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Painting by Marion Perlet, purchased in San Miguel de Allende

Most of you know why we’re a little late with this blog post.  Glen Ellen, where our home is located, was hit hard by the Sonoma County wildfires which broke out on Sunday night, October 8.  The devastation throughout the area is mind-boggling.

Though our house was not burned, Glen Ellen was under mandatory evacuation orders for almost 2 weeks. During that evacuation time we spent one night with a Sonoma friend, Lynne, and then a week in San Francisco with our daughter and son-in-law.  They also took in our 2 Siamese cats, Ono Moore and Choco Latte,  and our Aussie, Oakley.  How fortunate we are to have such supportive friends and family.

When we got ready to leave our house, not knowing what the outcome would be, we opted to take the painting above as the piece of art we most wanted to save.  And it’s not even an original.  But somehow it speaks to the occasion.

And now that we’re home, the blog post that we were almost ready to send out – “Pass-Along” – seems more important than ever.  When push comes to shove, what is it that we most want to preserve and pass-along?  Worth thinking about.  See Andy’s Corner for what he brought with him that Monday morning when the fire was approaching us.

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Butterfly weed – and a Monarch to boot (photo from Missouri Botanical Garden’s wonderful Plant Finder website)

Until the year 2000 I had never heard of the term “Pass-Along.”  But I didn’t grow up in the South.  That summer, in Baton Rouge, my neighbor Katie brought me a butterfly weed – Asclepias tuberosaas I’d have called it in my MiniBlooms days.  It was from her brother Joe’s home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Pass-alongs are plants which thrive in old Southern gardens and, because of their hardiness, are easy to give to others.  They’re usually not sold in nurseries because they may be too common or too weedlike.  Well, that’s not quite true.  In Northern California today everyone is trying their best to help out the Monarchs and you can find butterfly weed almost everywhere.

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Long story short: the only plant I’ve ever had long enough to be considered tough enough to be a pass-along is the hoya, a houseplant, that’s sitting on our back porch. The plant came from my dad’s first law partner, Mortimer Stone – who went on to become chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court – in 1953.  When Judge Stone passed away in 1978, my mom and dad inherited his hoya.  When my dad passed away in 1998, I got it. My brother is demanding a cutting from it as we speak.  And I’m thinking I’d better root a few cuttings for my kids.

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Mortimer Stone’s Hoya

I’ve decided that since Pass-along plants generally seem to elude me, recipes will be my Pass-along – something easy and special to give to others.  Selecting Pass-along recipes to share on BigLittleMeals was a piece of cake (not to say there are going to be cake recipes!). It had to be Swedish Pancakes from my maternal grandmother, Annie Carlson, Pumpkin Pie O’Brien and Cinnamon Bread from Mom Hill, my paternal grandmother, and Sloppy Joe’s from my mother.  Sorry there are no recipes from the men in my family. Until we got to Andy, male cooks in the family were few and far between.  How times have changed.  Moss and Silas, our grandsons, pictured below, started cooking early!

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Moss enjoying Silas’s cooking (though now – 11 years later – it’s more likely that Silas is enjoying Moss’s cooking)

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Pass-along hand-written recipes – even more meaningful in this computer  age.  But what if you can’t read cursive?

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Thinking Inside the Box: Hobgoblin of Little Minds or Avoiding Misery?


Our first Blue Apron shipment is inside the box.  Think about it.

As mentioned in our blog, trying out Blue Apron forced us to re-examine some of our taken-for-granted ways of “doing cooking.”  You might say that it forced us to think outside of the box (even though ironically the food came inside a box).  This is already way too confusing, but it got me reflecting on how much of my life is painfully routinized and predictable (as I suspect is almost everyone else’s) and about whether routinization and predictability are worthy life goals. This is pretty heady stuff for a Raggedy.

Pet ID Photo

Pet Identification Chart

As just one example, witness my typical “in the box” morning routine. It starts at 5:50 am when I roll out of bed into my slippers, don my gay apparel – a brown plaid bathrobe – and stagger to the kitchen (for the sake of modesty I will skip my bathroom regime). Our dog Oakley, who sleeps on our bed, follows me to the kitchen knowing that my first act will be to fling a treat out the back door to get her outside to do her business. Because I have programmed my WeMo smart plug to start my teapot at precisely 5:50 am, water will just finish boiling as I walk into the kitchen. I put the coffee I had ground and measured out the night before into our French press and pour in the hot water. I punch our timer (which I had set for four minutes the previous night) and open two cans of cat food (a different kind for each cat to accommodate their individual culinary preferences). Because the cats do not get along, I feed Choco in my office and, if Ono hasn’t already sulked outside in disgust, I feed her next to Ann’s computer (note that I carefully add just a tiny bit of warm water to Ono’s food and watch to see if she eats or turns up her nose, which is about a 50/50 probability). By now Ann is up and sitting at her computer. At the four minute “ding” of the timer I carefully depress the plunger on the French press, pour a cup, and bring it to Ann along with one half of a Zuke’s fillet for Oakley’s second morning treat. Then I heat some more water for my morning green tea (most likely loose leaf Dragon Well from the Verdant Tea Company), take my pills, and begin thinking “outside the box” about what to make for breakfast.

Are routines like this good or bad? Ralph Waldo Emerson famously stated in his essay Self Reliance (which I had to memorize in the ninth grade for an English class), “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Whoa…  who wants hobgoblins, let alone little minds? It looks like thinking about those who think inside the box made Mr. Emerson pretty grumpy. On the other hand, William James (whose work I discovered in grad school but fortunately did not have to memorize) wrote in The Principles of Psychology, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision.” After mulling this over it sounds to me like praise for routine in-the-box behavior, or at least that such behavior can keep us from being miserable. So where does that leave us?

Although sounding like a cop out, I believe that in-the-box and out-of-the-box behaviors are two sides of the same coin.  We cannot even contemplate thinking and acting outside of the box without knowing what is inside the box.  Furthermore, the only way we can have the luxury to act outside of the box is if we have relegated much of our essential day-to-day decision-making to mindless in-the-box routines.  Something as simple as thinking ahead about what you are going make for dinner while driving at 60 miles an hour on the freeway on your commute from work would be impossible if driving were not second nature (or, to use our terminology, if driving were an out-of-the-box experience).   So, even as I pore over the instructions found in our Blue Apron box,  I am still able to pour Ann’s coffee (a survival essential for our mornings – and our marriage)  because for me, making coffee requires only in-the-box thinking (or, more accurately, lack of thinking).   Who knows, if I stick with the Blue Apron regime long enough my coffee routine may become out-of-the box behavior and …   you get the picture.


Big Little Scrubbies: Reflections on the Meaning of Life in the Kitchen and Beyond


An original Grandma D Scrubbie immortalized in our daughter’s kitchen

Most things in our kitchen I can live without. Take away my 12 inch Lodge frying pan or my rice cooker and I can find work-arounds to get the job done. Throw my charcoal grill under the bus and I will still manage to survive (albeit barely). Disable my dishwasher (actually that’s its current state) and the dishes will still get somewhat clean.   However, do not even begin to think about taking my scrubbies. As far as I am concerned, meaningful life in the kitchen ceases when the scrubbie supply runs out.

So, as I prepare to clean up following a meal, I am confronted by the question of why that little round thing in the sink is so big in my life.   The answer to that question has two parts — its extraordinary utility and its sentimental value.

Regarding the first part, the usefulness of scrubbies is undeniable.  For those who do not know, a scrubbie is simply a round pad approximately 4 inches in diameter crocheted with the kind of nylon lace that tutus are made of.  Surprisingly, I was able to find numerous web sites that demonstrate how scrubbies are made and used. Here is just one of them if you are curious. Scrubbies are a permanent fixture in our kitchen, as well as in our workshop and bathroom.  They not only do a job on pots and pans, they are ideal for scrubbing potatoes, carrots, or other veggies you prefer not to peel.  They do not scratch utensils and are tough enough to remove the most reticent of gunk.   Additionally, they are easy to rinse out and pretty to behold, adding color and pizazz to your countertop or sink.


Grandma D’s creations for her grandson, Travis

Beyond their utility,  they have a special sentimental value for me.   Scrubbies came into our kitchen relatively late via my mom — Grandma D to our children and us.   My mom, an accomplished seamstress and craftsperson, had a houseful of exquisite hand-made stuffed toys and dolls (sort of a fairy wonderland throughout her house). But as her grandchildren were outgrowing their love of teddy bears and stuffed dinosaurs, she turned to creating something more practical –  scrubbies, which I had never even heard of until she began giving them to family and friends.

I don’t know where she learned how to make them, but I do recall her sitting for hours in her favorite overstuffed chair cutting yards and yards of nylon lace into strips, then rolling them into balls, and from these colorful balls crocheting the coveted scrubbies. It became a family expectation to get scrubbies for almost any celebratory event.  These words from her obituary (she passed away in 2005) capture the essence of her scrubbies:  “These crocheted colorful pads, useful for an amazing variety of cleaning tasks, became her signature creation, prized by anyone fortunate enough to get one.” That was no exaggeration.

With each gift of scrubbies she included a printed message.  This is a photo of the last of these notes we received from her: ScrubbieBlurb

To be sure, scrubbies have made more than just our “day.”  They reflect the warmth, generosity, and wonderful spirit of my mom.  And, they clean like hell.

Post Script: we despaired when our original Gramdma D scrubbie supply ran out.  However, we discovered scrubbies are available via the Internet.   Try Etsy.

Andy’s Corner





Welcome to “Andy’s Corner” of Big Little Meals, where Andy has free rein (reign??) to get off script now and then.

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Rice, Rice, & More Rice

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Our 2nd blog email is going out just as we’re about to celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary. The whole family is off to Colorado on Saturday to get introduced or re-introduced to my beautiful home state where we got hitched 50 years ago.  Unfortunately, the Presbyterian church where we were married was torn down shortly thereafter.  An inauspicious event.

Before I blog-on about recipes, let me tell you about our new page feature (see menu at the top) – Food for Thought.   In Food for Thought we’re posting articles that we’ve really enjoyed and found thought-provoking – and sometimes just provoking.  We promise to stay far far away from politics – unless/maybe/if/possibly it relates to food.  Our first article is about why today’s poultry is so flavorless.  I’ve been griping about that for years.

Now back to our blog:  Two weeks ago I couldn’t stop thinking about Curry.  Go GG Warriors!  Now I have another obsession – it’s rice.  RICE.  Maybe it’s because I was looking through old wedding photos and found this one.  There we were, 50 years ago, RiceThrowing2 starting our life adventure together – and being bombarded with rice.  For fertility? For wealth?  Apparently, Ann Landers said that we were just killing birds by that old custom, but that belief has been discredited.  Some of my FCHS Besties will recognize two very special mothers in that photo, and our Chino relations will see special family members.

But on to rice as our almost most-favorite food in our simplify-our-cooking efforts. Continue reading

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