Spend more time with family and less in the kitchen

Published 9:59 am Thursday, March 19, 2020

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It’s often said that teaching someone else is the best way to learn – and strong students make good teachers.

Davie County’s Marie Craig was born with a hunger to learn. Although she’s retired now, that desire’s not satisfied with complacency. Marie continues to enjoy expanding her interests, often through teaching.

She credits much of her desire to learn to a love of reading – and an attentive father.

Marie’s dad was a strong influencer in her life. He was an avid reader. Because he worked at night, he spent a lot of time during the day teaching Marie how to read – and so did her mother. Being an only child, Marie received a full measure of attention from her parents.

At about age 10, Marie told her mother, “I’m going to learn everything there is to learn in the whole world.”

When you’re a child born with a hefty dose of curiosity that’s stimulated, the potential’s there to learn many things. However, Marie admitted, “I don’t think I achieved that, but it was my goal back then.”

Considering her love of reading, it wasn’t surprising to learn Marie considers songwriter, Dolly Parton, to be one of her personal heroes. After the tornadoes in Nashville, Dolly made significant donations to help people get back in their homes. And while some squander away what they have, Dolly has used her wealth to do good and help others.

“She’s established reading programs for kids and helped them graduate from high school. Her reading program, called Imagination Library, is her book gifting program, and children get two books a year,” Marie said.

Marie taught herself to tat using her mother’s old book. Published by a thread company, the paper outlined the technique for forming intricate knots to make lace. When raising her two boys at home, it was difficult to go places, so Marie got the book out and learned it on her own. She taught herself to knit, too. Marie’s mom was talented in handicrafts and showed Marie how to crochet in the first grade. Their family’s church had a Chrismon tree, and her mother made many of the ornaments.

Although she can knit, embroidery, tat, and does origami, Marie says, “Tatting is nice because it’s so little you can carry it in your pocketbook and do it while you’re waiting.”

Some handicrafts are becoming lost arts. When Marie is tatting in public, it’s not uncommon to hear someone ask, “What in the world are you doing,” or, with tears in their eyes, comment, “Oh, my grandmother used to do that.”

When growing up and helping in the kitchen, Marie learned some cooking skills from her mother.

“There’s a cake she always made, and she would make it for my husband, Bill, called Orange Kiss Me Cake.”

Marie still has her mother’s old recipe box that’s filled with handwritten recipe cards.

“She had flowing, beautiful handwriting.”

Sometimes seeing a loved one’s handscript can spark many beautiful memories of the person who wrote the recipe or cooked something for you.

One recipe card that Marie feels particularly sentimental about is for a cake her husband enjoyed baking. But he wasn’t quite as neat and efficient as Marie when baking.

“He was a little messier than I was. It’s got oil marks, is torn and taped, but I wouldn’t get rid of it for the world because it was a cake he would make, and he enjoyed it.”

She’s treasured that old, tattered recipe card for years.

Like her mother, Marie is also quite talented in handicrafts, making her own Christmas cards every year since 1965. One year, she made a small cookbook for the family with a cover that read, “The Craigs cooked up some super easy recipes for you so that you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the family.”

The title of Marie’s cookbook hints at her personal style of cooking. She doesn’t claim to be a fancy cook, as efficiency is more important. “I like to do simple.” She prefers recipes that are easy to assemble and always work.

Even with personal achievements, Marie feels her greatest accomplishment is her family. She has two sons and six grandchildren – five boys and one girl. A great-granddaughter has now joined the family, and recently Marie got to meet her for the first time.

“Her name is Marie. Marie Craig.”

Marie’s diverse interests and propensity to learn has led to her passions, especially for music and family history. From one favorite seventh grade teacher, Marie witnessed kindness and mercy – and that encouraged Marie.

As a student, she was taught to see the big picture – like the way pieces of fabric are sewn together to form a quilt. In school, students were taught all aspects of a subject. Their educational units were an interwoven medley of history, language, geography, and broad spectrum of culture that included music, arts, and regional crafts. All facets came together, giving a more comprehensive overview.

The teaching methodology allows a student to take what they’ve learned and apply it to any area of study. When Marie took a trip to Italy, the experience was enhanced by going to organ concerts and other cultural events – giving her a more complete picture of Italian culture.

After graduating from college with a degree in education, Marie was head of a math department and taught at the college level for three years in Brevard. During that time, she married her husband, Bill Craig, who was later transferred to a different city. After moving, Marie didn’t work full time but held several part-time jobs that kept her just as busy.

As a student, Marie has taken classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School in western NC.  The first time she attended, it was a family week, so she took her young sons and mother with her – and the whole family took classes. Marie’s returned over the years, taking courses in art, quilting, wood carving and working with clay,

Marie became a teacher there in the mid-80s. If it’s true that we learn more by teaching others, then Marie has reached a quite proficient skill level – she’s taught 29 classes of tatting and 13 classes of genealogy over the years. Having stepped away from teaching at the folk school, Marie devotes her time now to other volunteer projects.

Being dedicated to her church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Marie has several responsibilities there that include being an organ substitute. Members rotate playing the organ, so everyone gets experience serving. Church members help run the church, which allows Marie the opportunity to share her time and talents.

With a keen interest in history, she’s also the director of the Family History Center in Winston Salem, where people can go work on their genealogy.  The center is one of 8,000 family history centers in the world. These are branches of the family history library in Salt Lake City, which is the most extensive genealogy library in the world.

Currently, one activity which Marie finds most fulfilling is leading the Davie County Singing Seniors. The group’s up to about 30 members, and they often sing at nursing homes.

“We went to Heritage Woods and sang to them – and they sang with us – it’s good to share. One woman was looking all glum, and we invited them to sing, she started singing, and you could just see her face ease up.”

The group has experienced three incidents where residents were deep in dementia and nonresponsive but then joined the group in song.

“One woman sang three verses of ‘In the Garden,’ and for those few minutes, she was back. Music is the last thing to go for a person with dementia.”

Marie has to stay focused to stay on top of many activities. As treasurer of three historical funds, she also writes a quarterly newsletter and keeps up a website. She has written seven books on the history of Davie County. She’s an active member of a local writers group, the Renegade Writers Guild, and is a contributing author in each of their books. She also writes for The Literary Corner in the Davie County Enterprise Record.

Not only is Marie efficient in her lifestyle, but she often brainstorms ideas that would be much more suitable to her current lifestyle now that’s she’s older. For many folks who live alone, sometimes it’s challenging to manage for just one person. Stores cater to larger families with bulk quantity goods.

“I’ve always thought of how a grocery store would be smart to offer small containers of things – a store that would cater to us with smaller quantities. “

This idea goes along with Marie’s new way of preparing food. She’s changed her eating patterns drastically over the last year after reading the book, “Eat to Live,” by Joel Fuhrman.

“I’ve lost about 17 pounds and feel better than I ever have. You eat fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts with little meat, no dairy, and no sugar.”

The diet can help people get resolution to many of their health problems by losing weight.

To stay on track with her new eating program, Marie said, “I had all these cookbooks with desserts in them, and I knew I wasn’t going to do that anymore, so I took almost all my cookbooks to Goodwill.”

Marie keeps her recipes on her computer and just prints out the pages when she needs them. Right now, her latest goal is to walk the Appalachian Trail – all of it – virtually.

“I have a goal and keep up with the number of steps I walk each day. It’s on an app where you pretend like you’re on a trail – and virtually walking.”

Having walked through Georgia and North Carolina, Marie’s in the Smoky Mountains now – and admits to already having “walked eight percent of the trail.”

She gives credit to her church – as they emphasize a few things other churches do not such as nutrition and family history. Marie’s spiritual beliefs have a significant influence on her moral standards and how she thinks we should treat one another. She also feels it’s important to share with others. Their spiritual basis – called words of wisdom – excludes alcohol, tobacco and harmful drugs.

“The Bible is all about family – and we might not have any scripture if it wasn’t about family. I’ve seen people who start working on family history, and it changes them into different people when they realize they’re part of a continuing family – just like the Bible.”

One of their strongest beliefs is the importance of family history – and we’re encouraged to link our people together.

Enjoy these quick and easy recipes that Marie shared from her handmade holiday card along with a few other favorite family recipes. The lemon pies are a perfect dessert when you’re in a hurry and looking for something light to follow your meal. A Graham cracker crust is a tasty combination with the lemon. For a cake that’s not too sweet, try the Orange Kiss Me Cake. With a whole orange, a cup of raisins, and fresh fruit juices, the delicious cake is like a homemade coffee cake. Enjoy it in the morning with a hot beverage.


Brown and drain 1 pound of spice hot sausage

Mix meat, 10 oz. of grated cheese, 3 cups of self-rising flour and 1 cup water.  Shape into balls.  Bake on cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes at 350.  Makes 35.


Mix 12 oz. of seafood cocktail sauce and 10 oz. of grape jelly


Heat a can of stewed tomatoes (contain green pepper and onions). Stir in a small package of lemon Jello and 2 tbsp. of vinegar.  Chill.


Mix 1/2 cup milk with 1 can of cream of chicken soup.  Heat and Stir until thickened.


Grease a tube pan. Put 18 frozen rolls in pan. Sprinkle over: 1 pkg. instant butterscotch pudding, 1/3 stick margarine, 1/3 cup brown sugar, Optional: pecans and cinnamon. Let rise 8 hours under cover.  Bake 20 minutes at 350.


Brown two crusts. Stir together: 6 oz. can of frozen lemonade, thawed, 1 can sweetened condensed milk, one 12 oz. container whipped topping.  Put into pie crusts and chill.


Mix and pour into greased casserole: 1 stick melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup self-rising flour, 1 cup milk. Pour on top: 1-quart sliced peaches (or other fruit).  Bake 45 minutes at 350.

CHUG-A-LUG (unbaked cookies)

Boil for 1 minute: 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 1 stick margarine, and 3-4 tablespoons of cocoa. Add 1/2 cup peanut butter, 3 cups oatmeal or dry cereal, 1 cup of raisins, or nuts.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper or press into pan.


Bake 1 pie crust. Melt one 8 oz. candy bar and stir into thawed 9 oz. whipped topping.  Put filling into crust and chill.


Heat apple juice.  Put 2 red-hot cinnamon candies in for each cup of juice.


Beat 1 egg white. Add 1 thawed package of strawberries.  Add 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until stiff.  Put over pound cake or shortcakes.


1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup salad oil

2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp sale

2 tsp soda

1 medium can fruit cocktail and juice

Beat sugar, eggs, and oil together.  Add flour, salt, and soda.  Mix well, add fruit cocktail and juice.  Mix and pour into long flat pan.  Sprinkle 1/2 cup coconut over batter if desired.  Bake at 350 degrees F. until cake leaves sides of pan.


1 stick butter or margarine

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

Boil together 1 minute; remove from heat.  Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1/2 cup chopped nuts (or add coconut now).  Spread over hot cake.


Stir together:

4 beaten eggs

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

1⁄2 cup oil

1 can mandarin oranges, undrained

In a mixing bowl, stir together eggs, cake mix, oil, and undrained oranges. Bake in a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan in a 350-degree oven for 23-28 minutes or until done.


1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained

1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding (3 oz.)

1 carton frozen topping, thawed

Mix together the pineapple and vanilla pudding. Fold in a carton of frozen topping.

(Recipe courtesy of Mae Reeves)


25 marshmallows

1/2 cup juice (orange or cranberry)

4 cups or 1 box (13.5 oz.) graham crackers, crushed

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup candied fruit

1 cup raisins and/or nuts

Melt marshmallows in orange or cranberry juice (Microwave 2 minutes) Add crushed graham crackers. Mix well. Add oil, orange juice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, candied fruit, raisins, or nuts. Press into loaf pan lined with waxed paper.  Cover.  Store in refrigerator.


1 large orange (Cara Cara or seedless)

1 cup raisins

1⁄3 cup walnuts

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soda

1 cup sugar

1⁄2 cup Crisco shortening

3⁄4 cup milk

2 eggs

1⁄4 cup milk

In a processor, grind entire orange, raisins, and walnuts together and set aside. Sift flour, salt, soda, and sugar. Add shortening and milk to flour. Beat 2 minutes. Add beaten eggs and milk to flour mixture. Beat for 2 minutes. Fold orange-raisin mixture into batter. Mix well. Pour into well-greased and lightly floured 9 x 13 pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-50 minutes.

Orange Nut Topping

1/3 orange juice

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

14 cup chopped nuts

Drip orange juice over warm cake. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and chopped nuts. Sprinkle over cake.