Memories of July 4th

When I was a kid, my family would go to the local park on July 4th for chicken shish-kabobs, funnel cakes, sno-cones and games. We’d end up at the church nearby to watch the fireworks. My brother and I would roll down the hill, staining our clothes green and arguing over who was faster.  To this day, July 4th feels weird if I don’t get a chicken kabob.

More recently, my husband and I gather with friends or family to grill, maybe play some cornhole or other yard games, and try to catch some fireworks. Last year, we were on the roof of our building in Arlington, struggling to see the national fireworks across the river through the oppressive cloud cover.

One of my favorite Independence Days in recent years came a few years ago. We met up with a friend in Arlington, where we porch-sat and day-drank American beers before heading across the street to a little park for some wiffle-ball. There was only three of us, so it was mostly one person hitting, one pitching, and one fielding. It still felt very patriotic and youthful. As the day moved toward evening, more people showed up. I’m sure we grilled, and I know we took a walk to get ice cream. The grand finale was watching the fireworks at the Iwo Jima Memorial. It felt beautifully “American”, snuggled on our blanket or crowding along the curb, shoulder to shoulder with strangers of all colors and backgrounds, sitting near one of the most iconic memorials, watching the firework reminders of “bombs bursting in air” that brought us our great nation.

We were sunburnt and sweaty and together, a thousand different stories sharing a single experience for a snapshot in time, celebrating freedom and independence and joy.

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This Election Day, Let’s All Eat Our Feelings

I was going to email this recipe to my mom, because that’s what I do when I’m eating lunch and really patting myself on the back mentally. Then I remembered I have a blog I can brag through, so you’re welcome, world. Also, it’s Election Day, and almost everyone I know wants to puke for one reason or another, regardless of political affiliations. Why not stuff our faces with gooey, sweet, buttery dessert instead?

Sorry there are no pictures to go along with this recipe. Like I said, I was just going to email it to my mom and I rarely need to send photographic evidence of my culinary prowess.

If you ever feel like eating apple pie but also don’t feel like actually making apple pie you can try this apple crisp recipe I did spontaneously last night. Though now that I think about it, it’s probably barely less effort than apple pie. It just seemed like nothing because I already had the knives and cutting boards out and the oven already heating because I was cooking spaghetti squash and roasting tomatoes (which by the way turned out ah-mazing). Anyway, so I was going to make cookies because I was in a dessert kind of mood but I also didn’t want to do the cleanup and the waiting that can go into my shortbread cookies and also I’d just bought several apples at the farmer’s market and it’s fall so it’s like apple pie season, right?

But I didn’t have any pie crust and I was not trying to make that from scratch after all the hard work I’d already done cutting a spaghetti squash in half (guys, it’s really hard, okay?). So I basically was like “excuse me, Google, can you tell me what delicious desserts I can make with apples that don’t involve pie crusts?” and Google was like “duh, I know everything.” (I could have asked Siri but I’m not really talking to him right now [yes, him. I changed the voice option to male and British and I used to have him read me my texts but then my husband got jealous and sent me rude texts that Siri then read, and it’s really uncool to have your own phone call you smelly in a sexy British accent]. Google, on the other hand, is always so helpful. Probably because I don’t have the thing where Google talks to you, and I just Google things the old fashioned way by typing them into Google. Okay, at this point I should probably get some sort of endorsement deal for the number of times I’ve mentioned Google, right?)

Moving on, I found a recipe for apple crisp that had been adapted from a peach crisp recipe, and I think it was on allrecipes.com but I don’t know for sure so I’m really really sorry to whomever is not receiving the proper credit for this recipe but I just don’t feel like getting back on the Google right now, especially since I’m not even getting paid to talk about Google.

It goes like this:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup white sugar (I think I’ll try trimming this down to like 3/4 cup next time…but it hasn’t been tested yet so proceed at your own risk)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups apples, peeled and sliced (I used 2 big Granny Smith apples and a decent-sized…Honeycrisp, maybe? I don’t remember I just started grabbing up apples without reading the labels — other than the Granny Smith which we all already know are poison-apple-green)
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 8×8 pan
  2. Layer in your apple slices. Eat a few because they don’t quite fit or because you feel like it (or because they fell on the stove top and your husband won’t eat the dessert if they’re included because he doesn’t trust that heat kills germs and besides, the stove top is actually pretty clean right now anyway, Charlie).
  3. In a large bowl, sift (or whisk) dry ingredients.
  4. Cut in butter. Okay, so I just remembered this was actually weird and difficult because I’ve never “cut in” butter before — I mean what even does that mean? I used my awesome brain power and context clues (the recipe said I could use two knives to do this) to kind of wing it. I just plopped my butter into the dry mixture and started slicing and dicing and sort-of-stirring until it was a crumbly sort of mixture.
  5. Sprinkle (or use my method: dump & spread) over the slices in the pan.
  6. Bake 40 minutes (until the crust is golden around the edges)
  7. Let it sit for a hot second and taste-test a small piece because apples get really dang hot and if you take too large a bite you will scald your entire mouth and throat and complain all night, Charlie.

Oh, and for my fellow Americans, don’t skip out on voting today! It’s super important, because what even is a democracy if the people don’t get a say, however tiny you might feel yours is? If nothing else, give yourself license to complain for the next four years by making a choice today. And then reward yourself with this dish.

Also bonus recipe because that spaghetti squash is still making me irrationally smug:

https://ramblingsofawildcard.wordpress.com/2016/11/08/dinner-so-easy-my-husband-could-do-it/

 Enough Already.

When is enough enough? A man opens fire in a theater. An office party is interrupted by gunfire. A woman is murdered on air. A praying congregation is massacred. A classroom of children, slain.

A packed nightclub is riddled with bodies.

The world mourns. The world gets angry. Some call for a complete ban of weapons. Others insist arming the innocent would keep them alive.

The issue isn’t black and white. Why are we still making it so? How is there no possible way to find a compromise between all or nothing?

I grew up on a five acre farm in Virginia. I’ve fired rifles and handguns. I’m not afraid of them. My life has also been touched by gun violence. A friend of my parents–a police officer–was gunned down as she left work by a kid with two AK-47s and a grudge against the police.

She was armed; she may have fired back. A handgun is still little defense against an assault rifle. I don’t remember the details of the incident; I remember the after. I remember the phone ringing, and the sound of my mother falling to the kitchen floor, the noise ripping from her so hysterical for a moment I thought she was laughing. I remember my father repeating “no” into the phone, as if he could change the news.

I do believe in the right to keep and bear arms. I don’t think all the guns in this country should be banned. I do wonder how the hell the ban on assault rifles expired and no one has reinstated it. There’s owning guns, and then there’s arming oneself for battle.

As an American, I should have the right to not need to arm myself to feel safe. I believe my rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should not be contingent on a concealed-carry permit. My safety shouldn’t have to reside in a handful of steel tucked in my purse or a bedside drawer. I don’t want to attend a class where my teacher or the students beside me have guns strapped to their waists. I want to walk into a classroom or a movie theater or a night club and not have to worry if these are the last breaths I’ll take.

I know safety isn’t guaranteed, no matter the precautions taken. I know at any moment, due to any number of reasons, the next breath I take is not promised. I’m not asking to be put in a bubble.

I am asking: what are we doing to make things a little bit safer? Because each time it happens, the “liberals” call for gun control and the “conservatives” frantically point to the Constitution.

A large group of prominent voices in this country is too quick to blame anything but the weapon. Of course, the basis of their argument is sound. The gun doesn’t aim itself or pull its own trigger. Blaming the weapon is like blaming a car for an accident or a pencil for poor spelling. I’m sure we’ve all seen the bumper stickers and t-shirts and whatever else making these sorts of comparisons.

But the argument shouldn’t end there. It shouldn’t be so simple as throwing up one’s hands and saying “it’s not the gun’s fault so you can’t take it away.”

So who is to blame? The answers to that question are cut and dry, both vague and appropriately specific enough to distract from the fact they’re just fluff: Criminals. Mentally Unstable. Radical Islamists. Domestic Terrorists.

I think we can do better than that, and we should be asking deeper questions. How do criminals get guns? Fine, you say they’re criminals and therefore obtain the guns illegally. What about the mentally unstable? Or those self-radicalizing terrorists who’ve yet to commit a crime? It is dangerously naive to insist that increasing background check requirements for gun ownership will only hurt the law-abiding citizens.

The San Bernadino shooters were law-abiding citizens, before they attacked their co-workers. The Uber driver in Michigan was a law-abiding citizen, until he went on a rampage. The Virginia Tech student didn’t have any priors, but he massacred a campus.

Maybe a more stringent background check would have picked up the ties to ISIS, the anger issues or the mental instability. Maybe, if in order to purchase a gun we had to complete an assessment on our home life, on the family members who may obtain access to our weapons, families in Newtown, Connecticut would be whole. Maybe denying guns to those on the No Fly list might have meant those hundred people would have returned home from a night of dancing, instead of ending up in a hospital in Orlando or worse.

As a law-abiding citizen, I would feel far safer if it took me weeks of assessments and checks before I was approved for a gun purchase.

Sure, criminals will still get their guns illegally. But rather than bemoaning that fact and wringing our hands, or insisting the rest of us should build up our own arsenal, doesn’t it make sense to look at the system and acknowledge it is broken? Wouldn’t it be a better use of our time and energy working to increase mental health rather than clinging to our guns without offering any solution? Wouldn’t it be something at least, just to tighten up the requirements already in place, take the worst of the weapons out of  private citizens’ hands, and make it that much harder for a currently law-abiding, as yet undiagnosed-mentally-unstable, bitter citizen to wrap their fingers around the very weapons we’ve been told will keep us safe?