The Big Red, White, and Blue...just blew out some candles!

I've been away the first half of the summer in France.  When we returned, the spirit of the upcoming 4th of July festivities was spreading across the country.

From little red, white, and blue cupcake toppers to red, white, and blue pool media has been streaming those adorable coordinated family photo outfits, wonderful patriotic decorated cookies, and enough 4th of July picnic recipes to have me wanting to cook way too many dishes than was really necessary or advisable for the summer waist line.

I don't know if I've mentioned it lately...but I tend to sing a one-hit-wonder when it gets to this point in the summer, 

"I'm's hot...we're hot...everyone's hot".  

It's a bit of an monotonous chain melody that tends to aggravate and annoy my dear loved ones.

It's tough being active in this humid environment down south.  My morning walks moved to 6:30am and now they have all but trickled to a halt as we bear the brunt of the summer heat.  Even Chester doesn't run to the door and wiggle from head to toe in anticipation.  He'd much rather spread out on the cool tile floors and pretend he no longer understands the word "w.a.l.k."

But the spirit of 4th of July just can't be resisted.  The stores were filled with all assortment of picnic paraphernalia. Crawfish boil pots were stacked up alongside bags of crawfish seasonings.  Watermelons of all sizes are spilling out of bins ready to be sliced into cold wedges and slightly salted as they are eaten hand to mouth. 

Hurricane Arthur tried his best to sweep along the eastern seaboard and cancel festivities.  But according to Instagram  and Facebook...fireworks were popping, grills were BBQ'ing, and s'mores were being stacked and toasted over crackling fires right up and down the seacoast in spite of the persistent bouts of reported rain showers.

We weren't entirely spared down here from the whipping tailend of inclement weather.  The difference here is that most people feel relief when the showers pound our dry soil and soak into the soil to reach the thirsty roots that are begging to be replenished again.

We had a doozy of a string of storms pass through on the 4th of July.  Thunder shouted down all over Houston.  Polly and Chester both clung to me like velcro...searching my eyes for a reassuring look or a comforting nuzzle under the chin.  Pea-sized hail rained down with a clinking pitter-patter that sprayed the windows and roof with a noise certainly we are not used to hearing very often.

Surprisingly, after all of those booming thunder sounds and flashes of lightening that streaked across the sky, the rains stopped. Around 9:00pm the popping of fireworks could be heard all over the city. 

We were quite wimpy over here this year.  Usually we are down at the Table Rock Lakes in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri.  

We're usually rocking peacefully in a boat, out on the middle of the lake, with 1000's of other boats. We all watch the rain of fireworks pop all over the sky then gently fall down through the smoky air creating lovely reflections of colors in the water.

This year, we were snugly tucked away in our Houston home, air conditioner humming, and watching the fireworks all over the city from our upstairs windows.  We have this set of windows that span the upstairs of our home. An entire panorama of the city can be seen from north to south.  We certainly used it as an excuse to stay put and not get drenched outside.

We'll be down at the lake soon, rocking in the boat to the gentle waves of the lake and listening to the happy shrieks of kids as they leap from the dock into the water hundreds of times throughout the day.

This summer, we have to get our Ms. Madeleine home from France before we can head up there.  We'll give her a brief respite from her european journey, wash some clothes, unpack suitcases and then pack up again to head to our yearly family reunion.  

Chester gets to come along for the journey this time.  He loves, loves, loves road trips.  Each and every time we stop for a driving break, he explores a new rest stop with such fervor and excitement that you'd think that was the objective of our stopping for Chester.

Just baked fresh Peach out of the oven

But, even though we were entertained by a mixture of hail stones and then fireworks this simply cannot forget about planning, prepping, and finally indulging in 4th of July food!  

BBQ'ing is always involved.  I decided to slowly braise some short ribs soaked in BBQ sauce, tomatoes, chili peppers, and spices.  I roasted some onions and peppers to go alongside all of the fixings for Mexican soft tacos.  

Grilled Corn, blackened just a bit to add that smokiness,  swiped with butter, sprinkled with salt and parsley flakes went alongside slices of that juicy bright watermelon.  

There was one dessert that kept calling for me this year.  I love when a particular dessert lodges into my mind and I cannot loosen its influence.   Somehow I know that there is nothing that can keep me from holding onto the idea of the dish with gusto, until it lands on our table.

This year...that dessert that latched on to my imagination and tempted my taste buds was a classic  "Peach Cobbler with a Bourbon Whipped Cream"  

Peaches are everywhere right beautiful, fuzzy, and velvety.  I love watching the batter puff up around the peaches as the house fills with the mixture of baked fruit and cake.  A swig of bourbon in the whipped cream pairs nicely with the syrup that is created when the juices of the peaches cook into the puffy batter.

So, just as the 4th of July was a mixture of storminess and was quite a reflection of the birthday year that America celebrated this year.

We are a nation that is raging over issues that test the very core of our Constitution.  

It is a time of rapid change in this country as traditional ideologies are challenged and the country shifts, expands, stretches, and continues to debate, ponder, and celebrate the messy, wonderful, colorful mixture of cultures that is and always will be the defining characterization and core of this beautiful country of ours. picnics are at the ready and booming fireworks light the sky, summer storms  rain down attempting to mess it all up.  This is how it is supposed to be.  No one would work hard to make it any other way if it was all too easy.  Let that be our birthday lesson learned this year as we huff and puff to get that very last candle blown out.

Happy Birthday America...blow out those ever growing number of flickering candles!

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