Tag Archives: Fourth of July

rockets’ red glare (36/99)

Labor Day Weekend - Blue Rocks Game

It’s been a very low key Fourth of July here, despite the fucking fireworks rocking our neighborhood around the clock. I heard some at 12:10 a.m. the other night and as if on cue, just as I typed these words we quite literally were startled out of our seats by someone setting off what sounded like a grenade. No big deal that it’s currently raining; that won’t stop the jagoffs. If history is any indicator, this will continue for at least another couple of days.  I’m as patriotic as the next gal, but I’ll admit this isn’t my favorite holiday.

When the hell did this shit start of needing to have one’s personal fireworks extravaganza in your own backyard?  As a friend and I were saying on Friday night, this nonsense didn’t happen when we were growing up. People didn’t set off fireworks every night for an entire week preceding the Fourth of July and then for another week afterwards.  Independence Day was about having the family over for a barbeque, giving the kids some sparklers, and piling in the car to go watch a fireworks display put on by the local fire department — people who knew what the fuck they were actually doing around explosives.

I sound like a curmudgeon, I know. Truth be told, it’s been a tough weekend. Our lives changed dramatically a year ago on July 2 — and that ending was the beginning of a very difficult year. We don’t feel much like celebrating anything this year and it’s hard to foresee a time when this holiday won’t be tainted with sad reminders, regrets, and what-ifs. I’m trying to remain hopeful that things will improve (hopefully sooner rather than later) which will help mitigate the lasting effects of the past 368 days.

I wanted to do something to get our minds off of things, but we’re not outdoorsy or athletic or into big crowds or crazy about noisy things like parades or fireworks. Plus, money.

Ironically, that’s a picture from a fireworks display we were actually at, although not on the Fourth of July.  It’s from almost six years ago now, a Labor Day Fireworks Night at the Wilmington Blue Rocks game in Delaware.

A lifetime ago.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #36 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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Some bursts of red and white (in the form of lillies) and blue (as in blueberries), as seen in our garden yesterday evening.

Red lilly 2

 

Red lilly

 

White lilly 3 White lilly 2 White lillies White lilly White lillies 2

 

Blueberries Blueberries 4 Blueberries 3 Blueberries 2

 

… and, for good measure, some green in the form of transparent apples (I just learned that this is what these are) that may make their way into a pie.

Apples Apples and shed Apples 2

 

Happy Fourth of July to all who are celebrating!

 

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Book Review: My Beef with Meat, by Rip Esselstyn

My Beef with Meat
My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet – Plus 140 New Engine 2 Recipes, by Rip Esselstyn
Grand Central Publishing
2013
279 pages

Just in time for your Fourth of July barbeque comes my review of Rip Esselstyn’s new book, My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet. 

I know. Aren’t I just a kick in the pants? You’re probably thinking something along the lines of who the hell invited this killjoy (that would be me) to dinner? After all, it’s the Fourth of July; it’s practically un-American not to fire up some burgers, hot dogs, and chicken on the grill, right?

Well, as Americans, that’s sort of our problem.

Eating animal products (including dairy) is, according to Esselstyn, one of the causes of the dramatic increase in diseases and conditions such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, and others. We’ve gotten so used to thinking of these illnesses as an inevitable part of our lives and of the aging process that it becomes difficult to consider that there might be a different path. And indeed, there is.

In My Beef with Meat, Esselstyn, a former firefighter in Austin, TX, takes aim at all the myths and questions surrounding eating a plant-strong diet. For example, the issue of protein – and where in the world one can possibly get protein if one doesn’t eat meat. Although I knew that certain vegetables contained protein, I didn’t realize how plentiful it was in some fruits. In his book, Esselstyn breaks it down for his reader with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Database. A cup of strawberries, for instance, has 8.3% of protein. One orange? 7.4%.  There’s a whopping 9.3% in one peach. And again, that’s just fruits!

As a vegetarian myself for 17 years – and someone who tries to eat as plant-strong as possible  –  the protein issue is the number one question I get from people about my way of eating. Now, thanks to Rip Esselstyn, I have some good responses.

Esselstyn explains that the World Health Organization recommends that protein make up only about 10% of total calories in the human diet. (Others suggest up to 20% of our calories should come from protein sources.)

Given the fact that the average American consumes 200 pounds of meat each year, it’s probably a safe bet to say that most of us are consuming way more than the recommended 10-20% of protein.

Yeah. Read that again. That’s not a typo.

The average American eats 200 pounds of meat a year.

Think about that as you fire up your grill this week.

Another myth that Esselstyn shatters is that it’s expensive to eat a diet of primarily fruits vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. When compared to the cost of doctors’ visits, prescriptions, and lost time from work, a plant-based diet seems downright cheap. Beans, oats, bananas, potatoes, and brown rice are all very affordable.

Speaking of costs, Esselstyn gets into that with the sustainability issue as it affects the planet. It takes seven pounds of grain and 2,400 gallons of water to produce just one pound of “factory-farmed beef.” That’s a lot of water to make those 200 pounds of meat that a person eats each year.

And don’t get me started on the chemicals and contaminants. Esselstyn states that the FDA estimates that meat contains 500 and 600 different kinds of unnatural chemicals – but that our government only tests for 60 of them. Sixty! And again, we wonder why we’re seeing increased numbers of people with cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Do I sound like I’m lecturing or as if I’m a vegetarian proselytizer? Then that’s just me. Really. Because in My Beef with Meat, Esselstyn doesn’t come across that way at all. With a very approachable, simple, and down-to-earth manner, Rip gives his reader a big bowl of statistics flavored with some humor. (Chapters have titles like “Oil is the New Snake Oil,” “Barbeque + Meat = Danger,” and even “Poops from Heaven.”)  He doesn’t make you feel guilty; he doesn’t give you a hard sell.

What Rip Esselstyn does do is present a reasonable, common-sense approach to eating more plant-based foods – along with 140 recipes to help you get started (or, if you’re pretty much a convert to the plant-strong way of eating like me, to inspire you with new ideas). All of the recipes in the book are plant-strong (meaning, no animal products or by-products), contain no added oils, use little or no salt, use minimally-processed sweeteners such as maple syrup or dates, and are very easy to make.

I confess I didn’t have a chance to try and review any of the recipes in My Beef with Meat before writing up this review. I do, however, make a very close version of the Tomato Sandwich. Nonetheless, I’m hoping to get to these new Engine 2 recipes soon:

  • Anne’s Pumpkin Muffins
  • Cranberry-Polenta French Toast
  • No-Moo-Here Mashed Potatoes
  • Fire Brigade Stuffing
  • Mad Greek Gyro
  • Bad 2 the Bone Chili
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quesadillas
  • Handstand Burgers
  • Spicy Spinach and Black Bean Burgers (a Happy Herbivore recipe!)
  • Crispy Polenta Strips
  • Fast and Fresh Marinara Sauce
  • Tortilla Soup with Crispy Sticks
  • and almost all of the dressings, hummus varieties, guacamoles, and spreads.

In the meantime, I have some Fourth of July grillin’ to do. Pass the corn on the cob, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, portabella mushrooms, and pineapple!

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for providing me an advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

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The Sunday Salon: Post 4th of July Edition

As I type this, a mere three days after the Fourth, there are bombs bursting in our neighborhood’s air in the form of fireworks being set off nearby.

I repeat: July 4 was three days ago.

My guess is that it is the same individual that has been celebrating the nation’s birthday for the last fortnight. (Also known as the past two weeks, for those who don’t have a historian husband handy to ask such questions of.)

Yes, this is Pittsburgh, and if there’s anything I have learned in our year of living here, it is that we ‘Burghers have a THING for fireworks. As in, we love ’em and cannot get enough of them. Apparently, it is not unheard of for several towns to continue their fireworks extravaganzas well into a week past the Fourth and then some.

All this is a preamble to say that the rockets’ red glare of this week inspired me to finally pick up Gail Collins’s 2003 book America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines. This one has been on my want-to-read list (and my personal shelves) for awhile now, and what better time to start than the 4th of July?

Good intentions, they were. However, on the actual 4th, I was still deeply immersed in Lauren Groff’s latest novel, Arcadia (WHICH I LOVED) and despite a lazy day of us not doing much of anything, I didn’t start America’s Women until Friday. It doesn’t seem to matter, though, because with these nightly fireworks going on, it’s a fitting backdrop indeed.

I’m only about 20 pages into this right now and am already finding it fascinating reading. Who knew there were so many extraordinary colonial women – and I’m not talking the everyday names we all know. Collins brings to life the unsung heroines on these pages, even if the details of their lives and accomplishments are scant.

In other news, my in-laws are visiting us for several days. You wouldn’t think this would afford one much reading time, but yesterday it did as they took the kids to breakfast and then to see “Brave.” (They all liked it.) That gave me a chance to read No Such Thing as the Real World: Stories About Growing Up and Getting a Life, which consists of six short stories by notable young adult authors An Na, M.T. Anderson, K.L. Going, Beth Kephart, Chris Lynch, and Jacqueline Woodson. I admit, I picked this up at the library anticipating the Beth Kephart story (“The Longest Distance”) which was wonderful and reminiscent of Nothing But Ghosts in a way, and found myself really enjoying Chris Lynch’s “Arrangements” and An Na’s “Complications.” The others were good, too, but those three were exceptional.

Our planned itinerary today with the in-laws and kids takes us to a patriotic place of heroes and heroines, a place where our real world stopped turning on a September day. If the weather holds out, we’re taking a little road trip to the Flight 93 National Memorial. I had the opportunity to visit for the first time last fall (it is truly a moving experience, if you ever have the chance to go) but this will be the first for The Husband, his parents, and the kids.

The fireworks might have a different sound to them tonight. Let freedom ring, indeed.

At the Flight 93 National Memorial
Taken by me October 26, 2011

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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A Poetic 4th

Whitemarsh Memorial Park, Horsham, PA

The Better Way

Who serves his country best?
Not he who, for a brief and stormy space,
Leads fourth her armies to the fierce affray.
Short is the time of turmoil and
unrest,
Long years of peace succeed it and replace:
There is a better way.
Who serves his country best?
Not he who guides her senates in
debate;
And makes the laws which are her prop and stay;
Not he who wears the poet’s purple vest
And sings her songs of love and grief and fate:
There is a better way.
He serves his country best,
Who joins the tide that lifts her nobly on;
For speech has myriad tongues for every day,
And song but one; and law within the breast
Is stronger than the graven law on stone;
This is a better way.
He serves his country best
Who lives pure life, and doeth
righteous deed,
And walks straight paths, however others stray,
And leaves his sons as uttermost
bequest
A stainless record which all men may read:
This is the better way.
No drop but serves the slowly lifting tide,
No dew but has an errand to some flower,
No smallest star but sheds some
helpful ray,
And man by man, each giving to all the rest,
Makes the firm bulwark of the
country’s power:
There is no better way.
— Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, 1835-1905 (pen name Susan Coolidge)

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

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Weekend Cooking: 4th of July Blast Smoothie

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


We are, as I’ve mentioned in previous Weekend Cooking posts, well into berry season here at our house. In addition to the blueberries that are proliferating outside our door, we’ve been purchasing the likes of strawberries and blackberries at the grocery store. When I mentioned to Betty that we needed to use them up and perhaps we could have a Smoothie Night, she eagerly agreed.

We found this one on allrecipes.com, and a very timely one too for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday here in the States on Wednesday.

4th of July Blast Smoothie

1 cup fresh blackberries, or more to taste  (you could substitute blueberries for these; we didn’t, as I had some blackberries to use up)
5 large strawberries, hulled and halved
1 large banana
1/3 cup orange juice
2 cups crushed ice
1 teaspoon white sugar, or to taste
(optional) (I didn’t use this either; it wasn’t needed).
12 fresh blackberries

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place 1 cup blackberries, strawberries, banana, orange juice, and ice into a blender in that order, and blend on high speed until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Pour into 4 glasses and top each serving with 3 blackberries for garnish. (We didn’t do that step.)

Our thoughts: I had an apricot that needed to be used up, so I threw that into the mix too. We added a dollop of frozen vanilla yogurt, which made this more creamier and less tart for those who preferred their smoothies as more of a milkshake consistency.

Also, if you’re using 8 oz. glasses as I did above, you’ll only get two servings out of this. Smaller glasses will, obviously, result in more. (Like my math skillz there?) Regardless, this is a beautiful purple color and a delicious treat that is perfect for the 4th of July or anytime during the summer months.

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Freedom from the Fear, Independence from the What-Ifs

Fireworks Night at a local baseball game.
Photo taken by me, September 2010.
We made some decisions this Independence Day weekend. 
Things have to change.  And, by the end of this month, they will.
As regular readers know, we’ve been living in limbo since February.  Actually, it’s been longer than that because the uncertainty about The Husband’s previous job started way, way before this year.  When this new opportunity came along in January, we grabbed it for all the potential it offered.  And so far, so good. 
Sometimes you really can start over. 
But it came with a price. During the weeks, our family has been separated by 300 miles.  For four months, The Husband has driven home on the weekends and then back again.  Those nearly 10,000 miles have taken its toll, in many ways.  This is nothing, I know, compared to families enduring much greater separations and for much longer. 
Like tens of thousands of other people, our house isn’t selling.  We’ve had two showings in the almost two months we’ve been on the market; we just dropped the price by yet another $10,000 this weekend.  We’re taking a huge, six-digit financial hit on this house, on top of the financial hit of my being fired when I told my boss we were planning to relocate at some point. 
Yet we are much better off than many, many other people out there. We know this.  Yet, that doesn’t stop the fear of the unknown, the what-if questions that keep us up separately, apart, in the night.  They are the same questions that people have asked in far more challenging times.
The kids are absorbing the impact of their father not being here, and of the impact that my job loss has had. They notice what isn’t any longer (summer camp, mainly). Boo’s social skills are suffering. They talk in terms that are too grown up for them. They act out. They internalize and worry more than they think I know.
Yet they are resilient like hell.
Instead of searching for answers that aren’t easily forthcoming, perhaps we need to take our cues from them.

Regardless of our individual, personal circumstances, we all have the fear. We are all sometimes paralyzed by the what-ifs.

We can declare our independence from all that.   
And so, at the end of the month, we’re stopping this treadmill of insanity. We’re embracing what we still have (our family, our health, etc.) and walking away from the fear, the what-ifs, the woulda-coulda-shoulda mantra that has been the soundtrack of our lives for way too long. (We’re still paying the mortgage, lest our creditors are reading this, but for all intents and purposes, we’re done.)
Life’s too tough and too short for this shit. It’s time for a new start, to start living again.  In 25 days, we get that choice and that opportunity in a new place. Like so many have done before, and like so many will continue to do.
Yes, there are problems and obstacles and challenges. 
But there are still opportunities for the taking. 
There are still choices to make. 
There are still dreams to be dreamed. 
Home
Don’t it seem so far away
Oh, we’re traveling light today
In the eye of the storm
In the eye of the storm

Home
To a new and a shiny place
Make our bed and we’ll say our grace
Freedom’s light burning warm
Freedom’s light burning warm …
“America” ~ Neil Diamond

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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