Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mr. Haruda (Day 8)

haruda 2

All I knew, my freshman year of college, was that my voice teacher, Mr. Haruda, loved to sing opera.  That made sense.  He was a voice instructor after all.

Not that I had much of a future as a singer, really-let alone an opera singer.  I’d simply taken a group voice class to fulfill one of my basic requirements.  My teacher suggested I look into private lessons.  He said I had potential.  And so I signed on with Mr. Haruda.

Once a week, we met in a small studio for fifty minutes of instruction.  He would play the piano, while I tried my best to sing some particular piece of music the right way.  And patiently Mr. Haruda would stop me and demonstrate in his own voice-possibly good once, I thought, but failing now.   I chalked it up to his advancing  age.   Little did I know.  There was a story behind Mr. Haruda’s life.  A story of great hopes-and heartbreak.

Joseph Haruda had one great  ambition in his youth.  He dreamed of singing with the Metropolitan Opera.  In a demonstration of how talent and  hard work pay off,  he auditioned for, and was accepted into the Julliard School of Music in New York.  To pay for his tuition, he performed in shows on Broadway, and at one time he was even critiqued by Walter Winchell, who proclaimed that the young Joseph Haruda had a bright future ahead of him.  High praise from someone who was considered to be the most influential Broadway critic of his day.

And then came World War II.  Mr. Haruda served with the Army Air Forces in North Africa, and it was there that his dream began to die.  The blowing sand irritated and damaged his throat, eventually requiring surgery.  His voice, and his brightly lit future, were gone.

Wanting somehow, to continue contributing to the world of music, Mr. Haruda went back to school to become a music teacher.  He would still be able to use his talent-by helping others pursue their dreams.  With a master’s degree in hand, he accepted a teaching position at the university I would attend years later.

Seated at the piano, once a week  Mr. Haruda would accompany me and listen as I twittered and warbled my way awkwardly through song after song.   I never sensed any bitterness or regret in him, and he never talked about his past, nor did he hint at what might have been.  For 50 minutes, Mr. Haruda was focused on me, his student.  A student with no promise for anything more than a willingness to try.

And all that time, I was in the presence of true greatness.  I just didn’t know it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweet! Day 7


One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit.  Here is one of my favorite summer time recipes, Fruit Cobbler, given to me by my mom-who visited this past weekend and brought one made with plums.  It was delicious!  In my variation above, I used-(I bet you can guess…) rhubarb! 

Try it with your favorite fruit-and enjoy!  And if you want to really be naughty, top it with ice cream and serve warm from the oven.  Swoon!

Fresh Fruit Cobbler

Combine in a saucepan and heat to boiling:

1  1/2  cups fruit, thinly sliced or chopped in small pieces

1/4  cup water

1/2  cup sugar



1 egg

1/2  cup sugar

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 tablespoon milk

1/2  cup flour

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/4   teaspoon salt

Combine these ingredients.  Spread in the bottom of an 8” or 9” square baking dish, and then spoon hot fruit mixture over the top.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Variation:  If using frozen fruit, omit first 1/2  cup sugar.

P.S.  Happy Birthday Dad!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Eye of the Beholder (Day 6)


Lawn flamingos.  Most people either love them or hate them.  I belong to the first camp.  Just last week I got my second pair, to replace ones I’d had so long that their legs were missing and they’d turned from deep pink to almost white.   As I searched for replacements, I was curious about the history behind these iconic birds.

In 1946, a company by the name of Union Products created a line of “Plastics for the Lawn,” filling a need for post war Americans eager to settle back into home life, and cultivate  attractive yards and gardens.  There was just one problem with the collection of lawn animals-including ducks, frogs, dogs-and flamingos.  They were only two dimensional.  In 1957, Don Featherstone, an employee of Union Products  was asked to redesign the flamingo.  Using pictures from National Geographic magazine to guide him, he created the pink lawn flamingo we know today. 

Since 1957, lawn flamingos have seen their popularity rise and fall-and rise again.  Today, if a person-like myself-is in the market for a set, there are  many choices, including the original Don Featherstone design and a whole flock of imitations-in colors other than pink, too.

I found the perfect spot for my new flamingos, among some lamb’s ear in one of my flower beds.  I like to sit on a garden bench and admire their plastic beauty, marveling at their graceful lines and bright colors.  And I can’t help thinking to myself,

“Well done, Mr. Featherstone!”

close up

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 5

Sunday Palm

Happy Sunday!

Today, I want all of you to find a palm tree, real or imaginary, to sit under.  Read, work on that novel, sketch, contemplate, or dream…but do something that helps you reaffirm your passion for the things in your life that mean the most to you.

And while I’m at it-thanks again to all of you for taking the time to read what I write, and stay connected with me through my blog, and your blogs, too.  I appreciate every single one of you:)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Heaven Scent (Day 4)


My lavender is blooming!


I just love the stuff, and so do some of the creatures who visit my garden…I photographed this butterfly last year, basking in the lavender blossoms.


In addition to being one of my favorite flowers to look at, I adore the scent of lavender too.  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 when I am having a stressful day-and it can also help alleviate headaches.

My favorite sachet.  I keep it near my sewing machine.  Because sometimes I make mistakes.  Big mistakes. 

My roses are blooming now too-and so my garden, scented with the fragrance of rose blossoms AND lavender, truly is a heavenly place to be!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Tokens (Day 3)


It’s just an old  key from the Reef  Hotel on Waikiki.  At one time it opened the door to room 862, but not any more.  It was probably used for the last time years ago, before the advent of room keys that look like credit cards. 

reef hotel

So why do I have it? 

Because of what the key to room 862 is for me.   A token-one that connects me to  Hawaii, to the past.  To all things that I don’t have in my everyday life, but wish I did sometimes.

If I toss the key in my bag, it’s likely that I’ll touch it when I reach  for my wallet or lip balm.  Instantly,  the years and miles melt away, and it’s Honolulu, circa 1955.  

Reef postcard

I like to wonder about who might have stayed in room 862 over the years.  Where were they from, and what happy memories did they take home with them from their time spent at the Reef, and Hawaii?  What were their names?  Their stories? So many secrets that I would love to unlock.  Only the key to room 862 can’t unlock those secrets any more than it can open an actual door.

That, I have to leave up to my imagination.

Reef Hotel sunset motel

Do you have something that serves as a token of a place or time you want to stay connected to?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 1

Alaska map

This morning, my dear husband and daughter left on their much planned and anticipated 10 day trip to Juneau, Alaska.  They have a lot of fun and interesting activities planned, including a whale watching trip, glacier hike, salmon bake and zip line ride.

I thought that in an attempt to keep myself from moping around too much while they are gone, I’d try to do some fun and productive projects on my own, and have my goal be to find at least one interesting item to blog about every day. 

On the home front today, our strawberries are just about ripe!  By this evening, there should be a few ready for sweet munching.  And Amy helped me get spaghetti sauce going in the crock pot before it was time to go.  My secret ingredient is to add about a quarter cup of  balsamic vinegar.  It really enhances the flavor the the tomato sauce.  What’s your secret ingredient?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Rose is a Rose…

But a Blaze rose is a rose and so much more.

This ruby red, climbing beauty was first introduced in 1932. It is the rose that I associate with the women who most influenced me-my grandmothers, aunts, and my mom, and I seem to remember this rose growing in every garden lovingly tended by these women.  This rose provides me with a tangible link to the past-when all of these women were still a part of my life.

I’m happy to say that I  have my very own Blaze rose, growing in my garden-carrying on the tradition.  Any other rose just wouldn't be the same.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father’s Coat

This is a repost from almost two years ago, but it’s fitting for today too,  I think.  Happy Father’s Day Daddy!


As the leaves start to blow across another autumn and the days get cooler, I start wearing my father’s coat. My father bought this coat—a striking jacket in a dark blue, black and green plaid with woven leather buttons and faux sheepskin lining—back in 1965. The tag inside the collar says “Lakeland Sportswear. Styled in Wisconsin.” It’s a cool, vintage coat—the kind I wish men still wore.

At some point my younger sister ended up with it, and it didn’t become mine until a few years ago when she asked me if I wanted it. “Oh yes!” I said—I’d longed to have it for the longest time.

As I mentioned before, I’d always thought it was a pretty cool coat. I liked it because it was vintage, and it was a great style. I loved the beautiful plaid fabric it was made from, and the neat buttons on it. And once it became mine, I added something else to this list—I loved it most of all because it had belonged to my dad and he had worn it.  You see, after overcoming some trying times in my younger days when my father and I were at odds with each other, I was lucky enough to eventually realize just how wonderful my dad is.

I love wearing my father’s coat. It’s nice and warm and gives me a certain pride too-pride in knowing that I am like my dad in more ways than I ever dreamed I would care to admit. And I wonder too…how he could have known all those years ago, that when he picked out this coat it would become MY favorite some day.

Thanks Dad. I love you!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Five Minute Makeover

frame 2


I found this wooden  frame at Goodwill a week ago.  It was new, but it had a decidedly vintage feel to it with the beading around the edge, and at $1.99 I couldn't pass it up.


I knew with a nice coat of paint, it would definitely look like a frame straight out of the 40’s or 50’s.   I chose a color called Key Lime (paint was around $4).  In about 5 minutes-the transformation was complete!


I love the way it turned out!

Have you ever transformed a thrift store find?  I’d love to hear about it-I’m always looking for new ideas!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stars and Stripes and Sailors!


In celebration of Flag Day yesterday, this photo appeared on’s home page.  It’s such a great image that I wanted to share it here too.

I don’t know who the photographer is, but he or she deserves credit for taking a stunning picture of what must have been quite an amazing sight in real life.  Great work!

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Monday, June 13, 2011

A Walk Through My Garden


Will you come along with me?  I’d love to have the pleasure of your company!


Purple Columbine and pink Thrift.


A  lovely stepping stone made by my mother in law.  Lots of Iris and Daisies too.


There are two garden benches in my garden-perfect for relaxing after a hard day pulling weeds, or contemplating pulling weeds…


We salvaged lots of rocks to outline the flower beds-and used recycled old brick for a path.



This curious plant  (possibly a Yarrow)  produces flowers that are both light pink and dark pink! 






Until next time!

Now tell me, what is your favorite flower?

(P.S.  Here is a before photo of what the back looked like when we moved in four and a half years ago!)


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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Beauty of Bakelite

Along with the right barkcloth, great vintage buttons are one of the signature elements in my bag designs-and some of my favorite buttons are made of bakelite.

Bakelite (pronounced bay ka lite) was developed in 1907 by Belgian scientist Leo Baekeland. It was the first plastic made from synthetic compounds and was originally developed for industry, being extremely useful because of its non conductive and heat resistant properties.

It became clear however, that bakelite was perfect for other things including buttons because it was available in an array of colors and could be carved, molded, and laminated into many shapes.  Some other popular uses for bakelite included telephones, jewelry, drawer pulls, radios and utensil handles, to name but a few.


Modern Materials for Modern Living.   Bakelite Plastics, 1957

The buttons I’ve shown 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!


As a side note, not only do I love finding and using great vintage items-but I love learning about these items too.  From time to time I will do more of these features.  Let me know what you think, and if you have something vintage to share, I’d love to read about it too!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Amy’s (Climbing) Shoes

A couple days ago, my daughter Amy’s rock climbing class went on a field trip near Vantage, Washington to climb a rock formation known as the Feathers.

Rock climbing is a great sport.  It is helping to teach Amy self reliance and it boosts  her confidence.  She is constantly trying to improve her skills and challenge herself-and she is getting better and stronger each time she climbs. 

Here she is-in the tan shirt-sizing up the rocks.

Amy begins her first climb.

Almost half way up.

When I look at these photos I almost bust my buttons!  Amy looks like a real pro!

Amy at the top. 


I am so proud of her-and not only that, I am so inspired by her! It makes me hope that I can learn to be more like her!!

Now, if only I wasn’t so afraid of heights…