Independence Day at Chez Woodchuck

K., N. and I have collectively become known as the Woodchucks, a three-headed entity.  (Woodchuck is the name of our store.)  When only one or two of us show up to an event, we’re asked where the missing pieces are and sometimes have to explain that although we carpool often, each one of us is occasionally able to function autonomously.  OCCASIONALLY.

Occasional assertions of independence aside, we do a lot of stuff as a triumvirate.  Like celebrate Fourth of July Eve by drinking wine and watching Independence Day, both of which only improve with age.  And like hosting a cookout on the Fourth: our new friends’ introduction to our North Tonawanda compound.

Boudicca = party piece

After an intense morning of tidying up the house and garden, everything was in place.  The canoe did double duty, supporting the boom box and shading the beer cooler.  Pasta and bean salads chilled in the overloaded fridge.  (I searched on Epicurious for a pasta salad recipe and found that it, like most of my cookbooks, was not going to help me with this particular dish.  Is pasta salad that déclassé?  Or does everyone already have a house method?)  And various patio furniture and lawn games had been pulled out of storage hideyholes.  We sat down and waited for guests to arrive.

Waiting for guests

Our cookout was planned and publicized at the last minute, so we were mentally prepared for the worst case scenario of no guests at all.  Luckily that didn’t happen, and our yard was full of happy chattering friends in no time at all.  Friends who brought homebrewed beer and elderberry wine, potato salad, and Italian sausage!

Snacks, grill, lawn games

We had a cookout last month for K’s family and I got a little stressed out: grilling pizza for the first time on a too-cold grill when everyone’s starving can do that to you.  This time I made sure to remind myself that if you keep cool and have a good time, your guests will have a good time.  Moods are contagious.  My party-throwing inspiration is my grandma’s friend Marie Louise from the family seat of Monroe, Louisiana.  From the introduction to a cookbook she put out in 1966:

Marie Louise entertains so easily.  Most ladies fret and fume for days getting ready for a party, but Marie Louise gets all that fine cooking done and saddles her horse and takes a ride.  She returns about time for fifteen or twenty dinner guests to arrive.  After rubbing her horse down and tucking him in for the night, she dashes in, giving everyone a quick hello and flashing that broad grin of hers, disappears for a quick bath and change, and comes in looking as fresh as the proverbial daisy.  She then puts the finishing touches to her dinner and joins her guests as relaxed as anyone there.


I don’t think anyone at our soiree was fresh as the proverbial daisy, since it was pushing 90 degrees and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  And as if it weren’t hot enough already, the ex-hobo woods caught on fire.  I asked “is it coming this way?” and couldn’t understand why the answer “yes” was said so casually, but then around 10 fire trucks showed up and got the blaze under control in a hurry.

The woods are on fire!

Darn kids and their firecrackers!  We were going to offer the firefighters some fresh-off-the-grill hot dogs as a “thank you for saving our building” gesture but although I undoubtedly have some Southern bon vivante lady ancestors who would have been capable of breezing in blithely and tendering that offer, I chickened out.

The hobo woods caught fire!

After our guests departed, we did a perfunctory cleanup and then headed south to the beach at Angola to meet up with a few more buddies for swimming, a campfire, and enjoyment of other people’s fireworks.  Swimming in Lake Erie was weird for me because I’d never really been to a fresh water beach and the non-salty waves were that kind of shock that rational expectation can never really prevent.

Beach friends

To say that it was the perfect end to a perfect day would be a huge understatement.  There will be more cookouts and more campfires this summer: summer in Buffalo is a social whirlwind of outdoor happenings, a frenzy to enjoy as much fun in the sun as is humanly possible before retreating indoors for another Lake Effect-filled winter hibernation.  And woodchucks are social creatures.

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4 Responses to Independence Day at Chez Woodchuck

  1. SuperBad says:

    Love the quote for Marie Louise. I remember her well as a kid, bks I used to show up to play with her adopted kid Frank who was a great kid (or so it seemed to me, based on my judgment at age 7. You had to see her in action to understand what she says here; I recall graphically, and even based on my limited observational powers as a kid, that she was a lawyer by background who did everything totally right – totally rigorous and intense about whatever she did – but in a way that it all seemed totally effortless on the outside to folks who did not operate or could not see things at her level. It’s like how SEALS and Delta people fight – bks they are so wired and competent, everything happens for them in slow motion so there’s plenty of time to cover every eventuality totally relaxed.
    Sounds like a great day that you all had on 7.4. I love the blue canoe, can’t get enough of it except to say don’t take that sucker on any whitewater and mess up the paint job.

    • allifer says:

      I’m definitely going to work toward embodying SEAL-like levels of ease and competence in things now. That’s a great analogy.

      Yeah, it’s a flatwater boat for sure – I assume it was a duck hunting boat because it had a camo pattern like reeds on the side. We were hoping for one of those beater aluminum lake boats like they used to have at camp, but those were going for a hundred dollars more than used fiberglass… on Craigslist anyway. And if it gets beat up, we have a little blue paint left over.

  2. Durc says:

    I recieved a text message of the entire pump-up speech from the end of Independance Day on the fourth. Now I’m sad I didn’t forward it to you guys.

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