By Gloria Pitzer, as seen on several of her free-sample-recipes-and-information sheets.
18-ounce box yellow cake mix
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup self-rising flour
1 cup real mayonnaise
12-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
10-oz bag English Toffee Bits
2 cups chopped pecans
As listed, [in large mixing bowl] beat it all together until smooth dough [forms, stirring in] chips [and nuts] last. Measure dough packed into a measuring tablespoon and level off over rim of bowl. Place 2 inches apart on lightly Pam-sprayed baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes at 350°F. Cool a few minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to foil. Makes 4 dozen.
Just because the month is ending, don’t stop your hobby or donating blood or mentoring someone. Don’t stop enjoying soup, hot tea, or oatmeal. And definitely continue having and appreciating slow cooked meals throughout the year. Any day can be celebrated on any day – look at “Christmas in July”.
‘Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ – Mark Twain
As I wrote about recently, a lot of New Year’s resolutions include starting a new hobby. Another is turning a hobby into a livelihood! Similarly to Mark Twain, NationalDayCalendar.com says about hobbies: “…if you’re really lucky, you can find what you love to do and turn it into your career. You know what they say: ‘If you make your hobby your job, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’”
The authoring seed was planted in Mom’s soul decades before her Secret RecipesTM business really took off in the mid-1970s. Whenever Mom was asked “how did it all start”, she always found it hard to pinpoint that one single moment.
However, she was initially inspired to be a writer, after watching the 1946 Warner Brothers movie, “Devotion”, about the Bronte sisters. Mom said that was when she began to journal, seriously – on a daily basis – usually writing about her life and her faith.
Mom filled journal after journal, for well-over 70 years, with her thoughts and feelings and observations, from the time she was 10 years old until she physically couldn’t, shortly before she passed away in January 2018. Writing was so much more than “just a hobby” or a vocation, to Mom. It was a DEVOTION!
‘Succeeding against the odds…When I look back now, I realize that I was so busy trying to prove that others were wrong about me, I couldn’t see how events were already taking place that would sooner or later put me where I had always wanted to be – writing for a worthwhile living, while it made living worthwhile.’ – Gloria Pitzer My Cup Runneth Over – And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 81)
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over And I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 25)
THE LITTLE STEPS
OVER THE YEARS, the reporters who came to interview us, somehow arrived at our doorstep anticipating a happy cross between the Walton’s and the Brady Bunch. I don’t know if they were disappointed or relieved to learn that we weren’t even close to either of the adorable, but fictional, families they expected.
There were times when the reporters asked to come out to our home, then, in Pearl Beach (near Algonac) and so small, I use to say, if we had a City Hall it would be located over a phone booth!
They would approach the story as if it were just another housewife with a happy little hobby who turned it into a profitable business. My writing was never a hobby… For lack of a better definition, the Internal Revenue Service calls our enterprise a ‘business’… [while] others call it our ‘work’. I, however, like the word ‘livelihood’ because it is a lively experience.
Mom always felt that writing was her “true calling”, claiming that she made a living with it, but it was her writing that made living worthwhile! I’ve found many articles online, regarding hobbies for making you happy, as well as making you money. Three great reads that I especially liked are:
Personally, I have a lot of hobbies that I love. I’ve even made a little money from some of them. However, I’m not a very good sales person and that is a very important element one needs, if they’re going to succeed at making money from their hobby.
You really need to be able to sell yourself, your brand, and your product/service – OR be able to pay someone else (which is usually a lot of money) to do it for you.
Moreover, February is also home to many food-oriented, official and non-official holidays like the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday (aka: Mardi Gras), Ash Wednesday and Lent. I’d like to add that it’s also the anniversary month of Mom’s first appearance on ABC’s “Home” show, which aired in 1988 – shortly after the show first began.
Following the overwhelming fallout from her first Donahue Show appearance, in 1981 – when she received over a million letters in response – Mom insisted that she would never do another national television show. Nonetheless, when her friend and famous crafter, Carol Duvall, called, to ask her to give ABC’s “Home” show a try, Mom couldn’t say no.
“Home” was a relatively new show, in which Carol, herself, had come to be involved. It turned out to be a really rewarding experience for Mom; especially when she was surprised by Wally Amos, being there, in person, to taste-test her imitation of his own famous, chocolate-chip cookies.
ABC’s “Home” show began as a half-hour program in mid-January 1988. Mom was, first, a guest in February 1988. Following a 60-minute trial run in September 1988, “Home” expanded permanently to an hour-long series in January 1989. Mom returned, to appear on another episode, for the entire hour, in March 1991.
After “Home” ended, in 1994, host, Rob Weller formed a production company with someone else and, together, they developed “The Carol Duvall Show”; which aired on HGTV from 1994 until 2005, after which it moved to the DIY Network and ran for another 4 years.
AGAIN, MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 68)
THE HOME SHOW & WALLY AMOS
THE HOME SHOW… in February 1988, were wonderful to us [Paul and me]. They flew us to Los Angeles, and we appeared with Rob Weller and Sandy Hill in a [half] hour segment that re-created some of our recipes. They were very specific that I do our ‘Famous Nameless Cookies’ and I could not see the reason they absolutely insisted on that recipe.
I had trouble finding the right ingredients an hour before airtime, but we made compromises there and came up with an even BETTER version than before. What had happened, without my knowing it, was Wally Amos, himself [was there]. They flew him in from Hawaii to taste-test my version of HIS product.
What a delightful man! What a warm and generous soul. He brought me a tin of an assortment of his favorite cookies and, after tasting my version of his product, made me promise that I would never go into the cookie business! Meeting Wally Amos was one of those cherished memories that I will always look back on warmly.
In time for February’s National Bake for Family Fun Month, here’s a re-share of two versions of Mom’s secret recipes for re-creating these cookies at home. Years ago, Mom gave these away, on her free sample recipes and ordering information sheets, in exchange for an SASE – self-addressed, stamped envelope.
In 1993, after Mom’s second appearances on both, ABC’s “Home” show and “The Donahue Show”, Guthie-Renker Corp. created an hour-long infomercial, called “Ask Mike”, for Secret RecipesTM and the Recipe DetectiveTM (it was also produced & directed by Positive Response Television).
Similar to her appearances on “Home” and “Donahue”, the infomercial included food demonstrations, in a talk show setting, with “taste tests” and a guest-appearance by Wally Amos. Our family received copies of the production, when it was finished, but it never aired on television.
A lot of turmoil and drama surrounded the making of the infomercial. After that upsetting experience, Mom decided to never do television shows, again. For 40 years, she loved doing radio talk shows so much more and, other than some local TV talk shows, radio interviews was all she did until 2014, when she had to fully retire due to health issues.
‘I had found that television appearances were merely food demonstrations that I did not enjoy experiencing. I enjoyed my radio work more, and the number of stations on which I had become a regular participant had grown to include over 100 across the country and in Canada.’– Gloria Pitzer [As seen in… Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018, p. 298)]
Beginning yesterday, the last Sunday in January, and through next Sunday, is National Meat Week! Plus, in honor of January, still being National Sunday Supper Month, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for “Beef In Wine Sauce”; as seen in her early-1970s syndicated column, Cookbook Corner By Gloria Pitzer.
Wednesday begins the month of February. The first week of February observes, among other things… African Heritage and Health Week(which is always February 1st-7th) and US Snow Sculpting Week(which is a five-day celebration that starts on the first Wednesday in February (1st-5th for 2023).
Today is, among other things, Cyber Monday, which is always the Monday after Thanksgiving. “Cyber Monday” was officially named so by the NRF (National Retail Federation) in 2005, when consumers had noticeably increased shopping online; particularly at work, after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Ironically, the virtual shopping tradition was initially conceived by retailers to encourage people to shop online for what they wanted when they couldn’t find it at their local brick-and-mortar stores or couldn’t even get to the actual stores at all, due to other responsibilities, such as work.
Since early in the new millennium, the increase in online shopping has been causing a falling Dominos effect on many stores and malls across America. Consequently, store and mall owners have been forced to close their brick-and-mortar doors permanently – and at alarming rates.
The large department store chains that “anchored” the malls, like Sears, JC Penny’s, and Macy’s, started depleting first. With the advancements made in the world-wide web, the way of shopping and peoples’ needs and wants had, once again, evolved – a new generation of “convenience” cyber shopping was embraced, especially among teens and young adults.
According to DepartmentStoreHistory.net, “The three biggest department stores in the mid-1960s, both in sales volume and physical size, were Macy’s, Hudson’s, and Marshall Field, in that order.” It’s no wonder they were commonly used for mall anchors nationwide.
Austrian architect, Victor Gruen, designed the first fully enclosed, American mall. The Southdale Center, in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minnesota, opened in 1956. Most of the smaller storefronts faced inward, while large “anchor” stores (i.e. JC Penny’s, Macy’s, Sears and others) were placed at each end, attracting shoppers and creating foot traffic to the smaller stores in between.
Inside the mall, Gruen created a European-style central court area with an aviary, sculptures, and an open-air-style café. The mall was an island, surrounded by a sea of parking places designed to accommodate the masses. It was also designed to provide local employment and economic growth to the area.
By 1960, there were 4,500 malls nationwide. They were built to house dozens (even hundreds) of retail stores and restaurants in one conglomeration. They were envisioned for the middle-class consumers’ socializing and shopping conveniences. Even in ancient Greece, societies tended to congregate in central marketplaces.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 43)
To make the mimeograph pay for itself, I even printed up my own business cards on it, using dime-store construction paper and then cutting the cards apart with scissors until I had neat little stacks of about 50 and a total of 200 or 300 cards. These I distributed at the mall whenever and wherever we might be in one. Paul did not know I was doing this, at first, either, or he would’ve disapproved.
It was unprofessional and risky, but I thought anything was worth a try and what I could do ‘quietly’ until I could prove it was either a mistake or a benefit, would have to be my little secret. Well, actually, the kids were a part of that secret too.
I had heard an interview on TV or radio with ‘the world’s most successful salesman’, who was a Chevrolet salesman in Detroit and who believed heartily in business cards, placing them everywhere and anywhere that it was allowed.
From his story, I found it was easy to drop my card into the pocket of a bathrobe in the ladies’ wear [areas] in the department stores and in the purses and tote bags, on public phone booth stands, [in] restaurant restrooms, even in cookbooks in the bookstores. From these, you’d be surprised, we DID hear from people who wanted to know about my recipes, which was the first experience I had with public response.
By the 1980s, American malls were thriving, out-shining “Main Street”, and taking over pop culture. But, like other rising sensations, this one wasn’t going to last either. Between the rise of online shopping and the setback of the recession in 2008, there was a significant drop in sales and foot traffic at big-brand retailers and malls, alike.
Around 2010, consumers began turning in larger numbers to Amazon and other online retailers. The steep, nationwide drop in sales for brick-and-mortar stores has been accelerating in recent years, but the pandemic put their decline into overdrive.
The entire district has been devastated as consumers have lost the habit of shopping and browsing in person, while the Covid-19 pandemic and related shut-downs have just about hammered the last nails in the shopping mall’s coffin. Except that people are itching to get out again, making it appear that malls are being resurrected. But stores are still struggling, and malls are not as full as they used to be.
According to The Week’s staff article, The ‘Retail Apocalypse’ (Aug. 7, 2021), “Roughly 40 percent of the nation’s department stores have closed since 2016, including every Lord & Taylor store and nearly all Sears and Kmart stores. Neiman Marcus and J.C. Penney have filed for bankruptcy; Macy’s has shuttered dozens of stores and will close 125 more by 2023.”
Because of the internet, the way people socialize has also evolved, just like their shopping customs. For many decades, malls were more than just shopping and dining hubs. They were the new public squares and market places for social gatherings of average, middle-class Americans.
I think malls are memory-makers! I remember when Lakeside Mall opened in 1976 in Sterling Heights (MI). Mom took me and my sisters there on the weekends to shop and eat, as well as help her advertise her newsletter and cookbooks – a story I’ve mentioned in some of my other blog posts.
It was so exciting to ride up and down in the glass elevator that overlooked the beautiful, 3-sided, waterfall fountain. I loved getting to toss a coin into the fountain and making a wish. I remember getting my ears pierced, there, for my 12th birthday, too!
I also remember taking my own children to the “new” Birchwood Mall, in Fort Gratiot Twp. (MI) in the 1990s, for entertainment. We had play-dates and lunched near the carousel. Sometimes we went to the movies or did some shopping. We usually got our annual family pictures taken at one of its anchor stores, like Sears or JC Penny’s, to include in our Christmas cards for family members and close friends.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 43)
YOU’VE MADE A FRIEND
A SMILE IS the universal, unspoken language between us. Some people smile more easily than others, but a smile is as good as a hug. I just LOVE people who smile a lot! Even when I’m shopping or [when Paul and I are] walking around the campgrounds on one of our abbreviated ‘get-aways’ with our motorhome, I find myself smiling at people I have never seen before, and they smile back. It’s contagious!
People don’t smile as much as they should! I’ve noticed lately how seldom strangers smile at each other in shopping centers and restaurants and other places where average folks mingle or pass. It occurred to me that there was nothing to lose by smiling and nodding at people as I shopped or glanced across a restaurant to other tables.
A surprising thing happened! Grim looking faces spontaneously responded with smiles and nods, as if they were trying to place me or recall where we might have met before. It was just wonderful!
These days, everything – even socializing – is being done online more than in person, just like shopping. Unfortunately, for the brick-and-mortar retailers, the ease and expediency of online shopping caught on quicker than anyone anticipated, increasing its popularity considerably over that of hands-on, in-person shopping.
Josh Sanburn wrote in his article, ‘Why the Death of Malls Is About More Than Shopping’ (July 20, 2017), “Malls were designed for leisure, abundance, ambling. You parked and planned to spend some time. Today, much of that time has been given over to busier lives and second jobs and apps that let you swipe right instead of haunt the food court.”
‘Malls were built for patterns of social interaction that increasingly don’t exist.’ – Leonard Schlesinger, Business Professor at Harvard University
Since department store and mall eateries are just another niche in the vast food industry from which Mom found inspiration in imitating “famous foods from famous places” and since this is still Spinach and Squash Month, here is Mom’s copycat recipe for imitating Hudson’s Spinach Pie; as seen in her cookbook… The Original 200 Plus Secret RecipesTM Book (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; June 1997, p. 17).
There are so many mental and physical perks that come from being happy, including a rise in energy, as well as self-esteem; which, in turn, is also good for the heart and, thereby, likely to help you live longer. Unquestionably, WHEN HAPPINESS HAPPENS, LIFE IS GOOD!
‘Happiness is a state of thought. It begins with gratitude for all we’ve already received and achieved – not with what we own or the things…’ – Gloria Pitzer, as seen in Gloria Pitzer’s Secret RecipesTM Newsletter, Issue #218 (Secret RecipesTM, Marysville, MI; Nov. 2000, p. 5)
It’s difficult to define real happiness because it’s different for each individual, as it is a state of mind that is made by our own choices, and we are each unique. From one of Mom’s writings I shared last week, according to John Luther, “happiness is not a matter of good fortune or worldly possessions. It’s a mental attitude. It comes from appreciating what we have, instead of being miserable about what we don’t have.”
Healthline.com offers 25 daily habits that can make you feel happy, in a wonderfully informative article written by Ann Pietrangelo (Jan. 15, 2019). Some of the habits mentioned in Ann’s article I’ve found on many other “lists”, covering the subject of achieving happiness.
The general consensus seems to include deep-breathing, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and eating right. As Ann pointed out in her article, different types of food can affect our moods in different ways – sounds like a good subject for another Monday! Anyway, other common actions that can make you feel happy are giving compliments and smiling; even acknowledging unhappy moments, as well as being grateful for something every day.
Contrary to popular belief, money does not buy happiness. However, according to Social Networks and Happiness, written by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (Dec. 4, 2008), for every happy person in our lives, our own chances of being happy increases by 9 percent!
‘THE GREATEST WASTE in the world is the difference between what we are, and what we could be!’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 10)
Take a closer look at what‘s defined as happiness and what it takes to reach that level of personal pleasure in your life. Technically, the term “happy place” is an oxymoron, as happiness is not a place. Happiness is the whole journey of life, rather than the destination. It can be found anywhere, at any time, in anything along the way.
You could say that “happiness is in the mind of the beholder”! Thus, take pleasure in every little moment of joy you can find. If you can’t find any in your day, search YouTube for “baby giggles” – that always helps me. It’s up to each of us to find what makes us happy and put it into each and every day that we can. It can’t get more simple than that.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
Gloria Pitzer’s Christmas Card Cook Book (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1983, p. 19)
THE CRITICS ALWAYS have a field day with the subject of being happy, as if it were an unrealistic condition to which no one was truly entitled. Those who claim to be specialists in the field are skeptical about the achievement of what is commonly considered happiness and take care to caution us against hoping to attain such a state, as if it were something only fools would desire.
I weigh the happiness I have had and what I feel is mine today with a sense of relief that is more than I ever expected and probably more than I deserve. In keeping, though, with the commentary of the cynics, one might think that it is unlikely and unrealistic to be truly happy today.
To be truly and totally happy, the cynical critics give us an unrealistic ream of necessities that we are first expected to possess. We shouldn’t have to be totally happy every minute of every day, otherwise the state of absolute contentment just might become so boring to us that we would lose our appreciation for it.
Every challenge we can meet, every crisis we can overcome, weighs more on the scale of success than all of the gold in Fort Knox! There are moments when we are the happiest, in spite of fret and discouragement, when we rouse ourselves from weariness and self-pity and realize that we are more important to the happiness of others than we give ourselves credit for.
In knowing how important we are to others, we can find a degree of contentment that is often sufficient to clean the slate of any self-imposed put-downs. All it takes, sometimes, to put us into one of these moods is the undeserved criticism of someone who’s opinion of us is quite important.
Of course, the self-centered cynic, whose job in life, it would seem, is to constantly find fault with those whose ideas they do not agree, would try to make our little contentment seem like a fraudulent attempt to deceive ourselves and others.
Happiness is the one state of being that comes in so many different forms that the righteous critic, the cynic, the skeptic, can only feel it when they are being proven correct; while the rest of us find it in doing what the cynics criticize us for doing.
Happiness, if only at wonderful intervals, is no miracle – no coincidence. It’s a happening! Or better said – it’s a ‘happy-ning’! The scales on which we each weigh what is of value to us that gives us happiness, balance out what we expect with what we get.
One can find happiness in getting what they want – or in wanting what they get! One book that I recently heard about seems to cover the whole subject nicely. The book is called ‘How to be Happy Without Money’ – but it costs $300!
Most of us think of happiness as an end or a means to an end – when, in reality, happiness is the beginning – not the end… And seldom the means to anything that does not reach out and touch somebody else with unselfishness and charity!
Happiness is achieved by making the most of the good times – but also effectively coping with the unavoidable bad times, in order to experience the best possible life overall. Research has shown that happiness is the key to success, rather than success being vital to happiness.
In an awesome article by Mark Williamson (Nov. 3, 2014), called Why Does Happiness Matter?, he wrote: “Trying to live a happy life is not about denying negative emotions or pretending to feel joyful all the time. We all encounter adversity and it’s completely natural for us to feel anger, sadness, frustration and other negative emotions as a result. To suggest otherwise would be to deny part of the human condition.”
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
As seen in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989, p. 19)
EXCELLENCE vs. AVERAGE
THE PRESSURE WE put on ourselves to be exceptional is totally unreasonable! The trendy position to cultivate, these days, is one of excellence. In the marketplace and business world, the urgency and motivation is to become excellent – as individuals, as executives, as parents, as citizens, as politicians or as husbands and wives. At every turn, every level of society, we are pushed into becoming humanly excellent!
If everyone, however, were to become truly excellent in their endeavors; ‘excellent’ would, then, become ‘average’! It’s perfectly okay, just to be average – which is simply the same distance from the top as from the bottom. When the average person is content with their position, their lifestyle, their social level and, even, their earning capacity; then, they are truly happy.
Average people sleep better at night than the over-achievers, seeking maximum excellence. Average people have average homes, wear average clothes, eat average foods and maintain average lifestyles. They are proud [and] their pride is genuine. They like who they are [and] what they are, [making] it easy for them to like their neighbor too!
According to BargainHunting.webs.com, National Bargain Hunting Week starts on the FIRST MONDAY through Sunday of August (which is today). However, NationalDayCalendar.com claims National Bargain Hunting Week is celebrated during the SECOND week in August, which is next week. Both websites agree that it was founded by Debbie Keri-Brown in 1996. I say, “Why not celebrate it both weeks?” Whichever week it is, HAPPINESS HAPPENS for me EVERY TIME I find a good bargain!
HAVE YOU EVER had your day suddenly turn sunshiny because of a cheerful word? Have you ever wondered if this could be the same world because someone had been unexpectedly kind to you. You can make today [that way] for somebody! It’s only a question of a little imagination, a little time and trouble. Think now, ‘What can I do today, to make someone happy?’ – Gloria Pitzer, This is not a Cook Book! It’s Gloria Pitzer’s Food for Thought (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Oct. 1986, p. 30)
In honor of TODAY, being National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, here is Mom’s secret recipe for homemade ice cream sandwiches; as seen in her self-published cookbook… The Secrets Of Homemade Groceries (Secret Recipes, St. Clair, MI; Sep. 1979, p. 37) [aka: “Book 5”].
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…