Happy Post Valentine’s Day

We all need a bearhug now and then!

Hi and welcome to the blog!  I hope Valentine’s Day was enjoyable for everyone.  I had to work that day and it was busy.  A friend made the picture with the bear special effect.  That was a sincere smile.  The older I get, the more it’s kind of nice to have solitude!  My two fur pals, Jenny and Mister Duke got a Valentine’s Day stuffed animal.  Their acceptance and empathy is sufficient for this old fisherman bachelor.  🙂

We had a change where I work.  A couple of years ago we had a manager who was terrific to work for.  He’s returned and what was an enjoyable job has gotten even better.  They say that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.  Well, that’s a line of bull.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t hurt all the time.  But it’s fun to have the right person at the helm.  🙂

Of course, there wouldn’t be as much job security if it weren’t for kids.  I gave up the weekend camping to pick up some hours from a millennial.  But today the van got a thorough cleaning and it’s ready to go when the weather breaks.  Before long the ice will be gone and I plan to do a lot of fishing – perhaps MORE than ever – this year.  The focus will be closer to home.  I made friends with a cool old guy that’s going to let me fish on his property.  Other ponds and rivers will be explored.  I’m excited!


If there was just more room in the van, one of these would be nice!

But for now the weather is a mess.  The home base is still getting cleaned and upgraded.  This new little “greige” (grey / beige) cabinet came home the other day from the Bed Bath and Beyond store.  I was looking at it online for $119.  To my surprise, the little storage cabinet was on clearance at the Cedar Rapids location for just $39!   There is a small nick in the finish at the back of the cabinet near the wall.  I jokingly told the salesman that the damage will never be seen since I’ll be seated facing forward.

Once a shy barn cat, Mister Duke is content to rest under a fluffy comforter and watch the birds and rabbits in the yard.


With a little bit of boredom setting in, I decided to make something tasty with applicability for camping – a tasty pepper steak stew recipe.  Cooked in the crock pot, there was little work needed.  Served in a bread bowl, it made for a hearty dinner tonight.  Even Mister Duke enjoyed some of the gravy and steak.  It’s always fun to try something new.

Any inexpensive piece of beef will work.  I’m fond of the “chuck eye” but this cut is not always available.  Sirloin would be wonderful as well.  In addition to the ingredients below, next time I would add a bit of cayenne pepper.  The nice thing is that all this stuff could be prepped and simmer in the crock pot will out somewhere hiking or fishing.


In a bread bowl or served with chili toppings, this stuff will warm a person right up.

Brad’s Slow Cooker Pepper Steak Stew

12 oz chuck eye, round, or sirloin steak cut in 1″ cubes
1/4 cup all purpose flour
salt and ground pepper

14.5 ounce can of chopped tomatoes with Italian spices
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bell pepper (or equivalent mixture of colored bell peppers) chopped
4 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1.76 ounce packet of brown gravy mix
1 cup water
2t chili powder
1t coarse ground pepper
1/2t ground mustard

Roll the steak cubes in the flour.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper.  Steak can
be browned in a skillet in a couple tablespoons of oil, but it is not necessary.
Mix all ingredients and put in a small slow cooker.  Cook 5 hours on low until
bubbly.  Adjust salt and pepper as needed.



That’s about all that’s new.  The weather and work schedule are looking very promising for next weekend; we should have highs in the mid 40s.  If everything lines up, Jenny is going to get her first camping trip of the season.  What’s cooking next weekend?  I’m working on some ideas right now.    🙂

Take care and thanks for visiting!

Bradford, Jenny, and Mister Duke in Jones County, Iowa



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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

2 Responses to Happy Post Valentine’s Day

  1. Jo Harmon says:

    Love the little cabinet. And what a deal!
    The bread bowl dish lookes really good and the recipe is great. I have been wanting to make beef barley soup but even the cheapest beef has been so terribly expensive but I think tomorrow one way or another I will get some I bought everything else.

    Yes the weather is going to be better this week but the nights are still kind of cold to go camping. Hope you get to go.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Hi Jo! Thanks for the note. The little cabinet is coming in handy already. The little door / shelves hide extra rolls of tissue. Beef has been high for sure! It’s still cold here. I went last night but with a bit of a problem. 🙂 Take care!