Labor Day Shrimp Boil

How was your Labor Day weekend?  Ours was nice and pretty low-key.  We don’t usually make big plans for Labor Day since this mom needs to get mentally prepared for the start of school.  And not just mentally.  Oh, the organizing of backpacks and school supplies and paperwork.  And grocery shopping for all of those cold lunches (can you hear the whining?  I hate making cold lunches…well, actually I kind of hate making any meal, but I guess I just don’t like doing them even more the same time as breakfast!) .  And don’t forget about picking out the First Day outfit and actually getting it ironed the night before!  Picking out clothes and ironing them the night before usually lasts about two or three days, and then we are winging it again.  Or we just don’t iron at all…  But hey, they always have clothes on.  So you can see why this procrastinator needs the weekend to prepare.  No camping for me!

My mom and dad usually have a little picnic on Labor Day, but this year they had the nerve to go on vacation without all of their children and grandchildren.  I still can’t believe it.  So Mardi, Kendal, and I had to take matters into our own hands and plan a little get together with just us and Mardi’s in-laws.  We’ve been wanting to do a shrimp boil all summer and just haven’t made it happen, so we decided Labor Day was a good excuse to try it out.  I have to say it turned out pretty well.  We used this recipe from Hearth and Vine, but doubled it.  Chris boiled it in his deep fryer, and Rob made homemade hushpuppies in another one.  Kendal also made coleslaw and grape salad.  And we rolled brown paper on the tables so we didn’t need to use plates, but I still had to anyway.  Just habit, I guess.  It made for easy clean-up, though!  It was nothing fancy, but it was different and fun, and I’m glad we tried it.  I think it might be a fun new tradition.  And maybe I’ll eat it right off the table next time!

Please excuse the horrible picture-taking and lack of pictures.  I guess I was in such a hurry to eat that I neglected to take decent pictures!!  Oh, and I’m sure you are super impressed with the high quality paper plate, too!

I made a peach dump cake for dessert with canned peaches and a cake mix.  I added about 1/2 cup of oatmeal on top, and it was really good for being not-quite homemade,  Best of all, it was super easy!    Which was good, because I had to do all of the school prep stuff that I had waited until the last day to do.  Maybe now that summer vacation is over, I will be a little more organized and disciplined…well, one can only hope!

If you’ve never done a shrimp boil, give it a try.  It’s a great way to feed a crowd, and also a nice alternative to the “if-I-eat-one-more-hot dog/hamburg-this-summer” feeling you get by the end of August.  Here’s wishing you all had a great end to the summer and a successful jump into a new school year!



An Old Fashioned Fourth of July…And a Few Recipes!

Hey guys!  Happy Monday!  I know, I know…that sounds entirely too peppy for a Monday following a holiday that pretty much spans a week.  Well, if you live in Michigan, it usually does because, well, the weather is nice and it’s America’s birthday, and lots of employers shut down for the week, and people go up north or camping, or to the beach.  It’s just what we do.  At least I hope all of you got to do at least some of those fun things.  Mardi and I and our families celebrated the Fourth of July as usual at my parents’ annual party, followed by a trip up north.

The party was huge this year!  My mom and aunt counted over 200 people!  We had some new faces this year, some I didn’t even know.  But I am so glad they felt comfortable enough to come, and I hope they all felt welcome.  The weather was absolutely perfect…80ish and sunny.  The kids were in and out of the water all day right until dark.  One of my favorite things about this day is seeing the kids, many who only meet up once a year at this party, instantly act like old friends from the minute they arrive.  And I didn’t see kids on electronics literally the whole entire day!  And they lived to tell about it!

We ate around 4, and let me tell you, I think it was better than Thanksgiving dinner.  Since it is a potluck, the choices are amazing!  I always love the deep-fried shrimp that the guys make, and my mom’s smoked sausage cooked in crushed pineapple, and Danya’s crab salad.  Then there are Mrs. Vogel’s homemade cinnamon rolls that are always a party staple.  Can you tell I’m really into health food?  One of my new favorites this year was a corn salad with chili cheese fritos.  I’m not even sure who brought it, but it was so yummy.  Luckily I found a recipe on Pinterest.  Here is one that looks similar.  You should check it out if you haven’t had it before!  I think I will definitely make this in the future.

I actually made the little fruit tarts with the star cut-outs that I mentioned I might make in the previous post.  I added blueberry pie filling as well, and then sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the top.  They were super easy and tasty too.  I also made the Six Sisters’ Lunch Lady Peanut Butter Bars.  They are sooooo good, and the recipe yields a lot of servings.  Mardi made scotcheroos, sugar cookie bars, and a really good snack mix.









We ended up dragging the kids out of the water for a sack race, a three-legged race, and tug of war.  They were having so much fun swimming that they didn’t seem to mind the simplified games this year, which was nice.  Most of the kids are getting older now, too, so we don’t have as many participants. Sniff, sniff.  Especially the boys…they have graduated to letting off their own fireworks.  Always a little scary, but there is no coming between boys and bottle rockets.  Sometimes you just gotta let boys be boys, I’m learning.  But sometimes I just can’t really watch too close, either.  Thankfully, they all have wonderful guardian angels (Thank you Jesus!), and no one was hurt.

Mardi and our friend Kathi decorated the pontoon boat this year to participate in the annual Wolf Lake boat parade.  They did a fantastic job getting it all decked out, but when it was time to leave the dock, the darn boat wouldn’t start.  The battery was dead.  Sigh.  Oh well…the parade went on without us, but it’s always fun to watch anyway!  Better luck next year!















The evening ended with an awesome display of fireworks that my dad and a friend went in on together.  They even let some of them off from an old pontoon boat off shore!  It was just an amazing way to end a perfect day.  And I’m so thankful to my mom and dad for opening their home to everyone and getting to celebrate such a special holiday with so many wonderful people every year.















How did you spend your Fourth of July this year?



Wishing You a Fabulous Fourth!

source: Pinterest

Independence Day is almost upon us!  It’s one of our favorite holidays…..and we love holidays.  There are so many things that come to mind when I think of the Fourth, and they’re all f-words (now hold on a minute, it’s NOT what you’re thinking):  food, family, friends, fireworks, fellowship, founding fathers, and did I say food?  Since we were kids, our parents have hosted a huge Fourth of July party.  They live on Wolf Lake, so the party includes swimming, boating, eating, and fireworks….lots of fireworks.  Our Dad has been a pyromaniac since his youth, so he is in his element on the Fourth.

As for our food, the guys deep-fry shrimp, chicken, onion rings, and French fries.  That is where all the guys hang out, by the deep fryers so they can taste-test.  Guests bring a dish to pass, so we always have a wide array of delicious food.  I’m hungry just thinking about the different potato and pasta dishes and salads, baked beans, and a long table full of desserts (my favorite part).  After we eat, it’s time for games for the kids.  The annual sack race is hysterical.  The other games vary, like water balloons, ring toss, limbo, etc.  Later, everyone changes into warmer clothes and loads up on bug spray in preparation for the fireworks show.  It’s spectacular!  I can actually enjoy it now….once when I was a kid, I hid the fireworks because I was worried that our house would burn down.  Let’s just say that my Dad was not amused.  Ah, memories.

Other than sack races, and various relay races, there are lots of other fun games that take almost no prep.  This year we are going to add a three-legged race (hopefully the adults will get in on this one), and tug-of-war again.  We also might add a bottle-ring toss since my mom already has the bottles in the crate.  Super easy, but the kids just love it.  We always put out the corn-hole games, too, which kids of all ages enjoy.  And lastly, I am going to put some sidewalk chalk out for this fun idea:
















Source:  Heart of Deborah

I also love making food for the party and pour over recipes, trying to decide what to make.  Always it’s a dessert, but sometimes I make snacks too.  Last year I made Sweet & Salty Cashew Chex Mix.  I found the recipe on Pinterest from Julie’s Eats & Treats.   Oh, it’s so delicious and addicting!  Sander likes it too, so he’s been known to sneak the leftovers upstairs to his room.  For many years I made scotcheroos, which never last long.  Megan makes the absolute best salted double chocolate cookies.  One year she made the cutest cherry pies on a stick.  As you can see, we take our desserts seriously.

And it is so fun seeing family (especially the ones that don’t live next door…although we always love seeing each other, too), and friends, old and new.  We usually average over 100 people every year!  It’s just the best time ever, and we are so thankful that we get to be a part of it

Wherever you are, whatever you do, may you have a fabulous Fourth of July!  We truly are blessed to live in this great country.  Thankfully, we reap the rewards of all that have sacrificed and gone before us.  I just saw a phrase on an Independence Day T-shirt:  “Party Like it’s 1776!”  Yes, let’s do that, but use electricity, drive our cars, put on sunscreen, not wear corsets, use paper plates……


What are your favorite Fourth of July traditions?

Fun Fourth of July Food Picks

Fourth of July is almost here!  And I have to say, it is coming too soon.  I still have to figure out what dish I am going to bring to my parents’ annual Fourth of July picnic.  This year, I am determined to decide what I am going to make and buy the ingredients at least a whole day before the picnic.  Just call me a think-aheader, I know.  Seriously, I always wait until the last minute and it drives me crazy.

So to help me out of this dilemma, I took to Pinterest, of course, to gather some ideas.  I noticed that everything I was pinning was a dessert and red, white, and blue.  Probably because I typed in Fourth of July potluck…duh!  So here are a few patriotic food choices that stood out as easy, cute, and yummy.

These cookies are so pretty!  And I love me a good sugar cookie.  Although, the more I think about it, I’m probably too lazy to make the cool swirly frosting.  How about you make them and let me eat one?   Source:  Sugar Spun Run

These little fruit skewers are so cute…especially all lined up like the American flag.  And, my kids might actually eat these, along with all of the potato chips and brownies they are sure to consume!  Source:  Domino

Fruit pizzas are so delicious!  And this one is really pretty and patriotic, too!  And if you use a premade sugar cookie mix, it wouldn’t even be very time consuming to make. Source:  Crafted Sparrow

Aren’t these little cherry tarts the cutest!  They look pretty simple, too, but also look like you went to a ton of trouble.  Plus, I would score major brownie points with my dad, since he loves cherry pie!  Source:  Frankly Entertaining

Who doesn’t love chocolate covered pretzels?  This would even be fun to have the kids help make.  Source:  The 36th Avenue

Now, if I can only decide which one.  And then maybe I should figure out a non-red-white-and-blue dish as well, since it is okay to bring food that doesn’t match the color scheme!

So, do you have a favorite dish you like to take to potlucks and picnics?  Let me know what your tried and true favorite is!


I Love the Red, White, & Blue!

Memorial Day is this Monday, which means a long weekend!  Woo Hoo!!  And school is almost out for the summer!  And I’m pretty sure we will eat hot dogs at least once (okay, maybe not a woohoo…but it means summer).  But most importantly, it means we take a day to remember and honor all of our fellow Americans who have served or are serving our country.  Man, can you imagine a greater sacrifice?  Even if that sacrifice didn’t involve their very lives, it meant sacrificing family, friends, home, comfort, peace, freedom, and much more at some point along the journey.  To think that anyone would give up all of that for you and me…well, that’s just pretty darn special.

As you can tell by the blog name, Mardi and I are pretty patriotic.  We love American history, and learning about great Americans that have come before us and shaped our nation.  We both believe that God had a sovereign hand in the creation of the Constitution, and has blessed our country with faithful leaders.  But no leader is greater than one that has laid down his or her life for her country.  And to all of those heroes, we salute you, thank you, and thank God for you.  And may God continue to protect those men and women currently serving the good ole U.S.A!

Because I love my country, and I also happen to love flags and red, white, and blue, I already have some patriotic décor scattered around my house.  This weekend always inspires me to add a little more to keep up through the 4th of July.  So I’ve picked a couple of my favorite ideas to inspire you, plus a few from my own home.

Source:  Pinterest

Source:  House Beautiful

Source:  Liz Marie Blog

Source:  On Sutton Place


I picked up a pack of little flags at the dollar store to put in this pitcher.  Easy Peasy!

More little flags just propped in some greenery.

I bought this flag at an antique store.  It used to hang in a courtroom.

I love this flag holder over my secretary desk!  It came from

All of these ideas are super simple and cheap, but add a nice dose of patriotic character!  Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with your family, and may you appreciate the freedom to do so because of the sacrifices of so many!


Happy Late Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was yesterday, so just please pretend that I posted this yesterday.  I had important things to do yesterday (like take a nap, etc…..).

All my life, I wanted to be a mother.  As a child, I loved to play with my dolls and pretend.  I was always a really good pretend mother, too, by the way.  I am blessed to have an amazing mother who always seemed to make the job look easy.  Well, there’s nothing easy about being a mother.  Oh, how I know that now!

I received the best gift ever from my daughter Manon  yesterday.  She gave me a decorated jar filled with 101 things that she loves about me.  I nearly cried!  How could she come up with so many things?  It took me a long time to read each folded strip of paper.  I’d love to list all the 101 reasons why Manon thinks I’m so wonderful, but that would be a bit much.  No one would ever want to read another post written by me again!  But please indulge me just a few, while I stroke my ego.

I loved that Manon appreciates things that I didn’t think she noticed:  “you take me places you don’t want to go,” “you made sure I’d have a nice smile (braces),” and “you calmed my fears when it stormed and I worried about a tornado.”  Apparently, she even finds my quirkiness endearing:  “you dance in the car,” “you listen to Christmas music in October,” and “you text with one finger.”  Yes, I’m guilty on all counts.  The best reason of all, though, was “you’re my best friend.”  Reading that strip of paper made my heart soar.  For a moment, I almost forgot the struggles, frustrations, and gray hairs that I color.

At the end of the day, nothing is more important than God and family.  All the daily distractions, the mountains of laundry (literally, for me), dishes, etc. are more than worth it.  We all have days when we think, “is this all there is?”. But we are serving God by serving our families.  God has entrusted our children to us for a short time.  Parenthood is an awesome responsibility, but it is also an enormous blessing.  Yes, I think that mothers should be celebrated all year long.  But I really enjoyed my moment in the sun.