Baby Bear Goes Camping

I love to camp. Though it’s not something I grew up doing, Papa Bear and I have enjoyed several camping trips during our time together and knew that we wanted to introduce it to our kid as soon as possible.

What I love most about camping is that it allows me to disconnect from everyday stressors  and reconnect with nature and, more importantly, myself. Camping reminds me to appreciate the serenity of nature in a way that I simply cannot do from the comfort of my home. Sure, sleeping on the ground isn’t exactly like spending a night at the Ritz, but it sure as hell is a lot cheaper and literally keeps me grounded (and I don’t use the term “literally” lightly).

I love that camping lends itself to physical activity; being able to hike all day is my idea of a great time, though I certainly appreciate that others may prefer to lounge around the campfire with hot dog skewers and fully reserve the right to elect this option any time I wish. Plus, who doesn’t love roasting marshmallows? I’m not crazy about them in real life, but I’ll go down swinging if anyone says my crispy black ones aren’t the very definition of perfection.

Long story short, Papa Bear and I knew that the lessons learned at a campsite were ones we wanted to teach our children: self-sufficiency, resilience, and the need to be able to go with the flow. Which is why we booked Baby Bear’s first camping trip when he was 11 months old. It is also why we brushed it off when the first attempt blew up in our faces by way of massive storms and 95-degree weather.

Now, at 15 months, Baby Bear can proudly say he’s successfully camped twice. While I don’t want to put words in his mouth–though, who am I kidding? I do this on the reg–I will say that if the amount of dirt under his fingernails and all over his body were any indication, Baby Bear friggin’ loves the outdoors.

That said, here are the lessons had to learn when taking him camping.

The Dos & Don’ts of Camping with a Baby

The Dos

  • Do be flexible. This is so cliché, but it’s worth repeating because nothing will go precisely as you plan or anticipate. Try to see the positive and not sweat the small stuff.
  • Do go car camping. I would love to say we hiked to our campsite with all our baby gear, but until he can carry it himself we will have to settle for parking at our site. That easy access is extremely valuable.
  • Do choose somewhere within easy driving distance from home (at least initially). Just in case the camping trip blows up in your face as our first did to us, it’s nice to be somewhat close to home. Many of the pictures below were taken at Kettle Moraine Pike Lake Unit in Wisconsin, about two hours north of Chicago. It was the perfect distance away and provided us with stellar, dog-friendly hiking trails and private, family friendly campsites. Plus, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail goes through the park, so we were able to hike part of that as well.
  • Do unplug. Try turning off your phone and leaving it in the car. Yes, the sheer number of pictures in this post is evidence that I did have my phone around, but I promise it was also off for a large portion of the time. And it felt really good.
  • Do pack simple and easy-to-eat foods. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor when you go camping. The following suggestions can be made with the help of a cooler, your hands, tin foil, the campfire, and/or a propane camping grill. They all received the Baby Brown Bear Stamp of Approval, too.
    • Breakfast
    • Lunch
      • Simple sandwich materials like bread, lunch meat, cheese, and mustard (other toppings optional).
    • Snacks and supplements
      • A large water jug with a spigot. While not necessary, it’s really nice to have a small stash of water already at your site when you have a baby.
      • Fruit such as oranges, bananas, and apples.
      • Pre-chopped veggies like cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
      • Organic baby pouches (for the babe or you, in a pinch).
      • Junky snacks like chips and cookies (per Papa Bear’s recommendation, of course).
    • Dinner
      • Foil packs, like the (delicious) ones we did below:
        • Locally grown green beans with butter, salt, pepper, and a touch of garlic powder.
        • Ground beef with pre-chopped onions, celery, butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
        • Potatoes with butter, salt, and pepper.
  • Do bring the following baby stuff:
    • A carrier for hikes (Ergo 360 pictured, but Deuter Kid Comfort II Child Carrier even more highly recommended).
    • A stroller for when you need to strap your kid in so you can set up the campsite.
    • A kid’s camping chair for when you want to take adorable pictures and relax together around the campfire (Melissa and Doug Giddy Buggy Chair pictured).
    • An easy-to-use pack ‘n play (I am obsessed with the 4moms Breeze). Co-sleeping would likely be easier for the babe, but having him in this meant I was able to put him to bed at his normal time and return to the campfire without worrying about him rolling all over the tent. While he ended up coming to sleep with us in the middle of the night on some of the nights we camped, at least I had a few hours of good sleep before he was jammed in my armpit. Our tent is an older version of the REI Base Camp and comfortably fits the Breeze, two adults, an overnight bag, and a dog.
    • Sunscreen and bug spray (Badger Anti-Bug Sunscreen SPF 34 highly recommended).
    • A mix of clothing options, including shorts, t-shirts, pants, long-sleeved shirts, short/t-shirt jammies, full-length sleepers, socks, a hoodie, and shoes. Temperatures fluctuate quite a bit from the heat of the day to overnight, so layers really come in handy.
    • A sunhat (i play. Baby & Toddler Flap Sun Protection Swim Hat recommended).
    • Refillable water bottles for you and baby (Baby Bear loves this CamelBak Kid one).
    • Diapers, wipes, and hand sanitizer. Oh, and a couple big garbage bags. Enough said.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t go camping with your baby when the weather is out of control. We learned this lesson when we stubbornly insisted on driving for two hours to the site, setting up camp, and trying to put Baby Bear down before admitting that it’s probably not a good idea to leave a baby in a tent that’s a stifling 90-plus degrees. Especially when a massive storm is headed your way. Just don’t even bother; you can always go back.
  • Don’t waste your time bringing a picnic blanket. Unless your baby isn’t moving much yet, this will be completely useless.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your little one roll around, dig, and/or lather himself in dirt. Part of the appeal is getting closer to nature! Let him learn about bugs and rocks. Have a (one-sided) conversation about how plants grow. You can wash up when you get back home. Speaking of which…
  • Don’t shower. Most car campsites have working showers, but I suggest you try to resist. Let yourself get dirty, too. Enjoy living simply for a weekend. But, do brush your teeth. Bad breath and gingivitis are hard and fast don’ts.
  • Don’t forget to hike and explore. Like I said, I absolutely love to hike and be active when I camp. Get out there and get (safely) lost on a trail. Leave your phone and your worries behind.
Kettle Moraine Pike Lake Unit in Wisconsin.
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This baby loves to sleep in carriers.

Moral of the Story

At the end of the day, you’re going camping and it’s supposed to be relaxing. The above suggestions are just my opinion; you don’t need a lot of stuff, and even this is probably overkill. What matters is that you get outta Dodge and into Mother Nature. Take your baby, clear your mind, and you’ll figure it out as you go. If all else fails, you’ll add to your growing pile of parenting failure memories.

Let me hear from you. What are your suggestions for camping with kids?

 

 

 

Egg & Banana Pancakes

As already established, we value speed and convenience at the Bear/Wear residence, especially when it comes to breakfast (because who wants to make something complicated at the crack of dawn?! I need at least two cups of coffee for that).

But–and this is important–we are not willing to sacrifice taste to save time. So when we find easy and incredibly delicious recipes like this one, we keep them around. (Major thanks to my good friend K for sharing it with me!)

Lazy Man’s Quick & Healthy Pancakes

These babies take about seven minutes to prepare (really). Even better, they are healthy and baby approved. Yes, I know. I hate to even describe pancakes as healthy, and you may assume they need added sugar, but you’re forgetting two words: caramelized banana. Yum.

Ingredients

For the sake of this post and because I only had one egg left in the fridge, I’m showing this as one half banana to one egg, which yields two pancakes. As long as you keep that ratio, you can make as big of a batch as you want!

  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 egg
  • A dash of ground cinnamon
  • Mood music

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Instructions

Put all ingredients in a bowl. Mash the banana and whisk together with a fork until thoroughly mixed.

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Spray a nonstick griddle over medium heat. When the surface is hot, spoon the egg mixture into pancake shapes on the griddle.

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Using a spatula, flip the pancakes after about three minutes. The bottom should be a golden brown.

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Wait another three minutes or so, until the other side is also golden brown, and remove from heat.

Baby Bear and I prefer them plain or with a side of fruit, but if you need a little something extra, a touch of syrup and/or butter ain’t bad.

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Farm fresh eggs from our local farmers’ market make for a nice, rich yellow pancake.

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I’m not kidding when I say baby approved; he shoves these in his mouth as fast as he can.

Chances are you already have the ingredients, so why are you still sitting here? You could be eating these pancakes in ten minutes. Go enjoy!

On-the-Go Egg Muffins

Convenience is paramount in this household. Well, food and convenience both, which is why these egg muffins continue to be a hit. This bulk breakfast recipe is healthy, easy, and filling. It can be customized to satisfy anyone, and even appeals to Baby Bear’s palate. After you realize just how simple these are, you’ll no longer have an excuse for a boring grab-and-go breakfast.

Egg Muffins

I like to make this recipe on Sunday night so we have breakfast for the full week ahead. It takes about 30 minutes.

Ingredients

The best part of this recipe is that, with the exception of the base ingredient of eggs, you can mix and match whatever ingredients you have in your fridge. Try it out with your own favorite meats and/or veggies and/or cheeses. This is simply an example based on what I already had available.

  • 9 eggs (if I’m making a meatless version, I’ll use a whole dozen)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • 1 handful Mexican cheese mix
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red chili flakes to taste

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the ground meat over medium heat in a large skillet.

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Grab the rest of your ingredients. Throw them all into a large mixing bowl. This includes a couple dashes of salt, pepper, and red chili flakes.

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Once the meat is done cooking, mix it into the bowl as well.

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Lightly oil a muffin pan.

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Use a serving spoon to carefully scoop the egg mixture into the muffin cups, leaving just a little room at the top. If needed, use a second muffin pan or make two batches.

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Throw the muffin pan in the oven. Cook for roughly 15 to 18 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out without residue.

Enjoy a nice glass of wine while the egg muffins are baking. Unless you’re cooking these in the morning, of course, in which case you may want to stick to O.J. (with or without a touch of champagne).

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Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

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Carefully extract the egg muffins.

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For maximum on-the-go breakfast convenience, place them in individual sandwich bags before putting them in the refrigerator. If you’re extra hungry in the morning (like me), I suggest putting one and a half or two muffins together.

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Guten Appetit!

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

At the risk of boring you with two apple-based recipes in a row, I have to share this quick one for applesauce.

Applesauce is something I’ve always loved but was reluctant to feed to my babe because the store-bought brands are typically loaded with added sugar. Learning to make it at home was a game changer because it’s such an easy, healthy, and tasty addition to any meal and one that the whole family can enjoy (husbands included).

Easy-Peasy Apple Squeezy (Applesauce)

This will take you about 45 minutes total, and 30 of those minutes are just leaving the apples in a pot.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium apples (or however many you want; it’s a very flexible recipe)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • A few dashes of ground cinnamon

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I love this spice store and I highly recommend this kind of cinnamon in particular.

Instructions

Peel and roughly cube the apples.

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Throw them in a big pot and fill with enough water to cover the apples. They’ll float to the top as seen below, but you can eyeball how much water to add.

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Squeeze in half the lemon. I’ve done it without this step and it’s fine, but I think the lemon adds a little flavor and helps it keep longer.

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Bring the water to a boil. Then cover, reduce to a simmer, and let the apples cook for 30 minutes.

Drain apples. They should look, well, like cooked apples.

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Add the cooked chunks to a blender and toss in a dash of cinnamon.

Blend until smooth.

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Serve immediately if you want hot applesauce or wait until it cools, refrigerate, and serve cold. If I’m in the mood, I like to add another little dash of cinnamon before serving.

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If your baby hates to be fed with a spoon (like mine), try spreading the applesauce on toast. Here you can see Baby Bear’s gourmet applesauce toast with sweet potatoes. Such a bougie breakfast.

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Enjoy! Have any other ideas for how to eat your applesauce?