Thursday, May 21, 2009

OOOH, Look What I Found!

I just love playing with the background and colors on my blog. Today I discovered The Background Fairy. She has free blog backgrounds made with vintage prints. If you like wandering around antique shops, or reading period romances, you will love these backgrounds. She has another blog featuring free graphics, like the one below.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My (Latest) Little Miracle

About four years ago I bought an Alphasmart Dana. It was wonderful! It had the portability of a laptop, but the feel of a traditional keyboard. The battery life was phenomenal and it was so easy to use.

Then a year ago last January, we went on a family trip. We were traveling through a snowstorm, and the car heater was cranked up as high as it would go. My Dana was in a canvas bag at my feet, right near the heater vent. I didn't think anything of it until the next time I pulled it out and couldn't turn it on. I wondered if I had fried something. I used the emergency reset button hidden on the bottom. Nothing. I tried recharging the rechargeable battery. Nothing. I bought brand-new, fresh batteries and put them in. Nothing.

Heartbroken, I placed my Dana on a shelf in the office until I decided what to do with it. I couldn't bear to just throw it away, but the warranty had expired and I didn't know if I could get it repaired. Once in a while I would look at it and wonder if I should send it back to the company to see if they could repair it, or if I should just buy a new one. I followed a few Ebay auctions, but it just wasn't in the budget. I wrote on the family computer when it was available, or wrote with paper and pen when the computer was being used by someone else.

Finally, I was talking to Darvell, a member of my online writing group, who is a techno wizard. He had bought several nonfunctioning Alphasmarts, took them apart, put several back together with the working parts and sold them. I considered sending my Dana to him to see if he could find out what was wrong. With any luck he would be able to get it running again.

Then this afternoon I had a spurt of do-it-myself. You know, the kind when you get so sick of your hair you decide to trim it yourself. (Usually a bad idea, by the way.) I found a tiny little Phillips head screwdriver and commenced taking the Dana apart myself to see if there was something totally obvious that I might be able to fix. AND THERE WAS! The first part I took off was the cover of the battery compartment. I took out the three AA batteries that were still there from my desperate resuscitation attempts more than a year ago. Then I looked a little closer and realized I HAD PUT THEM IN FACING THE WRONG DIRECTION! I put them back in facing the right direction, flipped the Dana over, and pushed the button. It worked!

I felt a bit sheepish.

So now I can once again take my Dana everywhere with me and happily write away. I've been praying that I would be able to do more writing. I consider it a little miracle that I never got rid of my "nonfunctioning" Dana, and I had the urge to take it apart myself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! Playing Favorites.

I was blessed to have a mother who was willing to have a large family and didn't play favorites. (My father didn't either, but this is about Mom today.) There were nine children in our family, one boy and eight girls. After the first bunch of four, there was a gap of about 5 years. Then along came another girl, and after that another 5 year gap. Then came the last four of us. She could have easily decided that four children was plenty, or five, or even six. That's quite a respectable size for a family, and wasn't that young anymore. But God sent more children, me (lucky number 7), and my two younger sisters. Believe me, we are very thankful Mom gave birth to nine children!

As far as the favorite child thing, all of know she has a favorite son. He's the only one, poor guy. To tell the truth, she has a favorite daughter-in-law, too. The rest of us know that Mom does not have a favorite daughter. At least, if she did have a favorite she would never tell anyone. But somehow, each of are certain that deep down inside, WE are secretly her favorite. One of my sisters will always call and say, "This is your favorite daughter." Mom will then jokingly call her by someone else's name (different every time). I think all of her son-in-laws and grandchildren have the same impression. Mom would never, ever say she had a favorite. But she treats us all as if we are.

This led to a fun family tradition started by some of my nieces when they were in their 20s and living near each other for school and work. They would introduce each other to friends as, "My favorite cousin, Wendy," or "My fsvorite cousin, Heidi." The idea is that we treat everyone family member as if they are the favorite. Unfortunately, our family has grown so much that a couple of names have been used more than once, so we can't say, "This is my favorite ________" all the time. But we can still treat each other with equal love and respect in abundance.

And I can honestly say Mom is my favorite.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dinner In A Hurry - Taco Soup

One of my hobbies (defined as stuff I have to do anyway so I find a way make it interesting) is collecting ideas for dinners that I can put together quickly and that my family will enjoy eating. One of our favorites is Taco Soup. Here's how to make it.

1. Brown 1 pound of ground beef and drain off the fat.
2. Drain 1 can of black or red beans.
3. Drain 1 can of corn.
4. In a medium saucepan, combine beans, corn, 1 can of stewed or crushed tomatoes, and 1 can full of water.
5. Add 1 envelope of taco seasoning mix.
6. Add browned ground beef.
7. Garnish individual servings with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and Fritos.

A few hints: I buy large packages of ground beef when it's on sale, divide it into 1 pounds portions, which fit well in the pint size zippered freezer bags, and stack it in the freezer. Each one of these takes 5 minutes or so to thaw in the microwave. I also watch for shredded cheese to go on sale, and buy several packages, which I also stack in the freezer. This doesn't even need to be thawed. Just crumble up the shredded pieces and sprinkle on the soup.