Thursday, April 20, 2017


Kathy & Mary with Toni, 2015
In October 2015, my P.E.O. sister Mary gave me her mid-century 14-inch Toni doll (Ideal P-90). These dolls were named for the “Toni Home Permanent” and came with a “permanent solution” so that little girls could perm the doll’s hair. Unfortunately, the solution was sugar water, with the result that we find surviving Toni dolls today with ruined hair. Mary's Toni suffered the same plight. Mary said her mother was so mad at her for perming Toni's hair, but I say the manufacturer set her up. Mary loved the doll, a special Christmas gift from her parents when she was ten, but today her daughters and granddaughters couldn’t see beyond the matted hair. So, that’s why her Toni came to live at my house. When she gave me the doll, Mary commented that she was anxious to see what I would do with her.

Well, initially I restrung the doll (tough work and she’s still loosey-goosey) and bought her a new wig. The wig made her beautiful again, but at that I got stopped – until recently when I decided I wanted the doll to have a “party dress” and attend our Chapter BL P.E.O. 50th birthday party. 

The great thing about the Toni doll is that she was popular in her day and many patterns to sew for her were published. Now in the public domain, those patterns are still available today from private collectors in various formats. Thinking to maximize options, I bought a CD collection of various patterns from which I selected and printed a dress from vintage Butterick pattern 7973. Somehow I had vague misgivings which I didn’t confront. 

Chris made the same basic dress for Betsy
Through discussion with my friend Chris, who is sewing for her 14-inch Betsy McCall, I was reminded to check my fat quarter collection where I found a reproduction “feed sack” print with balloons. I deemed it perfect and set out to make the dress.

Cut, cut, stitch, stitch, gather, gather, baste. Several days went by when I didn’t sew for whatever reason. On Monday, the day before the party, I vowed that I would finish that little dress. Then the time came for a fitting.

Oh no! The dress was too big for Toni – falling off her shoulders. “Take it easy,” I said to myself; “don’t throw anything.” Mike was napping on the sofa in my sewing studio, so I quietly turned off the sewing machine, the iron, and the light, and left the room. Keeping calm, I soon realized what had happened. The patterns on CD were copied unprofessionally and did not provide a scale on the page. And that was the vague question in my mind as I printed the pattern: was the scale correct?

Kathy & Toni head to the party
But – still thinking calmly, I realized all was not lost. The skirt was fine, and I still had enough fabric to re-cut the bodice. This time I used an updated pattern from the same envelope (Butterick 7973) available through a doll clothes designer I follow (here). I was still sewing away Tuesday morning (the day of the birthday luncheon), but I finished the dress. Toni and I were only a little late to the party. 

Mary was delighted to see her doll in a new dress. My plan had been to also make panties and slip, but that didn’t happen in time for the party. No one noticed – or if they did, they politely didn’t say. KW

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The town house -- Mike has done a lot of weeding, including pulling out some sagebrush.

Mike and I are shopping local nurseries in order to augment our drought-tolerant plantings, both here and at the farm. Perennials are always expensive, and while we say we don’t mind, there’s a certain element of sticker shock when we do the math. As we looked over the available offerings, a fellow shopper commented, “It’s too early!” We agreed and left without buying. Morning temps are still on the chilly side. I would not say that "all danger of frost is past."

After walking the dogs on a recent afternoon, I settled down to take a few stitches in my sewing room but could not shake the feeling that something was crawling on my neck. Later – to my horror – I discovered a tick crawling on my arm. Grasping the loathsome little critter between my thumb and forefinger, I disposed of it at the kitchen sink.

Fast forward to the evening hours, and Mike removed a tick from his abdomen. He said he had felt something crawling on his neck but couldn’t find it until it was on his stomach. Unfortunately, he was a bit offhand about it, not quite realizing what he had, and the pesky thing was dropped. I have no idea where in my house – or on one of us – the pesky little nuisance is lurking.

Two ticks discovered in one day! It seems early, but apparently it isn’t. I vowed to stop walking on the grass, but of course, the dogs are undoubtedly the culprits. Sure enough! I removed two ticks from behind Bess’ ears and one from Nellie’s chest. Time to get the tick repellent going. Bess gets oral medication which will about last the season. We use a topical product on Nellie. And -- I might check into a repellent for myself.

Our house is in the center of the photo -- shop/garage has green roof.
Some of you have asked about the construction project in the field above our house. The work is progressing slowly, and in conversation with the new owner, apparently he had thought he would build his house on the back of the lot (away from the street) but ran into sand and had to change his plans. His says the building process will be slow.  KW

Saturday, April 15, 2017


 The images here are scans of post cards that my dad received in childhood -- let's say between 1910 and 1915. Of course, the bunny / chicky thing has been associated with Easter "forever," but today I was surprised to see images of colored eggs from a century ago. I don't recall that either of my parents mentioned coloring Easter eggs as children.

"Hope you had lots of eggs for Easter."
Certainly as I grew up, we did color Easter eggs. The dye came in kits which included six color pellets, I think, and also some transfers and paper holders, etc. Mother would protect the table with old towels and then set out six mugs from her Fiestaware. I remember trying to match the mugs to the color of the dye. Once the pellet was in the mug, half a cup of boiling water was added. At this point, it was important to dissolve that pellet so that your eggs dyed evenly. Mother insisted this phase be done correctly -- stir, stir, stir. Lastly, a tablespoon of vinegar was added to each cup.

"Hope the kids didn't steal your eggs."
Of course, the eggs -- two or three dozen -- would have been boiled in advance of the dying party. Most of my eggs were "plain janes" -- dye one egg and move to the next. I simply wasn't imaginative in my approach. Mother and my sister Nina would do fancier things. 

By the time my children came along, the process of dying eggs had somehow lost its luster, and I don't remember that they thought it was fun. 

Today, I am happily free of the eggs and the dye. I made hot cross buns instead. But -- I still remember that once upon a time it was fun to dye eggs on the Saturday afternoon before Easter. KW

[The messages on the back of the postcards seem to indicate that the children on the farm enjoyed a lively Easter game of finding hidden eggs -- and also stealing them from others.]

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


The wind blew the large maple branch from the yard into the driveway.

We had a 9:00 a.m. appointment with the plumber at the farmhouse, so we wanted to be on the road by 7:00. While I love to get up in the morning, I don't bustle around well for a couple of hours, so I had things ready to load the night before.

And Mike was ready, too, having hitched the trailer to the pick-up. Last trip we brought the 4-wheeler to town. This trip we pulled the Cub Cadet riding mower (new last year) back to the farm. Long story short, the Cub Cadet was recalled, and the local contractor was slow in getting it from the farm and even slower returning it. So, Mike decided to trailer it back himself.

Lid -- somewhere out there
It was a dark, dreary, rainy day as we drove out Webb Ridge to Hwy 95. We knew that snow was predicted in the upper country, and sure enough – as we climbed higher the rain looked thicker and thicker until finally it was snow. Russell Ridge Road was snow floor. We used 4-wheel drive over that last mile into the farm.

The wind tore the second story door off its hinges.
We immediately noticed the effects of the regional windstorm that hit last Friday – the same one that blew Mike off his bicycle. The wicker rocking chair was upside down in the yard, now covered with wet snow. And that big branch that snapped off the maple tree during the winter had blown into the driveway, even though I personally was incapable of moving it an inch. Sections of the old compost bin had blown into the north field. I managed to rescue the top which I wanted to use as my town bin, but the lid is missing. I can just see it soaring through the air, landing in a spot where I may never find it.

Our plumber is a friendly, outgoing guy out of Orofino, but we can count on him to get lost every time he comes. Thank goodness for cellphones! He was only a little late. He quickly determined the problem area and set to work to remove a section of drywall from the kitchen ceiling.

A snowy morning
A better afternoon
The noise of the high-pitched saw was making the dogs nervous, so when I suggested a walk, they didn't need a second invitation. We walked down the lane and up Plank’s Pitch to the driveway of our nearest neighbor and then back. The snow was melting and it was sprinkling rain. I didn’t take the camera, and I didn't see any interesting blooms. The dogs were wet and dirty when we returned, and my feet were soaked.

Now we need a drywaller.
While we were gone -- about half an hour -- the plumber re-soldered a tee under the master lavatory, the source of the leak. He also fixed a troublesome trap leak on the pedestal lavatory in the main bathroom upstairs, and then he and Mike had a long conversation about winterization techniques which resulted in his adding a ball valve to the hot water tank. He was gone by 11:30.

After lunch, I did some housework and then joined Mike outside where he was cutting up the downed maple branches. He hauled smaller pieces to the burn pile at the pond and cut larger pieces for firewood, which we subsequently loaded on the trailer and brought back to town to augment next year’s supply. It wasn't much -- just two wheelbarrows full -- but it's always satisfying to use what comes our way.

Another storm in the distance
We had planned to plant some trees – you know, the kind you get from Arbor Day with your donation, about two in 25 of which will survive – but I said no. It’s still too cold – too much danger of frost – and besides, it was getting late, we were tired, and a storm loomed on the horizon. Those trees may not live to be planted, and if they don’t, we’ll get something else.

Arriving back in Clarkston, the sun was shining with no hint that the day had started so drearily. But -- it was 32 when we got up this morning, and while it's warming quickly, more rain is predicted. KW

Saturday, April 8, 2017


Yesterday morning, as Mike was getting the dogs up, he called me to see the rainbow, the “old-fashioned” kind that actually arched the sky. I spent several minutes taking pictures before it began to rain.

Weatherwise, it was one of those spring days we so often see in March – periods of sun and clouds, rain and sun, and WIND. Big gusts of wind seemed to hit here and there from out of nowhere. In fact, Mike reported that during his afternoon bicycle ride he was broadsided by a blast of wind that blew him right over. I tell him he needs to put a little weight, but it’s no laughing matter. With his feet clipped into the pedals, he went over, bike and all. And while he had no scratches and bruises and was otherwise unscathed, he probably tweaked his back.
And today hasn’t been a lot better. In fact, just before noon I heard a distant “bang,” and then we were without electricity for several hours. My machine was embroidering at the time, and I worried that it might have sustained damage, but apparently it’s all right. It’s chugging away again.

The weekend promises to be quiet – and wet. Monday we’ll meet the plumber at the farmhouse to tackle our plumbing woes. I see serious housecleaning in my future upon completion of that work. That’s not a bad thing. I’d just rather do something else . . .

. . . like make doll clothes. This Easter outfit, modeled here by “Shirley Anne, American Farm Girl,” has now shipped to a little girl from “Great-Great-Auntie’s Scrap Bin.” The pattern is a favorite of mine from “Jelly Bean Soup Designs” through Pixie Faire. The fabric was left over from a pillowcase I made years ago. Underpants were essential for modesty. The shoes are a machine embroidery design with antique buttons from my mother’s button box. What? No Easter bonnet? Not this year. The bonnet, also machine embroidery, came to naught, but I’ll try again – and soon. 

Chris, my almost lifelong friend, and I have recently enjoyed renewing our childhood interest in dolls and sharing notes and tips on dolls and doll clothes. See her collection here. The collaboration is wonderful because it’s the sharing of ideas and within that, we each do our own thing. KW