2012 WordCount Blogathon "I did it!" badgeAlthough I love vanilla and chocolate cupcakes, it didn’t feel right to end the month-long WordCount Blogathon challenge without a post that sums up the experience – and the benefits – that come with blogging every day. (A big thank you to Michelle Rafter from WordCount and Jan Udlock from Imperfect Mom for organizing another successful and fun challenge!)

Other than the Blogathon, the other blogging challenge I’ve heard of is the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April, but I’m sure there are many others out there. If you’re on the fence about joining a challenge, here are four reasons to participate (and benefits that come with participation) to sway you:

1. The chance your posts will be picked up by other media. I’m extremely grateful to The Baltimore Sun, which featured two of my posts – “How to make an herb planter box” and “Presentation’s role in the school lunch battle” – on their home page this month. This brought in new readers, increased my stats, and just plain made my day.

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Vanilla bean buttermilk cupcakes with rich chocolate frosting

Since I am currently reading Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life – and writing her food blogger fan mail – I decided it was only appropriate that I also try one of her recipes. Kenny and I finished our six-week childbirth class on Sunday, and I wanted to make a dessert to celebrate. With this also being the week that the baby hit 37 weeks (full term!), as well as the end of the WordCount Blogathon, there were quite a few other reasons to celebrate too.

Flipping through the A Homemade Life, I came across an easy recipe for vanilla bean buttermilk cake. Served with glazed oranges and creme fraiche, Molly’s cake is a bit sophisticated, the type of dessert you’d serve at a proper dinner party. It sounded delicious, but I wanted a cake that was more sloppy and decadent.

So I made the vanilla bean buttermilk cake into cupcakes, and whipped together a deep chocolate frosting to top them off. This frosting is closer to a ganache than a buttercream with a deep chocolate flavor. It’s thick and runny too, a glossy icing that I spooned over the top of the cupcakes and let run down the sides and onto a cookie sheet in messy brown waves.

These cupcakes are kind of like pregnancy, I think – a bit messy along the way, but with an end result that’s worth it.

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A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergYesterday I wrote my first “fan mail” letter to a famous food blogger: Molly Wizenberg of Orangette.

I do not often write “fan mail.” In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve done so in the past. My letters have gone to an eclectic list of people, including a game show host, a child star, and a writer.

My first letter went to Bob Barker, former host of The Price is Right. I watched that show all the time as a kid, especially over the summers when my brother and I sometimes stayed at my grandparents’  house. Dziadzi, my grandfather, always watched it, so I started watching with him. Over time I got increasingly annoyed that the contestants had to be at least 18. So I wrote Bob Barker a letter suggesting he start a similar game show for kids. A few weeks later I received two black-and-white photographs in return, one of Barker and one of “Barker’s Beauties,” the three women who showcased the show’s prizes.

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31/ 365 -- Visions of Lunch

Courtesy Flickr user Carol VanHook

My friend Ryan came over for dinner last night and, as he works in an elementary school, we wound up talking about school lunches. He has an interesting idea about getting kids to eat healthier foods during the school day: The battle may be, in part, about presentation, he says.

In Ryan’s school, many of the kids are eligible for free and reduced school lunches. For those are aren’t, a full meal costs only $2.10. “You can’t make lunch for that price,” he says. If parents want to make lunches that include the same components – an entree like chicken and cheese flatbread or nachos with beef, a vegetable like broccoli salad or a squash medley, a fruit, a salad, and a drink – he may be right. The result is that most of Ryan’s fourth graders eat a school lunch every day.

The entrees are similar to what we were served when I was in public school (cheese pizza, tacos, chicken nuggets)But, on the days Ryan has lunch monitor duty, he works with what he’s got. He has his students rotate their five-compartment lunch trays so that the salad and fruit are directly in front of them and the entree is in the back. The kids eat more salad this way, he says.

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Wordle.net word cloud for My Morning Chocolate

For those who celebrate or commemorate it, I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day. Today many of us in the WordCount Blogathon are posting a Wordle, a word cloud design of popular words used on your blog or website. I got a kick out of the fact tha two of my largest (and, I’m guessing, most used) words are “meat” and “cream.”

Enjoy, and head on over to Wordle.net to create your own word cloud for your blog, website, or Delicious account. Come back here and post a link to it, if you like.

vintage pans from Patrick Sutton Home

If I had a larger kitchen, I would want to buy these vintage pans from Patrick Sutton Home in Baltimore. They were originally used to cook over an open flame, but Patrick Sutton is selling them as a set to hang on your kitchen walls. It’s a fun idea that could also be a great conversation starter too.

vintage pans from Patrick Sutton Home 2

Got any good kitchen decoration ideas? Share them in the comments section.

Family photos

About once a year I get the urge to write about my brother, who was killed six years ago today. I’ve posted about his love for protein shakes and about the time he told a girl he had a pot roast in the oven so he could get off of the phone.

I thought these were the only connections I could make between my brother and food, so this year I planned to post only a picture of us as kids. I love this shot for its 80s references (Rainbow Brite, Ms. Piggy, headbands, Reebox), for our dress-up clothes, and for the fact that Pat is laughing and I am smiling and we are having a good bit of fun. Together.

Then I remembered that we had most of our fun together at the beach in Ocean City. Other than hot dogs and peanut butter crackers made with Sociables, there was one meal we always had at the beach: Maryland crab soup.

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