Friday, February 5, 2016


Double rainbow, Clarkston -- January 2016

“Isn't it funny how recipes float out of the picture, and for no real reason?” commented Chris on a recent post. So true! My mother had a current recipe box with which she worked -- and an old recipe box to which she seldom referred. I always wondered about that. It was as if she had come to a stopping point and started all over. Years later, she bought yet another recipe box and began filing her current recipes in it. Apparently Grandma Portfors (Mother’s mother) did the same thing. She had an old recipe box stuffed full, and the one she was using when she left us.

Perhaps crumb cake was enjoyed at this picnic, 1933
We do not, however, see that in Grandma Ina. It would be totally out of character for her to buy another recipe box and carry on. No, she would sort through the box, ruthlessly toss those recipes she wasn’t using, and then carry on. In fact, there’s evidence that her daughter Lynn (Myrtle) helped her do just that. And knowing Aunt Lynn, she probably tossed a lot of good recipes.

Recipes today are abundant and available on the internet, and saving them digitally, we no longer need to keep recipe boxes. Frankly, I think the lack of handwritten recipes is another way we are going to lose touch with our history.

Grandma Portfors on left
My take on today’s recipes is that they’re over-the-top. I like a good standardized recipe out of a professional kitchen, and I think twice before I save. That said, how many of our favorite recipes back in the day came from test kitchens? Perhaps the best recipes are those shared by family and friends.

If you want to lure me into “Recipe Land,” just suggest that this was “Grandma’s recipe.” However, nowadays when they say “like Grandma made,” they mean me, and that’s no fun!

This recipe for crumb cake I found in my Grandma Ina’s recipe box, and to my surprise, I found the same recipe in Grandma Nina’s box. I’ve served this rich buttery cake topped with a little jam or jelly.

Light Crumb Cake
Put into a bowl:
2 c flour
1c sugar
¾ c butter
2 t baking powder
Mix together to look like crumbs. Reserve ¾ cup.

Add to crumbs in bowl:
2 eggs
¾ c sweet milk
Beat until like cream in color and smooth. Put in pan with reserved crumbs sprinkled on top.
Put in oven at 350 and turn up to 375. Bake ½ hour.

[In the family grouping, my grandparents, C.O. and Nina Portfors, are on the bottom left. Their daughter Dorothy (my mother) is bottom center holding Harriet. The bottom picture is of Grandma Portfors with her siblings, Albert Sanders and Muriel Sanders German.]

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I have moved many things from the house to the new storage shed. On Monday (Feb. 1), Mike installed shelving on the remaining wall. We still have lots of floor space. Let’s see. How can we fill that? Never mind. We’ll think of something. However, it won’t be dolls, vintage paper, or books.

Speaking of dolls, several months ago a friend gave me a vintage Toni doll, c. 1950, which I restrung and re-wigged. The doll rewarded me by becoming a beauty before my eyes, which gave me the confidence to re-work my own well-loved (because well-used) dolls.   

My first diminutive doll was a Vogue “Ginny.” Her hair was blond, and she came in a cute little cotton dress and straw bonnet. Not long after the first “Ginny,” Mother brought the second to me upon her return from a trip. This “Ginny” had dark braids and wore the standard long-sleeved “Ginny” t-shirt and knit skirt.

It was a problem for me that I now had two dolls named “Ginny,” so Mother suggested that I name one “Mary.” Hence, the blond was “Ginny” and the doll with braids was “Mary.”

I don’t think I was particularly rough with my dolls, but I was a child and I played with them. As a result, Ginny and Mary both suffered hair trauma, so Mother ordered wigs for them from the Mark Farmer catalog, a doll parts supply company. (I can’t believe I finally remembered the name of that company.) Mother did the work, removing the old wigs and applying the new.

I had misgivings about this project, which I didn’t dare voice at that point. For one thing, though the wigs fitted the dolls, they seemed too big, overwhelming their little bodies. The hair was course and the color odd, and it seemed to me they compromised the quality of the dolls. “Ginny” and “Mary” became different “people,” if you will, and now I didn’t know which doll was which. You’re probably wondering what difference it made, and I think Mother said something to that effect, but to this day, I don’t remember which was which. And yes, I did care. As ridiculous as it may seem from the vantage point of 60 years, I still care. I hate to un-do anything my mother did, but I decided if she were here, she just might help me.

So, I tackled the little dolls as a project. I ordered fluffy short wigs and new bands from an online seller, and when those arrived, I set to work. First, I pulled the old wigs off. Mother had glued them down good, so it was no small feat. Next, I restrung their arms. Then, after cleaning each doll, I attached the new wigs -- this time with just a dab of glue. One doll volunteered to be Ginny, and I gave her the lighter wig. “Mary” got the dark one.
And here they are. I think they’re kinda cute with their frizzy hair. My mother made their matching dresses. Sadly, they don’t open their eyes. I tried sewing machine oil and then took a big chance and sprayed WD40 into their heads. They didn’t open their eyes but took off running . . . KW

[The picture with many dolls --
Bottom: Vogue Ginny (2) with their friend, a Virga doll. Second row: vintage Betsy McCall and a Madame Alexander. Top: Sassoon Ginny and daughter Hallie's Ginny dolls from the '80s.]

Sunday, January 31, 2016


Friday morning, Mike completed the shelving project in the storage shed and pronounced it ready for occupation. I set to work moving from garage to shed to house to shed. Friday afternoon Mike looked into the shed and declared that I would need more shelving. I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, but at this point I’m not ready to say what I need.

Concern for certain goods stored in the shed has been voiced. However, I say the conditions are not far different from those in the farmhouse or in our town loft – cold and damp in the winter, hot in the summer – and things seem to survive. Nevertheless, dolls and my beloved vintage ephemera will stay in the house. The purpose of the shed is not so much for long-term storage (though that will surely happen) but to make useful things accessible. So far the concept is working well, but then, I’ve only begun.

I would say my little sewing studio has heaved a sigh of relief, but alas! if that were only true! It’s still a mess even though I’ve carried notebooks and bins to the shed. Now I have to reorganize the cupboards and shelves and reassign things that have been on the floor to new homes, and that takes both mental and physical effort. Sometimes I just have to close the door and walk away. Sometimes a solution comes to mind when I’m not in the room.

Here we sit on the edge of February, and I have to say that despite my best intentions, I didn’t finish projects as I had hoped in January. I didn’t sew, but I did finish a crocheted “teddy bear” tote for Emerson, who received a second “Build-a-Bear” for Christmas, and I’ve organized an unfinished afghan so that I can proceed with it. I also upgraded aged dolls and have more to do. But of course, the storage shed is a major accomplishment.

Bess relaxes in her favorite place
I said we had plans for the year, and one major plan has already come to naught. We had proposed to Bess that she should have pups this spring. They would have been born in March, which meant we wouldn’t be able to spend time on the farm until after mid-May. However, for whatever reason, Bess wasn’t interested in the suitor Mike chose for her, so that was that. Meanwhile, Mike decided he has misgivings about her suitor, too. Will we propose this to Bess again? Not sure.

A golden sunrise against a dark sky
By the way, here in our valley, the crocus and some daffodils have pushed up through the ground. Surely spring is on the way. KW

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


“What seems to be the problem here,” queried Mike as he stepped into my very cluttered sewing studio on a day before Christmas. “Oh, I see,”  he said with a laugh as he checked inside the cupboards.

I have been totally unable to overcome the clutter since last summer. “Put away three things a day,” I'd tell myself, but the cupboard was full. My sewing supplies together with stashes of this and that have grown to such an extent that the little room is overwhelmed -- and so am I. And I want more!
“Maybe you need a storage shed,” suggested Mike, and I readily agreed.

Were it left to me, I probably would have pondered the decision two more years, but Mike gets things done. We shopped several local storage shed manufacturers and chose the one we liked best – Clearwater Barns out of Grangeville. Our plan was to buy the smallest one, but looking over the brochure, son Clint pointed out that we would lose a lot of storage in the drop of the roof and suggested the next size up – 8’x12’. 
So, Mike called Clearwater Barns on Monday (Jan. 25), and because a unit in stock met our size and color requirements, delivery was scheduled for today (Jan. 27). Monday afternoon, Mike bought 2.2 ton of gravel, which he then spread over the “shoulder” of our driveway, especially where the shed would sit.

In my dream world, a cute little shed to be my work area / retreat would be lovely, but in the end I opted for just storage. Basically, the retreat, my little studio, is already in place with a comfortable couch, heat in the winter, and air conditioning in the summer, and it’s a reasonably clean place for dolls, books, and other treasures. The shed will take care of overflow from the house in general as well as from the sewing room. Mike teases me about the sewing stuff, but I think he’ll be pleased with the de-cluttering that takes place throughout the house. (I have a plan . . .)
Next up: Shelving. The owner of Clearwater Barns suggested using shelf tracks with brackets. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, and Mike thinks a rainy day is just the best kind of indoor work day. He'll have it ready in a jiffy. (Well, almost.) KW

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


American Girl Dolls Molly & Maryellen

Back in the day – the day of the ‘50s when I was a child – Healthknit was an underwear manufacturer. They also made pajamas for children, much like the footed Carter’s pajamas of today. (I think we still have Carter’s, but I’m not sure about Healthknit.)

I suppose I was about 8 when I saw a magazine ad for Healthknit which included an order form to purchase pajamas for a 16-inch doll. The amount was nominal, and Mother helped me order two pairs of pajamas for my two baby dolls, which I paid for with my allowance.

Well, one day, out of the blue, I got to thinking about those doll pajamas. I wondered if I could find them and if they would fit the American Girls. So I climbed into the closet, opened a box of doll clothes, and sure enough – there they were. They stretch nicely over the healthy bodies of those mid-century American Girl models, Molly and Maryellen.

Someone at the Healthknit factory must have had some fun making these doll pajamas. Perhaps an employee, maybe a grandmother, noticed that scraps of fabric and bits of the footing stuff were going to waste. “We could make doll pajamas with the scraps and market them with the kids’ pajamas,” she might have said in the Monday morning staff meeting. Perhaps she waited months for the go-ahead while she stashed remnants and scraps in the cupboard. Permission was granted but the project probably wasn’t really lucrative and was discontinued after the initial Christmas season. This is just history trivia according to Kathy, but wouldn’t it be fun to know how it really happened?  KW

[Photo -- My American Girl dolls, Molly and Maryellen, representing the 1940s and the 1950s, wear vintage Healthknit pajamas.]