Fireworks & Fun

 
My house is one block away from the city fireworks display for the 4th of July with a great view from my backyard, so I host a potluck Fireworks & Fun potluck barbecue for all my friends. Keep reading for some of the fun food & decor!
 

Fabulous Fourth Fireworks & Fun!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

About a month ago I got a city newsletter that mentioned a big event at the city park, ending with a fireworks display. That’s the park only one block away from my house, so I thought for sure we could see fireworks from my house, so I tried to have a low-key, small BBQ potluck so I wouldn’t be killing myself just one week after the big concert when I was already exhausted. Well, my low-key small BBQ potluck was still 25 of us, but that was a very manageable amount and we all had a great time! One friend said “one of the best 4th of Julys I’ve had!” Hooray! ๐Ÿ˜€


Fabulous Fireworks From My Backyard!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Food, Glorious Food!

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Fireworks & Fun 2007

Since the first Fireworks & Fun party last year was so successful, even though we had the choir competition all weekend AND I’m hosting a giant Hogwarts party in a couple weeks, I decided I could still have a 4th of July potluck BBQ since the view of the fireworks are so great from my yard. 30 people had fun this year, which included 3 small kids, and 6 people did leave before the fireworks started, but still felt like less throughout the party than the 25 people last year…weird! Even Gus the Greyhound came, got dressed up in patriotic style to match Kylie the Kitty, and was completely calm during the whole fireworks show – what a good dog!

Fireworks & Fun 2007!

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Fireworks & Fun 2008

This weekend was Year 3 for Fireworks & Fun, which is still lots of fun and awesome fireworks! There were 30 people total again plus Gus the Greyhound, this time including 5 babies, 2 toddlers & 2 tweens, which was a good-sized crowd. Everyone stayed through the fireworks which were fabulous. Thankfully it was cooler this year, with a nice breeze making all my flags fly appropriately, and with Kaelyn’s help around 3pm, we were able to get all the food ready before most of the guests arrived! Thank you so much, Kaelyn!

Fireworks & Fun 2008!

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Fireworks & Fun 2009

The 4th annual Fireworks & Fun was a full week ago on the 4th of July of course…my first party in my new kitchen! We had 26 adults, 2 toddlers & 2 dogs, so a good-sized crowd with plenty of room for everyone to have a great view from the lawn. The traffic & parking were worse because so many other local cities had canceled their festivities this year, and the fireworks might have been a slightly shorter show, but more than made up for it with the amazing finale…wow! The weather was perfect again this year, with a nice breeze making all my flags fly nicely, but due to my kitchen chaos barely being settled enough less than 24 hours to party start time, it was all-hands on deck getting the food ready!

Fireworks & Fun 2009!

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Fireworks & Fun 2010

The Fifth Fireworks & Fun party was last Sunday and was a blast as usual! What was only 15 RSVPs the day before became 33 people including a newborn, 2 toddlers, and 2 dogs! It was warm but thankfully with a little breeze making the flags fly nicely, I was able to experiment with a few new recipes still loving my barely-year-old kitchen, and we were able to have a great game of Beatles Rock Band for an hour before the fireworks started!

As of early June the city announced they weren’t sure if they could afford to hold the annual fireworks show, but due to popular demand, they decided to accept donations toward the $80,000 cost. I definitely donated since this was the fifth fabulous fireworks in a row! Not only do I love fireworks in the first place, but the spectacular show allows me to have a fantastic party that everyone enjoys! Thank you again, Santa Clara! ๐Ÿ™‚

Since I didn’t have the kitchen remodel chaos this year, I planned my full standard 4th of July menu, and even had everything possible ready to set out as soon as people arrived. I tried a couple new edible experiments, and even some custom homebrew hard cider blends Patriotic Peach and Blueberry Blast!

For the first edible experiment, I had seen a recipe for mini corndogs in a magazine last year, and since I have inherited my mom’s deep fryer that is older than me, I decided to try it. Instead of cutting normal hot dogs in half, I thought of using Lil Smokies miniature smoked sausages, so doubling the batter recipe for 12 made well over twice as many. I set up the fryer outside on the outer patio on the extra food table so it wouldn’t smell up the house, then 4 hours before party start time I mixed up the batter, with pre-cooked bacon pieces for the “sparkle”, then used 6″ bamboo skewers so the length would look more like a fireworks sparkler than a mini corndog. These were easy to fry, but it took an hour to make about 4 dozen, and I ran out of batter before I ran out of Lil Smokies. I kept the finished corndogs warm in the oven, then set them out when the party started in a glass floral frog so they would stand up, and everyone loved them! These are a keeper!

How To Make Corndog Sparklers

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Finally More Fireworks and Fun for ’14!

Britta watching the fireworks!Sadly the city had stopped their fireworks show for several years due to budget concerns, so I had to find other fireworks to attend instead of hosting my party, but finally in 2014 I could host again…hooray! What was only 16 RSVPs the day before became 28 people including 2 babies and 4 super-excited girls under 7! It was warm but thankfully with a nice breeze making the flags fly and requiring jackets after dark. I brought back my favorite foods from previous parties, plus some new Star-Spangled S’mores, and we were able to have a great game of Rock Band for an hour before the fantastic fireworks started!

I think this might be the quickest turnaround time between two totally different major parties, since only 6 days earlier was the big Cinema Brittahytta Frozen Sing Along! I have had fireworks Cutting Star Croutons from homemade whole wheat sourdough breadparties soon after other movie nights, but those aren’t usually a major production. This time I quickly undecorated from Frozen and cleaned up, then it was full blast into the 4th!

I had made star croutons before out of some thin frozen cocktail bread in the freezer leftover from Christmas appetizers, but those were long gone, so this time I used a small loaf of homemade whole wheat sourdough I had baked and frozen. While it was still pretty hard, I cut very thin Toasted Star Croutonsslices, then after the slices had thawed, I used my tiny star cookie cutter to cut all the croutons. On a non-stick cookie sheet, I sprayed them with olive oil and sprinkled some garlic salt and lemon pepper, then toasted them at 350F for about 5 minutes or so. They were nicely crunchy but not even browned, which was perfect. I had new guests who were amazed I even had star croutons! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Apricot Cashew Quinoa SaladI’ve been trying to experiment with all these new “superfoods” like chia seeds and quinoa, but I haven’t liked them in any recipes yet. Since my tasty Apricot Cashew Rice Salad always was better with wild rice anyway, I thought I could try quinoa and see how it worked. I thought I was making a double-batch so I made the oil dressing accordingly, but even only pouring a single-batch amount of the dressing on the double-batch of quinoa, it didn’t soak up anywhere nearly as much as rice, even after 2 days in the fridge! Duly noted for Frying the Corndog Sparklersnext time, but everyone agreed it was tasty! Too bad it’s because of all the olive oil, cashews and the wine-soaked dried apricots, so all that probably offsets any of the superfood qualities of the quinoa. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Corndog SparklersI did get the Stars & Stripes Brie baked and the Corndog Sparklers fried by 2:15pm, but that wasn’t early enough, and I didn’t quite have as much ready the night before as I would have liked. This meant I was still trying to write on the menu chalkboard while the first few guests were arriving. Ellie set out crackers, helped assemble the green salad and stirred the fruit salad, and Sheila dished up the sweet potato salad and arranged the s’mores, including breaking up the graham crackers and chocolate bars. Thanks for being such good helpers!

Snow Cones!Since the food was set out, I had time to socialize, and not forget to take photos this year…hooray! I had lots of leftover ice pucks from the Frozen Sing Along party so why not make more snow cones? The girls had lots of fun with this! Ellie and Annalise making snow conesAs soon as Annalise arrived, she & Ellie were on snow cone duty, asking everyone else to be a customer so they could grind another ice puck into snow. Lucky me got to be their first snow cone customer…yum!

Face Painting and Snow ConesThere was also an advance request for face painting, since Ellie had just done it at school, so I got out my kit and my big hand mirror, and set them up at my plastic table in a shady corner on the grass. I think Ellie was the only painter, but the girls looked like happy customers to me!

Guest food table and waterfallBy the time we had more shade in the backyard, most of the guests had arrived, thankfully no one ever needing the parking shuttle service I had prepared for yet again, and the guest food table on the outer patio was chock full of deliciousness! The grill was going thanks to Kevin on coal duty, including grilling some watermelon (yum!), and plenty of partying people were enjoying themselves all around the yard. There was no way anyone should go hungry with two big tables of food like these!

Fireworks & Fun FoodAll my food was inside with my menu chalkboard by the bar. I even had my parchment scroll copy of the Declaration of Independence on display by the plates and napkins! Here is the full menu for 2014:

Make Your Own Snow Cone

Aged Manchego Slices with Smorgabritta Quince Preserves

Assorted Cheeses & Crackers

Stars & Stripes Pastry BrieStars & Stripes Pastry Brie with Smorgabritta Spiced Loquat Preserves

Festive Fruit Salad โ€“ white peaches, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries looked very patriotic

Old Glory Green Salad โ€“ greens with grape tomatoes, strawberries marinaded in marionberry balsamic vinaigrette, fresh blueberries, with star croutons, add your own chopped red onions, chopped walnuts, & feta cheese

Sweet Potato Salad โ€“ sweet potatoes, peaches, red onion, red pepper, lime juice, olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg, steamed in the oven this time for more grill space for others

Apricot Cashew Quinoa Salad โ€“ dried apricots plumped in white wine, cooked red quinoa, green peas, garlic, onion, olive oil Sparkling Sugar Starswith cashews for crunch

Corndog Sparklers โ€“ miniature corndogs with a sparkling surprise in the batter ( = BACON! :-9 )

Sparkling Sugar Stars โ€“ non-dairy/vegan sugar cookies

Star-Spangled S'moresStar-Spangled S’mores

Homemade Old Fashioned Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Stevia Lemonade – complete with jaunty Uncle Sam top hat ๐Ÿ˜‰

Red Branch Hard Cider – pear, black cherry, and raspberry in growlers

Brittahytta Brewery Hard Cider โ€“ Patriotic Peach worked but I ended up without any Sheila's layered Razzle-Dazzle-Tiniblueberry juice after all, so no Blueberry Blast this time

Razzle-Dazzle-Tinis – I only saw Sheila have one of my specialty layered red, white and blue cocktails, and we learned that the sugar-free red raspberry floats above the blue raspberry mixer, where the sugar red raspberry from years before would sink! The wonders of relative specific gravities of different ingestible liquids. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Playing Rock Band while waiting for fireworks
While waiting for the fireworks to start, we played Rock Band 3โ€ฆwoohoo! We couldnโ€™t see well enough until the direct sunlight was gone from the projector screen, but that still gave us a whole hour to play! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was mostly the little girls pounding away, which was just as well because all the equipment was having the worst technical issues I have ever experienced communicating to the game, so I don’t know what happened since it was last borrowed. At least they still had plenty of fun!

Fireworks 2014I served my homemade old-fashioned vanilla custard ice cream right on time at 9:15, just before the fireworks were going to start. The fireworks were as impressive as ever, making me smile from ear to earโ€ฆand the finale was as bright as the sun! Wow! Jerry was behind me and asked me to turn around so he could get a photo of me with the fireworksโ€ฆwhat a fun photo! Thanks Jerry! Itโ€™s always fun to hear the wows & oohs at the fireworks, and this year it was Emma shouting, “Take pictures Mom!” every single timeโ€ฆhaha!

I baked the same sugar cookie stars as before, since it’s nice to have something not quite Anna, Angie & Kira Roasting Star-Spangled S'moresas sweet as the homemade ice cream or other desserts people might bring, but I had a brainstorm after the Frozen Sing Along party that I could make some Star-Spangled S’mores! (full recipe instructions coming soon!) After Roasting Star-Spangled S'moresthe fireworks were finished, we quickly built a fire in the fire pit and enjoyed roasting marshmallows for our Star-Spangled S’mores. Hopefully the s’mores fun lasted long enough so most people avoided the traffic mess in my neighborhood, as was the plan. ๐Ÿ™‚

People were mostly leaving by around 11pm to midnight, until it was Jeff & Audene trading turns on the massage chair and Rob chatting. We always seem to have at least one kid fascinated with Onyx, and this year it was tiny baby Kira. She did very well gently petting him so I even was able to get a photo. Iโ€™m so glad Onyx is such a good Rob even got to pet Siddy!calm boy! Ebony and Siddy were both hiding under the bed most of the party, but they both came out when most everyone else had left so that not only was Ebony begging for attention, but Rob even got to pet Siddyโ€ฆthat is very rare! I finally was ably to start putting food My festive 4th outfit, including red & blue stripes in my hair!away around 1am and finally got to bed about 4 with the dishwasher runningโ€ฆwhew! Great party!

Since some previous years I was too busy and forgot to take people photos, I made sure this year to at least have my iPhone always at hand for a quick photo, so I got a lot of fun onesโ€ฆand even got a couple good photos showing my festive stars & stripes pedicure and the red & blue stripes I put in my hair for the occasion! The full photo album is below if youโ€™d like to see all the front yard decorations and my Festive Floral Fireworks. I hope everyone had a fabulous Fourth!

 

 

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Star-Spangled S’mores

Star-Spangled S'mores!
 
My new fun food for my fireworks party this year was a last-minute brainstorm after we had so much fun roasting marshmallows at my Frozen party the week before. The giant marshmallows are a lot fun, but they are a little too large to eat as s’mores, so the idea popped into my head to cut them in half vertically, then use a stencil and sugar to make Star-Spangled S’mores! These turned out really cute like a flag full of stars, and I got plenty sticky while preparing them, but they weren’t hard to make at all! Here’s how you can do it too!

 
 

Sugaring Star-Spangled S'mores with Custom StencilFirst you need a stencil so you can sprinkle the sugar in the design you want. I was hoping one of my many star cookie cutters would be the right size, but none were perfect. I looked through my spare plastic container drawer, and used one of the sturdy plastic lids. Yes, I wash and save all sorts of plastic containers to reuse – did you see my Queen Elsa of Arendelle crowns from yogurt containers? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Choose carefully, since if the plastic is too flimsy, you won’t be able to pull it off the sticky marshmallow without getting rogue sugar crystals in your design. Since I wanted white stars with blue around them, my star shape was in the middle, with 3 small strips connecting 3 points out to the Star-Spangled Marshmallowarea around my marshmallow. I made the open area plenty bigger than my marshmallow so the excess sugar would fall onto my surface to collect for more decorating. You can see my stencil ready for action here, with a marshmallow already completed.

I had found the gigantic marshmallows at the normal grocery store and thought they were fun, so I had bought several bags. I used my clean kitchen shears slightly damp to cut across the marshmallow, so I had two shorter circle marshmallows, each with a sticky open side. After cutting you need to squish your marshmallows back to round. You might Star-Spangled Marshmallowsneed to pull them a little, but don’t pull them apart. Cut a few marshmallows to be ready, but don’t cut them all at once, or some will get too dry for the sugar to stick. Your scissors and fingers will get sticky enough along the way that washing a few times before restarting is a good break. Having the sticky side slightly drier than freshly-cut works better for releasing the stencil and still lets the sugar crystals stick well.

Star-Spangled MarshmallowsPlace your stencil on the sticky side of the marshmallow and press it so it sticks on all edges, sprinkle your colored sugar over the top, then use your finger to brush the sugar crystals everywhere possible on the open sticky marshmallow until no sugar sticks any more. While the stencil is still stuck to the marshmallow, lift it all and tap off any excess sugar so it falls to the paper towel so you can collect it for the next marshmallow. Carefully pull the stencil and marshmallow apart, sideways so any loose sugar crystals don’t fall into the stencil area. If you are extremely picky like me, use your fingers to place a couple sugar crystals to cover where the stencil anchor lines were. Repeat until you have as Star-Spangled S'mores on displaymany marshmallows as you like! I stored my finished marshmallows in an airtight cookie tin, with wax paper between layers, and that worked great for several days until the party.

For display, both graham cracker squares were set out first, then traditional Hershey bar milk chocolate squares, then the star marshmallows on top. Arranged on my large silver tray, they turned out just like my vision of the stars on the American flag!

Roasting Star MarshmallowsSince the fireworks are only one block away from my house, the entire neighborhood is crammed full of cars trying to leave after the fireworks are over…so instead we roasted marshmallows! I save pruning scraps as firewood, so we built our little fire in my firepit, roasted our marshmallows on super-slick telescoping roasting forks I found years ago, and enjoyed our Star-Spangled S’mores!
 

Nathania enjoying a Star-Spangled S'more Emma enjoying a Star-Spangled S'more Ian enjoying a Star-Spangled S'more

Anna, Angie & Kira Roasting Star Marshmallows Tiny Little Fire in the Firepit Jeff Roasting Star Marshmallows

#recipes #smores #parties #stars #marshmallows #edibleart

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Baked Brie En Croute

Stars & Stripes Pastry Brie 2014I recently realized that I didn’t yet have my Baked Brie En Croute recipe documented properly, so I took the opportunity while making the Fireworks and Fun food for July 4th, 2014. The basic recipe is simple and I originally found it on the inside lid of the baby Brie, but you can tailor it to your own tastes and different holidays. Be creative! Since I have been making these now for well over a decade, I have some hints you might find helpful when making your own, plus many examples of the different kinds of decorations you can do with the pastry!

 

 

Freshly-Baked Patriotic BrieBaked Brie En Croute

one 6″ baby Brie round with full rind
one sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
fillings of your choice (optional)

suggested fillings:
apricot preserves + dried cranberries
plum jam + prunes soaked in port
spiced loquat preserves

Roll the puff pastry sheet large enough to completely encase the Brie round. Add filling to the pastry in a circle. Set the Brie round on the filling, then wrap the pastry around the Brie, pinching together all ends so there are no holes. Use pastry scraps to decorate the top as desired. Can be made the night before and stored covered in the fridge. Brush with milk or egg wash immediately before baking. Bake on greased foil at 400F for at least 15 minutes until nicely browned. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a serving plate by peeling the foil from the bottom of the baked Brie. Serve with a table knife or cheese spreader to cut slices onto crackers.

That’s the short version for your recipe files. Now for all my helpful hints! ๐Ÿ™‚

Pinching the pastry folds so they don't tearI purchase the baby Brie rounds and frozen puff pastry sheets. Thaw the puff pastry in the fridge for only a few hours since it shouldn’t be sticky, just flexible enough to unfold without ripping. Unfold one sheet onto your rolling surface, pinch the folds back together from both sides of the sheet so it doesn’t tear, then roll in all directions to stretch out the sheet. I use a large silicone mat and a silicone rolling pin so I don’t need any flour. I would recommend parchment paper if you don’t have a silicone mat. Marking the circle using the Brie boxKeep flipping the pastry over between rolling it out or it will get too thin to lift off your rolling surface. Use the round cardboard box from around the Brie to gently mark the dough in the center. This is where to spread your fillings, and so you know you have rolled your sheet large enough. I used apricot preserves with dried cranberries for years, and I have seen several combinations for sale that are more savory, added almonds or other Circle guide in the rolled pastrynuts, but the favorites for my crowds seem to be sweet plus enough acidity bite to counter the fat of the cheese and the pastry. After I started making my spiced loquat preserves from my own fruit tree in 2006, that became my guests’ hands-down favorite filling!

You can make just the Brie En Croute with no filling, but why when a filling is so much tastier? ๐Ÿ˜‰ You can spread the filling inside your circle mark to bake only on top of the Brie, Spreading the spiced loquat preserves inside the circle guideor add a border outside the mark to have it come down the sides a little. If the filling comes down the sides, you have a greater risk of developing leaks in the pastry, so fair warning. After spreading the filling, do not wait too long before putting the Brie round in place, since the pastry can start getting soggy and refuse to release from your rolling surface.

Setting the whole Brie round on the fillingI have seen some people cut off the top rind before encasing in pastry, but I don’t bother. The rind is thin enough that the flavor gets lost in the flaky pastry and gooey filling, and as soon as you remove the rind, you run a greater risk of having a melted cheese mess while baking. Keeping the whole rind around the Brie inside the pastry, the entire shape stays intact while baking and easy to transfer to a serving plate, with the Brie getting melted plenty. If you decide to cut and remove the top rind, be sure the naked Brie side is placed down against the filling before wrapping in pastry.

Folding the pastry around the BrieFold the pastry around the Brie, starting with the flat sides since they are the shortest. Trim the corners and fold them also to the center. This side doesn’t need to be pretty since it will be hidden, but you want to secure all the pastry so there are no holes, Brie completely encased in pastry with scraps trimmed for decorationsso pinch everything together well. Immediately pull the entire Brie in pastry gently off the rolling surface and set on greased foil on a cookie sheet, with the pinched pastry ends on the bottom. If you wait too long to flip it onto the cookie sheet, you will also have problems with the weight of the Brie squishing the pastry too thin.

Virgin Canvas Ready to Decorate!Now you have a virgin canvas ready to decorate! You can roll out the corners you trimmed away and cut out whatever decorations you would like on the top. Use cookie cutters if you have them, like snowflakes for Christmas or a Frozen party, stars for 4th of July or a space party, or cut shape free hand into whatever you like.

Cutting pastry scraps for decorating the Brie En CrouteIf you roll the scraps too thin, it will be very difficult to pull them off your rolling surface in the same shape you cut. If you really want to be elaborate, the puff pastry always comes two sheets to a package, so you could use the whole other sheet for decorations. For numbers and letters since they are so fragile, I often transfer my rolled pastry to the paper that came around the Brie. It was folded so you have a circle where the top is, then you can cut your letters backwards and remove only the excess dough. After your design is set, carefully flip the whole paper Stars & Stripes 2014 before bakingon top of the covered Brie, then gently tap the pastry down before removing the paper. This takes practice, and you need to be good at thinking backwards for anything with numbers or letters!

I have several past examples here, from very simple to quite elaborate. One that is really easy and very cute is to cut ribbons and A Pastry Present is really easy!sculpt a bow in the center. The bow will flatten a little during baking, but it is usually still recognizable as a bow. Since the Brie is displayed on a plate, having the design come down around the sides looks nicer than only on the top. If you work quickly, you should be able to stick the pastry decorations on the Brie just as raw dough, but if it takes longer to construct your design, you might need milk or egg wash as glue. You can also only use the protein wash on select areas as part of your design, since those areas will end up darker than the plain pastry. GravibrieThe Gravibrie I made for the movie Gravity at an Oscars party is the best example of that technique. You can also score lines into the pastry like the stripes behind the stars, but be careful not to cut through the pastry or you’ll have Thanksgiving Cornucopia Brie in Pastryfilling leakage spoiling your design. The flatter the design with good contact with the pastry background, the better it stays intact. More 3D designs like the Thanksgiving cornucopia can pull away from each other because the puff pastry shrinks while baking. Of course numbers and letters are Spiderweb Brie En Croute for Halloweengreat, especially a year for New Years Eve or question marks for a Clue party, and a spider sitting in its web is perfect for Halloween!

Foil tent around the pastry brie for its night in the fridgeOnce all your decoration is done, either bake right away, or it can last up to two nights covered in the fridge. I usually prepare mine the night before my party so I have the time to enjoy the decoration process. I use a piece of foil large enough I can pinch it sealed as a tent and keep in the fridge overnight before baking just before the party. If you are saving it overnight, it is better to add the final milk or egg wash just before baking so it doesn’t get gummy. However, if you don’t use any sort of protein wash Brushing the protein wash for better browningat all, it won’t brown very well. Bake in the oven at 400F for at least 15 minutes, maybe longer, but keep checking. Once it has browned and no spots are doughy anymore, remove from the oven. Let it cool several minutes, then pull away the foil to set carefully on a serving plate. It is best Delicious Brie En Croute Cross-Sectionwhen warm and gooey, but if you set it out too quickly, your guests could burn their mouths!

I hope you enjoy making your own Bries En Croute, as simple or elaborate as you desire!

#recipes #Brie # pastry

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Fantastic Fireworks & Fun for ’15!

Fireworks & Fun 2015Another year of fantastic free fireworks from Santa Clara so I had another fabulous Fourth…hooray! I love living one block away from the park with such a great fireworks view from my backyard! This year was the smallest fireworks party yet, but we were still 22 people and one little dog enjoying decent weather, fun food & a spectacular fireworks show! Keith took a video of part of the finale, and you can hear Doug next to him saying “Wait, that wasn’t the finale?!?” ๐Ÿ™‚

This year was more hectic for me, since not only had I just hosted the last movie night the previous weekend, and I was frantically finishing sculpting & gilding some steampunk robot cake decor for Benjamin’s birthday, but I was also leaving for a 2-week vacation with Grandma touring Festive Homemade Ice Creamthe Canadian Rockies immediately after, so I was trying not to have too much food leftover that I couldn’t freeze. I did pretty well, giving the green salad away at the end of the party and taking the last of it as my airport lunch, but my freezer was packed absolutely full of leftovers. Nice to still have so much apricot cashew quinoa salad for work lunches when I got back from Canada!

I made pretty much the same menu as last year because most people enjoy it AND I don’t mind all the leftovers, especially the once-a-year Corndog Sparklers and homemade ice cream. ๐Ÿ˜‰ This time the Sparkling Sugar Stars Cutting Chocolate Stars for S'morescookies were just red & blue sugar dusted before baking, so not overly sweet, but the Star Spangled S’mores were totally Finished Star-Spangled S'mores 2015different from last year. There were so many Big Hero S’mores leftover that I retrimmed the marshmallows, then mixed up some modeling chocolate and cut stars with another cookie cutter. The stars fit just right on top of the round marshmallows and looked great.

Stars & Stripes Brie 2015For the Stars & Stripes Brie this year, I scored stripes into the pastry under cutout pastry stars, but the scored stripes puffed too much while baking so you couldn’t really see them. Good thing the stars worked just fine!

Festive FromageI prepped the plate for Assorted Cheese & Crackers a couple nights before, so I had time to cut tiny stars from the white cheese. It looks so nice and it’s so easy, just takes some time and effort to poke the cheese stars out of the tiny cutter! The cheese scraps from around the stars are good for omelets or grilled cheese sandwiches. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Fireworks & Fun 2015 Food TableHere is the main food table by the patio bar, with the chalkboard menu decorated the most ever, including fireworks, firecrackers, sparklers, red, white & blue stars, and even two accurate American flags at the bottom! Can you spot the Apricot & Cashew Quinoa Salad, Sweet Potato Salad, Festive Fruit Salad, Old Glory Green Salad with homemade star croutons, blueberries & balsamic strawberries, Stars & Stripes Brie in Pastry, Aged Manchego Slices with Quince, Corndog Sparklers, Sparking Sugar Stars, Star-Spangled S’mores and Uncle Sam’s Stevia Lemonade? ๐Ÿ™‚

Sheila's Delicious Deviled Eggs!Sheila was wondering what she should bring, so I requested her absolutely delicious deviled eggs! I could have eaten the entire tray, so I was trying my best to stay away, and I was texting egg updates to others Shade-sitters had deviled eggs hand-delivered to them! ;)since I was afraid they might miss them! ๐Ÿ˜‰ To make sure everyone got a chance, Sheila passed the tray personally to everyone who had already moved chairs into the one corner of afternoon shade. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Outer food table ready for potlock goodies!The outer food table was decorated with a spare full-size flag and bunting for grilled foods, potluck goodies and the snow cones that didn’t get made because there were no kids this year and the adults didn’t want to work so hard! Fancy popcorn: kettle corn plus gourmet homemade popcorn from Ben!I buy the tasty kettle corn from Trader Joe’s for my Cinema Brittahytta popcorn boxes, and lucky for us that Ben made some fancy gourmet seasoned popcorn that was extremely tasty!

Making so many Razzle-Dazzle-Tinis at once!I created my Razzle-Dazzle-Tini layered cockatil recipe several years ago, but I had never made so many at once! All the shade-sitters wanted one, including a couple without alcohol, so the red lights were alcohol “danger” and the blue were safe. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I lined up the glasses on the bar, sugared the rims with my red-white-and-blue sugar I mixed up ages ago (keep it in an airtight plastic tub and it keeps great!), then used the red Layered Razzle-Dazzle-Tini with star ice cuberaspberry sugar Torani syrup and the blue Rose raspberry mixer so they layered nicely. That’s all sugar, which balances fine with the clear chilled vodka, but it needs lemon-lime soda for the non-alcoholic version. Pour gently otherwise you end up with purple! Add a star ice cube and serve!

I served almost four quarts of my Homemade Vanilla Custard Ice Cream right before the fireworks started so we could enjoy dessert with a view, and it was another impressive show! I always love when the bright fireworks light up my backyard audience! ๐Ÿ™‚
Fireworks 2015 Fireworks 2015 Fireworks 2015 Fireworks 2015

After the fireworks, since traffic leaving my neighborhood is horrible, I lighted the firepit for Star-Spangled S’mores! Since Louie was using the last of the coals in the dark, can you tell he added his own lighting for the photo? ๐Ÿ˜‰
Sheila Roasting Marshmallows for Star-Spangled S'mores Roasting Marshmallows for Star-Spangled S'mores Jenna & Julianna Roasting Marshmallows for Star-Spangled S'mores Louie Roasting Marshmallows for Star-Spangled S'mores

All three of my kitties have matching patriotic bandanas, but as usual only Onyx was roaming the party, so I had to wait until everyone left to take photos of Ebony and Obsidian…who were so anxious to get out the patio food, they ended up SHARING the windowsill! You don’t even know how rare that is! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Onyx was roaming the party as usual Princess Pose Siddy, I promise I'll take it off as soon as you hold still enough for a photo! ;) Ebony & Obsidian SHARING the windowsill!

I had my normal patriotic decorations in the front yard and inside the house, with my flagpole in a different spot this year since my plants have grown too much for the flag to fit along the front pathway anymore. Here are just a few, and you can see more decoration photos in the full gallery below.
Patriotic Brittahytta Front Porch Living Room Festive Floral Fireworks

Hope you enjoyed your Fourth of July! You can click to continue reading to see the entire photo gallery below. Sure hope Santa Clara puts on another fireworks show next year so I can have another fun party!

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Fireworks & Fun 2016

Fireworks 2016We had another year of fantastic Fireworks & Fun for the Fourth of July! The parking shuttle service was used for the first time ever, and 24 of us enjoyed a warm afternoon but a chilly evening with barbecue, snow cones, several salads, a new Fresh Watermelon Keg, Sparkling Sugar Star cookies, my traditional homemade vanilla custard ice cream, and new Star Spangled S’mores! Thanks again to the City of Santa Clara for the stunning show!

Festive Fourth Friday OutfitsThis year I paced myself much better by decorating and only making one or two food items each night, so during my weekend before the Monday holiday, I had time for Margarita Friday with friends, a patriotic pedicure, and even a Sunday evening hike! Little did I know that was an even better plan than I knew, since I woke up 5am party day miserable with suspected food poisoning…ugh! I called my mom to ask for any tips getting through it and if there was Professional Patriotic Pedicureany chance I might feel better by evening, then my dad insisted she drive the 3 hours to come help me. Thank you very much, Mom! I didn’t touch any food all day, party or otherwise, carefully sipping Gatorade & ginger ale to stay hydrated with electrolytes and sugar calories, and my mom set out all the party food and disinfected doorknobs and surfaces just in case I was contagious. I had to take several Mom taking a photo of the impressive fireworks!breaks to lie down, but thankfully all the guests had a great time as usual. My mom had been pondering coming to see “my” fireworks one of these years, and she was really impressed how close they were and such a perfect view from my yard! She was even taking photos to post on Facebook…haha!

Cutting stars from Star Trek chevrons...can't waste all those homemade marshmallows!Since I had made 50 special s’mores with homemade marshmallows for 50 Years of Star Trek movie night the week before, but not many were eaten, I found a Dipping homemade marshmallow stars in red & blue pearlized sugarmetal star cutter that fit just inside all the Trek chevrons to cut star marshmallows. While the edges were sticky, I dipped them into a mix of red and blue pearlized sugar, then used normal Hershey bar squares and the same graham crackers as the Trek s’mores. I had these all assembled and Assembled Star Spangled S'mores 2016 version, ready to arrangecovered on the big baking sheet so all that was needed on party day was to arrange them on the big silver platter. Robin did a great job!

Menu Chalkboard with Star Spangled S'mores 2016 versionThe fresh watermelon keg was new this year since Robin had seen it online & really wanted to try it. I was able to get the tap kit from Amazon in time, but Tracia scooped the watermelon to be the keg, and my mom & Kian turned the extra watermelons into juice, plus Ben brought more he had juiced at home. I heard it was refilled three times Fresh Watermelon Kegduring the party, so it was definitely a hit! I immediately froze the extra watermelon juice since I think another watermelon keg will appear before this summer is over. ๐Ÿ˜‰

No one made Razzle Dazzle Tinis this year since I usually lead by showing everyone how to make them, and I quickly erased the Corndog Sparklers from the menu chalkboard since those were scheduled to be made the morning of the party and didn’t happen. My first guests Main Food for Fireworks & Fun 2016are always kind enough to help finish setting food out, and all the help was really appreciated this year since I couldn’t touch anything! In addition to the s’mores, Robin also arranged the Sparkling Sugar Stars, Kian helped using the stick blender to pummel the watermelon juice into submission, Rob & Bethani set out all the new patriotic fans I got in case it was too hot, and Tracia finished arranging my new little red, blue & white LED star lights on the tables, then I could take photos!

Outer Patio Food Table with WaterfallThe outer patio table with the bunting was for more guest food, the Sparkling Sugar Star cookies, and grilled items. Ben’s Chocolate Frosted Banana Cupcakes were tasty on their tier tower! Since that table was also already getting too full, we decided the kitchen dining table would be for desserts like Rob’s famous cheesecake, Sheila’s patriotic coconut cake, Nathania’s Oatmeal Fudge Bars, and Jerry’s Cherry Tart.

Here is the full menu of what I provided for Fireworks & Fun 2016:

Fireworks & Fun FoodRazzle Dazzle Tinis
Fresh Watermelon Keg
Make Your Own Snow Cone
Patriotic Pastry Brie with Smorgabritta Spiced Loquat Preserves
Aged Manchego Slices with Smorgabritta Quince Preserves
Celestial Cheeses
Four Bean Salad
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Outer Patio Food Table
Apricot Cashew Quinoa Salad
Old Glory Green Salad
Festive Fruit Salad
Sparkling Sugar Stars
Star Spangled S’mores
Homemade Old Fashioned Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

Ellie, Master Snow Cone Maker!Ellie is a master snow cone maker from all her practice during several summer seasons now, so she showed Elias how it was Ellie serving Marco a snow conedone, then they kept walking around asking everyone if they would like a snow cone…what excellent service! I wonder if their arms were sore the next day from all that manual ice grinding? I even had a couple plain ice snow cones myself. It was the only crunch I had all day and it tasted so good! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Playing Rock Band before fireworksWe got out Rock Band while the sun was going down, but we didn’t turn everything on until the sun was completely off the screen, about an hour before the fireworks started. At Homemade ice cream ready to enjoy during the fireworks show!9:15 my mom dished up my homemade ice cream, this year on the outer patio table – why had I never done that before? We brought the fruit salad out and arranged with the star cookies as a little sundae More Rock Band after fireworksbar. With only 24 people this year, there is even more ice cream left over. At least I knew it tasted as good as usual since I licked the spoon on Friday night after I made it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The fireworks were over by 10pm, but traffic is a total gridlock all around my neighborhood for at least an hour, so some played Rock Band, while at least a couple others tried melting some Star Spangled S’mores over my new gas firepit. It sure was easier to light the gas firepit AND turn off, but I’m not sure if it gives as nice of a char flavor on the marshmallows? Kevin and Ellie seemed to enjoy them for sure!
Roasting a star marshmallow Freshly-melted star marshmallow on a Star Spangled S'more Kevin & Ellie enjoying their Star Spangled S'mores Kevin & Ellie enjoying their Star Spangled S'mores

There were plenty of fun things I missed but at least I took a few photos of partying people, and even attempted a quick selfie in hopes of showing my red streak in my twisted hair and my LED star necklace. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Tracia & Cyd Marco, Ben & Robin enjoying the shade on the patio couch Partying People on the Patio Sheila feeds a Celestial Cheese to Festive Onyx
Finally some shade in the grass Partying People on the Patio Pile of Partying People? Party selfie with red hair streak and LED star necklace

I was able to put out a few flags, the paper lanterns, and my front door wreath the morning of the party, and I had decorated inside in advance, but totally forgot to take photos inside this year. A few more decor photos are in the full gallery below.
Outside Decor Outside Decor Outside Decor Patio Decor

You can see the full photo gallery with all the partying people by clicking the link below. Huge thanks to everyone who helped and had fun, especially my mom who went above and beyond the call of duty! Hope Santa Clara keeps having annual fireworks so I can keep having my Fireworks & Fun party! ๐Ÿ™‚

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