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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Q&A Session: Transit Mode, Food, Sewing & Winter

Recently, I asked people to submit their questions to me in regards to living this lifestyle. No topic was off limits.

         Kelli Moore asks: “…how do you pack stuff when you’re driving? Doesn’t it all fall or move? How about the larger kids toys? Like Cindy’s car? How about your sewing machine? What about the winter months?”

Whew Kelli! That’s a lot of questions, lol! Why didn’t you ask me all that sooner? Anyways, here we go.

We refer to driving as “Transit Mode”. It’s when we’re hitched up to Hope (RV) and on the road (OTR) en route to our next destination. On the way out to Virginia, it was such a whirlwind-blur that we pretty much just threw a lot of our stuff in boxes or totes, and strapped down the bunk bed underneath with ratcheting tow straps to the built in tie-downs in the girls’ bedroom floor. (Our RV is technically a toy hauler [which gives us an added 3,000lb difference in max weights when compared to a similar length travel trailer] that had the rear ramp removed and walled off to give it the look of a travel trailer. Whatever was left that wasn’t put in a tote or box or crammed under their bed, was crammed into a cupboard and zip-tied shut. I had screwed in mug hooks next to the cabinet handles. At that point I tightened a zip-tie through the handle and mug hook. It looks a little ghetto, but when we’re not in transit mode, the hooks come in handy to hold other random stuff…like rags for cleaning or something. I’m going to start tying them shut with twine instead of zip-ties from now on. They aren’t super cheap to keep going through so fast. My Husband thinks all of that is unnecessary, but I forgot to zip-tie the hallway closet shut once. That trip from Briargate to Green Mountain Falls left my RV in upheaval!

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As for the girls’ homeschooling stuff on the shelves in their room, that got shoved under the bed on the way out here. I’m actually working on a contraption that is kind of like a scroll of fabric that I’ll tighten when not in use. Then, I’ll unroll it and the end will slide over a dowel rod attached at the other end of the shelf, for transit mode. Hubby is going to install something at the end of the shelf that’ll keep all the boxes and books on the shelves and in their place along with the scroll while OTR. Cindy’s car will either be thrown in the back of the truck (that’s the biggest big kid toy we have) or bungee strapped to their bed around the legs. The rest of the big stuff around our home is mounted to the walls through studs. Their dressers, dollhouse, play kitchen, toy bins and cloth diaper holder are all mounted via screws to studs in their walls.

Hubby’s computer tower and printer are strapped to the wall at the end of our bed (on the shelf). Each end of the strap is secured to a stud with a screw. They are two individual straps, that are such the perfect length, that it’s quite a struggle to snap them together. That’s a good thing, because you don’t want your stuff sliding all over the place. When we do hit the road, I will slide a light blanket under them both to act a bit like a shock absorber. I’m not sure it’ll be good for them to be vibrating so hard on that shelf. When we’re not in transit mode, the straps get unlatched and hide nicely behind the purple and orange curtains…it’s like they never existed. I’m still working on the Xbox and DVD player and how to secure them. Hubby’s going to secure the TV to its stand and mount the stand to the shelf it sits on. When that happens, I’ll write a new blog.

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I also get pretty creative with suspension or tension rods (that are actually for curtains) on shelves. I tighten them to the max to hold stuff on shelves in place. These especially come in handy in the medicine cabinet. That way, when we stop somewhere and I open the door up to grab my deodorant, 8 billion things don’t come crashing down on me. I leave that one up all the time. Loose items are placed in baskets or small containers, or if I really don’t care, the top drawers of someone’s dresser.

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My sewing machine is just chillin’ on the slide for right now. Hubby is building us storage benches and a table for our dinette. The bench on the left will be hinged on the top and open at the back of the seat. The inside will be just wide enough to store my sewing machine and our fireproof safe. The front of it will store our encyclopedias. The storage bench on the right side of the slide will store all my stuff for practicing my religion. It will also be hinged on the top, but it will open at the front.

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As for meal planning…this was last week’s menu giving you an idea of more or less how THAT goes…

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Off to the right side, you can see where I LITERALLY tally up everything I buy for the week…down to how many slices of bread I need. (Obviously, I don’t buy bread by the slice…I round up to how many loaves I need.) Meal preparation is where it gets tricky, since I really have no countertops. I have a countertop insert that goes into the larger sink, and there is a metal cover that folds up and drops down to cover my stove top. I can use that as a counter also. AND, I cut an inch off the end of a skinny cutting board to insert into my smaller sink. Between all 3 of those things, I can manage pretty well.

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Please forgive the dirty dishes in my sink. :/ On that topic, doing the dishes is more difficult than meal prep…for the record.

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I start the dirty dishes in the smaller sink, wash them in the big sink, rinse them in the same sink, then put them in the Progressive International collapsible dish strainer. The handles on the ends of the strainer, btw, expand if you want to put it in the sink to strain your dishes. I just put one of those memory foam dish drying mats underneath of the strainer and the mat rests on top of the countertop insert on top of the stove.

Back to the meal prep, that takes a lot of planning before I start. A LOT of what I cook consists of fresh veggies, so I have to wash and prep them for the meal first. If stuff has to be sliced or chopped or whatever, that gets done before I start my stove. Anything else that is going to be cooked is setup and ready to go as well.

As an example, last night, we had fettuccine pasta, cooked veggies (mushrooms, green peppers, yellow peppers, broccoli, spinach, garlic and carrots), firm tofu and ground beef. Everything got sat out, sliced, diced and while I was doing that, I filled my two pots necessary for boiling the broccoli and pasta. While I waited for the broccoli to finish boiling and the pasta water to START boiling, I began cooking my veggies. I only have 3 burners. Once the broccoli was cooked, I strained it and added it to my veggies thus freeing up my little pot to begin cooking my tofu. After that finished, the water was finally ready to cook the pasta. As the pasta cooked, I freed up my tofu pot to cook Hubby’s ground beef. (All the while, I am still adding in veggies and cooking them, in order of what takes the longest to cook to what cooks the fastest.) After the beef finished, the veggies finished and then the pasta finished. Pasta gets strained, all pots get juggled around in order to shut off the burners and lower the metal cover back down to have another countertop.

We do not have a table and benches yet. Cindy sits in her little highchair on the slide. MHG sits at the edge of the slide with her feet on the floor and a tray on her lap. Hubby and I sit on the edge of our bed with our plates on our laps. It sucks for now, but the table and benches will get done soon enough. Hubby works his butt off 6 days a week, so on his only day off, I find it very difficult to ask him to work that day too, building us something. When he takes the initiative, I am quick to follow suit, however.

As for Winter, I’m assuming you are referencing how we keep this bad boy insulated and warm. When we got the RV in March, it was freezing cold outside. With just two electric fireplaces on, I could get this RV at a very HOT 80 degrees. Once I fired up the furnace, there was minimal need for the electric fireplaces. I kept the smaller one (which was a kick butt Christmas present from my Mom last year) in the girls’ room since there are no heater vents into their room. My hubby has a degree in HVAC, so this fall he’s going to move one of the vents from the hallway to their room. At that point, there will be no need for the fireplace, other than its aesthetic value I suppose.

We do not have a sealed underbelly like some RV’s have. With that being said, our floors get incredibly cold…like ice skating rink cold. That’s why I had so many rugs everywhere. Hubby and I removed the walls and  reinsulated and sealed with foam the girls’ bedroom back in March, but their floor was still cold. I have carpets and rugs down now in there, which solved that problem. Hubby wants to seal the underbelly components that should be protected in the winter. We don’t want pipes bursting or tanks cracking. These important components are the black and grey tanks and their lines, the gas lines, the water lines to and from the water heater and such. There are numerous videos on www.youtube.com with how to prepare for winter if you’re interested in going into specifics. Once we do, I’m sure I’ll blog about it in further detail. You also have to protect your hoses going from the tanks to the septic tank in the ground, and the water spigot that has a hose that goes to your RV for freshwater. A lot of heat tape, HVAC tape, foam noodles, foam, extension cords and in some cases, the small mechanics lamps with the bulb behind a cage. It can be done…I’ve seen it on all the full-timer RV’s wherever we go. Other than that, Winter is no different in an RV, than in a S&B home. It’s warm and toasty inside with hot water and hot chocolate and your winter wear (hats, mittens, snow pants, coats, etc.) for outside snow play.

As a last note, stuff does “move” around a bit in transit mode. Even if belongings are securely stored in cabinets, they will shift around some. It just comes down to mad organizational skills, a bit of ingenuity and common sense. I hope that answers all of your questions Kelli. If you have anymore, feel free to leave me comment either here on this blog, or on our Boho Hobos Facebook page! Thanks!

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