I can down 5 or 6 of these delicious treats and not bat an eye. The mint in them makes me think I am eating just that, a mint, and so the fact that they are basically brownie batter rolled in powdered sugar does not even figure into my conscience. I have never used mint extract in my cooking. This is the first time. And while the cookies were good, I think I may have my small bottle of peppermint extract for many years to come.
While baking I decided to take some photos of Oliver testing out the cookies. Here is the one I took before I dropped the camera:
And here is the one I took immediately after:
The camera really seems to lighten up every photo now. Jokingly, I told Jess that we will definitely be documenting a "white" Christmas this year with our broken camera. He immediately responded by getting on the internet and researching possible new cameras. At least we've had the one I broke for 4+ years. C'est la vie.
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that attaches itself to tree branches and grows using its own photosynthesis and the tree's minerals and water.
But before you judge this plant, it has been found that mistletoe can be helpful to the plants it attaches itself too. For instance, when mistletoe attaches to juniper trees, more juniper plants sprout because mistletoe berries attract birds and when birds eat mistletoe berries they eat more juniper berries too.
Interesting stuff, eh?
And the other day, we were watching an Old School Sesame Street and in the episode Snuffleupagus comes out and tries to say "Hello" to people in the neighborhood but everyone is so busy, they don't see him. He walks down the sidewalk saying, "Oh dear, nobody sees me."
Here is Oliver acting the part. He uses his blanket as the trunk, and when it's not in his mouth, he makes his voice scruffy and says, "Oh dear."
Now a vacuum is "a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than that of atmospheric pressure". Obviously, our everyday vacuum certainly isn't a perfect vacuum, but it gets the job done. The motor in your DirtDevil creates a decrease in pressure within the vacuum. As the pressure decreases, air rushes into the vacuum (a.k.a. rushes toward the area of lower pressure), and while doing so, picks up crumbs, dust, and dirt along the way. And all of those brushes on the front of the vacuum are helping to grab particles and direct them toward the area where the air is moving (and getting sucked up).
So use your vacuum today and see the science.
Let's look at our soda can first. When you open up a can that has not been shaken, there's a small release of gas.
When you open up a can that's been shaken, their is a release of gas that creates a soda explosion (the one we all tried to avoid when trying to look cool at any social function we attended as teenagers).
Why does the first situation have a calm release and the other a fierce one when the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the can has not increased at all? The secret is bubbles.
Let's look at the following equation, (which for those of you who took any type of physical science, you'll remember memorizing):
PV = nRT
where P = pressure,
V = volume
n = moles of atoms/molecules of gas (in this case carbon dioxide gas)
R = a constant
T = temperature
Now let's take this equation and think of our soda can. When we open up a can of soda, we change the pressure inside of the can, in fact, we decrease the pressure. In both situations (not shaken vs. shaken) when we open the can we decrease the pressure the same amount. Some would say this goes against their original thought that when you shake a can, you are increasing the pressure inside (at least that is what I thought), but that is not the case. Let's look at the equation again, solving for pressure.
P = nRT/V
- When we shake a can, do we change the number of moles (n) of CO2 in the can? No, in order to do that we would have to somehow pump carbon dioxide into the can.
- R does not change, because it is a constant.
- Some would argue that shaking up a can would change the temperature (T). But shaking a can for 5 seconds, even 10 seconds, the change in temperature is negligible.
- And finally, when we shake up a can, the volume (V) of that can does not change. It would have to decrease to increase the pressure, but it does not.
So if none of the above is changing, and the pressure is not increasing inside, what is causing the explosion?
The answer: when you shake a soda can it creates lots of little vortexes or vortices (think mini-tornadoes) inside the can. These mini-tornadoes have an area of lower pressure in the center (just like the calm in the eye of a storm during a hurricane). When you open a shaken can, miniscule bubbles of CO2 in the liquid rush to the area of lower pressure, that is, the area inside the vortex. This is a characteristics of all gases, they prefer lower pressure areas. As the CO2 rushes to the area of lower pressure, the miniscule bubbles expand greatly. Thus the explosion.
Now if you do a search on the internet as to why soda cans explode (like I did), you will most likely not find an answer that includes vortexes. Instead, you'll get a simple explanation of bubbles mixing in liquid and wanting to escape, which has some truth to it. However, if you do a search on why soda cans explode and include the word "vortex" in your search, you are bound to find this great article, which will lead you to the source paper for this research.
The pie was a bit on the sweet side side, but still enjoyable. I'll have to try lemon meringue sometime. I bet it's the perfect ratio of flavors.
So for all of you out there who's wanted to try meringue, do it! It was kind of fun and easy.
Then he decided something else needed to go for a swim, my ipod shuffle. Apparently, for over 5 minutes, the shuffle was enjoying the swim too, until I fished it out. No one's fault, but my own.
This is when I worked quickly to start the rice absorption trick. I put the shuffle in a small bowl of rice for 24 hours and crossed my fingers in hopes that the rice would work its magic. And it did! Fully functioning at this time. Wahoo!
It seems I have carried on the tradition, and now I can be caught watching cooking shows on PBS on weeknights. I mean, when cooking is something you do everyday, this stuff becomes more interesting and definitely more useful. I think I've seen nearly all of the Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs episodes, then their is America's Test Kitchen, but my favorite is Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way. He can cook just about anything and make it look easy. He explains what he's doing but makes it brief, because he's doing things so fast. I also like that he's one of the greatest chefs around yet he's extremely humble about it. Very fun to watch (and sometimes I try some of the things I've seen, except my show would be called Ashley's Slow-to-Medium-Fast Food Jacques Pepin's Way).
But enough about my PBS watching, onto the science! Here is something I learned while watching: One of the reasons you brown meat is because it creates strong flavor molecules. When the protein molecules (amino acids) and the sugar molecules in the meat heat up, they break up and form flavor molecules. When you brown a piece of meat, the temperature is high enough (~310 degrees F) to go through the Maillard reaction and that's when distinct "browning" flavor molecules are made that make the meat that much better. This reaction happens in other foods too, like french fries, crusts of quick breads, and maple syrup. So next time you're cooking a steak or making biscuits, there is a little bit of science in your recipe too (how's that for a PBS cooking show line?).
This year, I'm going to attempt meringue pumpkin pie. However, we promised to bring apple pie to our friends' house, so I am not really sure who is going to eat the pumpkin meringue pie I make. Still, I am making it!
And we'll save our traditional cranberry sauce recipe that we usually make for Thanksgiving and make it for Christmas this year.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
The above photo is of our little family last year on Thanksgiving. Not much has changed, in fact I'm wearing those pants today and I think Jess wore that sweater yesterday! Oliver however has grown out of that shirt.
A lesson I've learned many times, and again just recently, and again just last night is that there is absolutely no reason to compare yourself to others, because it does not help any. It's like worrying, it gets you nowhere (this is another lesson I've learned many times over and over again). I am much happier when I focus on the goodness, when I'm trying my best to be my best. And when you're focusing on the good, you are bound to feel good.
Oliver and Jess walk down the row of trees
Oliver loves our picks
Can you see Jess in there picking only the best?
Oliver reaches high for a delicious apple
1. It appears to be a very arduous process.
2. Using all of those egg whites and not the yolk kind of goes against my waste no food ideas. See pathetic example of such beliefs here.
Getting over reason number 2, that may involve trying to figure out how to use just egg yolks in a recipe (any ideas anyone?). But getting over reason number 1 may just involve learning a bit more about the process.
Basically meringue is a protein-sugar mesh created by beating. Beating egg whites denatures the proteins (unravels them) and adding sugar enables them to come together and create a molecular crystal-like structure with lots of air. This results in a puff of meringue that is eight times the volume of the unbeaten eggs. It turns out that creating the meringue is half of the battle. It must be cooked at precisely 325 degrees and it must cook evenly throughout. How is this done? See here.
After learning about this, I am not feeling all that confident about meringue. I'll give it a try and let you know how it goes (that is, if I can find a way to use those yolks!
Earlier today, we made pretzel shapes. Oliver made a 6 (and a 9) all on his own. Then we shared a quesadilla and dipped it in sauce (salsa with sour cream). This was followed by dancing to this song and riding in the laundry basket.
Good times. Really.
I've started to wonder if someday I'm going to make boiled pizza for my family. I mean, this past week, I got terribly close to doing worse. I almost gave Jess and Oliver moldy bread in the form of french toast. My reasoning went like this: I didn't want to waste the bread and I knew that french toast was made with crusty day or so old bread, and I thought maybe eggs and milk could work the same magic for week old, moist wheat bread, with a moldy smell.
Come to find out: Eggs and milk (with a little cinnamon) toasted to perfection and added syrup are no match to bread mold. No magic. No mold masking. Just gross french toast. Hmm.
But I ate it. I don't know why. Frugality, cheapness, guilt, hunger. A mixture of all of those things. Then I went to the internet to find out if eating bread mold is okay. Turns out it is not a good idea. It's not the same as eating bleu cheese. And I waited for the stomach pangs.
But they never came! Fortunately for me, eating moldy bread is like eating bleu cheese. Or making it into french toast works some kind of magic. But that does not mean I'll be trying to salvage another moldy loaf any time soon.
Sure enough, my uncle was featured, sharing his wares! Good times.
Yep, I know this isn't science, but it is cool nonetheless.
The other day I was talking to Jess about how loud a train whistle is. I was bugged and using hyperbole, "That thing is 150 decibels I tell you!" I am learning that I like quiet, and train whistles are not quiet. But then I got to wondering, is 150 decibels even a lot? What does that even mean? Was my guess high or low? I didn't know.
Well, I got lucky. 150 decibels is A LOT. In fact, the take off of a spaceship rocket is 130 decibels and that is a dangerous level of sound for your ears.
Let's look at some other sound measurements. Keep in mind that a 10 decibel increase means that the sound has increased ten times in loudness.
- 0 decibels is a sound you can just barely hear (like a pin dropping)
- 10 decibels is a sound of someone whispering 16 feet away
- 80 decibels is a pneumatic drill 66 feet away (think road construction)
- 100 decibels is a rock concert (that's why you should use ear plugs at those things)
- 120 decibels is a jet taking off 330 feet away
So, I'd guess the train whistle I'm talking about is 90 decibels. It is loud! But I think that's the point.
Facts and figures from my valued volume of The Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia.
bp's science: in the future, precious cargo will be sent to earth through beams of light (or maybe neutrinos) (v.1)
Yesterday a good friend of mine told me some neat scientific news. She mentioned that scientists have measured that subatomic particles, neutrinos, have been measured as going faster than the speed of light.
But Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. He said this when he came up with the Theory of Relativity. Remember the twin paradox?
So how'd this happen? A team of scientists shot a beam of neutrinos underground from Geneva to Italy, 454 miles away, and measured how long it took (This is where we question how in the world neutrinos travel underground through the earth. Come to find out, they can travel through just about anything without hardly being affected). Once the neutrinos got to Italy, it was found that they took 60 nanoseconds less than light. Doesn't sound like much, but over a distance of 621 miles, neutrinos travel about 66 feet more than light in the same amount of time.
This is such a crazy finding that the scientists who measured the discovery are apprehensive. They are asking that their results be retested, remeasured, checked, and rechecked by other scientists. Some scientists not affiliated with the team suspect experimenter error instead of major finding. It will just take time to find out.
If neutrinos do travel faster than light then Einstein's Theory comes into question and has to be reworked. However, I'll second my opinion with that of a scientist who said, "If relativity turned out to be wrong, it's very, very close to being right." We shall see.
Read more here, here, and here.
As a side note, after talking to Jess about neutrinos, he gave his 2 cents on the matter:
- Now Superman's motto will be, "Faster than a speeding neutrino!"
- A baseball player who's really fast at stealing bases could be called "The Great Neutrino"
- And he's already working on a getting a copyright for a nutrition drink that "Gets you nutrition fast!" It's called the Nutrino©.
While staying at my dad's house this summer, Oliver and I had a chance to get up close and personal with a hummingbird. This was a rarity indeed! It was awesome to look at and neat to listen to.
And did you know that hummingbirds beat their wings up to 200 beats per second?
They eat about half of their body weight in nectar a day because they burn calories so quickly and are constantly eating. And for protein, they capture insects. At night, they go into a hibernation of sorts, where their heart rate slows and their body temperature goes down. This enables them to save lots of energy. In the morning, it takes them about 20 minutes to fully recover from the hibernation and the first thing they do once they wake up is...eat. How's that for getting the metabolism going?
Hummingbirds are amazing creatures and if you are interested in learning more, their is a great Nature program on hummingbirds that's worth 45 minutes.
I am always very interested when I read articles or watch programs where the topic is how our social relationships effect our lives. It is very clear that having healthy family relationships gives a person a leg up on health. The in-house support group that a good family provides does wonders for the heart (to say the least). But what's more is that the relationships one has in his/her community are just as important. Good family relationships will not do it alone. I was surprised by this finding, but it does make sense. Feeling a sense of community is powerful. It gives a sense of purpose, of belonging. It decreases a person's stress in everyday interactions, e.g., I know my kid's friend's parents so I'm not so worried when they go to a party OR I know the person who works at the bank so I can trust them. It's a bigger support group. The show stated an alarming statistic: Over 50 percent of all individuals felt like they had no one to talk to about serious concerns. How's that for carrying around all your pent up stress inside. Geez!
I can see that I made (and do make) decisions on certain things because of my social interactions. For instance, I worked at a really crappy job during a summer break from college because I liked the people I worked with. I stayed in an okay, run-of-the-mill, cinder block apartment during college for longer than I thought because I liked the people. Out here, when families are ready to move into bigger living spaces, they always want to "stay in the neighborhood" because they like the people or vice versa. Strong community relationships are key.
Can you see it in your life? I'd like to hear what you think as this is such a cool topic to me.
For this quick bp's science post, I'll share a neat video I took of a small crab we found as we were searching the tide pools in California.
The other day Oliver offered the prayer on our dinner. After beginning, he said,
"Thank you for the protein."
I guess I've indoctrinated Oliver on the basics of nutrition a bit much. I realized this again when I told him that carrots were good for his eyes. He responded to that fact by sticking a carrot in his eye.
Food for a two year old makes sense if it's sweet (pancakes with lots o' syrup), neat to look at (spinach looks like a tree leaf), or a Goldfish cracker. Still, it doesn't hurt if I mention that milk will make his bones strong when he's eating lunch. But first, I guess I need to explain the meaning of "bones."
Oliver and I extended our vacation several days after Jess had to head back home for work. We were bummed to see Jess go. To make the time away worth it, we tried and succeeded in filling our days and nights with good times.
Another trip to Bear Lake with my sister's family.
Playing in the backyard on the same play house I did as a kid.
Enjoying the porch swing and hot dogs.
A visit with good friends, including an intense game of ping pong.
Playing with cousins who ride all kinds of wheeled gadgets around their house. I wish I had taken a photo. It was awesome. Needless to say, Oliver was in heaven.
Going very fast in moving vehicles and whooping involuntarily. What is it about speed? Plus, seeing a mini air show and whooping involuntarily some more. I have got to get to another air show.
And finally, just enjoying the company of family. That's what these trips are about anyhow.
Highlights include, but are not limited to:
- Hot tub-ing (Oliver preferred to enjoy the hot tub through the filter hole)
- Being on the boat and wakeboarding (every family member, except Oliver who loved blowing the emergency whistle attached to his life jacket, tried out the wake board and I was thoroughly impressed)
- The fresh air, oh yes, the fresh air and the quiet (even though I talked and talked and talked)
- Pool time with uncles and grandma (finding water shooters in the pool was a definite plus)
- Holding a cute, very new babe (there's nothing like a new baby to make you smile)
- Badminton (what's summer without a game, or two, or three, or more?)
And again, that's not all. There was Top Shot, a late morning jog, raspberry shakes, a moose sighting on the drive up, water skiing, tubing, apple pie, board games, walks, grilled cheese for Oliver, pool noodles, throwing bread to the seagulls, conversation, jokes, and being together. I've got my eye on cabin 453 come this April.
Unfortunately, I couldn't fall asleep that night. Isn't that always the case? The time when you need the most rest you inevitably don't get it. Ha! Anyhow, with 2 hours of sleep under my belt I got up and joined my brother-in-law at the starting line.
And we ran.
And with 3 or so miles left, our marathon-runner sister-in-law joined us and kept our spirits up til the end. Here we are about 5 minutes after finishing (thanks to my sister-in-law for the photo).
Overall, very neat experience. And yes, I surprise myself when I think about how much I enjoyed the run. I felt good and it was a beautiful run. Splendid scenery, fresh air, and lots of watermelon at the end.
Highlights include, but are not limited to:
- Froth riding (verb, the act of riding an ocean wave after it has broken, instead of right as it is breaking. This method is most commonly used by those who are new to the boogie boarding sport or who appreciate a "safer" experience, i.e., no wave tumbling into the sand).
- Oliver running into the ocean without hesitation (I tell you, this kid loves the beach)
- 30+ people on the beach, and all of them belonging to the family (and being pretty cool to boot)
- An early morning walk to the tide pools (the sleep demon wanted to fight against this excursion, but it was totally worth it)
- A great celebration luau (my sister went all out and we enjoyed our dinner as if we were on the island of Maui, Mahalo!)
- Tetherball (you're never too young or too old to play a rockin' round of tetherball . . . and lose, considering my game)
And that's just the tip of the iceberg: maple cookies, baby shower, Ford Edge upgrade, countless conversations, balcony reclining, laser-tag game in and around the common area, singing, robot dancing, beach holes complete with sinks, family photo, vacation staches, catching frogs, classic pizza, cartoons, jokes, and all-togetherness. See what I mean? Got to do this again soon.
So hold on to your hats ladies and gents, there's going to be a lot of updating on this here blog in the next few days.
1 water melon
carton of grapes
carton of tomatoes
bunch of bananas
bag of green beans
carton of plums
...and I had to stop myself from buying 12 apples, a bag of snap peas (that were soon to expire), and a carton of blueberries.
We didn't have a hard time whittling down that supply, to tell you the truth, but we had some plums that were very tart. And we had 14 of them. And they were hard to swallow (pardon my pun). So I tried out this recipe for plum cobbler and I think I've found something that I will make every summer. Delicious!
And with that, I say, here's to a break! But for some nifty video science, go here for some neat time lapse dandelion action.
Oliver really likes the BMW Mini:
We've got a car magazine with a Mini concept on the cover and he loves it. The magazine is several months old, but we keep it around. I think he likes the photo because it kind of looks like a face and it makes him laugh.
Speaking of laughter, the other day I was reading the Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia (a book I bought as a freshman in college for a screamin' deal at the university book store), and it stated that at the time of publishing (1995), the record for the number of people to fit into the original Austin Mini was 24.
That's 24 people in this car all AT THE SAME TIME. The other night I was thinking about how they made that happen, and I decided that I would not want to be the first guy to get in the car all curled up in a ball in the back. Nope, I'd want to be number 24.
Did you have cold or hot lunch in elementary school?
This is a question I've asked lots of people over the years. It's always fun to hear the answer because it's usually followed by a story. "I always had tortilla chips, never potato chips!" mentioned a cold luncher. And from the opposite side, " I couldn't stand the hot lunch chicken fried steak." The stories I've heard are always entertaining and the data I've collected (very carefully in my memory that is) is very intriguing really.
Most, if not all, people I've questioned had cold lunch. This surprised me. I mean, I grew up having hot lunch every day, never cold lunch. I cannot remember a time I brought lunch to school and ate it in the cafeteria and that is because I never did. But boy, how I wanted cold lunch. I mean, I wanted the juice boxes, the Fruit by the Foot, the chips, and the E.L Fudge cookies, oh, how I wanted them. But that isn't a surprise, right?
But wait, it is! Come to find out, the people who had cold lunch wanted hot lunch. Really? I was surprised by the facts once again. "Oh, how I wanted the pizza," one person mentioned. And another, "You guys got chocolate milk!"
True, the hot lunch meal did have great rolls which, at my weakest point, I bartered for sandwiches. I later learned that this was foolish. Those rolls were warm and fluffy and better than any pb&j. I'm sure the same could be said for those with cold lunch and their Gushers fruit snacks. Isn't it interesting that even at 9 years old we're victim to "the grass is always greener on the other side" mentality?
Do I do this now? Of course. And there are many days that I've got to step back, see the bigger picture, and let myself enjoy the hot lunch. I mean, not only did we get chocolate milk, at one point the school was offering Root Beer milk.
Do you ever wish your lunch was a different temperature?
We are working on learning to share in this house, all three of us.
This past weekend as we were out at a park, I ate ate an apple and threw the core in the bushes.
Are you surprised/shocked that I did that? If so, I'm sorry, because I do it all of the time. I grew up throwing my apple cores out of the car window while riding 70 mph up Parley's. A bush is no big deal.
When Jess was finished with his apple this weekend, I offered to throw his in the bushes. He hesitated, "What if everyone threw their core in the bushes?" I paused . . . he had a point. If everyone did it, there would be piles and piles of apples in the bushes. But then I looked around, I couldn't find anyone at the park eating apples. I saw lots of pizza boxes and juice pouches and crackers, but no apples. Plus --and here's where this post gets semi-scientific-- it only takes an apple 20 days to biodegrade. You got that right, 20 days.
Now if I had thrown a plastic bottle (100 years to biodegrade) or a glass jar (4000 years) in the bushes, then that's when this gets serious. However, come August 13th, that apple will be gone.
And with that great argument for throwing apple cores in the bushes, I may just start throwing them off our umpteenth floor balcony window. Nah, of course not, there are some times when apples belong in the trash (or in one of these).
biodegrading figures from The Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia.
Who's with me on this? Anyone feel like the pull of the computer drains them? Maybe I'm the only one, but I'm taking a break regardless.
What makes blueberries blue? Apparently it's pigment full of antioxidants called anthocyanin. And what is it exactly that antioxidants do? Because our body undergoes lots of wear and tear, free radicals or oxidants are given off causing aging due to cell death. Antioxidants stop the reaction of oxidation by being oxidized themselves (rather than molecules in the cell being oxidized).
Thanks antioxidants, thanks blueberries. And if you want more antioxidants, keep eating those fruits, vegetables, and even spices with deep color.
p.s. that is indeed a beach sand bucket we used to hold our blueberries.
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a mother [and father] who read to me.
Strickland Gillilan, "The Reading Mother", addition is mine