Thursday, October 27, 2016


Mike hobbled in from Sunday afternoon’s hunt with a flare of his old Achilles’ tendon injury. He’s taking advantage of these dull, sometimes rainy autumn days to rest his leg. Since nothing much is happening, I thought I’d share again from Mother’s folder of recipe oddities.

Morning naptime
(from Aunt Margaret Walrath)

1 #2 ½ bing cherries (pitted)
1/3 c lemon juice
1 package orange Jello
½ c blanched almonds
1 3-oz bottle stuffed olives sliced
Drain cherries. Add water and lemon juice to the cherry juice to make 1 ¾ cups liquid. Heat liquid and pour over Jello, stirring to dissolve. Add rest of ingredients and pour into individual molds. Chill until firm. Serves 8.

I simply can’t imagine this combination of ingredients. But Aunt Margaret comments: “The way we eat it will only serve 5 or 6.” I guess they liked it.

Checking online, I discovered one similar recipe, the only differences being Coca-Cola instead of water and pecans instead of almonds. On another recipe combining cherries and olives, the writer commented that she liked the contrast of the salty olives against the sweet cherries.

So – Who was Aunt Margaret, you ask. You’ve never heard me speak of her, you say. Well, Aunt Margaret was married to Mother’s first husband’s brother, Ted Walrath. Technically, she was not my aunt – not even by marriage – but she was related within the extended family. They lived in a neat little house just a few doors from us on Brown Avenue when I was growing up. It was one of those houses that somehow seemed bigger on the inside than it appeared from the outside. Since they were neighbors, she occasionally walked past our house and would stop to visit. After she bought her little blue Chevrolet Corvair, I don’t think she ever had another car. She said she just loved that Corvair. And -- she was a knitter.

Every Christmas Eve, as we bustled around the house to get ready for our celebration, Uncle Ted would show up about 3:00 p.m. to wish us a “Merry Christmas.” He never stayed but a minute. (Well, he might have stayed a little longer if Daddy offered him a drink.) Mother later recalled that his brief holiday visits were special to her.
I don’t remember when Aunt Margaret passed away – probably in the 1980s – but I remember well Uncle Ted’s passing. It was during my first week at the University of Idaho in 1967. As I recall, he had a stroke or a heart attack and fell against Aunt Margaret, injuring her. Whatever the event, he didn’t survive and Aunt Margaret was hospitalized. KW

[The b&w photo above, taken during the holidays of 1935, shows three generations of Walraths: Harry Lee stands with Margaret and Ted behind Naomi holding Margot (Margaret and Ted's daughter). Margaret and Ted had another child, Harry, born in 1937.

In the bottom photo, note the beautiful red maple. We don't know from whence this volunteer came, but it's plain that it's not from the big cousin behind it.]

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Burning bush at the front door
My goal for 2016 was to finish – finish, finish, finish – the unfinished projects I have stored in plastic boxes since I began to wield needle and hook. I will NEVER re-visit that goal again. I WAS MISERABLE!!

Oh! Indeed I did finish things, and that was satisfying. I finished the “bridal” afghan for daughter Hallie, begun in 2009. I finished the doll quilt I started in 1955, a buffalo passed to me from my mother. And I finished a panel doll I ordered from The Chocolate Soup, a shop in New York City, in 1966. (To show you how deeply entrenched these things can become, I couldn’t bring myself to toss the envelope in which the panel was mailed to me those 50 years ago simply because it had become so familiar amongst my treasures.)

But – I lost a lot of inspiration, and that inspiration is so important to happiness. I wouldn’t let myself start projects that took my fancy for fear of inability to finish. I actually became afraid. And I also came face to face with the time crunch. -- you know the voice that asks, “How much longer do you think you have anyway?” And really, I don’t believe in living like that.
Nellie & Bess taking morning naps

Well, it was something I had to work through. I came to see that I’m only responsible to myself. I can afford to dabble if that’s what I want to do, and the finish really doesn’t matter -- at least, not all the time.

Daughter Hallie chided me a bit for saying I wouldn’t finish the Halloween afghan before Halloween. Well, I was late starting it, and I have a few other things I want to do. I can’t sit all day and crochet. I have to have a variety of activities. (And I have a husband who likes to go places and do things.)
My Halloween celebration

But then Hallie said something – or implied something – which made me realize that the act of making is in itself a celebration, not just the end product. That was a revelation to me. With my new mindset, I have thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the season by crocheting on my Halloween afghan. Its colors – black, orange, yellow, and white – add seasonal color to the house, even though it’s a work in progress. But – it does indeed grow slowly. KW

Thursday, October 20, 2016


“This is going to be the best day in the foreseeable future,” Mike said on Wednesday. “I’ll go hunting, and if I get back in time, we should go to the farm.” In addition to checking on the place, we had several things we needed to do, not the least of which was to pick the elderberries. Sadly, this year Hallie and Nick can't be with us for Elderberry Fest, but we're out of jelly and the berries are good -- perhaps exceptional -- so I'll carry.

But -- there was that element of doubt that we would actually go, so I went about my usual household activities. I was making raspberry pretzel salad for dessert when Mike arrived home from hunting (2:10) and suggested that we follow-through on the plan to go to the farm. I put a plate over the pretzel crust I had made, put the cream cheese and raspberries back in the fridge, and packed leftovers for our supper. We were on our way by 2:45.

It was indeed a lovely day. Travel was slow because of a project to replace guardrails on the river road (Hwy 12), involving miles of reduced speed. We had to wait at Myrtle for the pilot car to lead us through the Cottonwood Creek area to Cherry Lane.

This picture of an elderberry bush was taken October 2.
It was after 4:00 when we arrived at the farm. Without further ado, I headed to the elderberry bushes behind the house (to the west), scaring up a large covey of Huns as I went. Lovely clumps of elderberries were ripe for the picking, but they were high and I was low. Mike came along and picked most of them, using our hook to pull the clumps within his reach. We filled a large bucket with berries and that was the fastest part of the process.

Back at the house, I spent an hour preparing the berries for the pot as dusk fell. I set them to cooking with six cups of water and then worried that I had added too much. Once the berries were cooked, I divided them between two strainers to drip overnight. 

I still had some berries in the bottom of the bucket, so early this morning I processed them – this time with very little water – and allowed them to drain a few hours. Then I mixed all the juice together and put enough for four batches of jelly into the freezer.

This morning it was chilly, cloudy, and rainy. We congratulated ourselves for having picked the berries yesterday.

By mid-morning we were on the way back to town, this time by way of Hwy 95. For the fun of it, we stopped at the thrift store in Craigmont. Mike bought an old bolt cutter, saying he’s always wanted one, and I picked up a storage bag of lovely (but small) fabric scraps and an antique package of metallic rick-rack. KW

Monday, October 17, 2016


It’s time to see what’s happening at the little Tudor in Seattle. Daughter Hallie and Nick are putting time, effort, and (needless to say) money into bringing the little house, built in 1929, into the 21st century while retaining its integrity. Most of our updates have focused on the exterior, but today Hallie is sharing pictures of the front bedroom/den.

But first, a little story: My sister, Joni, downsized a few years back and offered me this crewel picture which had hung over our mother's desk. As she handed it to me, Joni remarked that the mat was the wrong color, and I could see she was right. (Hmmm -- how did this happen?)

I love the subject of this needlework -- a cottage that just seems enchanted -- but I couldn’t help but think its new home should be the little Tudor, and Hallie agreed. She took it and I didn’t hear about it for a while. Then one day a few weeks back, Hallie wrote:

Here's the fun project I just did.

“You might remember giving me this embroidered piece. We agreed that the color of the mat and the frame didn't seem right.

“Nick and I want to do an eclectic mix of interesting frames in our old home. However, interesting frames can be hard to find and then expensive if attempting to buy new. So, on a lark we stopped in at Goodwill last night. We picked up two frames, and this one looked like it might be about the right size.

“A real shame to lose the artwork (har har), but this frame has a new destiny! Here's the back of the tapestry in case you were wondering. It was tricky getting it out of its frame and it was a little stuck to the cardboard, but I was as careful as could be.

“Here's the finished product! It's a little hard to appreciate the neat frame in the lighting (I am not a photographer), but it is simply beautiful! We used the same mat that had been with the artwork, which is just a tad smaller left to right than what was around the needlework. The color of the two-toned mat is a good match for the artwork and the silver-ish coloring of the frame is subtle enough that your eye goes to the needlework first. I love it!”

Hallie asked me who made the needlework, and I wasn’t sure, so I asked sister Harriet. She pointed out that the back side wasn’t neat enough to be Mother’s work. Until Harriet said that, I had forgotten that Mother took as much pride in the back of her work as the front. So, we decided it was probably our Grandmother Nina Portfors who made it (Hallie’s great-grandmother), though we can't be certain.

Hallie wrote again last night with more pictures.

“Here is my handiwork doing my very first repurposed frame WITH backer paper. I haven't used rubber cement in years, so at first I didn't think it was going to work. It just takes some time to dry and stick.

“Here is the artwork on the wall. It looks sharp!
“I bought a steel cord with magnets from an online retailer to display my national parks post cards from this summer's road trip. I love these retro cards!

“Finally, here's grandma Portfors' (best guess) needlework.

“This front bedroom/tv room is so cozy! We just need one or two more things on the wall. Please notice the finished laundry chute in the hallway. :)”

- Hallie

Addendum --
Sister Harriet provided the following this morning: "That picture hung over Grandma Portfors' davenport in her living room when I stayed with her in the third grade.  She may have made it or it may have come from an earlier relative, or she may have received it as a gift.  I wish now I had asked.  I loved to look at that picture and think about the lives of the people who lived in that little house.  I am so glad Hallie has the picture in her house.  It is a treasure, and much older than you thought."