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Back in the early ‘70s, kids would run home after school to catch their favorite cartoon or other kids’ show coming on TV at 3:00. My favorite was the cartoon “Kimba the White Lion.” He was a cute little cub. I can hardly remember what that cartoon was about, but I remember the theme song:

 

 

As the seasons went by, my favorite changed to “The Banana Splits”– a groovy, goofy Hanna-Barbera gem with an addicting theme song (“Tra la la, la la la la”). The Banana Splits were four surreal animals (dudes in costumes) that did crazy antics, skits and songs, and they’d play short episodes of different cartoons or live-action shows every day.  They featured “Arabian Knights,” “The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and my favorite, “Danger Island,” a crazy cliffhanger about explorers on a tropical island tormented by pirates and natives. (“Uh-oh, Chongo!”) It was awesome … if you were 11.

 

 

Once I hit 13, my afternoon favorite changed to “The Mike Douglas Show” where I’d hope to catch dreamy guest stars like Shaun Cassidy or Andy Gibb. If the TV Guide said one of these ‘70s teen idols would be on a certain day, that afternoon at school after the last bell rang you’d see flocks of junior high school girls fleeing the school grounds like their Dittos were on fire.

There was another afternoon show that always had a pay-off, for someone. It was “Dialing for Dollars.” In the San Francisco Bay Area, Pat McCormick hosted the show, which featured an afternoon movie and offered viewers the chance at a cash prize. Pat was a Bay Area icon. He also hosted the “Charley and Humphrey Show,” another hit with the local kids.

 

 

On Dialing for Dollars, there were several intermissions throughout the movie when Pat would call some lucky Bay Area viewer who could win the jackpot … IF they were watching and knew the infamous Count and Amount. The Count was a number code like “2 From the Top” or “7 From the Bottom,” and the Amount was the jackpot – usually somewhere between $100 and $300 dollars. Big bucks, people. Sometimes my sisters and I would sit through the dumbest movies on the planet waiting for Pat to call our house. He never did. But he did call my Grandma Smothers once. She wasn’t watching the TV, because she was probably making Calabasitas, so she didn’t know the Count and the Amount. But they sent her a gift certificate for Chicken Delight in the mail as a consolation prize. Which was actually pretty cool. Chicken Delight was quite the rage when I was a kid.

I remember one night when my Dad was working swing shift at Mare Island, Mom ordered Chicken Delight for us. It must’ve been a PayDay Friday. Chicken Delight was about the only place that actually delivered food to your door back then. Mom laid a blanket out on the living room floor so we could have an indoor picnic with our Chicken Delight delicacies. I remember chicken, but not much else. I imagine there was cole slaw or french fries or rolls, but whatever there was, it wasn’t Friday Night Casserole, so it was delicious.

I love birthdays. Especially mine. And I love birthday cake. Not the kind from the bakery, but actual homemade cake. My Mom always made our birthday cakes when we were growing up.

Below is a pic of one of Mary Ann’s cakes. This is my little sister, Melissa, on her second birthday. She’s blowing out her birthday candles surrounded by my sisters, Coleen and Tracy. Looks like Coleen’s helping her blow out the candles and Tracy is holding her by the PJ’s so she doesn’t fall off the chair. Melissa’s sporting a fancy birthday hat one of us made with paper and glitter. Not sure where I am — maybe those are my hands on the left. I’m probably clapping or rubbing my hands together excitedly because we had to eat Friday Night Casserole for dinner and I was starving.

 

 

My favorite was Mary Ann’s M & M Cake, which I thought she had invented: chocolate cake and chocolate frosting, decorated with M & Ms. Tracy knows how much I loved it, so here are some cupcakes and a mini M & M cake she made for a recent birthday of mine:

 

 

My second favorite cake was Cherry Chip with pink frosting and pink sprinkles. Mary Ann taught me how to bake when I was little, and I still like to bake. I’d make cakes and cookies with the nieces and nephews when they were little. Below is my niece, Madi, helping make a Cherry Chip Cake a few years ago. She’s quite the artist, so she made sure to add pink sprinkles just like Mary Ann would:

 

 

And here’s my niece, Addi, helping me make a cake when she was about 4:

 

 

Here’s a brownie-baking session with Addi:

 

 

The head-in-bowl technique was apparently something she learned from her Uncle Jay.

 

Here’s my nephew, Logan, at about 4, helping with chocolate chip cookies :

 

 

Or actually, feeding cookie dough to my sister’s dog:

 

 

There was another cake Mary Ann made that we liked. But if she had told me the ingredients involved, I would’ve never eaten it. It was called Mayonnaise Cake. There’s actually mayonnaise in it. That’s disgusting. I’m a Miracle Whip girl at heart, and never liked mayonnaise. Growing up in our house, there were always two condiments you’d find in the fridge, thanks to Papa Don: Heinz Ketchup (of course) and Miracle Whip. Papa Don used Miracle Whip on every sandwich, and it’s all my sisters and I used when we made school lunches. Miracle Whip and Land O’ Frost luncheon meats, Miracle Whip and American cheese, Miracle Whip and liverwurst (hurl). Papa Don even ate Miracle Whip and peanut butter sandwiches. I tried one once. Not a fan, but it was still better than Miracle Whip and liverwurst.

So I did like Mayonnaise Cake. It simply tasted like chocolate cake to me. Mary Ann would ice it with Cool Whip, which I’d scrape off. But you could’ve fooled me that there was mayonnaise in it. As I got older, I realized that adding mayonnaise was really no different than adding oil and eggs, so it made sense. So give this cake recipe a try if you run out of eggs and oil. Just be sure not to substitute Miracle Whip for the mayonnaise.

Mayonnaise Cake

1 Cup sugar

1 Cup water

1 Cup mayonnaise

1 tsp vanilla

2 Cups flour

½ Cup cocoa

½ tsp baking soda

Mix the sugar, water, mayonnaise and vanilla in a large bowl. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda, and then add to the wet mixture, mixing until combined. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. When the cake is cooled, frost it with Cool Whip if you’re retro, or use good ol’ chocolate frosting. Or forget the frosting and place a doily on top of the cake and dust it with powdered sugar to make it ’70s fancy.

Just about every day after school in the late 70s, my sisters and I would listen to our records. First we’d have to catch the latest episode of “Days of Our Lives” and do our chores, but then we’d head to the family room to blast our tunes on the stereo. Sometimes it was rock, other times it was soul, depending on if we felt like dancing. Okay, so every day there was soul, with some rock mixed in.

Before we started our music fest, we’d usually walk to the little store up the street to get some crap to eat and drink. Back then, my trusty dollar allowed me to grab a candy bar or Oompa Loompas, plus a tall bottle of Dr. Pepper and (for some reason) a cherry yogurt. Today, I don’t think I could even get a candy bar for a dollar. My younger sisters, Coleen and Melissa, often tried to stretch their money as far as they could by stocking up on penny candy or 10-cent Jolly Rancher Fire and Watermelon Stix.

I remember the first album I ever bought. I was 12, and used birthday money to buy Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I freakin’ loved that album. In fact I still have it. I’d listen to “The Prophet’s Song” on full blast with the head phones on to hear the lyrics and music jump around from ear to ear. And of course I rocked out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” like everyone else — long before Wayne and Garth did.

Many of you probably remember this awesome way to get a ton of records cheap:

Columbia Record Club Advert, 1970s by Joe Wolf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

You could find this ad in all kinds of magazines. Just one penny (plus shipping and handling) gave you anywhere from 8 to 13 albums. Since you were probably reading the ad while sitting next to your stereo, you could just grab a penny off the turntable – you know, the penny you used to keep your 45’s from skipping. Once you signed up, you just had to buy about seven more records in the future at regular club price, which actually wasn’t that bad. Each month, Columbia House sent you their little music magazine. The problem was remembering to mail back the Selection of the Month card every month – assuming you didn’t want to receive a default album by artists like Starland Vocal Band or Rick Dees.

I remember how exciting it was to scan the ad’s selection and pick all those ‘free” albums. Of course the ad only showed about 150 options, and that included all types of music genres like Easy Listening (pass) and Country (no thanks). You had to wait for the first monthly magazine to arrive to see all the other cool selections available.

Naturally I chose records over 8-tracks. The only people I knew who bought 8-tracks had inherited an old car that actually had an 8-track stereo. Listening to 8-tracks was painful. You’d be singing along and then the song would fade out, making you wait about 10 seconds for it to fade back in on the next track. I believe this is how the phrase “Wait for it … ” originated.

Anyway, when that box arrived from Columbia House, it was like Christmas. I couldn’t decide which record to play first. I loaded up that turntable and my sisters and I had a music fest in the family room that lasted until our parents couldn’t stand it any longer.

Along with Columbia House purchases, I bought records all the time once I started working for the man. I still have some of my original albums, but most fell victim to sleepovers in junior high or parties in high school. Somewhere, somebody is listening to my original 12″ version of “Rapper’s Delight” and trying not to break a hip.

My Earliest Memory

When I was four and Tracy was five, my parents took us to amusement park central, Southern California. We obviously went to Disneyland, though the only things I can remember about that visit are the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Adventure Thru Inner Space. I don’t even remember Cinderella’s Castle. If you look closely below, you’ll see me and Tracy standing in front of it, with Papa Don nearby on the right, making sure we don’t get kidnapped.

??????????????

I have a vague memory of The Enchanted Tiki Room and all the crazy animatronic birds in that tropical setting, though my Mom said I fell asleep about five minutes into the show. But I was wide awake during the Adventure Thru Inner Space. They actually shrunk the riders on the trams as they went through the ride. It would turn us into the size of atoms. At least that’s what I thought. There was a big microscope thing with a glass tube and we could see teeny tiny riders moving through it inside. I was mesmerized by it. The Adventure Thru Inner Space was eventually replaced with Star Tours, and well, I guess we all know where that idea is headed now.

During that trip, we also visited Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm. Imagine planning that vacation now. Of course admission tickets weren’t $3,000 dollars back then. Park refreshments probably weren’t that expensive then either. In fact, here Tracy and I are enjoying tasty, ice-cold sodas with Woody the Woodpecker:

woody

You think we’d stop slurping those sodas long enough to smile for a photo. But hey, there was likely a month of Powdered Milk that preceded those treats, so the brain freeze was probably well worth it.

Since I was only four, I just have a few specific memories about the Happiest Place on Earth, but I remember a “feeling,” like a happy, sunshine-y feeling. I really have no recollection of Universal Studios either, except for watching a cowboy get shot off a building. And I don’t remember a thing about Knott’s Berry Farm, except for visiting the replica of Independence Hall, with its replica of the Liberty Bell inside. Here’s a tiny, blurry glimpse of me and Tracy standing in front of it:

??????????????

Even though we’re micro-sized in the photo, you can tell we’re wearing matching clothes again. We were basically Irish Twins, and Mary Ann always dressed us alike. She either made our clothes or ordered them from the Sears catalog. Here’s another example:

twins

Just kidding, that’s not us. We didn’t get the part.

Here’s Independence Hall at Knott’s Berry Farm again:

hall

See that narrow path next to the flag pole? I believe that is the actual spot of my first clear memory as a human. It’s where I fell down, and immediately started crying. Not because I was in pain, but just for the drama. See, I think I fell down on purpose so I could yell and cry so my parents would turn around to see how far behind them their precious child was, and in danger of being lost or kidnapped. I think I was about five feet behind them, but when you’re four, it seems like miles. So I wailed, and my Dad came back, surveyed my traumatic injuries, and held my hand for the rest of the day.

A few years later, my grandparents started giving us Knott’s Berry Farm jelly samplers for Christmas. I couldn’t wait for that thing. There was Cherry Jelly with real chunks of cherries in it. But even better, there was Mint Jelly. Obviously Mary Ann wouldn’t serve that with lamb, so I ate it on toast. No one else wanted any, so more for me. I practically licked that jar inside out when it was empty. I’ve still never had lamb with mint jelly. Pretty sure I never will.

Who Am I?

I’m not much for labels, but I’ve never been able to explain my diet to anyone. It would be nice to have a term to describe it. I’m about the farthest thing from a carnivore, but I’ll never pass up bacon. And I’m no vegan because I couldn’t live without cheese or butter. Especially if that cheese is gooey and piled up on top of a slice of pizza, or if the butter is melted so I can stick an Alaskan king crab leg in it. Pescatarian? Nope. Well, I mostly eat seafood when it comes to proteins, but I’ll eat chicken, too, and will never turn down a tasty piece of honey ham. For the most part I eat organic foods and a vegetarian diet with the occasional piece of meat thrown in, usually when I’m having dinner at someone else’s house. But the term “vegetarian” doesn’t work either. So what the hell am I?

There are definitions for people who avoid grains (gluten-free) or eat “clean.” There are Paleo diets, Atkins folks, “No Meat With Feet” eaters, raw food aficionados … even Fruitarians.

Yeah, the way Hugh Grant’s character looks at her is the way most people look at me when I try to explain myself as I pick pepperoni and sausage off a slice of combination pizza after eating a slice of Hawaiian.

It was so easy back in the day. When I was a kid, there was only one type of “eater” I knew about: the EatWhat’sOnYourPlateOrGoHungry-atarian. We ate whatever was served: peanut butter and jelly or bologna sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables, or fruit and veggies from a can. We ate hamburger, potatoes, tacos, fish sticks, fried chicken, TV dinners, mac and cheese, Spam and, thanks to my Mom, Friday Night Casserole, which was a combination of any and every thing I just mentioned.

But the clouds parted today when I stumbled upon something while doing some random research. There’s an actual term for how I eat:

Flexitarian.

That’s right. It’s a real thing:

Merriam-Webster Logoflexitarian

noun flex·i·tar·i·an \ˌflek-sə-ˈter-ē-ən\

Definition of flexitarian:

  1. one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish

Hmm. All this time I’ve suffered without my own label, but it was there all along. Though I doubt I’ll go around announcing myself as a Flexitarian; that just sounds ridiculous. If anything, it seems like a term Hans and Franz made up for someone who likes to go around flexing their muscles. But at least I feel validated now, and I have a fancy term to throw around if I ever need to explain my flexible eating habits. Actually the term “Flexitarian” could help prevent quite a few uncomfortable situations:  Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Patriots or Falcons? Paper or Plastic? Good Witch or Bad Witch?  “Actually, I’m a Flexitarian.”

What Day Is It?!!

I think I’ve mentioned I love Friday the 13th. I’ve always loved Friday the 13th. When I was a kid I simply loved Fridays. Which is strange, because that often meant Friday Night Casserole for dinner. But Fridays after school were also the start of the weekend, and when it was a Pay Day Friday we were able to pick up our favorite fast food or go out to dinner. And then we’d sprawl out on the living room floor to watch our favorite prime-time lineup: “The Brady Bunch,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family”:

So when I combine Friday with 13, I can’t go wrong; 13 has always been my favorite number. I don’t know why. It’s just awesome. And I’ve won my fair share on the roulette wheel betting on 13 Black. It’s also a baker’s dozen, and you can never go wrong with one extra donut, amiright.

Some people freak out and think Friday the 13th is totally unlucky and scary. Probably because of scary movies. One time after the original “Poltergeist” came out, my sisters and I pulled a prank on my Mom, figuring we’d freak her out when she woke up on Friday the 13th. After she went to bed the night before, we placed dining room chairs on top of the kitchen table and scattered a few around the room. And we opened up a bunch of kitchen cabinet doors. We taped this note to the dining room table, and by the reply she left, you can tell we didn’t scare her one bit:

fri-the-13-note

Anyway, I always look forward to Friday the 13th being a lucky day. They don’t happen that frequently. The last Friday the 13th was in May. And that was the exact day Jay and I received a letter in the mail letting us know we were chosen to be “Wheel of Fortune” contestants. True story; stay tuned.

So don’t sit home like a scaredy-cat on Friday the 13th. Get out there. Go buy a lottery ticket. Ask that special someone out on a date. Send in an audition tape to “Wheel of Fortune.” The next Friday the 13th isn’t until October, so today’s your only chance for another 10 months. Well, if you’re Irish, you have St. Patrick’s Day coming up. You know, luck of the Irish and all that. Plus all the alcohol. So essentially you have another lucky day in just two months.

Of course, if you’re planning a camping trip this weekend at a place called “Camp Crystal Lake” you might want to change your plans.

 

 

I’m trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight but the fridge and cupboards are pretty bare. It’s looking like breakfast for dinner. At the same time, the blog is pretty neglected, so I thought I might find some inspiration in the kitchen to write about. Nope. Sometimes when I can’t think of anything to write about, I look through the wonderful “ABC of Casseroles” cook book to see which recipe I can make fun of.  I found this:

recipe

But to be fair, a lot of people would probably like that rice and beef concoction. Not me, but a lot of people. I can definitely make fun of the casserole’s name though: “Quickie Jumble” Casserole. So … many … jokes. I could mock that ridiculous poem, too, that points out how probably every person waiting to eat one of the dishes inspired by this cookbook will definitely be starving because they’re not gonna eat it.

So I started going through some old papers and found a handwritten recipe of my Mom’s. I thought, Hmm? Seven Seas Casserole? That sounds fun, and a little exotic. Maybe this was some fancy South Pacific-inspired shrimp or lobster bake thing I never knew about that Mary Ann had up her sleeve.

I should’ve known better:

seven-seas-1

seven-seas-2

This could be the Tuna Casserole that Julie always made on “Welcome Back Kotter.” Apparently it’s some fancy recipe from Minute Rice.

I actually remember eating Mom’s Tuna Casserole once. I just never knew there was a fancy name for it; probably to make people wanna try it. My sister, Tracy, always remembered Mom’s Tuna Casserole, and always suggests I write about it, but I never knew a recipe existed. She probably would love it if I actually made this thing, just for old time’s sake. I actually have all of these ingredients on hand. Yeah … I’m still making breakfast for dinner.

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