What inspires me is a mystery!

Notes from Alexis: She is writing her genealogical books and quilting in her spare time.

 August 8, 1990

Dearest Lex,

I was flabbergasted and enormously flattered by your offer to buy one of my quilts. There are just two problems. First, I never build a quilt to a color scheme. What inspires me is a mystery. I just recently designed, and cut out one, that is red, white and blue.

I also designed and cut out a state bird and state flower quilt, which came about in an odd way. Dad was watching a program “Creative Living” (I’ll tell you more about that later) when I wandered by and caught part of it.

This gal was showing how to decorate clothes by ironing on flowers and then painting around the edge with gold. All my clothes have stains on them—food, ink, paint, you name it. I am just careless. I wished for a gorgeous wardrobe, and this was the answer. I went right to town and got the supplies.

Mom got interested and started helping. We fixed a blouse and a sweatshirt. Then she came in and said she had seen another episode of the program, and it told how to paint pictures with just acrylic paint. So I gave her another blouse with an ink blot on the sleeve and she painted a butterfly on it.

We got to talking about it, and she said she had known a lady who painted a guilt with flowers and things. I dug through my patterns an found I had iron-on patterns for state birds and flowers from 25 years ago. Good thing too, because they are no longer available (at least not in KF).

She said she would love to try some, but she would need pictures because she had no idea how the birds and the flowers looked. I found the state birds at Waldenbooks, and the state flower book at the library, and then ordered it, as it is still in print. Lovely books even if you weren’t painting a quilt.

So there you are. Granny is happily painting away. She finished New Jersey, and I ironed it to set the paint, then threw it in the washer and dryer to see how it would hold up, and it looks great.

The second reason I am doubtful about selling a quilt, is that while I take meticulous pains with the design and cutting out of the quilts, I am sloppy with the sewing, so the quilts come out less than perfect (to put it mildly). The fronts look great, but the backs won’t bear inspection.

What I would suggest is that you rummage through the quilts someday and if something grabs you and won’t let go, then we’ll talk.

Now back to Dad and why he was watching Creative Living. This month has been pure hell for him. A couple of days before he went camping with you, he helped G.B. load same bales of hay. The man had cut his hay, and along the ditch bank were weeds, nettles and who knows what all. When Dad hefted them up, he balanced the bales on his right upper thigh.

He developed a horrible rash there and he has been doctoring it ever since. The rash is now mostly healed, but when he lies down at night it itches like blazes, and nothing much helps.

As if this weren’t enough, he hurt his back. Just a few days your campout, he went to help unload some freight at work, and one of the boxes was full of brake shoes – very heavy! He went to his knees. He could only sleep out in the front room with his feet up on the couch. He couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment until the last of August, so he went to Dr.S., our chiropractor, (who still remembers you, and asks about you). Dad had pulled a groin muscle or tendon, or whatever, and thrown his back out. The groin just needs time, and is gradually healing. His back took five treatments, but now is OK. Fortunately, nothing was broken, chipped or crushed, and workers comp paid for it.

I started printing the Tuttle books, and Vol I is finished, (not bound). Will start Vol II today. Am still working on III & IV and it will be another month or two, at least, on them. I feel sure there is another volume or two out there, the “Tuthills” and “Shipwreck John.”

It has been hot here, and poor ole Dad has to suffer in it at work, because they have no coolers, but I live like a queen in my cool house. Actually, just a tad cooler than I would wish, but I can’t stand Dad stomping around bitching about the heat, so I just put on a sweater, and long pants, and warm house shoes, or just go outside. We got the electric bill after one month of running the heat pump every day, and it was $5.00 less than last month? It was higher than last year, but considering all the ironing, baking, and with Mom running two fans in her house, I’m not surprised. We relaxed then, and really revel in the luxury of cool, or warm air, as we want it.

The garden has gone completely ape. I keep getting these messages from the head honcho: “Cook zucchini, cook rhubarb, cook beets. etc.” I try to tell him there is only so much room in our bellies, but he won’t listen. The only thing he refused to plant was potatoes, which are now 39 cents a pound and not as good as home grown. The “gopher chaser” has run all the gophers out of the garden, which really thrills him. Mom is going to get him another one for Xmas.

Well, must quit, as I have another letter to write, and then to work for the Solo Press. My boss won’t let me play around too much.




I’m not brilliant, but I am stubborn.

Notes from Alexis: Ink stories and bread stories, such trials of life.


Dear Lex,

Ink, ink, – oceans of ink, and not a drop for the printer. At least that is what I thought a week ago. I tried the Osmogord ink, and it was permanent. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t wash it off my fingers. I went to bed in a blue funk.

When I woke up I had an inspiration—-watercolor! I told Dad, and he had all kinds of objections–just because he sees his role to oppose whatever I think up. I talked to my artist friend, J.H., and two things bothered her. First she said it was “Very expensive, and might have grainy bits in it.” Well, I knew it wouldn’t cost any $20.00 a tube, and I could strain it like I did with my fabric dyes.

I hied myself down to the art store and by golly it is expensive. A tube about the size of my little finger cost $1.95 for the cheapest one, and nearly $6.00 for the expensive one. I have no idea what it would dilute down to, but still it would be cheaper than an ink cartridge. They had washable ink, but nothing in black. I decided to go to Gallery 803 and see what they had. I had called some time back and they had none, but they might have gotten some. The young gal there said no, and I turned to walk out, because that was what I expected to hear. Then I saw a friend taking a painting lesson so I stopped to talk to her and the old lady (God bless old ladies) went over to check the supplies to make sure, and there was a bottle of NON-PERMANENT, non-launderable ink. I screamed and hugged her.

I haven’t tried it in the printer, but it looks and acts just like the printer ink, and I will not hear a word about it not working. It IS going to work, do you hear me! I’m not brilliant, but I am stubborn.

Now on to a bit of human nature that I have learned about, because of the bread baker. What I have found out, is that perfectly lovely people, who would give you the shirt off their back will take advantage of you, over bread. They do it shamelessly without a qualm, without a quiver. I’ll give you two “for instances.”

We sent a bread sample home with J. and little J., when they came over. A month or so later they came out to show us J.s new pickup – and we sent another bread ‘care package’ home with them.

About a week later we kept little J. over for the weekend, and he hit the door asking if we had bread. On Saturday I made up some of Eileen’s bread (one of our favorites, and now renamed J.s Bread) but instead of baking it in the baker, J. and I cut out some with the English muffin rings, and put some in 3×5 loaf pans. Then we heard the story of the first two bread packages we sent home with them.

It seems that J. and his friend J. ate most of the first one that same night, while little J. was asleep. Joe gave the second sack of bread to his girlfriend, so little J. didn’t get what he considered his fair share of it, either. As he patted out the dough, he said with finality, “This time I’m going to be the boss of the bread.”

My second story is about Mom. I have now baked 45 loaves – that’s right 45 batches of bread! Well, Dad has made some French bread, he is king of the French bread.

We’ve given several loaves to friends, and have been generous in the giving. You can be generous when you’re rich. Mom had been coming over every day and helping herself, and I hadn’t been paying too much attention to it, which was fine, until I slowed down and stopped for a while, and saw that the bread was disappearing at a fearful pace.

I watched them both, and saw that Dad and I were eating 2 or 3 slices each a day and she was eating THE REST OF THE LOAF- about three fourths of a loaf a day! So I became the boss of the bread, and told her that from now on we would divide the bread up into thirds and she could have one third.

Oh, she was pissed. She stomped off home and pouted awhile, but I held firm, and she finally decided a third was better than none.

So there it is. We are basically animals at heart, and just as you can’t take an acorn away from a pig, you have to watch your bread, around bread pigs.

I am now about half through with the index for Volume 2 of the Tuttles(genealogy book), and since I have decided to redo one of the volumes, this means I am about half through with the project. It has taken me 14 months, and I have pushed so hard I’m about pooped. I love the project, but I am wearing down.

Oh yes, before I forget, I must tell you where envy and jealousy has gotten me. I was green with envy because you have a sun room and I don’t, so I got busy and figured out how to convert the back deck to one. We have put greenhouse fiberglass over the end, next to the front room, leaving the front side open. I got some nice chairs, and three pots of fuchia’s, waiting in the greenhouse. Then we got a barbecue like yours. We firmly intend to keep up with the Jone’s or at least the Campbell-K’s. Don’t you love it!

Well, got to take Hanzi dog to the beauty parlor today, so have to run.

Write soon and take care.

Love, Mom

A 57-year-Old Lady, trying to crack the publishing nut.

Notes from Alexis: I have to laugh at the gnashing of teeth over printer problems. Today we truly live in an easier world.

Dear Lex,

Don’t go into the publishing game – it takes nerves of steel. There is nothing but trouble, problems every day, and most problems come from left field.

This is another printer story. I know, I know, I said there would be no more, but there’s nothing good on TV, so here goes. But first….

Periodically (usually at tax time) I go through the old song and dance, should I continue or pack it in? Let’s face it, I’m not making any money and in fact, I have to invest a lot of money, time and effort into this business. You have played this game yourself, so you know what I mean.

So, following my long standing SOP. I told the “Guides that Be,” “Give me a clue guys, a sign, an indication. I need to know how to proceed.” I’ll give them credit for one thing – they work fast.

The next morning I began having printer problems. As you know, I have been refilling the ink cartridges with ink. I have gotten ten refills from No. 1, seven from No. 2. That translates into a saving of $340, figured at twenty bucks a cartridge.
So when No. 2 ran dry I gaily filled it again, and it promptly stopped printing at all. I was not alarmed because I had No. 3 waiting in the wings. I put it in and went on working, when it went dry I filled it, and it stopped printing – nada, nothing, a blank sheet of paper.

I tried everything but nothing worked, and I developed low – grade hysteria. Low -grade means I fretted and fumed, but didn’t scream. I also managed to flood the printer and had to wait the required 12 hours for it to cure itself; this meant for me, that I was up two or three times in the wee hours of the night, just to see if I had killed the printer, or just the cartridge.

Finally, I told Dad. From the Olympian heights where he operates (not involved heart and soul with the Solo Press) he said it was the ink. It was acting just like when I tried to use permanent ink. I went in and looked at the new bottle and compared it with the old – same thing, but still?

Meanwhile, I ordered a new cartridge and began calling around for black washable ink. No luck. They now make permanent ink, and I have two black fingers to prove it. Murderous thoughts welled up in my feverish brain.

So I bought a couple of bottles. At this point, I have enough ink of various kinds to start my own shop. My new cartridge should come today or tomorrow, and my palms are damp from worrying about it.

So, back to the sign from the “Guides.” When all this came down, I had a perfect out for quitting Solo Press. I could have said, “Okay, now’s my chance to get out from under it all, and save face. I cannot afford the cartridge fees, much less all the hassle.” Instead, I went into a tailspin. You never heard such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in your life.

Obviously I’m not interested in quitting. As for the money – I have always seen Solo Press as potential money. I need to build up a catalog of books. I figure by 10-12 titles I will have a good working inventory.

Isn’t it refreshing to hear about all these trivial (in the world scheme of things) problems? I enjoy all this problem-solving. I had to laugh because, in all my other pursuits, I had a manual. You know, book in hand. There is no manual for the Solo Press. I have to write it as I go. The thing is I need about three lifetimes to learn it. There is something ludicrous about a 56 going on 57-year-Old Lady, trying to crack the publishing nut, but enough about all this.

The bread baking has been going on apace. I have almond, peanut butter, orange and oat – prune (my favorite breakfast bread) not to mention two loaves of French, so I’ll hold off for a few days. The Hawaiian is elegant but costs about fifty cents a slice. But hey, when you’re rich, you’re rich, Right? I’ll cut corners somewhere else.

Well, got to stop. Will print this out on the good old daisy wheel. (One of the knobs broke so Dad, and I repaired it with black electrical tape). Between us, we manage pretty well. Of course, I hate it that he’s always right. Can’t wait to get to the post office and see what new problems will come up. Anything Lord, to keep me from going nuts sitting around with the old folks, and the dog.

All our love,

Lordy, Lordy, my kind of tool, and bread besides!

Notes from Alexis: For all you bread lovers, this is a funny story, and makes your mouth water as well.


Dear Lex,

Well, I have a long story to tell which I intend to make longer in my inimical style, so settle down for a long read.

We got a catalog in the mail (one of the many thousands we get every year). There were pictures and long story for this “Auto Bakery.” Now we have been seeing ads around town for various Bread bakers, but not this one, and they run about $325.00 (the machines that is).

When Mom saw the first one she began agitating for one, but I just refused to pay the price. When we got this catalog, Dad saw it, and he started in, also pointing out that this one was only $199.00. They were both nagging, but I thought I had an out, because I have an ironclad rule: We don’t bring anything into the house until we have a place for it. I thought I had them cold.

Then one morning I was sitting on the couch by the front windows and looked over and realized the phone table was piled high with junk – just junk! All of it could be removed (i.e. thrown out). Damn! Once I had seen that I felt mean for not letting them have their toy. So I got up and called and ordered it, this was December 1st, and I figured it would get here by Xmas and boy, would they be surprised. Well, I was the one to get surprised. Xmas came and went, and no bakery. So when I got a card on the 27th saying it was back ordered, and if I still wanted it, do nothing, but if I had changed my mind and no longer wanted it, send the card back.

Dilemma time – what to do? I decided to tell Dad and Mom, and let them decide. They voted for it; it was two to one. I had never been excited and voted no, but the ayes carried.

Everyday Mom came over while I went to town or the P.O., to wait for the UPS truck. She just about drove me nuts. Then on the 26th (the day before her birthday) I went to the P.O., and there it was.

She oohed and aahed, and that was it. When they were agitating for it, they both swore they would do all the bread making. I wouldn’t have to do a thing. I could see the handwriting on the wall, so I put aside my day’s schedule and settled down to read the instructions.

Well, they seemed pretty simple. He (Kaplan) says it is five minutes to bread (for the human). The machine takes about four hours. I could see if it I got right on it; I could have a loaf for dinner.

I had been gathering supplies just on the off chance it actually showed up, but I have to tell you I had grave doubts. In his catalog, Kaplan had raved about his onion-dill bread, and since I just happened to have all the goodies, I got with it. Well, Kaplan may be able to make bread in five minutes but not me. It has taken me at least 15 minutes and sometimes 20 to make a loaf. Are you laughing? I’ll pause for at least a snort.

Dad walked into the house with the most-outrageous smells imaginable. It just drove us crazy, and you might know he came home early, so we had to sit around and salivate for 20 minutes. It was good bread, but we would have eaten it if it were a cow pie, just from the smell alone. The next day it was gourmet.

The next day Dad decided he would try his hand at it. Anything I can do he can do better, right? He made French bread and then baked it in the three-roll French pan, made especially for French bread, that I bought a hundred years ago, just in case. He rolled one in sesame and poppy seeds like those you get for me in Eugene.

Let me tell you this is about 100% better than Eugene’s. In fact, I never tasted any better.

Since he didn’t actually bake the bread in the bakery, I put in a blueberry loaf. Very pretty and not too shabby, especially toasted with honey.

Now it may seem a time saver, but I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, “Tongue and rye bread.” So the next morning while I fixed breakfast, Dad made rye-beer-orange bread. After breakfast, I cooked the tongue, and we ate them both hot for lunch. Talk about WOW! Once again, it was better the next day. Yesterday Mom wanted pumpkin, so I made it. Since I had a can of pumpkin left over, I mixed up a pumpkin custard. See what I mean? I seem to be doing more cooking because each bread calls for a meal to be built around it.

Right now I have a three-wheat bread (whole wheat, wheat germ & cracked wheat) going, and it looks and smells magnificent. Kaplan has a 30-day money-back, no-questions asked return. So I plan to bake up at least 30 loaves to give it a good workout.

I’ve always said I believe everyone should have a hobby. My problem has always been that I turn my hobbies into a business, but now I think I’ve found the secret. This little job only makes one loaf at  a time, so that cuts out the business possibilities. Mom and Dad both reminded me that I had said; if I had lots of money I would hire a full-time bread maker because there is nothing I love more than good bread and good coffee. The beauty of this one is that it makes bread that can’t be bought for love nor money.

It turned out that I’m the one who is excited about it. I just plain fell in love with it for two reasons: One it does it all, but the measuring, which I can handle just fine, and it is quick to clean. Just rinse the inner pan and wipe up the crumbs in the bottom. Lordy, Lordy, my kind of tool and bread besides! So far what we have done is eat part of each loaf and freeze the rest.

Well, I’ll stop for now and ride the exercycle. The price of the Auto Bakery, as it turns out, is not money but exercise. I will have to work out every day to keep from looking like a balloon. Sometimes I think Dad and I have more fun than two monkeys.

Love, Mom

Countdown Deals on Gwen’s Books!

Hello Fellow Bloggers:

Just a note to let you know I am running a “Countdown Deal” with Amazon.com for .99 cents on all of Gwen’s Books. (Just Three days left till 8/7/14). A great chance to read her books at a great discount!  Good summer time reading.

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The Disappearance of EAB

The Disappearance of EAB

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Always Going

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Purse Cover Final