Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Recipes.

Suggested serving of spoon bread in a bowl.

Lady Bird Johnson was known for the delicious dinners she served, typically prepared by their family cook, Zephyr Wright, who came with them from Texas when they moved to Washington, and continued to serve in the White House as the First Family’s personal chef while LBJ was president.

Spoon bread was a family favorite of the Johnsons, and one of Ms. Wright’s specialties. This versatile Southern side dish has a texture somewhat like a savory corn pudding or polenta. The history of spoon bread is obscure, but it may date back to the era of the American Revolution, and possibly has an origin in Native American cuisine. The first spoon bread recipe to appear in print was in the 1847 cookbook The Carolina Housewife, or House and Home, by “a Lady of Charleston.” (The Lady is now known to be Sarah Rutledge, daughter of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and singer of the showstopper “Molasses to Rum” in the musical 1776. But we digress.) Here is that early recipe:

Earliest recipe for spoon bread

The Johnson family’s spoon bread recipe had been shared with Lady Bird by LBJ’s mother. The First Lady enjoyed having it for breakfast with Ms. Wright’s home-made deer meat sausage. Later it became one of several of Lady Bird Johnson’s recipes that were printed on recipe cards and mailed out in response to requests. Here is the Johnson family recipe:

Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson's Recipe for Spoon Bread

This is a very simple, easy-to-make dish that requires very few ingredients. You may even already have them in your kitchen. (The reference to “sweet milk” might be confusing if you are younger or not from the South. It simply means milk that is not sour milk or buttermilk; it does not have sweetener added to it. In this case, I used almond milk.)

Spoon bread ingredients: sweet milk, corn meal, butter, eggs, baking powder, salt

The first step in preparing this dish is to bring two cups of sweet milk to a boil over medium heat in a medium-size saucepan, then stir in a cup of corn meal and keep stirring until it turns into a mush. Take it off the heat as soon as it gets fairly thick, but don’t let it get too solid. Pour the mush into a large bowl when it is ready and let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

Now you can turn on the oven and start pre-heating it to 350°F. Beat three eggs in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk until they are thoroughly blended together, and melt the butter for about one minute in the microwave. (The recipe calls for “butter the size of a walnut.” I used about three ounces. The recipe doesn’t say whether the butter should be salted or not. The vegan butter I used had salt in it, and the end result was very salty, so I would suggest using unsalted butter if you have it, but salted is okay, too.) Pour the melted butter into the eggs, add another cup of milk, three level teaspoons of baking powder, and one teaspoon of salt, then stir everything together.

The next step is to dump the egg mixture into the corn meal mush and stir everything thoroughly together with a whisk or a wooden spoon. The mixture will be very thick, and I never did get all the lumps out, but that didn’t seem to make any difference in the final product. It’s really very difficult to mess this dish up! Spoon bread is delicious plain, but you might want to experiment by adding some ingredients such as onions, jalapeños, cheese, or corn kernels. Once everything is mixed, pour it into a greased baking pan. A 9″ x 6″ pan is just the right size, but an 8″ x 8″ pan would probably work also.

Spoon bread batter about to go into the oven.

The oven should be heated up by now, so put the pan in and relax for about half an hour. When you take it out, it will smell so good that you’ll probably want to eat it right away, but let it cool for a few minutes. It seems very liquid when you take it out of the oven, almost as if it were not done, but when it cools it will congeal to just the right texture.

Spoon bread fresh out of the oven

When you’re ready to serve your spoon bread, get out a big serving spoon and scoop it into a bowl or onto a plate. According to Mrs. Johnson’s comments, “with a salad (fruit or green) and meat, it makes a perfect lunch.” (Beans make a good substitute for the meat for vegans and vegetarians.) This dish is delicious as is, but adding a drizzle of real maple syrup or some locally-made Texas honey brings it to a whole new level of deliciousness.

A serving of spoon bread drizzled with honey.

Spoon bread is best served warm out of the oven, but it is also good the next day, whether served cold or reheated. Either way, scoop it out, stick a spoon in it, and enjoy!


Article by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Recommendations.


Over the past few weeks a lot has happened, and many people are spending most of their time at home. Some people have transferred to working at home, some are taking care of their families, and some have more free time than they know what to do with. My free time has been mostly spent taking long walks, cooking more, and playing a rather embarrassing amount of Animal Crossing. The thing that has tied all of this together has been my love of listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve gone through quite a few books as well as hours and hours of podcasts. I’ve even got a podcast playing in the background as I edit this post, a familiar one with familiar voices and fascinating topics.

While listening to these things started as a way to help me learn more or read those books I never can seem to find time to sit down and enjoy, it’s become a part of my daily routine now that I spend so much time in my apartment. Call them boredom busters, or excellent distractions audiobooks, podcasts, and all kinds of music are great ways to fill your day.

To that end, we wanted to share a list of recommendations from the students and staff at ECL to introduce you to some new content, and –if you go through podcasts as fast as I do– help boost what might be a dwindling supply of things to listen to. This isn’t going to be a one time recommendation either, as we collect more suggestions from staff we’ll post more lists of recommendations to keep you going, and help you discover new favorites.

Additionally, we’d love to hear from you! Drop your own recommendations for what you’ve been listening to lately (or even just an old favorite or two suggestions) and we’ll add those recommendations to our next post so everyone can see them.

Alright! On to the recommendations, these were submitted by staff and students this time. Each suggestion has a little tidbit written by the person who suggested it, as well as a link (or links) to author/podcast/creators websites so you can find more information on it:

Podcasts



The Partially Examined Life



A philosophy podcast that tackles works both big and small. It’s a great place to get an introduction on a philosophical book you may have been curious about reading but were unsure.

Pretty Much Pop



A more laid back podcast than the former that covers topics in pop-culture with a variety of opinions on them. This podcast covers everything from escape rooms to musicals.

BBC In Our Time



This is an educational podcast that gets experts on a topic together to give an introduction to it.

99% Invisible



One of my current favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, or 99pi. One of the things I love most about 99pi is the breadth of topics covered. Just in the last month, I’ve learned the history of the song Who let the dogs out?; gained a better understanding of why we are experiencing a toilet paper shortage as part of the Coronavirus pandemic; and learned how map making has shaped our past and present, for the good and the not-so-good. I also love 99pi because it serves as a gateway to other amazing podcasts. The team at Radiotopia, the producer of 99pi, offers a slew of other amazing podcasts, some I’ve had opportunity to explore and some are on my list to explore. These include Articles of Interest, which documents the history of articles of clothing; Over the Road tells the stories of long-haul truckers; and This Day in Esoteric Political History, a new short-form podcast which explores that day’s political events and how they shaped history. Oh, and I have a voice-crush on Roman Mars (99pi host) and especially love it when he cracks up – in a very mellow, radio kind of way.

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend



I’ve wanted Conan O’Brien to be my friend since 1993 and though this podcast doesn’t get me any closer to that reality it does allow me to look a little like a mad woman on my socially distanced walks, which I think he would appreciate. Many a passerby in my neighborhood might attest to me walking the park paths and streets, earbuds in, giggling to myself or nearly collapsing with laughter. In this podcast, Conan, along with his assistant and podcast producer, chat with celebrities, comedians, authors, and former first ladies. The podcasts sometimes dip in the absurd, are sometimes revealing and heartfelt, and always, at least for me, lead to full belly laughs. If you find yourself needing to laugh your way through the pandemic, I suggest you give Conan a listen.

Side Door



Side Door explores all of the SI museums and offers a thread between how seemingly disconnected artifacts are actually connected.

Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery



Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery explores portraiture and the histories of faces and voices featured in the museums collections.

Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi



Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi offers a comedic exploration of some of the most iconic pop culture artifacts in the collections of the National Museum of American History. I love this one especially because Aasif, as he’s given a behind the scenes look into the SI collections, often seems like a kid in a candy store. Also, Aasif and I are of a similar age so I can easily relate to his fanboy attitude to artifacts like Fonzie’s jacket and the Bee Gees’ suits.

Audiobooks



Anything by Ann Patchett



Sadly, the UNT Libraries only offers a few of Ann Patchett’s titles in print, which are accessible for those that venture our to the Willis Library. I’m hopeful you all have public library cards and will be able to access her works via Overdrive or another audio or eBook service. Admittedly, I haven’t made my way through the whole of Ann Patchett’s catalog, but I am trying. My preferred method of consumption is through audiobook. My most recent listen was her most recent release, The Dutch House, which read by Tom Hanks and tells the story of young man, his sister, and the house that has a hold over them both. My other recommended reads or listens include Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars. Whichever of her titles you might choose, I hope you enjoy and would welcome a note on what you think.

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek



This covers various stories of the author’s time in the military that he highlighted were filled with power, leadership, and faithful guidance to help him become a great leader, and that helps the military be as successful as it is.

The Sherlockian by Graham Moore



I had a lot of fun listening to this book. It’s told by alternating between the story of Harold White as he investigates a mysterious death at a Sherlockian meeting that has to do with a missing diary, and the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the days after he’s killed off Sherlock Holmes and is suddenly swept up in his own real life mystery. The two stories parallel each other well, and both mysteries were engrossing and fascinating. This book is a stand alone novel, so no worries about diving into a long series with this one. If you enjoy stories that explore missing parts of history, and feature fascinating characters this story is for you.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett



City of Stairs has a little bit of everything. It’s got fantasy, a tiny bit Science Fiction, political intrigue, once dead gods showing back up, and of course all of that is wrapped in the bow of a murder mystery. I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this one, but the book fascinated me almost from the very start. The world building is clear and vast, the magic system is fascinating, and the main character, Shara Thivani, is interesting to follow. You’ll find yourself endeared to her quickly if you too are Tired of Everything but passionate about history and magic. This is the first in a trilogy of books, but works well as a stand alone since the other books follow different characters.

The Last Wish Andrzej Sapkowski



If you’ve been on Netflix lately I’m sure it’s recommended The Witcher to you. The Last Wish is one of the many books that series is based on. It introduces readers to the Witcher through a series of short stories featuring Geralt of Rivia. The world of The Witcher is a somewhat medieval one, featuring magic, monsters, and just about every fantasy creature you can think of– plus some. One of my favorite things about the book is how it weaves traditional fantasy, fairy tales, and it’s own mythology together to create a world I wanted to explore long after finishing the first book (so much so that I immediately bought book 2 and started listening to it). I’m generally not a fan of books of stories, but each of these are so well done I didn’t mind the format at all. This is part of a series containing 6 books, with 2 short story collections to introduce it, so if you really need something to take up time this is a good one to jump into. As in most adaptations, the books here are heads and tails better than the tv series/

Music



Charlie Burg

Chet Baker

That’s it for this set of Sycamore Listens: Audio Adventures with ECL. If you have any recommendations or end up listening to any of these please drop it in a comment below!

Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Recipes, Special Days.


It’s Dead Week at UNT.

Normally at this time of year, the Eagle Commons Library staff is busily gathering supplies and making plans for our traditional Coffee & Cookies event, during which we invite patrons to take a study break and enjoy free coffee and cookies in the library.

But this semester, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in our plans. Library events are cancelled, and most students will spend Dead Week away from campus.



In April of 1942, the Girl Scouts in Washington, D.C. hosted a “Volunteers for Victory” pageant.


Reminiscing about cookies reminded us of a truly momentous event in cookie history: The 1942-1945 shortage of Girl Scout cookies. Due to wartime rationing of cookie ingredients, the Girl Scouts ran out of cookies and had to sell calendars instead. At the same time, thousands of Girl Scouts throughout the United States participated in volunteer initiatives to support the war effort. They sold war bonds, collected salvage materials, and worked as hospital aides.

This spring of 2020, the Girl Scouts once again had to curtail their in-person cookie sales (though they were still sold online). If you missed out, here’s a recipe for a home-baked version of Thin Mints, tested by our own staff member Matina Newsom. This recipe was taken from Sally’s Baking Addiction.



Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup (172g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)>
  • 3/4 cup (63g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder (or dutch process)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Topping
  • 14 ounces (395g) quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Directions

In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in the egg, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the baking powder and salt until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces (with parchment paper between) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper. You can chill up to 2 days.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a 2-inch round cookie cutter (I used an assortment of cutters for fun), cut in circles. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges appear set. The cookies will seem very soft in the centers. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before dipping in chocolate.

Once the cookies are cool, begin the topping: Melt the chopped chocolate and oil together in a double boiler or (carefully!) use the microwave. For the microwave, place the chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl. Melt in 15 second increments, stirring after each increment until completely melted and smooth. Once melted, stir in the peppermint extract. Dip each cooled cookie completely into the chocolate and use a fork to lift out. Tap the fork gently on the side of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place cookie onto a parchment or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the refrigerator to help the chocolate set. Once set, enjoy!

In the tradition of Eagle Commons Library’s Coffee and Cookies, we invite you to find a cozy nook in your home (preferably adjacent to bookshelves). Gather some tasty cookies and a cup of coffee and take a study break.

Good luck on your finals!

More Fun Links to Explore

The original Girl Scout cookie recipe, published in 1922

More recipes from the Internet:

“The Cookie Song,” from the opera Daisy. The opera is based on the life of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low and composed by UNT alumna Julia Smith (who also composed the UNT alma mater). These sites are restricted to the UNT community and may require an EUID login.

  • Score
  • Audio recording (The Cookie Song is no. 18 on the list. If you get a redirect message, select the link to the old version of the page.)

Posted by & filed under Local Doings, Make a Difference, Special Days.

Earth Day 2020 logo

On April 22, 1970—the first Earth Day—a project conceived by Senator Gaylord Nelson and coordinated by 25-year-old Harvard University student Denis Hayes, sparked a grassroots environmental movement that continues with no loss of passion a half a century later.

Every April 22 citizens of over 190 countries throughout the world now take the opportunity to honor Mother Earth and renew their commitment to the environment. Coincidentally (or conspiratorially?), Earth Day also happens to be the Episcopal feast day of conservationist and Sierra Club founder John Muir, the birthday of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton, and the birthday of communist leader Vladimir Lenin!

The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action. The enormous challenge, as well as the vast opportunities, of action on climate change have distinguished this issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary. Read the Earth Day 2020 user’s guide on How to Act on Climate Change to take your own climate action to the next level. You can also recycle the still-useful 2017 Climate Education Week Toolkit to educate and engage K–12 students on climate change.

Legislation

The creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which is celebrating its own 50th anniversary this year, was one of the most important outcomes of the first Earth Day. This agency was established by President Richard Nixon and Congress to repair damage done to the environment and to establish guidelines that would ensure clean water, air, and land for America.

Other landmark legislation inspired by the first Earth Day includes the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and—a few years later—the Endangered Species Act.

These are just a few of the environmental accomplishments that have been achieved since the first Earth Day 50 years ago according to the EPA:

  • In 1970, over 40% of the nation’s drinking water systems failed to meet even the most basic health standards. Today, over 92% of community water systems meet all health-based standards all the time.
  • Since 1970, implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances from American innovators have reduced the six main criteria air pollutants by 73%. The nation has doubled to 86% the number of low-income communities achieving attainment with EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) since 2008. In the past three years alone, 38 areas have moved from nonattainment to attainment.
  • EPA’s Superfund and Brownfields programs are bringing opportunity back to communities. Last year, EPA delisted more Superfund sites than any year since 2001.

Learn about other environmental laws and regulations, determine whether you and your business are in compliance, and make comments or suggest changes in the laws.

Resources

EPA
  • Environmental Education Resources: Coloring books, lesson plans, games, and other environmental information and educational resources for distance learning and home schooling.
  • Environmental Topics: Read these articles to learn about scientific research and techniques, air and water quality, environmental effects on your health, conditions in your community, and many other topics.
  • Greener Living: Tools to help you learn and understand the issues and help you reduce your environmental footprint.
  • Labels and Logos: Keep an eye out for these marks to identify products and services that will help you save money, reduce pollution, and protect your family. Also includes logos of programs that teach children how to protect their health and encourage them to become good environmental stewards, and programs that help businesses and communities become more efficient, protect the environment, and save money.
EarthDay.org
  • 30 “Isolutions” for Coronavirus Self-Isolation: A lot has changed in the last month. As over 90 percent of Americans are under shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, people are spending most of their days indoors, trying to keep themselves and others healthy. Here are 30 productive, calming, enjoyable, and often eco-friendly activities—”isolutions,” if you will—to keep your mind sharp, your body active, and your relationships strong.
  • Education Resource Library: Browse these resources to guide your environmental education lessons and stewardship activities on Earth Day and throughout the year. These resources can also be adapted in a digital way to be completed from home.
  • 2020 Teach-In Toolkit: The teach-in technique was deployed at the first Earth Day in 1970, where concerned citizens gathered across the country to learn about environmental degradation. The activism that followed led to the passing of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, which are considered landmark legislation in environmental protection. Use this toolkit to plan an effective teach-in that will bring your community together and build capacity to make change!
  • Earth Day Network: Growing out of the first Earth Day in 1970, Earth Day Network’s mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide by promoting climate action, scientific research and education, development of green communities, conservation and restoration, and reducing plastic and other forms of pollution.
  • Earth Day Tips: If you are one of those for whom every day is Earth Day, here are 46 ways you can make a difference every day of the year.
  • Take Action: Many ways you can make a difference by educating yourself about the issues and current events, participating in critical data-gathering, adding your support to a cause, organizing an event in your community or online, and sharing information with your social networks.

Events

Here are some opportunities for participating in Earth Day this year. Due to the ongoing worldwide pandemic, most if not all of this year’s in-person Earth Day events have been cancelled. Fortunately, there are many virtual events available, and they not only are accessible within the safety and convenience of your own home, but also are usually free of charge.

  • 24 Hours of Action: Through 24 hours of action, Earth Day 2020 will drive actions big and small, give diverse voices a platform, and demand bold action for people and the planet. Join them on April 22 as they issue a new call to action every hour. What can you do today?
  • EarthFest: Hosted by the UNT Student Activities Center, University Program Council, and the We Mean Green Fund, EarthFest is a sustainable event celebrating international Earth Day. Share some vegan/vegetarian recipes, identify plant and animal species in your backyard with iNaturalist, color Scrappy and Lucky, and participate in many other virtual resources, activities, and events.
  • Earth EXPO: The largest annual environmental exposition and programming initiative in the world, Earth Day EXPO brings together environmental organizations, businesses, academic institutions, government agencies, speakers, interactive programming, and subject matter experts along with live music, art, and food to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for thought and experiential learning. This year’s virtual event is brought to you free of charge by EarthX in partnership with the National Geographic Society.
  • Earth Day Live: The world’s largest civic event is going digital for the first time in its history, urging leaders to take science seriously, listen to their people, and push for action at every level of society to stop the rising tide of climate change. Tune in and help flood the world with messages of hope, optimism and—above all—action.
  • Sharing Window Artwork: Everyone is invited to participate in promoting public recognition of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by drawing pictures and making signs recognizing Earth Day to hang in the windows of their homes to celebrate with neighbors and their community. If your art skills are limited, you can download a sign to color, or even download a pre-colored sign. Those who wish to share pictures of their artwork are welcome to do so on social media using the hashtag #EarthDayAtHome, #EarthDay2020, and #EPAat50.

See Earth Day 2020 for other events taking place in your area and across the globe, and learn how you can take action as Earth Day goes digital.



Article by Bobby Griffith.

Illustration: Earth Day 2020 logo courtesy of EarthDay.org

Posted by & filed under Make a Difference, Special Days.

National Park Week 2020 logo

Every year during the month of April, a Presidential Proclamation sets aside one week for Americans to shine a spotlight on our national parks, acknowledge the men and women entrusted with their care, and reaffirm the importance of investing in the stewardship of these national treasures for future generations.

This year presents a special challenge. Although most national park facilities have been closed and their events canceled because of the current pandemic, the National Park Service (NPS) and its official charitable partner, the National Park Foundation, have come up with several ways that you can enjoy the national parks digitally this season from the safety and comfort of your own home.

First off, each individual day of National Park Week will highlight a specific theme:

  • Saturday, April 18: Junior Ranger Day encourages interested youth to complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. Junior Rangers are typically between the ages of 5 to 13, although people of all ages can participate.
  • Sunday, April 19: Volunteer Day recognizes the contributions of the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who contribute million of hours of volunteer service in the NPS Volunteers-in-Parks Program.
  • Monday, April 20: Military Monday salutes the American military, veterans, and their families for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our freedom and celebrates the historical ties between the military and the national parks.
  • Tuesday, April 21: Transportation Tuesday highlights the intimate connection between the national parks and transportation in America, from the transcontinental railroad to the expanded access to parks necessitated by the advent of the automobile. This year some of us may have to ditch the cars and settle for a journey of the mind.
  • Wednesday, April 22: Earth Day is a world-wide celebration encouraging environmental education and responsibility, and will be observing its 50th anniversary this year.
  • Thursday, April 23: Throwback Thursday provides both an opportunity to explore the history preserved in national parks and an invitation to share your own memories of visiting our national parks with family and friends.
  • Friday, April 24: Friendship Friday acknowledges and celebrates the many individuals, groups, organizations, and communities that have partnered with the national parks and programs.
  • Saturday, April 25: Park ℞ Day promotes the healing power of the outdoors by encouraging everyone to safely enjoy nature in our homes, backyards, neighborhoods, and nearby parks and trails. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and thank our Healthcare Heroes serving on the front lines.
  • Sunday, April 26: BARK Ranger Day provides an opportunity for park visitors to learn how to have a positive experience with their pets. BARK stands for Bag your pet’s waste; Always leash your pet; Respect wildlife; and Know where you can go.

In addition to these scheduled events, there are several more safe activities you can participate in at home. Here are a few:

  • Take a virtual tour of a national park. Many national park sites offer online tours and experiences that you can access anytime, anywhere.
  • Tune into PARKTRACKS, an innovative audio experience that can help counter the hustle and bustle of city life and promote tranquility and mindfulness with the relaxing sounds of America’s national parks, captured by the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division.
  • Make a gift to support the national parks. If you donate between now and April 30, Nature Valley will match every donation up to $250,000.
  • Finally, see how many experiences you can check off of this checklist of 20 Virtual Ideas for 2020. There are enough activities here to keep anyone busy for the whole week and then some!

What plans do you have for celebrating National Park Week? Be sure to share your experiences on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other Social Media. Above all, stay safe and recreate responsibly.

Stay Safe; Recreate Responsibly

Article by Bobby Griffith.

National Park Week logo and “Stay Safe—Recreate Responsibly” poster courtesy of National Park Service. Designs by Matt Turner.

Posted by & filed under Inside the ECL, Local Doings, Special Days.


We believe that a library is defined more by its employees than by the space it occupies. So we would like to take this time to recognize a unique group of valued employees at the Eagle Commons Library @ Sycamore Hall — our student employees.

National Student Employment Week is celebrated the second full week in April every year. Academic employers across the country are taking this week to recognize their student employees, and some have nominated one of their students as Outstanding Student Employee of the Year. This year, our little branch of the UNT library system could not select just one student for this honor, but instead we would like to recognize each and every one of our student employees for their important contributions and dedication to their work.

Some of our wonderful student employees

Our students have achieved a lot over the past couple of years:

  • They helped to incorporate the juvenile collection into our building.
  • They were on the front lines of our battle against mold after a water incident in our basement.
  • They have been instrumental in reorganizing our spaces and collections after repairs to our basement were completed.
  • They help staff our service desk, organize our collections, and provide one-on-one assistance with patron questions and problems with technology in our Creative Learning Commons (CLC) area.

Student assistants relax after building the annual holiday book tree.

Our current situation requires our students to work remotely. They continue to assist our patrons by completing metadata for countless records in our digital library, and they assist with special projects and complete training to hone their skills so they may better assist our patrons in the future.

Our students are adaptable, capable, congenial, and all-around fantastic co-workers. We would like to send a heartfelt thank you to:

Trenecia
Nina
Christiana
Tripp
Miranda
Dalton
Steve
Harley
Raven
&
Adrienne

We hope you all know how much your work means, and that we sincerely appreciate what you do for the UNT campus. Happy Student Employee Appreciation Week!


Article by Erica Kaufman.

Photos of student employees courtesy of the UNT Libraries External Relations Office.

Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Local Doings, Recipes.

Peach cobbler with a single serving in a separate bowl.

It’s National Peach Cobbler Day

It’s not quite peach season yet, but get out the canned or frozen peaches and you’ll be ready to celebrate National Peach Cobbler Day. Apparently it was invented by the Georgia Peach Council in the 1950s as a way to encourage consumers to buy canned peaches.

According to John Mariani’s Dictionary of American Food and Drink, a cobbler is “a western deep-dish fruit pie with a thick crust and fruit filling . . . It is served with a custard but no topping in Connecticut, with maple sugar in Massachusetts, and with a sour sauce in Vermont.” Texans frequently enjoy it topped off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and it is so popular in this state that in 2013 the Texas Legislature designated peach cobbler the official state cobbler of Texas.

Today we’re featuring a peach cobbler recipe published by the Texas Department of Agriculture in an intriguing collection of recipes that feature Texas olive oil as an ingredient. The cookbook GO TEXAN Olive Oil Recipes: Savor the Flavors of Texas, which is available for checkout in the Eagle Commons Library, but is not published online, was released several years ago as part of the GO TEXAN campaign to promote Texas agricultural products. Did you know that Texas makes olive oil, or that olive oil can be used to make a peach cobbler? If not, here’s your chance to make something special! We’ll take you step by step through the process of preparing this unique dish. Here’s the recipe:

Peach Cobbler recipe

Let’s Build a Cobbler

First, be sure you have all the ingredients you need for the recipe. In these trying times, you want to minimize your trips to the grocery store, and you don’t want to start cooking and realize there is an ingredient you don’t have. I made a couple of departures from the exact instructions: instead of using all-purpose flour, I used half all-purpose and half whole wheat to give it more fiber. I also used Italian instead of Texan olive oil because that’s what they had in the store. Texas olive oil is difficult to find in many stores, even in Texas. In any case, this recipe is taken from another cookbook, and the original recipe does not specify Texas olive oil. That informal variation on the normal recipe is clearly an advertising gimmick and not an essential component of the dish. Here are my ingredients all laid out:

Ingredients for Peach Cobbler Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly spray a medium-size casserole dish with olive oil cooking spray. I used an 8″ x 8″ pan.

Applying a coat of oil to the pan In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup of liquid from your canned peaches, 1/3 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar (I used raw coconut sugar), 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (I used Saigon cinnamon, which has a sweeter, more intense flavor than Mexican cinnamon), and one large egg. The recipe says to “blend on medium” for one minute. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be put into a blender, but I just whisked it vigorously until everything was smoothly blended together.

Liquid ingredients in peach cobbler

In the same bowl, sift in one cup of flour (as mentioned earlier, I used 1/2 cup of whole wheat and 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour), 2 teaspoons of baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Whisk everything together to make a smooth batter, then pour the batter into your oiled casserole dish.

Peach cobbler batter ready to pour

Distribute your peach slices uniformly over the top of the batter. If you want a fruitier cobbler, you might even consider adding a few peach slices from a second can. Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top of the mixture for a little extra sweetness. Doesn’t this already look good enough to eat? (Don’t eat it yet, though, raw flour and eggs can make you sick!)

Peaches in batter, ready to bake

Your oven should be warmed up now, so put the dish in and bake it for 45 minutes, then check on it and keep baking until the top is brown. It shouldn’t take more than 55 minutes. My dish was ready (and even a little burnt on the edge) after exactly 45 minutes. While it cooks, the batter rises up and forms a delectable crust around the peaches. Mine turned out a very rich, dark brown, but if you use white flour and white sugar it will be a lighter brown than this.

Fully-baked peach cobbler

You should serve the cobbler right out of the oven if possible, while it is still piping hot, but you can also put leftovers in the refrigerator and warm it up in the microwave the next day. A scoop of ice cream on top of each serving creates just the right frisson of creamy cold against the warm fruit and pastry. Sadly, I had no ice cream in the house, but it is also delicious just by itself.

Would You Like to Know More?

This is only one of many government recipes for peach cobbler. Here are a few more:

  • Texas Peaches: This tiny recipe card is available in the Texas Documents collection in Eagle Commons Library under call number TxD A900.7 P313 80-5. The card also has recipes for “Fresh Peach Cocktail” (really more of a smoothie) and “Peachy Pecan Bread.”
  • Dutch Oven Peach Cobbler: This is in a collection of Dutch oven recipes on the Texas Highways Web site. Baked in a portable Dutch oven with live coals on the lid, this is probably as close as you are going to get to preparing your cobbler in the way it was made by the early pioneers who invented this dish. Well, except for the part that calls for a 6-lb., 10-oz. can of peaches in light syrup. Still, how many recipes have you come across where the “baking time varies according to the amount of wind”? This is also one of those recipes with a recipe-within-the-recipe. In this case, it’s a recipe for a “Vinegar Pie Crust,” and you can use the crust for your peach cobbler as well as for making pies.
  • Peach Cobbler: USDA Recipe for Schools: If you have a crowd on your hands, this USDA recipe for school cafeterias makes 50 or 100 servings.


Article by Bobby Griffith.

Process photos taken by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Data about Databases, Get Help, Inside the ECL.

The state of Texas has a rich, sometimes controversial, but always fascinating history, a variegated geography, and a multifaceted culture that brings together many traditions and experiences. Here are some of the most valuable and easily-accessible resources for learning about our state.


The Portal to Texas History

Portal to Texas History logo

The Portal to Texas History is a collaborative program that provides students, teachers, researchers, and lifelong learners with free online access to a plethora of rare, historical, and primary source materials held by participating libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and private collections throughout the state of Texas. Ceaselessly growing, the Portal contains well over thirteen and a half million digital files and receives close to one and a half million hits every month.

Here you can find digital reproductions of every kind of historical treasure: not just books and other documents, but also photographs, maps, letters, newspapers, and miscellaneous realia such as Texas trade tokens.

Within the Portal, the Texas Digital Newspaper Program (TDNP) provides free access to a wide variety of Texas newspapers, some of which date back to the early nineteenth century. This resource has proved invaluable to researchers, librarians, teachers, students, genealogists, and history buffs.

The Portal’s Resources4 Educators pages provide lesson plans and other educational materials that comply with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards established by the State Board of Education. Many items from the Portal that are especially relevant to students and classroom teachers are highlighted here.


The Handbook of Texas

The New Handbook of Texas

This multidisciplinary encyclopedia, published by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), is the most comprehensive and authoritative single-stop source of information on Texas history, geography, and culture. You will find the entire history of Texas contained here, from the prehistoric era to the modern age, woven together in a compelling drama about our state’s diverse population and the roles Texans have played on the state, national, and world stages.

In its earliest form, The Handbook of Texas was a two-volume encyclopedia developed over twelve years and published in 1952. Conceived by the eminent historian and TSHA president Walter Prescott Webb, it was a joint project of the TSHA and the history department at The University of Texas, where Webb was also a faculty member. The primary responsibility for directing and editing was assigned to H. Bailey Carroll, who was the associate director of TSHA and also a faculty member at The University of Texas. A third, supplementary volume was added during the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976.

The New Handbook of Texas was published in 1996 after thirteen years of preparation. Representing the combined labor of over 3000 authors, editors, and reviewers, its six massive volumes contain well over 23,000 articles, including detailed histories of every county and all the major cities in Texas and over 7000 biographies of famous and lesser-known Texans. Of particular value is the large amount of information on the African-American and Mexican-American communities in Texas and on the contributions of women and women’s organizations to Texas history and culture.

The Handbook of Texas Online went live on the Internet in 1999. It contained the complete text of the print edition of The New Handbook of Texas, with all the corrections that had been incorporated into the Handbook‘s second printing, plus about 400 articles that had not been included in the print edition because of space limitations. The Handbook of Texas Online contains over 27,000 articles and continues to receive updates as new information becomes available. Each article includes a bibliography of sources and a full citation to the article in Chicago style.


Texas Almanac

Texas Almanac

From its first edition, published by The Galveston News in 1857, to its current incarnation, the Texas Almanac has evolved from a series of pamphlets published once a year and focusing on Texas history and the workings of state government to an invaluable quick-reference tool, published in paper and online by the Texas State Historical Association and containing a wealth of data on resources, industries, commerce, history, government, population, and other subjects relating to the political, civic, and economic development of Texas.

An archive of Texas Almanacs from 1857 to 2005 is available to the public online and free of charge, courtesy of the Portal to Texas History.

Issues of the Texas Almanac from 2010 to the present are available online through a subscription service or at various public and college libraries, including the University of North Texas Libraries.

Paper copies are also available at various public and college libraries, although the specific holdings will vary by institution, and a library’s set of paper copies may have several gaps.

The title has varied somewhat over the years, making this resource rather tricky to look up in a library’s catalog, since it may be spread over several records:


Would You Like to Know More?

Contact the UNT Eagle Commons Library in Sycamore Hall if you would like more information about how to use the paper copies or the online versions of these invaluable Texas informational resources.



Article by Bobby Griffith.

Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Local Doings, Recipes, Special Days.

Union Coffee Cake

Mark your calendar and raid your pantry, because April 7th is National Coffee Cake Day. For those of us sheltering at home and feeling a little nostalgic for our days on campus, baking up this 8×8-inch cake is the perfect nod to our UNT culture and an excellent accompaniment to our next virtual coffee break.

Mention coffee cake on campus today, and most students will picture the confections sold at Starbucks locations. However, if you search back issues of The North Texan alumni magazine—or even Pinterest—you can find a copy of a coffee cake recipe that brings waves of nostalgia for UNT alumni going as far back as the 1950s.

A Little History

In 1952, the first permanent Union Building at North Texas State College—as UNT was then known—was only three years old. It was called the Student Memorial Union Building, named in honor of the North Texas students who had given their lives in World War II. The cafeteria was not making a profit, as had been hoped, and so the campus foods director, Sadie Mae Bass, decided, along with her staff, to shut the cafeteria down.

Memorial Union Building Cafeteria

The facility was offered to the Institution Management classes to use as a laboratory. Because they wanted to keep it open for morning and afternoon coffee service, someone came up with the brilliant idea of selling some sort of coffee cake or hot bread to serve with the coffee and help with the expenses. Students in Marguerite Ross Armstrong’s home economics classes obtained a plain coffee cake recipe from Albertine Balsmeier, the dormitory dietician, and baked that as well as a dark, fruit-filled cake called bishop’s bread. The bishop’s bread has been lost in the corridors of time, but the UB [Union Building] Coffee Cake, as it was christened, was an instant hit and remained popular for over half a century. At one time it was even suggested that you could snag a husband just by implying that “you have the recipe for UB coffee cake and make a better coffee.” In the beginning the student bakers produced as many as twelve large cakes a day, but eventually they scaled back in order to diversify the menu with donuts and other pastries.

The Recipe

You can read the story and the original recipe in the June 1971 issue of The North Texan. The recipe was very slightly modified over time, and some bakers added their own personal embellishments. Here is the latest version of the complete recipe, as reprinted in the Spring 2004 issue of the The North Texan:

Recipe for UNT Union Coffee Cake

We mixed up this treat to try for ourselves and to imagine the days of UNT gone by.

The cake ingredients are fairly simple, and it would be easy to make a vegan version by finding an egg substitute.

Batter for UNT Union coffee cake

The latest version of the recipe does not list a specific baking time, but it does say if overbaked, the topping will crack when cut. (In our experiment, we found this to be true!) We recommend starting with around 20 minutes and then checking every few minutes afterwards to find the ideal bake time. Interestingly, the earlier version of the recipe recommends baking the cake for 40 minutes. Perhaps someone found this timing unreliable and decided to leave it to the cook to determine when the cake is ready.

Yet in spite of our cracked topping, we still found this to be a delicious accompaniment to a steamy cup of coffee for a mid-morning snack. The topping is a different take on a streusel topping—easy and tasty, but with the same cinnamon and butter flavor. It was an easy and satisfying treat baked as is, although we wouldn’t say no to the addition of a ribbon of cinnamon in the middle of each piece. Baker Harold Wren, who was responsible for baking the Union Coffee Cakes in the early 1970s, would create a marbling effect by mixing some of the topping into the batter before brushing butter over the dough and adding the rest of the topping. Yum!

Popular at School, but Perfect for Home

Since it makes a small cake, this recipe is perfect for current events such as self-isolating and sheltering at home. We hope that you, like Jane Austen, are enjoying the comforts of home during these strange and disorienting times.

However, since this is a simple recipe, we are confident you will quickly learn to bake the perfect Union Coffee Cake, and when we gather together again, you will have your friends swooning over your results.

Would You Like to Know More?

For more nostalgic recipes and baking tips see: Homemade Bread, Cake, and Pastry, a Farmers’ Bulletin from 1940.

For more UNT nostalgia, view past issues of the UNT yearbooks and newspapers via The Portal to Texas History.

Article and coffee cake photos by Erica Kaufman.

Photo of the Student Memorial Union Building from the UNT Digital Library.

Posted by & filed under Special Days.

The month of April is National Poetry Month, and what better time than now to hop into this particular art form? There are tons of different types of poetry to learn and read, and the time is ripe to fall in love with it.

National Poetry Month was first introduced in 1996 as a way to increase people’s awareness and their appreciation of poetry in all its forms. It was founded by the Academy of American Poets and is still run by them to this day. Over the years the month has grown into quite the event. There have been postage stamps made about and for it, posters, and all kinds of other materials. Poem a Day, hosted on poets.org, sprung up out of National Poetry Month. They also provide lesson plans, and have created opportunities through the Dear Poet Project for students to read poetry aloud and have it featured on the website.

The month celebrates enjoying poems all kinds of different ways. It pushes the reading and writing of poetry, and sharing it with friends and family. In celebration of all that, the staff and student assistants at ECL have come together to share some of their poetry in a number of different forms! We hope that you’ll find some enjoyment out of our works, and if you would like to get in on the fun, leave a comment with your own poetry written this month!

 

Staff and Student Assistant Poetry

 

Alone and Together-

 

Quiet of my house

It haunts my soul and my heart

The nothing loves me

 

The comfort of noise

The walls separate us now

Yet we aren’t alone

 

Quiet of my house

A melody of its own

Sung by the unseen

– Julsaint Sisters

 

Through the maze I browse

Books and lighted nooks and stairs

Yellow submarine

– Betty Monterroso

 

Bands of light across the plate:

through the wires

paper to bytes to digest

– Peter Kaiser

   

Students rapt in thought:

Only the chewing of ice

Disturbs their silence

 

Ants are on the march

Invading student spaces.

Who’s grass is greener?

– Bobby Griffith

   

The Quiet Library

A haven from the hurly-burly,

The Eagle Commons feels like home

To refugees from Willis. Surely

A haven from the hurly-burly

Beckons them over. Prematurely

Wearied by chatter, here they roam

A haven from the hurly-burly.

The Eagle Commons feels like home!

– Bobby Griffith

 

– Erica Kaufman

 

– Matina Newsom

Digital Resources and Inspiration

 

In addition to the poetry we’ve shared, below the poetry you’ll find a number of UNT Library and National Poetry Month resources listed to help you learn more about poetry, discover some new collections, and find other ways to celebrate this month!

Poetry Collections

 

LGBTQ fiction and poetry from Appalachia Edited by Jeff Mann & Julia Watts

Modern Sudanese poetry: an anthology Translated and edited by Adil Babikir

Wholesome Whole Poetry by J. Eileen

She’s not into poetry: mini-comics 1991-1996 by Tom Hart

Twentieth-century Russian poetry: reinventing the canon Edited by Katharine Hodgson, Joanne Shelton and Aexandra Smith

The complete poetry of Aime Cesaire Translated by A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman

John Donne and contemporary poetry: essays and poems Judith Scherer Herz, editor

The poetry of Weldon Kees: vanishing as presence John T. Irwin

 

About Poetry

 

Poetry: a very short introduction By Bernard O’Donoghue

Poetry: the basics By Jeffrey Wainwright

Pitch of poetry By Charles Bernstein

Using poetry to promote talking and healing By Pooky Knightsmith

Poetry and theology in the modernist period By Anthony Domestico

Basics of Hebrew poetry: theory and practice By Samuel T. S. Goh; foreword by Tremper Longman III

 

Poetry in Government Documents

 

Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature: a checklist- Library of Congress — General Reference and Bibliography Division

Poetry’s “catbird seat” at 60: a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the consultants in poetry in the and the poets laureate: a reading in the great hall of the Library of Congress– Library of Congress — Poetry Office

The imagination in the modern world Three lectures presented under the auspices of the Gertrude Clarke Whittall Poetry and Literature Fund by Stephen Spender

The battle line of democracy: prose and poetry of the world war, Published by the Committee on Public Information, George Creel, chairman United States — Committee on Public Information, Franklin K. Lane, and Guy Stanton

100 love sonnets = cien sonetos de amor By Pablo Neruda; translated by Stephen Tapscott

Sixty American poets, 1896-1944 Selected by Allen Tate

 

Other Resources

 

20th Century American Poetry

20th Century English Poetry

Poetry in America video Series

30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month From Home

Poems Hosted by National Poetry Month

Poem A Day

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