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Cambodia, The Cayman Islands, Spain, England, Indonesia. Those are the countries in which I spent the last five July 4ths. As you might imagine, none of them celebrated with the fireworks, BBQs, and red white and blue fanfare of my childhood. So when my summer started to shape up, I was determined to make sure I spent the Fourth of July stateside. For the first time in six years, this patriotic girl was going to celebrate Independence Day.

And I was going to celebrate big — in the midst of a Martha’s Vineyard family reunion. The setting could not have been more idyllic. My mom had celebrated on island last summer and described it as “July 4th in a Norman Rockwell painting.” I couldn’t wait to lap up all the adorable I could this time around.

Though massive storms were looming and the entire East Coast was preparing for the worst, the Martha’s Vineyard Campmeeting Association — the historic neighborhood our cottage belongs to — bravely moved ahead with their annual red white and blue children’s parade.

The entire neighborhood turned out to support the marching munchkins and their sidekicks, including an enthusiastic brass band and several patriotic pups.

Some of the costumes seriously impressed me — tell me these kiddos aren’t future stars of the Coney Island Mermaid Parade! Nice work, Martha’s Vineyard families.

Though our outfits were thrown together rather than painstakingly planned, I’d like to think we didn’t have too shabby a showing. In fact, my Statue of Liberty crown, a remnant from a costume of Halloweens past, basically made me the envy of every five year old girl on that island.

The parade’s timing was impeccable. The rain started not long after, and when it did, it was a downpour. While I was still devastated by the news from the prior evening that both the neighborhood block party and the island fireworks were postponed due to weather until after I’d leave the island, at least I knew the decision was justified. (Did that stop me from crying in my mom’s arms like a little girl who just found out she wasn’t getting a pony for her birthday? No, it did not. I waited six years and planned my European summer around this, I wanted fireworks damnit!)

Thankfully, this family had a rainy day contingency plan. Cupcake wars.

Forgive the iPhone photos — my dSLR was not welcome at this icing-fueled party!

During our annual visits to the Vineyard throughout my childhood, my family engaged in extremely competitive, creativity-and-sugar fueled cupcake decorating contests. They were so epic they inspired a local artist’s series of cupcake paintings, a full decade or two before cupcakes were the new black (and before Pinterest, too!) I only wish I was in Albany to go through the old family albums and scan a few of our more fiercely fought years. But for now, I’ll just have to regale you with the 2014 edition…

It was the perfect afternoon activity with equal doses of ruthlessness, innovation, and cursing the fact that the rain was preventing us from running down the road to buy [insert obscure random but necessary item here]. While first time participants Kirsten, Oliver, and Miller kindly humored us, it was clear that my mom, sister, and I were the ones possessed by the need to create elaborately decorated baked goods.

After we finished, we invited the neighbors over to judge with an intricate voting system of placing goldfish in front of their favorite cupcakes. I’m not going to tell you who won, because I’m curious to hear what you all think!

My entries were, not surprisingly, nautical by nature.

My mom, still enamored with the island she can now call home, went with a detailed (and battery powered!) Vineyard theme.

My sister leaned patriotic in honor of the day we were celebrating.

Oliver, bless him, struggled to understand the concept of a decorating only baking contest and kept trying to incorporate flavors like bacon and chili pepper. Finally he succumbed to our pressure and made a pig face. A for effort, Ollie.

Kirsten showed her colors as an elementary teacher with her adorable family-friendly entry.

Miller made an impressive show of island-inspired engineering, constructing a tentacled jellyfish and most impressively, a Jaws-cake. He earned a serious slow clap from me for the Jaws nod (the movie was set and filmed on Martha’s Vineyard!)


Inspired by Miller’s creation, we decided our evening activity would be a Jaws-athon. But it wasn’t quite time to curl up on the couch yet. No! There were backgammon tournaments to be played (or, as Olivia coined it, the Baackgammon Invitational), yoga poses to be adjusted (Kirsten is a newly certified instructor — cousin power!), puzzles to be puzzled, and patriotic cookie cakes to be devoured.

With all that excitement, it was no wonder the evening ended like it did — a three cousin pileup, parked in front of .

While I was admittedly pretty bummed about the damper the weather put on our July Fourth plans, it turned out to be a pretty perfect day. The more I travel, the more I appreciate the time I have with my family and in familiar places. As I flew away from the island the next afternoon on my way to my next international adventure, I knew that I couldn’t have asked for a better goodbye to the good ‘ol USA, and all my wonderful people in it.

Till next time, Martha’s Vineyard… (and America!) US readers, what did you do for the Fourth of July?

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38 Comments...
  • Justine
    August 13 2014

    My fourth was spent in Colombia celebrating as team Colombia went onto another World Cup victory! It’s always hard to be away from home during the fourth of July but I had a blast. OK, your family is too funny. I love that all of the wholesome family activities include lots of cursing and ruthlessness. All of the cupcakes are amazing but I found your sister’s to be particularly hilarious!!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Ha, she was the one who enthusiastically reinstigated cupcake wars… so she had to bring it! Your 4th sounds like a pretty good alternative, if you couldn’t be stateside 🙂

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    August 13 2014

    those are some really creative cupcakes! Good job guys. I was in India and didn’t celebrate at all… bummer 🙁
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Next year, throw a party and show all your neighbors how we do it 🙂

  • Janice Stringer
    August 13 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    I felt emotional when I looked at the picture of you all together watching Jaws 2. I love those family moments – they have been so precious for me with my children and their cousins over the years.xxxx
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Aw, thanks Janice — I really love that photo too. Something about it does well up a lot of emotions. Happy family days!

      • Janice Stringer
        August 20 2014

        I think it’s because you all look ‘in peace’
        Janice Stringer recently posted..

  • Ah! Those cottages are adorable! Also, I totally want cupcakes now…
    Sara @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Aren’t they the cutest? It’s really like stepping back in time!

  • Ah such beautiful family moments! I love that your family gets their craft on! I loved your post “proud” too by the way.
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Thanks Michelle! You know I love to get my rant on every once in a while 🙂

  • Maddy
    August 13 2014

    I love your lobster cupcake! So cute. Nice music reference too – har har. 🙂
    Maddy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Ha! So glad someone enjoyed that one 🙂

  • Leah
    August 13 2014

    I love love LOVE this cupcake competition, although I have to admit I would have probably been confused like Oliver and more interested in making delicious cupcakes than beautifully adorned ones, but I laughed so hard at all the creative designs and have to say (without bias, I swear!) that yours are my favorite.
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Ha, poor Oliver. He is a good sport! But this is definitely a surface level competition… my sister reminded me of one of my winning entries of yesteryear which was an empty cupcake wrapper with the label “Diet Cupcake.” I don’t even remember doing that. I was a clever kid eh!

    • Oliver
      October 19 2014

      Nothing wrong with a delicious cup cake.

  • Ashley
    August 13 2014

    I’m guessing that either you or your mom won the contest?! And I love your crab cupcake!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Well, there was a bit of a voting controversy (appearantly goldfish crackers aren’t the most reliable ballots) so we can’t really be sure who won 😛 Next year we will have to be more rigorous!

  • becky hutner
    August 13 2014

    Holy wow @ the creativity of your family. My sports fanatic dad & bro making cupcakes?? Not a chance.

    I vote you bc your entries were innovative AND 100% edible (well except the toothpicks).
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Believe me, the World Cup caused some SERIOUS tension on this trip, ha. But we managed to drag the boys away long enough to play Cupcake Wars with us!

  • Erika
    August 13 2014

    Those cupcakes are amazing!! I’ve spent the last 5 July 4ths in the US, but have missed fireworks for all of them! I need to get myself in order for next year.
    Erika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Oh my gosh, fireworks are my FAVORITE! I have to say though that the ones at Tomorrowland were so crazy epic I thought to myself a few times that they would hold me over for a few years 🙂

  • Kristen Noelle
    August 13 2014

    Your festive holiday treats are always just the cutest!! No one does family fun like you guys, I swear.
    Martha’s Vineyard looks so charming and quaint! It reminds me a bit of the Manhattan Beach (LA) neighborhood that I visited during 4th of July weekend. Many of the pretty beach houses were covered in Red, White, & Blue, and then we discovered a Patriotic Block Party that was almost as adorable as this parade!
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Aw, that sounds like an awesome 4th! I’ll have to check out Manhattan Beach when I make it back West!

  • Carrie
    August 14 2014

    This had me laughing, nodding in appreciation and recognition, and finally tearing-up a bit. Fantabulous! Excellent cupcake contest! All were amazing and creative; your sister’s burger cupcake was my fave! 😀
    Carrie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      She is certainly a creative one! Being a teacher I think all the craft time she has with kids gave her a competitive advantage 🙂

  • I feel your pain! Being a travel addict, but working full time, I almost always use the 4th as a “day off” and travel abroad. This year I spent it on the lake in GA, which was a nice change. 🙂
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      That sounds perfectly patriotic — and summery!

  • Miquel
    August 15 2014

    I grew up in a small American town, and there is nothing like being there on 4th of July! Glad you finally got to spend one at home!
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Seriously! I love the 4th in Albany where I grew up as well… fireworks in the Empire State Plaza are hard to beat! But this was quaint in a pretty unbeatable way.

  • tammyonthemove
    August 15 2014

    I can’t get over how cute these houses are. I want one!
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Be prepared for a lot of painting, scraping, and construction! All worth it in the end, of course 🙂

  • Rachel
    August 16 2014

    Aw wow that looks such a fun day! I love the American pride and celebrations for this day! Also..most importantly..those cupcakes look amazing!!

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Thanks Rachel! They were also delicious!

  • Sasha
    August 20 2014

    Meihoukai you are adorable! I have the same stalkerish feelings of ‘We should be best friends’ as I do with Anna Kendrick:)

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Ha! I love it because I frequently refer to the AIW community collectively as “my best friends” — so the feeling is mutual 🙂 Thanks girl!

  • Charles McCool
    August 28 2014

    Amazing photos. Martha’s Vineyard is a great place, although I have never been there on July 4th.
    Charles McCool recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 31 2014

      It’s worth checking out someday 🙂 A really patriotic independence day, indeed!