Monday, December 30, 2013


Well, we had a great Xmas, and it helps to pass the winter. People can do things like this if they want to. No use to let everything go because of hard times.
Ina Dobson

Ina had just finished reading a short Christmas story by Bess Streeter Aldrich. Gently she laid the magazine down and began to reflect on the Christmas celebration just past. The holiday season was fast slipping away, though she would leave the tree up until New Year’s Day. Ina was not sad, though. She felt a great sense of fulfillment in the gifts she had provided to family and friends, all of which were ideas born of ingenuity and many of which she had made herself.

Christmas Day itself was filled with good fellowship and good food. Ina was happy she could invite family and friends into her home. They had a wonderful mid-day meal and then proceeded to munch away on desserts, candy, and nuts. Wasn’t that just as good as any fancy holiday celebration set forth in the sophisticated magazines? Better!

And the day was not without its interesting moments. Mr. Boehm brought Doris and Ruth each a one-dollar box of chocolates and Ralph a one-dollar tie. Ina almost laughed out loud to think that dear foolish Mr. Boehm actually seemed to believe the old age pension of $12.00 per month would really come. Yes, he talked like it.

And she was blessed to have received thoughtful gifts herself. Daughter Pearl, who had said she couldn’t send much, sent a studio portrait of her family. A picture always makes a good gift, thought Ina – and anyway, much wasn’t necessary.

And Shirley had sent the lovely lavender wool shoulderette she was wearing -- very nice and warm and light and so good for evenings before the fireplace.

Well, in the end Ina wasn’t disappointed. There were many gifts, most of them practical things that would come in handy during the winter – gloves and socks and hankies and such. And she had several new books. Ina loved to read and books were always welcome to help pass the long winter evenings.

As Ina’s reverie deepened, she began to reflect on how life was changing. Here in this remote place, she wasn’t quite insulated from change. Dear Mrs. Boehm, who had been with the party in 1932 was now gone, leaving Mr. Boehm a poor lonely soul facing an uncertain future. Shirley was away this year, and though she would be back, her absence was simply a hint of the change that would come. Shirley would get married – and she should – and she might just move away for a better life. A mother could hardly complain about that, but at the same time, if Ina could take hold of the reins of time and slow it down, she would. Her brother Ben had sold out and moved to town. And she might just worry about her own future . . .

“But there’s no use to think of these things,” said Ina out loud. KW

Saturday, December 28, 2013


We promised to have a regular tree and we’ll all be children and have a lot of fun out of it. Ina Dobson

Christmas morning found Ina enjoying a good nap. In fact, Jack had to awaken her with a “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy Anniversary.” Today they were also celebrating 43 years of marriage, as were June and Bertha.

So Ina rose tardily to begin her 1934 Christmas. While Jack went to “feed the chores,” she began to fix breakfast: biscuits and sausage for him, beefsteak, cream gravy, and lite bread for her, also grapefruit, cereal, cranberries, and honey oranges. She gave Dick the Dog a generous breakfast of meat scraps, etc., and the cats also with liver to top it off and wished them all a “Merry Christmas.”

Then she fell to work and was all done and dressed and fixing her apples for salad when the guests came. Doris & Ruth were ready and willing to make themselves generally useful, lighting the tree, setting the table and arranging seats, and performing such tasks as Ina directed. It looked very pretty and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves.

Ina got through it all just fine. Mrs. Cordell and Bertha helped in the kitchen. Bertha had dressed a fat young rooster and brought it ready for the roaster. She also insisted on making pies since Ina had her hands full. One of each – mince and pumpkin -- would be plenty, Ina said, but no – here came two each and ginger cookies frosted. So they had mince and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it, ginger cookies, fruit cake and do-nuts, and fruit and whipped cream for that, coffee, oranges, nuts and candy besides the after dinner mints. Well, we just parceled out the leftovers. Mr. Boehm got half of each kind of pie. I believe Mrs. Cordell got a whole pie, some donuts, cookies, and buns. Mr. Boehm also got some of each. Bertha got the remains of the roast, buns and donuts . . .

“And this is how we do,” said Ina. “It was a good day.” KW

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve, 1934

Ruth and Doris came down Sunday and decorated the house with boughs and trimmed the tree also, with my aid and direction. They enjoyed it and so did I. Then we had dinner and they left in the early evening carrying their box of gifts all wrapped for their tree, and Ruth carrying her dress, nicely pressed and collar attached, in a suit box, not to be opened till Xmas A.M.
Ina Dobson, December 1934

Christmas Eve found Ina pressing new curtains for Shirley’s room, which she had long wanted. She also placed a new rug beside Shirley’s bed -- a belated birthday gift. When Shirley came home – and Ina was sure she would – these new touches would please her much. And even though she needn’t have done this right now, it gave Ina comfort to do this for the absent Shirley.

Ina’s gifts were wrapped except for the rug and blankets for Jack. (Yes, household items were often given as gifts as an economy measure.)  The blankets were too big for any sheet of paper, so she took two sheets, red and holly, and made a bright package with green on one end for good measure. Then she took a large old Christmas card for a tag and pasted it to the end to cover the gap.

Well, to continue and move along, after a late dinner, Ina made donuts for she loved to have fresh donuts for Christmas, and as she said, “do-nuts and coffee never hurt anyone.” That evening after all was cleared away, Jack popped two kettles of lovely popcorn and they sugared one and put taffy over the other. They heaped a large platter with balls till Jack complained, “Oh, that’s enough,” for he wanted some left to eat. Well, Ina sent him off to the living room to eat and read – and how lovely and peaceful it felt – the two of them sharing a quiet Christmas Eve.

Next up, she prepared her dressing and sweet potatoes for the morrow and put her buns to rise. She had baked lite bread and roasted beef, too. At last she repaired to her seat before the fire with a pan of sugared corn, nuts and candy and filled eleven little Christmas boxes.

At last it was time to open the boxes received in the mail. The box from Ethel was tied with green string, which she carefully cut and used to tie the eleven little boxes on the tree. (Ina loved green string for her tree packages, even though she felt foolish to admit it to herself.)  The packages were all so pretty and she had a great time. She hung packages on the tree and put some under it.

When the presents from Ethel were all out of the box, she lifted it from the chair, and there lay a thin square package with a friend’s return address across the corner. It felt like magic to find the unexpected gift. Then Jack remembered noticing the little package stuck under the string on bottom of the box from Ethel when it came from the mail box. Ina was delighted with this surprise gift -- a very nice linen and lace handkerchief.

Next she opened the box from Vance and found two beautiful baskets, which she thought very unusual. She placed one to hold back issues of Collier’s magazine. The other she placed under the east window in the living room to hold a few books and other special magazines. The wrapped gifts from Vance she placed under the tree to be opened during the party Christmas Day.

At last all was in readiness, and at midnight she and Jack retired – much later than usual.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


It was 35 degrees in the house when we arrived on Friday and in the 20s outside. I was glad I had donned my long underwear and warm outerwear as well. We ran the wall furnace until Mike got the fireplace insert going but it remained mostly cold in the house that day. Upstairs was downright frosty. Mike wore a skull cap he wears under his motorcycle helmet while I wrapped my neck and shoulder in a crocheted shawl. It commenced to snow Friday evening and continued through Saturday morning.

It's hard to tell how much snow we have -- 9 or 10 inches maybe -- so we really didn't expect the plumber on Saturday. Therefore one does what one has to do -- he fixes things himself. The upstairs commode Mike thought he had fixed was leaking badly. He discovered a broken gasket, which he replaced with one from the cracked tank still in the yard. That fixed the leak and we were relieved!

Next up -- the fridge. No water -- no ice. Mike removed the pump and re-installed it and somehow -- he doesn't know how -- that worked. Who needs a plumber?

Well, we did. We were still minus the downstairs commode and we had a slow leak (less than an ounce per hour) under the house.So when the plumber said he was coming, we were more than pleased.

The trip to the farmhouse should take half an hour, and then we began to watch for the plumber. And when he wasn't here after 20 minutes or so, Mike decided to call him. He's driven here twice before but it was a few years ago, and this place isn't an easy find. (That's one of the reasons we like it.) Yes, he did need directions, he said, so Mike tried to ascertain where he was and help him out. When he still wasn't here in another 10 minutes, Mike called him again. Aren't cell phones wonderful? I don't know why the poor lost plumber wasn't calling us. Probably a guy thing. . .

Finally here he came. The county had plowed our road Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, but of course, they don't plow the lane. We watched to be sure he made it -- up the first incline, up the last steep pitch -- yay! he made it. 

It was nearly dark as he set to work, but I guess that didn't really matter. Long story short: he installed a commode and fixed our leak. 

Now, we have just one more fix -- the spray faucet in the laundry room. That will wait until spring. 

It moderated today. Snow slid off the roofs and the icicles are dripping. It's raining right now but may become snow again as temps drop. I think it's safe to say, though, that we'll have a "White Christmas" here. KW

Saturday, December 21, 2013


I got my letters and cards and boxes off in good season and had the last week mostly to make a dress for Ruth. They told me not to try to do it before Xmas, but I wanted to. It and the collar I made, unknown to them all, were my gifts to Ruth. She came down different days and did my work up so I’d have more daylight to sew in. One day did my washing besides. She’s a good girl and willing to help. Ina Dobson to Vance, January 1935

After lunch one day the week before Christmas, Ina took paper and pencil and walked the half mile to her sister Bertha’s. Over tea and ginger cookies, they discussed plans for their joint Christmas celebration and Ina suggested that in Shirley’s absence, Bertha’s adult daughters, Ruth and Doris, lend a hand with the cleaning and decorating at her house,

“Now,” said Ina once the details of Christmas dinner had been decided, “I want to make that dress for Ruth this week.”

“Ina, you mustn’t take that on before Christmas,” warned Bertha. “I’m afraid it would be too much for you. There just isn’t enough time and it will make you nervous.”

“Now hear me out,” Ina said. “I want to do this. Ruth needs the dress. And if she will come and help with my work so that I have daylight hours to sew – well, I’d really like to do it.”
Reluctantly, Bertha and Ruth agreed that Ina could start the dress with the understanding that she would abandon the project if it became too much for her. 

So, in the ensuing days, Ruth came early to her Aunt Ina’s house. She washed and ironed, cleaned house and prepared the noon meal under Ina’s watchful eye while she sewed. [The pattern is an example from the 1930s. The picture is of me, taken several years ago, but the scene was undoubtedly much the same for Ina.]

The dress was finished on Friday. On Saturday the 21st, as Ina was cleaning up her sewing corner in the dining room, she looked again at the pattern and decided to make the collar. She had some fabric – it wouldn’t take long. Yes, she would do it! Jack knew better than to argue with her.

[For me, it's the taking on of last-minute projects, like Ruth's dress, that causes me to feel that I've missed Christmas. During the last week, I dropped several projects from my "before Christmas" list and felt that a saner mind had prevailed. I recognize that if I move to "Plan B," I'm usually the only one who's disappointed. Unless a commitment or a serious consequence hangs in the balance, pulling "all-nighters" is just wrong in my book. But my mother would do that -- and I have "older" friends who say that those projects completed through long night hours were amongst their most gratifying. I believe Ina would agree.
Interesting to note that in the correspondence from the ‘30s, Bertha worries a lot about Ina’s health. However, Jack was the first to pass away (1946), followed by Bertha (1947?) and June (1949). Ina outlived them all, passing in 1957.] KW

Friday, December 20, 2013


"The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave a luster of midday to objects below. . ."

Mike and I met with old friends and colleagues for a noon-time chili feed yesterday (Dec. 19). After that we shopped for supplies and groceries to see us through the holidays. And then - once at home - we started packing in earnest. As I loaded the boxes, Mike carried them to the pick-up. (And yes, it does become confusing.)

We let ourselves have a break last night, but this morning we were up and at the packing again. Mike finally reached the plumber, who had apparently forgotten our appointment and made other arrangements. We deemed it too late to turn back and stay another day in town, so we decided to come to the farm and make the best of it. 

Gilbert Grade was snow floor (or ice) but had been graveled. We only slipped a bit once. On top, it was obvious it had snowed since our trip in on Monday. The forecast is for a snow storm this afternoon and through the night -- and indeed, it has begun. We're thinking our holiday guests, Hallie and Nick, might have to park at the neighbor's and come the rest of the way by 4-wheel. We'll see. . . 

I felt like I was packing everything but the kitchen sink, and I can tell you, there are food items I wish I had, but we won't starve for quite a while. The thing is -- it's difficult to get here, but when I look out at the white, I just feel so happy.

Long story short: the water is on, the leak doesn't seem too bad, and Mike fixed the commode in the main bath upstairs to which he transferred the tank from downstairs. And -- we have internet. It appears at this time that things are better than we had expected.  

Ina is sitting in the corner of the dining room sewing away on a dress for Ruth. We'll talk about that later.

Onward . . . KW

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Ina is busy wrapping presents, packing boxes, and shooing Jack to the mailbox. She hasn't forgotten about you. She'll be back. She has much more to say, even if it takes her until New Year's.

Meanwhile, here's a picture of "Shirley Anne, American Farm Girl" modeling the outfit that will be mailed to Emmy today in real time. The nightgown and blanket were cut from a Daisy Kingdom panel I purchased through Amazon. The quality of the fabric is a little lighter than I like, but it was fun to do. I made the blanket into a quilt by adding a layer of batting and stitching through all layers with Bernina stitch #4.

Turns out that Emmy is a fan of Elsa from the Disney movie, Frozen, about which I know next to nothing, by the way, but I hope the "Snow Princess" idea is a fit.

Later . . . KW

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


With each passing day, the Christmas deadline grew closer – though Ina hated to think of Christmas that way. Still, the cards and letters needed to be finished and the boxes packed and sent on their way. She wanted to do some sewing before Christmas and was struggling to find the time. She had pressed Jack into writing the letters to accompany the pictures of the twins that they were sharing with their children and also extended family. Jack was equal to the task and he had done it well, though he didn’t like to write and was now beginning to complain.

Out came the wrapping supplies from the hiding place under the stairs. Myrtle’s box was next. She had long desired an atlas, and Ina had the good fortune to come by one when a family sold out and moved. And, of course, she wrapped the lady doll that would muffle her clock at night. Ina had made the doll a full old-fashioned skirt of velvet, which she lined and padded with cotton. She hoped it would fit. She also made Myrtle a pretty quilt end and a face cloth much as she likes and put in a box of popcorn that she and Jack had “sugared” last night.

Jack had sat by as Ina wrapped the packages, lending her his index finger now and again to help her tie the string. [Scotch tape was invented in the ‘30s, but I rather think Ina didn’t have any. She relied on string – and maybe sometimes she used decorative stickers.]

Myrtle was now 40, a single woman. It was hard for a woman to earn her own way and the world, to be without a family of her own. Ina wished she could come home for Christmas, but Myrtle said she couldn’t afford the trip. She had assured Ina that she would be with friends and enjoy the holiday, but in her heart, Ina wasn’t so sure. (So often the way it is with mothers.)

The box was packed, tied with string, and Jack took it and such cards as she had finished out to the mailbox.  

[We were relieved to learn today that the problem with our water was not at the pump but the storage tank. A pipe had frozen but has now been replaced, and we were instructed on how to keep it from happening again. You’d think we could better protect ourselves – and I guess we can – but it seems to be a matter of “live and learn.”] KW