Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing in the New Year!


I found this wonderful quote by Ellen Goodman.  It is my New Year’s wish for each one of you: 

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.  Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential. 

Happy New Year, and all the best for 2012!

Valerie xx

Friday, December 30, 2011

In Appreciation


In March I will mark my fourth anniversary on Etsy, and looking back on these past four years, I can say I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.  But I could not have done it without all of the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.  Friends, mentors and my incredibly wonderful customers.

Just a couple months ago, I was humbled once again by the kindness of someone I didn’t even  really know.  A fellow Flickr  member who saw my bag photos and asked if I’d like some fabric she didn’t want any more.  I told her I’d love to have it. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve been offered the gift of fabric by people who want nothing in return for their kindness.  A couple years ago my incredibly talented artist friend Lisa from Island Dream Life sent me a package of barkcloth out of the blue.  She was destashing and thought of me.  And another seamstress friend named Lisa, from Zibagz was at a yard sale, bought a piece of barkcloth she knew I’d love and sent it to me.  (And she’s a fellow bag maker, too!  I love her work!) And I have to mention other generous friends...Eddie, Heidi, Vanessa.  Thanks, you guys!

When the package from Donna, my Flickr friend, arrived, included among the beautiful fabrics were four small pieces of a gorgeous aqua blue barkcloth.  Each strip was approximately 14” by 7”.  At first I thought about using them at the top of a bag as a contrasting band of fabric-but then it came to me that I could sew three of them together to form a larger piece of fabric, and use the fourth piece for the handles of a bag. 


I love the finished bag.  And I decided that I want to “pay forward” the kindness of everyone I have met in the last four years.  And so I’m donating the entire purchase price of this bag to Honor Flight (

Their philosophy, in their own words:

Since America felt it was important to build a memorial to the service and the ultimate sacrifice of her veterans, the Honor Flight Network believes it's equally important that they actually get to visit and experience THEIR memorial.

Many veterans have the desire to visit their memorial in Washington DC, but are financially or physically unable to do so.  Honor flight helps make that dream a reality. 

I can’t think of a more meaningful way to say thanks.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

First Love

First love.  They say you never forget it.  For his sake, I hope he has.

Robin.  With his wavy blond hair and thick black glasses.  He sat in the desk behind me.  I guess there was something about my brown pixie cut and blue cat eyed frames that made his heart go pitter patter.

He would pass me notes-several a day.  They always said the same thing.  Do you love me?  Yes or No.  Please check one of the boxes.  And every day I would stick them inside my desk and pretend I hadn’t gotten them.

Maybe it was persistence on his part, or maybe it was curiosity on mine, but whatever it was, one day I boldly checked the box next to Yes and passed the note back.   I could tell Robin was elated.  At recess, he shyly held my hand.  And a few days later, he  presented me with a couple of presents.  A Hot Wheels car, and a gold heart on a chain.  With a pearl in the center.  Poor Robin.  If he had only just given me the car.  I wasn’t so sure about this love business.

Robin had a friend.  Brian.  Brian sat next to me.  He had dark brown hair, freckles, and 20/20 vision as far as I could tell.  He started passing me notes-making his bid to “steal me away.”  His notes were direct.  To the point.  Kiss Here.  A wet spot on the paper, circled in pencil.

I guess I kind of liked that caveman approach.  I lost my heart to Brian.  Poor Robin was as forgotten as that necklace he’d given me.  Even with the pearl in the center.

Third graders can be so cruel.


I’m reposting some of my favorites from this past year.  This one still makes me smile.  I sometimes wonder about poor Robin.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Monday!


I’m honored to be the featured blogger today over at Write on Edge .   If you have a few minutes, please visit me over there and see which post I chose as my favorite one to write in 2011.

I am also thrilled to say that we had a white Christmas after all!  Even though the forecast said rain, those were definitely snow flakes that were falling, and in less than an hour we were celebrating Christmas in a winter wonderland!

Happy Monday, and I hope all of you had a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bing Said It Best




eat Christmas 1944 (Naples)


pud Gunner H S Hadlow of 15th (Scottish) Division in Holland, announces that the Christmas pudding is ready

I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the lovelight gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

Two sailors carrying the Christm tree and holly


WWII Christmas



Merry Christmas, my dear readers.  I love each and every one of you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Putting Our Best Spoon Forward


Amy is off from school for a couple weeks, and one of the things we enjoy doing together is our Christmas baking.  This year, though, we are finding it to be a bit of a struggle to enjoy ourselves while we do it. 

For starters, Amy is tired.  She has been working so hard in school, and now that Christmas break is here she just wants to rest.  She certainly deserves to.   And me?  I seem to have some sort of Christmas bug, and I’m not feeling good.  To top it off, there isn’t any snow in the forecast, and it looks like we won’t be having a white Christmas this year.  Outside, it’s just very cold and brown.  (Our kitchen barely has heat in it, so we were cold inside as well.  A kitchen redo is definitely on our old house “to do” list.)  Anyway, we thought we’d try to bake at least one kind of cookie.  We chose Russian Teacakes, also known as Snow Balls. Here is the recipe.  And when I say these cookies are good, I mean they are good.

Russian Teacakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2  1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Powdered sugar


Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix butter, the half cup powdered sugar and vanilla.  Mix in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls, place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake until set but not brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Roll in powdered sugar while warm.

Makes about 4 dozen



I thought I’d take a few pictures of the process.  Can you tell Amy was less than pleased with the idea?



There’s no doubt about her feelings on being photographed here.



The dough is done.  Can you tell I shouldn’t put food photographer on my resume?


powdered sugar_thumb

Rolling the baked cookies in the powdered sugar. Why is it that sugar always seems to make everything ok?


Snow balls_thumb

The finished cookies, artfully arranged and professionally photographed. 

We did still manage to have fun, plus we have plenty of time to do more baking-like the sugar cookies I wrote about a few days ago, and my favorite quick and delicious fudge. 

And we’re still hoping for that white Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Of Christmases Past


As I’d creep down the basement stairs, a lifetime ago, it seems, I would spy the neatly arranged boxes on the shelf.  And even in the middle of the hot summer, a shiver would run down my spine.  Because I knew what those boxes contained.  Christmas!

The old glass ornaments, the team of white plastic reindeer, the Santa and Christmas caroler candles, the Advent wreath…

And  though it seemed like Christmas would never come, I was comforted by the thought that any time I needed assurance that the calendar was slowly, but surely turning it’s pages toward December 25th, I’d look at those boxes.

Years later, when I was on my own, and did not have many decorations yet, my mom got some new Christmas ornaments, and gave me a box of some of the old ones she was replacing.  The colorful glass kind-Shiny Brites.  And it was like she’d given me a piece of my childhood.

I still have those ornaments, too.  The one pictured above holds a special place in my heart. I remember gazing wistfully at it as a little girl, and even though there is nothing extraordinary about it, I remember I loved it more than any other.  It still even has the original piece of thread attached for hanging on the tree.

This year I was lucky to find a vintage Nativity set from the 1950s, at Goodwill, for $3.99. 

nativity set

It reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas poems-an English carol, actually.  The words were written in the 1920s by Robert Davis.

The Gift of the Animals

Jesus our brother, kind and good
Was humbly born in a stable rude
And the friendly beasts around Him stood
Jesus our brother, kind and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried His mother up hill and down;
I carried her safely to Bethlehem town."
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red
"I gave Him my manger for a bed;
I gave Him my hay to pillow His head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep with curly horn,
"I gave Him my wool for His blanket warm;
He wore my coat on Christmas morn."
"I," said the sheep with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from the rafters high,
"Cooed Him to sleep that He should not cry;
We cooed Him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from the rafters high.

"I," said the camel, yellow and black,
"Over the desert, upon my back,
I brought Him a gift in the Wise Men's pack."
"I," said the camel, yellow and black.

Thus every beast by some good spell
In the stable dark was glad to tell
Of the gift he gave Emmanuel,
The gift he gave Emmanuel.


And this year Willow has added her own verse.

“I” said Willow, warm and soft,

With my wagging tail sent a glass ornament aloft…

Did I mention how cute Willow is?  It’s hard to stay mad at her for very long!

Do you have a favorite ornament?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011



For almost a week now, it has been really cold and foggy here.  While it’s hard to be outside for more than a few minutes-unless I bundle myself up beyond recognition-the heavy coating of frost really is  gorgeous! 



An evergreen shrub looks like someone sprayed flocking on it.


There is so much frost on the sidewalks you can actually see footprints in it!


Trees look magical…


The wreath on my front door, and the frosty screen.

Winter Garden

Not a good day to sit in the back garden, even if it does look like a winter wonderland.

 Snow Kona

There is however, one dear creature who doesn’t seem to mind the cold!  Poor Kona’s ball was frozen too!

Vintage Planter

This is a vintage planter I got a few weeks ago when I was out thrifting.  It cost just $3.50, and as I carried it around the store, several envious shoppers came up to me to admire it.  The funny thing is, I’d had a run of unsuccessful thrifting luck, and so I sent myself an email, wishing myself to find some great treasures.

Dear Valerie, Have fun at the thrift stores today!  I hope you find some great stuff!  Love, Valerie

I sent as a joke, but you know, it really worked! ;)

And lastly today, I want all of you to know how much I love that you visit me here at my blog.  Life can get a little hectic and stressful at times, and you are always welcome to come here and escape for awhile.

Besides, I think there might be a little something for you under the tree…

seamed stockings

Have a great day!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wild About Leopard!

When I was a young girl, my mom made me a jumper out of black and white fake pony skin.  I loved that jumper.  I was a very horse crazy kid, and in that jumper I felt like I was, well a horse.  The day that jumper no longer fit was a sad day, but leave it to my ingenious mom to sew a stuffed toy horse out of it.  (I named him Charlie horse, and I still have him!)

What I didn’t outgrow was my love of fake fur, but my favorite animal of choice these days is leopard.  I am seeing it everywhere and I couldn’t be happier because I love it.


I bought a yard of faux leopard a few weeks ago to make myself a fancy scarf, and had an idea to try creating bags with the remnants. 

This my first design-using a very tiny-but very cool barkcloth remnant from the 1950s.  The lining is an orange polka dot.  Polka dots are another favorite of mine.

leopard main

And here is the second design-a great vintage floral barkcloth that I believe to be from the 1940s.  In addition to using some faux leopard at the top of the bag, I added little patches on the lower front corners-reminiscent of a vintage suitcase.


I have just a little bit of faux leopard left, enough for another couple bags, and I’m excited to see what I’ll come up with.

And then there is this piece of faux mink I found… 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Remembering Pearl Harbor

gold star

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entrance of the United States into World War II.  While the numbers of casualties that day were staggering, and bear remembering, I decided to re-post something I wrote a year ago that portrays those casualties on a personal level.

Several times now, I have visited the National Cemetery of the Pacific, on Oahu.  I’ve walked among the headstones and read the names of some of those who died that December day, so long ago.  Who were they, I wonder?  And who did they leave behind?


Every Year On Christmas

In dreams we’ll always be together
Beneath the moonlit sky
We mustn’t say goodbye
Each night I’ll push aside the mountains
I’ll drain the oceans dry
We mustn’t say goodbye
I promise you that when the postman rings
My heart will be inside
The envelope he brings
Oh, don’t you know the memories we gathered
Can never, never die
We mustn’t say goodbye

With a sigh, she sat down at last, in his chair, covered in the plaid that didn’t  go with anything else in their living room.  The chair, despite her protests, he’d insisted on getting.  She had nicknamed it “Sore Thumb.”  She was tired, but at the end of another day, this day, she was proud of herself.  She had survived another Christmas without him.

In her hands she held a letter.  She’d been very careful with it these past few years, and she reminded herself  not to cry over it and smudge the ink.  She read it, trying hard to make believe she was reading it for the first time.

December 1, 1941


…I scarcely can believe it!  Only two short weeks and you will be here, celebrating Christmas with me! It is hard to keep my mind on anything else. I am counting the days, my love…

Your sailor.

Despite her best intentions, her tears fell. She closed her eyes, leaned her head back, and found comfort in the softness of his chair, covered in the plaid that never would match anything  in their living room.  A sore thumb.  A constant reminder of him.  She was glad.


Song excerpt from “We Mustn’t Say Goodbye”  (Al Dubin/James V. Monaco)
From the film “Stage door Canteen” 1943


National Post News

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finding Perfect


When we moved back to the Pacific Northwest eleven years ago, we added a new tradition to our Christmas preparations.  Every year we get a permit to go out and cut our own tree from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.  Taking advantage of the good weather, we ventured out yesterday to find the perfect one.

The permits are only five dollars-a real bargain!  Two years ago when  extremely cold temperatures prevented us from going out, and we bought our tree locally, I was shocked at the prices!  Upwards of $80 for a six foot tree! Luckily, we waited so long to get ours, that trees were 50% off by then.

There are certain guidelines that people are asked to follow in choosing their trees, to maintain the health and beauty of the forest-to not cut trees along the highway or within 150 feet of a river, stream or active wetland, and to select a tree from a group of trees instead of ones that are growing individually.


We found a good place to start walking in search of our tree.  It was a beautiful day-cold, but sunny.  There was also not so much snow that walking was difficult.  I still lagged behind Amy and Stuart though.  I was so bundled up that I could only take about a six inch stride!


The word slow is not part of Kona’s vocabulary.  She has only two speeds.  Stop, and fast.  Willow, at fifteen, no longer can make the trip.  I bet she enjoyed the piece and quiet without Kona for a few hours though!


Trees cut in the wild tend to look more like  Charlie Brown Christmas trees.  Often more sparse than commercially grown trees, lopsidedness is a common feature.  Still, they are so beautiful.  Walking among the possible choices, in the forest cathedral  gives a new meaning to the word perfect. After a pleasant half hour or so search, we found the one.


Carrying it back to the car, we enjoyed a few more moments of the stillness and crispness of the woods.


This year I wore one of those “mad bomber” fake fur lined hats. They are warm-even if I felt like I was wearing a raccoon on my head.


Amy helped secure our perfect tree to the top of the car.


Several hours, lights, ornaments, and cups of eggnog later, our tree was the gorgeous centerpiece of our living room.  At a dash under 10 feet, it is the tallest tree we have ever had.  True to form-trees always look smaller in the wild!

And today, my sweet girl Amy, the centerpiece of my life, is sixteen!