Sunday, March 30, 2014

What-What?! Week of March 30th

A few days ago, I posted about my revelation related to the pronunciation of my name -- and how the English language is at fault.  Check it out if you'd like to read some general ranting. ;D

Cooking:  Chocolate Color Flow Battlemechs

Battletech Cake using Color Flow Technique -- Catapult and Dragon
Red velvet cake, topped with cream cheese frosting, lasers and long range missiles.
My husband's birthday was on Friday, and to celebrate, I made him a cake using a technique called color flow.  Using chocolate and candy melts, I outlined, then colored in two 'mechs to go on his cake.  The outlines were traced from pictures that I found on the 'web, which I size adjusted and simplified.

Battletech cake using color flow
Just after I piped outlines.
I like the technique because it can be done in advance, and the supplies needed are pretty cheap:  I did these with chocolate, candy melts, and ziplock bags; no fancy ingredients or even a piping tip needed!
Battletech cake using color flow catapult
The Catapult 'Mech
I have learned a few things from this:  One, make sure that the hole in the ziplock is very small, otherwise it spews all over.  Two, for filling in the outlines, thin the candy melts with just a bit of oil;  I did this for the blue 'mech, and it improved the look and ease immensely.  Three, after all parts are colored in, go over the entire back of the figure with candy melts to strengthen it, and make it easier to transfer to the cake.
Battletech cake using color flow dragon
The Grand Dragon 'Mech
I definitely plan to use this technique again, and hope that next time, it's even easier and better looking.  The baby's birthday is next, and we're talking about helicopters or hot air balloons.  I'm very excited for it!

News:  The Zeigarnik Effect and Quest Logs via The Psychology of Video Games

World of Warcraft Loremaster Achievement
1400 quests?  I've done a lot more than that.
I came across this interesting article about the Zeigarnik effect -- how people tend to remember details better about a task that they started, but have yet to finish, than a task that they've already finished.  As far as its application to video games, I've experienced this effect while playing World of Warcraft -- that game is very easy to turn into a long list of boxes to check.  This becomes particularly evident when you look at the achievements system, some which include requirements like having to complete large numbers of quests, or uncovering the entire map for each location.  It's a pretty interesting read, so I suggest you check it out.

(img via

Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Pronounce the Name Isabeau... and How People Screw It Up

I have a love/hate relationship with my name.  It's unusual, distinctive, a bit sweet, all while still sounding like a good, classic name.  But very few people look at my name and know what to do with it.  So how do you say it?

Isabeau:  IS - uh - BO  (like bow as in a hair bow, or "bo" in word bone.)

Why do people screw it up?  For a long time, I just took it as a given; the curse of having a weird French name.  Then one day, the clouds parted, the sun shone down, and one word explained it all:

Beautiful:  BYOO- ti -full

Suddenly, the things I'd been hearing people say for years made a lot more sense.  That's why, at school, work, and a million doctor and dentist offices, I've been IS - uh - BYOO, or its cousin, IS - uh - BOO.

The problem here is the English language.  English has so many of these little idiosyncrasies that make life difficult.  Beau, the word used to refer to a boyfriend, is pronounced like my name.  But beautiful, a word far more common, is pronounced so that "beau"  rhymes with "pew".

Ultimately, I suppose I'll just have to keep correcting people.  I've got a lot of practice at it, and I never really held it against anyone, anyway.  At least now, though, I understand better where the rest of the world is coming from.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What-What?! Week of March 23rd

Tuesday, we got Disney's Frozen on DVD, and have since watched it about a million times.  I took the kids to the store yesterday, and every time we saw something Frozen-related (which was often), the baby started saying "Elsa, Elsa!".  Both the big kids want to dress up as Elsa for Halloween.  We have another six months, though, so we'll see what they say when we get there. :P

I spent most of my week working on my White Horses of England article.  I came across the phenomena accidently while surfing on Stumbleupon, and I just can't get over how common they are in England -- they currently have 16 of them, in a country that's not all that larger than California.  We don't have stuff like that here.  The stories about each of the horses are interesting, though some of the horses' histories lie in mystery.  Check out my article for pictures and more information, and the sources if you feel like spending hours and hours reading, like I did. ;D

Nifty Stuff:  Engraved Rolling Pins via Etsy

These are just cool.  Rolling pins that have been laser engraved with various patterns, including geometric, animals, and even messages like "Merry Christmas" or "Made by...".  I'm most partial to the jumping foxes, but the geometric ones are also pretty cool.  I bet these would be great for pie crusts and sugar cookies.  Too bad they cost around $50, plus $15 shipping to the U.S. (the artist is located in Poland).

Crafts:  Paper Butterflies via While Wearing Heels

Thursday was the first day of Spring, so the kids and I celebrated by making butterflies.  We've had unseasonably warm weather here recently, and we've already been seeing butterflies and ladybugs around.  As you can see in the video above, the butterflies have slits cut in them, so you can use them as a finger puppet.  Unlike the originals, we did ours simply out of paper and crayons.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Art Thursday -- March 19th

I drew the letters, then Saffron decorated them.  Both the big kids had a good time with this project, and it helped Corey look at and enjoy the letters in his name.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What-What?! Week of March 16th

This past week has been pretty busy.  I've been at work early the whole week, which has been somewhat stressful trying to create enough activities to fill up all the hours.  Consequently, I have almost nothing prepared for this post.  I have also been sunburned often.  I need to find a new sunscreen, because mine smells too much.  The day that I first wore it, one of my kids looked around and said "it smells like the beach?".  Ha!  I didn't tell him it was me.

Yahoo! Voices published an article of mine, Your Child and the Fourth Grade Reading Slump, which they paid me upfront for!  Yeah!  That's the first time, ever.  So that's pretty brilliant.  After reviewing some spreadsheets, I've also found that my ebook has been making about 2-4 sales a month, which isn't bad for something that I consider a learning experience.

I recently read the kids the book Rosie Revere, Engineer; at the end of the book, my daughter asked me what an engineer is.  So after I explained that it's someone who builds things, both she and Corwin (my older boy) piped up saying how they want to be engineers.  Then they began listing the things that they want to make:  A convertible (car), boat, airplane, submarine, helicopter, computer, and a boat/car/airplane hybrid (of course).  Also, mechs.  So that's pretty cool.  Saffron was pretending to be an engineer a few days later, and had a few books that she was pretending to read plans out of.

News: New Lotus Motorcycles Look Like Tron via Yahoo! Tech

Lotus C-01 Hyperbike
This "hyperbike" amuses me greatly.  If not for Top Gear, I'd probably have no idea who Lotus is (they make the Elise and the Exige, both beautiful cars).  Sadly, Lotus is only going to make 100 C-01 motorcycles.

Bubblegum Crisis motorcycle
The 80's are calling, yo'.
Designed by Daniel Simon, who designed the motorcycles from Tron: Legacy.  The style itself reminds me of a cyberpunk anime from the late 1980s, Bubblegum Crisis.  The motorcycles from the show are what originally turned me on to motorcycles as a cool thing (however, the reminder of my own mortality soon caught up with me).

(imgs via Yahoo, zerochan)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Art Thursday - March 13th

The one of the left is Corwin's -- it's a robot giraffe.  He carefully drew stripes all over it, then added paneling and exposed wires.  Saffron's is on the right, and it has stripes and color blocking.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

What-What?! Week of March 9th

Had an ant apocalypse earlier this week:  The husband had gone to school, so I was home with the children.  I ate dinner, we did crafts at the kitchen table, the kids drove cars on the floor, and so on.  It gets to be bed time, I get them ready and all put down.  I had started to clean up toys on the table, when, for some reason (kicked a toy maybe?), I looked down at the floor.  That's when I realized that there were about a trillion ants all over.  Words were said.  It took me a long time to get everything cleaned up, and there were still ants the next day.  Bother.

I wrote an article -- it's in submission limbo, though, waiting for an editor to review it before it is published.  I'm quite pleased with it and excited for when I can post a link next week (maybe the week after, depending).  You might have also noticed that I added a "Movie Reviews" tab at the top, where I list all the reviews I've done so far.  I've got it divided into children's and adult films, so that way you don't have Ripper Street comingling with the likes of My Little Pony.

News:  Wal-Mart Investing in USA Made Products via MSN Money

Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey, Jin Lee, Bloomberg via Getty Images
This is one of those things that sounds better than it actually is.  Wal-Mart is expanding the amount of made in America products they sell by about $5 billion a year over the next ten years.  It sounds like a big number, until you remember that we're talking about Wal-Mart; $5 billion only accounts for a paltry two percent of what the company spends on stock at American stores each year.  On the other hand, according to an interview with Wal-Mart's Senior Vice President, the company currently spends two-thirds of merchandise costs on domestic products (for U.S. stores).

Geeky Stuff:  My Little Pony -- Petite Pony Prancing Pretty Carousel Playset

My Little Pony Petite Ponies Carousel
Now say that five times fast. :P  Last week, while at my parent's house, I unearthed some old toys of mine, with the intention of letting my kids play with them.  Well, besides my Playmobile, I found my Petite Pony Carousel set.  This is a hard to find item that Hasbro made in 1989-90, which my parents bought for me at a garage sale, I think.  I don't have the complete set, but I really loved it as a kid, and was overjoyed to find it now.

(img via MSN Money)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What-What?! Week of March 2nd

Last Saturday, when I told my daughter that she could do as much homework as she wanted, little did I know that I had released a ravenous monster.  In two days, she did about 20 pages of language arts homework, which confirmed what I'd been thinking for some time now; she's probably beyond first grade in reading.  The current plan is to let her finish zooming through the first grade work, then go on to the second grade book (which I need to pick up soon).

Cooking:  Lemon Butter via Tasty Kitchen

This is the second time I've posted about this delicious lemon butter.  It is so wonderfully fresh, especially during this drab time of the year.  I decided to live on the wild side, and opted not to use a double boiler, instead cooking it over low heat and stirring constantly.  It came out just fine, and was a lot less finicky to make than last time.  If you are going to make this lemon butter, though, do invest in a microplane of some sort -- it will make zesting the lemons immensely easier!

News:  Safeway in Discussion for Possible Sale via Progressive Grocer

This past year has been pretty rough for Safeway;  last year, the company divested itself of 72 stores in the Chicago area, some of which have been picked up by competitors like Whole Foods.  Even with those underperforming stores gone, the company's 2013 sales hadn't grown at all compared to 2012 numbers, and any same-store increases in sales were eaten up by decreasing fuel sales.  Basically, Safeway is going nowhere, and in the highly competitive grocery industry, that's bad news.  Getting rid of underperforming stores is generally speaking a good thing for short-term performance, but the affects of backing out of entire geographic areas may come back to bite them.  With all this going on, Safeway has announced that it is in talks to be bought out by a private investment firm of some sort.  According to this article, the firm is Cerberus Capital Management (though this fact isn't officially confirmed), which has some pretty significant
 experience in the grocery industry all ready, so all in all, the sale might be a good move for Safeway.

This Computer Game Lets You Stomp Peasants with the Famous Monty Python Foot via Yahoo! Tech

For those Monty Python fans, a bit of light amusement.  You play the giant foot from Monty Python, squashing peasants and knights.  This is a simple, though entertaining, game.  Go play it!
(imgs via Wikipedia, Yahoo! Tech)