Archive for December, 2012

Recipe of the Week – Overnight Oatmeal

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 8 Servings
Perfect for Christmas morning breakfast

Ingredients:

8 cups Water
2 cups Steel Cut Oats
1/3 cup Dried Cranberries, blueberries or other favorite
1 cup Dried Chopped Apricots, Raisins or Other Favorite Fruit
1/4 teaspoon Salt or, to taste
Any Other Spices, to taste, optional

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a 5-6 quart slow cooker.

Turn heat to low, cover, and cook until oats are tender and creamy, 7-8 hours.

Helpful Tips:

Other possible combinations: dried mango and pineapple topped with a sprinkle of shredded coconut.

Dried apples and raisins with a dash of nutmeg and topped with pecans or walnuts.

Dried blueberries and cranberries and a swirl of lingonberry jam before serving.

Enjoy!

Reader’s Forum – Week of December 17, 2012

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

Editor’s note: Thank you to everyone who wrote in or called to give the new number for the Tell Me service. We’re truly a community that sticks together and helps one another out. For those of you curious about the new number, please refer to Romeo’s article “Reaching Out” in this week’s magazine.

In response to Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Fond Memories of a Playful Past, Abby wrote:

I had a see and say when I was little, but it did not have a string or a pointer. It had visual buttons, but we put Braille on them. I know there are different types of see and say’s, and mine taught about countries. As embarrassing as it is, I still have a number of dolls from when I was little. I have a bitty baby, a cabbage patch baby named Molly, and a newborn nursery baby named Bailey. I know. It’s very embarrassing. I also had a baby alive sip and slurp and a chew chew baby, but I have no idea where those two went, and I’m sad.
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In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – A Review of “Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 5 for Blind Users” Wesley wrote:

For those who aren’t aware, Apple has an Accessible Tech Support line at (877) 204-3930. Of course, you need to have a support contract or your device needs to be within the original support period provided at the time of purchase, which was 90 days for the iPad I bought. While I found this support line to be far more knowledgeable than the main tech support number, there were still some serious gaps in the support persons abilities, such as they were not aware of screen curtain (tap four times), and had no idea how to have the player continuously read an iBook (tap once on the text then swipe down with two fingers). I subsequently found these answers on blogs, or in the manual.
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In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – A Review of “Getting Started with the iPhone and iOS 5 for Blind Users” John wrote:

I’m totally blind and I have been in all 4 Apple Store’s in Denver. Not all agents working in the store are accessible trained people. If you call the Apple Store before you go and make an appointment with their trained access personal I guarantee you will not walk out of the store without having all your questions answered. If they don’t know the answer they will find out and let you know. There isn’t a finer company in satisfying the customer.
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In response to Feature Writer John Christie – iCanConnect: Promoting Deaf-Blind Access to Technology, Tammy wrote:

I have at least a 50% hearing loss or a little more. With budgets being cutback more and more I wonder how financial assistance will be possible. In many cases states will only pay for access technology if you get a job or go to college. I wonder if there are any countries that help pay for or buy assistive technology for the handicapped. What about Canada?

I also am wondering how a blind person can record a program. I think it would be neat if a box that is made like a VCR that is digital but can talk that can be hooked up to your TV. I hear the DVR is complex and these companies charge about $10 extra a month for the use of it. My talking VCR is 14 years old and blank VHS tapes are becoming obsolete.
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In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – How Can Job Fairs Better Serve Blind Applicants? Cheryl wrote:

Dear Editor,
Responding to a recent op ed piece by Bob Branco about job fairs for people who are blind, I would like to know more about what Mr. Branco wants.

I am a newly graduated rehabilitation counselor and my philosophy is that people with disabilities should be on the “regular” track through life as much as possible. That means it’s great to have events designed specifically for people who are blind but, for the most part, it’s more likely that we will be in the mainstream.

Mr. Branco said attending a job fair for the public at large is a difficult task. Why is that so? Whether you are blind or not, you need to look at the job fair materials, look online at the companies that interest you, prepare your resumes and other materials and visit the booths that interest you. The only thing that might be more difficult for a person who is blind is to find the booths for the exhibitors you want to meet. Just like anywhere else, you have to ask your way around, and risk being ignored or misdirected sometimes.

So, Mr. Branco, I truly would like to know why this situation proved difficult for you. Is there something I’m missing? I want to be the best counselor I can be, and I need your thoughts in order to be that person.

Sincerely,
Cheryl Wade
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In response to Op Ed with Bob Branco – The Perceived Purpose of Commissions for the Blind, Charlotte wrote:

I would also like to make people aware of the fact that if you haven’t gone through the system like attending a Rehab program, the Commission for the Blind won’t help you purchase equipment or do much else for you. I attended a school for the blind where I was taught to be independent and learned how to cook, take care of a home and take care of myself. Because of this, I didn’t need to do it again through the Commission and so they wouldn’t help me. I saw them helping many other people with screen readers and all sorts of other equipment, but they informed me I was out of luck because I didn’t go through the system. I don’t believe this should be one of the requirements for assistance.

Contributor Deon Lyons – A Christmas Poem

Boots all polished with mirrored black
Stand empty, by the door
Red coat, hanging, trimmed with white
Like all the years before

Woolen socks, washed and darned
Lie folded on a chair
On top of thick, red woolen pants
Hand sewn, with Mama’s care

On a table top, a pair of gloves
Tanned and stretched and worn
Beside a long, red stocking hat
That’s soon to be adorned

Twilight casts through window pane
The Eve of Eves is here
Through opened door, the bearded one
Enters with glowing cheer

Barefoot patter round the floor
Red thermals, right in tune
Rocking chair beside the fire
With view of crescent moon

Reaching out, he grabs his socks
And slips his feet inside
Special made with wiggle room
And loads of elfin pride

He rocks and smiles with cheeks aglow
And drifts back through the years
Starry flights through Northern Lights
Filled with Christmas cheer

Reaching for his woolen pants
He slowly steps in through
Black suspenders snap on tight
As they normally tend to do

Bending down, he grabs his boots
And moves back to his chair
His socks fit snugly, deep within
Warmed with Elfin care

Again, he pauses, with a smile
And strokes his bearded chin
Visions of wishes, full of smiles
Hand wrapped, from deep within

Standing up, he grabs his coat
And quickly slides it on
Shiny buckle on a belt of black
Will hug him tight till dawn

Full length mirror on the wall
Reflects a timeless gaze
Pulling him back through eves of past
And a thousand Christmas days

He grabs his leather gloves and hat
And hurries out the door
The embers from the fireplace
Glow bright with midnight’s chore

Down the stairs and through the halls
A chorus starts to build
A thousand hearts sing out with cheer
As dreams are packed and filled

Wooden doors are opened wide
A sight to surely see
Harnessed reindeer, two by two
Waiting, patiently

Celebrated time has come
All bow and hear his call
He climbs upon the ancient sleigh
And praises one and all

He slides his hands into his gloves
And pulls his hat down tight
Eyes sparkle as he grabs the reins
And stares into the night

Breathless hush collects the crowd
A North wind starts to blow
Booming call rings through the night
“Ok now Boys, let’s go!”

Pulling strong, with reindeer pride
Hooves veer left, then right
Sleigh bells ring, as antlers sing
They jump, and catch the night

With smiles wrapped in a jolly laugh
They race towards the dawn
A cheering crowd bids farewell
With celebrated song

One more eve is under way
Traditions hold proud and true
A magic night, a wondrous sight
A Christmas, just for you

Contributor Larry Johnson – The Best Christmas Gift

Editor’s note: Larry P. Johnson is an author, motivational speaker and advocate for persons with disabilities. This piece originally appeared in the San Antonio Express-News.

Christmas is upon us. The season for spending, spending, and spending. They’ve given us Black Friday, Green Monday, Bargain Day Thursday and Super Special Saturday. It’s all about buying that special gift for that special someone. But in our frenzied urge to splurge, are we losing the deeper meaning of the art of giving?

One of my favorite Christmas stories is about the father who punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight, as it is now, and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”

The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.
Then, a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is told that her father kept that gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

In a very real sense, each one of us has been given a gold container filled with the unconditional love and kisses from our children, family members, and friends. There is simply no other possession anyone could hold more precious than this.

Although I may risk incurring the wrath of retailers throughout San Antonio in saying this, may I suggest that the best Christmas gift you can give your children this Christmas is to be a positive example for them of hope and love. And the best Christmas gift that you can give yourself is to fulfill the possibility of your being.

Contributor Nancy Scott – A Small Sin of Omission

Some years ago, Susan and I went to the College Hill Presbyterian Church for a holiday service. This church had many professors as members (there really is a college there) and classical works were often featured, especially at Christmas.

The church also had its own harpsichord–and I really wanted to see it. After the service, I suggested a quick “run up and fondle” to Susan. “After all,” I reasoned, “by the time they figure out how to yell at the blind person, I’ll have already checked it out.” Susan laughed and agreed and off we went, without asking.

It was made of some lovely wood with keys somewhat like a piano, which is what I normally played. I knew it was an expensive instrument. I was feather-light careful.

But I began to worry that the minister or the music director might have heart failure. So to put them at ease and show them I knew what I was doing, I played a few measures of Bach’s Prelude in C Major–the one to which Ave Maria is sung. I only knew a few measures of it. Had I gone farther, I would have had to invent it, since I play by ear.

No one yelled, and I got my minutes at the keyboard fantasizing about a romantic era, or real virtuosity, or some other place of fireplaces and evergreens.

Later, I learned that the music director told someone that I could play Bach. He said, “That’s amazing!” I’ve been back several times since to hear celebrations plucked from the air. I never explained my real talent, or lack thereof. Thankfully, no one has ever asked me to play Bach.

I know a few measures of several classical pieces–never more than about 30 seconds, just to impress. Usually I ask permission before I check out odd instruments like bagpipes and marimbas. But of course I can’t play any of those.

So have I matured after 20 years? Of course not. Given another chance at touching a harpsichord I’d do the same thing (Though, maybe I’d try a different prelude).

Op Ed with Bob Branco – How Do You Squeeze Dimes from Pennies?

As you know, nearly 80% of the blind population in this country are unemployed. Of the 80% who are out of work, many struggle to get by with a federal check from the Government. We can talk all day long about how it’s hard to meet expenses with just that check, and we can only hope that there is some other income source accompanying that check.

I often wonder how these struggling individuals manage to take the necessary steps to be on the same playing field with the sighted. I can always talk about utility bills, grocery bills, the rent, and other necessities, but what about those expensive necessities for success and equality?

For example, what would happen to an average unemployed blind person’s fixed budget if they had to pay for an attorney in order to defend themselves? In this county, there are free legal services, but in most cases certain stipulations need to be met in order to get them and being blind sometimes isn’t enough. With that said, how does a blind person pay for a lawyer? Do they go without legal representation due to a fixed income if they can’t qualify for free legal aid? Would this situation cause them to lose legal cases due to their unfortunate financial status? I often wondered about that, especially when we are victims of many forms of discrimination. We’ve heard first-hand from our own Ann Chiappetta how difficult this process can be.

What about if a blind person wants to be a successful author while on a fixed income, how do they do it? Most, if not all, publishing companies require funding up-front in order to promote your work. If you don’t have the money, and are on a fixed income, how successful will you be, and is it fair if you can’t achieve your goal? Must we, as blind people, sit back and admit defeat, or is there some form of compromise between expensive service and our financial situation?

I’d like to hear some success stories from people who managed to be extremely economical to the point where they can achieve these and other accomplishments, while at the same time, maintaining their fixed incomes.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Exploring the Island of Maui

It seems like that Hawaii is one of those places that you always dream of going, but you’re not sure if you’ll ever get there. This past week, I finally got the chance to experience the island of Maui. The experience has been as wonderful as I imagined. Even though my husband and I explored a lot of the island, we only scratched the surface of what we could see.

When I imagined Maui in my mind, I pictured a place with lots of beaches that was warm all year round. What I didn’t realize was that Maui has multiple climates because of the two volcanoes on the island. There are areas that are lush and green and then there are places that would be considered a desert. These variations allow for different types of agriculture, including tropical fruits, sugarcane, prickly pear cactus, and even cattle ranching.

Since it was our first time here we spent a majority of the time exploring the island and all of its wonders. We spent a day doing the road to Hana which takes you through the rain forest on a very winding route. We also spent a day going to the top of Haliakala Crater where we learned about the history of the volcanoes. This part of the island, because of its elevation, is quite cold. It was around 50 degrees when we made it to the top, but the wind chill made it seem much colder. Thankfully, we packed warm clothes in preparation. While we were visiting the crater, the park ranger gave me a hands-on demonstration of the geology of the land. It made my experience as awesome as my husband’s, even though I couldn’t see the cinder cones.

Some of the other highlights of the trip included walking on the beaches and wading in the warm ocean water, visiting the only winery on the island, seeing a banyan tree that is the size of two city blocks, eating fresh delicious Hawaiian fruit like Maui Pineapple and apple bananas, and getting to experience the awesome plant life that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. We also ate at a number of restaurants that had wonderful food including Coconut’s Fish Café, which is rumored to have the best fish tacos in the country.

If you’ve traveled somewhere unique this year, please share your experience. Mahalo!

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Humorous and Touching Holiday Surprises

This time of year, when we shop for families and friends, we hope they appreciate the time and care we spend searching for the “perfect gift.” Yet, everything does not always go as planned and the results can sometimes be funny or touching.

When I was 15, our family sat surrounded by boxes and wrapping paper, happily opening presents on Christmas morning. I was overjoyed with bath sets, fragrance dusting powder, a hair drier, and manicure set, all received from friends and my parents. My mom and dad were happy about the hi-fi AM/FM radio they got for each other. It was when my brother and I opened records from each other that we laughed. We gave each other the same hit record by the Beatles. The solution was simple for me–I exchanged the 45 record for the popular song “Love Potion Number Nine” by The Searchers at our local record shop.

At 23, I had a week’s break from classes at Lion’s World in Arkansas. My busy schedule had not allowed me much time to do Christmas shopping. With my mom and her friend, we frantically shopped in Quincy, getting all our shopping done the day before Christmas. A trendy gift in 1972 was a hot comb–an efficient way to both style and dry long hair. I got one for my brother, which was an ideal gift as we both had long hair.

That Christmas, as we sat around unwrapping presents, my brother and I both smiled as we opened our presents from each other, and again we had both given each other the same gifts. It worked out since we both used them and wouldn’t have to share.

In the nineties, I was touched by inexpensive Christmas gifts from my young adult stepdaughters. One year, my oldest stepdaughter said to me “This is all I could afford,” as she handed me a pretty wrapped package containing two stirring spoons from a dollar store. With her bringing up two toddlers as a single mom, we appreciated this thoughtful gift. It’s monetary value didn’t matter. I still have one handy for stirring batters, rice, or noodles.

One Christmas, my youngest stepdaughter, also a single mom, handed us a wrapped gift. Told it was another dollar store purchase, I opened it finding pretty glass salt and pepper shakers and a miniature metal napkin holder. The salt and pepper shakers still sit on the back of the stove. My husband and I treasured these thoughtful gestures of love from our daughters. As with any gift from them, it’s the thought that counts, and spending time with them is a gift in and of itself.

For all Ziegler readers and staff, I wish you Happy Holidays and a happy, successful, and healthy 2013.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – The History Behind Egg Nog and Candy Canes

Last year at this time, I wrote about the history of ginger bread houses and Christmas pudding. Well, folks, this time around I’m going to pontificate upon the merits and symbolism of candy and drink.

Let me say that I love freshly made egg nog and find that a shot of Malibu rum adds a hint of coconut that makes it even better than traditional rum. For those who do not imbibe in spirits, non-alcoholic rum flavoring mixed with a bit of vanilla extract is a great substitute, too. There are, of course other holiday drinks like mulled wine, hot cocoa, and spiced tea, but egg nog seems to have the most interesting background.

In an article written by an Icelandic writer, they say that egg nog began as an indulgent treat for nobility before it eventually became a holiday drink for the common folks. The term “egg nog” means “eggs inside a cup” and appears in texts from the early 19th century. The British sometimes refer to the drink as an egg flip. The article notes that since both dairy products and rum were plentiful, adding rum to the nog was inevitable and thus began a tradition to spike the nog with the Caribbean spirits returning to the region. To read the entire article, go to:
http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggnog.htm

Now, onto the candy cane. The candy cane first made its way into households over 350 years ago as a holiday decoration, when European candy makers began to decorate Christmas trees in the 17th century. A German candy maker bent the stick to look like a shepard’s crook and it soon became the hottest thing since decorating the trees themselves.

Now, candy canes can be found in countless flavors and colors and have become a consummate holiday staple in homes across the world. To read more about the candy cane, go to: http://inventors.about.com/od/foodrelatedinventions/a/candy_canes.htm

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all, and may the new year bring you health and joy.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – The Holiday Hustle–Or Not

This article was spurred on by two radio shows I happened to catch while puttering around our apartment. In the first, a woman described how she and her family have chosen to return to a simpler form of gift-giving. They don’t get caught up in the chronic craziness that is Black Friday, as they prefer to spend that time doing family-oriented things. Another guest suggested that we share gifts and services with those in our neighborhoods. She stressed that returning the items in good or better condition is a must. Somehow, I don’t see our neighbors here in New York City eager to engage in that practice. This guest also offered that her own daughter would love tons of presents, but she has educated her on the toll that non-biodegradable items are having on our environment. She presented some personal tips for trying to ease this problem such as using hand-decorated pillow-cases and re-usable cloth bags, asserting that any little bit helps.

Do you think that only the children in your life should be given gifts? This recommendation was suggested by another host of an Internet radio show. I didn’t listen for long as she seemed quite cranky regarding commercialism and the lack of “Christ” in Christmas. Thankfully, another panelist put it all in crystal-clear perspective. While I understand the saturation of commercials and conspicuous consumerism, I genuinely find joy in giving gifts to those for whom I care–children and all. When I can’t afford to, I simply do not. I feel no pressure to purchase the latest and greatest. Although the holidays might take a big bite out of our wallets with all their attending preparations and activities, we should try to keep the true meanings in our hearts.

Doesn’t it seem that holidays are starting earlier and earlier these days? Friends reported to me that they spotted Halloween decorations in September, to say nothing of holiday sales that began in October. I wasn’t expecting the hard sell until after Thanksgiving Day. My Twitter timeline was flooded with all manner of Black Friday sales. Quite frankly, though, I was unfazed. Once my decision was made, I requested the technical knowledge of a friend and set about acquiring it. One year we zoomed to a Black Friday sale, but we were too late. Early-bird shoppers had swarmed the stores and scooped up all the great gifts. There were, however, tons of those fluffy polar bears with the red scarves and hats. We bought one just because we could.

I wish you a fantastic holiday season, whether you celebrate or not. For those who do, try to keep calm, stay safe, and find the humor in what can be a stressful time of year.