Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's Almost Here!! - RV Season Is Upon Us

    I believe that my behavior over these last MANY cold months has been exemplary. While I did whine a bit about not being able to take any trips in my RV, I managed to find a few gadgets and gizmos to play with, learned a lot about the projects I have planned for this season and I've spoken with lots of like minded folks here in the North East. Everyone in the colder climes has been especially patient this winter. It seemed there was no end to the cold at all. Mother nature even "teased" us a bit with a few days, here and there, of 50+ degree weather. Only to spiral down again below freezing. Even today is supposed to be in the 30's with a 30 MPH wind! I'm not listening.  I'm going to firmly believe that Spring is here. The calendar says it is, I'm anxious for it to be here and I'm going to will the warm weather into being. That works, right? Any way you look at it, I'm ready. Winter is over! Let the RV Season begin!

Usually, around this time I modify, improve and add to my de-winterization checklist. I'll get to that in a week or two when I remove the cover and start going over my RV for the spring. Many folks fail to understand just how important this first inspection of the season can be. It's easy to find something when you are looking at each system carefully and cleaning the RV for the season. Fix now..or end up with bigger problems on the road! For now, I am gathering all the stuff that goes back in the RV that doesn't like cold weather. A nice pile is beginning to rise near the back door. New and Old stuff just waiting to make the short trek across the street to the RV, to be packed neatly for this season's adventures.

Some Stuff That Arrived For Christmas
I've also got quite a few items I am going to be testing on the road. Self heating meals, a solar thermal hot water system and of course the newly redeployed semi-flexible solar panels that I was able to source at the end of the season last year. Preliminary testing shows them to be even more efficient than the old (failed!) China sourced ones. Full report coming soon!

If you have any questions or suggestions for testing something or a destination for a trip or any interesting story ideas, don't hesitate to let me know. I learn just as much from the folks that read these articles as I do on my own!

Well, better get moving....there's supposed to be some freezing rain much for the "low 50's" forecast for the weekend. Ah well. Murphy...he was an OPTIMIST!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What To Do With All Those Extra USB Chargers!

    USB. It's become pretty common-place these days. Everywhere you look, you find some device using USB to charge or connect somehow. Well, what else can you do with those chargers when you're NOT charging with them. Everyone knows I like to reduce clutter and find creative ways to use items for other purposes. This is a PERFECT example. If you have the AC or DC (cigarette lighter) style of charger that has a plain USB port on the end, this little light will make your day! It puts out a nice bit of illumination for a very little bit of space,
AND uses so little power as to be negligible.

Connected And Illuminating
 I was in a local IKEA store, looking around for gadgets and cooking gear when I spotted these tiny, metal goose-neck sporting LED lights that plug in to any convenient USB port. They are REALLY bright, and it looks like 1 full watt of LED power. Plenty for task lighting. My mini tablet/keyboard dock has a couple of full-size USB ports and it sits nicely in one, and illuminates the keyboard and surrounding area beautifully. They are really nicely made from strong materials. A metal goose-neck and solid lens is fully worth the 2.99 dollar price tag. The LED is housed in a solid head that will dissipate a good deal of heat and appears to be strong enough to take a bit of a pounding without a catastrophic failure. I've dropped it a few times and it's held up just fine.

In White OR Black!
They can be had in black or white (well really an off white/ivory). I have several extra USB charging ports scattered about the RV, particularly a triple cigarette lighter socket/single USB charger near the dash that is perfect to use this as a handy map light. Yes, I know everyone uses GPS for navigation, but you get the picture. You can easily connect it to any USB socket, not JUST chargers. I connected it to my mini-tablet/dock and it didn't even make a dent in the battery usage and the goose-neck lets you put the light where you want it. It will obviously work with full size laptops, tablets with USB ports, and desktops as well.

OK, so the name is unpronounceable and my Swedish is a bit rusty, but IKEA calls them "Jansjo." I have NO idea what that means, but it's exceptional as a little light.  They also had a version that ran on two AAA batteries, we'll look at that one in a later article. After I've had time to see how long it will run.

The little things that make life easier. Ahhhh. A sigh of relief. How about avoiding smashing into things on those midnight trips to the bathroom? That's worth the price right there!

Be Seeing...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Nested Measuring Spoons

    OK, I'll admit I am stir crazy. The weather is warming up, the snow is melting and yet ... I still am stuck without my RV travel fix. What do I do? Go shopping at every dollar store and big box outlet, looking for useful and interesting stuff for the RV. This week's foray netted me some cool, space-saving nesting measuring spoons. Surely, not the most glamorous item, but still a necessity. (And stop calling me Shirley!) I do not often use measuring spoons when cooking. It's usually a pinch of this or a smidge of that. BUT, when you are following a recipe or package directions it's sure nice to know what 1/8 teaspoon actually is!

All Spread Out and Pretty
These six measuring spoons are made of plastic (naturally) and have the sizes printed on them in various colors. Each one is a different color so it's easy to find the right one and not confuse them. I can't tell you how many times I ended up using a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon. Well, in fact, I can tell you. A lot! Although one of my absolute favorite soup recipes is this Beef and Barley number that called for a teaspoon of pepper and I added a tablespoon. It is AMAZING. A bit spicy, but really great for cold days. I promise, in a later article I'll cook up a pot and share the love! Back to the spoons!
Happily Nested

The best thing about this set of measuring spoons? It's the first set I have that's small and actually stays NESTED! Usually they end up all spread out and tangled in my (admittedly) messy drawer. The clip that holds them together allows them to be separated easily. Though to be honest, it looks like it may break if spread open too aggressively. They don't weigh much and at $1.49 they were quite the bargain. Whenever I purchase something for the kitchen, the first thing I begin thinking about is all the great recipes and experiments I can use them for. These are no exception! Something about the 1/8 teaspoon size makes me think of cinnamon and nutmeg.

The weather is just beginning to slowly climb back up into the 40's here in the Northeast. There is hope in the air that I'll be able to travel soon and put some of the things I've learned over the winter to good use. I've begun to plan some trips already ... stay tuned!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Even The Simple Things - Best Coasters...Ever!

    What's the best way to keep your RV clean? Don't let it get dirty in the first place!. If you've been reading my articles over the last couple of years, you'll know I like ice cold drinks in the summer. If you've ever had ice in a glass in hot weather, you'll know about the dreaded condensation. This is the moisture that accumulates on the outside of your glass and always ends up on your table, or counter or whatever surface you've left it on. Forget to wipe it down and you end up with a nasty ring. Spill some and it's even got pretty colors. Coasters...yeah, that's the ticket! Simple, right. Yup, but you can do even better.

Thirsty Coasters! A While back I found out about microfiber bath mats. These things are soft and absorbent and non-slip. Some enterprising and brilliant soul figured out you could make coasters out of the same material! That's one of those "million dollar" ideas. You get four of them to a package, they're inexpensive at around 3 dollars and most department stores have them. (Yes, WalMart too!)
They come in a few colors. I saw Ivory and Black. The Ivory ones actually match my interior perfectly. Well at least the walls and ceiling anyway. At the price how could I resist?

I couldn't. As usual, when you see something like this you wonder...will it work in "real life?" Time for testing! I selected glasses and mugs that I use all the time. Some glass, some ceramic, some polycarbonate. I wanted to make sure no matter how sloppy I am (very) that a mess would not be the result. I was honestly a bit concerned that the coasters being...."puffy" would cause the glass to topple. Obviously causing a larger mess than they could prevent. I am happy to report every glass or cup placed on the coaster, stayed where it was placed. It definitely feels a bit odd when you first put a glass down on it, but you quickly get used to the somewhat "squishy" feeling.

I also wanted to find out if REALLY hot drinks would cause any melting or other problems with the  materials they are made of. Nope. They took everything I could throw at them. No, I didn't actually throw anything at them. You know, they are pretty light and could throw them around. Maybe a good way to pass the time with friends? Who knows!? At the very least, it kept my coffee from making a mess, even though I sloshed a bit on the coaster. According to the instruction, these are machine washable. Yup. They are. No coffee stains and no changes in texture or color after a wash.

All in all, I'd say this is a win-win-win product. I imagine there are a few other uses for it as well. (Mouse pillow anyone?) It's always refreshing to find products that, for a minimum of cost, provide exactly what they are supposed to. If only life, in general, were more like that!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road...

Rich "The Wanderman"