Sunday, April 26, 2009

Love My New Kindle

So I have mentioned it in a few blog posts and been twittering about it almost non-stop since I got my new Kindle (a gift from hubby for my birthday). I've had some emails and Twitter messages about it... so I'm going to talk about it in more specifics... I have already figured out things to do with it beyond just reading books.

So I mentioned before that Kindle is an e-book reading device created and sold by Amazon. It has a large capacity and can hold over 1,500 books. I can read for up to 4 days on a single battery charge up to 2 weeks with the wireless turned off. At present Amazon says they have more than 270,000 books available for Kindle. But it isn't the fact that it's an e-book reader that made me want one, it was finding out the ease and convenience of how it WORKS that made the difference. Disclaimer: I have a Kindle 2, which works differently from original Kindle in many ways.

The Kindle screen is designed to be easy on the eyes, it uses a new technology called Electronic Paper Display so you don't get eye strain the way you do with a computer monitor. The screen is not back lit so it can be read outside in daylight. This was a HUGE plus, I spend a lot of time outside watching children play. I can read the Kindle screen just as easily outside in sunlight as I can indoors.
No scrolling, when you finish the current page you don't scroll down, Kindle has next page and previous page buttons located where your hand rests as you hold it, you don't have to move your hands to turn the page. I have found I can operate it in just one hand.
Forget your reading glasses at the office? Kindle lets you switch back and forth from 6 different font sizes if you want you can turn any book into a large print edition. (more on saving the eyes in the section about EXPERIMENTAL FEATURES.)

I travel to California to visit my Dad every summer, that is when I do the bulk of my reading... I usually stay too long to be able to bring library books and with tighter limitations on how much luggage I can bring, reading materials take up valuable packing space, even if I don't take any books, I come home with an armload of them. So the Amazon Kindle can hold up to 1,500 books and I remember reading that I can expand the memory with a memory card. Suitcase space problem SOLVED (at least as far as books go.)

Have you ever been at the doctor's office with a book and found you just weren't interested in that book that day?
Or perhaps you bought a new book and you can't get into it. Or do you have new books you haven't read yet, but all you REALLY want to read is a new book that you don't own - book guilt. Come on I know I can't be the only one who does these things... the book delivery system was the #1 reason I wanted a Kindle. Kindle 2 uses the Kindle Whispernet, as far as I can understand the signal it uses to connect wirelessly to the Kindle Store. It is NOT Wi-Fi where you have to find a hotspot, it's more like your cell phone it connects wherever you are (I understand there IS a service area map somewhere -and I think I read that Kindle Whispernet is powered by Sprint's 3G network.) At present there is NO CHARGE for Kindle Whispernet, if you have a Kindle, you get Whispernet at least right now. So I want a new book, I click to go to the Kindle Store and I can browse or search available books. I can read an overview of the book, I can see an average rating, I can read reviews of the book by other customers but the really exciting thing is I can choose to download a SAMPLE (usually the first chapter) and read before I decide to buy. When I DO choose to buy a book I click BUY and it's charged to the CC I set up for my account and the book is downloaded to my Kindle in about 60 seconds. YES! I can buy a new book in the middle of a pedicure or in line at the bank and since I get my books instantly I don't need to buy them until I am ready to read them (hopefully) eliminating that stack of un-read books.

Kindle holds my place in a book and I can add bookmarks, clip favorite passages, and add annotations of my own.

If my Kindle ever SHOULD get full, a record of the books I've purchased is kept on so I can delete them from my Kindle and retrieve them again later when I want them or if I get a new device (haven't gotten onto the specifics on how this works yet.)

There is a lot more than that, but those are the Kindle Basics. Now on to some extra stuff...

These are technologies that Kindle is developing, they're in a separate section and I'm encouraged to give my feedback of how I like them and if I think they should continue to develop and offer these services...
Basic Web
So far I have used this to check local movie times on Fandango, check up on friends and send updates on Twitter, and to read blogs (text only - no ads!) It works best in Basic Mode - which is like using a phone with Mobile Web (I think I don't have the web enabled on my phone) - I had trouble getting into gmail to check my email, but will keep trying. I can add to my list of Favorites. The photo at the top of this post was when I was in Twitter, click the photo for a closer view.
Play MP3
I can upload music to listen to while reading or audio books from this feature requires transferring data from a computer.
This is that other eye saver I mentioned, Kindle will read my books TO me. It's an electronic voice, and it goes kind-of fast (even at the slowest of the available speeds) but it turns the pages as it goes so I can read along. I used this feature, rather than read aloud to my husband from the user's manual, today... and when I demonstrated it for Ethan (age 10), he wanted me to leave it running so he could listen to the whole book that way. There is a volume control and a headphone jack.

I'm sure there are a lot of things I forgot to cover but this is a lot already, let me know if you have any other questions.
Here is a link to a list of 25 "Kindle Hacks" thanks to Cliff over at GSPN.TV for sharing this link.

Here you can see even with the added bulk of its padded, protective cover the Kindle is still the size of a paperback book. The cover can fold back to hold easily in one hand, as seen in the photo at the top of this post.

How writing is like my Cat, Emma & how I failed at a Big Picture Scrapbooking course

About that writing class I took... the online scrapbooking one that I was so excited about.... "Telling Stories Deeply"... I never did it. Why would I do that?! I was really enthusiastic about it.. I downloaded all the materials... I went to the community board, introduced myself and looked around... I even did the preparatory list of possibly stories I might tell and printed out lessons 1 and 2,
but I never read them. (In my defense my back went out and I've been sick a lot in the last month... but none of these are truly a barrier to composition.)

Today the beginnings of something popped into my head, I opened up a word doc and quick as you please, had half a dozen sweet lines that captured something from my heart. Why am I like that? I think I am afraid to chase after things.

I am companion to, Emma, a very skittish kitty. We rescued Emma from a shelter, she is very friendly but also very shy. Even when she is dying for attention, if you approach her too quickly; or too noisily, or even LOOK like you are going to reach out to pet her; off she runs to hide under a bed or tablecloth or into one of the hiding places I do not know about. But let me be laying at my ease; dozing or watching a movie; and darn if that cat won't leave me alone! I can pitch her off my lap or grouch at her and she will not go away. It's all on her terms with Emma. I can coax and sweet talk her and persuade her to be cuddled if I really want to, but its a tentative, quiet cautious coaxing appeal.

I guess for me writing is like Emma. When I'm not looking for it, it lights in my lap and won't be ignored, but when I set out to pursue it I know it's to be a teasing business... I have to be soft and calm and coy, making my approach with peripheral vision. If I look straight at it, away it will bound into an unknown hidey hole, just like my shrinking cat.

I do have all the materials and I really do want to try the methods taught in the class... but I'm afraid to ruin this shy tentative relationship I have now. I don't know that I am ready to beat the bushes and search out under all the beds... perhaps it is better this way, at least it comes to me, even if its not on my terms.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Birthday So Far

Today is my birthday and I'm having a lovely day.
I had a pleasant lunch out then a hot stone massage at a local Day Spa (heaven.)
I decided I'd much prefer to eat my own cooking for dinner so I can eat exactly what I'm in the mood for, which is:

Creamy Artichoke and Garlic Chicken, Rice Pilaf, and Fresh Asparagus with Sauce Virginia

I bought a Boston Cream Cake for my birthday cake. When did they stop calling it Boston Cream Pie? I know it's a cake but if you know what Boston Cream means ... you already know it's cake so why change the name. (Was too full to eat the Boston Cream Confection so will share it with the boys when they get back from camping, perhpas we'll blow out candles and everything.)

I might post a picture of my plate... I might not. It's my birthday I'm just going to have fun.
This evening I plan to either read on my new Kindle or watch a movie. "Thrilling..." you may think sarcastically to yourself, but until you have experienced a child tugging on your shirt and saying(whining) "Mommy?" constantly for 10 years... you can not truly appreciate what it is to have a quiet, tug free evening.

After previewing several books, my first Kindle reading choice is The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau. I don't know if I would ever have thought to buy this book, but today after reading the free sample of several very good options... I found that this was exactly what I was in the mood for, today. That's the beauty of the Kindle - Instant Book Gratification. More about the Kindle some other time... I have a birthday dinner to prepare. I will probably read the book aloud to Ethan later - or perhaps I will just have my Kindle read it to us both while we cuddle. Viva technology!
If I watch a movie I'll probably be watching this one - which was also a birthday gift from my Sweetie...
Alfred Hitchcock's - Rebecca - this movie was not available for purchase for a number of years so I am thrilled to own it for my very own at last! I love the movie and I love Daphne Du Maurier's wonderful book on which it is based. "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again...."

Later that night. Pinot Grigio: too much oak. Oh well this is what happens when a wine pairing is attempted by a person knowing no more about wine than that I don't like reds, I like it cold, and that high school French class has equipped me with a perhaps tolerable pronunciation of "Pinot Grigio" (even funnier as I think it turns out to be Italian). Should I have gone with the Sauvignon Blanc? I should face it, I only like pink wine. Listened to Josh Groban through dinner.

If you thought you were going to learn something about wine, I apologize... here's a link, these people seem to know what they're talking about. At least I appear to have been right about the oak.

I Can claim only one successful (accidental) pairing in my life. See's Candies' Butterscotch Square with White Zinfandel and I can only vouch for that it tickles MY taste buds.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Houston Zoo Makes Top 10 in Nation for Kids!

From the Houston Zoo's Website-

"Families across the United States today are finding out what Houston families have known for decades – the Houston Zoo is one of the 10 best zoos in the nation for kids. In fact, Parents magazine today has ranked the Houston Zoo number nine in the nation for children."

"Parents magazine focused on honoring zoos that offer a variety of hands-on, family friendly activities while fostering appreciation, knowledge and excitement about the natural world. The results of the survey will appear in the May 2009 issue of Parents magazine on newsstands nationwide April 14, 2009."

Read more on the Zoo's Website:
See the Parents Magazine Story:
Download The Latest Zoo Podcasts: Bottom left corner of the Zoo's website:

Speaking of the Zoo - you can see a video of Houston Zoo's baby porcupine (& several others) on YouTube:

Happy Easter!

We have lived in Houston through 8 Easters and I think we have yet to see an Easter Sunday without rain.

Now the sun is out, how washed an pure the world seems. This feels more appropriate to me than tender morning sunshine and grass that doesn't squish beneath my feet. We have become adept at indoor egg hunts.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kindle Hope

Update: May 08.2009
I did get my Kindle and I blogged about it. Here's the link

I'm hoping to get a Kindle for my birthday... so I've had an eye toward what is available in kindle format for several weeks now in anticipation. I just submitted a suggestion to Rachel Ray's magazine that they should consider a subscription to a Kindle Edition of the magazine. It would be fun to have access to the magazine "on the go" and I suggested that since all the recipes seem to be available online, subscribers could print out any recipes as a hard copy is needed. And since a Kindle version of the magazine would be paperless, it would go along with the magazine's green outlook.

If you're not familiar with The Kindle - it's a device for reading electronic books. The Kindle is to books what the iPod is to music. You could carry a library with you in one device. There are thousands of books available for Kindle as well as many Newspapers and Magazines.

The Kindle is sold only by Amazon but there is now a Kindle application for use with iPhone and iPod Touch.

Here is a link to the Kindle II on Amazon:

Here is a link to Rachel Ray's Magazine Website:

Quoting Julia - Remembering Mom

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook" ~Julia Child

It was when my mother loaned me Julia's book "The Way To Cook" that the culinary light bulb come on for me. There are not particularly recipes that I still make out of this book. But the way it was laid out, cooking suddenly made sense! This cookbook is laid out with a Master Recipe then several additional recipes which add upon the original, teaching new techniques and how they build upon each other. Beginning with Chicken Simmered in White Wine with aromatic vegetables, which could be taken a step further to become, Blanquette of Chicken in White Wine Sauce, which ultimately became a wonderful Chicken Pot Pie. This is the book that broke me out of recipe box bondage. Suddenly I understood the techniques and I could just go into the kitchen and make my own way, recipe optional. It was also Julia and this cookbook that started me making creamed vegetable soups - how I love them!. My mother set the stage by taking me to eat at 40 Carrots and Vie De France in South Coast Plaza when I was quite young. I was relishing Cream of Broccoli and Cream of Cauliflower long before Broccoli Cheese came in and went back out of vogue. I remember we'd check the soup on the specials board at 40 Carrots, then trek down to Vie De France over all those hard-on-the-feet bricks, and consider their Soup Du Jour before we could decide where to eat and get into line for a table. Food is all wrapped up with memories for me, I often say it is a part of the special culture of my family. My mother saw Julia Child in person, once. I think it was at the (long gone) Bristol Farms in Anaheim Hills and Mom loved to watch Cooking With Jacques (Pepin) and Julia on PBS. The Way To Cook is mine, now... passed on to me by Mom. I think my fondness for Julia is tied up somewhere in all those memories with Mom.

And look at her... How can you not smile at that sense of fun!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Shack - Chapter 6 - Book Notes

I seem to just be stepping out of all kinds of comfort zones, lately... I know this is a popular book, so I am hoping that some of you have read (or are reading) it too.

I'm reading The Shack, by WM. Paul Young.
I've only reached chapter 6, buy I have already come across the first little bit that made me pause and reflect. I like the idea of this.

It's in chapter 6 (in my edition of the book at the bottom of page 91 and top of page 92)

"He noticed that the room was decorated tastefully, with art that looked as if it had been either drawn or handcrafted by children. He wondered if this woman cherished each of these pieces as any parent who loves her children would. Maybe that was how she valued anything that was given to her from the heart, the way children seem to give so easily." from The Shack, by WM. Paul Young.

I like the idea of that. God measures the merit of what we give, not so much by what it is, but by the heart with which it is given. It is not the most beautiful and perfect thing that he loves most, nor the most effective, wide-sweeping, world-altering of the efforts of the saints. I find this encouraging. In this way my little contributions stand beside the great works of the saints and I am encouraged to listen to His promptings and guard my heart and motives, rather than concentrate on projected outcomes or widespread results. I am humbled that the greatest mankind (and I) can ever hope to achieve is as a child's crayon picture, and by this I am reminded that any outcome or success is not by my skill or genius but by the hand of God upon it. Not that I stop trying, but that I may be free of fear of doing it wrong. It is all childish drawings, anyway, if it is to amount to more, it is by the elevation of God.

Podcasts and The Shack:

Word To Mouth - Host Carrie Runnals interviews The Shack Author William P. Young. You can listen straight from the Word To Mouth website:
This podcast is also available on iTunes.

116 Almost Daily Devotional - Nothing To Fear
Host Cliff Ravenscraft, today's podcast was inspired by The Shack. You can listen on the website: also available on iTunes.
053 Family From The Heart - Feedback And The Shack
Husband and Wife Cliff and Stephanie Ravenscraft discuss "The Shack"
073 Family From The Heart – William Paul Young – The Shack
Talk given at Watermark Church by William P. Young author of The Shack - only available on the website.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Honey Mustard Pretzel Crisps

I got addicted to these salty little crisps when Weight Watcher's used to sell them... I'm not a fan of pretzels but these are flat and crisp, like a cross between a pretzel, a cracker, and a chip. They're very tasty and handle that chip craving for me. In fact I think I would rather eat these than chips! Weight Watcher's now carries a different flavor, Garlic Parmesan, which just aren't as good as the honey mustard ones..

A month or so ago I discovered something that looked VERY similar and tastes the same at my Kroger store. They're crispy with more chew to them than a chip, and the honey mustard flavor is nice and strong and tasty. I just love these little things! So I finally did a comparison and the points value per serving is the same as the ones they sell at Weight Watcher's which is 2 points for 10 crisps. My Kroger now stocks them in the wine aisle, I guess they are an upscale snack, but I originally found them over by the full-service deli between the gourmet cheese case and the all natural foods. I did also find pretzel crisps at my Super Walmart but they didn't have the honey mustard flavor.

They're made by a company called The Snack Factory. I like the Honey Mustard & Onion flavor. Here is a link to their website, they do have a store locator:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mexican Pulled Pork - Carnitas

I have a newer, easier version of pulled pork for tacos here
Sorry for the delay in posting this. I've been having back and neck problems for the last 2 weeks so everything has been sporadic based on how my back happens to feel at the moment. Robert made these 2 Sundays ago since I was out of commission w/ above mentioned back problems. They were delicious. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated which won't let you into their recipes unless you pay a membership fee... so here it is on my blog, no membership required. Cook's Illustrated May 2008. You really want to go with the corn tortillas for these... the corn taste is wonderful with the pork, onion and cilantro. Tacos are the most obvious use for this meat, but you can also use it as a filling for tamales, enchiladas, and burritos.

1 (3 1/2-4 pound) boneless pork butt, fat cap trimmer to 1/8 inch thick, cut into 2-inch chunks
table salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small onion, peeled and halved
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons juice from 1 lime
2 cups water
1 medium orange, halved

Tortillas and garnishes
18 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
Lime wedges
minced white or red onion
Fresh cilantro leaves
sour cream
(we also had wedges of fresh tomato)

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine pork, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, cumin, onion, bay leaves, oregano, lime juice, and water in large Dutch oven (liquid should just barely cover meat). Juice orange into medium bowl and remove any seeds (you should have about 1/3 cup juice). Add juice and spent orange halves to pot. Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover pot and transfer to oven; cook until meat is soft and falls apart when prodded with fork, about 2 hours, flipping pieces of meat once during cooking.

2. Remove pot from oven and turn oven to broil. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to bowl; remove orange halves, onion and bay leaves from cooking liquid and discard (do not skim fat from liquid). Place pot over high heat (use caution, as handles will be very hot) and simmer liquid, stirring frequently, until think and syrupy (heat-safe spatula should leave wide trail when dragged through glaze), 8 to 12 minutes. You should have about 1 cup reduced liquid.

3. Using 2 forks, pull each piece of pork in half. Fold in reduced liquid; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread pork in even layer on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet or on broiler pan (meat should cover almost entire surface of rack or broiler pan). Place baking sheet on lower-middle rack and broil until top of meat is well browned (but not charred) and edges are slightly crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip pieces of meat and continue to broil until top is well browned and edges are slightly crisp 5 to 8 minutes longer. Serve immediately with warm tortillas and garnishes. (We took the pork out of the oven at the flipping stage, but decided it looked good enough and since we were hungry we didn't flip or return it to the oven - so it didn't get the crisp edges described but tasted wonderful!)

Serves 6