Thursday, May 11, 2017

5 New Plants I'm Growing in 2017

Since we bought our house back in 2013, I've planted vegetables every year. As a result, my garden gets bigger every year. You can read about it here

This year, I'm growing five new plants and I already have them in the ground!

1. Corn - Is this not the most beautiful corn you've ever seen? It's called glass gem corn and I had to order the seeds online. I'm not sure if you can eat it straight off the cob but you can save the kernels for popcorn. We eat a lot of popcorn.

I went a little crazy and planted 50 corn seeds in my front yard. You can see them on the right and they've only been growing for two weeks. It's pretty amazing how fast corn grows, and I usually get 1-2 ears per corn stalk.

herbs to the left (chives, basil, mint, lavender, oregano) + glass gem corn to the right

Pro tip - most herbs will grow and take over your garden if you let them so I plant mine in cement pavers. This way they're confined to a small area and they can't choke out your other plants.

2. Tomatoes - I'm planting ten different varieties and I'm having the ultimate tomato taste test this fall. 
tomatoes in cages

Here are the varieties I bought from DeMonye's Greenhouse:
  • Mr. Stripey
  • Black Krim
  • Early Girl
  • San Marzano 
  • Roma 
  • Better Boy
  • Oxheart
  • Brandywine Red
  • Grape 
  • Sweet Million
3. Eggplant - specifically turkish orange eggplant. 

I picked up two eggplants and put them in cages to the left. I'm not really a fan of eggplant and I'm not sure if they need cages but I am sure these will inspire me to try a new recipe. 

eggplant in the cage on the left + pea tendrils growing up the trellis

4. Pea Magnolia Blossom Tendrils - It's a snap pea and with flowers and edible tendrils! I'm growing these up a trellis in the front yard and I hope they'll taste as awesome as they look.

pea magnolia blossom tendrils - photo from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

5. Potatoes - specifically purple sweet potatoes that are super high in antioxidants. Why is that important? Antioxidants fight pre-mature aging and skin cancer. so basically I'm eating all of these myself. Don't be alarmed if I look ten years younger, or if I'm purple, next time you see me. I haven't had great luck with potatoes in the past but I've got some new tricks this year that might help.

molokai purple sweet potatoes - photo from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I ordered three molokai purple sweet potato plants from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this past winter and they shipped actual plants to me through the mail. They send them out when it's warm enough to plant them in your area and I just got mine this week. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Yurts and Thoughts on Nature

Up until last week, I had never seen a yurt in the wild. I've seen pictures of yurts but I had never seen one in real life. This got me thinking about all the other things I've never seen, both in and out of nature, and how excited I am to travel more this year. 

I read an article recently that said people only spend 5% of their day outside. That's the national average but still, that means most people are only outside for about an hour a day. It's no wonder our society is so depressed. Since I left my job five weeks ago, I've had the luxury of spending most of my time outside and it's been so healthy and therapeutic. As the article says, "if you can actually sit outside in your backyard and hear the birdsong and fell the grass in your toes - and occasionally go off into the deep wilderness - I think some really profound things can start to happen to your brain, and to your worldview. 

But back to the yurt here - this one is at East Harbor State Park in Lakeside Marblehead, Ohio. East Harbor State Park borders Lake Erie, and their yurt is just steps from the water. 

This yurt costs $60 per night and sleeps 6 people on a double bed, a bunk bed, and two futons. It also includes 50 amp electricity, a coffee maker, microwave, picnic table, fire ring, gas grill, and refrigerator. Plus, it has a round skylight so I imagine it's perfect for stargazing at night.

Note to self - this would be the perfect weekend getaway with friends and what a fun RV ride that would be! 

If you've been wondering how much it costs to park the RV, here are the prices at East Harbor State Park:

Full Hookup - $38 per night (includes water, electric, and dump station)
Electric only - $30 per night
Non-electric campsite - $26 per night

Since it's still early in the season, the park was pretty empty even though there were quite a few boats out on the lake. I did sneak a photo of our neighbor's adorable trailer because it looked so cozy with the vintage paint job and lace curtains. I really am falling in love with the different ways that people live on the road. 

Other bonuses for East Harbor State Park include free WiFi for campers, pet camping on all sites, and a building for cleaning fish (if we ever catch a fish). East Harbor - we'll definitely be back!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Tour of our RV Kitchen and Bathroom

I've been looking at a lot of road porn lately. Van porn. RV porn. Camping porn. Wanderlust porn.

Now that I'm not working regular 9 to 5 hours, I find myself awake in the middle of the night searching #rvlife and #homeiswhereyouparkit. I can spend hours perusing beautifully curated Instagram feeds from people who have renovated the interior of the RVs,

like this couple from Michigan that completely renovated a school bus (fernthebus),

and this impressive before and after RV bathroom renovation (@insta_sara)

While we plan to do some interior renovations, I feel like it's important to share the real "before" photos, so you know what we're working with. Here are some photos I took this past weekend of our 2000 Lazy Daze RV.

When we were shopping for an RV, I was adamant that I didn't want to sleep right next to where we would be cooking our food. I needed separate dining and sleeping areas and our kitchen is located at the back of the RV, while the bedroom is in the front. I love how the kitchen is surrounded by windows so even when it's raining and we're stuck inside, it still feels like we're out in nature.

The kitchen benches open up for additional storage and the kitchen table folds down and can be transformed into a small bed if we need it.

Here's the other side of the kitchen. In addition to the double sink, the microwave, and the oven, we have a three-burner stove top that runs off propane.

Between the kitchen and the main cabin (which has two couches that pull out to form one huge bed), there are two closets, a fridge and freezer, and our bathroom.

 The bathroom, while tiny, is laid out much better than other RVs we saw. We saw quite a few vehicles where the shower was directly over the toilet, which was a hell no for me.

We'll eventually get ride of the wallpaper and we may paint the wood, but for now, we're in love with our Lazy Daze RV. Plus, we keep discovering new features like the side spray to the right of the toilet that helps clean out the bowl when it's time to do the dirty work.

Stay tuned for future posts where we tour the closets, bedroom, and the front of the cabin.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Free RV Parking + BABY ANIMALS

I've been telling everyone who will listen about for awhile now but we finally got to stay at a Harvest Host farm and it was even better than I was hoping... plus, they had BABY ANIMALS!

BABY ANIMALS! Just look at these sweet little lambs 💗 

💗 BABY ANIMALS! Look at that curly little tail! 

Harvest Hosts is a network of wineries and farms that invite self contained RVers to visit and stay overnight for FREE (after you pay an annual $44 membership fee). Since I love gardening and wine this sounded too good to be true. Plus, parking the RV for the night at state parks and private RV campgrounds costs us about $25-$45 per night, so being able to park for free is an amazing deal.

Once I paid the membership fee, I got access to hundreds of wineries, breweries, ranches, fruit and vegetable farms, dairies, and more. There are about 20 members in Ohio, so after doing a little research and checking to make sure they were dog friendly, we ended up at Honey Haven Farms in Ashland, Ohio for the night.

The farm was owned by Jon and Deb Boyer and they couldn't have been nicer. Jon was there when we arrived and told us to pull up next to one of the several barns to park for the night.

He and Deb were on their way to dinner and basically told us to keep an eye on the place. He let us tour the farm on our own and told us to stop by his daughter's farm next door because she had 40 new lambs and piglets.

...and cows.

 The farm also had a playground for kids...

...and a Farm Market and Greenhouse. 

While Harvest Hosts allow you to park overnight for free, spending money at the farm is encouraged so I picked up some flowers and succulents in the greenhouse. They also had tons of varieties of vegetable plants for sale. 

The only drawback of Harvest Hosts is that you have to be self-contained, which meant we had no access to electric. Otherwise, it's a great deal and I hope to return to Honey Haven Farm later this year for their Fall Festival. Every Friday through Sunday, Sept 24 - Oct 30, they're offering u-pick pumpkins, horse drawn wagon rides, and a corn maize. 

Click here to learn more about Harvest Hosts and Honey Haven Farm

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Best Turkey Burgers EVER

You know that moment when you bite into a perfectly juicy burger and your eyes roll back in your head. In my burger fantasy it's summertime, and I'm savoring a juicy burger on a grilled bun with fresh tomato, arugula, and a little spicy mustard. I've got a cold beer and jar of homemade pickles, and I'm in heaven.

I'm about to share one of my most treasured recipes of all time. I love these turkey burgers so much I've got a photo of one fixed at the top of my blog. I make these on a weekly basis throughout the summer and they're the epitome of everything I love about cooking. They've super easy to assemble, you can make them in advance, and they're healthy. Plus, they're the juiciest, most flavorful turkey burgers I've come across and anytime I make them for friends I get asked for the recipe. 

Perfect Turkey Burgers (based on this recipe from the Food Network)

  • 1 lb of ground turkey
  • 1 portobello mushroom cap
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 3 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • Pepper to taste
1. Scrape the gills and stem out of the mushroom cap with a spoon and discard them.

2. Roughly chop up the mushroom and onion and then pulse them in a food processor or blender until they're minced into the smallest of pieces. 

3. Use your hands to blend the mushroom/onion mixture with the ground turkey, chopped parsley, olive oil, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper.

4. Once the mixture is well blended, separate it into four equal portions and form each portion into a burger patty.

5. Put your burger patties on a plate, cover with saran wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or longer.

You can even freeze the patties at this point and they'll keep for up to three months in the freezer. I usually double the recipe and keep half of the patties in a freezer bag after I've wrapped them in plastic wrap. They'll need to defrost for 24 hours when you're ready to cook them.

When you're ready to cook the burgers, you can do that on your outdoor grill by cooking them over medium heat for 8-10 minutes on the first side and 6-7 minutes on the second side (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty registers 160 degrees).

Too cold to grill? You can also cook these in the oven! Pre-heat the oven to 375 and while it's heating, warm a large skillet on the stovetop over medium high. You're going to brown the patties on the stove before finishing them off in the oven. Brush the patties with olive oil and sear them for a minute or two on each side. When they're done browning, simply transfer them to a baking dish and bake for about five minutes (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the patty registers 160 degrees). 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Have you ever tried to peel hard boiled eggs and the shells are sticking to the eggs? No matter how careful you are, you're going to take chunks out of the egg trying to get those cursed shells off. And no one wants to eat the deviled eggs with craters in them. They'll be the saddest, loneliest deviled eggs at the potluck... guaranteed.

I have to share the new method I've been using to hard boil eggs because for the first time in my life, I'm doing it right. I mean, just look at these perfectly peeled hard boiled eggs!

This is important stuff if you're like me and you're obsessed with deviled eggs. You see back on Easter of 2016, we had a little mix up and someone who I love but will never forgive brought chips instead of deviled eggs to lunch. I was devastated. I didn't realize how much I looked forward to deviled eggs until that day and I vowed from then on, I would personally make deviled eggs for every family function.

 Easter 2017 - I dyed the eggs in turmeric and beet juice for a pop of color

Thanksgiving 2016 - I pureed roasted red peppers and added it to the yolk mixture and used chives from the garden for my pumpkin stems. 

But this isn't a post about deviled eggs. This is a post about the secret to perfect hard boiled eggs, because we always bring hard boiled eggs on the road. It's such an easy breakfast option and there's nothing to clean up. I don't know why this method is such a big secret but when you google "how to hard boil eggs," the first result tells you to place your eggs in a pot, cover with cold water, and then bring the water to a boil BUT THAT'S WRONG. When you go to peel them, the shells will stick to the eggs and you'll tear your hair out trying to get those things off.

The secret is to lower your eggs straight from the fridge into boiling water. Once they're in, lower the heat to a simmer and cook the eggs for twelve minutes. After twelve minutes, scoop them out and put them in ice water for a few minutes AND THEY'LL PEEL PERFECTLY. The shells will just slide right off and for anyone looking for an easy, high protein breakfast, hard boiled eggs are the perfect solution. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Quick Trip to Buckeye Lake

I wish I could say that our first weekend trip in the RV was to some exotic place but alas, you can't travel far when you don't know basic stuff like how to get water to your RV and how to heat it when you do. That's why we traveled approximately one hour east of Columbus, Ohio to stay at the KOA Campground at Buckeye Lake.

The KOA Campground had great ratings and they had plenty of full hookups (with shade) for a rig of our size. Having stayed at only a handful of private campgrounds, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I can totally see why people love this place. Not only did it have the cleanest bathroom and showers I've seen in an RV Park, but it also had a cute gift shop with lots of snacks, a playground for kids, and a fenced in dog park. I also really loved their gem mine. They were selling bags of sand in the gift shop and you could mine your bag to find gems of all sizes.

Panning for treasure at the Gem Mine

 Check out the bathroom. Clean stalls and showers, a hair dryer, and a TV on the wall. I've literally stayed in RV Parks where the bathroom is a port-a-pot infested with bugs. 

Whether you're interested in primitive tent camping, RV parking with water and electrical hook-ups, or deluxe cabin accommodations, they've got it all, and you're within walking distance of Buckeye Lake and Buckeye Lake Brewery. 

Cute little cabin

 I loved all the colorful houses around Buckeye Lake (even if there is an eight foot fence currently restricting lake access).

Hops growing on the patio at Buckeye Lake Brewery.

The last thing I want to mention is that the KOA has a TON of special events going on this summer, so check out their website for events like a Wine and Cheese Social, Memorial Day Weekend featuring their 15th annual Dog Show, Christmas in July with Santa, and Haunted Halloween with hay rides and a costume contest.

Shout out to Dana, Tom, and TJ, the nicest family with the sweetest trailer in the park. They answered a lot of our questions, shared their dinner, and showed us just how nice people in RV Parks can be.