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How Sugar Cookies May Be the Key to Fewer Divorces

I vividly remember the first time I drove to the rural town of New Plymouth, Idaho. My husband, Ross, had touted the “fun” of irrigating corn fields and I was intrigued, deciding to spend the day learning this farming rite of passage. As I took the exit, there was no traffic. And what I really mean is that there were no cars. Anywhere.

As a fascinating side note, the city describes itself, via a large sign, as having the “World’s Largest Horseshoe.” Don’t get too excited though (I may or may not have gotten too excited). I learned that the horseshoe is actually the shape of the town itself. Somewhat disappointed, I started to doubt the claim of “World’s Largest” but I couldn’t think of one bigger so I moved on.

As I drove towards his family’s home, I saw fields for miles. Everything was green with shallow rolling hills of wheat, corn, and alfalfa (I can say that now but then, I had no idea what was growing other than “green/tall/weedy-looking stuff”). The houses were simple; the parked cars were trucks and/or farm equipment. There weren’t any stoplights. And I loved it. New Plymouth felt like home and, fast forward about six years, that is exactly what it would become. Yes, my home is the World’s Largest Horseshoe and don’t you question it.

I cherish stories about the County history. My mother-in-law, Kay, having been born and raised in Payette (New Plymouth’s neighbor to the North), indulged me in these history lessons. She even gifted me a new (old) cookbook sold by Maudie’s Café, a small, family-owned and -operated restaurant loved by locals since the 1950s. Immediately, I loved the cookbook and its title, Any Bride Can Cook. The recipes are simple, made using common household ingredients with clear, concise instructions. Even the cookbook itself is small, a 5×7 notepad really; easy to throw in your purse and take to the store on a shopping trip.

I wanted to learn more about Maudie Owens, this sweetheart of Payette, whose patrons left happy, full, and always coming back for more. My quest led me to Kathy Dodson, Maudie’s granddaughter who, fortuitously, just happened to have opened a new bar in Payette. My immediate impression of Kathy was that she was kind, helpful, and passionate about her family’s history and deep connection to Payette County.

We met in her bar, Thurstons, an old gas station that has been converted into a cozy three-room bar with a spacious patio out front. Kathy was easy to talk to and enjoyed reminiscing about her childhood. The first surprise was learning that Maudie was not the only cook and, in fact, rarely cooked at the restaurant. She did, however, always cook at home. Maudie’s husband, Bert, was the cook at Maudie’s and rarely cooked at home; an arrangement that worked perfectly for them.

Bert’s story is fascinating. With no formal training, he started managing a small lunch and pool hall in Weiser (Idaho) when he was 19. It was there that he realized his natural gift for cooking, even if it was just burgers. Bert would later volunteer to serve in the Army during World War II and, while stationed near Spokane (WA), he threw tea parties for the General’s wife. In the 1930’s, he met Maudie and two ventured into the world of restaurants, first opening The Owens Café in Ontario (Oregon) and later Maudie’s Café on Main Street in Payette.

Maudie’s Café immediately developed a loyal local following. That following expanded when Robert Fulghum wrote his #1 New York Times bestselling book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things (2004). He chronicled his experience at Maudie’s and how the Chicken Fried Steak was, not only worth “five stars and a bouquet,” but how it single-handedly seemed to restore his faith in humanity.

Fulghum wrote, “I get tired of hearing it’s a crummy world and that people are no damned good. What kind of talk is that? I know a place in Payette, Idaho, where a cook and a waitress and a manager put everything they’ve got into laying a chickenfried steak on you.” That was Bert and Maudie. And that was the epitome of Maudie’s Café. Sadly, Maudie’s closed its doors long before I came to the community but, lucky for me (and you), the recipes live on.

I decided to try out Maudie’s recipe for sugar cookies. I noticed that there were two recipes: Sugar Cookies and Maudie’s Sugar Cookies. When I asked Kathy about it, she said that she was sure Bert and Maudie could not agree on which one was better so they put both in the book, although it isn’t clear whose recipe belongs to whom. It’s not clear if Maudie’s refers to Maudie (herself) or to the Café, where Bert did all of the cooking. I love that the mystery of the better recipe author remains forever unknown.


Maudie’s Sugar Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 ½ teaspoons Clabber Girl baking powder
3 ½ cups sifted flour
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons milk

Cream shortening, sugar and ½ cup of the flour together; add beaten eggs, flavor, salt, nutmeg and lemon rind. Mix thoroughly. Add milk, mix. Sift in rest of the flour and baking powder together, mix until well blended. Roll out on a floured board ¼ inch thick, sprinkle with sugar and cut with round cooky cutter. Place 1 inch apart on a cooky sheet. Bake in hot oven 400 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Makes 3 dozen, 3 inch cookies.


The sign of a good sugar cookie is that it doesn’t need anything else. No frosting. No icing. No required milk for dunking. I found that in this recipe. The lemon is bright against the sweetness of the sugary crunch from the cookie. The texture is soft and chewy. Maudie’s recipe is easy-to-follow, made with simple ingredients, and has, undoubtedly, withstood the test of time.

In the cookbook’s Preface, Maudie writes, “If all brides were good cooks, I am sure there would be fewer divorces.” Surely, like a good chicken-fried steak, this sugar cookie recipe will make the man in your life very happy. I know it makes Ross happy when he returns from irrigating corn and it makes me happy because I get to be inside cooking and not out irrigating corn. Thanks for the recipe, Maudie. Or should I say Bert?




Credits: New Plymouth Sign courtesy of

All other vintage Maudie’s photos courtesy of Kathy Dodson. Visit her at Thurston’s (Payette).  (

A special thank you is owed to Kathy for spending time sitting down with me discussing her family history and sharing old photos. Thanks, Kathy, for all you do.


  • Teri - Very good story. Loved reading the history behind the cooking. I make a great, tried and true sugar cookie also. My chicken fried steak needs work though.ReplyCancel

As summer quickly approaches, and wedding season is upon us, a large group of women will expand their titles to assume the role of ‘wife.’ While there are a million books and guides on wedding planning, wedding etiquette, wedding flowers, wedding gowns, wedding vows (…you get the picture), there is very little on what to do the next morning after the wedding. Okay, you’re a wife. Congratulations. Now what?

It was this thinking that got me started in collecting vintage housewife books. I knew that there once was a time when being a wife was an art form. It was a respected and coveted title. And women got together and talked about how to be better wives; they shared recipes, household tips, and, undoubtedly, gossip. Some women had careers as well and they would talk about how to best balance everything. Many books were written during this time and one in particular, Wife Dressing, is a favorite.

In 1959, American Fashion Designer Anne Fogarty published Wife Dressing, a brutally honest look at what it meant to dress the part of a wife in an era where the husband paid the bills and ruled the roost (for the most part). I love the notion that wives should consider their husbands when deciding how they present to the world. Call it old-fashioned but, if you believe Anne (as I do), “The wife plays an increasingly important role in the advancement of her husband…you are an appendage of your husband.”

Remember that Anne Fogarty, all while enlightening wives with this information, was a successful career woman and fashion designer with a famous eighteen-inch waist (it pains me to think about how tight her belts must have been). Her role as a wife (which she would be three-times over in her life) was simply a piece in the puzzle of who she was. She was not limited to one definition; however, she saw the role of wife as important and well-deserving of extra attention. In fact, she considered herself a wife first and foremost; a fact that would influence her fashion philosophy.

Anne was practical, encouraging women to dress for their body and not the one of the model in a magazine. She advised women to play up their assets and learn how to camouflage weaknesses. And she’s blunt: “If you’re very thin, don’t think a loose belt is going to make you look fuller. You’ll only look like a potato sack.” I mean… I kind of wish she was my best friend.

Per Anne (which I like to say as if she and I are great friends), in fashion, fit is everything and it is to be worn with confidence, good posture, and adorned with a happy husband. Anne suggests that, “When your husband’s eyes light up as he comes in at night, you’re in sad shape if it’s only because he smells dinner cooking.”

The idea of Wife Dressing is that you learn what looks best on you, what makes you feel good, and demands that you consider the man who will look at it most often. Anne opens Chapter One of Wife Dressing with the following:

Wife-dressing is many things:

An art.

A science.

A labor of love.

A means of self-expression.

And, above all, a contributing factor to a happy marriage.

Anne says that we should Dress for Everything and see clothes as an adornment and not a mere covering. We can do that today with the ability to order online and find the perfect wardrobe addition (or substitution). Wife dressing is not about spending money. It’s about being selective, honest (with yourself), and having discipline about who you are. And it’s about keeping your husband in mind when you shop.

The criticism, of course, is that a woman should not dress for “a man” but for herself. She should not allow being “a wife” to define her. We are told that being independent and shunning our married label is empowering and will result in greater gender equality.

What??? Frankly, I believe that it has the opposite effect. Am I less of a woman because I feel empowered in my role as a wife? Because I choose to take my husband into consideration when deciding what to wear, am I damaging my gender? This criticism is, in my mind, misguided. It takes away a woman’s power to outwardly express pride in her role as a wife, a role that has been chosen and freely entered into (assuming it has and is not the result of a forced marriage but is a chosen, happy, and healthy marriage). If being a wife- and considering my husband in my decision-making- makes me feel empowered, feminine, and content, what is there to criticize?

It is a notion like this that inspired my blog in the first place. There are attitudes about femininity being bad and that women must shed their gender identity to be truly happy and equal. I simply disagree. I encourage women who enjoy being women to embrace it and never apologize. We are all free to choose to be empowered or constrained. Choose to be empowered.

And if being a wife empowers you, welcome to the club! Let’s make it okay to unapologetically talk about it again. Let’s take pride in our identity as wives and genuinely embrace that title as a strength. I know that I’m back on my ‘Reagan Love’ soapbox again but it’s one of the few soapboxes I have.

My husband and I are a team. He is not just a man. He is my man, my husband; the person I love most in the world and whom I have chosen to make happy. I want him to look forward to coming home and I want to constantly show him that he is a priority; that he is wanted, loved, and appreciated.

So, I make him breakfast every morning, stock up on his favorite coffee when it’s in season (Guatemalan Casi Cielo from Starbucks, offered in January/February, in case you were wondering), and I take ten minutes before he gets home from work to change into an outfit he loves and that makes me feel good. I put on a little blush and mascara, wipe down the kitchen counters with a good-smelling cleaner (right now it’s Mrs. Meyers lilac scent…amazing!), and get my mind right.

For me, that’s often praying about how thankful I am to have such a remarkable man coming home to me. After all, I never want to greet him with a complaint about my day or instantly assign him a chore because he needs to fix something that broke, etc. All of that can wait. It’s important to have that moment where he can leave the day outside and be sweetly welcomed home and into the arms of his loving wife (who looks super cute… at least that’s how I’m picturing this scene in my mind).

And remember, as human beings, we are imperfect (myself included). There are times when Ross comes home and I’m looking a hot mess, scrubbing the bathroom toilets, clearly not planning well for his arrival. But most days, I try hard and I know that he appreciates it. Why not consider doing the same?

Anne says:

Wife-dressing begins with the traditional rings for your third finger, left hand. From that point on, it’s up to you to interpret your changed role in society. The clothes you choose and the way you choose to wear them will state very clearly your outlook on life in general and your attitude toward life as a wife in particular.

So what are you telling the world? More importantly, what are you telling your husband? To all brides (old and new), welcome to the art of wife-dressing. Now put on some lipstick, pull yourself together, and get out of that potato sack. Unless you’re Marilyn Monroe. That girl wore the hell out of a potato sack…



Credits: Vintage Wedding Advertisement courtesy of Pinterest.

Wife Dressing Book Cover courtesy of Pinterest.

Designer Anne Fogarty in her studio courtesy of

Anne Fogarty Advertisement courtesy of

Vintage Women Shopping courtesy of Life Magazine.

Husband & Wife courtesy of Getty Images via Pinterest.

Marilyn Hare on Box via

Susan Hayward courtesy of Pinterest.

Coming Home courtesy of Pinterest.

Marilyn Monroe Potato Sack Dress courtesy of Pinterest.



This story, republished from The Washington Post‘s ‘Miss Manners,’ is making national headlines as a hotly-debated etiquette issue. What are your thoughts? What would you do/have done if it was your daughter?

Miss Manners: Apologize for daughter’s absence at her graduation party

May 29
Dear Miss Manners: For our daughter’s graduation from high school, we planned a small party for her with immediate family and a few neighbors and close friends.My daughter does not like parties, so we asked her the week before to please let us know if she was feeling uncomfortable and we would call it all off, no problem. She said she would be okay with it, and we told her she could just come for a bit to say hi and thank her guests.Day of the party, she leaves the house and doesn’t show up at all, texting her dad that she wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t up to a party.

So now we have 30 people we are apologizing to and feeling extremely embarrassed by her rude behavior. People graciously left monetary gifts, which my daughter didn’t bother to open. On top of it all, her grandparents flew in from out of town, and she was extremely rude to them and didn’t spend any time talking or thanking them for coming.

So what do we do with the gifts? Do we send back the checks and cash and thank everyone? Do we keep them and not give them to my daughter directly? Maybe use them for her college expenses?

I feel bad keeping them, but I am not sure if it is just as rude to mail them back. Whatever we do, she will not send thank-you notes, either. I will have to do that.

It seems to Miss Manners that this is the least of your problems, considering that you have a thoroughly rude and callous daughter.

Ordinarily, it is insulting to return presents, but your guests have already been insulted, and are due abject apologies on your daughter’s behalf, if you must write them. You can return the money with the explanation that as your daughter did not participate in the celebration, you are refusing to let her keep any of it.

Miss Manners does not consider you to be free of responsibility for this fiasco. Leaving aside your duty to teach your daughter manners and consideration for others, there is the question of why you even considered giving a party for someone who hates parties and your willingness to allow guests to make plans that you offered to cancel a week before.

Here is the link to the full article and comments from The Washington Post:


So… what would you do?


Credits:The Washington Post Logo via The Washington PostVolunteers of America (1925) Photo courtesy of

Since my last post, Ross became a politician, running for office due to unplanned necessity. Thus, I became a politician’s wife (which I immediately embraced due to my recent purchase of a ‘Jackie O-inspired’ dress). Ross and I have always shared a love of history, especially the American Presidency; my love for first ladies and his penchant for reading Presidential biographies has always been a perfect fit. Plus, we’d been watching a lot of House of Cards so we felt ready to take on this new adventure.

We quickly discovered the unpleasant truth of the famous Winston Churchill quote, “…It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made to spread as easily and as rapidly as folly.”  We experienced plenty of folly. Apparently, House of Cards had not fully prepared us. Our response to personal attacks was, very simply, to not respond and to find humor in the absurdity.

On Election Day, I wandered into the local library in Idaho City. The library has a small (but well stocked) book store and I ran across a book that I had heard of but never read. The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang is a 1937 classic. It is a philosophy book about mindfulness (before it was referred to as ‘mindfulness’). I bought this book, as it fit in perfectly with my vintage collection and I was interested in reading it.

As I opened the book, there was a yellow piece of paper functioning as a bookmark between pages 78 and 79. The section was On Being Human and the subsection was entitled On the Sense of Humor. It read:

On the other hand, the tremendous importance of humor in politics can be realized only when we picture for ourselves… a world of joking rulers. Send, for instance, five or six of the world’s best humorists to an international conference, and give them the plenipotentiary powers of autocrats, and the world will be saved. As humor necessarily goes with good sense and the reasonable spirit, plus some exceptionally subtle powers of the mind in detecting inconsistencies and follies and bad logic, and as this is the highest form of human intelligence, we may be sure that each nation will thus be represented at the conference by its sanest and soundest of mind.

Imagine, finding this book on Election Day with this page specifically marked! I felt that it was a gift from whoever had it before, perfectly placed in my hands on the day I needed it most. I have often felt this with the Bible and now, with a vintage book. God surely provides.

So it was okay to find humor. It was okay to laugh. It is okay to laugh. It goes with good sense and reasonable spirit. And I agree with this characterization. Think about it…when an idea or assumption is overstated, it only shows the speaker/writer is seriously belaboring it and being belabored by it. They are making the idea or assumption more complex and forcing it onto others. With a simple truth, it is straight-forward, easy, and clear.

As Yutang writes, “The humorist, on the other hand, indulges in flashes of common sense or wit, which show up the contradictions of our ideas with reality with lightning speed, thus greatly simplifying matters.” A sense of humor nourishes simplicity of thought.

So politics are a perfect place for humorists; people who can laugh at themselves and the world around them. People who do not take themselves too seriously because they readily perceive imperfection and are reasonable with expectations, accepting that we are all humorously flawed. Politics are best for people who are clear in thought, in common sense, and in conversation. Apparently, politics suit Ross.

While this idea of humor as it relates to intelligence was highlighted during the campaign, it is an important concept for everyday life. Laughter is healthy; it relaxes the body and boosts your immune system. Laughter releases endorphins, decreases stress, and can be a killer ab workout (in case you can’t make it to the gym… again).

Having a sense of humor indicates good sense and reasonable spirit. It keeps us from taking ourselves and the world around us too seriously. So watch Seinfeld, read Jim Gaffigan’s book on Food, and laugh at yourself. With summer approaching, I’m finding that trying on swimsuits greatly increases my ability to laugh at myself … but at least I’m finally getting my workout in.

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week, Baseball, and Emily Post

Ross loves baseball. Correction. Ross loves Houston Astros baseball and has since he was a kid. This should tell you a few things about Ross. One, he is loyal. Two, he can persevere through hard times; at least seven years’ worth of losing seasons (most recently, until last year). And third, if you ever need to get him a gift, anything Houston Astros is a safe bet. I knew this going into our marriage and, in fact, stated in our wedding vows that I would support the Astros. So, when we had the opportunity to go to New York to watch the Astros play the Yankees on Opening Day, we jumped on it.


I remembered that one of my favorite teachers (ever), Ms. Merlo, lived in New York and rented her apartment on Airbnb. We reconnected years ago on Facebook and I enjoyed watching her updates about attending foreign film festivals and seeing beautiful photos of her in colored scarves with wind-blown hair. As my high school English teacher, I remembered her well. She was bright-eyed, bubbly, and I looked forward to seeing her every day. She taught me how to memorize Shakespeare, find emotion in song lyrics, and the importance of keeping a journal.

Imagine my excitement when Ms. Merlo offered for us to stay with her. Reunited after, what we would later realize, was twenty years, it was like no time had passed. She greeted us warmly and welcomed us into her home. She lives in the Bronx surrounded by Italian restaurants and bargain clothing shops. From the moment we walked into her home, there was ease. I could never tell if it was her presence or the feel of the apartment.

In my go to, Etiquette, by the great Emily Post, she says:

In houses where visitors like to go again and again there is always a happy combination of some attention on the part of the host and hostess, and the perfect freedom of the guests to occupy their time as they choose. In other words, while we of the modern day like to have some attention paid to us at least now and then, the majority of us- at least those on the far side of our teens- would rather go to stay with one who lets us quite alone than ever again go stay with one who is over-energetic.

The apartment fit her. It was eclectic, adorned with handmade crafts and family heirlooms, lots of books arranged by color (which made my OCD heart sing), and it was low maintenance (in the best of ways). I continually asked her where she kept “all her stuff.” She would laugh and ask me if I was a hoarder. It was eye-opening to me how much we keep in our home. We have room and a garage and a shed and a car to transport it all around. In a small New York apartment, you only have room for what you can use. And you have to schlep new purchases all over town and across trains and subways to get it home. There is no such thing as a Target or Costco run.

I was amazed, though, at how living so minimally could still result in having everything that you need. She didn’t have the perfect set of twelve dinner plates. She had five mismatched plates that would be washed and reused. We drank out of Christmas mugs. She had fresh fruit and cheese in the fridge; food that you buy and eat. Not food that sits around and gets thrown out weeks later. And she had everything; it was just smaller or less in number than I have known to be ‘necessary.’ It really changed my perspective on the necessity of having ‘stuff.’

Ms. Merlo is much more about experiences, travel, and relationships. That is her ‘stuff’ and she keeps it in her grateful heart and remarkable memory. It flows through her veins and sparkles in her eyes and smile.
The best thing about staying with Ms. Merlo (whom I could not call by her first name for the life of me) was our conversations. We would sit at her dining room table and tell stories about the last twenty years, learning more about one another, reliving old memories, and constantly laughing so hard, we’d cry.

It was a powerful experience to know someone as a teenager and then reconnect with them years later as an adult. Would we get along? Would we have anything in common? I wondered how much she’s changed. Or maybe how much I changed. But it was like no time had passed and we reconnected like the old friends we were, except on a deeper, more soulful level.

Ms. Merlo was the perfect balance of what Emily Post suggested. Ross and I were independent and came and went as we pleased. We also stayed in and spent time with Ms. Merlo; not because of any obligation but because we both enjoyed her company and the engaging conversations that resulted. She selflessly told us to help ourselves to anything of hers. She had coffee (even though she doesn’t drink it) and didn’t mind the bacon I put in the fridge (she’s a vegetarian). We felt right at home due to her hospitality and warmth. By the time we left, I realized that she continues to impact my life in a positive way and that she’s more like family than just being a teacher I once had long ago.

So, how do you honor someone who helped to develop you into the person you are today? How do you ever give enough thanks to an amazing host? How do you tell your favorite English teacher that she’s someone you love and that you’re praying every day for her happiness and success because she is truly, truly deserving of it? For me, the answer is the one way, which she directly influenced… in truth, in words, and in a (very public) journal.

  • Christina - This is wonderful! Finding the beauty in simplicity, words, and Ms. Merlo. A sweet tribute, and so rare that you’ve stayed in touch. Please give her my best the next time you chat. <3ReplyCancel

    • Stacy Pittman - Will do. As an FYI, she’s on social media and I know she’d love to reconnect with you as well!ReplyCancel

  • Teri - It is nice to be able to appreciate a simpler lifestyle filled with mostly necessities and a few special keepsakes. So when are you going to get your Barbies, My Pretty Ponies, Carebears, Rainbow Brite set, high school papers, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, trophies, Charmkins, yearbooks and board games out of my attic? J/K.ReplyCancel

  • Tyson - What a beautiful post. I feel like got to share the experience with you.ReplyCancel