Campground Report: Potters Creek Campground, Canyon Lake, TX

Potters Creek Park Campground, site 74. Note the portion of the site where the truck is parked and how it slopes down to the campground road. Many if not most of the sites on the uphill (northern) sides of the campground roads are like this. Sites also include a separate area to the side for tow vehicle parking. that area is unused in this photo. You can see the concrete pier at the rear of it.

Potters Creek Park Campground, it is located at Canyon Lake, a reservoir created by the COE in Canyon Lake (a “census designated place”), TX, a part of Texas known as Hill Country, roughly halfway between San Antonio and Austin in what might be termed the south central part of Texas.

Like many COE campgrounds RV campsites here have water and electricity, paved campsites with decent spacing between them, and the campground is on the edge of a lake created by a COE dam. COE campgrounds are also known to be reasonably priced. Here they are $30 a day or if you have an interagency pass such as the Lifetime Senior Pass the rate is half that. We stayed at Potters Creek for 5 nights for $65, a sum less than many much less pleasant independent campgrounds charge for one night. [READ MORE…]


The ingredients in this small bottle of Wright’s Liquid Smoke? Water and hickory smoke. That’s it. The all natural stuff makes for quick and delicious smoky flavor in your favorite foods. A little bottle doesn’t cost very much and because it is concentrated it lasts and lasts.

Not long ago I wrote a post about a kitchen gadget called a Chef’n which is a small, hand operated vegetable chopper that we use around the RV kitchen and our home kitchen as well. As I wrote in the opening remarks of that post it was a departure from the kinds of things about which I usually write. The same can be said about this article too because when it comes to most things that have to do with cooking I’m a dumbass.

I do know a thing or two, however, and today I’m writing about something I never thought I would: smoke flavoring. There’s not a whole lot to know about it, but when Diane, my wonderful partner confessed she hadn’t heard of it I figured there may be others in the same boat.

Smoke flavoring, or liquid smoke, if you don’t know, is a seasoning that imparts that delicious, smoky, BBQ flavor to foods. Amazingly, it’s not a gimmick. The stuff is made by burning wood chips, often hickory, applewood or mesquite, and running the smoke through a condenser. As the hot smoke runs through a pipe that is chilled it cools which causes moisture in the smoke to form as water droplets on the inside of the pipe. These water droplets are full of the smoke flavor and are drained from the condenser, concentrated and packaged for sale. The stuff I use is Wright’s Liquid Smoke, hickory flavor.

Besides the fact that it does an amazing job of imparting that delicious smoky flavor, easily, there is no junk to be found in the stuff that I use–nothing artificial, no preservatives. Here are the ingredients as stated on the bottle: “water, natural, hickory smoke concentrate”. That’s all.

I’ve been using liquid smoke for years and love it. Wright’s is super concentrated. Just a few drops is enough to give a delicious smoky flavor to a large pot of soup or a half dozen hamburgers. The stuff seems to keep really well too. The fact that it is so concentrated and has a long shelf life means that the smallest, 3.5 oz. bottle usually hangs around in my fridge for years. And it isn’t expensive!

There are hundreds of recipes that use liquid smoke. alone has 290! I like to use it in my lentil soup. (This is a really great recipe from Jane Brody, BTW. Easy too. Everybody to whom I’ve served it has raved about it and you probably will as well.) Using liquid smoke in soups, for example, allows you to create a smoky flavor in foods that you otherwise might not be able to. How would you BBQ soup, for example?

Whether or not you’re on the road in your RV or hanging around in your sticks and bricks home, when you’ve a hankerin’ for something smoky tasting and can’t manage the BBQ, a little liquid smoke may be just the ticket.

Is Your RV Warranty Worthless?

I begin this article by asking the question if your RV warranty is really worth anything. I found out through experience mine didn’t seem to be worth as much as I thought. That has something to do with my particular circumstances and somebody else might find that the same warranty, from the same manufacturer, on the same model and year RV to be worth more. Maybe. Maybe not.

By way of laying some groundwork, one needs to understand that RV warranties are different than other warranties such as those on automobiles in terms of who is obligated to perform warranty work. Take my Ford truck for example: if I’m not mistaken, any Ford dealer that has the ability to repair my truck under the terms of the applicable Ford warranty has an obligation to take in the vehicle for repair. That means wherever I go, be it 1 mile from home or 1,000 miles, if the truck needs warranty attention any qualified Ford dealer I wish to bring the truck to for repair has to accept the job. They sign onto that when they become a dealer.

As an RV owner, however, you may find that dealers willing to take in your RV for warranty repairs are few and far between. That’s because, unlike the automobile industry, RV dealers are not obligated by way of contracts with RV manufacturers to accept RVs for warranty repairs unless they are the selling dealer. Such is my understanding, anyway, and I’m sure I will be corrected if I am mistaken. It’s not only my understanding, but it has been my experience. I have been turned away for warranty repairs by several authorized dealers of the brand that I own. So, if like me, you bought your RV from a dealer 800 miles from home, or if you travel in it–and who doesn’t?–you may find yourself far away from a dealer willing to perform warranty repairs. The dealer nearest my California home that is an authorized dealer of the brand of RV I own flat out refused to take in my RV for warranty work, and they were not the only authorized dealer of my brand to do so. [READ MORE…]

Yucaipa Regional Park Campground, Yucaipa, CA

Along Zanja Peak Trail
We stopped at a little stone bench somebody made along the trail to Zanja Peak in order to enjoy the view and snack on some trail mix. (Click or tap to enlarge.)

We stopped here for the second time in January of 2019 for a few days on our way from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park area to the San Francisco Bay Area. We had been here once before and liked it enough we thought it was worth at least an extra day or two instead of being just a one night stopover. The park has quite a bit of bird activity this time of year. Although we didn’t see the osprey or a bald eagle reportedly seen recently, we did see red-tailed hawks, black phoebe, say’s phoebe, American coots, mallards, western bluebirds, yellow-rumped warblers, American robins and northern flickers and some LBBs (unidentifiable little brown birds).

The campground is adjacent to some hills. While there we enjoyed a hike to Zanja Peak that involved an elevation gain of 1,000 feet or so over roughly 2 miles one way, 4 miles out and back. Views were nice especially since nearby mountains had a dusting of snow. [READ MORE…]

“It slices, it dices…”

The Chef'n VeggiChop is had powered. It's surprising how fast it chops things up.
The Chef’n VeggiChop is hand powered. It’s surprising how fast it chops things up. This shot gives you an idea of its size.

I’m hardly the kind of person from whom you’d expect a review of a kitchen gadget–usually I write about things like solar panels, batteries, GPS units, motorcycle clothing and the like–but this review is in fact about a kitchen gadget which hints at the influence a certain wonderful woman has had over my life 🙂

Now, to be truthful, most people would be and should be alarmed should I write about preparing food. Why? Just taste my cooking… and I use the word cooking very, very loosely. Fear not, however, because I cannot take credit for this review. It was written by Diane after using the Chef’n for many months. While I am the chief bottle washer in the RV my lovely companion, Diane, is the head cook, always making delicious and healthy meals for the two of us. Thank you, Diane!

Diane has used the Chef’n many times. I think it fair to say she recommends it because it does a good job, is small, lightweight, uses no batteries or electricity, and doubles as a storage container: all things which are plusses when operating in the cramped quarters of an RV sometimes without a ready supply of household electricity and where the weight of things can really matter. Available for under $20 it’s also inexpensive.

Now, to be honest, not everything I touch in the kitchen turns to mud. Although there may be some debate about it, I do declare that I’m pretty darn good when it comes to making a peanut butter sandwich. There is one other dish I can do a bang up job with, and that’s lentil soup. For that I use the Chef’n to chop up the carrots and onions which it does quickly and easily saving me quite a bit of slicing and dicing, not to mention all those tears.

The four parts of the VeggiChop.
The four parts of the Chef’n VeggiChop.

by Diane

Chef’n VeggiChop Hand-Powered Food Chopper

Chop large pieces of fruit, vegetables, boneless meats, herbs, nuts, and even ice without electricity; perfect for pesto, hummus, salsa, guacamole.

Small, lightweight, no batteries or electricity, doubles as a storage container, works well.

The product description on Amazon is accurate in that it REALLY does chop food. As its name implies, it is designed to chop, not puree. It’s absolutely wonderful for things like onions, carrots and egg salad. I was able to make cauliflower rice (but not mash), my hummus and guacamole came out more grainy than creamy, and soft fruits and tomatoes had more texture than blender smooth. That being said, I didn’t mind the compromise because I could boondock and have my hummus too!

Ease of Use:
It is not too tough on the hand as far as gripping the handle, but pulling out the cord does take some back and forth arm movement that requires average mobility. It has only a 3 cup capacity, so it’s good for about 2 servings depending on your recipe, but I didn’t find any problem in making things in several batches for a larger crowd. I even made my regular double pie crust recipe in it! I just had to divide the recipe and reload the Chef’n a couple times and then combine the batches. In fact, this gadget is so quick and easy to use, I often opt to use it even when I have a full-sized blender/food processor available!

Nice Features:
•Comes in 3 colors: red, black or green
•Non-slip ring on the bottom keeps it stable
•Storage lid

Adding ingredients – The top of the blade mechanism has a recessed hexagon for connecting to the lid. It can collect finer ingredients like flour and prevent the lid pin from engaging properly. Put a finger over the hexagon when pouring into the chopper.
Cleaning and Storage – Take care hand washing the very sharp blades! Make sure the chopper is completely dry before storing it to discourage mold, especially if you are on the road. The care instructions do caution not to submerge the top because the cord is enclosed and won’t be able to dry out, but otherwise it’s even dishwasher safe. (The Chef’n VeggiChopper is available here.)

I also really like this sturdy multi-use dish brush with a useful suction handle to keep fingers safe when cleaning the blades.

[Editor’s note: the article titles “It slices, it dices…” is taken from a very old TV commercial which as I recalled has many times been parodied and as such is intended to be humorous. The Chef’n chops.]

Samuel and His Brave Spoon

Front Cover of Diane's wonderful children's book: Samuel & His Brave Spoon
Front Cover of Diane’s wonderful children’s book: Samuel & His Brave Spoon

While I am probably best known for my stunning photography, insightful intellect, razor-like wit, charm, and good looks–OK, I made that up, it’s really for being a grumpy old man–today I become known for something else.

I am most pleased to announce that my beautiful, funny, sweet and loving partner Diane has published her first book, Samuel and His Brave Spoon, which this first day of 2019 has become available on Amazon.

So, what has this to do with me? (I did say that “today I become known for something else.”) Well, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of doing the photography for Samuel and His Brave Spoon, and while photography certainly isn’t new to me–I’ve been at it for over 50 years–the photography in this book is quite a departure from the flower and landscape photos with which I am most associated. Diane, a talented artist and maker of things, created a wonderful series of collage-illustrations for the book from things one finds around the house. This called upon photographic skills I learned as a commercial product photographer in days long past and inventing digital post-processing techniques in PhotoShop.

Part of a scene from the classroom in Samuel and His Brave Spoon. Diane created this collage from things commonly found around the house: the tree from a brown paper bag and green construction paper, the animals from felt, paper and a marker, etc.
Part of a scene from the classroom in Samuel and His Brave Spoon. Diane created this collage from things commonly found around the house: the tree from a brown paper bag and green construction paper, the animals from felt, paper and a marker, etc.

Samuel and His Brave Spoon is a children’s book, but it’s not just a typical book for children. It’s a book about a special child who is quiet, and the book teaches us all about recognizing the gifts of a quiet child mistakenly labeled as shy. It teaches children and adults alike about showing empathy towards others. The collage-illustrations in the book were made from items found in most households, not just to illustrate the book but as examples of art kids can create themselves while providing them an outlet for self-expression and at the same time recycling things that might otherwise become landfill.

I mentioned above that Diane is a talented artist, but I sold her short. She earned a BFA from Syracuse University and a Head Teacher/Early Childhood Education Certification from Charter Oak State College. She also brings to the book her skills as a former Head Start preschool teacher, poet, writer and mother who has raised three wonderful kids to adulthood. Having been a sensitive and quiet child herself Diane understands well the nature and situation of such children as she offers suggestions and guidance to us adults in order to help them as children find meaning and self-confidence through artistic expression.

Diane shows us all how wonderful creativity can be expressed with things found around the house.
Diane shows us all how wonderful creativity can be expressed with things found around the house. Samuel’s teacher is made with macaroni eyebrows, crinkle-shred packing material hair; a paper plate face with rubber band mouth that says “oh!” as it emphasizes the look of surprise found in her hard-boiled egg and green celery eyes; bead and paper clip earrings.

Samuel and His Brave Spoon is geared but not limited to children in the three to six year-old range, their parents and teachers. Diane has made available for free this Parent and Teacher Book Walk on getting the most from Samuel and His Brave Spoon (1.8 Mb download, PDF format). If you are fortunate enough to parent or teach such a child or if you know somebody who does, Samuel and His Brave Spoon incorporates humor while offering guidance and teaching empathy in order to help children find confidence through self-expression.

Paperback available now on
FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, otherwise it’s $2.99 here. The Kindle version includes pop-up boxes with enlarged text for easy reading on smaller devices, even cell phones.

Connect with Diane at her PizzaBoxBooks FaceBook page.

[Note, 2/5/19: Readers’ Favorite has just posted this 5 star review of Samuel and His Brave Spoon.]

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