Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Book Review

I am sure you've heard about Aron Ralston. And if you haven't heard of him by name, I am positive you've heard of the hiker who cut his hand off after getting it stuck by a chock stone (or boulder) in southern Utah. Even though we all know the ending to this story, it's only kind of the semi-ending. There's a lot to be learned from Aron's narrative and I really liked his message. Of course, the story about how he survived such an ordeal, from the way he passed time to the techniques he used to keep himself warm, was astonishing, intriguing, amazing, and overall miraculous. As if that isn't enough, the take away from the book is an extra plus. So much so, that I've been thinking about it for a long time (I even had a dream I lost my left hand - ha). Not only is this man top-notch because he got himself out of a situation that surely meant death, but on top of that he's got real discipline, a classy grace, and a deep love for those he surrounds himself with.


Let's cook! shall we?

I was always under the impression that cooking was pretty difficult. In my mind, cooking meant that mashed potatoes could easily get mushy, cheese cake would always crack, meat would probably be under- or overcooked but never right, and lasagna took a whole day to prepare. When it was my turn to make dinner in college I played it safe: quesadillas, spaghetti, and even one time kid's meals from Wendy's (it was a stressful week at school, alright?). I remember one college afternoon racing home from class because I was getting shaky for lack of calories. I think I ate around 5 bowls of cereal in 3 minutes. Thank goodness my roommates were excellent cooks so I ate well. And they made cooking look easy, but I still wasn't believin' it.

Married life became another practice in denying the cook in me. Spaghetti had not left my repertoire, rice and beans joined the mix, and German pancakes were my specialty. I branched out in other areas, but I stayed safe within the bounds of what I thought was simple.

Fast forward a few years to now. I am realizing that cooking is not hard, at all. Sure cheese cake cracks but so does almost everyone else's, mashed potatoes are easy, meat can be cooked perfectly, and lasagna can be done in so many different ways (one recipe I've mastered takes an hour, tops!). It's not the cooking that is hard, it's the planning. A cook must plan on what she is making and then secure the ingredients. I am ashamed to admit that I thought I wasn't good at cooking because I couldn't make anything with what was in my pantry. Pish posh! This is difficult for anyone especially if you haven't been to the grocery store for two weeks and all you're left with is kidney beans and frozen corn.

So with my planning notebook in hand and my dislike for grocery shopping pushed to the side, I have become a better cook. I have learned to make things I've always wanted to try. For example:
pie crust
chocolate cake from scratch
good pizza dough
shrimp masala
london broil
eggplant parmagiano (see photo)

Surely, I've got ways to come as a cook, but I'm very much enjoying it. Every night I look forward to making dinner. It's a neat process. Sometimes I flip through magazines and books making goals for future cooking attempts, some of which include:
carrot cake
lava cake
pudding from scratch
homemade pasta
homemade bread made with my own starter
successfully baking a turkey and making stuffing from scratch

And there you have it. I've found the cook it me. Sometimes I wish I could go back and make steamed tilapia and fresh green beans for my roommates. I'm sure they would have enjoyed that more than a kid's meal . . . at least I hope they would have. It's hard to beat a Frosty with fries.


What a superb idea

The other day, while over at a friend's house, Oliver took to some cool toys her boys had in their bedroom. He couldn't get enough of the play vacuum or the cool "p[l]ane". When we were about to leave, my friend offered, "Why don't you let Oliver borrow those," her boys weren't into them at the time, "Take them home for a couple of weeks and let him enjoy them."

It was genius! A temporary toy swap of sorts. This is a great idea and one I hope to contribute to more often (we just have to get the cool toys now :). Thanks friends!


bp's science: ice cream of the future (v.1)

I just finished a post about breathing fire, but then I did some searching on the net and found that those who talk about this kind of stuff are of a certain ilk (an ilk that talks about creating bigger and badder things with fire and the like). And with that, I decided against posting about my experience and how it's done. I may decide to post it in the future, but it will probably be after I finish my potato rocket launcher. Kidding, kidding. It really is cool stuff, but I will hold off at this time.

Instead, I will share something interesting that I learned this week from a friend we had over for dinner this Sunday. He mentioned that when you drop semi-melted ice cream into a vat of liquid nitrogen (-321 degrees F), it automatically creates little ice cream spheres, aka Dippin' Dots. So if you were ever wondering how they made that crazily overpriced ice cream of the future, that's how. It's a natural process. Why spheres and not something else? An excellent question, and something I'll look into after I finish my potato rocket launcher.

image found here


A whole week gone by

A lot can happen in a week, yes?

Valentine's Day came and went as we dealt with some usual winter malady. I didn't get a chance to make the Boston Creme pie I had been planning, and I gave Jess his Valentine's gift without any fanfare or a card (which is a great tragedy in my book). It was too bad too, cause he really did deserve a rockin' V-day. Instead, while I lay getting better in bed, the guy stayed home, watched Oliver, and worked 10+ hours. This guy deserves 20 Boston Creme pies!

A couple of days later, I was feeling quite a bit better but still not feeling like heavy foods. Still, I was eager to make something. Cue the chocolate swirl bread.

4 hours later, the smells of this baked good filled the house. Plus, I don't have a mixer, so I think I burned off more calories making the dough than I did eating two pieces. Let's just say that if I had to make this stuff everyday, I would have the forearms of Popeye.

And I missed bp's science, even though I had something planned. I was going to mention the science of a kiss:
A kiss activates a neurotransmitter in your body called dopamine. This neurotransmitter has many different roles, one of them being responsible for that sense of elation you get when you kiss someone. The nerves in your lips also send signals to your limbic system which is the part of the brain that processes feelings of love. Powerful stuff!

And I found this jewel amongst our things the other day. My first Valentine's Day card to Jess, 2001. Ahh, the memories.


Dessert Rename

The other day I made farfel cake. It's much like a lemon square, but instead of lemon you use jam and top it with some more shortbread mix.

While explaining over video chat that I made this dessert, the chatters on the other end thought I had said "barfel cake".

I will be making up a new name for this dessert.


bp's science: anatomy facts (v.1)

Here are some interesting facts, really.

Biggest bone in your body: femur (thigh bone)
Biggest muscle in your body: gluteus maximus (bum)
Strongest muscle in your body: masseter (jaw muscles)

Now I've got to go fold some laundry.


the Consta-cough

Like the rest of the world, we experience colds during the winter time. Right now we are in the throes of what my sister coined the "consta-cough". It's a cough that's not really accompanied by any other cold symptoms, but it likes to hang around. I had it, Jess got it, now Oliver has it. Then we all got it again. And now the runny nose has joined it.

I took Oliver to the doctor after he had had a fever for a couple of days (I believe he's on the up and up now) and I told the doc about the consta-cough. He liked the term so much he used it himself. I think this is a term that we will keep in the lexicon. Cause, ya know, my dad says kids get a lot of colds and such every year until they are like, 10.

In other news, Jess starred in the Chinese New Year Lion dance with the Young Men this year. He helped them practice, and when one of the young men wasn't able to make it to one of the practices, he stepped in. It was awesome (plus, he said he only coughed once during the whole performance, haha). Thanks to the branch photographers, you can see him here. He's the last set of feet on the lion to your right.

While Jess was prepping for the performance, Oliver and I spent some time at the Chinese Lantern table. We didn't make any lanterns, but Oliver had a good time playing with the mini-staplers.

And with that I'll conclude by shouting out to all my family in Wisconsin. Go Packers!


And so it goes

This kid is top-notch and growing ever so much.

He likes to eat apples. Sometimes with the skin and sometimes without. And when it's without, he spits it out with a look on his face of, "Uh, what in the world is this?"

He talks a whole lot and is singing songs. Seven is "secen", underneath is "underneaf", and he counts to 20 like a pro (1, 2, 3, 4, secen, 8, 10, 11,12, 14, 15, 13, 20!).

The other day he used the stereo antenna as the church microphone. His dad gave a talk in church just recently, so I'm pretty sure that's what inspired him.


bp's science: the fastest airplane in the world (v.1)

When I was younger, my little brother drew airplanes, really good airplanes. I mean, these drawings were pretty near perfect. He drew the F-16, the F-14, the stealth bomber, the SR-71, and more. He then decided to start designing some of his own planes. I think there was one he called the Eagle. It was really cool and I bet if it was built, it would rival the SR-71 as the fastest airplane in the world.

The Blackbird, or SR-71, is claimed to be the fastest manned airplane in the world. It can go 2,092 miles per hour, or Mach 3+. If a plane is flying at the speed of sound it is going Mach 1. If a plane is flying at Mach 2, it is going twice the speed of sound. And if it's going Mach 3+, well then, it's going really crazy fast. As a comparison, a Boeing 747 (a common commercial airplane) goes about 550 miles per hour at cruising speed. That means that a flight to visit my hometown in a Blackbird would take about an hour. Nice! However, that would be an hour without pretzels and a beverage while wearing a pressure suit.

This plane was built in the 60s believe it or not! Image found here.