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

    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.

    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. 

    New Adventure in New York

    So long DC

    As we left Washington DC, we headed to our next stop, Beaver Pond Campground, in Stony Point, ​NY, about 30 minutes outside of NYC. 

    The car ride was taxing, to say the least – I got car sick for the first time and needed to make several bathroom stops. This made the trip longer, which the kids did not like. By the time we got to the campground, three of the four of us were crying and I was one of them.

    First time boondocking

    To add to things, this small campground held our biggest adventure to date – boondocking. Boondocking is when you camp in a place with no water, electrical, or sewer hook-ups. We can use our generator, but only during certain parts of the day.

    He loves tummy time

    At this point, I was hot, sleep deprived, and faced with spending the night in an RV with no AC and two tired kids. 

    Hanging out outside where it was much cooler

    While Damon finished setting up, I was on my phone looking for other places to stay. I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to work. However, Damon and I talked, and agreed to give it a chance. 

    Man make fire 😝

    We had dinner outside, which was much cooler than inside the trailer, when two deer came into our site! Don’t experience that in the Orlando suburbs. 

    Unfortunately, it was a long night for all of us as both kids got colds from the chill, damp weather that came in after the sun went down. 

    At least I got a NY bagel!

    So we spent most of the day trying to get the kids to nap and feel better (which is hard to do when it gets hot and there’s no AC – and, yes, I know I wouldn’t survive in ye olde times, and I’m ok with that).
     

    Luckily, we had some errands to run, which got us out of the hot trailer and into an air conditioned car (fingers crossed ​that this is the last of the house paperwork).

    Oh, Deer!

    Once we got back, we decided to start packing. While we had one more day left at this site, we realized that our next stop, Cape Cod, was a five hour drive (which usually means seven or eight hours for us). So to make life easier, we’re going to stop halfway for a night and do the other half in Friday. 

    Daddy deer

    And man, am I glad we did this. Between little-dudes cold and the heat, I got no sleep (again). Longer car rides are much harder when I’m sleep-deprived and I don’t want to deal with the kids. 

    All-in-all, Beaver Pond was beautiful and very tranquil. For $15 a night it’s a steal. If you can survive without power, it’s a great place to stay. I’m not sure I’d do it again with young kids anytime soon. Maybe when they’re older.

    Later NY

    Hopefully they’ll sleep during the short drive to Stonington, Connecticut (home to Mystic Pizza and our 8th state!). 

    Take A Peek Inside

    Welcome to our new home! As you can see it has many of our favorite parts of our previous house, just in a smaller scale.

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    I think the first floor of our house could fit our whole RV

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    Love that we could still have a fort for mini-man. Plus, its a great place to keep all his toys!

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    Smaller bedroom but it has everything thing we need

    And even though it’s smaller, we really don’t miss the space. In fact, it was frustrating having all this stuff stored away that we never used. Now everything had a purpose and is used every day.

    Home, Sweet Home … For Now

    We bought our RV and SUV a few days before little-dude joined our family. We decided to take a small break from moving to adjust to being a family of four and allow me time to heal from child birth. 

    Two weeks ago, we talked with our Realtor and are getting the house ready to sell. Which means we need a place to put the RV. After some research we found a cute place close to the house so we could be nearby while we sell the house and move into the RV. 

    The actual trip to the RV resort was nerve racking for me – this made it real. Everything’s been abstract for months but actually seeing the resort made it real. And I have to admit, I’m still nervous. This is such a drastic change from what I’m used to. 

    However, I’m also kinda excited – the resort is walking distance to parks, restaurants, and much more. Now we will have the opportunity to get out more as a family. 

    It took some time to get the RV here as the place we bought it from kept “losing” our moving information. Thankfully, we managed to get the RV to it’s new home a few days ago.

    We now have about half our stuff in the RV and spent our first official night. So far, so good. We still have some work to do, but it’s getting there.

    Downsizing

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    How do you fit a 1600 sq ft house into a 300 sq ft trailer??? The simple to say, but hard to do, answer is – DOWNSIZE. I’ve tried to put myself in a practical mindset – the more we sell, the more money we have to travel and less stuff to lug around. It also helps to remember that if we get rid of something, and want it later, we can always re-buy it.

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    Now some of our stuff is a no brainer to get rid of, such as the furniture (since it’s included in the trailer), TV’s (we won’t need four in the trailer), my car (my Honda Fit can’t pull an 8,000 lb trailer), and kitchen stuff (I won’t need my fancy dishes any more).

    Then it gets a little more difficult for me. We have cultivated quite the toy collection and play area in our house. I know, realistically, that our kids don’t NEED all these toys, but I do have a joy seeing them play with these toys. I didn’t have a lot growing up, so being able to provide these “things” for my children gives my great satisfaction.

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    But then I’m reminded that what we remember most isn’t the actual toy we played with as children. We remember spending time with our loved ones and experiencing the world with them. And that’s what I want for my children – to experience value and love from those around them; not the things around them.

    So while I know that downsizing my kids toys will be emotional for me, I also know that we are giving them an awesome experience.

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    Now on the flip size, I am used to cooking in a 300 sq ft kitchen (which is the same size as our trailer). How am I supposed to cook in such a small space? Where am I supposed to store everything? I am used to having a lot of cabinet space, not to mention fridge space, to store food. I currently have three different solutions for my dilemma:

    1. Shop every few days, instead of once a week
    2. Stop buying in bulk and only buy what you need for a the meal (portion control)
    3. Grow fresh herbs and lettuce in a window

    I have no idea if any of these will works, but I guess this is only part of what I’ll have to get used to going forward. On the plus side, it’s much easier to keep 300 sq ft clean than 1600 – especially with two kids!