Lost in your words

I bury myself in your expression.
My thoughts drowning
In your beautiful prose.
Your voice is music,
And in it I am lost.
It is a maze I will never conquer.
I am mesmerized,
But blinded.
I am faint.
I am dizzy.
I am exhilerated.
Brought to life
By your words alone.
I will follow your voice
‘Til I am broken
And shattered.

To Bear False Witness

Why must you lie?
Mask the truth
With disguise
When honesty
Suits you just fine.
Its too late to go back;
I know its brass tacks
Every word from your mouth
Is fiction, not fact.
Your reputation is now suspect
That one thing is certain.
Unlike the reality
You hide with a curtain.
I will never believe you
This much is true
Because dishonesty
Is your favorite tool
You backbite and fib
I should loan you a bib
To save your poor shirt
From the word vomit you spurt
Was there ever a time
When in your mind
You thought the truth first
Instead of a line?
I am really not worried.
I can say with a smile.
While liars are sprinters,
Honesty runs miles.
The truth will catch you.
And when it is through,
The world will know
That you are a fool.

My Pledge of Allegiance

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The Pledge of Allegiance isn’t just a series of words that should be blindly recited each morning in home room, and forgotten once you receive your high school diploma. It is an oath of loyalty to the Flag, our country, its people, and its government. Let us go back to elementary school and review the history of the Pledge of Allegiance. It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, for a Boston based youth magazine called The Youth’s Companion. It was published on September 8, 1892, and was titled “Pledge to the Flag.” Here is how it read in its original form: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It was going to be used in October to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. Thus the Pledge of Allegiance was born, but like anything new it took years to mature to the version we know today. Following the Columbus Day celebration, the Pledge became a popular daily routine in public schools, but gained little attention elsewhere.

On Flag Day June 14, 1923, the first National Flag Conference was held in Washington D.C. It was there that the first change was made to the Pledge. Because there was concern that there would be some confusion because of the growing number of immigrants now in the United States, “my Flag,” was changed to “the Flag of the United States.” The following year “of America” was added.

Though the Pledge was gaining popularity, it was still unofficial until June 22, 1942 when Congress included the Pledge in the United States Flag Code. One year after its official sanction the Supreme Court ruled that school children could not be forced to recite the Pledge in school.  The title was still, “Pledge to the Flag,” until 1945 when it recieves its official title, “The Pledge of Allegiance.”

The final change took place on Flag Day June 14, 1954 when President Eisenhower approved the addition of the words, “under God.”

“In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”  -President Eisenhower

The Pledge of Allegiance had finally reached maturity and would now be recited as follows: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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Now, let us breakdown the Pledge so we can more fully understand the words we mindlessly memorized and recited.

“I Pledge Allegiance”

I, personally, swear my loyalty

“to the Flag of the United States of America”

to the emblem that represents all 50 states individually and as a whole

“and to the republic”

and also to the government, which is a republic, a form of government where its people are soveriegn

“for which it stands,”

this government also being represented by the Flag

“one nation under God,”

These 50 individual states united under God

“indivisble,”

and can not be divided.

“with liberty,”

The people of this nation given freedom of choice

“and justice,”

and each person being treated fairly and justly according to proper law and principle

“for all.”

and these principles afforded to EVERY AMERICAN, regardless of race, religion, color, creed, or any other criteria.

I am a proud citizen of the United States of America, and I am proud to know and understand the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. I am honored to live in a country where I can be free to choose without fear of punishment by my government. I am free to vote, say what I want, marry whom I choose, work, join the military, pray to whatever diety I choose, and all because I am an American. So, next time you say or hear the words to The Pledge of Allegiance, don’t just brush it off or get angry over a couple of words you find “offensive.” Instead, think about what all the words together mean. And if you still can’t seem to accept the words, then become President and change them. Because until you do, they will remain they way they are, and there’s nothing you can do about it. This nation was founded “under God” and the words should be in the Pledge.

 

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Lest We Forget

Memorial Day is celebrated across the United States with parades, barbecues, and “weekend only” sales events. On the last Monday in May, Americans across the country wake up early, and make their way to Main Street to watch highschool bands play patriotic songs and local cultural clubs represent their native lands. We then rush home to fire up the grill, and spend the rest of the day tossing the football and eating hot dogs. It seems Americans have forgotten what Memorial Day is really about.

History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, orginally called Decoration Day, was first proclaimed by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 5, 1868, and first observed on May 30, 1868 by placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers killed during the Civil War. By 1890 all of the Northern States recognized Mermorial Day while the Southern states chose to honor their dead on a different day until after World War II when the holiday was changed from honoring just those who died during the Civil War to all Americans killed in action. In 1971 Congress passed the National Holiday Act which officially made Memorial Day the last Monday in May.

The Red Poppy

In response to Lt. Colonel John McRae’s peom, “In Flanders Field”, poet Moina Michael conceived the idea of wearing red Poppies on Memorial Day. She then sold the Poppies to friends and family and donated to proceeds to servicemen in need. Madam Guerin was visiting the United States from France, and was so inspired by Moina Michael that upon her return to France she decided to sell handmade Poppies to raise money for children and women affected by war. In 1922 Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help, and by Memorial Day 1924 the VFW’s Buddy Poppy Program was selling handmade artificial poppies nationwide.

Traditions Across the Nation

Since the late 1950’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day 1,200 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry  arrive at Arlington National Cemetary to place a flag at every gravestone and then patrol the cemetary for 24 hours a day until Memorial Day is over to ensure every flag remains standing. Beginning in 1951 the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in St. Louis place flags on all 150,000 graves in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetary.  In 1998 Boys and Girl Scouts began the tradition of placing a candle at each of the 15,300 graves in Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. In December of 2000 the “National Moment of Remeberance” resolution was passed. It asks that at 3pm local time all Americans “Voluntarily and informally observe, in their own way, a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.” In 2004 Washington D.C. held their first parade in over 60 years.

In Flanders Field

Lt. Col John McRae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

This year we observe our 10th Memorial Day as a nation at war. On September 20, 2001 President Bush addressed the people of the United States and said, “We are a country awakended to danger, and called to defend freedom.”  That day began the American war on terror. Since that declaration of war thousands have selflessly given their lives to protect the American dream. Memorial Day ceased to be just a holiday in 2010 when we received news that a soldier in the 102nd had been severely injured when they took on enemy fire. Suddenly, the reality of war hit home. I cried. I cried and thanked God that my brother was alive. I can never imagine what Ssg Rivera’s family felt when they heard the devastating news. I can never imagine what it would be like to never see my brother or sister again, and I hope I never have to feel the pain that they and so many other families endure every day. This year America will remember all those who have died fighting, but we especially will remember Ssg Edwin Rivera, a hero. He courageously gave his life for others. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Arlington National Cemetery

Overseas memorial for SSG Edwin Rivera

Total Agony

I built up my walls

I was doing just fine

I had a great plan

My life was mine

Then you came along

Out of the blue

Broke down my wall

Now I don’t know what to do

It wasn’t supposed

To happen this way

It was innocent talk

Innocent play

You distracted me so easily

I let down my guard

And I invited you in

With complete disregard

I let out a big sigh

My head in my hand

How did this happen

Its not what I planned

I’m not unhappy

Don’t get me wrong

I’m just really nervous

And trying to be strong

I feel vulnerable

And kind of insane

Like not using my umbrella

While standing in the rain

You call me beautiful

My heart skips a beat

I smile like an idiot

And accept my defeat

There’s something about you

You’re one of a kind

You broke down my walls

But I really don’t mind

For Love of Country

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For love of country
A patriot gives
Comfort and home
So that others might live

Liberty and freedom
In each breath he takes
Pledging allegiance
For America’s sake.

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He defends with his service
The Red, White, and Blue
Filled with honor and pride
His salute strong and true

His bravery immortal
As he marches to fight
Defending America
And American right.

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Our freedom comes at a price
One a veteran bears
So, thank him wholeheartedly
Show him someone who cares.

All who have served
Are honored this day
Their heroism exalted
For sacrifices made

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Brothers in arms
Sisters forever
Heros always
Forgotten never

Cannoli Cupcakes

First let me start off by saying these cupcakes are not for a beginner. They are time consuming and more suited for an intermediate baker. I had a good time with these. I love, love, love filled cupcakes. It adds another dimension to everyday cupcakes. This particular cupcake is a moist, fluffy orange zest cupcake filled with cool cannoli cream and topped with soft bittersweet ganache and smooth almond cream. They are so incredibly delicious! If any of you try this recipe I promise you will not regret it. You may not even want to share.

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients
Cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange oil
1 cup milk

Cannoli Filling:
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons finely diced candied orange peel
Bittersweet Ganache:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Almond Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup almond paste
Toasted almonds, for garnish

For the cupcakes: Preheat a convection oven to 325 degrees F. Line 24 regular-size cupcake pans with liners.

Combine the flour, orange zest, baking powder and salt in a bowl. This is only the second time I have zested this much citrus. I kept sending it flying into my eyes. I recommend eye pro when zesting citrus fruit otherwise you may end up with orange scented eyeballs. I also only used about 1 tablespoon of the zest because I didn’t want an overpowering flavor of orange in the cupcake.

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Orange Zest

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flour, orange zest, baking powder, salt

In a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 8 minutes.

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light and fluffy butter and sugar

Slowly add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and orange oil to the mixer. On low speed, gradually alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mix until smooth. Okay, I was unable to find orange oil so I just used orange extract and the cupcakes still came out beautifully and with great flavor.

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When the mixture is smooth, divide the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake liners. Bake until lightly browned and fully cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

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For the filling: With a large wooden or metal spoon, mix the ricotta, confectioners’ sugar, chocolate and orange peel in a medium bowl until combined. Make sure to very, very finely chop the candied orange peel. Otherwise you’ll end up with bog chewy pieces in the middle of the cupcake and it won’t be enjoyable.

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Very finely chop the chocolate. You don’t want a bunch of big chunks in the center of your cupcakes

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Cannoli Cream

For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl.

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Coarse chopped chocolate for the ganache is okay because you are going to melt it anyway.

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring the heavy cream and sugar to a boil ensuring the sugar is completely dissolved. Make sure you stir it. Don’t let it burn to the bottom of the pot.

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Pour the cream and sugar mixture over the chocolate and let sit 5 minutes. Gradually whisk until smooth. Once it cools its going to be soft and creamy. If its still liquid you need to let it cool longer. You can’t put it on the cupcake until its thick enough to spread like peanut butter, otherwise it will just run off the cupcake and you’ll have an ugly, sloppy mess.

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Cooling Ganache

For the almond cream: In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, sugar and almond paste until the cream is firm enough to pipe on the cupcakes but not too stiff and buttery. Here is the only place I ran into problems. I had never worked with almond paste before. To avoid the issues I had, break the almond paste into small pieces, and beat it with the sugar first. Then slowly add the cream otherwise you’ll end up with a curdled looking almond cream and you won’t be able to pipe it

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Almond Cream

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To assemble: Cut a small hole the size of an apple core in each cupcake and fill with the cannoli cream. I couldn’t seem to find my apple corer at first and tried an orange juicer which also did the job. I eventually found my apple corer buried in the back of the drawer

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Using the orange juicer to cut holes in the center

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Cannoli cream filled cupcakes

Spread a small amount of ganache on the entire surface of the cupcake and either pipe or use an off set spatula to add the alond cream to the top. Garnish with toasted almonds.

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Completely assembled cupcake

Happy Baking!