Smoked whole chicken – JuJuBQ

Smoked whole chicken – JuJuBQ

The taste of last week’s Frickin Chicken Shack smoked wings lingers. Talk of those smokey appendages still fresh.

With no space for a return trip on the calendar, we turned to JuJuBQ. For Mother’s Day this year, this20140711-085911-32351188.jpg joined the “kitchen” repertoire. And I’m so glad she did. My new favorite gadget.

I brined the chicken, a first for me.
1 gallon water
1/2 c salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
5 pound brined for 4 hours. A little longer than I wanted, but hubby and I did a lunch date. More on that in another post.

Some people remove the backbone for more even cooking and/or faster cooking. Rather than remove the bone, I pushed down on the bird to break the bone and flatten it somewhat. Probably against BBQ etiquette, but I was 2 hours late putting the bird on.

After a good dry towel session, the clucker was ready for a massage. The Heffer Dust made and sold by a student was empty. I tried to replicate the seasoning from memory. His magic, family secret recipe is far superior. My mediocre rub was a dump and mix fest. Miss E and I tasted and adjusted. No measuring. Just salt, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, black pepper, and paprika. Not a bad first rub.

I smoked the bird to 160, about 3 hours. The last 30 minutes I put on a slight smattering of BBQ sauce (totally not needed). The fledgling results were AMAZING! Juicy, succulent, and from my smoker!

From the local farmer’s market, we had a pound of green and yellow wax beans. Marinated in EVOO, lemon juice, and a bit of rub for an hour, I finished them on the smoker grates. After 30 minutes, the beans were veggie candy to the hubs and I. Like the Cheshire Cat, we looked at each other and telepathically listed other veggies to smoke.

JuJuBQ is prepped and ready for the next smoke session. Salmon? Brisket? Potatoes? Cabbage? Corn? Fruit?!




Best Ever Wings in Mears, MI

Best Ever Wings in Mears, MI

Our family loves smokey BBQ goodness. Who knew that we would find some of the best smoked wings in Mears, aka Silver Lake?! The Frickin Chicken Shack left us all devising a plan to skip camp meals and return. Often.

The 5 of us plus my two nieces polished off a small chicken farm. I failed to get a picture of the wing slaughter due to major chicken lickin fingers.

Fall off the bone. Perfect mild seasoning. Slight smokey taste. No need for sauce. Delicious. But if you are the saucey type, the selection is impressive. The table favorite was bourbon sauce.

Please stop in, you will not be disappointed and do get 24 to go for us.


Loading up the jeep sized smoker. He would not give up the seasoning’s secrets. Bummer.

Mackinac Island -Guest Post from a 5 yr old


The following guest post was written by our 5 year old Miss E. We worked together on corrections and pictures. She is so proud of her first “published” piece.

20140703-155813-57493142.jpgThis is my family. My family went to Mackinac Island. It was fun.


20140703-155959-57599744.jpg. We found sea glass. My family went to a hotel.


20140703-160105-57665450.jpg. We had a good time together.





20140703-160218-57738549.jpg. We had a good time at the hotel. I love my family.







I’m learning to live with it. Don’t like it. Not from my kids or family but former students.

As the only special education language teacher in my building, often my students and I embark on a four year journey. Adolescence, relationships, career choices, post secondary applications to young adulthood; we hit many life milestones. For a few each year, we establish a bond. Maybe a missing parental role, a listening ear, or a friendly connection, or perhaps a little of all.

My favorite time is when they take the post secondary leap and head out to adulthood. Each summer I worry, will they make it? Have they secured housing? Found a job? Are they safe? Often I see a few around town, get an email, maybe a phone call, or some brave a trip down memory lane and stop by. Hearing about their triumphs and less than stellar moments, I feel like a parent. Beaming and embracing all the good and frowning at the bad.

For some, they feel the need to keep me up to date, others come for a confession of sorts, and for a few they think they’ll shock me. News flash, I’ve heard or have seen most bomb shells. Pregnant? Heard it. Recently out of jail? Read it. Dating a married 50 year old man, no job, and strung out on drugs? Been told. Nope, the shock value is gone. What they will get may be their shock.

A few sad eyes, a listening ear, and then the interrogation. So where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is this the life you want for your kid? How will you support yourself? Remember your dreams, plans? Still possible! You have skills, go use them. Next they will get a few phone numbers of helpful resources, my email address, handshake/high five/hug and a last ditch, “you can do this!” pep talk.

The following days I worry. Days turn to week. I’ll see something that will remind me, did he do it? Is she clean? Will he keep a job?

A few make it. They soar beyond our small town, find life successes, and continue to go as a societal contributing adult. Others follow a family blueprint, unable to shake the skeletons out, and miss out on a dream.

Sometimes it is hard to separate the former teacher from the parental role.

Side note: As I sat typing this today, a recent graduate drove in my driveway to say hi and tell me about her Fall plans. Proud moment.

Our Travel Diary

Our Travel Diary

It all started 10 years ago when we purchased a travel diary to track our BK (before kids) trips. It has now become our family’s way to remember special moments, hidden gems, cool campsites, and of course favorite foodie stops.

The first entry is a New Year’s get away to Las Vegas with Scott and Missy. Both couples were battling infertility so this was a wonderful, relaxing time. My highlight was Mama Mia!

When we set off on new destinations, often I read aloud a few tidbits from previous adventures. It has become a great starting point. I love adding trip details as we traverse from locations to landmarks and again the food stops.

Sometimes we meet and connect with people; Tracy and Peter from Green Bay, WI. They were riding their sweet tandem bike and camping all over northern Michigan wine country. We shared a campfire, dinner, and an evening getting to know them. Another important tip hidden in the book is the location of the best UP pasties, Suzy’s on Highway 2. Great New Orlean’s style food? Try Pearl’s in Elk Rapids. A gem passed on to us from a few neighbor’s is Munising Tourist Park for Lake Superior camping. Beautiful sites! I’ve logged the best hole in the wall seafood outside Charleston, great family camping in Northern Michigan, and some great wine locations as well. Just ask.

To date there are 41 entries! I love our travels and more importantly cherish the moments we get to spend together no matter how small or grand the adventure! 20140627-194349-71029874.jpg




My favorite quote:
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. -Author Unknown

Momma’s BBQ, South Haven


We pass this little BBQ Airstream every South Haven trip, it wasn’t until today that we followed our nose in. On the corner of Blue Star Highway and Phoenix Street, the trailer/smoker is located next to a great produce stand with outside seating. From the stand we added local strawberries to our picnic. The stand also sold a good selection of Michigan beers.

A friendly recent, Allegan grad greeted us and we knew we made a great stop. The prices were decent, the smells heavenly, and I fell in love with the Airstream turned functional take out kitchen. Rib tips and smoked chicken are popular. In fact we snagged the last chicken and it was only 12:15. The usual sides of slaw, beans, and corn on the cob were available. We opted for 1/2 a chicken, two pulled pork sandwiches, and two corns. $17.00 with a can of pop.

Missing are the delicious, mouthwatering food pictures. Apparently my love for pulled pork has passed on to the kids. All I had was a 1/2 of ear corn and 1/3 of a sandwich that was nibbled on by the youngest. The husband did share one small pull of his chicken. Thank goodness we had the strawberries. I ate a few handfuls before the kids finished them off. The sauce was mild and did not over take the smoked meat. The chicken was the charmer! It had a pleasant smoke taste and was not over powered by the sauce. The corn was bland, missing smoke, butter, and salt. The meat though made up for it! By the time I remembered to take pictures, all was left were a few BBQ stained wet wiped and a few full bellies.




We will not be passing up this place again. It was a great stop for our trip to the children’s park! So glad we picked BBQ over ice cream.

Summer Solstice


As part of the Latvian Jāņi (Summer Solstice) tradition, women and girls wear vainags (crown of flowers). My first couple of Jāņi celebrations, I fumbled my way through vainags preparations. Then, I landed at the mothership, Rīgā for Jāņi.

Driving back roads to country homes, it is perfectly acceptable to pull over and tromp through fields in search of “the” flowers. “The” being nature’s bounty, wild. Next the task is to weave and fasten the crown using stems, leaves, and more “nature” parts. I learned from the Obi Wan of vainags, locals…in a roadside bar.

This year I painstakingly picked flowers from around our home. Upon arriving at vecmamminas (grandmother’s), the husband and daughter added some additional floral pieces from the generational plot. Thirty minutes later and this…


Yes, my daughter wore it with pride until…she noticed a masterpiece. A crown so tightly woven that the flowers hugged the head like a floral halo. Never mind that the flowers were store bought or held together with artificial pieces, she wanted that vainags. The golden Jāņi crown. Gone was my mommy pride, leaving behind only two green thumbs and thorn punctures. The vainags tossed aside with her dinner plate.

Oh Jāni, give me another chance. I will avenge the 2014 vainags!