Friday, November 27, 2009

Almost too late for planning ahead

Forget black Friday sales, I was up at 6:45 this morning to reserve what I’m guessing must be the the most popular campsite in the state – and didn’t get it!  Booking started at 7AM and it was reserved 7:01. I guess I just didn’t hit send quite fast enough.

Washington State Parks allow you to reserve many of their sites exactly 9 months ahead, so if you book this week you can get (or try to get) popular sites for the end of August 2010.  (and last year I thought I was so on the ball by booking before Memorial Day). 

OK so I did get an adjacent site but it’s not as big or as private as the one I wanted.  Sayonara Southend Site 8 at Moran State Park on Orcas Island – maybe next year . 

Moran Site 8

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Falling into Autumn

325 You may have noticed I’ve been on something of a hiatus since our camping season ended.  September was spent preparing me for the start of kindergarten.  The five year old, you understand has taken to school like a duck to water – the adjustment has been mostly on my part.  Here in Seattle kindergarteners attend a full day 9:30-3:30.  It leaves a paltry amount of time after school for hanging out.  Still, it makes me remember why spending time together when we can is so important. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Muffin or Cupcake?

Chocolate Muffins

I know. I’ve been awful. Is it really the middle of September already?

Although our planned camping trips for the year are over, I seem to still have camping on the brain. Like today – I was packing lunch for my new kindergartener and I thought – these muffins would be delicious on a hike (and there is nothing like chocolate to motivate my little slowpokes).

The five year old was a little dubious of the green flecks of zucchini but was brought over when I split the muffin open and pointed out the hunks of chocolate in the middle. Of course if you have a ‘will not eat green stuff even if it’s dipped in chocolate’ kind of kid you could peel the zukes first. I replaced 1/2 cup of white with whole wheat pastry flour and added a couple of tablespoons of wheat germ too - ‘cause that’s just the kind of sneaky mom i am.

Thanks Epicurious for this surprisingly easy recipe!

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Building stuff at Deception Pass

After a rainy start from Seattle the day turned out marvelously.
Deception Pass is beautiful and offers lots for the kiddos, a
freshwater lake to swim in, driftwood forts and stone cairns to build
and explore on the ocean beach which is only steps away from the lake.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Make ahead camping food


tomatoes from our garden

We embark on our final big trip today and I'm trying something new – a no cook camping trip (except coffee and marshmallows of course).  I was thinking of making a bunch of stuff ahead like salads and snacks. So far I’ve only gotten a few things made like the roast peppers and the raspberry oat bars.  The bars don’t look like much but yum they taste fab – kinda breakfasty – i suspect they’ll get gobbled up with coffee in the morning.

If i actually get to it my make ahead menu would look something like:

Dinners : (1) chef salad with rustic bread; (2) tortellini, pesto, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella salad

Lunch: (1) croissants with roast vegetables (2) anything left in the cooler or peanut butter and jam 

Breakfast: (2) cereal with berries

Snacks: apples, raspberry oat bars, chips, carrots

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bay View - birds and beachcombing

After a lovely morning of investigating the tidal flats and Padilla
Bay Interpretive Center the boys are either napping or playing soccer.
I am thoroughly enjoying a quiet moment with new field guide, The
Beachcomber's Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Anyone been to Bay View State Park or Padilla Bay?

We leave for our next trip this week.  This time we off to Bay View State Park and I'm a little nervous about this one.  Friends are coming and I picked the site, but i really don’t know much about it.  I only chose it because it was close and our first choice, Deception Pass, was fully booked.

One friend mentioned that it’s not supposed to be that great – my rep is on the line!  Bay View is on Padilla Bay, which looks like a naturalists dream, but how will it be with preschoolers? 

I suppose i should be worrying more about the forecast thundershowers…

Monday, August 3, 2009

Artsy Nature Pics

I’ve been playing around a bit with the macro setting on my camera.  I took these shots at Spencer Spit. my favourite is the red crab although it seems a bit overexposed – can you believe that shell was only about the size of a quarter? 

Which one do you like the best?

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Banana Boat Recipe

My chef friend Georgia shares her “all time favorite” camping recipe, the classic Banana Boat:

  1. Slice one banana through the center, lengthwise, skin on.
  2. Pry banana apart and place torn chunks of marshmallow and dark chocolate chunks down the center of it.
  3. Wrap in foil and place on the coals in the fire.
  4. When you hear the banana sizzle, turn it over and repeat...
  5. Open up banana and eat the gooey center with graham cracker fingers...

Dungeness Cliff Trail

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Pictures: Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

 stacy's camera 028

stacy's camera 034 stacy's camera 046  stacy's camera 057

Photo credit to my lovely sister, Anastasia Andrews

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dungeness a dud


We got back from our second camping trip of the year and it was decidedly mediocre.  The fun stuff was what the fun stuff usually is – the fire, the food, cousins. 

The big let down for me was the beach.  First, it was a 20 minute walk from the campground and you had to pay a daily fee, $3 a family, neither of which were onerous, but still an annoyance.   Second, the water was pretty rough with breakers big enough to knock the kids down. Third, collecting rocks, shells and driftwood is frowned upon because it’s a wildlife preserve.  I do understand the rationale for this but combined with the lack of tide pools for exploration, I found it kind of boring. 

Of course enterprising parents are sure to find stuff to entertain their children, but I’m looking for some WOW when we go camping.  Next time I’m on the Olympic Peninsula I’m going to check out the Salt Creek Recreation Area.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Family campout at Magnuson Park

summer08 055The city of Seattle is offering an activity filled overnight urban campout at Magnuson Park this weekend.  Families need to bring a tent, sleeping bags and $7 each and the city provides dinner, breakfast, smores and naturalist led activities at dusk and dawn.  Another campout is being held August 7.

Preregistration is required. Calll 206.684.7522 to get more info or click here to Register Online

If we weren’t actually going camping those weekends I would love to go.  I think it would have been a great ‘just mom and me’ night with the 4 year old. 

Are you going?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear what you think.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Easy camping menu v.2

Spring 09 019 I’ve amended the Spencer Spit menu to something that at first seemed simpler.  The menu itself seems a bit more streamlined but my shopping list is still out of control.  I suspect this is in part due to some misguided instinct to bring enough snacks to survive the apocalypse.  Is this a mom thing? Probably just a me thing…

Basic Weekend Camping Menu

Friday Saturday Sunday
Dinner: Pasta + salad: lett, tom, avo Hot dogs and beans (carrots and peas) Left-overs!
Lunch: Sack lunch: PB+J sandwiches (fruit) Croissants and cheese (fruit) Left-overs!
Breakfast: At home Pancakes and bacon (yogurt) Scrambled eggs with chopped bacon

Shopping list

Fruit and Veg

Dairy and Meat

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Blueberries
  • Carrots
  • Snap Peas
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • UHT milk
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Cheese slices
  • Hummus
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Butter
  • Fresh pasta

Dry Goods and snacks

Condiments and staples
  • pancake mix
  • croissants
  • bread
  • hotdog buns
  • potato chips
  • coffee
  • hot chocolate
  • marshmallows
  • cookies
  • granola bars
  • baked beans
  • pasta sauce

One more thing – this menu is for feeding 6 adults and two kids.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bacon – the camping wonder food

June 09 088So if you’re wondering - what we ate at Spencer Spit was somewhat different than what I actually planned. This wasn’t entirely unexpected and in practice the menu kinda’ streamlined itself.

The trick is knowing what you can cook once but use for more than one meal and this takes some experience. I’m happy to say my camp cooking revelation this trip was bacon. I only grabbed a package at the last minute but it turned out to be a staple food on the weekend.

Use 1: Saturday breakfast: Pancakes and bacon. OK so I kinda love bacon with maple syrup – I think it was one of those pancake breakfast fundraisers in my youth where they slop it all on your plate and pour the syrup over everything…mmmm

Use 2: Saturday lunch: Bacon sarnies. This is just an English way of saying bacon sandwich. I suppose you could add some lettuce and tomatoes….

Use 3: Sunday breakfast: Scrambled eggs with chopped bacon and whatever else you have left and don’t want to pack home

One ingredient – three meals! Camping food perfection.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Campsite activities for preschoolers: Fairy Houses

I found during our last trip that there were a number of occasions that required my attentions to be somewhere other than directly on the kids, while cooking or preparing the backpack for the days adventures. Of course I try to keep the time spent on these administrative duties to a minimum, but what do you do with the little ones to keep them occupied at the campsite?

Build a Fairy House

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On this trip I got the kids searching the campsite for a perfect fairy house location. I then sent them off collecting twigs, moss, rocks, and leaves. I instructed them to take stuff from the ground, no picking off of live plants! The collection was placed at the preferred location and dad helped with the actual structure when he had a minute.

This activity turned out to be a running theme for the weekend (my sister, who is studying to be a teacher, tells me this is a good example of project based learning). When we were on a hike berries from the ash berries became fairy food and salal leaves were turned into fairy guardians.

A big hit (and excellent post-beach, pre-dinner time occupier) was decorating the day’s collection of rocks, shells and driftwood. I brought some paints, brushes and just let them go at it. In case you didn’t know, painted shells make excellent fairy beds :)

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Fairies, clams and Spencer Spit

June 09 146 So I did bring three times as much food and clothes than we actually used but as long as it fits in the car what’s the risk right?  I’m definitely going to cull the menu and food list and amend the kit list in my camping box – but what has left the biggest impression on me is how great it is to spend focused, time together as a family and - as much as I obsess about it - the food was the least of my concerns on the weekend. 


June 09 094

If you ask the four year old toasting marshmallows was the highlight of the trip.  For me it was the fairy house.  I think my husband would say the clams. The three year old? Maybe the piece of driftwood he adopted as his ‘baby’. 


June 09 037

So much to elaborate on, I can’t wait to tell you all about our adventure.  For now though a couple of pictures will have to do. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Easy-Peasy Camping Menu

Here it is Wednesday and we leave tomorrow for our first trip of the summer, a four day trip to the San Juans. I, of course, have been focusing on the food aspect of the trip. Planning wise I have completed the menu and my husband has pulled out most of the gear. I hit Whole Foods this morning and now just need to do the hard part – fit it all into the cooler!

Breakfast x 3: I can only really bring myself to do one cooked breakfast a trip – it’s not so much the cooking, it’s the cleanup I can’t deal with.

  1. Bacon, Eggs, Fruit – i may substitute pancakes for thbatter blastere eggs – I was seduced at whole foods by the simplicity of the organic pancake batter in a can – however having not used it before I’m making sure i have a back-up – i suspect the ‘batter blaster’ will be a hit with the kids
  2. Croissants and Yogurt
  3. Granola

Lunch x 4: We usually do packed lunches so we can eat on the trail or at the beach – again minimal clean-up!

  1. Mini-Bagels: cream cheese, ham, peanut butter and jam, avocado
  2. Left-over Pasta

Dinner x 3: Most of this is done on our trusty Coleman stove, but this time I’ve planned one dinner for over the campfire. Can you guess which one?

  1. Tortellini with pesto and ricotta cheese; tomato/arugula/parmesan salad
  2. Hot (Hebrew National) and Veggie (Yves) dogs; corn on the cob; baked beans
  3. Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Snacks, treats and extra stuff

Fresh stuff: mini-carrots, snap peas, grapes, blueberries, apples, bananas, tomatoes, hummus, juice, chee

Treats: Oatmeal banana mini-muffins, Green and Black’s Almond Milk Chocolate (see my other post about this heavenly stuff), marshmallows, graham crackers, fig newtons

Dry snacks: cashews, fish crackers, trail mix

All of this is in addition to the basic kitchen staples that are packed away in a camping box downstairs. Now – time to check on that….

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kalaloch and Salt Creek Campgrounds

Just as I suspected – my attempt to shame myself into getting prepared early for the Spencer Spit trip didn’t work. I did however get a great campsite recommendation…we haven’t been there yet but it sounds fantastic. I’ve quoted Kathie directly below. Thanks Kathie!

I would add that both of these sites are on the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. My mom has just moved over there and man we can’t get enough! The region is stunning – and we’ve barely begun exploring the coast and National Park. Kalaloch is at the top of next year’s camping list.


Olympic National Park Campground Info

If you are up for a little drive (about 3-4 hours), Kalaloch (on the coast) is absolutely the best camping…especially for kids. There are lots of trees for climbing around on, pathways to hike on, and you are on the beach so you can never get bored. There is a little convenience store nearby with ice-cream and lattes. It can rain like crazy, so we always come prepared, but when the sun is out, it is beautiful. We always bring the boys’ scooters too as people tend to drive slowly through the campground and there are lots of nice long stretches for scootering where you can still keep an eye on them so that they are not out of sight. I have done a ton of camping over the years, and this is probably at the top of my list. If you go there, I suggest the A loop…it’s my favorite combination of trees and sun.

Salt CreekThe other place I would recommend is Salt Creek Campground…it’s a really fun campground too, although not quite as beautiful as Kalaloch.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Spencer Spit Planning Week: Day 1

summer08 003Well spring has sped away faster than i imagined it would and here i am, after all my talk of planning, planning, planning, and not having done a bit!  Well i suppose since we are not going until the end of the month i still have some time but June is shaping up to be crazy – what with preschool graduation (kindergarten here we come!), field trips, the occasional tennis match – June will be gone in a snap.  So in an effort to concentrate efforts and focus my thoughts – June 8-14 – is officially devoted to planning the trip.

Why Spencer Spit?

Spencer Spit State Park is on Lopez Island in the San Juan Island.  To quote it’s website its key features are:  “excellent crabbing, clamming and ‘car-top boating.’ This is one of the few state parks in the San Juan Islands that is accessible by automobile. A sand spit encloses a saltchuck lagoon”.  Translation – preschooler heaven!

More objectively – it was recommended by a few friend and the write up in my trusty guide book “The Best in Tent Camping: Washington” was great.  One feature that attracted me was that they have campsites right on the beach. They are not accessible by car but are not far from parking, which could be wonderful however i did not book early enough to secure one of these coveted sites.  Still after considering these sites more thoroughly i decided they weren’t going to be for us this trip anyway.  We are in the midst of potty training the 3 year old and close access to toilets and running water unfortunately trumps a tent door view.  I’m going to scope it out for next year though….

now i need to think about gear – what does one need for crabbing? – here i come – time to prove yourself!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hiking with Kids Workshop at REI

REI is hosting a free seminar by Joan Burton, author of Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington. It at the flagship store in Seattle on 6/23/2009 at 7:00 PM. I think it’s a bring the kids event too! Love that.

I’ve got the book and although I haven’t yet done any of the hikes yet I’m really looking forward to tackling some soon.

Hiking with Kids Workshop at REI

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rainy day camping activities

Well it’s been typically spring in the northwest today– rain, sun, drizzle, rain. While I usually don’t mind the rain (especially spring rain, spring rain is warmish and smells nice) a camping trip could well be ruined if you don’t plan ahead. First when planning your trip scope out the local museum offerings in case you really need to escape the confines of the campsite/tent but don’t want to completely throw in the towel. Second put together a special rainy day kit, store it in a big ziploc and stash it with your camping gear – don’t let the kids see it so it will be a surprise for your ‘special’ rain day

Rainy day kit: sidewalk chalk; playing cards; special markers (glitter, glow in the dark); new activity books; camping coloring pages, balloons

Here are some other ideas I've collected:

Outside activities (make sure you have a way to dry off and get warm after!)

  • River / dam building
  • Measure rainfall with buckets, cups
  • Float flowers in the puddles.
  • Dig for worms in the mud at night using a flashlight.
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk on damp paved surfaces to create very bright chalk drawings.
  • water balloons

Inside activities

  • card games: War and Go fish are the current favorites of my 4 year old, Snap
  • read books – i.e. Curious George Goes Camping
  • Print out some camping related coloring pages
  • Shadow play with flashlights
  • I spy

Read more: "Rainy Day Camping Activities: Crafts and Games to Keep Preschoolers Busy When it Rains"

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sweet Survival

I have to admit I have been accused of being a bit compulsive about planning the menu for our camping trips. I tend to get ‘gourmet’ with ingredients like pesto, prosciutto, brie. Still I never realised that the key ingredient, the one thing that I now cannot imagine a camping trip without…chocolate. Not just any chocolate but Green and Black’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds. I was introduced to it on a camping trip with my friend P. I’ve had to force myself to allow it only on camping trips (don’t ask me how that is going).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gearing up at REI’s tent sale

Well it’s REI’s big sale time (May 1- 10). We bought the REI Base Camp 6 last year. This tent just happens to be currently on sale for much less than we paid for it :( We have used it once and were pretty impressed.

Rather heavy, when I bought it the woman in the service area felt she needed to point out that “this is a 20 pound tent!”, but what we needed was lots of room for the four of us and that’s what we got – and with our iron horse of a volvo doing all the packing, weight isn’t an issue. 3mandays I’m afraid I can’t remember if it was easy to set up or not – likely because I let the boys get to it by themselves – but if a dad and two preschoolers can do it you probably can too. What i love about this tent is that you can stand in it, it has pouches and tabs on the walls and ceiling so you can keep important stuff handy and hang a flashlight like an overhead light. The vestibules on both sides also give lots of room for discrete changing, keeping shoes out of the rain and keeping marauders from noticing the beer cooler while we explore the beach.

Some friends that we went to Birch Bay State Park with last year had the REI Hobitat and that is a pretty cool tent too. Tall enough to stand in and it’s got two great big doors on either side. They let the kids play in the empty tent in the afternoon (which was a HUGE hit) and then just picked up the whole structure and just shook it out before setting up the bedding. After seeing how much fun the kids had just playing in an empty tent I'm considering buying a cheapo ‘kids’ tent for them the play in….hmmm….maybe i can get a second hand one somewhere…

Tip: Get at least one (we went 2) ‘man’ bigger than your family size. A four man tent sleeps four and you are going to want some space to move around without distributing the inevitable sand/dirt throughout your sleeping area.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

No closures for washington state parks

summer08 055Phew! Can you imagine booking your camping trip, possibly in part because you are economizing yourself, and then hearing that the park you had booked was closed due to budget cuts? It almost happened. I actually had discounted a couple of parks out of our summer plans because they were slated to be among the closures. Thanks in no small part to the Washington Trails Association (WTA) all of the parks will remain open. Yeah!

I’ve only recently discovered the WTA. I’m really liking their website. It’s full of gear lists, safety tips and has a section just for families and kids. Hmmm….Maybe i should be spending less time inside on the computer?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reservations at Dungeness Spit

Dungeness in February

The summer is set. I just received my confirmation for our July trip to the Dungeness Recreation Area on the Olympic Peninsula. While I know some people like to fly by the seat of their pants, and at one time I would have too, but these days I can’t imagine traveling into unknown territory, boys in tow, without a confirmed place to pitch the tent.

Reservable sites at Dungeness are new. Thank you Clallam County! They don’t have an on-line reservation system like Washington State Parks, but you can mail in a reservation, requesting your preferred site. The turn around was fairly quick – i got my confirmation about a week after I mailed in my reservation request. They do have a function on the website that allows you to check which sites are available on the days you want. However, even after checking their availability list and putting three alternate sites down I still didn’t get any of the campsites I requested - so don’t get your hopes up. But still I am grateful that at least we got one and it’s NOT next to the toilet – phew!

Dungeness Recreation Area - Info and Reservations


Friday, April 24, 2009

Outdoor activities for the web generation

Just discovered this way awesome website It's got print out activity cards, videos, info on geo-caching (which I have no clue about but it appears to have something to do with the outdoors and electronic gadgets – so obviously worth investigating).

I'm going to spend some time poking around but it looks awfully promising...i'll report back soon.

What's your favorite Andycamper activity?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hiking with kids workshop

Over the past few months I've been doing a bunch of research while planning our summer adventures. I've been trawling the net, asking friends, posting on listserves, and I've hopefully some of the advice I've collected is good. Time will tell - and I will spill the dirt here!

I'm expecting the dirt spilling it to be somewhat cathartic. My husband is likely hoping it will mean less time spent de-briefing him on my latest foray into the wilds of REI.

I really hope to provide something of use in most posts but we'll see how that goes. I do have one for today though. The Washington Trails Association is holding a workshop about hiking with children in some Everett and Seattle libraries in May. Considering my 4 year old complains about walking the 10 minutes it takes to get to school I need all the help i can get.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

lessons of summers past - part one

The first time we went camping with the kids the boys were barely one and just shy of three. We left impossibly early and drove a ridiculous four or five hours, from Seattle to the Oregon Coast, for one night of camping with friends at Nehalem Bay State Park. Thank goodness Nehalem is soooo gorgeous...
Lessons from Nehalem '07

  • air mattress - good (for 2)
  • down comforter - great
  • three man tent for a family of 4 - only in an emergency!
  • camping with friends with kids of similar ages - essential

Liberation from the backpack

I feel i must get something straight from the get go. I'm no camping purist. Backpacks, ultalight tent, titanium cooking gear - some of it hangs in my storage room - but mostly it is covered in dust. Before kids I had an illusion of becoming an outdoorswoman and although I still harbor images of myself hiking somewhere in a stunning alpine meadow, I have now fully embraced the car as an essential part of my camping toolkit - and what sweet liberation it is. Maybe one day when i don't have to haul diapers (in and out) of hike in campsites, or explain to a four year old what made the claw marks on the bear barrell, will i return to the wilderness. For now though i am going to relish the luxury of our huge 20 pound tent, queen air mattress, tricycles and training wheels on paved campground roads, and running water near by.