Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Homemade Multiplicity

Homemade Multiplicity

            When news reached the Lady-of-the house that a certain married couple was expecting a baby she was excited. She can recall the days when the young wife was a girl, the days of sleepovers with her daughters, watching “Pride & Prejudice” in PJ’s while munching on buttered popcorn.

At the same time the Lady-of-the-house heard news of a baby, she had just viewed the Homestead Blessings sewing DVD featuring the West ladies. On it they demonstrate how to make a rag quilt. She had set her sights on one day making such a cute and practical thing. Now news of the baby pushed her over the edge. That week she was in the local variety store fingering the fabric.
 “I may-as-well make three,” she told herself. This notion drifted to mind and she was aware of its source. It sprang from the influence of her long distance friend, a homeschool mother of six who has learned to be efficient. This friend lives by a code of multiplicity. Her practical and loving service to her family made an impression on the Lady-of-the-house who, by this time, certainly had enough enthusiasm for making a multiplicity of rag quilts. “It does feel good to have something made in readiness she said to the Man-of-the-house who was accustomed to her old fashioned phrases, “something for other babies.”
“What other babies?” he asked.
            “Oh, there’s bound to be other babies,” she replied, not exactly satisfying the point.  
This was because the notion of multiplicity was swirling around in her head. If a homemaker can make lasagna, she can double the recipe and make a second for the freezer. If she can make a loaf of zucchini bread she can just as easily make four loaves, freeze two, or wrap one up with a green bow to share with a widowed neighbor. If she can bottle multiple jars of raspberry jam, couldn’t she also sew multiple quilts if they are small?

The project was turning out to be a frugal one. She dug out from a closet of boxes, the cotton batting she was given years before by a friend who had been spring-cleaning her closet. The yards of flannel at the variety store were half price. She purchased no thread because she decided to use up whatever pastel colored thread she had on hand. 
In her attempts at multiplicity, she thought that if she can cut squares she could just as easily cut three batches. If she can machine quilt a stack of flannel sandwiches she can quilt three stacks. While she was sewing together rows of quilt sandwiches for one quilt, she may-as-well sew rows for two more quilts.

After the seams of a rag quilt are clipped carefully with scissors it is to be washed and dried to turn the seams into fringe. The Lady-of-the-house is taking her time with this summer project. Two are near to completion. One is finished. Opening the door of the clothes dryer was the “moment of truth.” Would the rag quilt really form fringe? 

Fresh from the dryer it was warm, soft, and yes, it was adequately fringed. She stood alone in the laundry room and gave the little quilt a kind of hug in agreement with Vicki West who exclaims in a Tennessee accent on the DVDs that everything homemade is either: “so wonderful, so cute, so beautiful, so sweet” or “so darling.” “Darling” was the exclamation the Lady-of-house. 

That afternoon she enjoyed a glass of sun tea - one of three herbal flavors that had been steeping on the lawn since noontime. Simplicity has a place but multiplicity also has its rewards. 

In what way have you invested in the code of multiplicity? In what way would you like to?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Contemplating Flowers

Contemplating Flowers
    Walking to the mailbox I am greeted by my neighbor’s tall flowers. In August they are at their peek. This wild array looks as thought it has sprung up entirely on its own. But a fellow gardener knows otherwise.


    Since revisiting passages in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea I’ll share with you what I found - a lovely thought for Mother Culture. 
“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer. What matters most is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.”

    I’ve always been partial to red zinnias. These ended up in the hallway, on the windowsill at the top of the stairs – a window I pass often. This photograph is meant to be my gift of flowers to you. In the language of flowers zinnia means “thoughts of absent friends.” Isn’t that perfect? As soon as I read it out of my used copy of Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers I thought of sharing zinnias with you. It’s been wonderful hearing from you. Thank you for your comments and handwritten cards. I cannot describe to you how much your personal messages have encouraged me. And I am taking note of the kinds of posts that are uplifting to you.

   Are you as fond of Kate Greenaway’s ladies dressed in Regency gowns and surrounded by countryside, as I am?

Whoever the previous owner of this soiled book was, she (I suppose) must have referred to it often. By evidence of the book’s smudges left on the dustcover, my guess is she was a gardener. 

    August’s flowers are bold and brazen to survive Pennsylvania’s heat. Three August sunflowers sit near my kitchen sink. They seem so at home in a yellow kitchen. Each day they shed a little pile of yellow pollen onto the counter. Better here than in a bedroom where that much pollen on a nightstand would be an impediment to a restful sleep.


    According to Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers the meaning of the dwarf sunflower is “adoration.” One August morning in church I noticed that someone had tucked a few sunflowers into Sunday’s arrangement. Perhaps the language of flowers is silly. I couldn’t help, however, “knowing” something I hadn’t known before. That knowledge made its appeal to this worshiper. 


    In Home Education Miss Charlotte Mason has much to say about the helpfulness of habit. Her 19th century suggestions for developing attention are appropriately fitting as they address the problem of straying attention in today’s 21st century students. Contemplating a flower was one example given for a young child. To set up a student with a lasting “idea” – that is – something to think about it – is a remedy for all ages. Let lessons (and all learning in general) be interesting.
    The young child likes to handle the objects that come his way. On page 140, Miss Mason says, “But watch him at his investigations: he flits from thing to thing with less purpose than a butterfly among the flowers, staying at nothing long enough to get the good out of it. It is the mother’s part to supplement the child’s quick observing faculty with the habit of attention. She must see to it that he does not flit from thing to thing but looks long enough to get a real acquaintance with it.”

    “Is little Margaret fixing round eyes on a daisy she has plucked? In a second, the daisy will be thrown away [for] a pebble or buttercup . . . But the mother seizes the happy moment. She makes Margaret see that the daisy is a bright yellow eye with white eyelashes round it; that all the day long it lies there in the grass and looks up at the bright sun, never blinking as Margaret would do, but keeping its eye wide open. And that is why it is called daisy, ‘day’s eye,’ because its eye is always looking at the sun, which makes the day. And what does Margaret think it does at night, when there is no sun? It does what little boys and girls do; it just shuts its eye with its white lashes tipped with pink, and goes to sleep till the sun comes again in the morning.”

 By this time the daisy has become interesting to Margaret. She looks at it with big eyes after her mother has finished speaking, and then, very likely, cuddles it up to her breast or gives it a soft little kiss. Thus the mother will invest every object in the child’s world with interest and delight.”

    Do you think Miss Mason was familiar with the language of flowers? Did she know that daisy means “innocence” and that wild daisy means “I will think of it?”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Farm Fresh

Farm Fresh

Be present at our table, Lord;
Be here and everywhere adored;
Thy creatures bless and grant that we
May feast in Paradise with Thee.
John Cennick, Moravian deacon (1741)

Down the road from Paradise, Pennsylvania the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye and ripe for the picking. With all the roadside stands the Lady-of-the-house is well supplied with farm fresh odds and ends.  Meals must be made all the time. To keep motivated the Lady-of-the-house will surround perpetual kitchen chores with romantic notions.

On summer Saturdays the Lady and Man-of-the-house shop at the Quarryville Grower’s Market with a string bag just like the one Mr. Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise carries his lettuce in. (on the pages of Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Jeremy Fisher.) And the Lady-of-the-house is never without her shopping basket. This indestructible basket (pictured in the raspberry post) was picked up ten years before at an antique/junk store for a song. She wonders how long the basket was in use (by a homemaker of the 1930s or 40s perhaps?) And how many years did it lay dormant after cars, parking lots and supermarkets replaced walking several blocks to the corner grocer. Whenever she watches period pieces such as the BBC “All Creatures Great and Small,” she takes note of the women who shop on Main Street with the same sort of shopping basket hooked on an arm.
            “Aren’t you the lady who shops at the health food store?” asked the dark haired Amish girl. She works at the store. She also sells her jams and relish every Saturday at the grower’s market. 
            “Yes,” replied the Lady-of-the-house and she counted out her dollars for two jars of relish. 
            “I thought so. I recognized the basket,” the girl added. The Lady-of-the-house was momentarily taken aback. Apparently basket carrying made her unusual but she knew no insult was intended. Distinctive, that’s a nicer term, she consoled herself.
The Amish girl would have made a pretty picture. The Man-of-the-house, however, at his wife’s reminder, took a photograph of the jars with the girl and her sisters standing aside, to respect their religious beliefs.

Local produce and grass fed beef, all organically raised by Lime Valley Mill, is sold in the stand next-door. The girls in the photograph set up attractive tables with free recipes provided and are always cheerful to the Basket-Lady (her shopping name). They laugh at the remarks made by her husband with the camera.

It’s a good feeling to return home with farm fresh odds-and-ends. Of course someone has to turn them into meals. This, most often, falls to the creative imagination, knowledge of nutrition, and romantic notions of the Basket-lady. She doesn’t always feel up to the task and has been known to slip into the rut of her stand-by recipes. Less so in summer.   
The green beans, garlic, fresh oregano and basil, helped make a pot of  Minestrone soup.  

 Daydreaming about a relative’s stories of her recent trip to the Mediterranean, a Greek Salad covered with roasted eggplant settled the matter on another day. It made good use of the tangy muti-colored cherry tomatoes. (Click salad for a close up and you’ll see the quirky homemade napkin.)

Where was the Man-of-the-house while his wife’s feet were up, at the end of an afternoon, writing this post? He was outside at a hot grill turning onion slices, zucchini strips and grass-fed beef-burgers with long tongs. At supper the Lady-of-the-house (the name she prefers) was very appreciative.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prone to Wander

Prone to Wander

I lie awake with the sound of the sea calling to me.
The Moody Blues

It’s been a busy summer. I recently read this and chuckled: “You never see more of your children then after they move out? We’ve enjoyed visits from our adult children, extended family and friends here in Pennsylvania. I’ve been sewing, cooking, serving, writing, etc. And we’ve been away. One trip brought us to a family reunion in New Jersey.  Lots of Italian hugs and kisses, Italian food to excess, music played on strings, and for some cousins, thirty years of catching up to do.

Last week we visited with my parents. They live a block from the Atlantic Ocean. Indoors we chatted busily about everything that had been pushing itself to the forefront of our minds. Outdoors, the wind, hot sun, steady stream of cars along the main road, the power walkers and joggers, vied for our attention. An evening walk to the beach at last and the rhythmic ocean waves passed along their influence of calm.

We like the beach best mornings and evenings. It isn’t hot or crowded then. A few kites flew in the softening sky the evening we first arrived. Nigel’s kite soon joined them. He remembered to bring his red dragon. Here you see Dean flying it.
I wore the three-tiered skirt I made recently. Previewing products for CBD I watched the sweet southern ladies sewing on their Homestead Blessings DVD. This got me enthused to make a skirt of my own. When I spotted the retro 70s tie-dye gauze in a pile of remnants it spoke “beach” to me.

At seven o’clock in the morning, I found myself yearning for solitude. A walk on the beach by myself would do it. It brought to mind Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s musings in her book, Gift From the Sea. She writes, “One learns first of all, in beach living, the art of shedding,” I agree. How lovely to be rid things. How freeing. How peaceful. For just one hour no telephone ringing, computer, unwanted music, traffic lights or road repairs, no oven or dryer buzzers, no UPS or Fed Ex deliveries, no socks and shoes, and no heavy purse. An arms-swinging-free walk on an almost empty beach was soothing. The salt sea air, the waves of cool water, the scurrying plovers, did what our “mood music” attempts to do – the music Dean sometimes plays at home to relax - the music with the sound of the sea. It helped to unclutter the soul. 

It is easy for a God-fearing person to pray on an empty beach. The invitation to talk with God is plain. And what can distract us to procrastinate? Surrounded by nature and with the usual distractions removed, God is approachable. The poet Emily Dickenson observed something (probably about busy people and their busy lives). She said, “They say that God is everywhere and yet we always think of Him as a recluse.” 
If you are a mother who is busy, a mother who serves and gives out of love and out of duty, and this is how you’ve been secretly feeling, I sympathize. I wish you a little solitude, my friend to be attentive to your soul. God is not far away. He gives grace to the humble, refreshment to the weary or busy.

It is Sunday afternoon. This morning’s church hymn, “Come, Thou Font of Every Blessing” has a line that impressed itself upon my heart. This is because it reveals my sentiments during that solitary walk. 

“Prone to wander Lord, I feel it –
Prone to leave the God I love:
Here’s my heart
O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.”
Robert Robinson 1756

Thank you Nigel for the photo you took of Thursday’s sunset over Barnaget Bay.