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Proud to be an American or what does freedom mean to you? Independence Day not only reminds us how lucky we are to live in America, but also is associated with many traditions. Independence Day brings out our patriotic presence that is seen and felt everywhere you go. Traditionally, many people decorate their homes with flags, buntings and streamers in red, white and blue, which symbolize the colors of the flag.

The 4th of July is perhaps the most American of all their holidays because it symbolizes the commencement of the nation. Independence Day has become an important occasion where Americans are able to truly express their freedom.

This day has forever been a favorite for traditions of fireworks, parades, barbecues, beer, picnics, baseball, outdoor parties, public and private events honoring the nation.

Since July of 1777, fireworks have been the most identifiable event for the Fourth of July.

Many people decorate their home with the American flag, which, there is even an United States Flag Code and Rules for displaying the flag outdoors. The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules as follows:

1. The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing, unless it is the ensign responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation.

2. The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.

3. The flag should not be used as "wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery",or for covering a speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins). Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.

4. The flag should never be drawn back or bunched up in any way.

5. The flag should never be used as a covering for a ceiling.

6. The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed, or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.

7. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

8. The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

9. When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

10. The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.

11. If the flag is being used at a public or private estate, it should not be hung (unless at half mast) during rain or violent weather.

12. When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of the United States, it should be destroyed in a dignified manner, preferably by burning. The American Legion and other organizations regularly conduct dignified flag-burning ceremonies, often on Flag Day, June 14.

13. The flag should never touch anything beneath it. Contrary to an urban legend, the flag code does not state that a flag that touches the ground should be burned. Instead, the flag should be moved so it is not touching the ground.

When display your flag outdoors, the rules state:

1. When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting from a window, balcony, or a building, the union should be at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When it is displayed from the same flagpole with another flag, the flag of the United States must always be at the top except that the church pennant may be flown above the flag during church services for Navy personnel when conducted by a Naval chaplain on a ship at sea.

2. When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag's union should be farthest from the building.

3. When flown with flags of states, communities or societies on separate flag poles which are of the same height and in a straight line, the flag of the United States is always placed in the position of honor—to its own right. The other flags may be the same size but none may be larger.

4. No other flag ever should be placed above it. The flag of the United States is always the first flag raised and the last to be lowered.

5. When flown with the national banner of other countries, each flag must be displayed from a separate pole of the same height. Each flag should be the same size. They should be raised and lowered simultaneously. The flag of one nation may not be displayed above that of another nation.

6. The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously.

7. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset, although the Flag Code permits night time display "when a patriotic effect is desired." Similarly, the flag should be displayed only when the weather is fair, except when an all weather flag is displayed. (By Presidential proclamation and law, the flag is displayed continuously at certain honored locations like the United States Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington and Lexington Green.)

8. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

9. The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.

And when displaying the flag indoors:

1. When on display, the flag is accorded the place of honor, always positioned to its own right. Place it to the right of the speaker or staging area or sanctuary. Other flags should be to the left.

2. The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of states, localities, or societies are grouped for display.

3. When one flag is used with the flag of the United States of America and the staffs are crossed, the flag of the United States is placed on its own right with its staff in front of the other flag.

4. When displaying the flag against a wall, vertically or horizontally, the flag's union (stars) should be at the top, to the flag's own right, and to the observer's left

Now that we have all that straight, onto the barbecues, picnics, and other customs. Many families celebrate Independence Day by hosting or going to picnics or barbecues and take advantage of the holiday by using it as an opportunity to spend time with relatives and friends. Barbecues as well as picnics have become a 4th of July tradition for usually summer is the perfect time to spend outdoors and the long holiday weekend.

For some outdoor parties here are a few ideas for you:

Pool Party / Beach Party ~ Swimwear, beach towels, sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of activities such as: an aquatic volleyball net and consider teams of boys versus girls. Have a swimming race, diving contests to collect coins tossed on the bottom of the pool, or if at the beach, maybe who makes the most patriotic sand sculpture.

The traditional grilling ensemble of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs are a must. Serve other barbecued favorites like chicken, steak and fish as another option and side dishes of potato and macaroni salad, potato chips and dip, fresh watermelon, ice cream and other hot weather favorites.

After everyone is done in the pool, have an area for socializing and a little relaxing.  Of course, a Fourth of July party wouldn't be complete without a few fireworks. If you don't want to put on an elaborate display, hand out sparklers for guests to light after dark.

A Fun Day at the Park ~ Pre-plan your picnic and grilling menu and have your bags packs with lots of fun activities to entertain all. Decorate with paper tablecloths, streamers, and balloons in the traditional red, white and blue color scheme. Plan a tug of war, three-legged and wheelbarrow races. Set up a badminton sets, a croquet set, flying disks, and other outdoor games. For younger children bring sidewalk chalk, jump ropes, and hula hoops. Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest or even a water balloon toss.

To end you day have sparklers for everyone, a bonfire with s’mores or even hobo pies. Make sure you bring your first-aid kit, bug spray, blankets, and even swim suits for river or lake events (a change of dry clothes is always appreciated).

An Old-Fashioned Fourth of July ~ Have a simple potluck with some old fashioned fun such as apple bobbling, games of checker and making homemade ice-cream. Just being together with family and friends sometimes provides the best memories.

There are truly so many reasons to enjoy this holiday. Not only do we commend the men and women who have fought and continue to fight for our freedom, but we are able to show our appreciation in so many ways. Visit a Veterans hospital, a nursing home, think of those who may not have the luxuries that you have. Look around you and ask yourself, what does “freedom” mean to you? Begin a scrapbook with your children and see how their answers change each year. I love the idea from Rachael Rays August 2011 magazine to make a keepsake scrapbook out of a key ring. Paper punch a hole in your mementoes and thread them onto the key ring. A souvenir to cherish for years to come.

What says more than finishing the 4th of July day with some great old fashioned all American Apple Pie ~ and maybe a little extra helping of ice cream?

Ingredients

1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

8 Granny Smith apples - peeled, cored and sliced

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to form a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer.

Place the bottom crust in your pan. Fill with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a lattice work crust. Gently pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust. Pour slowly so that it does not run off.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

Yields 1-9” pie; Serves 8

Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories: 512, Total Fat: 26.7 g, Cholesterol: 31 mg, Sodium 241 mg, Total Carbs: 67.8g, Dietary Fiber: 5 g, Protein: 3.6g

Recipe courtesy of http://allrecipes.com/recipe/apple-pie-by-grandma-ople/detail.aspx

Happy 4th of July!!!

 
 
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What a way to celebrate such a holiday of independence than becoming husband and wife. Here are some ideas to help make you day memorable:

Plan your wedding colors around the tradition red, white and blue with plenty of white lights, paper lanterns, beautiful decorations and even add in some yellow for that good ole’ summertime feeling. Think about setting up your reception under a white tent that is patriotically decorated.

Rather than a sit down meal, consider having a old fashioned barbecue of corn on the cob, grilled meats, fruits, ice-cream, and other holiday fare foods such as a lobster bake.

For the non-traditional wedding, try cupcakes, strawberry shortcake, or even caramel apples for dessert instead of the traditional wedding cake.

Have a signature red and blue cocktail, beer, old fashioned root-beer floats, lemonade, tea, and unique soda pops served in wood crates or metal buckets of ice.

Instead of traditional serving dishes, think about using different service settings of antique ware depending on your theme (i.e. patriotic, homey barbecue, rustic retreat, beach, etc.).

For your favors, the book, “I Like You” buy Sandol Stoddard Warburg retails at approximately $6-$7 per book. Another option could be a printed card of the following verse from the book with a pack of sparklers.

"... I like you because I don’t know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
It must have been lonesome then
I like you because because because
I forget why I like you but I do

So many reasons
On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
On the fifth of July, I like you too
If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
We could be a HOLIDAY
We could be a CELEBRATION
We could be a WHOLE PARADE

See what I mean?
Even if it was the 999th of July
Even if it was August
Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
Even if it was no place particular in January
I would go on choosing you
And you would go on choosing me
Over and over again

That’s how it would happen every time
I don’t know why
I guess I don’t know why I really like you
Why do I like you
I guess I just like you
I guess I just like you because I like you."

For a grand finale, look into hiring a company to perform a firework show or instead of the traditional rice for your send-off, consider sparklers such as these http://www.myweddingfavors.com/wedding-sparklers.html.

After a celebration like this, your guests won’t feel like they missed any of their independence day celebrations!

Note: Due to the fact that this is a holiday event, makes sure you send “Save The Date” to your guests in plenty of time prior to the holiday.

 
 
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Providing a nostalgic feel of Nantucket, I fell in love with The Cottages and Lofts at Boat Basin http://thecottagesnantucket.com/ (866-838-9253 or 508-325-1499) and with the 4th Of July, my first thought returned to these 24 cottages and their 5 new lofts that consist of one, two, and three bedrooms with some that are even pet friendly.

The pet friendly cottages require a non-refundable pet fee of $60 (1-3 nights); $75 (4+ nights) per stay and 10% of the pet fee is donated to the Nantucket MSPCA Adoption Center on Nantucket. Your pet will feel like it’s on a luxury vacation too with the special amenities of a welcome basket of pet treats and toys, a blissful bed (Draper Canine Therapy Dog Bed by http://drapercaninetherapy.com), food and water bowls, litter box, personalized pet tags, dog walking services and a directory of veterinary clinics and pet supply stores.

The cottages are located from the heart of Nantucket ranging from waterfront views and waterfront locations. The cottages at the Boat Basin are located directly on the docks at Swain Warf and Old South Warf (The Lofts are on Straight Warf). To get a better idea of the layout, see the map at http://thecottagesnantucket.com/reservations/map.html and click on the cottage or loft for additional information.

The cottages have a nautical ambiance with polished pine floors and stylishly casual furnishings with colors of marine blue, white and the classic Nantucket red. Many of the accommodations have private balconies or terraces and during your visit you are provided with complimentary use of bicycles (first come, first served), daily housekeeping, modern kitchens, fine bed linens, complimentary wireless internet access, flat-screen TV’s with cable television, DVD, Business Center, hair dryer, in-room safes, beach chairs and towels to name a few of your awaiting luxuries.

As an added bonus is the front desk will even do your grocery shopping prior to your arrival an have your kitchen pre-stocked. If you fly into Nantucket airport, you can be greeted by the “Beach Bus” with previous arrangements to take you to The Cottages. For additional travel accommodations to reach the island, visit http://www.islandofnantucket.info/howtogetthere.html for further options. Prior to your arrival, The Cottages Nantucket Vacation Planner will contact you to make arrangements for transportation, dining, island excursions, picnics, car and bicycle rentals. To contact the Nantucket Vacation Planner, please email nvp@niresorts.com or call 866.838.9252.  The “Beach Bus” also will shuttle you to and from your favorite Nantucket beaches.

If you are a guest at The Cottages & Lofts you have access to the White Elephant Spa, the brand new spa located at their sister property and just a short walk away.

You'll find an extensive selection of treatments and massages to make your stay even more relaxing. Visit http://www.whiteelephanthotel.com/spa/ to learn more or call 508.228.2500 to make a reservation and mention that you are a guest at The Cottages.

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Grab your bag from http://www.jessicacushman.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=JKC&Product_Code=ROP-LOB-NAT&Category_Code=ROPTOTE that screams Nantucket, step back in time and wander over 800 historic buildings while walking along the cobblestone streets ~ a perfect way to relax while visiting an array of upscale boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, pubs and fine restaurants.

Make sure you visit the Whaling Museum http://www.nha.org/sites/index.html open daily 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. where you will find the history of Nantucket’s whaling industry and see artifacts that are exhibited at the museum.

For those of those that want to explore further, venture into the vineyards and brewery’s of: Nantucket Vineyard, Cisco Brewery, and Triple Distillery at http://sites.google.com/site/ciscobeers/ for a day of fun and relaxation.

Arrange for a private sail aboard the Endeavor http://endeavorsailing.com/ located at the Straight Wharf dock outside the cottages. Enjoy a sunset cruise for two or a pirate-themed adventure with the kids. Aboard the Nantucket Harbor Cruise at Straight Wharf (502-228-1444), pull lobster traps, enjoy an afternoon Ice Cream Cruise, or end your evening with their sunset cruise. For those that want to own their own yacht for a day or half the day excursions, visit Hinckley Cruise Your boat will be stocked with all the provisions you needs to make your day on the water memorable. Contact your accommodation concierge for more information and booking.

In July and August, go on the whale-watch vessel Yankee Springs for the day (& hours) and visit the whale feeding grounds at the Great South Channel. It departs from Straight Wharf. http://nantucketwhalewatch.net/ 800-322-0013 or outside of MA call 800-942-5464

For the land lovers there are many inland tours to choose from be sure to check with your local accommodation concierge for more information. You may enjoy visiting Brat Point Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in America, established in 1746. http://lighthouse.cc/brant/ or just take a leisurely bike ride or stroll on the many paths. Make sure you grab some ice-cream on your way!

Don’t be surprised to hear live piano music and sing-along while strolling through downtown. The Club Car is an iconic seafood and steak restaurant in an old train car.

Make sure you make reservations at 508-228-1101. One restaurant among many lining the streets of Nantucket for your enjoyment. http://www.nantucket.net/maps/diningmap.php

For the 4th of July, Jetties Beach (on Nantucket) http://www.nantucket.net/beaches/jetties.php at 9:00 p.m. is the perfect place to view the spectacular fireworks and in August Jetties Beach host a Sandcastle and Sculpture Day along with the Boston Pops http://www.bso.org/bso/mods/perf_detail.jsp?pid=prod4040071 on August 13, 2011 to benefit the Nantucket Cottage Hospital http://www.nantuckethospital.org/Events/Pops.html with special guest, Carly Simon. Make sure you visit the Raw Bar at The Jetties http://thejetties.com/ for a complete Nantucket Beach experience.

For more 4th of July fun, there are activities on Main Street starting at 10:00 a.m. which include the dunk tank, the watermelon eating contest, face painting, the pie eating contest, and the famous "water fight" between the town fire fighters and Flint Ranney's volunteers. For more information visit http://www.nantucket-ma.gov/Pages/NantucketMA_Visitor/46814_Nantucket_WEB_6.pdf

A relaxing and memorable trip to the east coast to enjoy the dog-days of Summer. What a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day with having your vacation perfect in every way!

Photographs courtesy of The Cottages and Jessica Cushman