Happy Birthday to me…

In an amazing turn of events, I lucked out with some awesome camping gear for my 35th birthday!

From Michelle and Joe, I got a Weber Smokey Joe grill for our camping excursions. This is going to come in handy when those picnic style grills at the campsite are a little questionable in terms of cleanliness. Yes, even I have some standards, especially when it comes to grills. I also got a few books by my favorite motivator, Zig Ziglar, and am looking forward to reading them in my new (cue Price-Is-Right music) ENO DoubleNest Hammock !!!

This totally unexpected birthday surprise came from my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and sweet little nieces in Alabama. The ENO line of hammocks are very comfortable and sleep inducing. If the ‘skeeters weren’t so bad this time of year, I’d be tempted to sleep under the stars tonight.

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes today, and also to my wonderful family for these great presents!!!

My Birthday Haul...

My birthday goodies. Joe’s card is so fantastic! He drew a picture of our tent on it. Look closely, and you’ll see the little mat from our custom footprint, complete with a pair of shoes sitting on it. I love you too, little buddy…

Lounging in the ENO

Joe’s dad in the ENO

See you on the trail…

How to make a custom tent footprint…

For our first camping trip, I found an extra-roomy nine person Coleman tent at Wal-Mart.  It is a 9×14 behemoth you could literally drive a Nissan Versa into.    Happily, with the entire family of three in this bad boy, we had enough room for our bags, a full size air mattress, Joe’s sleeping pad, and plenty of room to move around.  It was a great luxury to have enough space to stretch out after a day on the trails.  Clark would have surely approved of this spacious structure.

Still, I realize that setting up this tent is not really feasible or even practical, every time out.  Especially when it is just a quick getaway for the night, and we don’t want to have as much “stuff” with us.  If our first outing was a test to see how much we could cram into the Explorer, our next one will be a test to see how little we can get by with.  Going to the park for the weekend shouldn’t always necessitate a full-on experiment in Griswold style camping.

With this in mind, I began a search for a two or three man tent that wouldn’t break the bank, and allow for many years of practical use.  Enter the big CL[Read more...]

Camping with Joe – Day 3…

Yeah, yeah yeah.  How could it take three months to document a four day hike in the woods?  Summer my friends, the dog days of summer.  I’ll wrap up day three in this post, and you won’t have to wait a month for day four – I promise!!!


After another peaceful night of tent camping, day three of our trip began with eggs, sausage, and blueberry scones cooked in the dutch oven.  They were prepackaged, and just needed to be cooked to the right temp.  They were YUMMY.

While I cleaned up after breakfast, Michelle and Joe went to a park program called “Spiders Among Us”, where Interpreter Mystina taught the kid campers all about spider hideouts and also a Cherokee legend about spiders.  This was right up Joe’s alley, as spiders are one of his favorite creatures.  Following the program, we went back to Bear Cave and Rock House Cave, as we had done on day two.  We had a little more time today to explore around and check out more parts of each.  Here is a great shot of Joe and the two massive Bear Cave rocks.

Joe claiming Bear Cave for his own…

After about an hour at Bear Cave, my dad hiked the trail back to Mather Lodge, while we took the car over to one of the four scenic overlooks at Petit Jean, “Palisades Overlook”.  Here we could get a view of of the canyons of Cedar Creek, and I believe this is where my dad, grandmother, sisters, and I used to do a considerable amount of star-gazing, back in the day.  We met up with my dad after having a look around Mather Lodge, which was still closed for renovations.  More on that in a future post.

Later, we went back to Rock House Cave, for a quick look around, and this is where I got to introduce Joe to two must-have items while on any camping trip:  Vienna Sausage and the venerable Swiss Army Knife.  Both of these items have been staples on every camping trip that I can ever remember, whether with my dad, the boy scouts, or on my own.  I’m not a card carrying Swiss Army Knife aficionado, but I recognize their necessity on the trail. Dads have a magical power to make the simplest things into something mystic and when we were through, Joe was thoroughly convinced on the supernatural powers of the Swiss Army Knife. [Read more...]

How to make Dr. Bronner’s foaming soap – rebooted

Part 2 of 2 of “Dr. Bronner’s Foaming Soap”…  (part 1 can be found here)


Whew.  It has been a hectic time since the last real post.  I’ve been frantically preparing for our first camping trip as a family (read:  throwing everything but the kitchen sink into bins, boxes, and duffel bags in preparation for the end of the world).   The trip has come and gone and I must say, while some of the preparations were just a touch overboard, things went off without a hitch, and we had a truly memorable experience as a family.  Mission accomplished!  But wait -

Before I get lost into the details of our trip, I want to follow up on my post about making “foaming supercharged peppermint magic soap”.  The last tutorial went off on a bit of a tangent, and I promised to keep the follow up on point.  Here goes nothing…

In addition to enjoying the good smelling and good feeling benefits of using Dr. Bronner’s as a foaming soap, you’ll benefit in other ways, too.  A shot of Dr. Bronner’s goes a long way, financially (by using less, you’ll be consuming, and spending, less), philosophically (read a passage on the label at each fill-up), and environmentally (Dr. Bronner’s is biodegradable and the packaging is 100% post-consumer recycled).

Now that you know you need Dr. Bronner’s foaming soap, what ever shall you do with it once you have it??? Here are just a few of the ways that you can use it that I have found, undoubtedly there are many more -

  • Foaming Hand Soap – any flavor, but peppermint and almond are particularly nice
  • Foaming Face Wash – Tea Tree Dr. B’s works great, as outlined in this post by Lisa Bronner
  • Foaming Fruit/Veggie Wash – get rid of the gunk on your fruits and veggies VERY fast with peppermint Dr. Bronner’s; Your produce will thank you for it
  • Foaming Dish Soap – Peppermint works okay, but is not as powerful as full strength; Good for things like coffee mugs; I’ve also used it on cast iron, without ill effect
  • Foaming Baby Wash – use Baby Mild Dr. Bronner’s in the bath tub with your young ‘uns
  • Foaming Shave Cream – a decent substitute for your campsite (or homesite!), if you don’t have a full solution bottle of Dr. Bronner’s; Peppermint works great, and opens the pores right up

[Read more...]

Dr. Bronner’s Foaming Soap (or the merits of throwing out your anti-bacterial soap…)

Who is Dr. Bronner anyway??? Photo cropped from www.dr.bronner.comDr. Bronner’s has many various uses around the house.  You can wash your body, your beard, your hair, your kids, your dog, your fruits and veggies,  your dishes, your carpet, your car,  your neighbor’s car – you get the picture.   The main thing to remember:  this is highly concentrated stuff, a little goes a long  way!  You need to use the appropriate amount (and type) of Dr. B’s for the job at hand, otherwise you are wasting this precious and wonderful smelling commodity.  The most basic use of Dr. Bronner’s is for hand soap.  What could possibly be better than plain-old supercharged peppermint magic soap?  That’s right:  foaming supercharged peppermint magic soap!  Not only can this foaming magic soap be used at home, it can be used extensively around the campsite! In this post, I’ll show you how to make foaming Dr. Bronner’s hand soap.

//Begin Rant //

Dr. Bronner’s is not promoted, nor should it be, as an “anti-bacterial” soap.  This stuff is too good to be labled anything but “magic soap”.   It is, however, in the “disinfectant” category of soaps.  According to my extensive research (not!), and the Bronner family’s blogger-mom, Lisa Bronner, anti-bacterial soap kills 99.9% of the “bad stuff” and disinfectant soaps kill 99%.   Big whoop.  Before the advent of “anti-bacterial” soap, what did we ever do?  Lions and tigers and germs, oh my!  You don’t need “anti-bacterial” to have clean hands.  Soap and water people, soap and water.  Sure, if you are about to go into surgery or are a dental hygienist, by all means, anti-bacterial is probably preferable for your given trade, but for the average person at home – why subject yourself to even more chemicals that you cant spell, pronounce, or be reasonably sure of the source?  I personally have no earthly idea where or what labs sodiom lauryl sulfate or triclosan are concocted in.  I can, however, wrap my brain around the origins of coconut, hemp, olive, and other oils/extracts that go into Dr. Bronner’s soaps.  Call me crazy. [Read more...]

Magic Soap

Dr. Bronner's Magic SoapDr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.  The name says it all, huh?  In my very first blog post about gear, I thought I would list the one product that I use every day, camping or no.   According to the bottle, you only need two cosmetics:  Dr. Bronner’s and enough sleep.  This soap is so versatile that I’m going to give it it’s own category and teach you the things that you can do with it.  Isn’t that exciting?!?!

I was introduced to Dr. B’s by my dad.  I don’t know when he first started using it around the house, but I’ve been around this stuff since I was at least ten, if not before.   It was always by the kitchen sink, and NEVER left behind on a camping trip.  I remember getting it as a Christmas present several times.  I used to think that was pretty weird, but I guess my dad was just forward thinking.  Today, I would JUMP WITH JOY at receiving Dr. B’s as a present.

Like with camping, I had a hiatus from Dr. B’s for about 15 years.  About a year ago I saw some in a store, opened the bottle and took a whiff.  As the memories came rushing back, I suppose I knew I was hooked.  There are some things that cannot be genetically denied, and this is definitely one of them.  Counting my dad, myself, and of course Joe, we have three generations of Dr. Bronner users!   Today I was talking to my dad about my addiction to the stuff, and he said there are worse things to be obsessed with, which I guess is true.  Much better than “pills and 90 proof”, as Hank once said.  I wonder if there is a 12 step program for highly concentrated peppermint soap addicts, LOL.

If you can’t wait, head over to www.drbronner.com to learn more about this magical stuff.   If you can wait, I’ll try to keep up with the demand.  ;o)