Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Art Thursday - November 28th

Ms Frizzle and Liz, from The Magic School Bus, "Makes a Rainbow"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

What-What?! Week of November 24th

My 18-month old has started lining up trucks.  And cars.  And trains.  On every available surface.  I'll get up from my desk to get something to drink and come back to find trucks lined up on my chair.  I remove those trucks, and sit down to find trains lined up on my desk.  I turn around and see cars and trucks lined up on the dining table.  And on the floor, the play table, and the TV stand.  All day long.

The middle child has decided that he wants a Lego dump truck for his birthday next month... and chose the most expensive truck set they offer, which he saw on the back of a Lego instruction booklet.  I did find a less expensive set that is about the same, so that'll be what we're getting him.
My behavioral economics class is chugging along.  This week marks the end of the class proper, and we've now moved on into exams, and the final projects.  I've come up with some great ideas, and in another week or two, I'll post some more information about them (with images!).

Cooking:  Meatloaf with Brown Sugar Topping via AllRecipes.com

We tried meatloaf this week, using our new Zaycon ground beef that we special ordered, with a ketchup and brown sugar topping.  Everyone liked it, except for my daughter, who was most put off by the topping.  My husband already reduced the amount of sugar in the topping, but we still thought the topping was too sweet; next time, I think we’ll omit it entirely.  Oh!  One great addition he made to the recipe was cubed cheddar cheese, which we’ll definitely be doing next time.

Fashion: One Scarf, Five Ways via Yahoo!  Fashion

How to tie a scarf
The weather here has started to get quite cold, but still not cold enough to remain inside, which makes it perfect weather for scarves.  Now, normally I just wrap my scarf around my neck, and call it a day.  However, I came across this article from Yahoo!, which details five ways to tie a scarf, and so I've been trying new looks; I've had such a good time doing this, that I've decided that I need more silk scarves, because I currently only have one.

News: Winning a Job at Lego via The Wall Street Journal

image
How does Lego choose designers to build its sets?  This great article examines the process, which is really fascinating; the company invites its most promising candidates to a two-day recruiting workshop, where candidates are challenged to brainstorm, design, and build sets, all in front of senior designers, who evaluate their potential.  Before candidates even arrive, they are mailed a box of Legos, and are challenged to create a set to bring with them, which acts as part of their introduction.  The unusual set of skills and talent that the company requires really begs this kind of interview process; a standard formal interview would be little help in determining which candidate is the best suited for the job.  I'm sure that the candidates who aren't chosen for the position also enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime process as well.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

What-What?! Week of November 17th

I am finally ahead of my behavioral economics class!  This is fantastic, because it means that I now have some time to work on the extra written assignments, and I can start planning my final project, which involves developing two nudges and accompanying experiments.  I forgot how intense six-week classes can be, especially when you spend two of those weeks with sick children.

Black Friday 2013

If I didn't live in a podunk little town, I wouldn't do any Black Friday (BF) shopping.  The crowds are scary, people get trampled, and a good deal just isn't worth that amount of aggravation.  But since I can fairly leisurely stroll in, get my things, and check out, I've started shopping on Black Friday.  With that in mind, I started looking for early releases of the BF ads, specifically Target and K-Mart, since those are my options.

If you plan on BF shopping, here are some suggestions to help you prepare:
Make a List
If you do nothing else before you go, make sure you have a list in hand.  Even a general one will help, though the more specific, the better.  Before I go, I make sure that I have a list and a budget.  I try to figure out exactly how much I'll spend, then add a buffer, so that way if there's something there we just have to have, it's already accounted for.

Is That Really the Best Deal?
With all the BF ads out so early, it's pretty easy to do comparison shopping in order to get the best deals.  With big ticket purchases, though, it is important to examine the deals closely; many times, better deals can be had at other times of the year (I got my an excellent deal on my current TV in March of last year), or even just waiting a bit closer to Christmas.  It's also important to look up reviews of the big ticket items as well; Target will put Westinghouse brand TV's on sale for great prices on BF, but the reviews on them are really mixed.
Be Choosey
When I'm making my list, I try to ask myself if I want to buy something because it's a good deal, or because it's a good deal for me.  No matter how cheap something is, if it goes unused, then it's a waste of money.  Stores always have good deals on toys, but then, how many toys do my kids really need?  With this in mind, the husband and I are probably going to buy a new printer, and little else.

Bacon and Cabbage Salad

This recipe was inspired by an episode of Kitchen Nightmares (U.K.), where it was part of a meal.  It sounded so delicious that I just had to make it.  Since then, the husband has cooked it once, and I've cooked it once, and both times we enjoyed it greatly.  It has an almost sauerkraut-ish, all without actually being sauerkraut, which is brilliant for those who, like me, dislike the taste of sauerkraut.
When I last cooked this, I added another half-pound of sausage, as well as some farfalle noodles, and made a whole meal out of it.  The children don't dig this dish that much, probably because it has so many strong flavors.  That's okay, though, because there's more for me!
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 small Cabbage, chopped in thin slices
  • 1/2 medium Onion, chopped in thin slices
  • 8 ounces, Bacon (sausage would also be a good substitute)
  • Pepper, to taste
Saute the bacon in a medium skillet (a saucepan would work, too); cook for 3-5 minutes, until the edges are browned.  Add the cabbage, onion, and pepper, then cook until the onions are translucent and the cabbage is soft.  Enjoy!

(img via nymag.com)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What-What?! Week of November 10th

Finally this week, the children and I are getting better.  After getting over Fifth Disease, the kids managed to catch a cold, and now they’re still coughing from that.

Edited to add:  I did do some writing this week!  See the above tab, "Farm Books for Children", which has a collection of my favorite children's books involving farms and farm animals.

Behavioral economics moved somewhat away from experiments, and on to the discussion of examining how people make intuitive decisions.  The professors actually discussed one thing that I’d discovered on my own—that people, when given the vocabulary to describe something, will take the time to examine more closely their own likes and dislikes.  When my sister took art classes, the class would look at a piece of art, and each student had to explain why they liked or disliked it; they were not allowed to say “just because”.  They learned the vocabulary to describe art (compositions, techniques, color theories), then applied that to the pieces they viewed.  A few years ago, I became much more interested in food, tasting food, and trying new things.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I like or dislike a food, and through this, I’ve learned new words, and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I’ve gotten a lot of practice asking myself why, and examining the answers.  I think this has helped me understand other people, too, because now I can ask more detailed questions when I want to know, “how do you like this dish?”

Creamy Ham and Rice Bake
Want something creamy, a little salty, and a little cheesy?  Then this is the casserole for you!  I liked how the veggies in this complemented the rich sauce very nicely, helping the dish from becoming too rich.  This is based on the Veggie, Ham & Cheese Rice Bake from Tasty Kitchen, I simplified the recipe and subbed out the cream of chicken soup for a simple white sauce.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3 tablespoons Butter
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Onion, diced
  • 1-1/2 cups Ham Steak, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 1 cup Fresh or Frozen Broccoli
  • 1 cup Fresh or Frozen Cauliflower
  • 1 cup White Rice (long or short grain)
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside.

Saute onion and ham in butter on medium heat, until onions are translucent and ham is browned.  Add flour and let cook 1-2 minutes, then stir in milk.  Bring mixture up to a simmer to thicken, stirring as needed.  Add broccoli and cauliflower, then simmer another 2-3 minutes, or as long as needed to heat them all the way through.  Add rice, water and cheese, mixing thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper as needed.  Pour into prepared baking dish, and bake for 40 minutes, until rice is cooked.  Enjoy!

Film:  My Little Pony:  Equestria Girls via Netflix

Netflix just added this to the video library, and because my kids are pony fanatics, we had to watch it.  Consequently, we have watched it every day since.  I was pretty pleased with it, though make no mistake:  I would not watch this if I didn’t have children.  The story was good, though the ending is weak, and the romance feels like it was inserted in order to pander to the desired demographic of tweens (or tweens’ younger siblings?).  At first, I actually thought that the love interest was Twilight’s brother, and my mistake didn’t actually become clear for quite a while (storytelling oops!).  I enjoyed that the alternate world that Twilight Sparkle steps into is nothing like home, except in every single detail.  I worry that the dependence of the story on technological elements will mean that it will become dated quickly; one of the things that I enjoy about the old My Little Pony show is that it really isn’t that dated, other than the clothes that the children are wearing, and a few other things like that.  The next season of the regular My Little Pony show is due out on November 23rd, so be prepared for more pony talk in a few weeks. ;D
(img via mlp.wikia.com)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What-What?! Week of November 3rd

My eldest baby is now 6 years old!  We celebrated her birthday last Saturday over at my parent’s house, and overall it went well.  For her birthday, mostly the husband and I got her activity-type gifts rather than toys, like an artist supply set and a junior cooking set.  She also received quite a few engineer/steampunk vintage-ish books, and while she didn’t seem too excited about them at first, we’ve spent a lot of time reading them over the course of the week.

Unfortunately, this past week, we were also horrifically sick.  One day, I had a fever, then the baby had an ear infection and high fever (which necessitated a trip to the ER), and then on Halloween, the big kids had fevers, and were vomiting too!  The worst part is that they are still not better yet.
 
Here's my older babies, in costume, with matching fevers.  My daughter is a "witch cat" (a cat who is also a witch), and my son is an alien from Spaced Invaders (seen here).  I feel somewhat bad that I didn't do a costume for the baby, myself or the husband, but by that point, it'd already been a very long week. 
Behavioral economics this week sort of switched gears to setting up, running, and evaluating experiments.  I am so glad that I took statistics, and had a relatively recent review when I took an operations class, because this week, I needed it.  I also have an exam for the class that I’ll be taking this evening – if I pass the exams, discussions and final project, I will be getting a certificate for the class.

In my business classes, I’ve read numerous times about microloans being used in third world countries as a way to help the poor break free of their poverty.  I’ve read about a woman in India who, because the microloan loan she received meant that she could haggle better prices with her suppliers, she was eventually able to grow her business to the point that she could afford better food, and a place to live off the streets.  I’ve read of families that have done similar things, and now can afford a house and to send their children to school, thus breaking the cycle of poverty.  I believe very strongly in the good that microloans do, despite the fact that not all of those who receive loans experience such great success.

Now, though, through Grameen America and other nonprofits, low income people in America can also enjoy access to microloans.  These loans are defined as less than $50,000, and given to people who cannot take out traditional loans.  Many times the loan comes with additional services like business planning and financial literacy, in order to help ensure success.
One quote in this article that particularly touched me is “Families in rural Africa are more like U.S. families than everyone wants to believe”; the article goes on to state that the unavailability of credit, the cobbling together of multiple part-time jobs, and the general insecurity are very similar in both countries.  I have seen it, and in some ways, I have lived it.  Since the Great Recession, I have seen it get harder for low-income people especially due to tighter credit rules.  On one forum, I pretty frequently see people who wind up in a bind temporarily, where a credit card would be a huge blessing; in these situations, there are always people who respond “oh, just put [whatever] on your credit card”, and it frustrates me so, because many people do not have the easy access to credit that they once did.  Hopefully programs like these will be able to help entrepreneurs get off the ground, expand, and help give people stability.