Tag Archives: Camping

Vacation!

1 Jul

There has been a problem, and it’s all Facebook’s fault.

They kept advertising vacations in locations like Israel or at a nice, hot, sunny beach.

Now maybe to someone who is starved for warmth, that’s appealing.  Me, I hear Israel, and I think Middle East, and that isn’t a place that is apt to make me relax one bit.  They have entirely too much going on there right now, from political upheaval to religious issues, and my idea of a good time does not include wearing a burka, trying to decipher where I could or couldn’t go as a woman, or watching soldiers carry machine guns.

I have betrayed the fact that I’m not very worldly.  I’m terrified of tanks and soldiers with guns, and always have been.  It’s bad enough to see them on television.  I don’t want to vacation where I have to navigate check points or be “protected” by soldiers.  It’s bad enough if it’s your own country that is living like that, I sure don’t want to go visit one for “fun”.

No, I’m not anti-gun.  I’m anti-war.  I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I see wars as killing sons and daughters.  I’ve lost one, not due to war, but I know what it feels like.  I can’t imagine sacrificing a child to the war games of politicians.  I’m also not anti-soldier–I have friends and relatives who have or are currently serving in the military.  I don’t have a panic attack if I see them in uniform either.  Not even if they have a gun.  They aren’t on patrol.

I guess I regard the entire Middle East as this huge war zone, with periodic spaces under truces that don’t include me, as I’m not Muslim or Jewish.  I also have no need to make a pilgrimage to an ancient religious site there.

Plus it’s hot.

And sandy.

I spent most of my life in the American Southwest, which is predominantly semi-arid.  I’ve had enough “beach” for a lifetime–a beach is just more hot sand to me.  Never mind that the southwest is short on water–they have ample “beach”.  Even on the Gulf Coast, I prefer to visit the beaches in the winter.  Or at night.  Hot sand has zero thrills for me.  I don’t even want a sun tan.  I’ve spent the last thirty years avoiding that, why start trying to get one now?

So, I started thinking…

IF I could afford a vacation anywhere, where would I really want to visit?

Someplace cool.  Like really cool.   Not rock star cool, but ice and snow cool.  Like Mississippi winter cool, most likely.  Greenland and Iceland come up on the list fairly quickly.

The reality is, I don’t have a vacation budget this year.  I’m like most of America, and have a hand-to-mouth existence that is plagued with gaps between the two.  Our primary vehicle has broken down–our back up vehicle, our old mini-van, has expired tags.  We’re not going anywhere right now.

So how on earth to take a vacation?

Vacations for me are usually a camping trip somewhere.  Sometimes, I’ve gone on camping road trips, camping along the way to visit someone or something.  It’s entertaining and relaxing, and I got pretty good at setting up/tearing down.  Since those days, I’ve become disabled.  Setting up camp with Greg is now an endeavor that takes a lot out of us, even as we’ve simplified things immensely.  We’re also in need of a new tent now, as our old standby one with its easy set up and internal frame, has seen better days and leaks so badly we just use a tarp over the rain fly.  Without a functional and legal vehicle, we’re not going camping either–besides, I no  longer can cope with summer heat without air conditioning.  Our camping, when we can go, is confined to the other three seasons of the year.

But…

I’m a devious so and so sometimes.  I’ve heard of staycations.  Most of them sound like they aren’t all that much fun, or even save that much money.  But I thought about it, and what do I like to do when I go camping?

Obviously fishing is a big deal, but when we go out of Mississippi, I don’t fish, as I don’t buy an out-of-state license.  So what do I do then?

I hang out and do much of nothing, actually.  I do cook, especially if we have a group, but with the loss of the use of my arm, I have to have a fair amount of help to do that too.  So, it looks like I don’t do much except deal with meals, and when it’s just Greg & I, we tend to do very simple meals at that.

I’m going to hang my hammock in the yard on Wednesday, after the radio show is done tomorrow.  I’m going to take one of the books I need to read, a pillow, and go lay in the hammock and do nothing at all except read and watch people go by.  Maybe I’ll swing the hammock a bit.  I might get my little battery personal fan out to create an artificial breeze.  I might even take the laptop out for a bit, and see if the wi-fi reaches that far.

Sound silly?

Maybe it is.  But just a day of being silly can make a lot of difference in how we approach problems and figure out a way to solve them.  We could definitely use some increased brainpower!

Vacations, affordability, romantic…and not American?

30 Jul

I was sort of dreaming on the internet today.  I was wondering what kinds of vacations an average sort of American (you know, like me!) could take without waiting to get a passport (which I don’t have.)  It seems everyone and everything is advertised for vacations this time of year, and I’ve grown weary of the rut of every day life we seem to be stuck in.

I clicked on a lot of those “best of” and “Ten best” list articles.  I discovered something pretty quickly though

It seems we don’t have anything GOOD to do in the USA.  Everybody’s vacations are going somewhere else, some exotic locale with plenty of water, broad expanses of sand, and a sense of exotic luxury.

So, it soon dawned on me…apparently we don’t have water, beaches, OR luxury in the USA.  I find that a bit hard to believe, but are American vacations just too expensive for the Americans themselves to afford?

Greg and I have our first anniversary this fall.  Last year, when we got married, we took our honeymoon and went camping at Tishomingo State Park in Tishomingo, Mississippi.  We had a great time, despite inclimate weather, leaking tent seam, and all of the other things that can happen with a late season camping trip, even in the South.  It also was “in budget” which is a really big deal to us.  We don’t want to finance anything, be it a car, house, or vacation.  While it may have been horrible to more pampered characters than us, to us, it had the essentials: we were together, we could be comfortable and sleep late if we wanted, our dogs were along for the trip, and we could enjoy a bit of secluded self indulgence.  Since we’re both excellent cooks, meals were also gourmet quality, even if our stove WAS parked on a picnic table!  We enjoyed things like grilled steaks, burgers, sausage, omelets, pancakes…and anything else our hearts desired.  All for an average cost of (meals included) under $50 per day.  Okay, I’ll confess…we weren’t die-hard roughing it campers–we had our computers, we had our cell phone, we had our electric heater for the tent, and we even had an electric coffee pot.

But, thinking along the lines of a bit more luxurious aren’t exactly a bad thing, so I was honestly curious about what we COULD do to celebrate our first year of being legally married.  A weekend getaway, even if it was a long one, shouldn’t be too expensive, I thought.  At the same time, after our recent experiences at a budget wise motel in the Jackson, MS area…I wanted something a bit nicer than that!

We have the entire South within easy driving distance really (well, maybe not southern Florida).   There’s a lot of history, a lot of luxury, and a lot of interesting things to see and do.  We could indulge in a beach experience, a mountain experience, or something we’d never even thought of.

The latest thing in travel seems to be the “all inclusive resort.”  After numerous false starts after doing a search, I finally did find some.  However, at $200+ up per night, with incidentals ranging from extra fees for parking to internet, it didn’t look like it was really a viable option for an affordable getaway/mini-vacation for us.   They just seemed to offer not much more than a motel room and beach space, golf courses, or fishing/hunting options.

Search resumes…this time focusing on inns and b&b’s, which might be more affordable and better suited to our peculiarities.  Well, they were a bit cheaper, and definitely had more character…but ranging from $150 up per night, maybe that wasn’t exactly our cup of tea either.  I’ve never stayed at a B&B either, so I already had some prejudices against the concept.  It’s almost a bit creepy, like staying at a stranger’s house.

That left searching for a romantic Southern inn.  I was sure that Southern Living would have a answer for me, but…I was wrong.  We are prejudiced after living in Greater New Orleans, and aren’t thrilled with the idea of a romantic getaway there either.  We wanted something new and old and filled with character…so the hunt continued.

Sometimes, being frugal isn’t fun, I suppose.  I couldn’t help but mentally compare amenities with those found when we camp, and the camping was far less expensive usually.  Yes, we have to make our own beds, but is that really so horrible?  Yes, we have to set up our own “room”, but that too is a pretty familiar task.  For the price of a single night in a fancy hotel or inn, we could have as much as five nights in a really nice park in Florida, complete with beaches that are fantastically beautiful and other amenities within easy driving, biking, and walking distance.  Just like the hotel, the dogs weren’t totally welcome, but…asking someone to “babysit” the “kids” might not be a bad thing either.  We’d be free to enjoy ourselves without worrying about whether they were bored, hot, cold, or otherwise uncomfortable.

Okay, so we’re cheap, but I do prefer the term frugal, actually.  We like the privacy of our own tent, we enjoy the flexibility of our own schedules, and we don’t really MIND setting up the tent.  Heck, once upon a time, I felt totally comfortable using it as our motel solution, and I could set up or tear down camp in less than 45 minutes.  I can’t hardly get out of a motel room quicker than that, and we had dinner at set up and breakfast with tear down.

I guess since I couldn’t find luxury for under $150 per night in anything I regarded as “interesting”, I’d rather have interesting with a tent and a lot less money.

Shall I panic yet?

2 Aug

July is gone.  It’s over with.  We’ll never see it again.

In the meantime, it’s already August.  I question whether it is time to panic yet.

I’m getting married on October 29th, and I have a long list of things that haven’t been accomplished…

Things like:

  • Exact location of the wedding–we’ve made arrangements and contacted the Hancock County offices, we’re good to go to have our wedding on the beach in Hancock County, including the “Dog of Honor” and the “Groom’s best dog”.  We don’t have the exact spot yet though, and that requires that we drive over and choose the location according to the things that will matter, like parking and aesthetics of the beach area.
  • Blood tests–I can rant about the archaic nature of a blood test for syphillis until I am blue in the face.  We can’t get the license until we have those certified blood test results.  We need to get the tests run and get our license this month.
  • Canopies-I need to check with friends and see how many canopies we can borrow for the event, and determine if we need to rent or purchase more.
  • Meet with the minister–we need to have a meeting with the woman who will be doing the honors for us and finalize our ceremony’s details.
  • Order the wedding rings-they aren’t expensive (we can’t afford to get married let alone the expensive part!) but they do need ordered well in advance, which means this month.
  • Decide on our attire-I had thought to order a dress suitable for a hippy wedding…but…I’m now questioning whether that is really the ideal route.  If I don’t buy a dress, we’ll be able to afford a honeymoon.  (Low budget honeymoon=camping honeymoon!)  I am thinking barefoot, jeans, and t-shirts would work fine!  Maybe a skirt–I have a couple of those too!  Greg will undoubtedly choose jeans and a t-shirt, but the barefoot thing isn’t really his cup of tea.
  • Wedding cake decisions-I’m thinking small single layer “official” cake with cupcakes to serve.  Easy, breezy, multiple flavors.  I’m leaning towards abandoning the groom’s cake (that wonderful Rembrandt’s torte) in my KISS approach.  We do have to sample recipes though!
  • Food selections–We can’t make actual food selections until closer to the wedding when we know how many guests we’re going to be feeding, but we can narrow down our choices.
  • Email invitations–I need to sit down and email everyone individually to invite them, since my blanket invitations seem to have overwhelmed people and left them uncertain.  Abandoning the paper invitations has been confusing for our guests who are accustomed to something more formal, so emailing the “invitation” will help bridge the gap.  Miss Manners would say I’m totally wrong, but my ecological and economical soul says this was a good choice for us.
  • Make a list and check it twice–all the things that need taken care of in September will  need to be listed, just so I don’t forget an important detail.
  • Find out when the bridal shower is being held-I need to mark that on my calendar.  I’m uncertain if it is in September or early October.  Our daughter is giving the bridal shower.
  • Shop for the various items that will be needed to serve the food and drinks, as well as keeping things simple and convenient for us and our guests.  We’re also responsible for clean up after the wedding, so we need to think about that process as well.

 

 

It’s funny, as much fun as the planning is, and as much as I’m looking forward to the wedding, there is a faint sort of panic rising too.  It doesn’t feel like that old familiar friend that was labeled “fear of commitment”, as our commitment is a familiar friend these days, but more along the panic any woman faces when planning an important social occasion.  What if I forget something important?  What if nobody comes?  What if nobody has any fun?  What if the weather is nasty?  What if, what if, what if….until I want to scream and bury my head under my pillow.

I even had a dream last night that for some unknown reason, Greg presented me with a very large, very black, Persian kitten just before the wedding, and not even this cat would behave normally, instead choosing to behave like a dog so much I actually (in the dream) asked him if it was a Persian cat or a Pomeranian dog…

I’m not sure what THAT was all about…but it was also somehow intertwined with fishing and me panicking because we were no longer in the bayou on the boat (don’t remember if we’d entered the Gulf of Mexico or where else we were though.)

Are the dreams prophetic?  I don’t think so in this case, I think they are more symbolic dreams and messages from my subconscious.

The cat was likely representing my not wanting to be presented with something else to be responsible for, especially something that didn’t behave “right” and needed as much attention as a persian cat would.

The boat portion likely represented my fears about being adrift in a sea of unknown, not sure what to do or which way to go, while the big waves threatened to overwhelm our small boat.  That’s not an uncommon fear, even among older couples who have lived together for years as they approach their wedding.  We all wonder…will tying the knot officially change our relationship?  These are normal and natural fears, and it’s only logical that my dreams would express them.

So off we go, on the grand adventure of our wedding!

Where would you go if you could take a dream trip?

30 Jun

If money and time were not issues, what kind of a trip would you plan?  Where would you go?  What kind of trip would you take?  What would you do on your trip?  What would your goals be on that trip?

Me…I’d take a trip from “sea to shining sea” and explore the USA, nice and slow.  It would probably take me 12-24 months to do it but that’s okay…remember, time and money are  not worries on this dream trip’s plan.

Of course, we’d assume we’d be in perfect health and a state of fitness too, so while I’m at it, I’ll confess…I’d like it to be a bicycling & camping trip.  The whole self-supported thing.

Now why on earth would I want to do it that way, when money is no object?

Because, when you travel slowly, you have a more intimate experience and truly see things in a much different way.  You get the aromas (good and bad) and people see you too, unlike car travel, which is fast and impersonal.

So riding this bike, toting a trailer loaded with camping gear, spending a year or two on the road…what DO I want to see?

Acadia National Park in Maine…Key West & Hemingway’s cats…some crazy castle that one guy built in Florida, the pony round up on Chincoteague, Amish settlements in Ohio, sleepy villages in the Appalachian mountains, moose in Minnesota, to hear the cries of loons on a foggy morning in Minnesota…just before going to fish for our breakfast of sunfish.

I want to see the Ozarks, and visit quirky little towns.  I want to get all the way to the beaches of Texas, but I want to find out why anyone ever moved to North Dakota too.  I want to buy cheese in Wisconsin, and see the Dells as an adult, with Greg.  I want to see the soaring peaks of the Northern Rockies, and groan as we slowly make our way up the mountain passes.  I want to be kept awake at night by the sounds of elk bugling and wolves howling.  I want to hunt for gemstones in Idaho.  I want to see Yellowstone National Park and avoid the bears by wimping out and staying in a motel.  I want to visit the Black Hills, and see Mount Rushmore all over again after drinking ice water in Wall Drug and riding through the Badlands.

I want to visit Thermopolis, and laugh after Greg gets a whiff of the air there.  I want to visit more quirky little towns.  I want to stock up and ride across the Great Salt Desert on our bicycles, thankful that we can travel faster than the pioneers could, and thankful for the water we can carry in our trailers.  I want to camp in the giant redwoods and eat seafood on the Pacific coast.  I want to see the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Oh and there are people to visit too.  To share a meal with and laughter.  To curl my hands around a hot cup of coffee as we talk late into the night, and then get up early, our minds foggy from lack of sleep, and laugh again as we stumble around trying to find the minds we’d lost the night before.  We have friends and family all across the nation…and I’d love to see them all, even for an hour or two.

Crazy idea…but sometimes, even crazy ideas catch a ride on a handy nearby flying pig, don’t they?

I’m so excited!

28 May

Okay, so I’m 50 years old and a grandma…so what?  Anybody who’s BEEN 50 knows the truth of the matter is, there is an 18 year old girl inside of me who’s looking in the mirror and her jaw is hanging on the floor as she wonders what on earth has happened.

I’ve been engaged to my best friend for some time now.  (Okay, more than a year, less than a decade, is that specific enough?)  We’ve been living together, postponing that date thing because we “couldn’t afford it.”

We finally realized that we’re always going to be saying that we can’t afford it.  There will always be something else that needs bought or done.  Therefore, we were just going to DO it, whether we could afford it or not.

Now at our ages, I’ll admit, the actual ceremony isn’t as critical as having our friends and family around to celebrate both our relationship and life in general.  So of course there has to be a party!

We haven’t finalized a lot of things.  Okay, so we haven’t finalized anything…

That is okay.  We’ve chosen the approximate date–the last weekend of October.

That’s just before Halloween, so of course the first thing I was asked was whether or not we were doing a costumed wedding…

Oh yeah, a reason to dress up and have some fun?

We are having a hippy wedding.  Tie dye, flowing skirts, long hair, beards, beads, a little incense…you get the idea.  But at the same time, hippies represented an era of progressive and independent thinking, of social consciousness, and the earliest stages of New Age awareness…

What better theme for Greg and I?

We’re going to have it outdoors, but we haven’t chosen a location yet, hence the lack of firm date (Friday, Saturday or Sunday are all on the list.)  For our traveling friends, in keeping with the theme, we will have scoped out some camping locations to accommodate them.  For those who want more comfortable digs than a tarp or tent in the woods…we’ll check into special rates at some local motels.

Of course the party part will include food.  We haven’t chosen the menu yet, but I will promise that it will not be exclusively raccoon meat…

I’ve recruited my daughter as my designated caterer.  Not only is she an excellent cook, but on my budget I have to consider the cost of the caterer.  Being my daughter, she also has an affordable price.  While I’ll be helping with the before food to a degree, I also know that the last minute details are likely to consume my attention, so I don’t want to be the bride AND in charge of the food.  We will likely shoot for easy to serve and eat foods that can be mostly prepared one or two days before the event.  If we’re hosting a weekend-long event, there would have to be multiple meals served, which might get trickier on our budget.

We’re also “going green” on the invitations.  There will be NO paper invitations.  Just like in the “good old days” when news of a wedding or other gathering was spread through a community, we’re using the modern version of that grapevine.  Phone, email, text messages, and word of mouth are our invitations of choice.  Would it be approved by any etiquette queen?  Definitely not, but the bride is also debating whether to wear a brightly colored skirt or overalls to the ceremony…

We are planning a honeymoon too.  We’re going camping!  Just the two of us…and the dogs.  Our destination?  The Natchez Trace is appealing, especially for the season.   Some leisurely time together after the excitement will undoubtedly be appealing for all concerned.

Oh and the dogs…

We now have three, and while Sissy would be severely stressed by the commotion of the wedding, the other two would find it fun.  I think we’re going to dress them up in keeping with the hippy theme too.  The cats are more in line with Sissy, so the three of them will miss the party together, making do with their own party foods.  (Can anyone say “mackerel” here?)

While marriage is a very serious commitment, Greg & I are already a very committed couple.  The ceremony doesn’t change any of that, but rather indicates a shifting of our legal status in the eyes of the law.  So the ceremony itself is really more a legal requirement than a spiritual, emotional, or moral commitment event.  It does, however, provide us with the opportunity to share a celebration of our continued commitment with our friends and family in a fun and lighthearted way.  All of us have very serious lives, with very serious problems and struggles.  The costumed nature of our wedding and “reception” does not indicate a lack of seriousness on our part for the whole institution of marriage at all, but rather is an acknowledgement of the need to play in ourselves, our friends, and our family members.

The theme was chosen because no one will have to spend inordinate amounts of money on “appropriate” attire.  Any thrift shop can supply our guests with the basics for their “outfit.”  It’s also conducive to a casual outdoor celebration and gathering, as these types of gatherings were part of the nature of the hippy culture anyhow.  Hippies also advocated tolerance, love and peace, something we all could use more of.

Now we will undoubtedly have a tray of brownies somewhere for everyone, as a retro touch, but they won’t contain any “vegetable matter.”  Smoking will be tobacco, and while there will be some burning of incense, it won’t be to mask other aromas.  We’ll have coffee and sweet tea, and maybe some other soft drinks too, and while alcohol won’t be banned necessarily…we won’t supply that at the buffet table.

I wonder what my chances are of arranging for a coronet of dandelions with a florist are?

I must be crazy

30 Mar

Have you ever made a joke about doing something, and it has become a running joke…only to have the running joke turn out to really be a seed for a totally crazy idea that sounds really pretty good?

At least to you?

Yeah

Maybe it’s the turning fifty thing I have looming ahead in a few weeks and the realization that time is getting short for doing a lot of things.

I’ve decided that I want to travel around the United States.  That’s not unusual for someone my age, look at all the RVs that are sold each year and head down the highways.

The trouble is, to use an RV and do that requires a small fortune and a good pension, neither of which are something I have.  It also means being willing to consume gasoline in vast quantities on a regular basis as you travel.  I guess I find that rather unappealing too.

I want to do it a much greener fashion with a much more laid back attitude.

No, not on a motorcycle.  I find them intimidating with their noise, the helmets give me claustrophobic attacks, and I’m afraid I’d miss something.  Besides, most of them don’t get really good gas mileage, hovering around 50 or 60 miles to the gallon.

I want to do it by bicycle.

Granted, I realize that I am not a world class cyclist.  I realize that most touring cyclists typically ride 75-100 miles in a day, and I’m doing good with 10.  Does it really matter?  How fast did the pioneers travel with oxen and wagons?  I can even accept the possibility of adding a gasoline assist motor (they average about 100 mpg up to about 150, depending on the bike & load) to ensure that we get some miles done even if the slope is uphill and it’s hot outside.

It’s kind of crazy, I’d dreamed of doing that when I was a teenager and biking was easy and breezy.  I could ride my clunker of a 3 speed bike for 20 miles before lunch without breaking a sweat.  Now, I struggle with hills.

GM points out that it would take money to do this.  I point out it takes money to stay home too.  He points out my lack of physical conditioning, I point out it would obviously have to get better.  He sees 100 reasons why it is a crazy idea, and I agree.  It is crazy, so why not?

We could bike to Maine, and visit the Acadia National Park.  I’ve never seen the Atlantic coast, or any part of the northeastern USA.  I’d love to visit the Amish country of Ohio, and see the Appalachian mountains.  I can imagine crossing the prairies of middle America, and seeing the Rocky mountains looming ahead.  I can imagine how tiring it would be to pedal our way through the mountain passes, visiting former mining towns long past their glory days.  I can imagine our misery as we cross the Great Salt Desert with its shimmering heat waves, and entering the vast deserts of Nevada and seeing a herd of wild horses in the distance.  I can imagine the rising view of the coastal mountains ahead of us, and then…finally…the Pacific ocean and its great expanse in front of us.  I can imagine biking through the Redwood forests of California, and the maritime rain forests of the Northwest.

Oh, I know full well that some days, the rain would fall and the wind would blow.  I know sometimes I’d look at my bike and hate it.  I know I’d cry sometimes because parts hurt.  Sometimes I’d curse drivers, and sometimes, drivers would curse us.  There might be days when I wasn’t too thrilled with GM too.  There would be other days when he’d look at me and growl, informing me that this was all my fault because it was my idea.

I can accept that.

I know that doing this would be a monumental task.  We have two dogs and two cats, and our dogs are long past the age where they can run beside the bike all day.  They’d have to ride most of the time.  They are heavy.  So is camping gear.  I asked our daughter if she’d keep our cats while we made our epic journey.  I’d miss the grand baby.  It’s insane to think of devoting a year or two to doing nothing but riding a bike and taking pictures and making memories.  We should be responsible and work and save money and visit doctors and buy a house and a new car.

I want to make memories instead.  I want to taste adventure.  I want to feel the wind in my face.  I’ve spent a lifetime being responsible and hard working and boring.  I’ve done what society expected me to.

So is this a mid-life crisis?  Maybe.

Maybe its a symptom of insanity.

There are lots of reasons to not do it, and few besides the simple statement “I want to do this” for doing it.

It takes a lot longer than a bit of Botox and some liposuction, for sure.  Probably costs less and the side effects would certainly be different.

So if you see an overweight middle aged couple puttering alongside on the highway, with gasoline motors droning as we climb that long hill, towing a trailer with a couple of aging dogs and some  camping gear…slow down.

It just might be us.

Maybe.

If I can sell the concept to GM, that is.

Unplugged to recharge

10 Mar

We just got home from our annual spring camping trip to the Florida panhandle.  It’s been five days of being unplugged from technology, primitive camping where even my cell phone is iffy at best about getting a signal.

Cooking on a tiny campstove, sitting around the campfire, listening to the sound of the trees at night as the wind roars through them, hearing the strange (to me) sounds of coyotes in Florida  (they don’t sound like Western coyotes, its a bit more “dog” like in sound, but still has that characteristic yip yip yiiiiip sort of sound.)  Sleeping in a tent that I could have sworn we’d waterproofed the rain fly in early December…we got drenched in a storm the first night.  I came flying out of bed and was frantically digging in the van for some sort of remedy.  My remedy turned out to be dragging the rainfly from our big tent to be stretched over the smaller tent and staked down, covering most of our leaking spots.  (The entire rain fly was about as protective as a sheet of cheese cloth!)

We did have some clear weather on Saturday, and got a short bike ride in along the forest roads and the main black top through the area.  It was nice.  We also spotted a really HUGE fish, which I was informed was a bass, as well as that it was trophy sized.  None of us were fishing or even had fishing gear along, so that was merely an interesting side note.  About all any of us have done in the creek is swim and play, so anything larger than a minnow is a real novelty.

Sunday found the rest of our crew heading home, leaving GM & I for some solitude for a couple of days.  It was nice, just the two of us with our dogs, and we never pulled the computer out once.  I read a book on Monday, we took a nice long walk, and we had a good time with the dogs in the smaller creek near our camp too.  GM hates cold water though, and that always provides me with ample entertainment at his gasps and exclamations of agony at the icy water, which was running a bit higher than normal due to the heavy rain on Friday and Saturday nights.

I made steamed pudding on Saturday night, and despite the fact that I know the recipe by heart…I forgot to add the sugar!  GM & I still liked it, finding it still quite sweet with the fruit in it, and I whipped a caramel sauce with some heated sweetened condensed milk.  I think the other campers were a bit suspicious though, especially after the raccoon filled tamales.

And here this was supposed to be a group of survivalist sorts!

Still, after being left with excessive quantities of meat, I have come home craving vegetables and a tuna fish sandwich.  The joys of living out of a cooler and restricted by the finite nature of ice in it.

There is something really and truly soothing to the soul when you are lulled to sleep by the sound of the wind and a naturally flowing creek nearby, even when it is punctuated by the sounds of coyotes, a donkey (yee-haw, right?), hunting dogs in the distance, a million or so different frogs, night time bird calls, and the sound of crickets.  The smell of burning wood and the sight of the flickering flames answers some primal call of our ancestors as we sit near it and warm chilled limbs as we talk of things past and present, the truth and fiction.  Even the cooperative preparation and consumption of meals is something that soothes our savage natures.  How can one be sour and angry when sitting near the fire and eating your dinner with your companions as the coyotes cries in the distance echo among the trees?

How can you not consider this planet important as you stand with your feet in the icy waters as you wade to the other side, thankful that you didn’t fall on the slippery clay bank and watch the minnows dart away from your clumsy splashing feet?

How can you not feel sad as you come across someone’s former campsite, littered with debris and the sad stumps of the young trees they chopped down only to leave laying like the other debris?

And the aroma of perking coffee accented by a whiff of pine smoke as you wake is as comforting as the feel of the dry blanket covering you, and you quickly dress in your cold clothes for the day, anxious for a cup of that coffee that some early riser has graciously prepared….

Spring has arrived on the Gulf Coast, and the sight of the fading blooms on the wild blueberry bushes reminds you of that fact, even as the rain and thunderstorms rage through the region, dropping heavy rain and even some hail as a reminder of the power of a storm.

I better be ready to face the coming year, hadn’t I?

Hostess with the mostess?

1 Nov

I survived both a campfire cooking demonstration and a baby shower this weekend.  My daughter’s baby shower was Saturday, and overall, I’d declare it a success.  There were no fatalities, no assaults, no blood, and no one required emergency medical treatment.  I had the same success on Sunday, with no fatalities, assaults, gore, emergency medical treatment, or psychiatric admissions.  My hair is no more gray than it was last week either.

The sandwiches were cut into a pumpkin shape, which my daughter’s significant other declared to be “boobie sandwiches.”

It’s amazing, but once he said it, everyone could see what inspired the comment, but women didn’t see boobie silhouettes…they saw pumpkin silhouettes until he announced they were boobies.  The comment arrived in the  middle of his lament about his being the first male in the history of Mississippi to attend a baby shower, and that he would probably be burned at the stake for his offense.  He saved his reputation with the other males by declaring that he got to judge a boobie contest and that we’d in fact all been topless during the entire shower.  It may have been a desperate attempt to save his reputation, because most of the women were on the far side of fifty…

The cheesecake was a success, the sandwiches weren’t as big a feature as we’d have thought.  I think the average consumption was one pumpkin shaped sandwich per person.  I even ate one, despite the presence of mayonnaise on them.  I had made bean dip, and Pam made “rotel” dip-a cheesy concoction that included tomatoes with chilies.  The bean dip was made with dehydrated refried beans from Emergency Essentials and only included a couple of spoonfuls of the tomato & chilies mixture.  It was a tad salty for my tastes, but it really was superior to generic brands of refried beans, and equal to name brand products.  If you are a Mexican food fan, love bean burritos, dips, etc., they are ideal.  I love the convenience of adding some hot water, heating them a few more minutes and voila! hot and fresh refried beans!   In terms of cost, they compare very favorably with buying the average small sized can of refried beans, and even more favorably when compared to ‘bean dip.’

On Sunday, we kept it simple.  I had pre-cooked a batch of 15 bean soup, adding a couple of ham hocks to the beans, and about half of the included “Cajun seasoning” packet.  I did have Tabasco brand chipotle pepper sauce and Mike’s All Purpose seasoning available for those who wanted a bit more kick.  I baked two batches of cornbread in the dutch ovens–the first one was burnt as black as the pot on the outside, although the inner portion was edible.  (The dogs ate the black bits too–they weren’t so picky!)  the second batch came out perfectly.  We baked fish seasoned with Mike’s All Purpose Seasoning and wrapped in foil before being put on the grill over the coals, as well as 3 small pumpkins stuffed with butter & brown sugar.  Everything was good, and the leftover cheesecake vanished during the evening.  I always receive compliments, but it really seems so easy that I’m almost embarrassed to accept them.  The pumpkins scorched a bit on the bottom–I should have wrapped them in double layers of foil.

It was a grand success despite the small oopsies, and now…we’ll relax!

 

Moving, too much “stuff” and business contacts, along with August 21 fixations

19 Jul

I’ve been silent for a while, I have been VERY busy with life…that little four letter thing that swallows us up whole on some occasions.  But, in the interim, I have been putting some serious and major changes into place.

I have officially become homeless by current standards.

And no, despite my sister envisioning GM & I sleeping in a cardboard box under a bridge or overpass somewhere, we’re not that kind of homeless.  We are simply not currently renting a house or apartment.  We are renting a storage unit…for now.  It’s also very full, and I’m questioning that very fullness.  GM is seriously questioning that fullness even more, since everything that is in it, he has toted at least a hundred yards, and at least once.

Us, 2 cats, and 2 dogs are currently residing in a travel trailer, and that is requiring some serious adjustments on everyone’s part.  Especially me, since I’m the incorrigible packrat, always saving something for future use.  As someone who cooks and writes about cooking, this is really interesting.  Ever try to keep props, cooking equipment, pans, etc. in the storage provided by a travel trailer?  Oh, and ingredients…very interesting when there is no refrigerator.

Yeah, we have a refrigerator.  A beautiful Frigidaire, about 16 cubic feet, which is adequate for a couple with 4 pets.  IF it worked.  Ours doesn’t.  It just lights up, blows room temperature air, and looks good.  Reminds me of some people I know.

The move itself has not gone well.  Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong, and its additionally complicated by the fact that I lived behind my former employer, requiring us to come and go through the business.  Since I have been unable to work since my shoulder injury last November, that got a bit complicated.  Unfortunately, my former boss seems to think I’m malingering and exaggerating, an opinion that has not been shared by my doctor.  She has no intentions of bringing me back when I’m released to work again, no matter when that is, and there was no sense in staying in that house.  After living there over six years, I had accumulated a lot of “stuff.”  I have given away, thrown away, and packed away almost all of that “stuff” at this point–we intend to pack the remainder and do the cleaning in one last visit.  Hopefully, we can accomplish that without any further issues!

The van has been a money pit lately–first a heater hose, which is still just sporting a temporary repair.  Next, some little do-dad on the linkage chain(?) has worn out, and that too is sporting a temporary repair.  In the process of backing up the van and getting it into place for our fantastic mechanic (ever need a repair in Metairie, La, check out Jerry’s Auto Repair on Airline Drive-Jimmy is a great guy!)  GM backed into the mailbox.  Do you know what a spectacular explosion a rear window glass makes upon impact?  So…the next day, we had an appointment with Glass Masters, also in Metairie on Airline Drive.  A great price, and a great installation job in just about an hour.  Earlier that day, we had to take the van to Sam’s Club to have the new tires we had purchased there checked out–one of them was making an odd thumping noise.  They said one of them was out of balance, but the thumping noise seems to have increased.  I wish I had great compliments for their customer service in the tire department, but I don’t.  I doubt I will purchase tires from them again.  Good prices don’t compensate for crappy customer service, and the tire market is fairly competitive.  I’d rather spend an extra $5 per tire and have good service (maybe even with a smile?) from whoever I purchase them from.  I was interested in a national company to honor the road hazard warranty, no matter where we were…but there are a long list of alternatives still out there, and on the next tire purchase…one of the others will get the nod.  During the years I lived in Arizona, I always had excellent service from Discount Tires in Flagstaff, but there didn’t seem to be one in the Greater New Orleans area.

So, in the meantime, I’m trying to decide the fate of trinkets, doo-dads, gizmos, gadgets, too many clothes, too many shoes, and too many books.  I’m looking at my accumulation of “stuff” and calculating not only space factors, but those of weight.

That brings me to emergency preparedness.  In a sense, the whole equation changes when you can hitch your house up behind a truck and move the entire thing with very little preparation.  However, that very little preparation clause requires continual rethinking of how I live.

Food supplies-going through our emergency supplies, we discovered grain beetles had taken their toll, and it was a big one.  It was also time to use the canned goods and replace them.  I’m thinking we need to go to dehydrated foods designed for long term storage to prevent the loss and damage we had with the grain beetle infestation.  What if we’d needed those goods?  They were largely useless!  In addition, we need supplies that are both compact and lightweight, something that traditionally packaged grocery products score very poorly on in general.  At the same time, I don’t want big buckets of whole grain that I can’t use easily, or nasty tasting stuff that you’d only want to eat during a survival situation.  I can’t help but wonder, how does “cheese powder” taste when reconstituted as a spread?  Does “peanut butter powder” actually taste like peanut butter?  What about “dehydrated butter powder”?  I know that non fat dry milk works fine in MOST recipes, even if I’m not crazy about how it tastes as a beverage.  It also works fine as hot chocolate.  And these just-add-water dessert products such as puddings and no-cook custards, what do they really taste like?  I know the dehydrated fruits and vegetables are just fine, but what about the more processed foods?  I’ve sampled Mountain House beef stew, and that was good, except that was excessively salty for my tastes.  What about other brands and other products?

So many things to get done over the coming months, and now this new fixation with some weird connotations–I woke up one night mumbling about August 21, at 4:05 pm there was a big black tornado (think killer tornado, the kind with 1/4 mile wide path of total destruction) and New Orleans.  Does it mean anything?  Not really.  But…do I intend to be anywhere near by on that date?  No.  It’s a Saturday, and I was actually thinking it would be a fine time to go camping in Florida, actually.  Specific dates aren’t usually a precognitive thing, so why am I fixated on August 21?  I have no idea.  The weird thing is that it is a specific date AND time.  If anything happens that day, I’m going to really be weirded out, I suspect.  The tornado, with its massive size and total blackness, might be more of a symbolic thing than anything else, but even on a symbolic level, it has nothing good to say about being in its vicinity, as it still means destruction and damage and danger.

So, we now have a power outage where we are at, and it’s best to call it a night and try to go to sleep despite the stuffy heat before the battery wears down on the laptop.

Group camping trip starts to be planned

21 Apr
This tent was NOT set up properly

See how the tent's rain fly is draped over the tent below? A properly erected tent does not look like that!

I called my camping/survival expert buddy last night, talked about setting up a novice trip and recruiting novices, as well as looking for donations of used but usable equipment to use for loaners, such as tents.  Setting up a group-but-individual trip is going to require some planning, so we’re going to start looking for interested people who would like to try camping.  Anyone participating would supply their own transportation to the chosen campground, own sleeping bag/bed roll, and contribute to a group fund for meals on a per-person basis.  Group based activities would include learning how to set up a tent (the one they will actually be using) and how to prepare meals.  Short hikes on the park’s trails would be taken, as desired, to learn some of the outdoorsy stuff, and the families will have time to choose their own activities and participate in park activities.  Each family would also be responsible to make their own reservations at the chosen park for the chosen weekend, which would include Friday and Saturday nights, returning home on Sunday.  Most parks charge about $16-20 per night.  As we get interested people to sign  up, we’ll be able to start making plans about which weekend and which park.  It won’t be Memorial Weekend–it’s crowded and making reservations could be tricky even this far in advance.  Fourth of July is another not weekend.  I am hoping to make it early in June, but it depends on how quickly we can set this up.

The food thing, we decided that it would be simplest and less expensive if we have a centralized shopping/cooking area, coordinating meals for everyone.  It also allows for the opportunity to teach about camp cookery, as well as socializing during the meal preparation and then eating it.  We won’t be serving steaks-right now I’m thinking that $10 per person would be inexpensive enough that most families won’t find it too hard to afford.  It’s reasonable, but the meals won’t be expensive ones either.  It would buy enough supplies for 2 dinners, 1 lunch, and 2 breakfasts, along with a dessert for the evening meals.  There also won’t be an ice chest full of soft drinks–that is incredibly expensive and something I’d like to discourage people from doing.  Empty calories, high sodium, and too many containers!  I’ll have to think about what all should be offered, and we do need something besides water.  Iced tea, coffee, cocoa…what other ones would be reasonable?  Lemonade?  Might add beverages to the list of things people need to supply themselves, too, although discouraging alcohol is a good idea and I think state parks don’t allow it.  (Not sure-we don’t bring it along!)

So, if you are interested in joining in, keep reading the blog, we’ll set up a point for sign up soon.  Sign up does NOT mean that you are committed at that point to anything, you’d merely be signing up on an “I am interested” list.  Dates, locations, and a number of other factors will influence who can and can’t participate.  We want to find out if there is interest, how many, what ages, and what activities are of the most interest.  We have decided to use a state campground because it is a safe environment, it allows “separate but together” camping so that no one feels uneasy about camping with strangers, there are facilities, and there are specific activities at each park that are of potential interest.

We are currently looking at Mississippi parks in the Gulf Coast region, but some parks are not going to be considered, such as Big Biloxi (National Park Service).  Also to be considered are the “North Shore” parks in Louisiana, Tickfaw, Fairview-Riverside, and Fontainebleu.  Ideally, none of the participants would have over a 90 minute drive, including the core of experienced campers that are to act as the mentors for the novices.

For finding interested people, it had been suggested that we use “MeetUp”, an online meeting service.  My complaint about this service is the high cost–they apparently have monthly charges of around $15-20 for this service.  That’s far too high.  We’re going to have to find a less-expensive approach.  I don’t know what would work  at this time to find appropriately interested people in the Gulf Coast region, so that’s a research project on its own.

With that, I had best do some real work!

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