Tuesday, May 24, 2016


It’s now clear that this staycation is largely uneventful – and that’s good! But it doesn’t give me a lot to write about.

Today I performed some household chores and prepared for a meeting. (Yawn . . .)

I finished Nina Ballerina’s new tutu. This is the first effort and a little disappointing. However, I have lots of tulle and satin in my collection. I’ll try again. The ric-rac trim is from her original tutu. The leotards were made from ladies’ trouser hose.

I continued scanning slides. These were taken by my mother’s brother, Francis (Uncle Porkie) Portfors, so today I’m sharing some of those from the early ‘50s. I just can’t put into words what it means to see these pictures, especially of my grandmother, Nina Portfors. I don’t have many snapshots of her.

Mike called before supper needing my assistance to find new coordinates for the “master” cache, meaning he had to find it or all his finds in this “one in every county” game would be useless. I looked the “cords” up for him on my trusty, ever-available laptop. Then he called later to report he had found that cache, but instead of being in a special place, as one might expect, it was just a spot beside the expressway and disappointing. Well, the trip and its events are his story. He said he didn’t sleep well last night and was tired today.
Hannah Hutenan, Sara Portfors, Kathy Dobson, Nina Walrath, Dorothy Dobson
I had a text message from Mike’s sister wishing me a happy anniversary in my aloneness. Hallie also called, and we laughed about my being alone again on my anniversary. It’s okay, you know. Mike and I will make it up to each other. And I am enjoying those staycation gifts. Today I received fat eighths (quilting fabric), and four books – a history of old-time radio programs, vintage embroidery designs, a book about aprons, and one on doll clothes. Fun! But – I have five days to go and only one staycation gift yet to be delivered. Not quite sure what to do about it.

Farrol Joan Walrath
I can honestly say I’m keeping myself busy. The time drags but also flies, if you know what I mean. It becomes tedious with just dogs for company. They push me around a bit. Like last night while I was talking to Hallie – both Bess and Nellie kept nudging me, getting on my lap, getting in my face and gazing intently into my eyes. “What?” I kept asking. Finally they curled up on the pillow with an air of resignation. Nellie even gave it her best snort. It didn’t dawn on me until two hours later that they expected a dog treat for having successfully completed the evening walk. I can be such a ditz! KW


My vintage Nina Ballerina needs a new tutu and leggings. Leggings are difficult to make because of the lightweight stretchy knit, so I was intrigued by the suggestion that a knee sock can become a great pair of doll leggings.

First, looking for a pretty pink, I bought a pack of eight mismatched knee-highs. That’s when I learned that it’s now acceptable – at least among the kids – to wear mismatched socks. I don’t know that I would ever adopt that practice, but that pack has interesting potential in my sewing room.

However, when I began to work with the pink sock, I realized it was too heavy for my purpose. I needed a finer knit – something like a trouser sock. My search was rewarded at Goodwill where I found brand new white ones for $1.50. Back in the sewing room, one trouser sock quickly made up into a pair of acceptable leggings for Nina.

Stitching along, my thoughts wandered back to the days of the 1950s when I walked four blocks to school, always in a skirt. During the worst days of winter, my legs would be red and cold when I arrived. Yes, I believe I did have knee socks, but there was still unprotected leg under that skirt. I don’t believe there was a dress code that prevented the wearing of slacks -- certainly not on cold winter days -- but Mother said that pants were not for me. Dresses were much better for my body type, she said. Anyway, in the late ‘50s leotards arrived in my little town, and those were immediately popular. Several pairs were added to my winter wardrobe and my legs were warmer.

Oh yes – there was a downside to wearing leotards all right. Just as nylons run, so did the leotards, and I was answerable to my mother for those runs. I’m sure it was the same in other homes. I remember, for instance, that when the neighbor girl got her first pair, she put them on and danced around the house, causing a “run” first thing. Boy! Was her mom mad! She called my mom to ask if there was any way to mend it. Eventually someone told us that fingernail polish would stop a run, so we learned to pay attention and apply polish as soon as we noticed a hole.

And leotards just weren’t comfortable. If they were too small, they would begin to creep down from the waist. If they were too large, they would pool around the ankles.

Some blogs focus on the fashions of the ‘50s with the wish that we might return to the age of glamour. Much as I enjoy vintage topics, I just don’t wish for the return of that era, nor do I fantasize over how great it was. I remember how it felt to be “dressed” all the time. Sometimes it was wonderful. Sometimes it wasn’t. And mostly it wasn’t comfortable. KW

Monday, May 23, 2016


The Dobson Family Home in 1950

It’s so much easier to walk the dogs on the weekends when traffic is lighter. But this dog-sitting has its challenges. One of the dog igloos takes on water when it rains, so I have to dry the rugs. You’d think I could be a bit proactive and take them out before it rains, but no-o-o – not me. Didn’t even think of it.

The old cabin as it appeared in 1950
And on this evening’s constitutional, a little pick-up passed us with a black dog in the bed, and Bess took off after that pick-up like a shot out of a gun. The driver went faster, probably in an attempt to deter Bess, but she just ran all the faster. All I could do was holler for her. And I do mean holler. I no longer have the voice for yelling. Nor do I run. But when Bess came back, she was rather contrite. She knew she was wrong.

Grandma Ina and her daughter Myrtle in 1950. Note the garden.
Today I resumed scanning family photo slides to my laptop, a project left waiting four years ago. You know how it is when you leave a project unfinished in the middle. It’s just difficult to get back into it. Scanning slides demands time and space, and so I decided to tackle it while Mike is away. Unfortunately this first day did not go smoothly. A problem developed and I thought perhaps the software was incompatible with Windows 10. It took two hours for me to figure out that my laptop was operating off the battery, which meant there was no power leftover for the scanner. Once I could resume scanning, I added images taken by my dad's brother, Earle Dobson. I'm sharing a few here.

Mike called about 9:00 and we had a long visit. It had been a long day mostly because of slow traffic. But crossing the Golden Gate Bridge had gone well and so did his navigation of the city. The GPS continues to work well and any problems were easily resolved.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


It was a quiet day at home. I walked the dogs at 7:00 a.m. and again at 2:00 p.m. It rained a little this morning, but about 5:30 or so we had a storm.

It was 45 when I got up, and I failed to note today’s high – probably in the mid 60s. It’s 70 in the house, which should be about right for comfort, and yet I’m feeling cold in jeans and sweatshirt.

I worked along on various projects today without finishing anything, unless you count the leggings for Nina Ballerina, but that’s a post of its own. Then I started her new tutu and abandoned my first efforts. I did receive two more staycation books – one on flea market decorating and a coloring book (vintage fashions of the 1920s). I ordered these things from “third party sellers” just before Mike left, thinking they would come in slowly, but sellers seem to have hastened to please me with early deliveries. Hmmm. I may need to make more orders. I’ll give it some thought . . .

Of course, I could buy instant downloads. The trouble with downloads is that I lose track of them. They quickly disappear into overarching categories, such as “patterns,” on my computer. No matter how many sub-files I create, I don’t have a good mental image without some sort of hard copy. One of my goals during this staycation was to print some of my files and work on a better inventory, but our new wireless printer goes to sleep and won’t wake up. Fortunately we had yet to dispose of the little HP 1600, so I set it up. It valiantly chugs along. The trouble is that the ink is so expensive.

Tonight I took the dogs out for a third walk after supper and they seemed to settle down better. I waited for Mike’s call but communication came by email about 9:00. He said he was in a place without cell service. It had rained but could have been worse. And now it’s on to Sunday when the big event will be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. KW

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Yarrow blooms; lavender just coming into bloom

Getting dressed in the morning is not my first priority. I enjoy a little quiet time in my pajamas and robe, sipping a cup of hot chocolate. Mike, on the other hand, gets dressed as soon as he’s up and heads outside. He gets the dogs up and when he has breakfasted, he takes them for a walk. Naturally, in his absence, the dogs still expect that early walk, so I have to alter my routine.

It was a good day. The dogs were more settled and we had our two walks. I picked up my sister and we went to a customer appreciation barbecue for lunch. And then son Clint invited me to join his family for dinner at Tomato Bros in celebration of Maycie’s birthday. I was happy to go.

Two staycation gifts came today – Simple Christmas Tidings: Scrappy Quilts and Projects for Yuletide Style, by Kim Diehl, and Ladies of Leisure (vintage quilts and linens)
Cactus blooms on my driveway
by Suzanne McNeill.

Of course, Mike's travel was never far from my mind. He had said he would return home if trouble with his GPS continued, and if he did, my workroom would need to be quickly reconverted to a kitchen so that I could fix supper. But when I hadn’t heard by early afternoon, I figured I was safe.

Mike called after supper to say he was in Arkata. The new cord seemed to correct the GPS issues. His route took him through the Redwood National Park, and he had enjoyed the day. He even shopped at a Harbor Freight store and bought himself a small but powerful flashlight.  

On to Day 3. KW


[This post won't be of general interest, but while Mike's away, I'm indulging in doll fix-ups.]

Nina Ballerina was my Christmas present in 1956. (That was how long ago? No! Don’t tell me that!) Researching online, I find convincing evidence that she is a “Valentine” doll sold through Niresk Industries (here). In other words, she’s a “knock-off” doll and was sold through magazine ads at a bargain price.

Ad copied from "Doll Reference"
Truth be told, Nina was not my favorite doll. We had very little in common, Nina and I. I know nothing about ballet, and Nina knows nothing else. Since she’s perpetually on her toes, she has no interest in clothes other than ballet tutus. I was troubled by this the moment I laid eyes on her because I loved to dress my dolls. I suspect this doll appealed to Mother, who was attracted to the poise and grace exhibited by ballerinas.

In today’s doll world, patterns for ballet costumes abound, and that set me to thinking about Nina. I occasionally run across her tutu, which has deteriorated beyond practical repair, and also her ballet shoes, but I’d lost track of Nina except for a vague recollection that she was stored somewhere in a pretty box. “Aha! That’s where she is,” I said aloud to the ghosts when I spied a grouping of boxes on top of the cabinet in Hallie’s room. And there she was!
My Nina without her dilapidated tutu
Though her trappings have deteriorated, Nina herself is in great shape – for her age, that is. She has a hard plastic body with a vinyl head. Unfortunately, the mid-century vinyl is breaking down at this point and feels tacky. However, I cleaned her face with doll cleaner, and that helped immensely. Fortunately, when Nina was new, Mother suggested I not remove her hairnet, so her saran hair is in good condition. I decided that after 60 years, Nina had grown up enough to do without the hairnet.

Nina never had clothes of her own. Instead, she borrowed from the bride doll, my Niresk doll of 1955. As a ballerina, though, she was never the same after I removed her clothes. It was difficult to stretch on her leggings and lace up her dancing shoes. She should have remained a pristine shelf doll.

Today we can find the original “Nina Ballerina” ad online, and my Nina wasn’t exactly as pictured. The ad says, “Almost two feet tall,” when in reality, she’s only 18 inches from the top of her head to the tip of her tippy toes. Also, her tutu is skimpier than shown --  only two layers of netting instead of the lovely flouncy netting shown in the ad. I see all of that as false advertising, but Mother probably figured she got her money’s worth.

I notice one very charming special touch: on the bottom of her ballet slippers, it says “Capezio since 1887, Dancico Cobbler” (here), an unexpected bit of whimsy for a “low end” doll.

Well, I think Nina deserves a fresh tutu and new leggings, and it wouldn’t take much to do better than her original. Later . . . KW