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Archive for Eleanor’s posts

Celebrating the Harvest Moon

e-e-making-moon-cakes.jpgInspired by the moon, Eleanor writes one of her rare blog postings:

Today is the zenith of the Harvest Moon.   I have always been intrigued with the moon.   I have the date & time of each full & new moon recorded on my lap-top calendar.   The Harvest Moon is extra special.   Since pre-history, Cultures all over the world celebrate it through dances, songs, special foods, prayers, and offerings.   I thought I would do some internet searches to find out more about it, and do some celebrating of my own this year.

One of the things I learned was that for the Chinese mid-autumn moon festival, it is women who honor this holiday.   I read:

“On the full moon of the eighth Chinese lunar month, women celebrate the Moon. This is the beginning of the yin part of the year, when the dark takes precedence over the light, and the Moon is the symbol of yin energy, which also includes water, women and night. In the old Chinese agrarian system, autumn and winter were the women’s seasons.”
(for more info, go to http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/midaut.html)

I thought it would be fun for Emma and I to do our own small celebration.

moon-cakes.jpgThis morning we made full moon cakes.

We are only eating things that are round today.

We’ll watch the moon rise.

Tonight we will play a game called “Capturing the Moon,” where we will try to catch our reflection in a bowl of water.

It’s not much, but it’s fun and it gives us a little more insight & understanding into something that is greatly celebrated.

Why I Don’t Tow

Why I Don’t Tow!
(a rant inspired by fellow blogger Jill’s post and a subsequent comment to her post)
to read Jill’s post and the comment, go to:

http://airstreamlife.com/amoveablefeast/2008/01/13/8/

People continually confront me with the fact that for over two years of full time travel I have never towed the Airstream.   Their astounded tone of voice quickly turns to one of accusation and disdain.   How could I not share in such an arduous task? (We have crossed this country seven times – that’s a lot of towing.)   What if Rich were to get sick?   What if there was an emergency?   How would we survive if I can’t tow?   In their eyes I am villainous!   Most of the individuals who can not comprehend my refusal to tow have never traveled long distances with a child in the car.   Most of them have never traveled full time while still working.   None of them have been married to Rich.

First and foremost, when we were conceptualizing our tour, I told Rich I would not tow and he accepted that fact.   If my husband is OK with me not towing, then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.     I could end this post right here.   But I won’t.   You see, I’m feeling slightly self righteous this morning, so let me set the record straight!   It’s not a matter of can vs. can’t, it’s can vs. won’t.

I can tow.   I won’t tow!

When Rich is sick, we stay put until he is well.   (Do you go to your husband’s place of employment and perform his job when he is ill?   No.   He calls in sick and resumes his responsibilities when he is well.)
When there is an emergency, we do not tow our 30′ Airstream to the hospital with us!   And yes, I know how to unhitch.   (Do you take your Airstream with you when you need to see a doctor?   I seriously doubt it.)
If we were to encounter a health emergency so critical that there was no time to unhitch, I would not be towing, I’d be dialing 911.   (I hope you would have enough common sense do the same!)

Sitting in the front passenger seat, I am more than the driver’s travel companion, I am the other passenger’s travel companion as well.   When we are in the car I help navigate,   but mainly, I entertain Emma when she is bored.   She was only five when we started our life of travel and hated being in the car, so this was a full-time job before she could read.   She still hates being in the car, but now she can read to herself.   DVD’s and GameBoy are strictly limited by Rich (not more than two hours of either in a day), so it still makes my interaction quite necessary.   If Rich were in the front passenger seat, he would work on his laptop or talk on his cell phone, or he would try to nap.   I would still be in charge of Emma’s dilemmas.

When we arrive at our destination, I help to back in with hand signals.   Rich sets us up outside, and I am responsible for the inside of the trailer.   Once we are settled in, Rich usually goes right to work on the magazine.   Our life is not 9 to 5.   We are not retired.   We are not on an extended vacation.   The Airstream is our home, office, and classroom.   I am Emma’s school teacher.   I am her playmate – she has no siblings.   I am always a mother and a wife.   I am the one who prepares and cooks dinner and does the dishes.   Rich can’t cook.   I help Emma bathe and get ready for bed.   My day doesn’t end when the driving ends.

We have a clear division of responsibilities and my responsibilities do not include towing.

A chef in the trailer

We received this email from blog reader Larry Ko:

I love to cook Chinese, Cajun, Mexican, and Italian, making do with ingredients on hand. My kitchen is stocked with lots of infrequently used kitchen tools. What tools and appliances do you feel are a functional must for your AS kitchen? What basic items do you keep stocked in your pantry?

Hi Larry!
Good to hear from you. Lots of people ask the same questions you just asked, so I think this time I’ll “blog” the answers.

We don’t eat out a lot, but we are full-timers that travel around a lot. So, as we travel, I like to pick up local food items and cook with what I purchased. We always try to go to farmers markets and those little roadside stops that offer unusual local fare, like smoked fish, tangerines from 7th generation trees, garlic fried peanuts, or mutton tacos with a pickled serrano.

If you plan to camp some place remote, and want to have the “local fare” for your meals, pick up what you need along the way instead of packing it ahead of time. But, if you plan to be in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and think you may want Thai or Cajun, then make plenty of room and pack it with you. My philosophy is “I can always hand-wash t-shirts and undies but I can’t purchase gumbo filé in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.”

What basic items do you keep stocked in your pantry?

Fresh is best, so our refrigerator is always full. However, we gravitate toward out of the way places where diverse food items are not readily available. As a professional cook, there are certain things I refuse to do without. I love to cook many different cuisines, so I have way too much stuff in the “pantry”. Even though each thing is in small/single quantity, I still manage to fill four rubbermaid tubs, two overheads, and one cabinet. Rich complains that we have a trailer full of ingredients, but nothing to eat. ;)

My staple ingredients are:

rice: Basmati or Jasmine, Arborio (for risotto), wild, brown, and dried rice paper rounds (Vietnamese salad wrappers)
pasta: long, short, pearl, couscous
barley, lentils, flour (all-purpose & whole wheat), oatmeal, cornmeal, white grits, biscuit mix, baking powder & baking soda, white cake mix
raw honey, molasses, pure Vermont maple syrup and sugar: granulated, raw, dark brown, confectioners
tea: black, green, white, red, herbal (We don’t just drink it, I cook with it too.)
coffee: drip, perk, espresso
peanut butter, cashew or almond butter, white & black sesame seeds, unsweetened dry coconut
various dried fruits & assorted raw nuts (good for snacking & cooking), unsweetened chocolate, chocolate chips
oils: olive (reg. & Extra-virgin), soybean, macadamia, cooking spray
vinegar: balsamic (white & red), cider
salt: kosher, sea, iodized
pepper: whole black peppercorns, coarse & fine grind, white fine grind
canned/jarred: red & green chilies, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, corn, black beans, mushrooms, coconut milk, coconut water, evaporated milk, olives, artichoke hearts, pineapple, pickles, salsa, garlic, ginger, basil, tamari, mirin, fish sauce, hoisin, nori, red & green curry paste
broth: chicken, beef, vegetable Progresso soups (for when I’m too tired to cook or we are very short on time)
wine: 2 dry reds & 1 white
dried herbs & spices: whole green cardamom, cumin, coriander, fennel, paprika, bay leaf, saffron threads, orange peel, lemon grass, sage, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, ancho chilies, chili powder, ground & stick cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, red pepper flakes, gumbo filé, curry powder, and my own mixes for dry rubs, bbq, & Indian masala

What tools and appliances do you feel are a functional must for your AS kitchen?

Now I need to be able to prepare and serve all those ingredients. As you know, storage space and weight are an issue, so I try to make sure that the things I have can serve more than one purpose. For example, the carafe of my 4-cup coffee maker is also used as a teapot, a pitcher, and a gravy boat.

I didn’t bring my “best” cookware — too heavy and too large. But I don’t like “non-stick” aluminum pans, so I purchased a standard 7 pc. set of mid-weight, durable, stainless steel pans (by Wearever) with the sandwiched-disk style bottom. To this, I added my favorite “risotto” pan, and an 8″ fry pan with sloped sides. Our friend Brad brings his favorite cast iron skillet for “blackened” cajun dishes he loves to prepare.

I also have:
-small roasting pan with a collapsable rack that multi-tasks as a cooling rack and trivet
-broiling pan (purchased as an extra from the oven manufacturer)
-4 qt. crock pot with removable “crock” – multi tasks as a “deep” casserole dish w/ lid, and a great way to slowly reheat or keep foods warm
-4 cup auto-drip coffee maker and a 6-cup stove top percolator (when there’s no electric and I still want coffee)
-2 cup stove top espresso pot (what can I say… I like coffee)
-hand blender (not mixer) and a 2-slice toaster
-3 pc. stainless steel mixing bowl set (multi-tasks as salad/serving/storage bowls)
-small metal colander and a small fine mesh strainer
-four culinary knives: 1 each – paring, 8″ serrated, 8″ chef’s, 6″ slicing
-small bamboo cutting board (doubles as a cheese board) and a medium one for use with my larger knives
-two serving spoons, 1 serving fork, metal tongs (multi tasks as salad/cooking/bbq tongs)
-two metal spatulas, 3 rubber spatulas and 3 wooden spoons of various sizes/shapes
-manual can opener, cork screw/bottle opener, citrus zester, instant read thermometer, pastry brush, small “box” grater, vegetable peeler, egg slicer, and kitchen scissors
-six metal skewers, a 2 oz. ladle, ice cream scoop, 1 cup measure and measuring spoon set
– metal serving platter, two metal pie plates, a bread basket and a fruit basket
– four oven mitts that double as hot plates
– disposable plastic containers of various sizes/shapes
– 4 bottle wall-mounted stainless steel wine rack (from IKEA)
– under-cabinet mounted paper towel holder
– wireless remote digital thermometer for the refrigerator (ambient temperature affects the refrigerator’s performance so I adjust the setting accordingly)
– “Corelle” dinnerware, four each: dinner, salad/sandwich, & dessert plates, soup & dessert bowls
– 4 stackable coffee mugs (from IKEA), a 5 pc. flatware set for four, and 4 steak knives (Man can only eat off paper and plastic for so long.)

We also have a small “disposable” (good for about 12 uses) charcoal grill that we store in the outer compartment, and a step stool so Emma can operate at a proper counter height and I can see what’s in the back of the overhead compartments. ;-)

I didn’t start our trip with all this stuff aboard. It is a 15-month culmination of things I decided I wanted to have along in my kitchen for comfort as well as function. To help you determine what should be in you kitchen, I can suggest this technique: Put what you consider your kitchen necessities out onto your counter, review each piece and see if any can be used for more than one purpose. Those are the “keepers”.

Other items that are favorites or “must haves” are next, and so forth. You can cut a lot out with this type of process. Then find a place in your kitchen for everything you picked out – in order of importance. Make sure that the most frequently used or favored items are easy to access. Then cook a few meals in it. You will find that you missed some items, but also that you packed ones you didn’t use. Swap them out. I know there are things in my kitchen I could do without, but it would make cooking less fun, and I want to enjoy my kitchen — small as it may be.

Eleanor’s view on “full hookup camping”

I have to tell you, I absolutely LOVE having a full hookup camp site. It means I don’t have to worry about things like taking a shower and washing the dinner dishes in the same evening because of the grey tank capacity. With water & electric only sites, we will use the showers at the park – if provided. I also tend to prepare “one pot” meals and use paper plates & bowls to minimize the dirty dish load. But with W/E/S I can let my culinary skills loose. Not just because I don’t need to be concerned about the number of dirty pots, pans, & dishes, but because campgrounds that offer W/E/S are usually within or just on the outskirts of a major city. That means I can purchase local specialty foods and have a grand time cooking in the kitchen. With full hookup the Airstream truly is a house. (It’s always a home.)

Bolsa Chica state beach.jpg
“Campsites” at Bolsa Chica State Beach, near Los Angeles

What I don’t like are those “RV Resorts” (and I use this term as loosely as the proprietors of said places) that offer the amenities of full hookup at the expense of nature. There isn’t a tree or shrub to be found and the closest thing to wildlife is the dog in the Class A 10 feet to the right. The goal of these “parks” is to cram as many RV’s as possible onto an expanse of asphalt next to a major highway near a major city and then throw in a laundry and club house so it can be called a resort.

Crescent City RV resort.jpg
Is this a camping experience, or a resort? Neither.

Don’t take what you just read in the wrong way. Some – albeit, too few – RV Resorts are what they claim to be – resorts. They offer restaurants, heated pools and spas, play areas for the children, some natural shade (though manicured and manipulated), a guest laundry, fitness center, gift shop and general store. They are basically a high end hotel where you provide your own “guest room”.

The one we are at in Tucson offers all of the above plus patio furniture and a fruit bearing citrus tree at each of its 384 sites. Also a library, public restrooms & showers, propane grills, meeting rooms and a convention hall. The RV Resort we stayed at in Benbow, CA for Thanksgiving offered free WiFi, and its own 18 hole golf course. These are but two great places to stay with your Airstream if you desire what I call “the Ritz experience”. It’s obvious that for a lot of folks, this is exactly what they are looking for. But I don’t need or want all that these real resorts have to offer.

What I desire is the convenience of W/E/S with the advantages of being in a natural setting. We have been to such places! There are some very lovely camping spots that offer full hookups and not at the expense of the trees. (not to sound like the Lorax) :-)

Cherry Creek SP, CO offers full hookup and maintains an air of dignity. It is a great place to camp, with a huge playground, and a reservoir that allows swimming and boating. It has miles of walking and biking trails. Wildlife is abundant – we saw great horned owls, jack rabbits, mule deer, coyote, and magpie. All this in Denver!

Cherry Creek full hookup.jpg
Full hookups at Cherry Creek State Park, Aurora CO

When we camped near Santa Barbara, CA at Carpinteria State Beach, our full hookup site was less than 50 feet from the ocean and even though we were parked on asphalt, we were also parked under trees. We had shade, the sound of the waves and a view of the water.

In Anza-Borrego Desert SP, CA the Palm Canyon campground is in the desert. There we had the benefit of evening Ranger talks, fabulous hiking, tons of wildlife including Big Horn Sheep and hummingbirds, and our full hookup site had palm trees, desert flowers, cactus and an incredible 360 degree view.

Borrego full hookups.jpg
Full hookups at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Unfortunately, these fabulous campgrounds are few and far between. It is painful to acknowledge that more than not, the only full hookup campgrounds available are no more than a barren stretch of land with W/E/S. We have found ourselves in one or two of these places also, and having experienced both is why I think I abhor the latter so.

You see, I know we don’t always have to give up the wonders that nature has to offer to be able to get the benefits that man can supply.

Pay No Attention

Pay no attention to “the man behind the curtain” or in this case the man under the quilt. I think Rich has taken too much cold medicine and he needs a nap. We are still going to Borrego Springs, not Hollywood, on Friday.

“Don’t you miss it?”

Inevitably, I get the question”¦ “Don’t you miss your house”? “¦
Invariably, the answer to the question has always been no. “¦
At least it was until this past Saturday morning. “¦

This blog has been posted in its entirety on Gather. You can read it there if you like. Click the link for “Gather” or visit http://airstreamlife.gather.com

The best laid plans

The best laid plans”¦ We have been trying to go to the Denver Zoo for a week and it looks like we just won’t make it. The first time I intended to take Emma to the zoo, traffic was so awful, we would not have been able to arrive at the zoo with enough time to see much of anything. I bagged the idea of going to the zoo and opted for Hammond’s Candies factory tour instead. That was a mistake too. It took us 70 minutes to travel less than 15 miles. We missed the last tour by 10 minutes. However, we managed to spend an hour in the candy shop. ;-)
Tuesday was slotted for the aquarium. We went and had a great time. We got to pet Sting Rays!! I’ll ask Emma to blog that one.
Wednesday seemed like a good day for the zoo, but we had car conflicts. Rich needed to use the car. We all went out with Rich. (Thursday had better weather in the forecast and I needed to catch up on things anyway.)
Thursday, Emma slept until 11AM ““ when I finally woke her up. She has been battling a bit of a cold and the sleep was well needed. However, the zoo closes at 4PM. Taking the time we need to get out the door and traffic conditions into consideration, once again, we wouldn’t have had much time to spend at the zoo.
Today, I promised to take her to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for the Grossology exhibit, and our weekend is already booked.
“que sera, sesa”

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