Originally Published in the Greenwood Daily Journal Saturday April 7, 2012
For the last 3 years a robin has been making a nest on the gutter outside my bedroom window every spring. At least I think it is the same bird, it’s hard to tell as I’m sure you well know.
Even though this nest makes a terrific mess on the side of my house, I am just mesmerized watching her make this grassy roost on the gutter her home. She amazes me with what she brings back to prepare for her new family. Bits of leaves, paper and this time: fishing line. Just enough to know it is there.
Where she is perched is right at my eye level so I have a unique perspective here. I am not ashamed to admit that one of the first things I do in the morning is check to make sure she is there. Sure enough, there she is, singing her song and looking out at the world.
I know that in a few days there will be eggs in there, like there was at this time in the last few seasons. My kids and I track their progress because when we stand on a stool we can see inside. This is nature’s handiwork at it’s finest and I am again reminded at the protective instincts of animals.
This is springtime to me. New beginnings, new life and new directions. The emergence of my prized hostas in April isn’t the only reminder that spring has sprung, the signs are all around me. There is an energy in the air that’s palpable. That’s a good thing too because both my yard and my body need some rehab after the winter months. It’s like cleaning out a flower bed and shedding baggy clothes in favor of shorts brings the same visceral reaction come April. I need mulch and plants as much as I need to add a few laps around the neighborhood on the bike.
This time of year also brings about the birthday of my grandmother, Virginia. She turned 92 on April 1st and for the first time ever was not able to leave her house to attend her own birthday celebration. This was just not going to work for me, so I brought the party to her. My parents brought her a beautiful plant she can care for from her chair and I brought a variation of her favorite cake that I have made her every birthday for the last 15 years, lemon cake with buttercream icing.
This year, since everything was new and different, I made a few dozen white cupcakes with lemon curd filling instead. New party locale, new twist on an old favorite. We all assembled in her crowded living room and had a chance to visit with her. She told me a long story about how there is a nest of squirrels in the tree outside her window she is watching. She gave them names and throws out seed for them every morning.
I sat by her the whole afternoon as she asked me about all of my “Culinary Escapades” as she likes to call them. Every few weeks, I send her the copies of my column so I guess you would say she is my biggest fan.
She has always encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and follow my true north. I guess she has a special insight, being 92, that I have yet to have gained. What we both share is the feeling that spring brings about it a renewal. I think that is something we all need to feel from time to time.
Her age only slightly hampers her desire of tending to what we all need, following our lives, trying to flutter about getting this and that done. Kind of like that robin outside my bedroom window. See, we aren’t that different. The robin, my 92 year old grandmother and I.
This Easter holiday I am sharing with you something new that I am adding to my Easter dinner table. It is a wonderful addition to any holiday spread and it quick and easy to assemble a day ahead. That way you can spend less time preparing and more time enjoying the day.
I hope you all enjoy this Easter and all that spring reveals to you. Shine a springtime light on the path not yet taken, move forward ,and enjoy the journey.
Cheese and Beef Snack Bread
3 C bread flour, I used unbleached
2 1/4 tsp Red Star active dry yeast
2 TB sugar
1 Tb minced onion flakes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway seed
1/4 C water
3 TB shortening
1 egg separated
3-5 oz smoked sliced beef or diced roast beef
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
In large mixer bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast, sugar, onion, salt and caraway seed; mix well. In saucepan, heat milk, water and shortening to 120-130°F (shortening does not need to melt); add to flour mixture. Add egg yolk. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Spread evenly in greased 15×10-inch jelly roll pan. Brush with slightly beaten egg white. Sprinkle with beef and shredded cheese. Bake at 375°F for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.