surprise!!!!

Seven weeks into this full-time RV thing and I’ve had a few interesting surprises.  These are the fun surprises, not the ones that give headaches!

Picasso and I went out to California Pizza Kitchen yesterday and this is his way of begging for food!  Of course he is in his stroller and, as always, very well behaved!  I include this photo "just because"!

Picasso and I went out to California Pizza Kitchen yesterday and this is his way of begging for food! Of course he is in his stroller and, as always, very well behaved! I include this photo “just because”!

[A friend asked me to insert the link for the stroller so that’s what I’m doing!  First, a little about this stroller – it is lightweight and relatively small.  Only one dog will fit in it.  Its biggest advantage is that it folds up like an umbrella stroller.  With moving into the RV I needed something that I could actually fit in my small car full time and this fits the bill perfectly and is the only one that folds up in this way, something you can easily see with the photos on Amazon.  Don’t let the reviews scare you off – if you need a stroller that folds up smaller than any other, this is your stroller.  Covered Pet Stroller]

First surprise I’ve briefly mentioned before, at least on our Facebook page – it is different living in an RV that rock and rolls with every movement!  If you are going to boil water, DO NOT fill a pan to the tippy top since when you walk it will spill!  Along with that surprise is a subset – even little Picasso can move the RV!  My little dude is not even 11 pounds and yet his walking can be felt throughout the RV!  And when he jumps, forget it!  Now here’s another part of this whole rocking thing – as the black and gray tanks fill up, the rocking gets more exaggerated!  I never would’ve guessed this but it makes sense if you think about it.  While the RV would stop moving after a few times back and forth if the tanks were empty, the water in the tanks continues to move for a while like the waves of the ocean and it seems to keep moving forever.  The reality is that if you are quiet enough you can feel the subtle movement of the RV even when Picasso and I are still since it is always in motion.   For the most part none of this is an issue and basically just causes me to giggle here and there as I walk through the RV like a drunken sailor.  But when I’m in the shower and the tanks are nearly full things can get very interesting!  Eyes closed and the RV rocking and rolling and it can be a bit of a challenge.  But, honest confession – I think it is fun and I somehow feel more connected to the earth with the swaying, perhaps because it’s a bit like being in the ocean.

Now it is true that one can stabilize the RV to keep it from moving but I didn’t know if one had to do so to protect the RV.  From what I’ve read it isn’t necessary to stabilize the RV.  But while reading I found that some people actually get seasick from being in an RV.  Now that was a real surprise to me!  I actually like the movement but I can see how some could have issues with it, particularly if they have another adult in the RV with them.  For now I will keep it as it is!

 

My extremely limited counter space!

My extremely limited counter space!

Another surprise to me has been how much I’ve been enjoying cooking here.  Why is that a surprise?  Well, for one thing it is utterly cramped!  The work space is quite small and requires a new way of organizing how to go about things.  Maybe it’s because it’s a bit of a challenge.  Since I use an induction cooktop, once I put that on the counter there is no more counter space!  What that means is taking time to prep everything first, before I take out the cooktop, and stage it on the table.  That seems to be working perfectly.  Cooking now requires just a little more organization than usual.  Oh, and there are more bowls to wash, too, since I have to use them to hold everything I’ve staged!

My hand hammered wok sitting atop the induction cooktop!

My hand hammered wok sitting atop the induction cooktop!

Max Burton 6400 Digital Choice Induction Cooktop 1800 Watts LCD

Other cooking surprises for me include loving that I have my wok here.  I didn’t bring a large frying pan, figuring instead to use the wok.  Just tonight I used it again.  I made Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach and Goat Cheese.  First I prepped the ingredients and put them on the table (AKA my desk!).  Then I pulled out the induction cooktop and placed a pan of water on it to boil for the pasta.  After cooking the pasta I drained it and left the pasta in the colander in the sink while I “wokked” the other ingredients.  Finally I added the pasta into the wok.  Everything worked perfectly and dinner was incredibly good!  The thing for me with the whole organization thing is that as I’m cooking I’m also washing and putting away dishes.  There isn’t the luxury of piling up the dishes for later but when I’m done with eating there really isn’t all that much cleanup left either!  I should also mention that the induction cooktop is the first time I’ve been able to get my wok really hot!  This is a big deal in wok cookery.  Too often after adding food into the wok it cools down and rather than stir frying the food it is more or less steamed from the water the food releases.  It is quick and easy to get it hot and it quickly reheats after the addition of food.  If you need it to cool down, as soon as the temperature is changed on the cooktop it pretty much instantly changes.  It is extremely responsive.  If you’ve never cooked with an induction cooktop it is pure joy as far as I’m concerned.  Again, I’m a happy camper!

Some have questioned the wisdom of using an induction cooktop that pulls 1800 watts of power since there are always power issues on an RV.  The reality is that it rarely actually pulls that much.  Since I’ve already discovered how to blow a circuit breaker (be sure to know where your circuit breakers are on your RV; mine are under the refrigerator, near the floor), I’ve figured when I use the induction cooktop I will start by turning off the A/C.  While the cooktop is at its highest level I’ve decided I’d keep the A/C off just so as not to blow any circuits!  Once I turn the temp down on the cooktop I can turn the A/C back on again. Potential problem solved!

My Instant Pot!  Highly recommended whether you live in a house on wheels or not!

My Instant Pot! Highly recommended whether you live in a house on wheels or not!

Next surprise – I LOVE my Instant Pot!

Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W, Stainless Steel Cooking Pot and Exterior, Latest 3rd Generation Technology

What is an Instant Pot?  It is one of those wonderful multi-use appliances that really is great for an RV since space is always at a premium!  Since it only pulls 1000 watts there is no issue with running it while the A/C is on.  I would guess that it only uses those 1000 watts when it is first heating up, not to maintain heat.  I’ve used it five times at this point although I plan on using it a whole lot more!  My main use for it so far has been as a pressure cooker although I’ve used the saute function to brown foods before pressure cooking them.  It can also be used as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, porridge maker and food warmer.  It comes with a heavy weight stainless steel insert that speaks of quality.  I’ve used many pressure cookers in the past, including a first generation electric one, and this is nothing like any of them.  First of all it is near silent!  No more heavy duty whooshing sounds from the weight on the lid.  I’ve never been particularly scared of using a pressure cooker but I do respect the fact that used incorrectly things can go very bad.  The new units are designed to have several back ups to keep anything bad from happening.  Another great thing about using this appliance in an RV is that it produces very little heat.  Steam stays locked within the cooker thus keeping moisture from accumulating in the RV.  There are only a few moments in the beginning of the cooking process when a little steam escapes and then nothing more!

Another surprise for me was just how much I hated the Zero Water filter I bought.  The lid never stayed on properly and I wasn’t sure if I even liked the taste of the water.  The whole thing just felt like a pain in the neck to use.  When I tried to use a small amount of water, I would get an avalanche. When filling ice cube trays I’m pretty sure I got more water on the counter than in the tray.  I don’t tolerate things I don’t like very well so I returned it.  I then bought myself a “baby” Berkey water filter (Travel size, holding 1.5 gallons).  Yes, I had one and packed it for storage but it was a bigger size and wouldn’t have fit in the RV.  This one fits perfectly!  While it takes up more room than the Zero Water filter (and costs more!), it is what I’m used to, is the highest rated filter, requires no electricity and makes me happy!  Among the impurities it filters out are arsenic and fluoride (requires secondary filters).  It is recommended for survival situations when clean water isn’t available.  Yes, it’s that good!  When it comes time to drive I will have to put it in the sink so as not to have any issues with water spillage but otherwise it won’t be an issue.  I refuse to buy bottled water for conservation reasons (those nasty plastic bottles) and now that California is in such a nasty drought I don’t want to further contribute by drinking the water that companies are taking from drought stricken areas.  So with the purchase of my Berkey I’m a happy camper and have total water consistency wherever I go!

Travel Berkey with 2 Black Filters and 2 Fluoride Filters and Water Purifier Bottle

My  Travel Berkey Water Filter with the additional fluoride filters.  Just because I know someone will be curious, that interesting thing to the left of my Berkey is a wok scrubber, used to clean food off the interior of the wok after cooking.

My Travel Berkey Water Filter with the additional fluoride filters. Just because I know someone will be curious, that interesting thing to the left of my Berkey is a wok scrubber, used to clean food off the interior of the wok after cooking.

And finally my most recent surprise.  Unfortunately no matter what I do the sofa bed is not working for me.  I’ve all sorts of things going on related to being uncomfortable on the sofa bed – my neck hurts as do my shoulders, head, arms, ribs, left knee and pelvis.  I’m even super clenching my jaw from the overall discomfort and that is causing TMJ pain.  I’ve invested a fair amount of money in my attempt to make it comfy but, alas, all hacks have failed!  (The cushion thingy that I bought for underneath the mattress actually is a huge help since without it I probably wouldn’t be walking because of the back pain I started having.  It just isn’t enough, probably since the sofa bed is fairly old!)  I’ve been debating what to do about it.  Another sleeper sofa could present the exact same issue and then I’d have invested another pile of money into this situation.  I debated this and that and finally decided that perhaps the better solution would be to get a twin mattress and use it as a day bed!  There would be just enough room for it in terms of wall space!  Unfortunately I don’t see this solution as coming in under $500 and could be considerably more.  So the other morning I was still in bed and thinking about how I didn’t have the money to do this.  I asked for financial help while I was praying.  That afternoon I got a phone call.  One of the things I’ve had on consignment for over 6 months just happened to sell that afternoon giving me enough money to get whatever setup I decide would work with some money left over!  Isn’t that great?  So now on to go test drive some mattresses!  Yay!

Interestingly, I have found that so far I don’t mind doing the laundry here one bit!   Believe me, this is one huge surprise for me!  I even got to meet a woman there I have since nicknamed Purple Lady since every thing about her is purple!  I’m pretty sure everything in her laundry basket was purple including the laundry basket itself!  Well it turns out that as of yesterday she and her husband moved directly behind us into their own park model.  I happened to be dumping the black tank and she saw my hose.  She immediately asked me if my hose was purple and I answered that it was.  She told me that she had to get one and asked where I bought it.  Amazon, of course!  I have to admit to being very curious if she decorated in purple also!  I’m kind of guessing that she does!

Water Right PCH-075-EP-4PKRS Polyurethane Lead Safe Coil Garden Hose, 75-Foot x 3/8-Inch, Eggplant

My purple (eggplant) hose, courtesy of Amazon.com!

My purple (eggplant) hose, courtesy of Amazon.com!

Well I think that’s about it for the surprises so far!  Ah, one other surprise – it is just past the middle of April and this place is clearing out rapidly!  I cannot get over how much more empty the place is after each weekend!  Pretty soon I’ll be all by myself!  And I’m not complaining about that!  But I probably will complain about the heat!  Consider yourself warmed (um, that was supposed to be “warned” but I suppose that works, too!)!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld

If you are going to purchase one of my recommendations, please consider doing so through the links on my blog so I can get a little credit for the sales.  I would really appreciate it and it wouldn’t cost you a thing!  Thank you!

wonderbag, my new cooking accessory!

A few weeks ago, Amazon advertised something called a Wonderbag.  It was billed as a “non-electric slow cooker”.  Non-electric?  Hmm…

Now the idea of “non-electric” when living on an RV was somewhat appealing to me.  If I’m hooked up to electricity it’s kind of a moot point but if I’m “off the cord”, some types of cooking might become issues.  So, yes, this was appealing to me.  It would be equally useful in an emergency situation where there is no electricity.  But wait, there’s more!  (Doing my best imitation of an infomercial.)

Seems the product was conceived and created in South Africa with an eye on helping those without resources find ways of cooking their food.  For every one bought, there’s one that is donated to a family in need.  Ah, great!  Just what I need, a good cause to help justify spending my money!

I went back and forth with it for days.  Is this something I really needed?  Aren’t there a whole bunch of other things I need for the RV before I get this?  Yeah, but it is also for a good cause.  And on and on it went until…

…I hit the magic button on Amazon, the one that says, “Buy Now With One Click”.  They do make it just a little too easy!  Interestingly no buyer’s remorse on this purchase!  Again, like magic, it appeared on my doorstep in two days in its rather smallish box, well, compared to what I expected.

The box.

The overstuffed box.

I opened it and found the Wonderbag encased in a shrink wrap covering.

Wonderbag in the box.

Wonderbag in the box.

I punctured the shrink wrap and more magic as the Wonderbag began to expand and take on its proper shape.

IMG_1622

Product instructions.

It had some lumps and bumps within its channels which they said was to be expected.  I smacked it around a bit to loosen and distribute the stuffing within and all of a sudden I had a much bigger Wonderbag and all the lumps and bumps were gone!

See how lumpy and bumpy it was?

See how lumpy and bumpy it was?

I knew it was going to be bigger than I expected (all the reviews spoke to that!) but it was actually even bigger than that!  I was surprised to see just how large of a pot I could get in there without difficulty.

Not my largest pot but you can see how much more room there is!

Not my largest pot but you can see how much more room there is!

And then I put it to the test making split pea soup.

Sautéing the onions.  I love that it is one pot cooking!

Sautéing the onions. I love that it is one pot cooking and easy clean-up!

First I sautéed the onions and other veggies and then added the rest of the ingredients.  I loved the fact that I could do it all in one pot!

All ingredients for my split pea soup prior to adding the water.  I love all the colors!

All ingredients for my split pea soup prior to adding the water. I love all the colors!

I brought it to a boil as the instructions mentioned and kept it boiling for like ten minutes or so.  I put a dish towel on the bottom of the Wonderbag.

Towel on the bottom of the Wonderbag used to keep everything clean.

Towel on the bottom of the Wonderbag used to keep everything clean and to keep the bottom of the Wonderbag protected.

I then put the whole pot into the Wonderbag.  There was room to spare!

My soup pot in the Wonderbag.

My soup pot in the Wonderbag.

I put the cushion on top.

IMG_1627

The little cushion fits perfectly on top of the pot!

I pulled the drawstring closed over the cushion.  I have to admit that at this point there was something that felt very mysterious!!

All covered!  Let the magic begin!

All covered! Let the magic begin!

And then I waited.  It can keep food hot (or cold!) for up to 12 hours so I did what just made sense to me – I went to bed since it was 1 AM!  When I got up I couldn’t wait to see my hopefully cooked soup!  Get this – the handles were still hot enough that I used pot holders!  I opened the lid and, wow, it was really all cooked!

Cooked to perfection but more water was needed at this point.  Everything also needed a bit of blending to make it look more like what it should!

Cooked to perfection but more water was needed at this point. Everything also needed a bit of blending to make it look more like what it should!

The only issue was that since water doesn’t evaporate I used less water to compensate but I obviously used too little so it was more like cooked veggies than soup but everything was fully cooked.  I added some water and used my new Kitchenaid Immersion Blender to blend it up a bit.

My finished pot of split pea soup!

My finished pot of split pea soup!

Voila!  Done!  And I didn’t burn the bottom of the pot like I almost always do making split pea soup!  Nor did I have to babysit it the whole time!

Pluses and minuses – I can use a whole variety of different sized pots depending on what I’m cooking.  I have a thermal cooker (same concept but it is self contained within a metal container much like a Thermos bottle).  The thermal cooker has to be filled nearly to the top.  If not, it’ll cool off too quickly.  That means you always have to make a certain amount.  I don’t know about you but I don’t cook that way most times.  Another major plus for me is that you can brown whatever you have prior to the slow cooking in the same pot.  Minuses – none that I can tell other than the fact that it is a bit pricey but considering I’m also paying for one for a family in Africa, I’m good with that.  I should mention it is very well made.

I love my Wonderbag!  I think it is utterly ingenious and simplistic.  I love that it doesn’t need me to watch over it all the time.  There is something quite exciting about putting one’s food into this bag and having it come out fully cooked a few hours later.  I’ve not cooked any meats in it yet but I’m told they are just sumptuous!  Most foods take about two to four hours but longer usually means more tender.  I know it may sound silly but I’m so happy I got this!  I cannot wait to use it again!  I just finished eating my pot of soup so on to the next recipe soon!  There is also something special about knowing that my purchase helped someone else!

The Wonderbag comes in red, too!

The Wonderbag comes in red, too!

Now, on to the help I need from you!  I’ve become an affiliate with Amazon.  What that means is that I get a small commission from any sale that comes through my website.  It doesn’t have to be anything I’ve blogged about either!  It costs the buyer nothing!  All purchases remain private although I do get to know what it was that was bought but not who bought it.  Be assured that anything I recommend (or don’t) will always be done with truth and integrity.

I also need some purchases so Amazon knows I mean business with this!

Running a blog costs money and I really could use some help at keeping this up and running.  I’m hoping that once I’m on the road it’ll become really interesting with a whole variety of photos from my journeys.  But I do need some help.  Perhaps you are interested in the Wonderbag (and I really hope you are since it will help both me and someone in Africa) or there might be something else you need.  Just go through my website and it’ll take you directly to Amazon, like magic!

Not too long ago someone told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help so here I am.  Any purchases you make will be very appreciated.  The links will always be posted on the website so you will have no difficulty finding it.

Thank you so very much AND BUY A WONDERBAG!!!  You won’t regret it!  It’s fun to use and you’ll be helping others and if there are other things you need from Amazon, please consider going through my Amazon links!

©  2014 deborah kauffeld

Update:  I’ve used my Wonderbag a few times now, mostly for soups.  My love affair with it continues and I’ve no regrets in terms of my purchase.  I know that over time I will continue to love it even more.  It functions exactly as it should and I’ve actually been finding myself using it when I wasn’t expecting to.  The only meat I’ve made in it so far was some beef in soup and that came out very tender, falling off the bone.  Anyway, LOVE IT!!!