Archive for September, 2009

The Caraher’s Go-a-Campin’

September 20, 2009

With fall approaching it’s time to call it a ‘wrap’ on the camping season. We took our camper out twice this summer, for a grand total of three nights. I keep insisting to my husband, David, that this is good! – verses his preference, which is more akin to not going camping and say we did.

“But heck!” (I tell David to excite him about going.) “We pay $300.00 a year just to store the thing. We save a night’s motel (okay, flea bag motel) every night we stay in our camper! Camping for three or four nights a year makes up for the cost of storage!”

We hit the mark this year, camping for three nights, and that’s what’s important here.

photo(16)Here you see a picture of our camper where it is parked about 360 days a year. It is a 1973 Bell, a 16-foot beauty, wait till you see its lime-green interior! We bought it three years ago at my insistence as a quantum leap up from camping out of the back of David’s truck. Megan, the dog, and I, would bed down in the back of the truck, while David got the ground, and a tarp to cover himself in case of rain. In the morning we all crawled out as if from under rocks, piled back into the truck and drove somewhere to find food and a bathroom to squat in to clean ourselves up, at which juncture Megan and I were usually thoroughly spent and pleading to go home.

So I spotted this totally retro 16′ camper with its divine lime green interior and just had to have it. For a mere 1,500 bucks! Good buy! We could afford it! And do some REAL camping! Albeit it doesn’t have a bathroom or hot water and the ice box runs on, uh, block ice. Of course, as soon as we wrote a check for the thing and hauled it into our driveway we learned the roof leaked like a sieve, the plumbing had to be replaced and the field mice had a veritable field day chewing on the upholstery. “Sorry, dear!” But, “Cha-ching!” Oh well, what’s another 1,500 bucks for the trailer’s restoration? We will certainly get $3,000.00 worth of fun out of our precious lime-green retro camper in the long run! We only have to camp in it, say, every summer for the next 10-15 years to make the return on our investment.

We do go camping, about 3-4 days a year. Except we have our own special requirements. First of all, we never camp in campsites with hook-ups. No way! We like to rough it! Haul the camper off-road to some wilderness area, hopefully next to a stream, so we can fish. We build a humongous campfire, feed it dead tree limbs past midnight, and stand around it belting out our own unique renditions of old Bee-Gees’ songs, complete with ‘harmony.’ (This activity involves camping with my younger brother, Eric, who knows the wilderness areas like his back yard, knows almost every word of every Bee-Gee song ever made, and belts out a unique, um, falsetto … It also involves making sure we don’t have neighbors within 500 yards.)

Unless we just don’t want to bother with a campfire or cooking and all that. Then we do what we did camping overnight during Labor Day weekend: Park close to a restaurant so we can eat there and squat in their bathroom (since we don’t have a bathroom in our camper, as I said. We do, however, have a corner closet which houses a porta-potty, which, why would we use it if we don’t have to?).

Another plus about camping near a restaurant is that you are also then probably in, or near, a town where you might have cell phone coverage so your daughter, who is twenty and was unenthusiastically dragged along on the trip in the first place, can text her friends.

So we went camping Sunday night into Labor Day. My brother with the falsetto voice invited us to join him in Island Park, Idaho – a mere 90-minute drive from our house. Eric was running a booth at an Antique show in front of Pond’s Lodge (which is actually just a restaurant now). He had parked his camper behind the restaurant in an area that used to house campsites and rental cabins, but was now, under new ownership, transitioning into small private lots sporting $300,000.00 log homes. There was a spot back there beside his camper, Eric told us, where we could camp, and there were no other campers around on account of all the construction. There was cell phone coverage, too! We were totally ‘there!’

We pulled in behind Pond’s lodge about 3PM Sunday – parked our camper back there next to Eric’s camper. Then we did an outsy-doorsy thing, afterall, we were camping. Drove the 4-Runner up to the top of Sawtelle mountain:

Picture us standing at the very top!

Picture us standing at the very top!

It lies just a few miles outside of Island Park and yes, you can drive clear to the top of it. Here’s a photo I took of Megan on top of Sawtelle … She handled it okay:

Yes!  There is cell phone coverage!

Yes! There is cell phone coverage!

However, the wind was blowing about forty miles an hour and we didn't linger long. Here is our dog, Rudy, enjoying the view while trying to keep his footing:

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We quickly jumped back in the truck and switch-backed our way down the mountain to return to our ‘campsite.’ It was just too windy to think of being outside and too early for dinner so we decided to hang out in the camper. Go ‘lime green!’

Who's got the lime?

Who's got the lime?

It was then that we paused to take in the view out our camper door…

What's with the cabin?  Tornado?

What's with the cabin? Tornado?

How did that cabin get turned on its, uh, would that be … ‘nose?’

Notice the legs and white tennies. Those belong to Megan. I didn’t ask her to position her legs in the scene just to enhance my photo. She is very busy here, mind you, absorbed with focused singularity in her camping experience, unaffectedly battered by high winds as she resolutely …

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… texts her friends. Hey, no problem if the cell phone (surrounded by so much metal I guess) doesn’t work in the camper. Eric’s camper (pictured in the first photo with the apparent tornado) is similar in size to ours, except fully equipped and, you will notice, his back window is cracked … (for extra ventilation perhaps? Nice touch.).

Soon it was dinnertime and we walked the 200 yards to the restaurant. My brother, Eric, joined us and so did my sister, Lisa, (otherwise known as ‘Twitch’) and her husband, Tom. They were camping in Island Park as well, only they really were ‘roughing it’ in a campsite 15 miles away off a dirt road. There was a ‘Bear Box’ pre-installed at their campsite along with an 18-foot-high horizontal pole from which to levitate their food stuffs so as to have no excuse if they ended up mauled by bears.

After a comfortable ‘green’ night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast at Pond’s Lodge Restaurant, all six of us embarked on a 2 1/2-mile hike up to Blair Lake:

Blair Lake

Blair Lake

The trail head was about a 20-mile drive from our campsite. We fished and picnicked by the lake and it didn’t matter at all about cell phone coverage, particularly since Megan’s cell phone was long since dead by now.

On the hike back from the lake I was remembering all the reasons why I want to go camping.

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How can you get any closer to nature than this? I know David and Megan (and our dog Rudy!) felt as I did. How lucky we were! – and blessed! – to be here, all of us together, hiking in the Idaho wild, living this unforgettable experience!

My sister, Lisa, told me later that a black bear had run across the road in front of them as they were driving away from their remote campsite 15 miles from where we camped. Hey, our campsite worked out just fine! Eric explained that the owner of Pond’s Lodge was trying to find the quickest way to demolish the old cabins to clear the lots behind his restaurant. He tried just lifting them up with heavy machinery and dropping them on their sides to see if they would collapse on themselves. Maybe he should set that cabin that was near our camper upright again and just use it – it’s so sturdy!

Lastly, here is a photo of our corner camper closet, you know, the one with the porta-potty…

"Keep the lid shut!"

… staring up at you with it’s two eyeballs as if to issue a warning:

Raise the lid at your own risk!

I don’t know why I took this photo. Nothing in it is even green.

Yes You Can! (hurt yourself doing leg lifts)

September 15, 2009

I’m starting up again where I left off, uh, five months ago, trying to do regular workouts to strengthen my body. Trying to, I say. Yeah, even the process of getting started can be pretty ‘trying’.

First you have to come up with an exercise plan. One obvious option is to join a gym. I joined our local Apple Club a couple of years ago – all gung-ho at first, but I tired of it really fast, and suddenly it was sheer drudgery. I had signed up for a year membership that I couldn’t get out of short of leaving the country or killing myself. They automatically withdrew the money from our checking account every month and I automatically chanted at the Apple Club building as I drove by, “NA-NA-NA-NA-BOO-BOO, I’M-NOT-GO-ING-IN-THERE-YOU-BUM-HOLES, EVEN-IF-I-DID-PAY!” and they totally didn’t care of course. They had my money and I had the satisfaction of totally blowing them off and doing something fun, like shopping.

Alas, so here I am again, facing my flabbier-than-ever, wrinkling, weakling, wussie body. I must DO something! Firm myself up! Maybe join a gym and this time hire a personal trainer. Because I pretty much wander in a fog in workout rooms (I found out) amidst a sea of exercise equipment and mangled weight lifting machines created to find, bend and stretch every obscure atrophied muscle in the human body. Hey! I could hurt myself here.

So last week I checked out the local ‘Y’. For 400 bucks I could purchase a six-month membership and 8 sessions with a personal trainer. Oh, and a fitness assessment for another 25 bucks, because how else could my trainer know that I can only lift 5-lb free weights?

Are you kidding? I am not going to be humiliated with a fitness assessment. Your fitness level should be your own private business, as should your sex life, closet habits, life-sucking compulsions, or in this case, the complete lack of compulsion thereof. It takes courage enough to face up to your abject wussiness without having to subject your girating flab to the scrutiny of a fit and muscled personal trainer likely 20-40 years your junior.

So the gym is out. Except maybe if you are single, or interested in being single, and social, and appear athletic and/or at least semi-kickass in your workout attire. Then the gym could be a ‘maybe’.

Plus, when you check the gym out and tally up the cost and get that figure in your head just to reject it, then you suddenly realize you just saved yourself over 400 dollars. Go shopping!

And move on to … Living room option. Ours is armed with reams of fitness articles I have collected and crammed into notebooks over the past five years, along with stretchy bands, an exercise ball, and a few hand weights. Hey, I would have jumped with gusto on the exercise bandwagon three years ago – had tummy tuck jeans with stretch lycra not been invented.

But, miracle of miracles … I got started! I pulled together my own individualized fitness plan. You know, first you warm up for ten minutes, maybe do a little bouncing or tilting on the ball, some body-bending and then you run around the house till your breath feels a tad puffy. Then you do the strength training – one day upper body, next day lower body, third day core, then back to upper body, etc … Then you cool down – doing lots of stretches and hugging yourself with positive – “I’m so wonderfully getting fit” – “Aren’t I a dynamo!” – affirmations.

I did do GREAT on the first day: Upper body. Lifting those 5-lb weights over my head (even though the directions suggested, uh, 8-12 lb. The 8-pound ones nearly collapsed in on my head on the third lift). I hugged myself profusely after my 45-minute workout, awash in dynamo positivity.

Second day: Fantastic! Lower body workout to the max! I plucked exercises off several different sheets from my notebook and performed them with super-human enthusiasm. But what the heck. They were just leg lifts. No weights even. You can lift your leg in about dozen different directions and I did them all – full count. I felt great! On a roll, man!

Third day: What the … getting out of bed my legs collapsed under me. My leg muscles were KILLING me. Geez! I have to descend 14 steps downstairs to the kitchen to get to my morning coffee? … Here I go … “Ouch!”, “OOO!”, “EEECH!”, “ARGH!”, “AAAG!”, “WHOOO!”, “YIPES!”, … “WHEY DOGGIE, CAN’T DO STAIRS!”

For the past three days my chant has been, “DON’T TOUCH THE LEGS!” to every living thing or shadow that moves in my vicinity. I can tell you, a ‘lap dog’ in this situation is a living nightmare.

Three days later: My legs are finally functional enough to enable me to get back on the exercise ball. Guess I’m starting over. SLOWLY.

Every exercise plan in my notebook starts out with, “Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.” In my case, with all my issues surrounding ‘exercise’ do you suppose they are suggesting a psychiatrist?

Get Your Gardening Tips Here!

September 4, 2009

It’s that time of year again. The flowers and vegetables are mature, tomatoes are ripening, Jack Frost is breathing over us from the horizon. Time to take a good look at your gardens, maybe do some fall planting or transplanting and reflect on what you’ve learned from this year’s gardening mistakes and triumphs. I’ve got a few tips that might prove helpful to you as you update your list of summer gardening do-s and don’t-s.

First of all, if you must grow hollyhocks, then plant them in a sunny spot, so they don’t have to lurch up to 8-9 feet tall, groping for the sun over a tall fence. Of course, they work well in corners framed by tall fences and so they grow and grow and grow and then bud and finally in early August they bloom (if they haven’t already been completely consumed by slugs and fungus).

our lone standing hollyhock

our lone standing hollyhock

Then they fall over, squashing the tall marigolds or whatever else you’ve planted for show under their canopy. So … Tip #1: Have a few bungee cords handy to tie up the hollyhocks when they fall over, because they surely will – like, for example, on August 10th if your mother in-law is arriving for a visit on Aug 11. I was shocked when I glanced at our back corner garden. “Hey, where did all those hollyhocks your mother planted disappear to?” – I queried my husband, David, who was relaxing in his chair on the deck. I went charging back there to find the hollyhocks lying complacently on the ground. “Geez! You’re freaking kidding!” David quickly arrived with several bungee cords and magically affixed them all vertical again.
Hubby saves the day

Hubby saves the day

They looked pretty good, 40 feet away, from our chairs on the deck, which is where we stealthily reposed with his mother while she was here.

I guess cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections would work too, there’s probably a name for these, but I didn’t feel up to going to a greenhouse in the middle of August asking the clerk for ‘cutesy, decorative, knee-high, wrought-iron, tomato-cage-like, fence sections’ to prop up our hollyhocks. So, Tip # 2: If you plan to grow hollyhocks and don’t want to spring for bungee cords (no pun intended) you might invest in the above props if you know what it is I am actually describing. If you already have them, and/or have had them for years, then, never mind.

Moving on to the next subject, I planted several rows of a lettuce mix in May and I have harvested it a couple of times. It was tasty! When the lettuce got to about 4-5 inches tall I simply clipped it back with a pair of scissors. Then I soaked the leaves in a large glass bowl in the kitchen sink, being careful to pick out every 2-inch piece of grass that had been blasted into the lettuce out the side of the lawn mower earlier that evening. That’s right. Dinner was delayed by yet an additional half hour as I picked the 100 or so pieces of grass out of the fifty or so leaves of lettuce I had harvested for our salad. Tip # 3: When you are mowing the lawn you might consider either attaching your grass catcher or positioning the mower along the garden so as to project the grass clippings in the opposite direction of the lettuce. This is a prudent pro-active step if you wish to keep the duty of salad preparation to manageable proportions and to keep from sending whoever is making the salad off the deep end.

I re-harvested the lettuce a couple of times until it got too bitter to eat – okay the lettuce was done now, and I could dig it up and plant seeds anew! This was the end of July and there was still time to grow another batch. But I didn’t. Instead our family went on that 4-day trip to Coeur D’Alene. Which brings me to Tip #4: Never leave your garden unattended for more than 24 hours. Because you can’t afford to lose precious time, energy and attention necessary to battle the weeds, fungus, insects, slugs, drought, pets, birds and squirrels. You play, you pay! Get your butt out there and work in your garden every day!

No, I didn’t plant more lettuce. I just left it there and it grew really big. And ugly.

Meet 'Jackomena'

Meet 'Jackomena'

I don’t want to hurt myself pulling it out. The lettuce has gotten so big and nasty that we are just going to leave it there and let it freeze to death. Which brings me to Tip # 5 : Leave it to ‘Jack Frost’ and ‘Old Man Winter’ (five-plus months worth here) to eliminate any mature obnoxious plants that you may or may not have planted.

Tip # 6: If you think you have a problem that may be due to soil conditions you might consider having your soil tested. If so, you should send the soil samples off now because it can take several weeks to get the results back. I remember this every spring when it’s too late to do it, maybe because I really don’t want to know what’s in our soil. We’ve had some pretty strange things crawling out of our soil and growing out of it. I know you can test for such things as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and iron but I’m starting to wonder if our vegetable garden soil might contain hormones. Like maybe I should have our soil tested to see if it contains unusual levels of … um … testosterone??

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Just a thought. I dug this, uh, ‘stud-man’ carrot dude up yesterday, trying to make more room for the baby carrots. Baby carrots? Maybe I should dig up a few more carrots to try and figure out what kind of wing-ding’s goin’ down underground in our carrot patch.

Tip # 7: One can always consider running in the opposite direction from anything remotely associated with ‘the garden.’ Focus your energies reading in your chair on the deck, doing crossword puzzles, spending time on your computer planning long, relaxing summer vacations and pleasure cruises. Long, relaxing vacations and pleasure cruises? Really? Yeah, but, wouldn’t I miss our hollyhocks?

Would you like to hear my tips on gardening attire?