Category Archives: Valoftten

Lucky Gypsy’s Tea

Columbia County, New York  I  Saturday, 17 March 2018

I just rearranged my combined living room/dining room (LRDR) last week, to accommodate all my thrift store chairs. I now have eight coordinating chairs, and this pretty much makes me deliriously happy!

I’m not ready to take pix of the entire room yet, as I still have some cluttery piles to get rid of (No way! You?!), but I wanted to show a little sneak peek of my fab chair material.

The other day, the sun was beaming in my windows. “So what?” you ask. Well, turns out that’s kind of a big deal, because this has been the worst March on record. At least, my record of being here for two months of March, as an adult.

We’ve had three Nor’Easters in March, and the month is only half over!

So, I decided to rearrange a little bit, just to cheer myself up. Ever since I’ve moved here, I’ve had my loveseat under the south-facing window, a really pleasant spot. I decided to move it onto the west wall, though.

I mentioned I had some new old chairs, right? Did I tell you I have eight dining room chairs now, and they make me deliriously happy? Ya, maybe I did.

I was determined I had to fit all eight of them into my LRDR, because the seat fabrics mix and match so well.

Two of them are covered in orange and yellow brocade, and they’re the ones I’ve had for about a year now. I’ve mentioned them in my blog before.

A few months ago, I was cruising Warren Street, where all the antique ships are. Now, just to preface, I gotta tell ya, you have to be careful on Warren Street, because some shops are super expensive.

I dashed into one store about a month ago, because I’d been driving down Warren in the dark, and saw a great big, beautiful poster of Freddie Mercury in the front of the shop, hanging on a wall, peering out onto Warren, beckoning me to enter.

When I inquired how much for the poster, the shop guy casually said, “14 THOUSAND something something.” Okaaay…

Yeah, so, let’s get back into my budgetland, the reasonable one. There’s this other place on Warren, called Second Show, and it’s very affordable. It’s merchandised much better than a Goodwill or Deseret Industries, and prices are pretty low. The proceeds benefit Columbia Memorial Hospital, and you can pick up a crystal goblet for 50 cents or $1.

Or, you can get four dark-wood Broyhill chairs, two with arms and two without, all with immaculate olive damask seats, four chairs for $30.

And then, as if that’s not enough, you can turn around and see two more chairs to love, in honey-colored wood, with seats covered in fabric of yellow, orange, olive, and gold stripes. Two chairs for $12.

You should have seen me, cackling and cramming them into my sedan. Let’s just say, it took several trips to get them home.

So, getting back to rearranging that day. I decided to put two chairs with olive brocade seats (the ones with arms) under the LRDR windows, separated by a small table with butterflies.

I don’t think you need to have big end tables. If you’re like me, they gather too much…stuff.

So this end table, it’s just big enough to hold a lamp, and a shamrock plant I brought up from downstairs. It’s the very first plant I’ve had in any of my places, since I killed all my plants in a UHaul about 19 years ago. That’s another story for another blog.

And the lamp? It’s a fab Hollywood Regency one I got at Antigo on Warren Street, for only $25. The shade isn’t quite right, but for now, it’ll do. I also got another Regency lamp that day, but it has no shade at all, so for now, it’s languishing, unused.

And lemme tell you, in the afternoon, when the sun comes through those south-facing windows, the crystals on the lamp base send happy little rainbows all over my LRDR floor.

Somehow, when I type “happy little rainbows”, I’m reminded of Bob Ross, the painter on TV, with his soothing voice and impossible afro, saying “happy little trees”…

So then, I put the two chairs with striped-seats on the north wall, separated by a waist-high entertainment center. I’m not really sure what to use this for, since I don’t have a TV and don’t really care.

For now, it holds my CDs and a small collection of DVDS, but I’m thinking I’ve gotta get some books in there, too. My books are like dirty socks, collecting in piles around the place, multiplying overnight.

Ewww, did she really just compare piles of books to piles of dirty socks? This chick is weird. Hahaha!

Around my dining room table, I have the other two Broyhill chairs with the olive damask seats (the ones without the arms), and the two chairs with orange and yellow brocade seats.

I tried it with all four olive damask chairs around the table, thinking they all should match, but it just didn’t work in the space available.

The chairs with the arms don’t work right in such a tight space. Anyone sitting at the table would have a very hard time maneuvering into and out of a chair with arms, since there’s not a lot of room to push a chair back.

I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, that I was able to fit all eight chairs into the room, along with my loveseat, a rather large china cabinet, and the entertainment center. Oh! And my trunk! I use it as a coffee table, in front of the loveseat, and it’s olive-colored.

There was just no way I was gonna put any of those eight chairs into another room, considering I was so pleased with how all the seat materials coordinated.

I made ’em fit. It was almost as exciting as playing 100 straight games of Tetris in the mid 90s. Hahaha!

Then the other day, the sun was shining in, a perfect day to take pictures. Finally!

I’d made a batch of Frost’s Oatmeal Muffins which turned out really well. And, even though I make this recipe quite often, because I love them and so does my skinny little Thing 2, they don’t always turn out right.

Usually, these muffins just melt in your mouth, but the batch I made last time turned out a bit tough. Don’t know if it’s because I overstirred the batter, or because I overbaked them, maybe it was both. Distracted baking never ends well…

I’ve also found a new herb tea to love, Gypsy Cold Care. I sampled it at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store, and really like its slightly licorice flavor. Me buying an entire box of it has nooooothing to do with it having the word “gypsy” in the name, hahaha. Just kidding, it totally does.

I decided to make up a little tray and just sit under the window, having tea for one, just me. Enjoying the sun beaming in on my shoulders, the rainbows on my floor, a warm muffin with lingonberry jam, and a cup of hot tea.

And also, the satisfaction of gazing around my LRDR with eight matching chairs, fully knowing I moved here 1 1/2 years ago, with only nine suitcases of stuff…

I feel like such a lucky gypsy.




Columbia County, New York  I  Monday, 26 February 2018

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, and the wisdom of cookbook writers.
~Laurie Colwin

After my mom died recently, I commandeered all the cookbooks and recipe files she had here in New York.

Some of my most treasured memories are of our family, sitting around the table, eating certain meals she made over and over throughout my life, the perennial favorites.

Some of her recipes can be traced back to a mysterious Sister Lunt, a lady who was serving a church mission with her husband, here in New York, and just so happened to rent the upstairs apartment I now live in, Valoftten. This would have been in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

I can’t picture Sister Lunt’s face, and I don’t even know her first name, but I’m told she was from Hawaii. She must have been a pretty good cook, and a big influence on my mother, who would have been in her late 30s or early 40s when they knew each other.

Sister Lunt made cream of mushroom pork chops, and a special kind of chicken, which my mom aptly named Lunt Chicken.

At the end of Mom’s life, she made Lunt Chicken as often as two times a week, still referring to various renditions on umpteen index cards she’d written and rewritten of this now infamous recipe.

It got to the point where I could recognize the smell, wafting up the stairs, the smell of green peppers and chicken. It was like my mom got stuck, in her ripe old age of 85, stuck on Lunt Chicken.

Mom seemed to forget she also knew how to make killer creamed chicken with homemade mashed potatoes, an amazing boiled beef dinner with tangy, yellowy, saucy mustard pickles I still long for, a melt-in-your mouth Swiss steak, and yummy goulash.

Mom also knew how to make a superb rhubarb cobbler, sinfully rich apple dumplings, and a showstopping Black Forest Cake.

But, in her later years, she lamented that her cookies never turned out right. She was starting to get fuzzy…

But getting back to me, and my own little kitchens. For a long time now, I’ve been bothered by the state of my own recipe collection, or lack thereof. Shambles, complete.

I have umpteen file folders with: color pages torn out of magazines; black-and-white photocopies from magazines and cookbooks; loose clippings from cans, bags, and boxes; and lots of recipes on index cards, as well as odd-sized sheets of paper.

How in the world to make any semblance of order out of this mess? I’ve been wondering for pretty much years now…

The only solution, in my mind, seems to be to organize them into a looseleaf binder, with a table of contents. Smaller recipes can be combined onto one page.

I feel a sense of urgency, now that Mom is gone, to organize her recipes, not only for myself, but for the rest of her posterity.

Her favorite recipes are positively filthy with splatters and fingerprints. That’s how you can tell, you know, someone’s favorite cookbook.

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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…

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Setting My Table

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Ghent, NY  I  Friday, 22 September 2017

The other night, as I was getting ready for dinner, it occurred to me once again how much I love to set the table. That night we were having spaghetti, so it was very simple: just a bowl, fork, napkin, and glass. But still, it seemed so satisfying, making sure each piece was perfectly in place.

Several months ago, I had company over for dinner, my parents and the missionaries from church. I wasn’t sure if my dining room would work for six people, because the most I’ve had seated at this table was four, with it pushed up against the wall on one side. And since most of my dishes are in storage, I wasn’t sure how to set the table nicely, but I figured it out!

I had four basic white Corelle plates and two nice Edward Knowlton plates, antiques from 1922. I had a bunch of plain, clear glasses, and four pretty orange and cobalt blue flecked glasses, a gift from my wonderful friend, Lori.

I decided the fancy plates would be paired with the plain glasses and the plain plates would be grouped with the decorative glasses. I made sure the silverware was spot-free and shiny, my treasured Oneida Northland Musette stainless steel set I got for college graduation.

Might I brag? The centerpiece I made was simple, yet beautiful, I thought. I cut two orange lilies low in the stem and put them in clear glass spice jars, and lit three tea lights, floating them in clear votive holders. It seemed just right to me, elegant, but not overdone or distracting.

Since I had to pull the table out from the wall in order to seat six people, I was concerned the doorway would be blocked once everyone was seated, but there was actually still room to get around, so I was pleasantly surprised!

If you want to have people over for dinner, or even if it’s just a special meal for your family, don’t worry if you don’t have a huge set of fancy dinnerware. It’s fine to mix and match with what you have. Just make sure everything is sparkling clean and you take time in advance to set things up properly, without having to rush around once your guests have arrived.

Enjoy setting your table. People will appreciate your effort, how pretty it looks, and how special and loved it makes them feel.

To see some interesting, elaborate table settings, go to this blog and click on the tablescapes option in the menu bar:



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…


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.

This guy has spent his life searching out and restoring antique light fixtures.

And this guy has been selling and restoring lamps since 1979.



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


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?