Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Using Universal Design to Create A Time Piece for Everyone

I have always been one of those people who needs to know what time it is. I had many watches throughout my childhood, and when I was no longer able to read a watch, I knew that a talking watch was not for me. I got my first braille watch in college, and when it died, I made sure to get another braille watch. Even though I love my braille watch, I can understand that it’s not the best option for everyone. Unfortunately, the braille watch used to be the only option if you wanted to check the time without everyone knowing. This is where the Bradley time piece comes in. This project, inspired by a Paralympian that lost his sight in Afghanistan, has resulted in a time piece that will appeal to both the sighted and non-sighted.

One of the inherent drawbacks to the braille watch is that it can be easy to move the hands. If you’re checking the time, you don’t want the hands to move because then it’s no longer accurate. This was just one of the challenges that the team at Eone Time Pieces had to solve. Their solution was to eliminate the hands all together. The Bradley has two ball bearings that move around the face of the watch. The inner ball bearing tells the minute, and the outer ball bearing tells the hour. It even has a built in fail safe so that if you move the ball bearing while checking the time or if you’re sleeve bumps it, you only have to shake your wrist to get it to go back to where it belongs.

In July of last year, the Eone Time Pieces team had a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of The Bradley. Their goal was to raise just $40,000, but the project was so popular that they ended up raising almost 600 thousand dollars. Far surpassing their need, the company has now started accepting pre-orders for the watch. If you choose to pre-order The Bradley, you can get it for $50 less then what it will normally cost.

I recently chatted with a friend who was one of the backers of the campaign and who just received his Bradley. He is very pleased so far with how easy it is to tell the time and how easy it was to set up. He was also impressed with the fact that there are braille instructions for how to use the Bradley included in his box.

To learn more about the Bradley and how to pre-order your own, visit the Eone Time Pieces website: http://www.eone-time.com

Letter from the Editor – Week of January 6, 2014

Hello Everyone,

The Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind was founded to help satisfy the need for reading material for the blind. Over the past 107 years, technology has changed so dramatically that the majority of periodicals are as accessible to the blind as our magazine.

In this information age, blind people have access to resources that would have astonished any of the magazine’s first readers, and this is recognized by the board of the Matilda Ziegler Publishing Company.

At this time the need for and the role of the Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind is less clear, and the board has decided to review the current state of the magazine. Until such time as a decision on the desired direction of the magazine has been made, publication will be suspended.

We thank you for your readership and will keep you informed.


Recipe of the Week – Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole

Submitted by Dave Hutchins

Yield: 8 Servings


4 cups cut-up cooked fresh turkey
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (12 ounces)
3 cups cooked wild rice
1-1/2 cups uncooked instant brown rice
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 cup chicken broth (Progresso from 32-ounces carton), heated
3 containers refrigerated reduced-fat Alfredo sauce (10 ounces each)
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons butter or margarine melted


Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 3-quart casserole with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix turkey, vegetables, cooked wild rice, uncooked brown rice, salt and thyme. Stir in heated broth and Alfredo sauce. Pour into casserole. In small bowl, mix bread crumbs, walnuts and butter; sprinkle over turkey mixture. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes or until hot.

Expert Tips:

To heat the chicken broth, measure it into a 2-cup microwavable measuring cup and microwave on High 2 minutes 30 seconds to 3 minutes or until almost boiling.

The Alfredo sauce provides a creamy, rich flavor to this casserole; the reduced-fat variety helps trim the fat. The brown rice adds extra fiber.

Reader’s Forum – Week of December 30, 2013

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

Terri wrote:

Two Ziegler contributions on which I would like to comment are Valerie Moreno’s piece from Monday, December 16, 2013, and Bob Branco’s Op Ed fromm Monday, December 23rd, 2013.

Having attended the Overbrook School for the Blind with Linda Hudson, I found Valerie’s piece a well written and moving tribute. Even had I not known Linda, the situations Val described and her descriptors for sharing them, would have made Linda jump out of those pages like a long lost friend.

As for Bob Branco’s Op Ed about the 6 year old boy in Colorado, I couldn’t agree with him more. When I think of “sexual harassment,” I think of bad behaviors like fondling or inappropriate touching but certainly not the affectionate gesture of kissing someone on the hand as an act of kindness.

When I was 7 in 1961, I met singer Neil Sedacka whom I absolutely adored! This renowned singer ended our meeting by kissing my hand. Should I have run to my parents and exclaimed that I had been sexually harassed? At that age, I wouldn’t even have known what that term meant, just as I’m sure that this innocent Colorado youngster still has no idea what sexual harassment truly is.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the little girl did anything wrong either if, in fact, she told the teacher or however the teacher found out. What I am saying instead is how much more important it is to address truly bad behavior rather than transforming an act of innocent affection into something it was never intended to be.


Zerline wrote in response to Lucia in last week’s Reader’s Forum:

For years Miss Lucia raised mucho bucks to support the particular school that Mr. Williams got his dog from. Now she is going to question how they train their dogs? How dare you bite the hand that you once believed in and relied on for your mobility.

If I was the director of training and you applied for services from my organization and I had read your article I would turn you down. All schools here on the East coast give their dogs ample training on subways and even Metro North. So to here that Miss Lucia is questioning the integrity of what the school is doing makes my blood boil.

Everyone that I have talked to about this situation says that it’s a tragedy, but anyone could have fallen when suddenly you don’t feel well or you lose your balance. I’m glad that Mr. Williams is going to be fine and hopefully some good will come of this, but to put down a school just because maybe the person didn’t feel well suddenly and lost his balance is going a bit too far in my book.

By the way, he’s going back to the same school to get a new dog soon. I’ll also be returning to this same school.


Albert wrote:

I am not sure where Lucia lives, or what school she intends to attend when getting a guide dog, but rest assured that all the schools on the east coast in fact train their dogs for subway travel to the best of my knowledge.

Cecil got Orlando from Guiding Eyes in New York State.

Lucia stated “Nobody focuses on the quality of the training of the dogs at the schools that train dogs to work as guides. Evidently, the dog had never received subway training. ” Lucia how can you even attempt to make such a generalized statement like this without knowing just what Guiding Eyes, the Guide Dog Foundation, Seeing Eye or Fidelco does with regard to platform training, either double sided or not?

Lucia also stated, “I have one question! Why ever was Mr. Williams that close to the edge of the platform? Why was his dog so close to the edge of the platform?”

The answer should be clear as day to anyone who is familiar with how guide dogs are in fact trained on any and all train or subway platforms. First the platform edge is the line of least resistance for a guide to travel with their handler, and is in fact the correct place for a guide and his handler to travel. Imagine trying to weave in and out of the crowd on a very busy double sided platform? It would be disastrous.

I would love to hear back from Lucia about the school she chooses, that does not train its dogs in the very same fashion as those I mentioned above, so I can avoid them like the plague.

Any school that teaches a different protocol for navigating subway platforms would have to work very hard to convince me the way that I and Cecil, and nearly every other handler working the subway system in NYC, navigate train or subway platforms.

I caution everyone from making such general statements, because not every school is as bad as was intimated in her post.

Perhaps Lucia can do more research about this very critical consideration, and get back to us with regard to which schools agree with her seemingly misinformed position on protocols for traveling in subways and or train platforms.


Ann wrote:

I would like to respond to Lucia’s comments regarding the training of dog guides on subway platforms in the December 23 edition. I think Lucia is misinformed about how dogs are trained and how the schools handle the team’s training. We were tested and re-tested during our training. Even before this, in the home interview, the field representative evaluates your home environment and the types of transportation you commonly take so they understand your traveling needs and match you with the best dog for you. I, too, suffer from dizziness due to night blindness and my dog helps me stay safe when I feel disoriented. When on a train platform, I trust my dog to stay back from the warning strips as she was taught. If we are too close, she pulls me away and only proceeds to the train when she knows it’s safe, otherwise, she will refuse my command. I think Lucia may not understand that a dog guide will do their best to keep you safe but that there will always be situations, like in Mr. William’s case, where even the dog’s best efforts weren’t going to help.

I truly wish that if Lucia would have checked with other dog guide users before she made her comments because they are simply not true. I would be happy to speak with her regarding Guiding Eyes and the training program to provide accurate information regarding our dogs and how they are trained to travel in urban surroundings. My email address is:[email protected]

I am the graduate council president and can say that Cecil and Orlando are doing well and recovering from their ordeal. The staff from Guiding Eyes has been helping Cecil with managing his needs and those of his dog, Orlando. Guiding Eyes is like a big family and I think they are doing a wonderful job supporting Cecil in this time of crisis, I think that both Cecil and Orlando are heroes and I am proud of the fact that they were matched and trained at Guiding Eyes for the Blind.


James wrote:

I feel compelled to respond to Robert’s Reader’s forum piece that he wrote in the December 23 issue. I can only hope that what I wrote about my friend helped at least one person; if this is the case, they my mission has been fulfilled. For the record, I suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD as a result of my dysfunctional family. I am on medication, and function well most of the time. My view of mental illness is the same as blindness, it should not keep us from doing our part to make our society a better place to live in. In fact, my view is, and always has been that those of us who live with these conditions every day as I do fare far better if we participate in our society to the greatest extent that we can. I do not let my blindness, or depression, keep me from speaking out on those issues that matter. In fact, this is one way of coping. If I hear a story on the news that bothers me for some reason, someone will hear of it, either in my poetry or in a piece such as this. Not everything that I write is about blindness, and there is good reason for that. We are not islands, living in a society unto itself. With the world as it is, it cannot wait for our contributions to it. In my view, this requires that we look beyond our disabilities and become part of the larger game plan. That applies to mental illness as well.


Michael wrote:

A while back, someone said that the iPhone is not blind friendly. I just got the iPhone, and it has totally changed my life. It is very blind friendly.


George wrote:

I would like to respond to John Christie’s article “The History of Christmas.” First of all, the history of Christmas can be found in the Bible in Luke 1 and Luke 2. John mentioned the birth of Jesus of Nazareth after Santa Claus… this is totally inaccurate. All of these other events happen because of the birth of Christ or the very first Christmas. We have our calendar and are in 2013 AD because of the birth of Christ. The Greek Empire was BC (Before Christ). We have the sharing of gifts and the enormous spending of
money worldwide because of Christ’s birth, not Santa Claus! 25% to 40% of businesses depend on Christmas sales because of Christ’s birth. Without Christ there would be no Santa, etc. Finally Christmas is a time when families travel great distances and spend much money to be with their families on this special day. Again this is because of a small Mom and Dad who went to Bethlehem and while there Mary delivered a baby named Jesus Christ who would forever change the world. Although it is late and perhaps not politically correct since the world prefers Santa over Jesus… I trust all the Ziegler
readers had a very Merry Christmas in 2013.


Juliette wrote:

I love Jane Kronheim’s writing and particularly enjoyed her article on her early piano encounter. I have some thoughts on her literacy article, namely, by just listening, we don’t learn spelling, paragraphing or other essential writing skills. And perhaps, I’m somewhat of a snob, but I tend to judge people poorly who don’t spell or use correct grammar.
And, somewhat related, in listening to those wonderful digital talking books that I love, how much of what I think of the novel I’m reading is influenced by the person narrating that book? Would I have thought differently had I read the same in braille and it wasn’t acted out so superbly by the narrator? Finally, I enjoy Roger Cicchese’s articles so much! His last “Fools Rush In,” I thought was a very clever piece of fiction he created but, maybe not! I also loved his Christmas bells story but wondered how he read the braille music and rang the bells at the same time!

A happy and healthy New Year to everyone participating in this great magazine!

Very sincerely and with much gratitude,



Sandra wrote:

I want to respond to the message regarding Mr. Williams falling off the train platform. I read a lot of the interviews as well as listened to many of them on the news. It seems that he did faint. I sincerely hope he is feeling well soon. I do agree, it is strange that the dog had him so close to the edge of the platform but, witnesses did state that it looked like the dog was trying to pull him away from the edge but Mr. Williams was already too weak and disoriented to follow the dogs guidance. That dog had definitely been trained for subway travel as it was, I believe from Guiding Eyes. A guide dog of eleven years had probably been working those train platforms for approximately nine years. We also have to wonder if that particular train platform had the tactile warning strips along the platform edge so a blind person would have a definite clue they had gotten too close to the edge. We also have to consider that if the platforms are crowded it is difficult for the dog to always get through the crowds. If Mr. Williams intends on entering any train stations with his current dog, I do hope he requests an evaluation from his guide dog school first just to ensure his safety. I also hope that Mr. Williams can overcome any residual fear and anxiety he may have after such a traumatic experience. Nobody who saw it happen can actually say for sure how the dog went over the edge as well. I can only assume that when Mr. Williams went over he was still holding the harness handle so the dog fell with him. I commend the train conductor for being able to slow and stop the train so quickly. All I can say is that it is a miracle that both Mr. Williams and the dog survived. I wish him a quick recovery so he will be able to be physically up to training with his new dog when the time comes. I am also very pleased that he can now afford to keep his retired dog with him. All of us guide dog handlers face that decision when our dogs retire. Many times it is the large vet bills for an older dog that make it impossible for us to keep our retired dogs. Mr. Williams, as well as his current and future dogs will remain in my thoughts and prayers. Let us all thank God that their lives were spared. What a Christmas miracle.


Bill wrote:

I want to comment on the piece by Bob Branco on affection. It is a sad state of affairs where we have come to regarding showing affection. Granted there are sexual predators out there but to get punished when a little boy kisses a girl’s hand is ridiculous. I believe that the consequence of not showing affection with each other is that people have become disconnected and distant with each other. I think it is the reason why people don’t care about each other either.


Anthony wrote:

In reference to Roger Cicchese, Fools Rush In. I had a similar experience. I was late and I was rushing. I could only see blurry colors at the time. I got to the corner seeing the light go green. But I stopped, seeing something to my right. I turned to look and saw next to me what looked to be a whitish-blue figure of a man. At this point all hell broke loose. Horns were blaring, tires were squealing, rubber was smelling and metal crunching. I turned back to see what happened. I then looked back and he was gone. I had the impression it was my best friend Ron who had passed years earlier. I believe in Guardian Angels how about you?

Contributor James R. Campbell – A Change of Heart

There is no doubt whatsoever that the advance of technology has greatly improved the lives of the blind and disabled. I am not suggesting that the lives of the sighted have not been improved, but the advance of our technology has opened doors for the blind that we never could have dreamed of even fifteen years ago.

My best friends have tried to tell me for years that a computer would be of the greatest benefit to me in so many ways. Those who had them constantly talked about the things that their computers allowed them to do, and made the point almost incessantly that a computer would greatly expand my horizons. I, however, was frightened of a computer. The possibility of viruses, crashes, spam, scammers, and unwanted e-mail scared me off. Be that as it was, my best friends were still insistent that a computer would be a blessing in my life.

My first brush with high tech came in the form of a Braille and Print 2.0 that I bought used from a woman who lived in Midland in 1996. As primitive as this was by today’s standards, it served its purpose after Mom died of cancer in 1999. It was used extensively for journaling after her death, and was a standby during some of the most difficult times. It was only after my longtime family friend Evelynn Hopkins talked me into a laptop that I finally gave in. Since I have had my laptop, my world has been expanded greatly. I have been able to accomplish goals that I only dreamed of, and Evelynn gets the credit.

The one hang up was e-mail. I was still scared of it; besides, I am of the old school that firmly believes that letter writing is a lost art. If I had something to say, I felt that it was worth it to print the letters on a printer and used the postal service. My friends, again, tried their best to convince me otherwise.

It was the events of the weekend of August 10, and November 13 of this year that changed my mind. My good friend Kathryn who lives in Midland was having difficulty. She had been thrown into whiplash in a wreck in May, and was having trouble getting around. The August poetry society meeting was called off in August. The weekend of the 10th, I tried to call her; later, I found out that she was in bed because she could hardly move. On the 13th ff November, she told me that she was sleep deprived from the stress she was under. I handled things much better this time.

The thanks for this goes to the line owner of Daily Connection. I have been a good friend of his since 2011. On the fifth of October, he sat down with me, and by way of the phone, he ran me through the process of sending e-mails. This knowledge came just in time. When Kathryn became sleep deprived, e-mails allowed me to keep in touch with her. It was only due to the event of August 10th involving Kathryn’s illness that I was even willing to consider e-mail at all. The skill asset I learned from T.J. on Daily Connection has allowed me to use e-mail to relay information picked up from research on the web and TV shows to her. She was recently diagnosed with polymyalgia, a condition that affects the muscles and blood vessels. The common treatment is steroids and NSAIDS. I am still looking for more gentle, natural modes of treatment that might help Kathryn in her situation.

I e-mailed T.J. and thanked him for the skill set he taught me. I am ever so grateful. Without e-mail, Kathryn and I would have been out of contact, and it would have been more difficult. I am glad that I know how to use it, it has been everything my friends promised, and many of my misconceptions about it have been erased. No one is more happy than I, given Kathryn’s current state.

Feature Writer Terri Winaught – Have You Heard of Mutt Muffs?

During the early 1980s, I traveled with guide dogs Becky and Haley. Becky, my first guide, was a Golden Retriever, and Haley, which I trained with several months after having my daughter, was a Black Lab.

Though I never attended any concerts with Haley, I did with Becky and that never posed any problems for me. I know, though, from sharing stories with friends that concert going can be problematic, depending on the music’s decibel level. Enter “Mutt Muffs,” an item which I had never heard of until a close friend shared an article published in the Republican Herald on December 25, 2013. As described in that article, written by the paper’s staff intern Gabriella O’Grady, Mutt Muffs were developed in 2005 by Michelle McGuire, who founded and owns a business she calls Safe and Sound Pets. The purpose of Mutt Muffs is to make doing things like attending concerts easier on Guide Dogs by blocking out some of the sound. (It is crucial to note that sound is not blocked entirely, which means that guides can still hear their owners’ commands.)

Lenny McHugh, a 67 year old Pottsville, PA native who is blind and was interviewed for the Republican Herald article, said that before he bought Mutt Muffs, he would either attend concerts without Toga, his current 7 year old guide, or wouldn’t go at all. Mutt Muffs, which are sized to each dog’s head and cost between $50 and $60, fit much like headphones.

For more information about this product, visit www.lennymchugh.com, republicanherald.com, and safeandsoundpets.com.

Tell us in Reader’s Forum if this is an item you would buy for your guide dog.

Feature Writer Roger Cicchese – Learning to Laugh

Everyone appreciates a good joke now and then. A humorous true story from the book of life is even better. As a kid, and as a high school student and even as a college freshman, I took myself and life way too seriously.

I found the adjustment to college life a mixed blessing. Academics, for which I was not adequately prepared, required considerable adaptation. The social climate was also difficult. Being the only on-campus totally blind student in the midst of over 2,000 sighted students at a college going co-ed, was quite a shock for everybody.

I found myself in the middle of many strange, awkward and often uncomfortable situations. Lacking a suitable sense of humor made things even more challenging for me at that time.

After my first semester ended, I wondered, seriously, if college was the right place for me. Not so much because of the difficult course work, I thought I could manage that, but rather because the other students seemed to have something I was missing. I just didn’t quite know what it was.

Finally, I visited the student support services center. There I was introduced to an amazing mentor. She talked with me and tested me on intelligence, aptitude, personality and much more. I’ll not bore you with those details. It’s what happened next that matters.

Mrs. Mason sat me down once all of the testing was complete. She told me: “Roger we will work together during the next several weeks to help you find what is missing.” I sat silently, attentively listening, perhaps a little red-faced.

I inquired: “What’s missing?” She gently said, “I never see you smile and I have never heard you laugh. Now if you plan to be a professional poker player this may stand you in good stead, but in your relations with most folks this won’t work very well, especially if you plan on working as a counselor.”

This made me feel very uncomfortable. What to do? She said: “I feel that you probably take yourself much too seriously and carry too much of the world on your shoulders.” “Each week, from now on, I’d like you to keep a detailed journal. Sharing the contents of your journal with me will help us work together. In your journal consider including the following information: Each day you will seek out 3 funny situations. Start with comedy albums, television programs or radio shows. Find them, seek them out. Eventually we will graduate you into integrating what you are learning about the funny side of yourself and humor. You will discover how to seek out funny aspects of conversations and look for ways to integrate jokes and genuinely funny stories into conversations with other people.”

I was dumbfounded. She, a woman, was going to teach me to smile and laugh. Right!!! After I recovered my embarrassment and wits, I wondered if maybe she had a point. Well, I’d give this comedy thing a try. It seemed a bit contrived, but… what the heck.

How does one seek out funny stuff? I began by visiting my favorite record store in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ironically, the store was called “Cheap Thrills.” Instead of sorting through protest music and rock albums, on vinyl records in those days, I sought out comedians.

Back at school, wearing headphones so no one would know what I was doing, I began my adventure. Names like Fire Sign Theater, The Credibility Gap, Second City, and Congress Of
Wonders lead the charge. While I was at it I got Newhart, W. C. Fields, Abbott and Costello, Mort Sol, Lenny Bruce and of course Spike Jones and his City Slickers and Jonathon Winters to name a few. It wasn’t long before I started looking forward to my weekly sessions with Mrs.
Mason. Something funny was beginning to happen. I was falling in love, no, not with Mrs. Mason, but with comedy and the feeling I got from laughter. To me, even though the academics continued to be a real grind and most everything else seemed outwardly the same, I was starting to feel different.

I brought a small television to school and each evening around 11:30 I’d sneak away to my dorm room and plug in my headphones and secretly listen to the Johnny Carson monologues. My mom and sister had always possessed wonderful senses of humor, but I always accused them of being silly and wasting time on crazy superficial stupid laugh tracks.

They began to notice a change in me. It was barely visible, at first. But sometimes, at the dining room table when the 3 of us were sitting around talking and my mom or sister would say something silly, instead of my shaking my head in disgust, they occasionally caught me with a little grin on my face. This was very new territory for all of us. This is not to say I never laughed, but those times were few and far between.

Mrs. Mason and I kept at it to the point where we began to role play the kind of situations that might happen on campus with myself and other students which could involve humor. Lots of the guys used extreme profanity and I couldn’t exactly role play that with Mrs. Mason, but we got pretty real. By the time that second semester ended I had a foot hold on a brand new aspect of my life. The nickname my mom and sister used to call me began to be heard less often. They called me “Mysterious Wysteria.” I kept so much to myself and so much inside, hardly laughing, barely smiling. By that summer I wasn’t winning any comedy contests around the house, but I was beginning to become liberated as they say.

Upon returning in the fall for my sophomore year, everything seemed different. I still had many serious times, but I was finding humor in diverse places. It might surprise you to learn that life has taught me a most valuable lesson, how to laugh at myself.

When I was 54 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. The oncologist informed me that if treatment was not started promptly, and with vigor, I’d probably be shuffling off this mortal coil within a couple of years. Well I’d heard about Norman Cousins remarkable recovery from a terrible, apparently incurable, illness by using humor combined with other treatments. I figured, why not, what did I have to lose except my life?

The treatments would take 7 months. I spent about 10 hours per day doing little else during those long months but getting my treatments and inhaling and digesting lots of comedy recordings. Real food didn’t have much appeal.

When I was driven to the treatment center I told funny stories to the patients and doctors and technicians. I usually left the place in somewhat of an uproar with at least a handful of the folks laughing. Their laughter made us all feel better somehow. It’s eight years later. I’m still alive and laughing more than ever.

I’ve often wondered of the whereabouts of Mrs. Mason. I’d sure like to tell her how, because of our work together back in 1970, laughter plays a central role in nearly everything I undertake. Even the hardest times, for the most part, are made easier with a chuckle or two. Once in a while there’s a real belly laugh. I like those best of all.

Feature Writer Lynne Tatum – Back to Bose

Some years ago QVC demonstrated, and I eagerly purchased, the Bose Sound Wave Music System. Would you believe I gave it away about two years ago? Why? Though it had a CD player with attractive features and a handy remote control, I felt there was something missing in terms of sound quality. The player provided great bass and highs, but it lacked the warm mid-range sound that I craved. When I admitted I’d given it away folks thought me slightly mad, but I was pleased to have it go to a home where I knew it would be appreciated. This year, however, I was once again bitten by the Bose bug. Here’s how it happened.

One evening, as we were readying ourselves for our Jam59 rehearsal, a band member arrived and casually mentioned that she was carrying her Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker. Immediately intrigued, I had to hear it to ascertain whether or not the sound quality had improved. She then pulled from her knapsack a relatively large speaker, perched it on a chair and turned it on. I sheepishly sidled over, sat down and became transfixed. The sound was remarkably crisp and clear yet warm. To my ear, Bose had come a long way from the Sound Wave. I didn’t think I’d be schlepping it around in my backpack, though. It’s a bit bulky and my back would mightily revolt.

There was no doubt I’d have one at some point. It would be the impetus I needed to replace the wired speakers that dotted our apartment. So you can imagine my undiluted joy as I opened the box on Christmas Eve. Excited beyond thought, I opened the Google search page, typed the name of the speakers plus the word “demo” and opened the first link. We soon learned that we’d unnecessarily pried off the cover (which doubles as a stand). The next crucial piece of information was the location of the controls. Containing only six buttons, here they are from left to right: Power, Auxiliary (you can plug in an mp3 cable), Bluetooth, Mute, Volume Up and Volume Down. Plug in the power cable, allow it to charge for approximately an hour or so and you’ll be ready to either pair it with your favorite Bluetooth-enabled device or plug in your trusty DAISY/MP3 player. I’ve happily paired it to my iPad Mini and it sounds fantastic!

For those wishing to pair it to their iPhones, you might be disappointed to know that it does not have speakerphone capability. I also wish they’d provided a remote control but I’m certain they presumed you’d use the controls on your device/player. That aside, I predict hours of pleasurable listening activities for years to come.

Feature Writer Karen Crowder – A New Year’s Gathering When the Unexpected Happens

As one year glides towards another, we expect New Year’s Day will run smoothly, but this is not always the case.

New Year’s Eve of 1990 was festive. I was a new bride, living in what would become our home for almost twelve years. It was on Marden Street, in Fitchburg, surrounded with woods and trees, secluded from downtown noise and traffic. Almost every year we would have New Year’s Eve parties. New Year’s Eve 1990 was my first time hosting a party with my new husband Marshall.

In late November after Thanksgiving, we began discussing and preparing for this event. It would be the height of every holiday season while living at Marden Street. Even before Christmas, we knew who was coming. I made a delicious and decadent chocolate mousse. As New Year’s Eve approached, my excitement about hosting this party overshadowed my shortcomings in cooking and kitchen skills.

Monday, December 31, ushered in a cold New Year’s Eve. At eight PM five guests were ensconced in comfortable chairs and a couch in our cozy, warm, carpeted living room. The new CD player was softly playing, and the new Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments and had gifts waiting to be opened below.

Two blind couples from the Boston area and our friend visiting her home in Lunenburg were conversing and catching up on each other’s lives. With assistance, I served everyone crackers and chips with delicious store bought dips. While enjoying drinks, especially the citrus sparklers, we finally opened gifts. Everyone was pleased about the thoughtful gifts of fragrance from Bermuda and house wares bought from a new store. Everyone again congratulated us about our new marriage and our lovely home.

Before midnight, we took orders for pizzas, which were delivered from a pizza house in Leominster. Two surprise guests came to celebrate the beginning of 1991. Soon after they left, we retired. Our plan for New Year’s Day was to relax and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.

However, while enjoying breakfast, the motor to our heating and cooling vents died. Marshall and I could not believe this had happened for the second time in a week. We called our local heating company, praying they would be open on New Year’s Day. After patiently explaining our situation of having eight disabled guests at our home, we hoped someone would come out on this on this bitterly cold January day. A sympathetic repairperson was at Marden Street in half an hour. He took one look at our furnace and was able to diagnose the problem. The motor running the vents was a rebuilt one. He promptly installed a new motor. We were grateful the company was open on New Year’s Day. It was wonderful to have heat again on this brisk, cold January afternoon.

My husband had digestive problems and was in no mood to go to one of our favorite local restaurants. He encouraged us to go out, but I said, “honey, we are staying right here with you.”

Despite this small change in plans, we had a wonderful and memorable day. We ordered fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and coleslaw from Popeye’s, a chain which then had a takeout restaurant in Leominster. With Marshall’s instructions, I began operating the CD player. We all listened to classical movie scores, Bob Dylan and the Beatles.

That evening, we also listened to a Steven King movie, “It,” which Marshall had recorded from TV. We ended this day by having chocolate mousse and coffee. Everyone loved the rich textured chocolate mousse and wished the day did not have to end.

The next day, after a large breakfast, our guests reluctantly left our cozy home to go back to their apartments in the Boston area.

Over the next 11 years, I would become an accomplished cook and hostess. We would have many summer, birthday and holiday gatherings at our home. It is a good thing we do not know the future. Of all the guests at the 1990 New Year’s Eve party only three of us are still alive.

I hope all Ziegler writers and readers have a joyous, healthy and successful 2014.

Feature Writer Jane Kronheim – The Cat Who Liked Sargento Cheese and Crab Rangoon

This time of year when people are rushing around, crowding each other at the various department stores in search of that desired object or masses of “stuff”, I think fondly of one particular gift that I had the good fortune to embrace almost 20 years ago. This happened when a friend had to vacate her apartment, find various homes for all of her “critters” and then move on to some unknown location.

I was visiting her when all of her “stuff” was strewn around the apartment, when I noticed this mischievous black cat, “Twinkle Toes”, standing on top of the box spring of her bed which had been leaning against a hallway wall. I took one look at this feline character who was flirting with me as he rubbed his nose against the padding, and I suddenly heard myself saying: “I’ll take him!!” I had never had a cat before and while I was growing up we only had dogs: one beloved Irish Setter named Maeve and another smaller pooch named Heidi, a schnauzer. We never had cats.

I don’t know why. Most people will tell you that a house is not a home until there is a cat present somewhere in the environment. I can tell you now, after nearly 18 years with the “Twinks,” it is true. This little guy, who had been abandoned somewhere on Beacon Hill in Boston, was discovered by my friend’s daughter who heard the wee kitty meowing in an alley way. She gathered him up and brought him north to New Hampshire where my friend took him in, along with her loving kitty Mousy, a strange Iguana named Sweet Pea and two ferrets whose names I can’t recall anymore.

But “Twinkle Toes” stole my heart and for many years he was my constant companion. As an artist, I was entranced by this little black kitty who became the muse for many of my paintings and drawings. I even penned a children’s story about the cat who loved to wander in the woods with me as I collected branches for my woodstove. I took numerous photos of the “Twinks” and came up with so many different names for him that I often wondered if my friends thought me mad. He became the Twinkmeister, the poopacatta, Mr.Pussywillows, kitty literature and jaws and claws or prickly paws. The list went on and on.

Along with the unusual nicknames, my special kitty had some favorite foods. They included Sargento Swiss cheese, crab Rangoon, and Kate’s Real Butter. After I would butter the toast in the morning, I let “Twinkie” enjoy a breakfast meal by allowing him to gently lick my “butter fingers.” I think you can just imagine how sweet that was. Over time, a wonderful man returned to my life and Twinkle Toes became a “jelly cat” or very jealous of this gentleman’s presence.
When Twinks and I were on the sofa and this boyfriend would approach, Mr. Twinks would make a scoffing sound or a low grunt at this man’s presence. I had never heard this before so I was shocked at how possessive this cat had become.

Later on my friend and I would laugh with glee remembering those moments as the kitty would come to my rescue on the sofa, curling around on my upper torso in total possessive stance. Eventually Twinkle Toes made friends with my boyfriend and learned to accept him as his own.
Of course it would never be the same, but this gorgeous black cat remained with us till the bitter end when one night Twinkie could no longer breath and met his demise on the basement stairs.

Heartsick I ran to his aid, only to realize that my 19 year old kitty was gone. In tears and sadness I was able to get the kitty to the proper animal hospital where they prepared a special cremation for my Twinkle Toes.

Within a week, I had received a letter from this place, featuring a card with a little purple ribbon, a small poem and the kitty’s paw print emblazoned on the card. I was a total wreck, emerging from the post office, unable to stop the tears from streaming down my face.

This special kitty was indeed a long standing gift I gave to myself, allowing him to come into my small quiet rural world, up on a hill in New Hampshire. Who says that small animals have no meaning or place in our lives? They are the best gift that can possibly exist for all of us.