The Scents of Summer 2011

With the release of the new Partylite Summer Catalog just days away, here are the new scents that you can expect to find for the sunny days ahead.

Berry Blast
Fruits & Citrus
Bursting with sweetness, this fruit medley layers summer’s juiciest red berries with tropical notes of fresh-cut papaya and kiwi. It’s a mouthwatering berry explosion!

Lime Twist
Fruits & Citrus
The vibrant scent of zesty, tangy limes is instantly refreshing. Let the crisp, citrusy air cool your hot summer days… and nights.

Orange Zest
Fruits & Citrus
This sophisticated orange fragrance mingles the bold freshness of just-peeled oranges with subtle floral notes. Captures the essence of bright, sunshiny morning.

Citrus Bloom Citronella
Herbal & Woodsy
Citronella oil from fragrant Asian grasses combines with the tangy scent of citrus blossoms for an air of freshness. Bring the party indoors!

Geranium Citronella
Herbal & Woodsy
Sweet geranium brings a light floral touch to the favorite woodsy notes of lemony citronella. Quite possibly the perfect summertime scent.


Check out the new Summer catalog additions online
on April 1st.

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5 Things I Love – March 28

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

1. Smiley Faces by Gnarls Barkley

I recently re-discovered this track from St. Elsewhere on my iPod and it’s a great upbeat song to listen to while doing exciting things like agenda writing ;)

2. Horizon Organic’s Lowfat Chocolate Milk boxes

These milk boxes are fully of chocolately goodness and being shelf stable they can be stocked up on and stowed for future consumption.

3. Chicken & Waffles

A strange combination to the uninitiated, I am not the only one who can attest that this Southern specialty is far better than it may sound at first hearing.

4. Dominion

I was introduced to this turn based card game a few months ago at a friends house and had to chance to re-aquaint myself this weekend. The variety of options allows for an array of strategies and keeps it from becoming redundant. I don’t own it yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

5. GiveCamp

Otherwise known as that place I disappeared to this past weekend. Sure I didn’t leave the ground of Impression 5 for 48 hours, but it was an awesome experience and our non-profit group loves the new site we’ve put together for them.

Angry Birds: A Visual Field Case Study

Earlier this month I came upon Charles Mauro’s lovely and entertaining cognitive study of Angry Birds. As a player of the game and UX practitioner with an interest in the design of games, the article had great appeal. So this past week when we, the UX team, started a monthly design workshop for our company and visual field was chosen as our first topic, Angry Birds immediately came to mind. Our manager went along with the idea – it was a nice balance to the more dire examples of the Challenger explosion and Cholera epidemic of 1854 – so I read up on Mauro’s findings and turned them along with my own playing experiences to the idea of visual fields.

Here is the handout that my co-workers received on the subject:

In the Angry Birds game experience the designers used visual field not to solve a puzzle but to increase the complexity of one. The gamescape is designed to be wider than the actual screen on which the game is played, so one side of the screen is always out of the visual field.

The constraints of the visual field make players engage their short-term memory by panning across the gamescape at the beginning of each level to show them the structure that they are seeking to take out then bouncing back leaving that structure beyond the visual field. Since short-term memory is both finite and volatile, the visual and auditory engagement of the birds bouncing and chirping in the visual field distracts from remembering the structure that was just seen. This taxing of the player’s short-term memory ups the complexity of the game and therefore makes it even more rewarding when a level is completed.

While this combination of limited visual field and reliance upon short-term memory has the potential to be frustrating, the game is designed to easily adjust the view of the gamescape thus refreshing the player’s short-term memory. It also follows the flight of the bird across the gamescape to its destructive end, hopefully changing the actual structure being aimed at and so refreshing the player’s short-term memory with a new version of the target.

Another tool that the game uses to help the player adjust to the limited visual field is the bird’s flight path. When a bird is shot, it leaves behind a trail of clouds which will remain on the screen for the next shot giving the player visual clues for their launching angle while still keeping the end goal out of the visual field. Only the immediately previous bird’s flight path is visible so the player must set their short-term memory of the structure against the previous bird’s flight to decide their next move.

On the iPad, players can pinch in the zoom to bring the entire gamescape into the player’s view, which prevents short-term memory loss thus decreasing the complexity of the game. This decrease allows the game to be completed more quickly and proficiently but the decrease in challenge makes it less interesting to play and therefore less fun over time. From this we see that what is hidden from the visual field can be just as important was what we include in it.

Drawn in part from Charles L Mauro’s article ‘Why Angry Birds is so successful’
http://www.mauronewmedia.com/blog/2011/02/why-angry-birds-is-so-successful-a-cognitive-teardown-of-the-user-experience/

If you’d like a PDF version of the handout for your personal use, grab it here.

5 Things I Love – Mar 21

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

1. ‘Nerd’ Smurf Tee

I came across this while searching for some Despicable Me minions for my brother and not only is it reminiscent of my childhood, but it calls to my inner nerd and has a lovely retro appeal.

2. Lazy Saturdays

Sleeping in. Reading. Lazing about on the couch. Sun shining through the skylights. There is something to be said for a day of non-industriousness, especially after a packed month, and its impact on mental health (even if it means I never got that other post I wrote last week published…).

3. Fage Yogurt

Last year when I really started keeping a food diary and really, really reading labels I decided to make the switch from regular yogurt to Greek (have you seen the amount of sugar in a regular yoplait?) and a friend recommended this brand to me. They’re a little more expensive than some of the newer players on the market, but it shows in the taste difference. So catch them on sale and try out a flavor. I’m particularly loving the new Fage 0% Cherry Pomegranate combo. Healthy and tasty is always good.

4. iBooks

During my lazy Saturday, part of my reading was made possible by this lovely app and my ipod. While the majority of books that I know I want to read aren’t in the free section, they do have some great reads for free as well as paid.

5. Summer Partylite Catalog

Due to the loving sharingfulness of my friend and sponsor in Partylite, I got some of the new catalogs for Summer 2011 this weekend and am loving the bright lime, orange and pink dominant in the book. More on that to come ;)

5 Things I Love – March 14

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

1. Superman Ice Cream

I thought about including this in last week’s 5 Things, but there appears to be some debate over where the flavor originated aside from being a Midwest thing. Of the various theorized flavor combos, I grew up with as a kid the Blue Moon, lemon chiffon & red pop combo

2. X-Mini Capsule Speaker

I got one of these as local leader swag at Interaction11 and was pleasantly surprised at it’s sound quality when I pulled it out a few weeks later to use for background music at an event. With my ipod at 1/2 volume it was more than sufficient for our needs and much easier to transport than trying to add a boombox to the event stuff mix.

3.Vernors

One of the oldest surviving soft drinks, Vernors originated in Detroit and almost made last week’s list of regional foods. In the reverse of Superman ice cream, it was struck not because I didn’t know where it started but because I wasn’t sure how widely it is now distributed. It is still a great Michigan food and is a great taste sensation when combined with vanilla ice cream (known as a Boston Cooler).

4.Conair Jelly Rollers

So, I have ornery hair. You wouldn’t guess it by looking, but it’s very stubborn about doing what it wants to and when it comes to being curled it either tends to fro out or lose it’s curl without 10 gallons of hair spray added to it (which I’m not a huge fan of). However, back when I was in college these came into my life and they’re amazing. Truly a hair saver on more than one occasion.

5.Calorie Counter

Last year I used the LoseIt app to lose 15 lbs but I’m an infovore, so when I discovered this site with all of its vitamin and mineral information I got a bit a addicted. It still has a food log and, duh, counts caloric intake vs. outtake but it’s taking me that next step from really coming to understand things like portion sizes to choosing my food to make sure I have enough vitamins and minerals that my body needs in my life.

Parmesan Encrusted Grilled Cheese

I have always been and remain a lover of grilled cheese. As a kid I was quite the connoisseur of grilled cheese offerings at the various restaurants we frequented, so much so I distinctly remember it coming up at a birthday dinner that perhaps I might try something aside from grilled cheese for the occasion.

As an adult viewer of great Food Network programming like ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’, I was introduced to the idea that more could be added to a grilled cheese than just ham or bacon. Thus came the avocado (tomato is good too). I also became aware of the mixed cheese philosophy. Sharp cheddar & swiss go well with the avocado. I enjoy using a monterey jack blend.

Lest the pictures confuse, I used thinly sliced baguette french bread to make my sandwiches while photographing this recipe. Because I then ate them, I made two smaller sandwiches. It can be done with regular bread. I prefer the taste this way.

Parmesan Encrusted Grilled Cheese
(with Avocado)

2 pieces of bread
1/4 cup of a cheese/cheeses of you choice
1/8 cup of sliced avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
Butter

Heat oil in pan. Once warm, add Parmesan cheese and cook until it begins to melt together.
While it is heating, butter one side of each slice of bread.

Press bread into the melting Parmesan. Layer on cheese & avocado then enclose with other slice of bread.

Give your cheese a minute or so to melt then flip. The Parmesan should be nicely golden. If it’s too light you can always flip it back.

Once nicely browned; remove from heat, slice and enjoy.

Thank you, Maggie, for sharing this recipe in her grilled cheese post on favedietsblog!

5 Things I Love – March 7

image for weekly list of five things I'm currently loving in life, music, art, etc.

After all of the confusion that ensued on twitter these past few weeks with the lack of pastie (the food) knowledge and with tomorrow being Packzi Day, my friend Lisa suggested that a Michigan/regional food theme may be appropriate. I happen to concur. The only problem being that having grown up with these things I tend not to think about them being regional.

So, after much contemplation of what I missed when I lived out of state, here are five of my favorite foods from my home state (plus 1 bonus).

1. Pasties

This savory pastry entree came over to Michigan with the Cornish miners and grew to become embedded in the culture of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Signs for pastie shops are one of the first things you see once you’ve crossed the bridge. As a Yooper’s daughter I was surprised to discover that the dish was not better known when I wandered beyond the state boundary. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, I posted a recipe for them just last week.

2. Packzis

In Southeastern Michigan Fat Tuesday equals Paczi Day. It warmed my heart to see all of the signage about it while downstate this past weekend.

So, what’s a packzi? It’s a Polish treat traditionally made on Fat Tuesday to use up all of the ingredients that could not be eaten once Lent began (like sugar, lard, etc.). These deep-friend, filling stuffed, powered sugar covered dough balls are by no means light in the calorie department, but worth the once a year indulgence.

3. Mackinac Island Fudge

This handmade confection is known statewide as being a special variety of fudge different from other run of the mill fudges you might encounter due to it’s stick to the roots recipes that work all the way up from scratch just as when it was invented. Read here for a bit of the history around the fudge’s rise to prominence.

4. Faygo

This is another one of those brands that I didn’t realize was a regional food until I moved out of state. The news spread like wildfire amongst the Michigan students at my college when a few of their flavors like Red Pop and Moon Mist were spotted in a small Tennessee town not far from our campus. It was a limited variety of flavors, but we all knew there was no place like home to get the full assortment.

5. Sander’s

Candy, chocolates, dessert toppings and even coffee; Sander’s has it all. My fondest memories, though, are of their hot fudge ice cream topping. Sure you could get Hershey’s or some other topping at the store, but growing up we all knew that Sander’s was a special treat.

Bonus

Koegel Meats – Most famous for their Viennas (natural casing hot dogs), this Flint based company has been in business since 1916 and is a trusted name in our area. In fact, I know people who literally will not eat any other hot dogs unless under severe duress.

Super Special March Deals

There are some interesting things going on with Partylite and lia sophia in specials this month, so I thought I’d do a quick post to talk about them.

lia sophia

$100, Get 1 for $15 Special

This month lia sophia is trying something new this month. For the first time guests who spend $100 can get any item up to $100 in the catalog (regular & Kiam) for $15.

Also, hostesses in March can take advantage of this special in addition to all of their usual hostess benefits, no $100 purchase required.

Partylite

Free Tealights

This is a non-party only special available through March 16th. When you place an order of $40 or more online you get 1 dozen tealights free.

This special can be combined with the Internet specials and the spend $50 get 1 item at 1/2 price that are also going online.

Product Rating and Review Sweepstakes

Partylite has just introduced product ratings & reviews. In honor of this they are giving away a $200 gift certificate to one lucky reviewer who writes a review during the month of March.

Fragrance of the Month

Lastly, this is the third month of the fragrance of the month special. This month’s fragrance is Cherry Blossom, so all Cherry Blossom candles and oils are 25% off.

Extras

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a big fan of Grosgrain the blog and she has got a couple of fab giveaways going on right now. Here’s the info:

House 8810 $60 Gift Card Giveaway

Great retro houseware, decor and more. As House 8810’s site says, make your roost rock.

Sizzix Big Shot Giveaway


If you’re a fan of do it yourselfing like myself, this machine looks like a great addition to the do it yourself toolkit. I can think of many things to make and do with it, but I’m sharing it with you all anyway.

That’s it for today. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief foray into the world of specials and giveaways ;)

Interaction11 – Friday

Yes, yes. I had intended to get this up sooner. Saturday as well. It is coming and soon. I promise.

Opening Keynote

It was obvious that Richard Buchanan had been paying attention to Thursday’s session when he started out his keynote with the three questions that had created a theme for the previous day: Who are we? Where are we? Where are we going?

His talk spoke a lot about how we design, those things which influence our design and the power of design.

“Design has no subject matter. That’s what makes this such a powerful discipline – we make our own subject matter.”

As designers, we bring a different perception. One of his examples was how a chair instead of just being a chair is a place of interaction or activity – interaction being defined as how people relate to other people through the mediatory influence of products (like a chair).

As a framework for the design Buchanan shared with us a philosophy labeled by his students to be the Triangle of Doom. The sides of the triangle represent the qualities of being useful, usable and desirable. The balance of these qualities has determines the voice of the product and the design, which falls into the center of the triangle, needs to reflect that.

It is also important to keep in mind that all three qualities are necessary. Something can be useful and usable, but if there is no desirability then it will not be adopted into people’s lives.

He also spoke about how interaction is not thing to thing, it’s person to person. Thing to person is interfacing. There is a difference.

It’s more than just designing environments for interactions to take place though. There needs to be something accomplished through this. With that in mind content needs to drive design not try to be squished in after the fact for if there is no content then will the artifacts we leave behind have a voice and will we be able to hear what they are trying to say?

In closing, Buchanan gave his answer to the final question. Where are we going? To support the dignity of our users and that should be the principle behind all of our designs.

Macro vs. Micro

The gents from Smudgeproof shared with us the differences between small team development and design versus working in a large company (like Yahoo).

The things that really stuck out to me were the sheer amount of management, which we’ve all seen, involved in the larger corporation and several of the changes in terminology. The one that actually made it into my notes was the use of ‘triage’ instead of ‘revisions’. To me it seems much more accurate.

Also, these guys were the ones who put together the app for the conference, which was awesome of them to do.

Design for Evil: Ethical Design

Is that not a cool title for a talk? It is also one of the most grumbled about talks of the conference from what I heard during and afterwards.

What I think Kaleem Khan was trying to say, though this is just my interpretation, is that because design is not neutral we need to think about the choices that we make in both the jobs we take on and how we actually design.

As Buchanan said, design is a powerful discipline and the choices we make can be a part of great good or evil. We need to be cognizant of this and choose with care the things that we do and do not do.

IxD & the New Media Pedagogy

Entrepreneurial journalism isn’t a term that I ever heard of while an editor for our college paper, but a lot has happened in the last five years and Steven Johnson is a professor preparing students for joining the workforce in this new age of digital media teaching just that.

Johnson teaches them beyond the journalism to the basic web developer skills that they will need along with interaction design, information architecture and user experience tenants. For example, he teaches them about site mapping by referencing the difference between a family tree and crabgrass (site mapping is the latter).

As a longtime Dilbert reader, one of my favorite sound bites of the day came from this talk.

“It’s Dilbert’s world and we just ideate in it.”

Many days that is exactly how it feels.

The Intersection of Physical & Digital Design

The last talk of the morning came from Lindsay Moore & Austin Brown of EffectiveUI. They shared with us ideas and examples of how digital interfaces could be developed to improve the interactions between people and the physical devices that they use.

One example they gave was of potential improvements to a thermostat that would not only give the consumers more system feedback like amount of time to heat and such, but also encourage community collaboration by tying into local energy challenges with neighbors. The idea being, of course, that community can provide collaboration and positive reinforcement that improve people’s habits.

Lunch and Beyond

Friday afternoon was our out and about day where we all headed off to different lunch locations and activities that we had signed up for ahead of time.

I was signed up for the design tour, so we went off to have lunch at Centro Latin Kitchen before hitting the sidewalks. Let me tell you, it was fabulous. If you’re in Boulder I recommend trying it.

Disney Online Kerpoof Studio

Our first stop was Disney Online’s studio in Boulder. They produce Kerpoof Studio, which focuses mostly on education as well as Disney Online’s Create section.

By no means do I fall into their core demographic of pre/young teen girls, but after seeing the work that they do on the create page I wanted to go and pretend that I was again. It was also interesting to hear how they handled things like innovation and development with a very artistic development environment.

Wall Street on Demand

Our second stop took us from art and children to graphs and money with Wall Street on Demand, a company which provides tools for financial services. They welcomed us with exercise balls for seating and a large bowl of chocolate then introduced us to their way of work through a presentation to the group.

Afterwards, we were invited to take the last few minutes to explore their space, check out their work on iPads and chat with their employees. It was obvious that they loved their jobs and they found something which many people might consider boring both interesting and exciting. It was great to see.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Our last stop was CP+B. A little further out of town than the other, they took what used to be an indoor soccer arena and transformed it into a really cool workspace. I may have gaped/drooled a little.

Here we did the reverse of the stop before by dividing up into two tour groups and then coming back together for a presentation about the company at the end. While I hadn’t been familiar with CP+B’s name, I have seen their ad campaigns and so it was interesting to hear how they came up with those ideas.

Each of the sites had a different product and energy, but what was interesting at the close was to think about how their processes were similar despite their differences (though not exactly alike by any means) and the ways that their company culture showed through whether it be in the architecture, work stations or the differences that did show through their work processes. It was definitely a great and thought provoking experience, especially with all the discussion of those subjects in the future of our office.

As for the evening, wow. There was a Coroflot recruiting/networking event already in motion when we got back which was the first event of the evening. Starting just a bit later were gatherings sponsored by Pivotal Labs, SapientNitro, Hot Studio & CP+B. At least, those are the ones that I was aware of. Needless to say, some folks were a bit, ehm, bleary-eyed the next morning. It was a great chance to meet people and connect further with those already met previously.

Recommended Reading from the Day:
Designing Interactionsby Bill Moggridge
Interaction Ritual – Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior by Erving Goffman

Pasties are a Real Food

Some of you know what I speak. Some of you may have ended up on this post by accident. If you’re looking for exotic ‘accessories’ this is not the place to find them.

So, a few things to note about this recipe.

  • It’s actually a double recipe. So if it looks like a lot of food it is.
  • I used venison when I made this batch, but beef is the usual choice of meat.
  • I also included turnip and apple in mine. This is not the norm. Feel free to substitute potatoes for them.
  • Pasties freeze really well. If you are wondering what a single girl is doing with 20 pasties now you know.

On to the recipe.

Pasties

Filling
2 cups diced rutabaga
1 cup diced turnip
3 1/2 cups diced potato
1 1/2 cups diced fresh onion
1 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced apple
1 1/2 lbs chopped venison (or ground beef)
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons of butter, chopped

Crust
8 cups flour
2 2/3 cups shortening
2 1/4 cups cold water

Mix together flour, shortening and water for dough. Set aside to cool in the fridge.

Slice, dice, etc. all of the ingredients for your filling. Mix together in a large bowl.

Remove your dough from the fridge and pull a ball a little smaller than a baseball. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. Don’t roll too thin or it won’t hold up to the filling (those potatoes like to poke holes). I like to roll mine out to about 6 inches in diameter and put in about 1 cup of filling, but that is on the smaller side for pasties.

Place your filling in the center and fold into a half moon. Crimp the edges and vent the top.

Repeat until the filling is gone. I actually ended up with a bit extra of the dough and finished out my last sheet with one blueberry filled crust.

Bake at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown.

Estimated 20 small/medium sized pasties.

I also decided to try a breakfast size using my muffin pan. It takes a little more dough but turned out really well.

And, of course, there is the blueberry (with cinnamon & a bit of sugar) filled crust.

Check out this link for nutrition information.