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Thanks, Emma.

This is a post about gratitude…
… and doing hard stuff.

Last week I left my position as Software Engineer at Emma, Inc.

I joined Emma at the beginning of 2016 as a member of their support team. Now, if you know me as a developer, you might wonder: does she mean dev support? Nope. Support — answering the phone and pulling emails out of the queue.

When I interviewed with Emma’s visionary VP of Engineering, I asked to start in Support. He shared how he’d been on the front line in a past life, and how it was a meaningful part of his journey. We connected, because we both care about creating opportunities to feel connected, learn something useful, and provide value.

I also shared how, after six months, I’d want to move to engineering. My goal would be to take what I learned–the extensive product knowledge paired with a crystal clear sense of user experience–and use it to enhance and drive my work as a developer. Having developed close relationships with colleagues across sales, services, and operations, I’d work transparently to strengthen our connection and sense of shared destiny.

I am endlessly thankful that that’s exactly what I got to do.

Good people made my journey possible, and to them I offer thanks:

  • Jason, VP of Engineering, who creates and guards Emma’s inimitable engineering culture
  • Clint, CEO, who I could listen to all day
  • Sarah M., who believed in me as a self-taught “woman in tech”
  • Kyle, my fearless and peerless Director of Support
  • Scott, the Yoda of Client Experience
  • Jean, my compassionate first engineering manager
  • Seth, my model of servant leadership
  • Jason Myers, for welcoming me as a first-time conference speaker at PyTennessee 2015, and for introducing me to the good and special people of Emmarica

I was lucky to get to work on an astonishingly high-performing and close-knit engineering team. We solved interesting problems, delivered real value, and liked each other enough that we played D&D/went on hikes/shared meals after work. Thank you Sarah S., Jackson, Parker, Megan, Kris, Lance, Evan, Adam, Josh C., Josh M., Scot, and Courey. And to all others — thank you. You made a difference.

This was a post about gratitude, and about doing hard stuff — because as much as anything, I want my life to be defined by both.

And on that note… very exciting news about what’s next, coming tomorrow!

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This is the beginning, February 2016

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Remember PokemonGo? July 2016

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That’s a conference room, October 2016

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We had a lot of fun, December 2016

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Letter from the CEO in honor of the anniversary of my hire date, February 2017

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Marketing United with Jackson, April 2017

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Mississippi Mud Cookies

You know that family member who makes that one dish that’s always perfect? The thing everybody requests, season after season?

In my family, it was my grandmother, with her ooey-gooey Mississippi Mud cake. She’d make it for only very special occasions, and how did my family crow for it! A layer of thick chocolate cake covered with marshmallows, chocolate chips, walnuts, drenched in a divinity-sweet cocoa topping? Why, you’d’a crowed, too.

My grandmother, who we called Mawmaw, passed away last fall. To my knowledge she didn’t leave a recipe behind, but I think I came pretty close with these cookies.

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Mawmaw’s Wide-as-the-Mississippi Mud Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup best-quality, fair-trade cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 generous tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vanilla or plain almondmilk (can use soy if you have nut allergies)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows, plus extra for decorating
  • Baking sheets with parchment paper
    • I used a greased Silpat, here, but that’s unnecessary unless you have one. I was simply out of parchment paper.

Directions

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine almond milk, flax seeds, canola oil, apple sauce, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate extract. Mix thoroughly until smooth.

In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Use a dry whisk to aerate the mixture after sifting.

Pour dry into wet and combine well.

Add chocolate chips, walnuts, and mini marshmallows. Stir well.

Drop big spoonfuls of cookies on the sheet, leaving an inch or two of space between them. They will spread! You’ll be able to get about six cookies on an 18″ x 13″ half sheet. Dot with additional marshmallows.

Bake a sheet at a time for 10 minutes at 350. Let cool on baking sheet, on rack, for a few minutes before removing to rack to complete cooling.

Kitchen notes

If you love to bake, I recommend leveling up in the following ways:

  • Equipment. Head on over to a Restaurant Supply Store (or Webstaurant Store, if you don’t have one local) and buy:
    • 2 stainless steel 18″ x 13″ half sheet pans
    • 2 16″ x 24″ full size footed cooling racks
      • I’ve had mine for over a decade, used commercially as well as at home, and they still cook like I just got them.
  • Ingredients.
    • The best-quality, fair-trade, organic cocoa powder you can find. One, because you don’t want to use chocolate produced by slave labor. And two, you can truly taste a difference. Real cocoa is deeper, cleaner, more purely chocolate. I’ll say more on this in another post, but yes, home bakers, I can always tell when you used Hershey’s.
    • Chocolate extract. My little secret for brownies, chocolate frosting, and the like is a half a teaspoon of chocolate extract, added along with the vanilla. You’ll be surprised at the flavor boost.
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Summer greens

Do you associate greens like collards, mustard, and kale with cooler weather? For a long time, I did. I leave my collards simmering on the stove for hours, steam cozying up the kitchen and doubling as a heating bill hero. I like to serve them alongside hearty casseroles and cornbread. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve heard brassicas taste best after bitten by a frost.

Just as Cookie Monster remains unconvinced that cookies are a sometimes food, so do I that we should confine greens to the bookends of the year. Let’s have greens in the summertime, too!

Here’s a light, colorful recipe that incorporates familiar summer flavors and gets us out of that hot kitchen fast.

Savory mustard greens with peppers and pintos

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 16oz bag washed and chopped of Mustard Greens* (I used Nature’s Greens)
  • 1 large red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, or a combination, chopped
  • 2 cups double-strength vegetable broth (this stuff is amazing!)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked pinto beans, drained, and rinsed (canned is fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • juice of half a lemon

Instructions

  • Heat a large soup pot on medium/medium-high and add oil
  • Add onions and sauté 5-7 minutes, til soft, stirring often
  • Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds
  • Add peppers, sauté 1 minute
  • Pour in broth and bring to a strong simmer (just short of boiling)
  • Pour bag of mustard greens on top.
    • Note: Pot will be very full. It’s okay. Just put the lid on and leave at medium heat for 5-6 minutes. The greens will cook down to less than half their original volume.
  • Toss pintos on top. Stir thoroughly.
  • Let cook, covered, 10 minutes.
  • Season with pepper and sugar. Stir thoroughly.
  • Let cook two more minutes, simmering.
  • Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir well again. Serve!

Cool story: A serving of mustard greens has 180% of your daily vitamin A, 100% of your vitamin C, and 530% of your vitamin K. 😎

*You could also use collards, but I would recommend chopping them up a bit more finely before adding them to the pot, and simmering longer. Kale would work fine, too.