Easing Along

Pick Your Pickle…Balls or Eggs?

Pickleball

Pickleball

Balls first…

When we were preparing for our retirement a few years ago we unloaded a lifetime of accumulations in a three day garage sale. We then downsized to a smaller home with a huge attic in which we placed a few boxes, a couple of shelves, and the Christmas decorations.  Next, we awaited the fulfillment of that ancient and time-proven prophecy…”stuff will accumulate to fill the space available” (or something like that). It’s happening now.

One aspect of retirement that rings true for most of the newly retired is that, like an empty attic, stuff will suddenly appear in one’s life in the space that was previously filled by one’s employer.  We call that stuff activity.

For Helen (adorable wife) those activities have included church, grandchildren, friends, flowers, and jigsaw puzzles. Thence came pickleball…

For the uninformed, pickleball is sort of like ping-pong or tennis played on a modified version of a badminton court. Players use paddles as racquets to move a wiffle ball back and forth over a net in an attempt to score eleven points and win a game. A detailed explanation of most things pickleball are shown on the graphic posted here. However, the graphic does not provide an answer to the question as to where the game (and the name) originated.

Pickleball rules

Pickleball rules

Pickleball was created by a family in Washington in the mid 1960’s. There are many stories revolving around the name, but the most popular is that the family had a dog named Pickles and that she loved to chase the ball around and hide it in the bushes after she caught it. Thus, they named their new game Pickleball.  Although the story is often disputed, players love the story as much as the game and they’re stickin’ to it. I’m told that pickleball is now the fastest growing sport in America.

Adorable wife at serve

Adorable wife serving

Helen’s involvement in pickleball began when she was in the YMCA one morning in late winter and, as is her usual practice, looking for someone (anyone) to chat with.  She’s such a social animal. As she passed by the gym she spotted her first target.  Priscilla, a former neighbor was in the gym holding an oversized ping pong paddle and playing a game with three other ladies. Helen asked her to describe the activity, which Priscilla did, and then invited Helen to hit a few balls with her. 

Later, as Helen was relating her morning activities to me over the phone, she told me she had been overcome with a newly discovered passion and that she would explain when I got home. Well, not knowing what she meant, I drove home, fully expecting to find my personal belongings stacked neatly in the driveway, and the new “passion” seated comfortably in my recliner. Thankfully, such was not the case. The new passion was pickleball.

I need to provide a little background here. Helen grew up in a tennis family.  Her father was a devoted player throughout his adult life but her mother was a tennis legend.  She was an excellent player with a home full of trophies to prove it. At one time she was a ranked amateur player in the South in both singles and doubles. Helen played club and high school tennis and played it well, so her genes and her past probably helped to stoke the fire in her fingers once they were wrapped around a pickleball paddle.

Pickleball pals

Pickleball pals

Three months have passed since her introduction to the game and she rarely misses a match with her pickleball pals. She borrowed a paddle from the Y at first, but Amazon (and Visa) provided her with a new one soon after that. A new roving ambassador for the sport was now out and about trying to convert the unwashed. She started with me.

This week I was challenged to come out and hit with her for a bit before her playing partners showed up for the Wednesday morning match. It was a hot and sticky morning and I gave resistance at first, but soon relented and drove to the courts. Using a paddle from the YMCA we hit the ball a few times and it wasn’t long before I became aware that the game was actually easier than I thought it would be. I played tennis a lot in my youth and during my first assignment in the Army. I describe tennis as a hard game that looks easy, and expected this game to be much the same. But, with a smaller court, and a slower ball, it isn’t nearly as difficult. After getting used to those two elements, it’s all about a smidgeon of athleticism, and smattering of hand/eye coordination. I still have a little of both. After warming up to the game and loosening up the old bones, I reluctantly admitted to Helen that the game was a lot fun.

Abby, Anne, Helen

Abby, Anne, Helen

Soon, Abby and Anne joined us, but the fourth player had to cancel and I was asked to fill in. I agreed with the understanding that I would have to leave shortly to be at a meeting.  Helen and I played two games against Abby and Anne. We held our own at first, but these ladies were very good and we went down to defeat.  My male ego was not fractured, but I am hoping for a rematch nonetheless. More importantly, I enjoyed myself tremendously. As I left for my meeting, I found myself turning to Helen to ask “How much are those paddles”?

If any Easin’ Along readers are interested in having bunches of fun and getting some exercise, I encourage you to give pickleball a try.  Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can.

Eggs next…

As long as we’re on the subject of things pickled, I thought I would share one of my favorite summertime treats…pickled eggs.

Admittedly, they’re not for everybody, but everyone in our family loves them, including my beautiful daughter-in-law from Charleston who is a big fan. With the whole family coming home in a few weeks for a summer gathering I thought it was time to throw a batch together.

Ingredients

Ingredients

I use a recipe that I found long ago in a cookbook that was given to us as a wedding present.  The recipe is simple and calls for eggs, vinegar, onions, garlic, pickle beet juice, and pickling spice.  I modify it only slightly and instead of using all of the water listed in the recipe, I may add some juice from the jars of dill pickles, jalapeno peppers, or something similar because I prefer the eggs to be a little bit tangy.

Medium eggs - peeled

Medium eggs – peeled

For this batch, I peeled two dozen medium eggs.  I have learned to check the dates on the egg cartons because the older the eggs, the easier they are to peel for some reason. This batch was somewhat difficult however, but we got it done. After the eggs are peeled, it becomes a simple matter of throwing all of the ingredients together. I use a large dill pickle jar I found at Walmart and added the juice from two cans of beets; saving the beets in a refrigerated container (I love pickled beets too). Next go the eggs, then the vinegar, onions, garlic, and spices. I put the jar in a spare refrigerator we have in our garage, but I’m really not certain that refrigeration is necessary. I have a friend who leaves his eggs at room temperature.

Pickle jar and beet juice

Pickle jar and beet juice

That’s all there is to it. The most difficult part for me is waiting two weeks for the eggs to marinate to tangy perfection. For anyone interested, the original recipe is posted on the EA Facebook page.

That’s it for this week.  I’m going out to practice my serve so…I’ll be Easin’ Along. See you next week.Print

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