my mother tells me we have a family tradition of going up to kittery maine every 4th of july, although i only remember being up there a few times, most memorably in 2007 when my grandmother came to visit and 2003 with some food at the chauncey creek lobster pier.

my mother told me we'd be leaving at 10:00 but when i arrived (via bicycle), nobody was ready yet. we finally left around 11:00, my mother in the passenger seat, my father and i in the back, and hailey in the cargo area. the fact that my sister was driving made me reluctant to go: her choice in music, her tailgating, her ability to misconstrue directions as negative criticism, all contributing factors. the ride was not without arguments, which made hailey want to jump up into the front seat as a defense mechanism.

kittery maine border the new hampshire state line across from portsmouth, so it only takes about an hour to drive there. first stop was fort mcclary, which i've to back in 2007. it's not the sort of place that one spends a lot of time, unless you're a military fortification history buff. people usually come, take in the vista, then go elsewhere. the weather was hot and hazy.

4th of july is a weird holiday in that it isn't part of a long weekend (at least not intentionally). since it's just a single day in a week, most people keep their travel plans local, unless they're lucky enough to take the whole week off. having said that, the license plates of the cars in the parking lot tell a different tale: the new england states - new hampshire (naturally), vermont, maine, massachusetts, connecticut - but also one virginia and one quebec.

american copper butterflies are supposedly quite common, but i've only rarely encountered them, or perhaps rarely had the chance to photograph them. they also frequent meadows, which isn't where i normally go naturing (when i do go naturing that is). the one new thing i managed to identify was the tatarian honeysuckle, an invasive species. since i didn't see any flowers, at first i thought they were some kind of berry bush, with pretty orange and red gooseberry-like berries. it's the berries that make this species invasive, as their seeds spread readily via birds and other critters.

next we tried going to the beach directly east of fort mcclary. we passed by chauncey creek lobster pier, which was packed to capacity judging from all the cars parked on either side of the road and the crew of young parking assistants. when we finally arrived on the road to the beach, there was a sign with a breakdown of all the fees. we read it wrong and thought it was $10 for the car then an additional $5 per person (a total of $30) and decided it wasn't worth it. my sister wanted hailey to run in the water but most beaches have a strict no unleashed dogs policy (if dogs are even allowed) during the summertime anyway.

our final stop (and i suspect the whole reason why my mother wanted to come to maine in the first place) was the kittery factory outlet malls. i've often wondered why anyone would ever shop here given that just across the border into new hampshire everything is tax free? we went to bob's clam hut where the place was so crowded we had to park in a larger lot next door. it was so busy i suggested we should just order takeout and eat in the car, but my parents were insistant we eat out. the wait staff and most of the kitchen crew were composed of young high school aged kids; this seems like the sort of place a teenage could find a job for the summer.

2 large servings of fried clams, some frieds, a few hot dogs, and a lemonade cost $60; most of that cost came from the clams, which made me even more curious about homemade solutions. they were very good though, and combined with the homemade tartar sauce, the price almost seemed reasonable.

it was hot underneath the sun but we found an empty picnic table with an umbrella that offered partial shade. my sister was going to stay in the car with the dog but brought out hailey when we told her we found a spot that wasn't crowded with people. hailey was surprisingly well-behaved (although bribed at first with some dog treats) despite snapping at the parking attendants who instructed my sister as to where to park from the driver side window.

how could we leave kittery without some shopping? my mother wanted to find the eddie bauer outlet but couldn't remember where it was. my sister told her it closed down, until we saw it just on the other side of the road as we were preparing to leave. we stopped for about 15-20 minutes so my mother could get her shop on. my father sat with hailey in the open back hatch; she focused all her attention on the shop door, waiting for my sister to return.

even though we didn't do much, being out in the sun all day left me exhausted, and i fell asleep in the car as we drove back to belmont.

as soon as we got back, i was out working in the backyard, mostly watering the raised beds from the rain barrels (a slow trickling process that requires moving the hose head every so often) and weeding (mostly stray grasses that've popped up in the beds). when i went back inside to check the time, it took me a while to realize there was a blackout. that would also explain why it was so quiet outside, with neighbors central air cooling and air conditioners not running. my sister was on the phone with a pissed off look on her facing, call the utility company to get an answer.

since it was almost dinner time, i began mixing my blue cheese burgers. they needed a few hours to refrigerate, but we only had 30 minutes; besides, the fridge wasn't working anyway, so the final patties were a bit crumbly.

my father was afraid the burgers would break apart and wanted to use the flat cast iron skillet instead. but what's a burger that can't be flame-licked by sudden flare-ups? i did my best to form compact patties; we started with just 4, in case it didn't work. what we didn't figure was we were using a new grill. so use are we to the old one - sticky surfaces, uneven heating, major flare-ups - that we didn't know how a burger is supposed to be cooked. barbecuing burgers is the most basic function of all grills, so we shouldn't be surprised when they came out perfect. we also let the burgers cook longer on one side (5 minutes) before turning (we used to turn all the time). the burgers we perfectly cooked, just a touch of pink on the inside, juicy throughout. even my sister said they were good, and she's super picky about her cooked meats.

LJ wasn't at home when i got back. that could only mean she went out to see the fireworks display. i was tempted to go, but the weather forecast predicted a major storm approaching boston, so i figured it was safer and more comfortable to just watch the show from home (although televised fireworks can never equal actual fireworks). midway through the festivities there was reports of police herding people away due to the danger of lightning strikes. there was a sudden downpour but fortunately it was brief, as people were allowed back to their original spots.

even when i don't see the fireworks, i can hear them, like a distant gun battle. the televised fireworks wasn't in sync with the sounds that i heard, which either meant a light/sound speed effect or that the broadcast was on a delay.

"did you see the fireworks?" was the first thing LJ said to me when she returned home. being from china (the country that invented fireworks and probably still manufactures most of them) i thought she'd be jaded with pyrotechnics, but the only memorable fireworks she ever saw back home was from the 20+ floor of an office building in nanjing, and that was from a distance. she was most impressed with how close the fireworks were from the banks of the charles river where she watched them from with other fellow chinese astrophysicists.