Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Updated Buying Guide for RV Kitchens…

With Christmas looming I thought this would be a good time to come up with a list items we have found invaluable in our kitchen over the last seven years we have been full timing. For those of us living in small spaces with limited storage space and continually moving around we have acquired things that fit this lifestyle to a “T.” Most of these items will either be lightweight or take up little space as those are the two major factors one must consider when purchasing kitchen items for RV’s. A few items on the list will simply be those that make life much easier for us in our confined spaces. So what are they?

Collapsible Kitchen Items – We have several of these Items such as a the collapsible strainer,  the collapsible measuring cups and the collapsible salad spinner. These collapsible items take up so little space and are easy to clean and sanitary. The colors of the measuring cups also makes it easy to grab the one you want… well, that is after you remember which color goes with which measuring cup!

NonStick and Heat Resistant Baking Mat Set

We use this all the time when baking as it can be used in the oven, microwave, toaster oven or even freezer. This simply turns any baking sheet into a non-stick surface without having to use oil or cooking spray.  It can also be used as a flexible cookie sheet. They are flexible so are easily stored anywhere!

Heat Resistant Kitchen Spatulas

We love these flexible silicone spatulas that are heat resistant so they won’t warp or melt like plastic ones do. Also since they are solid silicone they have no crevices like wooden ones for bacteria to collect and grow. We like having multiple sizes so we can get all the goodies out of any size container with one of these!

Below are some other kitchen tools that make our life easier and help keep our non-stick pots and pans protected.  These are rated up to 480℉ for handling heat. Now while we don’t have this complete set we do have several of these tools and if I were starting all over this is the set I would want in our RV. Add to this a Silicone Whisk Set and the utensil list is pretty much complete.

We currently still have heavy cutting boards but I would trade them in for a set of these flexible cutting matts. By purchasing a set of these matts in assorted colors with nifty food icons means we could use separate mats for different raw foods thus avoiding any cross-contamination. Cool!  I really don’t know why we don’t own these… maybe I should get us a set for Christmas!

Another item we have that we love for their durability and light weight are our Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls. They are light weight and easy to use and with the polished finish they are easy to clean as well.!

CounterArt Flexible Cutting Mat with Food Icons, Set of 4(Set of 6) Dozenegg Mixing Bowls Standard Weight Stainless Steel, Mirror Finish, 3/4, 11/2, 3, 4, 5, and 8 Qt.

Since we are both short our must have is a Folding Step Stool. Without this much of our storage would simply be unusable. It is great for reaching the higher cabinets and cleaning those otherwise out of reach places. Sharon also loves it for resting her feet on when we are traveling since her feet don’t touch the floor when she is seated in the passenger seat.

One of the things we quite often reach for is our Hand Held Blender.  While this is not the one we have this Hamilton Beach 59765 2 Speed Hand Blender is an almost exact duplicate of the one we bought five years ago. With the attachments we are able to do everything from puree sauces, chop a small amount of vegetables or nuts and even beat egg whites to a a peak. So this is also used as our mixer.  We wouldn’t leave home without one…

Home-it Super quality Folding Step Stool great for kids and adults 11 Inches. Black, holds up to 300 LBSHamilton Beach 59765 2 Speed Hand Blender

While we don’t have one of these many of our RV friends swear they couldn’t live without an Electric Frying Pan. We simply don’t have the storage to have one of these so we list it here simply because so many others love their electric fry pans. They do make them as small as 7 inches which has tempted us but we still have never purchased one. We love our new T-Fal 12.5” skillet that. We recently replaced our very favorite Cast Iron Skillet with this one and it’s non-stick capability is simply amazing!   Eggs simply never stick in this pan!

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Another item we don’t have that a lot of RV’ers say they love is a toaster oven. Storage is the big issue here for us but for those with more storage space you may want one of these!  We do have a regular toaster because sometimes we crave toasted bagels! We store ours inside our oven when we travel.

A bulky item we do have but really love is our countertop double burner. The one we currently have has two burners, one at 600 watts and one at 900 watts. We love using this as it frees up counter space and also, let's be real… why pay for propane to use our gas stove when we mainly receive electricity for free. Our one complaint is that it takes a long tome to boil water on 900 watts so I would prefer more wattage. In fact when this one dies we will likely buy one of the newer induction burners. While these are pricier than the one we have the safety it offers is more than worth the additional cost. And we would get one that ranges up to at least 1800 watts as well.

Brentwood Appliances TS-360 Electric Double Burner, 1500-Watt, WhiteDUXTOP 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner 9100MC

Two items we don’t have but wished we did!

A couple of other small appliances that are nice to have are a compact blender and a new Instapot. While we have items that perform these tasks these are two items we would love to get! For RVers short on storage space it pays to find a good compact blender. Having yourself this powerful micro blender means not missing out on smoothies or your favorite frozen cocktail. The Ninja Master Prep is, we feel, the one to get for RV’ers.  Not too small and not too big this blender can whip up favorite beverages in its 48-ounce pitcher. After all any bigger and you might just imbibe a bit too much!

The Instapot is one of the hottest kitchen products around now and they come in all varieties. Once our crockpot dies we will most likely replace it with one of these. We find it hard to buy one now when our crock pot works just fine. So it is on our Christmas wish list for now.

Coffee drinkers typically find space for their favorite coffee maker. We are still using our old trusty Cuisinart while many others make space for their Kuerigs or Expresso coffee machines. We figured we would use the Cuisinart until it died. So what would we like to have to replace it? We would love to have a the AeroPress Coffee Maker. This compact coffee maker uses an air pressure brewing process to make 1 to 4 cups of American or espresso style coffee. Boy, as coffee lovers, we would love to have one of these!

New on Sharon’s wish list this year are some Airtight Storage Containers. We had some aluminum ones with clamping styled lids that broke. So we bought some inexpensive ones at an Aldi’s Grocery Store that we loved except they were too cheap and the lids are failing. So after we ditch these we will replace them with higher quality ones. We love being able to see what's inside and the best part is that they keep all the bugs on the outside for that inevitable time you get invaded by ants. Although they are a bit pricey we figure one ant invasion thwarted will pay for them by saving the contents inside!

While this is not a comprehensive list we thought this would be a good time to share per the request of some of our readers a list of some of our favorite items and a few items we would love to have as well… Hey, fellow RVers, chime in with what items you have in your kitchen that you simply can’t live without?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Doing Minor RV Repairs and We Love our Awning Shade Attachment…

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We have slowly settled into our site here in Bonita Springs Florida for the winter. It is always fun to set up all of our more “permanent stuff” when we have these extended stays. One of our favorite long term stay items is our extended awning shade screen we bought several winters ago. It creates a sense of privacy and of course a sunscreen from the glaring sun when facing the west which we are this season. I simply attach it to our awning with little “S-hooks” which are also used to hang our Christmas lights on. It is surprising how much cooler it keeps not only the outdoor area but inside as well…

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For wind protection I attach our screen to the ground two ways. First I use a good quality rock climbing rope to tie off the corners. I use this type of rope since it has a lot of give and spring to it letting the awning flex in higher wind gusts. I attach the rope by looping it over the awning bars and then I use a corkscrew type anchor to tie it off on. After both corners are secured I use tent stakes a few more cork screw anchors to tie of the bottom  so it will flare outwards and help secure the awning screen. I love, love , love the little room this set up creates.

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We have been spending mornings after breakfast walking around our large park. We also have been ticking off repair items piled up over the course of this year's travels since last winter. Obviously we fix major items as needed but smaller items and items that can be put off  just get put on a list until we get somewhere for an extended stay. This way we can order items and have them delivered so we slowly accomplish every task on our repair list.

A few items i needed to order were a new drain “pop-up center” for our bathroom sink and a new drain screw for the bathroom shower. Our RV is almost 10 years old so these items had rusted completely through. A long screw holds the shower drain in place and it had actually rusted in half leaving part of it in the baseplate it screwed into. I had to drill out the baseplate and rethread it so I could plug in a new screw down drain. Thankfully the drain/stopper in the bathroom was much easier to replace.

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I would suggest that if you haven’t done so is to check and see if your screw holding your drain in the shower can turn without disintegrating. If you can get the screw out take it to your nearest Lowes or Ace Hardware to buy a stainless steel screw. as stainless steel will never rust and then you will never have to replace your drain like we did.

I also had to replace the small LED bulb which burnt out in our water pump indicator switch. I hate it when these burn out since it makes it so you never know if your water pump is on or off. These are very easy to fix and for less than a buck you can get two replacement bulbs. It is a bit tricky getting the old light bulb out and I chose to solder it back in place but others choose to wrap the wire leads around to the posts on the other side of the switch. If you don't understand what I am talking about  this link will explain in detail how to replace the LED bulb.

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It sure is nice having a mailing address so we can easily get needed items for our repairs. I have many more things to repair but at least we have gotten off to a good start. After repairs, we will go through every drawer and cabinet to purge and organize. Such is life during extended stays on our Road of Retirement.

NOTE: We are now in our winter home for the next several months in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Made it to Bonita Springs Florida for the Winter…

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Well we had a very short drive down to Bonita Springs Florida. We will be staying at Imperial Bonita Estates, a park we have stayed at before. This year we expected it to be different. So the day before we needed to be there we drove the 20 drive south in our CRV to check out the site they assigned to us. We had some concerns since it was on the street that had the worst damage from Hurricane Irma and the worst flooding from the Imperial River.

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Sure enough our site was smack in the middle of two heavily damaged park models that are both slated to be destroyed and hauled off later in December. So we went to the park’s office and asked if any other sites were available and luckily for us there were three others. So we selected another site on one of the two roads we originally preferred to be staying on anyhow. Although the park is still showing signs of the extensive damage from the hurricane and flooding we think we will still enjoy our winter stay here. We better… as we will be here for three months not leaving until March 1st, 2018.

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One other task I tackled while we were in Fort Myers was I decided to take on the task of replacing my CAC hose that I bought in Jacksonville Florida. Remember the Cummins Service Center there wanted $1000 to install this hose and had they managed us better they would have gotten that $1000 too. Well even without the right tools and without the knowledge of the tricks to replacing the hose it took me less than three hours to get the task done. I would have saved an hour if I had insert the hose first at the pipe end inside the RV rather the the pipe end from the outside of the RV. Nonetheless, we saved $1000 so I felt as if I got paid $333.00 per hour to do it myself.

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The drive to Bonita Springs was uneventful but best of all we had no whooshing or squealing sound from our engine. So it appears as if my repair was the key to getting rid of the noise and apparently I did it right since it never squealed. Hooray!!!

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The first few days at Imperial Bonita Estates (know as IBE to my readers for now on) we mostly spent time getting set up and organized. However, there was one event we simply had to attend as we have always had a good time at the Greyhound Race Track on their “Dollar Days” promotion. Sure enough we had a great time and even won several of our bets. No big winners but when hotdogs, beer and popcorn are only a dollars each we come out winners anyhow…

NOTE: We are now in our winter home for the next several months in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Few Hikes Near Fort Myers Florida…

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Although we spent most of our time in Fort Myers staying at our fabulous RV resort we did make time to go on a couple of hikes. One was a nice hike I would rate four stars and the other one was pleasant but not more than a two star hike..

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Although I rated the Prairie Pines Preserve Trail a two star hike it was still good and worth taking the trail for a change of scenery. The boardwalk loop trail we picked was very short but took us though a nice representative stand of habitats typical in this part of Florida. The preserve has about 20 miles of trails but most were closed due to Hurricane Irma damage so we might have missed some of the better trails.

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The other hike I rated higher was at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. It had just recently re-opened after having been closed to clean up damage from the hurricane. It has a wonderful loop trail which is mostly on a boardwalk that meanders through a beautiful young swamp. The boardwalk trail is less than 1.3 miles but requires one to walk very slowly to take in all that there is to see and experience. Volunteers are seen throughout the park answering visitor questions and pointing out wildlife.

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There was a parking fee of $1 per hour at this preserve but definitively worth the small price to pay to enjoy this saved piece of Florida wilderness. Even in late fall there was much to see. Turtles and snails were everywhere as we approached each of the small lakes within the preserve. We saw American Alligators resting on one the two ramps made by park staff. At first I was put off by these unnatural ramps but then got to thinking that they were probably great lounging places for the alligators since so many people traipse through the park.

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Water snakes were hidden in the swampland below the boardwalk and wading birds were milling around in search of a nice tidbit to eat. Small birds were flitting around and hawks were trolling the area as well. However the best sighting of all was spotting three young wild pigs barging through the thick swampy underbrush while pushing their snouts deep into the soil in search of a morsel. We watched the three little pigs mill around and feed to their hearts content. Standing quietly on the boardwalk we were within 10 to 20 feet of them most of the time, What fun that was…

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NOTE: We are now in our winter home for the next several months in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates RV park and Coop.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

A Taste of the Future? - Resort Life at Cypress Trails RV Resort in Fort Myers, Florida.…

Image may contain: sky, cloud, tree, ocean, outdoor and natureAs mentioned in the previous blog we were looking forward to our weeklong stay at Cypress Trails RV Resort in Ft Myers, Florida. This is a fairly new resort offering rental spaces as well as ownership lots. Upon check-in we were escorted to our site on a street lined on both sides with tall beautiful royal palm trees. We passed a few lots with coach houses and/or tiki huts included on what we assumed were owner lots. We backed into our spacious concrete pad on site number 294.

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After setting up we wanted to take a long walk around the large resort to get acquainted with it and its amenities. The landscaping is immaculate and features two inner circles around small lakes with fountains. One lake also has a dock and chairs for visitors to relax in during their stay. The owned lots were not only tricked out with the large tiki pavilions and coach houses, but also had some impressive outdoor kitchens and tiled pads. Sidewalks are on every street and we found a large dog park near the trash/recycling enclosure.

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Further along our walk we found shuffleboard, tennis and pickleball courts. The large clubhouse has a couple of meeting rooms and houses the lifestyle coordinator, main offices, a fitness room as well as an outdoor pool with a hot tub. We knew right away we were going to enjoy our stay!

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We spoke to the lifestyle coordinator who directed us to the shed where the pickleball racquets and other sports equipment is stored for our use. We also picked up a calendar of activities noting that we would probably attend donut day, the ice cream social and margarita night (yeah we’re bad).

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This is indeed an impressive resort and just the kind of place Sharon LOVES. This checked off all the boxes for us EXCEPT location. Its farther from the beach than we would like as it would take 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic to enjoy our favorite beaches. However it was nice to see this resort and take note of what is available since we know one day we will eventually settle down. For now we are enjoying the road but this stay gave us an idea of what the perfect place would look like in SW Florida. Cypress Trails RV Resort in Ft Myers, Florida has everything anyone would need!

NOTE:We are now in Bonita Springs Florida at Imperial Bonita Estates until March 1, 2018.