Thursday, November 5, 2020

Sam's Weekly Quarantine Digest #32: November 1, 2020

 Hi all,

This weekend, I'm mourning the loss of - IMHO - one of the best actors of all time, Sean Connery.  As I type this, I'm honoring him and his 60-plus year career by watching The Rock, one of my favorites.  You can see a list of his most popular films here.  A few months ago, we also lost Chadwick Boseman, who passed away from cancer that none of us knew he had.  Actors like these two men shape all of our lives - their poignant portrayals of characters bring to life so many stories that inspire us, haunt us, and show us new perspectives.  It's easy to see the mark they've left on the world when they're gone.  For many of the rest of us, it's not so easy.

I'm sure we've all thought about this at some point - how we'll be remembered when we're gone, when we can no longer correct the record or tell our stories the way we remember them.  In reality, there's very little we can do to control this, other than to live our lives every day the way we'd like them to be remembered.  For me, that means telling the people I love that I love them, being there for them when they need me, maintaining a positive attitude, and doing my best to be a good role model for those around me.  It's not always easy or even possible, but I try anyway.  And although it may sound a bit selfish, I actually think that one of the best ways to accomplish all of these things is do the things we love, whether that's something overtly altruistic like volunteering or being a first responder, or working the stock market, negotiating contracts, performing on stage, writing a novel, cooking, or any of a million other activities.  I really do believe that when we do what we love, we have a positive effect on those around us.  We're also better able to navigate the tough stuff in life, and we're more likely to have a little strength left over to help those who need us.  Happy people are strong people, and passion makes anything interesting and exciting.  So this week, set a little time aside to do something you love, and watch the effect it has on both you and your interactions with others.  No matter how long your to-do list, sometimes spending a little time on yourself is the most important thing on it.  And the more you let yourself act like "yourself," the better the chance that that's how others will think of you, too.

Previous digests can be found on my blog at  If you have suggestions or would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.  


Entertainment and Holiday Celebrations
  • One great source of positive inspiration is Twitter's Akki, a self-described “feel good” feed, where you can find oddly uplifting videos ranging from a puppy growling at his own hiccups to a panda loudly munching on a carrot. This one was obviously one of my favorites. Courtesy of the NYT.
  • In case you missed it last night on Halloween, head out to your roofdeck or backyard tonight to catch a glimpse of a full moon. Fun fact: Last night was actually a rare "blue moon" - i.e., the second full moon in the same month!
  • Intent on going ice skating this winter? The Winter Village at Bryant Park will be open, and you can reserve your tickets here.
  • Looking for something to do on the cold winter nights ahead? Brighten up your night with a car ride to Jones Beach, where a 2.5-mile drive-through holiday lights display awaits. If you're planning to go, early-bird tickets are $25/car; it's $30-35 at the gate. Open November 13-January 2.
  • Macy's is transforming its annual Santaland experience into a virtual experience that children everywhere can enjoy, starting November 27.
  • Heading to upstate New York for a weekend getaway? Don't miss the longest mountain coaster in the U.S., which opened recently at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
  • Curious about the cases in the upcoming Supreme Court sessions? You can watch NYU Law's Melissa Murray, UMich's Leah Litman, and Cardozo's Kate Shaw provide a preview of this year's arguments here.
  • Feeling anxiety about the election? (Aren't we all?) Check out this "Anxious Person's Guide to the 2020 Election". And don't forget to vote!!!!
  • Dreading the fact that last night's Daylight Savings Time (and the concurrent cold snap and terrible weather) heralds the onset of winter? Check out this article about nurturing a positive winter attitude, taking inspiration from the Scandinavians, who are well-versed in short, dark days, and yet are consistently ranked among the happiest people on Earth.
No Tricks, All Treats
  • The Boulder JCC is hosting The Great Big Virtual Challah Bake next week, from November 8-13. They have special sessions for kids, gluten-free challah, vegan challah, and more. To register, you'll need to create an account (with minimal information) and then set a password using the "Forgot password" link; then you can select your sessions. I'm hoping to listen in to the stuffed challah session on the 9th; feel free to bake along with me then!
  • Apple Cider Cookies: These are perennial favorites at the Cookie Party. They're best served with a mug of hot cider, coffee, or cocoa - just set the cookie atop the mug for a few moments, and the caramel filling will soften so you get a delicious, ooey-gooey bite when you finally indulge. Worth the wait!
    • Preheat oven to 350 degree F. In a small bowl, whisk together 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1 tsp cinnamon. In a stand mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 box (10 packets, 7.4 oz. total) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix until the mixture is light and fluffy. (NOTE: Add the cider mix slowly and carefully, with the mixer off, or you'll find yourself choking on a delightfully-scented cloud of dust.) Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients; mix until just combined. Refrigerate for one hour; in the meantime, unwrap 2 bags of Kraft caramels and set aside (you can also use caramel bits, which you can find from Kraft or buy at Scoop out about 1 tbsp of cookie dough, flatten it in the palm of your hand, place the caramel in the center, then wrap the dough around it and seal completely. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheets (don't forget the parchment!). Bake 12-14 minutes, until very lightly browned around the edges (do NOT overbake these!). Once they're done, slide the parchment off the sheet onto your cooling rack/counter, and allow them to partially cool. Once they're cool enough to be firm but still slightly warm, twist each one off the parchment and allow to finish cooling upside down (either on the parchment or a rack). Store in an airtight container for no more than a few days - these are best eaten fresh!

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