Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Only Natural

Well, sitting on this side of camping is very nice. On my couch, kitten snuggled next to me. Cooked a delicious meal with my full stock of supplies at my fingertips. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

We did most of our packing and prep Friday night so we were able to just get up and go as we needed in the morning. Thanks to Irene, we had two gallon jugs of water in the freezer, so we loaded those into the cooler to both help keep everything cold as well as to be a self-maintaining cold water supply (which worked beautifully, by the way! I enjoyed my yogurt with breakfast this morning). We were the first to get the camp site, so we plunked down in our camp chairs, lathered up in bug spray, and ate lunch, waiting for the rest of the crew. We weren't naive enough to attempt tent setup on our own. We lounged and read some magazines and brochures we picked up at the check-in office, and that's when the first round of trouble began for me.

The place was already swarming with mosquitoes (oh, and a daddy long legs tried to climb onto me from the table after about three seconds of sitting down). I should probably mention to those of you who don't know it I am like honey to a bear when it comes to mosquitoes...I swear they plan their family reunions around me. But I was encouraged to see them land on my arm, take a nice whiff of the citronella spray I had on, and take off without dipping onto my blood supply. After about half an hour, though, I started to feel a bit itchy on my back, and searched for a stray hair that had gotten caught on my bra strap. I asked John if he could see anything. "Oh...uhm, yeh...I see something." There were about 15 mosquito bites blossoming into being across my entire back. I had John spray me down, but the damage was done. It was all I could do not to claw my skin raw. Fortunately--or unfortunately--many bites were (are) out of my reach, so I can't get to them anyway.

By the time Ashley and Tim and Tapan arrived, I was already a bit skeptical, but their company was a welcome distraction. It became clear, though, that due to the enormous amounts of rain we've gotten, the bugs were going to be a problem.

Once our crew had gathered, we settled in for tent assembly, snacks and fire building. We had a pretty cozy setup, and I got a little more excited once we had a little home base set up. I could even almost see myself sleeping in the middle of nature.

After several applications of bug spray we were getting hungry and planning dinner. Of course, also by late afternoon several other camp sites had filled up and we seemed to be in the middle of a rather rowdy crew. Everyone seemed nice enough, just...rowdy... John and I brought some sliced bell pepper to sautee up over a nice fire as well as some veggie burgers. There was a brilliantly placed farm stand across from the camp grounds entrance that we all hit up before dinner. We picked up tomatoes that John sliced up to cook with the peppers. Donna and Rachel had a delicious tofu fajita station they were gracious enough to share--deeelish!--and Tim and Ashley made some yummy seasoned carrots and green beans. I can't remember what Tapan had as the main course, but he gave each of us a superb little pistachio cake thing. It looked like a Baby Bell, but it tasted like a smooth cheesecake. Absolute yum. Of course, we all know what I was waiting for...

SMORES. With GINORMOUS marshmallows.

Oh yeh. It was ooey, gooey, messy, and good. John whittled us some sticks to pop the mallows on. They were so big most of us just had one and called it quits. We had two chocolate offerings: milk chocolate and sea salt milk chocolate. The salt one was such a nice balance to the extreme sweetness of the mallow and the honey in the graham. Mmm. Guess which chocolate ran out first? haha

It was so refreshing when the temperature and humidity finally cooled off and even though the neighbors were flaring camp fires 8 feet in the air (someone decided it would be a great idea to shoot lighter fluid into the flames...), it was much easier to appreciate the beauty of being out in the pine barrens. The mosquitoes even took a nap and let us breathe for a few hours.

Perhaps my favorite hijink of the night was when one of the camp chairs broke and we booby trapped it so the next person who sat on it would fall through. It was every bit as satisfying as we anticipated it being.

The evening passed without too much incident. Took forever to fall asleep and it seemed just as I'd drift off some noise outside would wrench me awake. Grr. I really only got about 4 hours of sleep, but once I finally conked out, they were 4 solid, uninterrupted hours. I was grateful to see that it hadn't rained overnight, and everything was just slightly damp. It had cooled off to the 60s overnight, and it was a wonderful feeling to be able to snuggle in under the flannel sleeping bag and breathe in the crisp air. Made it seem like autumn is really coming.

By about 8:00 we were both feeling restless, so we decided to get up and start to unload the tent and repack the car a bit while we waited for the others to wake up. Oh yay. The mosquitoes were back. Also, when we got around to taking down the tent, I did encounter what I like to think was the only creepy crawly in the was a big scary spider. Ugh, it makes me recoil just thinking about it. John tried to get a fire started to make breakfast, but all the wood was too damp. Thankfully, Tim had brought a propane grill so we fired that up and got breakfast going. Yogurt, a Clif bar, a pita, and oatmeal for me, and an apple, Clif bar, and oatmeal for John. Tim cooked up the potatoes he and Ash picked up the night before and made some home fries. Tapan was still sound asleep when we left around 11. I was slightly envious. haha

By the time breakfast was done, there was nothing left of me for the bugs to bite, so we made our goodbyes and headed home. Not without first stopping at the first CVS we came by to pick up a heavy-duty itch cream to soothe my back, which is currently marred by some 30+ bites. I won't torment you with a picture of what that looks like, but I'm sure you can imagine what it feels like. Yup: like hell. I'm about to tape oven mitts to my hands.

All in all, though, my only complaint was really the bugs. I would totally camp again--in the dry season. So there you have it. Maureen VS Nature. I'll call it a draw.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Time Keeps on Slippin...

This is not news: I am a very anxious person. And when I start to feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, I tend to fling it all in one direction. A few weeks ago, that direction was my wedding dress.

I had gone for my first fitting and put it on for the first time in seven months. I wasn't really worried until I had it on. It fit fine, but then I started to panic over it looking right (aka OMGAMIFAT?!?!?!?!?!), and it being comfortable (I know it'll never feel like sweatpants and a tee shirt, but you know what I mean). It was so hard to imagine it all coming together as I stood there with pins all over the place for alterations, and at that moment, it all became real: all the months (and years, really) of planning caught up with me in that one instant. I have the deer-in-headlights-look pictures to prove it. But I'll save them for a post-wedding blog when I can truly laugh at my anxiety levels, and--duh!--so I don't spoil the surprise for everyone and ruin Le Grande Reveal. After freaking out and vowing to really REALLY watch everything I eat, I calmed down and have resumed somewhat normalcy.

Now my worries are manifesting themselves in the honeymoon. I feel like every trip planner I read is for planning your Disney vacation as if you're planning a war. I can't help but wonder how these people manage to have fun, and why they ever want to go back. So I'm worrying about getting to reservations on time, about the trams/boats/monorails, about the sheer scale of the parks (the maps on the website make it seem like it's going from one end of Princeton's campus to the other, when in reality, each park is likely much larger than the entirety of Princeton's campus), and mainly I just worry about worrying so much I don't enjoy it. As you can see, I'm terrible at relaxing. I should schedule a nice massage in there somewhere...

This, too, will pass in a few days, and I'll find somewhere new to shine my crazy light, but until then, this will consume me. Thank goodness it's a three-day weekend, and thank goodness we're taking care of some (fun!) wedding errands tomorrow. We also hope to visit with John's family and my parents are coming up on Sunday. Monday I hope to just relax at home and go with the flow.

Coming attraction:

Maureen VS Nature. Yes, friends, your very own Maureen Egan will go camping. Overnight. In nature. Sleeping in a tent on the floor. I'm sure plenty of hilarity at my expense will ensue. I don't like getting dirty. I hate bugs. I like showers and peeing in toilets rather than squatting in bushes. But I also really freaking love s'mores, so I'm giving this whole thing a whirl. Stay tuned.