Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Our Family RV Remodel

Two years ago, our family went on a road trip to visit several National Parks.  We came to the painful realization that the price of hotels, cost of meals, and constant packing up and unpacking at each hotel were simply pains in the neck.  We started bouncing around the idea of getting a Class C RV for family road trips. When we got back from the trip, the topic of buying an RV continued to pop up; so, Leslie, Scott, and I went to look at new ones. Wow!!! They were so stinking expensive! That, and the fact that we had never used an RV before, made us look for a used one.  We checked Craig's list and found a used Class C that was in pretty good shape and pooled our resources to buy her.  We named her Miss Lippy, and started out using her for weekend trips to state parks.
We quickly discovered that Miss Lippy really didn't meet our needs.  There would be anywhere from 4 to 8 of us camping at one time; and, Miss Lippy realistically only slept 5. Honestly, probably 5 people under 5 ft. and weighing less than 100 lbs.
Our resident Jack-of-all-trades, Scott, said he could probably remodel Miss Lippy so that she was better suited to our needs.  It has been a 2 year journey; but, she is almost finished.  Behold... the transformation!
This is the kitchen before the remodel.  Typical 1980's decor of blues and mauve were used in the upholstery and wall paper border.

The jack-knife sofa was extremely uncomfortable, the carpet was a pain to keep clean, and the dining booth was too small for anyone but the grandchildren to sit in or sleep on.  There is also an over the cab bunk. But, I'm not sure what weight it is rated for, so only the grands are allowed to sleep up there.

The bedroom was separated from the bathroom area by a curtain. It had cabinets over and beside the full sized bed. There was also a corner cabinet with a TV that didn't work. Between the bedroom and living area, is a bathroom.  It had a sliding door that was constantly banging around so it was one of the first things we took off. It has been replaced with an accordion door.
The first project was intended to provide us with sleeping space that would fit people over 5 feet tall.  Scott gutted the bedroom area and had to reconfigure the plumbing, some wiring, and heat/AC vents.  He bought 2 smaller water tanks to replace the large one that was under the bed. He placed the smaller tanks on either side of the bedroom.  There were several PVC pipes that needed to be covered, and the under carriage storage to contend with; but, he managed to build boxes over those that are used as steps to access the upper bunks.

box covering new water tank

wiring and plumbing re-configured

new water tank

water pump, wiring, and plumbing; all were covered with a step
Scott spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make the bunks solid enough for an adult but light enough to not add a lot of weight to the RV.  He also wanted to make them so they would drop down on the outside of the top bunk to make couches.  That way we would have a comfortable place to sit and talk, play games, or watch movies when the weather wouldn't let us be outside. We also wanted lightweight but comfortable mattresses that were a better quality than the typical bunk or RV mattress. We ended up buying memory foam and cutting it to fit. We cut 2 bunk mattress out of one queen mattress. They are covered with bunk mattress covers that don't fit really well, but I didn't want to go to the expense of having them upholstered.  We may do that sometime in the future.

The top bunk crosses in front of the window so we took the blinds off.  

I used a weathered gray stain rather than trying to paint the wood. I didn't want to have to prime and paint when I could use stain and get it done in one step. I also painted the walls while the space was gutted.

There is some wiring hanging down that went to the TV cabinet. Scott is going to put some bunk lights in (eventually) and the wiring will be gone. The lower bunk platform is level with the under carriage storage.
After the lower bunks were built, Scott had to order some metal bars for the top bunks.  He put piano hinges on the backs so they will fold down.  I had to come up with something to keep the heat out and give us some privacy. Blinds weren't going to fit so I found some cute camper fabric at Hobby Lobby and made giant pockets. We cut car window sun shields to fit the RV windows and those slip right into the pockets for insulation for the heat/cold. I put tabs with plastic rings on them to hang them over the windows.  We tried command hooks, but they fall off in the heat.  We are slowly replacing them with cup hooks. When we take the window covers off, they easily store under a bunk mattress.

We used peel and stick vinyl flooring on the unfinished plywood.  (No more carpet!!!) I want to get more to add to the front of the step.  Scott's cooler fits perfectly and it is used as the last step to get onto the top bunks. The rear window is also an emergency exit.  I had originally wanted Scott to put some sort of entertainment center here for a TV, DVD player, etc. But, I know we need to have the exit.

I found these organizers at IKEA.  They had to be altered to fit in the space but they are perfect storage for tablets, flash lights, water bottles, watches, etc.

The organizer was longer than shown with only one pocket at the top.  I folded it over, used jeans grommets to secure it. That gave us an additional pocket.  I can easily fit my lap top in the top pocket. Right now, these command hooks are working but I think I'll have to switch them out for something more secure.

This is the almost finished bunk room. I removed the old, floral curtain that was used for privacy and replaced it with a khaki colored one.  We still need to cover the front of the steps and put in bunk lights; but, it's usable the way it is now.  
We gave up what storage there was in this room when we built the bunks.  Leslie and I were at Ross one day and found some hard sided, fabric boxes with handles.  They fit perfectly under the bunks so we bought several of them.  It's convenient to take the boxes home and pack them, then put them under the bunks.  That way we aren't dealing with backpacks/suitcases.  Sometime in the future, Scott is going to gut the wardrobe in our bathroom area and replace it with shelving units to store the boxes.

Once the bunks were finished, we started on the living room/dining area. The guys pulled everything out so we could remove the carpet and put in benches that will convert to twin sized beds.  Because we were probably going to have people riding in this area when we travel, Scott left the seat belts on the sofa side.  While everything was torn out, Ron found used replacement seats for the cab (they were terribly uncomfortable) and the guys put those in as well.  Scott reused as much of the original wood as he could. I'm torn about that because I know it saved money; but, it's ugly.

There is a heat/AC vent that was squashed and didn't work anyway. I'm not really sure what Scott did with it; but, it isn't there any longer.  The cushions are actually a king sized memory foam mattress cut into 4 pieces and covered with some fabric I found at Hobby Lobby. I had them covered at a local upholstery shop rather than do it myself. It was well worth the added expense. 

Scott reused the doors on the dinette benches. We ended up having twice the storage with this bench. 

I had to put down flooring where the carpet was pulled up and stain what wood I could. I don't like the cheap RV wood below one of the benches but I'll just have to learn to deal with it.  We found a plastic folding table at Wal-Mart that fits between the two benches so we still have a place to eat indoors when we need to. The table is stored in the basement of Miss Lippy.  To turn these into beds, Scott made support legs and an add-on platform that are stored in the shower until we need to set up as beds. The back cushion then comes off and lays beside the bottom cushion. It makes a very comfortable bed that is plenty large enough! This is a huge improvement over the original furniture.

The bench where the sofa was. The seat belts are behind the bottom cushion.  The new cab seats are leather and have a lot more lumbar support than the original blue velor seats.

This bench is where the dinette was located.  We have clear pockets on each of the doors and I use 3X5 cards to write what is in each cabinet.  This saves us a lot of time when we are looking for stuff.

We are leaving the over cab bed alone. Luckily, it's a plain blue so it looks okay. The curtains up there are still in good shape so they will stay as well.  We have ordered replacement blinds for the windows behind the benches. These are in pretty bad shape and really faded.  

I painted the walls a very light gray, almost white. We found this peel and stick backsplash at Ross.  There were only 3 packages so I bought all they had. I would have loved to completely cover the back; but, this is a huge improvement over the wallpaper border.

As I mentioned, we have one more area to update. That is in the center of Miss Lippy. There is a split bathroom.  A shower and sink are on one side and a toilet room and large wardrobe on the other side. Scott wants to pull out the wardrobe and put a shelving unit in there.  He intends to have the shelves high enough that a dog kennel will fit under them.  That way we have the kennel for his crazy dog to sleep in. Our dogs, (Leslie & me) sleep wherever they can find a spot.

Miss Lippy has been quite an adventure. We have used her for camping at many of the state parks here in Texas while this whole remodeling process has taken place.  During that time, we have upgraded her tires all the way around. Ron and Scott plan to get all of her belts replaced soon because we will be taking her on her first real road trip in August.  Hopefully, she'll prove just how tough an old girl she really is. We can't wait!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Family Recipes: Grandma Veach

After Mom passed away, my daughter-in-law, Jamie, made copies of some of her recipes and laminated them.  She then gave the women in our family a set of each with the dry ingredients from one recipe in a beautiful canning jar. It was such a thoughtful gesture, so indicative of Jamie's personality. It made me realize that food is a connection that can tie generations together; which motivated me to enter these recipes in the family blog.

When my sister-in-law, Deb, cleaned out Mom's kitchen while we were prepping the house for sale, she gave me Mom's recipe box. As I have gone through the box, so many memories have flooded my mind. I know I can make copies of the recipes and give them to each of the girls; but, today I wanted to reflect on some that mean the most to me. That way there is a personal reflection attached to these recipes and maybe they will become family favorites for coming generations.

The first recipe I remember being aware of, was Mashed Potato Doughnuts.  My grandmother (Minnie Veach, Mom's mother) would use her left-over potatoes to make doughnuts because nothing went to waste in her kitchen. I was always fascinated by the fact that she could take something so bland and make a delicious, warm treat.  Each time she would cook a dinner for the family that included mashed potatoes, I would secretly fret when anyone would ask for a second or third helping of mashed potatoes. I just knew there wouldn't be enough left over for doughnuts; but, when there was, Grandma would whip up a batch of doughnuts in no time. Here is Grandma Minnie's recipe.

OLD-FASHIONED POTATO DOUGHNUTS
(note: ingredients listed are for 1 cup of left-over mashed potatoes)

3 tablespoons shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup mashed potatoes
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
vegetable oil for frying

Cream shortening and sugar; add egg and beat well. Stir in milk and potatoes.  Combine dry ingredients, stirring well.  Place dough on a lightly floured surface. (In my grandmother's case, it was a clean dish towel, heavily dusted with flour.) Knead lightly and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2 inch doughnut cutter. (Grandma used one that was aluminum with a red wooden handle.) Heat 3-4 inches of oil to 375 degrees (Grandma used a cast iron skillet.) Drop 3-2 doughnuts into the oil; cooking for about 1 minute on each side or until they are golden brown.  Drain the doughnuts on a paper towel. (Grandma used brown paper sacks.) Mix together 1 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon and sprinkle on the doughnuts.

I don't really remember whether or not the doughnuts were delicious; but, I do remember being fascinated by the things Grandma could in the kitchen!

I think most of Grandma's recipes are closely tied to the fact that they lived on such meager funds. Many of the things they ate were produced on their little farm or hunted; and, Grandma made everything from scratch. I don't know if this next recipe is one that was handed down to her or one she made up on her own. I just remember eating it fresh out of the oven and loving the taste.

GRANDMA VEACH'S OATMEAL CAKE

Cake:

  • Put 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal and 1 stick of butter in a large bowl, pour in 1 1/4 cups boiling water. Mix well with a fork until the butter is melted. Let mixture stand to absorb water. 
  • Combine 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs and beat until smooth.  Add to the oatmeal mixture
  • Sift together 1 1/3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add to the liquid mixture and beat until smooth.  
  • Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  

Topping:

  • Combine 3/4 stick of soft butter, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup evaporated milk, 1 cup coconut. Mix well and spread on cake. 
  • Return to oven for 5-10 minutes set at broil to toast coconut. 

Rarely do I remember my grandparents actually buying food that was ready made.  The one exception was when I traveled from Ft. Knox, Kentucky to Ohio with them to spend the summer. They stopped at a little market on the way out of town to pick up a package of bologna, a jar of mayo, and bag of hamburger buns. We stopped at a state park half way between Ft. Knox and South Webster to eat lunch and for some reason, those bologna sandwiches were the most delicious I'd ever tasted!

Occasionally, for special treats, Grandma and Grandpa would take us to get an ice cream cone in the nearby town; or, they would drive over to a little community store in Scioto Furnace and let us pick out a dime's worth of penny candy from a huge, glass display case.  These are such sweet childhood memories of my wonderful grandparents that I will always cherish.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Maggie and the Spelling Bee

About a month ago, Leslie called to tell me that Maggie opted to take a spelling test "for fun."  It turned out that the spelling test was a screen for the campus spelling bee. Maggie really didn't want to compete; but, being the teacher-pleaser she is, she went through with it.  She ended up winning her campus bee.



The story doesn't end there. Maggie had to represent her campus in the district spelling bee today.  Now that I'm retired (YAHOO) I'm able to attend school events; so, I drove up yesterday, went to their school fund raiser at a local BBQ place, stayed the night and went to the district bee. Delicious food, by the way! The fund raiser was really well attended and the girls were so excited to see some of their teachers there.



Maggie did study for the district bee; but, she didn't stress out over preparing. She told me she was nervous, but didn't know if it was just because she had to participate or if she really wanted to win.  Her Uncle Scott had told her she could get out of it quickly by intentionally misspelling her first word. Needless to say, she was appalled at the idea!




There were 36 students that competed on the district level, ranging from 3rd to 8th grade. Maggie came in 16th, going out on the first round. She wasn't the least bit upset about it, if anything she was relieved. When she joined us in the audience, she sure did have a relieved look on her face.

While I was visiting, I took Boomer to spend time with his bestie, Tico. We got to go on some nice long walks and 2 lovely parks in the area.




We played a round of Clue, spent a lot of time laughing and talking, having a generally wonderful time.
I look forward to many, many more short visits with all the grands now that my WEEK IS FREE!!!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

2017: The Year From Hell Recap




2017...

The year 2017 was a mixed bag of emotions. Joy, sorrow, grief, worry, accomplishment... But, the best thing about it is that it's over. Rather than try to blog about each event, I'll summarize with pictures. Here we go!

Loss:
Saying goodbye to Mom, after watching her live without Dad for 2 years was bittersweet. She ended her life with a dignified and graceful battle against cancer, sustained by the knowledge that she would be reunited with her sweetheart. I miss her more that I can put into words, and the tears still come without warning. She was a wonderful woman and a powerful influence on me. I'm so thankful for her.

The best mother/grandmother/great-grandmother ever!!!

Saying goodbye to 2 more fur babies added to the grief our family suffered this year.  Crazy Magellan and Dirty D joined Daisy, Buddy, Sassy, Burgess, Pepe, Tara, and Jack over the Rainbow Bridge. Run free, crazy boys.

Our water loving beagle...

Sweet and gentle Dirty-D...

Change:
When Mom and Dad moved to Texas, they found their own little piece of heaven; a piece of hilltop property outside of the city of Killeen. They built their dream retirement home and spent the last years of their lives there. After Dad passed away, Mom toyed with the idea of selling their home and moving into something smaller in Temple. She never quite found the right place; and, in hind sight, that was for the best. She wouldn't have lived long enough to really settle into a new home because she passed away just 2 short years after Dad. Getting Mom's estate settled was such a challenge and I couldn't have done it without the support I had from family. I can't really explain what it was like to work beside my brothers, their wives and children, and my immediate family to prepare Mom and Dad's home for sale. It was joyful because of the memories and bonding experience of working together. It was also a way to transition from seeing the house as Mom and Dad's home to simply a piece of property. Cleaning out, painting, and prepping was therapeutic in many ways. It is now the home of complete strangers and will hopefully provide them many years of happiness.

Scott & Ron...
Cory...
                           
Kathy Lee...

Deb...

Amanda...

Entry...

living room...
                           
living room...

dining room...
         
kitchen...
                           
porch...

porch...

sewing room...

front bedroom...

master bedroom...

front of the house...

Growth:
Birthdays come and go, regardless of family situations. Luckily, having children in the family provides us with joy-filled moments to distract us from the sadness of loss.

Super hero twins...

June birthday people favorites...

Jamie, Ron, & Scott.. June birthdays...

Sophie's Capt. Underpants b-day...

Another cute cake...

Ryan...

Maggie Lyn...

Maggie & Mimi...

Milestones:

Ron and I celebrated our 45th anniversary, the twins started 1st grade, Maggie and Sophie experienced home school, I had to sell Groot and buy Thor, Ryan started teaching 5th grade, Rebecca and Ed came home from Greece, Seth started driving, I retired, Jamie and Ryan got married... Life goes on and we celebrate the milestone events with elation, tempered with a tinge of sadness that we can't share them with Mom and Dad.

Cute invitation for my retirement celebration at work...

keeping with a camping/RV theme...



celebrating with family...

friends and co-workers...

socializing and sharing memories...

my greatest accomplishment!

Ryan at work... doing???

We added Thor to the family. LOVE this beefy guy.
45th anniversary cruise, improvised, thanks to my genius daughter-in-law.

The wedding cruise made up for it...  relaxing down time with Ron.

Ryan and Jamie celebrated their love with a beautiful Mayan wedding ceremony.

The twins looked like angels at the wedding. 

Dressing up the old couple is fun, but painful. Glitter and heels aren't comfortable.

The newly weds.

Scott getting caught on camera for the news...

The future...


I know these pictures don't adequately represent the many experiences our family had in 2017. However, the year is now recorded on the blog. Suffice it to say, I'm glad the year is over and I look forward to many new and happy adventures in 2018