Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Pretty Cheap Family "Outing"

My husband had the day off of work today, and I wanted to take advantage of that time for the kids and myself to spend some quality with Mike, who so rarely has free time, being as he works very long work weeks.
We were looking for something to do, and at first considered going to the zoo, as we have a yearly membership there, but we only really woke up for the day today pretty late (10:30 am!) and going to the zoo is a long, exhausting trip, one for which we had no energy.
We then thought about going hiking at a national park in the area, but we have no car, and there's no public transportation there, so we had to pick something else to do.

Instead, we decided to take advantage of the great outdoors in our very own backyard.

We live in a suburban area, right in the "thick" of things, easily walkable to everything we need (or at least the bus to get there), but we also live just a short distance away from nature. We've got a basketball court just a few hundred feet away from our house, and all around the basketball courts are dirt, weeds, rocks, grasses, wild plants, and more dust and sand, and best of all, it has a scenic view, as it's on the top of a mountain, looking over the edge.

Mike, Lee, Ike and I went to the "great outdoors" today and had a barbecue.

Not those typical gas grill barbecues with expensive meats and other pricey foods. Our barbecue did cost slightly more than the average meal we have, but it was a lot of food, great memories, and a lot cheaper than the standard barbecue.
We served chicken wings (2 packs, bought at 90 cents a pound) rubbed with spices, cole slaw, cucumber salad, and coal roasted potatoes. The food was absolutely delicious, but even more than that was the experience. (I probably could have gotten hot dogs and burgers cheaper, but wings are definitely healthier than any of the processed alternatives.)

My family used to go camping at least once or twice a year, and my favorite part of that was always building the fires. (I'm a closet pyromaniac- I love making fires.)
When Mike asked me if we should bring along the coals we have, I said no way! I wanted to show off my fire making skills.

First I dug myself a little wind tunnel, and balanced tiny little kindling above it.

Inside the wind tunnel and under the tiny kindling I placed one small piece of newspaper (could have even done it without that, but I figured why not?) for lighting.

I put on bigger and bigger kindling, and then built a "log cabin" of larger wood around the little kindling. (Not shown.) This was a trick I was taught all those years ago while camping, and I got pretty good at it. Mike didn't understand why I bothered with my intricate architecture, but when the whole thing burst into flame (including the large pieces of wood) in just 30 seconds or less, and 1 match, my husband saw that there was a method to my madness!

We used our cast iron griddle, which is reversible with a nice grilling side. It's terrific because it can go straight into the fire, is non stick, infuses your food with iron (great for people who have low iron stores), and best of all, gets very hot while still stopping flames from licking your food.

While sitting around the fire, my husband and I were discussing what it was like in the olden days, when people traditionally cooked over an open fire. While we love making fires like these, would we enjoy it if we had to do this day after day? 
Yup, we still would. In a way, I want to go out camping for a good 2 weeks so I can experiment with all different ways of cooking outdoors, from boiling water by taking rocks from inside a fire and sticking them in a pot, to making an oven in the ground filled with coals, etc... I love spending time outdoors. In a way, its a shame that cooking outdoors has to be a whole adventure and special trip and can't be our standard way of life.
Ok, then again, I'd probably tire of the smoky clothing quite quickly, not to mention filthy hands, face, and clothes.

We had a great day, made some great memories, and best of all, this was relatively cheap entertainment. $5 for the meat, $1 for the potatoes, and less than $1 for the veggies in the salad. Even going to the zoo with our zoo pass would have cost more one money once we paid for the buses.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my life today.
I'm glad to share my good times with you.

(I was this close to including a pic of Ike, but decided at the last minute to crop him out.)

When you have a day off to spend with family, how do you usually spend your day?
What do you usually serve at a BBQ, and how do you grill? Over a bonfire, with coals in a grill, or in a gas barbecue grill?

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