Wed, Mar 23, 2011
From traditional camping to backyard make-shift tents to outdoor tea party canopies, there is something for every family.
There is something special about camping. It may be the coziness of a solitary campsite in the woods or the camaraderie of the shared experience at a campground, but whatever it is, nothing compares to spending the night with Mother Nature.
East Tennesseans are a lucky lot with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park literally in their backyard and camping opportunities as abundant as they are varied. Campers can choose from fully appointed campgrounds with all the amenities to truly roughing it in the middle of nowhere. Plus, you just can’t beat the view.
Randy and Sarah Small have been taking their three children, Jesse, Laurel and Duncan, camping since before they were old enough to toddle.
“Our kids had all been camping by their first birthdays, said Sarah, “Our first family tent was just big enough for a pack-n-play and our sleeping bags We eventually moved to a tent big enough for two sleeping cots, a pack-n-play, and two kids on the floor.”
“We do not entertain the kids during a camping trip. They find ways to entertain themselves,” Sarah said. “But besides that, the kids found that playing with sticks and rocks was always enough. Kids can spend hours wading and throwing rocks in the river.”
It’s not surprising that the Smalls are also involved in scouting with both girls and boys. And there’s no better way to learn the finer points of camping than from a scouting family.
“Camping is a great time to learn teamwork,” said Sarah, “From the moment you begin loading up your car, you are working together. When we get to the campsite, we all unload and begin site preparation. We all help put up the tent, unroll sleeping bags, start the fire, cook, etcetera.”
She says spending time outdoors with no distractions can bring families closer together as they rely on one another, and nature, for entertainment.
“It is a prime time for parent/child bonding. First and foremost, there are no phones, computers, or video games. We don't let our kids have hand-held games while camping, and they don't even ask. Just the freedom from daily distractions creates an instant bond.”
Sarah said camping has provided the greatest wealth of “remember whens” in their family. “Remember when we tried to cook steaks but they were frozen? Remember when the pig wandered into our campsite? Remember when ___ threw up in the tent and the dog licked it up?”
The Smalls’ are always prepared to go camping, whether it is a planned or spur of the moment trip.
“I'd say we fall somewhere between ‘roughing it’ and ‘creature comforts when we camp,’ said Sarah, “With a family, we have done only car-camping like in campgrounds where we have immediate access to our van. Our van is completely loaded with camping gear, so we certainly aren't roughing-it purists. But we don't have things like fans or the kitchen sink.”
Although camping is a great way for kids to learn independence, self-sufficiency and other valuable life skills, not all of which have to be learned in the deep dark recesses of the wilderness. Kids can "rough it" simply by tramping around in their own backyard campsite. They can imagine they're in the forest as they pitch tents, cookout, and gaze at the stars, all within range of parents' watchful eyes, not to mention an indoor bathroom.
Parents can help kids collect their gear and set up camp. Outfit the trip with binoculars, flashlights, field guides, and sky maps for extra fun. A vivid imagination and deck of cards provides ample entertainment. At sundown, shadows ‘rule!’ as kids discover the magic of shadow puppets and a nighttime game of hide-and-go-seek.
Got girls? Why not go glamour camping or “glamping” for short? According to Mary Jane Butters, a park ranger turned organic farmer and author of “Mary Jane’s Outpost,” glamping can be, “fine china in the wild, frilly curtains in the camper or dress-up hats at the beach.” Think fairies. Think ballerinas. Think fancy outdoor fun.
To create the ultimate glamping experience, drape trees with inexpensive tulle, pack a kid-sized tea party set complete with lace table cloth and set up a dainty dinner with finger sandwiches and cupcakes.
Hats are an absolute must for glamping and not baseball caps either. Straw hats with big bows fit the bill nicely. They are not only a fabulous fashion statement but also keep the sun off pretty little faces. You can go glamping anywhere – in your backyard or at a campsite – but the idea is to create a place in nature fit for a princess.
No matter whether you are full out camping in the wild, tramping in your backyard or glamping it up, eating outdoors is makes it special. Why not try a cream can supper for a hearty but easy to create meal in the wild? A cream can supper is the country cousin to the New England boiled dinner or Low Country crab boil, without the seafood. Smoked sausages take center stage for this feast. You may not be able to come up with an old-fashioned cream or milk can, but any large stock pot with a loose fitting lid will work.
Line the bottom of the pot or can with clean rocks or aluminum pie tins flipped upside down. Add corn on the cob in the husks, and whatever wonderful garden vegetables you'd like such as cabbage, new potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and squashes. Top with smoked sausages, kielbasa or brats on top of the vegetables.
Pour a can of beer or over the contents of the pot to steam the dinner, then cap the can and put it on a heat source such as a propane burner, gas barbecue grill or camp fire. Let it simmer for about an hour checking occasionally to make sure the liquid has not boiled completely away. When done and the majority of the liquid has boiled away, carefully uncap and pour the contents out onto a large, paper-lined table and dig in to a perfect outdoor meal with very little clean-up.
Whether camping in the big woods, tramping around in the backyard or glamping it up as only girls can do, there is no better way to bond with a child than outside under a canopy of stars.
By Kate Clabough, Blount Moms Today
For backyard campers without a fire pit, there is still a great way to enjoy a traditional campfire treat!
2 store-bought pizza doughs
1/2 cup bench flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups mini marshmallows
2 bars dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Sprinkle flour on a work surface and roll out each piece of dough into a 12 to 14-inch round, 1/4-inch thick. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal and slide onto the pizza stone. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown.
While pizza crust is baking, toast almonds in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Remove almonds to a plate, and in the same pan, melt the butter. When butter is melted, add the graham cracker crumbs, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove pizza from oven and top with half of the marshmallows, randomly place 1 bar of chocolate over marshmallows and return to the oven, 3 to 5 minutes or until marshmallows are puffed and lightly browned. Remove pizza from oven, sprinkle with half of the graham cracker mixture and top with half of the toasted slivered almonds. Repeat for the second pizza. Let the pizzas rest for 3 to 4 minutes, then slice and serve.
(from Food Network)