By Janet Groene, F47166
Remember when you could throw a party for 20 in your dorm room? Hosting a crowd in a motorhome is a snap by comparison. Most of us gather at group cookouts and potlucks held in a campground clubhouse or pavilion. However, there are times when you want to host a private get-together at your own motorhome. Here are some ideas on how to put together a whale of a party in a minnow-size space.
- First, check into campground regulations. You may have to pay for or limit non-registered guests, or may not be permitted to invite them at all. Plan the party so it doesn’t run into quiet hours. If regulations prevent you from hosting the party at your campsite, choose a park where everyone can meet and where you can park your motorhome in a spacious spot with a good view and facilities. Wherever you park, the coach is your kitchen, first aid station, and staging area.
- Take inventory of what you have on hand for serving, seating, and entertaining your guests. Then make a list of items that have to be rented or purchased. If rain is a possibility, consider renting a party tent or reserving a public pavilion. Large, inexpensive tarps can be strung from trees to serve as sun shades or rigged as rain shelters. Stock a good supply of disposable dinnerware and glasses, and a box of super-size trash bags.
- Set up several drink and food stations around the campsite so guests can serve themselves without ending up in your kitchen. Inexpensive plastic or galvanized wash tubs or trash containers can be filled with ice and drinks.
- Have suitable stain treatments on hand for anything that could be spilled on your upholstery or carpeting. Get one type for greasy stains, another for non-greasy spills. Immediately blot (do not rub) or scrape up as much of the food or drink as possible, then apply the stain treatment. Once stains set in, they’re difficult or impossible to remove.
- To make maximum use of a small oven, buy foil casserole pans in the largest size that will fit in your oven. Then serve a progressive menu that alternates hot and cold foods. You might start with a baked bean dip served with mountains of chips and crackers. When you take the dip out of the oven, put in the (precooked) lasagna or chicken casserole. By the time guests finish the dip, followed by a salad course, bring out the hot main dish and put a big cobbler in the oven. When the main course is over, put guests to work cutting up watermelons you have iced in a laundry tub while you start the coffee. By the time they have finished the watermelon, the cobbler and coffee will be ready to provide a hot, sweet end to the meal.
- Rent or borrow large thermos containers to hold foods such as sauces, gravy, and hot beverages that are made hours in advance. Thermos containers and ice chests also can be used to hold cold courses. Try using frozen ice packs as chillers to avoid the watery mess associated with melting ice.
- One way to serve a big crowd is to make bag lunches in advance. Make two sizes “” a smaller one for children and a larger one for adults. Kids can eat early if they like, then go to the ball diamond or beach. Provide drinks, ground covers to spread on the grass or sand, and bug spray. Lunches can be packed in puff-plastic containers and stacked in ice chests. Or, plan a menu that does not require refrigeration. Pack each lunch in a colorful paper bag, or tie it up in a new cloth bandana. (They cost less than a dollar each in discount stores.) Sandwiches that don’t have to be kept cold include peanut butter and jelly, sharp cheddar with chutney and crisp bacon, or provolone with thinly sliced tomato and sweet onion. Butter the bread or rolls and use mustard or pesto if you like. Avoid mayonnaise and other creamy spreads. Add a shiny apple, a packaged brownie, and a napkin, and lunch is on.
- Make things easy on yourself. With careful, thoughtful planning, you can be a guest at your own party.
News you can use
Do you have a dispute with your cell phone company over a bill? The fine print in your contract very likely requires you to pay the bill and then submit it to arbitration. If you withhold payment, you’re in violation, so be sure to pay up first. If you don’t like the arbitrator’s decision, you may file your complaint in small claims court.
One way to have fewer disputes is to use a prepaid cell phone system, but you may have to buy a new phone or pay to have the old one reprogrammed. Starting anew is also a problem if your old contract hasn’t yet expired. TracFone is a popular prepaid system. We have had excellent service from Verizon Wireless, which we opened as a prepaid account several years ago.
On the plus side, prepaid cell phone programs don’t carry all the taxes and fees of a plan that is billed monthly. You pay state sales tax, period. It’s also the cheapest per-month cost if you use your cell phone only for emergencies. The drawback is that these plans don’t include many of the benefits of a monthly plan, such as unlimited calls, unlimited incoming calls, no roaming charges, and so on. Ours does, however, offer free roll-over minutes that provide us plenty of no-cost calling time on evenings and weekends.
This column regularly reports on high, often sneaky charges to guard against when using bank or phone cards, ATMs, or other services that are indispensable to full-timers. Here is a new one. Many banks now charge for inquiries, even those made to an automated system. Watch for small charges (usually 50 cents to $1.50) on your statement. Here’s another: If you work for a company that pays you with a plastic debit card instead of a check or electronic deposit, note that many banks allow only one withdrawal per deposit. After that, using the card as an ATM card or debit card incurs a charge of $2 to $3.
Books for full-timers
Walking and running are two exercises that full-timers can enjoy on the road without a gym membership or special equipment. To lose weight or simply get in better shape, check out two excellent books from Cold Spring Press: Secrets of Smart Running, by Matt Greenwald, and Get Fit Through Power Walking!, by Becky Youman. The books are priced at $10.95 each and can be purchased at bookstores or from online booksellers.
Reba Young’s newspaper columns appeared for years in the Lamar Democrat and now they have been collected into a book called Truman’s Birthplace, Lamar, Missouri ($12.95, Pelican Publishing). This isn’t a book about Truman, but it provides a glimpse of the hamlet that produced a president and generations of salt-of-the-earth citizens. Anyone who loves folksy memoirs will enjoy this book, and those with ties to Missouri will cherish it. Those who aspire to write can take a lesson from Reba, whose first article was written when she was 79 years old. The newspaper continued publishing her columns for the next 12 years.
The next time you’re in the Louisville, Kentucky, area, take a free tour of the American Printing House for the Blind. It’s fascinating and uplifting to see the work that is done here for the visually impaired, as well as the history of how books became available to the blind after the APH was founded in 1858. Tours of the facility are available Monday through Thursday (closed holidays), at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. For more information, call (502) 895-2405 or visit www.aph.org. The on-site Marie and Eugene Callahan Museum is open weekdays, year-round except holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If you’re planning to cross the border between New York and Ontario, Canada, visit www.seawaytrail.com for information to help make the trip easier. In addition to listing the documents you should have and the dos and don’ts for border crossing, the Web site covers traffic patterns and bridge information to help motorists avoid the busiest times.