I’ve been away from the blog for a while….   Last winter, my husband Mike decided to make a kitchenette for the back of our mini-van.  Easy storage for food and utensils for day trips away from camp.  Lots of photos were taken….



We knew we needed a cooler and have found milk crates useful for many odds and ends.



Careful measuring of the height with the lid open and overall width were needed.


Regular 1 X 8 boards were ripped down to narrow width to provide framing.


A step drill bit was used to pre-drill for the screw pockets.


Joints were glued and screwed tight.




Square ends were made…


Several test fittings in the vehicle as work progressed.


Center supports and were made and attached to the top.  They were also attached top and bottom on the back side.


A cutting board was traced and a recess was routed into the top to keep it from sliding around.



Tapered sides were added to the top to keep items like paper towels, bags of chips or other light items from falling off.  The top and upper sides were made from scrap plywood that I had.  I suggest ¾” high quality plywood for strength and longevity.  A ½ sheet should work, depending on your width.


The lower unit had thin plywood bottoms fitted in the two outer sections and paneling glued and stapled to the framework.  One sheet was enough to cover what you see here.  The bottoms, top and exposed wood were sealed with several coats of polyurethane sealer.


Several types of plastic storage bins were purchased and test fit.  We chose the green ones. Shelves were added above the milk crate and above the big box which lives on the right side.


The container shown sitting on the orange milk crate has a top silverware drawer.  We stock essentials such as cleaning sponge, dish soap, silverware, inexpensive paring knife, wine bottle opener and disposable silverware.  We carry both paper and plastic dinner plates that can be washed.

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We found the storage boxes keep bread from getting smushed.  The milk crate is used for boxed items and cans.  Crackers, cookies, etc. can be quickly taken to/from the trailer and the van.  Other items in the storage boxes include sunscreen, hats, bug spray, rain coats, disposable table cloth (although ours gets reused several times), paper towels, plastic (washable) cups/wine glasses.


The cooler goes in the center section and there’s plenty of room for a small camp stove and a pan or two if you want hot food.  We’ve used the kitchenette several times this summer and found the open back door shelters you well in light rain and wind, depending on how you are parked.  I am able to comfortably prepare vegatables for salads, cut meats and cheeses, etc.


The unit is secured with small screws to each side of the van, it removes easily and the holes are very small and reusable, with care.  While traveling, the counter top makes a nice place to lay out wet towels or swimsuits.



Michigan Wine and Steak Dinner

Here is a painting that I did a few years ago during a "Wine and Canvass" event.

A painting that I painted a few years ago during a “Wine and Canvas” event.

Being from Michigan’s wine country, there’s nothing better than a good red wine with a seasoned steak cooked over an open fire. We tend to choose a steak with extra fat marbled in the meat for tenderness and flavor when we grill.  Maybe you do too.  People often know how to choose a good steak, but they aren’t sure which bottle of wine will go well with their meal.  Yes, I said a bottle.  I’m not a fan of the plastic wine bags and boxes, although they do travel well and keep the air out of the wine.  We take a real bottle and cover it in a mesh bag to keep the bottle from breaking.  Wine will add depth to the flavor of your meal, and impress your wine loving friends (many whom don’t drink beer.)

Here’s an easy to remember rule of thumb.  According to Wine Folly, the fattier the cut of steak, the darker the wine (color=the amount of tannin).  Though I often limit myself to packing from the wine choices we have on our shelf, we do loosely follow this wine rule.  If I’m hitting the grocery store (Meijer’s) on the way to camp, I give some thought to what will pair well with our Saturday night BBQ.  Read on for a few really tasty Michigan wine recommendations.

Fall is a wonderful time to take a color tour in our area, and we often end up at a new winery for a tour and tasting.  Now that Mike has restored our vintage Mustang, we always want to take a drive – anywhere!  Lemon Creek Winery is one of our old favorites.  They make an award-winning, dark red Cabernet Franc that my husband loves.  It pairs really well with rich, red meat dinners.  If you like a dessert wine, their Cherry Wine tastes just like cherry pie so I serve it as a dessert.  Or with a dessert.  It went REALLY well with some not-too-sweet dark chocolate truffles last Valentine’s Day.

Tabor Hill is another favorite, local winery of ours.  They are known far and wide for their demi-sec red and white wines, which are both semi-dry.  People who say they don’t like wine, and those who are just starting to develop their pallet, often like these two wines which are served at the White House.  For those who have developed an appreciation for drier wines, the affordable table wines we like are Red Arrow Red and Pinot Gris.  The downside to camping with a white wine, like a Pinot Gris, is chilling it.  Pack your white wine in a “wine-cozy” to keep it from breaking.  This will also keep it cold when it is out of the cooler on the boat, or at the beach!

79300_a1_gSo how do I serve the wine in on a camping trip?  Our answer is plastic, collapsible wine stemware.   We have also packed the little wine glasses that you get during a winery tour, but they add weight and can break so we “rough it”.   You’ll need to pack a tool that includes a wine bottle opener and a separate pour spout cork.  If there is, by chance, any left overs the next day, add it to a stew.

Meijer stores carry all of the wines mentioned above. While you’re there, pick up some Faygo pop for the kids!  It’s fun to try new foods, so I’m always looking for something new to try.  Today, I happened to see a California wine called Happy Camper, and it sounds delicious!  Maybe it’s just the name?  Having watched this video, I’m ready to have a taste.  The owner says that KOA campgrounds and others carry it in their store.  I may give our local KOA a call.  Have you ever tasted Happy Camper wine?  If so, how did you like it?

I love to hear how people live.  Let me know what wines you like to bring on a road trip, or to the campground.  Do you use a river to keep the wine chilled?  What do you serve it with at camp?  Don’t forget to follow my page.  Happy Camping!


Hello WordPress Folks – Meet The New Kid

Hi, I’m Tammy, the new kid at  I moved here last week from Blogger, quite by accident.  I am looking to meet some new friends, and I’m hoping that you are kind enough to help me out.  My goal is 100 Facebook Page likes, 100 followers on Twitter, and 600 Pinterest followers.  Here’s my story:

I started a travel blog a couple of years ago.  I read a couple of books, learned some of the jargon and tried some of their advice.  I found out that I wasn’t very good at generating web traffic, or finding new readers, and I didn’t really get coding.  Yes, I had started a Facebook page and a Twitter account and a lot of other stuff that the books has suggested, but I wasn’t very good at getting folks to click and become my friends.  I listened to several podcasters, like Social Media Marketing, but I didn’t seem find the people I wanted to reach.  Blog failure wasn’t the worst thing.  I could still post road trip photos for grandma while I was on vacation instead of using Facebook and risking a home break-in.

Fast forward to last week Monday’s scout troop meeting.  I’m the volunteer who maintains our troop website via a professional service.  Our troop is considering moving the website to  I didn’t know what to expect from, so I decided to import my blog from Blogger and check it out.  I wanted some content to work with and shuffle around.

When I was blogging, I had followed the advice at Code It Pretty, but my blog never looked very great.  Instead of going this route, or reading books, I watched a few YouTube videos this time to learn my way around. is SO much easier than what I had tried to do!  I think my blog looks more inviting, but I still haven’t made any new friends.  I also have a lot to learn, as I am looking for ways to get Twitter to post a photo with my new post links and rich text recipes to show up on my Pinterest boards.  I am kind of Pinterest nut, with many boards devoted to camping and would surely love to add my tutorials and recipes to their lunchbox full of ideas.

As I was creating new blog categories, and filling in photos, I ran a crossed some recipe pics that I had meant to use in a post.  I guess I never got it done.  Have any of you ever done this?  Anyway, I decided to write a short post yesterday to add to my “Before You Go” group of recipes.  Maybe someday, someone would see it and add it to their campout menu.  Whatever.  Right?  So, here is the amazing part – people that I don’t know read my post AND LIKED IT!  Seriously!  A few WordPress folks, essentially, said “Hello” to me in the hall.  That’s amazing to me because that never happened on Blogger.  Ever.  So thank you for being friendly, and for stopping by.  Being the new kid kinda sucks, but I’m thinking, now, that maybe I’ll try sharing a few more posts about what I know – camping and cooking.

I’m hoping that by switching to, I’ll find new campers that have questions and new readers that will share their stories.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for stopping by and clicking around!  I hope you’ll introduce me to your readers, fans and people you know that enjoy road trips and the great outdoors.  Please leave a comment to keep the conversation going.  Newbie advice from bloggers would be appreciated.

Happy Camping!


How To Camp In A Jucy at Yosemite – Part 2

Food, and it’s storage bear country, is critical.  Yes, we saw a HUGE brown bear and boy was I glad that we weren’t having dinner out of the back if my Jucy!

Bear Box Storage Tutorial

A cheap cooler like this worked just fine for storing refrigerated items overnight with a bag of ice from the campground store.

At night, you’ll need to store ALL of you food and smellables in the bear box, including your refrigerated items. We bought a small cooler and ice most days. Repurposing a six-pack carrier worked well to easily move condiments back and forth from the van kitchen.   During the day, I used the dry sink to hold our crushable picnic supplies. At night, it all went in a bag in the bear box.

My final bear box tip is to put your “smell-ables” in an empty firewood box. People often leave an empty box for the next person using the bear box, maybe even with some newspaper fire starter. We love people who pay it forward!  The box is a good way to gather your sunscreen, medications, shower items, etc. and it protects them from exploding food. Yes, you read it right.  We brought a 12 pack of pop up to the mountains and one of the seams broke. A minor, but very sticky, mess since we had the woodbox to protect our stuff. We’ve also had mustard explode in the mountains.  Lesson learned – cover your stuff!
How do you camp in bear country?  Leave a comment with your tips, or questions, and don’t forget to follow my blog.  Happy camping!

How To Camp In A Jucy at Yosemite – Part 1

Over the past seven days, the kids have counted 26 people or families that have stopped to ask us about the Jucy. Since there is so much interest, I thought we’d write a series of reviews.

There are as many ways to camp as there are places to camp. If you are like us, we were a bit nervous about rentingaJucy camper van without seeing one, or even knowing someone who recommended it. Fear not, this is an awesome set-up! With a little advanced planning, you’ll have a great family vacation.

Sleep Warm
Warm campers sleep well all night and wake up happy the next day.TheJucy comes with bedding, but maybe not enough depending on the altitude you’ll be staying at. For instance, it’s the middle of June, and look at the low, morning temperatures:

This morning I woke up at 8:00 and it was still cold at 55*.  Two hours later, the temperature had risen 30*, I kid you not, and I needed shorts.  We read someone else’s review about the bedding and packed two red blankets that people pack for the plane, and two fleece sleeping bag liners for the kids.

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The red zippered bags hold the travel blankets, free from a conference. On the left and right are two sleeping bag liners, purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods.

We also packed long-sleeved pajamas/base layers to sleep in. Nathaniel did pack his summer, mummy sleeping bag because it’s light (and he loves it), but I don’t think he really needed it. With all the windows closed, we are quite warm and comfortable at 6,000 feet.  Upstairs, the penthouse stayed warm, too.  If it were earlier in the year, or higher altitude, a knit hat and gloves might be warranted.

Finally, make sure you park each night in an area that is level, or with your head up hill.  As this photo shows, we have our bed reversed from what the company shows in their photos.  During the day, we simply “jelly roll” everything and put it in the penthouse with the pillows and camp chairs while we are driving.
If you have questions about renting a camper van, or tales to tell about your experience, please comment to keep the conversation going.  As always, we hope you’ll follow our blog either here or on Facebook.  Happy Camping!

Yosemite Or Bust

Our first night in the Jucy, we stayed at a campground called the 49ers.
They were so friendly!  When we checked in, they pointed us toward the brat dinner.  No set cost, just a donation.  One gal said “We’ve saved many a marriage with our Friday night cookout.” Later, a cowboy named Cricket entertained folks around the campfire with songs and stories. Everyone loved his original songs.  If you are looking for a highly recommended campground, click here:
The next morning, we walked next door to Columbia State Park. They have a gold mining town replica, and many costumed interpreters. We decide to ride the stage-coach, and got robbed!!!  The pulled chicken BBQ and sarsaparillas were wonderful at the country restaurant, and we bought 5 hard candy sticks for a dollar at their grocery store. The blacksmith and tack shops are a must see, as well as the candle shop where the kids dipped candles for Father’s Day.
Jamestown was our last stop before heading to Yosemite. We missed the last train ride of the day, but saw the famous #3 steam engine ride the roundhouse and be put away for the evening.  This train has been in countless movies and TV shows over the years, and is still being used in films.  The guys really likes looking around at all of the equipment.
If you’ve visited these parts, or have questions about this area of California, please leave us a comment.  We’d love to hear from you, or see a new like on our page.  Thanks!

Euchre at 10,000 Feet

How to Play Euchre – Teaching A Michigan Tradition
It was the first commercial flight for our kids, and everyone did well. We even played a little Euchre to pass the 4 1/2 hours. Madeline thought the take off felt like riding a roller coaster. Southwest constantly served us free snacks and drinks; our two checked bags full of camping clothes and gear were free as well. On the way home we’ll choose seats away from the wings so we can see more of the United States below.
If you’ve never played Euchre, it’s a game many people in Michigan play when camping.  Want to try it? had a great tutorial here:

Tripadvisor Hotel Bookings


Hello, again.  My life has wandered through many holidays and mountains of snow since my last post.  Today I’m planning our summer camping adventure to California.  For those of you who mix up the hotels and camping experiences, I’ve just read an article that I’d like to share.

If you’d like to know how to find a clean hotel that doesn’t break the bank, read this article from
These travel writers taught me how to use the website

Here is my take-away:

  1. Google your hotel and find the source for the hotel.
  2. The first line will show:
  3. The number of circles filled in – you want 3 1/2 or more.
  4. The number of reviews – you want more than 30 reviews for the   above circles to be reliable.
  5. The average price indicated by the number of $ signs.
  6. Look for the ratings on this preview: 23 out of 108 (hotels in this city).  The lower the number, the better.
  7. If all of the above information make you feel pretty good about this hotel, click on the link and look at both the cleanliness and value ratings.

I’m feeling much more confident about booking a hotel for a couple of days in San Francisco before we rent a camper and head out to Yosemite National Park for a week!

Enjoy, Tammy


DIY – The Only Camping Stove You’ll Ever Need

This is genius!  The only cost is the knife you already own and the fuel – rubbing alcohol.  If you need a lightweight camping stove for back country camping, or an extra burner for cooking a big Sunday morning brunch at the campground, this is the stove for you!  Grab a tall, aluminum can out of your recycling bin, a pocket knife, and let the DIY lesson begin.