Wednesday, November 30, 2016


“Well, “they say” you don’t have to answer a Christmas card – see – till next Christmas. It is more in the nature of a gift, so to speak, though I’ve always hated not to do so. My way is to get a supply of New Year cards; then if I’m caught a few lines on the card fixes it or the card alone, see! I sent Portfors a Christmas card this year and they hadn’t sent me one so Nina called me up and we had a nice chat.”Ina Dobson, Christmas 1934 *

Ina Dobson, c. 1940
I had planned to post a fictional Christmas adventure about my Grandmother Ina and her sister Bertha, the “Good Witches of Gilbert,” as an advent story. However, as October became November, I hadn’t finished the story, and worse than that, I hadn’t even started to make the props. I haven’t abandoned my story, but this year I need Ina to be herself instead of a character of my imagination. So, I have drawn from family correspondence once again to celebrate the warmth of an understated, old-fashioned Christmas.

Perhaps you'll recognize the words, the stories, and the pictures from previous posts, but that doesn’t matter. After all, Christmas means tradition, even though our traditions constantly change. To add to my inspiration, this year I purchased packets of vintage Christmas cards which I have scanned for sharing. I’m imagining that Ina sits down every day to review her collection of Christmas cards, old and new. The sentiments warm her heart as she ponders the deeper meaning of Christmas and the importance of family and friends.

I invite you to come back daily until Christmas Day to sit a minute or two with Ina. Perhaps you’ll bring a cup of tea or coffee (or hot chocolate) and maybe a Christmas cookie (be sure not to drop crumbs on your keyboard) as Ina shares memories and reviews a collection of mid-century Christmas cards. KW

*My paternal grandmother Ina Dickson Dobson refers to my maternal grandmother, Nina Saunders Portfors. The two families – the Dobsons and the Sanders (Saunders) – became acquainted when both farmed near Troy, Idaho, in the 1890s. But in 1934 when Grandma Ina wrote this, my mother was married to Fairly Walrath. KW

[The photo above was taken at Christmastime in 1935. Back row left are Fairly and Dorothy Portfors Walrath (my mother) and Dorothy's father, Grandpa C. O. (Charlie) Portfors. Seated in front of them are Grandma Nina Portfors holding Farrol Joan Walrath and to Grandma's left is Harriet Lee Walrath. To continue the back row: Sara and Francis Albert Portfors; Harry Lee Walrath; and Margaret and Ted Walrath. In front is Naomi Walrath holding Margot Walrath. Photo taken by Paul Seiffert at the home of Harry and Naomi Walrath.]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


As Mike and I prepared for a quick trip to the farm this morning, I lifted my clothes basket of “returns” from the top shelf in the garage. Ewww! Mouse sign all over my clean towels and rags. And they had gnawed a plastic sack in which I had other laundry. Those clothes looked all right, but I tossed everything into the laundry nevertheless. One can’t be too careful, I say.

“Oh yeah,” said Mike when I mentioned the mice, “I noticed a dog food sack had been gnawed.” Mice love dog food, you know.

So, the uneasy truce is over. This means war! We’re getting our ammunition in order for the battle. Actually, at the farm, where I wage major skirmishes with the mice, we didn’t see many in the house this year, and that begs the question, “Where are they?” You know they’re someplace – probably hiding in the trenches. However, near our town house, the fields are riddled with rodent activity, probably voles or pocket gophers. And mouse sign in the garage is just too close for comfort, though garages are susceptible of infiltration.

So, anyway, we did go to the farmhouse. As you can see from the pictures, there’s just a little snow, but more is predicted for tomorrow and the next day. I unloaded my basket of goodies – not much since I had to leave the now un-fresh laundry in town for re-washing -- and then I re-loaded with towels and bedding, a few Christmas magazines, a piece of fabric, a string of vintage Christmas lights, a jar of jelly, etc. We ate a light lunch and then, having accomplished our missions, we headed back to town.

Be sure to visit tomorrow for the introduction to my advent posts. KW

Monday, November 28, 2016


Cards from Harriet

If my late sister Harriet were still here, I would already have a Christmas card from her taped to the glass of my breakfront. Harriet loved to sign and address her cards before Thanksgiving so that she could enjoy the process unhurriedly. Then she would pop them into the mail the day after Thanksgiving, and I loved that we would have received an early Christmas card. At the time of her passing, she was getting ready. She had already printed the labels.

Today my heart felt heavy when I thought of how cards from Harriet are now a thing of the past, but every year I save a few of the cards we have received – just a few that strike my fancy – so I reviewed them to see if I had any from Harriet. I found five, and of course, I taped all of them to the breakfront.

Harriet chose her cards with care. Keeping up with friends and family was important to her. She always chose a quality card and preferred one which was printed in the U.S.A. She lamented that those are increasingly difficult to find.
The prettiest sight to see

In 2010, Harriet’s card was a photo pouch into which was inserted a photo collage of her first great-grandchild. She was so thrilled to be a great-grandma. “I didn’t think it would happen before I died,” she told me.

Well, December is just days away now. Yesterday I bought one of Costco’s big beautiful wreaths for our front door. It’s the prettiest sight to see, you know – the holly on your own front door. KW

Saturday, November 26, 2016


I’m late with my Thanksgiving post, but I’m sure you were otherwise occupied anyway, so perhaps it doesn’t matter. I hope you’re enjoying the holiday weekend.

Hallie called Thursday (Thanksgiving) morning with questions about thawing her turkey. I said she could speed the process a bit if she pulled the giblets and gravy pack out of the cavity. She called that a “pro” tip and subsequently sent me a list of “pro tips.” The first four tips are hers. I thought up a few more.

·       Set up a TV in the basement or a separate room to serve as a refuge for football fanatics so that the rest of the house will serve as a refuge FROM football fanatics (#keepthepeace).
·       Remember the sugar in the pumpkin pie.

·       Don’t be stingy with the butter in your homemade mashed potatoes.

·       Don’t make homemade gravy. McCormick’s is the best gravy there is and it’s easy. No one wants over-salted homemade gravy. [I’m not sure everyone would agree with this tip. At son Clint’s house, guests gathered round to watch an instructive demonstration on how to make turkey gravy from pan drippings.]

·       Have plenty of seating.

·       Do whatever you can ahead of time, such as trimming your Brussels sprouts, draining the fruit for Dr. Pepper salad, packing a special project to keep your hands busy – well, you know what you have to do. You never know what will come up and run you short of time when the day is at hand – phone calls, looking for something, etc.

·       Get plenty of sleep beforehand. You’re gonna need it.

·       Stay calm. Very few of us have the BHG holiday. (And are those any fun anyway?) If the turkey needs to roast another hour or the pecan pie spills over into the oven, so be it.

“This too shall pass,” says sister Harriet.
“A hundred years from now, no one will remember a thing about it,” adds brother Chuck. 
"I stood it all just fine," concludes Ina. 

What about you? Do you have "pro tips" -- perhaps some things you learned the hard way? KW

Monday, November 21, 2016


I found this recipe for "Emergency Cake" among loose recipes my mother kept in a drawer. First, a little background info:

Nina and Charlie Portfors
In 1939, my Grandmother Nina Portfors’ mother, Alice Mary Stinson Sanders, passed away and was buried in the Stinson/Sanders’ plot at the Burnt Ridge Cemetery near Troy, Idaho. From that time, if not before, my Portfors grandparents made the annual Memorial Day trek from Orofino to Troy carrying a load of flowers cut from their yard (and possibly from my mother’s as well).

Their first stop was at the home of Aunt Hattie and Uncle Dick Stinson. Uncle Dick was Alice’s brother and thus Grandma Portfors’ uncle. He died in 1944, and Aunt Hattie was a widow for the rest of her life. Anyway, Aunt Hattie would be ready with pails of flowers from her own yard, and Grandpa Portfors would load them in the trunk of his big Lincoln and drive everyone to the cemetery where Mother and Aunt Hattie would divide the flowers into bouquets, being careful to remember every family grave.

How do I know? Because after my grandmother passed in 1955, my mother replaced her in Grandpa’s Lincoln for this trip. And naturally, she took me along, dressed in my Sunday finest, of course, because that’s what you did in those days. (Casual attire was only for work, and even then, a woman might still wear a dress.)

In the early years, Aunt Hattie fixed dinner for us at her house, and apparently Grandma Portfors was impressed with her “Emergency Cake” because she jotted down the recipe on a little piece of notebook paper.

Put all in bowl and beat with an eggbeater:
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs unbeaten
1 cup white sugar

Mix dry ingredients and sift:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 large spoons cocoa (I used ¼ cup.)

Add dry ingredients to first mixture.
Then add 1 teaspoon vinegar.
Makes three layers.

Grandma notes: “This was a very good cake. Aunt Hattie iced it by ‘wetting’ one cup confectioner’s sugar and three spoons cocoa with sweet cream.” As a final comment, Grandma writes: “I think her spoon was a dessert spoon.”

Last night after supper, I decided to bake this cake. The recipe says to bake it in three layers. They must have been mighty thin layers. Instead, I baked it in a 9-inch square pan at 350 for 25 minutes. Mine was a little dry, I thought, probably owing to the lack of shortening, so it’s important not to overbake. Because it was late, we ate it without icing but I will frost it today with my favorite browned butter frosting. KW