A virtual cooking class on wheels, the RV Cooking Show takes viewers on adventures to some of the most sought-after or interesting but little known RV locales then creates a healthy, easy destination-related RV recipe in host Evanne Schmarder's RV kitchen. Tune in to our RV TV...it's always delicious!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lessons from a Fulltime RV Holiday Humbug

… or how one young fulltime RVer celebrates the holiday season

Coming in quick succession making mid-November through early January a blur for many, the trifecta of year-end holidays is once again upon us. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to pick up a publication right now that doesn’t offer some piece of advice on “surviving” the holiday or “how to do more with less time”. While living the fulltime RV lifestyle doesn’t give my husband Ray and me a pass on ‘all things holiday’ it does allow us to fly under the radar and celebrate in a way that’s meaningful to us.

Our Reason for the Season

Several years ago, like all mainstream holiday celebrants, I was part of the mall crush. Hurry. Hurry. Buy. Buy. It was far from the seasonal edict of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. I looked around and asked myself if this was my best interpretation of the season. My silent answer? Hardly. Maybe you’ve asked yourself that same question.

Ray and I discussed this topic at length. For us, the actionable answer to my question posed at the mall was that we were interested in experiences, not things; the quality of life as measured in relationships and giving back; the marrying of our dreams to the way we celebrated.

Holiday Presents Don’t Always Come Giftwrapped

Just being on the road seemed celebratory to us but as the first holiday season on the road approached we felt full of possibility. Ray had never experienced a warm winter and since we had to be somewhere for the year-end holidays we headed south. Thanksgiving that year was with my father, Christmas on an island and New Year’s in a hot tub. Aside from a few gifts for my dad, our exchange (if you can even call it that) was small but memorable – a TV/VCR combo so we could enjoy movies at home as opposed to in a park’s clubhouse, an outing to enjoy the holiday boat parade, a bag of delicious Texas grapefruit purchased from a roadside vendor in South Padre Island, and a memorable New Year’s Eve meal that included ceviche – recipe courtesy of a Hispanic produce manager’s wife – it doesn’t get any more authentic than that.

The following Thanksgiving we found ourselves workamping and not completely happy with our situation. The people were great but the job just wasn’t a good fit. This was putting quite a damper on our holiday season. It turns out the biggest gift we could give ourselves that year was to recognize when something didn’t feel right and take action to remedy it. Upon my father’s urging we pulled up stakes and embarked on a Florida Keys adventure. The Christmas week began with an encounter with manatees, an ice cream social, and a site with a view of the Florida Bay. New Year’s Eve was spent with new friends – some we still call close to this day – and that year January 1st was special as we strolled alongside the restoring turquoise ocean.

Thirteen Fulltime RV Living Years and Still Celebrating

Since those formative first two holiday seasons have come and gone, we’ve honed in on what we really love. Each Thanksgiving is special and different. We’ve spent it with family at a restaurant and with fellow campers at an RV park. We learned how to make Trash Can Turkey in New Mexico and have shared Mom’s Famous Cranberry Sauce with RV Cooking Show viewers across the globe…literally. It turns out our favorite Thanksgiving is where most American’s spend it…at home…for us that’d be our RV.

Sometimes I cook an unusual version of the holiday meal. For example, a couple years ago we had a Cuban Thanksgiving complete with Mojo Criollo crockpot turkey breast, Cuban black beans, yellow rice, steamed broccoli, and garlic bread (a throwback to the Florida Keys days we so enjoyed). Other years I cook a full on traditional turkey dinner. This year I tried my hand at Cornish game hens. If friends are around they are always invited.

Like many of you reading this piece, Ray and I do not exchange gifts. We have everything we need and if we have a want we simply go out and buy it. While certain items are needed/wanted, in our humble roadabode “stuff’ is overrated. Instead, in celebration of Ray’s late-December birthday we do something special each day of “birthday week”. It might be a hike, lunch out at a favorite haunt, a movie of his choice and popcorn at home, etc. 

Every Day a Holiday

Long ago we decided that the spirit of the season should prevail all year long. So instead of attempting to travel on just a few select days along with the entire U.S. population, dine together and with friends on one single day devoted to a big, heavy meal, and participate in the urgency of purchasing things as a way of demonstrating affection we endeavor to live as if every day was a holiday. Very merry! How about you?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Southern California RV Resort Spa Vacation

A special RV park experience in Borrego Springs - an International Dark Sky Community

Not too long ago I “discovered” a gem in California’s secret desert, a perfect spa resort tucked into the beautiful and historic Anza-Borrego Desert – The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course. Immediately my mind went to girlfriend getaways, romantic excursions, or a wonderful vacation for active outdoor lovers. In other words, it's my kind of place.

Beautiful "First Tee" image compliments of Stephanie Gonser

Privately owned by the Wright family and run by my friend Dan Wright, this award-winning RV resort is bustling with amenities, classes, and special events that rival popular resort properties. For example, The Springs at Borrego has a large saltwater swimming pool – much better for your skin than the standard harsh chlorine-sanitized pools, hot mineral baths in several sizes from couples tubs to a standard size tub, a state-of-the-art fitness center, an on-site Wellness Center offering massage, acupuncture and acupressure, tennis, pickle-ball, and of course, a lush 9-hole championship golf course.

Interested in yoga or Pilates? Yep, they have that. Water aerobics? Check. Qi Gong? Of course. Occasionally they’ll host group discussions or classes on hobbies like photography or writing. I’m telling you, this is a “resort” rivaling some of the most popular southern California resorts! Except, fortunately for us, it’s an RV resort!

Forget California close, all of the sites are spacious – 90 well-landscaped pull-thrus and 53 huge back-in sites. There are also rental RVs if you are coming with non-RV owning pals. And to enhance the overall luxury spa feeling, you’ll find large private bathroom/shower rooms.

The Springs at Borrego is two miles from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Start your visit with a turn around the nicely done Visitor Center and stop at the desk to plan your days. They’ll help you decide which of the many hikes you should choose, where to see pictographs, how to find a hidden oasis – yes, a real oasis in the desert! – or where you can walk the historic Southern Overland Trail. And then there are the spring wildflowers. Typically making an appearance somewhere between mid-February and March, the blooms are dependent upon the year’s moisture, temperature, and wind.

Keep your eyes peeled as you drive through town and you’ll be treated to some very special art. 129 metal sculptures of pre-historic beings are assembled in an area called Galleta Meadows and are what the locals refer to as “Sky Art” created by California artist Ricardo Breceda. Stop and walk around, camera in hand, for an experience you won’t soon forget.

Back at the RV resort, as the sun sizzles and sets, get ready to experience California’s only “dark sky community” serving up the Milky Way and other night sky sparklers at their new Astronomy Park. If you plan it just right you can enjoy a Star Party – a light dinner, drinks, and a presentation with guided stargazing by noted astronomers including Dennis Mammana and John Mosley using the Astronomy Park’s permanent 11-inch telescope. If you can’t make a Star Party you’re still in for a treat…looking up from your wide and wonderful RV site you’ll be treated to a stellar star show.

Located a couple hours from San Diego, three from Los Angeles and less than two from Palm Springs, I’m betting your stay at The Springs at Borrego RV Resort & Golf Course will be one to remember for a very, very long time. Winter and spring are a weather-wimp’s perfect time to visit with daytime temps in the 70’s and 80’s and 40’s and 50’s at night.

And don’t be surprised when you call for reservations and hear, “Thank you for calling The Springs at Borrego, this is Heaven.”  While you’ll certainly come to believe that statement is true, Heaven is one of their kind and generous front desk staff members.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mapping Your Personal RV Travel Pyramid

New to the RVing lifestyle or not, time is precious and every RV travel season counts

Options are good. Very good. But what happens when there are an abundance of choices. How does one decide which path to take? I love my life as a young fulltime RVer. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to crisscross the United States a number of times in the nearly 13 years living this RV travel lifestyle and let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. With experience under my belt, fuel prices unsteady and rising, and an awareness of how finite time is, I am occasionally overwhelmed by the wide-open, no holds barred choices of where to spend my next two to five month “season”.

As I imagine you reading the paragraph above I picture two responses. “Are you nuts-o?? The open road beckons…take the reins and gallop.” Or are you thinking “me too”? I used to willy-nilly choose where I wanted to be without any thought to anything but my immediate whims (think Jimmy Buffett coming on the radio – the Florida Keys
that wasn’t a bad outcome). Maine in the summer, Arizona in the winter, Washington in the summer, Florida in the winter…I was all across the map.

Then the thrill of hauling my 5th wheel trailer back and forth, crossing the U.S. frequently just because I could, ceased and the desire to really hone in on what was most important to me kicked in. Now I do some thoughtful planning in advance without being too structured. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t change my wandering lifestyle one single bit but lately I’ve benefited from a slightly more reflective approach to ‘living the life’ that so many strive for.

Discovering What Matters Most

My husband Ray likens it to the now vanquished USDA Food Pyramid. Structured and supported on the wide bottom by what’s most nutritious, or in my case nurturing, sprinkled with a diamond dusting of very nice but not required on the narrow, pointed top. And the truth of the matter is that it took all these years to be able to identify what matters most and what is not absolutely essential.

We’re both healthy and active and enjoy being able to take advantage of what I call my ‘do-it-now’ adventure list. But I know it’s possible that this won’t always be so. Every summer that passes without a visit to a spectacular northern National Park is a missed opportunity. Every winter that doesn’t offer me get outdoors and go hiking, swimming and picnicking weather is one less winter spent living my dream.

While in the end it’s a gut decision, I rely on a number of factors when it comes time to decide where to roll the RV to next. True to the moniker our fulltime RV planning took on – Operation Sunshine – weather is one of the top considerations in my “where to next” formula.

As you might expect, the longer the intended stay the more important a majority of our factors are met. We have no children and very little extended family so visits (always during the nicest time of the year) are wonderful but not compelled. We are all about experiences and excellent fresh food options. In our eyes growing old together gracefully means plenty of outdoor exercise opportunities. The balance between financial reward and emotional well-being is shifting.

Our Personal Pyramid

It took many a bottle of red wine, long, aimless beach strolls and a notebook full of list making to develop our personal pyramid. Like most successful couples, but especially one that lives harmoniously in 240 square feet year-round, we are very respectful of each others' dreams and desires and are fortunate to be almost always on the same page. 

When it comes time to make travel plans we convene, lists in hand, toss out ideas and begin to debate the merits of each place that is on our individual minds. We’re not often far from one another's ideas and if one of us feels passionately about a particular place the other cheerfully agrees to give it a go. We’ve found some of our most beloved places that way and in a scenario like this everyone is a winner.

So what is our formula in building our personal pyramid? Have a look:

A Trending Concept

New to the RV travel lifestyle or not, fulltimer or part-timer, retired, on sabbatical or working on the road I see this decision making trend with many of our RVing friends. Time is precious and each one of us wants to get maximum enjoyment out of our destinations and seasonal stays. In my mind, nothing is worse than spending a significant amount of time in a place that doesn’t inspire or serve you in some other way. After all, we choose to live in a box on wheels. If you miscalculate, pick up and move on. There’s no harm – and maybe even significant good – in trying.

Whether your RV style is a full blown, settled in north-south situation, you’re looking for a winter roost and a free-for-all summer, you choose to spend a month here, a couple months there, you’re just testing the waters or in between situations, your personal pyramid is different than anyone else’s and is, well, personal.

I’d love to hear your deciding factors when choosing a roost. Leave a comment below.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

27 Lessons Learned Living a Fulltime RV Life


As my husband and I prepare to embark upon our 13th year of fulltime RV living combined with the gratitude of the holiday season and New Year resolutions, I’m inspired to share some our life-learned lessons about living the fulltime RV life.

So, in no particular order, here’s a partial list of the wisdom we’ve acquired over the years:

1.   No matter how long we’ve been RVing, we’re always in “RV school”.

2.   Even though we’ve seen so much of the country, there’s still so much to see.

3.   I can cook anything in my RV kitchen…though flambéing is not recommended.

4.   Maintaining our RV over the years has made a tremendous difference in the look and life of our rolling home.

5.   A smaller space can’t hold a lot of stuff so instead of things we collect experiences.

6.   RV parks and campgrounds are their own mini-communities…with all the good and challenges that go along with it.

7.   Conducting “Operation Sunshine” is much harder in practice than it is in theory.

8.   Our RVing friends come from all over the US and, instead of across the street neighbors, we meet up at parks across the country.

9.   Though we live in an RV – a typical vacation vehicle – we still have dreaded home duties to perform including laundry, dishes, and paying bills. We’re not always on vacation.

10. Just like living in a stick home, we still need an occasional vacation – away from the RV (see #9).

11. With the blinds closed we are “home” but open them up and we could be at a number of different locations with unique and different views.

12. The low cost of living the fulltime RV lifestyle coupled with being debt-free allows us an unprecedented amount of freedom.

13. (Almost) every item in our RV must do double-duty.

14. We live in a box on wheels and if we’re not in a good situation – be it work, neighbor or other, we can simply move along.

15. Driveway camping at a friend’s house is always a blast but our hosts are constantly baffled when we want to sleep in our own bed instead of their guest room.

16. Some people – friends and/or family – still can’t get their head around our lifestyle…and that’s okay.

17. A reliable mail service is critical to maintaining life on the road. 

18. PPO health insurance can be used all across the US but unless you return to the same location each year for your check-ups you are always a new patient.

19. You can work from almost anywhere thanks to technology.

20. The perception of RVers in general is not always positive – even though the gambit runs from pop-up to Prevost owners.

21. Staying longer than a few days in a single location allows a more enriching local-culture infusion.

22. Making our big purchases at national chain stores allows us to take care of product or service issues no matter where we are.

23. With the advent of credit union shared branching, we can bank all over the country just like we’re at our home branch.

24. Alone time is achievable…just take a walk.

25. Unless we have a specific time commitment, leisurely traveling is always more rewarding than rushing right along.

26. Keeping track of our travels gives us hours of pleasant walks down memory lane or good reference points for important dates/events.

27. People are always curious about our lifestyle and for many, we are living THE dream!

How about you? Do you have any lessons or words of wisdom to share? Leave a comment below…I can’t wait to learn from you, my fellow fulltime RVers. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fast Fabulous Food Gifts From My RV Kitchen

Whether you're looking for a fabulous gift for your foodie friends, a delicious hostess gift that stands apart from the crowd, or a tasty treat to serve at your gathering or dinner party, these homemade food gifts - direct from the RV Cooking Show kitchen - are sure to please. Not only are they unique and personalized but they are fast to prepare and easy on the wallet.

Package these food gifts in pretty containers, add a ribbon, and a handwritten "how-to" card and you've got yourself something you'll be proud to give and the recipient will fondly remember.

From savory to salty to sweet, take a look at these four simple recipes, add a few items to your grocery list and get ready to give the gift of flavor!

Herb Vinegar

Makes one bottle

1 bottle of white wine vinegar (I like Star brand...pretty bottle) generous handful of store bought fresh herbs - choose from or mix and match - thyme, oregano, basil, opal basil, rosemary, sage, tarragon, chive flowers, lavender – organic is always best. You can even add peppercorns, peeled garlic, chili peppers, lemon zest, or cinnamon sticks, etc. 

Rinse and dry herbs. Remove plastic shaker top from the vinegar bottle and pour about a half-inch of vinegar into a glass bowl. Feed the herbs into the bottle - gently bruising them as you go, cap, shake, and note the herb/herb-spice combo on the bottle. Set aside and allow the flavor to meld at least one week before using.

How-to card: This (type of vinegar/herb mixture) vinegar is delightful in salad dressings, marinades, combined with oil for bread dipping or drizzled over steamed vegetables or broiled fish/meat. Enjoy, you lucky dog you!

More details on how to make herb vinegar in this RV Cooking Show blog post.

Tamari Almonds

1 pound shelled raw almonds

2 T tamari soy sauce

Spread almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until the almonds are brown and toasted. Careful, don't burn them! 

Place hot almonds in a large bowl and pour tamari over them. Stir well to coat.

Return almonds to baking sheet allowing the almonds to soak in the tamari and cool.

How-to card: These crunchy, slightly salty, and thoroughly addictive nuts are perfect for parties, picnics, and backpack snacking. Good and good for you!  

Watch me make delicious Tamari Almonds and learn about some of my favorite kitchen gadgets in this "From the Vault" RV Cooking Show episode.

Gourmet Flavored Salt

Let your imagination run wild with this RV kitchen gift using a general recipe of 1/4 c sea salt - fine to coarse, your choice - and 1 teaspoon of each flavoring. To help get the flavor ideas flowing, consider the following:

  • dried lemon zest and finely chopped rosemary
  • smoked paprika
  • roasted and ground Szechuan pepper
  • Chinese 5-spice or garam masala
  • dried ginger and ground kefir lime leaves
  • 1/2 oz. dried and ground porcini mushrooms
How-to card: Use this delish (herb/combo) flavored salt as a finishing salt, sprinkled over your dish to add an extra and unexpected pop of flavor! Get crazy, be adventurous, live a little!

Visit this Rosa's Yummy Yums blog post for more flavored salt ideas as well as food pairings. It's a beauty to behold, as well.

Haute Fudge

Makes 2-3 cups

6 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
3 oz. unsalted butter - cubed
1/3 c light corn syrup
1 c sugar
1 c water - boiling
2 t pure vanilla extract (can substitute mint, rum, banana, etc. extract)

On very low heat, melt chocolate and butter. Stir to combine chocolate/butter mixture and add corn syrup, sugar and boiling water. Stir well making sure everything is completely blended.

Gently boil 8-10 minutes - without stirring...and I mean it! - until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla or other flavored extract.

Pour into half pint (1 cup) jars.

How-to card: Will keep in refrigerator for several months...but good luck with that! Heat servings in microwavable bowl or cup. Serve over ice cream, poundcake or as a dip for bananas or strawberries.

Watch me make Haute Fudge, check out some of my favorite chocolatiers, and learn about some very romantic RV escapes in this "From the Vault" RV Cooking Show episode.

Fast Fabulous Food Gifts Make Giving Fun

Enjoy making and giving these easy, delicious, homemade RV kitchen gifts of food. Fast, simple, sensational...there's so much there to love.


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