The 4th wasn't that great in terms of weather, but at least it didn't rain as it has in past years and we did get to hang out with family for the day.
Ava has seven first cousins, including the little girl below who, as the only girl amongst five brothers, felt a kinship the minute Ava arrived. She greets me at family gatherings not with "hi, Auntie Natasha" but "Where's Ava?!" It probably helps that Ava's petite build creates more than a passing resemblance to a little doll, as many people have pointed out. So her cousin, who is almost three and definitely into doll-carrying, is totally digging Ava's portability.
Here's another cousin, who although three weeks younger, has outweighed her almost since birth. We all joke that we need a weight belt before we hoist him onto our hip. He is a happy, rotund little laid back baby who's content to go with the flow around him. I suspect he and Ava will be two peas in a pod - make that three, including his sister - once they're both up and walking. It was nice to kick back for some home cooked food and catching up with family after a barbecue disaster that morning at our place. J. inherited his grandmother's barbecue grill and has been trying to perfect her rib recipe, which of course was not written down, but handed down verbally to his mom, then on to J.
He's been slowly adding his own modern kick and flavor to the mix, carefully crafting his own seasoning rub, and even making a sauce from scratch with diced onions, honey and other mix-ins. In the process, he leaves a barbecue sauce speckled mess in the kitchen every summer. But the ends have always justified the means as he enlists me to taste test each effort. His attempts were good from the start, but each iteration improves upon the last. Still, my stock response is, "Oh that's terrible. Simply awful. You don't want to even bother tasting this. Just put it in the fridge and I'll get rid of it for you. Trust me." Which of course means yet another tasty batch.
On the 4th, after a night and morning spent mixing and marinating, pre-cooking and grilling, basting, tending and basically manipulating several slabs of ribs in a manner that would cost you at least $60 an hour at spa, J. prepared to close the grill lid for the last cooking segment.
From another room, I heard J.'s muffled, "Aaghh!" then a loud thump. Fearing the worst or at least a future filled with wheelchair ramps and head sticks, I sprinted to the front of the house expecting to see J. lying in a crumpled heap, seriously injured, or possibly paralyzed, by some unseen menace.
Instead, and happily, I found him staring down in utter disgust and anger at the now dented grill splayed out on the brick pavers and bark spilling its succulent rib contents and still-glowing coals out into the grill lid.
Apparently, as J. released the lid, suddenly, the two wheels on the grill's back legs, which have never rolled when we actually need them to, rolled right off of our back deck to the ground below. He was beside himself with frustration over the now wasted hours and more importantly, wasted food.
Being a veteran of many a campfire mishap, I suggested trying to salvage any slabs in the wreckage that might have escaped the grill's charcoal disgorgement. After cleanup at the scene and an attempt at rinsing the least impacted slabs, one crunchy, grit-ridden bite sealed the deal: the ribs were destined for the trash.
Well, almost. I told my mom the sad tale and she claimed them for her dog, who received quite a stash of lip smacking treats. We didn't even consider giving them to our dog Isis. Although she can lick her own rear with nary a repercussion, eating non-vegetable people food causes her to have violent colonic issues that I end up being responsible for cleaning up. So no, you may not give my dog a treat off your plate, but thanks for asking.
So after that sad morning saga, it was lovely to focus instead on our blessings and kick back the rest of the day with some of our peeps to enjoy each other and the freedom for which so many before us have sacrificed. Happy birthday America!