Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Bowls For Everything

    Last week I was on a short trip in my RV and had stopped for the night. As I usually do, I prepared a meal. Since I was by myself, the quantities were going to be smaller. Then it occurred to me...I really don't have enough bowls to cook with at all. For example, I have a cool collapsible salad spinner that does multiple duty as a colander and a large cooking/serving bowl. But it's Big...too big for one person. I realized that I don't have any other bowls, aside from tableware and plastic/paper disposables, to use for cooking or serving....especially for one person. Hmmm, what to do?

Simple, find some durable nesting bowls that take up very little space and can be used for a lot of things. A tall order, that! Well, after perusing the aisles at various shops -- you know, my typical haunts, Walmart, Outlet stores, freight liquidators and the like -- I found the perfect bowl! In fact it was sold as a set of three! With snap-on lids! Score! They were $1.99 at K-mart of all places. I thought those were gone, but no, a few still exist. Way cool! The lids actually have a small gripper with a notch to attach them to the bowl edge when not in use. I just stack them all up with all three lids on top and I'm good to go.

They are a bit small. Perfect for single servings or multi-ingredient recipe prep. I'm also going to use them to make my "Mock Mousse." Should be great! They will also be great for storing leftovers from larger meals. The lids fit VERY tightly and will likely survive a fall or flip in the RV fridge if the road conditions get nasty. They are a simple aluminum alloy construction so should last a very long time. I wouldn't put them in the dish washer (dish washer detergent for machines can do horrible things to aluminum). Not that I HAVE a dish washer on board. Well I do, but his name's Rich!

These bowls are the very definition of a Simple Thing. Try a few -- at this price they are usable for all sorts of things in addition to cooking. How about nut and bolt storage? Or sorting various bits....hobbies maybe? Anyway, they are quite useful and have earned a spot on board my RV.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Portable Hot Sauce - Variety Is The Spice Of Life

Compact Kitchen
    Sometimes, when cooking, I like to spice things up a bit. There are any number of hot sauces available, probably in the hundreds of thousands at this point. Obviously, we can't carry them all. My basic rule regarding hot sauce and spicy food is this: "If I can't taste the underlying flavors, only the heat...that's too much!" That being said, a bit of heat, mixed with some extra flavor, is a welcome change to daily favorites. I love to add a few drops of Chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce to my morning eggs. Delicious. Adding regular Tabasco to other dishes makes them into something else...easily and with no real effort. Of course, you can use Sriracha as well...different flavor profile, but just as delicious. I am sure you all have your favorites too. I know I am leaving a lot of them out...ones I like too...but you have to be selective when you have very little storage space. Here's how I keep a variety around.

Cute, Right?
Small Bottles...REALLY small bottles. Enough for a recipe or two. I keep finding assortment packs of hot sauces that include a few different recipes in the various close-out shops I haunt. A few days ago I found a Tabasco"sampler" pack. While not the smallest bottles I have seen (those were in Military MRE's back in the day), they are just the right size for a dash of flavor in your RV recipes. This one included, Original, Chipotle and Jalapeno (though not "on-a-stick," for all you Jeff Dunham fans!) All in a cute little box. How much? A single buck. 1 Dollar for about 6 (OK maybe 9) meal additions. I couldn't resist. So, I bough a few of them to have "reloads."

Now, if you, like me, enjoy the odd squirt of Sriracha to liven up a meal...amazing with Asian inspired dishes!... you'll love the handy tiny sizes that are available. You can even get two different keychain with carabiner styles as empties that you fill yourself. Perfect for on-board use. You could even use it as a keychain, but I'd hate to have it open in my pocket! Ouch!  Believe wouldn't let that happen again....ever! Here's an awesome tip...add Sriracha to Ramen noodles and some leftover vegetables. WOW! Quite warming and fantastic on a rainy (or snowy) day. It's also great with leftover chicken and fresh spinach. Just stir some in when you heat it up in a skillet. Whenever I have leftover stir fry, I'll make an omelette the following morning. A couple of shakes of this stuff will definitely wake you up in the AM.

If you like your food crazy hot, these tiny versions aren't for you. Unless you can find a Ghost pepper extract that comes in the eyedropper bottle. No joke! It's insanely hot...could damage mucous membranes hot. If you're into that kind of thing. Personally, I like less actual pain with my meals!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Even The Simple Things - Removing Labels, Gunk, And Stuff

Crazy, Huh?
    How often have you purchased something only to notice a bunch of adhesive labels all over it? Usually on the bottom. Ever try to scrape one off with a finger nail and end up with little bits of label and a bunch of excess glue still on your shiny new item? This kind of thing happens to me all the time. Getting the glue off is usually pretty easy. Some kind of citrus based cleaner will do the trick, but what about getting the label off in the first place. Wouldn't it be easier if you had a small tool that would get underneath it and remove it quickly and easily in the first place? What about cooked-on gunk in a Teflon-coated pan? You know, as soon as you get a scratch on one it's useless to cook in. No metal tools, ever! Well, after a long time using my nails, I can honestly say I found a better way to do it that won't scratch the finish on anything (within reason!).

Simple AND Handy!
It's one of those crazy simple ideas that I wish I'd thought of (and marketed!) myself. But I didn't. Ah well, at least I can share the knowledge and save some of you some time and aggravation. A week ago I was in a Bed, Bath and Beyond. No, I'm not a regular there...just visiting! While wandering around I noticed a bunch of little kitchen tools in baskets. One drew my eye. It was/is called a "Thumb Scraper." Just a soft silicone covered handle with a depression for your...well...umm..thumb! And a thin, stiff plastic scraper end. It seemed way too simple (and cheap at 1.99) to work. So I bought a clearance aisle glass with a bunch of labels on the bottom and removed them...quickly! I was sold.

When I got it back home I made myself a, purposefully, cheesy and messy omelette in a regular Teflon pan. Made sure the cheese was nice and stuck to the bottom. Pulled out the scraper and, voila!, all the mess was scraped off with no damage to the pan at all. Double win!

This thing is pretty tough, looks like it could be used to pry apart small electronics as well. Like a cell phone's case. I'll be trying it on a few more things. Who knows how many uses I'll be able to come up with.  Drop me a line... let me know if you come up with any nifty uses! Hey, how about decal removal...or maybe just the small leftover pieces?

I love inexpensive items that solve multiple problems and take up very little storage space. Seems like they are tailor made for our RVs. If it speeds cleanup...double win!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Check Your AC Outlets! - Right Voltage? Polarity? Ground? - It's Easy!

    When I have access to 120 Volt AC power, whether by using my generator or connecting a shore power cable, I ALWAYS make sure the power I am receiving/using is up to snuff. Does it have the correct Voltage? The correct Polarity? Is it Grounded? In extreme cases, improper wiring at a campground or other power source could fry your electrical system and lots of expensive components. It's easy to check before you connect so....why risk it?If you think it's a P.I.T.A. (Sound it out...Pain In The A...) then these two inexpensive simple devices will make it easy!

First off is a $4.75 Polarity and ground checker. These come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Mine is Yellow, don't you know. They have three lights on them and a small diagram telling you what those lights mean. Typically, you get the two right most ones lit and instantly know the receptacle is wired correctly. It's really easy to use. Just plug it in to the outlet and look at the lights that illuminate. For me, ANYTHING that isn't "CORRECT" won't be receiving my shore power plug any time soon. Some incorrectly wired receptacles are worse than others. It really never pays to gamble with your expensive electrical system. A few seconds of testing could save you a whole lot of grief and money.

Once the wiring has been checked and is OK to use. I test the actual electricity coming out of the socket. Namely, the Voltage and the Frequency. Everyone knows about what the correct voltage is. It should be around 120V, sometimes as high as 124V or as low as 110V. Anything above or below those numbers could very likely damage things plugged in and operating. Frequency is a bit more complicated. In the United States we use 60Hz power. Not to get overly technical, that just means that the power oscillates back and forth (Alternates) from the power station to you. 60Hz just means 60 times per second. Some of the rest of the world uses 50Hz. Most modern power supplies can use either. If it's WAY off you shouldn't use it. This can be an issue with your generator as its speed will directly affect the voltage and frequency. I use a Kill-A-Watt meter to check both. As a bonus, it will tell you how much power (amps) your device  (that's plugged into it) is drawing among other features. At about $20.00, it's well worth it!

Again, a tiny bit of work before you plug in, can save you a world of hurt. I'm all about enjoying my RV and each and every minute of each and every trip. If I can prevent something from going wrong, I'm way ahead. Every moment I get to travel is precious to me. What's that worth in dollars?? Priceless!!!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Whoa!! - Slowing Down A Trailer Properly...Use A Brake Controller!

The Sun Sets...
    A few weeks ago, I towed a trailer a long way over various roads including some big hills with steep descents. It all worked out OK, but when I arrived home I noticed a significant amount of additional brake pad wear. Hmmm...Why was that? I'll tell you, I made a mistake. One that could have cost me dearly. I was under the impression that the trailer had surge brakes. These are actuated when you slow down the towing vehicle. They work pretty much on their own. Not the best solution, but they do not require any additional hardware. The trouble was, I was wrong. This trailer did NOT have surge brakes but rather ELECTRICALLY actuated ones. These REQUIRE a separate brake controller be installed in the tow vehicle/RV. If they are not hooked up, you have ZERO braking from your trailer. Your tow vehicle brakes do all the work. This is a dangerous condition! Well, hindsight is most always 20/20 so I ordered up a brake controller and installed it post haste! It's not all that difficult to do and may save your...well, bits you'd like to keep.

The P3!
How do you choose what kind of controller to buy? Well, after some basic research, it boils down to two main types. Time Delayed and Proportional. To begin with, Time Delayed tends to be much less expensive. So what's the difference? In a nutshell, a Proportional controller applies braking to the trailer in the manner you apply braking to the towing vehicle. You gently slow down, the trailer gently slows down a proportional amount. You slam on the brakes in a panic stop and the trailer brakes get applied as aggressively. There is some setup involved to "tweak" the proportions, but it's not all that difficult. The time delay version simply waits a set amount of time and applies the trailer brakes at a single setting. The amount of delay and the amount of braking force applied is adjustable. Because of the way it is wired, there could be some pulsing of the brakes when you hazard flashers are on.

Complete Kit!
To me, it was a no brainer. I found the best Proportional controller I could, based upon reviews and features and ordered one. (I got the Tekonsha P3 and paid 115.00 incl. shipping) The install wasn't really difficult at all. It came with a wire harness with bare ends to splice into my existing wiring. Only 4 wires needed to be connected. 12V Negative, 12V Positive, A Ground and a single wire to the trailer brake wire in the hitch connector. While you can buy prefabricated harnesses with connectors for various vehicles, mine (being as old as it is and an "orphan") didn't have that option. The first three were easy and obvious. I did put an inline fuse rated to protect the wire on the positive 12V connection. The last one required me to run a wire from the hitch connector at the back of the RV all the way up to the left side of the driver's footwell. That's about 26 feet of wire. Not difficult, I used good quality outdoor rated automotive wire and lots of wire ties (of the "zip" variety) to keep it tucked up out of harms way.

Next up is locating an appropriate spot to mount the controller itself. The instructions said I could  mount it in essentially any orientation with ethe exception that proportional brake controllers need to be mounted inline with the direction of travel. Some vehicles have a spot that's made for one. Mine didn't. I wanted to be able to see the screen when I wanted to and have access to the manual braking lever and settings on the fly so I mounted it down under my dash above my left knee. Well a bit further outboard as I didn't want to smash my knee into it all the time! Believe me, that would be a really...well.. P.I.T.A. (figure that one out for yourselves!)

Nifty Little LED Screen
Once connected up and mounted, the fun begins! On mine (which has a nifty LCD computer screen) I went to the setup page and selected the brake type. Mine were electric, but you could have hydraulic as well. Then you have to tweak the basic braking effect the controller applies. Your brake controller may be different, but mine suggests a default of "6" (somewhere in the middle) then you drive the trailer and tow vehicle 25 MPH and use the MANUAL lever to apply the trailer brakes. If they lockup go to a lower setting and repeat. If they don't, go to a higher setting. The idea being to set them up so it applies the brakes at a maximum level WITHOUT locking them up. Once that's done, use your tow vehicle brake pedal to make a few low speed stops to check the "feel." Mine worked out well on the first try.

There are a few other settings on mine, color and contrast of the display. A "Boost" feature that changes the amount of initial braking and force, to adjust for various weights of the trailer and the ability to store settings for 3 different trailers. It's also got a nifty Voltage gauge and lots of troubleshooting messages to let you know if something is connected wrong or malfunctioning.

Anything that increases safety and ease of use is all right in my book. This addition surely fits the bill!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"