Author Archives: Clare Parkinson

About Clare Parkinson

Native gardener, invertebrate enthusiast, #wordpress developer.

Clare’s Spinach Chickpea Orzo Salad

The mixture of textures is a pretty important part of this dish. You need a good crunch and a mild oniony flavor; radishes are a good substitute for sweet onion. The celery is important, and the cherry tomatoes have to be halved. I just eyeball the ratio of ingredients, so these are approximate measurements.


  • Orzo about 1/2 lb or 1.5 cups.
  • Can of chickpeas
  • Bag of baby spinach
  • 1 or 2 stalks celery sliced pretty thin. Don’t use the skinny inner stalks. You want a good crunch.
  • a pint or couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved.
  • a handful of kalamata olives. chopped a bit into chunks.
  • feta cheese, maybe a 4 ounce chunk, diced.
  • Sweet onion quartered and sliced as thin as you can get it. About 1/4 cup
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • Pita bread


  1. Slosh about 3 Tb of Olive oil and 2 Tb of balsamic vinegar in a big bowl. A couple glugs and a few shots.
  2. Cook the orzo. Start slicing and chopping the celery, tomatoes, olives, feta, and onion.
  3. Drain the orzo. ASAP put it in the big bowl and stir it all around so the oil & vinegar start to soak in.
  4. Immediately put about 3/4 of the baby spinach in the orzo and stir. Stir a few minutes until it’s all mixed in and starts to wilt.
  5. Finish slicing and chopping the celery, tomatoes, olives, feta, and onion.
  6. Drain the can of chickpeas.
  7. After a few minutes the spinach should be pretty wilted. Put all the chopped up stuff and the chickpeas in the big bowl and stir it all up.
  8. Add a bit of lemon juice
  9. Add salt and black pepper if you want. We always add it individually to each plate.
  10. Serve with pita bread!

Is almost as good chilled the next day, although the spinach gets pretty soggy. I haven’t invented a way to incrementally add fresh spinach that doesn’t involve cooking.


How I got my US T-Mobile phone to work in the UK: Samsung S4, 2013 edition

I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 running Jelly Bean (Android 4.2.2). In July 2013 I took it to the UK, where I installed a UK SIM card with pay-as-you-go credit.

Recursive self portrait

Me and my phone.

Here’s what I did.

1. Request a SIM Unlock

A few days before you leave the US, call T-Mobile and tell them you intend to use the phone with a non-US SIM chip, and ask them to file a “Sim Unlock Request”. You will need the phone’s IMEI, a 15-digit number most likely found in Settings under “My Device”. On my S4 it’s under Settings > More > About Device > Status.

The SIM Unlock Request takes 24 hours to process. You’ll receive an email with instructions on how to enter the SIM unlock code once you have your foreign SIM card. Print out the email! You won’t be able to access your email on your phone 🙂

2. Buy and install a UK SIM card

T-Mobile is branded as EE in the UK, so find an EE store, and get a £10 pay-as-you-go SIM card. This will get you 1GB data, 400 texts and 100 minutes for for 30 days. You can top up your SIM card at any shop where you see the “top up” logo.

Remove your US SIM card and install the new one. Your phone will prompt you to enter the SIM unlock code from step 1, which you’ve printed out for offline reference.

3. Restart your phone

When I took my phone to the UK in 2011 I had to do a lot of manual configuring on the phone: How I got my US T-Mobile phone to work in the UK. Now, all you do is restart your phone and it figures out the network by itself. And that’s it! Ask the store personnel to double-check your settings, and make sure you can get on their wi-fi, and you’re good to go!

WordPress Chicago Happiness Bar: Questions Answered

I had the privilege of working at the WordCamp Chicago Happiness Bar this weekend, for a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday. I volunteered for WordPress just so I could work at the Happiness Bar, because I love helping people with their websites. I love this technology, that something free, and easy to use, can help people publish their ideas and plans to the world. It’s such a powerful thing.

I do learn a lot from speaker sessions, and I loved talking to all the speakers I met, but I can catch up with them on twitter and through their slideshows archived on the WordCamp Chicago 2013 website. The knowledge they have is easily accessible to me.

Dr Elinor Brown of Global ENEO showed up as soon as Happiness Bar opened on Saturday morning. She had 10 questions written down on her notepad and we got through them all.  Mike Van Winkle started out with how to import a document from Word. While I was poking around in her sidebar I point I broke her footer – I upgraded her site to 3.5.2 assuming everything would be backwards-compatible, because it always is. I’ve never had any trouble upgrading WordPress. But there was a function ft_links in her footer that broke, and I googled a bit and poked around in the theme, and I couldn’t find what it was supposed to do. I couldn’t figure out where those footer links were coming from. So I commented out ft_links and wp_footer() and copied and pasted the HTML from a cached browser window into footer.php. Hey, it worked. And honestly, it’ll be easier for Dr Brown to update in the future, because she knows HTML, she just doesn’t know where to find her weird custom footer links. We also reviewed FTP, tweaked a few settings in her gallery plugin, and set up a category with blog posts and comments as a discussion area.  We even added a ™ to her logo, and then went down to get cupcakes from the cupcake truck.

I’ll write up some other visitors to the Happiness Bar soon!

How I got my US T-Mobile phone to work in the UK

Note: this was the process for a MyTouch 4G in 2011. The process is a lot easier now. Read here: How I got my US T-Mobile Samsung S4 phone to work in the UK  ( July 2013)

This is hard-won knowledge. I had to figure out this process by myself with trial, error, calls to technical support and repeated visits to T-Mobile stores. If there’s a similar guide anywhere online, I couldn’t find it. So here you go:

I live in the US. I have a T-Mobile MyTouch 4G, made by HTC. This phone works abroad as-is, but with crazy data roaming charges: $15 per megabyte. So here’s what I did to get cheap UK service on my US phone. I recommend completing all three steps in a single visit to a T-Mobile store. Just stay there until your phone works – you will need to be physically present in front of T-Mobile staff for Step 3.

1. Pay As You Go SIM card

First, go to a T-Mobile store and buy a SIM chip with at least £10 credit on it. The SIM card is technically free: what you’re buying is credit to use on pay-as-you-go phone, text, and data. I selected the International Plan (2p a minute to the US!) To activate the International Plan, text INT to 441.

T-Mobile Pay As You Go Tariffs for UK service

You can get data service with a T-Mobile Pay As You Go Internet Booster. Limited internet costs £2.50 for 5 days (text WEB to 4410, or £5 for 30 days (text WEB to 4410) Read up on T-Mobile’s UK Internet Fair Use policy. Short version: there’s a monthly limit on streaming video and audio.

2. Manually add a new APN

OK, so now your phone can access make calls, send texts, and access the internet. Or can it? No, it cannot, because you need to tell it what servers to connect to in the UK. You need to manually create an APN: “Access Point Name”. The T-Mobile website and the store staff may try to send the new APN settings automatically to your phone. That didn’t work for me, but entering the settings manually did.

Depending on what phone you have, the settings will be different. For my MyTouch 4G, the generic HTC phone APN settings worked.

To create a new APN, click Settings, Wireless & networks, Mobile networks, Access Point Names, then click the Settings button to pop up a menu with “New APN”. Click “New APN” and enter these settings, leaving the other fields unset. The settings are case-sensitive.

Name: T-mobile
Username: t-mobile
Password: tm
MMS Protocol: WAP 2.0
MCC: 234
MNC: 30
Authentication type: PAP
APN type: default

When you’re done entering the APN settings, before leaving that screen, click “Settings” again, and “Save” on the popup menu. Then, on the screen that lists the APNs, click to select the APN you’ve just created.

You can also find your phone on this page: T-Mobile phone support: find your phone, click “View all help”, “Manuals”, “Connecting to the Internet”, and “Setting up the phone for Internet surfing”, then follow the instructions.

Now you should be able to connect to the internet. If not, check that you’ve entered the correct APN settings with correct capitalization and that the new APN is active, then try restarting your phone.

3. Remove content lock

Now your phone can access web pages! Or can it? No, not all of them, because your UK SIM card assumes that you are a child trying to view dirty pictures. Flickr, YouTube, and other sites of questionable morality are locked and inaccessible. To remove the content lock, you can visit the T-Mobile website with a UK credit card (which you probably don’t have), or you can show T-Mobile store staff your passport or your obviously adult face and get them to remove the content lock from your phone.

And that should be it. After I had discovered these tasks and completed them my epic quest for connectivity was complete, and my phone worked fine for the rest of my trip. I hope this post will save someone else some time and frustration.

You can get your phone credit topped up with cash anywhere you see a “Top Up” sign: UK phone top-up sign News agents, corner stores, Radio Shack, etc.

Happy travels!