THE CONSUMER VISION

December 2015

Address: 359 Coggeshall St., New Bedford, MA 02746

Telephone: 508-994-4972

Website: www.consumervisionmagazine.com

Email: bobbranco93@gmail.com

Publisher: Bob Branco

Editor: Terri Winaught

Proofreader: Leonore H. Dvorkin

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Three asterisks *** will be used to separate the name of each article from its author or contributors. In the same way, three asterisks *** will be placed between each article to make it easier to use your browser's "find" feature both to locate articles and to skip items in which you are not interested.

A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR *** by Terri Winaught

STEPPING FORWARD *** by Bob Branco

REGGIE WEIGHS IN *** by Reginald George

THE BIG QUESTION: Responses from November's Consumer Vision *** Compiled by Bob Branco

ENRICH YOUR MUSICAL EXPERIENCE WITH BRAILLE MUSIC *** by Marda (Anderson) Bartel

WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS? *** Compiled by Bob Branco

TIPS FOR VIPS (Because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too) *** by Penny Fleckenstein

DECEMBER RECIPES *** by Karen Crowder

SPECIAL NOTICES: Advertisements from Readers, Compiled by Bob Branco

TALKING TAGS: An Interesting Labeling Alternative *** by Reginald George

NIGHT TIME GARDENING: MORE REFRESHING *** by Ernest Jones

READERS' FORUM: *** Comments Submitted by Readers and Compiled by Bob Branco

PACKAGING TIPS AND TRICKS *** by John Justice

HOW JOINING THE PITTSBURGH FRIENDSHIP GROUP CHANGED MY LIFE *** by Penny Fleckenstein

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN *** by Lynda McKinney Lambert

NATURE'S DANCE (Poem) *** by John Justice

CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST: Answer from Last Month, Winners' Names, and Question for December *** by Bob Branco

A CONCLUDING NOTE FROM THE PROOFREADER *** by Leonore Dvorkin

***

A LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Dear Readers,

As I write this, it feels more like September in Pittsburgh than a week and two days before Thanksgiving. My last statement isn't intended to be a complaint, though; instead, it's an expression of thanks because of how much I love warm weather and hate the cold.

Speaking of things for which to be thankful, I hope that each of you had a Thanksgiving blessed with fellowship and the love of family and friends. (Of course, it goes without saying that I also hope your festivities included a sumptuous feast.) If you had enough money with which to do what I am about to mention -- and many of us persons with sight loss or low vision don't -- I also hope that you contributed to a charity that gave needy families turkey dinners or donated food items to your nearest food bank. Here in Pittsburgh, many churches that have food banks collect food as part of their Thanksgiving worship, and our CBS affiliate has a fund that accepts donations to purchase turkey dinners for low-income families.

Before I close with Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa greetings, I want to welcome our newest member, Leonore Dvorkin, to the Consumer Vision family. Since publisher Bob Branco welcomed Leonore as our proofreader in the last issue, I just had to extend a hearty WELCOME! in this issue.

There is a note to all of you from her at the end of this issue.

I conclude with the above-mentioned holiday wishes, I want to thank our contributors, many of whom are new, for causing Consumer Vision to grow so much that we are now a monthly magazine.

Finally, may those of you who observe Hanukkah have a festive and meaningful celebration of this Miracle of Lights and all that it commemorates.

To Christmas celebrants, may your holiday season be filled with the joy of the Messiah's birth and prayers for peace. What happened in Paris on Friday, November 13th, and what happens in all too many countries, even though those events may not get as much media coverage, truly underscores the need for the light of love to replace the horror of hate.

Last, but by no means least in importance, may those of you who celebrate the seven African principles of Kwanzaa do so with a renewed sense of empowerment and pride.

To offer any comments, feedback, or suggestions, you are always welcome to call me at 412-263-2022 or email t.winaught@verizon.net . I've heard from several of you and would love to hear from even more, because of how much I appreciate and value you.

Have a wonderful December, and thanks for reading with me.

Sincerely,

Terri Winaught, Editor

***

STEPPING FORWARD

by Bob Branco

How often have we heard constructive criticisms and complaints from the blind community about agencies for the blind, consumer groups for the blind, services offered to the blind, etc.? I probably talk to dozens of blind people each year about these issues, and I normally recommend that they take advantage of opportunities to speak out. Yet, more often than I care to admit, the involvement isn't what it should be.

Let me give you a perfect example of what I'm talking about. The Massachusetts Commission for the Blind has six regions. Each region has a main office that offers services to many blind clients in dozens of cities and towns. This year, the Commissioner of MCB decided to visit each regional office in order to hold a listening session where blind consumers and their loved ones could provide feedback, such as suggestions on how to improve the agency, praise for what's already being done, complaints, etc. On Wednesday, October 21st, the Commissioner visited the MCB office in my region, and I went. He offered 90 minutes of his valuable time to listen to feedback. There was extensive publicity about this event through the use of most available media. During the entire session, there were only four people present: two parents, me, and the chairperson of the MCB regional advisory council.

Even though there was such a poor turnout, I am sure that I will continue to hear complaints from the local blind about how they are being served by this agency and other resources. Therefore, here are my questions. Why is there so much apathy? Could it be that many people would rather not voice their opinions in case these opinions will go unnoticed? Could it be that transportation isn't readily available for these consumers? If the transportation is readily available, do they need additional orientation and mobility in order to travel more effectively? Are consumers afraid that their services will be taken away from them if they complain? Or are they just too busy with their own lives to acknowledge these opportunities?

When a Commissioner for the Blind takes his time to visit six regional offices in order to listen to us, it should mean a lot.

***

REGGIE WEIGHS IN

by Reginald George

With so many of us concerned about our health, it's way past time to take a look at the latest affordable options in Talking Scales. Pun intended. We all remember these, right? The first one I owned ran on 8 AA batteries and would scream, "Overload, overload, goodbye!" at you if you weighed more than 300 pounds. Talking scales are great because you don't have to look down at a hard-to-read display, but the downside is that your weight is bellowed out for the world to hear.

If you're concerned about privacy, then a Bluetooth talking scale that can connect wirelessly to your smart phone might be your best bet. Stay away from the trendy brands like Fitbit and iHealth to find ones that are priced competitively to traditional scales. These can track weight, BMI, and other activity over time for multiple users and interface with other apps.

But be careful of the hype. One scale I located by a company called Greater Good, for only $24, appears to offer smart phone tracking, but it requires taking a picture of the display with your smart phone's camera to track it in their app. Not a good solution. The iHealth scales cost around $100 and have connectivity issues. There are less expensive solutions, and one I liked is from MIRA Brands (my Top Pick #2). It has extra-large numbers and a 400-pound weight capacity. It does not speak, and you need a special app to read the weight in your iPhone.

For those of us who might be a little less technological and want a truly affordable solution, let's all be patriotic and go American! "American Weigh" that is. Turns out they are made in China. My illusions were shattered. However, my Top Pick #1 is the American Weigh talking scale: a very lightweight, glass-topped scale with a wide, sturdy platform, which can weigh up to 330 pounds.

I like this scale for several reasons:

1. It has "step and weigh" technology. This means that when you step on, the scale turns on. When you step off, she says, "Goodbye."

2. It runs on three included AAA batteries that are easy to install and last a long time.

3. The female voice is loud and clear.

4. The price is very affordable.

Note: Step and weigh scales can be triggered by strong vibrations such as footsteps nearby, so if it turns on accidentally in your home, that is likely the reason. It's important to place any scale on a solid surface, not carpet. Most scales use something called strain gauge technology, which means that they should weigh within 1% of your actual weight. The more you weigh, the more the possible variance. That is, if you weigh 300 pounds, the reading could be plus or minus three pounds or so. So, to be sure, take two or three readings, and choose the one you like! The four sensors in most scales average out the differences for a more accurate reading. My experience with this particular scale has been that it has been accurate within a pound or two and closely matches with my doctor's scale, so I'm happy with that.

Other alternatives:

All the higher-capacity scales I located require you to tap the scale with your foot before stepping on, to activate and zero out the scale.

The most affordable high-capacity talking scale I found is the American Weigh IMPERIAL, which goes up to 550 pounds (Top Pick #3).

There is one talking body fat scale, the Phoenix TBF440 (Top Pick #4). But the reviews aren't that good. I include it here because some of us might really want that additional functionality.

Please feel free to share your experiences with talking scales on our WCB-L discussion list.

Top Pick #1

American Weigh Large LCD Talking Digital Scale

Price: $18.07

Capacity: 330 pounds

http://www.walmart.com/ip/American-Weigh-Large-LCD-Talking-Digital-Scale/22187484

Top Pick #2

MIRA Bluetooth Bathroom Scale with SmartPhone and Tablet tracking (works with iPhone, iPad and Android)

Price: $34.50

Capacity: 400 pounds

http://www.amazon.com/MIRA-Bluetooth-Bathroom-SmartPhone-tracking/dp/B00OMB4LT4/ref=sr_1_27?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1440281446&sr=1-27-spons&keywords=bluetooth+scale

Top Pick #3

American Weigh IMPERIAL High Capacity Talking Bathroom Scale

Price: $34.99

Capacity: 550 pounds

http://www.scales.net/imperial-high-capacity-talking-bathroom-scale

Top Pick #4

My Weigh Phoenix TBF 440 Talking Body Fat Scale

Price: $67.44

Capacity: 440 pounds

http://www.amazon.com/My-Weigh-Phoenix-Talking-Scale/dp/B000LJF08M

Bonus Pick

Taylor Digital Talking Luggage Scale

If you have read this far, then you deserve to learn about this great scale that you can use when you jump on the plane to go to your next convention. Know before you go if your suitcase will be too heavy and save all that stress!

Price: $22.62

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Taylor-Digital-Talking-Luggage-Scale/19725445

***

THE BIG QUESTION

Here are some of your answers to last month's big question, which was: What would you like State Commissions for the Blind to do more often for their clients?

Hi, Bob.

1. Do exit interviews on any clients who have attended a rehab center or other program that purports to teach life skills or skills for a particular job. By doing these interviews, information and statistics can be collected concerning what type of training the centers are providing, which ones actually get good results, and what teachers the clients think are professional. Too many times, rehab agencies dump money on any center that spins a good line. I think RSA should collect data and hold centers accountable. I have been to several centers, and they needed to be held accountable, but were given a pass by rehab counselors who knew little and cared even less about quality training.

2. Best practices should be gathered and used to establish programs that work for blind people. Especially needed are job programs. I have a friend who has spent her own money over several years trying to attend several programs that supposedly provide job training. They are disorganized and poorly run. They do not have very good training in using adaptive technology, speech software, that would help my friend access the screen. Really, is this acceptable, post-ADA, in the 21st century? Can't we do better?

3. I'm seeing too many programs that find part-time jobs for blind people. These jobs have no benefits and are only good for blind persons who have worked enough to get into the SSDI system.

Anonymous

I would like to thank our readers for responding to this month's big question. Here is the question for next month. If you have encountered any form of discrimination, what did you do in order to fight against it?

***

ENRICH YOUR MUSICAL EXPERIENCE WITH BRAILLE MUSIC

by Marda (Anderson) Bartel

Have you ever wanted to be in a community or church choir? What about taking up a musical instrument? Maybe you took lessons as a child and there's a guitar or band instrument sitting in your closet, just longing to be played, but you're not sure how to take up playing again. Maybe you love music but have a tin ear when it comes to actually learning by ear. If any of these things apply to you, then it might be worth looking at the option of reading Braille music.

There is a common myth in the blind community that says Braille music is hard to learn and read. Actually, if you're a good literary Braille reader, then learning music Braille isn't that hard, especially if you have some guidance.

I learned the basics of Braille music as a child at Perkins, but it was much easier for me to learn just by listening, even to complex piano music. I pretended to know how to read the music for my piano lessons, but was actually depending on my ear. Then I went into a college music program. My piano teacher didn't know much about blindness, but he knew about Braille and wanted to know if there was a way to read music in Braille, and if so, did I know how. I had to admit that I didn't know enough to be able to read piano music. He told me that sighted students were required to read music no matter how good their ears were, that they were not considered to be musically literate without that skill, and that no sighted student would get into a college music program or conservatory without knowing how. He said it should be no different for a blind person. I argued that I could learn from a recording faster than I could read the music. He agreed that since I'd be reading with one hand and playing with the other, I would have to learn one hand at a time. However, he pointed out that when listening to recordings, it was easy to copy the interpretation of the person who was playing, whether they followed what was written in the score or not. When reading a musical score, you get fingering suggestions, dynamic markings (loud or soft), marks for accenting, slurring, and so on.

Faced with the daunting prospect of learning the Braille music code on my own, I felt utterly overwhelmed. What was I going to do? Would I be kicked out of my college program because I couldn't read music? Not knowing what else to do, I got the idea of calling my regional library to find out if they had any books on how to read Braille music. As it turned out, the regional library didn't have music scores, but they put me in touch with the music section of NLS. It turned out that they had some beginning books on Braille music reading which they sent me, including the Primer of Braille Music, written by one of my former teachers at Perkins. They also had another idea which ended up being a lifesaver. They told me about the Hadley school and their course on music reading.

For those unfamiliar with the Hadley program (www.hadley.edu), they are a correspondence school for the blind in Winnetka, Illinois, which offers their courses to blind people worldwide for no charge. They happened to have a course in Braille music reading, and after filling out an application and submitting an eye report from an ophthalmologist, I was enrolled in the course. We started at the beginning, with simple eighth-note exercises that I learned and played on a piano. A portable keyboard could also be used if a piano was not available. I found the teacher to be very personable and patient. I began reading simple piano music fairly quickly, and then progressed to the more difficult music. I was able to complete the course in only a few months.

Now Hadley offers its Braille music courses in several parts. There is the basic music reading course, a course for reading vocal music, and a keyboard music reading course. I know someone who is taking the basic course now, with the goal of being able to participate in his church choir, and he is enjoying the course.

As a music teacher at the Texas School for the Blind, I have found my music reading skills to be invaluable, and I have been able to teach some students to read Braille music, too. I am able to learn music independently without having to have a recording of the music. I have learned new music that I have never heard simply by reading it from the musical score.

The NLS has a large collection of Braille music available for loan, and there are several companies from which music can be purchased. If music isn't already available in Braille from any of these sources, NLS has a list of certified transcribers that can provide Braille music scores on a volunteer or paid basis. If you are a college music student, your disability services office may be able to provide financial assistance for transcribing music. Or you can use your reader services money from your state rehab agency, if you use one.

This has been only the briefest introduction to the joys and benefits of what reading Braille music can mean for you. Yes, it will take some work, but if you are interested in expanding your musical horizons or being able to learn music more independently than you could before, I strongly recommend that you consider learning to read Braille music. The resources for doing so are out there, and it can be a richly rewarding experience.

***

WHAT GRINDS YOUR GEARS?

Hi, Bob.

Recently, I found an advertisement for customer service positions at a local company, not more than a mile from my home. I went there at the time shown and was told that they couldn't give me the tests because they didn't have equipment set up for me to use. I suggested that they allow me to bring my own laptop and take the tests that way. Oh, no. They wanted to send the tests to me at home. When I tried to take them, they weren't compatible with a screen reader.

I made an appointment with one of the recruiters, and she gave me the tests and entered my responses for me. I received very high scores on all of them.

That stumbling block didn't work, so they moved onto another plan. They brought me in and I met with a woman who would be my boss. She asked routine questions and again, I responded to them without a problem.

In spite of all that, they chose another applicant. The whole thing took three weeks. What makes me really angry is that I knew they were only complying with regulations, but they had no intention of hiring me from the very beginning.

We are not second class citizens!

I have more than 20 years of experience and many awards for excellence.

I don't think this company ever intended to hire me because I happen to be blind. They were very careful to follow every guideline. I can't sue them because I can't prove discrimination. Yet it was there.

Anonymous

***

Hi, Bob.

My favorite station on which to watch news is our CBS affiliate. While watching the evening news on Monday, November 16, 2015, I heard a story that I found both interesting and ridiculous.

Though I have forgotten the name of the company, there is a business that will end a relationship for you if you feel unable to do the breaking up yourself. Starting at $10, this new venture will break up with your significant other via email, text message, phone, or mail. While I understand that the pain involved in ending a relationship and seeing the other person's reaction is difficult and stressful, I think that hiring a company to end a relationship is cowardly behavior.

I'm eager to hear what you think, and also to find out if any of you have heard of this novel enterprise.

Terri

***

Hi, Bob.

I want to start by thanking you for the new feature, "What Grinds Your Gears." Moving on to John and Linda Justice's question about the iPhone 6 and the seeming lack of accessible manuals, Anne Dresner has written several instructional manuals which the National Braille Press in Boston, Massachusetts has published. Although I have forgotten their toll-free number, to ask Customer Service about their most recent manuals on help cards on the iPhone, you can visit www.nbp.org to find their number under the "Contact Us" link.

(Proofreader's note: Here is the toll free number I found on the NBP site: 888-965-8965)

As for finding someone in one's local area who is knowledgeable, consider visiting your nearest iPhone store, as that has been helpful for me. One downside, though, is that there can be lots of noise in any given store, since the technicians are helping multiple customers simultaneously. By and large, though, you should find it a helpful experience.

Wishing all of you the best,

Terri Winaught

Pittsburgh, PA

***

TIPS FOR VIPS (because Visually Impaired People Are Important, Too)

by Penny Fleckenstein,

who blogs at: http://notyouraveragesinglemom.com

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year to all! What a wonderful season of life this is, filled with merriment and celebration. Good food, good fun, and family. If, however, your family is gone, far away, and you're just not in the holiday spirit, practicing gratitude for all the blessings you have will help your life go more smoothly, be a better experience, and help you feel less sad and/or depressed. I know the holidays are not happy for everyone, but even winter can be joyous when you focus on improving the sunshine in your heart despite the snow falling outside.

"Yuck, snow. Penny, stop your swearing!" Yes, snow is a four-letter word—especially for me, a lady who likes to stay toasty warm. Hot chocolate, hot tea, and hot cider are essential for helping me through the winter. I love the Land o' Lakes hot chocolate variety pack sold at Sam's Club. For only $12, you can change your plain, ordinary existence into an existence of luxury. Mmm, what a tasty dream!

Also at Sam's club in the past month, I discovered chia seeds. My daughter Penny has mentioned them to me before, but I didn't pay much attention. Then I spotted them—or rather Gary, who helps me shop, spotted them in Sam's Club, and I said, "Why not?"

I've been reading up on them. Among other things, you can make an egg substitute to put into baked goods by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds into 3 tablespoons of water and letting them sit there for 15 minutes. This equals one egg. You can sprinkle them in anything to boost the nutritional value. I stirred some into my mixture of black beans, salsa, guacamole, and onions, which I scooped up with tortilla chips. Not only was it yummy, but I felt good to know I was adding extra nutrients. They're little black seeds that pack a powerful punch with little flavor. If you want more nutrition and flavor, you can add sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or poppy seeds to your meals or smoothies. Knowing you're taking care of your body can do lots to boost your mood.

Another mood booster is giving things, time, money, or talents to other people or organizations. There are plenty of places looking for your donations of time, money, and skills. I sponsor two World Vision children at http://www.worldvision.org as an ongoing Christmas gift to my friends and family. I have also made a donation to Heifer International ( http://www.heifer.org ), buying a goat for a family, who can use the goat to make their lives more prosperous. If you don't want to buy an animal for a family, you can also fund garden tools and seeds with your monetary donation. For those on your Hanukkah or Christmas list, a donation to a worthy cause means a lot. By giving to other people, it enhances your sense of purpose and makes you feel good. Being a blessing to others is a blessing in and of itself.

If you're lonely this season, I highly recommend signing up for Meetup groups on

http://www.meetup.com

There are groups of people who get together to play games or go on outings such as concerts, movies, hikes, and biking. One of the Meetup groups I joined is a vegan Meetup, which has helped me to become a vegan and to taste the overwhelming variety of good-tasting foods which I never knew existed. All the groups I have joined—WPABOLD, The Pittsburgh Friendship Group, and the Meetup groups—have helped me to feel more comfortable in social situations and have put me in contact with so many wonderful people. I must not exclude the awesome email groups of Behind Our Eyes, which is an online writing group at:

http://behindoureyes.org or blindcycling@yahoo.com

There are also phone chat systems such as mytelespace (832-999-8600) or Philmore Productions. Of course, with all groups, proceed with caution and stay open to good relationships.

If gift wrapping is a challenge for you, there are paper and cloth gift bags of all different sizes. They range from small decorative drawstring bags perfect for CDs or a print book to big drawstring bags for awkwardly shaped gifts. There are also beautiful pillow cases and towels which you can tie with a ribbon. I like to buy the plastic which is, for example, gold on one side and silver on the other side. Then I can't be accused of wrapping the gift with the paper wrong side out, which I have done. If I do choose to wrap a gift, I put the gift on the paper I want to use, then fold the paper where I want to cut with my scissors.

I've tried to use those wrapping paper cutters and have failed miserably. If I make a mistake, I can usually cover it up and make my gift look quite presentable. If you're lucky, the receiver of the gift is too excited to notice your little wrapping imperfection, and will be delighted to open your gift, anyway.

Ah, what fun the holidays can be! The day after Christmas, you can find wrapping paper, candy, and decorations for next year at a 50% to 75% discount. The other option is to make a "Christmas week after Christmas," when the family shops for discounted gifts all week long, or celebrate Christmas on a designated day after December 25th. It really makes Christmas less hectic and less expensive, and it draws out the anticipation. Many Christmases, because of our blended family situation, we've given out stockings on Christmas Day and had a good Christmas dinner, then put off having a Christmas until New Year's Day (my birthday) or January 7th (my son Eric's birthday and Russian Christmas.) Changing the date doesn't change the love we have for each other, nor the love of Jesus Christ that my family celebrates.

So, do your best to have yourselves a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy New Year. Enjoy the season, and don't put too much pressure on yourself.

***

DECEMBER RECIPE COLUMN FOR CONSUMER VISION

by Karen Crowder

I am happy to be your recipe columnist for The Consumer Vision magazine. Since childhood, I have loved baking and helping my mom prepare chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies at Christmas. When I was married to Marshall, home-baked cookies were a holiday tradition at our home.

Proofreader's note:

Bob Branco requested that we have two of the five cookie and fudge recipes that Karen had provided, plus the Mock Lobster Newberg recipe, in this December 2015 issue, so that's what I have put below. I hope that the other three recipes can be included in the newsletter at a later date, as they all sound delicious. - Leonore Dvorkin

Contents

Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Karen Crowder

Simple Shortbread Cookies, by Karen Crowder

Mock Lobster or Crabmeat Newburg, by Karen Crowder

***

Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

The original recipe for Blue Ribbon Chocolate Chip Cookies was published in Mrs. Field's Cookie Book. This book was published in the early 1990s. This book is in Braille, available from your regional Braille and talking book library. It was also available in 1994 from the National Braille press. I purchased one copy for myself, and another copy as a gift. I published my recipe in Bob Branco's What We love to Eat cookbook. I made changes, using less sugar and less vanilla. I also use one stick of margarine and one stick of butter. I added more chocolate chips, also baking the cookies longer.

Ingredients:

One stick margarine

One stick butter

Three-quarters (3/4) cup brown sugar

Six tablespoons granulated sugar

Two large eggs

One-half teaspoon vanilla

Two and one-half cups all-purpose flour

One-half teaspoon baking soda

One-quarter teaspoon salt

Three cups or 18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips. Nestlé's is best.

Method:

In a large mixing bowl, soften butter and margarine for 20 minutes.

During this time, measure flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized plastic bowl.

Mix margarine/butter on low/medium speed for one minute, then add sugars.

Beat mixture for two minutes on medium speed.

Add eggs and vanilla, mixing for two minutes.

With a one-half cup measure, add flour mixture alternately with three cups semi-sweet chocolate bits.

If using a hand mixer, blend in flour and chocolate bits with clean hands.

Refrigerate cookie batter for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line two cookie sheets with foil; grease them with Crisco oil or cooking spray.

With a one-tablespoon measuring spoon, place medium to large mounds of batter on cookie sheets.

Flatten with fingers, then bake cookies for 26 minutes.

After 13 minutes, reverse cookie sheets, putting the top sheet on the bottom rack and the bottom sheet on the top rack. This helps many cookies bake more evenly.

Take cookie sheets out of the oven. Take hot cookies from foil.

Little children—and grown-ups—won't be able to resist sampling hot cookies.

If you have remaining batter, freeze it, wrapped in plastic wrap and placed in a Zip-Lock bag.

***

Simple Shortbread Cookies, by Karen Crowder

This Scotch shortbread recipe is from the 13th edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook. It was published in 1996. I previously published it in a winter 2013 issue of The Matilda Ziegler Magazine. This recipe makes the most delicious shortbread cookie I have ever had. I made changes to the recipe, using granulated sugar instead of confectioner's sugar and adding vanilla for extra flavor.

Ingredients:

Two sticks butter

Two cups all-purpose flour

One-half cup granulated sugar

One-quarter teaspoon salt

A dash of vanilla and one-half cup of confectioner's sugar for sprinkling on the cookies

Method:

Soften butter for 20 minutes, then add flour sugar and salt.

Blend with clean hands until all ingredients are blended.

Add vanilla and blend for two minutes.

If you have time, freeze the batter for 30 minutes to one hour. This will make it firmer, especially if you are shaping holiday cookies.

Roll out half of the batter at a time on a flour-covered silicone or wooden board. Roll with a wooden or silicone rolling pin until batter is one half inch thin, "like cardboard."

With metal or plastic cookie cutters, cut into stars, rounds, or oblong shapes.

Place cookies on foil-lined cookie sheets.

However, if you wish to save time, just roll cookie batter into balls and flatten them on foil-lined, ungreased cookie sheets.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Before baking shortbreads, prick them with the ends of a fork.

Bake shortbreads for 25 to 30 minutes, reversing cookie sheets 15 minutes through the baking procedure.

After taking cookie sheets out of the oven, sprinkle the half cup confectioner's sugar on the cookies. This adds flavor.

These cookies are delicious with hot coffee, tea, or cocoa. When I made them New Year's Eve 2012/2013, they disappeared in no time.

***

Mock Lobster or Crab Newburg

Christmas Day was not complete unless Marshall and I had Mock Lobster Newburg. I found this recipe in New England Cookery. Instead of Newport Lobster, we retitled it Mock Lobster Newburg. Unlike the original recipe, it does not have eggs, and heavy cream is optional.

Ingredients:

One 12-ounce can lobster, or two six-ounce cans crabmeat

Six tablespoons butter

Four tablespoons flour

Two cups milk

One cup either heavy or light cream

A sprinkling of nutmeg and curry powder (optional)

Also optional: a little wine or sherry

Method:

Thaw canned lobster, using lobster liquid to flavor accompanying rice. Break lobster into small pieces, removing shells.

Sauté it for 20 minutes in two tablespoons butter in small saucepans.

While lobster is cooking, make sauce. Melt four tablespoons butter in heavy saucepan or double boiler. This takes five minutes. Add flour, blending with wire whisk. Shut off heat, adding milk. Stir sauce until it has thickened. This takes 25 minutes.

Add lobster and light or heavy cream.

Add seasonings and sherry if using.

Stir for a few minutes.

Keep this dish simmering until ready to serve with rice or toast.

Note: If using crabmeat, sauté it in one tablespoon of butter, adding it to the sauce with light cream.

This meal makes a delicious Christmas or New Year's dish.

I hope readers enjoy this collection of holiday recipes. I will return in January 2016 with recipes for New Year's and winter days.

***

SPECIAL NOTICES

Campbell's Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life

C 2014 by Patty L. Fletcher

On Amazon, Smashwords, and other online selling sites in e-book ($3.99) and print ($11.95)

Description:

This is the story of how the author obtained her first guide dog, Campbell, from The Seeing Eye™ in Morristown, New Jersey: what motivated her, the extensive training she had, the special relationship she developed with her trainer, and the good friends she made. Once she returned home to Tennessee, there were many new challenges to be met and overcome, including domestic abuse. All that was in addition to her chronic conditions of bipolar disorder and fibromyalgia. With honesty, courage, and humor, Patty Fletcher tells a remarkable story of personal development that is sure to inform, entertain, and inspire others, both blind and sighted.

Patty Fletcher is also the publisher of a free monthly online newsletter, The Neighborhood News.

For full details, please see her website: www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

***

Wonderful Christmas-Themed Books by Two Blind Authors

1. Christmas on Valley View Farm

C 2012 by Brian K. Nash / 183 pages long

In e-book ($3.99) and print ($11.95) on Amazon, Smashwords, and other online selling sites.

This third and most adventurous story in the Valley View Farm series, suitable for children 9 to 12, has everything a young reader could desire. Christmas is coming, and young Daniel Riggs is dreaming of what might be in store. But a kidnapper has plans for Daniel's feline friend Midnight. Helped by the talkative farm animals, Daniel faces a bloodthirsty panther and rides a thrilling ghost train, then revels in holiday magic. Review quote: "Like a great story told to friends next to a crackling fire over several nights, this book will stay with you long after you read it." – Reginald George, on Amazon

Details of this and Brian's five other books for children and adults: www.dvorkin.com/brianknash/

2. It's Still Christmas

C 2015 by John Justice / 35 pages long

In e-book ($1.99) and print ($7.50) on Amazon, Smashwords, and other online selling sites.

Once getting by financially, the Gleasons have become homeless and close to hopeless. But their faith in God and His mercy has never wavered. Now Christmas is close, and their lives are about to undergo a drastic change. The lifesaving aid they give to a stranger, an elderly Jewish widower, is soon repaid in ways they could never have imagined. Enjoy this touching story of mingled hearts, trust, and faiths.

Details: www.dvorkin.com/johnjustice/

***

I run two email lists for blind people.

The first one is called "Blind Penpals." To subscribe, please send a blank email to:

blind-penpals+subscribe@groups.io

The second group is for blind singles. The email to subscribe is:

blind-singles+subscribe@groups.io

Adrijana Prokopenko

***

Seeking Participants for a New Documentary

Emmy Award winning producer Patricia Zagarella seeks participants for a new documentary that focuses on the dating and romantic life of the blind and visually impaired. As dating moves to the online world, where physical attraction is the first connection, we want to explore how love connections are formed when physical attraction is not the first point of reference. We think that sighted people can learn a lot from the dating and romantic experiences of the visually impaired.

This will be a heartwarming film and journey. By sharing your experiences, we hope to shed light on this universal subject and on a population so often ignored.

We are seeking blind or visually impaired men and women between the ages of 20 and 45 who are willing to be on camera and share their experiences candidly. We are looking for a cross section of individuals, including:

1. Singles, men and women, who are actively dating and looking for a long-term relationship

2. Best friends who are single and dating

3. Singles bouncing back from a breakup

4. People that are newly coupled

5. Couples in a long-term relationship

6. Couples who are going to get married

7. Married couple with no children

8. Married couple with child or children

If you are interested or would like more information, please email your information to: loveisblinddocumentary@gmail.com

***

TALKING TAGS, AN INTERESTING LABELING ALTERNATIVE

by Reginald George

Did you ever wish you had a way to make audible labels for things in your home with a device you already own? Can you appreciate re-directing something originally geared for a totally different purpose? www.TalkingTag.com just might be right for you.

There are versions of this no-cost software available for your computer or your Android or Apple smart phone. Today, we'll review the Apple version, tested with an iPhone 5 using IOS 8.3, using Memory Labels purchased by my wife for her scrapbooking addiction.

Overview:

There are a few different types of audio/video labels for TalkingTags. Some are self-adhesive, like the audio/video Memory labels and Voice-Memo Personal labels. Others are iron-on or stitchable, like the Fabric Memory labels. Some are square, some are rectangular, and some are on acid-free paper, making them suitable for photo album and/or scrapbooking applications requiring archival quality. They even have gift tags, note cards, and customized Memory labels.

Memory labels take a one-time recording of audio or video and are able to be shared with anyone who has the app to play them back. They're designed for a permanent message.

Voice-Memo Personal labels can be erased and recorded multiple times, but can only be read on the device that made the recording. They're suitable for labeling things at home or work that you might wish to modify at some point, like important files, food containers, or hard to identify objects.

How it works:

Recordings are keyed to a bar code on the label. The recordings are stored anonymously and indefinitely on secure servers for later retrieval, so an Internet connection is necessary.

When you open the app, there are five tabs across the bottom of the screen. From left to right, they are: Rec/Play, FastPlay, CopyTag, ClearTag, and Options.

When you open the app, by default, you're in the Rec/Play window. The button in the main window is Scan TalkingTag. The small white italic i that appears in the upper right-hand corner is Help. If using voiceover, these are spoken as two buttons in the main window. They are labeled Scan TalkingTag and View Help.

Once you tap the Scan TalkingTag button, your camera is active and you may immediately scan a label. When a beep is heard, a window pops up with buttons to allow you to create and review your recording. You are then given the opportunity to keep it or discard it and start over. Once you select to keep the label, it's uploaded to the Talking Tag servers and made permanent. Some of the options are a little misleading on first use, such as the option to clear a tag, which only works with the re-recordable personal labels. The Help documentation is well written and worth reading.

In the Options tab, you will find settings that will let the program start in the scan window, enable voice prompts for instructions, control sounds and vibrations, and many other settings. You can even pre-record a message without scanning a label. Every button is clearly labeled. The next time you scan a label that you have recorded, it will be played back automagically. It sounds harder than it is.

The tab called FastPlay lets you scan multiple tags one after another and have them play almost instantly. The other tabs are self-explanatory. The iDevice should be held with the camera six to eight inches from the tag and parallel to the surface of the object.

Pros:

Some labels are re-recordable and all are fairly inexpensive: from 20 Voice Memo-Personal labels for $15.95 to 6 Fabric Memory labels for $14.95.

The developers of the app are responsive, and they have done their best to include accessibility features and make it work well with Voiceover.

There are several types of labels available depending on your needs.

You can easily record and read labels with a device you already own.

The labels support audio or video recording depending on type.

Cons:

Maximum recording time is 60 seconds per label.

It takes practice to scan labels properly and quickly.

The flat adhesive labels available may not be right for every project.

Conclusion:

No labeling solution will meet everyone's needs completely, but this is an interesting concept by a company that has taken the time to make their solution both useful and accessible. Because of this, they have earned my business and appreciation. I hope you will find this useful.

***

NIGHTTIME GARDENING: MORE REFRESHING

by Ernest Jones

Some of you may have read an earlier version of this. But in case you haven't seen it before, here it is now.

Why must garden work be done in the heat of the day?

Although summer was wearing old, the days remained hot, with temperatures ranging in the mid-90s. With the passing of time, the brilliant blue of a clear summer sky had faded to a hazy sky, due to the blowing dust from the dry fields to our west and the smoke from many fires. No rain had fallen for many weeks; it had been a very hot, dry summer hosting a large number of fires taking advantage of the dry landscape.

Though it was not yet 10:00 in the morning, the thermometer was pushing into the upper 80s as with digging fork and bucket I headed to the spud patch. Though it was still a little early for digging potatoes, I found the vines mostly dead, and I was concerned that the gopher population would eat all our winter's crop if I waited any longer.

It was not long before I was drenched in sweat; I also was coated with garden dust. But with determination, I pushed on until I had dug the first row of potatoes.

Dismayed, I found that at least half of the tubers had already been furnishing food for the rodents. Of course, the ones most damaged were the large ones. It was as if the animals knew that the bigger the potato, the tastier, as they ignored most of the apricot-size and smaller ones.

I filled the four-gallon bucket, then returned to the house. It was too hot to continue harvesting, so I decided to stop. I was a little depressed, for if the other two rows were like this row, we would have been better off not even planting the spuds. I hung up the digging fork and went inside to cool off. I figured I would tackle the other two rows very early the next morning.

That evening, just as the sun began its descent behind the western horizon, covering the land with a deepening twilight, a plan formed in my mind. Smiling to myself, I said, "Why not?"

Entering the garage, I got the digging fork and two large buckets, then headed for the garden. Finding the beginning of the second potato row, I sank in the fork, turning up a nice bunch of large, beautiful tubers. The temperature was dropping rapidly to the low 70s, with a gentle, cooling breeze keeping the ground surface dry. Wearing only a light shirt and shorts, I felt very comfortable. Occasionally I'd stop just to listen to the night sounds—the quiet descending like a cooling covering over me.

I dug hill after hill, filling bucket after bucket. As I dug, I also pulled up the soaker hose, coiling it for winter storage. Three times I had to return to the house to empty the two buckets into boxes. I found that the gophers had started feasting on these potatoes, but had so far only done minor damage. I began to relax with a good feeling; I just might yet save most of our winter potato crop.

I worked on, savoring the quietness and enjoying the cool night breeze. Though the world had grown dark around me, I didn't care. A distant dog barked and a car horn honked far away on the highway.

Then I heard a sound I never fail to enjoy, and I stopped to listen. From just over on top of the nearby ridge came a coyote's cry floating across to me. Was it one coyote or a dozen? I couldn't tell, but I was sure there were at least two calling to each other. By their singing, I knew they were going through one yard after another or skirting another large house. Strange how they exist. Although many houses have been added around us, still the coyotes remain.

Their cries drifted away, and once again, the night air was quiet. Finishing my task, I carried the last spuds to the house and hung the digging fork up on its nail in the garage. I filled and stacked the boxes of potatoes, making sure all were covered. Then I put the plastic pails away and went into the house.

Checking the clock as I stripped, I mused, "Where has the time gone?" It was almost midnight. A quick shower had me ready for a good night's rest.

I ask you: Why must all garden work be done in the daylight, when working in the garden after night has fallen can actually be refreshing?

***

READERS' FORUM

Hello, Bob.

One of your writers requested information about an iOS manual for Apple products. I think it was John Justice. Here is some information.

You can find user guides for the iPhone, iPad and iPod for iOS9 here:

http://www.nbp.org/

Also, there is a great resource called AppleVis that has so much information. Check this out for new beginners using Apple iOS devices.

The following link will take users to AppleVis's beginner's guides. These segments are podcasts, so you can choose how you want to listen to them. There is an mp3 link that you can use to listen right on whatever device you are using.

http://www.applevis.com/podcasts

***

PACKAGING TIPS AND TRICKS

by John Justice

When preparing a package for shipment, the most important thing to remember is to plan for the worst, as it just might happen. When you are packaging anything, there are three basic dangers to consider.

1. Impact from outside sources

2. Change in the internal weight distribution

3. Vibration

IMPACT

As your package travels through the system, it's going to rub shoulders with other items and be bounced around quite a bit by automated handling equipment. If the contents of your shipment are delicate in nature, remember that at no time should the contents ever be allowed to come into contact with the outside of the container. Follow the three rules of packing.

1. Protect

2. Isolate

3. Encapsulate

Have you ever wondered why an electronic device is fitted into a Styrofoam shell which seems to be much thicker than it has to be? Well, the fact is that it must be in that kind of enclosure for the reasons shown above.

The device must be isolated from any impact that might occur during transit. In order to prevent damage from inevitable contact, the package is designed to encapsulate the product. The foam absorbs any vibration and cancels it out. You may have noticed that occasionally you will receive a box which is definitely travel-worn: scratched, dented, or even torn. Yet the contents have survived intact. Many manufacturers spend inordinate amounts of money in designing the packaging they use. It is a fact that if you package a fresh egg correctly, it can make it all the way to Russia without breaking.

WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION

Part of the process of preparing anything for shipment is making sure that what you send cannot move inside the outer container. If the contents of your carton are heavy enough, they can subside to one side of the box during transit and create so much pressure that the seams will split. In a modern shipping environment, there is no such thing as package orientation; "This Side Up" just doesn't work. The valuable contents should be centralized and should remain stable, no matter what happens to the external carton.

VIBRATION

Rigid material such as glass or china will often be a victim of vibration. An aircraft or truck often generates vibration during normal operation. If an item you're trying to ship contains glass panels, remove them if at all possible. Pack the glass sheets separately. If the glass panels can't be removed, try running a strip of duct tape from each corner of the glass toward the center. Allow the strips to meet in the middle of the glass. This simple trick tends to disturb the vibration created in rigid structures like glass and will often save the mirror or glass door. If a vibration is set up between the glass components and the jet engines or road noise, the glass will shatter without ever being impacted. If you are packaging china or glasses, once again, the key is putting a lot of absorbent material between the pieces. Try opening a new set of china or glassware. A lot of effort goes into isolating and protecting those pieces.

PACKAGING

Some of the cheapest packaging material available is newspaper, but it has one distinct problem. It will change shape when a great deal of weight is applied. Try this yourself. If you wad up paper and place it inside a plastic bag, at first you have a large volume of space taken up by the paper and the air surrounding it. Then stand on that bag. Suddenly, you have lost no less than 60% of the volume. That is what can happen on a smaller scale within the carton. Also, newspaper can be used to wrap individual pieces, but the printing ink will often rub off onto the china or glass. Printer's ink is toxic. If newspaper has been used for packing, every piece of glass or china should be washed thoroughly before use.

There are three kinds of packing material we can recommend without reservation.

1. Styrofoam ball packing (so-called "peanuts")

2. Bubble wrap

3. Corrugated paper matting

STYROFOAM BALL PACKING

This type of packing material has its drawbacks, but "peanuts" are available from almost any packaging store. The product comes either loose or in pre-filled plastic mats. This material will split, crack, and flatten when struck, but it will never flatten entirely, and even the broken pieces will still have the ability to cancel out impact or vibration.

Peanuts are extremely difficult to use in the loose state, especially for those with limited or no vision. The individual balls are extremely light and will float around with the slightest breath of air. Even someone passing nearby can cause the peanuts to rise and drift around. They can clog a vacuum cleaner quickly, and are sometimes dangerous to pets who try to eat them. The safest way to use peanuts is by enclosing them in plastic bags. The bags can be shaped or tucked into open areas within a carton and do make excellent packing tools.

BUBBLE WRAP

When used in sufficient quantity, this remarkable packaging material is the safest and most reliable form of protection you can buy. The blisters are filled with air, and they will explode when enough weight is placed on them, but it takes a concerted effort to break all the bubbles in a given area. When several layers are used in conjunction with one another, tests have proven that very little can completely rupture the barrier they present.

CORRUGATED PAPER MATTING

This product is not as easy to find as the others mentioned here. It is a good foundation and can be used with the other materials. Hundreds of layers of paper are pressed in a manner that creates padding. Because of its multi-layer construction, punctures from outside are unlikely. This type of packaging is used with furniture and other items in which the surface is delicate and the product is relatively bulky.

MAKE IT YOURSELF

One of the best ways to deal with the isolation of the contents within a larger container is to build an enclosure around the items. Use cardboard and bend or cut it to form a structure which allows for the centralization of the item and permits the introduction of other packaging aids, such as bubble wrap or peanuts. The structure should be designed in such a way that it comes into evenly distributed contact with all six sides of the interior of the box. During transit, a box might end up on any one of the four sides or on the top or bottom.

Make your structure fit tightly enough that it can't move, but allow enough room for the leaves of the carton to close smoothly. Do not leave any free space at any point which is in contact with the inner sides of the box.

TAPING YOUR CARTON

Never, never use duct tape to seal a carton. Duct tape is not water resistant. If the box is outside in a rainstorm during transfer from the aircraft or truck, the tape will break free and the contents may be damaged or lost entirely. Use only approved packaging tape. There are several types of packaging tape. The most common variety is the two-inch plastic packaging tape which comes in a roll. The manufacturers present this tape with a relatively large diameter sleeve. This makes the packaging easier. You can roll the tape along the seam for smoother application.

Reinforced paper packaging tape is also available. The paper is filled with linen threads throughout its length. This is harder to use, as it has to be moistened as it is applied. It too comes in large rolls and is quite effective.

The first layer of tape is the vital one. Begin with the opening of the carton facing up. Try to run the roll along with the seam at the center. This allows for the most contact with the adhesive on either side of the joint. Start with a single strip along the seam and then add additional layers as seems appropriate. Remember that the tape never sticks as well to itself as it does to the surface of the box.

Don't be afraid to "strap" your box. After binding the center seam, run reinforcing strips in a perpendicular fashion around the container as well. These straps will reduce the pressure born by the paper joints in a cardboard box. Remember that your box might be at the bottom of a large stack in the aircraft or truck. Secure taping gives the box a better chance of arriving intact.

WRAPPING

Never, never wrap your carton! For security reasons, most shipping companies will not accept externally wrapped packages. This is true of both domestic and international shipments. Please remove or deface any prior address information to avoid the misdirection of your package.

THE CARTON

Finally, whenever possible, use plain brown containers, those without company stamps or signs. Nobody needs to know what is in your box if it's traveling within the U. S. If your package is going outside of the country, you are required by law to provide a detailed list of the contents, which is carried outside the container. This rule is sometimes circumvented by the postal authorities, but today, even the Post Office is finding that they, too, must comply with international law.

INSURANCE

As a rule, most companies provide coverage against loss or damage. It isn't expensive, usually about 50 cents per $100 of coverage. Paying for insurance during transit is recommended. Most company insurance policies will allow for the cost involved in replacing anything lost or damaged during transit. Over-insuring is a costly mistake. Each shipping company will research the replacement cost and reimburse you on that basis.

***

HOW JOINING THE PITTSBURGH FRIENDSHIP GROUP CHANGED MY LIFE

by Penny Fleckenstein

http://notyouraveragesinglemom.com

Dedicated to the Pittsburgh Friendship Group

The following is a speech I gave at the Pittsburgh Friendship group volunteer appreciation luncheon we had on October 8th. I hope you will enjoy this speech and poem. Also, I hope you will be encouraged to find a group to join in your area that will help you to grow and have fun.

***

I was entering the theater to be seated for the evening's play when this energetic lady approached me and asked me where I live. She seemed quite interested in me, and I was a little flustered,

because she introduced herself as Dr. Andrea Schwartz. What in the world would Dr. Andrea Schwartz want with me?

She explained to me several times throughout that night that she was the leader of the Pittsburgh Friendship Group, which is a group of visually impaired seniors who gather together for

various activities each month. Well, I assured her that I was not a senior, but would be glad to find out more about the group. I got her information and promptly forgot about the group. I wasn't interested in knitting and crocheting, a book club, or volunteering to help with mailings for nonprofit organizations. There was a monthly meeting where she invited entertainers to

perform, but I had a three-year-old at home. How was I going to find time for that and still be with my son?

On Thanksgiving Day, I was startled by my phone ringing and the talking caller ID announcing her name. It was obvious that this woman was not going to let me forget. She said I'd be the baby of the group. She invited me to the holiday party. I explained to her about my son, Zachary, and she said, "Well, bring him along." I was so amazed that she would think of calling me on Thanksgiving, while traveling, that I agreed to attend the holiday party. There, the visually impaired members and the sighted volunteers welcomed us with warmth and happiness.

Almost three years later, I'm knitting, mall walking, attending the entertaining monthly meetings, going out to lunch with them, and have even joined the Yes I Can Group, where we talk about

techniques to increase happiness in our lives. With their help and with a lot of work on my part, I've been able to increase my self-esteem, become more assertive, understand that I don't have to be perfect, and practice gratitude. With the supportive community of the Pittsburgh Friendship Group, I've been able to grow and blossom.

Every year, Andrea has asked me to make a speech and write a poem for our dedicated volunteers for the annual Volunteer Appreciation Day. I am happy to oblige. The following is an abecedarian I have written to honor our volunteers.

***

Absolutely wonderful friendship volunteers

Brighten our lives, filling our days with good cheer

Coordinating fun activities which bring us out of our misery

Dedicating much of your time and vibrant energy

Effortlessly entertaining us with sweet music, stories, and songs

Filling our lives with encouragement helping the visually

Iipaired feel like we belong

Graciously giving of your time, energy, and talent

Helping even when it may not be convenient

Impacting our lives with joy and positivity

Jumping in wherever you're needed

Keeping plates loaded, cups brimming with drink

Lovely ladies, sweet gentlemen so beautiful we blink,

Managing activities smoothly with ease and effect

Nurturing friendships, helping us to converse and connect

Opportunities made possible by your dedicated service

Pleasantly comforting, eliminating any twinges of us being nervous

Quickly coming to our assistance whenever we call

Replying with enthusiasm, winter, spring, summer, and fall

Spirits overflowing with patience, kindness, and grace,

saturating the Pittsburgh Friendship Group with invaluable moments in time and in space

Timing couldn't be better for your service and participation

Uplifting all of us with your personalities and great conversations

Volunteering your time, your talents, providing us with needed transportation

We cannot thank you enough for your kindness and compassion

X-tolling virtues you wear in good fashion

You will always be appreciated by us and from God above

Zooming in on you for your generosity and love.

Thank you, Pittsburgh Friendship volunteers!

***

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN

by Lynda McKinney Lambert

Do you remember the little song about a bear that went over a mountain to see what he could see? You probably learned it as a child. I did! I like to sing it this way:

"The bear goes over the mountains, to see what she can see…"

I like to think about being the Mama bear who climbed the mountain, arrived at the top to a place where I can see the new beginnings that lie ahead.

The climb up that mountain is treacherous. At times, I thought I might not make it all the way up. It's a steep climb with lots of challenges. I slipped backwards a few times, made mistakes, stumbled, fell, and got discouraged. But then, I decided to pick me up and keep on going.

What do I see from here?

I saw what I could see!

I see some new dreams from my vantage point at the top of the mountain.

I see myself working at my computer, writing stories that I've been gathering most of my life. They are all there, inside of me, waiting for me to have a look at them and share them with others.

I took a long, thoughtful look through all the months that brought me here to where I stand today. It felt good to take a look back before I move on.

I wanted to discover the essence of my intentions. I thought of some "worldview" questions we all have at times. Who am I? I thought about the inner person inside of me. You know what I mean; she's that hidden and secret individual whom others seldom see.

Who is it that I truly want to be?

What do I desire deep down in my soul?

What is my purpose or calling in life?

Today, I know my intentions are wiser than they were a year ago, for I have grown. The spacious landscape I see from the top of the mountain is different than what I thought it might be. Sometimes, the top of the mountain is really a crossroads, a place where we cannot see what comes next. We ask, "Where do I go from here?" Today might be the day to give it some thought.

INTENTION begins the moment we decide to take action, thinking about what we want to do, where we want to go, and what we might become in the future. Yes, there is a possibility for failure. But what if we succeed?

Oh, I know, it is so easy to make excuses for past failures and disappointments. But please don't bother to even think of them now. They are all behind us, as we stand looking out over the vista on the other side of the mountain!

In the early mornings, I walk my dogs. We meander along the pathway through the woods and along the creek. The dogs usually sniff into things that are not good for them. I say to them, "Leave it." They know it means, "Move on!" We can do that, too, by keeping an eye on new possibilities that might be waiting for us to discover.

Some years ago I read The Hiding Place. It's a book written by a brilliant author, Corrie ten Boom. She was a Dutch woman who endured years of misery in one of the Nazi death camps. On a particularly difficult day, Corrie was thinking about her mistakes and failures in her life. She felt depressed and worthless. During this depressing time in her life, she anguished over these destructive thoughts. She eventually remembered something she read in the Bible that helped her move forward in her determination to live and survive the wretched years of hard labor and mistreatment. At times she was filled with hatred towards her captors. Her father and sister perished in the camps. Corrie said she remembered that after we recognize we have failed, gone astray, or lost our way, we can recover. "God has buried our sins in the deepest sea and he has put up a sign that says, "NO FISHING." Please don't go fishing for what has already been forgotten. Our shortcomings from the past are buried, never to be revealed, so the next time you try to dredge them up, say to yourself, "No Fishing!"

Whatever the day brings to us, we have a choice in how we will think and act. Choose to keep your mind on activities that delight and inspire you.

Write your INTENTIONS out and keep them on your mind for the upcoming future. We have a fresh new view on the other side of the mountain. Decide where you will go from here. You can create the view you see ahead as you gaze off in the distance.

How can we determine what our INTENTIONS will be?

Let's begin with ONLY ONE simple question:

What will I GIVE?

What do you want to GIVE to OTHERS this year?

The only certainty is that we have this moment, today. We have it!

Sit down today and begin to write YOUR INTENTIONS down.

Think about your lifestyle, gifts, and talents and jot them down. How will you make a difference in your own life and GIVE from your HEART to others? What do YOU have to share? Everyone has something to give. What will be your gifts for others?

When I asked myself "What can I give?" the answer that came back to my mind was how I could include opportunities for other writers. I began to ask other writers to be guests on my blog, and each month I published an article written by a guest. It's been so exciting, and not one person has turned me down when asked. Without realizing it, I had opened the doors for some new opportunities for others by giving them a platform to share their talents and gain some new readers for their work.

Last year, I created a short list of my own intentions. It's fun to look back over my list and see where those intentions have taken me. I have met so many new friends in the process of sharing my own talents with them.

As I look out over the mountaintop in my own life, I intend to be walking on the high road. I'll stop to ask myself, "Is this the high road you are taking right now?" This will help me make better decisions in whatever I am doing, I know.

I promised myself I will keep on going. I also know that life brings wonderful surprises and gifts we never expected. I know that when we keep on giving out our love and goodness, it gets returned to us in ways we never envisioned.

How about YOU? What path will you choose to be walking on?

I'll share a few of my intentions with you, and others are mine alone to keep in my heart. Be sure to base your intentions and goals on the interests and talents you possess. That will ensure they are realistic for you. I considered what I do as a writer and artist, and what I have to give away to others.

Here are my top three intentions for my own future.

1.) I INTEND to spend some time in intentional silence, rest, and prayer each day. I selected a quiet place where I can just be alone for a little while without distractions. I have a friend who is a writer, and he told me recently that he meditates every day. He sits in the dark, lights a candle, and meditates for one hour every night. I have a library where I like to sit quietly a couple times a day. I had the room painted a lovely tranquil color, put inspiring art works on the walls, and my collections of art and poetry books fill the shelves up to the ceiling. This is my quiet place. It's the place where my creative spirit can rest, gather new ideas, and find inspiration.

2.) I INTEND to read some of the classic books in my library and others I will get through the NLS services I receive. While I cannot read the print books these days without special technologies for people with sight loss, I will focus on the wisdom of the writers and philosophers who left behind some of the greatest ideas through their books. I want to discover how those thoughts from the past have influenced me in contemporary times. How can I enrich my own creative life through reading? It's a great question for me.

3.) I INTEND to continue writing my two blogs, where I'll share monthly writings by guest bloggers. I'll give others the opportunity to share their thoughts with my audience. My blogs will be richer when I bring in the writing of others and acknowledge their gifts, too.

You see, it does not have to be some grand scheme that helps you set your intentions. It can be in the mundane and often overlooked details of your daily routine. My intentions are not grand designs, but they are simple, ordinary activities I can do, and they fit in with my personal gifts and interests. Each of the three I mentioned here will help me with my creative life.

Now it's your turn! You will have your own set of intentions and your list will most likely not be anything like mine. Just be yourself and write out some INTENTIONS that will fit into your own lifestyle for this year! Consider what you will discover on the other side of your mountain.

***

NATURE'S DANCE (Poem)

by John Justice

Beneath the sun that warms in spring,

Each plant and tree will grow its green.

From tiny plant to mighty oak,

Our world is greener with each stroke.

Soon the flowers will join the throng;

We pause and smile with each bird's song.

But all too soon the garden ends;

We say goodbye to feathered friends.

Each cooling breeze will bring the fall,

With squirrels and leaves, pumpkins and all.

We think, Oh my, but what a shame,

And then the hills are touched with flame.

What joy and beauty cascades down,

And soon becomes brittle and brown.

Beneath the gleam of winter's snow,

Things stretch and move and start to grow.

As winter sings its last refrain,

We share in nature's dance again.

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CONSUMER VISION TRIVIA CONTEST

Here is the answer to the trivia question submitted in the November Consumer Vision. The European country where traditional food includes baguettes and a fish stew called bouillabaisse is France. Congratulations to the following winners:

Jan Colby of Brockton, Massachusetts

Abbie Taylor of Sheridan, Wyoming

Susan Jones of Indianapolis, Indiana

Adrijana Prokopenko of Skopje, Macedonia

David Faucheux of Lafayette, Louisiana

Roanna Bacchus of Orlando, Florida

Don Hanson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Lauren Casey of Lawrenceville, New Jersey

And now, here is your trivia question for the December Consumer Vision. Which is farthest west, Reno, Nevada or Los Angeles, California? If you know the answer, please email bobbranco93@gmail.com or call 508-994-4972.

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A CONCLUDING NOTE FROM THE PROOFREADER

As I proofread this issue twice, I made corrections to spelling, punctuation, and spacing. I also made all the provided links into hyperlinks, so that they would be clickable. In addition, I made a few very minor editorial changes, mainly in the interest of improved clarity.

I found the articles extremely interesting, informative, and well-written, and any textual changes I made were quite minor. However, it's possible that at some point, some contributors might be unhappy with changes I make. If that is the case, please contact me directly. At all times as a proofreader and editor, I endeavor to keep the text as close to the original as possible, in order to retain the message and the unique voice of each contributor. Thanks so much for letting me listen to yours.

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year!

Sincerely,

Leonore Dvorkin, Denver, Colorado

Email: leonore@leonoredvorkin.com

Home phone: 303-985-2327

Website (for information on my books and articles, our editing and publishing services, and much more): www.leonoredvorkin.com