Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Present

I love a good story, and a good Christmas story is the best, especially when it is true. I present to you, my wonderful readers, a fun story that happened several years ago when my husband and I were newly married.
It all started with a pair of boots. I saw them in the window of the local downtown shoe store—and it was love at first sight for me. They were black. They were tall, and they looked similar to combat boots. What they were not was cheap. I wanted them so desperately-- but on the salary of a grad student and a part time preschool teacher—they were not going to happen.
With a little money I’d saved, I visited the shoe store a few days before Christmas and bought my husband a pair of slippers. He needed new slippers. I tried not to look at the boots. It was hard. The sales clerk asked if I’d like the slippers gift wrapped. Sure, I said. If there’s one thing I’ll beg off on-it’s gift wrapping. While I can do some things really well, gift wrapping is not one of them, and I wasn’t sure if we even had any Christmas wrapping paper at home.
I walked home with heavy heart—but I felt good that I’d bought something nice for my husband and not something frivolous for myself. As I started to place the slippers under the tree I noticed another box-wrapped in the same paper as the slippers. I couldn’t believe it—my husband had gotten me the boots! What a sweetheart! And then I did the only thing that I could possibly do. I rewrapped his slippers. Even though I knew what I was getting, he didn’t have to know that I knew.
Of course Christmas morning I put on one heck of a show of surprise and excitement-but then I had to come clean.
For the very best stories are meant to be shared!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter Workout

Last night we had our first major snowstorm of the season. I know many places have already been dealing with snow, and a lot of snow at that, for a while now, but for us, this was the first snowfall that left more than a slight dusting. So this morning I began doing what I call my winter workout-a set of “exercises” unique to this time of year.
First, I put on my heavy black vintage U.S. Navy pea coat (it weighs a ton and belonged to a hardy sailor by the name of Hayward.) Next I put on my bulky LL Bean hunting boots that aren’t exactly light as a feather. Then, sweating profusely by this time under all the bulk, and already tired, I head outside to trudge through the blanket of freshly fallen snow to walk the dog, or keep my daughter company on her way to school, OR, for even more fun and exertion, shovel the sidewalks. If these activities become too dull and I crave more excitement in my routine, I wrap a vision obscuring scarf around my neck and face (my scarf of choice is a vintage wool plaid) and try to dash across a busy road, praying that approaching sliding cars will come to a stop before connecting with my pea coat and me.
By the end of the day, I'll feel pretty well qualified to compete in the next winter Olympics-and with freezing rain in the forecast for tonight-tomorrow’s event may well be figure skating!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Story of My Vintage Cookbooks

Each year as the Christmas season rolls around, my thoughts turn to holiday baking and cooking, and I start looking at recipes for cookies and breads and candy. I like to cook and bake now, but this was not always the case.
There was a time when I was proud to say that I didn’t like cooking, or even know how to very well… and I didn’t care to learn either. I even wore this refusal to “learn my way around a kitchen” like a badge of honor and maybe it was my feeble attempt at being “liberated.” Who knows? Ironically, I also bought a lot of vintage cookbooks. There was a wonderful used bookstore, located in an old apartment house, that I would visit quite often, and at 1 or 2 bucks a piece, I would come out with armloads of old cookbooks. I bought them because they were vintage, and cheap, and they were filled with great vintage pictures. I’d line them up on a shelf in my kitchen and look at them from time to time…but never use them. I guess I thought that to be a successful cook one had to be a “gourmet” cook and master the types of techniques taught at the Culinary Institute.
Over time, my ideas about what defines a successful woman began to change, and I started taking my inspiration from women of the past-both women in my own family, and women in society as a whole. It was the ordinary hardworking, resourceful homemaker from the Depression years and wartime years who began to seem extraordinary-- the women who would have used the cookbooks I collected. My Grandmothers and Aunts were such women. So I decided I would not only learn to cook and bake, but do it in such a way as to honor them and make them proud.
Now I’m happy to say that I can bake a beautiful loaf of bread, or roast a chicken on Sunday and come up with three or four ways to use up the leftovers during the week, or make perfect fudge the old fashioned way. (Well ok, I’m still working on that one-soaking the pan overnight really will get the hardened cement-like chocolate to come out.)
I love my old cookbooks even more now-- now that I actually use them, and I can’t help thinking about the unseen hands that touched the pages before me. I only wish these dear women were still around, because I have a question about that biscuit recipe on page 80…

Here is a recipe for my Great Aunt Olga’s Ice Box Cookies. These are very dangerous and can cause a serious case of over indulging…and they are most certainly not healthy, (but my Aunt lived well into her 80’s!)
Preheat oven to 350

1 cup softened butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 to 4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream all ingredients together well except flour. Add 3 cups of the flour, and additional flour to form a soft dough. Mold dough into long rolls and wrap in waxed paper and chill in freezer until firm. Cut into 1/8” slices and bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on ungreased baking sheet.
Makes a lot!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

That Old Holiday Feeling

First of all, thank you for visiting my blog-I am truly grateful! And second, I’ll give you a minute or two to try to identify the object in the picture………….
It may not really look like one-but it’s a turkey. I made it in school when I was 5 or 6 or so (hopefully not MUCH older than that!) I vaguely remember thinking at the time that it was the most artfully crafted turkey ever to be created by anyone, and I’m sure I was prouder than punch the day I took it home and showed my mom and dad. These handmade decorations that children make are certainly the most precious kind of decorations, and my dear Mother saved them all-the orange blob of a jack-o-lantern and the Santa’s boot complete with cotton “fur” among others.
I remember that this time of year was so magical back then. There was always much to get done, but it was fun and not something to be endured and gotten through. And I’m sure that the amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a lot longer when I was a kid, or at least it sure seemed that way. The days were a happy blur of baking all kinds of cookies, writing Christmas cards, decorating the house (I still remember gazing at the boxes containing Christmas decorations in the middle of summer-longing for the holidays to come), wrapping presents, getting a tree-and all my memories are framed in red and green and the scent of pine and sugar cookies.
I want this feeling back-I want to feel the anticipation I felt when I was a kid (though not the feeling of eating so much at Thanksgiving that I wanted to die!) I don’t want these fleeting days during “the most wonderful time of the year” to be spent grumbling over getting cards sent, or ornaments hung, or cookies baked. I don’t want to get irritated because I’m running out of shopping days, and finding it a chore to pick out everyone’s presents. It’s hard-I’m an adult and life is not as simple as being 9 and only worrying about whether I’d forget my lines in the Sunday School Christmas program. But I’m going to try really hard to be childlike this year- eat leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast, use too much glitter, put cookies and milk out for Santa, build a snowman, marvel at a tiny baby nestled in a bed of hay, maybe even make a few clay reindeer. I’ve got plenty of time too, if I start right now!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

So Long, Summer

Tonight the temperature is supposed to get down to well below freezing. This pretty much will mean the end of my garden for the year. I love autumn, and the color show it brings, but I’ll miss the splendor of summer. Nature creates more beauty with her handiwork than I could ever hope to. (She is the true artist-I simply make the arrangements-flower beds being my “bouquets.”)
After winter ends, and my thoughts turn to spring, my garden is a little like a stranger to me, or an acquaintance I haven’t seen in a long time. I don’t remember clearly how things were, or I have just forgotten. But by the end of summer my garden is like an old and dear friend. I know it intimately. And I know that saying farewell will be hard.

In an attempt to save a little bit of summer for just a little bit longer, my daughter Amy and I have been gathering the last of the flowers-we have picked enough for five vases so far.
It won’t be long before the snow comes, and covers my garden with a white winter blanket. (My garden deserves to have a good long rest.) But spring will come. The snow will melt. And I’ll be outside saying “It’s been a while, but it’s so good to see you again…”

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Blue Heaven

This is my studio, and someday I plan to rename it "My Green Heaven." The wallpaper will be painted over (it's rather busy, isn't it?) and the tan carpet will be pulled up to reveal the lovely old jadeite green linoleum floor. But for now, even as it is, it really is my piece of heaven. It's the place where I plan, and design, and sew. It's the one place that I completely call my own. It's the place I like to think about being when I'm not there. For some of my storage ideas please see my post from May 13th, and please enjoy my pictures! And a big thank you to my daughter Amy for making the little palm tree for me:)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blown Away

“The wind is my friend.” “The wind is my friend,” the man next to me was chanting. We were squished together like sardines, along with many other vendors, inside a big permanent tent set up at an outdoor art show. His whole display had just crashed to the ground.
The day had not started well. Everyone had set up their displays early that morning amid cloudy skies and howling wind. But then miraculously, the wind died down and the sun came out. It was beautiful. So we all sat back and waited for the show to open, the customers to come and business to be good.
And then I noticed something. My handmade bags began to twist ever so slightly on their hangers. My canopy gave a slight shiver. And I thought to myself, in despair, “It’s coming back…” In the blink of an eye, it was back, growing in force like a runaway train. And before I had time to go to plan B or even come up with plan A…BAM! Over went my display rack and off like kites flew my bags. It was a horrible moment! Some kindly people-I don’t know who they were-the moment is a blur, helped me set back up. For a little while I was good, and then BAM! This time I think something rather unladylike slipped out as I expressed my frustration. When the rack fell over, my daughter Amy caught it with her sweet little head! I was in a state of panic. What was I going to do? The show still had a good 4 hours to go.
After that, everyone was in distress. Paintings, jewelry and everything in between were set aloft. This is when many of us were ushered into the big tent, normally reserved just for a few artists. It really didn’t matter. The wind kept finding its mark. I heard vendors say over and over to potential customers “Well, I had a nice display set up, but you see, the wind came up…” As for me, I sat quietly in a daze, the wind having deafened me and left me speechless hours earlier. My once neatly hung bags, arranged carefully by style and color, were in a shambles, and my racks were anchored to my table with a tangled maze of ropes. All that I really cared about at that point was that my bags were all still there. (I didn’t count them-I probably should have.)
The day rapidly deteriorated -the wind blew harder and harder and it got cold. Soon people even stopped looking around to see whose stuff had taken the latest hit. The only thing that mattered was how fast we could all pack up and go home.
So what can I say about the wind yesterday, now that the show is over? That after being battered by it for hours I finally know what it’s like to have straight hair. And that I need to learn some new vocabulary words to express myself in times of crisis. And that when it’s all said and done, Mother Nature is still in control, and that oddly enough, I find comforting.
(Thanks to my daughter Amy for the "before" picture.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Bitter and the Sweet

The end of summer has come and it’s quiet around the house today. My daughter Amy started back to school (8th grade!), and I miss having her around. Besides being mother and daughter, we are the best of friends too. I truly love her company and we do lots of things together. Last night there was a flurry of activity as she prepared for today-she retrieved her back pack from the closet where it had been hidden away since last June. She filled her new binder with all the usual and necessary school supplies-pencils, pens, paper. She picked out her first day of school outfit (all new clothes, of course!) And while I baked cookies for her lunch, she watched a favorite old movie-taking her mind off the inevitability of today a little longer.
But the end of summer is good too. This is the time of year that I take a few green tomatoes from the garden and make mincemeat-that classic blend of green tomatoes, apples, raisins, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (I don’t put any meat in mine.) After hours of cooking, this mixture is reduced to a dark, sweet, spicy concoction that I put up in jars and then put away for the upcoming holidays. To me, no Thanksgiving or Christmas would seem complete without a mincemeat pie-it’s as much a tradition as roast turkey or a Christmas tree.
Amy may be back in school now, and she won’t have as much free time as she does in the summer-but one thing won’t change. When it comes time to make mincemeat, my favorite helper will be by my side.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Girl in the Picture

I see her peering out from her frame every day-a barely coaxed smile on her lips. I bought her for the frame she came in-homemade and obviously someone's early attempt at woodworking-but that was the charm. I found that I couldn't remove her though-she belonged in that frame. The thought of casting her aside as others already had done bothered me. She must have meant a lot to someone once...long ago. And so I "adopted" her and set her among my other photographs.
I have lots of old family photographs and to me they are priceless. I would never think of getting rid of them. They are part of my history. They are a link to times and places I'll never get to visit, and a tangible reminder that I am here now because of those who came before me.
So who was she? I'll never know. How and why did she end up in a dusty corner of an antique store? That, I'll never understand.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Love Lavender

I love to sew, and if I may say so modestly, I am very good at it. (My mom taught me after all, and she is really good!) But more often than I care to admit, I make a mistake. Sometimes I even mess something up pretty good. And this is exactly why I keep close at hand, with the usual necessary items like scissors and pins, a sachet filled with lavender.
I adore the scent of lavender, and what is so great about lavender is that not only does it smell incredibly good, but it does good too. With its uplifting and relaxing aroma, it helps me feel calmer (and less likely to throw something.) Sure, when I do screw up, I might say a few choice words too, but a good deep breath of my favorite herb goes a long way to putting me back on track.

Note: When I was photographing my sachet for this post, I dropped my camera on my hard cement patio. If ever I had a need for lavender, it was then...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Instant Art Work

I fell in love with this piece of sheet music from 1917, but didn't know what to really do with it. It's too old and fragile to just sit on my piano, but I didn't want to hide it away in a drawer either. I came up with the idea to frame it and put it in my studio because the colors perfectly match the barkcloth curtains I already have.

After putting it in a mat and frame I found at a framing store, I must say I was impressed with the results. It was a project that was fast, cheap and easy to do, and I'm proud to hang it on my wall!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm Beginning to See the (Bake)light

Along with the right barkcloth, great buttons are a vital element in my bag designs. Some of my favorites are made of bakelite.
Bakelite was developed in 1907 by Belgian scientist Leo Baekeland. It was the first plastic made from synthetic compounds and was originally developed for use in industry.
It became clear however,that bakelite was perfect for many other things including buttons because it was available in an array of colors and could be carved, molded, and laminated into many shapes.
The buttons pictures here are coat buttons from the 1930's. During the Great Depression people had to make do with what they had, but for a few cents they could update the look of a garment such as a coat with new buttons. Their biggest challenge was just having to decide which of these beauties to choose!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

I love the art work of World War II posters, and this is one of my favorites. Every time I look at it I think about what people have had to go through, give up and do during times of war.

This Memorial Day, I will reflect on the sacrifices brave men and women have made, and continue to make, and I offer my most humble and sincere thanks.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bird of Paradise

I love barkcloth and I love
sewing with it. It's like a constant feast for the eyes. I especially love using tropical barkcloth because I think tropical flowers are among the most beautiful on earth.

One of the most stunning of tropical flowers is the Bird of Paradise. It is used quite often as a motif in tropical barkcloth. Originally from South Africa, the Bird of Paradise is as symbolic of Hawaii as is the Plumeria or Hibiscus. I was absolutely thrilled to see a Bird of Paradise last March in Hawaii, and my father took this wonderful photograph.

I can't grow these beauties where I live in Eastern Washington, but between my dad's talent as a photographer and the skills of barkcloth designers past and present, I still get to enjoy them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

These Boots

...were made for working, but their working days are through. A dear friend of mine gave me these old men's work boots and I thought they would look cute with strawberries planted in them. It was a fun way to put a unique conversation piece in my garden, and recycle something to boot!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Storage Ideas

I try to keep my studio organized but I am far from perfect! These ideas do help though.
I love old vases, and I love that these have a tropical theme. They are great for pens and pencils.

These watchmaker tins from Lee Valley (online) are the perfect way to store the hundred and some buttons and buckles I have.

This vintage knitting tote I found on ebay and it is the ideal place to keep patterns that I use a lot.
I found this old tackle box in
a junk store, complete with old fishing tackle inside. I keep my small sewing items in it.

I hope you find some of these ideas useful, and I'd love to know what you think and also what some of your storage ideas are!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Vintage Love Affair

Not long after I started For the Love of Pete I decided I should have a fancy, new, expensive sewing machine. After all, I was starting my own business and needed the proper equipment. I made a few bags and my fancy, new, expensive machine did a great job. It was easy to use and sewed beautiful seams. Perfection in a machine, right? Well somehow I felt let down.
Then I saw an ad for a vintage 1950 Singer and knew instantly that my fancy, new, expensive machine had been a mistake. What was missing from all the wonderful features my modern machine had was soul. The soul that comes from having a history, a past, a connection to other people in other times.
I bought that 1950 Singer and I've never looked back. I have given the modern machine to my daughter because it will be an easier machine for her to learn on. But some day soon, when she has mastered the art of sewing, I'll help her find her very own soulful vintage beauty.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


We live in an old house. It' a Victorian-- not the gingerbread variety, but the simple farmhouse variety. It was built in 1900, and has seen a lot, and not all good, in those 109 years. When it came on the market two years ago, we were living quite happily in a 1940 Bungalow, but there was something about this house that compelled us to take a look. While it had a lot of good things going for it, the bad things made us say "not for us," and "too much work." This house was not going to give up so easily though. It kept forcing its way into our thoughts. We started to think more and more about what we could do to fix it up, and what a really incredible place it could be once again. We began to see that by saving this house, we could save a piece of the history of this town. The house didn't care what our motives were. It was grateful to be loved once again, and have owners who didn't write on the walls with markers, or shoot BB's into those same walls, or park cars in the front yard. As we began to fix things up, the house began to thank us. The first year we found a gold wedding ring while putting in a flower bed. The second year, while cleaning out a pipe, we found a dime from 1869. While having this house is a gift in itself, we wonder....What will it offer us in the years to come?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I notice color all around me and am inspired to create bags using bold color combinations. Barkcloth is the perfect canvas for me. I love the way textile artists in the 30's, 40's and 50's put different and sometimes clashing colors together to create some of the most beautiful fabric ever produced.

I found the incredibly beautiful midnight blue vintage barkcloth at mslegacysews.etsy.com. Then the hunt began for the right lining to go with it. I was lucky to find the peacock print and I just knew it would be perfect.

The finished bag. I love the way it turned out!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I have been to Hawaii several times, and the beauty of the Islands never fails to impress me. I have found enough inspiration to make a million bags!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


My uncle, Roland Erich Going, July 1, 1914-January 9, 1945. The origin of the nickname Pete remains a mystery to this day.

Pete at Pearl Harbor. Pete enlisted in the navy in 1934 and became a pharmacist's mate. He was sent to Pearl Harbor for his first duty assignment. He adored Hawaii. He was transferred to Manila, Philippine Islands in 1940.

Pete and Adeline. A love story doomed from the start. Manila fell to the Japanese in January, 1942 and Pete was taken prisoner, as was Adeline. In May of 1942 Pete was moved to the infamous Bilibid prison camp. Because of his carpentry skills, he was given the job of making wooden grave markers for prisoners who died.

After Pete was taken prisoner, his family began their long and agonizing ordeal of not hearing from him and not knowing his fate. Letters written to him during this time were returned.

A note Pete secretly wrote and kept hidden at Bilibid prison. He left this note behind at the camp when the Japanese moved the prisoners out of the camp Christmas Eve 1944, and loaded them on transport ships known as hellships, so called because of their horrible conditions. The prisoners were to be sent to Japan to be used as forced labor. While Pete was aboard the Enoura Maru, the second such ship he had been on, the US bombed the ship. They were unaware that the ship contained allied prisoners of war. Pete, along with many other men, died. Pete's note was found by the Americans when Manila was liberated a short time later.

My father visiting the grave of his brother Pete around 1950. Pete is buried in the beautiful Punchbowl Cemetery on the island of Oahu. In a final token of love by a father for his son, my grandfather chose Hawaii as Pete's final resting place. My grandfather was given the choice of having Pete buried in a local cemetery where he could have visited his son's grave, but instead chose the place Pete loved best. Towards the end of his life, my grandfather was able to visit Hawaii and finally pay his respects to his son.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Out of the bosom of the Air.
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent and soft and slow
Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.