Well, not really - but I did sell a lot of cookies back in the day. I also apparently earned a lot of patches. Girl Scouts is where I learned how a toilet works. That Ms. Fix It badge payed off in spades once I became a homeowner :-)
No $300 plumber bills for me! Just $7 at Home Depot gets most toilets fixed.
I wish I had listened more. I wish I'd had more patience. I wish I'd sorted through those boxes 15 years ago.
I know that hindsight is 20/20. I know I was generally a good daughter. And I know my parents were proud of me - but I can't help but wish that I'd spent more time really getting to know them. Asking them questions. Learning about their pasts. Actually listening to their responses.
Maybe they wouldn't have shared much - but the papers I found gave glimpses to the story.....
I found letters from my dad to his parents during his freshman year of college. He was homesick. He was a chemistry major. He was failing. He wanted to come home.
I found his old homework assignments. Papers that talked about his loneliness and his trouble finding his place. Notes where where his teachers wrote "Are you sure you should be in college if you feel this way about school?" OR after my dad noted that he had trouble expressing himself, a teacher wrote: "You need practice. Lots of it." He triumphed, and graduated from Clarkson with a degree in Accounting.
I found his rejection letters from the state of New York after he passed the Civil Service exam, but then disclosed that he had epilepsy. They denied him a job for "medical reasons." It was 1960. They could do that then. Luckily his local congressman and The Tri-State Epilepsy foundation went to bat on his behalf and he was offered a job. A job he retired from 25+ years later.
I found a letter from my grandparents who were "elated" to hear my "parents news." Though it doesn't say what the news is, the tone implies that my mom was pregnant with her first child. The date is 3 years before either me or my brother was born.
I feel fortunate to have found these glimpses into my parents' lives, despite some of the heart wrenching tales the letters told. My only regret is that I didn't read them sooner.
Had I known, I might have been more tolerant. More empathetic. More respectful. Every family has a story to tell. The secret is to listen.
Most years I don't do anything special for Halloween. This year was no exception - but if I had dressed up, I could have been Neptune or a bride using things from my dad's house. I made this Neptune mask as part of an elementary school art class. They took a plaster mold of your face and then you got to decorate it any way you wished. I guess I had really big eyebrows back then. Thank goodness I discovered tweezers!
Then I came across my mom's wedding dress. We definitely didn't share the same shape, but her dress still fit. It was yellowed and smelly, making it perfect for a zombie bride costume.
It surprised me to find that the Rochester Gas and Electric Company used to publish a cookbook series, until I was reminded that it helped encourage energy consumption.
But the "Womens Guide to Home Emergencies" book was an even funnier surprise. It wasn't a gender neutral "Guide to Home Emergencies." This booklet was for the fairer sex. The ones who can't chip a manicure or crawl under the sink while wearing a dress and apron. The year it was published?.....1973!
Is that really Salmon flavored Jello? Or is it a decorative mold? We're off to an interesting start here.....
Next they showcase the Miracle Whip topped Jello mold. Hmmm.
I think my favorite part is the "special occasions" recipe section. Just add Velveeta and mayonaise and you've got yourself a real treat. Mmmm. I admit to using Velveeta in certain recipes, but I have to laugh that it doesn't require refrigeration and that the Dutch government finally allowed it to be imported after they realized it didn't have enough dairy in it to cause a threat to their own cheese industry. :-)
One of the things that was evident while looking at my mom's cookbooks was that many of them were branded by food companies. It makes total sense. The more ideas you can give people, the more product you'll sell. The Peanut Butter Cookbook actually had lots of yummy sounding dessert recipes inside, but the interesting items came from the main courses.
First up: The peanut butter and canned ham sandwich. Hmm. Salt and peanuts. Could be good.
Then came macaroni and cheese and peanut butter. Skepticism is growing....
Then WHAM! They pulled out all the stops. Canned tuna, cream of mushroom soup and peanut butter mixed together in a meal called "Polynesian Supreme." I might have to make this sometime just to see what it's really like. I pity my next party guests. :-)
The Joys of Jello cookbook didn't start out so bad. There were pretty confetti cakes and decorative Jello molds used to hold ice cream centers or gum drops. Not my taste, but ok.
From there though, it got strange quick. It appears that vegetables in Jello replaced fruit as the trend, and I found pages of these horrifying recipes - like Spinach, Avocado and Carrot molds.....
and Jello molds with Cauliflower and red peppers.
But then it just got downright gross when they started adding canned tuna fish and olive slices to the mix. Blech!
By the time I got to tomato molds, it actually seemed quite reasonable. I guess in the end, it's no different than aspic (eat your heart out Julia Child), but I don't plan on meat molded into gelatin anytime soon.
A few weeks ago I blogged about the fun finds in my mom's old recipe folders. When I was cleaning out my dad's house, I found the actual cookbooks. The recipes inside these covers aren't that remarkable, but I found the titles quite fun, like.....
ONLY LOVE BEATS BUTTER
THE EATING IN BED COOKBOOK
HOW TO BE WORLDLY WITHOUT LEAVING YOUR KITCHEN
I must admit that I was disappointed there weren't more recipes to mock inside the covers, but that's ok because I also found "The Joy of Jello" cookbook. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post for some technicolor goodness and some "oh gross" laughs.
I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the title on this recipe booklet. All occasions huh? Weddings? Baby Showers? That romantic evening with your sweetie? Somehow I think the title was a bit too inclusive in it's use of the word "all."
My high school held an awards ceremony at the end of every year to celebrate the accomplishments of the students. They never told you what award you would be receiving in advance, but instead simply sent an invitation to the event. I had received awards in years past, but always for academic achievements.
Unfortunately in 1991, I received an award for "Outstanding accomplishment in gym." As a 250+ pound teenager, let's just say I wasn't thrilled with walking down the aisle to share that particular spotlight.
I laugh about it now - but it's still an ironic, head shaking dismay paired with a groan. :-)
A: They're both hideous. These candlesticks are quite possibly the ugliest I've ever seen.... ...and this stuffed "Cayman gator" doesn't win any prizes for the warm and fuzzy category. Even the stuffed baby duckling I found (who was soft and fuzzy) wouldn't earn a spot on display in my house. Let's hope the "stuffed animal" trend doesn't come back. Yes folks, these were all items found in my dad's house.
On my 10th birthday, I got an autograph book as a gift. As I flipped through the pages I remembered that nobody famous had ever signed it, but the notes from my parents mattered the most. The first was from my dad:
Then my mom gave her wishes:
Not even a signature from Mickey Mouse or Goofy could top that.
While going through papers I stumbled upon this little gem. It appeared to be written by one of my dad's co-workers and implied that he found my parents engaging in a little "hankie pankie" in the men's room at work. (My mom was a stenographer in the secretarial pool in the office where my dad was an accountant).
I laughed when I saw it. Could it be? Mom was so proper. Then again, dad did like to give hugs. At my dad's memorial one of his former co-workers stopped by. I asked him: "Bill, is this a joke? Or is it true?"
He looked at it, laughed, and said "This paper is a joke, because "Larry O" didn't write this, but the story about catching your parents is probably true."
I'll never know if he was telling the truth or just giving me a funny memory of my parents - but I'll be forever grateful for the levity he brought to the day. Reading that "joke" paper still makes me smile.
I came across my old record collection and along with the Michael Jackson's Thriller and Lionel Richie vinyl, I found this gem: The Wrestling Album." Note that despite being full of singers from WWF (World Wrestling Federation), there's no clear endorsement on the jacket other than on the microphone covers.
Perhaps even the WWF didn't want to be associated with the vocals of men like Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Hulk Hogan, or The Junkyard Dog. Yes, I'm embarassed that I can remember their names, but as you already know I'm one classy girl with amazing taste in music :-)
While cleaning out the kitchen cabinets I discovered this wooden donkey. It was clearly handmade, and I knew SOMETHING was supposed to happen when you pulled the donkey's moveable ear, but I couldn't figure it out. My brother was also baffled, but we agreed that we couldn't throw it out.
It was on the counter at my dad's memorial when my Aunt walked up and said "Oh - I see you found Aunt Florence's cigarette dispenser." Aha! I jumped on the opportunity to learn more about it. Apparently you put cigarettes in the donkey's pack and when you pull on his ear, one shoots out of it's butt underneath the tail. Definitely classy. Definitely a classic. Definitely not trash.
I walked around the house with my Aunt, asking her to tell the stories behind other "UFOs" (Unidentifiable family objects). I wish my parents had been able to take that walk with me, but Aunt Joan was a great substitute.
One of my mom's old friends said it best. "I feel like I just finished reading a book...."
It's hard to describe the feelings you go through after both parents have passed away. Over the past few weeks I've felt overwhelmed, emptiness, sadness, shock and happiness - but through it all I've had a sense of determination to get by, by being pragmatic and trying to maintain a sense of humor. My mom was a strong woman - and I wanted to live by her example.
Because my dad died unexpectedly, we had lots to do beyond the typical paperwork. We had to deal with a house full of 42 years of memories (and a healthy amount of junk), and an apartment to empty - despite just moving my dad in 3 weeks prior.
We had a dumpster delivered and with the help of 3 friends, filled it with junk from the basement in just 3 hours! Did you know my dad collected bicycle parts? We threw away at least 10 bicyle frames and numerous rusted handlebars, wheels and tires. We also found work training manuals from the 60s, phone bills from the 70s, and at least 6 coffee pots. :-) Once the clear junk was removed, we had a second dumpster delivered and brought everything up from the basement and into the garage. While the sorting was tough, we had a lot of fun reliving memories, and over the next several blog posts, I'll be sharing some of the finds we found interesting. Some are personal, some are amusing, and some are downright bizarre - but I hope you'll get a laugh or a smile from them like we did.
The beach in Carmel is also dog friendly, and leash-free canines ran with glee up and down the sand, chasing seagulls, balls, and handfulls of sand (nice one Brett). Holly was a salty sticky mess by the end of the afternoon, but she didn't seem to mind one bit.
No, this photo isn't a picture of some fabulous bakery for humans. It's a display of dog treats at Diggity Dog in Carmel. The staff are experts at getting humans to part with their money by creating anthropomorphic displays of treats for dogs that look like something a human would enjoy. I must confess that Holly enjoyed a strawberry canoli and a calamari ring or two.
The city of Carmel, CA is known for being particularly dog friendly and it's just a 2 hour drive from our place in Larkspur. It's not uncommon to see merchants with bowls of water out for the pooches, and they even have a fountain dedicated for dogs to drink out of. We went this past weekend, and it was hard to walk a block without someone stopping to pet Holly or ask how old she was. Shop owners were quick with a treat or an invitation to come into their shop with dogs in tow. One restaurant, "Forge in the Forest" even has a dedicated patio just for patrons with dogs. It's called the "Dog Pound," and they serve every dog a free bowl of water and bones. They also have a specialty menu where you can order a treat just for your pet. Holly LOVED her chicken entree. Although it was chicken breast, she didn't seem to have any complaints about it being dry.
My sister-in-law is a really talented graphic designer who lives in Brooklyn. She recently started designing her own line of hand made letterpress note cards, tote bags and other good featuring the designs she's made.
I was blown away by the sophistication of her designs. I received this tote bag as a birthday gift and can't wait until Christmas. Ashley - keep on designing girl! I need some new t-shirts, wall art, and sofa pillows!
I had the Dumbo cake for my birthday one year, and I LOVED the marshmallow elephants on the cake. I've never been a fan of marshmallows by themselves, but with Eagle Brand populating the recipe file, I never had to worry. If your pastel colored sweetened condensed milk dessert wasn't sweet enough, just add marshmallows. Like a Jell-O mold with canned fruit added to it, marshmallows don't do much for added flavor - but they do give recipes some err......added texture.
When I think of football player endorsements, I think of shoes. Or sports drinks. Iced tea? Not so much. I had to look up who Don Meredith was, but apparently the folks at Lipton thought he'd be great at convincing the ladies that Iced Tea was not just a drink for summertime. I love how the ad takes the hard sell. As if the idea of drinking Iced Tea year round was blasphemy. I also love how they've got him enjoying his iced tea in two different settings. One outdoors, and one indoors in a room with wood paneling and a ping pong table. Steamy!
Seeing this reminded me of one of my favorite dessert treats when I was a kid. Pudding in a cloud. Simply put: chocolate pudding on top of a pile of Cool Whip. I love how the ad shows instructions on how to make it, as if it was really hard. I also love how they refer to it as a heavenly new idea. Seems like pudding and whipped cream were around before that, but maybe the real breakthrough was in the ratio of cream to pudding. Mmmmm.
I started this post by trying to think of snarky ways to poke fun at the mis-spelling of "cookie sheet" but then did a search online and discovered that the joke is on me. Apparently "cooky" is another word for "cookie" and in 1963, Betty Crocker published a "Cooky Book." Who knew?
Ok, Ok. A few of you wrote and told me how much you were enjoying the "retro recipes" series so I dug through what I brought back from my dad's and found enough fodder for a few more posts. After that though, sad to say, it's truly done - at least until my next trip home. I haven't gone through my mom's old cookbooks......yet!
Today I bring you..."Technicolor desserts!" It seems pastels were popular back in the 70s and 80s (or my mom just really loved chiffon pies).
To close out the series on old recipes from my mom's files, I present to you: The TaterO's Recipe book. I can understand the recipes that add cheese sauce or even gravy to the mix, but I can't wrap my head around the dessert version - which has you dunking your tater tots into a dipping sauce made of pumpkin pie spice flavored whipped cream. Still, you have to give them props for creativity.