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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!

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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!
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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?  Instructables.com had a great tutorial here:  http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Play-Euchre/
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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 About.com: http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/calodging/a/we_choose_hotel.htm.
These travel writers taught me how to use the website www.tripadvosor.com.

Here is my take-away:

  1. Google your hotel and find the tripadvisor.com 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

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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.
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How To Quickly Winterize Your Trailer

Winterize Your Travel Trailer

We own the tent trailer, or pop-up trailer as it’s known.  After a couple of frosts and a bit of snow, it was time to say “Goodbye” for the winter.  Here is how we it.

Water lines: If you have them/use them, you’ll need to flush the water out at home and put RV antifreeze in the lines.  We have one simple line to a sink, but many of you will also have a bathroom.  To cover all of your needs you should also read this step by step guide http://winterize.adventurerv.net/.  We always cut the label off the jug and leave it in the sink as a reminder.  FYI, we have a cutting board that covers the sink, so I also store my dish soap, etc. in there.

Rodents: They are looking for a place to live this winter.  Remove ALL food, go through every nook and cranny.   Put a couple of open boxes of moth balls on the floor.  We have never had a problem.

Year Around Items: We’ll use our lawn chairs well before spring, and the kids will use their sleeping bags for sleepover and scout events.  Pull out everything you may need over the winter.

Valuables: Take anything that is “irreplaceable” out of the trailer.

Propane Tank: Take it off and leave it at home.  It’s easily removed and, therefore, easily stolen.

Refrigerator Switches: Ours are located on the outside of the trailer.  Flip them all to the OFF position.  We have two sets.  One behind each panel.

Locks: Place locks on the pop-up hasps and use them.  Also lock all of the exterior compartment doors with your keys.

Battery: Remove this as well and keep it at your house.  We need it to operate the electric breaks, so it’s removed before we leave the warehouse.

Photos: Take a photo of the condition of your trailer and the location, including the ceiling in case of damage.

Go home and start planning a trip for next spring!

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Road Trip Games

Everyone gets board along the way. A couple of family games we play can help pass the time. For instance, have everyone look at the attached photo. How many squares can you find?

Travel ABC’s
This works well driving through a big city. Point to a noun (person, place or thing) that has to do with travel for every letter of the alphabet. A is for airplane, B is for billboard, C is for car, etc. This goes fast, so we usually play twice without repeats.

License Plate Game
This one can take the whole week. One person writes down the plates as people find them. I let the kids count 50 different plates, so they can use out of country plates and not stress when the can’t get RI. The secretary get a trinket I pick-up and both kids can pick out some candy at they next stop when we hit 50.

Billboard BINGO
On our way to Florida a few years ago, I decided this is not for kids. Ya never know what’s going to be advertised on a billboard. Anyway, you find products being advertised in the order of the letters of BINGO. First person to call the billboard gets to use it.

Good luck and have fun!

5+ Trip Planning Apps

I’m a crummy cell phone carrier who LOVES her I-touch. I rely in wifi, and find apps that work offline a digital wonder. So let’s get to it.

Trip It
I use the free version of this program. The reservation import feature keeps me from having to print everything out. It’s a nice way to remember places you’ve read about, complete with addresses and phone numbers. We never follow it like a tour schedule. It’s more like a bag of ideas, and we work in our favorites as time and weather allow.

Coleman Camp Recipes
Need a list of ingredients while you’re standing in the store? This app features all the classic campfire classics, with instructions and photos.  Take a minute to scroll through the app store, as they have several more (like a lantern).

Star Walk
We went to a star party in Glacier National Park. The sky was so dark that we could see millions of stars. Literally. Several telescopes were set-up, and we enjoyed a constellation talk (until our necks hurt). If you don’t have an astronomer handy, Stat Walk is the next best thing for checking out constellations. Try setting it on night mode and enjoy the view.

RoadsideAmerica.com
The trick is to shop for fun stops before you leave and save them as favorites. You can only access your favorite stops offline, great for super long drives that drag on and on. The app also had some fun features like fake phone calls and sunset alerts. Don’t forget to send in tips about quirky stuff in your area!

Maplets
I love a physical map, but if you’re adapted to paperless, this is a great program. Download maps for the places you’ll be driving, biking and hiking before you leave. They’ll be there in your hand when you need them. While you’re at it, search for podcasts with the same name to listen to on the trail. For instance, Glacier, we found out, has several for their National Park. It was a nice change from Mike’s newest CD, which includes Red Solo Cup. . .

So, what are your favorite travel apps? The photo shows a couple more for you to explore on your own.  Here’s to hoping you get to use them soon!

Camping Cooler Ice Blocks

The photo says it all. I freeze two or three refilled Tropicana containers a few days before we leave. They are usually filled with water, but sometimes I make one with sun tea or gatorade. Remember to leave a few inches of air at the top for expansion.

Commercially bottled water bottles can be tossed into the freezer unopened, as can go-gurts. On day two of your get-away, you’ll have a nice supply of iced cold water from home. They do a nice job keeping picnic supplies cold, but you might want a big bag of ice to cool uncooked meat.