Mondays & Memories of My Mom – The Stories Of Our Lives

Happy Monday, once again! I think Mondays are fabulous and I always look forward to every one of them, as they’re my 52 Chances, each year, in which I get to share Memories of My Mom with you!

#TheRecipeDetective

#TellAStoryDay

#NationalHumorMonth

Wednesday is celebrating National Tell a Story Day! That’s just what I try to do, here, every Monday. I love telling stories about my mom – and it’s become one of my favorite things to do every week! Likewise, Mom always loved to tell up-lifting and humorous stories in her columns, newsletters, and books – even through her cartoon panels.

By the way, for the rest of this week, it’s still National Humor Month, too! Similar to some of her favorite comedians, Mom found her “family life” to be the best source, on which to draw inspiration for her cleverly witted, food-for-thought stories and cartoons. She was creatively gifted as an artist, writer, and story-teller – among many other things.

#CoupleAppreciationMonth

Additionally, April is National Couple Appreciation Month! And, when you think about it, none of us would be here, with stories to tell, if it weren’t for our parents getting together – and their parents (pictured above) getting together – and so on! Therefore, as far as couples go, I have to say that I really appreciate my own parents – as well as each of their parents, etcetera.

However, I would think this national observance could be better celebrated in August (rather than April) – especially in this context – as that’s when most family reunions are held, especially on Labor Day weekend, to honor the families’ elders. Otherwise, wouldn’t it make better sense to hold family reunions in April, in honor of Couple Appreciation Month? This could be the new trend for “Spring Break” events!

Mom and Dad were together for 58 years, before Dad passed away in October 2014. The first 20 years of their marriage, Dad worked in various positions at a sign company. He retired in 1976 to help Mom with her business, which had grown a lot in its first couple of years, alone; and it was taking all of his attention, when he wasn’t working at the sign company, as it was. The last 38 of those years, Mom and Dad lived and worked together, side-by-side, 24/7.

#MarriageAndCompatibility

[NOTE: I shared this in one of my February blog posts, Marriage And Compatibility, along with Mom’s story of “Compatibility And Forgiveness”, from her own self-published book, My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, pp. 62-64).]

It takes a very special bond – and, as Mom claimed, a lot of forgiveness – to be practically inseparable, day-in and day-out. Many couples discovered that in the early months of the “pandemic shut-down”, when most states were issuing “stay-at-home” orders to try to curb the spread.

FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…

As seen in…

The Original 200 Plus Secret Recipes© Book (Secret RecipesTM, St, Clair, MI; June 1997, pp. 28-30)

HOMESPUN AFFORDABLE & EASY TO WORK WITH

When the recipe cards became so popular that we were packaging them, sometimes in complete [$40] sets of the full 200 selections, I began to look at the possibilities of doing my own recipe books – less-expensive to the customer, surely, and less work for us considering all of the myriad choices one can have with 200 individual cards.

I assembled several single page books that I could mimeograph, remaining independent in the production of them, and came up with several workable ideas. It was very shortly thereafter, [from] a printer Paul was dealing with, at the company he worked for in the city, that we learned how to layout our own camera-ready copy and provide the recipes quite inexpensively. It was such a relief to be rid of the messy mimeograph machine.

SELF-SUFFICIENT & SUCCESSFUL

Self-publishing is a hard row to hoe, but worth all efforts when the final product is the result of your dedication and determination not to fail. We hope to now be able to accept QVC’s offer to let them sell our books in a series of six, as they asked us to do just two weeks after we signed with Guthie-Renker [1993]. With that now long behind us, we are finally free to fix things the way they were before we fixed them!

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

It was a blessing in disguise that Paul’s assignments at the company where he worked had given him the job of purchasing agent, for it certainly prepared him strongly for the responsibilities that would come our way in branching out into self-publishing our books.

Every department he worked in at Willey Sign Company gave him a basic foundation for being able to structure our business into a self-sufficient operation, from advertising to marketing and bookkeeping.

It was right after the ‘National Enquirer’ and ‘People’ magazine and ‘The Washington Post’ interviewed us and [printed] stories about our work, that he found himself spending every evening after he got home from his job, every weekend and his two-week vacation time, as well, working on our recipe business, that he knew he had to make a choice.

He had to give up his 20-year job and the benefits and such in order to devote full-time to Secret RecipesTM. It was a decision we have never regretted. With only $1000 in the bank and all of the bills that continued to come in day after day, we launched our ship of dreams and have never once had any regrets. Nor have we ever gone one day [as of this printing] since that date, August 13, 1976, without an order!

‘The experiences we have encountered in building this family enterprise of ours, this cottage industry…has occurred while distributing recipe secrets through radio [and television] broadcasting and newspaper exposure… I have met some of the nicest people in the world, some of the most generous people who want to share their good ideas with me as much as I want to share mine with them. Of these good people, I will speak often and lovingly.’ – Gloria Pitzer [My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 2)]

LAST THOUGHTS…

I have a sign, hanging proudly, near my dining room table that reads: “There’s a room in every home where the smallest events and biggest occasions become the stories of our lives.” The table is the same one I grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s. It always seemed to be my family’s favorite spot in which to gather, eat, laugh, and talk about our lives. Those were, at least for me, great times; inspiring many, humorous, family stories.

IN CLOSING…

In honor of TODAY, being National Zucchini Bread Day, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Zucchini Bread, Inspired By Bill Knapp’s”; as seen in her self-published cookbook… Secret Knock-Off Recipes (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov 1996, p. 35).

#ZucchiniBreadDay

P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…

#LearnSomethingNewEveryDay

Some of April’s observances include… National Month of Hope, Keep America Beautiful Month, Lawn and Garden Month, National Decorating Month, National Fresh Celery Month, National Garden Month, National Soy Foods Month, National Poetry Month, National Pecan Month, and Scottish-American Heritage Month!

Today is also… National Telephone Day and National Poem In Your Pocket Day (which changes annually – April 25 for 2022)!

Tomorrow is… National Kids and Pets Day, National South Dakota Day, and National Pretzel Day! Plus it’s also… National Soft Pretzel Month! Here’s another re-share of one of Mom’s imitations!

#NationalPretzelDay

#SoftPretzelMonth

#GloriaPitzersCookbook

https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253

Wednesday, April 27th is… National Devil Dog Day and National Prime Rib Day!

April 28th is… National Blueberry Pie Day, National Great Poetry Reading Day, and National Workers’ Memorial Day! Plus, as the fourth Thursday in April, it’s also…  National Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day and National Teach Children To Save Day!

April 29th is… National Shrimp Scampi Day! Plus, as the last Friday in April (for 2022), it’s also… National Arbor Day!

April 30th is… National Oatmeal Cookie Day, National Raisin Day, and National Hairstylist Appreciation Day! PLUS, being the last Saturday in April (for 2022), it’s also… National Sense of Smell Day!

May begins on Sunday, observing, among other things… American Cheese Month, Better Speech and Language Month, National Asparagus Month, National Stroke Awareness Month, Older Americans Month, National Barbecue Month, National Egg Month, National Get Caught Reading Month, National Hamburger Month, National Inventor’s Month, National Photography Month, National Preservation Month, National Recommitment Month, National Salad Month, National Salsa Month, National Strawberry Month, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!

May 1st, is also… National Loyalty Day, National May Day, and National Chocolate Parfait Day! Plus, as the first Sunday in May (for 2022), it’s also… National Lemonade Day! Additionally, as the first full week in May (1st-7th of 2022), it’s also the start of… Small Business Week, National Wildflower Week, and National Pet Week (1st-9th of 2022)!

#TGIM

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-thank-god-its-monday-day-first-monday-in-january/

…17 down and 35 to go!

Mondays & Memories of My Mom – Happy Smorgasbord!

Hello, everyone! HAPPY Monday, April Fool’s Day, National Sourdough Bread Day, National Gardening Month and National Humor Month! Yep – that’s a happy smorgasbord!

If you haven’t been here before, my name is Laura Emerich and these blogs are dedicated to and for my mom, Gloria Pitzer, aka the ORIGINAL secret “Recipe Detective”TM. I started this weekly series last year to carry on her legacy – from her life-long love affair with writing to her “Secret Recipes”TM profession to her other personal loves of life, family and faith – through my memories of her; as well as, through the memories others have of her. She was an enormous influence, in so many ways, on so many people; especially on the woman I’ve become. Mom motivated and inspired a whole movement because she was the pioneer that blazed the original trail to imitating fast food, fine dining dishes, junk food and various grocery store products at home!

This week’s blog covers a smorgasbord of subjects. For instance, for all the foodies out there, besides it being April Fool’s Day, today is also National Sourdough Bread Day. In addition, for the gardeners in all of us, April is National Gardening Month! Consequently, April is also National Humor Month – which makes sense, given that the first day is April Fool’s Day – and, where I live in Michigan (as well as other states, I’m sure), Mother Nature seems to like to play continuous jokes on us throughout the month by often exhibiting 3 different seasons, all in one day! Plus, while it’s not a national holiday, the season for birding has also just begun as migrations head north to roost for the spring to fall months.

April is National Gardening Month!

Starting with my memories of Mom and our garden when I was growing up in Algonac – Mom always had a small, raised-bed garden full of strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and other such popular, homegrown garden staples. I also recall picking rhubarb, apples and pears for her pie and cobbler recipes. But then, as her “Secret Recipes”TM business grew in the mid to late 70s, she had less and less time to spend on the care of the garden let alone the harvesting. I enjoyed learning from Mom how to take care of it and I loved picking the fruits and vegetables for her, from which to create all those wonderful dishes. Her strawberry-rhubarb pie was one of my favorites!

After we moved to St. Clair in 1977, she couldn’t devote anymore time to a garden again, but she did continue to, at least, have a couple of tomato plants in patio pots every spring to fall. Mom had a very green thumb with all the plants, in the house and in the garden. She liked to use coffee grounds and grounded egg shells in her patio pots, which helped the tomato plants thrive.

Spring Crocus, Photo by Laura Emerich

Mother Nature’s grand arena is bursting with activity as spring awakens and regenerates life around us. Initially, the National Gardening holiday was a week-long festivity for which President Reagan signed a proclamation to kick off the first annual celebration of it in 1987. Then, in 2000, the National Gardening Association extended the celebration to last for the whole month of April.

To celebrate the event, have a picnic in a garden or go to a nursery and purchase a new plant for your garden. Decorate your garden, even add a seating area in it, where you can enjoy it up close. Another way to celebrate is to give a gardening gift, like seeds or plants, to someone special!

This month is a great time to start planting the bulbs of late-Spring bloomers as well. Other plants that are great to plant in April include fruit trees and berry plants or bushes. I planted a couple of cherry trees on our property about 7 years ago and they’re doing really well. The birds love them immensely! Our property already has a few old pear trees on it, so I’d like to get a couple of apple trees established this year.

2018 Cherry Tree, Photo by Laura Emerich

This is also a great time to plant perennial vegetables like asparagus, chives, rhubarb, horseradish and so many more. I already have the first three in my garden. I plan on adding horseradish this year. It’s also a good time for me to start my “cold crop” annuals like cabbage, spinach and other “greens”; as well as root vegetables like potatoes, onions, carrots and beets. I’m not sure where she got it from, but I think I inherited Mom’s green thumb.

In their off-season, I repurpose my Christmas deer lawn ornaments as trellises in my vegetable garden! They’re great for various vining plants like cucumbers and squash AND I don’t have to worry about storing them.

Another thing Mom taught me, as I mentioned in my blog, “Grow & Make Your Own Groceries”, a couple of weeks ago, growing and sowing your own food can save a lot of money on the grocery bill – if you don’t factor in the value of your time AND if you have the time to maintain it. Except for the perennials, you can’t just drop the seeds and come back in a couple months to pick it all. If only it were that easy! But, on the upside, the hours put into maintaining a garden, with moderate activity, happens to burn about 300-400 calories an hour (depending on your size). Gardening also feeds our bodies a lot of essential Vitamin D since we’re out in the sunshine, which is a natural source for it!

According to the infographic, 6 Surprising Health Benefits of Gardening, on https://www.organiclesson.com/6-wonderful-health-benefits-of-gardening/, gardening strengthens the immune system, relieves stress and elevates happiness, provides a physical workout, stimulates the brain and encourages a healthier diet! It sounds like a win-win-win-win-win-win set of beneficial circumstances to me!

My vegetable & flower garden, 2018!

In addition, this month is usually a good time for me to start pruning the few large patches of wild, black raspberries we have in our backyard’s wooded area – cutting out all the dead canes to make room for the new ones to grow. Thick gloves are highly recommended for this task to help prevent the hands from getting impaled by the thorns!

Backyard Bird Watching

On a related side-subject to spring and April, in general, it’s also a wonderful time for backyard bird watching! Lately, our cats have been going crazy, at the dining room windows, watching all the birds and squirrels in their usual spring, backyard activities – eating at the feeders, playing in the trees, building nests and other such things.

We have some birds that are here all year like cardinals, woodpeckers and blue jays. However, most of the varieties that we see migrate in with the spring season and back out by mid-fall. We get a wide variety of birds in Michigan.  The arrival of the robins, our state bird, is usually one of our first signs of spring, even before the bright, sunny yellow of witch hazel starts to pop on the fading winter landscape. Some robins don’t migrate south in the fall, like others do. Instead, they’ve adapted to our Michigan Winters.

The Robin – Michigan’s State Bird

This weekend, Mackinaw City will be host to the 4th annual “Mackinaw Raptor Fest”, celebrating a unique convergence of migrating birds every spring and fall due to the area’s exceptional location at the rare intersection of two peninsulas and two of the Great Lakes. Mackinaw City (and Mackinac Island) was one of my parents favorite destination areas whenever they had a chance to get away for a long weekend.

Watching birds is said to be very therapeutic. If you feed them, they will come! Growing up, I remember Mom always putting out special treats for the squirrels and birds in our backyard. Watching the birds always seemed to relax Mom and also helped to form the flow of her thoughts for writing her food-for-thought-style articles and editorials. I know it helps me too.

April through June, I usually put out orange halves and small cups of grape jelly for the orioles that migrate to our backyard. I’ve seen the woodpeckers enjoy the spring treats too! The yellow finches will always fight over the perches on the thistle feeder, but when the oriole wants thistle, they all move out of the way.

I heard our resident woodpecker early Friday morning, “rat-a-tat-tat”, on a maple tree outside one of our kitchen windows. The sound seemed to echo in our quiet neighborhood that morning. Then I saw a “Mama” robin perched in another tree, looking into my garden – for good materials to add to her nest, I’m sure. My husband and I really enjoy watching all the flora and fauna activity surrounding our homestead.

April 1st is National Sourdough Bread Day!

Now, out of the garden and backyard and into the kitchen for another food related happening today, as National Sourdough Bread Day is also being observed across the country. Amish Friendship Bread is a really great recipe to make and share with friends. My girlfriends and I used to exchange bags of AFB starter a lot. A super-great article about the process involved in making the starter and how to use it can be found on the “Friendship Bread Kitchen” website at https://www.friendshipbreadkitchen.com/amish-friendship-bread-starter/.

Mom wrote the following interesting explanation on the history of bread [as found on page 144 in her last cookbook, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press, Jan. 2018)]:

BREAD HISTORY

The bread of primitive man was unleavened and perhaps, as the story goes, the discovery of a leavening agent by a cook of ancient Egypt was purely by chance. However, it came about that the Egyptians baked some of the finest bread in the ancient world in cone-shaped ovens. Flattened, and perhaps coarse to present-day taste, the ancient round or triangular loaves unearthed at Deir el-Bahari were a great improvement over the open-air baking of earlier times. Bread, the symbol of the bounty of the Nile, was cast upon its waters as a tribute to the gods. It was, also, placed in tombs to feed the departed spirits of the deceased. Egyptians literally earned their daily bread as workers, as they were given bread at the end of the day as wages for their labor. The Egyptians, who discovered the principle of baking raised bread, didn’t fool around. They just left some dough around in the hot weather until it went bad, and then they baked it. And – lo – it puffed up in old clay ovens and tasted great! The leavened loaf was launched, with no questions asked. The Egyptians regarded “yeast-ification” as an occult, not subject to the whim of man.

Mom also advised, when making a yeast bread, do not use a metal bowl or spoon in the developing process! Metal and yeast are not compatible and using such utensils or bowls with yeast could keep the yeast from working properly. Mom always preferred using either plastic or Pyrex bowls and only wooden or plastic spoons with which to stir or mix the ingredients.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my smorgasbord of topics today! In closing, I usually end with one of Mom’s recipes that she gave away for free on her product information and ordering sheets in exchange for an SASE. The following recipe wasn’t on any of those sheets, but it was given away for free when my brother, Michael Pitzer, first developed this website years ago for internet exposure to my parents and their “Secret Recipes”TM business. Since it is National Sourdough Bread Day, I’d like to share Mom’s copycat version of Schlotzsky’s sandwich rolls, asking only for proper credit if you care to share it.

Schlotzsky’s-Style Sandwich Rolls (from Gloria Pitzer’s “Secret Recipes”TM Newsletter)

1/2 cup Warm Water

1 TB Granulated Sugar

1 package Rapid Rise Dry Yeast

6 oz. Milk, very warm

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 TB Baking Soda, softened in 1 TB water

2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour

In large mixing bowl combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Let stand about 5 minutes till very bubbly. With wire whisk add the rest with only 1 cup of the flour, beating to smooth dough. Beat in rest of flour until batter is thick and sticky but smooth, all flour being dissolved. Divide dough between 5 ovenproof, Pam-sprayed, cornmeal dusted (let excess shake out) soup bowls (each 5 inches in diameter). Cover each one in a square of Saran wrap sprayed in a bit of Pam and that side down. Let rise almost an hour or till above rim of bowls or cans. Discard Saran pieces. Bake on center rack of 375º F oven about 20 minutes or till golden brown. Let cool in containers on rack, spraying tops each in a bit of Pam while they cool to keep crusts soft. To use for sandwiches – slice in half horizontally and grill on lightly buttered hot griddle as you would for grilled cheese sandwich or broiler toast till golden. Then fill with lettuce and assorted lunch meats and cheese or sandwich fillings.