Monday, October 19, 2015

Camp Eats

As one adult Scout leader said to me: You're cut from a different piece of fabric when dealing with meals while camping.

That may be true. I am not your typical hot dogs, hamburgers, and PBJ sandwiches dude when fixing a meal while out camping.  Sure, for a day hike, make it simple: PBJ sandwich with potato chips. It's a light load on the back and the peanut butter is a great protein pick-me-up.


When at the camp, make a meal.  In the past, I've taught several Boys Scouts how to cook some tasty meals like Faux Red Wine Roast, twice-baked potatoes, spiced carrots and for dessert, Hawaiian baked apples. And, yes, it was done out in the open, over open fires and/or coals.

Just because you're camping, doesn't mean you have to give up healthy and/or tasty meals. There is absolutely no reason to resort to hot dogs or luncheon meat sandwiches as the fare of the day.  Don't think I'm a snob, either.  Of course, I know boys, and they enjoy hot dogs - I just don't plan on those being the meal each time we go camping. They learned how to bake a pizza in a cardboard box, do up stir fry and sometimes, create their own meals with just some given raw ingredients.

Let me move on.  That was a few years back (almost 2 decades!) when I was involved heavily into Boy Scouts.  Today, I am an avid RV motorhome camper.  That's right.  After several years - nay, decades, of sleeping in a tent, on the ground, I advanced to a popup camper for a short length of time for a few summers and then I retired.

My first purchase was a 28 foot Allegro motorhome.  It was a used beauty with 19K miles and 8 yrs old.  Now, nine years later, it has over 80K.  Some may not think that to be all that much, but one must realize, it is a "shared" amount of travel.  My brother-in-law bought a small motorhome the year before I bought mine. We often double up.  In other words, one time we will take his, the next time, mine. The four of us enjoying a trip together of 1, 2 or even 3 weeks while traveling this fantastic and beautiful US of A. We've been to almost all the states in the last 9 years except the New England states above NY and the 3 extreme NW states - Oregon, Washington and Alaska.  Oh, and Hawaii. By the way, he has almost 80K miles on his camper, too.

Last week my wife and I went to a local state park and just enjoyed the cool autumn weather, changing colors and the less hectic campground of summer's youth.  Of course, we still have our certain lifestyle commitments.  My wife had her church ladies' Wednesday afternoon card session. Since we were only 11 miles from home - but it seemed much further - she headed back into town for the social event.

I took that day to be my own special time and did some editing and writing.

My mind wandered. It was 1pm. I pulled out a bag of shrimp and a package of bacon from the freezer to start thawing. Supper was brewing in my mind.  I grabbed a couple of spuds and peeled them. A quick dice into cottage fries and they were ready to go into oil for the first crisping.  I decided to try a new technique I'd read about - pre-frying, allow to cool, then re-fry them for a crispy outside.  Here's what they looked like after the first oil dip.

It is now 4pm. The potatoes are cooling. The shrimp and bacon have defrosted.  I cut the bacon in half and wrapped up some shrimp.  I was a little ticked since I didn't have any ranch dressing to coat the shrimp or even some bleu cheese to stuff them before wrapping them up.  They were generic shrimp with bacon.  Oh well, here's what they looked like.  Remember, it is a small oven so I couldn't do all the shrimp.  It was a 1 pound package of about 30 shrimp - 16 got wrapped.

That meant, I had some shrimp left over. I knew my wife enjoyed when I'd do up my Easy Lemon Shrimp - so, I decided to make some of it. I thought my wife had a lot more pots and pans in the RV than I was finding.  I assumed she had taken them in to clean and just forgot to bring them back out. So I had to improvise. Normally this is done in a skillet, I had to microwave them. I should have put the butter on the top to allow it to melt down over the shrimp, but, well, we learn as we go when one decides to cook by the seat-of-his-pants.

Did I mention I discovered some sweet corn?  Yup!  We'd found a little roadside stand and bought a half dozen.  We had company coming to visit for supper the next night, so I knew I could sneak 2 ears away for this meal.

We had estimated my wife's return to be around 6-6:15pm.  I had everything on the stove or in the oven with a finish time of 6:15.  My wife pulled into the parking spot at 5:40pm.  Definitely ahead of schedule but I didn't get flustered.  I had cleaned the RV, taken out the trash, lighted a couple of candles and had a meal cooking that wafted on the air to tease and torment nearby campers.  At 6:15pm, we sat at the table and enjoyed the meal with a couple of slices of buttered "everything" Italian bread. For those who don't know what "everything" bread is: think everything bagel topping but on bread. That's right: garlic, onion, poppy seed, sesame seed, cracked pepper, coarse salt.  Mmm.

Cottage fries to left, bacon wrapped shrimp at top, lemon shrimp bottom right.

Need I say this meal was...   YUM!!

Of course, my wife loves me and she would have been thrilled with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Why?  Because she didn't have to make the meal.  Still, she loves her seafood and thoroughly enjoyed this meal.

By the way - clean up was very simple. The oven pan was covered with aluminum - trashed the aluminum foil. The lemon shrimp was done in one dish in the microwave. The corn was boiled in a pan. The fries were done in a small skillet with ONE cup of oil.  The dishes were paper plates.  So I had a few utensils and a couple of pans.  10 minutes, the kitchen was clean.

Oh, and the following night we made an old Boy Scout favorite - foil packs.  Yup!  That's a hamburger smothered with sliced potatoes and your choice of vegetables and condiments.  Me?  I had sliced carrots, celery, onion, soy sauce, mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, green peppers, salt and pepper with some pats of butter.  It is all wrapped up in aluminum foil and baked on coals in the fire.  We started in the fire since I'd spent most of the day creating a great bed of coals but the rain forced us to finish in the oven.  Oh, I forgot to mention, I'd saved some grease from the bacon I'd had for breakfast and put some of it on my raw hamburger to "flavor" it.  My foil pack was absolute heaven.

Our company had never had foil packs and enjoyed the fun of creating them and even more fun opening and eating them.

Camping can be about hot dogs but with a little flair, it can be a lot more fun.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 12, 2015

School Fund Raising

It is every grandparent's nightmare.  The start of school and the few months before Christmas when every school in the nation seems to take on a plethora of fund-raisers.

If your grandchild is active in school, the typical grandparents will dole out the dollars to make little Billy or Beth Ann a proud child.

How?  You dare to ask?

Simple.  I currently have only 2 granddaughters in middle school. The older four have graduated and the younger four haven't started... yet.  That's right, another four coming through the ranks and it isn't getting any cheaper.

My granddaughters are active.  They play sports.  They play band.  They belong to chorus.  Oh, and the older of the two just started high school and now is thinking of joining some clubs.

The band is selling stuff to raise money for something - aren't they always? The one sport's group is also actively hustling something to buy.  And I believe the chorus/music department is pushing something, too.

I'm diabetic.  There is only so much candy one can buy and the diabetic candy is even more expensive!  Oh, wait, they have non-sweet, not candy stuff to sell. So the diabetic can't get away.

Just what I need. Wrapping paper that costs more than the present itself.  Really?  I want to purchase three sheets of colorful "holiday" wrap that will bring joy to any child opening the present?  What?!! I spent $12 on those 3 sheets and they will "nicely" wrap 3 boxes, 15 X 3 X 10.  Huh?  So basically it will cover a standard shirt/blouse box.  I buy a nice t-shirt (on sale) for $2 and buy a box, another $.75 and then wrap it in a sheet of $4 "colorful holiday" wrap.

We live about 2 hours away from these grandchildren, so it isn't like they can "pop-over" to let grandma and grandpa check out the list.

No worries!!  You can now do it ONLINE!!

That's right.  Grandma went online and she found grandpa's favorite candy - candy corn.  She was able to get a whole pound for only - do you want to guess?  Only $12.  But wait!  There's shipping charges.  Of course, if you spend $50, shipping is free.  Uh, another word synonymous with grandparent is retired and with retired is the ever-popular limited income.

Simple enough.  Just buy $25 from each girl and get the free shipping.  No!!  Each order is individual and the $50 is per child.  So grandma paid the shipping - another $8.75.

WHAT?!!!  Almost $21.  And I am now the proud owner of a cheap, clear glass container of one whole pound of candy corn - some have been dipped in chocolate.

Be still my heart.

It was delivered today.  I'm expecting the other box to come tomorrow.

Now for the truly sad part about this whole fiasco.

We ordered and the school will get its token amount - and it better be a goodly amount - but our granddaughters will get credit for the sales but it won't reflect on the scoreboard since only after the event is over and the sales have been finalized, will the final figures be revealed.  On the day the orders need to be turned in, some secretary is going to tally up each child's order form (key word here) and the one who sold the most will get the big prize at General Assembly the next day.  So much for Internet sales. Plus, the winner is always the person with the most relatives in the area.  My granddaughters have an uncle near them.  The rest of the family live 2+ hours away.

Personally, I would rather have just taken a ten (or a twenty since that is what it all added up to) out of my pocket for each girl and given it to the school directly.  Everyone would have been ahead.  I truly don't believe the school made $10 on my $12 order.  I certainly didn't need a pound of candy and it would have eliminated a lot of stress on my wife who spent too much time agonizing over all the possible items to select just the right one - in other words, the most for the cheapest price.

Be honest now.  When presented with the order form, it is Nature's mechanism kicking in to look at the full selection and then decide which item gives you the best bang for the buck.  It's only natural. We do it with any catalog.  We will select an item on desire THEN look at the price and decide to find another that is "less expensive" and close to what we want.

Before I forget - I commend those brave parents who take these order forms into work and covertly badger co-workers to buy.  When I worked in a factory, it was quite common to see several of these order forms either thumb-tacked to the bulletin board or discreetly sprawled across a lunch table.  Don't get me started on Girl Scout cookies since that seems to be the "get in your face" marketing ploy for sales.  Who can say no to Girl Scout mint cookies.  At pushing $4 a box, I'm learning how.

But, if you look at an order form, 90% of the time, at the top you'll find grandma and grandpa.  Mom and dad aren't at the top, they are at the very end of the list to make up the difference in the pseudo competition created to reach a certain level.

From mid-September until mid/late November, let the crazy fund-raising begin.

I wonder - will a school just accept a cash donation and get rid of this ridiculous thievery? The only ones who I feel are making out like bandits are the fund raising companies.  How much of that $12 I spent will the school receive?  Think about it.  IF I were to give $10 out of my wallet, I am going to bet I am giving them more than they get with all this fund raising.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Small Town Movie Theater

Last week I noticed our local theater was showing a couple of movies I really, REALLY wanted to see and well, they're not the type my wife enjoys, so it would be a bachelor night out.

I was primed and excited.  A Thursday night.  I was going to go on Tuesday night but decided there really wasn't any reason since the Tuesday 2-for-1 price really wouldn't have any bearing on the matter. Plus, on Thursday night, it is BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag and let them fill it for free with popcorn.  All you pay for is the butter and extra butter, if you want it.  I've seen a group of 4 girls come in with a black trash bag and get it filled at least 1/3, if not 1/2 full.  Side note: They threw the EMPTY bag in the trash at the end of the movie!!

Anyway, Thursday night it was - a cheap night for me.  Showing was "The Martian" at cinema 1 and at cinema 3 was "The Intern."  With judicial timing, I could see "The Martian" at 5pm and step over to cinema 3 at 7:30pm to watch "The Intern."  It was going to be a perfect night.

Two movies, free popcorn.  Perfect, just perfect.

Did you note the earlier sentence... going to be?  Drove into town, found a parking spot which was easy since the whole town square seemed dead.  Walked to the movie theater, a little confused since the lights weren't on.  And for a very good reason.

They were closed.  HUH??

Seems that week they started the new policy.  Only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

So much for my double feature.  So much for the free popcorn.  As my one daughter-in-law constantly tells me: Sucks to be you.

I went home.  I was really down in the slumps.  I enjoyed going to the show during the week since it wasn't packed full of young kids, crying babies and others who really didn't want to see the movie so they decide to ruin for everyone else.

There was no way in Hell I would be going to the matinee at 5pm on a Friday or Saturday.  Every 15 year old in town would be filling the cheap seats.  And waiting for the 2nd showing after 7pm was just as bad with all the families and/or daters.

So, Sunday night, I figure it might be a safe play.  Everyone is getting ready to go back to work or school.  The 5pm showing could be gamey but not too bad.  The 2nd show should be okay.

Of course, the free popcorn won't happen.  No, I'll pay the senior price for a ticket, $5 for each show.  That will be a major investment of $10.  Then I'll need a big tub of butter popcorn - that should be about $4.50 plus a large diet pop, another $3.50.  I might be able to stretch the popcorn for the 2nd showing, but I'll definitely need another bladder-buster pop. Okay, let's be honest, I love popcorn. I'll have to buy more for the 2nd show.  Hm?  $16 in treats - if I don't buy any candy and only $10 to get in.

What's wrong with this picture?

Usually when I and my wife go out to the show, we call it date night.  And I'm cheap.

Some fast-food chain $1 menu - 2 burgers, 2 fries, 1 large drink = $5.00
Tuesday night 2-for-1 tickets = $5.00
Theater refreshments - 1 large tub of popcorn with extra butter and 2 large drinks = $11.50
Oh, I forgot, she has to have her Snowcaps = $3.00 (the same one you can buy for $.99 elsewhere.).

Well, it "was" a cheap night out until we hit the concession stand. LOL.

What really upsets me though is the fact that the movie theater is closed during the week.  How many remember the drive-in movies?  They were open every night, then only on weekends, and then...

I'm worried that our local theater will be closing.  It was a nice theater when I was kid - it was big with a stage that had magic shows and all sorts of wonderful entertainment, not to mention the Saturday matinees.  I joined the service, moved away and now I'm back, it has been upgraded and downsized into 3 cinemas enabling it to show all the new movies for a week before the next big flick hits the screen.

I think whoever is watching sales and marketing has lost it.  During the summer, it was open and had poor attendance.  Let's review:  It is summer.  I want to go on vacation.  I want to picnic.  I want to play baseball, tennis, go swimming or just enjoy the summer evening.  Now it is Fall.  Kids are back in school. Everyone is home.  Let's close the theater since nobody came during the summer.

Hellllooo???  Nobody was home during the summer!!  Marketing 101.  I'm not traveling as much. I'm not attending baseball games or swim meets.  I'm not picnicking.  I'm home.  In the evening, after the meal, I'd love to attend a movie for some entertainment.

Nope!!  Can't do that.  They closed.

And the scary part?  They may close forever.  Movies are going to DVD faster than ever.  Why go to the theater when it will be available in about 7 months to watch on our own Smart LED 60+ inch televisions?

So, order from Chan Ling's carryout menu, curl up on the couch and download a new movie to watch on your smart television, It's coming!!

Drive ins are dead.  Movie theaters just haven't been notified as yet, but it is coming.

Don't let it happen!!! Go to a movie.  Enjoy an evening out.  Keep your local theater open.

Until next I ramble on...

UPDATE: "The Intern" - an excellent movie which I highly recommend.  "The Martian" was a good movie with a lot of twists and turns, told in an almost diary format. Something tells me the book was lot, LOT better!!!  Oh, and they changed the schedule at the theater for Sunday's viewing. I had to wait almost an hour and a half between movies or miss about 30-40 minutes of "The Intern" beginning.  I figure I can skip up to maybe 15 minutes of the start of a movie that's at/over 2 hours long... but half an hour? Back to "The Intern." Linda Lavin (aka Alice in the TV series Alice or as most people remember, Mel's Diner) has a small but very special part. She was priceless. Anne Hathaway, Robert DeNiro and Rene Russo were great. Even Adam DeVine (famous for Bumper in the Pitch Perfect franchises) did a bang-up job. Will definitely get "The Intern" when the DVD comes out.