Great Escape 2012…30 years and going strong

There may be the tiniest discrepancy between what the Great Escape is and what I’ve put it out as to Grumpy.  For instance, for the past decade or so, I might have allowed Grumpy to believe that we are camping in pathetic tents, while Mother Nature howls and rain splashes our gear.  That might have been the case with the first Escape, but I’ve learned since then to choose wisely.  No more tents for me; not on a chilly October night in New England!

This year we were lucky enough to stay in Christa’s house.  It’s lovely- a snug little cabin in the woods.  Christa McAuliffe camped here as a girl.  There is a display which includes photos and her scout uniform.  The building is heated, with a modern kithcen and bath as well as a working fireplace.  A big improvement over the leaky tents!

All of our meals were served in the Dining Hall.  Served, as in someone else did the cooking and cleaning.  Oh yeah!

There is a huge fireplace at one end of the dining hall, kind of a gathering place to sing, socialize or just cozy up for a cat nap.

The activities are varied.  You could choose to enjoy a 7 hour trail hike.  My friend Barb did this.  In the RAIN!  She even suggested that I might want to join them.  Silly Barb.  She should know better.  You could also plan a morning of canoeing on the lake.  Ann was planning to go canoeing.  Sadly, it was sooo rainy all weekend that they canceled canoeing (I don’t think Ann was very sad at all).

I chose to participate in a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, as it was presented by Mel, another old friend.  She led a brief (thank you!) foraging hike in the wet woods followed by a traditional tea party.  We learned the various things to avoid (poison ivy,etc) and what to watch for: we mainly found wood sorrel, wintergreen and indian cucumbers.  I’ve never even heard of indian cucumbers before.  They have star shaped leaves(Mel is holding one in the photo), and a tiny white grub shaped crunchy bit attached to the root.  Sounds appealing, right?  I did try them, they taste like what you’d get if a cucumber and a daikon radish got married and had babies. Not bad, and while I won’t be serving them at my next royal banquet, if I were ever lost in a boggy wet woodland, then I would probably not starve.

The educational classes included (but not limited to) stained glass (been there, done that), jewelry making (put together some nice earrings), and various classes where you make things you didn’t even know you needed out of duct tape/old calendars/ bits of dryer lint, etc.  Once class that I missed out on was quilling.  It looked interesting and my friend Ann really enjoyed this one.  Here is a photo of the things she put together.  Not sure when I need to use quilling in my life, but it looks cool.

On Saturday there was a bit of entertainment.  In addition to the usual (auctions, skits) there was an amazing display of synchronized swimming.  I’m not sure how they managed to pull that off indoors, but where there’s a will…

Finally, I tip my hat to the ladies who cook.  They managed to put out food that was healthy, tasty and at each meal they provided vegetarian/gluten free/ nut free options galore.  I don’t go in for those choices myself, but it was a big undertaking.  In addition to the meals, they put out snacks (I try to skip those) and desserts (I did allow myself one- and only one!).   While these little “campfire cupcakes” were really cute, I was just taken instead by vanilla.  That one, right there(3rd from the right), that’s mine!

One other thing they had there- morning, noon and night- my dear old (at least among non-alcoholic) beverage of choice:Sigh.  What a lovely welcome,  and a lovely weekend as well.  Just between us, that is.  As far as Grumpy knows, it was an all-out torential rainstorm all weekend, and we camped in the thick of it.  ;-)

Sometimes you need to escape, and sometimes you need the Great Escape

There is a retreat held in New England every fall called the Great Escape.  It was started as a weekend event for Girl Scout leaders (it’s now open to all adults, even those who aren’t girls or scouts).  Woman would all meet to share stories, teach each other skills and just “escape”.  When I became a Girl Scout leader, about a decade (ok- more) ago, I told Grumpy about the “Great Escape”.  I didn’t tell him what it was called, however.  Just that it was some “required” event where we had to go for the weekend to get the training needed to be leaders.  He patted my shoulder, said he was glad it was a “mom” thing, he appreciated how devoted a mother I was to put up with these requirements for my girls.

The first event I went to was on Cape Cod.  Picture warm sunny beaches.  It wasn’t like that.  It is a beautiful camp built around a big lake.  Only, in the fall, it’s not always warm and sunny.  In fact, that year, we camped in a hurricane.  Yeah, really.  We were in “platform tents”; a raised platform, with a canvas tent stretched over the frame.  Friday night wasn’t so bad, just a little rainy and windy.  Saturday was really wet.  And windy.  We were huddled in the dining hall learning basket weaving, doing silk screening and drinking wine.  Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, they don’t usually allow ( ;-) )wine at girl scout camps, but it was a Hurricane!  The day was long.  I don’t remember how we filled all those hours, really.  A lot of laughing, and a lot of pouring.  At one point my friend, and fellow leader, Sue went out into the hurricane under the guise of searching for plants that she might use in a terrarium.  She was feeling pent up and wanted some outdoors time.  I helped her for a bit, but left her to sort things on her own.  NOT a good idea, as you should always have a “buddy” when you’re roaming the woods.  She was adamant, however, about needing to be on her own.  She did find some plants that day.  One of them was wintergreen.  This can be found all over the woods of New England.  The other plant she found was “a pretty little thing”.  That’s how she described it.  I laughed and laughed when she tried to hand it to me.  It was poison ivy.  Yup, really!  As at all of these retreats, the evening ended in front of a fire, with at least one guitar and a lot of voices raised in song.

I do remember two events from later that night.  First, I apologize to my friend Barb for what I’m about to tell you.  She may or may not have been celebrating that evening with her friend Jack (as in Mr Daniel’s).  She was all tucked in and snoring softly at about 2 in the morning.  I was tossing and turning, almost asleep in spite of the high winds.  Suddenly, Barb sat up screaming.  Like in the movies screaming.  She couldn’t even speak clearly at first, but eventually we figured out that she saw something in our tent, and felt it run under her cot.  I’m a loving and supportive friend.  I laughed so hard I snorted.  Some creature, in a wet, windy hurricane was out for a stroll and crawled under the cot of the snoring lady.  To this day, that’s Barb’s story.  We try to stay in the lodges or cabins with Barb now.

The next thing that happened, was my fault.  On account of all that tossing and turning I do.  The hurricane made the platform wet and slippery.  I woke from a sound sleep after dreaming I was falling.  When I opened my eyes, I was totally confused.  I didn’t know where I  was at first, and was disoriented.  My cot had slid off the platform, and was dangling over a crevice, one leg of the cot stuck inside the tent and I was more out than in myself.  I was getting soaked in the rain, and scrambling for all I was worth not to fall completely out.  My tent mates were woken for a second time to my hollering for help.  They dragged me and my cot back into the tent.  For some reason, I lay there soaking wet and laughed until I snorted again.  I seem to do a lot of snorting at these things!

That trip, the first of my “Escapes”, was certainly memorable.  I’ll try get around to telling you about this year’s retreat tomorrow.  G’nite all!

How to survive Blistering Heat, Sad Farewells and Scouting with Ginger Beer

It’s just tooo hot.  This weekend was a great lay-on-the-boat-and-do-nothing weekend.  I only wish I were there.  Instead, I’m running around trying to help my friend move away.  And helping my new daughter (given to me for a year by same friend) move into our home.  And going through the usual musical rooms routine that we seem to do every few months.  In and out of the attic with furniture that is just “wrong”, rotating with furniture that might be alright.  All in a home that was built 110 years ago, before central ac, when insulation was one of those new-fangled things that would never catch on.  In short: It’s just tooo hot.

I shouldn’t whine.  At this very moment, I’m taking a break in front of a window fan with a tall, chilly glass of my new favorite (non-alcoholic) beverage.  Homemade ginger beer.  Sugar free. Oh my.

For about 10 years I was a Girl Scout leader.  I never liked scouting when I was a kid.  Then it meant weekly lectures and coloring.  Blah.  When I got to be the leader, though, I made the rules.  We got to do things.  Real things.  We made things to sell for real money. 

Then we donated some, and with the rest we went apple picking. Every fall.

And skiing.  Every winter.  Most of the girls had never been skiing, and didn’t have a chance to ski other then on our annual trip.

We also went to a Dude Ranch.  The horse I was given to ride was named Big Mac.  I tried to not take it personally.

But mostly we went camping.  A lot.  I loved it.  It was everything Girl Scouts was not in my childhood.    We mostly stayed in tents like this one, just high enough above the lake to enjoy some nice cool breezes at night.  Always sleep with your tent flaps open.  Trust me on this one.  And beware of the prankster- every encampment has one.  This was ours.  I am seeing this photo and it just takes me right back there. She’s a hoot.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun we had together.  If the GS nazi’s new they’d ban us from scouting for life.  Maybe two lifetimes.

It was on one of our many, many camping trips that I discovered Ginger Beer.  One of those hot, steamy days when the last thing I wanted to do was go off camp to a market.  We must have needed something dreadfully, because off I went.  There, in the (maybe 40 sq foot) so-called market, I bought an icy cold one.  I was hooked.

I’ve toyed with the idea of making my own ginger beer many times.  The image of dozens of glass bottles exploding in my pantry has held me back.  Recently, I found a recipe for homemade ginger ale at  This recipe involved simmering ginger and making a syrup, which was then added to seltzer.  How absolutely brilliant!!!  No fermenting.  No exploding glass.  I decided to adapt this, make it a bit stronger and sugar free, to create a sugar free ginger beer syrup.

Here is all you need:  Ginger (2 lbs)  ; Limes (optional)  ; Stevia 1.5 cups (or whatever substitute sweetner you prefer)  ; Seltzer

Start by peeling 2 pounds of ginger.  It’s really easy; just scrape the outer skin with the side of a spoon and it slips right off.   After peeling, slice all of the ginger and place it in a saucepan, just barely covering it with water.

Simmer for about 45 minutes, do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover with a lid.  After it cooled I refrigerated overnight.  The next morning, I strained it (save ginger and candy it later) and added the Stevia, whisking gently over low heat until it had completely dissolved.  After cooling, It’s ready to use.

Fill a large glass with ice.  Add 1/2 of a lime (squeeze that thing for all it’s worth).  Pour around 1/4 full with syrup.  Top off with seltzer.  You can use more syrup, or less if you prefer.  It’s so gingery and refreshing. Takes me right back to that first icy cold ginger beer, lying on a cot in a tent with a gentle breeze off the lake.