Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By Hand

By Han

Slowly, with sure-footed steps, and a soft cloth, I work my way up the stairway, to smooth away the dust. The nifty-looking brush vacuum attachment can't do what the lowly piece of flannel can, in the hand of the homemaker, around the fancy cut cylindrical spooks. I try not to look down as I dust. It can be dizzying. Because the staircase is the only fancy part of our simple house I don't mind the maintenance required of the ornamental carpentry, now and then.

I'm in the middle of reading Little Women during these dark winter evenings. Isn't it a wonderful feeling to read a book and feel a kinship with its writer? It brightens up a dull winter. It might be a silly spot - but silly or not - I was sharing a cozy feeling with Miss Alcott when I read the part describing Meg's homemaking.  

   "I . . . doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece-bags; for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.
     People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose; for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this, that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought." 
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, chap.24

White snow (and we've had more than our fair share this year) also beautifully brightens an otherwise dull winter. Color, too brings brightness. Dean brought home flowers. The center of the kitchen table is the most practical place for a bouquet in our house. It gives me the best and most-oft view of them. I was hand-basting a quilt at the kitchen table, taking advantage of the low rays of winter sunlight as it entered the French doors, when I noticed that the fabric of my little quilt matched those of the red bouquet. (In the plum border are vines of tiny red wild strawberries.)

I chose the Snowball quilt block, an appropriate pattern for this time of year. Inside each snowball I quilted a large heart by hand with lavender thread. Snowflake-like orbs seem to be floating on the light fabric in the manner of one of those water-filled globes that recreate a scenic snowfall.

On the subject of snow I came across this photograph of my children taken in 1998 in Rockland, Maine. They were happy with the result of their snowman-building, shaping it carefully by hand, in honor of Raymond Briggs magical fairy tale "The Snowman"a film produced in England that my children had enjoyed. The film's music is marvelous. Do older children bother to take part in the pleasure of building a snowman these days? I'm glad my children were squares.

While Dean was shoveling the deep snow away from the kitchen door, I baked his favorite treat - doughnuts. We prefer baked doughnuts over deep-fried. Greasing the doughnut baking pans with coconut oil gives them plenty of tasty "crisp."  Just out of the oven I give them a sprinkle of butterscotch sugar.

January saw the 90th birthday of a friend of mine and older-woman-in-the-Lord, Mrs. M. I remembered the winter in Appleton, Maine when she turned 75 and I made her a birthday card from a rubber stamp of a Tasha Tudor illustration. I made one again (partly as a forget-me-not) in appreciation for her loving-kindness to me during our years in Maine. I miss her.

During the big snow we had a house guest stranded here. Better to be stuck here during her travels than risk the highways on her way to Washington, D.C. She saw my green sewing roll-up, where I keep needles, thimble dots, etc. It's always laying around somewhere. She was tickled by it. "Would you like one?" I asked. She did. And so I made her a brown one from an unfinished roll-up being ignored in my sewing room. All I needed to do was hand-sew the binding and add a button. (The roll up is actually secured by a snap).

Dean and I hadn't any grandchildren when we last entertained this guest, so I showed her some photographs. Here is one I share with you. Baby is 6 months old already. This is a photo of her at 5 months wearing the cardigan I knit her. A skilled and thoughtful blog friend knit Baby the lacy bonnet, a pattern of her own design. Very pretty.

It's been a quiet winter.

Keeping in touch,
Karen Andreola

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Marriage Harmony - A Candid Talk

Marriage Harmony
Hi ladies. I've been working on this post in past weeks. Meanwhile, in his office, Dean has put some of our old photographs through restoration for me - including a 1979 hippy-wedding Polaroid out of my scrapbook.

Over Christmas my 4 yr-old grandson came to visit carrying a little plastic case through the door.
"Hi, Mimi."
"Hi. What's that?" I asked him after a hug.
He solemnly replied, "My doctor's kit. Do you want me to doctor you?"
"Yes," I said and sat down. He began to take my vitals. "What does this do?" I asked. He put the plastic stethoscope in his ears.
"This let's me hear your heart-beep."
"Is it beeping? I asked with a straight face as he pressed the stethoscope to my chest. I didn't dare correct him - and thought as a grandmother can't help but think - what a cutie-pie - and on second thought - he'd make a good doctor some day.
"Yes," he said and went on to wrap an arm band around my wrist to take my blood pressure.

With the coming of the new year I seek to have a stronger "heart-beep" - to be more loving - in thought, word and deed. Read anything on the subject of love and you'll be met with its affects toward humility. Grace to the humble is God's blessing. 2 Peter 3:18 is a New Year's goal for me.

Dean's maternal grandparents. Engaged 1926
Opposites Attract
When a Christian maiden prays for a man to marry she prays for one who shares her belief in the God of the Bible. Apart from this, how very different the two can be! Once married the couple will be yoked aright - no matter how different their personalities - if they pull in the same direction - serving their Heavenly King. It is their highest common purpose for living.

If a maiden waits long enough, it is possible (I suppose) but not probable, that she will meet a man who is nearly identical to herself in personality and preferences. Realistically, she will not find a man who shares all her likes and dislikes. A maiden may rejoice when she finds that she has much in common with the man-of-her-dreams - and yet - underneath this layer of commonality, opposites are attracting. This is part of the magnetism in courtship.The man and woman bring into the relationship a set of characteristics. Each has strengths, gifts, talents and skills. But each also has needs, weaknesses, and their own rate of maturity (to be handled with care.)

Esther, Dean's mother. 1931

The Couple Compliment One Another
To ensure compatibility a maiden needn't look for someone who is as much like herself as possible. You see, in an ideal marriage the couple compliment one another. The opposites that initially attract are the same character qualities that can blend together to the couple's advantage. The husband fulfills her need with his individuality. He brings increase to her lack, strength to her weakness, a skill for an ability she yet lacks, etc. The same can be true for the strengths the wife brings to the marriage. She fulfills his need, brings a strength for his weakness, a talent or a gift for something he lacks, etc. They admire one another's strengths. They gently lend-a-hand with weaknesses.

Everyone has idiosyncrasies. These potentially make us irritating. It's inevitable that our spouse will stumble upon something about ourselves that he tries to overlook - or that we need to overlook in him. Sometimes, it's a big deal - a conflict or an area where we fall-short - requiring gracious forgiveness. The main idea is that by cooperating through our contrasts we grow spiritually. Marriage is about opposites that learn to get along. The love of 1 Corinthians 13 accomplishes this.

Here are some hypothetical examples of mutual exchange that I made up.

He's a businessman - let's say - who is good on the telephone. It hadn't occurred to him that anyone could be phone-shy. Yet his wife is. Talking on the phone to set appointments or even order a pizza makes her nervous. On the other hand, she is hospitable, likes parties and is at home leading a lady's Bible study. Her husband is an avid-conversationalist one-on-one but feels awkward in large groups. The couple work at helping one another to polish their manners, being careful to be not be critical. As a result each practices a new skill which they eventually feel comfortable with it.

My parents. Anthony & Joan, High School Sweethearts 1950s.
What good is it to marry someone who has the exact set of strengths and weakness?

The husband - let's say - loves music.  Although the wife sets her hopes on a new washing machine, he purchased a set of sophisticated speakers that were on sale. He listens to music after work to unwind. His tastes are widely varied. She has only ever listened to blue grass. He begins saving up for that new washing machine. Meanwhile his wide scope of musical interests begins to grow on his wife. Vivaldi and Bach aren't so bad, neither is Gershwin, the Beatles or Andrew Loyd Weber. Out of courtesy he doesn't play his music in the house every day and for the first time he finds something to like about the banjo. He arranges a date with his wife to visit an historical house and hear the blue grass band playing there.

Writing my father during a visit to Washington, D.C.
A blending of contrasts adds flavor to a marriage.

The wife - let's say - is health-conscience. She prepares salads with veggies from her own garden. She often includes cruciferous vegetables (which have anti-cancer properties) in soups and casseroles. In the husband's opinion if there isn't meat in the dish,' it isn't supper. In a moment of hunger he speaks bluntly. The young wife is offended, initially. Doesn't he know how many hours she spends in the kitchen? But the same day he lets the protein-cat-out-of-the-bag he comes home with a grill. His backyard grilling saves her work in the kitchen and pleases himself - and - it's good for hospitality, he suggests. He learns to appreciate her emphasis on health - and actually looks forward to her broccoli soup and apples-with-red-cabbage while achieving the perfect-timing for grilling salmon - something they both enjoy.

A goal of marriage is the give-and-take of mutual sharing. It's two people who have something to offer while receiving something they need in return. It is a close friendship where each has something that can be learned from the other. If they are at lose-ends on how to go about this give-and-take they can seek God's guidance. He is the creator of the human personality. Marriage was His idea. From the beginning He pronounced it good.

My father in the navy, in Greece.

Differences surface for the mere fact that they are male and female.

Lovemaking to the wife - let's say - has a lot to do with how much attention and affection and she receives before coming to bed. Lovemaking to him - let's say - is about attention and affection shared in bed. (or vice versa) The couple thought they were "in love" but soon discover "to love" is to give-of-oneself by exploring a broad definition of love. With courage, honesty, and vulnerability they acknowledge their differences and feelings. To honor one another they figure out how to use the love language of the other to communicate lovingly.

My maternal grandparents, married 1929.

This simple song encourages communication. We used to listen to it in the early 1980s. (Found on YouTube).

Talk to one another, You've go to learn to talk it out
You've got to know exactly what the other's about.
But when we talk to one another, Just like the Father above
We've got to learn to say it in love.
Brown Banister, Christian music lyrics

My Favorite Odd Couple
This year my parents will be married 60 years. Here's something I haven't had reason to mention before. My mother is a Protestant - although she was married in St. Mary's Catholic Church. At heart my father is a Roman Catholic - although he has attended Protestant services. Mom and Dad have different cultural backgrounds. Mom's decedents date back to the Plymouth Colony. Dad's parents were born in Italy. Some of their family customs clash (which can be comical). Their children grew up enjoying the benefits of the merger - the best of both worlds, you might say. Mom and Dad have the occasional tiff, but mutual esteem, mutual forbearance, and a sense of humor has enabled them to get along all these years.

Two Old Films I Recommend
Two American films, Dean introduced to me, demonstrate how two people (male and female) with contrasting personalities and backgrounds, can get along - especially as they share a common purpose and a similar moral conscience. The films just happen to be both starring Katherine

The first is is African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart.

The second is Rooster Cogburn starring John Wayne.

I link the films to Amazon here so that you can read more about them. Dean is an old-movie buff. I actually miss our dates to the video store to pick out a Friday night movie as we used to do. At times I'll rent a film for $2.99 on-line. At Christmastime it was Little Women - 1949 with Elizabeth Taylor.

Comments to this post are welcome.

Karen Andreola

If you'd like a reply or prefer to contact me privately:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Beauty in Necessity by Karen Andreola

Beauty in Necessity

Marcus fabrics

The Lady-of-the-House has been picking up fabric fourths, hither and thither. Fabric shops dot Lancaster County run by Amish and Mennonite families. One of her favorite shops is in an old barn. When she decided to do some serious quilting - which for her meant doll quilts and pillows, she thought: "When in Rome do as the Romans do."

Christmas rubber stamp

Reproduction fabrics interest the Lady-of-the-House. They can be pricey but 5 minutes from her house, fabric remnants - discontinued from previous year's prints - are sold in a variety store. She scouts around for "Marcus" prints now and again because the store re-stocks regularly and other scavengers are also on the look-out.

Recently, the Lady-of-the-House was in this variety store looking over the Christian Christmas cards, then made her familiar bee-line to the fabric isle. She carried two different prints to the cutting table, silently oo-ing and ahh-ing over her finds, "A quarter yard of each, please," she said - a phrase she had been known to say before.

With rotary cutter poised the fabric cutter smiled at her and said, "You're the Queen of Fourths."

"Well, this comes from following the scrappy look," replied the Lady-of-the-House apologetically. The fabric cutter meant no offense. She meant to be harmlessly amusing. But, perhaps she second-guessed her name-calling, for she softened the conversation by asking about the customer's Thanksgiving, who relaxed a bit and replied that she was happy to have her family together around her long table.

A Myriad of Tasks - A Blessing

A gift sent to the Lady-of-the-House this Christmastime was a deluxe seam ripper. This gift will be put to good use because she is a recurrent-seam-ripper. If she has been cross-stitching in the parlor or at the sewing machine, for half-an-hour, and runs into a snag, she will often call it quits and  set the mistake aside. She can tackle ripping and re-stitching in a better frame of mind the following day when it is greeted as a first step.

Homeward Bound by Tasha Tudor
I mark the middle of the figures as a counting reference.

You see, she's found another use for Charlotte Mason's "short lessons" and "sequence of lessons." She has carried these principles over to the tasks of homemaking. It may seem like an interruption when "on a roll" but going off to do something else for a while uses a different part of the brain while the previous part was spent and in need of rest.

To do "the next thing" is something home teachers and homemakers are very familiar with as their tasks can be immensely varied - from correcting math pages to mopping floors. This myriad of tasks is actually a facet of homemaking to be thankful for. The Lady-of-the-House didn't recognize it as a blessing early on. Perhaps because her to-do list was once to blame for her occasionally feeling frazzled or run-off-her-feet. Applying Miss Mason principle of concise-precise sessions (and "sequence of lessons") however, enabled her to see her myriad of chores as indeed a blessing. Why?

Tasha Tudor cross stitch
Do you recognize this Tasha Tudor illustration?
Ask any physical therapist and he or she will give the advice to "transition" the body throughout the day. Sitting too long or standing too long, for instance, should be replaced with shorter sessions of either when possible. The same can be said about the brain (and disposition).The part of the brain that has been at work, is at rest and being refreshed by a change of occupation  - especially if the "next thing" is something quite different. Afterward the homemaker can return to the first task (or one similar to it) with fresh vigor.

Short sessions of stitching is one restorative in the life of the Lady-of-the-House - a refreshing change of occupation.

William Morris fabric
Quilting a pillow cover. Gold fabric found in four different shops.
Beauty within Necessity

The following statement pulled on her heartstrings when she heard it in a museum lecture.

A pioneer woman, living in a sod house, was asked why she quilts - when her day demands she tackle so many other chores before sunset - she replied:

"I make my quilts as fast as I can to keep my children from freezing and as beautiful as I can to keep my heart from breaking.

How do you turn a one-room sod house into a home, even if it's a temporary home on the American prairie? You make beautiful scrappy quilts. Homemakers long to create beauty within necessity. If at least one of their chores enables them to create something beautiful for their home (be it a garden, a meal, or an attractive piece of clothing) they can persevere.

Prairie Children and Their Quilts

Kathleen Tracy's Prairie Children and Their Quilts is one of the Lady-of-the-House's new favorite quilt books. When her girls were young, she would have gravitated to it - if the book had been written then and she had spied it at a book fair. She likes history and  traditional crafts. It was, in the American girlhood of yesteryear, that small quilts like the doll quilts in this book, were made.

Doll quitls
Mrs. Tracy carefully wraps 19th century first-hand sources around her quilt instructions. The old photographs, the letters and diaries in this book, written by prairie girls in the 19th century, are telling. They reveal some of the hardships of going west in a wagon train. They took me back to the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder - although Laura is understandably discreet  - as the Little House Series is read aloud to so young an audience.

Prairie Children and Their Quilts is a history resource as much as a quilt book. After reading it as well as American  Doll Quilts, and doing some of the projects, it occurred to the Lady-of-the-House that they would make enjoyable mother-daughter projects (for middle-school-though high school). But mostly Kathleen Tracy's books are purchased by grown-ups like the Lady-of-the-House who like the antique-look, who hadn't had any quilting in their girlhood, and who wish to backtrack some - just for fun.

A Little Quilt for Christmastime

When an antique doll quilt caught her eye, the Lady-of-the-House went bananas (but inwardly bananas so her menfolk wouldn't think her daft.)  The red-n-white double nine-patch on-line looked to be so simple and sweet it called out to be replicated, leaving the solid squares empty of a quilt design as the original is, to retain its soft, oft-used, appearance. Pieced and hand-quilted in just two weeks, it is being used as a cheerful Christmas decoration. One day this cute doll-quilt will be handed down to her granddaughter.

red and white doll quilt
A doll quilt made festive for Christmastime.

In Closing
When the Lady-of-the-House returned from the variety store she had to smile. The phrase, "Queen of Fourths", she decided, was a compliment. It reminded her of what is recorded on her Mother Culture CD  - that a homemaker is queen of her household. For love and duty, in all the myriad of tasks she fulfills, she is queen of a great many things.

Quilted with off-white thread.
End Notes:

My article is up on Israel Wayne's Homeschool Pioneer website. Here you can read a host of stories.

Tasha Tudor Cross-stitch
Did you know that some of Tasha Tudor's illustrations have been made into cross-stitch? I bought one this year - well ahead of Christmas - made as a gift for a mother who has boys and corgis. She's unwrapped it and it's hanging on her wall this Christmastime. (The kit includes 18-ct Aida. I stitched on 28-ct linen bought separately.) Amazon has a few other Tasha Tudor designs.

Quaker Hand-of-Friendship, mostly known as Bear Paw.
Tasha Tudor Cross-stitch Homeward Bound.

 Prairie Children and Their Quilts.  My Pennsylvania Quaker Hand-of-Friendship doll quilt is one of the small quilts in this book. (You can see it on the cover.)
Quilted with black thread with stitches of comfortable length.  
 Fons and Porter Ergonomic Seam Ripper An indispensable tool for this quilter. 

Frosty mornings but no snow yet. 

A Very Merry Christmas to you,

Karen Andreola