PC vs. Mac

We are at war in this house – the rebel MAC user vs. the stable PC user. Daughter is like a scout – a double agent – working both sides. Well, that’s how she started. Now, however, after being shown the evidence, she is wearing PC colors and fighting on the RIGHT side – the PC user’s side. 

And guess who uses the PC in this house.

Yes. That would be me.

Hubby, however, believes everyone should use a mac. I believe if everyone uses a mac, soon no one will use their brains because they’ll all turn to mush since using a MAC can drive you mad with very little effort. I know this because I’ve spent the past week trying to balance my NEED to use a MAC with my ease of using a PC, and ‘mad’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe its affect on me.

Daughter performed in a play last Friday at our end-of-year picnic with the homeschoolers. Hubby filmed the play and we promised to deliver copies of the film in a couple of days. Hubby had no idea I wanted to edit said video but thought we’d just copy the tape as is and send it on. Not a problem, really. He’s a professional photographer, so the unedited tape was good. My thought was to put titles and music on it just to make it fun, ya know?

Fun?

I have Microsoft Movie Maker in my PC. I used it for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I made a book trailer for my WIP. Do I need a book trailer? Certainly not, my book isn’t even close to completion let alone publication. But I had a blast making the trailer. It was amazingly easy and made me feel creative. Fun stuff.

I figured if I can do that, I can edit a simple play. Not so, said the Sony Video Cam that didn’t come with the proper cord to transfer video tape to my computer. So… we transferred the film onto hubby’s MAC – and that, like Fort Sumter, started the war.

After days and hours – in fact, nearly a week – of trying to work with MAC’s iMovie, I can honestly say I question the sanity of those who use it regularly. The ease of use with Microsoft Movie Maker is only enhanced by the options and quality of the final product.

After using a PC for more than a decade, switching to MAC is like moving to some distant galaxy. Yeah, life form there has to eat and breathe, but nothing else there is the same. So it is with MAC. I kept closing the program when I wanted to enlarge it – yes the buttons are in reverse. There is no desktop view – all the open ‘windows’ disappear until you run the mouse close to the bottom of the screen, then they pop up and wave around – it’s a visual display that’ll seer spin your eyes.  The program it’s self needs time to acknowledge each and every change you make – and you must manually make every change. In PC’s Movie Maker, you can drop an image into the area you want then stretch it to fit just so. Done. Transitions can be added the very same way – drag and drop. With iMovie, each action must be ‘rendered’ before another action can be performed. And if you want to add a transition, then you must first adjust the images before and after – and each step requires rendering. If you’ve made a mistake, you must redo the entire adjust, wait, snore, and test process before going on.

The video is done and it’s nice. BUT for all the hours spent and f-bombs dropped, the end does not justify the means. I will never yell at my PC again – not for freezing up. Not for flashing ‘not responding’ when I’m trying to save an hour’s worth of typing. Not for shutting down unexpectedly. Now that I realize how hard I work my machine and just how much I demand of it, I will appreciate what it does for me and snicker inside when someone else says they own a MAC. See… from personal experience, I know that Apple Mac is really Bill Gates’ creation. It’s his way of eliminating the traitors – those who will not use a PC because they want balance in the market. It’s a brilliant idea, actually, but I do believe PC users should be handed this warning with every new upgrade they download so they never venture into forbidden and dangerous territory.

So… if you are a MAC user, take heed. Though you might believe it is an easier machine to use, beware the evil within.

<sigh>

And because you’ve stuck with me this far, reading all these words, I’m attaching a link to the book trailer I made on my PC, as some visual relief. 🙂

Just click on the photo below.

Canyon Road ~ Debora Dale

 

Chocolate Decadence

Though the title of this post is deliciously tempting, be assured, if you or someone you love is allergic to chocolate, you can substitute CAROB powder for the cocoa powder and have the same scrumptious and devilish treat. I know because I’m allergic to chocolate and make this with carob all the time. Daughter and hubby actually prefer the carob, so I’m certainly a happy camper.

(btw – carob powder can be purchased in most health food stores. Use it the same as cocoa powder. In everything and in the same amounts)

I do wish I had a photo of this yummy cake. Alas, this cake is devoured so quickly there isn’t time for me to take its portrait. Yum!

Ready?

Fudgy 2-Layer Chocolate (or CAROB) Cake

45 minutes preparation ~ 25-30 minutes baking

Ingredients:
1 ¾ cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa (or CAROB) powder
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk
chocolate frosting (or… completely combine vanilla frosting with 2-3 tablespoons of carob powder)
optional – sweetened chocolate (or carob) bar for garnish

1. Preheat over to 350*

2. Line bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with waxed paper. Grease paper and sides of pans. Dust with cocoa (or carob) powder.

3. Mix flour, cocoa (or carob), baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

4. At low speed, alternately beat flour mixture and buttermilk into butter mixture just until blended. Divide batter equally between prepared pans.

5. Bake cakes 25 – 30 minutes, test for doneness. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Remove paper. Turn layers top-side up and cool completely.

6. Place 1 cake layer on serving plate and spread with frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with sweetened cocoa (or carob) shavings.

ENJOY!!!! And please – let me know what you think.

Made in…

With our country in a recession, with soaring health costs, gas and food prices, and lagging wages, we all need to be extremely careful with extraneous expenses. Well, with Father’s Day here, I found it difficult to locate reasonably priced gifts and impossible to locate gifts NOT made in China.

Yes. I suppose this is a rant.

On CNN not too long ago, Lou Dobbs read an email that was sent to him about this very topic. In the email, a woman complained that she’d had to buy school supplies for her son and that when they left the store loaded with items, the only things NOT made in China were herself and her boy. Something is wrong with this, don’t you think?

China is not a country whose politics or treatment of the public we support. And yet, we cannot go anywhere without the bulk of items for sale being made in China. I’m floored as to why there is not a booming business proudly displaying products as, “Made in America”. And it’s not that I only want American-made products. I’d love to purchase products from France, Sweden… everywhere. Except China. They’ve saturated the market with cheap products – DANGEROUS products, indeed FATAL products. And yet imports from China continue to arrive in this country and around the world.

If the death of thousands of our pets from tainted food made in China isn’t enough to put a stop to this madness, what is? The death of thousands of children from dangerous toys?

What will it take for the people of this country – and others – to demand a choice? I’ve searched online and elsewhere for products not made in China and have found it nearly impossible to locate any.

With the economy the way it is, we need to save our hard-earned cash. Wouldn’t now be a great time to stop buying products made in China and voice our opposition to the imports of those products? I’ve sent emails to each of the online companies I buy from, and I’ve asked them specifically where their products are made. So far, I have received only one automated reply. As more come in, I will let you know which companies sell products solely made in China and which offer products from around the world… including the good ole’ US of A.

What is your take on this? Do you mind buying products Made in China? Are you concerned with the way China has taken over the world’s markets? Are you okay with YOUR cash going to this communist country? What will you  do – or have you done – about it, if anything. Please tell me, because I’d like to know what some of my options are.

And the winner is…

Well… you’ll just have to wait on that while I tell you about my day today. 🙂

Today was a brilliant day. We had our homeschooling “moving-up day” picnic. It was wonderful. The weather was glorious and the park we went to was just stunning. It’s called Belmont Lake State Park. The lake is so wide and still. So still, it looked glossy.

Belmont Lake Stat Park  Rowboats - Belmont Lake State Park

Considering that all week we had a heat wave here – into triple digits for several days – having this day was a gift. We arrived at the park at 10 this morning, and the children – about 40 or so of them – had time for free play while us parents chatted about the accomplishments we all witnessed this school year. At noon, we had lunch, and then we really started cooking! The drama club – of which Daughter is a part – put on a play. Two plays, actually. The younger crew performed Hansel and Gretel while the older crew, the one Daughter is in, performed Perseus and Medusa. What fun this was.

The stress of the last few rehearsals was a little overwhelming. And last night, we were up until midnight in my house, running lines. BUT… all was worth it because it went off without a hitch. Well… maybe one or two but no one noticed and it was a blast. When an audience laughs where you want them to laugh, you know you’ve done it right.

I’m thrilled that the school year is over but, in a way, I’m also a little disappointed. The homeschooling group we belong to is like an extended family for us. Great families, great activities, great fun. I’ll see them all in September and we’ll have more adventures together. But this was such a great year for us that I am indeed a little sad to see it end. At least I can say in all sincerity, it ended on a super, super high.

And back to our winner… drum roll please…

The winner of this lovely little item –

Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Flip-flop Necklace

… as mentioned in my previous post… was chosen by Daughter. The names of everyone who commented were written on individual pieces of paper and tossed into her Bronx Zoo cap. She closed her eyes, reached in and plucked out the one with Kathleen’s name on it!

KATHLEEN?! Come on down!! 🙂

Kathleen, just go to my website  and fill in your info. Go to the Contact page. In the ‘comments’ section, fill in your mailing address, then click ‘send’, and I will send this necklace right to you!

I hope you’ll enjoy it and wear it with pride.

Thanks everyone!

Ding-dong, Avon Foundation calling…

We all know an Avon Lady. I’ll bet we all know several Avon Ladies. But do you know about the Avon Foundation? The Avon Foundation has been around for more than 50 years and it’s dedicated to “improving the lives of women and their families”. Their attention is mainly on breast cancer awareness and treatments, and domestic violence issues.

Until this morning, I was unaware of the extent of their work. Through sales of Avon’s Pink Ribbon products, funds have gone to breast cancer research, patient care and support and even food delivery services for those at home too ill to care for themselves. I was so impressed with the list of programs Avon has been involved with that I felt I had to share the information here.

Today, I will be ordering this –

 Avon's Breast Cancer Crusade Memo Jotter

It’s a breast cancer crusade memo pad – it’s inexpensive, goes for a great cause and what writer doesn’t need another jotter?

I will also be ordering this –

 Avon's Women's Empowerment Bracelet

Actress, Reese Witherspoon is the spokesperson for Avon’s Women’s Empowerment Fund and she had this to say about this bracelet –

“As honorary chair of the Avon Foundation, I’m very excited to introduce Avon’s first global charity product designed to save and improve women’s lives worldwide.

Purchase the Women’s Empowerment Bracelet for yourself and your friends. It’s a symbol of unity that represents a future without limitations for all women. It represents everything I love about this company.”

I hope you will consider ordering one of Avon’s fundraising products for yourself and for your friends. To show you how much I hope you will do this, I’m giving away one item to a lucky someone who comments on this post. I’ll pick a random commenter by Friday and as soon as I recieve your contact information, I will send this item directly to you –

Avon Breast Cancer Crusade Flip-flop Necklace

We must stand together in the fight against disease and domestic violence. This is one simple way to start the process, is it not?

The Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo <– Yes. This IS the Bronx Zoo.

More than anything, my family enjoys outtings related to history and nature. Our vacation this year in South Carolina will give us plenty of each. Until then, we grab every free minute we have and we run to the nearest path to hike or bike. When we have a few additional free minutes, we enjoy lesisurly walks through the woods or, like yesterday, through the Bronx Zoo.

I meant to ask how many acres the zoo occupies but I never did. One thing is for sure – the zoo is tremendous. We have never covered all the grounds in one visit. We do not object to that, however, since it’s a reason to go back again and again.

While there yesterday, we took the ‘Asia Monorail’. A wonderful narrated tour through the Asia exhibit. While I rode in the monorail and looked out at the vast open space, I realized how different the zoo was now than when I was a kid.

My firsr clear memory of the zoo comes from a 7th grade trip I went on with my science class. What stands out clearly for me is the lion’s cage. And that’s just what it was – a cage. Between the bars of the cage and visitors, was what might have been a two-yard gap and then a fence. I don’t have specific memories of the cage except that of cement. Cement flooring, cement slabs for climbing and napping… certainly nothing true to a lion’s natural habitat.

As an animal lover, I’m so happy now when I look out at the ‘enclosures’ our Bronx Zoo animals have. The natural terrain is glorious. It seems to go on forever. The animals roam freely – or somewhat freely – and have streams, ponds, real trees and grasses. Not cement floors and iron bars. They’re rehabilitated if they’re injured and mated in safety if they’re in danger of extinction. So many species have been preserved because of the work done in zoos today.

As often as I go to the Bronx Zoo, I always manage to forget I’m smack in the middle of the city. The Bronx River Parkway – a heavily traveled highway – borders the zoo on one side, and the Bronx River – the ony fresh water river in New York – winds through the center of the zoo. Trees tower over head, birds sing cheerful tunes and man and beast show a certain respect for one another. Kinda nice, if you ask me.

Bronx River The Bronx River – view from the Asia Monorail

Just to give you an idea of the magnificence of the place, here are a couple of photos from our trip yesterday – including one with Daughter feeding a rather brazen and brave female peacock.

Bronx Zoo Deer Bronx Zoo - Red Panda

Puma in her habitat Bronx Zoo - Feeding a peahen

The Archaeological Perspective

As a fairly new homeschooling family, I’ve been amazed to discover how many learning opportunities there are for children beyond traditional book learning. We left public school at the beginning of last year and immediately began an online curriculum with teacher support. I believed there had to be structure, and to me ‘structure’ meant textbooks, essays and tests. Boy, was I wrong.

It has taken me two full ‘school’ years to fully realize book learning isn’t all there is. While we have experienced an amazingly wide range of hands-on activities – one more exciting than the other – I would have to say the best, by far, is the most recent. It’s called The Archaeological Perspective and it is a 4-day archaeological camp.

When my daughter was too young to even pronounce the word ‘archaeologist’, she knew that’s what she wanted to be. She called it being a ‘bone hunter’. She’s realized that dream this week in a very small but significant way.

During the camp, the children attending are taught a brief history of the period they will be unearthing. In this case, it is China’s Ch’in Dynasty – 3rd Century BC. Actual artifacts from that period (as well as earlier and later periods) are buried and the children are taught how to properly excavate the area, uncover stunning and fragile objects, handle them carefully and clean them thoroughly.

This is how their site was set up –

The Archaeological Perspective  Do-the-dig 2

And here are some of the remarkable artifacts they unearthed – keep in mind, these are NOT reproductions. They are the actual artifacts.

Do-the-dig 3 Do-the-Dig - 4 Do-the-dige 5 - Terra Cotta Archer Do-the-dig 6

Daughter is enthralled. She cannot wait each morning to get up and get out there to see what else she’ll discover. She’s actually handling objects made thousands of years ago – THOUSANDS of years ago!!! – and has learned the history of their creation.

After digging for three days, there will be a ‘museum’ presentation of all the artifacts the children have uncovered, and a reception with foods of the region. This is one week out of 12 1/2 years that I’ve actually been happy to have my daughter playing in dirt… and looking like she’s enjoyed every second of it.

Indiana Jones… move over, handsome… there’s a new Indy in town.

The stuff of history

“A skinny black kid from the south side of Chicago” vs. a former first lady… and the ‘skinny black kid’ wins.

Forget where your allegiance lies, this is history.

When Obama and Clinton had their first solo debate we made sure we taped it – to preserve the moment. They were the only candidates left standing and the debate between them – a woman and a black man – was the first in our history. Imagine how it would be if Obama actually chose Clinton as his running mate. There would be no turning back from that forward motion. Young girls – black and white – would be witness to the shattering of that glass ceiling. Indeed, they’ve already witnessed it’s weakening.

But is America, as a whole, ready for a black president? A female president – or vice president? Where I come from, the answer is a resounding, “YES!” Alas, as it’s been pointed out to people from my neck of the woods, New York is not the world and so we must consider the desires of those in the rest of our country. Imagine. 😉

I think it’s safe to say a huge majority of Americans are – and have been – ready for a major change in our leadership. So, assume for a moment Obama and/or Clinton share your political views… or, if you’d rather, imagine a nameless black or female candidate. Do you think this country is ready for that kind of change? Or do you think people will panic at the last moment and vote for the status quo?

Ten Chapters done – ten to go

The book-in-a-week workshop I took with April Kihlstrom was excellent. I wish I could recycle the free time I’d purposely scheduled for that week so I could use and reuse it, again and again. Alas, free time isn’t always easy to come by.

However, the flow is still there. What I learned from the workshop is how to silence that inner editor. At least for a little while. I find I am now able to let go of ‘perfection’ and just write. I find myself falling deeper and deeper into character and watching – as a reader – the story develop right in front of me. There are times now when I’m writing so quickly, so firmly inside my character’s head, that I’m left breathless and wishing I could simply turn the page and see what happens next. How cool to fall so deeply into the story that I forget I’m its creator.

Now, just because I’ve hogtied and gagged my inner editor, don’t think I’m writing sloppy. I’m just writing fast because I’ve finally – FINALLY – realized this first draft is for my eyes only. It doesn’t matter if I replace a couple of key descriptive words with ???’s, it doesn’t matter if I’m not sure whether hero and heroine are traveling north or east. What matters is that mood, voice and flow of story remain constant. And constant happens naturally when there’s forward motion only – not back and forth nit-picking until that inner editor is somewhat satisfied.

I’ve now come to the middle of my story. Chapter 10. Over and out. Just days ago, I’d finished Chapter 9 and struggled – as usual – to ‘start’ the next chapter. The beauty of this is that I can reread the last couple of paragraphs I’d written and I’m immediately sucked back into the story and ready to roll… when free time allows.

Now if only I could find a way to hogtie time…

My new favorite breakfast… or lunch… or…

French toast, eggs, pancakes? They’re all good for breakfast and have their mmm-mmm moments. BUT my new favorite is a zucchini omelet. It’s easy and fast and makes a very large fluffy omelet – enough to feed two, maybe three, depending on how large you make your servings.

Zucchini and Onion Omelet

2 small or 1 medium zucchini, washed and diced

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 eggs beaten

dash curry powder (okay… I use 3 dashes…)

dash marjoram (and 3 dashes for this one, too. 😉 )

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for sautéing

Parmesan cheese (optional – Daughter loves it, I don’t think it’s necessary)

Heat olive oil in medium fry pan until hot but not smoking. Add diced zucchini and chopped onion.

Chopped zucchini and onion

Sauté over low flame for 7-8 minutes or until vegetables are softened and just starting to brown, stirring occasionally.

Saute - Zucchini and onion

Allow zucchini mixture to cool for about five minutes, then sprinkle with curry powder and marjoram. Mix well. Blend into beaten eggs along with salt and pepper (and 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan if using).

Heat an additional drop of olive oil – just enough to coat bottom of pan – using medium heat. Then pour egg mixture in pan being careful to evenly distribute zucchini. Cook for one minute, gently lifting sides to let uncooked egg flow to the bottom.

When edges are set but center is still soft, reduce heat slightly and allow to cook uncovered for 3 minutes.

Loosen omelet from pan, then slide omelet onto a large plate. Invert pan over omelet, then carefully invert plate and pan toether to transfer omelet back to pan, cooked side up.

Cook until underside is set – about one minute. Then slide omelet onto plate, quarter and serve with toast. Yum. 🙂

Zucchini Quiche

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do… and just so you know, it’s easier when someone, anyone, helps you with the cleaning… like my Fidget…

Fidget in Dishwasher

😀

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