August 4, 2009

Happy Camper

The idea of camping always sounds fun. You pack up your gear, call a few pals and head out into the wilderness in search of more than 10 night stars and a bit of quiet. If only it was so easy. Around these parts, you also have to consider if you made a reservation and what the traffic will be. Who owns a tent? Anyone have a sleeping bag? By the time you get there it's already dark, you're fumbling with tent poles, and the charm of no running water quickly wears off. And then it hits you: You're more like Phyllis Nefler then you thought--love the idea, hate the fuss. I get it. But fear not, Ms. Beverly Hills, for you too can have all the charms of camping without the trouble. You just need a bit of creativity and some willing buddies. A backyard is also a plus, but isn't required.

Backyard Camping

Outdoor Fire Pit
Sherry and John Petersik of
Young House Love came up with this brilliant idea to spruce up their patio. All you'll need is 4-6 paver stones for the base, some edging stones for the outside and some firewood. At about $28, it's an easy and affordable way for "camping" anytime!

Just grab some old blankets and lay them out. Hey, the point is to get the best of camping so going back inside to sleep in your bed is completely acceptable.

Indoor Camping
If you haven't got a yard, no worries! These brilliant items will bring nature to you. 

You seen it for the holidays and it's so simple (don't we all wish we thought of it first?), but this virtual flames DVD is a kitschy way to get the fire indoors. Plus, you can choose from a rustic campfire,  a beach bonfire or a fireplace. 

With a simple light of the wick, you can have a forest of trees

If you have the funds and really want to go all out, these organic fir stump stools or these brilliant rock pillows called livingstones are the closest thing you'll find to nature's chairs. 

Camping Recipes

Chicken Potato Stew
Served up in small bowls or mugs, this is hearty and complete meal. If you don't have much time the night of your camp out, just make it the day before. 

4 cups cooked, cubed chicken breast meat
2/3 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion, sauteed in butter
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 (10 ounce) package frozen mixed
vegetables, thawed
3 cups cooked, diced red potatoes
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/8 cup all-purpose flour

Combine chicken, mushrooms, onion, carrots and stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Stir in sage, basil, garlic salt, parsley, mixed vegetables, potatoes and celery and cook until heated through. Stir in flour to thicken sauce, then serve. 

Brioche S'Mores:
While Sylvester Graham's cracker is classic, this version is delicious and flaky. You'll find the ingredients at Whole Foods and you can adjust for any amount of guests. Simply whip them up like traditional s'mores.

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows (Whole Foods makes their own), toasted
Mini croissants sliced in half
Chocolate (they have something for everyone)

Hot Chocolate Toddy
What is camping without hot chocolate? This grown-up version is terrific for a Saturday night camp out. 

6 oz. hot milk 
2 teaspoons hot chocolate mix
1 oz. brewed espresso
1 oz irish creme
1 oz. vanilla or regular vodka

Stir all of the ingredients into a mug. Top with a dollop of whip cream or a few marshmallows.

Camping Alternative
If you have no yard, no living room and not enough mugs for a crowd, don't worry for there is always The Woods. Hands down one of the friendliest bars in LA, The Woods (1533 N. La Brea Ave) transports you to the wilderness complete with stars on the ceiling and antler chandeliers. It gets a bit busy on the weekends, so try and go on a weeknight and get yourself a spot at the cute wood tables. 

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