Our Favorite Pancake

We can now eat out without any tears.

We can now eat out without any tears.

I love traveling with our kids.

I love traveling with our kids.

There was a time when Tony and I gave up eating breakfast out while traveling with our children.  The night before we left on vacation I would make up a batch of sausage & biscuits, pigs in a blanket, and breakfast burritos.  Most trips began before dawn and we would pile our four children, my nephew, and often times my cousin- Stephanie, aka the nanny- into the Excursion and a way we would go.  Then we drove and ate as we wanted.

This sounds crazy given how much Tony & I love to eat breakfast, but when the kids were little it was a bad experience.  The problem was that they always wanted to order pancakes.  I would tell them, “Now , these won’t taste exactly like mine.”  They would then swear up and down that they wanted pancakes.  So, Tony would order them pancakes and the food would come.  Then, they would take a bite and cry, “These don’t taste like yours!”  Refuse to eat anymore and drive Tony crazy.  Therefore, we gave up breakfast on the road.  Once at our vacation destination which was usually a house or cabin rental, I would resume cooking breakfast and all would be good.  I guess I should take it as a compliment that no one ever measured up to me.

Below is the recipe for our favorite pancakes.  When Cheyenne, now 19, was a preschooler she would know what I was cooking by the ingredients that I got out.  If I varied the recipes she got very upset.  One morning I decided to add vanilla to the batter and pour the pancake batter over a super then apple slice that I had browned in the pan.  She had a fit and went without breakfast that morning- a very good breakfast I might add.  I never tried to change up the pancakes again.  With her will of granite and flair for drama, there were plenty of battles to fight and the pancake recipe was simply not a battle I cared to fight.

Our Favorite Pancake

1 1/4 cup flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoon of olive oil

1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Mix the liquid ingredients in a smaller bowl, beat slightly.  Add liquid to the dry mixture and mix.  Batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat large skillet over medium heat.  Add a small amount of olive oil to pan, once hot pour in batter to make the size of pancake you want.  Once there are lots of bubbles popping on the pancake and the bottom is browned, flip pancake over.  Cook another 1-2 minutes- until center is cooked through.  Repeat until batter is gone.

The batter above make for a thin pancake.  I like them thin so that I can have nice crispy edges that are golden brown.  If you like a thicker pancake, reduce the amount of milk and cook over lower heat.

That is it.  So simple and so good.

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Galveston Island State Park & Huntsville State Park, Great Places to Enjoy His Creation

Oh how I love the sea!

It was not our plan, but camping at Huntsville State Park was just what the Ross Family needed.  When we set out on Saturday, August 4th we had every intention of camping on the beach at Galveston Island State Park.  Savannah had spent the week at Sea Camp, Texas A&M Galveston.  It made sense then to take the opportunity to spend some time by the sea.

Well, I don’t know if you have been to Galveston since they have recovered from hurricane Ike, but they have not only bounced back but have done so with some gusto.  There was not an open spot to be had at the state park, or any hotel room from League City to Kemah to the coast.  So, it looked like our few days of sunshine and sea were not going to be.  We were disappointed, but so happy for the people of the Island who dug in and rebuilt their homes and businesses.  So, we decided to have one heck of a day and see what came next.

Me & Sierra- hard to believe she is 13!
Tony and Jonathan- he has been eating at Casey’s since he was a baby
The Ross Bunch- lovers of nature and good food.

We certainly had a great day.  After picking up Savannah, we headed to Casey’s for some lunch.  As always, the food was great and we cleaned our plates.  I highly recommend this as a place to hit when in Galveston.  It is a family owned place that has been around for a long time.  This family was instrumental in feeding the workers, crews, and residents that were involved in the clean up after Ike.  We ate there for the first time when Jonathan was 3 weeks old (he is eleven now) and ate there every summer that Sunny lived in Conroe.  I had my first shrimp poorboy there and have been smitten ever since.  This summer I had a poorboy and shrimp gumbo- oh so good.  Fried zucchini is on the menu as an appetizer and it is perfect every time!  Sierra had calamari and a shrimp platter was shared by the big girls.  Jonathan and Tony shared the poorboy and then said that although it was very good, mine was better.  Now, that is a compliment.

My sea creature- Bana

After the yummy lunch it was time for the beach.  We had a blast playing in the water, digging up hermit crabs & clams, and eating watermelon on the sands.  For the first time ever, Sierra and Jonathan got sunburned.  It seems that while Tony and I were sorting out plan B since our stay on the beach wasn’t going to happen, the kids ran off to the beach without putting on sunscreen.  Now, if I had done this I would have been burned to the point of being ill, but given their Turkish genes, they only had a light burn.  Of course, to them who had never been burned, they whined pitifully.  I told them to suck it up, they did not even know what a real burn felt like.  I, on the other hand being a white girl, have had plenty of experience.  I put on sunscreen and still got a bit of a burn, but nothing too bad.  God bless the Aloe Vera plant, it made it all better.

Sierra loves watermelon
You can’t see it, but we caught a tiny little fiddler crab
Cheyenne has the sun in her eyes!

Once we had our fill of the sun and the sea- which was many hours later- we decided to clean up and head to Kemah.  The last time we were at this state park was 2 weeks before Ike blew through.  At that time, there were no outside showers, only a water faucet.  Now there is a great deck with several showers and really large bathrooms to change into your dry clothes.  I cannot say enough how happy I am with the way the state park and the city have come back.  The state park is a great place to visit, you will be glad that you did.

What a lucky man!

After dinner at a great steakhouse called T-Bone Tom’s (see the next post) we had fun on the Kemah Boardwalk.  Savannah, Sierra, Jonathan and I road the roller coaster.  I have determined that these are just not as fun as they once were.  I think that ride will be my last of the intense variety.  The boardwalk is really neat with all the lights and music.  I would not want to make a whole trip of the boardwalk, but it definitely worth seeing.  I then searched again in vain for a local hotel room and when none were found, we headed north.  There were several state parks on the way home and we thought we might give them a try.

It’s not a trip with out a pool!

It was about 1:30 in the morning when we made Huntsville.  They, not being the tourist magnet that Galveston is, had plenty of rooms.  Sierra, Jonathan, and I had a great morning swim in a great pool (the room was not so great but we were so tired we did not care).  Huntsville State Park was just up the highway a bit, so we went there thinking we would spend the day.  Well, we spent two nights and three days.  What a pleasant surprise this state park turned out to be.

Jonathan is mixing meat for burgers

You see, I am not a big fan of lake swimming unless I have a boat and get out to the deep where I never have to touch any vegetation or the mucky bottom of the lake.  However, the lake in this state park is really clear, the swim area was clean, no muck and no weeds.  Couple this with the beautiful views from very pretty campsites and you have one the best state parks we have stayed at- and we have been to many.  Being only two and a half hours away, this would make a good place for a day trip as well.

Never too old to roast marshmallows…

After morning walks with Tony, hours spent hanging out with my kids, playing cards, reading books and eating simply good food, I was completely unwound.  We all relaxed and enjoyed our time away.  We came home refreshed and tanned.  As it is so often with God, we knew what we wanted, but He knew what we needed.  We wanted to stay at the beach, but what we needed was quiet time with Him in His creation.  While the ocean is His creation, Galveston is not a quiet place.  We could not have planned a better trip.  Memories were made and a family was bonded stronger than before.

So, check out the great state parks of our state, God is alive and well there and He will meet with you.  When you study and observe the work of an artist, you will learn something of the artist, it is the same with God and his Creation-his work of art.  We never come away with less when we unplug and take time to spend time with Him.  My children will look back on their childhood and these will be the things they remember.  When I look back on their childhoods, these are the things I remember.

Summer Fun!

ImageYou know I am just amazed at the amount of laundry that a camping trip can generate!  That is what I have been doing today, that and washing the dishes out of the camping bin.  For every good time, there is a certain amount of work that goes into it.  As every mother knows, this is why we need a day off when we get back from vacation!  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We have been having a good time around here.  A little traveling, lotta sun, and a whole lotta fun!  I love my bunch and I love traveling and camping with them. After picking Savannah up in Galveston after Sea Camp, we played on the beach and went to Kemah then spent a few days at Huntsville State Park. There was so much done in this one week, that it will take several blogs to do it justice.

Since being home, I have been catching up on house work (see above) and getting ready for school to start.  Homeschooling is a wonderful part of our lives.  I love that fact that I get to choose subjects based on the interests of my kids and then we get to take trips to study what we are studying in person.  So many subjects are brought into play in the study of one subject.  I am really excited about the Texas History Unit this fall.  By picking up books at the library, we are reading.  Reports will be written, using language and wrtiting skills, and documentaries will be ordered from Netflix.  Then we will travel to a state park near San Antonio so we can go see the Alamo.  In planning the trip, the kids will participate using maps (geography) and have to put together a budget for the trip- everyday use of math- all these subjects are pulled in while we study Texas History and this helps all that good information and knowledge stick.  Children were never meant to learn in tiny boxes, the mind was wired to mesh all the information together.

My Gang @ T-Bone Toms

Another year and a lot of good fun is on the way. We kick off “officially” on Monday.  Unofficially, we homeschool 24/7 all year long. It was quite odd, however, printing up the lessons plans and such.  I have for the past years multiplied everything by four, now I am multiplying by three as Cheyenne has graduated.  Wow, that is so strange.  And yet, it is a relief!  It seems so much easier to just have three, then next year I will only plan for two.  Life is changing big time.  These milestones come no matter what, might as will celebrate them!

Galveston Island State Park & Huntsville State Park- Great Places To Enjoy His Creation

Galveston Island State Park

It was not our plan, but camping at Huntsville State Park was just what the Ross Family needed.  When we set out on Saturday, August 4th we had every intention of camping on the beach at Galveston Island State Park.  Savannah had spent the week at Sea Camp, Texas A&M Galveston.  It made sense then to take the opportunity to spend some time by the sea.

Well, I don’t know if you have been to Galveston since they have recovered from hurricane Ike, but they have not only bounced back but have done so with some gusto.  There was not an open spot to be had at the state park, or any hotel room from League City to Kemah to the coast.  So, it looked like our few days of sunshine and sea were not going to be.  We were disappointed, but so happy for the people of the Island who dug in and rebuilt their homes and businesses.  So, we decided to have one heck of a day and see what came next.

Me & Sierra- hard to believe she is 13!
Tony and Jonathan- he has been eating at Casey’s since he was a baby
The Ross Bunch- lovers of nature and good food.

We certainly had a great day.  After picking up Savannah, we headed to Casey’s for some lunch.  As always, the food was great and we cleaned our plates.  I highly recommend this as a place to hit when in Galveston.  It is a family owned place that has been around for a long time.  This family was instrumental in feeding the workers, crews, and residents that were involved in the clean up after Ike.  We ate there for the first time when Jonathan was 3 weeks old (he is eleven now) and ate there every summer that Sunny lived in Conroe.  I had my first shrimp poorboy there and have been smitten ever since.  This summer I had a poorboy and shrimp gumbo- oh so good.  Fried zucchini is on the menu as an appetizer and it is perfect every time!  Sierra had calamari and a shrimp platter was shared by the big girls.  Jonathan and Tony shared the poorboy and then said that although it was very good, mine was better.  Now, that is a compliment.

My sea creature- Bana

After the yummy lunch it was time for the beach.  We had a blast playing in the water, digging up hermit crabs & clams, and eating watermelon on the sands.  For the first time ever, Sierra and Jonathan got sunburned.  It seems that while Tony and I were sorting out plan B since our stay on the beach wasn’t going to happen, the kids ran off to the beach without putting on sunscreen.  Now, if I had done this I would have been burned to the point of being ill, but given their Turkish genes, they only had a light burn.  Of course, to them who had never been burned, they whined pitifully.  I told them to suck it up, they did not even know what a real burn felt like.  I, on the other hand being a white girl, have had plenty of experience.  I put on sunscreen and still got a bit of a burn, but nothing too bad.  God bless the Aloe Vera plant, it made it all better.

Sierra loves watermelon
You can’t see it, but we caught a tiny little fiddler crab
Cheyenne has the sun in her eyes!

Once we had our fill of the sun and the sea- which was many hours later- we decided to clean up and head to Kemah.  The last time we were at this state park was 2 weeks before Ike blew through.  At that time, there were no outside showers, only a water faucet.  Now there is a great deck with several showers and really large bathrooms to change into your dry clothes.  I cannot say enough how happy I am with the way the state park and the city have come back.  The state park is a great place to visit, you will be glad that you did.

What a lucky man!

After dinner at a great steakhouse called T-Bone Tom’s (see the next post) we had fun on the Kemah Boardwalk.  Savannah, Sierra, Jonathan and I road the roller coaster.  I have determined that these are just not as fun as they once were.  I think that ride will be my last of the intense variety.  The boardwalk is really neat with all the lights and music.  I would not want to make a whole trip of the boardwalk, but it definitely worth seeing.  I then searched again in vain for a local hotel room and when none were found, we headed north.  There were several state parks on the way home and we thought we might give them a try.

It’s not a trip with out a pool!

It was about 1:30 in the morning when we made Huntsville.  They, not being the tourist magnet that Galveston is, had plenty of rooms.  Sierra, Jonathan, and I had a great morning swim in a great pool (the room was not so great but we were so tired we did not care).  Huntsville State Park was just up the highway a bit, so we went there thinking we would spend the day.  Well, we spent two nights and three days.  What a pleasant surprise this state park turned out to be.

Jonathan is mixing meat for burgers

You see, I am not a big fan of lake swimming unless I have a boat and get out to the deep where I never have to touch any vegetation or the mucky bottom of the lake.  However, the lake in this state park is really clear, the swim area was clean, no muck and no weeds.  Couple this with the beautiful views from very pretty campsites and you have one the best state parks we have stayed at- and we have been to many.  Being only two and a half hours away, this would make a good place for a day trip as well.

Never too old to roast marshmallows…

After morning walks with Tony, hours spent hanging out with my kids, playing cards, reading books and eating simply good food, I was completely unwound.  We all relaxed and enjoyed our time away.  We came home refreshed and tanned.  As it is so often with God, we knew what we wanted, but He knew what we needed.  We wanted to stay at the beach, but what we needed was quiet time with Him in His creation.  While the ocean is His creation, Galveston is not a quiet place.  We could not have planned a better trip.  Memories were made and a family was bonded stronger than before.

So, check out the great state parks of our state, God is alive and well there and He will meet with you.  When you study and observe the work of an artist, you will learn something of the artist, it is the same with God and his Creation-his work of art.  We never come away with less when we unplug and take time to spend time with Him.  My children will look back on their childhood and these will be the things they remember.  When I look back on their childhoods, these are the things I remember.

Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

Savannah showing the kids a horseshoe crab

If you are looking for a fun and educational outing for the family, I highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park.  In the recent years it has undergone some major renovations and the change has been great.

The touch tanks are full of sea life that you would not normally be able to see much less touch.  Horseshoe crabs, slipper lobsters, and sea anemoneas to name a few of the creatures that call the touch tank home.  There are volunteers there everyday to explain details to the kids and the adults a like.  Savannah is there on Wednesdays from noon till 4 pm.  She loves the work there and has learned a lot for herself.

The touch tank in the foyer has lots of small animals to touch and feel.  The second tank is located in the back with many cownose rays for touching, now those are something.  Shrimp or small fish can be purchased to feed the rays.  These little fellas love to eat and if you put your hand in the water, on most days,  the rays will swarm around and run under your hand.  This past Wednesday there had been a lot of school groups and the “snack” bar was sold out by 3:00.  This is unusual and when I got back there and wanted to pet them, they wouldn’t give me the time of day.  It seems they were taking a nap at the bottom of the tank, picture the family after the Thanksgiving meal and you will get the idea.

Jonathan & I are sitting in front of the shark tank

Also in the back, but not a touch tank, is the shark tank.  There are several varieties of shark out there and a couple of Southern Rays.  The guys get fed every Wednesdays at 2:30.  This is fun to watch and the keepers always have a presentation for all that are watching.  There is a very tall window on the second level that makes it easy to watch the sharks swimming.  Because of all the passes the animals make in front of the window, you can see all sides of the sharks and rays, it is very cool.  Savannah really wants to swim with the sharks, but that is not allowed.

Savannah and Albert the Alligator

All the tanks and displays have been done really well.  My favorite tank indoors is the jellyfish.  It is just mesmerizing to watch them swim under that black light.  Those are just so cool- unless you encounter them while swimming in their natural habitat!  Another fun attraction is Albert the Alligator, Savannah really likes getting him out and showing him to the kids.  He is a little guy, only 18 months old, but he will bite if he can, but the handlers don’t let that happen.  So, check out the Aquarium and the rest of the museums at Fair Park, parking is free and the Park itself is very nice with lots for the kiddos to see.

Jellyfish are so cool.
All the characters from “Finding Nemo”
One of two Seahorse tanks.

Sunnin’ on the Paluxy

I once thought that the best place to take a nap was on the couch on an Autumn Sunday afternoon while the football game played on the TV.  I still think that is some fine sleeping time, but I decided yesterday that I have a new favorite spot.  On the edge of the river with my float on the bank just enough that I won’t be carried off by the current but yet my feet are still submerged and I am still floating in the cool water.  With the sun warming my back- that is the best place to take a nap and I quite enjoyed my nap yesterday on the Paluxy river.

As the days grow longer and the weather warms, my bunch spends almost all of our time outside and it doesn’t take long for the river to call our name.  Yesterday we answered the call, loaded up the Suburban with fruit, snacks, and the swim bin and away we went.  The swim bin is a Rubbermaid container that has all of our floats, water shoes, nets, goggles, and various other assortments necessary for enjoying time on the water.  This way when the impulse to take a day trip hits, all we have to grab is one bin and a bag of towels. 

Loving the sun, He was 3 month old on his first trip

It takes about two and a half hours for us to get to Glen Rose.  The trip is very enjoyable with the scenery really beginning to change after Mansfield.  Our Suburban has a cranky a/c so we were driving with the windows down.  Seriously, life is good with the warm sun shinning on your arm, the wind blowing your hair, and some vintage Bon Jovi and Areosmith on the radio.  The kids are quiet and content and we are just plain happy.  As a matter of fact, a brand new Denali passed us on I-20 and I felt sorry for him because he didn’t get to have his windows down.  The thought made me laugh and I guess it proves that it is all about perspective.

We know the place by heart, even where to expect the deer to be when we take our drive around the park at dusk.  However, each time we go it is different.  With nature nothing stays the same.  Last summer the drought revealed rocks, ledges, and dinosaur tracks that we had never seen before and this year with the purging of the drought and then all the wonderful rain, the river was more pristine and clear than I have seen it in the 15 years that we have been playing in it.  So many of the pictures look very similar to the ones we took the previous trip, but they do mark changes in the family.  Now when I look at these pictures taken yesterday I will think, “Look, these were taken right before Cheyenne left for college.”  I am grateful for the wonderful memories I have, and so many of them were made at Dinosaur Valley State Park, Glen Rose Texas.

The air is dry in that part of Texas and it didn’t take long for the temps to cool down once the sun dropped behind the ridge.  A good day on the river is awesome therapy, stress and frustration melt away and float on  down the way like the leaves that fall on the water.  As the sun sets, we pack up our stuff and take our browned bodies back up the trail and go look for deer.  We always find some.  The one yesterday was most definitely getting close to having her fawn(s).  There were several others in the fields as we rolled down the state park road heading for Canton.

Not only do we get to know each other better spending time in nature, we get to know our Creator better as well.  If you study an artist’s work, you will learn something about the artist himself.  The same is true for God.  His handiwork is all around us and it is good to take time to study it and take it in.  I asked the girls- Jonathan was off exploring with Tony looking for fish, turtles, and snakes, go figure- what they could tell about God from his creation there on the Paluxy.  The answers were that He likes “pretty things”, “harmony” and “peacefulness”.  Very true, indeed. It is so awesome to know that the Creator of all this beauty was right there enjoying His creation with us.

The first time I took their picture together in Glen Rose they were 5 & 3
Just after I snapped this picture, he dunked them both!
He did not dunk me…        

Sierra is a water bug
Good Times!
Nap time…
One of these things in not like the other…

Good Chili for Chasing Away the Chills

Daingerfield State Park

Around the Ross household, we like chili just about any time of the year, but it is certainly a favorite when the weather turns cold.  The recipe below is our favorite.  The original recipe came from Southern Living magazine, I tweaked it a bit- something I do to just about every recipe.

The first time I made this chili was on a camping trip to Daingerfield State Park.  The chili was a hit and so we call it Daingerfield chili.  If you are looking for a great place to take the family camping, I highly recommend this state park.  We had a wonderful time.  The lake is very clear and while we were canoeing along the shallows, we could see the bottom along with the waterlilies.  If you don’t have a canoe, you can rent them there.  The wooded acres has several really nice trails.

Tony & I knew each time we heard cackles and screams that Lady, the 85 lb Lab, had changed sides of the canoe

Our good friends, the Lafluers, were camping with us.  Playing cards in the light of a lantern, cooking over the fire, swimming in the lake- all these good memories come back easily when we eat our Daingerfield Chili.

Sierra’s poker face!

Daingerfield Chili:


1 lb beef chuck roast, cubed
1 lb pork loin or shoulder roast, cubed
1 lg onion chopped
1 lg green pepper chopped (you can substitute any pepper you have in your garden like banana)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 TB Sp olive oil
2 cans (4.5 oz) green chillies
2 cups water or red wine
1 cup salsa
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 TB Sp brown sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice


Combine the first 5 ingredients, cook half the mixture in 2 tbsp olive oil in a lg dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned.  Remove and set aside and repeat with the remaining half of mixture in the other 2 tbsp olive oil.
Combine meat mixture, tomatoes, and next 7 ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until meat is tender.

That’s How We Roll

Big Rocks Park, it was getting too dark, but this is still pretty.

After all that Tony and I have been doing over the last 3 weeks with First Monday, tearing down the nursery equipment, and Third Monday Trades Days, the last thing we wanted to do last Saturday was get in the car and drive to Glen Rose.  But, we did.
You see, it is time to start thinking about the Van Zandt County Youth Expo in April.  This is the big event every 4H kid looks forward to all year long.  So, Savannah had been searching the internet looking for goats that could be her meat goat project that she will show at the Expo.  Our Awesome extension agent, Tommy Phillips, had given us some contact numbers but they had no goats.  Well, she located a pair of wethers (boy goats that have been castrated) in Glen Rose that looked good and were at a great price.  Although, we really wanted to stay home, we asked ourselves “If we don’t go now, then when do we go?”  There was no good answer given that we had Third Monday McKinney coming up and we would be setting up a new booth at Ye Olde City Antique Mall in Tyler.  So, we went.
Well, I am happy to report that we had the best time!  For one thing, Tony and I love that area of Texas.  The land really changes, the altitude really climbs – enough to make your ears pop- and there is an openness out there that is good for the soul.  So, as we drove through scenery that makes you understand why pioneers moved west, our minds began to shift into neutral.  We were without kids, which is unusual for us if we are headed to Glen Rose, so there was a comfortable silence in the truck.  We needed that kind of down time, just taking in God’s handiwork.
The folks we were getting the goats from lived down a county road that had some of the best vistas.  They were really nice people and had good quality animals.  So, we loaded up two show goats and headed home.  We stopped in the town of Glen Rose; I might add that the town boasts a lively town square with shops and a farmers market, for some dinner.
 After some great burgers with REAL French fries at The Green Pickle, we were feeling very relaxed.  The Green Pickle was just off the square and had an outdoor area for dining, for some unknown reason we were the only ones out there.  The weather was perfect, the air out that way is dry and it was neither hot nor cold, it was just right- kind of like baby bears porridge.  So, we sat under the massive pecan trees ate our food, laughed and talked.
As we headed out of town, we decided to stop by the Big Rocks Park.  This park is aptly named for the rocks that reside next to Squaw Creek.  Now, when I say big rocks you should picture boulders the size of your house piled up and down the east side of the creek.  The park is free and we have spent many an hour playing in this little river, Cheyenne and Savannah were 4 & 2 respectively  when we first started coming, now they are 18 & 16.  The crazy thing is despite how huge these boulders are, back a few years ago we had so much rain that the rivers were flooding, once the water went down, these boulders had been rearranged.
The sun was setting as we walked about the river bed which still had a bit of water running through it.  It is hard to describe the beauty that evening.  The normally white rocks were reflecting the golden orange of the setting sun, the scruffy cedar and elegant Live Oaks casting shadows on the boulders.  The water reflecting it all as it babbled on its way to meet the Paluxy.
Standing there with my love the last little bit of my soul that had been wound tight just came undone- I was for the first time in a while, completely relaxed.  It was like a rubber band that had been twisted tight, then you let it go and it unwinds to the point of being all floppy.
God is so good.  If we had stayed home, we would not have relaxed.  If you have been by my farm lately you have seen piles of this and that, fences in various states of being torn down, plants that need re-potting and fallen trees that need removing.  There is a lot of work starring us in the face.  That is how we would have spent that Saturday, not in rest.  The thing we needed was the last thing we wanted, a drive.
Tony does love a good burger!  Just the basics, beef & cheese.
Mushroom & Swiss Burger, MmmMmm Good

For Deer Life

With all these cooler temps, the Ross bunch was itching to get out of doors.  So, we loaded up and headed off to one of our favorite state parks, Dinosaur Valley State Park.  Located in Glenrose, Texas, Dinosaur Valley is about two and a half hours away.

About Alvarado, we are always ready for lunch and eat at the McDonald’s there.  These days we usually avoid that kind of fast food, but this is a tradition of ours.  We made our first camping trip there when Cheyenne was 5 and Savannah was 3 and the others had not arrived.  Now, they are 18 and 16, my how time does fly.  We usually hit the river 3 or 4 times a year and stop at that McDonalds every time.  Depending on the season, we take sandwich fixings and a watermelon or something like that and enjoy a picnic at one of the many beautiful spots in the park.

Due to its westward location, the air is always to dry and crisp.  The sky is always so blue.  The park is crossed by the Paluxy River which runs deep in some areas and shallow in others.  I guess this is one thing that has made this park a favorite for so many years.  When the kids were little, they could spend hours sitting in the shallows with the water running over them while they busily moved rocks around to create pools and waterfalls.  The Paluxy is loaded with rocks!  Rocks of all sizes and shapes.  What great memories.

However, as they got older they needed a little more excitement.  So, we looked at the park map and noticed a “swimming hole” noted in a bend we had not explored yet.  This “hole” is really deep.  We have never felt the bottom, even yesterday after the worst one year drought in Texas history.  The water was so cold that we could hardly stand it with the cool breeze blowing.  We had heard that the river was spring fed in places, but had never known where- now we do.  This swimming hole is also surrounded by huge boulders, some of which are flat and jut out over the water.  The big kids love to jump off, while the little ones can still find plenty of rocks to rearrange in the shallows with the river running over them.

The terrain is very different from East Texas.  There is a lot of greenery, it is just different-  lots of cedars, post oaks, mesquite and other items that I have no idea what the names are.  We might call them mountains, but folks from other parts of the country would call them hills.  At any rate, the hiking and climbing are great.  When you get to the top of the “mountains” you are rewarded with some wonderful vistas.  The trails are challenging enough to enjoy the vigor it takes to follow them, but easy enough that kids can keep up without any trouble.  Mountain biking is allowed as wells as horses.  We have yet to take our horses, but that is high on our to-do list.

One of the things we enjoy the most is watching the deer.  Once we are done swimming and have packed our gear, we drive around the park and look for deer.  Never have we been disappointed.  The best memory we have of the dear was watching twin fawns playing tag in a meadow.  They raced about so fast, zigging and zagging all about.  After a few minutes though, Mama Deer appeared at the edge of the woods and bleated, a bleat so low you could hardly hear it.  The twins acted as if they had been caught being naughty and darted back into the woods with their mother.  The kids talk about this every time we go.  The deer come out at dusk, so if you go plan to stay at least until dark.  You will also see some awesome bats swooping around at this time.

The town of Glenrose is very quaint and family friendly.  There is a really good Dairy Queen and a Chicken Express.  There are several other restaurants in town, we have eaten at a few times and they were good.  Usually, we are cooking at our campsite.  Food cooked while camping out just tastes better!  If you forget something, there is a Dollar General that has always had whatever we needed.

We have traveled for the better part of 20 years with children.  This state park is one of the best, actually it is probably my favorite.  Whether it is a day trip or an overnight camping trip, this park fits the bill.  If you are looking for an inexpensive family outing, this is fabulous.  Even if money is no option, this is a must see destination for a young family.  Check out the photos below and you will see why!

Tony and kids are seeing who can win at skipping rocks.

My idea of fun! Me and Jonathan taking it easy.

Pretty Girl! Cheyenne had been coming here since she was 5!

Savannah Ray, she once almost caught a huge soft-shell turtle here- kept her busy for hours.

Age 12, Sierra is a water bug.

Lunch on the river bank.

I have loved the water since I was born.

Jonathan caught 3 perch in one of the many pools left by the drying river. They now live in a bucket in his room.

Beauty- everywhere

All because two people fell in love.

Remember the flat rocks I mentioned? Here are 2 big kids jumping off of them. Bana jumped so high she left the screen!

Holland Crossing, Rusk, Texas

An easy and tasty way to get some lunch.

If you ever find yourself in Rusk, Texas- there is a great little cafe on the square.  Tony and I found Holland Crossing Cafe this past week as we were doing some business in that little town.  The courthouse and square are very quaint.  The cafe is casual with a  friendly atmosphere.

The special of the day was “all you can eat fish and shrimp.”  Now in most cases, this would not at all  appeal to me as I am very picky about my fish (mostly I don’t like it, for some reason it usually tastes fishy) and I love shrimp, but fresh.  Normally these small town cafes will offer frozen shrimp that is not very appealing.  Catfish is not uncommon and usually done well- if you don’t mind your fish tasting fishy. But Holland Crossing surprised me.  I walked over to take a look at the buffet and saw some shrimp that looked like what I cooked at home and since the buffet cost no more than the Hamburger Basket, I decided to give it a try.

I am so glad I did!  The shrimp was so good.  The breading was light, almost like tempura and the shrimp was very fresh and cooked just right.  The way to tell if seafood is fresh is to take a bite.  If the shrimp or calamari or lobster has a nice “pop” to it as your teeth sink into it- it is fresh.  If you have to pull back on the bite to get it loose and it feels like biting into a rubber band- not fresh.  Sadly, most seafood you get in this part of Texas is rubbery.  So many people don’t think they like seafood and I really think it has to do with not being served fresh stuff.  Not only was the shrimp good, so was the Gumbo.  The gumbo had good flavor and just a touch of heat.  When I first got my plate there was no fish out.  As I finished my shrimp, the gal in the kitchen bought out a fresh batch of catfish.  Given the freshness of the shrimp, I took a chance on the fish.  Perfect.  Not a hint of mud or fishyness- it was really good.

The only flaw I found on the buffet was the actual lettuce.  It was fresh and crisp, but it was just a standard iceberg mix.  I find that really sad given the fact that the romaine and loose leaf varieties are the same price if not cheaper. However, the rest of the salad bar had a lot of great choices- fresh mushrooms, cucumbers, carrots, bacon bits, etc.

Tony had a ham and turkey sandwich that was served on a croissant with chips.  He really liked it.  Several customers were served hamburgers and those looked great.  Being located across from the courthouse means that a lot of sidearms walked in on their owners.  This was a bit out of the norm for our usual haunts, but the deputies usually know the good eating places in town.

There are several other attractions in the areal.  The Texas State Railroad is in Rusk and there is a really pretty park downtown.  This area of Texas has a lot of early history in it that is marked by the historical markers.  I reccomend this little town for a great day trip to expose your kids to some our colorful Texas history.

While you are there- give the Holland Crossing Cafe a try!

Tony always grins this big when he has a great lunch.