I just shipped my Mom, Pat Lopp, off to Texas for the week armed with in-flight essentials: healthy snacks (Kashi granola bars, baggies of nuts and Chex mix and Crystal Light packets to fill her water bottle), a layering piece (cardigan sweater) and trusty hand sanitizer. I also made sure she had her sunglasses and cell phone. Let me make it clear that she is perfectly competent and capable of remembering these things on her own, but a dose of my detail-oriented Girl Scout nature kicked in to help her get out the door at 5:00am. Talk about mother-daughter role reversal! Hopefully she was comfortable, sated and sanitized on her three hour sky trek. You can read more packing and healthy travel tips in my last two columns titled Traveling in Style. Nothing like putting my own advice into action!
Speaking of travel, it’s that time again. (I seem to be on a writing role with this travel theme.) As we approach yet another highly traveled holiday weekend it’s time to start thinking about what to take to the beach or the lake or the neighbor’s back yard this weekend. The 4th of July weekend brings together families and friends from near and far to celebrate all things red, white and blue.   White crystal sand beaches and Carolina blue skies; red sails on the coastal blue horizon; Mom’s blueberry buckle or cherry pie with homemade vanilla ice cream. And of course the American flag, our most iconic red, white and blue symbol. Everyone has their favorite 4th of July images and memories. My personal childhood favorite is an indelible one— perched high on a giant red boulder while watching a night sky explode with red, white and blue sparkling fireworks over the Colorado National Monument. That may be where my obsession for chasing sunsets and fireworks began!  
So, what to make and take and share with your favorite peeps this week? I’ve got a couple festive and tasty twists that have already proven to be crowd pleasers. First, let me introduce you to Blueberry Salsa. Healthy, festive, flavorful, colorful and just the right kick! And it’s easy to make in about 15 minutes. Plus blueberries are currently plentiful. (What a coup to find Harris Teeter offering a buy one blueberry pint get two free special earlier this month!)
Preparation: Coarsely chop 2 cups fresh blueberries. Stir together chopped fresh blueberries, ½ to ¾ cups whole small blueberries, ¼ cup fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 seeded and minced jalapeno peppers, 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper and ½ teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve. The recipe makes about 3 cups. (Adding a ¼ cup chopped onion is optional.) Presentation: Line a basket or tray with a red bandana. Pour the salsa in a medium to small glass serving bowl to show off the red and blue color and make it the centerpiece of your tray or basket. Add your favorite red, white and blue corn chips around the bowl for dipping. Tostitos brand white corn Scoops chips work really well for picking up the blueberries. 
Now for the twist that I created the second time I made Blueberry Salsa. You ready for a refreshing cocktail? Try a Skinny Spicy Blueberry Margarita. But make sure to save the juice from the blueberry salsa….that’s the secret ingredient! Start with a bottle of Skinnygirl Margarita (branded by healthy chef and reality TV star Bethenny Frankel) from your local ABC store. A rep assured me that Orange County ABC stores have plenty in stock. Pour the Skinnygirl Margarita mixture over ice in a rocks or margarita glass. Add a couple teaspoons of juice from the blueberry salsa and stir. Garnish with a few blueberries and a small slice of red pepper and you’ve got your red, white and blue cocktail with a kick!  

What to wear to your 4th soiree? Anything cool, comfortable and red, white and blue of course! Think light cotton, linen or terry cloth. Pull out a nautical motif with a red or navy striped knit dress. Nordstrom.com has featured this nautical striped look with key pieces for hot summer style. Target has a stylishly updated pair of Mossimo brand dark blue chambray roll tab shorts with front pockets and a matching waist tie belt. Pair it with a strawberry red ruffled tank or halter top, a white rope belt and wedge sandals in red, white or blue. Other ideas are skinny white jeans if it cools off or a fun summer sundress if you’re in the sweltering heat. Add a festive scarf or ribbon around your packable straw hat for a pop of holiday color. 

Now that you’ve started your celebration in style–sit back, relax and enjoy the fireworks show!

These are my twists on a red, white and blue holiday weekend. Share your 4th of July traditions below.