Archive for November, 2012

Feature Writer Steve Famiglietti – Window-Eyes 8 Beta is Here

As many of you probably know, Window-Eyes by GW Micro is in the process of completing its beta cycle for version 8. This version supports the recently released Microsoft Windows 8 and has some exciting things to offer its users.

First, you can now read email messages if they are composed in HTML format. In the past, these messages were nearly impossible to read, but now, if you have either Window-Eyes 8 Beta 2 or, JAWS 14, you can read these email messages with ease. You will first have to go in and enable message virtualization, but this only needs to be done once and you are all set.

The next exciting feature is designed to help people more easily navigate the internet. Window-Eyes has always used Browse Mode to surf around websites and web pages. When you encountered a form, you had to hit enter to turn Browse Mode off. Now, Browse Mode will automatically turn itself off when you encounter a form and you can fill in the fields of the form without needing to first press the enter key. This feature is similar to the Auto Forms Mode feature found in JAWS. It is nice to see that users of both screen readers now have this capability.

Insert Key Mode is another interesting feature of Window-Eyes 8 Beta 2. This mode allows people who are transitioning from JAWS to Window-Eyes to use keystrokes that they’ve been using to operate JAWS. This can likely make their transition to Window-Eyes easier. I commonly use both screen readers, but I was first a JAWS user and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started to use Window-Eyes and given it a JAWS keystroke to read something and the wrong keystroke meant I either got an error ding, or the wrong thing was read back to me.

With Insert Key Mode, you can also use the JAWS insert key to read parts of the screen, as if you were a JAWS user. This is particularly useful for those of us who have been JAWS users for many years and switch back and forth from one screen reader to the other.

Another fantastic feature is the automatic unmuting of your system’s sound. So many times, I’ve started to use a computer that a lot of sighted users have used. When they hear the computer start talking to them, they don’t know how to shut it off so, they mute the sound. This causes a disaster for anyone who is blind when they attempt to use the computer and then they hear nothing. Now with Window-Eyes 8 Beta 2, if the sound is muted, you simply shut down the screen reader and restart it and Window-Eyes 8 will automatically unmute the sound for you. That is pretty awesome.

The Beta for Window-Eyes seems to differ from that of JAWS because when JAWS was in its public beta cycle, anyone could download and use the public beta. For Window-Eyes, it appears that only users who have a valid serial number can use this beta version of the program.

Here is a link to a page where you can find a complete list of the new features of Window-Eyes 8, as well as some audio demonstrations of these exciting features.

Letter from the Editor – Week of November 26, 2012

Hello everyone,

For those of you who celebrated, I hope you had a fun-filled and relaxing Thanksgiving. As for everyone else, I hope you enjoyed your weekend.

I just want to remind you again that since I am publishing this magazine away from our office and do not have access to our server, there will not be a supplement released this week. Any special notices or pen pal ads that you’ve sent in will be published in next week’s supplement.

That should cover everything for now. I hope you all have a great week.

Take care, and as always, thanks for reading.

Ross Hammond, Editor

Recipe of the Week – Slow Cooked Pacific Island Turkey and Rice

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

A perfect dish for any turkey left over after Thanksgiving.

Serves: 8 (1 1/2 cups each)

Preparation Time: 20 min


2 cans Campbell’s Condensed Chicken Broth, (10 1/2 ounces each)

1 cup Water

1/4 cup Light soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced

About 2 pounds of turkey, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

1 medium green or red pepper, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

4 medium green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)

1 can pineapple chunks in juice, undrained

1 cup uncooked regular long-grain white rice or brown rice

Toasted sliced almonds


Stir the broth, water, soy, garlic, turkey, pepper, onions, pineapple with juice and rice in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, or until vegetables are tender.

Sprinkle with almonds before serving.

Reader’s Forum – Week of November 19, 2012

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

In response to Feature Writer John Christie – SSI Keeps Disabled People From Living Life to the Fullest, Larry wrote:

I was receiving SSI as a young adult until approximately 1995 when I went to work full-time and left benefits. I have not been back on benefits since. When I read articles and editorials about how SSI traps people in to a life of poverty I find them unsettling to say the least. First and foremost, if you receive SSI and work you always end up with more money in your pocket. For example, if I receive the maximum amount of SSI, approximately $695 at this time, and land a job making $1,000 I have significantly improved my financial position. In this scenario, I am left with $237.5 in SSI plus my take-home wages from the job, approximately $800 or $850. If I work enough my SSI will stop, but again, I have much more in my pocket than I did before I went to work. And, if I continue to earn enough that I do not qualify for SSI, I have a significant period of time where I can return to benefits without re-applying if my work attempt is not successful. Finally, I can earn over $20,000 annually and still qualify for Medicaid. Some states offer a buy-in program on top of that. Here in Arizona my earnings can exceed $51,000 and I’ll still qualify for our Medicaid program.

SSI is not meant to be a support system that takes care of people for life. It is the responsibility of the beneficiary to take advantage of programs such as vocational rehabilitation or to take it upon themselves to get job training and to find work. I know these steps are not easy and I do not mean to trivialize them. However, the notion that the SSI program needs to be revised so that individuals can continue to receive benefits while earning more is not the answer.
In response to Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – What to Consider Before a Purchase, Gerardo wrote:

Wow! I feel kind of guilty on talking my parents into giving me an iPhone for Christmas and my birthday! Yes my current Nokia works great except that little details such as not being on a data Internet plan, thus not being able to take all the advantages of using Twitter, Email and other Internet-based services since being on a per demand Internet plan can sometimes keep you from taking advantage of these nifty details. Also I’ve been hearing so much on Iphone’s being accessible out of the box, how one can go to the top of the screen and other details by only touch, and also by my positive experience working one, I thought what the heck! Why not give it a go? Besides my Nokia has it’s whiles of not wanting to cooperate! Any other experiences like mine?
In response to Writer Alena Roberts – The Braille Authority of North America Adopts the Unified English Braille Code, Leo wrote:

I think where UEB really shines is the online world. I remember when the only Braille we could get was what was transcribed for us. Now what a difference it is to read content the same way everyone else does, online, and not months after it was released! The difference is, we read mixed content, meaning you have web addresses, email addresses, scientific or other field-specific notation, all mixed with the text of an article, website, blog, or even Twitter feed. The traditional Grade II system was clearly designed with a few literary works in mind, notably Shakespeare and related literature comes to mind. But any technical journals, even technical journals of the early 20th century, were obviously and decidedly edited out. Letter number combinations with dots in between can certainly become confusing if we still use a double d contraction in Braille. Or the plus symbol is the same as the ing symbol. So you see the name of the social network Google+ in Grade II Braille, you might become confused, where with UEB you would not be.

I have been using UEB with screen readers for several years now, and appreciate the openness and freedom it creates. Obviously not created with limited ideas about what blind people might or might not use. The idea of limiting a writing system is preposterous to anybody who is not wholly deluded by some form of ideological bent.

Of course, with change will come challenges. Take the Dvorak keyboard layout, for instance. How many of us use it, even though it’s decidedly faster? I certainly have not made the change: I’ve been typing since I was six years old, in order to be allowed a desegregated education. Such was the rules at least in the 70s where I went to school. I have no real logical reason for not switching: I simply can’t be bothered to invest the amount of time it would take to switch and use Dvorak. I assume there will be those of similar mind with UEB, and those with Braille displays will always have the choice in their reader of choice to use the older Grade II system.

But if your line of work or any of your interests involve a lot of mixed format reading, you may want to give UEB a try. It’s a much more open and inclusive environment, where mixed content can be read as smoothly as it can by our sighted friends, coworkers and others.
In response to Writer Alena Roberts – The Braille Authority of North America Adopts the Unified English Braille Code, Mary wrote:

I’ve never been in favor of the UEBC, but have seen it and read it occasionally. I’m sorry that BANA chose to adopt it; nobody knows as yet whether NLS will choose to use it. I was in third grade in 1959 when some major changes were made to literary Braille; new shorter words and contractions were added.

Although I don’t think UEBC is hard to learn, I find it cumbersome and don’t plan to write it.
In response to Writer Alena Roberts – The Braille Authority of North America Adopts the Unified English Braille Code, Jean wrote:

Ok, I have to say that I really do not like these changes. That being said, we live in a world where things change at a rapid rate. It will be interesting to see this new code at work. I don’t currently have an iPhone, so have not seen this yet. I’ve been reading braillle for over 30 years, so this could be interesting, I suppose.
In response to Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Liberated by Voting Independently, Bill wrote:

I was able to vote by myself with an accessible voting machine. I have been doing this for a couple of years so I am familiar with the machines operation. Here in Virginia we had a big ballot so it took time but I got through it and was able to cast my vote by myself without anyone interfering. Great way to go.

Bill Meinecke,
Virginia Beach, Virginia
In response to Op Ed with Bob Bronco – How Can Job Fairs Better Serve Blind Applicants?, Marian wrote:

A blind person should be totally prepared, and may I add, over prepared for a job fare. This does not, however, ensure an even playing field for the blind person. The company reps already have pre conceived notions concerning blind persons.

“Can a supporting agency for the blind do more in order to accommodate a blind job applicant in these situations?”

The answer to this question is yes and no. If the supporting blind agency was genuinely concerned and motivated to enable the blind to be economically self sufficient they could intervene, informing company representatives of qualified competent blind individuals ready to assume the available positions. If the supporting agency is irresponsible, unconcerned, and a part of the rehabilitation process which have no desire for the blind to succeed, then they cannot be involved in the job fare. Is it not clear to the blind that the majority of so-called supporting rehabilitation agencies are not advocates for us. Their hidden agenda is to have the blind to FAIL. We must become Self-Advocates. Review ADA, Voc Rehab 98, The Work Reinforcement Act, RSA directives, your state’s Client Services Policy Manual. The Tech Act of 1988, etc. Know your rights.

Blind persons who are totally dedicated to the issues of employment, independent living, holding supporting agencies accountable, etc. must unite and become self-advocates.

Bob, I believe you make a great observation when you say “Whether we like it or not, we, the blind, seem to have more to prove when looking for a job than anyone else. I have seen persons with cognitive disabilities get jobs faster than we do and I sometimes wonder if it’s because they have a better support team advocating for them.”

It is true, people with cognitive disabilities get jobs when we do not because they have much better advocates. They are not just interested in approving an application for “Ticket To Work” funds.

For example, a blind person should be able to Telecommute using Screen Readers. If companies and agencies have programs not COMPATIBLE with the Screen Reading Technology, The Supporting rehabilitation / Blindness agencies should intervene. This is a digital world and any program/ technology can be designed to perform necessary requirements.

Susan wrote in to respond to Dorcas’s post, saying:

Two weeks ago in your reader’s Forum, the below request was sent to the Magazine.
Dorcas wrote in to say:

My question for the forum is: Where can I find out about produce Co-ops? I would love it if I knew how to find one near my home. I live in Queens, New

There is a web site that is just what she is looking for and a whole lot more.

They not only have their own catalog for products grown across the country, they also have a news letter that you give them your zip code and they provide you with information specific to your area. Your local events will be listed and links provided to give you further information about the event and contact numbers, e-mail, physical address and directions to that event. The news letter also provides links to subjects featured like where to find and order your heritage natural turkey for Thanksgiving whether or not it is in your area. They also provide cooking tips designed specifically for the all-natural heritage turkey and home grown sides that would make anyone happy to be sitting at your Thanksgiving table.

Contributor Devorah Greenspan – National Park

Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the novel “Zelda’s Road.”

Mt. Rushmore, a national park, attracted domestic and international tourists. Legally blind Zelda traveled without a motor vehicle or with someone else. This meant paying a price for her independence. Mt. Rushmore officials required her to carry her heavy pack all around the park in the pedestal name of security and unclaimed items. She could prove a special need with documentation in her pack, yet they denied her accommodation. Zelda viewed the presidential busts, snapping a few photos in glare-filled lighting. She completed a visitor comment form–a dissatisfied customer–wondering if she’d ever receive a template response.

Leaving the park on foot, a national park employee noticed her walking west down route 244. Thumbing rides was unsightly in the greater park area. He gave her a lift to Horse Thief Lake, just outside the official boundary. Zelda walked, stood thumb out, walked. In the rain, a white car finally stopped.

“Oh, thank you,” said Zelda, opening the door.
“Where are you headed?” the woman driver asked.
“Hill City,” she said.

Zelda got in, buckled her seat belt. They started talking.

“I saw you when we went to Mt. Rushmore. I came back early and saw you’re still here. We’re staying at the campground. It’s just family, a girls get together. Why don’t you come for a snack? Then I’ll take you to Hill City,” she offered.

“Sounds good. Thanks.”

Pearl turned the car back toward the campsite they had just passed. The place reminded Zelda of the housekeeping cabins her family rented on vacations to North Carolina, Colorado, and near Wawa, Ontario. The cabin had three bedrooms, a porch, and a fireplace. They were alone at first and sat down to eat. Zelda ate chicken, informing Pearl about her avoidance of sugar. Pearl didn’t flinch.

“I eat without my glasses on and my eyes go errrr chch” said Zelda, imitating a crashing sound.
Pearl didn’t shudder. Later, Pearl tried to get a fire going, but couldn’t.

“Maybe the chimney needs cleaning,” suggested Zelda.

“I don’t know if there is enough wind to suck the smoke out,” Pearl said.

Pearl was half Cree, raised Christian. Zelda asked about her Cree culture.

“Pow Wows are dances based on things in nature. There’s one that is like the movements of a prairie chicken. I really don’t know that much.”

The rest of the family finally arrived. The three adults had split the rental cost. The two teenage daughters and one European exchange student went swimming in falling temperatures. Zelda was glad to shower and rinse her clothes and she became their guest.

Zelda looked at her pictures, recalling her frustration. Angry she hadn’t checked her snapshots sooner. She had a perfectionist side and it showed up via the camera. There was a very detailed shot of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and half of Washington. George was nationwide, in Rapid City, in Winchester, Virginia. Lincoln, she learned from the documentary film, fought the War Between the States in the name of Permanence. The idea echoed in the song “The Stars and Stripes Forever” saying of the flag “May it wave as our banner forever.” Zelda had noticed a rebel battle flag in a Rapid City attraction on Saturday afternoon. Zelda’s camera lens saw better than her eyes. The bugled images seceded from Zelda’s desire to see everything.

Contributor Jennifer Streisand – A ‘Top Ten List’ to Achieve a New, Normal Living with Vision Loss: Part Three

In the broad array of low vision technology, there is the established technology, like the CCTV, and then there is also brand new technology, like an Implantable Miniature Telescope (IMT) that is surgically implanted into the eye for patients with end-stage macular degeneration. The implant acts as a magnifier, enlarging the visual image for the patient, and it’s hardly noticeable because it is surgically implanted, and not hand-held, as are the telescopes that were the only option before this was available for AMD patients, explains Szlyk.

The Implantable Miniature Telescope was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2010. The Chicago Lighthouse has a partnership with Rush Medical Center in Chicago, where Rush does the surgery, and then the patient goes for 13 weeks of Rehabilitation at the Chicago Lighthouse.

“It may provide the ability to recognize a loved one’s face, for example, and patients may appreciate the landscape better,” explains Szlyk. “It acts as a magnification device.”

Another brand new technology currently being tested in an FDA clinical trial at The Chicago Lighthouse is a device called the BrainPort, developed by Wicab, Inc. The device translates the visual image into tactile stimulation on the tongue to help patients with severe vision loss, or who are totally blind, orient themselves to their whereabouts, and such can function as a navigation device.

“You put it on your tongue when you want to see something, and you take it off when you don’t,” explains Szlyk. The patient also wears a fashionable pair of sunglasses, which is part of the system, and there is a small computer that is worn on the person’s belt, she adds. BrainPort, and the clinical trial, are featured on the cover of The Chicago Lighthouse’s 2011 annual report, entitled, “New Sites, New Sight,” and can be read online at

To determine what stage and what technology is needed to help a low vision patient achieve better functionality in their daily routine, they should go for a low vision evaluation, says Kara Crumbliss, O.D., a doctor of optometry and director of Clinical Services for the Forsythe Center for Comprehensive Vision Care at The Lighthouse. One of the missions of The Chicago Lighthouse is to help people who are visually impaired maximize use of their remaining vision. What this means, Crumbliss explains, is that if someone is diagnosed with macular degeneration, for example, they can learn to read using their peripheral vision, and often with the help of technology for low vision. In this way, they are “maximizing the remaining vision that they have,” because they are using it for such a vital daily living task as reading.

There is a distinction between low vision technology, and technology for the blind, she explains.
“In the low vision category, the technology involves magnification, and that can be low tech, such as reading or computer glasses, to high tech, which are the CCTVs, both portable and non-portable,” she says. “The technology for blindness, on the other hand, is auditory, some speech, and text-to-speech, Braille instruction, technologies related to Braille, as well as some of the GPS technology used in an auditory manner with patients.” Often low vision patients will use blindness technology too, such as text-to-speech because it is more efficient for them to carry out daily tasks, Crumbliss adds.

Each person has to develop their own repertoire or combination of technologies to achieve their “Top 10 List,” of work and recreational activities that they need to do. And, if they become good at the technology, and are motivated, they can go beyond 10 activities, to a top 20 or 30 list, or beyond.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – The Blind Leading the Sighted

I’m sure you have heard the expression, “The Blind Leading the Blind.” We all know what that means figuratively and literally, so I won’t dwell on it. But what if we talk about how the blind are leading the sighted?

I have been in a unique position where I’ve had the ability to lead a sighted group for many years. In 2006, I founded one of the largest slow pitch, adult, co-ed softball leagues in my area. I oversee all of the league operations, and given the resources at my disposal, it is as easy for me to run the league as any sighted person would. There are over 250 fully sighted participants in my organization, and while I carry out my duties on a daily basis, I simply hope that I am respected as a Commissioner, and not as a “blind” Commissioner.

Though I want to be liked and respected like everybody else, it is the job that is first and foremost, and not my disability.

I won’t go into detail about what my responsibilities are, because I don’t feel that it’s necessary. Anyone who is familiar with softball or any other recreational activity has a general idea of how that type of organization is run, and as a blind Commissioner, I use the same methods that most people are familiar with.

While I talk about this, I am hoping that those of you with the desire to run a fully sighted organization will follow through, because if you have enough motivation and resources, you will not only be able to accomplish this, but you will enjoy what you do. You will become so involved in your work that you will not focus on your blindness, and neither will others in your organization. Obviously you will still be aware of your vision loss, but you will find that it won’t affect how the organization should and would be run. If the membership questions some of your methods, they will question you as a person, and not use your blindness as a reason for why you are being questioned. Trust me, it’s a good feeling, and I’m thankful to have experienced it myself.

I am interested to hear from anyone who either has the urge to run a fully sighted group or those of you who are already doing it. If you are running a sighted organization, I’d like to find out if your experiences are positive, and I truly hope that they have been.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – Sweet as Honey

In July of 2003 life for my friend Brenda irrevocably changed with the passing of Orley, her guide dog of ten years.

A sweet yellow lab, she was a cherished companion, able to help Brenda travel independently every day. Brenda mourned the dog’s absence, knowing this was an end to a way of life. Because of limited mobility in her left arm and living in a rural town in Massachusetts, and she missed the company of a pet. About a month later, in August, Brenda’s friend Peter stopped at her trailer with a surprise that changed her world.

Ivy, a beautiful purebred German shepherd was seven months old with glossy black and brown fur. At barely forty pounds, Brenda told me that she was the runt of the litter.

As this sweet-yet-neglected dog looked at Brenda, she ran jumping into her welcoming arms. As she said, “It was love at first sight.” On this warm afternoon, she renamed the dog Honey, never imagining the journey they would take together.

For that first month, Honey had trouble adjusting to Brenda’s large but welcoming, trailer. She had always been left outside by her previous owners.

Although, they began bonding, that month, Honey really tried Brenda’s patience. Jumping on cabinets, counters, or the couch, grabbing peeled bananas, nectarines, and chips, and shredding paper towels or wash cloths were all common occurrences. She was a handful.

The trailer was then “dog-proofed” with a trolley in the yard so Brenda would know her location. In the living room, a large wooden crate partially contained her rambunctiousness, making her feel safe and secure.

Her gentle disposition and growing bond with Brenda endeared her to everyone she met. Peter, also a dog trainer, expanded her life with daily obedience classes that lasted two years. The lessons gave her confidence, learning commands for sit, come, and stay. Over time, Brenda’s love and steady patience won over the dog’s love, trust, and loyalty.

Honey normally placed her 70 pound frame on Brenda’s lap on the rocking glider, or laid beside her on the couch. Brenda would gently pat Honey’s cheeks, softly talking to her calling her nicknames like Honey Bunny or Honey Joy. She learned the dog’s signals for announcing her needs and fed her twice a day, giving her treats or toys often.

Though she had such a sweet demeanor, she was a protective watchdog, discouraging young teens in the neighborhood from vandalizing her property with her barks.

When I visited Brenda for a weekend in April of 2009, I saw their amazing bond with each other. I observed this dog’s gentle loyalty and love. She never minded me patting her glossy fur while she looked adoringly at Brenda.

When she relocated to Arlington, Texas in late April, 2009, Honey went with her, adapting with Brenda to Texas’s hotter climate. She found a two bedroom duplex, perfect for her and the dog. There was a large fenced-in yard giving them added security.

In 2010, Honey’s short life was ending. Cancerous tumors were spreading and began to invade her sinuses. Although antibiotics temporarily helped, on September 14, 2011, Honey died in Brenda’s arms. Tears were shed, with both the vet and Brenda knowing the companionship and unconditional love and loyalty they shared for eight years.

Two weeks later, she picked up a border collie/shepherd mix from a local animal shelter. She named her Honey Bell–a fifty-pound dog who, like Honey, showed signs of animal abuse. She is quieter, but playful, and enjoys the back yard. Like Honey, she helps Brenda fetching errant pieces of paper, scissors, jars of peanut butter, or other objects.

Both dogs have been wonderful companions for Brenda–a widow, and cancer survivor. The companionship, love, and responsibility of caring for these dogs have given her a new lease on life.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Hi-Tech Prep

We’ve performed three shows under the “MaLyn” name, and I must say that this was the most high-tech endeavor ever. Here’s why.

It all started with choosing the songs. I used a combination of searching my vast music library and purchasing downloads from Amazon. Like many, I’d ripped my CD’s to mp3 through Windows Media Player. Before exploring the available formats, my music was saved as wma (Windows Media Audio) files. Once I learned that mp3 was the most popular and common format, I immediately switched and haven’t looked back. These days, if I purchase two CD’s a year, it’s a lot, as I much prefer downloading music for playback on my various portable devices.

We strive to have at least two funny songs in all our shows. So I was perturbed, to say the least, when I could not think of a single tune recently. Having an epiphany, I turned to Google and was elated to find two show-stopping tunes. Seek and ye surely shall find!

With the music chosen, we then needed to obtain the sheet music in the correct keys. As I always say, “Key is key!” Oh, how we bemoaned the fact that Colony Music, in business for approximately 60 years, purveyor of all things sheet music and music books, had closed. Remembering that I’d opened a MusicNotes account for another performance, there sat the website waiting for us. It turned out to be a gold mine. You are only allowed to download the song once, but you can also choose from several keys and arrangements, and even hear a midi file to determine whether the song is right for you. Additionally, the site is reasonably accessible to those of us using screen readers. Spending a small fortune, it was nominal compared to the sum we would have spent at Colony Music. We would also have needed to wait for someone to transpose the music into the correct keys.

Most promotion for the show was handled by email. I used my cherished Outlook Express and created a Performance email group. Text messages and emails flew as we attempted to schedule rehearsals. Recalling that hair-pulling task causes me to shudder.

Lastly, there was the actual practicing. Not yet a rapid reader of Braille, I needed to find a way to facilitate memorization of the raft of lyrics I’d set for myself. Enter my Victor Reader Stream. Copying the individual Microsoft Word documents containing the lyrics to the Text folder/bookshelf, I listened morning, noon, and night until I could not memorize one more lyric.

I’m certain this approach will be the norm for future shows. I do like it, as it keeps me proactive and in control of all aspects of our show.

Have you had to prepare for something that included many parts? What tools did you use to get the job done?

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – No Traditions, Please

This year I am cooking for Thanksgiving. It’s been quite some time since I’ve done it, too. Usually we go to my in-law’s house with twenty other people and pig-out. I try my best not to return home bloated and sleepy, but inevitably, we all roll in at about 8 pm and drop off to sleep while watching the sports news wrap-ups on ESPN.

This year, I began looking for food alternatives to turkey (since I’m allergic), and green bean casserole (gassy). What I found are two websites that slant to the organic and “healthier” foods to serve for an improved gastric holiday. Enjoy, and here’s to a less stressful digestive day.

In an article by Olga Aura in Coast Views online magazine (found here:, she describes a raw, vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner that included a mock turkey, steamed veggies, cranberry salad, and a creamy, cashew pie. She notes that she avoided the bloated, tired feeling after a traditional turkey meal by not overwhelming her digestion with too many different types of foods and preparing with a dose of probiotics before pigging out. If you are allergic to nuts, you may not want to even be in the room during this dinner, as the main dish and the dessert were chock full of almonds, cashews, and other nutty treats.

In another article, found here:, they say that if you are going to change it up–meaning diverting from the turkey and trimmings–the first thing to do is to inform your guests that turkey and all the trimmings won’t be served. Next, decide on the main meat or meat alternative. It could be ham, chicken, mock turkey, Cornish game hens, prime rib or pork roast, or the unique turduken. Even grilled oysters were an east coast tradition and could make a great detour from the dreaded green bean casserole. Speaking of side dishes, this article suggests changing them. Try Acorn squash, butternut squash, and cauliflower or braised red cabbage, eggplant casserole or creamed onions. Finally, invite folks who would not otherwise be part of a holiday feast and be thankful. Maybe you can enjoy a game of holiday Jeopardy! Or make a pilgrim hat.

This year, I have decided that I am cooking an oven-stuffed chicken, a small turkey breast, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuit’s and Brussels sprouts. Dessert will be a pecan pie. As far as pastimes on Thanksgiving are concerned, football and playing cards are normally the most popular. Though, I thought watching “Babes in Toyland” ranked much higher than gin rummy. Don’t you just love those mice in the balloon bombing the boogeymen?

What alternatives do you take part in during Thanksgiving? Let us know in the Readers Forum.