Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Home Fires


They were five in number. A quintet of housewives desiring companionship apart from the esteem of their husbands and children. Five women trading favorite cookie recipes, honing bread making skills, seeking friendship. Sisters in arms.  In the beginning, they met on the third Wednesday of every month, gathering in each other’s cozy linoleum floored kitchens. But that was before the war.  Inevitably, after Pearl Harbor-when mailboxes began to serve up family fracturing draft notices-solidarity, empathy, and comfort baking became a means of survival, and more often than not, the group was assembled.

Rather quickly, though, it was apparent that stores of flour and butter, sugar and eggs-and waist measurements-and available ice box space could not withstand the blizzard of baked goods for long.  In light of the need to find a substitute for the conjuring of pies and cakes and cobblers, the five were faced with the inevitable question.  If not baking, what then?

Scattered suggestions here and there. 

Sewing or knitting. Victory gardening. Canning and preserving.


Stamp collecting.  Bird watching. Going to the pictures.

Desperation, palpable. 

I say we find some sailors and then get tattooed!

Clapping and cheering and whistling.  And laughter.  Bawdy,  raucous unladylike snorts of laughter!


Making rum balls seemed like the perfect compromise.


writing prompt

This piece is my interpretation of A snow fall and a secret revealed. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

My First Ever Giveaway! Goodbye Winter Blues, and Hello Blue Hawaii!


Happy Monday, dear readers!  I’ve got a little surprise for you today! 

Now I realize that sometimes, surprises are not a good thing. When I lived with my dear grandma (bless her soul!), and she didn’t know what to make for dinner, she’d take random leftovers from the fridge, do a little off the cuff improvising, and SURPRISE! 

But this surprise, I promise, is a good thing.  I wrote, not long ago, about what a challenge it can be sometimes, to come up with a blog post.  Sort of like coming up with something for dinner.  Last night I had several ideas, but alas, nothing came of them.  And then I thought about the vintage jar I found at Goodwill a few weeks ago-and inspiration struck!


Here’s the jar I found.  A pretty good score as thrift store finds go.  And only 99 cents!  As I was admiring it, though, after I got it home, I realized something wasn’t quite right.  Can you see what I saw?  (That reminds me of a song:  I joined the Navy, to see the world, and what did I see?  I saw the sea! There-I wanted to find a way to work some sailors into this post today!)

sailors and parrots

So here’s what I’m doing.  I’m going to give away those pretty tropical postcards pictured at the top of the post. (Because I’m not authorized to give away any sailors.)   If you’d like a chance to win, just let me know in the comments ( And, a correct answer to the jar question will get you a second chance at winning, too!)

I’ll draw a name on Friday and also tell you what I found funny about the jar-but in the meantime, have a great day, and a great week too-and thank you!  I truly appreciate each and every one of you!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

News From the Wilds of My Studio!


There are a thousand different kinds of bamboo. 

And seven different kinds of leopard.

But only one of these…


My newest bag!

I used a rich golden yellow mid century barkcloth that has a flower and leaf motif, including pink and black bamboo!  I love the little pops of turquoise as well-so 1950’s.  The retro style of this bag is one of my favorite designs, and I love the combination of this smashing vintage barkcloth, black plastic bamboo handles, pink vintage buttons-and leopard print lining!



Because there’s no such thing as too much leopard!


Or is there?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Picture Postcard Perfect


I am back from our weekend getaway to the beautiful Oregon Coast-already missing the ocean and eager to return.  In the meantime, I took a few photographs to look at to tide me over until our next visit.  Here, in no particular order, are some scenes from the seaside.


rock reflection


Amy and Kona

I noticed later on that when I took this picture of Amy I also captured-not a bird as I first thought-but Kona’s stick in mid air!  It’s just below the surf at the same height as Amy’s shoulder.



Hours could be spent searching for agates and ocean smoothed glass hidden among the other sea treasures.  I loved the colors of the rocks and shells on this beach.


rolling waves

green rocks 2

sea weed

beach kona

I wish I could say that this photo captures Kona gazing serenely at the ocean for the first time in her existence, but she really happened to be staring manically at a lady in a very large puffy knitted turquoise hat.  It was all we could do to distract her so as to prevent her from running after the poor woman! Maybe Kona thought the hat was a strangely colored wayward sheep.


drift wood

crashing wave

the end

And that, dear readers, is the end for now-which is all that you can see of Kona in the bottom right-hand corner of this photo.  Streaking through the frame faster than the camera shutter could capture her–she left nothing but her footprints in the sand.

Have a great week!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekend Away

I wanted to wish all of you a great weekend!  I’ll be at the Oregon Coast for a few days, but I look forward to catching up with all of you next week!

Valerie xoxoxo

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Her Funny Valentine

Black Cow #1

Not a chance, he thinks to himself. Not. A. Chance. There are certain harsh truths you must accept when the roll of the genetic dice hands you a set of features like his. Jug ears, and uneven teeth. Carmine hair that inspires friends and strangers alike to feign panic and yell Fire! when they see him.  He’s got no chance when it comes to a dish like her.  Still, he can’t help himself.  His wishful gaze pours over her like Hershey’s syrup, as she sits at the counter sipping the Black Cow he’s made for her.

She can sense his stare. Not a chance, she thinks to herself. Not. A. Chance.  She isn’t shallow.  Certainly not.  But the poor guy is no Frank Sinatra, and though she pretended not to notice the way his voice pitched and plummeted like a roller coaster when he asked for her order, she felt so embarrassed for him she wanted to melt into the floor. Still, just for a second-before he’d moved away to mix chocolate ice cream and root beer, before even more awkwardness fizzed up between them, they’d held each other’s gaze, and she saw that his eyes were cocoa brown.

Black Cow # 34

Lately, she has found herself craving a Black Cow almost every day, and surprisingly, she has hoped he might be the one to make it for her. Over the past few weeks, one scoop of chocolate ice cream at a time, he seems to have overcome his consternation when near her, chatting comfortably away in a rich, even tenor. She is discovering that his character is agreeable-and he is funny, too, making her laugh as much with his wit as his own infectious laugh, until her sides ache. She notices his freckles.  Cocoa brown like his eyes.

Black Cow # 99

And then…

To celebrate her hundredth Black Cow, he slides a frost etched parfait glass in front of her, squeezes her hand and says, This one’s on me. He shyly slides a small box in front of her too. His eyes hold hers for a second before he moves off to take another order, leaving her to unwrap her gift.  A small heart shaped bottle of dime store perfume. Carefully removing the lid, she inhales deeply, the raucous scent striking her nose. 

She tips the bottle sideways, using her pinkie as a stopper, and then daintily dabs a fingertip’s worth of the redolent amber liquid behind each ear.  It’s more than a little pungent at first, but over time, when she has worn it long enough, it will seem less startling, less shocking-blending with the fragrance of her own skin.  Maybe even get under it.

Like he did.

Scent and Elixir and Frank Sinatra’s My Funny Valentine

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Five A Day


Though the lighting in my kitchen hasn’t improved since Monday, I really wanted to show you my recipe for breakfast sundaes.  Someday I hope to master the art of food photography-but in the meantime, we all have to eat!

I start with roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cup of frozen fruit.  Here, I used half strawberries, and half a mix of raspberries and black berries (from my own garden last summer!)  I put the berries in my blender, add a few tablespoons of milk and a little sugar, and blend until smooth.




Then I layer the blended fruit with a layer of vanilla yogurt and a layer of toasted oats, and repeat.  I love the crunch of the the oats as they mingle with the silkiness of the yogurt and the frozen sweet tartness of the berries.  Instead of the toasted oats, you could use granola-or even oatmeal cookies that have been broken into pieces. Toasted oats are easy to make, by the way-simply mix 8 cups of regular rolled oats with 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup oil, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon-mix well, spread on a cookie sheet and bake 20 to 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven, stirring every 10 minutes.


The experts recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Like so many other things in life, I find vintage is an easy and fun way to do just that.



Which fruit would you choose to make your breakfast sundae, dear readers?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Past Tense


I was going through some photo albums the other day-albums inherited from my grandparents-trying to decide which photos, out of hundreds, to keep, and  I came across this picture.  It’s the 22 or so year old me, taken at my sister’s wedding, and if I look closely at myself, I can see the black eye shadow, and the bleached out strip of hair.  I thought I looked pretty cool at the time.  Now, I think I just looked ridiculous.  Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for the girl in this picture.  It was a rough time in her life-and in the process of trying to figure out who she was, she took many wrong turns. She was more than a little wild.  Didn’t exactly keep the best company.  Still, she was sweet and kind, and if you peered into her heart-a good person.

I think about my other, floundering self, sometimes.  I still don’t have the definition of who I am completely nailed down, but I have a pretty good idea.  I am older now, and wiser-happy to have outgrown the growing pains that make you feel, when you are 22, that the world is coming to an end.  And I ask myself-if I could be 22 again, would I want to be different?  Yes, and no.  I envy those who made it through their early years unscathed, but at the same time, it’s what I want for Amy.  Or at least I want her to have an easier go of it than I did.  And if the advice I offer her has more credence to it because I know what I’m talking about, and helps make the path she travels a little straighter-then every single second of my past was worth it.

Happy Monday, dear readers!  Today I’d  originally planned to post my recipe for breakfast sundaes, but the light in the kitchen wasn’t very good…


Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Piece of Cake? Not All the Time

Martyrs and stained glass.

Such a tantalizing prompt!  I really, really, really wanted to write something, but the words just would not come.  And in addition to being at a loss for publish worthy prose this week, I struck out in the sewing room too. Yesterday, the bag design I sketched out in my mind failed to translate onto actual fabric, and I made-as my dad used to kid me back in high school when I’d sew something-little pieces out of big pieces.

Creativity frustrates me.  Some days it comes easily, like Niagara Falls.  And other days-well, it’s almost like I forgot to pay my water bill. I just wish I could tap into my creativity on demand, and never be at a loss for meaningful and productive inspiration.  But then again, without those moments of creative angst followed by creative breakthrough perhaps victory wouldn’t seem quite so sweet.  I don’t know. 

I did dream about the prompt though, likening churches to cake-which made perfect sense in my dream but not so much when I woke up.  And because of the prompt, I also remembered a couple of funny anecdotes from childhood about going to church-and in particular, reciting the words to prayers without really understanding what was being said.  I thought wicked foe was wicked foam, and my younger sister couldn’t figure out why we should be “hardly sorry” for our sins (heartily sorry!) 

I’m not too discouraged about creativity. This dry spell won’t last.  Just like dry spells in the past have never lasted.  In the meantime, I just got a new cookbook, and there are some cake recipes I’d like to try out.  Angel food or devil’s food?  I’m not sure yet.  I’m waiting for inspiration.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

For Posterity


Happy Tuesday, dear readers!  I had every intention of posting yesterday, but things got a little sticky!  You see, the little porcelain letter C fell off the cold side of kitchen faucet, and I thought that super glue would be just the ticket to fix it.  I think I got more glue on myself than the intended target and I spent a bit of time trying to pry my fingers apart and then peel the dried glue off.  In any case, I’m back today, more or less glue free. 

The picture above is a close up of a vintage piece of linen I bought nearly 10 years ago.  It’s about 18'” square and done in an intricate and neatly executed red stitching.  The seller thought it was likely done by a young girl demonstrating her embroidery skills.  I love the addition of the date-1913-and it occurred to me that this piece of linen is now 100 years old.  Which leaves me to wonder-will anything I sew, or write be around 100 years from now, still being used or read by someone else wondering about the person I was?

Have you ever thought about this, and if so, what would you choose?  A photograph, or painting?  A novel or perhaps a handmade bag or necklace?  A recipe you created, or a poem? 

Please glue, or write your thoughts below. Winking smile


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Beginning of the End

A few months ago, I wrote a short story called Hay Season, based on the true story of a farming accident that happened to my friend Paula’s husband.  Only 15 at the time, he was taken to the old Ellensburg hospital where an assessment of his injuries deemed them to be so grave that he was placed out in the corridor and left to die.  While fate had other plans for him, and he not only survived the night but made a full recovery, the same fortune was not granted to the old hospital itself.

Yesterday, after a long, drawn out, and unsuccessful bid by local historians to save the building, the demolition crew set to work bringing the circa 1919 mission revival style landmark down.


Six years ago, we lived directly across the street from the old hospital.  Purchased by a private individual, it was going to be renovated so that it might used for other purposes.  This person even went so far as to move into the hospital lock, stock and barrel, filling it up with several van loads of furniture.  I don’t know why I happened to be looking out my living room window the first night he was there, but I was.  I could see both the new owner and his wife sitting in their  living room-the former grand lobby of the hospital, in front of the massive-but beautiful fireplace.  As this man proceeded to put a log on the fire, flames shot up from the chimney like fireworks, high into the sky, as well as straight out at him!  I never saw two people move so quickly!

The fire incident was an omen of sorts.  Not only did the pair move out the next day, but plans for renovation were fraught with red tape, dishonesty and threats of legal action.  In the end,  the old hospital was sold-first to a salvage company, and finally to a contractor who plans to put up new homes on the property.


The operating room. 


Second story window.


Corridor, and rooms.  Photos by Brian Myrick.


The salvaged elevator car.


Looking straight through the building.


I love old buildings, and I wish there was a way to save them all. I mean, how many hospitals, or any new structures built today, have grand lobbies complete with fireplaces, and operating rooms that look more like sun rooms?  It put me in quite a state of melancholy when I walked by the historic hospital last evening.   I think I’ll avoid my old neighborhood for awhile…



Better days.