Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

Experiment of the Week: Exploring Photography – A Two-Year-Old’s View

Granite Reflections

Granite Reflections

I know I am a bit of a control freak.  I’m trying to be more relaxed about things – from stains on well-worn garments to controlling the bite size of my 14-month-old’s food – but I still have a long way to go.  Perhaps I can blame my over-protectiveness on my training in mistake-proofing (poka-yoke)?  (This, by the way, has translated nicely into pretty good child-proofing and defect prevention at home.)  My over-active brain tends to think of all the imaginable things that could possibly go wrong, the probability of such events, and the costs or benefits of the decision.

For example, when my almost-three-year-old asks to take the camera, I start thinking of what could happen that would disable the camera.  I think about the pictures stored on it and their value to me.  I think about the costs we’d incur if we would need to purchase a new camera.  Before this week, I would let her hold the camera some, but I hadn’t taught her how to take pictures.  (I didn’t want her to start pushing other buttons…)

Monday, while we were at a small cemetery where my husband’s grandparents, great aunts and uncles, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents are buried, she asked to take some pictures.  We weren’t on a tight schedule, and she was delighted when I agreed and showed her how to capture an image.  She had a wonderful time, running here and there, pointing our simple camera at flower after flower.  I was amazed when I downloaded the pictures and looked at some of her photographs.  All of the photos in this post were taken by Clara.  Some of them are very special to me.

Besides the one at the top of the post, here are some of my favorites:

My first belly shot of the pregnancy! (Seven weeks to go.)

My first belly shot of the pregnancy! (Seven weeks to go.)  (I’m not intentionally hiding behind the directory.  I had no idea she’d take my picture.)

I followed my little girl around, enjoying her glee as she clicked away.  It gave me a chance to look at the stones and wonder about the lives they represented.  Clara took a few pictures of the flowers near the stone below.  “Beloved Teacher,” the stone read at the bottom.

Remembering a beloved teacher.  This woman, from the headstone information, appeared to have no family, but she was fondly remembered still.

Remembering a beloved teacher. This woman, from the headstone information, appeared to have no family of her own, but she was fondly remembered still.

I don’t remember if it was this set of graves or ones similar to them that I slowly passed.  A teenage girl had died.  I looked again at the graves nearby.  From the birth years shown, it appeared that her grandpa and mom had also died the same day, Halloween in the early 1980s.  I wondered what tragedy took so many family members at the same time.

Shadows

Shadows

What photo collection would be complete without a shot of toes?

Flowers and Flip Flops

Flowers and Flip Flops

We needed to leave soon, but Clara had a difficult time surrendering the camera.  She took one shot of her dad.

She loves her daddy!

She loves her daddy!

Results and Conclusions:

I was amazed at Clara’s photographs.  Her perspective was special!  Really special!  It was fun to look at the images and see the world (though often out of focus) through her eyes at her near-37″ height.  Her interest in the puffed dandelion was something I had not noticed at all that afternoon.  The memorial flowers drew her in.  Even the grass was beautiful enough to try to capture and remember.

My children can do more than I think, and I need to give them more freedom to try new things and develop new skills.  Not only will this help them grow and develop more, but it also teaches me by showing me new perspectives and approaches that I would have never dreamed of myself.

Next time, she won’t have to beg so hard to use the camera.  🙂

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Correction: He Does Bring Flowers Home

I laughed as my husband returned from work Friday.  I had posted that day about how much I appreciate his hard work in our yard and gardens that supplies me with beautiful flowers throughout the summer, though it’s extremely rare that he brings cut flowers home (A Gift That Keeps On Giving).  He stepped out of his truck after the end of a long week of work and had these beautiful flowers with him!  (He had not had time to read my post yet.)

The beautiful flowers my husband brought Friday

The beautiful flowers my husband brought Friday

I was delighted!  They are so beautiful, and we are all enjoying them.  Some of the flowers are perennials that we can plant and hopefully enjoy again next year, and the others may be such that we can gather the seeds and plant them again as well.

We are all enjoying them!

We are all enjoying them!

I guess it just goes to show me that my husband is still full of wonderful surprises! He is such a blessing!

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The Gettysburg Address – Words for Us Today

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Address of President Lincoln at Gettysburg, November 19, 1863

May we remember those who have served our country and their families, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.

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A Gift That Keeps On Giving

My husband is amazing!  I just wanted to take some time and a post to describe a small portion of his sweet love for me.

Some men probably bring their wives flowers more than mine does.  That’s good, because while I’d enjoy that, I’d be thinking at the back of my mind what they must have cost and how we could have likely spent that money on more useful things.  This week, and actually all spring, I’ve been delighting in what he does do to bring me beautiful flowers in a way that is so sweet and tender and that I can fully enjoy and delight in!

Last fall, he bought and planted tulips that were stunning in a new section of garden by our driveway.  He also worked hard to transplant some iris plants, and we have these flowers growing in three different places in our yard.   Most of the flowers have some shade of purple in them, my favorite!

Our purple and white iris garden.  (Go, Kansas State!)

Our purple and white iris garden. (Go, Kansas State!)

May 23, 2013 002

These lavender iris are my favorite with their delicate, ruffled petals.

 There’s another thing that’s special about the iris for me.  My grandma has an iris garden at the farm that I remember weeding and enjoying.  She had such a variety of colors, and the smell of the flowers is better than the sweetest perfume.  My mom also had a large iris garden in town that was always stunning.  I remember experimenting with some of the concepts I learned in my advance biology class in high school to see if I could create some new varieties.

May 23, 2013 003

If not for my husband’s hard work, these plants would still be in the bag my mom gave to us over a year ago.  (I spend too much time trying to find the perfect plan for something so the task never really gets done.)  He worked hard to plant and transplant them as we changed landscaping ideas.  He keeps our rose bush trimmed, and now it is filling with beautiful pink blooms.  He waters the lilac bushes that produce a scent I treasure (again, perhaps due to good memories from smelling them as I passed a group of bushes on my walks to the library or other places in our small town).  He brought home and planted lilies.  He planted seeds for sunflowers (another favorite of mine), wildflowers, and a hummingbird mix.

And now, though he’s not coming home from work with a bouquet behind his back, he’ll be giving me flowers all summer long!  Does it get any better than that?

(Update:  Why, yes it does!  Tonight he came home with flowers, and over the weekend, he brought in a cut, fragrant rose for me!)

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Experiment of the Week: Toy Organization

A year or two ago, I was taken aback by my mom’s rule of only playing with one set of toys (LEGOs, doll house, etc.) at a time at my parents’ house.  Our toddler also seemed to not have any idea of what she was being asked to do as she was instructed to pick up all the toys and put them away before moving on to the next thing.  I thought the idea seemed unrealistic at the time.

A few weeks ago, I reconsidered.  Toys were everywhere in our house.  Everywhere.  While I had tried various systems for making clean-up easier for us all, none of them had really worked.  Woody’s hat was missing again.  Jessie has been MIA for weeks.  The neat dishes and piggy utensils from a special friend were strung across different rooms.   I decided something had to change.

But, I also decided to start small.  Call it a trial run or a pilot study.  🙂

I took a fabric box I got on sale at K-Mart after Christmas and simply put all the play dishes and cookware in it.  I placed that box in the living room (so Melody could access it easily, too) after picking up all the other toys that were there.  I initiated a new rule that the dishes must be returned to the box.

And for a week or so, it worked!  My two-year-old was excited about the piggy utensils again!  She was “cooking breakfast,” hosting picnics, and teaching the one-year-old how to mix.  Then, I think I slacked off on the accountability of that system.  I’m still a work in progress when it comes to keeping things clean and organized, remember?

Still, I’d seen enough success to start dreaming of going through the toys, clearing the clutter, and going to a container system much like what my mom had.  (Okay, so I should have just known that was a good idea of my mom’s.  She worked with preschoolers for years.  I have not.)

But when?

This week, my husband surprised me by stopping by the house after lunch.  He offered to take the three-year-old with him for a while.  I let him.  In the meantime, I was able to bake a batch of peanut butter cookies and get to start on the toy project.

Now, imagine for a moment, toys and books are scattered everywhere, it seems (even to me with slob vision), and I am trying to bend over to pick up said toys around a basketball-sized belly.  It was hard work for me.  I kept telling our one-year-old that we needed to take a little break from time to time.  She just looked at me, confused.  🙂

I was surprised by the success I had in just a couple of hours (maybe less?)!  I sorted the “baby” toys from the rest and boxed them up to be stored until the newest little one is ready for such entertainment.  I put the toys (even some books, gasp!) in a bag to donate to others.

What was left?

  • Barbies and clothes
  • LEGOs
  • Building blocks
  • Doctor kit
  • Dishes/cookware
  • Favorite stuffed animals
  • Dress-up dresses and costumes
  • Some miscellaneous

These fit well in the number of containers I had, and with a little work, I got the closet cleaned to provide an organized space for them.  The miscellaneous toys are a little larger, and I moved some of them to the old toy boxes that I had tried to utilize before.  One toy box was completely empty!

Our much-better way of keeping toys organized and picked up!

Our much-better way of keeping toys organized and picked up!

The results?  We’ve been relatively mess-free (toy wise, at least) throughout the house (okay, except for that bath squirt toy I stepped on three times last night) for two full days!  Clara, my almost-three-year-old seems to be having more fun as she plays.  Tonight, she even pulled out the blocks and was building towers on her own!  She hasn’t played with the blocks for a VERY long time!  And, she was the one who initiated putting them back in the box before bedtime, then back into the closet.  I think we’re on to something!

Now, if I can just get the clothes gone through and organized soon…

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The Best Kind of Surprise

There have been two main reasons I haven’t been consistent in blogging since Melody was born last spring.  One reason is I’ve been prayerfully seeking how to best spend the limited discretionary time I have, and I wasn’t convinced that blogging was the priority.  The other reason is the fatigue I’ve been feeling the last year.  First, I was busy seeing to my newborn’s needs.   The fatigue didn’t leave me when Melody started sleeping through the night, though, and those necessary early bedtimes continued.  I thought it was because I was using so many calories nursing, and it likely was.  (That, and keeping up with my 2-year-old and sweet infant.)

It was nearly Christmas last year when I became suspicious enough of the strange way I’d been feeling that I took a pregnancy test.  We soon learned that my frequent night-time trips to the bathroom, ongoing exhaustion, and strong need for mid-morning protein were impacted by the new baby growing inside me.

Hello, World! See you soon!  (Our third child at 20 weeks)

Hello, World! See you soon! (Our third child at 20 weeks)

A baby that will be, Lord-willing, joining us at home in mid-July!

(I was nearly 12 weeks along when we found out.  Let me tell you, the first trimester goes very quickly when you don’t find out until after 11 weeks have passed!)

I admit, I was a little freaked out at first.  Clara will be 3 in June.  Melody turned 1 in March.  There will be just under 16 months between Melody and this baby.  That’s a lot of little people to care for!  I was intimidated by the timing.  I was excited, but also scared.  We had hoped for more children, but didn’t think we’d be blessed again so soon.

I knew I just needed to trust God.  This baby was a gift from Him, and I knew that.  My faith was (and is) strong.  Sometimes, it just takes my mind a while to catch up.

The prayer dialog in my head goes something like this:

“Less than sixteen months apart, God?  Really?  Doesn’t Mom say she had twins ‘the hard way’ with my sister and me being just fifteen months apart?  How is this going to work?  I’m often worn out from caring for our two little ones now.  How am I going to do that–while nursing a newborn and being sleep-deprived?”

Okay, so it wasn’t much of a dialog, but after my venting of my worries, I remembered again and again God’s faithfulness to me.  He’s never called me to a task and left me all alone.  He always has my best interest in mind – even if I don’t see it until later.  He’s loved me so obviously and abundantly that I don’t doubt that His will is best.

With just eight weeks to go until we meet Baby (We don’t know if it’s a girl or a boy.  Similar to our other pregnancies, we wanted to be surprised.), I don’t know how this is going to work.  I don’t know who we’ll be able to find to watch our girls while we’re at the hospital.  I don’t know how the birth and recovery will go.  I don’t know how I’ll survive when my dear husband has to return to work, leaving me with three little ones in my charge.  I don’t know if this baby will have colic, like Clara, or be a profoundly happy baby like Melody.  I don’t even know how I’ll be able to even get everyone in and out of the car seats…

But God knows.  He has it all planned out, and I know He’ll take care of me.


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Coffee Breaks (Mocha Cooler Mix Recipe)

I grew up seeing adults drink coffee black or not at all.  One taste, and when I was “of age,” I happily became one of the not-at-all category.  I relied on Mountain Dew for the caffeine necessary for all of that late-night studying in college.

But, over the course of ten years and the encouragement of three persistent friends, I discovered that coffee can be wonderful – with good friends and enough cream and sugar.  🙂  (Thanks to Mary (V.) J. for recommending my first caramel breve at Java in 1996, Anna (L.) J., and Susanna (M.) E.!  I miss you dearly, ladies!)

I tried to explain to my students when I would discuss quality management with them that coffee for me is more of an event than a beverage.  (I was giving an example as we talked about who defines quality.  The customer does.)   For me, I like to go to a coffee shop whose atmosphere fits my mood and purpose.  (Am I meeting a friend, going to reflect and journal, retreating to a quiet place to grade papers, etc.?)  I delight (or am disappointed) in the shape and texture of the cup the drink is served in.  I associate the act of drinking coffee with many, many good memories of wonderful friends, long talks, and blessed times of solitude, primarily from my days between graduating from college and getting married.

Though my trips to the local coffee shops are very rare now, I still try to enjoy coffee as an event at home.  Even my simple Folder’s brew, served in one of my china cups, and a moment of quiet before my little ones are up is a bit of a retreat for me.

But, the weather is warming up, and, remembering fond moments of taking Friday afternoon breaks to get a blended coffee drink while I worked an internship for a semiconductor company near Phoenix, I was eager to try a new recipe I found for Mocha Cooler.

I was not disappointed!  I’ve found which glass at home will hold both servings easily (without whipped cream), and as an afternoon pick-me-up, I’m finding this is an EASY and refreshing treat.  Now I just need to convince myself I don’t need one every afternoon…

A refreshing break with flowers from my dear husband and a mocha cooler.

A refreshing break with flowers from my dear husband and a mocha cooler.

Mocha Cooler (from Taste of Home’s 2002 Quick Cooking Annual Recipes, p. 95)

Make Ahead Mix:
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
 
Additional ingredients:
1-1/2 cups crushed ice
1/2 cup milk
Whipped topping, if desired

With a rolling pin, crush coffee granules into a fine powder between sheets of waxed paper.  Place in an air-tight container.  Add the sugar, milk powder, creamer, cocoa and salt; mix well.  Sore in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.  Yield:  7 batches (3-1/2 cups total).

To prepare cooler:  In a blender, combine the ice, milk, and 1/2 cup of mocha mix; cover and process on high until smooth.  Pour into glasses.  Top with whipped topping if desired.  Yield:  2 servings per batch.  (Okay, so there’s enough to share, but you may not want to.)

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Retail Therapy and God’s Provision

I’m not much of a shopper, and I tend to be somewhat overwhelmed by the high prices I see when I do browse a little.  I don’t feel I have the time to peruse stores and ads for the best deals.

Last November, I heard that a local church was having a rummage sale.  Last spring, our church had a similar event, and we were amazed and delighted at what we found there.  I had some Christmas gift ideas in mind in the fall, and I hoped I may be able to find some things that someone no longer needed that would be treasures for us.  I wanted to go as soon as they opened Friday evening.

But, that didn’t happen.

The next morning came, and I forgot about the sale until around 11.  They were closing at noon.  I rounded up the girls, knowing that it would be a challenge to take my 2-year-old who seems to say, “I want this for my birthday,” of everything fun-looking at any store.  We made it there around 11:30.

There were plenty of things left, and the prices were fantastic since in 30 minutes, all would be packed up to be donated to Goodwill.  My prize find was a pair of boots that Clara could use for the winter!  That was in the first room.  Next, there were some toys.  I found an old Fisher Price crib toy (no batteries needed) that Melody has been enjoying a lot as she explores the colorful moving parts that make a variety of sounds.  We found a Baby Mickey Mouse doll that Clara latched onto.  I found dress patterns that are sized large enough that I may be able to learn to sew and make them before the girls outgrow them.  🙂  I found a tablecloth that is easy to wipe clean and more sturdy and durable than what I had before.  The yellow color even matches my wallpaper border in the kitchen.  I found learning games that will be fun for Clara as we talk about letters and words.  There was a set (missing “E”) of alphabet magnets.  We got an old flip-top desk with the chair attached, that I think will be perfect for Clara’s learning and “art projects.”  We even found a Disney princess purse that she was super-excited about, another simple baby toy for Melody, a picture frame that will be perfect as a gift for someone this Christmas, and more.  We got some things we needed, many “added bonuses,” and probably some things that I shouldn’t have brought home (but will be easier to part with when we clean out and donate to the church sale in the spring).

All for $7.75.

Less than what I would have spent on even on-sale boots at a store.

I was giddy!

We were blessed with similar luck as we went to a few other neighborhood and church yard sales over the last two weeks. We now have a “new” couch and chair in our living room, increasing our seating capacity and comfort considerably and making the family room downstairs more cozy as we moved the love seat back down there.  Just as I was starting to worry about having summer clothes for Clara, we now have more than we need in her size, including shoes.  I even found a princess dress and a crown for her upcoming birthday.

I’m ever-amazed by God’s great provision for us!  I love how these sales meet our needs, keep our spending low, simplify our shopping, and make me feel so blessed as I see how God knows our needs and takes care of us – down to the special things like a princess crown or a microscope (I’ve always wanted one!).

I may not have found a costume crown in my size at the church yard sale, but I definitely feel like the daughter of the King!  We truly can cast all our cares upon Him and trust Him to supply us as we seek Him first.

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What I Missed In College

This trip was not our usual adventure to the local public library to enjoy the “Move and Groove” or “Toddler Time” programs, check out books, and select new DVDs.  A few Sunday evenings back, after enjoying supper at a special restaurant with our neighbor, we stopped at Kansas State University’s Hale Library.

(Photo credit

We were on a bit of a mission and had our small children along, so we didn’t tarry much.   To get to the area where I expected us to find the equipment we were looking for, we passed many groups of students studying and working together.  Some were writing equations on dry erase boards, erasing them, and trying again.  The sight of equations and variables that I didn’t quite understand but knew I could – or did at some time at least – brought me tingles of excitement as we walked past, much in the same way that hearing engineering students talk about physics or chemistry or transport phenomena was a sweet elixir to me as I silently graded my business students’ papers (back in my teaching days) in the engineering building that is dear to me.  (I spent hours upon hours in this building as an undergrad.)

We were there to find out if a slide scanner was available to the public.  (It is!)  Once our task was completed, I felt we needed to check out a few special aspects of the library.  It was the first time my husband and neighbor had been inside, and it’s been long enough that I don’t think Clara remembers her prior visits (which were likely centered on me running my final exams through the scantron machine).

Of course, we had to see the elevator and go for a ride.  Clara is 2.  That was her choice.  🙂

Mine was to take the elevator to the third floor to show our group the Great Room.

(Photo credit)

(Why didn’t I study here in college?  This seems much better than the dining room tables at the cooperative living house where I resided for 4.5 years, but then, I don’t suppose I’d want to be on campus at 4 a.m. finishing the thermodynamics homework that was due that day when I could be in my pajamas sipping milk…)

There are large murals on the walls opposite the grand windows.  I had never really looked at them before, and it had been years since I had even been in this room.  One of the murals excited me by depicting science and technology, but another held my attention in a deeper way.

This one.

Hale Library mural

(photo credit)

This seemed the perfect, peaceful life to me.  This woman gently rocks the cradle while reading to her child.  She is there for her hard-working husband.  She sings and plays piano (like me).  She spins and sews, no doubt (unlike me).  I imagine her life being not easy, but fulfilling and blessed.

As an undergrad, I spent four and a half years working hard to try to understand calculus, solve physics problems, learn chemical reactions, and many other challenging endeavors to prepare myself for a job in chemical engineering.  I learned life lessons from my other activities, such as playing in the marching band, tutoring and teaching labs, living with 50+ other girls, promoting chemistry and engineering through Alpha Chi Sigma and Engineering Ambassadors, connecting Chemical Engineering students with mentors through AIChE, and a host of other involvements.  But I never remembering hearing the message of:

A woman can find everything she needs at home.

She can use and challenge her most highly-educated brain there.  She can nurture others through caring for her family and showing hospitality.  She can use the most refined musical talents there.  She can learn and develop new skills.  She can help build a marriage that will be infinitely more rewarding and secure than any pay check.

Now, honestly, I think I’m probably thankful I didn’t hear that message too much in college since I had many years to wait until God brought my amazing husband into my life.  By His grace, I was able to support myself financially, grow significantly in my walk with the Lord, become a leader in campus ministry at my church,  and live some very rich years before I married at age 29.  But, I also wish that there may have been a few women in my life who would have shared what this picture spoke to my heart when I saw it instead of hearing repeatedly how more women are needed in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields to balance the workforce.

Yes, study fields you are interested in, develop the talents you have, go into the workforce, pursue God and let Him use you…

…but, don’t cling to all of that so tightly that you aren’t willing to come home when He calls you.

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The Oatmeal Scotchie Experiment – The Technical Side

Disclaimer:  A couple of close friends have told me that sometimes my posts are such that they don’t understand them.  One friend who said this said she understood that I was “venting.”  I thought this was a great description, not venting as in complaining, but in needing an outlet to speak “my language” of applied stats, optimization, operations management, and process improvement.   I’m still trying to determine what audience I most want to reach with my stories, so for now, I write a little bit of everything.  So, if you’re one that I lose when I pull out my fun-for-me technical vocab, this post may not be for you.  Don’t worry.  Just skip it and tune in next time.  🙂

Designing an experiment properly is not an easy task.  I didn’t do a proper job of it when I explored my questions about the cookies this week, but I wanted to discuss some of the considerations a “real” experiment of this type would need to address.

First, what is the response variable?  In this case, I was looking at cookie quality, but how could that be measured?  I could have had multiple testers (Les, thanks for volunteering!) who would rate the cookies on a scale.  (Not my top choice as a non-continuous output variable, though.)  Since I was interested in voids, I could have taken samples and counted holes per square inch or per cookie somehow (if “holes” was well-defined to be consistently judged).  Since I have some idea of what the cookie should look like, I may have measured height (to gauge a flat or mounded cookie with calipers or something).  See, it’s getting a bit tricky already (or at least time-consuming), isn’t it?

Next, what factors did I want to explore?  Since the different amounts of flour and oatmeal were part of the recipe, I first wanted to look at a mixture experiment, but that wasn’t a good fit for this.  (Ooo!  Perhaps I can do a mixture experiment to optimize homemade play dough or something later…)  So, using the flour/oatmeal combinations given and regarding them as simply 2 choices seems best.  I didn’t think there was much to be gained by trying the in-between combinations.  Next, butter vs. shortening was of interest.  Also, I wondered about the pans, thinking there may be a butter-pan interaction.   Perhaps the refrigeration of the dough before baking would also have an effect.

With these four factors, I would have to make a minimum of four batches of dough – and that design would include some aliasing or confounding (Which means the statistics would a factor would be significant, but you can’t be sure if it’s a main effect or a two-way interaction, for example, in what’s called a Resolution III design.).  That number of experiments is not bad, really, but it’s more than I have room to store at one time.  And frankly, that’s a little more hassle than I’m up for right now with the little ones.

Minitab gives me this half-fraction factorial design (Resolution IV):

StdOrder RunOrder Blocks Recipe Butter Pan Cooled Dough

4

1

1

1

1

1

-1

1

2

1

1

-1

-1

-1

6

3

1

1

1

-1

1

2

4

1

1

1

-1

-1

8

5

1

1

1

1

1

3

6

1

1

-1

1

-1

5

7

1

1

-1

-1

1

7

8

1

1

-1

1

1

With an alias structure of:

I + ABCD
A + BCD
B + ACD
C + ABD
D + ABC
AB + CD
AC + BD
AD + BC
 

I’d also want to be considering blocking in the experiment, because I don’t see how it can be avoided without increasing the “costs.”  Blocking would simply mean, for example, that I’d be baking more than one sheet of cookies at the same time.  The cookies baked in that particular oven cycle have that same treatment that may differ in some ways from the other baking batches.  Identifying something like this helps assign known possible variation to this factor, rather than just adding it to the random variation (e.g. everything else not accounted for with the chosen factors).

There may also be a bit of an ethical dilemma that educational scientists and social scientists are really more familiar with than those of us in engineering or the “hard” sciences.  If you know a particular combination will short-change the subjects (in this case, make the cookies bad), should you go through with that “treatment?”  Okay, so burning cookies or making them crumbly to prove an experimental effect really isn’t much of an ethical issue, but it’s a good question to consider.  Even in the hard sciences, can your experiment be set up to avoid known failures?  (It can.  It involves changing the design space…)

So why, if I love experimental design – and cookies – did I not take this more extensive approach?  (This experiment would yield about 250 cookies.)  Perhaps some of the first questions an experimenter needs to ask is what is he or she interested in learning, what is the available budget (time, money, resources) for the study, and what is the value of the learned information.  Every world – the business, the lab, the home – must have priorities for the many demands facing it.  These limitations are part of what has driven the development of computer experiments that look to optimize the efficiency of designs, meaning finding designs that give you the most “bang for your buck,” or the most information for the minimum number of “runs.”

My thoughts were that I wanted to gather some information with some quick trials while avoiding a one-factor-at-a-time (OFAT) approach (which would likely make me fat, too), so I was interested in a sort of screening experiment.  For minimal costs, (the time it took to make one batch of cookies), I found a way to make the cookies stay together, discovered butter wasn’t the only issue, and found my insulated pans weren’t causing big problems, either.

The results? Delicious cookies, a happy family, and a more confident mama.  My husband and girls wouldn’t be super-impressed with my main-effects and interactions plots from Minitab or the p-value for any statistically significant effects.    Really, my oldest is still 2.  Maybe next year I’ll start showing her that stuff.  😉

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