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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Born in a Story Garden

Born in a Story Garden 
Our daughter Sophia had her baby. She named her Eloise Victoria. Born 6 lb. 9 oz. she is a tiny baby still - a month later. (I announce it here for those who missed reading the comments added to the previous post.)

Eloise Victoria  - Great Grandma knitted the pink blanket

Baby Dear
Baby Dear
Victoria, her middle name, marks the victory of her birth - after a difficult pregnancy and high risk delivery. The name Eloise is in memory of illustrator, Eloise Wilkin, whose storybook pictures influenced Sophia's ideals more than I'd ever stopped to consider. I am seeing the fruit of this influence now. How - when a little girl - she collected the images of the pages I read aloud to her 30 years ago.

Into her imagination and she stored them - held them there for safe-keeping - dreams for her adult life - like a carefully stitched patchwork quilt is held in anticipation in a trousseau.

Sophia even decorates her house like the rooms pictured in Eloise Wilkin's illustrations.

The simplest of books can influence our lives with profundity. A picture book, for instance, has this power because it invites us to look closely at a portion of life. Simple it may be, yet it is never without an opinion.

Eloise Wilkin
Baby Dear - feeding time
Could Eloise Wilkin have foreseen that what  she drew in the 1960s would become a boost of needed encouragement to mothers half a century later - mothers of this multiple-screen age? This encouragement is especially appreciated for some of us who are having to re-invent motherhood - to form a picture of its tenderness and daily-patient-care in our minds. We welcome images of a gentle, cheerful and relational mothering.
Eloise Wilkin
Baby Dear - walking with our babies
Some of us are having to re-invent childhood, too. Those images of an old-fashioned childhood - when children were free to be playful, carefree children - and not be introduced to the adult world so soon. These happy childhood images can still be had through old books. They seem absent in the major media, unavailable in modern society - or in neighborhoods where, during the day, no one is at home.

Baby Dear - singing to our babies

And, too, we crave reinforcement toward upholding the value of homemaking. Therefore, what was drawn as a mirror of home-life and childhood in the 1960s is being tapped into by today's busy mothers who secretly desire a career at home. If you are looking for a picture book with a worldview that celebrates the traditional family Baby Dear will be a welcome resource. It is included in the Golden Book collection, Eloise Wilkin StoriesWe Help Mommy can be found in the collection also.

little girl's dress in the 1960s
Yours Truly, 1963
A Resemblance 
we help mommy
When my mother handed me an old Kodak slide taken in my girlhood, I couldn't help notice how my outfit resembles those worn on the pages of Eloise Wilkin's We Help Mommy - puffed sleeves and all. At first I thought: What an uncanny coincidence.  On second thought I realized: Why should there be anything strange about it? I am a child of the 1960s and this photo is proof that little girls really did dress in a white blouse and red skirt-jumper for playtime - in the days when Eloise Wilkin drew her pictures.

Books That Pamper my Opinions
As stories influences our lives, the flip-side is also true. An author's lifestyle often finds its way into her writing. Diaries, in particular, disclose what the writer is moved to jot down.
garden diary with water colors

The same week my daughter emailed me some new photographs of her tiny Eloise I had The Painted Garden  open at my summer leisure. It is the diary of the gardener Mary Woodin.

In this book I can walk down Mary Woodin's garden path. Among her brief notes of sowing and harvest, blooms and fruits, birds and butterflies, are selections she uncovered from other gardener's diaries - mostly those from the 19th century. I am amazed at how skillfully she uses her watercolor brush to beautifully portray what is alive and growing in her garden. If you are looking for nature diary inspiration you will find it here.

flowers in water color

With my book open to the month of August I see a quote from Mrs. C. W. Earle's  Pot Pourri From A Surrey Garden, 1887.

"Of all the months in the year this is the one in which the keenest amateur can best afford to leave home, and if I do not go away, it is the one I can best spare to my gardener for his holiday."

Immediately following comes a sweet surprise. Mary Woodin writes:

A bit of a lull in the garden - an opportune time to give birth! Reuben Charles entered the world safely in the midday heat. He has quickly become accustomed to being my garden companion - his pram [baby carriage] neatly balancing my drawing board, sketching stool, and the jam-jars for water. Parked under a tree he happily applies himself to the subtleties of cedar, oak, or ash. Or sleeps.

I love babies, summer sunshine, and flowers. I love books and the snapshots they give us. I don't mind reading books by those who have a different worldview than I have. I can find them interesting.
I can't help, however, to prefer books that pamper by own opinions. Have you found this to be true of yourself, too?

Thank you
For you convenience I linked to Amazon: Eloise Wilkin Stories and also The Painted Garden.

Recently, Dean headed out for the post office with his arms full of boxes. Therefore, I want to give you an extra thank-you here. To tell you that I very much appreciate your purchases of Parents' Review, the Lavender Strawberry Kit and the Mother Culture CD this summer. I hope each brings its own form of uplifting sparkle to you..

This month, at a blog friend's prompting, I hosted a luncheon in my keeping room for some home teaching mothers. I fussed over the preparations for a week beforehand with Dean's help, even buying two new plates to add to my Butterfly Garden set. When the day came, sitting at the table, chatting in the company of kindred spirits, it ended up to be a mini vacation for me - without leaving home. I hope we can do it again, Ladies.

I talked about children's chores in the post: We Help Mommy.

Rosey-cheeked and Resourceful is a blog article that explores the sadly missing phenomenon of safe neighborhood-play. In the days of neighborhood play attention deficit was at an all time low.

Thanks for letting me share this bundle of news, memories, books and articles with you.

Karen Andreola

Post Script
Oh. I've been meaning to tell you. Between posts, from time to time, I give articles to The Old Schoolhouse magazine to help spread abroad the good news of Miss Charlotte Mason's practical philosophy. Here are two links to TOS that relate to today's subjects.

A Nature Notebook 

The Power of a Picture Book