Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Five things I don’t need while camping

In no particular order, here are the five things I don’t really need:

1. Cocktail shaker. 

Yes, I love my cocktails. But, if I have a ball jar with a lid, then I have a cocktail shaker. Really, what can’t you use the almighty Ball jar for?

My name is Leah, and I have a Ball jar addiction.

2. Grill top for the Camp Chef stove

I’ve found that this is unnecessary and bulky. Besides, I have my new bestie, the Coleman Oven, what more could I need? Other than a Ball jar.

3. Plastic cups, not the disposable kind, more like the picnic kind

No thanks, I like drinking out of glass.  Gee, how about a Ball jar?

What’s that? Did I hear “wah, wah, wah, they might break, wah, wah, wah.”  Wrap them up, Dopey.

I feel a tangent coming on about using disposable kitchenware, or disposable anything, but I’ll hold myself back. I just think disposables are wasteful and unnecessary. 

4.  Any form of radio, cd player, stereo

I don’t go camping to force everyone to listen my music.  Many other people do, and I judge you.  

This is one of those things that I should just accept while camping.  Someone will be playing loud music, chugging cheap beer and hoo-haaing all night long at some point during any camping trip.  If I’m really lucky some drunken fool will light off fireworks, “woooo-hoooo!!! aint that fun?!”  Um, no, it’s not, and I hope you blow off a finger.

The silver lining is that most people don't have the endurance to do this for more than one night. It takes training, commitment, and dedication to abuse your liver two consecutive nights in a row.  Most people simply don’t have the gumption.

Darn it, I don’t have a Ball jar reference to insert here!

5. Onion, garlic and black pepper (terrifying, isn’t it?)

Amelia has allergies, a LOT of allergies. They’re the hive-inducing, facial-swelling kind of allergies.

I enjoy a good challenge so I've adjusted, and I must admit, it’s been a great lesson in cooking. Learning how to season simply is wonderful. 

Dry mustard is my new friend.  I used to say, “black pepper is the unsung hero of the spice world”.   Understated, yet crucial to so many dishes. Well, dry mustard has now taken over the unsung hero role in our kitchen.

When Amelia lists off her allergies people's eyes glaze over, some freak out a bit. I just think, really?  Freak out about the real shit, like cancer and bird-eating squirrels.  Adaptation is part of evolution. Adapt, or go extinct.

No Ball jar reference here either. Dang!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Teardrop Trailer vs. House

After living in forty square feet for a month, walking into our eight hundred square foot home felt downright overwhelming.  

We walked into every room and took a visual inventory of the "stuff" that made up our home.  Why did we choose this or that? How many plates do we really need? Whose stuff is this?  Things felt foreign and unnecessary.

I saw an extraneous clutter of stuff everywhere.  Stashed away in drawers, shelves, and closets. Stuff, stuff, and more stuff.  I had the same feeling last year when we came back, but this time it was much more extreme.  It was time to clear the clutter out, give it away, sell it and not replace it. Ever.

So we begin trimming the fat, paring down, purging, culling the herd of possession, and assessing the importance of our material possessions.

It's amazing how little I truly need, and what I've gotten used to carrying with me and clinging onto for years, decades even. This "stuff" just accumulates over time: "I need this, have to have that, this thing will change my life!”  We all have a tendency to hoard even on the smallest scale. How many spoons do you have? We have sixteen eating spoons and five serving spoons. Twenty-one spoons, two people.

The truth is, if you have halfway decent stuff, someone else will own it someday. You are not permanent; you’re going to die someday.  Other people will own this house, the Teardrop, my books, my banjo, my clothes, my tools, my truck.  Because none of this is really mine.  These items are temporarily in my possession.  I just happen to be the current lien holder of these things.

Before we left on our January trip I started putting aside clothes I hadn’t worn in a while.  It quickly went from a few things to a heaping pile of textiles.  I had easily removed one third of my wardrobe, and I haven’t missed a single thread of it.  Will this stop me from buying shoes? Don’t be silly. I will always buy shoes.


Monday, February 4, 2013

My Five Teardrop Galley Essentials

These are some of my favorite Teardrop galley essentials.  They're in no particular order.

I’m combining two items into one because they belong together. A happy little morning couple:

1a. Bodum French Press.

I don’t need to say much about this item.
We use it at home.
We use it camping.
Quick, quiet, easy.

1b. Hario MSS-1B Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder.

I love this grinder.  It’s small, durable, and it breaks down into three pieces for easy packing.  It’s a no brainer.  Put the beans in and turn the handle to grind.

Yes, you have to work; it’s powered by you. But, if you’re a camper, you already know that camping is a lot of work.  It takes about 3 minutes to grind up ½ cup of beans. Two minutes if you’re a speed freak.

I am not a true coffee geek. But, there are a few geek-worthy things to note about this grinder: you can adjust the grind from coarse to fine with a turn of a nut, it has ceramic burrs, and hand cranking creates minimal frictional heat, which can affect the taste of your coffee.

Note from Amelia: A lot of Amazon reviews complain that the Hario hand grinder is “too hard to use.” For comparison purposes, it’s as difficult as mixing Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough with a wooden spoon. If that hurts you, then don’t buy this grinder.

Note from Leah about Amelia’s note: People who complain that a hand crank is “too hard to use” are wussies. Those same people probably complain that walking up three flights of stairs is harder than taking the elevator. Stop whining, and start cranking (and take the stairs).

 2. OXO wooden reamer

Holy crap, this thing is fantastic!  This could get more juice out than a mechanical juicer.  In fact, when I get home I’m going to test that theory out.

Whether you’re juicing oranges for mimosas, lemons and limes for a marinade, or grapefruits for a cocktail, this is what you want to use.

Ream that citrus!

3. Camp Chef Stove

We decided long ago that if we were going to camp, then we were going to be eating well. There would be no crappy food while camping.

This thing is powerful. Each burner is 30,000 btu’s. This is more btu’s than in most of your kitchens.

I highly recommend buying the side shelves for this stove.  Extra counter space is always welcomed when camping.

4. Coleman oven

How I have gone this long without a camp oven is beyond me.  Baking bread, and muffins, roasting vegetables, and making meatloaf while camping? Yes, please.

The oven collapses into itself.  It packs flat and weighs around 7 pounds.

Controlling the heat is what you have to keep an eye on. At home your oven goes on and off to maintain a consistent temperature.  You are the thermostat control while baking with the Coleman oven, so adjust the temperature as needed.  

I found that 350 degrees is what I need for a loaf of bread.  I would bet that the thermometer it came with isn’t the most accurate, so don’t rely too much on it. Baking is more of a feel anyhow, isn’t it?

5.  LL Bean nylon tarp 8'x10'

The most awesomest tarp ever.

What makes this tarp great is that it’s ripstop nylon, not that crinkly stuff you get at a department store. 

It took me a few times to figure out how and where to set this up, but I’ve got it down now.  The tarp goes over the hatch. It has an overhang about a foot and a half on each side, and overhangs the back by about five feet. It’s an excellent sitting area to get out of the sun, rain, or away from the neighbors view, which is always my favorite.  It’s our own little lanai.

There's so many more things, but these are my current top five favorites. 


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Backing up a trailer

Backing up a tiny trailer like ours is hard. Tiny movements will ruin you and your relationship with whoever your co-pilot may be. I can back the trailer up into any small space.  Bring it on. Once I figured out how the trailer reacts to the truck, it was a breeze. 

In Maine a Grandpa across from our campsite pulled up a chair to watch me back into a ridiculously tiny space between two trees, and up a hill. Watching someone backup is a spectator sport for the veterans.  Well, I backed it in on the first try in one complete motion.  Good night, Gramps!  He actually didn’t speak to us the entire week we were there, grumpy old fart.  But, he did have a dog name PETE, PETEY, PETER!! I think I may have mentioned that in a previous post.

Backing up a trailer seems to be a rite of passage for most couples. It usually goes like this: Mom gets out to direct Dad.  Mom proceeds to shout, “LEFT, LEFT!! NO, STOP, NOW GO RIGHT, YUP, YUP, A LITTLE MORE, A LITTLE MORE, NO, NO, NO, STOP!” Dad gets mad and a mini argument erupts. This goes on until finally you here those magical words, “STOP, THAT’S GOOD. I SAID STOP!!”  Dad needs a beer, or four.

Now, listen up Dads:  Mom just needs to stay in the truck. You can back this damn thing up - ALONE.  If not, learn.  My favorite couples are the ones who do this in complete silence. It’s an amazing thing to see, like a Zen practice. I love you people. Love you.

And Moms, you need to learn how to back these things up, too. Don’t pull the helpless woman card. You pushed a baby out of that tiny porthole?  Then you sure the hell can back up a trailer. 


PS Amelia still hasn’t backed up the trailer.

Editor’s note: Yes I have!! Kind of. And poorly. But still. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

Wow, this is place was amazing.

Coming from the hustle and bustle of St. Augustine to stillness and silence was perfection. It was surreal.  We drove thirty miles down small roads into nothingness, through a place called Yeehaw Junction.  I admit it, we were a little nervous about our destination. 

Good signs kept popping up though:  A mature Bald Eagle perched on a tree, a Red Shouldered Hawk, a Prairie Falcon, and flat, lush green prairie on all four sides dotted with cattle ranches.  Where the hell were we going?

The campground was six miles down a shell packed road. We pulled in and were immediately greeted by the campground host.  Another good sign, a host that’s actually a real host, and greets you.  The campground was small, only twenty sites and fifteen equestrian sites. Oh, the good signs just kept piling up.

Once again, we were the youngest people in the campground. These were my people. I don’t care what age you are, or your background.  If you’re birding, or staring up at the night sky, you are most definitely part of my tribe: the Geeks.

We were the loudest people in the campground. And by loud, I mean shaking a martini. Yeah, it was that quiet. The people were serious about where they were. They were out birding, or sitting quietly, or reading a book. They picked up after their dogs, which were well-trained dogs. They were in bed by eight. They were sitting by campfires talking in near whispers.  They weren’t listening to radios.

Every night we heard choruses of coyotes and bard owls.  During the day we saw alligator, egret, anhinga, heron (all kinds), red-shouldered hawks, crested caracara, ibis, palm warbler, wood stork, bobcat, harriers, meadowlark, turkeys.

This is place is so far away from anything that it really weeds out the - how shall I say?  The inconsiderate jerks?  You’re forty minutes away from any store, so you better pack in what you need. But, quite frankly, why would you want to leave?