Lamar-Dixon Chronicles – Introduction

September 30, 2015


This year marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which as we all know, slammed into the Gulf Coast at the end of August, 2005. Between the storm and the subsequent levee failure in New Orleans, the result was the costliest natural disaster and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in U.S. History. That is the big picture, the sound-bite overview. But we also know that there are thousands of smaller stories. This is one of those stories. In the wake of that disaster, several friends and I organized an effort to send local volunteers to assist the animal rescue and shelter operations in the area – they were overwhelmed with abandoned and starving animals and had reached out across the country for help. We ended up sending nearly a dozen volunteers over a 2-month period.

Our primary resource for support was The Bay Team membership. We received substantial donations of both cash and airline miles to help pay expenses of the volunteers. I stayed home and handled the fundraising and logistics, and also sent out regular updates by e-mail for the benefit of the people who were supporting the effort. The experience was so powerful for the volunteers who traveled to New Orleans that some of them weren’t able to read the updates until long after they returned. In honor of the 10th anniversary of the disaster, I am re-posting all of the e-mail updates that were sent during that time.

I have made very few edits in order to preserve the rawness that resulted from the near-realtime posting of information in the originals. I have, however, inserted some additional information for clarity and have enhanced the text with photos that I received from the volunteers.

Each entry links to the next – please start here: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: The Story Begins.

Lamar-Dixon Chronicles – Videos, Books, and Blogs

September 29, 2015

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #19: Wrapping Up so you have some context. If not, I suggest you go back to the beginning (Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: Introduction). Each episode links to the next for continuity.

I have crawled the web looking for additional information about the Animal Rescue aspect of Hurricane Katrina, including specials and blogs that were available at the time, plus several documentaries and books that have been released since. There a lot of lessons learned during this disaster, with its unprecedented scale. Animal rescue organizations have evolved their response plans, HSUS and ASPCA have been further exposed for their astronomical overhead expenses and mixed agenda. One of the most important changes that came from Hurricane Katrina is that FEMA now has to deal with evacuating pets with the people.

Here are my suggestions for the most relevant TV and Radio stories, Documentaries, Books, and Blogs/Articles/Websites.

Television and Radio


Left Behind Without a Choice (Emphasis Entertainment, 2008)

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina turned the Gulf Coast region into a sea of loss and despair. Our nation sat in dismay as our government failed to respond.

Animals desperately searched and pleaded for help as they were left behind with no choice but to endure a hurricane, floods and a fight to survive the streets on their own. People from across the United States, Canada and countries abroad heard their cries and took it upon themselves to do something about it.

Left Behind Without A Choice explores the less media-friendly side of the animal rescue efforts. The physical and emotional conditions of the animals are told by the very people who cared for them and nurtured them back to health as they recount their journey with Hurricane Katrina animal rescue. A few animals’ stories have been completely documented from peril to the path to recovery and are included in this documentary.

Featuring the staff of “Best Friends Animal Society” and music by Jessy Greene, Wally Borgan and Marc Perlman (Jayhawks).

Written, directed and produced by Kim Walsh-Borgan.

YouTube Trailer (2:53)
 Available formatsThe Bay Team library (Free to members); DVD ($20.99)

Dark Water Rising: The Truth About Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescues (ShiDogs Films, 2006)

Over 50,000 dogs and cats were left behind in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The pets (mostly dogs) that survived the flood were locked in houses and chained to fences without food and water for up to six weeks.

A small group of brave rescuers from around the world risked their lives to sledgehammer down doors, brave toxic floodwaters and dodge corrupt cops in a race against time to rescue up to 10,000 trapped and starving animals.

They discovered widespread scenes of horrific torture, death, disease, neglect, and thoughtless abandonment of dogs. They broke the case to the FBI of sadistic police officers who needlessly tortured and shot more than 20 innocent dogs at three schools in the St Bernard Parish area.

Some rescuers worked with the official rescue organization, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), while others joined a more aggressive rescue outfit, code named Winn Dixie.

This film also tells uplifting stories of hope and survival, as pets were reunited with their owners while other lucky pets found loving new homes.

These hard earned lessons will help our nation understand the need for animal evacuation plans in natural disasters.

Join me for a behind-the-scenes look at the grim reality of the life and death struggles on the toxic streets of New Orleans.

Available formatsAmazon Prime Streaming (Free to members); DVD ($24.95); YouTube ($2.99)

Hurricane Heroes: Survival Stories of Katrina Animal Rescues (ShiDogs Films, 2006)

Over 50,000 dogs and cats were left behind in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as FEMA required that all animals be left behind in the mandatory evacuation.

This forced separation created America’s first-ever major animal rescue.

A dedicated and compassionate group of volunteer rescuers and animal welfare groups from around the world risked their lives to sledgehammer down doors and brave toxic floodwaters in a truly heroic effort to save nearly 10,000 animals.

Hurricane Heroes is a film about hope and survival in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

It will renew your faith in the American spirit.

Available formatsAmazon Prime Streaming (Free to members); DVD ($19.95); YouTube ($2.99)


Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons LearnedCathy Scott and Clay Myers

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many animals had to fend for themselves because their owners lost them or were unable to care for them. In Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned, Cathy Scott documents her experience working with the Best Friends Animal Society triage center to rescue lost animals and reunite them with their owners. Over two hundred stories with accompanying photos describe dramatic and challenging rescue cases with details about the rescues, the examinations, treatment, and follow-up care by the selfless volunteers who worked to save beloved best friends.

Available Formats: Kindle, Hardback, Audible

Hurricane Katrina Animal Rescue: A Story Buried DeepAJ Meadows

What would you do if you had only hours to evacuate your family and furry loved ones from the danger of a national disaster? In the heat of the moment, would you be prepared to take immediate action?

Using author A.J. Meadows’ personal stories of existing in a warzone named “Katrina,” this book outlines a plan easily implemented that will aide in alleviating the stress of the unknown. Being disaster ready is vital to your animal’s survival and well-being, also offering you desperately needed peace of mind in times of trouble.

Meadows witnessed the destruction and horror following a national disaster during her ten-day deployment in New Orleans while rescuing animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. She hopes through retelling her own stories to provide readers with information to ensure they are disaster ready, through such examples as:

  • Preparation of your disaster bin, complete with items imperative to your animal’s welfare.
  • Protection of your family in times of danger by being aware of your animals’ behavior and others.
  • Taking into consideration past mistakes, and making them work to your benefit in the future.
Available Formats: Paperback

Orphans of Katrina: Inside the World’s Biggest Animal Rescue- What Really Happened on the Gulf and How You Can Help Save America’s Pets TodayKaren O’Toole

A compilation of over 60 stories with photos; it’s a master’s blend of both humorous and poignanat writing. A heartfelt journey deep inside the greatest animal rescue in history.

O’Toole’s acute eye, and insider photographs, are a sharp witness to the poignant, fragile land where man and animal band together in a the ultimate race against time. She exposes this searing, uncharted world with revealing photos, striking observations, and surprising rescue tales. As she walks us through this unfathomed land, she makes a moving plea, and gives us a road map, to help America’s pets today.

Orphans of Katrina is a vivid journey, a historical account, and a celebration of the volunteer rescuers–and the animals we share our world with.

Available Formats: Kindle, Paperback

Blogs, Websites, and Articles

There are so many web resources, I can’t possibly list them all. Here is a sampling of the ones I found. You can Google “katrina animal rescue stories” to find many more.

Eric’s Dog Blog – this was one of our key resources during the emergency when the situation was changing and we needed to know where to send. Scroll down on the right and look as his archives from the Sept/Oct 2005 timeframe and you’ll see just how fluid the situation was.

Storms 411 – another amazing real-time resource. Self-described: “This blog is the top resource online for Hurricane Katrina pictures / pics, storm tracks, a picture, coordinates, flooding, tracker, tracking, forecasts, photo/photos, map/maps, information, forecast, reports, path.” I believe it probably was.

Kim Upham’s blog – first-hand blog by a rescue volunteer from Portland.

Best Friends – The Legacy of Katrina – Two Years Later – great summary of lessons learned, many other articles on their site

Lousiana SPCA – simple but compelling chronology of the disaster as it unfolded and the aftermath.

Animal Rescue of New Orleans (ARNO) – This organization was founded by Jane Garrison (from Charleston SC) and two friends in the wake of (and actually, in the midst of) the Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. With assistance and coordination from Best Friends, ARNO was handed off to locals about six months later. In addition to continuing their rescue/shelter/mission, they continue to focus on the lessons learned from Katrina.

Blue Apron Journey, Weeks 8-9

June 27, 2015

Wow, I guess I got a little behind in my Blue Apron blogs. I’ll attribute that to two factors

  1. The newness and wonder of cooking is wearing off as I gain confidence and skills (although I use that term loosely). Without blood or other injury, it just isn’t as interesting.
  2. Rich and I have both been traveling, so we haven’t been able to keep pace with our 3-meals-per-week schedule

And so I find myself faced with two Blue Apron conundrums:

  • If your travel plans impact your cooking schedule and you don’t adjust your deliveries, what do you do with the extra meal(s)? The first time this happened, I offered it to a foodie friend who lives on a property with organic gardeners and an even bigger foodie landlord. I was shamed, and I learned. The second time, I brought it to a fellow Blue Aproner at work and he was delighted to take it off my hands. The third time, I sent a FaceBook message to another BA friend who had posted a rave about the meal I was offering. He and his wife were willing to take the chance that it involved salmon and it was a week old – they survived and loved it.
  • If your husband is out of town and you don’t adjust your deliveries, what does that mean? Twice as much food for dinner? Twice as many dinners (but half are leftovers, still fresher and tastier than what you usually eat)? Invite someone over? After cooking my first meal under these conditions, I choose Door #2. So sorry, Rich, that you were out of town for tonight’s Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini & Brown Rice.

Week 8, Meal 1 (6/10/15)

Arepas de Carne Molida with Avocado and Pickled Jalapeno

Wow, there was a lot going on tonight. A cacophony of flavors, if you will. Arepas (savory round flatbreads made with corn meal), avocado and cilantro, sliced radishes, pickled onion and jalapeno, beef with spices and onion. It was hard to know where to start, so I kept everything separated on the plate and picked various combinations with every bite. And in a triumphant improvisation, I opted to pan-sear the radishes at the last minute because it’s well established by now that we still aren’t fans of raw radishes, but have learned to love them cooked.

Week8Meal1 Arepas1
Week8Meal1 Arepas2

Ratings: Rich, 4.65; me, 4.8
Degree of Difficulty: 3.5

Week 8, Meal 2 (6/12/15)

Chicken Piccata with Fresh Linguine Pasta & Garlic Chives

The chicken was already boneless and skinless, so I didn’t have to remember to pull the greasy skin off. The sauce was lemon juice and capers – how can that go wrong? It can’t. The chicken was moist and perfectly cooked. Prep was relatively easy, Home Run!

Week8Meal2 Chicken Piccata1
Week8Meal2 Chicken Piccata2

Ratings: Rich, 4.75; me, 4.75
Degree of Difficulty: 2.0

Week 8, Meal 3

Salmon Burgers with Creme Fraiche Sauce, Arugula & Potato Salad

I’ve heard from two people that this was their favorite Blue Apron meal to date. Rich and I aren’t huge salmon fans, so I wasn’t sad to lose it. And I’m pretty sure that Scott and Vanessa were thrilled to inherit this meal, despite its age (7 days post delivery).

Week 9, Meal 1 (6/21/15)

Hoisin-Glazed Chicken Meatballs with Zucchini & Brown Rice

Love Hoisin sauce, love zucchini, love brown rice. Not much to go wrong here, and it didn’t. This was the first meal I had to eat by myself, and despite the soggy zucchini, I thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers for lunch two days later.


Ratings: Rich, not home, too bad; me, 4.95
Degree of Difficulty: 2.0 (including the 0.5 deduction for the “ick-factor” of intimately handling raw ground chicken)

Week 9, Meal 2 (6/27/15)

Seared Steaks & Mashed Potatoes with Sauteed Radishes & Snap Peas

Snap Peas? no problem, now that we’ve reached an understanding about the stupid string
Radishes? love ’em, now that I know how to cook them.
Mashed Potatoes? I can honestly say that I’ve never mashed a potato before tonight. Meh, no big deal!
Everything else? What’s not to love?

Week9Meal2-Seared Steaks1
Week8Meal1 Arepas2

Week 9, Meal 3

Seared Cod with Spring Vegetables & Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette

I’m sad to say that this might be the first meal I have to toss (at least partially) because the fish is now 11 days post-delivery. I certainly can’t foist that off on someone else, and I’m not sure I’m brave enough to give it a try. But the rest of it sounds great, so I’ll take a look at the vegetables tomorrow night and decide if it’s worth adapting and giving it a chance as a vegetarian meal.

Weeks 8-9 Wrap-up

  • Plan ahead for travel schedules – If you don’t have time to cook all three meals, or you’ll be cooking for yourself for a week, better to skip a delivery than have them stack up and either be given away or tossed. And since half the fun of cooking is Rich’s response (not to mention his help with cleanup), I’ll be more careful with my delivery schedule in the future.
  • Leftover Blue Apron meals are still better than most things I would otherwise eat.
  • My chopping skills are improving – I only wear my protective gloves (or as Rich calls them, my chainmail gloves) for grating and mandolining. It helps that I bought a spring-chopper for PITA stuff like nuts.
  • I mashed my first potatoes ever. No big deal!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 7

June 3, 2015

Week 7, Meal 1 (6/3/15)

Pan-Seared Cod with Curried Basmati Rice, Snow Peas & Mint


  • If the fish is still frozen when it shows up and that’s the meal you choose on the first night, throw it in the microwave to defrost for a few minutes or the cooking time will be off. It’ll sear too much and cook too little. This ended up right on the edge.
  • Loved the Curried Basmati Rice. At first I was taken aback by the amount I spooned onto the plate, but we both ate every bite.
  • Damn, those Snow Peas. Surely there’s a trick to stripping the spine fiber more efficiently… Thanks to WikiHow, I’ve now concluded that
    • I only need to worry about the extra-tough string on the straight edge, and
    • If it breaks while I’m stripping it, it wasn’t tough enough to bother with.
Week7Meal1 Pan-Seared Cod1
Week7Meal1 Pan-Seared Cod2

Ratings: Rich, 4.5; me, 4.0
Degree of Difficulty: 3.5 (0.5 addition for the Snow Peas)

Week 7, Meal 2 (6/5/15)

Fresh Fettuccine Pasta with Sugar Snap peas & Arugula Pesto

I don’t have much to say about this except this: Who knew you could make a pesto sauce from arugula? I didn’t, that’s for sure. But then, I didn’t know anything when I started this journey so that’s no surprise. The chopped pistachios on top added a wonderful flavor, texture and character.

Week7Meal2 Fettuccine Pasta1
Week7Meal2 Fettuccine Pasta2

Ratings: Rich, 4.85; me, 4.9
Degree of Difficulty: 3.5 (including a 0.5 bump for the Snap Peas)

Week 7, Meal 3 (6/6/15)

Turkey Steam Buns with Quick Cucumber-Radish Kimchi

I didn’t have high hopes for this one. And as it turned out, I didn’t have time to prepare all three meals this week. Luckily, several of my colleagues at work have become Blue Aproners. One of them had prepared this meal earlier in the week, loved it, and was happy to take it off my hands. He now owes me lunch and nothing went to waste. I think I’ll start a BA swap group amongst my colleagues and local FB friends!

More Accessorizing

More shopping, this time at Big Lots, thanks to a suggestion from a friend.:

  1. Grease spatter shield
  2. Silicon whisks
  3. Spring chopper
  4. Small baking sheet
  5. Palm peeler
  6. Two small stainless steel bowls

Week 7 Wrap-up

  • I’ve reached detente with the Snap/Snow Peas:
    • I’m only dealing with the really thick string on the flat edge
    • If it’s so weak that it can’t survive my best effort to strip it, it’s tender enough to eat.
  • Rich and I have become nose-blind to the dog smell in our house. It sure is a pleasant change to smell curry or something equally fragrant for a day or two after we cook.
  • Sonoma County Blue Apron swap group – who’s in?

Next up, Weeks 8 and 9!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 6

June 1, 2015

Week 6, Meal 1 (5/27/15)

Curry-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Sugar Snap Peas & Fingerling Potatoes

I was really looking forward to this because I love all of the ingredients, especially the curry. And though not mentioned in the name of the dish, I was delighted to see that the whole thing was topped with a cucumber-yogurt sauce. The result was delectable, but I learned a few more things:

  • No matter how careful I pretend I’ll be, I will eventually screw up if I insist on using my sentimental favorite oven mitt after the puppy has chewed the end of the thumb off. Ouch. Back to Amazon.Week6Meal1Casualty
  • If I make this dish again (or any chicken thing) I’ll remember to take the skin off. I thought of it too late because I had already started rubbing the curry powder on it and didn’t want to run out.
  • Couldn’t find my box grater, so I went shopping again – details below.

Ratings: Rich, 4.9; me, 4.5 (0.3 deduction for the chicken skin)
Degree of Difficulty: 4.9

Lessons Learned:

  • Frying the chicken with the skin on left me with excess grease to dump. I mopped it up with paper towels, and then was pleased to be reminded that those paper scraps can go in the green bin trash with the vegetable trimmings.
  • Didn’t have the right tool to grate the cucumber. My bad, fixed for next time.
  • Exceeded my threshold for dirty dishes. A friend suggested I use parchment squares (aka hamburger patty paper) instead of mise-en-place bowls for the drier ingredients. I think I’m going to try that.

Week 6, Meal 2 (6/1/15)

Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Peanut Sauce, Gai Lan & Snow Peas

Only two meals this week because I went out of town for the weekend. I gave the Seared Salmon with Sorrel Salad & Creamy Barley to a friend – can’t wait to hear how it went for her.

Update: she lives on a 23-acre property. Her landlords are foodies and the other tenants run an organic farm. They adopted the ingredients, supplemented with freshly-picked produce, and threw the recipe out the window. Ah, to have those resources and skills.

Meanwhile, back in my Literal Kitchen, tonight’s meal was a grand slam: 4.925 on the combined rate-o-meter with a sane degree of difficulty. I love Pad Thai and this was a fresh variation that will definitely get a repeat try. Next time, I’ll try not to overcook the rice noodles, and I may get more adventurous and add some shrimp and braised tofu.


Ratings: Rich, 4.9; me, 4.95
Degree of Difficulty: 2.5

More Accessorizing

This week’s Amazon foray resulted in the following:

  1. Bad-Ass Oven Mitts: After burning my thumb last week with my puppy-chewed oven mitt, it was time.
  2. Coarse and Medium Grater: I hate box graters because they’re so hard to clean, but OXO has come up with this nifty alternative. The two parts come apart for easy cleaning.
  3. Fine-Mesh Stainless-Steel Strainers: All I have is an old colander, and the holes are too big for things like rinsing bulgar wheat (I improvised last week with a flour sifter). It was obvious from the Blue Apron photos that I needed something with smaller holes and a handle, so I bought a nested set of 3 from Cuisinart.
  4. Parchment Patty Papers: A friend suggested that I could use parchment paper instead of mise-en-place bowls for some ingredients – I thought that was a great idea so I bought these. (And besides, Parchment Patty Papers is just fun to say!)


Week 6 Wrap-up

  • All-time record score for the Stir-Fried Rice Noodles, with bonus points for a low degree of difficulty.
  • Shamed by my foodie friends who blew off the Seared Salmon recipe and did their own thing. I’ll get over it.
  • No more chicken skins, ever.
  • Bought even more accessories.
  • Snap Peas and Snow Peas are a pain in the ass. I finally figured out how to deal with them as instructed, getting rid of the “tough string that runs the length of the pod” (on both edges, I might add). But any time I see these, I’m going to automatically add at least 0.5 to the degree-of-difficulty score.

Next up, Week 7!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 5

May 24, 2015

Let the Accessorizing Begin!

I made it past the critical 4-week mark with (a) no sign of ADD-fatigue and (b) continued spousal support (“Hey Rich, you know what tomorrow is?” “Yep, it’s Blue Apron Day!”). So I had no choice but to accessorize.

  1. After having suffered multiple bloody zesting injuries, I clearly needed a safer tool. OXO to the rescue with a Zester/Garnisher.
  2. I suck at slicing with a knife, and that suckage was exacerbated when faced with “matchsticking”. Again, OXO to the rescue with a mandoline slicer.
  3. The pretty pictures on the recipe cards assume I own an endless supply of small glass bowls, just like on the cooking shows. Turns out they have a name, “mise en place” bowls, and now I have them too.

Several friends also suggested No-Cut gloves (perhaps based on my previous zesting injuries), so I went back to Amazon and found them, plus a wide-screen scoop for frying and a magnetic recipe card holder. Go ahead, my cooking-savvy friends, laugh your asses off. It’s all new and fresh to me!


Armed with four weeks of success and a new batch of tools, I really felt ready for this week’s box:


Week 5, Meal 1 (5/20/15)

Flat Iron Steaks with Ramps, Fingerling Potatoes & Shaved Asparagus Salad

I actually sort of know how to cook a steak (that was one of my mother’s staples), so I wasn’t too intimidated by this one. And now that I’m an expert on Ramps (having learned last week that they’re nothing more than wild green onions), and Fingerling Potatoes (also from last week), this one felt like a walk in the park. And it was, except for the part where one of the dogs stole one of the steaks off the counter – I turned around and it was gone.

I have no doubt that Billy was the thief, but I also know that Tippi the puppy is the new alpha bitch in town, and he no doubt conceded it to her when challenged. Sure enough, there she was in her crate with the steak, which I quickly recovered. I was lucky – had he retained possession, it would have been gone in a gulp or two. But she’s a more dainty eater, so it just had a few puncture wounds. I thanked her for the tenderizing effort, washed it off, and proceeded with the meal prep.

Some of you might be grossed out, but I know my dog friends will understand (and probably cheer). This meal, with lots of chopped and diced ingredients, also gave me a perfect opportunity to use my new “mise en place” bowls. So instead of my usual first photo being the raw ingredients from the box, I decided instead to post my prepped results in their individual bowls.


Week 5, Meal 2 (5/22/15)

Rice Flake-Crusted Hake with Sauteed Daikon Radish & Yuzu-Soy Sauce

Setting aside the lack of professional manicure and the skin that I once thought belonged only to my mother, which fingers do not look like the others? I know, the two red ones on the left. Yes, after 4-1/3 weeks of playing with hot oil and avoiding injury, I did it tonight. Other than that, tonight’s meal was spectacular (4.75 on the Rich-o-Meter). And thanks to my new cut-proof gloves, I’m tackling slicing and dicing with new-found confidence. RiceFlakeCrustedHake1

The injury happened early in the prep (during the placement of the Daikon Radish slices in the frying pan), but I persevered – the show must go on! And I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to ignore the irony of buying fancy gloves to avoid my previous zesting injuries and then burning myself instead.


Week 5, Meal 3 (5/24/15)

Turkey Kibbeh with Cucumber Salad & Mint-Yogurt Sauce

I had mixed expectations for this meal because though we love mediterranean food, Rich isn’t a huge cucumber fan. When I served it, I even gave him an out: “I’ll eat whatever cucumbers are left over” (to which he replied, “of course you will”). So imagine my surprise when despite the presentation challenges described below, (a) there were no cucumbers left on his plate, (b) he rated this 4.25 on the Rich-o-Meter, and (c) he further offered that he liked the cucumber/yogurt sauce so much that it raised the score from a 3.25. Wow!

Thanks to my No-Cut gloves (along with OXO zester and mandoline), I zested the lemon and sliced the cucumber with confidence bordering on reckless abandon!


That said, this one was a bitch, and prompted me to add a “degree of difficulty” rating to our scoring. Tonight I used a combined total of 11 vessels – 1 pot, 1 pan, 2 mixing bowls, 8 prep bowls – not counting the spare plate for the turkey patties. I don’t know what my threshold is, but I know that 11 exceeds it. Plus, my “large” pan wasn’t large enough to properly segregate the patties, which caused them to fail and detrimentally affect the plating/presentation. The result looked more like a Sloppy Joe than 6 Turkey Patties. So this one got 4.5 for degree of difficulty, only outdone by the fried fish fiasco, in which I was presented with the “WTF do I do with all this oil?” conundrum.

Going forward, the degree of difficulty rating will be totally subjective, but will take into consideration the following components: number of things that got dirty; number of times I had to google to understand an instruction; risk of injury (or worse, actual injury); whether or not the resulting mess was bad enough that I resorted to asking Rich to help clean up.

Week 5 Wrap-up

  • Committed enough that I bought accessories
  • That redness on the index finger turned into a nasty blister – ouch!
  • Other than that, no injuries, and new confidence with the No-Cut gloves
  • Added a “degree of difficulty” number to our rating

Looking forward to Week 6!

Blue Apron Journey, Week 4

May 18, 2015

Still going strong!

I’ve made it through three weeks of cooking (for the first time in my life), and there’s no sign of ADD-driven fatigue. I’m still looking forward to delivery day on Wednesday. Lots of ingredients in this box – spilled onto a separate section of the counter from previous boxes. Here’s what came this week:

2015-05-13 Week4 Box

Week 4, Meal 1 (5/13/15)

Hearty Chicken Salad with New Potatoes, Pickled Rhubarb and Goat Cheese

Until this point, I had posted every meal on Facebook because each was such a triumph, and some were punctuated with bloody injuries as I stumbled to get familiar with sharp implements. But I’m fairly certain my friends have started to get bored so I’m moving on to blogging, unless something spectacular happens.

Sad timing, because tonight’s dinner was a knock-out – 4.95 on the Rich-o-Meter, no injuries, and I’d definitely try it again on my own. The chicken salad was special because the chicken was pulled instead of diced, which allowed the flavors of the pickled rhubarb dressing to inundate the shreds. Wait, did those words just come out of my mouth? Until this week, rhubarb was something found only in a pie that Rich loves and I haven’t even had the guts to taste.

2015-05-13 Hearty Chicken Salad1

2015-05-13 Hearty Chicken Salad2

Week 4, Meal 2 (5/15/15)

Steamed Cod with Pickled Ramps and Yu Choy

What is a Ramp? As with the Celeriac, I admit that I had to look this up before I approached it. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know that it’s a “North American species of wild onion widespread across eastern Canada and the eastern United States.” I love onions, good enough! I was also concerned about the steaming (evoking images of double-boilers or steamer baskets), until I followed the instructions and discovered that the steaming actually happens in the same pan with the vegetables and a simple aluminum foil cover.

2015-05-15 Steamed Cod1
2015-05-15 Steamed Cod2

Week 4, Meal 3 (5/17/15)

Mushroom & Swiss Burgers with Pan-Seared Fingerling Potatoes

We lost a little momentum on this one. Rich charitably gave it a 4.5, but I couldn’t muster more than a 3. I’m not a huge burger fan, and making it with fancy ingredients, like Cremini Mushrooms and Beef Demi-Glace, doesn’t help. I won’t be repeating this one because I’d rather have a Crush burger from Mike’s at the Crossroads. I’m glad this didn’t happen in Week 1 because I might not have carried the same degree of enthusiasm into subsequent weeks. But with 11 successes under my belt, I was undaunted and looking forward to Week 5.

On the up side, we liked the lightly-dressed Upland Cress salad. And Rich pointed out that the “green stuff” on the potatoes really brought them to life. That was Rosemary, and I got a little pang when I remembered how unceremoniously we pulled the rosemary bushes out of our yard to make room for a storage locker.


Week 4 Wrap-up

  • No injuries!
  • ADD-fatique hasn’t kicked in yet
  • Two more hits, and one minor miss
  • Week 5, beginning of Month 2, coming up

Blue Apron Journey, Week 3

May 11, 2015

Mexican Week!

After two weeks of getting used to the idea of cooking (for the first time in my life), I found myself looking forward to my third Blue Apron delivery on Wednesday. Here’s what it looked like:

2015-05-06 Week3 Box

Week 3, Meal 1 (5/6/15)

Crispy Fish Tacos with English Pea Guacamole and Pea Tip Salad

Tonight’s dinner set new records for highs and lows:

  1. It rated a 4.7 on the Rich-o-meter, a new high. He’s still holding out for the 5, but he said this was close …
  2. …except for “the white stuff” (aka the raw matchstick-cut Golden Beet) in the accompanying salad. He didn’t mind it as long as he could stuff it on the taco, but it cost me a 0.01 rating decrease for every bite I insisted he eat after that (resulting in a net of 4.65). I don’t blame him, it wasn’t high on my list of raw experiments either.
  3. WTF do I do with the leftover oil? I grew up in the suburbs, we didn’t fry stuff by dousing it in an oil bath – we left that to Colonel Sanders. My first experience with a frying pan full of oil was a few years ago, when my Cordon-Bleu-trained friend Wendy prepared schnitzel with noodles to accompany an authentic Sound of Music Sing-along at my house. It was delicious, but I didn’t know what to do with the leftover oil then and I still don’t. Please help – the only two choices I can come up with are (a) sop up the oil with dozens of paper towels until it disappears, or (b) abandon the pan on the stove and pretend it isn’t there (and hope that my dog, Billy takes care of it).

2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos3

2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos1
2015-05-06 Crispy Fish Tacos2

Week 3, Meal 2 (5/9/15)

Chiles Rellenos with Spiced Tamarind Rice & Queso Fresco

This one was a winner! Rich and I both rated it 4.9. It would have been 4.95 on the Rich-o-Meter, but it lost 0.05 because the Poblano Peppers weren’t quite cooked enough. Point taken, lesson learned. We’ll definitely be doing this one again.

2015-05-09 Chiles Rellenos1
2015-05-09 Chiles Rellenos2

Week 3, Meal 3 (5/10/15)

Enchiladas Rojas with Nopales & Black Beans

When our Mexican week box showed up, we had high expectations – we both love Mexican food. But this meal nailed it. Are you old enough to remember Euell Gibbons, and his “ever eat a pine cone?” ads? We are. And that’s how I felt when I was presented with two giant cactus leaves for this meal. I trusted BA, and boy did they come through. In fact, as I was cooking this meal, I found myself thinking that corn might have been a good ingredient. Guess what? The diced Poblano Cactus Pad filled the bill – same texture, less sweet. The result was the highest combined score to date: 4.9 for me, and 4.95 for Rich. There was nothing wrong with it, but he’s holding out for the Perfect 5.

2015-05-10 Enchiladas Rojas1
2015-05-10 Enchiladas Rojas2

Week 3 Wrap-up

  • Mexican week rocked!
  • Poblano chiles need a little extra time
  • We ate cactus and weren’t afraid
  • Week 4, here we come

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 6 – Race Day

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 5 – Final Race Prep, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had survived a 2-day thrash to replace the blown engine with a used street motor they found on eBay, gotten it running reasonably well after finding and fixing two mistakes (an upside-down shifter and a disconnected spark plug wire), and received a gift from the race officials when they got credit for a full lap after their last-chance practice session was red-flagged for a civilian medical emergency.

Meanwhile, back in the states, my alarm is set for 3:00am – the race is scheduled to start at 3:30am my time (11:30am, UK time).

9:30pm Tuesday night (my time): Text from Rich – “hi ho hi ho it’s off to war we go” (7:15am his time)

Yeah, not much chance that I’ll sleep tonight.

Friday 8/29 – RACE DAY! (all times are my time, PDT)

Learned from Twitter that the start time is delayed by one hour because of wet conditions – expected to clear in time because of high winds. That’s a mixed blessing for sure – dry=good, windy=bad. I found this web cam view of Douglas Harbor on Race Day morning on the Manx Radio website. Looks pretty gloomy!


At this point, I’m following the race on three devices pointing to three independent sources of electronic updates:

  1. iPad following Twitter feeds from @iom_tt, @manxgrandprix and others
  2. iPhone streaming live radio feed from Manx Radio
  3. Laptop browser connected to the electronic timing check points so I can “watch” Wade progress around the course

In addition, I have two close friends who are awake and following it with me: Terry K., who got invested in the event over beers and dinner earlier in the month, and Sarah J., who assisted with Wade’s rehab from his ankle injury. They both had the same resources as I and we were communicating via text.

Race is underway!

4:30am – 1st rider has left the start line.The riders leave in 10 second intervals (in numerical order) to avoid crowding on the course. Wade is #89, so he’s scheduled to leave 880 seconds (roughly 15 minutes) after the first bike.

4:45am – Wade left the start line as scheduled (confirmed by electronic timing). Here is a YouTube video of the the start line. Skip ahead to 14:44 and you’ll see Wade leaving, right on time. The eBay engine sounds rather healthy, all things considered!

Now I’m obsessively refreshing my laptop browser so I can watch for Wade’s transponder to trigger each of the 6 checkpoints around the track. What a cool system this is. On the live timing website, you choose the rider(s) you want to follow. When the dots appear on the maps, your rider is highlighted in yellow. By the time Wade got to the third checkpoint at Sulby, it occurred to me to take screen shots so I could later document my stress with a time-lapse video. Keep in mind that Rich had none of this technology available to him – he just had to wait 25 minutes per lap and hope that Wade showed up again.

5:08am – Wade completes his first lap.

By this time, the leaders (who are 15+ minutes ahead of Wade) have not only completed their first lap, but are well into their second laps and are capturing most of the attention of the Radio TT announcers. They do to their best to throw in mention of the back-markers, hence this AWESOME moment from the radio feed: “Here comes #89, the bike with the eBay engine.” THAT’S US!!!

5:30AM – Wade completes his second lap and enters the pits for his mid-race fuel stop. This photo is taken during that pit stop. Rich is the guy behind the rear wheel.

5:37am – Wade’s transponder registers at the Glen Helen checkpoint

5:37am – Red Flag (Twitter and Live Radio)

5:40am – Two separate incidents between Glen Helen and Ballaugh (Twitter and Radio)

Wow, now the stress level kicks in for real. The last place Wade’s transponder checked in was Glen Helen. There are two crashes between there and the next check point (Ballaugh), and we don’t have any idea exactly where. Is he one of the crashes? Did the engine blow and cause one of the crashes? Is he ahead of or behind the crashes? I refresh my browser compulsively, hoping #89 will check in at Ballaugh. No such luck.

5:49am – Race will not be restarted, results will be based on two laps (Twitter and Radio)

6:05am – Crash details: 3 bikes at 11th Milestone, 1 bike at Bishopscourt, all riders transported to hospital (Twitter and Radio).

This helps a little, because both locations are much closer to Ballaugh than to Glen Helen. Since the red flag was thrown so soon after Wade’s transponder check-in at Glen Helen, I dare to raise my hopes that he hadn’t had a chance to get nearly that far.

6:13am – text from Rich “still no news, think it may have been the leaders”

6:21am – text to Rich “This is agonizing, I can’t even imagine how you feel.”
Reply: “Kind of like the ground crew at a WWII fighter base must have felt.”

6:30am – text from Rich: “Every time someone walks toward the tent my heart stops but I also would like to know WTF is going on”

6:50am – Rich finally got word that Wade is OK and got the sense that he’d be able to ride the bike back to the pits after the roads reopen

Let me recap these 73 minutes of hell:

  • Wade was somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • The two crashes were somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • He is running an untested used engine that we bought on eBay and installed two days earlier

I was doing my best to (a) keep Rich informed during this 73 minute information gap and (b) maintain my own sanity, and I’m extremely grateful that despite the hour on the west coast, I wasn’t alone – Terry and Sarah were right there with me, texting and hoping and wringing their own hands.

Here’s what it looked like on the live timing site (Wade is the yellow dot). I added some sound effects to enhance the experience (after all, I was listening to the live radio feed) and I obviously compressed the time frame – each photo (5 seconds) roughly equals 4 min in real time.

7:50am – I’m still waiting for confirmation that he’s actually made it back. Hoping that they’re just too busy packing the shipping container, and assuming no news is good news. My second biggest fear even after I knew he wasn’t IN the crash, was that the replacement motor had also blown and CAUSED the crash. That’s why it was so important to know that he was able to ride it back to the pits.

10:15am – finally, a text from Rich: “Got the bike thru post race tech we are finishers and can you believe it were minor heroes for sticking with it and prevailing. Bike is in the crate and we’re off to the awards dinner to meet the folks that run the island.”

1:50pm – “Wade hobbled up to the stage and got his finishers trophy. For 64 out of 96”


Facebook post, Friday afternoon, August 29

“Short story: they finished. 64th out of 96. With an untuned stock motor from a wrecking yard that they found on eBay on Sunday, picked up in the UK on Monday, delivered to the pits at 7am on Tuesday, thrashed on Tues/Wed, and got running in time for practice on Wednesday afternoon. Which was critical because they still needed one more lap to meet the qualification requirements. Minor hero status amongst the other teams for persevering and prevailing.”

“Slightly longer story: race was red-flagged two laps into the four-lap race (each lap is 38 miles) because of two serious incidents on the track. Both were in the multi-mile segment immediately following the checkpoint where Wade’s radio transponder had last pinged. We had 73 minutes of true terror before Rich was finally informed that Wade was not involved. Sadly, one rider was killed. Tragic.”

“Much longer story will come in a week or two when I have time to put my thoughts together in a blog. For now, I’m going to rest. I’m still shaking from relief and joy.”

Next up: Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

Photo credits:

Start Line and Pit Stop – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Douglas Harbor – Manx Radio Web Cam

Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 5 – Final Race Prep

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 4 – The Engine Adventure, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had found a used engine on eBay, traveled by air and land to the other side of England to pick it up, endured a ridiculous sequence of setbacks trying to get the engine back to the island, transplanted the engine into the bike, and somehow managed to get it running. My view of Tuesday (at the time) can be summarized as follows: 6:30am: Rich made it back to the island with the engine and turned it over to the transplant team 11:30pm: text from Rich (yes, 17 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!! But they were by no means out of the woods: they still didn’t have enough laps to qualify to run the race, and they had no idea whether or not the engine would hold up for a practice session and four grueling laps in the race. Remember, this wasn’t a shiny new race engine, it came out of a street bike with over 30,000 miles on it and the only assurance we had from the eBay seller was that it ran when he got it.

Wednesday 8/27

I received word at 10:30am that Kenny made it on to the boat with the rental car, so it’s finally headed home to Liverpool. Now the only challenge is to get Kenny back by boat or by air – everything at this point is Standby. It’s not surprising that there was a lot more to the engine story than just the 17-hour thrash on Tuesday. Swapping an engine in a motorcycle is not a trivial operation in the best of conditions, let alone on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea in variable weather with an ad-hoc volunteer crew of helpers. They got it done, but on Wade’s first ride around the pits, the bike was sputtering and couldn’t get out of its own way. They discovered that the shift lever linkage had been mounted backwards or upside-down, so what he thought was 1st gear was actually (take your pick), 2nd/3rd/higher. Once that got fixed, things improved dramatically, but he still wasn’t getting anything close to the expected horsepower/speed, even for a used street motor. 3:15pm: Scheduled practice. Because of the initial equipment problems and the blown motor, they still only have 4 out of the 5 laps they need to qualify to start the race. And now they have so many unknown variables with the replacement motor that still isn’t running right. Why is it running so poorly? Will it survive? Nothing to do but cross our fingers and wait – off they go. Thomas sent us this photo – taken at 3:14pm, just before the bike went on course. No worries, right? CAM00396 3:45pm – Ros (their B&B hostess) managed to snap a photo of Wade as he approached her driveway – proof that it’s running! I had no idea she lived right on the course. [The fellow in the foreground of this photo is Ron Halem, aka Gold Star Ron. Ron was a local vintage race bike builder (Prunedale, CA) with a long history on the Isle of Man, both as a racer and a fan. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in November of 2014, just a few months after this photo was taken.] Wade practice after engine replacement 3:49pm – Twitter feed reports that practice had been red flagged. My heart stops for a moment – after all, the last time there was a red flag, we caused it due to the spectacular oiling of the course from the blown motor. This time it turns out to be unrelated to the bikes – a civilian medical emergency that requires an ambulance go onto the course (did I mention that all 37 miles of the circuit are on public roads?). I knew Rich would be stressing too, so I texted him to let him know it wasn’t us. Good news: because the red flag was outside the control of the race officials, Wade got credit for the lap, so he has now officially completed the 5 required laps to quality for the race. Bad news: when Wade finally made it back to the pits, he had oil all over his boot. Now they have a day to chase down the leak, fix it, figure out why the engine is running so badly, and hope for the best during the race.

Thursday, August 28

There are no practices scheduled on the day before the race, so all efforts are focused on finding and resolving the oil leak and trying to get it to run better. I did get word that Kenny, after having delivered the rental car / world’s most expensive hand truck back to Liverpool, has made it back to the island – yay! Their time was well spent, as they identified and resolved three critical flaws:

  1. They found a small leak at the plug where the alternator was removed. Rich has fashioned a new gasket and sealed it up.
  2. The ad-hoc crew located a dyno facility in the pits, so they can run the motor to confirm that the leak is fixed. If so, the race is a go. If not, that’s the end of it – too dangerous to take the risk of oiling the track (both for Wade and the other riders). This also gives them an opportunity to identify the source of the power loss. The dyno operator reports that it’s only making about 56hp (should be closer to 100hp) and it’s running a little rich. They pulled the carburetors to adjust the jetting, and then while they were putting the carburetors back on …
  3. … Wade noticed that one spark plug hole didn’t look like the others. It seems that in the thrash to put the engine together, one of the plug wires hadn’t gotten reconnected. Um yeah, that would certainly explain the huge horsepower disparity!

As if we hadn’t had enough challenges, the shipping organizers have decided that the pits have to be cleared and all shipping containers packed and ready to go by 8:00am Saturday morning. Team USA thought they had through the weekend. So on Thursday, instead of focusing 100% on the bike and the race, they’re also scrambling to pack what they don’t need. And tomorrow (Friday), instead of celebrating the race (regardless of the outcome), they’ll be packing the rest of it in preparation for shipping back across the ocean. Adding insult to injury, they don’t fly out until Tuesday morning so they have 3 days to twiddle their thumbs.

Facebook Post, August 28

“What’s on my mind (FB asks)? Keeping the Dream Alive. Race Day on the Isle of Man. 3:15am alarm so I can follow it on Streaming Radio, Twitter, and Live Transponder Timing/Map. That’s what. Odds of getting much sleep between now and then? Slim to nil. After what they’ve been through, I’m beyond thrilled that they made it to the start line. Now all I care about is a safe outcome – if they manage to make it to the finish line, that’ll be a fantastic bonus, regardless of position.”

Next up: Part 6 – Race Day