Archive for March, 2012

Recipe of the Week – Baked Turkey Meatballs

Submitted by Volly Nelson

From The Comfort Food Cookbook by Robyn Webb

A tip from the author: You can serve these meatballs with whole grain pasta or brown rice and a side of sautéed broccoli or carrots.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour


1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup grated onions
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon parsley (finely chopped)
1/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Use olive oil to lightly oil an 8×8-inch square baking dish.

3. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all of the remaining ingredients, except for the Parmesan cheese.

4. To form the meatballs, pull a handful (about 1/2 cup) of the turkey mixture and toss back and forth in your hands to form a ball. The ball should form rather easily.

5. Once the meatballs are formed, place them in the baking dish.

6. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes.

7. Remove meatballs from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6; Serving Size = 2 meatballs

Nutrition Information
160 Calories, 5 g Carbohydrate, 17 g Protein, 8 g Total Fat, 2.0 g Saturated Fat, 0.1 g Trans Fat, 95 mg Cholesterol, 260 mg Sodium

Reader’s Forum for the Week of March 26, 2012

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

In response to Feature Writer Terri Winaught – A Little Known Advocate, Penny wrote:

When a freshman at Lake Forest College, I had lunch with a group of girls, and we began to introduce ourselves. One young lady’s surname was Bridgman. She was from the Northeast United States. I remarked, “Why, there is a very famous Bridgman,” and proceeded to tell her about Laura. The girl seemed so truly impressed as she said, “Yes, Laura was my great-great … aunt” (I do not now remember the exact relationship she cited, after some 40 years). She then added, “You are the first person to whom I have introduced myself who knew my famous ancestor.” I told her that Laura Bridgman was perhaps almost as well-known among blind people as is Helen Keller. Miss Bridgman still has living relatives, and I met one–an unusual coincidence, don’t you think?
In response to Contributor Nalida Lacet Besson – The Red Truck, Nancy wrote:

What a lovely and heartwarming story with lessons for us all at several levels: Brothers and sisters interact in predictable and often hilarious ways, regardless of developmental challenges, or natural differences in character and disposition. The importance of patience, personal sacrifice, perseverance, and unconditional love in an emotionally and spiritually healthy family are at work here. “Blindness” continues to serve as a bold metaphor for the interior blindness we all experience. Indeed, when it comes to “seeing things are they really are” and striving each day to live more authentically and with greater virtue, we are all challenged. Although the “little red truck” may now be obscured at the bottom of the red toy box, I very much doubt it is missed.

Any home with young children is invariably punctuated by scuffles and spats. But at the end of the day, are they snuggled (more or less) together on the couch? In the Besson home, I suspect the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Well done, Nalida.
In response to Contributor Nalida Lacet Besson – The Red Truck, Arielle wrote:

I enjoyed this story. I can understand how this happened. My mom enjoyed it too because I am blind and she is sighted and has had similar things happen in our home. I sometimes drop my cassette or remote control and the batteries fall out on the hardwood floors at home and roll under the bed. It is hard to tell where they are because mom says the batteries are the same color as the hardwood floors.

Contributor Nancy Scott – Prison, Prayer, or Proof

For the first time in my 31 writing years, I am in a one-day poetry class of local blind people. And, more importantly, I am invited to bring my writing tool of preference.

I am not young enough to have had computer training in school or through vocational rehab. I am not practiced enough to use a slate and stylus. And parroting speech from a digital recorder’s earphone doesn’t work for me.

My creative courage and equality is old, noisy, and a little bulky. My Perkins pen carves meaning from half-domino cells on thick stock to preserve points.

In other writing workshops, always with sighted people, I hide in blindness excuses. I smile, saying “I’ll just listen and write later.” I have never publicly written and read a first draft longer than a haiku, until this afternoon (I can’t remember more than 3 lines). This writing feels momentous and experimental.

I don’t mention to this class that I’m a published poet. I don’t mention that I cajoled another totally blind friend to bring her Braille Writer so I would not be the only one rattling and risking (Annette’s Brailler is a big help for my chicken-hearted soul).

I compose while the Partials pass print-pages of sample poems. I can pick a phrase, choose a feeling, or just describe the scenes. Like Natalie Goldberg says, “Just keep your hand [hands] moving.”

I fast-touch language. I cross it out and corral it. This must be how all those pen-using writers feel. If people stop using pens, only Braille users will be able to touch language.

I read my 12-line draft for the group. Though much of it isn’t good, the end asks:
“Will this be prison,
or prayer,
or proof?”

Sighted poets often say it’s best to have physical contact with words when writing first drafts. Braille is my preferred contact medium. I shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

But that quiet Braille note-taker with the display is out of my price range. Why isn’t there something like a Bluetooth Braille ‘n Speak? Or a Braille keyboard for Apple products that would at least help with composition, if not reading back? Or even something low-tech and easier to use than a slate?

I pack my Brailler for the trip home in a plastic bag and a sturdy carrier. I’m glad it’s not raining and I’m not taking a bus.

I want to write in Braille in classes with sighted people. I want something reliable and affordable for a quiet bench or beach or library. Until such an invention exists, Braille will not be truly accessible and useful. We need to decide if Braille will be prison or prayer or proof.

Op Ed with Bob Branco – Jaws and Typos Are Not the Best of Friends

Have you ever received emailed correspondence that was filled with typographical errors and misspellings, and wondered what in the world the letter was about because the speech software couldn’t pronounce some of it properly? It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit, and I feel that with today’s technology, as well as the protection offered by computers against these errors, that more of an effort would be made to correct mistakes. Every time I write a letter, I always read it over again before I send it out, just to make sure it’s readable and error free. Sometimes I never know the mistakes I make when I write, especially when I write quickly.

What’s even more interesting is that some of the correspondence I receive that isn’t proofread comes from professionals in the field of human services. It’s one thing to make a mistake, because we all do, but it’s another when people ignore the mistakes and send them out. As a blind person who depends on Jaws, I sometimes have to take things out of context that have typos because Jaws either mispronounces those words, or spells out groups of letters if there are no vowels to read. This makes the task of reading the material a bit tougher.

I don’t know how this appears to the average sighted reader. Maybe they have their own way of deciphering uncorrected text. I can too, but only to a point.

Most computers have spell check programs, and for those that don’t, there are other ways to edit mistakes. In the couple minutes it takes to proofread your letter, you may be saving someone a significant amount of time when they read it later on.

For what it’s worth, those of you who write to this magazine do a fine job on your correspondence, and we certainly understand everything you say. Keep up the good work.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – The Occasionally (Unseasonably) Warm Easter

Children and adults anticipate the excitement of this holiday and this time of year in general. Attending religious services and celebrating at meals with friends and family are all part of the fun. Children love Easter egg hunts and getting baskets filled with treats. Here in New England, people eagerly hope for warm temperatures after long winters (even though this year is a serious exception). I remember three Easters in particular that stand out when warm weather came to town earlier than anyone ever expected.

From April 16, through the 21st in 1976, we experienced heat as if it was mid-June. Friday afternoon, my mom and I made chocolate icebox brownies, a recipe grabbed from the Braille Monitor. Saturday morning I went to Quincy and met with friends for an afternoon of lunch and shopping. The square was really crowded and everyone was enjoying this summer-like day.

That Easter Sunday dawned very warm and I spent the day with my godparents. We all stood in awe in front of the thermometer as it rose to over 90 degrees. According to data at the Northeast Regional climate center, it was 94 degrees at Logan Airport that day. Our family relaxed that evening in the yard in East Weymouth as if it was a calm July night.

Years later, Easter weekend of 2006 fell in mid-April, and New Englanders were treated to warm temperatures in the seventies both Saturday and Sunday. Easter Eve we went to Easter Vigil services and all stood listening to readings in the dark church with lighted candles. On Sunday, in Gardner, we sat on the patio eating and laughing, enjoying being together on what was an unseasonably beautiful day. Though, the nice weather was short-lived, as a few weeks later we were in the midst of monsoon-like rains that May.

Just two years ago on Easter weekend of 2010, we were given yet another warm weekend. According to Google, temperatures were in the mid-to-upper seventies on Saturday, April 3, and Sunday April 4. My friend Marian and I attended Easter Vigil services at our church. That warm evening we held lighted candles and wore summer outfits as we walked in to the church. Easter Sunday, three of us, all widows, shared dinner. I made Never Fail Chocolate Cake from the Braille cookbook “What’s Happening in 39/99.” It was not up to my standards, as I had not made it in a long time, yet everyone liked it.

This year, it’s anyone guess what will happen. With winter as warm as it’s been, we’re likely to have yet another uncommonly temperate holiday. But then again, stranger things have happened. While I’ve spoken about a few lovely warm Easter days, there have been many others that were downright nasty. Some even went so far as to bring snow with them as well.

To contact the Northeast Regional climate center at Cornell in New York, phone 1-607-255-1751. Ask for Jessica–a very patient person who is willing to answer any question you have. You can also go to Google maps, under weather, and enter on the link “historical data.”

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Sighted People Say the Darndest Things

A recent incident occurred that underscored the fact that we who are blind and visually impaired continue to hear the most outrageous (and often humorous) comments. While the citizen in me bristles, the advocate would love to air a show called “Myth Busters: Things Blind People Really Can Do” or one entitled “Heard Around Town.” Additionally, I would employ hosts who are blind and visually impaired.

I am reminded of a student who was terminally late to class. Either she could not get her child off to school on time, her ride was late, or some other excuse. One unforgettable morning, she arrived, flustered as usual, planted herself in front of her chair and asked, with a huge smile on her face, “Who is Brad Pitt?” and “Who is Jennifer Anniston?” We all supplied that they were actors (who were dating at the time). Proudly, she announced that they had just helped her cross the street. I suppose anything is possible.

In a similar vein, Maria recounted the humorous conversation that occurred as she was making her way to the Lighthouse. A kind pedestrian offered to help her cross the street. As they walked, the man described himself as a young, handsome man, with a full head of hair. Having stolen a glance, through fits of laughter, she reported that he was an older gentleman who was going bald!

No math genius, I know my numbers and can recognize raised print in an elevator. So it was with my gracious smile that I thanked a helpful passenger who announced that he was getting off on the third floor and four would be next. Really? You think?

Recently we piled into our apartment elevator and a woman, whom I’ve never met, watched me as I searched for the button for our floor. As I found it, she proceeded to tell me that I had pressed the wrong one. When I assured her that indeed that was the correct floor, she mumbled, “Oh.” Why she would assume I didn’t know where I was going was a source of sheer annoyance.

Lastly, I’ll relate the recent outlandish comments of a RadioShack sales-representative, who, upon seeing us, became truly rattled as he proceeded to spew forth a pun related to blindness that was in very poor taste, which he thought was absolutely hilarious. He also offered that he does not turn on the light when he needs to use his bathroom at night. What? He doesn’t know where it is? In addition, he wants to pretend to be blind for a day. I strongly recommended that he not leave his apartment. The clincher came when he blurted out that he didn’t know blind people could use phones.

Any similar anecdotes to share? Let’s hear them in the Reader’s Forum.

Feature Writer Steve Famiglietti – A Personal Journey Through the iPhone 4S

As many of you know, last week, I bought the iPhone 4S for myself. Since that time, it has been an incredible journey through technology that I’d like to share with you.

Initially, I bought the Bluetooth keyboard to use with the phone because I was afraid to learn to use the phone’s on-screen keyboard. This keyboard is the size of a regular desktop computer’s keyboard, but it is missing the number pad. Therefore, it doesn’t lend itself to compact use and is sort of like not even using a small device at all.

The second day, I decided to tackle the phone’s built-in keyboard, which works quite well. When the phone’s screen reader, voice over, announces a letter to you, you then double tap the letter to make it appear on the screen. When the letter is announced to you after double tapping it, the voice used is slightly different, letting you know that the letter has appeared for you. After plunking my way around the keyboard for a while, I discovered that there is a little microphone, located to the left of the space bar. When I ran my finger across this key, voice over said, “dictate.” Wow, that meant, if I double tapped that key, the phone would record what I said to it. Very cool! After dictating a sentence, I double tapped the button again and my text appeared on the screen. This was a nice feature, because I didn’t have to use the keyboard for things like texting.

The other great feature of this phone is Siri. Siri is a voice-activated feature that allows you to tell the phone to perform a task for you. Siri can send texts, place calls, check the weather, look up restaurants, and more. You can say something like, “Text Steve,” and she will say, “Ok, I can send a text to Steve for you, what would you like it to say?” Then, you dictate the text, double tap and say “send.” It is that simple. The one thing that Siri can’t do at this point is add a contact to your contacts list.

So, with all of this, by using my voice and a few double taps, the phone is doing everything I want it to do, and I don’t have to use a different, specially-made device from what the sighted population is using.

Here is a brief list of tasks I’ve done while using Voice Over and Siri: Sending text messages, adding family and friends to my contacts list, calling family and friends, playing my music with iTunes, checking the weather, checking voice mail, configuring the phone to my liking, and downloading the Weather Bug App.

This week, I plan to download more Apps, like the LookTel Money Reader and the Zoom Reader. I am going to look up lists of Apps for low vision and blind users and see for myself how useable and accessible these Apps are for us. Stay tuned!

Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Benefits of Therapeutic Horseback Riding

I have spent the last few years of my life trying to combat chronic pain. What I’ve learned recently is that much of my pain is connected to my body’s misalignment. The misalignment is due to poor posture and holding my body in improper ways for much of my life.

This problem is very common in the blind community because we don’t have visual cues to help us with our posture. I recently came across an article that highlighted the benefits of therapeutic horseback riding, so I decided to do some research. What I discovered is that using horses for therapy can be beneficial for the blind at any stage in their lives.

According to a 2000 Future Reflections article from the NFB, “Beyond the freedom and self-confidence that is gained by riding, visually impaired children reap tremendous physical benefits, as well. Posture is often affected when a child is blind or has low vision. Some children tend to carry their head tilted upward, stretching their neck muscles, and throwing their shoulders back. Conversely, some children tilt their head downward causing their shoulders and chest to slump forward and cave in. These “blind postures” affect more than muscle and bone development. Posture translates into body language for the seeing world. A visually impaired child cannot pick up on the subtle cues of how others carry themselves. They must be taught how it feels to stand tall with square shoulders and head up and forward. An individual’s posture significantly impacts balance when horseback riding. Likewise, riding can significantly impact one’s posture, and therefore balance, in a very positive way.”

One of the exercises used is called weaving. This encourages the rider to keep themselves balanced while the horse is zinging back and forth. Riding a horse also helps the rider keep a proper gate which will lead to fewer body problems in the future. Along with the physical benefits, participants also improve their social skills and navigational skills.

There are organizations across the country that provide therapeutic horseback riding programs. To find a program in your area you can visit the PATH International website. There, you can learn more about therapeutic riding and how to get involved. To search for a center near you visit this link:

To read the full article from the NFB Future Reflections visit this link:

Although I have never had the opportunity to participate in one of these programs, I hope that I will someday. If you’ve had experience with therapeutic horseback riding, please share it in the reader’s forum.

Feature Writer Ann Chiappetta – Verona by the Sea

We navigate the way down a rocky path to the sand. The air is full of beach smells and the sounds of surf and gulls echo off the cliffs as we walk closer to the waterline. Following my sister’s action, I release Verona and she lopes off, her nose to the ground. My friend tells me what she is doing and how far she goes. I call her back a few times as we find a spot near the cliffs to sit and watch the dogs play. Music, my sister’s Golden Retriever, chases Verona into the water. As she turns back to chase him, a huge wave crashes down and for a moment she is engulfed. The wave spits her out onto the beach and she runs to me, weaves in-between my legs and soaks my pants. I look like incontinence has gotten the best of me. Verona seems to say, in her best doggie language, “Hey, mom, what happened?” From then on she doesn’t go near the waves and prefers a safer splash in the wet sand and tidal pools instead.

It’s important to me that Verona has the opportunity to be a dog; so much responsibility is put upon her when the harness is placed upon her back, it seems that this is the right way to let her know how much she has changed my life. As she digs her hole in the sand and flops down to dry off, my heart is content because she is doing just what she’s supposed to be doing–living a dog’s life.

Shortly after our beach adventure, we seek another destination. An hour after we leave San Jose, we reach San Francisco. The drive through mid-morning traffic isn’t as bad as we thought it would be and we soon find a parking garage near the wharf close by Pier 39. Verona’s snorting tells me she’s excited by the new smells and she’s ready to go. Her enthusiasm is contagious and soon we’re out of the garage, walking the sidewalk, and waiting to cross the street.

As we stroll along the promenade toward the Pier, Verona feels as if she’s doing a little dance and I feel her head turning left and right. A few times we weave a bit and I have to check her so she stops. It takes me a minute, but I finally understand what is making her dance around–pigeons. Hoards of them are walking underfoot, across our path, flying up practically under her nose. I’m surprised one hasn’t landed on her back. Myla laughs, saying, “She’s trying really hard to ignore them but they’re teasing her.” Thankfully the winged rats are less plentiful in the pier itself and we spend the time shopping.

Coming to San Francisco with Verona is one of the best parts of traveling with a guide dog. At no time did I feel unsafe, even on the steep wooden stairs leading to the stores on the second level of the Pier. Next year we’re going to Golden Gate Park and Alcatraz.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Our Neighborhood

We have lived in this Harlem neighborhood for over 20 years and have witnessed the ebb and flow regarding changing neighbors and establishments that have survived turbulent economies, as well as those that have folded.

In 1990, we considered ourselves fortunate indeed to have landed a two-bedroom apartment with a patio in Manhattan. Recommended by a friend, it gave credence to the saying that it’s not necessary what you know, but who you know! At the time, our next-door neighbors were two individuals sharing the space and they completely disturbed us with their loud music. It turned out one young man was offering hair salon services and thought that having music played at full blast added to his cool atmosphere. Inviting him in to hear the thumping base, he sheepishly agreed that it was a bit much. Our current neighbor, who has lived there for at least ten years, plays music at a blissfully reasonable level.

We have a corner store nearby known as a “bodega”–we haven’t yet googled the origin of that word. For years, we rarely set foot inside. Now we find it extremely convenient and have found some truly tasty treats. Though, their prices are relatively high, equal to those in wealthier areas. I assume we’ve helped pay for excellent college educations for the children of the proprietors.

Sadly, I cannot write about my neighborhood in New York City without mentioning the pervasive element of crime. When we first moved here, we were horrified to hear gunfire. It was something we hadn’t experienced in our quiet Central Park West neighborhood, but we’ve learned to endure it. For some years we enjoyed a blanket of calm, but, regrettably, shots have rang out on an all too regular basis. It is highly disturbing and the brazen criminals are unconcerned whether they commit their heinous acts under cover of darkness or in broad daylight. Only once, though, has a policeman shown up at our door during the night asking us if we had heard anything suspicious on our floor.

But that aside, let’s move on to one of my favorite topics–food! We used to purchase large quantities of fried chicken for our guests at a grocery chain known as Pathmark. It was well-cooked and very tasty. Our guests loved it. On a whim, we decided to try the chicken at our local take-out establishment. It was equally delicious and reasonably priced. We offered it to our guests and it was a hit! Would you believe our friend requested we bring some to a meeting in order for her family to have it for dinner that evening? I sincerely hope the owners are able to maintain the business for at least another ten years.

Violence aside, convenient food shops, services, and transportation keep us rooted to this diverse neighborhood.

What makes your neighborhood unique? What do you like about it and what do you wish was different?