Archive for January, 2010

Fun Food Fridays: Egg Drop Soup

Egg Drop Soup is one of my favorite soups. It’s easy to make, filling, and has that perfect salty-bland mixture that I crave after a long day of outdoor adventures when all I want is a quick meal and then to go to bed.

Egg Drop Soup

– 4 cups water
– 1 package Knorr® Savory Soups Chicken Flavor Noodle Soup Mix
– 2 eggs, slightly beaten

In a quart saucepan, bring water to a boil. Stir in Knorr® Savory Soups Chicken Flavor Noodle Soup Mix and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low. Stir in eggs and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

Pitch Your Tent: Camping with Dogs

Keeping Your Camp Dog Clean

As you know, your pets must always be kept restrained when visiting developed areas, like campgrounds, in the MOST public recreation areas. This is especially important in a campground where there are people walking, kids on bikes, cars and trucks with trailers, etc.

However, there is always the question: How do I keep my dog clean when I’m camping? (Okay, okay, it’s a DOG- How do I keep my dog cleanER? Cleaner!)

When I go camping with Lily, the dog, Lily sleeps in the trailer at night. She’s crate trained so she sleeps in her “box.” But about 2 am, when the temperature really starts to dip, she always wakes me up with her “I’m cold!” cry.

And, being the dog-sucker that I am, I wait about all of thirty seconds before snuggling her into my sleeping bag with me. Of course, if she’s in MY bed, that means I want her as dust-free as possible!

To that end, I’ve discovered that putting heavy duty utility rugs under her playpen has helped a lot. Not only is Lily not as dusty, she doesn’t get stickers in her coat or scratched pads. Plus, I can easily see and pick up any spilled food before it attracts ants, skunks, or other unsavory critters.

Lily (needing a hair cut!) in her playpen on a rug.

Lily (needing a hair cut!) in her playpen on a rug.

So, the camping tip of the week: when camping with pets, bring a heavy duty outside rug for them to lie on. Luckily, in my case, the rug is just the right size to completely cover the area below her playpen.

Here’s a rug that you can get from It’s the right size and should be heavy-duty enough to stand up to most camping adventures. I’d recommend the brown color (shown, although I don’t think it looks like much in the photo!) since it’ll show the dirt the least.

Brown rug from Perfect color for camping!

Brown rug from Perfect color for camping!

Here’s a question to all you people out there who camp with pets:

What are YOUR tips to keep your pet cleaner? Do you ever try to groom your pet while you’re camping?

Mystery Mondays: Camping Story from The Queen Mother

It’s raining.

I was born in Arizona. My dad was born in Arizona. Our mantra is “we need the rain.”

But you know what?

After about an hour of the rain, I’ve about had it. Okay, bring on the sunshine!!!

Of course, a few days ago I was ready for summer to be here and its only January! As I was looking out the window willing the clouds to go away I was remembering another time I wanted things my way.

Usually this family goes camping in October for just about 2 weeks. I teach school and fall break happened to fall during the Best Camping Season of all!! The weather is cool, the colors are vibrant in Northern Arizona and the campgrounds are not crowded.

The camping rig.

The camping rig.

I was packing up the trailer in August. No fall break this year. I really need to learn to be grateful that I was even going camping at all.

Pine Grove Campground, just outside of Flagstaff was beautiful. And full of people!! I must admit though the place was full of outdoor lovers and considerate campers. We pulled into our reserved spot, set up camp, unloaded the kayaks, set up the screened dining fly.

Geez there are a lot of flies and bees in August who love camping, too.

Bruce and I were taking a stroll around the campground that first evening when a lady came race-walking away from the trash can area.

“There’s a skunk over there!” She was moving fast and just sort of jerked her head in a general direction.

We kept walking and sure enough there he was making his way into a culvert. Yuck!

The second week into our outing Kim and Lily (the dog) joined us. One evening Kim and I were washing dishes and putting all the dinner makings back into the trailer. It was still pretty light out and the lanterns hadn’t been lit yet. I heard a scratching noise and looked up and dropped the washrag I was using.

That skunk had walked right into our dining area!

I think he was smiling.

He must have been far sighted because he paid no attention to Kim, Lily (who was sitting quietly in her crate) or to me.

I don’t think I ever moved so fast in all my life! It was a good thing that the zipper on the dining fly was down or I would have gone through it! I stopped half way to the trailer, ran back, grabbed the dog in her crate and raced back to the trailer.

To this day I have no idea where Kim was at or what she did. I jumped into that trailer and slammed the door. That skunk was just as calm as could be; he helped himself to a drink out of Lily’s water bowl, found a crumb of something on the dirt and ducked out the same way he came in.

Bruce just stood there laughing; he hadn’t even tried to get away from the critter.

Out outdoor "kitchen." With the tips of the kayaks under their tarp in the lower left corner.

Out outdoor "kitchen." With the tips of the kayaks under their tarp in the lower left corner.

For the rest of the week that skunk came by every evening, like he was on his way somewhere important and we were in his way. He never sprayed, or even smelled skunky.

We had a wonderful vacation. We fished, hiked, geocached, kayaked, ate way too much, but what I really remember about that trip was that pesky skunk.

Building memories is important to my family and by golly that skunk sure had a hand in our summer at Pine Grove Campground.

Fun Food Fridays: Orange Sangria

I had a potluck at my house last Friday. We had a terrific pulled pork with green chili sauce (made it in the Crockpot so I’m still trying to figure out how to alter the recipe for camping or outdoor cooking…) but for drinks I served sangria.

Sangria is a traditional wine “punch” from Spain. And made right, it is NOTHING like the mix versions!

– 1 750ml bottle red wine (pick your favorite flavor/brand!)
– 1/4 cup brandy
– 1/2 cup triple sec
– 4 slices orange (or more!) cut into circles
– 2 cups orange juice
– 2 cups chilled ginger ale

Sangria with Orange Slices.

Sangria with Orange Slices.

In a large pitcher mix red wine, brandy, triple sec, orange, and orange juice. Allow to sit in a fridge overnight or as long as possible.

The next day, add in the chilled ginger ale just before serving.

When I served this at my party, I actually had the chilled ginger ale so my guests could add it in to taste. Of all the sangria that I had in Spain, none of it was sweet; flavorful but not sweet. But, my guests at the party seemed to like the sweetness the ginger ale added.

Personally, I liked the bubbles of the ginger ale, but not really the sweetness.

When I had this in Spain, it was served either chilled or at room temperature. I never had it served over ice. That’s up to you — I don’t like the flavor wine takes after it’s had an ice cube melted in it!

Find Your Geocache

Tips For Printing

It’s nothing for me to plan to do a whole series of caches in a day. I always plan for more caches than I know I can possible get to in a day. That way, if one turns out to be muggled, or the quest for lunch takes me a different direction, I have plenty of back up caches ready to go. A lot of pre-planning goes into a caching adventure; especially with MY caching buddies!

Caching with ESP Boss means that we simply MUST take the geocache printout with us.

Gee, one time of writing down the PARKING coordinates instead of the cache coordinates! Just one time of saying “Oh, it’s a terrain 1.5!” when it was ACTUALLY a 3 and the man just won’t let me write it down!

I know there’s a lot of discussion in the geocaching world about caching paperless or printing out the geocache’s information before heading out. For those of you that just need to hang on to something, here are all my tips and tricks to taking printouts with you when planning a caching adventure.

The advantages I like to printing out the cache information are:
You can see the size and terrain. This is especially important if you have kids, limited mobility, or are really into swag. When my family & I first got started geocaching, it was really important to us to be able to trade swag. That meant that not knowing it was a micro was always a disappointment when we got to the cache and there were no trade items to be found.

You have the hint! I know a lot of experienced cachers don’t decode the hint until they absolutely have to, but as a novice cacher, that’s just making the game harder than it has to be.

You can see the inventory. Doesn’t always mean the travel bugs will be IN the cache, but at least you can get an idea.

Prior logs. Wow! This has helped a LOT. I like to know that the cache was found so I’m pretty sure its still there. It’s also helped when the logs give subtle clues, like mud, muggles, or which side of the fence to park on.

Overview map. As the navigator on most caching adventures, this is a big help for me. It’s not very large, but usually enough for me to warn my father (ESP Boss and designated geocaching chauffer) when to start slowing down.

You have plenty of room to write your notes. I can say found, if it was in good shape, what I took, what I left, etc. That way, when I’m back at the computer and typing up my logs, I can say something intelligent.

And the biggie: You don’t have to rely on your memory for the details!

Now, if you live in an area where you can drag a wireless laptop around and see the screen, that’s really cool. A friend of mine, kmazy, actually opens all the cache pages on her laptop screen and then leaves them open while she’s driving. When they find a cache, she closes the page. That’s GREAT if you have a good battery on your laptop!

And, if you’re lucky enough to have a web-capable cell phone then you can always look caches up on the fly. That’s especially nice if you find you have a spare minute or two. I’d LOVE to have this ability since I always look at a spot and think, “Gee, I wonder if there’s a geocache there. It’d be perfect!” There’s this one spot in Jerome, Arizona, that I always look at and think would be PERFECT for a micro.

So, here’s my system if you simply MUST take the print outs with you. But be warned, this might not work on all printers!

Click on the printable version: ‘5 logs’

I prefer this option!

I prefer the 5 logs.

On the printable version, be sure to click on the ‘Decrypt’ link for any hints! (If you’re into decoding the hints before time, that is!)

Yeah, I ALWAYS use the hint!

Yep, I ALWAYS use the hint!

Then, click on Print from the ‘File – Print’ menu. You want to do it this way so you get your printer dialog box.

You want the printer dialog box.

You want to use the printer dialog box.

Somewhere in this print dialog box, there SHOULD be the option of how many pages to print per page. You want the print 2 pages per page. On my HP printer, it’s under the ‘Finishing’ tab. But, I’ve found this option on EVERY printer I’ve looked at!

You might have to hunt for this option.

Look for the 2 pages per sheet print option.

Click ‘Okay’ until you get back to the main print screen and then print away!

In my family, we then punch the pages into a 3-ring binder and take it on the trail. If you wanted to get REALLY fancy, you could tape a string to a pen and then fasten the other end of the string to the binder so the pen is handy for making notes on the sheet.

My notebook of caches.

My geocaching notebook.

Me? I’m not that “with it” so I just lose the pen after EVERY CACHE in the truck!

Here are my questions for all you cachers out there:

Paperless or printed logs?

What are YOUR tricks when you print the logs?

Do you just write the information down? If so, what are the most important details to keep in your notebook?

Mystery Mondays: Hiking Sticks

I’m the first to admit that I am not a hiker with a capital ‘H’. I prefer to do my hiking by either walking Lily around the campground or leisurely strolling through the forest on my way from the campsite to the lake. However, when I do decide to go trekking, either on a path or cross country, I always carry my walking stick.

The Outdoor Princess' hiking stick.

The Outdoor Princess' hiking stick.

Why Carry a Walking Stick?

  • Balance assistance on rocky terrain, crossing water or washes, going up or down hills
  • Reduces stress on joints by offering extra power and balance, reduces shock on knees going downhill and takes pressure off of your back and hips going uphill
  • Helps burn more calories
  • Can be used to clear spider webs, hold back brush, flip rocks, look for a geocache, etc
  • Is a deterrent to being bothered by animals and people

The first thing is choosing the walking stick that is right for you. There are lots of choices available. You can get composite fiber, wood, aluminum and plastic sticks. I’ve got an adjustable aluminum stick with a rubber tip and a handy strap that goes around my wrist.

The strap keeps me from losing the stick.

The strap keeps me from losing the stick.

Whatever type you use, pick something light and strong – light because you will have to carry it and at least strong enough to not break and to stay in one piece when you put your full weight on it.

Length is also important, which is why I’ve got an adjustable stick, I adjust the stick to what feels good for that day. For trail hikers, an adjustable stick allows you to alter the length as you go uphill and downhill – keeping the correct angle between your shoulder, elbow, and wrist.

Here you can see the rubber tip and also how the stick is adjustable.

Here you can see the rubber tip and also how the stick is adjustable.

Two recent studies have shown walking and trekking poles to be effective for reducing the exertion felt while increasing the calories burned by hikers and walkers. The study conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst showed that using poles lets hikers lengthen their strides, put less strain on their knees, and generally feel more comfortable. The hikers studied did not expend less energy, but the increase in stability made long treks easier.

The Cooper Institute of Dallas, Texas assessed the NordicWalking method of using two poles for fitness walking. They found an increase in calories burned and oxygen used by 20% compared with regular walking at the same pace.

And, of course, being able to go on longer hikes means that you can burn more calories!

When you buy your walking stick, either a single or pair, remember that this is a very personalized purchase. Buy a stick that you like and that you know you’ll use. I recommend actually visiting a store for this purchase. Hiking sticks can be expensive so you want to buy something you’ll use and being able to test it in a store really helps!

A hiker with two hiking sticks.

A hiker with two hiking sticks.

Do you know where to go hiking in your area? Are you looking for a level, well maintained path where you can really clip along or are you looking for a strenuous straight-up and straight-down path? has the answers for you!

Happy Hiking!

Find Your Geocache

CITO: The Philosophy

Don’t you just love getting into a new sport or hobby when it seems like EVERYBODY around you is speaking in some sort of weird code? That’s exactly what happened to me with the CITO term in geocaching.

I kept trying to make that into a word instead of an acronym. I was thinking to myself: “See-To”? “Sit-o”? “Chee-to”? (Gotta say THAT one with an Italian accent!)

So, I looked it up and found that it stood for: “Cache In, Trash Out” Ah! Now I know what this is all about!


Then, I came across a cache where some previous cacher had written in the log that this would be a great place for CITO. After visiting the cache, I agreed that this place would really benefit from some trash being removed. But, I still didn’t understand the underlying principals of CITO.

The website explains:

Cache In Trash Out is an ongoing environmental initiative supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Since 2002, geocachers have been dedicated to cleaning up parks and other cache-friendly places around the world. Through these volunteer efforts, we help preserve the natural beauty of our outdoor resources!

But it isn’t until further down the page that the whole concept begins to make sense:

Cache In Trash Out doesn’t just happen once a year. It can easily happen on every geocache adventure. Bring a trash bag along with you on your walks in the woods and pick up the occasional piece of trash you see on the trail. Even this small act can make a huge difference.

These make ALL the difference!

Get the grabbers!
Wow! Now, that was something I could get my head around. For YEARS I’d been making ESP Boss pull over in the woods for me to pick up glass bottles and aluminum cans. I would even keep a special bucket in the back of the truck for my recyclable “treasures.”

But, unfortunately, like any geocaching novice, I didn’t put 2 and 2 together and realize that CITO wasn’t just an event, it was a philosophy. Like ‘Leave No Trace’ principles or ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ it was up to every geocacher to do their part.

In doing more research about how to have a CITO event, I ran across the CITO Handbook, put out by the Florida Geocaching Association.

Wow! I highly recommend reading this guide even if you aren’t planning an event. It gives excellent tips about how to incorporate CITO in your everyday caching experiences.

And don’t be afraid to look for other ways you can help in your area! In Prescott Valley (about forty minutes away from my city) the Parks & Recreation Department had a great program where businesses or organizations could adopt a park.

The gang at a park clean-up.

For a year, adopted Fain Park and participated in cleanups about every 6 weeks. (For all the photos of our Fain Park cleanups, please CLICK HERE!) We tied it into a picnic or going for coffee and invited the families of all my staff. The best part was that even the littlest trash picker-up-ers felt that they were really making a difference. Since I’m back to being a one-woman-show in the office, I’ve asked for another organization to continue the efforts. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t bring gloves and a trash bag whenever I visit the park!

My big tip:
LOTS of water to drink and LOTS of hand sanitizer because, well, YUCK! Trash is just — YUCK!

I encourage all cachers to not only practice CITO when they are caching, but also just when they’re out and about.

What’s in YOUR geocaching kit that allows you to pick up trash?

Mystery Mondays: Keeping Water From Freezing

Crystal D. sent me this email:

I am going camping in the Grand Canyon and I will be at the bottom of the Canyon for about 5 days. I will be taking lots of water with me, and I am worried that the water will freeze due to the freezing temps. Could you give me some helpful tips on keeping my water, and food from freezing, and any other helpful hints?

Ah! The Grand Canyon.

Ah! The Grand Canyon.

Crystal, I’m not sure if there is any way to 100% prevent your water from freezing, but here’s what I’ve found out for you:

Thoughts On Keeping Water From Freezing

1. Water freezes when the temperature of the water reaches freezing, not when the air temperature reaches freezing. It takes a lot of energy (relatively speaking) to change the temperature of water even one degree up or down.

2. Water that is in motion takes longer to freeze. This is why you float a tennis ball in your outdoor pond during the winter. However, I can’t really think of a way to keep camp water in motion once you’re at camp.

If you can, put your food and water into an ice chest. An ice chest will keep things warm as well as cold. To get started, you can run hot water into the chest to heat it up. (If you’re using a Styrofoam chest, be sure not to melt it!)

Then, when you pack your food and water, they will absorb the heat from the ice chest. At the very least, an ice chest will help keep the temperatures constant and insulate from colder temperatures outside the chest.

If you’re backpacking into the Canyon (and I’m assuming you are) you might want to try an extra space blanket instead of an ice chest. At the minimum, you could try a insulating wrap around the bottle made from closed-cell foam.

Now, if you’re going winter camping, a thought is how much water do you need in a liquid form?

Enough for drinking, cooking, and washing; the rest can freeze. However, you still need to leave room in each container so if the water does freeze, it can expand without cracking the container.

Since it takes quite a bit of energy to change the temperature of water, then a larger container will freeze slower than a smaller container. If you can, carry large containers of water, then you’ll be better off than carrying small containers. Ice will form at the top of the water, so if you can, store the water bottle upside down so the ice forms at the bottom of the bottle. Of course, you have to be certain that your bottle or water container won’t leak.

Make sure you have the right water container for your winter adventure!

Make sure you have the right water container for your winter adventure!

Solar Power:

A solar hot water heater will heat water, either to drinkable temperatures or more. However, you can’t fill it with ice (especially if the ice is in the shape of 3 gallon water containers!) so it might take some pre-planning to use.

Put your water containers in the sun all day where they can absorb heat from the sun. Once your water is warm (or as warm as it will get) then wrap closed cell foam around it to retain the heat.

Wind chill and solar heat and do NOT contradict each other. Wind chill is the “feeling” that it is colder than it is and since water isn’t affected by feeling, any sunny area will work for your water. Keep that mind when you are finding a sunny spot for your containers. If you can find a place that is sheltered from the wind, but also against a natural “wall” like a rock, then you can also get the heat that is reflected from that surface being heated by the sun.

Melting Water:

I NEVER recommend drinking water from the “wild”. Meaning streams, rivers, ponds, etc, because of the extra steps you need to take to make it safe for drinking. The verdict is out on whether eating or drinking snow is safe or not; make your own choice. For me, I really don’t recommend drinking melted snow either — you just have no way of knowing what is in it!

My thoughts are that this isn’t Hollywood, so if you get sick you have to deal with it. And who wants to do that!?

Now, you might run into needing to melt the safe drinking water you brought with you. First off, remember that if your container freezes solid you will not be able to get the ice OUT of the container! You don’t want to try and hold a plastic water bottle over a campfire or stove for it to melt — takes too long and can ruin the plastic.

So, the best bet is to melt cubes or slush — something you can get out of the container! Remember that it always takes more fuel and time than you think to heat water so plan accordingly by starting the process BEFORE you need the water AND by bringing extra fuel for your stoves.

Because it takes so much energy to convert water from one state to another you should have some water in the bottom of your pot when you are melting ice or slush. Heat this water up and add snow to it slowly so it turns to slush and then water. This is much more efficient. If you dump in straight ice, you will only burn the bottom of your pot or container and not make any water.

If you’re really serious about camping in the snow, or where water will freeze, then a good investment is gear designed specifically for winter camping. Camelbak has a thermal control kit for the hose to their hydration packs that might be useful.

Camelbak Thermal Control Kit.

Camelbak Thermal Control Kit.

What are your suggestions about keeping water from freezing?

Do you drink melted snow?

What’s been your experience?

FYI: If you food is frozen, you need to be careful about eating food that has been frozen and thawed several times. It would be better to carry as many dry foods as possible rather than wet foods that could freeze.

Fun Food Fridays: Cauliflower Ham Chowder

For Christmas, The Queen Mother (my mom) bought ESP Boss (my dad) Taste Of Home: Big Book of Soup. While we were still in Tucson for Christmas, we made Cauliflower Ham Chowder from page 188.

The book is worth every penny!

The book is worth every penny!

Here’s the original recipe, as submitted by Lois Buch.

– 2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
– 2 cups fresh cauliflower florets
– 1 small onion, finely diced
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 3 cups milk
– 2 1/2 cups cubed, fully cooked ham
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 tsp pepper
– dash ground nutmeg
– 1/2 to 1 cup instant potato flakes
– minced fresh parsley

In a saucepan, cook the potatoes, cauliflower and onion in chicken broth until tender. Stir in the milk, ham, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Heat through.

Stir in potato flakes; simmer for 5-10 minutes or until soup is as thick as desired. Sprinkle with parsley.

Ah! The finished product.

Ah! The finished product.

Here are my recommendations:

  • First off, I omitted the salt. With both chicken broth AND ham I didn’t feel the soup needed any extra salt. We also left off the parsley since ESP Boss won’t touch the stuff with a ten-foot pole!
  • I found that the soup was thick and filling (excellent for camping!) but a bit bland. I ended up putting a TON of pepper on mine while others of my family were reaching for the Tabasco or other hot sauce.
  • I would recommend even adding a can of diced green chili to the soup — maybe adding it to the bowls of the people to taste.
  • Also, for my family, there was no where NEAR enough ham. But that’s just us: we tend to think everything is better with more meat!
  • And don’t worry if you have picky eaters that won’t eat cauliflower. Because it’s virtually mashed into the soup the texture and flavor is buried in all that potato goodness!

Update from 1/16/2010

My folks have made about a dozen recipes from this book so far and everything has been wonderful! I highly recommend getting this book if you like soups, chowders, chili, etc. Most recipes could easily be made in an outdoor kitchen while camping.

The book is available from

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