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Independence Day

4th of July Camping Photo Progression: Sun to Rain to McDonald’s (Part 2)

Did you read the first part about our camping trip?  Make sure you get the first (good) part of the story before you read on to the BAD part below!  Read about camping day 1 here first.

4th of July Camping Photo Progression: Sun to Rain to McDonald’s (Part 2)

I woke up a few hours later from a loud sound.  It was the sound of rain – lots of it.  I lay there quietly for a minute, listening to the rain pound on the tent, watching it land and bead up and roll down the outside.  Then it got harder.  And harder.  That’s when I woke up Michael.  The rain pounded even harder and I was afraid it would start hailing.  Only then did I wonder how long it had been raining and how much our tent could take. 

Michael had to go to the bathroom, so he asked me for the raincoat to walk to the outhouse.  Surprise! The raincoats were in the car.  He made a mad dash to the car to get it and continued on.  He came back soaked, but had the Blackberry (which we had also left in the car).  Now we knew it was 5:30am.

This was when we discovered that it was raining INSIDE our tent, and had been for a while.  Keep in mind that this is a brand new tent, never before even set up.  The rain was coming in on two opposite walls, and had soaked all of Truett’s clothes and all of our shoes and coats.  The bottoms of our sleeping bags were wet also. 

We made a mad dash for the tarps which were inside the car and got them up on top of the tent:

Wet tent at camping trip

That slowed down the water coming into the tent somewhat.  My turn for the bathroom. I put on the poncho, ran to the car, and drove to the outhouse!  Did I mention the rain was pelting down like someone was throwing Morton’s water softener salt pellets at you?!

When I got back, the kids were awake and freezing.  There was no way for us to start a fire and cook breakfast, because our fire pit was a giant pool of water.  The firewood?  Water logged.  We had no way of warming up the kids, and the rain wasn’t letting up.  When could we feed the kids?

At that moment, with cold, wet, starving children, we made an executive decision.  McDonald’s was a 10 minute drive away from the campground in the town of North Pole.  We had no choice but to pile everyone in the car (in their pajamas) and drive to McDonald’s to get breakfast.  We cranked the car heater and dried out our shoes, safely nestled inside the certainly waterproof car.

We arrived in North Pole, only to find that McDonald’s didn’t have the breakfast menu up yet.  It was pretty early, but too early for breakfast?  A quick drive site seeing around the town used up the time until we could order our coffees and McMuffins.  The kids, exhausted, were finally able to go to sleep in the car in their warm carseats.      

We drove back to the drive thru, and when I realized how ridiculous our camping trip had become, I took this picture out of our front window:

           Drive thru at camping trip

My poor husband in his pajamas and very tired/cranky in the drive thru:

Michael at camping trip

We got our steamy breakfast and decided to drive around North Pole until the rain let up enough to go back to camp and pack up the tent.  On our drive, we saw a mother moose with 2 babies (the brown dot on left is the mother, the two babies on the road are harder to see because of the rain):

 Mother moose and babies   

I gave my husband a narrated tour around my childhood home town, identifying all the buildings that had not been there when I was a kid.  Reluctantly, we finally drove back to the camp when the rain slowed to a drizzle.  We were drenched by the time we had taken down the tent and packed up the car. 

After that, everyone was glad to be home, and we’re looking forward to our next campout.  Of course, we’ll be doing our homework first, learning the basics of outdoor survival (ahem, how to start a warm campfire!).  I hope we have better results to report next time!

We may be camping out with our friends, the Chasteens, next time.  I joked to my husband that I was glad we got to look like morons only in front of each other and not in front of them.  He said, “Of course they’re better campers than us! They both have outdoor survival training.  They don’t even NEED a tent.  They just say to the kids- ‘Come on, we’re going to burrow into the ground!’”

4th of July Camping Photo Progression: Sun to Rain to McDonald’s (Part 1)

It wouldn’t have been the 4th of July weekend without some fun family camping, which is just what we did!  My husband and I packed up the family minivan and hauled the kids out to Chena Lakes for some good old fashioned roughing it.  At least that was the plan.  The misadventure looks even funnier in photos than it was in real life!  Here I present for you the 4th of July camping photo progression: sun to rain to – McDonald’s?

My husband, Michael, and I have never gone camping with the kids before.  We should have known we were in for it, especially with a 6 month old baby and a pregnant mama.  Two days of setting up, packing up, and we were finally ready to go have our fun. 

Let us begin the tale of how quickly our “fun” devolved…

4th of July Camping Photo Progression: Sun to Rain to McDonald’s (Part 1)

Sunday afternoon the weather was great!  Michael and Truett set up the tent for us:

Michael Simmons camping

Truett Ice-Simmons camping

Truett was digging the “spy hole” in the tent, which is really an easy-access window to reach your outdoor cooler.  It did serve us better as a handy lookout window to keep a busy toddler occupied!

Ice-Simmons camping

The day was hot and we had to open the windows to cool down the tent.  Warm and cozy, Seven was content to sit in her cow chair while we set up the sleeping bags:

Seven Ice-Simmons camping

The finished product- our 2 room, 12 person tent.  Luxurious and spacious!  Isn’t it lovely?

Ice-Simmons camping

You will note that the rain fly is up, but there is a significant absence of tarps.  Of course, the weather was sunny without a cloud in the sky… Who would be thinking about rain at a time like this?

After a few hours fishing and grilling some hamburgers on our camp stove, we settled the kids into the tent.  We planned on catching fish to cook for supper.  In an unexpected twist, we caught no fish.  It was decidedly colder in the tent when we got back, since it was now nighttime (even though the 24-hour daylight makes the night look like day time). 

We tucked the kids in and went out to start a fire, hoping that would warm things up a bit.  Truett and Elmo were warm and snuggly in their Superman sleeping bag (nice and frugal, since it came from the recycle 100% free!):

Truett Ice-Simmons camping

We started a fire, which quickly fizzled.  We started it again using a firestarter, and got a tiny flame.  We had brought out a stack of firewood with us, since you’re not allowed to cut any trees at the campground.  However, we wanted to save our bundle for the morning fire which we’d need to cook breakfast on.  We foraged through the woods for sticks and twigs lying on the ground and threw them in the fire.  They burned them up quickly, but the fire was still so tiny, you couldn’t have roasted a hot dog on it. 

It was at this point we wished we had studied The Camper’s Bible, which we checked out from the library a few years ago, when we were first thinking about camping.  Boy would that book have come in handy on our camping trip!  I remember a specific chapter on how to start a fire in the rain.  But more on that later…

The miniscule fire couldn’t have dried a wet pair of pants, let alone warm up children sleeping in the tent.  So we let the fire fizzle out (which wasn’t hard – it was glad to give up and go out!) and went to plan B. 

Seven was sleeping in her playpen inside the tent, and wearing a baby sleepsack, but was still way too cold to be left there all night.  I put the baby in my sleeping bag with me, which was a very tight and uncomfortable fit.  We drifted off to sleep at about midnight. 

That’s when the mayhem started…

Next, read part 2 of the 4th of July camping adventure to lern the exciting (and embarrassing) conclusion!

Watercooler: Michael Jackson Tribute & 4th of July


Important Reminders & News

  • Michael Jackson Tribute:  It’s not likely that you haven’t yet heard about Michael Jackson’s death last week.  Here is information about the Michael Jackson tribute that will be taking place next Tuesday, July 7, 2009. 

Since it will be streamed live on the web, they’re expecting that this historic event may take down much of the web on Tuesday.  Don’t be surprised if you have limited-to-no internet connection on July 7th.

I offer my condolences to his family and appreciate the happiness and joy he brought so many people through the music he created during his lifetime.  Michael Jackson has always been a part of my life and I am truly grateful to have experienced his energy in my existence.

  • Holiday Closure: We’ve been closed for the last 2 days for the 4th of July holiday weekend.  We hope you’re enjoying some time together with your family this Independence Day weekend.  See you on Monday!

Hot Blogs & Websites This Week

 7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child at Zen Habits.  “We might not be able to help the variety of our branches, but we are the ones who control the nutrients in their soil and the sunlight in their sky.”   I love his point about making sure to teach your kids at home, instead of assuming all the learning will happen while they’re at school.  Read the rest here.

The portable sandbox at Unclutterer.  This nifty creation has the mark of pure genius: a small sandbox for your kids that has wheels on the bottom.  Portable, sharable, and all-around-good.  Check out the pictures here.

Paper Mache: Recipes & Tips at TipNut.  This perfect paper mache guide has several recipes, materials to use for bases, and more.  This is a wonderful frugal project to keep the kids entertained during summer vacation.

Simplify Your Life by Bartering for What You Need at On Simplicity.  Bartering tips are essential info for anyone interested in living a frugal life.

Do you have something new or noteworthy that you’d like mentioned in The Watercooler? Let us know at tips(at)

Recipes: 4th of July Party Menu Texas Style


Nessa is a full time wife and mother of two. She loves stirring up new creations in her country kitchen. Catch her on Twitter @Nessa_TX or check out her blog Ramblings of a Texas Housewife.

The 4th of July is a big event around here! It is the perfect time to have a big get together with family and friends, enjoy some great food, and celebrate our freedom. I wanted to share with you what we will be serving at our big 4th of July party this year. You might want to give some of these yummy recipes a try!


Last Call Jalapenos – These are my personal favorite snack! I look forward to these whenever we cook out. Be sure to wear food prep gloves when working with the jalapenos.

Firecrackers Recipe

These are one of our favorite snacks. So easy to throw together and very tasty!


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 package dry ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 box saltine crackers


  1. Melt butter over low heat.
  2. Mix melted butter, ranch dressing mix, and the cayenne pepper in a small bowl until well blended.
  3. Place the crackers in the largest bowl you have. Pour the butter mixture over the crackers, then toss and mix with your hands until all the crackers are well coated with the butter and spice mixture.
  4. Let stand, re-tossing occasionally, until the crackers absorb all the butter and are dry.
  5. Keep these stored in container with a tight fitting lid.


Side Dishes

Pinto Beans – This recipe makes the best pinto beans I’ve ever tasted.

Potato Salad Recipe

This is a great basic potato salad recipe.


  • 8 large potatoes, peeled, washed, cubed, and boiled until done
  • 3/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons pickle relish, sweet or dill, your choice
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper


Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Chill until serving time.

Main Course

Bar-B-Q Chicken



Margarita Pie Recipe


  • 1 1/2 cups crushed pretzels
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • Combine crushed pretzels and sugar. Add melted butter. Press into a buttered 9 inch pie plate and chill.


  • 1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons tequila
  • 2 Tablespoons Triple Sec
  • 1 or 2 drops green food coloring
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped


  1. Combine sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, tequila, and Triple Sec.
  2. Add food coloring.
  3. Fold whipped cream into mixture.
  4. Pour into chilled crust and freeze for four hours or until firm.

This is my menu plan for the 4th of July. They are all tried and true favorites that my family really enjoys. I hope your family enjoys them as well! Have a happy and safe holiday!

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Find more cooking articles at Kitchen Tip Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays, and Homemaker Mondays.