Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Camping: the easy way or the hard way?

Camping isn't fun for everyone, but I love it.

The smell of fresh, clean air. The smoky taste on all the food from the fire. Critters attempting to rummage through your goodies, and doing your best to prevent it from happening again. Sleeping under the millions of stars I can't see from my backyard. Nature. Peace.

Jason and I decided to camp the night before we were actually going to go. In Florida, procrastination is going to run you into trouble in several ways. Packing in a hurry, Traveling, and accomodations all fell prey to our cést la vie attitude. After the night was spent, I vowed never to be so unprepared.

I've put together a sort of check-list, and a ready backpack for my personal wants/needs while camping.

Camp with a backpack!

Fit all of these items in one standard backpack:

- Flashlights - Take at least one for every person in your group. This will greatly increase your odds at getting firewood after dark, and not losing your way to the loo. I packed 4.

- Metal Utensils - You may be tempted to only take some plastic forks, or nothing at all. Having these 3 simple but versatile metal utensils will allow you to cook anything over an open flame. The spoon is pretty self-explanatory, stirring and serving. The fork allows you to flip any sort of meat, and doubles as a marshmallow stick and fire poker. The Spatula has a serrated edge that allows you to not only flip burgers, but cut meat, string, plastic... whatever you need!

- Matches and Waterproof Match Box - Some might say, "I'll just bring a lighter." That's fine if you can guarantee that it won't jam or run out of fuel. The matches are simple and lightweight, and investing in a waterproof match box will ensure your matches stay dry even if you drop your pack in a river, or even in a puddle.

- Water Container - This re-useable water container can be filled, used, drained and collapsed to fit in your pack. This versatile bladder holds 2 gallons, and even can be hung to use as a shower. (Let it sit in the sun all day to avoid a bitter cold shower)

- Firetop Coffee Pot - My name is Kerri, and I'm a coffee-a-holic. I have coffee all day. A coffee pot may not be a necessity for some, but it is quite versatile. (Do you see a trend of versatility?) You obviously can't boil the water while still in the plastic bladder, but having a metal pot for boiling can save you a lot of heartache (and bellyache), especially when there's no clean running water for miles.

Of course, found inside the coffee pot are plastic zipper bags with instant coffee, sugar and powdered creamer. ;) This particular pot is a percolator, but I've taken it out to hold more stuff inside. Also note the handle that allows you to hang it on a hook or a spit over the fire.

- Interlocking Silverware - You may not have these lying around the house, but any store that carries camping supplies will have these, and they're truly worth the few dollars in the long run, mine have lasted 6 years and counting. They are a very simple, knife, fork, spoon set in stainless (so they don't rust) and simple interlocking allows you to pack a little tighter. I have 4 sets.

- Metal Plates - Don't be tempted to pack paper plates! These may weigh a few ounces more, but we're talking about landfills here! These metal plates are coated in ceramic, like the coffee pot, and can nearly double as a soup bowl, the ridge is that deep. And heavy enough to cook with right over the fire. I packed 4.

- Cheap Tablecloth - What? Wait, with all this simple stuff you're suggesting we bring a TABLECLOTH? Surprising, but true. This is probably the MOST versatile item in my backpack. Of course you can use it in the fashion it was intended, but mine can be a stand in for:
-cover from rain
-carrying medium sized game
-entertainment for kids
-building a small tent
-rescue flag (how far into the wilderness are we going?)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Saving up for Vacation

Saving money is hard.

It's partially looking toward the future, holding out on purchasing that new purse, buying generic instead of brand name... and partially having enough to save in this economy.

If you're finally at the point that you can put away a few bucks every month, you're faced with the decision: what to do with it?

I found that with my bank, interest drawn from a savings account doesn't add up to much, but if I add it to my checking account, it'll be used to pay bills or buy groceries. The piggy bank is great for saving, but there's no interest at all.

I went on a search.

I searched for "saving money" in the google bar, and came across - 55 best ways to save money. I clicked and started reading.

Tip #2 - Keep money in a hard-to-access, high interest savings account so that the funds are harder to spend. Use your checking account for your everyday expenses but “hide” the rest of your money elsewhere, where you’re not tempted to use it.

This is exactly what I was looking for. I clicked.

According to, I could put away my money, and have it work for me, without investing in long term stocks and investments. This chart compares online banks, and sorts them by APY Rate. Some have minimum balances, some don't.

Online Bank
APY Rate
Min. Balance
EverBank 2.25% $1,500
Smarty Pig 2.01% $25
Ally Bank 1.29% (Updated 04/06/10) $0
FNBO Direct 1.25% $1
WT Direct 1.16% $1
HSBC Direct 1.10% $1
ING Direct Savings 1.10% $1
ING Direct Checking .25% to 1.25% $1
E-Trade 0.40% $1
Bank of the Internet - $1
Dollar Savings Direct 1.30% $1,000
Citibank e-Savings 1.01% $100
VirtualBank Savings 1.01% $1,000

Of course, I wanted to use Everbank, the highest interest one, but didn't have a whopping $1500 to drop just yet. I clicked on SmartyPig to find out more info.

It took about 5 minutes to set up a new account, the interface was easy to navigate, and I put $100 in, and set up a recurring monthly deposit. SmartyPig even has a savings calculator where you can enter a goal date, how much you want to save, and they suggest a deposit amount to reach that goal in the time frame.

As I was entering my information, a screen popped up. I read that by May, they are RAISING the APY rate if your savings is under $50,000. Wow. That's me!

I'll keep you updated on how it's working for me, but do the research for yourself, you'll be happy you did.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuna Tacos - Any day recipe

The key to this amazing dinner or lunchtime treat is fresh ingredients.

What you'll need:
- Corn Tortillas (you could substitute flour tortillas)
- Tuna Steak
- Olive oil
- 1/2 Cucumber - finely diced
- Small avocado -finely diced
- 1 plum or roma tomato -finely diced
- 1/2 onion -finely diced
- 1/2 Green pepper -finely diced
- Cilantro (3-4 sprigs if you like cilantro, 5-6 if you love it like we do) finely diced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- Shredded Cabbage
- Coconut milk

- Cut tuna steak in big cubes
- In medium sized teflon coated pan, heat olive oil (about 2-3 turns of the pan) over medium heat.
- Wait til oil has fully heated, and sear both sides of tuna about 1-2 min on each side.
- Take off heat and allow the tuna to cool a bit.
- Once cooled, cut into smaller pieces

-In a medium mixing bowl, toss remaining ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon out mixture onto tortilla, add some tuna chunks, and serve!