Recipe: Manly Chili

After a visit to a chili cook-off in New Hampshire, I learned that Damon want a fan of my chili (based off Art Smith’s recipe). Turns out, he likes thicker, meatier chili.

With that in mind, I hit Google and found ‘Meat Lover’s Crock Pot Chili’, chock full of beef, sausage, and bacon. 

My first attempt at the chili was ok. However, the recipe called for a lot of tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beef stock, having it very watery (not what we’re looking for). It was also a bit bland.

My second attempt was much better. I eliminated the tomatoes and tomato sauce all together, and added some spice. 


If your interested in making this yourself, you can find the original recipe here. Below is my modified recipe. Please note that the original makes 6 quarts, while mine  has been reduced to 4 quarts. 

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • .5lb pre-cooked sausage
  • .5lb pre-cooked bacon
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped (I use the pre-chopped garlic in a jar)
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 can of chili beans
  • 2TB chili powder
  • Chili Flakes, to taste (only add if you like it spicy)
  • 2TB Cayan Pepper

    Instructions:

    1. Cook ground beef until browned; drain. Place in crock pot
    2. Chop bacon into small pieces. Place in crock pot
    3. Add sausage to crock pot
    4. Sautee onion and garlic until onions are translucent; just a couple of minutes. Add to crock pot
    5. Add additional ingredients. Note, there won’t be a lot of liquid. More will appear as the chili cooks. You can add more broth if you prefer your chili less thick. 
    6. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. I cooked ours on high for 2 hours and it turned out great.
    7. Garnish to taste.

    Hope you all enjoy it as much as we did.

    Fabulous Niagara Falls

    After a wonderful, but buggy stay in Syracuse, I was more than ready to check our next stop – Niagara Falls!

    I’ve always wanted to see the famous falls but I’ve also learned an important lesson – if I want to do something, make sure it’s a short drive from the campsite. 

    Which is why I was beyond thrilled to find a state park campground just 20 minutes from the Falls! Fourmile Creek Campground is located in Youngstown, NY, and offers electric and non-electric sites, many on the banks of Lake Ontario. (I definitely had the old H.O.M.E.S. moniker from grade school running around my  head). 

    We chose a site that was close to the washroom as this campground doesn’t offer sewer or water hook-ups (and trust me, you don’t want a long walk to the bathroom in the cold). 

    The next day we headed to the falls. First, we stopped at a Goodwill to get some warmer clothes for the boys (it was 52F out and I’d heard it was cooler at the Falls). 

    We decided to visit the Canadian side of the Falls – I’d heard it was a better place to view them. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. TIP: make sure you have your passport or you won’t be able to visit the Canadian side.

    We parked at the Welcome Center, located next to Horseshoe Falls. I loved that there was a huge walkway all along the falls giving us the chance to see all of them safely with the kids.

    Both boys fell asleep, giving Damon and me the chance to enjoy the Falls and take lots of pictures. We even saw a rainbow.

    By the time we’d gotten to the end of the area, the kids we’re awake and we were all ready for lunch. Fortunately, we were in an area full of restaurants, so we didn’t have to walk very far.

    Both boys were awake for the walk back. They’re both a little young to be interested, but they did enjoy walking around. 

    We made it back to the trailer very tired and hungry. While Damon and I wanted to sleep, mini-man wanted to play. Unfortunately, he got into some soap while we weren’t looking and tried to drink. We think we caught him in time, but he still got an upset stomach.

    Due to a long night trying to get mini-man to sleep, the next day was a campground day. 

    Fortunately, this turned out to be great. By staying at the campground, we were able to enjoy their playground. The one near our site was built for toddlers and mini-man loved it. He even learned a few new ways to slide.

    All-in-all, a wonderful stop. Next stop, the city where Damon went to college – Pittsburgh!

    Be sure to follow all of our adventures on Facebook and Instagram

    How Can You Afford This????

    This is an excellent question. Undoubtedly, trying to travel the country while neither of us is working is daunting. However, thanks to some financial decisions Damon and I made when we were first married, combined with some recent financial gains, have made our dreams of traveling as a family a reality.

    Like many couples, we were living right at the edge of financial comfort when we were first married. We bought a 3,000 sq ft house, on a quarter of an acre of land, in a nice neighborhood in Orlando. Damon soon realized that we spent more time maintaining the house than actually enjoying it and it was stressing him out (I should realize that when Damon is ultra-stressed out, then were doing something wrong.)

    After a wonderful vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains and Hilton Head, we realized two very important things:

    1. We wanted to travel more
    2. We wanted to start a family

    Both of these required more financial freedom than we currently experienced. But, instead of just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best, we became proactive with our finances. We sold our too big house and moved into a smaller, more manageable house; paid off our cars; paid off all our debt; and reduced our spending so that we could afford our lifestyle with just one of our salaries.

    So what did we do with our money? We diversified our investments into the following categories

    1. House
    2. Precious metals
    3. Short-term Lending Club
    4. Bitcoin

    After seven years, two of these investments (precious metals and short-term lending) have stayed constant. The other two, however, have increased significantly in the past year.

    • House: The housing market is at an all time high at the moment. Combined with some updates we’ve made and our house value has gone up.
    • Bitcoin: This cryptocurrency has been in the news a lot lately. Ill write more about it later, but in simple terms, it’s digital currency. Damon researched it years ago and became very excited about it, so we decided to invest.

    Between these two investments, we can now live comfortably in our house for years. But we quickly realized that we would just be existing in the house. We wouldn’t be living. What’s the point in staying home if we can’t enjoy ourselves?

    So instead of living comfortably for a few years, why not reduce our expenses even more and be able to live for close to a decade? That’s right – we decided to sell our house, buy an RV trailer, and hit the road. 

    Part of our investments went into buying and renovating the RV and the rest are going into our other investments. The hope is that the other investments will continue to pay off and we can travel for many years.

    Of course, we are maintaining the mindset that if it doesn’t work for us, or if we run low on money, that we can always go back to Orlando. No decision has to be forever and it’s OK to change your mind.

    Serenity in Syracuse

    Love this guy!

    An important lesson we’ve learned along the way – no projects on short stays. Anytime we try, we end up overwhelmed and stressed.

    Gorgeous stay at Tree Farm Campground in Vermont

    This helped make our stay in Syracuse wonderful. After a fun week in Vermont, we got a lot accomplished, so we were able to just relax and enjoy Treasure Isle RV Resort, in upper state New York. 

    Welcome to Syracuse

    The site is family run and they are very friendly. The father-in-law escorted us to our site and helped Damon back into the site. 

    Water front view

    The site itself was in the water and very serene. We enjoyed relaxing outside and looking at the water. One HUGE downside was all the bugs! I’m means, lots of bugs. Spiders, flies, and some red bugs I don’t know of, we’re all over our trailer. If anyone has any tips on how to keep bugs out of the trailer, I’m all ears! 

    We spent our only day at the site enjoying the newly built playground with the kids. By far this is the nicest playground we’ve encountered. Mini-man loved climbing and playing on it. Little-dude is a little young for the playground, so he hung out with me. 

    Perfect evening for a fire

    We finished our stay grilling hamburgers and enjoying the sunset. It was a great place to relax. 

    Now onto Niagara Falls! I’m really excited to visit the famous falls 🤣

    Very Happy in Vermont – II

    It’s always nice to have time to get projects done at the beginning of a trip. It frees up other days to just go exploring with the kids.

    All Aboard!

    One such outing was a train trip through Green Mountain in the Green Mountain Railroad. This two hours round-trip train takes passengers through some of Vermont’s famous colorful foliage. I was worried that mini-man might not like the train (like in Washington DC), so I made sure he had a lot for breakfast and brought lots of snacks (plus an iPad).

    Train time fun

    He did good until it was time to board, when he got scared and didnt want to board. So I picked him up and carried him aboard. Luckily, this train had tables and chairs to sit at, which made it more comforting to mini-man. Once we sat, he climbed into my lap and calmed down.

    Vermont lives up to its beauty (and apparently it’s usually more vibrant)

    The train trip itself was very enjoyable and beautiful. I wish the colors on the trees had been more vibrant, but that’s mother nature’s fault, not the trains. Definitely need to return another year to see the more vibrant colors.

    7 years, no itch ❤️❤️❤️

    This train ride also marked our seventh wedding anniversary. Try as we might, each year gets more and more adventurous and exciting. Who knows what’s in store over this next year, but I can’t wait to find out 😍

    If an apple a day, keeps the doctor away, how many days will 20lbs get us 😝

    The next day, we took the boys to a real apple farm, Wellwood Orchards, to pick some apples. Mini-man LOVES apples and I thought he’d enjoy picking his own. However, he preferred to stay in the stroller eating the apples that Damon and I picked 😝.

    Simply beautiful

    Meanwhile, Damon and I had fun picking apples and enjoying the scenery. We even discovered a new type of apple that was delicious – empire.

    I think mini-man ate 5 apples before we left

    Of course, we couldn’t leave without a few more Vermont staples – maple syrup, maple candy, and a pumpkin! All-in-all, a really fun outing and we now have 20lbs of apples (that should last mini-man a few days).

    Today is our last day, so we’re finishing some last minute projects to prep us for the next leg of our journey. Next stop – Syracuse, NY!

    Very Happy in Vermont – I

    Made it to our ultimate destination – Vermont!

    Well, we did it! After 8 weeks of traveling, we made it to our ultimate destination – Springfield, Vermont. I’ve loved the idea of Vermont since I was young and watched “White Christmas”. Everything I’ve ever been told is that Vermont is beautiful in the fall. 

    Tree Farm Campground is gorgeous

    To ensure we could enjoy Vermont and all their beauty we chose to stay at Tree Farm Campground, just outside of Springfield. This adorable campground is peaceful and beautiful – even the air smells amazing. The staff is very friendly and really made us feel right at home. 

    The campground was filled with these interesting wood creatures

    Our first few days were pretty cold and wet, so used the time to explore the campground and get some projects done and go shopping (I really want a new mattress, but having problems finding a good one that supports but doesn’t smell). 

    Chili!

    Along the way, we stumbled across a cute Fall Festival and Chili Cook-off. Since like chili, I decided to buy a pass and try them out. Along the way, I let Damon try a few (some I’d thought he’d like and other because I couldn’t eat them due to allergies). This is when I discover that hes never really been a fan of my chili! 😱 Turns out, he ate it because I liked making it. So thanks to this chili cook-off, I am now determined to make a chili Damon will love. I have already gotten a Crock-Pot and tried a recipe I thought he’d like (Similar to one he liked at th cook-off). He liked it but wants more flavor and less liquid (at least I’m on a good path).

    Better to get her fixed now than break down on the road later

    During all of this running around, we discovered our car brakes were slipping. Not wanting these to fail as we’re driving down the road with the RV, we decided to get the car check. Turns out, we broke something new!

    When we break something, we do it good

    You may recall that a few weeks ago we blew a tire (in spectacular fashion) while we were in Hazard, Kentucky. Turns out, the back brake disc on the became so over-heated that it broke in half! One half was still in the car and we ran over the half in Kentucky, which blew up the tire. The repair guy says he’s never seen anything like it! Thank goodness we were the only customers and they were able to repair the car fairly quickly.

    Choo-choo!

    Stay tuned for part II, where we go on a train ride through Green Mountain and go apple picking!

    Hittin’ the Road – Part Duex

    So now that we’ve made it to Vermont, it’s time to head back south. While we are lovin’ this cooler, more fall-like weather, this Florida family isn’t quite ready to campout in the snow.

    We learned a lot from this first trip. W think we were too ambitious – trying to drive large distances and having short stays, wore us out and limited the boys. With that in mind, here is where we are headed next:

    • Syracuse, NY: to see more fall colors
    • Niagara Falls, NY: to visit the famous falls
    • Pittsburgh, PA: Damon went to college here and wants to show us around
    • Columbus, OH: Stop over in our way to Louisville
    • Louisville, KY: Staying in an old site with live actors recreating the 1800’s!
    • Aurora, KY: Stop over
    • Little Rock, AR: we’ve read that this place is gorgeous
    • Hernando, MS: wanted to have a stop in Mississippi
    • Jefferson, TX: first of several stops in Texas – it’s a big state
    • Wacco, TX: stop 2 and may, or may not, want to see the Fixer Upper town for ourselves
    • San Antonio, TX: Home of the Alamo, this is our last stop for a while so we can get the RV looked at.

    Let us know if you have any recommendations for these places. We’d love to know of some fun places to visit.

    Calm Week in Cape Cod

    Farewell Connecticut

    After weeks of short stays, it was great to stop for a full week in Cape Cod at Sweetwater Campground – especially since I sick.

    Home to a beautiful lake

    Located in the heart of Cape Cod, Sweetwater Forest Campground is a beautiful place to set up camp – campsites we’re spaceous and far apart. It can be a bit confusing to navigate, so I highly recommend calling them to arrange a campsite (their online directions are confusing if you’ve never been there). It’s great for families with a beautiful lake and fun playgrounds for the kids. The only downside for me isn’t their fault but there isn’t a fast food place or large grocery store that’s really close (being from Orlando, I’m used to having four grocery stores within 10 minutes of my house). Other than that, I highly recommend this park.

    Diggin up some fun while mommy got some rest

    On our first day, Damon took the boys and explored the campground, which gave me some much needed time to rest. I felt a lot better by the end of the day.

    Finally got little-dudes bouncer installed and he loves it!

    The next day was a bit gloomy out, so we used the time to restock and finish some projects, including our water leak! Turns out that one of the valves was loose. Once we tightened it, the leak disappeared (thank goodness for an easy fix – we have too many other big ones to solve at the moment).

    This lake was amazing. Mini-man loves throwing rocks and playing with the water

    The next few days were all about relaxing and enjoying the campground. We were so tired from the constant travel that it was great to just enjoy time together as a family. One of the highlights was their gorgeous lake. Mini-man loved walking there and discovered throwing rocks into the water.

    Welcome to Provincetown

    A friend of Damon’s recommended that we visit Provincetown, about an hour from our campground. 

    Me and mini-man

    We arrived at lunch time and after driving around we found that there were many cute restaurants. The downside to this adorable town was the small streets that are shared with houses, parked cars, bicycles, and pedestrians. So you can imagine how nerve wracking it was to drive our monster SUV around 😱

    Lunch time!

    Once we parked, we walked around and stopped at ‘The Post Office Cafe and Cabaret’, food by day and the best entertainment in Provincetown by night. We stopped here so we could enjoy some local seafood outside and get mini-man some toddler aimed food (i.e. french fries 😝). 

    Trying some local cuisine

    Overall, not a bad place. It took a while to get any service and it wasn’t always clear who was serving. I ordered the lobster-crab cakes, which I’m pretty sure we’re shrimp, not lobster and okay for that (never really been a fan of shrimp). Damon got a cup of clam chowder and the pulled-pork sandwich – both of which were fine. It took a while to get refills and our bill (the servers kept disappearing and generally weren’t  that friendly). We enjoyed the experience but probably wouldn’t go back.

    Perfect afternoon for visiting the beach and throwing rocks

    Afterwards, we decided to walk the boys over to the beach (can’t visit cape cod without visiting the beach). The weather was beautiful and perfect for a walk on the beach. Of course, mini-man had to throw some rocks into the water. However within a few minutes, both boys showed signs of wanting naps.

    These small, walkable streets were cute but hard to drive down

    So Damon carried little-dude and I pushed mini-man in the stroller, and went for a walk through the town. Both were asleep within minutes. 

    Provincetown is  made up of art galleries, restaurants, more art galleries, B&B’s, and even more art galleries (did I mention there were art galleries? 😝)

    Mmmmm…. Tastes like chicken

    After enjoying a short walk, we headed back to the car. While we enjoyed our time, we had an hour drive ahead and still needed to make dinner.

    More playground fun

    We spent our last day at Sweetwater playing with the boys and finishing some last minute projects. This was definitely what we needed to rest up from lots of traveling. 

    Bye-bye Sweetwater

    Now we are ready to get to our ultimate destination – Springfield, Vermont. With projects out of the way and feeling rested, we’re hoping to get to see a lot of this area.

    One Night Stand in Stonington, Connecticut

    We officially survived boondocking. While most of it was ok, the no AC in the heat was no bueno and no running water thanks to our latest RV issue – a leak near the water heater (can’t wait to get this girl into the shop).

    We’ve learned that trying to drive long distances with kids and cats leaves us all pretty drained and not a lot of time to set up the RV. So we decided to cut our NY stop short and head to Cape Cod early, with an overnight stop in Connecticut, at Seaport RV Resort.

    While we didn’t get to experience everything at the campground, it was quiet, well kept, and very pretty. Their site offer mini-golf and an outdoor laser tag, which looked like fun. The site is also located in Mystic (as in Mystic Pizza 😍). Definitely keeping this one on our list to revisit if we get the chance.

    This stop became a huge blessing. While the short drive was nice, it was great to not be in the car for hours while sick. As luck would have it, the boys all got runny noses but I got a full-blown cold. I needed rest – desperately.

    As most mom’s know, the best you’ll get is sitting while watching a kid, but at least I got some sleep. I can’t wait for this to go away ’cause our time here is up.

    At least we’re in Cap Cod for a full week! Fingers crossed I’ll be better soon and can enjoy some of it.

    Eating on the Road

    Grilling outside

    Since hitting the road, we’ve been pretty good about cooking and eating healthy food. However, when our kitchen slide stopped working, it made eating in really hard.

    Yummy tacos

    Which also made eating out much easier. We tried utilizing the grill and the outdoor kitchen (which a lot of people are envious of), but when your dealing with kids and a broken RV, eating out becomes very tempting.

    NY bagels are the best! (Still have some in the fridge)

    Unfortunately for me, I’m lactose intolerant, and since having little-dude, chicken seems to upset my stomach (and his). This eliminates most fast food, including salads if they’re premade. Which means eating the same thing each time we go out.

    This has resulted in a very rough car ride for me – all this fast food +  lots of bumpy roads = my first time getting car sick (an experience I could have lived without). 

    Mmmm… Home-made Kefta

    Now that I have my kitchen back, I’m looking forward to eating better and getting back on better terms with my tummy.