Wednesday, June 25, 2008


One of my favourite things is hot peppers in oil. I add this to a nice plate of pasta. My mother and my aunts always made it and gave me a jar or two for my pantry. They don't have a recipe, so I was always afraid to try it because it is preserving and there is always a risk.

I subscribe to an About newsletter on Italian food. Earlier today, I received their most recent edition and there was the instructions for making sott'olio. I immediately ran to the Safeway and purchased a handful of hot red peppers, small mason jars, vinegar, and olive oil.

So tomorrow I'll tackle this project. The peppers my family uses are the small long red ones, so I'll be cutting them into small pieces and then preserving them in oil.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Alpha Smart Neo - The smart way to write

Last year, I discovered the Alpha Smart. On a writer's group that I belong to, someone wrote a comment about how much they loved their Alpha Smart and that they wrote their entire book with it.

So I investigated. All the research was positive and for the price of $249 I could have a device that was virtually indestructible, easy to use, and that would help me focus on writing my novels. Not to mention transportable

I've been using it for a year now, and my love affair with this military green colored keyboard continues to grow. Most authors sit down in front of laptop, turn it on, wait for it to fire up, click until they find their document and write. Often the internet, email, instant messages, interfere. And if you've transported to your laptop to a favourite coffee shop or library, you have to drag along your carrying case, plug ins and chargers to use it. If you use battery power, running out of charge is always an issue.

I've been using my Neo for a year now and charged it once - the day I receive it. I've been using it regularly and am still at 98% power. On the same original charge! I can take it with me anywhere, without dragging around any cords or chargers.

I just learned that the NEO will allow me to beam directly to my Palm Treo smart phone Now I can create documents, e-mails, and blog posts on my Neo and without having to purchase any additional equipment or download any software, I can beam right to my Palm Treo smartphone.

Neo is noiseless, heatless, feather-lite, and stays charged up forever. Hm, I've used it a year now and still haven't had to recharge the batteries.
I carry it in my purse if I travel somewhere or cart it around the house with me with ease. Instant on and off button and immediate saving as you type makes the NEO foolproof and completely versatile.

Authors love it while creating and typing up a first draft. Its small gray screen with a simple font allows up to 6 lines of text. It's a full size, comfortable keyboard.

And if that wasn't enought, it switches on and off instantly. You press "ON" and after a nano-second, the cursor appears and I can begin to type. When I have to walk away (which is about every 5 minutes when you're taking care of 2 1/2 year old boy), I simply hit the on/off button and it is instant off. When I return a few minute and return to my work which is exactly as I left it, automatically saved in the exact spot where I left off.

It has eight files (eight keys along the top so you switch from one to another with ease) and holds around 512 KB, plenty for a novel. As I complete my first draft of a chpater, I transfer it to my computer via USB connection. Connect to a blank word document, hit the "send" key, and my draft types itself out onto the screen. I can also cut and paste documents into the Alpha Manager 2 - a downloadable program right onto your computer. This is faster, as it transfers immediately, but I love to watch my work typing itself out on the screen. Makes me feel satisified somehow.

I can't stop ranting and raving about it. Customer Service should you need it - is superb. I recently had something go wrong with my own laptop and had trouble getting the Alphasmart to run. Even though the problem was with my laptop and not the Neo, the support staff at Renaissance Learning were helpful, patient, and went above and beyond my expectations to help me figure out what was wrong.

Now, if only computers could be as handy and as smart as my Alphasmart!

Ciao for now! I'm taking my Neo out to the gazebo to work!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mirella's Bean and Beef Casserole

We've had so much rain here in western Canada lately that we have hardly had a chance to barbecue. So today, I made my all-time screaming family favourite casserole. Thought I would share it with you all since it's easy to make. Fair warning, I remember my mom making a similar casserole when I was a kid, but I never had the recipe. So all the ingredients are from my own invention or enhancement from watching her all those years ago. But you can never go wrong if you vary the ingredients.

3 cans Heinz beans in tomato sauce
2 lbs ground beef
1 can Campbell's tomato soup
1/2 cup Ketchup or your favourite barbecue sauce (I like Cattleboys)
1 onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup soya sauce

Carmelize the onion and garlic. Add the ground beef and brown well. Add the remaining ingredients. Pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
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