Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grand Haven Lighthouse

Last week my husband had a business trip to Grand Haven, Mich., and I tagged along. With our summertime temperatures here in Dallas in the 100s, we figured it would be a great time to enjoy the cooler weather up north.

Wrong! With our bad timing, we started our trip on the week when most of the U.S. was facing a record heat wave. Even 1,000 miles north of Dallas, we found unbearable heat and humidity. While we were there, Grand Haven was suffering through record-high temperatures, and the heat wave was big news in all the newspapers, on the radio and on TV.

However, even with all that record heat, Michigan STILL felt nicer than Texas, and it ended up being a nice vacation after all. You know why? In Michigan it actually cools down at night!

Here in Texas, we get no lake or ocean breezes, and it stays hot all night long. Our "low" nighttime temperatures have been hovering around 85 degrees F. But in coastal Michigan, the heat subsided as the sun went down, and it soon became pleasant enough to walk the quaint downtown streets, stroll along the lakeside paths and saunter along the sandy beaches. In fact, we were surprised to see how many people were out and about enjoying the balmy evenings. In Dallas, most people hole up in their air-conditioned homes from about June to September. In Michigan, it was refreshing to see people actually enjoying the summer and relaxing outside without sweating.

Grand Haven is a cute, charming little town on the shores of Lake Michigan with a population of about 10,400. Founded by French fur trappers, the city later became a logging center and a manufacturing hub. Nowadays it attracts tourists with its picturesque views and white-sand beaches. In fact, Grand Haven State Park has been rated one of the country's top five beaches.

Coming from Texas, we were surprised to see how clean and pristine the beaches were, with no trash, no jellyfish and no seaweed. The beaches were beautiful and filled with families and teenagers having fun in the sun.

The most noted landmark in Grand Haven is its historic lighthouse. We walked out a long jetty to reach it one evening. The breezes were so cool and nice, and the views were picturesque. The main lighthouse, painted red, was built in 1875 and is connected to the shore by a metal catwalk once used by the lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse marks the mouth to the Grand River and is now owned by the Coast Guard.

I thought the lighthouse was incredibly scenic and hope you do, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

S'more Car Cookery

Today it was over 100 degrees again (for the 29th day in a row!). Maybe the heat is baking our brains a little, but we thought it would be entertaining to try another experiment in car cookery.

This afternoon we tried cooking s'mores on the car's dashboard. First we assembled the s'mores.

Then we placed them in a cake pan atop the dash.

After about 20 minutes, they were ready to eat! We found out that if you like your chocolate a little less melty, you can start the marshmallow first.

Either way, they were delicious!

And we didn't even need a campfire. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Car Cookery

So it's over 100 degrees again, the kids are out of school, summer camp is over, and everyone is bored. What can you do? Car cookery!

You probably have heard the saying, "It's so hot, you can fry an egg on the sidewalk!" This is a great cliche but cannot actually be done. (For a fun look at a person who actually did this experiment, visit

People have shown that an egg must reach a temperature of at least 158 degrees before it will cook. This theoretically can be done on the metal hood of a car. (Check out

Here in the Dallas area, summer is always HOT. The only variables are exactly how hot it will be, how humid it will be, and whether a stray thunderstorm will drench us on any given day. But it's impossible to escape the heat for several states in every direction. This month, the whole Midwest is experiencing a severe heat wave, and the rest of the country is finding out how it feels to have Texas' weather: awful! But at least we're used to it, so we don't whine as much about it.

In these sizzling days, hot cars are a horrible fact of life. The heat sears your hands and backside in your car, the heat bakes you like an oven, and you start sweating like a basted turkey. The heat is hard on your car and hard on your body. The heat even tends to zap your car batteries in the summer. However, there is ONE advantage to a hot car: It's a free way to cook your food!

This summer we are starting a new series on car cookery featuring our old green Chevy Suburban. We are going to see what can be cooked in the car. This provides several benefits: saving electricity, providing amusement and giving us ideas for our next summer camping trip.

Almost all of Texas is currently in a state of severe drought, so most of the state is under a burn ban. So when you go camping and can't build a fire, how do you cook? The answer ... pull up your car!

Our first experiment in car cookery took place a few days ago at 5:45 p.m., when it was 102 degrees F in the sun and 152 degrees inside the car with all the doors and windows closed.

We preheated our frying pan on the dashboard of our Suburban until the pan got really hot, then created a quesadilla with a tortilla and shredded cheese.

About 15 minutes later, voila! The quesadilla was done. The taste testers agreed that it was edible and very much like a regular quesadilla, except that we forgot to fry it in butter. We'll remember that next time.

So, what do you think you can cook up? Bon appetit!

P.S. You are welcome to try this in your own car, but MAKE SURE NO ANIMALS OR CHILDREN ARE LEFT INSIDE THE VEHICLE.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Easy as Pie

Happy Independence Day!

One of the happiest holidays in the United States of America is the Fourth of July, and it's one of my favorites because of its cheerful color scheme and because I hardly have to do anything! Unlike Christmas, I don't have to "shop till I drop," and it's one of the few holidays where the kids don't get candy! (Thank goodness!)

For Independence Day, I made a pretty cookie pizza with strawberries and blueberries. It was so cute, and tasty too! You can find the easy recipe at

This Fourth of July, I finally got my husband to install a flag holder, and I was pleased to hang our Stars and Stripes out front.

We made pretty little cupcakes for all the kids we had over before we all drove to watch the nearest fireworks a couple of miles away.

We all had a wonderful time watching the airshow with old World War II-era warplanes; the fireworks in sparkling sprays of silver, blue and red; and the children playing on their scooters and running on the grass with glow-in-the-dark bracelets and necklaces, the boys brandishing little glowing swords.

This week, my teenage daughter learned how to make another American tradition: lattice-topped blueberry pie! It really was as easy as pie, and it was absolutely delicious! I'm so happy she's learning some great skills for the future! I mean, algebra and social studies are great, but you can't eat them!

For the filling, my daughter used this easy recipe at All For the crust, she used this simple but scrumptious recipe handed down from my Granny Howard:

For one crust, sift together: 1 C flour and 1/2 tsp. salt. Then cut in 1/3 Cup Crisco. Stir this into a ball with 2-4 T. cold water. For a top and bottom crust, double the recipe.

Believe me when I say this pie just looks and tastes like summer. Yum!

I hope you are having a great summer too and enjoy the festive times of these long, warm evenings. Three cheers for the red, white and ... blueberry!