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Friday, July 1, 2016

Is a meatless Fourth of July possible?

   My New Year's resolution was to try and eat less meat and try more non meat substitutes.  So as the Fourth of July approaches and the usual hot dogs and hamburgers are standard fare for grilling I thought I would try and find some veggie alternatives to these two items.  First I have to say that you will not find an exact veggie substitute for your traditional hot dog or hamburger.  Soy or black beans will never be an exact substitute.   But having said that over time you can retrain your palate to like the substitutes every bit as much as what they have replaced.   You may not even like the regular items once your palate as been retrained.  The healthier choices are worth the effort.  Having tried a few of each item here are my substitutes.

   Whole Foods have a few veggie hot dogs and the Lightlife ones are the ones I liked the best.

  I grilled the hot dog above with some liquid smoke (great for getting a taste we associate with meat).  Add some pepper strips and mustard and it tastes great.

    Trader Joes' has the Veggie Masala Burger that is also good if you like the Indian spices.  I have to admit to adding a good sharp cheddar cheese to the burger which makes it non vegan.
     Meat substitutes are becoming more common in our grocery store.  They are worth a try.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Smithsonian Folklife Festival


   With the Fourth of July approaching it is once again time for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Washington Mall.   Every year the Folklife Festival highlights one country and one state.  This year the Basque region of Spain and the state of California are highlighted.

    The Basque region of Spain has been know for civil unrest as the Basque people have a strong nationalistic movement for separation from Spain.
    If you go to the Festival and think that the beaches and scenery of California will be highlighted you would be wrong.  No Beach Boy music this year.  The California highlighted will be as described on the website:
    "....... artists who contribute to the soundscapes of California, who demonstrate the social power of music and cultural heritage. While rooted in the terrain of their communities, these artists work across borders—in many senses. They sustain traditions to bridge distant homelands to their present homes. They remix traditions to forge new variations and collaborations. They deploy traditions to engage and invite others to action."

   The diversity of California will be featured in a presentation highlighting the WPA California Folk Music Project back in the Depression.  The WPA developed many public works projects but also employed a number of musicians, artists and writers.

   Probably the best know of these artists was photographer Dorthea Lange photo for the Farm Security Administration called Migrant Mother.  As Lange described the photo:

   "I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean- to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it."

    Interestingly you can get a reproduction of this photo from the original negative from the Library of Congress as she was a federal employee at the time she took this and the negative is owned by the Government.  I have a print from this negative.   Notice the small child on her lap with its face partly hidden.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

England vs. Europe explained by dining habits

     The recent UK vote on leaving the European Union reminded me of the real cultural differences between the European countries and England.  No where is this difference seen more than in the differences when it comes to meals.  When traveling through Europe breakfast is like what is pictured above.  Fruit, yogurt and a croissant.  I remember the steaming milk that frequently replaced my usual morning coffee.
     Arriving in England after a couple of weeks in Europe brought back the breakfast with which we Americans were familiar.  Pancakes, fried potatoes, eggs and bacon.  Yes, much of what we consider American is really English.  American culture has deep roots from England.  Our language isn't the only thing we got from England.
      Even more than the food influences is the meal times we share with England.  American visitors to Europe have a hard time adjusting to the European meal times.  Who ever heard of lunch at 2 pm and dinner starting at 8 pm?  In Italy many employees go home for a late lunch which creates lunch time traffic jams.  England has what we would consider normal meal times and no one goes home for lunch.
      England and the Continent may only be separated by a narrow Channel but as customs go the Channel is as wide as an ocean.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Storm damage in Howard County

    Yesterday I had a chance to travel on Tridelphia Road in western Howard County to see the damage that Tuesday's storm caused.

     As tornadoes go this was a small EF-0 storm with winds of up to 80 miles an hour.  Nothing like the 200+ winds of Midwestern tornadoes.

   Much of the damage seemed to be mostly Pine trees whose branches are more likely to break in a storm.  We see this type of damage in the winter with heavy snows or ice storms.

   The pine trees shown above were cut down by BG&E after they had taken down power lines in this area.  The work crews had just repaired the downed lines.

  It was not hard to find homes like those pictured above and below that had damage to roofs that now had blue tarps covering the damaged areas.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Story of new development in Columbia's Town Center

    If you have been in Town Center of Columbia this year you have noticed the building boom going on right now. Last week I had a chance to learn more about this development on a Columbia Association sponsored tour with Ned Tillman.

   We started out on the newly paved path from Lake Kittaqundi to Symphony Woods

   One of the most amazing aspect of Columbia is the woods and greenery that is still part of our "downtown."

   Most of use remember when you could come into Columbia over this old bridge now abandoned.  Who knew the name of the bridge was the Push Pin bridge.

   We have all watched this office building going up so quickly on the corner of Brokenland Parkway and Rouse Parkway in Town Center.  The building will be the new headquarters for Medstar.  It is the first building of the Crescent Office Park that will transform downtown Columbia in the next few years.

    Over on the other side of Town Center the new 9 story condo building is going up where the old Magic Pan and movie theater used to be.  

     The Wilde Lake Village Center is now the site of a new housing to be opened later this year.

     Along with the housing and office development the Symphony Woods will be transformed with the development pictured above of the Chrysalis which will bring people to Symphony Woods for local productions.

     The Merriweather Post Pavilion is in for a large makeover with a new stage area shown below

    Ian Kennedy the Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Cultural Commission talked about the developments with the Pavilion. 

     Greg Fritchitt from Howard Hughes talked to the group about the development of the Crescent Park development that is just beginning.  Soon the buildings will start to go up on the parking area for the Pavilion.  The new parking for the Pavilion will be new multilevel parking garages.

 Moving over to the Columbia Mall area new residential buildings are beginning to go up next to the Metropolitan Building that is already open with new residents moving in each week.

 The new business in the first floor of the Metropolitan building have brought a cosmopolitan feel to the area.

     With the new storm water runoff requirements approved in Maryland in 2007 new developments going up in Town Center have to use new methods to have storm water channeled back into the ground and not running off into the storm system used by development that was built before 2007.

  Pictured above is one way that runoff from a building is channeled into a rain garden.

  Pictured above is a rain garden in a new section of the Mall opened in the past couple of years.

   Pictured above is how storm runoff is channeled the pre 2007 way with runoff flowing down a sidewalk and then creating a trench down the hill to a storm drain along Rouse Parkway.   One of the challenges we have today is how to provide incentives to owners of pre 2007 buildings and parking lots to refit their storm water management systems.