Tuesday, December 29, 2009


When I transferred the Christmas photos from the camera to the computer, I noticed a number of random photos -- mostly of nothing in particular -- that I hadn't taken. I laughed to myself. Apparently someone was making certain no ghosts were lurking in dark corners.

No, no. That's not an orb -- just a reflection of the flash in the windows at the end of the hall. (Or is it?)

What disarray! Yes, there are ghosts in this room -- the vintage sewing room. They are the ghosts of unfinished projects hiding behind the clutter. Ina disapproves of such haphazard living. My dad says, "Kathy, clean this room." But my mother understandingly knows it will all be taken care of in time.

This picture was taken in the upstairs hallway looking into the bathroom. If you have to get up in the night, you want to know that ghosts do not inhabit the bathroom. My dad made the latch hook rug on the wall for my mother. The Aladdin lamp hung in Ina's dining room [see old photo below left] for many years. My dad converted it to electricity for our house in Orofino, then Mike and I re-hung it here in the hallway at the top of the stairs.

And here's the dining room today -- same table as in the old photo. In the renovation, a wall was removed to open the kitchen to the dining room.

Sunday morning Hallie and Nellie bid each other another fond farewell. Nellie totally understands that Hallie is leaving.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I am not really a student of the paranormal, but both my parents had a respect for the power of mind and I was exposed to such ideas from an early age.

At Hallie's suggestion, we opened gifts once we had settled in at the farmhouse on Christmas Eve. Her gift to Nick was a Wii and she looked forward to his surprise and the fun of playing it, as well as the sharing of other gifts. After dinner, the evening became mellow as Mike watched football and Hallie and Nick fell asleep on the sofa, so I decided to take a trip down memory lane with the photos of Christmas 1952, the previous post. I thought deeply and quietly about that occasion, letting the photos speak to me. After importing and labeling the scanned photos for the blog post, I arose from my chair at the dining room table and took this present-day photo of the living room toward the corner where our 1952 celebration had taken place. Notice the light spot on the chair. I was disturbed that my photo was ruined and would have discarded it without saying anything to anyone had it not been that I just didn't want to take it again.

When Hallie reviewed the blog, she immediately picked up on the "orb." She and Nick watch some "Ghosthunters" programs and she recognized the spot as a possible spirit. She researched "orbs" online, which presented comparisons of genuine orbs with dust spots. Ours appeared genuine. She also tried to duplicate the same physical setting and re-take the photo, but the orb didn't happen again. Of course, what she couldn't re-create was my state of mind when the photo was taken.

"If one of them came, it was because of me," I told Hallie. In other words, I believe the ghosts are with me and not in the house. Our move to the farm enlivened my nostalgic interests. My study of the old pictures and letters plus my attempts to remember whatever I can have brought the old players to life in my consciousness. My profound remembrance of this Christmas occasion from early childhood may -- or may not -- have brought some "psychic energy" into play. If so, it was only motivated by love.

Hallie wanted to know who I thought it would have been. I replied it was my mother, my dad, or Grandma Ina, though she related the position of the orb to my dad's sister, Myrtle. Personally, I don't believe I called up Myrtle. I lean strongly to my dad or Ina, but I never know where my mother will turn up.

At any rate, I can let it go. I know those thumps in the night were just Nellie adjusting her pillow or possibly the wall furnace announcing the heating process. And by mutual agreement the ghosts just don't follow me to the bathroom. KW

Thursday, December 24, 2009


One Christmas when I was a child -- and only once -- certain family members gathered at the Gilbert homestead for a pre-Christmas party. I was three that Christmas, and yes, I remember it. I remember the doll I received. I immediately named her "Corny" for her bright yellow hair. I also received one of those animal books where each page represents an animal and by squeezing the page a noisemaker makes the appropriate animal sound. As I recall, it was reasonably lifelike. I remember that photos were taken of various family groupings.

Photo right, back row: My cousin, Shirley Jean Robinson Johnson, Dale Johnson holding their daughter, Patty; Grandma Ina is seated right of the tree, and Ethel Dobson Robinson sits next to her. My dad, Vance, sits on the floor holding me with his sister Myrtle Dobson in the center of the photo. I can't help but wonder if the rug is the one the family gave Ina and Jack the Christmas of '36.

Photo left is another posed grouping, and "posed" is right. Shirley Jean and my mother, Dorothy, seem to wax dramatic for the camera. "Now I have two girls -- one on each knee," said Dale. Myrtle, Grandma Ina, and Ethel complete the photo.

Here's a photo of Ina with her granddaughter, me, and her great-granddaughter, Patty. Patty is two years older than I. I wonder if we couldn't have been prevailed upon to lighten up a bit for the sake of the camera.

December 24, 2009 -- same corner, different world.

We've had our "tree," and Mike is watching SMU, his alma mater, play Nevada in the Hawaii Bowl as we wait for the "mystery pecan pie" to cool enough to eat.

Happy Christmas to all -- and to all a good night! KW

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


[My dad's sister, Ethel Dobson Robinson, was five years his senior. They were good friends. She passed in February 1980, he in November 1987. The snapshot is of Aunt Ethel and her daughter, Shirley Jean, taken the summer of 1936. Granted Aunt Ethel was barely five feet tall, but still -- I was amused that she refers to Shirley Jean as a "small girl." Shirley Jean passed on in 1996.]

January 3, 1937!

Just think of it – 1937

Dear Vance:

Well here we are peering anxiously into the future, and hoping "something will turn up, Mr. Micawber."

A wintry landscape greets the eye wherever one may look, and we've had several cold days. Tonight there is a bluish look near the horizon that seems to presage a Chinook. Have had some two inches of snow and frost since Christmas.

And speaking of that day, we had another of those awful "skimpy" affairs, which leaves us all wondering "where to put the new things, when we barely had room enough for the old!" One thing certain, the new rug could go only one place, so we put it on the living room floor and it looks very nice and seems to add space to that room.

Your beautiful box came on Dec. 26th so we still had Christmas, but I almost wept when I saw the lovely tapers, silver table ornament and luscious holly! Those were the most beautiful holly I've ever seen, it seems to me – so full of berries, and how beautifully your blue boxes looked in among the silver sprays. It was a veritable treasure chest. You were very generous to remember each one, and who but you would think of buying a screwdriver for Dad and writing such a tag!

Shirley Jean was delighted with her jewel box and how do you happen to know that such trinkets delight a small girl's heart? Ernest said to tell you your present was very enjoyable during the Christmas season. I, as usual, was low on nose fodder, but now I can blow loudly and long – thanks to you.

We had a jolly time and much clacking of tongues was heard in the land. A large and varied menu was enjoyed, to which everyone did justice until the dessert was reached, then one and all "passed" until a later date. Ruth was the only one who felt able to have dessert but balked when she found she'd have to solo on it. We women gathered in the kitchen after the table was cleared, opened the oven door and gathered round in various attitudes of comfort. Then we "let our hair down" and visited. Uncle and Ralph trickled off toward home to do chores, but "Aunt and the girls" stayed until later on. The holidays faded away gradually, for Henry and Shirley stayed until the following Sunday evening and we enjoyed it.

You'll rejoice to know the rainwater cistern is a-borning – it is now down to 7 feet in depth and is 8 feet across. The digging is very hard, for it is now frozen hard pan, but it won't have to go a great deal deeper. It's going to be a real boon, for it will more than cut this awful chore of hauling water in half. E.G. [Ernest, I think – Ethel's husband] is planning to put a timber cribbing around the top on the outside of the bricks to bring the well top to the same level as the porch. Then we can just walk right to the pump from the porch with no steps to climb up and down. "I can hardly wait until Saturday night to try it."

Did we ever tell you of the big golden eagle Dad caught in the traps? He measured 76 inches, tip to tip, and weighed over 9 lbs. He was a beauty, and I'll send you his picture later on. Also, last Wed. a.m. he found a coyote had made off with a trap on his leg, so S.J. and Ernest went after him. They followed him to the bottom of the canyon, via Stove Creek, thence almost to Wheeler, thence across the creek, and there gave him up. It was S.J.'s first trip to the canyon, and it was under very adverse circumstances, for the snow made hard going. Ernest said she didn't once whimper but just slogged along. We thought she'd be a wreck the next day, but she wasn't even stiff.

Today I have done very little of anything – just loafed around and now I must come out of it and do dinner dishes. We'll be having popcorn, candy, and "nertz" presently.

Love and all good wishes for this New Year.


P.S. If you have time and opportunity, read "The Life of Omar Khayyam," by Harold Lamb. It is a very fine account, based as much on fact as is possible, of the life of Omar. Most interesting – story form. E.

P.S. Of all things, didn't J.B.s remember us – we Robinsons, I mean. I was just overwhelmed – and mad! When I was in town this fall she refused to speak to me – turned her back, that is, so she wouldn't have to speak. No reason that I know of why she shouldn't. It burns me up to be remembered at Xmas time under those circumstances.

[Photos: Grandpa Jack in the yard, February 1936. See Dick the dog. The cistern -- still there though with a cement cover. And perhaps this is the photo of Jack and the eagle.]

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


[Take a step back in time and enjoy this old-fashioned Christmas celebration at our Idaho farmhouse. This first letter is from my grandmother, Ina Dobson, to her son, Vance, who is a piano teacher in Raymond, Washington. (See photo left) Ina's daughter, Ethel, and her husband, Ernest, are there at the farm for Christmas with their 10-year-old daughter, Shirley Jean. Ina's youngest daughter, Shirley, is also there. She works at a doctor's office in Orofino. The next June Shirley will marry Henry Shockley, who is also mentioned in the letter.]

Sunday, Jan. 3, 1937

Dearest Vance,

You are getting my first letter of 1937! We have some snow. It began the Sunday following Xmas for we had a black one [no snow for Christmas.] It was very merry though with six of us here to enjoy it. We were all so glad you called us and started the day off fine.

We had our tree without the June’s this year and it was a full one. Shirley Jean went with Ernest to get it and Dad set it up Thursday forenoon. Then she, Shirley and Henry trimmed it. Shirley was sort of weak from a touch of flu so doctor told her she’d better come home Wednesday evening and from then on it seemed really like Xmas to me. Henry is good company, too, and he didn’t go over home till Xmas Eve.

Shirley Jean was thrilled to be allowed to tie on gifts, etc. She hung up her stocking at the fireplace and Dad did too as he usually does when a grandchild is here. Shirley Jean was allowed to slip down and get her sock before everyone else was up. We only stipulated that it should not be too early morning. I put a book in the top of it, so as to keep her quiet till we were up. After breakfast she was allowed to take off gifts and hand them around and was delighted.

It was another “skimpy Xmas,” with everyone well-remembered. Earle and Bernice sent us a plaque representing the covered wagon days. A wagon in the foreground and the train stretching beyond, the skull of an ox adds a touch of realism. It is about 8x10 and very interesting, looks fine on the mantel. They sent me a pen and pencil set in green. Myrtle sent Dad a bag of nuts and I put that in his sock. Shirley gave us a set of pretty plates in wild rose design and Shirley Jean gave us a sugar and creamer to match. I already had cups and saucers, platter and bowls in that design so feel pretty well fixed now for dishes. Ethel gave me a set of mixing bowls in heavy pink glass for my birthday . . . Gene sent me a box of pretty handkerchiefs and Ben sent a box of stationery in a book-shaped box. They will keep on sending things at Xmas, though I’d prefer being left out on it. Dad gave me pretty boudoir slippers, so I did well. There were other small remembrances and cards which I will spare you in my recital.

The rug is very pretty. Henry brought it out after taking Shirley back Sunday P.M. after Xmas for she had Saturday and Sunday off, too, but failed to get those days off after New Year’s Day. Henry, Ernest, and Shirley got it down the A.M. of New Year’s Day. (We were at June’s for dinner and had the usual spread tho Aunt had told us to not expect much.) It makes the room look larger and lighter. Thank you for your share in it. Your box came the day after Xmas and so prolonged it for us. I gathered them all around and all enjoyed the beautifully wrapped gifts and the verses on them. The holly decorations were so lovely, too. Shirley and Henry immediately began to further embellish the house with them. They took down the big etching over the mantel and hung the large cluster you made there and used the silvered branches over the other two. What a lot of time you must have spent on them and how beautiful they are. We reserved some and the ball sprays for our Sunday dinner decorations. We made a lovely centerpiece of holly and the sprays and candles and dined in state with the best cloth, dishes, etc., all by candle light. So don’t feel bad that yours didn’t get here for Xmas as we had more opportunity to enjoy it. As I said it just prolonged our festivities, really. Shirley Jean’s box is so pretty and quaint-like. [Vance had sent Shirley Jean a small jewelry box.] Dad’s gift was a very happy thought and mine of the salt and pepper very clever and handy and already have seen service. I like them. They are so nice to pick up. Well, shall ring off on Xmas!

Well, anyway it was a red-letter one with the folks here. I’m keeping your card and the leaves on my gift and Ethel is keeping hers. What a jumble this is! But you’ll understand! I hope you’ll tell us all about your Xmas, etc. We kept the house all decorated till yesterday when we moved the tree out and all. It was the first time we’d had the garlands up since ’30 when Ethel and Shirley Jean were here for Xmas the last time.

Well, we’ve just had dinner – beef soup . . . huckleberry pie with whipped cream. Of course, you’ll understand there were in-betweens. Mrs. Dawson gave Shirley some maple sugar for Xmas and she sent part up here, so we are going to have waffles with maple syrup one of these days. Come over and you may have yours with whipped cream and [?] maple sugar ala Rectors.

Now I think I’ll stop for Ethel and Shirley Jean are also writing.

Love and all good wishes for the New Year. Mother Inda

[A few pieces of the dishes Ina mentions, "Wild Rose" by Homer Laughlin, were left here in the house, so I took a picture of a placesetting. I have enjoyed researching that pattern online.]

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Twas the Monday before Christmas . . .

Mike and I slept to a reasonable hour this morning and then sprang to our work -- loading the Dakota for the trip to the farm. No gifts this trip (mainly because I still have wrapping to do -- but we brought four more boxes of framed photos, etchings, and what have you, adding it to the four that were already here. Nick and Hallie have promised to help us make decisions on some of this old stuff while they are here, and we'll probably do that somewhere between Dominoes and Scrabble.

So, Mike and I arrived here at the farm about 11:00. Food unloaded -- check; faucets re-installed -- check; water turned on -- check; dishwasher runs without incident -- check.

We left here last in the midst of a cold snap on December 7. Here are the weather statistics from Mike's electronic weather station:
Min. temp.: .4 on 12-8 at 7:12 a.m.
Max. temp.: 42 (today)
Min. wind chill: -21 on 12-9
Max. wind gust -- 28 mph on 12-15
We aren't sure about precip. Sometimes that malfunctions. But from the bridge at Arrow all the way to the farm, we saw patches of snow where it had drifted or been piled. The weather report is for dropping temperatures and some snow. It's a gray day, and we noted that the ground is soft and muddy.

The first thing I did when I walked in the house was to turn on the Christmas tree lights. Mike just about panicked when he saw it, thinking we had left them on. I found my computer cord right where I left it. Now I have one for town and one for here. Really, the less we have to carry back and forth the better, but you just can't have two of everything.

Relaxing day? Well, I have things to do. I'm making those lists and checking them twice. But at least I'm down to some fun things. I hope you are enjoying your holiday preparations -- and do check back again for another visit with Ina. KW

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Dec. 19, 1935

Dear Vance,

Your letter came today and I was going to write today. Isn't it lucky I can answer a letter while it is still warm!

Well, my dear son, you are too generous as usual. A whole $5 bill. Where do the rest come in on this? It cost $9.99, no not quite that [to fix the radio], and you see this is half of the whole, and The Readers' Digest, too! That will be lovely. I've always wanted that magazine. Oh, thank you Vance, but that doesn't at all express it. You know what I mean tho. I strongly suspect you of 'ulterior motives.' 'The fiver will come handy just now,' says you. Well, dearest, don't worry over us. We'll make it all right. I don't intend to do without food and decent clothes and plenty of light such as it is. We have lately sold two little 2 ½ gallon cans of cream and each brought us $3.60, more than a 5 gallon used to do. We have a fresh cow so cream will be coming on faster and we pay as we go. The hens are beginning to lay now, too, and eggs are 40 cents. I wonder how all this sounds to you now. It must sound queer! I know it does. You have been away from it all so long. Dad beefed the steer to day with help from June and Ralph. It is nice and fat and we'll sell half of it if we can, and can a lot. I just used my last jar of canned beef yesterday.

Weather is bright and cold, the ground frozen hard. It is making water scarce and we need lots more moisture but we do enjoy the bright days, for we had so much fog and frost and gloom for a while.

The radio is up and going, but we must look after the connections as we're getting poor results. I feel quite proud that I could set it up without trouble and we got different batteries too and different tubes.

I think the Reader's Digest will be fine for both [sisters]. I know Myrtle is crazy about it, and Pearl hasn't much time for reading so the condensed form will be good and Al will like it too.

Well, I'm so bedeviled and bemused with everything around here that this evening I trimmed the Aladdin lamp on the library table, then finding no matches on the mantel went to the kitchen, took one, lit it, and carried it carefully to this room. When I came to, I was so tickled over my own foolishness that I nearly blew out the lamp. I was laughing and I get silly every time I think of it. I mean all this Xmas packing, sorting, carding, lettering, mailing, etc., etc. I'm like the woman "Uncle Josh" told about. "She opened the valise, took out the purse, shut the valise," etc. etc. – remember it?

I've got Myrtle's package still to pack. Yours was got ready today and I hope you may like it. The rest are gone. No, I didn't spend any money to speak of – couldn't – but looked around and found a couple of books, new, though we'd read them, so sent one to Ernest and Ethel and one to Al and Pearl; sent Stan Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Shirley Jean The Five Little Peppers. Dad put in some Xmas popcorn, for it seems what they get there doesn't pop. Shirley put in a booklet for each [Stan & Shirley Jean] having the Bible story of the nativity to read Christmas Eve. I had a supply of stationery from the Rexall sale and sent Earle & Bernice a nice big box such as they like. Myrtle, I got a shoulder scarf to wear at her work. Shirley a pretty white slip. She wears white uniforms and needs lots of slips. For Dad I got a pair of nice wool dress socks tho he rarely wears them as such but likes to wear them inside his heavy ones and his supply was getting rather low. I got a nut cracker and pix [picks] for June & Aunt, tho he has no teeth at all and she only the lowers, but they'll eat nuts, you'll see. I got Ruth a cute figurine holding fish and egg timer in its mouth. Doris gets a booklet, Xmas reading, and tree decorations. She is the tree girl as well as reader up there. Ralph gets something – don't know just what yet – and I'll have treats on the tree for all, mostly sugared popcorn as they all voted it best for before dinner consumption. Of course, there will be candy and nuts after dinner. We'll ask Mr. Boehm down, poor lonely soul.

Now I must close . . . With much love and all good wishes, Mother

[The photo of the barnyard was taken by Ina in 1936. She calls our attention to the newspaper at the top of the photo that Jack, her husband, was holding to shade the camera.] KW

Saturday, December 19, 2009


In retirement, nothing much pushes me. And when I'm in a place where I'm pushed, I don't react well. But, I was fairly organized as I got my holiday boxes ready to mail this morning. My goal was to have six boxes ready for the mail and in the back of the car when I left the house for a noon appointment, and I made it! I even found the time to finish making a fabric bag for Emerson's gift, to wrap three small gifts, and to have a brief conversation with my sister. One box I had just sealed when it occurred to me that the elderberry jelly wasn't in it. I hated to open it, but I did, and the mental eye was right. I owed that box some jelly. And in the process of my work, I made a huge mess of the house.

I made it to my hair appointment on time and had a great visit with my stylist. We discussed how Christmas traditions have changed in our families. "I have to focus on other aspects of the holiday," I said, to which she replied, "Yes, and my first focus is not to cry." We laughed.

I picked up Mike at TaxTyme and we went on to our broker's office for an open house where we had lunch. I couldn't help but think that we've been attending these affairs for twenty years. When we started we were by far the youngest couple there and it's still true to some extent.

After lunch Mike went with me to a postal station to mail the boxes. It was great to have help. And we didn't have to wait in line as I had feared.

We shopped for a while, then Mike went back to work and I shopped some more. I stopped at Walmart to pick up more towels to embroider. Arriving home as evening was beginning to fall, I was greeted by an eager Nellie who insisted we should go for the walk right then. I obliged. Supper was with the geocachers at the Pizzeria, where we visited with a couple originally from Oklahoma. We told them about our trip to Mississippi last summer.

Some goals for this holiday season will not be realized this year. For instance, I have a dream of "going green" – eliminating all wrapping paper and bows. But somehow those re-usable fabric bags just didn't materialize. (Get it – materialize – LOL.) It probably has something to do with the lack of push. "But," protested Hallie, when I mentioned my disappointment, "you still have lots of paper. You could use it up."

"That's just it," I explained. "I amassed quite a bit before I realized we just don't use much wrapping paper any more. It will take me forever to use it up and I'd rather store fabric and yarn than wrapping paper."

Meanwhile, Debbie at "about.com: Sewing" posted instructions for making fabric sacks to accommodate standard-size boxes. Yes-s-s-s! I like it when someone paves my way.

And then there's an afghan I'm crocheting for a young friend. It won't be ready for her this Christmas, but I don't think I'll hold it for next Christmas. I'll finish it and get it to her this winter. KW

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Some years back Mike and I simplified the holiday gift exchange by sending a family gift to the households of our adult children. (Grandkids are still remembered individually.) And last year I decided to develop that family gift in my kitchen instead of ordering pre-packaged goodies. Using a recipe I discovered during the summer (and tested on Jack during his visit), I developed a kit containing pre-measured sugar, a mixture of flour and cornstarch, and a bag of M&Ms. Gramma Kathy Claus' kitchen was a mess today as I measured (and spilled) flour and corn starch! Participants will need to provide a pound of butter and some vanilla.

Here's the recipe: M&M Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter (no substitutes, softened)

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

¼ cup cornstarch

1 cup M&Ms chocolate candies

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla thoroughly using an electric mixer. Gradually blend in flour and corn starch. Stir in 1 cup candies.

Form into 1-inch balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently flatten each cookie using fingers or a flat-bottomed drinking glass (dipped in sugar to prevent sticking).

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown.

Cool for 5 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

For my project, I doubled this recipe.

This wasn't all I did in my kitchen today. I have some Dept. 56 pieces from the Original Snow Village, and through display, the bottle brush trees at the Village Christmas Tree Stand had faded in the sun, turning an ugly brown. I had long pondered how I could re-color those trees, and this year I took courage through online tutorials dealing with the very subject. I bought some dark green fabric dye and prepared about half the box in two cups of hot water. I discovered that all I needed to do was to dip each tree in the dye, then rinse it in cold water. Voila! Instant tree renewal! And how many years have I put up with those ugly trees?KW

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Mike went to work today – setting up the tax operation, so I opted to make a trip to town and get groceries. I had coupons for Albertson's and decided to go there – located just one block from the new Super Walmart. In my mind it was a bit of a toss-up, you know, because you can get more stuff at Walmart. You can gawk at the Christmas stuff, play with the toys, look at the electronics, choose towels to machine embroider, then get your groceries. Some people don't go there; I'm not one of them.

But, I went to Albertson's. I enjoyed myself, meandering back and forth across the store, sometimes looking for things on my list, sometimes just looking. At 2:30 I began to finish up my shopping. My goal was to spend $80.00 so that I could use my coupon -- $8.00 off on $80.00. The cart was about one-third full and I figured I could lift and carry the entire order of bagged groceries (that's excluding the two gallons of milk and one carton of pop) by myself in one trip. I judged that to be $100.00 worth of groceries, however scary that might be. Arriving at the check-out, I was third in line. One of the cashiers called, "Three's a crowd," so an available checker approached me and said, "May I help you over here?" "Over here" proved to be the self-check station. (Déjà vu. This same scenario happened to Mike and me sometime back.)

Well, it's awkward, you know. There I was standing next to the checker as she scans my groceries, and it feels like she's doing my job. But – I have $100.00 worth of groceries, including fresh produce, and I would never choose to use self-check under these circumstances. A few error screens pop up along the way, and I begin to be grateful I'm not trying to check myself. "Here," I say to the clerk as she finishes, "these are the coupons I brought." She deducts those off my order. "Finish and Pay," says the screen. One swipe of my credit card is not enough. I have to do it again. It appears to go through – in fact, the computer screen says so, but there's no receipt. It becomes obvious that the computer has frozen up.

"Please wait for assistance," says that pleasant, feminine, automated voice.

"I'm so sorry this happened," says the clerk, "but I have to get my supervisor. She's busy right now, but she will come and verify the screen, then she'll go upstairs to verify that your payment went through. I just hate when this happens. My shift is ending and I have to leave now. Again – I'm sorry. I hope you weren't in a hurry. Good-bye." Oh great! She could go, but I had to stay there. "Please wait for assistance," says the automated voice again. As I stood there by myself, Walmart began to look better to me. "If these people do not offer me a significant discount on this order or my next order," I think to myself, "my loyalty to them is over."

So, there I stood. "Please wait for assistance," says the computer again. After about five minutes the supervisor showed up, verified that the check-out had failed, verified that my payment had not gone through, and took me to a regular check station where she re-ran my entire order. While that was happening, another employee, perhaps the in-store Starbuck's barista, approached me. "You've been here a long time," she says. "Can I get you . . . " and I made a selection from the drinks she listed off. "There goes any hope of a grocery discount," I think.

Amazingly, my final total ended up the same as it had previously -- $89.90. (I reminded the supervisor of my coupons.) I ran my card and got my receipt. "Can Todd help you out?" asks the supervisor. "That way you won't have to bring the cart back – or anything," she finishes rather lamely.

"Sure," I accepted with some trepidation. Todd is a great kid from the "help the handicapped" employment agency. He does not get in a hurry – and the cart return was right next to my car.

It was 3:15. I figure check-out had taken me at least half an hour. KW

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Nellie seemed to know there was something different about the day. Maybe she knows Hallie never stays long, maybe she noticed the different dress, for sure she knows about suitcases and coats. Maybe she even caught the "g" word -- go -- which undoubtedly entered conversation now and then. And somehow she seemed to know this change would not involve her. So, when Hallie said, "Well, I'd better go," Nellie got off her pillow and laid on the floor, paws outstretched, head resting down between her legs.

"Oh -- is she sulking?" asked Hallie. "Yes, but she'll get over it," I replied.

So, Hallie and Nellie shared a tender good-bye before Hallie left for the airport. Then Nellie climbed back on her pillow to continue her nap.

But -- Nellie just doesn't know that Hallie will be back next week. KW

Monday, December 14, 2009


My Idaho family was introduced to cheese grits when Mike's mother came for our wedding in 1975. She prepared cheese grits for a family gathering and my mother asked for the recipe. From there it evolved and became a favorite at any family gathering where served.

For the bicycle club's Christmas dinner we were provided a Greek theme in honor of several members who cycled Greece last September. Not much interested in the Greek theme, Mike said we would bring cheese grits from the south. His implication might have been the south of Greece, but he meant to take regular ol' southern cheese grits casserole. I thought we should be better sports, so I checked online to see if someone else might have made grits using feta cheese. Sure enough! I found it – Feta Cheese Grits.

"What if we don't like it," asked Mike. "What if it isn't good?"

"It doesn't matter," I replied. "We will have participated as asked."

But it really was pretty good. Here's the recipe as I made it.


4 cups grits, cooked (about one cup uncooked grits to four cups water)

¾ cup feta cheese (3.5 ounces)

½ cup butter

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

Dash pepper

½ tsp oregano

Cook grits until thickened. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into 7x11 baking dish. Bake at 375 for 10 to 20 minutes.

When we make our favorite cheese grits, we use Velveeta, and when I say feta cheese grits was "pretty good," I don't mean that it will ever replace Velveeta in my standard recipe. But – we tried something new, we participated, and comments were positive. KW

Sunday, December 13, 2009


"I'm not going to tell Nellie you're coming," I told Hallie. "Let's surprise her."

So, when Hallie drove up to the town house this afternoon, I called Nellie to the door so she could see her surprise. She recognized Hallie immediately and dashed out to greet her as soon as I opened the door.

And, of course, after the initial greeting, the question always arises, "What did you bring me?" And Hallie did not disappoint, presenting Nellie with a nice, crisp rawhide chewie. Nellie enjoyed possession of the chewie which she took to her pillow and devoured.

Hallie was just finishing her last semester at the University of Idaho when Nellie came to live with us. Hallie and Nellie bonded over just those few weeks prior to Hallie's graduation. Nellie has never forgotten; neither has Hallie.

Hallie will stay with us for a couple of days while meeting with a client here in the valley. We have already done some Christmas shopping and played a game of Scrabble.

We have an inch or so of snow. It's colder this evening than the predicted 29; it's 22.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


In real time it's warmed up to a high at just below freezing. And so, yes, snow is predicted. We took the late afternoon walk amongst some light flakes. Any accumulation likely won't last long as the "warming" trend continues.

My blog theme this advent season is about gifts. Generally speaking, I wonder, is holiday gift-giving out of control in our country? Each family has to determine the appropriate holiday expenditure, of course. In my quest for the "retro" experience, I'm taking some cues from my Grandma Ina's Depression-era letters in which she fully outlined to my dad, her son Vance, her entire list of recipients. Incidentally, I read recently that spending for gifts in this country has always been disproportionate to income, even in lean years like the Depression.

Here's what Ina wrote in her pre-Christmas letter to Vance, my dad, in 1934:

"I'm standing the Xmas doing fine. Ruth [her niece] has been here two days helping for I'm making a dress for her of one of Ida's. Most of my letters and cards are written and my last box went off today. I forgot to tell anyone it would be a 'skimpy Xmas.' Pearl said she couldn't send presents. Nothing to sell tho they have vegetables, fruit, beef and pork and of course plenty of milk, butter, so they'll do, but Al had borrowed $600 on his salary to pay some bills and get stuff and it was all gone. . . . Ethel said this move would strap them and she couldn't do anything either. Well, anyway, you 'have done something' so here's hoping.

"We sent Pearl and Al a box. I sent that W. Mason bag to Pearl. She can make good use of it, and I never use it. It was so pretty and useful too, so decided it should go to Pearl. Also sent a pretty pincushion and Al two linen hankies; Stan a book and pencil sharpener like the one Aunt sent you. I also put in the little toy dog for Pearl, a relic of old reservation days – Ad Burns and his house burning – the dog went through the fire. I brought it from Drain. To Ethel and Ernest, a breakfast tablecloth. Shirley Jean a pencil sharpener and "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" book and a box of molasses popcorn and some to pop. To Shirley scissors, stationery portfolio, bottle of perfume for her purse, and I'm getting new curtains for her room, too, which she wanted. That makes me think of the bath rug I sent you. I've been wanting to sample store rugs so sent for this one and having seen will never get any more like it though it will make a bath mat. "To Myrtle an atlas she'd wanted and a lady doll to muffle her clock at night. I made the doll a full old-fashioned skirt of velvet lined and padded with cotton. I hope it fits. I also made her a pretty quilt end and a face cloth much as she likes and put in a box of that popcorn. That's all, I guess.

"We're giving June and Aunt [some family photos]. Doris, a stationery folder. To Ralph, field glasses -- surprisingly good for the price, too. Ruth gets a nice collar for the dress I'm making.

"I may fill little boxes with sugared popcorn, nuts, candy for the tree just to make it livelier. Shirley sent me a box with paper tags, etc., and some small stick candy and nuts for the boxes. We send a crate of eggs to town about every two weeks and it keeps us in groceries. I got candy, nuts, oranges, grapefruit, etc. We'll have to have some lettuce, celery, etc., come up for Xmas, too. Aunt is helping me out by doing some of the cooking – pies, cookies, etc. Earl's box has come and Myrtle's. I must close with love and all good wishes, tho that doesn't express it at all it seems to me. Mother – hugs & kisses."

I've wondered what Ina thought about those of her family who felt unable to send gifts while she herself, working from nothing, put her thought and efforts into sending "something." I know she could ill afford to do it, but it was important to her. Speaking of her simple gifts, she said, "People can do things like this if they want to. No use to let everything go because of hard times." And she approved of the effort her poverty-stricken son had made to send something. KW

[The photos were taken from the farmyard looking north from the house and date from the mid-1930s.]

Friday, December 11, 2009


Hallie asked how Ina coped when it was cold. The house wasn't insulated, so you know it was drafty. No electricity, no heat source other than wood stoves, no pipes to worry about -- that in itself was probably a good thing. The kitchen stove was a wood stove, and while it was a heat source, the kitchen was not open to the dining room as it is today, which would have restricted the heat flow. So, yes, they closed the pocket doors between the living and dining rooms and lit a wood stove which sat at the bottom of the stairs -- perhaps the very one Mike installed in his shop. And their waking hours were spent in the kitchen and dining room. You can read for yourself what Ina said about coping in the cold.

Ina writes to Vance on February 16, 1936:

Well, I wish you were here right now. The hill east is a marvelous pink and the shadows fall blue to its top. We have about three feet of snow and it is cold. It began piling up week before last and we have had sub-zero weather off and on ever since. Week ago Friday at 9:30 p.m. it was 12 degrees below. That is the coldest we have noted. The last few days are colder – yesterday a.m. it was 8 degrees below, this a.m. 6 degrees below and the highest today we noted was 4 degrees above. Dad keeps a lantern in the cellar “of a nite” and nothing has frozen. At Musser’s it registered 19 degrees below. Reports from Saskatchewan are as low as 55 degrees below, Montana 40 degrees below. I dread to think of Pearl [living the farm life in Alberta] . . . The front door is corked up. We have been using the dining room evenings this cold weather. It is so much warmer, but I’m going back to the other room as soon as possible. I make a little fire in the bedroom every evening now and then the bed is warm. I hang up some things by the stove so keep comfortable. . . Now I must go and build the fire in the bedroom and wash my late dinner dishes and do all the little things to make the evening comfortable. . . . Monday, a.m., and 4 degrees below but clear as a bell. Dad has Earl Plank here and they are sawing down a tree by the pond for wood. We have plenty of limbs but snow too deep to get to them.

The stove she speaks of lighting in the evenings was probably in the master bedroom upstairs. That was Jack's room. In their latter years, she used the downstairs bedroom while Jack slept upstairs. And from what she says, it sounds as if they felled a tree in cold weather because they can't get to the wood. Oh well -- something for the guys to do. But if they couldn't get to the wood, could they get to the outhouse? KW