Category Archives: Favorite Things

The Smell of Books and Coffee

Columbia County, NY
Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Originally published from West Valley City, Utah, on Thursday, 29 September 2016.


I’m nestled into my favorite corner of the cafe at Barnes & Noble, sipping a pumpkin spice steamer.

It’s not just any Barnes & Noble, it’s MY Barnes & Noble, the one I’ve worked at for over 12 years.

And it’s not just any corner of the cafe, it’s MY corner. The corner with the little round table with the burnt-orange top, with my back to the wall, a tucked-away spot where most people won’t even see me, where I can sit and write and think, all without interruption.

In one short week, it will all come to an end, and I will have my last day working for BN. Today I had a teary-eyed moment. Three of my regular customers came in and I realized I wasn’t going to see them any more: Vincent, Jason, and Antonio. I had to walk away and look out the window to regain my composure.

And then, then a woman showed me her leg. I work near the downtown shelter and she was thin, dentured, and homeless. She had a hole in her leg. She had gangrene and her ankle was very swollen and grey, discolored.

I was feeling very emotional after all this, so I sat down after work in my little corner to do what I like to do, something which brings me peace and recenters me. Writing.

I’ve seen it all here.

I watched a man with a black American Express card drop $1,000 on books like it was no big deal. I’ve seen professional women with sparkling fingernails and the longest of eyelashes, wearing beautiful suits and shining shoes, carrying luscious leather totes which cost more than I make in a week.

I’ve seen distinguished-looking men with blinding white shirts, fresh from the dry cleaner, wearing expensive gold rings from prestigious universities and sports teams, whisking around to important meetings.

And I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum, too: the heroin addicts, the people who steal travel blankets and booklights to use as flashlights, because they sleep on the streets. I’ve seen people with meth-pocked faces and women with dirty fingernails and cancerously dark shoulders bared from tank tops, the kind of brown you get from the heat of too many homeless hours under the harsh sun.

I’ve seen people with brown and decayed teeth, and people with the whitest of veneers. I never knew there were so many kinds of people in one small city.

And speaking of the city, I used to shy away from it. I used to not apply for jobs if they were downtown, because I’m a country girl, and I was afraid.

But now I’ve conquered this fear, and take pride in knowing I take a train to work, march confidently around city streets at all hours, and am afraid of no one and nothing.

But back to my beautiful store. There are so many things I’m going to miss.

The children and teen departments. Truly, those books were loved and cared for, in the five years I was department lead. It broke my heart when my manager transferred me to a different area.

The store’s shadows. The way the sun hits the chairs by the magazine area in the morning, the slats of those old wooden library chairs in shadow on the seats.

The way the sun slants into my cashwrap window in the afternoon, casting the shadow of window frames in brilliant squares, or the pattern of the balcony’s wrought-iron table on the padded green carpet behind my cashwrap.

The magazine stand. I will miss browsing dozens of gorgeously glossy cooking, house and home, current events, and travel magazines each month, without having to spend a penny. But trust me, I do. Some of them are so pretty I have to take them home. So. Many. Mags.

The gift department. I will miss seeing new and lustworthy stationery come in, cards made of colorful cotton that soaks up the ink of my black felt tip pen. 

I’ve had a thing for stationery ever since I was a teenager, buying it by the boxful at the Greenport Hallmark.

The journal wall. I will miss it. What writer doesn’t love the promise of blank books? Leatherbound, smelling like a tack shop. My favorite elastic-closure journals which lay flat. Peter Pauper journals with secret pockets in the back. Bombay journals with leather straps to tie them shut.

Tote bags. I will miss the temptingness of totebags. Whenever I purchase a new one, I’m convinced. Convinced, THIS is the tote bag which will finally organize my chaos into some semblance of order.

I will miss the excitement of seeing summer tote bags come in every spring, with comfy rope handles and nautical stripes, and then, end of summer, the fall totes, charcoal grey and squash-orange felt totes.

The books, oh the books! I will miss leatherbound Barnes & Noble editions with titles stamped in gold and silver, heavy to lift, gold leafed edges.

Trade cloths with dust jackets and embossed and foiled lettering. Trade papers with thick stock covers, cool covers designed by Penguin.

And yes, even mass markets. I will miss mass market paperbacks by Signet, with thoughtfully designed covers.

Bargain books. I will miss the unexpected thrill of seeing a book I coveted at full price be reissued at bargain price. Like Barbra Streisand’s My Passion for Design, total and complete satisfaction, in knowing I got a book which was originally $60 for the low, low, Litko discount of $7.

The cafe. I will miss the anticipation of each August, knowing Pumpkin Spice is coming, and with it the unmistakable following of fall. And then, eggnog arrives!

I will miss going to the ice chest in the counter of the cafe each morning, pulling back that stainless steel cover, and filling a cup with ice water, so I can make it through a day of required questions and chatty conversations with customers.

I will miss the burnt-orange of these cafe tables, scraped up against the scuffed mahogany brown walls, and the familiar clunk, clunk, clunk of the opening barista putting chairs down to the black-and-grey tile floor for the day. I will miss the smell of maple-walnut scones baking, and the distinctive whir and whine of the espresso machine.

The music department. I will miss rummaging in the discount bin section of the music department, finding classic CDs for $4.99. I will miss learning about artists I might never have discovered, like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Gnarls Barkley, Lukas Graham, and Keane.

I will miss the familiar phrases, the ones I probably mumble in my sleep:

“The bathroom? Head to the polka-dotted wall.”
“The Rite Aid is on Main Street, right by City Center TRAX stop.”
“We don’t carry Bic pens.”
“We don’t sell Sharpies.”
“They have gum and mints at Rocket Fizz.”
“We don’t carry postage stamps.”
“The food court is at the south end of the mall, down near the movie theatre.”
“I dunno when they’re gonna put some more stores in this mall.”
“Thaifoon has been gone for a few years now. I miss it too.”
“The souvenir shop moved nearer to the convention center.”
“See the Gone With the Wind poster on the wall back there? Travel is in the little room to the right.”

I will miss the crazes. Harry Potter, Sudoku, adult coloring books, manga, Pop figures, blind boxes. I wonder, what will be next?

I will miss the customers. My favorites.

Craig, the distinguished, silver-haired estate attorney, who loves children’s books like I do. One Christmas season, after purchasing his books, he, face flushed, dropped money over the counter to me, then almost ran out of the store.

Dianna, the financial advisor, with her long black wavy hair and pink lipstick, who bought her grandson’s groceries while he attended college downtown.

Bree, the energy plant owner, with her short blonde hair, she ate a whole watermelon every day, and had the prettiest complexion.

Mike, the grey-haired, retired musician and cement truck driver, who came in the morning for his USA Today, after he got his coffee at McDonald’s in the food court.

On my last day, I kissed him on the cheek. He turned his face and kissed me on the mouth, hard. He loved me, I knew it all along…

Randall, the grey-haired Vietnam vet, who rode his bike to the bookstore for years after his cancer diagnosis, and bought history books. I wonder where he is now. Is he still alive?

Vincent, the African American UTA bus driver, who once sung Motown to me. He was the first man to notice me after I left my husband. I kissed him on the lips for the first time on my last day, and he bought me Ashes, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Antonio, the burly Indian who wears plaid shirts the size of picnic blankets, loves manga, and has a strong, beautiful, regal face like a brave chief…

Jason, the photographer and Fidelity guy, who’s seen BOSTON as many times as I have. I kissed him on the cheek my last day, and he ran from my store, blushing. I know, my coworker saw him on his way back to work…

Sharon, the white-haired older lady who buys Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair, wears the cutest brimmed hats, and calls me Vicky. I don’t have the heart to correct her. I think her husband emotionally abuses her…

And dozens and dozens of others.

I will miss the tourists. The giggling Japanese girls who invariably buy calligraphy pens and ink. The Europeans who buy maps of Montana and Wyoming and Idaho, as they’re headed off to Yellowstone Park.

The people on the way to the airport, who want to pick up a quick paperback to dull the pain of flying in cramped quarters, seated by strangers.

The conference attendees who come from all over the world, seem flummoxed by our American money, and want to know:
Where’s a good place for lunch?
How do they get to the train?
Where can they buy medicine?

I will miss the familiar, resounding thunk of the break room door. The employees here, they’ve kept me young(er). Each one different like a snowflake, dozens and dozens of employees. I cannot go there right now, or I will surely cry again.

I will miss the Nook counter. I stood behind it once with someone I deeply loved and admired. There was just enough room for the two of us…

Maybe, just maybe, when I walk into a Barnes & Noble in the future, I will be able to smell the books and coffee. Sometimes, customers come in and stop suddenly, just after the front doors, and breathe in deeply, exclaiming, “I love that smell! Books! And coffee!”

And I’m sad and a bit jealous, because I haven’t been able to smell it for a very long time. I come home and my children tell me they can smell it when they hug me…

I’m looking forward to so many things, one of them being the smell of books and coffee. Again. When I visit Barnes & Noble, I will be able to smell the books and coffee, again…


Hopes and Fears, Keane, 2004.
St. Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley, 2006.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights, 2007.
Lukas Graham, self-titled debut album, 2012.


Passion iced tea.
Not with lemonade, and with no added sugar. This is an herbal tea and served over ice, so it’s a great low-calorie alternative and really refreshing when it’s hot out. (You can buy a tin of large Tazo tea packets from some grocery stores and make a pitcher of this at home.)

Pumpkin spice steamer.
A steamer is warm milk with flavoring. Most people drink their pumpkin spice as a latte, but I take mine as a steamer. A steamer can be made with any flavoring the cafe has on hand. (If you want to make one of these at home, pour a little sweetened condensed milk into a mug and dust in some pumpkin pie spice. Microwave until it’s liquidy, fill your mug with milk, microwave again, and stir.)

“The low, low Litko discount” is a line taken from the movie About Last Night, 1986, TriStar.

Old Blue Faithful

Columbia County, New York  I  Thursday, 26 April 2018

Old Blue Faithful is about to bite the dust, and this makes me very, very sad.

What am I talking about? My favorite robe of course, the one which has been through thick (and lately, very thin) with me.

When I say thin, I certainly don’t mean my body, I mean the actual fabric of this old navy blue velour robe. For a few years now, I’ve noticed the material on the entire left sleeve is getting very thin, probably because I’ve preferred to sleep on my left side, ever since I was PG with Thing 1.

I didn’t own the robe then, though, I got the robe somewhere around 14 or 15 years ago, with a Sears gift card I’d been given.

What I liked most about it was the zipper. Robes which tie seem to need constant adjusting, and I don’t have enough patience for that!

I also liked the robe’s length, almost to the floor, and the slightly padded part over the breasts, which seems to camoflauge a bit when I’m not wearing a bra. TMI? Don’t care. This is my blog and I’m telling you, I go braless at bedtime.

But, speaking of that area of the robe, I’m sad to tell you a very worn spot is appearing on the left, so it’s becoming indecent. The right sleeve has also started to become thin, and now one shoulder is starting to go, as well.

I’m going to have to get a new robe, and I. Don’t. Wanna. This old robe has been such a comfort to me.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more mindful. When I hang up my clothes in the closet at the end of the day (yes, I wear stuff quite a few times before I wash it), I take down my robe off the hook, and then I completely clear my mind.

I concentrate very hard on the wonderful feeling of comfort and happiness I feel when I slip my arms through the sleeves, pull it over my shoulders, and zip that old, soft, comfy robe, zip, zip, zippp it up.

It’s the best feeling, almost as good as a big hug from Thing 1 or Thing 2.

I know other people who are attached to their old robes, too. My sister has a blue-and-white wrap robe, made of thick cotton Asian material, one her son brought over from Japan.

But last time she visited, she didn’t bring it. She said she couldn’t wear it any more, it was getting so ripped…

And one time, when I was sitting around the kitchen table and chatting with my young friends, Annie and Laney, Annie told me her mom also has an old robe. She said it’s blue and full of holes…

I started to laugh, because even though Annie has never seen me at bedtime, she could have been describing ME in my robe.

I suppose I could take Old Blue Faithful apart and make a pattern from it. I have a sewing machine, but I really don’t know how to do much with it.

My new robe will be a lightweight velour, maybe green this time? And it will have 3/4 sleeves, so they don’t need to be rolled up when I wash the dishes.

I plan to wash the material many times, before I even begin to make the robe, so it will be preshrunk and already feel broken in.

What will happen to Old Blue Faithful? I’m not quite sure. I think I’ll salvage the good parts of it, and piece them into something, maybe a quilt, or some baby receiving blankets.

Because there’s just no way I could ever throw it away, we’ve been through too much together.


Three Soups, Zeppelin, and Curry

Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 16 February 2018

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
-Rabindranath Tagore

Yesterday afternoon, after I’d been to court, to face the woman who was responsible for my mother’s death, I was done for.

Emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.

Headache and heartache.

Starving and feeling all alone in the world.

I had decided in advance, the night before, that after I went to court, I would comfort myself with my three favorite soups. I would have a progressive lunch, taking the afternoon to eat three soups, from three different places.

I ate French Onion Soup and Coconut Soup at two different restaurants, savoring the heat of these delicious soups, and soaking up their lovely interiors, along with the smiles of their warmly engaging waitstaffs.

The French Onion Soup was from Wunderbar Bistro, on upper Warren Street, in Hudson, NY. It was served in a small, dark-brown McCoy-like bowl, rich with beef broth and sherry, topped with bread and the requisite thick slab of Swiss cheese, then garnished with green.

One of my favorite songs was playing as I began to eat, Bobby Darin’s Beyond the Sea, and I felt secure and sheltered by the Bistro’s dark wood interior, with amber pendant lighting, varnished butcher block tables, and pretty, black-clad servers, sporting buns or long straight hair, dark lipstick, and large gold hoop earrings.

In the back lounge, there were art nouveau posters, a brown leather couch by the fireplace, and a peaceful, romantic, ski lodge-kinda vibe.

The Indian restaurant is where I ate (or should I say drank?) the Coconut Soup, along with a piece of nan, and a small bowl of rice pudding. It was served by a young man wearing a mango-colored shirt, with a wide and dark, pleasant face, and the friendliest of smiles.

The Wonton Soup came from Spring Garden, a Greenport staple, and was sold to me by the ancient Asian bartender/takeout guy, with the wicked underbite and witty sayings.

I took a double portion home, to be eaten later, since it warms up nicely.

After I ate the two soups and soothed my soul, I drove along Fairview Avenue, blasting Led Zeppelin, and stopped at an independent bookstore to buy a book I’ve been wanting to read for a very long time.

Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

My new mantra of healing and self-discovery.


To read about Radindranath Tagore (1861-1941), a Bengali poet:

Yes, that’s Steph Curry, pictured in the third photo. He and his lovely wife, Ayesha Curry, were featured in the November issue of Food & Wine magazine, and I bought it just for their article.

Steph is a basketball player for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Ayesha has been on several cooking shows, and has a cookbook called The Seasoned Life. They have two daughters, Riley and Ryan, and are expecting a third baby.



REPOST: Welcome to Skinny Classics!

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I  26 November 2017

(Author’s note: this was originally published on 1 May 2015, when I was still living in West Valley City, Utah. Enjoy!)


Howdy, friends and family! Would you like to read some books with me? OF COURSE you would! Pretty sure I don’t have any friends who don’t like to read, as I’ve been selling books for the past fifteen years. I also hung with a pretty bookish crowd in high school. Of course, we didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure back then, since we were too busy studying for tests and cruisin’ the boat docks by the Hudson River.

But, as an elementary school kid, I’d read five library books a week (thank you, Philmont Public Library!), as I lived way out in the country with no friends nearer than a mile away. A great treat was to go to Bookland, an indie bookstore near where my mom grocery shopped. I still remember the little, round, yellow kiddie table in the back, and spending my babysitting or house cleaning money on book after book after book…

This idea has been dancing around in my head for a long time, the idea of a Skinny Classics Book Club. There were even physical meetings for awhile, but I had to stop going because the only time we book peeps could all get together was on Sunday nights, when our store closed early, and that just didn’t work for me.

Sunday nights were a flurry of motherly activity: most importantly, squeezing in a nap after church, and secondly: making a nice Sunday dinner, cleaning up afterwards, getting Thing 1 and Thing 2’s lunch money envelopes and school clothes ready, signing school papers (NO! They could not POSSIBLY have been dug out of a festering backpack on Friday afternoon!) and preparing my own lunch and clothes for work the next day.

Monday morning comes so very early.

Most of my friends at the time were younger, and either single or without kids, and seemed to have waaay more play time than I did. I simply just couldn’t carve out the time anymore.

Years later, enter my friend Jason (he’s the one who came up with my blog’s tag line: pretty living for pennies). He and I fantasize quite a bit about co-teaching a high school English class. Half the year will be spent reading and discussing Skinny Classics (under 250 pages), and will be taught by yours truly.

The other half of the year will consist of reading books which are indicators of the time they were published. (The Great Gatsby is the perfect example of a book which details the history and society of the time it was written, the Roaring Twenties.) Jason will teach that half of the year.

Now, if we could just stop fighting over where the class will be held. He says California, she says New York. NO WAY are we meeting in the middle, in Kansas, so don’t bother to bring it up.

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.

My Favorite Earrings

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Thursday, 21 September 2017

These are my favorite earrings, green abalone diamonds on the left, and white abalone fans on the right. I really can’t remember where I got either pair, but it was long ago, during college, I think. And I’m not sure if they’re my favorites because I’ve had them for so long or because they’re made of shells, and shells come from the sea. Probably a bit of both, I guess.

I’ve been through several panics with the white earrings. For the longest time, I thought I’d lost one. Why is it that with your favorite earrings, one always seems to go missing? It wasn’t the first time this has happened to me, that’s for sure. I have at least two other favorite earrings which are forlornly in the jewelry box, waiting for their match to show up…

But then, thankfully, more than a year later, the mate to the white earring turned up! The pair was separated so long I actually went out and got another pair of white abalone earrings, each one a cluster of dangling circles. But they weren’t quite the same, and I was so very happy when I found the missing fan-shaped earring.

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I moved to New York, and the white fan earrings were nowhere to be found. Eventually, they turned up at my parents’ house and I was reunited with them, once again. I still can’t figure out when I would have left them there. Sigh, I really must learn to be more careful!

Now, whenever I wear either pair of these earrings, I make sure I have those little clear backings on them, because I would be crushed to lose them.

What are your favorite earrings? Is there a story behind them? And have you ever lost one?