Sunday, March 18, 2012

You gotta eat...

At first packing food was hard.  Food for adults, food for kids, what to cook on the fire, what to cook on the portable grill.  I really stressed about it.  Now, not so much.  We've got our favorite meals and we toss in a new recipe every now and then.

We have become camp food snobs in a way.  We do not make hamburgers for a meal.  Hot dogs are only served as an occasional lunch.  I've gotten really good with my dutch oven and cast iron skillet.  We eat stroganoff, chili, steaks with grilled asparagus, biscuits and gravy, and chicken wraps. The kids know not everyone eats like that camping.  At Huntsville State Park, Tommy was apparently holding a "My dinner is better than yours" session on the playground.  He brought some kids back to camp with him with recipe requests.

Best tip for camp cooking- aluminum foil--the good stuff--heavy duty.  I hate trying to scrub the black soot off of my pots when cooking over the fire.  Back in Girl Scouts we would rub soap on the outside of the pan before cooking to make it easier to clean.  That was okay, but wrapping it with foil is better.  After cooking, just pull the foil off, ball it up, and put it in a container for recycling later. No scrubbing the outside required.  And in a pinch, foil can be used to scrub off the inside of the pot to loosen food.

The first night meal for us is always the same-chick foil wraps.  Love, love, love, for so many reasons.  First, I make it at home and freeze it ahead of time.  No muss, no fuss at camp necessary.  Second, the whole meal is in a foil pouch.  Toss it on the fire while you finish setting up camp and begin relaxing.  After an hour or so, eat it right out of the foil and clean up is a snap.  S'mores, here we come.  Third, ans the best, is my picky eaters will eat things in this meal that they don't even want on their plate at home.


1 can (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 3/4 cup water, divided
1 pkg (6 oz) Stove top chicken stuffing mix
4 small boneless chicken breasts pounded to 1/2 inch thick
4 thin slices smoked ham
1 1/2 cups fresh mushrooms
1 1/2 cups frozen peas

1.  Mix soup and 1/4 cup water, set aside.  Combine stuffing mix and remaining 1 1/2 cups water.  Let stand a minute or two.
2.  Spoon even amounts of stuffing onto 4 large sheets of HEAVY DUTY aluminum foil.  Top each with one chicken breast, put one piece of ham on top of each piece of chicken, put some mushrooms and peas on each. Pour some of the reserved soup mixture on top of each.
3.  Double fold top and both ends of foil around chicken leaving some room for air to circulate.
4.  You can cook them at home in your oven at 400 degrees for 35 minutes in a baking dish.  On a campfire, place on a grill or grate over the fire just out of the direct flame.  I usually put the fold side down first.  Turn occasionally for about an hour.  Check for doneness and serve.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

About that shower...

Okay-I'll admit it.  I'm a little bit of a neat freak and it does extend to camping.  I keep the tent organized and neat.  I cover the picnic table with a plastic cloth that I can scrub with antibacterial wipes. I take a broom to both sweep the tent and the concrete under the table.  I do not however scrub the showers at the park and at times wonder if anyone does.

One of our first long camping trips that my husband and I went on I was basically using a washcloth and soap and cold water from the spigot by camp to get a layer of sweat, dirt, bug spray, and sunscreen off.  It worked-kinda.  I just couldn't bring myself to use the showers at the park.

Then one night, my husband announced, "Well, I'm tired of smelling like a caveman," and took off for the showers.  I sat in camp imagining the mold and mildew and germs he was encountering.  After about 20 minutes he came back and looked so relaxed and comfortable.  And he smelled good!  He told me it wasn't that bad and that he kept his sandals on the whole time he was in there.  I decided to risk it.  Hot water and clean hair was too much of a temptation.

Typical park restroom-nothing fancy, just what you need

I packed up a bag of soap, shampoo, washcloth, change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, towels (one for my body, one for my hair) and my flip flops and headed to the shower.  I threw caution to the wind and stepped into the shower stall.  I tried to ignore anything that looked like it needed scrubbed and pulled closed the curtain.  Once the hot water came on, I didn't even think about the mold or mildew.  I just stood there and enjoyed it.

I got back to camp about 45 minutes later.  Clean and happy and comfortable.  And over my hang-up on what the shower looks like.  Don't get me wrong, I will try to wait until right after I see the cleaning crew leave and will walk out if it is really bad.  But, hot water and clean body is definitely a camp necessity.

I taught my kids that those showers are good.  Rachel actually looks forward to the shower before crawling into her sleeping bag at night.  She has learned the tricks to  using showers in a state park.

1.  Wear flip flops or water proof shoes the whole time.
2.  Carry shower needs (soap, shampoo, towels, deodorant, etc.) in a water proof tote bag. Some showers get really wet,
3.  Take shorts of short pants to change into after the shower.  They are easier to put on without getting them on the floor.
4.  Check out the showers when you get to the camp.  Some don't have curtains up over the changing area.  We pack a couple of the cheap shower liners and duct tape for those emergencies and make our own.

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A "Tents" Situation

A four man tent was perfect for my husband, me and the dog.  A 4 man tent for a family of 4 is a different story.  Especially when the children are getting tall-my "little" girl is 5'8".  (Yes, she loves basketball.)

So we got an 8 man tent for 4 people.  Spacious, luxurious room for all-not.

A 8 man tent will fit 8 adults in sleeping bags side by side with no room left over.  But, with cots, air mattresses, gear, and room to move... an 8 man tent is good for 2 adults, 2 small kids and gear.  On a past trip we realized that we couldn't fit into one tent without literally stepping on each other to move around, so the kids got a 3 man tent for just them, sleeping bags, 2 air mattresses, and toys.  It worked for a while.  Then Rachel had another growth spurt and her head and feet touch both ends of the tent.  Looks like an upgrade is coming.  Maybe move them up to a 6 man tent.

Our 8 man tent with 2 cots.  Full.
In any case, we much prefer the "pop-up" style tents that have the fiberglass poles and shock cords over cabin style tents due to ease of use and set up.  They also seem to be sturdier in the wind and they are  usually smaller and lighter to pack and haul..  Make sure to get tents with at least 2 windows so that you can get some cross ventilation.  Don't be swayed by all the extra pockets for gear that they advertise.  They can't hold much weight without pulling down that part of the tent.  Look at floor area and height of the tent for one that will fit your needs.


Will we switch to an RV?  No, it's tempting.  But, we are tent people.

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The Inspiration

My son came running back to our campsite from the playground ready for lunch.  I couldn't even see skin; just dirt and mud.  I yelled down, "Wash first-with soap!"

He stopped at the water spigot at the front of our campsite, turned on the water, grabbed the soap, and in seconds was clean enough to eat-from the wrists to the fingers anyway.

Another mom was walking by and stopped to watch.  She asked about my "soap dispenser."  I never even thought of it as clever or unusual-just standard operating procedure.  I drop a bar of soap into an old nylon knee-high or pieces of pantyhose and tie it to the spigot.  It's always there, dries between sue, doesn't fall on the ground, and can't be carried away by animals-or kids.

About 2 hours later, I saw that same mom again.  She had made a trip into a nearby town for some knee highs and soap.  She asked if I had any other secrets to share... 

That made me think, maybe I do have some ideas that can be useful to other campers.

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How it came to be

My family camped a lot--family vacations, Girl Scouts, for fun in the backyard.  I loved it.  I always said that Mr. Right had better be able to pitch a tent.  Luckily, he could.  We had many adventures camping in Oklahoma and then we had kids.  Camping got pushed aside with play dates and birthday parties.

When my daughter was 5 and my son was 3, we ventured into the woods again.  We were seriously over prepared--too much food, too much gear, too many clothes.  We watched in fear as my prissy little girl looked at our campsite, wrinkled up her nose and then squealed, "rolly polly heaven!".  She proceeded to collect those little bugs and make houses and mazes for them.  My son eargerly helped his big sister collect twigs, rocks, leaves.  They were happy.  We could relax.  Our kids were campers at heart.  It's in their DNA.

The years have past.  My 5 year old prissy girl is now 12 and a total tomboy in the woods.  My son turns into a wild thing.  Dirt, bug bites and scratches are part of his daily attire.  In 7 years, we have this camping thing down.  We can be ready for a weekend trip in a matter of a couple of hours and a week long trip in a couple of days.  The art of camping and love of spending time in the outdoors with my family drove me to this blog.

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