Monday, July 26, 2021

Did You Know That Your Diet Can Help You Fight Aging?

Two-Tiered Cake With 50 at the Top

By Gentle Heron

Here are some mealtime ideas that will help you feel younger and stay healthier longer as the number of candles on your birthday cake increases.

• Drink more water. Older people do not feel thirsty as readily as younger people, so they risk dehydration. Drink water at every meal; it’s better for you than drinks with sugar, alcohol or caffeine.

• Be aware of calories. Metabolism slows as we age, so we need lower calorie meals and snacks.

• Get enough protein. A third of older adults do not eat enough protein, which your body uses to renew many tissues. Meat is a good source of protein, but so are dairy products and legumes.

• Adequate calcium is necessary for bone health. Bone mass decreases with age, leading to an increased risk of fractures. Dairy products are a good source of that mineral, but 
lactose malabsorption and intolerance also increases with age. Other sources of calcium include canned fish (with bones), beans and nuts.

You may not taste things as well when you age, but avoid adding extra salt. That won’t help your blood pressure. Instead use herbs and spices which have the added benefit of fighting inflammation.

• Be sure you get enough potassium to help control blood pressure, which tends to increase with age. Good dietary sources of potassium include greens (beets, chard, spinach, etc.), lima beans, and sweet potatoes.

• Avoid constipation caused by inadequate fiber intake. Be sure you get enough fibrous fruits and vegetables as salads, snacks, and desserts.

• Since some vitamins (e.g., B12 and D) are more difficult to obtain from food as you get older, you may need a specific supplement. Check with your doctor first, and if a supplement is recommended, buy one that contains only what you need without unnecessary other ingredients.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Celebrate Your Disability Pride in July

I am a warrior poster with drawings of Wonder Woman and Batman speeding in wheelchairsLogo of the Chicago Disability Pride Parade showing a circle of hands with many skin colors, one signing, I Love You, and another a prosthetic hook.
By Gentle Heron

Disability pride is about recognizing and celebrating our self-worth as people with disabilities. We are a very diverse group of individuals, and we need to band together to support disability justice. Disability pride encourages us to reject ableism, and stop hiding or denying our disabilities because we are ashamed of them.

On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This marked a significant step in the progress of persons with disabilities toward independence. The ADA legislation is intended to protect the rights of people with disabilities in five key areas: employment, state and local government facilities and services, public accommodations, telecommunications, and transportation. As such, the ADA is part of the civil rights movement. It not only protects people with disabilities from discrimination, but also allows us to participate in our communities equally with people who do not have disabilities.

Disability Pride Month has been celebrated in July since 1990. Often a city will hold a Disability Pride Parade on July 26 or the last Saturday in July. These parades are meant to celebrate diversity and fight disability stigma. You can participate in a virtual Disability Pride Parade on social media on July 26. Or you can share your Disability Pride throughout July, and the rest of the year as well.

For more information about Disability Pride, please visit the following:

“Disability Pride Toolkit and Resource Guide” from the National Council on Independent Living -

“5 Questions to Think About This #DisabilityPrideMonth” -

“A chance to ‘amplify one another’: What is Disability Pride Month?” -

How will you show your Disability Pride?

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

How Can Whole-Grain Foods Help your Blood Pressure?

By Gentle Heron

Whole-grain foods include the fibrous bran and the germ, not just the starchy endosperm of the grain or seed. They are a good source of healthy nutrients and minerals, in addition to fiber.

Whole-grain foods help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, or might help lower hypertension by providing several health benefits.

Eating whole-grain versions of foods you already enjoy, such as breads and pasta, can help your weight management. They tend to make you feel fuller longer.

Whole-grains contain significant potassium. This mineral has been shown to lower blood pressure.

Blood vessel damage can take many forms, several of which increase the risk of high blood pressure. Whole grain foods reduce damage to blood vessels.

Insulin resistance is a condition where the body does not respond properly to the hormone insulin. Insulin controls the amount of the sugar glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Eating more whole grains increases insulin sensitivity.

The Dietary Guideline for Americans suggests that adults should eat at least 3 ounces of whole grains daily as part of a healthy diet. That’s just three slices of whole-wheat bread. According to the guidelines, at least half of all grain products you eat should be 100% whole grain.

With all these benefits, why not try eating more whole-grain foods?

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

A Fun Way to Learn about the ADA - July 7th


By Gentle Heron

The ten regional ADA centers are doing an ADA Jeopardy game on Zoom on Wednesday, July 7th, at 11 a.m. SLT (2 p.m. Eastern Time).

Topics for the Jeopardy questions will include:

  • Employment (ADA Title I),
  • State and Local Government (ADA Title II),
  • Public Accommodations (ADA Title III),
  • Accessible Technologies,
  • Effective Communication,
  • Facility Access,
  • Reasonable Accommodation, and
  • Reasonable Modification of Policy and Procedures.

You can ask your own personal question when you register for the session.

Register here:

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What is Internet Security?: Part 1 - How a home network operates

Internet security is a really big topic.  But what does it mean?  Does it mean:

  • Keeping your antivirus up to date?
  • Updating your operating system and applications regularly?
  • Keeping your private information safe from prying eyes?
  • Making sure your data is secure and recoverable in case of disaster?

It means all those things, and more.  In addition to those, and most importantly, it means:

  • Having a basic understanding of how the Internet works.
  • Educating yourself about how Internet evildoers attempt to take over your computer and/or gather your private information.

Why is it important to understand how computers talk on the Internet?

The old saying goes “knowledge is power.”  Without understanding the process of how basic computer communications work it is impossible to decide how to best protect yourself.  Think of it as “if I do not understand my house’s security weaknesses, I cannot protect it.”

How is my home network constructed?

We start at the beginning – the home network.  Here is a standard home network configuration:

Figure 1:  Standard Home Network Configuration

Your devices talk to the home router using either an Ethernet cable or a wireless network connection.  That is fine and dandy, but we need a deeper dive into the home router to understand how information is transmitted to and from your devices and servers on the Internet.

Why is it called a “home router”?

Devices connected to your home router are on one network.  Everything else is on other networks.  Your home router “routes” communications between networks.  If there were no routers all devices would have to be on one network, which is not possible.

Understanding how your home router works requires looking under the hood.  This is how nearly all home routers are constructed internally:

Figure 2: Home router internal breakout

Let’s define each of these components.

  • Switch:  so-called because it “switches” information from one device to another; this is what allows your home router to connect many devices to the Internet and your devices to talk to one another.
  • Ethernet-Inside:  this is the network connection on the firewall that talks to your devices.
  • Ethernet-Outside:  this is the network connection on the firewall that talks to the Internet.
  • Firewall:  the heart and soul of any home router, the firewall acts as a gatekeeper and does the job of routing communications between networks.

How does the firewall act as a gatekeeper?

In general, the firewall allows requests to go from inside your network to the Internet.  When the requested information comes back from the Internet the firewall matches that information with the requests going out.  If they match, you get your email, web pages, Google Docs, OneDrive, and cat videos.  If information comes into the firewall from the Internet and there is no matching request, the firewall will not respond to (“drop”) that connection attempt.  Remember that.  If a server on the Internet attempts to talk to your home router without you previously requesting information from that server, the firewall will simply drop that communication.

How does the firewall keep things straight?

The details would send us down a rabbit hole from which we would never return, so we’ll keep things fairly general.

We’re going to talk about “IP addresses.”  There are two kinds:  Internet Protocol (IP) version 4 and version 6 (IPv4 and IPv6).  We will talk only about IPv4 right now (shown here as IP).  IPv6 will be discussed at some point in the future.

  • Your firewall has two IP addresses.
    • The “Ethernet-Inside” IP address will be something like (emphasis on the 1, here) and is often called the “default gateway.”  This IP address is not routable to or from the Internet.  What that means is if I take a device with an IP address that belongs on my home network and connect it directly to the Internet, nothing will talk to it.  All routers on the Internet will not talk to anything with an IP address that belongs on a home network.  More about that later.
    • The “Ethernet-Outside” IP address will be assigned by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and is routable because this IP address is part of the public IP address space (more about that later).
  • Each device on your home network gets a different IP address that is only accessible to devices on your home network – like 192.168.0.something.  (Something in this case will be anywhere from 2 through 254.)  Your firewall knows the IP address of each device on your network and puts it in a table.
  • When your computer makes a request for data to the Internet (email, web pages, videos, etc.) the firewall adds to the table what server you're trying to talk to on which specific “port.”  To make a long story shorter, the firewall waits for a response from the server on the Internet (from which you requested information) to that specific port.  When, and if, the response comes back to the firewall from the Internet, the firewall matches it to the table; if the ports are the same, it will forward the information back to your computer.

Wait – you said someone could try connecting to my home router from the Internet.  Could someone be trying to hack my home router?

Yes.  In fact, it happens constantly in an automated process.  There are millions of computers on the Internet constantly scanning for home routers they can access.  These computers are usually controlled from a series of central locations.  Each group of computers controlled by a central location is called a “botnet.”  There is nothing you can do to stop one of those computers from trying to talk to your home router.  What you can do is make sure your home router is configured correctly (so it drops the connection attempt) and keep its software updated.

Update my home router?  How do I do that?  How often should I check?

Home routers are single-purpose computers and, like any computer, are controlled by software.  If you acquired your home router from your Internet Service Provider, generally the ISP will keep it updated.  If you bought your own home router it will be your responsibility to occasionally check for updates.  Fortunately, every home router has a website you can log on to for that purpose.

Your home router has a web page used to administer it.  You will need two pieces of information:

1.       The default gateway mentioned above

a.       To get the default gateway,

                                                   i.      On a Windows computer, in the Search box type “powershell” and click on the app that is presented to you.  Next, type “ipconfig” and press Enter.  Look for the line that says “Default Gateway” with an IP address.  Write that down.

                                                  ii.      On a Mac or Linux, open the Terminal program.  At the prompt, type “ifconfig” and press Enter.  Again, look for the default gateway in the output.  It will be somewhat buried, but you will see it.  It will almost always be the IP address that ends in “1.”  Write that down.

2.       The default username and password

a.     To find the default username, open a web page and use your favorite search engine to look for this phrase:  “make and model of your home router default username.”  So, if I had a Netgear C6230 (you’ll find the make and model on the back or bottom of your home router), you would search for “Netgear 6230 default username.”  Or you can download the manual from the manufacturer’s website and search for “username.”

b.     The password will be listed with the username in the documentation.

The home router’s documentation will explain how to search for updates.  Generally, this is a button that will say “Check for updates.”  If an update is available, follow the instructions on the web page to download and install it.

While you are doing this, change the password for the default username to something secure.  Write that password down and keep it safe.  If any security issues are found with your home router that might allow someone on the Internet to use the default username and password to log on to it this will foil their attempt.

Updates to a home router’s software is infrequent.  Check every three months to six months.

Sometimes your Internet Service Provider will help you do this, but they will tell you they cannot take responsibility for updating the software.

You mentioned that IP addresses on a home network are not routable – what addresses are they?

IP addresses have four pieces, separated by a “.”.  Each piece starts at 0 and goes to 255.  For example, a IP address could be  Here is what it looks like generally:

[0-255] . [0-255] . [0-255] . [0-255]

IP addresses are broken up into six classes with specific ranges.  Those ranges are:

Table 1: IP Addresses by Class






Class A –



Class B –



Class C –



Class D –

Multicast – not assigned to a computer


Class E –

Research only


Reserved –

Loopback, for testing

All the IP address ranges in Classes A through C are part of the public IP address space, except for ranges reserved for private networks.  The ranges are:

Table 2: Private IP Addresses




Class A –

Private IP addresses

Class B –

Assigned by the computer itself if it can­not other­wise get a network address

Class B –

Private IP addresses

Class C –

Private IP addresses

Any IP address in the public address space is routable on the Internet – that is, Internet routers will accept communications from and send communications to any device with a public IP address.  Addresses in private networks cannot talk directly on the Internet – all equipment on the Internet will refuse to communicate with any machine that has an IP address in those ranges.

Figure 3: Internet routers refuse communications with private IP addresses

What it means for you is this:  if your home network is functioning correctly your computer will have a IP address in one of the private IP ranges listed above.  Assuming your home router is working and correctly configured your home computers are safe from someone trying to break into your network.  The firewall and routing functions in your home router will protect you.

Of course, this does not mean you do not need antivirus.  The most common way for hackers to break into your computer is to convince you to let them in.  That will be our next topic.

Comments are welcome.  Please leave them here or send them to Orange Planer inworld.

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for July 2021

By Gentle Heron

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this posting. Once you are there, you can click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images.  If you click the other posters within a particular exhibit, you will get a message with additional information and sometimes live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!     

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Two Types of Fiber—Both Good for Your Health

By Gentle Heron

Fiber is the only nutrient that your body can not absorb… and that is why it is healthy for you. The fiber in your diet comes from plant parts that your digestive system can not break down. Dietary fiber is either soluble or insoluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water in your intestines to form a gel-like substance. Soluble fiber lowers the level of “bad” (low-density) lipoprotein cholesterol in your blood. It also reduces blood pressure and lowers inflammation. Soluble fiber may slows absorption of sugar, which improves blood sugar levels for Type 1 diabetics. It may reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve and passes unchanged through the digestive tract. It promotes bowel health, relieving constipation and solidifying loose stools. A diet with adequate insoluble fiber may lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Good sources of soluble fiber include apples, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, and oats. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as bran, nuts, whole grain cereals and breads, and many vegetables. Processed foods contain very little fiber.

For ideas on adding fiber to your diet, please see:



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Visit Virtual Ability’s SL18B Display

By Gentle Heron

It’s difficult to believe that Second Life is celebrating its 18th birthday from June 17 to July 6. There always seems to be something new to enjoy. Head on over to the SL Birthday celebration for music, shopping, freebies, and exhibits. It's open 24 hours a day, and may be less crowded (laggy!) during US night hours. Here is the schedule of all the events.

SL groups and individuals have an opportunity to create displays during the Birthday celebration. The theme for the displays this year is is “Hidden.” Virtual Ability’s interactive display is about "Hidden Disabilities." Eme did a fantastic job educating the general public about several types of disabilities that may not be obvious if you don't know the person. Check it out, and be sure to click the entrance poster for a set of informative notecards.

Here is the SLURL to Virtual Ability’s exhibit:

Have fun visiting all the events and displays and sales and freebies that make up a SL Birthday celebration.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

“Mind the Brain” podcasts

Your mind includes your thoughts, emotions, and cognitive processes. Your mind is produced by the brain, an organ inside your body.

The University of Colorado Anschutz Department of Psychiatry has created a series of podcasts called the “Mind the Brain” series. These include interviews with experts about personal mental health topics such as:

  • Resilience
  • Managing uncertainty
  • Assessment and care of psychosis
  • Food and body image

Important social topics are covered as well:

  • Racism and discrimination in mental health care
  • Mental health challenges of refugees
  • COVID19 as a threat to mental health

Find the podcasts here:

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for June 2021

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the links in this blog entry.  Also, clicking each of the pictures will end you to the appropriate place in Second Life. Click on the poster in Second Life with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster in Second Life, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island
Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

Rebuild Your Life Month

Retinopathy of Prematurity

Scleroderma Awareness Month

June is Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month

June Aphasia Awareness Month

Swollen Fingers


Are you eating too much sugar?

Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Most Common Questions Asked by Blind People About Second Life Access: Answered By CeleneHighwater

Hi all! By now you probably know I am the ballgown-loving, fin-flipping mermaid who lives at Virtual Ability. And yes, I know ballgowns aren't exactly compatible with a tailfin, but hey, it's SL! I can transform easily.

What some of you might not know is that I am a blind Second Life user. I use a viewer called Radegast. You can find it here:

I have decided to write this post to answer some frequently asked questions about life in Second Life and Radegast viewer use.

Q - I have never heard of Radegast. What is it?

A - Radegast is a text-based viewer for use in virtual worlds. It does have limited 3D view capabilities but these were never fully developed. What has been developed, however, is its accessibility and ease-of-use for those of us who are blind.

Q - Do I need money in Second Life?

A - No. No money is needed in the virtual world. However, you can transfer real life currency into Linden dollars if you so choose. And once acclimated with Radegast and in world life, you can work a job if you want or do something for fun to earn a little extra like trivia, fishing, or themed contests.

Q - What is possible in Second Life?

A - Second Life is a world with endless possibilities. If you can dream it, you can probably do it here. The environment is surprisingly accessible for those who use a screen reader and, as awareness grows among other residents and creators, so does the level of access. Virtually the only two things we can not do right now are drive and build. But, no one drives much in SL unless for sport. Teleportation is definitely the way to go here!

Q - What kinds of places can I explore?

A - There are clubs, non-profit organizations, roleplaying sims, universities and colleges offering credit courses, groups with dedicated sims, dance halls, concert venues, parks, cities, museums and even some real world replicas of well-known places (e.g., Yosemite National Park, the Pyramids of Egypt, Machu Pichu)!

Q - How do I get started?

A - If you want to join Second Life, you will want to register on Virtual Ability's website for a Second Life account. The reason for this is because when you log in with Radegast, you will be on Virtual Ability's orientation island where, if you've scheduled an appointment with us, we can be waiting to help you gain your inworld feet.

It is not necessary for you to schedule an appointment with us, but we do encourage it, just because Second Life is such a huge place and it can be overwhelming at first. We want to make it as easy as possible for you to get started.

After you register at, visit

and download the latest version of Radegast. Note that there is a how-to tutorial for Radegast on the site. We strongly encourage you to reference that often as you learn.

Q - Why do I have to make an appointment? Shouldn't there be someone around whenever I log online?

A - Second Life is a huge place with things going on all the time. It is a 24-7 world that never sleeps. We could be taking part in an event elsewhere, relaxing at our favorite sim, or we could be in real life with our families. We are all volunteers and can not monitor the entry point for Virtual Ability at all times. It is not possible.

Q - I know what is possible for sighted users, but what about blind people?

A - While we can not build currently in the virtual world, we can do most everything else. We can shop, manage our own wardrobe, interact at events, dance, etc. My favorite activity is fishing; I am hopelessly addicted to it, but that is just my preference. Everyone will find their own place in this world. It's the way Second Life is designed. And because Second Life is an ever-evolving platform and Radegast an open source viewer, anything is possible!

I hope these questions and answers have helped you somewhat as you decide whether or not to join us in the world of Second Life. If you do decide to come in, we will be happy to help you as much as we can. We were all new residents once and we remember what it is like!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Autism in Context: Optimizing Equity for Students on the Spectrum

Autism in Context: 
Optimizing Equity for Students on the Spectrum
webinar put on by the 
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Date:  Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Time:  11 a.m. SLT
Duration:  1 hour

Educators and parents or guardians of students on the autism spectrum are often at odds, bringing to the table vastly different perceptions and expectations. And yet, because these students depend heavily on consistency and continuity across contexts, effective collaboration with parents and guardians is a crucial component of their education. How do educators bridge this gap?

Barbara Boroson has sat on both sides of the table for these challenging conversations — as both an autism educator and a parent of a child on the spectrum — and brings a multifaceted perspective to this touchy topic. In this webinar, teachers and education leaders will collect practical information and strategies for maintaining an equitable learning environment that embraces these quirky learners — and their parents and guardians, too.

Speaker Barbara Boroson
Barbara Boroson is the author of the new ASCD publication "Decoding Autism and Leading the Way to Successful Inclusion" and "Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students with ASD" (Scholastic, 2016) and has worked in the field of autism education for more than 25 years in clinical, administrative, and advisory capacities.

She provides professional development and consultative services nationwide to school districts and parents facilitating successful inclusion, and speaks frequently at conferences, colleges and graduate schools.

Monday, May 3, 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month:  How to Get Mental Health Help
May is Mental Health Awareness Month:  How to Get Mental Health Help

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Everyone has mental health! This designation for May was begun in 1949 by Mental Health America. Their theme this year is “Tools 2 Thrive.” Mental Health America provides resources to improve personal mental health and increase resiliency.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) promotes the theme “You Are Not Alone.” NAMI states that the purpose of this theme is to “focus on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.”

In Canada, Mental Health Week 2021 Is May 3-9. This year’s theme is “Name it, don’t numb it.”

In the UK, Mental Health Awareness Week is designated May 10-16 in 2021. The 2021 theme is “Nature.” A strong connection to the natural world is good for anyone’s psychological and emotional health.

Did you know that one in five US adults and one in six US youth and teens will experience a mental illness in any given year? It is a sad statistic that less than half of them will receive any treatment. One in five homeless people in the US have a serious mental health condition. Over a third of incarcerated adults and nearly three-quarters of youth in the juvenile justice system have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Anyone who is affected by mental illness, including family members, coworkers and friends of those directly affected, should receive appropriate support without stigma. With proper care, those struggling with mental illness can achieve a high quality of life and be happy and fulfilled. Nobody needs to feel alone.

Please check out the informative poster sets on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island during May to learn more about mental illness and the resources available. You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs below. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set to receive a notecard of all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Mental Health Awareness Month: How to Get Mental Health Help

Minority Mental Health Equity

Borderline Personality Disorder


Bipolar Disorder

Basic Facts About Depression

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Music and Mental Health


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cookies Eat Dinosaur

The Caramel That Tried To Escape
The Caramel That Tried To Escape

By Orange Planer, Virtual Ability member

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when my wife said, “I need chocolate!”  I like to think I’m a good husband, so I raise my bulk off the couch to make my top-secret chocolate cookies.  Re-reading the recipe is always a good thing, so after doing that I promptly forget everything, mix all the dry ingredients, crack the two eggs into a bowl, and wait for the butter to soften.

After an hour or so the butter is softened.  The recipe doesn’t make a lot of cookies, so out comes the smaller bowl and the beater with the rubber scrapers on the edge.  Time to cream the butter (beat a lot of air into it).  The butter goes into the bowl, I start the mixer on low and slowly speed it up.  Great, the butter has gone from soft yellow to white with the additional air.  The recipe says to add two cups of sugar (to beat a lot more air into it).

We have trouble:  the sugar was combined with all the other dry ingredients.  Now what?  Well, there's sugar in there SOMEwhere, hopefully it will help cream the butter…  I add the first of two cups of dry ingredients and put the mixer on low.  Uh oh.  I forgot cocoa powder is light and prone to fly all over the place.  Result:  happy, graceful cocoa powder clouds rise into the air.

In for a dime, in for a dollar.  I continue adding dry ingredients with the mixer on low.  So far, so good, the cocoa powder clouds are subsiding, but the butter is sticking to the beater shaft.  Increasing the mixer speed from 2 to 4 should take care of that.

We have more trouble:  I did not wait until the dry ingredients were incorporated.  Now unhappy, not-so-graceful, cocoa powder clouds color the air around me.  It’s in my mouth, it's coating the mixer, the rest of the kitchen, and it's all over me.

Well, that did not work, so after turning off the mixer and scraping the butter off the beater shaft, the dry ingredients get incorporated.  Now it is time to finish creaming the butter with the mixer at high speed.  That is also when I realize the bowl is not big enough. Dough is starting to spew all over me and the kitchen.

I turn off the mixer, clean up the mess, and get out the BIG bowl, 5.5 quarts.

And, on a hunch to keep the clouds under control, I change from the beater with the scrapers to the one without scrapers.  I also bring out the two-piece bowl cover that has a ramp where I can slide in dry ingredients.  Of course, the way this day is going, it does not fit.  It was made for a smaller bowl.

All right, I remove the half of the bowl cover without the ramp, hold the part with the ramp in place using one hand, and turn the mixer on low.  With my free hand I try to put the cap on the vanilla extract.  I knock the bottle over, spilling a teaspoon or so on the counter and all over the instructions.  After picking up the bottle with my free hand, I’m starting wonder whether I should just go to the store, but my pride is at stake.  These cookies won’t defeat me!

I am still holding the half bowl cover with one hand, so I grab a cloth and wipe up the vanilla with the other hand.  I think about putting the cloth in the sink, say “heck with it,” and throw the cloth onto the instructions, 'cause.

Time to start adding the eggs.  This is a little tricky because the recipe says to add one egg at a time.  The first egg goes in just fine, along with about half the egg white using the ramp on the cover.  I wait for the egg to mix in, pour the other egg down the ramp and into the bowl… and somehow the egg yolk misses the ramp, breaking on the counter.  I sigh in frustration.  Well, there's nothing on the counter but cocoa powder, so I scrape it up and put it in the bowl and let it finish mixing.  Now it's time to put in the dry ingredients.

Well, the rest of the dry ingredients.

Trying to keep the unhappy clouds from happening again, I leave the mixer on low and pour a cup of the mixture down the ramp.  Had I forgotten that there was egg white on that ramp?  Yes.  A whole bunch of the dry ingredients sticks on the ramp, but most of it gets in the bowl.  But because the mixer is moving, unfortunately, my attempt at reducing the unhappy clouds is an abject failure.

Now there are angry cocoa powder clouds that make me think of Mt. Kilauea and I can barely see anything.  No wonder they evacuate people from around active volcanoes.

Picture of an erupting volcano with clouds of brown gas

Finally, the remaining cocoa powder and the rest of the dry ingredients get incorporated, but as before it is sticking to the shaft of the beater.  I speed up the mixer to 8 to spin it off with no luck.

Time to bring out the muscle.  Out comes the silicone spatula.  I am partway through mixing the dough when I realize that (a) my trigger finger is bad – the right ring finger is locked on the spatula – I cannot change grip; and (b) remember when I said I stopped using the beater with the scrapers?  Yeah, that would have been useful right now.  About a half cup of the dry mixture is at the bottom of the bowl, unmixed.

I pull the spatula from my hand and unwind my finger with the other hand.  Now I can change grip from “fist” style to how I hold a pen.  I slowly (because I forgot silicone spatulas are freakishly soft!) mix the rest of the dry ingredients in.  I ask my wife if she wants to taste the batter.  After observing the kitchen, the bowl, the implements of destruction, and me she just licks my arm.

"Tastes good!" she says, and heads back to the living room.

I sigh.

The dough is now cooling in the fridge.  Everything's been wiped down, washed, put in the dishwasher, or otherwise sanitized.

But it will not surprise me if my coffee tomorrow turns out to be mocha.

Top Secret Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Level: Easy
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, unbeaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • White Sanding sugar, for garnish (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer.

  2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the creamed mixture and mix until combined.

  3. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt.

  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and continue mixing until incorporated.

  5. Roll the dough into TWO logs that are about 2-inches high and 1-foot long. Wrap the dough logs in waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  7. Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick rounds and dip all sides in sanding sugar. Place dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

  8. Cool cookies on a wire rack.