DAD’S BEST BROWNIES

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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

Ingredients:

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

Steps:

  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

RAINY DAY RV ACTIVITIES

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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THE STAYING POWER OF OLDER RVS

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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PODCAST: RVFTA’S HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

We’ve recommended a ton of fantastic RV gear over the years, so it’s always hard to narrow down our choices for fellow camping enthusiasts. On this special podcast produced exclusively for Go RVing, we picked some of our very favorite gifts.

We have broken it down into three different categories: Gifts for the Lively Little Campers, Jeremy’s Picks, and Stephanie’s Picks. If you want to find even more great gift ideas, check out our other Holiday Gift guide podcasts available on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play or at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

Gifts for the Lively Little Campers

Trivial Pursuit National Parks Edition ($20)

This trivia game is great for long car rides with energetic kids. 600 questions come on cards stored in a hard sided case with a secure carabiner latch. This latch will keep the cards from exploding into a spontaneous game of 52 card pick up. Trivial Pursuit is a great way to pass the time in the car and build your knowledge of national parks. It’s entertaining and challenging for kids and adults alike.

National Parks Monopoly Edition ($40)

This is a perfect game to keep you entertained through the long winter months especially if you, like us, have to winterize your RV. Monopoly is one our kids’ favorite family games, and even our four year old can play along with a little help from his brothers. The board features 22 of the most popular and scenic national parks. An additional game feature has players match animals to the parks they inhabit. Parents will appreciate the optional 60-minute game speed play rules.

Motorola Two-Way Radio Walkie Talkies ($90)

We have been using these walkie talkies for years at the campground, and they have never let us down. Kids love to use these with their siblings and friends. The secret is that they are really more of a present for parents. We can keep in touch with our boys when they are riding their bikes or walking to the playground, even if we are in a remote environment with no cell service. The range is great, and we love that we can lock in the settings so the kids can’t change channels.

Nebo Poppy Lantern and Spotlight ($20)

Flashlights go with camping as much as the requisite marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. Let’s face it: making smoke sabers in the campfire with flashlights is a right of passage for RV kids. We love this Nebu Poppy because it combines a lantern with a spotlight, making it perfect for finding your way to the bathhouse or reading in bed at night. This product combines functional with fun..the perfect match for an RV-themed gift.

Stephanie’s Picks

Camp Casual Throws ($80)

If you really, really love someone, then get them one of these blankets. There is simply no cozier item on the face of the planet. Our boys walk around the house with these wrapped around their bodies. We have the Sequoia Throw for our RV master bed. One snuggle with these throw blankets and you will be hooked.

Beddy’s ($200)

Use code RVFAMILY for 20% off!

Nothing gets the heart rate up like making RV beds, and some people brag about the calories burned during this activity. RV beds are not only notoriously difficult to make, they also are tough to keep neat and tidy. Beddy’s bed sets are like one giant fitted sheet that easily wrap around the RV mattress. A zipper runs around the bedding set just like a sleeping bag, but way more stylish. If you know someone who stresses while making the RV bed, this would make the perfect gift!

Stainless Steel Wine Glasses ($25)

No self-respecting oenophile should be drinking wine at the campground out of red solo cups. In fact, any sort of plastic cup just doesn’t seem to cut it. However, glass isn’t a good match for RV travel for a lot of different reasons. Enter the stainless steel wine glass. We added these to our camping collection last year and they are one of our favorite RV items of all time. Practical and fashionable equals gift perfection.

Family Camping Sign ($50-$100)

Creative Designs 77 

Black River Wood Shop

Take a stroll around the campground and you will quickly notice that personalized camping signs are a favorite accessory for RVers. We bought our family camping sign just weeks after we came home with our first pop up camper. Etsy has a wide variety of shops with adorable sign options, all customizable with your family’s names, hometown, and even pets’ names. We particularly like the colorful, fun signs from the Creative Designs 77 Etsy shop and the rustic, outdoorsy options from the Black River Wood Shop.

Jeremy’s Picks

Nebo Slyde King Flashlight ($40)

It’s tough for someone with a world-famous flashlight collection to pick a favorite, but if you shined a spotlight in his eyes, Jeremy might pick the Nebo Slyde King. It’s made of high-quality aluminum and is water and impact resistant. Use it as a standard flashlight or slide it open to reveal a work light. Jeremy particularly loves that it’s USB rechargeable and has a magnetic base for when you need to be hands free.

UE Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker ($80)

Most RVs come with exterior bluetooth speakers, but most of the time we don’t want to broadcast our music to the entire campground. The UE Wonderboom speakers are compact, lightweight, and waterproof. We use them by the grill when cooking, at the picnic table while eating, and around the campfire at night. The cute colors are just an added bonus.

Cabela’s Roughneck Flannel-Lined Stonewash Canvas Shirt ($40)

Can a man camp without a flannel-lined canvas shirt? Well, Jeremy certainly can’t. It’s hard to find an option that is warm and comfortable without being too bulky. This is his favorite wardrobe addition in a long time. Jeremy is no fashionista, but this shirt makes him act like one.

See America Prints ($25-$70)

We have bought our own fair share of these See America prints over the years, but they are also one of our favorite gifts to give friends and family that love to travel. If there is a national park or historic monument that your loved ones visited this year, a framed picture from See America will bring back those wonderful memories for years to come.

Picking out the perfect gifts for your friends and family is part of the joy of the holiday season. We always like to remember, however, that the holiday spirit is really about spending time and creating memories with the people you love.

Just like RVing.

A very, very happy holiday season from our family to yours. See you at the campground in 2018.

Stephanie and Jeremy

HOLIDAY GIFTS TO MAKE FOR CAMPING FRIENDS

Every year I try and hand make gifts for the special people in my life. There is such a temptation to just log on and “swipe” a gift to the friends and family on your list but I feel that the old fashioned sentiment of offering good cheer is lost in that transaction. This year I went old school with my Girl Camping friends and made each a bucket of fire starters. After all, sitting around the campfire with these women is just about my favorite thing. Here are a few of my offerings.

 The dried leaf and flower bouquets.

You will need: Branches with dried leaves on them or dried flowers, melted wax, parchment or brown paper for wrapping the bouquet and string to tie it.

The basis for most fire starters is wax and that’s what I am using. I started by gathering all the old candle stubs, birthday candles and flea market and garage sale wax finds I could get my hands on and placed them all in an aluminum disposable pan. I placed it in a 300 degree oven at home and melted the wax. Don’t go too high with the temperature and get it out as soon as it is melted.

I gathered fallen branches that had lots of dried leaves on them. I added to this a good pile of dried roses that I had saved over the course of the year. When I see that a bouquet of roses is about to droop I tie them up and hang them upside down to dry.

I dipped each branch of leaves in the wax and placed them on a sheet of waxed paper to solidify. I did the same with the roses. I then wrapped them in parchment paper and tied them up as pretty bouquets. The whole spray can be paced in the fire to help get it started.

Brown Paper Wreath

You will need: A roll of brown craft paper that is about 18 inches wide, petroleum jelly, a spoon, twine and a sprig of greenery to embellish.

I thought a Christmas wreath would make a nice addition to the bucket for a seasonal gift. I bought brown craft paper on a roll and cut the pieces at about 30 inches each. The paper is about 18 inches wide. I then used the back of a spoon to add a line of petroleum jelly to one edge of the paper.

After applying the petroleum jelly,  roll the paper lengthwise and then twist it. I tied three twisted pieces together and tightly braided them. I connected the ends to form a circle and added a sprig of green and some rose hips from my rose bushes. You can toss the whole wreath in the fire and it will burn for quite a while thanks to the petroleum jelly.

Waxed Fall Leaves

You will need: Large pretty fall leaves that are dry, melted wax, brown waxed sandwich bags, scissors, and straight dry sticks to close package.

On my last campout of the season I walked around the campground gathering the big pretty fall leaves. I individually dipped each one in wax and placed them on brown paper to dry. I gathered them in piles of seven or eight and put them in brown waxed paper lunch bags that I found in the supermarket. To add more burning power I folded over the top and made two cuts. I secured the bag with a straight dried stick that I cut to size and dipped in the wax.

Pinecone Boats

You will need:

Cardboard food boats, dry pinecones, melted wax, crinkle cut paper or torn newspaper for the bottom of the boat, waxed paper and string to tie it up.

On the same campout I was lucky enough to be in an area heavily wooded with evergreens. I grabbed a bag and picked up all the pinecones with branches still attached to them. I dipped them at the campground after heating up the wax on the edge of the fire pit. You can reheat the wax over and over. I found cute cardboard boats meant for cakes or cookies and I added a heaping tablespoon of the melted wax and crinkled paper to the bottom of the boat.

I placed all the dipped pinecones on top of the paper and wrapped the whole thing in waxed kitchen paper and tied them with twine. You can toss the whole boat in the fire.

Cardboard Roll and Lint Poppers

You need: cardboard rolls from toilet paper or paper towels, scissors, lint from the dryer, tea light candles, parchment paper, melted wax.

This is a little “twist” on the classic Christmas poppers. I cut paper towel and toilet paper rolls into small (about 3”) circles and lined them up on a piece of waxed paper. I added a small amount of lint to the bottom of each and then placed the wax from a tea light candle the metal and wick removed on top of the lint. I topped it off with more lint and then rolled it around in the melted wax.

I precut the parchment paper about 7 inches wide and rolled up the dipped cardboard and lint while it was still very hot. I twisted the ends in opposite directions and held it for a moment to set. The oozing wax held the ends closed so no string ties were necessary.

Do you use firestarters?