Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stopping by to say Hello

Stopping by to say Hello

imperfect patchworkGlad to have you back, Readers.

Today I'm in the blog neighborhood for a chat. Most of what you find here are articles. Lately, though, I've been pulled in different directions. Here's one.

Years back, when a new homemaker, I did some quilting. With household moves in succession - keeping much of our things in storage - quilting faded into the past. Then, homeschooling was a practical concern and much of my spare time was given to reading.

I'm still reading. I read for hours. But lately I've been dabbling in quilting again. I've started with doll size quilts in the "scrappy" old-fashioned look.

Imperfect Patchwork
In my attic office/sewing room I have a chair which seems to be used, these days, more for laying out a small quilt design than for sitting in. The fabric sticks to it nicely. My sewing machine is next to this chair making it handy to sew pieces and return them to their orderly position. Oh, how frequently I change my mind! In the case of this simple quilt I decided the pink dotted flowers, for setting the squares, were dizzying. I ripped out what I had sewn so far. It is rare that I sit down to sew anything without using my seam ripper on some change or mistake. If points don't meet I will rip out and sew it again.

Sometimes, when points don't meet exactly, even when I'm being careful, I'm satisfied. I leave them just as they are. These misses may look noticeable when the the quilt block is flat, but quilting the layers tends to soften the lines and minimize imperfections. And isn't it these slight imperfections that give charm to a homemade quilt?
the scrappy look

I recently bought a rotary cutter but haven't used this modern streamline-method yet. Instead I measure the pieces as accurately as possible with a quilt ruler and cut the pieces out with scissors.

easy doll quilt with squares
I read that for scrappy patchwork, if I like the colors I shouldn't be concerned about them clashing when placed side-side. If the same color is used in at least one other spot, it creates a somewhat planned appearance. I followed this advice with my quilt. Can you tell?

I baste layers together generously because I don't use a hoop. It is easier on the fingers to hand-quilt without one.

Because I lack confidence I quilt in the ditch of each square. But I'd like to stitch some designs into the quilt squares I'm piecing now.

After watching a YouTube on how to sew on a binding I ordered a "walking foot" for my machine. What a fabulous tool for preventing puckering. And while I was at it, a piecing foot, too - that keeps my scant one-forth-of-an-inch seams consistent.

I'd like to hang this quilt somewhere.

stone house in autumn

Autumn Colors
One scrawny wild-in-the-woods-maple is showing a beautiful shade of red leaves. Splashes of autumn color are finding their way in the doll quilt I'm piecing now (not shown) - and found their way into a skirt I made for myself.
 A remnant on the bargain shelf - of a store five minutes into town - caught my eye. 
Right there I dreamed up a frugal three tiered skirt.

skirt in fall colors

Other Writing
Another direction I've taken is "other" writing. I made a good start on something secretive. In the middle of this writing Israel Wayne contacted me. He is building a website where homeschool pioneers tell their story. I felt honored to be invited and was busy writing for it last month. I hope to link to his website when the article is in place.

Once in a while my writing appears in a magazine. I am happy to help spread the word about Miss Charlotte Mason's ideas which are to this day as-relevant-as-ever. Hours and hours go into writing one article. This article appeared in The Renewanation Review that promotes Christian worldview education.

My family came together for my birthday. It was joyous. We are infrequently all together. That same Saturday Dean's friend from Bible college and his wife, were touring in Lancaster and stopped by. My daughter asked them to take an impromptu photograph.

Baby Eloise is getting a little bigger.

I've been knitting a cardigan for her in tutti-fruity colors.

I always knit sleeves in-the-round.


knitting sleeves in the round

Daniel and Yolanda (left in photo) drove me to see my parents for a week-end in early autumn. I brought my knitting. When I got home I was surprised to find the sleeves did not match the body of the cardigan with the right amount of stitches - when attempting to attach them to the yoke. While packing my suitcase in haste I  scribbled down the stitches to be cast on and my eye must have landed on the wrong number - (haste-makes-waste). I ripped out the sleeves and started over. Anyway, it is coming along.

Here's a tip for cardigans. Slip the first stitch of each row. This forms a much neater edge. (See above.)

To hold my double pointed needles together I bought a set of plastic coils. I like how tidy they keep my narrow dp needles especially.

Here is a link for Clover Coils.

They come in small and large.

Nigel and I went to Philadelphia to see our pain specialist. Nigel has made very small improvements. I'll be honest. My chronic pain level has risen. The medicine I've succumbed to taking has side-effects. But I'm hanging in there. Mornings are my golden hours when I can accomplish tasks. Afternoons are restful. I've been a naturalist of sorts, and probably have eaten a barrel of locally grown broccoli this year. Still, I thank God for family, modern medicine and for creative Mother Culture.

Facebook is new for me. Welcome to my Author's Facebook Page. 

I've been reading the names of each person that has "liked" the quotations and excerpts I've posted. Keep walking with Jesus, my friends.

Until next time,
Karen Andreola

Saturday, October 3, 2015

British Friends, A British Author

British Friends, a British Author
We had visitors around this time last year. Our British friends, the Fox family (Frances and her husband Ian and younger daughter Hannah) were coming to the United States and could they spend a day with us? How exciting. Yes. We looked forward to it. They would join us at church, Sunday dinner at our house, and later tea.

Karen, Frances, Hannah  2014

I know Frances from our early days of home teaching. (We've been writing paper letters for 25 years.) She found me when L'Abri in England pointed her my way. In those days everything was done through the mail - for us: air-mail. Frances wrote asking about Parents' Review. She was one of my first subscribers in 1991. She was reading and learning about Miss Charlotte Mason when I was. Her two girls, Rachel and Hannah and my own, corresponded for a time. Our girls are now young women who keep in touch the modern way, through Facebook.

A happy meeting of  friendship-afar:  Hannah  - Yolanda 
When Frances read my description of the book, Linnea in Monet's Garden in Parents' Review, she didn't just buy the book. She decided to go to Monet's garden in Giverny, France while on holiday. France is a hop, skip and a jump from where the Foxes live southeast of London. Later, Frances wrote me about their visit to Giverny and I put her experience in the magazine under the title "The Foxes in Monet's Garden." Cute? Those who have Parents' Review will find it in Fall-1994 - with a picture of Linnea drawn by my daughter Sophia - whose reading the of book and imagination had to suffice.

Knowing that Frances would spend a Sunday with us, and that I would be teaching a Sunday School class for mothers that morning, I asked Frances if she would share in class. She wrote me one last paper letter before flying to the United States, that she would be happy to. (We correspond on paper -still.) I hoped the ladies would find, not only our discussion interesting, but certainly her accent as well. It was my plan to talk about the moral value of stories. When the day came I asked Frances some questions in class about the author Patricia St John - pronouncing this author's name Sinjun - like the American Injun, as Frances had corrected me politely in private. Anyway, my pen friend contributed beautifully and honestly. Thank you, Frances.

You see, I had not forgotten that in the 1990s  - responding to Frances' invitation - Patricia St. John came to speak at her church. Frances had thoughtfully placed the cassette recording in a letter to me then. Miss St. John (1919-1993) has since passed away but having read her autobiography and having listened to her voice and message, I feel a sort of warm acquaintance with her. I still have the recording. I found her message to be so inspiring when I first heard it that I turned it into an article for Parents' Review, Summer-1996.

Yolanda, one of our married daughters, still has a video player. Therefore, I've hung onto our video of Miss St John's story - Treasures of the Snow - set in Switzerland (where she lived for part of her girlhood).  It is probably the best known of her stories. Its characters demonstrate repentance, forgiveness, true friendship, and courage. (I do not see a DVD for sale on Amazon.)

Many appreciate how this author, with sensitivity, weaves a Christian theme into each uncomplicated plot. For this reason parents will choose one as a family read-aloud. My children read Treasures of the Snow, Tanglewood's Secret and others - silently in their leisure. I hadn't read any. Therefore, not too long ago I picked up Twice Freed.  I'm glad I did. It enlarged my Christian sympathies. (Something that needs enlivening periodically.)

A Dream Come True

Reading her autobiography in the 1990s - An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Story - I learned that Patricia Mary St. John served as a nurse and missionary in North Africa after World War II. Years later, a girlhood dream came true. In 1966 Miss St. John traveled with her sister in a Volkswagen to many of the places where St. Paul preached. As a young girl she had the notion of one day writing a story about Onesimus, the runaway slave. Philemon was a book of the Bible that had captured her developing imagination.

Many years later, after visiting the cities mentioned in the book of Acts, she wrote, Twice Freed. It merits a place in the history curriculum but could be read anytime.

Twice Freed is a conversion story, as inferred in its title. Although written by a Protestant, set in the time of the early church, it does not wave a Protestant or Catholic flag. It is one that can be appreciated by either. Our Christian roots are the same.

The review I've written is placed in the post script for those interested.

New Facebook Page 

Recently, I put up a Facebook Page for an author. I think the banner my son made for my author's page is spectacular. It is amazingly done with the use of on-line drawing tools. Nigel extended the oil painting of Miss Charlotte Mason, meticulously. The British robin perched on the fence post was drawn by my request. Nigel (my instructor in all-things-techie) tells me that clicking "Like" will notify my readers of new posts. 

Post Script
The photographs of summer's close, with the growing season looking a bit tired, were taken by the Man-of-the-House at Landis Valley.

For your convenience I am linking to Amazon, books mentioned in this article, where you can read further reviews. 

Linnea in Monet's Garden  (There is a dvd too - I remember borrowing this calm cartoon from the library).
Treasures of the Snow
An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Faith  My high school age daughter read this after I did.
Twice Freed

A Hypothetical Flashback
Something occurred to me while finishing this article. That is: Looking back over my children's growing years, I have a suspicion - and a very strong guess - that we wouldn't have had such bookish adventures or fabulous friendships had we taken a road other than the Gentle Art of Learning. That's why it is easy for me to forecast to my young or new Charlotte-Mason-minded readers, "You have a wonderful adventure ahead of you."

Have you read any of Patricia St. John's stories?

Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
Review by Karen Andreola

Onesimus has an unsettled heart. In the first chapters I looked at this fatherless teen as a mother would. And just as his mother did I thought, “Onesimus, why can’t you accept being a slave? It’s not so bad." But when Onesimus is unjustly accused of stealing something that was maliciously slipped into his pocket without his knowledge, and his master Philemon orders that he be given a beating for it, I pitied Onesimus. My maternal sympathy rose to meet his suffering soul and body.

Bitterness takes root and settles in the boy's hardening heart. When the opportunity presents itself, he gives into a moment of temptation. He commits an irreversible act of revenge. I turned the pages more slowly after that. I was disgusted with Onesimus. But a ray of light shines into the cracks of the story. It made me turn the pages again with hope and anticipation. While doing business with a merchant in Ephesus, Master Philemon goes to hear a man speak of a new religion (with Onesimus). That man is Paul - an apostle of Christ. Philemon gives his life to Christ. But the scraps of St. Paul's teaching that reach the ears of Onesimus, do not move him. He isn’t interested in peace, brotherly love and forgiveness of sin. They are ideas of weakness to this boy, approaching manhood, whose heart seethes with ambition and a desire for self-importance.

His mother, too, becomes a Christian. But all the boy can think of is breaking free. He runs away from Philemon (though a kinder master), his monotonous life, and the dull little streets of Colosse. He manages to make his way to the city of Rome. But no one can run away from God if his Holy Spirit is working in the heart and mind of one whose heart is broken by regret and harsh circumstances. 

The cover of the book shows Onesimus smiling at a pretty girl. Mistress Eirene is the daughter of a merchant who, in the beginning of the story travels to Philemon’s household to close a business deal. She has a kind and gentle spirit. She doesn’t talk down to Onesimus although he is a slave. Longing for her friendship, against all odds, he plans to somehow meet her again. This is a very small part of the story - although the cover seems to convey otherwise - and is handled honorably.

Not a plot where all characters meet with health, wealth and prosperity, both hardship and joy work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Isn't this the best kind of happy ending?

Twice Freed    For ages 12 to teen - to adult - unless you have a sensitive child (as I had.)

Nice to visit with you againHappy Reading,

Karen Andreola

My Parents' Review is described here. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Carol's 10 Frugal Tips

Carol's 10 Frugal Tips
If my 1930s character, Carol, of my stories Pocketful of Pinecones and sequel Lessons of Blackberry Inn, were to make a list of frugal tips - this might be some of her advice.

antique picnic basket
 I leave it to my readers to make personal application for this century. (Oh, I was sure to remind Carol to give away very little story-plot - for those who haven't yet picked up Lessons at Blackberry Inn for it is from Blackberry Inn that she comes to us today.)

Pack a Lunch
I enjoyed my date with Micheal. He insisted, in his gentlemanly way, of driving to Bridgeton on Saturday, just the two of us. The day before, when she heard that her dad and I were having a picnic - my little Emily told me that she wanted to have a picnic, too, with her friend Sarah, so we worked side-by-side to prepare food for our baskets.

As Michael and I set out by car I felt an unexpected pang of apprehension at leaving the children so far behind. But I reminded myself, the next instant, that they would be enjoying their own special day with the pastor's children. I've heard it said of a mother:

"She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along. "*1

I knew of a peaceful spot just a few blocks from the shops on Main Street, and choose that place for Michael and I to share lunch, between our shopping errands.

Amish Farmland
The view from the end of our road. Do the clouds look sleepy?
Group Errands 

Appleton, where we live, is an hour's back-roads-drive by car to the city of Bridgeton. We needn't frequent the shops in the city. But when we decide it is time to shop for what we cannot find in the village, we group our errands. How did we end up in Appleton? Jobs are hard to come by in the city. Thus we found ourselves living back near family. I was skeptical about moving back to my home town. In the country one is troubled by stubborn weeds, muddy roads, and a backwardness in some of one's neighbors. But there are moments when nature fills one's senses with unbelievable loveliness. And watching the children's energetic games, the calling, running, and climbing in the apple orchard, is helping me to accept our life here.

Pay Cash
Because it was just the two of us in Bridgeton that Saturday we accomplished lots of stops. Lastly, we stepped into the book shop. Even though it was a purchase with another year of home education in mind, I decided we should hide away a couple books for the children for Christmas. Michael knew it would flatten his wallet. But we never buy on credit. Buying with cash we spend carefully and spend less. I wasn't to worry about his wallet, as he said he had stuffed some dollars under the mattress.

A page from Famous Paintings that Carol displayed for the children.
Use a Library
An ancient saying goes, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." While I miss walking to the public library in Bridgeton I am very happy to avail myself of our good friend (and the children's adopted grandmother) Emma's expansive library - and my brother Bob's shelf of books - apart from our own collection.

"Make do" is what we did in the Depression years. Emma's copy of Famous Paintings - Selected from the World's Great Galleries and Reproduced in Colour, with descriptive notes by G. K. Chesterton, is very welcome. To follow Miss Charlotte Mason's plan exactly, would be to display at least six of one artist's work during one semester. If I could make arrangements for for a collection of pictures to come to me from various museums, mostly likely, our tight budget would only allow for postcard-size black and whites - so I am content with Famous Paintings.

vegetable soup
My pot of soup shown here is plain vegan summer vegetable.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
From Blackberry Inn we walk to the village, easily. Emma takes her bicycle. On a walk to the butcher I bought a large soup bone. This less-expensive piece brought me a palm of pennies and nickles for my change purse. My plan was to "stretch" a meal with vegetables from the garden. Though the amount of beef in the soup would be minimal, I knew that the broth from the bones was good for us. A visitor to Blackberry Inn gave me an unexpected compliment. "This is the most wholesome nourishment I've eaten all week," he praised.

After several "stretched" meals I had saved up enough change to purchase a skein of red wool at the general store. With it I was able to knit a new pair of mittens for Emily and Donald. Making good use of the remainder of the wool I knit a small pair for a little boy who is needy. Which brings me to another tip.

maple leaf patchwork quilt

Use it Up

In the 1930s - reminiscent of grandmother's previous century, scraps of fabric cut away from dress-making were never thrown away. Scraps were used for quilting. And girls made doll quilts out of scraps cut away from their mothers' quilting-making. I haven't attempted quilting yet with Emily. But without giving away too much of the story of Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I'll tell you that Dora, my sweet-mannered sister-in-law, was eager to shows us how to make fabric yo-yos from pieces in her scrap-bag. Afterward, Emily and I made more yo-yos, enough to for a Christmas gift-pillow for someone we esteem.

With our large oak ice-box and deliveries from the ice-man, I am able to cook double and keep the second meal cold for the next day (or day after.) Cooking double uses up whatever is abundantly in-season. It also frees up my time the following day for a peaceful solitary walk, or an outing with the children. Keeping note of what gets pushed to the back of the icebox is a way to have less "food waste." I somehow manage to add leftover portions to a savory pot pie or a casserole.

In order to "use up" our bumper crop of tomatoes in the garden I spent some hot hours with Emma canning tomatoes to put by.
The little one has Emily's dough rolling, and is ready for filling.
My brother Bob brings us milk from the diary farm regularly, with his sly, "I just happened to be out this way." The very day of bottling our tomatoes, basking in the happiness of our completed efforts, my brother brings us a bushel from his bumper crop. Oh my, Emma and I had another day's work cut out for us in a steamy kitchen. But we are grateful for Bob's offerings. And the hours of cooking and canning with Emma has a way of building our friendship. We seem to speak more freely when our hands are busy.

To show our gratitude, Michael, and our son Donald, lend their helping hands to Bob on Saturdays. I can't tell you who chopped a winter's supply of wood in return for meals eaten at Blackberry Inn. But you'll discover this when you read the story. With the autumn chill in the air I was relieved to finally see a stack. Wintertime waits for no man. My guess is that wood heat will be around for a long time out here. Every winter storm brings at least one downed-tree at the wood's edge that, when cut and cleared, is good for nothing better than a free warm fire. Coal costs.

rumeford fireplace
The pair of argyle socks I knit Michael were already worn at the heel. I commented that it's a wonder how he can fray socks so quickly. He cast me a quizzical glance which momentarily changed to a smile when he replied in his defense, "It must be one of my hidden talents." I should have listened to the wise advice of my mother. "Knit a strand of hair from your head into the toe of your sock [or heel in Michael's case] and you'll mend less often." Perhaps there should be a rhyme about a stitch-in-time that includes a strand of one's hair. In the country, however, we are used to keeping things until they are beyond repair. Clothes wear out until they are not even decent for cleaning a horse stall. Such clothes are cut up for patching.

Do Without
Michael had been harboring romantic notions of country life - city born and breed as he is - for a long time without me knowing it. I am well aware of the strong backs needed of country-folk and also how folk have to "wait-it-out" and "do-without" until spring's first asparagus sprouts are spied and the chickens start laying again.There are only so many recipes to fall back on, for cabbage and potatoes - the lion's share of what's left in the root cellar. Yet, the strawberries preserves, blackberry jam, and apple butter we women put by, do keep breakfast and tea-time palatable and varied, at least.

It's also by late winter, that I am tired of wearing the same worn-out cardigan. I wouldn't dare wear the one reserved for Sunday-best. It is then that I start dreaming about what color yarn I'd like to purchase to start knitting a new one. But, with the coming of a busy summer in the garden, coupled with the needs of fast growing children - who grow out of their cloths with a blink-of-an-eye  - a cardigan for myself can get lost in the shuffle. My to-do list is always longer than my arms can reach. The rose colored cardigan I knit Emily turned out to my liking. I surprised myself with how pretty it is, if it's okay to boast a bit.

Share Hand-me-Downs
Frugal people buy used. And they know the value of a hand-me-down. Michael startled me by digging up the copiously cabled pull-over I knit him in the earliest days of our marriage, to impulsively hand it down (without his left hand knowing what his right hand was doing) to a needy new friend. My sentimental attachment to it dissolved, however, and my wrinkled brow softened when I saw how well it was received by its over-joyed recipient. What Michael had worn to rake leaves, this man is wearing for Sunday-best.

Emma, also in the spirit of giving, parted with a size-2 hunter green sweater she had knit many years ago and kept wrapped in tissue paper in an attic trunk. It was never worn by the child she knit it for - as sadly, this baby only lived to one year-of-age.

What's the difference between a penny-pincher and a thrifty homemaker? The thrifty are not stingy. They consider the lilies and how they grow. Placing her trust in God's provision, the thrifty homemaker can take joy in giving as well as receiving. One by one, she casts her cares, money worries, and list of anxieties, to her Heavenly Father. Therefore, she is willing to live with less and/or economize, to be God's instrument in adding to the happiness and well-being of another. -Your story-friend Carol

End Notes
*1 Quote by Margaret Culkin Banning. While browsing a book shelved at a B&B I jotted this quote down on a scrap of paper I retrieved from the recesses of my pocket-book because I felt a kindred spark alight. Here, someone was describing, in simple terms, a feeling that matched my own experience - every time I would travel by airplane to a speaking engagement, leaving my children behind.

For your convenience I link Lessons of Blackberry Inn directly to Amazon. It is also described on this blog in "Karen's Books."

The pencil drawings are by my son Nigel Andreola and are illustrations in Blackberry Inn - though seen here with watermarks.

In the spirit of hand-me-down the photographs in today's post are re-used from a sundry of previous posts.

Rather than the tangled mess of knitting (with three colors) that you see above, to see the finished vest I knit for a grandson click here.

Here is my original post on making fabric yo-yos.

Here is a post with an introduction to Picture Study with the Gentle Art of Learning.

Writing Carol's 10 frugal tips was fun. If you read between the lines there are actually more than 10 here. I hope the advice is of some benefit to you. So nice to have your visit. Write anytime,
Karen Andreola