HOW TO: Cook & Camp

Hopping in the car and heading off into the woods with my Mr. and the furry children is one of our favorite pastimes.  This is what we lovingly refer to as "car camping"--load up all your stuff, go park the car somewhere, unload all your stuff, set it up, enjoy the outdoors for a couple days, then load it back in the car and head home.  Easy peasy.

When we go car camping, we take advantage of the fact that we're not hiking in with only what we can wear on our backs.  Translation:  we turn our campground in into the freakin' Ritz.  We bring the camp stove and the skillets and the french press and the lanterns and the hammock and the speakers for the iPod.  To steal a slogan from a super ritzy local ski resort, it's "not exactly roughing it".

I think one thing that intimidates a lot of people about camping is what will be on the menu once you're out in the middle of nowhere.  This is where car camping becomes especially perfect.  You can cook up a straight feast in the woods with nothing more than a campfire, a grate that goes over the fire (a regular staple at most campgrounds), and a skillet.  And to kick it up to the next notch, you can buy a relatively inexpensive camp stove (we have this one and it's perfect) and french press and have almost all of your kitchen conveniences right outside your tent.

Some of my favorite camping recipes include:

Campfire Potatoes:
This recipe is intended for the grill at home, but if you par-boil and prep at home, you'll have little foil-wrapped potato packages ready to be thrown directly into the campfire when you arrive at your site.  I've eaten these along side campfire-frilled steaks and veggie-kabobs roasted over an open fire.  Oh, and don't forget your favorite wine and the perfect little stainless steel wine glasses to drink from.  Perfect.  

Campfire Cakes:
Who says s'mores are the only way to go?  What happens when you put boxed cake mix into hollowed out oranges, wrap in foil, and throw into the campfire?  Heaven, I tell you.  Here are two recipes that will get you there.  I recommend using dark fudgy chocolate cake and adding chocolate chips.  The chocolate cake becomes infused with the orange that it's baking in and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.

Campfire Pancakes:
I can't remember a time we've gone car camping and not woken up and made pancakes in the morning. Bring a good skillet and whip up a batch of your favorite pancakes (this one looks particularly yummy) in no time over the open fire or on your handy dandy camp stove.  Make sure to bring a kettle or pot to boil water for your freshly brewed french press coffee as well.  

Now get out and enjoy the outdoors!  



Mother's Day

Usually Mother's Day is a pretty uneventful holiday for me.  Of course, it usually includes flowers or cards or calls to all of my favorites mothers.  But there's a feeling that accompanies a holiday that you only celebrate from "the outside looking in".  Like when you learn about the holidays celebrated in other cultures and religions and you go to parties and festivals to watch how they celebrate their own.  And sometimes you may eat a latke or run through plumes of chalky colors.  But you're still just observing--standing on the outside looking through the glass at the wonders of the many celebrations that are not your own.

I hadn't really thought much about this Mother's Day and how it relates to me until yesterday I received a card in the mail from a friend that said "Happy Mother's Day".  I had to pause for a minute to wonder if she sent it to the wrong person.  But then, as if she knew exactly what I was thinking, I felt a little squirm in my stomach and remembered that Motherhood is upon me.  Inside me.  Slowly peaking it's little light above the horizon.

So this year I feel slightly different about Mother's Day.  I feel like I've picked a new religion or been reborn in another country.  I feel like this year, I'm celebrating a whole new holiday:  one in which we honor the ones who carry life.  One measly little tiny second of eternity, nowhere near adequate enough, where we stop to say thanks to the person who birthed us, who carried us inside of her, who gave up wine and caffeine and wine and sky diving and wine and yoga inversions and wine for us.  The one who, at one time, had her own heart, and also yours, beating inside of her one body.

This year, as I feel this little one inside of me--another heart, another brain, another set of lungs, another pair of ears and eyes--growing and dancing and exploring, I am so very humbled and so extremely honored to be inducted into this new culture, the culture of mothers.

This Mother's Day, the most I can give to my own Mother and to the many mothers I love and admire, is my promise that I will spend every day of the rest of my life trying to live up to the amazing examples that you have set for me.  And continue to take at least a second of every day to stop and look around and remember what a mystery this all is, and how utterly miraculous that I, and everyone else wandering around here, came to be.

Have a wondrous weekend,

P.S. That's me today, about 26 weeks into the wild blue yonder.


DIY: Birthday

Recently, I've been on a little bit of a DIY kick.  Everything from decorating to parties to birthdays.  I like to say it's because I'm super creative and original.  However, I think the real reason is that the DIY options tend to be cheaper.  Either way, it's been fun, and at the end of the day, that's reason enough for me.

A couple weeks ago, I celebrated my Mr.'s 28th birthday.  This is one of the most holy of holidays in my mind because it is the day my partner was born.  Without getting too sappy, for those of you who know us, it's no secret that we are a team--best friends, lovers, co-conspirators, and soon-to-be parents.  YIKES!

Anyway, it was important to me to be able to do something extra special for his last birthday as a childless man, so I decided to go the DIY route.  

Here's what I did:

I was super inspired by Jordan's number-shaped envelope creation and decided it would be the perfect surprise for my Mr. on his birthday.  I wanted this birthday to be especially centered around the birthday boy, since it's probably the last birthday he'll ever have that won't be overshadowed by the birth of his child.  And since he had to be gone at work all day, I thought it would be wonderful to come home to a special surprise after a long hard day.  Plus, it gave me the time I needed to execute the plan.

A couple weeks before his birthday, I e-mailed all the family and friends I could think of asking for a special note for the birthday boy.  I think this is the first part of what made this project turn out so good:  don't be picky.  I sent requests for messages to all of his FB friends and every e-mail address I had of people who had been a part of his life in some form or fashion.  I didn't discriminate.  And the letters I got where unbelievable.  I got the most heartfelt messages from people who I had no idea had been so touched by my Mr.'s life.  They came out of the woodwork.  It was so unbelievable.

After all the messages came in, the next step was super simple:  print and stuff.  I used an assortment of different shaped envelopes I already had on hand because I'm nasty cheap thrifty.

Then came the fun part:  lay it out and tape it up!  I skipped the pre-planning and just went for it on the wall.  I suppose I could have made it a little better shaped if I'd taken the time to lay it out on the floor first, but I was feeling particularly cocky confident that day and just decided to jump in.

After a few finishing touches of a trail of balloons from the front door to the envelope wall and a little extra sparkle from some star garland, I couldn't have been more happy with the way it turned out!

The best part of the whole thing was how happy it made the birthday boy.  He was reading letters with a big smile on his face for days.

And at the end of the day, that's really the point of a birthday gift, right?  To let that special someone know just how happy you are that they were put on this earth, just for you to celebrate.


P.S. Obviously this couldn't have been done without all the amazing friends and family who contributed.  Our endless thanks for the gift you gave us both.  xoxo