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Banishing Beverly Hills Birthdays




Birthdays were never a big deal when I was growing up. In Beverly Hills, the discussion of age was/is as taboo as talking about a favorite plastic surgeon. I remember having only one birthday party when I was a kid. My parents chartered a very 1980s bus that drove me, my brother and 30 of my parents' closest friends to an ice cream parlor. Did I mention that there was a bartender on the bus?

I went on to have my own magnificent kids and I truly believed that I was going to become the Birthday Party Queen. In fact, my daughter’s first birthday party was a monstrosity. There were pony rides, endless platters of catered food and oversized stuffed animals for every single guest.

At the end of that epic party, Ryan and I sat down and re-evaluated what we were doing. We didn’t want to ignore our family’s birthdays altogether, but we also didn’t want to create narcissistic party monsters. That’s when we made the decision that birthdays would become opportunities for family adventure. The birthday boy or girl would get to pick a destination for our family to visit.

For the first few years, Ryan and I picked the locations, everywhere from Carlsbad to Ashland. Now that the girls are older, they love to start planning their next birthday trip immediately after this year’s birthday. Okay, sometimes even the same day.

Our motorhome has become the chariot that carries us away on these birthday adventures. Noweadays, depending on work commitments and time, we typically plan for a weekend getaway. In lieu of presents, we spend that earmarked money on campsites, food and adventures. The birthday celebrant gets to choose the entire menu and the big dessert. We have made everything from burgers to spaghetti, birthday cake to handheld apple pies.

These birthday celebrations have become our most treasured family moments. We have replaced the “stuff” with memories. Fun, beautiful, life-long memories. Someday, as our roadtripping tribe grows, I hope our daughters will invite their camping friends on these adventures. After all, the more, the merrier.

Now, I'd like to share a few favorite recipes that our family has enjoyed on our RV birthday trips.

Birthday Camping Recipe Collection

Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Hot Dogs

Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 4


2 cups of uncooked macaroni pasta

Water for boiling pasta

¼ cup of butter

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon of salt

½ teaspoon of ground mustard

¼ teaspoon of pepper

¼ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)

2 cups of milk

2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 package of hotdogs, cut 1” chunks


- Heat oven to 350 degrees.

- Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente.

- While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour, salt, mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

- Cook on low, stirring constantly.

- Slowly add milk. Bring to a soft boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

- Add cheese and stir until completely blended together.

- Combine the cooked pasta, cheese sauce and hot dogs.

- Pour the combination into a greased casserole dish.

- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until bubbly.

Campfire Baked Beans

Time: 1.5 hours

Serves: 4-6


4 15 ½ oz cans of pinto beans

½lb bacon

1 medium onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 ½ cups of brown sugar

1 ½ cups of ketchup

3 teaspoons of yellow mustard

2 Tbl of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste


- Empty cans into a colander and rinse thoroughly. Set aside.

- In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, ketchup, mustard, and smoked paprika. Add the beans to the mixture.

- Fry the bacon until crispy. Reserve a few tablespoons of grease. Chop bacon into small bits and then add to bean mixture.

- Using the reserved grease, fry the chopped onion and garlic until soft. Add to bean mixture.

- Pour the bean mixture into a dutch oven. Place on a grate over a low campfire.

- Cook until bubbly. Note * The longer the beans cook, the better the flavor. Add water if mixture becomes too thick.

3 Ingredient Cherry Chocolate Dump Cake

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4-6


2 20oz cans of cherry pie filling

1 box of Devils Food Cake mix, not prepared

1 ½ stick of butter, melted


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Grease the interior of a 13x9 dish. Pour the cherry pie filling into the dish and spread out into an even layer.

- Pour the cake mix over the cherry pie filling layer. Be sure to spread the cake mix out into an even layer.

- Drizzle the melted butter over the top.

- Bake for 1 hour.

- Note – Midway through baking, check to see if there are uncooked cake patches. If there are, carefully mix into itself and continue to bake.

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