Saturday, January 15, 2011

Letter from U.S. Public Health Service Promises $30 to Participate in Study: Scam or Legit?

At the beginning of the year I received a letter from the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) stating it's conducting a national study on health-related issues and my address was randomly selected along with more than 200,000 others. The letter said Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is contracted to conduct the study and a representative will visit me.

The letter provided the interviewer's name and stated she'd have an identification badge. All members of my household (me) would be asked a few questions and if qualified, I'd be asked to complete a survey and be compensated $30.

With all the scams going around I wasn't sure if this was legit. I Googled the phone number provided (800-848-4079) and found it did belong to Research Triangle Institute. I also found some message boards where users posted they didn't think it sounded legit and kind of scammy.

I forgot about it until last night, around 6:30 the doorbell rang. It was the woman mentioned in the letter. She had an identification badge and asked me a few questions in which she punched the answers into her magic hand-held device. Questions were basic - my age, ethnicity and whether I lived here full-time.

Turns out the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health needed more 40-year-old, Caucasian women so I was selected to take the hour-long survey and I was chosen to represent about 4,500 others in the United States. Whoa! The responsibility!

The interviewer went out to her car and returned with a computer and box of papers. We set up shop on my dining room table where she asked me questions and I completed questions on the computer. She was professional and fun and she assured me responses are kept confidential. She never asked to leave the dining area so I know she wasn't casing my place.

Some of the results are used to determine what types of medical services are needed in specific communities so just like the U.S. Census, participating is important.

I was never once asked for my name or social security number and I received $30 cash so I'm pretty confident this is not a scam. If it was a man conducting the interviewing not sure if I would have let him in.

Have you been contacted and asked to participate in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health? Results of this study will be released in 2011 - can't wait!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

What's Cooking? Snowball Cupcakes

My Mom is one of the creative and best cooks I know. She's always trying new dishes. When I visited over Christmas she prepared a new dessert for the family called a Snowball Cake. I took the recipe and made cupcakes for an office birthday party last week.

Following is the recipe, which she saved from the Buffalo News, and my modifications.
1 Angel Food Cake
1 Pint Heavy Cream
1.5 Tablespoons Unflavored Gelatin
4 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Cup Boiling Water
1.5 Cups Orange Juice
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
Dash of Salt
8 Ounce Bag of Shredded Coconut

Soften gelatin in cold water.
Add to boiling water and stir.
Add sugar and salt, stir thoroughly.
Add orange and lemon juices, stir.
Refrigerate until mixture begins to thicken (It doesn't take "that" long.)
Beat heavy cream until it's the consistency of whipped cream and fold half of it into the gelatin mixture.

Add sugar to taste to the remainder whipped cream and set aside.

Shred the Angel Food Cake with hands into small bits and place in the gelatin/whipped cream mixture.

Line a muffin/cupcake tin with paper baking cups.
Pour (I used a ladle) mixture into baking cups and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and add shredded coconut.

I didn't add coconut to every cupcake since I know some people aren't fans.

The result is a light and refreshing treat. It has a jello-y consistency and isn't heavy. Best of all, there's no baking involved! You can pick up a pre-baked Angel Food Cake from any grocery store.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Year! 1,000th Post! Thank You!

Yowza! Can't believe this is my 1,000th post on this blog AND it's 2011! My, oh my. Where has the time gone?

I really don't have anything profound to say to mark this occasion other than thank you for following, reading and commenting during the past five-and-a-half-years of this blog's life. To say it's been a roller coaster is an understatement.

But, it's a new year with new opportunities. To kick off 2011, I watched the Twilight Zone marathon on Syfy (which was interrupted by WWE's RAW on Friday night) and spent most of the weekend at home, trying to clean and downsize. Over the course of the weekend I filled a huge garbage bag with trash, recycled loads of plastic, paper and glass and took two garbage bags full of documents to be shredded. I deep-cleaned my bathroom (almost as well as my mom does) and did about four loads of laundry.

I made a rockin' bowl of vegetarian chili, found in the January issue of Real Simple (before recycling it), met up with a friend for lunch, watched football and a movie at another friend's house and had a great conversation with a longtime Yellowstone pal.

After all this, I still don't feel accomplished. My apartment still looks like it's full of stuff - and it is. I just need to chip away because later in the year I want to buy a house and want to move as little as possible.

But moving right along...Happy New Year!

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili Recipe from Real Simple- if you'd like to try it yourself, head on over to Real Simple for the recipe. I followed it to the tee with the exception of the sour cream and tortilla chips. No need for them but did top it off with radishes and scallions. The radishes seem a bit strange but tastes good. This recipe has the right amount of spicy, heat kick and I'll definitely be making it again.