Sunday, May 3, 2009

Homemaker Monday: How a Family of Ten Does Camping in Mexico During the Swine Flu School Cancellation!

Welcome to...


Thank you for joining us! If you're new to this carnival and would like to enter your post, please check HERE for the rules and regs. (By the way, if you have been featured on Homemaker Monday in the past, your name is on my left sidebar. Check it out!)

YOURS: This week's "YOURS" goes to Becky over at Thoughtfully Blended Hearts! When I took in her post, I was quite literally swept away by the beauty and creativity of her photos and commentary. Her link was called "Impatience" because she wanted to create an outdoor tablescape, but mother nature wasn't to cooperate. She made lemonade out of lemons, though, as you'll see in the thirteen absolutely gorgeous photos in this post. Here's one of my favorites...


I covet her dishes and silverware, her camera...and her talent. Click HERE for her entire post. I certainly can't wait to apply her post to my daily life this week. My tablescape won't look romantic and ecclectic like hers, as my decor is rustic Mexican, but we'll see what I can come up with. Becky, please feel free to come back next Monday for an honest critique! Thank you so much for linking up with us and please feel free to add the "I Was Featured" button on my left sidebar to your blog if you'd like. You're a true inspiration and I look forward to keeping up with your fantastic decorating ideas!

And now...for how I applied last week's Homemaker Monday feature to my daily life...

Last Homemaker Monday, The Blossoming Skillet was featured for her amazing recipe for chewy granola bars. I loved her recipe because it was vegan, but as I began gathering the ingredients for preparation, I realized that it was also fat-free! What could be better for you? Click HERE for The Blossoming Skillet's exact step-by-step instructions.

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that I often have to find substitutes for recipe ingredients as I live in Mexico and there are no Walmarts nearby to run to when the pantry gets low. In this case, I substituted the two dried fruits with pecans and chocolate chips. I know, totally not as healthy, but I figured that the wheat germ, flax seed and oats would more than make up for it. Here's where the problem occured though. The 14-year-old girl was actually the one who was putting this together, as I had given her the choice of either playing with the twins outside or making this recipe, and you can guess what she had chosen. I had her mix all of the dry ingredients together, including the chocolate chips, then I told her to pour on the heated honey, molasses, vanilla mixture, and stir it until it was blended. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next. Yes, the heated mixture melted every last chocolate chip, so we were left with a very dark brown mixture with no chocolate chips to speak of. These quickly became "Chocolate Granola Bars", we baked them, and they were, surprizingly enough, delicious!...


I think what I was most surprized about was how very chewy they were. I couldn't understand it, and still can't, because there is no oil or butter in this recipe. I have simply come to terms that my simple mind can't wrap itself around the science and have become content to just enjoy the chewiness. The babies absolutely ADORE these bars, they are easy to clean up and they make great snacks for camping, as you will find out on Tuesday, when I post my 48-hour camping menu. Thanks so much, Blossoming Skillet, for you inspiration. You have changed my life for the better!

MINE: I don't know if camping is considered part of homemaking, but as they say, "Home is where the heart is" and I heart camping.

It took us nearly three hours to get ready and pack up on Thursday morning and we finally got moving about 11:30 AM. John, the three under three and I packed into the front seat of the truck and all of the five other kids rode in the bed of the pick-up. We traveled on a dirt road for two and a half hours, only getting lost once for 30 minutes and finally arrived. The first thing I did once we unloaded our dusty bodies out of the truck was to hold a family council. The council consisted of me saying I'm sorry for yelling so much as we were packing and promising to do better. John piped in saying that our number one priority was to make sure that the twins didn't drown in the stream. I then resumed the council by pleading with the kids to help when needed witout complaining and to remember that work can be fun when we all do it together. One of them said that work is never fun and I said that it is always fun and the council was over.

After unpacking all of the food from the truck and getting lunch taken care of, it was time for some R&R. John installed a hammock in some nearby trees and decided to take a load off, but he ended up getting a load on...


After situating themselves, everyone was comfortable...



In the mean time we discovered that this particular campground was in the middle of cattle grazing land. We had to shoo this little baby away...


...but we were a little bit to scared to get involved with her mother...


...and there were cow pies EVERYWHERE! The babies quickly learned by my reaction that although they were fun to play with, it was best that they try to ignore them in order to avoid listening to their mother scream, "No! Put it down!" and stumble over herself at super-sonic speed to try to pry them out of their little hands.

Next, it was tent time. John had purchased pup tents for each of the kids and a large family tent for him and I and the three under three. The 14-, 12-, 9-, and 7- year-olds set up the tents for themselves and the toddler in a wagon train formation. I don't know where they got this idea, but it was pretty cool. Here's what that looked like along with our tent in the background...


The 17-year-old boy decided that he wanted to be independent, so he set up camp clear across the river far away from demands to help with chores...


I take that back. We were easily able to send the willing 9- or 7-year-old across the river any time we needed his assistance. His perceived plan was foiled.

After relaxing for a while, it was time to set up the campfire area and start dinner...


Some of us had campfire-baked potatoes...




...and others had tinfoil dinners with potatoes, carrots, and sandwich meat. I'll post our camping menu and the how-tos for those recipes tomorrow.

The babies had gotten good and worn-out, so before the sun had gone down, it was time for bed. In order to keep them warm, I put 18-month sleepers on them and layered more 24-month sleepers over those. If only they would have let me put beanies on their little heads, they would have been perfectly warm, but they have their own ideas about what goes on their heads. John had put together a double sleeping bag and we laid them between the layers of soft fleece we had put between the bags...


(Aren't they angelic?)

Now the fun began. It was hot chocolate and ginormous marshmallow time. I wish I had taken a photo of the HUGE marshmallows John purchased at Mexcio Sam's, but just believe me. They were gargantuan! The kids roasted the outsides of their marshmallows to a crisp, ate that off, then roasted the inside again, over and over and over! By the time they got down to the end of the marshmallow, a couple of them were saying, "Ughh, I can't eat anymore. I am so full!" Can you imagine? Getting full on ONE marshmallow? It's true. They were that big.

There is something about sitting around a campfire with your family. We had such a great time reminiscing about all of our other camping adventures and things that I've since forgotten. I remember the feeling, though, wishing the time would never end. There was no bickering and complaining, just love and enjoyment of one another's company and hot fronts and cold backs. Unfortunately, the 17-year-old boy had asked earlier, "Are there any family rituals that I need to stick around for before I go to my tent?" I told him that we would probably come to get him for scripture study later, but that he was free to go. He only has 13 more months left at home and it is becoming more and more obvious that he is ready to fly the coup...and that is okay.

The next day was more of the same. John made an amazing breakfast of potatoes, eggs, cheese, and onions and served this to us in warmed tortillas. In preparation for our trip, I had made 18 baggies of instant oatmeal in case no one felt like cooking in the morning, but because of John's ambition, I only used a couple of them as snacks during the trip. For my post on instant oatmeal baggies, click HERE.

After breakfast, we went over some rules of camping cleanliness. I told them that every morning during a camping trip that they needed to roll up their sleeping bags and clean up their tents, that way they could use them to play in during the day, but avoid getting their sleeping bags dirty. I brought them to my tent to show them the example (minus the rolled up sleeping bags as our tent was so big and had plenty of room for other activies without messing up the beds)...


(I think, really, that the only reason I posted this picture is because I actually kept something neat for almost 12 hours and I wanted proof for future reference.)

I gave them about 30 minutes to get the job done, then did the tent checks. Let's see what we will find. Here is the 7-year-old girl's tent...


(Incidentally, her comment when she saw it was, "That's the girliest tent I've ever seen! It's awesome!)

What will it look like when we unzip the tent?


Ah, my most tidy child has not let me down!

The rest of the day was filled with hammock swinging, an unexpected visit with friends who happened to be the owners of the camping ground, walks up the river, and chasing after the two explorers, who enjoyed experimenting with things like this...


Here are some miscellaneous things we learned on this particular camping trip:

1. Because we were constantly outside, it didn't matter if water was spilled. As a result, the twins learned (kind of) to drink out of real cups rather than sippy cups...


2. Hammocks make great places for babies to take an afternoon nap...


(Yes, these are the twins in the hammocks wrapped in towels to protect against the cool breezes that picked up. Don't believe me? Look...)



3. One can make a tripod on which to hang a #10 can of water over a campfire and have constant hot water for soups, hot chocolate, or sterilizing...


(Knowing that I would be blogging this, the 14- and 12-year-olds vehemently insisted that I let you, the reader, know that this was their idea and that they made the tripod/#10 can creation themselves.)

4. Not washing your hair for three days can produce about as good a hair product as anything at the salon...


(The 17-year-old boy said that in order for him to grant permission to use his photo on my blog, I would have to monetarily compensate him. However, once we got home, I showed him how large his muscle looked as he was swinging the toddler into truck, even though he wasn't even trying to flex, and I told him that I would email it to him to put on his Facebook...


...I was instantly granted permission without the cost of compensation.)


5. It is best not to delegate the packing of the truck to the kids. Even though we had paper plates set out to go into the truck, they never made it to the campground and we subsequently had to eat every meal either in a Dixie styrofoam coffee cup or a plastic cup...


(This is one of my favorite vegan meals - refried beans, guacamole and salsa with salty tortilla chips on the side)

...or on a tortilla...


So that's our camping trip in a nutshell. Remember to stay tuned for tomorrow's post which will include our 48-hour camping menu for ten and a couple of how-tos, and for Wednesday's post, in which will I will record a comprehensive list of the items we like to pack for any given camping trip, including sleeping gear, cooking gear and miscellaneous gear. I worked on this list while our needed supplies were fresh on my mind for 48 hours, then, as luck would have it, the 9-year-old boy, in his efforts to "clean up" the camp site, threw the four page list into the fire. Fortunately, the wind blew the pages out of the fire and onto the ground next to it and I was able to salvage most of my list...


Life is fun, yes? See ya tomorrow...

OURS: Okay, now let's see what all of you faithful homemakers have for us today. I can't wait to see which post will change my life for the better next week! Have a great one!





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9 comments:

Melinda said...

What a great outing! Looks like a nice area too! I am familiar with your family council..it cracked me up. Love the pic of John in hammock with the boys...vary cute!

shopannies said...

I love the outdoors and camping great pictures as well

Jeni's thoughts said...

Loks like you had a great time!

Mom2my9 said...

Jeni, I only wish you guys were there!

Homemaker Barbi / Danelle Ice said...

I love the camping pics! We've been reading The Camper's Bible and have been learning a lot. We're hoping to introduce our family to camping this year, since my hubby and I both went as kids and have good memories.

I was laughing out loud about your son't muscle in the picture- too funny! Have a great week hiding out from Swine Flu- we hear it's blowing over.

Danelle Ice / Homemaker Barbi

Bethany Cox said...

Mexicans made tortillas to use as plates anyways, so that's ok that the kids forgot.

Kristin said...

Oh, Jen, it is not often that I throw back my head and laugh when no one else is in the room but me. The ending of the family counsel (about you saying that work is always fun)...I'm laughing even as I write this. And the muscle high-light... and the burnt edges of your list, which makes is look so much more valuable and important and mysterious than it actually is ... I really wish I could tag along on your next camping trip.

ajwhet10 said...

Thanks for sharing the fun! It brings back fun memories of camping in Mexico.

JUST ME, THE MOM said...

Hello there - I so enjoyed my vicarious little camping expedition - what a blast. You are so well organized, cleanest, most orderly camp I've ever seen. What a blast. You have almost inspired me to drag the tent out . . . looking at the calendar for a free weekend . . .

KristinK