Monday, February 29, 2016


Harriet commented on the previous post that she has treasures that came to her from our mother in a mended state. Both my mother and dad mended things that broke and went on as if it were just the same. And that reminded me . . .

On visits to Portland, Mother and I would call on Aunt Neill Fohl at her apartment in Lake Oswego. Aunt Neill was the widow of my grandfather’s younger brother. We enjoyed getting to know her.

Aunt Neill had a pair of beautiful antique electric table lamps. The base included a red glass bowl hung with prisms. As we admired them, Aunt Neill mentioned that one of them was cracked. It made no difference to their decorative effect in her living room.

Aunt Neill passed away, and in the summer of 1974, Mother received a phone call from Aunt Neill’s niece. She asked if Mother wanted the antique lamps -- and would she buy them? (Can’t quite remember the price – probably $75 each.) I had some thoughts on the matter, which I kept to myself, but Mother said yes. Obviously, she could see the lamps gracing her living room, and Daddy loved old glass. So – there you have it. We were on our way to Lake Oswego to buy the lamps.

I don’t remember anything about the trip or taking possession of the lamps – just that we did it. Daddy wrapped them carefully in old blankets to protect them. Mother and Daddy were always careful in the handling of things. Well, mostly always . . .

But – when we got home, there was a boat parked in our driveway, and Daddy erroneously concluded that brother Chuck had bought it. In his excitement, he forgot what he was about and as he carried one of the lamps to the house, he squeezed it a bit too hard and the bowl broke into a myriad of little pieces. He was devastated. It was then that Mother remembered that one of the bowls was cracked.

In my opinion – then as well as now – we should have let it go. C’est la vie. However, Mother had a vision for how she would use the lamps and Daddy wanted to make it right. He found someone in Clarkston who advertised to mend broken antiques. I remember taking the lamp to this individual in a jillion pieces. She said it was important to get right on the mending process because glass will change shape a bit over time, making it difficult to fit the pieces together. As I stood there with my parents, I continued to think it was a lot of money to pay for nothing. What would we have in the end but a broken lamp, now compromised and even more susceptible to breakage? I don’t remember exactly what it cost – at least $100 – for this individual to painstakingly glue the pieces together, compounding the rather exorbitant purchase price. Seemed crazy to me.

Well, those lamps graced my parents’ living room for the rest of their days in the old family home, and they were proud of them. But I told my mother that I wanted nothing more to do with them – ever. I didn't want the responsibility of owning them. Frankly, I consider myself truly blessed that one of my children didn’t break those lamps right where they sat -- because, you know, as Mother used to say, "The house of too much trouble was not meant for little boys. . ." KW

[I was lucky to find a couple of snapshots good enough to show the two lamps.]

Friday, February 26, 2016


With my mother, 1949
I always believed my upbringing was different than most of my peers in that I, a mid-century person, was raised by late-life parents, both of whom were born in the early part of the century. Growing up, I felt that my parents’ values were old-fashioned. Okay, we all think (or thought) that, but mine really were! But – whatever I thought as a young person, my parents’ values were shaped before the Depression, in the 1910s and ‘20s when goods were scarce even if you had money. Today, it’s become a kind of study for me to remember and reflect on those rural values of that era.

I came into the house from school one day – back in “my” day – to find my mother weeping. “Oh, Kathy,” she said, “I broke Aunt Grace’s teapot. I'm sick to my stomach.” She had been cleaning house and inadvertently knocked the teapot off a shelf.

Young as I was, I was impressed that she would react as if it were a death in the family. That was the first I realized that my mother treasured things. I had never seen Aunt Grace’s teapot. We certainly didn’t ever use it, nor would we have. It was beyond using. It was a memento of her great-aunt, a keepsake from another era to be treasured but never used. Maybe Mother even felt it had been entrusted to her since Aunt Grace didn’t need it any more.  

I didn’t know how to comfort Mother. I was just profoundly impressed that we should care so much about things, and I offered a short but heartfelt prayer of gratitude that I had not been the one to break the teapot!

Two of Mother's teapots. We use the homely insulated carafe.
As all children do, I had broken a few things in my young life, and while Mother may have forgiven in her heart, she didn’t let on. She told me that when she raised her older children, she had purchased dime store “treasures” and set them around the house. She knew full well they would be broken eventually, and when they were, she carried on as though they were precious things. It was the way she trained her children to be careful. Well, I (the youngest) learned with the real stuff. The story of how I broke the candy dish lid when I was two years old occasionally surfaced.

Over the years, I have pondered Mother’s ideas about the place of things in our lives, and now as a senior citizen living in a different world, I have my own opinions. I think it’s a matter of respect to handle things with care, but if we don’t see and handle them, we don’t appreciate them, and if we do handle them, there will be some breakage. And if something is inadvertently broken (or lost) in the course of life, then there should be forgiveness because we aren’t going to take anything with us but the character we’ve shaped. KW

[Note the shadow of my dad's face in the first picture.]

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Pepper and her master, Ken
Bess and Nellie’s tall friend Pepper (Ken’s dog) seems a bit accident prone. She’s an enthusiastic – even exuberant – dog, and sometimes she moves too quickly for her own good. A couple of weeks ago she tore a gash in her leg. Most recently, she tore her ear on barbed wire. Seems like it’s always something, poor dear.

Ken & Pepper; Mike and Nellie
The other day Ken and Mike took the dogs for a hike, and Pepper showed up sporting a colorful cone, which just adds an encumbrance to her space. Anyway, they had a good hike and nothing bad happened.

Yesterday Nellie wandered off to visit the horses across the street and carried some of that aroma home with her. Discussion ensued between Mike and me, and Nellie knew what we were talking about. There was no way around it -- she had to have a bath. 

"Bath time. Who wants to be first," called Mike, and to our surprise both Bess and Nellie presented immediately at the tub. Ordinarily Nellie is timid and Bess hides, but this time they were both eager. Bess had first bath, and then it was Nellie's turn. They smell so clean!!! KW

Monday, February 22, 2016


Bess & Mike play ball every day.

Back in those days when we were raising children, my contribution to the savings program was to cut corners on all necessary expenditures. Our budget for textiles (clothing, bedding, towels, fabric, yarn, etc.) was limited. When it came to sheets, for instance, I purchased at the marts. Well, I guess I did have a couple of better sets for the “big bed,” but truthfully, I didn’t think they were much better than those from the marts, so I continued to buy cut-rate bedding. Until last week, that is.

"Fetch the ball, Bess. Bring it here."
I had two sets of sheets for our queen-sized bed – one from Ross and one from a mart. The sheets from Ross were lovely but the top sheet was too short. ("Remember, it's at Ross for a reason," advised daughter Hallie.) I took that set to the farm where it will certainly work well on a double bed. So then I had just the set from the mart, which I washed and put back on the bed each Saturday. Well, you probably know how it was going. They were just plain skimpy.

One recent morning I woke up to discover I had lots of blanket on my side of the bed but the sheet was with the other guy. “That's it!” I said. “I’m going shopping for a new set of sheets.”

So, thinking to start conservatively, I went to Penney’s and looked over the various options. I ignored the lower end products – I wanted a really good set, remember – and began a comparison of the finest sheets on display. First I suffered sticker shock. This was Penney’s, after all, which used to stand for “good value for the money,” and the sale price on their best was $90. I had to step aside and hyperventilate for a minute. Once I had recovered, I stepped up to the displays again and selected that expensive set.
Insert at top & bottom of fitted sheet

Saturday was “change the bed” day, and I was excited! These are the loveliest sheets I have ever owned. The bottom sheet slipped onto the mattress easily, and the top sheet actually hung down about a foot on either side of the bed. Not only that, but there’s plenty to tuck in at the bottom and still fold over at the top. I like ample covers on my neck and shoulders.
Bess & Nellie don't care for sheets.

I asked Mike how he liked the new sheets, and he said he didn’t notice. That’s good! If he's not unhappy, he must be happy, right? And – he would certainly notice if he made the bed! KW

[The store would probably think it weird if I took pictures, and anyway, you like to see the dogs.]

Friday, February 19, 2016


Snow crocus

I stood in the housewares department of a local mart and asked myself, “When did things change?” I was looking for plastic freezer containers – the cheapy kind that we used for the last 50 years. Has anyone else noticed that they’ve disappeared? Even “quality” plastic refrigerator containers (like Rubbermaid) are different or missing, seemingly replaced by glass. Then it dawned on me – this must be on account of BPA.
Well, things change. In the ‘50s, my parents froze food in reusable waxed cardboard boxes lined with plastic sacks. It was my job to open a sack and slip it into the box. A special funnel allowed for ease in pouring the food into the sack. The contents were written on the flap of the box in pencil so that it could be erased the next time the box was used. Perhaps there was something to be said for this system.

Oh, well. Methods change according to “progress.” Perhaps the glass storage containers offer advantages, give or take some breakage.

My Cornflower roaster is still intact.
And break they will! Sadly, last weekend I lost my 40-year-old Corning Cornflower 8-inch square pan. I was making raspberry pretzel salad – hurrying it along, of course, because it was late in the day – and I put the pretzel base (baked in the Corning pan) on the woodpile to cool. There’s not much left of the pile – and I thought about the dogs – but I left the pan there anyway. About ten minutes later I heard a crash and looked out the kitchen window to see Bess trying to retrieve what she could of the sweet treat from among the shards of pottery. Nellie was standing at the slider looking innocent, but she might well have been in on the initial mischief and jumped quickly to the door when the dish slipped.
Chris' Cornflower bread pans (lovely!)

I tossed dish -- dessert and all -- into the garbage can and let Mike handle the “bad dog!” stuff. They had to know it was wrong, but I also made it plain that I set them up and they were not to be ostracized.

Bess & Nellie
“Cornflower” has been discontinued but is available online. (Isn’t everything?) I can replace that pan, and eventually I might. The pan itself is actually quite affordable on Etsy -- about $15 – but then the shipping and handling is another $15, and I’m just not going to do that – not yet. Of course, square glass pans are available at the local marts, and, you know, they work just as well. KW