July 5, 2012

Independence Day, Then and Now

Independence Day... the Fourth of July.

Every American knows the significance of this day, or they should. (If you don't, shame on you! Go out and discover it now). Most of us commemorate it with fireworks, picnics, and barbecues. We party, and we party hard, as we celebrate the birth of our nation.

For military families everywhere, the Fourth also translates to 'leave' or a four-day weekend. It's an opportunity to spend time with your family, both the one at home and your military one. Those chances can come few and far between, so we take advantage of every occasion. I build those memories in my brain, layering them one over the other, to be pulled out during our times of separation. It's those 'in between' moments which last; they keep you strong when you feel as if you couldn't possibly make it through one more day as a military wife.

We party just like you, in the usual ways (and a few unusual ones!)... Everyone loves the magic moments when fireworks burst in the evening sky.

Depending on your location, fireworks mean different things... are you popping them yourself in the backyard? Are you watching from the local baseball game? Are there fire restrictions in your area that limit the options?

We've been to different firework displays all over the country as we move from base to base. There have been fire restrictions, rain delays, and times when we've done it ourselves. I snuggled with the Hubs, watching fireworks reflect over the water, but there were times when he wasn't home to celebrate at all.

We don't always celebrate in the traditional ways though... sometimes, we get a little... kooky. Like the year we attended Roswell's annual Alien Festival:

Between the parades, costume contests, lectures and speeches... it was something not to be missed, and plain old fun to boot! The opportunity to see different walks of life is our greatest advantage as a military home. Wherever we might be, we explore the local, ahem... wildlife.

Of course, sometimes the 'wildlife' is us! We've been known to be kooky, crazy, quirky... however you want to describe it. We know how to laugh and embrace the good times, that's for sure. Simple barbecues and pool parties turn into something unique when you're hanging with the boys. Beach towels laying around? Obviously they are capes for our superheroes! Water guns in the pool? Well, by golly, that's an opportunity to practice combat tactics. Mock-battle, here we come!

Some of our best times are with other military people. We keep civilian friends, but it's impossible for them to fully understand your life. No matter how many episodes of Army Wives you've seen, let me assure you... it's not the same. Military friends come into your life quickly, but the bond is hard and fast, one that will last beyond a single duty station. You see each other in the best and worst of times. You lean on each other when there is no one else to depend upon. Since these photos, taken only a year ago, much has changed. Life can't be counted on to remain the same.

One of these men has already deployed, returned home, and deployed again. Another has PCS'd (transferred to a new base, for all my civilian buddies out there!), and now lives halfway across the country. Others have stayed here, but moved to new locations within the area. Another has re-joined the civilian world, and another counts down to an upcoming deployment. By tomorrow, all of those circumstances could change yet again. Military families learn to seize the good days while they can, and to be prepared for change at any moment.

This year, the Hubs and I were planning... absolutely nothing. I love having all our friends over for pool parties or bbqs (obviously!), but this year was a little different. We're still missing many of our friends that are gone, for various reasons mentioned above. Plus, we're just getting to know some of our newer friends. On top of which, our recent vacation was FABulous, but it also left us a wee bit exhausted.

So instead of our normal revelry, this year we decided to keep things simple. Just a few friends, simple food, and perhaps some patriotic movies.

The food part was easy. A quick batch of my Buffalo Chicken Dip, pico de gallo, and chips took care of the appetizers. Bratwurst and Italian sausage were a great main dish. Of course, don't forget that traditional Fourth of July snack, watermelon!

Independence Day just wouldn't be the same without watermelon, am I right? When we serve a bigger spread, I include lots of traditional favorites. Yummy deliciousness like grilled burgers, potato salad, and fried chicken. Oooh, and apple pie!

With only a few of us gathered though, that spread was a bit impractical. I would have leftovers for weeks! (Not to mention the amount of energy needed in the preparation). So instead of apple pie for dessert, I tried something new. Something from... a box.

I know, I know!! Very unlike me. In my defense, I was very tired. I still haven't finished all my unpacking! And the cow jumped over the moon, so it's all good, yes?

Oddly enough, my boxed dessert turned out yummy. I spotted this one day walking through Target's seasonal section, and I knew I would have to experiment.

Pink Lemonade cupcakes?! Yes please.

Of course, the Hubs was a little embarrassed by the whole pink issue. So I decided to jazz things up a bit, and celebrate our country's birthday with these:

Patriotic nonpareils makes the cupcakes much more manly.

Ok, that's not entirely true, but it's the line I fed to the Hubs. He fell for it! Pink cupcakes it was.

I was apprehensive, but the cupcakes turned out good! The cake itself wasn't strongly flavored, just a hint of lemon. Many icings would have paired well, including cream cheese, vanilla, or lemon. On the other hand, the pink lemonade icing was packed with flavor. Not too strong, but you knew it was there. My pal Becky likened it to Trix cereal... sweet and fruity.

As you know, I'm not normally a box person. But everyone gets busy. Everyone has moments where they just don't wanna work from scratch. Those moments are intruding into my life more and more often. When I can't (or just plain 'ol don't feel like it) put in the time, I take shortcuts. It's necessary for all of us at one time or another. If you're into lemon and running short on time, give these seasonal cupcakes a try. No one will know they're from a box unless you tell them!

Next Fourth of July, I'm hoping the Hubs is still in town to celebrate. I'm not sure where we will be, what we will do, or who will be cooking (ok, that's probably me!), but I know one thing... wherever we are, whoever we're with, we're going to enjoy every moment. Because next year, the Hubs might be half a world away. He could be in the field, deployed, or away for training. Any number of things, at any minute, could mean that next year we're apart.

Take your moments while you have them. Snuggle and watch fireworks. Eat watermelon. Laugh. Enjoy each other.

Happy Independence Day, my friends. I hope you all took your moments, and enjoyed them to the fullest.



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