When we finally got home yesterday (ugh, traffic) after our long weekend camping (I survived!), we had the great pleasure of having to pitch the tent and canopy again in our yard, so that it could dry out. When Mother Nature is feeling tempestuous, that can be a very tricky task.
Luckily, we hosed out the truck, the coolers and cleaned out the car and storage bins while the canvas dried ~ sort of ~ and we got the tent down, folded and rolled up with only a hint of dampness before the next huge raindrops began to drop.
All in all, it was a pretty successful weekend. I managed to sleep in a tent not near a house for two nights, I showered in a public restroom (complete with other users and a lovely little tree frog in my shower stall) and cook a full meal. Plus, I fried some eggs for breakfast (despite John encouraging me to make scrambled eggs, because they’re a ‘fail safe’ when camping).
I’d like to add that while the whole showering thing wasn’t my fav, I did swim on multiple competitive teams, which almost always meant group showers, and I did theatre for a long time, which pretty much necessitated group changing rooms. So it’s not that I’m particularly shy about those kinds of things. It’s more about the cleanliness, and the other people who used the shower without any kind of cleaning in between. My tendency toward OCD and germaphobia is rearing it’s ugly head. That kind of stuff can really skeeve me out if I think about it too much ….
But campground showers aside, it was a pretty relaxing retreat ~ plus, we got to spend some QT with John’s side of the family, including his aunt & uncle and their respective spouses (some of my favs). Plus (**bonus!***) we made some new friends with the folks camping next door ~ which John explained is part of the culture of camping (we all learn new things every day … I thought camping was for quiet relaxation surrounded by the “comforts” *ahem* of nature. Apparently, I was mistaken).
Our Agenda ~
Mid-Afternoon … We journeyed to WalMart (which seems to be the only store of significance in John’s hometown) to get groceries, ice, and other camping “necessities” ~ which for us included a set of Coleman tin camping plates (great deal for 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 coffee mugs, and 4 sets of silverware) and a new 120 qt. cooler. Funny story ~ we got to the car with all our loot, and realized we had to go buy a new cooler because all our swag was never gonna fit in our original cooler. So now, we have a normal sized cooler, with wheels and pull handle, and a gargantuan cooler that John will take out West for his hunting trip in October. That’s a lot of cooler space!
Late Afternoon … We arrived at our campsite, #77, and we started to set up. Not knowing what to do, I wandered around aimlessly while John set about getting the tent up, and organizing the firewood. He finally gave me the task of organizing the contents of our coolers (I believe to keep me out of his way, since I was most likely slowing him down).
Evening … I undertook the task of cooking my very ambitious first camping meal. My menu included marinated steaks, portobello mushrooms, asparagus, and boiled baby new potatoes. I did accomplish the meal. There were aspects that weren’t very pretty. Sidenote: Did you know that when the sun goes down, and you’re outside, the amount of visibility that you have rapidly decreases? If not, it’s a true story. All of a sudden, I was trying to cook the mushrooms and asparagus in near darkness. Needless to say, some of them got a little crispy …. lucky for me, it added flavor that was good, rather than turning 50% of the meal into charcoaled yuckiness.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
** I’d love to tell you quantities, but I don’t know. I cover the steak with soy sauce, and then I sprinkled the ground ginger on both sides, rubbing it into the steak and the soy sauce. I do the same thing with the pepper. (You don’t need to add more salt because the soy sauce is salty enough). Then I put some saran wrap over the dish I’ve poured the marinade into, and let them sit for about 30-45 minutes, flip the steaks, and let them marinate for another 30-45 minutes on the other side.
What I used for the rest of the meal ~
Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil, Garlic Powder; trimmed stringy ends; cooked in saucepan over medium high heat until sizzling
Garlic Powder, Drizzle of Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper, drizzle of water; cook in saucepan over medium heat until they reduce down ~ taste and season as necessary
Boiled in Water, Drained, Sprinkled with Salt, Pepper & Dried Parsley
Late Night … Spent round the campfire, learning all about Snapper Turtles (**more on this later!) from our new camping friends/neighbors.
Morning … We cooked a nice breakfast, and bid adieu to our new camping friends/neighbors. We discussed the plan for the day. Top of our priority list = cooking during daylight hours in the evening.
Mid-Day … We decided to take a nice long hike around the campgrounds, and the adjacent lake. John regaled me with stories from his youth, of his daredevil bicycling skills and his adventures climbing out onto a huge tree limb that dangled above the water and beaver dam (“Probably not the best idea, in retrospect,” he added, somewhat under his breath, with a sneaky smile and a twinkling eye).
Afternoon … We sent out text invitations (are there any other kind?!) to his family to come over and enjoy the afternoon weather (more mild than Saturday’s uncharacteristic 95 degrees in the shade). Slowly, everyone began to trickle in. We spent the majority of the afternoon sipping “Iced Tea” (State Park code for beer) and shooting the breeze. For dinner, John did up burgers and kielbasa, I made some guacamole, and we enjoy deviled eggs and potato salad courtesy of John’s mama.
Evening … A heated cornhole competition blazed! Everyone won, because we kept rotating teams, and it eventually got called due to darkness. We retired to the firepit.
Late Night …. This is where it gets a little iffy on whether or not I’m sold on camping. The rain had threatened to arrive all day, but held off … there were a few showers throughout the early evening, but we did okay until everyone packed up and headed out, and it was just the man and I. We crossed hill & dale to visit the shower house before bed (I’m neurotic, okay? I have to wash my face, brush my teeth and take my contacts out every night. It’s just who I am!) and when we exited, the heavens had opened, and down the water poured. And poured. And poured. We gave up waiting it out, and sloshed back to our canopy. We wrapped everything up and then made a mad dash to the tent. Which, thank you God (I really appreciated this!) was dry. And remained so throughout the night.
Unfortunately for us, the rain didn’t stop all morning, so in 58 degree rainy and windy weather, we tore down our campsite, packed it all up in the truck, and after a brief stop at John’s parents, we hit the road. And traffic, for the next five and half hours. Urgh.
I was so tired last night, I don’t even remember falling asleep. Hence the neglect of getting this post up.
Things I learned while camping ~
1. Footwear is key.
2. Wrap your food properly, or you’ll be throwing away a lot of groceries.
3. Sleeping in a tent can be relaxing, but it also makes you appreciate your bed so much more.
4. Camping is fun. Camping in the rain is not. Breaking down camp in the rain is downright yucky. So ~ check the weather constantly. It’ll be to your benefit.
5. There’s something to be said for taking away all the distractions of modern life, and just getting people together with some good food and beverage.
6. Pack with forethought. Throwing everything together in a hodgepodge fashion will only make camping feel frustrating (especially for OCD tendancy people like me).
7. Bring bug spray. Drink tonic water. Do whatever voodoo you believe in to keep the bugs from biting. Because man, oh man, they will.
8. Camp with people you like. It’s an up close & personal experience.
9. Don’t wear make -up (which I didn’t) … but remember that if you’re not wearing it, there’s no need to pack it.
10. Bring shower flip flops (this could be a sub-category of #1).
On a fun note, Philadelphia was under a deluge of rain all day, so for dinner tonight I did I twist of grilled cheese and tomato soup. I also made Birds’ Nest (a Trader Joe’s snack that may qualify as my #1 favorite). They haven’t been available for about a year, so when Minda called to say she’d found some, I immediately asked (very politely) for two. And we enjoyed a really nice bottle of vino.
I won’t lie. I used canned Tomato Soup (made with milk rather than water). I also used Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. I shaved some slices of sharp white cheddar and Havarti cheese, and put it across the end of the crescent dough before rolling. If you love cheese (like this lady does!) pack it in there. I thought I put enough, but it turns out, I didn’t. However, the cheesy crescent rolls were still excellent for dunking!
Sometimes the only think that hits the spot is soup … and doughy bread. The man and I had spent the day getting doused with rain from all angles (me moreso, because my j.o.b. requires walking around the downtown area … by 11 am I was soaked through and never really dried out).
Progessing through the construction of cheese-filled crescent rolls ….
As a little hint. I followed the crescent roll baking instructions, but because I was simultaneously making Bird’s Nests, I put them on the bottom rack. This was a big no-no. The bottoms got a wee bit (umm… perhaps more than a wee bit?) charred. So I would suggest putting them on the top rack ~ that will allow them to cook fully without burning. I flipped mine over when I realized the error of my way, and we enjoyed them nonetheless. But as a heads up to anyone who (like me) doesn’t think of these things … it does actually matter where you put something in the oven!
If you’ve never had these little bundles of goodness, I suggest you run —not walk — run to your nearest Trader Joe’s, and pick some up immediately (before they disappear again for years!). Made with kale, carrot and onion dunked in tempura batter, you’d never know while eating them that vegetables were even involved! Delicious.
Trust me, we were STUFFED when we were done. We didn’t even have any of the cheesecake that was in the fridge. Absolutely no room!