From Mildred’s Kitchen

The Lester family in 1942 – my dad is in the middle with the dark hat
Little recipe bundle from Aunt Kay

I’ve always been fascinated by my grandmother Mildred Lester and her vintage farm house kitchen. How can I ever forget that two-inch thick dining table, her china teacup collection and Grandma serving little milk cakes with hot semi-dark chocolate sauce for dessert, each baked in individual tins?

Imagine my delight one Christmas when each household in our family received a small bundle of white index recipe cards tied with a fat red ribbon of yarn. How exciting to receive a personal culinary collection that would take us back in time to our grandmother’s kitchen!  What fun to recreate what she loved to cook for her family, menu items to be savored for a lifetime!IMG_0586

The gift was from our Aunt Katherine, our dad’s sister and Mildred’s daughter.  ‘From The Kitchen of Mildred Lester’ the top card said, decorated with an artfully drawn teapot.  The remaining cards were recipes penned in black ink with Mildred’s distinctive handwriting. I assume the recipes that made it into the collection were her favorites and many of them we knew well. The known contributors included Mildred herself, June Lester (our aunt, mother to our cousins Dean and Darrin Lester), friends Jennie Monroe and Belle Tuttle and the Boston Globe. 

The other day I pulled out the little bundle from the cupboard again. It seemed a shame to keep such a treasure hidden away. Like it always has, my grandmother’s unique cursive spoke to me of its own art form. Her n’s and u’s and m’s and w’s all look the same, like the little waves of a simple lace trim that would go well around a Peter Pan collar.

All of a sudden the creative urge to make wall paper out of her recipes hit me! But of course that would be over-the-top labor intensive. Then it occurred to me to frame a few of the cards for my kitchen wall. So I picked out a few to hang in 2 frames I already had, one black and one white.  I spray painted the white one to go with the other because black would make the handwriting really pop. I printed the cards on an off-white paper for a subtle vintage look and then created the illusion of a mat by adhering the prints to an oatmeal colored construction paper.

The finished product
The back side of the Baked Beans recipe
The back side of the Baked Beans recipe

Before framing I cut out a wooden spoon and a whisk from a culinary themed sticker made by The Rifle Paper Co. and added them to the bottom of the recipes.FTVC4155I hung my new framed prints by the kitchen window next to the cupboard where the little recipe bundle lives. IMG_2448 (2)I like the new look as well as the constant reminder of Grandmother’s recipes waiting for me in the cupboard. What’s more, I will think of her more often as I see her handwriting every day out in the open. APZO9568Now with my constant reminder, I hope to make that milk cake with warm chocolate sauce more often and then tackle her Never Fail Meringue.  (I plan to enlist my mother’s help for that one because I remember her meringue has always been perfect!) Grandma’s card promises “This meringue acts beautifully and never gets sticky. Enjoy.”

What special family keepsake do you have tucked away in your cupboard or attic?  My friend Sharon framed a delicate lace square hand-sewn by her mother and hung it on her wall which made a sweet impression on me. Hope my little creative project inspires you in the same way. Just think of the possibilities!

Phoebe and Sophie and The Circle of Life

A Christmas Day Picture of My Favorite 4
Couldn’t decide which pic so uploaded both

It’s taken me quite awhile to want to pen some of the more sobering happenings at the Kelly House since I last blogged.  I do better when the muse inspires me to write, whether in song or in story form so to come to the table without that help isn’t my favorite.  I’ve even had a hard time journalling since September when our family was hit with some changes that have been difficult to process. When I realized I’ve been going though the stages of grieving, I decided not to fight the inability to write or create.  I decided to go with the flow and lay the pen down, and my music down, and just try to rest in the fallow ground.  Ironically, since I made that decision, I’ve been able to play my instruments again on a more consistent basis; at least a few songs at a time on the days that I can, but I choose not to sweat it if I can’t.  If I don’t get to it because I’m planting this year’s herbs and watering the flower pots, so be it.  And today I’m finding the ability to tell the story of at least one of the changes that has brought us both grief and joy, so it’s a start anyway.

One of the griefs was the letting go of our beloved chocolate lab, Phoebe, over the autumn and winter months of 2015.  We finally had to make the decision to have the vet put her to sleep on December 12th, a cold and rainy Saturday.  People say pets are like family members and there is a reason for that – they really can be to some of us.  We attach ourselves emotionally to them, project our feelings onto them, take what we think is their feelings onto us.  We take care of them hopefully in all the ways they need; take them with us wherever we go, if we can.  Lots of us let them sleep in our rooms at night on a comfy cushion on the floor by our beds.  Sometimes even on our beds.  The bond is a tight one.  Pets are such a beautiful gift.

In the case of dog life, my only regret is their lifespan is too short but I’m sure there are reasons for that too.  One reason I can think of is we are given the chance to learn to let go of someone we love, grieving as we do – the pain is like losing a human, almost.  We learn to go through the valley of the shadow of death – like practice – for when we are forced to say goodbye to our favorite humans.  Not that it will make it any easier to lose a human loved one, but at least the releasing process is familiar if you’ve done it before.  And then after we passed through the valley of coming to terms with the finality – that we will not see them or hold them again in this earthly life – in time we learn to open our hearts up again and take another chance on love.  Not only is this good practice too, it’s essential for a happy heart which contributes to a healthy life.

Saying goodbye to Phoebe was an ongoing process.  We were seeing signs in early Autumn of her back legs giving out.  Then a shortness of breath developed over the months.  Once she was gone in mid-December, we were sure it would be awhile till we could open up our hearts and home to another dog but we knew we would eventually.  We thought maybe the following summer, then moved that up to April, then maybe even March.  But unbeknownst to me, Stan had already begun to peruse the classifieds in the paper in January. He was missing Phoebe so much and could barely stand how quiet the house was when he came home especially since he came home after the work day before I did.  When he found a litter of Labradors that would be ready for their new families in early February, he shared the news with me and confessed that there was an email from Stephen from Fairfield (Moon Creek Labradors) with a picture of a little brown puppy I needed to see.   Even as I protested – “I thought we were waiting!” – I made a beeline for the computer and sure enough, there was a photo of a little 2-week old puppy staring at us – she looked so little and vulnerable.  Of course, waiting till March or April went out the window for both of us.

Sophie - 3 wks
First picture we saw of the little brown girl at 17 days
Little brown dog almost 1 month old
Little brown dog almost at 1 month

We obviously said yes and Stan met with Sonja the breeder when she come to town and put some money down so she would be ours.  Then it dawned on us we would have a puppy after 13 years and we are 13 years older then the last time we had a puppy!  No daily help from our kids who are now grown and live in their own homes, or from TigerDog who was our Golden Retriever who helped us raise Phoebe when she was a pup.  Only us.  Could we do this?  It helped stave off the panic when we started checking things off the puppy check list and reading up on Labradors again.  Our breeders’ website pointed to some great websites and books.  I ordered 2 of the books from Amazon.  Loved reading about it but wondered if we would have the discipline to raise another dog.  We had become a bit spoiled in the free time area in this season of our lives and that was about to change big time. But we kept moving forward as our breeder sent us pictures and videos of the litter – so adorable and helped with the preparation.  We started thinking about names – looked some up online – discussed ones we both liked.  I even posted on Facebook asking for suggestions – and had a ton of great feedback.  We ended up choosing the name Sophia Olivia – Sophie for every day.  Even though Sophie was on the 2015 list for the most common female dog names, it still felt right.  Then the day finally came when Stan swung by Fairfield with our friend Kevin on his way home from a job in Sun Valley, and brought that little puppy home.

Little Sophie on February 10, 2016
Little Sophie on February 10, 2016

More to come on what it’s been like between then and now more than 2 months later.  It’s like having a new baby and toddler at the same time!  There are times when Sophie reminds us so much of Phoebe but she is also her own person – er, I mean dog – who is very spunky, alert and intelligent. And quite the chewer.  Like I said, more on that in another post.  A happy thought occurred to us that before we even had to say goodbye, a new hello was in the making.  Sophie’s birth date was December 21st and Phoebe left this earth December 12th.  Stan said it’s like Phoebe sent her to us.  But we both know that the One who first created animal companions for Mankind is the One who knows us and is sensitive to our needs.  Perhaps it was His Spirit who pointed us to a new little dog to help us move forward from out of our loss into the blessing of embracing a new life.

Hillside Concert

Sometimes Stan and I poach concerts above the Idaho Penn with about 100 other people and canines. On a good day you can hear really well but need binocs for the visual. We ride our bikes across town, park them and trek up the hill a short ways. Here’s a vid of our latest and the long bike ride home if you feel like cruiser biking back up to the bench with us! I was holding the flip while I was riding so it gets a little bumpy in places. Also, the river is really high this year and some places under the bridges are flooded although I had to put the flip in my pocket while rolling through the water so no footage of that! There is some footage of riding through the tunnels and under a bridge though!

Patio Cover Project

Handy Man Stan (sorry honey, I couldn’t resist!) worked on a patio cover in late summer early fall as part of our back yard project using some salvage materials. The boards were from old Utah signage he brought home. The beams were left over 2 x 12s ripped in half to 2 x 6’s and the paint was left over from various jobs and our house paint. The shingles and brackets for the posts were purchased new. Next spring and summer we’ll begin installments of the rock wall garden with materials he got in work trade!

Till then here’s a couple videos to show our progress.

Another Coastal Trip

We just returned from our annual camping trip on the Oregon Coast.  Took along my Flip Video Camera this time so have some vids to share.  Nothing earth shattering but it gives you the gist of the chill time we spent there. 

The Nature of Camping – about the contact we have with nature by tent camping i.e. deer in the bushes, bees in the wine and a hike to the top of Neahkahnie Mountain which is 1634 feet in the air – wew!  Our friend, Kim, came to the coast at the end of the week with her daughter Morgan and son-in-law Peter.  So she joined us for the hike which was fun.  We picked the right day to hike since we could see from our perch the beach we camped next to and the towns of Manzanita, Nehalem and beyond.  Breath-taking scene in more ways than one!  Take a look for yourself!

Food Venues – a quick look at a few places we like.  Ecola Seafood, Bruces Candy Kitchen, Bella Espresso (in Cannon Beach) and a new place we discovered this year Wanda’s Cafe (in Nahalem).  Really great breakfast place and fun 50’s collections in the decor.

Beach Walking – Boundaries  I took my Flip with me on my beach walk one day just for fun.


Spring Color

I recently dug into my archives and pulled out SPRING COLOR, the title song to my 1993 recording project, dusted it off so I could upload it to this post.  Back when it was recorded, I only duplicated it on cassette tapes.  Recently my friend Andy converted it to an mp3 and emailed it to me – Thanks Andy!
Check out Spring Color on video made with my flip camera – got inspired by the new life of the season once again!

When I began to conjure up lyrics for this song, I remember walking along a dirt path at the edge of a farmer’s field in Springtime beneath the magnificent sky that stretches between both sets of mountains that surround the Treasure Valley. This particular year spring had come unusually early and I was almost afraid to trust it’s inception. Today as I meander near the Boise Train Depot overlooking the city, I notice last week’s snow still clings to the mountains even though it’s late April, but the parks are greening up and the tree buds are ready to sprout open. The breeze is nearly a soft 70 degrees as if Mother Nature has finally given us an overdue benediction of Spring, even though the first official day of the new season was almost a month ago. Of course, the forecast could change at a day’s notice and be 54 and rain again.  Oh well, as the saying goes, “April Showers bring May Flowers”.  Regardless, anticipation crescendos as the promise of more days like this one permeate the air accompanied by bird song and the flutter of wings! 

Last week on FaceBook both my cousins, Scott and Bruce, were trying to decide whether they could finally put away the snow shovels and tire chains!  Since they live in New Hampshire, my thought is as soon as they store the winter tools in the garage, attic or shed, a Northeaster will blow through in May and they’ll just have to dig ’em out again.  BUT if they are kept in plain sight where everyone can trip over them, this will ensure the uninterrupted continuance of Spring at least till June! For Summer Time they may get away with pushing them over to the side of the garage or shed, but then again, the trunk of the car till next Winter is better yet!

April Colors / Early March  

Tell me what the chances are

that my April flowers bloom and star

with Spring color / how I love Spring color


Rather risky this early Spring

causing my heart and the birds to sing

or will Winter wind come claim everything with his icy fingers

and steal away Spring Color


Have you ever seen pristine virgin green

The color of my dreams – Spring Color

Purist angel white like blossoms in moonlight

Oh, the perfect sight –  Spring Color


If I could paint my innermost dreams

I’d have to start with the color of green

of the leaves on the trees at the earliest sight of Spring

I have a fancy that hope would be white

somewhat like the glow of warm candlelight

Angels in flight – you almost see them – not quite


Hopes and dreams are painted in Spring Color

Crystal clear in vision I become

I have come from underneath Winter’s frozen cover

In fertile soil, cleansing rain and sun


Purple rain clouds / Rich brown earth

Shades of yellow proclaim rebirth

Second chances just like the first

There’s reassurance in the appearing of Spring Color

Crystal clear rebirthing of my dreams

NancyKellyMusic C 1993

Your Mother and My Mother

This is a song I wrote for my mom, her sister and her boys, my cousins!  I’ve provided the lyrics below the video (keep in mind this is a rough draft since the song is new yet!) and blogged a bit below the lyrics. 


Chorus:  Your Mother and my Mother / Their bond is the bond between us 

Your Mother and my Mother / Their bond is the story of our lives


Two young girls on a sailing ship / Dutch ships don’t sink, Daddy said 

I’ll take you to America where my family lives

Nothing left for us here, nothing now that your Mama’s gone

We will have to leave Algiers if we’re to carry on Repeat Chorus.


Two little French-speaking girls made their way in a brand new world

Learning rules at the Catholic school and later at Coe Brown

Summer swim in the Northwood Lake / Winter skimmin it with ice skates

Their childhood was a happy one cuz of Grandpa and their friends Repeat Chorus.


Bridge:  Could there be relatives in Marsailles? 

Maybe we’ll have to investigate someday – what do ya say?  Repeat Chorus

NancyKellyMusic C 2009

Today is my Aunt Huguette’s birthday so I wanted to commemorate her life by blogging a song that I wrote on my dulcimer for my cousins concerning our mothers.  My mother Suzanne is Huey’s younger and only sibling.  The song speaks of their daddy, Colonel Melvin Wesley Rowell, bringing them over to America on a Dutch ship when they were very young, after their mother had passed away.  Till then they had lived in Algiers, Algiera where Grandpa Rowell was doing some consulting work for an oil company and had met and married their mother, a stage actress who was originally from France.  More on their story later as I update this post.

In December my mama and I flew out to New Hampshire to say goodbye to Aunt Huey since her health had taken a severe decline.  We were able to visit with her 2 days in a row, but the next day she passed away.  We were so thankful that we had a chance to visit and that these two sisters could connect before Huey’s spirit took flight to a place beyond our reach.  My mom will always know that she was able to give her sister a final hug and kiss and that Huey was able to see her one last time as well. 

Also, the trip was very special because we spent quality time with 4 of Huey’s boys (my cousins Gary, Scott, Bruce and David) and their families! We were all mutually grateful that we could be together during this time of loss. 

Happy Birthday dear Aunt Huey! We are missing you!


Yes, she's a butterfly in every sense of the word :-)

Along the way in the journey of motherhood (and fatherhood), there are forks in the road where you practice letting go of your child.  It actually starts early on when you leave your baby with Grandma and later with an unrelated babysitter.  Or you entrust your toddler to the nursery at church and then a few years later to the kindergarten teacher.  Before you know it you are watching nervously from the window as your teenager backs out of the driveway to drive alone to school for the first time! Eventually you are helping the high school graduate pack the vehicles full of belongings to a destination you have mixed feeling about – that first apartment across town or the college dorm in another city – knowing all along this moment would come — you just didn’t think it’d be quite so soon.  You also know in your heart that the butterfly wings were created for a reason and to hold the child back would ultimately hinder a healthy flight. 

Fortunate for us (parents), letting go doesn’t happen all at once, but gradually and naturally, unfolding like a flower that blooms. 

This is a song that captures moments of Ashley when she was a little girl growing up in our house. It didn’t surprise us that she, true to her butterfly nature, decided to test her wings early after graduating from high school.  Amazing to take these pictures of her in her 2008 Halloween get-up which was, of course, a butterfly with wings! 


There’s glitter on the counter / stickers on the floor

Everywhere are signs of her / smudges on the door

Laughter down the hallway you can’t ignore

Oh, the life and joy of her! / couldn’t ask for more


Hanging in her closet are dresses, jeans and lace

Everywhere are signs you see that she lives in this place

And everytime she looks at you life slows down a pace

And we’re all so blessed to know her / she’s our Angel Face


B: Like an open window with summer wafting through

Birdsong sweet – a Butterfly – that joy we know as you

If we tried to bottle you up – like a firefly in a jar

Your light would fade, wobble and stop so you wouldn’t fly as far

You wouldn’t fly as far
T: and we are so glad you are our girl / we love you and we always will
You will always be our little girl. . . Ashley JoAnne. . .
. . .Birdsong sweet – a butterfly – the joy we know as you. . .
NancyKellyMusic c 1999 the letter c?
how can you not smile back at this?



Motherhood Initiation

Benjamin at 3 days old

My introduction to Motherhood  began on February 6, 1981 with the birth of our son, Benjamin Eugene Kelly.  I was 23 years old and ready to begin this life called My Own Little Family.  When I wrote the song, A Child Is Born,  in 1988 about becoming a mother, I referred to those feelings of aloneness in it, (yet not quite as negative as that may sound) – which were very raw in me in 1981, especially since it was my first experience of having a baby.  The previous year or so had been leading up to this event – I had conceived and lost an embryo at 8 weeks but subsequently conceived a child afterwards who gestated to full term.  This was the life that was to become our son.  Giving birth to Benjamin was an awesome, miraculous, yet somewhat frightening, event – frightening only because this was brand new territory for me.  Like every new mother before me, I had never been this way before! 

When the time came for Ben’s birth, he ended up positioned in the womb defined as Posterier, so consequently, he didn’t emerge too easily.  In fact, I pushed for about 3 hours before we prepped for a C-section.  We had prepared for natural childbirth (with the fervency of fanatics!) so were adament about bringing our son into the world with no medication, let alone surgery! It was quite a blow to our perfect plan to finally relent to what became inevitable.  But alas, Ben somehow dislodged at the last minute so the surgery become unecessary afterall!  Triumphant and exhausted, and probably delirious, I still remember laying eyes on him for the first time.  It was like a dream to see our son, so exquisitely beautiful and handsome all in one, and I felt like the only mother in the entire world.  His coloring was radiant and his little lungs resonated gustily, notifying the delivery floor and beyond that he had arrived!  His Grandpa Eldon has described Benjamin as never having an ugly day in his life!  We tend to agree with his slightly exagerated assessment. a little biased.  But beyond the outer layer, Ben is a discerning and thoughtful person with gifts of wisdom and kindness.  As a mother, I could go on and on. . . 

When Ben was a one-year old, I was inspired to write a song about his crawling days right before he learned to walk. He was a typically energetic and busy little boy and had recently discovered the pots and pans cupboard.  You can imagine the drumming that went on in the kitchen!  I can’t recall if we thought of it as music to our ears. . .  At any rate, the title has always been the first phrase of the song, Benjamin, Our Boy.

Benjamin, our, boy
Your life is like the morning son arising
And we wonder what you will become
Benjamin, our son
Right now we love to watch you play
Your joy and laughter fill our hearts, our home
And we think about the years to come
Benjamin, our son
Right now, you play away the hours of the day
Curious of mind, you like to try and find things
You peek around the corner and then you go explore
Every cupboard, every door, and everything behind things
Benjamin, our joy
Your life, like the sun, will rise to defy the darkness
And we love you, Precious Little Boy
And we'll love you as you grow


But right now, you play away the hours of the day
Curious of mind, you like to try and find things
You peek around the corner and then you go explore
Every cupboard, every door, and everything behind things
And we love you, Precious Little Boy and we'll love you as you grow
Lei, di, da di, lei, di da di da di di
We just thought you would like to know

NancyKellyMusic C 1982

Ben's Cake! (by Le Vie en Rose in Boise)We've just celebrated Ben's 28th birthday!!

Ben + FamilyStan, Nancy, Ben, Ashley and Billy