Family Camp’s Brown Sugar Snaps

These Brown Sugar Snaps are easy to make dairy-free, but way too addicting to have in the house.Galavanting from here to there and back again doesn’t leave much time for cooking. So today, because of present galavanting at Shadow Valley Family Camp, this recipe comes from the camp cookbook. A dairy-free fix would be easy with Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks and coconut or cashew milk. But even if there was time to fiddle with the recipe, I wouldn’t dare…because having a batch of Brown Sugar Snaps in the house would be way too tempting.

Family Camp Brown Sugar Snaps

Warning: These cookies are addictive. Unless you like to live dangerously, don’t read another word.

Truth be told, all the food at Idaho Family Camp is addictive. Every time a nummy recipe is posted, I’m enabling an addiction. Usually it’s my addiction. But post-wedding and post-family camp, inundated with veggies from our CSA, and deep into a twelve step, healthy eating program (which means Hiram puts the key to the padlocks on the fridge and pantry twelve steps up on a ladder I’m scared to climb), I’m feeling strong enough to resist temptation.

I’d never tasted these before or even heard of them before this summer. Brown sugar snaps are sort of ginger snap meets snickerdoodle, molasses crinkle meets sugar cookie. And as mentioned before, they’re addictive. Very addictive. Give them a try and leave a comment with your description. But remember, you’ve been warned. So don’t blame me when you can’t stop eating them!

Brown Sugar Snaps

2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 sticks butter
2 teaspoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add: 2 eggs and beat again,

5 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
3 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into balls, dip in sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. Turn oven down to 375 degrees just before putting in cookies. Bake about 9 minutes. Cookies should have nice deep cracks. You will need to reheat the oven to 400 degrees between pans.



Top Ten Family Camp Rules to Live By

 Today is my last full day at Family Camp. Here are the top ten rules to live by at Family Camp, 2015.

Today is my last full day at Family Camp. Here are the top ten rules to live by at Family Camp, 2015.

10.  Take lots of pictures to document changes and progress from year to year:

IMG_46109.  Welcome unexpected visitors with calm, kindness, and wonder.

IMG_46248.  Spend as much time talking as eating during meals. (Please note: the photographer was too busy heeding this advice to take any pictures during meals.)

7.  Work hard on your work crew in the mornings, but not too hard.

IMG_46676.  If you enter the chess tournament be prepared to sacrifice several hours for each match, if necessary.

IMG_45985.  Make time for conversation often.

IMG_46184.  Fun stuff for kids should always be a top priority.

IMG_46003.  Be grateful that Family Camp now has enough cabins and cabinettes so everyone can sleep in rooms with real beds and electricity.

IMG_46202.  Hug as many babies and toddlers as possible as often as possible.

IMG_46041.  Look up at the beauty of creation and give fervent, frequent thanks to its Creator. IMG_4596

The Shadow Valley Guitar: Recycled

With a book deadline breathing down my neck, this summer has required some difficult choices. The hardest was the decision not to attend the July Family Camp at Shadow Valley in Idaho. Another, not nearly so difficult, was to cut back on blogging. Today’s post combines the two decisions by taking a peek back at a historic moment at last year’s Family Camp.


Yesterday, this view was the backdrop for Sunday morning worship at family camp.

IMG 2642 1024x682 The Shadow Valley Guitar: First You Cut Down a TreeBeautiful guitar music accompanied the singing.

IMG 2626 682x1024 The Shadow Valley Guitar: First You Cut Down a TreeThe beautiful guitar was made from wood cut from a tree that grew only yards away from where we gathered to worship.

Hiram guitar 1024x682 The Shadow Valley Guitar: First You Cut Down a TreeThe only missing link was Hiram, the man who made the guitar, unable to be present because of limited vacation time. But everyone in attendance was thinking of him and grateful for his gift to Shadow Valley Camp, the gift of music to a family who loves to sing.

To learn more about how the guitar was made, the story is online at First You Cut Down a Tree. As wife of the guitar maker I may be biased, but the process is fascinating. So take a look and if you like what you see, leave a comment at either blog or both. Both the guitar maker and his wife would love to hear what you think!

P.S. Our grandson is so fascinated by his Papoo who makes guitars that we are using the photos of the process to make a picture book for his birthday. He’s gonna love it!

The Shadow Valley Guitar: First You Cut Down a Tree


mountainYesterday, this view was the backdrop for Sunday morning worship at family camp.

IMG_2642Beautiful guitar music accompanied the singing.

IMG_2626The beautiful guitar was made from wood cut from a tree that grew only yards away from where we gathered to worship.

Hiram guitarThe only missing link was Hiram, the man who made the guitar, unable to be present because of limited vacation time. But everyone in attendance was thinking of him and grateful for his gift to Shadow Valley Camp, the gift of music to a family who loves to sing.

To learn more about how the guitar was made, the story is online at First You Cut Down a Tree. As wife of the guitar maker I may be biased, but the process is fascinating. So take a look and if you like what you see, leave a comment at either blog or both. Both the guitar maker and his wife would love to hear what you think!

Shadow Valley Grocery Shopping Spree

Shadow Valley Shoppers

Shadow Valley Family Camp’s first official meal was supper last night, July 11. But the carpenters and cooks who make camp a reality were planning construction projects and meals for months before they arrived. Many have been here for a week or more, doing advance work to make the week go smoothly.

For the first time, I arrived two days early and was able to participate in the Shadow Valley grocery shopping spree on Wednesday, July 10. During the spree, the cooks purchase almost everything necessary to feed close to 40 people 3 hearty meals a day for more than a week. Not a task for the faint-hearted. Therefore, the shoppers (see photo above) drive to Panhandler’s Pies Restaurant and Bakery in Sandpoint, Idaho for a hearty breakfast. And, yes, everyone had pie for dessert, which explains the smiles.

Fully fortified and mighty happy, the shoppers climbed into one van and a humongous extended cab pick up and drove to Costco in Coeur d’Alene. On the way Pam, master planner and list creator, read the shopping list categories: dairy, breads, pantry items, condiments, cleaning supplies, and produce.* Each shopper, or pair of shoppers, picked a list, looked it over, and asked questions that came to mind.

At Costco, each grocery guru grabbed a cart and got to work. Each item found was crossed off the list, and eventually the gaggle of gurus met in the front of the store with loaded carts:

bread cart





In order of appearance: bread, dairy, cleaning supplies, canned and boxed goods, paper products, produce, and condiments.

And here are all the carts lined up at the checkout line:


Next stop was Walmart where we purchased the remaining items on our lists. The carts weren’t quite as full here, but the manager assigned us a lane and closed it down so other shoppers wouldn’t get frustrated by a long wait:


Then, it was back to camp to unload the vehicles,



and put everything away.

IMG_2208 IMG_2210 IMG_2214 IMG_2211 IMG_2212 IMG_2213

That’s not quite everything, but you get the idea.

Once that was done, the men ordered pizza for supper, and the shoppers took a well-deserved break. But first, the cooks set out brats and hot dogs to thaw, along with buns and cans of baked beans for supper on July 11. Yum!

*Many thanks to June who weeks ago not only purchased the items on the meat list, but also did all the advance meat prep, repackaging, labeling, and freezing!

Three Northern Thoughts for Thursday

Hatcher Pass

Being married to an Alaskan native (born there before Alaska was a state), our travels often take us to the north country. Our trip to together to Alaska (Hiram arrived home 2 days ago) and my side trip to family camp in Northern Idaho (where I’ll be for several more days) are a case in point and led to these 3 thoughts.

  1. An early July wedding above the Hatcher Pass treeline (see photo above) wasn’t the most comfortable, but it may be the most memorable we’ve ever attended.
  2. Four days is Kodiak isn’t long enough to take in the beauty of the island. Next time, we’ll stay longer. And take winter raincoats, hats, gloves, rubber boots, and extra pairs of socks.
  3. Writing a blog while sitting on a breezy, shady porch and gazing at Idaho mountains may be the closest thing to heaven on this earth. What a gift!

Have you traveled north or in the mountains? What thoughts would you add to the list? Leave a comment!

Where All the Women Are Strong

Shadow Valley Family Camp is not for wimpy women. With the exception of one female cleverly camouflaged behind her camera. Megan, pictured above, is just one of a crew of for women who spent an entire morning peeling logs.

What’s the proof of their heartiness?
These women volunteer for the crews they’re on.

Their crew of four was just one of several crews populated with strong women who don’t blink at daunting tasks like chopping firewood, hauling furniture out of the upper story of a structure accessible via a precariously narrow gang plank, hammering floor joists, and operating noisy power tools capable of removing fingers. The fact that they never blink at the task set before them is a well-documented fact. Just ask the wimpy woman behind the camera. In every picture she takes, these hearty women have their eyes wide open.

They even smile when they volunteer to be on a crew.
Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

And when they’re not at Shadow Valley? These women also volunteer to live in places like Korea. And Siberia. And Alaska. And Canada. And the ones who live in cushier climes? They go on mission trips to Siberia. Or they teach elementary school, which is pretty much the same thing as visiting Siberia.

These women even smile when they return from mission trips.
Or at the end of a school year.

Or when they come to Shadow Valley. Because living here is way easier than life for the rest of the year. Their presence is one reason for coming to Shadow Valley. Being around them is part inspiration, part example, and part encouragement. It’s a healthy dose of vicarious living. The wimpy women get to imagine what it’s like to pound nails or endure through a Siberian winter or a Korean school year, minus the sweat and the shivers.

Plus, being with these strong women makes me smile.
From behind the camera, of course.

We’re Together at Camp, Rain or Shine

For the first time ever, we felt raindrops at Shadow Valley Family Camp. The gloomy, chilly weather had its upside. The deer were out in the middle of the day, which was as gray as dawn and dusk when they’re usually most active. And family members who arrived at camp early instigated a great sleeping space shuffle so those who were planning on tent dwellings (ourselves included) were moved inside. Yahoo!

However, the wet weather had a downside, also. The mosquitos, which like the deer usually wait to come out at dawn and dusk, sucked our blood mercilessly all day long. Campers who hoped to rectify their Vitamin D deficiencies were out of luck. And outdoor games, a favorite activity, were out of the question thanks to bugs and water.

By yesterday evening the gloom was lifting. This morning dawned sunny and bright and stayed clear until almost lunch time. Long enough for the work crews to peel logs and set up the Frisbee golf course, for the play crews to finger paint with pudding and hose off the slip and slide, and for the kitchen crew to tempt diners with more food in one day than they eat in two back home.

The clouds gathered again while we ate Utoff chicken and Pam’s featherbeds for lunch. But that gives everyone a cozy afternoon for catching up on important things like:

  • The toy horses eight-year-old Alaisyah received for her birthday a few days ago.
  • The progress of wedding plans for this year’s newly engaged couple.
  • Budget deficits and government cost-cutting measures in our respective states.
  • If there’s a can available for Kick the Can tonight – provided the mosquitoes don’t carry everyone off.
  • The idiosyncrasies of the camp automatic coffee makers.
  • Who likes which camp desserts best.
  • The diets we plan to start the day after leaving the mountain.

One gloomy afternoon isn’t enough time to catch up on every earth-shaking event from the past year. But it’s a good start. So take notice, old man weather. Whether you send the sun or the rain, you won’t dampen our spirits at Family Camp. We’re together, and we’re gonna have a good time, no matter what!

The Cost of Organization

Disclaimer: I wrote this piece while we were at the reunion for my husband’s side of the family and read it during Heritage Night on the evening assigned to the Philos. Several people asked me to put it on the blog. It’s a little longer than my normal posts, so bear with me and enjoy!

When I grew up, my entire extended family of 2 grandparents, 16 aunts and uncles, and 39 grandchildren lived within 90 miles of one another. Our idea of a reunion was gathering at the park in Pipestone, Minnesota for a noon picnic. All the aunts brought fried chicken, salads and homemade desserts: angel food cake, sour cream chocolate cake, sour cream rhubarb pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, apple, peach and cherry pies. The uncles brought bats, baseballs and gloves.

We ate dinner fast before the Jell-o melted and the potato salad went bad. When the food was gone, the uncles and all the male cousins willing to brave Uncle Ralph’s killer fastball, swarmed onto the ball diamond and played for blood. The aunts sat in the shade, gossiped and told the impatient, younger cousins they had to wait a half hour before going swimming. At the end of the longest half hour in the history of the world, the youngsters changed clothes in the car so the aunts could save the locker rental fee. Then, the kids ran to the bathhouse, slapped their dimes on the counter and hit the pool. When the ball game ended with winners gloating and the losers not speaking to the gloaters, the swimmers were hauled dripping and screaming from the water and everyone went home.

So the first reunion on my husband’s Walker side of the family was a real eye opener. It was in Phoenix, somewhere around 1979, which meant members of the far-flung Walker brood had to buy plane tickets and pay for motel rooms. The amount of money required was a real shocker to a Midwestern girl whose parents wouldn’t spring for a locker fee at the swimming pool.

But that was only the first shock in a whole string of shocks. The Walker aunts and uncles had drawn up a strict schedule of events and expected people to stick to it. The schedule included things like meals, games, free time and a big meal where everyone was introduced and told something about their families and lives. Not only that, they suggested activities for free time and kept track of what we chose.

Those of us in the high school through young adult crowd, cocky and smarter than we would ever be again in our entire lives, rolled our eyes at our elders. “Planned spontaneity?” we scoffed. “Who needs it?” Someday, we agreed, when we were in charge of the reunions, we would not plan things to the enth degree and impose our obsessive-compulsive schedule disorders upon our children.

But a few decades later, a strange thing happened. Somebody, or a bunch of somebodies, came up with a cockamamie idea about the perpetual Shadow Valley Family Camp where the far-flung Walker brood could gather for a week in the summer and maintain family ties. The formerly spontaneous young adults morphed into bunch of middle-aged planners and made the previous generation look like amateurs. Suddenly there was mission statement, a website, a camp week scheduled a year in advance, a building plan, a menu, a humongous shopping list, a cookbook, KP duty, a work roster, historical documentation and a daily schedule which includes blocks of time for work, planned excursions and recreational time, which is another name for free time, but it’s not called free time because we refuse to impose our obsessive-compulsive schedule disorders upon our children. But if anyone younger than 25 can’t think of anything to do during recreation time, the middle-aged planners will gladly give you suggestions and record your choices.

About two weeks before the 2008 Shadow Valley Camp, my siblings and I were in charge of my side of the family’s annual reunion. It was one of the most organized to date. We sent invitations in January, and with only a handful of RSVPs by mid-May, sent a series of emails reminding people to RSVP so we would know how much broasted chicken to order and wouldn’t run out of food which is what happened to last year’s planners who graciously gave us a heads up so we knew what was coming.

We gathered in the Pipestone Park, and our dynamite organization paid off big time. There was enough chicken and more than enough dessert since we told people to bring either a salad or dessert and everyone brought dessert. There was no baseball game, because we only bring dessert to our family reunions so everyone’s a little too hefty to run the bases these days. Instead, we had a display of labeled historic family photos people could order, and it was a big hit because it was kind of a new idea for us to label photos and then share them. And thirty minutes after the meal, the kids begged five bucks from their parents and went swimming. Between that and $6.50 per head for lunch, the kids had to change clothes in the cars to save the cost of locker fees.

All afternoon, people complimented me about the reunion. “How did you do it?” they asked. “When did you get so organized?” they asked.

“During family camp with my husband’s side of the family,” I told them. “We’re going there again in a few weeks.”

“Maybe we should incorporate more of their ideas,” one of my cousins suggested.
I choked on a chicken wing imaging their reaction to a reunion schedule, work rosters and recreational time suggestions. Once I dislodged the chicken bone stuck in my throat, I answered. “Maybe not. Organization gets a little pricy, you know. Reunions on Hiram’s side of the family cost $60 a person. And they last a week.”

“Maybe we’re organized enough,” someone remarked and they all walked away.

After that reunion, I counted the days until Shadow Valley Camp began, eager to participate in the bargain of the year. For $60 a week, I get three meals a day with no chance of food running out, a daily schedule, and plenty of suggestions about what to do during recreational time. Somebody even records my choices, which is great, because at age 52 I can’t remember anything for more than a few minutes and need all the help I can get.

If that’s the cost of organization, it’s worth the price.