Let Freedom Ring

"America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens." —George W. Bush

"For everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labour in freedom." —Albert Einstein

"You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom." —Malcolm X

"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." —John F. Kennedy

"We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it." —Willaim Faulkner

"Can't we all just get along?" —Rodney King

People make jokes about Rodney King's famous words, but those were wise words. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—I truly believe that's what this country is all about. Let's make that a reality. 

Takeaway Truth

I think we should do that—respect each other, recognize that we all have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happines, and get along with each other. Happy Independence Day.

Sunday Thoughts On Salads

Have you noticed that summer is the season in which we joyfully embrace salads?

I guess it's the hot weather that makes salads sound cool and refreshing.

Here are some entertaining  quotations about salads.

"If you have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say Cool Whip on the side, you might be a redneck. —Jeff Foxworthy

(JOAN: I'm happy to say I have NO Cool Whip containers. I don't like the stuff. To me, it tastes like plastic.)

"Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach." —Marcus Samuelsson

(JOAN: My salads sport the kitchen sink method. I throw in vegetables, different kinds of greens, fruit, seeds, nuts, and a homemade dressing.)

"There are many things to admire about Japan but this is the one thing I love the most and probably the only time I eat breakfast. Fish, eggs, soup, salad, veggies; all in the tiniest bites. It's a full meal, but it's so refreshing." —David Chang 

(JOAN: When I lived in Japan is when I first saw salads made of finely shredded cabbage instead of lettuce. So I've always put some in my salads ever since then.)

I have some weird habits. For instance, I love beets. Show me a salad bar and I will clean them out of their beets. —Chris Pratt

(JOAN: My dad planted beets every year, and my mom canned them as pickled beets. They were absolutely delicious. Thankfully, Darling Hubby grew up eating beets too. I pickle them now and put them in salads.)

"As I see it, a green salad is an open invitation to carrots, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and the sprouts that grow in jars on my kitchen counter." —Victoria Moran

(JOAN: I too grow sprouts in jars on the wide window sill above my kitchen sink.)

"As a student of Alice Waters, the patron saint of salad, I'm no stranger to the art of lettuce washing." —Samin Nosrat

(JOAN: Even if a container of greens or vegetables says, 'Pre-washed,' wash them. Put the greens in a colander, dunk it in a large bowl of water, swish the greens around. Pull the colander up and observe the dirt or other residue remaining in the water.)

Takeaway Truth

Take that last quotation to heart. Wash the greens, vegetables, and fruit.

Saturday Share: Parmesan Potato Casserole

A couple of years ago, I gave a recipe for Cheesy Zucchini Caserole

The recipe was for those who love potatoes au gratin but never eat that delightful dish because they don't wish to consume potatoes.

A lot of people avoid "white" potatoes because they're high in starchy carbs. 

Others avoid them because they're trying to eliminate nightshade plants from their diet.

If you don't have a problem with white potatoes, this recipe is for you! It's easy to make and serves 6-8 portions.

Parmesan Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prepare a 9X13 casserole dish by spraying with Pam or a small amount of ghee or melted butter.

2. Melt 1/3 cup of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced onions and garlic. Cook until onions are soft and translucent. Stir frequently so as not to brown the garlic and onions.

3. Whisk in the cream, milk, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix thoroughly and add the potatoes.

4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium or low so it will simmer gently, about 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

5. Spoon the potato mixture into the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the Parmesan.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

7. Remove to a cooling rack. Let it stand for 10 minutes so the cheese will "settle" or thicken up.

Takeaway Truth

Let me know if you try this casserole. I think it'll be one of your new favorites.

Friday Facts About Women's Swimsuits

Is it hot enough for you? I think that must be a popular conversation starter in the summer.

Most of us take to the ocean or pools to cool off.

Did you ever wonder about the history of women's swimsuits? I did.

For Friday Facts, here are some things I learned about Women's Swimsuits or bathing suits as they were once called.

1. Women's swimsuits have come a long way since the 1600's when women in England wore bulky canvas garments at Bath. The garments were made to fill up with water to obscure the shape of their bodies.

2. Since women wore those costumes at Bath, they became known as bathing suits.

3. Those billowing bathing suits, not suitable for much except wading in the water, remained popular with women wearing high-necked, long-sleeved, ankle-length gowns into the 1800s.

4. Late in the 1800s, the bathing suits became a little more amenable to actually swimming, but they were still loose-fitting, ankle-length, with full sleeves, and were made of wool or flannel so as not to be transparent when wet.

Weights were sewn into the hems so that they would not rise up in the water. (By this time, men who previouslly swam nude, were required to wear drawers.)

5. Finally, in 1907, Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman arrived in the U.S. to perform as an underwater ballerina, a type of synchronised swimming. She wore a form-fitting one-piece tank bathing suit, a design she'd adopted from an English bathing suit for men. She was immediately arrested on Boston beach for indecent exposure because her tank suit showed her arms, legs and neck. 

6. Kellerman's suit inspired women's swimwear for the 1912 Olympics.

7. That was a turning point. After that, a practical one-piece maillot, a woman's one-piece tank-style swimsuit named after a fashion designer, became popular for women. 

From that "breakthrough," the swimsuit became sleeker and more feminine, showing a woman's curves.

8. Even though two-piece bathing suits existed in the 1930s, the bikini emerged after WWII. 

Designed by French engineer Louis Réard, the skimpier two-piece debuted July 5, 1946.

According to the designer, material rationing after the war prompted the smaller two-piece who named it bikini for the island where the first post-war tests of the atomic bomb were taking place.

9. Bikini's got skimpier and skimpier until Rudi Gernreich invented the thong bikini in the 1970s, a time when everyone wanted to be seen as sexy and sensual.

Takeaway Truth

Women, rejoice that you can now wear a suit actually made for swimming—or for showing off your body you worked hard to tone. 

Thursday3Some: 3 Awesome Free Apps

I've got some amazing free apps to share with you today.

(1) JustinGuitar

Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the guitar? This is your chance.

JustinGuitar offers 1,297 free lessons with 3 levels that begin with beginners. Totally free! You don't have to enter a credit card or anything. There's a phone app you can download too.

(2) DuoLingo

Learn a second language free. That's right, it's free. Use on a computer or download the app to your phone. They give bit-sized phrases and sentences in a proven method that makes learning easier.

(3) Release Countdown Widget

Want to set up a cool countdown widget on your blog or website? Just fill in the information, and this will generate the code for you to copy. I made one just to see if it worked. You can see it right below. I pasted the code into the HTML of this blog post. If you do it like that, be sure you leave a double space before and after the code.


Takeaway Truth

Free apps that actually work well and help you? Priceless.

Free Spy Mystery by James Moushon

Many authors will be giving away free ebooks so readers will have lots of holiday entertainment if they want to stay indoors where it's cool on the 4th of July.

My friend James Moushon , an Author Advocate, Blog Industry Blogger, and Mystery Author, is giving away free Amazon copies of a spy mystery.

James's gift to readers is Operation Key Witness, A Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Story, free from now until July 1, 2022.

About Operation Key Witness by James Moushon

Stone is a CIA agent who works domestically. He's assigned to the CLASSIFIED CIA DOT Division. His ops involve terrorism and espionage.

In Operation Key WitnessStone and Chuck Chun are assigned to escort a witness from the Philippines to Los Angeles to testify against her terrorist husband.

After an air marshal is killed in flight, Jonathon and Chuck go on high alert.

The CIA team discover there is a professional hit contract on the witness, and it is non-exclusive. The twists and turns of the op leads the two into the Islamic World of terror.

Takeaway Truth

Grab your free copy today for some reading fun on the 4th.

Flowering Shrub for Narrow Spaces

We actually had a rain today. I think that's the first one in almost 3 weeks. Yes, most of Texas is in a drought.

Three weeks ago is when I transplanted my Purple Showers (the flowering shrubs for narrow spaces that I have had in pots for nearly a year.

Then came the dry HOT weather. Even with sprinklers, growing things do better with Mother Nature's moisture.

When we sold our previous home, I potted some of the Purple Showers and moved them to my new yard. I can hardly believe they survived in pots through the heat of last summer and the freezing nights of this past winter.

Purple Showers is what we call them these tall flowering shrubs here in Houston. According to whichever website you visit, you'll find other names for them like Rose of Sharon or Paraplu Violet Hibisicus. (The Amazon link is embedded in case you can't find these wonderful shrubs in your area.)

In my previous home's yard, there was a narrow strip of dirt between patio pavers and a brick wall. This was outside my kitchen window. I searched for a couple of years before finding something that would grow in a bed only 15 inches wide and wouldn't be bushy. 

Purple Showers, aptly named because of their abundant blooms, were perfect for that 5 foot long growing bed. They grow up, not out, and they have pretty green foliage and beautiful blossoms. 

They've been in the ground for 3 weeks. I cut them down to about 6 inches when I transplanted them. They've grown a foot since then, and they've already started blooming.

Takeaway Truth 

If you have a similar narrow area of dirt you'd like to grow something beautiful, try these flowering shrubs. You'll love them as much as I do.