Archive for March, 2013

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

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Serves: 8 (1 1/2 cups each)

Preparation Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 7 hr


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
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds), 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 sauce, garlic, chicken, pepper, onions, pineapple with juice, and rice in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours) or until the chicken is cooked through.

Sprinkle with almonds before serving.

Reader’s Forum – Week of March 11, 2013

Tammy wrote in to say:

It seems like to me the BRL Book review is always running late getting to us patrons of the NLS program when our leaders in Washington are bickering. For example, The November/ December issue was mailed out on December18th and mine didn’t arrive until January 7th. The January/ February issue was mailed out February 19th and I have yet to receive mine. What’s the deal here? Is the postal service slowing down getting our free matter for the blind material to us because of the colossal mess they have created for us all?

Contributor Erin Jepsen – Blindsomnia

As the visually impaired mother of a blind daughter, I know first-hand that sleep problems come with the territory, and those with no light perception have even more trouble keeping their sleep cycles matched to the rest of the daytime world. Research shows that light triggers our brains to wake up, and the lack of light tells us it’s time to get sleepy. Still, although this would be our natural inclination, there are plenty of things we can do to get a good night’s sleep even with no light perception or vision problems. Just as a worker on swing shift learns to sleep during the day, we blind folks can use some simple tricks to beat insomnia and regulate sleep patterns.

The biggest thing I’ve discovered that helps our almost-five-year-old daughter sleep is exercise during the day. If she sits around on the couch listening to the iPod all day, she’s less likely to sleep than if she’s busy running around, chasing her brother, climbing trees, jumping on the trampoline, swimming, sledding, playing at the park, riding her tricycle, or jumping rope. We dance to music, jump on the couch, play games like Duck-Duck-Goose, or whatever we can think of to keep her active during the day.

Exercise helps me sleep too. This past winter I started a strict diet and bought a used elliptical machine. After a week of getting used to it, I was delighted with how safe I felt exercising where there are no tree branches to snag me or uneven sidewalks to trip me. I also love to swim during the summer, and enjoy more interesting activities like hiking or snowshoeing. Blind friends report running, skiing, or hitting the gym are great sources of exercise, as well.

The other most important aspect of sleeping well for my daughter and me is keeping a fairly regular schedule. A consistent bed time and rising time helps our circadian rhythms maintain a healthy cycle. When I get lax about it and stay up too late, or try to go to bed unusually early, I struggle with my sleep patterns for days.

Some practical tips that I have found to help me get to sleep include an over-the-counter sleep aid, earplugs, or reading a book that I’ve read many times before. Putting “Anne of Green Gables” on VoiceOver in my ear makes me drowsy faster than anything else, just because I’ve read it so many times. For my daughter, I play a CD of gentle lullabies, and go through the same bedtime routine every night: brushing teeth, eating a small snack and drinking milk, putting pajamas on, and reading a chapter of a story aloud.

Friends have shared tips that they use to promote sleep too. Some of the more natural remedies include sipping warm, soothing Chamomile tea just before bed, or using Melatonin spray. Obviously, for young children, a doctor could recommend safe dosages. Also, using a fan or white noise machine in the bedroom can train the brain that it’s time for sleep. For children too young to tell time, a white noise machine can be used to signal them that it’s time to lie quietly in bed even if they wake up. When the noise is on, it’s night, and getting up then becomes a discipline issue, while laying quietly in bed is more likely to result in sleep than noisy play. For older children and adults, a talking clock and some time with a Braille book can make morning come faster.

It goes without saying that chronic insomnia should be treated by a doctor, because it might signal a more serious condition like apnea that is treatable with a CPAP machine. If your lack of sleep is due to your partner or guide dog snoring, stealing covers, or shaking the bed, I unfortunately can’t help you. But for simple sleep issues that stem from a lack of exercise, no light perception, headaches, or other vision-produced fun, I encourage you to try some of the easy tips I’ve listed above.

If you have even more fabulous ideas for getting a good night’s sleep, please be sure to leave us a comment in the Reader’s Forum.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Please, Don’t Serve Those Cupcakes

Since the terrible shootings at the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, steps have been taken to prevent such occurrences from happening again. For the most part, these steps are appropriate, and even though they are desperate in some cases, we have to consider the times we live in. However, there are people who take this matter too far.

Recently, a third-grade boy from Michigan brought some cupcakes to school so that he could share them with his teacher and classmates. The cupcakes were homemade and decorated by his mother. So far, the story resembles an episode of “Leave it to Beaver,” doesn’t it? Well, the ending is quite different.

When the school principal saw the cupcakes, she refused to let the boy serve them because they were decorated with green toy soldiers carrying guns. Mind you, these are the same kind of toy soldiers that you can buy at any toy store, and that have been sold for the better part of a century. But because this innocent little boy wanted to be generous and kind to his fellow students and teacher, he was taken to task by political correctness about gun control over a toy decoration that his mother innocently put on the cupcakes.

As the boy’s father pointed out during his statement to the school principal, “They are confusing American heroes with psychopathic killers.” What’s next? Will a boy be talked out of becoming a policeman when he grows up because police officers carry guns? Will little children be denied their desire to protect and defend if their dream job involves the use of a gun?

As a result of this principal’s attitude, the toy guns were returned home with the little boy, and the mother had to redecorate the cupcakes before they were allowed to be eaten and served in that Michigan elementary school.

The principal claims that her actions were designed to promote less violence, yet at the same time armed guards have been placed in other schools. Does she really believe that armed guards take away thoughts of violence the same way cupcakes without toy soldiers do?

Your thoughts are welcome in the Reader’s Forum.


Feature Writer Karen Crowder – The Life of Mary and Laura Ingalls: Part Two – The Later Years

On November 23, 1881, 16 year old Mary and her parents met with one of Mary’s teachers, Lorana Mattice, after their conference with the principal at the college for the blind. Lorana, also blind, exuded competence, warmth, and a friendly demeanor which put students and parents at ease. Her parents marveled at the loveliness of the campus with the wide verandas, which surrounded the brick building. They knew Mary would be happy there.

Unlike our generation’s immediate separation from parents when going to a residential school, parents at Vinton stayed with students for several days, helping them with the adjustment to their new surroundings.

Academic life would not be easy, scholastic and achievement standards were set high for all blind students. Days began at six in the morning, with classes beginning at quarter to eight. Academic courses were taught in the morning and afternoons were devoted to musical instruction, industrial arts, and exercise.

Meals were at 6:30 in the morning, at 12:15 for lunch, and supper at 5:30. There was a fifteen minute recess from 9:45 until 10:00 in the morning, recreation from 4:30 to 5:30, and right before lights out at 9:30.

The academic offerings were abundant, ranging from literature rhetoric, algebra, geometry, history, physiology, among other subjects. Afternoon courses ranged from organ and piano, to harmony and wind and string instruments. Mary would learn how to play there pipe organ. In industrial arts, she learned beading, and mastered making fly nets for horses. This skill would eventual help supplement the Ingalls’ income after their father died.

Mary was an excellent student throughout her years there, and made friends with many other students. She became good friends with her first roommate, Blanche Howard. Her liveliness, much like her sister Laura, complimented Mary’s quiet nature.

Mary’s family was impressed with her blossoming independence when she came home for the holidays, having traveled by herself on the train from Vinton to De Smet. On her last walk with her sister, Laura, before returning to school, she told her of her big dreams of becoming a teacher or writing a book.

After graduation, Mary’s life was busy. She spent it living in the spacious Third Street house in De Smet with her family. Her bedroom was on the first floor and her father put ropes in the back yard so she could navigate it. With her mother, she was active in the church and served as the organist for thirty years, and also taught Sunday school.

In 1912, her mother sold the house to her for one dollar “and all the affection in the world.” After her mother died in 1924, Mary lived with Grace near De Smet and later her sister Carrie in Keystone, South Dakota. Mary died October 20, 1928 at the age of 63. Though most writing says it was from pneumonia, others say it may have been a stroke.

If it were not for her sister, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books detailing the family saga, we would never have known about Mary.

Although Mary would not witness Laura’s fame and success as a writer, she will forever be remembered for her success and independence as a turn-of-the-century blind woman.

Sources: museum, Timeline of the Ingalls family and Audioscript by Katie Fraser, and

Feature Writer Steven Famiglietti – My Times with Ms. Waterman: Part One

We all have people who have affected our lives in wonderful ways. For me, Ms. Waterman was one of them.

When I was in elementary school, I met my teacher of the visually impaired, Ms Waterman. She was a short woman with short hair and she wore glasses. She came to see me three days a week and would take me out of the classroom. We would work together for about an hour in the library, or other quiet places in the school. Her job was to assist me with my class work and to advocate for my family and I with regards to my vision and how it related to the school, the classroom, the teacher, and my classmates.

As a child, I was quite the manipulator. In the first and second grade, I recall enjoying the first day of school. Since the classroom teacher didn’t know me, I would tell them that I couldn’t zip my coat or do other things that the other students were doing. On the second day of school, Ms Waterman would show up and say, “Now, why are you making all of the girls zip your coat when you know you can do it yourself?” Of course, after a short talk with the teacher, she had me doing everything I could already do myself. I would get mad at her because I thought she was mean to me for making me do these things on my own. It was so much more fun having everyone else do those things for me.

In another instance, we were working together when Ms Waterman and I discovered that I could not see the regular pencil writing as we worked. She went out and did some shopping and found a pencil which wrote in a much thicker, darker print and it did not produce any glare on the page. We could use this pencil for math work only. For other work, Ms Waterman found a flair pen which produced a nice, black line; and for me, this high contrast worked well.

Each year, Ms Waterman would work hard to make sure that I could see all of my assignments and stay up to speed with the rest of the class. I recall that in one case, she took some clear tape and rewrote one of our text books and stuck the tape over the small print. She did this because the text book had nice, color photos in it and she wanted me to see the pictures well. Back in those days, text books had to be sent away to be produced in large print. When they did this, the pictures didn’t come out properly in large print at all. Sometimes, they were so distorted that you couldn’t see what the picture was.

Each year, Ms Waterman worked closely with the school’s reading teacher to figure out what books would be used for the upcoming school year. She had to get copies of these books early and she would ask me to look at them with her to figure out if I could read the text easily. If not, she had to send a copy of the book away for enlargement. Even when we did this early in the year to prepare for the following year, the books still came in late sometimes. The books were also huge and heavy. However, I was able to read them and that was important. I remember that my books were so large that I was allowed to have two desks instead of one desk like the other students.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – The Second Time Around

Tattoos are like potato chips, you can’t stop at only one.

Almost a year after I took the plunge and commemorated my life with dogs on my left arm, I once again sat in the inking chair. This time, I commemorated my life by choosing an impish dragon with a red tail and bright colors. I was born in the year of the dragon, according to Chinese astrology, and always had an affinity for Chinese dragons–especially the New Year Dragon in the parade. I always got a kick out of the dozens of human feet coordinating the dragon’s way down the parade route. As a kid, I wanted to be one of those people under the vibrant and boxy-shaped life-sized puppet.

I asked the artist, a guy named Matt, to design something similar to a Chinese Dragon. but to make it alive with color and shading. He impressed all of us with the design, and now the impish dragon has a permanent home on my right arm.

I asked him if anyone had ever fallen asleep on him and he said that, yes, a few times it had happened. I also found out that he fell asleep getting his back done. Since having a tattoo done can certainly get your attention, it’s surprising that people could actually fall asleep.

Another interesting tidbit I discovered is that he and the other artists play certain types of music that is more conducive to inking. The British New Wave 80s acoustic band “The Smiths and Morrissey,” are two of his favorites. When I asked why, Matt said the steady harmonic style helps him best while working.

As for aftercare, Matt and Woody, co-owners of Good Luck Tattoo say that Aquaphor brand healing ointment works best. Protecting the skin with a layer of it will cut down on scabbing and increase healing time.

Will I get a third? Yes, and I’m already thinking about it. It will commemorate my life like the first two and will symbolize my writing life and creativity. Where will it go? I’m not sure yet, but I do know Matt will be the artist.

Do any of you have a tattoo story? Share it with us in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – iPhone 5 Euphoria

It’s ridiculous to be in love with a cell phone, but we are. Yes, my iPhone 5 has quickly made its way to my techie heart. Siri plays a huge part in that, but there are some other advantages as well.

I’ll go to my immortal rest believing this next account to be true. My iPhone 4 knew its time was limited and decided to go out in dramatic fashion by turning itself on after I’d turned it off. It would then begin opening apps on its own and VoiceOver would start babbling. I’m telling you, it knew it was slated to be sacked and was having one last fling. I will admit to missing it just a little.

The amiable Verizon store associate learned very quickly that we were not rubes and could not be coaxed into purchasing extra accessories. He wisely suggested we trade in our phones for a deep discount, which we did. He couldn’t, however, convince us to purchase cases. Those we would order later from We purchased, requested that he affix essential screen guards, and home we went.

I really thought I’d backed up our information to the cloud and was so pleased that I didn’t have to use the dreaded iTunes. I had successfully backed up our contacts and calendar, but the apps were another story. I’ve since learned to do this in a more reliable fashion. Regrettably, it does require the annoying iTunes application. Let’s just say that I’ve been re-populating our phones since Wednesday. Over the 20 or so months that we’ve had the phones, I’d amassed quite a few apps that I wasn’t even using, so I’ve looked at it as a forced exercise in housekeeping and organization.

The first thing I noticed about the new phone was the speed. We now have 4G service, as noted on the status bar of the phones as the LTE (Long-Term Evolution) network. Both apps and the Internet open much faster. This is particularly appreciated while searching for items in the App Store. If I were to hand my phone to you, the first thing you’d notice is that core apps, such as the Calendar, Settings, Maps, and Stocks, have been either moved to a different location on my Home screen or been banished to the current last page.

Siri, how do I love thee–let me count the ways! Even in such a short time, you have filled my world with information and humor. I love how I can now give the command to open an app and you do it without delay. This is the start of a beautiful relationship. Rumors abound about an iPhone 5s coming out in August, but this love affair will last—at least until our contract is up.

Feature Writer John Christie – Smart 911: The Future of Safety

Smart 911 is a service that was started in 2010 by Rave Mobile Safety, the trusted software company that manages campuses and public safety agencies located in Farmington, MA. This new innovation, which was started in the private sector, serves as an emergency gathering center that collects information for emergency purposes. Currently, it is used in 30 states.

In order to be part of the Smart 911 database, you can create a profile on the Smart 911 website at Once you create a profile, that information is in the database and if you dial 911, the operator has access to all of the information that you wanted to be available to emergency personnel.

The profile form asks basic questions such as your name, email address, and requires you to create a password. The form also asks about your medical history as well as an assortment of other important questions. In addition, you can also include photos with your profile.

One thing that you should put in your profile is if you are disabled and what disabilities you have. This information is helpful to emergency personnel because if a person is blind, they will know to use verbal cues before they even arrive to your home. In addition, a person with a disability should also have on record if they have a service animal as well.

Other information that you can place in your profile for 911 personnel includes the layout of your home–which can be as specific as how to turn the gas or electricity on and off, or as general as the location of bedrooms. This information would be especially helpful if there was a fire and finding a person quickly would save their life.

They recommend that you update your profile every 6 months to ensure that the information is correct and current.

According to Paige Connelly, the Public Information Officer for a county in Tennessee, she said that the Smart 911 system has enhanced the information that the 911 system already has. With this information, the emergency workers need to send only the equipment the person who is having the emergency needs. This saves time and lets the emergency workers focus on the issue. After all, seconds count when a life is on the line.

To see if your state is being served by Smart 911, you can enter your zip code on their website by visiting

Smart 911 is a great service because if you call 911 and are unable to speak or forget some vital information, they already have your profile and all the pertinent information to send the appropriate emergency personnel who can get to you quicker and with the proper equipment. By streamlining this process, Smart 911 will definitely save lives.

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Navigating Your Environment Using Sight Compass

There are not many things that are more embarrassing to me than feeling lost in a public bathroom. None of them are set up the same, and even with a guide dog or cane, it can be difficult to find everything you need. Since GPS doesn’t work well indoors, there needs to be a better solution.

Well, a company called Sight Compass has found the solution by using Bluetooth technology. Their free app provides the blind with detailed descriptions of indoor and outdoor locations using a combination of a free iOS app and a special box that stores pertinent information.

At this year’s CSUN, the company revealed its technology by programming multiple boxes to give attendees instructions on the hotel layout, directions to bathrooms and elevators, and even instructions on where the dog relieving area and trash can were. To hear a demonstration of the app, listen to this blind bargains interview:

Right now the technology is very new and is not available in a lot of locations, but the company hopes that this will change over time. One aspect of this technology that could slow its progress is that the box that connects to the mobile app and offers information and directions costs $499. What this means, is that although it is available to private citizens, it will likely be purchased primarily by schools and government agencies until the costs come down.

Even though the cost is high, the benefits could be life changing for people. Orientation and Mobility instructors can use the boxes to help their clients orient to new environments much faster, visitors to government offices can feel empowered because they don’t have to ask for directions to different parts of the building, and because the technology can be used anywhere, even outdoor locations like hiking trails could become more usable to the blind.

The company currently has pilot projects at the Seattle Lighthouse and the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix. If you visit either of these locations, download the app and test it out. Also, if you know any Orientation and Mobility instructors, let them know that the company is looking for instructors to test out the technology in other areas.

To learn more about the company and their technology, visit their website at: