Wednesday, July 30, 2014


We were up and out early for our big day at camp. Today’s schedule lured in two more resident campers despite the fact that revelry sounded before noon. We set off for the city of Baltimore at 9:30am. While I had hoped for lively conversation en route, three out of four campers were otherwise occupied with ear buds and/or books. Undeterred, my most faithful camper kept me entertained and helped navigate.

One of the reasons I love the Walters Art Gallery is that it’s free. The other reason is that I always find a parking place right out front – and today was no exception. There was even 47 minutes left on the meter! As we entered the museum I challenged the campers to find the weirdest thing and the funniest thing in the museum. One brother immediately tagged the other and said, “Found it!” Too early for that kind of humor apparently.

We headed for the current exhibit, a modern art collection which, while entertaining, left most of us wondering. This led to the question – “What makes something art?” For surely if it’s defined by the pieces in the current exhibit, I’ve got more than a few masterpieces in our playroom and basement.

It didn’t take long for me to lose all my campers except one. I stuck with him because A) he had no phone with which to track him down and B) every security guard we passed warned him “Please, don’t touch,” even though he never touched anything. (He did lean perilously close several times.)

We enjoyed visiting with some of our favorite pieces in the collection – mostly weapons and armor, but then discovered a room we hadn’t seen before. The Knight’s Hall is hidden in a little detour just off the Islamic Weapons collection. Two campers were delighted to discover a checker board and immediately sat down for a game. When another group of campers happened along they collected an audience for quite a while until that group’s counselor’s dragged them away.

As the game heated up, I had a chance to look at the small collection in the room. There were a few odd pieces.

Any guesses? 

Yep, Dwarf Centaur.

 How about this one?
Chandoler Bust with Antelors. Hmm.

After briefly gawking at the prices in the gift shop we tracked down the disappearing camper and left to get lunch. The mostly unanimous choice (camp directors don’t get a vote) was The Hard Rock CafĂ©.

After finishing our meal (actually the moment they put down their forks) the campers set off for Barnes & Noble promising to rendezvous at the check out in 30 minutes. My favorite camper paid the tab and we followed. The ride home was quiet – tummies full and new books!

Our original schedule called for kayaking at this point, but everyone was plumb tuckered out by the big city and several had tummy aches from lunch (in a moment of incredible self-control, I did not point out the correlation between greasy processed food and tummy troubles). Since the absent-minded camp director had neglected to reserve kayaks anyway, it was decided to substitute rest/reading time followed by cookie baking for the kayaking timeslot. 

The cookies were delish.

I’ve decided that the name of the game in camp directing is flexibility. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Today’s camp started with wild raspberry picking! The camper who grumbled the most about the adventure actually beat all the other campers up the hill to the raspberry patch on the side of the neighbor’s soybean field and out-ate the rest of us. I’d had plans to scout out some other local raspberries, but yesterday on our way home from geocaching we spied a group of Amish teenagers combing our road for berries. Alas, we had to be satisfied with our small find.

We spent the rest of the morning continuing work on our craft projects. Some campers have begun additional projects and late this afternoon the craft table caught the eye of a camper who has ignored all our other activities.

After lunch a new camper joined us for a stream hike/swim/wade/run/splash/slip! One of our older campers tagged along on shore and captured much of the action. Here's a picture play-by-play -

Campers followed by their fearless director test the waters at the trailhead 

Off we go!

 It didn't take long for the campers to outpace their director with the gimpy ankle.
Occasionally we encounterd obstacles.
But each camper found their own way over (or under).

The campers were delighted to find the occasional swimming hole.

The stream hike was a roaring success. We promised to do this again on a hot day!

Our final activity of the day was a campfire. This attracted the attention of the property owner who could not resist supervising the fire. Under his careful eye, the fire grew larger and larger. The younger campers were unimpressed and had an impromptu game of tossing the tennis balls at each other making both the camp director and the camp cat nervous.

 Another successful day at camp! Tomorrow's day is the busiest one yet and will take us to the metropolis of Baltimore and the waters of Lake Redmond (as long as there are still kayaks available since the camp director forgot to call today to reserve them!). 

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 28, 2014


Day one began with one excited camper up early and one not-so-enthusiastic camper who only perked up mildly after French toast with blueberry syrup. The other potential campers could not be roused from their bunks. The camp director was undeterred. We packed a delicious lunch and headed off on our first morning of camp- geocaching! (If you’re unfamiliar with geocaching, click here.)

Our first cache was a bust. The navigation led us to a small cemetery. The cache appeared to have been hidden near a maintenance shed directly under a fresh load of dirt and rocks that were presumably delivered this week.

Disappointed but not discouraged, we set off on cache #2 which was also to be found in a cemetery. This one was a small family cemetery hidden in a wooded area. We found the cache in just minutes, and then spent time exploring the cemetery whose graves dated back to the 1700’s! Many were unreadable, but we found it interesting that the stones we could read gave the person’s date of death and then their age in years, months, and days rather than a birthdate. You’d have to do the math to figure out their birthday. Had I known we would stumble on this treasure I would have packed crayons and paper to do grave rubbings (what a great idea for future camps!).

One camper traded a wooden nickel in the cache for a small Lego figure he’d brought along.

It seemed almost humorous when we pulled up to the site of cache #3 and spied another cemetery. This was a neat Quaker cemetery with small similar gravestones tidily kept. The cache, though, wasn’t in the cemetery, it was nearby – inside a decoy goose!

This one was special because it had been hidden by a grandmother and her grandchildren in honor of one of her other grandchildren who was very ill. It included requests for pictures and notes, so we complied and posted them on the geocaching site.

Our last cache was the kind we normally find – in a park. There were no muggles about and we quickly found the cache hidden inside a light pole lying on its side as a parking parameter. I found my best treasure yet – a pretty anklet – and left a beaded bracelet in its place.

Next we headed to Gifford Pinchot State Park where we had a wonderful picnic near the water, but decided it was too chilly (in July!) to swim.

Once home, we took a short break so that I could provide chauffeuring services for a non-camper before we jumped into our week’s craft project. We are using decoupage to reimagine clip boards and binders for school. Campers utilized leftover scrapbook paper, pages from old books, stickers, and small decorations on their masterpieces. This project must be done in steps, so when camp ended we left our creations to finish tomorrow. (Pictures later this week.)

Tomorrow’s schedule includes a streamhike and we’ve already picked up an extra camper! This is a friendly camp with no registration deadline, so feel free to sign up!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

CAMP ACHTERBERG! (Do-it-Yourself-Day-Camp)

It’s CAMP ACHTERBERG week! I’ll be updating the blog on a daily basis with pictures and stories of our adventures.

Just in case you don’t know, Camp Achterberg happens for one week every summer. It began back when my kids were relatively young (3, 6 and 9) and I realized that I couldn’t afford to send my kids to more than one week of camp without seriously endangering the family budget. And without camp my children might DRIVE ME NUTS. When I looked at what many of the camps were doing, I thought – “Hey, we don’t need a camp to do that, we can do that!”

Over the years, Camp Achterberg has included streamhikes, special foods, visits with animals, museum tours, factory tours, berry picking, movie watching, swimming, campfires, hiking, and even crafts. Most days are spent outdoors, but we always have a rainy day plan (movies, used book store, arts & crafts, cooking, museums, board games). Camp activities change every year. I’m excited about a few new activities this year like kayaking!

Some of the activities do come with a price tag, but I figure I’m saving so much on camp fees I can afford to spend a little this week. In year’s past I bought special craft supplies and maybe a little too much ice cream. This year’s camp includes a trip to a mega book store, so I’m sure my rubber arm will be twisted into buying a few books. We also have a museum visit scheduled, at least two lunches out, plus we’ll have to rent our kayaks. Even with those expenses, I know this camp is the best bargain in town.

My kids are older now and the only guaranteed camper is my youngest who is 12. As it happens, we have a special guest camper this week – my mother-in-law, “Nana.” The older two kids have the option to join in Camp Achterberg on the days it appeals, and to provide a little incentive, I’m restricting the wifi during camp hours. We shall see what happens.

Follow along with us on the blog this week or, better yet, create your own camp and share your adventures, too! Haven’t your kids seen enough Netflix and logged enough computer time for the summer? It’s time to get your inner-camp director on.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Homemade Chicken Nuggets and Breaded Mozarella Sticks! Yes, You Can!

Just what is in a chicken nugget? A lot more than chicken that’s for sure. Recently I made the colossal mistake of taking a child with me to the grocery store. Somehow I allowed myself to be talked into not only a box of frozen chicken nuggets, but another of frozen mozzarella sticks. When we arrived home with our loot, both boxes were gone within the hour and two of my children were asking, “Why can’t you buy these all the time?” They were not happy with my lengthy answer that included reciting the ingredients list on the side of the nugget box.

Contrary to popular local lore, I am not the meanest mom in the world. I did feel a twinge of guilt when I looked into their sad faces. Not enough guilt to land those nuggets in my shopping cart again, but enough guilt to launch a search for a recipe for homemade chicken nuggets that actually tasted like the nuggets of their affection but was also good for them. This inspired me to search further and find a recipe for mozzarella sticks (The greasy, breaded kind my kids order at restaurants and fill up on before their meal arrives, not the plain kind that come in those wrappers that require reading glasses and non-guitar-playing fingernails to open.).

I located two excellent recipes on the website Weelicious and with a few modifications I’m happy with the version I whipped up last night to the delight of my diners! The coolest part is that I was able to make triple batches and freeze the extra nuggets and cheesesticks for future meals that the kids can fix themselves.

Want to know how I did it? Here you go –

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Under Seige from Japanese Beetles

Japanese beetles are killing me. Well, actually, they’re not killing me, but they are killing many lives that I hold dear. 

The cherry tree that survived the attack of rust two years ago that killed the other cherry trees is covered in skeletalized leaves. The nectarine tree is covered in beetles boring into the fruit and causing them to shrivel and ooze juice. The grapes are putting up a valiant fight, growing new shiney lime green leaves to replace the ones destroyed by the beetles only to lose those new leaves within days. 

Even the asparagus is covered in the nasty creatures. I’ve never seen them go after asparagus before and if they kill mine I just may hang up my shovel and go buy a condominium. What is there to do?