Vanilla Swiss Almond Cookie

My mom turned 74 this year and that called for a special cookie. Along with @teachameleon, we came up with a cookie that honored my mother’s addition to Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream by Haagen-Dazs. This cookie is an instant favorite in my family’s household, so I wanted to share it.

Ingredients

Conceptually, this cookie is a chocolate chip cookie base where we substituted a combination of roughly chopped chocolate covered almonds and 64% cocoa discs from Imperfect Foods.

For the Cookie

Cream together

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Mix in

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Mix in or Fold in by hand

1/2 cup chocolate covered almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Scoop the cookies onto an parchment lined rimmed baking sheet or however else you like to bake cookies.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes in a 350 deg F/180 deg C preheated oven. Let them cool a bit on the baking sheet (about 5 minutes) and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies are cooled completely – Make the white chocolate dip

For the Dip

Melt about 1/2 a package of of white chocolate chips using either a double boiler or microwave. Tempering the chocolate is not required. Add the seeds from 1 vanilla bean and stir the melted chocolate until the vanilla seeds are evenly distributed.

You can dip the cookies in the chocolate or you can do a drizzle, if you prefer. We left half of the cookies plain and the other half dipped so there was variety in batch.

5 Reasons for My Absence

This blog has gone silent for a while now, but I’m back on it! Here’s what happened while I was away:

Family Moved

Along with many others across the U.S., my family had some relocation happen in 2021. My mom sold her house on the other side of the country and moved closer to her grandkids. It’s GREAT to have her so much closer and we have all been involved in getting her moved and settled into her new home.

New Relationship

In an incredible stroke of luck, I actually managed to connect with another really amazing human being. Details to follow, but just know that I’m super happy and we’re settling in together.

Job Related

Work continues to be a challenge as staff leave for other opportunities, technologies evolve for doing out work, processes change, policies adapt to circumstances, and patrons need more help navigating this tumultuous period. It’s rewarding for sure, but also exhausting.

In-State Travel

Taking time for disconnecting and enjoying the many lovely parts of my home state has eased some of the stress from all this change. I’ve traveled around the state, enjoying the company of my new human. I’ve been a bit of a tour guide and it’s been a lot of fun.

Unsent Letters

With my morning coffee I listened to this episode of the Endless Thread podcast and it sent me on a wonderful emotional roller coaster.

Endless Thread is a podcast about the collection of online communities called reddit. It’s one of the two social network type services I still use. This podcast does deep dives on some of the communities on the site.

This episode has unsent letters from a nurse who worked in a Covid19 ward, a teacher to a student, and a vet tech to pet owners, among others. These letters got me thinking about a lot of different unsent letters I’ve drafted over the years. I think I might contribute to this sub-reddit after hearing these.

Signs of Normality

We’re doing what we can to help our community heal by bringing live outdoor music concerts back responsibly. Today, I had the pleasure of attending a recording session of our first concert.

Photo of band Toppermost performing.
Toppermost at the Music Hall

This first week’s concert was recorded so we can ease out public back into a sense of normal. The recording will be published on YouTube and Facebook later for viewing.

Next week, we’re going to do our concert outside on the lawn with spaces marked out for social distancing. We’re hoping it’s a success since we’re also arranging for a grab and go style food truck to be there.

It’s rewarding offering some of these services to the community. These concerts are a regular feature of summer here and it’s something I think we all need right now.

Are you doing anything to help people feel more hopeful amid this pandemic?

We’re Opening!

Picture of red sculpture shaped like the handshape for "love" ASL
Sculpture in downtown Fenton – June 2020

It’s a busy and exciting time as we bring staff back and get ready for opening to the public again with new service offerings and programs. It’s not without its issues, but I’m feeling like we weathered this part of the storm pretty well.

I’ve gotten really good at moderating video calls and explaining to people how to mute and unmute themselves on their various devices. While this was not the most pleasant way to do it, our lockdown experience helped us reprioritize and reorient ourselves to a different form of service.

The whole work-from-home situation has been a mixed blessing. I find that I’m probably working MORE hours, but I also have a more flexible workload, so I can take breaks more frequently. That’s really make it easier for me to focus on a task, push through it, and then know I can go take a break and pay attention to my health for a while before diving into another project.

These are exciting times. I am choosing to see this period as an opportunity for growth and experimentation rather than keeping a negative perspective on everything. I’m even getting to help the League of Women Voters do voter education work so we have an better informed group of voters for the coming elections. Truly exciting times!

Moving Forward

I’ve been attending some video conference meetings online with other librarians and library staff to have themed discussions about how we’re handling this current situation. Most recently, we discussed how we envision libraries and library services to evolve as the country reopens.

There were two big themes that came out of our discussions. Before moving forward, these themes emerged from the 200+ attendees, so the amount of agreement is pretty significant.

Removing Barriers to Access

We talked about what barriers we were likely to see when we reopen in addition to existing barriers that we may need to remove to help support our communities as they heal.

Some of the barriers to access are pretty obvious:

  • Charging for printing/faxing/copying
  • The building itself can be a barrier for those not able to travel
  • Library policies that restrict who gets a library card
  • Technology barriers – the databases we use to provide information for our patrons can be barriers to those without internet access
  • Language
  • Accessibility of online programs

Figuring out how to remove some or all of these barriers is a tricky task. Some of them are definitely more difficult or expensive than others. At this point, however, we need to take a hard look at what we can and should do to help people rebuild once we’re open to the public again.

Libraries as Places to Reconnect

Libraries have always been important third places for people to socialize and just relax, explore, and entertain themselves. Our current situation has made that more difficult since we need to limit the number of people in the building (for social distancing) and restrict access to some resources in the short term to protect the health of our staff.

One of the most difficult parts of this shutdown has been not seeing our patrons. The staff have warm relationships with many of our staff who visit and we love to make sure they get the services they need to solve problems, educate themselves, and provide a mental break through consumption of our library materials. A big part of this re-connection period will be checking in on our community. The sad part I’m bracing myself for is when some of our patrons don’t come back because they didn’t survive the virus. There will be grieving. There will definitely be tears. Our staff will need to heal from this.

Reconnecting with our community at the library will be tricky from a public health perspective for a little while, but we’ll push through it. We want our patrons to know that they’ve been missed and we’re doing what we can to keep them safe.

I’m learning a lot about virtual programming and what is needed to support that kind of work, but it’s also important to note that humans need face-to-face interaction; it’s just not something we’ll be able to offer in the same way for a while.

Showing Support

Showing support during the pandemic

I have some friends and acquaintances who work in the medical field in some capacity. Some of them are working in COVID19 wards and caring for desperately ill patients. There’s not much I can do for them, but I’m trying to show support. The t-shirt above is being sold by my favorite book-themed merchandise businesses, OutofPrint.com. If you’ve never looked through their stock, it’s work a look. From the web page:

100% of profits from this Mo Willems – Take Heart unisex ringer t-shirt will be donated to World Central Kitchen and their #CHEFSFORAMERICA relief effort. WCK is working across America to safely deliver fresh meals, put restaurants back to work, and feed frontline healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OutofPrint.com

Please consider supporting them, if you’re able. They’re all working really hard to keep us healthy and minimize deaths during this pandemic. It’s also important to know that run-of-the-mill accidents and illness haven’t stopped either. Our doctor’s, nurses, and all medical personnel are working hard to keep up with all the demand… and it’s exhausting work.

I’ve also been printing out ear-loop extenders to help medical staff. They’re flexible and easy to use for people who have to wear masks for long periods of time. There are a few other 3D printer projects that I’m looking at printing that can help people who are making cloth masks. The 3D printer/modeling community has been great about getting these things out and giving tips for successful printing.

Tomorrow is game night with the Gang. We’re going to do it via Google Meet with a pretty good sized group of people. We’re going to chat a bit, catch up, and then play some online games together. It’s been a good time and I’m so grateful for this chance to support my friends and be supported with their smiles and laughter. It’s made a big difference to my mental health.

I think the best way to support our medical personnel and our community is to respect the Stay Home, Stay Safe order. Moving forward, we need to be better about wearing masks, hand hygiene, covering our sneezes and coughs, and just staying home when we’re sick. This pandemic won’t be over tomorrow, but we can certainly shorten its duration together if we act appropriately.

Life with COVID19

Found in my neighborhood

I joke with people who are stuck at home during this time that as an introvert, I’ve been training for this my entire life, but it’s starting to get much tougher for me as the isolation gets longer.

In an attempt to to lift my spirits, I decided to document positive things I saw when outside for exercise. Here a few from around my neighborhood.

This helped for a little bit. The sunshine we got a peek of lately also bolstered my usual optimism, but it wasn’t too long before things started sliding back downhill. Then I got a notice that a package was being delivered, but it was coming from Ohio; I couldn’t recall ordering anything from Ohio. It turned out to be a care package from some friends.

“Wash Your Hands” and “Don’t Touch Your Face” cookies!


This act of kindness really made my day. What a great idea! I decided to pay it forward and do something like this for another friend.

What Helps

Here are some things I’ve found helpful for dealing with the isolation:

  • Video/audio calls with family
  • Regular check-ins with friends
  • Online collaborative gaming with coworkers and friends
  • Reading and listening to podcasts
  • Using resources to help (like a 3D printer)
  • I am learning new recipes and improving my #husbandmaterial rating 😎
  • Talking out loud to my cat. Sounds silly, but she’s a decent listener.
Sometimes I interrupt her naps to talk.

There was a great article that was talked about the techniques used by astronauts to deal with isolation. I’ve been doing my best to follow their advice.

  • Keeping my mind active
  • Keeping healthy with exercise and good diet
  • I make sure to get outside whenever I can

I’m learning a lot about video conferencing technology and doing my research on the virus from reputable sources. I’m also attending video conferences for work which were surprisingly helpful and left me feeling more connected and focused.

I’ll keep this up as long as it takes. One person’s actions can make a difference in containing the spread of this virus. Stay at home, stay safe, and stay connected. We’ll get through this.

100 Books

For the first time ever, I’ve read 100 books in a year. This is big — I never thought I could read this much, but here we are at just over 100 books with two months left to go in the year. Curious what I’ve read? Check out my Goodreads profile.

The only reason I was able to get through this many books successfully is through the use of audio books. It’s infuriating how publishers are restricting library purchases of electronic versions of their books. Libraries are pushing back, but I wonder if it’ll be enough. I know I’ve discussed the issue with colleagues at work and I’m hoping the the boycott will work and create terms that are favorable for everyone. If you’ve not heard about the boycott, here’s a great editorial from Publisher’s Weekly that explains the situation.

Three Months Facebook-Free

After about three months of being without any Facebook owned apps on my devices and having deleted my accounts on those services, here’s what’s happened so far:

  • Ads: The kinds of advertisements I’m getting have dramatically changed. I listen to Pandora a lot and I seem to get only one ad now that is for an app/service I use frequently for travel. Prior to The Exodus, I had quite a variety of ads for many different services.
  • My money: Requests for fund-raising campaigns have dropped to zero. Now I only get them via email or text from known friends.
  • Shopping: I love to browse and shop online and used to fall prey to Instagram and Facebook ads a lot. It’s how my friend Grant ended up with an awesome romper as a birthday gift from me. Since the Exodus, it’s been a lot easier to control my shopping. I now tend to shop for what I need. One of my other personal projects is making better use of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mindset, but that’s a separate post coming in the future. Reducing the amount of advertise I’m exposed to has made an incredible difference in how I purchase stuff.
  • No FOMO: Party invitations, events, and other types of gatherings with my friends have dramatically declined. I still here from a core group of friends and family, so I’m getting out of the house, but I no longer feel overwhelmed with having to choose between activities. In fact, one of my friends uses a tag to let my family and friends still on Facebook know I’m with them, since they can’t tag me in photos any longer. I think it’s “#GlennHereToo” or something like that. I think it’s hilariously thoughtful.

Overall, I’m enjoying the freedom from Facebook products. I am still using Vero, but it may get cancelled too, if my friends and family don’t adopt it. That’s the thing with these sort of apps. Getting people to migrate to something, even if it’s in their best interest, is tough because of all the time and content already invested in Facebook.

If you’re looking for a good book about why you should follow my lead, you should read Edward Snowden’s autobiography. It’s an excellent insight into who his is and it tells his side of the story. It also is rather frightening since he tells you, as a someone who worked with these systems, just how much of your privacy you’re handing over to other companies and governments without getting anything substantial in return.

Book cover image for Permanent Record by Edward Snowden
Permanent Record by Edward Snowden – Check with your public library for a copy with Rakuten OverDrive/Libby here.

Regardless of your political views, this book is one of several that I think anyone (particularly parents) should read.

Maybe it’s just me… but probably not.

I’m very introverted and need a lot of solitude, rest, and quiet in order to feel both mentally and physically healthy. This Exodus from Facebook, in addition to just dialing back my social media in general, has dramatically helped me reduce stress, improve my concentration, and just enjoy life a lot more. When I’m with a group, my phone tends to stay in my pocket. When I’m traveling, I use it for taking an occasional photo, but that’s about it.

I tend to use my phone now for talking/texting people, taking photos/videos that I tend to keep to myself, and listening to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts. This is a big change from previous years where I was narrating my life online or looking at what other people where doing (with and without me). I routinely leave my devices at home when I go out for bike ride or walk and I no longer feel anxious about it. It’s just a more present way of being and I feel like I’m using technology in a more responsible manner.

My next post on this subject will probably be next year. It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen in the legal world by then, if anything.

Are you going to try separating yourself from social media? Feel free to connect with me if you want some advice or just need to talk about the process.