• Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Meta

  • Advertisements

All Deviled Eggs Aren’t the Same

What a spread! Tell the members of a southern Sunday school class to come to a party and bring a finger food and the dining room table will be full. Pork slider sandwiches. Ham on rolls, Meatballs. Veggies and dip. Cheese and crackers. Cupcakes. Brownies. Pimento cheese sandwiches – some on deli wheat bread, some on thin white bread cut in triangles. Four platters of deviled eggs – some garnished with pimento, some with paprika dusting, and some square shaped.

Yes, square deviled eggs. The conversations about those eggs were lively. I’ve never seen a square egg. How was that done? I never knew a hen could lay a square egg. Who brought these? Are these real eggs? Does a square egg taste like other eggs?

There were many guesses of how an oval egg (actually an ovoid shape since that’s the word to describe a three-dimensional egg shape) could become a cube. Eggs could be broken and the insides placed in a cube shape and then boiled. Rare chickens laid cube eggs. Peel a boiled egg and trim the white to make a cube.

Finally, when someone asked, “Who brought these?” in MaryDell’s hearing, she took credit, but she didn’t immediately explain how she turned an egg into a cube. Several of us guessed and she just smiled and shook her head. “There’s a little plastic cube to put boiled eggs in. I’ll bring it to Sunday school and show you,” she said.

MaryDell held her Egg Cuber, aka Square Egg Maker, in hand and explained. Boil an egg and peel it immediately. While it’s warm, place it in the cube, put the top on and gently turn the top which forces a square insert to press the egg into a cube. Then put the cuber in the refrigerator for about an hour, remove the egg from the plastic cuber, and refrigerate the square egg. “Since boiled eggs are good in the refrigerator for a week, you can make them ahead and then devil them all at the same time,” MaryDell said.

“Wait.” I said, “Did you say boil an egg? Can you only do one at a time?” MaryDell nodded. “You brought two platters of eggs. I can’t imagine how long that took,” I said.

Turns out MaryDell owns two Egg Cubers so she did two eggs at a time over several days. I admitted that I had hurriedly slapped store-bought pimento cheese between slices of sandwich bread, trimmed the crusts, and cut sandwiches in triangles. “Just hearing everyone talk about square eggs made it worthwhile. Your Grands would love them,” MaryDell said. Her deviled eggs were unique and delicious. None were left on her platter; I can’t say the same for my sandwiches.

Egg Cubers are available online and probably in kitchen stores, but I’m not buying one yet. MaryDell loaned me one of hers. I appreciate my friend’s time and effort to make two platters of square deviled eggs, but at my house we’ll make a square egg and eat it as soon as it chills. The Grands will love it.

####

 

Advertisements

Even More Heart Tugs

            I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, the times when heartstrings tighten. To appreciate the moments and imprint them in my head and heart.   To make notes because by writing about these experiences, however brief and jumbled in the busyness of life, they are relived and cherished.

I’ve shared Heart Tugs previously and my files are filled with more. My twelve-year-old Grand’s birthday request was to spend the night in Nashville with her mother and me and shop at bookstores. My heart sang. Time with Daughter and Elsie and book shopping. This overnight trip got better when my college roommate invited us to spend the night with her. When Roomie, Daughter, and Grand posed for a picture, I could hardly focus to snap it because my eyes were filled with happy tears. I never imagined that my dear friend of fifty years would also be loved by Daughter and my Grand.

Mindi sent a text message. A picture of a Valentine paper bookmark with the words, “Look what Mason found and uses in his books!” Mason is Mindi’s son who is about the same age she was when she was my fourth grade student. On the bookmark I’d written, “Keep reading, Mindi!” Mason declared it his favorite bookmark.

A friend texted six words, “Doctor said all clear! No cancer!” Those few words were the happiest of the day.

When I visited a friend’s home, she said, “Come downstairs, I wanta’ show you what I’ve done.” The concrete basement floor and wall blocks had been painted a warm gray and a colorful area rug covered a small area of the floor. A bunk bed set along one wall and a queen size bed and a twin bed on the adjacent wall. A kid-size table and toys and children’s books were the only other things in the huge room. “Look at my new room! All 5 of my grandchildren can sleep here!” I smiled and laughed. I understood my friend’s jubilance.

On a windy 39° morning, four-year-old Jesse said, “I need to play outside!” We bundled up in coats and hats and he happily created roads in our mulch around shrubs. A cup of hot chocolate and cookies warmed us when we went inside.

A bed of bright pink and lavender-pink phlox tugs my heart. It’s just a small flowerbed around my mailbox. Nothing spectacular except these are exactly the same plants that bloomed every spring beside our driveway when I was a kid. Mom shared a few plants with me more than thirty years ago and although an over-zealous yard boy sheared them to the ground (because he thought the late summer green plants were weeds), I salvaged a few plants and this spring they are beautiful.

“This is a momma hug,” Daughter said. As she and I hugged each other, my ten-year-old Grand wrapped her arms around Daughter’s back. A three-person hug. A three-generation hug.

Heart Tugs. I’m catching all I can.

####

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Food

My freezer is full of this and that. Two small baked sweet potatoes. Half an onion – I was leaving town for ten days and didn’t want it to ruin in the refrigerator. One slice of meatloaf. A half-cup of spaghetti sauce. A plastic container labeled ‘For Soup’ stores a spoonful of corn, a few servings of green beans and lima beans, celery leaves, and who knows what else – all leftovers to go into a pot of vegetable soup.

I don’t like to throw away food. When I peel apples and pears for my Grands, I usually eat the peeling. I’ve even boiled citrus peelings with cinnamon to make good use of the peelings and make the house smell good. I dice the thick stems of broccoli for salads. I chew on the tough core of pineapples. And I know about composting, but don’t do it. I should because then I’d never waste food. Potato peelings, apple cores, pineapple leaves, eggshells – all could go into compost.

A Reader’s Digest article about fresh produce entitled “Food Parts You Should Never Throw Out” caught my eye. According to the article, most of us throw away nutrients when we dispose of what we consider waste. Pineapple cores were listed first and I patted myself on the back. But I didn’t think of adding chunks of core to a cup of hot tea or chopping it finely to add to chutneys or a stir-fry.

I was reminded of the many possibilities of citrus zest: blend in smoothies, vinaigrettes and marinades or stir into yogurt, cottage cheese, and oatmeal. Citrus peel provides fiber and three times as much vitamin C as the flesh. I’ve never tried eating kiwi skin; even thinking of its fuzzy texture makes my mouth dry. But I’ll try biting into the whole fruit because kiwi’s vitamin C level decreases when the fruit is peeled and exposed to oxygen.

Watermelon rind provides an amino acid that is good for heart health. I know about pickled rind, and this summer I’ll add chopped rind to fruit salads and slaw. Who knew watermelon seeds can be roasted? I roast pumpkin seeds, but have never roasted watermelon seeds.

I was nodding in agreement until I read the words ‘Banana Peel.’ You might remember my column about bananas. I can’t eat a banana. Its mushy, slimy texture gags me. I almost skipped this section, but I read on out of curiosity.

Banana peels provide amino acids, which boosts serotonin, known as the happiness hormone. The best peels are ripe ones because they are softer, thinner, and tastier, according the article author, Isadora Baum. To soften the peels, boil them for at least ten minutes (imagine that stench) and then add them to soups or smoothies. Or puree the peels and add to muffin or cake batter. And the kicker: for a real treat, slice and bake a banana with the skin on.

I won’t eat a banana peel in soup or a muffin or baked. Not even for its happiness hormone. Some things should be thrown out.

####

When Will Be the Last Time?

How I wish I’d known it was the last time Jesse would call “Gran, Gran. Will you come up here?” when he awoke after spending the night with Husband and me. My 4 year-old Grand called early, at daybreak, and I threw on my housecoat and went upstairs to his bed. We snuggled close. Jesse held his stuffed bear in his arms as we sat side-by-side leaning against the bed’s headboard. I read Lightning McQueen’s Tales from the Track.

Recently when Jesse spent the night, I awoke before he did and sat drinking my first cup of coffee when I heard footsteps on the stairs. Jesse jumped onto the floor from the last step, saw me at the kitchen table, and ran to me. “Hi, Gran,” he said. I wanted to say, “Jesse, go back upstairs and get in bed and call me,” but I didn’t. “I got up all by myself,” he said. He sat in my lap and we talked in soft voices and read a book, but it wasn’t the same as snuggling with my sleepy-eyed Grand on his bed. If I’d known it was the last time that Jesse would stay in bed and call me, I would have stayed beside him a little longer.

As I buckled Jesse’s car seat in my van one day he said, “I’m big now. I don’t need a car seat. Mom has a booster.” I took a little longer than usual to adjust the tightness of the straps that securely held him and had held his older siblings and cousins. I’m not sentimental about a car seat. Now I help him with the seat belt when he sits in a booster and we hug, but he’ll soon learn how to do it and not want my help. And I’ll miss our quick hug and his smile after we agree the straps are just right, not too tight, not too loose.

I treasure Jesse’s greetings. With arms open wide and a big smile and shouting, “Gran!” he runs to me and wraps both arms around my knees. He no longer says, “Pick-up hug” as he did as a toddler, but looks up and raises his arms. When I lift him, he wraps his legs and arms around me and lays his head on my shoulder. When will be the last time?

When will be the last time Jesse will sit in my lap while I tie his shoes? When he leans with his back against my legs while I zip his jacket? Get excited when I point out a crane or a bulldozer? When we pretend that we’re in a cave while under a quilt that’s over two chairs? When he says, “Look, Gran. I’m really smart,” after he stacks blocks sorted by color and size?

I’m thankful Jesse is becoming independent and I’m cherishing his ‘littleness.’ One day his greeting will be a wave and he’ll tie his own shoes.

####

Do You Have Any Pet Peeves?

“What gets under your skin?” Jim Herrin asked in a recent Sunday editorial and I immediately thought of a time during my teaching days.

“My daughter thinks you don’t like her. Ann (not her real name) says you always frown at her and she has to sit in the back row,” said a mother who had requested a parent-teacher conference. I had great respect for this mother, a fellow teacher. I chose my words carefully.

“I’m sorry Ann feels this way and I like her, but not a couple of things she does. Does she sit on her knees and sway from side to side while seated at home? She does here in the classroom and she sits in the back so other students won’t be distracted with her in front of them,” I explained. Her mother said that her daughter’s swaying bothered her at the dinner table. “But what really grades on my nerves is a constant repetitive sound. Like a pencil tapping on a desk. I’m not sure Ann is aware when she does it, like I didn’t know I frown when I look at her.”

Ann’s mom said, “Oh, that’s my pet peeve, too, and my high school students know it so they sometimes make sounds just to annoy me.” For the next few minutes, we two teachers shared our pet peeves, the little things that made us cringe. Thankfully, this conference ended well with a plan to help Ann understand that I liked her.

Other sounds annoy me. Like some people talking. Over the weekend, I watched the Tennessee men’s basketball team play in the SEC tournament and I’m sure I frowned when Dick Vitale, the game announcer, got on a roll. His hyper-pitched and overly-excited voice, non-stop screaming, and repeating the same words annoy me. “Oh! Oh! Oh! Unbelievable! Look at him! Nobody jumps like that! He’s above everyone with that rebound! That’s why he gets more than 10 rebounds a game! Oh, baby!” he screamed.

Another time Vitale screamed, “He hit the floor to get the ball! Hit the floor! Did you see him hit the floor?” In my head I screamed, “I heard you the first time!” Yes, I know I can mute the sound and I’ve done that more than once, but I like hearing the crowd, the explanation of fouls, and everything except Vitale when he’s excessively exuberant and screams.

While discussing pet peeves with Husband, we agreed that rudeness is high on our lists. I’m annoyed when someone is rude to a restaurant waiter or store clerk or anyone whose job it is to serve the public. I worked as a salesperson in a women’s clothing store, and that experience taught me to stand in the shoes of the person on the other side of the counter.

I can’t end without admitting why I rarely chew gum. The sound of popping gum must be a pet peeve to some people. Why else would they frown and move away while I chomp on a stick of Spearmint?

####

Friend for 40 Years

Do you remember when and where you met your really good friend? The one who laughs with you during good times and cries during bad times.

September, 1977. Husband and I had moved back to Cookeville, back to his hometown and my college town after living in Nashville for seven years. I didn’t want to go to the Newscomers Meeting that night. Cookeville wasn’t really new, but my college friends weren’t here. We had two toddlers so I spent my days changing diapers and wiping up spilled milk.

Husband knew many Cookeville people. I didn’t. “You should go,” he said. “It’ll be a night out and you’ll meet people.” I did need a night out. But with strangers?

I heard laughter and chatter as I walked through the church hallway. In a large room, about thirty women had gathered in small clusters. Not one familiar face. I found a seat on the back row.

The Newcomers chairman said loudly, “Welcome to Newcomers! We’ll start as we always do. Everyone will stand and introduce yourself. If it’s your first meeting, tell us when and why you moved here? Tell all about yourself, your hobbies, and if you have a family, about them.” Oh, no. I didn’t know I’d have to stand and talk.

A gray-headed woman said she’d researched Cookeville and decided to retire here. Obviously, she’d practiced her introduction. What would I say? Words jumbled in my brain. Another lady, with a welcoming smile, stood.

“I’m Rita Craighead. We moved here about two months ago. Cookeville is my husband’s, Bob’s, hometown.” That got my attention – just like us. In a confident, soothing voice she said, “We moved here with no job and no place to live.” Really? So had we.

“We lived with Bob’s mother for a while and have just moved into a house,” Rita said. “We have one daughter, Andrea, who is ten.” There’s a difference.

“Anything else?” Ms. Chairman asked.

“Well, I like to play cards and read and cook and my husband encouraged me to come tonight to make new friends.” Same as me, I thought.

Quickly others stood and rattled off their names. As I stood, every woman turned backwards in her chair and looked at me. “I’m Susan Ray. And everything Rita said, that’s me. Except Allen and I have two young children, ages 2 ½ and 1.”

Rita and I hugged for the first time at the end of the meeting. Our families became friends. We shared meals, sometimes pizza right out of the box; sometimes beef tenderloin on finest china. Andrea, their daughter, babysat our children. For more than 30 years, I often stopped by Rita’s house for a cup of coffee and visited at her kitchen table. After Bob’s death in 2009, Rita moved to Murfreesboro to be close to her daughter and her brother. I was sad.

Last week, during Rita’s funeral service the minister said to keep memories of Rita in our minds and hearts and souls. I’m so very thankful for Rita’s friendship and for that first hug and many, many more.

####

Celebrate Reading

To exercise your brain and keep it healthy, read. Just like you are doing now.

            This past Saturday, March 2, was National Read Across America Day, which has been celebrated on Dr. Seuss’s birthday since 1998. This day, created by the National Education Association, is intended for children and youth in every United States community to celebrate reading. Let’s stretch that celebration of reading through all of March for everyone, from children to adults.

Reading twenty minutes a day is the time that numerous research studies have proven makes a difference in a child’s learning. Generally, the more time we are exposed to something and the more time spent practicing it, the better we’ll become at performing it. This is true for reading. Reading exercises and stretches the brain; it connects the present with previous learning. Reading aloud to a child develops listening skills and prepares young children for learning. The single greatest factor in a child’s ability to read is being read to, even as a newborn.

When’s the last time you read to a child? It’s a gift, for the child and you. Snuggling a little one in your lap while reading aloud is a bonding time. Quiet, uninterrupted time. Once after I finished a book with Annabel, when she was 4, she said, “Gran, will you show me that again?” Show me again. Those words told me she had comprehended the story and transformed it to pictures. Don’t think a teen-ager is too old to be read to. They’ll not sit on your lap, but they’ll listen. Even adults like to hear someone read aloud. Years ago my Tennessee Tech professor, Dr. Eleanor Ross taught a class entitled Teaching of Reading and my favorite part of the class was the last few minutes when Dr. Ross read a children’s book aloud.

My love for reading goes back to childhood when Mom or Dad sat beside my bed and read from a Bible story book and whatever book I was reading at the time. When I was a fourth and fifth grade student, I read every biography that was in our school library. Do I remember the details of those people’s lives? No, but I read for fun and followed the example of everyone in my family who read newspapers, magazines, and books.

As an educator, mother, and grandmother, I’m convinced that children who are read to and have opportunities to read aloud and silently have a high probability of being successful students, and therefore, successful in their work. Research shows a strong correlation between a child’s ability to read and academic performance. You’ve probably heard that students first learn to read and then read to learn. It’s true.

We would all do well to follow the suggested 20 minutes daily reading habit. A well-known quote by Dr. Seuss sums up the importance of reading. “The more you read, the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Let’s share our reading, our learning, the places we go with someone else.

####