Yesterday was a special day on Willow Bird Baking — my one year blogiversary! Considering a given blog post can take upwards of 10 hours to produce including baking, photographing, and writing, this blog now represents over 500 hours of my crazy kitchen capers! I’m humbled by how much WBB has grown, from 450 views in June of 2009 to an average of 65,000+ views per month in April and May of this year. Your readership means so much to me, and I want to sincerely thank you for joining me on this fun, tasty adventure. But as excited as I am about my blogiversary, there is something much, much more important to tell you about today!

My daddy! Tomorrow is Father’s Day and I’ve been holding on to one of my Dad’s special recipes to share with you in honor of the occasion. We’re a family of barbecue lovers. We love it all — from pulled pork sandwiches at Charlotte’s annual Mallard Creek Barbecue to sticky ribs at Gastonia’s Hillbilly’s Barbecue. But my favorite pulled pork sandwich comes right off my dad’s grill!

The grillmaster up there uses a fantastic barbecue rub on a big pork butt, and cooks it all day until it’s fork tender. We shred it onto buns for juicy, fresh pulled pork sandwiches! I top mine with a heaping spoonful of my mom’s creamy coleslaw — it’s got the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the slightly-sweet pork rub, and the whole sandwich just melts in your mouth. When accompanied by a side of fresh, bright bean salsa (sort of like a tangy pico de gallo), this is a fantastic summer meal.

Besides the fact that he can create amazing dinners at the grill, there’s a lot I want to tell you about my dad this Father’s Day! There’s really no way to describe what my dad means to me, but in typical Willow Bird fashion, I’ve decided to give it my best shot with a list. I love my dad because:

1. When I was a little girl, he’d sing songs to me. From “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” to “Julie, Do You Love Me?” he always had a song to make me smile. I always thought he had made the latter song up himself, and was surprised to learn otherwise as an adult! Who would’ve thought there’d be a song ready-made with my name in it?

2. He has always worked so hard for our family. He’s often worked 3 jobs at once to provide for us, without ever complaining about the stress. He currently works 2 jobs.

Best Barbecue Rub

Recipe By: Chris Schlesinger

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar (or use splenda for low-carb BBQ)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or use brown sugar substitute for low-carb BBQ)
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder

Mix together. To use, rub into meat and let sit overnight (or as long as possible) before grilling.

3. His incredible kindness inspires everyone he meets. I once walked into his workplace, where he is a manager. Someone heard me ask for him and took the time to come over and say, “Are you Rick’s daughter? He is a great man” — as if I didn’t already know!

4. He got me ready for school when I was little. Every morning he would blow-dry my hair, comb it into a (sometimes lopsided) ponytail, and place a big bow in it.

5. In addition to getting me ready for school, he took us to school every morning for over a decade. We listened to country music in the car. We didn’t have a ton of extra money, but every day he’d give me my lunch money and 35 cents extra. When school let out, I’d walk across the street and use my 35 cents to buy a cherry coke at the Bi-Lo. I’d sit and drink my soda waiting for him to pick my sisters up and then come to get me.

Creamy Coleslaw

Recipe by: Mom
Yields: about 6 servings


1 head cabbage, shredded with food processor
1 onion, shredded with food processor
1 carrot, shredded with food processor
6 tablespoons sugar (or splenda)
4 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise to taste


Put cabbage, carrot, and onion through food processor. Mix sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and coat slaw in it well (slaw will lose volume as it sits, so this will be enough dressing). Refrigerate and add 1-2 tablespoons of Hellman’s mayonnaise when ready to serve, if desired. Can add green pepper or other items to change it up.

6. When my mom went back to college in the ’80s, Dad would periodically pile us in the car and, to my great joy, take us to McDonald’s!

7. Speaking of food, Dad and I share the same food favorites. He introduced me to all sorts of Charlotte culinary wonders: the Chicken Box, Price’s Chicken Coop, Town ‘n Country, the late great Coffee Cup, and the aforementioned Hillbilly’s Barbecue. He’s one of the only people in my family (other than me) who doesn’t wince at the thought of getting a juicy grilled hot dog from a gas station.

8. He has always showered love on us in acts of service. He used to bring me lunch each Friday when I worked across the street from him. He files my taxes for me. He’s always available to listen and assess weird car noises or change my oil.

9. When he worked third shift, I would fall asleep in bed next to my mom. Every night he would pick me up and carry me to my bed. Even when my sleeping quarters moved downstairs, he’d dutifully pick me up and carry me down!

10. He was so courageous throughout his battle with cancer — even though I wanted to support him, he often supported me and the rest of our family and tried to assuage our fear.

Summer Bean Salsa

Recipe By: Jeannie and my mom


1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 can jalapeño peppers, chopped
Italian salad dressing, to taste


Mix all ingredients together, cover, and refrigerate for a day. Serve with tortilla chips.

And most importantly . . .

11. He is a man of God who taught me about Jesus. One day when I was a little girl riding in his old red car, he asked me if I wanted to pray and ask Jesus to be my Savior. I told him I did, and he helped me pray to receive Christ. A decade later, I would come downstairs early in the morning to find him in his big reading glasses reading the Bible with his breakfast.

I truly wish everyone could have a dad like mine. Many people around Father’s Day say that they have the best dad in the world, but of course, I think mine takes the cake (or maybe the pulled pork sandwich). Dad, you mean so much to me. Thank you for all you do and for who you are! I love you!

Readers, tell me about your dads!

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12 Comments on Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Creamy Coleslaw, and Summer Bean Salsa

  1. Debbie
    June 19, 2010 at 5:14 pm (12 years ago)

    Julie, that’s the sweetest story I think I’ve ever heard. I bet Rick will get pretty emotional reading it. In fact, I have a tear in my eye just putting myself in your place. I had a great dad too and I wish he were still here for me to cook for. Sadly, he was so ill towards the end, I feel good that he is now in a better place. He was my best friend and I miss him terribly. Oh yeah, and he could make a mean bbq too :). It sounds like Rick and Viv have a great bunch of kids. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in the world.

    • Berber Anna
      June 20, 2010 at 6:35 am (12 years ago)

      That’s such a lovely story, your dad must be a great guy! My own dad is my personal World’s Best Dad (of course), because:

      -He never told me my questions were silly like other adults would, but explained whatever I asked. ‘What’s above the clouds?’ would have him get out his book of telescope images to teach me about space, ‘Why is the sky blue?’ would get me a lesson on the rainbow colors of light. He taught me that it’s alright to be curious and to want to learn.

      -When other kids bullied me, he’d confront them.

      -He, too, always combed my hair into a pony tail before school.

      -He taught me about right and wrong, and that you should never do things that harm others.

      -He introduced Monty Python, the Beatles, James Bond, and science fiction to me — all great loves of mine.

      -He’d always drive me everywhere or pick me up if I stayed at a friend’s place until after darkness set in.

      And, or course, lots of other things! It’s such a wonderful thing to have a great dad =)

  2. misscandiquik
    June 21, 2010 at 4:54 pm (12 years ago)

    Super sweet. Your dad is lucky to have a daughter like you – just as much as you appreciate a father like him.

  3. Stephanie
    June 22, 2010 at 12:05 am (12 years ago)

    Ohh man that looks tasty.

  4. lisamichele
    June 22, 2010 at 4:18 am (12 years ago)

    What a lovely tribute to your Dad! I made pulled pork last week, and let me tell looked nowhere near as good as yours and tasted awful. No idea where I mucked up. Definitely trying again using your recipe 🙂

  5. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    June 22, 2010 at 8:04 am (12 years ago)

    Congratulations Julie and may there be many, many more blogsoversaries! 😀 And Happy Birthday to your dad too! 😀

  6. Monica H
    June 23, 2010 at 4:13 am (12 years ago)

    Your Dad sounds like a wonderful man- you’re both so lucky to have eachother.

    I love family recipes and these look great.

  7. Sarah
    June 23, 2010 at 5:04 pm (12 years ago)

    Great attempt to honor an indescribable man!

  8. victoria
    June 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm (12 years ago)

    What a sweet post. I wish my dad was like yours.

  9. marcellina
    June 24, 2010 at 10:32 pm (12 years ago)

    Great food but fabulous tribute to your Dad! My Dad had a very hard life , leaving school after his parents separated to go to work at a dairy at the age of nine. By age 21 he emigrated to Australia to cut sugar cane by hand at 30 he married my mum but by 44 he was widowed with two girls aged 9 and 13. In all of this he would remind us that there are many people worse off and we had each other. When he cried the other day as he remember our mum he reminded himself “I have two beautiful girls”. My Dad has taught me to always look on the bright side…. and now I’m getting emotional!

  10. Laura Dulin
    August 2, 2022 at 10:38 pm (2 months ago)

    What a wonderful bless your dad must be and you as his daughter. I was a huge daddy’s girl myself. Mine also introduced me to Bbq restaurants around Charlotte and Lexington. He even had a few grills in drugstores in Charlotte and owned what was the Tasty Platter in Charlotte at one time. Guess both our dads new good food and how to cook it. We are both blessed to have such wonderful Fathers!

    • Julie Ruble
      August 3, 2022 at 11:48 am (2 months ago)

      Aw I’m glad you had a great experience with your dad too! So many kids aren’t so lucky; I feel very grateful for mine too 🙂


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