Do you and your sweetheart want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a romantic dinner? If so, consider keeping things simple by choosing one of the following options.
• Cater the meal. If you hire a caterer for Valentine’s Day, you can enjoy a decadent, freshly prepared dinner without having to leave the comfort of your own home.
• Go to a restaurant. Take a break from cooking by enjoying your Valentine’s Day dinner at a restaurant. If you prefer not to go out, order a meal for pick up or delivery instead.
• Order a meal kit. You can choose a ready-made meal that simply needs to be reheated or have fun cooking a recipe that comes in a kit.
Since other couples will likely have the same idea as you, make sure you reserve your table or order your meal in advance.
Three tests for liberty
In the age of social media, it seems as though everyone sees a tyrant seated at the head of the other table.
But is there any test for tyranny?
On July 4, consider the test of Thomas Jefferson:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In this famous sentence from the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson gives us three words that can test any philosophy:
- Self-evident: Jefferson said some ideas are obvious, so obvious that Americans don’t need a lawyer to explain or debate them. The first obvious truth he sets down is this: All men are created equal.
- Endowment: Jefferson says that God gives rights to man as a gift, an endowment. No human owns the rights of another and no human decides which people get to exercise those rights.
- Unalienable: These obvious rights, given as a permanent gift from God, cannot be taken away by any human, and neither can a person surrender the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The surprisingly messy history of flag cake
When you picture a Fourth of July cake, there’s only one that comes to mind for most people — a rectangular cake with white whipped cream icing, red stripes made of strawberries, and a field of blueberries in the upper left corner.
Both Ina Garten and Martha Stewart claim to have invented it, but the truth is that nobody knows for sure where the iconic American flag cake, beloved of so many backyard barbecues, really came from.
Patriotic cakes are nothing new in America. Even before the Revolutionary War, innkeepers and industrious housewives baked spicy, yeasty “election cakes” to feed farmers who came to town to train as soldiers or, later, to vote in America’s first elections. In the early 19th century, Americans snacked on cakes that paid tribute to George Washington and other beloved heroes, though cake-baking, on the whole, hadn’t evolved enough for the cakes to actually resemble the father of America.
By the early 20th century, Americans were in love with patriotically decorated petit fours, tinted with blue and red dye from indigo and dried beetles. Other cakes paid tribute to Washington and Lincoln on their birthdays. One 1940 recipe suggested a Fourth of July cake with pink frosting and patriotic “ornaments.”
The iconic flag cake seems like it’s been around forever, but really, it was likely invented in the 1950s as a marketing push for cake mixes. Other manufacturers and fruit companies jumped on board to add their own spins and advertise their particular products. The rest is history, and perhaps you were alive to experience it all.
By 2016, Betty Crocker alone had at least 14 different flag cake recipes available online. So this year, if you’re in charge of making your grandma’s classic flag cake, take a few extra minutes to appreciate how long and how far the patriotic cake traveled to get to where it is today.
One if by land, Two if by sea: the famous ride of Paul Revere
American Independence Day is officially celebrated on July 4, the day that the Second Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was a momentous act of rebellion against George III, but open warfare had already begun more than a year before, ushered in when Paul Revere and two friends swiftly acted to warn their fellow Sons of Liberty and rebels that British troops were on the move.
The Sons of Liberty were a loosely organized secret group aimed at destabilizing British rule over the American colonies and intimidating the people loyal to them. They had operated for at least 10 years, mobilizing in 1765 to oppose the Stamp Act, a tax on documents that the British Parliament repealed after a year of fierce opposition. But, by 1773, the British and the colonists in America were close to war when the Sons dumped 92,000 pounds of tea in Boston Harbor, an act known today as the Boston Tea Party. By April 1775, the British had had enough and were sending troops to take the guns from rebels, seize gunpowder and arrest the leaders of the Sons, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock.
On the evening of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren contacted his friend Paul Revere and instructed him to ride from Boston to Lexington, Mass., to warn the Sons that British troops were coming by water. Revere was to take up the alarm, alerting colonists around Boston of the impending threat.
Days before, he had contacted a friend, most likely the sexton of Boston’s Old North Church, to signal when British troop movements were known by putting a lantern in the steeple of the church.
Famously: One if by land and two if by sea. Fellow Sons of Liberty across the Charles River would be waiting to know if the British planned to row “by sea” across the river to Cambridge.
Two friends rowed Revere across the river to Charlestown, where he snuck past a British warship in the darkness and mounted a borrowed horse for his famous midnight ride. The munitions were saved from British seizure and the next day, an unknown soldier fired the “shot heard round the world” that began the Battles of Lexington and Concord — the first battle of the American Revolution.
Paul Revere, accompanied by at least three other riders, successfully raised the alarm and mobilized the local militia. His ride became famous much later, though, in the famed 1861 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow whose fictionalized version made Revere a star. According to the poem, Revere shouted “The British are coming!” but, in fact, he shouted the more prosaic “The Regulars are coming!”
A block party for the Fourth
Why not celebrate Independence Day in your own neighborhood by holding a Fourth of July block party? Here are a few fun, safe event ideas for folks of all ages.
• Mini parade. Host a kid-sized procession on your street with decorated bikes, skateboard floats, and roller skaters in costume. Amplify the holiday spirit with noisemakers and toy musical instruments. Make sure you get permission from your municipal authority to close the street to vehicular traffic.
• Homemade concert. Showcase the talent in your community with a lineup of karaoke divas, dad bands, closet stand-up comics, and sock puppet masters. Charge a modest admission fee and donate the proceeds to a local charity.
• Outdoor film screening. Choose family-friendly patriotic classics such as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Yankee Doodle Dandy. If you’re looking for something more contemporary, try The Sand Lot.
• Pet-friendly light show. If town by-laws or your pets’ sensitive ears prohibit fireworks, use sparklers or glow sticks to light up the night. A hot dog eating contest around a backyard fire pit makes a fun after-dark spectacle.
Get creative, let loose, and have fun this Independence Day.
Happy Father’s Day! Today’s dads are present and caring
A wonderful thing has happened to fathers since the day of the “man in the gray flannel suit.” That was in the 1950s and 1960s when kids were expected to be quiet, not bother Dad, and stay out of the way. It wasn’t true of all dads, but it was for many. Their work was their primary interest and family came in a distant second.
It took a couple of decades for things to change. By the 1980s, dads were beginning to take an interest in their sons and daughters. In the next decade, they were spending more time with them, but actually raising the family still seemed to primarily be the mother’s job.
Around the time of the millennium, a transformation was taking place. The great thing about it was that fathers were becoming involved in all aspects of their children’s lives. That included sharing the responsibility and pleasure of bringing up their sons and daughters.
It’s a joy to watch today’s dads as they interact with their children. They are involved in their kids’ lives. They can change a diaper, take care of a three-year-old, advise a middle-schooler and give driving lessons. What’s more, they are enjoying it.
A sincere Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads who work with us. The world will be a better place because of you and the capable children you are raising.
Thanks for everything, Dad
Do you have a wonderful dad? Do you tell him often enough how much you love him and how lucky you are to have him? Take advantage of Father’s Day to let him know, in person or in a letter, thanking him for everything he’s done — and still does — for you.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas that may speak to your relationship:
• Thank him for attending your dance performances, piano recitals, hockey games, or volleyball tournaments
• Thank him for driving you to medical appointments, extracurricular activities, and your friends’ houses
• Thank him for reassuring you when you’re scared or worried
• Thank him for listening to your joys, disappointments, and dreams
• Thank him for supporting you in difficult times and encouraging you every step of the way
• Thank him for giving you sound advice on important decisions, like buying your first car
Finally, thank your dad for the great childhood memories, family holidays, funny stories, and dad jokes. Above all, tell him you love him for being there for you and for being himself.