Coping with COVID: What would you do if you found four baby opossums?

Baby opossum.

“You can’t put this possum in a cage.” – George Jones, country music singer

As our Emory and LITS leaders encourage us to continue to stay the course, it is nice to rejoice in the little things that help us keep our sanity day by day, week by week, in this strange, new world.

Homemade soft pretzels

Peter Shirts (music librarian, music and media library) recently tried his hand at making soft pretzels at home and they turned out perfectly. Here’s the recipe:


  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) warm water (lukewarm– no need to take temperature)
  • 1 packet active dry or instant yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and slightly cool
  • 3 and ¾-4 cups (460-500g) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Baking Soda Bath

  • ½ cup (120g) baking soda
  • 9 cups (2,160ml) water


  1. Whisk the yeast into warm water. Allow to sit for 1 minute. Whisk in salt, brown sugar, and melted butter. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with a wooden spoon (or dough hook attached to stand mixer) until dough is thick. Add 3/4 cup more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. If it is still sticky, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more, as needed. Poke the dough with your finger – if it bounces back, it is ready to knead.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for 3 minutes and shape into a ball. Cover lightly with a towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes. (Meanwhile, I like to get the water + baking soda boiling as instructed in step 6.)
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Silicone baking mats are highly recommended over parchment paper. If using parchment paper, lightly spray with nonstick spray or grease with butter. Set aside.
  4. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 1/3 cup sections.
  5. Roll the dough into a 20-22 inch rope. Take the ends and draw them together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends, then bring them towards yourself and press them down into a pretzel shape.
  6. Bring baking soda and 9 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop 1-2 pretzels into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Any more than that and your pretzels will have a metallic taste. Using a slotted spatula, lift the pretzel out of the water and allow as much of the excess water to drip off. Place pretzel onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each with coarse sea salt. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve warm with spicy nacho cheese sauce. Pretzels may be stored in an airtight container or zipped top bag for up to 3 days (they lose a little softness).

You can find helpful photos of this recipe at

Cooking with your daughter can relieve stress

Pav Bhaji.

Laura Smith (lead network engineer, network services build team) says:

What have I been doing? I’ve walked my crazy 1.5 year old Lab puppy lots, and I’d like to think she’s getting just a little less crazy. I’ve hung curtains, painted and decluttered a bit.

Most of all, I’ve assisted my daughter with her favorite stress-behavior when at home from college.  She loves to cook and try new recipes.  I am sort of the sous-chef and help wash/chop (and clean as we go 😊).  She orchestrates the meal and gives me tasks.  Of course I’m the chief bottle-washer too.  She did not get her culinary skills from me.

Laura has several photos of Alyson’s cooking projects if interested. They include carnitas, skillet bread, sourdough, blueberry muffins, and the pav bhaji that is pictured. You can reach out to Laura if you want the recipes!


Syringe feeding at 3 am.

Baby opossums at Wade’s house

On Friday night, we made a strange discovery in our backyard…four 10-week-old baby opossums. Evidently, the mother had abandoned them after being attacked by a dog. We quickly learned that because of the pandemic, none of the local vets or animal rehabilitation services are taking on any new animals.

Because these babies were only 10 weeks old (indicated by their length…thanks Internet), they were too young to release and had not been weaned from mother’s milk. So there we were, at 3 am Saturday morning, sitting in a bathroom, bottle-feeding baby opossums.

If you like ferrets, you’d like opossums…they smell about the same. Yeah, I don’t like ferrets. Interestingly, the babies became tame within a few feedings. Baby opossum fingers are amazing, clinging to everything like velcro. Too bad they didn’t cling tighter to their mama!

Mama Sofie with three of the four opossums.

Just when it looked like we were going to spend the next month covered in critters (they aren’t independent until almost 15 weeks), we were saved by Camp Carousel, a children’s petting zoo in Loganville, GA. Their staff was ecstatic to add baby opossums to their menagerie and we successfully delivered them by lunchtime.

Whew. That was close.

Opossum facts:

  • Wild opossums only live between 1-2 years. Their life-span can be up to four years in captivity.
  • The gestation period of opossums is only 12-14 days, one of the shortest among all mammals, and they can have up to three litters a year of up to 20 “joeys” per litter. Good. Grief.
  • When separated from their mother, baby opossums make a wheezing sound and she calls them to her with a clicking sound. She will not retrieve them herself. These four babies were wheezing up a storm on Friday night. By Saturday morning, the wheezing stopped so evidently Sofie was their new mama.
  • Opossums eat dead animals and insects, especially ticks. They eat up to 5,000 ticks a summer.

Who knew?


Dad Joke of the Week

I tripped when I visited Paris.

Eiffel over.

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