Saturday, December 20, 2014


Ina's home, 1910

Sunday, Dec. 20, 1896 – on this date at Gilbert:
Sunshine today – the first for several days. We went to see the Dobsons. The first Sunday for Jack and Ina in their own house.
~M. L. Dickson

The above diary entry was written by my great-grandfather, noting that his daughter Ina and her husband Jack, my grandparents, were spending their first Sunday in their own house. “Their own house” – what joy! After having spent the first five years of their marriage living in homes provided on rented land, sometimes even sharing cramped quarters with others, having their own home was a dream come true.
Ina's home, c. 1916

They must have felt especially hopeful on this Christmas of 1896. I imagine that my grandparents expected to give this new life their all. No one can see into the future, but in retrospect I know that life brought them joys and sorrows, just like everyone else. But mostly, it was good. Yes, it was good. KW

Friday, December 19, 2014


My mother had a love of imaginary play. In fact, she had a gift -- a way of setting it up -- so that we children knew from the beginning that it was imaginary without her saying so in so many words. At Christmastime, we all played along with the image of Santa at the North Pole, and speaking for myself, I loved it.

Now I’m Mrs. Claus with my own workshop – a sewing room with dolls and patterns, a fabric stash, and more. The 2014 workshop closed this morning with the sewing of a few snaps and a trip to the post office. I felt a little sad until I remembered – the 2015 workshop is open for business.

I’d like to think that the workshop could remain open right up to the eleventh hour on Christmas Eve, with little elves hurrying in and out as they fill Santa’s sleigh. But when Santa needs an assist from the post office, the eleventh hour falls days ahead of Christmas.

In this picture, my American Girls model simple jumpers I made from a Daisy Kingdom panel. The panel included two jumpers and one blouse, but since Emmy has two dolls, I cut another blouse of fabric from my stash to make a second complete outfit. The outfits are a little snug – as if the dolls are about to outgrow them. If I had realized that initially, I would have skimped a bit on that 3/8” seam allowance. 

It's always something, as they say. KW

Saturday, Dec. 19, 1896 -- on this day at Gilbert:
Ed helped me haul logs for my house. Thawed considerable today and an occasional sprinkle of rain. Cloudy all day. A red sunset.
~M. L. Dickson 

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Mike and I came back to town yesterday (Dec. 17) after spending two days at the farm. While there, I organized supplies and baked spicy ginger cut-out cookies and banana bread. On Tuesday we had a skiff of snow which was gone by mid-day, but I did get some nice pictures.

Mike set up our new weather station, installing the wind gauge on the windmill at the pond. With the previous weather station, you may recall, he climbed to the top of the barn roof to install the weather gauge, which eventually quit operating. I was relieved that he thought of another option for this unit. It helps that it has greater range.

Today I met with sisters Joni and Harriet for lunch and the exchange of small gifts. This year we gave each other Christmas ornaments. Harriet also entrusted to me this crocheted Christmas pin which Mother made for her back in the day. As you’ll recall, earlier in this advent series we discussed the mid-century popularity of the Christmas corsage and how Mother had made those. Harriet says this pin was Mother’s transition from the foil-based corsage to the pin, and then she showed us her (Harriet's) collection of other Christmas pins. Joni said that Mother never made her a corsage. I think she’s just forgotten, don’t you?
My outing included shopping. I was inspired by Christmas decorations at a d├ęcor shop and frustrated by all the shoppers at Walmart. At Albertson’s I found the holiday teas – at last! – and bought some whether I needed them or not.

Mike and Ken went hunting today, and when I returned home, I saw right away that Nellie was conspicuously absent. Consulting Mike, he related that Nellie had torn her leg badly and was at the vet’s. He didn’t see it happen, he said – just discovered she was injured during the hunt.

 Well, Nellie is home this evening, groggy from her surgical repair. She had a physical exam prior to surgery and the vet says she’s in great shape for an old working dog. Of course, Nellie is feeling sorry for herself and favoring her leg. Her activities will be curtailed for a while, but she will be fine. She’s counting the days until she can tell Hallie all about this harrowing experience. KW


Woops! Mrs. Claus slept in and missed a day. Sometimes it's good to get extra rest before the festivities begin.
Thursday, Dec. 17, 1896 -- on this day at Gilbert:
Gene and Ben made shake for house and stable-- about 200 for my house. Ed started his cistern. I finished making chamber floor joist. Weather warm and not so foggy as yesterday.
~M. L. Dickson 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Hallie and Nick continue to make steady progress to bring their 1929 Tudor into the 21st century. Hallie writes:

Upon our return from vacation, Nick started painting our new garage door. Our only option was to receive it in white, so we set about painting it inside the house prior to installation. The door is comprised of four panels. The top panel is slightly larger and has windows--the design of the door is to mimic a carriage door from the era of the home, yet we'll have the modern convenience of an insulated lift door.

Due to the lack of clearance on the north side of the garage, we were going to have to make the frame on that side of the garage 4 to 6 inches wider than the other side. This thought TORE at Nick's perfectionist soul and he agonized over a way that he could accept this flaw in the house. He triumphantly said to me one day, "I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to build a frame and pour concrete to extend the foundation and then I'll brick up the top so that it matches the house." He beamed at this solution. The next day, I carefully said to him, "Nick, I think you should reconsider this idea about the garage. It's going to be a lot of work and it might not come out the way we want and we don't have time before the installation is scheduled to execute this big idea." If you know how things go at our house, you'll be unsurprised to know that on Saturday we headed to Home Depot to get all of the supplies for framing and pouring our new foundation. After speaking my piece, I put up little resistance. I do have confidence in Nick's abilities, I just don't always have confidence in the timeframe. Here are some photos--you might notice that it's dark outside in the photo where Nick is mixing the concrete.

In the next update, I'll show you the finished framing and the installed garage door. I can't wait!

[Well – and Hallie couldn’t wait. Here’s what she sent today:]

Check out the garage. It looks amazing!!! The installer brought the wrong color trim, so the white will be replaced. Also, Nick will add the brick mould and brick up the section on the right and it will be done. Boy oh boy, we're so close to having a respectable looking home. :)

[The pictures have a mind of their own and are difficult to configure.]


A staged picture of Mother, 1951
So, here we are. Christmas Eve is eight days away. If you’re like me, you’re checking your list and perhaps drawing a line through some things that just can’t be finished in time.

I have a tendency to take on too much at Christmas – much more than I can accomplish. My expectations are way too high and then disappointment brings me low. Of course, I’m the only one who’s disappointed. No one else knows that I have . . . well, failed.

You know, so many things that seem important in the moment just aren’t in the scheme of things. My brother Chuck is fond of saying, “In a hundred years no one will even remember this.” Usually it doesn’t even take a hundred years for memory to fade.

I remember one year – I suppose I was about 15 – my mother announced on December 23 that she would have to stay up all night in order to accomplish all she wanted to do before Christmas. “Oh boy!” I said, “I’ll stay up and help you.”

At first, I had a good time. She gave me jobs to do and I did them while I watched Christmas programs on t.v. Midnight came and went. Television stations went off air, and I was miserably tired and still working away. Finally, as I went off to bed at 5:00 a.m., I wondered what on earth was so important about all that. In fact, of all the chores I performed, the only one I remember was wrapping packages at 4:00 a.m. that Santa would leave under the tree when he packed the stockings. I also remember thinking that even though I had worked steadily -- or so it seemed to me -- we were both up all night. 

That’s why I tuck myself in with my Grandma Ina at Christmas. Reading of her “no skimpy Christmas here” is such a joy to me, but even she said of her festivities, “I stood it all just fine,” which says to me that meltdowns had occurred in the past. She had experienced disappointment, too.

I enjoy getting ready for Christmas, but at some point, I have to be realistic about what I can do as the time for getting ready draws to a close. So, this year I’m taking a lesson from those businesses that help us create Christmas celebrations. They work at least a year in advance.

“Why not me?” I asked myself. I, too, can work a year in advance. So, this year the passing of Christmas will simply mean that I’m getting ready for Christmas 2015.

I already like it!