Camp Grub

One of the most important things to consider when you’re camping is…food. Whether you’re glamping in an a-frame or primitive backpacking, you still have to eat. The internet is full of ideas for what you should eat on your camp out and they range from camp-gourmet to MREs. So what should you eat?

The first thing you have to consider is – what kind of camping will you be doing?
Is there a fire ring, will you need to bring your own wood, is there a grill, do you need charcoal? What sort of space do you have for bringing supplies? If you’re car camping, you could easily bring a dutch oven, skillet, camp stove, and almost any food you could think of in your cooler. If you’re in a cabin, you might even have the luxury of a refrigerator. However, if you are doing a campsite that you have to hike to, you will not want lots of heavy pans or a cooler. This is probably the most important deciding factor about your food.

Once you’ve decided all that, though, you still have to decide what to eat!

So here is what I am going to do. I am going to give you a list of food that I know works and tastes good here. Second, I am going to start trying more of these foods and posting my reviews for you on this blog!

The most important food to pack if you are doing anything other than primitive backpacking (and even then you may decide it’s worth the weight) is S’mores. I have said it before, but I will say it again – it’s almost not camping if there are no s’mores. What’s the point of even building a fire if there are no marshmallows to roast! (I am partially kidding)

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Some other foods that we have found successful:

Hot dogs
So this may sound self-explanatory, but hot dogs are such an easy thing to bring with you. You can eat them up over a fire, a camp stove, or pretty much any heating element. You could probably light a match and hold it over a match for a little bit and it would work. I mean these are just so easy. Plus, you can use them in many things. You don’t have to bring buns to use hot dogs. You can put them with beans, packs of ramen, or add them to chili.

Chili
This can seem a bit more difficult because some people like to make chili more complicated than necessary. But if you have ever seen a western movie ever, you know that chili is a camping staple! There are many options you could use to make chili on a camp fire (cast iron dutch oven style) or on the camp stove (small pot style).

One option is the “all cans” style, the easiest I think. You add a little oil (those travel shampoo things at Target are perfect for bringing a small amount of oil), a can of…14oz black beans, 14 oz red kidney beans, 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or Rotel for a kick or just tomato sauce for the tomato haters out there like my husband), 1 can chipotle peppers with the seeds removed (or green enchilada peppers or leave out), 1 cup of broth (or a 12 oz lager). If you feel fancy, add salt, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and all spice.
Stir it all together and let it boil until it looks and taste how you like it.

Now maybe you don’t want a more vegetarian style chili and you are willing to put a little more work into it. I suggest using the above method, but here is what I would add to it.
Ground Beef, Hot Sausage (Breakfast or regular), and Onions
If you are looking to save time or to avoid carrying raw meat with you, you can always cook these in advance and bring it in ziploc bags or plastic containers. I would also pre-chop the onions, but not cook them until you are ready to make your food. Soggy onions are no one’s friend, but you will never get all that onion juice off your hands if you chop it at your campsite and you will inevitably touch your eyes, causing you to cry buckets. #imnotcryingyourecrying This is definitely not first hand experience…

Foil Packets
You could put almost anything inside a foil packet, I am convinced, and it would be delicious. Pick your favorite meat, your favorite vegetables, and a sauce if you’re feeling fancy then put it all in foil and throw it on your coals.

I have done:
Chicken, Asparagus, and BBQ sauce
Chicken, Squash, Zucchini, Bell Peppers, and BBQ sauce
Chicken, Potatoes (slightly pre-cooked at home), Carrots (julienned), and Salsa
Chicken, Tomatoes, Onions, Squash (the tomatoes are juicy enough to become the sauce)

Kabobs
I won’t lie that eating kabobs over the fire when we were at Enchanted Rock felt so fancy. They were delicious and actually much easier than so many things we have made before. Major key to it going well – soak your skewers in water if you’re using disposable skewers. We have metal ones now so this is less of a deal, but we still occasionally bring the other and have to soak them. So what do you put on your skewers?
Chicken, Bell Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, Mushrooms – anything that strikes your fancy

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Sometimes all the wood gets wet, so you make dinner on the stove instead of the fire.

Homestyle Breakfast
I looove eating this for breakfast at the campsite. It is so filling that I am all set to go climbing or hiking after its deliciousness. So what is this magic? Potatoes. Eggs. Chorizo. I tend to eat Mexican Chorizo, but there are so many types from Spain, Philippines, Mexico, and many other countries that you could do a taste test of only Chorizo. But bring the water and some crackers or rice because most Chorizo is spicy! If it’s long and narrow there is a chance it is more sweet, but most Chorizo that is sold in the every day grocery store where I am is quite spicy and will stain your hands red.
Secondary option that I have started eating with everything – Kimchi. Our youngest is Korean and as we make every attempt to incorporate his country and his culture into our lives, Kimchi has become a standard food for us. If you’re going to bring it, though, make sure you keep it in plenty of its juice because you do not want it to dry out.
Feeling nervous that the potatoes will take forever to cook? A good trick is to cook them in advance. Now do not go and cook them all the way then try to cook them again, they will be mush. Not that mashed potatoes aren’t good for breakfast, but it’s not the point here. Cook them until they al dente, or just a little crunch in the center. That way, it’ll be much faster during the real deal.

Omurice
This is another amazing food we have gotten to try because of many amazing people who are teaching us about South Korea. Omurice came to Korea from Japan, but can now be found in many places! I have cooked it myself several times, but also had it at a little place in Seoul and let’s just say it changed my life. Now I do not have my own recipe. You are going to have to head over to Maangchi’s website to get it. (I’ll give you the link here in a minute) But here’s my advice on how to make it camping friendly.
Chop all the vegetables in advance and bring minute rice. You can definitely bring traditional rice, it will taste better, but if you are worried about time or trying to bring less pots/pans, minute rice is easier. Combine them together with the cooked meat in a bowl. Traditionally, you would use a bow to make a dome for the egg pancake to go on top of or you would make it look sort of like a burrito; however, you’re camping and you do not want to use a 1000 dishes. So cook the meat and vegetables in the pan, and put in on the plate/bowl. Cook the rice at the same time if you can, if not cook it first. Then combine it on the plate/bowl. Then use the very same pan to make scrambled eggs and put them on top. It is ok if you do not want to make a pancake. It would be better with an egg pancake, but there will be no police here.
https://www.maangchi.com/recipe/omeu-raiseu
This dish is a bit complex for camping, but it is so so good, highly filling, and contains so many nutrient dense foods that will last you until lunch no matter what you are doing. This is definitely a food for car camping or glamping.

Pre-made trail bars/trail mix
So trail mix is pretty self explanatory about how to make it and take it. Buy what you like, mix it up. I like to use these snack bags instead of a ziploc bag because they are really durable and will not rip in my day pack. Plus, if I finish the trail mix, I can use the bag for other things because it does not become crinkly and useless after one use.

As far as trail bars, I make my own version of a LaraBar that my kids have started calling “mommy bars”. They are legitimately delicious and easy to pack with you to take on a hike. No afternoon slump here! Make these in advance.
Ingredients:
2 cups (roughly 1.5 packages at my local Randall’s)
1 cup slivered almonds (I have also done half and half almonds and walnuts)
1/2 cup dried fruit (I use cranberries and raisins)
2-3Tbsp unsweetened cocoa

Grab your food processor! Please do not do this in a mixer or blender, it just does not do as well. I have heard one person having success with a Vitamix, but the risk is yours!
Put the dates, nuts, and dried fruit in the mixer and get to it! As your mixing, add 1 Tbsp cocoa at a time and taste it to make sure you get the right flavor. Too little and it will not taste at all like brownies, too much and it will taste like powder. Gross. You want it to be sticking together pretty well. You can add a little water if needed, but no more than 2T or it won’t blend together. Pat everything onto a parchment paper lined casserole dish and refrigerate. Cut them into squares, wrap them up, and they are ready to go!
These can be frozen if you’re really trying to make them far in advance.

Quick tip: If you have trouble with your dates or are nervous because you are trying them in a blender, blend up just the water and dates first to make a paste, then add in everything else.

Pancakes
Pancakes! Deliciousness! Please please please do not bring all the ingredients to make pancakes from scratch when you go camping. Please make the batter in advance, store it in a milk carton or something like that, and bring it ready to pour. You’ll love the pancakes and you’ll appreciate the lack of hassle. Are you wishing you could have pancakes and kabobs? You totally can! Make small pancakes, put them on kabobs with strawberries, other fruits, small sausages, or bacon. Then drizzle the whole thing with syrup from your trust travel sized squeeze bottle. Boom. Pancake Kabobs. Enjoy.

Eggs
Because you definitely hadn’t thought of making eggs already…
My only tip here is that if you do not have room or are worried about breaking eggs, you can prescramble some eggs and put them in a container to bring with you. You could use a mason jar if you’re feeling fancy, but you could also keep the container from some heavy whipping cream or something else small that has a twist cap and store them there.

Let me know if you have any good meals to add in and send me an recipes you’ve seen and would like to see someone try out!

See you Outside!

Where Should We Wander?

Welcome to another day!

We over here are so “over” this crazy dreary weather. I need sun. I need my backyard to stop being a mud puddle. I need to stop bathing my kids multiple times a day so that my floor is not covered in mud and grass. This feels very not me. I usually do not care about this kind of thing – the rain is turning me into a cleaning mom! Someone save me!

I needed to go somewhere else and do something, get out some pent up energy. So I headed to the gym!

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Here’s my warm up walk just so you know I actually made it to the gym and am not all talk. You’re welcome. I joined a gym because I keep needing to exercise late at night and didn’t feel comfortable being outside alone that late. Yay, womanhood! Also, I joined a gym because Houston is so flaaaaat. A girl needs a treadmill to get hills here. There’s also a crazy stair climber thing, but I’ll be honest that I have not been brave enough to try it yet. I’m afraid I’ll look stupid. Judge me. I’m okay with myself.

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This is my post workout face. My baby hairs are on point. Between the gym, my baby hair powers, and my stair climber at home (it’s a feet only thing made by Gold’s Gym), I will be ready for all of our backpacking adventures.

We are also in the midst of planning our next camp out! Spring break here we come! We are between two options right now. If we get to go with my BIL and SIL, we may go to Palo Duro Canyon.

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Images Courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife

This beautiful place has incredible views, hike-in campsites, and an epic hike to “the lighthouse”. I. want. this. hike. in. my. life. For real, y’all. Did I say that this canyon is one of the most beautiful things? It’s the Grand Canyon for Texas, because Texas will not be outdone. But we may be bringing three kiddos along with us and the hike might prove a bit strenuous for them. If we go sans BIL/SIL, we are going to go a bit more kid-friendly…

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Images Courtesy of Houston Culture Map

Can I just say that this park has the coolest looking cabins? It is actually the only City of Houston park that allows overnight guests! The Houstonia informed me that, “…these aren’t just any cabins; designed by local architectural firm MC2, these modern marvels come with all the creature comforts of home, from screened-in front porches with rocking chairs for enjoying a quiet evening outside to microwaves, refrigerators and air conditioning inside.”

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Images Courtesy of MC2 Architects

And these are not even how all the cabins look. We would be using a walk-in campsite, but I still thought these looked too incredible to ignore. This campsite has kayaking and 20 miles of bike/hike trails as well as a playground for the smaller people in your group. The ones that wouldn’t be excited at all about hiking twenty miles. Amiright?

What are you planning for spring break?

See you Outside!

A Dreary Day in Houston

Some days it is hard to get outside. This time it was not because of rain or sleet or snow, it was just so dreary. The clouds have taken over the sky for too many days in a row and it is getting me down. We did spend some time playing in the backyard today – I need to blog to y’all about our backyard that we are slowly turning into a playground – but it is just not the same without a little sun sometimes.

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We got outside a bit to do some pouring fun and learning about how colors mix together to make other colors. I have learned some things from the Montessori method and my kids are loving it. I had to find a way to make outside a bit more exciting this day.

But what do you do when you are down and the sky is drowsy? What do you do when it feels like getting outside is a chore?

Dream.

I bought this book at Anthropologie recently and am enjoying a good flip through the pages, dreaming.

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The pictures are insanely beautiful, but it incites an excitement in me. This book is structured by latitude and longitude lines, northern and southern hemispheres. It is such a fun mixture of outdoors excitement and a little bit of indoor excitement.

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From trekking the West Highland Way to playing table tennis in Beijing, this book will hit your adventure bug. In fact, it’s left me thirsty for travel. We are using it to help us decide where we want to go on our backpacking trip in two years. Any suggestions?

I have a deep longing to go to Glacier National Park, but I have a gimpy stomach. I mean it is crazy gimpy. I get altitude sickness anywhere over 6400 sq. ft. which is just a tiny piece of the stomach craziness that is my life. I can take altitude medicine, but let’s be honest that it does not fix everything and still puts me a bit too weak for backpacking, climbing, or even serious hiking. I would have to go in advance, stay for a good many days to get my body acclimated to the altitude, and then get to hiking.

While being in an exciting place for a long time sounds fun to me, its a bit harder on the budget and the husband does not have unlimited days off. So what should we do? Where should we go?

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John Muir knew my heart when he said that the mountains were calling, but unfortunately my stomach does not agree. My stomach says that the flat lands are calling, ha! I cannot tell you how many trips to the mountains I managed to interrupt, over and over and over, before we figured out the issue. I have…lost my snacks… over the continental divide more times than I care to mention.

But it will not keep me from dreaming.

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One of my favorite adventures to dream about come from Banos, Ecuador. I have to be honest that my understanding of Spanish makes this city feel like it is maybe a poor idea considering my stomach. But, look at this picture!

819. Swing  over the edge of the world.

This is a tree house where you can swing out over some insane heights and get a glimpse of the Tungurahua volcano. It looks like it would be quite the daring thing to do, but I am willing and ready! Who wants to send me to Ecuador? To a volcano! And a tree house! This sounds like the most amazing thing of beauty. I hope, if I get to go here some day, that there isn’t a line or anything because I want to take a long, serene swing.

When I was little, swinging always brought me comfort and peace. It helped me to slow down and organize my thoughts. I bet this swing would do the same thing. Looking out onto that incredible view, looking down at the depths below, I bet you could find some inner silence. I bet you could find peace in Creation.

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Where are you dreaming to go? Let’s dream together.

See you Outside!

Rain, Fog, and Peace

This last weekend, a friend and I tried out Hipcamp.com to find a new, fun place to go camping. Good News! We found one!

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It was a frigid, rainy weekend and we discovered that the weather channel is a liar. Ha. We checked it over and over throughout the weekend only for it to tell us that the rain was done and the sun was coming, but to be followed by…more rain.

But we were not deterred!

We ended up with a late start getting out to the property, but Matt (our hipcamp host) was waiting for us and even started our first fire! We got to work right away setting up our tent, and making dinner. I’m pretty much obsessed with foil packet meals, so that was the plan. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:
Chicken
Barbecue Sauce
Asapargus (or a vegetable of your choice)

Directions:
1. Put the chicken (we used two chicken breasts because there were two of us) in a gallon freezer bag and pour in the barbecue sauce of your choice (Go Local!) until the chicken is covered. Try to do this step in advance. Not only will that make your chicken more flavorful, but there is less to bring and less to clean up if it is prepackaged.

2. Tear off a piece of foil that is several inches longer than the piece of chicken, pour in the extra barbecue sauce, and add your asparagus.

3. Fold the foil first by pulling the longer sides together, folding them closed, and then roll each short side toward the middle until you have a closed packet!

4. Put the foil packets on the coals once the fire has calmed down and cook, rotating with tongs, until it is all cooked. The exact time depends on the heat of the fire, anywhere from 5-10 minutes per side.

5. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and it is no longer pink in the center.

I would have taken more pictures of us that night, but honestly it was so dark that I could not get a good photo.

The next morning, we got a much better look at the area and discovered that our host is quite the artist! With explosives!

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We had noticed this guy the night before and let him guard our tent, but these guys were all over the place. He also had pieces where he had made impressions of feathers, leaves, etc using explosives. It was pretty astonishing.

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Matt’s property also included kayaks, a fire ring, a picnic table, and this incredible treehouse! You can actually book it to stay in and it was so cozy inside. (Glamping, anyone? There’s a bed in there!)

So we were at this fun place, we were set up and ready to go, but our Saturday was completely rained out! What do you do?

You put on your rain jacket and explore anyway!

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I loved this log. I know it’s fungus, but it looks incredibly cool.

Look

And you bring your friend and the dog!

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I

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It’s a picture of Stack taking a picture of her dog. We’re super cool like that.

I even got to take my new Lowa hiking boots on their maiden voyage. I named them Whitney and Everest – they got a proper induction to mud for sure!

Shoes
Whitney and Everest had no idea the kind of mud they would encounter after this photo. They were insanely comfortable though, I regret nothing.

The rest of the time we did some highly necessary hanging out and resting. We watched Schitt’s Creek, we played cards, and we talked a ton. I am so serious about this tv show, I promise you will laugh hysterically if you are anything like me. Hysterically.

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The most comical part of our weekend honestly involved fire. When it’s low temperatures outside, fire becomes quickly necessary. Quickly.

We were so lucky that Matt had provided us with a large bucket of cedar shavings because they burned really well. Now, don’t hear that I came unprepared. I brought newspaper/circulars to burn for our starter, matches, a sack of wood, a hatchet, and gloves. We were so prepared to make fire.

Despite all of this, the first night we were having a ton of trouble getting our smaller fire going so we could add our larger logs! It was so so windy and the fire was not at all pleased. Our baby fire would just not get big enough to burn the big logs! I clearly have not done enough research about fire if I can only produce one in near perfect conditions.

And remember that the first night, we were trying to cook our foil packets on the fire! Granted, that’s meant for a low fire, but trust me we did not even have enough there. What took 10 minutes at home on the fire, took 30 at the campsite. The first time I took the packets off the fire, I was trying to be careful touching them only to realize that a portion of them was not even too hot to the touch. Fire fail. We did finally get everything cooked and kept the fire going long enough to finish eating, but then we high tailed it back to the tent after foraging for wood (remember, it must be down and dead to gather – do not chop down trees on the land you are using!) and got cozy in our sleeping bags because it was frigid. I think I already mentioned this, but the weather channel lied to us. We were not quite prepared for the level of cold that first night and it made it a little hard to sleep. And in the middle of the night, guess what else, it started raining. Even though there was no rain predicted.

The weather channel is on my blacklist.

So guess what else was wet? All the wood we foraged for and our cedar shavings that Matt left us. Lucky for us, I had moved the wood I brought under the vestibule of the tent just in case. Because I am secretly a boy scout at heart (Can we all admit that many Girl Scout troups are a joke when it comes to camping? Not all, but many. Including mine.). But guess what is not helpful when all your small pieces of wood are wet, ginormous pieces of wood!

Enter: the trusty hatchet. But more on that later.

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The remnants of our first fire

In the morning, we skipped the fire because we were super hungry and went straight for the camp stove. True confessions here: I had never lit the camp stove myself because that had always been the husband’s job. I had always been a part of the process, but mostly in a watching capacity. But I pulled a straight up “fake it ’til you make it”, and acted confidently that I was capable. Guess what!? I was! I got it lit with only a small snafoo (is that how you spell that?) when I could not get the air pump to close, but I’ve got a bit of an engineering streak in me and I figured it out. Eggs and sausage – no problem for this MacGyver…or maybe I should go with Rosie Revere since I’m a woman and she’s awesome. On a random side note – have you ever read Rosie Revere Engineer or Ada Twist Scientist to your little girl? The best.

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The coolest friends cook together outdoors. And let you eat all the grapes they brought.

Stove

Anyone else completely in love with the look of this stove? Not only does it work superbly well, it has a vintage feel which I love. If you look at the picture above, our cooler has that same feel and I loooove it. Thank you, Coleman. Don’t worry, you are not on the list with weather channel, you are still on the good side.

We just had sandwiches for lunch, but by the time things were getting dark in the evening we realized we were going to for sure need a fire this evening. Schitt’s Creek sort of majorly distracted us – “David!” – and we got a late start. I psyched myself up, listened to the encouragement of my friend, and we set out to make the bestest fire ever. You heard me. Bestest. I was able to use paper towels, some dry leaves/branches we found under some logs, and the bits Stack and I hacked off the larger pieces of wood to get a small fire going. Paper towels ended up being a lifesaver because the circulars would not stay lit long enough – thank you wind – but the paper towels lit up quite nicely.

Then the best thing happened! My super wise friend took off the top layer of cedar shavings, showing us a whole layer of shavings that were dry! Praise be! Once we added those to what we already had, we were able to get the fire going quite well and add the larger logs!

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I never, I repeat never, get tired of taking pictures of fire. It’s just so epically beautiful and it is always different in every photo. I could take a thousand!

Other than the continued drama that was the fire, the weekend was all about relaxing and peace. Matt’s land was perfect for that. I have been needing some time in a quieter environment. Imagine that – it’s not like I have three small kiddos running around my house haha. I also just needed to feel like a grown up all day for a change. These kind of times away from the city, away from my phone, away from noise, away from chaos, gives me the energy I need to get back into my life and be the myself in the best way.

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I brought my adorable FujiMax camera and got this momento

 

How do you feel you get that complete rest, that return to self? How do you quiet the chaos and connect back to who you’re hoping to be?

I get outside. I look at the stars and realize how small I am in the scheme of Creation. I push my muscles to their limit, in a peaceful quiet of crunching leaves, and begin to feel like inside I am settling down. The peace permeates more than my ears and reaches my heart. It leaves me refreshed. It leaves me new.

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We were sad to leave, but also looking forward to a real bathroom, running water, potable water, and trash cans.

I am hoping to use HipCamp again soon and bring the kids along this time. I’m sure that will be quite the adventure!

See you Outside!

How to Succeed in Camping Without Really Trying

We went backyard camping this weekend and… good news!… we survived. We even all got some sleep!

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The husband got home Friday around 5:30pm and I headed off to the store because, SURPRISE!, we had no food. Well, at least no food we could easily cook outside. Plus, we did not have s’more stuff. How can one even survive a camp out without s’mores? Riots, led by me, would ensue. Plus, we are a one car family right now (although the husb is literally at a car place AS I TYPE to hopefully purchase a tiny tin can, I mean…a Honda Fit) so I couldn’t go before he got home.

I asked/told him to set up the first tent while I was out so we would not run too late, but the poor man got distracted playing with his kids. Who does that?! Just kidding. He’s great and the kids were loving playing on the crash pad with him.

So I went to the grocery store which put us setting up camp and starting the fire around 6:15 or so. I let the oldest help set up the tent and she was beside herself kind of happy. You probably don’t know her, but she has this incredible vocabulary so she told me that setting up the tent was “delightful”. Yep. That’s my awesome kid, folks. She is, for real, the coolest 5 year old ever.

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In the midst of my love of setting up a tent with my oldest and watching her traipse around the wet yard, proudly sporting her headlamp and asking where the stakes go, guess who forgot to make dinner? My husband. Just kidding, it was me.

So I check the fire, it’s passed 6:30pm now (which is typically the latest they will wait to eat), and start to get our foil packets together. Chicken. Asparagus. Barbecue sauce. Deliciousness awaited us!

Except…

The kids could not make it and the meltdown process began. The youngest especially was going downhill fast. So, last minute change in line up, the kids had fancy lunchables for dinner. Yep. I had grabbed some at the store for someone else and then not been able to deliver them to the person so I had random lunchables in my fridge. Divine intervention. So they sat in their camp chairs and ate lunchables while I made foil packet food for the husband and I. In the end, the kids thought they had the better dinner which was hilarious because the foil packets were deliciousness to the extreme, but the middle insisted that his Triscuits, ham, and cheese were much better. We’ll never know. It’s a stalemate.

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Don’t judge my mushy asparagus – that’s how I like to eat. You roasters (people who roast asparagus) don’t know what your missing.

So after eating, we realized that we had not staked down the first tent because of meltdown city but we also could not find the stakes for the big tent. So we improvised…

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The husband managed to give himself a lovely souvenir from splitting the wood on his knuckle, but it’ll heal. He said he saw his gloves and was all…”nah”. He changed his mind shortly afterward.

Then we did the most beautiful thing. We put up our new tent.

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So you may not know, but the husb and I are already planning our 10 year anniversary. It’s two years away, but we have big plans! We are going to go primitive backpacking for a week and it is going to be heaven. We are slowly accruing our gear and going on practice runs until the big one and this beauty is going to be our tent.

Don’t worry, it had all the stakes.

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Isn’t it beautiful? Answer. Yes.

We put all of our things in it and then, you know what time it was…

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Oh no! My s’more picture is a bit blurry! Well, I’m saving up for a real camera, but you’ll have to hang with me and my cell phone photography (I did take a short cell phone photography course) in the meantime.

Guys, I bought dark chocolate bars, but I also bought Krackle bars. Is anyone else as obsessed with those as I am? I can only ever find them in the miniature bags or when children sell candy bars for school. I love them. It’s just so good. It’s better than a Crunch bar. There I said it! I’m not ashamed!

So I had a Krackle bar. And it was delicious. So so good. I mean, I also had a dark chocolate one…purely scientific, you know. I needed to compare. Professor Slughorn would have been proud.

But you see, we broke one of our own rules.

Gasp! We are like Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception where every rule he makes, he breaks. Except, this is not our norm. Hopefully.

So the kids were all done and playing around with their giant shadows (doesn’t the middle one kind of look like Darth Vader in his shadow?)…

 

But we still hadn’t had dinner or s’mores! So…we put the kids to bed in the tents. Without us. And in true kiddo fashion, they did not sleep. The audacity! They were so them about it too which was really funny. The oldest stayed quietly in the tent until I could join, the middle kept getting up and down asking for snacks or water or something, and the youngest was laughing hysterically because it is just all too magical.

So we ate, we had our delicious delectable s’mores, and got in our tent.

We got everyone re-settled, we turned on the sound machine, and went to bed. It took a little bit to convince the boys that it was really time, but, special magic, they all went to bed! It was insane and wonderful! No one is more surprised than us!

In fact, all three kids slept all night. (Granted, the husb and I still got very little sleep because the rain kept stopping and starting and the wind kept knocking things onto the tent loudly, but still a win)

We might just be winning an award for this. I’m just saying.

The youngest did wake up with the dawn and want immediately to get out of the tent and be fed, but we consider this adventure a success!

Next step, a nearby, kid-friendly campground. Do you think we should try out Lake Livingston (again) or head to the Sam Houston National Forest? Let me know in the comments!

See you Outside!

 

Camping without Catastrophe

Good Afternoon Everyone! Despite my best efforts to get up and blog this morning, life happened (i.e. we have one car so I am driving the husband to work each day), but I am here now!

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One thing I frequently hear from friends is that they are afraid to take their little people tent camping with them because they are not sure how it will go. Let’s be honest that the idea of driving hours, setting everything up, cooking over a stove in dark, all while listening to a screaming toddler does not sound good. With that also comes the deep deep fear that no one will sleep. And anyone with a toddler can tell you that no sleep comes with continuing consequences. You might as well pack up and go home.

Enter Backyard Camping.

Backyard camping is almost like giving your little a class called How to Camp, Toddler Edition. It teaches your child about camping, it gets them comfortable with all of the ins and outs of sleeping outside, but it also allows you to emergency style put someone to bed in their room should things go awry.

We have been backyard camping for over a year with my older two as well as camping on camp grounds. We have even camped in our living room and guest room when the weather was exceptionally bad. They love it. In fact, tomorrow night we will be taking our youngest backyard camping for the very first time. I want to be honest with you:

I have no idea if they will sleep. 

This might be an epic failure. But we will keep at it, and keep trying until we have it all figured out.

Here is roughly how we do it:

Around 5, we all put on clothes that are comfortable enough to sleep in, but are not pajamas so we can still wear them outside.

Then we bring out all the necessaries – tent, ground pads, sleeping bags (or nap mats before the kids had sleeping bags), pillows, comfort items (blanket, teddy bear, etc), extra blankets (if it’s cold), a small portable fan (if it’s hot), headlamps (kids love headlamps way more than flashlights, just trust me), wood, matches, camping chairs, camping utensils/plates, food, trash bag, cooking utensils, and a pan.

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Night time photography is not my strong suit

Next, we set up our grill to be our fire ring. Our kids took a little time learning that fire is hot and should not be touched. As they get older we will use our fire pit, but in the mean time, we like to keep the fire a little higher up for little hands. We teach them how to start the fire step by step, and we teach fire safety. Then we cook! Cooking outside is a great way to give the whole adventure a special feel and help them to understand that cooking will be outdoors when you go camping away from the house. Sometimes, we even use the camp stove in the backyard so that they can see how it works and learn how to be safe near it. Check back later for one of our favorite camp meals!

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Everyone sits around the fire in our camping chairs and we eat a delicious dinner. If you want, you can go so far as to have the kids help you wash the dishes outside, but I will be honest that I usually use paper plates on these adventures and just toss them.

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And what’s a camp out without….s’mores! We always roast marshmallows and have s’mores or banana boat s’mores when we camp. You really want this backyard adventure to feel like camping and to feel exciting/special to your children to help them want to do it again. What’s more exciting than lighting a marshmallow on fire and eating it with melted chocolate? Nothing.

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If you’re wondering what is in the tin…it’s ginger snaps. You won’t regret it.

After dinner, we usually play around in the yard, playing tag or being silly with our headlamps on before tucking in.

Here comes do or die.

We make sure everyone is comfortable, we sing a few songs, we may read a book, and then we turn out the lantern to go to bed.

This is so hard for any toddler.

You may have older kids and this is a snap or just a calm child who goes to bed without issue, but that is not the norm. Our oldest has always had no trouble going to sleep in a tent, and enjoys it a lot. She lays down, gets comfortable, and goes to sleep. Our middle son does the exact opposite. He does anything and everything to keep from sleeping. I cannot tell you the number of times my husband or I have finally given up at 11pm and taken him inside to sleep, leaving the other kiddo(s) and adult to finish out the camping experience.

So how do you get your kids to sleep without catastrophe? The bummer is that there is no magic sauce. But my best advice is:

  1. Do not let the kids sleep next to each otherPutting a parent in between them discourages them from trying to play with each other while also helping them to feel safe and taken care of because they can snuggle up to you should they feel scared.
  2. Do your best to drown out car noiseBoth of my older kids sleep better in the actual great outdoors than in our backyard because the car sounds are not present. Sirens, especially, are not your friend. We occasionally bring a sound machine when we backyard camp to help create a more outdoor sound rather than continuing to hear the sounds of the city.
  3. Regulate the temperature of your tent. I listed above that we bring extra blankets or a portable fan when we backyard camp. While you can make yourself sleep when your pretty cold or pretty hot, children are much less capable of doing this at sleep time. It’s okay for the tent not to feel air conditioned or heated, but circulating the air with a small fan in the summer or having an extra blanket in winter really will make all the difference.
  4. Pretend to sleepIt is so hard, as an adult, to go to bed when they do because they often times need to go to sleep much earlier than you. Close your eyes and pretend to sleep, they are likely to follow your lead. If you can actually stay awake, wait until they fall asleep then get out some headphones and watch Netflix because guess what…your backyard has your house’s wifi. You’re welcome. 

Now the best thing you can really do, is get out there and keep trying! Check back Monday to find out how our youngest did this weekend and comment here with your own stories.

See you Outside!

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Again, I’m working on the photography thing haha

Outside the Extraneous

IMG_1428Welcome to Outside the Extraneous, a glimpse into my world.

I grew up in the suburbs of Central Texas and, while I was a Girl Scout and my dad was a backpacker in another life, the outdoors was never something I really “did”. I participated in a few sports, I enjoyed playgrounds, but I never considered myself an outdoorsy person. Maybe the fact that I loved the few times we went camping with Girl Scouts and how I aced my outdoor cooking badge should have been a sign to me, but what can I say, small kids are not always the most perceptive. I even found a deep peace at going to camp each summer and spending most of my time outdoors during middle school and high school, but I was not athletic so I assumed I was meant for the indoors.

Then I found myself as an “adult”, because let’s face it that your 20s never feel very adult-like, being invited camping for the first time. I had a tent and a sleeping bag, so I said sure! I was excited but also nervous to be cooking and living outside for a weekend. And while it was not perfect, I felt alive. All those moments at camp where I had woken up early to sit by the lake just to breathe it in began to make sense. The deep love for hiking a difficult section in Colorado, the waterfront work that excited me, and the intense feeling sitting below the stars gave me all began to click together in perfect harmony.

And that’s where the passion started.

So now we are cutting back on screens, we are opting out of screens for our children, and finding joy in camping, hiking, and generally being outside.

We went to Vermont to go snowshoeing and sledding, we hiked in the Texas Hill Country, we enjoyed the snow in North Carolina, we camped in Haiti, we walked all over Seoul to find its green spaces, and backyard camping. So much backyard camping!

I’d love to take you with us on this journey.

In fact, I’ll make you a promise. I will keep coming here, posting each week, giving you the real version of what it is to camp with young three children, and to have a life without a remote controlled babysitter. I will give you product reviews to help you succeed, pictures to help you feel inspired (and normal – because we all make mistakes), and any tips I can find. This will not be a blog that is always about my perfect polished life, but it will be honest and it will be helpful.

Let’s take a note from REI and #optoutside together. Let’s let go of all of all the extraneous things in our life that do not have purpose and do not give life. Let’s live Outside the Extraneous.

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