My Essential First Aid Kit Supplies

One of the most important (and yet, least frequently used) pieces of My Master Camping Checklist is a thorough First Aid Kit stocked with the essential medical supplies I might need on a road trip or a camping excursion.

Contents of first aid kit for camping survival preparedness

My First Aid Kit is stored on the top of my Big Blue Camping Bin so it’s easy to access. Here is the list of essential First Aid Kit supplies I keep with my camping gear:

  • First Aid Manualessential first aid kit supplies for camping preparedness
  • Adhesive tape (waterproof)
  • Sanitary pads & tampons
  • Instant cold packs
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Elastic bandages
  • Call Police flag
  • Bug spray
  • Calamine lotion
  • Sunscreen
  • Ethyl alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Road flares
  • Hand warmers
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Epi pen
  • Eye drops
  • Cotton balls/pads, Q-tips
  • Waterproof matches
  • Razor blades
  • Whistle
  • Sewing kit (needle & thread)
  • CPR shield
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Safety pins
  • Water purification tablets
  • Ammonia inhalants
  • Plastic doggie bags
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Band-aids, butterfly bandages
  • Burn gel
  • Sterile eye pad
  • Ibuprofen
  • Plastic gloves (latex-free)
  • Compass

 What else do you keep in your First Aid Kit?

essential first aid kit supplies for camping

Read more about Fresh Domestic camping here.

Cleveland’s Hessler Street Fair

You know summer has kicked off in Cleveland, not because of the weather (which has a mind of its own), but because of the festivals. Last weekend, with unseasonably warm 80 degree weather beckoning, we loaded the car full of friends and headed to the Hessler Street Fair.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair summer festival hippie Case Western Reserve University

This was my first time down Hessler Street, which is nestled in Cleveland’s University Circle between the museums (like the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Botanical Garden, and The Children’s Museum of Cleveland) and the esteemed Case Western Reserve University. The Street Fair has been running annually since 1969, when the Hessler Neighborhood Association was founded as a nonprofit to “enhance the social and architectural quality of the neighborhood.” Because people came together to preserve and maintain the neighborhood, Hessler Road and Hessler Court were dedicated as Cleveland’s first local Landmark District in 1975.

Last weekend, the street welcomed artists, painters, jewelers, bakers, soapmakers, woodcarvers, food vendors, face painters, drummers, and free spirits of all sorts decked in dreadlocks and tie-dye. In other words, Hessler Street Fair is Cleveland’s Hippie Festival, complete with drum circles and hippie vans and reggae music, mon.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair drum circle

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair hippie Love Bus

 

Here is a very small sampling of the art and artists at Hessler Street Fair:

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Van Gogh Starry night painting art vendor summer festival Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair woodcarving woodworking art vendor summer festival

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair bean sugar skull art vendor summer festival Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair mandala art vendor summer festival

 

leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair handmade jewelry Kimberly Monaco leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair hippie Love Bus painted detail dove

And for dinner, among the array of classic fair food and local Cleveland vendors, we chose the finest organic grass-fed beef hamburgers – that is, both the cow and the grass are certified organic. My boyfriend said it tasted “like the meat you get in Indiana,” which is the home-raised, all-natural, grass-fed beef I buy from my mom’s butcher…and I take that as a sign of good, down-home, wholesome freshness! We followed that up with the requisite funnel cake for dessert.

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair organic grass-fed hamburger cheeseburger

We went on Saturday night to hear roots reggae from Cleveland’s own Carlos Jones. The music was great, the message was positive, the vibe was electric, and the people-watching was interesting, to say the least.

leveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert summer festival

Cleveland Ohio Hessler Street Fair Carlos Jones reggae music concert summer festival

Coming up next weekend: The Tremont Greek Fest, one of my favorites, to officially kick off summer over Memorial Day Weekend.

What are your favorite summer festivals?

 

What to Pack in a Camping Bin

When I decide to go camping, it’s usually a spontaneous, last-minute idea. To make it easier to take off on an outdoorsy trek as soon as nature calls – without forgetting any essentials – I keep a big plastic storage container packed with most of my camping supplies ready to grab and go.

What to pack in a camping bin? Here are the contents of my Big Blue Camping Bin:

Contents of my Big Blue Camping Bin packing to prepare for camping

Here is the list of supplies inside my Big Blue Camping Bin (starting in the upper left-hand corner and going clockwise):

  • Plastic tarp
  • Tools: ax, 10-inch folding saw, 6-inch survival knife, pocket knife
  • Rope: 100-foot paracord, extra rope, extra tent stakes
  • Light: lantern, flashlights, extra batteries, fireproof matches, flint, citronella candle
  • Cooking: aluminum foil, spatula, cooking spray, oven mitts, hot pads, cutting board, teapot, cast iron skillet (*utensils stored separately in small container – see below)
  • Eating: plates, cups (*utensils stored separately in small container – see below)
  • Washing: collapsible sink, eco-friendly dish soap, dish rag, hand sanitizer
  • Tape: electrical and duct tape
  • Toiletries: sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, towels, washcloths, lotion
    • TIP: Store bottles of liquid in Ziplock bags! I learned this the hard way after camping in higher altitudes.
      • I use a gallon-sized Ziplock bag to store the “liquid” half of my First Aid Kit (click to read my full list of First Aid supplies), and a sandwich bag for travel-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion for showering.
  • Entertainment: playing cards, Left Center Right dice game, books, crossword puzzles, trivia cards, drawstring backpack for hiking
  • Solar/battery/crank-powered portable radio with USB chargers
  • Air mattress pump

To keep smaller items easily accessible so they don’t get lost in the bottom of the bin, I added a small, plastic, shoe box-sized container that stays near the top of the big bin.

Here’s a better look at everything packed into the small bin:

contents of small camping preparedness bin

And a list of contents:

  • Coffee: ground coffee, filters, rubber bands, teabags, packets of sugar/cream/stirrers
    • TIP: How to make camping coffee: Spoon coffee grounds into a heap in the center of a coffee filter, then secure it shut with a rubber band. Throw the bag in teapot full of water, place on grill over fire until water boils, periodically stirring and squeezing the bag to assist brewing.
    • TIP: Hotels often have convenient single-serving packets of coffee, sugar, creamer, etc., often packaged together.
  • Cleaning: paper towels, dish rag, dish soap, hand sanitizer, plastic doggie bags
  • Utensils: can opener, tongs, spatula, chef’s knife
    • TIP: Store sharp kitchen knives inside a roll of paper towels.
  • Silverware: forks, spoons, knives (stored in Ziplock bag)
  • Light: small LED flashlight, fireproof matches
  • Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, seasoned salt (I use Coleman’s set of two 2-sided spice containers)
  • Fun: water balloons, playing cards, glow sticks

Of course, the Big Blue Camping Bin is just one part of my packing list for camping preparedness. Here is the Master Camping Checklist I use to make sure I pack everything I need before I hit the road.

Happy Camping! What survival essentials do you keep in your camping bin?

what to pack in a camping bin

Read more about Fresh Domestic camping here.

My Master Camping Checklist

Here is my Master Camping Checklist I use when packing for a camping trip.

Sleeping:

  • Tent
  • Tarp and rug
  • Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows
  • Air mattress and pump

Surviving:

  • I bring a Big Blue Camping Bin, which contains most of my survival gear (tools, rope, knives, cooking and eating supplies) already packed, ready to grab and go. Click here to see a full list of supplies in my Big Blue Camping Bin.
  • A First Aid Kit is essential! Click here to see a full list of supplies in my First Aid Kit.

Bathroom:Contents of my Big Blue Camping Bin packing to prepare for camping

  • Toilet paper
  • Towels and washcloths
  • Shower toiletries (shampoo, soap)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Baby wipes

Cooking:

  • Collapsible “sink” for washing dishes
  • Eco-friendly dish soap and dish rag
  • Roasting sticks / Pudgie pie irons
  • Paper towels
  • Oven mitts and hot pads
  • Cooking utensils: tongs/spatulas/knives
  • Plates/cups/silverware
  • Cast iron skillet

    portable collapsible plastic kitchen sink for camping washing dishes

    A makeshift kitchen in the woods

  • Pot with lid
  • Coffee pot
  • Firewood
  • Matches
  • Trash bags

Chilling:

  • Picnic blanket
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Chairs
  • Flashlights/lanterns
  • Rope
  • Radio
  • Hammock
  • Playing cards, games, books

Dogs:

  • Food and treats
  • Dishes for food and water
  • Toys (bright colors that won’t get lost in the woods)
  • Leashes

What else is on your list of essential camping gear to pack?

dogs camping in the woods with a tent

 Read more about Fresh Domestic camping here.

The First Camping Trip of the Season

This weekend, the warm weather forecast won out over the writing deadlines that begged me to stay indoors. Nature called, so in response we started packing our supplies and invited friends to come out for the first camping trip of the year.

riding in cars with dogs

Headed on our first camping trip of the year with my backseat drivers

Suki dog sitting on a log in the woods campingOur camping trips are usually somewhat spontaneous; during the week we decide that the weekend weather looks nice enough, giving us a couple days to prepare. Because of this, I keep most of my camping supplies and First Aid Kit stored in a big Rubbermaid bin (dubbed The Big Blue Camping Bin), ready to grab and go. I make a separate Camp Cooking Prep List for groceries, food, and commonly used items to pack from the kitchen. Then I check it all against my Master Camping Checklist.

I start by taking inventory of the food on stock to see what I already have on hand, and what I still need to buy. It helps to plan a menu for the weekend, to make sure you have everything for each meal. We were leaving on Friday afternoon after lunch, so our camping menu looked like this:

Friday Night: brats & beans
Saturday Morning: eggs, bacon & berries
Saturday Noon: burgers
Saturday Night: pork chops & sweet corn
Sunday Morning: eggs & bacon

After we pack my car with the blue bin, cooler, dry food storage, chairs, tent and tarps, we layer sleeping bags, blankets and pillows on top of everything to make a soft, comfy layer of bedding for the dogs during the car trip – maximizing limited space and giving them booster seats to gaze out the window (or the windshield, as in the picture above.)

Phoebe and Suki dogs on logs in the woods campingOnce we arrive at Findley State Park in Wellington, Ohio, the dogs are ready to run around and explore. They secure the perimeter of our campsite, chasing critters and marking territories while we set up camp, pitch the tent and start a fire.

pup tent dogs camping in a tentBy the time the tent is up, mattress inflated, and bed made, these spoiled house dogs are ready to relax in the comforts of home – or rather, of a “Pup Tent.”

You can see that we lay a tarp underneath the tent, giving us a “doorstep” where we can kick off our shoes before entering. This is also where we set up the dog food and water.

Little did we know that the zipper on the tent would break later in the evening, leaving us without a way to close the tent. Fortunately, bugs haven’t come out yet for the season, the dogs didn’t sneak out, and no other critters sneaked in. A few safety pins, plus a couple of camping chairs propping the flap shut from the inside, were all that separated us from the great outdoors.

Settled in, now it’s my turn to explore the surroundings. Our site is set back off of the road, giving us plenty of peace and privacy from the few neighboring campers around us. Although camping season hasn’t officially started yet, the campgrounds start to fill up as more neighboring campers filter in throughout the afternoon.

Findley State Park Wellington Ohio campgrounds campsite camping

This is my quiet time, before the rest of our friends arrive at the campgrounds. I slip into the woods with my trusty watchdogs, looking for interesting plants, flowers, trees and treasures. I find a fern uncurling like a waking plant stretching her spring limbs after spending the winter tucked up tight. I find two yellow, plastic Easter eggs left over from a family’s celebration a few weeks ago – one still hiding a Tootsie Roll inside – which, my boyfriend feels the need to remind me, I should not eat.

fern unfurling in the woods nature green plants

canopy of trees nature woods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As our friends start to arrive and set up camp, we kick back and relax. Our work is done for now, so it’s time to lounge in the hammock and meditate, with nothing but tree-filtered sunlight, chirping birds and nature surrounding me.

bare feet on hammock in the woods summer relaxation

 Oh, and this guy, too. He’s great camping company, not to mention a smart, skilled survivalist.

20150501_182159 (1)

sunset in the woods through the screen window of a tent camping in natureAs the sun starts to set behind the trees, we shift into dinner mode. We stoke up the fire then let it burn to cooking strength.

Brats and beans go on the grill, and after a few rotations and a lot of ravenous looks, the first night’s camping dinner is served. As simple as the meal is, the smokey campfire flavor and the woodsy setting make it taste like a well-earned forest feast.

And then, of course, it’s followed by the best part about camping: the gooey, sticky, gluttonously sweet s’mores. If summer itself had a signature flavor, it would be that glorious trifecta of roasted marshmallow, crumbly graham cracker and melted milk chocolate.

With daylight dying, we huddle closer together around the fire, entertained merely by the dancing flames casting their orange glow across our faces. The dogs, done exploring for the day, are collapsed in sleepy, cuddly heaps on our laps, basking in the warmth of the fire. A few friends who couldn’t camp for the night swing by to share a few drinks and laughs – neither of which are entirely kid-friendly. (But to the park rangers reading, I will go on record that we drank only lemonade, coke and juice, of course.)

canopy of trees silhouetted in dusk sky

campfire flames dancing on logs

Fell asleep gazing up through the tent ceiling to the view of a canopy of trees silhouetted by the nearly full moon. Woke early to birds singing and sunlight streaming through the windows.

Suki dog sunning on a tree stump in the woods

Nacho dog in the woods with his toy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J starts up the fire while I take the dogs on a morning walk, before most of the other campsites around us have risen. With the fire blazing and coffee brewing, we impatiently urge our friends back to life so we can start making breakfast. Breakfast is usually my favorite meal of the day anyway, and campfire food is preferentially better than home-cooked food, which makes camping breakfast the best meal of the weekend. Between J’s legendary scrambled eggs, heaps of bacon and fresh blueberries, it was quite a way to start the day.

camping breakfast scrambled eggs bacon blackberries and coffee on a picnic table20150502_094728 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suki is back to her watchdog log, where she has good perspective on all approaching squirrels. In the background behind her, you can see my makeshift kitchen sink – a collapsible plastic bin where I wash our dishes from breakfast while J lounges on the hammock with his Nacho dog and a cup of camping coffee mocha. (To our campfire-brewed coffee, we added cream and sugar and chocolate.)

lounging on a hammock by a tent camping

 

It’s already turning into a beautiful day. I explore around the campsite one more time, in full daylight, and snap a few more nature-inspired pictures before my phone battery dies.

tree blossoms against blue sky
dogs camping in the woods with a tent

trees silhouetted against cloudy blue sky

woods forest campsite camping nature trees

Fueled by our fantastic breakfast, we headed out for a game on the campground’s disc golf course. Starving by the time we get back to our campsite, we fix a late lunch of burgers and sweet corn on the cob on the grill. Our friends take off, leaving us alone for night two of camping. We lounge around for a while, placing a blanket in a shady spot where we can relax. Later in the afternoon, we take a nice hike around the lake. Still stuffed from lunch and exhausted from walking, we opt for a “light” dinner of s’mores instead of cooking up more food. We retreat to bed a little earlier this time; wake up and repeat another yummy camping breakfast before we break down camp and head back home – where it will take me several days of gazing out my office window, wishing I could be lounging in a hammock, gazing up at the trees instead of being confined to my desk, before I adjust to the real world again.

 Read more about Fresh Domestic camping here.

More Makeup Bargains from Discount Drug Mart

I had to return an item to Discount Drug Mart, so I decided to stick around and scavenge the makeup aisles for clearance finds, especially since I scored such great bargains last time.

Here are my latest makeup bargain finds.

Clearance makeup bargain finds at Discount Drug Mart beauty products

  1. Maybelline Color Show Nail Polish (205 Petal Plush) – Marked down to $.89 from $2.79 (68% off), a shimmery rose-hued mauve that looked like a color my mom would wear – so I got it for her.
  2. Physicians Formula Nude Wear Glowing Nude Bronzer (Bronzer 6237) – Marked down to $6.49 from $13.99, but it only rang up for $3.37 (76% off) so I seriously contemplated running back to grab another one. With four shimmery shades of bronzer lettered in gold glitter, this quad promises “a complexion-boosting lit-from-within glow for a fresh and beautiful bare skin effect.” This cute little bowed package is actually the first bronzing kit I’ve ever bought, so I’ll have to learn how to use it!
    Physicians-Formula-Nude-Wear-Glowing-Nude-Bronzer
  3. Physicians Formula Matchmaker pH Powered Lip Gloss (Light Pink 7598) – Marked down to $2.37 from $8.99 (74% off), supposedly “reacts to light and your pH for your perfect lip color.” A fluorescein based dye senses the pH level of your skin, while photochromic powders adjust to the light around you. There’s even an LED-powered applicator, which makes this the most high-tech lip gloss I’ve ever seen.
  4. Revlon ColorStay Ultimate Suede Lipstick (065 Catwalk) – Marked down to $2.12 from $8.29 (about 74% off). In an orange-tinged brick red color, this line comes with outstanding reviews of long-lasting durability.
    Revlon-ColorStay-Ultimate-Suede-lipstick in catwalk redRevlon-ColorStay-Ultimate-Suede-lipstick in catwalk red
  5. Wet n Wild Coloricon Shimmer Eye Pencil (154 Black Noir) – Marked down to $.49 from $.99 (half off) the basic black eyeliner gets dressed up with flecks of silver glitter. This reminded me of the Almay Intense i-color Defining Liner my sister put in my Christmas stocking, which was a charcoal flecked with sparkle that I totally adore. I thought it would make a nice addition to my mom’s little makeup gift.
  6. Wet n Wild Wild Shine Nail Color (405 Sunny Side Up) – Marked down to $.49 from $.99, a vivid tangerine orange nail polish, because I need to show my manicured team spirit when I tailgate for the Cleveland Browns.
    wet-n-wild-wild-shine-nail-color orange nail polish
  7. Bonne Bell Eye Style Shadow Box (614 Hip Hop Charcoals) – Marked down to $1.64 from $3.29 (half off), a quad of icy white, shimmery silver, taupe and glittery dark charcoal eye shadows with two tiny applicators – from a company headquartered in the town next to me: Westlake, Ohio.
    Bonne-Bell-Eye-Style-Shadow-Box charcoal eye shadow quad
  8. e.l.f. Dual Pencil Sharpeners – Retailing at $0.99, this set combines a covered double-sharpener and a smaller bonus sharpener to bring makeup pencils, both thick and thin, to a perfect point.
  9. Maybelline New York EyeStudio (15 Downtown Denim) – Marked down to $3.14 from $6.29 (half off), this eye shadow duo pairs a shimmery purple with a powder blue swirled with gold.
    Maybelline-New-York-Eye-Studio-eye-shadow
  10. Milani Quick Dry Top Coat (203 clear) – Marked down to $1.74 from $3.49 (half off), this is what prompted my makeup gift ideas for my mom. While we were painting our nails together over Christmas, she misplaced her clear top coat and hadn’t been able to find it. For less than two bucks, I figured I could send her a temporary replacement. But what fun is it to get clear nail polish in the mail, when you can also get a new color of polish and new eyeliner to go with it?

So for a grand total of $17.24, I came away with all of this: 6 shades of eye shadow, 3 shades of nail polish, 2 lip glosses, eyeliner, bronzer and 3 pencil sharpeners. I fared even better than last time, nabbing more items for a slightly lower total. And, almost half of the items became gifts that made other people happy without cluttering my makeup basket, so that’s definitely a win-win.

Best Buy: Wet n Wild tie – Coloricon Eye Pencil and Wild Shine Nail Color, $0.49 each
Best Value: 76% off of Physicians Formula bronzer (a nice surprise at the checkout!)
Favorite Find: pH Powered Lip Gloss, because I’ve never seen anything like it before.

Check out more of my clearance-hunting makeup bargains.

Makeup Bargains from Discount Drug Mart

When I set out for Discount Drug Mart this afternoon, I only needed laundry detergent. But somehow, I ended up buying a lot more than that. I’m not going to bore you with every toiletry I tossed into my cart, but I’m too excited not to share the makeup bargains I found.

makeup bargains from Discount Drug Mart store clearance Calgon hand lotion hand soap,Wet n Wild tinted  moisturizer, Maybelline nail polish, Milani nail polish, Revlon eye shadow and lip gloss, elf makeup brushes

Makeup bargains spotted on clearance at Discount Drug Mart

1. Calgon Vanilla Snowflake Gentle Cleansing Hand Soap and Silky Smooth Hand Lotion set in a silver tray – Marked down to $3.49 from $6.99 (half price) along with other Christmas scents like Peppermint Marshmallow. Because the silver tray will definitely be reused after the bottles are empty.

2. Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eye Shadow quad (540 Inspired) – Marked down to $1.74 from $8.29 (79% off) featuring buttery yellow, cool turquoise, lime green and dark purple eye shadow palettes with applicator. Because a girl can never have too many shades of eye shadow, especially at less than $0.45 per shade.

Revlon-Colorstay-eyeshadow-quad-makeup-bargain

3. Maybelline Color Show Nail Lacquer (155 Rich in Ruby) – Marked down to $0.89 from $2.79 (68% off), a shimmery deep crimson shade astutely named Ruby. Because I can’t not buy nail polish when it’s less than a buck.

4. Milani Nail Lacquer (37A Heather) – Marked down to $1.74 from $3.49 (half price), a subtle, subdued lilac purple with charcoal undertones. Because the grayish purples are so in right now.

Maybelline-Milani-nail-polish-makeup-bargains

5. Revlon ColorBurst Lip Gloss (018 Fire) – Marked down to $1.74 from $6.99 (75% off).

Revlon-lipgloss-makeup-bargain

6. Wet n Wild Ultimate Sheer Tinted Moisturizer SPF 15 (183 Sun Kissed) – Marked down to $1.99 from $3.99 (half price). Because this 1-degree weather is drying out my wind-blasted face.

wet-n-wild-Ultimate-Sheer-tinted-moisturizer_sunscreen-makeup-bargain

7. e.l.f. studio Concealer Brush and Bronzing Brush – Sold for $0.99 each, along with an entire end rack of other brushes, applicators, and other makeup tools. Because I’ve been using a flat eye shadow brush as a concealer brush, and putting on bronzer with the same bamboo brush I use for all-over powder, which is awful, I know. I also picked up some e.l.f Daily Brush Cleaner, an anti-bacterial spray you spritz onto makeup brush bristles every day, to protect my investment.

8.  Conair 9-piece Hairbrush Set – Marked down to $3.99 from $9.99 (60% off), featuring a sparkly purple wide tooth comb, cushion brush and vented brush, small butterfly clip and 5 hair ties. Because I needed a new hairbrush anyway (since the handle snapped off my last one, thanks to my thick mane), I see it as a dollar and change per brush, and then the accessories are bonus.

conair-9pc-hair-bargain-set

So, for a grand total of  $17.56, I came away with all of this: 4 shades of eye shadow, 2 shades of nail polish,soap, lotion, lip gloss and brushes for both makeup and hair.

Best Buy: $0.89 for Maybelline Nail Lacquer
Best Value: 79% off for Revlon ColorStay 16 Hour Eye Shadow Quad
Favorite Find: Milani Heather Nail Lacquer

Starting the New Year with new makeup for a new, beautiful self: priceless.

testing Revlon red lip gloss

Trying on my new Revlon “Fire” Lip Gloss, a steal for only $1.74

 

 

Patio Days and Thunderstorm Nights

For once, Cleveland’s blustery winter hangover went into hiding long enough for a beautiful Indians Opening Day. Of course, the sunshine would be no help in beating the Yankees, but maybe we can blame that on the storm rolling in?

Meanwhile, I was sitting outside of Chipotle enjoying the first patio meal of the spring. And we only had to duck inside once to dodge a few raindrops.

I never thought I liked Chipotle, but I learned the trick to eating there. I just don’t like those soggy, overstuffed giant burritos that deliver more rice than meat in each bite. Now, I know to order a burrito bowl and four small tortillas on the side, so I can craft my own manageably-sized, appropriately-stuffing-proportioned burritos.

Throw in a couple (not-quite-ice-cold) Coronas, a warm wind off the lake, and the buzz of Downtown Lakewood passing by – and I’m glad we had the patio to ourselves.

It was only appropriate, then, that the first patio day of spring would become the first evening thunderstorm of spring. The rumbling thunder and flashes of lightning were a fitting backdrop to the new episode of Bates Motel on A&E.

Baseball games, patio tacos, and lightning storms – Spring is Here!

Valentine’s Day $50 Dinner Date

For Valentine’s Day this year, we went back to the Middle Eastern eatery where we had our first date. More than two years ago, we shared hummus and falafel at Aladdin’s Eatery before a movie at Crocker Park.

Let’s face it – you can’t really top last year’s homemade crab leg dinner for Valentine’s Day. So it was best to follow that with something simple and sweet.

As an added plus, Aladdin’s had a Valentine’s Day special: $30 for an appetizer, a dessert, and two entrees. Of course, there was hummus and falafel, and some tasty Lebanese dishes I can’t pronounce that drown in the memory of conversation. And, for another $20, a bottle of wine.

Forget the roses – one of my favorite features at Aladdin’s is the bouquet. On each table sits a vase of recycled flowers fashioned from circles of industrial plastic remnants, crafted by a local shop down the street. Quaint, retro, local and best of all: repurposed.

And then, just when I think I can’t eat any more: dessert. It’s usually baklava at Aladdin’s, but this Valentine’s meal came with a Chocolate Truffle Heart – which I could eat all of five bites before richness overload. Of course, I kept eating anyway – long after the beau backed down. But I did manage to save a few bites for the trip home the next day – which didn’t last long.

Sunday Eve Picnic: Mini Wine & Cheese Party

Today became “Use Up All the Gift Cards Weighing Down Your Wallet” Day.
Fueled by a scrambled egg/bacon/English muffin breakfast from The Shore Restaurant followed by a couple of West End Tavern Bloody Marys, we headed to Great Northern Mall.
First stop: DSW, where I stretched a $25 gift card (and then some) into two pairs of brown heels on clearance.
Next: Best Buy, where I lumped three gift cards toward a Magic Wand scanner.
Then: When starting to feel almost shopped-out, a quick stop by Starbucks cleared out the few dollars left on my Starbucks gift card with a Skinny Vanilla Latte. For the record, the taste difference between this and the Caramel Macchiato is as massive as the caloric gap.
Last stop: A tour through World Market, where a gift card more than pulled together a mini wine & cheese party for a Sunday evening picnic on the rug.
For less than $12, we present: Smoked Salmon Pate ($3.99); Sesame Water Crackers ($1.49); Sweet Mustard ($1.99); Spicy Sausage ($1.49); Tomato & Basil Cheese ($1.49); and Jalapeno Jack Cheese ($1.49). Paired with a $16 bottle of Cline Cashmere wine.
What a spread! The only thing I’d do differently is buy two of everything and turn a snack into a feast.
I noticed that the can of salmon pate didn’t expire for another 4 years, and the other foods were equally packaged to last, no refrigeration required. My plan is to restock, and prepare the classiest supply of long-term, protein-packed survival food you’ve ever seen.
Forget tuna and beef jerky – I’m going out in style, like this: