a healthy amount of office time as well. 

After school today we went to an area state park. We went with the hopes of seeing an alligator or two. We saw lots of neat birds and three deer but no alligators. I asked the park ranger if the trails are safe. She said, “Oh yeah…You mean because of the alligators? Oh yeah…it’s safe…they HARDLY EVER come up on the trails.” Hardly ever? I wanted to hear, “It’s absolutely impossible for the alligators to come on the trail and if they do we have armed rangers posted all over who shoot them with tranquilizer guns and take them to the Everglades.” We do want to see them but from a safe distance and not in the woods. Our Jenna says we have a love/hate relationship with the critters. She is right. Tomorrow we plan to go back and hike the trail but it’s Saturday. There will be lots of people there…right?


Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Not only was this our first Thanksgiving on the road but it’s also our first gluten-free Thanksgiving. On November 24 of last year we found out that our daughter had to be completely gluten-free (prior to this we were told she just had to avoid it as much as possible). In one year’s time we’ve gone from being completely overwhelmed to having a fabulous g-free Thanksgiving. Our 13 year old daughter made all but the gravy and g-free stuffing. We’d like to share a few of the recipes. I didn’t label every ingredient below as g-free below but it all was. (As a side note: We don’t eat like this every day. We keep it simple because it’s safer for Eva and easier while living in an RV.)

 

Mashed Potatoes

4 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced
6 ounces g-free cream cheese, softened
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
8 slices of g-free bacon, fried and crumbled.

Boil potatoes until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and mash.

Add cream cheese, butter, and cream to the potatoes. Beat until desired consistency. Add bacon.

 

Gluten-Free Stuffing

4 cups gluten-free 1-inch bread cubes, dried (I used one loaf of Udis Whole Grain Bread Loaf)
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 ribs celery, diced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon each fine-chopped fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic
1 cup hot stock (turkey or chicken)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup dehydrated cranberries 
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you need to dry your own bread cubes, just places the cubes onto a cookie sheet. (Place them in the oven at 350 until they are dry.)

Cook the stock over high heat until it boils. Set aside but keep warm. You don’t want it to cool but you don’t want it hot.

Saute the celery and onion in the oil and butter until they are soft. Add the herbs. Cook for about a minute.

Toss the bread cubes, celery, onions, herbs, and cranberries in a bowl. Place into a 3-quart casserole.

Combine a small amount of the warm stock and egg. When this is completely combined, add slow to the remaining stock. Pour over the bread cubes. Stir and then press mixture down into the pan.

Cook covered for 20 minutes at 350. Remove cover and cook for about 10 minutes more. Watch that the stuffing doesn’t get dry.

Cover with gravy if desired.

 

Cranberry Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups of crushed g-free rice krispies and g-free pretzels. (I use a mixture of a little more krispies than pretzels)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel, divided
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup orange juice
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) whole-berry cranberry sauce
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

Crust: Combine crushed krispies and pretzels, sugar, 1 tsp orange peel and butter. Press into the bottom of a 10 inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Filling: In a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over orange juice and let stand for 1 minute. Cook over low heat, stirring until gelatin is completely dissolved; cool slightly.

Meanwhile, beat cream cheese and 1 tsp orange peel until blended. Beat in cranberry sauce until smooth. Beat in cooled gelatin mixture; mix well.

In a bowl, beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Pour over crust. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.

 

Crustless, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

2 eggs
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin or 2 cups fresh
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup gluten free flour (I use Jules)

Preheat oven to 425. Grease pie plate very lightly with butter.

In a large bowl, beat eggs; mix in remaining ingredients. Pour into pie plate. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon. Bake 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until knife comes out clean; about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.

I don’t like pumpkin pie but my husband, who is very picky about gluten-free foods, really likes this.

 

Fancy Berry Beverage Recipe

8 cups cranberry juice, chilled
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 can frozen grape juice
1 cups sugar
1 teaspoon g-free vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream, whipped until soft peaks form
4 cups ginger ale. chilled

In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients; stir until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Fold in whipped cream. Slowly add ginger ale; stir gently to mix. Pour into glasses.


November 24, 2011–Our First Major Holiday in the RV

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Our daughter Mikayla loves keeping traditions, setting a beautiful table and making great food. I knew there was no way she would let me get away with keeping things simple for a holiday meal even though we have a tiny kitchen that consists of two burners and a stove with one rack. She spent a lot of time planning a menu and then informed me that this year, I would be her assistant. Everything would be gluten-free except for one of the stuffings.

For the menu she chose: turkey tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, punch, cranberry cheesecake and crustless pumpkin pie.

We chose to make two types of stuffing because the g-free recipe is expensive. We cut it in half and made it as a trial. It was great!

Cooking in the RV takes longer than usual. We had to be very creative today because we have one stirring bowl, a small sauce pan, a large saucepan, a very small frying pan and a large cast iron skillet. We had some empty water jugs that we cut into bowls. They worked great and it was so nice to just throw them away when we were done. Less dishes!

We had a great day! We feel so blessed to travel the country with our girls. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I’m working on sharing some of the g-free recipes we used today. Check back in a day or two.


November 23, 2011—Preparing for Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

We got our groceries early this morning to avoid the crowds. I usually try not to shop the day before a holiday but since our fridge is very small, I waited on purpose this time. I’m very thankful that it’s supposed to be in the 40s tonight so I keep some things in the truck overnight.

While the girls and I had school, Barry put our screen room up. This room that attaches to our awning, gives us an extra 180 square feet of space. We haven’t been able to have it up very much this fall due to the wind. It’s really nice to have the extra space.

We hope that everyone has a great Thanksgiving!!!

Go Pack!!!


November 22, 2011—Hot Springs, Arkansas

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

We drove through Hot Springs a couple of days ago but couldn’t find a place to park the RV while we explored. When asked what I wanted for my 45th birthday, I knew right away: Let’s go back to Hot Springs!

Hot Springs National Park is our only urban park. I think it’s very unique in that it not only explores a beautiful natural area but also a long past culture. It’s a little disappointing that most of the springs are now covered up by green metal boxes but you can still see a few of them.

When we arrived at the visitor center we jumped right into a ranger led tour. We’ve enjoyed every park ranger at each of the parks we’ve visited but this one shot to the top of our favorites list. She was a hoot and kept us laughing throughout the very interesting Fordyce Bathhouse. She was an older lady who did not dress in park ranger clothes but in the attire of someone who would have visited Hot Springs in its day. She told Jenna that you really don’t start living until you turn 80. Her excitement and energy made us believers! Because of her presentation, we won’t soon forget all that we learned at this National Park.

We felt like we stepped back in time as we walked down Bathhouse Row and walked the grounds behind the Fordyce Bathhouse. The many magnolia trees, even though not in bloom, added to the beauty. We took the very steep and winding drive up Hot Springs Mountain where we took the elevator to the top of the observation tower. The tower has a lot of information about the history of the area. I read some of it but the views of the Ozark Mountains draped in fall colors were far too distracting. The girls especially fell in love with a little mama raccoon that frequents outside the gift shop of the observation tower. After returning to downtown Hot Springs, we bought some plastic jugs to fill with fresh spring water.

You can’t visit Hot Springs without seeing many reminders that this was President Bill Clinton’s boyhood home. We drove past the small and unassuming house in which he grew up. Tours aren’t available as a family lives there.

So, did we take baths in Hot Springs? We did not even though there are some bathhouses that are still open for business. The beautiful weather and trails of Hot Springs Mountain were far to inviting!

(We will be adding pictures to this post and others as we have time. Please check back.)

Hot Springs National Park Website


November 21, 2011—Lots of rain, bugs and spiders!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

We are currently in an area that hasn’t had rain for months but because gray clouds seem to follow us, I’m happy to announce that the drought is over! The rain started yesterday and is supposed to continue through tomorrow afternoon. We tease that the states that need rain should pay us to visit and the states that don’t want rain should pay us to stay out.

Not all bathrooms are created equal! This one isn’t too bad but we’ve been in better. After seeing the size and number of bugs and spiders hanging out inside the bathrooms, the girls and I worked out a plan. Two of us would shower while at least one other person would stand guard, armed with a shoe to keep any critters from crawling in. We thought it was a fool proof plan until we turned the water on and the little critters hiding under the mat ran for their lives and towards the guard person. Fortunately, no one heard our screams and ran in to save us! The new plan has an addition to it. The first thing we will do upon entering the bathroom is to turn the shower on and all of us will stand armed and ready!

It’s a good thing that we girls have acquired a new talent since we started full-timing: We all have deadly aim when it comes creepy crawlies.

After all, Barry can’t be with us all the time!