Posts Tagged ‘The Queen Mother’

Mystery Mondays: Happy Birthday!

If you’ve been reading my free weekly newsletter, you know I had two summer interns working on researching more states for EatStayPlay.com. Keith actually worked for me last summer and Gabe is brand new to the EatStayPlay.com team this year. During their 8 week internship they researched places to go camping and fishing in Montana and Texas as well as the State and National Parks.

And, they also turned 18!

Keith & Gabe

18 is one of those milestone years so instead of just getting them a card and a gift certificate, the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family decided to throw these two a surprise party!

The boys had a great time showing friends and family where they've been working all summer.

The boys had a great time showing friends & family where they worked.

Little did the boys know, not only had I arranged for The Queen Mother and ESP Boss to come, but I’d also contacted their mom’s and siblings to arrange work schedules to come and celebrate with us.

I shamelessly recruited next year's summer researchers.

I’ve never thrown a surprise party before (but had always wanted to) and I do have to say it was a total success. The Queen Mother whipped up a ton of grilled hotdogs on the Coleman Max and everybody chowed down. (The Queen Mother also made a to-die for birthday cake!)

(Just in case you’ve seen my stove videos, yes, the Coleman Max did a FANTASTIC job. Of course, it wasn’t windy at all!)

The Queen Mother grills a mean hotdog!

Let me brag a bit on my two “boy-ohs” so you can see just how fantastic it was having them work for me this summer.

  • Both graduated from Chino Valley High School in 2010
  • They’ve been friends for FOREVER (I think 6th grade or so)
  • In one summer they’ve added well over 1,000 NEW attractions to the EatStayPlay.com database
  • They are hard working, on time, polite and always on task

So, what’s up next for the EatStayPlay.com interns?

Gabe will be enlisting in the Army at the beginning of September. He’ll be taking August to visit family in Washington, do some physical training, and get in some fishing before he goes off to Basic Training.

Keith will be working for EatStayPlay.com through August. At the end of August, he’ll be moving to Flagstaff to attend Northern Arizona University. He’ll be sharing an apartment with his older brother, Nathan. (Nathan worked for EatStayPlay.com in Summer 2009.)

Congrats gentlemen! We wish you all the best of luck!

Pitch Your Tent: Camping Stories

Camping With The Queen Mother

The Queen Mother wanted to share her experiences of her recent camping trip to Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff, Arizona.

This area is being threatened by a forest fire!

I had so much fun on our vacation. The weather was to say the least, very strange. We got to Pine Grove Campground and it was just plain HOT the first week. And very windy. And the fishing was lousy. We explored back forest roads and saw lots of wild game, deer, elk, antelope, turkey, ducks, squirrels and ONE skunk. The second week, we experienced rain, hail, wind and very cold nights.

Sad to say we feel blessed though, because we did not have to breathe forest fire smoke or worry that our trip would be cut short due to the Hardy Fire or the Schulz Fire. We had explored Schulz Pass and Lockett Meadow and found both to be beautiful areas. Now it seems that the whole Lockett Meadow area is threatened by the fires. The Outdoor Princess is a bit put out because we had JUST taken photos of the campgrounds in that area for EatStayPlay.com and now she’s afraid she can’t put them up; the fire might have destroyed the campgrounds.

TheOutdoorPrincess doesn't know if she'll be able to update EatStayPlay.com with photos of Lockett Meadow Campground. The campground might be damaged in the fires.

As we leisurely ate dinner or just sat around talking, we got to watch lots of campers setting up their camps. It was wonderful seeing families together and young parents with their children making memories.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that for that first dinner meal at the campground I bring it prepared. Setting up camp after a long drive is hard work even when everybody pitches in to help. It’s really no fun if somebody still has to cook a meal too.

On this trip I took a hearty alb√≥ndigas soup. Heated that up, set out a roll of Ritz crackers and we were happy! [I’ll post the recipe this Friday; it’s yummy!]

I also took several baggies filled with frozen orange smoothie mix. I let those thaw a little bit, poured that into a cup and called it dessert.

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful state. I just wish everybody had the opportunity to visit northern Arizona. Looking up through aspen leaves with that brilliant blue sky behind those quivering leaves is a gift beyond compare.

Arizona aspen trees.

Mystery Mondays: To Do Lists from The Queen Mother

Every year I anticipate The Camping Trip. This year is no different. In April we gathered around a calendar to find two weeks that would work for everyone to enjoy the great outdoors. Well, that in and of itself took forever. Meetings, appointments, oh my gosh! We aren’t celebs, just way too busy with life events.

We settled on a couple of workable weeks, reserved a spot in our favorite campground and slipped into our crazy busy cycle of work, work and more work.

Pulling into the campground.

I’m a list-a-holic. I live by my lists (packing, to-do, grocery, you name it!) I teach school and the last few weeks of school are hectic to say the least, but on my desk I kept a bright pink piece of paper folded length wise for my camping list. The first list is a mish mash of things to pack, things to do to get ready for the trip, and household things to do that in my opinion must be done for my own peace of mind.

So I’ve been working in the garden, trying to get the new drip system finished before the trip, packed away the winter clothes, and I’m still waiting on a bid for some exterior painting that really needs to be done before the July monsoon’s start. Every week when I go grocery shopping I pick up a few camping foods that aren’t on my usual list. That all got taken out to the trailer already.

I went through all the closets and cupboards in the trailer to take inventory. I’ve already added paper plates, paper towel and a fresh roll of tin foil.

The one job that I was dreading, but turned out not to be too bad, was seasoning my new Dutch oven. I ‘m trying Cornish game hens and I found what looks like a pretty easy recipe for Dutch oven biscuits. The Outdoor Princess (Kim) will let you know how those turn out.

I don’t plan a daily menu for our trips, but we do decide ahead of time what we want to eat. I mean what’s a camping trip without hamburgers! I always take a bag of frozen shrimp, if we get back to camp too late to cook, I just quick thaw some shrimp and make a salad and call it dinner. I’m also making some smoothies this year, pouring a serving into a Ziploc bag and freezing it flat. That should taste good after a day of hiking or fishing.

Tomorrow I’ll start packing our duffel bags. Northern AZ is still very cold at night in June so I’ll need sweat shirts. Since those are so bulky I have a great cubby in the trailer for them.

The Queen Mother loading the cubby with warm clothes.

I love working from lists, I love seeing the task scratched off the list, but most of all I love the feeling of working toward a good thing when I look back on my day.

I really don’t even care if I’ve forgotten anything, because the whole idea is to get outside, and appreciating my camping experience.

Fun Food Fridays: The Queen Mother’s Super Gourmet Hamburgers

This recipe is for The Queen Mother’s super gourmet hamburgers. These are my all-time favorite hamburgers. In fact, I hardly ever order a burger when we eat out since they just can’t compare!

The salsa is also good on grilled fish.

Make the salsa first and set aside so the flavors will blend.

Hamburger Salsa Ingredients

  • 1 box grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • Fresh cilantro, to taste (could substitute parsley)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients and set aside. The longer this salsa sits, the more the flavors will blend.

Hamburger Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs hamburger
  • 1/2 chopped yellow onion
  • 2 TBS Worcestershire sauce
  • Original Mrs. Dash seasoning blend
  • Sliced cheese (optional)

Mix hamburger, onion and Worcestershire sauce in a large bowl. Season with Mrs. Dash seasoning blend, to taste. Mix well with your hands to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.

Make sure you wash up with soap and hot water after you touch the raw meat!

Form into thick patties and grill until done. If you like, you can top with a slice of cheese.

Serve hamburgers with the salsa on top, either with or without buns. The EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family eats these burgers on onion buns.

I eat these gourmet hamburgers with cheese if we don’t have any salsa. I also like the salsa with grilled fish. Yum!

Fun Food Fridays: Navajo Fry Bread

If you’ve never had fry bread, you’re in for a treat! This is a fair-food staple here in Arizona. Navajo fry bread can be a main course or a dessert, depending on the toppings. But, it’s ALWAYS too big to be a snack!

Navajo Fry Bread with all the fixings!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbs powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water (approx)


In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add the egg. Mixing with your hands, slowly add the water until it is a sticky dough. And it will be sticky!

Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before you do this!

Let the dough rest, in the bowl, covered with a damp paper towel. I typically let it sit for about 7-8 minutes or until my cooking oil is hot.

In a skillet, heat cooking oil until a pinch of dough dropped in the oil will sizzle.

Preparing the fry breads:
On a clean cutting board, put down a little bit of flour. Take a palm-sized amount of dough and roll thin, about 1/8 of an inch.

About the size of a baseball or a little less.

The dough will not roll into a perfect circle but that’s okay.

The flour keeps it from sticking to the cutting board.

It is MUCH easier to prepare all the fry breads first rather than trying to fry and roll at the same time!

Gently place the fry bread into the hot oil. The bread will puff up!

This is what you want to see!

When it is golden brown on one side, turn it over and fry until golden brown on both sides.

It should be golden brown. If you cook it too long, the bread will be tough.

5 Tips from The Queen Mother:

  1. My first fry bread I typically throw away. I’m just too impatient to wait until the oil is really hot.
  2. Don’t try to double the dough or cut it down. It just doesn’t work! If I am making this for a lot of people, I make two batches of dough.
  3. You might need to add more oil if you’re frying a lot of breads. Don’t add oil to the skillet while it’s on the stove. And be sure to wait until it is hot before dropping in the dough!
  4. Drain the fry breads on a couple of paper towels.
  5. The dough will keep 24 hours in the fridge. But, I prefer to toss any left over dough and make a fresh batch.

Remember: I melted my plastic tipped tongs making Cheating Fry Bread. I recommend metal tongs like in this photo:


The Outdoor Princess’ Favorite Toppings

  • Browned hamburger with salsa
  • Pinto beans (NOT refried beans!)
  • Shredded cheese (If you put the hamburger and beans down first, it helps the cheese melt. Then put on the “cold” toppings”
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Black olives
  • Avocado
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa

All my favoire toppings!

And, for dessert, top with a bit of honey and powdered sugar!

Here’s a tip:
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large zippered bag while you’re at home. Then, in camp, you just add the egg and water and you’re done! But, be sure to LABEL the bag so you know what it is!

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 EatStayPlay.com camping rig.

The EatStayPlay.com 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.

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