Tag Archives: electronics

Back to the Basics

At various points during the day, I check Facebook and my email like many of you— my feed flooded with products and programs promising happiness and fulfillment, for a price. The thing is— whether your happiness is temporarily increased by clothes, electronics, or fast food— the high is soon over. It is followed by the heavy burden of guilt over purchasing something you didn’t actually need or the feeling of pure exhaustion after a grease-covered meal.

If you want to take control over subtle influences in your daily routine (and live life just a little lighter) consider the following options:

  1. Live below your means.

    Coupon queens everywhere are about to really hate me, but understand that I do mean well. Stocking up on items you will definitely use with coupons is a fantastic idea— as long as you really do use them. Otherwise you end up with a large amount of food you have to throw out because it expired, and the money you thought you saved becomes money you could have put towards existing debt or a vacation.

    Do some research on minimalism and see what parts of it you can apply to your own life. Minimalism gives less power to the objects that surround us— but it doesn’t take away the meaning of the important things in our lives. Instead, it allows us to consciously choose what is important and why without being bogged down by meaningless objects that hurt our health, relationships, and hold us back from reaching our full potential. Visit www.theminimalists.com to see if you can benefit from any of their suggestions and tailor them to fit your needs!

    Donate items that you don’t use to people who really need them. The obvious choice is Goodwill, but you can also post free items on websites like www.freecycle.org. They have a specific section for Roanoke already, so it is as easy as going on their site, creating an account, and posting what you have to give away.

2. Take charge of your diet.

Organize your kitchen to encourage your family to spend more time cooking, cleaning, and eating healthy. Place items in drawers where they will be convenient to reach when you need them and get rid of extra dishes, cups, and utensils that no longer serve a purpose. When you have more space, your kitchen looks clean and welcoming after a long day of work or running errands. You may even look forward to getting there and spending time with your family rather than waiting in line at McDonalds to pick up dinner.

While we are talking about fast food, it is also important that you try to spend your food budget wisely. Make a list of things you need before you go grocery shopping and stick to that list. We have fallen into a habit in which we place very high value on convenience. Therefore, if it is on an end cap and on sale, we are far more likely to add $3 here and $5 there to our basket without thinking twice about it. Unfortunately, many of those products are not healthy and can include chemicals and preservatives that leave you hungry, tired, and even sick. Commit to the list— accounting for every meal during the week. You’ll save money AND feel better at the end of the day.

61VWkE9iEPL._SX419_BO1,204,203,200_Consider growing your own fruits and vegetables— it’s possible, even in the city! Look into making some of the staples in your pantry by yourself. With a little practice, you can make your own cheese for 1/3 of the store price and bake your own bread for about fifty cents per loaf. No matter how committed you are to the idea of sustainable living, Woman-Powered Farm by Audrey Levatino is a great book to add to your library. From teaching you the basics on raised garden beds and farm animals to operating farm machinery, it is perfect for the woman who wants to become more self-sufficient.

3. Reorganize your schedule

Completely banning electronics from your house is unreasonable, but cutting down on your TV time and opening a book is better for your brain. Get out of the house with your family, or on your own, and hike one of our area’s beautiful trails. See the world around you without a camera phone lens. Choose activities that will inspire you to be a healthier, happier version of yourself. Very often, happiness is just outside of your comfort zone.

Make time for energy-saving activities like hanging clothes on a line or chopping wood for a wood stove this winter. Not only will you stay active, but you will save money on your electric bills. If these ideas are too extreme for you, ease yourself into it. Bike to work or carpool if you can, keep those lights turned off, and set the temperature in your house to a comfortable but reasonable number. Little changes now can make a huge difference over time.

Choose any of these suggestions and tweak them to apply to your circumstances. At the very least, you may find that it is easier to identify the subtle influences that challenge your happiness and follow your own path instead.

Kids and Video Games

Kids love video games – they’re exciting, fun and engrossing. While games can promote learning and growth, too much video gaming – or playing inappropriate games – can lead to negative consequences. What should parents know to make good game choices for their children?

“The video game rating system works well and is pretty accurate,” says Richard Fiore, an instructor in game art and design/visual effects and motion graphics. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) provides ratings from “Early Childhood” to “Adult Only.” Fiore says that while these ratings are accurate, it is up to the parent to pay attention to them.

For young children, Fiore says tablets are the way to go, because they are very tactile. He adds that it is important to get your child acclimated to technology, and tablets are great for children’s hand-eye coordination. “Leapfrog makes tablets that are tough enough for kids to play with,” he says. These tablets make age-appropriate games and provide children with technology that resembles what their parents have.

Ken Kavanagh, visual and game programming instructor, says software that makes a child think is better than twitch games, where children are simply moving a character around. “You can start a child on software earlier as long as you are adamant on it being educational,” he says.

As children grow, you can continue this with games that encourage creativity and imagination. He says a lot of online education games and storybook software are prominent for young children, where they have some interaction with the story.

Fiore recommends Disney online gaming for young children. All safety features are turned on so there is no chatting with strangers. He likes Club Penguin, because it is somewhat educational and fun. It allows children to play with other children around the world, with preloaded things they can say to each other. “It’s enough for kids to feel like they are playing real video games and being part of a community,” says Fiore. For online games, Kavanagh likes Hooda Math, which offers fun flash games that have an educational spin on them.

Children 6 and older can start to appreciate sandbox-type games such as Minecraft. Games such as this, with very few limits, “really fosters the kids’ imaginations,” says Fiore. “There’s a whole process that kids need to learn to build and create. I think those games are way better, because you aren’t simply racing a car or collecting coins or fighting.” He warns that the most important thing to remember is to turn off the chat function because it is the most dangerous part for children.

While educational games are great for children, Fiore says playing a game for fun every now and then is totally fine. Limiting a child’s screen time is also a way to ensure your child is experiencing other things outside the gaming world. Fiore allows his son to have one hour of screen time a day, but he can earn another hour by reading for an hour.

When looking at consoles, Fiore recommends Nintendo. “It seems like Nintendo has more appropriate games for kids,” he says. For instance, the violence in a game like the Mario games isn’t real violence, but cartoon violence. He also says a lot of children enjoy the Nintendo 3DS. It’s tough and doesn’t scratch. Fiore says if a group of children are sitting together with 3DSs, they are all probably playing the same game. This way children aren’t playing alone.

Fiore sees virtual reality as the future of gaming, but not necessarily a good idea for children. “I see that being a problem for kids, and I say keep them out of it.” He says children’s eyes are still growing and the virtual reality glasses can cause a lot of eye strain.

Once children start buying their own software, it is important for them to have been taught what they should buy, Kavanagh says. “You have to care what your children are interacting with.”