Once we are finally over the post-vacation ick, it's been a whirlwind of socialization around our house. First up was meeting up with a friend at Ben & Jerry's, where we could sit outside and chat and people watch and catch up on our respective lives. He's still working for the Big Fish (or rather, the company that swallowed the Big Fish, because that is the way of the tech business these days) so it's always a challenge to hook up with him (and if he's bad, his wife's even worse - we haven't seen her in quite possibly years because she's also always on the go).
Next was a vaguely impromptu barbeque. Richard decided he wanted to do something with his grill, so we had a small crowd of friends over on Saturday night for hamburgers and hot dogs, corn on the cob, and white peach cobbler. Again, these were all friends we often have a hard time coordinating schedules with, so to get them all together on the same night was a welcome change.
And finally, there was the usual gathering of the families for the Fourth of July. Originally we'd talked about tossing a big hunk of salmon on the grill, but while at the grocery store on Monday night, none of the salmon available looked very good, but there just happened to be a turkey available. So...we grilled up the turkey. It's a very American bird; somehow it made sense. We also had corn on the cob (again, because it was so good!) and I made a chocolate tres leches cake, and I was worried there wouldn't be enough food from the turkey so I also bought a few containers of potato salad. Richard's family showed up first, bearing sodas and birthday presents for me (including a huge stuffed dragon that's covered in swirls of color - it's very cool). My parents came next, with salad and bread, and finally my older sister and her family arrived bearing a huge bowl of fruit salad.
I think that this Fourth was quite possibly one of the most fun gatherings of family we've had in a very long time. Not that family gatherings are so awful, but this was one of those times when everything seemed to click. The boys are both old enough now to be able to hold understandable conversations.
We'd bought a pile of bottles of bubble solution and sent everyone outside while dinner was getting ready, to blow bubbles and enjoy the backyard. My dad brought over his bocce ball set and his new croquet set and the entire family either played or watched the others playing. Turns out those DG paths we've got in the backyard make great Bocce ball courts, and my nephews were really getting into it.
The turkey actually took far less time than we'd expected and was done an hour before people were to arrive, so dinner took very little additional work. There was, of course, far more food than we could possibly eat (I didn't need to get that potato salad after all) and it was all delicious. The cake was a bit experimental, since I'd never made this recipe before, but it turned out pretty good (although I did discover that when they put an expiration date on the can of sweetened condensed milk, they really do mean it).
We weren't sure if we'd still be able to see the fireworks from the backyard, but this year, at least, it was still possible. The neighbors behind us planted some fast-growing evergreens and they're just getting to the height where any lower-flying explosions were partially hidden behind them, but since most of the explosions took place higher in the sky, it still worked out. It started getting pretty chilly once the sun began to set, so I ran around gathering up any available blanket, jacket, or sweater (apparently I need to make a few more afghans - they would have come in useful) and passing them out so that everyone would be warm enough.. This is the first year both boys have been willing to sit outside for the whole event, and the fireworks show was pretty good.
Today there are signs lingering everywhere I look of the fun. Even though we foisted leftovers on everyone we could, there is still an entire container of potato salad in the fridge, and slightly less than half the cake (we ate some of it for breakfast this morning), and a huge bag of turkey in the refrigerator. The weather outside is still lovely and there are jars of bubble solution lined up on the raised flower bed where everyone was hanging out, and an extremely colorful stuffed dragon sitting in front of the living room fireplace, and there are the cats, all slowly creeping back into view after all the noise and activity from before.