Saturday, July 18, 2009

Top Ten Things I Learned While Tent Camping

I have not gone tent camping since I was about 3-years old and camped out in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. (Is the location correct Mom and Aunt Marilyn?) Suffice it to say, I don’t remember anything about the experience except that it was cold. Now so many years later, I have tried tent camping again. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t put gin in a water bottle. It is too easily mistaken for water by a very thirsty 10-year old boy rooting through the cooler looking for water. That first gulp was quite a surprise!
  2. Bacon grease acts as an excellent flame enhancer. Draining off the excess bacon grease into the campfire really boosted those flames. Who needs lighter fuel?
  3. Bring extra blankets. Even if it is 90 degrees when you are loading up the car and setting up the tents, it gets cold at night. This is Minnesota after all. I learned my lesson after sleeping curled up in a ball under a very thin blanket.
  4. Ban all kid electronic devices. Somehow those Nintendo DS games made it into the tents. No more! Although the kids did have fun out fishing, playing football, and chopping wood.
  5. Portable iPod speaker are a good thing. Bringing along your own tunes worked out well. Plus the speakers aren’t so loud as to disturb the other campers. (Our band of rebel children did that all on their own.) It provided some late night campfire entertainment when the 6-year old boys decided to show us their dance moves.
  6. Pit toilet technology really hasn’t changed much since the 1960s. Enough said.
  7. Bring lots of firewood. Who knew that we would burn through so much wood? We ran out twice. The late night wood raid was very stealthy and resulted in lots of wood but the breakfast raid in the brilliant sunshine was a bit more difficult.
  8. Smores are essential for dessert. How can you go wrong? This is probably why we needed all of the extra wood. Also, don’t let one of the Moms be in charge of the chocolate as it tends to disappear rather quickly.
  9. Good friends and good food can override most negative camping experiences. ny bad experiences that we might have had quickly disappeared into laughter amongst friends. This trip was all about the food and wine. We ate a delicious dinner cooked over the fire and then spent the evening sitting around the campfire. The kids and the birds woke us up bright and early to yet another scrumptious meal of pancakes, bacon and eggs.
  10. Stay for two nights, not one. Camping is a lot of preparation even before you’ve left your driveway. Then setting up camp takes a few hours. This is not even counting all of the laundry and clean-up once you arrive back home smelling like last night’s camp fire. Next time we are staying for two nights given the amount of work that goes into a tenting excursion. 

Will I tent camp again? There is talk of another tenting trip in the end of August so stay tuned!

If you are interested, we camped out at the Rice Creek Campground which is in the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park Reserve located about 25 miles north of St. Paul, MN. There are bike trails, a swimming beach, golf course, and a boat launch. For more information, see their link at:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Night at the Dome

This falls under that broad category of summer excursions for all of the suburbanites out there. I realize that it is July already and this is only our first Twins game of the season. Pitiful I know! I chalk it up to the economy. Let me tell you that it is not cheap for a family of 5 to take in a Twins vs. Yankees game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. It did not help that the Yankees are considered a “premium” team which means they can jack up prices on EVERYTHING, and they did. This is why we only venture to the Dome a couple of times a year but it was money well spent for an enjoyable family night out.
The bulk of our spending money easily went toward food. We arrived early for batting practice, but were extra early and the gates had not yet opened. So what to do? Eat. We started off with corn dogs and deep-fried cheese curds at the food tents outside of the Dome. A beer thrown in as well. An hour of watching batting practice and catching a foul ball off the bat of Yankee 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez worked up our appetites. So more food. Brats and “Dome Dogs”. More beer, a glass of wine, some lemonades. Do you see what I mean about the money slipping away?
Once the game started the vendors came out carrying food and drink up and down the steps. Our seats were right on the aisle. My Jack Jack wanted everything that passed by. He didn’t care about the game. It was all about getting more snacks. 
Unfortunately the game was very, very slow with minimal outfield action which resulted in boredom and the need for more food. M&Ms, a burrito, peanuts, Cokes. We did draw the line at cotton candy and snow cones. I did get a good chance to work off all of that food with at least 10 trips up and down the stairs to the bathrooms with various kids. Too bad the Twins lost 10-2.
Next time, we will eat before we arrive at the Dome.
A brief side note here . . . I grew up listening to the Milwaukee Brewers on the radio and maybe once a year taking a road trip to County Stadium in Milwaukee to watch the Brewers. I remember sitting out in the bleachers with many a drunken Brewer fan hoping that the Brewers would hit a home run and someone would get to slide down into the massive mug of beer in the outfield! Now those were the days!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Anoka County 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! Nothing quite compares to an all American 4th of July now does it? I’ve spent every July 4th celebrating with family and friends for as long as I can remember. I’ve watched fireworks going off over Norfolk, Virginia; Gills Rock, Wisconsin; the National Mall in Washington, DC; over the Potomac River in Mt. Vernon, Virginia; and at the fairgrounds in Neillsville, Wisconsin. Last night’s celebration on our cul de sac with good friends ranks right up there as a grand celebration. I can safely add our Anoka County celebration to my list.
We decided the best way to make this a true Anoka County 4th of July was to sit in our lawn chairs in front of the open garage enjoying a pitcher of homemade mojitos with the music cranked from the garage stereo while the kids lit sparklers, snakes, and other relatively “safe” fireworks. (Is there such a thing?!)  To top if off, we moved the fire pit onto the driveway and set it ablaze with a blowtorch. Why even bother with matches when you have a blowtorch handy?
As soon as the sun set and the mosquitos swarmed around us, we set off the first of many illegal fireworks brought into Minnesota from that rebel state of Wisconsin. The kids lit their sparklers in the dark and ran as fast as they could when a projectile went off. We were very lucky this year as only one firecracker tipped over and spun madly about shooting off flames and fireworks into the assembled crowd. Sort of a Russian roulette effect added an element of drama and terror to the evening. Luckily no one was hurt. Now we know how those careless adults always end up in the ER  with burned fingers every 4th of July!
As I write on the evening of the 5th of July, I can hear the neighbors shooting off the remnants of the arsenals. Gotta love the 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Ephraim Revisited

Do you have a place where you can escape and time just seems to slow down to a crawl? I do and that place is Ephraim in Door County, Wisconsin. I’ve been visiting Door County since the early 1980s and have always loved the beauty of Eagle Harbor, Lake Michigan, and all of the state parks that are found in Door County. 
Ephraim, however, is the true gem of the peninsula. This historic Moravian town was founded in 1853 by the Reverend Andreas Iverson and has many historic buildings dating back to the 1800s that are still being used today. Ephraim is nestled alongside Eagle Harbor and offers gorgeous views of the bluffs of Peninsula State Park, Horseshoe Island, and the harbor itself. White clapboard houses and church steeples are clustered along the hill that runs through the village.
Ephraim offers an abundance of activities for families. The entrance to Peninsula State Park is on the south end of town. The park lies between Ephraim and Fish Creek with plenty of camp sites, bike trails, hiking trails, golfing, swimming, and boating. One of our favorite park activities is climbing the observation tower that rises high over the waters of Green Bay and offers a spectacular view of Ephraim and the outlying islands. A challenging hiking trail lies just below the tower and takes you along the base of the bluffs. The American Folklore Theater puts on nightly musicals in the outdoor amphitheater. Nicolet Beach is excellent for swimming and picnics. It also links you to bike trails within the park.
Ephraim Beach is one of our favorite beaches. It is also on the south side of town right on Highway 42. The water is very shallow and the beach is clean and sandy. The parking lot is small so arrive early or come later in the afternoon once the crowds have left. While in Ephraim, be sure to take in one of the spectacular sunsets. The end of Anderson Dock is a great place to watch the sunset and go fishing off of the dock.
Luckily, my parents happen to live in Ephraim so my family and I always have a lovely place to stay on our visits. If the Boock hotel is full, you can easily find accommodation at one of the many bed & breakfasts or hotels. 
Ephraim is full of shops and restaurants. Our favorites are Wilson’s Restaurant, Leroy’s Coffeehouse, JoJos Pizza and Gelato, Good Eggs for breakfast wraps, and the Second Story Restaurant for carryout perch. Note that Ephraim is a dry town (no alcohol served), but you can bring along your own bottle of wine for dinner if you’d like. 
For more information on Ephraim, go to .