Archive for December, 2010

Contributor Joyce Kane – Krafters Korner: 2011 Resolutions

Another year is almost gone and the New Year 2011 is about to begin.  Now that the hustle of the holidays are winding down it is time to look ahead and think about those New Year Resolutions.  We all take at least a moment to give them a passing thought and some of us may even make a great attempt to keep those resolutions.

As a crafter, I have heard many resolutions from folks promising they will use the yarn they have in their stash instead of running out and purchasing more.  That they will avoid the fantastic sales for fabric or beads, or they will finish all their craft projects that they have half done before they start a new one.  The list can go on and on.

How about those promises to yourself that you will start making Christmas presents right after Christmas–that you will begin knitting those sweaters, hats or mittens in the spring?

I have never heard a resolution from a crafter like “I will fill every spare space in my bedroom       with skeins of yarn,” or “I want to have enough fabric in the closet and under the bed to make 50 quilts.”  I have yet to hear, “I have dropped more beads on the floor than I bought this month.”

Krafters Korner will be trying something new for 2011.  We will be having Christmas in August.  The month of August, Krafters Korner will be having holiday crafting classes.  There will be such things as Santa Crocheted Mittens, a Safety Pin Beaded Christmas Tree and an Intarsia knitted Christmas tree bag, just to name a few.  This way you can get started early with the holiday projects you might want to make as gifts.  Hopefully this will help with those resolutions that tend to be set aside.

Whatever your New Year’s Resolution may be for 2011, all I can say is “Keep on Krafting.”

Op Ed with Bob Branco – A Sue-Happy Society

I don’t know what the requirements are in order to secure a field permit for recreation or sporting activities in other parts of the world, but here in southeastern Massachusetts, it’s a nightmare.  Years ago, it was so easy for someone to obtain a field permit from the Park Department locally.  It should be easy, as most of us use parks for recreational and educational purposes.  I can tell all of you first-hand how a sue-happy society has evolved the process into something that is completely out of control.

I applied for my very first field permit in 2000.  I wanted to start my own blind baseball team, the first of its kind in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In order for me to get my field permit, all I had to do was go to the recreation office, fill out paper work, request a field, and get it. There were no hitches, conditions, expenses, or trickery involved.  The process was that simple.  In 2003, cities and towns began changing the way we apply for permits because they were afraid of being sued.  Now, when I apply for my field permit in order to run my slow pitch softball league, I have to take out a one million dollar insurance policy in order to protect the city or town from being sued.  For the past several years, I had to pay premiums on accident and liability insurance.  Mind you, all we want to do is have fun at a local park.

Two years ago, when I went to my insurance agent, she added a third insurance, one that I could take if my softball league could afford it.  You may want to sit down for this.  Besides accident insurance and liability insurance, I was offered a chance to buy sexual abuse coverage.  When my agent told me about this, I asked a question that may appear stupid, but it was what I thought of at the time.  I asked my agent the following question: if a member of my softball league wanted to abuse someone sexually on my field, why is it the town’s fault?  If that was a stupid question, please forgive me.  I just couldn’t see the connection between sexual abuse and suing the city or town.  I suppose a city or town could be sued if it was believed that there wasn’t enough police protection or supervision on the softball field.  If it’s that easy to sue a city or town over an incident on a softball field, then it should be just as easy to sue them no matter where the act takes place.

My point is this: has the system gone way too far on all levels just because we want to play softball, which, for most of us, is an activity that helps you relax after a hard day’s work?  Our goal as a society is to keep kids off the streets so that they won’t be bored or get into trouble.  However, if organized sports leagues go out of business because they have to spend hundreds, even thousands more dollars to pay out in insurance premiums, that doesn’t help the cause.  If you’re a kid, you now have one less activity to occupy your time, and if you’re an adult, one of your options for relaxing after a hard day’s work is taken from you.  All in the name of the fear of law suits.

If the holders of field permits are forced to spend all of their league money in order to prevent law suits, what are we telling our youth?  On one hand, today’s youth need something to do.  If they play softball, it keeps them busy, yet if youth leagues run out of money because of all the insurance they now have to buy, where does this leave all these kids who enjoy the game? 

You could be the best fund-raiser in the world, but even if you do everything humanly possible to raise money in order to run your organization properly, you are now asked to raise additional money to pay insurance premiums.  You may have to get more corporate sponsors, more cash donations from the business community, more free baseball equipment, more umpires who would agree to work for less money, and a vender’s license to sell food during your activity.  I’ve already asked for some of this just to keep my league going.

Years ago, before the invasion of lawsuit phobia, a local radio station put its team in a league, and there was no problem.  Today, this same radio station won’t participate in my league or anyone else’s because they, too, are afraid of liability.  Even though my league took out a one million dollar insurance policy, the corporation that owns this radio station will not honor my coverage, because they feel they have deeper pockets and need their own special protection.

Why don’t we all stop being so afraid and just play ball?

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Travel Eyes: A Travel Agency for the Blind

Next April, my husband and I will be going to Universal Studios in Orlando to see the new Harry Potter theme park. Although traveling to new places can be overwhelming, traveling is still one of my favorite things to do. This trip won’t be tailored to me as a blind person, but I hope to one day take a trip with Travel Eyes.

After losing his sight, Scott Latif decided to start his own business. His company, Travel Eyes, provides planned trips for blind and sighted travelers. Each trip is designed with the blind in mind, and sighted travelers get a discount for agreeing to be guides to their fellow blind travel companions.

I think that this business model is great. Blind people get a chance to travel to new places, and sighted people get a chance to learn how to interact, understand, and have fun with someone who can’t see.

The trips with Travel Eyes include; flights and transfers, hotel accommodations, some meals, specified excursions, and services from a Travel Eyes tour guide.

Trips in 2011 include; Egypt, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Cyprus, Greece, Cuba, Italy, Berkshire England, China, Iceland, and a Caribbean Cruise.

So if you’re interested in traveling and want an experience where you either get to travel without any worries as a blind person or you want the chance to share your experiences with someone who can’t see, then I recommend checking out the Travel Eyes website. http://www.traveleyes-international.com/

Feature Writer John Christie – So That The Poor May Walk With Confidence

A blind woman named Beverly held her first training for missionaries this past week. The campaign is called The Global Cane Outreach, where missionaries are taught the sighted guide technique as well as walking with a blindfold as a blind person.

The training lasted for four hours and was broken up into two days. On the first day, blindfolds were passed out to trainees who wore them for the first hour. In addition, they had a discussion about whether they had met a blind person before. Beverly shared her own story about losing her sight and then learning independence skills. She then discussed how she gained an interest in the missionary field to bring canes and freedom to blind people in other countries.

They all followed Beverly outside, holding on to each other’s shoulder, as she walked with her cane. Her husband, Guy, gave assistance as needed. After they went a little ways from the building, she asked them to turn around and without holding onto each other, go in to the building and find their seats. She did this for shock value–it’s intimidating to locate a place without sight.

For a snack break after the first hour, half the group was asked to go to the cafeteria, assisting one another without the knowledge of the sighted guide technique. Once back, the group was asked to take off their blind folds and they were taught the sighted guide technique by Beverly and her husband. The technique was practiced by having one person put on a blindfold while the other person properly guided them along. Throughout the training, questions and discussion were encouraged.

The next day involved measuring and holding a cane and proper cane techniques. The learning of these skills was first done without a blindfold on so that the trainees could see how they were accomplished. They then practiced walking in pairs, with one having a blindfold on and the other assisting. They then changed places so they would all have the experience walking with a cane. Beverly explained the techniques for using a cane safely, such as trailing a building, trailing a curb, or going up and down stairs.

It was explained to the missionaries that they would have to seek out the blind people in their countries, as Beverly had once done with a person who was blind in Africa and taught him how to use a cane.

The group will also travel to Haiti to give aid to blind people. They will be bringing folding canes because they are easier to transport.

Stories like these give hope that there are people out there who want to help the international blind community at its weakest points.  The fact that Beverly gives her time to accomplish this is inspiring.  By seeking out those in need, this mission to bring canes to foreign countries so that foreigners can learn how to use the cane is giving the freedom of independence to the people who need it most.

Source: http://www.theblindpost.com/GlobalCaneOutreach.html

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – How Cookies Make Holidays Special

Our family loves the delicious smell of baking cookies at Christmas.  Those Tollhouse cookies with the smell of semi sweet chocolate morsels and peanut butter cookies with their flaky texture seem to bring everyone together.

I remember helping my mom mix and shape cookies at Christmas, cracking Brazil nuts for her snowballs covered in powdered sugar.  We loved the smell of baking cookies and waited until we could finally taste that first one.

My mother made four kinds of cookies during Christmas; ranger, snowballs, toll house, and peanut butter.  This tradition became so ingrained in me that I continued this practice after I was married and with my own children. 

The kinds of cookies most requested by everyone to this day are oatmeal chocolate chip and peanut butter.  My gift the Matilda Ziegler writers and readers are these two cookie recipes–Chocolate Chip Cookies My Way and Easy Oatmeal Cookies.  I have made changes to these recipes, using less sugar and adding more chocolate chips, using less vanilla, and using margarine instead of butter in the first recipe.  I’ve also added cornmeal to the oatmeal cookie recipe, which has added to its appeal.

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

First recipe – Chocolate Chip Cookies My Way

Ingredients:

Two sticks margarine (Land o’ lakes or imperial is best), 3/4 cups light brown sugar, 1/4 to one half cup white sugar, 2 large eggs, one half teaspoon vanilla, two and a half cups flour, a pinch of salt, one teaspoon baking soda, and 18 ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips (Nestle is best).

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, soften margarine for 20 minutes. Beat on medium speed for two minutes, then add sugars, beat two minutes, and finally add eggs and vanilla. Beat until fluffy, about one and a half minutes.  Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in another bowl, stirring with a whisk or fork.  Combine dry ingredients with batter; add alternately with chocolate chips, mixing on low speed until these remaining ingredients are used.   Remove bowl and chill batter for one hour (this makes it easier to shape). 

Grease cookie sheets lined with aluminum foil or silicone cookie mats with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Use a tablespoon to scoop and shape batter on cookie sheets.  Before baking, flatten them a little.  Bake at 325 degrees for 22 to 24 minutes.  To promote even browning, switch cookie sheets half way through baking (the top sheet to the bottom rack and the bottom sheet to the top rack).  Let cookies cool a few minutes and they should be easy to remove from the cookie sheet.

Next Recipe – Easy Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

Two sticks butter (no substitutions, it brings out the flavor), almost one cup white sugar, one cup flour, one half cup yellow cornmeal, one and one half cups old fashioned oats, and one teaspoon baking soda.

Directions:

Soften butter in large mixing bowl for twenty minutes, add sugar and flour.  Mix with hands until ingredients are blended.  Add oatmeal, cornmeal, and baking soda and mix again until ingredients are incorporated. Chill for thirty minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape batter in to small balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets lined with aluminum foil or cookie mats. Flatten them before baking.  Bake them for 15 minutes. 

With these recipes, your family will come running and your cookies will disappear with everyone asking “When are you going to make them again?” 

Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy 2011. 

Note: the chocolate chip cookie recipe originated in Mrs. Field’s Cookies. It is titled “Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies.”  The book is available from NLS.  The oatmeal cookie recipe was originally titled “Easy Colonial Oatmeal Cookies,” first printed in “A Leaf from Our Table” a Braille cookbook published in 1970 by the Chicago Catholic Guild, with recipes from blind women across America.  It is out of print, but this recipe was reprinted in “Out Of Sight,” a cookbook sold by a Maryland chapter of the ACB.

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – What Caught My Attention in 2010: Part 1

It is that time of year again, a time for most of us to reflect on the past years events, memories and exciting times.  I would like to share with you some of my favorite advances in assistive technology from 2010.

My first interest is the new Pearl camera that you can purchase and use with Openbook version 9.0.  This new, light-weight camera is attached to a flexible arm, which folds down for easy transport.  It comes in a nice carrying case for those who travel on a daily basis.  It should be noted that the Pearl camera will only work with Openbook version 9.0 or later.

When you unfold the camera, there is a paper guide which is used to help you orient reading materials correctly when acquiring images to be read by Openbook.  You line up your item, press the space bar, and within 5 to 8 seconds, Openbook is reading the text to you.  This is a huge step forward to those of us who hated waiting those long 35 to 60 seconds for a flat bed scanner to do the work in the past.  I used Openbook mostly to read single page documents because it took so long to scan and process multiple pages.  The Pearl system speeds up this process considerably.

Freedom Scientific also made some expansions to the low vision portion of Openbook for those who have low vision.  There are more levels of adjustable magnification and there are many more color schemes to select to make it easier to follow along with Openbook as it reads the text to you.

For all of the information on the Pearl camera you can visit http://freedomscientific.com/products/fs/pearl-product-page.asp

For more information about Openbook you can visit

http://freedomscientific.com/products/fs/openbook-product-page.asp and http://freedomscientific.com/downloads/openbook/openbook-whats-new.asp

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Cookies and Reindeer

My fondest yuletide holiday memory was dreaming of reindeer. Sure, I wanted Santa to climb down our chimney and deposit gifts, but I wanted to meet his faithful hoofed servants even more.  After all, I was an animal lover and I wanted to meet those gifted arctic antelope. I made sure we didn’t forget the carrots, which were placed alongside the milk and cookies on the kitchen table before going up to bed. It was torture trying to fight off sleep while waiting to hear the sled land on our roof.

The next morning I ran down the stairs to the kitchen table, delighted to see that the jolly man’s companions had left the end of the carrot, complete with bite marks.  To me, the leftover carrot, cookie crumbs and gifts under the tree, proved Santa and his fuzzy friends had visited.

Fast forward a few decades and I found myself gnawing off the end of the carrot, leaving it on the plate in the dining room for my kids to discover.  My husband, always blunt and often painfully honest, would say, “You know that’s deceiving them into believing something that’s not real, right?”

I would always pick up the cookie and hold it to his mouth, “Just eat the darn cookie and don’t be such a bah humbug.”

“What about the milk? I hate milk,” he replied.

I would snag a cookie and dip it into the milk as I ate it, smirking as it grossed him out.

I’m not sure when, exactly, I made the dreaded discovery that Santa and his hoofed friends weren’t real. It wasn’t something I felt was horrible, but at the same time, I did wonder why people went to so much trouble keeping up appearances.

Later on, after the truth was out, I heard a myriad of explanations, like Santa was a marketing ploy for people to buy more Coke ™ products, or that Santa was created to be the non-denominational representation of the birth of Christ and God’s message of “good will” to agnostics and atheists. The best and most unique explanation I heard was that Santa was the American conglomerate of many sectarian/non-sectarian and cultural beliefs all rolled into one jolly belly, representing a worldwide icon for what’s best in us all. It didn’t matter what religion you practiced or who you worshipped, Santa transcended it. I think even my skeptical husband would agree with it.

Nonetheless, Christmas is a magical time of year and part of me still wants to hear the clattering of hoofs near my window.

Happy Holidays to all.

Letter from the Editor

Hello Everyone,

A year ago, almost to the day, I was made the new editor of a magazine for the blind.  As I’ve said in recent letters to you, that opportunity was both exciting and slightly frightening.  I knew very little about the blind community, but I was confident that I would be able to pick things up along the way and produce something that you readers would truly enjoy.  Looking back, I find myself thinking, “Oh how far we have come.”

The successes that this magazine has had are truly amazing to me, especially considering the time table that we’re looking at.  Within one year’s time, which seems like such a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things, we have built a strong foundation that will allow us to perpetuate those successes far into the future.  With the help of my amazing crew of writers–which, without them, this magazine wouldn’t be anywhere near as valuable as it is–and the countless contributors, this magazine has been made possible.

Looking forward, I have big plans for this publication.  I will constantly increase the scope of the articles, bringing in new, interesting topics to keep current readers coming back for more, and attract those who have yet to scroll through our content.  As technology improves, I will pursue new avenues of accessibility so that we can continue to reach a greater audience here in the United States and around the world.  This magazine has a rich history, and I will ensure that these years of change, as we march forward into a new era, will be looked back upon in the same regard years from now.

It has truly been an honor to create this magazine for all of you each and every week, and I want to thank you for accepting me into your community with open arms and offering fantastic support and suggestions as I worked out the kinks, so to speak.  I do hope that you will continue to offer your advice so that I can accurately cater the magazine to your needs.  Thank you all for a great year, and I’ll talk to you again in 2011.

Just a quick note, there will not be a magazine released the week of January 3.  The magazine will resume regular circulation on January 10.

Happy holidays, everyone.  Take care, and thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Ross Hammond, Editor

Reader-Submitted Joke

While working as a mall Santa, I had many children ask for electric trains. “If you get a train,” I would tell each one, “you know your dad is going to want to play with it too. Is that okay?”
The usual answer was a quick yes, but after I asked one boy this question, he became very quiet. Trying to move the conversation along, I asked what else he would like Santa to bring him. He promptly replied, “Another train.”

Recipe of the Week – Sweet Potato Puff

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Makes 16 servings

INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds dark sweet potatoes or yams (2 cups mashed)

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 large egg

3 large egg whites

1/2 cup light sour cream

1 cup Stevia or splenda granulated sweetener

1 tablespoon margarine or butter, melted

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

 1. To prepare the sweet potato or yams, pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and place in microwave.

2. Cook on high for 10 minutes or until the flesh is soft.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

4. Cut the sweet potatoes or yams in half and scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, except the pecans, and beat until smooth. Spoon into the casserole dish and smooth the top.

5. Sprinkle the top with nuts.

6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the center slightly puffs.

Nutritional Info (per serving):

Calories 140

Carbohydrates 19g

Total Fat 6g

Protein 4g

Fiber 3g

Cholesterol 30mg