Fish, Friends, and Fire: The Great Lakes Fishboil

This past weekend, we participated in a Labor Day tradition, a Great Lakes Fish Boil. This gathering is the ideal time to enjoy the bounty of our beautiful lakes and last weekend of summer. Since this may be a new experience for some readers, I thought I would explain our unique tradition.

We began by gathering supplies (enough for 12-16 people):

  • 16 potatoes (scrubbed and ends cut off)
  • 8 onions (peeled)
  • 8 lbs. of fish, skin on (whitefish and lake trout are favorites)
  • 1/2 lb. non-iodized salt, divided
  • 8 lemon wedges
  • Fresh herbs
  • 3/4 c. melted butter
  • Tartar sauce

This dish is prepared over the fire, so we also use the following:

  • Large pot with wire handles
  • Smaller pot that fits inside with holes drilled throughout the lower half (We also added a wire handle for easier removal)
  • A stand to set the large pot over the fire (We use an old turkey fryer stand).
  • A metal bar to put through the wire handles on the large pot (for easier removal after final boil over)
  • One small cup of gasoline or kerosene for final boil over
  • Heavy duty hot pads
  • Shovel, hose, etc. for basic fire safety

NOTE: Because this dish is prepared over an open fire, all appropriate safety measures should be taken, including the use of heavy duty hot pads, the appropriate location for a large fire with a shovel and/or water, spectators should not sit or stand too close to fire as final burn off creates a large amount of heat, and children should NOT be involved with any of the cooking process.

First, we started a large bonfire and waited an hour or two for the appropriate cooking coals. Next, a large covered pot filled with two gallons of water is added to the fire. Once the water was boiling, we added 1/4 lb. salt.

fish boil 1

Then the potatoes are added, cooking uncovered for 16 minutes. Later, we added onions, which cooked 4 minutes. After the onions were cooked, we added the last 1/4 lb. of salt.

fish boil 2

Placing the fish in the smaller pot, we added the basket right on top of the potatoes and onions, cooking uncovered for 10 minutes.

fish boil 3

Now, our favorite part, the final boil over! We carefully tossed a cup of kerosene on the fire, creating enough heat for the pot to boil over and reduce the fire’s intensity.

Then we removed the pot from the fire and placed our bounty on platters, the perfect end to summer! We usually serve with cole slaw and rolls. Thanks for reading!


I Want You! (to prepare your kids for college)


Many parents are concerned with their children’s college readiness. As a community college English teacher over the past 17 years, I have also seen areas where my students could use additional preparation. This post is NOT about critiquing the public schools; instead, I want parents to see the power they have at home in the summer.

Each summer (starting around 7th grade) I complete a mini-session with my kids. I’m not a mean mom; my kids still get to be kids. Four weeks out of every summer, I ask my kids to give me 30 minutes per day (Monday-Friday) to work on their studies. If my kids struggle in math, I buy a summer bridge workbook at my local bookstore and have them complete 1-2 pages every day. They are not learning new material. They are merely spending some time reviewing what they learned the previous year to keep their skills fresh (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). Most college students have to take at least one math class. Many mathematical concepts are also building blocks. Students who have reviewed the previous year’s content will be better prepared to learn.

I also have my children write a 250-400 word five-paragraph essay. Usually they write about something fun like their favorite vacation or sport. Completing the writing process just once over the summer keeps their writing skills fresh. If you are unsure what to look for in such an essay, I wrote an earlier blog for parents found here. Journaling is another writing activity that will help keep skills sharpened. You can find a list of topics on-line or just let your child’s creative juices flow. Sometimes my kids write a story, wonderful mementoes to save.

For students who are college bound, the ability to write a coherent five-paragraph essay is vital. Many college classes assign a single essay that is worth 10-25% of their final grade. Students who succeed in college learn that these essays take time, planning, and multiple drafts. Successful students tend to have a firm understanding of the writing process when they enter college.

In addition, I encourage ALL parents to complete a logic unit with their children. This is a great middle school age activity. Learning logic reinforces a student’s critical thinking skills. I found a useful workbook called “Logic Liftoff.” During one of our four week sessions, I ask my kids to complete one worksheet per day (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book). My kids only complete this activity for one summer, yet this has led to some productive family discussions and a marked improvement in my children’s reasoning skills. It’s particularly moving when they use logic to defeat me in a friendly debate.

Finally, read, read, read!!! Let them read fun books, take them on a road trip to the local bookstore or library, but please encourage your child to read over the summer! College students have large amounts of reading to complete for each class. They must also be able to understand what they’re reading. Reading over the summer will help increase their speed and comprehension.

Parents, you have the power to truly make a difference in your children’s lives. If you want to give them an edge for the college years, complete the activities above in the summertime. For those who think they can’t help their kids, please know that I struggled with math my entire life, but the workbooks were something I could share/complete with my kids.  Please feel free to e-mail me if you have specific questions or if you need some help planning a five-paragraph essay. Also, please share this with any parent who might find this useful.

Good luck!

To Run, or Not to Run

Mud Runs G and T

I would like to start by saying that I am NOT a runner! However, every year I enter a 5K race. Not just any 5k! I prefer the muddy, challenging obstacle courses like Warrior Dash and the community sponsored mud runs. Many have asked, “Why do you torture yourself?” I have many reasons:

First, exercise is a challenge for me. I have to create new and exciting ways of motivating myself to stay in shape. Signing up for these races forces me to form a plan. These races are also social events, and it is fun to pair up with friends and take the challenge together.

Also, I dislike running unless I can stop once in awhile and catch my breath. Nothing forces me to stop running like an obstacle: an eight foot wall, a tunnel, a swamp, or even a water slide. I still run when I train but only three days per week and only for the two months prior to the event. That’s only 24 runs per year plus race day! While most of the year I walk, bike, swim, or lift, completing a brief running regimen is manageable.

Pre-mud runs

Finally, we enter the race as a family. This is a wonderful opportunity to have some fun with my kids. Sometimes we train together, and on race day, we encourage each other. More important, I am keeping myself in shape while encouraging them to form positive lifelong habits.

p post WD

Here are a few tips if you want to take on the challenge of an obstacle course:

  • I recommend starting with a community mud run. These events have easier obstacles than the nationwide races like Tough Mudder or Warrior Dash.
  • Make sure you wear clothing that is not absorbent! I made the mistake of wearing cotton clothing, and it added ten lbs. to carry on the course.
  • Take the time to work on upper body strength. Besides being good for you, the extra training will help you complete the obstacles.
  • Dressing up in costumes is a lot of fun, but my son recommends NOT wearing a kilt or costume that will interfere with your mobility on the course. (I also think he tired of being asked if he wore anything under said kilt.)
  • Do NOT attempt a race like this without taking the time to train.
  • Most important, go out and have fun!

post mud runs me

I started blogging on a regular basis last October. I noticed today, “Reflections from the Journey” has 385 fans and is approaching 5000 hits. You humble me! Thank you so much!