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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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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!
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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:  http://www.49errvpark.com/
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!
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Good Bye San Francisco, Hello Jucy

Before leaving the San Francisco area, we took some iconic photos of Lombard Street in bloom (ahhhhh) and the Golden Gate Bridge from Sterling Park. They were just beautiful!  I still can’t get over the grade of the streets. I think my ankles now have muscles.
Uncle Rob was a jem and drive us to the Juicy rental. Given all the other colorful murals we’ve seen on the outside of the rental RV’s, we’re pretty lucky.   We got the full tour of our nearly new van, and she even threw in some partial fuel tanks upon request. We stopped at a bakery outlet about two blocks away, and away we drive toward Yosemite.
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San Francisco with Uncle Rob

Uncle Rob wanted to get out of the house and show us around town. He drive us passed city hall, Twitter and alike, then we went to the Ferry Market. At the market, we purchased wonderful foods for our camping trip, like aged cheeses and smoked salmon!  We had a wonderful lunch at their favorite restaurant, Crapevine. The last photos are on top of Twin Towers, where we could see both the Bay Bridge and the Goden Gate Bridge. It was so windy.  Look at the tree in the background!
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The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

We have been planning a great adventure to California with the kids for six months. While there are many things to do and see in San Francisco, we are the most excited about visiting with our family, Uncles Rob and Jim.  
 
The weeks leading up to our departure have been eventful, to say the least. Illness and the passing of loved ones have caused us to pause and reflect as our prayer list grew and grew.  In our own home, we’ve had the stress of an ill dog who has needed not one, but two surgeries this month.  While the timing was awful, our Lacey dog had surgery yesterday and we picked her up from the hospital on the way to my mom and dad’s home. She will recover there while we are away, so we spent time going over the home care with mom and getting the dog all tucked in, as Kim would say. I don’t know what we would do without our four, wonderful parents!
 
As I was typing this post, my husband called his father to see how he’s feeling.  Mike learned that his witty and wonderful Uncle Jim, who has been chronically ill for some time, had passed away. Unbelievable. What a difference one day can make. We’ll think of Jim tomorrow, as we fly west to catch the sunrise, and be thankful that we can be near Uncle Rob during this difficult time. Jim was a joy to talk to; he will be deeply missed. 
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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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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!