Please note: During this time of uncertainty, we are continuing to post stories on the LTV Blog. In doing this, we hope to give you reasons to smile, and a chance to dream of future adventures. All travel mentioned in these posts took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions. We ask our LTV family to follow all recommendations of local health and government authorities regarding travel and social distancing. We are all in this together. You can read our full COVID-19 response here.
RSVP is the well-known initialism that derives from the French phrase Répondez S’il Vous Plaît, which translates to Respond If You Please.
Receiving an invitation for dinner is a most delicious proposition, isn’t it? And a meal is always better when someone else makes it, right? But hold on! What if you’re the one asking, and what if you’re currently travelling and living in the 25 feet of space that is a Leisure Travel Van? If that’s the case, the invitation might go something like this:
. A dessert would be perfect, thanks.Come by around 4:00; we’re in Site Number Three at The.Best.Ever Campground. Oh, bring a jacket in case it gets chilly when we sit around the firepit! Do you have any camping chairs
You’ve got a galley kitchen with a couple of square feet in space, with only two burners and a microwave/convection oven at your fingertips, not to mention that you’re currently parked in a campground lot. This is where you’ve invited your friends to? (GASP) Most people would shake their heads and say, “No way, that’s just crazy talk!”
We’re here to tell you that not only is it NOT crazy, but it’s all sorts of fun to offer up invites, be the hosts, and entertain in a tiny living space. Drive assured – this adventurous and nomadic lifestyle does not have to be limiting, and if you like to entertain, having people over shouldn’t scare the dinner plates off your shelf.
Just Because You’re Currently Living Small is No Reason Not to be Living Large!
We travel around in a Leisure Travel Van Unity IB, but despite our small 25-feet-of-space lifestyle, we always have fun hosting. The possibilities are endless, whether you’re planning a meal, an afternoon of games that includes snacks, or you’ve just spur-of-the-moment invited your campsite neighbors to sit down with you. However, we admit that first-time hosting anxiety can get you all spiced up!
Sometimes we’re travelling through an area where our friends live. Sometimes we meet people who are keen to discover the impressive Leisure Travel Van, and it’s a win-win scenario to do that over something to eat and drink. Then there are the people we want to grill because they’ve been where we want to go, or vice versa. No matter your raison d’être and no matter which fork you use, with a bit of planning and prep work, hosting can become a favorite recipe that suits all tastes involved.
Food for Thought
Hosting is all about possibilities that can happen at any time of day. You really don’t have to limit yourself to an evening meal – having people over for breakfast can be just as fun as as dinner! So how about some hot coffee, sausages, and French toast on the BBQ griddle?Going out for a hike? Real people do eat quiche – and it’s easy to bake in the convection oven.Going for a bike ride? How about inviting your bike-mates over for some grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with a side of chips, paired nicely with a frosty glass of lemonade? Yum!Not quite ready to get into a big meal with the neighbours in the campsite next to yours? Have some simple appetizers and see how it goes!Crackers and dip are easy to have on-hand, and even easier to prep. Grab a package of cream cheese and a can of spicy Thai chilli tuna. Mix them together and serve up with carrot/celery sticks and crackers. Double yum, and no one EVER guesses it’s tuna.
And if some unexpected company shows up around mid-afternoon? Why not offer up some tea and cookies? It’s a comforting tradition that works really well, and it’s not just for the British!Of course, every campground has the after-supper campground strollers that drop by. Nothing makes for a finer evening than citronella candles, refreshments, and a bowl of popcorn !
Before the Invite
Check the weather! If your invitation is for within the next day or two, then chances are good that the local weather report is going to be pretty accurate. But if your invitation is for two weeks out, well… have a Plan B in case some of that liquid sunshine happens to rain on your dinner parade. Check with the campground office – there may be a covered common area that you can move to if the clouds pour. Does it need to be booked?
And while you’re checking with the office, best check for any campground specific rules: Does your site allow for a second car on your site? If not, where should your guests park? Is there an entrance fee for them? What time do visitors have to leave? You should already be aware of campground quiet hours, and out of respect for your neighbors, it’s always a good practice to inform your invitees of the time they need to leave by.
Prep Your Space
One of the advantages of this lifestyle is that our living room is not only ever-changing, but it’s definitely one of the largest ones around! So, look at your current “backyard” and facilities, and design a plan. Imagine ahead and try to envision what will be needed where, and what you’ll be doing where and in what order. Then go ahead and arrange it all with the intent of making everyone as comfortable as possible, with the most amount of work done before anyone even shows up.
Will this be a sit-down dinner at the picnic table? Is one table enough, or should you see if you can pilfer another? Will people be eating while sitting in campsite chairs? (If so, the food and plates need to be lap-balanced!) If you don’t have enough chairs, ask your guests to bring their own. Perhaps you’re thinking buffet style, where everyone serves themselves?
Often, the atmosphere sets the tone and can be more important than the food.
Instead of a vase of fresh-cut flowers, how about a bowl of pine cones? Instead of real candles, which might be a fire hazard not to mention blowing out with the breeze, how about those flameless LED battery-operated candles? (And check to make sure you have batteries!)
Adding a dollar store plastic tablecloth quickly changes the look and feel of any table out there. I love the vibrant colours of my Mexican-style blanket, which often becomes a conversation piece of its own. And bonus? It’s easy to wash if something gets spilled.
We have a large synthetic carpet that we place in the walking area to eliminate dirt, dust, and rocks. It creates the illusion of extra floor space, wouldn’t you agree? I place some extra blankets on the chairs that are nicely arranged around the pre-prepped firepit, just in case anyone gets cold. Doing that ahead of time means I don’t have to leave the fun – and group conversation – to do it later.
Think about somewhere to put those paper serviettes (they can later be burned in the evening fire) where they will be handy and won’t blow away. Plan on having a large garbage bag hanging nearby for easy disposal of trash, and a second bag for your recyclables. If you are using real plates and cutlery, think about prepping a plastic tub full of sudsy, soapy water that all the dirty dishes can go straight into to be out of the way and to soak while your evening progresses. They’ll be that much easier to wash later. Or better yet? Serve up on paper plates, and they too can be burned in the evening campfire.
As our plans use the outdoor venue, we always start our fun earlier – somewhere around mid-afternoon. This way people can meet and mingle while the sun is still out and temperatures are warmer. Plan to have a game or two in the works: Washer Toss? Corn Hole? It gets everyone up and moving and laughing.
And for the more stationary folks, card games are always a fun alternative
Whatever your game(s) of choice, make sure all needed items are prepped and conveniently stored nearby. We have a plastic bin of games that is usually stored in the exterior slide-through compartment that comes out of storage and gets slid under the RV for just such occasions.
Prep Your Meal
Having people over for dinner is a whole different table to set. As with all preparation and plans when hosting, there are a few things to keep in mind to make it all a smashing and delicious success.
If there’s no chef in the family, or you just don’t feel like cooking, how about a store-bought rotisserie chicken served on a nice platter, with some of those pre-made side salads? Add your own gravy, maybe boil your own corn-on-the-cob that you picked up at the local farmer’s market, and voila… looks, feels and tastes homemade, without the fuss and with no muss! And you might be pleasantly surprised to know that a local pizza place might just deliver to Site Number Three in The.Best.Ever Campground!
If you are cooking, prepping meals in small spaces does require a bit of re-organizing and a different approach than in a full-on large, house-style kitchen. Things can get real crazy, real fast.
Creating a menu for four (or more) really isn’t that much more difficult than for two. Think about plating a menu of foods that can withstand a few hours of time, and always remember to check your ingredient list before starting any meal prep. Work with what you have, not what you don’t have.
Barbecuing? Check your propane levels, and have your BBQ tools and sauces handy. Marinate your meat the night before. We always ensure that we have a few extra pieces of meat, planning for oasis if something falls to the ground or, despite the best attempts of the chef, gets burned. If extras are not used, they get served as leftovers the next day.
Now for sides: What starch can you serve that’s easy to make ahead of time and serve cold, or tastes just as good re-heated? Scrubbed sweet potatoes, lightly oiled and salted, wrapped in tin foil ready to be grilled don’t take long to bake. Veggies can be pre-cut, and all garbage can be disposed of ahead of time.We always choose a tried-and-true recipe, serving something we’ve had before so that we’re not dealing with first-time experimental dishes. This eliminates some last-minute anxiety. And if your guests offer to bring something? Take them up on it! It’s one less thing to do, and guests love to feel involved and contribute.
How about grilled prosciutto wrapped asparagus with goat cheese? Sounds fancy, don’t it? Shh, don’t tell anyone that all you need is a BBQ, some fresh asparagus, prosciutto, and goat cheese. OK, add some salt, pepper, and olive oil, too. How to? Slice your prosciutto into manageable lengths, then wrap around a few pieces of rinsed asparagus (with the ends cut off) that have been dolloped with goat cheese.
Grill for 5 or 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears and how soft you like your veggies.
How about twice-baked potatoes? They look like you’ve slaved over them, but they’re easy-peasy and can be made in advance and then simply re-heated in your microwave, convection oven, or BBQ.
Wash and wrap your potatoes in tin foil and BBQ until done (or microwave). Cut in half and gently scoop the insides into a bowl, leaving behind the skins. I usually boil a couple of extra potatoes on the side as I like my skins heaped to overflowing. Mash all the potatoes with some butter/cream until desired consistency. Meanwhile, in a frying pan, add butter and sauté your favourite ingredients, like finely diced onion, bacon or ham (or both), and some thinly sliced, pre-steamed broccoli. Season with salt and pepper and herbs of choice. Add to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Spoon the potato mixture into the skins until overflowing, and top with grated cheese. Store covered until ready to heat. Voilà!
No matter the type of invitation, your ultimate goal when hosting is to have as much fun as the people you’ve invited. With everything prepped in advance, all you have left to do is tidy up, dress up, press play on your favourite tunes, and sit back with plenty of time to enjoy a breather before your guests arrive.
Go ahead, extend that invite. We guarantee you’ll have a great time. You’ll end up agreeing it’s as easy as one, two, three – yes, even in your RV!