Cookie Magic

What is better than a pan of freshly baked cookies? Two pans.

Nothing beats wolfing down half a dozen, warm, soft cookies. But something awful happens after a few days go by and those cookies sit in a jar for too long. Your downy soft Snickerdoodles turn into tooth chipping blocks.

Never fear because there is one old trick that all moms seem to know when it comes to hard cookies. Throw some bread in the cookie jar and those cookies will soften right up.

The first time as a kid that I saw bread in the cookie jar, I thought my mom had lost it. I started to throw out the Wonder bread when my mom explained to me that the bread helps make the cookies soft again.

‘Yeah right mom,’ I thought. ‘I find that harder to believe than when you tried to tell me that eating vegetables is good for me.’

But guess what? She was right.

How does bread do it? That’s what I am wondering today.

For today’s guess, I would like to ask someone to help me try to determine how this cookie phenomenon is possible. We will call it a guest guess.

If there is one person that knows more about cookies than anyone I know, it is my younger brother Chris. This guy loves cookies so much that it is a good thing he can’t grow a beard because he would constantly have cookie crumbs hanging off of it.

Here is what Chris had to say:

Me – “How does bread help soften a cookie?”

Chris – “The easy answer is cookie magic.”

Me – “Don’t you mean bread magic? What does the cookie do other than be a cookie?

Chris – “That’s the magic of a cookie.”

Chris – “Okay, here’s what really happens. Obviously you put the cookies in the jar first.  You don’t start with a jar full of fresh and then add the cookies.  That would just be a waste of bread.”

Chris – “After a few days out of the oven cookies begin to get lazy and become hard.  Everyone knows that cookies hate bread.  Humans see the cookies getting hard and decide to put bread in the cookie jar to motivate the cookies.  So cookies are like ‘we gotta get out of here and away from this dumb bread.’ They shape up and become soft again so they can get snatched up out of the jar.”

Me – “So you are saying that cookies become soft around bread because they can’t stand being around the bread?”

Chris – “That’s the thing about cookies…you always want ‘em.”

Here is the real reason:

According to ehow.com, Cookies are hygroscopic, which means that they draw in water out of the air and hold it in the sugar structure. Bread, on the other hand, is not hygroscopic. It has an open structure, and all its moisture evaporates into the air. “When a hard cookie and a fresh piece of bread get placed together in a plastic bag, two things happen. The hygroscopic cookie starts sucking out moisture from the air. The bread, as always, is evaporating its moisture out into the air of the bag. But now the cookie’s sugars are sucking up the bread’s moisture for itself, making the cookie nice and soft again while the bread gets hard.”

Final thoughts:

So maybe Chris doesn’t know as much about cookies as I thought. Turns out, cookie softness has nothing to do with cookies not liking bread and wanting to be “snatched up.”

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Writer’s Block Rhyme

I sit here with my notebook, trying to think of something to write.

But I can’t find the words, despite trying with all of my might.

I want to post something clever, like an old story my readers have enjoyed.

Instead my page stays blank and I begin to become annoyed.

I guess this is writer’s block, when you just don’t know what to say

It is as if I’ve used up all my words, and I have none left for today.

A blog is not good without words, at least that is what I’ve been told.

I could try to start a new trend, but a wordless website seems a little too bold.

What would we do without Blog By Bake, it would be utter devastation.

Where would we get goofy posts, featuring way too much alliteration?

How could this ever happen to a writer so young and new?

If I can’t think of what to write, whatever will I do?

So instead of forcing words on the page and wasting everyone’s time,

I have decided to take a different approach and I’ve come up with this writer’s block rhyme.

Something All Kids (& Parents) Should Know About Video Games

Did you play an hour of video games today? If you said no, then you are going to want to read the rest of this…

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Sian Beilock’s book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. In addition to explaining how writing down our thoughts before we take a big test can increase our test scores, Beilock wrote about a topic that could be very important to young people everywhere.

Beilock showed that playing action video games can improve your brainpower.

Yes, you read that correctly. Spending multiple hours a week playing games like Call of Duty and Gears of War actually improves core cognitive abilities.

To explain this, Beilock used a study where college students with little previous video game experience were asked to play Medal of Honor for ten days in a row. The examiners explained that Medal of Honor was chosen because the “wartime objectives require working-memory. Players must constantly move their attention from one aspect of the game to another so that they do not miss incoming enemies or new developments. While doing this, they must also keep their mission goals updated and fresh in their minds. In short, players must juggle a number of tasks at once and, to succeed, they can’t drop the ball on any front.”

The study found that after playing Medal of Honor an hour a day for ten days, the students exhibited improved memory and attention abilities on a number of different tasks. It appeared that the better the students got at the game, the better their attention and memory skills got outside the game.

As a 14 year old, I would have loved hearing about this study. I would have used it as ammo anytime my parents told me to stop playing video games.

But, I guess, as a 14 year old I never would have actually read this story because I would have been too busy playing video games all day.

That is another thing that Beilock finds. It appears that the benefits of playing video games occur only after an hour of play a day. Playing for eight hours a day has diminishing returns in improving brain power.

The old adage used to be, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”  I would like to recommend a new saying for today’s generation.

“An hour of video games a day will increase your pay.”

Sounds like a good bumper sticker to me.

Giving With Purpose

How much would you pay to have the opportunity to learn from Warren Buffett?

How great would it be to give away some of Buffett’s money?

What if I told you that you could do both and it wouldn’t cost you a dime.  Thanks to the Learning by Giving Foundation, anyone can participate in the first ever Massive Open Online Course (M.O.O.C.) in Philanthropy.

Titled GivingWithPurpose, the course is broken up into six online classes, each featuring shorter lessons. The first five classes include a twenty to thirty minute guest speaker video, which students can watch anytime they want. The speakers include the following:

·         Warren & Doris Buffett – Two siblings who form the investor/philanthropist duo of all time.

·         Cal Ripken Jr. – Hall of Fame baseball player.

·         Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – Creators of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

·         Soledad O’Brien – Anchor and special correspondent for CNN.

·         Thomas C. Werner – Chairman of the Boston Red Sox.

GivingWithPurpose aims to help students achieve two complementary objectives:

1. Learn tips & strategies for effective charitable giving;

2. Help distribute the Foundation’s money to local nonprofits.

The course is based on the RISE Framework for Social Change, developed by GivingWithPurpose Professor, Rebecca Riccio.

The course has already started, but it is not too late to join. They are accepting registration through July. Anyone who is interested can click here for more information.

I have signed up for the course and have completed lessons one and two so far.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in philanthropy.

I am very thankful for great organizations and opportunities like this.

A Day in the Life of Queen Elizabeth II

The recent birth of Prince William & Kate Middleton’s first child got me thinking about Queen Elizabeth II. How wonderful must it be for the queen to have a great grandchild? I’m sure she will love spending time with that baby boy.

That made me wonder…what does the Queen do all day? Does she have a strict schedule, or is she allowed to do whatever she wants?

Here is my version on a day in the life of the Queen:

10:30 – 11:30am: Rise, shine & dine –

Unlike most octogenarians, the Queen loves to sleep in past 10:00am. She always checks her phone for text messages and tweets before she rolls out of her Sleep Number king-sized bed (queen-size was just too small, her sleep number is 55).

On her stroll down to the royal dining hall, she gets a morning update from her trusty assistant Wennington. The morning report usually consists of the weather forecast, financial updates and the latest news from TMZ.

For breakfast she typically eats Cookie Crisp cereal with an English muffin. One of the first things that the she did when she became Queen was to move a TV into the royal dining hall. Her favourite shows are The Price is Right (if she’s up in time), Breaking Bad & Whose Line is it Anyway? Contrary to popular belief, she doesn’t watch Downton Abbey.

12:00 – 3:00pm: Fit for a Queen –

If there is one thing the Queen is known for, it is her strict workout routine. She is always on the cutting edge of fitness and has tried yoga, P90X & Insanity Workout. Her current workout routine begins with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical followed by an hour of Hip Hop Abs. The Queen loves working out and listening to Ja Rule, so this workout is perfect for her.

After she rocks her core, it is time to head to her Olympic size pool. She loved the aquatic center from the 2012 London Olympics so she had it moved into her house. Following the swim, she cools off with an hour long massage.

3:30 – 4:30pm: Refuel –

After a strenuous workout the Queen heads back to the royal dining hall for lunch. She is usually exhausted at this time and wishes that she didn’t have to walk all the way back to the dining hall. She wants to be able to ride a miniature pony from room to room, but Wennington will not allow it. Instead she is thinking of installing moving sidewalks.

Lunch features a protein shake, wheatgrass shot & a Lunchable. The royal chef loves the Queen because all her meals are toasted, microwaved or blended.

4:30 – 7:00pm: Free time –

During free time the Queen can be found Skyping with President Obama, playing Words With Friends with Elton John or watching YouTube videos.

7:30 – 8:30pm: Noble nourishment –

For dinner, the Queen loves Bagel Bites. The only bad part is that sometimes she can’t wait to eat them when they come out of the over and she burns the top of her mouth.

During dinner the royal court jester, Mr. Bean, performs jokes and skits for the Queen.

9:00pm –??: Bust a royal move –

Following dinner, the Queen goes over to her friend Angie’s house to play Bunco. At least that is what she tells Wennington. Somehow she always is able to lose the royal guards that follow the her 24/7. The Queen typically returns home around 1:00am, raving about another wild night of Bunco.

Overall, the Queen’s staff loves her. She is low maintenance, nice and not like that old Queen at all. Elizabeth I used to make the whole staff memorize the Encyclopedia Britannica, perform Shakespeare and make porridge for every meal. The only thing the staff doesn’t like about Lizzy 2.0 is when the she makes everyone play human chess. It is not fair that she gets to move wherever she wants just because she is a Queen.

Queen

 

Picture by NASA/Bill Ingalls [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How Dave Ramsey Can Keep You Out Of Jail

You know you’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey when you see a TP’d house and your first thought is “what a waste of $20.”

Driving in my neighborhood, I came across a front yard that was covered in toilet paper (picture below). Upon seeing this, I didn’t initially think of the vandalism or the poor people who would have to clean up the mess. My first thought was of budgeting.

I sure hope that whoever did this, also factored the cost into their toilet paper budget.

Should I find it odd that I am more concerned that they stick to their budget than whether or not they commit a crime?

I have Dave Ramsey to thank for this. Ramsey, a bestselling author and national radio host, preaches financial responsibility. He helps thousands of people work their way out of debt by encouraging them create, and follow, a strict budget.

I guess it is a sign that I have been listening to Dave and I have received his message loud and clear.

I would recommend that those vandals visit DaveRamsey.com. Who knows, it may help them stay out of jail by simply spending their money more wisely.

TP

Sleepwalk

For as long as I can remember, I have been a sleepwalker. My parents have told me stories from when I was very young, how they would find me stumbling around in the kitchen during the middle of the night. Just picture Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in that scene from Step Brothers.

I’ve always thought that my sleepwalking was kinda fun. If I could only somehow control it and use it for good. Imagine how productive I’d be if I could build a house for the poor while asleep.

The best part of sleepwalking is when I catch myself in the middle of sleep doing something. I love when I find myself turning on a light in the bathroom or walking around in my room. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes I don’t catch myself in the act and have to resort to looking for clues the next morning. I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up and found that I have moved my bed or hidden something on my desk.

For the longest time I kept a sleep journal where I would document all the things that I did in the middle of the night.

Here’s a sleep journal entry from August 18, 2008:

On Sunday night I caught myself sitting up in bed holding a pillow that didn’t have a pillowcase on it. I looked around my room and found the pillowcase in the middle of the floor. Apparently at some point in the middle of the night, I took the pillow case off and threw it across my room.

On Monday night things got even more action packed.

I had a “dream” where I sleepwalked into my closet, thinking I had to put on a Phoenix Suns shirt that was folded away in my dresser drawer.

Not sure why I had to get that specific shirt, but somehow I managed to find it. Once I had the shirt I tried to put it on, but I realized that I was already wearing a shirt.

The funny thing is, I don’t wear a shirt to bed. So at some point in the night I went to my closet, found a shirt and put it on. Now, I was back in the closet trying to put on another shirt.

When I went to put on the second shirt, I felt a sharp pain in my left shoulder. The pain woke me up and I realized that I was in my closet wearing not one, but two shirts.

And to top it all off, I had somehow hurt my shoulder. That means that I had done even more in my sleep that night, some of which had caused physical pain.

Now that I was awake, I took off both shirts and walked back to bed. On my way back to bed, I found that my bed sheets and pillowcases were crumpled up and tossed on the floor.

Apparently sleepy Adam doesn’t like pillowcases.

I wish that this story has some really powerful meaning, like we all need to stop sleepwalking though life, but it doesn’t. I just thought you might enjoy laughing at the crazy things I do while asleep.

@BlogByBake

After years of resisting, I have finally given in and joined Twitter.

When people used to tell me that I should sign up for Twitter my response was always, “I don’t need a Twitter. Who cares what I have to say.” Now that I have started a blog, I can’t really use that excuse anymore.

I doubt that people now care what I have to say, but if I am going to write 1000 words about Willy Wonka, I might as well write 140 characters about it.

I can see the benefits of having Twitter. It is a great way to stay up-to-date on news and trends as well as connect with new people. Plus, it may be a way to grow Blog by Bake.

Michael Hyatt writes in his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World that if you want to grow your blog, you must go where the people are. And right now, the people are on Twitter.

For those of you that are already on Twitter, here is a great quote by Bill Cosby: “Kids need to remember that when you put something on Twitter, it’s not like whispering to your friend, you’ve put it on a billboard that the whole world, including your own kids someday, can see.”

I think that is a very important thing to keep in mind. Twitter can be a powerful tool. It is a free billboard that can get a message in front of thousands of people. We all just have to make sure our thoughts are something we want the world to see.

With that in mind, I hope you guys will follow me at twitter.com/blogbybake. I will do my best to bring you thoughtful, funny and clever content while at the same time keeping it clean and fun for the whole family to enjoy.

And if you have any suggestions for future tweets let me know. I am new to this and will take all the help I can get.

Free T-Shirts

I long ago accepted the fact that I am not ever going to be named to GQ’s best dressed list. To me, “dressing nice” means that I should wear my basketball shorts that don’t have a hole in the side.

But I didn’t realize exactly how limited my wardrobe is until just the other day.

Looking at my shirts, I noticed that the vast majority of them are ones that I got for free.  I didn’t do the math, but I would guess that 73% of my shirts are ones that I did not pay for. They were obtained as freebies from work and different events, or I was given them as gifts from friends and family.

I still have shirts from 2003 that I got when I played high school basketball. And I wear these shirts regularly.

I don’t know if my number of free shirts is something to be proud of or embarrassed by.

One the one hand, I have probably saved hundreds of dollars by wearing free shirts. Plus who doesn’t love a free shirt? T-shirt time is one of the most popular parts of a sporting event. Be honest, how many of you read the blog title and thought “oh cool, he is giving away a free t-shirt.”

But on the other hand, maybe it is time to update my wardrobe.  How yellow do pit stains have to get before it is time to throw away the shirt?  I’ve never known the answer to that question.  Plus, I am starting to think that my old ratty 2003 shirts are a major contributor to me not having a girlfriend. “Hey baby, want to see my collection of free t-shirts?” probably isn’t the best pick up line.

Should I continue with my frugal attire or is it time to act like a grown up and learn to dress properly? It’s a tough call. Either way, today I am thankful for free t-shirts.