Friday, July 21, 2017

California State Park Camping Reservations-Big Changes Coming Soon!

Big news from the California State Park System. They are changing the reservation system to make the parks more accessible for visitors. Hopefully this will make it easier for all of us to finally get some camping reservations this year!

Main changes (beginning August 1st) include:
  • Rolling reservation window allows for reserving sites 6 months from present date. No more waiting for the first of each month. And if your trip extends past the 6 month window, they will allow you to reserve the whole time as long as there is availability!
  • More campsites available.
  • Better photos and views of each campsite.
  • More self-service options.
  • Make reservations on or call 800-444-PARK (7275).
Changes beginning March 2018 include:
  • View your reservations online in real-time.
  • More payment options and trip-planning information online.
Here's hoping that the changes will allow us all to find that perfect camping spot this year...and actually get to reserve it! Good luck everyone. May the fastest fingers (or internet service) win you a spectacular site!

Read the full press release here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Laguna Creek Trail: Elk Grove, California

One of our favorite local trails meanders through the city, tucked in between neighborhoods and underneath railroad tracks, behind city streets. You can see the homes behind this pond, but aside from that, you forget you're in the city while walking this peaceful trail.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Parental Survival Tips for RV'ing with Kids

1. Keep it Simple- The less non-essential stuff you have, the easier your life will be. Less to pack (and un-pack). And let's face it, the kids want to see the great outdoors. They don't really need you to lug toys from home which will likely be ignored once they see that beach, or river, or amazing campground you arrive at. They will play with sticks, and rocks, and bugs. And isn't that the point?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Winter in Yosemite

We've been to Yosemite now so many times, it really feels like home. We've been in spring, fall, summer, and now....we can add winter to that list!
I kept hearing how beautiful the park was in the winter, but honestly, I couldn't imagine it being any more amazing than it already was. I was wrong!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

After tasting how delicious homemade marshmallows really were, I went a bit crazy, trying all different sorts of flavors. Chocolate, vanilla, and peppermint marshmallows. They were all a big hit, but our favorite, by far, was the peppermint. 

Homemade Graham Crackers

Well, once I found a delicious marshmallow recipe, I had to find one for graham crackers of course. How else to make those perfect s'mores?!

Homemade "Clean" Marshmallows

When I first found out about my daughter's food sensitivity, I scrambled to try to make all the foods and snacks she loved in a homemade version. Through trial and error (lots and lots of error) I was able to make almost everything. But marshmallows, marshmallows were the bane of my existence. I just could not get them right. I couldn't find any organic versions without natural flavors or corn syrup in them. I made homemade versions using agar-agar and almost gagged at the grainy, sea watery flavor. I got marshmallow string in my hair, on my kitchen floor and everywhere. I had flat marshmallows and gray marshmallows. I gave up. I admitted defeat.

And for most people, what's the big deal about marshmallows anyway? They taste kinda' gross, they're sticky and gelatinous and they were definitely not one of my favorite foods. Now caramel, that's another issue altogether, but I digress. For a camping family, marshmallows and s'mores are such a huge part of the campfire traditions. I tried to compensate. I made other desserts to have around the campfire. We loved our mini apple and cherry pies. We loved our Dutch Oven brownies. But we did miss roasting our marshmallows. And we missed s'mores. So I kept at it.

I tweaked a few homemade recipes and finally, FINALLY...sweet success. Marshmallows are (relatively) easy! And delicious. I even love these marshmallows! Victory is SWEET!!!

Homemade Marshmallows
2 tablespoons Gelatin (we use Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin)
8 tablespoons cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cold water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
At least one bag of powdered sugar to dust pan and help dry the marshmallows out.

1. With Marshmallows, preparation is KEY!! Get all of your things ready ahead of time, before you have a sticky mess ready ahead of time. 
2. Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Then sprinkle lots and lots of powdered sugar in bottom of pan. Try to dust sides with powdered sugar, but it will fall down, don't stress about it, just do your best. 
3. Put gelatin in a small bowl, add 8 tbs of water to bowl. Mix, and set aside so gelatin can firm up. 
4. In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups granulated sugar and 1/2 cup cold water. Stir.
5. Heat and stir mixture over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. 
6. Add the gelatin mixture to the saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil. 
7. When mixture boils, remove it from the heat. 
8. Pour into the bowl of your Kitchenaid mixer (or another large bowl) and allow to cool off a bit.
9. Add salt and vanilla.
10. Cooling will take quite a while, but when the liquid is just slightly warm (you will be able to touch the sides of the bowl without burning yourself), it's ready to mix.
11. Beat with your mixer until the clear-ish mixture becomes light and fluffy peaks (like marshmallow creme). It will double in size in your bowl. 
12. Pour and use a spatula to spread the marshmallow mixture into the parchment, powdered sugar covered pan, and smooth out as much as possible. You can bang the pan on the counter a few times until it's mostly even in the pan. Sprinkle powdered sugar on the top of the marshmallows. 
13. Now you wait. You can put the pan of marshmallow somewhere where it won't be touched until they can dry. Leave the top uncovered. You want it to dry out. 
14. After several hours, you can remove the parchment paper and marshmallows from the pan and lay it on the counter. Try to peel the sides of paper down and sprinkle more powdered sugar on the sides of the marshmallow. The sugar helps the marshmallow dry out more, and also keeps it from sticking. 
15. After a few more hours (or the next day) you can use a sharp knife to cut the marshmallows into squares. You can make large squares for roasting, or smaller ones, for mini marshmallows. You may need to dust the marshmallows with more powdered sugar so you can cut them more easily. 
16. Sprinkle marshmallows liberally with powdered sugar. Place them in bag or glass jar for storage. I store ours in the freezer and just pull them out as needed. 

Batch on the left shows the marshmallows after they've been partially whipped. Batch on the right shows the cooling marshmallow liquid prior to whipping.
My critics love it!

This shows the marshmallows just poured into the parchment covered pans. I've powder-sugared the pans and am allowing the marshmallows to dry out. The marshmallows with sprinkles are a peppermint batch I made over Christmas break. 
 Our family is back in business. We are a marshmallow-toasting-s'more-making family once again!




Real Food on the Road--RV CRAZY?'s tips for fitting it all

When we eat mostly fresh or homemade foods we feel healthier and happier. Bonus Points: no one in our family gets hives. Yay for no allergic reactions! However, these foods don't have the additives that prolong their shelf lives. Most of our food needs to be frozen, or made within a day or two of eating in order to remain fresh. So how do we fit it all?

Okay, lets get serious here. We have five people traveling in a tiny RV. Five people who love to eat. Five people who I am constantly prepping, cooking or shoveling food into when we're AT HOME with all of our modern conveniences. At home, I have a large refrigerator and freezer in the house, and a huge freezer outside in our garage. On RV trips, I have this:

Monday, January 9, 2017

RIP Big Tree

I was so sad to read about the loss of the big Pioneer Cabin Tree over this past weekend. The tree, which we had visited on our trip to Calaveras Big Tree State Park was blown over in the recent rain and windstorms near us. Rest in peace, big tree, in the forest with your friends. Thanks for the memories.

Jeep-ing around Big Bear

Since Big Bear was only a few hours away, we decided to bring the Jeep along with our  RV. This way we'd be able to try out some of the ...