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31 July 2008

Cupcake Hero: Better Late than Never

Right. So, this is June's cupcake. Let's not talk about the fact that July is now over. Let's also not mention that I actually made these cupcakes in July, thinking that I was going to have them submitted on time. Let's just enjoy cupcakes. And if you're really into melon cupcakes, you can check out the other 21 melon cupcakes that actually had their ducks in a row and got things posted in the right month.

I tweaked a recipe from 100 Best Cupcakes Recipes, which I picked up at Barnes & Nobel a while back. This book's got a number if interesting looking cupcake recipes, but it didn't have a cantaloupe cupcake. So I tweaked the Banana Cupcake recipe (page 16).

For the cupcakes:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T packed brown sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 t vanilla
abt 1 cup pureed cantaloupe (abt 1/3 of a medium cantaloupe)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper. Combine flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add oil, egg, milk, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Beat in cantaloupe. Spoon into prepared cupcake papers, filling 3/4 full. Bake for 25-30 min (20-23 for dark pans) or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

For the frosting:

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream.

(This is the same buttercream recipe as the Perfect Party Cake the Daring Bakers made several months ago. Yum.)

Outdoor Hour 4: Choose a Focus

Barb suggests that we choose a focus. This was a bit difficult for me, as I struggle with my flower gardens still, and Monkey's too little to express an opinion just yet. Though I'm sure that he'd have one, and he's getting much better at expressing himself! So I struggled with this assignment for a bit. But I finally realized this afternoon that I already have an interest in nature that could easily be called a focus of my nature study: I love to watch and identify birds. So birds it is. Monkey likes birds too: he spends time looking at my bird book on a pretty regular basis. In fact, he spent quite a bit of time in the car this afternoon looking at the bird book: "Tweet! Tweet! Quack! Quack! Quack! Think "Daddy Duck" in 5 little ducks. Monkey's "quack" is quite robust.

I actually took this picture just before we left on the trip to Utah. It's brown-headed cowbirds in our front yard. These are the birds that leave their eggs in other birds' nests. I hadn't seen them around before, and haven't since, but we've been out of town so much the past little bit that it's not really saying much. All About Birds' entry for the brown-headed cowbird has a recording of their call that you can listen to, plus some other interesting information. Did you know that they are the only common brood parasite bird in North America? Below is a detail of the head of the front cowbird in my picture.

When I watch the birds on my feeder, I like to enter the data on eBird.org. Between eBird and All About Birds I've learned lots about birds and birding. Although not enough to keep me from drooling over some birding books at Barnes and Noble recently. This afternoon when I was looking over eBird, I saw this article about how to make your eBird checklists more meaningful. One of my favorite things about eBird is that in addition to keeping track of my birds, there are Scientists Who Get Paid that use the data that Citizen Scientists collect. It pleases me to be part of something bigger than my own backyard. And the things they need to use ordinary people's information aren't difficult at all.

We saw these guys on Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake when we were out in Utah. My Mother calls these little cuties "mud swallows" but when I got to looking things up in my birding information, turns out that's a local name. One that makes a lot of sense since the Mamas and Daddies make the nests out of mud attached to the side of buildings and bridges. Looks like the official name for these guys is Barn Swallows. They were fun birds! The little guys made such urgent noises while they were waiting for dinner to be delivered! We stood there and watched them and took tons of pictures (many of which did not turn out) for quite a while before we managed to get inside the visitor's center they had built their nests on. This was a new bird for me: I had never seen them before, although All About Birds says they're pretty common around the whole United States. Must not have been in the right place at the right time before.

I also took some pictures of seagulls on both the Utah trip and our Eastern States trip, but I haven't been able to identify them yet. Turns out that seagulls take up to 4 years to get to their final look, and the field guide I have isn't up to the task; there's a whole book just about gulls. So I'll be checking the library to see what I can find, and see if I can get my gulls identified.

We stopped by my uncle's house in the Salt Lake Valley, and while we were chatting, this beautiful ring-necked pheasant just ambled across the yard. We watched him for a while, and I of course took pictures for later identification.

18 July 2008

Busy Busy

Life's rather busy right now. I think I'm going to be taking a break from blogging at least until the first of the month.

13 July 2008

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel...

1 Tim 2:9

Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;

But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

1 Peter 3:3-4

Have you posted a Sunday Scripture? Sign Mr. Linky so others can see the verse(s) you chose!

09 July 2008

Dashing One Off

I'm taking a class this week that will leave me with the lofty title of "Master Food Preserver" one all the dust settles. It's a fun class! But it's 3 full workdays in a row. I don't know how Moms can do the whole leaving their kids thing; at the end of the 2nd day I'm beat and I miss my boy! But tomorrow is the last day and then I can come back home to my family armed with knowledge about safe canning, freezing, and drying, and some tasty recipes, and even a few cans of things that we're doing up in class. I got to sample a tasty blueberry pie filling today that I thought would make a lovely cupcake filling. All I need now is for my blueberry bushes to start growing!

Anyway, I promised Jenny that I'd post a couple of links for her. The first one is to Magic Pen. It's a cute game using shapes to move a circle to the flag(s). Sounds pretty simple. But there's some great physics concepts, problem solving concepts, that sort of thing. I'm pretty slow and awkward at it. I expect that if I can keep track of the link I'll eventually get better at it. In any case, that game is here.

The second link that I promised to post is the link to the directions for the Scripture Box. I love my Scripture Box. I'd love it even more if I could remember to do it daily, rather than a few days at a time every so often. The summer hasn't been so hot for that whole remembering thing. But even with that I'm gradually getting a few verses memorized, and keeping pretty good retention on them, though I am shaky on the chapter & verse thing. But it's a huge improvement over what I had memorized before, which was nearly nothing (And this in spite of doing 100 "Scripture Mastery" verses in high school)! So I'm pleased. And I'm still working on it. And the directions for how to make and use the boxes are here.

05 July 2008

But behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying -- Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth.

And behold, he shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sickness of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmaties, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that hemight blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

-Alma 7:9-13

03 July 2008

Docs to Women: Pay No Attention to Ricki Lake's Home Birth

The trouble is, they have no evidence to back up their safety claims. In fact, the largest and most rigorous study of home birth internationally to date found that among 5,000 healthy, "low-risk" women, babies were born just as safely at home under a midwife's care as in the hospital. And not only that, the study, like many before it, found that the women actually fared better at home, with far fewer interventions like labor induction, cesarean section, and episiotomy (taking scissors to the vagina, a practice that according to the research should be obsolete but is still performed on one-third of women who give birth vaginally).


It's a pretty easy guess why doctors don't want home births: they don't do house calls. And they can't get paid for a birth they don't attend. Home birth hits them right in the pocket book. Ouch! If they're going to push for new legislation I think I may push back: guess I'd better put calls to my legislators on my agenda.

The Wonderful Letter A

This afternoon Monkey brought me his scriptures and fished my scripture markers out of the case. Then he sat on my lap. I love it that he loves the scriptures, so what I did next was pretty much a no-brainer: I read him a chapter. Then he asked me, "A?" "A?" So we looked around and found several big and little A's on the page and we colored them. It was fun!

01 July 2008

Working On It

It's killing me that I haven't managed to do anything with my pictures from our vacation yet! But when it was all said and done there was 1500 pictures on my camera. About 1000 of them are pictures that I took, and I did a little bit of looking through those and deleting the bad ones along the way. But not that much. And it does include a fair amount of cemetery pictures, which, although I am pretty excited about them, I doubt that I will post here. The last 500 pictures were taken of the mountains on I-70 as we headed out of Utah. My little sister wanted to take some pictures, so I set it up and handed it to her and I fell asleep. She was a happy camper! The end result is that there are, ah, several pictures to go through. I wanted to get the worst of the fuzzy ones (hers and mine) off the camera before I download them. I'm still working on it.


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