The Land of Counterpane

Mom was there to comfort me numerous times during illness or injury. When I got a bloody nose rolling in the garbage can, she was there to help wipe up the blood. Before my surgery she sat there talking to me as if everything was normal and we did this once a week. When I cut my arm she used her “for guests only” white towels with the pink tulips to wrap my bleeding gash. When I had the bike wreck by the little park she put ice on my eye and put salve on my road rash.

I have a strong memory of being sick at 14 E. Portland in Kellogg. I was about five years old. Mom stayed home from teaching that day. For part of that year Dad was home babysitting me because Bunker Hill was on strike. I still remember feeling special having Mom all to myself for the day. I got to lie in Mom and Dad’s “big bed”. Mom arranged pillows behind my head to help me sit up. She had to give me a yellow liquid medicine that tasted awful, but was there with a glass of water. I spit some of the medicine back in the glass with the water. I think I was concerned about doing something wrong. Mom comforted me and went on as if nothing happened. I also have a memory of Mom reading A Child’s Garden of Verses . “The Land of Counterpane” and Stevenson’s words are still etched in my memory.

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

Actually that day the toys were oranges, scotch tape and a box of Kleenex. I must have become restless as the afternoon wore on. Mom allowed me to wrap the oranges like little gifts with Kleenex and scotch tape. I thought it was a marvelous way to spend an afternoon in bed. I think I even gave Dad a gift of wrapped oranges when he got home from work.

Looking back on my sick day I remember the softness of the pillows and bedspread in that big bed. I also remember the warm light from a lamp glowing on my tissue paper gifts. The most important part of that day was the gift of time spent with my mom. Touching my forehead with her cool hand helped erase my fears. Listening to her voice recite the words of “The Swing” and “The Land of Counterpane” as she sat by the bed made me feel better. Holding the little blue book of poems and recited poems she seemed to help take me to another time, a sunnier day.

That was an early experience with comfort. Mom provided a safe haven in that Land of Counterpane. I didn’t understand it as a young child. My life continued to be peppered with numerous illnesses, heartbreaks, and injuries. In different ways Mom has always provided that comfort and safe haven for me. I understand its significance now.

I Want To Be A Cat For Just A Day

Many people have created two distinct categories... dog people and cat people. I have seen quizzes and even books dedicated to these subjects. Up until I met my husband I was only a dog person. I didn't really get cats. My husband is the ultimate cat whisperer. A mean old yellow tom cat could jump in his lap and purr. I think cats have a good feel for calm people. That is my husband. Many days that is not me.
Now that I have learned to live with and appreciate cats (we have six) I envy the cat lifestyle. Today when I came home from a stressful day at school I watched one of our cats and thought, "That is what I wish I could have been doing today. Sleeping, sitting in the lap of the cat whisperer, strolling outside, grabbing a bite to eat , gazing at birds, grooming the dogs, sleeping, stretching, rolling around on the couch, sitting in the window and admiring Lake Roosevelt, then sitting again in another lap. "
Yes, I want to be a cat for just one day. The cat above is Lily. She came with her brother Sweet William last March from a friend that couldn't keep them.

Lunch at Aunt May's

Each summer our family would take a trip to Orofino, Idaho to visit my grandmother. Her sister Aunt May lived in Moscow, Idaho so it was a natural "pit stop" along the way ( a favorite phrase my father used). As we grow older our tastes change. I am convinced I would love lunch at Aunt May's today.

Lunch at Aunt May’s
Hot and hungry from the three hour drive
my brother and I crawl out of the car.
Shielding our eyes against the sun,
we steadied ourselves as we stepped out
to the familiar white house on Maybelle Avenue .

“Just in time for lunch”, her voice invites.
We brace ourselves for the smells of food.
Unrecognizable to the nose,
steam rose menacingly from the stove.

With a dismal sigh we sit down to our spread:
boiled kohlrabi, pickled crab apples, and brown bread.
We think it’s milk in the glass to the right.
Stewed tomatoes and fried summer squash
round out the noontime fare.

The jello looked promising as it shook in bright red hue.
“Raspberry ?” I asked.
“No........ colored with beets!” she replied.

Back in the car we pleaded for pixie stix,
A hot dog, a Sugar Daddy, some greasy fries,
Our stomachs were unsatisfied from Aunt May’s lunch,
Our eyes caught the basket....leftovers to go.

The Perennial Favorites: My Gardening Book Collection #1

I am a passionate gardener. New and seasoned gardeners are always asking me titles of gardening books I often use. I have shelves of gardening books, but this first collection is the set I turn to the most often for sound advice on basic gardening questions. Like perennial plants, these provide the backbone to my collection.

Sunset Western Garden Book by the Editors of Sunset magazine
I can't live without this volume. It helps with zones, where and how plants grow best, and plant identification. I love the categories in the front such as plants with colored foliage and native plants.

Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening by J.I. Rodale and staff
I have the 1971 edition I found at a used book store. This book is organized in categories that make it easy to access information. When I began my garden I needed information on how to amend soil.. or in my case how to turn sand (not sandy soil, but sand) into garden soil. This book was the best guide.

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
I miss Barbara on Victory Garden and her own show Gardening Naturally on the Learning Channel. This book is valuable for a first time gardener. It explains everything you need to know from what gear to buy to how to raise roses without fear.

A Way to Garden by Margaret Roach
This book is written and photographed beautifully and I also like it because it divides the information by seasons. By creating a helpful appendix she added extra bits on topics such as potatoes,mulch, and the reality of weeds.

Seeds and Propagation by Susan McClure
This is a small volume as part of the Smith and Hawken Hands On Gardener series. The text and pictures help a novice start the process of seed starting and propagation easily. We have been more successful with scented geraniums than begonias, but we keep experimenting!

Gardening in the Inland Northwest by Tonie Jean Fitzgerald
This book is a must for those of us that garden here in the Inland Northwest. She helped me figure out which plants worked best with our goofy seasons, climate changes, and elevations. Fitzgerald has been a member of WSU’s Spokane County Extension faculty and worked for the Master Gardener program. She answered questions for me a few years ago, but I don't know if she still has that position. There is an updated edition of this book.
I hope this list is helpful. Most of these books can be found in your local public library. In future blogs I will share lists of books for more specific gardening needs. Any gardening books that are keepers on your shelf? Let me know!
P.S. The watering can in the picture was a gift created by my brother Raymond Pert here . I love the placement of the primary colors with the dots and splashes of design. It looks beautiful in any window and works great as a vase for cut garden flowers in the summer.

Two Views From the Front Porch

I caught a picture from the front porch as the snow began to fall late last night. The second one is that same view this morning. The snow created a picture postcard of serene beauty. The gardening clogs were put back away and I found my mittens. Now where did I lay that trowel down yesterday?

Mrs. Price Cookies : From the Recipe Box

This recipe is for you "Bake".
Mrs. Price appeared as a fixture at our house in the fall of 1963. That summer my sister SilverValleyGirl had been born, Mom was going back to teach at Silver King School, and my sister needed a babysitter. Mrs. Price didn’t sing like Mary Poppins. She didn’t bustle around and help my dad out the door each morning like Hazel did with Mr. Baxter. She certainly didn’t hand out sappy advice to raymond pert or myself like Alice did to the Brady children. With incredible energy, spunk, love, patience, and household skills Mrs. Price was a different kind of babysitter. With her hair color, clothing style, and the first name Mildred she appeared old in my eight-year-old mind. Also, she didn’t have a car or drive. I don’t think she was as old as I envisioned. Each weekday morning Mom left early and picked her up from her tiny house on 3rd Street .
Mrs. Price loved to cook. Walking in after school the house was often filled with aromas of the dinner Mrs. Price was starting for Mom. If a roast was on the menu, she put in on early. Fresh baked cookies were an added plus sometimes. One time Mrs. Price made a new recipe and when we walked in after school we knew we were in for a treat. These bar cookies sat in the 9x13 pan on the counter and aromas of brown sugar, coconut, and walnuts filled the house. The cookies were memorable for their taste, but also because they were made with Bisquick. We only thought of Bisquick for pancakes, coffee cake, or biscuits. Cookies? We were convinced Mrs. Price was Betty Crocker. We still call the recipe Mrs. Price Cookies. Mom has Mrs. Price’s handwritten recipe on a smeared envelope. We always begged Mrs. Price to mix up those cookies, and Mom continued to bake them after Mrs. Price left. I have no idea where Mrs. Price got the recipe. Searching online didn’t turn up any recipe that was similar.

Mrs. Price’s Cookies
1 lb. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups Bisquick
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all together and add:
1 cup walnuts
1 cup coconut
Bake in a greased jelly roll or 9x13 pan 350 for 25- 30 minutes. Cut into bars.
note: as you can see from the picture, I use Heart Smart Bisquick to make it a bit healthier. I also used Splenda brown sugar. They were still yummy!

Handle It With Care

In thinking of childhood and Kellogg I have one place that still holds vivid memories and allows me to bring the sights and sounds to mind as if I visited there yesterday. That place was the Kellogg Public Library. As a young child I always had books at home. The first book I had learned to read The Fly Went By had been recited to my dad at least 100 times ( at least that was his story!). I was ready to move on to more books, thus resulting in a visit to the library. The first library was a small building up the street from Dick and Floyds. Getting my first library card stands out in my mind. The librarian was very stern about the rules. Only so many books could be checked out, your handwriting had to be neat on the card, they needed to be returned in two weeks, and the books needed to be handled with care. I listened intently knowing that checking out books was the motivation for me to always follow the rules. The first book I checked out was The Wooden Doll. The book seemed antique with old-fashioned illustrations and a sweet story.
The opening of the new library was a pivotal event in my young life. It seemed so modern and spacious. I remember being greeted by the librarians at a bigger counter. Big windows, natural sunlight, and many more books created a safe haven that I eagerly visited, continuing my passion for books and reading. Beginning in childhood and continuing as an adult, I enjoyed moving through books in a series. I relished examining order of the titles in the front pages of the book. Setting a plan for moving through the series was my next step. In the far corner of the Kellogg Public library juvenile section were all the Happy Hollister books. After our family moved down to Cameron Avenue I would go to the library many Saturdays. As a younger reader I would check out three red-covered Happy Hollister books each week. I looking forward to immersing myself in a new adventure with the siblings in this family. I traveled with them to the seashore, Snowflake Camp, and the Skyscraper City. We solved mysteries about Indians, cuckoo clocks, and treasures. This family seemed to be more spirited than the Bobbsey Twins. I related to them much more than the characters in Alcott’s Little Women series.
Maturing as a reader, I next moved to the Nancy Drew mysteries. They were one shelf over in that corner of the library. The early books were a blue color, like The Secret of the Old Clock. The books with bright yellow covers and pictures of Nancy were published next. As I rapidly moved through the whole series, I was always thrilled when the librarian informed me that a new book had arrived. I remember thinking to myself, ”Carolyn Keene must be the busiest author ever.”
Meeting Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, new characters in The Wizard of Oz series, and Encyclopedia Brown happened when I continued through this genre. When I read a series there was something to look forward to. Was the newest edition at the library? Did somebody else check out the book I wanted? Was the newest edition going to keep my interest and attention? I liked already knowing the characters. I also liked marveling at how an author could create yet another exciting mystery to be solved. What would Nancy do this time?
At some point I moved across the room to the nonfiction section and a group of biographies grabbed my interest. I think they were called Signature Biographies. Embarking on the series introduced me to Helen Keller. Maybe the interest in this book coincided with the movie “The Miracle Worker”. For years I was obsessed with Helen Keller and later did a research paper on her in high school. When I read the Clara Barton biography I wanted to be a nurse. I remember Lewis and Clark, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Alva Edison as inspirational figures also.
When I visit the school library with my students just a cover, name, or color of a book will take me back to those Saturdays at the Kellogg Public Library. I found comfort in the sense of order the library provided. I also relished the quiet. I loved the feel of the books and the pencils lined up at the counter as you signed your name on the card. It was definitely a safe haven. There was always a sense of anticipation as I carefully carried my three books out of the library. It created a routine in my life. I knew the rules for borrowing books. Furthermore, I knew the books would take me to a new world that I could explore in the privacy of my own bedroom as I spent a few hours taking a trip with the Happy Hollisters or solving an intriguing mystery with Nancy Drew.
Last year I was at the desk at the Kettle Falls Public Library. I had four books and couldn’t decide which one to return. The librarian laughed good-naturedly and replied, “You can take as many books as you want! You aren’t limited to three”. I smiled to myself and felt giddy. It never occurred to me to ask. As I carried out four books I checked my computerized due date slip. I realized I also got to keep them longer.
That first day at the Kellogg Public Library I learned an important lesson that I have carried with me to this day. Every time I check out a book at the library, I handle it with care.

Oh Northern Idaho

Last summer in a writing workshop with poet Marti Mihalyi we did a session on composing state poems. The idea was to take a state, generate lists of words using facts, people, and resources from the state, then create a poem using the images, sounds and rhythms of those words. Here is mine. Read aloud and enjoy.
Oh Northern Idaho!
Esto Perpetua
toured in the old, red impala on U.S. 10
from Fourth of July Canyon to Cavendish Grade,
Kootenie, Benawah, Latah, Clearwater,
Boundary, Bonner, Shoshone, Nez Perce.
Cruised past rolling hills, cold rivers, wild huckleberries, pine.
Caught cutthroat trout, bass, perch, pike, and salmon.
Attempted rafting along the Lochsa, Snake, and Selway.

Harvested Austrian winter peas, lentils, camas root.
Mined silver,gold, lead, phosphorus, and dug new star garnets.
Spotted the yellowjackets, horseflies, junebugs, wasps.
Honored Julia Jean Mildred Francis Turner a.k.a. Lana Turner.
Practiced the square dance, rain dance, owl dance, jingle dance.
Found syringa, mountain bluebird, Cataldo Mission, Appaloosa.

Inspiration to Keep Words Going

Gathering around the table the conversation with writers and teachers of writing often moves to titles of favorite writing books. There are so many good ones. As we sip coffee we often find ourselves narrowing the focus to volumes better for personal writing or ones that give us tips for working with our students. The most sound advice I have gleaned from my collection of books is that we all just need to write. We need to put the pen to paper or words to the keyboard every day. The words don't always have to arranged as a published piece. Those of us that are teachers know that sharing those starts and stops, those first drafts with our students do so much to enrich their writing lives.I recently wrote this article for NIWP Write On, the newsletter of the Northwest Inland Writing Project. This was the short list!

The Winter Writing List: Inspiration to Put Words to Paper
Frosty windows and ice covered ponds signal that mid-winter season that emerges during winter break and extends into March. It is an ideal time for wrapping up in a quilt, grabbing a cup of hot chocolate, and settling in a soft chair with a favorite pen, journal, and some writing books for inspiration. As writers and teachers of writing we have that desire to write. Other stuff gets in the way. Personal writing moves down the list of priorities. For this winter collection I have compiled a short list of useful books on writing. This list may help you keep going when you have run out of inspiration, energy, or creativity. Hopefully this collection may also provide fresh ideas to use with your own student writers.
Steering the Craft, Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin. I am drawn in already by the great title! This Portland, Oregon writer has organized her book by topics surrounding the craft of writing, and then includes writing exercises, examples from known literature, and further reading. She begins the book with a chapter entitled “The Sound of Your Writing” using a little poem by Gertrude Stein called “Susie Asado” as a model for sound. Other chapters include “Repetition”, “Point of View and Voice”, and “Indirect Narration”. This book is helpful particularly if there is one specific area of writing you want to focus on without reading a whole volume.
Writing Toward Home, Tales and Lessons to Find Your Way by Georgia Heard. In each chapter of this book the author gives a narration on a topic, following up with a writing prompt to inspire the writer. She takes experiences and lessons from her life and guides the writer to put those life experiences into their own words. “Let Writing Lead the Way” is a favorite chapter because she admits failures in her own writing and ends with questions we can ask ourselves as writers. Home and autobiography are themes throughout the book helping the writer find an authentic voice and well-chosen words.
The Writer’s Notebook, Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher is a compact book that carries a big punch. He introduces the Writer’s Notebook idea then provides thoughts on notebooks from authors including Paul Fleischman and Naomi Shihab Nye. His chapter called “Lists” is full of practical writing ideas for any situation. His last chapter “Writing About Writing” is a perfect ending to this book. He answers questions and shares others’ thoughts on writing. “Your notebook should fit you the way a favorite pair of jeans fits your body. Let it reflect who you are.” If you are short on time and want some practical, yet inspiring ideas, this is the book for you.
The Sound of Paper, Starting From Scratch by Julia Cameron. Cameron is well known for her book The Artist’s Way, but when it comes to setting up rituals for the writing life, this book is a keeper. She introduces three writing tools to use in “your backpack” throughout the book. They are morning pages, artist dates, and walks. She then introduces us to a series of essays about the creative life, each coming to a close with an idea to explore. One favorite of mine is called “Keeping Our Footing” and the exercise has the writer focus on activities that bring relief and grounding. Yes, the list includes laundry, making fudge, and mending!
I hope you have time during the winter to devote to personal writing. I also hope these books may be an inspiration. Please share your lists. I feel the need to visit a bookstore on Saturday!
The website for the Northwest Inland Writing Project is

The Post It Queen

I love school supplies. I love the smell of new crayons in a box, the look of crisp,white notebook paper, and the touch of an unused Pink Pearl eraser. Shoppers wait in line for the Doorbuster sales the day after Thanksgiving. Others mark the date on the calendar when a store has their half-yearly sale. Not me. I wait longingly for the school supplies to arrive in stores in August. It takes me back to Septembers, school supply lists, and Sunnyside School in Kellogg, Idaho.
When I grew up I didn't have to leave my school supplies behind. I became a teacher and now surround myself with those treasures. I have baskets for rulers, erasers, scissors, crayons, and pens. I can't live without my Post It notes (aka sticky notes). My desk is littered with rows of them to "help me remember" stuff. My middle school students will request something during a lesson and I will just pause long enough to say, "Put it on a sticky note." I gather quite a collection. "Do you have change for a five?", "How about those Zags?", or "You have a streak of overhead marker down your nose. I thought you would like to know!"
My own notes get crazy. I find brightly colored squares with letters that make no sense. I also start a note, but don't finish so I am still back to not knowing what I was supposed to remember. Other notes are found under my desk with something I "had to do" January 10th. We find them stuck on books, folders, and even on somebody's backside! To add to the craziness we often find ones that I have dropped between my classroom and the other building. The office staff usually knows to put those in my mailbox. Borrowing a sticky note from me is like ordering a coffee drink at Starbucks. Today a student asked for a note and I gave my usual response. " Lined or unlined, small or large, sticky or super sticky, pastel or bright color?" The student just smiled and said,"Whatever!"
I have been crowned The Post It Queen. I could give you the royal tour of an office supply store aisle just for sticky notes. I could reign over the colors, kinds, and sizes. It is mind boggling.
As we gather around the table at home we use the same system for remembering. Some of the same pitfalls occur. The dog chews up the bright purple note so all I can read is the smeared IMPORTANT. I get in a hurry with directions for dinner. Instead of asking my husband to put the corned beef in a pot I wrote "in pop." He didn't know whether to marinade it in Pepsi or Diet Sprite! I must end this post. I just unearthed a sticky note under the computer reminding me to do a writing sample for a lesson tomorrow. Whew! I am glad the night is still young.

Under the Snow

Once the snow falls and stays during the winter months it is as if my garden memory goes under the snow. I planted, nurtured, and babied plants last growing season, but today I can't even remember what was planted in the back flower bed by the deck. We do have lots of plants, but still....! When frost hits and pine needles and leaves cover up the asters and mums it also freezes my brain. I can't recall if we remembered to move the hostas that were crowding out other plants in front of the house. We want to make some changes in our gardens when the snow melts, but the discussion around the table went nowhere tonight. I couldn't remember how tall the trumpet vine grew in one corner, or when the sun hit the vegetable garden.
When the snow began to melt I relished the treasure hunt around the property.We located missing items that were hidden under the snow during the cold season. Saturday I found the old stick that held open the gate at the driveway. I also found an earring lost many months ago. It seems like somebody always finds change. The dogs grabbed toys that ended up in a plowed snow pile. And darn it all.... when I was trying to find a glimpse of day lilies under the snow all I found was dog droppings... a winter's worth of dog droppings. I think I will alert my husband it is his turn to do that treasure hunt while I reconstruct garden plots in my thawing brain!

Things I Would Drive to Town For

I don't just " run to town" because of where I live. However... I would drive to town for the following :
Crandall's locally roasted coffee beans at Meyer Falls Market
a homemade oatmeal cookie to go with the coffee at the market
a twist (chocolate and vanilla) soft ice cream cone from Sandy's
a book waiting on hold at the Kettle Falls Public Library
a free weekly Huckleberry Press newspaper
new spring seeds at the Flour Mill
fruit from the orchards at Peachcrest
garden bark at Dirt Works
the wine on sale at Harvest Foods

The Smell of Dirt

Today I saw the first green shoots of a spring bulb emerging through the brown pine needles, remaining snow, and dried and dead leaves. It is more than thirty days until spring officially starts. With another brilliantly beautiful sunny day it does make this gardener wonder if we will be doing early seed planting this year. Will spring follow a natural course or will the calendar put it on a schedule? This picture was taken a few weeks ago. The feeder and birdhouses seem poised ready for spring also. When I checked my local Yahoo weather after I came inside I saw freezing temperatures, snow showers, and wind in the forecast. It still makes me yearn for the smell of moist dirt. I wouldn't even mind some of that dirt under my fingernails again. My old gardening shoes and jacket are hanging in the hallway where they were left in the fall. Today I grabbed the jacket and it still held the smell of burning wood from one of those last fires we had in November. Soon it will regain that smell of dirt and the pockets will collect a black Sharpie pen, some colored sticks I use for marking seed rows, and empty seed packets. A friend gave me gardening gloves that are resting on the shelf all new and brightly colored. The gloves will soon hold that earthy smell and the color will be covered with the rich,brown stain of my garden soil. I am ready for dirty fingernails and stained knees. I am ready for the smell of dirt. It has been a long winter in my corner of the Inland Empire!

Four Seasons in the Inland Empire

Welcome to my corner of the world.
'The Inland Empire is a region in the Pacific Northwest centered in Spokane, Washington including much of the surrounding Columbia River basin. It extends into northern Idaho, northeastern Oregon, and far northwestern Montana. It is sometimes referred to as the Inland Northwest. An early reference to the Inland Empire was printed in the first edition of the Spokane Falls Review, a predecessor of today's Spokesman Review, on May 19, 1883: "It is not to be wondered that Spokane Falls booms, nor that it bids fair, and is bound to be the chief metropolis not only of eastern Washington, but of that vast extent of territory, now being rapidly peopled, known and suggestively spoken of as the 'Inland Empire,' an immense region of unlimited resources and possibilities that will in later years give subsistence and support to millions of human beings." 'wikipedia
I am one of those million human beings that has appreciated the unlimited resources and possibilities. I have lived in different sections of the Inland Empire my whole life. I appreciate the four seasons. Winter is that season that we love to love and love to hate. When the roads are dangerous, we hate it. But today the sun shone brightly on the last of the white drifts of snow, reflecting a brightness that made the day a keeper. The dogs were able to run across the driveway without icy patches causing them to lose traction. The cats came out their door and enjoyed a warmth they had long forgotten. Winters here can fool us though. Tomorrow we may have six more inches of snow and ice on the highway again. For now I will enjoy the warmth,brightness, and a hint of upcoming spring.