Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Flatty Patty" Smothered Burgers

When most folks think of a burger patty, they picture biting into a thick, juicy, monster sized round of meat nestled within a hearty, sesame seed bun. Just picture it … great grill marks, beefy juices, charbroil aroma. Gigantic hunks of meat to satisfy the hunger pangs of a lumberjack, and also test the mettle of your arteries. Ahhh. Burrrr-gerrrrs.

Well, ahem, toss those images right out of your mind. Go on, erase those thoughts. There will be no photos or write ups about a thick, monster sized burger here. Instead, tonight’s menu consisted of flatty patty burgers sans buns. This is gluten-free, all the way, baby!

When I was a kid, my beautiful Italian mother used to fry up these wafer thin little burger patties for me. I’d have them for lunch or dinner, either plain or with sliced garden tomatoes. Sometimes she’d even serve it at breakfast alongside buttery grits. Of course, back in Indiana, we used to buy our meat from the butcher shop ... beef raised on local farms. We used to get our milk from the dairy farm, too. In those heavy glass bottles with the paper cap. The cream used to float at the top of the bottle. Sunset Hill Farms was the name of the farm. Gooood stuff.

These flat beauties cook up super fast, and for tonight’s dinner, were smothered with sharp cheddar pub cheese, caramelized onions, and sautéed mushrooms. They were sooo good, and if you try this recipe, you’ll be thanking the good Lord for beef. My offspring ate theirs plain, and gobbled down every bit. Hey, that’s two nights in a row they loved their dinner. Will they have to forfeit their Picky Eaters Club Membership Cards? More thoughts on that later.

To enjoy Flatty Patties in your own home, you will need:

1-1/2 lbs ground beef (I used the 15% fat variety because I grilled them. If you fry them, use the less fatty stuff)
Plate or ceramic cutting board
Your favorite seasoning (Montreal Steak Seasoning, Season Salt, or good ole Sea Salt and pepper work just fine)
Pub Cheese – sharp cheddar

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Onion – sliced in thin half rounds
2 cups sliced mushrooms

To make the burgers, wash your hands and leave them wet. Rub your wet hands on the plate surface. You will need to do this repeatedly as you form the patties. The flatty patties are so thin that they will stick to the surface of the plate unless it is wet.

With wet hands, take a small, egg sized portion of meat, and working quickly, compact it in your hands, and then flatten it on the plate. Really press down with either your fingers or the heel of your hand. Geez, I really need a manicure. But hey, this is what happens when you work in the garden, or yard, or laundry room, or some other chore like, say, typing on the keyboard. Hehe. . Ahem, let’s get back to the burgers.

See how flat they are? Don’t worry about making perfect rounds. The rough edges give the burgers character. No holes allowed in the burger, though. Work fast and keep the meat cool prior to cooking. The meat stays together better when cold.

The burgers will flatten out fairly large. They will shrink A LOT during cooking.

Place them on a preheated grill on high heat. Turn the heat down to med high, close the lid, and grill 3 minutes. Flip and grill another 3 minutes. Turn off grill. Remove flatty patties and keep warm. (I put mine on a baking sheet and put them back on the warm grill with the lid closed). And for those of you who, like my friend Marjie, don't like grill marks on your food, these flatty patties can be cooked in the broiler. My mom fried them on the stove! This photo is not the best representation of the grilled burgers. But my beasts were hungry and begging for their food … “Can you stop taking pictures so we can eat noooowww?”

I just love those rough edges. I want to break off and nibble on that one little piece sticking out right there. And juicy ... you bet. This is not cardboard folks. It's glorious beef.

Now prepare the onions. In a cast iron or other heavy skillet, heat the pan on mid high heat. Add the oil and butter, and as soon as the butter melts, add the onions. Season with season salt or Sea Salt. Turn heat to medium and sauté until the onions caramelize, about 10 minutes. (Yes, I know this is not the traditional way to caramelize, but hey it works.) Remove from pan and keep warm. Add mushrooms to the skillet, turn the heat back up to med high, and sauté until they give up their liquid and start to turn golden, about 5-6 minutes.

Almost time to assemble the burgers. Microwave about ½ cup of pub cheese in the microwave just to warm it up, about 30-45 seconds. Take a warm burger and spread about 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese on the patty.

Top with 1 tablespoon of onions and another scoop of mushrooms. Stand back and admire the flatty patty. Try not to drool. It’s ok if you do, though. I won’t tell.

You won’t miss the bun. I promise.

My kids ate theirs plain. Each kid had two patties. Comments included “Thank you, mom, for another scrumptious meal.” I responded, “You’re welcome.” Then with narrowed eyes, I said, “Now who are you and what have you done with my children?” They laughed. Hubby man loved his three (1 was enough for me), and let me just say that he was skeptical when he saw the wee beasties on the grill. Comments such as, “They’re going to be dry and tough” and “Are you sure about this?” were voiced. I'm surprised he didn't ask, "Where's the beef?" Oh ye of little faith. These are so good because no single flavor overpowers the other. You can taste the beef for sure, and yet you won't need to have your arteries unplugged after eating this. Just look at this and tell me what you think … oh yeah, flatty patties are are good eats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

“Don’t Bug Me I’m Eating” Chicken Wings

I need a moment. Something strange just occurred under my roof. There are clean plates ready to be loaded into the dishwasher. While that’s happened before, tonight’s dinner consisted of food not sampled before. Food that would require them to *gasp* use their fingers. Food that I almost didn’t prepare because I figured those picky peeps of mine would poke at it much like one would push aside a deceased bug. Who would have guessed that my little clucks would devour these wings? What mischief is this that they set their teeth upon said wings with calculating efficiency? My Picky Eaters Club Charter Members tried something new and (shhhh) liked it! Oh lordy, I feel faint.

These wings are really easy to make. I found the recipe on Rasa Malaysia . I altered the recipe and cooking method slightly. These are mild wings and would make a great alternative to serve to guests who don’t dig hot wings. They have a unique flavor. The honey provides a very faint sweetness, the turmeric provides the lovely color, and the soy sauce provides that yummy background. The ginger juice, although quite pungent, does not overpower the other flavors, and the chili powder I used was mild and just faintly made a taste appearance. That’s it in so far as seasonings. No garlic or onion here (except for what's in the chili powder). I actually missed those flavors; however, I think that the absence of them is what appealed to my kids. When I asked my oldest girl peep if she liked the chicken, she wiggled her eye brows, pulled her mouth away from the wing, and with a smile and jovial tone responded, “don’t bug me, I’m eating!”. All the kids said that this goes on 'the repeat list'. My boy peep told me that I could challenge Bobby Flay to a throwdown with these. Oh yeah, there’s a thought … me and Bobby. Alrighty-O.

Here’s the recipe and some prep and finished product photos.

Malaysian Turmeric and Honey Wings
aka: “Don’t Bug Me I’m Eating” Chicken Wings

Ingredients: (I multiplied these measurements times 4.5)

1 lb chicken wings – middle section (I used the entire wing and made 4.5 lbs of them)
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon soy sauce (I used Tamari – wheat free/low sodium which made this recipe gluten free!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
2 inches ginger (skin peeled)

Prepare the ginger by peeling it and pounding with a mortar and pestle or grinding with small food processor (I used the processor). Extract the juice by squeezing with your hand and discard the ginger pulp. I wrapped the ground pulp in cheese cloth first. Sssqqquuueeezzzeee! (Man, I really need some sun.)

I prepped the wings simply by cutting off the little flappy thing. What is that thing called? I think next time, I’ll take the extra five minutes to separate the wings into drumette type pieces. For hubby man, I’ll prepare boneless breast pieces. He needed LOTS of wings. He's a big guy. He likes big food. He doesn't like to have bones of any kind on his plate. *sigh* You won't hear him complain though. That fact alone propels me to next time make him food without bones. That and the fact that he ate all the green beans on his plate to set an example for his kids. Well done, my man. And yes, each sprout ate the solitary green bean I placed on their plates. Back to the wings ...

Now you see the flappy thing.

In comes the kitchen shears. Do you love your kitchen shears? I love my shears.

No more flappy thing.

Marinate the chicken wings with the ginger juice and all the seasonings above for 1 – 2 hours (I did 2.5 hours). Grill or bake them in an oven (at 375 degrees F) for 20-25 minutes until cooked or golden brown.Note: I added 2 Tablespoons of oil to the marinade. I also baked mine on two sheet pans, and switched pan positions 1/2 way through. Here are the flapless wings heading into the oven.

After baking, I transferred them to a hot grill for just a couple minutes, fattier side down, to get a crispier, more flame charred surface. See the lovely color ... that's the turmeric.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Square Foot Garden Update #2

How does your garden grow?

My little organic garden is a mighty powerhouse. It’s quite compact consisting of two 4 x 6 plots set up in the square foot method. I am in LOVE with the square foot method. For gardening green-horns like me, this has been wonderful. Even better, though, is that my youngest little planter has discovered that she’s a natural green thumb … not put off by bugs and dirt, and feels a strong stewardship toward the garden. At nine years old, she requires no supervision working in the garden. Her watering method is just right, as is how she handles the plants. Since she is such a hard worker, she gets first nibble pick of our strawberry bounty … which just keeps on coming. Oh, and did I mention that we’ve pulled a total of *8* weeds. That’s it. E-I-G-H-T weeds. No chemicals or additives have been added to our soil either. This method of gardening uses up all available growing space, so there just isn’t much room for any weeds to take hold. And, since my neighbor’s tree is heavy with figs, the raccoons and other little stinkers are more interested in eating figs than my future bounty. We’ve had oodles of herbs and strawberries, the peas and radishes are producing nicely, the tomatoes refuse to turn red, and the squash is really blossoming now. I suspect in a weeks time frame, I’ll have actual veggies in my harvest basket. In the meantime, does anyone have a great recipe for fried green tomatoes?

So without further ado, here’s my garden.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Incredible Edible Egg --- In a Hole

Yesterday, Ree of The Pioneer Woman posted an “Egg In The Hole” recipe (7/24/08) that just about caused me to swoon. I love eggs. Fried, scrambled, baked, stuffed, frittata’d, you name it. Hard yolks, soft yolks, runny yolks … I’m not picky. I am picky, though, about what eggs I buy. It’s hard to find farm fresh eggs where I live, so like most suburbians, I purchase my little protein powerhouses at the store. I’ll be the gal opening carton after carton to make sure I find a dozen or so that aren’t cracked or otherwise unusable. Plus, is it just me, or do commercially produced eggs seem to be getting smaller and smaller? I buy organic, free range, no hormone eggs, and they seem to be a little better in the size department and a whole lot better in the taste department.

NOTE: Check out Ree's post! Her photos are a zillion times nicer than mine, although I think it's cool that she and I both have blue plates. That was pure coincidence! I followed her instructions, and posted similar photos to show that if I can do it with a 12 year old sous chef, anyone can do it. See my comment #835 (yep, that 8-3-5) on her original post. Total credit for this recipe goes to The Pioneer Woman.

Anyway … my oldest gal likes eggs for breakfast. As soon as I saw Ree’s post, I knew my girl would love this. Since hubby man had already left for work, and the other two peeps were sleeping in this morning, it was just me and my girl for breakfast. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to teach her how to make Egg In The Hole. I’ve been woefully bad about teaching my kids how to cook, so I seized the day. She did a marvelous job. See for yourself. (And check out my cast iron skillet! It’s about a month old, and I adore this baby. Hmmm … maybe it’s time for a 2nd installment of favorite kitchen tools!)


1-1/2 Tablespoons Butter
1 Egg
1 Slice of Bread (I used potato bread)
Season salt, salt, pepper, or whatever you put on your eggs.

Using a biscuit cutter or glass, cut a hole out of the center of your slice of bread. In a heavy skillet, melt a healthy 1 ½ tablespoons of butter.

When butter starts to sizzle, add bread. Let it toast for about 30 seconds.

Then crack an egg into it.

Season it.

Let it cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until the under side of the egg is set, and the bread is toasty golden brown.

Using a spatula, flip it over and cook the other side, again about 1 to 2 minutes … more it you want firmer yolks.


Yuuuummmm! The bread has a great fried crunch to it, very different than if you just used a toaster or baked in the oven. The eggs are cooked just perfect and are fun to have surrounded by a bread moat.

All Gone. Sob! Eggs. Must have Eggs-In-The-Hole!

Couple things. 1. Cooking this is very easy. However, since I usually fry eggs using olive oil instead of butter, we kept a close eye on the butter so it wouldn’t burn. If you are used to cooking eggs with butter, this will be a piece of cake for you. 2. The bread takes up a lot of room in the pan, so this was perfect for making breakfast for one or two people. If I had to make this for a larger crowd, I’d probably dig out my OLD, OLD, OLD oblong electric skillet to handle the job. I think the cast iron skillet produces the best result, particularly for the bread/toast.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wahoo! Summer Squash Ragu!

Ah, summer veggie season! This is the time of year when we all get creative with how to prepare the seemingly endless bounty of summer squash, tomatoes, and herbs strutting around our gardens and farmers markets. Zucchini is actually one of my favorite vegetables. I prefer them very small, no larger than 1.5” in diameter.

Here’s a dish that uses up both zucchini and yellow squash. It’s in the recipe family of caponata and pepperonata. This version, though, doesn’t have either eggplant or peppers in it, although feel free to add them if you have them! I ate this every summer growing up, as well as the other two dishes mentioned, and it is very tasty. It’s good either hot, cold, or at room temperature. I prefer it as a hot ragu over my gorgonzola polenta with an extra drizzle of olive oil , although it’s very tasty just as a side dish or with pasta or rice. Personally, I think it pairs best with either fish or chicken. It reheats very well, and is actually quite tasty as a brunch topper for fried eggs. Don't wince! It's really quite groovy over fried eggs! I dare you to try it! Double dare!


Olive Oil
2 small zucchini, sliced thin
1 small yellow squash, sliced thin
½ onion sliced into either slivers or half rounds
1 garlic clove, sliced paper thin (or you could mince or chop it) *(See Note)
4 fresh “meaty” variety tomatoes diced (or 1 can diced tom’s)
¼ cup pitted green olives, rough chopped in large pieces (I used Spanish pimento stuffed ones because that’s what I had; calamata’s could be used, too)
1 Tsp of capers (optional)
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Freshly grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese.

Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil, swirl to coat the pan. Quickly toss in the zucchini and yellow squash and sauté, adjust your burner heat as necessary to keep veggies from burning. When the squash are lightly browned, remove from pan. Add a touch more oil to the pan, and quickly sauté the onions and garlic* (see note). As soon as they are translucent, return the squash to the pan, add the tomatoes, and stir to combine. Turn the heat to med-low, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and the mixture has thickened (about 10 minutes). Stir in the olives and capers. Season with Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper. Garnish with cheese once you’ve plated the veggies. Also, drizzle with add’l olive oil if desired. (I desired!)

Also, for my gluten free comrades, this dish is gluten free all the way!

*NOTE: I always salt my garlic after I’ve sliced, minced, or chopped it. It keeps it from burning. We’ll have to ask Alton Brown as to why that is. I think it has something to do with the salt releasing moisture or some such thing. Do you know why salting chopped garlic keeps it from getting sticky and burning?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

25th Wedding Anniversary

What were you doing on July 23, 1983 at 2:00 pm? I know where I was … walking down the isle to the church pipe organ sounding out “Here Comes The Bride”! That’s right, folks, today hubby man and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary! Gosh, we were just kids when we tied the knot. Oh, what a great ride it’s been! Let’s look back in time at 1983, shall we? How many of these sound familiar to you?

TV Shows: The A-Team premiered on NBC; the last episode of MASH aired, popular shows included Magnum PI, Newhart, The Love Boat, Dallas, and Hart to Hart.

Movies: Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, Flashdance, Sudden Impact, Risky Business, and Vacation

Music: “Dirty Laundry” by Don Henley, “Maneater” by Hall and Oates, “Mickey” by Toni Basil, “Rock The Casbah” by The Clash, “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran, “Every Breath You Take” by Police, and “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics.

See the UST in the background? That's the windshield of our car and part of the words "Just Married!" written in shoe polish courtesy of the groomsmen. Whew, it was hot and humid that day, in the 90's with like 300% humidity, and the church's air conditioner had been struck by lightning the night before and was out of order. We brought in huge fans and set them all around the altar to help keep everyone cool. And although my dress was backless, it was adorned with those long, lacey, beaded sleeves ... in the heat. Love trumps all, though. Gosh, don't we look happy?! And YOUNG!

Politics: Ronald Reagan was US President, Lech Walesa received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Science: Sally Ride was the 1st US Woman Astronaut in space as a crew member. Space Shuttle Challenger had successful maiden voyage. Hurricane Alicia battered Houston and Galveston.

Technology: Radio Shack announced Tandy Model 2000 Computer; The FCC authorized Motorola to begin testing Cellular Phone Service in Chicago (FYI: I spent the majority (almost 10 years) of my professional career in the Cellular Communications Industry.)

This was taken in the city garden park. It's one of my favorite pictures. I can see hubby man's ring shining on his finger. I think he was glad to sit because the shoes that came with the tux he rented were 2 sizes too small. That tux was a real pistol. All the tuxes were delivered on time except for his. He literally got possession of it just hours before the ceremony. He never mentioned any of this to me though; he didn't want me to worry about anything. Oh, and this is a photo of the original photo, so it's kind of wonky-warpy looking. (I think I just made up a word.)

We certainly have had many blessings and some heartache along the way. The good has been really, really good, and the heartache ... well, let's just say that we are really good in crisis mode. My hubby and I truly circle the wagons and pull together during a crisis. I truly believe these situations have been some of our finest hours. Let's recap:

- Each other (Hubby provided the correct answer of Yes, he would marry me again if he had the choice. Aw, nice guy.)
- 3 great children -- kind, loving, smart, and spiritual. Keepers they are, all three of them.
- 5 pets; 2 of whom are still with us. (Kitty cats)
- Health and plenty of food.
- Extended family. (Who call, email, and visit us and like it when we reciprocate.)
- Good friends, both old and new.
- Adventure of moving across country away from friends and family. (Exciting and sad at the same time.)
- Our own home complete with memories of birthdays, holidays, hugs, and kisses.
- Vacations both fancy and rustic.

- Son's Epilepsy diagnosis. (This is one of those finest hour moments. He is amazing!)
- Son critically ill in 12/06. (Another one of those finest hour moments.)
- 3 Miscarriages that broke my heart.
- Deaths of Sister and Best Friend. (Both were in my wedding.)
- Deaths of both Mother In-Law and Father In-Law, and Adult Nephew Billy.
- Moving away from family. (Wish kids could play with their cousins and spend every holiday with relatives.)
- Getting run over crossing the street in the Virgin Islands on our honeymoon. OUCH! That was not fun. Nope, nada. When I asked hubby man if there is anything in the past 25 years that he'd do differently if he could, he said that he would look the other way before crossing the street on our honeymoon. (They drive on the opposite side of the road than what we are accustomed to.)

Shhhh ... don't tell anyone that I wasn't 21 yet when this toast was taking place! Our reception was the best party ever! We danced and danced, and laughed and laughed. My Italian relatives all drove to Indiana, and hubby felt like the Mafia had arrived with all those bold Italian men with their dark hair and white shirts. Of course, we danced the Tarantella just the same as all my relatives before me. The colors are fading in these photos. I actually have very dark hair and hubby man was blond back then. Plus, the bubbly we are drinking is, well, bubbly colored not apple cider color. This is another photo of a photo in an album, so you can see the vignette mat around our heads. oops. I wonder what the blogsphere will be like when I celebrate my 50th anniversary! Happy Day everyone ... have some wine and chocolate, and hug the ones you love!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Perfect Pronto Pesto

The garden bounty is starting to roll in. Our basil is thriving in our square foot garden, so much so that my youngest gardener harvested 6 cups of basil leaves yesterday, and today the plants look like another harvesting from the same plants will be needed in the near future.

I love basil. How about you? I adore the way it smells, the way it tastes, the texture of the leaves, and how it adds such great depth of flavor to sandwiches, soups, pasta, pizza, salad, meats, veggies, dips and sauces. Did I miss anything? In the summer, one of my most favorite sandwiches is slices of mozzerella, tomato, and basil leaves on a hearty slice of bread. Drizzle a tad of olive oil, a splash of vinegar, salt, and pepper, and then top with another slice of bread. Yum, yum, yum!

With six cups of basil on hand, the recipe that sang out to me was "pesto". My homemade pesto is very subtly flavored, gluten free, and can be used on sandwiches, soups, pasta, pizza, salad, meats, veggies, dips, and sauces. I only use toasted pine nuts, not plain pine nuts, nor do I use walnuts or almonds or whatever nut is in vogue at the time. And for goodness sake, take the extra 3 minutes it takes to toast the pine nuts first. It makes such a difference in flavor. I don't enjoy eating pesto's that are chunky, nor do I want to bite into a huge chunk of raw garlic. Using the food processor produces a smooth pesto and makes assembly a snap. It takes more time to read the recipe and assemble the ingredients than it takes to make the pesto. This is the best pesto you'll ever eat. You'll never want that stuff from the grocery store shelves again. I promise. Start your timer.

4 cups loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil (I used a little less; feel free to use more)
1/4 cup pine nuts TOASTED
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano
Several hearty grinds of sea salt to taste (optional)

Put the basil, oil, toasted pine nuts, and garlic into your food processor bowl. Pulse about 6 times. Add the cheeses, and process again until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt if necessary. I tend to like my pesto a little thicker so that when I use it in recipes, it won't create too much oil in the dish. You can easily make yours thinner by adding more olive oil.

Yuuuuum!!! Try to restrain yourself from eating it by the spoonful. Hmm, perhaps I should taste it again, just to make sure it's seasoned perfectly. Just one more bite .... or two.

Thanks For The Laser Light Show

I never went camping when I was a kid, nor did I ever attend a summer camp. Oh now before you start feeling sorry for me, I had a great youth that included tons of just plain, old fashioned playtime. Hubby man, on the other hand, camped often in his youth. He even went ice fishing with a friend’s family and stayed in one of those little frozen huts like you see on PBS nature shows. So, when we got married, hubby man was determined to expose me to the delights of camping. My only criteria was that a) I wanted to sleep in an enclosure free of creatures that have more than 4 legs, and b) if I need to make a trek to the, um, facilities during the night, that he accompany me. Yeah, I'm a city girl, but I've come a long way since our first camping excursions. Over the years, we’ve had some great camping experiences, but it initially got off to a rough start.

Our first camping trip was to the Oregon coast, where we experienced an unseasonably cold weather snap accompanied by driving rain and high force winds. Then there was the time we went camping in Yosemite. There was a healthy dose of bear activity in the camp and warnings were posted everywhere. I did not know about the bear stuff until we arrived. As I stated, part of my agreement to go camping from the onset was that Hubster’s had to accompany me to the, um, facilities, should I need to visit them during the night. Initially, he faithfully held true to his promise and all was well. On this particular trip to Yosemite, he had spent the day partaking in some strenuous hikes (not me, I stayed in the Valley and took a sketching lesson!), and he fell into a deep, deep sleep. Anyway, wouldn’t you know it, on this particular night, I needed to heed to the call of nature.

So, I nudge him with a quiet, “Hon, get up, I’ve got to go”. No response. So, now I resort to shaking him, which gets me a muffled groan and a roll over. At this point, I’m fully awake and having acknowledged to myself that I needed to go, now I REALLY needed to GO. So, no more Mrs. Nice Wife. I just know that I'm going to become a midnight snack for a hungry bear. So I’m really persistent to which he grumbles the words he still regrets to this day. He says to me, “Can’t you just go by yourself?” I’ll let you imagine my response. It was as if thunder and lightning went off in my head. Ok, maybe that’s a bit heavy in the drama department, but I was a big chicken back then and it was pitch black in the campground. No moonlight to illuminate the area; no stars shining to guide me. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. You get the picture. The only light was the lone dim orb on the side of the bathroom building in the distance.

At that point, I was performing the “I really have to go” dance, so I bucked up to make the long trek to the facilities sans husband. You could just make out the building from our campsite, and the traitor, I mean hubby, promised to watch me the entire time. Yeah, thanks, babe. Way to be there for me. You can expect the silent treatment for a looong time. So, off I go, with my high beam flash light. Every little noise caused me to swing the flashlight this way and that, up and down, side to side. When I get to the building, there was another bear warning sign on the door advising caution that the bears have been known to get in the building, but were unable to exit. So I slam open the door, do a quick bear check (yeah, like I would have known what to do if one was in there), take care of business in record time, and psych myself up for the trek back to the relative safety of our tent. So with a deep breath off I go, trotting on my toes as fast as I can, with my trusty flashlight that is shining up trees and into bushes here and there, trusting that it can also double as a club if I need it to. When I get back, out of breath, and shaky from my exertion, what does the love of my life say to me? Does he ask if I’m ok? Did he ask if I saw anything suspicious? Noooooo. He looks at me and at my flashlight and says, and I quote, “Thanks for the laser light show.” With those words, he promptly lays back down and is asleep in seconds, leaving me standing there blinking like an owl. So much for my silent treatment!

Believe it or not, about 30 minutes later, everyone in the camp ground was woken up by someone hollering “Bear!” It turns out there were two juvenile male brown bears in the camp that night, one of which was caught and relocated; the other was captured a few days later and also relocated. Those juveniles were hungry and rummaged through cars and coolers, but didn’t hurt anyone. Of course, hubby man felt so bad afterward for not chaperoning me, and he turned on the charm for the rest of the trip. Still, having a bear in our camp is something that we'll always remember. And, for what it’s worth, I don’t blame the bears at all. To this day, though, I still refer to nighttime calls of nature as being "laser light show" time. Now a days, though, it’s more likely that a child has to go!

Camping this weekend was fancy as far as camping goes. So much so that I hesitate to even call it camping. The Oregon State Park system is so wonderful, and we have multiple campgrounds to visit. Plus, many of the parks now have yurts or cabins that you can rent. Some are rustic and some are fancy. This was my first time in one of their cabins, and let me tell you, this is the way to go. We had a two room cabin. The front room had a futon and sofa type table as well as an eating table and four chairs. The bedroom had two bunk beds, with the bottom bunk being queen sized. All in all, including the futon, the cabin sleeps 8 comfortably, and you could easy squeeze in more folks on air mattresses. And ... this cabin had heat, hardwood floors, electricity, windows with screens and curtains, and ceiling fans. Sigh. This is the good camping life, folks.

Doesn't my girl look right at home in the woods? She's wearing her favorite "Stop Global Warming" t-shirt. Her current goal is to become a scientist and figure out eco friendly, plentiful alternative energy/fuel sources. She'll do it, too. She's a smart nature girl. You go girl! She's like her daddy ... loves the wilderness and could spend weeks at a time communing with nature.

We went with four other families, totaling 10 parents plus 12 children ages 7 - 12, and we each had our own cabin. We've done this for years, now, and the kids all know each other and spent time exploring the woods and playing zillions of variations of tag. In this photo, my campers are the little thing in front in glasses, then my long haired beauty in the white t-shirt, and the handsome fella in the red shirt. There were no complaints of being bored on this trip. Plus my husband and another adult took the kids on a 6 (?) mile bike ride through the wilderness. Smores were plentiful at night and we had so much fun socializing around the campfire. Oh, and by the way, one of the families just went to boy scout camp last week where a bear rummaged their tent, ate their toothpaste, and generally made a mess of things. I kid you not!!! I had seen it reported on the news, and commented to my hubby that our friends were camping that week and I wondered if they had any trouble. Anyway, I admit that I sometimes dread going camping, but once I'm there, I have a fantastic time. And, ahem, after almost 25 years of marriage, I’m glad I’m a camper. Speaking of marriage, hubby man and I will be celebrating our 25th marker this Wednesday! And, yes, I was a baby when I got married!