Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dollar Stretcher Publication

My latest article, "Freezing Fruit," just appeared in the August issue of The Dollar Stretcher. Check it out at

http://www.stretcher.com/stories/09/09jun29g.cfm

The kids and I just picked our first batch of blackberries today--they're freezing on a cookie sheet right now. We're starting early!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Chocolate dissolves!

I've spent the last week trying to induce chocolate bloom, for the sake of science. For some reason, the microwave never seemed to melt the chocolate enough, but my nice sunny windowsill has worked nicely. My test Hershey bar is now mottled with a pale crust, which when scraped into vegetable oil dissolves almost completely. Chemistry in action.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Brave

When searching for information, I've learned one thing about writing: you have to be brave.

I've been researching candy chemistry to learn more about candy experiments (see www.candyexperiments.com, which will continue to be updated). My three years of high school chemistry were enough to get me started, but not enough to answer all my questions. My latest question: why do candy makers put hydrogenated palm kernel oil in candy? I put out a query on profnet.com but got no answers, so I had to be more creative. After emailing a few universities, I decided to go write to the source: Herve This, author of Molecular Gastronomy and science editor for Cook's Illustrated, but fully expected to be ignored. To my surprise, he promptly wrote back! He didn't have much of an answer for me, but a food scientist at BYU did. So, note to self: learn the material, exhaust local resources...then don't be afraid to reach out and ask!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Paper Questions

While researching an article on the cost of Christmas cards, I called Arvey paper to check prices there. I have a box of blank cards that I wanted to price, but apparently that brand has been discontinued. So I asked the saleslady to find any box of white cards, describe it, and tell me the price. It took her a few minutes to understand what I was asking for (she kept saying "Do you want this kind or this kind?), but eventually she got one for me. The result: a box of 100 pearl-bordered panel cards with an inset panel for $15.99.

Now I know.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Family Fun

(June 2008)

Since Family Fun magazine will be publishing a piece on our candy experiments in their October issue, we spent this afternoon getting photographed. Two photographers came to our house, (arriving early, before I'd changed and applied makeup--greeting the photographers in my clean-up clothes felt as weird as wearing pants to church). They lugged in all sorts of gear and spent half an hour just setting up light screens and positioning everything. Then they asked how long they'd have to photograph the kids--would their attention spans last more than half an hour? Ha, I wanted to say. You just watch.

Even though it turned out my job was pretty much to stay out of the way, I'm still recovering from the strain. Were Katherine and Alex listening to instructions to move closer together, stir their bowls, look at the camera (no, no, and no). Would I ruin a potentially brilliant shot if I ducked in to pour more water, lay out more bowls, wipe up spilled candy-water? Would I miss an important scientific discovery that I couldn't see from across the room? Would they ever get the lighting right? (The first half-hour of photos seemed to be discovery after discovery that the light was too dim). Would any of the shots work? Would they all work? Would they be so brilliant that my children's faces would be splashed across the web forevermore? Would this be a bad thing? Not to mention unquenchable concerns about the number of dishes I'd have to wash!

After an hour and a half of experiments (Alex managed to ruin my crowning achievement, a five-color density rainbow, by "helping" to pour), the experiments had been duly recorded and the photographers were ready to shoot a family photo. Photographing a herd of monkeys would have been easier! After so much prolonged concentration, my kids were ready to split, with Alex racing away after baseballs and Katherine hiding behind Laramie's back and in the wisteria. You would have thought they'd been eating all the candy they'd dissolved, they were that crazy. As for me, all those seasons watching America's Next Top Model helped me not at all--I could feel my smile straining (especially since I was wrestling to keep Rebecca in the picture). To top it off, it started to rain. Ah, Seattle. Maybe they can do one of those photo collages and paste our faces onto the bodies of people who are actually holding still.

At last it was all over. With Mom's help (she raced to the store for another pack of Skittles and stirred frantically while we were all posing for the family photo), Lar poured two more density rainbows with clear enough color striation that the photographer got a few pictures. ("Look, your tripod only has one leg," said Alex). Then they were gone.

But the kids weren't done yet. Katherine embarked on art projects, painting flowers onto paper towel with M&M color, while Alex (unwatched) dumped candy into his biggest bowl until the water level reached the top. There must be two pounds of M&Ms, Runts, Milky Ways, Snickers, Sweet Tarts, and Laffy Taffy still in there (he wouldn't let me dump it out). He calls it "candy soup." Goodbye, candy stash.

My dining room table is still sticky after three scrubs, I'm running my second load of dishes, entropy is overtaking my recently-spotless living room, and the rest of the house is a mess. But now we're famous. And I've learned a valuable lesson: I was never meant to be a model.