Category Archives: Family Fun

Campfire Cooking with Kids

Campfire Cooking With Kids

The kids are learning to cook over a campfire.  This has been an ongoing learning adventure for several months now.   We have tried several different methods for starting fires, making our own camp stoves, as well as different ways of making the campfire pit.

After trying several different arrangements, we came up with one we like the most and have kept for several months now. We use it once or twice a week as the weather and time permits.  We really enjoy afternoons and evenings around the campfire.

We started off with simple learning techniques like where to build a fire safely, how to start a fire (matches, lighter, flint, feroconiom rod), how to use different tinders (wood chips, small sticks, dead leaves, tree bark, dead grass and dry plants, cotton balls, cordage, clothing, etc) to get the fire going strong, locating where to gather wood safely, and learn how to split wood into small sizes for burning,  etc.

We built fire starter kits for the kids to keep and learn to use.  This has been a wonderful resource.  Our first kits were made with a salvaged bottle for storing, a few types of tinder, matches, and a feroconium rod and striker.  When they used up all the stuff in their first kits, we built new kits that include more of the first, but also added in a lighter, additional versions of strikers, fatwood, etc.  By far my son’s favorite method is starting a fire with his striker and a cotton ball.  We hope to build a bow drill and learn that method soon.

Once they mastered the art of starting a fire, we learned how to build a firepit.  Over time we built a few different arrangements of campfire pits.   This whole process has been a great learning experience for the kids and a fun way to spend family time together.

The current campfire pit version we are using is our favorite so far.  We found some old bricks someone had left behind from a construction project.  These are not the usual bricks you would want to build an outdoor kitchen with, but we are using what we have on hand and getting by with them for now.   We dug an “L” shaped hole in the ground and built a loose brick wall around the back side of the hole.  The back wall is tall, and the sides come part way around, then we have a short wall of bricks across the front as a fire stop and safety zone.  Safety is very important to keep in mind when you have an outdoor fire.

We also found some metal and an old grate someone had thrown away and used them as cooking surfaces by connecting them into the loose brick system above the fire to give us more ways we can cook food.   We also put a separate small wall about half way at the back.  This additional wall was needed to help support the grill top on one side and the metal bars on the other side and it also allows us to use either 1 side of the fire or both sides for cooking so we can make a bigger or smaller fire as desired.

Using a brick or rock wall on one side of your fire makes a lot of sense.  The bricks make a nice windbreak and help to retain the heat from the fire, and then help reflect the heat back towards the people sitting around the fire.   I plan to upgrade the pit with some special tiles for baking bread and pizzas on one side soon.  I found a local store that carries the fire tiles for break baking.  I am very excited about baking nice breads over the campfire. Maybe someday I can make a real outdoor pizza oven too.

The arrangement is large enough that we can choose to cook on the grill, the metal bars, flat rocks or bricks, or over the open fire and coals with roasting sticks or pans.  So we can cook up high or down low with several options as needed.  We made the pit so we can have a fire on one half, or just move hot coals over on one half while a hotter fire burns on the other half, or use the whole entire thing in a bigger campfire if desired.  With 8 people in the family, this arrangement gives us all enough room to gather in front of the fire and benefit from the heat being reflected back in our direction.

We let the fire die down and put it out before going into the house.  The next morning when the pit is nice and cool, the kids remove the ashes from their fire and sprinkle them on the location we plan to build our garden. The ashes will provide wonderful nutrients already broken down and released from the organic matter they were bound in for our plants to use.  We learned this trick many years ago when we used to heat our home with wood.

His New Wrought Iron Pan

Our 12 year old loves cooking on the campfire and would truly cook on it every day if he could.  He is the reason we got into the habit of cooking outside weekly.  He wants to try new things and master various skills.  After he gets his fire going, and his coals nice and hot, he usually cooks tea and different kinds of soups with his own stainless steel pot.   He has made potato soup, rice, chili, cheesy potato bacon soup, chicken noodle soup, and Ramon noodles.

He recently bought is own wrought iron skillet to expand his cuisine options. To start with he learned how to oil and season his new pan and care for it properly.  He also has his own knife and cutting board so he is ready to make lots of different things.  He is getting great practice and is learning to cook with his new skillet over the open fire.

This day we were cooking turkey burgers, beef hotdogs, sliced potatoes in foil packets, and he was making his own Cowboy BBQ Beans in his new iron skillet.

He had placed a brick over some coals next to the fire to hold his pan level while it cooked.  It took them no time at all to come to a rolling boil.  He had to pull his beans off the fire a few times and stir them to prevent them from sticking and burning in the pan.  His beans turned out very nice, the sugars caramelized and the beans had a hint of smoke flavor of the fire.

Almost everything was done cooking at the same time.  That is one of the blessings to having a large working space in this campfire with various spots to set the different foods we were cooking.

When his food was done, he combined his hotdog with his bbq beans for his own version of “beenie weenies”.   This was new for him as I haven’t fed the kids beenie weenies before, and he was excited to try them.

He was very pleased with how his “cowboy meal” turned out and thought he could handle making and eating this out on the open range bringing in the cows or up the side of a mountain while on a hike someday.  I hope to teach him to make either biscuits or bannock (old fashion cowboy or Indian bread) and chop up some wild greens to go with his meal next time.  He found some wild garlic growing in the yard that was already seven inches tall in February.  The plant looks like fresh chives and has a small bulb at the bottom when you pull it out of the ground.  He brushed the dirt off and tried it fresh.  It was spicy!  We also found a couple of violets in bloom in the front yard.  Soon the dandelions will set on some nice leaves for making a raw salad base or to use as a sauted spinach.  The pine trees are also budding and the baby pine buds are nutty and delicious and the needles make a nutritious tea.  We have a book he will be using this spring to locate various wild edibles that he can include to improve the nutrients in a meal such as this.

I am very proud of this young man’s achievements.  He gets an idea, puts his mind to it, and is not afraid to work toward his goal and see it through.  He is currently making a homemade longbow.  He has found the branch of wood, removed the bark, and carved it into the shape he desired.  He has yet to soak the wood and increase the arch slightly and locate the cordage he will be using.  I have no doubt he will reach his new goal.

Learning to cook over a campfire is a fun experience.  The skills learned and self confidence gained will benefit kids the rest of their life.

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Boys in the Woods

Well my boys are reaching a milestone in their journey to manhood.  This winter they have been adventuring into the woods to practice survival skills they have learned.  The older three are 12, 14, and 16 and have been learning many survival skills over the past few years.  There is also a an 8 year old and 5 year old following in their foot steps.  They’ve learned how to pitch a tent, make fire, cook food, chop wood, use an ax, use a hatchet, make various knots, use tools, shoot bow and arrows, shoot a shot gun, butcher a deer, catch fish, and build a camp site.

Though they all enjoy being outside, the 14 year old is the most outdoor loving fella of the older three and his passion for nature has inspired the others.  You just can’t hardly keep him indoors.  He decided a few weeks ago that he wanted to start his own You-tube channel with his brothers, and he is still toying with the idea of writing a website.  He would love to write reviews of outdoor gear and tools and trucks if the opportunity opens up.


The boys have tossed around a few different names like the Horseless Cowboys,  the Backyard Boys, and Boys In The Woods.  Not sure what the final name will be just yet, but they plan to document their adventures. Some of their adventures are “in the woods” and some are “in the backyard”. Our yard is surrounded by woods, where one ends the other begins.  We also live about 1 mile from a lake where we enjoy fishing and hiking and playing at the park.  Still working on the name.  They decided to do a series called “Backyard Camping”.

His first video was walking the woods to locate the fallen tree he heard crash during a storm.  It was a fun adventure as he came to various fallen trees spread throughout the 8 acres we live on.  He also crossed a small stream and checked water depth along the path after the storm.

A few days later he went back into the woods to scout out a place for a camp site.  He found a couple locations he liked.  We went out and helped him clean up one of the locations, removing several layers of dead fallen leaves and some dead wood that was in the way.

This particular location gets a few minutes of morning sunshine currently as there are no leaves on the trees yet this time of year.  We are not sure if it will get any sun once the leaves return as it is a densely wooded location.  We are concerned about having a camp fire in that location , so for now, he must use the grassy area of the backyard for his campfires where it is safer. That’s one of the reasons he dedicated the series to backyard camping to inspire other kids to get outside and camp in their yard too.

The next video he made was about making a small bait trap at a nearby lake.  We took the boys to the lake to fish and we were able to buy worms, but the bait shop was out of minnows.

So he and his brother decided to catch their own minnows and small bait to fish.  They used a plastic bottle, pocket knife, a few rocks, a worm, and fishing line.  They created a trap to catch minnows and crawdads.

The next video he vlogged about making dry tinder to start a fire.  Then he showed how to use his striker and rod to create a spark to start the fire.

He built a spot to have a fire surrounded with rocks we have laying around in the woods.  They were very pretty rocks most of them being white quartz that is abundant everywhere.   Then he used his tinder and small branches and wood he chopped to create a camp fire.  Next on his camp fire embers he cooked his supper.  He cooked a can of beef noodle stew and boiled water in a steel cup to make chicken noodle soup.

At the end of the day, these boys are learning and practicing great skills for their future.  They are looking forward to their next outdoor adventure in the woods.


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Creation Museum, A Visit Back In Time

My family had a great time when we took a trip back in time and visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky.


The Creation Museum experience is like walking through biblical history. It is a great experience for both kids and adults.  It covers the 6 days of creation, plus many more historical people’s lives from the bible like Noah, Paul, Jesus, etc. and the history comes to life in a hands on way at the museum.  There are life size exhibits and a planetarium too.  Visiting the museum was one of the best decisions we have made for teaching our family about who God is and his amazing creation called earth and the animals and people.  Seeing the bible come to life right before your eyes is an amazing experience and it strengthened our faith.


To plan our trip, we watched for a discounted ticket opportunity and went when they ran a special for children ages 12 and under to get in free with the paid admission ticket of an adult.  It was a great savings.   So we loaded up the family and took a road trip to Kentucky.  The museum is about an hour and a half drive South from where we used to live in Richmond, IN (and only 7 hours north of where we used to live in NC).  The drive through Indiana’s mini-mountains in South-eastern Indiana is absolutely beautiful! It was even more beautiful as we sang praise songs and listened to Nest Family Audio Bible stories all the way there and was a great way to travel as it keeps the kids attention and they learn so much.


Besides the beautiful scenery, there are some fun places to stop and visit along the way including two reservoir lakes and several historical towns.  There is the Whitewater Reservoir, and also a much larger reservoir called Brookville Lake. The towns of Brookville and Liberty Indiana remind me so much of the historical town of Hendersonville, NC and are set up beautifully for tourists.  There are lots of little shops to see and great history to explore in these small towns with beautiful historic courthouses too.  We also crossed the huge Ohio river, that borders three states and with breath taking views.  The river is huge and divides southern Indiana from southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.  You can clearly see God’s handiwork in creation when you look at the changing landscape and the river. It is all designed beautifully.

The kids were so excited to get there.  You know how it goes: “Are we there yet?  When will be there?  I got to go to the bathroom!  I wish we were there!  Do you know how to get there?  How much longer?  Are we there yet?”  Ha! Ha!  You just got to love traveling with kids!


At the museum, there is a large 70,000 square foot building with a huge bronze dinosaur outside, surrounded by beautiful gardens and landscape, ponds, wooden bridges,  wrought iron and stone fences, and a tall fort with a zip line that crosses the entire museum grounds.  It is a very family friendly place.  The zip line costs extra and we did not buy a ticket for it on this day.  But someday we hope to be able to take the zip-line and explore the museum gardens from the tree tops as it looks like a lot of fun.


The first thing we did was snap a picture with the dinosaur outside.  It had just rained and suddenly the sun was shinning really bright and we couldn’t hardly see at all.  It is funny how sometimes light can get so bright that your eyes cannot focus your eyes.  But once we got inside the museum, the lighting was perfect and there was so much to see.


Archaeology is just one of their specialties at the museum, and they have lots of artifacts from biblical times. They have lots of fossils and a life size example of just about every kind of dinosaur.


They have a replica of earth from the beginning, separating layers of the heavens, creating the stars, day and night, the Garden of Eden, the creation of Adam, and animals, and Eve.


There is so much detail put into this museum that I bet you could go a hundred times and see something new each time that you didn’t notice before.  Actually they expect that you will need more time to see it all, and when you buy a ticket it is good for admission for two days in a row. Many visitors stay overnight nearby and come back the following day to explore some more.


The museum is a combination of exhibits about science, history, astronomy, engineering, chemistry, Hebrew culture, our Christian roots, and so much more all rolled into one experience.

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Each room of exploration leads you into the next phase of creation and history designed by an amazing God who loves us and his handiwork is so obvious. Nothing is by chance! Everything was authored by our creator.

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This is such a fun way to walk through history!

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If you remember the story of creation, there is a tree that Adam was instructed to never eat from called the Tree Of Knowledge of Good and Evil.


There is a deceptive serpent hiding in the garden who convinces Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


Eve tells Adam and he also believes the serpent’s lies and eats of the fruit, even though God had specifically told them not to eat of the fruit of this tree.


Evil becomes the ruler of the earth through Adam and Eve’s sin against God.


They disobeyed God, and once they realized what they had done, they tried to hide their sin from God.  But God called them out on what they had done, and he forced them to leave the Garden of Eden.  From that point forward mankind must make a blood sacrifice to ask God for forgiveness of sin in their life.


From this point forward, life becomes a struggle to survive. Later in the museum we return to the issue of man’s separation from God, and that he sent his son Jesus to reconcile us back to God through his own sacrifice. From that point forward, man no longer needs to offer a blood sacrifice for his sin because God sent his son Jesus who paid the price for us all who will believe in him and ask for forgiveness.


As the world becomes populated, people and fallen angels do evil and wicked things.  God tells one righteous man, a prophet named Noah, his plan to flood the earth and wipe out wickedness.  He instructs Noah to build a large boat called an ark and preach to the thousands of people who will listen to board this boat to survive.  But everyone mocks Noah and won’t listen to him.  God instructs Noah to bring his family (including his wife, three sons and their three wives) and also 2 of every unclean animal, and 7 of every clean animal,  plus supplies, and to board the boat.


Noah obeyed God and does all that he was instructed to do.


After the ark is completed, Noah and his family board the boat with the animals and God shuts the door.  It rains for 40 days and 40 nights and floods the whole earth.  It takes almost a year for the water to recede.  Eventually the boat comes to rest on Mount Ararat.   Later one of the birds Noah sends out brings back a branch with a leaf and Noah knows that is safe to release the animals and his family from the ark.


The museum has a lifesize interactive display of Noah and the ark.  You can hear the men talking and see them working as they build the ark.   The museum also owns a bible based theme park about an hour down the road from the museum.  They are building several life size recreations from the bible for the theme park.  One of those is called The Ark Encounter and it includes a life size ark, another museum and restaurant inside the ark, and a zoo.  We went to see it while it was under construction, and we plan to make trip soon now that it is open to the public.

Check out this short video we made of the awesome dinosaurs we saw!  The kids really enjoyed this entire trip and the highlight for them was seeing the dinosaurs.

And if you get hungry during your visit, the museum offers a jungle cafe to eat in and there are many picnic spots outside around the gardens and ponds.


I encourage every family I meet to put this wonderful adventure on their to do list.  It is definitely worth the trip!

Be blessed!

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Easter Update

I didn’t want to leave you hanging…

When we talked about Easter a few weeks ago, I was telling you about our preparations, and finding balance.  I was in the midst of teaching the children about the true meaning of Easter, homeschooling, working on learning some new recipes (I am trying to loose weight), and preparing a song to sing for a special at church on Easter Sunday.

How did our week of Easter preparations go?  

We had a lovely week of weather. We had lots of learning activities leading into Easter, and enjoyed some fun activities for several days after the holiday too.  I just couldn’t get it all done that week, so I let the “cards fall where they may” so to speak.  The kids were able to complete some special Easter videos, bible study, crafts, in addition to homeschool projects we were working on.  Finally, in the name of art and science, we colored three dozen boiled eggs to finish up our Easter fun.  The week was so busy!
Mid-week we celebrated daddy’s birthday.  He turned 46.  The kids thought it was funny to switch around the numbers on his cake to 64, ha ha!  He was really surprised.

We baked him a German Chocolate Cake for his birthday.  It is his favorite and he has celebrated his birthday with this very kind of cake all his life!  It was his grandpa’s favorite cake too, and he has fond memories eating this cake swimming in a bowl of milk just like his grandpa. His mother always made this cake for him for his birthday and I picked up the tradition when we got married.  It is usually the only time of the year he gets this cake, so we make it really special.  One reason I don’t make it more often is because it is made with a store bought german chocolate cake mix and pre-made can of coconut pecan frosting and the ingredients are not very healthy. But I never learned to make it successfully from scratch.  I tried once and failed miserably.  Since it is such a special tradition for him, I just keep it the same as his mom did. 

We had a review party for The Happy’s robotic toy pets and combined the festivities with daddy’s birthday celebration.  It was really fun to combine them, as the kids carried over the theme in teasing daddy that he was an “old dog” and the kids were “young pups”.  They got him a birthday card that had a cute pug dog on it and said “Remember, you’re not truly old until you have as many wrinkles on your butt as you have on your face”.  The kids laughed and laughed to give daddy that card.  Plus they each made him a special note too.  The kids thought it was the best birthday celebration ever.  They don’t see the lack, they just see the joy of spending our time together.  I love that about my kids!
I practiced the song at home for a week an a half, and finally practiced at the church on Good Friday.  I had chosen to sing “Via Dolorosa”.  I didn’t really choose it as much as I felt God told me to sing it.  Be sure to read the first story for more information on this. I had prayed and asked the Lord for two months for a song for Easter, but he didn’t reveal the song to me until two weeks before the day I was to sing.  Good Friday was my first time to try out the microphone and sound system in the building.  It was also the first time in at least 7+ years that I had stood in front of a church (or any group setting) to sing, and I was honestly nervous.  Rehersal went well.  I ran through the song three times that night and my family sat in the pews and cheered me on.  

I had battled a scratchy throat all week, and thought I was loosing my voice as larangitis was going around.  I was worried I would not have a voice to sing with on Sunday. Each of the kids had experienced a raspy voice earlier in the week, so I knew my body was battling it.  I also had a sore shoulder and neck.  My neck was so stiff and painful that I could not turn my head.  I was in so much pain for three days and nights and got no rest or peace.  Not only did the soreness in my neck hinder my movement, it hindered my joy, and I could not feel natural, or like myself.  But I was determined to press on and give it my best skill I could.  I continued to practice the song on Saturday at home, even though the pain was so strong it made me cry.  I was a lot more nervous about singing in front of the church on Easter than I thought I would be. I really felt petrified by the time it was time to sing on Sunday. Why?  I don’t know, I think it was just that I hadn’t done it in so long.  I was a little worried if I would get the Latin pronunciations correct, but I think my nervousness was more related to just being in front of a group of people, and not being able to turn my neck without pain.  I tried to look as natural and relaxed as I could, but I didn’t feel it. 


Easter was a beautiful day.  We got to the church early, which is a huge task with 6 young kids, 2 adults, and only one bathroom for everyone to get ready in the morning.  I prayed as I entered the building and the whole time leading up to the time I went forward to sing.  I asked the Lord to help me convey his message through the verse and song.  When it was time to go up to the mic. I told them how God had layed on my heart to sing a song about love carrying the cross.  Then I read from the bible:

 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 18

The message about the cross doesn’t make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God’s power at work.” 

and 1 Corinthians chapter 2 verses 1 thorough 5 

Friends, when I came and told you the mystery that God had shared with us, I didn’t use big words or try to sound wise. In fact, while I was with you, I made up my mind to speak only about Jesus Christ, who had been nailed to a cross.

At first, I was weak and trembling with fear. When I talked with you or preached, I didn’t try to prove anything by sounding wise. I simply let God’s Spirit show his power. That way you would have faith because of God’s power and not because of human wisdom.”

After reading these scriptures, I sang Sandy Patty’s song “Down the Via Dolorosa”.  I was nervous, and had a hard time turning my neck or head, but I was able to sing the song.  I used the music stand to hold my bible and music, and the mic stand to hold the microphone.  In practice I realized it was very painful to try to hold the mic, so this was the best solution for me.  All I can say is that it was the Lord who gave me the strength to sing the song and overcome my circumstances.  After the song, the pastor preached a message from 1 Corinthians, then the children went outside for a candy egg hunt in the field behind the church building and had a good time.  I was amazed that the Lord had placed 1 Corinthians on my heart, and also on the pastor’s heart.  That was very cool indeed.
When we got home, we had an Easter dinner, but it wasn’t the one I had planned.  Oh yeah, I really screwed this up.  I was busy as a bee, and thawed out corn from our garden last year, I made homemade bread, and chocolate pie bars for desert.  

But I had forgot to pull the turkey from the freezer in time on Saturday for it to completely thaw and bake for lunch on Sunday.  It was still slightly frozen on Sunday morning, so I waited until the afternoon to put it into the oven.  I felt bad about it, felt that I had ruined Easter dinner, but amazingly it worked out well anyway. We had chicken, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw for lunch, and then tried to have the official Easter meal of homemade bread, green beans, sweet corn, mashed potatoes, minus the turkey…because…it was still…baking…, 

So I substitued leftover chicken from lunch, instead of turkey, and ate the chocolate pie bars for our Easter supper.  At first I was upset with myself, but again, I just had to get over it.  The kids and daddy were happy and fed, and it really worked out fine no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

In between meals, we spent the afternoon and evening outside enjoying the beautiful day. Lots of trees and flowers are getting leaves and blooms. It was the prettiest day we have had all year so far.  

After Easter
So the turkey was used in another way.  The kids enjoyed turkey legs for lunch on Monday, and we had a fun science experiment with the turkey bones after we deboned the meat and packaged it up for later use (story coming soon). One twenty pound turkey produced six ziploc bags of meat, two large turkey legs, and a gallon of broth.

The kids rebuilt the turkey like an anthropologist.  We made this a seriously fun hour of science learning.  I hope to get a story written about it soon to tell you more about it.

Then I made broth with the bones.  I boiled the bones with filtered water all day, let it set overnight, removed the fat from the top, and strained it.  I put it into the refridgerator, and finally we enjoyed a delicious dinner of turkey and noodles made from the rich broth later in the week.  Oh it was so delicious.  

We colored the eggs the day after Easter for a science experiement and art with colors, and I am hoping my oldest son, age 13, will write a story about it and I hope to post it here.  Here is a picture of him with his funny sense of humor.  After coloring his egg, he drew Wilson, from the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks on his egg. Then commensed to doing the “review” of how to color Easter eggs, while talking to Wilson.  It has been a couple of years since we saw that movie, but it must have left an impression on him.  He is too funny!

He said at the time he was coloring the eggs that he would write a review of the “science” of the coloring kit (dye, vinegar, porous material, etc), however, I have yet to see him get started writing.  He doesn’t really like to write, but will if prodded and if it is a subject that excites him, like science.  One thing he would love to do with eggs, is learn to etch art designs into the empty egg shells.  He seen this done at a fair we attended years ago, and was facinated by it. This is a difficult skill to learn, but one I hope he will be challenged to pursue and give it a try.  

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