Patriotic Car Songs

faces.jpgI worked hard on our vacation scrapbook yesterday, determined to finish it up this week, and guess what I’m printing off online right now? Yes, my post title kind of gives it away: Patriotic songs.

You see, they were a big part of my childhood traveling days, before portable dvd players became necessities, when families learned relationship skills by having to get along for several more miles of the ABC billboard game or another round of The Minister’s Cat. My family traveled a lot.

While in the car, my mom taught us every patriotic song out there, and we belted them out from sea to shining sea. And she knew the stories behind them also. I’ll never forget our trip to the top of Pike’s Peak, how she told of Katharine Lee Bates, and how a wagon ride to the summit of this mountain stirred her to write the lyrics to the hymn, “America the Beautiful”.

So on our recent trip to the Black Hills we sang. We sang “God Bless The U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood, “Grand Old Flag”, “This Land is Your Land”, “The National Anthem”, “My Country Tis Of Thee”…my eyes are watering justoursuburban.jpg remembering. They’re not just songs, they’re the spoken melody of those moments when we’re so inspired we can’t speak, such as that moment between dusk and dark when Mount Rushmore is illuminated to those that have lingered for the final ceremonies.

As we sang, certain songs brought back memories…for three years my older daughters and their cousin have sung the National Anthem to open the local youth rodeo. My oldest won alternate top blue for singing “This Land is Your Land” at 4H Club Days. We’ll never forget hearing Acappella sing live, and their rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

With July 4th right around the corner, why not start teaching your children the great tunes of our nation?

The family car, surrounded by this great country and God’s creation, is a pretty good place to start!

and I’m off to insert these lyrics into our scrapbook…

Needles Highway And Other Sight-Seeing We Enjoyed

theneedles.jpgWe saw Mount Rushmore, even walked the new (to me) Presidential Trail and stayed for the Ranger’s Program at 9 PM. Patriotic and inspiring don’t even do it justice…but interestingly, my favorite part of our trip found us meandering the switchbacks and tunnels and granite spires of Needles Highway. If you ever go to the southwestern corner of South Dakota, you must treat yourself to both Needles Highway and Iron Mountain Road.needles.jpg

These scenic routes will both land you in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore, and have many outlooks along the way full of granite outcroppings to clamber upon and around. Great family photo opportunities abound. Sadly, my youngest slept through most of these pleasure jaunts. The best oneedles2.jpgutlook exploring/picture taking we did was on Needles Highway at the outlook between the first two tunnels as you head north on 87. I even marked its location on our map, that’s how much we enjoyed it.

I just have to say that for the money, you can’t beat this area of South Dakota, especially if you’re camping at $15 a night as we were. We took our own food, and gas cost us $287 total for a week away (and remember, we drive a gas-chugging Suburban!). Everything we most enjoyed was free…these highways, and the Wildlife Loop Road we took every morning and night to exit our campground. Even Mount Rushmore is free except for the $8 parking garage fee. The best things aboutimrtunnel.jpg Iron Mountain Road were its pigtail bridges and that all the tunnels framed Mount Rushmore. We also saw plenty of wildlife along the beginning of this route…buffalo families, antelope and their young, etc.

We gave the girls some spending money for the rock shops in Custer, and for the kettle fresh taffy we watched being made at Rushmore Mountain Taffy Shop in Keystone. We visited Cosmos where no one stands straight and balls roll uphill, Bear Country U.S.A. with its hundreds of bears on 250 acres, and Evan’s Plunge a natural hot springs swimming resort that refills itself 13 or more times each day at a rate of 5,000 gallons per minute!

But all those things merely succeeded in wearing us out, fun as they were. I’m so glad we started out that first morning exploring and playing in French Creek near our Bluebell campsite. That and Needles Highway were our personal family favorites.

…it’s hard to see them, but my girls are atop rocks in the two middle pics…

More Camping Pics

South Dakota weather won us over…cold at night, chmarshmallows.jpgilly in the morning and evenings, and hot during the day. Lovely for camping to be able to snuggle down deep into your sleeping bag, and enjoy hot chocolate w/marshmallows first thing in the morning.

This is my youngest daughter and myself on our second morning, note all the gray hair I have at age 31. Strangely, dh loves it. Or so he says…I guess his opinion will save me a bundle in hair coloring and upkeep!

Anyway, that second morning after the hot chocolate, we had biscuits and gravy for breakfast. I’d browned some ground beef at home and frozen it for the journey, and took a packet of McCormick’s Old-Fashioned Homestyle Gravy mix…it was so good I may not ever make hamburger gravy from scratch again! (Except I know it’s much better for us!) At any rate, I highly recommend it for camping, it was one of our fbgbreakfast.jpgavorite breakfasts and very easy. I’d also made biscuits prior to the trip, and I wrapped a bunch of them in foil and placed them on the grill for a few minutes to heat. Yum!

Of course, the girls had to roast marshmallows with every campfire meal!wldflwrreading.jpg

And for a bonus, here’s a picture of my six year old inside our tent. My mom sent two wildflower books along, one with a flower-color directory focusing on varieties of the Black Hills. Fascinating. That’s what dd is reading. You can see she’s wearing her jacket. Like I said, chilly mornings there!

Our First Morning Camping

After harrowing t-storms the night we set up our tent, we woke up to crisp clean air, sunlight filtering through pine trees and no mud to speak of! (Big sigh of relief from this mama!)hike1.jpg

We decided to eat a quick breakfast (I think it was Jessica who recommended buying those small boxes of very sugary cereal and just pouring the milk into the waxed paper cereal pouch? Went over GREAT!) and took off on a morcamplooking.jpgning hike across the hills to an outcropping of rock that overlooked our campsite and the area around us.

What a view…and just the night before, we’d seen elk grazing on this same hillside. Best of all, our height allowed us this very welcome sighikeview.jpght: French Creek!

So we hiked down this incredible creek1.jpgcountryside, hubby with toddler clinging to his back…

And played in the cool waters with thefrenchcreekfun.jpg minnows and crawdads.

When one of our girls slipped and fell with a splash, dh was quick to join her so shechilidogs.jpg‘d laugh it off…

We hiked the horse trail home, feasted on chili dogs and had a family devotion!

A great first morning, wouldn’t you say?

And I’ve got the poison ivy to prove it!

Home Again

We arrived home around midnight Thursday from our South Dakota camping trip! Friday was a blur of unpacking and at least six loads of laundry, hosing out three coolers, chasing away the house-webs that took over during our absence, getting umpteen rolls of film developed…etc.

Yesterday was more laid-back…we three girls worked on our individual photo albums, filling them with our trip-pics. Oldest made peanut butter cookies, 6 yo had to get some crafting in (having gone all week without her fix) so she sewed up a diaper bag for her baby sis. For lunch we had the last of the biscuits I’d taken on the camping trip with hamburger gravy…

Then we threw a couple salads together, cut up a watermelon and made a peaches and cream pie. Marinated some steaks for supper. We had hubby’s parents over for a thank-you meal–they did our animal chores each night the week we were gone.

Our trip was wonderful, btw. We had the bestest of times all around. I’ll catch y’all up eventually. God was sooo good to us! It was one of those trips that you don’t want to endburro.jpg…I even got teary-eyed when I threw the last woodsy-campfire smelling towel in the wash…

Can’t wait to catch up on all your news! In the meantime, isn’t that burro the cutest? My oldest took the pic at Custer State Park. Even the baby burros were friendly…

Happy Sunday to you all!

Perfect Patches

Late last night I was last-minute patching my dh’s down-filled sleeping bag with a square of denim, there was a tear on the inside and one on the outer canvas cover (it’s an army surplus style)…I took my time, taking pride in the many little stitches…Dh even commented on how there looked like there were 300 stitches (I was half done and it wasn’t a very big square) and he’d have just whip-stitched it up so we could go to bed.

A little bit later, he was eyeing the sleeping bag that lay suffocating me over my legs and he said, “I think you’re patching the inside of the cover, not the outside.

Good Grief! All that painstaking work and the inner, more ugly stitches would show on the outside? Not to mention the gaping, ragged tear that I was trying to cover up in the first place?

Got me to thinking about how we “earthlings” try so hard to do our level best, keeping our outer man appearances up, and heaven forbid any of the inner turmoil show up and bleed all over the air-brushed image we want to present to our friends and acquaintances.

I’m so glad God knows the inner and outer parts of us and loves us anyway! He even allows some of heartaches, because how else would we know we needed Him, or that He held the answers to life’s questions?

My life is but a weaving between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors He worketh steadily.
Oftimes He weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper and I, the underside…
The dark threads are as needful in the Weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver in the pattern
He has planned.
~Unknown~

And btw, when Dh corded the edges of his sleeping bag cover back to the inner down-filled lining, it turned out that I’d patched it on the right side after all.

Recipes: Smoked Brisket and Dill Dip

Thankfully my mother-in-law knows the in’s and out’s of the fair building’s kitchen, and she beat me there on Saturday morning, June 9th. She already had the 100 cups of coffee percolating, was in the middle of making gazillion gallons of iced tea and pink lemonade, so I got busy arranging the various cookies my mom, sisters and I had baked on some beautiful shiny-gold trays…by the time people arrived at 9:30 A.M., I was wrist deep in thinly slicing my cold briskets so I could get them in the roaster…the busy anniversary day had begun!

Hickory Smoked BBQ Brisket

  • 1 3-6 lb beef brisket (trimmed of fat if desired)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • celery flakes
  • onion powder
  • garlic salt
  • salt
  • Mrs. Dash or Crazy Mixed-up Salt
  • 2 oz. (1/2 bottle) Figaro brand hickory liquid smoke

Sprinkle both sides of meat with all the spices. Wrap meat well in aluminum foil. Place in crockpot. Add warm water until even with top of meat. Cover and cook on low 8-12 hrs. Remove from foil and slice meat. Add BBQ sauce.

Mary’s note: This turns out great in the crockpot, but I never add water as this original recipe directs. Also, since I was making large quantities for the 50th anniversary luncheon, I did most of mine in my oven and cut the baking time in half. Do everything the same, just put it in a 9×13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 4 hours. Works great! Also, it froze well till needed.

Dill Dressing

(great as salad dressing, dip or on top of baked potatoes)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
  • 1 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic granules
  • 1/3 cup milk*

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight.

*Leave out milk to use as a dip.

The two above recipes were the most requested, so I thought I’d pass them along to you, as I’ll be emailing them to several family members anyway. We love brisket fixed that way, it’s so moist and tender, the foil traps all the heat and flavor…mmm!

We fed 75 people at the luncheon, and besides brisket and dill dip, we had sliced turkey, pork loin and ham, Kaiser rolls and wheat buns, sliced bread and all the sandwich fixings…about 10 bags of chips, a big bowl of baby carrots, another big bowl of green and red grapes, and two large containers of potato salad–one flavored with dill pickle, the other with sweet pickle–courtesy of my sweet mother-in-law.

We had a little fun with my dad, with me MC-ing, because it was his birthday as well as their anniversary, then we cleared the lunch buffet away, changed clothes and got ready for the bigger reception at 2 P.M. Cake. Punch (Wowser, that’s another recipe I need to share here–affordable and light like champagne!). Nuts. Mints. Check!

It was a wonderful day, with many people coming all the way from Massachusetts to Oregon to pay tribute to my wonderfulest of parents. My only complaint is there wasn’t enough time to visit with all of them…

At the end of the day, my mother-in-law again showed up and helped us clean, her energy is boundless. I was beginning to feel faint after going to bed at 4 A.M. the previous night, and when the last vehicle other than ours left the parking lot, hubby sent me home with the girls (plus 2 nieces) and stayed to mop the entire building’s floor.

Did I mention he’d been outside in the barns most of the (hot) day giving horse rides to all the children? What a great man, huh? He loved it, much preferring behind-the-scenes to all the social-mongering going on indoors. *smile*

All in all, a wonderful culmination of a year’s worth of planning.

And now we focus on getting to South Dakota for my niece’s wedding!

Decorating for 50th Anniversary

Last week’s flurry of real life busyness spinning every which way and added to 50th anniversary “stuff” had me up each night wa-ay past midnight and up again early enough to get the girls ready for VBS at my sister’s church. But in the end, all the details worked together to make Saturday’s bash even better than I’d hoped it would be.

momdad.JPGMy sisters and I were pleased to find a favorite out-of-state uncle and his wife waiting at the reception building Thursday night when we arrived to decorate. With his help, 25 tables and the accompanying chairs went up quickly…we soon busied ourselves building backdrops for the cake table.

We used zip-ties to fasten several 4×6′ framed screens together and then covered them all with white plastic tablecloths. Over this we draped white lace in swags and trailed navy and gold gossamer liberally across the whole creation. Gossamer, btw, is a really affordable way to dress up a nice occasion. Beautiful looped bows… We got ours from shindigz.com, a great party supply online. We did a similar backdrop behind a table with photo albums that my mother put together from each of the five decades. They were a real hit, with many people crowded around picture-gazing at any given time.

We covered our guest tables with navy tablecloths, using 10″ gold foil doilies at the center of each, and a sprinkling of gold confetti bells. We’d had 4 of the windiest days to contend with, but amazingly, the hour that we picked up the 50 navy and gold helium balloons from the florists was calm and beautiful! Two balloons tied to a tulle-bundle of gold Hershey kisses were our centerpieces, centered on the foil doilies. Having all those balloons trailing up just filled the room with a festive feeling. We also made sure to leave plenty of Hershey kisses down the table’s centers for treats…

All of our “special tables” were covered with navy cloths, topped with white lace, except for the photo album table–we had a really beautiful gold tablecloth for it, also borrowed. The guest book table had many pretties we’d borrowed from a friend at church who in recent years had decorated for her parent’s 50th…candle holders that said “50 years” on them, gold wreaths, etc. Her box of 50th “supplies” was a real blessing.

We also had a picture-taking area…with a lattice archway and picket fences…I’d borrowed two baskets of yellow roses and white daisies from church that we set on pillars, and one of my sisters bedecked the arch with gauze and flowermomdad2.JPG garlands, and more gossamer!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what we served our out-of-state family and friends for Saturday’s lunch, including the best-ever recipes for smoked brisket, and a party-yummy dill dip recipe that you’ll want to try at your next gathering!

22 Days Without Coffee

Remember that on May 21, I gave up coffee/cappuccino? I’m happy to report that I’ve had only one minimal headache and weird nausea episode since, on the day after I quit cold turkey.

22 days! It’s a wonderful feeling, knowing I made it through this past incredibly tough week of early mornings, packed days, skipped meals, late nights, company, deadlines…with only the caffeine from green tea (minimal compared to coffee) and NO headaches! With my migraine history, this is pretty fabulous!

Still not that fond of green tea, but at least it cuts my appetite…

Tomorrow, I’ll try to update you all on my wonderful weekend! Suffice it to say, the 50th wedding anniversary was a big success!

A Grandparent’s Legacy

GenerationsGrandparents are so important!

Recently my mom and dad had my oldest daughter and two other nieces of mine over to spend two days and one night. Mom taught the girls how to crochet, they had Bible studies, played games and put together rather elaborate family history “trees”. My dad also took the girls on a long traipse through the farmland and pastures, pointing out places of significance, such as the spot where he proposed to my mom…where the long, lowing of a nearby cow interrupted their engagement kiss.

Have you ever stopped to think about the ones in your past who perhaps were praying for you every day of your life? My grandparents did this, and now my parents do also. What’s more, I found out several years ago that my uncle and aunt also pray for each of us by name on a daily basis.

What a gift, people! Are we even doing this for our own children to any great lengths each day? Prayer impacts lives, changes hearts, influences national direction.

Please share something in comments that your parents or grandparents have invested in you or your children that is having lasting impact. These things need to be praised, and so often our generation accepts them as our due. I think many times the older generations are left feeling expendable when we should be making them feel cherished. Busy schedules shouldn’t dictate to the point of missing out on these precious last years of our parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

As for me, thank you Dad and Mom for the legacy you’ve given me, and continue to give my children. There are no words to express my heart. I love you very much!