Memorial Day: Much More Than a Reason to Cookout

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you’ve been counting down the days until the long Memorial Day weekend. Now that it’s here, you probably have some great plans for this three-day weekend: a cookout with family and friends, a trip to the lake or the beach, or perhaps just a little extra rest and relaxation. But before we slather on the sunscreen or fire up the grill, let’s take a few minutes to learn more about Memorial Day, a day of remembering those who paid the ultimate price in the service of our country.

Vintage Memorial DayThe holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It is thought the date was chosen because by that time of the year flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

In 1873 New York became the first state to officially recognize the holiday. While approximately 25 cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson bestowed that honor to Waterloo, New York because they had been conducting an annual community service regularly since May 5, 1866.

Memorial Day continued to be Civil War-focused until WWI when observances expanded to honor all those who had died in America’s wars. It is different from Veteran’s Day, which honors all veterans living or dead.

In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May, thus beginning the tradition of federal three-day holiday weekends.

Memorial Day etiquette is to fly the flag at half-staff until noon, then fully raise it until sunset.

To ensure Americans do not lose sight of the sacrifices soldiers have made, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” was signed into law in December 2000. On Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time, Americans are encouraged to pause wherever they are for a minute of silence to remember those who have died in service to the nation.

Many people wear red poppies on Memorial Day to honor the dead. This tradition originates from the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

Some of the biggest Memorial Day parades are in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

How are you celebrating Memorial Day? What are you doing to remember those who have lost their lives defending our country?

Dreams

By: Shannon Shull

You sleep… you dream… and for those of us who actually remember our dreams, we are keenly aware that dreaming can be mysterious and mind blowing at times. Our dreams can take us to some pretty wild places, in some really crazy situations, and with some very random people. There are all sorts of dream decoding tools out there, but who’s to say what our dreams really mean? We can only guess at the meaning of our dreams. Sometimes it is clear why we experience certain dreams, while other times it is truly baffling where our dreams come from.

To sleep perchance to dreamWhy this topic? Well, I am a VERY vivid dreamer. I have been all my life. Through childhood and up into my college years, I was a sleep walker and sleep talker. My dear family and bestest buds have all sorts of tales they could tell about me! In my adult years, I’ve even discovered that I’m a sleep-emailer, too! Yes, one night a couple of months ago, I actually emailed myself in my sleep – I don’t remember a thing! Apparently, I picked up my iPhone and sent myself an email, which was short and perfectly typed, yet I had no clue what in the world I was talking about!

When I was pregnant with my two babes, WOW, talk about crazy dreams. When you’re already an incredibly crazy dreamer and you add pregnancy hormones to the equation, watch out! Early on during both of my pregnancies, before the ultrasound that told us what we were having, I had dreams about the sex of my child. Each dream was as clear as could be, and after I woke up I knew in my heart what I was having. Each time I was right on – truly amazing!

In my many years of dreaming, I’ve even developed a true connection to random people and even celebrities because of specific dreams I’ve had. For instance, I have a lovely and special bond with Brad Pitt and Garth Brooks. Yep, I do. Sure, they have NO clue about our unique connection, but it’s there! Though I’m from the South, I’ve never been a big country music fan and certainly didn’t know squat about country music singers back in my college years. But one night I had a totally random, weird dream about Garth Brooks. I won’t go into all the juicy details of the dream, but I saved Garth’s life and he ended up professing his undying love to me. From that dream on, I have always loved Garth Brooks. He’s the only country music star I adore. Remember the Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines album? It’s one of my absolute favorites! Yes, I will forever be a fan of his, and rightly so since I’ve saved his life and he loves me so much! 😉

And I’m sure you’re wondering about my connection with Brad Pitt. Well, I helped save his life, too. Back in my early 20s, like with Garth, I was not a huge fan of the super hot and famous actor. Sure, I thought he was good looking, but I wasn’t gaga over him like most of my friends. I was typically drawn to less mainstream celebrities, like Stephen Dorff and Jared Leto.  But one night I had this amazing, intricate dream about Brad Pitt. He had turned into a total bum walking the streets. With filthy, long hair and a beard, he was totally unrecognizable. In the dream, I helped who I thought was a troubled man who needed a bath and a meal. I took him home and the dream proceeded to move along like a full-on fabulous movie. I never felt scared or threatened by this strange, dirty man and even in my dream I kept thinking, what am I doing? He could be dangerous! But as I cleaned him up, he slowly became recognizable. He was Brad Pitt! He never said a word until the end of my dream. He was this human being who just wanted to be accepted for himself rather than his fame. It was so odd but so refreshing to help someone, and it certainly didn’t hurt that he ended up being Mr. Pitt!

Apparently, I get the vivid dreamer thing from my grandfather, my Pop, who was also a very vivid dreamer. So much so, that the rest of the family encouraged him to start keeping a dream journal. Every morning when he woke, he would write about the crazy dreams he remembered. One year my Mom and aunts even created a book of his writings, “Pop’s Dreams.” We all have a copy of it.  I should really take note and start keeping a journal of my dreams. Some I know I will never forget because they are so special and mean so much to me. After the death of my Pop and my grandmother, Lolli, I dreamt about them all the time, and I still do from time to time. I like to believe it’s their way of saying hello and letting me know they’re ok. It is so lovely to get those hugs in a dream from loved ones passed! When I dream of those who have gone to heaven, it is such a blessing to spend time with them! I don’t mind that I don’t understand how dreams work, I’m just happy see loved ones!

Sometimes, those dreams have a real purpose. After my Lolli passed away 13 years ago, I had a dream that I like to think helped save my life, or at least drastically improve my health. In my dream, my Lolli and I were chatting on an airplane – it felt as real as could be – and she randomly looked at me and said, “I’ll bet you $5 to never smoke another cigarette.” I looked at her and said, “WHAT???” Then she went on to explain to me that if I promised to never smoke a cigarette again for the rest of my life, that she would give me five dollars when I get to heaven. Now, I was never a full-on smoker by any means, but I did go through phases when I was younger in which I would do it casually in a social setting. But, eventually, I could’ve become full-on smoker. I was a sick child that got bronchitis a whole lot, so the last thing I need to do is smoke, so I like to think that this dream was Lolli’s way of helping to protect me. And I’m very proud to say, I’ve not smoked a cigarette since that dream and I don’t plan on it, either! By golly, I’m gonna get my five bucks from my Lolli when I go to heaven! 😉

DreamsDreams are a wild wonder of life. Sometimes they’re frightening and tragic, other times they provide a lovely, welcome escape, or they’re a tell-tale sign of things going on in your life. I could write about dreams for days.  I’ve dreamt of ogres and hunchbacks, flying over the ocean, hanging out with childhood friends in one of my childhood homes, defeating a bad guy with Thor and the Hulk, having a pet monkey, and dancing on Broadway – and that was all just in this past week! No kidding! Yea, I really need to start a dream journal. I could seriously write a book.

Do you have any profound dreams that have touched your life in some way? One of those dreams you will absolutely never forget? Please do share! It is indeed a fascinating topic!

Brussels Sprout Pizza

By: Brady Evans

My mom used to call pizza the “King of Junkfood.” What she meant was pizza feels like junk food, it can actually be healthy, with bread and vegetables and cheese. I truly think your average pizza is decidedly not healthy, but that’s not a problem. Everyone needs some cheese and carbs every once in awhile.

This pizza might deserve the “King of Junkfood” title more than any other pizza around, though. I found some whole wheat pizza dough in my freezer (aka the black hole) and recognized that I had a pound of brussels sprouts ready to be used.

Most pizza recipes with brussels sprouts also contain bacon, obviously because the two are a winning combination. I ran across a vegetarian rendition of the pizza, and keeping with the healthy theme of the whole wheat dough, decided to try it out.

Are you scared of lemon on pizza? Don’t be. What a delicious surprise! The cooking mellows the flavor, but they retain their juicy bite and go perfectly with the cheese and veggies. Be sure to slice them thinly so they just sort of dissolve into your pizza.

Pizza

Who loved this pizza the most? The Omnivore. However, that doesn’t mean we won’t be fighting over the lone leftover piece. By the way, the recipe is a Martha Steward recipe, so of course the Omnivore couldn’t resist cracking jokes about learning amazing recipes in jail throughout our dinner.

You can read about my new favorite pizza cooking technique here. This page also includes a wonderful pizza dough recipe.

Brussels Sprout Pizza (adapted from Martha)

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 pound pizza dough
  • 3 ounces lightly salted fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 2/3 cup)
  • 3 cups shredded brussels sprouts (from about 1/2 pound)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 paper-thin lemon slices, cut into half-moons (from 1/2 lemon)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.
  2. Work dough into a round pie (if it retracts, let rest 5 minutes before continuing).
  3. Place dough round on a pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal.
  4. Brush a 1-inch border around edge with 1 teaspoon oil.
  5. Scatter mozzarella and half the Pecorino evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge.
  6. Out of the ovenToss brussels sprouts with remaining Pecorino, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Scatter sprout mixture over cheeses, and top with lemon.
  7. Turn over to broil (high if you have the option) and slide pizza onto prepared pizza stone. Cook 5-7 minutes until crust is browned, cheese is melted, and toppings are cooked.
  8. Transfer pizza to a cooling rack so that crust does not get soggy.

The WRITE Thing to Do

By: Roshanda Pratt

I’ve been told that I have good penmanship. I should, after spending hours in my elementary years crafting the spelling of a very long name – 16 letters to be exact! I am from the old school. No smart board, just chalkboards where teachers had to draw the lines. No Internet, just the Encyclopedia Britannica. And no iPads, just old-fashioned, khaki-colored paper to practice writing your name.  I come from the simpler times in education. Wow! I sound like my parents. I should probably tell you I owned Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album.  (For all my 90s babies, records are what came before CD’s.)

Cursive

In my generation, handwriting was important. It was mandatory. Recently, there is a lot of talk about eliminating cursive writing from the curriculum while still teaching children keyboard proficiency. In South Carolina, lawmakers are trying to ink a bill that would call for instruction in cursive writing. Surprisingly, people want to know why?

As a parent, I very much want my children to learn cursive handwriting. In the adult world we are told to print and sign our name. Your signature is your own, unique blueprint – your identification. Have you ever looked at how people sign their name? Some use big loopy letters, while others scribble or use chicken scratch. However you do it, it’s yours and no one can mimic it, no matter how much they may try. Printing your name is simple (although we could probably debate that by looking at how some people write) while cursive handwriting requires a skill, a discipline. It shows a certain sophistication and maturity. I believe that to eradicate this skill or tradition from our children is to deny our children that unique identification.

SignatureI remember the day my teacher commended me for finally connecting my letters in my cursive handwriting. You would have thought I just signed the Declaration of Independence. But in my young mind it felt like independence. I was finally leaving the kiddie world (at least in my mind of handwriting) and joining the ranks of the “professional” adults of the world.  I often think about that teacher when signing my name. Although I receive compliments on my handwriting, my former teacher’s “rules” for writing script (as we called it) still ring in my mind decades later.

Now, will cursive writing make your child a better person overall? No, that is not my argument. But I do, think it will make them more disciplined in their work, and will possibly even give them a greater respect of their own name. Often times we rid society of traditions just because the times are changing. Traditions still have a place in our progressive society, in the proper perspective. No one can seem to give me a good reason on why we should cross off cursive writing from the classroom dynamics. I say teach it and leave it up to the child to continue in its tradition once he or she gets older.

That’s what I think. I want to hear from you? Cursive or print – which do you prefer? And do you think schools should do away with teaching cursive?

When It Comes to Flower Arranging, Don’t Be a Late Bloomer

Six Tips on Making Beautiful Bouquets

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Armed with good intention, I joined Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, a thirty-day plan to “whip your home into shape, get it clean, organized and under control.” I lasted until Day Eight, when the weekend task was to “Clean Your Kitchen and Declutter/Organize as You Go.”  It was just too much for a weekend.

One thing I did pick up during the seven days I participated in the January Cure was the weekly purchase of fresh flowers for my house. According to Apartment Therapy, “As simple as it sounds, the act of buying flowers for your apartment holds great significance and will heal your home on many levels. They are beautiful, they add life to the space, they help to humidify and cleanse the air.”

Mason Jar Arrangement

Yet with all of these are reasons to buy fresh flowers, there was no “Flower Arranging for Dummies” guide. I winged it, and through a process of trial and error, have created a few really nice arrangements. Recently, on Food 52, I saw some great tips on arranging flowers! (Where were these when I needed them?) Because they were such good tips, I thought I’d pick out a few of my favorites. For the full Food 52 article on flower arranging, click here.

  1.  Pick a color sequence of no more than three colors. It’s easy to get carried away while browsing a flower shop — but making something beautiful is easier when your flowers match each other.
  2. Big flowers stretch the farthest. If you’re on a budget — or if you’re nervous about making your own arrangement — go for a larger type of flower. They take up more space in a bouquet, so you can buy less of them — and they’re easier to work with while building a bouquet.
  3. If you’re using a round, wide-mouthed vase, make the arrangement in your hand first. Start with the flowers you’d like in the center, and start building around them, rotating the bouquet in your hand. When you’re satisfied, you can cut them all together — and just plop them in your vase!
  4. If you’re using a tall, skinny vase, think about height. Since these vases look beautiful standing against a wall, take advantage of your point of reference. Starting from the front, build your bouquet upwards, so that the tallest flowers stand up in the back. Here’s where your filler flowers come in; use them as your tall backdrop, while letting your colors pop in the front.
  5. Work on symmetry. When you’re starting arrangements, it’s easiest to make things beautiful by working in symmetry. Putting a pink flower on the left? Put another on the right. Is there a big flower towards the front? Try framing the bouquet with them.
  6. Change your water every day. If you have time, wash the vase with soap and water, and add a tiny bit of bleach to each new change of water (this will kill the bacteria). Each time you put your flowers in new water, you should give the stems a fresh cut.

The Latest Craze: Rockin’ It For Great Causes

By: Shannon Shull

I think we can all agree that we love the opportunity to support a good cause. Bake sales, raffles, dinners and auctions are all great money-raising activities that folks can utilize to support a charity, person in need, or specific cause.  Not many things beat the feeling of knowing you contributed to helping others and helped to make a difference!

Zumbathon logo

The latest money-raising craze is the rockin’ fitness dance party known as the Zumbathon. Whether or not you even know what Zumba is, chances are you’ve heard of or seen the word “Zumbathon.”  They are all over the place these days!  Practically everywhere you go, you see or hear of another Zumbathon.  So what exactly is a Zumbathon?

A Zumbathon charity event is a Zumba Fitness-Party that is open to the public and raises funds and awareness for a selected charity (an organization, individual or community in need). These events can only be hosted by licensed Zumba Instructors who have been granted approval by Zumba Fitness, LLC.

So why are Zumbathons so popular? Well, who doesn’t like the combination of contributing to their health and supporting a good cause? And who doesn’t love a rockin’ dance party?! There’s a reason why Zumba Fitness has become such an international fitness hit… because IT’S FUN! So the idea of having a dance party to raise money is a genius move, if you ask me. Every element of a Zumbathon is doing good for the people involved – raising money, promoting awareness, increasing heart rates for good health, decreasing pounds and inches, and creating smiles by bringing people together. What’s not to love!?

MDA Zumbathon

As a licensed Zumba Instructor, it is a great honor to be a part of something so all-around positive. I recently enjoyed hosting my first Zumbathon and it was a truly amazing experience. After getting approval from Zumba Fitness, LLC, I teamed up with our fabulous sponsor, Gold’s Gym, and we raised money and awareness for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. 100% of the proceeds went to the MDA. With support and planning help from Tammy Wallace with the MDA, David Spence with Gold’s Gym and my wonderful aunt, Susan McPherson, with the Greater Columbia Chamber, we were able to host the Midlands’ first Zumbathon to offer both Aqua and Land Zumba! That’s right, not only did we dance in the studio, we danced in the pool! Our Zumba dance party created smiles, worked muscles, and, best of all, raised money for an awesome charity.

My Mom & Aunt ready for the Zumbathon Dance Party!

So if you love to dance, love a rockin’ party and love to do good for people and your community, a Zumbathon is the way to go!

Shannon & David Making a Muscle for the MDA at our Zumbathon

Making a muscle with the Gold's Gym Team for the MDA Zumbathon