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.



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.  🙂


The Quest for the Perfect Oatmeal Scotchie – An Experiment

One day, I baked cookies, and the love of my life chose them as his favorite.  Oatmeal Scotchies.  They were something different and delicious.  He married me.

I tried often to make these cookies again, but they never seemed to turn out “just right” like they had that first time.  When I was working, my baking attempts at these were few, and remembering changes from one baking day to the next was not something that was working for me.  Sometimes, the cookies seemed to come out just right on non-insulated baking sheets, while baking on my regular insulated sheets produced too-crunchy cookies with many voids in them (which made them very crumbly).

I’ve actually avoided making these cookies for quite some time (though they are my dear husband’s favorite and my freezer was well-stocked with butterscotch chips) because I didn’t want the disappointment of another I-followed-the-recipe-perfectly-but-still-failed experience.

I was brave today.

A couple of weeks ago, we visited my parents at the start of our vacation, and Mom had made these cookies.  She had used the recipe from Nestle (printed on the butterscotch chips package) which calls for butter.  The cookies were DELICIOUS, but they also had the small holes in them that I had observed in my baking.  She noted that she never had that trouble with Aunt Viola’s recipe, which uses shortening.  She uses insulated baking sheets, primarily but not exclusively, just like me.

That comment got me to thinking, so today, I combined the recipes.  They are very similar except for the shortening/butter difference – and the flour and oatmeal amounts.  I had previously had a hypothesis (essentially, a hunch, but I’m a scientist, remember) that the oatmeal may have something to do with the voids.  (With one previous batch, I tried mixing by hand instead of using my Kitchen Aid to disperse the oatmeal.  I thought this may minimize air pockets near the oatmeal.  I didn’t notice any change with the results that time.)  I wanted to know if it really was a butter issue or something else.

So, I combined the recipes.  I also baked the cookies on both insulated and non-insulated sheets.  For one sheet, I refrigerated the dough for about an hour before forming the cookies and baking them (on an insulated sheet) to test a suggestion from a friend that all dough that has flour and butter should be refrigerated first before baking to avoid spreading.

Here are my observations:

  1. There were still a few voids in the cookies on both the insulated and the non-insulated cookie sheets, but nothing like what I saw previously.  These were hardly noticeable.
  2. The batch that was in the refrigerator before baking did not spread as much as the others, but I didn’t like this.  The others seemed to look more like “normal” cookies to me, flat and round instead of mounds.
  3. The non-insulated cookie sheet produced crunchier cookies and took less time to bake.  Again, I didn’t observe any significant differences between these and the insulated ones in terms of spreading or voids.

The real results came with my husband’s taste test.  “They’re perfect,” he said.

So, here’s my new family recipe for Perfect Oatmeal Scotchies. (With credit to Aunt Viola for the base recipe.)

Perfect Oatmeal Scotchies

1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal
1 package (11 oz.) Nestle Butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Gradually add flour mixture.  Stir in oatmeal and butterscotch chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

If using insulated baking sheets, bake for 9-10 minutes for chewy cookies, or until edges begin to brown.  For crunchier cookies, bake for 1-2 minutes longer.  (If using non-insulated baking sheets, shorten baking times by approximately 2 minutes and watch closely to avoid over-baking.)  Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.