I was completely humbled and elated when my former high school A.P. English teacher, Mr. Spagnuolo, walked into my cute, little pie shop. He truly looked the same to me with the exception of his unfortunate Parkinson’s disease affecting his gait and balance. His smile was sweet and tender and his voice was calming and sure, just as it was almost thirty years ago. But, his big gift, his words and his wisdom were as profound, sound and as addictive to me as they were so many years ago.
Mr. Spag, as he was fondly referred to, introduced me to the written word, our vernacular, non-fiction, fiction and classic characters, writers, poets, and other worlds; a whole beautiful utopia of how words can change people and ultimately, the way we choose to live. He taught me to examine, imagine, create, articulate, work hard, be passionate, believe and dream.
He inspired me.
He believed in me.
Truly, many people affect how we create our own life, and make no mistake we do create our own life. However, sometimes certain people carve their initials into our souls and enable us to see our potential, our gifts and our own utopia. Mr. Spag did this for me. He told me I was smart and that if I worked hard that I could accomplish much. He told me I had gifts. He told me to dream. He believed in me. I was astounded that a man of his merit thought all of this of me, little Linda McComb (Hundt.)
His years of teaching me and his few sentences literally changed my way of thinking, instead of reading and dreaming of all the other worlds, I knew that I had what it takes to create my own. And, I did, in retrospect, exactly what he taught me to. I dreamed, I created, I used my passion and gifts and I worked hard, very hard, to create the life I want and the world I want to live in, to share with my family and friends and now my customers.
I have a guest book at my shop that customers write in, expressing their feelings for the shop, email addresses etc. People are so gracious, and have written such lovely things about their experience at my bakery-café, Sweetie-licious, and I appreciate each and every comment. However, never was I more pleased when Mr. Spag wrote a few sentences down in my little red book despite his ailing hands. When I read what he wrote, it brought tears to my eyes.
Some people dream. Some make theirs come true. Hugh Spagnuolo I promise you, if I had not been blessed to have you as my English teacher all those years ago, I would not be everything I am today nor, everything I will be tomorrow.
Eat pie, inspire others… xo Linda
My grandmother was the head cook for Buckhannon Upshur High School in Buckhannon, West Virginia for close to twenty years. Grandma might as well have been the head chef at the Waldorf Astoria for all the pride and joy she felt for her job. She was respected by her peers and students alike, was a talented cook and menu planner, and absolutely loved making the student body and staff joyfully comforted with her delicious dishes!
Hundreds lined up for her legendary homemade goulash, crispy, fried chicken, and her sweet cinnamon apple crisp (my favorite.) She especially looked forward to the fall, making vats of juicy steaks and barbeque meat loaf for the football boys, well into the evening! Grandma loved making people feel loved through her old fashioned, good cookin'…
Ellouise Hill Ferrell clearly changed the world one pie at a time! xoxolinda
I am completely convinced that our Michigan summers are the best summers anywhere. They are generally not too humid, not too cold with a just the right amount of sunshine to make picnics, days at the beach and backyard barbeques perfect past times.
My childhood family picnics are some of my most treasured summer memories. It seemed like back then more people went on picnics. There were church picnics, company picnics, end of school picnics, reunion picnics and family picnics. I remember my mother packed a lovely spread on Saturday night, and we would go on a Sunday drive to an area park, mostly Potter Park to enjoy our family dinner in a new, exciting venue! She usually had fried chicken, potato salad, carrot & celery sticks, deviled eggs, cut melon, cold pork and beans out of a can (not a favorite) and a yummy dessert. Sometimes my mommy would pack a pie, but usually a brownie or a bar of some sort.
I remember when it rained on family vacations; we would have our picnics inside the old woody station wagon. This was always a little chaotic with eight people; my parents, six kids (we always took our best friend, Sheila,) a dog, and lots of luggage crammed in the hot, non-air conditioned family vehicle. My mother had little baskets, which I loved, with our name written on a napkin tucked in each lunch basket. She made each one identically the same, so there were no arguments, from her front seat, make-shift kitchen. I remember each of us wanting our lunch basket first, for it took some time to get through eight lunches, and certainly the last one fed could easily get short changed an apple slice or potato chip! For the most part, the lunches were a little plain in fare, but clearly the highlight of the long, hot ten-hour car ride. The menu usually consisted of a cut-up apple quarter, celery stalks with peanut butter, a lettuce wedge for thirst and a few random potato chips. Sometimes, when we were well behaved, my daddy would splurge and buy us all Planter’s peanut candy bars when we stopped to fill the gas tank up. What a treat!
“You don't have to go on a journey, You really need not travel far, You can have a delightful vacation at home or wherever you are!” -- Mrs. Roy Peifer
I am not sure why picnics have fallen out of favor, but I implore we bring them back.Why not take your loved ones to a nearby park or beach with a basket full of yummy food that they don’t ordinarily eat. When my family goes on Sunday beach picnics, I often take various artisan cheeses, breads, crackers, special fruits, olives, cut veggies with dips and dessert of course! I also love to pack special novelty ice cold drinks. It makes the picnic so special. They love the unconventional delicious lunch! It’s always about the food, you know. :) And there is nothing, nothing like Lake Michigan for the perfect picnic venue! To make your picnic extra special, remember to bring along a pie, if not your own, then of course, an award winning, Sweetie-licious pie!
I am enclosing a wonderful blonde brownie recipe that Mom Hundt still makes on Sundays and very similar to the one Mom McComb used to pack on those wonderful Sunday picnics.
Eat pie, picnic, and love life! -- xoxxo Linda
Mom Hundt’s and Mom McComb’s Blondie Brownies
- 1¼ C. flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ C. chopped fine pecans or walnuts
- 1/4 C. chocolate chips
- 1/4 C. butterscotch chips
Combine in bowl
- 1/2 C. melted butter
- 1 C. brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1½ tsp. vanilla
Cream together. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Spread into one nine inch buttered pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes to 30 minutes. Cut in pie wedges.
As a kid, I loved summer meals, and still do. I love their flavorful charm and appreciate their effortless preparation. I believe that the simple, comfortable meals of the summer and every season will always be our favorites.
Both of my parents grew up on farms, so for sentimental reasons, we always had a small garden patch to enjoy in the summer. We only grew a few vegetables, as space was limited, but green onions, green beans and various tomato plants were in abundance. As small as the garden was, it certainly was prolific, flourishing in its southern exposure and bordered by my Daddy’s sunny marigolds. Come August, the tomatoes seemed magical, as there were always several Big Boy reds ready to be picked each and every hot, summer day.
Given our own garden and Daddy’s bi-weekly visits to the farm market, there was never, ever a dinner set in the summer without a large plate of fresh summer vegetables. Usually, my Mommy always set a platter of tomatoes, radishes, and green onions, a yellow Pyrex bowl filled with cucumbers/onions and vinegar, a steaming pot of boiled fresh, sweet corn, a bowl of sweet, sliced peaches, big glasses of iced sun tea and a basket filled with homemade cornbread and honey.
Yet, as much as I loved these dinners, summer lunches were, and still are my favorite! To this day, there is nothing like a freshly picked tomato sandwich. Unlike the repetitious nature of making the classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the fresh, summer tomato sandwich’s creation had some adventure. Hurrying to the garden and picking a beautiful ripe red wonder, warm from the garden sun, was clearly fun and different. White Wonder bread was a must, spread with a thin layer of Miracle Whip salad dressing, topped with a layer of delicious, fresh tomatoes sprinkled with plenty of salt and pepper. That is it… simple perfection.
“It is difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home-grown tomato.” -- Lewis Grizzard
Every time I take a bite of fresh corn on the cob, or a fresh tomato sandwich, it takes me back to a 1970s summer day, eating this delightful summer food, waiting for it to get dark to catch fireflies.
Eat summer veggies, love life! xoxxolinda