Category Archives: The V House

Kitchens I Have Known and Loved: The V House

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Friday, 13 April 2018

Food is memories.
Hassan Kadam, The Hundred-Foot Journey

It’s hard for me to write about this kitchen, now my mother is no longer puttering around in it.

This is the downstairs kitchen at the V House. Even though the place has been in our family for 50 years now, we were still calling it by the previous owners’ last name, to distinguish it from the other houses my parents used to have.

Finally, 1 1/2 years ago, when I moved here, to the upstairs loft, I decided to rename it the V House. My father’s first name starts with V, and so does mine, so why not? Plus, the people who built it, a German family, their last name starts with V.

Growing up, I always thought this kitchen was…not so great. The counters were a yellow-and-white Formica, and the walls a kind of strange-colored tile. Is it salmon? Or coral? I’m not quite sure, but I’m leaning towards coral. And to make matters worse, the tile was trimmed at the top with a deep purple tile, I’ll call it eggplant.

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Thank God for Dirty Dishes

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Columbia County, NY  I
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…

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Not When I Expected

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 25 August 2017

The tree I call Flame-Haired Beauty was already starting to get red leaves at the beginning of August! (Photo taken 4 August 2017.)

Towards the end of July, I started to notice some strange things around the yard. The maple tree across the street from the house was starting to get red leaves. Wait, what? At the end of July?

This is the tree I call Flame-Haired Beauty, because when I made a trip to New York at the beginning of October 2015, she was positively on fire!

I didn’t expect her to start to turn red until more like the end of September, but there she was, a full two months earlier than expected, already turning brilliantly, captivatingly red.

And that’s not the only weird thing around here. The tulip tree, which never really blossomed this spring, it had flowers on top at the end of July, maybe two dozen of them!

I had a hard time getting a photo, because the blossoms were all up so high, but I could see them, plain as day, from my upstairs kitchen window.

If you look hard, you might be able to see a tulip blossom near the top of the tree. Can you also see the pink poodle in the sky? She’s wearing a tutu! (Photo was taken on 31 July 2017.)

I guess in nature, like in life, sometimes things happen at unexpected times. That’s what makes life interesting, huh?

 

The History of Haint Blue

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Monday, 31 July 2017

The haint blue ceiling on our screened-in porch.

This summer my sister painted the ceiling of the front porch a light blue, which was no small feat. The porch ceiling had previously been white, and it was looking a little bit grey and mildewy in spots. So she scrubbed it with bleach water and painted it a pretty color known as haint blue.

Haint blue is a color commonly seen on porch ceilings in the south, but also used in many other areas. “Haint” is another name for haunt, or ghost, and down south the superstition persists that if you paint your porch ceiling haint blue, it will ward off evil spirits.

Haint blue is also rumored to scare away insects, probably stemming from the fact that old-fashioned milk paint used to contain lye. It’s also suggested that insects will avoid landing on a haint blue ceiling, thinking it’s the sky. It hasn’t really been proven, but it’s interesting to think about, right?

A haint blue ceiling is also thought to make the days seem just a little bit longer. I suppose once the real sky has turned to grey or black, you still have a soothing canopy of blue overhead on your porch…

This is a house I pass on my way to church. Look closely at the haint blue ceiling on the little porch. And make sure to admire the fanlights, too!

Anyways, once the porch ceiling was done, we decided to have a party to celebrate! We cooked up a storm: crab rangoon, rumaki, and shrimp cocktail, along with punch, fruit, and mini pudding pies for dessert. Our parents and their favorite neighbor couple had a great time, eating, talking, and relaxing under the new haint blue ceiling.

Punch and pudding pies. This was my first attempt at an ice ring for punch, using raspberries and rose petals.

[SUGGESTED LINKS]
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/pretty-and-practical-the-history-of-haint-blue-porch-ceilings-206959

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5645263

 

NorthSouthEastWest

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Wednesday, 31 May 2017

I discovered something wonderful about my place and it makes my heart happy. When I stand under the overhead light in my hallway, I can see out windows in all four directions!

I don’t know why this thrills me so, but it does. I guess it’s because ever since I was 18, I’ve lived in a variety of apartments and duplexes which haven’t had windows on all four sides. So I’ve never really completely known what’s going on outside until I get, well, outside.

When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is look out the windows, in all four directions. North, south, east, west, I’m not sure which view I love the best.

I look to the south, out the living room windows, and see Grandma Sweetie, the ancient maple tree, looming, majesty. Lilac bushes, purple and white, surround where Anatevka used to be. A bit closer to the house, and under a slightly skinnier maple tree, spreads the glorious poppy patch, bursting forth with vibrantly orange, delicate-as-tissue-paper petals.

Slightly to the west, down by the road, Grandpa Blackberry holds court, supervising all the comings and goings of people walking or jogging with friends and dogs, bikers pedaling, and cars and work trucks dashing by.

I look to the west, out the windows in the master bedroom, overlooking German Settler Road. In the morning, at 7:32 am, I see my little prince’s golden chariot roaring up, to take him off to school, backing and turning in our driveway. And in the afternoon, at 3:06 pm, the royal coach returns.

Out these west windows, across the road and past the field we call the pasture, there are hundreds and hundreds of trees and a brief and teasing glimpse of the Catskills, when the sky is just right. The mountains are blueish-purple, silhouetted. In the evening, the clouds are low and horizontal and the sunsets are orange and red and pink and purple, or blue and silver and grey, like after tonight’s rainstorm.

I look to the north, out the kitchen windows. They overlook the driveway, so it’s easy to see if anyone is coming and going. This includes birds, bunnies, groundhogs, squirrels, and that enormous black cat who lives under a bush and stealthily slinks around, close to the ground.

Past the north lawn, with the monumental forsythia bush and the tulip tree which didn’t bloom this spring, it’s a major deer thoroughfare. The deer come from the pine grove field, through the break in the trees, and head north of the forsythia, down to the road, and across to the pasture.

The windows to the east, one window in each of the two little bedrooms, they overlook the backyard. Here we have a ragtag assortment of tables and chairs and a rusty fire ring. This is where we cook hot dogs and make gooey s’mores.

This is where we break out the BB guns and shoot at cans of red soda, hoping for an epic, twirling explosion. And up the hill, past all that, the Taconic State Parkway provides a constant white noise, to lull us to sleep at night. After we’ve washed the marshmallow off our hands, of course…

Searching for Signs of Spring

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Monday, 17 April 2017

You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.
-Pablo Neruda

Last week, I was wandering around the yard, searching for signs of spring. Several days before, by the driveway, I’d seen a tiny patch of purple crocuses, seven perky little blooms packed together in perfect formation. I wanted to take a photograph of them, but there were only two or three left, and kind of trampled looking, at that.

Dejected.

I hunted around and finally found more crocuses, but they were hiding under a large bush. I really had to search them out. And I had to contort myself to avoid the berry brambles which wanted to prevent me from getting up close enough to take a picture.

After that, I meandered over to the giant forsythia bush on the north lawn. I was afraid the big snowstorm we had in March might prevent it from blooming this year, and I’d been eyeing it hopefully for weeks from my kitchen window.

When I got up close, I could see buds, but no blooms. That is, until I determinedly walked around to the north side of the bush, and really looked hard until I saw one cheerful, yellow flower.

Elated.

I walked back over by the driveway and saw there were two daffodils about to blossom. The next day, the first one was fully open.

Yay! Spring was coming, after all!

Sometimes, it seems as if spring will never come. Sometimes, we have to get out into the yard with open eyes, instead of just looking out the kitchen window. Sometimes, we have to search and search until we find that first bright spot of yellow after the long winter.

And it’s such a happy thing when we do…

 

ANATEVKA GIRL ON ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN: Light It Up, Part Two

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Philmont, NY  I  Saturday, 7 January 2017

This is the Gill Glass light fixture in my bedroom. Parts were assembled from three different places to complete the fixture.

My sister and I share a mutual love (read obsession) with lighting. Right now we’re working on replacing all the light fixtures in the upstairs apartment of the V house with gorgeous, historically accurate lights.

It all started with the little bedrooms, last summer. There are two of ’em on the east side of the house, wonderful little under-the-eaves bedrooms, the mirror image of each other and joined by a connecting door. The first thing I noticed though, was the light fixtures were all wrong. The north room had a clear, pressed-plastic fixture, and the south room had a black, wrought-iron chandelier. My OCD kicked in immediately. (I mean attention to detail. Attention to detail!)

I casually mentioned to my sister I’d like to see the rooms match each other exactly, right down to the light fixtures. Well, then. She went online and found these blue fixtures. There were three, actually, so now there’s a spare in case the kids get cray and break one.

Here is the type of light fixture we’ve used in the boys’ rooms. Yep, I know there’s still tape over the screws. Have you ever tried holding all this stuff together over your head while balancing on a precarious, too-short step stool? Help!

And then she put together an absolutely smashing fixture for the Winter Bedroom, the one facing west, the one with the pumpkin pine floors and the French door. (It’s the first photo in the blog.) And we know it’s historically accurate, because it’s very similar to the fixture in the downstairs bedroom I had while growing up, which was pink and had baskets of flowers on the sides. (See last photo in the blog.)

Just look at that cobalt blue pendant. Squeeee! You KNOW how I feel about cobalt blue glass, right? And the amethyst crystal bells were discovered at an antique shop we were browsing at the Hudson Winter Walk, attached to a more masculine fixture of the same kind. Apparently, those bells are pretty hard to find, and fixtures like this which are intact can be pretty pricey.

When I wake up in the morning, it’s so fun to stare up at this light, the cool, powdery blue contrasting with the white ceiling. It’s like looking up into heaven, really.

This fixture used to be in the living room, but has been moved to the hallway. The leaf pattern perfectly matches my piece of Scandinavian lace.

 

This is my living room chandelier. It’s a bit hard to see, but there are a bunch of crystals hanging from the top, too. The bottom crystal looks amazing when the sun shines through it in the afternoon.

Replacing light fixtures and restoring homes is a little bit like solving a good mystery, figuring out what would have been originally used, and then trying to track down more authentic fixtures if things have been replaced. And most of the time, when people modernize their homes, things get very…interesting and mysterious.

And I’ve been enamored with mysteries since I was a kid, devouring Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and Vicki Barr and Agatha Christie books by the dozens. All while staring up dreamily at this fixture with the flower baskets…

This is the light fixture I had in my bedroom when I was a teenager.

There is a large and strange cabinet in my kitchen, which is over the stairs. Guess what? When I was cleaning it out, I found another fixture just like this one, shoved waaay in the back. It’s slightly chipped around the top, though. Speaking of mysteries, I wonder where it originally hung? As I said, mystery.

[RECOMMENDED LINKS]
This guy has spent his life searching out and restoring antique light fixtures.
http://www.theoldabove.com/

And this guy has been selling and restoring lamps since 1979.
http://www.hoylelamps.com/

[RELATED MCK POSTS]
http://mycopperkitchen.com/anatevka-girl-on-architecture-and-design-light-it-up/

ANATEVKA GIRL ON ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN: Welcome to German Settler Road

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Philmont, NY  I  Friday, 4 November 2016

dscf5518Photos of Anatevka, placed on a 1980s map of Columbia County, New York. The thick blue line on the left is the Hudson River. The thin blue line on the right is the New York-Massachusetts state line.

Pretend you’re in the car with me, and we’re driving east on Route 217, past Philmont, an old mill town, Philmont with its wonderful little library and sandwich shop and the closest place to get milk and gas. Let’s keep driving, up up the hill and then down into a little hollow with cornfields flanking either side of the road, cornfields autumn-shorn, stubble where herds of deer graze.

We’re definitely playing some 80s music way too loud, and probably driving a bit too fast, since the speed limit is 55 MPH here. It feels a bit like a rollercoaster, all these country hills.

Now, up the hill we go again, and at the crest, a green sign on the left: German Settler Road. Because that’s who first lived there, you know, German farmers who built beautiful center hall colonials and big red barns, some of which survive today, begging for their stories to be told, fascinating.

I lived in one of these center hall colonials, Anatevka, through fourth grade, and I loved the mysterious old place. I’m convinced it was the first house on the road, which would place its construction in the late 1700s to early 1800s.

dscf5506The brick labelled Empire came from remnants of the Anatevka chimney. Photo on the left is me with our cat, Albert, sitting on the steps to the kitchen porch. Photo on the right is me on the still-remaining concrete slab of Anatevka’s front porch, with two missionaries from our church.

I loved the weather-worn old front porch, with the built-in white benches, and the blue front door with the transom window overhead. I loved the side porch, off the kitchen, with its easy-stepped entryway made of huge slabs of cement. Nearby, there was the round well cover which we lifted up to prime the pump when we used too much water.

I loved the sunny little glassed-in room in back of the house, and remember reading Charlotte’s Web and The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle there.

The kitchen, however, was not especially cheerful, as it only had one window, over the sink, and it faced north, with a view of the V House. It was in this kitchen where we gathered around the radio to listen to Richard Nixon’s resignation in August of 1974.

There was a moldering and unused pantry off the kitchen, and I was as creepily fascinated with it as I was the dank, dark, this-is-where-you’re-going-to-die basement with its bare bulb, rickety stairs, and old tins of food-storage wheat on the shelves.

The kitchen had a dark brown sink and white counter with gold flecks. I know it well. I’m becoming reacquainted with this sink, the one my mother washed so many dishes at, long ago, because after my father and sister tore down Anatevka, somehow that sink and counter and its encasing cupboards found their way into my red kitchen at the V House, right now.

I loved the tall windows in the upstairs bedrooms, with their pull chains with circular ends. I loved the creaking, crooked, painted-over floorboards. I loved my little Snoop Coop bedroom upstairs, just big enough for my little bed, with its window over the front porch and a view down to German Settler Road.

Welcome to the road I grew up on, located in beautiful upstate New York. I moved here again, arriving a mere two weeks ago, and I’ve been driving up and down the road as slowly as possible, looking at these houses I loved as a child and love still. Over and over again, looking at these homes.

Analyzing the road and its domestic architecture, it appears there were various phases of home construction:
the earliest center hall colonials, starting around 1805, including Anatevka
homes built during the Great Depression, including the V House
several homes built in the 1950s through 1970s
and then, finally, a few built in this century.

Today, I’d like to take you on a very quick pictorial tour of the earliest phase, the center hall colonials.

dscf5454The G House: A beautifully restored colonial, rising a full two stories high. Notice the sidelights and transom windows around the orange front door, and the sidelights flanking the upstairs center window. When I was a child, this house was painted red, and its barn was closer to the road.

 

dscf5448The I House: a fully restored and lovingly cared for house as the road bends around the corner and heads up the hill. Notice there are no upstairs windows in front, so skylights have been added to light the upstairs. The front door has sidelights and built-in benches. There are also two lovely decks: one in back, overlooking a pond, and one on the right, with Chippendale-type fretwork, with views to the barns. When I was a child, this house was white and had not yet been restored.

 

dscf5451The B House: A nicely restored 1805 Colonial. Notice there must have been a front porch at some point, and the unusual double sidelight windows, along with tiny eyebrow windows upstairs. The house was white when I was growing up, and had not yet been restored.

There is still much to discover about these houses, even though I’ve known them my entire life. I wonder when each one was built and by whom, including, and most importantly, my beloved Anatevka. Maybe a trip to the county historical society is in order? Yes, I think so.

And, because I love mysteries so much, let me throw in a mystery house from my road, even though it’s not a center hall colonial. I just can’t resist a good mystery.

Mystery House

dscf5445The A House: This house, built in 1930, was lived in and well-loved when I was growing up, and I went to high school with one of the boys who lived there. I loved to drive by at night, looking up at the pretty little house on the hill, because there was always a lamp turned on in front of the living room window, giving it such a cozy feel. Notice the gracious screened-in porch on the right and the beautiful rock chimney on the left. For some reason, the owners converted their nearby garage into a cabin and moved out of this house. Rumor has it renters trashed the inside. Sadly, it now sits empty, in a state of overgrown disrepair.

[SUGGESTED READING]
http://www.historicnewengland.org/preservation/your-older-or-historic-home/architectural-style-guide#

[RELATED MCK POSTS]

http://mycopperkitchen.com/tinas-corned-beef-casserole/

ANATEVKA GIRL ON ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN: Where My Heart Is

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  Thursday, 6 October 2016

dscf1575

The kitchen is the heart of the home.

I’m so pleased to announce I’m relocating My Copper Kitchen to a beautiful RED kitchen! A kitchen with a red Formica counter and a vintage stainless steel cooktop and matching wall oven. A kitchen with cheerful red scalloped valances over two windows which overlook a wide expanse of green lawn, with deer who visit, a giant forsythia bush, a driveway with bunnies who frolic, and cars that crunch up the gravel, bringing friends!

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a kitchen which wasn’t cookie-cutter-boring, beige-and-white, built in the bland 90s, absolutely devoid of any personality. In fact, three apartments in a row, I had the exact same sheet linoleum, off white with beige diamonds. What are the odds of that? It must have been cheap, cheap, cheap. So, it’ll be nice to have a kitchen with some built-in personality.

I’m looking forward to moving into my new red kitchen, decorating and remodeling. There will be much to do.

I have an absolute ton of dishes and there’s not a lot of cupboards. There’s not a big counter either. It’s an old house in the country, and I’ll need to figure out how to store food so the little critters don’t get into it. Where will I put the microwave without ruining the vintage look? And so on and so on…

There are some puzzling things about the kitchen. The dark brown ceramic sink isn’t original to the kitchen, and neither is the cabinetry housing it, nor is the white-with-gold-fleck Formica counter on either side of the sink. No one seems to remember how it got this way, even though my family has owned the house for nearly 50 years, since I was a six-month-old baby.

I know my father must have moved that dark brown sink there, because I’m positive it came from Anatevka, the old center hall Colonial which used to be next door, and I have the photos to prove it.

I hope someday, after I’m settled, I can put in a white ceramic sink like the one downstairs, some red Formica like the rest of the counters, and silver cabinet handles to match the other cupboards. Oh! And I’m convinced the sink’s backsplash should be silver. Think 50s diner!

Then, there’s the matter of flooring. Growing up, I remember it was square linoleum tiles, some green, some blue, with no method to the madness. I always thought it was a bit strange, what with the red valances and countertop, but since there are some non-matching things going on in the downstairs kitchen, too, I chalked it up to the original owners not having a real flair for design, or maybe not a lot of money during the throes of the Great Depression, when the house was built. 1930, to be exact.

Now, since the adjacent bathroom has been remodeled and shifted a few feet towards the west, the tile is irrevocably marred and has been covered up with blue low-pile carpet. Carpet in a kitchen? Not my favorite idea.

But this past summer, when I was visiting, I solved the mystery, the mystery of the original kitchen flooring!

I was digging around under the sink, looking for a bucket. That’s when I made an amazing discovery and started acting like a lunatic!

It. Was. Red.

Under the sink was the original linoleum tile, and it was red, red and beige! I got super excited when I saw it, since I’d always known the blue and green tile just wasn’t right. Suddenly, things started to make sense and seem cohesive. I grabbed a sponge, wiped down the small area under the sink cabinet, and started taking pictures. It makes me so happy to know the floor was originally red.

In this new old kitchen, there will be just enough space between the two windows for my little table for two, the one I bought at Best and first had in the Clark Apartment. The matching chairs are broken and gone, a shameful story, but I’m a fan of mix-and-match and unexpected combinations, anyways. I’ll either get some stools which will slide under the table, or use the cute little fold-up Chippendale-inspired chairs I got at a yard sale this past summer for $1.25 each. Yup, you heard me right, $1.25!

Over the table, between the windows, there’s a small shelf with silver trim and fab pink Formica, and I’m debating which cute knickknacks to display, as the focal point of the kitchen. I have an old flour sifter with a pattern of red tulips, some new-ish Jonathan Adler red tulip bookends to hold my vintage cookbooks, a red Pennsylvania Dutch tin, and a red clock. Hmmm, we’ll see what works when I get there…

It’s going to be such a fun journey, fixing up the red kitchen and making it the heart of my new home. Would you like to tag along?

 

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

 

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

[AUTHOR’S NOTE]
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.

[RECOMMENDED READING]
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.

[RECOMMENDED LINKS]
To read more about pumpkin pine flooring:
http://easternwhitepine.org/pumpkin-pine-rare-and-treasured-wood-gives-off-a-warm-glow/