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Alabama Recipes | Appetite for Avocados


Brooke Burks, The Buttered Home

I love a good BLT sandwich, but let’s be honest. When we’re trying to eat a tad better, we have to be creative. Aside from taking the bread out of the equation, there are only so many ways a BLT can be made better. But do I have a surprise for you! We got creative and used the freshness of avocado to add to the BLT mixture, and combined it with a baked base that results in a buttery-smooth goodness. TheButteredHome.com

2 large avocados, halved and seeded

BLT Stuffed Avocados

4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon lime juice1/2  cup green leaf lettuce, chopped

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon salt, divided

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Carefully cut the avocados in half and remove the seeds. With a spoon, scoop out half the flesh of the avocados and place in a bowl. Drizzle avocado boats with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tea- spoon of the salt. Bake for 10-20 minutes until remaining flesh is soft and browned. In a separate bowl, mix the scooped avocado with bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, remain- ing salt, garlic, pepper and lime juice. When avocados are done, spoon BLT mixture into each avocado boat.


Avocados are one of the more nutritious fruits you can choose and the good news is that they are in season now through late summer. California is the main source for these popular berries (yes, they’re a real fruit because they meet the criteria of having a seed and fleshy pulp), where more than 3,000 growers supply fans with this green, and sometimes black, fruit.

One-third of a medium avocado has 80 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, according to the California Avocado Commission. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by helping increase the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, K and E.

Is it ripe?

The best way to tell if a California Avocado is ripe and ready for immediate use is to gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm but will yield to gentle pressure. Color alone may not tell the whole story. The Hass Avocado, for example, will turn dark green or black as it ripens, but some other avocado varieties retain their light-green skin even when ripe.

• To speed up the process of ripening avocados, place the fruit in a plain, brown, paper bag and store it at room temperature (65 F to 75 F) until ready to eat (usually two to five days)

• Including an apple or a kiwi fruit in the bag accelerates the process, because these fruits give off ethylene, a nat- ural hormone that promotes ripening. When the avocados yield to gentle pressure, they are ready.

Tip: The more apples or kiwi fruit you add, the quicker your avocados will ripen. Soft, ripe fruit can be refrigerated until it is eaten and should last for at least two more days. – California Avocado Commission


Suzie’s Salad

2 ripe avocados, mashed

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 cup tomatoes, chopped (cherry or grape tomatoes work well)

1 16-ounce carton cottage cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix ingredients in order. Serve or store in an air -tight container. This is best eaten the day it is made. Cook’s note: can remove the cottage cheese and substitute lime juice for lemon juice for a rustic guacamole dip.

Karla Boling, Central Alabama EC


Addictive Avocado Tacos

2 large ripe avocados

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons almond milk

3⁄4 cup breadcrumbs

1/2  teaspoon cumin

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

Optional toppings:

Shredded cheese

Black beans

Tomatoes, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Whisk together almond milk and olive oil in one bowl. Mix breadcrumbs and spices in another bowl. Cut avocados in half and remove the pits. Lay avocado halves skin side down and cut into 3 equal parts. Gently peel away skin. Dip avocados first into almond-oil mixture, then transfer to the bread crumbs-spice mixture. Usea spoon to coat. Transfer to foil-lined baking sheet and repeat until all avocados are coated. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on the exterior. While avocados are baking, prepare toppings. When avocados are done baking, remove from oven, place in tortillas, and add toppings.

Robin O’Sullivan, Wiregrass EC


Avocado Deviled Eggs

6 eggs, hard-boiled

1 avocado, peeled and mashed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

Boil 6 eggs in 2 inches of barely boiling water for 6 minutes. Turn off the eye of the stove but leave the pan on the eye for 4 more minutes. Cool and split the 6 eggs into halves. Scoop the yolks into a mixing bowl. Mix 1 well-mashed avocado with the 6 yolks, salt, and white pepper. Fill the 12 egg white halves with this mixture. You will not need mayonnaise because the mashed avocado replaces it. May garnish with parsley, cilantro, pimento, olive slices, snipped chives, etc. Place in the fridge until time to serve.

Glenda Weigel, Baldwin EMC


Avocado Pickles

3 underripe avocados

1 3⁄4 cup white distilled vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 cloves garlic, cut in half or sliced – Sliced jalapeno, optional (remove seeds for less heat or leave them in for more heat)

Add vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a saucepan and heat to boiling. Allow it to boil until the sugar and salt dissolve. Turn off the heat and allow to cool completely. When the vinegar mixture has cooled, cut the avocados in half and remove the seed. Cut each half into 3-4 pieces (the slices need to be kind of thick, about the same as sliced peaches). Add red pepper, garlic, and jalapeno to the bottom of a quart sized jar. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over the top of the avocados and fill to the top (if more liquid is needed, add more vinegar/water mixed 50/50). Re- frigerate for at least three days before eating. Store in the refrigerator.

Sandra Rhodes, Central AL EC


Savory Tart of California Avocado

Recipe created by Chef Charleen Badman of FnB Restaurant for the California Avocado Commission

Savory Tart of California Avocado by Chef Charleen Badman of FnB Restaurant for the California Avocado Commission

1 frozen puff pastry sheet 4 tablespoons honey

1  teaspoon tamarind paste

2  teaspoons white wine vinegar

1  Ruby Red grapefruit, peeled

2  ripe, fresh California avocados, seeded and peeled

1/4  teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/4  teaspoon pepper, or to tasteSprigs of mint, lavender or marjoram for garnish (optional)

Thaw the puff pastry in the refrigerator or on the counter overnight until pliable. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Once the puff pastry is thawed, unfold or unroll it, removing any packaging papers or liners. Cut and shape puff pastry into four 2×4-inch rectangles. Place the rectangles between two layers of parchment paper and two half sheet trays, with one on top as a weight.Place the pastries in the pre-heated oven, and bake until brown and crisp, about 12 minutes. An additional 2 minutes with the top sheet tray and parchment paper removed may be needed to finish even browning and crisping. Set aside and let the pastries cool. While pastries are cooling, create honey sauce by heating honey, tamarind paste and white wine vinegar until warm. Set aside and cool before using. Using a sharp knife, cut between the grapefruit’s membranes to release the segments.Be sure to remove all of the white pith. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mash the avocado with salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly mashed avocado onto cooled pastry sheets. Top with grapefruit segments, then honey sauce. Garnish with herb of choice.

**Large avocados are recommended for these recipes. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

Access seasonal recipes like this and more at CaliforniaAvocado.com. Follow on Facebook at Facebook.com/CaliforniaAvocados, and on Twitter and Instagram at @ca_avocados.


Cook of the Month | Deanna Eckenfels, Baldwin EMC

Chicken Tacocados

Chicken Tacocados, Deanna Eckenfels, Baldwin EMC

3-4 avocados

1/2 lime, juiced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2  cup red pepper, seeded and diced

1/2  cup green pepper, seeded and diced

1/2  cup onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon coriander

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon Sazon seasoning Salt and pepper, to taste

1  pound ground chicken

2  tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken stock

Heat olive oil on medium high and sauté onion and peppers until almost tender. Add garlic and stir. Add spices and stir. Add ground chicken and salt and pepper. Stir and cook thoroughly. Add flour and stir until chicken is coated. Stir in chicken stock. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes. While chicken simmers, cut avocados in half and remove pit. Use 3-4 avocados depending on how stuffed you like them. When chicken liquid is gone from chicken mixture, stuff avocados. Squeeze lime juice over top of chicken. Add your favorite taco toppings.


Themes and Deadlines:

August: Pound Cake | May 8

September: *Bar foods | June 5 (*Taco bar, baked potato bar, etc.)

October: Traditional Southern Recipes | July 3

3 ways to submit:

Online: alabamaliving.coop

Email: recipes@alabamaliving.coop

Mail: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124

Please send us your original recipes (developed or adapted by you or family members.) Cook of the Month winners will receive $50, and may win “Cook of the Month” only once per calendar year.

Snapshots: Waterfalls

Eagle Creek falls, Sipsey Wilderness Area. SUBMITTED BY Cody Hood, Addison.
Mardis Mill Falls (also known as Graves Creek Falls) near Oneonta off Highway 231. A scenic cascade just over 10 feet tall but very wide. SUBMITTED BY Keith Cain, Arab.
Hodge Mill Fall in the Bankhead Forest, March 2020. SUBMITTED BY Debbie Boyd, Addison.
Stephens Gap is a large cave in Jackson County (near Woodville) with 3 waterfalls inside that can be rapelled down to a pillar in the middle, or you can walk over to it with a little climbing. SUBMITTED BY Jason Hepler, Hollywood.
A spring day in Hampton Cove, Alabama. SUBMITTED BY Sandra Kipinger, Union Grove.

Arts and craft projects and even eating meals can be a mess for some kids (and adults)! Send us photos of your biggest messes!

Submit “I made a mess” photos by May 31. 
Winning photos will run in the July issue.

SUBMIT and WIN $10!
Online: alabamaliving.coop
Mail: Snapshots P.O. Box 244014  Montgomery, AL 36124

Rules: Alabama Living will pay $10 for photos that best match our theme of the month. Photos may also be published on our website at alabamaliving.coop and on our Facebook page. Alabama Living is not responsible for lost or damaged photos. Send a self-addressed stamped envelope to have photos returned.

Laughing through tough times

By Hardy Jackson

Illustration by Dennis Auth

Now, I am not gonna make light of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is bad, disruptive, and for many, tragic.

However, I think it is worth noting that despite the seriousness of what is taking place, we continue to find ways to laugh in the face of the virus and make the best of a bad situation.   

For example, some folks discover things that under normal circumstances slipped under their radar.

   Just the other day the story reached me that a man who was confined to his home with no sports on TV, found that there was a woman living with him.  Not only that, she cooked, cleaned, and took care of the children.  

“She is really nice,” he told his friends.  “Who knew?”

Meanwhile, a group called the Pentecostal Pew posted that “the Rapture has taken place and we all missed it. TP shelves are empty because ‘the Roll’s Been Called Up Yonder’.”  

The site also noted that though many churches were holding services on-line, some members still won’t be on time because “the traffic was bad.”  I’ll bet the late Jerry Clower, Baptist layman and country comedian, is right now up in Glory collecting stories for the next time he entertains the Saints assembled.       

To the delight of the Labrador retrievers that live with us, the World Health Organization has announced that dogs cannot get or spread the virus.  Therefore, it recommended that all the dogs held in quarantine should be released.  Or as the headline should have read, “WHO let the dogs out.”

(Sorry, I just couldn’t help it.)

Naturally the internet is full of all sorts of ways to keep Corona at bay, none approved by the FDA – credit cards accepted. 

As for those of you who are concerned about the kids banished from their schools, stuck at home watching TV.  Don’t worry.

As one teacher advised parents, put the TV on “mute,” turn on the subtitles and guess what?

They’ll be reading.

Meanwhile, from those parents who have themselves become teachers, I understand that as a result of the rise of at-home-instruction, prayer and spankings are back in school.

All is not lost.

Five steps to a clear decision on new windows

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

Q: Thanks for answering the question last month about replacing older windows. Clearly there are benefits in addition to energy savings, so we’ve decided to go ahead with replacing our windows. Can you offer any tips on deciding which new windows to purchase?

A: Here are five tips I’ll offer as you think about the types of new windows you should purchase.

Think beyond windows. Sometimes home improvement projects can grow into something bigger. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are advantages to replacing windows and siding at the same time, for example. You could consider adding rigid foam insulation to the exterior wall before installing siding. You could also pump some additional insulation into the wall cavities. These measures will reduce heat loss through the wall and make your home more comfortable. Another advantage of replacing siding as you replace windows is to make it easier to install flashing around the window. Flashing is what prevents water from making its way into the wall from the outside.

Are you replacing doors, too? Maybe you’d like to reduce or increase the size of one or more windows. A larger window can let in more light and transform a room. A smaller window that lets in less sunshine can make a room less likely to overheat in the summer. Remember that high-efficiency windows are less efficient than a well-insulated wall, so increasing or decreasing window area can impact heating and cooling costs.

Outward-opening casement windows like these give this room a classic charm. 
Photo courtesy The Sash Window Workshop

What is your type? Do you want fixed-pane units that don’t open at all? Or casement windows that open with a crank? How about sliders, or double-hung windows that open from the top and bottom? Maybe awning-style options that open out from the bottom? A bay window can add extra space and light. There are so many options that can fit many different situations. I recommend a thorough search online, or visit a local window store to see examples of these styles.

Frame the issues. If the number of styles wasn’t bewildering enough, now you get to choose the frame and sash (the inner frame that holds the glass). Vinyl is the least expensive and most common option; it can also be quite energy efficient and does not require painting.  Vinyl frames vary greatly in quality and the less expensive models may be susceptible to warping. Aluminum is an affordable option, but if the frames don’t have a thermal break, they can lose heat and cause condensation. Wood windows offer high quality – but the biggest drawbacks are the price and maintenance requirements. There are wood options with vinyl cladding that never need painting. Fiberglass and composite windows are a newer option that fall between vinyl and wood in quality and price.

Also, you may be able to save money by not doing a full window replacement. If your existing frames and sills are free of rot and in good condition, and you aren’t looking to make any alterations to the walls around them, you could look into replacing the glass and keeping the existing frames.

Glass assemblies. Single-pane windows no longer meet building codes. Your two choices are double- and triple-pane. An add-on that is often well worth the price is a low-E coating that reflects heat back into the room. You can also boost energy efficiency with windows that have either Argon or CO2 gas between the panes.

Compare the numbers. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to compare the efficiency of windows. Almost all windows are independently tested and rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC). The most important number on the NFRC label is the U-factor. The lower the U-factor, the more efficient the window is. It’s best if the window has an ENERGY STAR® label, but the NFRC label will tell you which ENERGY STAR® window is more efficient.

I hope these tips help in the decision of choosing your new windows. Remember, you’ll have to live with them for several years, so be sure to do your research and consider all options. And because new window installation is a complicated process, it’s best to have them installed by a qualified professional with solid references.

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on choosing windows, please visit: collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.

Anglers ready for snapper season to open May 22

By John N. Felsher

The annual recreational red snapper season begins May 22 in waters off Alabama. The season will continue every Friday through Monday until anglers meet the established federal quota of 1,122,662 pounds.

“The snapper season looks really promising this year, as it has for the past several years,” says Kurt Tillman, who runs Captain Kurt Charters out of Dauphin Island. “We don’t have any problem catching a limit of red snapper. I know hundreds of spots and we catch quality fish every time.”

Red snapper and other bottom fish congregate around hard structures like reefs, rigs and wrecks. Thanks to a very aggressive artificial reef program, Alabama offers anglers some of the best snapper fishing in the nation. The reefs stretch across more than 1,200 square miles off the Orange Beach-Gulf Shores area and near Dauphin Island. For more information on reefs and reef locations, see www.outdooralabama.com/saltwater-fishing/artificial-reefs.

“At the beginning of the season, people can catch a lot of snapper at the close rigs and reefs,” Tillman says. “People in small boats can fish some of these and catch a good limit of legal-sized snapper. One of my favorite spots to fish at the beginning of the season is the bridge rubble reef. It’s a big public spot about 14 miles south and a little to the west of Dauphin Island. It usually holds some big fish on it, especially during the first few weeks of snapper season.”

Besides red snapper, the artificial reefs and other structures form habitat for various snapper species, such as gray snapper, also known as mangrove or black snapper. Anglers might also catch vermilion snapper, commonly called beeliners, and lane snappers. In addition, anglers fishing for red snapper might hook into amberjack, triggerfish, several grouper varieties and other species. Check the season dates and limits before keeping any fish.

“I like to fish a little farther out,” Tillman says. “When people run a bit farther out than most other people, they usually catch bigger fish because fewer people fish there. The pyramid reefs about 30 miles from Dauphin Island can produce a lot of good fish.”

Tommie Werneth shows off a red snapper she caught while fishing in the Gulf of Mexico south of Orange Beach, Ala. 
Photo by John N. Felsher

Reefs also create hunting grounds for roving predators like sharks, cobia, king mackerel and barracuda that feed upon reef dwellers. While bottom bouncing for snapper, anglers might want to set a drift line baited with a live fish or other tempting morsel. Toss the bait on an unweighted line behind the boat. Stick the rod into a holder and wait for a passing predator to grab the bait. A struggling live fish might even call a giant snapper up from the depths. In deep enough water, a drift line could attract wahoo, blackfin or yellowfin tuna, possibly sailfish.

“Frequently, the bigger snapper come up near the surface,” Tillman says. “Sometimes, we chum fish up to the surface and catch them on a drift line. When we chum up fish, they get in a feeding frenzy. It’s always fun when people can see the fish they’re trying to catch.”

Over a good spot off the Alabama coast, anglers seldom need to fish very long to land a limit of red snapper. After catching their snapper, many anglers look for other fishing opportunities. Offshore anglers can troll an assortment of spoons, deep-running plugs, jigs or natural baits to entice king mackerel, cobia, wahoo, dolphin, also called mahi or dorado, tuna and other species. Some anglers maximize their time offshore by trolling when transitioning from one spot to another. Trolling can also reveal a new secret honey hole.

“There’s a lot of other fish to catch off Alabama besides red snapper,” Tillman says. “In 2019, we caught a tremendous amount of cobia. We often see cobia coming up to the boat when snapper fishing. It’s always a good idea to keep a line ready to cast a bait.”

While moving from place to place, watch for targets of opportunity. Cobia, mahi and tripletail regularly hide under floating debris, weeds, channel buoys and other flotsam, sometimes as small as a drink can. Anglers might see something that they can add to their fish boxes. After spotting a fish, approach quietly. Whenever possible, let the wind or currents push the boat toward the object to avoid spooking the fish.

During the season, every recreational angler can keep up to two red snapper per day with a minimum size of 16 inches in total length. Anglers must report their red snapper catches through Snapper Check. For more on Snapper Check, see outdooralabama.com/mrd-fisheries-section/red-snapper-faqs.

COVID-19: Important information about Social Security services

By Kylle’ McKinney

We recognize that you may have questions about how the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) will affect Social Security services. The first thing you should know is that we continue to pay Social Security and SSI benefits.  Also, beware of scammers who may try to trick you into thinking the pandemic is stopping your Social Security payments.  This threat is not true.  Don’t let the scammers fool you.

We want to share other important information about our services during this pandemic.

To protect you and our employees, and help stop the spread of COVID-19, we cannot accept visitors in our offices at this time.  We provide many services online and limited, critical services via phone and email.  During the pandemic, we are dedicating available staff to serve people in most critical need of our services.  

Need help from Social Security?  Many of our services are available online at ssa.gov/onlineservices, including:

• Applying for benefits.

• Setting up or changing your direct deposit.

• Changing your address, if you get benefits.

• Getting proof of your benefits.  

We strongly encourage you to try our convenient and secure online services before calling us.  Please be aware that our call wait times are much longer than normal. Save time and go online.

For more information, please visit our COVID-19 page at ssa.gov/coronavirus.  There you can find out what limited services we can provide by phone, and important information about deadlines we are extending to ease the burden on you and medical providers during this pandemic.  You can also subscribe to get an email or text message notification when we update the page so you stay informed.

Please share our COVID-19 page with your friends and family.

Alabama Bookshelf

In this periodic feature, we highlight books either about Alabama people or events, or written by Alabama authors. Summaries are not reviews or endorsements. We also occasionally highlight book-related events. Email submissions to bookshelf@alabamaliving.coop. 

Due to the volume of submissions, we are unable to feature all the books we receive.

Hard Road South, by Scott Gates, Blue Ink Press, $14.99 (historical fiction) After the Civil War, Union Army veteran Solomon Dykes hopes to make a fresh start in Virginia. He settles near Jeb Mosby, a Virginia native farming his family’s land. Under different circumstances, the two men, both trying to rebuild their lives in the divisive aftermath of the bloody conflict, might have been friends. But both men learn even the smallest actions can carry far-reaching consequences. The author is a native of Montgomery and editor of Carolina Country magazine. His father, Darryl Gates, was the editor of Alabama Living magazine for nearly 30 years.


The Life and Death of Rising Star Steve Ihnat – Gone Too Soon, by Linda Alexander, Bear Manor Media, $21.95 paperback (TV history) In 1967, Steve Ihnat was on top of the world in Hollywood, an actor on the precipice of true stardom. He was seen as both a heavy and a leading-man type, an actor who could fit into any role that came his way. Five years later, Steve Ihnat was suddenly, and curiously, dead. The author lives in Wetumpka.


Trees of Alabama, by Lisa J. Samuelson with photographs by Michael E. Hogan, The University of Alabama Press, $34.95 (biology) The book offers an accessible guide to the most notable species occurring widely in the state with straightforward descriptions and vivid photographs. The book also features a map of forest types, chapters on basic tree biology and terminology, a spotlight on the plethora of oak species in the state, and a comprehensive index.


Pensters Anthology, Volume One, by the Pensters Writing Group, Intellect Publishing, $14.95 (literary compilation) Pensters Writing Group is celebrating its 55th anniversary with this collection of prose and poetry penned by its members over the past three years. The Pensters, founded in 1965, is Baldwin and Mobile counties’ oldest writing group.


The Key to Everything, by Valerie Fraser Luesse, Revell Publishing, $15.99 (fiction) After World War II and a family tragedy, Peyton Cabot seeks connection with his troubled veteran father by retracing the trip he’d taken from Savannah to Key West at the same age. The adventure forces Peyton to come to terms with his identity and decide how much he’s willing to risk for the girl he loves. The author lives in Birmingham.


Coffee with God, by Becky Alexander, Bonita Y. McCoy, Suzanne D. Nichols, Ginger Solomon and Lisa W. Smith, Kerysso Press, $7.97 (Christian living) The book celebrates new life with 30 devotions about birds, babies, butterflies and flowers. Each devotion includes a scripture, personal application, prayer and places for personal notes. Five north Alabama authors collaborated to write and publish this devotional book.

Kidnap, ransom and rescue, part 2

By Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D

So, we are wallowing in the warmth of new love with our 10-week-old Anandi, our little rescue dog who came at just the right time to fill the emptiness left when we lost our old girl Delilah. Anandi continued to recover from her perilous beginnings with only a small cough remaining from her battle with pneumonia. She enjoyed traveling everywhere with us as the mascot of our mobile veterinary service. 

One mild afternoon we were at a client’s house, parked beneath a shade tree, windows rolled down just a bit to let in the breeze. We left Anandi snoozing on the front seat and went in to see our patient. Returning just 15 minutes later, there was no Anandi! It seemed impossible, but she was gone! We searched the streets calling her name and knocked on every door late into the evening! We went back to town and made flyers and posted everywhere. Despair set in as the days rolled by without any phone calls. Our hearts ached, not sure if we should give up hope.

Four long days later the call came. A female voice on the line said that she had seen our puppy with some nefarious people who dealt with drugs, and the world’s oldest profession. She understood our sorrow as a dog person and wanted to help. However, she was afraid to be recognized. We picked her up from her house and she hid in the back of our van. 

We drove through a couple of miles of unlit, unpaved roads winding through very dark woods. Our anticipation and nervousness grew as we approached a small house, the entrance surrounded by a large fence. We were worried about getting shot. We called out our greetings very loudly so as not to startle anyone inside. Our hollering went unanswered, but we saw a flickering light from a TV. After coming this far, we couldn’t leave without our little girl!  

We took a deep breath, entered the gate and made our way to the front door. We kept yelling “hello,” and knocked at the door. A minute later, a confused but curious young woman came to the door. After seeing our flyer and hearing our plight she said she didn’t have Anandi. We told her that our little pup was very sick and has been without her medications for 4 days now. 

Suddenly concerned, she asked if the puppy was contagious. We had to think on the spot. We rolled with the moment and we alluded that she just may be contagious. The young woman said her daughter had our puppy and she would have to go get it. We were discussing how to retrieve her when a tall, very angry man in a black trenchcoat shoved his way to the front door.

Jerking the door wide open, spittle flew as he yelled that there was no way they were giving back the dog without the reward money! Somewhat shocked, we assured the man that although we didn’t have the cash on us, he would certainly get the reward when we got our puppy. After exchanging phone numbers and calling to make sure they were legit, we agreed to meet in 2 hours. The adventure continued! Read about the happy conclusion of this story in the July issue.

Lifting spirits

Stories of hope and inspiration amid a crisis

The times we’re in are uncertain, and the constant barrage of news is often dark. With the isolation of quarantine, the bleak financial picture and the struggles for parents who have become full-time teachers and caregivers, the need is great for relief, and for even brief glimpses of hope.

Thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of Alabamians of all ages and backgrounds, such glimpses are all around us, and getting brighter all the time. 

Alabama Living wanted to find some of the good things happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and to highlight some of the warmth, creativity and goodness that continues to emerge in our state.

 If you have a story to share, email Allison Law at alaw@areapower.com.


Helping to feed children

When Alabama schools were ordered closed on March 18, the first question from many parents was, “what will we do about meals?”

School systems handled the situation differently, but many groups – public, private, grassroots, non-profits – stepped in to help. 

In DeKalb County in northeast Alabama, a group of teachers and volunteers worked together to pack food for families. The area is large and very rural. 

Teachers called their homeroom students to ask who needed meals. Then Tara Kirby, parent and family engagement specialist with the school system, and superintendent Jason Barnett helped implement a plan to pack meals – breakfast, lunch and a snack for five days, per child. The first week, they packed 18,000 grab-and-go meals, and within 45 minutes the food was gone.

“We realized the need was much higher,” Kirby says. So the second week, volunteers and teachers packed 27,000 meals, and within 45 minutes, it was gone again. 

“It’s been a huge undertaking,” Kirby says, “but the people that have been contacting me, wanting to help, has been unreal.” Not just teachers, but businesses and community members. 

After Gov. Kay Ivey issued a “stay at home” order to begin April 4, many school systems struggled to find ways to continue feeding their students while keeping families as well as volunteers safe. DeKalb County had to suspend its program, but hopes to start again in May.


Mask makers

While surgical masks remained in short supply, sewing guilds and home seamstresses took action, using their skills and whatever materials they had at hand to create cloth face masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for people to wear in public settings where social distancing is difficult.

At the end of March, Red Land Cotton, a member of Joe Wheeler EMC, started making masks for the University of Alabama at Birmingham, as well as for any others who requested them. The company, which makes linens, towels and loungewear made from the cotton from the family farm in Moulton, Alabama, partnered with Alabama wedding dress designer Heidi Elnora to provide fabric, stitching and a team to help in the effort. 

Red Land Cotton donated over 800 yards of fabric to home sewers in the Birmingham area working with Heidi Elnora and Church of the Highlands, and as of early April had sent 1,000 masks to UAB. 

And while onstage productions were on hold, the costume department at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival got to work, producing hundreds of simple cloth face masks for Montgomery-area hospitals.  

“This is our home,” says Ahkim Church, ASF’s director of production. “We will do anything we can to help our friends and family in Montgomery and in the state to stay safe.”


Church engages youngsters

 Churches across Alabama have been embracing new and different ways to keep in touch with their members without gathering in person. First Baptist Church Gulf Shores delivered personalized signs in the yards of its youngest members, and the reaction has been overwhelming for the organizer, children’s minister Cindy Chandler.

  “I had been praying about ways I could engage the kids and let them know I was thinking of them,” she says. “I wanted to do something they could visibly see, not just a video.” She found a sign company that could order the signs, and she and her daughter decorated them for each family.

 “We made 57 signs to deliver to our families. Honestly, the response floored me. I had no idea I would get the response I have received. I know at least 30 of our families posted a picture of their signs with their kids on Facebook. I was truly blessed.”

The church has also posted Facebook videos of Chandler in different parts of the church, asking children to guess where she is. Student ministry pastor John Yates also has posted devotions and videos to engage older students. See more at  facebook.com/FirstBaptistGulfShoresKids.

 Tell us what your church is doing to keep in touch these days! Email letters@alabamaliving.coop.


Teachers reach out

They may have been struggling with how to continue instruction after school closures, but many teachers felt moved to try to brighten the days of their students, even if from afar.

An al.com story that was widely circulated early in the crisis was that of Merideth Lett and Hollie Nelson, who teach at Huntington Place Elementary School in Northport. They drove around Tuscaloosa County delivering “care bags” to all 25 of their fourth-grade students.

The teachers gave each student a recyclable grocery bag filled with math and reading workbooks, writing notebooks and mindfulness lessons, as well as Post-it Notes, highlighters, pencils, crayons, snacks, photos of their fellow students and personal notes from the teachers.

Another idea that caught on quickly through various social media platforms: Teacher parades. Educators and school support staffers dressed up their cars with inspirational signs and drove parade style into their students’ neighborhoods, honking and waving to appreciative families who maintained a safe distance.


‘Ribbons of Hope’

On April 7, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her ‘Ribbons of Hope’ campaign, which encourages the people of Alabama to tie ribbons around a tree or pole in their front yard as a reminder to pray for medical personnel, first responders, and for one another.

Ivey also announced the launch of altogetheralabama.org, a resource to aid in navigating all issues related to the COVID-19 response. Individuals and business owners can seek help and identify state and federal resources.


‘Reading with the Trojans’

 Troy University’s Athletics Department has given its radio and TV announcer and its coaches a new role during this time of at-home quarantine. They’ve become online story readers for children. Their “Reading with the Trojans” on social media has been a big hit since it began in March. 

 Barry McKnight, Troy’s longtime play-by-play announcer, credits his wife, Dee, with the idea.  

“I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I always made it a habit to read to my son Jack (who’s grown now) every night I could when he was growing up,” he says. “I’ve read once a week to elementary school classes for about 30 years now. When some of the early COVID-19 cancellations began last month, I told my wife Dee how I’d really hate to miss time reading to the kids, and it was her idea to get some down on video and get them to the school. 

  McKnight’s debut book was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, followed by baseball Coach Mark Smartt reading Caps for Sal. Volleyball Coach Josh Lauer recently read The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors, while women’s basketball coach Chanda Rigby read a book she wrote, #OneTroy, about the hashtag used to unify the online Troy community.

 McKnight is hopeful the outreach can continue “after the world returns to normal and will involve not only our coaches and staff, but our student-athletes as well, and we’ll be looking for all the suggestions our fans can give us.”

 “Reading with the Trojans” is released each Wednesday at 10 a.m. on Troy Athletics Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube. Episodes are archived at troytrojans.com.

Alabama People: Jacqueline Allen Trimble

Educator, poet, essayist, sharer

Jacqueline Allen Trimble, an award-winning poet and educator, understands the power of language. It’s integral to her work as a professor of English and chair of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. It’s what she uses to wrap her head and heart around the world and to channel her innate wit, humor and sense of irony into works of poetry, fiction, essay, television shows and scholarly articles. Trimble, who was a 2017 Alabama State Council on the Arts literary arts fellow, also understands the importance of supporting other writers, which she does through her volunteer work with the Alabama Writers’ Forum and other literary organizations. She recently took a break from working on her latest collection of poems and a new television project she’s developing to talk about the importance of literature to her and to society.  — Katie Jackson

When did you first know you were a poet?  

I’m not sure I know I’m a poet yet; there is still so much I have to learn. Fiction was actually my first love as a writer. I devoured novels and short stories, and I wrote stories. But I gravitated toward poetry. I think it was the immediacy of poetry, that connection between sound and sense, or seeing how much you could say in three words rather than three hundred. Plus, poetry is such a fluid genre. I can do anything with it — prose, conversation, narrative. It appeals to my desire not to be constrained by a particular form. 

What does writing do for you personally?

Writing helps me figure out a world that doesn’t make sense to me.  My poetry is full of questions. I don’t always know what the answers are, but I think it is important to explore the questions. Writing also helps me deploy my sense of irony, which can be rather sardonic.  

What’s it like writing across such a range of genres?  

I’m not wedded to genres. They are made-up categories, and they are all just different formats for communicating ideas. All writing is about communicating an idea or structure or feeling. All writing incorporates play. I love writing across genres, and I plan to do more of it. Plus, each project — poetry, television, fiction, critical essay — feeds all the others. It’s very freeing.

 How has your personal experience as a black woman growing up and living in Alabama informed your writing? 

Oh my! Everything I write comes out of my experience of being black and female in Alabama. More and more I realize the truth of this statement. When I wrote an essay for the anthology Southern Writers on Writing, I realized how much I was influenced by so many things: my mother and I making up words when I was a kid, the sound of gossip in the beauty shop, my mother’s friends telling stories while they played Pokeno, grownups discussing politics and strategies of revolution — it all undergirds my writing. The other thing is Alabama is such fertile ground for material because it’s a state of contrasts; a representation of the ironic in American history. Any place that has the White House of the Confederacy and the Civil Rights Memorial on the same street is a writer’s gold mine. The irony of the place is in its DNA, and in its geography. Plus, my experiences here have been so strange, there’s endless material.

How do teaching and writing work together for you?                                      Teaching, for me, is about learning new things. Perpetual curiosity is necessary to be a good teacher. As soon as you think you know, you are done. I try to instill in my students a desire to question — question me, question the text, question everything. Only through asking questions can we discover. Writing requires the same of us, to be curious about the world, to ask questions, to learn.  

Can the literary arts — and arts in general — help us navigate today’s challenging times? 

Yes. I don’t know what I would do without art. Art is our response to chaos. It’s our outlet for frustration and joy and heartbreak. It’s a way of ordering our thoughts and our environment. It gives us a kind of control that we don’t really have. 

Why are you so involved with and supportive of Alabama’s literary community?

Even though it seems as if writing is a solitary act, writing actually takes place in community. Writers (and other artists) need the support and encouragement of other writers. I want to be there for others because so many people have been there for me.  Look, I am a teacher at heart. That’s my legacy, so it comes naturally to me to share what I have learned with others.

How can others support the literary world?

Go to readings. Buy books. Buy books and leave positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Support your local, independent bookstore.