Green eggs and kosher hot dogs!
There are recipes created on camp stoves that would never taste the same if replicated in a kitchen. You won’t find Ramen noodles and hard boiled eggs on a typical breakfast menu, but as fortification for a day in the kayak, nothing beats this salty concoction.
Camp meals can be very well-planned out, or they come together spontaneously out of hunger or just some outdoorsy inspiration. I’ve crafted some pretty high-brow fare in Bishop the Westfalia, and this recipe is arguably not for the gourmand: green eggs and hot dogs. Take one bell pepper (the green), saute with garlic and dried spices (oregano, parsley, paprika), slice up some hot dogs, scramble in some eggs and top with cheddar and salsa. Mmmm, this is one tasty camp breakfast!
Every meal I eat while camping somehow just tastes better, even the most simple things, not to mention my morning coffee. My senses must be heightened away from my normal environment for every morsel is somehow more delectable. I’m sure that a lot of what I perceive as tasty is simply just an appreciation for food eaten out of the ordinary. Perhaps this exaggerated taste is driven by a smidge of an instinct here: food is hard to come by in the wild. I know that for myself, I’ll take a haphazardly planned meal made on a camp stove, enjoyed in a beautiful setting over table service, china and white tablecloths any day. My concept of fine dining is all about eating in an amazing location and nothing more.
Bishop among the canyons of the Owyhee River.
My crafting companion
When I first moved, my goal was to spend my newfound time learning how to sew. I used money that I’d saved from selling off possessions on Craigslist to purchase myself a new machine. Now, I rarely buy brand new things preferring instead to purchase things that have already had a life, i.e. previously owned. But I decided to get a new machine as an investment in my new creations. This machine was to become my companion in craft, but our relationship soon soured with each and every mechanical breakdown. My quilting group took to calling my machine names on my behalf. It was not a good thing to have a new machine with a new, addictive hobby and not be able to complete my projects.
Then I found out about my grandmother’s Bernina sewing machine languishing unused in storage. I asked for it, and my mom had it serviced for me to bring home from Colorado. This machine is everything I hoped for, and more, in a crafting companion. It is solid and strong, made of metal and not cheap plastic. And just like the intangible benefits of my heirloom cast iron pots, sewing on this machine makes me incredibly happy. I’m connected to my grandma as she too used this machine to make things for loved ones. There is something very special about creating on the same equipment as your family.
Today, I took a quilting class and set up right across from me was another Bernina Record, made even more interesting as it was a grandmother/granddaughter duo taking the class together. My classmate had purchased her machine online for her granddaughter, a very enthusiastic and grateful eleven year-old excited about her “vintage” machine. Several other people chimed in about the quality of our machines, sharing memories of their own and finally I was proud of my machine, forgetting all of the old negative feelings of my previous one. But for me it isn’t just a high quality machine, it is an heirloom that I will have forever. I am connected to this sewing machine because it had a life before me, a life with my grandmother.
I’ve long known that crafting has beneficial properties, but now even that giant of breaking news (CNN) has substantiated this belief. Quoting a study looking at the benefits of knitting on your brain, specifically in PTSD patients, CNN reports that the results are almost identical to those of meditation. The activity of knitting creates a quieting response to the parasympathetic nervous system (fight or flight). In an additional British study, knitting acts as a natural anti-depressant by releasing dopamine both during the creation of the project and at the culmination of the project, either during the admiration of the completed work or when given to a loved one. There is additional work being done to learn if crafting keeps the brain younger by activating memory, problem solving, etc. and thereby preventing atrophy.
Anyone who creates, whether it is music, pottery, gardens or food knows that there are inherent, intangible benefits that come from the process. I have always called my creations therapeutic, and one can see that during times of trial, my output of handmade stuff increases. On a bad day, I’ve learned that curling up in bed doesn’t make me feel any better, but chopping up vegetables or sewing 1/4″ inch seams sure can boost my mood. Science is just substantiating what many of us already know. Crafty diem!
Embroidery dresses up the mundane
Even the smallest, most useful things in our lives can be beautiful. Take the humble towel, existing solely to mop up our messes and dry off our bodies. Thankless towels spend the majority of their existence damp and in service. So, let’s do something to make these utilitarian instruments more aesthetically pleasing.
Let me state that I love embroidery! It is a mixture of sewing and painting and, as evidenced above, can liven up the standard. I am a fan of the old iron-on transfer patterns that you find in any general craft store. There are myriad themes from the super kitschy to the sweet. Embroidered tea towels make perfect housewarming gifts that can be personalized to your recipients tastes, from steelhead to martinis to pastoral scenes. These towels are both useful and charming.
Ready for service
Complimenting the embroidered towel is the knit towel. Made with 100% cotton, these towels are very absorbent and quick drying. There are many patterns online, or you can create your own very easily. If you love flat two-dimensional knitting projects like I do, then you’ll love making towels. And, washcloths. Knit washcloths are awesome for dishes: soft, reusable, non-smelly (like sponges), and scrubby. Washcloths are another super easy, meditative knitting project that elevate a utilitarian tool to something more.
Taking a few moments to celebrate another month.
This is something I began doing in earnest this year, although I contemplated it for several: celebrating my birthday every month. I’m not talking about anything extravagant and I do not make a big fuss about it. What I do is take an hour or so to enjoy and celebrate another month gone by. Last night was my date, so after chores and other cumbersome tasks, I poured myself a little drink, lit a candle, grabbed a book, a knitting project and a quilt, then parked myself on the couch for an hour. It was a relaxing way to unwind, and it reminds me to take care of myself, to be grateful for another month, to look forward to what lies ahead.
Sure, you don’t need a special date on a calendar to do something good for yourself. And, as I can demonstrate, it really does not cost money to be good to yourself. Taking care of yourself includes taking moments to just be and those can happen every day, too. Life is all about enjoying what you’ve got, when you’ve got it. Cheers to the little moments in life that we can celebrate!
I can find a secondary use for almost anything: an empty vodka bottle becomes an olive oil dispenser, single socks become dust rags and plastic bags have a long, useful life in my home. I had my first set of Oregon license plates just laying around and I knew I could create something cool with them. It dawned on me that the size of the license plates was perfect for a birdhouse, and if I angled them just right, I could create an A-frame style house. (I’ve always been partial to A-frames — it must be because I was born in the 70s.) Thanks to some assistance from my resident master woodworker, and voila, an A-frame bird house made out of my old license plates! Now, I haven’t seen many birds milling around it, but I also haven’t seen any bees either, so perhaps in a different climate this will actually serve a purpose other than purely an aesthetic one.
My new favorite thing! Pass me the pita bread.
Two of my favorite things to always have in the kitchen are avocados and tahini, but honestly, the thought never occurred to me to combine them. Lo and behold, an authentic Lebanese recipe to use both as a condiment. According to the cookbook Lebanese Cooking, the recipe is called Avocado Bi Tahini, but has variations and names around the Middle East. I frequent Middle Eastern restaurants of all varieties and have never seen an avocado based recipe on the menu, but according to the cookbook author, this is a standard sauce regionally. Here’s to hoping that this combination gains traction stateside!
The recipe is so basic and simple, yet so rich with flavor. In a bowl, mash 2 garlic cloves with salt to taste. Then mash in two ripe avocados with a little lemon juice until all lumps are gone. Add in more lemon juice, 5 Tbsp of tahini and 1 tsp. of ground cumin. Add crushed peppers on top if preferred. Serve!
I made this as an alternative sauce for falafel and tabouli (from pre-mixed boxes — sometimes you have to skimp on making everything from scratch). I think this would be great as a spread for a wrap sandwich with veggies and feta. Or, this would make a great veggie dip. The possibilities are endless!