bp's science: speech sounds (v.1)

I talked with a friend of mine the other day, she is studying speech pathology and shared a bit of interesting info with me.

The R sound is one of the hardest sounds for a person to learn. 90% of kids have learned the sound by the age of 8.
The L sound is another. 90% of kids have learned the sound by the age of 7.
The TH sound is difficult too, as is the J sound. (I didn't ask about X, but I'm curious).

The M and N sounds are easier. As are B, C, D and all of the other sounds Oliver is using like crazy right now. Lately, he's fond of saying, "Jess, what doin?"


bp's science: how baking powder and soda make things rise (v.1)

Jess and I have recently been watching Top Chef Just Desserts. I am pretty amazed at the contestants' skills. No recipes! Make an anniversary cake in 2 hours! Build a dress out of sugar! In the show, the pastry chefs are always talking about rising ingredient ratios and how hard it is to make sure they are correct. This got me thinking about rising ingredients.

Baking soda and baking powder are two biggies. They look the same, but how are they different? And how do they work? Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and that's it. Baking powder has sodium bicarbonate in it, but it is also combined with some other stuff, one of that some being an acidic ingredient. This leads us to how the rising agents work. When sodium bicarbonate reacts with an acidic ingredient the chemical reaction gives off carbon dioxide causing your cake, cookies, or pancakes to rise. When you use baking soda in a recipe, you must add an acidic ingredient, something like buttermilk, sour cream, chocolate, so the reaction can happen. When using baking powder, you must add moisture to your recipe to start the reaction, but it will happen on it's own.

Take a look at a chocolate chip cookie recipe versus a sugar cookie recipe. The prior uses baking soda, the other, baking powder. Interesting. Now about correct ratios, I haven't figured that out yet. I'll stick to my recipes for the time being.


Some omega-3s

For dinner this evening I put together some salmon with a spinach salad and bread sticks. I was pretty sure Oliver wouldn't eat the spinach or the salmon, so my hope was that he'd at least eat the bread sticks and I'd supplement with the usual kid fare for the rest. The bread sticks were warm and I thought, delicious. Oliver did not agree. He didn't even try a bread stick, but preferred to eat most of my salmon and more than 5 leaves of spinach. I won't complain about that.


Born to Run: A Review

So did you hear about the running barefoot craze? And did you believe it? When I heard about people running barefoot or in vibram five fingers shoes, I thought it was a bunch of baloney. After reading Born to Run, it doesn't seem like baloney anymore, and even though I don't think I'll take up barefoot running, I have tried to adjust my running technique a bit.

Born to Run is a non-fictional account based on the author's experience as he learns about, talks with, and runs with the Tarahumara, a tribe in Mexico whose running technique and stamina would amaze anyone really. As he prepares to run for a 47-mile race, he goes on to explain the nature of running and why humans are "born to run." Take for instance the arch in our foot, the Achilles tendon, the nuchal crest in our skull; all things that show we are born to run. We were built to run and our bodies require that we do it, the author says, to keep us healthy, physically and mentally. And when we run, we need to being doing it for a greater purpose. Running should not be work. It should be fun.

A lot of new ideas were brought up in this book that I'd never even thought of before and I really enjoyed the way the author did it. He explained things that were fact-based by telling an excellent story alongside the bits of information. Full of characters like Bonehead Billy, Barefoot Ted, and Caballo Blanco, it really is a joy to read. A discovery of sorts. You won't be thinking barefoot running is totally and completely preposterous by the time you finish. I promise.


A small hip hip hooray for dinner

For the past three weeks, I have successfully made healthy, pleasing dinners for my small family. Some of these dinners were delicious, others were more healthy than delicious, but every night there was a dish and it had nutritional value. An accomplishment for me indeed. I have also almost successfully gotten rid of my dislike for grocery shopping. A bigger accomplishment. And now I feel as though I can "throw something together" if required (although, I must admit, those dishes are not the best dishes I make). Dinner is doable and that feels good.


bp's science: fastest land mammal (v.1)

It's been a bit busy over here, so we've got a quick scientific fact for you.

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal and can go about 70 to 75 mph at it's peak speed.




About that oil change

Do any of you out there like to take your car to get its oil changed? I am guessing the answer is a resounding no. I absolutely dislike it. Not my idea of fun. You have to deal with the customer service reps who seem to be nice, but then they mention that you should get a tire rotation service for $89.99, when you can see the same service they are offering you as advertised on the garage door outside at $29.99. How dumb do I look? Okay, I'm not going to answer that.

I used to change my own oil. My dad taught me when I was in high school and since I drove a truck, I could fit under it without having to drive it up on ramps. Changing the oil was easy, it saved me some cash, and it spared me from having to deal with any customer service reps.

But since we've parted with the truck and bought a new car, my oil changing days are temporarily over. The car has a cover on the bottom of the engine which makes changing the oil more labor intensive. And so, to the car service location I go. This time, I went to a place very close to my house. Oliver and I played outside while the mechanics took no more than 15 minutes to change the oil. Wonderful! Then came checkout.

"Owner of the blue car outside?"

"Yes, that's me."

And then the customer service rep went into this rapid fire explanation of everything that was checked, and if it looked good or not.
"Coolant level good.
Tire pressure good.
Steering fluid good.
Wipers working.
All lights working.
Brake fluid low.
Air filter good.
Belts good."

Did I catch a "brake fluid low" in there?

After she was done flinging her report in my face at the rate of the micro-machine man, I asked, "So what can I do with the brake fluid low information?"

The rep didn't even look at me, but reached for a peace of paper, about the size of a postcard. It read: WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF YOUR BRAKE FLUID IS LOW and so forth. Thanks guys. I wondered what would have happened if I hadn't asked the question about the low brake fluid. What then? I paid my total and was off.

True, the oil experience was a good one overall. I tend to be a bit cynical in these situations and dwell on the negative. I'm trying to work on it. But really? What kind of service is that? I mean, come on, give me more of an explanation. That's like going to the eye doctor and having him say, "Glaucoma test good. Dilation test good. Your astigmatism bad. That will be $120." I'm here to get my car serviced by professionals so I expect to get some good, solid, information. Oh well. I'll check up on the brake fluid situation and try not to be so cynical.


30% off, wahoo

This past weekend we went to the store to buy Jess some shoes for work. He'd just about worn through his old pair and needed some new. As you know, dress shoes for men are not a cheap item, so you can imagine my delight when a stranger came up to me:

"Ma 'am?"


"I've got this 30% coupon, and I can't find any shoes that I like. Could you use it?"

"Of course! My husband is picking out a pair of shoes right now. Thanks!"

And off he went.
And we saved about 25 bucks. I will tell you, that was one of the closest situations I've had were there was nearly no opportunity cost whatsoever, just free discounts! That $25 savings helped to pay for the majority of the oil change I got yesterday. More on that later...


bp's science: exercise, it does a body good (v.1)

It all started back in college when I got stuck with PE 102 - the lamest physical education class any person could take. I signed up as a freshman because I didn't want my PE requirement to catch up with me when I was a senior and there weren't any other PE credits available, except for swimming, and I wasn't about to do that - I am no star swimmer and I didn't really want to relive my time in middle school changing into and out of a swimsuit between classes, walking outside with wet hair in the cold winter breeze. So PE 102 it was.

Forget reliving my middle school days, because as I walked into the gym, I felt like I was 13 again. Here we were, college students, dressed in the college "issue" (navy blue shorts, gray shirt) all trying to act cool as we were minimized by the huge space. Our first assignment was to ascertain our fitness level. I passed all tests except for flexibility. When I attempted to stretch to the minimum requirement, the student measuring my results responded with, "Can you try to at least touch your toes?" Again, middle school. I felt lame. PE 102 was lame. And swimming was sounding better.

Our homework for the first day was to write down what we thought a good workout program involved. If this is what PE 102 called homework, I was loving it again. I finished it in 2 minutes flat, by answering that it's at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise a day for at least 5 days a week, supported by calisthenics or weight training. Done.

At my next class, we handed in our homework assignment. Then came our PE teacher's surprise announcement. "Whatever you wrote on your homework," he explained, "you will be required to do this semester to pass this course."

And so it began. What could I do to pass this requirement with my nights spent doing homework, socializing, more homework, and more socializing? And have you noticed that I like socializing? I didn't want to have to schlep to the gym and I wanted results fast. 20 minutes out the door and your done. Answer: running. I had run in small community races before college and I knew I could do it, so why not? At first, I asked my roommates to come with me. A few were up for it and it became a nightly, required, activity. As time progressed, we took runs that were a lot longer than 20 minutes, and we were really enjoying it. As more time passed, friends would ask us if were busy at night, to which we would answer, "We're going running at 10pm, want to come?" And people came. At times we were a running herd. I passed PE 102.

Come the next semester, we kept running. Not because of a requirement but because we were really liking it. And I could finally touch my toes! Friends continued to join us. Even Jess, my future husband joined us. And on those nights, I was running hard, fast, and far. So was he.

And with that, I got into running. And I've stuck with it. Sure, there have been times when I've taken a break, but I always go back. And no, I am not a pro and am not sponsored by New Balance, but I like to run and I know it's good for me.

Now I am sure I am preaching to the choir, but I had a fun time writing this memory down, so I thought I'd use it for a post.

Exercise in any form or fashion is good for you for these reasons:
1. It keeps you in good physical shape, keeping your bones strong, your muscles toned, and your metabolism up.
2. It keeps your head clear. Exercise is a recommended stress-reducing activity.
3. It helps you sleep better. Not only has your body worked hard so it requires rest, but since it does reduce stress, you are able to relax quicker and thus fall asleep faster.
4. It strengthens your brain. Research shows that when you exercise, new brain pathways are made. Neat!
5. It helps your immune system (when done in moderate amounts - 30-90 minutes a day).


A month of Thankfulness

Jess and I were talking the other day, kind of surprised that it was already November. After some discussion, we decided that we really like November. And we really like Thanksgiving.

If you think about it, Thanksgiving is the only major holiday that hasn't been made "commercial". The only real thing you need to buy is a turkey. But, if you think about it, you really don't have to buy one. In fact, I've enjoyed a Thanksgiving without a turkey. We had turkey loaf instead. And I liked it. Thanksgiving is about gratitude, it's about family, it's about being around a large table talking with the people you love (or like) and really just enjoying the day, all of it.

If you'll take a moment and let me reminisce.

An hour away from our house, in a more rural part of the state, I'd spend my childhood Thanksgivings. We sleep over the night before and wake up to mom and dad, showered and dressed already busy in the kitchen, removing giblets and prepping stuffing. As 2pm came upon us, relatives would begin showing up at the garage door, wiping there feet on the rug and placing on the table their addition to the meal: creamed corn, yogurt pie, string (green) bean casserole. Sometimes these were relatives I hadn't seen for a while, and it was fun to catch up with them, even if I did do it by listening over my brothers' shoulders and hearing how my uncle drove a truck like a stuntman in a commercial he was hired to put together. My dad would say the blessing, getting teary, making me realize what the holiday was really all about. Sometimes we'd start a fire in the fireplace and eat to the sounds of the crackling wood. I really enjoyed the food, but in normal Ashley fashion, I enjoyed the conversation that much more.

Ahh, the memories.

What makes your Thanksgivings special? What makes you grateful? What can you be thankful this for year, this week, today?


Wonderful hiking weather

Great Falls :: Billy Goat trail river stop


more Great Falls :: Roosevelt Island Trail


Halloween over here

We had a wonderful Halloween. So great, I didn't get many photos. My talented sista made this Grover costume for her cute little girl last year, then sent it our way this year. Oliver was a hit at all of the Halloween festivities we attended. Let's just say, he loves to dance to scary music (i.e. Thriller, Ghost Busters, and the like) and he digs the sweet treats too.

Here's the cute Grover wanting to get on stage to do none other but dance


bp's science: blood pressure (v.1)

Have you ever been to the doctor when they spout off your blood pressure numbers and you think to yourself, now what's a healthy blood pressure again? I have. I simply can never remember.

A healthy blood pressure is anything under: 120/80

The top number is your systolic blood pressure, or the amount of pressure on your arteries when the heart muscle contracts (or pushes the blood out of your heart and into the body).

The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure, or the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heart muscle relaxes (when the heart is relaxed and being filled with blood).

Now how to remember 120/80? 12 months in a year, 8 hours in a work week (+ the zeros of course)? I've been thinking about this for a while and that's the best I could come up with. If you've got a better way of remembering, let me know.

In other news, I voted today.