Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Like Flying

I haven't done a lot of flying lately that didn't include blankies, toys and gummy bears.  But in my younger years, I did often have to face the carry-on or check dilemma. Let me tell you, it all comes down to shoes.  If you can make it through a 3 day weekend with the pair of shoes you are wearing and only one additional pair, carry-on is a breeze.  Even if you have to bring your own hairdryer.  The more shoes, the harder it is going to be.  Especially in the winter.  Winter boots are are a carry-on buzz kill. 

Last time I visited my parents in Pennsylvania, I had to face the carry-on conundrum.  In essence, this should have been easy.  Four days, no huge temperature differential and no weddings.  Casual. 

The problem is that I am a runner.  If I want to run, I have to bring my size 9 Etonics, which are not slim.  It would be the best use of space to wear them on the airplane, but then I would have to suffer the fashion consequence.  

Don't get me wrong, I love my running cloths.  If it was up to me, Dri-FIT would be the "fabric of my life."  However, I have watched my fair share of What Not to Wear and have internalized that my running apparel is not fit for airport consumption.  Plus, I would have to take them on and off for security, and they are a bit stinky. Luckily, Mom has a hairdryer so in the bag they go.  

With my one pair of carry-on shoes taken, I am forced to make do with the pair of shoes I wore on the airplane for the entire trip.  Given I am not a huge fashionista I was able to make it work.  However, it did result  in having to wear a pair of pants one day that are unfortunate in the the butt area.  Which makes one wonder, is the time and hassle saved by carry-on really worth a day of ill fitting pants on vacation?

Making a menu for a week long camping trip is just like trying to make due with unfortunate pants.  Except instead of shoes, the linchpin in the camping menu is the condiment.  Salsa, milk, butter and syrup, mayo and mustard, jelly, ketchup, dijon, ranch dressing, cheese, sour cream...ugh.

There are plenty of wonderful things that my family loves to eat, and that I would love to make for them on camping trips.  However, during the Texas summer, what doesn't go in the cooler must not spoil at 90 degree temps.  When I am packing for an extended trip in the heat, cooler real estate is precious.  Every item must earn it's rightful spot in the chill zone by making an appearance at more than one meal. It is a very fine juggling act to manage cooler space and keep everyone fed and happy. 

I take my Mom and Dad's tact and plan meals old school, with pencil on paper. Divide paper into three columns (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and as many rows as you have days.  Cross out travel meals and then start inserting ideas.  I don't list ingredients on my meal plan, but I do make note in each corner the condiments necessary. 

Try to think of meal-groups.  For example, my family loves tacos of all kinds.  Tacos have a lot of condiments: cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.  However, I can reuse the lettuce and tomatoes in a future salad, the cheese and salsa for breakfast tacos latter in the week. 

You can also take advantage of new small condiment containers that don't need cooled until opened.  If you can hold off on opening your salsa or mayo until latter in the week, when the cooler has open space, then it is less of a worry.

I usually go through 2 or 3 iterations of my menu to get my meal groupings, condiment openings and spoilage parameters in order.

Like the carry-on conundrum, condiment management is not perfect.  Surprisingly, though, most deficits are glossed over with liberal placement of M&Ms, Jiffy-Pop Popcorn and s'mores.   After all, you are on vacation!

If only s'mores were an easy answer to unfortunate pants.