Archive for April, 2008

Mingle With Pirates and Thieves in Port Washington Wisconsin

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Friday June 6, 2008 through Sunday June 8, 2008 is the Walk The Plank Festival in Port Washington, Wisconsin; located in the southestern part of Wisconsin on the western shore of Lake Michigan.

It includes an invasion, a Thieves Marketplace, a Gruel Galley (no gruel, just good food), a Buccaneer Bash, fireworks, activities for the kids, demonstrations, educational exhibits, musicians, comedians, parade, and a pirate ship.

The festival is a lot of fun for kids and adults plus there is camping nearby. And, as much as I like camping it’s also fun to take a day away sometimes and enjoy local events.

Entertainers already booked for the 2008 event include:
– The Midwest Knife and
Axe Throwing (yes they throw knives and axes – it’s pretty cool)
– The River Valley Colonial Fife and Drum Corps
– Bounding Main Shanty Singers and Balladeers
– The Jolly Rogers Pirate Music Singers (notice the theme?)
– Reilly Rocks (Irish Celtic Rock Music)

walk the plank banner

The best part is that admission to the festival is free (although some of the special events like the rum tasting cost extra, as do the ship cruises).

It’s a fun event that takes a step back in time to the “Pirate Days” but at the festival you don’t have to worry about being forced to “walk the plank” or “swab the deck” but you will probably hear pirate jargon like “ahoy,” “arr!” and “blimey” and you may be called “mate” more than once.

Campgrounds near the festival:

Lazy Days Campground in West Bend (17 miles from Port Washington)

Lake Lenwood Beach and Campground near West Bend (about 17 miles from Port Washington)

Kohler Andrae State Park near Sheboygan (24 miles from Port Washington)

As the official website for the event says, it is a weekend of fun and merriment.

For more information on the Port Washington area, click here to order a free visitors guide.

Camping and Spices

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

For some reason I used to forget to take spices with me when I went camping. I don’t know why I thought I wanted bland food just because I was camping.

A couple of times I even forgot salt and pepper even though I had it checked off my camping checklist but apparently I checked it off before I packed it and not after (it’s not the first time I’ve done that and it probably won’t be the last either).

Because I have a pop-up camper I don’t like to store any food items in it because, as other popup owners know, space is at a premium and I think it’s too easy to forgot how long a package or can of food has been in the camper.

When I go camping I don’t want to have to take my entire spice cupboard with me, yet I usually wish I had more than salt and pepper with me.

I now have a basic spice and seasoning selection that I take camping. It works pretty well. Everything fits into a 1 gallon plastic bag so it doesn’t take up tons of space and there’s enough variety so I have seasoning whether I’m grilling meat, cooking vegetables, or making something sweet in my dutch oven or pie iron.

Here’s my basic list:
salt
pepper
beef grilling seasoning blend
chicken grilling seasoning blend
barbecue seasoning or rub
onion salt
garlic salt
northwoods seasoning or northwoods fire seasoning (see note below)
sandwich sprinkle (see note below)
cinnamon
vanilla

In addition, I always take small containers of white sugar, brown sugar, and flour for sweetening and thickening fruit desserts, baked beans, and pan sauces or gravies.

I don’t have parsley, thyme or rosemary on this list because I grow herbs on my windowsill at home all year long. When I’m going camping, I cut some fresh sprigs, loosely wrap them in slightly dampened paper towels, put them in a plastic bag and store them in my camper fridge. If I’m tent camping and only have coolers to use, the spices have a tendency to freeze and get icky. Then I’ll take dried containers instead.

Note: Northwoods seasoning (the fire blend is, as you might expect, a hotter version) and sandwich sprinkle are spice blends from my favorite spice store: Penzey’s. If you are ever near one of their retail stores I highly encourage you to go in and smell the wonderful spices for yourself. They are so much fresher then supermarket spices plus most can be purchased in several sizes (I always buy the smallest size for camping) and the best part if that they are usually less expensive than their supermarket counterparts.

The Northwoods and Northwoods Fire seasonings are my favorite seasoning for freshly grilled fish and they’re good on chicken too. Sandwich sprinkle is great on sandwiches but I like it even better on freshly cooked vegetables, especially broccoli and cauliflower.

Penzey’s has some really great spice blends that I use at home and sometimes take camping even though they aren’t part of my basic list (and no, Penzey’s is not paying me to say this and the link to their website at the bottom of this post is not an affiliate link). My favorites are:
Buttermilk ranch dressing mix
Chicago Steak Seasoning
Creamy Peppercorn dressing mix
Fajita Seasoning
Jerk Chicken/Fish
Lemon Pepper
Taco seasoning
Plus their China Cassia Cinnamon and Korintje Cassia Cinnamon are the best I’ve ever had.

And (since I can’t seem to say enough good things about the company) their spice blends are just that, blends of spices. For example, their taco seasoning doesn’t have fillers or artificial colors or preservatives – unlike most supermarket taco seasoning mixes.

Click here to go to Penzeys.com (you can find retail store locations, the hours they are open, order spices (or just browse) and even find some recipes)

Camping and Relaxation

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I read an article yesterday that talked about how many of us (especially women) tend to rush around every day trying to get as much done as possible and never taking a minute to relax because we are always trying to cram in “just one more task.”

I’m one of those people. I always seem to have a daily “to do” list with 25 items on it that only Superman would have a hope of completing in one day. When my husband convinces me to “sit down and relax” that’s when I see a cobweb that needs to be taken care right that minute (even though it’s probably been there for weeks) or I decide I have to go through that pile of magazines and clip out what I want – the type of things that could wait but that I won’t let wait because my mind keeps a running list of the 1,000 other things I should be doing instead of relaxing). I keep trying to “catch up” with my huge list of things to do but it never happens because every time I cross one thing off I think of three more to take its place. (Yes, I have a huge problem with letting stuff go and having “good enough be good enough.”)

That’s why I love camping so much. When my husband and I pull into a campground it’s like someone pokes me with a pin and lets all the tension drain out of my body and all the things I need to do at home drain out of my mind. I instantly relax and start living in the moment.

The only time I look at a clock when I’m camping is if I want to see a show at the outdoor theater at the campground (or some other event) and on the last day when we need to be sure we are checking out by the deadline. Otherwise I can’t be bothered to care about the time because camping is the only time I don’t feel like I’m on a schedule and the only time where I feel like my time is my own to do with what I want.

Camping is so relaxing because there are few decisions to make:
– what to wear today
– what to eat today
– when to shower (and when I’m really lazy it’s “if I’m going to shower”)
– whether to plop my butt in a chair or take a walk, hike, bike ride, etc.

And none of the decisions are hard:
– what to wear (shorts and a tank or t-shirt if it’s warm and pants and sweatshirt if it’s cold)
– what to eat (whatever is in the cooler and food bins I brought with me)
– when to shower (when I wake up, in the afternoon, in the evening, or not at all)
– whether to plop my butt in a chair or take a walk, etc. (depends how lazy I’m feeling)

When camping I don’t have to make sure to get to the breakfast room at a hotel by 10 am so I don’t miss breakfast or worry about getting out of the hotel room in the morning early enough for housekeeping to come in and tidy up after me. I don’t have a flight to catch or a tour bus to be on or an itinerary to stick to that someone else decided on for me.

Instead I do what I want when I want.

I think camping is truly relaxing and that people who don’t find it relaxing are either: unprepared and didn’t bring enough supplies or the right supplies (like insect spray); bring so much stuff that they spend the whole trip taking care of it (the people that need an entire day to set up their campsite and another entire day to dismantle it); plan meals that are too complicated and too time-consuming; bring work with them; plan too many activities; or just hate nature (I don’t understand this one but I know a few people who think being out in nature is the worst punishment possible – they love the city and can’t stand being away from it).