Thursday, June 30, 2011

STAYCATION....How To Have A Great One!

Karen's Staycation Oasis

Pet says: You Can't Start A Staycation Without One!


Poor Karen! No more Pet’s peeves, you say. So I promise, this is the very last one. I hate, detest and despise standing in lines of any kind. Always avoiding them I utilize a Motor Vehicles Office thirty some miles into the country bypassing the busy city one. But now school is out, leaves are prevalent, and vacation time is in full swing. That means crowds everywhere. The original party pooper…amusement and theme parks are out for me; forget first run movies and latest popular eateries, even fire works and the ever present crowds fill me with fear. THEY ALL HAVE LINES! While some of the lines are in nearby cities, even in the beautiful Smokey Mountains lines abound. The eleven mile loop known as Cades Cove becomes jammed with rubber neckers peering into the past during the vacation season. And then there are the fireflies. They mate by blinking their lights in sinc. But to see the show you have to stand on line to catch a bus to a campground, then wait for a ranger to lead the line to watch the romantic fireflies. Doesn’t that make you want to flop into a comfy recliner and watch a Lifetime Movie?


I couldn’t agree more! This year I’ve decided the whole idea of a Staycation is brilliant. After being stuck in traffic for almost four hours the other day, the thought of having to suffer more traffic just to get away seems impossible. So this year I’ve started to turn my backyard into a tropical retreat. I’m lining the walls of my gazebo with palm trees and fixing the wall fountain so I have two sources of the relaxing sounds of trickling water. I’m also contemplating putting in a misting system so when summer really kicks in and it hits 100 I can still enjoy my little tropical oasis. What’s better then walking out your back door and straight into another world!


Wow! I’d love a Staycation at your house! Here in the Southland 100 degrees came early, May to be exact. So we use our rationed $4.00 plus gas to visit nearby parks for more shade, cool breezes and maybe one of our man-made lakes which abound thanks to TVA. When outside steams more than we can tolerate …we stay home in the air conditioning and even grill on our electric grill in stead of firing up the out door charcoal one. With a little imagination like spreading a blanket on the living room floor for a picnic, we’re all set. Only one item I yearn for…Saw it on TV. A Michael Phelps hot tub while compact and handy is shaped for short swims.


Sign me up for one too! One of his pools would fit in perfectly next to the gazebo. I could plant a bunch of palms and birds of paradise around it and pretend it’s a tropical lagoon. Then I can make a CD of exotic bird calls and blast them from my hidden fake rock speakers. : ) This weekend I’m breaking in my new and improved backyard tropical oasis even though I’m not quite done yet. I’ve planned a friend get together party. I think it’s always a good idea to preview a project to get reactions and find out what I need to improve. If my jaded friends walk into my backyard and I don’t hear a few ohhs and ahhs I know I need to step it up a notch. Have to keep up with my Martha Stewart reputation. : )


I haven’t looked up the cost of the swim/spa but I figure two of them would be about the same as a kidney shaped pool with a water fall. Problem here is season is so short, but in year round sunny California go for it! Wouldn’t that seal your rep as the hostess with the mostest? I can almost feel that float drifting and taste that mojito. But for now, short day trips sound good to me. Even here in the country we don’t have to go far to find scenic train and boat rides, parks with beaches, Restaurants with a view, gorgeous gardens, all kinds of festivals and world renowned amusement parks. No matter how delightful your backyard getting away brings a break and fun, especially if you go off-hours to avoid those lines.


I’ll have to win the Lotto to afford one of those spas. They start at 30,000! Can almost put in a real pool for that! Think I’ll just run down to Target and get a big kiddy wadding pool and pretend. : ) Here in Southern Cal we have a ton of things to do. And in Pasadena in the summer we have free concerts in the big city park. They are super popular and can be quite crowded. So I prefer to crank up my iTunes and just hang out in my little oasis. We have a ping-pong table to get in some exercise. Paddling those little balls is the new city sport believe it or not. Some clubs are taking out their pool tables and putting in ping-pong if they have the space. You know the saying, everything old is new again. : )


Yeah, old stuff coming back except for the ever present iPods and smart phones. Can’t do ping-pong without them. I’m in the mood for the ageless so how about some classic summer time recipes. Can you believe zucchini and yellow summer squash still cost almost $2.00 a pound in the supermarket? Meantime my neighbors with the huge veggie garden are gifting me with bags full. I have a file of recipes but kind of like my original ones best such as:


Ingredients: 2 medium to large zucchini; 1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni; half pound lean ground beef; half pound bulk Italian sweet sausage; 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; large onion; 2 large green peppers; 4 cloves garlic; one stem each of fresh Italian herbs: basil, parsley, oregano, thyme; one cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese; one quart prepared tomato sauce. One cup parmesan.

Spray roast pan with olive oil spray. Cut clean squash in half lengthwise and spray with oil. Cook half hour in 350 degree oven. Cook elbows according to package directions. Meanwhile sauté meat in large frying pan or soup pot; add onion, garlic, peppers and chopped herbs. Scoop zucchini meat from shells and add to pot. When vegetables are cooked add pasta and cheddar cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Fill shells, top with parmesan, and tomato sauce. Bake half hour. YUM!!!


Sounds good enough to eat. : ) Here in the city we don’t have a ton of room for a big veggie garden. Especially big space hogs like squash. But my husband is a big zucchini fan so every summer he sneaks two plants into a section of the front yard where I have my wild flower cutting garden. I love to have fresh flowers in the house so my husband knows I’m not going to be a happy camper when the zucchini really get going and choke off my flowers. He usually makes up for it with at least ten nice sized zucchini that he turns into some yummy ratatouille. Here’s his recipe:

Ratatouille Casserole


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
  2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic until lightly browned. Mix in parsley and eggplant. Sauté until eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
  3. Spread eggplant mixture evenly across bottom of prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Spread zucchini in an even layer over top. Lightly salt and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Continue layering in this fashion, with onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomatoes, covering each layer with a sprinkling of salt and cheese.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.



Wonderful hubby and fantastic recipes. My oven is great; never heats up the kitchen. Zucchini chips are easy to make and sooo much better than a bag of potato chips: cut the zukes into ¼ inch slices, dip into egg whites, then seasoned bread crumbs and parmesan mix. Line up on cookie sheet; bake 5 minutes in 475 degree oven. Turn and bake another 5 minutes. You’ll never fry again. Want to stay outside and cook those zukes? No problem! Spray ¼ inch slices with olive oil, sprinkle with a little garlic pepper and pop onto the grill for a few minutes on each side. Works cut horizontally too. What a great food!!! Sweet or savory the green and yellow squash could feed the whole world. At least in the good old summer time.


Jeeze, now you make me want to throw some boaster fertilizer on my husband’s zucchini plants. Those chips sound yummy! I think the best Staycation is one that’s right in your own backyard and shared with friends, family, and great food! Oh and a terrific cocktail! Here’s one of my favorite summer drinks because I can pretend I’m actually sitting on a beach in Waikiki.

Blue Hawaii

1 1/2 oz. Vodka
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
1/4 oz. Crème de Coconut
3 - 4 oz. Pineapple Juice

On the Rocks - Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Mix well and strain into a collins or small hurricane glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a slice of pineapple and an umbrella!

Blended - Combine with a scoop of ice in an electric mixer. Mix well (15 - 20 sec). Pour into Collin or small hurricane glass. Be sure to garnish with a slice of pineapple and an umbrella.

Happy Staycation fellow Transplants!

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