My Top 4 July 4ths

Counting up:

4) The year I went to Battery Point to see the Tall Ships. I think I may have spent the day alone, with the exception of the homeless woman for whom I bought breakfast, but it was a really nice day. Hot, mind you. But the ships were worth the heat and humidity.

3) Manhattan rooftop parties. A friend from college and I started out at a party on a balcony overlooking the Roosevelt Island tramway. You know, the one Spider-Man rescues Mary Jane Watson from in the first Tobey Maguire movie. Then we went to an actual rooftop to see fireworks over the East River. The only problem? We couldn’t see the fireworks. Between the humidity and the smoke, there very quickly was no visibility. All we could see was a colorful glow through the fog or smog or vog or whatever it was. Booms and red-glowing mist? It was like watching a psychedelic war zone.

2) Grilling. I lived in Austin, and my parents lived in San Antonio. This particular Fourth, they were on a cruise. So my brother, who was house-sitting, and his best friend decided to have a cookout. I decided to join them, because the air conditioning in my apartment was nominal at best. It was a Thursday, which meant I worked Friday–so I drove down Thursday morning, helped get ready for dinner–the guys grilled everything but the fries–watched area fireworks from the upstairs window, and drove back up to Austin before work the next morning. Nothing had changed about my air conditioning, so that evening I drove back to San Antonio and spent the weekend indoors.

1) Pop goes the question! Mr. Sandwich and I were long-distance for all three years that we dated, with him in Los Angeles and me in New Jersey. There were a lot of plane flights back and forth, which meant a lot of frequent flier miles. I planned a trip out and discovered that I had enough miles for a business class seat–which definitely beat paying for coach. What beat the business class seat? It turned out that this was the weekend Mr. Sandwich had chosen to propose. I inadvertently ruined his plans, I said yes, we went to celebrate with friends, one of my bridesmaids took me to try on wedding gowns at a shop FAR outside my budget, and in the airport on the way back, I realized that all of those wedding magazines now applied to me. Flying business class did not even come close. I really don’t see what could.

multicolored fireworks in midair

Photo by dider.camus. Public Domain.

Mom-Friendly Meals: Grilled Sausage and Potatoes, with Broccoli

We seem to be having an Endless Summer in California right now, even if you’re not a surfer. But that doesn’t even matter, because in California, grilled food is a year-round option.

What’s easier than grilling? Grilling using foil packs.

Two layers of foil. Potatoes sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (no need to peel them–just scrub well). Minced garlic and a mixture of butter and olive oil. Oh, and fresh rosemary, because our house came with a rosemary bush so enormous that there’s no using it up. But the dried stuff will work, too.

Wrap up that foil tightly and put the pack (or packs) on the grill for 25 minutes over a medium-high heat. Toward the end, put some sausages on the grill and cook for 5 minutes (these were pre-cooked sausages), turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, put broccoli florets and some salt and pepper into a steamer, and steam for six minutes.

Sausage and potatoes with broccoli

Enjoy.

Oh, and set some aside for leftovers. Instant lunch.

Traditions: What We Did on the Fourth of July

I like to think my Independence Day tradition is watching 1776, but the fact is that I don’t always do that. In fact, I suspect I usually don’t. But I love that movie so much that it feels like it ought to be my tradition.

My second favorite Fourth came when I lived in Austin. It was incredibly hot, as Austin is wont to be, and my apartment air conditioning was working poorly, as my apartment air conditioning was wont to do. On the spur of the moment, I called my brother in San Antonio and said, “What are you doing for the Fourth?” He said, “[Best friend] is coming over, and we’re going to grill.” I said, “Can I join you?” and then did so. We grilled everything but the french fries–burgers, buns, corn, you name it. After dinner we all went up to the second floor and watched fireworks on the horizon. And because my brother was house-sitting for my parents, the air conditioning was much better.

My favorite Fourth doesn’t even feel like the Fourth, because the highlight of the day had nothing to do with American independence. Nine years ago today, Mr. Sandwich proposed in a way that was so perfectly us that I can’t imagine it happening any other way.

In more recent years, we’ve gone to a variety of parties–last year I think we hit four in the 3-day weekend. But none of those materialized for today, so we woke up this morning with no plans. We talked about whether to take Baguette out to see fireworks–would she love them? would she get scared? After deciding that it would probably keep her up (and us out) too late, we opted for a daytime visit to Travel Town.

When my brother and I were kids, he adored Travel Town–after all, you could climb all over the trains and even sit on top of them. On one visit he spotted a birthday party and announced that he wanted his next birthday to be at Travel Town, and it was.

But we moved away and grew up, and I hadn’t been back. Now, with Baguette, it seemed like it might make a nice outing. We decided to head over as soon as they opened, and I began to get ready. As I was packing the diaper bag, I looked up and discovered that Baguette had passed out on the couch. Apparently she was ready for her nap–two and a half hours early. In the interest of letting sleeping babies lie, we moved her to the bed and postponed our departure.

I’m glad that we did, because she loved it. We read about different kinds of train cars, peered into a car that had been used by USPS, examined a variety of engines and box cars and lounge cars, ran around an empty passenger car (now used for parties, but not being used for anything at the moment we were there)–and of course rode the miniature train that circles the grounds.

She fell asleep on the way home, resulting in an unusual second nap. So while we’re still set on grilling later on, the question remains: will we, or will we not, bundle her up in PJs and shoes to watch fireworks?

Regardless, may you all have a happy and safe Fourth of July. And if you don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, just be happy and safe.

Eventually, You Have to Commit to Cooking the Chicken

It can only sit thawed in the refrigerator for so long. As far as I’m concerned, “so long” is two days.

So the leg quarters must be cooked. We were going to grill them, but Mr. Sandwich cleaned the grill in anticipation of tomorrow night’s cookout. It seemed a shame to grease it up tonight.

As I type, the chicken is in the oven, in about 1/8 inch of old chardonnay and covered in thyme, rosemary, chopped garlic, and a little bit of cayenne pepper.

I also decided to fix the risotto that I got at Fresh & Easy a while back. Mr. Sandwich is not a big fan of risotto, but that’s okay. I’ve got Ranch Style Beans for him. Add some sugar snap peas (45 seconds in the microwave and they’re perfect), and we can call it dinner.

Grillmasters, part 1

This weekend my dad and stepmom came to visit, and to see the new house. We had family and a few close friends over on Saturday, for the first of many (or at least several) housewarmings. In spite of the fires raging around the Southland, we cooked burgers, dogs, and chicken drumsticks over a borrowed charcoal grill.

Indeed, we are good citizens.

But we didn’t set fire to anything–not even the food–and a good time was had by all.

The next day, the four of us (Mr. Sandwich, Sandwich Père, Sandwich Belle-mere, and me) traveled to more than one hardware store so that we could host future events–and just cook dinner–on a grill of our own. We decided on propane; while both of us appreciate the romance of the charcoal grill, we also appreciate the ease and predictability of propane.

Last night I stopped by the supermarket to pick up a New York strip steak for the inauguration of our new grill. We sprinkled Barbecue of the Americas (a Penzeys spice mix), black pepper, and rosemary, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then we grilled it about three and a half minutes per side, so that it was seared on the outside and pink in the middle.

The rest of the meal? Maple-glazed carrots, mashed potatoes, and the ubiquitous Ranch Style Beans for Mr. Sandwich. (He does love those beans.)

I don’t have the camera on me, so photos will come in a later post.