Sunday, October 27, 2013

What-What?! Week of October 27th

I spent a lot of this week just trying to get everything done.  Between my behavioral economics class, my CPR/first aid class (this week only – I am now certified!), my daughter’s birthday, putting together Halloween costumes, and having quite a stressful week at work, I have just been run ragged.  Oh!  I did have an article published on Yahoo! Voices, in response to the book Homeschooling: The Bigger Picture; this book legitimately made me angry, which is pretty unusual.  Since reading that book, the author has since published more, though thankfully it is fiction, not non-fiction or advice.

Week 2 of my behavioral economics class covered mental accounting and “unmoney”; that is, paying with anything other than cash, and the affects it has on behavior.  Very interesting, though mostly information that I’d read elsewhere before.  Every week, there’s a debate topic where experts discuss their opinions, and then us students discuss their reactions and the topic.  This week’s topic was asking if credit is a boon or a curse, and one of the experts said the most insane thing:  “Credit card companies are there to provide free debt to consumers”.  Uh… what?  I heartily disagree with that; they are in it to make money.

Earlier this week, I followed a link here and a link there, and came across these adorable Disney / Pokemon mash-ups; while most are of princess and Pokemon, I think the best ones are the non-princess characters, like those above.  Hit the link for more.

This is one of the few Kindle books I’ve read that I would give five stars.  It follows the experiences of an engineer through his last year of college, and his last year competing in the Formula SEA student design competition as the main manager of the project.  He and his fellow engineers work, struggle, and grow in their effort to produce a winning car.  The management and interpersonal growth the group experiences are really the stars of the tale, with all the engineers transitioning to from bickering and spite, to a cohesive, effective team.  It really is a good read, whether you’re interested in motorsports or not.

Halloween next year....
Now that I’m not in school, I spend a lot more time doing things with my kids related to the holidays.  While looking for activities to do, I came across this great list of healthy Halloween-themed snacks.  I haven’t done a lot of them, but the one that I have done (over and over!) is the ghost bananas.  These are simple as can be, and the kids have been enthralled with them.  Just press chocolate chips into the banana for eyes and a mouth, and BAM, you’ve got a ghost banana!
(img via,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What-What?! Week of October 20th

This past Sunday, my husband took our daughter to the local renaissance faire.  My daughter loved dressing up as a fairy and they had a great time.

Monday, my behavioral economics class started; it looks very promising, with the first week discussing what counts as rational, how humans are irrational, and using decision points to help people be rational.  The idea with decision points is to create a pause that gives you the chance to think rationally.  An example of this is that, if you have a giant bag of popcorn, you’re more likely to eat the whole thing in one sitting than if you had four smaller bags of popcorn.  Because you have to stop and open another bag, it is just enough of a kick to make you say “do I really want to eat this much popcorn?” – even if you do the undesirable action (eating a lot of popcorn), you’ve made a purposeful decision to do so.  So far, it’s really fascinating, and I look forward to next week’s lesson.
Cooking:  Homemade Graham Crackers

These aren’t strictly what I’d call graham crackers; they have no graham flour in them, so mostly they’re just crackers.  That’s okay, though, because you will love them anyway.  These have a strong note of honey, with brown sugar, cinnamon, and a nice crunch.  They are not quite the same in consistency as store bought, but the flavor is far and away better.
  • 1-1/2 cups Flour
  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1 stick of Butter, melted
  • 4 tablespoons Honey
  • 2-3 tablespoons Water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix dry ingredients well, then add butter, honey and vanilla.  Slowly add water until dough forms in a ball.  Roll out between two sheets of wax paper (parchment paper works, too), then either cut squares using a knife or pizza wheel, or use small cookie cutters to create fun shapes.  Bake 12-15 minutes, turn the oven off and open it to vent.  Leave crackers in oven for 45 minutes to crisp up.  Enjoy!
Based on the recipe over at Heavenly Homemakers.
Blogging:  Dissenting Voices and The Pioneer Woman

Recently, I have come across forums, blogs, and other websites devoted to tearing down The Pioneer Woman, Smitten Kitchen, and a few other blogs that I read. Right now, though, I'm going to focus on Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.

One complaint is that Ree is a narcissist. However, I can't help but think that blogging in and of itself is a narcissistic action.  My blog is, generally speaking, all about my thoughts, experiences, and so on.  Or maybe I'm a narcissist, and I didn't even know it? Wikipedia tells me that 1 percent of the population suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  I always wanted to be part of the 1 percent, though maybe not that 1 percent. :P

The bigger issue, though, is that many posters complain that Drummond isn't genuine. Her blog and her real life aren't the same. To be honest, I kind of knew that some parts were pretend, even without much evidence for it. Many blogs show this fantasy world of the picture perfect life, and The Pioneer Woman is one of them. I view it as entertainment -- fiction. The fact of the matter is that her life isn't like what's shown on her blog and on TV. This is the edited version, showing all the best parts, some of which have been manufactured. My real life isn't as good as what I show on my blog. Why? Because no one wants to hear about how many times the husband and I had to do laundry this week, that's why. And you know what? Some of it is manufactured. I had to cook dinner two weeks ago, and knew that a new recipe would be a great addition to my blog post. It's what we ate, and it was delicious, but we probably would have just had chicken and noodles if I didn't have a blog post to write. Does it make me less genuine? I don't know. I genuinely cooked it. My family's reaction was genuine. Maybe it's only okay because I'm a small-time blogger, and different rules apply?

I'm not sure that I care if Ree Drummond, as we know her through her blog and TV show, is wholly real. Yeah, she swipes recipes from other people, changes some minor things, then posts them as her own. While those actions are obviously not okay (intellectual property theft, anyone?), I think most of the other issues are pretty harmless.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

What-What?! Week of October 13th

This week went well -- had some bumps at work, but thankfully nothing huge.  The husband has this weekend off, which he's using to spend some one-on-one time with the older kids.  It can be difficult to find time for that, so I'm glad he has the opportunity.

Cooking: Simple Candy Apples

One of the highlights of this week was making candy apples with the kids. It was a simple project, and nice because it could be scaled down to just four apples, enough for each child to have two.

  • Apples
  • Candy melts
  • Popsicle sticks (we used plastic knives)
  • Toppings like sprinkles, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.
First, wash and dry the apples thoroughly, then insert the stick into one end.  Prepare a pan for the apples to dry on by placing some wax paper on it (butcher paper would also work well here).  Put toppings into bowls for easy dipping. Put the candy melts in a deep bowl, and melt in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth.

Dip the apples in the candy melts, covering completely, then dip or sprinkle toppings onto apples.  Place on prepared pan and wait for the candy melts to harden.  Enjoy.
We did!

Food Review: Starbucks Chocolate Chai Latte

The husband and I tried this chocolate chai lattes, and were really disappointed. My husband and I agreed that they were just too sweet, which is pretty common with Starbucks, unfortunately. I liked the spiced chocolate taste, but my husband thought that it there was too much ginger. Normally I abhor ginger, but in this instance, I thought the chocolate offset the spices nicely. However, the whole thing was ruined by the sheer sweetness of the drink. Needless to say, we won't be buying them again.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

What-What?! Week of October 6th

After much talking and thinking, the husband and I have decided that we will be relocating to Washington state, specifically the Seattle area, sometime in the next year.  Because I continue to be unable to find fulltime work, we think it would be prudent to move on to greener pastures, as it were.  There are actually many reasons to choose that area, enough that I actually wrote an article discussing them.  Funnily enough, since writing the article, I keep stumbling into more and more information that goads us towards the Seattle area.

On another note, I am now registered for the BehavioralEconomics class at EdX; it’s being offered by the University of Toronto Extension, and will start in just over a week.

This week, I watched Mean Girls.  Yeah, it stars Lindsay Lohan.  No, I’m not a Lohan fan.  However, the film is entertaining, and well written.  Rachel McAdams is delightfully evil, and I appreciate the awkwardness that Lohan brings to the role of a homeschooled student thrust into conventional high school.

This is a pretty cool book that I’ve been reading; it’s a collection of essays that look at philosophical elements that exist in super hero media.  The first essay, which discusses the concepts of justice and mercy in the Thor comics, was a particularly interesting read, considering that I am now responsible for a class of 19 children, and I frequently find myself having to decide how much mercy to give a rule-breaker.  I tend to be on the lawful side when it comes to alignment, which in my experience tends to favor the justice side of the justice/mercy balance.  Some essays are definitely more interesting than others, both because of writing style, and because some of these topics are ones I’ve considered before.  Overall, I think it is a worthwhile read, especially since the book is currently free.  If you don't currently have a Kindle or other reader, I suggest downloading the PC or smartphone (Android?) app from Amazon, which is also free (yay for free things!)

Food:  Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole via The Pioneer Woman
Now that’s getting colder here, I’m looking forward to eating comfort foods, hot dishes, soups and stews. Thursday, my husband made a really great sausage, potato and broccoli chowder; it would have been good anyway, but what really kicked it up a notch was some Worchester sauce. It added just the right amount of umami.

Friday, we took the family to Costco for our monthly shopping trip there, and bought a rotisserie chicken for an easy dinner that night.  We had enough leftover chicken that I made this delicious tetrazzini casserole yesterday, and we’ll be eating the leftovers for dinner tonight (if you’re not cooking for a crowd, I suggest halving the recipe).  This is good, basic, comfort food.  Yum!
I’m also looking forward to more baking, as well.  I bought a 4-pound sack of chocolate chips while we were at Costco, and I’m looking forward to making chocolate chip cookies and muffins with them.