Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hello Spring!

Ahhhhh Spring. It is so good to see you again!

Over the past week spring has finally sprung here in the Greenville, SC area. Flowers are blooming, trees are in blossom and temperatures have been in the mid-seventies most days. After the unusually cold and snowy winter, we are loving the explosion of colors and return to outdoor activities.

Over the past few days Deb & I have spent time helping my Dad complete the construction and planting of a 6'x40' raised-bed garden. We started this project several weeks ago, but cool and rainy weather delayed final completion longer than anticipated. The first crop of lettuce, radishes, beets, onions, red cabbage, carrots, peas and potatoes are in the ground and doing well. If the weather continues to cooperate, we should be able to harvest a first cutting of tender lettuce leaves within the next few weeks. Although the heavy physical activity reminded our bodies that we spent too much time on our butts over the past three months, we loved working on this project. There's nothing better than getting your hands in the dirt and planting a garden to make one feel that winter is definitely gone.

The garden is the latest addition to the landscaping on a dental clinic property my father has tended for the past four years. It is within short walking distance of my parents home and has become a beautiful, year-round showcase of every flower and ornamental plant imaginable. During the four months we have been here, we have also helped Dad add hundreds of additional planting to what is already an entire property of thousands of annuals, perennials and evergreens. At its peak over the summer months, this property is an explosion of colors that makes one glad to be alive. Since no one really likes going to the dentist, I'm sure it helps that the clinic patients have beautiful flowers to look at while they are in the dreaded dental chair. (The above pictures show the property and some of the flowers currently in bloom there.)

It is a bittersweet feeling to know that we will not be here during the coming months to see and taste the results of our labors. But, alas, the open road is beckoning us to move forward with this wondrous journey. My Mom's heart problems have stabilized and, although we love this part of the country, new horizons await. We are scheduled to leave the 3rd of next month for an extended stay in northern Florida. There is still much work to be completed on our RV Howie (House On Wheels Is Excellent) before we go, but it is exciting to anticipate new locations and experiences. We can't wait to get on the road again!

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. ~Margaret Atwood

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Road Tested: Shrimp and Grits

We have been thoroughly enjoying the regional Southern cuisine here in the greater Greenville, SC area over the past three months. In this part of the country, there is nothing more truly "Carolina" than a hearty bowl of shrimp and grits. This is a recipe by Tyler Florence (a Greenville native) that we prepared and loved. For those of you who have not yet developed a taste for grits, try some that have been well-prepared in the Southern tradition; we guarantee you'll like them.

This is another recipe that can be easily prepared in a small RV kitchen using only an electric skillet and small electric burner. By using electric appliances as often as possible, we have saved a tremendous amount on LP gas expense. After almost ten months of living full-time in this unit, we are still on our original tank of LP.

*For Grits Portion -
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*For Shrimp Portion -

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound spicy sausage, cut into chunks (we suggest Andouille)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped


  • To make grits: Place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. (Tip: To maintain a smooth texture, stir often and do not allow grits to become dry. Add additional butter if needed before serving.)
  • To begin shrimp portion, heat olive-oil in deep skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onions and garlic to oil, then saute for 2 minutes to soften.
  • Add in sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and sausage is browned.
  • Sprinkle in the flour and stir continually with a wooden spoon to create a roux. (Tip: Be careful not to over heat the roux. It can burn quickly. Just cook for a few minutes until light beige and there is no raw flour taste.)
  • Slowly pour in chicken stock and continue stirring to avoid lumps.
  • Toss in the bay leaf.
  • When the mixture comes to a simmer, add in the shrimp. Poach the shrimp in the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick.
  • Stir in the parsley and green onion, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Spoon the grits into a large serving bowl.
  • Add the shrimp mixture to bowl and stir well.
  • Serve immediately.

Enjoy, ya'll!

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer

photos by Deb & Lane

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unexpected Pleasures

One of the things we love about our full-time RV lifestyle is the opportunity to seek out local, unique restaurants wherever our journeys take us. Being major foodies, we tend to shy away from the major chain eateries one can find anywhere and drift more towards the smaller places that focus on the regional cuisines. Aside from providing us with really great food, this has proven a great way to developing a deeper understanding of the many areas of the country we have visited.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of our lives together, so Deb and I decided to splurge on a good meal at the Plaid Pelican located at 1316 Stallings Road in Greenville, SC. It is literally four miles from where we are staying and a place we have passed by numerous times. We kept saying to each other "We really need to try that place sometime." Now that we have, we are kicking ourselves for not going there earlier! From the quality of the food to the perfection of the service, this place left us in agreement that it is right at the top of the best restaurants we have ever experienced anywhere.

From the outside, the Plaid Pelican offers little clue as to the superb gastronomic experience that awaits inside. It is in a small, non-descript strip mall with a sign that advertises itself as offering "Coastalina Cuisine". But once you step through the door, you are surrounded by an inviting atmosphere that features an open kitchen and relaxing decor. Instead of being escorted to a table by the smiling hostess, she kindly asked us which table we would prefer and settled us in for an evening of truly unexpected pleasures.

The menu offers a wide variety of appetizers, soups, salads and entrees that include seafood, steak and chicken dishes. We had read many on-line reviews of the place before going and were amazed that every single offering had received the highest of compliments. Since the place promotes on its web page that they do "the freshest seafood better than any restaurant", we were focused on a good fish dish, but still had a hard time deciding upon which one. Everything from the shrimp and grits to the stuffed flounder with lobster cream sauce to the crab cakes to the shrimp etouffee looked inviting. While we pondered over our final selections we ordered the appetizer of the day; a selection of cheeses served with two glasses of Bluefish Riesling wine.

As soon as the appetizer arrived we knew we were in for a unique dining experience. It was presented on a quarter-inch slab of chilled slate stone with each offering labeled in chalk. The plate was a perfect arrangement of sliced Manchego and Comte cheeses, thin smoked prosciutto (Speck), olive-oil grilled bruscetta and a garnish of dried cranberries. The wine perfectly accented the cheeses and proved to be our drink of choice throughout the entire meal.

While we were savoring the cheeses, the young Sous-chef came to our table and asked if we were enjoying ourselves. He spent about five minutes talking with us about his culinary experiences that ranged from starting out in a small restaurant in Palm Beach, FL to working under one of the premier chefs in New Orleans before Katrina wiped out the place to ending up here in Greenville. It was a nice touch that made us feel even more comfortable.

We followed up the appetizer with cups of seafood bisque that brought immediate smiles to both our faces. It was creamy,with an intense lobster flavor and notes of saltiness that reminded us of the sea. With Deb being from Boston and with me living in S. Florida for ten years, we have both had great seafood bisque over the years. But we agree, hands down, that this was the best we have ever had!

Another nice touch was that while savoring the bisque the Head Chef/Owner Paul came to our table and asked if everything was to our liking. At this point we still had not decided on our entree selection, so we asked him what he would recommend. He strongly suggested the catch-of-the-day, which was golden tile fish, and the seared scallops. Thank God we listened to him. I ordered the tile fish, blackened, with pilaf rice and Deb ordered the scallops, blackened, also with the rice.

Every entree is served with a salad that is a beautiful explosion of color onto itself. As opposed to a plate consisting of mainly lettuce, these salads were a perfectly-sized arrangement of the freshest greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, bacon and croutons. To make it even better, every dressing is homemade. Deb had the Ranch and I had the Thousand Island. Both were beyond great.

The entrees proved to be almost orgasmic. Each plate was presented with young grilled asparagus spears in the middle, rice to one side with the seafood on the other. The tile fish was two-inches thick, fork-tender with a mild flavor and a texture like dry-aged steak. The scallops were juicy and perfectly cooked; which anyone who has tried cooking them know is not easy to achieve. The asparagus exploded with fresh flavors and the rice was "air-fluffed" steamed with lots of sauteed onions and tri-colored peppers . There was not a single flaw with anything on the plate.

If you live in or are visiting the greater Greenville, SC area do not pass up a visit to this establishment. The price-range for the entrees is $16.00-$25.00 per plate, but worth every cent. From the food to the service to the relaxed atmosphere you will not be disappointed. This place deserves to have every table occupied constantly with a line of hungry people waiting outside of the door. Out of five stars, we give this one a ten!

Oh, how we love unexpected pleasures.

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some Days Are Diamonds, Some Days Are Stone

For the third day in a row, temperatures here at the Flower Mill RV Park in Taylors, SC will be around 70 degrees! What a wonderful change from the really cold and snowy weather we have lived through over the past three months. It is nice to have the doors and vents open again, feel a warm sun on our skin and turn off the heaters.

The improved weather has allowed us to spend a lot of time outdoors over the past week. Last Friday and Saturday we helped my father build and plant a 6 ft. x 32 ft. raised bed garden. Although the work left our "aging bodies" a little stiff and sore, it was great to be in the sun and get our hands back into the dirt. There's nothing like smelling the aromas of fresh soil and planting the first vegetables of the year to make one feel that spring is finally here. Hopefully, we will be able to enjoy some of our plantings before we hit the road again come the first of next month.

Yesterday's great weather also allowed me to start on much overdo work on the RV. One of the biggest mistakes people make is allowing RVs to sit in one place without routine maintenance; especially running the engine and generator. Like all working systems, engines need to be run on a regular basis to distribute fluids, keep working parts lubricated and prevent seals from drying out. Thankfully, both the engine and generator started and ran perfectly for almost an hour. There is still much work to be done before our departure, but our trusty twenty-five-year-old RV Howie (House On Wheels Is Excellent) has proven to be a real trooper given the rough winter.

The down side over the past two days is that both Deb and myself are working through some kind of "bug" that has left us feeling lethargic, feverish and just plain crappy. Oh well, this too shall pass. Like the title says, some days are diamonds and some days are stone.

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden." ~ Ruth Stout

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Road Tested: Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes

Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes

Due to the winter weather here over the past few months, we have had plenty of time to try out new recipes. This is one we enjoyed a few weeks ago and immediately feel in love with. It is another one that can easily be made in the small space of an RV kitchen with only an electric skillet.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast or ground turkey breast
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped or grated
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup Ken's Steak House Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 8 good quality burger rolls, split and toasted
  • 1 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 large dill pickles, chopped


  • Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large electric skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add meat and break up with wooden spoon, cook 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Add in carrots, celery, onions and garlic, season with salt and black pepper then cook 7 to 8 minutes more.
  • In a bowl combine Buffalo Wing Sauce, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Pour into skillet, stir to combine and simmer mix for a few more minutes until thickened.
  • Pile sloppy joe mixture onto buns and top with blue cheese and chopped pickles.


copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer

Photo by Lane

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Same Old, Same Old

Once again, we are spending the day here in Taylors, SC watching a heavy snow storm. The flakes began falling about 9:30 this morning and are predicted to continue throughout the day. To have this much snow in one year in this part of the country is extremely rare. Lucky us. After living in S. Florida for ten years and seeing no snow, the first few storms were nice. But now I'm to the point of hoping not to see snow for another ten years: It's getting old and I'm tired of the cold. Every part of me longs to be hanging out again at our favorite places on Islamorada in the Keys!

Part of the frustration with this winter has been the reminder of what it means to have cabin-fever. We have spent a great deal of time over the past few months with my parents helping around the house and assisting with landscaping projects. But when it snows here, everything shuts down quickly and people don't venture far from home unless absolutely necessary. The municipalities do not salt or sand side roads and folks here are not experienced with driving in these kinds of conditions. It's just safer to stay put for a few days until the temperatures rise above freezing again.

But the onset of cabin-fever also reminded me of a very important aspect every couple should consider before entering a full-time RV life. One of the best pieces of advise we came across in our early research about the RV lifestlye was to seriously think about spending time in the close confines of an RV. It is a situation that can be either heaven or hell on earth depending on the couple.

Almost everyone who has extensive experience with full-time RV living will tell newbies and wannabe RVers the same thing; it is one thing to love your significant other, but you had better really like each other too! It is one thing to live in a 2,500 square foot house and have a bedroom, garage or other places to escape to when you start to get on each others nerves. It is an entirely different thing to live in a 300 square foot tin box on wheels and have nowhere to go to cool off. To put this in perspective, undertake a simple survey. Over the next two weeks track the total number of awake hours you actually spend in the direct presence of your significant other. The results may surprise you.

Spending many hours of time directly with each other was not a huge transition for Deb and myself. We lived in, and managed together, a 40 room resort in Hollywood, FL for several years. We were in constant contact during days to handle the business end of things and always were together during our rare off hours. Sure, we always have and still occasionally do need our private space. But we have found ways to do that without sacrificing our dream of sharing a very rewarding life; even in this small space we now call home.

One of the biggest responses I receive from people when they learn of our full-time RV lifestyle is a wish that they, too, could do the same thing. They always talk in terms of it being a constant vacation. While it may seem like a constant vacation, the reality is that there are some days that are diamonds and some days that are stone. No matter where someone lives there are still days when you will be sick, just have the blues or be really tired of looking at snow. It comes with the territory and the saving grace is knowing, in spite of it all, you still have your best friend to share the adventure with.

So here's to warmer weather and more happy trails!

copyright 2009-2010 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb & Lane