Grandma’s Cookie Tin

When I was a kid in the eighties, this blue tin of little butter cookies was a staple in my paternal grandparents’ home.

My grandma was an amazing cook. She was an old fashioned Appalachian cook who was always prepared to throw together a great meal with homemade noodles, potatoes and fried meat of some kind. She made delicious pies and cakes including a Mandarin Orange Cake that I attempt to recreate every Easter.

For all her amazing qualities in the kitchen, cookies weren’t her thing. She tried but they were just never that good. Isn’t that funny? She could can a garden full of vegetables and make homemade pie crust with her eyes closed but couldn’t pull off a decent sugar cookie.

She mostly filled the cookie jar on her vinyl tablecloth clad table with store bought cookies and there was frequently a tin of these little butter cookies on hand too.

I hadn’t thought about them in years but was recently transported back to that old kitchen with the African violets in the window and a jar full of bacon grease on the stove. That’s because I found small tins of these cookies at the Dollar Tree. This package is about a fourth the size that she always bought but it was the perfect amount of cookies to make me smile.

Honestly, they aren’t that good but I enjoyed dunking them in a mug of hot chocolate. My grandpa always dunked his cookies in cup of coffee and now I understand that they taste a little better with the extra punch of flavor.

I feel no need to run out and buy more but, golly, I did enjoy this batch. And now I have the tin to remind me of those happy days!

Speak Carefully In Front Of The Plants

My grandma always kept African Violets. She had a brilliant green thumb and her kitchen windowsill was always lined with these pretty little plants.

The leaves are velvety and the flowers are tiny and delicate in shades of pink, white, blue and purple. They are sweet little flowers and always make me think of her.

So when I found a collection of African Violets for sale at Franklin Park Conservatory Saturday, I googled them to learn that they aren’t toxic to cats. It took just a second to decide that it might be fun to take one home.

When I asked the cashier for advice on how to keep it alive, it was kind of a joke. Sadly, I’m pretty sure the poor little thing heard me and probably died a little inside right there on the counter. Plants probably don’t get humor.

She was probably wondering what incompetent monster was kidnapping her. Why would her caregivers allow this maniac to leave with her?

They told me to let the soil dry out, to water from the bottom and to keep it in a container that seems a little too small as being slightly root bound encourages bloom.

What we didn’t talk about was how to keep it healthy on the way home when the temperature was nearly 8o degrees.


First I blasted the AC while driving. Then I abandoned the poor little thing in the hot car while I shopped. Then AC, then the greenhouse effect. This process was repeated a few times.

It was looking pekid by the time we made it home. I gave her some water in a saucer and said nice things. Maybe some kind, welcoming words will do her some good.

Some studies say that talking to plants will encourage them to grow faster – something about sound and vibrations. It’s not about the words so much as the sounds. It seems worth a shot.

If you need me, I’ll be speaking gently to my new friend and trying to reassure her that I won’t kill her. You know, lying to my plant.


I recently stepped outside to find an aroma from my childhood wafting through the air. It smelled like my grandparents’ house.

It was a cold, dreary day. The snow had melted but it was frigid and there was a slight breeze that carried the aroma of fried beef, something musty and fabric softener. I spent the walk down my hill to the mailbox trying to coax my brain back to her laundry room and remember which fabric softener it was. 

And then it hit me. 


I remember because I was a kid and liked the little bear on their commercials.

In my house, there are few brands that actually inspire loyalty. I use the expensive toothpaste that my dentist recommended. There’s a local Mennonite store that sells some pickles that have ruined my opinion of all other pickles forever. Silk almond yogurt is the only kind of yogurt worth buying by my estimation. 

But I tend to bounce back and forth between a couple of detergents and buy whatever dryer sheets are on sale. Perhaps this is why my actions were so surprising but I scurried home and ordered a year’s supply of Snuggle dryer sheets. 

We have five senses and each one can easily transport us to another time and place. The smell of Elmer’s glue will always remind me of the day I fell asleep on a swing at recess my Kindergarten year. No one even noticed me out there or that I was missing until I wandered back into the classroom.

Those were the eighties for you!

The sight of a Mountain Dew bottle takes me back to my newspaper years when I guzzled the stuff to stay alert on long days. I no longer drink this sugar bomb in a bottle but its presence reminds me of how grateful I am to have survived those days.

And now I have my Snuggle to take me back to my grandma’s laundry room. 

Brand loyalty can be a good thing. It’s a small price to pay for a happy memory. 

Experimenting In the Kitchen

I always marveled at my Grandma’s ability to throw together ingredients without the use of a measuring cup or recipe and have a meal turn out great. Her cooking was meat heavy – bacon grease in the green beans, lots of fried foods, homemade chicken noodles and beautiful, scrumptious pies.

My eating style is much different now than it was when she was living but it seems I inherited her talent for instinctive cooking. It sounds arrogant to say that because she was as much better cook than I will ever be but I did at least inherit a fraction of that skill.

The problem is that I can never recreate a dish.


Even my breakfast smoothie is different every day. The only thing I bother to measure is the almond milk and then just toss in random amounts of other ingredients. I made a great bean soup last week but I’ll never taste it again since I just diced carrots, celery and onion until it looked like I had enough and tossed in minced garlic until I panicked because it seemed like too much.

This is partly because I’m often adapting recipes to make them vegan so there’s a lot of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experimentation happening. Other than that, I have no good excuse but I have had some really good meals.

The other day, I made some maple peanut butter granola that was divine. I used oats, almond slivers and pecan pieces with a pinch of salt. Then melted peanut butter, agave nectar and pure maple syrup in the microwave and mixed it all together with those dry ingredients. When it just started to toast, I pulled it from the oven and added a small sprinkling of vegan chocolate chips and some golden raisins. Amounts? No clue. Temperature? I think it was 350 degrees. Time? Not sure. About fifteen minutes, maybe.

I let it rest on the cookie sheet for over an hour to finish roasting and then to cool for storage. That, I remember.

While the results were fabulous, I clearly won’t be writing a cookbook anytime soon. That’s ok. This, luckily, isn’t a cooking blog and I have fun in the kitchen so that’s all that really matters!

What meals can you cook without a recipe? We all have a collection of dishes that we toss together this way so tell me all about yours!