By Samantha Gianulis – Apron Strings

You Can’t Make me a Camper

It’s the end of the summer. Our family has one last excursion into the all-American summer vacation planned, and we intend to hold tightly as we can to the sunshine, the scent of the grill, and freedom.








Late summer, farm stand tomatoes peak with flavor and take center stage in this no-cook *, hearty enough for dinner time salad.


1 loaf of French bread, a day old

1 lb. tomatoes (heirlooms, preferably), chopped

1/4 cup real bacon bits, or approximately 5 slices of bacon (from breakfast, of course), crumbled

1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles (feta or goat cheese would also work)

a few leaves of basil, torn or cut

extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

coarse grain salt and pepper, to taste


Slice up bread into large crouton sized shapes.

* No cook/cook option: bread can be toasted in a HOT oven for approximately four minutes, enough to give it color and crunch.

Lay bread as a bed on a large platter or in large serving bowl.

Add tomatoes, bacon crumbles, blue cheese crumbles, and toss.

Add balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper.

Toss to coat and combine.

Lastly, garnish with basil.

But it does not come easy.

We’re not roughing it in one of our country’s great camping destinations like Yellowstone or the the John Muir Trail. We’re not coordinating a multi-campground trip with other families. And our trip did not require years of budgeting by any means.

My family is renting a trailer — which will be attached to a full hook-up — for four days and nights. At the beach, where it’s cool, and the yellows and oranges of the Pacific sunsets in the background blend into the campfires and are highlighted with such vibrant pink that the watermelon gets jealous.


I come from a long line of campers, which makes this odd. My father is the oldest of three brothers who year after year went camping on different rivers in California, from the Klamath (Grand-dad had a cabin there, I’ve been, but the Bigfoot statues everywhere were the opposite of comforting to a thirteen year old girl) to the Russian. I’ve caught fish in the Owens River and rafted down the Klamath, but I have not returned, literally or emotionally, to those places.

Camping, to me, breaks down to this simple formula. You pack at home, you unpack at campsite. You get filthy dirty at campsite and stay that way. You bring filthy stuff home, unpack it, get clean stuff at home dirty and wash for days, after fighting over who gets in the shower first. Once I became the adult who did all the dirty work, the fun evaporated.

Fun. More like work, and work is not fun on vacation. But ere is what is worse that toiling while on holiday – that I can’t tap into the joy of the big picture that is camping. That I miss the actual forest for the tall, fragrant pine trees, because I want a shower at night and a hotel room with my bags waiting for me. Why can’t I get into it?

I’m missing a simple pleasure in life, darn it. And I am wasting a lot of time fretting over the potential wasted time in my life.

We have done this beach camping trip before, and as luck would have it, simultaneously with one of my best girlfriends. She is what I call a natural camper with her own rig, every camping contraption for convenience imaginable packed smartly away for ready use (and set up in half the time it takes my husband, it’s just ridiculous). Without trying we’ve booked the same weeks at the same beach campground, despite a nearly impossible online reservation system that crashes on booking day.

The natural world in all of it’s symmetry threw me a bone by adding a mentor to the outdoors impostor that is me. And who am I, if not a wife, mother and camping buddy, to turn down such an invitation.

My preferred mode of travel may be by cruise ship with a margarita in hand, but come tomorrow, check in time to State Beach at 2:00 p.m., I’m the not-so-reluctant, it’s in my genes, “I got your campsite meal plan right here” girl. And I can pull it off, because new trails are blazed all the time, and those are the people who look back on their lives with satisfaction.

My children packed their bags this morning (amid my complaining about hauling a separate suitcase for sand toys), and they were not thinking about what a hassle our family vacation would be. As they folded their bathing suits nicely in their bags, they didn’t fret over “if” they would enjoy this camping trip enough to justify the trouble. To them, it’s not trouble at all. Kids — kids who go camping, kids who fly to Europe, kids who go on missions to foreign countries — they get excited about new adventures. No doubt or worry inhabits their minds, they just want to dive right in, and the second they get there.

The campsite we shack up in for a few days, it’s not a port (sigh) but a portal, and I’ll get through it (and the post-vacation laundry that follows). Those vacation days, however long they last, with whomever they are spent, wherever the road or natural world takes you, is a portal. A portal to re-connect to happier, more carefree versions of ourselves, with the people before us and all they left behind, with the absolute beauty of the surroundings you and your subconscious have chosen.

Our campground, like so many others all over our country, were once inhabited by Native Americans. There is an old Cheyenne saying: “Our first teacher is our own heart.”

I wonder if my inner jaded adult hears that. Remember me, thirteen year old fisherman/rafter? My heart wants to feel light, light as the clouds bouncing on the horizon on an Indian Summer day. So, with the help of my own children and my campground regular bestie, I think I just might let it.

With a hot shower in the recreational vehicle waiting to rinse the sand off my feet.

Kellie Strausser

Chef Kellie Strausser is a thirty-four year young self and restaurant taught Chef who dabbles in catering small functions as a hobby. Her love of creating carries over into several areas of her life, including freelance writing, art and her passion for cooking and entertaining for friends and family in Lancaster, PA. StrausserApron Strings Cooking ColumnCooking and RecipesBy Samantha Gianulis - Apron Strings You Can't Make me a Camper It's the end of the summer. Our family has one last excursion into the all-American summer vacation planned, and we intend to hold tightly as we can to the sunshine, the scent of the grill, and freedom....Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids