Saturday, August 27, 2011

New Camping Recipe: Dulce de Leche

Am I the only person on earth who didn't know you could make Dulce de Leche by simply simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk? It's the perfect camping recipe and so delicious, you won't believe it!

Put a can of sweetened, condensed milk in a pot of room temperature water (not boiling, or the can might explode) and bring to a vigorous simmer. Simmer for three hours.

After three hours, pop open the top and you have a perfect, creamy container of Dulce de Leche. Good on ice cream, pound cake, a plain cookie or *shh* right off the spoon.

Be still my heart.

And shout-out to my mother-in-law, Judy Valentine, who showed me the way AND cooked up the Dulce de Leche in the photo above.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's Still Summer! And I Can Prove It.

Illustration by Garth Williams for the cover of A Cricket in Times Square, written by George Selden

20 pieces of evidence:

1.  A cricket has moved into the kitchen. It chirps all the time, except when we go into the kitchen. Then it is silent until we leave again.

2. The kids sleep until 8:30, then they play until breakfast.

3. There's still time to camp, still weather to camp and we just fixed that tail light.

4. Sneakers, no socks.

5. I think one of the kids wore pajamas all day yesterday.

6. The cicadas are yelling at each other all night: "How about that heat?" "Did you see the sun today?" "I'm loving this tall grass."

7. Still time to read The Great Gatsby. It's only about 200 pages long, depending on what version you have.

8. Blueberries on cereal.

9. T-shirts after dark.

10. The smell of cut grass.

11. Ice cream every day, and sometimes twice a day.

12. Fewer rules. See above.

13. More time at the dinner table and more to talk about.

14. Still haven't shopped for summer clothes.

15. Flip flops.

16. Too hot to go into town.

17. Family trip still on the horizon.

18. Kids kicking off the covers.

19. Waiting for the breeze of an oscillating fan to come your way.

20. Steamed lobster, corn on the cob, baked potato, butter and beer.

One more day! Make it last! 

“Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 7

The perfect summer read.

Water Tastes Better Out of a Garden Hose

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

20 Favorite Campfire Songs for Kids

Miners camp in Colorado

The campfire is the heart of the camping experience. There you are, in the woods, under a starry sky, surrounded by your favorite people. It just makes sense to burst into song!

With kids, singing in a group doesn't always happen naturally. The trick to piquing their interest is to choose songs they sort of know—ones with repetitive choruses, so they can sing along. And a lot of the songs should be fun, too. 

Our list is pretty dorky, but these happen to be the songs our kids are willing to to sing, and that's good enough for us!

1. This Land Is Your Land
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

What's more fitting than this old folk song when you're camping in one of our beautiful national parks? We had an illustrated book of this song, and our oldest kid memorized the whole thing, even the last couple of verses that don’t exactly scan, so we sing the whole darn thing.

This land is your land  This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.


I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.


When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.


As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.


In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?


Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.


2.  You're a Grand Old Flag
by George M. Cohan

A short one that’s easy to learn.

You're a grand old flag,
You're a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You're the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev'ry heart beats true
'neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there's never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

3. I Like Bananas

One from Pete’s childhood. He taught the kids this when they were really little. For some reason they never get tired of it.

This is to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, sort of. (“My eyes have seen the glory …”)

I like bananas, coconuts, and grapes!
I like bananas, coconuts, and grapes!
I like bananas, coconuts and grapes!
That's why they call me (yelling) Tarzan of the Apes!

Repeat many, many times.

4. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Traditional Scottish Folk Song

My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh bring back my Bonnie to me

Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me

Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
Last night as I lay on my pillow
I dreamt that my Bonnie was dead


Oh blow the winds o'er the ocean
And blow the winds o'er the sea
Oh blow the winds o'er the ocean
And bring back my Bonnie to me


The winds have blown over the ocean
The winds have blown over the sea
The winds have blown over the ocean
And brought back my Bonnie to me

5. Hey-Ho Nobody Home
Traditional English song probably dating back to the 1600’s, usually sung by Christmas carollers.
Hey ho, nobody home
Meat nor drink nor money have I none
Yet I will be merry
Hey ho, nobody home

Repeat a lot.

6. The Happy Wanderer also known as Valderi, Valdera
Words and music by Friedrich W. Möller and Antonia Ridge

We sang this with our grade school music teacher, Mrs. Zades, in the all-purpose room at Scarborough School. We liked  the laughing part of the chorus and she let us get a little crazy when we sang it.

I love to go a-wandering
Along the mountain track
And as I go, I love to sing
My knapsack on my back

Val-der-ri, val-der-ra
Val-der-ra, val-der-ha ha ha ha ha ha
Val-der-ri, val-der-ra
(My knapsack on my back) – repeat last line of each verse with chorus

I wave my hat to all I meet
And they wave back at me
And blackbirds call so loud and clear
From every greenwood tree


Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die
And may I always laugh and sing
Beneath God's clear blue sky


7. I'm a Nut
The origins of this song are unknown but it goes back to at least the 40’s, so maybe vaudeville.

Everybody sings this a little bit differently - this is how I learned it.

I'm a little acorn round
Sitting on the cold cold ground
Everybody steps on me
That is why I'm cracked you see
I'm a nut (tsk tsk), in a rut (tsk tsk), I'm crazy

Called myself on the telephone
Just to see if I was home
Took myself to the picture show
Sat myself in the very first row
Wrapped my arms around my waist
Got so fresh I slapped my face!
I'm a nut (tsk tsk), in a rut (tsk tsk), I'm crazy

8. Molly Malone, also known as Cockles and Mussels
Popular Irish tune from the 1800s.
In Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty,
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone,
As she wheeled her wheel barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive, Oh!

Alive, alive, Oh!
Alive, alive, Oh!
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive, Oh!

She was a fishmonger, but it sure was no wonder,
For so were her father and mother before,
And they each pushed their wheel barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive, Oh!


She died of a fever, and no one could save her,
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone;
Her ghost wheels her barrow,
Through streets broad and narrow,
Crying cockles and mussels alive, alive, Oh!


9. Daisy
Words and Music by Henry Dacre, 1892

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do.
I'm half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage,
I can't afford a carriage;
But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built
for two.

Henry, Henry, this is my answer true:
I'm not crazy over the likes of you.
If you can't afford a carriage,
Forget about the marriage;
I won't be jammed,
I won't be crammed
On a bicycle built for two.

10. Edelweiss
Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein

A number from The Sound of Music. It comes across as a real traditional song, though, and some people think it is.

Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Every morning you greet me
Small and white clean and bright
You look happy to meet me
Blossom of snow may you bloom and grow
Bloom and grow forever
Edelweiss, Edelweiss
Bless my homeland forever.

11. On Top of Spaghetti
This annoying song makes my kids laugh, so we sing it.

On top of spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
I lost my poor meatball,
When somebody sneezed.
It rolled off the table,
And on to the floor,
And then my poor meatball,
Rolled out of the door.
It rolled in the garden,
And under a bush,
And then my poor meatball,
Was nothing but mush.
The mush was as tasty
As tasty could be,
And then the next summer,
It grew into a tree.
The tree was all covered,
All covered with moss,
And on it grew meatballs,
And tomato sauce.
So if you eat spaghetti,
All covered with cheese,
Hold on to your meatball,
Whenever you sneeze.
A young Pete Seeger

12. Oh Suzannah
Written by Stephen Foster in 1847 for minstrel shows.  Makes you think twice, doesn’t it?

I came from Alabama
With my banjo on my knee
I'm going to Louisiana
My true love for to see
It rained all night the day I left
The weather it was dry
The sun so hot I froze to death
Suzannah don't you cry
Oh Suzannah, oh don't you cry for me
I've come from Alabama
With a banjo on my knee

13.  Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Unknown, late 1800’s. This is said to be about the Underground Railroad. Did you know that?

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin' for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan,
And WHAT did I see,
Comin' for to carry me home,
A band of angels comin' after me,
Comin' for to carry me home.


If you get there before I do,
Comin' for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends I'm comin' too,
Comin' for to carry me home.


14. Two Dead Boys
Probably British. “Songs of impossibilities” were popular in England in the 18th and 19th centuries.

One bright day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight,
Back to back the faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.
A deaf police man heard the noise,
So he came and shot those two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man he saw too.

15. Boa Constrictor
by Shel Silverstein. Peter, Paul and Mary sang it!
To the tune of “John Brown’s Baby”, sort of.

I'm being eaten my a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor, a boa constrictor
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor
And I don't like it one bit
Oh no he’s up to my toe
Oh gee he's up to my knee
Oh my he's up to my thigh
Oh darn he's up to my arm
Oh heck he's up to my neck
Oh gee he's eaten me!!

16. Home on the Range
Words by Dr. Brewster M. Higley, melody by Daniel E. Kelley. Late 1800’s.

The chorus always makes me think of dogs howling. 

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Home, home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Where the air is so pure, and the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light,
That I would not exchange my home on the range,
For all of the cities so bright.


The Red man was pressed from this part of the west,
He's likely no more to return,
To the banks of the Red River where seldom if ever
Their flickering campfires burn.


How often at night when the heavens are bright,
With the light from the glittering stars,
Have I stood there amazed and asked as I gazed,
If their glory exceeds that of ours.


Oh, I love these wild flowers in this dear land of ours,
The curlew I love to hear cry,
And I love the white rocks and the antelope flocks,
That graze on the mountain slopes high.


Oh give me a land where the bright diamond sand,
Flows leisurely down in the stream;
Where the graceful white swan goes gliding along,
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.


Then I would not exchange my home on the range,
Where the deer and the antelope play;
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Woody Guthrie

17. Why, Oh Why
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie
Why can't a dish break a hammer?
Why oh why oh why?!
'Cause a hammer's a hard head.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

Why, oh why, oh why oh, why?
Why, oh why, oh why?
Because because because because
Goodbye goodbye goodbye

Why can't a bird eat an elephant?
Why, oh why, oh why?
'Cause an elephant's got a pretty hard skin.
Goodby goodbye goodbye.

Why can't a mouse eat a streetcar?
Why, oh why, oh why?
'Cause a mouse's stomach could never get big enough to hold a streetcar.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

Why does a horn make music?
Why, oh why, oh why?
Because the horn-blower blows it.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye

Why does a cow drink water?
Tell me why n why?
Because the cow gets thirsty just like you or me or anybody else.
Goodye goodbye goodbye.

Why don't you answer my questions?
Why, oh why, oh why?
'Cause I don't know the answers.
Goodby goodbye goodbye.

What make the landlord take money?
Why, oh why, oh why?
I don't know that one myself.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

Why's there no pennies for ice cream
Why, oh why, oh why?
You put all the pennies in the telephone.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

Why can't a rabbit chase an eagle?
Tell me why, oh why?
'Cause the last rabbit that took out and chased after an eagle didn't come
out so good and that's why rabbits don't chase after eagles that's all I
know about rabbits and eagles?
Because because because.
Why, oh why, oh why?
Same reason your dad's not your mommy.
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

Why couldn't the wind blow backwards?
Why, oh why, oh why?
'Cause it might backfire and hurt somebody and if it
hurt somebody it'd keep on hurting them
Goodbye goodbye goodbye.

18.  Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
This is an African-American spiritual from around the time of the civil war.

Michael, row the boat ashore, hallelujah.
Michael, row the boat ashore, hallelujah.

Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah
Michael's boat is a music boat, hallelujah 


Sister help to trim the sail, hallelujah
Sister help to trim the sail, hallelujah 

Jordan's River is deep and wide, hallelujah.
Meet my mother on the other side, hallelujah.


Jordan's River is chilly and cold, hallelujah.
Chill's the body, but not the soul, hallelujah.


19. Hobo’s Lullaby
Words and Music by Gobel Reeves

Woody Guthrie sang this pretty song a lot.

Go to sleep, you weary hobo
Let the towns drift slowly by
Can't you hear the steel rails humming
That's the hobo's lullaby

Don't you worry about tomorrow
Let tomorrow come and go
Tonight you're in a nice warm boxcar
Safe from all the wind and snow

I know the police cause you trouble
They cause trouble everywhere
But when you die and go to heaven
There'll be no policemen there

I know your clothes are torn and ragged
And your hair is turning gray
Lift your head and smile at trouble
You'll find peace and rest some day

So go to sleep, you weary hobo
Let the towns drift slowly by
Can't you hear the steel rails humming
That's the hobo's lullaby
20. Goodnight, Irene
Words and Music by Huddie Ledbetter
(Check out The Weavers singing Goodnight, Irene here.)

Irene goodnight,
Irene goodnight.
Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene,
I'll see you in my dreams.

Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in town.
Sometimes I take a great notion
To jump into the river and drown.


I asked your mother for you,
She told me you was too young.
I wish to God I'd never seen your face,
I'm sorry you ever was born.


You caused me to weep, you caused me to mourn,
You caused me to leave my home.
But the very last words I heard her say,
Was please sing me one more song.


When the kids hear “Goodnight, Irene,” they’re pretty much ready for bed. Then we tuck them in and proceed to round two: campfire songs for grownups! Cue the Hall & Oates.

What about you? What are some of your favorite campfire songs?

You may also like:
10 Great Reasons to go Camping Right Now
10 Fun Camping Games for Kids
10 Little Things That Make Kids Happy on Camping Trips   

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Paper Bag Eggs: A Classic Camping Recipe

I really don't know what's more delicious than this.

Am I the only one who looks at this photo of an egg cooked in a bed of bacon in a paper bag and thinks it is possibly the most delicious-looking thing in the world?  In fact, I think the photo above is a tad blurry because my hands were shaking in anticipation of eating my creation, and having to fight the children off at the same time. Back! Back!

Mmm. Paper Bag Eggs. My non-camping friends may think it odd that I obsess over ways to cook an egg without a pan, but don't they know that one could be stuck in the wilderness at any moment with nothing but a dozen perfectly unscathed eggs and a paper bag? It could happen!

Another benefit of the Paper Bag Egg is that, whilst cooking, it can burst into flames at any moment and children really enjoy this.

An expertly positioned PBE.

Here's how it's done:

Paper Bag Eggs 

Serves:  1

2 strips of fatty bacon
1 egg
salt & pepper, hot sauce and catsup
1 paper lunch bag
1 green, pointy stick

1.  Cut both bacon strips in half, giving you 4 pieces. Line the bottom of the paper lunch bag with the bacon to make a nice, fatty bacon nest for the egg.
2.  Crack an egg into the nest.


3.  Fold the top of the paper bag down carefully 2 times and poke a hole through the thick part with the stick. (Use a knife or scissors to make the hole first.)
4.  Carefully hold the bag over the fire so the bacon cooks slowly and the fat melts.  This makes an oily paper and bacon “skillet” for the egg. Take care and keep cooking it until the egg is done. 
5.  Eat it out of the bag … but put it on a plate!  If you put it on your knee it will ruin your pants. I learned this the hard way.
6.  Serve with salt & pepper, catsup & hot sauce. But it really doesn't need anything at all, it's that delicious.

Bon appétit my friends, and have fun!

You Might Like:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

10 Great Reasons to Go Camping Right Now


Dinner’s over and the kids are zipped into the tent with their flashlights and books. The sun is setting and the grownups are enjoying a cup of wine by the fire. That's when it hits you: Oh, yeah. This is why  I love camping

Because camping isn't just the packing and unpacking, the cooking and tidying, the planning and the doing. Camping is a state of mind. I guess for some people it looks like a lot of trouble to go to for the honor of getting dirty, sleeping on the ground and using public toilets. But it's totally worth it, and here are ten reasons why:

1. Being outdoors 24/7 is good for your head.

Most of us spend a lot of time indoors, so being outside for a few days feels really different. It’s as though the roof and walls are taken away from our poor, boxed-in brains as well as our bodies. It’s good.

2. Nothing tastes better than food you cook and eat outdoors.

There’s probably a scientific reason why food tastes better outdoors – your senses are more receptive or something like that. All I know is that even a spoonful of peanut butter tastes delicious when you’re camping. And when you sit down to eggs and hash for breakfast, it's just about the best thing in the world.

3. You really do get away from it all.

Even the most addicted cell phone users will eventually succumb to the lure of the campfire and wander away from their devices. And when you’re not continually connected to email, FaceBook and Twitter, you connect instead to nature, your family ... your soul, for crying out loud. You can return all those calls on Monday. Just sit back and listen to the crickets chirp. Do they really rub their legs together? Discuss and debate.

4. You can be genuinely spontaneous when you’re camping.

With nothing in particular planned except maybe making a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s easy to be spontaneous. Would you like to take a nature walk and check out the trails?  Sure, why not? Watch the kids play in the dirt? That sounds like a plan.

5. It’s a chance to make up your own traditions.

You will remember your camping trips forever, and the kids will remember them forever and ever! A big part of this is the peculiar family traditions that seem to sprout up and stick. (We like campfire songs and somehow always start off with “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Long story.) The easiest traditions of all are food traditions – so go ahead and make Eggs in a Bag, Spider Dogs and, of course, S’Mores. And make up some of your own camping foods and give them fun names.

Lot 42, somewhere in New Jersey

 6. Mistakes are funny when you’re camping.

As long as you’re not setting up your tent at night in a mosquito swarm (like we once did), camping mistakes are usually more hilarious than they are annoying. Maybe it’s because you’re not in such a hurry to get to work or get the kids off to school, so it doesn’t seem like such a big deal when you:

• Forget to bring a skillet (there are so many ways to cook an egg without a pan. Try this one.)

• Don’t bring enough warm clothes for the adults (a onesie makes a nice, warm hat)

• Only bring cinnamon sugar (cappuccinos for all!)

• etc. (see more of our mistakes here.)

7. Kids learn the basics about nature.

It’s a lot easier to explain to your kids why recycling is important, or littering is bad when you have a thousand acres of open woods on hand as an example… And such lessons as, “leave the campsite cleaner than when you came” apply to all kinds of situations in life—don’t you think?

8. Grownups get to be pioneers and adventurers.

Some of us (me) like to pretend we’re Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie (with a station wagon). More serious campers head into the wild to try their hands at surviving with a minimum of food and gear. Either way, it’s pleasing to think that, like our forefathers and foremothers, we might possibly have it together enough to survive in the wild.
9. You reconnect with your spouse.

With nothing much to do but hang out and chit chat in a beautiful, natural setting, there is a moment in every camping trip when one thinks, “Oh, I remember you” about one’s spouse.  And every day of camping provides a small adventure to be discussed at great length, which is a lot more fun than discussing bills and grocery shopping.

10. Sitting around a campfire with your favorite people is an experience that everyone should have at least once.

The campfire is the heart of the camping experience. Gather together your friends and family, add a beautiful, starry night and a blazing fire and you've got just about everything you need in the world. 

If you want to get everything you can out of the summer, consider this: camping is cheap, fun and space is available—check for the nearest, best place… and get out and go!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Easy Vegetarian Camping Recipe: Curried Grilled Cheese

I was standing by the camp stove one day with a nearly-full bottle of curry powder in one hand and a crusty, old spatula in the other. "Want a curried grilled cheese sandwich?" I asked my seven year old. "OK," he said. "But just a little curry, OK?" "Sure," I said."Just a little." and then I dumped about a truckload of curry onto his sandwich.

You can guess the rest! He loved it! He loved his yummy, weird, super-curried grilled cheese sandwich! And I got to eat the crusts.

The secret to this festive and slightly fancy sandwich is that curry, while flavorful, isn't very hot-spicy. And melted cheese - delicious, bland melted cheese - is the perfect vehicle for the curry.  It's personality without the aggression. And really, what's better than that?

Curried grilled cheese every day! And twice on Sunday!

Grilled Cheese and Curry

Serves: 1

2 slices of bread - any kind will do. In fact, any kind will be perfect.
2 slices of cheese – a bland, white cheese is a nice foil for the curry. A vegan cheese works great here, too, as long as it's the kind that melts.
curry powder
butter or vegan butter
salt & pepper

1.  Melt 1 T. of butter in a skillet, and add one slice of bread.
2.  Lay both slices of cheese on the bread.
3.  Sprinkle the cheese with 1 tor 2 t. of curry powder.
4.  Butter the 2nd slice of bread, and lay it butter-side down on the sandwich in the skillet.
5.  When browned on the bottom, flip the sandwich. Cover the skillet and let the sandwich brown and the cheese melt.

•  Try with sliced tomatoes or thinly sliced scallions. Very nice indeed.