One of many fond memories I have of my late dad was his love for cooking and baking. He and I would make these brownies together quite often and they never lasted long. I continue to make this recipe now for my kids, reliving the experience of baking with my dad each and every time. Bon appetit.


  • 1⁄2 cup flour
  • 1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Blend together and mix oil and sugar
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined
  4. In a separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients making sure no lumps remain
  5. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the oil and sugar
  6. Grease a 9 x 9 pan and pour the batter into it smoothing off the top
  7. Bake for around 20 minutes or until the sides of the brownies start to pull away from the pan
  8. Very important – please cool before cutting otherwise it will be a crumbly mess.
  9. Note:  Sometimes when we were feeling ambitious, we’d add walnuts to the batter and would top with homemade chocolate ganache (recipe below)

Chocolate Ganache


  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Bring the heavy cream and vanilla extract to a boil in a small saucepan on the stovetop.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir until the chocolate chips are smooth and melted. Allow mixture to cool slightly (it will thicken) and spread atop brownies.

A Sweet Bon Appetit 🙂 xoxo


It’s early morning and you’re tucked into your warm and comfy RV bed when you begin to hear it . . . *Plink……Plink…………….Plink* — it’s the sound of Mother Nature’s gift of rain showers dancing on the roof of your beloved RV.  Be it a brief passing of rain, or a torrential downpour– you can either embrace the rain, gear up and head on out – or you could cozy up inside your RV and enjoy some rainy day activities that seem to be even more comforting when it’s pouring rain.

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I can still remember the excitement I felt riding in the back of our gold station wagon (with a 455-cubic engine!) that pulled my family’s 1970 Starcraft travel trailer. It was an older RV but my siblings and I didn’t care. We were off for a weekend of adventure that meant time to roam the woods, explore caves, and roast marshmallows around a campfire. My childhood was filled with road trips and weekends at campgrounds that remain some of my fondest memories. The love of the road is a gene I inherited from my parents.

Like the one belonging to my parents, our own first RV, a 1996 Jayco folding camping trailer, was over a decade old. We had a small budget but big plans to give our kids oodles of childhood memories. Although that RV was 13 years old when we bought it, it gave us years of fun as we camped on the shores of the Pacific Ocean or under a canopy of Redwoods. It required very little aside from general maintenance and was in exceptional shape for its age.

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Yosemite Never Disappoints

I’m a sucker for wilderness anywhere, on any day of the year, but having visited in all four seasons I am now totally sold that autumn is the best time of year to visit Yosemite National Park. Our trip timing bypassed the swell of summer visitors (estimated at over 600,000 in August alone) to less than half of that number in October, just in time for the fall colors that showed up and showed out in waves of yellow, reds, and ochre blanketing the landscape. And there were no winter road closures or snow chains required.

Beautiful Yosemite

We were advised by the resort staff to leave camp for the park around 9am to climb ahead of fall weekend visitors, and help ensure we could find space to park our over-sized vehicle. Rodney did the driving the first day and now it was my turn to drive the motorhome.  With me behind the wheel, Rodney and the kids were able to enjoy the panoramic views out of the big front window. The meandering drive and stunning vistas of the valley approach were breathtaking.

Rue Mapp Driving the RV

Yosemite Views

After paying $30 for our week-long pass at the park gate, we wound easily down into the valley, stopping to take photos at the most iconic views of the Yosemite landscape. Within an hour, we arrived at Half-Dome Village (Curry Village) and parked in the adjacent parking lot, taking up two spots vertically (and legally!) — we then ran into a friend of Outdoor Afro who remembered us from our epic leader training weekend back in 2016.

Reuniting with Old Friends

From there we took the free park bus shuttle that stops at all the major valley destinations and many hiking trails beyond. Our afternoon filled up nicely with a delightful, casual lunch at Degnan’s in the valley, followed by leisurely hiking and time spent in the visitor center to learn more about the formation and history of this important and beloved national treasure.:

One of the Many Hikes

Before we knew it, our Yosemite sun began to set westward. Without quite getting our fill of the park’s trails and stories, we reluctantly decided to get back on the road to allow plenty of time and light to re-connect our RV to camp, enjoy our planned Taco Night  — and of course, more s’mores!

The Perfect Marshmallow

By the time I climbed into bed Saturday night, I could not believe our trip was coming to an end the next day, just as we became accustomed to the rhythm of the RV life.  I knew we could have easily stayed another two nights — or more!

 Our 5 Tips For RVing Weekend Warriors

  • Plan for a long weekend if you can – consider the journey and destination in your RV as a total adventure, and take your time along the way!
  • Choose an RV Resort with amenities for everyone, such as recreation rooms with WI-FI, swimming pools, organized activities and park model cabins – perfect for those who want to try out the RV lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy.
  • It’s all about preparation. Just like with any camping experience you’ll benefit from advance meal plans, prepping fruits and veggies, marinating meat, etc.  All help to save time, and bring only what portions of dry goods you need from home to reduce waste #Grits
  • RVs have plenty of storage: Grab toys and games from home such as balls, board games, and cards for those down moments, especially before bedtime.
  • Eat lots of s’mores!

What are your must-have tips for weekend getaways in your RV? Let me know in the comments!


For the most part RV refrigerators are efficient, but sometimes RV owners do things that result in the refrigerator being less efficient. Today I want to discuss some tips and tricks that will help your RV refrigerator operate at maximum efficiency.

Refrigerator pic#1 level RV

1) First and foremost the RV must be fairly level for the refrigerator to operate properly. Older RV refrigerators required more precise leveling, but even newer models need to be close to level for optimum performance. Over time a cooling unit operated out of level can be permanently damaged. When you set up at the campground you can use a carpenter’s level to ensure the RV is close to level front-to-rear and side-to-side. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but close.

Refrigerator pic 2 Dawn loading food

2) The initial cool down process can take four to six hours. I recommend turning the refrigerator on the day before you plan to leave for a trip, and before you put any food in it. When you do put food in the refrigerator it should already be cold, and food put in the freezer should already be frozen. Adding already cold food, rather than warm food, lets the refrigerator work more efficiently. One common mistake people make is to over-pack the refrigerator. There needs to be space between the foods for air to circulate throughout the refrigerator compartment. In most situations you will have access to a store where you can buy food, so a two to three day supply should be enough.

Refrigerator pic#3 fan & batteries

3) To assist with air circulation you can purchase an inexpensive battery operated refrigerator fan. Install the batteries in the fan and place the fan in the front refrigerator compartment blowing upwards. The fan will improve the refrigerator’s efficiency by circulating the air and it helps reduce the initial cool down time by 50 percent.

refrigerator pic 4 inspect vent

4) The heat created by the cooling process is vented behind the refrigerator. Air enters through the outside refrigerator vent and helps draft the hot air up and out through the roof vent. Periodically inspect the back of the refrigerator and the roof vent for any obstructions like bird nests, leaves or other debris that might prevent the excess heat from escaping.

5) Another good idea is to install a 12-volt, thermostatically controlled refrigerator vent fan at the back of the refrigerator, or at the top of the roof vent. The fan will assist in drafting the hot air away from the refrigerator. If you are mechanically inclined, these fans are fairly simple to install, or you can have your RV dealer install one for you. Either way it’s worth it. The fan removes the heat from behind the refrigerator, improving the refrigerators performance by up to 40 percent. Note: Some new RVs come with a fan already installed.

Refrigerator pic#5 parked in shade

6) The outside temperature also affects the operation and efficiency of your RV refrigerator. When it’s cold outside you might need to lower the temperature setting and when it’s hot outside you might need to raise the setting. Extremely hot weather will directly affect the refrigerator’s efficiency. When it’s really hot outside try parking the RV in the shade, especially the side the refrigerator is on. Note: Some RV refrigerators are preset by the manufacturer and you cannot manually adjust the temperature.

refrigerator pic 6 thermometer

7) Last but certainly not least you should always keep a thermometer in the food compartment. Food can begin to spoil at temperatures above 40 degrees. A small thermometer will let you know at a glance if your RV is operating efficiently.

RV refrigerators will operate very efficiently if we apply these simple tips & tricks to help make the refrigerator’s job easier and less demanding.

Happy Camping,

Mark J. Polk
RV Education 101