Category Archives: Meet My Girls, the Rockets

Kitchens I Have Known and Loved: Pine View

Columbia County, New York  I  Saturday, 16 June 2018

My second year of college, I moved off campus with my best friends, The Rockets.

We were anxious to escape the lowly freshman scene at the campus dorms, but we’d waited ’til last minute to find a new place. Luckily, Pine View still had openings.

I don’t think I went with the other girls to look at the apartment, but I’d been there before, since we’d known some guys who lived there our freshman year.

We’d lost two of our freshman roommates by this time. Nancy decided to move home to California, and Traci found new roommates.

So it was Anita, Julie, Lori, and me, and we picked up our friend Lynette, who lived in the apartment next door. We all went home for summer vacation, to work and spend time with our families, and then returned to Provo in the fall.

Pine View was located on a very busy street called University Avenue, and with our third-floor apartment facing the street, you could perch on the end of the couch and snoop through the living room’s large picture window, out over the road, watching the cars, and more importantly, checking to see exactly when your favorite people were coming home from classes.

It was a large apartment with three bedrooms, and we now had TWO bathrooms, which was especially great when we were all trying to get ready for church on Sunday mornings, last-minute, after a late Saturday night, dancing at The Palace.

When you first entered the apartment, there was a large kitchen to the right, open to the living room on the left. In our kitchen, we had a sink and fridge and harvest gold stove. I don’t remember having a microwave, and we didn’t have a dishwasher, either.

In the kitchen was a door which led to a utility closet where the vacuum was housed. It was always breaking down, but Anita was unexpectedly good at fixing it.

We called our linoleum kitchen floor Puke Chunk, because of the random pattern of different-colored…well, chunks. I wish I had a photo to show you!

The picture you see above, of the skinny, sweat-panted girls, is the group of Rockets we assembled, year two. Minus me, because I’m taking the picture, of course.

Freshman year I’d splurged at University Mall, and bought a great camera, a Nikon point-and-shoot. I still remember it cost $50, and that put a huge dent in my food budget, but it’s a decision I’ll never regret.

Oh, how I love my cameras.

We lived in sweat pants that year. I’m pretty sure we didn’t get away with wearing them to class, but the second we got home, off came the uncomfortable pants with zippers, and on went the sweats.

Anyways, this particular night you see in the photo above, in October 1986, we’d invited a group of guys over for dinner. There were five of us and five of them.

We didn’t have enough room for everyone at our table, which normally seated six, so we borrowed the kitchen table from the apartment across the hall, and pushed it together with our own kitchen table.

We also borrowed four of their chairs. Look at the colorful array of yellow, orange, and black! I wish I could remember what we ate that night, but I didn’t write it down in my journal this time.

I chuckle to myself now, looking at the photo, seeing the motley assortment of mismatched cups and plates. But really, what apartment of college students has service for ten, anyways? No one I know.

I remember, sometimes we stored things in that space up above the cabinets. One time at Halloween, we all went to a fast-food joint and got kids meals, then saved our plastic pumpkin buckets and put them up there, as a Halloween decoration.

I also remember another time when there was a row of Lori’s coveted jars of Bear Lake raspberries stored up above the cabinets, tantalizing and tempting and tormenting us.

Her mother canned them, and we loved when she opened up a jar of raspberries! We sat down at the kitchen table and ate them straight from the bottle, right down to every last drop of the sweet sweet syrup.

I don’t remember doing too much cooking for myself in this kitchen. I lived on Lynn Wilson bean-and-cheese burritos, Honey Nut Cheerios, and canned soup. No wonder I was so skinny back then!

We had many happy times in this apartment, when it was the five of us.

It was in this kitchen, on 6 January 1987, where I met the young man who would later become my husband, when he arrived to go dancing with us, along with our mutual friend, Wendell.

I still remember what I was wearing: a white t-shirt with a V of fringe, blue stonewashed jeans, and white boots with fringe, which I’d borrowed from Lynette and crammed my feet into. (She wore a half-size smaller than I did.)

He was wearing a purple henley shirt, jeans, and red high-top sneakers…

We had a lot of fun in this apartment, doing crazy stuff like standing on the furniture and dancing, ordering pepperoni pizza from Dominos and splitting the cost, and watching Adam Curry’s MTV countdown every day (I think it was on at 4 pm).

There were always visitors coming and going, and I’m sure we made a LOT of noise, blaring old-school rap and heavy metal tunes. In retrospect, I feel a bit sorry for our neighbors.

But it was the best of times.

We lived in this apartment for two school years, including one summer, up until we forgot to renew our lease in time, and they rented the place to another set of girls. Then we had to move downstairs, to another apartment, and pretty much overnight.

Why in the world the office didn’t just rent the downstairs apartment to the new girls, I’ll never know, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t even think to ask.

We just hauled our stuff down the stairs, and set up housekeeping in the new apartment. But that’s another blog, for another day.

To read more about Bear Lake raspberries:


Kitchens I Have Known and Loved: Wells Hall

Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 11 May 2018

It was at Wells Hall where we girls, The Rockets, first learned what it was like to be on our own, without our moms, and to be starving students.

Wells Hall was our freshman dorm when we attended college at Brigham Young University, and we had our own kitchen, instead of eating at a dining hall, as many college students seem to do.

Our building was named after Emmeline Wells, a women’s rights pioneer, was made of brown bricks, and was two stories high, with large lobby windows looking to the south, on the very eastern edge of campus.

Our apartment had three bedrooms, one antiquated bathroom, a narrow, tunnel-like hallway, and a kitchen which doubled as a living room. Each floor had a large lobby where you could hang out in big groups, but we always preferred our own cozy kitchen.

Everyone always ends up in the kitchen, right?

Continue reading

Thank God for Dirty Dishes

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

What a mess! But I think it actually looks kind of cool with the partial color filter on Black Beauty, my camera.


Yesterday I was faced with a mountain of dishes. I’ve never had so many dirty dishes piled up at Valoftten, my little upstairs place with the red kitchen and the views out to all four directions.

Why, you ask? Well, pretty sure it has something to do with the fact my church bag weighs 17 pounds: manuals, notebooks, scriptures, Chromebook, it all adds up!

Last Saturday, at my place, I had a leaf-raking work party for the church group and then a Christmas craft activity. In the afternoon, there was more sitting by the campfire, cider and donuts, and then leaf blowing and weed whacking.

A really nice lady named Diana offered to help with the dishes, but I said no thanks, because I wanted to get some more yard work done before it got dark. That day was bitterly cold, too. Our fingers were numb, even in gloves.

But first, after the other ladies left, Diana and I went to the little local ACE Hardware store I love in Chatham, where they have a resident cat, three dogs, and four turtles. We bought mix and gasoline for her equipment, and then that dear soul, a part-time landscaper, she went to town with her heavy equipment. Shades of Rosie the Riveter!

Later on, after she went home and it was just Thing 2 and me, I was worn out after playing hostess all day, so the dishes, although rinsed and stacked, they sat. And sat.

The next day, Sunday, was chock full of church stuff: three hours of services, I taught the lesson in the ladies’ meeting, then visited the nearby rest home to see two church members.

Later that afternoon, I had a choice. Nap or dishes?

Well, you can guess which won out. THE NAP, of course. (I made the right choice.) But by then it was dark, and my kitchen has less than stellar lighting. It has a main overhead light, but no task lights over the sink and stove. I’ve purchased some little red goose neck lamps to use for task lighting. (Hey, they were red metal and only $6 and match my kitchen, so for now I make do.)

Have I mentioned the kitchen at Valoftten, true to the 50s, has no dishwasher? And that’s okay with me, I actually prefer to wash dishes by hand, since I think they get cleaner that way.

Plus, I’d rather have the extra cupboard space than a dishwasher.

In Salt Lake City, my two-butt kitchen, the original home of My Copper Kitchen, it did have a dishwasher. But I didn’t use it. I stored my big collection of pots and pans in there!

As I started in on attacking the mess on Monday morning, I did so cheerfully, remembering a poem I read as a very young teenager, curled up in the recliner in front of the unicorn wood stove.

It goes like this:

Thank God for dirty dishes,
they have a tale to tell,
while other folks go hungry, we’re eating very well.
With home and health and happiness
we shouldn’t want to fuss
For by this stack of evidence, God’s very good to us.
-Dear Abby column


We’ve reached critical mass on the dirty dishes here!


We’ve managed to scorch three pans in the process of cooking…

Continue reading

EMMA CHRISTINA: The Things I Carried

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 19 October 2017

The oval, cut-glass bowl on the top left came from Goodwill in Greenport, NY. The gorgeous cut-glass dish on the top right belonged to my father’s mother, my Grandma Emma Christina. She gave it to my mother, Carol, and now, finally, it’s been passed down to me!

The two pretty dishes on the bottom came from Deseret Industries, a thrift store in Utah. The rectangle tray, on the left, is pressed glass. The oval fanlight or sunburst on the right is cut glass.

When you’re traveling cross country by airplane, like I did earlier this month, you have to decide what to put in your carry-on luggage, and what to check.

Because, as we all know, sometimes the airlines lose your checked luggage. Sometimes it turns up hours or days later. But sometimes, it’s never found again. In December of 1995, my garment bag, containing all my favorite dresses, it disappeared into thin air and was never seen again. Thank goodness I learned this lesson early in life, and only with clothes!

So, when I was flying on this trip, I carried with me my white Herschel backpack, the one I got on a fantastic sale at Urban Outfitters, which used to be by my work in downtown Salt Lake City. I paid $20 for a bag which was $75 normally.

Can we talk about pockets? “Because you know how a bear feels about pockets!”

One of the things I loved about my new backpack was all the pockets, right down to a fleece-lined pouch in the very top, perfect for sunglasses and reading glasses, a fleece-lined laptop slot, and all kinds of other little zippered and tabbed pockets, plus a key clip. It’s lined with red-and-white stripes, a signature of the Herschel brand.

Anyhoo, on this trip, in my backpack, I carried:
-some old family photos
-my mother’s little dark-blue suede high school diploma
-two pieces of her wedding silverware. (The dinner knife was confiscated by TSA and I had to mail it to myself from the airport.)
-Black Beauty, my treasured Fujifilm X30 camera
-a bunch of camera cards
-a composition book (I use them to plan events.)
-my keys
-my wallet
-my journal
-an assortment of pencils, pens, and Sharpies
-some snacks
-October issues of Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living. I love me some fall magazines, I do!
-my Chromebook, which fell out of my carry-on tote and into an overhead bin, getting left behind. It had to be retrieved by a ramp attendant, panic!

But in a separate black Barnes & Noble book quote tote bag, I carried some other pieces I treasure too much to leave behind, and far too much to put in checked baggage. Three dishes: one of them pressed glass, two of them cut glass. I have a large collection of pretty, clear-glass dishes, picked up at thrift stores for 50 cents here, $1 there. (It’s all Cami’s fault! Her mother got me started on this hobby. But that’s an entirely separate blog.)

But these three are my absolute favorites, and I simply must have them on my table at Thanksgiving this year. My pickles and olives demand the best!

Last October, as I was moving to New York, I was determined to take two of these favorite, fancy-glass dishes, and placed them on the table for last-minute packing in a carry-on bag. But, after a rough all-nighter of closing out my apartment into storage and suitcases, then turning the place over to Thing 1 and his best friend, I was just too tired, too rushed, and too stressed to pack them.

They got left behind on the table, and I’ve missed them so.

This past trip west, earlier this month, I went to Thing 1’s apartment in Salt Lake City to drop off a bag of BLT fixins from our favorite sandwich shop in New York. (That’s a story for another day. Or another blog, as well. Or whatever.) I ransacked his cupboards until I found the two dishes.

They were coming with me this time.

Up at my parents’ house in northern Utah, two of The Rockets helped me pack at the end of my stay, before driving me, my father, and Thing 2 to my friend Tina’s house, to spend the night before flying back to New York. What good friends I have, truly. Anita took the task of wrapping the three dishes carefully in newspaper and plastic grocery bags.

Pretty sure she wanted the chance to admire them up close, since she likes antiques as much as I do!

I can’t wait to see them on the table this Thanksgiving, holding Cranberry-Orange Relish, dill pickles, sweet pickles, and black olives…

Welcome to Emma Christina @ My Copper Kitchen! New features will be available on an intermittent basis, whenever I inherit a cool dish owned by my paternal grandmother, Emma Christina. I will also feature newly acquired dishes from her era which I think she would have liked.

She, a lovely Swedish lady who died before I was born, she loved cooking and gathering her many children around her Craftsman table, with its four leaves.

I’m told that sometimes, when Emma Christina felt bad and life was wearing her down, she would head to the Implement and put a nickel down on a dish. Kinda like me, her youngest granddaughter, heading to a thrift store and picking up something inexpensive to buoy my spirits, something special and beautiful, all for 50 cents…

“You know how a bear feels about pockets” is a line taken from the wonderful children’s book, A Pocket for Corduroy, written and illustrated by Don Freeman. I highly recommend it, and its predecessor, Corduroy, for all the children in your life.

The first book, Corduroy, was groundbreaking in that the main character, a little girl named Lisa, she and her mother are obviously not white, probably African American or Hispanic. They live in an apartment in the city, several flights up.

Considering the white-picket-fence, blond-haired, blue-eyed Dick and Jane books (used to teach children to read in the 1930s through 1970s), Corduroy is welcomingly inclusive of ethnic children who live in large cities.

Plus, Don Freeman’s artwork, scratchy black-and-white outlines, filled in with color, is truly delightful.

I love Herschel backpacks!

Read Finding 50: The Things I Carried, at:

Read more about Grandma Emma Christina at:
A Word About Windows

Learn how to make Cranberry-Orange Relish for Thanksgiving at:

The subtitle of this blog is a derivation of the book title, a modern-day classic, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien.

The Welcomed Guest

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 6 October 2017

Recently, my father, Thing 2, and I spent the night at my friend Tina’s house so we could be closer to the airport for an early-morning flight back to New York from Salt Lake City.

(You may remember Tina as my friend who always had me over on Sunday nights for her famous Summer Spaghetti. Our kids were sooo excited to get to play together again! They terrorized the basement with Nerf guns, Legos, and then sat down to computer games.)

Anyways, Tina graciously said she had plenty of room and all three of us could spend the night at her house! I was very relieved, since this meant we could avoid taking an early-morning (4 am, nooo thank you!) shuttle to Salt Lake International Airport from my parents’ house in northern Utah.

I stayed downstairs, in Tina’s lovely French flair guest bedroom. On the wall was a huge poster of Audrey Hepburn in a straw hat with two wide pink silk bows.

Below the poster was a white desk, with drawer handles made out of silky floral ribbons, an idea I’ve never seen before, and am going to swipe, for sure. Tina said she bought the desk secondhand and it was missing its hardware, but replacements were $10 apiece, and the desk has eight drawers. (You do the math. Again, no thank you.)

On the desk was a super cool Eiffel Tower lamp. I’m imagining a soft pink bulb in it…

There was also a bookcase, conveniently left empty for her guest’s belongings, except for an extra blanket, a plush purple Vellux one. (I love Vellux. It’s soft, never pills, and dries quickly. I used to have a blue Vellux blanket, until Thing 1 took to it with a red Sharpie.) And above said bookcase, on the wall, were two Paris fashion prints.

I adored the guest bed ensemble, all pink and purple and red watercolor flowers, with a striped dust ruffle, and nice, crisp white sheets with a high thread count. Next to the bed was a nightstand with a lamp and an alarm clock, and plenty of room for little things like my earrings and bracelets I took off just before bed.

After the stress of some unexpected travelling this past week, Tina’s guest bedroom was a delightful, peaceful haven, like spending a night at a bed and breakfast. Clean, uncluttered, and oh-so-pretty. Thank you, Tina.

I remember, many years ago, my friend and fellow Rocket Julie told me she would know she’d “arrived” when she got a home with a guest bedroom. Eventually she did get her wish, and dressed the guest bed with a Martha Stewart blue-and-yellow wedding ring quilt, which she purchased at KMart, after admiring mine on a visit to Salt Lake.

(Hers is probably still intact. Mine, not so much, after my rambunctious Thing 1 destroyed it.)

So now, now, I guess I’ve arrived, too, because for the first time in my life, my place has a guest bedroom! I wonder, what items should I put in there? What should I do to make my guests feel welcome, like they’re not imposing, and relaxed and comfortable, not having to ask me for every little thing? “By any chance do you have (fill in the blank)?”

Let’s check out some fun links to learn more! Scroll past the bed below.





My Copper Kitchen Celebrations!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Philmont, NY  I  Saturday, 26 November 2016


Hi there, fellow Rockets and all my other friends. Would you like to try something new with me? Just say yes! It’ll be so much fun, I promise! I’ve been thinking how great it would be if we all had a place where we could post pictures of our holiday gatherings: the food, table settings, menu ideas, etc.

One of my absolute favorite repeat posts on Martha Stewart’s blog happens at the end of November. A few days before Thanksgiving, she sends out an email to all her staff members, asking them to submit photos of their Thanksgiving holiday celebrations, and boy, do they ever.

I love looking at them. It’s so interesting to me to see how other people live, how they celebrate. Not everyone has the time, budget, or staff to put on a spread which is camera-ready for a magazine. And that’s okay! We all have our own ways of doing things and can learn from each other.

Would you like to give it a try? If so, ask to be added to the Facebook group:

My Copper Kitchen Celebrations!

and then, post away! I’ve already added my Thanksgiving pix, simply by sharing the public album from my Facebook page. You’re welcome to share pix of your family and friends, but I intend it primarily to be about food, table settings, menus, and decorations.

So have at it! I can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!



Giving Thanks for Friends and Family

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  PHILMONT, NY I  Saturday, 12 November 2016


Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled that inner light.
-Albert Schweitzer

The other day a package from Indiana arrived for me, addressed in fellow Rocket Julie’s handwriting. Gleefully, I opened it and found two very perfect gifts, evidence she had carefully been reading my blog and looking at my photographs.

And I kept thinking, how ironic, it’s closer to HER birthday and not mine, yet I’m the one getting all the gifts!


The first gift was an afghan, Julie’s careful handiwork, crocheted in orange and white chevrons, with a single stripe of cobalt blue. It’s the perfect compliment to my Water Garden quilt, which I had to leave behind in Salt Lake City. I can’t wait to see how the afghan and quilt will match, once I get my things out of storage.

But, never fear, I’ve found a new home for the afghan, draped over the love seat in my new living room, which is taking on shades of orange, complimented by my perfectly pumpkin pine floor. This love seat is a verrry dangerous place, as it’s parked under a sunny, southern-facing living room window.

Like a cat, I find myself blissfully napping there, a bit too much. Just. So. Tempting.


The other present from Julie was a little red and white gingham apron, crosstitched with a black pattern. It’s perfectly perfect (to steal a phrase from Trixie Belden) in my new red kitchen. It’s humbling to me, realizing Julie cares enough to figure the absolutely ideal housewarming gifts for me, and to invest so much time into making them, even though she herself is the mother of two young boys.

And then! As if that wasn’t enough, another package arrived a few days later, one with a fantastic vintage apple clock, just like the one I swearrr we had growing up. With its large Bodoni numerals and sweeping metal hands, it makes my heart happy to look at it. The clock, it was a gift from my sister Cheri.


This month, November, is the month of Thanksgiving. I’ve been fretting and wondering what to blog about, feeling quite uninspired. Until I took a look at Giving Thanks, the book in the first two photos, and I realized Thanksgiving is more than just about the turkey and side dishes we all look forward to each November. Then, coupled with the arrival of all these wonderful gifts, I suddenly felt energized and inspired to write again.

I feel so thankful for those who keep my flame going with their little acts of thoughtfulness.

The book I’m holding is called Giving Thanks, written by the Newbery Award-winning author Katherine Paterson, and illustrated by our family friend, Pamela Dalton. True story, Pamela used to live in the very apartment I now inhabit, back in the early 1980s, when she was just starting out her career in papercutting.




Lori’s Pumpkin Cookies

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Greenport, NY  I  Thursday, 27 October 2016


My old roommate and fellow Rocket, Lori, she makes the best pumpkin cookies ever!

There’s only one problem, after you eat them you’ll never be able to go back to store-bought pumpkin cookies, because they’re downright dry and disappointing compared to Lori’s moist, delicious cookies.

I first remember her making these for us when we were in college and I’ve been in love with this recipe ever since!

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix, then stir in pumpkin. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then stir in chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

dscf4437Gather your ingredients. I was visiting southeastern Ohio at the time of this photoshoot, so I used eggs from my sister and brother-in-law’s chickens, as well as Amish butter.

dscf4444Creaming white sugar into butter.

dscf4461Yin and yang: pumpkin puree and the creamed mixture of butter, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

dscf4463Wet and dry ingredients waiting to be combined.

dscf4471A double batch of pumpkin cookie dough.

These cookies are delicious, but not very pretty to look at, since they’re a dark orangey brown and kind of shapeless. Because of this, make sure to serve them on a bright, decorative plate.

This just in: yesterday I let Lori know I was going to publish her recipe and found out more information! She says she originally got the recipe from a lady named Mona when it was published in her grandmother’s church cookbook in 1981, in a small town near Bear Lake, Utah.

And guess what? There was a frosting recipe included, which neither Lori nor I have ever made for the pumpkin cookies. Why don’t you try it, and I’ll try it, and we’ll see how it turns out?!

Frosting For Lori’s Laketown Pumpkin Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a sauce pan, stir together brown sugar, butter, and milk, and boil for two minutes. Cool mixture, then add powdered sugar and vanilla.

You might as well double the recipe. Just go ahead. The recipe calls for one cup of pumpkin, but a 15-ounce can of pumpkin is more like two cups. Never have I ever remembered to use the second cup of pumpkin, stashed in the fridge or freezer, but somehow I ALWAYS remember to bake the second half of the dough I’ve stashed in the freezer for later…

Lori’s original recipe calls for shortening. I’ve taken the liberty of substituting butter. (She said she does this, too.) She also says she uses a Pampered Chef cookie dough scoop to help make the cookies a more uniform shape.


Of Picnics and Red Plaid Blankets

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Thursday, 8 September 2016


Every family should have a red plaid picnic blanket.

I remember when Lori gave me mine for Christmas, one year in the early 90s. Somewhere along the line I must have mentioned I’d like a flannel quilt, so she made one for me, in secret.

This was when Lori and Julie and I rented my sister Chris’s condo, after graduating from college. I don’t know how in the world she was able to make it without a sewing machine and a quilting frame, but make it the talented Lori did, carefully binding it with hand-sewn stitches all around the edge and white yarn ties.


I still remember, all these years later, I was so excited when I started to open up the big box that Christmas at our gift exchange before we each went home to our parents for Christmas: Lori to Idaho, Julie to Indiana, and me to New York.

Splitting open the tape, I caught a glimpse of red and plaid peeking out, and I knew right away what was in the box. I jumped for joy! (See below for proof.)


This blanket. The back is a very faded navy blue, from all the exposure to the sun, while riding around in the back of the car, like a patient child, just waiting for the perfect picnic spot. And trust me, it’s seen many of them.

This blanket. It’s been there in the car in case the kids get cold on those long rides in the wintertime. Is anything cozier than well-worn flannel when you’re in a darkened car and the snow is swirling around outside it, driving through a pitch-black canyon? I think not.

This blanket. Sometimes I’ve even brought it inside and snuggled under it on my bed, not caring it might have some grass or dirt or sand on it from our last excursion.

This blanket, it has a rip on the plaid side, a rather large one, and I have to figure out how to patch it before it gets worse…

This blanket is like my life, well-worn and faded and ripped from being used, lovingly. But I can figure out how to patch it, right? Just like I’ve patched up my own life when it’s been unexpectedly and undeservedly torn open…

There have been many mouthwatering meals eaten on this blanket, many long and heartfelt talks, many pleasant, drowsy naps under summer-shady trees. And many more to come. Thank you, Lori.

May I suggest if you know someone with a quilting frame and are handy like that, it would make the perfect wedding present? If it doesn’t match the newlyweds’ decor, it doesn’t even matter. It matches the green of grass and blue of skies, and it most certainly matches the golden-brown of crispy-fried chicken on Labor Day. And Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and Pioneer Day…



My mother made the cross stitch chickadee Christmas ornament. The red drum and white church ornaments came from a shop I used to frequent on my Christmas vacations in the late 80s. It was a great, cluttery gift shop called Pavane and was on lower Warren Street, in Hudson, New York.

If you look very, very closely, you can see the church and chickadee and drum on the tree in the candid photos of the Christmas I received the red plaid quilt…

My mother purchased my cobalt blue angels at Pavane. It was also at this shop I found my favorite, timeless black silk scarf which I wore to Les Miserables on Broadway this past July, and to countless weddings and funerals. I even wore it to church last Sunday…


Valma and Valerie

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  20 July 2016

DSCF1514Gloria’s Approving Gaze/1514BB

Valma. She finished the quilt 93 years ago, she did.

She and two friends, Del and Pearl, carefully embroidered the just off-center patch in pink floss with their names, the completion date of March 20, 1923, and her group’s initials, SCG. Then, perhaps (let your imagination enter, stage left) it was sold or auctioned for benefit.

They made the quilt that I, Valerie, I slept under three nights ago, on 17 July 2016, while still on vacation at my childhood home. I marveled at the quilt’s comforting softness and fine, impeccable condition, with no rips or tears or stains.

I slept in a beautiful four-poster bed, the nicest one I’ve ever had, chosen by my sister Cheri. I slept upstairs in a bedroom which faces warmly west, with orangey pumpkin-pine floors, the Winter Bedroom of the V House, located in Columbia County, New York, God’s gorgeously green upstate.

The house was built at the dreary beginning of the Great Depression, in 1930, built by hard-working Germans, the V Family, on land purchased from the nearby S Family, both lots originally part of the B Farm. My dad says they used scrap from Meltz Lumber, a local lot, and finished the upstairs much later than the downstairs, adding two large dormers and reversing the staircase to make a separate apartment with its own entryway.

Thank goodness, downstairs Mrs. V had a cheerful yellow Formica kitchen counter to look at and wipe down carefully, and an immaculate white porcelain sink with large drainboards on either side (and a brass drain), at which to wash her dishes.

She also had a neat kitchen floor to sweep and mop, made of sturdy linoleum squares of white, with the palest-of-pale chunks of pink and green and gold sparkly flecks.

But more about that later, right now let’s focus on my precious quilt…

I remember when I first saw it.

I was living in Provo, Utah and bored out of my mind, having graduated college and watched all my favorite roommates, The Rockets, move away and leave me. To pass the time on weekends off, I liked to make trips up to Salt Lake City to shop for frivolous things like cowboy boots and antiques.

Pretty things to try and fill the gigantic hole in my heart at having been left behind by my best friends, and to kill the pain of not yet being married and having the children I always knew I wanted, a family of my own.

When I stumbled upon the quilt in a stack of bed linens in an armoire in an antique shop in Midvale, I knew, I just KNEW, it had to be mine. I kind of started to sweat a bit, because It was around $250, and, even though I had a good job, I really couldn’t afford it, at least not all at once.

But I simply couldn’t leave that place without making it mine. The shop’s owner let me make payments, a layaway of sorts. And so, $20 here and $25 there, I slowly made it mine. I was grateful and gleeful upon making the final payment, and took the quilt carefully home, packing it away for someday.

The reason I had to have the quilt was the signatures, of course. Each nine-patch was signed and dated with red or pink embroidery floss, covering carefully penciled script, dating even further back, to 1921. The squares were made of simple checked and striped or polka-dotted material, bordered by ecru flour sack material.

DSCF1550Mystery Quilt/1550BB

When I sleep under this quilt I feel of these long-gone ladies’ love and creativity, industry, frugality, and sheer determination.

To create beauty out of something useful and utilitarian. To use the contents of a sack of flour to make loaves of soul-sustaining bread and fluffy celebration cakes and dozens of oatmeal raisin cookies, and then to be provident enough to save the sacks, recycling pioneers, and cut them into squares, which became nine-patches, which became my beautiful quilt.

The quilt I slept under in the Winter Bedroom of my childhood home in July of 2016. My beloved boys, a mother after all, they slept under the eaves of the twin bedrooms at the other end of the house.

And Thing 1 slept under a new quilt made with imagination and love by his Aunt Cheri. 

Popcorn Vampire/4035BB


First two photos: Carrigan Buhler, Germantown, New York.
Last photo and Interior Design: Valerie Belden Wilder, Ghent, New York.

The last photo, Popcorn Vampire, did not appear in the original blog. It was added to the post on 27 October 2017. I’ve also made extensive edits since the original posting.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes, by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.

The World of Gloria Vanderbilt, by Wendy Goodman. Harry N. Abrams, 2010.

To read more about pumpkin pine flooring: