Leta’s Curls

Greg’s dear mother, Leta Mae Davidson Moore, passed away in 1999. She was a generous, loving, kind hearted woman who never lost her child like sense of wonder for the world. When I married her son, I became the daughter she had always longed for, and we spent many happy hours together over the years, talking, shopping and simply spending time together. She loved being Mimi to her three grandchildren and my kids carry precious memories of her.

A few years after her death, Greg’s dad allowed me to bring home a set of old curling irons that belonged to Leta when she was a girl. Even though her hair appeared to easily arrange itself into natural curls, Leta must have used these irons often. She kept them into adulthood and although she stopped using them on her hair, she had the irons mounted on a bright pink backing board and framed. I am honored to be the keeper of these vintage curling irons.

Leta’s Curls

Vintage Curls

Curling irons have been used for thousands of years, and not just by women. In Babylonia, Greece, and Egypt men used heated irons to curl their hair and beards. And women have depended on irons to keep up with fashion’s demand for curls for just as long.

In 1866 Hiram Maxim obtained the first patent for a curling iron. These tongs were heated in a fire or atop a stove and hair was wrapped around them, creating curls. By 1890 French inventors Maurice Lentheric and Marcel Grateau used hot-air drying and heated curling tongs to make deep, long-lasting Marcel waves.

Leta’s Curls

Leta’s Curls

Born in 1922, Leta was the youngest of four children and the only daughter in her family. I’m not sure when the curling irons were purchased, however I know Leta used them as a child and teenager. I can imagine her mother heating the irons on the stove and then carefully creating curls in her young daughter’s light brown hair.

From my research I’ve learned one had to be very careful indeed using these old curling irons. Unlike today’s electric curling irons, there was no way to regulate the temperature. The metal irons could become hot enough to scorch the hair, or worse, burn the hair badly enough that it broke off from the scalp. Leta’s mother must have taught her girl how to heat the irons to just the right temperature and how to test the warmth.

Leta’s Curls

Leta’s Curls

Leta’s Curls

Photos of Leta Mae throughout her childhood and youth reveal her beauty and graceful poise, and also her carefully coiffed hair. She apparently mastered the feminine art of styling her hair.

By the time I knew this wonderful woman, she visited a salon weekly, and allowed her favorite stylist to cut and curl her hair. Leta was the only adult female I ever knew who depended on another to wash and style her hair for her. She had the charming custom, however, of adding small pink spongy curlers just around her hairline every night, before bed. To hold those curlers securely in place, she wrapped strips of toilet paper around her head.

My children still giggle over the memory of Mimi Leta in her robe, with her bedtime curlers and toilet paper wrapped head.

Leta’s Curls

Leta’s Curls

Keeper of the Curling Irons

I am happy to have Leta’s curling irons. I stood many times with my mother-in-law, in her bedroom, looking at her childhood keepsakes hanging on the wall. She spoke fondly of them and the long ago days when they were used.

I wish I had asked her more questions about them. Or that I had sat on the bed or the carpeted floor and asked her to tell me stories of her childhood. I heard a few. But now, with her gone almost 20 years, I’d love to hear more, know more.

I think of Leta every time I look at these vintage irons, and I miss her. I hope she knows how precious they are to me. My own daughters have a bit more wave to their hair than I do, and they have certainly spent time before a mirror, coaxing their long hair into curls. Someday I will pass Leta’s curling irons on to her granddaughters, perhaps breaking the set apart and giving one to each girl! I think Mimi Leta will smile about that, and reach up to pat her shining curls into place.

Leta’s Curls

Hand Décor

If you Google the words “hand décor” you get images of hands…in different poses, made from various materials. They are artistic, for sure. However, years ago the words were used to designate that an art piece was made “by hand”. Often those very words were written across the backing board on a framed work of art or a pottery base, along with the artist’s name and a date.

My feature items tonight, for a Vintage Story, are two hand décor pieces that I have hanging together, although they are very different styles of art. These pieces came from the home of Greg’s parents, after Bob passed away and the house was being readied to sell. I call them the Butterfly and the Rooster.

Hand Décor

Because they came from the Moore’s home in Arkansas, I thought both pieces were made by Greg’s mother, Leta. This sweet and endearing woman possessed a very artistic soul. She was always creating something. Having watched her complete many needlework or crochet projects over the years, it has been my honor and my privilege to bring Leta’s art into my home.

Hand Décor

I witnessed the creation of the crewel embroidery butterfly. The date written on the back is 1985, well after I joined the family. I have several embroidery pieces made by Leta. She seemed to enjoy this kind of detailed, intricate work. Crewel embroidery uses a heavier wool thread, creating a nice textured look. This type of needlework has been around for at least 1,000 years.

I love the butterfly. It was my symbol several years ago and I feel a connection to this piece. The colors are still bright and I’ve lately cycled back around to appreciating warm vivid colors.

The rooster is a fun piece, made from a variety of seeds and beans. I believe my mom made something similar to this when I was a child, so I knew this art piece was older. Dried beans and seeds, some painted, are arranged on a board and glued down. The finished work of art is then coated with shellac to protect the beans. I estimated she made this fine rooster in the 1960s.

Hand Décor

I could easily read the name and date on the butterfly. However, age had faded the writing on the back of the rooster bean art work. Standing near the window to catch the evening light didn’t help however a powerful flashlight did. I realized the name on the back was Ruby Moore, not Leta Moore. Ruby was Greg’s grandmother, and Leta’s mother-in-law. The date was barely legible: January 1964. More words were written next to Ruby’s name. Frame handmade by Bill Moore. Bill…Greg’s grandfather, Ruby’s husband.

Although I was surprised to discover the rooster wasn’t made by Leta, I love the unwritten story that this vintage piece tells. I believe the bean art must have been a gift to Leta, who collected chickens and roosters. Because both the artwork and the frame were hand crafted, it speaks to me of love and affection expressed to a daughter-in-law.

Hand Décor

I like being the keeper of these art pieces. They remind me of the artists…two strong women with very different personalities, who held in common a love for art and creating. I’m glad that I had the opportunities to watch them as artists. Ruby Moore was still making things and stripping furniture up until her death in the early 90s. Sadly, Leta Moore had Alzheimer’s the last nine years of her life. As her world shifted, she created less and less.

Clearing her house I found projects that she started and was never able to complete. I have unfinished embroidery and needlepoint pieces that still have the threaded needle slipped into the fabric, mid stitch. Although I feel sad when I hold these hand décor pieces, there is a stark beauty and a poignancy contained in the art that bears witness to the passing of time.

I felt inspired tonight, holding the Butterfly and the Rooster in my hands. I could imagine the two Moore women, one standing on either side of me, smiling and expressing joy that I delight in their hand décor. I could feel their enduring love and those twin sparks of creativity that burn brightly and never die.

I think it’s time for me to create something new.

May Joy and Peace Surround You

Shortly after I asked this morning, How shall we play today?, an image of a horseshoe came to mind. And not just any horseshoe, but an old black one that was hanging on the wall in my closet. This horseshoe hung for years and years on the hallway wall in the home of Leta and Bob Moore. I brought it home when we packed up their house and tucked it away and forgot about it…until today. 

May Joy and Peace Surround You
This afternoon, in preparation for retrieving this vintage horseshoe and hanging it properly, I looked up the mythology around lucky horseshoes and why we hang them over doorways. 

I discovered the story of hanging horseshoes for luck goes all the way back to 959 AD. According to Irish folklore, a blacksmith named Dunstan had an encounter with the devil. There are many variations of the tale, but the gist is that the devil asked Dunstan to shoe a horse. The crafty blacksmith grabbed the hoofed foot of the evil one and nailed a shoe to it instead. Howling in pain the devil asked to be released. Dunstan agreed, with one condition…the devil had to promise to never enter a house with a horseshoe hanging above the door. 

Because of this Irish story, the horseshoe became a symbol for luck. Additionally, iron was deemed magical because it could withstand fire. Hanging the horseshoe above the door to a house or building, with the points up so that it forms a U, keeps evil away while collecting luck. 

May Joy and Peace Surround You
Reading the story behind the luck that a horseshoe supposedly brings, changed my plans. I was going to hang Mimi Leta’s horseshoe in the backyard garden area, on the wooden fence or perhaps above the garage door, as a nod to tradition. 

But suddenly, I fancied hanging it above my front door. I believe that we make our own luck, according to how we perceive life and the world. However, I love blessings. And I have Irish blood. What if the horseshoe symbolized a blessing for all who entered through my door, rather than just luck? That inspired idea resonated deeply with me. I found the perfect Irish blessing. 

May Joy and Peace Surround You
I like that the vintage horseshoe now hangs above my front door. It draws my eyes upward, and in my heart I hold the blessing. I foresee a future art project, where the Irish blessing takes on material form and hangs near the entrance to my home. 

Was it a coincidence that as I was preparing to hang the horseshoe above my door, the first tornado watch of the year was issued? I don’t think so. We remain under a watch until 9:00 pm, as strong thunderstorms approach. 

The horseshoe doesn’t make me feel lucky. It does remind me that I am protected and loved and blessed. All is well. 

May Joy and Peace Surround You

Surrender 67: Vintage Easter

One of the items, on my list of things to do at the Arkansas house today, was to gather up the Easter decorations. I don’t normally decorate for Easter, choosing instead to flow with the seasons, and focus on spring. However, I recently discovered Mimi Leta’s ceramic Easter pieces. The girls shared fond memories of those hand painted beauties, when they were at the house two weeks ago. I decided to bring the decorations home and use them in my vintage wooden sieve.

The two pieces painted by Leta are themselves vintage. I’m grateful she signed and dated the bottoms. The Easter egg covered dish and the rabbit were created 55 years ago.

I was nervous as I gently washed up the collection, lining my sink with thick dish towels, in case I dropped something. I saved the dish and rabbit until last, after gaining confidence as I washed the other pieces. As I cradled the clean rabbit, I noticed something I had never seen before…a hairline crack encircling his right ear.

I felt so relieved, as I realized this rabbit had been broken before, and glued back together. It’s endearing, knowing this brave little rabbit has survived a fracture. He’s wabi sabi, beauty in imperfection.

                                                    I’ll fill the egg dish with Jelly Belly jelly beans. 

In a few minutes, I had a fresh vignette in the wooden sieve. Every piece, except for the white footed bowl, came from Greg’s mom. I love the colorful shirred fabric eggs. The kids hid those when they were young. The delicate pink hankie and crocheted doilies I found tucked in a drawer. The fabric duck pillow, made from an old quilt, adds an interesting contrast to the ceramic pieces. And the little jewel green candle holder is the perfect finishing touch.

I brought back enough pieces today to create several vignettes throughout the house. Stay tuned for more delightful bursts of Easter!

Surrender 53: Saying Goodbye to Papa and Mimi’s House

Today my son Nate had the opportunity to join his dad and me at the house in Arkansas. Because he had to work Saturday, he was unable to join his sisters on that day, as they walked through their grandparents’ house, selecting momentos to take home. They graciously allowed their brother the opportunity to visit, before claiming anything else. 


As it was with the girls, it was interesting to quietly follow Nate as he moved from room to room. The house is full of stuff, and yet empty, missing the bright sparks of life that were Papa and Mimi to Nate and Elissa and Adriel. Memories linger there though. My son smiled as he picked up items that stirred recollections from his childhood. 

Although he selected several small figurines for his kids, his focus was on photos, such as the one posted above. Nate and his sisters were frequent visitors to the hangar containing the small airplanes that Papa Bob flew for Peterson’s. They had fun climbing into the cockpits and pretending to fly. Their vivid imaginations took them around the world. 

And Nate sorted through stacks of sheet music for piano. Mimi Leta was a gifted pianist, who passed her musical ability on to her grandson and younger granddaughter. Nate has her piano already, in his house, and today he collected an assortment of music to take home as well. Some of that music is vintage, as Leta played the piano in various churches throughout her life, from the age of 16 onward. 

Saturday Elissa found this scrap of paper, with a drawing by 5 year old Nate. She snapped a pic and sent it to her brother, with the remark that his artistic ability had certainly improved! We looked at the little sketch today. I will save it, as Papa Bob apparently did. He and Mimi Leta kept artwork from their grandkids. They are more than kids’ drawings, they tell stories. They capture a moment in time as accurately as a photograph does. 

 Nate’s latest drawing, given as a gift to his wife. 

I enjoyed spending a good portion of the day with my son, as I did Saturday with my daughters and their sweethearts. As we prepared to leave, Nate asked if he could first walk around outside the house. “It may be the last time I see this place,” he quietly explained. I let him walk around, accompanied by his dad, while I closed up the house. 

Nate’s words made me aware of the reality of what’s happening. In the midst of sorting and packing, tossing and keeping, laughing and remembering…and preparing to sell the house…I’ve overlooked the fact that it will be gone soon. This house. This place of memories. My children and I never knew any of the other houses that Bob and Leta Moore lived in. This was home. 

Soon memory will be all we have of this place, and those years of being together here. Except for the photos. Except for the momentos and the few pieces of furniture that have gone to new homes. I’m so grateful that those cherished items will carry memories forward, and that the stories around them will continue to be told. I’m especially grateful for my beautiful children, who have a rich appreciation for family history and the desire to hold it close….and then pass it on. 


Surrender 39: Hidden Treasures

For the next six to eight weeks, Mondays will be spent in Arkansas. I am helping Greg get his dad’s house ready to go on the market, to be sold. We’ve spent random days there, sorting items and hauling out the stuff that accumulates over a lifetime. This is now a very focused and intentional plan to complete the necessary tasks and have my realtor friend in Arkansas list the property. 

It’s been interesting, opening up drawers and clearing out closets and cupboards. So many memories hidden within. So many times Greg and I have laughed or teared up. For Greg especially, these items we are bringing into the light again represent his past, and his parents’ lives, captured in old photos or a favorite watch or a worn billfold. 


Greg’s mother, Leta, had Alzheimer’s the last nine years of her life. I’ve found treasures that she apparently tucked away and then forgot about. They are reminders of her illness, yes, but more so, finding these forgotten purchases and half completed craft projects remind me of her love for her family and her creativity. 

I love the cloth balls I found recently in the bottom drawer of an armoire. I don’t know if she bought them or made them, these simple balls created from strips of colorful fabric. They are homey. And perfect nestled in a white footed bowl in my vintage wooden sieve after the paperwhites finished blooming. 

Today I worked methodically through kitchen cabinets, throwing away plastic containers and paper goods, and sorting through a large variety of knick knacks, kitchen gadgets and keepsakes. High in an upper cupboard, I found stacks of delicate cups and saucers.  Leta, who enjoyed hot tea as I do, collected tea cup sets. 
I had fun looking at each cup and finding the matching saucers. I discovered a small cup that looks like it’s made from polished alabaster. Within the cup was a scrap of paper with Leta’s distinctive handwriting on it, identifying the cup as being from Cairo, Egypt, a gift from Aunt Pearl. I was delighted! Greg’s great-aunt Pearl was one of my favorite people. This bright and adventurous woman was traveling the world well into her 80’s. 

I picked up a pretty bone china cup. It was so delicately made that the light shown through it when I held the tea cup up to the light. I peered within and found another scrap of paper, folded up and yellowed with age. Unfolding the paper, I was amazed at what Greg’s mom had written: 

A gift to Bob’s grandparents/Kygar, on their 20th wedding anniversary. 

I felt a little shaky! This cup was given to a couple who married in 1888. Their 20th wedding anniversary would have been in 1918…98 years ago. The saucer must have been broken long ago and there is a very fine crack noticeable in the bottom of the cup. But for the cup to have survived this long, through countless moves, and the hands of children and grandchildren, is astounding. 


Anna and Daniel Kygar, on the left, are pictured above with Ruby (Kygar) and Bill Moore on their wedding day. The other couple is Bill’s parents, T.O. and Lillian Moore. Anna and Daniel celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary the next year. 

I carefully returned the cup to the shelf. I am thrilled to have found this treasure, and I want to continue to preserve this keepsake for my children and grandchildren. The world won’t shatter, if the tea cup does, but I don’t want that happening on my watch. I’m thinking about how best to display the cup, with its tiny scrap of information. 

I’m grateful to Leta Moore. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, she often wrote little notes to herself, so that she would remember. And when all memory was gone, she trusted that others would find her notes, and becoming the keeper of the information, continue on the story. Well done, Mom Moore. I found your hidden treasures and your words. I’ll pass on the items, and the stories .