Cajun Men Cook by Pepper Phillips

In Lousiana, the men like to cook. They enjoy it. They call their male friends and they get together for a ‘supper’.  Wives and girlfriends are not invited.

I for one, enjoy it. Because I can eat a breakfast for dinner, or whatever else I want. Normally, the husband doesn’t consider breakfast a proper dinner menu so I never fix it. I tried it when we were first married, but not when he let me know that it wasn’t ‘proper’ in his mind. It’s a small thing and not worth arguing about.

So, he’s invited to a ‘supper’ several times a month with different friends of his. It’s their chance to socialize, drink beer and generally harass each other.

What do they eat? Usually it’s game of some sort. A duck gumbo, an eutouffe, fried frog legs, well, most anything fried could be on the menu.  My hubby likes to fix Pork and Turnip Stew. I personally don’t like it, so if he fixes it somewhere else, it’s fine with me!  LOL

Every man who cooks knows how to make a roux and they do it in a cast iron skillet. From scratch. They do have an easy way to make a roux, and some men will use that method. Here’s the directions/recipe for roux.

Dutch Oven

A lot of men collect cast iron cookware, from skillets to huge Dutch ovens. They like to keep the pans ‘seasoned’ and are very careful with cleaning them. You don’t want rust to form on your cast iron cookware. We have several, including a griddle and a cornbread one that looks like ears of corn. A lot of people will use a plain skillet to cook their cornbread. One good thing about using cast iron, is that it will add iron to your system which you need. Plus, with the proper care they will last you a lifetime.

cornbread pan

There is a cookbook called, “Cajun Men Cook” which I’m giving all my grandsons this year. Very tradition Louisiana recipes are included, in fact, I own a copy as the recipes are delicious.  (There are some really inexpensive copies on Amazon. For some reason you can’t see a Sample, but it’s an excellent cookbook, however there are no pictures. I have several hundred cookbooks in my collection and will use this one. This is by the Beaver Club of Lafayette.)

Cajun Men Cook

Where do they cook these ‘suppers’?

A lot of men have outdoor kitchens in their back yards. A separate building with stove, refrigerator, table, chairs, loungers, a large TV. Their own ‘man cave’ though they don’t call them that.  Some have camps in the woods that host the events. Wherever it is held, it’s good food, good friends and good conversation.

“Laissez les bons temps rouler!” is a Cajun expression meaning “Let the good times roll!”

Pepper Phillips Boggy Bayou Series is set in Louisiana.

“Pepper Phillips clearly understands the customs, cuisine and conversation of the Deep South, with the first novella in her Boggy Bayou series. Naomi’s Heart portrays the developing romance of an older couple, who prove that age has nothing to do with love. Ms. Phillips’ obvious knowledge of Southern culture is highly entertaining and informative, and along with her endearing and well-developed characters, leave the reader reluctant to leave the world she’s created.”


Staying positive is half the battle. Many issues are overcome when you kick negativity to the side, or better yet, behind. Way behind.

Yes, Get Thee Behind Me Negativity.

We all have negative thoughts, I certainly do. But, I don’t wallow in bad things that happen for long. That’s the time I pull up my pants and take the bull by the horn. I know, I know, that’s a cliché, but it’s true.

As life and its struggles take a dip into a valley, I step back and assess the circumstances and actions needed to correct and deal with the issue at hand. When isn’t that the case? When I know I there isn’t anything I can do about the situation. Maybe the situation surrounds me, but doesn’t directly involve me. Mostly, I try to do what I can to help, but I step back at some point and realize I can’t fix every issue that hits me in the gut. All problems that hem me in aren’t my babies.

Negativity is harmful to health, and I don’t need outside issues bringing me down. None of us do.

There isn’t a roller-coaster effect to correcting issues without planning and action, if you aren’t actively involved.

Such is the case with my character in CHRISTMAS at APPLE LAKE. I wanted to create a character that had lived too long under someone else’s control and finally came to realize she’d lived in another’s shadow. Now she’s ready to break the mold, but finds her children want to continue where their father left off.

When Gage meets Matt, her entire thought process takes a life changing turn for the better. She’s ready to live. Really live.

Does Gage come into her own, or will she allow her girls to send Mom back into the plastic mold where they want her to remain?

Gage Lander’s husband, Ken, dies in a freak accident. She and Ken had just argued and Ken storms out of the house in a blind rage. He’d been drinking and his car had rammed a telephone pole. Now, her girls blame her for their father’s death. They throw his death in her face; if they hadn’t argued, he’d still be alive and at home where he belonged.

Gage knows that isn’t true.

She believes in a higher being. She believes we are on this earth for a reason and it’s the same in death. We leave this world when our time here has ended, not before.

Gage fights to help her girls understand death and how to deal with their grief. But as in real life, that’s a long time coming. Gage realizes it’s hard to absorb death, much less understanding why, especially when the girls  oppose her on every level.

Here’s a short excerpt.


If Gage had known, Ken, her husband, would die, she’d have planned for it. No one ever said happiness was forever. Least of all Gage. She knew all about forever. It wasn’t.

Her life was upside down now and righting it was up to her. No one could do it for her.
But how was she going to go about it? Certainly her girls had their own idea of how she would get back on track. No, maybe that was an understatement. They wanted her to become a shadow of them. To live the way they wanted her to. Well…that wasn’t going to happen. She’d had enough control.

A shadow of what she knew would keep her from being what she wanted to be. What she knew she could be. What she wanted was to overcome her situation without being under someone else’s thumb, even her girls. Maybe, especially her girls. As much as she loved them, and as much as they loved her, relying on them wasn’t fair to either of her girls, whether they realized it or not. And, they didn’t. At least now. Gage prayed both girls would come to appreciate she’d have to make her own way.

Ken hadn’t wanted her to work after they’d married, and since they both wanted children right away, Gage hadn’t argued, but felt blessed to have a husband take care of her and the children that blessed their home.

Now, being taken care of had blown up in her face.

Ken had been the decision maker for the biggest part of their marriage. She’d had enough of control during her marriage. Control she hadn’t wanted or needed, but she’d allowed her husband to make most of the decisions without a thought of what may happen if he wasn’t around.

And now that day had come. She wasn’t ready, but life wouldn’t be put off.
Ken hadn’t been abusive, he just liked things to go smoothly and Gage had gone along. Still the marriage had been mostly good. She’d learned to adjust. Adjustments now would be a test. A test she was ready to meet head-on once she realized control was a form of abuse.

Gage lay in the king sized bed, flipped back the sheet and stared up at the ceiling. Her mind’s eye followed the swirls embedded in paint, paint she and Ken had applied together. For twenty-two years she’d shared the bed with Ken and now that he was gone, the bed was lonely and empty.

Ken had been a good man but had no knack for finances. But, it wasn’t entirely his fault the house was mortgaged to the hilt, and the credit cards maxed out. The medical bills had stacked up and now it was up to her to do something about them.

But what? She had no job, nor any skills other than organizing the house as one would a business over the years. You’d think she’d welcome her children coming in and taking over. To make everything easier. To remove the burden of paying stacks of bills she had no way of paying. But paying her out of debt wasn’t their responsibility. Gage wouldn’t be part of putting them put in a position that would put a strain on their lives.

Gage wanted more for her children. More for herself. More than to simply exist. She’d existed long enough without their help and to burden her children financially wasn’t in her plans.

So, the time had come to get up off her duff and do something about being head over heels in debt, to find a way to do what she had to do. By herself.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share? Please do if you can. We’d love to read your excerpt.

Thanks for joining us and reading!

My books are available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Diesel, Apple and Smashwords.

You can find links on my website for all My Books

What’s in a Name Anyway? By Stephanie Queen


Myren, my chauffeur, will tell you names aren’t important, but I disagree (he isn’t particularly fond of his name, so it’s a sour grapes thing with him and probably why he goes by some other crazy nickname which I can’t remember). That’s my big problem with names: I have trouble remembering them. I seem to have an impenetrable block. You would think my biggest headache is when I’m in a room full of new people trying to keep track of names, but no. At least then I have faces to go by.

No, my biggest name-headache is when I have a book full of characters. I have trouble remembering their names. Heck, I have trouble coming up with their names. I start using place markers, like Mr. X (thus the Name That Character Contest) and when there’s yet another character introduced I have to call them Mr. Y. You get the picture. I’ve gone through quite a bit of the alphabet while writing a book this way before I throw up my hands and give into the need to come up with the actual names.

Once I give into the challenge of coming up with character names,  I create a cheat sheet  of course. Then I go on line and browse names. They have to be good ones, meaningful and appropriate. At least that’s what I look for from my contest entries. The names I choose may be a bit more random. I have two rules.

  • Rule one: I must be able to pronounce the name.
  • Rule two: I can’t use the same first letter twice. (the exception here is if I ever write a book with more than 26 characters needing names. Then I probably will name one of them Mr. X.)

But I love memorable character names, the ones that fit and that you couldn’t imagine being anything else. One of my favorites is Jack Reacher, the main character in Lee Child’s thriller series. Love that name—suits the character. Few syllables. Uncomplicated. Blunt. Another character name I love is Scarlet O’Hara. Fiery and sexy. Earthy and unconventional.

What are your favorite character names that work?

NOTE: I’m officially inviting you to enter my Name That Character Contest to name the current Mr. X occupying the story world of my work-in-progress, Beachcomber Investigations. It’s available for pre-order now.

Here’s the blurb for Beachcomber Investigations:CoverBeachcomberInvBook1

Ex-special ops legend Dane Blaise is desperate to recruit Shana George away from Scotland Yard to partner with him in his new venture, Beachcomber Investigations. She has impressive skills and if he’s honest, he needs her to keep him grounded. But most of all, Dane wants to keep Shana on the island of Martha’s Vineyard because he can’t get past his insane longing for her.

Shana’s boss David Young forces her to decide on the spot when he assigns an important case to Beachcomber Investigations. She chooses to partner with Dane, going with her gut–or more accurately her heart–rather than her brains. They may be good partners in crime-fighting, but they are all wrong for each other in every other way possible. He’s soulless and lost and likely has more wounds from his past than the bullet and knife scars scorching his body. But she’s crazy. About him.

Their big assignment is to protect Dane’s old special ops buddy, Acer. They need to find whoever paid a sniper to take a shot at Acer–before the sniper takes another shot and doesn’t miss.

Dane and Shana need to be on top of their game to keep Acer alive, and not on top of each other. But each of them is secretly worried whether that’s possible–and worried about what will happen if it’s not.

Pre-Order at Amazon

10 Rainy Day Pleasures by Joan Reeves

Romeo and Judy Anne by Joan Reeves, color cover

Judy Anne’s love affair may be the biggest scandal her little Texas town has ever seen.

August has been hotter than usual here on the Texas Gulf Coast with many triple-digit temperature days. Many counties in Texas are now in drought conditions again and burn bans abound.

So it was with surprise and anticipation when we awoke to rain. The temperature has dropped to 78 degrees Fahrenheit–a welcome change from the 101 it was yesterday when we took a day-trip to San Antonio.

I was sitting on the couch, watching Showrunners, a documentary on Netflix, and staring out the window at the rain showering my roses when I thought how pleasant a rainy day can be. In fact, I thought of several things that are great for rainy days but not so good on other days.

10 Rainy Day Pleasures

1. Make soup. Hot weather isn’t conducive to making or eating soup. Give me a rainy day, and I’m in the mood for a pot of vegetable soup using vegetables from the garden (usually courtesy of my sister-in-law) or from a nearby farmer’s market. To go with the soup, I make a skillet of cornbread. From scratch naturally. We had this for lunch, and it was delicious.

2. Clean out a closet. I don’t know why, but rainy weather is my favorite time to clean out closets and cupboards.

3. Watch TV. I truly love laying on the couch in front of the television. There’s just something so decadent about doing this in the middle of the day.

4. Take a nap. The sound of gentle rain on the roof is the perfect background music for a nap.

5. Listen to music. Really listening without doing anything else. A cup of tea or a glass of wine isn’t required, but it’s nice accompaniment to good music.

6. Converse. Life is so busy that it’s easy to get out of the habit of having real conversations. Even when we get together with friends and family, it’s often in a noisy restaurant. Take a rainy day to have a real conversation.

7. Visit a museum. In the summer, most people are busy with outdoor activities. The rare rainy day is a good time to take part in indoor activities.

8. Go for a walk. If it’s not thundering and lightning and the rain is gentle rather than a downpour, put on rain boots and a slicker, grab an umbrella, and go for a walk. It’s really a lot of fun.

9. Go to the movies. When was the last time you went to a theater and saw a good movie? Call a friend and head to the local cineplex. Watching a film on the big screen and nibbling on popcorn is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

10. Read a good book. I love to curl up with a good book on a rainy day. May I recommend one of mine? Romeo and Judy Anne has a great scene set in a rain storm.

Romeo and Judy Anne is available at Amazon and these other ebook sellers: All Romance Ebooks * iBooks * Kobo * Nook.


What do you think about rainy days? Is there anything you do just on rainy days? Leave a comment with your email address and be entered to win an audio book edition of Romeo and Judy Anne.

Post Script

(Joan Reeves is a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives her happily ever after with her husband in the Lone Star State. Visit her Amazon Author Page and sign up for her Wordplay, her email mailing list.)

Scotland 2015

IMG_3438I’m typing this blog from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. As I’m looking at my computer screen, it’s 2:23a.m. back home, and undoubtedly fifteen to twenty degrees warmer. Right now, I’m not missing that heat at all.

The first bit—and the last bit—of my time here has been and will be spent on the mainland; a curious phrase for what is itself an island, but the people here have a different definition of Isle than Webster or American Heritage.

IMG_0699The cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow are phenomenal. Definitely worth a trip in their own right. Edinburgh—sister city to Chicago—is my favorite city so far. The museums are free. The pub life has an energy all its own. The visible history everywhere reminds me of our common need to congregate, celebrate, defend ourselves, nurture our culture…and yes, it’s a great place just to sit and have a pint, or two. All of that without mentioning the monolithic 1300 year old castle reaching for the sky from an imposing volcanic rock hillside. The thing that first tugged at my heartstrings and solidified my life-long love of this place stems from my first visit when I was fifteen years old: The Cemetery for Soldier Dogs. Such a small thing in retrospect, but there you have it. A teenager falls in love and can’t stop voyaging (north of a dozen times) to see what she holds dear.

DSCN0281Glasgow is a vibrant city filled with art and a distinctly urban vibe. It’s the happening place if you’re young and energetic and making a name for yourself in the world. Glasgow used to be viewed as an industrial city, dirty, filled with factory workers and the businesses that support them, with just enough danger lurking around its edges to make those seeking adventure salivate. Arguably it’s still all of that, sans the dirty, and so much more. It’s still filled with industry, but the art and culture and diversity here make it a growing and special place all its own.

I spend days in cities.

I spend weeks in the Isles.

There’s something about Islanders, their fiercely independent natures, pragmatic approach to everyday life, and their unlimited joy of the land and their tie to it, that moves me and rekindles my appreciation for hard work, hard play and gratitude for everything wonderful.

IMG_1978Orkney is my favorite of the Isles I’ve visited so far, although I’ve yet to see Lewis and Harris. My plan is to visit the Outer Hebrides this weekend. I love Orkney’s neolithic sites the way I love black licorice, it’s a strong flavor that appeals to the few and I can eat it daily—sometimes in copious amounts. My daughter has been working on the archeological dig on the Ness of Brodgar this summer so we got to see more than we otherwise would have. I’ll be blogging about Orkney in general and the dig in particular in greater detail in the upcoming months. I will say, that I’ve been looking for a small cottage or a piece of property on Orkney rather diligently. I’m liking Skye, I liked Iona and Mull, but for me, Orkney is where it’s at.

2015-08-13 06.45.40It’s said that on any of the Scottish Isles you can experience all four seasons in one day. I’ve found that to be partially true. Most days here—and it’s supposed to be summer here—we’ve experienced what would be late spring and early autumn in Wisconsin as well as a smattering of Wisconsin in early June. It’s been cool, wet, pleasant and downright gorgeous here, all in the space of a day.

That’s one reason why I love the Islanders. They prepare for anything, brace against the worst of it, and by the time the sun comes out again, they’ve let the bad go and embrace the light.

Not a bad way to live, I’m think’n.

Certainly not a bad way to write romance.

IMG_3431Signing off for now from Skye and the humorous sounds of baying sheep…Slainte!


My Summer Road Trip

A couple of weeks ago, our family of five embarked on a road trip from our home in Ottawa to the east coast of Canada (the map at the bottom shows our approximate route). It was our first long-distance trip with our three girls, ages 10 and 6, and we were keen to show them the ocean and hopefully create special lifelong memories.

After a two-day drive across Quebec and New Brunswick, we stopped at my in-laws’ cottage near St. John, staying three nights. We took day trips in the area, exploring the picturesque Bay of Fundy with its rocky beaches, seaside caves and breathtaking shoreline vistas, and swam briefly in the St. John River (before a rainstorm drove us out of the water). In and around St. John, we visited the local zoo, the New Brunswick Museum, and the famous Reversing Falls.

IMG_0579Next we headed to Nova Scotia, stopping along the way at Hopewell Rocks, where at low tide you can walk on the ocean floor among rock formations sculpted by tidal erosion. This was something I’d wanted to do for years. It was our last day of sunshine before the weather turned gray and drizzly.


On our first day in Nova Scotia, we visited the fishing village of Peggy’s Cove and its iconic lighthouse, and enjoyed a fresh seafood meal at the nearby restaurant. Later, we drove up the coast to Halifax and spent an hour exploring the wharf. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to do anything else in the city.


The next day, we drove to Annapolis Royal and toured Port-Royal, an impressive replica of the French settlement built there in 1605 and destroyed by the English is 1613. In a wigwam just outside the settlement, a Mi’kmaq woman taught the kids to play drums and sing a traditional Mi’kmaq song. She gave them each a hand-painted rock to take home.


On our last day in Nova Scotia, we drove to the beach at Lawrencetown, and although it was too cold for swimming, we waded in to let the ocean waves surge over our feet. Then it was time to start the three-day drive home.


Travelling with young kids wasn’t easy. While my husband and I were exhausted every night, the kids were too keyed up to go to sleep, and consequently they were difficult to rouse in the morning. We had to stop frequently for food and bathroom breaks, or to stretch our legs, or whenever they spotted an ice cream sign. I don’t want to see another McDonald’s for a good long while. But we all enjoyed the trip and the kids won’t ever forget all the new things they saw.

Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 11.18.53 AM

Getting In The Mood – Jill James

christmas bellsHow do you get in the mood to write a Christmas novella in the middle of August? In my case it takes apple cinnamon air freshener, Celtic Christmas on the Pandora radio, and lots of imagining snowy winter days in the middle of sweltering summer days. Thinking of comfy sweaters and cuddling on the couch while my sweaty legs are sticking to my leather office chair. Picturing dreamy Christmas trees and pine decorations with the scent of a barbecue grill wafting through the open window.

The Authors of Main Street are doing another boxed set and I’m writing an original, never published before novella for the set. Mine is titled Waking Up For Christmas. It will be sweeter than my usual stories. It reminds me of when I first started writing romance and it was very much on the tamer side. I wanted a story that dug into ‘how’ and ‘why’ we fall in love. A kind of reminiscing of the joy and angst of falling.

What is that precise moment when a buzz goes off in your head and you realize you just might be falling, that this is ‘the one’? And what does it take to fall out of love. Is it one thing or a lifetime of things? Do you wake up one day and realize you aren’t in love anymore or do you wake up and face that you haven’t been in love for a while?

And the most important question of all; what would you do to get the love back?

What would you do for love?

Jill James, writer of romance, hopeless romantic

The Rose Arbor/ Rose Harbor Connection

A few years ago I wrote a young adult novel that I really loved. I had every intention of making it into a trilogy. I loved my idea, loved the concept, but the problem was every time I sat down to write the second book I lost my enthusiasm. I didn’t want to write young adult fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love teenagers. I have lived in what I call a house of hormones for more than fifteen years, meaning that I’ve parented teenagers for more than fifteen years.

And what have I learned?

I’m not hip.

I don’t want to be hip and I don’t want to try and be hip. Oh sure, I sometimes wear my daughter’s clothes, but that’s strictly a vanity thing, or a laundry thing. So, I was in a quandary. Since this was before I had decided to self-publish, I thought I had to brand myself as genre specific author and I knew I didn’t want to write Romance, Mystery, Fantasy, Young Adult or Literary. What to do? I knew I wanted to write and that’s about all I knew. So I did what all Mormons have been taught to do.

I went to the temple fasting (want to know more about this? You can read about it in the Bible) while there I got the distinct impression I needed to write like Debbie Macomber. A very clear answer to my prayer, but I wasn’t very happy.

I’ve heard Debbie Macomber speak twice. She’s an amazing, inspiring speaker, but I hadn’t read one of her bazillion books since high school. Debbie was one of the Harlequin authors that my mother read. Before my mother’s death when I was fifteen, she kept a large box of romance novels beside her bed and she didn’t know it, but I read all the books in that box, including Debbie Macomber’s. I hadn’t picked up a Debbie Macomber novel in years, but on my way home from the temple I stopped by Walmart and picked up two of her books. After reading them I decided that maybe God really had heard and answered my prayer.

So, like Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street or Cedar Cover series, I created a small Pacific Northwestern  series that I patterned after my own home town of Arlington, Washington. I named my series and the town Rose Arbor. Although my contemporary character Bette in STEALING MERCY (published July 2011) lived in Rose Arbor, my first official Rose Arbor book is A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE (published March 2012) because the bulk of STEALING MERCY takes place in 1889 Seattle, about 30 years before the town of Rose Arbor, AKA Arlington, was established. While I was drafting A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE I was simultaneously rewriting a novel I began in 2004, THE RHYME’S LIBRARY, my soon to be second Rose Arbor book. I threw in some of my Rose Arbor characters and life was good. I began drafting my third Rose Arbor novel LOSING PENNY shortly after I published A GHOST OF A SECOND CHANCE and I loved it because I got to reform bad boyfriend Drake. And since THE RHYME’S LIBRARY has a sequel, Love at the Apple Blossom, I have five finished or nearly finished Rose Arbor books.

a ghost copy (2)the rhyme's librarylosing penny

And writing-wise, everything was beyond peachy until I read the Debbie Macomber newsletter announcing her new Rose Harbor series. Her first Rose Harbor book was published August, 2012. The difference in our series titles is one letter. Literally shaking, I called my husband with the devastating news.

Well, it’s not like her stories take place in a small Washington town, he said.

Oh, but they do. They do, I told him.

The thought of rewriting and making new covers for my books overwhelmed me so I didn’t to do it. If I hadn’t so far along in my series I would have, but my simple goal became to have three Rose Arbor books published before Debbie Macomber had even published one. I decided that she since she was 1. a nice person 2. a really big fish 3. and I was such a tiny fish that she probably wouldn’t care.

So, what happened? My teenage daughter stumbled across my teenage book, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent and she loved it. This boosted my confidence and reaffirmed my belief that I don’t have to try and be hip to write young adult books. (I now have four—almost five, including the three award winning Beyond books, and Witch Ways, a Kindle Scout winner that will be released tomorrow.)

beyond the tent new(1) Beyond the Fortuneteller’ Tent, a I Heart Indies Finalist

Witch Ways copy (1) get your copy here A Kindle Scout winner, now available for pre-order, released tomorrow.

Why do I think that my writing prayer answered the way it was? I really believe it was my Heavenly Father’s way of saying, I know you. I’m listening. And look, here’s a miracle to show you that I’m paying attention.

The fourth Rose Arbor book (all of the books can be read independently) Love at the Apple Blossom Inn, is free.

apple blossum in copy

Writer friends, if you have a free book, please list it here with your buy links.

Vacation, Beach, and Children

It’s almost hard for me to comprehend not being at the beach, but I’m sure there are tons of children and adults who will be visiting the shore for the first time ever! For one of our authors here on Main Street, this coming week will be a family vacation to the Atlantic coastline. As we all wished her a wonderful holiday, I began to assemble what I thought everyone should know about traveling with children and the beach. I grew up going to the beach in the summer. And as I’ve probably mentioned, I was a surfer. Then as a teen, I moved to an island off the coast of New Jersey. I was in heaven! After I married, we moved to the SE corner of Virginia, where Virginia Beach provides some wonderful beaches tucked to the Atlantic by the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. So taking my kids to the beach was quite simple.

When you grow up with easy access to the beach, you do things almost without thinking. You assume everyone knows, but they don’t! So here are my tips for traveling with children especially for those headed for the beach!


Getting There:

  •  Turn off the DVD!
  •  Grab up a handful of plastic poker chips. The cheap ones from the dollar stores work just fine. (I’ll explain as I go. I know I was a bad mother. I even taught them to play 21. It sharpened their math skills.) Issue each child a few poker chips. Color doesn’t matter.
  •  Windows are there so children can look out and actually see something!
  •  It’s time to sing! I promise 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall can kill some time! And it teaches them to count backwards! Okay I really was a bad mother. I should have sung 100 Bottles of Milk on the Wall. But my kids learned to sing beer. They thought it was funny. If they goofed up and said the wrong numeral, they have to give up a chip. If you goof, you have to pay each child a chip.
  •  License plates are a great way of keeping them glued to what is around them especially if you are driving on a boring super highway. The person who can spot the furthest state/providence/county (must be verified) gets a chip. They learn a little geography doing this. If they are old enough to write them down, the one who sees the most plates gets a chip.
  •  And the ABC game, I’d forgotten until Pepper brought it up, is quite simple. They must do it in order. A is for automobile, B is for boat or billboard, C is for cat, chicken, corn, or cotton in the field. Take turns and each must find/see whatever starts with the next letter of the alphabet. It’s not easy! Oh, it starts easily enough, but after a while there are few letters that seem almost impossible. If they give up, they have to give up a chip! Then move to the next letter. I always allowed Dairy Queen (an ice cream/fast food restaurant here in the USA) for the Q. The X is another killer! It’s up to you if you will allow Exxon or FedEx – I figured it wasn’t exactly cheating – at least they found an X.
  •  Always travel with pillows and blankets.
  •  Super cheap cameras! There are tiny key-chain style digital cameras. Let them take pictures. A three year old can take a photo. These are their memories of their trip!

The Beach!beach DSCN0820

  • When taking the kids to swim at the beach, make certain that they have the brightest swimsuits. No cute blue, white or green ones that allow them to blend in to the ocean! You want florescent orange, brilliant yellow, day-glow red, and super hot-pink ones. When searching the beach, you want your kids to stand out!
  • Pack baby powder! And a bottle of alcohol. Baby powder removes the sand from the body especially the toes! Flip-flops and sandals feel horrible when there is sand between the toes! Or between the feet and the straps. Alcohol is for everything from cuts to jellyfish stings. It’s cheap – don’t dab, just pour.
  • Bring lots of sunscreen. I love the new ones that come in colors. You can see if you’ve missed a spot when applying. Okay, you’ve now painted your child pink, purple, blue, or green. Of course they look like freaks. It goes away in a few minutes and they will return to their normal color. Be careful, there is a one that does hold the color, but it’s meant more for those who live in the sun such as lifeguards. Don’t forget to do the part or cowlick in their hair, and to go under their suits. Bathing suits have a strange way of slipping down or riding up. And Mom, get your cleavage! OMG! It hurts if you get burned there! There are spots down there that have probably never ever seen sunlight!
  •  Oh, and salt water will remove sunscreen so darn fast! Reapply frequently. I don’t care what the bottle says. The ocean is full of sand and it just lightly sandpapers off anything on the skin! Reapply when they get out of the water! Remember, when at the beach, they are probably getting triple the amount of sun compared to what they would get in their backyard or neighborhood pool!
  • If the children have blue eyes make certain they have sunglasses – it’s harder on blue-eyed children than brown-eyed ones – same goes for adults! Be prepared. Someone will loose his or her sunglasses. Cheap ones work just fine on the beach. The sun is reflected off the water and the sand! But reflected sun in their eyes will make them tired and cranky.
  •  And, Mom & Dad, don’t forget to wear sunglasses – good ones! Trying to look across the beach or into the water to see your children with all that glare… Nope! You need good sunglasses that will cut the glare. You need to see your children. Wear a really cheap pair in the water if you don’t want to take your shades off. The ocean has a way of snagging that favorite pair of sunglasses!
  •  If you have three children, but only two adults, take turns taking them out into deeper water. Let the other two splash and play at the edge. No deeper than their knees while an adult takes one out. Mine could swim, so tossing them into the waves or letting them body surf towards shore was fun. (They have to hold their body very rigid with their hands stretched in front of them to body surf. And I guess it helps to know exactly when to push them in front of that wave.) If they aren’t swimmers, just let them jump the waves while holding your hand.
  •  Never let the children sit in the sand where the water rolls up onto them. That will pack 5 pounds of sand into their bathing suit bottoms and stretch it out of shape! Have them sit on their knees. That also means they can rise up faster if a bigger wave washes onto them.
  •  Ask the lifeguard if there is a shelf where the land drops away, sandbar, or anything you should know about. Each beach is different and most of the time lifeguards are assigned to a particular beach. They know the water and where it drops off or if there is any undertow. (I promise, most lifeguards are very well trained!) Where there are waves, there will be undertow. Most beaches will shut down if there is sufficient undertow to be a problem. But it can happen quickly and without warning. Never go out where you cannot touch the bottom!
  •  Take an overcast day and people think they won’t get any sun. Ha! You can burn quicker on an overcast day. Some people think thebeach_DSC3081 clouds filter something out which allows the burning rays to come through. (I have no clue!) See that person who is fried to a bright lobster-red crisp? TOURIST!!! But sometimes people just don’t know. Ever try to get a severely sunburned child to sleep? They are miserable! Prevention is everything! Sunburn is just as bad a burn from anything hot. Pink is a first degree. A burn that blisters later is a second-degree burn (quite common among sunbathers) and third is an instant blister. Those with super fair skin, usually found on blondes and redheads tend to have third degree burns.
  •  Mom, if you are pregnant…beware! I’m not sure what it is about the female body and hormones, but you will burn like crazy if you are pregnant! Read over all medications, including birth control before you hit the beach!
  •  If someone does get burned…Apple cider vinegar feels good and is cheap! Aloe straight from the plant or a bottle of pure Aloe juice is the most healing. There are also commercially prepared sprays available at any drug store.
  • Bring a couple of long-sleeved shirts with you. I promise someone will start to burn and those long sleeves will keep everyone much happier! Grab hubby’s long-sleeved, dress cotton shirt. It’s a great beach cover-up! It’s sexy, and with those long tails, it can hide all sorts of bumps, bulges, cellulite, and extra pounds! 🙂
  •  Always make sure the children have bathed after being in the ocean. A shower may work fine for adults, but children usually do better with a bath, especially little girls. (They have all those little nooks and crannies where sand and seaweed will get caught.)

Naps, Evenings, and Meals:

  •  Plan for the children to take early afternoon naps. Or what we called siesta! My girls had to be quiet. Maybe watch TV in the hotel room? Or you could go completely quiet and have them read or do puzzle books. Do this hotel time at 12:30 until about 2:30. After siesta they can do the beach thing again. You don’t want them out during the hottest, sunniest part of the day. This also keeps them out of the strongest sunshine. If they are older, try visiting a museum or a lighthouse.
  • Be prepared to get chilled in the evenings! Extra warm skin from the day’s sun and a cool breeze off the ocean is a recipe for getting the chills. Someone will wind up with the shivers and blue lips! And I’m not talking about blue from the cotton candy.
  •  If there is a boardwalk, let them do it at night! The lights, the sounds, and the fun! A few rides and they are in heaven! There’s something about cotton candy, saltwater taffy, fudge, etc., while walking the boardwalk! It will never taste better! Try not to buy cotton candy on a really humid night! Oh does that turn into a sticky mess! If they get it in their hair, it will wash out! If it goes down the front of that pretty white dress, it usually washes out without a problem. It’s sugar and food coloring! (We won’t discus red food coloring, which seems to stain everything!)
  •  Remember, it’s vacation. Try not to fuss too much. If all they want is french fries for dinner – it’s vacation. It’s a few days. They aren’t going to get rickets from it or die of malnutrition! If they are really picky eaters consider getting one plate of food and an empty plate so that the food can be divided or order off the appetizer menu. My kids hated the children’s menus. They wanted the good stuff! Don’t buy what they won’t eat! If they want codfish balls, and crab cakes let them eat it! I had one that would inhale a 1/2 pound of shrimp and one that wouldn’t touch seafood, Chinese, hamburger, hot dogs, or pizza. Go figure! I’d rather spend a little more and have them eat it, than to fuss when they refused something.
  •  Ask! Most restaurants can fix the tuna without blackening it! They can fix a steak without seasoning, etc. If your kids drink skim milk and the restaurant is serving 2%, the kids will balk! ASK!
  •  Kids feel stuff. If you are uptight, they will be uptight. Remember it’s a vacation. It’s supposed to be fun! It’s supposed to be filled with good memories, and lots of giggles!

Back to those poker chips! At the end of each day, give them some additional chips. If they’ve been extra good, they get five chips. If they had a melt down at breakfast, they get four. Tell them why. But give them a chip just because you love them. On the last day or evening, allow them to turn in poker chips for fun stuff. Let them buy that silly, twirling, whistling, whatnot with their chips! A value can be assigned to the chips depending on your budget. That twelve-year-old daughter might want a puka bead necklace as her souvenir, whereas a son might want a plastic shark! This is their decision and let them make it. It’s their money that they earned. It gives them a chance to understand value and earning something. And it’s a great bribe!

Take advantage of whatever the area has to offer! If it’s morning bike riding on the boardwalk or an aquarium, do it and have fun! Mornings on the beach and afternoons at the hotel pool, and if you think you are tired at night? For every step you take, they have taken probably two or three. If their idea of a perfect dinner is pizza and yours is lobster, have the lobster one night and pizza another. Everyone is supposed to have fun on vacation!

Will things go wrong? Of course. There is no such thing as a perfect vacation, especially with children. The number of things that have gone wrong while I was on vacation would fill a book and no one would believe me. (A crash landing in a jet? Yep!) But I promise a vacation is what you make it. So be sure to bring your sense of humor, look at the bright side, and count your blessings. At least you aren’t home looking a the same old walls!