Saturday, July 6, 2013

I'm Proud to be an American

Life is Good: this weekend, we're having fourth of July fun!

When my mom was pregnant with me, my due date was the fourth of July. And I was a week late. Sometimes I think the reason why I am always multi-tasking and busy busy busy is because I've been trying to make up for that week ever since! Either way, being a July baby, I am very patriotic and love celebrating Independence Day. I love being an American. I am grateful I was born in a country where I can worship my chosen God and religion in any church that I choose or anywhere else, that I can voice my thoughts and opinions without fear of persecution or imprisonment, and that I can go wherever I want, wear whatever I want, get the education I want, have the job that I want*, and so much more. It is also my hope that one day all people in the world will have those same freedoms and opportunities.

We had a very eventful fourth of July! We started out by attending a local Fourth of July parade with some good friends. We made "collage-style" flags the day before and decorated our wagon (and ourselves) for the walk over to the parade line.

The parade was full of fun and funny floats and entrants.

I was especially moved by the cars and jeeps that drove some veterans through the parade.

There were also some vets who walked the parade length.

I was brought to tears as I watched a man who had to be in his late 70s or early 80s in full sailor's whites walk the parade route. I wish I had a picture, but I was too busy clapping the hardest clap I have ever...that's right, clapped.

My respect for veterans is not a reflection of my opinion of past or current US politics or past wars or the concept of war in general. Instead, it is about people. People who heard a call, either from their heart or from a letter, and reported for duty to their country. People like my Grandma's brother, Bob. They left their jobs and families, put dreams on hold, and did what they were told in the name of "freedom". Sometimes it was about protecting US freedoms and sometimes it was in an effort to either keep others' freedoms in tact or to establish freedoms for people who didn't have it. Again, this is not a commentary about politics, but about people who were generous with everything they had---their lives. Which meant their safety and their aspirations and everything in between. From my heart, I give my deepest gratitude to all veterans past and present.

We are fortunate to have good friends who feel like family here in Minneapolis. After the parade, we went over to their house for a barbeque complete with sprinkler, kiddy pool, and...wait for it...yes, a bouncy house. The kiddos were in heaven!
Our friends asked everyone to bring a covered dish, so I made red-white-and-blue fruit skewers that I found here. I just made mine red, white, and blue, though and skipped the flag design. I also made a simple veggie-legume salad since we were going to the parade. It's simple and fresh tasting.

Susie's Simple Summer Salad
2 1/2 cups black beans, soaked and cooked (or you could use one can of black beans)
2 1/2 cups corn cut off of the cob (or you could use one can of corn)
3 medium-sized tomatoes (red and ripe, I used "on the vine" tomatoes)
1 green tomato (or yellow, just to switch up the color and the flavor)
1/2 cup minced fresh basil (you can always add more than that or you could use dried)
2 avocados, cut into chunks (make sure it isn't too ripe because it will get mushy easily in the salad)
1 heaping tablespoon Vinaigrette (I used Brianna's Real French Vinaigrette)

Mix all ingredients together gently except for the avocados. Add avocados right before serving.  Be aware that the longer this sits, the more juice the tomatoes will lose to the bottom of your serving bowl.

I usually serve this as is, but you can also serve it with tortilla chips. 

We came home from the parade and party a little bit pooped. Our plan was to let the kids nap a bit and then bike over to the lake we live by and listen to a Caribbean band playing at the bandshell. We figured we could see the fireworks without dealing with the noise. Our kiddos have sensitive ears and aren't big fans of loud cracks and pops. I made a yummy dessert to take along:
This, too, is super simple. Top half of a biscuit (homemade or store-bought) with creme fraiche (I have also used marscapone cheese and it was delish!). Add berries (I used blueberries and strawberries to keep with the Independence Day R-W-B theme) and finish it off with my super simple, yummy, grown-up tasting berry sauce.

Susie's Simple Berry Sauce
1/2 cup strawberry preserves (any brand, any flavor that matches the berries, I prefer no sugar added)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (my fave brand is Fini--it has hints of dark cherry. my mouth is watering just thinking about it!)
Heat both ingredients in a saucepan until blended. Be careful not to scorch. You could substitute the vinegar with red wine if you need to.

When I have time, I make a simple syrup out of berries (or other fruit) instead of using the preserves.

The last time I made this dessert, I used mini tarts that I had made out of (homemade) eggless sugar cookie dough and topped them with mascarpone cheese plus the berries and sauce. It made it a little less casual looking and a little more grown up tasting, but both versions are delightful and EASY!

While the city started celebrating with fireworks, we had some fireworks of our own at our house. The big kid told me that he was "seeing sparks" like a "sprinkler of lights". After some Q & A, Grant started bedtime proceedings with the little one and the big kid and I headed to the Children's Hospital Emergency Room. They were really busy and while we sat in a room waiting to see a doctor, I prayed that the "sparks" were caused by dehydration (?) and not an ocular migraine, detached retina, brain or eye tumor or something equally awful that I hadn't thought of yet. To keep myself as calm on the inside as I tried to appear on the outside, I also prayed for all of the kids and families in the other rooms. It helped.

I cannot say enough about the doctors at Children's here in Minneapolis. They are unbelievably good at their jobs. That is an understatement. They saved our big kid's life when he was two due to their experience and proactive style. And they have nipped his croup in the bud many times because of their knowledge and expertise. This visit was no different. After extensive tests and monitoring, around midnight, the doc on call told us he thought it was safe for us to leave, but we would need to see a pediatric opthamalogist in the morning.

So instead of soaking up the sun on our friends' boat like we had planned (ahhhh), Friday morning, we visited the pediatric opthamologist instead. After a couple of hours of tests, the doctor said he was a bit dumbfounded. His guess is that the big kid had an ocular migraine due to either dehydration, low blood sugar, a bonk on the head in the bouncy house or a combination of all of them and it is his suspicion that this is a one-time only occurrence. Eye looks healthy, retina is attached, most likely a one-time thing...hip hip hooray!

After numerous sighs of reliefs and prayers of gratitude, we've decided to keep the rest of our weekend a bit more low key. Sidewalk chalk, bike rides, lego constructing, dance parties. Oh, and I painted my dining room during nap/quiet time. You make up for that week extra I took in the womb. But no more sparks or fireworks for another year, please. And only the kind that shoot up into the air by qualified professionals, I beg!

*kind of. I am still waiting to be offered my own talk show...

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