Happy Birthday, America

This year was my first real 4th of July in about four years.  For the past few years I have been lucky enough to be in Europe around this time, and, oddly enough, they don’t seem to celebrate the 4th in quite the same way.  I did, however, get an approximation of the 4th of July experience in Göttingen last summer, what with the omnipresent American flag clothing and random fireworks displays.

America Shorts in Göttingen, Germany

In case you are wondering, yes, I got those shorts (which turned out to be trickier than I expected, since they were sold out in the first store I checked), and yes, I wore them on the 4th this year.  Between the shorts, the red lipstick, and the blue and white glitter, it was probably the most patriotic outfit I have ever managed.

My holiday actually kicked off the night of July 3rd with the FBC (Fucking Bike Club a.k.a. late night Full Moon Fiasco bike rides all around the city with a few hundred people).  FBC’s are always awesomely unpredictable, and this one was no exception.  For three hours straight we rode around the city, winding south, looping back through Carondelet Park, and ending for some celebration by the banks of the Mississippi before splitting off and riding past the Anheuser-Busch brewery on the way into the heart of Soulard in search of a diner.  The diner turned out to be closed by the time we arrived, but fortunately (for the boys), the Jimmy John’s across the street was open for delivery.  So they called and had sandwiches delivered out to the parking lot, and we headed over to a friend’s apartment to watch a few episodes of Police Squad and crash on his sofas (in fact, after all that bike riding I crashed halfway through the first episode).

In the morning, we woke up and began our July 4th by riding back from Soulard to the Cookie Tree Mansion (as my house is affectionately known) for breakfast and a much-needed shower (a long night and hot morning full of bike-riding left me sweatier than I would like to think about—all and all it was about 30 miles in 80+ degree heat).

The 4th of July festivities commenced with a Cookie Tree barbecue.  We successfully made delicious veggie burgers with bean salad, watermelon, and chips, but the strawberry shortcake had to be postponed due to biscuit failure.  Our Crisco had gone bad and the biscuits a). didn’t rise and b). tasted like straight baking soda.  I didn’t know Crisco could even go bad.

The results of our barbecue (unfortunately without strawberry shortcake).

I also finally got a chance to try some of the cocktail recipes I’ve been wanting to make, since my roommates were altruistic enough to be willing to serve as guinea pigs.  So I can now confidently provide you with the means to make G&T Jell-O, Peaches & Cream Jell-O, and Prosecco with Lemon Sorbet and Mint.

Gin & Tonic Jell-O

  • 1 cup tonic water
  • 1 cup gin
  • 1 small package lime Jell-O
  1. Bring the tonic to a boil.
  2. Turn off the heat, add the Jell-O packet, and stir continuously for two minutes.
  3. Stir in the gin.
  4. Pour into a container and place into the refrigerator (NOT the freezer).
  5. Leave alone until set (2-4 hours).
  6. Slurp up!

Keep in mind that these pack the punch of a real G&T, so enjoy responsibly (and prepare your taste buds).

Peaches& Cream Jell-O

  • 1 cup water (can be mixed with Dixie Peach juice, found at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup Irish cream (you could use Bailey’s, but we went with the cheaper off-brand)
  • 1 small package peach Jell-O
  1. Bring the water and peach juice mixture to a boil.
  2. Turn off the heat, add the Jell-O packet, and stir continuously for two minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, mix together the vodka and Irish cream.
  4. Temper the vodka/cream mixture by adding a small amount of the hot Jell-O liquid and stirring.  Then slowly pour the tempered mixture into the hot Jell-O, whisking to combine as you do.  This will ensure that the cream does not curdle.
  5. Pour into a container and place into the refrigerator (NOT the freezer).
  6. Leave alone until set (2-4 hours).
  7. Eat up!

I’m especially proud of this one since it’s entirely my own recipe and came out really well.  Despite the temptation, remember not to eat it all in one go!

Prosecco with Lemon Sorbet and Mint

  • prosecco
  • lemon sorbet
  • fresh mint
  1. Place fresh mint leaves in the bottom of glass until it is it covered.
  2. Muddle the mint leaves (a spoon works well for this if you, like me, don’t happen to have fancy bar tools).
  3. Add a scoop of lemon sorbet and top with prosecco.
  4. Sip up!

These look as pretty as they taste, and would be a perfect cocktail party drink.  Plus, the sorbet acts as ice and keeps the prosecco cool in the summer heat.  It’s an ice cream float for grown-ups!

Anyway, after playing bartender for a while a few of us headed up to the observatory roof at Wash U to watch the fireworks being shot off downtown over the Arch, and arrived to find that a whole crowd of people had had the same idea.  The moon was incredible.  Big, red, and slowly rising, it definitely stole the show.  Unfortunately, it was too dark for me to get any good pictures without a tripod.

You can tell what’s going on here, right?

While the official show was short, fireworks continued to go up all night around the city.  Sitting up on the rooftop patio of the Moonrise (our post-observatory destination for the evening), we had a near 360-degree view of the city and the sound of fireworks popping in the distance punctuated our conversation throughout the night.

So, Happy Birthday, America, and here’s to remembering what those fireworks stand for as we move toward the election: independence from an oppressive government and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for ALL citizens.

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