If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Mysteries of the World: Solved!

Dear Kay,
I have so much to report.
1. The Eggs
Our friends Josh and Katie were drafted to peel ‘n’ pop. (That’s the part where you zoop out the yolk into a bowl so you can mush it up with whatever goo you think is going to make it taste better.) They were surprisingly game about it all, but they’re like that.
The net completed deviled egg count was 41 rather than a full 48, due to some cracking during boiling, poor slicing, bad yoke placement resulting from off-center yoke float, and some pre-event egg eating done in the name of “testing.” I went with the basic mayo-mustard-sweet relish-salt-and-white-pepper (which sounds compulsive but that white pepper has been here as long as we have owned the house, so it was mostly ceremonial), and paprika for garnish.
I will tell you that I remain unconvinced that sweet relish has any place in a deviled egg. It wasn’t terrible, but even as I stirred in those two teaspoons of sweet relish, I was wishing it had been dill relish.
They got eaten, with five left after an hour of hard eating. My “friend” Cary pointed out that when SHE makes deviled eggs, there are NEVER any leftovers. And she goes chives all the way, and lumpy not smooth. Had to point it out, didn’t she? So competitive, that Cary.
The Fourth of July here is extreme, as I think it is in so many places. The unapologetic wearing of patriotically striped pants, the bringing of chairs down to the picnic area, the slightly unpleasant process of getting all the food there without dropping the flag cake–I can see how rituals embed themselves in a family. One by one, things get done again, and again, and before you know it, the Fourth of July picnic takes three days to engineer. When somebody, at the age of 92, finally suggests that it would be easier to have the picnic back at the house, he is indulged with great love, then politely ignored as the chairs are once again lugged out of the kitchen.
I think this means I will be making deviled eggs for the next four decades.
And for the record, that table of chow is a three-family effort. I can’t even imagine how to make a flag cake that tasted as delicious as that one.
2. The Tapping
Houseguest Katie singlehandedly, easily solved the mystery of The Early Morning Tapping that has plagued me ever since I arrived here. She solved it by waking up early and making coffee.
Here is the source of The Early Morning Tapping:
Maybe if I had simply got out of bed to investigate The Tapping, I would have discovered Crazy Dad bluebird having his daily freakout outside the kitchen window. Every day, I have learned, he flies at the window, defending himself against what is likely his own reflection.
I usually have my daily freakout late in the afternoon, so it’s no wonder we never met. We have so much to discuss.
I haven’t even written about the bluebirds this year. It has been spectacular, and it isn’t over this year as it has been in the past. Four babies launched on the one day I was back in Nashville, so I didn’t get to see them take off. They ditched out four days earlier than last year, so their fledging caught me by surprise. I felt so abandoned!
A week later, I was gobsmacked to discover that Dad The Tapper has brought back some of his now-flying babies to start building more nests. I don’t know why they’re doing it–they have been stuffing four different holes with pine needles and flurf–but it means that there are at least three mangy, teenage-looking bluebirds working out the window now, with Naggy Dad The Tapper providing security.
They’re less than two months old, but they’re already working like Trojans. We should all take notes here: put those kids to work!
I haven’t seen the mom; she’s likely off getting spa treatments and therapy. Are the babies practicing nest-building? Is mom going to return and fill four nests with more eggs?
3. Knitting
Ah, you knew I was knitting somewhere in all this. I too have been bitten by the Lace Ribbon Scarf bug–it hit when I was home for a day and poking around in the stash. This Handmaiden Flaxen may remind you of our trip to Portland, Oregon last year? It’s meeting its destiny in Veronik Avery’s lovely, interesting scarf.
As for the Scrabble this summer: we’re using the two-letter-word list that comes with the game. It makes Scrabble into a whole other kind of game when you can use crazy stuff like HM and SH.



  1. What is your peeling method?
    I like the one where you put the eggs into the bottom of a s’getti pot (they are quite wet, still) and then SHAKE them like mad….shake and bang, until they jump and dance, and keep doing it, and the shells literally jump and crumble and fall off of those eggs….it’s amazing.
    My friend told me this…I didn’t believe it, then I tried it, and had to apologize….it’s a riot to watch the stripping eggs, though!

  2. Hmm….. our eggs are made with whatever condiments in the fridge look like they are about to die. So far, no one has died, and they are always gone pretty quick (‘cept when I put cayenne instead of paprika….. Then my dad ate them, but not all at once.)

  3. Don’t forget ‘qi’ or ‘za’ – likely the handiest of two-letter words, since you don’t want to get stuck at the end with those on your tray.
    We had friends give us duplicate Fiesta egg plates for our wedding, so now we can serve up a full dozen at a time. That’s good, ’cause I could clear out half a dozen all by myself, relish or no.

  4. KA, KI, QI, and ZA are valid words too.

  5. KA, KI, QI, and ZA are valid words too.

  6. Lucky you you get bluebirds.
    Do you leave wool combings and other goodies out for the nest building maniacs? I wonder if it is practice for next year or a second batch coming or just keeping teenagers busy with good hard work. I found a robin’s nest one year made from DH’s hair clippings, a beautiful silvery nest well padded with hair.

  7. glad that the eggs worked out!
    I love the bluebird pictures.
    I am surprised by how interested I am in knitting that scarf now that I see it in a slightly variegated yarn. It didn’t call to me in the plain blue in the picture. Also it looked very drape-y in the alpaca sox. I like the crispness of your yarn choice. Hmmm….maybe after this baby blanket I am slogging through I will do the scarf.

  8. I knew someone was hard at work solving the mysteries of the world and I was pretty sure that it didn’t involve a member of Congress. I’m glad and relieved that it was you. Congratulations on working all that out.

  9. Great bird pictures, and I noticed that the beautiful scarf is bluebird colored, too. Glad your tapper wasn’t a rat…

  10. I warned you about the relish, but no. You wouldn’t listen.
    Didn’t you get a second bluebird family one year? I don’t think they would be doing it for the exercise.
    Hey to Buffy!
    xo Kay

  11. I am very pro sweet relish in my deviled eggs. Imagine my surprise when, while making deviled eggs at my mom’s a couple weeks ago, I discovered that she doesn’t use relish of any sort in hers, although she does include a glug of vinegar! wow! I wonder where I learned to make deviled eggs….
    The hard-working baby birds are adorable!

  12. Exceptionally progressive bluebird daddy? Or maybe he just wants to be absolutely sure he doesn’t end up with a single parent of bluebird grandbabies living in his den. :oP

  13. We had a crazed momma cardinal attacking her reflection in our door’s kickplate this spring. Drove us nuts. In VA the cardinal is the state bird (and thus protected) so we couldn’t take, ahem, alternative measures to deter the pest.

  14. In my neighborhood there’s a male mockingbird who attacks his image in the car’s sideview mirror every morning. Deviled eggs! I love them! I use mayo, mustard (sometimes a little garlic mustard), worcestershire, and PICKLE JUICE. My future SIL is a huge fan of my deviled eggs!

  15. Oh how cool. I am sooooooo glad it’s dad bluebird and not some critter returning from a night abroad (as is usually our case)!

  16. Dill Pickle juice is what I use in my eggs to devil them (my mom sometimes uses vinegar)…but the pickle juice is perfect – gives them smoothness and dillyness.
    Now I must go make a batch.

  17. I’ve been hoping for some bluebird updates here! Hooray for industrious young’uns. Gives me hope for our 10-month-old who has yet to earn his keep by mowing the lawn. What’s he waiting for, anyway?
    I am definitely anti-relish in my deviled eggs. I stand resolutely against introduction of any sort of pickle product in the tasty treats. I am pro Arthur Court deviled egg dish, however, which is what I think your top picture is.

  18. I’m not convinced that sweet relish has a place anywhere. Blech.
    My favorite two-letter Scrabble word is “aa.” It’s a Hawaiian word for lava. I can pretty much imagine how that word came into being: *Hawaiian dude pointing at encroaching lava* “AA!” *Hawaiian dude runs*

  19. I hope daddy bluebird doesn’t crash into the window and hurt himself! Maybe a blind on the outside lowered at the time of day when he gets riled.

  20. in David Sedaris’s new book he had the same bird problem — it might have even been more than one bird — and these were French birds. so he got his partner’s old album covers and fit them in the bottom of the windows — facing out at the birds. problem solved. And frank zappa staring out at the french villagers. 🙂

  21. The secret to my Deviled Eggs is Worstershire (sp?) Sauce, you just have to be careful not to use to much, because you don’t actually want your eggs to taste like they are doused in steak sauce.

  22. Hmmm – I like the sweet relish BUT my favorite addition to deviled eggs is bacon – I mean it makes perfect sense doesn’t it. Still the mayo/mustard salt/pepper and paprika topping.
    If the season’s long enough mama bluebird CAN have 2 sets of babies but I’m amazed at the first batch helping prepare for the second!!
    Lovin’ the denim baby sweater!!

  23. So, Tappy is makin’ the younguns work for a bit, eh? Can’t you just hear him now? “In my day, I had to build four nests before dinner time, and it was uphill both ways!”

  24. It’s and its. It’s lovely to see someone use those correctly.

  25. It’s and its. It’s lovely to see someone use those correctly.

  26. I’ve been wondering where Crazy Dad went to – He’s not been at my house this summer. Looks like he flew east!

  27. My grandmother’s favourite word to beat us at scrabble was ai. I love that scarf too, and have a skein that I don’t know what to do with that might be perfect.

  28. He may be the only one who has figured out how to get a teenager to do something that resembles work.

  29. hi – i’ve been meaning to send you a url for the citizen science participation of cavity nesters (your bluebirds) at Cornell – here’s their link:
    http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nest/home/index – as a biologist, it’s the kinda geek thing i would have cherished when i was a kid…
    sometimes, juveniles (birds) stay close to home to help their parents through a second brood (again, birds, not people), but they usually don’t breed until the summer after they’re hatched. whew.
    i vote for dill.
    or sweet.
    aigs is good.

  30. Why in the world isn’t someone studying how the daddy bluebird is managing to get teenaged bluebirds to work so hard?
    Also – I agree with pickle juice, but to be clear, that is sweet pickle juice.

  31. Maybe bluebird is ‘freakin out’ because he wants some of that coffee…
    nice scarf!

  32. Could be that this would help you with your flag cake:

  33. I once brought devilled eggs to a potluck @ work and one of the ladies commented that she liked them because they didn’t have too much sweet relish in them. My reply? “Sweet relish? Hmm.. that must be what my Mom used.” Quite the provocative summer topic! My morning “tapper” is a red-belly woodpecker. No questioning what that noise is unless one mistakes it for a jackhammer! T

  34. I would not go near a chive-filled deviled (that looks like de-vile) egg. Did you use an egg cooker? Cuz I love my egg cooker.

  35. Flag cake recipe, please, maybe?? I love it!!! I tried to do a Stars-n-Stripes trifle, but I don’t relish cutting out 20 stars from pound-cake-and-jam sandwiches every year….

  36. Ooops…nevermind. I see the link now! Awesome, thanks!!


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