Link Love

Link LoveIf I ever find myself near Crossville, TN I am definitely visiting the World’s Largest Tree House. This magnificent feat of engineering is 90′ tall, contains 80 rooms, and is supported by a combination of one ginormous 80′ tall white oak  & 11 other supporting oak trees. Sadly, the tree house is currently closed under orders of the fire marshall. I still want to visit.

We are currently parked on the shores of Caballo Lake with a gorgeous view of the Caballo Mountains on the far side of the lake. Yesterday I was researching possible hiking trails in the mountains and came across article after article referencing Spanish Treasure Found in the Mountains. So if you don’t hear from us for awhile it would be safe to assume that we found some Spanish treasure, bought a private island, and are currently lying on the beach drinking Piña Coladas.

Have you ever heard of a Bosque? The word means woods or forest in Spanish, and here in the southwest it is used to describe the unique ecosystem that surrounds the Rio Grande River. It makes me happy to be experiencing this fascinating forest in the desert firsthand, and I’ve been busy learning the names of the plants that live in the Bosque.

One of the absolute best things about traveling around the US is discovering and enjoying local food. In case you’re wondering what to look out for in each state The Lonely Plant has a handy dandy State-by-State Guide to Iconic Foods. I am not sure how they came up with this list, and exactly how authentic it is, but from now on it’s my mission to eat from the list every time we go to a new state. On that note, a few states I need to avoid are: Delaware- Scrapple (google it), Montana -Rocky Mountain oysters (NOT really oysters, but instead a part of a bull’s anatomy that I would rather not ingest), and Minnesota – lutefisk (aged, lye-soaked white fish).

Just as I am gearing up to publish Part 2 of my Airstream Kitchen post all about planning, shopping and preparation, Lynne from the blog Tales from Mutiny comes along and beats me too it! I am kidding of course. If I only wrote blog posts about subjects that have never been written about before, I would never have anything to write about. Her awesome post offers great tips on saving money and staying green while cooking and eating in an RV. She includes some yummy sounding recipe links and even some great ideas for natural cleaning. You should definitely check it out.

Speaking of RV cooking, last week I had a moment of culinary mastery when I made this Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread. It was incredible and we had to restrain ourselves from eating the entire loaf in a single gluttonous bread-gobbling feast. The recipe was super simple, and if it didn’t take nearly 4 hours to make, including numerous rises and lots of kneading, I might make it every week.

One more food link. Airstreams are a popular method of advertisement for many brands. The latest company to jump on the Airstream bandwagon, errr…trailer, is Chevre, the makers of some mighty fine tasting Goat Cheese. We are huge goat cheese fans around here, and obviously we love Airstreams, so this seems like a perfect match. I only wish the road trip was coming a bit farther west so we could snag some yummy samples.

Did you know that for several years Airstream made a toy hauler? This 34′ beast is pretty slick looking, but even at that size what you gain in toy hauling space you loose in living space. Which means you have room for you kayak and motorcycle, but have to sleep in a tiny bed squished in the corner. I pick a comfortable place to sleep over toys any day.

Love, love, love these Airstream T-shirts. $36 + shipping seems really pricy for a t-shirt though.

I thought this list of the Best North-South Roads was interesting. Of the six on the list we’ve driven sections of only three including US 101, US 89, and US 1 (not with the Airstream).

Lots of RVers know about the Bumfuzzle family. They became famous (on infamous to some) in the traveling world about 10 years ago when the then childless couple decided to sail around the world- with no prior sailing knowledge. Tim & I both just finished reading their book about that journey around the world. We’ve often indulged in thoughts of living on a sailboat, and this account was eye-opening on several levels. While we are far, far from giving up the Airstream for a boat, it’s still fun to dream at times of a completely different kind of adventure.

Hiking the Organ Mtns. + Waterfront Property at Caballo Lake

On Saturday we made our way to the eastern side of Las Cruces for a hike in the Organ Mountains. This rugged section of mountains contains spiky looking granite needles that have the appearance of organ pipes – hence the name.

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On the Pine Tree Trail- the bottom left photo show the Organ Needle which tops out at an elevation of 9,000′ and is the highest peak in the mountain range

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The Organ Mountains

There are a number of trails that traverse the mountains, including some fairly technical (and scary) sounding climbs up the steep granite peaks. We’re more into hiking than climbing, so we chose a moderate 4.5 mile loop that took us up to the base of mountains. The Pine Tree Trail starts and ends at the Aguirre Springs Campground. We hiked up a series of mild switch backs to the high point of the trail (elevation 6,880) and enjoyed a view of the Tularosa Basin below.

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View from the top

It was a perfect day for a hike with mild temperatures, little wind, and bright sun overhead. We’ve haven’t done too much hiking lately and it felt good to stretch our legs and lungs with an uphill work out.

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More from the trail

At the end of the hike we walked around the campground to see how it might work for a future visit. At only $7/per night, and a full cell signal, it seemed almost prefect. We did spot a sign on the drive up to the campground at the point where the road becomes a winding one-way loop that said no trailers over 23-feet, but Tim confidently claimed we could make it with the Airstream no problem. And the campground, could we fit in any of the sites? Yup. While a good number would only be suitable for tents or really small trailers, there were a few sites where we could have easily fit. This pull-though with an amazing mountain view was my favorite.

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Site 18 at Aguirre Springs

A definite possibility for the next time we come through this area, but for now we are headed north. Not too far north though. On Sunday we packed it up and traveled about 45 minutes to Caballo Lake State Park. We drove through the nearly full electric and water loop before spotting a few RVs down by the water. The campground website says they have primitive beach camping ($8/night or free with our pass) which sounded right up our alley, so we headed in that direction. The first site we tried was at the end of the parking lot for the boat ramp. Great views of the water, but too much potential traffic from people going in and out of the parking lot. Out next stop was down a dirt road  and out on a little peninsula. As soon as we pulled up I knew this was the perfect spot. Just look at that view!!!

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Waterfront property

As you can see, even though we are technically in the state park, we’re completely alone.

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Ahhh…all alone

I’ll share much more about the campground after we’ve been here for a few days, but for now here’s some pictures from yesterday evening.

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Caballo Lake at the “magic hour”

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Evening glow on the Caballo Mountains

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Pretty clouds over the lake

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Sunday Sunset

One more thing – I forgot to include the updated spreadsheet detailing our costs at the New Mexico State Parks last week. So here it is with last week and this week added in. At the end of this week we will have been in NM for 27 nights. If you remember the first week I said it would take 22 days for the pass to pay for itself, which means it now has and then some. Also notice how the per day cost with pass has dipped below the per day cost without pass. From here on out the divide between these numbers will continue to increase.

New Mexico State Park Fees

This Week in an Instagram / March 30-April 5

Leasburg Dam State ParkCactus Flowers
Rio Grande River
Leasburg Dam State Park
Tulips
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Leasburg Dam State Park
Alligator Juniper
On a hike
The Organ Mountains
Site 10 for $10 / Found some cactus flowers / The mighty Rio Grande River not looking so grande / Visitor center at the campground / Tulips to brighten up the house / Yummy homemade cinnamon swirl bread / Our neighbor was fooled by our wifi name “FBI Surveillance Airstream”. He asked if we were FBI. He was serious. / The bark of an Alligator Juniper / Tim admiring the view / The Organ Mountains

Leasburg Dam State Park

Compared to the excitement of our day playing in the dunes at White Sands, the rest of the week has been rather anti-climatic. We arrived at Leasburg Dam State Park just north of Las Cruces a little past noon on Sunday.

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Us, a bridge & a bird

I know I run the risk of ruining a good thing by saying this, but I think I am ready to declare that we’ve perfected the art of snagging one of the first-come, first-serve sites at the New Mexico State Parks. The trick is to arrive on a Sunday between twelve and one. All the weekenders will be leaving on Sunday, and since most people need to a few hours to drive home they leave an hour or two before the 2:00 check out. Technically check-in at the NMSPs is 4:00, but from what we’ve seen there’s no way you’ll get a site if you show up that late. By the way, don’t you find it funny that check in times are typically two hours later than check out times at campgrounds. What happens during those two hours? I mean, it’s not like they’re making up your bed, or cleaning you bathroom. Some campgrounds rake the site, but from what we’ve seen the majority do not. It’s very puzzling. Anyway, I digress. So we showed up on Sunday sometime between noon and one to find only two of the 31 sites open. One of the them was a very large, no hook-ups site on top of a bluff overlooking the diversion canal and Rio Grande River below.

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Site 10 at Leasburg Dam SP

You’ll notice in the above photo that we don’t have any tables or chairs outside, there are lots of large rocks holding down the mat, and a few random flip flops laying around. That’s all the result of the very, very windy week that we’re having around here. Far too windy to even think about sitting outside. On the plus side, up until Thursday it was really warm, like almost 80-degrees, which we have been enjoying immensely.

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Two more views of our site including the adobe picnic shelter

There’s nothing really special or exciting about Leasburg Dam SP. But that’s okay, because we knew ahead of time it wasn’t going to be the kind of campground that blew us away with beauty. I know I said last week that I was spoiled and always wanted to find the absolute best campground, but I’m also realistic and know that sometimes we’re going to end up in a place that is just okay. The major reason we decided to stay here is to take advantage of the close proximity to Las Cruces. For the first time since we left Tucson over a month ago we have access to some larger stores for shopping. This meant we could buy the part for our black tank that we desperately needed (you don’t want to know), stock up at Target, find a birthday present for our little niece who is turning one this month, get some new running shoes for me, and take care of a bunch of other stuff that just can’t happen in the tiny towns we’ve been near lately.

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The view from our site. The foot bridge crosses the diversion canal, and the trees beyond are on the banks of the Rio Grande River

Besides shopping and working we have spent some time exploring the nature that surrounds us here in the park. There are a few short trails that meander around the campground, and down below us is the day use area with access to the river and a few more trails. The day use area is closed during the week this time of year, but we may have snuck around the fence anyway. Shhh…don’t tell. My best guess as to why it’s closed is because hardly anyone wants to visit it this time of year. Why don’t they want to visit? Could have something to do with the lack of water in the river. Below is what the diversion canal looks like right now. Pretty dry.

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No water here

The reason the diversion canal is dry becomes pretty evident when you see the dam. The dam by the way, is not there to hold back water, but to divert it into a series of canals for use by nearby farms. As you can see, there’s nothing to divert right now.

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The Leasburg Dam not damming a dam thing

The lack of water is due in part to the time of year, which is typically very dry, and also the fact that by the time the river reaches southern New Mexico it has been diverted so many times that it often dwindles down to nearly nothing.

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The Rio Grande

Despite the lack of water, we did discover some signs of spring down by the river. I’ve really been longing to see some green lately, so as you can imagine I was excited to find green leaves, some pretty pale pink flowers, and even a path lined with trees. Trees! What are those? We’ve been in the desert so long that I nearly forgot what it felt like to walk down a tree-lined path.

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Signs of spring

Back at the campground, we’ve also spotted a few signs that spring has sprung in southern New Mexico. Check out this impressive Yucca flower.

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A Yucca flower

And these cactus flowers!

leasburg dam state park

A type of Hedgehog Cactus called Claret Cup

I Spotted these the day we arrived and posted a photo on Instagram. Since then a ton more blooms have opened.  Aren’t they pretty?

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So pretty!

As usual we’ll be heading out to a new campground on Sunday. In the meantime, we plan to spend tomorrow exploring some of the hiking trails in the Organ Mountains just east of Las Cruces. If we’re lucky we might even find some more trees.

My Airstream Kitchen – Part 1: Organization

Everyone wants to know how we cook and eat in such a tiny kitchen. It’s the number one question folks who are thinking of going full-time in their RV ask us. My first instinct is to reply, “same as we did in our house with a full-size kitchen.” Because the truth is that we haven’t changed much about what we eat and how we prepare it. But I realize that isn’t very helpful. And if I really think about it, there has been a few adjustments. So I decided it would be fun to put together a post that shares the small details regarding how this whole tiny kitchen thing is possible. It started off as just one post all about how the kitchen is laid out, what it contains, and the way I plan, shop for and prepare meals in the Airstream. But then it started to grow long, and then longer, and then way longer. Until finally I realized I needed to split it into two posts. Part 1: Organization, and Part 2: Plan, Prep & Prepare.

airstream kitchen
I’ve never been one to write “how to” style blog posts. The thing is that I am not an expert on any of this. I’m learning as I go, and while I am more than happy to share what I learn, I never want to claim that I know the right way, or the best way, to do things in an RV. So instead of telling you how to cook in a tiny kitchen, or how to make the most of your space, I am going to show you exactly how I make it work, and you can take from that what you want.

 

Okay, let’s start with a pictorial tour of the kitchen, including all the goodies that make the magic happen. I’ll highlight the things I love about my kitchen, and also note where I think things could be improved. For the most part I’m fairly happy with the organization throughout the kitchen. Soooo…here it is, the kitchen.

airstream kitchen

My Airstream kitchen

No you’re not missing anything. That’s all there is too it. The only part not shown in this photo is the fridge/freezer combo along with a small cupboard that is located across the hall from the stove.

The tour begins with a close up of the sink area.

airstream kitchen

The Sink

I love my double sink because it gives me a place for the dish drainer, but it also means I have virtually no counter space around the sink. Tiny kitchens are all about trade-offs.
A few things worth noting in the sink area:
~ Magnetic Spice Tins. I LOVE these. Each tin has a twisty top that offers a sprinkle, pour, or closed position. I really like that an entire jar of spice will fit in one tin. The magnets seems to be strong, and only very occasionally if we drive on a crazy bumpy road does one fall off. I need a few more sets, but haven’t yet decided where to put them.
Under the counter Dish Soap Dispenser. A must have for any RV kitchen. No need to find a way to prevent the dish soap from flying across the RV when in transit.
Faucet with pull-out handle that has a spray option. My sink is fairly shallow so I use the pull-our faucet all the time to wash things like my big soup pot or a large cutting board.
Sponge Holder. You can’t tell from this photo but there is a divider in the middle of this holder which means you can store two sponges (one for the counter, one for the dishes). It has a rubber bottom and never moves while we drive.
Stainless Steel Utensil Caddy. I love me some wooden spoons and spatulas. You can never have too many. I hold this baby in place with a few dots of museum putty. Solid as a rock.

Next we have the stove and my fold out counter.

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The stove + my gigantic counter

As you can see my stove has a cover that doubles as more counter space. All RV stoves preform this miracle function. The trick is figuring out how to use this space and also use the stove. I will cover this in part two of the Airstream Kitchen series. Hint: it’s all about planning. For know I will tell you that I’ve gotten pretty good at prepping an entire meal on that 2′ x 1′ foldable counter next to the stove. As for the stove itself, it has three burners, and yes I have used all three at one time, and yes they do work great. Under the burners is the oven. I didn’t take a photo of the inside of the oven because…well because it’s an oven and everyone knows what an oven looks like. Again, I will tell you more about how I use my oven in part two.

Finally, it’s time to peak inside the cupboards. Are you excited? Let’s start with the two cupboards above the kitchen. Oh, wait! Before we go any farther I want to say that everything you see in the cabinets stays exactly as you see it while we are in motion. I don’t move things around, or wrap them in plastic, or put them in boxes and then store the boxes in the shower. No, no, no. That all goes against my philosophy of RVing. We live in an RV because we want to be mobile, and I don’t want to spend two hours packing every time we move somewhere. So I have arranged all the cupboards and drawers so there is no need to move anything in preparation for driving. Okay, now let’s look at some stuff!

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Above the kitchen storage

These upper cabinets can be challenging to organize because the backs are curved to fit the Airstream roof. The one on the left holds all of our plates, bowls, and cups. Tim made me a super awesome plate rack out of mini bungee cords and clips. The plates slip in between the bungees and never move. Saves space and I don’t have to worry about them rattling around in there. You can read all about how he made this custom plate rack here.

airstream kitchne

Upper Cabinet Left Side

Worth noting:
~ Collapsible Salad Spinner. The name says it all. Both the outside bowl and the interior colander collapse down and fit inside each other to save space. An all around terrific invention.
Plates & Bowls - We have a mix of white Corelle and colorful Melamine (a super hard plastic that’s supposed to be resilient). The Corelle is crazy durable and will probably last forever, but the Melamine has not been too impressive. Mostly I am disappointed by how easily it scratches. Eventually I would like to transition to all enamelware plates bowls.
~ We started off with a few of our favorite Pint Glasses. Sadly they broke one day when someone didn’t latch the cabinet all the way and they fell out and shattered on the stove while driving :( Now we have just two pint glasses that we picked up at a beer festival in Idaho. They are wrapped in a cloth napkin and wedged in the back of the cabinet. They only come out for special occasions.
Those are the only glass glasses we have. Everything else is aluminum or stainless steel. The Stainless Steel Tumblers each came with their own fancy bags, and I keep them in the bags to prevent scratches. They make great wine and cocktail glasses.
We aren’t coffee drinkers, but I sometimes drink tea so we have one Stainless Steel Insulated Travel Mug that lives in the back of cabinet.

The upper right cabinet could use some organizational improvement. The problem is that I am too short to reach the stuff at the back of the cabinet. I’ve tried to reorganize a few times, but have yet to come up with the perfect solution. For now this is what it looks like.

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Upper Right Cabinet

The goods:
~ Another collapsible item. This time a colander. Love it and use it every day.
~ Miscellaneous bowls. It’s hard to tell, but there are actually nine bowls in that stack. The green one on the bottom belongs to a set of three Vintage Pyrex Bowls that I simply couldn’t leave behind. The Stainless Steel Bowl belongs to a set of three (the largest one is not in the cabinet because we use it as our fruit bowl). And the white one poking out the top is 1 of 4 Small Corelle Bowls that we use almost everyday for our breakfast yogurt.
~ Glass Measuring Cups. A four-cup & a one-cup. This is the only place where I have a small piece of foam that prevents the small cup from banging around inside the big cup.
~ Glass storage. Long before we moved into the RV I got rid of all my tupperware and purchased a few different size sets of Glass Pyrex Dishes with Lids. These all now live in my Airstream kitchen and I use them for everything from leftovers to homemade sauce containers. The ones you see are the small size, and the larger ones along with all the lids are behind them.
~ More Vintage Pyrex Containers. I love these so much that I’ve added to my collection since we’ve been on the road. Each one has it’s own glass lid. Those are stacked behind the bowls.

Moving below the sink we have one large cabinet that houses three drawers one one side and three shelves on other.

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Under the sink cupboard

I’ve always thought it was a strange design because the drawers could be much deeper if they were not behind the cabinet door. As you can see there is lots of wasted space between them.

Airstream Kitchen

Under the sink drawers

~ At the top is our Silverware. I was excited to find an organizer that fit in this funny size drawer. That long thing on the right side is a micro-plane.
~ The middle has two wire mesh organizers that divide the stuff and makes it easy to find little things like my Measuring Spoons and Vegetable Peeler.
~ The bottom drawer is a bit of free for all. It has all the large stuff like the my garlic press, can opener, tongs, and potato masher. I also keep a set of Collapsible Measuring Cups stacked up in here.
~ At the very bottom of the drawers in a tiny shelf about 6-inches deep where I keep my plastic wrap, aluminum foil and sandwich bags.

The other side of the cabinet has three shelves. They are of varying depths because the sink pipes, a heating vent, and a wheel well are behind them. You know, that unimportant stuff that takes up room in my kitchen.

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Under the sink shelves

~The top shelf is tall but only about a foot deep. The black sink drain that you see actually dips down inside the shelf behind the Cloth Napkins (which we do use everyday, by the way). This shelf also holds lots of Dish Towels, a few Pot Holders, Bag Clips and a really cool box with a Set of Knives inside.
~ The middle self is the deepest, but it’s not very tall. This is where I store Baking Dishes of various sizes, along with some lids and my two Plastic Cutting Boards. I got rid of my 9 x 11 glass baking dish awhile ago because it hogged up all the room on this shelf. Now if I want to make a big casserole I just divide it between two smaller baking dishes and they go in the oven together. A simple solution.
~ At the very bottom is another really shallow self (that pesky wheel is in the way back there). There is just enough room down here to store the Spices that I don’t have in magnetic tins. I kind of hate this set up because to get to the back row I have to pull out the ones at the front.

To the right of the sink is a pull-out food pantry. I am going to skip over that one for now and save it for the next post all about food. Beyond the pantry is a large wardrobe. Primarily this space is used for clothes storage, but at the very bottom there is some kitchen stuff. It’s a deep closet so at the front I have a pull out basket.

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At the bottom of the wardrobe

Inside the basket:
~ Re-Usable Grocery Bags, which I don’t use as often as I used to. We have a tiny trash can, and after buying all the different size bags I could find, I discovered the bags that fit it best are the plastic ones from the grocery store. I never seem to use as many bags as the store gives out (I don’t need you to put my package of wrapped paper towels in their own bag!) so when I have too many I pull out the re-usable bags for a bit.
~ Immersion Blender. I moved from a full size blender to an immersion blender long before we began RVing and never looked back.
~ Mini Food Processor. The two-cup size is perfect for some things like pesto and chopping nuts, and too small for other things.
~ Hand Held Mixer. This wimpy little appliance is a huge step down from my beloved Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Of course, the Kitchen Aid was way too big (and heavy) to live in the Airstream, not to mention that it probably uses more power in a few minutes than we typically use in an entire day. Not so good for boondocking. I’ve learned to adjust though, and these days I don’t find myself using the mixer as much as I used to. In part because I’ve adapted some recipes to be hand mixable, and in part because I don’t have as many occasions to make things that need a mixer such as cakes and cookies. Which actually makes me kind of sad. Anyone want me to make them a cake?

Behind the basket is a stack of mostly baking stuff with a few others miscellaneous items thrown in.

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At the bottom of the wardrobe

On the side is a Large Wooden Cutting Board. I use this to roll out pizza dough or for kneading bread. I’m glad I have a convenient place to store this because it comes in handy quite often.
~ Grill Tools. I used to store these in the truck with the grill, but they got too dusty back there.
~ Rolling Pin. Doubles as a self-defense tool.
~ Soup Pot. I don’t use this guy too often, but I like to keep him in the mix for those times when I want to make a big ole’ pot of soup or chili.
~ Inside the soup pot is Ceramic Pie Plate, a Spring Form Cake Pan, and two 9-inch Round Cake Pans. None of these items get used often, but they fit nicely inside the soup pot, so I keep them around.
~ I have a tiny collection of small Paper Plates & Napkins. For entertaining purposes only. Other than that we never use paper plates. I know it saves water when boondocking, but it’s just not my style. Paper plates to me indicate a temporary situation, such as you would have when camping or on vacation. Neither of which describes our life. This is real life, and we use real plates.
~ Bread Tin and behind that a Muffin Tin.  I use these pretty often. I like to make different kinds of bread, and I LOVE to make muffins.
~ Plastic Storage. As I mentioned before I switched from tupperware to glass a long time ago. I do keep a few BPA free storage containers around for those times when we want to pack a pasta salad or something like that in a back pack for a hike.

Finally, we come to the last cupboard, located above the fridge where I store my pots and pans.

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Above the fridge cupboard

This is a good size cupboard where I am able to fit all pots and pans (except the soup pot) along with a Mini Muffin Tin and a Cooling Rack.

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Pots, pans other stuff, and a something strange

~ Three Pots. Three sizes that fit inside each other. Nothing fancy. In fact, all of my pots and pans are really old and belong to various sets I’ve owned over the years. Maybe some day I’ll have a fancy shmancy set that is shiny and matches, but for now what I have works so I see no need to change it up.
~ Three Pans. The bottom is a 10-inch cast Iron, the middle is a 10-inch copper (very tarnished on the outside), and the top is an 8-inch non-stick used almost exclusively for eggs. I love, love, love my cast iron skillet and use it almost everyday.
~ Stove Top Toaster. Quite possibly the greatest invention ever. It sits on top of the burner, you extend the metal pieces and lean the toast against them. Works great every time.
~ Metal Lids. I have three sizes that fit both the pots and skillets.
~ Silicon Lids. I picked these up in Quartzite. They can be used as pot lids, but their real claim to fame is as a replacement to plastic wrap or tinfoil on top of bowls. You press them on the bowl and they suction to the top. Another great invention.
That Cardboard & Tape thing at the top of the cupboard is not a piece of modern art, but instead some sort of temporary patch them Tim put up there. It was so long ago now (months, or maybe years) that I forgot why he made a hole up there to begin with. Probably had something to to with some sort of antenna for some sort of electronic device. Who knows.

Phewwwwww!!!

We made it. Can you believe I have that much stuff in such a tiny kitchen? Hope you enjoyed this tour of my Airstream Kitchen. Next time I’ll tell you how I put all this stuff to use.