Sunday, December 30, 2012

Relax in the Great Outdoors


Getting the Camping Mindset
You may be in a beautiful place trying to relax, but you can’t get your mind off your busy life at home. Here is how to physically AND mentally go camping, which means fully relaxing and having a fun, stress free vacation in the great outdoors.


Before your trip
·      Make a to do list of things to get done prior to the trip so you don’t have to worry about them when you get back
·      Be ahead of schedule
  •    Begin packing for the trip a week before so that you are prepared and don’t forget anything

·      Be organized
  •    Plan out everything so that there is no chaos when you arrive. Assign tasks to members of the trip so set-up goes smoothly and without fuss

Forgetting your worries
  • Make sure you have a nice, comfortable chair to relax in
  • Pick out a couple good reads; nothing is better than sitting and listening to the wilderness with a great book and people you love
  •  Master the campfire. Sitting with loved ones around the campfire provides some of the best memories
  •  Get the group together for a game of cards
  •   Bring a yoga mat and do some poses in the peaceful wilderness
  • Bring a portable music player for some relaxing time
  • Take a leisurely walk in the woods. It is more peaceful than it sounds
  • Take a hammock with you, or make your own out of a sheet
  •  If you’re near a lake take a picnic out there and relax by the water, maybe even take a nap, as long as you’re not on lifeguard duty
  • Cooking can be more relaxing than you think, especially outdoors over a fire
  •  Go on a nice hike and explore
You deserve it
  • Splurge a little and get some adult toys like a kayak or raft with cup holders  
  • Baked goods are even tastier when camping. Bring some cookies or brownies and bake some banana bread to slice up
  •  Bring some good wine to crack open
  • Enjoy the great outdoors for what it is and relax. 

Make sure you’re surrounding with good friends and family. Talk, laugh, tell stories, and most of all take in the scenery; how often do you get to stare up at big beautiful trees, a night sky not polluted by smog or lights, and a campfire lighting up the faces of the ones you love.




Friday, December 7, 2012

Northern California's Secret Oasis: West Marin Coast


Need a relaxing vacation?
Well we've got just the place for you! Just west of Marin, San Francisco's northern county, offers a beautiful coastline and mystical forests. Although Northern California may not be recognized for it's beaches, this is one area worth visiting. Take the whole family, make it a romantic getaway for two, or get together with friends, Marin coast will exceed your vacation expectations.




Point Reyes
Not just an adorable town by the water, Point Reyes National Park is just west and offers endless outdoor activities to satisfy the whole family. After checking out the museum, choose one of the many trails right there or head down the road for more options. Enjoy hiking through the forest, past meadows and creeks and out to the ocean cliffs and beaches. If you can't get yourself to leave, they offer a variety of campgrounds, some even on the beach.

Five Brooks Stable
Stables, horseback riding, guided trails, camping, picnicking, hiking, Five Brooks has it all. With wonderful panoramic scenery wherever you go, Five Brooks will leave you in awe. Go horseback riding through the forest, over creeks, and even on the beach. A peaceful environment and just enough excitement, this relaxing vacation will recharge you for whatever your week has in store. Take a break, you deserve it.

Bolinas
A quaint little mystery town just south of Point Reyes, Bolinas is right on the water and never crowded.  With a population rounding about 1,500 people and no signs to even direct off of Highway 1, Bolinas is mostly locals, which makes it a great place to visit. Check out some of the shops that make up this funky beach town. Hang at the beach, play tennis, stop by the museum, fish, rent a surfboard and give it a shot, the waves here are great for beginners. Don't forget try out some of their local fresh cuisine at the Bolinas Cafe.

This whole area is beautiful and endless, so go, explore, have fun and relax!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Campside German Pancake


Yields 4-6 servings 


A breakfast soufflĂ© in the great outdoors, it can’t be true you say?  With a few ingredients quickly whisked together, the most amazing breakfast creation bubbles and grows to life.  Literally, a thin, almost watery batter becomes a light, fluffy dish that quadruples in size.  This spectacular campside breakfast is a cross between a soufflĂ© and an omelet.   Though the roots of this dish seem to be mired in word of mouth tradition, one of our German descended, team members shared that his family called them Pfannkuchen.  We say, whatever the dish is called, a camping breakfast wouldn’t be the same without it.  Keep the lid on tight while cooking and serve immediately as the puffiness will begin collapsing once the lid is removed.  Top with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and a squeeze of fresh lemon or orange.  Spread on some berry jam or syrup and enjoy. 



Ingredients

6 eggs
1 cup bread or all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons butter
Lemon juice
Powdered sugar
Berry jam


At Home

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Combine milk and vanilla and place in a sealable bag.  Measure dry ingredients, flour, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and seal in a second sealable bag.   Assemble remaining ingredients (eggs (in their shells), butter, lemon, powdered sugar, syrup and jam) for packing in the cooler.

At the Campsite

Total Time: 25 minutes
Creamy batter just waiting to rise
Recommended Gear: whisk or hand-crank blender; large mixing bowl, heat-resistant spatula, 10 inch Dutch oven with a lid

Start a small cooking fire and pre-heat a 10-inch Dutch oven.   While the Dutch oven heats, whisk 6 eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add milk mixture and flour mixture.  Whisk vigorously until smooth and frothy.  The batter will be thin but creamy.  Melt butter in the Dutch oven.  Pour batter into the hot Dutch oven.  Cover and build a second fire on the top of the Dutch oven.  Cook 20 minutes.  Do not open the lid until cooking is complete.   

Fluffy, airy goodness
Once cooking is complete, serve immediately as it will begin to deflate once the lid is removed.  Slice the pancake into individual serving sized wedges.  Top with powdered sugar, a squeeze of lemon, berry jam and your favorite syrup.

Chef’s Notes

Don’t let your fellow outdoor enthusiasts know the simplicity of this recipe.  The presentation alone will make them think you worked magic in the great outdoors

At home, heat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit and cook this dish according to the recipe listed above.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Stargazing


When you wish upon a star

Crisp, pitch-dark nights while camping beckon the hidden stargazer in all of us, no matter how young or old you are. Sitting outside at a campsite surrounded with limited, if any urban light impacting your gaze, creates the perfect environment to test your astronomy. And it’s a test as the International Astronomical Union (IAU), recognizes 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky.   

Start off simple.  In the northern hemisphere, Ursula Major or the Big Dipper is the easiest constellation to spot.  In the southern hemisphere, it is the Crux or Southern Cross.  Once you know a few basic constellations, do a little research and discover their backstories.  Most constellations are based on mythological tales.  It’s always more fun to find stars, especially for kids, when they know how Orion fights against the charging Taurus while pursuing the beautiful Pleiades sisters.

Is it a bird, a plane, no it’s little green men

Most of us were taught there are nine planets in the solar system.  That was correct until 2006 when poor Pluto was demoted and the official number was reduced to eight by the IAU.  The five brightest planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, can be distinguished from stars because their position changes slightly from one night to the next and they do not twinkle like stars.

Meteorites, or as we all lovingly call them, shooting stars, are small objects that enter the Earth’s atmosphere.  As they pass through, they burn up and leave small bits of burning materials in their wake.  This burning material creates the shooting stars as the Meteorites disintegrate through the sky.

If you do spot a moving object in the sky, it is more likely a Satellite, than an alien spaceship.  Satellites move slowly across the sky.  The most notable Satellite to spot is the International Space Station, which is brighter than Venus in the night sky. Younger kids will have fun waving at the astronauts occupying the space station once it is spotted.   If you have entered your zip code into http://www.spaceweather.com/flybys/ and it does not recognize the satellite you’ve identified, don’t worry its probably a UFO (just kidding).


21st century stargazing

In modern stargazing, technology comes in super handy.  Grab you smart phone and become an astronomical expert with the click or point of it.  There are amazing apps for smart phones that make identification of celestial bodies easy no matter where in the world you live.  Some are free while others have a nominal charge to download.   We like a few top rated options but there are many more available.
  •        Starwalk
  •        Sky Safari 3
  •        The Night Sky
  •        Gosky watch 
What you’ll need 
  1. Season and hemisphere specific star charts
  2. Binoculars (or a telescope)
  3. Stargazing apps for smart phone
  4. Flashlight beam

So layback on a blanket at the end of the evening.  Put out the campfire and let the night sky envelop you.  The stars will come out and say hello