Happy 4th of July From Rancho La Zaca

I’m back at the ranch this week and Cowboy (for new readers, His Grace the Cowboy is my sweetheart) and I have my nephew and three of his buds flying in from Georgia. For their 18th birthdays my nieces and nephew each get a trip with Auntie anywhere they want to go. John Rex wanted to come to Rancho La Zaca, aka Fort Awesome especially if you are a boy. Which John Rex is 100%.

Cowboy on his horse
The Cowboy cuts a striking figure in the saddle. But with that hat he could also be an extra in '''In the Heat of the Night.''

It’s my third summer at the ranch in Los Olivos, California, (where His Grace resides) and my second 4th of July. I am somewhat composed this year, but for that first one back in 2010, I was a wreck. So unfamiliar I was then with how things work around here and what’s in this storage room and that barn and who does what and what-all. And on top of it we had six house guests and kind of a mini-rodeo-horseback-riding thing and 40 coming for dinner. And fireworks. His Grace knows how to give a girl a heart attack, I mean have a good time. And that we did. Have a heart attack, I mean have a good time.

Whitney on horse
This is Whitney. Her motto is ''No fear and a fast horse.'' You do not mess with Whitney.
My motto is ''No fear and a box of popcorn.'' These little wax paper bags make a cute way to serve it, thought up by Chef Stephanie Valentine.

I had pulled a muscle riding (don’t ask) the day before which forced me to be a spectator at the mini-rodeo thing on the 4th. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to have hurt myself. But my friend Anne Louise was a sport. We grew up riding together–English–but she got in there and yippy-i-yayed with the best of them. And her hair still looked good.

Anne Louise on horse
Anne Louise on Picasso. Picasso is almost 30 years old, if you can believe it. And he still likes to GO.

We also did a little shootin’. Sporting clays. No interference from pulled muscle here. Also you cannot fall off of a gun, whereas you can a horse.

Shooting at RLZ
His Grace, left, and Anne's husband Richard. I think Anne and I whooped them but I am hazy on the details.

We went down to the pond for supper, and some of the younger boys threw a line in. There are 7- and 8-pound bass in there. When you catch one it feels like a hippopotamus, which I had to look up how to spell.

Fishing at the pond
Boys fishing at the pond

Then Chef Stephanie barbequed chicken, roasted corn, grilled vegetables, coled slaw (I know that’s not a verb but I’m on a roll), baked rolls (speaking of rolls), and sliced watermelon.

Chicken on the grill
Chicken on the grill
Grilled vegetables
Grilled vegetables
Corn on the cob
Corn on the cob

I went to work on the tables and tried to make peace with the polyester cloths and napkins I ordered in a panic two days before. Don’t anybody strike a match near these things, but they looked all right. In a pinch.

4th of July at Rancho La Zaca
Stars and stripes set a patriotic if polyester table
4th of July at Rancho La Zaca - the buffet
Come and get it

When the sun went down we got into some serious hula-hooping. It may not be a stretch for you to surmise that His Grace looks better on a horse than in a hula hoop. Out of respect I will leave that to your imagination. Notice I am leaving myself in a hula hoop to your imagination as well.

Peter hula hooping
This is our friend Peter Rabbit and his sister Maddie. Peter is about two feet taller now. Maddie is already tall.

The main event, fireworks across the pond. The neighbors and ranch workers all come and bring their chillens, and it’s great.

Fireworks at RLZ
Brie watching fireworks
This is our friend Brie, who is married to (other) real cowboy Wyatt. I love this picture and how happy she looks. And behind her is Penny, Chef Stephanie's mama. She looks happy too. On the other side is Stephanie's brother Don.
Fireworks at RLZ
Oh say can you see!

What a great country we live in. Blessings and a safe, happy 4th to you all…. Now let me go see about gettin’ ready for those boys. There will probably be no food left in the state of California by the time they leave.

The professional-looking pictures of the food, table, and ย the last one of the fireworks are indeed professional, by John Fitzpatrick, who also happens to be Stephanie’s husband. The others are by me.


  1. Happy Independence Day to you, Frances and His Grace, too! How fun to celebrate the holiday in the wild West…have a great time with your cute nephew and his friends. They are in for a treat! xxx

  2. Beautiful picture of the American Dream! I only wish I was related somehow…(-: To Freedom!!

  3. I’m the auntie in my family, bringing all my nieces and nephews to NY for their first Broadway theater, first subway, first visit to Sardi’s…well, suffice it to say, their first of all New York offers! What fun I had introducing them to my world. They’re now grown, but have never forgotten their times in NY with Auntie J & Uncle Steve, which gives me much happiness!

  4. I hope ya’ll have a wonderful fourth. What a treat to have the boys, and obviously a precious attestation to what a great auntie and person you are! Makin’ family memories…no better.

  5. Once again, I am laughing out loud reading your blog. Beautiful photos! Lovely (if polyester) and patriotic table, food looks delish and those fireworks, oh my! How lucky are your nieces and nephews to have you as their magical auntie. I can relate to the pulled muscle. Earlier this year I pulled a muscle, in my cheek (face), at a Friday happy hour (with my office crew) while drinking mojitos and snarfing on a really, really delish creme brulee. Someone walked by wearing very strong perfume, I sneezed, felt a twinge and slight pull, thought nothing of it. By Monday morning I had a seriously swollen and really painful cheek, so it was off to my doctor. He tried, he really, really did, to keep a straight face as I explained to him (while sounding like Elmer Fudd) what had happened. Diagnosis, pulled muscle in cheek. What are the chances? I now sip my mojitos very, very carefully. Ha!

    Wishing you and yours a Glorious, Happy 4th, long may the Stars and Stripes wave! We are, indeed, extraordinarily blessed to live here.

    1. Dear EB, I can honestly say I have never heard of a pulled cheek muscle. I had not thought that possible. So glad you have recovered. Be careful! Auntie

  6. I just love the way you write, Frances. I know y’all will have a beyond wonderful time this week with the boys, and I cannot wait to see the report on the merriment. xoxo Happy

    p.s. Yes, Auntie Mame sounds about right…. lucky kids!

  7. Happy 4th Frances! Followed your recent travels and it looks like a great time was had by all. Sorry I missed you on the East Coast. Please let me know when you’re back in these parts again so we can set up a visit!

  8. Wow. I am so glad that I found your blog. I loved Bee Cottage and to see more of your work. I especially love your comments.

    1. Judy, how nice of you to write. Thank you so much and welcome to the blog! Please keep in touch. All good wishes, Frances

  9. Happy 4th as well,albeit one the 5th. So enjoyed reading this – as wiith all your of your posts – love the photos and love your voice – makes reading you such fun!
    Can’t wait to come out in Oct!

    1. Thank you, Hollye! So good to be back – if just for a “minute.” See you in August I hope! xox F

  10. Looks like the Cowboy from Iowa ain’t changed much from his days in Chicago. Happy for you both. Dan

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