Last weekend my very good friend Mary and I took our kids camping. It was my very first camping trip and therefore my kids' first camping trip. I really didn't know what to expect. I thought there'd be a grill, but wasn't certain how to use it -- do I bring wood? charcoal? What if it rains??? I knew that Mary was bringing her camp stove, but wasn't really certain how that would work. So, in typical Lorraine fashion, i over-prepared for the weekend.
Now, I don't like to be without the conveniences of home. Not at all. Even when traveling to stay in a hotel, cruise ship or even a friend's house, I bring just about everything I might ever need with me: pillows, Pepto, hand soap, books, tissues, toilet paper, etc. So, of course, this was my mentality when envisioning camping. BUT -- since I didn't want to be surrounded by RV's, I had asked Mary to book us a "walk-in" site, which the Web site said could be up to 1500 feet from the parking. SO.... I had to re-think my packing! 1500 feet is a lonnnggg way.
I began to make lists -- this is what I do when I'm anxious. I reckon that if it's all down on paper and everything is there and makes sense, then all of life will be okay. So, I had to prioritize. What was important? My blow up mattress, for one. No way was I going to sleep on the ground. Bread -- and lots of it -- I wasn't going to be forced to use public bathrooms without the advantage of a high-fiber diet. So, muffins and brownies were near the top of the list since I make them with fresh-milled whole wheat, too.
After making the whole packing list including new camping pillows, Petzl head lamps, plenty of tarps (the thought of soggy bedding wasn't attractive) and a water-proofing product for all soggy-able items, I was ready to begin making menus! So, what does one make for three days of meals when one had no idea what the cooking situation will be?
Hot dogs, of course.
But, I can only endure hot dogs for one meal about once every six months or so. So, I needed to come up with some other ideas.
- Friday, lunch -- KFC, since we'd just arrived
- Friday, dinner -- Chicken Salad Sandwiches, spring greens and chips
- Saturday, breakfast -- Yogurt, fruit, muffins (although Holt had Cheetos)
- Saturday, lunch -- tuna salad sandwiches with spring greens and PB&J (for Mary, Annie and Holt)
- Saturday, dinner -- hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans (actually just Bush's heated up on the awesome camp stove)
- Sunday, breakfast -- Muffins and my all-new Camping Frittata (recipe below)
Now I know that the camping stove is actually really cool and I could have done a lot more with it. But, as it was, I had all of the food pretty much prepared before we left, so all I had to do was assemble and heat. That left more time for fun things -- like the Nature Trail...
ahhh, the "Nature Trail."
Well, I'll admit that they didn't lie -- it was a trail and there was nature. But, frankly, when I hear that there's a "one mile nature trail," I envision a nice, clear path around the grounds that features signs about the various plants so that one can leisurely stroll there and learn about indigenous plants...nature. So, we set off for the trail -- myself, Mary, Holt (age 3) and Annie.
We easily found the trail and the first bit of it were sort of steps up a pretty steep incline. I thought, "oh, good. We'll get the steep part out of the way so that we don't have it when we're tired." We approached the first sign which talked about, I don't know, something like leaves. I read the entire thing to Annie and pointed out the leaves (or whatever it was) as described. We continued to walk up the incline and arrived at a second sign. A little winded, I summarized it for Annie and sort of pointed in the general direction of whatever it described. By the time we'd gone 1/4 mile straight up hill and arrived at the fifth or sixth sign, I panted, "It's about birds" and waved in the general direction of the air.
So, the "one mile nature trail" was a one mile wooded torture. Half a mile straight up. Half a mile straight down. At one point the path was actually almost overgrown. I had to literally push my way through branches. Now, perhaps a more seasoned camper/hiker -- say, Mary -- wouldn't have found this to be at all surprising. She didn't. And, a person in better shape -- say, Holt (age 3) -- wouldn't have even been winded. He wasn't. He actually had the audacity, the little booger, to say, "That was EASY!" as he scampered off, leaving me clinging to life and the handrail at the bottom of the trail.
After mostly recovering from the jaunt around the trail, I did indeed enjoy the beautiful lake, the calm, cool summer breeze, S'mores by the campfire and I actually really like sleeping in the woods. It was so quite it almost hurt. Now a suburban housewife, I'd nearly forgotten what that was like. It took my back to a sweet time in my life, when the biggest concern (and it was big) was whether my brother or I got to sleep on the swing on my grandmother's front porch.
So, camping is, indeed for me! Who'd of thunk it! Me, Lorraine "Where is the Nearest Hilton" Rose (according to Amanda). And, in honor of my new-found love of camping and my survival of the nature trail, I give you two awesome recipes:
S'mores (in case you don't know this time-honored recipe, I take NO credit)
- Get some Graham crackers. Not Cinnamon Graham crackers, and, for goodness sake, don't ruin this by buying "healthy" crackers -- just plain, good graham crackers.
- Buy a good supply of Hershey's bars (no nuts).
- Buy some large marshmallows.
- Find a thin, green stick.
- Burn the stick for a moment to "sanitize it" (yeah, right).
- Place one (or preferably two) marshmallows on the stick and place it over the fire. Now, there are two philosophies on how to properly roast a marshmallow. The first is to hold it well above the fire and rotate it so that it slowly and evenly browns ever-so-slightly while still getting all melty on the inside. This is all well and good, but I haven't the patience for it. I say hold it close to the flame for as long as you can stand it and when you get bored catch the whole thing on fire and quickly blow it out. This ought to provide a well melted marshmallow with a bit of a crunchy outside.
- Here's where true artistry comes into play. You need two halves (squares) of a graham cracker. Place on one of the halves enough Hershey chocolate to cover the cracker. Take the Marshmallow(s) -- still on the stick-- and place it/them on the cracker with chocolate then place the other cracker half on top of the marshmallows and squeeze the crackers together while pulling the stick out. This should result in a monumentally fantastic S'more -- which you eat before it cools down. As a kid I could eat these all night. As an adult, my limit is just less than one.
(I'd love to be able to call it "Campfire Frittata, but I'll have to wait until the next trip to try cooking it over an open fire)
Ingredients (can vary)
- 7 - 10 Eggs
- 1 - 1.5 cups whole (black-market raw) milk
- 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 lb ground sausage (yes, like Jimmy Dean, not healthy, but tasty)
- 1/2 bag of shredded potatoes (you can usually get these near the eggs in the supermarket)
- chopped onions to taste
- Plenty of Adobo (or your favorite season-all)
- salt, maybe pepper
Brown and thoroughly cook the sausage. As the sausage finishes cooking, add the onions and then the potatoes. Cover the potatoes with an appropriate amount of Adobo. Stir and cook this for a couple of minutes, until the potatoes begin to barely brown.
In the meantime, beat the eggs with the milk and salt to taste (also pepper, if you like). Add the cheese and pour mixture over the sausage and potatoes. Scramble this just a bit until the eggs begin to become a tiny bit cooked. Then, leave it alone, letting it cook as slowly as possible until the whole thing is firm. Cool for about 3 minutes and then slice and eat.
Of course, if you're having difficulty controlling the heat source and, like us on the trip (but not in the initial test kitchen) find that the eggs are getting quite cooked in places and still completely runny in other places. Just scramble the whole thing and serve it with a spoon instead of in slices. It's all the same, just not a pretty.
So, this was, after all, entitled "Camping and The Opposite."
We left the camping weekend doing so well. We'd made plenty of vitamin D while playing at the beach; gotten plenty of exercise walking, swimming and hiking the infamous nature trail, we'd eaten very healthy -- including organic fruits, bread baked with fresh-milled wheat, tons of water, etc. I was tired, but felt well! Healthy! Invigorated! Which was the whole hope of the weekend, knowing what lay ahead!
The entire following week is a wonderful blur. I was completely engrossed in preparations for a huge outreach called Give a Kid a Chance. This is where we help every kid "in need" in Cherokee County be able to start school on the same footing as all of the other kids. We have one big day where the kids and their families come and we do medical, dental, vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings for the kids. They get their hair cut by professionals, many of whom normally charge a LOT of money. They get a backpack filled with all of the school supplies they need as well as new socks and undies. Then they can go "shopping" in our nearly new clothing section and choose up to five outfits. After all of that, they can sit down and enjoy a free meal with their family and even get their faces painted! How cool is that!
I am the volunteer coordinator for the event. This year we had nearly 600 volunteers at our two locations and we served more than 1500 kids!
How is this "The Opposite?"
Well, I spent the entire week buried at my computer assigning and re-assigning volunteers. Checking up and checking-in volunteers. Answering questions, attending meetings, moving chairs, sorting clothes, carrying backpacks and even screening videos (to make sure they weren't too scary for little kids). My body didn't get any exercise. My skin didn't see a ray of sun. There was no "Nature Trail" and all I remember eating was pizza and Chick-fil-A. It's Tuesday of the following week and I still haven't made any bread!
BUT -- I wouldn't change it for all the S'mores in the forest!
While being virtually the opposite of camping, I have never had a better weekend than this! To see the faces of the kids -- feeling so proud of their new haircuts and their cool backpacks. To see old friends that I met the very first year we did this outreach --watching those kids grow up! To see the beaming faces of the volunteers as they are blessed more than they imagined by serving God's children the way God tells us to -- clothing the ill-clad, feeding the hungry... I can't imagine a better way to bookend a frenetic week of typing that with camping on one side and Give a Kid a Chance on the other.
well, except I did sleep virtually ALL of Sunday, except the hour and a half I was a church.
If you're interested in helping with Give a Kid a Chance for next year, it's never too early to let me know! We're already starting to plan for next year! Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get your on our volunteer e-mail list. No spam, just info about GAKAC.
"What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'" -- God (in Isaiah 58:6-9-ish)